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Title: Somehow Good
Author: De Morgan, William Frend, 1839-1917
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 "Somehow Good" ***

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SOMEHOW GOOD



BY

WILLIAM DE MORGAN

AUTHOR OF "JOSEPH VANCE"
AND "ALICE-FOR-SHORT"



[Publisher's Device: Ou polla, alla polu]


NEW YORK
HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY
1908



COPYRIGHT, 1908,

BY

HENRY HOLT AND COMPANY


_Published February, 1908_



CONTENTS


  CHAPTER I.
                                                                    PAGE
  A RETURNED TRAVELLER. NEMESIS IN LIVERMORE'S RENTS, 1808.
      EXTRAVAGANCE, AND NO CASH. A PAWNED WATCH, AND A RESIDUUM
      OF FOURPENCE                                                     1


  CHAPTER II.

  A JOURNEY IN THE TWOPENNY TUBE. A VERY NICE GIRL, AND A
      NEGOTIATION. AN EXPOSED WIRE, AND AN ELECTROCUTION              10


  CHAPTER III.

  KRAKATOA VILLA, AND HOW THE ELECTROCUTED TRAVELLER WENT
      THERE IN A CAB. A CURIOUS WELCOME TO A PERFECT STRANGER.
      THE STRANGER'S LABEL. A CANCELLED MEMORY. BACK LIKE A BAD
      SHILLING                                                        16


  CHAPTER IV.

  HOW THE STRANGER STOPPED ON AT KRAKATOA VILLA. OF THE FREAKS
      OF AN EXTINGUISHED MEMORY. OF HOW THE STRANGER GOT A GOOD
      APPOINTMENT, BUT NONE COULD SAY WHO HE WAS, NOR WHENCE          35


  CHAPTER V.

  THE CHRISTMAS AFTER. OF THE CHURCH OF ST. SATISFAX, AND A
      YOUNG IDIOT WHO CAME THERE                                      44


  CHAPTER VI.

  OF BOXING DAY MORNING AT KRAKATOA VILLA, AND WHAT OBSERVANT
      CREATURES FOSSILS ARE                                           53


  CHAPTER VII.

  CONCERNING PEOPLE'S PASTS, AND THE SEPARATION OF THE SHEEP
      FROM THE GOATS. OF YET ANOTHER MAJOR, AND HOW HE GOSSIPPED
      AT HURKARU CLUB. SOME TRUSTWORTHY INFORMATION ABOUT AN
      ALLEGED DIVORCE                                                 60


  CHAPTER VIII.

  THE ANTECEDENTS OF ROSALIND NIGHTINGALE, SALLY'S MOTHER. HOW
      BOTH CAME FROM INDIA TO ENGLAND, AND TOOK A VILLA ON A
      REPAIRING LEASE. SOMEWHAT OF SALLY'S UPBRINGING. SOME MORE
      ROPER GOSSIP, AND A CAT LET OUT OF A BAG. A PIECE OF
      PRESENCE OF MIND                                                68


  CHAPTER IX.

  HOW THOSE GIRLS DO CHATTER OVER THEIR MUSIC! MRS.
      NIGHTINGALE'S RESOLUTION. BUT, THE RISK! A HARD PART TO
      PLAY. THERE WAS ONLY MAMMA FOR THE GIRL! THE GARDEN OF
      LONG AGO                                                        82


  CHAPTER X.

  THE DANGERS OF AN UNKNOWN PAST. NETTLE-GRASPING, AND A
      RECURRENCE. WHO AMONG US COURTS CATECHISM ABOUT HIMSELF?
      A UNIVERSALLY PROVIDED YOUNG MAN. HOW ABOUT THE POOR OLD
      FURNITURE?                                                      95


  CHAPTER XI.

  MORE GIRLS' CHATTER. SWEEPS AND DUSTMEN. HOW SALLY
      DISILLUSIONED MR. BRADSHAW. OUT OF THE FRYING-PAN              105


  CHAPTER XII.

  WHAT FENWICK AND SALLY'S MOTHER HAD BEEN SAYING IN THE BACK
      DRAWING-ROOM. OP. 999. BACK IN THAT OLD GARDEN AGAIN, AND
      HOW GERRY COULD NOT SWIM. THE OLD TARTINI SONATA               113


  CHAPTER XIII.

  OF A SLEEPLESS NIGHT MRS. NIGHTINGALE HAD, AND HOW SALLY
      WOKE UP AND TALKED                                             131


  CHAPTER XIV.

  HOW MILLAIS' "HUGUENOT" CAME OF A WALK IN THE BACK GARDEN.
      AND HOW FENWICK VERY NEARLY KISSED SALLY                       139


  CHAPTER XV.

  CONCERNING DR. VEREKER AND HIS MAMMA, WHO HAD KNOWN IT ALL
      ALONG. HOW SALLY LUNCHED WITH THE SALES WILSONS, AND GOT
      SPECULATING ABOUT HER FATHER. HOW TISHY LET OUT ABOUT
      MAJOR ROPER. HOW THERE WAS A WEDDING                           150


  CHAPTER XVI.

  OF A WEDDING-PARTY AND AN OLD MAN'S RETROSPECT. A HOPE OF
      RETRIBUTIVE JUSTICE HEREAFTER. CHARLEY'S AUNT, AND PYRAMUS
      AND THISBE. HOW SALLY TRIED TO PUMP THE COLONEL AND GOT
      HALF A BUCKETFUL                                               166


  CHAPTER XVII.

  SALLY'S LARK, AND HOW SHE TOOK HER MEDICAL ADVISER INTO HER
      CONFIDENCE AFTER DIVINE SERVICE                                178


  CHAPTER XVIII.

  OF A SWIMMING-BATH, "ET PRÆTEREA EXIGUUM"                          186


  CHAPTER XIX.

  HOW FENWICK KNEW ALL ABOUT THE MASS. AND HOW BARON
      KREUTZKAMMER RECOGNISED MR. HARRISSON. LONDON AGAIN!           191


  CHAPTER XX.

  MERE DAILY LIFE AT KRAKATOA. BUT SALLY IS QUITE FENWICK'S
      DAUGHTER BY NOW. OF HER VIEWS ABOUT DR. VEREKER, AND OF
      TISHY'S AUNT FRANCES                                           203


  CHAPTER XXI.

  OF JULIUS BRADSHAW'S INNER SOUL. AND OF THE HABERDASHER
      BATTLE AT LADBROKE GROVE ROAD. ON CARPET-STRETCHING, AND
      VACCINATION FROM THE CALF. AN AFTER-DINNER INTERVIEW, AND
      GOOD RESOLUTIONS. EVASIVE TRAPPISTS                            217


  CHAPTER XXII.

  IT WAS THAT MRS. NIGHTINGALE'S FAULT. A SATISFACTORY CHAP, GERRY!
      A TELEGRAM AND A CLOUD. BRONCHITIS AND ASTHMA AND FOG.
      SALLY GOES TO MAYFAIR. THE OLD SOLDIER HAS NOTICE TO QUIT      236


  CHAPTER XXIII.

  OF A FOG THAT WAS UP-TO-DATE, AND HOW A FIRE-ENGINE RELIEVED
      SALLY FROM A BOY. HOW SALLY GOT IN AT A GENTLEMEN'S CLUB,
      AND HOW VETERANS COULD RECOLLECT HER FATHER. BUT THEY KNOW
      WHAT SHE CAN BE TOLD, AND WHAT SHE CAN'T. HOW MAJOR ROPER
      WOULD GO OUT IN THE FOG                                        245


  CHAPTER XXIV.

  HOW MAJOR ROPER MET THAT BOY, AND GOT UPSTAIRS AT BALL
      STREET. AN INTERVIEW BETWEEN ASTHMA AND BRONCHITIS. HOW
      SALLY PINIONED THE PURPLE VETERAN, AND THERE WAS NO BOY.
      HOW THE GOVERNOR DONE HOARCKIN', AND GOT QUALIFIED FOR A
      SUBJECT OF PSYCHICAL RESEARCH                                  260


  CHAPTER XXV.

  ABOUT SIX MONTHS, AND HOW A CABMAN SAW A GHOST. OF SALLY'S
      AND THE DOCTOR'S "MODUS VIVENDI," AND THE SHOOSMITH
      FAMILY. HOW SALLY MADE TEA FOR BUDDHA, AND HOW BUDDHA
      FORESAW A STEPDAUGHTER. DELIRIUM TREMENS                       283


  CHAPTER XXVI.

  MORNING AT LADBROKE GROVE ROAD, AND FAMILY DISSENSION.
      FACCIOLATI, AND A LEGACY. THE LAST CONCERT THIS SEASON.
      THE GOODY WILL COME TO IGGULDEN'S. BUT FANCY PROSY IN LOVE!    300


  CHAPTER XXVII.

  ST. SENNANS-ON-SEA. MISS GWENDOLEN ARKWRIGHT. WOULD ANY
      OTHER CHILD HAVE BEEN SALLY? HOW MRS. IGGULDEN'S COUSIN
      SOLOMON SURRENDERED HIS COUCH                                  310


  CHAPTER XXVIII.

  HOW SALLY PUT THE FINISHING TOUCH ON THE DOCTOR, WHO
      COULDN'T SLEEP. OF THE GRAND DUKE OF HESSE-JUNKERSTADT.
      AND OF AN INTERVIEW OVERHEARD                                  323


  CHAPTER XXIX.

  OF A MARRIAGE BY SPECIAL LICENCE. ROSALIND'S COMPARISONS.
      OF THE THREE BRIDESMAIDS, AND HOW THE BRIDE WAS A GOOD
      SAILOR                                                         331


  CHAPTER XXX.

  HOW A FORTNIGHT PASSED, AND THE HONEYMOONERS RETURNED.
      OF A CHAT ON THE BEACH, AND MISS ARKWRIGHT'S SCIENTIFIC
      EXPERIENCE. ALMOST THE LAST, LAST, LAST--MAN'S HEAD!           337


  CHAPTER XXXI.

  HOW SALLY DIDN'T CONFESS ABOUT THE DOCTOR, AND JEREMIAH CAME
      TO ST. SENNANS ONCE MORE                                       349


  CHAPTER XXXII.

  HOW SALLY DIVED OFF THE BOAT, AND SHOCKED THE BEACH. OF THE
      SENSITIVE DELICACY OF THE OCTOPUS. AND OF DR. EVERETT
      GAYLER'S OPINIONS                                              357


  CHAPTER XXXIII.

  OF AN INTERMITTENT CURRENT AT THE PIER-END, AND OF DOLLY'S
      FORTITUDE. HOW FENWICK PUT HIS HEAD IN THE JAWS OF THE
      FUTURE UNAWARES, AND PROSY DIDN'T COME. HOW SALLY AND
      HER STEP SAW PUNCH, AND OF A THIN END OF A FATAL WEDGE.
      BUT ROSALIND SAW NO COMING CLOUD                               366


  CHAPTER XXXIV.

  OF THE REV. SAMUEL HERRICK AND A SUNSET. THE WEDGE'S
      PROGRESS. THE BARON AGAIN, AND THE FLY-WHEEL. HOW FENWICK
      KNEW HIS NAME RIGHT, AND ROSALIND DIDN'T. HOW SALLY AND
      HER MEDICAL ADVISER WERE NOT QUITE WET THROUGH. HOW HE
      HAD MADE HER THE CONFIDANTE OF A LOVE-AFFAIR. OF A GOOD
      OPENING IN SPECIALISM. MORE PROGRESS OF THE WEDGE. HOW
      GERRY NEARLY MADE DINNER LATE                                  377


  CHAPTER XXXV.

  HOW A STONE THROWN DROVE THE WEDGE FURTHER YET. OF A
      TERRIBLE NIGHT IN A BIG GALE, AND A DOOR THAT SLAMMED.
      THE WEDGE WELL IN                                              392


  CHAPTER XXXVI.

  HOW FENWICK AND VEREKER WENT FOR A WALK, AND MORE MEMORIES
      CAME BACK. HOW FENWICK WAS A MILLIONAIRE, OR THEREABOUTS.
      OF A CLUE THAT KILLED ITSELF. HARRISSON'S AFFAIR NOW!
      BOTHER THE MILLIONS! IS NOT LOVE BETTER THAN MONEY? ONLY
      FENWICK'S NAME WASN'T HARRISSON NEITHER                        399


  CHAPTER XXXVII.

  OF THE DOCTOR'S CAUTIOUS RESERVE, AND MRS. FENWICK'S STRONG
      COMMON-SENSE. AND OF A LADY AT BUDA-PESTH. HOW HARRISSON
      WAS ONLY PAST FORGOTTEN NEWSPAPERS TO DR. VEREKER. OF THE
      OCTOPUS'S PULSE. HOW THE HABERDASHER'S BRIDE WOULD TRY ON
      AT TWO GUAS. A WEEK, AND OF A PLEASANT WALK BACK FROM THE
      RAILWAY STATION                                                416


  CHAPTER XXXVIII.

  OF AN EXPEDITION AGAINST A GOODY, AND THE WALK BACK TO
      LOBJOIT'S. AND THE WALK BACK AGAIN TO IGGULDEN'S. HOW
      FENWICK TOOK VEREKER'S CONFIDENCE BY STORM. OF A COLLIER
      THAT PUT TO SEA. SUCCESSFUL AMBUSCADE OF THE OCTOPUS.
      PROVISIONAL EQUILIBRIUM OF FENWICK'S MIND. WHY BOTHER
      ABOUT HORACE? WHY NOT ABOUT PICKWICK JUST AS MUCH? THE
      KITTEN WASN'T THERE--CERTAINLY NOT!                            431


  CHAPTER XXXIX.

  HOW MEMORY CREPT BACK AND BACK, AND FENWICK KEPT HIS OWN
      COUNSEL. ROSALIND NEED NEVER KNOW IT. OF A JOLLY BIG BLOB
      OF MELTED CANDLE, AND SALLY'S HALF-BROTHER. OF FENWICK'S
      IMPROVED GOOD SPIRITS                                          448


  CHAPTER XL.

  BATHING WEATHER AGAIN, AND A LETTER FROM TISHY BRADSHAW. THE
      TRIUMPH OF ORPHEUS. BUT WAS IT EURYDICE OR THE LITTLE
      BATTERY? THE REV. MR. HERRICK. OF A REVERIE UNDER A
      BATHING-MACHINE, AND OF GWENDOLEN'S MAMMA'S CONNECTING-LINK.
      OF DR. CONRAD'S MAMMA'S DONKEY-CHAIR, AND HIS GREAT-AUNT
      ELIZA. HOW SALLY AND HE STARTED FOR THEIR LAST WALK AT
      ST. SENNANS                                                    457


  CHAPTER XLI.

  OF LOVE, CONSIDERED AS A THUNDERSTORM, AND OF AGUR, THE SON
      OF JAKEH (PROV. XXX.). OF A COUNTRY WALK AND A JUDICIOUSLY
      RESTORED CHURCH. OF TWO CLASPED HANDS, AND THEIR
      CONSEQUENCES. NOTHING SO VERY REMARKABLE AFTER ALL!            471


  CHAPTER XLII.

  OF A RECURRENCE FROM "AS YOU LIKE IT," AND HOW FENWICK
      DIDN'T. WHY A SAILOR WOULD NOT LEARN TO SWIM. THE BARON
      AGAIN. OF A CUTTLE-FISH AND HIS SQUIRT. OF THE POWER OF
      _A PRIORI_ REASONING. OF SALLY'S CONFESSION, AND HOW
      FENWICK WENT TO A FIRST-CLASS HOTEL                            489


  CHAPTER XLIII.

  OF AN OBSERVANT AND THOUGHTFUL, BUT SNIFFY, WAITER; AND HOW
      HE OPENED A NEW BOTTLE OF COGNAC. HOW THE BARON SAW
      FENWICK HOME, WITHOUT HIS HAT. AN OLD MEMORY FROM
      ROSALIND'S PAST AND HIS. AND THEN FACE TO FACE WITH THE
      WHOLE. SLEEP UPON IT! BUT WHAT BECAME OF HIS HORRIBLE BABY?    498


  CHAPTER XLIV.

  OF A CONTRACT JOB FOR REPAIRS. HOW FENWICK HAD ANOTHER
      SLEEPLESS NIGHT AFTER ALL. WHICH IS WHICH, NOW OR TWENTY
      ODD YEARS AGO? HOW SALLY FOLLOWED JEREMIAH OUT. WHAT A LOT
      OF TALK ABOUT A LIFE-BELT!                                     513


  CHAPTER XLV.

  OF CONRAD VEREKER'S REVISION OF PARADISE, AND OF FENWICK'S
      HIGH FEVER. OF AN ENGLISH OFFICER WHO WAVERED AT BOMBAY,
      AND OF FENWICK'S SURPRISE-BATH IN THE BRITISH CHANNEL. WHY
      HE DID NOT SINK. THE "ELLEN JANE" OF ST. SENNANS. ONLY
      SALLY IS IN THE WATER STILL. MORE BOATS. FOUND!                524


  CHAPTER XLVI.

  AN ERRAND IN VAIN, AND HOW DR. CONRAD CAME TO KNOW.
      CONCERNING LLOYD'S COFFEE-HOUSE, AND THE BATTLE OF
      CAMPERDOWN. MARSHALL HALL'S SYSTEM AND SILVESTER'S. SOCIAL
      DISADVANTAGES. A CHAT WITH A CENTENARIAN, AND HOW ROSALIND
      CAME TO KNOW. THOMAS LOCOCK OF ROCHESTER. ONE O'CLOCK!         531


  CHAPTER XLVII.

  WAS IT THE LITTLE GALVANIC BATTERY? THE LAST CHAPTER RETOLD
      BY THE PRESS. A PROPER RAILING. BUT THEY _WEREN'T_ DROWNED.
      WHAT'S THE FUSS? MASTER CHANCELLORSHIP APPEARS AND VANISHES.
      ELECTUARY OF ST. SENNA. AT GEORGIANA TERRACE. A LETTER FROM
      SALLY. ANOTHER FROM CONRAD. EVERYTHING VANISHES!               554



SOMEHOW GOOD



SOMEHOW GOOD


CHAPTER I

A RETURNED TRAVELLER. NEMESIS IN LIVERMORE'S RENTS, 1808. EXTRAVAGANCE,
  AND NO CASH. A PAWNED WATCH, AND A RESIDUUM OF FOURPENCE


An exceptionally well-built man in a blue serge suit walked into a
bank in the City, and, handing his card across the counter, asked if
credit had been wired for him from New York. The clerk to whom he
spoke would inquire.

As he leaned on the counter, waiting for the reply, his appearance was
that of a man just off a sea voyage, wearing a suit of clothes well
knocked about in a short time, but quite untainted by London dirt. His
get-up conveyed no information about his social position or means. His
garments had been made for him; that was all that could be said. That
is something to know. But it leaves the question open whether their
wearer is really only a person in decent circumstances--_one_ decent
circumstance, at any rate--or a Duke.

The trustworthy young gentleman in spectacles who came back from an
authority in the bush to tell him that no credit had been wired so
far, did not seem to find any difficulty in affecting confidence that
the ultimate advent of this wire was an intrinsic certainty, like
the post. Scarcely, perhaps, the respectable confidence he would have
shown to a real silk hat--for the applicant's was mere soft felt,
though it looked new, for that matter--and a real clean shirt, one
inclusive of its own collar and cuffs. Our friend's answered this
description; but then, it was blue. However, the confidence would
have wavered under an independent collar and wristbands. Cohesiveness
in such a garment means that its wearer may be an original genius:
compositeness may mean that he has to economize, like us.

"Did you expect it so early as this?" says the trustworthy young
gentleman, smiling sweetly through his spectacles. "It isn't ten
o'clock yet." But he only says this to show his confidence, don't you
see? Because his remark is in its nature meaningless, as there is
no time of day telegrams have a penchant for. No doubt there is a
time--perhaps even times and half-a-time--when you cannot send them.
But there is no time when they may not arrive. Except the smallest
hours of the morning, which are too small to count.

"I don't think I did," replies the applicant. "I don't think I thought
about it. I wired them yesterday from Liverpool, when I left the boat,
say four o'clock."

"Ah, then of course it's a little too early. It may not come till late
in the afternoon. It depends on the load on the wires. Could you call
in again--well, a little before our closing time?"

"All right." The speaker took out a little purse or pocket-book, and
looked in it. "I thought so," said he; "that was my last card." But
the clerk had left it in the inner sanctum. He would get it, and
disappeared to do so. When he came back with it, however, he found its
owner had gone, saying never mind, it didn't matter.

"Chap seems in a great hurry!" said he to his neighbour clerk. "What's
he got that great big ring on his thumb for?" And the other replying:
"Don't you know 'em--rheumatic rings?" he added: "Doesn't look a
rheumatic customer, anyhow!" And then both of them pinned up cheques,
and made double entries.

The chap didn't seem in a great hurry as he sauntered away along
Cornhill, looking in at the shop-windows. He gave the idea of a chap
with a fine June day before him in London, with a plethora of choices
of what to do and where to go. Also of being keenly interested in
everything, like a chap that had not been in London for a long time.
After watching the action of a noiseless new petroleum engine longer
than its monotonous idea of life seemed to warrant, he told a hansom
to take him to the Tower, for which service he paid a careless two
shillings. The driver showed discipline, and concealed his emotions.
_He_ wasn't going to let out that it was a double fare, and impair
a fountain of wealth for other charioteers to come. Not he!

The fare enjoyed himself evidently at the Tower. He saw everything
he could be admitted to--the Beauchamp Tower for sixpence, and the
Jewel-house for sixpence. And he gave uncalled-for gratuities. When
he had thoroughly enjoyed all the dungeons and all the torture-relics,
and all the memories of Harrison Ainsworth's romance, read in youth
and never forgotten, he told another hansom to drive him across the
Tower Bridge, and not go too fast.

As he crossed the Bridge he looked at his watch. It was half-past
twelve. He would have time to get back before half-past one to a
restaurant he had made a mental note of near the Bank, and still to
allow the cabby to drive on a bit through the transpontine and
interesting regions of Rotherhithe and Cherry Garden Pier. It was so
unlike anything he had been seeing lately. None the worse for the
latter, in some respects. So, at least, thought the fare.

For he had the good, or ill, fortune to strike on a rich vein of
so-called life in a London slum. Shrieks of fury, terror, pain
were coming out of an archway that led, said an inscription, into
Livermore's Rents, 1808. Public opinion, outside those Rents, ascribed
them to the fact that Salter had been drinking. He was on to that pore
wife of his again, like last week. Half killed her, he did, then! But
he was a bad man to deal with, and public opinion wouldn't go down
that court if I was you.

"But you're not, you see!" said the fare, who had sought this
information. "You stop here, my lad, till I come back." This to the
cabman, who sees him, not without misgivings about a source of income,
plunge into the filthy and degraded throng that is filling the court,
and elbow his way to the scene of excitement.

"_He's_ all right!" said that cabby. "I'll put a tenner on him, any
Sunday morning"--a figure of speech we cannot explain.

From his elevation above the crowd he can see a good deal of what goes
on, and guess the rest. Of what he hears, no phrase could be written
without blanks few readers could fill in, and for the meaning of which
no equivalent can even be hinted. The actual substance of the
occurrence, that filters through the cries of panic and of some woman
or child, or both, in agony, the brutal bellowings and threats of a
predominant drunken lout, presumably Mr. Salter, the incessant appeals
to God and Christ by terrified women, and the rhetorical use of the
names of both by the men, with the frequent suggestion that some one
else should go for the police--this actual substance may be drily
stated thus: Mr. Salter, a plumber by trade, but at present out of
work, had given way to ennui, and to relieve it had for two days past
been beating and otherwise maltreating his daughter, aged fourteen,
and had threatened the life of her mother for endeavouring to protect
her. At the moment when he comes into this story (as a mere passing
event we shall soon forget without regret) he is engaged in the
fulfilment of a previous promise to his unhappy wife--a promise we
cannot transcribe literally, because of the free employment of a
popular adjective (supposed to be a corruption of "by Our Lady")
before or after any part of speech whatever, as an expletive to drive
home meaning to reluctant minds. It is an expression unwelcome on the
drawing-room table. But, briefly, what Mr. Salter had so sworn to do
was to twist his wife's nose off with his finger and thumb. And he
did not seem unlikely to carry out his threat, as Livermore's tenantry
lacked spirit or will to interpose, and did nothing but shriek in
panic when feminine, and show discretion when masculine; mostly
affecting indifference, and saying they warn't any good, them Salters.
The result seemed likely to turn on whether the victim's back hair
would endure the tension as a fulcrum, or would come rippin' out like
so much grarse.

"Let go of her!" half bellows, half shrieks her legal possessor, in
answer to a peremptory summons. "Not for a swiney, soap-eatin'
Apoarstle--not for a rotten parson's egg, like you. Not for a...."

But the defiance is cut short by a blow like the kick of a horse, that
lands fairly on the eye-socket with a cracking concussion that can be
heard above the tumult, and is followed by a roar of delight from the
male vermin, who see all the joys before them of battle unshared and
dangerless--the joys bystanders feel in foemen worthy of each other's
steel, and open to be made the subject of wagers.

The fare rejects all offers to hold his coat, but throws his felt hat
to a boy to hold. Self-elected seconds make a kind of show of getting
a clear space. No idea of assisting in the suppression of a dangerous
drunken savage seems to suggest itself--nothing but what is called
"seeing fair." This is, to wit, letting him loose on even terms on the
only man who has had the courage to intervene between him and his
victim. Let us charitably suppose that this is done in the hope that
it means prompt and tremendous punishment before the arrival of the
police. The cabman sees enough from his raised perch to justify his
anticipating this with confidence. He can just distinguish in the
crowd Mr. Salter's first rush for revenge and its consequences. "He's
got it!" is his comment.

Then he hears the voice of his fare ring out clear in a lull--such
a one as often comes in the tense excitement of a fight. "Give him a
minute.... Now stick him up again!" and then is aware that Mr. Salter
has been replaced on his legs, and is trying to get at his antagonist,
and cannot. "He's playin' with him!" is his comment this time. But
he does not play with him long, for a swift _finale_ comes to the
performance, perhaps consequent on a cry that heralds a policeman.
It causes a splendid excitement in that cabman, who gets as high as
he can, to miss none of it. "That's your sort!" he shouts, quite wild
with delight. "That's the style! Foller on! Foller on!" And then,
subsiding into his seat with intense satisfaction, "Done his job,
anyhow! Hope he'll be out of bed in a week!"--the last with an
insincere affectation of sympathy for the defeated combatant.

The fare comes quickly along the court and out at the entry, whose
occupants the cabman flicks aside with his whip suggestively. "Let
the gentleman come, can't you!" he shouts at them. They let him come.
"Be off sharp!" he says to the cabby, who replies, "Right you are,
governor!" and is off, sharp. Only just in time to avoid three
policemen, who dive into Livermore's Rents, and possibly convey Mr.
Salter to the nearest hospital. Of all that this story knows no more;
Mr. Salter goes out of it.

The fare, who seems very little discomposed, speaks through the little
trap to his Jehu. "I never got my new hat again," he says. "You must
drive back; there won't be any decent hatter here."

"Ask your pardon, sir--the Bridge is histed. Vessel coming
through--string of vessels with a tug-boat."

"Oh, well, get back to the Bank--anywhere--the nearest way you can."
And after a mysterious short cut through narrow ways that recall old
London, some still paved with cobbles, past lofty wharves or
warehouses daring men lean from the floors of at dizzy heights, and
capture bales for, that seem afloat in the atmosphere till one detects
the thread that holds them to their crane above--under unexplained
rialtos and over inexplicable iron incidents in paving that ring
suddenly and waggle underfoot--the cab finds its way across London
Bridge, and back to a region where you can buy anything, from penny
puzzles to shares in the power of Niagara, if you can pay for them.

Our cab-fare, when he called out, "Hold hard here!" opposite to a
promising hat-shop, seemed to be in doubt of being able to pay for
something very much cheaper than Niagara. He took out his purse, still
sitting in the cab, and found in it only a sovereign, apparently. He
felt in his pockets. Nothing there beyond five shillings and some
coppers. He could manage well enough--so his face and a slight nod
seemed to say--till he went back to the Bank after lunch. And so, no
doubt, he would have done had he been content with a common human
billycock or bowler, like the former one, at four-and-six. But man is
born to give way to temptation in shops. No doubt you have noticed the
curious fact that when you go into a shop you always spend more--more
than you mean to, more than you want to, more than you've got--one or
other of them--but always _more_.

Inside the shop, billycocks in tissue-paper came out of band-boxes,
and then out of tissue-paper. But, short of eight shillings, they
betrayed a plebeian nature, and lacked charm. Now, those beautiful
white real panamas, at twenty-two shillings, were exactly the thing
for this hot weather, especially the one the fare tried on. His rich
brown hair, that wanted cutting, told well against the warm
straw-white. He looked handsome in it, with those strong cheek-bones
and bronzed throat Mr. Salter would have been so glad to get at. He
paid for it, saying never mind the receipt, and then went out to pay
the cabby, who respectfully hoped he didn't see him any the worse for
that little affair over the water.

"None the worse, thank you! Shan't be sorry for lunch, though." Then,
as he stands with three shillings in his hand, waiting for a recipient
hand to come down from above, he adds: "A very one-sided affair! Did
you hear what he said about his daughter? That was why I finished him
so thoroughly."

"No, sir, I did _not_ hear it. But he was good for the gruel he's got,
Lord bless you! without that ... I ask your pardon, sir--no! _Not_
from a gentleman like you! Couldn't think of it! Couldn't _think_ of
it!" And with a sudden whip-lash, and a curt hint to his horse, that
cabman drove off unpaid. The other took out a pencil, and wrote the
number of the cab on his blue wristband, close to a little red
spot--Mr. Salter's blood probably. When he had done this he turned
towards the restaurant he had taken note of. But he seemed embarrassed
about finances--at least, about the three shillings the cabby had
refused; for he kept them in his hand as if he didn't know what to do
with them. He walked on until he came to a hidden haven of silence
some plane-trees and a Church were enjoying unmolested, and noticing
there a box with a slot, and the word "Contributions" on it, dropped
the three shillings in without more ado, and passed on. But he had no
intention of lunching on the small sum he had left.

An inquiry of a City policeman guided him to a pawnbroker's shop. What
would the pawnbroker lend him on that--his watch? Fifteen shillings
would do quite well. That was his reply to an offer to advance that
sum, if he was going to leave the chain as well. It was worth more,
but it would be all safe till he came for it, at any rate. "You'll
find it here, any time up to twelve months," said the pawnbroker, who
also nodded after him knowingly as he left the shop. "Coming back for
it in a week, of course! All of 'em are. Name of Smith, _as_ usual!
Most of 'em are." Yet this man's honouring Mr. Smith with a comment
looked as if he thought him unlike "most of 'em." _He_ never indulged
in reflections on the ruck--be sure of that!

Mr. Smith, if that was his name, didn't seem uneasy. He found his
way to his restaurant and ordered a very good lunch and a bottle of
Perrier-Jouet--not a half-bottle; he certainly was extravagant. He
took his time over both, also a nap; then, waking, felt for his watch
and remembered he had pawned it; looked at the clock and stretched
himself, and called for his bill and paid it. Most likely the wire had
come to the Bank by now; anyhow, there was no harm in walking round to
see. If it wasn't there he would go back to the hotel at Kensington
where he had left his luggage, and come back to-morrow. It was a
bore. Perhaps they would let him have a cheque-book, and save his
having to come again. Much of this is surmise, but a good deal was the
substance of remarks made in fragments of soliloquy. Their maker gave
the waiter sixpence and left the restaurant with three shillings in
his pocket, lighting a cigar as he walked out into the street.

He kept to the narrow ways and little courts, wondering at the odd
corners Time seems to have forgotten about, and Change to have
deserted as unworthy of her notice; every door of every house an
extract from a commercial directory, mixed and made unalphabetical by
the extractor; every square foot of flooring wanted for Negotiation to
stand upon, and Transactions to be carried out over. No room here for
anything else, thought the smoker, as, after a quarter of an hour's
saunter, he threw away the end of his cigar. But his conclusion was
premature. For lo and behold!--there, in a strange little wedge-shaped
corner, of all things in the world, _a barber's shop_; maybe a relic
of the days of Ben Jonson or earlier--how could a mere loafer tell?
Anyhow, his hair wanted cutting sufficiently to give him an excuse to
see the old place inside. He went in and had his hair cut--but under
special reservation; not too much! The hairdresser was compliant; but,
said he, regretfully: "You do your 'ed, sir, less than justice." Its
owner took his residuum of change from his pocket, and carelessly
spent all but a few coppers on professional remuneration and a large
bottle of eau-de-Cologne. Perhaps the reflection that he could cab all
the way back to the hotel had something to do with this easy-going way
of courting an empty pocket.

When he got to the Bank another young gentleman, with no spectacles
this time, said _he_ didn't know if any credit was wired. He was very
preoccupied, pinning up cheques and initialling some important
customer's paying-in book. But _he_ would inquire in a moment, if you
would wait. And did so, with no result; merely expression of abstract
certainty that it was sure to come. There was still an hour--over an
hour--before closing time, said he to a bag with five pounds of silver
in it, unsympathetically. If you could make it convenient to look in
in an hour, probably we should have received it. The person addressed
but not looked at might do so--wouldn't commit himself--and went away.

The question seemed to be how to while away that hour. Well!--there
was the Twopenny Tube. At that time it was new, and an excitement. Our
friend had exactly fourpence in his pocket. That would take him to
anywhere and back before the Bank closed. And also he could put some
of that eau-de-Cologne on his face and hands. He had on him still a
sense of the foulness of Livermore's Rents and wanted something to
counteract it. Eau-de-Cologne is a great sweetener.



CHAPTER II

A JOURNEY IN THE TWOPENNY TUBE. A VERY NICE GIRL, AND A NEGOTIATION.
  AN EXPOSED WIRE, AND AN ELECTROCUTION


He took his fare in the Twopenny Tube. It was the last twopence but
one that he had in his pocket. Something fascinated him in the idea of
commanding, in exchange for that twopence, the power of alighting at
any point between Cheapside and Shepherd's Bush. Which should it be?

If he could only make up his mind to _not_ alighting at Chancery Lane,
he would have two whole minutes for consideration. If British Museum
he would have four. If Tottenham Court Road, six--and so on. For the
time being he was a sort of monarch, in a small way, over Time and
Space. He would go on to the Museum, at any rate.

What little things life hangs on, sometimes! If he had foolishly got
out at either Chancery Lane or British Museum, there either would have
been no reason for writing this story; or, if written, it would have
been quite different. For at the Museum Station a girl got into the
carriage; and, passing him on her way to a central haven of rest, trod
on his foot, with severity. It hurt, so palpably, that the girl begged
his pardon. She was a nice girl, and sorry.

He forgave her because she was a nice girl, with beautiful rows of
teeth and merry eyebrows. He might have forgiven her if she had been
a dowdy. But he liked forgiving those teeth, and those eyebrows.

So when she sat down in the haven, close to his left shoulder, he
wasn't sorry that his remark that _he_ ought to beg _her_ pardon,
because it was all his fault for sticking out, overlapped her coming
to an anchor. If it had been got through quicker, the incident would
have been regarded as closed. As it was, the fag-end of it was
unexhausted, and she didn't quite catch the whole. It was in no way
unnatural that she should turn her head slightly, and say: "I beg
your pardon." Absolute silence would have been almost discourteous,
after plunging on to what might have been a bad corn.

"I only meant it was my fault for jamming up the whole gangway."

"Oh yes--but it was my fault all the same--for--for----"

"Yes--I beg your pardon? You were going to say--for----?"

"Well--I mean--for standing on it so long, then! If you had called
out--but indeed I didn't think it was a foot. I thought it was
something in the electricity."

Two things were evident. One was that it was perfectly impossible to
be stiff and stodgy over it, and not laugh out. The other, the obvious
absurdity of imputing any sort of motive to the serene frankness and
absolute candour of the speaker. Any sort of motive--"of _that_
sort"--said he to himself, without further analysis. He threw himself
into the laugh, without attempting any. It disposed of the discussion
of the subject, but left matters so that stolid silence would have
been priggish. It seemed to him that not to say another word would
almost have amounted to an insinuation against the eyebrows and the
teeth. He would say one--a most impersonal one.

"Do they stop at Bond Street?"

"Do you want to stop at Bond Street?"

"Not at all. I don't care where I stop. I think I meant--is there
a station at Bond Street?"

"The station wasn't opened at first. But it's open now."

What an irritating thing a conversation can be! Here was this one,
just as one of its constituents was beginning to wish it to go on,
must needs exhaust its subject and confess that artificial nourishment
was needed to sustain it. And she--(for it was she, not he:--did you
guess wrong?)--had begun to want to know, don't you see, why the man
with the hair on the back of his browned hand and the big plain gold
ring on his thumb did not care where he stopped. If he had had a
holiday look about him she might have concluded that he was seeing
London, and then what could be more natural than to break loose, as it
were, in the Twopenny Tube? But in spite of his leisurely look, he had
not in the least the seeming of a holiday-maker. His clothes were not
right for the part. What he was could not be guessed without a clue,
and the conversation had collapsed, clearly! It was irritating to be
gravelled for lack of matter--and he was such a perfect stranger! The
girl was a reader of Shakespeare, but she certainly didn't see her
way to Rosalind's little expedient. "Even though my own name _is_
Rosalind," said she to herself.

It was the readiness and completeness with which the man dropped the
subject, and recoiled into himself, that gave the girl courage to make
an attempt to satisfy her curiosity. When a man harks back, palpably,
on some preoccupation, after exchanging a laugh and an impersonal word
or two with a girl who does not know him, it is the best confirmation
possible of his previous good faith in seeming more fatherlike than
manlike. Rosalind could risk it, surely. "Very likely he has a
daughter my age," said she to herself. Then she saw an opening--the
thumb-ring.

"Do pray excuse me for asking, but do you find it does good? My
mother was recommended to try one."

"This ring? It hasn't done _me_ any good. But then, I have hardly
anything the matter. I don't know about other people. I'm sorry I
bought it, now. It cost four-and-sixpence, I think. I would sooner
have the four-and-sixpence.... Yes, decidedly! I would sooner have
the four-and-sixpence."

"Can't you sell it?"

"I don't believe I could get sixpence for it."

"Do please excuse me--I mean, excuse the liberty I take--but I should
so much like to--to...."

"To buy it for sixpence? Certainly. Why not? Much better than paying
four-and-six for a new one. Your mother _may_ find it do her good. I
don't care about it, and I really have nothing the matter."

He drew the ring off his thumb, and Rosalind took it from him. She
slipped it on her finger, over her glove. Naturally it slipped off--a
man's thumb-ring! She passed it up inside the glove-palm, through the
little slot above the buttons. Then she got out her purse, and looked
in to see what its resources were.

"I have only got half-a-crown," said she. The man flushed slightly.
Rosalind fancied he was angry, and had supposed she was offering
beyond her bargain, which might have implied liberality, or
benevolence, or something equally offensive. But it wasn't that at
all.

"I have no change," said he. "Never mind about the sixpence. Send me
stamps. I'll give you my card." And then he recollected he had no
card, and said so.

"It doesn't matter being very exact," said she.

"I have no money at all. Except twopence."

Rosalind hesitated. This man must be very hard up, only he certainly
did not give that impression. Still, "no money at all, except
twopence!" Would it be safe to try to get the half-crown into his
pocket? That was what she wanted to do, but felt she might easily
blunder over it. If she was to achieve it, she must be quick, for the
public within hearing was already feeling in its pocket, in order to
oblige with change for half-a-crown. She _was_ quick.

"_You_ send it _me_ in stamps," she said, pressing the coin on him.
"Take it, and I'll get my card for the address. It will be
one-and-eleven exactly, because of the postage. It ought to be a
penny for stationery, too.... Oh, well! never mind, then...."

She had got the card, and the man, demurring to the stationery
suggestion, and, indeed, hesitating whether to take the coin at all,
looked at the card with a little surprise on his face. He read it:

    +------------------------------------+
    |                                    |
    |         MRS. NIGHTINGALE.          |
    |                                    |
    |     MISS ROSALIND NIGHTINGALE.     |
    |                                    |
    |                                    |
    | KRAKATOA, GLENMOIRA ROAD,          |
    |                                    |
    | SHEPHERD'S BUSH, W.                |
    |                                    |
    +------------------------------------+

"I'm not Mrs. Nightingale," said the girl. "That's my mother."

"Oh no!" said he. "It wasn't that. It was only that I knew the name
once--years ago."

The link in the dialogue here was that she had thought the surprise
was due to his crediting her with matrimony and a visiting-card
daughter. She was just thinking could she legitimately inquire into
the previous Nightingale, when he said some more of his own accord,
and saved her the trouble.

"Rosalind Nightingale was the name," said he. "Do you know any
relation----"

"Only my mother," answered the girl, surprised. "She's Rosalind, too,
like me. I mean, _I'm_ Rosalind. I am always called Sally, though."

The man was going to answer when, as luck would have it, the card
slipped from his fingers and fluttered down. In pursuing it he missed
the half-crown, which the young lady released, fancying he was about
to take hold of it, and stooped to search for it where it had rolled
under the seat.

"How idiotic of me!" said he.

"Next station Uxbridge Road," thus the guard proclaimed; and then,
seeing the exploration that was going on after the half-crown, he
added: "I should let it go at that, mister, if I was you."

The man asked why?

"There was a party tried that game last week. He's in the horspital
now." This was portentous and enigmatical. The guard continued: "If a
party gets electrocuted, it's no concern of the employees on the line.
It lies between such parties and the Company. I shouldn't myself, if
I was you! But it's between you and the Company. I wash _my_ hands."

"If the wires are properly insulated"--this was from an important
elderly gentleman, of a species invariable under the circumstances--"_if_
the wires are properly insulated, there is not the slightest cause for
apprehension of any sort or kind."

"Very good!" said the guard gloomily. "Then all I say is, insoolate
'em yourselves. Don't try to put it on me! Or else keep your hands
well outside of the circuit." But the elderly gentleman was not ready
to acquiesce in the conditions pointed at.

"I repeat," said he, "that the protection of the public is, or ought
to be, amply secured by the terms of the Company's charter. If any
loophole exists for the escape of the electric current, all I can say
is, the circumstances call for public inquiry. The safety of the
public is the concern of the authorities."

"Then," said the guard pointedly, "if I was the public, I should put
my hands in my pocket, and not go fishing about for ambiguous property
in corners. There!--what did I tell you? Now you'll say that was me,
I suppose?"

The thing that hadn't been the guard was a sudden crackle that leaped
out in a blue flame under the seat where the man's hand was exploring
for the half-crown. It was either that, or another like it, at the
man's heel. Or both together. A little boy was intensely delighted,
and wanted more of the same sort. The elderly gentleman turned purple
with indignation, and would at once complain to the authorities. They
would take the matter up, he doubted not. It was a disgrace, etc.,
etc., etc.

Rosalind, or Sally, Nightingale showed no alarm. Her merry eyebrows
were as merry as ever, and her smile was as unconscious a frame to her
pearly teeth as ever, when she turned to the mother of the delighted
little boy and spoke.

"There now! It's exactly like that when I comb my hair in very dry
weather." And the good woman was able to confirm this from her own
experience, narrating (with needless details) the strange phenomena
attendant on the head of a young person in quite a good situation at
Woollamses, and really almost a lady, stating several times what she
had said to the young person, Miss Ada Taylor, and what answer she
had received. She treated the matter entirely with reference to the
bearings of the electric current on questions of social status.

But the man did not move, remaining always with his arm under the
seat. Rosalind, or Sally, thought he had run the half-crown home, but
in some fixed corner from which detachment was for a moment difficult.
Wondering why the moment should last so long, she spoke.

"Have you got it?" said she.

But the man spoke never a word, and remained quite still.



CHAPTER III

KRAKATOA VILLA, AND HOW THE ELECTROCUTED TRAVELLER WENT THERE IN A
  CAB. A CURIOUS WELCOME TO A PERFECT STRANGER. THE STRANGER'S LABEL.
  A CANCELLED MEMORY. BACK LIKE A BAD SHILLING


Krakatoa was a semi-detached villa, a few minutes' walk from
Shepherd's Bush Station. It looked like a showily dressed wife of a
shabby husband; for the semi-detached other villa next door had been
standing to let for years, and its compo front was in a state of
decomposition from past frosts, and its paint was parched and thin
in the glare of the present June sun, and peeling and dripping
spiritlessly from the closed shutters among the dead flies behind
the cracked panes of glass that had quite forgotten the meaning of
whitening and water, and that wouldn't hack out easy by reason of
the putty having gone 'ard. One knew at a glance that if the turncock
was to come, see, and overcome the reluctance of the allotted
cock-to-be-turned, the water would burst out at every pore of the
service-pipes in that house, except the taps; and would know also
that the adept who came to soften their hearts and handles would have
to go back for his tools, and would be a very long time away.

Krakatoa, on the other hand, was resplendent with stone-colour, and
smelt strongly of it. And its door you could see through the glass of
into the hall, when its shutters were not thumb-screwed up over the
panes, was painted a green that staggered the reason, and smelt even
more strongly than the stone-colour. And all the paint was so thick
that the beadings on the door were dim memories, and all the execution
on the sculptured goblets on pedestals flanking the steps in the front
garden was as good as spoiled. And the paint simmered in the sun, and
here and there it blistered and altogether suggested that Krakatoa,
like St. Nicholas, might have halved its coats with the beggar next
door--given him, suppose, one flat and one round coat. Also, that
either the job had been 'urried, and not giv' proper time to dry, or
that the summer had come too soon, and we should pay for it later on,
you see if we didn't!

The coatless and woe-begone villa next door had almost lost its name,
so faded was the lettering on the gate-post that was putting out its
bell-handle to the passer-by, even as the patient puts out his tongue
to the doctor. But experts in palimpsests, if they had penetrated the
superscriptions in chalk and pencil of idle authorship, would have
found that it was The Retreat. Probably this would have been revealed
even if the texts had been merely Bowdlerised with Indian-rubber or
a sponge, because there were a good many objectionable passages.

But The Retreat _was_ a retreat, and smelt strong of the Hermits, who
were cats. Krakatoa was not a volcano, except so far as eruptions on
the paint went. But then it had become Krakatoa through a mistake; for
the four coats of paint at the end of the first seven years, as per
agreement, having completely hidden the first name, Saratoga, and the
builders' retention of it having been feeble--possibly even affected
by newspaper posters, for it was not long after the date of the great
eruption--the new name had crept in in the absence of those who could
have corrected it, but had gone to Brighton to get out of the smell of
the paint.

When they returned, Mr. Prichard, the builder, though shocked and
hurt at the discovery that the wrong name had been put up, was
strongly opposed to any correction or alteration, especially as it
would always show if altered back. You couldn't make a job of it; not
to say a proper job. Besides, the names were morally the same, and
it was absurd to allow a variation in the letters to impose on our
imagination. The two names had been applied to very different
turns-out abroad, certainly; but then they did all sorts of things
abroad. If Saratoga, why not Krakatoa? Mr. Prichard was entrenched in
a stronghold of total ignorance of literary matters, and his position,
that mere differences of words ought not to tell upon a healthy mind,
was difficult to shake, especially as he had the coign of vantage. He
had only to remain inanimate, and what could a (presumably) widow lady
with one small daughter do against him? So at the end of the first
seven years, what had been Saratoga became Krakatoa, and remained so.

And it was in the back garden of the again newly painted villa, seven
years later, that the lady of the house, who was watering the garden
in the cool of the afternoon, asked her excited daughter, who had just
come home in a cab, what on earth could have prompted her to do such
a mad thing, such a perfectly _insane_ thing! We shall see what it was
immediately.

"Oh, Sally, Sally!" exclaimed that young person's still young and very
handsome mother. "What _will_ the child do next?"

"Oh, mamma, mamma!" answers Sally, just on the edge of a burst of tears;
"what _was_ I to do? What _could_ I do? It was all my fault from the
beginning. You _know_ I couldn't leave him to be taken to the
police-station, or the hospital, or----"

"Yes, of course you could! Why not?"

"And not know what became of him, or anything? Oh, mother!"

"You silly child! Why on earth couldn't you leave him to the railway
people?"

"And run away and leave him alone? Oh, _mother_!"

"But you don't even know his name."

"Mamma, dear, how _should_ I know his name? Don't you see, it was just
like this." And then Miss Sally Nightingale repeats, briefly and
rapidly, for the second time, the circumstances of her interview in
the railway-carriage and its tragic ending. Also their sequel on the
railway platform, with the partial recovery of the stunned or
stupefied man, his inability to speak plainly, the unsuccessful search
in his pockets for something to identify him, and the final decision
to put him in a cab and take him to the workhouse infirmary, pending
discovery of his identity. The end of her story has a note of relief
in it:

"And it was then I saw Dr. Vereker on the platform."

"Oh, you saw Dr. Vereker?"

"Of course I did, and he came with me. He's always so kind, you know,
and he knew the station people, so...."

"Where is he now?"

"Outside in the cab. He stopped to see after the man. We couldn't both
come away, so I came to tell you."

"You stupid chit! why couldn't you tell me at first? There, don't cry
and be a goose!"

But Sally disclaims all intention of crying. Her mother discards the
watering-pot and an apron, and suppresses appearances of gardening;
then goes quickly through the house, passes down the steps between
the scarlet geraniums in the over-painted goblets, through the gate
on which Saratoga ought to be, and Krakatoa is, written, and finds
a four-wheeled cab awaiting developments. One of its occupants alights
and meets her on the pavement. A rapid colloquy ensues in undertones,
ending in the slightly raised voice of the young man, who is clearly
Dr. Vereker.

"Of course, you're perfectly right--perfectly right. But you'll have
to make my peace with Miss Sally for me."

"A chit of a girl like that! Fancy a responsible man like you letting
himself be twisted round the finger of a young monkey. But you men are
all alike."

"Well, you know, really, what Miss Sally said was quite true--that it
was only a step out of the way to call here. And she had got this idea
that it was all her fault."

"Was it?"

"I can only go by what she says." The girl comes into the conversation
through the gate. She may perhaps have stopped for a word or two with
cook and a house-and-parlourmaid, who are deeply interested, in the
rear.

"It _was_ my fault," she said. "If it hadn't been for me, it would
never have happened. Do see how he is now, Dr. Vereker."

It is open to surmise that the first strong impulse of generosity
having died down under the corrective of a mother, our young lady is
gradually seeing her way to interposing Dr. Vereker as a buffer
between herself and the subject of the conversation, for she does not
go to the cab-door to look in at him. The doctor does. The mother
holds as aloof as possible, not to get entangled into any obligations.

"Get him away to the infirmary, or the station at once," she says.
"That's the best thing to be done. They'll take care of him till his
friends come to claim him. Of course, they'll come. They always do."
The doctor seems to share this confidence, or affects to do so.

"Sure to. His friends or his servants," says he. "But he can't give
any account of himself yet. Of course, I don't know what he'll be able
to do to-morrow morning."

He resumes his place in the cab beside its occupant, who, except
for an entire want of animation, looks much like what he did in the
railway-carriage--the same strong-looking man with well-marked
cheek-bones, very thick brown hair and bushy brows, a skin rather
tanned, and a scar on the bridge of the nose; very strong hands with
a tattoo-mark showing on the wrist and an abnormal crop of hair on the
back, running on to the fingers, but flawed by a scar or two. Add to
this the chief thing you would recollect him by, an Elizabethan beard,
and you will have all the particulars about him that a navy-blue serge
suit, with shirt to match, allows to be seen of him. But you will have
an impression that could you see his skin beyond the sun-mark limit on
his hands and neck, you would find it also tattooed. Yet you would not
at once conclude he was a sailor; rather, your conclusion might go on
other lines, but always assigning to him a rough adventurous outdoor
life.

When the doctor got into the cab and shut the door himself, he took
too much for granted. He assumed the driver, without whom, if your
horse has no ambition at all beyond tranquillity and an empty nosebag,
your condition is that of one camping out; or as one in a ship moored
alongside in dock, the kerbstone playing the part of the quay. Boys
will then accumulate, and undervalue your appearance and belongings.
And impossible persons, with no previous or subsequent existence, will
endeavour to see their way to the establishment of a claim on you. And
you will be rather grateful than otherwise that a policeman without
active interests should accrue, and communicate to them the virus of
dispersal, however long its incubation may be. You will then probably
do as Dr. Vereker did, and resent the driver's disappearance. The
boys, mysteriously in his, each other's, and the policeman's
confidence (all to your exclusion), will be able to quicken his
movements, and he will come trooping from the horizon, on or beyond
which is Somebody's Entire.

All this came to pass in due course, and the horse, deprived of his
nosebag, returned to his professional obligations. But it was a shabby
horse in a shabby cab, to which he imparted movement by falling
forwards and saving himself just before he reached the ground. His
reins were visibly made good with stout pack-thread, and he had a
well-founded contempt for his whip, which seemed to come to an end
too soon, and always to hit something wooden before it reached any
sensitive part of his person. But he did get off at last, and showed
that, as Force is a mode of motion, so Weakness is a mode of slowness,
and one he took every advantage of.

The mother and daughter stood looking after the vanishing label, that
stated that the complication of inefficiencies in front of it was one
of twelve thousand and odd--pray Heaven, more competent ones!--in the
Metropolis, and had nearly turned to go into the house, when the very
much younger sister (that might have been) addressed the very much,
but not impossibly, older one thus:

"Mamma, he said he knew somebody of our name!"

"Well, Miss Fiddlestick!"--with an implication of what of that? Were
there not plenty of Nightingales in the world? Miss Sally is perceptive
about this.

"Yes, but he said Rosalind."

"Where?"

"He didn't say where. That's all he said--Rosalind."

As the two stand together watching the retreating cab we are able to
see that our first impression of them, derived perhaps from their
relative ages only, was an entirely false one as far as size went. The
daughter is nearly as tall as her mother, and may end by being as big
a woman when she has completely graduated, taken her degree, in
womanhood. But for all that we, who have looked at both faces, know
that when they turn round we shall see on the shoulders of the one
youth, inexperience, frankness, and expectation of things to come; on
those of the other a head that keeps all the mere physical freshness
of the twenties, if not quite the bloom of the teens, but--expressed
Heaven knows how!--experience, reserve, and retrospect on things that
have been once and are not, and that we have no right to assume to be
any concern of ours. Equally true of all faces of forty, do we
understand you to say? Well, we don't know about that. It was all very
strong in this face.

We can look again, when they turn round. But they don't; for number
twelve thousand and odd has come to a standstill, and its energumenon
has come down off its box, and is "fiddlin' at something on the
'orse's 'ed." So cook says, evidently not impressed with that cab. The
doctor looks out and confers; then gets out and comes back towards the
house. The girl and her mother walk to meet him.

"Never saw such a four-wheeler in my life! The harness is tied up with
string, and the rein's broken. The idiot says if he had a stout bit of
whipcord, he could make it square." No sooner have the words passed
the doctor's lips than Miss Sally is off on a whipcord quest.

"I wish the child wouldn't always be in such a hurry," says her
mother. "Now she won't know where to get it."

She calls after her ineffectually. The doctor suggests that he shall
follow with instructions. Yes, suppose he does? There is precisely the
thing wanted in the left-hand drawer of the table in the hall--the
drawer the handle comes off. This seems unpromising, but the doctor
goes, and transmission of messages ensues, heard within the house.

Left alone, Mrs. Nightingale, the elder Rosalind, seems reflective.
"A funny thing, too!" she says aloud to herself. She is thinking,
clearly, of how this man in the cab, who can't give any account of
himself, once knew a Rosalind Nightingale.

Probably the handle has come off the drawer, for they are a long time
over that string. Curiosity has time to work, and has so much effect
that the lady seems to determine that, after all, she would like to
see the man. Now that the cab is so far from the door, even if she
spoke to him, she would not stand committed to anything. It is all
settled, arranged, ratified, that he shall go to the police-station,
or the infirmary, "or somewhere."

When the string, and Dr. Vereker, and Sally the daughter come out of
the house, both exclaim. And the surprise they express is that the
mother of the latter should have walked all the way after the cab,
and should be talking to the man in it! It is not consistent with her
previous attitude.

"Now, isn't that like mamma?" says Sally. If so, why be so astonished
at it?--is a question that suggests itself to her hearer. But
self-confutation is not a disorder for his treatment. Besides, the
doctor likes it, in this case. His own surprise at mamma's conduct is
unqualified by any intimate acquaintance with her character. She may
be inconsistency itself, for anything he knows.

"Is she going to turn the cab round and bring him to the house, after
all?" It looks like it.

"I'm so glad," Sally replies to the doctor.

"I hope you won't repent it in sackcloth and ashes."

"I shan't. Why do you think I shall?"

"How do you know you won't?"

"You'll see!" Sally pinches her red lips tight over her two rows of
pearls, and nods confirmation. Her dark eyes look merry under the
merry eyebrows, and the lip-pinch makes a dimple on her chin--a dimple
to remember her by. She is a taking young lady, there is no doubt of
it. At least, the doctor has none.

"Yes, Sally, it's all quite right." Thus her mother, arriving a little
ahead of the returning cab. "Now, don't dispute with me, child, but do
just as I tell you. We'll have him in the breakfast-room; there's
fewer steps." She seems to have made up her mind so completely that
neither of the others interposes a word. But she replies, moved by a
brain-wave, to a question that stirred in the doctor's mind.

"Oh yes; he has spoken. He spoke to me just now. I'll tell you presently.
Now let's get him out. No, never mind calling cook. You take him on that
side, doctor.... That's right!"

And then the man, whose name we still do not know, found himself half
supported, half standing alone, on the pavement in front of a little
white eligible residence smelling of new paint. He did not the least
know what had happened. He had only a vague impression that if some
one or something, he couldn't say what, would only give up hindering
him, he would find something he was looking for. But how could he
find it if he didn't know what it was? And that he was quite in the
dark about. The half-crown and the pretty girl who had given it to
him, the train-guard and his cowardice about responsibility, the
public-spirited gentleman, the railway-carriage itself, to say nothing
of all the exciting experiences of the morning--all, all had vanished,
leaving behind only the trace of the impulse to search. Nothing else!
He stood looking bewildered, then spoke thickly.

"I am giving trouble," said he. Then the two ladies and the gentleman,
whom he saw dimly and did not know, looked at one another, each
perhaps to see if one of the others would speak first. In the end the
lady who was a woman nodded to the gentleman to speak, and then the
lady who was a girl confirmed her by what was little more than an
intention to nod, not quite unmixed with a mischievous enjoyment at
the devolution of the duty of speech on the gentleman. It twinkled in
her closed lips. But the gentleman didn't seem overwhelmed with
embarrassment. He spoke as if he was used to things.

"You have had an accident, sir.... On the railway.... In the Twopenny
Tube.... Yes, you'll remember all about it presently.... Yes, I'm a
doctor.... Yes, we want you to come in and sit down and rest till
you're better.... No, it won't be a long job. _You'll_ soon come
round.... What?... Oh no, no trouble at all! It's this lady's house,
and she wants you to come in." The speaker seems to guess at the right
meanings, as one guesses in the jaws of the telephone, perhaps with
more confidence. But there was but little audible articulation on the
other's part.

He seemed not to want much support--chiefly guidance. He was taken
down the half-dozen steps that flanked a grass slope down to a stone
paving, and through a door under the more numerous steps he had
escaped climbing, and into a breakfast-room flush with the kitchen,
opening on a small garden at the back. There was the marriage of Queen
Victoria and Prince Albert over the chimney-piece, and a tortoiseshell
cat with a collar on the oilskin cover of a square table, who rose as
though half resenting strange visitors; then, after stretching,
decided on some haven less liable to disturbance, and went through the
window to it without effort, emotion, or sound. There was a clock
under a glass cover on the chimney-piece whose works you could see
through, with a fascinating ratchet movement of perfect grace and
punctuality. Also a vertical orange-yellow glass vase, twisted to a
spiral, and full of spills. Also the leaning tower of Pisa, done small
in alabaster. He could see all these things quite plainly, and but
that his tongue seemed to have struck work, could have described them.
But he could not make himself out, nor how and why he came to be there
at all. Where ought he to have been, he asked himself? And, to his
horror, he could not make that out either. Never mind. Patience was
the word, clearly. Let him shut his eyes as he sat there, in the
little breakfast-room, with the flies continually droning in the
ceiling, and an especially large bluebottle busy in the window, who
might just as easily have gone out and enjoyed the last hour of a long
evening in a glorious sunshine, but who mysteriously preferred to beat
himself for ever against a closed pane of glass, a self-constituted
prisoner between it and a gauze blind--let him shut his eyes, and try
to think out what it all meant, what it was all about.

All that he was perfectly certain of, at that moment, was that he was
awake, with a contused pain all over, and a very stiff left hand and
foot. And that, knowing he had been insensible, he was striving hard
to remember what something was that had happened just before he became
insensible. He had nearly got it, once or twice. Yes, now he _had_ got
it, surely! No, he hadn't. It was gone again.

A mind that is struggling to remember some particular thing does not
deal with other possibilities of oblivion. We all know the painful
phenomenon of being perfectly aware what it is we are trying to
remember, feeling constantly close to it, but always failing to grasp
it. We know what it will sound like when we say it, what it will mean,
where it was on the page we read it on. Oh dear yes!--quite plainly.
The only thing we can't remember for the life of us is--what it _was_!

And while we are making stupendous efforts to recapture some such
thing, does it ever occur to any of us to ask if we may not be
mistaken in our tacit assumption that we are quite certain to remember
everything else as soon as we try? That, in fact, it may be our
memory-faculty itself that is in fault and that we are only failing to
recall one thing because at the moment it is that one sole thing, and
no other, that we are trying our brains against.

It was so in the pause of a few minutes in which this man we write of,
left to himself and the ticking of the clock, and hearing, through the
activity of the bluebottle and the monotony of the ceiling flies, the
murmur of a distant conversation between his late companions, who for
the moment had left him alone, tried in vain to recover his particular
thread of memory, without any uneasiness about the innumerable skeins
that made up the tissue of his record of a lifetime.

When the young doctor returned, he found him still seated where he had
left him, one hand over his eyes, the other on his knee. As he
sat--for the doctor watched him from the door for a moment--he moved
and replaced either hand at intervals, with implied distress in the
movements. They gave the impression of constant attempt constantly
baffled. The doctor, a shrewd-seeming young man with an attentive pale
eye, and very fair hair, seemed to understand.

"Let me recommend you to be quiet and rest. Be quite quiet. You will
be all right when you have slept on it. Mrs. Nightingale--that's the
lady you saw just now; this is her house--will see that you are
properly taken care of."

Then the man tried to speak; it was with an effort.

"I wish to thank--I must thank----"

"Never mind thanks yet. All in good time. Now, what do you think you
can take--to eat or drink?"

"Nothing--nothing to eat or drink."

"Well, you know best. However, there's tea coming; perhaps you'll go
so far as a cup of tea? You would be the better for it."

       *       *       *       *       *

Rosalind junior, or Sally, slept in the back bedroom on the
first-floor--that is to say, if we ignore the basement floor and call
the one flush with the street-door step the ground-floor. We believe
we are right in doing so. Rosalind senior, the mother, slept in the
front one. It wasn't too late for tea, they had decided, and thereupon
they had gone upstairs to revise and correct.

After a certain amount of slopping and splashing in the back room,
uncorroborated by any in the front, Sally called out to her mother, on
the disjointed lines of talk in real life:

"I like this soap! Have you a safety-pin?" Whereto her mother replied,
speaking rather drowsily and perfunctorily:

"Yes, but you must come and get it."

"It's so nice and oily. It's not from Cattley's?"

"Yes, it is."

"I thought it was. Where's the pin?" At this point she came into her
mother's room, covering her slightly _retroussé_ nose with her
fresh-washed hands, to enjoy the aroma of Cattley's soap.

"In the little pink saucer. Only don't mess my things about."

"Headache, mammy dear?" For her mother was lying back on the bed, with
her eyes closed. The speaker left her hands over her nostrils as she
spoke, to do full justice to the soap, pausing an instant in her
safety-pin raid for the answer:

"I've been feeling the heat. It's nothing. You go down, and I'll
come."

"Have some eau-de-Cologne?" But, alas! there was no eau-de-Cologne.

"Never mind. You go down, and I'll follow. I shall be all right
after a cup of tea." And Sally, after an intricate movement with a
safety-pin, an openwork lace cuff that has lost a button, and a white
wrist, goes down three accelerandos of stair-lengths, with landing
pauses, and ends with a dining-room door staccato. But she isn't long
gone, for in two minutes the door reopens, and she comes upstairs as
fast, nearly, as she went down. In her hand she carries, visibly,
Johann Maria Farina.

"Where on earth did you find that?" says her mother.

"The man had it. Wasn't it funny? He heard me say to Dr. Vereker that
I was so sorry I'd not been able to eau-de-Cologne your forehead, and
he began speaking and couldn't get his words. Then he got this out of
his pocket. I remember one of the men at the station said something
about his having a bottle, but I thought he meant a pocket-flask. He
looks the sort of man that would have a pocket-flask and earrings."

Her mother doesn't seem to find this inexplicable, nor to need
comment. Rather the contrary. Sally dabs her brow with eau-de-Cologne,
beneficially, for she seems better, and says now go; she won't be
above a couple of minutes. Nor is she, in the sense in which her
statement has been accepted, for she comes downstairs within seven by
the clock with the dutiful ratchet movement.

       *       *       *       *       *

When she came within hearing of those in the room below, she heard
a male voice that was not Dr. Vereker's. Yes, the man (whom we still
cannot speak of by a name) was saying something--slowly, perhaps--but
fairly articulately and intelligibly. She went very deliberately, and
listened in the doorway. She looked very pale, and very interested--a
face of fixed attention, of absorption in something she was irresolute
about, rather than of doubt about what she heard; an expression rather
out of proportion to the concurrent facts, as we know them.

"What is so strange"--this is what the man was saying, in his slow
way--"is that I could find words to tell you, if I could remember what
it is I have to tell. But when I try to bring it back, my head fails.
Tell me again, mademoiselle, about the railway-carriage." Sally
wondered why she was mademoiselle, but recognised a tone of deference
in his use of the word. She did as he asked her, slightly interrupting
her narrative to make sure of getting the tea made right as she did
so.

"I trod on your foot, you know. (One, two, three spoonfuls.) Surely
you must remember that? (Four, and a little one for the pot.)"

"I have completely forgotten it."

"Then I was sorry, and said I would have come off sooner if I had
known it was a foot. You _must_ remember that?" The man half smiled as
he shook a slow-disclaiming head--one that would have remembered so
gladly, if it could. "Then," continues Sally, "I saw your thumb-ring
for rheumatism."

"My thumb-ring!" He presses his fingers over his closed eyes, as
though to give Memory a better chance by shutting off the visible
present, then withdraws them. "No, I remember no ring at all."

"How extraordinary!"

"I remember a violent concussion _somewhere_--I can't say where--and
then finding myself in a cab, trying to speak to a lady whose face
seemed familiar to me, but who she could be I had not the slightest
idea. Then I tried to get out of the cab, and found I could not
move--or hardly."

"Look at mamma again! Here she is, come." For Mrs. Nightingale has
come into the room, looking white. "Yes, mother dear, I have. Quite
full up to the brim. Only it isn't ready to pour yet." This last
concerns the tea.

Mrs. Nightingale moves round behind the tea-maker, and comes full-face
in front of her guest. One might have fancied that the hand that held
the pocket-handkerchief that caused the smell of eau-de-Cologne that
came in with her was tremulous. But then that very eau-de-Cologne was
eloquent about the recent effect of the heat. Of course, she was a
little upset. Nothing strikes either the doctor or Mademoiselle Sally
as abnormal or extraordinary. The latter resumes:

"Surely, sir! Oh, you must, you _must_ remember about the name
Nightingale?"

"This young gentleman said it just now. _Your_ name, madame?"

"Certainly, my name," says the lady addressed. But Sally
distinguishes:

"Yes, but I didn't mean that. I meant when I took the ring from you,
and was to pay for it. Sixpence. And you had no change for
half-a-crown. And then I gave you my mother's card to send it to us
here. One-and-elevenpence, because of the postage. Why, surely you can
remember that!" She cannot bring herself to believe him. Dr. Vereker
does, though, and tells him not to try recollecting; he will only put
himself back. "Take the tea and wait a bit," is the doctor's advice.
For Miss Sally is transmitting a cup of tea with studied equilibrium.
He receives it absently, leaving it on the table.

"I do not know if you will know what I mean," he says, "but I have
a sort of feeling of--of being frightened; for I have been trying to
remember things, and I find I can remember almost nothing. Perhaps
I should say I cannot remember _at all_--can't do any recollecting,
if you understand." Every one can understand--at least, each says so.
Sally goes on, half _sotto voce_: "You can recollect your own name,
I suppose?" She speaks half-way between soliloquy and dialogue. The
doctor throws in counsel, aside, for precaution.

"You'll only make matters worse, like that. Better leave him quite
alone."

But the man's hearing doesn't seem to have suffered, for he catches
the remark about his name.

"I can't tell," he says. "I am not so sure. Of course, I can't have
forgotten my own name, because that's impossible. I will tell it you
in a minute.... Oh dear!..."

The young doctor seemed to disapprove highly of these efforts, and to
wish to change the conversation. "Let it alone now," said he. "Only
for a little. Would you kindly allow me to see your arm again?"

"Let him drink his tea first." This is from Miss Sally, the
tea-priestess. "Another cup?" But no; he won't take another cup,
thanks.

"Now let's have the coat off, and get another look at the arm; never
mind apologizing." But the patient had not contemplated apology. It
was the stiffness made him slow. However, he got his coat off, and
drew the blue shirt off his left arm. He had a fine hand and arm, but
the hand hung inanimate, and the fingers looked scorched. Dr. Vereker
began feeling the arm at intervals all the way up, and asking each
time questions about the degree of sensibility.

"I couldn't say whether it's normal or not up there." So the patient
testified. And Mrs. Nightingale, who was watching the examination
intently, suggested trying the other arm in the same place for
comparison.

"You didn't see the other arm at the station, doctor?" she said.

"Didn't I?"

"I was asking."

"Well, no. Now I come to think of it, I don't think I did. We'll have
a look now, anyhow."

"_You're_ a nice doctor!" This is from Miss Sally; a little
confidential fling at the profession. She is no respecter of persons.
Her mother would, no doubt, check her--a pert little monkey!--only she
is absorbed in the examination.

The doctor, as he ran back the right-arm sleeve, uttered an
exclamation. "Why, my dear sir," cried he, "here we have it! What more
can we want?"--and pointed at the arm. And Sally said, as though
relieved: "He's got his name written on him plain enough, anyhow!" Her
mother gave a sigh of relief, or something like it, and said, "Yes."
The patient himself seemed quite as much perplexed as pleased at the
discovery, saying only, in a subdued way: "It _must_ be my name." But
he did not seem to accept at all readily the name tattooed on his arm:
"A. Fenwick, 1878."

"Whose name can it be if it is not yours?" said Mrs. Nightingale. She
fixed her eyes on his face, as though to watch his effort of memory.
"Try and think." But the doctor protested.

"Don't do anything of the sort," said he. "It's very bad for him, Mrs.
Nightingale. He _mustn't_ think. Just let him rest."

The patient, however, could not resign himself without a struggle to
this state of anonymous ambiguity. His bewilderment was painful to
witness. "If it were my name," he said, speaking slowly and not very
clearly, "surely it would bring back the first name. I try to recall
the word, and the effort is painful, and doesn't succeed." His hostess
seemed much interested, even to the extent of ignoring the doctor's
injunctions.

"Very curious! If you heard the name now, would you recollect it?"

"I _wish_ you wouldn't try these experiments," says the doctor. "They
won't do him _any_ good. _Rest's_ the thing."

"I think I would rather try," says Fenwick, as we may now call him.
"I will be quiet if I can get this right."

Mrs. Nightingale begins repeating names that begin with A. "Alfred,
Augustus, Arthur, Andrew, Algernon----"

Fenwick's face brightens. "That's it!" says he. "Algernon. I knew it
quite well all the time, of course. But I couldn't--couldn't....
However, I don't feel that I shall make myself understood."

"I can't make out," said Sally, "how you came to remember the bottle
of eau-de-Cologne."

"I did not remember it. I do not now. I mean, how it came to be in the
pocket. I can remember nothing else that was there--would have been,
that is. There is nothing else there now, except my cigar-case and
a pocket-book with nothing much in it. I can tell nothing about my
watch. A watch ought to be there."

"There, there!" says the doctor; "you will remember it all presently.
Do take my advice and be quiet, and sit still and don't talk."

But half an hour or more after, although he had taken this advice,
Fenwick remembered nothing, or professed to have remembered nothing.
He seemed, however, much more collected, and except on the
memory-point nearly normal.

When the doctor, looking at his watch, referred to his obligation to
keep another engagement, Fenwick rose, saying that he was now
perfectly well able to walk, and he would intrude no longer on his
hostesses' hospitality. This would have been perfectly reasonable, but
for one thing. It had come out that his pockets were empty, and he was
evidently quite without any definite plan as to what he should do
next, or where he should go. He was only anxious to relieve his new
friends of an encumbrance. He was evidently the sort of person on
whom the character sat ill; one who would always be most at ease when
shifting for himself; such a one as would reply to any doubt thrown on
his power of doing so, that he had been in many a worse plight than
this before. Yet you would hardly have classed him on that account as
an adventurer, because that term implies unscrupulousness in the way
one shifts for oneself. His face was a perfectly honourable one. It
was a face whose strength did not interfere with its refinement, and
there was a pleasant candour in the smile that covered it as he
finally made ready to depart with the doctor. He should never, he
said, know how to be grateful enough to madame and her daughter for
their kindness to him. But when pressed on the point of where he
intended to go, and how they should hear what had become of him, he
answered vaguely. He was undecided, but, of course, he would write and
tell them as they so kindly wished to hear of him. Would mademoiselle
give him the address written down?

They found themselves--at least, the doctor and Sally did--inferring,
from his refreshed manner and his confidence about departing, that his
memory was coming back, or would come back. It might have seemed
needless inquisitiveness to press him with further questions. They
left the point alone. After all, they had no more right to catechize
him about himself than if he had been knocked down by a cart outside
the door, and brought into the house unconscious--a thing which might
quite well have happened.

Mrs. Nightingale seemed very anxious he should not go away quite
unprovided with money. She asked Dr. Vereker to pass him on a loan
from her before he parted with him. He could post it back when it was
quite convenient, so the doctor was to tell him. The doctor asked,
Wasn't a sovereign a large order? But she seemed to think not.
"Besides," said she, "it makes it certain we shall not lose sight of
him. I'm not sure we ought to let him go at all," added she. She
seemed very uneasy about it--almost exaggeratedly so, the doctor
thought. But he was reassuring and confident, and she allowed his
judgment to overrule hers. But he must bring him back without scruple
if he saw reason to do so. He promised, and the two departed together,
the gait and manner of Fenwick giving rise to no immediate
apprehension.

"How rum!" said Sally, when they had gone. "I never thought I should
live to see a man electrocuted."

"A man what?"

"Well, half-electrocuted, then. I say, mother----"

"What, dear?" She is looking very tired, and speaks absently. Sally
makes the heat responsible again in her mind, and continues:

"I don't believe his name's Algernon at all! It's Arthur, or Andrew,
or something of that sort."

"You're very wise, poppet. Why?"

"Because you stopped such a long time after Algernon. It was like
cheating at Spiritualism. You _must_ say the alphabet quite
steady--A--B--C--D----" Sally sketches out the proper attitude for
the impartial inquirer. "Or else you're an accomplice."

"You're a puss! No, _his_ name's Algernon, right enough.... I mean,
I've no doubt it's Algernon. Why shouldn't it be?"

"No reason at all. Dr. Vereker's is Conrad, so, of course, there's no
reason why his shouldn't be Algernon." Satisfactory and convincing! At
least, the speaker thinks so, and is perfectly satisfied. Her mother
doesn't quarrel with the decision.

"Kitten!" she says suddenly. And then in reply to her daughter's,
"What's up, mammy dear?" she suggests that they shall walk out in
front--it is a quiet, retired sort of cul-de-sac road, ending in a
fence done over with tar, with nails along the top like the letter
_L_ upside down--in the cool. "It's quite delicious now the sun's
gone down, and Martha can make supper another half-hour late." Agreed.

The mother pauses as they reach the gate. "Who's that talking?" she
asks, and listens.

"Nobody. It's only the sparrows going to bed."

"No, no; not that! Shish! be quiet! I'm sure I heard Dr. Vereker's
voice----"

"How could you? He's home by now."

"Do be quiet, child!" She continues listening.

"Why not look round the corner and see if it isn't him?"

"Well, I was going to; only you and the sparrows make such a
chattering.... There, I knew it would be that! Why doesn't he bring
him back here, at once?" For at the end of the short road are Dr.
Vereker and Fenwick, the latter with his hand on the top of a post,
as though resting. They must have been there some minutes.

"Fancy their having got no further than the fire-alarm!" says Sally,
who takes account of her surroundings.

"Of course, I ought never to have let him go." Thus her mother, with
decision in her voice. "Come on, child!"

She seems greatly relieved at the matter having settled itself--so
Sally thinks, at least.

"We got as far as this," Dr. Vereker says--rather meaninglessly, if
you come to think of it. It is so very obvious.

"And now," says Mrs. Nightingale, "how is he to be got back again?
That's the question!" She seems not to have the smallest doubt about
the question, but much about the answer. It is answered, however, with
the assistance of the previous police-constable, who reappears like
a ghost. And Mr. Fenwick is back again within the little white villa,
much embarrassed at the trouble he is giving, but unable to indicate
any other course. Clearly, it would never do to accept the only one
he can suggest--that he should be left to himself, leaning on the
fire-alarm, till the full use of his limbs should come back to him.

Mrs. Nightingale, who is the person principally involved, seems quite
content with the arrangement. The doctor, in his own mind, is rather
puzzled at her ready acquiescence; but, then, the only suggestion he
could make would be that he should do precisely the same good office
himself to this victim of an electric current of a good deal too
many volts--too many for private consumption--or cab him off to the
police-station or the workhouse. For Mr. Fenwick continues quite
unable to give any account of his past or his belongings, and can only
look forward to recollecting himself, as it were, to-morrow morning.



CHAPTER IV

HOW THE STRANGER STOPPED ON AT KRAKATOA VILLA. OF THE FREAKS OF AN
  EXTINGUISHED MEMORY. OF HOW THE STRANGER GOT A GOOD APPOINTMENT,
  BUT NONE COULD SAY WHO HE WAS, NOR WHENCE


We must suppose that the personal impression produced by the man so
strangely thrown on the hands of Mrs. Nightingale and her daughter was
a pleasant one. For had the reverse been the case, the resources of
civilisation for disposing of him elsewhere had not been exhausted
when the decision was come to that he should remain where he was;
till next morning, at any rate. The lady of the house--of course the
principal factor in the solution of the problem--appeared, as we have
seen, to have made up her mind on the subject. And probably her
daughter had been enough influenced by the stranger's manner and
appearance, even in the short period of the interview we have just
described, to get rid of a feeling she had of self-reproach for her
own rashness. We don't understand girls, but we ask this question of
those who do: Is it possible that Miss Sally was impressed by the
splendid arm with the name tattooed on it--an arm in which every
muscle told as in a Greek statue, without infringing on its
roundness--the arm of Theseus or Ilissus? Or was it the tone of his
voice--a musical one enough? Or merely his generally handsome face
and courteous manner?

He remained that night at the house, but next day still remembered
nothing. He wished to go on his way--destination not known; but
_somewhere_--and would have done so had it not been for Mrs.
Nightingale, whose opposition to his going was, thought Dr. Vereker,
almost more decisive than the case called for. So he remained on, that
day and the next, slowly regaining the use of his right hand. But his
memory continued a blank; and though he was not unable to converse
about passing events, he could not fix his attention, or only with
a great effort. What was very annoying to Sally was that he was
absolutely unable to account for his remark about her name and her
mother's in the railway-carriage. He could not even remember making
this. He could recall no reason why he should have made it, from any
of the few things that came back to his mind now--hazily, like ghosts.
Was he speaking the truth? Why not? Mrs. Nightingale asked. Why not
forget that as readily as anything else?

His distress at this inability to remember, to account for himself,
to himself or any one else, was almost painful to witness. The only
consolatory circumstance was that his use and knowledge of words
remained intact; it was his memory of actual incidents and people
in the past that was in fault. Definite effort to follow slight
clues remaining in his mind ended in failure, or only served to
show that their origin was traceable to literary fiction. But his
language-faculty seemed perfectly in order. It came out that he spoke
French fluently, and a little Spanish, but he was just as ready with
German. It seemed as if he had been recently among French people, if
one could judge from such things as his calling his hostess "Madame"
when he recovered. These facts came to light in the course of next
day, the second of his stay in the house. The favourable impression he
had produced on Miss Sally did not diminish, and it seemed much easier
and more natural to acquiesce in his remaining than to cast about for
a new whereabouts to transfer him to. So his departure was
deferred--for a day, at least, or perhaps until the room he occupied
should be wanted for other purposes. The postponements on the days
that followed were a natural sequence so long as there remained any
doubt of his ability to shift for himself.

But in about a month's time the effects of the nervous shock had
nearly disappeared, and he had almost recovered the use of his
hand--could, in fact, write easily. Besides, as long as he remained,
it would be impossible for an old friend of Mrs. Nightingale's, who
frequently stayed the night, when he came on an evening visit, to
follow a custom which was in the winter almost invariable. In the
summer it was less important; and as soon as this friend, an old
military gentleman spoken of as "the Major," could be got to
understand exactly what had taken place, he readily gave up his
quarters at Krakatoa Villa, and returned to his own, at the top of
a house in Ball Street, Mayfair.

Nevertheless, the inevitable time came for looking Fenwick's future in
the face. It was difficult, as he was unable to contribute a solution
of the question, except by his readiness to go out and find work for
himself, promising not to come back till he found it.

"You'll see I shall come back to dinner," said he. "I shan't make you
late."

Sally asked him what sort of work he should look for.

"I have a sort of inner conviction," he replied, "that I could do
almost anything I turned my hand to. Probably it is only a diseased
confidence bred of what you might call my artificial inexperience.
Every sharp young man's _bona fide_ inexperience lands him in that
delusion."

"But you must have _some_ kind of preference for _something_, however
much you forget."

"If I were to choose, I think I should like horse-training.... Oh no,
of course I can't recall the training of any specific horse. But I
know I know all about it, for all that. I can feel the knowledge of it
itching in my finger-ends. Yes--I could train horses. Fruit-farming
would require capital."

"Who said anything about fruit-farming?"

Fenwick laughed aloud. It was a great big laugh, that made Rosalind,
who was giving directions in the kitchen, just across the passage,
call out to know what they were laughing at.

"I'll be hanged if I know," said he, "_why_ I said fruit-farming--I
must have had something to do with it. It's all very odd."

"But the horses--the horses," said Sally, who did not want him to
wander from the point. "How should you go about it? Should you walk
into Tattersall's without a character, and ask for a place?"

"Not a bit of it! I should saunter into Tat's' like a swell, and ask
them if they couldn't find me a raw colt to try my hand on for a
wager. Say I had laid a hundred I would quiet down the most vicious
quadruped they could find in an hour."

"But that would be fibs."

"Oh no! I could do it. But I don't know why I know...."

"I didn't mean that. I meant you wouldn't have laid the wager."

"Yes, I should. I lay it you now! Come, Miss Sally!--a hundred pounds
to a brass farthing I knock all the vice out of the worst beast they
can find in an hour. I shouldn't say the wager had been accepted, you
know."

"Well, anyhow, I shan't accept it. You haven't got a hundred pounds
to pay with. To be sure, I haven't got a brass farthing that I know
of. It's as broad as it is long."

"Yes, it's that," he replied musingly--"as broad as it is long. I
_haven't_ got a hundred pounds, that I know of." He repeated this
twice, becoming very absent and thoughtful.

Sally felt apologetic for reminding him of his position, and
immediately said so. She was evidently a girl quite incapable of any
reserves or concealments. But she had mistaken his meaning.

"No, no, dear Miss Sally," said he. "Not that--not that at all!
I spoke like that because it all seemed so strange to me. Do you
know?--of all the things I can't recollect, the one I can't recollect
_most_--can you understand?--is ever being in want of money. I _must_
have had plenty. I am sure of it."

"I dare say you had. You'll recollect it all presently, and what
a lark that will be!" Sally's ingenious optimism made matters very
pleasant. She did not like to press the conversation on these lines,
lest Mr. Fenwick should refer to a loan she knew her mother had made
him; indeed, had it not been for this the poor man would have been
hard put to it for clothes and other necessaries. All such little
matters, which hardly concern the story, had been landed on a
comfortable footing at the date of this conversation.

But Mr. Fenwick did not lend himself to the agreeable anticipation of
Sally's "lark." There was a pained distraction on his handsome face as
he gave his head a great shake, tossing about the mass of brown hair,
which was still something of a lion's mane, in spite of the recent
ministrations of a hairdresser. He walked to the window-bay that
looked out on the little garden, shaking and rubbing his head, and
then came back to where he had been sitting--always as one wrestling
with some painful half-memory he could not trace. Then he spoke again.

"Whether the sort of flash that comes in my mind of writing my name
in a cheque-book is really a recollection of doing so, or merely
the knowledge that I _must_ have done so, I cannot tell. But it is
disagreeable--thoroughly disagreeable--and _strange_ to the last
degree. I cannot tell you how--how torturing it is, always to be
compelled to stop on the threshold of an uncompleted recollection."

"I have the idea, though, quite!" said Sally. "But of course one never
remembers signing one's name, any particular time. One does it
mechanically. So I don't wonder."

"Yes! But the nasty part of the flash is that I always know that it is
not _my_ name. Last time it came--just now this minute--it was a name
like Harrington or Carrington. Oh dear!" He shook and rubbed his head
again, with the old action.

"Perhaps your name isn't Fenwick, but Harrington or Carrington?"

"No! That cock won't fight. In a flash, I know it's not my _own_ name
as I write it."

"Oh, but I see!" Sally is triumphant. "You signed for a firm you
belonged to, of course. People _do_ sign for firms, don't they?" added
she, with misgivings about her own business capacity. But Mr. Fenwick
did not accept this solution, and continued silent and depressed.

The foregoing is one of many similar conversations between Fenwick
and Sally, or her mother, or all three, during the term of his stay
at Krakatoa Villa. They were less encouraged by the older lady, who
counselled Fenwick to accept his oblivion passively, and await the
natural return of his mental powers. They would all come in time, she
said; and young Dr. Vereker, though his studious and responsible face
grew still more studious and responsible as time went on, and the mind
of this case continued a blank, still encouraged passivity, and spoke
confidently--whatever he thought--of an early and complete recovery.

When, in Fenwick's absence, Sally reported to Dr. Vereker and her
mother the scheme for applying to "Tat's" for a wild horse to break
in, the latter opposed and denounced it so strongly, on the ground of
the danger of the experiment, that both Sally and the doctor promised
to support her if Fenwick should broach the idea again. But when he
did so, it was so clear that the disfavour Mrs. Nightingale showed for
such a risky business would be sufficient to deter him from trying it
that neither thought it necessary to say a word in her support; and
the conversation went off into a discussion of how it came about that
Fenwick should remember Tattersall's. But, said he, he did not
remember Tattersall's even now. And yet hearing the name, he had
automatically called it "Tat's." Many other instances showed that his
power of imagery, in relation to the past, was paralysed, while his
language-faculty remained intact, just as many fluent speakers and
writers spell badly. Only it was an extreme case.

A fortunate occurrence that happened at this time gave its quietus to
the unpopular horse-breaking speculation. It happened that, as Mrs.
Nightingale was shopping at a big "universal providing" stores not far
away, one of the clerks had some difficulty in interpreting a French
phrase in a letter just received from abroad. No one near him looked
more likely to help than Mrs. Nightingale, but she could do nothing
when applied to; although, she said, she had been taught French in her
youth. But she felt certain Mr. Fenwick could be of use--at her house.
French idiom was evidently unfamiliar in the neighbourhood, for the
young gentleman from the office jumped at the opportunity. He went
away with Mrs. Nightingale's card, inscribed with a message, and came
back before she had done shopping (not that that means such a very
short time), not only with an interpretation, but with an exhaustive
draft of an answer in French, which she saw to be both skilful and
scholarly. It was so much so that a fortnight later an inquiry came to
know if Mr. Fenwick's services would be available for a firm in the
City, which had applied to be universally provided with a man having
exactly his attainments and no others. In less than a month he was
installed in a responsible position as their foreign correspondent and
in receipt of a very respectable salary. The rapidity of phrasing in
this movement was abnormal--_prestissimo_, in fact, if we indulge our
musical vocabulary. But the instrumentation would have seemed less
surprising to Sally had she known the lengths her mother had gone in
the proffer of a substantial guarantee for Fenwick's personal honesty.
This seeming rashness did not transpire at the time; had it done so,
it might have appeared unintelligible--to Sally, at any rate. She
would not have been surprised at herself for backing the interests of
a man nearly electrocuted over her half-crown, but why should her
mother endorse her _protégé_ so enthusiastically?

It is perhaps hardly necessary for us to dwell on the unsuccessful
attempts that were made to recover touch with other actors on the
stage of Fenwick's vanished past. Advertisement--variously worded--in
the second column of the "Times," three times a week for a month,
produced no effect. Miss Sally frequently referred with satisfaction
to the case of John Williams, reported among the Psychical Researches
of the past years, in which a man who vanished in England was found
years after carrying on a goods-store in Chicago under another name,
with a new wife and family, having utterly forgotten the first half of
his life and all his belongings. Her mother seemed only languidly
interested in this illustration, and left the active discussion of the
subject chiefly to Sally, who speculated endlessly on the whole of the
story; without, however, throwing any fresh light on it--unless
indeed, the Chicago man could be considered one. And the question
naturally arose, as long as his case continued to hold out hopes of
a sudden return of memory, and until we were certain his condition was
chronic, why go to expense and court publicity? By the time he was
safely installed in his situation at the wine-merchant's, the idea of
a police-inquiry, application to the magistrates, and so forth, had
become distasteful to all concerned, and to none more so than Fenwick
himself.

When Dr. Vereker, acting on his own account, and unknown to Mrs.
Nightingale and Fenwick, made confidential reference to Scotland Yard,
that Yard smiled cynically over the Chicago storekeeper, and expressed
the opinion that probably Fenwick's game was a similar game, and that
things of this sort were usually some game. The doctor observed that
he knew without being told that nine such cases out of ten had human
rascality at the bottom of them, but that he had consulted that Yard
in the belief that this might be a tenth case. The Yard said very
proper, and it would do its best, and no doubt did, but nothing was
elucidated.

It is just possible that had Mr. Fenwick communicated _every_ clue he
found, down to the smallest trifle, Dr. Vereker might have been able
to get at something through the Criminal Investigation Department.
But it wasn't fair to Sherlock Holmes to keep anything back. Fenwick,
knowing nothing of Vereker's inquiry, did so; for he had decided to
say nothing about a certain pawn-ticket that was in the pocket of an
otherwise empty purse or pocket-book, evidently just bought. He would,
however, investigate it himself, and did so.

It was quite three weeks, though, before he felt safe to go about
alone to any place distant from the house, more especially when he
did not know what the expedition would lead to. When at last he got
to the pawnbroker's, he found that that gentleman at the counter did
not recognise him, or said he did not. Fenwick, of course, could not
ask the question: "Did I pawn this watch?" It would have seemed
lunacy. But he framed a question that answered as well, to his
thinking.

"Would you very kindly tell me," he asked, dropping his voice,
"whether the person that pawned this watch was at all like me--like
a brother of mine, for instance?" Perhaps he was not a good hand at
pretences, and the pawnbroker outclassed him easily.

"No, sir," replied he, without looking to see; "that I most certainly
can _not_ tell you." Fenwick was not convinced that this was true, but
had to admit to himself that it might be. This man's life was one long
record of an infinity of short loans, and its problem was the
advancing of the smallest conceivable sums on the largest obtainable
security. Why _should_ he recollect one drop in the ocean of needy
applicants? The only answer Fenwick could give to this was based on
his belief that he looked quite unlike the other customers. More
knowledge would have shown him that there was not one of those
customers, scarcely, but had a like belief. It is the common form of
human thought among those who seek to have pawns broked. They are a
class made up entirely of exceptions.

Fenwick came away from the shop with the watch that _must have been_
his. That was how he thought of it. As soon as he wore it again, it
became _his_ watch, naturally. But he could remember nothing about it.
And its recovery from the pawnbroker's he could not remember leaving
it at became an absurd dream. Perhaps in Sherlock Holmes's hands it
would have provided a valuable clue. Fenwick said nothing further
about it; put it in a drawer until all inquiries about him had died
into the past.

Another little thing that might have helped was the cabman's number
written on his wristband. But here Fate threw investigation off her
guard. The ciphers were, as it chanced, 3,600; and an unfortunate
shrewdness of Scotland Yard, when Dr. Vereker communicated this clue,
spotted the date in it--the third day of the sixth month of 1900. So
no one dreamed of the cabby, who could at least have shown where the
hat was lost that might have had a name or address inside it, and
where he left its owner in the end. And there was absolutely no clue
to anything elsewhere among his clothes. The Panama hat might have
been bought anywhere; the suit of blue serge was ticketless inside the
collar, and the shirt unmarked--probably bought for the voyage only.
Fenwick had succeeded in forgetting himself just at a moment when he
was absolutely without a reminder. And it seemed there was nothing
for it but to wait for the revival of memory.

This, then, is how it came about that, within three months of his
extraordinary accident, Mr. Fenwick was comfortably settled in an
apartment within a few minutes' walk of Krakatoa Villa; and all the
incidents of his original appearance were getting merged in the
insoluble, and would soon, no doubt, under the influence of a steady
ever-present new routine of life, be completely absorbed in the actual
past.



CHAPTER V

THE CHRISTMAS AFTER. OF THE CHURCH OF ST. SATISFAX, AND A YOUNG IDIOT
  WHO CAME THERE


When one is called away in the middle of a street-fight, and misses
seeing the end of it, how embittered one's existence is, and continues
for some time after! Think what our friend the cabman would have felt
had he missed the _dénouement_! And when one finds oneself again
on its site--if that is the correct expression--how one wishes one
was not ashamed to inquire about its result from the permanent
officials on the spot--the waterman attached to the cab-rank, the
crossing-sweeper at the corner, the neolithographic artist who didn't
really draw that half-mackerel himself, but is there all day long, for
all that; or even the apothecary's shop over the way, on the chance
that the casualties went or were taken there for treatment after the
battle. One never does ask, because one is so proud; but if one did
ask, one would probably find that oblivion had drawn a veil over the
event, and that none of one's catechumens had heard speak of any such
an occurrence, and that it must have been another street. Because, if
it had 'a been there, they would have seen to a certainty. And the
monotonous traffic rolls on, on, on; and the two counter-streams of
creatures, each with a story, divide and subdivide over the spot where
the underneath man's head sounded on the kerbstone, which took no
notice at the time, and now seems to know less than ever about it.

Are we, in thus moralising, merely taking the mean advantage the
author is apt to imagine he has established over his reader when he
ends off a chapter with a snap, and hopes the said reader will not
dare to skip? No, we are not. We really mean something, and shall get
to it in time. Let us only be clear what it is ourselves.

It refers, at any rate, to the way in which the contents of Chapters
I. and II. had become records of the past six months later, when the
snow was on the ground four inches thick on Christmas morning--two
inches, at least, having been last night's contribution--and made it
all sweet and smooth all over so that there need be no unpleasantness.
As Sally looked out of her mother's bedroom window towards the front
through the Venetian blind, she saw the footprints of cats alone on
the snow in the road, and of the milk alone along the pavement. For
the milk had preferred to come by hand, rather than plough its
tricycle through the unknown depths and drifts of Glenmoira Road, W.,
to which it had found its way over tracks already palliated by the
courage of the early 'bus--not plying for hire at that hour, but only
seeking its equivalent of the _carceres_ of the Roman Coliseum, to
inaugurate the carriage of twelve inside and fourteen out to many
kinds of Divine Service early in the day, and one kind only of
dinner-service late--the one folk eat too much pudding and mince-pie
at, and have to take a dose after. During this early introductory
movement of the 'bus its conductor sits inside like a lord, and
classifies documents. But he has nothing to do with our story. Let us
thank him for facilitating the milk, and dismiss him.

"My gracious goodness me!" said Sally, when she saw the snow. She did
not say it quite from the bottom of her heart, and as her own form of
expression; but in inverted commas, as it were, the primary
responsibility being cook's or Jane's. "You mustn't think of getting
up, mother."

"Oh, nonsense! I shall get up the minute the hot water comes."

"You won't do any good by getting up. You had much better lie in bed.
_I_ shouldn't get up, if I was you," etc., etc.

"Oh, stuff! My rheumatism's better. Do you know, I really think the
ring _has_ done it good. Dr. Vereker may laugh as much as he
likes----"

"Well, the proof of the pudding's in the eating. But wait till you
see how thick the snow is. _Come--in!_" This is very staccato. Jane
was knocking at the door with cans of really hot water this time.
"I said come in before. Merry Christmas and happy New Year, Jane!...
Oh, I say! What a dear little robin! He's such a little duck, I hope
that cat won't get him!" And Sally, who is huddled up in a thick
dressing-gown and is shivering, is so excited that she goes on
looking through the blind, and the peep-hole she has had to make to
see clear through the frosted pane, in spite of the deadly cold on the
finger-tip she rubbed it with. Her mother felt interested, too, in the
fate of the robin, but not to the extent of impairing her last two
minutes in bed by admitting the slightest breath of cold air inside a
well-considered fortress. She was really going to get up, though, that
was flat! The fire would blaze directly, although at this moment it
was blowing wood-smoke down Jane's throat, and making her choke.

Directly was five or six minutes, but the fire did blaze up royally in
the end. You see, it wasn't a slow-combustion-grate, and it burned too
much fuel, and flared away the coal, and did all sorts of comfortable,
uneconomical things. So did Jane, who had put in a whole bundle of
wood.

But now that the wood was past praying for, and Jane had departed,
after thawing the hearts of two sponges, it was just as well to take
advantage of the blaze while it lasted. And Mrs. Nightingale and her
daughter, in the thickest available dressing-gowns, and pretending
they were not taking baths only because the bath-room was thrown out
of gear by the frost, took advantage of the said blaze to their
heart's content and harked back--a good way back--on the conversation.

"You never said 'Come in,' chick."

"I _did_, mother! Well, if I didn't, at any rate, I always tell her
not to knock. She is the stupidest girl. She _will_ knock!" Her mother
doesn't press the point. There is no bad blood anywhere. Did not Sally
wish the handmaiden a merry Christmas?

"The cat didn't get the robin, Sally?"

"Not he! The robin was too sharp by half. Such a little darling! But
I was sorry for the cat."

"Poor pussy! Not our pussy, was it?"

"Oh no; it was that piebald Tom that lives in at the empty house next
door."

"I know. Horrible beast!"

"Well, but just think of being out in the cold in this weather, with
nothing to eat! Oo--oo--oogh!" Sally illustrates, with an intentional
shudder. "I wonder who that is!"

"I didn't hear any one."

"You'll see, he'll ring directly. I know who it is; it's Mr. Fenwick
come to say he can't come to-night. I heard the click of his skates.
They've a sort of twinkly click, skates have, when they're swung by
a strap. He'll go out and skate all day. He'll go to Wimbledon."

The girl's hearing was quite correct. A ring came at the
bell--Krakatoa had no knocker--and a short colloquy followed between
Jane and the ringer. Then he departed, with his twinkly click and
noiseless footstep on the snow, slamming the front gate. Jane was able
to include a card he had left in a recrudescence or reinforcement of
hot water. Sally takes the card and looks at it, and her mother says,
"Well, Sally?" with a slight remonstrance against the unfairness of
keeping back information after you have satisfied your own
curiosity--a thing people are odious about, as we all know.

"_He's_ coming all right," says Sally, looking at both sides of the
card, and passing it on when she has quite done with it. Sally, we may
mention, as it occurs to us at this moment,--though _why_ we have no
idea,--means to have a double chin when she is five years older than
her mother is now. At present it--the chin--is merely so much youthful
roundness and softness, very white underneath. Her mother is quite of
a different type. Her daughter's father must have had black hair, for
Sally can make huge shining coils, or close plaits, very wide, out of
her inheritance. Or it will assume the form of a bush, if indulged,
till Sally is almost hidden under it, as the Bosjesman under his
version of Birnam Wood, that he shoots his assegai from. But the
mother's is brown, with a tinge of chestnut; going well with her eyes,
which have a claret tone, or what is so called; but we believe people
really mean pale old port when they say so. She has had--still has, we
might say--a remarkably fine figure, and we don't feel the same faith
in Miss Sally's. That young lassie will get described as plump some
day, if she doesn't take care.

But really it is a breach of confidence to get behind the scenes and
describe two ladies in this way, when they are so very much in
_déshabille_--have not even washed! We will look at them again when
they have got their things on. However, they may go on talking now.
The blaze has lost its splendour, and dressing cannot be indefinitely
delayed. But they can and do talk from room to room, confident that
cook and Jane are in the basement out of hearing.

"We shall do nicely, kitten! Six at table. I'm glad Mr. Fenwick can
come. Aren't you?"

"Rather! Fancy having Dr. and Mrs. Vereker and the dear old fossil
and nobody to help out!"

"My dear! You say 'Dr. and Mrs. Vereker' as if he was a married man!"

"Well--him and his mammy, then! He's good--but he's professional.
Oh dear--his professional manner! You have to be forming square to
receive cavalry every five minutes to prevent his writing you a
prescription."

"Ungrateful little monkey! You know the last he wrote you did you no
end of good."

"Yes, but I didn't ask him for it. He wrote it by force. I hate being
hectored over and bullied. I say, mother!"

"What, kitten?"

"I hope, as Mr. Fenwick's coming, you'll wear your wedding-ring."

"Wear _what_?"

"Wear your wedding-ring. _His_ ring, you know! You know what I
mean--the rheumatic one."

"Of course I know perfectly well what you mean," says her mother,
with a shade of impatience in her voice. "But why?"

"Why? Because it gives him pleasure always to see it on your
finger--he fancies it's doing good to the neuritis."

"Perhaps it is."

"Very well, then; why not wear it?"

"Because it's so big, and comes off in the soup, and is a nuisance.
And, then, he didn't give it to me, either. He was to have had a
shilling for it."

"But he never _did_ have it. And it wasn't a shilling. It was sixpence.
And he says it's the only little return he's ever been able to make
for what he calls our kindness."

"I couldn't shovel him out into the street."

"Put his wedding-ring on, mammy, to oblige me!"

"Very well, chick--I don't mind." And so that point is settled. But
something makes the daughter repeat, as she comes into her mother's
room dry-towelling herself, "You're sure you don't mind, mammy?" to
which the reply is, "No, no! _Why_ should I mind? It's all quite
right," with a forced decision, equivalent to wavering, about it.
Sally looks at her a moment in a pause of dry-towelling, and goes
back to her room not quite convinced. Persons of the same blood,
living constantly together, are sometimes quite embarrassed by their
own brain-waves, and very often misled.

Exigencies of teeth and hair cut the talk short about Mr. Fenwick. But
he gets renewed at breakfast, and, in fact, goes on more or less until
brought up short by the early service at St. Satisfax, when he is
extinguished by a preliminary hymn. But not before his whole story,
so far as is known, has been passed in review. So that an attentive
listener might have gathered from their disjointed chat most of the
particulars of his strange appearance on the scene, and of the
incidents of the next few weeks, and their result in the foundation
of what seemed likely to be a permanent friendship between himself and
Krakatoa Villa, and what certainly was (all things considered) that most
lucrative and lucky post in a good wine-merchant's house in the City.
For Mr. Fenwick had nothing to recommend him but his address and
capacity, brought into notice by an accidental concurrence of
circumstances.

It had been difficult to talk much about him to himself without
seeming to wish to probe into his past life; and as Mrs. Nightingale
impressed on Sally for the twentieth time, just as they arrived at
St. Satisfax, they really knew nothing of it. How could they even know
that this oblivion was altogether genuine? It might easily have been
so at first, but who could say how much of his past had come back to
him during the last six months? An unwelcome past, perhaps, and one
he was glad to help Oblivion in extinguishing.

As this was on the semi-circular path in front of the Saint's shrine,
between two ramparts of swept-up snow, and on a corrective of
cinder-grit, Sally ascribed this speculation to a disposition on her
mother's part to preach, she having come, as it were, within the scope
and atmosphere of a pending decalogue. Also, she thought the
ostentatious way in which Mr. Fenwick had gone away to skate had
something to do with it.

But she was at all times conscious of a certain access of severity in
her mother as she approached altars--rather beyond the common attitude
of mind one ascribes to the bearer of a prayer-book when one doesn't
mean to go to church oneself. (We are indebted for this piece of
information to an intermittent church-goer; it is on a subject on
which our own impressions have little value.) In the present case
Sally _was_ going to church, so she had to account to herself for a
_nuance_ in her mother's manner--after dwelling on the needlessness
and inadvisability of pressing Mr. Fenwick as to his recollections--by
ascribing it to the consciousness of some secularism elsewhere; and he
was the nearest case of ungodliness to hand.

"I wonder whether he believes anything at all!" said Sally, assuming
the consecutiveness of her remark.

"I don't see why he shouldn't.... Why should he disbelieve more
than...? All I mean is, I don't know." The speaker ended abruptly; but
then that may have been because they were at the church door. Possibly
as a protest against having carried chat almost into the precinct,
Mrs. Nightingale's preliminary burial of her face in her hands lasted
a long time--in fact, Sally almost thought she had gone to sleep, and
told her so afterwards. "Perhaps, though," she added, "it was me came
up from under the bedclothes too soon." Then she thought her levity
displeased her mother, and kissed her. But it wasn't that. She was
thoughtful over something else.

This time, in the church, it may be Sally noticed her mother's
abstraction (or was it, perhaps, devotional tension?) less than she
had done when her attention had been caught once or twice lately by
a similar strained look. For Miss Sally had her eyes on a little
gratifying incident of her own--a trifle that would already have
appeared as an incident in her diary, had she kept one, somewhat
thus:--"Saw that young idiot from Cattley's Stores again in church
to-day, in a new scarlet necktie. I wonder whether it's me, or Miss
Peplow that gollops, or the large Miss Baker." Which would have shown
that she was not always a nun breathless with adoration during
religious exercises. The fact is, Sally would have made a very poor
St. Teresa indeed.

The young idiot was the same young man who had brought the difficult
French idiom to Krakatoa, while Mr. Fenwick was still without an
anchorage of his own. Martha the cook, who admitted him, not feeling
equal to the negotiation, had merely said--would he mind steppin' in
the parlour, and she would send Miss Sally up? and had departed
bearing Mrs. Nightingale's credential-card in a hand as free from
grease as an apron so deeply committed could make it, and brought Miss
Nightingale in from the garden, where she was gardening--possibly
effectually, but what do we know? When you are gardening on a summer
afternoon, you may look very fetching, if you are nineteen, and the
right sex for the adjective. Miss Sally did, being both, and for our
own part we think it was inconsiderate and thoughtless of cook. Sally
was sprung upon that young man like a torpedo on a ship with no guards
out, saying with fascinating geniality through a smile (as one
interests oneself in a civility that means nothing) that Mr. Fenwick
had just gone out, and she didn't know when he would be back. But why
not ask Mrs. Prince at the school, opposite St. Satisfax, where we
went to church; she was French, and would be sure to know what it
meant. _She_ wouldn't mind! "Say I sent you." And the youth, whom the
torpedo had struck amidships, was just departing, conscious of
reluctance, when Mr. Fenwick appeared, having come back for his
umbrella.

Sally played quite fair. She didn't hang about as she might have done,
to rub her pearly teeth and merry eyebrows into her victim. She went
back and gardened honourably, while Mr. Fenwick solved the riddle and
supplied the letter. But for all that, the young man appeared next
Sunday at St. Satisfax's, with an extremely new prayer-book that
looked as if his religious convictions were recent, and never took
his eyes off Sally all through the service--that is, if he did as she
supposed, and peeped all the while that his head ought to have been,
as she metaphorically expressed it, "under the clothes."

Now, this was naturally a little unaccountable to Sally, after such
a very short interview; and on the part, too, of a young gentleman who
passed all the working hours of the day among working houris, as it
were soaked and saturated in their fascinations, and not at liberty
to squeeze their hands or ask them for one little lock of hair all
through shop-time. Sally did not realise the force of sameness, nor
the amount of contempt familiarity will breed. Perhaps the houris got
tired and snappish, poor things! and used up their artificial smiles
on the customers. Perhaps it had leaked out that the trying-on hands
contributed only length, personally, to the loveliness of the
trying-on figures. All sorts of things might have happened to
influence this young man towards St. Satisfax; and how did Sally know
how often he had seen the other young lady communicants she had
speculated about? Her mind had certainly thrown in the large Miss
Baker with something of derision. But that Sylvia Peplow was just the
sort of girl men run after, like a big pale gloire-de-Dijon rose all
on one side, with pale golden wavy hair, and great big goggly blue
eyes, looking as if she couldn't help it! Now that we have given you
details, from Sally's inner consciousness, of Miss Peplow's
appearance, we hope you will perceive why she said she "golloped." We
don't, exactly.

However, on this Christmas morning it was made clear whom this young
donkey was hankering after--this is Sally's way of putting it--as Miss
Peplow failed to get her usual place through being late, and had to
sit in a side-aisle, instead of the opposite of her to the idiot--we
are again borrowing from Sally--and now the Idiot would have to glare
round over his shoulder at her or go without! It was soon evident that
he was quite content to go without, and that Sally herself had been
his lode-star. The certainty of this was what prevented her taking so
much notice of her mother as she might otherwise have done.

Had she done so closely, she would hardly have put down her
preoccupation, or tension, or whatever it was, to displeasure at Mr.
Fenwick's going to skate on Christmas morning instead of going to
church. What concern was it of theirs what Mr. Fenwick did?



CHAPTER VI

OF BOXING DAY MORNING AT KRAKATOA VILLA, AND WHAT OBSERVANT CREATURES
  FOSSILS ARE


The "dear old fossil" referred to by Miss Sally was one of those
occurrences--auxiliaries or encumbrances, as may be--whom one is
liable to meet with in almost any family, who are so forcibly taken
for granted by all its members that the infection of their acceptance
catches on, and no new-comer ever asks that they should be explained.
If they were relatives, they would be easy of explanation; but the
only direct information you ever get about them is that they are not.
This seems to block all avenues of investigation, and presently you
find yourself taking them as a matter of course, like the Lion and
Unicorn, or the image on a stamp.

Fenwick accepted "the Major," as the old fossil was called, so frankly
and completely under that name that he was still uncertain about his
real designation at the current moment of the story. Nobody ever
called him anything but "the Major," and he would as soon have asked
"Major what?" as called in question the title of the King of Hearts
instead of playing him on the Queen, and taking the trick. So far as
he could conjecture, the Major had accepted him in the same way. When
the railway adventure was detailed to him, the fossil said many times,
"How _per_fectly extraordinary!" "God bless my soul!" "You don't mean
_that_!" and so on; but his astonishment always knocked his double
eyeglass off, and, when he couldn't find it, it had to be recovered
before he could say, "Eh--eh--what was that?" and get in line again;
so he made a disjointed listener.

But these fossils see more than they hear sometimes; and this old
Major, for all he was so silent, must have noticed many little things
that Christmas evening to cause him to say what he did next day to
Sally. For, of course, the Major couldn't go back to his lodgings in
Ball Street in weather like this; so he stayed the night in the spare
room, where Mr. Fenwick had been put up tempory, cook said--a room
which was, in fact, usually spoken of as "the Major's room."

Of course, Sally was the sort of girl who would never see anything of
that sort--you'll see what sort directly--though she was as sharp as
a razor in a general way. What made her blind in this case was that,
in certain things, aspects, relations of life, she had ruled mother
out of court as an intrinsically grown-up person--one to whom some
speculations would not apply. So she saw nothing in the fact that when
Mr. Fenwick's knock came at the door, her mother said, "There he is,"
and went out to meet him; nor even in her stopping with him outside on
the landing, chatting confidentially and laughing. Why shouldn't she?

She saw nothing--nothing whatever--in Mr. Fenwick's bringing her
mother a beautiful sealskin jacket as a Christmas present. Why
shouldn't he? The only thing that puzzled Sally was, where on earth
did he get the money to buy it? But then, of course, he was "in the
City," and the City is a sort of Tom Tiddler's ground. Sally found
that enough, on reflection.

She saw nothing, either, in her mother's carrying her present away
upstairs, and saying nothing about it till afterwards. Nor did she
notice any abnormal satisfaction on Mr. Fenwick's countenance as he
came into the drawing-room by himself, such as one might discern in a
hen--if hens had countenances--after a special egg. Nor did she attach
any particular meaning to an expression on the elderly face of the
doctor's mother that any student of Lavater would at once have seen to
mean that _we_ saw what was going on, but were going to be maternally
discreet about it, and only mention it to every one we met in the very
strictest confidence. This lady, who had rather reluctantly joined the
party--for she was a martyr to ailments--was somewhat grudgingly
admitted by Sally to be a comfortable sort of old thing enough, if
only she didn't "goozle" over you so. She had no _locus standi_ for
goozling, whatever it was; for had not Sally as good as told her son
that she didn't want to marry him or anybody else? If you ask us what
would be the connecting link between Sally's attitude towards the
doctor and the goozlings of a third party, we have no answer ready.

No; Sally went to bed as wise as ever--so she afterwards told the
fossil Major--at the end of the evening. She had enjoyed herself
immensely, though the simple material for rapture was only foursquare
Halma played by the four acuter intelligences of the six, and draughts
for the goozler and the fossil. But then Sally had a rare faculty for
enjoying herself, and she was perfectly contented with only one
admirer to torment, though he was only old Prosy, as she called him,
but not to his face. She was jolly glad mother had put on her
maroon-coloured watered silk with velvet facings, because you couldn't
deny that she looked lovely in it. And as for Mr. Fenwick, he looked
just like Hercules and Sir Walter Raleigh, after being out skating all
day long in the cold. And Sally's wisdom had not been in the least
increased by what was, after all, only a scientific experiment on poor
Mr. Fenwick's mental torpor when her mother, the goozler and old Prosy
having departed, got out her music to sing that very old song of hers
to him that he had thought the other day seemed to bring back a sort
of memory of something. Was it not possible that if he heard it often
enough his past might revive slowly? You never could tell!

So when, on Boxing Day morning, Sally's mother, who had got down early
and hurried her breakfast to make a dash for early prayer at St.
Satisfax, looked in at her backward daughter and reproached her, and
said there was the Major coming down, and no one to get him his
chocolate, she spoke to a young lady who was serenely unprepared for
any revelations of a startling nature, or, indeed, any revelations at
all. Nor did getting the Major his chocolate excite any suspicions.

So Sally was truly taken aback when the old gentleman, having drunk
his chocolate, broke a silence which had lasted since a brief and
fossil-like good-morning, with, "Well, missy, and what do _you_ say
to the idea of a stepfather?" But not immediately, for at first she
didn't understand him, and answered placidly: "It depends on who."

"Mr. Fenwick, for instance!"

"Yes, but who for? And stepfather to step-what? Stepdaughter or
stepson?"

"Yourself, little goose! _You_ would be the stepdaughter."

Sally was then so taken aback that she could make nothing of it, but
stood in a cloud of mystification. The major had to help her. "How
would you like your mother to marry Mr. Fenwick?" He was one of those
useful people who never _finesse_, who let you know point-blank where
you are, and to whom you feel so grateful for being unfeeling. While
others there be who keep you dancing about in suspense, while they
break things gently, and all the while are scoring up a little account
against you for considerateness.

Sally's bewilderment, however, recognised one thing distinctly--that
the Major's inquiry was not to get, but to give, information. He
didn't the least want to know what _she_ thought; he was only working
to give her a useful tip. So she would take her time about answering.
She took it, looking as grave as a little downy owl-tot. Meanwhile,
to show there was no bad feeling, she went and sat candidly on the
fossil's knee, and attended to his old whiskers and moustache.

"Major dear!" said she presently.

"What, my child?"

"Wouldn't they make an awfully handsome couple?" The Major replied,
"Handsome is as handsome does," and seemed to suggest that questions
of this sort belonged to a pre-fossilised condition of existence.

"Now, Major dear, why not admit it when you know it's true? You know
quite well they would make a lovely couple. Just fancy them going up
the aisle at St. Satisfax! It would be like mediæval Kings and
Queens." For Sally was still in that happy phase of girlhood in which
a marriage is a wedding, _et præterea aliquid_, but not much. "But,"
she continued, "I couldn't give up any of mamma--no, not so much as
_that_--if she was to marry twenty Mr. Fenwicks." As the quantity
indicated was the smallest little finger-end that could be checked off
with a thumb-nail, the twenty husbands would have come in for a very
poor allowance of matrimony. The Major didn't seem to think the method
of estimation supplied a safe ground for discussion, and allowed it to
lapse.

"I may be quite wrong, you know, my dear," said he. "I dare say I'm
only an old fool. So we won't say anything to mamma, will us, little
woman?"

"I don't know, Major dear. I'll promise not to say anything to her
_because_ of what you've said to me. But if I suspect it myself on my
account later on, of course I shall."

"What shall you say to her?"

"Ask her if it's true! Why not? But what was it made _you_ think so?"
Whereon the Major gave in detail his impressions of the little
incidents recorded above, which Sally had seen nothing in. He laid
a good deal of stress on the fact that her mother had suppressed the
Christmas present until after Dr. Vereker and his mother had departed.
She wouldn't have minded the doctor, he said, but she would naturally
want to keep the old bird out of the swim. Besides, there was Fenwick
himself--one could see what _he_ thought of it! She could perfectly
well stop him if she chose, and she didn't choose.

"Stop his whatting?" asked Sally perplexingly. But she admitted the
possibility of an answer by not pressing the question home. Then she
went on to say that all these things had happened exactly under her
nose, and she had never seen anything in them. The only concession she
was inclined to make was in respect of the impression her mother
evidently made on Mr. Fenwick. But that was nothing wonderful.
Anything else would have been very surprising. Only it didn't follow
from that that mother wanted to marry Mr. Fenwick, or Mr. Anybody. As
far as he himself went, she liked him awfully--but then he couldn't
recollect who he was, poor fellow! It was most pathetic sometimes to
see him trying. If only he could have remembered that he hadn't been
a pirate, or a forger, or a wicked Marquis! But to know absolutely
nothing at all about himself! Why, the only thing that was known now
about his past life was that he once knew a Rosalind Nightingale--what
he said to her in the railway-carriage. And now he had forgotten that,
too, like everything else.

"I say, Major dear"--Sally has an influx of a new idea--"it ought to
be possible to find out something about that Rosalind Nightingale he
knew. Mamma says it's nonsense her being any relation, because she'd
know."

"And suppose we did find out who she was?"

"Well, then, if we could get at her, we might get her to tell us who
he was. And then we could tell him."

Perhaps it is only his fossil-like way of treating the subject, but
certainly the Major shows a very slack interest, Sally thinks, in the
identity of this namesake of hers. He does, however, ask absently,
what sort of way did he speak of her in the train?

"Why--he said so little----"

"But he gave you some impression?"

"Oh, of course. He spoke as if she was a person--not a female you
know--a person!"

"A person isn't a female--when? Eh, missy?" This requires a little
consideration, and gets it. The result, when it comes, seems good in
its author's eyes.

"When they sit down. When you ask them to, you know. In the parlour,
I mean--not the hall. They might be a female then."

"Did he mean a lady?"

"And take milk and no sugar? And pull her gloves on to go? And leave
cards turned up at the corner? Oh no--not a lady, certainly!"

As she makes these instructive distinctions, Miss Sally is kneeling
on a hassock before a mature fire, which will tumble down and spoil
presently. When it does it will be time to resort to that hearth-broom,
and restrict combustion with collected caput-mortuum of Derby-Brights,
selected, twenty-seven shillings. Till then, Sally, who deserted the
Major's knee just as she asked what Mr. Fenwick was to stop in, is
at liberty to roast, and does so with undisturbed gravity. The Major
is becoming conscious of a smell like Joan of Arc at the beginning
of the entertainment, when her mother comes in on a high moral platform,
and taxes her with singeing, and dissolves the parliament, and rings
to take away breakfast, and forecasts an open window the minute the
Major has gone.

Sally doesn't wait for the open window, but as one recalled to the
active duties of life from liquefaction in a Turkish bath, takes a
cold plunge as far as the front gate without so much as a hat on--to
see if the post is coming, which is absurd--and comes back braced. But
though she only wonders what can have put such an idea as her mother
marrying Mr. Fenwick in the Major's dear silly old head, she keeps on
a steady current of speculation about who that Rosalind Nightingale he
knew could possibly have been; and whether she couldn't be got at even
now. It was such a pity he couldn't have a tip given about him who he
was. If he were once started, he would soon run; she was sure of that.
But did he want to run?--that was a point to consider. Did he really
forget as much as he said he did? How came he not to have forgotten
his languages he was so fluent with? And how about his book-keeping?
And that curious way he had of knowing about places, and then looking
puzzled when asked when he had been there. When they talked about
Klondyke the other day, for instance, and he seemed to know so much
about it.... But, then, see how he grasped his head, and ruffled his
hair, and shut his eyes, and clenched his teeth over his efforts to
recollect whether he had really been there himself, or only read it
all in the "Century" or "Atlantic Monthly"! Surely he was in earnest
then.

Sally's speculations lasted her all the way to No. 260, Ladbroke Grove
Road, where she was going to a music-lesson, or rather music-practice,
with a friend who played the violin; for Sally was learning the
viola--to be useful.



CHAPTER VII

CONCERNING PEOPLE'S PASTS, AND THE SEPARATION OF THE SHEEP FROM THE
  GOATS. OF YET ANOTHER MAJOR, AND HOW HE GOSSIPPED AT THE HURKARU
  CLUB. SOME TRUSTWORTHY INFORMATION ABOUT AN ALLEGED DIVORCE


You who read this may have met with some cross-chance such as we are
going to try to describe to you; possibly with the same effect upon
yourself as the one we have to confess to in our own case--namely,
that you have been left face to face with a problem to which you have
never been able to supply a solution. You have given up a conundrum
in despair, and no one has told you the answer.

Here are the particulars of an imaginary case of the sort. You have
made acquaintance--made friends--years ago with some man or woman
without any special introduction, and without feeling any particular
curiosity about his or her antecedents. No inquiry seemed to be
called for; all concomitants were so very usual. You may have felt a
misgiving as to whether the easy-going ways of your old papa, or the
innocent Bohemianisms of his sons and daughters will be welcome to
your new friend, whom you credit with being a little old-fashioned
and strait-laced, if anything. But it never occurs to you to doubt or
investigate; why should you, when no question is raised of any great
intimacy between you and the So-and-sos, which may stand for the name
of his or her family. They ask no certificate from you, of whom they
know just as little. Why should you demand credentials of a passer-by
because he is so obliging as to offer to lend you a Chinese vocabulary
or Whitaker? Why should your wife try to go behind the cheque-book and
the prayer-book of a married couple when all she has had to do with
the lady was, suppose, to borrow a square bottle of her, marked off
in half-inch lengths, to be shaken before taken? Why not accept her
unimpeachable Sunday morning as sufficient warranty for talking to
her on the beach next day, and finding what a very nice person she is?
Because it would very likely be at the seaside. But suppose any sort
of introduction of this sort--you know what we mean!

Well, the So-and-sos have slipped gradually into your life; let this
be granted. We need not imagine, for our purpose, any extreme
approaches of family intimacy, any love affairs or deadly quarrels.
A tranquil intercourse of some twenty years is all we need, every year
of which has added to your conviction of the thorough trustworthiness
and respectability of the So-and-sos, of their readiness to help you
in any little difficulty, and of the high opinion which the rest of
the world has of Mr. and Mrs. So-and-so--the world which knew them
when it was a boy, and all their connexions and antecedents, which,
you admit, you didn't....

And then, after all these years, it is suddenly burst upon you that
there was a shady story about So-and-so that never was cleared
up--something about money, perhaps; or, worse still, one of those
stories your informant really doesn't like to be responsible for the
particulars of; you must ask Smith yourself. Or your wife comes to you
in fury and indignation that such a scandalous falsehood should have
got about as that Clara So-and-so was never married to So-and-so at
all till ever so long after Fluffy or Toppy or Croppy or Poppy was
born! We take any names at random of this sort, merely to dwell on
your good lady's familiarity with the So-and-so family.

Well, then--there you are! And what can you make of it? There you are
face to face with the fact that a man who was a black sheep twenty or
thirty years ago has been all this time making believe to be a white
sheep so successfully as never was. Or, stranger still, that a woman
who has brought up a family of model daughters--daughters whom it
would be no exaggeration to speak of as on all fours with your own,
and who is quite one of the nicest and most sympathetic people your
wife has to go to in trouble--this woman actually--_actually_--if this
tale is true, was guilty in her youth ... there--that will do! Suppose
we say she was no better than she should be. She hadn't even the
decency to be a married woman before she did it, which always makes it
so much easier to talk to strange ladies and girls about it. You can
say all the way down a full dinner-table that Lady Polly Andrews got
into the Divorce Court without doing violence to any propriety at all.
But the story of Mrs. So-and-so's indiscretion while still Miss
Such-and-such must be talked of more guardedly.

And all the while behold the subjects of these stories, in whom, but
for this sudden revelation of a shady past, you can detect no moral
difference from your amiable and respectable self! They puzzle you, as
they puzzle us, with a doubt whether they really are the same people;
whether they have not changed their identity since the days of their
delinquency. If they really are the same, it almost throws a doubt on
how far the permanent unforgiveness of sins is expedient. We of
course refer to Human Expediency only--the construction of a working
hypothesis of Life, that would favour peace on earth and good-will
towards men; that would establish a _modus vivendi_, and enable us to
be jolly with these reprobates--at any rate, as soon as they had
served their time and picked their oakum. We are not intruding on the
province of the Theologian--merely discussing the problem of how we
can make ourselves pleasant to one another all round, until that final
separation of the sheep from the goats, when, however carefully they
may have patched up their own little quarrels, they will have to bid
each other farewell reluctantly, and make up their minds to the
permanent endurance of Heaven and Hell respectively.

We confess that we ourselves think there ought to be a Statute of
Limitations, and that after a certain lapse of time any offence,
however bad, against morality might be held not to have been
committed. If we feel this about culprits who tempted us, at the time
of their enormity, to put in every honest hand a whip to lash the
rascal naked the length of a couple of lamp-posts, how much more when
the offence has been one which our own sense of moral law (a perverted
one, we admit) scarcely recognises as any offence at all. And how much
more yet, when we find it hard to believe that they--actually _they
themselves_, that we know now--can have done the things imputed to
them. If the stories are really true, were they not possessed by evil
spirits? Or have they since come to be possessed by better ones than
their normal stock-in-trade?

What is all this prosy speculation about? Well, it's about our friend
in the last chapter, Sally's mother. At least, it is suggested by her.
She is one of those perplexing cases we have hinted at, and we
acknowledge ourselves unable to account for her at the date of the
story, knowing what we do of her twenty years previously. It's little
enough, mind, and much of it inferential. Suppose, instead of giving
you our inferences, we content ourselves with passing on to you the
data on which we found them. Maybe you will see your way to some
different life-history for Sally's mother.

The first insight we had into her past was supplied by a friend of
Sally's "old fossil," who was himself a Major, but with a difference.
For he was really a Major, whereas the fossil was only called so by
Krakatoa Villa, being in truth a Colonel. This one was Major Roper, of
the Hurkaru Club, an old schoolfellow of ours, who was giving us a cup
of coffee and a cigar at the said Club, and talking himself hoarse
about Society. When the Major gets hoarse his voice rises to a squeak,
and his eyes start out of his head, and he appears to swell. I forget
how Mrs. Nightingale came into the conversation, but she did, somehow.

"She's a very charming woman, that," squeaked the Major--"a _very_
charming woman! I don't mind tellin' _you_, you know, that I knew her
at Madras--ah! before the divorce. I wouldn't tell Horrocks, nor that
dam young fool Silcox, but I don't mind tellin' _you_! Only, look
here, my dear boy, don't you go puttin' it about that _I_ told you
anythin'. You know I make it a rule--a guidin' rule--_never to say
anythin'_. You follow that rule through life, my boy! Take the word
of an old chap that's seen a deal of service, and just you _hold your
tongue_! You make a point--you'll find it pay----" An asthmatic cough
came in here.

"There was a divorce, then?" we said. Terms had to be made with the
cough, but speech came in the end.

"Oh yes, of course--of course! Don't mind repeatin' that--thing was
in the papers at the time. What I was suggestin' holdin' your tongue
about was that story about Penderfield and her.... Well, as I said
just now, I don't mind repeatin' it to you; you ain't Horrocks nor
little Silcox--you can keep your tongue in your head. Remember, _I_
know nothing; I'm only tellin' what was said at the time.... Now,
whatever was her name? Was it Rayner, or was it Verschoyle? Pelloo!...
Pelloo!..." The Major tried to call the attention of a man who was deep
in an Oriental newspaper at the far end of the next room. But when the
Major overstrains his voice, it misses fire like a costermonger's,
and only a falsetto note comes on a high register. When this happens
he is wroth.

"It's that dam noise they're all makin'," he says, as soon as he has
become articulate. "That's the man I want, behind the 'Daily
Sunderbund.' If it wasn't for this dam toe, I'd go across and ask him.
No, don't you go. Send one of these dam jumpin' frogs--idlin' about!"
He requisitions a passing waiter, gripping him by the arm to give
him instructions. "Just--you--touch the General's arm, and ketch his
attention. Say Major Roper." And he liquidates his obligations to
a great deal of asthmatic cough, while the jumping frog does his
bidding.

The General (who is now Lord Pellew of Cutch, by-the-bye) came with
an amiable smile from behind the journal, and ended a succession
of good-evening nods to newcomers by casting an anchor opposite
the Major. The latter, having by now taken the surest steps towards
bringing the whole room into his confidence, stated the case he sought
confirmation for.

Oh yes, certainly; the General was in Umballa in '80; remembered the
young lady quite well, and the row between Penderfield and his wife
about her. As for Penderfield, everybody remembered _him_! _De mortuis
nil_, etc.--of course, of course. For all that, he was one of the
damnedest scoundrels that ever deserved to be turned out of the
service. Ought to have been cashiered long ago. Good job he's gone to
the devil! Yes, he was quite sure he was remembering the right girl.
No, no, he wasn't thinking of Daisy Neversedge--no, nor of little Miss
Wrennick: same sort of story, but he wasn't thinking of them at all.
Only the name wasn't either Rayner or Verschoyle. General Pellew stood
thoughtfully feeling about in a memory at fault, and looking at an
unlighted cigar he rolled in his fingers, as though it might help if
caressed. Then he had a flash of illumination. "Rosalind Graythorpe,"
he said.

There we had it, sure enough! The Major see-sawed in the air with
a finger of sudden corroboration. "Rosalind Graythorpe," he repeated
triumphantly, and then again, "Ros-a-lind Graythorpe," dwelling on the
syllables, and driving the name home, as it were, to the apprehension
of all within hearing. It was so necessary to a complete confidence
that every one should know whom he was holding his tongue about. Where
would be the merit of discretion else? But the enjoyment of details
should be _sotto voce_. The General dropped his voice to a good
sample, suggesting a like course to the more demonstrative secrecy
of the Major.

"I remember the whole story quite well," said he. "The girl was
going out by herself to marry a young fellow up the country at
Umballa, I think. They were _fiancés_, and on the way the news
came of the outbreak of cholera. So she got hung up for a while at
Penderfield's--sort of cousin, I believe, him or his wife--till the
district was sanitary again. Bad job for her, as it turned out! Nobody
there to warn her what sort of fellow Penderfield was--and if there
had been she wouldn't have believed 'em. She was a madcap sort of
a girl, and regularly in the hands of about as bad a couple as you'll
meet with in a long spell--India or anywhere! They used to say out
there that the she Penderfield winked at all her husband's affairs as
long as he didn't cut across _her_ little arrangements--did more than
wink, in fact--lent a helping hand; but only as long as she could rely
on his remaining detached, as you might say. The moment she suspected
an _entichement_ on her husband's part she was up in arms. And he
was just the same about her. I remember Lady Sharp saying that
if Penderfield had suspected his wife of caring about any of her
co-respondents he would have divorced her at once. They were a rum
couple, but their attitude to one another was the only good thing
about them." The General lighted his cigar, and seemed to consider
this was chapter one. The Major appended a foot-note, for our benefit.

"_Leave be_ was the word--the word for Penderfield. _You'll_
understand that, sir. No _meddlin'_! A good-lookin' Colonel's wife in
garrison has her choice, good Lard! Why, she's only got to hold her
finger up!" We entirely appreciated the position, and that a siren has
a much easier task in the entanglement of a confiding dragoon than
falls to the lot of Don Giovanni in the reverse case. But we were more
interested in the particular story of Mrs. Nightingale than in the
general ethics of profligacy.

"I suppose," we suggested, "that the young woman threatened to be a
formidable rival, as there was a row?" Each of the officers nodded at
the other, and said that was about it. The Major then started on
a little private curriculum of nods on his own account, backed by a
half-closed eye of superhuman subtlety, and added once or twice that
that _was_ about it. We inferred from this that the row had been
volcanic in character. The Major then added, repeating the air-sawing
action of his forefinger admonitorily, "But mind you, _I_ say nothin'.
And my recommendation to you is to say nothin' neither."

"The rest of the story's soon told," said the General, answering our
look of inquiry. "Miss Graythorpe went away to Umballa to be married.
It was all gossip, mind you, about herself and Penderfield. But gossip
always went one way about any girl he was seen with. I have my own
belief; so has Jack Roper." The Major underwent a perfect convulsion
of nods, winks, and acquiescence. "Well, she went away, and was
married to this young shaver, who was very little over twenty. He
wasn't in the service--civil appointment, I think. How long was it,
Major, before they parted? Do you recollect?"

"Week--ten days--month--six weeks! Couldn't say. They didn't part at
the church door; that's all I could say for certain. Tell him the
rest."

"They certainly parted very soon, and people told all sorts of
stories. The stories got fewer and clearer when it came out that the
young woman was in the family way. No one had any right _then_ to
ascribe the child that was on its road to any father except the young
man she had fallen out with. But they did--it was laid at Colonel
Penderfield's door, before there was any sufficient warrant. However,
it was all clear enough when the child was born."

"When was the divorce?"

"He applied for a divorce a twelvemonth after the marriage. The child
was then spoken of as being four months old. My impression is he did
not succeed in getting a divorce."

"Not he," said the Major, overtopping the General's quiet, restrained
voice with his falsetto. "I recollect _that_, bless you! The Court
commiserated him, but couldn't give him any relief. So he made a bolt
of it. And he's never been heard of since, as far as I know."

"What did the mother do? Where did she go?" we asked.

"Well, she might have been hard put to it to know what to do. But she
met with old Lund--Carrington Lund, you know, not Beauchamp; he'd
a civil appointment at Umritsur--comes here sometimes. You know him?
She's his Rosey he talks about. He was an old friend of her father,
and took her in and protected her--saw her through it. She came with
him to England. I was with them on the boat, part of the way. Then
she took the name of Macnaghten, I believe. The young husband's name
I can't remember the least. But it wasn't Macnaghten."

The Major squeaked in again:

"No--nor hers neither! Nightingale, General--that's the name she goes
by. Friend of this gentleman. Very charmin' person indeed! Introdooce
you? And a very charmin' little daughter, goin' nineteen." The two
officers interchanged glances over our young friend Sally. "She was
a nice baby on the boat," said the General; and the Major chuckled
wheezily, and hoped she didn't take after her father.

We left him to the tender mercies of gout and asthma, and the
enjoyment of a sherry-cobbler through a straw, looking rather too fat
for his snuff-coloured trousers with a cord outside, and his flowered
silk waistcoat; but very much too fat for the straw, the slenderness
of which was almost painful by contrast.

       *       *       *       *       *

Perhaps you will see from this why we hinted at the outset of this
chapter why Mrs. Nightingale was a conundrum we had given up in
despair, of which no one had told us the answer. We wanted your
sympathy, you see, and to get it have given you an insight into the
way our information was gleaned. Having given you this sample, we will
now return to simple narrative of what we know of the true story, and
trouble you with no further details of how we came by it.



CHAPTER VIII

THE ANTECEDENTS OF ROSALIND NIGHTINGALE, SALLY'S MOTHER. HOW BOTH CAME
  FROM INDIA TO ENGLAND, AND TOOK A VILLA ON A REPAIRING LEASE. SOMEWHAT
  OF SALLY'S UPBRINGING. SOME MORE ROPER GOSSIP, AND A CAT LET OUT OF A
  BAG. A PIECE OF PRESENCE OF MIND


Sally Graythorpe (our Mrs. Nightingale) was the daughter of a widowed
mother, also called Sally, the name in both cases being (as in that of
her daughter whom we know) Rosalind, not Sarah. This mother married
_en secondes noces_ a former sweetheart; it had been a case of a match
opposed by parents on the ground of the apparent hopelessness of the
young man's prospects. Mr. Paul Nightingale, however, falsified the
doleful predictions about his future by becoming a successful
leader-writer and war correspondent. It was after the close of the
American Civil War, in which he had gained a good deal of distinction,
that he met at Saratoga his old flame, Mrs. Graythorpe, then a widow
with a little daughter five or six years old. Having then no wishes to
consult but their own, and no reason to the contrary appearing, they
were married.

They did not find the States a pleasant domicile in the early days
following the great war, and came to England. The little daughter soon
became like his own child to Mr. Paul Nightingale, and had his wish
been complied with she would have taken his name during his life. But
her mother saw no reason, apparently, for extinguishing Mr. Graythorpe
_in toto_, and she remained Sally Graythorpe.

Miss Graythorpe was, at a guess, about fifteen when her stepfather
died. Her mother, now for the second time a widow, must have been
very comfortably off, as she had an income of her own as well as a
life-interest in her late husband's invested savings, which was
unfettered by any conditions as to her marrying again, or otherwise.
She was not long in availing herself of this liberty; for about the
time when her daughter was of an age to be engaged on her own account,
she accepted a third offer of marriage--this time from a clergyman,
who, like herself, had already stood by the death-beds of two former
mates, and was qualified to sympathize with her in every way,
including comfortable inheritances.

But the young Sally Graythorpe kicked furiously against this new
arrangement. It was an insult to papa (she referred to Mr.
Nightingale; her real papa was a negligible factor), and she wouldn't
live in the same house with that canting old hypocrite. She would go
away straight to India, and marry Gerry--_he_ would be glad enough to
have her--see how constant the dear good boy had been! Not a week
passed but she got a letter. She asked her mother flatly what could
she want to marry again for at her time of life? And such a withered
old sow-thistle as that! Sub-dean, indeed! She would _sub-dean_ him!
In fact, there were words, and the words almost went the length of
taking the form known as "language" _par excellence_. The fact is,
this Sally and her mother never _did_ get on together well; it wasn't
the least like her subsequent relation with our special Sally--Sally
number three--who trod on Mr. Fenwick in the Twopenny Tube.

The end of the "words" was a letter to Gerry, a liberal trousseau,
and a first-class passage out by P. and O. The young lady's luggage
for the baggage-room was beautifully stencilled "Care of Sir Oughtred
Penderfield, The Residency, Khopal." Perfectly safe in his keeping no
doubt it would have been. But, then, that might have been true also of
luggage if consigned to the Devil. If the tale hinted at in our last
chapter _was_ true, its poor little headstrong, inexperienced heroine
would have been about as safe with the latter.

Anyhow, this club gossip supplies all the broad outline of the story;
and it is a story we need not dwell on. It gives us no means of
reconciling the like of the Mrs. Nightingale we know now with the
amount of dissimulation, if not treachery, she must have practised on
an unsuspicious boy, assuming that she did, as a matter of course,
conceal her relation with Penderfield. One timid conjecture we have
is, that the girl, having to deal with a subject every accepted phrase
relating to which is an equivocation or an hypocrisy, really found it
impossible to make her position understood by a lover who simply
idolized the ground she trod on. Under such circumstances, she may
either have given up the attempt in despair, or jumped too quickly to
the conclusion that she had succeeded in communicating the facts, and
had been met half-way by forgiveness. Put yourself in her position,
and resolve in your mind exactly how you would have gone about it--how
you would have got a story of that sort forced into the mind of a
welcoming lover; wedged into the heart of his unsuspicious rapture.
Or, if you fancied he understood you, and no storm of despairing
indignation came, think how easy it would be to persuade yourself you
had done your duty by the facts, and might let the matter lapse! Why
should not one woman once take advantage of the obscurities of decorum
so many a man has found comforting to his soul during confession of
sin, when pouring his revelations into an ear whose owner's experience
of life has not qualified her to understand them. Think of the
difficulty you yourself have encountered in getting at the absolute
facts in some delicate concurrence of circumstances in this connexion,
because of the fundamental impossibility of getting any one, man or
woman, to speak direct truth!

Let us find out, or construct, all the excuses we can for poor Miss
Graythorpe. Let us imagine the last counsel she had from the only one
of her own sex who would be likely to know anything of the matter--the
nefarious partner (if the Major's surmise was true) in the crime of
her betrayer. "You are making a fuss about nothing. Men are not so
immaculate themselves; your Gerry is no Joseph! If he rides the high
horse with you, just you ask him what _he_ had to say to Potiphar's
wife! Oh, we're not so strait-laced out here--bless us alive!--as we
are in England, or pretend to be." We can fancy the elegant brute
saying it.

All our surmises bring us very little light, though. It is not that
we are at such a loss to forgive poor Sally Graythorpe as a mere human
creature we know nothing about. The difficulty is to reconcile what
she seems to have been then with what she is now. We give it up.

Only, we wish to remark that it is her offence against her _fiancé_
alone that we find it hard to stomach. As to her relations with
Colonel Penderfield, we can say nothing without full particulars. And
even if we had them, and they bore hard upon Miss Graythorpe, our mind
would go back to the Temple in Jerusalem, and a morning nearly two
thousand years ago. The voice that said who was to cast the first
stone is heard no more, or has merged in ritual. But the Scribes and
Pharisees are with us still, and quite ready to do the pelting. We
should be harder on the Colonel, no doubt, with our prejudices; only,
observe! he isn't brought up for judgment. He never is, any more
than the other party was that day in Jerusalem. But, then, the
Scribes and Pharisees were male! And they had the courage of their
convictions--their previous convictions!--and acted on them in their
selection of the culprit.

Without further apology for retailing conjecture as certainty, the
following may be taken as substantially the story of this lady--we do
not know whether to call her a divorced or a deserted wife--and her
little encumbrance.

She found a resource in her trouble in the person of this old friend
of her stepfather Paul Nightingale, Colonel (at that time Major) Lund.
This officer had remained on in harness to the unusual age of
fifty-eight, but it was a civil appointment he held; he had retired
from active service in the ordinary course of things. It was probably
not only because of his old friendship for her stepfather, but because
the poor girl told him her unvarnished tale in full and he believed
it, that he helped and protected her through the critical period
that followed her parting from her husband; found her a domicile and
seclusion, and enlisted on her behalf the sympathies of more than one
officer's wife at our Sally's birth-place--Umritsur, if Major Roper
was right. He corresponded with her mother as intercessor and
mediator, but that good lady was in no mood for mercy: had her
daughter not told her that she was too old to think of marriage? Too
old! And had she not called her venerable sub-dean a withered old
sow-thistle? She could forgive, under guarantees of the sinner's
repentance; for had not her Lord enjoined forgiveness where the bail
tendered was sufficient? Only, so many reservations and qualifications
occurred in her interpretations of the Gospel narrative that
forgiveness, diluted out of all knowledge, left its perpetrator free
to refuse ever to see its victim again. But she would pray for her.
A subdiaconal application would receive attention; that was the
suggestion between the lines.

The kind-hearted old soldier pooh-poohed her first letters. She would
come round in time. Her natural good-feeling would get the better of
her when she had had her religious fling. He didn't put it so--a
strict old Puritan of the old school--but that was Miss Graythorpe's
gloss in her own mind on what he did say. However, her mother never
did come round. She cherished her condemnation of her daughter to the
end, forgiving her again _morê suo_, if anything with increased
asperity, on her death-bed.

This Colonel Lund is (have we mentioned this before?) the "old fossil"
whom we have seen at Krakatoa Villa. He was usually called "the Major"
there, from early association. He continued to foster and shelter his
_protégée_ during the year following the arrival of our own particular
young Sally on the scene, saw her safely through her divorce
proceedings, and then, when he finally retired from his post as deputy
commissioner for the Umritsur district, arranged that she herself,
with her encumbrance and an ayah, should accompany him to England. His
companion travelled as Mrs. Graythorpe, and Sally junior as Mrs.
Graythorpe's baby. She was excessively popular on the voyage; Sally
was not suffering from sea-sickness, or feeling apparently the least
embarrassed by the recent bar-sinister in her family. She courted
Society, seizing it by its whiskers or its curls, and holding on like
grim death. She endeavoured successively to get into the Indian Ocean,
the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, the Mediterranean, and the Atlantic,
but failed in every attempt, and was finally landed at Southampton in
safety, after a resolute effort to drag the captain, who was six feet
three high and weighed twenty stone, ashore by his beard. She was
greatly missed on the remainder of the voyage (to Bremen--the boat was
a German boat) by a family of Vons, who fortunately never guessed at
the flaw in Sally's extraction, or there's no knowing what might not
have happened.

But the arrival was too late for her poor mother to utilise her
services towards a reconciliation with her own offended parent. A
sudden attack of influenza, followed by low diet on high principles,
and uncombated by timely port wine and tonics, had been followed by
heart-failure, and the sub-dean was left free to marry again, again.
Whether he did so or not doesn't matter to us. The scheme Mrs.
Graythorpe had been dwelling on with pleasure through the voyage of
simply dropping her offspring on its grandmother, and leaving it to
drive a coach and six through the latter's Christian forgiveness, was
not to come to pass. She found herself after a year and a half of
Oriental life back in her native land, an orphan with a small--but
it must be admitted a very charming--illegitimate family. It was
hard upon her, for she had been building on the success of this
manoeuvre, in which she had, perhaps, an unreasonable confidence. If
she could only rely on Sally not being inopportunely sick over mamma
just at the critical moment--that was the only misgiving that crossed
her mind. Otherwise, such creases and such a hilarious laugh would be
too much for starch itself. Poor lady! she had thought to herself more
than once, since Sally had begun to mature and consolidate, that if
Gerry had only waited a little--just long enough to see what a little
duck was going to come of it all--and not lost his temper, all
might have been made comfortable, and Sally might have had a little
legitimate half-brother by now. What _had_ become--what would become
of Gerry? That she did not know, might never know.

One little pleasant surprise awaited her. It came to her knowledge
for the first time that she was sole heir to the estate of her late
stepfather, Paul Nightingale. The singular practice that we believe
to exist in many families of keeping back all information about
testamentary dispositions as long as possible from the persons they
concern, especially minors, had been observed in her case; and her
mother, perhaps resenting the idea that her daughter--a young
chit!--should presume to outlive her, had kept her in ignorance of the
contents of her stepfather's will. It did not really matter much. Had
the sum been large, and a certainty, it might have procured for her a
safer position when a temporary guest at the Residency at Khopal, or
even caused her indignant young bridegroom to think twice before he
took steps to rid himself of her. But, after all, it was only some
three hundred and fifty pounds a year, and depended on the life of a
lady of forty-odd, who might live to be a hundred. A girl with no more
than that is nearly as defenceless as she is without it.

A condition was attached to the bequest--not an unwelcome one. She was
to take her stepfather's name, Nightingale. She was really very glad
to do this. There was a _faux air_ of a real married name about Mrs.
Nightingale that was lacking in Mrs. Graythorpe. Besides, all
troublesome questions about who Sally's father was would get lost
sight of in the fact that her mother had changed her name in connexion
with that sacred and glorious thing, an inheritance. A trust-fund
would always be a splendid red-herring to draw across the path of Mrs.
Grundy's sleuth-hounds--a quarry more savoury to their nostrils even
than a reputation. And nothing soothes the sceptical more than being
asked now and again to witness a transfer of stock, especially if it
is money held in trust. It has all the force of a pleasant alterative
pill on the circulation of Respectability--removes obstructions
and promotes appetite--is a certain remedy for sleeplessness, and
so forth. So though there wasn't a particle of reason why Mrs.
Nightingale's money should be held by any one but herself, as she had
no intention whatever of marrying, Colonel Lund consented to become
her trustee; and both felt that something truly respectable had been
done--something that if it didn't establish a birthright and a correct
extraction for Miss Sally, at any rate went a long way towards it.

By the time Mrs. Nightingale had got settled in the little house at
Shepherd's Bush, that she took on a twenty-one years' lease five or
six years after her return to England, and had christened it
Saratoga, after her early recollection of the place where she first
saw her stepfather, whose name she took when she came into the money
he left her--by this time she, with the assistance of Colonel Lund,
had quite assumed the appearance of a rather comfortably off young
widow-lady, who did not make a great parade of her widowhood, but
whose circumstances seemed reasonable enough, and challenged no
inquiry. Inquisitiveness would have seemed needless impertinence--just
as much so as yours would have been in the case of the hypothetical
So-and-sos at the beginning of our last chapter. A vague impression
got in the air that Sally's father had not been altogether
satisfactory--well, wasn't it true? It may have leaked out from
something in "the Major's" manner. But it never produced any effect
on friends, except that they saw in it a reason why Mrs. Nightingale
never mentioned her husband. He had been a black sheep. Silence about
him showed good feeling on her part. _De mortuis_, etc....

Of one thing we feel quite certain--that if, at the time we made this
lady's acquaintance, any chance friend of hers or her daughter's--say,
for instance, Lætitia Wilson, Sally's old school-friend and present
music-colleague--had been told that Mrs. Nightingale, of Krakatoa
Villa, No. 7, Glenmoira Road, Shepherd's Bush, W., had been the
heroine of divorce proceedings under queer circumstances, that her
husband wasn't dead at all, and that that dear little puss Sally was
Goodness-knows-who's child, we feel certain that the information would
have been cross-countered with a blank stare of incredulity. Why, the
mere fact that Mrs. Nightingale had refused so many offers of marriage
was surely sufficient to refute such a nonsensical idea! Who ever
heard of a lady with a soiled record refusing a good offer of marriage?

But while we are showing our respect for what the man in the street
says or thinks, and the woman in the street thinks and says, are we
not losing sight of a leading phrase of the symphony, sonata,
cantata--whatever you like to call it--of Mrs. Nightingale's life? A
phrase that steals in, just audibly--no more, in the most _strepitoso_
passage of the stormy second movement--a movement, however, in which
the proceedings of the Divorce Court are scarcely more audible,
_pianissimo legato_, a chorus with closed lips, all the stringed
instruments _sordini_. But it grows and grows, and in _allegro con
fuoco_ on the voyage home, and only leaves a bar or two blank, when
the thing it metaphorically represents is asleep and isn't suffering
from the wind. It breaks out again _vivacissimo accelerando_ when Miss
Sally (whom we allude to) wakes up, and doesn't appreciate Nestlé's
milk. But it always grows, and in due course may be said to become
the music itself.

More intelligibly, Mrs. Nightingale became so wrapped up in her baby,
that had seemed to her at first a cruel embarrassment--a thing to be
concealed and ignored--that very soon she really had no time to think
about where she broke her molasses-jug, as Uncle Remus says. The new
life that it had become hers to guard took her out of herself, made
her quite another being from the reckless and thoughtless girl of two
years ago.

As time went on she felt more and more the value of the newcomer's
indifference to her extraction and the tragedy that had attended it.
A living creature, with a stupendous capacity for ignoring the past,
and, indeed, everything except a monotonous diet, naturally gave
her mind a bias towards the future, and hope grew in her heart
unconsciously, without reminding her that it might have been despair.
A bad alarm, when the creature was six months old, that an enteric
attack might end fatally, had revealed to its mother how completely
it had taken possession of her own life, and what a power for
compensation there was even in its most imperious and tyrannical
habits. As it gradually became articulate--however unreasonable it
continued--her interest in its future extinguished her memories of her
own past, and she found herself devising games for baby before the
little character was old enough to play them, and costumes before she
was big enough to wear them. By the time Saratoga Villa had become
Krakatoa, Miss Sally had had time to benefit by a reasonable
allowance of the many schemes her mother had developed for her
during her infancy. Had all the projects which were mooted for her
further education at this date been successfully carried out, she
would have been an admirable female Crichton, if her reason had
survived the curriculum. Luckily for her, she had a happy faculty
for being plucked at examinations, and her education was consequently
kept within reasonable bounds.

There was, however, one department of culture in which Sally outshot
all competitors. This was swimming. She would give a bath's length at
the Paddington Baths to the next strongest swimmer in the Ladies'
Club, and come in triumphant in a race of ten lengths. It was a grand
sight to see Sally rushing stem on, cleaving the water with her head
almost as if breath were an affectation, and doubling back at the end
while the other starters were scarcely half-way. Or shooting through
the air in her little blue costume straight for the deepest water, and
then making believe to be a fish on the shiny tiles at the bottom.

Her mother always said she was certain that if that little monkey
had managed to wriggle through some hole into the sea, on her voyage
home, she would have swum after the ship and climbed up the rudder
chains. Possibly, but she was only twelve months old! If, however, she
had met with an early death, her mother's lot would have lacked its
redemption. The joint life of the two supplies a possible answer
to the conundrum that has puzzled us. For in a certain sense the
absorption of her own existence in that of another than herself had
made of Rosalind the woman, at the date of our introduction to her,
quite another person from Rosalind the hot-headed and thoughtless girl
that had quarrelled with her natural guardian for doing what she had
a perfect right to do, and had steered alone into unknown seas, a ship
without a rudder or a compass, and very little knowledge of the stars
of heaven for her guide. We can see what she is now much better than
we can judge what she was then.

It need not be supposed that this poor lady never felt any interest,
never made any inquiry, about the sequel of the life she had so
completely _bouleversé_; for, whatever blame we feel bound to express,
or whatever exculpation we contrive to concoct for her, there can be
no doubt what the result was to the young man who has come into the
story, so far, only under the name of Gerry. We simply record his
designation as it has reached us in the data we are now making use of.
It is all hearsay about a past. We add what we have been able to
gather, merely noting that what it seems to point to recommends itself
to us as probable.

"Nobody knoo, nobody cared," was our friend Major Roper's brief reply
to an inquiry what became of this young man. "Why, good Lard, sir!" he
went on, "if one was to begin fussin' about all the Johnnies that shy
off when there's a row of that sort, one would never get a dam night's
rest! Not but what if I could recollect his name. Now, what _was_ his
confounded name? Thought I'd got it--but no--it wasn't Messiter. Fancy
his Christian name was Jeremiah.... I recollect Messiter I'm thinkin'
of--character that looked as if he had a pain in his stomach--came
into forty thousand pounds. Stop a bit--was it Indermaur? No, it
wasn't Indermaur. No use guessin'--give it up."

Besides, the Major was getting purple with suppressed coughing. When
he had given it up, he surrendered unconditionally to the cough, but
was presently anxious to transmit, through its subsidence, an idea
that he found it impossible to shake across the table between us out
of an inarticulate forefinger end. It assumed form in time. Why not
ask the lady herself? We demurred, and the old soldier explained.

"Not rushin' at her, you know, and sayin', 'Who the dooce was
it married you, ma'am?' I'm not a dam fool. Showin' tact, you
know--puttin' it easy and accidental. 'Who was that young beggar
now?--inspector--surveyor--something of the sort--up at Umballa in
seventy-nine? Burrumpooter Irrigation--that's what _he_ was on.' And,
Lard bless you, my dear sir, you don't suppose she'll up and say, 'I
suppose you mean that dam husband of mine.' Not she! Sensible woman
that, sir--seen the world--knows a thing or two. You'll see she'll
only say, 'That was Foodle or Parker or Stebbins or Jephson,' as may
be, accordin' to the name."

We did not see our way to this enterprise, and said so. We drew a
line; said there were things you could do, and things you couldn't do.
The Major chuckled, and admitted this might be so; his old governor
used to say, "Est modus in rebus, sunt certi denique fines." The last
two words remained behind in the cough, unless, indeed, they were
shaken out off the Major's forefinger into a squeezed lemon that was
awaiting its Seltzer.

"But I can tell you thing, Mr.," said he, forgetting our name, as
soon as he felt soothed by the lemon-squash. "He didn't keep his name,
that young man didn't. You may bet he didn't safely! Only, it's no use
askin' me why, nor what he changed it to. If it _was_ him that was
lost in the Bush in New South Wales, when I was at Sydney, why, of
course that chap's _name_ was the same. I remember that much. Can't
get hold of the name, though." He appeared to consult the pattern on
his silk pocket-handkerchief as an oracle, and to await its answer
with a thoughtful eye. Presently he blew his nose on the oracle, and
returned it to his pocket, adding: "But it's a speculation--little
speculation of my own. Don't _ask me_!" We saw, however, that more
would come, without asking. And it came.

"It made a talk out there at the time. But _that_ didn't bring him to
life. You may talk till you're hoarse, but you won't bring a dead man
to--not when he's twenty miles off in a forest of gum-trees, as like
as tallow-candles.... Oh yes, they had the natives put on the
scent--black trackers, they call 'em--but, Lard! it was all no use.
They only followed the scent of his horse, and the horse came back a
fortnight after with them on his heels, an hour or so behind.... He'd
only just left his party a moment, and meant to come back into the
open. I suppose he thought he was sure to cross a cutting, and got
trapped in the solid woodland."

"But what was the speculation? You said just now...."

"Not much to go by," said the Major, shaking a discouraging head.
"Another joker with another name, who turned up a hundred miles off!
Harrisson, I fancy--yes, Harrisson. It was only my idea they were the
same. I came away, and don't know how they settled it."

"But something, Major Roper, must have made you think this man the
same--the same as Jeremiah Indermaur, or whatever his name was--Mrs.
Nightingale's man?"

"Somethin' must! What it was is another pair of shoes." He cogitated
and reflected, but seemed to get no nearer. "You ask Pelloo," he said.
"He might give you a tip." Then he called for a small glass of cognac,
because the Seltzer was such dam chilly stuff, and the dry sherry was
no use at all. We left him arranging the oracle over his face, with
a view to a serious nap.

We got a few words shortly after with General Pellew, who seemed a
little surprised at the Major's having referred to him for
information.

"I don't know," said he, "why our friend Roper shouldn't recollect as
much about it as I do. However, I do certainly remember that when this
young gentleman, whatever his name was, left the station, he did go to
Sydney or Melbourne, and I have some hazy recollection of some one
saying that he was lost in the Bush. But why old Jack fancies he was
found again or changed his name to Harrisson I haven't the slightest
idea."

So that all we ourselves succeeded in getting at about Gerry may be
said to have been the trap-door he vanished through. Whether Mrs.
Nightingale got at other sources of information we cannot say.
Whatever she learned she would be sure to keep her own counsel about.
She may have concluded that the bones of the husband who had in a fit
of anger deserted her had been picked by white ants, twenty years ago,
in an Australian forest; or she may have come to know, by some means,
of his resuscitation from the Bush, and his successes or failures in
a later life elsewhere. We have had our own reasons for doubting that
she ever knew that he took the name of Harrisson--if he really did--a
point which seemed to us very uncertain, so far as the Major's
narrative went. If she did get a scrap of tidings, a flying word,
about him now and again, it was most likely all she got. And when she
got it she would feel the danger of further inquiry--the difficulty of
laying the reasons for her curiosity before her informant. You can't
easily say to a stranger: "Oh, do tell us about Mrs. Jones or Mr.
Smith. She or he is our divorced or separated wife or husband." A
German might, but Mrs. Nightingale was not a German.

However, she _may_ have heard something about that Gerry, we
grant you, in all those twenty long years. But if you ask us our
opinion--our private opinion--it is that she scarcely heard of him,
if she heard at all, and certainly never set eyes on him, until one
day her madcap little daughter brought him home, half-killed by
an electric shock, in a cab we were at some pains to describe
accurately a few pages ago. And even then, had it not been for the
individualities of that cab, she might have missed seeing him, and let
him go away to the infirmary or the police-station, and probably never
been near him again.

As it was, the face she saw when a freak of chance led to her following
that cab, and looking in out of mere curiosity at its occupant, was the
face of her old lover--of her husband. Eighteen--twenty--years had
made a man of one who was then little more than a boy. The mark of the
world he had lived in was on him; and it was the mark of a rough,
strong world where one fights, and, if one is a man of this sort, maybe
wins. But she never doubted his identity for a moment. And the way in
which she grasped the situation--above all, the fact that he had not
recognised her and would not recognise her--quite justified, to our
thinking, Major Roper's opinion of her powers of self-command.

Nevertheless, these were not so absolute that her demeanour escaped
comment from the cabby, the only witness of her first sight of the
"electrocuted" man. He spoke of her afterwards as that squealing party
down that sanguinary little turning off Shepherd's Bush Road he took
that sanguinary galvanic shock to.



CHAPTER IX

HOW THOSE GIRLS DO CHATTER OVER THEIR MUSIC! MRS. NIGHTINGALE'S
  RESOLUTION. BUT, THE RISK! A HARD PART TO PLAY. THERE WAS ONLY MAMMA
  FOR THE GIRL! THE GARDEN OF LONG AGO


Two parts in a sestet, played alone, may be a maddening torture to
a person whose musical imagination is not equal to supplying the other
four. Perhaps you have heard Haydn, Op. 1704, and rejoiced in the
logical consecutiveness of its fugues, the indisputableness of its
well-classified statements, the swift pertinence of the repartees of
the first violin to the second, the apt _résumé_ and orderly
reorganization of their epigrammatic interchanges by the 'cello and
the double-bass, the steady typewritten report and summary of the
whole by the pianoforte, and the regretful exception to so many points
taken by the clarionet. If so, you have no doubt felt, as we have, a
sense of perfect satisfaction at faultless musical structure, without
having to surrender your soul unconditionally to the passionate appeal
of a Beethoven, or to split your musical brains in conjectures about
what Volkanikoffsky is driving at. You will find at the end that you
have passed an hour or so of tranquil enjoyment, and are mighty
content with yourself, the performers, and every one else.

But if you only hear the two parts, played alone, and your mental
image of all the other parts is not strong enough to prevent your
hearing the two performers count the bars while the non-performers
don't do anything at all, you will probably go away and come back
presently, or go mad.

Nobody else was there when Sally and Lætitia Wilson were counting
four, and beginning too soon, and having to go back and begin all over
again, and missing a bar, and knocking down their music-stands when
they had to turn over quick. So nobody went mad. Mamma had gone to an
anti-vaccination meeting, and Athene had gone to stay over Bank
Holiday at Leighton Buzzard, and the boys had gone to skate, and papa
was in his study and didn't matter, and they had the drawing-room to
themselves. Oh dear, how very often they did count four, to be sure!

Sally was _distraite_, and wasn't paying proper attention to the music.
Whenever a string had to be tightened by either, Sally introduced
foreign matter. Lætitia was firm and stern (she was twenty-four, if
you please!), and wouldn't respond. As thus, in a tightening-up pause:

"I like him awfully, you know, Tishy. In fact, I love him. It's a
pleasure to hear him come into the house. Only--one's _mother_, you
know! It's the _oddity_ of it!"

"Yes, dear. _Now_, are you ready?... It only clickets down because you
will _not_ screw in; it's no use turning and leaving the key
sloppy...."

"I know, Tishy dear--teach your granny! There, I think that's right
now. But it _is_ funny when it's one's mother, isn't it?"

"One--two--three--four! There--you didn't begin! Remember, you've got
to begin on the demisemiquaver at the end of the bar--only not too
staccato, remember--and allow for the pause. Now--one, two, three,
four, and you begin--in the _middle_ of four--_not_ the end. Oh dear!
Now once more...." etc.

You will at once see from this that Sally had lost no time in finding
a confidante for the fossil's communication.

An hour and a half of resolute practising makes you not at all sorry
for an oasis in the counting, which you inaugurate (or whatever you do
when it's an oasis) by smashing the top coal and making a great blaze.
And then you go ever so close, and can talk.

"Are you sure it isn't Colonel Lund's mistake? Old gentlemen get very
fanciful." Thus Miss Wilson. But it seems Sally hasn't much doubt.
Rather the other way round, if anything!

"I thought it might be, all the way to Norland Square. Then I changed
my mind coming up the hill. Of course, I don't know about mamma till
I ask her. But I expect the Major's right about Mr. Fenwick."

"But how does _he_ know? How do you know?"

"I don't know." Sally tastes the points of a holly-leaf with her
tongue-tip, discreetly, to see how sharp they are, and cogitates. "At
least," she continues, "I _do_ know. He never takes his eyes off mamma
from the minute he comes into the house."

"Oh!"

"Besides--lots of things! Oh no; as far as that goes, I should say
_he_ was spooney."

"I see. You're a vulgar child, all the same! But about your
mother--that's the point."

The vulgar child cogitates still more gravely.

"I should say _now_," she says, after thinking it over, "that--only
I never noticed it at the time, you know----"

"That what?"

"That mamma knows Mr. Fenwick is spooney, and looks up at times to see
that he's going on."

Lætitia seems to receive this idea with some hesitation or reserve.
"Looks up at times to see if he's going on?" she repeats inquiringly.

"Yes, of course--like we should. Only I didn't say 'see if.' I said
'see that.' It makes all the difference."

Miss Wilson breaks into a laugh. "And there you are all the time
looking as if butter wouldn't melt in your mouth, and as grave as
a judge."

Sally has to acquiesce in being kissed by her friend at this point;
but she curls up a little as one who protests against being
patronised. "We-e-e-ell!" she says, lengthening out the word, "why
not? I don't see anything in _that_!"

"Oh no, dear--_that's_ all right! Why shouldn't it be?"

But this isn't candid of Lætitia, whose speech and kiss had certainly
appeared to impute suppressed insight, or penetration, or sly-pussness,
or something of that sort to her young friend. But with an implied
claim to rights of insight, on her own account, from seniority. Sally
is _froissée_ at this, but not beyond jerking the topic into a new
light.

"Of course, it's their being grown up that makes one stare so. If it
wasn't for that...." But this gives away her case, surrenders all
claim to her equality with Lætitia's twenty-four years. The advantage
is caught at meanly.

"That's only because you're a baby, dear. Wait till you're ten years
older, and thirty-eight won't seem so old. I suppose your mother's
about that?"

"Mother? Why, she's nearly thirty-nine!"

"And Mr. Fenwick?"

"Oh, _he's_ forty-one. _Quite!_ Because we talked it all over, and made
out they were over eighty between them."

"Who talked it over?"

"Why, him and her and me, of course. Last night."

"Who did you have, Sally dear?"

"Only ourselves, and Dr. Prosy and his Goody mother."

"I thought Mr. Fenwick----"

"I counted him in with us--mother and me and the Major."

"Oh, you counted him in?"

"Why shouldn't I count him in, if I like?"

"Why not? And you do like?" There is an appearance of irritating
sagacity about Sally's friend. "What did Dr. Vereker say, Sally dear?"

"Doc-tor Vereker! Dr. Prosy. Prosy's not a referee--it was no concern
of his! Besides--they'd gone."

"Who'd gone?"

"Dr. Prosy and his old hen of a mother. Well, Tishy dear, she _is_
like that. Comes wobbling down on you as if you were a chicken! I hope
you don't think mother and I and Mr. Fenwick would talk about how old
we were added together, with old Goody Prosy in it!"

"Of course not, dear!"

"Oh, Tishy dear, how aggravating you are! Now do please don't be
penetrating. You know you're trying to get at something; and there's
nothing to get at. It was perfectly natural. Only, of course, we
should never dream of talking about how old before people and their
gossipy old mothers."

"Of course not, dear!"

"There, now! You're being imperturbable! I knew you would. But you may
say what you like--there really was nothing in it. Nothing whatever
that time! However, of course mother does like Mr. Fenwick very
much--everybody knows that."

Lætitia says time will show, and Sally says, "Show what?" For the
remark connects with nothing in the conversation. Its maker does not
reply, but retires into the fastnesses of a higher philosophy, unknown
to the teens, but somehow attainable in the early twenties. She comes
down, however, to ask after Dr. Vereker. Sally has as good as held her
tongue about him. Have they quarrelled?

"My dear Tishy! The idea! A _perfect stranger_!"

"I thought you were such good friends."

"I've nothing against Dr. Vereker. But fancy quarrelling with him!
Like bosom friends. Kissing and making it up. What next!" Lætitia
seems to have discovered that Sally, subjected to a fixed amused look,
is sure to develop, and maintains one; and Sally follows on:

"One has to be on an intimate footing to fall out. Besides, people
shouldn't be hen's sons. Not if they expect that sort of thing!"

"Which sort?"

"You know perfectly well, Tishy dear! And they shouldn't be worthy,
either, people shouldn't. I'm not at all sure it isn't his worthiness,
just as much as his mother. I _could_ swallow his mother, if it came
to that!"

Lætitia, without relaxing the magnetism of her look, is replacing
a defective string. But a stimulating word will keep Sally up to the
mark. It would be a pity she should die down, having got so far.

"Not at all sure _what_ isn't his worthiness!"

"Now, Tishy dear, what nonsense! As if you didn't understand! You may
just as well be penetrating outright, if you're going to go on like
that. All I know is that, worthiness or no, if Dr. Vereker expects
I'm going to put him on a quarrelling footing, he's mistaken, and the
sooner he gives up the idea the better. I suppose he'll be wanting me
to cherish him next."

And then what does that irritating Lætitia Wilson do but say suddenly,
"I'm quite ready for the scherzo, dear, if you are." Just as if Sally
had been talking all this for her own private satisfaction and
amusement! And she knew perfectly well, Lætitia did, that she had been
eliciting, and that she meant to wait a day or two, and begin again
ever so far on, and make believe Sally had said heaps of things. And
Sally had really said nothing--_nothing_!

However, Miss Wilson was certainly a very fine violin figure, and
really striking in long sostenuto notes, with a fine throat and
handsome fingers on her left hand with broad bones, and a handsome
wrist on her bowing-arm where it was wanted. Only now, of course, she
hadn't got her Egyptian bracelet that looked so well, and her hair
wasn't done in a coronet, but only just twisted up anyhow. Besides,
when it's a difficult scherzo and you take it quick, your appearance
of having the concentration of Bonaparte and Julius Cæsar, and the
alacrity of a wild cat, doesn't bring out your good points. Give us
an _andante maestoso_ movement, or a _diminuendo rallentando_ that
reaches the very climax and acme of slowness itself just before the
applause comes! It was rather as a meditation in contrasts, though,
that Sally thought thus to herself; for detached musical jerks of
diabolical rapidity, that have to be snapped at with the punctuality
of the mosquito slayer, don't show your rounded lines to advantage,
and make you clench your teeth and glare horribly.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our story is like the scherzo in one respect: it has to be given in
detached jerks--literary, not musical--and these jerks don't come at
any stated intervals at all. The music was bad enough--so Sally and
Lætitia thought--but the chronicle is more spasmodic still. However,
if you want to know its remaining particulars, you will have to brace
yourself up to tolerating an intermittent style. It is the only one
our means of collecting information admits of.

This little musical interlude, and the accidental chat of our two
young performers, gives us a kind of idea of what was the position
of things at Krakatoa Villa six months after Fenwick made his singular
reappearance in the life of Mrs. Nightingale. We shall rely on your
drawing all our inferences. There is only one belief of ours we need
to lay stress upon; it is that the lady's scheme to do all she could
to recapture and hold this man who had been her husband was no mere
slow suggestion of the course of events in that six months, but a
swift and decisive resolution--one that, if not absolutely made at
once, paused only in the making until she was quite satisfied that
the disappearance of Fenwick's past was an accomplished fact. Once
satisfied of that, he became to her simply the man she had loved
twenty years ago--the man who did not, could not, forgive her
what seemed so atrocious a wrong, but whom she could forgive the
unforgiveness of; and this all the more if she had come to know of the
ruinous effect her betrayal of him had had--must have had--upon his
after-life. He was this man--this very man--to all appearance with
a mysterious veil drawn, perhaps for ever, over the terrible close of
their brief linked life and its hideous cause--over all that she would
have asked and prayed should be forgotten. If only this oblivion could
be maintained!--that was her fear. If it could, what task could be
sweeter to her than to make him such amends as lay in her power for
the wrong she had done him--how faultfully, who shall say? And if, in
late old age, no dawn of memory having gleamed in his ruined mind, she
came to be able to speak to him and tell him his own story--the tale
of the wreck of his early years--would not that almost, _almost_,
carry with it a kind of compensation for what she had undergone?

But her terror of seeing a return of memory now was a haunting
nightmare to her. She could only soothe and alleviate her anxiety
by suggesting efforts at recollection to Fenwick, and observing with
concealed satisfaction how utterly useless they all were. She felt
guilty at heart in being so happy at his ill-success, and had to
practise an excusable hypocrisy, an affectation of disappointment at
his repeated failures. On one particular occasion a shudder of
apprehension passed through her; she thought he had got a clue. If he
did, what was to prevent his following it up? She found it hard to say
to him how sorry she was this clue led to nothing, and to forecast
from it encouragement for the future. But she said to herself after
that, that she was a good actress, and had played her part well. The
part was a hard one.

For what came about was this. It chanced one evening, some three
months after the railway adventure, when Fenwick had become an
accepted and constant visitor at Krakatoa Villa, that as he took a
very late leave of Sally and her mother, the latter came out with him
into the always quiet road, while Sally ran back into the house to
direct a letter he was to post, but which had been forgotten for the
moment, just as he was departing.

They had talked a great deal, and with a closer familiarity than ever
before, of the problem of Fenwick's oblivion. Both ladies had gone on
the lines of suggesting clues, trying to recall to him the things that
_must_ have been in his life as in others. How about his parents?
Well, he remembered that, as a fact, he had a father and mother. It
was _themselves_ he could not recollect. How about his schooldays? No,
that was a blank. He could not even remember having been flogged. Yet
the idea of school was not unfamiliar; how, otherwise, could he laugh
as he did at the absurdity of forgetting all about it, especially
being flogged? But his brothers, his sisters, how _could_ he forget
_them_? He _did_, although in their case, as in that of his parents,
he somehow knew that some definite identities had existed that he had
forgotten. But any effort to recall any specific person came to
nothing, or else he only succeeded in reviving images manifestly
confused with characters in fiction or history. Then Sally, who was
rather incredulous about this complete vacuity of mind, had said to
him: "But come now, Mr. Fenwick, you don't mean to say you don't know
if you ever had a sweetheart?" And he had replied with a laugh: "My
dear Miss Sally, I'm sure I must have had plenty of sweethearts.
Perhaps it's because I had so many that I have forgotten them
all--all--all! They are all gone with the rest. I can do sums, and can
speak French, but what school I learned to keep accounts at I can't
tell you; and as to where I lived (as I must have done) among French
people to speak French, I can tell no more than Adam." And then he had
become rather reserved and silent till he got up to go, and they had
not liked to press him for more. The pained look they had often been
distressed to see came on his face, and he pressed his fingers on his
eyelids as though shutting out the present world might help him to
recall the past; then with a rough head-shake of his thick hair, like
a big dog, and a brushing of it about with both hands, as though he
would rouse this useless head of his to some sort of action, he put
the whole thing aside, and talked of other matters till he left the
house.

But when he and Mrs. Nightingale found themselves alone in the road,
enjoying the delicious west wind that meant before the morning to
become an equinoctial gale, and blow down chimney-pots and sink ships,
he turned to her and went back to what they had been talking of. She
could see the fine strong markings of his face in the moonlight, the
great jaw and firm lips, the handsome nose damaged by a scar that lay
true across the bridge of it, and looked white in the gleam of the
moon, the sad large eyelids and the grave eyes that had retaken the
look he had shaken off. She could note and measure every change
maturity had stamped upon him, and could see behind it the boy
that had come to meet her at the station at Umballa twenty years
before--had met her full of hope, met her to claim his reward after
the long delay through the hideous days of the pestilence, to
inaugurate the anticipated hours of happiness he had trembled to dream
of. And the worst of the cholera wards that had filled the last months
of his life with horror had held nothing for him so bad as the tale
she had to tell or conceal. She could see back upon it as they stood
there in the moonlight. Do not say she was not a strong woman.

"Do you know, Mrs. Nightingale," Fenwick said, "it's always a night
of this sort that brings back one's youth? You know what I mean?"

"I think I understand what you mean, Mr. Fenwick. You mean if"--she
hesitated a moment--"if you _could_ recollect."

He nodded a complete yes.

"Just that," said he. "I don't know if it's the millions of dry leaves
sweeping about, or the moon scudding so quick through the clouds, or
the smell of the Atlantic, or the bark coming off the plane-trees, or
the wind blowing the roads into smooth dust-drifts and hard clear-ups
you could eat your dinner off--I don't know what it is, but something
or another on a night of this sort does always seem to bring old times
back, when, as you say, they can be got back on any terms." He
half-laughed, not in earnest. She found something to say, also not
very much in earnest.

"Because we remember nights of the sort when we were small, and that
brings them back."

"Come, I say now, Mrs. Nightingale! As if we couldn't remember all
sorts of nights, and nothing comes back about them. It's this
particular sort of night does the job."

"Did you think you remembered something, Mr. Fenwick?" There was
anxiety in her voice, but no need to conceal it. It would as readily
pass muster for anxiety that he _should_ have remembered something as
that he shouldn't.

"I can hardly go so far as that. But that joke of your little pussycat
about the sweethearts got mixed with the smell of the wind and the
chrysanthemums and dahlias and sunflowers." He pressed his fingers
hard on his eyes again. "Do you know, there's pain in it--worse than
you'd think! The half-idea that comes is not painful in itself--rather
the contrary--but it gives my brain a twist at the point at which I
can recall no more. Yes, it's painful!"

"But there _was_ a half-idea? Forgive me if it gives you pain, and
don't try. Only I'm not sure you ought not to try when the chance
comes, for your own sake."

"Oh, I don't mind trying. This time it was something about a front
garden and a girl and a dog-cart." He had not taken his hands from his
eyes. Now he did so, brushing them on his hair and forehead as before.
"I get no nearer," said he.

"A front garden and a girl and a dog-cart," thus Miss Sally saucily,
coming out with the letter. "Did you have a very touching parting, Mr.
Fenwick? Now, mind you don't forget to post it. I wouldn't trust you!"
He took the letter from her, but seemed too _distrait_ to notice her
little piece of levity; then, still speaking as if in distress or
pain, he said:

"It must have been some front garden, long ago. This one brought it
back--this and the leaves. Only there was nothing for the dog-cart."

"And only mamma for the girl"--thus Sally the irrepressible. And then
mamma laughed, but not Mr. Fenwick at all. Only Sally thought her
mother's laugh came hard, and said to herself, now she should catch
it for chaffing! However, she didn't catch it, although the abruptness
with which her mother said good-night and went back into the house
half confirmed her impression that she should.

On the contrary, when she followed her a few minutes later, having
accompanied Fenwick to near the road end, and scampered back to the
house, turning to throw Parthian good-nights after him, she found her
mother pale and thoughtful, and surely the lips and hands she used to
kiss her with were cold. She wasn't even sure that wasn't a tear.
Perhaps it was.

For mamma had had a bad ten minutes--scarcely a _mauvais quart
d'heure_--and even that short interim had given her time to see that
this kind of thing would be incessant with her recovered husband,
granting that she could recover him. Only of that she felt nearly
secure--unaccountably, perhaps; certainly not warrantably. But how to
bear this kind of thing through a life?--that was the question.

What was this kind of thing, this bad ten minutes, that had made her
tremble, and turn white, and glad to get away, and be alone a minute
before Sally came up jubilant? But oh, how glad, for all that, to get
at her daughter's lips to kiss!--only not too hard, so as to suggest
reflection and analysis.

What had upset Mrs. Nightingale was a counter-memory of twenty years
ago, a clear and full and vivid recollection of the garden and the
girl and the dog-cart. And then also there "had only been mamma for
the girl." But oh, the relation the lassie who said those words bore
to those past days, her place in the drama that filled them out!
Little wonder her mother's brain reeled.

She could see it all vividly now, all over again. A glorious night
like this; a dazzling full moon sailing in the blue beyond the tumbled
chaos of loose cloud so near the earth; the riot of the wind-swept
trees fighting to keep a shred of their old green on their bareness,
making new concessions to the blast, and beating their stripped limbs
together in their despair; the endless swirl of leaves at liberty,
free now at last to enjoy a short and merry life before becoming food
for worms. She could see the face she had just parted from, but twenty
years younger--the same bone-structure with its unscarred youth upon
it, only a lesser beard with a sunnier tinge, but all the thickness of
the hair. She could remember the voices in the house, the farewells to
the young man who was just starting for India, and how she slipped
down to say a last good-bye on her own account, and felt grateful to
that old Dean Ireson (the only time in her life) for begging her
mother (who, of course, was the Rosalind Nightingale Fenwick spoke of
in the train) on no account to expose herself to the night-air. Why,
she might have come down, too, into the garden, and spoiled it all!
And then she could remember--oh, how well!--their last words in the
windy garden, and the horse in the dog-cart, fresh from his stall,
and officiously anxious to catch the train--as good as saying so, with
flings and stamps. And how little she cared if the groom _did_ hear
him call her Rosey, for that was his name for her.

"Now, Gerry, remember, I've made you _no_ promises; but I'll play
fair. If I change my mind, I'll write and tell you. And you may write
to me."

"Every day?"

"Silly boy, be reasonable! Once a month! You'll see, you'll get tired
of it."

"Come, Rosey, I say! The idea!"

"Yes, you will! Now go! You'll lose the train."

"Oh, Rosey dearest!"

"Yes, what?--you'll lose the train."

"Oh, my dearest, I _can't_! Just think--I may never see you again!"

"You _must_ go, Gerry dear! And there's that blockhead of a boy
outside there."

"Never mind him; he's nobody! Only one more.... Yes, _dearest love_,
I'm really going.... Good-bye! good-bye! God bless you!"

And then how she stood there with the memory of his lips dying on
hers, alone by the gate, in the wild wind, and heard the sharp regular
trot of the horse lessen on the hard road and die away, and then the
running of a train she thought was his, and how he would surely miss
it, and have to come back. And it _would_ be nice just to see him
again! But he was gone, for all that, and he was a dear good boy. And
she recollected going to her bedroom to do up her hair, which had all
come down, and hiding her face on her pillow in a big burst of tears.

Her mind harked back on all this as he himself, the same but changed,
stood there in the moonlight striving to recollect it all, and
mysteriously failing. But at least, he _did_ fail, and that was
something. But oh, what a wrench it gave to life, thought, reason,
to all her heart and being, to have that unconscious chit cut in
with "only mamma for the girl!" What and whence was this little
malaprop? Her overwrought mind shut away this question--almost in
the asking it--with "Dearer to me, at least, than anything else in
this world, unless----" and then shut away the rest of the answer.

But she was glad to get at Sally, and feel her there, though she
could not speak freely to her--nor, indeed, speak at all. And as soon
as the tension died down, she went back as to a source of peace to the
failure of his powers of memory, obvious, complete. All her hopes lay
in that. Where would they be if the whole past were suddenly sprung on
him? He _might_ be ready to bury bygones, but----

She woke next day fairly at ease in her mind, but feeling as one does
after any near-run escape. And then it was she said to herself that
she was a good actress. But the part _was_ hard to act.

       *       *       *       *       *

The relations between Fenwick and the Nightingales, mother and
daughter, seem to us to have been acquiring cohesion at the time of
the foregoing interview. It is rather difficult to say why. But it
serves to pave the way to the state of things that Sally accepted as
the "spooneyness" of Fenwick, and her mother's observation of his
"going on," without the dimmest idea of the underlying motives of the
drama. Another three months, bringing us on to these discriminations
of Sally's, may also have brought about appearances that justified
them.



CHAPTER X

THE DANGERS OF AN UNKNOWN PAST. NETTLE-GRASPING, AND A RECURRENCE. WHO
  AMONG US COURTS CATECHISM ABOUT HIMSELF? A UNIVERSALLY PROVIDED YOUNG
  MAN. HOW ABOUT THE POOR OLD FURNITURE?


We defy the acutest of psychologists to estimate precisely the hold
love has on a man who is diagnosed, in the language of the vulgar
child Sally, as "spooney." Probably no patient has ever succeeded in
doing this himself. It is quite another matter when the eruption has
broken out, when the crater is vomiting flames and the lava is pouring
down on the little homesteads at the mountain's base, that may stand
in the metaphor for all that man's duties and obligations. By that
time he _knows_. But, while still within the "spooney" zone he knows
no more than you or I (or that most important _she_) what the morrow
means to bring. Will it be a step on or a step back? An altogether
new _she_, or the fires of the volcano, let loose beyond recall?

Fenwick was certainly not in a position to gauge his own feelings
towards Mrs. Nightingale. All previous experience was cut away from
him, or seemed so. He might have been, for anything he knew, a married
man with a family, a devoted husband. He might have been recently
wedded to an adoring bride, and she might now be heart-broken in her
loneliness. How could he tell? The only thing that gave him courage
about this was that he _could_ remember the fact that he had had
parents, brothers, sisters. He could not recollect _anything whatever_
about sweetheart, wife, or child. Unearthly gusts of half-ideas came
to him at times, like that of the girl and the dog-cart. But they only
gave him pain, and went away unsolved, leaving him sick and dizzy.

His situation was an acutely distressing one. He was shackled and
embarrassed, so to speak, by what he knew of his relations to
existence. At any moment a past might be sprung on him, bringing him
suddenly face to face with God knows what. So strongly did he feel
this that he often said to himself that the greatest boon that could
be granted to him would be an assurance of continued oblivion. He was
especially afflicted by memories of an atrocious clearness that would
come to him in dreams, the horror of which would remain on into his
waking time. They were not necessarily horrible things at all, but
their clearness in the dream, and their total, if slow, disappearance
as the actual world came back, became sometimes an excruciating
torment. Who could say that they, or some equivalents, might not reach
him out of the past to-day or to-morrow--any time?

For instance, he had one morning waked up in a perfect agony--a cold
perspiration as of the worst nightmares--because of a dream harmless
enough in itself. He had suddenly remembered, in the dream-street he
could identify the houses of so plainly, a first-floor he had occupied
where he had left all his furniture locked up years ago. And he had
found the house and the first-floor quite easily, and had not seen
anything strange in the landlord saying that he and his old woman
often wondered when Mr. Fenwick would come for his things. It was not
the accumulation of rent unpaid, nor that of the dirt he knew he
should find on the furniture (all of which he could recollect in the
dream perfectly well), but the fact that he had forgotten it all, and
left it unclaimed all those years, that excruciated him. Even his
having to negotiate for its removal in his shirt did not afflict him
so much as his forgetfulness for so long of the actual furniture; his
conviction of the reality of which lasted on after his discovery about
his costume had made him suspect, in his dream, that he was dreaming.

To a man whose memory is sound, who feels sure he looks back on an
actual past in security, such a dream is only a curiosity of sleep. To
Fenwick it was, like many others of the same sort, a possible herald
of an analogous revelation in waking hours, with a sequel of dreadful
verification from some abysm of an utterly forgotten past.

His worst terror, far and away, was the fear that he was married and a
father. It might have been supposed that this arose from a provisional
sense of pity for the wife and children he must have left; that his
mind would conceive hypothetical poverty for them, or sorrow,
disease, or death, the result direct or indirect of his disappearance.
But this was scarcely the case. They themselves were too intensely
hypothetical. In this respect the blank in his intellect was so
unqualified that it might never have occurred to him to ask himself
the question if they existed had it not been suggested to him by Mrs.
Nightingale herself. It was, in fact, a question she almost always
recurred to when Miss Sally was out of the way. It was no use trying
to talk seriously when that little monkey was there. She turned
everything to a joke. But the Major was quite another thing. He would
back her up in anything reasonable.

"I wish more could be done to find out," said she for the twentieth
time to Fenwick one evening, shortly after the musical recital of last
chapter. "I don't feel as if it was right to give up advertising.
Suppose the poor thing is in Australia or America."

"The poor thing is my hypothetical wife?"

"Exactly so. Well, suppose she is. Some people never see any newspapers
at all. And all the while she may have been advertising for _you_."

"Oh no; we should have been sure to see or hear."

"But why? Now I ask you, Mr. Fenwick, suppose she advertised half a
dozen times in the 'Melbourne Argus' or the 'New York Sun,' _would_
you have seen it, necessarily?"

"_I_ should not, because I never see the 'Melbourne Argus' or the 'New
York Sun.' But those agents we paid to look out go steadily through
the agony columns--the personal advertisements--of the whole world's
press; they would have found it if it had ever been published."

"I dare say they only pocketed the money."

"That they did, no doubt. But they gave me something for it. A hundred
and twenty-three advertisements addressed to Fenwicks--none of them
to me!"

"But have we advertised enough?"

"Oh, heavens, yes. Think of the answers we've had! I've just received
the hundred and forty-second. From a lady in distressed circumstances
who bought a piano ten years ago from a party of my name and
initials--thought I might be inclined to buy it back at half-price.
She proposes to call on me early next week."

"Poor Mr. Fenwick! It _is_ discouraging, I admit. But, oh dear! fancy
if there's some poor thing breaking her heart somewhere! It's easy
enough for you--_you_ don't believe in her."

"That's it; I don't!" He dropped a tone of pleasantry, and spoke more
seriously. "Dear Mrs. Nightingale, if my absence of conviction of
the existence of this lady did not rise to the height of a definite
disbelief in her altogether--well, I should be wretched. But I feel
very strongly that I need not make myself a poor miserable about her.
I _don't_ believe in her, that's the truth!"

"You don't believe a man could forget his wife?"

"I _can't_ believe it, try how I may! Anything--anybody else--but his
wife, no!"

Fenwick had come in late in the evening, as he was in the habit of
doing, often three or four times in the week. He looked across from
his side of the hearthrug, where he had been standing watching the
fire, but could not see the face opposite to him. Mrs. Nightingale was
sitting with her back to the light sheltering her eyes from the blaze
with a fire-screen. So Fenwick saw only the aureole the lamp made in
her hair--it was a fine halo with a golden tinge. Sally was very proud
of mamma's hair; it was much better fun to do than her own, said the
vulgar child. But even had she not been hidden by the screen, the
expression on her face might have meant nothing to him--that is,
nothing more than the ready sympathy he was so well accustomed to.
A little anxiety of eye, a tremor in the lip, the birth of a frown
without a sequel--these might have meant anything or nothing. She
might even have turned whiter than she did, and yet not be said to
show the cross-fire of torments in her heart. She was, as we told you,
a strong woman, either by nature, or else her life had made her one.

For, think of what the recesses of her memory held; think of the past
she looked back on, and knew to be nothing but a blank to him. Think
of what _she_ was, and _he_ was, as he stood there and said, "Anybody
else, but his wife;" and then rather shaped the "No" that followed
with his lips than said it; but shook an emphasis into the word with
his head.

"When are you going to get your hair cut, Mr. Fenwick?" said she;
and he did think she changed the subject abruptly, without apparent
cause. "It's just like a lion's mane when you shake it like that."

"To-morrow, if you think it too disreputable."

"I like it. Sally wants to cut it...."

The last few words showed the completeness of Fenwick's _tame
cattitude_ in the family. It had developed in an amazingly short time.
Was it due to the old attachment of this man and woman--an attachment,
mind you, that was sound and strong till it died a violent death? We
do not find this so very incredible; perhaps, because that memory of
their old parting in the garden went nearer to an actual revival than
any other stirring in his mind. But, of course, there may have been
others equally strong, only we chance to hear of this one.

That was not our purpose, however, in recording such seeming trivial
chat. It was not trivial on Mrs. Nightingale's part. She had made up
her mind to flinch from nothing, always to grasp her nettle. Here was
a nettle, and she seized it firmly. If she identified as clearly as
she did that shaken lion-mane of Fenwick's with that of Gerry, the
young man of twenty years ago, and seeing its identity was silent,
that would be flinching. She would and did say the self-same thing she
could recall saying to Gerry. And she asked Fenwick when he was going
to get his hair cut with a smile, that was like that of the Indian
brave under torture. A knife was through her heart. But it was well
done, so she thought to herself. If she could be as intrepid as that,
she could go on and live. She tried experiments of this sort when the
watchful merry eyes of her daughter were not upon her, and even felt
glad, this time, that the Major was having a doze underneath a "Daily
Telegraph." Fenwick took it all as a matter of course, mere chaff....

Did he? If so, why, after a few words more of chat, did he press his
hands on his eyes and shake a puzzled head; then, after an abrupt turn
up and down the room, come back to where he stood at first and draw a
long breath?

"Was that a recurrence, Mr. Fenwick?" she asked. They had come to
speak of these mental discomforts as _recurrences_. They would afflict
him, not seldom, without bringing to his mind any definite image. And
this was the worst sort. When an image came, his mind felt eased.

"A sort of one."

"Can you tell when it came on?" All this was nettle-grasping. She was
getting used to it. "Was it before or after I said that about your
hair?"

"After. No, before. Perhaps just about then." Mrs. Nightingale decided
that she would not tempt Providence any further. Self-discipline was
good, but not carried to danger-point.

"Now sit down and be quiet," she said. "We won't talk any more about
unpleasant things. Only the worst of it is," she added, smiling,
"that one's topics--yours and mine, I mean--are so limited by the
conditions. I should ask any other man who had been about the world,
as you _must_ have done, all sorts of questions about all sorts of
places--where he had been, whom he had seen. You can't answer
questions, though I hope you will some day...."

She paused, and he saw the reason. "You see," said he, with a
good-humoured laugh, "one gets back directly to the unpleasant
subject, whether one will or no. But if I could remember all about
my precious self, I might not court catechism about it...."

"_I_ should not about mine." This was said in a low tone, with a
silent look on the unraised eyes that was almost an invitation not to
hear, and her lips hardly moved to say it, either. He missed it for
the moment, but finished his speech with the thought in his mind.

"Still, it's an ill-wind that blows nobody good. See what a clear
conscience I have! But what was that _you_ said?"

She dropped the fire-screen and raised her eyes--fine eyes they were,
which we might have likened to those of Juno had the eyes of oxen been
blue--turning them full on him. "When?" said she.

"Just this minute. I ought to have apologized for interrupting you."

"I said I should not court catechism about myself. I should not."
Fenwick felt he could not assign this speech its proper place in the
dialogue without thinking. He thought gravely, looking to all seeming
into the fire for enlightenment; then turned round and spoke.

"Surely that is true, in a sense, of all mankind--mankind and
womankind. Nobody wants to be seen through. But one's past would need
to be a very shaky one to make one wish for an oblivion like mine to
extinguish it."

"I should not dislike it. I have now all that I wish to keep out of
the past. I have Sally. There is nothing I could not afford to forget
in the past, no one thing the loss of which could alter her in the
least, that little monkey of a daughter of mine! And there are many,
many things I should like to see the last of." From which speech
Fenwick derived an impression that the little monkey, the vulgar
child, had come back warm and living and welcome to the speaker's
mind, and had driven away some mists of night, some uglinesses that
hung about it. How he wished he could ask: "Was one of them her
father?" That was not practicable. But it was something of that sort,
clearly. His mind could not admit the idea of a haunting remorse, a
guilty conscience of an action of her own, in the memory of the woman
who spoke to him. He was too loyal to her for that. Besides, the
wording of her speech made no such supposition necessary. Fenwick's
answer to it fell back on abstractions--the consolation a daughter
must be, and so forth.

"There she is!" said her mother; and then added, as perturbation
without heralded Miss Sally's approach: "I will tell you what I meant
some other time." For there she was, no doubt of it, wild with
excitement to report the splendid success of the great sestet, the
production of which had been the event of the musical gathering she
had come from. And you know as well as we do how it is when youth and
high spirits burst in upon the sober stay-at-homes, intoxicated with
music and lights and supper and too many people talking at once.
Sally's eyebrows and teeth alone would have been enough to set all the
birds singing in the dullest coppices decorum ever planted, let alone
the tales she had to tell of all the strange and wonderful things that
had come to pass at the Erskine Peels', who were the givers of the
party, and always did things on such a scale.

"And where do you think, mother, Mrs. Erskine Peel gets all those
good-looking young men from that come to her parties? Why, from the
Stores, of course. Just fancy!... How do I know? Why, because I talked
to one of them for ever so long, and made him tell me all about it. I
detected him, and told him so straight off. How did I recognise him?
Why, of course, because he's that young man that came here about the
letter. Oh, _you_ know, Mr. Fenwick! Gracious me, how slow you are!
The young man that brought you the letter to translate. Rather tall,
dark eyes."

"Oh yes, certainly. I remember him quite well. Well, I expect he made
a very good young man for a small tea-party."

"Of course he did, and it's quite ridiculous." By which the vulgar
child meant that class distinctions were ridiculous. She had this way
of rushing subjects, eliding the obvious, and relying on her hearers.
"He told me all about it. He'd been universally provided, he said; and
I promised not to tell. Miss Erskine Peel--that's Orange, you know,
the soprano--went to the manager and said her mother said they _must_
get more men, though it wasn't dancing, or the rooms looked so bad;
only they mustn't be fools, and must be able to say Wagner and Liszt
and things. And he hoped I didn't think he was a fool."

"What did you say?"

"Said I couldn't say--didn't know him well enough. He might be, to
look at. Or not, accordingly. I didn't say _that_, you know, mamma."

"I didn't know, darling. You're very rude sometimes."

"Well, he said he could certainly say Wagner and Liszt, and even more,
because--it was rather sad, you know, mamma dear----"

"Sally, you've told that young man he may call; you know you have!"

"Well, mamma dear, and if I have, I don't see that anybody's mare's
dead. Because, do listen!" Fenwick interposed a parenthesis.

"I don't think you need to be apprehensive, Mrs. Nightingale. He was
an educated young man enough. His not knowing a French phrase like
that implies nothing. Not one in a hundred would." The way in which
the Major, who, of course, had come out of his doze on the inrush of
Miss Sally, looked across at Fenwick as he said this, implied an
acquired faith in the judgment of the latter. Sally resumed.

"Just let me tell you. His name's Bradshaw. Only he's no relation to
_the_ Bradshaw--in a yellow cover, you know. We-e-ell, I don't see
anything in that!" Sally is defending her position against a smile her
mother and Fenwick have exchanged. They concede that there is nothing
in it, and Sally continues. "Where was I? Oh, Bradshaw; yes. He was an
awfully promising violinist--awfully promising! And what do you think
happened? Why, the nerves of his head gave way, and he couldn't stand
the vibration! So it came to being Cattley's or nothing." Sally
certainly had the faculty of cutting a long story short.

She thought the story, so cut, one that her mother and Mr. Fenwick
might have shown a more active interest in, instead of saying it was
time for all of us to be in bed. She did not, however, ascribe to them
any external preoccupation--merely an abstract love of Truth; for was
it not nearly one o'clock in the morning?

Nevertheless, a little incident of Mr. Fenwick's departure, not
noticed at the moment, suddenly assumed vitality just as Sally was
"going off," and woke her up. What was it she overheard her mother
say to him, just as he was leaving the house, about something she had
promised to tell him some time? However, reflection on it with waking
faculties dissipated the importance it seemed to have half-way to
dreamland, and Sally went contentedly to sleep again.

Fenwick, as he walked to his lodgings through the dull February night,
did not regard this something, whatever it was, as a thing of slight
importance at all. He may have been only "spooney," but it was in a
sense that left him no pretence for thinking that anything connected
with this beautiful young widow-lady could be unimportant to him. On
the contrary, she was more and more filling all his waking thoughts,
and becoming the pivot on which all things turned. It is true, he
"dismissed from his mind"--whatever that means--every presumptuous
suggestion that in some precious time to come she might be willing to
throw in her lot with his own, and asked himself what sort of thing
was he that he should allow such an idea to come even as far as
contradiction-point? He, a poor inexplicable wreck! What was the Self
he had to offer, and what else had he? But, indeed, the speculation
rarely got even to this maturity, so promptly was it nipped in the
bud. Only, there were so many buds to nip. He became aware that he
was giving a good deal of attention to this sort of gardening.

Also, he had a consciousness that he was growing morbidly anxious for
the maintenance of his own oblivion. That which was at first only
a misgiving about what a return of memory might bring to light, was
rapidly becoming a definite desire that nothing should come to light
at all. How _could_ he look forward to that "hypothetical" wife whom
he did not in the least believe in, but who might be somewhere, for
all that! He knew perfectly well that his relations with Krakatoa
Villa would _not_ remain the same, say what you might! Of course, he
also knew that he had no relations there that _need_ change--most
certainly not! At this point an effort would be made against the
outcrop of his thoughts. Those confounded buds were always bursting.
It was impossible to be even with them.

Perhaps it was on this evening, or rather early morning, as he walked
home to his lodgings, that Fenwick began to recognise more fully than
he had done before Mrs. Nightingale's share in what was, if not an
absolute repugnance to a revival of the unknown past, at least a very
ready acquiescence in his ignorance of it. But surely, he reasoned
with himself, if this cause is making me contented with my darkness,
it is the more reason that it should be penetrated.

An uncomfortable variation of his dream of the resurrected first-floor
crossed his mind. Suppose he had forgotten the furniture, but
remembered the place, and gone back to tenant it with a van-load of
new chairs and tables. What would he have done with the poor old
furniture?



CHAPTER XI

MORE GIRLS' CHATTER. SWEEPS AND DUSTMEN. HOW SALLY DISILLUSIONED MR.
  BRADSHAW. OUT OF THE FRYING-PAN


It is impossible to make Gluck's music anything but a foretaste of
heaven, as long as there is any show of accuracy in the way it is
rendered. But, then, you must go straight on, and not go over a
difficult phrase until you know it. You must play fair. Orpheus would
probably only have provoked Cerberus--certainly wouldn't have put him
to sleep--if he had practised, and counted, and gone back six bars
and done it again.

But Cerberus wasn't at 260, Ladbroke Grove Road, on the Tuesday
following Mrs. Erskine Peel's musical party, which was the next time
Sally went to Lætitia Wilson. And it was as well that he wasn't, for
Sally stuck in a passage at the end of one page and the beginning of
the next, so that you had to turn over in the middle; and it was bad
enough, goodness knew, without that! It might really have been the
north-west passage, so insuperable did it seem.

"I shall never get it right, I know, Tishy," said the viola.

And the violin replied: "Because you never pay any attention to the
arpeggio, dear. It doesn't begin on the chord. It begins on the G
flat. Look here, now. One--two--three. One--two--three."

"Yes, that's all very well. Who's going to turn over the leaf, I
should like to know? I know I shall never do it. Not because the
nerves of my head are giving way, but because I'm a duffer."

"I suppose you know what that young man is, dear?" Sally accepts this
quite contentedly, and immediately skips a great deal of unnecessary
conversation.

"I'm not in love with him, Tishy dear."

"Didn't say you were, dear. But I suppose you don't know what he is,
all the same." Which certainly seems inconsecutive, but we really
cannot be responsible for the way girls talk.

"Don't know, and don't want to know. What is he?"

"He's from Cattley's." This throws a light on the conversation. It
shows that Sally had told Lætitia who she was going to meet at her
mother's next evening. Sally is not surprised.

"As if I didn't know all about this! As if he didn't tell me his
story!"

"Like the mock-turtle in Alice?"

"Now, Tishy dear, is that an insinuation, or isn't it? Do be candid!"

"The mock-turtle told his story. Once, he was a real turtle."

"Very well, Tishy dear. That's as much as to say Julius Bradshaw is
mock. I can't see where the mockness comes in myself. He told _me_
all about it, plain enough."

"Yes--and you know what a rage Mrs. Erskine Peel is in, and says it
was an _éclaircissement_."

"Why can't she be satisfied with English?... What! Of course, there
are _hundreds_ of English equivalents for _éclaircissement_. There's
bust-up."

"That's only one."

"Tishy dear, don't be aggravating! Keep to the point. Why mustn't
I have Julius Bradshaw to play with if I like because he's at
Cattley's?"

"You may, if you _like_, dear! As long as you're satisfied, it's
all right."

"What fault have you to find with him?"

"I! None at all. It's all perfectly right."

"You are _the_ most irritating girl."

"Suppose we take the _adagio_ now--if you're rested."

But Sally's back was up. "Not until you tell me what you really mean
about Julius Bradshaw."

So Lætitia had her choice between an explicit statement of her
meaning, and an unsupported incursion into the _adagio_.

"I suppose you'll admit there _are_ such things as social
distinctions?"

Sally wouldn't admit anything whatever. If sociometry was to be a
science, it must be worked out without axioms or postulates. Lætitia
immediately pointed out that if there were no such things as social
distinctions of course there was no reason why Mr. Julius Bradshaw
shouldn't take his violin to Krakatoa Villa. "Or here, or anywhere,"
concluded Lætitia, with a touch of pride in the status of Ladbroke
Grove Road. Whereupon Sally surrendered as much of her case as she
had left.

"You talk as if he was a sweep or a dustman," said she.

"I don't see why you should mind if I do, dear. Because, if there are
to be no social distinctions, there's no reason why all the sweeps and
dustmen in Christendom shouldn't come and play the violin at Krakatoa
Villa.... Now, not _too_ slow, you know. One--two--three--four--that'll
do." Perhaps Sally felt it would be a feeble line of defence to dwell
on the scarcity of good violinists among sweeps and dustmen, and that
was why she fell into rank without comment.

This short conversation, some weeks on in the story, lets in one or
two gleams of side-light. It shows that Sally's permission to the
young man Bradshaw to call at her mother's had been promptly taken
advantage of--jumped at is the right expression. Also that Miss Wilson
had stuck-up ideas. Also that Sally was a disciple of what used to be
called Socialism; only really nowadays such a lot of things get called
Socialism that the word has lost all the discriminative force one
values so much in nouns substantive. Also (only we knew it already)
that Sally was no lawyer. We do not love her the less, for our part.

But nothing in this interchange of shots between Sally and her friend,
nor in anything she said to her mother about Mr. Bradshaw, gives its
due prominence to the fact that, though that young gentleman was a
devout worshipper at the shrine of St. Satisfax, he had only become so
on the Sunday after Miss Sally had casually mentioned the latter as a
saint she frequented. Perhaps she "dismissed it from her mind," and it
was obliging enough to go. Perhaps she considered she had done her
duty by it when she put on record, in soliloquy, her opinion that if
people chose to be gaping idiots they might, and she couldn't help
it. She had a happy faculty for doing what she called putting young
whippersnappers in their proper places. This only meant that
she managed to convey to them that the lines they might elect to
whippersnap on were not to be those of sentimental nonsense. And
perhaps she really dealt in the wisest way with Mr. Bradshaw's
romantic adoration of her at a distance when he fished for leave to
call upon her. The line he made his application on was that he should
so like to play her a rapid movement by an unpronounceable Slav. She
said directly, why not come and bring his violin on Wednesday evening
at nine? That was her mother's address on the card on the fiddle-case.
He must recollect it--which he did unequivocally.

Now, if this young lady had had a fan, she might have tittered with
it, or blushed slightly, and said, "Oh, Mr. Bradshaw!" or, "Oh, sir!"
like in an old novel--one by Fanny Burney, or the like. But she did
nothing of the sort, and the consequence was that he had, as it were,
to change the _venue_ of his adoration--to make it a little less
romantic, in fact. Her frank and breezy treatment of the subject had
let in a gust of fresh air, and blown away all imagination. For there
naturally was a good deal of that in a passion based on a single
interview and nourished by weekly stimulants at morning services.
In fact, when he presented himself at Krakatoa Villa on Wednesday
evening as invited--the day after Lætitia's remarks about his social
position--he was quite prepared to be introduced to the young woman's
_fiancé_, if.... Only, when he got as far as the _if_, he dropped the
subject. As soon as he found there was no such person he came to
believe he would not have been much disconcerted if there had been.
How far this was true, who can say?

He was personally one of those young men about whom you may easily
produce a false impression if you describe them at all. This is
because your reader will take the bit in his teeth, and run away with
an idea. If you say a nose has a bridge to it, this directly produces
in some minds an image like Blackfriars Bridge; that it is straight,
the Æginetan marbles; that it is _retroussé_, the dog in that Hogarth
portrait. Suggest a cheerful countenance, and you stamp your subject
for ever as a Shakespearian clown. So you must be content to know that
Mr. Bradshaw was a good-looking young man, of dark complexion, and of
rather over medium height and good manners. If he had not been, he
would never, as an article of universal provision for parties, have
passed muster at Cattley's. He was like many other young men such as
one sees in shops; but then, what very nice-looking young men one
sometimes sees there! Sally had classed him as a young whippersnapper,
but this was unjust, if it impugned his stature. She repeated the
disparaging epithet when, in further justification to Miss Wilson of
her asking him to her mother's house, she sketched a policy of conduct
to guide inexperienced girls in their demeanour towards new male
friends. "You let 'em come close to, and have a good look," said the
vulgar child. "Half of 'em will be disgusted, and go away in a huff."

Mrs. Nightingale had known Mr. Bradshaw for a long time as a customer
at a shop knows the staff in the background, mere office secretions,
who only ooze out at intervals. For Bradshaw was not strictly a
counter-jumper, although Miss Wilson more than once spoke of him so,
adding, when it was pointed out to her that theoretically he never
went behind counters, by jumping or otherwise, that that didn't make
the slightest difference: the principle was the same.

Sally's mother did not share her friend's fancies. But she had not
confidence enough in the stability of the earth's crust to give way
freely to her liberalism, drive a coach-and-six through the Classes,
and talk to him freely about the shop. She did not know what a Social
Seismologist would say on the point. So she contented herself with
treating him as a matter of course, as a slight acquaintance whom she
saw often, merely asking him if that was he. To which the reply was
in the affirmative, like question-time in the Commons.

"Is this the Strad? Let's have it out," says Sally. For Mr. Bradshaw
possessed a Strad. He brought it out of its coffin with something of
the solicitude Petrarch might have shown to the remains of Laura, and
when he had rough-sketched its condition of discord and corrected
the drawing, danced a Hungarian dance on it, and apologized for his
presumption in doing so. He played so very well that it certainly did
seem rather a cruel trick of fate that gave him nerves in his head.
Sally then said, might she look at it? and played chords and runs,
just to feel what it was like. Her comment was that she wished her
viola was a Strad.

We record all this to show what, perhaps, is hardly worth the
showing--a wavering in a man's mind, and that man a young one. Are
they not at it all day long, all of them? Do they do anything but
waver?

When Sally said she wished her viola was a Strad, Mr. Bradshaw's mind
shortly became conscious that some passing spook, of a low nature, had
murmured almost inaudibly that it was a good job _his_ Strad wasn't
a viola. "Because, you see," added the spook, "that quashes all
speculation whether you, Mr. Bradshaw, are glad or sorry you needn't
lay your instrument at this young lady's feet. Now, if immediately
after you first had that overwhelming impression of her--got
metaphorically torpedoed, don't you know?--such a wish as hers had
been expressed, you probably would have laid both your Strad and your
heart at her feet, and said take my all!" But now that he had been so
far disillusioned by Sally's robust and breezy treatment of the
position, he was not quite sure the spook had not something to say for
himself. Mr. Bradshaw was content to come down off his high horse, and
to plod along the dull path of a mere musical evening visitor at
a very nice house. Pleasant, certainly, but not the aim of his
aspirations from afar at St. Satisfax's. His _amour propre_ was a
little wounded by that spook, too. Nothing keeps it up to the mark
better than a belief in one's stability--in love-matters, especially.

He was not quite sure of the exact moment the spook intruded his
opinion, so _we_ can't be expected to know. Perhaps about the time
Miss Wilson came in (just as he was showing how carefully he had
listened to Joachim) and said could _he_ play those? She wished _she_
could. She was thrown off her guard by the finished execution, and for
the moment quite forgot Cattley's and the classitudes. Sally instantly
perceived her opening. She would enjoy catching Tishy out in any sort
of way. So she said: "Mr. Bradshaw will show you how, Tishy dear; of
course he will. Only, not now, because if we don't begin, we shan't
have time for the long quartet." If you say this sort of thing about
strangers in Society, you really ought to give them a chance. So
thought Lætitia to herself, and resolved to blow Sally up at the first
opportunity.

As for that culprit, she completed her work, from her own position of
perfect security, with complacency at least. And she felt at the end
of her evening (which we needn't dwell on, as it was all crotchets,
minims, and F sharps and G flats) that her entrenchments had become
spontaneously stronger without exertion on her part. For there were
Tishy and Mr. Bradshaw, between whom Sally had certainly understood
there was a great gulf fixed, sitting on the very same sofa and talking
about a Stradivarius. She concluded that, broadly speaking, Debrett's
bark is worse than his bite, and that he is, at heart, a very
accommodating character.

"I hope you saw Tishy, mamma dear." So spoke Sally to her mother,
after the musicians first, and then Fenwick, had dispersed their
several ways. Mrs. Nightingale seemed very _distraite_ and
preoccupied.

"Saw Tishy what, kitten?"

"Tishy and Mr. Bradshaw on that sofa."

"No, darling. Oh yes, I did. What about them?"

"After all that rumpus about shop-boys!" But her mother's attention
is not easy to engage this evening, somehow. Her mind seems somewhere
else altogether. But from where it is, it sees the vulgar child very
plainly indeed, as she puts up her face to be kissed with all its
animation on it. She kisses it, animation and all, caressing the rich
black hair with a hand that seems thoughtful. A hand can. Then she
makes a little effort to shake off something that draws her away, and
comes back rather perfunctorily to her daughter's sphere of interest
and the life of town.

"Did Lætitia call Mr. Bradshaw a shop-boy, chick?"

"Very nearly--at least, I don't know what you call not calling anybody
shop-boy if she didn't." Her mother makes a further effort--comes back
a little more.

"What did she say, child?"

"Said you could always tell, and it was no use my talking, and the
negro couldn't change his spots."

"She has some old-fashioned ideas. But how about calling him a
shop-boy?"

"Not in words, but worse. Tishy always goes round and round. I wish
she'd _say_! However, Dr. Vereker quite agrees with me. _We_ think it
_dishonest_!"

"What did Dr. Vereker think of Mr. Bradshaw?" We have failed to note
that the doctor was the 'cello in the quartet.

"Now, mamma darling, fancy asking Dr. Prosy what he thinks! I wasn't
going to. Besides, as if it mattered what they think of each other!...
Who? Why, men, of course!"

"Mr. Fenwick's a man, and you asked him."

"Mr. Fenwick's a man on other lines--absolutely other. He doesn't come
in really." Her mother repeats the last four words, not exactly
derisively--rather, if anything, her accent and her smile may be said
to caress her daughter's words as she says them. She is such a silly,
but such a dear little goose--that seems the implication.

"We-e-ll," says Sally, as she has said before, and we have tried to
spell her. "I don't see anything in that, because, look how reasonable!
Mr. Fenwick's ... Mr. Fenwick's ... why, of course, entirely different.
I say, mother dearest...."

"What, kitten?"

"What were you and Mr. Fenwick talking about so seriously in the back
drawing-room?" The two are upstairs in the front bedroom at this
minute, by-the-bye.

"Did you hear us, darling?"

"No, because of the row. But one could tell, for all that." Then Sally
sees in an instant that it is something her mother is not going to
tell her about, and makes immediate concession. "Where was the Major
going that he couldn't come?" she asks. "He generally makes a point
of coming when it's music."

"I fancy he's dining at the Hurkaru," says her mother. But she has
gone back into her preoccupation, and from within it externalises an
opinion that we should be better in bed, or we shall never be up in
the morning.



CHAPTER XII

WHAT FENWICK AND SALLY'S MOTHER HAD BEEN SAYING IN THE BACK DRAWING-ROOM.
  OP. 999. BACK IN THAT OLD GARDEN AGAIN, AND HOW GERRY COULD NOT SWIM.
  THE OLD TARTINI SONATA


As soon as ever Mr. Bradshaw touched his violin, and before ever he
began to play his Hungarian Dance on all four strings at once, Mrs.
Nightingale and Mr. Fenwick went away into the back drawing-room, not
to be too near the music. Because there was a fire in both rooms.

In the interval of time that had passed since Christmas Sally had
contrived to "dismiss from her mind" Colonel Lund's previsions about
her mother and Mr. Fenwick. Or they had given warning, and gone of
their own accord. For by now she had again fallen into the frame of
mind which classified her mother and Fenwick as semi-elderly people,
and, so to speak, out of it all. So her mind assented readily to
distance from the music as a sufficient reason for a secession to the
back room. Non-combatants are just as well off the field of battle.

But a closer observer than Sally at this moment would have noticed
that chat in an undertone had already set in in the back drawing-room
even before the Hungarians had stopped dancing. Also that the applause
that came therefrom, when they did stop, had a certain perfunctory
air, as of plaudits something else makes room for, and comes back
again after. Not that she would have "seen anything in it" if she had,
because, whatever her mother said or did was, in Sally's eyes, right
and normal. Abnormal and bad things were conceived and executed
outside the family. Nor, in spite of the _sotto voce_, was there
anything Sally could not have participated in, whatever exception she
might have taken to something of a patronising tone, inexcusable
towards our own generation even in the most semi-elderly people on
record.

Her mother, at Sally's latest observation point, had taken the large
armchair quite on the other side of the rug, to be as far off the
music as possible. Mr. Fenwick, in reply to a flying remark of her
own, she being at the moment a music-book seeker, wouldn't bring the
other large armchair in front of the fire and be comfortable, thank
you. He liked this just as well. Sally had then commented on Mr.
Fenwick's unnatural love of uncomfortable chairs "when he wasn't
walking about the room." She fancied, as she passed on, that she heard
her mother address him as "Fenwick," without the "Mr." So she did.

"You are a restless man, Fenwick! I wonder were you so before the
accident? Oh dear! there I am on that topic again!" But he only
laughed.

"It doesn't hurt _me_," he said. "That reminds me that I wanted to
remind _you_ of something you said you would tell me. You know--that
evening the kitten went to the music-party--something you would tell
me some time."

"I know; I'll tell you when they've got to their music, if there isn't
too much row. Don't let's talk while this new young man's playing; it
seems unkind. It won't matter when they're all at it together." But in
spite of good resolutions silence was not properly observed, and the
perfunctory pause came awkwardly on the top of a lapse. Fenwick then
said, as one who avails himself of an opportunity:

"No need to wait for the music; they can't hear a word we say in there.
We can't hear a word _they_ say."

"Because they're making such a racket." Mrs. Nightingale paused with
a listening eye, trying to disprove their inaudibility. The examination
confirmed Fenwick. "I like it," she continued--"a lot of young voices.
It's much better when you don't make out what they say. When you can't
hear a word, you fancy some sense in it." And then went on listening,
and Fenwick waited, too. He couldn't well fidget her to keep her
promise; she would do it of herself in time. It might be she preferred
talking under cover of the music. She certainly remained silent till
it came; then she spoke.

"What was it made me say that to you about something I would tell you?
Oh, I know. You said, perhaps if you knew your past, you would not
court catechism about it. And I said that, knowing mine, _I_ should
not either. Wasn't that it?" She fixed her eyes on him as though to
hold him to the truth. Perhaps she wanted his verbal recognition of
the possibility that she, too, like others, might have left things in
the past she would like to forget on their merits--cast-off garments
on the road of life. It may have been painful to her to feel his faith
in herself an obstacle to what she wished at least to hint to him,
even if she could not tell him outright. She did not want too much
divine worship at her shrine--a ready recognition of her position of
mortal frailty would be so much more sympathetic, really. A feeling
perhaps traceably akin to what many of us have felt, that if our
father the devil--"auld Nickie Ben"--would only tak' a thought and
mend, as he aiblins might, he would be the very king of father
confessors. If details had to be gone into, we should be sure of _his_
sympathy.

"Yes, that was it. And I suppose I looked incredulous." Thus Fenwick.

"You looked incredulous. I would sooner you should believe me. Would
you hand me down that fire-screen off the chimney-piece? Thank you."
She was hardening herself to the task she had before her. He gave her
the screen, and as he resumed his seat drew it nearer to her. Mozart's
Op. 999 had just started, and it was a little doubtful if voices could
be heard unless, in Sally's phrase, they were close to.

"I shall believe you. Does what you were going to tell me relate
to----"

"Go on."

"To your husband?"

"Yes." The task had become easier suddenly. She breathed more freely
about what was to come. "I wish you to know that he may be still
living. I have heard nothing to the contrary. But I ought to speak
of him as the man who was my husband. He is no longer that." Fenwick
interposed on her hesitation.

"You have divorced him?" But she shook her head--shook a long
negative. And Fenwick looked up quickly, and uttered a little sharp
"Ah!" as though something had struck him. The slow head-shake said as
plain as words could have said it, "I wish I could say yes." So
expressive was it that Fenwick did not even speculate on the third
alternative--a separation without a divorce. He saw at once he could
make it easier for her if he spoke out plain, treating the bygone as
a thing that _could_ be spoken of plainly.

"He divorced you?" She was very white, but kept her eyes steadily
fixed on him over the fire-screen, and her voice remained perfectly
firm and collected. The music went on intricately all the while. She
spoke next.

"To all intents and purposes. There was a technical obstacle to a
legal divorce, but he tried for one. We parted sorely against my will,
for I loved him, and now it is over nineteen years since I saw him
last, or heard of him or from him. But he was absolutely blameless.
Unless, indeed, it is to be counted blame to him that he could not
bear what no other man could have borne. I cannot possibly give you
all details. But I wish you to hear this that I have to tell you from
myself. It is painful to me to tell, but it would be far worse that
you should hear it from any one else. I feel sure it is safe to tell
you; that you will not talk of it to others--least of all to that
little chick of mine."

"You may trust me--indeed, you may--without reserve. I see you wish
to tell me no more, so I will not ask it."

"And blame me as little as possible?"

"I cannot blame you."

"Before you say that, listen to as much as I can tell you of the
story. I was a young girl when I went out alone to be married to him
in India. We had parted in England eight months before, and he had
remained unchanged--his letters all told the same tale. I quarrelled
with my mother--as I now see most unreasonably--merely because she
wished to marry again. Perhaps she was a little to blame not to be
more patient with a headstrong, ill-regulated girl. I was both. It
ended in my writing out to him in India that I should come out and
marry him at once. My mother made no opposition." She remained silent
for a little, and her eyes fell. Then she spoke with more effort,
rather as one who answers her own thoughts. "No, I need say nothing of
the time between. It was no excuse for the wrong I did _him_. I can
tell you what that was...." It did not seem easy, though, when it came
to actual words. Fenwick spoke into the pause.

"Why tell me now? Tell me another time."

"I prefer now. It was this way: I kept something back from him till
after we were married--something I should have told him before. Had I
done so, I believe to this moment we should never have parted. But my
concealment threw doubt on all else I said.... I am telling more than
I meant to tell." She hesitated again, and then went on. "That was my
wrong to him--the concealment. But, of course, it was not the ground
of the divorce proceedings." Fenwick stopped her again.

"Why tell me any more? You are being led on--are leading yourself
on--to say more than you wish."

"Well, I will leave it there. Only, Fenwick, understand this: my
husband was young and generous and noble-hearted. Had I trusted him,
I believe all might have gone well, even though he...." She hesitated
again, and then cancelled something unsaid. "The concealment was my
fault--the mistrust. That was all. Nothing else was my _fault_." As
she says the words in praise of her husband she finds it a pleasure
to let her eyes rest on the grave, handsome, puzzled face that, after
all, really is _his_. She catches herself wondering--so oddly do the
undercurrents of mind course about--where he got that sharp white scar
across his nose. It was not there in the old days.

She looks at him until he, too, looks up, and their eyes meet. "Well,
then," she says, "I will tell you no more. Blame me as little as
possible." And to this repetition of her previous words he says again,
"I cannot blame you," very emphatically.

But Mrs. Nightingale felt perplexed at his evident sincerity; would
rather he should have indulged in truisms, we were not all of us
perfect, and so forth. When she spoke again, some bars of the music
later, she took for granted that his mind, like hers, was still
dwelling on his last words. She felt half sorry she had, so to speak,
switched off the current of the conversation.

"If you will think over what I have told you, Fenwick, you will see
that you cannot help doing so."

"How can that be?"

"Surely! My husband sought to divorce me, and was himself absolutely
blameless. How can you do otherwise than blame me?"

"Partly--only partly--because I see you are keeping back
something--something that would exonerate you. I cannot believe you
were to blame."

"Listen, Fenwick! As I said, I cannot tell you the whole; and the
Major, who is the only man alive who knows all the story, will, I
know, refuse to tell you anything, even if you ask him, and that I
wish you not to do."

"I should not dream of asking him."

"Well, he would refuse. I know it. But I want you to know all I can
tell you. I do not want any groundless excuses made for me. I will not
accept any absolution from any one on a false pretence. You see what
I mean."

"I see perfectly. I am not sure, though, that you see my meaning. But
never mind that. Is there anything further you would really like me
to know?"

She waited a little, and then answered, keeping her eyes always fixed
on Fenwick: "Yes, there is."

But at this moment the first movement of Op. 999 came to a perfect
and well thought out conclusion, bearing in mind everything that had
been said on six pages of ideas faultlessly interchanged by four
instruments, and making due allowance for all exceptions each had
courteously taken to the other. But Op. 999 was going on to the
second movement directly, and only tolerated a pause for a few
string-tightenings and trial-squeaks, to get in tune, and the removal
of a deceased fly from a piano-candle. The remark from the back-room
that we could hear beautifully in here seemed to fall flat, the
second violin merely replying "All right!" passionlessly. The
instruments then asked each other if they were ready, and answered
yes. Then some one counted four suggestively, for a start, and life
went on again.

Mrs. Nightingale and Fenwick sat well on into the music before either
spoke. He, resolved not to seem to seek or urge any information at
all; all was to come spontaneously from her. She, feeling the
difficulty of telling what she had to tell, and always oppressed with
the recollection of what it had cost her to make her revelation to
this selfsame man nineteen years ago. She wished he would give the
conversation some lift, as he had done before, when he asked if what
she had to tell referred to her husband. But, although he would gladly
have repeated his assistance, he could see his way to nothing, this
time, that seemed altogether free from risk. How if he were to
blunder into ascribing to her something more culpable than her actual
share in the past? She half guessed this; then, seeing that speech
must come from herself in the end, took heart and faced the position
resolutely. She always did.

"You know this, Fenwick, do you not, that when there is a divorce, the
husband takes the children from their mother--always, when she is in
the wrong; too often, when she is blameless. I have told you I was the
one to blame, and I tell you now that though my husband's application
for a divorce failed, from a technical point of law, all things came
about just as though he had succeeded. Don't analyse it now; take it
all for granted--you understand?"

"I understand. Suppose it so! And then?"

"And then this. That little monkey of mine--that little unconscious
fiddling thing in there"--and as Mrs. Nightingale speaks, the sound of
a caress mixes with the laugh in her voice; but the pain comes back as
she goes on--"My Sallykin has been mine, all her life! My poor husband
never saw her in her childhood." As she says the word _husband_
she has again a vivid _éclat_ of the consciousness that it is
he--himself--sitting there beside her. And the odd thought that mixes
itself into this, strange to say, is--"The pity of it! To think how
little he has had of Sally in all these years!"

He, for his part, can for the moment make nothing of this part of
the story. He can give his head the lion-mane shake she knows him by
so well, but it brings him no light. He is reduced to mere slow
repetition of her data; his hand before his eyes to keep his brain,
that has to think, clear of distractions from without.

"Your husband never saw her. She has been yours all her life. Had she
been your husband's child, he would have exercised his so-called
rights--his _legal_ rights--and taken her away. Are those the
facts--so far?"

"Yes--go on. No--stop; I will tell you. At the beginning of this year
I should have been married exactly twenty years. Sally is
nineteen--you remember her birthday?"

"Nineteen in August. Now, let me think!" Just at this moment the second
movement of Op. 999 came to an end, and gave an added plausibility to
the blank he needed to ponder in. The viola in the next room looked
round across her chair-back, and said, "I say, mother"--to a repetition
of which Mrs. Nightingale replied what did her daughter say? What
she said was that her mother and Mr. Fenwick were exactly like the
canaries. They talked as hard as they could all through the music, and
when it stopped they shut up. Wasn't that true? To which her mother
answered affirmatively, adding, "You'll have to put a cloth over us,
chick, and squash us out."

Fenwick was absorbed in thought, and did not notice this interlude. He
did not speak until the music began again. Then he said abruptly:

"I see the story now. Sally's father was not...."

"Was not my husband." There is not a trace of cowardice or hesitation
in her filling out the sentence. There is pain, but that again dies
away in her voice as she goes on to speak of her daughter. "I do not
connect him with her now. She is--a thing of itself--a thing of herself!
She is--she is Sally. Well, you see what she is."

"I see she is a very dear little person." Then he seems to want to say
something and to pause on the edge of it; then, in answer to a "yes"
of encouragement from her, continues, "I was going to say that she
must be very like him--like her father."

"Very like?" she asks--"or very unlike? Which did you mean?"

"I mean very like as to looks. Because she is so unlike you."

"She is like enough to him, as far as looks go. It's her only fault,
poor chick, and _she_ can't help it. Besides, I mind it less now that
I have more than half forgiven him, for her sake." The tone of her
voice mixes a sob and a laugh, although she utters neither, and is
quite collected. "But she is quite unlike him in character. Sally is
not an angel--oh dear, no!" The laugh predominates. "But----"

"But what?"

"She is not a devil." And as she said this the pain was all back again
in the dropped half-whisper in which she said it. And in that moment
Fenwick made his guess of the whole story, which maybe went nearer
than we shall do with the information we have to go upon. In this
narrative, as we tell it now, that story is _known_ only to its chief
actor, and to her old friend who is now dining at the Hurkaru Club.

       *       *       *       *       *

The third movement of Op. 999 was not a very long one, and, coming
to an end at this point, seemed to supply a reason for silence that
was not unwelcome in the back drawing-room. The end of a trying
conversation had been attained. Both speakers could now affect
attention to what was going on in the front. This had taken the form
of a discussion between Mr. Julius Bradshaw and Miss Lætitia Wilson,
who was anxious to transfer her position of first violin to that young
gentleman. We regret to have to report that Miss Sally's agreement
with her friend about the desirability had been _sotto voce_'d in
these terms: "Yes, Tishy dear! Do make the shop-boy play the last
movement." And Miss Wilson had then suggested it, saying there was
a bit she knew she couldn't play. "And you expect _me_ to!" said the
owner of the Strad, "when I haven't so much as looked at it for three
years past." To which Miss Sally appended a marginal note, "Stuff
and nonsense! Don't be affected, Mr. Bradshaw." However, after
compliments, and more protestations from its owner, the Strad was
brought into hotchpot, and Lætitia abdicated.

"Won't you come and sit in here, to be away from the music?" said the
back-drawing-room. But Lætitia wanted to see Mr. Bradshaw's fingering
of that passage. We are more interested in the back drawing-room.

Like many other athletic men--and we have seen how strongly this
character was maintained in Fenwick--he hated armchairs. Even in the
uncomfortable ones--by which we mean the ones _we_ dislike--his
restless strength would not remain quiet for any length of time. At
intervals he would get up and walk about the room, exasperating the
sedate, and then making good-humoured concession to their weakness.
Mrs. Nightingale could remember all this in Gerry the boy, twenty
years ago.

If it had not been for that music, probably he would have walked about
the room over that stiff problem in dates he had just grappled with.
As it was, he remained in his chair to solve it--that is, if he did
solve it. Possibly, the moment he saw something important turned on
the date of Sally's birth, he jumped across the solution to the
conclusion it was to lead to. Given the conclusion, the calculation
had no interest for him.

But the story his mind constructed to fit that conclusion stunned him.
It knitted his brows and clenched his teeth for him. It made the hand
that had been hanging loose over the uncomfortable chair-back close
savagely on something--a throat, perhaps, that his imagination
supplied? How like he looked, thought his companion, to himself on one
occasion twenty years ago! But his anger now was on her behalf alone;
it was not so in that dreadful time she hoped he might never recollect.
If only his memory of all the past might remain as now, a book with
a locked clasp and a lost key!

She watched him as he sat there, and saw a calmer mood come back upon
him. Each wanted a _raison d'être_ for a silent pause, and neither was
sorry for the desire each might ascribe to the other of hearing the
last movement of the music undisturbed. Op. 999 was prospering,
there was no doubt of it! Lætitia Wilson was a very fair example of
a creditable career at the R.A.M. But she was not quite equal to this
unfortunate victim of a too nervous system, who could play like an
angel for half an hour, mind you--not more. This was his half-hour;
and it was quite reasonable for Fenwick to take for granted that his
hostess would like to pay attention to it, or _vice-versa_. So both
sat silent.

But as she sat listening to Op. 999, and watching wonderingly the
strange victim of oblivion, of whom she knew--scarcely acknowledging
it always, though--that she had once for a short time called him
husband, her mind went back to an old time when he and she were young:
before the tragic memory that she sometimes thought might have been
lived down had come into her life and his. And a scene rose up before
her out of that old time--a scene of young men, almost boys, and girls
who but the other day were in the nursery, playing lawn-tennis in a
happy garden, with never a thought for anything in this wide world but
themselves, and each other, and the scoring, and how jolly it would be
in the house-boat at Henley to-morrow. And then this garden-scene
a little later in the moonrise, and herself and one of the players,
who was Gerry--this very man--left by the other two to themselves,
on a garden-seat his arm hung over, just as it did now over that
chair-back. How exactly he sat then as he sat now, his other hand in
charge of the foot he had crossed on his knee, just as now, to keep
it from a slip along his lawn-tennis flannels! How well she could
remember the tennis-shoe, with its ribbed rubber sole, in place of
that highly-polished calf thing! And she could remember every word
they said, there in the warm moonlight.

"What a silly boy you are!"

"I don't care. I shall always say exactly the same. I can't help it."

"All silly boys say that sort of thing. Then they change their minds."

"I never said it to any girl in my life but you, Rosey. I never thought
it. I shall never say it again to any one but you."

"Don't be nonsensical!"

"I'm _not_! It's _true_."

"Wait till you've been six months in India, Gerry."

And then the recollection of what followed made it seem infinitely
strange to her that Fenwick should remain, as he had remained,
immovable. If the hand she could remember so well, for all it had
grown so scarred and service-worn and hairy, were to take hers as it
did then, as they sat together on the garden-seat, would it shake now
as formerly? If his great strong arm her memory still felt round her
were to come again now, would she feel in it the tremor of the passion
he was shaken by then; and in caresses such as she half reproved him
for, but had no heart to resist, the reality of a love then young and
strong and full of promise for the days to come? And now--what? The
perished trunk of an uprooted tree: the shadow of a half-forgotten
dream.

As he sat silent, only now and then by some slight sign, some new
knitting of the brow or closing of the hand, showing the tension of the
feeling produced by the version his mind had made of the story half
told to him--as he sat thus, under a kind of feint of listening to
the music, the world grew stranger and stranger to his companion. She
had fancied herself strong enough to tell the story, but had hardly
reckoned with his possible likeness to himself. She had thought that
she could keep the twenty years that had passed clearly in her mind;
could deal with the position from a good, sensible, matter-of-fact
standpoint.

The past was past, and happily forgotten by him. The present had still
its possibilities, if only the past might remain forgotten. Surely she
could rely on herself to find the nerve to go through what was, after
all, a mere act of duty. Knowing, or rather feeling, that Fenwick would
ask her to marry him as soon as he dared--it was merely a question of
time--her duty was plainly to forewarn him--to make sure that he was
alive to the antecedents of the woman he was offering himself to. She
knew _his_ antecedents; as many as she wished to know. If the twenty
years of oblivion concealed irregularity, immorality--well, was she not
to blame for it? Was ever a better boy than Gerry, as she knew him, to
the day they parted? It was her fault or misfortune that had cast
him all adrift. As to that troublesome question of a possible wife
elsewhere, in the land of his oblivion, she had quite made up her mind
about that. Every effort had been made to find such a one, and failed.
If she reappeared, it would be her own duty to surrender Fenwick--if he
wished to go back. If he did not, and his other wife wished to be free,
surely in the _chicane_ of the law-courts there must be some shuffle
that could be for once made useful to a good end.

Mrs. Nightingale had reasoned it all out in cold blood, and she was,
as we have told you, a strong woman. But had she really taken her own
measure? Could she sit there much longer; with him beside her, and his
words of twenty years ago sounding in her ears; almost the feeling of
the kisses she had so dutifully pointed out the lawlessness, and
allowed the repetition of, in that old forgotten time--forgotten by
him, never by her! Was it possible to bear, without crying out, the
bewilderment of a mixed existence such as that his presence and
identity forced upon her, wrenching her this way and that, interweaving
the woof of _then_ with the weft of _now_, even as in that labyrinth of
musical themes and phrases in the other room they crossed and recrossed
one another at the bidding of each instrument as its turn came to tell
its tale? Her brain reeled and her heart ached under the intolerable
stress. Could she still hold on, or would she be, after all, driven
to make some excuse, and run for the solitude of her own room to live
down the tension as best she might alone?

The music itself came to her assistance. Its triumphant strength, in
an indescribable outburst of hope or joy or mastery of Fate, as it drew
near to its final close, spoke to her of the great ocean that lies
beyond the crabbed limits of our stinted lives, the boundless sea our
rivulets of life steal down to, to be lost in; and while it lasted made
it possible for her to be still. She took her eyes from Fenwick, and
waited. When she raised them again, in the silence Op. 999 came to an
end in, she saw that he had moved. His face had gone into his hands;
and as she looked up, his old action of rubbing them into his loose
hair, and shaking it, had come back, and his strong identity with his
boyhood, dependent on the chance of a moment, had disappeared. He got
up suddenly, and after a turn across the room he was in, walked into
the other one, and contributed his share to the babble of felicitation
or comment that followed what was clearly thought an achievement in
musical rendering.

"Oh dear, oh dear!" said Lætitia Wilson. "Was ever a poor girl so sat
upon? I feel quite flat!" This was not meant to be taken too much _au
pied de la lettre_. It was merely a method of praise of Mr. Bradshaw.

"But what a jolly shame you had to give it up!" This was Sally in
undisguised admiration. But in Mr. Julius Bradshaw's eyes, Sally's
identity had undergone a change. Her breezy frankness had made hay of
a _grande passion_, and was blowing the hay all over the field. He had
come close to, and had a good look; but he will hardly go away in a
huff, although he feels a little silly over his public worship of these
past weeks. Just at this moment of the story, however, he is very
apologetic towards Miss Wilson; on whom, if she reports correctly, he
has sat. He tries no pretences with a view to her reinstatement, even
on a par with himself. He knows, and every one knows, they would be
seen through immediately. It is no use assuring her she is a capital
player, of her years. Much better let it alone!

"Are you any the worse, Mr. Bradshaw?" says Dr. Vereker. Obviously, as
a medical authority, it is his duty to "voice" this inquiry. So he
voices it.

"N--no; but that's about as much as I can do, with safety. It won't do
to spoil my night's rest, and be late at the shop." It was easy to talk
about the shop with perfect unreserve after such a performance as that.

"Oh dear! we are so sorry for you!" Thus the two girls. And concurrence
comes in various forms from Vereker, Fenwick, and the pianist, whom we
haven't mentioned before. He was a cousin of Miss Wilson's, and was one
of those unfortunate young men who have no individuality whatever. But
pianists have to be human unless you can afford a pianola. You may
speak of them as Mr. What's-his-name, or Miss Thingummy, but you must
give them tea or coffee or cake or sandwiches, or whatever is brought
in on a tray. This young man's name, we believe, was Elsley--Nobody
Elsley, Miss Sally in her frivolity had thought fit to christen him.
You know how in your own life people come in and go out, and you never
know anything about them. Even so this young man in this story.

"I was very sorry for myself, I assure you"--it is Bradshaw who
speaks--"when I had to make up my mind to give it up. But it couldn't
be helped!" He speaks without reserve, but as of an unbearable subject;
in fact, Sally said afterwards to Tishy, "it seemed as if he was going
to cry." He doesn't cry, though, but goes on: "At one time I really
thought I should have gone and jumped into the river."

"Why didn't you?" asks Sally. "I should have."

"Yes, silly Sally!" says Lætitia; "and then you would have swum like
a fish. And the police would have pulled you out. And you would have
looked ridiculous!"

But Sally is off on a visit to her mother in the next room.

"Tired, mammy darling?"

She kisses her, and her mother answers: "Yes, love, a little," and
kisses her back.

"Doesn't he play _beautifully_, mother?" says Sally.

But her mother says "Yes" absently. Her attention is taken off by
something else. What is wrong with Mr. Fenwick? Sally doesn't think
anything is. It's only his way.

"I'm sure there's something wrong," says Mrs. Nightingale, and gets
up to go into the front-room rather wearily. "I shall go to bed soon,
poppet," she says, "and leave you to do the honours. Is anything wrong,
doctor?" She speaks under her voice to Vereker, looking very slightly
round at Fenwick, who, after the movement that alarmed her--a rather
unusually marked head-shake and pressure of his hands on his eyes--is
standing looking down at the fire, on the rug with his back to her, as
she speaks to Vereker.

"I fancy he's had what he calls a recurrence," says the doctor. "Nothing
to hurt. These half-recollections will go on until the memory comes
back in earnest. It may some time."

"Are you talking about me, doctor?" His attention may have been caught
by a reflection in a glass before him. "Yes, it was a very queer
recurrence. Something about lawn-tennis. Only it had to do with what
Miss Wilson said about the police fishing Sally out of the water." He
looks round for Miss Wilson, but she is at the other end of the room
on a sofa talking to Bradshaw about the Strad, as recorded once before.
Sally testifies:

"Tishy said it wouldn't work--trying to drown yourself if you could
swim. No more it would."

"But why should that make me think of lawn-tennis? It did." He looks
seriously distressed by it--can make nothing out.

"Kitten," says Sally's mother to her suddenly, "I think I shall go away
to bed. I'm feeling very tired."

She says good-night comprehensively, and departs. But she is so clearly
the worse for something that her daughter follows her to see that the
something is not serious. Outside she reassures Sally, who returns. Oh
no, she is only tired; really nothing else.

But what drove her out of the room was a feeling that she must be alone
and silent. Could her position be borne at all? Yes, with patience and
self-control. But that "why should it make me think of lawn-tennis?"
was trying. Not only the pain of still more revived association, but
the fear that his memory might travel still further into the past. It
was living on the edge of the volcano.

Her own memory had followed on, too, taking up the thread of that old
interview in the garden of twenty years ago. She had felt again the
clasp of his arm, the touch of his hand; had heard his voice of
passionate protest--protest against the idea that he could ever forget.
And she had then pretended to make a half-joke of his earnestness. What
would he do now, really, if she were to tell him she preferred his
great friend Arthur Fenwick to him? That was nonsense, he said. She
knew she didn't. Besides, Arthur wanted Jessie Nairn. Why, didn't they
waltz all the waltzes at the party last week?... Well, so did we, for
that matter, all-but.... And just look how they had run away together!
Wasn't that them coming back? Yes, it was; and artificial calm ensued,
and more self-contained manners. But then, before the other two young
lovers could rejoin them, she had time for a word more.

"No, dear Gerry, seriously. If I were to write out _no_ to you in
India--a great big final NO--then what do you think you would do?"

"I know what I _think_ I should do. I should throw myself into the
Hooghly or the Ganges."

"You silly boy! You would swim about, whether you liked or no. And then
Jemadars, or Shastras, or Sudras, or something would come and pull you
out. And then how ridiculous you would look!"

"No, Rosey, because I can't swim. Isn't it funny?"

Then she recollected _his_ friend's voice striking in with: "What's
that? Gerry Palliser swim! Of course he can't. He can wrestle, or run,
or ride, or jump; and he's the best man I know with the gloves on. But
swim he _can't_! That's flat!" Also how Gerry had then told eagerly how
he was nearly drowned once, and Arthur fished him up from the bottom of
Abingdon Lock. The latter went on:

"It was after that we tattooed each other, his name on my arm, my
name on his, so as not to quarrel. You know, I suppose, that men who
tattoo each other's arms can't quarrel if they try?" Arthur showed
"A. Palliser," tattooed blue on his arm. Both young men were very grave
and earnest about the safeguard. And then she remembered a question she
asked, and how both replied with perfect gravity: "Of course, sure to!"
The question had been:--Was it invariable that all men quarrelled if
one saved the other from drowning?

She sits upstairs alone by the fire in her bedroom, and dreams again
through all the past, except the nightmare of her life--_that_ she
always shudders away from. Sally will come up presently, and then she
will feel ease again. Now, it is a struggle against fever.

She can hear plainly enough--for the house is but a London suburban
villa--the strains from the drawing-room of what is possibly the most
hackneyed violin music in the world--the Tartini (so-called) Devil
Sonata--every phrase, every run, every chord an enthralling mystery
still, an utterance none can explain, an inexhaustible thing no age can
wither, and no custom stale. It is so soothing to her that it matters
little if it makes them late. But that young man will destroy his
nerves to a certainty outright.

Then comes the chaos of dispersal--the broken fragments of the
intelligible a watchful ear may pick out. Dr. Vereker won't have a cab;
he will leave the 'cello till next time, and walk. Mr. Bradshaw wants
to get to Bayswater. Of course, that's all in our way--we being Miss
Wilson and the cousin, the nonentity. We can give Mr. Bradshaw a lift
as far as he goes, and then he can take the growler on. Then more
good-nights are wished than the nature of things will admit of before
to-morrow, Fenwick and Vereker light something to smoke, with a
preposterous solicitude to use only one tandsticker between them, and
walk away umbrella-less. From which we see that "it" is holding up.
Then comes silence, and a consciousness of a policeman musing, and
suspecting doors have been left stood open.

And it was then Sally went upstairs and indited her friend for sitting
on that sofa after calling him a shop-boy. And she didn't forget it,
either, for after she and her mother were in bed, and presumably
better, she called out to her.

"I say, mammy!"

"What, dear?"

"Isn't that St. John's Church?"

"Isn't which St. John's Church?"

"Where Tishy goes?"

"Yes, Ladbroke Grove Road. Why?"

"Because now Mr. Bradshaw will go there--public worship!"

"Will he, dear? Suppose we go to sleep." But she really meant "you,"
not "we"; for it was a long time before she went to sleep herself. She
had plenty to think of, and wanted to be quiet, conscious of Sally in
the neighbourhood.

       *       *       *       *       *

We hope our reader was not misled, as we ourselves were, when Mrs.
Nightingale first saw the name on Fenwick's arm, into supposing that
she accepted it as his real name. She knew better. But then, how was
she to tell him his name was Palliser? Think it over.



CHAPTER XIII

OF A SLEEPLESS NIGHT MRS. NIGHTINGALE HAD, AND HOW SALLY WOKE UP
  AND TALKED


Was it possible, thought Rosalind in the sleepless night that followed,
that the recurrence of the tennis-garden in Fenwick's mind might
grow and grow, and be a nucleus round which the whole memory of his
life might re-form? Even so she had seen, at a chemical lecture, a
supersaturated solution, translucent and spotless, suddenly fill with
innumerable ramifications from one tiny crystal dropped into it. Might
not this shred of memory chance to be a crystal of the right salt
in the solvent of his mind, and set going a swift arborescence to
penetrate the whole? Might not one branch of that tree be a terrible
branch--one whose leaves and fruit were poisoned and whose stem was
clothed with thorns? A hideous metaphor of the moment--call it the
worst in her life--when her young husband, driven mad with the
knowledge that had just forced its way into his reluctant mind, had
almost struck her away from him, and with angry words, of which the
least was traitress, had broken through the effort of her hands to
hold him, and left her speechless in her despair.

It was such a nightmare idea, this anticipation that next time she met
Gerry's eyes she might see again the anger that was in them on that
blackest of her few married days, might see him again vanish from
her, this time never to return. And it spread an ever growing horror,
greater and greater in the silence and the darkness of the night, till
it filled all space and became a power that thrilled through every
nerve, and denied the right of any other thing in the infinite void
to be known or thought of. Which of us has not been left, with no
protection but our own weak resolutions, to the mercy of a dominant
idea in the still hours when others were near us sleeping whom we
might not wake to say one word to save us?

What would his face be like--how would his voice sound--when she saw
him next? Or would some short and cruel letter come to say he had
remembered all, and now--for all the gratitude he owed her--he could
not bear to look upon her face again, hers who had done him such a
wrong! If so, what should she--what could she do?

There was only one counter-thought to this that brought with it a
momentary balm. She would send Sally to him to beg, beseech, implore
him not to repeat his headstrong error of the old years, to swear to
him that if only he could know all he would forgive--nay, more, that
if he could know quite all--the very whole of the sad story--not only
would he forgive, but rather seek forgiveness for himself for the too
harsh judgment he so rashly formed.

What should she say to Sally? how should she instruct her to plead
for her? Never mind that now. All she wanted in her lonely, nervous
delirium was the ease the thought gave her, the mere thought of the
force of Sally's fixed, immovable belief--_that_ she was certain
of--that whatsoever her mother had done was right. Never mind the exact
amount of revelation she would have to make to Sally. She might surely
indulge the idea, just to get at peace somehow, till--as pray Heaven it
might turn out--she should know that Gerry's mind was still unconscious
of its past. The chances were, so she thought mechanically to herself,
that all her alarms were groundless.

And at the first--strange as it is to tell--Sally's identity was only
that of the daughter she had now, that filled her life, and gave her
the heart to live. She was the Sally space was full of for her. _What_
she was, and _why_ she was, merged, as it usually did, in the broad
fact of her existence. But there was always the chance that this _what_
and _why_--two bewildering imps--should flaunt their unsolved conundrum
through her mother's baffled mind. There they were, sure enough in the
end, enjoying her inability to answer, dragging all she prayed daily
to be better able to forget out into the light of the memory they had
kindled. There they were, chuckling over her misery, and hiding--so
Rosalind feared--a worse question than any, keeping it back for a
final stroke to bring her mental fever to its height--how could Sally
be the daughter of a devil and her soul be free from the taint of his
damnation?

If Rosalind had only been well read in the mediæval classics, and had
known that story of Merlin's birth--the Nativity that was to rewrite
the Galilean story in letters of Hell, and give mankind for ever
to be the thrall of the fallen angel his father! And now the babe
at its birth was snatched away to the waters of baptism, and poor
Satan--alas!--obliged to cast about for some new plan of campaign;
which, to say truth, he must have found, and practised with some
success. But Rosalind had never read this story. Had she done so she
might have felt, as we do, that the tears of an absolutely blameless
mother might serve to cleanse the inherited sin from a babe unborn as
surely as the sacramental fount itself.

And it may be that some such thought had woven itself into the story
Fenwick's imagination framed for Rosalind the evening before--that time
that she said of Sally, "She is not a devil!" The exact truth, the
ever-present record that was in her mind as she said this, must remain
unknown to us.

But to return to her as she is now, racked by a twofold mental fever,
an apprehension of a return of Fenwick's memory, and a stimulated
recrudescence of her own; with the pain of all the scars burnt in
twenty years ago revived now by her talk with him of a few hours since.
She could bear it no longer, there alone in the darkness of the night.
She _must_ get at Sally, if only to look at her. Why, that child never
could be got to wake unless shaken when she was wanted. Ten to one she
wouldn't this time. And it would make all the difference just to see
her there, alive and leagues away in dreamland. If her sleep lasted
through the crackle of a match to light her candle, heard through the
open door between their rooms, the light of the candle itself wouldn't
wake her. Rosalind remembered as she lit the candle and found her
dressing-gown--for the night air struck cold--how once, when a
ten-year-old, Sally had locked herself in, and no noise or knocking
would rouse her; how she herself, alarmed for the child, had thereon
summoned help, and the door was broken open, but only to be greeted
by the sleeper, after explanation, with, "Why didn't you knock?"

She was right in her forecast, and perhaps it was as well the girl did
not wake. She would only have had a needless fright, to see her mother,
haggard with self-torment, by her bedside at that hour. So Rosalind
got her full look at the rich coils of black hair that framed up the
unconscious face, that for all its unconsciousness had on it the
contentment of an amused dreamer, at the white ivory skin it set off
so well, at the one visible ear that heard nothing, or if it did,
translated it into dream, and the faint rhythmic movement that vouched
for soundless breath. She looked as long as she dared, then moved away.
But she had barely got her head back on her pillow when "Was that you,
mother?" came from the next room. Her mother always said of Sally that
nothing was certain but the _imprévu_, and ascribed to her a monstrous
perversity. It was this that caused her to sleep profoundly through
that most awakening of incidents, a person determined not to disturb
you, and then to wake up short into that person's self-congratulations
on success.

"Of course it was, darling. Who else could it have been?"

Sally's reply, "I thought it was," seems less reasonable--mere
conversation making--and a sequel as of one reviewing new and more
comfortable positions in bed follows naturally. A decision on the point
does not prohibit conversation, rather facilitates it.

"What did you come for, mammy?"

"Eau-de-Cologne." The voice has a fell intention of instant sleep in it
which Sally takes no notice of.

"Have you got it?"

"Got it? Yes. Go to sleep, chatterbox."

It was true about the eau-de-Cologne, for Rosalind, with a self-acting
instinct that explanation might be called for, had picked up the
bottle on her return journey. You see, she was always practising
wicked deceits and falsehoods, all to save that little chit being made
miserable on her account. But the chit wasn't going to sleep again. She
was going to enjoy her new attitude awake. Who woke her up? Answer that.

"I say, mother!"

"What, kitten? Go to sleep."

"All right--in a minute. Do you remember Mr. Fenwick's bottle of
eau-de-Cologne?"

"Of course I do. Go to sleep."

"Just going. But wasn't it funny?"

"What funny?--Oh, the eau-de-Cologne!"

Rosalind isn't really sleepy, and may as well talk. "Yes, that was very
funny. I wonder where he got it." She seems roused, and her daughter is
repentant.

"Oh dear! What a shame! I've just spoiled your go-off. Poor mother!"

"Never mind, chick! I like to talk a little. It _was_ funny that he
should have a big bottle of eau-de-Cologne, of all things, in his
pocket."

"Yes, but it was rummer still about Rosalind Nightingale--_his_
Rosalind Nightingale, the one he knew." This is dangerous ground, and
Rosalind knows it. But a plea of half-sleep will cover mistakes, and
conversation about the pre-electrocution period is the nearest approach
to taking Sally into her confidence that she can hope for. She is so
weary with her hours of wakefulness that she becomes a little reckless,
foreseeing a resource in such uncertainty of speech as may easily be
ascribed to a premature dream.

"It's not _impossible_ that it should have been your grandmother,
kitten. But we can't find out now. And it wouldn't do us any good that
I can see."

"It would be nice to know for curiosity. Couldn't anything be fished
out in the granny connexion? No documents?"

"Nothing will ever be fished out by me in that connexion, Sally
darling." Sally knows from her mother's tone of voice that they are
approaching an _impasse_. She means to give up the point the moment it
comes fully in view. But she will go on until that happens. She has to
think out what was the name of the Sub-Dean before she speaks again.

"Didn't the Reverend Decimus Ireson grab all the belongings?"

"They were left to him, child. It was all fair, as far as that goes.
I didn't grudge him the things--indeed, I felt rather grateful to him
for taking them. It would only have been painful, going over them.
Different people feel differently about these things. I didn't want
old recollections."

"Hadn't the Reverend Decimus a swarm of brats?"

"Sal--ly _dar_ling!... Well, yes, he had. There were two families. One
of six daughters, I forget which."

"Couldn't they be got at, to see if they wouldn't recollect something?"

"Of course they could. They've married a lawyer--at least, one of them
has. And all the rest, I believe, live with them." At another time Sally
would have examined this case in relation to the Deceased Wife's Sister
Bill. She was too interested now to stop her mother continuing: "But
what a silly chick you are! Why should _they_ know anything about it?"

"Why shouldn't they?"

Her mother's reply is emphasized. "My dear, do consider! I was with
your grandmother till within a month of her marriage with the Reverend,
as you call him, and I should have been ten times more likely to hear
about Mr. Fenwick than ever they would afterwards. Your grandmother had
never even seen them when I went away to India to be married."

"What's the lawyer's name?"

"Bearman, I think, or Dearman. But why?--Oh, no, by-the-bye, I think
it's Beazley."

"Because I could write and ask, or call. Sure to hear something."

"My dear, you'll hear nothing, and they'll only think you mad."
Rosalind was beginning to feel that she had made a mistake. She did not
feel so sure Sally would hear nothing. A recollection crossed her mind
of how one of the few incidents there was time for in her short married
life had been the writing of a letter by her husband to his friend, the
real Fenwick, and of much chaff therein about the eldest of these very
daughters, and her powerful rivalry to Jessie Nairn. It came back to
her now. Sally alarmed her still further.

"Yes, mother. I shall just get Mr. Fenwick to hunt up the address, and
go and call on the Beazleys." This sudden assumption of a concrete form
by the family was due to a vivid image that filled Sally's active brain
immediately of a household of parched women presided over by a dried
man who owned a wig on a stand and knew what chaff-wax meant, which
she didn't. A shop window near Lincoln's Inn was responsible. But to
Rosalind it really seemed that Sally must have had other means of
studying this family, and she was frightened.

"You don't know them, kitten?"

"Not the least. Don't want to." This reflection suggests caution.
"Perhaps I'd better write...."

"Better do nothing of the sort, child. Better go to sleep...."

"All right." But Sally does not like quitting the subject so abruptly,
and enlarges on it a little more. She sketches out a letter to be
written to the lady who is at present a buffer-state between the dried
man and the parched women. "Dear madam," she recites, "you may perhaps
recall--or will perhaps recall--which is right, mother?"

"Either, dear. Go to sleep." But just at this moment Rosalind
recollects with satisfaction that the name was neither Beazley nor
Dearman, but Tressilian Tredgold. She has been thinking of falling
back on affectation of sleep to avoid more alarms, but this makes it
needless.

"I'm sure I've got the name wrong," she says, with revived wakefulness
in her voice.

But Sally is murmuring to herself--"Perhaps recall my mother, Mrs.
Rosalind Nightingale--Rosalind in brackets--by her maiden name of--by
the same name--who married the late Mr. Graythorpe in India--I say,
mother...."

"Yes, little goose."

"How am I to put all that?"

"Go to sleep! I don't think you'll find that family very--coming. My
impression is you had much better leave it alone. What good would it
do you to find out who Mr. Fenwick was? And perhaps have him go away
to Australia!"

"Why Australia?"

Oh dear, what mistakes Rosalind did make! Why on earth need she
name the place she knew Gerry did go to? America would have done just
as well.

"Australia--New Zealand--America--anywhere!" But Sally doesn't
mind--has fallen back on her letter-sketch.

"Apologizing for troubling you, believe me, dear madam, yours
faithfully--or very faithfully, or truly--Rosalind Nightingale.... No;
I should not like Mr. Fenwick to go away anywhere. No more would you.
I want him here, for us. So do you!"

"I should be very sorry indeed for Mr. Fenwick to go away. We should
miss him badly. But fancy what his wife must be feeling, if he has one.
I can sympathize with her." It really was a relief to say anything so
intensely true.

Did the reality with which she spoke impress Sally more than the mere
words, which were no more than "common form" of conversation? Probably,
for something in them brought back her conference with the Major on
Boxing Day morning when her mother was at church. What was that
she had said to him when she was sitting on his knee improving his
whiskers?--that if she, later on, saw reason to suppose his suspicions
true, she would ask her mother point-blank. Why not? And here she was
with the same suspicions, quite, quite independent of the Major. And
see how dark it was in both rooms! One could say anything. Besides, if
her mother didn't want to answer, she could pretend to be asleep. She
wouldn't ask too loud, to give her a chance.

"Mother darling, if Mr. Fenwick was to make you an offer, how should
you like it?"

"Oh dear! _What's_ the child saying? What is it, Sallykin? I was just
going off."

Now, obviously, you can ask a lady Sally's question in the easy course
of flowing chat, but you can't drag her from the golden gates of sleep
to ask it. It gets too official. So Sally backed out, and said she had
said nothing, which wasn't the case. The excessive readiness with which
her mother accepted the statement looks, to us, as if she had really
been awake and heard.



CHAPTER XIV

HOW MILLAIS' "HUGUENOT" CAME OF A WALK IN THE BACK GARDEN. AND HOW
  FENWICK VERY NEARLY KISSED SALLY


In spite of Colonel Lund's having been so betimes in his forecastings
about Mrs. Nightingale and Fenwick (as we must go on calling him for
the present), still, when one day that lady came, about six weeks
after the nocturne in our last chapter, and told him she must have his
consent to a step she was contemplating before she took it, he felt a
little shock in his heart--one of those shocks one so often feels when
one hears that a thing he has anticipated without pain, even with
pleasure, is to become actual.

But he replied at once, "My dear! Of course!" without hearing any
particulars; and added: "You will be happier, I am sure. Why should
I refuse my consent to your marrying Fenwick? Because that's it, I
suppose?" That was it. The Major had guessed right.

"He asked me to marry him, last night," she said, with simple
equanimity and directness. "I told him yes, as far as my own wishes
went. But I said I wouldn't, if either you or the kitten forbade the
banns."

"I don't think we shall, either of us." It was a daughter's
marriage-warrant he was being asked to sign; a document seldom signed
without a heartache, more or less, for him who holds the pen. But his
_coeur navré_ had to be concealed, for the sake of the applicant;
no wet blanket should be cast on her new happiness. He kissed her
affectionately. To him, for all her thirty-nine or forty birthdays,
she was still the young girl he had helped and shielded in her despair,
twenty years ago, he himself being then a widower, near forty years her
senior. "No, Rosa dear," continued the Major. "As far as I can see,
there can be no objection but one--_you_ know!"

"_The_ one?"

"Yes. It is all a _terra incognita_. He _may_ have a wife elsewhere,
seeking for him. Who can tell?"

"It is a risk to be run. But I am prepared to run it"--she was going
to add "for his sake," but remembered that her real meaning for these
words would be, "for the sake of the man I wronged," and that the Major
knew nothing of Fenwick's identity. She had not been able to persuade
herself to make even her old friend her confidant. Danger lay that way.
She _knew_ silence would be safe against anything but Fenwick's own
memory.

"Yes, it is a risk, no doubt," the Major said. "But I am like him. I
cannot conceive a man forgetting that he had a wife. It seems an
impossibility. He has talked about you to me, you know."

"In connexion with his intention about me?"

"Almost. Not quite definitely, but almost. He knew I understood what he
meant. It seemed to me he was fidgeting more about his having so little
to offer in the way of worldly goods than about any possible wife in
the clouds."

"Dear fellow! Just fancy! Why, those people in the City would take him
into partnership to-morrow if he had a little capital to bring in. They
told him so themselves."

"And you would finance him? Is that the idea? Well, I suppose as I'm
your trustee, if the money was all lost, I should have to make it up,
so it wouldn't matter."

"Oh, Major dear! is _that_ what being a trustee means?"

"Of course, my dear Rosa! What did you think it meant?"

"Do you know, I don't know what I _did_ think; at least, I thought it
would be very nice if you were my trustee."

The conversation has gone off on a siding, but the Major shunts the
train back. "That was what you and little fiddle-stick's-end were
talking about till three in the morning, then?"

"Oh, Major dear, did you hear us? And we kept you awake? What a _shame_!"

       *       *       *       *       *

For on the previous evening, Sally being out musicking and expected
home late, Fenwick and Mrs. Nightingale had gone out in the back-garden
to enjoy the sweet air of that rare phenomenon--a really fine spring
night in England--leaving the Major indoors because of his bronchial
tubes. The late seventies shrink from night air, even when one means to
be a healthy octogenarian. Also, they go away to bed, secretively, when
no one is looking--at least, the Major did in this case. Of course, he
was staying the night, as usual.

So, in the interim between the Major's good-night and Sally's
cab-wheels, this elderly couple of lovers (as they would have worded
their own description) had the summer night to themselves. As the Major
closed his bedroom window, he saw, before drawing down the blind, that
the two were walking slowly up and down the gravel path, talking
earnestly. No impression of mature years came to the Major from that
gravel path. A well-made, handsome man, with a bush of brown hair and
a Raleigh beard, and a graceful woman suggesting her beauty through the
clear moonlight--that was the implication of as much as he could see,
as he drew the inference a word of soliloquy hinted at, "Not Millais'
Huguenot, so far!" But he evidently expected that grouping very soon.
Only he was too sleepy to watch for it, and went to bed. Besides, would
it have been honourable?

"It's no use, Fenwick," she said to him in the garden, "trying to keep
off the forbidden subject, so I won't try."

"It's not forbidden by me. Nothing could be, that _you_ would like
to say."

Was that, she thought, only what so many men say every day to so many
women, and mean so little by? Or was it more? She could not be sure
yet. She glanced at him as they turned at the path-end, and her
misgivings all but vanished, so serious and resolved was his quiet face
in the moonlight. She was half-minded to say to him, "Do you mean that
you love me, Fenwick?" But, then, was it safe to presume on the
peculiarity of her position, of which he, remember, knew absolutely
nothing.

For with her it was not as with another woman, who expects what is
briefly called "an offer." In _her_ case, the man beside her was her
husband, to whose exorcism of her love from his life her heart had
never assented. While, in his eyes, she differed in no way in her
relation to him from any woman, to whom a man, placed as he was,
longs to say that she is what he wants most of all mortal things, but
stickles in the telling of it, from sheer cowardice; who dares not risk
the loss of what share he has in her in the attempt to get the whole.
_She_ grasped the whole position, _he_ only part of it.

"I am glad it is so," she decided to say. "Because each time I see you,
I want to ask if nothing has come back--no trace of memory?"

"Nothing! It is all gone. Nothing comes back."

"Do you remember that about the tennis-court? Did it go any further,
or die out completely?"

He stopped a moment in his walk, and flicked the ash from his cigar;
then, after a moment's thought, replied:

"I am not sure. It seemed to get mixed with my name--on my arm. I
think it was only because tennis and Fenwick are a little alike." His
companion thought how near the edge of a volcano both were, and
resolved to try a crucial experiment. Better an eruption, after all,
or a plunge in the crater, than a life of incessant doubt.

"You remembered the name Algernon clearly?"

"Not _clearly_. But it was the only name with an 'A' that felt right.
Unless it was Arthur, but I'm sure my name never was Arthur!"

"Sally thought it was hypnotic suggestion--thought I had laid an unfair
stress upon it. I easily might have."

"Why? Did you know an Algernon?"

"My husband's name was Algernon." She herself wondered how any voice
that spoke so near a heart that beat as hers did at this moment could
keep its secret. Yet it betrayed nothing, and so supreme was her
self-control that she could say to herself, even while she knew she
would pay for this effort later, that the pallor of her face would
betray nothing either; he would put that down to the moonlight. She
_was_ a strong woman. For she went steadily on, to convince herself
of her own self-command: "I knew him very little by that name, though.
I always called him Gerry."

He merely repeated the name thrice, but it gave her a moment of keen
apprehension. Any stirring of memory over it might be the thin end of
a very big wedge. But if there was any, it was an end so thin that
it broke off. Fenwick looked round at her.

"Do you know," he said, "I rather favour the hypnotic suggestion
theory. For the moment you said the name Gerry, I fancied I too knew
it as the short for Algernon. Now, that's absurd! No two people ever
made Gerry out of Algernon. It's always Algy."

"Always. Certainly, it would be odd."

"I am rather inclined to think," said Fenwick, after a short silence,
"that I can understand how it happened. Only then, perhaps, my name may
not be Algernon at all. And here I have been using it, signing with it,
and so on."

"What do you understand?"

"Well, I suspect this. I suspect that you did lay some kind of stress,
naturally, on your husband's name, and also on its abbreviation. It
affected me somehow with a sense of familiarity."

"Is it so _very_ improbable that you were familiar with the name Gerry
too? It might be----"

"Anything might be. But surely we almost know that two accidental
adoptions of Gerry as a short for Algernon would not come across each
other by chance, as yours and mine have done."

"What is 'almost knowing'? But tell me this. When I call you
Gerry--Gerry ... there!--does the association or impression repeat
itself?" She repeated the name once and again, to try. There was a good
deal of nettle-grasping in all this. Also a wish to clinch matters, to
drive the sword to the hilt; to put an end, once and for all, to the
state of tension she lived in. For surely, if anything could prove his
memory was really gone, it would be this. That she should call him by
his name of twenty years ago--should utter it to him, as she could not
help doing, in the tone in which she spoke to him then, and that her
doing so should arouse no memory of the past--surely this would show,
if anything could show it, that that past had been finally erased
from the scroll of his life. She had a moment only of suspense after
speaking, and then, as his voice came in answer, she breathed again
freely. Nothing could have shown a more complete unconsciousness than
his reply, after another moment of reflection:

"Do you know, Mrs. Nightingale, that convinces me that the name
Algernon _was_ produced by your way of saying it. It _was_ hypnotic
suggestion! I assure you that, however strange you may think it, every
time you repeat the name Gerry, it seems more familiar to me. If you
said it often enough, I have no doubt I should soon be believing in the
diminutive as devoutly as I believe in the name itself. Because I am
quite convinced of Algernon Fenwick. Continually signing _per-pro_'s
has driven it home." He didn't seem quite in earnest over his
conviction, though--seemed to laugh a little about it.

But a sadder tone came into his voice after an interval in which his
companion, frightened at her own temerity, resolved that she would not
call him Gerry again. It was sailing too near the wind. She was glad he
went back from this side-channel of their talk to the main subject.

"No, I have no hope of getting to the past through my own mind. I feel
it is silence. And that being so, I should be sorry that any
illumination should come to me out of the past, throwing light on
records my mind could not read--I mean, any proof positive of what my
crippled memory could not confirm. I would rather remain quite in the
dark--unless, indeed----"

"Unless what?"

"Unless the well-being of some others, forgotten with my forgotten
world, is involved in--dependent on--my return to it. That would be
shocking--the hungry nestlings in the deserted nest. But I am so
convinced that I have only forgotten a restless life of rapid
change--that I _could_ not forget love and home, if I ever had
them--that my misgivings about this are misgivings of the reason
only, not of the heart. Do you understand me?"

"Perfectly. At least, I think so. Go on."

"I cannot help thinking, too, that a sense of a strong link with a
forgotten yesterday would survive the complete effacement of all its
details in the form of a wish to return to it. I have none. My to-day
is too happy for me to wish to go back to that yesterday, even if I
could, without a wrench. I feel a sort of shame in saying I should be
sorry to return to it. It seems a sort of ... a sort of disloyalty to
the unknown."

"You might long to be back, if you could know. Think if you could see
before you now, and recognise the woman who was once your wife." There
was nettle-grasping in this.

"It is a mere abstract idea," he replied, "unaccompanied by any image
of an individual. I perceive that it is dutiful to recognise the fact
that I should welcome her _if_ she appeared as a reality. But it is a
large _if_. I am content to go on without an hypothesis--that is really
all she is now. And my belief that, if she had ever existed, I should
not be _able_ to disbelieve in her, underlies my acceptance of her in
that character."

Mrs. Nightingale laughed. "We are mighty metaphysical," said she.
"Wouldn't it depend entirely on what she was like, when all's said
and done? I believe I'm right. We women are more practical than men,
after all."

"You make game of my metaphysics, as you call them. Well, I'll drop the
metaphysics and speak the honest truth." He stopped and faced round
towards her, standing on the garden path. "Only, you must make me one
promise."

She stopped also, and stood looking full at him.

"What promise?"

"If I tell you all I think in my heart, you will not allow it to come
between me and you, to undermine the only strong friendship I have in
the world, the only one I know of."

"It shall make no difference between us. You may trust me."

They turned and walked again slowly, once up and down. Then Fenwick's
voice, when he next spoke, had an added earnestness, a growing tension,
with an echo in it, for her, of the years gone by--a ring of his young
enthusiasm, of his passionate outburst in the lawn-tennis garden twenty
years ago. He made no more ado of what he had to say.

"I can form no image in my mind, try how I may, of any woman for whose
sake I would give up one hour of the precious privilege I now enjoy.
I have no right to--to assess it, to make a definition of it. But
I _have_ it now. I could not resume my place as the husband of a now
unknown wife--you know what I mean--and not lose the privilege of
being near _you_. It may be--it is conceivable, I mean; no more--that
a revelation to me of myself, a light thrown on what I am, would bring
me what would palliate the wrench of losing what I have of you. It _may_
be so--it _may_ be! All I know is--all I can say is--that I can now
_imagine_ nothing, no treasure of love of wife or daughter, that would
be a make-weight for what I should lose if I had to part from you." He
paused a moment, as though he thought he was going beyond his rights of
speech, then added more quietly: "No; I can imagine _no_ hypothetical
wife. And as for my hypothetical daughter, I find I am always utilising
Sally for her."

Mrs. Nightingale murmured in an undertone the word "Sallykin," as she
so often did when her daughter was mentioned, with that sort of caress
in her voice. This time it was caught by a sort of gasp, and she
remained silent. What Sally _was_ had crossed her mind--the strange
relation in which she stood to Fenwick, born in _his_ wedlock, but no
daughter of his. And there he was, as fond of the child as he could be.

Fenwick may have half misunderstood something in her manner, for when
he spoke again his words had a certain aspect of recoil from what he
had said, at least of consideration of it in some new light.

"When I speak to you as freely as this, remember the nature of the
claim I have to do so--the only apology I can make for taking an
exceptional licence."

"How do you mean?"

"I mean I do not count myself as a man--only a sort of inexplicable
waif, a kind of cancelled man. A man without a past is like a child,
or an idiot from birth, suddenly endowed with faculties."

"What nonsense, Fenwick! You have brooded and speculated over your
condition until you have become morbid. Do now, as Sally would say,
chuck the metaphysics."

"Perhaps I was getting too sententious over it. I'm sorry, and please
I won't do so any more."

"Don't then. And now you'll see what will happen. You will remember
everything quite suddenly. It will all come back in a flash, and oh,
how glad you will be! And think of the joy of your wife and children!"

"Yes, and suppose all the while I am hating them for dragging me away
from you----"

"From me and Sally?"

"I wasn't going to say Sally, but I don't want to keep her out. You
and Sally, if you like. All I know is, if their reappearance were to
bring with it a pleasure I cannot imagine--because I cannot imagine
_them_--it would cut across my life, as it is now, in a way that would
drive me _mad_. Indeed it would. How could I say to myself--as I say
now, as I dare to say to you, knowing what I am--that to be here with
you now is the greatest happiness of which I am capable."

"All that would change if you recovered them."

"Yes--yes--maybe! But I shrink from it; I shrink from _them_! They are
strangers--nonentities. You are--you are--oh, it's no use----" He
stopped suddenly.

"What am I?"

"It's no use beating about the bush. You are the centre of my life as
it is, you are what I--all that is left of me--love best in the world!
I cannot _now_ conceive the possibility of anything but hatred for what
might come between us, for what might sever the existing link, whatever
it may be--I care little what it is called, so long as I may keep it
unbroken...."

"And I care nothing!" It was her eyes meeting his that stopped him. He
could read the meaning of her words in them before they were spoken.
Then he replied in a voice less firm than before:

"Dare we--knowing what I am, knowing what may come suddenly, any hour
of the day, out of the unknown--_dare_ we call it love?" Perhaps in
Fenwick's mind at this moment the predominant feeling was terror of the
consequences to her that marriage with him might betray her into. It
was much stronger than any misgiving (although a little remained) of
her feelings toward himself.

"What else can we call it? It is a good old word." She said this quite
calmly, with a very happy face one could see the flush of pleasure
and success on even in the moonlight, and there was no reluctance,
no shrinking in her, from her share of the outcome the Major had not
waited to see. "Millais' Huguenot" was complete. Rosalind Graythorpe,
or Palliser, stood there again with her husband's arm round her--her
husband of twenty years ago! And in that fact was the keynote of what
there was of unusual--of unconventional, one might almost phrase it--in
her way of receiving and requiting his declaration. It hardly need be
said that _he_ was unconscious of any such thing. A man whose soul
is reeling with the intoxication of a new-found happiness is not
overcritical about the exact movement of the hand that has put the
cup to his lips.

The Huguenot arrangement might have gone on in the undisturbed
moonlight till the chill of the morning came to break it up if a
cab-wheel _crescendo_ and a _strepitoso_ peal at the bell had not
announced Sally, who burst into the house and rushed into the
drawing-room tumultuously, to be corrected back by a serious word from
Ann, the door-opener, that Missis and Mr. Fenwick had stepped out in
the garden. Ann's parade of her conviction that this was _en règle_,
when no one said it wasn't, was suggestive in the highest degree.
Professional perjury in a law-court could not have been more
self-conscious. Probably Ann knew all about it, as well as cook. Sally
saw nothing. She was too full of great events at Ladbroke Grove
Road--the sort of events that are announced with a preliminary, What
_do_ you think, N or M? And then develop the engagement of O to P, or
the jilting of Q by R.

There was just time for a dozen words between the components of the
Millais group in the moonlight.

"Shall we tell Sally?" It was the Huguenot that asked the question.

"Not just this minute. Wait till I can think. Perhaps I'll tell her
upstairs. Now say good-bye before the chick comes, and go." And the
chick came on the scene just too late to criticise the _pose_.

"I say, mother!" this with the greatest _empressement_ of which
humanity and youth are capable. "I've got something I _must_ tell you!"

"What is it, kitten?"

"Tishy's head-over-ears in love with the shop-boy!"

"Sh-sh-sh-shish! You noisy little monkey, do consider! The neighbours
will hear every word you say." So they will, probably, as Miss Sally's
voice is very penetrating, and rings musically clear in the summer
night. Her attitude is that she doesn't care if they do.

"Besides they're only cats! And _nobody_ knows who Tishy is, or the
shop-boy. I'll come down and tell you all about it."

"We're coming up, darling!" You see, Sally had manifestoed down into
the garden from the landing of the stair, which was made of iron
openwork you knocked flower-pots down and broke, and you have had to
have a new one--that, at least, is how Ann put it. On the stair-top
Mrs. Nightingale stems the torrent of her daughter's revelation
because it's so late and Mr. Fenwick must get away.

"You must tell him all about it another time."

"I don't know whether it's any concern of his."

"Taken scrupulous, are we, all of a sudden?" says Fenwick, laughing.
"That cock won't fight, Miss Pussy! You'll have to tell me all about
it when I come to-morrow. Good-night, Mrs. Nightingale." A sort of
humorous formality in his voice makes Sally look from one to the
other, but it leads to nothing. Sally goes to see Fenwick depart,
and her mother goes upstairs with a candle. In a minute or so
Sally pelts up the stairs, leaving Ann and the cook to thumbscrew
on the shutter-panels of the street door, and make sure that
housebreaker-baffling bells are susceptible.

"Do you know, mamma, I really _did_ think--what do you think I thought?"

"What, darling?"

"I thought Mr. Fenwick was going to kiss me!" In fact, Fenwick had only
just remembered in time that family privileges must stand over till
after the revelation.

"Should you have minded if he had?"

"_Not a bit!_ Why should _anybody_ mind Mr. Fenwick kissing them? You
wouldn't yourself--you know you wouldn't! Come now, mother!"

"I shouldn't distress myself, poppet!" But words are mere wind; the
manner of them is everything, and the foreground of her mother's manner
suggests a background to Sally. She has smelt a rat, and suddenly fixes
her eyes on a tell-tale countenance fraught with mysterious reserves.

"Mother, you _are_ going to marry Mr. Fenwick!" No change of type could
do justice to the emphasis with which Sally goes straight to the point.
Italics throughout would be weak. Her mother smiles as she fondles her
daughter's excited face.

"I am, darling. So you may kiss him yourself when he comes to-morrow
evening."

And Tishy's passion for the shop-boy had to stand over. But, as the
Major had said, the mother and daughter talked till three in the
morning--well, past two, anyhow!



CHAPTER XV

CONCERNING DR. VEREKER AND HIS MAMMA, WHO HAD KNOWN IT ALL ALONG. HOW
  SALLY LUNCHED WITH THE SALES WILSONS, AND GOT SPECULATING ABOUT HER
  FATHER. HOW TISHY LET OUT ABOUT MAJOR ROPER. HOW THERE WAS A WEDDING


The segment of a circle of Society that did duty for a sphere, in the
case of Mrs. Nightingale and Sally, was collectively surprised when it
heard of the intended marriage of the former, having settled in its own
mind that the latter was the magnet to Mr. Fenwick's lodestone. But
each several individual that composed it had, it seemed, foreseen
exactly what was going to happen, and had predicted it in language that
could only have been wilfully mistaken by persons interested in proving
that the speaker was not a prophet. Exceptional insight had been
epidemic. The only wonder was (to the individual speaker) that Mrs.
Nightingale had remained single so long, and the only other wonder was
that none of the other cases had seen it. They had evidently only taken
seership mildly.

Dr. Vereker had a good opportunity of studying omniscience of a
malignant type in the very well marked case of his own mother. You may
remember Sally's denunciation of her as an old hen that came wobbling
down on you. When her son (in the simplicity of his heart) announced
to her as a great and curious piece of news that Mr. Fenwick was
going to marry Mrs. Nightingale, she did not even look up from her
knitting to reply: "What did I say to you, Conny?" For his name was
Conrad, as Sally had reported. His discretion was not on the alert on
this occasion, for he incautiously asked, "When?"

The good lady laid down her knitting on her knees, and folded her
hands, interlacing her fingers, which were fat, as far as they would
go, and leaning back with closed eyes--eyes intended to remain closed
during anticipated patience.

"Fancy asking me that!" said she.

"Well, but--hang it!--_when?_"

"Do not use profane language, Conrad, in your mother's presence. Can
you really ask me, 'When?' Try and recollect!"

Conrad appeared to consider; but as he had to contend with the problem
of finding out when a thing had been said, the only clue to the nature
of which was the date of its utterance, it was no great wonder that his
cogitations ended in a shake of the head subdivided into its
elements--shakes taken a brace at a time--and an expression of face as
of one who whistles _sotto voce_. His questioner must have been looking
between her eyelids, which wasn't playing fair; for she indicted him on
the spot, and pushed him, as it were, into the dock.

"_That_, I suppose, means that I speak untruth. Very well, my dear!"
Resignation set in.

"Come, mother, I say, now! Be a reasonable maternal parent. When did
I say anybody spoke untruth?"

"My dear, you _said_ nothing. But if your father could have heard what
you did _not_ say, you know perfectly well, my dear Conrad, what he
would have _thought_. Was he likely to sit by and hear me insulted?
Did he ever do so?"

The doctor was writing letters at a desk-table that he used for
miscellaneous correspondence as much as possible, in order that this
very same mother of his should be left alone as little as possible. He
ended a responsible letter, and directed it, and made it a thing of the
past with a stamp on it in a little basket on the hall-table outside.
Then he came back to his mother, and bestowed on her the kiss, or peck,
of peace. It always made him uncomfortable when he had to go away to
the hospital under the shadow of dissension at home.

"Well, mother dear, what was it you really did say about the Fenwick
engagement?"

"It would be more proper, my dear, to speak of it as the Nightingale
engagement. You will say it is a matter of form, but...."

"All right. The Nightingale engagement...."

"My dear! So abrupt! To your mother!"

"Well, dear mammy, what was it, really now?" This cajolery took effect,
and the Widow Vereker's soul softened. She resumed her knitting.

"If you don't remember what it was, dear, it doesn't matter." The
doctor saw that nothing short of complete concession would procure
a tranquil sea.

"Of course, I remember perfectly well," he said mendaciously. He knew
that, left alone, his mother would supply a summary of what he
remembered. She did so, with a bound.

"I said, my dear (and I am glad you recollect it, Conrad)--I said from
the very first, when Mr. Fenwick was living at Krakatoa--(it was all
_quite_ right, my dear. Do you think I don't know? A grown-up daughter
and two servants!)--I said that any one with eyes in their head could
see. And has it turned out exactly as I expected, or has it not?"

"Exactly."

"Very well, dear. I'm glad you say so. Now, don't contradict me
another time."

The close observer of the actual (whom we lay claim to be) has
occasionally to report the apparently impossible. We do not suppose
we shall be believed when we say that Mrs. Vereker added: "Besides,
there was the Major."

       *       *       *       *       *

Professor Sales Wilson, Lætitia's father, was _the_ Professor Sales
Wilson. Only, if you had seen that eminent scholar when he got outside
his library by accident and wanted to get back, you wouldn't have
thought he was _the_ anybody, and would probably have likened him to
a disestablished hermit-crab--in respect, that is, of such a one's desire
to disappear into his shell, and that respect only. For no hermit-crab
would ever cause an acquaintance to wonder why he should shave at all
if he could do it no better than that; nor what he was talking to
himself about so frequently; nor whether he polished his spectacles so
long at a time to give the deep groove they were making across his nose
a chance of filling up; nor whether he would be less bald if he rubbed
his head less; nor what he had really got inside that overpowering
phrenology of brow, and behind that aspect of chronic concentration.
But about the retiring habits of both there could be no doubt.

He lived in his library, attired by nature in a dressing-gown and
skull-cap. But from its secret recesses he issued manifestoes which
shook classical Europe. He corrected versions, excerpted passages,
disallowed authenticities, ascribed works to their true authors, and
exposed the pretensions of sciolists with a vigour which ought to have
finally dispersed that unhallowed class. Only it didn't, because they
are a class incapable of shame, and will go on madly, even when they
have been proved to be _mere_, beyond the shadow of a doubt. Perhaps
they had secret information about the domestic circumstances of their
destroyer, and didn't care. If Yamen had had private means of knowing
that Vishnu was on uncomfortable terms with his wife, a corrected
version of the whole Hindu mythology might have been necessary.

However, so far as can be conjectured, the image the world formed of
the Professor was a sort of aggregate of Dr. Johnson, Bentley, Grotius,
Mezzofanti, and a slight touch of, say Conington, to bring him well
up to date. But so much of the first that whenever the _raconteur_
repeated one of the Professor's moderately bon-mots, he always put
"sir" in--as, for instance, "A punster, sir, is a man who demoralises
two meanings in one word;" or, "Should you call that fast life, sir?
_I_ should call it slow death." The _raconteur_ was rather given to
making use of him, and assigning to him _mots_ which were not at all
_bons_, because they only had the "sir" in them, and were otherwise
meaningless. He was distressed, not without reason, when he heard that
he had said to Max Müller, or some one of that calibre, "There is no
such thing, sir, as the English language!" But he very seldom heard
anything about himself, or any one else; as he passed his life, as
aforesaid, in his library, buried in the Phoenician Dictionary he
hoped he might live to bring out. He had begun the fourth letter;
but _we_ don't know the Phoenician alphabet. Perhaps it has only four
letters in it.

He came out of the library for meals, of course. But he took very
little notice of anything that passed at the family board, and read
nearly the whole time, occasionally saying something forcible to
himself. Indeed, he never conversed with his family unless deprived
of his book. This occurred on the occasion when Sally carried the
momentous news of her mother's intended marriage to Ladbroke Grove
Road, the second day after they had talked till two in the morning.
Matrimony was canvassed and discussed in all its aspects, and the
particular case riddled and sifted, and elucidated from every point of
the compass, without the Professor being the least aware that anything
unusual was afoot, until Grotefend got in the mayonnaise sauce.

"Take your master's book away, Jenkins," said the lady of the house.
And Jenkins, the tender-hearted parlourmaid, allowed master to keep
hold just to the end of the sentence. "Take it away, as I told you,
and wipe that sauce off!"

Sally did so want to box that woman's ears--at least, she said so
after. She was a great horny, overbearing woman, was Mrs. Sales Wilson,
and Sally was frightened lest Lætitia should grow like her. Only,
Tishy's teeth never _could_ get as big as that! Nor wiggle.

The Professor, being deprived of his volume, seemed to awake
compulsorily, and come out into a cold, unlearned world. But he
smiled amiably, and rubbed his hands round themselves rhythmically.

"Well, then!" said he. "Say it all again."

"Say what, papa?"

"All the chatter, of course."

"What for, papa?"

"For me to hear. Off we go! _Who's_ going to be married?"

"You see, he was listening all the time. _I_ shouldn't tell him, if
I were you. Your father is really unendurable. And he gets worse."
Thus the lady of the house.

"What does your mother say?" There is a shade of asperity in the
Professor's voice.

"Says you were listening all the time, papa. So you were!" This is
from Lætitia's younger sister, Theeny. Her name was Athene. Her brother
Egerton called her "Gallows Athene"--an offensive perversion of the
name of the lady she was called after. Her mother had carefully taught
all her children contempt for their father from earliest childhood. But
toleration of his weaknesses--etymology, and so on--had taken root in
spite of her motherly care, and the Professor was on very good terms
with his offspring. He negatived Theeny amiably.

"No, my dear, I was like Mrs. Cluppins. The voices were loud, and
forced themselves upon my ear. But as you all spoke at once, I have
no idea what anybody said. My question was conjectural--purely
conjectural. _Is_ anybody going to marry anybody? _I_ don't know."

"What is your father talking about over there? _Is_ he going to help
that tongue or not? Ask him." For a peculiarity in this family was that
the two heads of it always spoke to one another through an agent. So
clearly was this understood that direct speech between them, on its
rare occasions, was always ascribed by distant hearers to an outbreak
of hostilities. If either speaker had addressed the other by name, the
advent of the Sergeant-at-Arms would have been the next thing looked
for. On this occasion Lætitia's literal transmission of "_Are_ you
going to help the tongue or not, papa?" recalled his wandering mind
to his responsibilities. Sally's liver-wing--she was the visitor--was
pleading at his elbow for its complement of tongue.

But soon a four-inch space intervened between the lonely tongue-tip
on the dish and what had once been, in military language, its base
of operations. Everybody that took tongue had got tongue.

"Well, then, how about who's married whom?" Thus the Professor,
resuming his hand-rubbing, and neglecting the leg of a fowl.

"Make your father eat his lunch, Lætitia. We _cannot_ be late again
this afternoon." Whereon every one ate too fast; and Sally felt very
glad the Professor had given her such a big slice of tongue, as she
knew she wouldn't have the courage to have a second supply, if offered,
much less ask for it.

"Do you hear, papa? I'm to make you eat your lunch," says Lætitia;
and her mother murmurs "That's right; make him," as though he were an
anaconda in the snake-house, and her daughter a keeper who could go
inside the cage. Lætitia then adds briefly that Mrs. Nightingale is
going to marry Fenwick.

"Ha! Mercy on us!" says the Professor quite vaguely, and, even more so,
adds: "Chicken--chicken--chicken--chicken--chicken!" Though what he
says next is more intelligible, it is unfortunate and ill-chosen: "And
who _is_ Mrs. Nightingale?"

The sphinx is mobility itself compared with Mrs. Wilson's intense
preservation of her _status quo_. The import of which is that the
Professor's blunders are things of everyday occurrence--every minute,
rather. She merely says to Europe, "You see," and leaves that continent
to deal with the position. Sally, who always gets impatient with the
Wilson family, except the Professor himself and Lætitia--though _she_
is trying sometimes--now ignores Europe, and gets the offender into
order on her own account.

"Why, Professor dear, don't you know Mrs. Nightingale's my mother?
I'm Sally Nightingale, you know!"

"I'm not at all sure that I did, my dear. I think I thought you were
Sally Something-else. My mind is very absent sometimes. You must
forgive me. Sally Nightingale! To be sure!"

"Never mind, Professor dear!" But the Professor still looks vexed at
his blunder. So Sally says in confirmation, "I've forgiven you. Shake
hands!" And doesn't make matters much better, for her action seems
unaccountable to the absent-minded one, who says, "Why?" first, and
then, "Oh, ah, yes--I see. Shake hands, certainly!" On which the
Sphinx, at the far end of the table, wondered whether the ancient
Phoenicians were rude, under her breath.

"I'm so absent, Sally Nightingale, that I didn't even know your father
wasn't living." Lætitia looks uncomfortable, and when Sally merely
says, "I never saw my father," thinks to herself what a very discreet
girl Sally is. Naturally she supposes Sally to be a wise enough child
to know something about her own father. But the Wilson family were not
completely in the dark about an unsatisfactory "something queer" in
Sally's extraction; so that she credits that unconscious young person
with having steered herself skilfully out of shoal-waters; but she
is not sure whether to class her achievement as intrepidity or cheek.
She is wanted in the intelligence department before she can decide
this point.

"Perhaps, if you try, Lætitia, you'll be able to make out whether your
father is or is not going to eat his lunch."

But as this appeal of necessity causes the Professor to run the risk
of choking himself before Lætitia has time to formulate an inquiry, she
can fairly allow the matter to lapse, as far as she is concerned. The
dragon, her mother--for that was how Sally spoke of the horny one--kept
an eye firmly fixed on the unhappy honorary member of most learned
societies, and gave the word of command, "Take away!" with such
promptitude that Jenkins nearly carried off the plate from under his
knife and fork as he placed them on it.

A citation from the Odyssey was received in stony silence by the
Dragon, who, however, remarked to her younger daughter that it was no
use talking about Phineus and the Harpies, because they had to be at
St. Pancras at 3.10, or lose the train. And perhaps, if the servants
were to be called Harpies, your father would engage the next one
himself. They were trouble enough now, without that.

Owing to all which, the reference to Sally's father got lost sight of;
and she wasn't sorry, because Theeny, at any rate, wasn't wanted to
know anything about him, whatever Lætitia and her mother knew or
suspected.

But, as a matter of fact, Sally's declaration that she "never saw" him
was neither discretion, nor intrepidity, nor cheek. It was simple
Nature. She had always regarded her father as having been accessory
to herself before the fact; also as having been, for some mysterious
reason, unpopular--perhaps a _mauvais sujet_. But he was Ancient
History now--had joined the Phoenicians. Why should _she_ want to know?
Her attitude of uninquiring acquiescence had been cultivated by her
mother, and it is wonderful what a dominant influence from early
babyhood can do. Sally seldom spoke of this mysterious father of hers
in any other terms than those she had just used. She had never had an
opportunity of making his acquaintance--that was all. In some way,
undefined, he had not behaved well to her mother; and naturally she
sided with the latter. Once, and once only, her mother had said to her,
"Sally darling, I don't wish to talk about your father, but to forget
him. I have forgiven him, because of you. Because--how could I have
done without you, kitten?" And thereafter, as Sally's curiosity was
a feeble force when set against the possibility that its gratification
might cause pain to her mother, she suppressed it easily.

But now and again little things would be said in her presence that
would set her a-thinking--little things such as what the Professor
has just said. She may easily have been abnormally sensitive on the
point--made more prone to reflection than usual--by last night's
momentous announcement. Anyhow, she resolved to talk to Tishy about
her parentage as soon as they should get back to the drawing-room,
where they were practising. All the two hours they ought to have played
in the morning Tishy would talk about nothing but Julius Bradshaw.
And look how ridiculous it all was! Because she _did_ call him
"shop-boy"--you know she did--only six weeks ago. Sally didn't see why
_her_ affairs shouldn't have a turn now; and although she was quite
aware that her friend wanted her to begin again where they had left off
before lunch, she held out no helping hand, but gave the preference to
her own thoughts.

"I suppose my father drank," said Sally to Tishy.

"If you don't know, dear, how should I?" said Tishy to Sally. And that
did seem plausible, and made Sally the more reflective.

The holly-leaves were gone now that had been conducive to thought at
Christmas in this same room when we heard the two girls count four
so often, but Sally could pull an azalea flower to pieces over her
cogitations, and did so, instead of tuning up forthwith. Lætitia was
preoccupied--couldn't take an interest in other people's fathers, nor
her own for that matter. She tuned up, though, and told Sally to look
alive. But while Sally looks alive she backs into a conversation of
the forenoon, and out of the pending discussion of Sally's paternity.
Their two preoccupations pull in opposite directions.

"You _will_ remember not to say anything, won't you, Sally dear? Do
promise."

"Say anything? Oh no; _I_ shan't say anything. I never do say things.
What about?"

"You know as well as I do, dear--about Julius Bradshaw."

"Of course I shan't, Tishy. Except mother; she doesn't count. I say,
Tishy!"

"Well, dear. Do look alive. I'm all ready."

"All right. Don't be in a hurry. I want to know whether you really
think my father drank."

"Why should I, dear? I never heard anything about him--at least, I
never heard anything myself. Mamma heard something. Only I wasn't to
repeat it. Besides, it was nothing whatever to do with drink." The
moment Lætitia said this, she knew that she had lost her hold on
her only resource against cross-examination. When the difficulty of
concealing anything is thrown into the same scale with the pleasure of
telling it, the featherweights of duty and previous resolutions kick
the beam. Then you are sorry when it's too late. Lætitia was, and
could see her way to nothing but obeying the direction on her music,
which was _attacca_. To her satisfaction, Sally came in promptly in
the right place, and a first movement in B sharp went steadily through
without a back-lash. There seemed a chance that Sally hadn't caught
the last remark, but, alas! it vanished.

"What was it, then, if it wasn't drink?" said she, exactly as if there
had been no music at all. Lætitia once said of Sally that she was
a horribly direct little Turk. She was very often--in this instance
certainly.

"I suppose it was the usual thing." Twenty-four, of course, knew more
than nineteen, and could speak to the point of what was and wasn't
usual in matters of this kind. But if Lætitia hoped that vagueness
would shake hands with delicacy and that details could be lubricated
away, she was reckoning without her Turk.

"What _is_ the usual thing?"

"Hadn't we better go on to the fugue? I don't care for the next
movement, and it's easy----"

"Not till you say what you mean by 'the usual thing.'"

"Well, dear, I suppose you know what half the divorce-cases are about?"

"_Tishy!_"

"What, dear?"

"There was _no_ divorce!"

"How do you know, dear?"

"I _should_ have known of it."

"How do you know that?"

"You might go on for ever that way. Now, Tishy dear, do be kind and
tell me what you heard and who said it. _I_ should tell _you_. You
_know_ I should." This appeal produces concession.

"It was old Major Roper told mamma--with blue pockets under his eyes
and red all over, creeks and wheezes when he speaks--do you know him?"

"No, I don't, and I don't want to. At least, I've just seen him at
a distance. I could see he was purple. _Our_ Major--Colonel Lund, you
know--says he's a horrible old gossip, and you can't rely on a word he
says. But what _did_ he say?"

"Well, of course, I oughtn't to tell you this, because I promised not.
What he _said_ was that your mother went out to be married to your
father in India, and the year after he got a divorce because he was
jealous of some man your mother had met on the way out."

"How old was I?"

"Gracious me, child! how should _I_ know. He only said you were a baby
in arms. Of course, you must have been, if you think of it." Lætitia
here feels that possible calculations may be embarrassing, and tries to
avert them. "Do let's get on to the third movement. We shall spend all
the afternoon talking."

"Very well, Tishy, fire away! Oh, no; it's me." And the third movement
is got under way, till we reach a _pizzicato_ passage which Sally
begins playing with the bow by mistake.

"That's _pits_!" says the first violin, and we have to begin again at
the top of the page, and the Professor in his library wonders why on
earth those girls can't play straight on. The Ancient Phoenicians are
fidgeted by the jerks in the music.

But it comes to an end in time, and then Sally begins again:

"I _know_ that story's all nonsense now, Tishy."

"Why?"

"Because mother told me once that my father never saw me, so come now!
Because the new-bornest baby that ever was couldn't be too small for
its father to see." Sally pauses reflectively, then adds: "Unless he
was blind. And mother would have said if he'd been blind."

"He couldn't have been blind, because----"

"Now, Tishy, you see! You're keeping back lots of things that old
wheezy squeaker said. And you _ought_ to tell me--you know you ought.
Why couldn't he?"

"You're in such a hurry, dear. I was going to tell you. Major Roper
said he never saw him but once, and it was out shooting tigers, and he
was the best shot for a civilian he'd ever seen. There was a tiger was
just going to lay hold of a man and carry him off when your father
shot him from two hundred yards off----"

"The man or the tiger? I'm on the tiger's side. I always am."

"The tiger, stupid! You wouldn't want your own father to aim at a tiger
and hit a man?"

Sally reflects. "I don't think I should. But, I say, Tishy, do you mean
to say that Major Roper meant to say that he was out shooting with my
father and didn't know what his name was?"

"Oh, no. He said his name, of course. It was Palliser ... that was
right, wasn't it?"

"Oh dear, no; it was Graythorpe. Palliser indeed!"

"It was true about the tiger though, because Major Roper says he's got
the skin himself now."

"Only it wasn't my father that shot it. That's quite clear." Sally was
feeling greatly relieved, and showed it in the way she added: "Now,
doesn't that just show what a parcel of nonsense the whole story is?"

Sally had never told her friend about her mother's name before she
took that of Nightingale. Very slight hints had sufficed to make her
reticent about Graythorpe. Colonel Lund had once said to her: "Of
course, your mother was Mrs. Graythorpe when she came to England; that
was before she changed her name to Nightingale, you know?" She
knew that her mother's money had come to her from a "grandfather
Nightingale," whose name had somehow accompanied it, and had been (very
properly, as it seemed to her) bestowed on herself as well as her
mother. They were part and parcel of each other obviously. In fact, she
had never more than just known of the existence of the name Graythorpe
in her family at all, and it had been imputed by her to this unpopular
father of hers, and put aside, as it were, on a shelf with him. Even if
her mother had not suggested a desire that the name should lapse, she
herself would have accepted its extinction on her own account.

But now this name came out of the past as a consolation. Palliser
indeed! How could mamma have been Mrs. Graythorpe if her husband's name
had been Palliser? Sally was not wise enough in worldly matters to know
that divorced ladies commonly fall back on their maiden names. And she
had been kept, or left, so much in the dark that she had taken for
granted that her mother's had been Nightingale--that, in fact, she had
retaken her maiden name at her father's wish, possibly as a censure
on the misbehaviour of a husband who drank or gambled or was otherwise
reprobate. Her young mind had been manipulated all one way--had been
in contact only with its manipulators. Had she had a sister or brother,
they would have canvassed the subject, speculated, run conclusions to
earth, and demanded enlightenment. She had none but her mother to go
to, unless it were Colonel Lund; and the painful but inevitable task of
both was to keep her in the dark about her parentage at all hazards.
"If ever," said the former to the latter, "my darling girl has a child
of her own, I may be able to tell her her mother's story." Till then,
it would be impossible.

Sally had had a narrow escape of knowing more about this story when
the veteran Sub-Dean qualified himself for an obituary in the "Times,"
which she chanced upon and read before her mother had time to detect
and suppress it. Luckily, a reasonable economy of type had restricted
the names and designations of all the wives he had driven tandem, and
no more was said of his third than that she was Rosalind, the widow
of Paul Nightingale. So, as soon as Sally's mother had read the text
herself, she was able to say to the Major, quite undisturbedly, that
the old Sub-Dean had gone at last, leaving thirteen children. The name
Graythorpe had not crept in.

But we left Sally with a question unanswered. Didn't that show what
nonsense old Major Roper's story was? Lætitia was rather glad to
assent, and get the story quashed, or at least prorogued _sine die_.

"It did seem rather nonsense, Sally dear. Major Roper was a stupid old
man, and evidently took more than was good for him." Intoxicants are
often of great service in conversation.

In this case they contributed to the reinstatement of Mr. Bradshaw.
Dear me, it did seem so funny to Sally! Only the other day this young
man had been known to her on no other lines than as an established
fool, who came to stare at _her_ out of the corners of his dark eyes
all through the morning service at St. Satisfax. And now it was St.
John's, Ladbroke Grove Road, and, what was more, he was being tolerated
as a semi-visitor at the Wilsons'--a visitor with explanations in an
undertone. This was the burden of Lætitia, as soon as she had contrived
to get Sally's troublesome parent shelved.

"Why mamma needs always to be in such a furious fuss to drag in his
violin, I do _not_ know. As if he needed to be accounted for! Of
course, if you ask a Hottentot to evenings, you have to explain him.
But the office-staff at Cattley's (which is really one of the largest
firms in the country) are none of them Hottentots, but the contrary....
Now I know, dear, you're going to say what's the contrary of a
Hottentot, and all the while you know perfectly well what I mean."

"Cut away, Tishy! What next?"

"Well--next, don't you think it very dignified of Mr. Bradshaw to be
_able_ to be condescended to and explained in corners under people's
breaths and not to show it?"

"He's got to lump it, if he doesn't like it." Sally, you see, has
given up her admirer readily enough, but, as she herself afterwards
said, it's quite another pair of shoes when you're called on to give
three cheers for what's really no merit at all! What does the young
man expect?

"Now, that's unkind, Sally dear. You wouldn't like _me_ to. Anyhow,
that's what mamma _does_. Takes ladies of a certain position or with
expectations into corners, and says she hates the expression gentleman
and lady, but _they_ know what she means...."

"_I_ know. And they goozle comfortably at her, like Goody Vereker."

"Doesn't it make one's flesh creep to have a mother like that? I do get
to hate the very sight of shot silk and binoculars on a leg when she
goes on so. But I suppose we never shall get on together--mamma and I."

"What does the Professor think about him?"

"Oh--papa? Of course, papa's _perfectly hopeless_! It's the only true
thing mamma ever says--that he's _perfectly hopeless_. What do you
suppose he did that Sunday afternoon when Julius Bradshaw came and had
tea and brought the Strad--the first time, I mean?... Why, he actually
fancied he had come from the shop with a parcel, and never found out he
couldn't have when he had tea in the drawing-room, and only suspected
something when he played Rode's 'Air with Variations for Violin and
Piano.' Just fancy! He wanted to know why he shouldn't have tea when
every one else did, and offered him cake! And Sunday afternoon and
a Stradivarius! _Do_ say you think my parents trying, Sally dear!"

Sally assented to everything in an absent way; but that didn't matter
as long as she did it. Lætitia only wanted to talk. She seemed, thought
Sally, improved by the existing combination of events. She had had to
climb down off the high stilts about Bradshaw, and had only worked in
one or two slight _Grundulations_ (a word of Dr. Vereker's) into her
talk this morning. Tishy wasn't a bad fellow at all (Sally's
expression), only, if she hadn't been taught to strut, she wouldn't
have been any the worse. It was all that overpowering mother of hers!

Before she parted with her friend that afternoon Sally had a sudden
access of Turkish directness:

"Tishy dear, _are_ you going to accept Julius Bradshaw if he asks you,
or _not_?"

"Well, dear, you know we must look at it from the point of view of what
he would have been if it hadn't been for that unfortunate nervous
system of his. The poor fellow couldn't help it."

"But are you, or not? That's what _I_ want an answer to."

"Sally dear! Really--you're just like so much dynamite. What would you
do yourself if you were me? I ask you."

"I should do exactly whatever you settle to do if I were you. It stands
to reason. But what's it going to be? That's the point."

"He hasn't proposed yet."

"That has nothing whatever to do with it. What you've got to do is
to make--up--your--mind." These last four words are very _staccato_
indeed. Tishy recovers a dignity she has rather been allowing to lapse.

"By the time you're my age, Sally dear, you'll see there are ways
and ways of looking at things. Everything can't be wrapped up in a
nutshell. We're not Ancient Phoenicians nowadays, whatever papa may
say. But you're a dear, impulsive little puss."

The protest was feeble in form and substance, and quite unworthy of
Miss Sales Wilson, the daughter of _the_ Professor Sales Wilson. No
wonder Sally briefly responded, "Stuff and nonsense!" and presently
went home.

Of course, the outer circle of Mrs. Nightingale's society (for in this
matter we are all like Regents Park) had their say about her proposed
marriage. But they don't come into our story; and besides, they had too
few data for their opinions to be of any value. What a difference it
would have made if old Major Roper had met Fenwick and recalled the
face of the dead shot who, it seemed, had somehow ceded his tiger-skin
to him. But no such thing happened, nor did anything else come about
either to revive the story of the divorce or to throw a light on the
identity of Palliser and Fenwick. Eight weeks after the latter (or the
former?) had for the second time disclosed his passion to the same
woman, the couple were married at the church of St. Satisfax, and,
having started for the Continent the same afternoon, found themselves,
quite unreasonably happy, wandering about in France with hardly a
thought beyond the day at most, so long as a letter came from Sally at
the _postes-restantes_ when expected. And he had remembered nothing!



CHAPTER XVI

OF A WEDDING PARTY AND AN OLD MAN'S RETROSPECT. A HOPE OF RETRIBUTIVE
  JUSTICE HEREAFTER. CHARLEY'S AUNT, AND PYRAMUS AND THISBE. HOW SALLY
  TRIED TO PUMP THE COLONEL AND GOT HALF A BUCKETFUL


And thus it came about that Rosalind Palliser (_née_ Graythorpe) stood
for the second time at the altar of matrimony with the same bridegroom
under another name. The absence of bridesmaids pronounced and accented
the fact that the bride was a widow, though, as there were very few of
the congregation of St. Satisfax who did not know her as such, the
announcement was hardly necessary. Discussion of who her late husband
was, or was not, had long since given way to a belief that he was a bad
lot, and that the less that was said about him the better. If any one
who was present at the wedding was still constructing theories about
his identity--whether he had divorced his wife, was divorced himself,
or was dead--certainly none of those theories connected themselves with
the present bridegroom. As for Sally, her only feeling, over and above
her ordinary curiosity about her father, was a sort of paradoxical
indignation that his intrusion into her mother's life should have
prevented her daughter figuring as a bridesmaid. It would have been so
jolly! But Sally was perfectly well aware that widows, strong-nerved
from experience, stand in no need of official help in getting their
"things" on, and acquiesced perforce in her position of a mere
unqualified daughter.

The Major--that is to say, Colonel Lund--stayed on after the wedding,
under a sort of imputation of guardianship necessary for Sally--an
imputation accepted by her in order that the old boy should not feel
lonesome, far more than for any advantage to herself. She wasn't sure
it did him any good though, after all, for the wedding-party (if it
could be called one, it was so small), having decided that its
afternoon had been completely broken into, gave itself up to
dissipation, and went to see "Charley's Aunt." The old gentleman did
not feel equal to this, but said if Sally told him all about it
afterwards it would be just as good, and insisted on her going. He said
he would be all right, and she kissed him and left him reading "Harry
Lorrequer," or pretending to.

The wedding-party seemed to have grown, thought the Major, in contact
with the theatrical world when, on its return, it filled the summer
night with sound, and made the one-eyed piebald cat who lived at The
Retreat foreclose an interview with a peevish friend acrimoniously.
Perhaps it was only because the laughter and the jests, the good-nights
mixed with echoes of "Charley's Aunt," and reminders of appointments
for the morrow, broke in so suddenly on a long seclusion that the Major
seemed to hear so many voices beyond his expectation.

The time had not hung heavy on his hands though--at least, no heavier
than time always hangs on hands that wore gloves with no fingers near
upon eighty years ago. The specific gravity of the hours varies less
and less with loneliness and companionship as we draw nearer to the
last one of all--the heaviest or lightest, which will it be? The old
boy had been canvassing this point with another old boy, a real Major,
our friend Roper, at the Hurkaru Club not long before, and, after he
had read a few pages of "Harry Lorrequer" he put his spectacles in to
keep the place, and fell back into a maze of recurrence and reflection.

Was he honest, or was it affectation, when he said to that pursy and
purple old warrior that if the doctor were to tell him he had but an
hour to live he should feel greatly relieved and happy? Was his heart
only pretending to laugh at the panic his old friend was stricken with
at the mere mention of the word "death"--he who had in his time faced
death a hundred times without a qualm? But then that was military
death, and was his _business_. Death the civilian, with paragraphs in
the newspapers to say "the worst" was feared, and the fever being kept
down, and the system being kept up, and smells of carbolic acid and
hourly bulletins--that was the thing he shrank from. Why, the Major
could remember old Jack Roper at Delhi, in the Mutiny, going out in
the darkness to capture those Sepoy guns--what was that place
called--Ludlow Castle?--and now!...

"Oh dammy, Colonel! Why, good Lard! who's dyin' or goin' to die? Time
enough to talk about dyin' when the cap fits. You take my advice, and
try a couple of Cockle's anti-bilious. My word for it, it's liver!..."
And then old Jack followed this with an earthquake-attack of coughing
that looked very much as if the cap was going to fit. But came out of
it incorrigible, and as soon as he could speak endorsed his advice
with an admonitory forefinger: "You do as I tell you, and try 'em."

But the fossil, who was ten years his senior, answered his own question
to himself in the affirmative as he sat there listening to the distant
murmur of wheels on the Uxbridge Road and the music of the cats
without. Yes, he was quite honest about it. He had no complaint to
make of life, for the last twenty years at any rate. His dear little
_protégée_--that was how he thought of Sally's mother--had taken
good care of that. But he had some harsh indictments against earlier
years--or rather _had_ had. For he had dismissed the culprits with
a caution, and put the records on a back-shelf.

He could take them down now and look at them without flinching. After
all, he was so near the end! What did it matter?

There they all were, the neglected chronicles, each in its corner of
his mind. Of his school-days, a record with all the blots and errors
worked into the text and made to do duty for ornaments. Not a blemish
unforgiven. It is even so with us, with you; we all forgive our
schools. Of his first uniform and his first love, two records with
a soil on each. For a chemical brother spilt sulphuric acid over the
first, and the second married a custom-house officer. Of his first
great cloud--for, if he did not quite forget his first love, he soon
got a second and even a third--a cloud that came out of a letter that
reached him in camp at Rawal Pindi, and told him that his father,
a solicitor of unblemished character till then, had been indicted for
fraudulent practices, and would have to stand his trial for
misdemeanour. Of a later letter, even worse, that told of his acquittal
on the score of insanity, and of how, when he went back two years
after on his first leave, he went to see his father in an asylum; who
did not know him and called him "my lord," and asked him to "bring his
case before the house." Then of a marriage, like a dream now, with
a wife who left him and a child that died; and then of many colourless
years of mere official routine, which might have gone on till he fell
down in harness, but for the chance that threw in his way the daughter
of an old friend in sore trouble and alone. Not until her loneliness
and want of a protector on her voyage home suggested it did the harness
come off the old horse. And then, as we have seen, followed the
happiest fourth part of his life, as he accounted it, throughout which
he had never felt so willing to die as he had done before. Rosalind
Graythorpe grew into it as a kind of adopted daughter, and brought with
her the morsel of new humanity that had become Sally--that would be
back in an hour from "Charley's Aunt."

And now Rosey had found a guardian, and was provided for. It would be
no way amiss now for the Major to take advantage of death. There is
so much to be said for it when the world has left one aching!

His confidence that his _protégée_ had really found a haven was no
small compliment to Fenwick. For the latter, with his strange unknown
past, had nothing but his personality to rely on; and the verdict of
the Major, after knowing him twelve months, was as decisive on this
point as if he had known him twelve years. "He may be a bit
hot-tempered and impulsive," said he to Sally. "But I really couldn't
say, if I were asked, _why_ I think so. It's a mere idea. Otherwise,
it's simply impossible to help liking him." To which Sally replied,
borrowing an expression from Ann the housemaid, that Fenwick was a cup
of tea. It was metaphorical and descriptive of invigoration.

But the Major's feeling that he was now at liberty to try Death after
Life, to make for port after stormy seas, had scarcely a trace in it
of dethronement or exclusion from privileges once possessed. It was not
his smallest tribute to Fenwick that he should admit the idea to his
mind at all--that he might have gained a son rather than lost a
daughter. At least, he need not reject that view of the case, but it
would not do to build on it. _Unberufen!_ The Major tapped three times
on the little table where the lamp stood and "Harry Lorrequer" lay
neglected. He pulled out his watch, and decided that they would not be
very long now. He would not go to bed till he had seen the kitten--he
usually spoke of her so to her mother. He had to disturb the kitten's
cat, who was asleep on him, to get at the watch; who, being selfish,
made a grievance of it, and went away piqued after stretching. Well,
he was sorry of course, but it would have had to come, some time. And
he hadn't moved for ever so long!

"I wonder," half said, half thought he to himself, "I wonder who or
what he really is?... If only we could have known!... Was I right not
to urge delay?... Only Rosey was so confident.... _Could_ a woman of
her age feel so sure and be misled?"

It was _her_ certainty that had dragged his judgment along a path it
might otherwise have shrunk from. He could not know her reasons, but
he felt their force in her presence. Now she was gone, he doubted. Had
he been a fool after all?

"Well--well; it can't be altered now. And she would have done it just
the same whatever I said.... I suppose she was like that when she was
a girl.... I wish I had even seen that husband of hers.... So odd they
should both be Algernon! Does he know, I wonder, that the other was
Algernon?" For the Major had religiously adhered to his promise not to
say anything to Fenwick about the old story. He knew she had told it,
or would tell it in her own time.

Then his thoughts turned to revival of how and where he found her
first, and, as it all came back to him, you could have guessed, had you
seen his face, that they had lighted on the man who was the evil cause
of all, and the woman who had abetted him. The old hand on the table
that had little more strength in it than when it wore a hedger's glove
near eighty years ago, closed with the grip of all the force it had,
and the lamp-globe rang as the tremor of his arm shook the table.

"Oh, I pray God there is a hell," came audibly from as kind a heart as
ever beat. "_How_ I pray God there is a hell!" Then the stress of his
anger seemed to have exhausted him, for he lay back in his armchair
with his eyes closed. In a few moments he drew a long breath, and as
he wiped the drops from his brow, said aloud to himself: "I wish the
kitten would come." He seemed happier only from speaking of her. And
then sat on and waited--waited as for a rescue--for Sally to come and
fill up the house with her voice and her indispensable self.

Something of an inconsistency in the attitude of his mind may have
struck across the current of his reflections--something connected with
what this indispensable thing actually was and whence--for his thoughts
relented as the image of her came back to him. Where would those eyes
be, conspirators with the lids above them and the merry fluctuations of
the brows; where would those lips be, from which the laughter never
quite vanished, even as the ripple of the ocean's edge tries how small
it can get but never dies outright; where the great coils of black hair
that would not go inside any ordinary oilskin swimming-cap; where the
incorrigible impertinence and flippancy be we never liked to miss a
word of; where, in short, would Sally be if she had never emerged from
that black shadow in the past?

Easy enough to say that, had she not done so, something else quite as
good might have been. Very likely. How can we limit the possible to the
conditional-præter-pluperfect tense? But then, you see, it wouldn't
have been Sally! That's the point.

Sally's mother had followed such thoughts to the length of almost
forgiving the author of her troubles. But she could not forgive him
considered also as the author of her husband's. The Major could not
find any forgiveness at all, though the thought of Sally just sufficed
to modify the severity of his condemnation. Leniency dawned.

"Yes--yes; I was wrong to say that. But I couldn't help it." So said
the old man to himself, but quite as though he spoke to some one else.
He paused a little, then said again: "Yes; I was wrong. But oh, what
a damned scoundrel! And _what_ a woman!" Then, as though he feared a
return of his old line of thought, "I wish Sally would come." And
a dreadful half-thought came to him, "Suppose there were a fire at
the theatre, and I had to wire ... why--that would be worst of all!"

So, almost without a pause between, he had prayed for a hell to punish
a crime, and for the safety of the treasured thing that was its
surviving record--a creature that but for that crime would never have
drawn breath.

His reading-lamp had burned out its young enthusiasm, and was making up
its mind to go out, only not in any hurry. It would expire with dignity
and leave a rich inheritance of stench. Meanwhile, its decadence was
marked enough to frank the Major in neglecting "Harry Lorrequer" for
the rest of the time, and also served to persuade him that he had
really been reading. Abstention from a book under compulsion has
something of the character of perusal. Gibbon could not have collected
his materials on those lines, certainly. But the Major felt his
conscience clearer from believing that he meant to go on where he had
been obliged to stop. He cancelled "Harry Lorrequer," put him back in
the bookcase to make an incident, then began actively waiting for the
return of the playgoers. Reference to his watch at short intervals
intensified their duration, added gall to their tediousness. But so
convinced was he that they "would be here directly" that it was at
least half-an-hour before he reconsidered this insane policy and
resumed his chair with a view to keeping awake in it. He was convinced
he was succeeding, had not noticed he was dozing, when he was suddenly
wrenched out of the jaws of sleep by the merry voices of the
home-comers and the loss of the piebald cat's temper as aforesaid.

"Oh, Major dear, you haven't gone to bed! You will be so tired! Why
didn't you go?"

"I've been very happy, chick. I've been reading 'Harry Lorrequer.'
I like Charles Lever, because I read him when I was a boy. What's
o'clock?" He pulled out his watch with a pretence, easy of detection,
that he had not just done so ten minutes before. It was a lie about
"Harry Lorrequer," you see, so a little extra didn't matter.

"It's awfully late!" Sally testified. "Very nearly as late as it's
possible to be. But now we're in for it, we may as well make it
a nocturnal dissipation. Ann!--don't go to bed; at least, not before
you've brought some more fresh water. This will take years to hot up.
Oh, Major, Major, why _didn't_ you make yourself some toddy? I never
go out for five minutes but you don't make yourself any toddy!"

"I don't want it, dear child. I've been drinking all day--however, of
course, it was a wedding...."

"But you must have some now, anyhow. Stop a minute, there's some one
coming up the doorsteps and Ann's fastened up.... No, it's not the
policeman. _I_ know who it is. Stop a minute." And then presently the
Major hears Sally's half of an interview, apparently through a keyhole.
"I shan't open the door ... two bolts and a key and a chain--the idea!
What is it?... My pocky-anky?... Keep it, it won't bite you ... send it
to the wash!... No, really, do keep it if you don't mind--keep it till
Brahms on Thursday. Remember! Good-night." But it isn't quite
good-night, for Sally arrests departure. "Stop! What a couple of idiots
we are!... What for?--why--because you might have stuffed it in the
letter-box all along." And the incident closes on the line indicated.

"It was only my medical adviser," Sally says, returning with
explanations. "Found my wipe in the cab."

"Dr. Vereker?"

"Yes. Dr. Him. Exactly! We bawled at each other through the keyhole like
Pyramus and Trilby----" She becomes so absorbed in the details of the
toddy that she has to stand a mere emendation over until it is ready.
Then she completes: "I mean Thisbe. I wonder where they've got to?"

"Pyramus and Thisbe?"

"No, mother and her young man.... No, I won't sit on you. I'll sit
here; down alongside--so! Then I shan't shake the toddy overboard."

Her white soft hand is so comforting as it lies on the Major's on the
chair-arm that he is fain to enjoy it a little, however reproachful
the clock-face may be looking. You can pretend your toddy is too hot,
almost any length of time, as long as no one else touches the tumbler;
also you can drink as slow as you like. No need to hurry. Weddings
don't come every day.

"Was it very funny, chick?"

"Oh, wasn't it! But didn't mamma look _lovely_?... I've seen it twice
before, you know." This last is by way of apology for giving the
conversation a wrench. But the Major didn't want to talk over the
wedding--seemed to prefer "Charley's Aunt."

"He dresses up like his aunt, doesn't he?"

"Oh yes--it's glorious fun! But _do_ say you thought mamma looked
lovely."

"Of course she did. She always does. But had the others seen 'Charley's
Aunt' before?"

"Tishy and her Bradshaw? Oh yes--at least, I suppose so."

"And Dr. Vereker?"

"Oh, of course _he_ had--twice at least. The times we saw it, mother
and I. He went too.... We-e-e-ell, there's nothing in that!" (We can
only hope again our spelling conveys the way the word _well_ was
prolonged.)

"Nothing at all. Why should there be? What a nice fellow Vereker is!"

"My medical adviser? Oh, _he's_ all right. Never mind him; talk about
mother."

"They must be very nearly at Rheims by now." This is mere obedience
to orders on the Major's part. He feels no real interest in what he
is saying.

"How rum it must be!" says Sally, with grave consideration. And the
Major's "What?" evolves that "it" means marrying a second husband.

"Going through it all over again when you've done it once before,"
continues this young philosopher. The Major thinks of asking why it
should be rummer the second time than the first, but decides not to,
and sips his toddy, and pats the hand that is under his. In a hazy,
fossil-like way he perceives that to a young girl's mind the "rumness"
of a second husband is exactly proportionate to the readiness of its
acceptance of the first. Unity is just as intrinsic a quality of
a first husband as the colour of his eyes or hair. Moreover, he is
expected to outlive you. Above all, he is perfectly natural and a
matter of course. We discern in all this a sneaking tribute to an
idea of a hereafter; but the Major didn't go so far as that.

"She looked very jolly over it," said he, retreating on generalities.
"So did he."

"Gaffer Fenwick? I should think so indeed! Well he might!" Then, after
a moment's consideration: "He looked like my idea of Sir Richard
Grenville. It's only an idea. I forget what he did. Elizabethan
johnny."

"What do you call him? Gaffer Fenwick? You're a nice, respectable young
monkey! Well, he's not half a bad-looking fellow; well set up." But
none of this, though good in itself, is what Sally sat down to talk
about. A sudden change in her manner, a new earnestness, makes the
Major stop an incipient yawn he is utilising as an exordium to a hint
that we ought to go to bed, and become quite wakeful to say: "I will
tell you all I can, my child." For Sally has thrust aside talk of the
day's events, making no more of the wedding ceremony than of "Charley's
Aunt," with: "_Why_ did my father and mother part? You _will_ tell me
now, won't you, Major dear?"

Lying was necessary--inevitable. But he would minimise it. There was
always the resource of the legal fiction; all babes born in matrimony
are legally the children of their mother's husband, _quand-même_. He
must make that his sheet-anchor.

"You know, Sallykin, your father and mother fell out before you were
born. And the first time I saw your mother--why, bless my soul, my
dear! you were quite a growing girl--yes, able to get a staff-officer's
thumb in your mouth, and bite it. Indeed, you did! It was General
Pellew; they say he's going to be made a peer." The Major thinks he
sees his way out of the fire by sinking catechism in reminiscences. "I
can recollect it all as if it were yesterday. I said to him, 'Who's the
poor pretty little mother, General?' Because he knew your mother, and
I didn't. 'Don't you know?' said he. 'She's Mrs. Graythorpe.' I asked
about her husband, but Pellew had known nothing except that there was
a row, and they had parted." The Major's only fiction here was that he
substituted the name Graythorpe for Palliser. "Next time I saw her we
picked up some acquaintance, and she asked if I was a Lincolnshire
Lund, because her father always used to talk of how he went to Lund's
father's, near Crowland, when he was a boy. 'Stop a bit,' said I; 'what
was your father's name?' 'Paul Nightingale,' says she." Observe that
nothing was untrue in this, because Rosey always spoke and thought of
Paul Nightingale as her father.

"That was my grandfather?" Sally was intent on accumulating
facts--would save up analysis till after. The Major took advantage of
a slight choke over his whiskey to mix a brief nod into it; it was a
lie--but, then, he himself couldn't have said which was nod and which
was choke; so it hardly counted. He continued, availing himself at
times of the remains of the choke to help him to slur over difficult
passages.

"He was the young brother of a sort of sweetheart of mine--a silly
boyish business--a sort of calf-love. She married and died. But he was
her great pet, a favourite younger brother. One keeps a recollection
of this sort of thing."--The Major makes a parade of his powers of
oblivion, and his failure to carry it out sits well upon him.--"Of
course, my romantic memories"--the Major smiles derision of Love's
young dream--"had something to do with my interest in your mother, but
I hope I should have done the same if there had been no such thing.
Well, the mere fact of your father's behaviour to your mother...." He
stopped short, with misgivings that his policy of talking himself out
of his difficulties was not such a very safe one, after all. Here he
was, getting into a fresh mess, gratuitously!

"Mamma won't talk about that," says Sally, "so I suppose I'm not to ask
_you_." The Major must make a stand upon this, or the enemy will swarm
over his entrenchments. Merely looking at his watch and saying it's
time for us to be in bed will only bring a moment's respite. There is
nothing for it but decision.

"Sally dear, your mother does not tell you because she wishes the whole
thing buried and forgotten. Her wishes must be my wishes...."

He would like to stop here--to cut it short at that, at once and for
good. But the pathetic anxiety of the face from which all memories of
"Charley's Aunt" have utterly vanished is too much for his fortitude;
and, at the risk of more semi-fibs, he extenuates the sentence.

"One day your mother may tell you all about it. She is the proper
person to tell it--not me. Neither do I think I know it all to tell."

"You know if there was or wasn't a divorce?" The Major feels very sorry
he didn't let it alone.

"I'll tell you that, you inquisitive chick, if you'll promise on honour
not to ask any more questions."

"I promise."

"Honour bright?"

"Honest Injun!"

"That's right. Now I'll tell you. There was no divorce, but there was
a suit for a divorce, instituted by him. He failed to make out a case."
Note that the expression "your father" was carefully excluded. "She was
absolutely blameless--to my thinking, at least. Now that's plenty for
a little girl to know. And it's high time we were both in bed and
asleep."

He kisses the grave, sad young face that is yearning to hear more, but
is too honourable to break its compact. "They'll be at Rheims by now,"
says he, to lighten off the conversation.



CHAPTER XVII

SALLY'S LARK. AND HOW SHE TOOK HER MEDICAL ADVISER INTO HER CONFIDENCE
  AFTER DIVINE SERVICE


Though Sally cried herself to sleep after her interview with her
beloved but reticent old fossil, nevertheless, when she awoke next
morning and found herself mistress of the house and the situation, she
became suddenly alive to the advantages of complete independence. She
was an optimist constitutionally; for it _is_ optimism to decide that
it is "rather a lark" to breakfast by yourself when you have just
dried the tears you have been shedding over the loss of your morning
companion. Sally came to this conclusion as she poured out her tea,
after despatching his toast and coffee to the Major in his own room.
He sometimes came down to breakfast, but such a dissipation as yesterday
put it out of the question on this particular morning.

The lark continued an unalloyed, unqualified lark quite to the end of
the second cup of tea, when it seemed to undergo a slight clouding
over--a something we should rather indicate by saying that it slowed
down passing through a station, than that it was modulated into a minor
key. Of course, we are handicapped in our metaphors by an imperfect
understanding of the exact force of the word "lark" used in this
connexion.

The day before does not come back to us during our first cup at
breakfast, whether it be tea or coffee. A happy disposition lets what
we have slept on sleep, till at least it has glanced at the weather,
and knows that it is going to be cooler, some rain. Then memory
revives, and all the chill inheritance of overnight. We pick up the
thread of our existence, and draw our finger over the last knots, and
then go on where we left off. We remember that we have to see about
this, and we mustn't be late at that, and that there's an order got
to be made out for the stores. There wasn't in Sally's case, certainly,
because it was Sunday; but there was tribulation awaiting her as soon
as she could recollect her overdue analysis of the Major's concealed
facts. She had put it off till leisure should come; and now that she
was only looking at a microcosm of the garden seen through the window,
and reflected upside down in the tea-urn, she had surely met with
leisure. Her mind went back tentatively on the points of the old man's
reminiscences, as she looked at her own thoughtful face in the convex
of the urn opposite, nursed in two miniature hands whose elbows were
already becoming unreasonably magnified, though really they were next
to nothing nearer.

Just to think! The Major had actually been in love when he was young.
More than once he must have been, because Sally knew he was a widower.
She touched the shiny urn with her finger, to see how hideously it
swelled in the mirror. You know what fun that is! But she took her
finger back, because it was too hot, though off the boil.

There was a bluebottle between the blind and the window-pane, as usual;
if he was the same bluebottle that was there when Fenwick was first
brought into this room, he had learned nothing and forgotten nothing,
like the old _régime_ in France. He only knew how to butt and blunder
resonantly at the glass; but he could do it as well as ever, and he
seemed to have made up his mind to persevere. Sally listened to his
monotone, and watched her image in the urn.

"I wish I hadn't promised not to ask more," she thought to herself.
"Anyhow, Tishy's wrong. Nobody ever was named Palliser--that's flat!
And if there was a divorce-suit ever so, _I_ don't care!..." She had to
stop thinking for a moment, to make terms with the cat, who otherwise
would have got her claws in the beautiful white damask, and ripped.

"Besides, if my precious father behaved so badly to mamma, how could it
be _her_ fault? I don't _believe_ in mother being the _least_ wrong in
anything, so it's no use!" This last filled out a response to an
imaginary indictment of an officious Crown-Prosecutor. "I know what I
should like! I should like to get at that old Scroope, or whatever his
name is, and get it all out of him. I'd give him a piece of my mind,
gossipy old humbug!" It then occurred to Sally that she was being
unfair. No, she wouldn't castigate old Major Roper for tattling, and at
the same time cross-examine him for her own purposes. It would be
underhand. But it would be very easy, if she could get at him, to make
him talk about it. She rehearsed ways and means that might be employed
to that end. For instance, nothing more natural than to recur to the
legend of how she bit General Pellew's finger; that would set him off!
She recited the form of speech to be employed. "Do you know, Major
Roper, I'm told I once bit a staff-officer's finger off," etc. Or would
it be better not to approach the matter with circumspection, but go
straight to the point--"You must have met my father, Major Roper,
etc.," and then follow on with explanations? Oh dear, how difficult it
was to settle! If only there were any one she could trust to talk to
about it! Really, Tishy was quite out of the question, even if she
could take her mind off her Bradshaw for five minutes, which she
couldn't.

"Of course, there's Prosy, if you come to that," was the conclusion
reached at the end of a long avenue of consideration, on each side of
which referees who might have been accepted, but had been rejected,
were supposed to be left to their disappointment. "Only, fancy making
a confidant of old Prosy! Why, he'd feel your pulse and look at your
tongue, just as likely as not."

But Dr. Vereker, thus dismissed to the rejected referees, seemed not to
care for their companionship, and to be able to come back. At any rate,
Miss Sally ended up a long cogitation with, "I've a great mind to go
and talk to Prosy about it, after all! Perhaps he would be at church."

Now, if this had been conversation instead of soliloquy, Sally's
constitutional frankness would have entered some protest against the
assumption that she intended to go to church as a matter of course. As
she was her only audience, and one that knew all about the speaker
already, she slurred a little over the fact that her decision to attend
church was influenced by a belief that probably Dr. Vereker would be
there. If she chose, she should deceive herself, and consult nobody
else. She looked at her watch, as the open-work clock with the punctual
ratchet-movement had stopped, and was surprised to find how late she
was. "Comes of weddings!" was her comment. However, she had time to
wind the clock up and set it going when she came downstairs again ready
for church.

St. Satisfax's Revd. Vicar prided himself on the appropriateness of his
sermons; so, this time, as he had yesterday united a distinguished and
beautiful widow to her second husband, he selected for his text the
parable of the widow's son. True, Mrs. Nightingale had no son, and
her daughter wasn't dead, and there is not a hint in the text that
the widow of Nain married again, or had any intention of doing so. On
the other hand, the latter had no daughter, presumably, and her son
was alive. And as to marrying again, why, there was the very gist
and essence of the comparison, if you chose to accept the cryptic
suggestions of the Revd. Vicar, and make it for yourself. The lesson
we had to learn from this parable was obviously that nowadays widows,
however good and solvent, were mundane, and married again; while in the
City of Nain, nineteen hundred years ago, they (being in Holy Writ)
were, as it were, Sundane, and didn't. The delicacy of the reverend
suggestion to this effect, without formal indictment of any offender,
passes our powers of description. So subtle was it that Sally felt she
had nothing to lay hold of.

Nevertheless, when the last of the group that included herself and the
doctor, and walked from St. Satisfax towards its atomic elements'
respective homes, had vanished down her turning--it was the large Miss
Baker, as a matter of fact--then Sally referred to the sermon and its
text, jumping straight to her own indictment of the preacher.

"Why shouldn't my mother marry again if she likes, Dr.
Vereker--especially Mr. Fenwick?"

"Don't you think it possible, Miss Sally, that the parson didn't mean
anything about your mother--didn't connect her in his mind with----"

"With the real widow in the parable? Oh yes, he did, though! As if
mother was a real widow!"

Now, the doctor had heard from his own widowed mother the heads of
the gossip about the supposed divorce. He had pooh-poohed this as mere
tattle--asked for evidence, and so on. But, having heard it, it was
not to be wondered at that he put a false interpretation on Sally's
last words. They seemed to acknowledge the divorce story. He felt
very unsafe, and could only repeat them half interrogatively, "As
if Mrs. Nightingale was a real widow?" But with the effect that
Sally immediately saw clean through him, and knew what was passing
in his mind.

"Oh no, Dr. Vereker! I wasn't thinking of _that_." She faced round to
disclaim it, turning her eyes full on the embarrassed doctor. Then she
suddenly remembered it was the very thing she had come out to talk
about, and felt ashamed. The slightest possible flush, that framed up
her smile and her eyes, made her at this moment a bad companion for
a man who was under an obligation not to fall in love with her--for
that was how the doctor thought of himself. Sally continued: "But I
wish I had been, because it would have done instead."

The young man was really, at the moment, conscious of very little
beyond the girl's fascination, and his reply, "Instead of what?" was
a little mechanical.

"I mean instead of explaining what I wanted you to talk about special.
But when I spoke, you know, just now about a real widow, I meant a real
widow that--that _wids_--you know what I mean. Don't laugh!"

"All right, Miss Sally. I'm serious." The doctor composes a
professional face. "I know perfectly what you mean." He waits for the
next symptom.

"Now, mother never did wid, and never will wid, I hope. She hasn't got
it in her bones." And then Miss Sally stopped short, and a little extra
flush got time to assert itself. But a moment after she rushed the
position without a single casualty. "I want to know what people say,
when I'm not there, about who my father was, and why he and mother
parted. And I'm sure you can tell me, and will. It's no use asking
Tishy Wilson any more about it." Observe the transparency of this young
lady. She wasn't going to conceal that she had talked of it to Tishy
Wilson--not she!

Dr. Vereker, usually reserved, but candid withal, becomes, under the
infection of Sally's frankness, candid and unreserved.

"People haven't talked any nonsense to _me_; I never let them. But my
mother has repeated to me things that have been said to her.... She
doesn't like gossip, you know!" And the young man really believes what
he says. Because his mother has been his religion--just consider!

"I know she doesn't." Sally analyses the position, and decides on the
fib in the twinkling of an eye. She is going to make a son break a
promise to his mother, and she knows it. So she gives him this as
a set-off. "But people _will_ talk to her, of course! Shall I get _her_
to tell _me_?"

The doctor considers, then answers:

"I think, Miss Sally--unless you particularly wish the contrary--I
would almost rather not. Mother believed the story all nonsense, and
was very much concerned that people should repeat such silly tattle.
She would be very unhappy if she thought it had come to your ears
through her repeating it in confidence to me."

"Perhaps you would really rather not tell it, doctor." Disappointment
is on Sally's face.

"No. As you have asked me, I prefer to tell it. Only you won't speak
to her at all, will you?"

"I really won't. You may trust me."

"Well, then, it's really very little when all's said and done. Somebody
told her--I won't say who it was--you don't mind?" Sally didn't--"told
her that your father behaved very badly to your mother, and that he
tried to get a divorce from her and failed, and that after that they
parted by mutual consent, and he went away to New Zealand when you were
quite a small baby."

"Was that quite all?"

"That was all mother told me. I'm afraid I rather cut her short by
saying I thought it was most likely all unfounded gossip. Was any of
it true? But I've no right to ask questions...."

"Oh, Dr. Vereker--no! That wouldn't be fair. Of course, when you are
asked to tell, you are allowed to ask. Every one always is. Besides,
I don't mind a bit telling you all I know. Only you'll be surprised at
my knowing so very little."

And then Sally, with a clearness that did her credit, repeated all the
information she had had--all that her mother had told her--what she had
extracted from Colonel Lund with difficulty--and lastly, but as the
merest untrustworthy hearsay, the story that had reached her through
her friend Lætitia. In fact, she went the length of discrediting it
altogether, as "Only Goody Wilson, when all was said and done." The
fact that her mother had told her so little never seemed to strike her
as strange or to call for comment. It was right that it should be so,
because it was in her mother's jurisdiction, and what she did or said
was right. Cannot most of us recall things unquestioned in our youth
that we have marvelled at our passive acceptance of since? Sally's
mother's silence about her father was ingrained in the nature of
things, and she had never speculated about him so much as she had done
since Professor Wilson's remark across the table had led to Lætitia's
tale about Major Roper and the tiger-shooting.

Sally's version of her mother's history was comforting to her hearer on
one point: it contained no hint that the fugitive to Australia was not
her father. Now, the fact is that the doctor, in repeating what his
mother had said to him, had passed over some speculations of hers about
Sally's paternity. No wonder the two records confirmed each other,
seeing that the point suppressed by the doctor had been studiously
kept from Sally by all her informants. He, for his part, felt that the
bargain did not include speculations of his mother's.

"Well, doctor?" Thus Sally, at the end of a very short pause for
consideration. Vereker does not seem to need a longer one. "You mean,
Miss Sally, do I think people talk spitefully of Mrs. Nightingale--I
suppose I must say Mrs. Fenwick now--behind her back? Isn't that the
sort of question?" Sally, for response, looks a little short nod at the
doctor, instead of words. He goes on: "Well, then, I don't think they
do. And I don't think you need fret about it. People will talk about
the story of the quarrel and separation, of course, but it doesn't
follow that anything will be said against either your father or mother.
Things of this sort happen every day, with fault on neither side."

"You think it was just a row?"

"Most likely. The only thing that seems to me to tell against your
father is what you said your mother said just now--something about
having forgiven him for your sake." Sally repeats her nod. "Well,
even that might be accounted for by supposing that he had been very
hot-tempered and unjust and violent. He was quite a young chap, you
see...."

"You mean like--like supposing Jeremiah were to go into a tantrum now
and flare up--he does sometimes--and then they were both to miff off?"

"Something of that sort. Very likely they would have understood each
other better if they had been a little older and wiser...."

"Like us?" says Sally, with perfect unconsciousness of one aspect of
the remark. "And then they might have gone on till now." Regret that
they did not do so is on her face, till she suddenly sees a new
contingency. "But then we shouldn't have had Jeremiah. I shouldn't have
fancied that at all." She doesn't really see why the doctor smiled at
this, but adds a grave explanation: "I mean, if I'd tried both, I might
have preferred my step." But there they were at Glenmoira Road, and
must say good-bye till Brahms on Thursday.

Only, the doctor did (as a matter of history) walk down that road with
Sally as far as the gate with Krakatoa Villa on it, and got home late
for his mid-day Sunday dinner, and was told by his mother that he might
have considered the servants. She herself was, meekly, out of it.



CHAPTER XVIII

  OF A SWIMMING-BATH, "ET PRÆTEREA EXIGUUM"


This was the best of the swimming-bath season, and Sally rarely passed
a day without a turn at her favourite exercise. If her swimming-bath
had been open on Sunday, she wouldn't have gone to church yesterday,
not even to meet Dr. Vereker and talk about her father to him. As it
was, she very nearly came away from Krakatoa Villa next morning without
waiting to see the letter from Rheims, the post being late. Why _is_
everything late on Monday?

However, she was intercepted by the postman and the foreign postmark--a
dozen words on a card, but she read them several times, and put the
card in her pocket to show to Lætitia Wilson. She was pretty sure to be
there. And so she was, and by ten o'clock had seen the card and
exhausted its contents. And by five-minutes-past Sally was impending
over the sparkling water of Paddington swimming-bath. She was dry so
far, and her blue bathing-dress could stick out. But it was not to be
for long, for her two hands went together after a preliminary stretch
to make a cutwater, and down went Sally with a mighty splash into the
deep--into the moderately deep, suppose we say--at any rate into ten
thousand gallons of properly filtered Thames water, which had been
(no doubt) sterilised and disinfected and examined under powerful
microscopes until it hadn't got a microbe to bless itself with. When
she came up at the other end, to taunt Lætitia Wilson with her
cowardice for not doing likewise, she was a smooth and shiny Sally,
like a deep blue seal above water, but with modifications towards
floating fins below.

"Now tell me about the row last night," said she, after reproaches met
by Lætitia with, "It's no use, dear. I wasn't born a herring like you."

Sally must have heard there had been some family dissension at Ladbroke
Grove Road as she came into the bath with Lætitia, whom she met at the
towel-yielding _guichet_. However, the latter wasn't disposed to
discuss family matters in an open swimming-bath in the hearing of the
custodian, to say nothing of possible concealed dressers in horse-boxes
alongside.

"My dear child, _is_ this the place to talk about things in? _Do_ be
a little discreet sometimes," is her reply to Sally's request.

"There's nobody here but us. Cut away, Tishy!" But Miss Wilson will
_not_ talk about the row, whatever it was, with the chance of
goodness-knows-who coming in any minute. For one thing, she wants to
enjoy the telling, and not to be interrupted. So it is deferred to
a more fitting season and place.

Goodness-knows-who (presumably) came in in the shape of Henriette
Prince, who was, after Sally, the next best swimmer in the Ladies'
Club. After a short race or two, won by Sally in spite of heavy odds
against her, the two girls turned their attention to the art of
rescuing drowning persons. A very amusing game was played, each
alternately committing suicide off the edge of the bath while the other
took a header to her rescue from the elevation which we just now saw
Sally on ready to plunge. The rules were clear. The suicide was to do
her best to drag the rescuer under water and to avoid being dragged
into the shallow end of the bath.

"I know you'll both get drowned if you play those tricks," says Lætitia
nervously.

"No--we _shan't_," vociferates Sally from the brink. "Now, are you
ready, Miss Prince? Very well. Tishy, count ten!"

"Oh, I wish you wouldn't! One--two--three...." And Lætitia, all whose
dignity and force of character go when she is bathing, does as she is
bidden, and, at the "ten," the suicide, with a cry of despair, hurls
herself madly into the water, and the rescuer flies to her succour.
What she has to do is to grasp the struggling quarry by the elbows
from behind and keep out of the reach of her hands. But the tussle that
ensues in the water is a short one, for the rescuer is no match for the
supposed involuntary resistance of the convulsed suicide, who eludes
the coming grasp of her hand with eel-like dexterity, and has her round
the waist and drags her under water in a couple of seconds.

"There now!" says Sally triumphantly, as they stand spluttering and
choking in the shallow water to recover breath. "Didn't I do that
beautifully?"

"Well, but _anybody_ could like that. When real people are drowning
they don't do it like that." Miss Prince is rather rueful about it.
But Sally is exultant.

"Oh, don't they!" she says. "They're worse when it's real
drowning--heaps worse!" Whereon both the other girls affirm in chorus
that then nobody can be saved without the Humane Society's
drags--unless, indeed, you wait till they are insensible.

"Can't they?" says Sally, with supreme contempt. "We were both of us
drowned that time fair. But now you go and drown yourself, and see if
I don't fish you out. Fire away!"

They fire away, and the determined suicide plays her part with spirit.
But she is no match for the submarine tactics of her rescuer, who seems
just as happy under water as on land, and rising under her at the end
of a resolute deep plunge, makes a successful grasp at the head of her
prey, who is ignominiously towed into safety, doing her best to drown
herself to the last.

This little incident is so amusing and exciting that the three young
ladies, who walk home together westward, can talk of nothing but
rescues all the way to Notting Hill. Then Miss Henriette Prince goes on
alone, and as Lætitia and Sally turn off the main road towards the home
of the former, the latter says: "Now tell me about the row."

It wasn't exactly a row, it seemed; but it came to the same thing.
Mamma had made up her mind to be detestable about Julius Bradshaw--that
was the long and short of it. And Sally knew, said Lætitia, how
detestable mamma could be when she tried. If it wasn't for papa, Julius
Bradshaw would simply be said not-at-home to, and have to leave a card
and go. But she was going to go her own way and not be dictated to,
maternal authority or no. Perhaps the speaker felt that Sally was
mentally taking exception to universal revolt, for a flavour of excuse
or justification crept in.

"Well!--I can't help it. I _am_ twenty-four, after all. I shouldn't
say so if there was anything against him. But no man can be blamed for
a cruel conjunction of circumstances, and mamma may say what she likes,
but being in the office really makes all the difference. And look how
he's supporting his mother and sister, who were left badly off. _I_
call it noble."

"But you know, Tishy, you did say the negro couldn't change his
spots, and that I must admit there were such things as social
distinctions--and you talked about sweeps and dustmen, you know you
did. Come, Tishy, did you, or didn't you?"

"If I said anything it was leopard, not negro. And as for sweeps and
dustmen, they were merely parallel cases used as illustrations; and I
don't think I deserve to have them raked up...." Miss Wilson is rather
injured over this grievance, and Sally appeases her. "She shan't have
them raked up, she shan't! But what was this row really about, that's
the point? It was yesterday morning, wasn't it?"

"How often am I to tell you, Sally dear, that there was really no
_row_, property speaking. If you were to say there had been comments
at breakfast yesterday, then recrimination overnight, and a stiffness
at breakfast again this morning, you would be doing more than justice
to it. You'll see now if mamma isn't cold and firm and disinherity and
generally detestable about it."

"But what _was_ it? That's what _I_ want to know."

"My dear--it was--absolutely nothing! Why should it be stranger for
Mr. Bradshaw to drive me home to save two hansoms than for you and
Dr. Vereker and the Voyseys to go all in one growler?"

"Because the Voyseys live just round the corner, quite close. It came
to three shillings because it's outside the radius." The irrelevancy of
this detail gives Lætitia an excuse for waiving the cab-question, on
which her position is untenable. She dilutes it with extraneous matter,
and it is lost sight of.

"It doesn't matter whether it's cabs or what it is. Mamma's just the
same about everything. Even walking up Holland Park Lane after the
concert at Kensington Town Hall. I am sure if ever anything was
reasonable, that was." She pauses for confirmation--is, in fact,
wavering about the correctness of her own position, and weakly seeking
reassurance. She is made happier by a nod of assent from Miss Sally.
"Awfully reasonable!" is the verdict of the latter. Whatever there is
lacking seriousness in the judge's face is too slight to call for
notice--a mere twinkle to be ignored. Very little self-deception is
necessary, and in this department success is invariable.

"I knew you would say so, dear," Tishy continues. "And I'm sure you
would about the other things too ... well, I was thinking about tea in
Kensington Gardens on Sunday. We have both of us a perfect right to
have tea independently, and the only question is about separate tables."

"Suppose I come--to make it square."

"Suppose you do, dear." And the proposal is a relief evidently.

A very slight insight into the little drama that is going on at
Ladbroke Grove Road is all that is wanted for the purposes of this
story. The foregoing dialogue, ending at the point at which the two
young women disappear into the door of No. 287, will be sufficient to
give a fairly clear idea of the plot of the performance, and to point
to its _dénouement_. The exact details may unfold themselves as
the story proceeds. The usual thing is a stand-up fight over the
love-affair, both parties to which have made up their minds--becoming
more and more obdurate as they encounter opposition from without--followed
by reconciliations more or less real. Let us hope for the former in the
present case, and that Miss Wilson and Mr. Bradshaw's lot may not be
crossed by one of those developments of strange inexplicable fury which
so often break out in families over the schemes of two young people to
do precisely what their parents did before them; and most ungovernably,
sometimes, on the part of members who have absolutely no suggestion
to make of any alternative scheme for the happiness of either.



CHAPTER XIX

HOW FENWICK KNEW ALL ABOUT THE MASS. AND HOW BARON KREUTZKAMMER
  RECOGNISED MR. HARRISSON. LONDON AGAIN!


"Why do they call it the _messe des paresseux_?" The question must have
been asked just as Sally looked at her watch because she saw the clock
had stopped. But the nave of the Cathedral of Rheims was very unlike
that of St. Satisfax as the bride and bridegroom lingered in out of the
sunshine, and the former took the unwarrantable liberty, for a heretic,
of crossing herself from the Holy Water at the foot of the column near
the door. But she made up for it by the amount of _sous_ she gave to
the old blind woman, who must have been knitting there since the days
of Napoleon at least, if she began in her teens.

"You haven't done it right, dearest. I knew you wouldn't. Look here."
And Fenwick crosses himself _secundum artem_, dipping his finger first
to make it valid.

"But how came you to know?" His wife does not say this; she only thinks
it. And how came he to know about the _messe des paresseux_? She
repeats her question aloud.

"Because the lazy people don't come to Mass till ten," he replies. They
are talking under their breath, as English folk do in foreign churches,
heedless of the loud gabble and resonant results of too much snuff
on the part of ecclesiastics off duty. Their own salvation has
been cultivated under a list slipper, cocoanut matting, secretive
pew-opener policy; and if they are new to it all, they are shocked to
see the snuff taken over the heads and wooden _sabots_ of the devout
country-folk, whose ancestors knelt on the same hard stone centuries
ago, and prayed for great harvests that never came, and to avert lean
years that very often did. The Anglican cannot understand the real
aboriginal Papist. Sally's mother was puzzled when she saw an old,
old kneeling figure, toothless and parchment-skinned, on whose rosary
a pinch of snuff _ut supra_ descended, shake it off the bead in
evidence, and get on to the next _Ave_, even as one who has business
before her--so many pounds of oakum to pick, so many bushels of peas
to shell. It was a reality to her; and there was the Blessed Virgin
herself, a visible certainty, who would see to the recognition of it
at headquarters.

Fenwick passed up the aisle, dreamily happy in the smell of the
incense, beside his bride of yesterday's making--she intensely happy
too, but in another way, for was not her bridegroom of yesterday her
husband of twenty years ago--cruelly wrenched away, but her husband for
all that. Still, there was always that little rift within the lute that
made the music--pray Heaven not to widen! Always that thought!--that he
might recollect. How could he remember the _messe des paresseux_, and
keep his mind a blank about how he came to know of it? It was the first
discomfort that had crossed her married mind--put it away!

It was easy to put it all away and forget it in the hush and gloom
of the great church, filled with the strange intonation from
Heaven-knows-where--some side-chapel unseen--of a Psalm it would have
puzzled David to be told was his, and a scented vapour Solomon would
have known at once; for neither myrrh nor frankincense have changed one
whit since his day. It was easy enough so long as both sat listening to
_Gloria in excelsis Deo, et in terra pax_. Carried _nem. con._ by all
sorts and conditions of Creeds. But when the little bobs and tokens and
skirt-adjustments of the fat priest and his handsome abettor (a young
fellow some girl might have been the wife of, with advantage to both)
came to a pause, and the congregation were to be taken into confidence,
how came Gerry to know beforehand what the fat one was going to say,
with that stupendous voice of his?

"_Hoc est corpus meum, et hic est calix sanguinis mei._ We all kneel,
I think." Thus the bridegroom under his breath. And his companion heard,
almost with a shudder, the selfsame words from the priest, as the
kneeling of the congregation subsided.

"Oh, Gerry--darling fellow! How _can_ you know that, and not know...."

"How I came by it? It's very funny, but I _can't_, and that's the
truth. I don't feel as if I ever _could_ know, what's more. But it all
seems a matter of course."

"Perhaps you're a Catholic all the while, without knowing it?"

"Perhaps I am. But I should like to know, because of going to the other
place with you. I shouldn't care about purgatory without you, Rosey
dearest. No--not even with a reversionary interest in heaven."

And then the plot thickened at the altar, and the odour of myrrh and
frankincense, and little bells rang to a climax, and the handsome young
priest, let us hope, felt he had got value for the loss of that
hypothetical girl.

       *       *       *       *       *

That little incident in the great church at Rheims was the first
anxiety of Rosalind Fenwick's married life--the first resumption of the
conditions she had been so often unnerved by during the period of their
betrothal. She was destined to be crossed by many such. But she was, as
we have said, a strong woman, and had made up her mind to take these
anxieties as part of the day's work--a charge upon her happiness that
had to be paid. It was a great consolation to her that she could speak
to her husband about the tension caused by her misgivings without
assigning any special reasons for anxiety that would not be his as much
as hers. She had to show uneasiness in order to get the relief his
sympathy gave her; but there were unknown possibilities in the Bush
enough to warrant it without going outside what was known to both. No
need at all that he should know of her separate unseen burden, for that!

But some of the jolts on the road, as we might call them, were to be
sore trials to Rosalind. One came in the fourth week of their honeymoon,
and quite spoiled for her the last three days of her holiday. However,
Fenwick himself laughed about it--that was one comfort.

It was at Sonnenberg. You know the Great Hotel, or Pension, near the
Seelisberg, that looks down on Lucerne Lake, straight over to where
Tell shot the arrow? If you do not, it does not matter. Mr. and Mrs.
Fenwick had never been there before, and have never been there since.
And what happened might just as easily have happened anywhere else.
But it was there, as a matter of fact; and if you know the place, you
will be able to imagine the two of them leaning on the parapet of the
terrace that overlooks the lake, watching the steamer from Lucerne
creeping slowly to the landing-place at the head of a white comet it
has churned the indescribable blue of the lake to, and discussing
whether it is nearest to Oriental sapphire or to green jasper at its
bluest.

Rosalind had got used to continual wonderment as to when and where
Fenwick had come to know so well this thing and that thing he spoke of
so familiarly; so she passed by the strange positiveness of his speech
about the shades of jasper, the scarcity of really blue examples, and
his verdict that the bluest possible one would be just the colour of
that water below them. She was not going to ask him how he came to be
so mighty wise about chalcedony and chrysoprase and sardonyx, about
which she herself either never knew or had forgotten. She took it all
as a matter of course, and asked if the Baron's cigar was a good one.

"Magnificent!" Fenwick replied, puffing at it. "How shall we return
his civility?"

"Give _him_ a cigar next time you get a chance."

Fenwick laughs, in derision of his own cigars.

"God bless me, my dearest love! Why, one of the Baron's is worth my
whole box. We must discover something better than that." Both ponder
over possible reciprocities in silence, but discover nothing, and seem
to give up the quest by mutual consent. Then he says: "I wonder why
he cosseted up to us last night in the garden so!" And she repeats:
"I wonder why!"

"I don't believe he even knows our name," she continues; and then he
repeats: "_I_ don't believe he knows our name. I'm sure he doesn't."

"And it was so dark, he couldn't have seen much of us. But his cigar's
quite beautiful. Blow the smoke in my face, Gerry!" She shuts her eyes
to receive it. How handsome Sally would think mamma was looking if she
could see her now in the light of the sunset! Her husband thinks much
to that effect, as he turns to blow the smoke on order into the face
that is so close to his, as they lean arm-in-arm on the parapet the sun
has left his warmth on, and means to take his eyes off in half an
hour. They really look quite a young couple, and the frivolity of their
conduct adds to the effect. Nobody would believe in her grown-up
daughter, to see that young Mrs. Algernon Fenwick.

"I am ferry root, Mrs. Harrisson. If I introot, you shall say I
introot." It is the Baron, manifestly. His form--or rather his bulk,
for he cannot be said to have a form; he is amorphous--is baronial in
the highest degree. His stupendous chest seems to be a huge cavern for
the secretion of gutturals, which are discharged as heavy artillery
at a hint from some unseen percussion-cap within.

Mrs. Fenwick starts, a little taken aback at the Baron's thunderclap;
for he had approached unawares, and her closed eyes helped on the
effect. When they opened, they looked round, as for a third person. But
the Baron was alone.

"Where is Mrs. Harrisson?" She asks the question with the most absolute
unconsciousness that she was herself the person addressed. The Baron,
still believing, presumably, that Fenwick is _Mr._ Harrisson, is not
a person to be trusted with the position created. He develops an
offensive waggery, shakes the forefinger that has detected an escapade,
and makes of his lips the round _O_ of shocked propriety, at heart in
sympathy with the transgressor. His little grey eyes glare through his
gold-rimmed spectacles, and his huge chest shakes with a substratum of
laughter, only just loud enough to put in the text.

"O-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho-ho! No, do not be afraight. She is not here. We
unterzdant. It is all unterzdoot. We shall be ferry tizgreet...." And
then the Baron pats space with his fingers only, not moving his hand,
as a general indication of secrecy to the universe.

Probably the slight flush that mantles the face he speaks to is less
due to any offence at his fat, good-humoured German raillery than to
some vague apprehension of the real nature of the position about to
develop. But Fenwick imputes it to the former. If Rosey was inclined to
treat the thing as a harmless joke, he would follow suit; but she looks
hurt, and her husband, sensitive about every word that is said to her,
blazes out:

"What on earth do you mean? What the devil do you mean? How dare you
speak to my wife like that?" He makes a half-step towards the burly
mass of flesh, still shaking with laughter. But his wife stops him.

"Do be patient, Gerry darling! Don't flare up like that. I'll have a
divorce. I'll tell Sally...." a threat which seems to have a softening
effect. "Can't you see, dear, that there is some misunderstanding?"
Fenwick looks from her to the Baron, puzzled. The latter drops his
jocular rallying.

"I saw last night you did not know me, Mr. Harrisson. That is
straintch! Have you forgotten Diedrich Kreutzkammer?" He says his name
with a sort of quiet confidence of immediate recognition. But Fenwick
only looks blankly at him.

"He does not know me!" cries the German, with an astonished voice.
"'Frisco--the Klondyke--Chicago--the bridge at Brooklyn--why, it is not
two years ago...." He pauses between the names of the places, enforcing
each as a reminder with an active forefinger.

Fenwick seems suddenly to breathe the fresh air of a solution of the
problem. He breaks into a sunny smile, to his wife's great relief.

"Indeed, Baron Kreutzkammer, _my_ name is not Harrisson. _My_ name is
Fenwick, and this lady is my wife--Mrs. Fenwick. I have never been in
any of the places you mention." For the moment he forgot his own state
of oblivion: a thing he was getting more and more in the habit of
doing. The Baron looked intently at him, and looked again. He slapped
his forehead, not lightly at all, but as if good hard slaps would
really correct his misapprehensions and put him right with the world.

"I am all _wronck_" he said, borrowing extra force from an indurated
_g_. "But it is ferry bustling--I am bustled!" By this he meant
puzzled. Fenwick felt apologetic.

"I don't know how to thank you for the cigar Mr. Harrisson ought to
have had," said he. He felt really ashamed of having smoked it under
false pretences.

"You shall throw it away, and I giff you one for yourself. That is
eacey! But I am bustled."

He continued puzzled. Mrs. Fenwick felt that he was only keeping
further comment and inquiry in check because it would have been
a doubt thrown on her husband's word to make any. Her uneasiness
would have been visible if her power of concealing it had not been
fortified by her belief that his happiness as well as hers depended
(for the present, at any rate) on his ignorance of his own past.
Perhaps she was wrong; with that we have nothing to do; we are telling
of things as they happened. Only we wish to record our conviction that
Rosalind Fenwick was acting for her husband's sake as well as her
own--not from a vulgar instinct of self-preservation.

The Baron made conversation, and polished his little powerful
spectacle-lenses. He blew his nose like a salute of one gun in the
course of his polishing. When _we_ blow _our_ nose, we hush our
pocket-handkerchief back into its home, and ignore it a little. The
Baron didn't. He continued polishing on an unalloyed corner through
the whole of a very perceptible amount of chat about the tricks memory
plays us, and the probable depth of the blue water below. Rosalind's
uneasiness continued. It grew worse, when the Baron, suddenly
replacing his spectacles and fixing his eyes firmly on her husband,
said sternly, "Yes, it is a bustle!" but was relieved when equally
suddenly, he shouted in a stentorian voice, "We shall meed lader,"
and took his leave.

"He's a jolly fellow, the Baron, anyhow!" said Fenwick. "I wonder
whether they heard him at Altdorf?"

"Every word, I should think. But how I should like to see the Mr.
Harrisson he took you for!"

This was really part of a policy of nettle-grasping, which continued.
She always felt happier after defying a difficulty than after
flinching. After all, if Gerry's happiness and her own were not motive
enough, consider Sally's. If she should really come to know her
mother's story, Sally might die of it.

Fenwick went on to the ending of the cigar, dreamily wondering,
evidently "bustled" like the Baron. As he blew the last smoke away,
and threw the smoking end down the slope, he repeated her words spoken
a minute before, "_I_ should like to see the Mr. Harrisson he took
me for."

"It would be funny to see oneself as ithers see one. Some power might
gie you the giftie, Gerry. If only we could meet that Mr. Harrisson!"

"Do you remember how we saw our profiles in a glass, and you said,
'I'm sure those are somebody else'? Illogical female!"

"Why was I illogical? I knew they were going to turn out us in the
end. But I was sure I shouldn't be convinced at once." And the talk
wandered away into a sort of paradoxical metaphysics.

But when, later in the evening, this lady was described by confidential
chat at the far end of the salon as that handsome young Mrs. Algernon
Fenwick who was only just married, and whose husband was playing chess
in the smoking-room, and what a pity it was they were not going to
stop over Monday, she thus described, accurately enough, was rather
rejoicing that that handsome Mr. Fenwick, who looked like a Holbein
portrait, was being kept quiet for half an hour, because she wanted to
get a chance for a little chat with that dreadful noisy Prussian Von,
who made all the glasses ring at table when he shouted so. Rosalind had
her own share of feminine curiosity, don't you see? and she was not by
any means satisfied about Mr. Harrisson. She did not acknowledge the
nature of her suspicions to herself, but she would very much like to
know, for all that! She got her opportunity.

"I shouldn't the least mind myself if smoking _were_ allowed in the
salon, Baron. You saw to-day that I really liked the smoke?"

"Ja! when I make that chogue. It was a root chogue. But I am
forgiffen?"

"It was Gerry who had to be forgiven, breaking out like that. I hope
he has promised not to do so any more?"

"He has bromiss to be goot. I have bromiss to be goot. We shall be
_sages enfants_, as the French say. But I will tell you, Madame
Fenwick, about my vrent Harrisson your Cherry is so ligue...."

"Let's go out on the terrace, then you can light a cigar and be
comfortable.... Yes, I'll have my wrap ... no, that's wrong-side-out
... that's right now.... Well, perhaps it will be a little cool for
sitting down. We can walk about."

"Now I can tell you about my vrent in America that your hussband is so
ligue. He could speague French--ferry well indeed." Rosalind looked up.
"It was when I heard your hussband speaguing French to that grosse
Grafin Pobzodonoff that I think to myself that was Alchernon Harrisson
that I knew in California."

"Suppose we sit down. I don't think it's too cold.... Yes, this place
will do nicely. It's sheltered from the wind." If she does look a
little pale--and she feels she does--it will be quite invisible in this
dark corner, for the night is dark under a canopy of blazing stars.
"What were you saying about French?"

"Alchernon Harrisson--that was his name--he could speague it well. He
spogue id ligue a nadiff. Better than I speague English. I speague
English so well because I have a knees at Ganderbury." This meant a
niece at Canterbury. Baron Kreutzkammer speaks English so well that it
is almost a shame to lay stress on his pronunciation of consonants.
The spelling is difficult too, so we will give the substance of what
he told Rosalind without his articulation. By this time she, for her
part, was feeling thoroughly uneasy. It seemed to her--but it may
be she exaggerated--that nothing stood between her husband and
the establishment of his identity with this Harrisson except the
difference of name. And how could she know that he had not changed his
name? Had she not changed hers?

The Baron's account of Harrisson was that he made his acquaintance
about three years since at San Francisco, where he had come to choose
gold-mining plant to work a property he had purchased at Klondyke.
Rosalind found it a little difficult to understand the account of how
the acquaintance began, from want of knowledge of mining machinery. But
the gist of it was that the Baron, at that time a partner in a firm
that constructed stamping-mills, was explaining the mechanism of one to
Harrisson, who was standing close to a small vertical pugmill, or mixer
of some sort, just at the moment the driving-engine had stopped and the
fly-wheel had nearly slowed down. He went carelessly too near the still
revolving machinery, and his coat-flap was caught and wound into the
helix of the pugmill. "It would have crowned me badly," said the Baron.
But he remained unground, for Harrisson, who was standing close to the
moribund fly-wheel, suddenly flung himself on it, and with incredible
strength actually cut short the rotation before the Baron could
be entangled in a remorseless residuum of crushing power, which, for
all it looked so gentle, would have made short work of a horse's
thigh-bone. The Baron's coat was spoiled, though he was intact. But
Harrisson's right arm had done more than a human arm's fair share of
work, and had to rest and be nursed. They had become intimate friends,
and the Baron had gone constantly to inquire after the swelled arm. It
took time to become quite strong again, he said. It was a fine strong
arm, and burned all over with gunpowder, "what you call daddooed in
English."

"Did it get quite well?"

"Ferry nearly. There was a little blaze in the choint here"--the Baron
touched his thumb--"where the bane remained--a roomadic bane. He
burgessed a gopper ring for it. It did him no goot." Luckily Rosalind
had discarded the magic ring long since, or it might have come into
court awkwardly.

If she still entertained any doubts about the identity of her husband
and Harrisson, the Baron's next words removed them. They came in answer
to an expression of wonder of hers that he should so readily accept her
husband's word for his identity in the face of the evidence of his own
senses. "I really think," she had said, "that if I were in your place
I should think he was telling fibs." This was nettle-grasping.

"Ach, ach! No--no--no!" shouted the Baron, so loud that she was afraid
it would reach the chess-players in the smoking-room, "I arrife at it
by logic, by reasson. Giff me your attention." He held up one finger
firmly, as an act of hypnotism, to procure it. "Either I am ride or
I am wronck. I cannot be neither."

"You might be mistaken."

The Baron's finger waved this remark aside impatiently. "I will fairy
the syllogism," he shouted. "Either your husband _is_ Mr. Harrisson,
or he is _not_. He cannot be neither." This was granted. "Ferry well,
then. If he is Mr. Harrisson, Mr. Harrisson has doled fips. But I know
Mr. Harrisson would not dell fips. Imbossible!"

"And if he is not?" The Baron points out that in this case his
statement is true by hypothesis, to say nothing of the intrinsic
probability of truthfulness on the part of any one so like Mr.
Harrisson. He is careful to dwell on the fact that this consideration
of the matter is purely analysis of a metaphysical crux, indulged in
for scientific illumination. He then goes on to apologize for having
been so very positive. But no doubt one or two minor circumstances had
so affected his imagination that he saw a very strong likeness where
only a very slight one existed. "I shall look again. I shall be wicer
next time." But what were the minor circumstances, Rosalind asked.

"There was the French--the lankwitch--that was one. But there was
another--his _noce_! I will tell you. When my frent Harrisson gribe
holt of that wheel, his head go down etchwice." The Baron tried to hint
at this with his own head, but his neck, which was like a prize-bull's,
would not lend itself to the illustration. "That wheel was ferry
smooth--with a sharp gorner. _His noce touch that corner._" The Baron
said no more in words, but pantomimic action and a whistle showed
plainly how the wheel-rim had glided on the bridge of Mr. Harrisson's
nose. "It took off the gewdiggle, and made a sgar. Your hussband's
noce has that ferry sgar. That affected my imatchination. It is easy
to unterzdant."

But the subject was frightening Rosalind. She would have liked to hear
much more about Mr. Harrisson; might ever have ended by taking the fat
Baron, whom she thoroughly liked, into her confidence. The difficulty,
however, was about decision in immediate action, which would be
irrevocable. Silence was safer--or, sleep on it at least. For now, she
must change the conversation.

"How sweet the singing sounds under the starlight!" But the Baron will
not tolerate any such loose inaccuracy.

"It would sount the same in the taydime. The fibrations are the same."
But he more than makes up for his harsh prosaism by singing, in unison
with the singers unseen:

  "Ich weiss nicht was soll es bedeuten
  Dass ich so traurig bin...."

No one could ever have imagined that such heavenly sounds could come
from anything so fat and noisy. Mrs. Fenwick shuts her eyes to listen.

When she opens them again, jerked back from a temporary dream-paradise
by the Baron remarking with the voice of Stentor or Boanerges that it
is a "ferry broody lied," her husband is standing there. He has been
listening to the music. The Baron adds that his friend Mr. Harrisson
was "ferry vond of that lied."

But when the two of them have said a cordial good-night to the unwieldy
nightingale, who goes away to bed, as he has to leave early in the
morning, Fenwick is very silent, and once and again brushes his hair
about, and shakes his head in his old way. His wife sees what it is.
The music has gone as near touching the torpid memory as the wild
autumn night and the cloud-race round the moon had done in the little
front garden at home a year ago.

"A recurrence, Gerry?" she asks.

"Something of the sort, Rosey love," he says. "Something quite mad this
time. There was a steam-engine in it, of all things in the world!" But
it has been painful, evidently--a discomfort at least--as these things
always are.

Rosalind's apprehension of untimely revelations dictated a feeling
of satisfaction that the Baron was going away next day; her regret
at losing the choice of further investigation admitted one of
dissatisfaction that he had gone. The net result was unsettlement and
discomfort, which lasted through the remainder of Sonnenberg, and did
not lift altogether until the normallest of normal life came back in
a typical London four-wheeler, which dutifully obeyed the injunction
to "go slowly," not only through the arch that injunction brooded over,
but even to the end of the furlong outside the radius which commanded
an extra sixpence and got more. But what did that matter when Sally was
found watching at the gate for its advent, and received her stepfather
with an undisguised hug as soon as she found it in her heart to
relinquish her mother?



CHAPTER XX

MERE DAILY LIFE AT KRAKATOA. BUT SALLY IS QUITE FENWICK'S DAUGHTER
  BY NOW. OF HER VIEWS ABOUT DR. VEREKER, AND OF TISHY'S AUNT FRANCES


When you come back from a holiday to a sodden and monstrous London,
it is best to be welcomed by something young--by a creature that is
convinced that it has been enjoying itself, and that convinces you as
well, although you can't for the life of you understand the details.
Why should anything enjoy itself or anything else in this Cimmerian
gloom, while away over there the great Alpine peaks are white against
the blue, and otherwhere the music of a hundred seas mixes with their
thunder on a thousand shores? Why come home?

But when we do and find that nothing particular has happened, and that
there's a card for us on the mantelpiece, how stuffy are our welcomers,
and how well they tone into the surrounding grey when they are elderly
and respectable? It is different when we find that, from their point of
view, it is we that have been the losers by our absence from all the
great and glorious fun the days have been made of while we were away
on a mistaken and deluded continent, far from this delectable human
ant-hill--this centre and climax of Life with a capital letter. But
then, when this is so, they have to be young, as Sally was.

The ex-honeymooners came back to jubilant records of that young lady's
experience during the five weeks of separation. She listened with
impatience to counter records of adventures abroad, much preferring to
tell of her own at home. Mr. and Mrs. Fenwick acquiesced in the _rôle_
of listeners, and left the rostrum to Sally after they had been revived
with soup, and declined cutlets, because they really had had plenty to
eat on the way. The rostrum happened to be a hassock on the hearthrug,
before the little bit of fire that wasn't at all unwelcome, because
September had set in quite cold already, and there was certain to be a
warm Christmas if it went on like this, and it would be very unhealthy.

"And oh, do you know"--thus Sally, after many other matters had been
disposed of--"there has been such an awful row between Tishy and her
mother about Julius Bradshaw?" Sally is serious and impressed; doesn't
see the comic side, if there is one. Her mother felt that if there was
to be a volley of indignation discharged at Mrs. Wilson for her share
in the row, she herself, as belonging to the class mother, might feel
called on to support her, and was reserved accordingly.

"I suppose Lætitia wants to marry Mr. Bradshaw. Is that it?"

"Of course that's it! He hasn't proposed, because he's promised not
to; but he will any time Tishy gives a hint. Meanwhile Goody Wilson has
refused to sanction his visits at the house, and Lætitia has said she
will go into lodgings."

"Sally darling, I do wish you wouldn't call all the married ladies of
your acquaintance _Goody_. You'll do it some day to their faces."

"It's only the middle-aged bouncers."

"Well, dear chick, do try and not call them Goody. What did Goo--there!
I was going to do it myself. What did Mrs. Wilson say to that?"

"Said Tishy's allowance wouldn't cover lodgings, and she had nothing
else to fall back on. So we go into the Park instead."

Even Mrs. Fenwick's habituation to her daughter's incisive method is no
proof against this. She breaks into an affectionate laugh, and kisses
its provoker, who protests.

"We-e-ell! There's nothing in _that_. We have tea in the shilling
places under the trees in Kensington Gardens. _That's_ all right."

"Of course that's all right--with a _chaperon_ like you! Who _could_
say anything? But do tell me, Sally darling, does Mrs. Wilson dislike
this young man on his own account, or is it only the shop?"

"Only the shop, I do believe. And Tishy's twenty-four! What _is_ my
stepfather sitting smiling at there in that contented way? Is that
a Mossoo cigar? It smells very nice."

"I was smiling at you, Sarah. No, it's not a Mossoo that I know of. A
German Baron gave it me.... No, dearest! It really _was_ all right....
No--I really can't exactly say how; but it _was_ all right for all
that...." This was in answer to a comment of his wife.

"Never mind the German Baron," Sally interrupts. "What business have
you to smile at me, Jeremiah?" They had christened each other Jeremiah
and Sarah for working purposes.

"Because I chose--because you're such a funny little article." He comes
a little nearer to her, and putting his arm round her neck, pinches her
off-cheek. She gives him a very short kiss--hardly a real one--just an
acknowledgment. He remains with her little white hand in his great
hairy one, and she leans against him and accepts the position. But that
cigar is on her mother's mind.

"How many did he give you, Gerry? Now tell the truth."

"He gave me a lot. I smuggled them. I can't tell you _why_ it seemed
all right I should accept them. But it _did_."

"I suppose you know best, dear. Men are men, and I'm a female. But he
was such a perfect stranger." She, of course, knew quite well that he
was not, but there was nettle-grasping in it on her part.

"Yes, he was. But somehow he didn't seem so. Perhaps it was because I
flew into such a rage with him about what he called his 'crade chogue.'
But it wasn't _only_ that. Something about the chap himself--I can't
tell what." And Fenwick becomes _distrait_, with a sort of restless
searching on his face. He sits on, silent, patting Sally's little white
hand in his, and letting the prized cigar take care of itself, and
remains silent until, after a few more interesting details about the
"great row" at Ladbroke Grove Road, all three agree that sleep is
overdue, and depart to receive payment.

Rosalind knows the meaning of it all perfectly. Some tiny trace of
memory of the fat Kreutzkammer lingered in her husband's crippled
mind--something as confused as the revolving engine's connexion with
the German volkslied. But enough to prevent his feeling the ten francs'
worth of cigars an oppressive benevolence. It was very strange to
her that it should so happen, but, having happened, it did not seem
unnatural. What was stranger still was that Gerry should be there,
loving Sally like a father--just as her own stepfather Paul Nightingale
had come to love _her_--caressing her, and never dreaming for a moment
how that funny little article came about. Yes, come what might, she
would do her best to protect these two from that knowledge, however
many lies she had to tell. She was far too good and honourable a
woman to care a particle about truthfulness as a means to an easy
conscience; she did not mind the least how much hers suffered if it
was necessary to the happiness of others that it should do so. And
in her judgment--though we admit she may have been wrong--a revelation
of the past would have taken all the warmth and light out of the happy
and contented little world of Krakatoa Villa. So long as she had the
cloud to herself, and saw the others out in the sunshine, she felt
safe, and that all was well.

She would have liked companionship inside the cloud, for all that. It
was a cruel disappointment to find, when she came to reflect on it,
that she could not carry out a first intention of taking Colonel Lund
into her confidence about the Baron, and the undoubted insight he had
given into some portion of Fenwick's previous life. Obviously it would
have involved telling her husband's whole story. Her belief that he was
Harrisson involved her knowledge that he was not Fenwick. The Major
would have said at once: "Why not tell him all this Baron told you, and
see if it wouldn't bring all his life back to him?" And then she would
have to tell the Major who he really was, to show him the need of
keeping silence about the story. No, no! Danger lay that way. Too much
finessing would be wanted; too many reserves.

So she bore her secret knowledge alone, for their sakes feeling all
the while like the scapegoat in the wilderness. But it was a happy
wilderness for her, as time proved. Her husband's temper and
disposition were well described by Sally, when she told Dr. Vereker in
confidence one day that when he boiled he blew the lid off, but that
he was a practical lamb, and was wax in her mother's hands. A good fizz
did good, whatever people said. And the doctor agreed cordially. For
he had a mother whose temper was notoriously sweetness itself, but was
manipulated by its owner with a dexterity that secured all the effects
of discomfort to its beneficiaries, without compromising her own claims
to canonization.

Fenwick's temper--this expression always means want of temper, or
absence of temper--was of the opposite sort. It occasioned no
inconvenience to any one, and every one detected and classed it after
knowing him for twenty-four hours. The married couple had not existed
for three months in that form before this trivial individuality was
defined by Ann and Cook as "only master." Sally became so callous after
a slight passing alarm at one or two explosions that she would, for
instance, address her stepfather, after hearing his volleys at
some offender in the distance, with, "Who did I hear you calling a
confounded idiot, Jeremiah?" To which he would reply, softening into
a genial smile: "Lost my temper, I did, Sarah dear. Lost my temper with
the Wash. The Wash sticks in pins and the heads are too small to get
hold of"; or, "People shouldn't lick their envelopes up to the hilt,
and spoil one's ripping-corner, unless they want a fellow to swear";
or something similar belonging to the familiar trials of daily life.

But really safety-valve tempers are so common that Fenwick's would
scarcely have called for notice if it had not been that, on one
occasion, a remark of Sally's about a rather more vigorous _émeute_
than usual led her mother, accidentally thrown off her guard, to reply:
"Yes! But you have no idea how much better he is----" and then to stop
suddenly, seeing the mistake she was making. She had no time to see
a way out of the difficulty before Sally, puzzled, looked at her with:
"Better than when? I've known him longer than you have, mother." For
Sally always boasted of her earlier acquaintance.

"No _when_ at all, kitten! How much better he is when we are alone!
He never flares up then--that's what I meant." But she knew quite well
that her sentence, if finished, would have stood, "how much better he
is than he used to be!" She was too candid a witness in the court of
her own conscience to make any pretence that this wasn't a lie. Of
course it was; but if she never had to tell a worse one than that for
Sally's sake, she would be fortunate indeed.

She was much more happy in the court of her conscience than she was in
that of St. Satisfax--if we may ascribe a judicial status to him, to
help us through with our analysis of her frame of mind. His was a court
which, if not identical at all points with the analogous exponents of
things Divine in her youth, was fraught with the same jurisdiction;
was vocal with resonances that proclaimed the same consequences to the
unredeemed that the mumblings of a pastor of her early days, remembered
with little gratitude, had been inarticulate with. Her babyhood had
received the idea that liars would be sent unequivocally to hell, and
her maturity could not get rid of it. Outside the precinct of the
saint, the brief working morality that considers other folk first was
enough for her; within it, the theologism of an offended deity still
held a traditional sway. Outside, her whole soul recoiled from the idea
of her child knowing a story that would eat into her heart like a
cancer; within, a reserve-corner of that soul, inoculated when it was
new and susceptible, shuddered at her unselfish adhesion to the only
means by which that child could be kept in ignorance.

However, she was clear about one thing. She would apologize in prayer;
but she would go to hell rather than have Sally made miserable. Thus it
came about that Mrs. Fenwick continued a very devout church-goer, and,
as her husband never left her side when he had a choice, he, too,
became a frequent guest of St. Satisfax, whom he seemed to regard as
a harmless though fantastic person who lived in some century or other,
only you always forgot which.

His familiarity with the usages of the reformed St. Satisfax, and his
power of discriminating the lapses of that saint towards the vices
of his early unregenerate days--he being all the while perfectly
unconscious how he came to know anything of either--continued to
perplex his wife, and was a source of lasting bewilderment to Sally.
A particular incident growing out of this was always associated in
Rosalind's mind with an epithet he then applied to Sally for the first
time, but which afterwards grew to be habitual with him.

"Of course, it's the Communion-table," he said in connexion with some
discussion of church furniture. "We have no altars in our church
nowadays. You're a Papist, Sarah!"

"I thought Communion-tables were an Evangelical start," said Sally
irreverently. "A Low Church turn-out. Our Mr. Prince is a Tractarian,
and a Ritualist, and a Puseyite, and an Anglican. That's his game! The
Bishop of London won't let him perform High Mass, and _I_ think it a
shame! Don't you?... But I say, Jeremiah!" And Jeremiah refrained from
expressing whatever indignation he felt with the Bishop of London, to
find what Sally said. It was to the effect that it was incredible that
he should know absolutely nothing about the original source of his
information.

"I can only tell you, Sarah dear," he said, with the ring of sadness in
his voice that always came on this topic, "that I _do_ remember nothing
of the people who taught me, or the place I learned in. Yet I know
about Tract No. 90, and Pusey and Newman, for all that. How I remember
things that were information, and forget things that were things, is
more than I can tell you. But can't you think of bits of history you
know quite well, without ever recalling where you got them from?"

"Of course I can. At least, I could if I knew some history. Only I
don't. Oh yes, I do. Perkin Warbeck and Anne of Cleves. I've forgotten
about them now, only I know I knew them both. I've answered about them
in examinations. They're history all right enough. As to who taught me
about them, couldn't say!"

"Very well, Sarah. Now put a good deal of side into your stroke, and
you'll arrive at me."

But the revival of the old question had dug up discomfort his mind had
done its best to inter; and he went silent and sat with a half-made
cigarette in his fingers thinking gravely. Rosalind, at a writing-table
behind him, moved her lips at Sally to convey an injunction. Sally,
quickly apprehensive, understood it as "Let him alone! Don't rake up
the electrocution!" But Sally's native directness betrayed her, and
before she had time to think, she had said, "All right; I won't." The
consequence of which was that Fenwick--being, as Sally afterwards
phrased it, "too sharp by half"--looked up suddenly from his reverie,
and said, as he finished rolling his cigarette, "What won't our
daughter?"

The pleasure that struck through his wife's heart was audible in her
voice as she caught it up. "Our daughter won't be a silly inquisitive
little puss-cat, darling. It only worries you, and does no good."
And he replied to her, as she came behind him and stood with an
appreciative side-face against his, with a semi-apology for the phrase
"daughter," and allowed the rest of what they were speaking of to
lapse.

"I called her it for the pleasure of saying it," said he. "It sounded
so nice!" And then he knew that her kiss was approval, but of course
had no conception of its thoroughness. For her part, she hardly dared
to think of the strangeness of the position; she could only rejoice
at its outcome.

After that it became so natural to him to speak of Sally as "our
daughter" that often enough new acquaintances misconceived her relation
to him, and had a shrewd insight that Mr. and Mrs. Fenwick must have
been married very young. Once some visitors--a lady with one married
daughter and two single ones--were so powerfully impressed with Sally's
resemblance to her supposed parent that three-fourths of them went
unconvinced away, in spite of the efforts of the whole household to
remove the error. The odd fourth was supposed to have carried away
corrective information. "I got the flat one, with the elbows, in
a quiet corner," said Sally, "and told her Jeremiah was only step.
Because they all shouted at once, so it was impossible to make them
hear in a lump."

Mistakes of this sort, occurring frequently, reacted on Mr. and Mrs.
Fenwick, who found in them a constant support and justification for
the theory that Sally was really the daughter of both, while admitting
intellectual rejection of it to be plausible to commonplace minds. They
themselves got on a higher level, where _ex-post-facto_ parentages
were possible. Causes might have miscarried, but results having turned
out all right, it would never do to be too critical about antecedents.
Anyhow, Sally was _going to be_ our daughter, whether she _was_ or not.

Rosalind always found a curious consolation in the reflection that,
however bewildering the position might be, she had it all to herself.
This was entirely apart from her desire to keep Fenwick in ignorance
of his past; that was merely a necessity for his own sake and Sally's,
while this related to the painfulness of standing face to face with
an incredible conjunction of surroundings. She, if alone, could take
refuge in wonder-struck silence. If her knowledge were shared with
another, how could examination and analysis be avoided? And these would
involve the resurrection of what she could keep underground as long
as she was by herself; backed by a thought, if needed, of the merry
eyebrows and pearly teeth, and sweet, soft youth, of its unconscious
result. But to be obliged to review and speculate over what she desired
to forget, and was helped to forget by gratitude for its consequences,
would have been a needless addition to the burden she had already
to bear.

The only person she could get any consolation from talking with was
the Major, who already knew, or nearly knew, the particulars of the
nightmare of twenty years ago. But, then--we feel that we are repeating
this _ad nauseam_--he was quite in the dark about Fenwick's identity,
and was to be kept there. Rosalind had decided it so, and she may have
been right.

Would she have done better by forcing on her husband the knowledge of
his own identity, and risking the shock to her daughter of hearing the
story of her outsider father's sin against her mother? Her decision
against this course was always emphasized by--may even have been
unconsciously due to--her prevision of the difficulty of the
communication to Sally. How should she set about it? She pictured
various forms of the attempt to herself, and found none she did not
shudder at.

The knowledge that such things could be would spoil the whole world for
the girl. She had to confess to herself that the customary paltering
with the meaning of words that enables modern novels to be written
about the damnedest things in the universe would either leave her mind
uninformed, or call for a commentary--a rubric in the reddest of red
letters. Even a resort to the brutal force of Oriental speech done into
Jacobean English would be of little avail. For hypocrisy is at work all
through juvenile reception of Holy Writ, and brings out as a result
the idea that that writ is holy because it uses coarse language about
things that hardly call for it. It Bowdlerises Potiphar's wife, and
favours the impression that in Sodom and Gomorrah the inhabitants were
dissipated and sat up late. This sort of thing wouldn't work with
Sally. If the story were to be told at all, her thunderbolt directness
would have it all out, down to the ground. Her mother went through the
_pros_ and _cons_ again and again, and always came to the same
conclusion--silence.

But for all that, Rosalind had a background belief that a time would
come when a complete revelation would be possible. Her mind stipulated
for a wider experience for Sally before then. It would be so infinitely
easier to tell her tale to one who had herself arrived at the goal of
motherhood, utterly unlike as (so she took for granted) was to be the
way of her arrival, sunlit and soft to tread, from the black precipice
and thorny wastes that had brought her to her own.

Any possible marriage of Sally's, however, was a vague abstraction of
an indistinct future. Perhaps we should say _had been_, and admit that
since her own marriage Mrs. Fenwick had begun to be more distinctly
aware that her little daughter was now within a negligible period of
the age when her own tree of happiness in life had been so curtly
broken off short, and no new leafage suffered to sprout upon the broken
stem. This identity of age could not but cause comparison of lots.
"Suppose it had been Sally!" was the thought that would sometimes
spring on her mother's mind; and then the girl would wonder what mamma
was thinking of that she should make her arm that was round her tighten
as though she feared to lose her, or bring her an irrelevant,
unanticipated kiss.

This landmark-period bristled with suggested questions of what was to
follow it. Sally would marry--that seemed inevitable; and her mother,
now that she was herself married again, did not shrink from the idea
as she had done, in spite of her protests against her own selfishness.

Miss Sally's attitude toward the tender passion did not at present
give any grounds for supposing that she was secretly its victim, or
ever would be. Intense amusement at the perturbation she occasioned
to sensitive young gentlemen seemed to be the nearest approach to
reciprocating their sentiments that she held out any hopes of. She
admitted as a pure abstraction that it was possible to be in love,
but regarded applicants as obstacles that stood in their own way.

"I'm sure his adoration does him great credit," she said to Lætitia
one day about a new devotee--for there was no lack of them. "But it's
his eyes, and his nose, and his mouth, and his chin, and his ears, and
his hair, and his hands and his feet, and his altogether that----"

"That what?" asked her friend.

"That you can't expect a girl to then, if you insist upon it."

"Some girl will, you'll see, one of these days."

"What!--even that man with teeth!" This was some chance acquaintance,
useful for illustration, but not in the story. Lætitia knew enough of
him to give a testimonial.

"He's a very good fellow, whatever you may say!" said she.

"My dear Tishy! Goodness is the distinguishing feature of the opposite
sex. I speak as a person of my own. Men's moral qualities are always
high. If it wasn't for their appearance, and their manners, and their
defective intelligences, they would make the most charming husbands."

"How very young you are!" Miss Wilson said, superior experience oozing
out at every pore. Sally might have passed this by, but when it came
to patting you on the cheek, she drew a line.

"Tishy dear, do you mean to go on like that, when I'm a hundred and you
are a hundred and five?"

"Yes, dear. At least, I can't say. Anything may have happened by then."

"What sort of thing? Come, Tishy, don't be enigmatical. For instance?"

"You'll change your mind and be wiser--you'll see." Which might have
been consecutive in another conversation. But it was insufferably
patronizing in Lætitia to evade the centenarian forecast that should
have come in naturally, and retreat into a vague abstraction, managing
to make it appear (Sally couldn't say how or why) that her own general
remarks about man, which meant nothing, were a formal proclamation
of celibacy on her part. It is odd how little the mere wording of
a conversation may convey, especially girl's conversation. What _is_
there in the above to warrant what came next from Sally?

"If you mean Dr. Vereker, that's ridiculous."

"I never mentioned his name, dear."

"Of course you didn't; you couldn't have, and wouldn't have. But
anybody could tell what you meant, just the same, by leaving your mouth
open when you'd done speaking." We confess freely that we should not
have known, but what are we? Why _should_ Lætitia's having left her
lips slightly ajar, instead of closing them, have "meant Dr. Vereker"?

But the fact is--to quote an expression of Sally's own--brain-waves
were the rule and not the exception with her. And hypnotic suggestion
raged as between her and Miss Lætitia Wilson, interrupting practice,
and involving the performers in wide-ranging, irrelevant discussion. It
was on a musical occasion at Ladbroke Grove Road that this conversation
took place.

Lætitia wasn't going to deny Dr. Vereker, evidently, or else there
really was something very engrossing about her G string. Sally went on,
while she dog's-eared her music, which was new, to get good turning-over
advantages when it came to playing.

"My medical adviser's not bad, taken as an aunt. I don't quite know
what I should do without poor Prosy. But as for anything, of course
that's absurd. Why, half the fun is that there _isn't_ anything!"

Lætitia knew as well as possible that her young friend, once started,
would develop the subject on her own lines without further help from
her. She furnished her face with a faint expression of amused waiting,
not strong enough to be indictable, but operative, and said never
a word.

"Foolery would spoil it all," pursued Sally; "in fact, I put my
foot down at the first go-off. I pointed out that I stipulated to
be considered a chap. Prosy showed tact--I must say that for
Prosy--distinctly tact. You see, if I had had to say a single word
to him on the subject, it would have been all up." Then possibly,
in response to a threat of an inflexion in her friend's waiting
countenance, "I should say, when I make use of the expression 'pointed
out,' perhaps I ought to say 'conveyed to him.'" Sally gets the viola
in place for a start, and asks is her friend ready? Waiting, it seems;
so she merely adds, "Yes, I should say conveyed it to him." And off
they go with the new piece of music in B flat, and are soon involved in
terrifying complications which have to be done all over again. At the
end, they are ungrateful to B flat, and say they don't care much for
it; it will be better when they can play it, however. Then Lætitia
schemes to wind Sally up a little.

"Doesn't the Goody goozle at you about him, though? You said she did."

"The Goody--oh yes! (By-the-bye, mother says I mustn't call your ma
Goody Wilson, or I shall do it to her face, and there'll be a pretty
how-do-you-do.) Prosy's parent broods over one, and gloats as if one
was crumpets; but Prosy himself is very good about her--aware of her
shortcomings."

"I don't care what you call _my_ mother. Call her any name you like.
But what does Dr. Vereker say?"

"About his'n? Says she's a dear good mother, and I mustn't mind her.
I say, Tishy!"

"What, dear?"

"What _is_ the present position of the row? You said your mother. You
know you did--coming from the bath--after Henriette went away."

"I did say my mother, dear. But I wish it were otherwise. I've told
Mr. Bradshaw so."

"You'd be much nicer if you said Julius. Told him what?"

"Told him a girl can't run counter to the wishes of her family in
practice. Of course, M--well, then, Julius, if you will have it--is
ready to wait. But it's really ridiculous to talk in this way, when,
after all, nothing's been said."

"_Has_ nothing?"

"Not _to_ anybody. Only him and me."

"At Riverfordhook?"

"Why, yes, what I told you. We needn't go over it again."

"In the avenue. And moonrise and things. What o'clock was it, please,
ma'am?"

"About ten-fifteen, dear. We were in by eleven." This was a faint
attempt to help dignity by a parade of accuracy in figures, and an
affectation of effrontery. "But really we needn't go over it again. You
know what a nice letter he wrote Aunt Frances?" And instead of waiting
for an answer, Tishy, perhaps to avoid catechism about the moonrise and
things, ploughs straight on into a recitation of her lover's letter to
her aunt: "Dear Lady Sales--Of course it will (quite literally) give me
the _greatest possible_ pleasure to come. I will bring the Strad"; and
then afterwards he said: "I hope your niece will give a full account
of me, and not draw any veils over my social position. However, this
being written at my desk here on the shop-paper will prevent any
misunderstanding."

"Your Aunt Frances has been hatching you--you two!" says Sally,
ignoring the letter.

"She is a dear good woman, if ever there was one. I wish mamma was my
aunt-by-marriage, and she her!" And then Lætitia went on to tell many
things about the present position of the "row" between herself and her
mother, concerning which it can only be said that nothing transpired
that justified its existence. Seeing that no recognition was asked for
of any formal engagement either by the "young haberdasher" himself--for
that was the epithet applied to him (behind his back, of course) by
the older lady--or by the object of his ambitious aspirations, it might
have been more politic, as well as more graceful, on her part, to leave
the affair to die down, as love-affairs unopposed are so very apt to
do. Instead of which she needs must begin endeavouring to frustrate
what at the time of her first interference was the merest flirtation
between a Romeo who was tied to a desk all day, and a Juliet who was
constantly coming into contact with other potential Romeos--plenty of
them. Our own private opinion is that if the Montagus and Capulets had
tried to bury the hatchet at a public betrothal of the two young
people, the latter would have quarrelled on the spot. Setting their
family circles by the ears again would almost have been as much fun as
a secret wedding by a friar. You doubt it? Well, we may be wrong. But
we are quite certain that the events which followed shortly after the
chat between the two girls recorded above either would never have come
to pass, or would have taken an entirely different form, if it had not
been for the uncompromising character of Mrs. Sales Wilson's attitude
towards her daughter's Romeo.

We will give this collateral incident in our history a chapter to
itself, for your convenience more than our own. You can skip it, you
see, if you want to get back to Krakatoa Villa.



CHAPTER XXI

OF JULIUS BRADSHAW'S INNER SOUL. AND OF THE HABERDASHER'S BATTLE AT
  LADBROKE GROVE ROAD. ON CARPET STRETCHING, AND VACCINATION FROM
  THE CALF. AN AFTER-DINNER INTERVIEW, AND GOOD RESOLUTIONS. EVASIVE
  TRAPPISTS


You can remember, if you are male and middle-aged, or worse, some
little incident in your own early life more or less like that
effervescence of unreal passion which made us first acquainted with
Mr. Julius Bradshaw and his violin. Do you shake your head, and deny
it? Are you prepared to look us in the face, and swear you never, when
a young man, had a sleepless night because of some girl whom you had
scarcely spoken to, and who would not have known who you were if you
had been able to master your trepidation and claim acquaintance; and
who, in the sequel, changed her identity, and became what the greatest
word-coiner of our time called a "speech-friend" of yours, without
a scrap of romance or tenderness in the friendship?

Sally's sudden change of identity from the bewitching little gardener
who had fascinated this susceptible youth, to a merely uncommonly nice
girl, was no doubt assisted by his introduction just at that moment
to the present Mrs. Julius Bradshaw. For it would be the merest
affectation to conceal the ultimate outcome of their acquaintance.

When Julius came to Krakatoa Villa, he came already half disillusioned
about Sally. What sort of an _accolade_ he expected on arriving to
keep his passion on its legs, Heaven only knows! He certainly had
been chilled by her easy-going invitation to her mother's. A definite
declaration of callous indifference would not have been half so
effective. Sally had the most extraordinary power of pointing out that
she stipulated to be considered as a chap; or conveying it, which came
to the same thing. On the other hand, Lætitia, who had been freely
spoken of by Sally as "making a great ass of herself about social
tommy-rot and people's positions," and who was aware of the justice of
the accusation, had been completely jerked out of the region of Grundy
by Julius's splendid rendering of Tartini, and had felt disconcerted
and ashamed; for Tishy was a thorough musician at heart. The
consequence was an _amende honorable_ to the young man, on whom--he
having no idea whatever of its provoking cause--it produced the effect
that might have been anticipated. Any young lady who wishes to enslave
a young man will really do better work by showing an interest in
himself than by any amount of fascination and allurement, on the lines
of Greuze. We are by no means sure that it is safe to reveal this
secret, so do not let it go any farther. Young women are formidable
enough, as it is, without getting tips from the camp of the enemy.

Anyhow, Sally became a totally different identity to Mr. Julius
Bradshaw. He, for his part, underwent a complete transformation in
hers--so much so that the vulgar child was on one occasion quite
taken aback at a sudden recollection of his _début_, and said to
her stepfather: "Only think, Jeremiah! Tishy's Julius is really that
young idiot that came philandering after me Sundays, and I had quite
forgotten it!"

The young idiot had settled down to a reasonable personality; if not
to a manifestation of his actual self, at any rate as near as he was
likely to go to it for some time to come; for none of us ever succeeds
in really showing himself to his fellow-creatures outright. That's
impossible.

Sally had never said very much to her friend of this pre-introduction
phase of Julius--had, in fact, thought little enough about it. Perhaps
her taking care to say nothing at all of it in his later phase was her
most definite acknowledgment of its existence at any time. It was only
a laughable incident. She saw at once, when she took note of that sofa
_séance_, which way the cat was going to jump; and we are bound to say
it was a cat that soon made up its mind, and jumped with decision.

Mrs. Sales Wilson's endeavour to intercept that cat had been prompt
and injudicious. She destroyed whatever chance there was of a sudden
_volte-face_ on its part--and oh, the glorious uncertainty of this
class of cat!--first by taking no notice of it aggressively, next
by catching hold of its tail, too late. In the art of ignoring
bystanders, she was no match for the cat. And detention seemed only
to communicate impetus.

Julius Bradshaw's first receptions at the Ladbroke Grove House had
been based mainly on his Stradivarius. The Dragon may be said to have
admitted the instrument, but only to have tolerated its owner, as one
might tolerate an organman who owned a distinguished monkey. Still, the
position was an ambiguous one. The Dragon felt she had made a mistake
in not shutting the door against this lion at first. She had "let
him in, to see if she could turn him out again," and the crisis of
the campaign had come over the question whether Mr. Bradshaw
might, or should, or could be received into the inner bosom of the
household--that is to say, the dinner-bosom. The Dragon said no--she
drew the line at that. Tea, yes--dinner, no!

After many small engagements over the question in the abstract, the
plot thickened with reference to the arrangements of a particular
Thursday evening. The Dragon felt that a decisive battle must be
fought; the more so that her son Egerton, whom she had relied on
to back her against a haberdasher, though he might have been useless
against a jockey or a professional cricketer, had gone over to the
enemy, and announced (for the Professor had failed to communicate
the virus of scholarship to this young man) that he was unanimous
that Mr. Bradshaw should be forthwith invited to dinner.

His mother resorted to the head of the household as to a Court of
Appeal, but not, as we think, in a manner likely to be effective. Her
natural desire to avenge herself on that magazine of learning for
marrying her produced an unconciliatory tone, even in her preamble.

"I suppose," she said, abruptly entering his library in the vital
centre of a delectable refutation of an ignoramus--"I suppose it's no
use looking to you for sympathy in a matter of this sort, but----"

"I'm busy," said the Professor; "wouldn't some other time do as well?"

"I knew what I had to expect!" said the lady, at once allowing her
desire to embitter her relations with her husband to get the better
of her interest in the measure she desired to pass through Parliament.
She left the room, closing the door after her with venomous quietness.

The refutation would have to stand over; it was spoiled now, and the
delicious sarcasm that was on his pen's tip was lost irrevocably. He
blotted a sentence in the middle, put his pen in a wet sponge, and
opened his door. He jerked it savagely open to express his attitude
of mind towards interruption. His "_What_ is it?" as he did so was in
keeping with the door-jerk.

"I can speak of nothing to you if you are so _tetchy_"--a word said
spitefully, with a jerk explanatory of its meaning. "Another time will
do better, now. I prefer to wait."

When these two played at the domestic game of exasperate-my-neighbour,
the temper lost by the one was picked up by the other, and added to
his or her pack. It was so often her pack that there must have been an
unfair allotment of knaves in it when dealt--you know what that means
in beggar-my-neighbour? On this occasion Mrs. Wilson won heavily.
It was not every day that she had a chance of showing her great
forbearance and self-restraint, on the stairs to an audience of a man
in leather kneecaps who was laying a new drugget in the passage, and
a model of discretion with a dustpan, whose self-subordination was
beyond praise; her daughter Athene in the passage below inditing her
son Egerton for a misappropriation of three-and-fivepence; and a faint
suspicion of Lætitia's bedroom door on the jar, for her to listen
through, above.

It wasn't fair on the Professor, though; for even before he exploded,
his lady-wife had had ample opportunity of reconnoitring the
battle-field, and, as it were, negotiating with auxiliaries, by a show
of gentle sweetness which had the force of announcement that she was
being misunderstood elsewhere. But she would bear it, conscious of
rectitude. Now, the Professor didn't know there was any one within
hearing; so he snapped, and she bit him _sotto voce_, but raised a meek
voice to follow:

"Another time will be better. I prefer to wait." This was all the
public heard of her speech. But she went into the library.

"What do you want to speak to me about?" Thus the Professor, remaining
standing to enjoin the temporary character of the interview; to
countercheck which the lady sank in an armchair with her back to the
light. Both she and Lætitia conveyed majesty in swoops--filled up
_fauteuils_--could motion humbler people to take a seat beside them.
"Tishy's Goody runs into skirts--so does _she_ if you come to that!"
was Sally's marginal note on this point. The countercheck was effectual,
and from her position of vantage the lady fired her first shot.

"You know perfectly well what I want to speak about." The awkward part
of this was that the Professor did know.

"Suppose I do; go on!" This only improved his position very slightly,
but it compelled the bill to be read a first time.

"Do you wish your daughter to marry a haberdasher?"

"I do not. If I did, I should take her round to some of the shops."

But his wife is in no humour to be jested with. "If you cannot be
serious, Mr. Wilson, about a serious matter, which concerns the
lifelong well-being of your eldest daughter, I am only wasting my time
in talking to you." She threatens an adjournment with a slight move.
Her husband selects another attitude, and comes to business.

"You may just as well say what you have come to say, Roberta. It's
about Lætitia and this young musician fellow, I suppose. Why can't
you leave them alone?" Now, you see, here was a little triumph for
Roberta--she had actually succeeded in getting the subject into the
realm of discussion without committing herself to any definite
statement, or, in fact, really saying what it was. She could prosecute
it now indirectly, on the lines of congenial contradiction of her
husband.

"I fully expected to be accused of interfering with what does not
concern me. I am not surprised. My daughter's welfare is, it appears,
to be of as little interest to me as it is to her father. Very well."

"What do you wish me to do? Will you oblige me by telling me what
it is you understand we are talking about?" A gathering storm of
determination must be met, the Dragon decides, by a corresponding
access of asperity on her part. She rises to the occasion.

"I will tell you about what I do _not_ understand. But I do not expect
to be listened to. I do _not_ understand how any father can remain in
his library, engaged in work which cannot possibly be remunerative,
while his eldest daughter contracts a disgraceful marriage with a
social inferior." The irrelevance about remuneration was ill-judged.

"I can postpone the Dictionary--if that will satisfy you--and go on
with some articles for the Encyclopædia, which pay very well, until
after the ceremony. Is the date fixed?"

"It is easy for you to affect stupidity, and to answer me with would-be
witty evasions. But if you think to deter me from my duty--a mother's
duty--by such pitiful expedients you are making a great mistake. You
make my task harder to me, Septimus, but you do not discourage me. You
know as well as I do--although you choose to affect the contrary--that
what I am saying does not relate to any existing circumstances, but
only to what may come about if you persist in neglecting your duty
to your family. I came into this room to ask you to exercise your
authority with your daughter Lætitia, or if not your authority--for she
is over twenty-one--your influence. But I see that I shall get no help.
It is, however, what I expected--no more and no less." And the skirts
rustle with an intention of getting up and going away injured.

Mrs. Wilson had a case against her husband, if not a strong one. His
ideas of the duties of a male parent were that he might incur paternity
of an indefinite number of sons and daughters, and discharge all his
obligations to them by providing their food and education. Having paid
quittance, he was at liberty to be absorbed in his books. Had his
payments been large enough to make his wife's administration of the
household easy, he might have been justified, especially as she, for
her part, was not disposed to allow him any voice in any matter.
Nevertheless, she castigated him frightfully at intervals for not
exercising an authority she was not prepared to permit. He was nothing
but a ninepin, set up to be knocked down, an Aunt Sally who was never
allowed to keep her pipe in her mouth for ten consecutive seconds. The
natural consequence of which was that his children despised him, but
to a certain extent loved him; while, on the other hand, they somewhat
disliked their mother, but (to a certain extent) respected her. It is
very hard on the historian and the dramatist that every one is not
quite good or quite bad. It would make their work so much easier. But
it would not be nearly so interesting, especially in the case of the
last-named.

The Professor may have had some feeling on these lines when he stopped
the skirts from rustling out of the apartment by a change in his
manner.

"Tell me seriously what you wish me to do, Roberta."

"I wish you to give attention, if not to the affairs--_that_ I cannot
expect--of your household, at least to this--you may call it foolish
and pooh-pooh it--business of Lætitia and this young man--I really
cannot say young gentleman, for it is mere equivocation not to call
him a haberdasher."

The Professor resisted the temptation to criticize some points of
literary structure, and accepted the obvious meaning of this.

"Tell me what he really is."

"I have told you repeatedly. He is nothing--unless we palter with the
meaning of words--but a clerk in the office at the stores where we pay
a deposit and order goods on a form. They were originally haberdashers,
so I don't see how you can escape from what I have said. But I have
no doubt you will try to do so."

"How comes he to be such a magnificent violinist? Are they all...?"

"I know what you are going to say, and it's foolish. No, they are not
all magnificent violinists. But you know the story quite well."

"Perhaps I do. But now listen. I want to make out one thing. This
young man talked quite freely to me and Egerton about his place, his
position, salary--everything. And yet you say he isn't a gentleman."

"Of course he isn't a gentleman. I don't the least understand what
you mean. It's some prevarication or paradox." Mrs. Wilson taps the
chair-arm impatiently.

"I mean this--if he isn't a gentleman, how comes it that he isn't
ashamed of being a haberdasher? Because he _isn't_. Seemed to take
it all as a matter of course."

"I cannot follow your meaning at all. And I will not trouble you to
explain it. The question now is--will you, or will you not, _do_
something?"

"Has the young gentleman?"--Mrs. Wilson snorted audibly--"Well, has
this young haberdasher made any sort of definite declaration to
Lætitia?"

"I understand not. But it's impossible not to see."

"Would it not be a little premature for me to say anything to him?"

"Have I asked you to do so?"

"I am a little uncertain what it is you have asked me to do."

Mrs. Wilson contrived, by pantomime before she spoke, to express her
perfect patience under extremest trial, inflicted on her by an impudent
suggestion that she hadn't made her position clear. She would, however,
state her case once more with incisive distinctness. To that end she
separated her syllables, and accented selections from them, even as
a resolute hammer accents the head of a nail.

"Have I not told you dis_tinct_ly"--the middle syllable of this word
was a sample nailhead--"a _thou_sand times that what I wish you to
do--however much you may shirk doing it--is to _speak_ to Lætitia--to
remonstrate with her about the encouragement she is giving to this
young man, and to _point out_ to her that a girl in her position--in
short, the duties of a girl in her position?" Mrs. Wilson's come-down
at this point was an example of a solemn warning to the elocutionist
who breaks out of bounds. She was obliged to fall back arbitrarily on
her key-note in the middle of the performance. "Have I said this to
you, Mr. Wilson, or have I not?"

"Speaking from memory I should say _not_. Yes--certainly _not_. But
I can raise no reasonable objection to speaking to Lætitia, provided
I am at liberty to say what I like. I understand that to be part of
the bargain."

"If you mean," says the lady, whose temper had not been improved by the
first part of the speech; "if you mean that you consider yourself at
liberty to encourage a rebellious daughter against her mother, I know
too well from old experience that that is the case. But I trust that
for once your right feeling will show you that it is your _plain duty_
to tell her that the course she is pursuing can only lead to the loss
of her position in society, and probably to poverty and unhappiness."

"I can tell her you think so, of course," says the Professor, drily.

"I will say no more"--very freezingly. "You know as well as I do what
it is your _duty_ to say to your daughter. What you will _decide_
to say, I do _not_ know." And premonitory rustles end in a move to
the door.

"You can tell her to come in now--if you like." The Professor won't
show too vivid an interest. It isn't as if the matter related to a
Scythian war-chariot, or a gold ornament from a prehistoric tomb, or
_variæ lectiones_.

"At least, Septimus," says the apex of the departing skirts, "you will
remember what is due to yourself and your family--_I_ am nobody--so far
as not to encourage the girl in resisting her mother's authority." And,
receiving no reply, departs, and is heard on the landing rejecting
insufficient reasons why the drugget will not lay flat. And presently
issuing a mandate to an upper landing:

"Your father wishes to speak to you in his library. _I_ wish you to
go." The last words not to seem to abdicate as Queen Consort.

Lætitia isn't a girl whom we find new charms in after making her
mother's acquaintance. You know how some young people would be passable
enough if it were not for a lurid light thrown upon their identity by
other members of their family. You know the sister you thought was a
beauty and dear, until you met her sister, who was gristly and a jade.
But it's a great shame in Tishy's case, because we do honestly believe
her seeming _da capo_ of her mother is more skirts than anything else.
We credit their respective _apices_ with different dispositions,
although (yes, it's quite true what you say) we don't see exactly from
what corner of the Professor's his daughter got her better one. He's
all very well, but....

Anyhow, we are sorry for Tishy now, as she comes uneasily into the
library to be "spoken to." She comes in buttoning a glove and saying,
"Yes, papa." She was evidently just going out--probably arrested by
the voices in the library.

"Well, my dear, your mother wishes me to speak to you.... H'm! h'm!
By-the-bye," he interrupts himself, "it really is a very extraordinary
thing, but it's just like work-people. A man spends all his life laying
carpets, and the minute he lays mine it's too big or too small."

"The man outside? He's very tiresome. He says the passage is an unusual
size."

"I should have taken that point when I measured it. It seems to me late
in the day now the carpet's made up. However, that's neither here nor
there. Your mother wishes me to--a--to speak to you, my dear."

"What does she want you to say, papa?"

"H'm--well!--it's sometimes not easy to understand your mother. I
cannot say that I have gathered precisely what it is she wishes me
to say. Nor am I certain that I should be prepared to say it if I
knew what it was."--Tishy brightened perceptibly.--"But I am this
far in sympathy with what I suppose to be her meaning"--Tishy's face
fell--"that I should be very sorry to hear that you had made any
binding promises to any young gentleman without knowing more of his
antecedents and connexions than I suppose you do at the present about
this--a--musical friend of yours--without consulting me." The
perfunctory tone in which he added, "and your mother," made the words
hardly worth recording.

But perhaps the way they, in a sense, put the good lady out of court,
helped to make her daughter brighten up again. "Dear papa," she said,
"I should never dream for one moment of doing such a thing. Nor would
Mr. Bradshaw dream of asking me to do so."

"That's quite right, my dear--quite enough. Don't say anything more.
I am not going to catechize you." And Tishy was not sorry to hear
this, because her disclaimer of a binding promise was only true in the
letter. In fact, our direct Sally had only the day before pounced upon
her friend with, "You know perfectly well he's kissed you heaps of
times!" And Tishy had only been able to begin an apology she was not
to be allowed to finish with, "And suppose he has...?"

However, her sense of an untruthfulness that was more than merely
technical was based not so much on the bare fact of a kissing-relation
having come about, as upon a particular example. She knew it was the
merest hypocrisy to make believe that the climax of that interview at
Riverfordhook, where there were the moonrise and things, did not
constitute a pledge on the part of both. However, Tishy is not the
first young lady, let me tell you--if you don't know already--who has
been guilty of equivocation on those lines. It is even possible that
her father was conniving at it, was intentionally accepting what he
knew to be untrue, to avoid the trouble of further investigation, and
to be able to give his mind to the demolition of that ignoramus. A
certain amount of fuss was his duty; but the sooner he could find an
excuse to wash his hands of these human botherations and get back to
his inner life the better.

Perhaps it was a sense of chill at the suspicion that her father was
not concerned enough about her welfare that made Lætitia try to arrest
his retirement into his inner life. Or it may have been that she was
sensitive, as young folk are, at her new and strange experience of Real
Love, and at the same time grated on--scraped the wrong way--in her
harsh collision with her mother, who was showing Cupid no quarter, and
was only withheld from overt acts of hostility to Julius Bradshaw by
the knowledge that excess on her part would precipitate what she sought
to avert.

Whatever the cause was, her momentary sense of relief that her father
was not going to catechize her was followed by a feeling that she
almost wished he would. It would be so nice to have a natural parent
that was really interested in his daughter's affairs. Poor Tishy felt
lonely, and as if she was going to cry. She must unpack her heart, even
if it bored papa, who she knew wanted to turn her out and write. She
broke down over it.

"Oh, papa--papa! Indeed, I want to do everything you wish--whatever you
tell me. I _will_ be good, as we used to say." A sob grew in her throat
over this little nursery recollection. "Only--only--only--it isn't
really quite true about no promises. We haven't made them, you know,
but they're _there_ all the same." Tishy stops suddenly to avoid a sob
she knows is coming. A pocket-handkerchief is called in to remove tears
surreptitiously, under a covering pretence of a less elegant function.
The Professor hates scenes worse than poison, and Tishy knows it.

"There, there! Well, well! Nothing to cry about. _That's_ right." This
is approval of the disappearance of the pocket-handkerchief--some
confusion between cause and effect, perhaps. "Come, my child--come,
Lætitia--suppose now you tell me all about it."

Tishy acknowledges to herself that she desires nothing better. Yes,
papa dear, she will, indeed she will, tell him everything. And then
makes a very fair revelation of her love-affair--a little dry and
stilted in the actual phrasing, perhaps, but then, what can you expect
when one's father is inclined to be stiff and awkward in such a matter,
to approach it formally, and consider it an interview? It was all
mamma's fault, of course. Why should she be summoned before the bar of
the house? Why couldn't her father find his way into her confidence in
the natural current of events? However, this was better than nothing.

Besides, we softened gradually as we developed the subject. One of
us, who was Mr. Bradshaw at first, became Julius later, with a strong
lubricating effect. We began with sincere attachment, but we loved
each other dearly before we had done. We didn't know when "it" began
exactly--which was a fib, for we were perfectly well aware that "it"
began that evening at Krakatoa Villa, which has been chronicled
herein--but for a long time past Julius had been asking to be allowed
to memorialise the Professor on the subject.

"But you know, papa dear, I couldn't say he was to speak to you until
I was quite certain of myself. Besides, I did want him to be on better
terms with mamma first."

Professor Wilson flushed angrily, and began with a knitted brow, "I
wish your mother would----" but stopped abruptly. Then, calming down:
"But you are quite certain _now_, my dear Lætitia?" Oh dear, yes; no
doubt of that. And how about Julius? The confident ring of the girl's
laugh, and her "Why, you should hear him!" showed that she, at least,
was well satisfied of her lover's earnestness.

"Well, my dear child," said the Professor, who was beginning to feel
that it was time to go back to his unfinished ignoramus, tyro, or
sciolist; "I tell you what I shall do. When's he coming next? Thursday,
to dinner. Very well. I shall make a little opportunity for a quiet
talk with him, and we shall see."

The young lady came out of the library on the whole comfortabler then
she had entered it, and finished buttoning that glove in the passage.
As she stood reflecting that papa would really be very nice if he would
shave more carefully--for the remains of his adieu was still rasping
her cheek--she was aware of the voice of the carpet; she heard it
complain, through the medium of its layer, or stretcher, who seemed
to mean to pass the remainder of his days scratching the head of
perplexity on the scene of his recent failure to add to his
professional achievements.

"It's what I say to the guv'nor"--thus ran his Jeremiad--"in dealin'
with these here irregular settin's out, where nothin's not to say
parallel with anything else, nor dimensions lendin' theirselves to
accommodation. 'Just you let me orfer it in,' I says 'afore the final
stitchin' to, or even a paper template in extra cases is a savin' in
the end.' Because it stands to reason there goes more expense with an
ill-cut squint or obtoose angle, involvin' work to rectify, than cut
ackerate in the first go-off. Not but what ruckles may disappear under
the tread, only there's no reliance to be placed. You may depend on it,
to make a job there's nothin' like careful plannin', and foresight in
the manner of speakin'. And, as I say to the guv'nor, there's no need
for a stout brown-paper template to go to waste, seein' it works in
with the under-packin'." And much more which Tishy could still hear
murmuring on in the distance as she closed the street door and fled
to an overdue appointment with Sally, into whose sympathetic ear she
could pour all her new records of the progress of the row.

To tell the whole of the prolonged pitched battle that ensued would
take too much ink and paper. The Dragon fought magnificently, so long
as she had the powerful backing of her married daughter, Mrs. Sowerby
Bagster, and the skirmishing help of Athene. This latter was, however,
not to be relied on--might go over to the enemy any moment. Mrs.
Bagster, or Clarissa, who was an elder sister of Lætitia's, became
lukewarm, too, on a side-issue being raised. It did not appear to
connect itself logically with the bone of contention, having reference
entirely to vaccination from the calf. But it led to an exaggerated
sensitiveness on her part as to the responsibility we incurred by
interference with what might (after all) be the Will of Providence.
If this should prove so, it would be our duty not to repine. Clarissa
contrived to surround the subject with an unprovoked halo of religious
meekness, and to work round to the conclusion that it would be
presumptuous not to ask Mr. Bradshaw to dinner. Only this resulted
absolutely and entirely from her refusing to have her three children
all vaccinated from the calf forthwith, because their grandmother
thought it necessary. The latter, finding herself deserted in her hour
of need by a powerful ally--for three whole children had given Clarissa
a deep insight into social ethics, and a weighty authority--surrendered
grudgingly. She tried her best to make her invitation to dinner take
the form of leave to come to dinner, and partly succeeded. Her
suggestions that she hoped Mr. Bradshaw would understand the rules of
the game at the table of Society caused the defection of her remaining
confederate, Athene, who turned against her, exclaiming: "He won't eat
with his knife, at any rate!" However, it was too late to influence
current events. The battle was fought and over.

The obnoxious young man didn't eat with his knife when he came, with
docility, a day after he received the invitation. Remember, he appears
originally in this story as a chosen of Cattley's, one warranted to
defy detection by the best-informed genteelologist. He went through
his ordeal very well, on the whole, considering that Egerton (from
friendship) was always on the alert to give him tips about civilised
conduct, and that Mrs. Wilson called him nearly every known dissyllabic
name with _A_'s in it--Brathwaite, Palgrave, Bradlaugh, Playfair, and
so on, but not Bradshaw. She did this the more as she never addressed
him directly, treating him without disguise as the third-person
singular in a concrete form. This was short-sighted, because it
stimulated her husband to a tone of civility which would probably
have risen to deference if the good lady had not just stopped short
of insult.

Egerton and the only other male guest (who was the negative young
pianist known to Sally as Somebody Elsley) having found it convenient
to go away at smoking-time to inspect the latter's bicycle, the
Professor seized his opportunity for conversation with the
third-person-singular. He approached the subject abruptly:

"Well, it's Lætitia, I understand, that we're making up to, eh?"
Perhaps it was this sudden conversion to the first person plural that
made the young man blush up to the roots of his hair.

"What can I say?" he asked hesitatingly. "You see, Professor Wilson,
if I say yes, it will mean that I have been p-paying my addresses, as
the phrase is...."

"And taking receipts?"

"Exactly--and taking receipts, without first asking her father's leave.
And if I say no----"

"If you say no, my dear young man, her father will merely ask you
to help yourself and pass the port (decanter with the little brass
ticket--yes, that one. Thank you!). Well, I see what you mean, and we
needn't construct enigmas. We really get to the point. Now tell me all
about it." We don't feel at all sure the Professor's way of getting to
the point was not a good one. You see, he had had a good deal to do
with young men in early academical phases of existence--tutorships and
the like--and had no idea of humming and hawing and stuttering over
their affairs. Besides, it was best for Bradshaw, as was shown by the
greater ease with which he went on speaking, and began telling the
Professor all about it.

"I shouldn't be speaking truthfully, sir, if I were to pretend things
haven't gone a little beyond--a little beyond--the exact rules. But
you've no idea how easily one can deceive oneself."

"Haven't I?" The Professor's mind went back to his own youth. He knew
very well how easily he had done it. A swift dream of his past shot
through his brain in the little space before Bradshaw resumed.

"Well, it was only a phrase. Of course you know. I mean it has all
crept on so imperceptibly. And I have had no real chance of talking
about it--to _you_, sir--without asking for a formal interview. And
until very lately nothing Læt--Miss Wilson...."

"Tut-tut! Lætitia--Lætitia. What's the use of being prigs about it?"

"Nothing Lætitia has said would have warranted me in doing this. I
_could_ have introduced the subject to Mrs. Wilson once or twice,
but...."

"All right. I understand. Well, now, what's the exact state of things
between you and Lætitia?"

"You will guess what our wishes are. But we know quite well that their
fulfilment is at present impossible. It may remain so. I have no means
at present except a small salary. And my mother and sister----"

"Have a claim on you--is that it?" The Professor's voice seems to
forestall a forbidding sound. But he won't be in too great a hurry.
He continues: "You must have some possibility in view, some sort of
expectation."

Bradshaw's reply hesitated a good deal.

"I am afraid I have--I am afraid--allowed myself to fancy--that, in
short, I might be able to--outgrow this unhappy nervous affection."

"And then?"

"I know what you mean, Professor Wilson. You mean that a violinist's
position, however successful, would be less than you have a right to
expect for your daughter's husband. Of course that is so, but----"

"But I mean nothing of the sort." The Professor is abrupt and decisive,
as one who repudiates. "I know nothing about positions. However, Mr.
Bradshaw, you are quite right this far--that is what Mrs. Wilson would
have meant. _She_ knows about positions. What _I_ meant was that you
wouldn't have enough to live upon at the best, in any comfort, and
that I shouldn't be able to help you. Suppose you had a large family,
and the nervous affection came back?" His hearer quakes at this crude,
unfeeling forecast of real matrimonial facts. He and Lætitia fully
recognise in theory that people who marry incur families; but, like
every other young couple, would prefer a veil drawn over their
particular case. The young man flinches visibly at the Professor's
needlessly savage hypothesis of disasters. Had he been a rapid and
skilful counsel in his own behalf, he would have at once pounced on
a weak point, and asked how many couples would ever get married at
all, if we were to beg and borrow every trouble the proper people
(whoever they are) are ready to give away and lend. He can only look
crestfallen, and feel about in his mind for some way of saying, "If
I wanted Lætitia to promise to marry me, that would apply. As matters
stand, it is not to the purpose," without seeming to indite the
Professor for prematureness. Of course, the position had been created
entirely by the Dragon. Why could she not have let them alone, as her
husband had said to her? Why not, indeed?

But Master Julius has to see his way out into the open, and he is
merely looking puzzled, and letting a very fair cigar out--and, you
know, they are never the same thing relighted. Perhaps what he does
is as good as anything else.

"I see you are right, sir, and I am afraid I am to blame--I must
be--because my selfish thoughtlessness, or whatever it ought to be
called, has placed us in a position out of which no happiness can
result for either?" He looks interrogatively into the Professor's gold
spectacles, but sees no relaxation in the slightly knitted brow above
them. Their owner merely nods.

"But you needn't take all the blame to yourself," he says. "I've no
doubt my daughter is entitled to her share of it"--to which Bradshaw
tries to interpose a denial--"only it really doesn't matter whose fault
it is."

The disconcerted lover, who felt all raw, public, and uncomfortable,
wondered a little what the precise "it" was that could be said to be
any one's fault. After all, he and Lætitia were just two persons going
on existing, and how could it be any concern of any one else's what
each thought of or felt for the other? It is true he lacked absolution
for the kissing transgressions; they were blots on a clean sheet of
mere friendship. But would the Dragon be content that he and Lætitia
should continue to see each other if they signed a solemn agreement
that there was to be no kissing? You see, he was afraid he was going
to be cut off from his lady-love, and he didn't like the looks of the
Professor. But he didn't propose the drawing up of any such compact.
Perhaps he didn't feel prepared to sign it. However, he was to be
relieved from any immediate anxiety. The Professor had never meant
to take any responsibility, and now that he had said his say, he only
wanted to wash his hands of it.

"Now, understand me, Bradshaw," said he--and there was leniency and
hope in the dropped "Mr."--"I do not propose to do more than advise;
nor do I know, as my daughter is twenty-four, what I can do except
advise. We won't bring authority into court.... Oh yes, no doubt
Lætitia believes she will never act against my wishes. Many girls have
thought that sort of thing. But----" He stopped dead, with a little
side-twist of the head, and a lip-pinch, expressing doubt, then
resumed: "So I'll give you my advice, and you can think it over. It
is that you young people just keep out of each other's way, and let
the thing die out. You've no idea till you try what a magical effect
absence has; poetry is all gammon. Take my advice, and try it. Have
some more port? No--thank me! Then let's go upstairs."

Upstairs were to be found all the materials for an uncomfortable
evening. A sort of wireless telegraphy that passed between Bradshaw
and Lætitia left both in low spirits. They did not rise (the spirits)
when the Professor said, to the public generally, "Well, I must say
good-night, but _you_ needn't go," and went away to his study; nor when
his Dragon followed him, with a strong flavour of discipline on her.
For thereupon it became necessary to ignore conflict in the hinterland
of some folding-doors, accompanied by sounds of forbearance and a high
moral attitude. There was no remedy but music, and as soon as Bradshaw
got at his Stradivarius the mists seemed to disperse. The _adagio_ of
Somebody's quartette No. 101 seemed to drive a coach-and-six through
mortal bramble-labyrinths. But as soon as it ceased, the mists came
back all the thicker for being kept waiting. And the outcome of a
winding-up interview between the sweethearts was the conclusion that
after what had been said by the father of one of them, it was necessary
that all should be forgotten, and be as though it had never been.
And the gentleman next day, when he showed himself at his desk at
Cattley's, provoked the remark that Paganini had got the hump this
morning--which shows that his genius as a violinist was recognised
at Cattley's.

As for the lady, we rather think she made up her mind in the course
of the night that if her family were going to interfere with her
love-affairs, she would let them know what it was to have people
yearning for other people in the house. For she refused boiled eggs,
eggs and bacon, cold salmon-trout, and potted tongue at breakfast next
day, and left half a piece of toast and half a cup of tea as a visible
record that she had started pining, and meant to do it in earnest.

What Lætitia and Julius suffered during their self-inflicted
separation, Heaven only knows! This saying must be interpreted as
meaning that nobody else did. They were like evasive Trappist monks,
who profess mortification of the flesh, but when it comes to the
scratch, don't flog fair. Whatever they lost in the cessation of
uncomfortable communion at the eyrie, or lair, of the Dragon was more
than made up for by the sub-rosaceous, or semi-clandestine, character
of the intercourse that was left. Stolen kisses are notoriously
sweetest, but when, in addition to this, every one is actually the
very last the shareholders intend to subscribe for, their fascination
is increased tenfold. And every accidental or purely unintentionally
arranged meeting of these two had always the character of an interview
between people who never meet--which, like most truths, was only false
in exceptional cases; and in this instance these were numerous.
Factitious absence of this sort will often make the heart grow fonder,
where the real thing would make it look about for another; and another
is generally to be found.

It might have been unsafe to indulge in speculation, based on the then
_status quo_, as to when the inevitable was going to happen. We know
all about it now, but that doesn't count. Stories, true or false,
should be told consecutively.



CHAPTER XXII

IT WAS THAT MRS. NIGHTINGALE'S FAULT. A SATISFACTORY CHAP, GERRY! A
  TELEGRAM AND A CLOUD. BRONCHITIS AND ASTHMA AND FOG. SALLY GOES TO
  MAYFAIR. THE OLD SOLDIER HAS NOTICE TO QUIT


The most deeply-rooted instinct of mankind is the one that prompts
it to lay the blame on some one else. Mankind includes womankind, and
woman includes (for we believe she is still living) the Dragon of
the last chapter. As it did not occur to this good lady that her own
attitude of estrangement from Lætitia had anything to answer for in the
rash and premature development of the latter's love-affair, she cast
about for a scapegoat, and found one in the person of Rosalind Fenwick.
Some one had schemed the whole business, clearly, and who else could
it be but that woman? Of course, Lætitia herself was simply the victim
of a plot--she was young and inexperienced; people's daughters are.

But nothing in the nefarious business had escaped the watchful eye of
the Dragon. At the time of the very first appearance of "that Mrs.
Nightingale" on the scene she had pointed out her insidious character,
and forewarned North and North-west Kensington of what was to be
expected from a person of her antecedents. It was true no one knew
anything about these latter; but, then, that was exactly the point.

"It's useless attempting to find excuses for that woman. Clarissa,"
she had said. "It's always the same story with people of that sort.
Whenever they have no proper introduction, they always turn out
schemers and matchmakers. I detected her, and said so at once. It is
easy for your father to pretend he has forgotten. He always does. My
consolation is that I did my duty. And then, of course, it all turns
out as I said. Anybody could have known what sort of person she was
with half an eye!"

"And what sort of person is she?" asked Clarissa coldly. She had not
forgotten the vaccination from the calf.

"The sort of person you would expect. Unless, Clarissa, you are going
to take a leaf out of your father's book, and make believe you do not
understand what is transparently on the surface. What interest can
Major Roper have in inventing the story, I should like to know?"

"How does he come to know so much about it? Who told him?"

"Who _told_ him? Why, of course that very old gentleman--what's his
name?--_you_ know----" Mrs. Wilson tries if she can't recollect
with a quick vibration of a couple of fingers to back up her brain.
"Colonel Dunn!"

"Major Lund?"

"Lunn or Dunn. Yes, I remember now; it's Lunn, because the girl said
when she was a child she thought Sally Lunns had something to do with
both. You may depend on it, I'm right. Well, Major Roper's his most
intimate friend. They belong to the same club."

The ladies then lost sight of their topic, which lapsed into a rather
heated discussion of whether the very old gentleman was a Colonel or
a Major. As we don't want to hear them on this point, we may let them
lapse too.

It may have been because of some home anxieties--notably about the
Major, whose bronchitis had been bad--that Rosalind Fenwick continued
happily unconscious of having incurred any blame or taken any
responsibility on herself in connexion with the Ladbroke Grove row,
as Sally called it. If she _had_ known of it, very likely it would
not have troubled her, for she was really too contented with her own
condition and surroundings to be concerned about externals. Whatever
troubles she had were connected with the possibility, which always
seemed to grow fainter, of a revival of her husband's powers of memory.
Sometimes whole weeks would pass without an alarm. Sometimes some
little stirring of the mind would occur twice in the same day; still,
the tendency seemed to be, on the whole, towards a more and more
complete oblivion.

But the fact is that so long as she had the Major invalided at Krakatoa
Villa (for he was taken ill there, and remained on her hands many
weeks before he could return to his lodgings) she had the haziest
impressions of the outside world. Sally talked about "the row" while
they were nursing the old boy, but really she heeded her very little.
Then, when the invalid was so far reinstated that he was fit to be
moved safely, Sally went away too, for a change.

The respite to old Colonel Lund was not to be for long. But the rest,
alone with her husband, was not unwelcome to Rosalind.

"I can never have been one-tenth as happy, Rosey darling," said he to
her one day, "as I have been in the last six months. I should recollect
all about it if I had."

"You're a satisfactory chap to deal with, Gerry--I must say that for
you. You always beam, come what may. Even when you fly out--which you
do, you know--it's more like a big dog than a wasp. You were
always...." Now, Rosalind was going to say "always like that"; it was
a mistake she was constantly in danger of. But she stopped in time,
and changed her speech to "You're not without your faults, you know!
You never can come to an anchor, and be quiet. You sit on the arms of
chairs, and your hands are too big and strong. No; you needn't stop. Go
on!" We like leaving the words to elucidate the concurrent action. "And
you don't smell much of tobacco."

Fenwick, however, had noticed the kink in the thread, and must needs
wind it back to get a clear line. "I was always what?" said he. His
wife saw a way out.

"Always good when your daughter was here to manage you." It wasn't so
satisfactory as it might have been, but answered in dealing with a mind
so unsuspicious. Sally's having spent Christmas and stayed on a little
at a friend's in the country lent plausibility to a past tense which
might else have jarred.

"I don't want the kitten all to myself, you know," said Fenwick. "It
wouldn't be fair. After all, she _was_ yours before she was mine."

There was not a tremor in the hand that lay in his, the one that was
not caressing her cheek; not a sign of flinching in the eyes that
turned round on him; not a trace of hesitation in the voice that said,
with concession to a laugh in it: "Yes, she _was_ mine before she was
yours." Such skill had grown in this life of nettle-grasping!--indeed,
she hardly felt the sting now. This time she was able to go on
placidly, in the unconnected way of talk books know not, and life
well knows:

"Do you know what the kitten will be next August?"

"Yes; twenty-one."

"It's rather awful, isn't it?"

"Which way do you mean? It's awful because she isn't _fiancée_, or
awful because she might be at any minute?"

"You've picked up her way of going to the point, Gerry. I never said
anything about her being _fiancée_."

"No, but you meant it."

"Of course I did! Well, then, because she might be any minute. I'm
very glad she _isn't_. Why, you know I _must_ be!"

"_I_ am, anyhow!"

"Just think what the house would be without her!"

"The best place in the world still for me." She acknowledges this by
a kiss on his hairy hand, which he returns _via_ her forehead; then
goes on: "All the same, I'll be hanged if I know what we should do
without our kitten. But has anything made you afraid?"

"Oh no; nothing at all! Certainly; no, nothing. Have _you_ noticed
anything?"

"Oh dear, no! For anything I can see, she may continue a--a sort of
mer-pussy to the end of time." Both laugh in a way at the name he
has made for her; then he adds: "Only...."

"Only what?"

"Nothing I could lay hold of."

"I wonder whether you're thinking of the same thing as I am?" Very
singularly, it does not seem necessary to elucidate the point. They
merely look at each other, and continue looking as Fenwick says:

"They _are_ a funny couple, if that's it!"

"They certainly _are_," she replies. "But I _have_ thought so, for
all that!" And then both look at the fire as before, this being, of
course, in the depth of winter. Rosalind speaks next.

"There's no doubt about _him_, of course! But the chick would have
told me at once if...."

"If there had been anything to tell. No doubt she would."

"Of course, it's absurd to suppose he could see so much of her as he
does, and not...."

"Perfectly absurd! But then, you know, that young fiddler was very
bad, indeed, about the chick until he made her acquaintance."

"So he was." Thoughtfully, as one who weighs.

"The kitten met him with a sort of stony geniality that would have
knocked the heart out of a Romeo. If Juliet had known the method,
she could have nipped Shakespeare in the bud."

"She _didn't_ want to. Sally _did_."

"But then Shakespeare might have gone on and written a dry respectable
story--not a love-story; an esteem story--about how Juliet took an
interest in Romeo's welfare, and Romeo posted her letters for her, and
presented her with a photograph album, and so on. And how the families
left cards."

"But it isn't exactly stony geniality. It's another method altogether
with the doctor--a method the child's invented for herself."

Fenwick repeats, "A method she's invented for herself. Exactly. Well,
we shall have her back to-morrow. What time does she come?" And then
her mother says, interrupting the conversation: "What's that?"

"What's what?"

"I thought I heard the gate go."

"Not at this time of night." But Fenwick is wrong, for in a moment
comes an imperious peal at the bell. A pair of boots, manifestly on
a telegraph-boy's cold feet, play a devil's tattoo on the sheltered
doorstep. They have been inaudible till now, as the snow is on the
ground again at Moira Villas. In three minutes the boots are released,
and they and their wearer depart, callously uninterested in the
contents of the telegram they have brought. If we were a telegraph-boy,
we should always be yearning to know and share the joys and sorrows of
our employers. This boy doesn't, to judge by the way he sings that he
is "Only the Ghost of a Mother-in-law," showing that he goes to the
music-halls.

       *       *       *       *       *

Less than ten minutes after the telegraph-boy has died away in the
distance Rosalind and her husband are telling a cab to take them to
174, Ball Street, Mayfair.

It does so grudgingly, because of the state of the roads. It wants
three-and-sixpence, and gets it, for the same reason. But it doesn't
appear to be drawn by a logical horse who can deal with inferences,
because it is anxious to know when its clients are going back, that
it may call round for them.

For the telegram was that there was "no cause immediate apprehension;
perhaps better come--Major." As might have been expected from such
a telegram about a man of his age, just after seeming recovery from an
attack of bronchitis, the hours on earth of its subject were numbered.
Fever may abate, temperature may be brought down to the normal, the
most nourishing possible nourishment may be given at the shortest
possible intervals, but the recoil of exhaustion will have its way when
there is little or nothing left to exhaust. Colonel Lund had possibly
two or three years of natural life before him, disease apart, when
a fierce return of the old enemy, backed by the severity of a London
winter, and even more effectually by its fog, stopped the old heart a
few thousand beats too soon, and ended a record its subject had ceased
to take an interest in a few paragraphs short of the normal _finis_.

We allow our words to overtake our story in this way because we know
that you know--you who read--exactly what follows telegrams like the
one that came to Mrs. Fenwick. If you are new and young, and do not
know it yet, you will soon. However, we can now go back.

When the economical landlady (a rather superior person) who had opened
the street-door was preceding Rosalind up the narrow stairs, and
turning up gas-jets from their reserve of darkness-point, she surprised
her by saying she thought there was the Major coming downstairs.
"Yes, madam; the Major--Major Roper," she continued, in reply to an
expression of astonishment. Rosalind had forgotten that Colonel Lund
was, outside her own family, "the Colonel."

It was Major Roper whom we have seen at the Hurkaru Club, as purple as
ever and more asthmatic--in fact, the noise that was the Major coming
downstairs was also the noise of the Major choking in the fog. It came
slowly down, and tried hard to stop, in order that its source might
speak intelligibly to the visitors. What time the superior person stood
and grudged the gas. In the end, speech of a sort was squeezed out
slowly, as the landlady, stung to action by the needless gas-waste,
plucked the words out of the speaker's mouth at intervals, and finished
them up for him. The information came piecemeal; but in substance it
was that he had the day before found his old friend coughing his liver
up in this dam fog, and had taken on himself to fetch the medical man
and a nurse; that these latter, though therapeutically useless, as is
the manner of doctors and nurses, had common-sense enough to back him
(Roper) in his view that Mrs. Fenwick ought to be sent for, although
the patient opposed their doing so. So he took upon himself to wire.
There wasn't any occasion whatever for alarm, ma'am! Not the slightest.
"You hear me, and mark what I say--an old stager, ma'am! Ever such
a little common-sense, and half the patients would recover!" A few
details of the rapid increase of the fever, of the patient's resistance
to the sending of his message, and an indication of a curious feeling
on the old Colonel's part that it wouldn't be correct form to go back
to be nursed through a second attack when he had so lately got safe
out of the first one. All this landed the speaker in something near
suffocation, and made his hearers protest, quite uselessly, against his
again exposing himself to the fog. Whereon the landlady, with a finger
on the gas-tap, nodded toward the convulsed old officer to supply her
speech with a nominative, and spoke. What she said was merely: "Hasn't
been to bed." And then waited for Rosalind to go upstairs with such
aggressive patience that the latter could only say a word or two of
thanks to Major Roper and pass up. He, for his part, went quicker
downstairs to avoid the thanks, and the gas-tap vigil came to a sudden
end the moment Rosalind turned the handle of the door above.... Now,
what is the object of all this endless detail of what might have been
easily told in three words--well, in thirty, certainly?

Simply this: to show you why Fenwick, following on after some
discussion with the cab below, was practically invisible to the
asthmatic one, who passed him on the stairs just as the light above
vanished. So he had no chance of recognizing the donor of his tiger's
skin, which he might easily have done in open day, in spite of the
twenty years between, for the old chap was as sharp as a razor about
people. He passed Fenwick with a good-evening, and Mr. Fenwick, he
presumed, and his good lady was on ahead, as indicated by the speaker's
thumb across his shoulder. Fenwick made all acknowledgments, and felt
his way upstairs in the dark till the nurse with a hand-lamp looked
over the banisters for him.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Sally came back to Krakatoa Villa early next day she found an
empty house, and a note signed Jeremiah that explained its emptiness.
We had been sent for to the Major, and Sally wasn't to be frightened.
He had had a better night than last night, the doctor and nurse said;
and Sally might come on as soon as she had had a good lunch. Only she
was on no account to fidget.

So she didn't fidget. She had the good lunch very early, left Ann to
put back her things in the drawers, and found her way through the
thickening fog to the Tube, only just anxious enough about the Major
to feel, until the next station was Marble Arch, that London had
changed and got cruder and more cold-hearted since she went away, and
that the guard was chilly and callous about her, and didn't care how
jolly a house-party she had left behind her at Riverfordhook. For it
was that nice aunt of Tishy's that had asked her down for a few days,
and the few days had caught on to their successors as they came, and
become a fortnight. But he appeared to show a human heart, at least,
by a certain cordiality with which he announced the prospect of Marble
Arch, which might have been because it was Sally's station. Now, he
had said Lancaster Gate snappishly, and Queen's Road with misgiving,
as though he would have fain added D.V. if the printed regulations
had permitted it. Also, Sally thought there was good feeling in the
reluctance he showed to let her out, based entirely on nervousness
lest she should slip (colloquially) between the platform.

You don't save anything by taking the pink 'bus, nor any 'bus for that
matter, down Park Lane when the traffic tumbles down every half-minute,
in spite of cinders lavished by the authority, and can't really see its
way to locomotion when it gets up. So you may just as well walk. Sally
did so, and in ten minutes reached the queer little purlieu teeming
with the well-connected, and named after the great Mysteries they are
connected with, that lies in the angle of Park Lane and Piccadilly.
Persons of exaggerated sense of locality or mature hereditary
experience can make short cuts through this district, but the wayfarer
(broadly speaking) had better not try, lest he be found dead in a mews
by the Coroner, and made the subject of a verdict according to the
evidence. Sally knew all about it of old, and went as straight through
the fog as the ground-plan of the streets permitted to the house where
her mother and a nurse were doing what might be done to prolong the
tenancy of the top-floor. But both knew the occupant had received
notice to quit. Only, it did seem so purposeless, this writ of
ejectment and violent expulsion, when he was quite ready to go, and
wanted nothing but permission.



CHAPTER XXIII

OF A FOG THAT WAS UP-TO-DATE, AND HOW A FIRE-ENGINE RELIEVED SALLY FROM
  A BOY. HOW SALLY GOT IN AT A GENTLEMEN'S CLUB, AND HOW VETERANS COULD
  RECOLLECT HER FATHER. BUT THEY KNOW WHAT SHE CAN BE TOLD, AND WHAT
  SHE CAN'T. HOW MAJOR ROPER WOULD GO OUT IN THE FOG


Mrs. Fenwick was not sorry to break down a little, now that her
daughter had come to break down on. She soon pulled together, however.
Breaking down was not a favourite relaxation of hers, as we have seen.
Her husband had, of course, left her to go to his place of business,
not materially the worse for a night spent without closed eyes and in
the anxiety of a sick-chamber.

"Oh, mother darling! you are quite worn out. How is he?"

"He's quiet now, kitten; but we thought the cough would have killed him
in the night. He's only so quiet now because of the opiates. Only at
his age----" Mrs. Fenwick stopped and looked at the nurse, whose shake
of the head was an assent to the impossibility of keeping a patient of
eighty alive on opiates. Then, having gone thus far in indicating the
grim probabilities of the case, Sally's mother added, as alleviation
to a first collision with Death: "But Dr. Mildmay says the inflammation
and fever may subside, and then, if he can take nourishment----" but
got no further, for incredulity of this sort of thing is in the air of
the establishment.

Not, perhaps, on Sally's part. Young people who have not seen Death
face-to-face have little real conception of his horrible unasked
intrusion into the house of Life. That house is to them almost as
inviolable as the home of our babyhood was to the most of us, a
sacred fane under the protection of an omnipotent high-priest and
priestess--papa and mamma. Almost as inviolable, that is, when those
who live in it are our friends. Of course, the people in the newspapers
go dying--are even killed in railway accidents. This frame of mind
will change for Sally when she has seen this patient die. For the
time being, she is half insensible--can think of other things.

"What did the party mean that let me in, mother darling? The fusty
party? She said she thought it was the Major. I didn't take any notice
till now. I wanted to get up."

"It was the other Major, dear--Major Roper. Don't you know? _He_ used
to talk of him, and say he was an old gossip." In the dropped voice and
the stress on the pronoun one can hear how the speaker's mind knows
that the old Colonel is almost part of the past. "But they were very
old friends. They were together through the Mutiny. _He_ was his
commanding officer." Sally's eyes rest on the old sabre that hangs
on its hook in the wall, where she has often seen it, ranking it
prosaically with the other furnishings of "the Major's" apartment. Now,
a new light is on it, and it becomes a reality in a lurid past, long,
long before there was any Sally. A past of muzzle-loading guns and
Minié rifles, of forced marches through a furnace-heat to distant forts
that hardly owned the name, all too late to save the remnant of their
defenders; a past of a hundred massacres and a thousand heroisms;
a past that clings still, Sally dear, about the memory of us oldsters
that had to know it, as we would fain that no things that are, or are
to be, should ever cling about yours. But you have read the story often,
and the tale of it grows and lives round the old sabre on the wall.

Except as an explanation of the fusty party's reference to a Major, Old
Jack--that was Sally's Major's name for him--got very little foothold
in her mind, until a recollection of her mother's allusion to him as an
old gossip having made her look for a suitable image to place there,
she suddenly recalled that it was he that had actually seen her father;
talked to him in India twenty years ago; could, and no doubt would,
tell her all about the divorce. But there!--she couldn't speak to him
about it here and now. It was impossible.

Still, she was curious to see him, and the fusty but genteel one had
evidently expected him. So, during the remainder of what seemed to
Sally the darkest day, morally and atmospherically, that she had ever
spent--all but the bright morning when she ran into the fog somewhere
near Surbiton, full of tales to tell of the house-party that now seemed
a happy dream--during this gloomy remainder Sally wondered what could
have happened that the other Major should not have turned up. The fog
would have been more than enough to account for any ordinary
non-appearance; hardly for this one.

For it turned out, as soon as it got full powers to assert itself, the
densest fog on record. The Londoner was in his element. He told the
dissatisfied outsider with pride of how at midday it had been
impossible to read large pica on Ludgate Hill; he didn't say why he
tried to do so. He retailed frightful stories--but always with a sense
of distinction--of folk crushed under hoofs and cart-wheels. If one
half were true, some main thoroughfares must have been paved with
flattened pedestrians. The satisfaction he derived from the huge
extra profits of the gas-companies made his hearer think he must be
a shareholder, until _pari passu_ reasoning proved him to have invested
in fog-signals. His legends of hooligans preying on the carcasses of
strangled earls undisturbed had a set-off in others of marauders who
had rushed into the arms of the police and thought them bosom friends;
while that of an ex-Prime Minister who walked round and round for
an hour, and then rang at a house to ask where he was, ended in
consolation, as the door was opened by his own footman, who told him
he wasn't at home. Exact estimates were current, most unreasonably, of
the loss to commerce; so much so that the other Londoner corrected him
positively with, "Nearer three-quarters of a million, they say," and
felt proud of his higher knowledge. But neither felt the least ashamed,
nor the least afraid of the hideous, inevitable future fog, when a
suffocated population shall find, as it surely will, that it is at the
bottom of a sea of unbreathable air, instead of one that merely makes
it choke its stomach up and kills an old invalid or two. On the
contrary, both regarded it as the will of a judicious Providence,
a developer of their own high moral qualities and a destroyer of their
germs.

Bronchitis and asthma are kittle-cattle to shoe behind, even where the
sweet Mediterranean air blows pure upon Rapallo and Nervi, but what
manner of cattle are they in a London fog? Can they be shoed at all?
As Mrs. Fenwick sits and waits in terror to hear the first inevitable
cough as the old man wakes, and talks in whispers to her daughter in
the growing darkness, she feels how her own breath drags at the tough
air, and how her throat resents the sting of the large percentage of
sulphur monoxide it contains. The gas-jet is on at the full--or rather
the tap is, for the fish-tail burner doesn't realise its ideal. It
sputters in its lurid nimbus--gets bronchitis on its own account, tries
to cough its tubes clear and fails. Sally and her mother sit on in the
darkness, and talk about it, shirking the coming suffocation of their
old friend, and praying that his sleep may last till the deadly air
lightens, be it ever so little. Sally's animated face shows that she
is on a line of cogitation, and presently it fructifies.

"Suppose every one let their fires out, wouldn't the fog go? It
couldn't go on by itself."

"I don't know, chick. I suppose it's been all thought out by committees
and scientific people. Besides, we should all be frozen."

"Not if we went to bed."

"What! In the daytime?"

"Better do nothing in bed than be choked up."

"I dare say the fog wouldn't go away. You see, it's due to atmospheric
conditions, so they say."

"That's only because nobody's there to stop 'em talking nonsense.
Look at all that smoke going up our chimney." So it was, and a jolly
blaze there was going to be when the three shovelfuls Sally had
enthusiastically heaped on had incubated, and the time was ripe for
the poker.

Had you been there you would have seen in Sally's face as it caught the
firelight-flicker and pondered on the cause of the fog, that _she_ had
not heard a choking fit of the poor old sleeper in the next room. And
in her mother's that she _had_, and all the memory of the dreadful
hours just passed. Her manner, too, was absent as she talked, and she
listened constantly. Sally was to know what it was like soon. The opium
sleep would end.

"Isn't that him?" The mother's sharp ear of apprehension makes her say
this; the daughter has not heard the buried efforts of the lung that
cannot cough. It will succeed directly, if the patient is raised up,
so. Both have gone quickly and quietly into the sick-chamber, and it
is the nurse who speaks. Her prediction is fulfilled, and the silent
struggle of suffocation becomes a tearing convulsion, that means to
last some while and does it. How the old, thin tenement of life can go
on living unkilled is a problem to solve. But it survives this time.
Perhaps the new cough-mixture will make the job easier next time. We
shall see.

Anyhow, this attack--bad as it was--has not been so bad as the one he
had at three this morning. Rosalind and Nurse Emilia invent a paroxysm
of diabolical severity, partly for the establishment of a pinnacle for
themselves to look down on Sally from, partly for her consolation. He
wasn't able to speak for ever so long after that, and this time he is
trying to say something.... "What is it, dear?"

"Couldn't we have a window open to let a little air in?"

Well!--we could have a window open. We could let a little air in--but
only a very little. And that very little would bring with it copious
percentages of moisture saturated with finely subdivided carbonaceous
matter, of carbon dioxide, and sulphur dioxide, and traces of hydric
chloride, who is an old friend of our youth, known to us then as
muriatic acid.

"It's such a thick fog, Major dear. As soon as it clears a little
we'll open the window. Won't we, Sally?"

"Is Sally there?... Come and touch my hand, kitten.... That's
right...." What is left of the Major can still enjoy the plump little
white hand that takes the old fingers that once could grasp the sword
that hangs on the wall. It will not be for very long now. A newspaper
paragraph will soon give a short record of all the battles that sword
left its scabbard to see, and will tell of its owner's service in his
later days as deputy Commissioner at Umritsur, and of the record of
long residence in India it established, exceeding that of his next
competitor by many years. Not a few old warriors that were in those
battles, and many that knew his later time, will follow him beyond it
very soon. But he is not gone yet, and his hand can just give back its
pressure to Sally's, as she sits by him, keeping her heart in and her
tears back. The actual collapse of vital forces has not come--will not
come for a few days. He can speak a little as she stoops to hear him.

"Young people like you ought to be in bed, chick, getting beauty-sleep.
You must go home, and make your mother go.... _You_ go. _I_ shall be
all right...."

"It isn't night, Major dear"--Sally makes a paltry attempt to
laugh--"it's three in the afternoon. It's the fog." But she cannot hear
what he says in answer to this, go close as she may. After a pause of
rest he tries again, with raised voice:

"Roper--Roper--Old Jack ... mustn't come ... asthma in the fog ...
somebody go to stop him." He is quite clear-headed, and when Sally says
she will go at once, he spots the only risk she would run, being young
and healthy:

"Sure you can find your way? Over the club-house--Hurkaru Club----"
And then is stopped by a threat of returning cough.

But Sally knows all about it, and can find her way anywhere--so she
says. She is off in a twinkling, leaving her mother and the nurse to
wait for the terrible attack that means to come, in due course, as
soon as the new cough-mixture gets tired.

Sally is a true Londoner. _She_ won't admit, whoever else does,
that a fog is a real evil. On the contrary, she inclines to Prussian
tactics--flies in the face of adverse criticism with the decision that
a fog is rather a lark when you're out in it. Actually face to face
with a human creature choking, Sally's optimism had wavered. It
recovers itself in the bracing atmosphere of a main-thoroughfare
charged to bursting with lines of vehicles, any one of which would
go slowly alone, but the collective slowness of which finds a vent
in a deadlock a mile away--an hour before we can move, we here.

By what human agency it comes about that any wheeled vehicle drawn
of horses can thunder at a hand-gallop through the matrix of such
a deadlock, Heaven only knows! But the glare of the lamps of the
fire-brigade, hot upon the wild excitement of their war-cry, shows
that this particular agglomeration of brass and copper, fraught with
suppressed energy of steam well up, means to try for it--seems to have
had some success already, in fact. It quite puts Sally in spirits--the
rapid _crescendo_ of the hissing steam, the gleaming boiler-dome that
might be the fruitful mother of all the helmets that hang about her
skirts, the sudden leaping of the whole from the turgid opacity behind
and equally sudden disappearance into the void beyond, the vanishing
"Fire!" cry from which all consonants have gone, leaving only a sound
of terror, all confirm her view of the fog as a lark. For, you see,
Sally believed the Major might pull through even now.

Also the coming of the engine relieved her from what threatened to
become a permanent embarrassment. A boy, who may have been a good
boy or may not, had attached himself to her, under pretext of
either a strong organ of locality or an extensive knowledge of town.

"Take yer 'most anywhere for fourpence! Anywhere yer like to name.
'Ammersmith, 'Ackney Wick, Noo Cross, Covent Garden Market, Regency
Park. Come, I say, missis!"

Sally shouldn't have shaken her head as she did. She ought to have
ignored his existence. He continued:

"I don't mind makin' it thruppence to the Regency Park. Come, missis,
I say! Think what a little money for the distance. How would _you_
like to do it yourself?" Sally rashly allowed herself to be led into
controversy.

"I tell you I don't want to go to Regents Park." But the boy passed
this protest by--ignored it.

"You won't get no better oarfer. You ask any of the boys. They'll
tell you all alike. Regency Park for thruppence. Or, lookey here
now, missis! You make it acrorst Westminster Bridge, and I'll say
twopence-'a'penny. Come now! Acrorst a bridge!" This boy had quite
lost sight of the importance of selecting a destination with reference
to its chooser's life-purposes, in his contemplation of the advantages
of being professionally conducted to it. Sally was not sorry when the
coming of the fire-engine distracted his attention, and led to his
disappearance in the fog.

Pedestrians must have been stopping at home to get a breath of fresh
air indoors, as the spectres that shot out of the fog, to become
partly solid and vanish again in an instant, seemed to come always
one at a time.

"Can you tell me, sir"--Sally is addressing a promising spectre, an
old gentleman of sweet aspect--"have I passed the Hurkaru Club?" The
spectre helps an imperfect hearing with an ear-covering outspread hand,
and Sally repeats her question.

"I hope so, my dear," he says, "I hope so. Because if you haven't, I
have. I wonder where we are. What's this?" He pats a building at its
reachable point--a stone balustrade at a step corner. "Why, here we
are! This is the Club. Can I do anything for you?"

"I want Major Roper"--and then, thinking more explanation asked for,
adds--"who wheezes." It is the only identification she can recall from
Tishy's conversation and her mother's description. She herself had
certainly seen their subject once from a distance, but she had only
an impression of something purple. She could hardly offer that as
identification.

"Old Jack! He lives in a kennel at the top. Mulberry, tell Major Roper
lady for him. Yes, better send your card up, my dear; that's right!"

By this time they are in a lobby full of fog, in which electric light
spots are showing their spiritless nature. Mulberry, who is like Gibbon
the historian painted in carmine (a colour which clashes with his
vermilion lappets), incites a youth to look sharp; also, to take that
card up to Major Roper. As the boy goes upstairs with it two steps at
a time Sally follows the old gentleman into a great saloon with standing
desks to read skewered journals on and is talking to him on the
hearthrug. She thinks she knows who he is.

"I came to stop Major Roper coming round to see _our_ Major--Colonel
Lund, I mean. It isn't fit for him to come out in the fog."

"Of course, it isn't. And Lund mustn't come out at his age. Why, he's
older than I am.... What? Very ill with bronchitis? I heard he'd been
ailing, but they said he was all right again. Are you his Rosey?"

"No, no; mamma's that! She's more the age, you know. I'm only twenty."

"Ah dear! how one forgets! Of course, but he's bad, I'm afraid."

"He's very bad. Oh, General Pellew--because I know it's you--his cough
is so dreadful, and there's no air for him because of this nasty fog!
Poor mamma's there, and the nurse. I ought to hurry back; but he wanted
to prevent Major Roper coming round and getting worse himself; so we
agreed for me to come. I'll just give my message and get back."

"Your mamma was Mrs. Graythorpe. I remember her at Umballa years ago.
I know; she changed her name to Nightingale. She is now Mrs...?" Sally
supplied her mother's married name. "And you," continued Lord Pellew,
"were Baby Graythorpe on the boat."

"Of course. You came home with Colonel Lund; he's told me about that.
Wasn't I a handful?" Sally is keenly interested.

"A small handful. You see, you made an impression. I knew you before,
though. You had bitten me at Umballa."

"He's told me about that, too. Isn't that Major Roper coming now?" If
it is not, it must be some one exactly like him, who stops to swear at
somebody or something at every landing. He comes down by instalments.
Till the end of the last one, conversation may continue. Sally wants
to know more about her _trajet_ from India--to take the testimony of
an eyewitness. "Mamma says always I was in a great rage because they
wouldn't let me go overboard and swim."

"I couldn't speak to that point. It seems likely, though. I always want
to jump overboard now, but reason restrains me. You were not reasonable
at that date."

"It _is_ funny, though, that I have got so fond of swimming since. I'm
quite a good swimmer."

Major Roper is by this time manifest volcanically at the bottom of the
staircase, but before he comes in Lord Pellew has time to say so is
his nasturtium granddaughter a good swimmer. He has thirteen, and
has christened each of them after a flower. He hopes thirteen isn't
unlucky, and then Major Roper comes in apologetic. Sally can just
recollect having seen him before, and thinks him as purple as ever.

"Lund--er!--Lund--er!--Lund--er!--Lund," he begins; each time he says
the name being baffled by a gasp, but holding tight to Sally's hand, as
though to make sure of her staying till he gets a chance. He gets none,
apparently, for he gives it up, whatever he was going to say, with the
hand, and says instead, in a lucky scrap of intermediate breath: "I was
comin' round--just comin'--only no gettin' those dam boots on!" And
then becomes convulsively involved in an apology for swearing before
a young lady. She, for her part, has no objection to his damning his
boots if he will take them off, and not go out. This she partly
conveys, and then, after a too favourable brief report of the patient's
state--inevitable under the circumstances--she continues:

"That's what I came on purpose to say, Major Roper. You're not to come
out on any account in the fog. Colonel Lund wouldn't be any better for
your coming, because he'll think of you going back through the fog,
and he'll fret. Please do give up the idea of coming until it clears.
Besides, he isn't my grandfather." An inconsecutive finish to correct
a mistake of Old Jack's. She resumes the chair she had risen from when
he came in, and thereupon he, suffering fearfully from having no
breathing-apparatus and nothing to use it on, makes concession to a
chair himself, but all the while waves a stumpy finger to keep Sally's
last remark alive till his voice comes. The other old soldier remains
standing, but somewhat on Sally's other side, so that she does not see
both at once. A little voice, to be used cautiously, comes to the Major
in time.

"Good Lard, my dear--excuse--old chap, you know!--why, good Lard, what
a fool I am! Why, I knoo your father in India."

But he stops suddenly, to Sally inexplicably. She does not see that
General Pellew has laid a finger of admonition on his lips.

"I never saw my father," she says. It is a kind of formula of hers
which covers all contingencies with most people. This time she does not
want it to deadlock the conversation, which is what it usually serves
for, so she adds: "You really knew him?"

"Hardly knoo," is the reply. "Put it I met him two or three times, and
you'll about toe the line for a start. Goin' off at that, we soon come
up to my knowin' the Colonel's not your grandfather." Major Roper does
not get through the whole of the last word--asthma forbids it--but his
meaning is clear. Only, Sally is a direct Turk, as we have seen, and
likes clearing up things.

"You know my friend Lætitia Wilson's mother, Major Roper?" The Major
expresses not only that he does, but that his respectful homage is due
to her as a fine woman--even a queenly one--by kissing his finger-tips
and raising his eyes to heaven. "Well, Lætitia (Tishy, I call her)
says you told her mother you knew my father in India, and went out
tiger-hunting with him, and he shot a tiger two hundred yards off and
gave you the skin." Sally lays stress on the two hundred yards as
a means of identification of the case. No doubt the Major owned many
skins, but shot at all sorts of distances.

It is embarrassing for the old boy, because he cannot ignore General
Pellew's intimations over Sally's head, which she does not see. He is
to hold his tongue--that is their meaning. Yes, but when you have made
a mistake, it may be difficult to begin holding it in the middle.
Perhaps it would have been safer to lose sight of the subject in the
desert of asthma, instead of reviving it the moment he got to an oasis.

"Some misunderstanding'," said he, when he could speak. "I've got a
tiger-skin the man who shot it gave me out near Nagpore, but he wasn't
your father." How true that was!

"Do you remember his name?" Sally wants him to say it was Palliser
again, to prove it all nonsense, but a warning finger of the old
General makes him desperate, and he selects, as partially true, the
supposed alias which--do you remember all this?--he had ascribed to
the tiger-shooter in his subsequent life in Australia.

"Perfectly well. His name was Harrisson. A fine shot. He went away
to Australia after that."

Sally laughs out. "How very absurd of Tishy!" she says. "She hadn't
even got the name you said right. _She_ said it was Palliser. It sounds
like Harrisson." She stopped to think a minute. "But even if she had
said it right it wouldn't be my father, because his name, you know,
was Graythorpe--like mine before we both changed to Nightingale--mother
and I. We did, you know."

Old Jack assents to this with an expenditure of breath not warranted
where breath is so scarce. He cannot say "of course," and that he
recollects, too often. Perhaps he is glad to get on a line of veracity.
The General says "of course," also. "Your mother, my dear, was Mrs.
Graythorpe when I knew her at Umballa and on the boat." Both these
veterans call Sally "my dear," and she doesn't resent it.

But her message is really given, and she ought to get back. She
succeeds in finally overruling Major Roper's scheme of coming out into
the fog, which has contrived to get blacker still during this
conversation; but has more trouble with the other old soldier. She
only overcomes that victor in so many battle-fields by representing
that if he does see her safe to Ball Street _she_ will be miserable if
she doesn't see _him_ safe back to the club. "And then," she adds, "we
shall go on till doomsday. Besides, I _am_ young and sharp!" At which
the old General laughs, and says isn't _he_? Ask his granddaughters!
Sally says no, he isn't, and she can't have him run over to please
anybody. However, he will come out to see her off, though Old Jack must
do as he's told, and stop indoors. He watches the little figure vanish
in the fog, with a sense of the merry eyebrows in the pretty shoulders,
like the number of a cab fixed on behind.

       *       *       *       *       *

When General Pellew had seen Sally out, to the great relief of Gibbon
of the various reds in the lobby, he returned and drew a chair for
himself beside Major Roper, who still sat, wrestling with the fog,
where he had left him.

"What a dear child!... Oh yes; she'll be all right. Take better care
of herself than I should of her. She would only have been looking after
me, to see that I didn't get run over." He glanced round and dropped
his voice, leaning forward to the Major. "She must never be told."

"You're right, Pelloo! Dam mistake of mine to say! I'm a dam
mutton-headed old gobblestick! No better!" We give up trying to
indicate the Major's painful interruptions and struggles. Of course,
he might have saved himself a good deal by saying no more than was
necessary. General Pellew was much more concise and to the purpose.

"_Never_ be told. I see one thing. Her mother has told her little or
nothing of the separation."

"No! Dam bad business! Keep it snug's the word."

"You saw she had no idea of the name. It _was_ Palliser, wasn't it?"

"Unless it was Verschoyle." Major Roper only says this to convince
himself that he might have forgotten the name--a sort of washy
palliation of his Harrisson invention. It brings him within a
measurable distance of a clear conscience.

"No, it wasn't Verschoyle. I remember the Verschoyle case." By this
time Old Jack is feeling quite truthful. "It _was_ Palliser, and
it's not for me to blame him. He only did what you or I might have
done--any man. A bit hot-headed, perhaps. But look here, Roper...."

The General dropped his voice, and went on speaking almost in a
whisper, but earnestly, for more than a minute. Then he raised it
again.

"It was that point. If you say a word to the girl, or begin giving
her any information, and she gets the idea you can tell her more,
she'll just go straight for you and say she must be told the whole.
I can see it in her eyes. And _you can't tell her the whole_. You
know you can't!"

The Major fidgeted visibly. He knew he should go round to learn about
his old friend (it was barely a quarter of a mile) as soon as the least
diminution of the fog gave him an excuse. And he was sure to see Sally.
He exaggerated her age. "The gyairl's twenty-two," said he weakly. The
General continued:

"I'm only speaking, mind you, on the hypothesis.... I'm supposing the
case to have been what I told you just now. Otherwise, you could
work the telling of it on the usual lines--unfaithfulness, estranged
affections, desertion--all the respectable produceable phrases. But as
for making that little Miss Nightingale _understand_--that is, without
making her life unbearable to her--it can't be done, Major. It can't
be done, old chap!"

"I see your game. I'll tell her to ask her mother."

"It can't be done that way. I hope the child's safe in the fog." The
General embarked on a long pause. There was plenty of time--more time
than he had (so his thought ran) when his rear-guard was cut off by the
Afridis in the Khyber Pass. But then the problem was not so difficult
as telling this live girl how she came to be one--telling her, that is,
without poisoning her life and shrouding her heart in a fog as dense
as the one that was going to make the street-lamps outside futile
when night should come to help it--telling her without dashing the
irresistible glee of those eyebrows and quenching the smile that
opened the casket of pearls that all who knew her thought of her by.

Both old soldiers sat on to think it out. The older one first
recognised the insolubility of the problem. "It can't be done," said
he. "Girls are not alike. She's too much like my nasturtium
granddaughter now...."

"I shall have to tell her dam lies."

"That won't hurt you, Old Jack."

"I'm not complainin'."

"Besides, I shall have to tell 'em, too, as likely as not. You must
tell me what you've told, so as to agree. I should go round to ask
after Lund, only I promised to meet an old thirty-fifth man here at
five. It's gone half-past. He's lost in the fog. But I can't go away
till he comes." Old Jack is seized with an unreasoning sanguineness.

"The fog's clearin'," he says. "You'll see, it'll be quite bright in
half-an-hour. Nothin' near so bad as it was, now. Just you look at
that window."

The window in question, when looked at, was not encouraging. So far as
could be seen at all through the turgid atmosphere of the room, it was
a parallelogram of solid opacity crossed by a window-frame, with a
hopeless tinge of Roman ochre. But Old Jack was working up to a fiction
to serve a purpose. By the time he had succeeded in believing the fog
was lifting he would be absolved from his promise not to go out in it.
It was a trial of strength between credulity and the actual. The
General looked at the window and asked a bystander what he thought,
sir? Who felt bound to testify that he thought the prospect hopeless.

"You're allowin' nothin' for the time of day," said Major Roper, and
his motive was transparent. Sure enough, after the General's friend
had come for him, an hour late, the Major took advantage of the doubt
whether absolute darkness was caused by fog or mere night, and in spite
of all remonstrances, began pulling on his overcoat to go out. He
even had the effrontery to appeal to the hall-porter to confirm his
views about the state of things out of doors. Mr. Mulberry added his
dissuasions with all the impressiveness of his official uniform and the
cubic area of its contents. But even his powerful influence carried no
weight in this case. It was useless to argue with the infatuated old
boy, who was evidently very uneasy about Major Lund, and suspected also
that Miss Nightingale had not reported fair, in order to prevent him
coming. He made himself into a perfect bolster with wraps, and put on
a respirator. This damned thing, however, he took off again, as it
impeded respiration, and then went out into the all but solid fog,
gasping and choking frightfully, to feel his way to Hill Street and
satisfy himself the best thing was being done to his old friend's
bronchitis.

"They'll kill him with their dam nostrums," said he to the last member
of the Club he spoke to, a chance ex-Secretary of State for India, whom
he took into his confidence on the doorstep. "A little common-sense,
sir--that's what's wanted in these cases. It's all very fine, sir, when
the patient's young and can stand it...." His cough interrupted him,
but he was understood to express that medical attendance was fraught
with danger to persons of advanced years, and that in such cases his
advice should be taken in preference to that of the profession. He
recovered enough to tell Mulberry's subordinate to stop blowin'
that dam whistle. There were cabs enough and to spare, he said, but
they were affecting non-existence from malicious motives, and as a
stepping-stone to ultimate rapacity. Then he vanished in the darkness,
and was heard coughing till he turned a corner.



CHAPTER XXIV

HOW MAJOR ROPER MET THAT BOY, AND GOT UPSTAIRS AT BALL STREET. AN
  INTERVIEW BETWEEN ASTHMA AND BRONCHITIS. HOW SALLY PINIONED THE PURPLE
  VETERAN, AND THERE WAS NO BOY. HOW THE GOVERNOR DONE HOARCKIN', AND GOT
  QUALIFIED FOR A SUBJECT OF PSYCHICAL RESEARCH


Old Jack's powers of self-delusion were great indeed if, when he
started on his short journey, he really believed the fog had mended. At
least, it was so dense that he might never have found his way without
assistance. This he met with in the shape of a boy with a link, whom
Sally at once identified from his description, given when the Major had
succeeded in getting up the stairs and was resting in the sitting-room
near the old sabre on the wall, wiping his eyes after his effort.
Colonel Lund was half-unconscious after a bad attack, and it was best
not to disturb him. Fenwick had not returned, and no one was very easy
about him. But every one affirmed the reverse, and joined in a sort of
Creed to the effect that the fog was clearing. It wasn't and didn't
mean to for some time. But the unanimity of the creed fortified the
congregation, as in other cases. No two believers doubted it at once,
just as no two Alpine climbers, strung together on the moraine of
a glacier, lose their foothold at the same time.

"I know that boy," said Sally. "His nose twists, and gives him a
presumptuous expression, and he has a front tooth out and puts his
tongue through. Also his trousers are tied on with strings."

"Everlastin' young beggar, if ever there was one," says the old
soldier, in a lucid interval when speech is articulate. But he is
allowing colloquialism to run riot over meaning. No everlasting person
can ever have become part of the past if you think of it. He goes on to
say that the boy has had twopence and is to come back for fourpence in
an hour, or threepence if you can see the gas-lamps, because then
a link will be superfluous. Sally recognises the boy more than ever.

"I wonder," she says, "if he's waiting outside. Because the party of
the house might allow him inside. Do you think I could ask, mother?"

"You might _try_, kitten," is the reply, not given sanguinely. And
Sally goes off, benevolent. "Even when your trousers are tied up with
string, a fog's a fog," says she to herself.

"I knoo our friend Lund first of all...." Thus the Major, nodding
towards the bedroom door.... "Why, God bless my soul, ma'am, I knew
Lund first of all, forty-six years ago in Delhi. Forty--six--years!
And all that time, if you believe me, he's been the same obstinate
moole. Never takin' a precaution about anythin', nor listening to
a word of advice!" This is about as far as he can go without a choke.
Rosalind goes into the next room to get a tumbler of water. The nurse,
who is sitting by the fire, nods towards the bed, and Rosalind goes
close to it to hear. "What is it, dear?" She speaks to the invalid
as to a little child.

"Isn't that Old Jack choking? I know his choke. What does he come out
for in weather like this? What does he mean? Send him back.... No,
send him in here." The nurse puts in a headshake as protest. But for
all that, Sally finds, when she returns, that the two veterans are
contending together against their two enemies, bronchitis and asthma,
with the Intelligence Department sadly interrupted, and the enemy in
possession of all the advantageous points.

"He oughtn't to try to talk," says Rosalind. "But he will." She and
Sally and the nurse sit on in the fog-bound front room. The gas-lights
have no heart in them, and each wears a nimbus. Rosalind wishes Gerry
would return, aloud. Sally is buoyant about him; _he's_ all right,
trust _him_! What about the everlasting young beggar?

"I persuaded Mrs. Kindred," says Sally. "And we looked outside for him,
and he'd gone."

"Fancy a woman being named Kindred!"

"When people are so genteel one can believe anything! But what do you
think the boy's name is?... Chancellorship! Isn't that queer? She knows
him--says he's always about in the neighbourhood. He sleeps in the
mews behind Great Toff House."

Her mother isn't listening. She rises for a moment to hear what she may
of how the talk in the next room goes on; and then, coming back, says
again she wishes Gerry was safe indoors, and Sally again says, "Oh,
_he's_ all right!" The confidence these two have in one another makes
them a couple apart--a sort of league.

What Mrs. Fenwick heard a scrap of in the next room would have been,
but for the alarums and excursions of the two enemies aforementioned,
a consecutive conversation as follows:

"You're gettin' round, Colonel?"

"A deal better, Major. I want to speak to _you_."

"Fire away, old Cockywax! You remember Hopkins?--Cartwright
Hopkins--man with a squint--at Mooltan--expression of his, 'Old
Cockywax.'"

"I remember him. Died of typhoid at Burrampore. Now you listen to me,
old chap, and don't talk--you only make yourself cough."

"It's only the dam fog. _I'm_ all right."

"Well, shut up. That child in the next room--it's her I want to talk
about. You're the only man, as far as I know, that knows the story.
She doesn't. She's not to be told."

"Mum's the word, sir. Always say nothin', that's my motto.
Penderfield's daughter at Khopal--at least, he was her father. One dam
father's as good as another, as long as he goes to the devil." This may
be a kind of disclaimer of inheritance as a factor to be reckoned with,
an obscure suggestion that human parentage is without influence on
character. It is not well expressed.

"Listen to me, Roper. You know the story. That's the only man I can't
say God forgive him to. God forgive _me_, but I can't."

"Devil take me if I can!... Yes, it's all right. They're all in the
next room...."

"But the woman was worse. She's living, you know...."

"I know--shinin' light--purifying society--that's her game! I'd purify
_her_, if I had my way."

"Come a bit nearer--my voice goes. I've thought it all out. If the
girl, who supposes herself to be the daughter of her mother's husband,
tries to run you into a corner--you understand?"

"I understand."

"Well, don't you undeceive her. Her mother has never told her
_anything_. She doesn't suppose she had any hand in the divorce. She
thinks his name was Graythorpe, and doesn't know he wasn't her father.
Don't you undeceive her--promise."

But the speaker is so near the end of his tether that the Major has
barely time to say, "Honour bright, Colonel," when the bronchial storm
bursts. It may be that the last new anodyne, which is warranted to have
all the virtues and none of the ill-effects of opium, had also come to
the end of _its_ tether. Mrs. Fenwick came quickly in, saying he had
talked too much; and Sally, following her, got Major Roper away,
leaving the patient to her mother and the nurse. The latter knew what
it would be with all this talking--now the temperature would go up,
and he would have a bad night, and what would Dr. Mildmay say?

Till the storm had subsided and a new dose of the sedative had been
given, Sally and Old Jack stood waiting in sympathetic pain--you
know what it is when you can do nothing. The latter derived some
insignificant comfort from suggestions through his own choking that
all this was due to neglect of his advice. When only moans and heavy
breathing were left, Sally went back into the bedroom. Her mother was
nursing the poor old racked head on her bosom, with the sword-hand of
the days gone by in her own. She said without speaking that he would
sleep presently, and the fewer in the room the better, and Sally left
them so, and went back.

Yes, the Major would take some toddy before he started for home. And
it was all ready, lemons and all, in the black polished wood cellaret,
with eagles' claws for feet. Sally got the ingredients out and began
to make it. But first she gently closed the door between the rooms,
to keep the sound of their voices in.

"You really did see my father, though, Major?" There seemed to be
a good deal of consideration before the answer came, not all to be
accounted for by asthma.

"Yes--certainly--oh yes. I saw Mr. Graythorpe once or twice. Another
spoonful--that's plenty." A pause.

"Now, don't spill it. Take care, it's very hot. That's right." Another
pause. "Major Roper...."

"Yes, my dear. What?"

"_Do_ tell me what he was like."

"Have you never seen his portrait?"

"Mother burnt it while I was small. She told me. Do tell me what you
recollect him like."

"Fine handsome feller--well set up. Fine shot, too! Gad! that was a
neat thing! A bullet through a tiger two hundred yards off just behind
the ear."

"But I thought _his_ name was Harrisson." The Major has got out of his
depth entirely through his own rashness. Why couldn't he leave that
tiger alone? Now he has to get into safe water again.

A good long choke is almost welcome at this moment. While it goes on he
can herald, by a chronic movement of a raised finger, his readiness to
explain all as soon as it stops. He catches at his first articulation,
so that not a moment may be lost. There were _two_ tigers--that's the
explanation. Harrisson shot one, and Graythorpe the other. The
cross-examiner is dissatisfied.

"Which was the one that shot the tiger two hundred yards off, just
behind the ear?"

The old gentleman responds with a spirited decision: "Your father,
my dear, your father. That tiger round at my rooms--show it you if
you like--that skin was given me by a feller named Harrisson, in the
Commissariat--quite another sort of Johnny. He was down with the
Central Indian Horse--quite another place!" He dwells on the
inferiority of this shot, the smallness of the skin, the close
contiguity of its owner. A very inferior affair!

But, being desperately afraid of blundering again, he makes the fact
he admits, that he had confoozed between the two cases, a reason for
a close analysis of the merits of each. This has no interest for
Sally, who, indeed, had only regarded the conversation, so far, as a
stepping-stone she now wanted to leap to the mainland from. After all,
here she is face-to-face with a man who actually knows the story of the
separation, and can talk of it without pain. Why should she not get
something from him, however little? You see, the idea of a something
that could not be told was necessarily foreign to a mind some
somethings could not be told to. But she felt it would be difficult to
account to Major Roper for her own position. The fact that she knew
nothing proved that her mother and Colonel Lund had been anxious she
should know nothing. She could not refer to an outsider over their
heads. Still, she hoped, as Major Roper was deemed on all hands an
arrant old gossip, that he might accidentally say something to enlighten
her. She prolonged the conversation in this hope.

"Was that before I was born?"

"The tiger-shootin'? Well, reely, my dear, I shouldn't like to say.
It's twenty years ago, you see. No, I couldn't say--couldn't say when
it was." He is beginning to pack himself in a long woollen scarf an
overcoat with fur facings will shortly cover in, and is, in fact,
preparing to evacuate a position he finds untenable. "I must be
thinkin' of gettin' home," he says. Sally tries for a word more.

"Was it before he and mother fell out?" It is on the Major's lips to
say, "Before the proceedings?" but he changes the expression.

"Before the split? Well, no; I should say after the split.
Yes--probably after the split." But an unfortunate garrulity prompts
him to say more. "After the split, I should say, and before
the----"--and then he feels he is in a quagmire, and flounders to the
nearest land--"before your father went away to Australia." Then he
discerns his own feebleness, recognising the platitude of this last
remark. For nobody could shoot tigers in an Indian jungle after he had
gone off to Australia. Clearly the sooner he gets away the better.

A timely choking-fit interposes to preserve its victim from further
questioning. The patient in the next room is asleep or torpid, so he
omits farewells. Sally's mother comes out to say good-night, and Sally
goes down the staircase with him and his asthma, feeling that it is
horrible and barbarous to turn him out alone in the dense blackness.
Perhaps, however, the peculiar boy with the strange name will be there.
That would be better than nothing. Sally feels there is something
indomitable about that boy, and that fog nourishes and stimulates it.

But, alas!--there is no boy. And yet it certainly would be fourpence
if he came back. For, though it may be possible to see the street
gas-lamps without getting inside the glass, you can't see them from
the pavement. Nevertheless, the faith that "it" is clearing having been
once founded, lives on itself in the face of evidence, even as other
faiths have done before now. So the creed is briefly recited, and the
Major disappears with the word good-night still on his lips, and his
cough, gasp, or choke dies away in the fog as he vanishes.

Somebody is whistling "Arr-hyd-y-nos" as he comes from the other side
in the darkness--somebody who walks with a swinging step and a resonant
foot-beat, some one who cares nothing for fogs. Fenwick's voice is
defiant of it, exhilarated and exhilarating, as he ceases to be a cloud
and assumes an outline. Sally gives a kiss to frozen hair that crackles.

"What's the kitten after, out in the cold? How's the Major?"

"Which? _Our_ Major? He's a bit better, and the temperature's lower."
Sally believed this; a little thermometer thing was being wielded as
an implement of optimism, and had lent itself to delusions.

"Oh, how scrunchy you are, your hands are all ice! Mamma's been getting
in a stew about _you_, squire." On which Fenwick, with the slightest of
whistles, passes Sally quickly and goes four steps at a time up the
stairs, still illuminated by Sally's gas-waste. For she had left the
lights at full cock all the way up.

"My dearest, you never got my telegram?" This is to Rosalind, who
has come out on the landing to meet him. But the failure of the
telegram--lost in the fog, no doubt--is a small matter. What shelves
it is the patient grief on the tired, handsome face Fenwick finds
tears on as he kisses it. Sally has the optimism all to herself now.
Her mother knows that her old friend and protector will not be here
long--that, of course, has been true some time. But there's the
suffering, present and to come.

"We needn't stop the chick hoping a little still if she likes." She
says it in a whisper. Sally is on the landing below; she hears the
whispering, and half guesses its meaning. Then she suppresses the
last gas-tap, and follows on into the front room, where the three sit
talking in undertones for perhaps an hour.

Yes, that monotonous sound is the breathing of the patient in the next
room, under the new narcotic which has none of the bad effects of
opium. The nurse is there watching him, and wondering whether it will
be a week, or twenty-four hours. She derives an impression from
something that the fog really is clearing at last, and goes to the
window to see. She is right, for at a window opposite are dimly
visible, from the candles on either side of the mirror, two white arms
that are "doing" the hair of a girl whose stays are much too tight.
She is dressing for late dinner or an early party. Then the nurse,
listening, understands that the traffic has been roused from its long
lethargy. "I thought I heard the wheels," she says to herself. Then
Sally also becomes aware of the sound in the traffic, and goes to _her_
window in the front room.

"You see I'm right," she says. "The people are letting their fires out,
and the fog's giving. Now I'm going to take you home, Jeremiah." For
the understanding is that these two shall return to Krakatoa Villa,
leaving Rosalind to watch with the nurse. She will get a chop in half
an hour's time. She can sleep on the sofa in the front room if she
feels inclined. All which is duty carried out or arranged for.

After her supper Rosalind sat on by herself before the fire in the
front room. She did not want to be unsociable with the nurse; but she
wanted to think, alone. A weight was on her mind; the thought that the
dear old friend, who had been her father and refuge, should never know
that she again possessed her recovered husband on terms almost as good
as if that deadly passage in her early life had never blasted the
happiness of both. He would die, and it would have made him so happy to
know it. Was she right in keeping it back now? Had she ever been right?

But if she told him now, the shock of the news might hasten his
collapse. Sudden news need not be bad to cause sudden death. And, maybe
the story would be too strange for him to grasp. Better be silent. But
oh! if he might have shared her happiness!

Drowsiness was upon her before she knew it. Better perhaps sleep a
little now, while he was sleeping. She looked in at him, and spoke to
the nurse. He lay there like a lifeless waxwork--blown through, like
an apparatus out of order, to simulate breath, and doing it badly.
How could he sleep when now and then it jerked him so? He could, and
she left him and lay down, and went suddenly to sleep. After a time
that was a journey through a desert, without landmarks, she was as
suddenly waked.

"What?... I thought you spoke...." And so some one had spoken, but
not to her. She started up, and went to where the nurse was conversing
through the open window with an inarticulate person in the street
below, behind the thick window-curtain she had kept overlapped, to
check the freezing air.

"What is it?"

"It's a boy. I can't make out what he says."

"Let me come!" But Rosalind gets no nearer his meaning. She ends up
with, "I'll come down," and goes. The nurse closes the window and goes
back to the bedroom.

The street door opens easily, the Chubb lock being the only fastening.
The moment Rosalind sees the boy near she recognises him. There is no
doubt about the presumptuous expression, or the cause of it. Also the
ostentatious absence of the front tooth, clearly accounting for
inaudibility at a distance.

"What do you want?" asks Rosalind.

"Nothin' at all for myself. I come gratis, I did. There's a many
wouldn't." He is not too audible, even now; but he would be better
if he did not suck the cross-rail of the area paling.

"Why did you come?"

"To bring you the nooze. The old bloke's a friend of yours, missis.
Or p'r'aps he ain't! I can mizzle, you know, and no harm done."

"Oh no, don't mizzle on any account. Tell me about the old bloke.
Do you mean Major Roper?"

"Supposin' I do, why shouldn't I?" This singular boy seems to have
no way of communicating with his species except through defiances
and refutations. Rosalind accepts his question as an ordinary assent,
and does not make the mistake of entering into argument.

"Is he ill?" The boy nods. "Is he worse?" Another nod. "Has he gone
home to his club?" The boy evidently has a revelation to make, but
would consider it undignified to make it except as a denial of
something to the contrary. He sees his way after a brief reflection.

"He ain't gone. He's been took."

"He's been taken? How has he been taken?"

"On a perambulance. Goin' easy! But he didn't say nothin'. Not harf
a word!"

"Had he fainted?" But this boy has another characteristic--when he
cannot understand he will not admit it. He keeps silence, and goes
on absorbing the railing. Rosalind asks further: "Was he dead?"

"It'd take a lawyer to tell that, missis."

"I can't stand here in the cold, my boy. Come in, and come up and
tell us." So he comes up, and Rosalind speaks to the nurse in the
other room, who comes; and then they turn seriously to getting the
boy's story.

He is all the easier for examination from the fact that he is
impressed, if not awed, by his surroundings. All the bounce is knocked
out of him, now that his foot is no longer on his native heath, the
street. Witness that the subject of his narrative, who would certainly
have been the old bloke where there was a paling to suck, has become
a simple pronoun, and no more!

"I see him afore, missis," he says. "That time wot I lighted him
round for twopence. And he says to come again in three-quarters of
an hour. And I says yes, I says. And he says not to be late. Nor yet
I shouldn't, only the water run so slow off the main, and I was
kep.... Yes, missis--a drorin' of it off in their own pails at the
balkny house by the mooze, where the supply is froze...."

"I see, you got a job to carry up pails of water from that thing that
sticks up in the road?"

"Yes, missis; by means of the turncock. Sim'lar I got wet. But I didn't
go to be late. It warn't much, in the manner of speakin'. I was on his
'eels, clost."

"You caught him?"

"Heard him hoarckin' in the fog, and I says to my mate--boy by the name
of 'Ucklebridge, only chiefly called Slimy, to distinguish him--I
says--I says that was my guv'nor, safe and square, by the token of the
sound of it. And then I catches him up in the fog, follerin' by the
sound. My word, missis, he _was_ bad! Wanted to holler me over the
coals, he did, for behind my time. I could hear him wantin' to do it.
But he couldn't come by the breath."

Poor Old Jack! The two women look at each other, and then say to the
boy: "Go on."

"Holdin' by the palins, he was, and goin' slow. Then he choked it
off like, and got a chanst for a word, and he says: 'Now, you young
see-saw'--that's what he said, missis, 'see-saw'--'just you stir your
stumps and cut along to the clubbus: and tell that dam red-faced fool
Mulberry to look sharp and send one of the young fellers to lend an
arm, and not to come hisself.' And then he got out a little flat bottle
of something short, and went for a nip; but the cough took him, and it
sprouted over his wropper and was wasted."

The women look at each other again. The nurse sees well into the story,
and says quickly under her breath to Rosalind: "He'd been told what to
do if he felt it coming. A drop of brandy might have made the
difference." The boy goes on as soon as he is waited for.

"Mr. Mulberry he comes runnin' hisself, and a couple more on 'em! And
then they all calls me a young varmint by reason of the guv'nor having
got lost. But a gentleman what comes up, he says all go opposite ways,
he says, and you'll hear him in the fog. So I runs up a parsage, and
in the middle of the parsage I tumbles over the guv'nor lyin' acrost
the parsage. Then I hollers, and then they come."

"Oh dear!" says Rosalind; for this boy had that terrible power of vivid
description which flinches at no realism--_seems_ to enjoy the horror
of it; does not really. Probably it was only his intense anxiety to
communicate _all_, struggling with his sense of his lack of language--a
privilege enjoyed by guv'nors. But Rosalind feels the earnestness of
his brief epic. He winds it up:

"But the guv'nor, he'd done hoarckin'. Nor he never spoke. The
gentleman I told you, he says leave him lyin' a minute, he says, and
he runs. Then back he comes with the apoarthecary--him with the red
light--and they rips the guv'nor's sleeves up, spilin' his coat. And
they prokes into his arm with a packin'-needle. Much use it done! And
then they says, it warn't the fog, and I called 'em a liar. 'Cos it's
a clearin' off, they says. It warn't, not much. I see the perambulance
come, and they shoved him in, and I hooked it off, and heard 'em
saying where's that young shaver, they says; he'll be wanted for his
testament. So I hooked it off."

"And where did you go?"

"To a wisit on a friend, I did. Me and Slimy--him I mentioned afore.
And he says, he says, to come on here--on'y later. So then I come on
here."

Rosalind finds herself, in the face of what she feels must mean Old
Jack's sudden death, thinking how sorry she is she can command no pair
of trousers of a reasonable size to replace this boy's drenched ones--a
pair that would need no string. A crude brew of hot toddy, and most of
the cake that had appealed to Major Roper in vain, and never gone back
to the cellaret, were the only consolations possible. They seemed
welcome, but under protest.

"Shan't I carry of 'em outside, missis?"

"On the stairs, then." This assent is really because both women believe
he will be comfortabler there than in the room. "Where are you going to
sleep?" Rosalind asks, as he takes the cake and tumbler away to the
stairs. She puts a gas-jet on half-cock.

"Twopenny doss in Spur Street, off of 'Orseferry Road, Westminster."
This identification is to help Rosalind, as she may not be able to spot
this particular doss-house among all she knows.

"Do you always sleep there?"

"No, missis! Weather permitting, in our mooze--on the 'eap. The
'orse-keeper gives a sack in return for a bit of cleanin', early,
before comin' away."

"What are you?" says Rosalind. She is thinking aloud more than asking
a question. But the boy answers:

"I'm a wife, I am. Never learned no tride, ye see!... Oh yes; I've been
to school--board-school scollard. But they don't learn you no tride.
You parses your standards and chucks 'em." This incredible boy, who
deliberately called himself a waif (that was his meaning), was it
possible that he had passed through a board-school? Well, perhaps he
was the highest type of competitive examinee, who can learn everything
and forget everything.

"But you have a father?"

"I could show him you. But he don't hold with teachin' his sons trides,
by reason of their gettin' some of his wiges. He's in the sanitary
engineering himself, but he don't do no work." Rosalind looks puzzled.
"That's his tride--sanitary engineering, lavatries, plumbin', and
fittin'. Been out of work better than three years. He can jint you off
puppies' tails, though, at a shillin'. But he don't only get a light
job now and again, 'cos the tride ain't wot it was. They've been
shearin' of 'em off of late years. Thank you, missis." The refreshments
have vanished as by magic, and Rosalind gives the boy the rest of the
cake and a coin, and he goes away presumably to the doss-house he
smells so strong of, having been warmed, that a flavour of the heap in
the mews would have been welcome in exchange. So Rosalind thinks as she
opens the window a moment and looks out. She can quite see the houses
opposite. The fog has cleared till the morning.

Perhaps it is the relenting of the atmospheric conditions, or perhaps
it is the oxygen that the patient has been inhaling off and on, that
has slightly revived him. Or perhaps it is the champagne that comes up
through a tap in the cork, and reminds Rosalind's ill-slept brain of
something heard very lately--what on earth exactly was it? Oh, she
knows! Of course, the thing in the street the sanitary engineer's
son drew the pails of water at for the house with the balcony. It is
pleasanter to know; might have fidgeted her if she had not found out.
But she is badly in want of sleep, that's the truth!

"I thought Major Roper was gone, Rosey." He can talk through his heavy
breathing. It must be the purer air.

"So he is, dear. He went two hours ago." She sits by him, taking his
hand as before. The nurse is, by arrangement, to take her spell of
sleep now.

"I suppose it's my head. I thought he was here just now--just this
minute."

"No, dear; you've mixed him up with Gerry, when he came in to say
good-night. Major Roper went away first. It wasn't seven o'clock." But
there is something excited and puzzled in the patient's voice as he
answers--something that makes her feel creepy.

"Are you _sure_? I mean, when he came back into the room with his
coat on."

"You are dreaming, dear! He never came back. He went straight away."

"Dreaming! Not a bit of it. You weren't here." He is so positive that
Rosalind thinks best to humour him.

"I suppose I was speaking to Mrs. Kindred. What did he come back to
say, dear?"

"Oh, nothing! At least, I had told him not to chatter to Sallykin about
the old story, and he came back, I suppose, to say he wouldn't." He
seemed to think the incident, as an incident, closed; but presently
goes on talking about things that arise from it.

"Old Jack's the only one of them all that knew anything about it--that
Sallykin is likely to come across. Pellew knew, of course; but he's not
an old chatterbox like Roper."

Ought not Rosalind to tell the news that has just reached her? She asks
herself the question, and answers it: "Not till he rallies, certainly.
If he does not rally, why then----!" Why then he either will know or
won't want to.

She has far less desire to tell him this than she has to talk of
the identity of her husband. She would almost be glad, as he is to
die--her old friend--that she should have some certainty beforehand
of the exact time of his death, so that she might, only for an hour
a companion in her secrecy. If only he and she might have borne the
burden of it together! She reproached herself, now that it was too
late, with her mistrust of his powers of retaining a secret. See how
keenly alive he was to the need of keeping Sally's parentage in the
dark! And _that_ was what the whole thing turned on. Gerry's continued
ignorance might be desirable, but was a mere flea-bite by comparison.
In her strained, sleepless, overwrought state the wish that "the Major"
should know of her happiness while they could still speak of it
together grew from a passing thought of how nice it might have been,
that could not be, to a dumb dominant longing that it should be. Still,
after all, the only fear was that he should talk to Gerry; and how easy
to keep Gerry out of the room! And suppose he did talk! Would Gerry
believe him? There was risky ground there, though.

She was not sorry when no more speech came through the heavy breathing
of the invalid. He had talked a good deal, and a semi-stupor followed,
relieving her from the strong temptation she had felt to lead him back
to their past memories, and feel for some means of putting him in
possession of the truth. As the tension of her mind grew less, she
became aware this would have been no easy thing to do. Then, as she sat
holding the old hand, and wondering that anything so frail could still
keep in bond a spirit weary of its prison, drowsiness crept over her
once more, all the sooner for the monotonous rhythm of the heavy
breath. Consciousness gave place to a state of mysterious discomfort,
complicated with intersecting strings and a grave sense of
responsibility, and then to oblivion. After a few thousand years,
probably minutes on the clock, a jerk woke her.

"Oh dear! I was asleep."

"You might give me another nip of the champagne, Rosey dear. And then
you must go and lie down. I shall be all right. Is it late?"

"Not very. About twelve. I'll look at my watch." She does so, and it
is past one. Then the invalid, being raised up towards his champagne,
has a sudden attack of coughing, which brings in the nurse as a
reserve. Presently he is reinstated in semi-comfort, half a tone
weaker, but with something to say. And so little voice to say it with!
Rosalind puts her ear close, and repeats what she catches.

"Why did Major Roper come back? He didn't, dear. He went away about
seven, and has not been here since."

"He was in the room just this minute." The voice is barely audible,
the conviction of the speaker absolute. He is wandering. The nurse's
mind decides, in an innermost recess, that it won't be very long now.

       *       *       *       *       *

Rosalind looked out through a spot she had rubbed clean on the frozen
window-pane, and saw that it was bright starlight. The fog had gone.
That boy--he was asleep at the twopenny doss, and the trousers were
drying. What a good thing that he should be totally insensitive to
atmosphere, as no doubt he was.

The hardest hours for the watcher by a sick-bed are those that cannot
be convinced that they belong to the previous day. One o'clock may be
coaxed or bribed easily enough into winking at a pretence that it is
only a corollary of twelve; two o'clock protests against it audibly,
and every quarter-chime endorses its claim to be to-morrow; three
o'clock makes short work of an imposture only a depraved effrontery
can endeavour to foist upon it. Rosalind was aware of her unfitness
to sit up all night--all this next night--but nursed the pretext that
it had not come, and that it was still to-day, until a sense of the
morning chill, and something in the way the sound of each belated cab
confessed to its own scarcity, convinced her of the uselessness of
further effort. Then she surrendered the point, short of the stroke
of three, and exchanged posts with the nurse, who promised to call her
at once should it seem necessary to do so. Sleep came with a rush, and
dreamless oblivion. Then, immediately, the hand of the nurse on her
shoulder, and her voice, a sudden shock in the absolute stillness:

"I thought it better to wake you, Mrs. Nightingale. I am _so_
sorry...."

"Oh dear! how long have I slept?" Rosalind's mind leaped through a
second of unconsciousness of where she is and what it's all about to
a state of intense wakefulness. "What o'clock is it?"

"It's half-past six. I should have left you to have your sleep out,
only he wanted you.... Yes, he woke up and asked for you, and then
asked again. He's hardly coughed."

"I'll come." Rosalind tried for alacrity, but found she was quite
stiff. The fire was only a remnant of red glow that collapsed feebly
as the nurse touched it with the poker. It was a case for a couple of
little gluey wheels, and a good contribution to the day's fog, already
in course of formation, with every grate in London panting to take
shares. Rosalind did not wait to see the black column of smoke start
for its chimney-pot, but went straight to the patient's bedside.

"Is that Rosey? I can't see very well. Come and sit beside me. I want
you." He was speaking more easily than before, so his hearer thought.
Could it be a change for the better? She put her finger on the pulse,
but it was hard to find. The fever had left him for the time being,
but its work was done. It was wonderful, though, that he should have
so much life in him for speech.

"What is it, Major dear?... Let's get the pillow right.... There,
that's better! Yes, dear; what is it?"

"I've got my marching orders, Rosey. I shall be all right. Shan't be
sorry ... when it's over.... Rosey girl, I want you to do something
for me.... Is my watch there, with the keys?"

"Yes, dear; the two little keys."

"The little one opens my desk ... with the brass corners.... Yes, that
one.... Open the top flap, and look in the little left-hand drawer.
Got it?"

"Yes; you want the letters out? There's only one packet."

"That's the lot. Read what's written on them."

"Only 'Emily, 1837.'"

"Quite right! That was your aunt, you know--your father's sister.
Don't cry, darling. Nothing to cry about! I'm only an old chap. There,
there!" Rosalind sat down again by the bed, keeping the packet of
letters in her hand. Presently the old man, who had closed his eyes as
though dozing, opened them and said: "Have you put them on the fire?"

"No. Was I to?"

"That was what I meant. I thought I said so.... Yes; pop 'em on."
Rosalind went to the fireside and stood hesitating, till the old man
repeated his last words; then threw the love-letters of sixty years
ago in a good hot place in the burning coal. A flare, and they were
white ash trying to escape from a valley of burning rocks; then even
that was free to rise. Maybe the only one who ever read them would be
soon--would be a mere attenuated ash, at least, as far as what lay on
that bed went, so pale and evanescent even now.

"A fool of a boy, Rosey dear," said the old voice, as she took her
place by the bed again. "Just a fool of a boy, to keep them all those
years. And _she_ married to another fellow, and a great-grandmother.
Ah, well!... don't you cry about it, Rosey.... All done now!" She may
have heard him wrong, for his voice went to a whisper. She wondered at
the way the cough was sparing him.

Then she thought he was falling asleep again; but presently he spoke.
"I shall do very well now.... Nothing but a little rest ... that's
all I want now. Only there's something I wanted to say about ...
about...."

"About Sally?" Rosalind guessed quickly, and certainly.

"Ah ... about the baby. _Your_ baby, Rosey.... That man that was her
father ... he's on my mind...."

"Oh me, forget him, dear--forget him! Leave him to God!" Rosalind
repeated a phrase used twenty years ago by herself in answer to the
old soldier's first uncontrollable outburst of anger against the man
who had made her his victim. His voice rose again above a whisper as
he answered:

"I heard you say so, dear child ... then ... that time. You were
right, and I was wrong. But what I've said--many a time, God forgive
me!--that I prayed he was in hell. I would be glad now to think I
had not said it."

"Don't think of it. Oh, my dear, don't think of it! You never meant
it...."

"Ah, but I did, though; and would again, mind you, Rosey! Only--not
now! Better let him go, for Sallykin's sake.... The child's the puzzle
of it...."

Rosalind thought she saw what he was trying to say, and herself tried
to supplement it. "You mean, why isn't Sally like him?"

"Ah, to be sure! Like father like son, they say. His son's a chip of
the old block. But then--he's his mother's son, too. Two such!--and
then see what comes of 'em. Sallykin's your daughter ... Rosey's
daughter. Sallykin...." He seemed to be drowsing off from mere
weakness; but he had something to say, and his mind made for speech
and found it:

"Yes, Rosey; it's the end of the story. Soon off--I shall be! Not
very long now. Wasn't it foggy?"

"Yes, dear; it was. But it's clear now. It's snowing."

"Then you could send for Jack Roper. Old Jack! He can tell me
something I want to know.... I know he can...."

"But it's the middle of the night, dear. We can't send for him now.
Sally shall go for him again when she comes in the morning. What is
it you want to know?"

"What became of poor Algernon Palliser.... I know Old Jack knows....
Something he heard.... I forget things ... my head's not good. Ah,
Rosey darling! if I'd been there in the first of it ... I could have
got speech of him. I might have ... might have...."

As the old man's mind wandered back to the terrible time it dragged
his hearer's with it. Rosalind tried to bear it by thinking of what
Sally was like in those days, crumpled, violent, vociferous,
altogether _intransigeante_. But it was only a moment's salve to a
reeling of the reason she knew must come if this went on. If he slept
it might be averted. She thought he was dropping off, but he roused
himself again to say: "What became of poor Palliser--your husband?"

Then Rosalind, whose head was swimming, let the fact slip from her
that the dying man had never seen or known her husband in the old
days; only he had always spoken of him as one to be pitied, not
blamed, even as she herself thought of him. Incautiously she now said,
"Poor Gerry!" forgetting that Colonel Lund had never known him by that
name, or so slightly that it did not connect itself. Yet his mind was
marvellously clear, too; for he immediately replied: "I did not mean
Fenwick. I meant your first husband. Poor boy! poor fellow! What
became of him?"

"_His_ name was Algernon, too," was all the answer she could think of.
It was a sort of forlorn hope in nettle-grasping. Then she saw it had
little meaning in it for her listener. His voice went on, almost
whispering:

"Many a time I've thought ... if we could have found the poor boy ...
and shown him Sally ... he might have ... might have...."

Rosalind could bear it no longer. Whoever reads this story carelessly
may see little excuse for her that she should lose her head at the
bedside of a dying man. It was really no matter for surprise that she
should do so. Consider the perpetual tension of her life, the broken
insufficient sleep of the last two days, the shock of "Old Jack's"
sudden death a few hours since! Small blame to her, to our thinking,
if she did give way! To some it may even seem, as to us, that the
course she took was best in the end. And, indeed, her self-control
stood by her to the last; it was a retreat in perfect order, not a
flight. Nor did she, perhaps, fully measure how near her old friend
was to his end, or release--a better name, perhaps.

"Major dear, I have something I must tell you." The old eyelids opened,
and his eyes turned to her, though he remained motionless--quite as
one who caught the appeal in the tension of her voice and guessed its
meaning.

"Rosey darling--yes; tell me now." His voice tried to rise above
a whisper; an effort seemed to be in it to say: "Don't keep anything
back on my account."

"So I will, dear. Shut your eyes and lie quiet and listen. I want to
tell you that I know that my first husband is not dead.... Yes, dear;
don't try to speak. You'll see when I tell you.... Algernon Palliser
is not dead, though we thought he must be. He went away from Lahore
after the proceedings, and he did go to Australia, no doubt, as we
heard at the time; but after that he went to America, and was there
till two years ago ... and then he came to England." The old man tried
to speak, but this time his voice failed, and Rosalind thought it best
to go straight on. "He came to England, dear, and met with a bad
accident, and lost his memory...."

"_What!_" The word came so suddenly and clearly that it gave her new
courage to go on. She _must_ tell it all now, and she felt sure he
was hearing and understanding all she said.

"Yes, dear; it's all true. Let me tell it all. He lost his memory
completely, so that he did not know his own name...."

"My God!"

"Did not know his own name, dear--did not know his own name--did
not know the face of the wife he lost twenty years ago--all, all a
blank!... Yes, yes; it was he himself, and I took him and kept him,
and I have him now ... and oh, my dear, my dear, he does not know
it--knows _nothing_! He does not know who I am, nor who he was, nor
that Sally is the baby; but he loves her dearly, as he never could
have loved her if ... if...."

She could say no more. The torrent of tears that was the first actual
relief to the weight upon her heart of two years of secrecy grew and
grew till speech was overwhelmed. But she knew that her story, however
scantily told, had reached her listener's mind, though she could not
have said precisely at what moment he came to know it. The tone of
his exclamation, "My God!" perhaps had made her take his knowledge for
granted. Of one thing, however, she felt certain--that details were
needless, would add nothing to the main fact, which she was quite
convinced her old friend had grasped with a mind still capable of
holding it, although it might be in death. Even so one tells a child
the outcome only of what one tells in full to older ears. Then quick
on the heels of the relief of sharing her burden with another followed
the thought of how soon the sympathy she had gained must be lost,
buried--so runs the code of current speech--in her old friend's grave.
All her heart poured out in tears on the hand that could still close
fitfully upon her own as she knelt by the bed on which he would so
soon lie dying.

Presently his voice came again--a faint whisper she could just catch:
"Tell it me again, Rosey ... what you told me just now ... just
now." And she felt his cold hand close on hers as he spoke. Then she
repeated what she had said before, adding only: "But he may never come
to know his own story, and Sally must not know it." The old whisper
came back, and she caught the words: "Then it is true! My God!"

She remained kneeling motionless beside him. His breath, weak and
intermittent, but seeming more free than when she left him four hours
since, was less audible than the heavy sleep of the overtaxed nurse
in the next room, heard through the unclosed door. The familiar early
noises of the street, the life outside that cares so little for the
death within, the daily bread and daily milk that wake us too soon in
the morning, the cynical interchanges of cheerful early risers about
the comfort of the weather--all grew and gathered towards the coming
day. But the old Colonel heard none of them. What thought he still had
could say to him that this was good and that was good, hard though it
might be to hold it in mind. But one bright golden thread ran clear
through all the tangled skeins--he would leave Rosey happy at last,
for all the bitterness her cup of life had held before.

       *       *       *       *       *

The nurse had slept profoundly, but she was one of those fortunate
people who can do so at will, and then wake up at an appointed time,
as many great soldiers have been able to do. As the clock struck
eight she sat up in the chair she had been sleeping in and listened a
moment. No sound came from the next room. She rose and pushed the door
open cautiously and looked in. Mrs. Fenwick was still kneeling by the
bed, her face hidden, still holding the old man's hand. The nurse
thought surely the still white face she saw in the intermittent gleams
of a lamp-flame flickering out was the face of a dead man. Need she
rouse or disturb the watcher by his side? Not yet, certainly. She
pulled the door very gently back, not closing it.

A sound came of footsteps on the stairs--footsteps without voices. It
was Fenwick and Sally, who had passed through the street door, open for
a negotiation for removal of the snow--for the last two hours had made
a white world outside. Sally was on a stairflight in the rear. She had
paused for a word with the boy Chancellorship, who was a candidate for
snow-removal. He seemed relieved by the snow. It was a tidy lot better
morning than last night, missis. He had breakfasted--yes--off of
corfy, and paid for it, and buttered 'arf slices and no stintin', for
twopence. Sally had a fellow-feeling for this boy's optimism. But he
had something on his mind, for when Sally asked him if Major Roper had
got home safe last night, his cheerfulness clouded over, and he said
first, "Couldn't say, missis;" and then, "He's been got home, you may
place your dependence on that;" adding, inexplicably to Sally, "He
won't care about this weather; it won't be no odds!" She couldn't wait
to find out his meaning, but told him he might go on clearing away
the snow, and when Mrs. Kindred came he was to say Miss Rosalind
Nightingale told him he might. She said she would be answerable, and
then ran to catch up Fenwick.

The nurse came out to meet them on the landing, and in answer to
Fenwick's half-inquiry or look of inquiry--Sally did not gather
which--said: "Yes--at least, I think so--just now." Sally made up her
mind it was death. But it was not, quite; for as the nurse, preceding
them, pushed the door of the sickroom gently open, the voice of the
man she believed dead came out almost strong and clear in the silence:
"Evil has turned to good. God be praised!"

But they were the last words Colonel Lund spoke. He died so quietly
that the exact moment of dissolution was not distinguishable. Fenwick
and Sally found Rosalind so overstrained with grief and watching that
they asked for no explanation of the words. Indeed, they may not have
ascribed any special meaning to them.



CHAPTER XXV

ABOUT SIX MONTHS, AND HOW A CABMAN SAW A GHOST. OF SALLY'S AND THE
  DOCTOR'S "MODUS VIVENDI," AND THE SHOOSMITH FAMILY. HOW SALLY MADE TEA
  FOR BUDDHA, AND HOW BUDDHA FORESAW A STEPDAUGHTER. DELIRIUM TREMENS


It may make this story easier to read at this point if we tell our
reader that this twenty-fifth chapter contains little of vital
import--is, in fact, only a passing reference to one or two
by-incidents that came about in the half-year that followed. He
cannot complain that they are superfluous if we give him fair warning
of their triviality, and enable him to skip them without remorse.
But they register, to our thinking, what little progress events made
in six very nice months--a period Time may be said to have skipped.
And whoso will may follow his example, and lose but little in the
doing of it.

Very nice months they were--only one cloud worth mention in the blue;
only one phrase in a minor key. The old familiar figure of "the
Major"--intermittent, certainly, but none the less invariable; making
the house his own, or letting it appropriate him, hard to say
which--was no longer to be seen; but the old sword had been hung in
a place of honour near a portrait of Paul Nightingale, Mrs. Fenwick's
stepfather--its old owner's school-friend of seventy years ago. At her
death it was to be offered to the school; no surviving relative was
named in the will, if any existed. Everything was left unconditionally
"to my dear daughter by adoption, Rosalind Nightingale."

Some redistributions of furniture were involved in the importation of
the movables from the two rooms in Ball Street. The black cabinet, or
cellaret, with the eagle-talons, found a place in the dining-room in
the basement into which Fenwick--only it seems so odd to go back to
it now--was brought on the afternoon of his electrocution. Sally always
thought of this cabinet as "Major Roper's cabinet," because she got
the whiskey from it for him before he went off in the fog. If only
she had made him drunk that evening! Who knows but it might have
enabled him to fight against that terrible heart-failure that was not
the result of atmospheric conditions. She never looked at this cabinet
but the thought passed through her mind.

Her mother certainly told her nothing at this time about her last
conversation with the Colonel, or almost nothing. Certainly she
mentioned more than once what she thought a curious circumstance--that
the invalid, who was utterly ignorant of Old Jack's death, had
persisted so strongly that he was present in the room when he must
have been dead some hours. Every one of us has his little bit of
Psychical Research, which he demands respect for from others, whose
own cherished private instances he dismisses without investigation.
This example became Mrs. Fenwick's; who, to be just, had not set
herself up with one previously, in spite of the temptation the
Anglo-Indian is always under to espouse Mahatmas and buried Faquirs
and the like. There seemed a good prospect that it would become
an article of faith with her; her first verdict--that it was an
hallucination--having been undermined by a certain contradictiousness,
produced in her by an undeserved discredit poured on it by pretenders
to a superior ghost-insight; who, after all, tried to utilise it
afterward as a peg to hang their own particular ghosts on. Which
wasn't researching fair.

Sally was no better than the rest of them; if anything, she was a
little worse. And Rosalind was far from sure that her husband wouldn't
have been much more reasonable if he hadn't had Sally there to
encourage him. As it was, the league became, _pro hac vice_, a league
of Incredulity, a syndicate of Materialists. Rosalind got no quarter
for the half-belief she had in what the old Colonel had said
on his death-bed. Her report of his evident earnestness and the
self-possession of his voice carried no weight; failing powers,
delirium, effects of opiates, and ten degrees above normal had it all
their own way. Besides, her superstition was weak-kneed. It only went
the length of suggesting that it really was very curious when you came
to think of it, and she couldn't make it out.

That the incident received such very superficial recognition must be
accounted for by the fact that Krakatoa Villa was not a villa of the
speculative-thinker class. We have known such villas elsewhere, but
we are bound to say we have known none where speculative thought has
tackled the troublesome questions of death-bed appearances, haunted
houses, _et id genus omne_, with the result of coming to any but very
speculative conclusions. The male head of this household may have
felt that he himself, as a problem for the Psychical Researcher, was
ill-fitted to discuss the subject. He certainly shied off expressing
any decided opinions.

"What do you really think about ghosts?" said his wife to him one day,
when Sally wasn't there to come in with her chaff.

"Ghosts belong in titled families. Middle-class ghosts are a poor lot.
Those in the army and navy cut the best figure, on the whole--Junior
United Service ghosts...."

"Gerry, be serious, or I'll have a divorce!" This was a powerful grip
on a stinging-nettle. Rosalind felt braced by the effort. "Did you
ever see a ghost, old man?"

"Not in the present era, sweetheart. I can't say about B.C." He used
to speak of his life in this way, but his wife always felt sorry when
he alluded to it. It seldom happened. "No, I have never seen one to
my knowledge. I've been seen as a ghost, though, which is very
unpleasant, I assure you."

Rosalind's mind went back to the fat Baron at Sonnenberg. She supposed
this to be another case of the same sort. "When was that?" she said.

"Monday. I took a hansom from Cornhill to our bonded warehouse. It's
under a mile, and I asked the driver to change half-a-crown; I hadn't
a shilling. He got out a handful of silver, and when he had picked out
the two shillings and sixpence he looked at me for the first time, and
started and stared as if I was a ghost in good earnest."

"Oh, Gerry, he must have seen you before--before it happened!"
Remember that this was, in the spirit of it, a fib, seeing that the
tone of voice was that of welcome to a possible revelation. To our
thinking, the more honour to her who spoke it, considering the
motives. Gerry continued:

"So I thought at first. But listen to what followed. As soon as his
surprise, whatever caused it, had toned down to mere recognition
point, he spoke with equanimity. 'I've driven you afore now, mister,'
said he. 'You won't call me to mind. Parties don't, not when fares;
when drivers, quite otherwise. I'm by way of taking notice myself.
You'll excuse _me_?' Then he said, 'War-r-r-p,' to the horse, who was
trying to eat himself and dig the road up. When they were friends
again, I asked, Where had he seen me? Might I happen to call to mind
Livermore's Rents, and that turn-up?--that was his reply. I said I
mightn't; or didn't, at any rate. I had never been near Livermore's
Rents, nor any one else's rents, that I could recall the name of. 'Try
again, guv'nor,' said he. 'You'll recall if you try hard enough. _He_
recollects it, _I'll_ go bail. My Goard! you _did_ let him have it!'
Was it a fight? I asked. Well, do you know, darling, that cabby
addressed me seriously; took me to task for want of candour.
'That ain't worthy of a guv'nor like you,' he said. 'Why make any
concealments? Why not treat me open?' I gave him my most solemn honour
that I was utterly at a loss to guess what he was talking about, on
which he put me through a sort of retrospective catechism, broken by
reminders to the horse. '_You_ don't rec'lect goin' easy over the
bridge for to see the shipping? Nor yet the little narrer court
right-hand side of the road, with an iron post under an arch and
parties hollerin' murder at the far end? Nor yet the way you held him
in hand and played him? Nor yet what you sampled him out at the
finish? My Goard!' He slapped the top of the cab in a sort of ecstasy.
'Never saw a neater thing in my life. _No_ unnecessary violence, _no_
agitation! And him carried off the ground as good as dead! Ah! I made
inquiry after, and that was _so_.' I then said it must have been some
one else very like me, and held out my half-crown. He slipped back
his change into his own pocket, and when he had buttoned it over
ostentatiously addressed me again with what seemed a last appeal.
'I take it, guv'nor,' said he, 'you may have such a powerful list of
fighting fixtures in the week that you don't easy recollect one out
from the other. But _now_, _do_, _you_, _mean_ to say your memory
don't serve you in this?--I drove you over to Bishopsgate, 'cross
London Bridge. Very well! Then you bought a hat--white Panama--and
took change, seein' your own was lost. And you was going to pay me,
and I drove off, refusin' to accept a farden under the circumstances.
Don't you rec'lect that?' I said I didn't. 'Well, I _did_,' said he.
'And, with your leave, I'll do the same thing now. I'll drive you most
anywhere you'd like to name in reason, but I won't take a farden.'
And, do you know, he was off before my surprise allowed me to say
a word."

"Now, Gerry, was it that made you so glum on Monday when you came
back? I recollect quite well. So would Sally."

"Oh no; it was uncomfortable at first, but I soon forgot all about it.
I recollect what it was put me in the dumps quite well. It was a long
time after the cabby."

"What was it?"

"Well, it was as I walked to the station. I went a little way round,
and passed through an anonymous sort of a churchyard. I saw a box in
a wall with 'Contributions' on it, and remembering that I really had
no right to the cabby's shilling or eighteenpence, I dropped a florin
in. And then, Rosey dear, I had the most horrible recurrence I've had
for a long time--something about the same place and the same box, and
some one else putting three shillings in it. And it was all mixed up
with a bottle of champagne and a bank. I can't explain why these
things are so painful, but they are. _You_ know, Rosey!"

"I know, dear." His wife's knowledge seemed to make her quite silent
and absent. She may have seen that the recovery of this cabman would
supply a clue to her husband's story. Had he taken the number of the
cab? No, he hadn't. Very stupid of him! But he had no pencil, or he
could have written it on his shirt-sleeve. He couldn't trust his
memory. Rosalind didn't feel very sorry the clue was lost. As for him,
did he, we wonder, really exert himself to remember the cab's number?

But when the story was told afterwards to Sally, the moment the
Panama hat came on the tapis, she struck in with, "Jeremiah! you
know quite well you had a Panama hat on the day you were electrocuted.
And, what's more, it was brand new! And, what's more, it's outside in
the hall!"

It was brought in, and produced a spurious sense of being detectives
on the way to a discovery. But nothing came of it.

All through the discussion of this odd cab-incident the fact that
Fenwick "would have written down the cab-driver's number on his
shirt-sleeve," was on the watch for a recollection by one of the three
that a something had been found written on the shirt-cuff Fenwick
was electrocuted in. The ill-starred shrewdness of Scotland Yard, by
detecting a mere date in that something, had quite thrown it out of
gear as an item of evidence. By the way, did no one ever ask why
should any man, being of sound mind, write the current date on his
shirt-sleeve? It really is a thing that can look after its own
interests for twenty-four hours. The fact is that, no sooner do
coincidences come into court, than sane investigation flies out at
the skylight.

There was much discussion of this incident, you may be sure; but
that is all we need to know about it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Our other chance gleanings of the half-year are in quite another part
of the field. They relate to Sally and Dr. Vereker's relation to
one another. If this relation had anything lover-like in it, they
certainly were not taking Europe into their confidence on the subject.
Whether their attitude was a spontaneous expression of respectful
indifference, or a _parti-pris_ to mislead and hoodwink her, of course
Europe couldn't tell. All that that continent, or the subdivision of
it known as Shepherd's Bush, could see was a parade of callousness
and studied civility on the part of both. The only circumstance that
impaired its integrity or made the bystander doubt the good faith
of its performers was the fact that one of them was a girl, and an
attractive one--so attractive that elderly ladies jumped meanly at
the supposed privileges of their age and sex, and kissed her a great
deal more than was at all fair or honourable.

The ostentatious exclusion of Cupid from the relationship of these two
demanded a certain mechanism. Every meeting had to be accounted for,
or there was no knowing what match-making busybodies wouldn't say; or,
rather, what they would say would be easily guessable by the lowest
human insight. Not that either of them ever mentioned precaution to
the other; all its advantages would have vanished with open
acknowledgment of its necessity. These arrangements were instinctive
on the part of both, and each credited the other with a mole-like
blindness to their existence.

For instance, each was graciously pleased to believe--or, at least, to
believe that the other believed--in a certain institution that called
for a vast amount of checking of totals, comparisons of counterfoils,
inspection of certificates, verification of data--everything, in
short, of which an institute is capable that could make incessant
correspondence necessary and frequent personal interviews advisable.
It could boast of Heaven knows how many titled Patrons and
Patronesses, Committees and Sub-committees, Referees and Auditors.
No doubt the mere mention of such an institution was enough to
render gossip speechless about any single lady and gentleman whom it
accidentally made known one to another. Its firm of Solicitors alone,
with a line all to itself in its prospectuses, was enough to put a
host of Loves to flight.

On which account Ann, at Krakatoa Villa, when she announced, "A person
for you, Miss Sally," was able to add, "from Dr. Vereker, I think,
miss," without the faintest shade of humorous reserve, as of one who
sees, and does not need to be told.

And when Sally had interviewed a hopeless and lopsided female, who
appeared to be precariously held together by pins, and to have an
almost superhuman power of evading practical issues, she (fortified
by this institution) was able to return to the drawing-room and say,
without a particle of shame, that she supposed she should have to go
and see Old Prosy about Mrs. Shoosmith to-morrow afternoon. And when
she called at the doctor's at teatime--because that didn't take him
from his patients, as he made a point of his tea, because of his
mother, if it was only ten minutes--both he and she believed
religiously in Mrs. Shoosmith, and Dr. Vereker filled out her form
(we believe we have the phrase right) with the most business-like
gravity at the little table where he wrote his letters.

Mrs. Shoosmith's form called for filling out in more senses than one.
The doctor's mother's form would not have borne anything further in
that direction; except, indeed, she had been provided with hooks to
go over her chair back, and keep her from rolling along the floor,
as a sphere might if asked to sit down.

A suggestion of the exceptional character of all visits from Sally to
Dr. Vereker, and _vice-versa_, was fostered by the domestics at his
house as well as at Krakatoa Villa. The maid Craddock, who responded
to Sally's knock on this Shoosmith occasion, threw doubt on the
possibility of the doctor ever being visible again, and kept the door
mentally on the jar while she spoke through a moral gap an inch wide.
Of course, that is only our nonsense. Sally was really in the house
when Craddock heroically, as a forlorn hope in a lost cause, offered
to "go and see"; and going, said, "Miss Nightingale; and is Dr.
Vereker expected in to tea?" without varnish of style, or redundance
of wording. But Sally lent herself to this insincere performance, and
remained in the hall until she was called on to decide whether she
would mind coming in and waiting, and Dr. Vereker would perhaps be
back in a few minutes. All this was part of the system of insincerity
we have hinted at.

So was the tenor of Sally's remarks, while she waited the few minutes,
to the effect that it was a burning shame that she should take up
Mrs. Vereker's time, a crying scandal that she should interrupt her
knitting, and a matter of penitential reflection that she hadn't
written instead of coming, which would have done just as well. To
which Mrs. Vereker, with a certain parade of pretended insincerity
(to make the real article underneath seem _bona fides_), replied with
mock-incredible statements about the pleasure she always had in seeing
Sally, and the rare good fortune which had prompted a visit at this
time, when, in addition to being unable to knit, owing to her eyes,
she had been absorbed in longing for news of a current event that
Sally was sure to know about. She particularised it.

"Oh, it isn't _true_, Mrs. Vereker! You don't mean to say you believed
_that_ nonsense? The idea! Tishy--just fancy!" Goody Vereker (the name
Sally thought of her by) couldn't shake her head, the fulness at the
neck forbade it; but she moved it cosily from side to side
continuously, much as a practicable image of Buddha might have done.

"My child, I've quite given up believing and disbelieving things.
I wait to be told, and then I ask if it's true. Now you've told me.
It isn't true, and that settles the matter."

"But whoever could tell you such _nonsense_, Mrs. Vereker?"

"A little bird, my dear." The image of Buddha left off the movement of
incredulity, and began a very gentle, slow nod. "A little bird tells
me these things--all sorts of things. But now I _know_ this one's
untrue I should never _dream_ of believing it. Not for one moment."

Sally felt inclined to pinch, bite, or otherwise maltreat the
speaker, so very worthless did her offer of optional disbelief seem,
and, indeed, so very offensive. But her inclination only went the
length of wondering how she could get at a vulnerable point through
so much fat.

"Tishy quarrels with her mother, I _know_," said she. "But as to her
doing anything like _that_! Besides, she never told me. Besides, I
should have been asked to the wedding. Besides," etcetera.

For, you see, what this elderly lady had asked the truth about was,
had or had not Lætitia Wilson and Julius Bradshaw been privately
married six months ago? Probably, during æons and epochs of knitting,
she had dreamed that some one had told her this. Or, even more
probably, she had invented it on the spot, to see what change she
could get out of Sally. She knew that Sally, prudently exasperated,
would give tongue; whereas conciliatory, cosy inquisition--the right
way to approach the elderly gossip--would only make her reticent. Now
it was only necessary to knit, and Sally would be sure to develop
the subject. The line she appeared to take was that it was a horrible
shame of people to say such things, in view of the fact that it was
only yesterday that Tishy had quite settled that rash matrimony in
defiance of her parents would not only be inexcusable but wrong. Sally
laid a fiery emphasis on the only-ness of yesterday, and seemed to
imply that, had it been a week ago, there would have been much more
plausibility in the story of this secret nuptial of six months back.

"Besides," she went on, accumulating items of refutation, "Julius has
only his salary, and Tishy has nothing--though, of course, she could
teach. Besides, Julius has his mother and sister, and they have only
a hundred and fifty a year. It does as long as they all live together.
But it wouldn't do if Julius married." On which the old Goody (Sally
told her mother after) embarked on a long analysis of how joint
housekeeping could be managed if Tishy would consent to be absorbed
into the Bradshaw household. She made rather a grievance of it that
Sally could not supply data of the sleeping accommodation at Georgiana
Terrace, Bayswater. If she had known that, she could have got them
all billeted on different rooms. As it was, she had to be content
to enlarge on the many economies the family could achieve if they
consented to be guided by a person of experience--_e.g._, herself.

"Of course, dinner would have to be late," she said, "because of Mr.
Bradshaw not getting home till nearly eight. They would have to make
it supper. And it might be cold; it's a great saving, and makes it so
easy where there's one servant." Sally shuddered with horror at this
implied British household. Poor Tishy!

"But they're _not going_ to marry till they see their way," she
exclaimed in despair. She felt that Tishy and Julius were being
involved, entangled, immeshed by an old matrimonial octopus in
gilt-rimmed spectacles--like Professor Wilson's--who could knit
tranquilly all the while, while she herself could do nothing to save
them. "It might be cold!!" Every evening, perhaps--who knows?

"Very proper, my dear." Thus the Octopus. "I felt sure such a nice,
sensible girl as Miss Wilson never would. That is Conrad." It really
was a sound of a latch-key, but speech is no mere slave to fact.

"And I was really quite glad when Dr. Prosy came in--the way the Goody
was going on about Tishy!" So Sally said to her mother when she had
completed her report of the portion of this visit she chose to tell
about. On which her mother said, "What a dear little humbug you
are, kitten," and she replied, as we have heard her reply before,
"We-e-ell, there's nothing in that!" and posed as one who has been
misrepresented. But her mother stuck to her point, which was that
Sally knew she was quite glad when Dr. Vereker came in, Tishy or no.

Whatever the reason was that Sally was quite glad at the appearance
of Dr. Prosy, there could be no doubt about the fact. Her laugh
reached the cook in the kitchen, who denounced Craddock the
parlourmaid for not telling her it was Miss Nightingale, when it
might have been a visitor, seeing no noise come of it. Cook remarked
she knew how it would be--there was the doctor picking up like--and
hadn't she told Craddock so? But Craddock said no!

"Mrs. Shoosmith again--the everlasting Mrs. Shoosmith!" exclaimed the
doctor. It was very unfeeling of them to laugh so over this unhappy
woman, who was the survivor of two husbands and the proprietor of one,
and the mother of seven daughters and five sons, each of whom was
a typical "case," and all of whom sought admission to Institutes on
their merits. The lives of the whole family were passed in applications
for testimonials and certificates, alike bearing witness to their
chronic qualifications for it. Sally was mysteriously hardhearted about
them, while fully admitting their claims on the public.

"That's right, Dr. Conrad"--Sally had inaugurated this name for
herself--"Honoria Purvis Shoosmith. Mind you put in the Purvis right.
Now write down lots of diseases for her to have." Sally is leaning
over the doctor's chair to see him write as she says this. There is
something in the atmosphere of the situation that seems to clash with
the actual business in hand. The doctor endeavours, not seriously
enough, perhaps, to infuse a flavour of responsibility.

"My professional dignity, Miss Nightingale, will not permit of the
scheme of diagnosis you indicate. If any disorders entirely without
symptoms were known to exist, I should be delighted to ascribe the
whole of them to Mrs. Shoosmith...."

"Don't be prosy, Dr. Conrad. Fire away! You told me lots--you know you
did! Rheumatic arthritis--gout--pyæmia...."

"Come, I say, Miss Sally, draw it mild. I never said pyæmia. _An_æmia,
perhaps...."

"Very well, Anne, then! We can let it go at that. Fire away!" The
doctor looks round his own corner at the rows of pearls and the laugh
that frames them, the merry eyebrows and the scintillating eyes they
accentuate. A perilous intoxication, not to be too freely indulged in
by a serious professional man at any time--in business hours certainly
not. But if the doctor were quite in earnest over a sort of Spartan
declaration of policy his heart feels the prudence of, would that
responsive twinkle flutter in his face behind its mock gravity? He is
all but head over ears in love with Sally--so why pretend? Really, we
don't know--and that's the truth.

"Wouldn't it be a good way to consider what it is that is really the
matter, and make out the statement accordingly?" He goes on looking
at Sally, scratches himself under the chin with his pen, and waits
for an answer.

"Good, sensible, general practitioner! See how practical he is! Now,
I should never have thought of that!"

"Well, what shall we put her down as? Chronic arthritis--spinal
curvature--tuberculosis of the cervical vertebræ?"

"Those all sound very nice. But I don't think it matters which you
choose. If she hasn't got it now, she'll develop it if I describe
it. When I told her mother couldn't get rid of her neuritis, she
immediately asked to know the symptoms, and forthwith claimed them
as her own. 'Well, there now, and to think what I was just a-sayin'
to Shoosmith, this very morning! Just in the crick of the thumb-joint,
you can't 'ardly abear yourself!' And then she told how she said to
Shoosmith frequent, where was the use of his getting impatient, and
exclaimin' the worst expressions? Because his language went beyond
a quart, and no reasonable excuse."

"Mr. Shoosmith doesn't seem a very promising sort? He's a tailor,
isn't he?"

"No; he's a messenger. He runs on errands and does odd jobs. But he
can't run--I've seen him!--he can only shamble. And his voice is
hoarse and inaudible. And he has a drawback--two drawbacks, in fact.
He is no sooner giv' coppers on a job than he drinks them."

"What's the other?"

"His susceptibility to intoxicants. His 'ed is that weak that 'most
anythink upsets him. So you see."

"Poor chap! He's handicapped in the race of life. As for his wife,
when I saw her she was suffering with acute rheumatism and bad
feeling--and, I may add, defective reasoning power. However...." The
doctor fills in blanks, adds a signature, says "There we are!" and
Mrs. Shoosmith is disposed of as an applicant to the institution, and
will no doubt reap some benefits we need not know the particulars of.
But she remains as a subject for the student of human life--also,
tea comes--also, which is interesting, Sally proceeds to make it.

Now, if the reserves this young lady had made about this visit, if
her pretence that it was a necessity arising from a charitable
organization, if the colour that was given to that pretence by her
interview with the servant Craddock--if any of these things had been
more or less than the grossest hypocrisy, would it, we ask you, have
been accepted as a matter of course that she should pull off her
gloves and sit down to make tea with a mature knowledge of how to get
the little lynch-pin out of the spirit-lamp, and of how many
spoonfuls? No; the fact is, Sally was a more frequent visitor to the
image of Buddha than she chose to admit; and as for the doctor, he
seized every legitimate opportunity of 'cello practice at Krakatoa
Villa. But G.P.'s cannot call their time their own.

"The funny part of Mrs. Shoosmith," said Sally, when the pot was full
up and the lid shut, "is that the moment she is brought into contact
with warm soapy water and scrubbing-brushes, she seems to renew her
youth. She brings large pins out of her mouth and secures her apron.
And then she scrubs. Now you may blow the methylated out and make
yourself useful, Dr. Conrad."

"Does she put back the pins when she's done scrubbing?" the doctor
asks, when he has made himself useful.

"She puts them back against another time, so I have understood. I
suppose they live in her mouth. That's yours with two lumps. That is
your mother's--no, I won't pour it yet. She's asleep."

For the fact is that the Goody, anxious to invest herself with an
appearance of forbearance towards the frivolities of youth, readiness
to forego (from amiability) any share in the conversation, insight
into the _rapports_ of others (especially male and female _rapports_),
and general superiority to human weakness, had endeavoured to express
all these things by laying down her knitting, folding her hands on
her circumference, and looking as if she knew and could speak if she
chose. But if you do this, even the maintenance of an attentive
hypodermic smile is not enough to keep you awake--and off you go! The
Goody did, and the smile died slowly off into a snore. Never mind! She
was in want of rest, so she said. It was curious, too, for she seldom
got anything else.

It would have been unfeeling to wake her, so Dr. Vereker went and sat
a good deal nearer Sally, not to make more noise than was necessary.
This reacted, an outsider might have inferred, on the subject-matter
of the conversation, making it more serious in tone. And as Sally put
the little Turk's cap over the pot to keep it warm, and the doctor
knew perfectly well that the blacker the tea was the better his mother
liked it, this lasted until that lady woke up with a start a long
time after, and said she must have been asleep. Then, as Cook was
aware in the kitchen, some more noise came of it, and Sally carried
off Mrs. Shoosmith's certificate.

"You know, Dr. Conrad, it makes you look like a real medical man," she
said at the gate, referring to the detention of the doctor's pill-box,
which awaited him, and he replied that it didn't matter. King, the
driver, looked as if he thought it _did_, and appeared morose. Is it
because coachmen always keep their appointments with society and
society never keeps its appointments with coachmen that a settled
melancholy seems to brood over them, and their souls seem cankered
with misanthropy?

The doctor had rather a rough time that evening. For among the
patients he was going to try to see and get back to dinner (thus ran
current speech of those concerned) there was a young man from the West
Indies, who had come into something considerable. But he was afflicted
with a disorder he called the "jumps," and the doctor's diagnosis, if
correct, showed that the _vera causa_ of this aptly-named disease was
alcohol of sp. gr. something, to which the patient was in the habit
of adding very few atoms of water indeed. The doctor was doing all he
could to change the regimen, but only succeeded on making his patient
weak and promise amendment. On this particular evening the latter
quite unexpectedly went for the doctor's throat, shouting, "I see your
plans!" and King had to be summoned from his box to help restrain him.
So Dr. Vereker was tired when he got home late to dinner, and would
have felt miserable, only he could always shut his eyes and think of
Sally's hands that had come over his shoulder to discriminate points
in Mrs. Shoosmith's magna-charta. They had come so near him that he
could smell the fresh sweet dressing of the new kid gloves--six and
a half, we believe.

But although he liked his Goody mother to talk to him about the girl
who had christened her so, he was tired enough this evening to wish
that her talk had flowed in a less pebbly channel. For she chose this
opportunity to enlarge upon the duties of young married women towards
their husbands' parents, their mothers especially. Her conclusion was
a little unexpected:

"I have said nothing throughout, my dear. I should not dream of doing
so. But if I had I trust I should have made it clearly understood how
I regarded Miss Lætitia Wilson's conduct."

"But there wasn't any. Nobody contracted a private marriage."

"My dear Conrad! Have I said that any one has done so? Have I used
the expression 'private marriage'?"

"Why--no. I don't think you have. Not to-day, at least."

"When have I done so? Have I not, on the contrary, from the very
beginning told you I should take the first opportunity of disbelieving
so absurd and mischievous a story? And have I lost a moment? Was it
not the first word I said to Sally Nightingale before you came in, and
without a soul in the room to hear? I only ask for justice. But if my
son misrepresents me, what can I expect from others?" At this point
patient toleration only.

"But, mother dear, I don't _want_ to misrepresent you. Only I'll be
hanged if I see why Tishy Wilson is to be hauled over the coals?"

A suggestion of a proper spirit showed itself. "I am accustomed to
your language, and will say nothing. But, my dear Conrad, for you are
always my son, and will remain so, whatever your language may be, do
you, my dear Conrad, do you really sanction the attitude of a young
lady who refuses to marry--public and private don't come into the
matter--because of a groundless antipathy? For it is admitted on all
hands that Mrs. Julius Bradshaw is a person of rather superior class."

"She's Mrs. Bradshaw--not Mrs. Julius. But what makes you suppose
Tishy Wilson objects to her?"

"My dear Conrad, you know as well as I do that is a mere
prevarication. Why evade the point? But in my opinion you do wisely
not to attempt any defence of Lætitia Wilson. It may be true that
she has not laid herself open to misconstruction in this case, but
the lack of good feeling is to all intents and purposes the same
as if she had; and I must say, my dear Conrad, I am surprised
that a professional man with your qualifications should undertake
to justify her."

"But Miss Wilson hasn't _done_ anything! What are you wigging away
at her for, mother dear?"

"Have I not expressly said that she has done nothing whatever? Of
course she has not, and, I hope, never will. But it is easy for you,
Conrad, to take refuge in a fact which I have been scrupulously
careful to admit from the very beginning. And 'wigging away!' What
language!"

"Never mind the language, mother darling! Tell me what it's all
about." Tired as he is, he gets up from the chair he has not been
smoking in (because this is the drawing-room) to go round and kiss
what is probably the fatty integument of a very selfish old woman,
but which he believes to be that of an affectionate mother. "What's
it all about?" he repeats.

"My dear Conrad! Is it not a little unfeeling to ask me what it is
all about when you know?"

"I _don't_ know, mother dear. I can do any amount of guessing, but
I don't _know_."

"I think, my dear, if you will light my candle and ring for Craddock
to shut up, that I had better go to bed." Which her son does, but
perversely abstains from giving the old lady any assistance to saying
what is in her mind to say.

But she did not intend to be baffled. For when he had piloted her to
her state apartment, carrying her candle, under injunctions on no
account to spill the grease, and a magazine of wraps and wools and
unintelligible sundries, she contrived to invest an elucidation of
her ideas with an appearance of benevolence by working in a readiness
to sacrifice herself to her son's selfish longing for tobacco.

"Only just hear me to the end, my dear, and then you can get away to
your pipe. What I did _not_ say--for you interrupted me--did not
relate so much to Miss Lætitia Wilson as to Sally Nightingale. She,
I am sure, would never come between any man she married and his mother.
I am making no reference to any one whatever, although, however old I
am, I have eyes in my head and can see. But I can read character, and
that is my interpretation of Sally Nightingale's."

"Sally Nightingale and I are not going to make it up, if that's what
you mean, mother. She wouldn't have me, for one thing----"

"My dear, I am not going to argue the point. It is nearly eleven, and
unless I get to bed I shan't sleep. Now go away to your pipe, and
think of what I have said. And don't slam your door and wake me
when you come up." She offered him a selection to kiss, shutting her
eyes tight. And he gave place to Craddock, and went away to his
unwholesome, smelly habit, as his mamma had more than once called it.
His face was perplexed and uncomfortable; however, it got ease after
a few puffs of pale returns and a welcome minute of memory of the
bouquet of those sixes.

But his little happy oasis was a very small one. For a messenger came
with a furious pull at the night-bell and a summons for the doctor.
His delirium-tremens case had very nearly qualified its brain for a
P.M.--at least, if there were any of it left--by getting at a pistol
and taking a bad aim at it. The unhappy dipsomaniac was half-shot,
and prompt medical attendance was necessary to prevent the something
considerable being claimed by his heir-at-law.

Whether this came to pass or not does not concern us. This much is
certain, that at the end of six months which this chapter represents,
and which you have probably skipped, he was as much forgotten by the
doctor as the pipe his patient's suicidal escapade had interrupted, or
the semi-vexation with his mother he was using it as an anodyne for.



CHAPTER XXVI

MORNING AT LADBROKE GROVE ROAD, AND FAMILY DISSENSION. FACCIOLATI,
  AND A LEGACY. THE LAST CONCERT THIS SEASON. THE GOODY WILL COME TO
  IGGULDEN'S. BUT FANCY PROSY IN LOVE!


Towards the end of the July that very quickly followed Rosalind
noticed an intensification of what might be called the Ladbroke Grove
Road Row Chronicle--a record transmitted by Sally to her real and
adopted parent in the instalments in which she received it from Tishy.

This record on one occasion depicted a battle-royal at breakfast,
"over the marmalade," Sally said. She added that the Dragon might just
as well have let the Professor alone. "He was reading," she said,
"'The Classification of Roots in Prehistoric Dialects,' because I saw
the back; and Tacitus was on the butter. But the Dragon likes the
grease to spoil the bindings, and she knows it."

A vision of priceless Groliers soaking passed through Rosalind's mind.
"Wasn't that what this row was about, then?" she asked.

"I don't think so," said Sally, who had gone home to breakfast with
Tishy after an early swim. "It's difficult to say what it was about.
Really, the Professor had hardly said _anything at all_, and the
Dragon said she thought he was forgetting the servants. Fossett wasn't
even in the room. And then the Dragon said, 'Yes, shut it,' to Athene.
Fancy saying 'Yes, shut it,' in a confidential semitone! Really,
I can't see that it was so very wrong of Egerton, although he _is_
a booby, to say there was no fun in having a row before breakfast.
He didn't mean them to think he meant them to hear."

"But how did it get from the marmalade to Tishy's haberdasher?" asked
Fenwick.

"Can't say, Jeremiah. It all came in a buzz, like a wopses nest. And
then Egerton said it was rows, rows, rows all day long, and he should
hook it off and get a situation. It _is_ rows, rows, rows, so it's no
use pretending it isn't. But it always comes round to the haberdasher
grievance in the end. This time Tishy went to her father in the
library, and confessed up about Kensington Gardens."

Both hearers said, "Oh, I see!" and then Sally transmitted the report
of this interview. It had not been stormy, and may be looked at by the
light of the Professor's last remark. "The upshot is, Tish, that you
can marry Julius against your mother's consent right off, and never
lose a penny of your aunt's legacy."

"Legacy is good, very excellent good," said Fenwick. "How much was
it, Sarah?"

"Oh, I don't know. Lots--a good lot--a thousand pounds! The Dragon
wanted to make out that it was conditional on her consent to Tishy's
marriage. That was fibs. But what I don't see is that Gaffer Wilson
ever said a word to Tishy about his own objections to her marrying
Julius, if he has any!"

"Perhaps," Rosalind suggested, "she hasn't told you all he said." But
to this Sally replied that Tishy had told her over and over and over
again, only she said _over_ so often that her adopted parent said for
Heaven's sake stop, or he should write the word into his letters.
However, the end of the last despatch was at hand, and he himself
took up the conversation on signing it.

"Yours faithfully, Algernon Fenwick. That's the lot! I agree with
the kitten."

"What about?"

"About if he has any. I believe he'd be glad if Miss Wilson took
the bit in her teeth and bolted."

"You agree with Prosy?" As Sally says this, without a thought in
a thoughtful face but what belongs to the subject, her mother is
conscious that she herself is quite prepared to infer that Prosy
already knows all about it. She has got into the habit of hearing
that he knows about things.

"What does Vereker say?" Thus Fenwick.

"He'll be here in a minute, and you can ask him. That's him! I mean
that's his ring."

"It's just like any other ring, chick." It is her mother who speaks.
But Sally says: "Nonsense! as if I didn't know Prosy's ring!" And
Dr. Vereker appears, quartet bound, for this was the weekly musical
evening at Krakatoa Villa.

"Jeremiah wants to know whether you don't think Tishy's male parent
would be jolly glad if she and Julius took the bit in their teeth and
bolted?" "I shouldn't be the least surprised if they did," is the
doctor's reply. But it does not strike Sally as rising to the height
of her Draconic summary.

"You're not shining, Dr. Conrad," she says; "you're evading the point.
What do _you_ think Gaffer Bristles thinks, that's the point?" Dr.
Conrad appears greatly exhilarated and refreshed by Sally, whose mother
seems to share his feeling, but she enjoins caution, for all that.

"Do take care, kitten," she says. "They're on the stairs." But Sally
considers "they" are miles off, and will take ages getting upstairs.
"They've only just met at the door," is her explanatory comment,
showing appreciation of one human weakness.

"Suppose we were to get it put in more official form!" Fenwick
suggests. "Would Professor Sales Wilson be very much shocked if his
daughter and Paganini made a runaway match of it?" The name Paganini
has somehow leaked out of Cattley's counting-house, and become common
property.

"I think, if you ask me," says Vereker, speaking to Fenwick, but never
taking his eyes off Sally, on whom they feed, "that Professor Sales
Wilson would be very much relieved."

"_That's_ right!" says Sally, speaking as to a pupil who has profited.
"Now you're being a good little General Practitioner." And then, the
ages having elapsed with some alacrity, the door opens and the two
subjects of discussion make their appearance.

The anomalous cousin did not come with them, having subsided. Mrs.
Fenwick herself had taken the pianoforte parts lately. She had always
been a fair pianist, and application had made her passable--a good
make-shift, anyhow. So you may fill out the programme to your
liking--it really doesn't matter what they played--and consider that
this musical evening was one of their best that season. It was just
as well it should be so, as it was their last till the autumn. Sally
and her mother were going to the seaside all August and some of
September, and Fenwick was coming with them for a week at first,
and after that for short week-end spells. He had become a partner
in the wine-business, and was not so much tied to the desk.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Well, then, it's good-bye, I suppose?" The speaker is Rosalind
herself, as the Stradivarius is being put to bed. But she hasn't the
heart to let the verdict stand--at least, as far as the doctor is
concerned. She softens it, adds a recommendation to mercy. "Unless
you'll come down and pay us a visit. We'll put you up somewhere."

"I'm afraid it isn't possible," is the answer. But the doctor can't
get his eyes really off Sally. Even as a small boy might strain at
the leash to get back to a source of cake against the grasp of an iron
nurse, even so Dr. Conrad rebels against the grip of professional
engagements, which is the name of his cold, remorseless tyrant.
But Sally is harnessing up a coach-and-six to drive through human
obligations. Her manner of addressing the doctor suggests previous
talk on the subject.

"You _must_ get the locum, and come. You know you can, and it's all
nonsense about can't." What would be effrontery in another character
makes Sally speak through and across the company. A secret confidence
between herself and the doctor, that you are welcome to the full
knowledge of, and be hanged to you! is what the manner of the two
implies.

"I spoke to Neckitt about it, and he can't manage it," says the
doctor in the same manner. But the first and second violin are waiting
to take leave.

"We'll say good-night, then--or good-bye, if it's for six weeks."
Tishy is perfectly unblushing about the _we_. She might be conveying
Mr. Tishy away. They go, and get away from Dr. Vereker, by-the-bye.
An awkward third isn't wanted.

"There's plenty more Neckitts where he comes from," pursues Sally,
as the "other two"--for that is how Fenwick thinks of them--get
themselves and their instruments out of the house. "So don't be
nonsensical, Dr. Conrad.... Stop a moment. I _must_ speak to Tishy."
And Sally gives chase, and overtakes the other two just by the
fire-alarm, where Fenwick came to a standstill. Do you remember? It
certainly has been a record effort to "get away first." You know this
experience yourself at parties? Sally speaks to Tishy in the glorious
summer night, and the three talk together earnestly under innumerable
constellations, and one gas-lamp that elbows the starry heavens out
of the way--a self-asserting, cheeky gas-lamp.

The doctor organizes tactics rapidly. He can hear that Sally's step
goes up the street, and then the voices at a distance. If he can say
good-bye and rush away just as Sally does the same, why then they
will meet outside, don't you see?

Rosalind and her husband seem to have wireless telegrams passing. For
when Sally vanishes there is a ring as of instruction received in the
tone of Fenwick's voice as he addresses the doctor:

"Couldn't you manage to get your mother to come too, Vereker? She must
be terribly in want of a change."

"So I tell her; but she's so difficult to move."

"Have a sedan-chair thing----"

"I don't mean that--not physically difficult. I mean she's got so
anchored no one can persuade her to move. She hasn't been away for
ages."

"Sally must go and persuade her." It is Rosalind who says this. "I'm
sure Sally will manage it."

"She will if any one can," says the doctor. "Of course, I could
soon get a locum if there was a chance of mother." And then the
conversation supports itself on the possible impossibility of finding
a lodging at St. Sennans-on-Sea, and consoles itself with its intense
improbability till the doctor finds it necessary to depart with the
promptitude of a fire-engine suddenly rung up.

He had calculated his time to a nicety, for he met Sally just as "the
other two" got safe round the corner.

       *       *       *       *       *

"Oh no," said Fenwick, replying to a query; "he doesn't mean to carry
it all the way. He'll pick up a cab at the corner." The query was
about the violoncello, and Fenwick was coming back to the room
where his wife was closing the piano in anticipation of Ann. He had
discreetly launched the instrument and its owner under the stars, and
left the street door standing wide open--a shallow pretence that he
believed Sally already in touch with it.

"They _are_ a funny couple," Rosalind said. "Just fancy! They've known
each other two years, and there they are! But I do like him. It's all
his mother, you know ... what is?... why, goose--of course I mean he
would speak at once if it wasn't for that obese mother of his."

"But she's so fond of Sally." In reply to this his wife kisses his
cheeks, forehead, and chin consecutively, and he says it was right
that time, only the other way round. This refers to a system founded
on the crossing incident at Rheims.

"Of course she is, darling; or pretends she is. But he can neither
divorce his mamma nor ask the kitten to marry her. You see?"

"I see--in fact, I've thought so myself. In confidence, you know.
But is no compromise possible?" Rosalind shakes a slow, regretful,
negative head, and her lips form a silent "No!"

"Not with her. The woman has her own share of selfishness, and her
son's, too. _He_ has none."

"But Sally."

"I see what you mean. Sally goes to the wall one way if she doesn't
the other. So he works out selfish, poor dear fellow! in the end. But,
Gerry darling, let me tell you this: you have no idea how impossible
that young man thinks it that a girl should love _him_. If he thought
it possible the kitten really cared about, or could care about him,
he'd go clean off his head. Indeed, I am right."

"Perhaps you are. There she is."

Sally ran straight upstairs, leaving Ann to close the door. She at
once discharged her mind of its burden, _more suo_.

"Prosy thinks so, too!"

"Thinks what?"

"Thinks they'll go and get married one fine morning, whether or no!"

But she seemed to be the only one much excited about this. Something
was preoccupying the other two minds, and our Sally had not the
remotest notion what.

       *       *       *       *       *

Nevertheless, it came about that before the next Monday--the day of
Sally's departure with her mother to St. Sennans-on-Sea--that young
person paid a farewell visit to the obese mother of her medical
adviser, and found her knitting.

"That, my dear, is what I am constantly saying to Conrad," was her
reply to a suggestion of Sally's that she wanted change and rest.
"Only this very morning, when he came into my room to see that I had
fresh-made toast--because you know, my dear, how tiresome servants are
about toast--they make it overnight, and warm it up in the morning.
Cook is no exception, and I have complained till I'm tired. I should
be sorry to change, she's been here so long, but I did hear the other
day of such a nice respectable person...."

Sally interrupted, catching at a slight pause: "But when Dr. Conrad
came into your room, what did he say?"

"My dear, I was going to tell you." She paused, with closed eyes
and folded hands of aggressive patience, for all trace of human
interruption to die down; then resumed: "I said to Conrad: 'I think
you might have thought of that before.' And then he was sorry. I will
do him that justice. My dear boy has his faults, as I know too well,
but he is always ready to admit he is wrong."

"We can get you lodgings, you know," said Sally, from sheer intuition,
for she had not a particle of information, so far, about what passed
over the toast. The old lady seemed to think the conversation had been
sufficiently well filled out, for she merely said, "Facing the sea,"
and went on knitting.

Sally and her mother knew St. Sennan well--had been at his
watering-place twice before--so she was able, as it were, to forecast
lodgings on the spot. "I dare say Mrs. Iggulden's is vacant," she
said. "I wish you could have hers, she's such a nice old body. Her
husband was a pilot, and she has one son a coastguard and another in
the navy. And one daughter has no legs, but can do shell-work; and
the other's married a tax-collector."

But Goody Vereker was not going to be beguiled into making herself
agreeable. She took up the attitude that Sally was young, and easily
deceived. She threw a wet blanket over her narrative of the Iggulden
family, and ignored any murmurs that came from beneath it. "Sea-faring
folk are all alike," so she said. "When I was your age, my dear, I
simply worshipped them. My father and all his brothers were devoted
to the sea, and my Uncle David published an account of his visit to
the Brazils. But you will learn by experience. At any rate, I trust
there are no vermin. That is always my terror in these lodging-houses,
and ill-aired beds."

Was it fair, Sally thought to herself, to expose that dear old Mrs.
Iggulden, who lived in a wooden dwelling covered with tar, between
two houses built of black shiny bricks, but consisting chiefly
of bay-windows with elderly visitors in them looking through
telescopes at the shipping, and telling the credulous it was brigs or
schooners--was it fair to expose Mrs. Iggulden to this gilt-spectacled
lob-worm? Sally didn't know that Mrs. Iggulden could show a proper
spirit, because in her own case the conditions had never been
favourable. They had practised no incantations.

"Very well, then, Mrs. Vereker. As soon as ever mamma and I have
shaken down, we'll see about Iggulden's; and if they can't take you
somebody else will."

"I am in your hands," said the Goody, smiling faintly and
submissively. She leaned back with her eyes closed, and was afraid
she had done too much. She used to have periodical convictions to
that effect.

Sally had an appointment with Lætitia Wilson at the swimming bath,
so the Goody, in an access of altruism, perceived that she mustn't
keep her. She herself would try to rest a little.

       *       *       *       *       *

All people, as we suppose, lead two lives, more or less--their outer
life, that of the world and action, and an inner life they have all
to themselves. But how different is the proportion of the two lives
in different subjects! And how much less painful the latter life is
when we feel we could tell it all if we chose. Only we don't choose,
because it's no concern of yours or any one else's.

This was Sally's frame of mind. She would not have felt the ghost of
a reserve of an inmost thought (from her mother, for instance) in the
face of questions asked, though she kept her own counsel about many
points whose elucidation was not called for. It may easily be that
Rosalind asked no questions about some things, because she had no wish
that her daughter should formulate their answers too decisively. Her
relation with Conrad Vereker, for example. Was it love, or what? If
there was to be marrying, and families, and that sort of thing, and
possible interference with swimming-matches and athletics, and so on,
would she as soon choose this man for her accomplice as any other she
knew? Suppose she was to hear to-morrow that Dr. Vereker was engaged
to Sylvia Peplow, would she be glad or sorry?

Rosalind certainly did ask no such questions. If she had, the answers
to the first two would have been, we surmise, very clear and decisive.
What nonsense! Fancy Prosy being in love with anybody, or anybody
being in love with Prosy! And as for marrying, the great beauty of it
all was that there was to be no marrying. Did he understand that? Oh
dear, yes! Prosy understood quite well. But we wonder, is the image
our mind forms of Sally's answer to the third question correct or
incorrect? It presents her to us as answering rather petulantly: "Why
_shouldn't_ Dr. Conrad marry Miss Peplow, if he likes, and _she_
likes? I dare say _she'd_ be ready enough, though!" and then
pretending to look out of the window. And shortly afterwards: "I
suppose Prosy has a right to his private affairs, as much as I have
to mine." But with lips that tighten over her speech, without a smile.
Note that this is all pure hypothesis.

But she had nothing to conceal that she knew of, had Sally. What
a difference there was between her inner world and her mother's, who
could not breathe a syllable of that world's history to any living soul!

Rosalind acknowledged to herself now how great the relief had been
when, during the few hours that passed between her communication to
her old friend on his deathbed and the last state of insensibility
from which he never rallied, there had actually been on this earth one
other than herself who knew all her story and its strange outcome. For
those few hours she had not been alone, and the memory of it helped
her to bear her present loneliness. She could hear again, when she
woke in the stillness of the night, the voice of the old man, a
whisper struggling through his half-choked respiration, that said
again and again: "Oh, Rosey darling! can it be true? Thank God! thank
God!" And the fact that what she had then feared had never come
to pass--the fact that, contrary to her expectations, he had been
strangely able to look the wonder in the face, and never flinch from
it, seeing nothing in it but a priceless boon--this fact seemed to
give her now the fortitude to bear without help the burden of her
knowledge--the knowledge of who he was, this man that was beside her
in the stillness, this man whose steady breathing she could hear,
whose heart-beats she could count. And her heart dwelt on the old
soldier's last words, strangely, almost incredibly, resonant, a
hard-won victory in his dying fight for speech, "Evil has turned to
good. God be praised!" It had almost seemed as if the parting soul, on
the verge of the strangest chance man has to face, lost all measure of
the strangeness of any earthly thing, and was sensible of nothing but
the wonderment of the great cause of all.

But one thing that she knew (and could not explain) was that this
secret knowledge, burdensome in itself, relieved the oppression of one
still more burdensome, and helped her to drive it from her thoughts.
We speak of the collision of the record in her mind of what her
daughter was, and whence, with the fact that Sally was winding herself
more and more, daughterwise, round the heart of the man whose bond
with her mother she, small and unconscious, had had so large a share
in rending asunder twenty years ago. It was to her, in its victory
over crude physical fact, even while it oppressed her, a bewildering
triumph of spirit over matter, of soul over sense, this firm
consolidating growth of an affection such as Nature means, but often
fails to reach, between child and parent. And as it grew and grew, her
child's actual paternity shrank and dwindled, until it might easily
have been held a matter for laughter, but for the black cloud of
Devildom that hung about it, and stamped her as the infant of a
Nativity in the Venusberg, whose growing after-life had gone far to
shroud the horror of its lurid caverns with a veil of oblivion.

We say all these things quite seriously of our Sally, in spite of
her incorrigible slanginess and vulgarity. We can now go on to St.
Sennans-on-Sea, where we shall find her in full blow, but very sticky
with the salt water she passes really too much of her time in, even
for a merpussy.



CHAPTER XXVII

ST. SENNANS-ON-SEA. MISS GWENDOLEN ARKWRIGHT. WOULD ANY OTHER CHILD HAVE
  BEEN SALLY? HOW MRS. IGGULDEN'S COUSIN SOLOMON SURRENDERED HIS COUCH


St. Sennans-on-Sea consists of two parts--the new and the old. The old
part is a dear little old place, and the new part is beastly. So Sally
says, and she must know, because this is her third visit.

The old part consists of Mrs. Iggulden's and the houses we have
described on either side of her, and maybe two dozen more wooden or
black-brick dwellings of the same sort; also of the beach and its
interesting lines of breakwater that are so very jolly to jump off or
to lie down and read novels under in the sea smell. Only not too near
the drains, if you know it. If you don't know it, it doesn't matter so
much, because the smell reminds you of the seaside, and seems right
and fitting. You must take care how you jump, though, off these
breakwaters, because where they are not washed inconceivably clean,
and all their edges smoothed away beyond belief by the tides that come
and go for ever, they are slippery with green sea-ribbons that cling
close to them, and green sea-fringes that cling closer still, and
brown sea-ramifications that are studded with pods that pop if you
tread on them, but are not quite so slippery; only you may just as
well be careful, even with them. And we should recommend you, before
you jump, to be sure you are not hooked over a bolt, not merely
because you may get caught, and fall over a secluded reading-public
on the other side, but because the red rust comes off on you and soils
your white petticoat.

If you don't mind jumping off these breakwaters--and it really is
rather a lark--you may tramp along the sea front quite near up to
where the fishing-luggers lie, each with a capstan all to itself,
under the little extra old town the red-tanned fishing-nets live in,
in houses that are like sailless windmill-tops whose plank walls have
almost merged their outlines in innumerable coats of tar, laid by
long generations back of the forefathers of the men in oil-cloth
head-and-shoulder hats who repair their nets for ever in the Channel
wind, unless you want a boat to-day, in which case they will scull you
about, while you absolutely ache sympathetically with their efforts,
of which they themselves remain serenely unaware, till you've been out
long enough. Then they beach you cleverly on the top of a wave, and
their family circle seizes you, boat and all, and runs you up the
shingle before the following wave can catch you and splash you, which
it wants to do.

There is an aroma of the Norman Conquest and of Domesday Book about
the old town. Research will soon find out, if she looks sharp, that
there is nothing Norman in the place except the old arch in the
amorphous church-tower, and a castle at a distance on the flats. But
the flavour of the past is stronger in the scattered memories of
bygone sea-battles not a century ago, and the names of streets that
do not antedate the Georges, than in these mere scraps that are always
open to the reproach of mediævalism, and are separated from us by a
great gulf. And it doesn't much matter to us whether the memories are
of victory or defeat, or the names those of sweeps or heroes. All's
one to us--we glow; perhaps rashly, for, you see, we really know very
little about them. And he who has read no history to speak of, if he
glows about the past on the strength of his imperfect data, may easily
break his molasses-jug.

So, whether our blood is stirred by Nelson and Trafalgar, whereof
we have read, or by the Duke of York and Walcheren, whereof we
haven't--or mighty little--we feel in touch with both these heroes,
for they are modern. Both have columns, anyhow; and we can dwell upon
their triumph or defeat almost as if it wasn't history at all, but
something that really happened, without running any risk of being
accused of archaism or of deciphering musty tomes. And we can enjoy
our expedition all the same to the ruined keep in the level pastures,
where the long-horned black cattle stand and think and flap their
tails still, just as they did in the days when the basement dungeons,
now choked up, held real prisoners with real broken hearts.

But there is modern life, too, at St. Sennans--institutions that keep
abreast of the century. Half the previous century ago, when we went
there first, the Circulating Library consisted, so far as we can
recollect it, of a net containing bright leather balls, a collection
of wooden spades and wheelbarrows, a glass jar with powder-puffs,
another with tooth-brushes, a rocking-horse--rashly stocked in the
first heated impulse of an over-confident founder--a few other
trifles, and, most important of all, a book-case that supplied the
title-rôle to the performance. That book-case contained (we are
confident) _editiones principes_ of Mrs. Ratcliff, Sir Walter Scott,
Bulwer Lytton, Currer Bell ... well, even Fanny Burney, if you come
to that. There certainly was a copy of "Frankenstein," and fifty years
ago our flesh was so compliant as to creep during its perusal. It
wouldn't now.

But even fifty years ago there was never a volume that had not been
defaced out of all knowledge by crooked marks of the most inquisitive
interrogation, and straight marks of the most indignant astonishment,
by the reading-public in the shadows of the breakwaters. It really
read, that public did; and, what's more, it often tore out the
interesting bits to take away. I remember great exasperation when a
sudden veil was drawn over the future of two lovers just as the young
gentleman had flung himself into the arms of the young lady. An
unhallowed fiend had cut off the sequel with scissors and boned it!

That was done, or much of it, when the books were new, and the
railway-station was miles away; when the church wasn't new, but
old, which was better. It has been made new since, and has chairs
in it, and memorial windows by Stick and Co. In those days its
Sunday-folk were fisherfolk mostly, and a few local magnates or
parvates--squirophants, they might be called--and a percentage of
the visitors.

Was St. Sennan glad or sorry, we wonder, when the last two sorts
subscribed and restored him? If we had been he, one of us would have
had to have the temper of a saint to keep cool about it. Anyhow, it's
done now, and can't be undone.

But the bathing-machines are not restored, at any rate. Those
indescribables yonder, half rabbit-hutch, half dry-dock--a long row
for ladies and a short one for gentlemen, three hundred yards
apart--couldn't trust 'em any nearer, bless you!--these superannuated
God-knows-whats, struggling against disintegration from automatic
plunges down a rugged beach, and creaking journeys back you are asked
to hold on through--it's no use going on drying!--these tributes to
public decorum you can find no room in, and probably swear at--no
sacrilegious restorer has laid his hand on these. They evidently
contemplate going on for ever; for though their axes grow more and
more oblique every day, their self-confidence remains unshaken. But
then they think they _are_ St. Sennans, and that the wooden houses are
subordinate accidents, and the church a mere tributary that was a
little premature--got there first, in its hurry to show respect for
_them_. And no great wonder, seeing what a figure they cut, seen from
a boat when you have a row! Or, rather, used to cut; for now the new
town (which is beastly) has come on the cliff above, and looks for
all the world as if _it_ was St. Sennans, and speaks contemptuously
of the real town as the Beach Houses.

The new town can only be described as a tidy nightmare; yet it is
a successful creation of the brains that conceived it--a successful
creation of ground-rents. As a development of land ripe for building,
with more yards of frontage to the main-road than at first sight
geometry seems able to accommodate, it has been taking advantage of
unrivalled opportunities for a quarter of a century, backed by
advances on mortgage. It is the envy of the neighbouring proprietors
east and west along the coast, who have developed their own eligible
sites past all remedy and our endurance, and now have to drain their
purses to meet the obligations to the professional mortgagee, who is
biding his hour in peace, waiting for the fruit to fall into his mouth
and murderously sure of his prey. But at St. Sennans a mysterious
silence reigns behind a local office that yields keys on application,
and answers all inquiries, and asks ridiculous rents. And this
silence, or its keeper, is said to have become enormously rich over
the new town.

The shareholders in the St. Sennans Hotel, Limited, cannot have become
rich. If they had, surely they would provide something better for a
hungry paying supplicant than a scorched greasy chop, inflamed at the
core, and glass bottles containing a little pellucid liquid that parts
with its carbon dioxide before you can effect a compromise with the
cork, which pushes in, but not so as to attain its ideal. So your
Seltzer water doesn't pour fast enough to fizz outside the bottle,
and your heart is sad. Of course, you can have wine, if you come to
that, for look at the wine-list! Only the company's ideas of the value
of wine are not limited, and if you decide not to be sordid, and order
a three-shilling bottle of Médoc, you will find its contents to be
very limited indeed. But why say more than that it is an enormous
hotel at the seaside? You know all about them, and what it feels like
in rainy weather, when the fat gentleman has got to-day's "Times," and
means to read all through the advertisement-column before he gives up
the leaders, and you have to spend your time turning over thick and
shiny snap-shot journals with a surfeit of pictures in them; or the
Real Lady, or the Ladylike Lady, or the Titled Lady, the portraits of
whom--one or other of them--sweep in curves about their folio pages;
and, while they fascinate you, make you feel that you would falter on
the threshold of matrimony if only because they couldn't possibly take
nourishment. Would not the discomfort of meals eaten with a companion
who could swallow nothing justify a divorce _a mensa_?

A six-shilling volume might be written about the New Hotel, with an
execration on every page. Don't let us have anything to do with it,
but keep as much as possible at the Sea Houses under the cliff, which
constitute the only St. Sennans necessary to this story. We shall be
able to do so, because when Mrs. and Mr. Fenwick and their daughter
went for a walk they always went up the cliff-pathway, which had steps
cut in the chalk, past the boat upside down, where new-laid eggs could
be bought from a coastguard's wife. And this path avoided the New Town
altogether, and took them straight to the cliff-track that skirted
growing wheat and blazing poppies till you began to climb the smooth
hill-pasture the foolish wheat had encroached upon in the Protection
days, when it was worth more than South Down mutton. And now every ear
of it would have been repenting in sackcloth and ashes if it had been
qualified by Nature to know how little it would fetch per bushel. But
it wasn't. And when, the day after their arrival, Rosalind and her
husband were on the beach talking of taking a walk up that way when
Sally came out, it could have heard, if it would only have stood
still, the sheep-bells on the slopes above reproaching it, and
taunting it with its usurpation and its fruitless end. Perhaps it was
because it felt ashamed that it stooped before the wind that carried
the reproachful music, and drowned it in a silvery rustle. The barley
succeeded the best. You listen to the next July barley-field you
happen on, and hear what it can do when a breeze comes with no noise
of its own.

Down below on the shingle the sun was hot, and the tide was high, and
the water was clear and green close to the shore, and jelly-fish
abounded. You could look down into the green from the last steep ridge
at high-water mark, and if you looked sharp you might see one abound.
Only you had to be on the alert to jump back if a heave of the green
transparency surged across the little pebbles that could gobble it up
before it was all over your feet--but didn't this time. Oh dear!--how
hot it was! Sally had the best of it. For the allusion to Sally's
"coming out" referred to her coming out of the water, and she was
staying in a long time.

"That child's been twenty-four minutes already," said her mother,
consulting her watch. "Just look at her out there on the horizon. What
on earth _are_ they doing?"

It _was_ a little inexplicable. At that moment Sally and her
friend--it was one Fräulein Braun, who had learned swimming in the
baths on the Rhone at Geneva and in Paris--appeared to be nothing but
two heads, one close behind the other, moving slowly on the water.
Then the heads parted company, and apparently their owners lay on
their backs in the water, and kicked up the British Channel.

"They're saving each other's lives," said Gerry. He got up from a nice
intaglio he had made to lie in, and after shaking off a good bushel of
small pebbles a new-made beach-acquaintance of four had heaped upon
him, resorted to a double opera-glass to see them better. "The kitten
wanted me to get out of my depth for her to tow me in. But I didn't
fancy it. Besides, a sensitive British public would have been
scandalised."

"You never learned to swim, then, Gerry----?" She just stopped herself
in time. The words "after all" were on her lips. Without them her
speech was mere chat; with them it would have been a match to a mine.
She sometimes wished in these days that the mine might explode of
itself, and give her peace.

"I suppose I never did," replied her husband, as a matter of course.
"At least, I couldn't do it when I tried in the water just now. I
should imagine I must have tried B.C., or I shouldn't have known how
to try. It's not a thing one forgets, so they say." He paused a few
seconds, and then added: "Anyhow, it's quite certain I couldn't do
it." There was not a trace of consciousness on his part of anything
in _her_ mind beyond what her words implied. But she felt in peril of
fire, so close to him, with a resurrection of an image in it--a vivid
one--of the lawn-tennis garden of twenty years ago, and the speech of
his friend, the real Fenwick, about his inability to swim.

This sense of peril did not diminish as he continued: "I've found out
a lot of things I _can_ do in the way of athletics, though; I seem to
know how to wrestle, which is very funny. I wonder where I learned.
And you saw how I could ride at Sir Mountmassingham's last month?"
This referred to a country visit, which has not come into our story.
"And that was very funny about the boxing. Such a peaceful old fogey
as your husband! Wasn't it, Rosey darling?"

"Why won't you call the Bart. by his proper name, Gerry? Wasn't what?"

"Funny about the gloves. You know that square fellow? He was a
well-known prizefighter that young Sales Wilson had picked up and
brought down to teach the boys. You remember him? He went to church,
and was very devout...."

"I remember."

"Well, it was in the billiard-room, after dinner. He said quite
suddenly, 'This gentleman now can make use of his daddles. I can see
it in him'--meaning me. 'What makes you think that, Mr. Macmorrough?'
said I. 'We of the fancy, sir,' says he, 'see these things, without
referrin' to no books, by the light of Nature.' And next day we had
a set-to with the gloves, and his verdict was 'Only just short of
professional.' Those boys were delighted. I wonder how and when
I became such a dab at it?"

"I wonder!" Rosalind doesn't seem keen on the subject. "I wish those
crazy girls would begin to think of coming in. If it's going to be
like this every day I shall go home to London, Gerry."

"Perhaps when Vereker comes down on Monday he'll be able to influence.
Medical authority!"

Here the beach-acquaintance, who had kept up a musical undercurrent of
disjointed comment, perceived an opportunity for joining more actively
in the conversation.

"My mummar says--my mummar says--my mummar says...."

"Yes--little pet--what does she say?" Thus Rosalind.

"Yes--Miss Gwendolen Arkwright--what does she say?" Thus Fenwick, on
whom Miss Arkwright is seated.

"My mummar says se wissus us not to paggle Tundy when the tideses goed
out. But my mummar says--my mummar says...."

"Yes, darling."

"My mummar says we must paggle Monday up to here." Miss Arkwright
indicates the exact high-water mark sanctioned, candidly. "Wiv no
sooze, and no stottins!" She then becomes diffuse. "And my bid sister
Totey's doll came out in my bed, and Dane dusted her out wiv a
duster. And I can do thums. And they make free...." At this point Miss
Arkwright's copy runs short, and she seizes the opportunity for a sort
of seated dance of satisfaction at her own eloquence--a kind of
subjective horsemanship.

"I wish I never had to do any sums that made more than three," is the
putative horse's comment. "But there are only two possible, alas! And
the totals are stale, as you might say."

"I'm afraid my little girl's being troublesome." Thus the mamma,
looking round a huge groin of breakwater a few yards off.

"Troublesome, madame?" exclaims Fenwick, using French unexpectedly.
"She's the best company in Sussex." But Miss Arkwright's nurse Jane
domineers into the peaceful circle with a clairvoyance that Miss
Gwendolen is giving trouble, and bears her away rebellious.

"What a shame!" says Gerry _sotto voce_. "But I wonder why I said
'madame'!"

"I remember you said it once before." And she means to add "the
first time you saw me," but dubs it, in thought, a needless lie, and
substitutes, "that day when you were electrocuted." And then imagines
she has flinched, and adds her original text boldly. She isn't sorry
when her husband merely says, "That was queer too!" and remains
looking through his telescope at the swimmers.

"They're coming at last--a couple of young monkeys!" is her comment.
And, sure enough, after a very short spell of stylish sidestrokes
Sally's voice and laugh are within hearing ahead of her companion's
more guttural intonation. Her mother draws a long breath of relief
as the merpussy vanishes under her awning, and is shouted and tapped
at to hold tight, while capstan-power tugs and strains to bring her
dressing-room up a sharp slope out of reach of the sea.

"Well, Jeremiah, and what have _you_ got to say for yourself?" said
the merpussy soon after, just out of her machine, with a huge mass
of briny black hair spread out to dry. The tails had to be split and
sorted and shaken out at intervals to give the air a chance. Sally
was blue and sticky all over, and her finger-tips and nails all one
colour. But her spirits were boisterous.

"What about?"

"What about, indeed? About not coming into the water to be pulled out.
You promised you would, you know you did!"

"I did; but subject to a reasonable interpretation of the compact.
I should have been out of my depth ever so long before you could reach
me. Why didn't you come closer?"

"How could I, with a fat, pink party drying himself next door? _You_
wouldn't have, if it had been you, and him Goody Vereker...."

"Sal-ly! Darling!" Her mother remonstrates.

"We-ell, there's nothing in that! As if we didn't all know what the
Goody would look like...."

Rosalind is really afraid that the strict mamma of her husband's
recent incubus will overhear, and sit at another breakwater next day.
"_Come_ along!" she says, dispersively and emphatically. "We shall
have the shoulder of mutton spoiled."

"No, we shan't! Shall we, Jeremiah? We've talked it over, me and
Jeremiah. Haven't we, Gaffer Fenwick?" She is splitting up the salt
congestions of his mane as she sits by him on the shingle. He confirms
her statement.

"We have. And we have decided that if we are two hours late it may be
done enough. But that in any case the so-called gravy will be grey
hot water."

"Get up and come along, and don't be a mad kitten! I shall go and
leave you two behind. So now you know." And Rosalind goes away up
the shingle.

"What makes mother look so serious sometimes, kitten? She did just now."

"She's jealous of you and me flirting like we do. Don't put your hat
on; let the sun dry you up a bit. Does she really look serious though?
Do you mean it?"

"Yes, I mean it. It comes and goes. But when I ask her she only laughs
at me." A painful thought crosses Sally's mind. Is it possible that
some of her reckless escapades have _froissé_'d her mother? She goes
off into a moment's contemplation, then suddenly jumps up with, "Come
along, Jeremiah," and follows her up the beach.

But the gravity on the face of the latter, by now half-way to the
house, had nothing to do with any of Sally's shocking vulgarities
and outrageous utterances. No, nor even with the green-eyed monster
Jealousy her unscrupulous effrontery had not hesitated to impute. She
allowed it to dominate her expression, as there was no one there to
see, until the girl overtook her. Then she wrenched her face and her
thoughts apart with a smile. "You _are_ a mad little goose," said she.

But the thing that weighted her mind--oppressed or puzzled her, as
might be--what was it?

Had she been obliged to answer the question off-hand she herself might
have been at a loss to word it, though she knew quite well what it
was. It was the old clash between the cause of Sally and its result.
It was the thought that, but for a memory that every year seemed to
call for a stronger forgetfulness, a more effective oblivion, this
little warm star that had shone upon and thawed a frozen life, this
salve for the wound it sprang from, would have remained unborn--a
nonentity! Yes, she might have had another child--true! But would that
child have been Sally?

She was so engrossed with her husband, and he with her, that she felt
she could, as it were, have trusted him with his own identity. But,
then, how about Sally? Though she might with time show him the need
for concealment, how be sure that nothing should come out in the very
confusion of the springing of the mine? She could trust him with
his identity--yes! Not Sally with hers. Her great surpassing terror
was--do you see?--not the effect on _him_ of learning about Sally's
strange _provenance_, but for Sally herself. The terrible knowledge
she could not grasp the facts without would cast a shadow over her
whole life.

So she thought and turned and looked down on the beach. There below
her was this unsolved mystery sitting in the sun beside the man whose
life it had rent asunder from its mother's twenty years ago. And as
Rosalind looked at her she saw her capture and detain his hat. "To
let his mane dry, I suppose," said Rosalind. "I hope he won't get a
sunstroke." She watched them coming up the shingle, and decided that
they were going on like a couple of school-children. They were,
rather.

       *       *       *       *       *

Perhaps the image in Sally's profane mind of "hers affectionately,
Rebecca Vereker," before or after an elderly bathe, would not have
appeared there if she had not received that morning a letter so
signed, announcing that, subject to a variety of fulfilments--among
which the Will of God had quite a conspicuous place--she and her
son would make their appearance next Monday, as our text has already
hinted. On which day the immature legs of Miss Gwendolen Arkwright
were to be released from a seclusion by which some religious object,
undefined, had been attained the day before.

But the conditions which had to be complied with by the lodgings it
would be possible for this lady to occupy were such as have rarely
been complied with, even in houses built specially to meet their
requirements. Each window had to confront, not a particular quarter,
but a particular ninetieth, of the compass. A full view of the sea
had to be achieved from a sitting-room not exposed to its glare, an
attribute destructive of human eyesight, and fraught with curious
effects on the nerves. But the bedrooms had to look in directions
foreign to human experience--directions from which no wind ever came
at night. A house of which every story rotated on an independent
vertical axis might have answered--nothing else would. Even then space
would have called for modification, and astronomy and meteorology
would have had to be patched up. Then with regard to the different
levels of the floors, concession was implied to "a flat"; but,
stairways granted, the risers were to be at zero, and the treads at
boiling-point--a strained simile! As to cookery, the services of a
_chef_ with great powers of self-subordination seemed to be pointed
at, a _cordon-bleu_ ready to work in harness. Hygienic precautions,
such as might have been insisted on by an Athanasian sanitary
inspector on the premises of an Arian householder, were made a
_sine qua non_. Freedom from vibration from vehicles was so firmly
stipulated for that nothing short of a balloon from Shepherd's Bush
could possibly have met the case. The only relaxation in favour of
the possible was a diseased readiness to accept shakedowns, sandwiches
standing, cuts off the cold mutton, and snacks generally on behalf
of her son.

Mrs. Iggulden, who was empty both sets on Monday, didn't answer in any
one particular to any of these requisitions. But a spirit of overgrown
compromise crept in, making a sufficient number of reasons why no one
of them could be complied with an equivalent of compliance itself.
Only in respect of certain racks and tortures for the doctor was Mrs.
Iggulden induced to lend herself to dangerous innovation. "I can't
have poor Prosy put to sleep in a bed like this," said Sally, punching
in the centre of one, and finding a hideous cross-bar. Either Mrs.
Iggulden's nephew must saw it out, and tighten up the sacking from end
to end, or she must get a Christian bed. Poor Prosy! Whereon Mrs.
Iggulden explained that her nephew had by an act of self-sacrifice
surrendered this bed as a luxury for lodgers in the season, having
himself a strong congenital love of bisection. He hadn't slept nigh
so sound two months past, and the crossbar would soothe his slumbers.

So it was finally settled that the Goody and her son should come
to Iggulden's. The question of which set she should occupy being
left open until she should have inspected the stairs. Thereon Mrs.
Iggulden's nephew, whose name was Solomon, contrived a chair to carry
the good lady up them; which she, though faint, declined to avail
herself of when she arrived, perhaps seeing her way to greater
embarrassment for her species by being supported slowly upstairs
with a gasp at each step, and a moan at intervals. However, she was
got up in the end, and thought she could take a little milk with a
teaspoonful of brandy in it.

But as to giving any conception of the difficulties that arose at this
point in determining the choice between above and below, that must be
left to your imagination. A conclusion _was_ arrived at in time--in
a great deal of it--and the Goody was actually settled on the ground
floor at Mrs. Iggulden's, and contriving to battle against collapse
from exhaustion with an implication that she had no personal interest
in reviving, but would do it for the sake of others.



CHAPTER XXVIII

HOW SALLY PUT THE FINISHING TOUCH ON THE DOCTOR, WHO COULDN'T SLEEP.
  OF THE GRAND DUKE OF HESSE-JUNKERSTADT. AND OF AN INTERVIEW OVERHEARD


Fenwick was not a witness of this advent, as the Monday on which it
happened had seen his return to town. He had had his preliminary week,
and his desk was crying aloud for him. He departed, renewing a solemn
promise to write every day as the train came into the little station
at Egbert's Road, for St. Sennans and Growborough. It is only a single
line, even now, to St. Sennans from here, but as soon as it was done
it was good-bye to all peace and quiet for St. Sennan.

Rosalind and her daughter came back in the omnibus--not the one for
the hotel, but the one usually spoken of as Padlock's--the one that
lived at the Admiral Collingwood, the nearest approach to an inn in
the old town. The word "omnibus" applied to it was not meant literally
by Padlock, but only as a declaration of his indifference as to which
four of the planet's teeming millions rode in it. This time there was
no one else except a nice old farmer's wife, who spoke _to_ each of
the ladies as "my dear," and _of_ each of them as "your sister."
Rosalind was looking wonderfully young and handsome, certainly. They
secured all the old lady's new-laid eggs, because there would be
Mrs. Vereker in the evening. We like adhering to these ellipses of
daily life.

Next morning Sally took Dr. Vereker for a walk round to show him the
place. Try to fancy the condition of a young man of about thirty, who
had scarcely taken his hand from the plough of general practice for
four years--for his holidays had been mighty insignificant--suddenly
inaugurating three weeks of paradise in _the_ society man most
covets--of delicious seclusion remote from patients, a happy valley
where stethoscopes might be forgotten, and carbolic acid was unknown,
where diagnosis ceased from troubling, and prognosis was at rest. He
got so intoxicated with Sally that he quite forgot to care if the
cases he had left to Mr. Neckitt (who had been secured as a substitute
after all) survived or got terminated fatally. Bother them and their
moist _râles_ and cardiac symptoms, and effusions of blood on the brain!

Dr. Conrad was a young man of an honest and credulous nature, with a
turn for music naturally, and an artificial bias towards medicine
infused into him by his father, who had died while he was yet a boy.
His honesty had shown itself in the loyalty with which he carried out
his father's wishes, and his credulity in the readiness with which he
accepted his mother's self-interested versions of his duty towards
herself. She had given him to understand from his earliest years that
she was an unselfish person, and entitled to be ministered unto, and
that it was the business of every one else to see that she did not
become the victim of her own self-sacrifice. At the date of this
writing her son was passing through a stage of perplexity about his
duty to her in its relation to his possible duty to a wife undefined.
That he might not be embarrassed by too many puzzles at once, he
waived the question of who this wife was to be, and ignored the fact
that would have been palpable to any true reading of his mind, that if
it had not been for Miss Sally Nightingale this perplexity might never
have existed. He satisfied his conscience on the point by a pretext
that Sally was a thing on a pinnacle out of his reach--not for the
likes of him! He made believe that he was at a loss to find a foothold
on his greasy pole, but was seeking one in complete ignorance of what
would be found at the top of it.

This shallow piece of self-deception was ripe for disillusionment when
Sally took its victim out for a walk round to show him the place.
It had the feeblest hold on existence during the remainder of the day,
throughout which our medical friend went on dram-drinking, knowing
the dangers of his nectar-draughts, but as helpless against them as
any other dram-drinker. It broke down completely and finally between
moonrise and midnight--a period that began with Sally calling under
Iggulden's window, "Come out, Dr. Conrad, and see the phosphorescence
in the water; it's going to be quite bright presently," and ended
with, "Good gracious, how late it is! Shan't we catch it?" an
exclamation both contributed to. For it was certainly past eleven
o'clock.

But in that little space it had broken down, that delusion; and the
doctor knew perfectly well, before ten o'clock, certainly, that all
the abstract possible wives of his perplexity meant Sally, and Sally
only. And, further, that Sally was at every point of the compass--that
she was in the phosphorescence of the sea, and the still golden colour
of the rising moon. That space was full of her, and that each little
wave-splash at their feet said "Sally," and then gave place to another
that said "Sally" again. Poor Prosy!

But what did they _say_, the two of them? Little enough--mere merry
chat. But on his part so rigid a self-constraint underlying it that
we are not sure some of the little waves didn't say--not Sally at all,
but--Miss Nightingale! And a persistent sense of a thought that was
only waiting to be thought as soon as he should be alone--that was
going to run somewhat thus: "How could it come about? That this girl,
whom I idolize till my idolatry is almost pain; this girl who has been
my universe this year past, though I would not confess it; this wonder
whom I judge no man worthy of, myself least of all--that she should be
cancelled, made naught of, hushed down, to be the mate of a poor G.P.;
to visit his patients and leave cards, make up his little accounts,
perhaps! Certainly to live with his mother...." But he knew under the
skin that he would be even with that disloyal thought, and would stop
it off at this point in time to believe he hadn't thought it.

Still, for all that this disturbing serpent would creep into his Eden,
for all that he would have given worlds to dare a little more--that
moment in the moonlight, with a glow-flecked water at his feet and
hers, and the musical shingle below, and a sense of Christy Minstrels
singing about Billy Pattison somewhere in the warm night-air above,
and the flash of the great revolving light along the coast answering
the French lights across the great, dark silent sea--that moment was
the record moment of his life till then. It would never do to say so
to Sally, that was all! But it was true for all that. For his life
had been a dull one, and the only comfort he could get out of the
story of it so far was that at least there was no black page in it he
would like to cut out. Sally might read them all, and welcome. Their
relation to _her_ had become the point to consider. You see, at heart
he was a slow-coach, a milksop, nothing of the man of the world about
him. Well, her race had had a dose of the other sort in the last
generation. Had the breed wearied of it? Was that Sally's unconscious
reason for liking him?

"How very young Prosy has got all of a sudden!" was Sally's postscript
to this interview, as she walked back to their own lodgings with her
mother, who had been relieving guard with the selfless one while the
doctor went out to see the phosphorescence.

"He's like a boy out for a holiday," her mother answered. "I had no
idea Dr. Conrad could manage such a colour as that; I thought he was
pallid and studious."

"Poor dear. _We_ should be pallid and studious if it was cases all
day long, and his ma at intervals."

"Do you know, kitten darling, I can't help thinking perhaps we do
that poor woman an injustice...."

"--Can't you?" Thus Sally in a parenthetic voice--

"... and that she really isn't such a very great humbug after all!"

"Why not?"

"Because she would be such a _very_ great humbug, don't you see,
chick?"

"Why shouldn't she? Somebody must, or there'd be no such thing."

"Why should there be any such thing?"

"Because of the word. Somebody must, or there'd be no one to hook it
to.... Have they stopped, I wonder, or are they going to begin again?"
This referred to the Ethiopian banjos afar. "I do declare they're
going to sing Pesky Jane, and it's nearly twelve o'clock!"

"Never mind _them_! How came _you_ to know all the vulgar
nigger-songs?... I was going to say. It's very difficult to believe
it's quite all humbug when one hears her talk about her son and his
welfare, and his prospects and...."

"I know what she talked about. When her dear son marries, she's going
to devote herself to him and her dear daughter that will be. Wasn't
that it?"

"Yes; but then she couldn't say more than that all she had would be
theirs, and she would take her to her bosom, etcetera. Could she?"

"She'll have to pull a long way!" The vulgar child's mind has flown
straight to the Goody's outline in profile. She is quite incorrigible.
"But wasn't that what old Mr. Turveydrop said, or very nearly? Of
course, one has to consider the parties and make allowance."

"Sallykin, what a madcap you are! You don't care _what_ you say."

"We-e-ell! there's nothing in that.... But look here, mammy darling.
Did that good woman in all she said to-night--all the time she was
jawing--did she once lose sight of her meritorious attitude?"

"It may only be a _façon de parler_--a sort of habit."

"But it isn't. Jeremiah says so. We've talked it over, us two. He
says he wouldn't like his daughter--meaning me--to marry poor Prosy,
because of the Goody."

"Are you sure he meant you? Did you ask him?"

"No, because I wasn't going to twit Jeremiah with being only step.
We kept it dark who was what. But, of course, he meant me. Like a
submarine telegraph." Sally stopped a moment in gravity. Then she
said: "Mother dear!"

"What, kitten?"

"What a pity it is Jeremiah is only step! Just think how nice if
he'd been real. Now, if you'd only met twenty years sooner...."

A nettle to grasp presented itself--a bad one. Rosalind seized it
bodily. "I shouldn't have had my kitten," she said.

"I see. I should have been somebody else. But that wouldn't have
mattered to me."

"It would have--to me!" But this is the most she can do in the way
of nettle-grasping. She is glad when St. Sennan, from his tower with
the undoubted piece of Norman, begins to count twelve, and gives her
an excuse for a recall to duty. "Do think how we're keeping poor Mrs.
Lobjoit up, you unfeeling child!" is her appeal on behalf of their own
fisherman's wife. Sally is just taking note of a finale of the Ethiop
choir. "They've done Pesky Jane, and they're going away to bed," she
says. "How the black must come off on the sheets!" And then they
hurried home to sleep sound.

But there was little sleep for the doctor that night, perhaps because
he had got so young all of a sudden. So it didn't matter much that his
mother countermanded his proposal that bed should be gone to, on the
ground that it was so late now that she wouldn't be able to sleep
a wink. If she _could_ have gone an hour ago it would have been
different. Now it was too late. An aggressive submissiveness was
utilized by the good lady to the end of his discomfort and that of
Mrs. Iggulden, who--perhaps from some memories of the Norman Conquest
hanging about the neighbourhood--would never go to bed as long as a
light was burning in the house.

"It is very strange and most unusual, I know," she continued saying
after she had scarified a place to scratch on. "Your great-uncle
Everett Gayler did not scruple to call it phenomenal, and that when
I was the merest child. After eleven no sleep!" She continued her
knitting with tenacity to illustrate her wakefulness. "But I am glad,
dear Conrad, that you forgot about me. You were in pleasanter society
than your old mother's. No one shall have any excuse for saying I am
a burden on my son. No, my dear boy, my wish is that you shall feel
_free_." She laid aside the knitting needles, and folding her hands
across the outline Sally was to be dragged up, or along, dropped her
eyelids over a meek glare, and sat with a fixed, submissive undersmile
slightly turned towards her son.

"But I thought, mother, as Mrs. Fenwick was here...." Slow, slight,
acquiescent nods stopped him; they were enough to derail any speech
except the multiplication-table or the House-that-Jack-built! But
she waited with exemplary patience for certainty that the train had
stopped. Then spoke as one that gives a commission to speech,
and observes its execution at a distance. Her expression remained
immutable. "She is a well-meaning person," said she.

"I didn't know how late it was." Poor Dr. Conrad gives up
self-defence--climbs down. "The time ran away." It _had_ done so,
there was no doubt about that.

"And you forgot your mother. But Mrs. Fenwick is a well-meaning
person. We will say no more about it."

Whereupon her son, feeling that silence is golden, said nothing. But
he went and kissed her for all that. She said inscrutably: "You might
have kissed me." But whether she was or wasn't referring to the fact
that she had succeeded in negotiating his kiss on the rim of her
spectacles, Conrad couldn't tell. Probably she meant he might have
kissed her before.

There was no doubt, however, about her intention of knitting till past
one in the morning. She did it enlarging on the medical status of her
illustrious uncle, Dr. Everett Gayler, who had just crept into the
conversation. Her son wasn't so sorry for this as Mrs. Iggulden, who
dozed and waked with starts, on principle, outside in the passage
unseen. _He_ could stand at the wide-open window, and hear the little
waves plash "Sally" in the moonlight, and the counter-music of the
down-drawn shingle echo "Sally" back. Sometimes the pebbles and the
water gave place for a moment to the tread of two persistent walkers
up and down--men who smoked cigars, and became a little audible and
died again at every time of passing.

One time the doctor caught a rise of voice--though they did not pass
so very near--that said: "My idea is to stay here till...."

Then at the next turn the same voice grew from inaudibility to ...
"So I arranged with the parson here for to-morrow, and we shall
get...." and died again. At this moment Dr. Everett Gayler was at
the climax of his fame, having just performed tracheotomy on the
Grand Duke of Hesse-Junkerstadt, and been created Knight-Commander
of some Order whose name Mrs. Vereker wasn't sure about.

Next time the men returned, the same voice that seemed to do all the
talking said: "... Expensive, of course, but she hates the idea of
a registry-office." They paused, and the listener heard that the other
voice had said something to which the first replied: "No, not Grundy.
But she had some friends cooked at one, and they said it was stuffy,
and they would sooner have endured twenty short homilies...."

A wax vesta scratched, blazed, lighted another cigar, and the second
voice said, "Oh--ah!" and both grew inaudible again.

Dr. Everett Gayler had just pronounced the Grand Duchess's
disease--they were an afflicted family--a disease his narrator
couldn't pronounce at all. Most of her bones, in a state of necrosis,
had been skilfully removed by the time the smokers had passed back.
But so much more was Dr. Conrad listening to what the waves said to
the shingle and the shingle answered back, than to either the Grand
Duchess or the registry-office, that it never crossed his mind whose
the voice was who lit the vesta. He heard it say good-night--its owner
would get back to the hotel--and the other make due response. And
then nothing was left but the coastguard.

But the Grand Duke's family were not quite done with. It had to be
recorded how many of his distinguished ancestors had suffered from
_Plica polonica_. Still, the end did come at last, and the worthy lady
thought perhaps if she could lie down now she might drop off. So Mrs.
Iggulden got her release and slept.

Dr. Conrad didn't, not a wink. The whole place was full of Sally. The
flashlight at intervals, in couplets, seemed to say "Sally" twice when
it came, and then to leave a blank for him to think about her in. The
great slow steamer far out to sea showed a green eye of jealousy or a
red one of anger because it could not come ashore where Sally was, but
had perforce to go on wherever it was navigated. The millions of black
sea-elves--did you ever discriminate them?--that the slight observer
fancies are the interstices of the moonlight on the water, were all
busy about Sally, though it was hard to follow their movements. And
every time St. Sennan said what o'clock it was, he added, "One hour
nearer to Sally to-morrow!"

Poor Prosy!



CHAPTER XXIX

OF A MARRIAGE BY SPECIAL LICENCE. ROSALIND'S COMPARISONS. OF THE THREE
  BRIDESMAIDS, AND HOW THE BRIDE WAS A GOOD SAILOR


But it never occurred to Dr. Vereker that the voice of the smoking
gentleman, whose "_she_" knew a couple that had been cooked at a
registry office, was a voice quite familiar to him. The only effect
it had on his Sally-dazed mind was to make him wonder four hours after
what it was that kept putting Julius Bradshaw into his head. If a
brain-molecule could have been found not preoccupied with Sally he
might have been able to give her next day a suggestive hint about
a possibility ahead. But never a word said he to Sally; and when,
on her return from bathing the following morning, Mrs. Lobjoit, the
fisherman's wife, surprised her with the news that "the young lady"
had come and had left her luggage, but would be back in half-an-hour,
she was first taken aback, and thought it was a mistake next. But
no--no chance of that! The young lady had asked for Mrs. Algernon
Fenwick, or, in default, for Miss Sally, quite distinctly. She hadn't
said any name, but there was a gentleman with her. Mrs. Lobjoit
seemed to imply that had there been no gentleman she might have been
nameless. Padlock's omnibus they came in.

So Sally went on being taken aback where she had left off, and was
still pondering over the phenomenon when her mother followed her
through the little yard paved with round flints bedded in mortar--all
except the flower-beds, which were in this case marigold-beds and
fuschia-beds and tamarisk-shakedowns--and the street door which always
stood open, and it was very little use ringing, the bell being broken.
But you could pass through, and there would always be old Mr. Lobjoit
in the kitchen, even if Mrs. Lobjoit was not there herself.

"Why not look on the boxes, you stupid kitten? There's a name on them,
or ought to be." Thus Rosalind, after facts told.

"What a thing it is to have a practical maternal parent!" Thus Sally.
And Mrs. Lobjoit put on record with an amiable smile that that is what
she kept saying to Miss Nightingale, "Why not look?" Whereas the fact
is Mrs. Lobjoit never said anything of the sort.

"Here's a go!" says Sally, who gets at the label-side of the trunk
first. "If it isn't Tishy!" And the mother and daughter look at each
other's faces, each watching the other's theory forming of what this
sudden apparition means.

"What do you think, mother?"

"What do _you_ think, kitten?" But the truth is, both wanted time
to know what to think. And they hadn't got much forwarder with the
solution of the problem when a light was thrown upon it by the sudden
apparition of Lætitia herself, accompanied by the young gentleman
whom Sally did not scruple to speak of--but not in his presence--as
her counter-jumper. She did this, she said, to "pay Tishy out" for
what she had said about him before she made his acquaintance.

The couple were in a mixed state of exaltation and confusion--Tishy
half laughing, a third crying, and a sixth keeping up her dignity.
Both were saying might they come in, and doing it without waiting for
an answer.

Rosalind's remark was one of those nonsequences often met with in real
life: "There's enough lunch--or we can send out." Sally's was: "But
are you the Julius Bradshaws, or are you not? That's what _I_ want to
know." Sally won't be trifled with, not she!

"Well, Sally dear, no,--we're not--not just yet." Tishy hesitates.
Julius shows firmness.

"But we want to be at two o'clock this afternoon, if you'll come...."

"Both of us?"

"Why--of course, both of you."

"Then Mrs. Lobjoit will have to be in time with lunch." It does not
really matter who were the speakers, nor what the share of each was
in the following aggregate:

"How did you manage to get it arranged?" "Why _now_? Have you
quarrelled with your mother?" "How long can you be away? I hate a
stingy honeymoon!" "You've got no things." "Do you think they'll know
at home where you are?" "Where are you going afterwards?" "What do you
think your father will say?" "What I want to know is, what put it into
your head _now_, more than any other time?"

Responses to the whole of which, much at random, are incorporated in
what follows: "Julius isn't wanted for three weeks." "I'm sure the
Professor's on our side, really." "I left a letter to tell them,
anyhow." "Calais. We shan't be sick, in weather like this. We'll cross
by the night boat." "I've got a new dress to be married in, and a new
umbrella--oh yes, and other things." "I'll tell you the whole story,
Sally dear, as soon as I've had time to turn round." "No--not
quarrelled--at least, no more than usual." "Special licence, of course."

What time Vereker, who had been to the post-office, which sold all
sorts of things, to inquire if they had a packet of chemical oatmeal
(the only thing his mother could digest this morning), and was coming
back baffled, called in on his way to Mrs. Iggulden's. Not to see
Sally, but only to take counsel with the family about chemical
oatmeal. By a curious coincident, the moment he heard of Miss Sales
Wilson's arrival, he used Sally's expression, and said that there was
"a go!" Perhaps there was, and that accounted for it.

"Here's Dr. Conrad--he'll have to come too." Thus Sally explicitly.
To which he replied, "All right. Where?" Sally replied with gravity:
"To see these two married by special licence." And Julius added: "You
_must_ come, doctor, to be my bottle-holder."

A small undercurrent of thought in the doctor's mind, in which he can
still accommodate passing events and the world's trivialities, begins
to receive impressions of the facts of the case. The great river
called Sally flows steadily on, on its own account, and makes and
meddles not. It despises other folk's petty affairs. Dr. Conrad
masters the position, and goes on to draw inferences.

"Then that must have been _you_ last night, Bradshaw?"

"I dare say it was. When?"

"Walking up and down with another fellow in front here. Smoking
cigars, both of you."

"Why didn't you sing out?"

"Well, now--why didn't I?" He seems a little unable to account for
himself, and no wonder. "I think I recollected it was like you after
you had gone."

"Don't be a brain-case, Dr. Conrad. What would your patients say if
they heard you go on like that?" Sally said this, of course. Her
mother thought to herself that perhaps the patients would send for
a married doctor.

But her mind was taking no strong hold on the current of events,
considering what a very vital human interest was afloat on them. It
was wandering back to another wedding-day--her own first wedding-day
of twenty years ago. As she looked at this bridegroom--all his
upspring of hope making light of such fears as needs must be in like
case all the world over--he brought back to her vividly, for all he
was so unlike him, the face of the much younger man who had met her
that day at Umballa, whose utter freedom from suspicion as he welcomed
her almost made her able to forget the weeks gone by--the more so that
they were like a dream in Hell, and their sequel like an awakening in
Paradise. Well, at any rate, she had recaptured this man from Chaos,
and he was hers again. And she had Sally. But at the word the whole
world reeled and her feet were on quicksands. What and whence was
Sally?

At least this was true--there was no taint of her father there! Sally
wasn't an angel--not a bit of it--no such embarrassment to a merely
human family. But her mother could see her truth, honour, purity--call
it what you will--in every feature, every movement. As she stood
there, giving injunctions to Vereker to look alive or he'd be late,
her huge coil of sea-soaked black hair making her white neck look
whiter, and her white hands reestablishing hair-pins in the depths of
it, she seemed the very incarnation of non-inheritance. Not a trace of
the sire her mother shuddered to think of in the music of her voice,
in the laughter all who knew her felt in the mirth of her eyebrows and
the sparkle of her pearly teeth. All her identity was her own. If only
it could have been known then that she was going to be Sally!... But
how fruitless all speculation was!

"Perhaps mother knows. Chemical oatmeal, mother, for invalids and
persons of delicate digestion? They haven't got it at Pemberton's."
The eyes and the teeth flash round on her mother, and in a twinkling
the unhallowed shadow of the past is gone. It was only a moment in
all, though it takes more to record it. Rosalind came back to the life
of the present, but she knew nothing about chemical oatmeal. Never
mind. The doctor would find out. And he would be sure to be in time.

He was in time--plenty of time, said public opinion. And the couple
were duly married, and went away in Padlock's omnibus to catch
the train for Dover in time for the boat. And Dr. Conrad's eyes
were on the eldest bridesmaid. For, after all, two others were
obtained--jury-bridesmaids they might be called--in the persons of
Miss Gwendolen Arkwright and an even smaller sister, who were somehow
commandeered by Sally's enterprise, and bribed with promises of
refreshment. But the smaller sister was an erring sister, for having
been told she was on no account to speak during the service, she
was suddenly struck with the unfairness of the whole thing, and,
pointing at St. Sennans' arch-priest, said very audibly that _he_
was "peatin'," so why wasn't she to "peat"? However, it was a very
good wedding, and there was no doubt the principals had really become
the Julius Bradshaws. They started from Dover on a sea that looked
like a mill-pond; but Tishy's husband afterwards reported that the
bride sat with her eyes shut the last half of the _trajet_, and said,
"Don't speak to me, and I shall be all right."

       *       *       *       *       *

That summer night Rosalind and her daughter were looking out over the
reputed mill-pond at the silver dazzle with the elves in it. The moon
had come to the scratch later than last night, from a feeling of what
was due to the almanac, which may (or must) account for an otherwise
enigmatical remark of Sally's, who, when her mother wondered what time
it was, replied: "I don't know--it's later than it was yesterday." But
did that matter, when it was the sort of night you stopped out all
night on, according to Sally. They came to an anchor on a seat facing
the sea, and adjourned human obligation _sine die_.

"I wonder if they've done wisely." Rosalind represents married
thoughtfulness.

Sally shelves misgivings of this sort by reflections on the common lot
of humanity, and considers that it will be the same for them as every
one else.

"_They_'ll be all right," she says, with cheerful optimism. "I wonder
what's become of Prosy."

"He's up there with his mother. I saw him at the window. But I didn't
mean that: they'll be happy enough together, I've no doubt. I mean,
has Lætitia done wisely to quarrel with her family?"

"She hasn't; it's only the she-dragon. Tishy told me all about it
going to church."

       *       *       *       *       *

And, oh dear, how poor Prosy, who was up there with his mother, did
long to come out to the voices he could hear plain enough, even as
far off as that! But then he had been so long away to-day, and he
knew his excellent parent always liked to finish the tale of her own
wedding-day when she began it--as she often did. So he listened again
to the story of the wedding, which was celebrated in the severest
thunderstorm experienced in these islands since the days of
Queen Elizabeth, by a heroic clergyman who was suffering from
pleuro-pneumonia, which made his voice inaudible till a miraculous
chance produced one of Squilby's cough lozenges (which are not to be
had now for love or money), and cured him on the spot. And how the
bridesmaids all had mumps, more or less. And much concerning the
amazingly dignified appearance of her own father and mother, which
was proverbial, and therefore no matter of surprise to any one, the
proverb being no doubt well known to Europe.

But there, it didn't matter! Sally would be there to-morrow.



CHAPTER XXX

HOW A FORTNIGHT PASSED, AND THE HONEYMOONERS RETURNED. OF A CHAT ON
  THE BEACH, AND MISS ARKWRIGHT'S SCIENTIFIC EXPERIENCE. ALMOST THE
  LAST, LAST, LAST--MAN'S HEAD!


Sally to-morrow--and to-morrow--and to-morrow. Sally for fourteen
morrows. And the moon that had lighted the devoted young man to his
fate--whatever it was to be--had waned and left the sky clear for
a new one, on no account to be seen through glass.

They were morrows of inextinguishable, indescribable delight for their
victims or victim--for how shall we classify Sally? Who shall tread
the inner temple of a girl's mind? How shall it be known that she
herself has the key to the Holy of Holies?--that she is not dwelling
in the outer court, unconscious of her function of priestess, its
privileges and responsibilities? Or, in plainer language, metaphors
having been blowed in obedience to a probable wish of the reader's,
how do we know Sally was not falling in love with the doctor? How do
we know she was not in love with him already? How did _she_ know?

All we know is that the morrows went on, each one sweeter than the
last, and all the little incidents went on that were such nothings at
the time, but were so sure to be borne in mind for ever! _You_ know
all about it, you who read. Like enough you can remember now, old as
you are, how you and she (or he, according as your sex is) got lost
in the wood, and never found where the picnic had come to an anchor
till all the wings of chicken were gone and only legs left; or how
there was a bull somewhere; or how next day the cat got caught on the
shoulder of one of you and had to be detached, hooking horribly, by
the other; or how you felt hurt (not jealous, but hurt) because she
(or he) was decently civil to some new he (or she), and how relieved
you were when you heard it was Mr. or Mrs. Some-name-you've-forgotten.
Why, if you were to ask now, of that grey man or woman whose life was
linked with yours, maybe now sixty years agone, did he or she have
a drumstick, or go on to ham-sandwiches?--or, was it really a bull,
after all?--or, had that cat's claws passed out of memory?--or, what
was the name of that lady (or gentleman) at the So-and-so's?--if
you asked any of these things, she or he might want a repeat into
a deaf ear but would answer clear enough in the end, and recall
the drumsticks and the equivocal bull, the cat's claws, and the
unequivocal married person. And then you would turn over all the
little things of old, and wrangle a bit over details here and there;
and all the while you would be the very selfsame two that were young
and were lost in the wood and trampled down the fern and saw the
squirrels overhead all those long years ago.

Many a little thing of a like nature--perhaps some identical--made up
hours that became days in that fortnight we have to skip, and then the
end was drawing near; and Dr. Conrad would have to go back and write
prescriptions with nothing that could possibly do any harm in them,
and abstain with difficulty from telling young ladies with cultivated
waists they were liars when they said you could get a loaf of bread
between all round, and it was sheer nonsense. And other little
enjoyments of a G.P.'s life. Yes, the end was very near. But Sally's
resolute optimism thrust regrets for the coming chill aside, and
decided to be jolly while we could, and acted up to its decision.

Besides, an exciting variation gave an interest to the last week of
the doctor's stay at St. Sennans. The wandering honeymooners, in
gratitude to that saint, proposed to pay him a visit on their way back
to London. Perhaps they would stop a week. So the smallest possible
accommodation worthy of the name was found for them over a brandyball
and bull's-eye shop in a house that had no back rooms, being laid like
a vertical plaster against the cliff behind, and having an exit on
a flat roof where you might bask in the sun and see the bright red
poppies growing in the chalk, and contribute your share towards
a settlement of the vexed question of which are brigs. There wasn't
another room to be had in the real St. Sennans, and it came to that
or the hotel (which was beastly), and you might just as well be in
London. Thus Sally, and settled the question.

And this is how it comes to pass that at the beginning of
this chapter--which we have only just got to, after all this
circumlocution!--Sally and one of the Julius Bradshaws were sitting
talking on the beach in the shadow of a breakwater, while the other
Julius Bradshaw (the original one) was being taken for a walk to the
extremely white lighthouse three miles off, or nearly five if you
went by the road, by Dr. Conrad, who by this time knew all the walks
in the neighbourhood exactly as well as Sally did, neither more nor
less. And both knew them very well.

The tide had come up quite as far as it had contemplated, and seemed
to have made up its mind this time not to go back in too great a
hurry. It was so nice there on the beach, with Tishy and Sally
and Miss Gwendolen Arkwright, the late bridesmaid, who was having
an independent chat all to herself about the many glories of the
pier-end, and the sights to be seen there by visitors for a penny.
And it--we are speaking of the tide--had got a delightful tangle of
floating weed (_Fucus Vesiculosus_) and well-washed scraps of wood
from long-forgotten wrecks--who knows?--and was turning it gently
to and fro, and over and over, with intermittent musical caresses,
against the shingle-bank, whose counter-music spoke to the sea of
the ages it had toiled in vain to grind it down to sand. And the
tide said, wait, we shall see. The day will come, it said, when not
a pebble of you all but shall be scattered drifting sand, unless you
have the luck to be carted up at a shilling a load by permission of
the authorities, to be made into a concrete of a proper consistency
according to the local by-laws. But the pebbles said, please, no; we
will bide our time down here, and you shall have us for your own--play
with us in the sun at the feet of these two ladies, or make the
whirling shoals of us, beaten to madness, thunder back your voice when
it shouts in the storm to the seaman's wife, who stops her ears in the
dark night alone that she may not hear you heralding her husband's
death. And the tide said very good; but a day would come when the
pebbles would be sand, for all that. And even the authority would be
gone, and the local by-laws. But it would sound upon some shore for
ever. So it kept on saying. Probably it was mistaken.

This has nothing to do with our story except that it is approximately
the substance of a statement made by Sally to Miss Arkwright, who was
interested, and had been promised it all over again to-morrow. For
the present she could talk about the pier and take her audience for
granted.

"But was it that Kensington Gardens business that did the job?" asked
Sally, in the shadow of the breakwater, getting the black hair dry
after three-quarters of an hour in the sea; because caps, you know,
are all nonsense as far as keeping water out goes. So Sally had to sit
ever so long with it out to dry. And the very tiny pebbles you can
almost see into stick to your hands, as you know, and come off in your
hair when you run them through it, and have to be combed out. At
least, Sally's had. But she kept on running the pebbles through her
still blue fingers for all that as she half lay, half sat by Tishy
on the beach.

"'Did the job!'" repeats the bride on her honeymoon with some
indignation. "Sally dear, when will you learn to be more refined in
your ways of speech? I'm not a _précieuse_, but--'did the job!'
Really, Sally!..."

"Observe the effect of three weeks in France. The Julius Bradshaws can
parlay like anything! No, Tishy darling, don't be a stuck-upper, but
tell me again about Kensington Gardens."

"I told you. It was just like that. Julius and I were walking up the
avenue--you know...."

"The one that goes up and across, and comes straight like this?"
Tishy, helped by a demonstration of blue finger-tips, recognises this,
strange to say.

"No, not that one. It doesn't matter. We didn't see mamma coming till
she was ever so close, because of the Speke Monument in the way. And
what could possess her to come home that way from Hertford Street,
Mayfair, I cannot imagine!"

"Never mind, Tishy dear! It's no use crying over spilled milk. What
did she say?"

"Nothing, dear. She turned purple, and bowed civilly. To Julius, of
course. But it included me, whether or no."

"But was that what did the job?... We-ell, I do not see _anything_
to object to in that expression. Was it?"

"If you mean, dear, was it that that made us, me and Julius, feel that
matters would get no better by waiting, I think perhaps it was....
Well, when it comes to meeting one's mother in Kensington Gardens,
near the Speke Monument, and being bowed civilly to, it seems to me
it's high time.... Now, isn't it, Sally?"

Sally evaded giving testimony by raising other questions: "What did
your father say?" "Did the Dragon tell him about the meeting in the
park?" "What do you think he'll say now?"

"Now? Well, you know, I've got his letter. _He's_ all right--and
rather dear, _I_ think. What do _you_ think, Sally?"

"I think very."

"Perhaps I should say very. But with papa you never know. He really
does love us all, after a fashion, except Egerton, only I'm never
sure he doesn't do it to contradict mamma."

"Why don't they chuck each other and have done with it?" The vulgar
child lets fly straight into the bull's-eye; then adds thoughtfully:
"_I_ should, only, then, I'm not a married couple."

Tishy elided the absurd figure of speech and ignored it. The chance
of patronising was not to be lost.

"You are not married, dear. When you are, you may feel things
differently. But, of course, papa and mamma _are_ very odd. I used
to hear them through my door between the rooms at L.B.G. Road. It
was wrangle, wrangle, wrangle; fight, fight, fight; all through the
night--till two o'clock sometimes. Oh dear!"

"You're sure they always were quarrelling?"

"Oh dear, yes. I used to catch all the regular words--settlement and
principal and prevaricate. All that sort of thing, you know. But there
they are, and there they'll be ten years hence, that's my belief,
living together, sleeping together, and dining at opposite ends of the
same table, and never communicating in the daytime except through me
or Theeny, but quarrelling like cat and dog."

"What shall you do when you go back? Go straight there?"

"I think so. Julius thinks so. After all, papa's the master of the
house--legally, at any rate."

"Shall you write and say you're coming?"

"Oh, no! Just go and take our chance. We shan't be any nearer if we
give mamma an opportunity of miffing away somewhere when we come. What
_is_ that little maid talking about there?" The ex-bridesmaid is three
or four yards away, and is discoursing eloquently, a word in the above
conversation having reminded her of a tragic event she has mentioned
before in this story. "I seeps with my bid sister Totey's dolly," is
what she appears to be saying.

"Never mind the little poppet, Tishy, till you've told me more about
it." Sally is full of curiosity. "Did that do the job or did it not?
That's what I want to know."

"I suppose it did, dear, indirectly. That was on Saturday afternoon.
Next morning we breakfasted under a thundercloud with Egerton grinning
inside his skin, and looking like 'Won't you catch it, that's all!'
at me out of the corner of his eye. That was bad enough, without one's
married sister up from the country taking one aside to say that _she_
wasn't going to interfere, and calling one to witness that _she_ had
said nothing so far. All she said was, 'Me and mamma settle it between
us.' 'Settle what?' said I; and she didn't answer, and went away to
the first celebration."

"She's not bad, your married sister," Sally decided thoughtfully.

"Oh no, Clarissa's not bad. Only she wants to run with the hare and
explain to the hounds when they come up.... What happened next? Why,
as I went upstairs past papa's room, out comes mamma scarlet with
anger, and restraining herself in the most offensive way for me to go
past. I took no notice, and when she was gone I went down and walked
straight into the library. I said, 'What is it, papa?' I saw he was
chuckling internally, as if he'd made a hit."

"Wasn't he angry? What did he say?"

"Oh no, _he_ wasn't angry. Let's see ... oh!... what he said was,
'That depends so entirely on what _it_ is, my dear. But, broadly
speaking, I should say it was your mother.' 'What has she been saying
to you?' I asked. And he answered, 'I can only give her exact words
without pledging myself to their meaning. She stated that she
"supposed I was going to tell my daughter I approved of her walking
about Kensington Gardens with _that man's_ arm around her waist."
I replied--reasonably, as it seems to me--that I supposed that man
was there himself. Otherwise, it certainly did seem to me a most
objectionable arrangement, and I hope you'll promise your mother not
to do it again.'"

"What on earth did he mean?"

"You don't understand papa. He quibbles to irritate mamma. He meant
like a waistband--separate--don't you see?"

"I see. But it wouldn't bend right." Sally's truthful nature postpones
laughing at the Professor's absurdity; looks at the case on its
merits. When she has done justice to this point, she laughs and adds:
"What did _you_ say, Tishy?"

"Oh, I said what nonsense, and it wasn't tight round like all that;
only a symptom. And we didn't even know mamma was there because of
Speke and Grant's obelisk. There wasn't a soul! Papa saw it quite as
I did, and was most reasonable. So I thought I would feel my way to
developing an idea we had been broaching, Julius and I, just that very
time by the obelisk. I asked papa flatly what he would do if I married
Julius straight off. 'I believe, my dear,' said he, 'that I should
be bound to disapprove most highly of your conduct and his.' 'But
_should_ you, papa?' I said. 'I should be _bound_ to, my dear,'
said he. 'But should you turn us out of the house?' I asked. 'Most
certainly _not_,' said he emphatically. 'But I should disapprove.'
I said I should be awfully sorry for that. 'Of course you would,' said
he. 'Any dutiful daughter would. But I don't exactly see what harm it
would do _you_.' And you see how his letter begins--that he is bound,
as a parent, to feel the strongest disapprobation, and so on. No,
I don't think we need be frightened of papa. As for mamma, of course
it wouldn't be reasonable to expect her to...."

"To expect her to what?"

"Well, I was going to say keep her hair on. The expression is
Egerton's, and I'm sorry to say his expressions are not always
ladylike, however telling they are! So I hesitated. Now what _is_
that baby talking about down there?"

For through the whole of Tishy's interesting tale that baby had been
dwelling on the shocking occurrence of her sister's doll as before
recorded. Her powers of narrative--giving a dramatic form to all
things, and stimulated by Sally's statements of what the beach said
to the sea, and the sea said back--had, it seemed, attracted shoals
of fish from the ocean depths to hear her recital of the tragedy.

"Suppose, now, you come and tell it us up here, Gwenny," says the
bride to the bridesmaid. And Sally adds: "Yes, delicious little
Miss Arkwright, come and tell us all about it too." Whereupon Miss
Arkwright's musical tones are suddenly silent, and her eyes, that are
so nearly the colour of the sea behind her, remain fixed on her two
petitioners, their owner not seeming quite sure whether she shall
acquiesce, or coquette, or possibly even burst into tears. She
decides, however, on compliance, coming suddenly up the beach on all
fours, and exclaiming, "Tate me!" flings herself bodily on Sally,
who welcomes her with, "You sweet little darling!" while Mrs. Julius
Bradshaw, anticipating requisition, looks in her bag for another
chocolate. They will spoil that child between them.

"Now tell us about the fisses and dolly," says Sally. But the
narrator, all the artist rising in her soul, will have everything
in order.

"I _told_ ze fisses," she says, reproach in her voice.

"I see, ducky. You told the fishes, and now you'll tell us all
about dolly."

"I seeps wiv dolly, because my bid sister Totey said 'Yes.' Dolly
seeps in her fings. I seep in my nightgown. Kean from the wass----"

"How nice you must be! Well, then, what next?" Sally may be said to
imbibe the narrator at intervals. Tishy calls her a selfish girl.
"You've got her all to yourself," she says. The story goes on:

"I seep vethy thound. Papa seeps vethy thound. Dolly got between
the theets and the blangticks, and came out. It was a dood dob. Dane
_said_ it _was_--a dood dob!"

"What did Jane say was a good job? Poor dolly coming out?" A long,
grave headshake denies this. The constructive difficulties of the tale
are beyond the young narrator's skill. She has to resort to ellipsis.

"Or I sood have been all over brang and sawduss. Dane _said_ so."

"Don't you see, Sally," says Tishy, "dolly was in another
compartment--the other side of the sheet." But Sally says, of course,
_she_ understands, perhaps even suspects Tishy of claiming more
acquaintance with children than herself because she has been married
three weeks. This isn't fair patronising.

"Dolly came out at ve stisses"--so the sad tale goes on--"and tyed,
dolly did. Dane put her head on to ty wiv my pocket-hanshtiff!"

"I see, you little ducky, of course her head had come off, and she
couldn't cry till it was put on, was that it? Don't dance, but say
yes or no." This referred to a seated triumphal dance the chronicler
indulged in at having put so much safely on record. Having subsided,
she decided on _zass_ as the proper thing to say, but it took time.
Then she added suddenly: "But I _told_ ze fisses." Sally took a good
long draught, and said: "Of course you did, darling. You shan't be
done out of that!" But an addendum or appendix was forthcoming.

"My mummar says I must tate dolly to be socked for a penny where the
man is wiv buttons--and the man let Totey look froo his pyglass,
and see all ve long sips, sits miles long--and I shall see when I'm
a glowed-up little girl, like Totey."

"Coastguard's telescope, evidently," says Sally. "The man up at the
flagstaff. Six miles long is how far off they were, not the length
of the ships at all."

"I saw that. But what on earth were the socks? Does his wife sell
doll's clothes?"

"We must try to find that out." And Sally sets herself to the task.
But it's none so easy. Some mystery shrouds the approach to this
passage in dolly's future life. It is connected with "kymin up," and
"tandin' on a tep," and when it began it went wizzy, wizzy, wizz,
and e-e-e-e, and never stopped. But Gwendolen had not been alarmed
whatever it was, because her "puppar" was there. But it was exhausting
to the intellect to tell of, for the description ended with a musical,
if vacuous, laugh, and a plunge into Sally's bosom, where the narrator
remained chuckling, but quite welcome.

"So Gwenny wasn't pitened! What a courageous little poppet! I wonder
what on earth it was, Sally."

Thus Tishy, at a loss. But Sally is sharper, for in a moment the
solution dawns upon her.

"What a couple of fools we are, Tishy dear! It wasn't _socks_--it was
_shocks_. It was the galvanic battery at the end of the pier. A penny
a time, and you mustn't have it on full up, or you howl. Why on earth
didn't we think of that before?"

But Nurse Jane comes in on the top of the laughter that follows,
which Miss Gwendolen is joining in, rather claiming it as a triumph
for her own dramatic power. She demurs to removal, but goes in the end
on condition that all present shall come and see dolly galvanised at
an early date. Jane agrees to replace dolly's vitals and sew her up
to qualify her for this experience. And so they depart.

"What a dear little mite!" says Mrs. Julius; and then they let the
mite lapse, and go back to the previous question.

"No, Sally dear, mamma will be mamma to the end of the time. But
I didn't tell you all papa said, did I?"

"How on earth can _I_ tell, Tishy dear? You had got to 'any dutiful
daughter would,' etcetera. Cut along! Comes of being in love, I
suppose." This last is a reflection on the low state of Tishy's
reasoning powers.

"Well, just after that, when I was going to kiss him and go, papa
stopped me, and said he had something to say, only he mustn't be too
long because he had to finish a paper on, I think, 'Some Technical
Terms in use in Cnidos in the Sixth Century, B.C.' Or was it...?"

"That was it. That one'll do beautifully. Go ahead!"

"Well--of course it doesn't matter. It was like papa, anyhow.... Oh,
yes--what he said then! It was about Aunt Priscilla's thousand pounds.
He wanted to repeat that the interest would be paid to me half-yearly
if by chance I married Julius or any other man without his consent.
'I wish it to be distinctly understood that if you marry Bradshaw it
will be against my consent. But I only ask you to promise me this,
Lætitia, that you won't marry any other man against my consent at
present.' I promised, and he said I was a dutiful daughter. There
won't be any trouble with papa."

"Don't look like it! I say, Tishy, that thousand pounds is very nice.
How much will you have? Forty pounds a year?"

"It's more than that. It's gone up, somehow--sums of money do--or
down. They're never the same as at first. I'm so glad about it. It's
not as if I brought Julius absolutely nothing."

"How much is it?" Sally is under the impression that sums of
money that exist on the word of signed documents only, and whose
materialisation can only be witnessed by bankers, are like fourpence,
one of whose properties is that it _is_ fourpence. They are not
analogous, and Lætitia is being initiated into the higher knowledge.

"Well, dear, you see the stock has gone up, and it's at six
three-quarters. You must ask Julius. He can do the arithmetic."

"Does that mean it's sixty-seven pounds ten?"

"You'd better ask Julius. Then, you know, there's the interest."
Sally asked what interest. "Why, you see, Aunt Priscilla left it
to me eleven years ago, so there's more." But a vendor of mauve
and magenta woollen goods, known to Sally as "the beach-woman,"
was working up towards them.

"That woman never goes when she comes," said Sally. "Let's get
up and go!"

       *       *       *       *       *

We like lingering over this pleasant little time. It helps on but
little, if at all, with our story. But in years to come this young
couple, who only slip into it by a side-chance, having really little
more to do with it than any of the thousand and one collaterals
that interest the lives of all of us, and come and go and are
forgotten--this Julius and Lætitia will talk of the pleasant three
days or so they had at St. Sennans when they came back from France.
And we, too, having choice of how much we shall tell of those
three or four days, are in little haste to leave them. Those hours
of unblushing idleness under a glorious sun--idleness fostered and
encouraged until it seems one great exertion to call a fly, and
another to subside into it--idleness on matchless moonlight nights,
on land or on water--idleness with an affectation of astronomical
study, just up to speculating on the identity of Aldebaran or Arcturus,
but scarcely equal to metaphysics--idleness that lends itself readily
to turning tables and automatic writing, and gets some convincing
phenomena, and finds out that so-and-so is an extraordinary
medium--idleness that says that letter will do just as well to-morrow,
and Smith must wait--such hours as these disintegrate the moral fibre
and anæsthetize our sense of responsibility, and make us so oblivious
of musical criticism that we accept brass bands and inexplicable
serenaders, white or black, and even accordions and hurdy-gurdies, as
intrinsic features of the _ensemble_--the _fengshui_ of the time and
place--and give them a penny if we've got one.

That is and will be Mr. and Mrs. Julius Bradshaw's memory of those
three days or so, when they have grown quite old together, as we hope
they may. And if you add memory of an intoxicated delirium of love--of
love that was on no account to be shown or declared or even hinted
at--and of a tiresome hitch or qualification, an unselfish parent in
full blow, you will have the record that is to remain in the mind of
Conrad Vereker.



CHAPTER XXXI

HOW SALLY DIDN'T CONFESS ABOUT THE DOCTOR, AND JEREMIAH CAME TO ST.
  SENNANS ONCE MORE


That evening Sally sat with her mother on the very uncomfortable seat
they affected on what was known as the Parade, a stone's throw from
the house for a good stone-thrower. It had a little platform of
pebbles to stand on, and tamarisks to tickle you from behind when the
wind was northerly. It was a corrugated and painful seat, and had
a strange power of finding out your tender vertebræ and pulverising
them, whatever your stature might be. It fell forward when its
occupants, goaded to madness, bore too hard on its front bar, and
convinced them they would do well, henceforward, to hold it
artificially in its place. But Rosalind and her daughter forgave
it all these defects--perhaps because they were really too lazy to
protest even against torture. It was the sea air. Anyhow, there they
sat that evening, waiting for Padlock's omnibus to come, bringing
Fenwick from the station. Just at the moment at which the story
overtakes them, Rosalind was looking wonderfully handsome in the
sunset light, and Sally was thinking to herself what a beautiful
mother she had; and how, when the after-glow dies, it will leave its
memory in the red gold that is somewhere in the rich brown her eyes
are resting on. Sally was fond of dwelling on her mother's beauty.
Perhaps doing so satisfied her personal vanity by deputy. She was
content with her own self, but had no admiration for it.

"You _are_ a dear good mammy. Fancy your losing all the best time
of the morning indoors!"

"How the best time of the morning, chick?"

"Sitting with that old cat upstairs.... Well, I can't help it. She
_is_ an old cat."

"You're a perverse little monkey, kitten; that's what _you_ are!"
Rosalind laughed with an excuse--or caress, it may be--in her laugh.
"No," she continued, "we are much too hard on that old lady, both of
us. Do you know, to-day she was quite entertaining--told me all about
her own wedding-day, and how all the bridesmaids had the mumps."

"Has she never told you that before?"

"Only once. Then she told me about the late-lamented, and what a
respect he had for her judgment, and how he referred to her at every
crisis. I didn't think her at all bad company."

"Because you're a darling. I suppose you had it all about how
Prosy, when he was a boy, wanted to study music, and how his pa
said that the turning-point in the career of youth lay in the choice
of a profession."

"Oh yes! And how his strong musical turn came from her side of the
family. In herself it was dormant. But her Aunt Sophia had never once
put her finger on a false note of the piano. This was confirmed by
the authority of her eminent uncle, Dr. Everett Gayler, himself no
mean musician."

"Poor Prosy! I know."

"And how musical faculty--amounting to genius--often remained
absolutely unsuspected owing to its professor having no inheritance.
But it would come out in the children. Then, and not till then,
tardy justice was done.... Well, I don't know exactly how she worked
it out, but she managed to suggest that she was Handel and Mozart
in abeyance. Her son's fair complexion clinched matters. It was the
true prototype of her own. A thoroughly musical complexion,
bespeaking German ancestry."

"Isn't that the omnibus?" says Sally. But, no, it isn't. She
continues: "I don't believe in musical complexions. Look at Julius
Bradshaw--dark, with high cheek-bones, and a thin olive hand with
blue veins in it. I say, mother...."

"What, chick?"

"He's changed his identity--Julius Bradshaw has. I can't believe he
was that spooney boy that used to come hankering after me at church."
And the amusement this memory makes hangs about Sally's lips as the
two sit on into a pause of silence.

The face of the mother does not catch the amusement, but remains grave
and thoughtful. She does not speak; but the handsome eyes that rest
so lovingly on the speaker are full of something from the past--some
record that it would be an utter bewilderment to Sally to read--a
bewilderment far beyond that crux of the moment which maybe has struck
her young mind for the first time--the old familiar puzzle of the
change that comes to all of us in our transition from first to last
experience of the strange phenomenon we call a friend. Sally can't
make it out--the way a silly lad, love-struck about her indifferent
self so short a while back, has become a totally altered person, the
husband of her schoolmate, an actual identity of life and thought and
feeling; he who was in those early days little more than a suit of
clothes and a new prayer-book.

But if that is so strange to Sally, how measurelessly stranger is she
herself to her mother beside her! And the man they are waiting and
watching for, who is somewhere between this and St. Egbert's station
in Padlock's venerable 'bus, what a crux is _he_, compared now to
that intoxicated young lover of two-and-twenty years ago, in that
lawn-tennis garden that has passed so utterly from his memory! And a
moment's doubt, "But--has it?" is caught and absorbed by what seemed
to Rosalind now an almost absurd fact--that, a week before, he had
been nothing but a _fidus Achates_ of that other young man provided
to make up the lawn-tennis set, and that it was that other young man
at first, not he, that belonged to _her_. And he had changed away so
easily to--who was it? Jessie Nairn, to be sure--and left the coast
clear for his friend. Whatever now _was_ his name? Oh dear, what a
fool was Rosalind! said she to herself, to have half let slip that it
was _he_ that was Fenwick, and not Gerry at all. All this compares
itself with Sally's experience of Bradshaw's metamorphosis, and her
own seems the stranger.

Then a moment of sharp pain that she cannot talk to Sally of these
things, but must lead a secret life in her own silent heart. And then
she comes back into the living world, and finds Sally well on with
the development of another topic.

"Of course, poor dears! They've not played a note together since the
row. It's been nothing but Kensington Gardens or the Albert Hall. But
I'm afraid he's no better. If only he _could_ be, it would make all
the difference."

"What's that, darling? _Who_ could be...? Not your father?" For, as
often as not, Rosalind would speak of her husband as Sally's father.

"Not Jeremiah--no. I was talking about Julius B. and his nervous
system. Wouldn't it?"

"Wouldn't it what?"

"Make all the difference? I mean that he could get his violin-playing
back. I told you about that letter?"

"No--what letter?"

"From an agent in Paris. Rateau, I think, was the name. Had heard
Signor Carissimi had recovered his health completely, and was
playing. Hoped he might be honoured with his instructions to make
his arrangements in Paris, as he had done so four years ago. Wasn't
it aggravating?"

"Does it make any difference?"

"Why, of course it does, mother darling. The aggravation! Just think
now! Suppose he could rely on ten pounds a night, fancy that!"

"Suppose he could!... Yes, that would be nice." But there is a
preoccupation in her tone, and Sally wants sympathy to be drawn with
a vigorous outline.

"What's my maternal parent thinking about, as grave as a judge?
Jeremiah's all right, mammy darling! _He's_ not killed in a railway
accident. Catch _him_!" This is part of a systematized relationship
between the two. Each always discredits the possibility of mishap
to the other. It might be described as chronic reciprocal Christian
Science.

"I wasn't thinking of Gerry." Which is true in a sense, as she does
not think of the Gerry her daughter knows. And the partial untruth
does not cross her mind--a tacit recognition of the powers of change.
"I was wool-gathering."

"No--what _was_ she thinking of?" For some reason the third person
is thought more persuasive than the second.

"Thinking of her kitten." And this is true enough, as Rosalind is
really always thinking of Sally, more or less.

"We-ell, _I'm_ all right. What's the matter with _me_?"

"Nothing at all that I know of, darling." But it does cross the
speaker's mind that the context of circumstances might make this an
opportunity for getting at some information she wants. For Sally has
remained perfectly inscrutable about Conrad Vereker, and Rosalind has
been asking herself whether it is possible that, after all, there
_is_ nothing. She doesn't know how to set about it, though. Perhaps
the best thing would be to take a leaf out of Sally's own book, and
go straight to the bull's-eye.

"Do you really want to know what I was thinking of, Sallykin?" But
no sooner has she formulated the intention of asking a question, and
allowed the intention to creep into her voice than Sally knows all
about it.

"As if I don't know already. You mean me and Prosy."

"Of course. But how did you know?"

"Mammy _dear_! As if I was born yesterday! If you want people not to
know things, you mustn't have delicate inflexions of voice. I knew
you were going to catechize about Prosy the minute you got to 'did
I really want to know.'"

"But I'm not going to catechize, chick. Only when you ask me what I'm
thinking about, and really want to know, I tell you. I _was_ thinking
about you and Conrad Vereker." For some mysterious reason this mention
of his name in full seems to mature the conversation, and make clearer
definition necessary.

Our own private opinion is that any one who closely observes human
communion will see that two-thirds of it runs on lines like the
foregoing. Very rarely indeed does a human creature say what it means.
Exhaustive definition, lucid statements, concise terminology--even
plain English--are foreign to its nature. The congenial soil in which
the fruit of Intelligence ripens is Suggestion, and the wireless
telegraphs of the mind are the means by which it rejoices to
communicate. Don't try to say what you mean--because _you_ can't. You
are not clever enough. Try to mean what you want to say, and leave the
dictionary to take care of itself.

This little bit of philosophizing of ours has just given Sally time,
pondering gravely with the eyebrows all at rest and lips at ease, to
deal with the developed position created by the mere substitution of
a name for a nickname.

"Ought there to be ... anything to think about?" Thus Sally; and her
mother sees, or thinks she sees, a little new colour in the girl's
cheeks. Or is it only the sunset? Then Rosalind says to herself
that perhaps she has made a mistake, had better have left it alone.
Perhaps. But it's done now. She is not one that goes back on her
resolutions. It is best not to be too tugging and solemn over it. She
speaks with a laugh.

"It's not my little daughter I'm afraid of, Sallykin. She's got the
key of the position. It's that dear good boy."

"He's not a boy. He's thirty-one next February. Only he's not got
a birthday, because it's not leap-year. Going by birthdays he's not
quite half-past seven."

"Then it won't do to go by birthdays. Even at thirty-one, though,
some boys are not old enough to know better. He's very inexperienced
in some things."

"A babe unborn--only he can write prescriptions. Only they don't do
you any good. ("Ungrateful child!"... "Well, they _don't_.") You see,
he hasn't any one to go to to ask about things except me. Of course
_I_ can tell him, if you come to that!"

"There's his mother."

"His mother! That old dianthus! Oh, mammy darling, what different
sorts of mothers do crop up when you think of it!" And Sally is so
moved by this scientific marvel that she suddenly kisses her mother,
there out on the public parade with a gentleman in check trousers
and an eye-glass coming along!

"Why do you call the old lady a dianthus, chick? Really, the way you
treat that poor old body!..."

"Not when Prosy's there. I know my place.... We-ell, you know what
a dianthus's figure is like? When the tentacles are in, I mean."

But Rosalind tacitly condemns the analogy. Is she not herself a
mother, and bound to take part with her kind, however obese? "What
were you and the doctor talking about in the boat all that long time
yesterday?" she asks, skipping an interval which might easily have
contained a review of Mrs. Vereker inside-out like a sea-anemone.
Sally is quite equal to it.

"Resuscitation after drowning. Prosy says death is really due to
carbonic acid poisoning. Anybody would think it was choking, but it's
nothing of the sort. The arterial blood is insufficiently fed with
oxygen, and death ensues."

"How long did you talk about that?"

"Ever so long. Till I asked him what he should do if a visitor were
drowned and couldn't be brought to. Not at the hotel; down here. Me,
for instance."

"What did he say?"

"He was jolly solemn over it, Prosy was. Said he should try his
best, and as soon as he was sure it was no go, put an end to his own
existence. I said that would be wrong, and besides, he couldn't do
it. He said, oh yes, he could--he could inject air into a vein, and
lots of things. He went on a physiological tack, so I quoted Hamlet."

"What did he make of Hamlet?"

"Said the researches of modern science all tended to prove that
extinction awaited us at death, and he would take his chance. He was
quite serious over it."

"And then you said?..."

"I said, suppose it turned out that modern science was tommy-rot,
wouldn't he feel like a fool when all was said and done? He admitted
that he might, in that case. But he would take his chance, he said.
And then we had a long argument, Prosy and I."

"Has he ever resuscitated a drowned person?"

"Oh yes, two or three. But he says he should like a little more
practice, as it's a very interesting subject."

"You really are the most ridiculous little kitten there ever was!
Talking like the President of the Royal College of Surgeons! Not
a smile."

"We-ell, there's nothing in _that_." Slightly offended dignity on Miss
Sally's part. "I say, the 'bus is very late; it's striking seven."

But just as St. Sennan ceases, and leaves the air clear for listening,
Rosalind exclaims, "Isn't that it?" And this time it is it, and
by ten minutes past seven Fenwick is in the arms of his family, who
congratulate him on a beautiful new suit of navy-blue serge, in which
he looks very handsome.

       *       *       *       *       *

Often now when she looks back to those days can Rosalind see before
her the grave young face in the sundown, and hear the tale of Dr.
Conrad's materialism. And then she sees once more over the smooth
purple sea of the day before the little boat sculled by Vereker, with
Sally in the stern steering. And the white sails of the Grace Darling
of St. Sennans, that had taken a large party out at sixpence each
person three hours ago, and couldn't get back by herself for want
of wind, and had to be towed by a row-boat, whose oars sounded
rhythmically across the mile of intervening water. She was doing
nothing to help, was Grace, but her sails flopped a little now and
again, just enough to show how glad she would have been to do so with
a little encouragement. Rosalind can see it all again quite plain,
and the little white creamy cloud that had taken pity on the doctor
sculling in the boat, and made a cool island of shadow, coloured
imperial purple on the sea, for him and Sally to float in, and talk
of how some unknown person, fool enough to get drowned, should one
day be recalled from the gate of Death.



CHAPTER XXXII

HOW SALLY DIVED OFF THE BOAT, AND SHOCKED THE BEACH. OF THE SENSITIVE
  DELICACY OF THE OCTOPUS. AND OF DR. EVERETT GAYLER'S OPINIONS


Fenwick had been granted, or had appropriated, another week's holiday,
and the wine-trade was to lose some of his valuable services during
that time. Not all, because in these days you can do so much by
telegraph. Consequently the chimney-piece with the rabbits made of
shells on each side, and the model of the Dreadnought--with real
planks and a companion-ladder that went too far down, and almost
serviceable brass carronades ready for action--and a sampler by Mercy
Lobjoit (1763), showing David much too small for the stitches he was
composed of, and even Goliath not big enough to have two lips--this
chimney-piece soon become a magazine of yellow telegrams, which blew
away when the window and door were open at the same time.

It was on the second of Fenwick's days on this visit that an unusual
storm of telegrams, as he came in to breakfast after an early dip in
the sea, confirmed the statement in the paper of the evening before
that W. and S.W. breezes might be expected later. "Wind freshening,"
was the phrase in which the forecast threw doubts on the permanency
of its recent references to a smooth Channel-passage. However, faith
had already been undermined by current testimony to light easterly
winds backing north, on the coast of Ireland. Sally was denouncing
meteorology as imposture when the returning bather produced the effect
recorded. It interrupted a question on his lips as he entered, and
postponed it until the telegram papers had all been reinstated and the
window closed, so that Mrs. Lobjoit might come in with the hot rolls
and eggs and not have anything blown away. Then peace reigned and the
question got asked.

"What are we going to do to-day?" said Sally, repeating it. "I know
what I'm going to do first. I'm going to swim round the buoy."

"My dear, they'll never put the machines down to-day." This was her
mother.

"They'll do it fast enough, if I tell 'em to. It's half the fun,
having it a little rough."

"Well, kitten, I suppose you'll go your own way; only I shall be very
glad when you're back in your machine. Coffee, Gerry?"

"Yes, coffee--in the big cup with the chip, and lots of milk. You're
a dangerous young monkey, Sarah; and I shall get old Benjamin's boat,
and hang about. And then you'll be happy, Rosey, eh?"

"No, I shan't! We shall have you getting capsized, too. (I put in
three lumps of sugar.... No, _not_ little ones--_big_ ones!) What
a thing it is to be connected with aquatic characters!"

"Never you mind the mother, Jeremiah. You get the boat. I should like
it to dive off."

"All right, I'll get Vereker, and we'll row out. The doctor's not bad
as an oarsman. Bradshaw doesn't make much of it. (Yes, thanks; another
egg. The brown one preferred; don't know why!) Yes, I'll get Dr.
Conrad, and you shall come and dive off."

All which was duly done, and Sally got into great disgrace by
scrambling up into the boat with the help of a looped rope hung over
the side, and was thereafter known to more than one decorous family
group frequenting the beach as that bold Miss Nightingale. But what
did Sally care what those stuffy people thought about her, with such
a set-off against their bad opinion as the glorious plunge down into
the depths, and the rushing sea-murmur in her ears, the only sound in
the strange green silence; and then the sudden magic of the change back
to the dazzling sun on the moving foam, and some human voice that was
speaking when she dived only just ending off? Surely, after so long a
plunge down, down, that voice should have passed on to some new topic.

For that black and shining merpussy, during one deep dive into the
under-world of trackless waters, had had time to recollect an
appointment with a friend, and had settled in her mind that, as soon
as she was once more in upper air, she would mention it to the crew
of the boat she had dived from. She was long enough under for that.
Then up she came into the rise and fall and ripple overhead like a
sudden Loreley, and as soon as she could see where the boat had got
to, and was free of a long stem of floating weed she had caught up
in the foam, she found her voice. And in it, as it rang out in the
morning air, was a world of youth and life and hope from which care
was an outcast, flung to the winds and the waves.

"I say, Jeremiah, we've got to meet a friend of yours on the pier
this afternoon."

"Time for you to come out of that water, Sarah." This name had
become nearly invariable on Fenwick's part. "Who's your friend?"

"A young lady for you! She's going to bring her dolly to be
electrified for a penny. She'll cry if we don't go; so will dolly."

"Then we _must_ go, clearly. The doctor must come to see fair, or
dolly may get electrocuted, like me." Fenwick very rarely spoke of his
accident now; most likely would not have done so this time but for a
motive akin to his wife's nettle-grasping. He knew Sally would think
of it, and would not have her suppose he shirked speaking of it.

But the laugh goes for a moment out of the face down there in the
water, and the pearls that glittered in the sun have vanished and the
eyes are grave beneath their brows. Only for a moment; then all the
Loreley is back in evidence again, and Sally is petitioning for only
one more plunge, and then she really will swim in. The crew protests,
but the Loreley has her way; her sort generally has.

"I always wonder," says Dr. Conrad, as they row to shore with
studied slowness--one must, to keep down to the pace of the swiftest
swimmer--"I always wonder whether they found that half-crown." Probably
he, too, only says this to accentuate the not-necessarily-to-be-avoided
character of the subject.

The reason Fenwick answered nothing, but remained thoughtfully silent,
was, as Dr. Vereker perceived after he had spoken, that the half-crown
was mere hearsay to him, and, as such, naturally enforced speculation
on the strange "B.C." period of which he knew nothing. Time did
but little to minimise the painful character of such speculations,
although it seemed to make them less and less frequent. Vereker said
no more, partly because he felt this, partly because he was so
engrossed with the Loreley. He dropped the half-crown.

"You needn't row away yet," said the voice from the water. "The
machines are miles off. Look here, I'm going to swim under the boat
and come up on the other side!"

Said Fenwick: "You'll be drowned, Sarah, before you've done! Do
consider your mother a little!"

Said the Loreley: "All right! good-bye!" and disappeared. She was so
long under that it was quite a relief when she reappeared, well off
the boat's counter; for, of course, there was some way on the boat,
and Sally made none. The crew's eyes had been watching the wrong water
over the beam.

"Didn't I do that nicely?... 'Beautifully?' Yes, I should rather
think I did! Good-bye; I must go to my machine! They won't leave it
down any longer."

Off went the swimmer in the highest spirits, and landed with some
difficulty, so much had the south-west wind freshened; and the machine
started up the beach at a brisk canter to rejoin its many unused
companions on their higher level.

       *       *       *       *       *

Dr. Conrad, with the exhilaration of the Loreley in his heart, was
to meet with a damper administered to him by his affectionate parent,
who had improved immensely in the sea air, and was getting quite an
appetite.

"There is nothing, my dear, that I detest more cordially than
interference," said she, after accepting, rather more easily than
usual, her son's apologies for coming in late to lunch, and also being
distinctly gracious to Mrs. Iggulden about the beefsteak-pudding.
"Your father disapproved of it, and the whole of my family. The words
'never meddle' were on their lips from morning till night. Is it
wonderful that I abstain from speaking, as I so often do? Whatever I
see, I am silent." And accordingly was for a few illustrative seconds.

But her son, conceiving that the pause was one very common in cases
of incipient beefsteak-pudding, and really due to kidneys, made an
autopsy of the centre of Mrs. Iggulden's masterpiece; but when he had
differentiated its contents and insulated kidneys beyond a doubt, he
stood exposed and reproved by the tone in which his mother resumed:

"Not for me; I have oceans. I shall never eat what I have, and it
_is_ so wasteful!... No, my dear. You ask, 'What is it, then?' But
I was going to tell you when you interrupted me." Here a pause for
the Universe to settle down to attention. "There is always so much
disturbance; but my meaning is plain. When I was a girl young women
were different.... I dare say it is all right. I do not wish to lay
myself open to ridicule for my old-fashioned opinions.... What
_is_ it? I came back early, certainly, because I found the sun so
tiring; but surely, my dear, you cannot have failed to see that our
front window commands a full view of the bathing-machines. But I
am silent.... Mrs. Iggulden does not understand making mustard.
Hers runs."

Dr. Conrad was not interested in the mustard. He _was_ about the
cryptic attack on Sally's swimming and diving, which he felt to have
been dexterously conveyed in his parent's speech with scarcely a
word really to the point. There was no lack of skill in the Goody's
method. He flushed slightly, and made no immediate reply--even to
a superhumanly meek, "I know I shall be told I am wrong"--until after
he had complied with a requisition for a very little more--so small
a quantity as to seem somehow to reduce the lady's previous total
morally, though it added to it physically--and then he spoke, taking
the indictment for granted:

"I can't see what you find fault with. Not Miss Sally's
bathing-costume; nobody could!" Which was truth itself, for nothing
more elegant could have been found in the annals of bathing. "And if
she has a boat to dive off, somebody must row it. Besides, her mother
would object if...." But the doctor is impatient and annoyed--a rare
thing with him. He treats his beefsteak-pudding coldly, causing his
mother to say: "Then you can ring the bell."

However, she did not intend her text to be spoiled by irruptions
of Mrs. Iggulden, so she waited until the frequent rice-pudding had
elapsed, and then resumed at an advantage:

"You were very snappish and peevish with me just now, Conrad, without
waiting to hear what I had to say. But I overlook it. I am your
mother. If you had waited, I should have told you that I have no fault
whatever to find with Miss Nightingale's bathing-dress. It is, no
doubt, strictly _en règle_. Nor can I say, in these days, what I think
of girls practising exercises that in _my_ day were thought unwomanly.
All is changed now, and I am old-fashioned. But this I do say, that
had your father, or your great-uncle, Dr. Everett Gayler, been told
forty years ago that a time would come when it would be thought no
disgrace for an _English girl_ to jump off a boat with an _unmarried
man_ in it.... My dear, I am sure the latter would have made one of
those acrid and biting remarks for which he was celebrated in his own
circle, and which have even, I believe, been repeated by Royalty. That
is the only thing I have to say. I say nothing of girls learning to
swim and dive. I say nothing of their bicycling. Possibly the young
lady who passed the window this morning with a gentleman _on the same
bicycle_ was properly engaged to him; or his sister. Even about the
practice of Sandow, or Japanese wrestling, I have nothing to say. But
if they are to dive off boats in the open sea, in the face of all the
beach, at least let the boats be rowed by married men. That is all
I ask. It is very little."

What fools mothers sometimes are about their sons! They contrive
that these sons shall pass through youth to early manhood without
a suspicion that even mothers have human weaknesses. Then, all in
a moment, just when love has ridden triumphant into the citadel of
the boys' souls, they will sacrifice all--all they have won in a
lifetime--to indulge some petty spleen against the new _régime_ that
threatens their dethronement. And there is no surer way of undermining
a son's loyalty than to suggest a want of delicate feeling in the new
Queen--nothing that can make him question the past so effectually as
to force him to hold his nostrils in a smell of propriety, puffed
into what seems to him a gale from heaven.

The contrast between the recent merpussy in the freshening seas, and
this, as it seemed to him, perfectly gratuitous intrusion of moral
carbolic acid, gave Dr. Conrad a sense of nausea, which his love for
his mother enjoined ignorance of. His mind cast about, not for ways
of excusing Sally--the idea!--but of whitewashing his mother, without
seeming to suggest that her own mind had anything Fescennine about it.
This is always the great difficulty skywardness has in dealing with
the moral scavenger. Are not the motives of purity unimpeachable?

Goody Vereker, however, did not suspect herself of being a fool. On
the contrary, she felt highly satisfied with her speech, and may be
said to have hugged its peroration. Her son flushed slightly and bit
his lip, giving the old lady time for a corollary in a subdued and
chastened voice.

"Had I been asked--had you consulted me, my dear--I should certainly
have advised that Mr. Fenwick should have been accompanied by another
married man, certainly not by a young, single gentleman. The man
himself--I am referring to the owner of the boat--would have done
quite well, whether married or single. Boatmen are seldom unmarried,
though frequently tattooed with ladies' names when they have been in
the navy. You see something to laugh at, Conrad? In your mother! But
I am used to it." The doctor's smile was in memory of two sun-browned
arms that had pushed the boat off two hours ago. One had Elinor and
Kate on it, the other Bessie and a Union Jack.

"Don't you think, mother dear," said the doctor at last, "that if
Mrs. Fenwick, who knew all about it, had seen anything outrageous
she would have spoken? She really only seemed anxious none of us
should get drowned."

"Very likely, my dear; she would be. You will, I am sure, do me this
justice, that I have throughout said, from the very beginning, that
Mrs. Fenwick is a most excellent person, though I have sometimes
found her tiring."

"I am sorry she has tired you. You must always tell her, you know,
when you're tired, and then she'll come and fetch me." The doctor
resisted a temptation to ask, "From the very beginning of _what_?"
For the suggestion that materials for laceration were simmering was
without foundation; was, in fact, only an example of the speaker's
method. She followed it with another.

"It is so often the case with women who have passed a good deal of
time in India."

"Are women tiring when they have passed a good deal of time in India?"

"My dear Conrad, _is it likely_ I should talk such nonsense? You know
perfectly well what I mean." But the doctor merely awaited natural
development, which came. "Mind, I do not say I _believe_ Mrs. Julius
Bradshaw's story. But it would quite account for it--fully!"

What would account for what? Heaven only knew! However, the speaker
was getting the bit in her teeth, and earth would know very soon. Dr.
Conrad was conscious at this moment of the sensation which had once
made Sally speak of his mamma as an Octopus. She threw out a tentacle.

"And, of course, Mrs. Julius Bradshaw's story may be nothing but idle
talk. I am the last person to give credit to mere irresponsible
gossip. Let us hope it is ill founded."

Whereupon her son, who knew another tentacle would come and entangle
him if he slipped clear from this one, surrendered at discretion. What
_was_ Mrs. Julius Bradshaw's story? A most uncandid way of putting it,
for the fact was he had heard it all from Sally in the strictest
confidence. So the insincerity was compulsory, in a sense.

The Octopus, who was by this time anchored in her knitting-chair
and awaiting her mixture--two tablespoonfuls after every meal--closed
her eyes to pursue the subject, but warmed to the chace visibly.

"Are you going to tell me, my dear Conrad, that you do _not_ know
that it has been said--I vouch for nothing, remember--that Miss
Nightingale's mother was divorced from her father twenty years ago
in India?"

"I don't think it's any concern of yours or mine." But having said
this, he would have liked to recall it and substitute something else.
It was brusque, and he was not sure that it was a fair way of stating
the case, especially as this matter had been freely discussed between
them in the days of their first acquaintance with Sally and her
mother. Dr. Conrad felt mean for renegading from his apparent
admission at that time that the divorce was an affair they might
properly speculate about. Mrs. Vereker knew well that her son would
be hard on himself for the slightest unfairness, and forthwith climbed
up to a pinnacle of flawless rectitude, for his confusion.

"My dear, it is absolutely _none_. Am I saying that it is? People's
past lives are no affair of ours. Am I saying that they are?"

"Well, no!"

"Very well, then, my dear, listen to what I do say, and do not
misrepresent me. What I say is this--(Are you sure Perkins has mixed
this medicine the same as the last? The taste's different)--Now
listen! What I say is, and I can repeat it any number of times, that
it is useless to expect sensitiveness on such points under such
circumstances. I am certain that your father, or your great-uncle,
Dr. Everett Gayler, would not have hesitated to endorse my opinion
that on the broad question of whether a girl should or should not dive
off a boat rowed by an unmarried man, no one is less likely to form a
correct judgment than a lady who was divorced from her husband twenty
years ago in India. But I say nothing against Mrs. Fenwick. She is, so
far as she is known to me, an excellent person, and a good wife and
mother. Now, my dear Conrad, I must rest, for I fear I have talked
too much."

Poor Prosy! All the edge of his joy of the morning was taken off. But
never mind! It would very soon be Sally herself again, and his thirsty
soul would be drinking deep draughts of her at the pier-end, where the
appointment was to be kept with the young lady and her dolly.



CHAPTER XXXIII

OF AN INTERMITTENT CURRENT AT THE PIER-END, AND OF DOLLY'S FORTITUDE.
  HOW FENWICK PUT HIS HEAD IN THE JAWS OF THE FUTURE UNAWARES, AND PROSY
  DIDN'T COME. HOW SALLY AND HER STEP SAW PUNCH, AND OF A THIN END OF A
  FATAL WEDGE. BUT ROSALIND SAW NO COMING CLOUD


An iron pier, with a sense of lattice structure about it, is not to
our old-fashioned minds nearly so fascinating as the wooden fabric of
our early memories at more than one seaside resort of our boyhood. St.
Sennan was of another school, or had become a convert or pervert, if
a Saint may be judged by his pier. For this was iron or steel all
through, barring the timber flooring whose planks were a quarter of an
inch apart, so that you could kneel down to see the water through if
you were too short to see over the advertisements a sordid spirit of
commercialism had blocked the side-railings with. And if you were
three or four, and there was nobody to hold you up (because they were
carrying baby), you did so kneel, and as like as not got tar on your
knees, and it wouldn't come off. Anyhow, Miss Gwendolen Arkwright did,
on her way to the appointment, and was reproved therefore. On which
she also reproved dolly in identical terms, dolly having had a look
through as well, though, indeed, she can hardly be said to have knelt.

But to console us for the loss of the solid groins and bolted timbers
of our youth, and to make it palatable to us that the great seas
should follow each other for ever almost unopposed--instead of being
broken into floods of drenching foam visitors get wet-through in--this
unsubstantial-looking piece of cage-work expanded as soon as it was
well out in the open channel, and almost provided John Bull with
another "other island." And whereon the pier-company's sordid
commercialism had suggested the construction of a Chinese joss-house,
or Indian bungalow--our description is a random one--that lent itself,
or was lent by the company, at really an almost nominal figure, for
entertainments in the afternoon all through the season. And round this
structure were things desirable by all mankind, and supposed to be
desired by possessors of one penny willing to part with it. For a
penny-in-the-slot you could learn your fate from a Sibyl, and repent
of having spent your penny on it. For another you could scent your
pocket-handkerchief, and be sorry you hadn't kept your penny for
chocolate. For another you could have the chocolate, and wish you
had waited and taken a cigarette. And for another you could take the
cigarette, and realise how ill-assorted are the flavours of chocolate
and the best Virginian tobacco.

But the pennyworth that seemed the worthiest of its penny was, no
doubt, the old-fashioned galvanic battery, which shocked you for
a sixth part of the smallest sum required by literature on first
publication. It had brass handles you took hold of, and brass basins
with unholy water in them that made you curl up, and anybody else
would do so too. And there was a bunch of wires to push in, and
agonize the victim who, from motives not easily understood, laid
himself open to torture. And it certainly said "whizzy-wizzy-wizz."
But Gwenny's description had been wrong in one point. For it was
yourself, the investigator, not the machine, that said "e-e-e-e!"

Now this machine was in charge of a young woman, who was also the
custodian of an invisible lady, who was to be seen for a penny each
person, children half-price. This appeared to be a contradiction in
terms, but public apathy accepted it without cavil. The taking of
this phenomenon's gate-money seemed to be almost a sinecure. Not so
the galvanic battery, which never disappointed any one. It might
disgust, or repel, those who had had no occasion to study this
branch of science, but it always acted up to its professions. Those
investigators who declined to have any more never could go away and
complain that they had not had enough. And no one had ever been
discontented with its baneful results when all the bundle of wires
was put in; indeed, the young person in charge said she had never
known any one to drain this cup of scientific experience to the dregs.
"Halfway in's enough for most," was her report of human endurance.
It was a spirited little machine, though old-fashioned.

Miss Arkwright and her dolly, accompanied, as we have hinted, by
her Nurse Jane and baby, whose violent temper had condemned his
perambulator, and compelled his attendant to carry him--so she
said--were beforehand at the place and hour named. For security
against possible disappointment a fiction was resorted to that dolly
wouldn't cry if her mamma talked seriously to her, and it was pointed
out that Mr. Fenwick was coming, and Mrs. Fenwick was coming, and Miss
Nightingale was coming, and Dr. Vereker was coming--advantage being
taken of an infant's love of vain repetitions. But all these four
events turned on dolly being good and not crying, and the reflex
action of this stipulation produced goodness in dolly's mamma, with
the effect that she didn't roar, as, it seemed, she might otherwise
have done.

Miss Gwendolen was, however, _that_ impatient that no dramatic
subterfuge, however skilfully engineered, could be relied upon to
last. Fortunately, a young lady she recognised, and a gentleman
whom she did not personally know, but had seen on the beach, became
interested in baby, who took no notice of them, and hiccupped. But,
then, his eyes were too beady to have any human expression; perhaps
it was more this than a contempt for vapid compliment that made him
seem unsympathetic. The young lady, however, congratulated him on his
_personnel_ and on the variety of his attainments; and this interested
Miss Gwendolen, who continued not to roar, and presently volunteered
a statement on her own account.

"My mummar zis a-comin', and Miss Ninedale zis a-comin', and Miss
Ninedale's mummar zis a-comin', and...." But Nurse Jane interposed,
on the ground that the lady knew already who was coming. She had no
reason for supposing this; but a general atmosphere of omniscience
among grown-up classes is morally desirable. It was, however, limited
to Clause 1. Miss Gwenny went on to the consideration of Clause 2
without taking a division.

"To see dolly danvalised for a penny. My mummar says--see--sall--div
me a penny...."

"To galvanise dolly? How nice that will be!--Isn't she a dear little
thing, Paggy?--And we're just in time to see it. Now, that _is_ nice!"
Observe Lætitia's family name for her husband, born of Cattley's.

"Isn't that them coming, Tish?" Yes, it is. They are conscientiously
negotiating the turnstile at the pier-entrance, where one gets a
ticket that lets you on all day, and you lose it. Conscientiously,
because the pier-company often left its side-gate open, and relied
on public spirit to acquiesce in its turnstile without dispute.

But Bradshaw has the misfortune to fall in Nurse's good opinion. For
he asks who the important-looking party is, and is called to order.

"Sh-sh-iii-sh, love! Do take care! Gwenny's mamma--Mrs. Chesterfield
Arkwright. They've a house at Boxley Heath--friends of the Hugh
Jameses--those very high-flying people." This is not _à pleine voix_,
and a well-disciplined Nurse knows better than to hear it.

Miss Gwenny and dolly consent to accompany the lady and gentleman to
meet the party, the former undertaking to point out her mamma. "I sail
sow you wiss," she says; and then gives descriptive particulars of
the conduct of the galvanic battery, and forecasts its effect on dolly.

"There's that dear little pet," says Sally; and resumes the operation
of spoiling the little pet on the spot. She isn't sorry to tally the
pet (whose phonetics we employ) "dest wunced round the p on her
soulders, only zis wunced." She is a little silent, is Sally, and
preoccupied--perhaps won't object to a romp to divert her thoughts.
Because she is afraid poor Prosy is in the tentacles of the Octopus.
She evidently is not in love with him; if she were she would be
feeling piqued at his not being in time to the appointment, not
fidgeting about his losing the fun. She made some parade, at any rate,
of her misgivings that poor Dr. Conrad had got hooked by his Goody,
and would be late. If she _was_ piqued she concealed it. Whichever
it was, she found it congenial to "tally" Miss Arkwright on her
"soulders" twiced round the pier-end before the party arrived within
range of the battery. They meanwhile--that is to say, Rosalind and her
husband, Lætitia and hers, with Sally and Gwenny's mamma--lingered
slowly along the pier listening to the experiences of the latter, of
men, women, and things among the right sort of people.

"You really never know, and one cannot be too careful. So much turns
on the sort of people you let your daughter get mixed up with. I'm
sure Mrs. Fenwick will agree with me that Mrs. Hugh James was right.
You see, I've known her from a child, and a more unworldly creature
never breathed. But she asked me, and I could only say what I did:
'Take the child at once to Paris and Ems and Wiesbaden--anywhere for
a change. Even a tradesman is better than a professional man. In that
case there may be money. But nowadays none of the professions pay.
And their connexions are most undesirable.'"

"Now _I_ should call that a brig." Thus Bradshaw, pursuing the great
controversy. But Fenwick knows better, or thinks he does. She's a
brigantine, and there are sprits'ls on both masts, and only one square
sail on the foremast. He may be right, for anything we know. Anyhow,
her sheets are white in the sun, as she tacks down channel against the
west or south-west wind, which has freshened. And she is a glorious
sight as she comes in quite close to the pier-head, and goes into
stays--(is that right?)--and her great sails flap and swing, and a
person to whom caution is unknown, and who cares for nothing in heaven
or earth, sits unconcerned on a string underneath her bowsprit, and
gets wet through every time she plunges, doing something nautical in
connexion with her foresail overhead. And then she leans over in the
breeze, and the white sheets catch it full--so near you can hear the
boom click as it swings, and the rattle of the cordage as it runs
through the blocks--and then she gets her way on her, and shoots off
through a diamond-drench of broken seas, and we who can borrow the
coastguard's telescope can know that she is the Mary of Penzance, but
are none the wiser. And a man stripped to the waist, who is washing
radishes on the poop, continues washing radishes unmoved, and ignores
all things else.

"As far as the young man himself goes, I believe there is nothing to
be said. But the mother is quite unpresentable, perfectly impossible.
And the eldest sister is married to a Dissenting clergyman--a very
worthy man, no doubt, but not exactly. And the girls are loud, etc.,
etc., etc." Miss Arkwright's mamma ripples on, even as persons of
condition ripple; and Tishy, whose views in this direction have
undergone expansion, manages to forget how she has done the same
herself--not long ago, neither!--and decides that the woman is
detestable.

Not so her daughter, who, with Sally as guardian and dolly as ward,
is awaiting the arrival of the party at the galvanic battery. She is
yearning for the great event; not for a promised land of jerks and
spasms for herself, but for her putative offspring. She encourages
the latter, telling her not to be pitened and kye. Dolly doesn't seem
apprehensive--shows great self-command, in fact.

But this detestable mother of a lovable daughter and an untempting
granddaughter is destined to become still more detestable in the eyes
of the Julius Bradshaws before she exhausts her topic. For as the
party draws near to the scene of scientific recreation--and progress
is slow, as she is deliberate as well as detestable; and, of course,
is the pace-maker--she climbs up to a higher platform, as it were,
for the contemplation of a lower deep. She assumes, for purposes of
temporary handling of the subject, the air of one too far removed to
know more about its details than the seismograph at Greenwich knows
about the earthquake in the Andes. A dim contemplation of a thing
afar--to be forgotten on the spot, after record made.

"Luckily, it's not so bad in this case as--(Gwenny, you're tiring
Miss Nightingale. Come down!)--not so bad in this case as--(no, my
dear! you _must_ wait for dolly to be galvanised. Come down at once,
and don't make conditions.)"

"But I love having her dearly--do let me keep her!" from Sally.

And from the human creature on her shoulders, "Miss Ninedale says
'_No!_'"

"Not so bad, you were saying, as...?" Thus Rosalind, to divert the
conversation from the child.

"Oh dear! What _was_ I saying? That child! What plagues the little
things are!" The lady closes her eyes for two seconds behind a
horizontal gloved hand, a seclusion to recollect in; then continues:
"Oh yes, when it's a shopman. I dare say you've heard of that very
painful case--daughter of a well-known Greek Pr...."

But the speaker has tact enough to see her mistake from the
simultaneous loud speech it provokes. Every one seems to have
something vociferous to say, and all speak at once. Sally's
contribution is a suggestion that before dolly is put to the torture
we shall go into the downstairs place and see the gentleman who's
fishing catch a big grey mullet. It is adopted. Rosalind only remains
upstairs, and takes the opportunity to communicate the Julius Bradshaw
epic to Gwenny's mamma, who will now be more careful than ever about
the sort of people you pick up at the seaside and drop. She puts
these words by in her mind, for Gwenny's papa, later on.

The gentleman who is to be seen catching the big grey mullet hadn't
caught it, so far--not when the party arrived on the strange
middle-deck of the pier the water reaches at high tide, and persuades
occasional molluscs to grow on the floor of, with promises of a bath
next month. The green reflected light from the endless rise and fall
of the waves Gwenny could see (without getting down) through the
floor-gaps, seemed to be urging the fisher-gentleman to give it up,
and pointing out that the grey mullet was down here, and didn't mean
to be caught. But he paid no attention, and only went on doing all the
things that fishers do. He ascribed the fishes' reluctance to bite to
the sort of sky, and not to common-sense on their part. He tried the
other side instead. He lost his worm, and blamed him for going off the
hook--which he would have done himself, and he knew it! He believed,
honestly, that a fish of fabulous dimensions had thought seriously
of biting, and would have bitten, only you got in the light, or made
a noise.

But there was no noise to speak of, really, except the clunk-clunk of
one or two moored rowboats down below, and the sh-r-r-r-r-p (if that
spells it) of their corrugated plank-sides, as they dipped and dripped
alternately. They were close to the bottom flight of stairs, whose
lowest step was left forlorn in the air, and had to be jumped off when
a real spring-tide came that knew its business.

Gwenny's remark, "Ze man is fissin'," seemed to point to an incubation
of an idea, familiar to maturer life, that fishing is more truly a
state than an action. But the addendum--that he didn't cass any
fiss--betrayed her inexperience. Maturity does not call attention
to ill-success; or, if it does, it lays it at the door of the fish.

"What a jolly header one could have from here! No railings or
anything. No--ducky! I won't put you down to look over the edge.
That's not a thing for little girls to do."

"You'd never get up again, Sarah. You'd have to swim ashore."

"One could swim round the steps, Jeremiah--at least, according to
the tide. It's slack water now."

"I wish, Mr. Fenwick--(so does Julius)--that you would make that
girl reasonable. She'll drown herself before she's done."

"I know she will, Mrs. Paganini. Sure and certain! Nobody can stop
her. But Vereker's going to bring her to."

"Where _is_ the doctor, Tish? Didn't he say he was coming?" This was
Bradshaw. He usually says things to his wife, and leaves publication
to her.

"Of course he said he was coming. I wonder if anything's the matter?"

"Oh, no! It's his ma! The Goody's put an embargo on him, and kept him
at home. Poor Prosy!" Sally is vexed, too. But observe!--she knows
perfectly well that nothing but the Goody would have kept Prosy from
his appointment.

No one in particular, but every one more or less, supposes that now
we must go back for dolly to be galvanised, Tishy rather reluctantly,
for she does not share her husband's indifference about what the
detestable one above says on the subject of shopmen; Miss Arkwright
greedily, being reminded of a higher object in life than mere grey
mullet catching. She, however, ascribes her avidity to dolly, calling
on public credulity to believe that the latter has spoken to that
effect.

The arrangement of dolly in connexion with the two brass handles
offers difficulties, but a felicitous solution is discovered, for not
only will dolly remain in contact with both if her arms are thrust
inside them, but insomuch as her sleeves are stiff and expansive, and
require a perceptible pull to withdraw them, will remain suspended in
mid-air without further support, to enjoy the rapture or endure the
torture of the current, as may prove to be the case. From this
arises an advantage--namely, that her mamma will be able to give her
attention to the regulator, and shift the wire bundle in and out,
with a due regard to dolly's powers of endurance.

What little things the lives of the folk in this story have turned
on! Now, suppose Gwenny had never been allowed to take charge of that
regulator! However, this is anticipation.

When dolly had endured unmoved the worst that science could inflict,
nothing would satisfy Miss Gwenny but that every one else should take
hold in a circle, as on a previous occasion, and that she should
retain control of the regulator. The experiment was tried as proposed,
all present joining in it except Mrs. Arkwright, who excused herself
owing to the trouble of taking her gloves off. Including nurse, there
were six persons. However, as nurse couldn't abide it, almost before
it had begun to say whizzy-wizzy-wizz, this number was reduced to
five.

"Keep your eye on the kid, my dear," said Fenwick, addressing the
presiding young lady in his easy-going way; "don't let her put it
on all at once. Are you ready, Sarah? You ready, Mrs. Paganini? All
right--fire away!"

The young lady in charge kept a careful hand near Miss Gwenny's,
who was instructed or guided to increase the current gradually. Her
attitude was docile and misleading.

"Go on--a little more--yes, a little more.... No, that's enough!...
Oh, what nonsense! that's nothing!... Oh, Sally, do let _go_!... Oh,
Tishy, what a goose you are! That's nothing.... E-ow! It's horrible.
_I_ won't have any more of it." The chorus of exclamations, which
you may allot at choice, ended in laughter as the galvanised circle
broke up.

"Well, you are a lot of weak-kneed ... conductivities," said Fenwick,
feeling for the word. "That was nothing, as Sarah says."

"Look here," suggested Sally. "Me get between you two men, and Gwenny
stick it in full up." This was done, and Sally heroically endured the
"full up" current, which, as you doubtless are aware, increases in
viciousness as it has fewer and fewer victims. But she wasn't sorry
when it was over, for all that.

"You and I could take it full up," said Fenwick to Bradshaw, who
assented. But Paganini evidently didn't like it when it came to
three-quarters. Also, his wife said to him, "You'll spoil your
fingering, Julius."

Fenwick seemed to think them all over-sensitive. "I could stand that
by myself," said he, and took both handles.

But just at this moment a strange event happened. Somebody actually
applied to see the invisible lady. The eyes of the damsel in charge
were for one moment withdrawn from Miss Gwenny, who promptly seized
the opportunity to thrust in the regulator "full up."

Fenwick wasn't going to cry for mercy--not he! But his lips clenched
and his eyes glared, and his hands shook. "How can you be such a
_goose_, Jeremiah?" said Sally, who was standing close by the battery,
opposite to Gwenny. She thrust back the regulator, and put an end to
Fenwick's excruciations.

He said, "What did you do that for, Sarah? I could have stood it for
six months."

And Sally replied: "For shame, you wicked story! And after you'd been
electrocuted once, too!"

Fenwick burst into a great laugh, and exclaimed, "What on earth are
we all torturing ourselves for? Do let's go and get some tea." And
then carried Gwenny on his shoulders to the pier-entrance, where
he delivered her to her proprietors, and then they all sauntered
teawards, laughing and chatting.

Rosalind thought she had never seen Gerry in such health and
spirits. On their way up to the house they passed Punch, leaning
over the footlights to rejoice in his iniquity. Few persons of
healthy sympathies can pass Punch, and these only under the strongest
temptation, such as tea. Rosalind and Lætitia and her husband belonged
to the latter class, but Fenwick and Sally elected to see the immortal
drama to a close. It lasted nearly through the remainder of Fenwick's
cigar, and then they came away, reluctant, and wanting more of the
same sort.

It was then that Sally's stepfather said a rather singular thing to
her--a thing she remembered afterwards, though she noticed it but
slightly at the time. She had said to him:

"Codling and Short will be quite rich men! What a lot of money you've
given them, Jeremiah!"

And he had replied: "Don't they deserve it?"

They had then walked on together up the road, he taking her arm in his
hand, as is the way nowadays, but saying nothing. Presently he said,
as he threw away the very last end of the cigar:

"It was the first lesson of my early boyhood in retributive injustice.
It's a poor heart that never rejoices at Punch."

It was the first time Sally had ever heard him speak of his boyhood
except as a thing he had forgotten.

       *       *       *       *       *

Much, so much, of this chapter is made up of matter so trifling. Was
it worth recording? The chronicler might plead again as excuse his
temptation to linger over the pleasant hours it tells of, the utter
freedom of its actors from care, and his reluctance to record their
sequel. But a better apology for his prolixity and detail would be
found in the wonder felt by those actors when in after-life they
looked back and recalled them one by one; and the way each memory
linked itself, in a way unsuspected at the time, with an absolutely
unanticipated future. For even Rosalind, with all her knowledge of the
past, had no guess, for all her many misgivings and apprehensions, of
the way that things would go. Never had she been freer from a sense
of the shadow of a coming cloud than when she looked out from the
window while the tea she had just made was mellowing, and saw her
husband and daughter coming through the little garden gate, linked
together and in the best of spirits.



CHAPTER XXXIV

OF THE REV. SAMUEL HERRICK AND A SUNSET. THE WEDGE'S PROGRESS. THE
  BARON AGAIN, AND THE FLY-WHEEL. HOW FENWICK KNEW HIS NAME RIGHT, AND
  ROSALIND DIDN'T. HOW SALLY AND HER MEDICAL ADVISER WERE NOT QUITE WET
  THROUGH. HOW HE HAD MADE HER THE CONFIDANTE OF A LOVE-AFFAIR. OF A
  GOOD OPENING IN SPECIALISM. MORE PROGRESS OF THE WEDGE. HOW GERRY
  NEARLY MADE DINNER LATE


It was quite true, as Sally had surmised, that poor Prosy had been
entangled in the meshes of his Octopus. But Sally had also recorded
her conviction that he would turn up at tea. He did so, with
apologies. You see, he hadn't liked to come away while his mother
was asleep, in case she should ask for him when she woke up, and
she slept rather longer than usual.

"She may have been trying to do too much lately," said he, with a
beautiful faith in some mysterious activities practised by the Goody
unseen. Sally cultivated this faith also, to the best of her ability,
but she can hardly be said to have embraced it. The way in which she
and her mother lent themselves to it was, nevertheless, edifying.

"You mustn't let her overdo it, doctor," said Rosalind, seriously
believing herself truthful. And Sally, encouraged by her evident
earnestness, added, "And make her take plenty of nourishment. That's
half the battle."

Whereupon Lætitia, swept, as it were, into the vortex of a creed,
found it in her to say, "As long as she doesn't get low." It was not
vigorous, and lacked completion, but it reassured and enforced. By the
time the little performance was done every one in the room believed
that Mrs. Vereker did down the stairs, or scoured out saucepans, or
at least dusted. Even her son believed, so forcibly was the unanimity.
Perhaps there was a taint of the incredulous in the minds of Fenwick
and Bradshaw. But each thought the other was heart-whole, and neither
suspected himself of insincerity.

Sally was curious to know exactly what lines the Octopus had operated
on. That would do later, though. She would get Prosy by himself, and
make him tell her all about it. In the course of time tea died a
natural death. Fenwick indulged in a yawn and a great shake, and
remembered that he had no end of letters to answer. Mr. and Mrs.
Julius Bradshaw suddenly thought, for no reasonable reason, that they
ought to be getting back. But they didn't really go home. They went
for a walk landward; as it was so windy, instead--remember that
they were only in the third week of their honeymoon! Sally, with
Talleyrand-like diplomacy, achieved that she and Dr. Conrad should
go for another walk in another direction. The sea was getting up and
the glass was going down, and it would be fun to go and see the waves
break over the jetty. So said Sally, and Dr. Conrad thought so too,
unequivocally. They walked away in the big sea-wind, fraught with
a great inheritance from the Atlantic of cool warmth and dry moisture.
And if you don't know what that means, you know mighty little of the
ocean in question.

Rosalind watched them through the window, closed perforce, and saw
them disappear round the flagstaff with the south cone hoisted,
holding their heads on to all appearance. She said to herself:
"Foolish fellow, why can't he speak?" And her husband answered either
her thought or her words--though he could hardly have heard them as
he sat driving his pen furiously through letters--with: "He'll have
to confess up, Rosey, you'll see, before he goes."

She made no reply; but, feeling a bit tired, lay down to rest on
the sofa. And so powerful was the sea air, and the effect of a fair
allowance of exercise, that she fell into a doze in spite of the
intensely wakeful properties of Mrs. Lobjoit's horsehair sofa, which
only a corrugated person could stop on without a maintained effort, so
that sound sleep was impossible. She never became quite unconscious of
the scratching pen and the moaning wind; so, as she did not sleep, yet
did not want to wake, she remained hovering on the borderland of
dreams. One minute she thought she was thinking, sanely, about Sally
and her silent lover--always uppermost in her thoughts--the next, she
was alive to the absurdity of some dream-thing one of them had
suddenly changed to, unnoticed. Once, half awake, she was beginning
to consider, seriously, whether she could not legitimately approach
the Octopus on the subject, but only to find, the moment after, that
the Octopus (while remaining the same) had become the chubby little
English clergyman that had married her to Gerry at Umballa, twenty
years ago. Then she thought she would wake, and took steps towards
doing it; but, as ill-luck would have it, she began to speak before
she had achieved her purpose. And the result was: "Do you remember the
Reverend Samuel Herrick, Gerry, at Umb----Oh dear! I'm not awake....
I was talking nonsense." Gerry laughed.

"Wake up, love!" said he. "Do your fine intelligence justice! What was
it you said? Reverend Samuel who?"

"I forget, darling. I was dreaming." Then, with a nettle-grasping
instinct, as one determined to flinch from nothing, "Reverend Samuel
Herrick. What did you think I said?"

"Reverend Samuel Herrick or Meyrick.... 'Not negotiable.' I don't mean
the Reverend Sam, whoever he is, but the payee whose account I'm
enriching." He folded the cheque he had been writing into its letter
and enveloped it. But he paused on the brink of its gummed edge,
looking over it at Rosalind, who was still engaged getting quite
awake. "I know the name well enough. He's some chap! I expect you saw
him in the 'Chronicle.'"

"Very likely, darling! He must be some chap, when you come to think
of it." She says this slightly, as a mere rounding-off speech. Then
goes behind her husband's chair and kisses him over his shoulder as he
directs the envelope.

"Marmaduke, Copestake, Dickinson, and Humphreys," says he, as he
writes the names. "Now I call that a firm-and-a-half. Old Broad
Street, E.C. _That's_ all!--as far as _he_ goes. Now, how about
Puckeridge, Limited?"

"Don't write any more, Gerry dear; you'll spoil your eyes. Come and
look at the sunset. Come along!" For a blood-red forecast of storm in
the west, surer than the surest human barometer, is blazing through
the window that cannot be opened for the blow, and turning the
shell-work rabbit and the story of Goliath into gold and jewels. The
sun is glancing through a rift in the cloud-bank, to say good-night to
the winds and seas, and wish them joy of the high old time they mean
to have in his absence, in the dark.

The lurid level rays that make an indescribable glory of Rosalind's
halo-growth of hair as Gerry sees it against the window, have no
ill-boding in them for either--no more, that is, than always has
belonged to a rough night closing over the sea, and will do so always
until the sea is ice again on a planet sick to death. As he draws her
arm round his neck and she his round her waist, and they glance at
each other in the flaming glow, there is no thought in either of any
ill impending for themselves.

"I wish Sarah were here to see you now, Rosey."

"So should I, love! Only she would see you too. And then she'd make
you vainer than you are already. All men are patches of Vanity. But
I forgive you." She kisses him slightly in confirmation. They certainly
were a wonderful sight, the two of them, a minute ago, when the light
was at its best. Yes!--they wish Sally had been there, each on the
other's account. It was difficult to say which of the two had thought
of Sally first. Both had this habit of registering the _rapport_ of
everything to Sally as a first duty.

But a sunset glow, like this one, lasts, maybe, little longer than
a highest song-note may be sustained. It was to die. But Rosalind and
Gerry watched it out. His cheek was resting in the thick mass of soft
gold, just moving slightly to be well aware of it. The sun-ray touched
it, last of anything in the room, and died....

"What's that, dear love? _Why?_..." It was Rosalind that spoke.

"Nothing, dearest! No, nothing!... Indeed, nothing at all!"

"Gerry, what _was_ it?"

"What was what, dear?"

"What made you leave off so suddenly?"

For the slightly intermittent movement of his cheek on her hair--what
hairy thing is there that does not love to be stroked?--had stopped;
and his hand that held hers had slipped from it, and rested for a
moment on his own forehead.

"It's gone now. It was a sort of recurrence. I haven't been having
them lately...."

"Come and sit down, love. There, now, don't fidget! What was it
about?" Does he look pale?--thinks Rosalind--or is it only the
vanished glow?

He is uncommunicative. Suppose they go out for a turn before dinner,
he suggests. They can walk down to the jetty, to meet Sarah and her
medical adviser. Soon said, soon settled. Ten minutes more, and they
are on their way to the fisher dwellings: experiencing three-quarters
of a gale, it appears, on the testimony of an Ancient Mariner in a
blue and white-striped woollen shirt, who knows about things.

"That was _very_ queer, that recurrence!" Thus Gerry, after leaving
the Ancient Mariner. "It was just as the little edge of the sun went
behind the bank. And what do you think my mind hooked it on to, of all
things in the world?" Rosalind couldn't guess, of course. "Why, a big
wheel I was trying to stop, that went slowly--slowly--like the sun
vanishing. And then just as the sun went it stopped."

"Was there anything else?" Entire concealment of alarm is all Rosalind
can attend to.

"No end of things, all mixed up together. One thing very funny. A great
big German chap.... I say, Rosalind!"

"What, Gerry darling?"

"Do you recollect, when we were in Switzerland, up at that last
high-up place, Seelisberg--Sonnenberg--do you remember the great fat
Baron that gave me those cigars, and sang?"

"Remember the Baron? Of course I do. Perfectly!" Rosalind contrived
a laugh. "Was he in it?" Perhaps this was rash. But then, not to say
it would have been cowardice, when it was on her tongue-tip. Let the
nettle be grasped.

"He was in it, singing and all. But the whole thing was mixed up and
queer. It all went, quite suddenly. And I should have lost him out
of it, as one loses a dream, if it hadn't been for seeing him in
Switzerland. It was something to hold on by. Do you understand?"

"I think I do. _I_ had forgotten what I was dreaming about when I
woke on the sofa and talked that nonsense. But I held on to the name,
for all that."

"But then that wasn't a real person, the Reverend--what was
he?--Herrick or Derrick."

Rosalind passed the point by. "Gerry darling! I want you to do as I
tell you. Don't worry your head about it, but keep quiet. If memory
is coming back to you, it will come all the quicker for letting your
mind rest. Let it come gradually."

"I see what you mean. You think it was really a recollection of B.C.?"

"I think so. Why should it not?"

"But it's all gone clean away again! And I can't remember anything
of it at all--and there was heaps!"

"Never mind! If it was real it will come back. Wait and be patient!"

Rosalind's mind laid down this rule for itself--to think and act
exactly as though there had been nothing to fear. Even if all the
past had been easy to face it would have shrunk from suggestions.
So thought she to herself, perhaps with a little excusable
self-deception. Otherwise the natural thing would have been to
repeat to him all the Baron's story.

No! She would not say a word, or give a hint. If it was all to come
back to him, it would come back. If not, she could not bring it back;
and she might, in the attempt to do so, merely plunge his injured
mind into more chaotic confusion. Much safer to do nothing!

But why this sudden stirring of his memory, just now of all times?
Had anything unusual happened lately? Naturally, the inquiry sent
her mind back, to yesterday first, then to the day before. No!--there
was nothing there. Then to generalities. Was it the sea bathing?--the
sea air? And then on a sudden she thought of the thing nearest at
hand, that she should have thought of at first. Yes!--she would ask
Dr. Conrad about _that_: Why hadn't she thought of that before--that
galvanic battery?

Meanwhile, despite her injunctions to her husband to wait and be
patient, his mind kept harking back on this curious recollection.
Luckily, so it seemed to her--at any rate for the present--he did not
seem to recall the Baron's recognition of himself, or to connect it
with this illusion or revival. He appeared to recollect the Baron's
personality, and his liberality with cigars, but little else. If he
was to be reminded of this, it must be after she had talked over it
with Vereker.

They struggled with the weather along the seaward face of the little
old fisher-town. The great wind was blowing the tar-laden atmosphere
of the nets and the all-pervading smell of tar landward; and
substituting flecks of driven foam, that it forced to follow landward
too, for all they tried to stop and rest. The population was mostly
employed getting the boats up as close to the houses as practice
permitted, and the capstans were all a-creak with the strain; and one
shrieked for a dab of lard, and got it, just as they passed. The man
with Bessie and the anchor on his arms--for it was his--paused in his
rotations with one elbow on his lever, and one foot still behind
the taut cable he was crossing. His free hand saluted; and then, his
position being defined, he was placed on a moral equality with his
superiors, and could converse. The old-fashioned hat-touch, now dying
out, is just as much a protest against the way social order parts man
from man as it is an acknowledgment of its necessity.

The lover of Bessie and Elinor and Kate was disposed to ignore the
efforts of the wind. There might, he said, be a bit of sea on, come
two or three in the marn'n--at the full of the tide. The wind might
get up a bit, if it went round suth'ard. The wind was nothing in
itself--it was the direction it came from; it got a bad character
from imputed or vicarious vice. It would be a bit rough to get a
boat off--the lady might get a wetting.... At which point Rosalind
interrupted. Nothing was further from her thoughts, she said, than
navigation in any form. But had the speaker seen her daughter go
by--the young lady that swam? For Sally was famous. He hadn't,
himself, but maybe young Benjamin had. Who, taking leave to speak from
this, announced frankly that he _had_ seen a young lady, in company
with her sweetheart, go by nigh an hour agone. The tattooed one
diluted her sweetheart down to "her gentleman" reluctantly. In his
land, and the one there would soon be for the freckled and blue-eyed
Benjamin, there was no such artificial nonsense. Perhaps some sense
of this showed itself in the way he resumed his work. "Now, young
Benjamin--a-action!" said he; and the two threw themselves again
against the pole of the mollified capstan.

If Rosalind fancied this little incident had put his previous
experience out of her husband's mind she was mistaken. He said, as
they passed on in the direction of the jetty, "I think I should like
to wind up capstans. It would suit me down to the ground." But then
became thoughtful; and, just as they were arriving at the jetty,
showed that his mind had run back by asking suddenly, "What was the
fat Baron's name?"

"Diedrich Kammerkreutz." Rosalind gave him her nearest recollection,
seeing nothing to be gained by doing otherwise. Any concealment, too,
the chances were, would make matters worse instead of better.

"It was Kreutzkammer, in my--dream or whatever you call it." They
stopped and looked at each other, and Rosalind replied, "It _was_
Kreutzkammer. Oh dear!" rather as one who had lost breath from some
kind of blow.

He saw her distress instantly, and was all alive to soothe it.
"Don't be frightened, darling love!" he cried, and then his great
good-humoured laugh broke into the tenderness of his speech, without
spoiling it. He was so like Gerry, the boy that rode away that day
in the dog-cart, when there was "only mamma for the girl."

"But when all's said and done," said she, harking back for a reprieve,
"perhaps you only recollected Sonnenberg in your dream better than
I did ... just now...." She hung fire of repeating the name Herrick.

"_Ach zo_," he answered, teutonically for the moment, from association
with the Baron. "But suppose it all true, dearest, and that I'm going
to come to life again, what does it matter? It can't alter _us_, that
I can see. Could anything that you can imagine? I should be Gerry for
you, and you would be Rosey for me, to the end of it." Her assent had
a mere echo of hesitation. But he detected it, and went on: "Unless,
you mean, I remembered the hypothetical wife?..."

"Ye--es!--partly."

"Well! I tell you honestly, Rosey darling, if I do, I shall keep her
to myself. A plaguing, intrusive female--to come between _us_. But
there's no such person!" At which they both laughed, remembering the
great original non-exister. But even here was a little thorn. For Mrs.
Harris brought back the name the Baron had known Gerry by. He did not
seem to have resumed it in his dream.

The jetty ran a little way out to sea. Thus phraseology in use. It
might have reconsidered itself, and said that the jetty had at some
very remote time run out to sea and stopped there. Ever since, the sea
had broken over it at high tides, and if you cared at all about your
clothes you wouldn't go to the end of it, if you were me. Because the
salt gets into them and spoils the dye. Besides, you have to change
everything.

There was a dry place at the end of the jetty, and along the edge of
the dry place were such things as cables go round and try hard to
draw, as we drew the teeth of our childhood with string. But they fail
always, although their pulls are never irresolute. On two of these sat
Sally and the doctor in earnest conversation.

Rosalind and her husband looked at each other and said, "No!" This
might have been rendered, "Matters are no forwarder." It connected
itself (without acknowledgment) with the distance apart of the two
cable-blocks. Never mind; let them alone!

"Are you going to sit there till the tide goes down?"

"Oh, is that you? We didn't see you coming."

"You'll have to look sharp, or you'll be wet through...."

"No, we _shan't_! You only have to wait a minute and get in
between...."

Easier said than done! A big wave, that was just in time to overhear
this conversation imperfectly, thought it would like to wet Sally
through, and leaped against the bulwark of the jetty. But it spent
itself in a huge torrential deluge while Sally waited a minute. A
friend followed it, but made a poor figure by comparison. Then Sally
got in between, followed by the doctor.... Well! they were really not
so _very_ wet, after all! Sally was worst, as she was too previous.
She got implicated in the friend's last dying splash, while Prosy
got nearly scot-free. So said Sally to Fenwick as they walked briskly
ahead towards home, leaving the others to make their own pace. Because
it was a case of changing everything, and dinner was always so early
at St. Sennans.

"Let them go on in front. I want to talk to you, Dr. Conrad."
Rosalind, perhaps, thinks his attention won't wander if she takes a
firm tone; doesn't feel sure about it, otherwise. Maybe Sally is too
definitely in possession of the citadel to allow of an incursion from
without. She continues: "I have something to tell you. Don't look
frightened. It is nothing but what you have predicted yourself. My
husband's memory is coming back. I don't know whether I ought to say
I am afraid or I hope it is so...."

"But are you sure it is so?"

"Yes, listen! It has all happened since you and Sally left." And then
she narrated to the doctor, whose preoccupation had entirely vanished,
first the story of the recurrence, and Fenwick's description of it
in full; and then the incident of the Baron at Sonnenberg, but less
in detail. Then she went on, walking slower, not to reach the
house too soon. "Now, this is the thing that makes me so sure it is
recollection: just now, as we were coming to the jetty, he asked me
suddenly what was the Baron's name. I gave a wrong version of it, and
he corrected me." This does not meet an assent.

"That was nothing. He had heard it at Sonnenberg. I think much more of
the story itself; the incident of the wheel and so on. Are you quite
sure you never repeated this German gentleman's story to Mr. Fenwick?"

"Quite sure."

"H'm...!"

"So, you see, I want you to help me to think."

"May I talk to him about it?--speak openly to him?"

"Yes; to-morrow, not to-day. I want to hear what he says to-night. He
always talks a great deal when we're alone at the end of the day. He
will do so this time. But I want you to tell me about an idea I have."

"What idea?"

"Did Sally tell you about the galvanic battery on the pier?" Dr.
Conrad stopped in his walk, and faced round towards his companion.
He shook out a low whistle--an _arpeggio_ down. "Did she tell you?"
repeated Rosalind.

"Miss Sa...."

"Come, come, doctor! Don't be ridiculous. Say Sally!" The young man's
heart gave a responsive little jump, and then said to itself, "But
perhaps I'm only a family friend!" and climbed down. However, on
either count, "Sally" was nicer than "Miss Sally."

"Sally told me about the electric entertainment at the pier-end. I'm
sorry I missed it. But if _that's_ what's done it, Fenwick must try
it again."

"_Mustn't_ try it again?"

"No--_must_ try it again. Why, do you think it bad for him to
remember?"

"I don't know what to think."

"My notion is that a man has a right to his own mind. Anyhow, one
has no right to keep him out of it."

"Oh no; besides, Gerry isn't out of it in this case. Not out of his
mind...."

"I didn't mean that way. I meant excluded from participation in
himself ... you see?"

"Oh yes, I quite understand. Now listen, doctor. I want you to do me a
kindness. Say nothing, even to Sally, till I tell you. Say _nothing_!"

"You may trust me." Rosalind feels no doubt on that point, the more so
that the little passage about Sally's name has landed her at some
haven of the doctor's confidence that neither knows the name of just
yet. He is not the first man that has felt a welcome in some trifling
word of a very special daughter's mother. But woe be to the mother who
is premature and spoils all! Poor Prosy is too far gone to be a risky
subject of experiment. But _he_ won't say anything--not he! "After
all, you know," he continues, "it may all turn out a false alarm. Or
false hope, should I say?"

No answer. And he doesn't press for one. He is in a land of pitfalls.

       *       *       *       *       *

"What have you and your medical adviser been talking about all the
while, there in mid-ocean?" Fenwick forgets the late event with
pleasure. Sally, with her hair threatening to come down in the wind,
is enough to stampede a troop of nightmares.

"Poor Prosy!" is all the answer that comes at present. Perhaps if that
uncontrolled black coil will be tractable she will concede more anon.
You can't get your hair back under your hat and walk quick and talk,
all at the same time.

"Poorer than usual, Sarah?" But really just at this corner it's as
much as you can do, if you have skirts, to get along at all; to say
nothing of the way such loose ends as you indulge in turn on you and
flagellate your face in the wind. Oh, the vicious energy of that
stray ribbon! Fancy having to use up one hand to hold that!

But a lull came when the corner was fairly turned, in the lee of a
home of many nets, where masses of foam-fleck had found a respite, and
leisure to collapse, a bubble at a time. You could see the prism-scale
each had to itself, each of the millions, if you looked close enough.
Collectively, their appearance was slovenly. A chestnut-coloured man
a year old, who looked as if he meant some day to be a boatswain,
was seated on a pavement that cannot have soothed his unprotected
flesh--flint pebbles can't, however round--and enjoying the mysterious
impalpable nature of this foam. However, even for such hands as
his--and Sally wanted to kiss them badly--they couldn't stop. She
got her voice, though, in the lull.

"Yes--a little. I've found out all about Prosy."

"Found out about him?"

"I've made him talk about it. It's all about his ma and a young lady
he's in love with...." Fenwick's _ha!_ or _h'm!_ or both joined
together, was probably only meant to hand the speaker on, but the
tone made her suspicious. She asked him why he said that, imitating
it; on which he answered, "Why shouldn't he?" "Because," said Sally,
"if you fancy Prosy's in love with me, you're mistaken."

"Very good! Cut along, Sarah! You've made him talk about the young
lady he's in love with...?"

"Well, he as good as talked about her, anyhow! _I_ understood quite
plain. He wants to marry her awfully, but he's afraid to say so to
her, because of his ma."

"Doesn't Mrs. Vereker like her?"

"Dotes upon her, he says. Ug-g-h! No, it isn't that. It's the lugging
the poor girl into his ma's sphere of influence. He's conscious of
his ma, but adores her. Only he's aware she's overwhelming, and always
gets her own roundabout way. I prefer Tishy's dragon, if you ask
_me_."

At that point Sally is quite unconscious of Fenwick's amused eyes
fixed on her, and his smile in ambush. She says the last words
through a hairpin, while her hands take advantage of the lull to
make a good job of that rope of black hair. She will go on and tell
all the story; so Fenwick doesn't speak. Surprised at first by the
tale of Dr. Conrad's young lady, his ideas have by now fructified.
Sally continues:

"He's often told me he thought G.P.'s were better single, for their
wives' sakes--that sounds wrong, somehow!--but it isn't that. It's
his ma entirely. I suppose he's told you about the epileptiform
disorders?" No, he hadn't. "Well, now! Fancy Prosy not telling you
that! He's become quite an authority since those papers he had in
the 'Lancet,' and he's thinking of giving up general practice. Sir
Dioscorides Gayler's a cousin of his, you know, and would pass on
his practice to Prosy on easy terms. House in Seymour Street, Portman
Square. Great authority on epilepsy and epileptiform disorders. Wants
a successor who knows about 'em. Naturally. Wants three thousand
pounds. Naturally. Big fees! But he would make it easy for Prosy."

"That would be all right; soon manage that." Fenwick speaks with
the confidence of one in a thriving trade. The deity of commerce,
security, can manage all things. Insecurity is atheism in the City.
"But then," he adds, "Vereker wouldn't marry, even with a house and
big-fee consultations, because he's afraid his mother would hector
over his wife. Is that it?"

"That's it! It's his Goody mother. I say, it _is_ blowing!" It was,
and they had emerged from the shelter into the wind. No more talk!

       *       *       *       *       *

As Fenwick, sea-blown and salted, resorted to the lodging-house
allowance of fresh water and soap, in a perfunctory and formal
preparation for dinner, his mind ran continually on Sally's
communication. As for the other young lady being valid, that he
dismissed as nonsense not worth consideration. Vereker had been
resorting to a furtive hint of a declaration, disguised as fiction.
It was a _fabula narrata de_ Sally, _mutato nomine_. If she didn't
see through it, and respond in kind, it would show him how merely
a friend he was, and nothing more. "Perhaps he doesn't understand
our daughter's character," said Fenwick to Rosalind, when he had
repeated the conversation to her. "Of course he doesn't," she
replied. "No young man of his sort understands girls the least.
The other sort of young man understands the other sort of girls."

And then a passing wonderment had touched her mind, of how strange
it was that Sally should be one of her own sort, so very distinctly.
How about inheritance? She grew reflective and silent over it, and
then roused herself to wonder, illogically, why Gerry hadn't gone
on talking.

The reason was that as his mind dwelt happy and satisfied on the
good prospect Vereker would have if he could step into his cousin's
specialist practice as a consulting physician, with a reputation
already begun, his thoughts were caught with a strange jerk. What
and whence was a half-memory of some shadowy store of wealth that was
to make it the easiest thing in the world for him to finance the new
departure? It had nothing to do with the vast mysterious possibilities
of credit. It was a recollection of some resourceful backing he was
entitled to, somehow; and he was reminded by it of his dream about the
furniture--(we told you of that?)--but with a reservation. When he
woke from the sleep-dream of the furniture, he in a short time could
distinctly identify it as a dream, and was convinced no such furniture
had ever existed. He could not shake off this waking dream, and it
clogged his mind painfully, and made him silent.

So much so that when Rosalind, soon completed for the banqueting-board,
looked into the adjoining room to see what progress Gerry was making,
and why he was silent, she only saw the back of a powerful frame in
its shirt-sleeves, and a pair of hands holding on each side an
unbrushed head. The elbows indispensable to them rested on the
window-bar.

"Look alive, Gerry darling!--you'll make dinner late.... Anything
wrong, dear love?" Sudden anxiety in her voice. "Is it another...?"
Another what? No need to define, exactly!

"A sort of one," Fenwick answers. "Not so bad as the last. Hardly
describable! Never mind."

He made no effort towards description, and his wife did not press
him for it. What good end could be gained by fidgeting him?

But she knew now that her life would be weighted with an anxiety
hard to bear, until his hesitating return of memory should make its
decision of success or failure. A guarantee of the latter would have
been most to her liking, but how could she hope for that now?



CHAPTER XXXV

HOW A STONE THROWN DROVE THE WEDGE FURTHER YET. OF A TERRIBLE NIGHT
  IN A BIG GALE, AND A DOOR THAT SLAMMED. THE WEDGE WELL IN


The speculative weather-wisdom of the tattooed capstan-driver was
confirmed when three in the morning came, and the full of the tide.
The wind must have gone round to the southward, or to some equally
stimulating quarter, to judge by the work it got through that night in
the way of roofs blown off and chimney-pots blown down; standing crops
laid flat and spoiled for reaping; trees too full of leaf to bear such
rough treatment compelled to tear up half their roots and fall, or pay
tribute to the gale in boughs snapped asunder in time to spare their
parent stem. All these results we landsmen could see for ourselves
next day, after the storm had died down, and when the air was so
delightful after it that we took walks in the country on purpose to
enjoy it. But for the mischief it did that night at sea, from
sportively carrying away the spars of ships, which they wanted for
their own use, or blowing a stray reefer from the weather-earring, to
sending a full crew to the depths below, or on jagged rocks no message
from the white foam above could warn the look-out of in time--for the
record of this we should have belated intermittent newspaper
paragraphs, ever so long after.

But the wind had not reached its ideal when, at the end of a pleasant
evening, Sally and her belongings decided that they must just go down
to the beach and see the waves before going to bed. Wasn't there a
moon? Well--yes, there was a moon, but you couldn't see it. That made
a difference, certainly, but not a conclusive one. It wasn't a bad
sort of a night, although it certainly was blowing, and the waves
would be grand seen close. So the party turned out to go down to the
beach. It included the Julius Bradshaws and Dr. Conrad, who had looked
in as usual. But the doctor found out that it was past eleven, and,
recalled by duty, returned to his Octopus.

The waves, seen close, would have been grand if you could have seen
them from the beach, or as much of it as they had left you to stand
on. But you really could only guess what was going on out in that
great dark world of deep thunder, beyond the successive rushes of mad
foam, each of which made up its mind to tear the coast up this time;
and then changed it and went back, but always took with it stones
enough for next attempt. And the indignant clamour of the rushing
shoals, dragged off to sea against their will, rose and fell in the
lulls of the thunder beyond. Sally wanted to quote Tennyson's "Maud"
about them, but she couldn't for the tremendous wind.

The propensity to throw stones into the water, whenever there are
stones and water, is always a strong one, even when the water is black
mountain ranges, foam-ridged Sierras coming on to crush us, appalling
us, even though we know they are sure to die in time. Stones were
thrown on this occasion by Sally and her stepfather, who was credulous
enough to suppose that his pebbles passed the undertow and reached
the sea itself. Sally was prevented by the elements from misusing
an adjective; for she wanted to say that the effect of a stone thrown
into such a sea was merely "homoeopathic," and abstained because her
remark would have been unheard.

Fenwick wanted to say that it was like the way a man dies and vanishes
into the great unknown. He, too, refrained from this, but only partly
for the same reason. Its want of novelty made another.

All the others soon wanted to say it was time to go home to bed, and
tried to say it. But practice seemed easier, and they all turned to
go, followed by Fenwick and Sally, cheerfully discussing the point of
whether Sally could have swum out into that sea or not. Sally wanted
to know what was to prevent her. Obvious enough, one would have said!

       *       *       *       *       *

But Rosalind noticed one thing that was a pleasure to her. The
moment Sally came in, her husband's dream-afflictions went out. Had
he ever spoken of one in her presence? She could recall no instance.
This evening the return to absolute cheerfulness dated from the
reappearance of Sally after she had changed everything, and made her
hair hold up. It lasted through fried soles and a huge fowl--done
enough this time--and a bread-and-butter pudding impaired by too many
raisins. Through the long end of a game of chess begun by Sally and
Dr. Conrad the evening before, and two rubbers of whist, in which
everybody else had all the good cards in their hands, as is the case
in that game. And through the visit to Neptune above recorded.

But when, after half-an-hour's chat over the day's events with
Rosalind, midnight and an extinguished candle left Fenwick to himself
and his pillow in the little room next hers with no door between,
which Mrs. Lobjoit's resources dictated, there came back to him first
a recollection of his suppressed commonplace about the stone that had
vanished for ever in the world of waters; then a hazy memory of the
same thing having happened before and the same remark having been
made by himself; then a sudden jerk of surprise, when, just as he was
thinking of sleep, he was able to answer a question Space asked him
spontaneously about where this happened, with what would have been,
had he been quite awake, words spoken aloud to himself. "That time
at Niagara, of course!" And this jerk of surprise left him wide-awake,
struggling with an army of revived memories that had come on him
suddenly.

He was so thoroughly waked by them that a difficulty he always had
of remaining in bed when not asleep dictated a relighted candle
and a dressing-gown and slippers. It was akin to his aversion to
over-comfortable chairs; though he acknowledged beds as proper
implements of sleep, sleep being granted. And sleep seemed now so
completely out of the question, even if there had been no roaring of
the gale and no constant thunder of the seas on the beach below,
that Fenwick surrendered at discretion, and gave himself up a helpless
prisoner in the grasp of his own past.

Not of the whole of it. But of as much as he could face here and now.
Another mind that could have commanded some strange insight into the
whole of this past, and his power or powerlessness to look it in the
face, might have striven to avert its revival. That blow might have
been too overwhelming. But there was enough, as we shall see, in
the recollection that came back of the decade before his return to
England, to make his breath catch and a shudder run through his strong
frame as he pressed his palms hard on his eyelids, just as though by
so doing he could shut it out.

Thank God Rosey was asleep, or would be soon. He would have time to
think how he could tell the story he could not be silent about--that,
he felt, might be impossible--and yet keep back one ominous portentous
fact that had come to him, as a motive force in his former life,
without the details of his early history that belonged to it. That
fact Rosey must never know, even if ... well!--so many things turned
on it. All he could see now--taken by surprise as he was--was that,
come what might, that fact should always be kept from _her_. But as
to concealing from her his strange experience altogether, that was
hardly to be thought of. He would conceal it while he could, though,
provisionally.

One o'clock by his watch on the dressing-table under the candle. St.
Sennans must have struck unheard. No wonder--in this wind! Surely it
had rather increased, if anything. Fenwick paced with noiseless care
about the little room; he could not be still. The sustained monotone
of wind and sea was only crossed now and then by a sound of fall or
breakage, to chronicle some little piece of mischief achieved by the
former on land, and raise the latter's hopes of some such success in
its turn before the night should end....

Two o'clock by the dressing-table watch, and still the noiseless
slippered feet of the sleepless man came and went. Little fear of any
one else hearing him! For the wind seemed to have got up the bit that
was predicted of it, and had certainly gone round to the suth'ard. If
any sleeper could cling to unconsciousness through the rattle of the
windows and the intermittent banging of a spectral door that defied
identification--the door that always bangs in storms everywhere--the
mere movement of a cautious foot would have no effect. If unable to
sleep for the wind, none would be alive to it. It would be lost in
the storm....

Three o'clock! Did you, who read this, ever watch through a night
with something on your mind you are to be forced to speak of in the
morning--a compulsion awaiting you as a lion awaiting the _début_ of
a reluctant martyr in the arena of the Coliseum? Did you, so watching,
feel--not the tedium--but the maddening speed of the hours, the
cruelty of the striking clocks? Were you conscious of a grateful
reliance on your bedroom door, still closed between you and _your_
lion, as the gate that the eager eyes of Rome were fixed on was still
a respite from _his_? Fenwick was; keenly conscious. And when on
a sudden he heard with a start that a furtive hand was on the
old-fashioned door-latch, he, knowing it could be none other than
Rosalind, sleepless in the storm, felt that the lion had stolen a
march on him, and that he must make up his mind sharp whether he would
go for complete confidence or partial reserve. Certainly the latter,
of necessity, said Alacrity. There could be no doubt of it, on her
account--for the present, at any rate.

For he had recollected, look you, that at the time of that stone-throw
into the rapids above Niagara he was a married man somehow separated
from his wife. And the way that he knew this was that he could
remember plainly that the reason he did not make an offer of marriage,
there by the great torrent that was rushing to the Falls, to a French
girl (whose name he got clearly) was that he did not know if his wife
was dead or living. He did not know it now. The oddity of it was that,
though he remembered clearly this incident hinging on the fact that
he was then a married man, he could remember neither the wife he had
married nor anything connected with her. He strove hard against this
partial insight into his past, which seemed to him stranger than
complete oblivion. But he soon convinced himself that a slight hazy
vision he conjured up of a wedding years and years ago was only a
reflex image--an automatic reaction--from his recent marriage. For
did not the wraith of his present wife quietly take its place before
the altar where by rights he should have been able to recall her
predecessor? It was all confusion; no doubt of it.

But his mind had travelled quickly too; for when Rosalind looked in
at his door he knew what he had to say, for her sake.

"Gerry darling, have you never been to bed?"

"For a bit, dearest. Then I found I couldn't sleep, and got up."

"Isn't it awful, the noise? One hears it so in this house.... Well,
I suppose it's the same in any house that looks straight over the sea."

"Haven't you slept?"

"Oh yes, a little. But then it woke me. Then I thought I heard you
moving."

"So I was. Now, suppose we both go to bed, and try to sleep. I shall
have to, because of my candle. Is that all you've got left?"

"That's all, and it's guttering. And the paper will catch directly."
She blew it out to avoid this, and added: "Stop a minute and I'll
take the paper off, and make it do for a bit."

"You can have mine. Leave me yours." For Fenwick's was, even now,
after burning so long, the better candle-end of the two. He took
it out of the socket, and slipped its paper roll off, an economy
suggested by the condition of its fellow.

But as he did so his own light flashed full on his face, and Rosalind
saw a look on it that scarcely belonged to mere sleeplessness like her
own--unrest that comes to most of us when the elements are restless.

"Gerry, you've been worrying. You know you have, dear. Speak the
truth! You've been trying to recollect things."

"I had nobody here to prevent me, you see." He made no denial; in
fact, thought admission of baffled effort was his safest course. "I
get worried and fidgeted by chaotic ideas when you're not here. But
it's nothing." Rosalind did not agree to this at all.

"I wish Mrs. Lobjoit could have put us both in one room," she said.

"Well, _we_ didn't see our way, you know," he replied, referring
to past councils on sleeping arrangements. "It's only for a week,
after all."

"Yes, darling; but a week's a week, and I can't have you worried to
death." She made him lie down again, and sat by him, holding his hand.
So unnerved was he by his glance back into his past, so long unknown
to him, and so sweet was the comfort of her presence and the touch of
her living hand after all those hours of perturbation alone, that
Fenwick made no protest against her remaining beside him. But a
passiveness that would have belonged to an invalid or a sluggish
temperament seemed unlike the strong man Rosalind knew him for, and
she guessed from it that there was more behind. Still, she said
nothing, and sat on with his hand grasping hers and finding in it his
refuge from himself. To her its warm pressure was a sure sign that
his memory had not penetrated the darkness of his earlier time. If
God willed, it might never do so. Meanwhile, what was there for it
but patience?

As she sat there listening to the roaring of the gale outside, and
watching with satisfaction the evident coming of sleep, she said to
herself that it might easily be that some new thing had come back to
him which he would be unwilling she should know about, at least until
his own mind was clearer. He might speak with less reserve to Vereker.
She would give the doctor leave to talk to him to-morrow. Fear of
what she would hear may have influenced her in this.

So when, sooner than she had expected, she caught the sound of the
first breath of indisputable sleep, she rose and slipped away quietly,
and as she lay down again to rest again asked herself the question:
Was it the galvanism that had done it?



CHAPTER XXXVI

HOW FENWICK AND VEREKER WENT FOR A WALK, AND MORE MEMORIES CAME BACK.
  HOW FENWICK WAS A MILLIONAIRE, OR THEREABOUTS. OF A CLUE THAT KILLED
  ITSELF. HARRISSON'S AFFAIR NOW! BOTHER THE MILLIONS! IS NOT LOVE
  BETTER THAN MONEY? ONLY FENWICK'S NAME WASN'T HARRISSON NEITHER


"We thought it best to let you have your sleep out, dear. Sally
agreed. No, leave the pot alone. Mrs. Lobjoit will make some fresh
coffee."

"Who's the other cup?"

"Vereker. He came in to breakfast; to see if we were blown away."

"I see. Of course. Where are they now?"

"They?... oh, him and Sally! They said they'd go and see if Tishy
and her husband were blown away."

"Well, I have had my sleep out with a vengeance. It's a quarter
to ten."

"Never mind, darling. So much the better. Let's have a look at
you...." And the little self-explanatory colloquy ends with Rosalind
kissing her husband and examining him with anxious eyes. She sees
a face less haggard than the one she saw last night, for is it not
daylight and has not the wind fallen to a mere cheerful breeze you can
quite stand upright in, leaning slightly seawards? And are not the
voices and the footsteps of a new day outside, and the swift exchanges
of sunlight and cloud-shadow that are chasing each other off the
British Channel? And has not a native of eighty years of age (which
he ignores) just opened the street door on his own responsibility
and shouted along the passage that pra'ans are large this morning? He
is more an institution than a man, and is freely spoken of as "The
Shrimps." A flavour of a Triton who has got too dry on the beach comes
in with the sea air, and also a sense of prawns, emptied from a wooden
measure they have been honourably shaken down into, falling on a dish
held out to receive them by an ambassador of four, named by Sally
little Miss Lobjoit, the youngest of her race.

But for all that the rising life of the hours and the subsiding gale
may do to chase away the memory of the oppressions of the night from
one who was defenceless in its solitude, Rosalind can see how much
they leave behind. Her husband may do his best to make light of it--to
laugh it off as nothing but the common bad night we all know so well;
may make the most of the noises of the storm, and that abominable
banging door; but he will not conceal from her the effort that it
costs him to do so. Besides, had he not admitted, in the night, that
he "got worried and fidgeted by chaotic ideas"? What were these ideas?
How far had he penetrated into his own past? She was not sorry for the
few words she had had time to exchange with Dr. Conrad while Sally
went to seek her hat. She had renewed and confirmed her permission to
him to speak to her husband freely about himself.

"Are Mr. and Mrs. Paganini gone to sea?" This is said as Fenwick opens
negotiations rather mechanically with the fresh coffee Mrs. Lobjoit
has produced, and as that lady constructs for removal a conglomerate
of plates and effete eggs.

"Gone to sea, Gerry? Not very likely. What's the meaning of that?
Explain."

"Why, Sally and her doctor are staring out at the offing...."

"Well?"

"And didn't you say they had gone to find out if they were blown
away?"

"I supposed they changed their minds." Rosalind talks absently, as
if they didn't matter. All her thoughts are on her husband. But she
doesn't fancy catechizing him about his experiences in the night,
neither. She had better let him alone, and wait new oblivion or a
healthy revival.

He is also _distrait_, and when he spoke of Sally and the doctor he
had shown no interest in his own words. His eyes do not kindle at hers
in his old way, and might be seeing nothing, for all there is in them
to tell of it. He makes very short work of a cup of coffee, and a mere
pretence of anything else; and then, suddenly rousing himself with
a shake, says this won't do, and he must go out and get a blow. All
right, says Rosalind, and he'd better get Dr. Conrad, and make him go
for a walk. Only they are not to fall over the cliff.

"Fall over the cliff!" repeats Fenwick. He laughs, and she is glad at
the sound. "You couldn't fall over the cliff against such a wind as
this. I defy any one to." He kisses her and goes out, and she hears
him singing, as he hunts for a stick that has vanished, an old French
song:

  "Auprès de ma blond-e
  Comme c'est bon--c'est bon--c'est bon...."

Only, when he has found the stick and his hat, he does not go at once,
but comes back, and says, as he kisses her again: "Don't fidget about
me, darling; I'm all right." Which must have been entirely brain-wave
or thought-reading, as Rosalind had said never a word of her anxiety,
so far.

Fenwick walked away briskly towards the flagstaff where Sally and
Vereker had been looking out to sea. In the dazzling sunshine--all
the more dazzling for the suddenness of its come and go--and the
intoxicating rush of well-washed air that each of those crested waves
out yonder knew so much about--and they were all of a tale--and such a
companion in the enjoyment of it as that white sea-bird afloat against
the blue gap of sky or purple underworld of cloud, what could he do
other than cast away the thoughts the night had left, the cares,
whatever they were, that the revival of memory had brought back?

If he could not succeed altogether in putting them aside, at least
he could see his way to bearing them better, with a kiss of his wife
still on his face, and all St. Sennans about him in the sunshine, and
Sally to come. However, before he reached the flagstaff he met the
doctor, and heard that Miss Sally had actually gone down to the
machines to see if Gabriel wouldn't put one down near the water,
so that she could run a little way. She was certain she could
swim in that sea if she could once get through what she called the
selvage-wave. If Gabriel wouldn't, she should take her things up to
the house and put them on and walk down to the sea in a cloak. It was
quite ridiculous, said the merpussy, people making such a fuss about
a few waves. What was the world coming to?

"She'll be all safe," was Fenwick's comment when he heard this. "They
won't let her go in, at the machines. They won't let her leave the
Turkey-twill knickers and the short skirt. She always leaves them
there to dry. _She's_ all right. Let's take a turn across the field;
it's too windy for the cliff."

"You had a bad night, Fenwick."

"All of us had. About three in the morning I thought the house would
blow down. And there was a door banged, etc...."

"You had a worse night than the rest of us. Look at me straight in
the face. No, I wasn't going to say show me your tongue." They had
stopped a moment at the top of what was known as The Steps--_par
excellence_--which was the shortest cut up to the field-path. Dr.
Conrad looks a second or so, and then goes on: "I thought so. You've
got black lines under your eyes, and you're evidently conscious of the
lids. I expect you've got a pain in them, one in each, tied together
by a string across here." That is to say, from eyebrow to eyebrow,
as illustrated fingerwise.

Fenwick wasn't prepared to deny it evidently. He drew his own fingers
across his forehead, as though to feel if the pain were really there.
It confirmed a suspicion he couldn't have sworn to.

"Yes; I suppose I did have a worse night than the rest of you. At
least, I hope so, for your sakes." His manner might have seemed to
warrant immediate speculation or inquiry about the cause of his
sleeplessness, but Vereker walked on beside him in silence. The way
was along a short, frustrated street that led to the field-pathway
that was grass-grown, more or less, all but the heaps of flints that
were one day to make a new top-dressing, but had been forgotten by the
local board, and the premature curb-stones whose anticipations about
traffic had never been fulfilled. The little detached houses on either
side were unselfish little houses, that only wanted to be useful and
afford shelter to the wanderer, or provide a refuge for old age. All
made use, on placards, of the cautious expression "Apartments"; while
some flung all reserve to the winds and said also they were "To let"
outright. The least satisfactory one of the lot was almost invisible
owing to its egotism, but distinguishable from afar because the
cross-board on a standard that had been placed in the garden-front
had fallen forward over the palings like Punch's gallows. It didn't
much matter, because the placard attached was dissolving off in the
rains, and hanging down so low that a goat was eating it with relish,
standing against the parapet of the garden-fence.

They reached the point at which Albion Villas had been thwarted by a
hedge, rich in unripe sloes and green abortive blackberries, in their
attempt to get across a stubble-field to the new town, and passed in
instalments through its turnstile, or kissing-gate. Neither spoke,
except that Fenwick said, "Look at the goat," until, after they had
turned on to the chalk pathway, nearly dry in the warm sun and wind,
he added a question:

"Did you ever taste a sloe?"

"Yes, once."

"That is what every one says if you ask him if he ever tasted a sloe.
Nobody ever does it again."

"But they make sloe-gin of them?"

"That, my dear Vereker, is what everybody always says next. Sally
told me they did, and she's right. They console themselves for the
taste of the sloe by an imaginary _liqueur_ like _maraschino_. But
that's because they never tasted sloe-gin."

Vereker thinks he may conclude that Fenwick is talking for talk's
sake, and humours him. He can get to the memory-subject later.

"A patient of mine," he says, "who's been living at Spezzia, was
telling me about a fruit that was very good there, _diosperi_ he
called them. They must be very unlike sloes by his description."

"And naturally sloes made you think of them. I wonder what they
are--_diosperi_--_diosperi_----" He repeated the word as though
trying to recall it. Dr. Conrad helped the identification.

"He said they are what the Japs call jelly-plums--great big fruit,
very juicy."

"I know. They're persimmons, or a sort of persimmons. We used to get
lots of them in California, and even up at the Klondyke...."

He stopped abruptly and remained silent. A sudden change in him was
too marked to escape notice, and there could be no doubt about the
cause. The doctor walked beside him, also silent, for a few paces.
Then he spoke:

"You will have to bear this, Fenwick, and keep your head. It is just
as I told you it would be. It is all coming back." He laid his left
hand on his companion's shoulder as they stood side-by-side on the
chalk pathway, and with his right felt the wrist that was nearest
him. Fenwick was in a quiver all through his frame, and his pulse was
beating furiously as Dr. Conrad's finger touched it. But he spoke
with self-control, and his step was steady as they walked on slowly
together the moment after.

"It's all coming back. It _has_ come back. I shall remember all in
time." Then he repeated Vereker's words, "I must keep my head. I shall
have to bear this," and walked on again in silence. The young man
beside him still felt he had best not speak yet. Just let the physical
perturbation subside. Talking would only make it worse.

They may have walked so for two minutes before Fenwick spoke again.
Then he roused himself, to say, with but little hint in his voice of
any sense of the oddity of his question: "Which is my dream?--this or
the other?" Then added: "That's the question I want to ask, and nobody
can answer."

"And of course all the while each of us knows perfectly well the
answer is simply 'Neither.' You are a man that has had an accident,
and lost his memory. Be patient, and do not torment yourself. Let it
take its own time."

"All right, doctor! Patience is the word." He spoke in an undertone--a
voice of acquiescence, or rather obedience. "Perhaps it will not be so
bad when I remember more." They walked on again.

Then Vereker, noting that during silence he brooded under the
oppression of what he had already recovered from the past, and to
all appearance struck, once or twice, on some new unwelcome vein of
thought, judging from a start or a momentary tension of the arm that
now held his, decided that it would be as well to speak to him now,
and delay no longer.

"Has anything come back to you, so far, that will unsettle your
present life?"

"No, no--not that, thank God! Not so far as I can see. But much that
must disquiet it; it cannot be otherwise."

"Do you mind telling me?"

"No, surely, dear fellow!--surely I will tell you. Why should I not?
But what I say to you don't repeat to Sally or her mother. Not just
now, you know. Wait!"

There was a recess in the wall of mortar-bedded flints that ran along
the path, which would give shelter from the wind to light a cigar.
Fenwick stopped and took two from a cigar-case, Sally's present to him
last Christmas, and offered one to Dr. Conrad, who, however, didn't
want to smoke so early. He lighted his own in the recess, with
only a slight tremor of the hand, barely visible even to Vereker's
experienced eye; and then, as he threw away the match, said, without
anything that could be called emotion, though always with an apparent
sense of his bewilderment at his own words:

"I am that man Harrisson that was in all the newspapers just about
the time of the--you remember--when I...."

Vereker failed for the moment to grasp the degree of his own
astonishment, and used the residuum of his previous calmness to say:

"I remember. The time of your accident."

"_Am_ I that man? I mean ought I to say 'I _am_ that man'? I know
I _was_ that man, in my old dream. I know it now, in this one."

"Well, but--so much the better! You are a millionaire, Fenwick, with
mines at Klondyke...."

Dr. Conrad had been so taken aback at the suddenness of the
extraordinary revelation that his amazement was quite at a loss for
means of expression. A delayed laugh, not unmixed with a gasp,
expressed nothing--merely recorded a welcome to the good side of it.
For, of course, when one hears of Golconda one is bound to think it
good, failing evidence to the contrary.

"Yes, I _was_ that man--Algernon Harrisson. Now, the question is--and
you'll have to help me here, Vereker. Don't look so thunderstruck,
old chap--Shall I be that man again or not?"

"Why not, in Heaven's name? How can you help it?" The speaker is too
dumbfounded, so far, to be able to get the whip hand of the
circumstances. But the pace may be slacker presently.

"Let's be steady!" Fenwick's voice, as he says this, has a sense of
ease in it, as though he were relieved by his disclosure. He takes
Vereker's arm in his again, and as they walk on together is evidently
on good terms with his cigar--so the doctor thinks--and the tremor has
gone from his hands. A short pause, and he goes on speaking: "Until
we pitched on the Klondyke just now I knew nothing of this. I shall
get it all back in time. Let me see!..."

The doctor recovered his presence of mind. "Stop a minute," said he.
"Do you know, Fenwick, if I were you I shouldn't try to tell anything
until you're clearer about the whole thing. Don't talk to me now.
Wait till you are in a state to know how much you wish to tell."
But Fenwick would have none of this. He shook his head decidedly.

"I _must_ talk to some one about it. And my wife I cannot...."

"Why not?"

"You will see. You need not be frightened of too many confidences.
I haven't recollected any grave misdemeanours yet. I'll keep them
to myself when they come. Now listen to what I can and do recollect
pretty clearly." He paused a second, as if his first item was shaky;
then said, "Yes!--of course." And went on as though the point were
cleared up.

"Of course! I went up to the Klondyke almost in the first rush, in
'97. I'll tell you all about that after. Others besides myself became
enormously rich that summer, but I was one of the luckiest. However,
I don't want to tell you about Harrisson at Klondyke--(that's how I
find it easiest to think of myself, third person singular!)--but to get
at the thing in the dream, that concerns me most _now_. Listen!... Only
remember this, Vereker dear! I can only recall jagged fragments yet
awhile. I have been stunned, and can't help that...." He stopped the
doctor, who was about to speak, with: "I know what you are going to
say; let it stand over a bit--wait and be patient--all that sort of
game! All very good and sensible, but I _can't_!"

"Can't?"

"No! Can't--simply _can't_. Because, look you! One of the things
that has come back is that I am a married man--by which I mean
that Harrisson was. Oh dear! It _is_ such an ease to me to think of
Harrisson as somebody else. You can't understand that." But Vereker
is thoroughly discomposed.

"But didn't you say--only just now--there was nothing--_nothing_--to
unsettle your present life? No; I can't understand--I _can't_
understand." His reply is to Fenwick's words, but the reference is
to the early part of his speech.

"You will understand it better if I tell you more. Let me do it my
own way, because I get mixed, and feel as if I might lose the clue
any moment. All the time I was with the Clemenceaux at Ontario I was
a married man--I mean that I _knew_ I was a married man. And I remember
knowing it all that time. Indeed, I did! But if you ask me who my wife
was--she wasn't there, you know; you've got all that clear?--why, I
can't tell you any more than Adam! All I know is that all that time
little Ernestine was growing from a girl to a woman, the reason I felt
there could be no misunderstanding on that score was that Clemenceau
and his wife knew quite well I had been married and divorced or
something--there was something rum, long before--and you know Papists
would rather the Devil outright than have their daughter marry a
divorced man. But as to who the wife had been, and what it was all
about...."

He stopped again suddenly, seizing Vereker by the arm with a strong
hand that trembled as it had done before. His face went very white,
but he kept self-possession, as it were mechanically; so completely
that the long ash on his half-smoked cigar remained unbroken. He
waited a moment, and then spoke in a controlled way.

"I can remember nothing of the story; or what seems to come I _know_
is only confusion ... by things in it...." Vereker thought it might
be well to change the current of his thoughts.

"Who were the Clemenceaux at Ontario?" said he.

"Of course, I ought to tell you that. Only there were so many things.
Clemenceau was a jeweller at Ontario. I lived in the flat over his
shop, and used to see a great deal of his family. I must have lived
almost entirely among French Canadians while I was there--it was
quite three or four years...."

"And all that time, Fenwick, you thought of yourself as a married man?"

"Married or divorced--yes. And long before that."

"It is quite impossible for me--you must see it--to form any picture
in my mind of how the thing presents itself to you."

"Quite."

"It seems--to me--perfectly incredible that you should have no
recollection at all of the marriage, or divorce, or whatever it
was...."

"I did not say I had no recollection _at all_. Listen. Don't you know
this, Vereker?--of course you do, though--how one wakes from a hideous
dream and remembers exactly the feeling it produced, and how the
same feeling comes back when one recalls from the dream some fragment
preserved from all one has forgotten of it--something nowise horrible
in itself, but from its associations in the dream?"

"Oh yes, perfectly!"

"Well--that's my case. When I try to bring back the memories I know
I _must_ have had at that time in Canada, nothing comes back but a
horror--something like a story read in boyhood and shuddered at in
the night--but all details gone. I mean all details with horror in
them. Because, do you know?..."

"Yes----?" Vereker stopped beside him on the path, as Fenwick stopped
and hesitated. Utter perplexity almost forbidding speech was the
impression the doctor received of his condition at this moment. After
a moment's silence he continued:

"You will hardly believe me, but almost the only thing I can
revive--that is, have revived so far--is an occurrence that must
needs at the time have been a happiness and a delight. And yet it now
presents itself to me as an excruciating torment--as part of some
tragedy in which I had to be an actor, but of which I can seize no
detail that does not at once vanish, leaving mere pain and confusion."

"What was it? You don't mind...."

"Mind telling you? Oh no!--why should I? I may be happier if I can
tell it. It's like this. I am at a railway-station in the heat
somewhere, and am expecting a girl who is coming to marry me. I can
remember the heat and our meeting, and then all is Chaos again. Then,
instead of remembering more, I go over and over again the old thing as
at first.... No! nothing new presents itself. Only the railway-station
and the palm-trees in the heat. And the train coming slowly in, and
my knowing that she is in it, and coming to marry me."

"Do you mean that the vision--or scene--in your mind stops dead, and
you don't see her get out of the carriage?"

They had walked on slowly again a short distance. Fenwick made another
halt, and as he flicked away a most successful crop of cigar-ash that
he had been cultivating--so it struck Vereker--as a kind of gauge or
test of his own self-control, he answered:

"I couldn't say that. Hardly! I see a girl or woman get out of the
carriage, but _not her_...!"

Vereker was completely at a loss--began to be a little afraid his
companion's brain might be giving way. "How _can_ you tell that,"
said he, "unless you know who she ought to have been?"

Fenwick resumed his walk, and when he replied did so in a voice that
had less tension in it, as though something less painful had touched
his mind:

"It's rum, I grant you. But the whole thing is too rum to bear
thinking of--at least, to bear talking about. As to the exact reason
_why_ I know it's not her, that's simple enough!"

"What is it?"

"Because Mrs. Fenwick gets out of the train--my Rosey, here, Sally's
mother. And it's just the same with the only other approach to a
memory that connects itself with it--a shadowy, indistinct ceremony,
also in the heat, much more indistinct than the railway-station.
My real wife's image--Rosey's, here--just takes the place at the
altar where the other one should be, and prevents my getting at any
recollection of her. It is the only thing that makes the dream
bearable."

Vereker said nothing. He did not want to disturb any lull in the storm
in his companion's mind. After a slight pause the latter continued:

"The way I account for it seems to me sufficient. I cannot conceive
any woman being to me what ... or, perhaps I should express it better
by saying I cannot connect the _wife-idea_ with any image except hers.
And, of course, the strong dominant idea displaces the feeble memory."

Vereker was ready with an unqualified assent at the moment. For though
Sally, as we have seen, had taken him into her confidence the day
after her mother's wedding--and, indeed, had talked over the matter
many times with him since--the actual truth was far too strange to
suggest itself offhand, as it would have been doing had the doctor
connected the fact that Sally's mother went out to India to be
married with this meeting of two lovers at a simmering railway-station,
name not known. The idea of the _impossible per se_ is probably the
one a finite intelligence most readily admits, and is always cordially
welcome in intellectual difficulties--a universal resolution of
logical discords. In the case of these two men, at that moment, neither
was capable of knowing the actual truth had he been told it, whatever
the evidence; still less of catching at slight connecting-links.
Fenwick went on speaking:

"I don't know whether you will understand it--yes! I think, perhaps,
you might--that it's a consolation to me this way Mrs. Fenwick comes
in. It seems to bring fresh air into what else would be--ugh!" He
shuddered a half-intentional shudder; then, dropping his voice, went
on, speaking quickly: "The thing makes part of some tragedy--some sad
story--something best forgotten! If I could only dare to hope I might
remember no more--might even forget it altogether."

"Perhaps if you could remember the whole the painfulness might
disappear. Does not anything in the image of the railway-station give
a clue to its whereabouts?"

"No. It hardly amounts to an image at all--more a fact than an image. But
the heat was a fact. And the dresses were all white--thin--tropical...."

"Then the Mrs. Fenwick that comes out of the train isn't dressed as she
dresses here?"

"Why, n-n-no!... No, certainly not. But that's natural, you know.
Of course, my mind supplies a dress for the heat."

"It doesn't diminish the puzzlement."

"Yes--yes--but it does, though. Because, look here! It's not the
_only_ thing. I find myself consciously making Rosey look _younger_.
I can't help my mind--my _now_ mind--working, do what I will! But as
to where it was, I fancy I have a clue. I can remember remembering--if
you understand me--that I had been in Australia--remembered it at
Ontario--talked about it to Tina Clemenceau...."

If Vereker had had any tendency to get on a true scent at this point,
the reference to Australia would have thrown him off it. And the
thought of the Canadian girl took Fenwick's mind once more to his
American life: "It was my thinking of that girl made all this come
back to me, you know. Just after you left us, when we were throwing
stones in the sea, last night...."

"Throwing stones in the sea?..."

"Yes--we went down to the waves on the beach, and my throwing a stone
in reminded me of it all, after. I was just going to get to sleep,
when, all of a sudden, what must I think of but Niagara!--at least,
the rapids. I was standing with Mademoiselle Tina--no one else--on
a rock overlooking the great torrent, and I threw a stone in, and she
said no one would ever see that stone again. I said, 'Like a man when
he dies and is forgotten,' or something of that sort. I recollect her
now--poor child!--turning her eyes full on me and saying, 'But I
should not forget you, Mr. Harrisson.' You see how it was? Only it
seems a sort of disloyalty to the poor girl to tell it. It was all
plain, and she meant it to be. I can't remember now whether I said,
'I can't marry you, Tina, because I don't know that my wife is dead,'
or whether I only thought it. But I know that I then knew I was, or
had been, married and divorced or deserted. And it was that unhappy
stone that brought it all back to me."

"Are you sure of that?"

"Quite sure that began it. I was just off, and some outlying scrap
of my mind was behindhand, and that stone saw it and pounced on it.
I remembered more after that. I know I was rather glad to start off
to the new gold river, because of Ernestine Clemenceau. I don't think
I should have cared to marry Ernestine. Anyhow, I didn't. She seems
to me Harrisson's affair now. Don't laugh at me, doctor!"

"I wasn't laughing." And, indeed, this was true. The doctor was very
far from laughing.

They had walked some little way inland, keeping along a road sunk in
the chalk. This now emerged on an exposed hill-side, swept by the
sea wind; which, though abated, still made talk less easy than in the
sheltered trench, or behind the long wall where Fenwick lit his cigar.
Vereker suggested turning back; and, accordingly, they turned. The
doctor found time to make up his mind that no harm could be done now
by referring to his interview with Rosalind, the day before.

"Your wife told me yesterday that you had just had a tiresome
recurrence when you came out after us--at the jetty-end, you know."

"Surely! So I had. Did she tell you what it was?" Evidently, in the
stress and turmoil of his subsequent experience in the night, it had
slipped from him. The doctor said a reminding word or two, and it
came back.

"I know, I know. I've got it now. That was last night. But now--that
again! _Why_ was it so horrible? That was dear old Kreutzkammer, at
'Frisco. What could there be horrible about _him_?..." A clear idea
shot into the doctor's mind--not a bad thing to work on.

"Fenwick!--don't you see how it is? These things are only horrible
to you _because_ you half recollect them. The pain is only the baffled
strain on the memory, not the thing you are trying to recover."

"Very likely." He assents, but his mind is dwelling on Kreutzkammer,
evidently. For he breaks into a really cheerful laugh, pleasant in
the ears of his companion. "Why, _that_ was Diedrich Kreutzkammer!"
he exclaims, "up at that Swiss place. And I didn't know him from Adam!"

"Of course it was. But look here, Fenwick--isn't what I say true?
Half the things that come back to you will be no pain at all when
you have fairly got hold of them. Only, _wait_! Don't struggle to
remember, but let them come."

"All right, old chap! I'll be good." But he has no very strong
convictions on the subject, clearly. The two walk on together in
silence as far as the low flint wall, in another recess of which
Fenwick lights another cigar, as before. Then he turns to the doctor
and says:

"Not a word of this to Rosey--nor to Sallykin!" The doctor seems
perplexed, but assents and promises. "Honest Injun!--as Sally says,"
adds Fenwick. And the doctor repeats that affidavit, and then says:

"I shall have to finesse a good deal. I can manage with Mrs. Fenwick.
But--I wish I felt equally secure with Miss Sally." He feels very
insecure indeed in that quarter, if the truth is told. And he is
afflicted with a double embarrassment here, as he has never left Sally
without her "miss" in speaking to Fenwick, while, on the other hand,
he holds a definite licence from her mother--is, as it were, a
chartered libertine. But that's a small matter, after all. The real
trouble is having to look Sally in the face and conceal anything.

"Miss who?" says Fenwick. "Oh--Sally, you mean! Of course she'll
rush the position. Trust her!" He can't help laughing as he thinks
of Sally, with Dr. Conrad vainly trying to protect his outworks.

The momentary hesitation about how to speak of Sally may have
something to do with Vereker's giving the conversation a twist. It
turns, however, on a point that has been waiting in his mind all
through their interview, ever since Fenwick spoke of his identity
with Harrisson.

"Look here, Fenwick," he says. "It's all very fine your talking about
keeping Mrs. Fenwick in the dark about this. I know it's for her own
sake--but you can't."

"And why not? I can't have Rosey know I have another wife living...."

"You don't know she's alive, for one thing!"

"H'm!... I don't _know_, certainly. But I should have known, somehow,
if she were dead. Of course, if further memory or inquiry proves that
she _is_ dead, that's another matter."

"But, in the meanwhile, how can you prove your identity with Harrisson
and claim all your property without her knowing?... What I mean is,
I can't think it out. There may be a way...."

"My dear boy"--Fenwick says this very quietly--"that's exactly the
reason why I said you would have to help me to settle whether I should
be that man again or not. I say _not_, if the decision lies with me."

"Not?--not _at all_?" The doctor fairly gasps; his breath is taken
away. Never perhaps was a young man freer from thought and influence
of money than he, more absorbed in professional study and untainted
by the supremacies of property. But for all that he was human, and
English, and theoretically accepted gold as the thing of things, the
one great aim and measure of success. Of other men's success, that
is, and _their_ aim, not his. For he was, in his own eyes, a humble
plodder, not in the swim at all. But he ascribed to the huge sums real
people had a right to, outside the limits of the likes of him, a kind
of sacredness that grew in a geometrical ratio with their increase.
It gave him much more pain to hear that a safe had been robbed of
thousands in gold than he felt when, on opening a wrapped-up fee,
what seemed a guinea to the touch turned out a new farthing and a
shilling to the sight. It was in the air that he lived in--that all
of us live in.

So, when Fenwick made in this placid way a choice of conduct that must
needs involve the sacrifice of sums large enough to be spoken of with
awe, even in the sacred precincts of a bank, poor Dr. Conrad felt that
all his powers of counsel had been outshot, and that his mind was
reeling on its pedestal. That a poor man should give up his savings
_en bloc_ to help a friend would have seemed to him natural and
reasonable; that he should do so for honest love of a woman still
more so; but that a millionaire should renounce his millions! Was
it decent? was it proper? was it considerate to Mammon? But that
must have been Fenwick's meaning, too. The doctor did not recover his
speech before Fenwick spoke again:

"Why should I claim all my property? How should I be the gainer if
it made Rosey unhappy?"

"I see. I quite see. I feel with you, you know; feel as you do. But
what will become of the money?"

"The poor darling money? Just think! It will lie neglected at the
bank, unclaimed, forsaken, doing no more mischief than when it was
harmless dust and nuggets in the sand of the Klondyke. While it was
there, gold was a bit--a mighty small bit--dearer than it has become
since. Now that it is in the keeping of chaps who won't give it up
half as easily as the Klondyke did, I suppose it has appreciated
again, as the saying is. The difference of cost between getting it out
of the ground and out of the bank is a negligible factor...." Fenwick
seemed to find ease in chatting economics in this way. Some of it was
so obviously true to Vereker that he at once concluded it would be
classed among fallacies; he had had experience of this sort of thing.
But he paid little attention, as he was thinking of how much of this
interview he could repeat to Sally, to whom every step they took
brought him nearer. The roar of a lion in his path was every moment
more audible to the ears of his imagination. And it left him silent;
but Fenwick went on speaking:

"We won't trouble about the darling dust and nuggets; let them lie
in pawn, and wait for a claimant. They won't find Mr. Harrisson's
heir-at-law in a hurry. If ever proof comes of the death of Mrs.
Harrisson--whoever she was--I'll be Mr. Harrisson again. Till
then...."

"Till then what?"

"Till then, Vereker dear"--Fenwick said this very seriously, with
emphasis--"till then we shall do most wisely to say nothing further
to Mrs. Fenwick or to Sally. You must see that it won't be possible
to pick and choose, to tell this and reserve that. I shall speak of the
recurrences of memory that come to me, as too confused for repetition.
I shall tell lies about them if I think it politic. Because I can't
have Rosey made miserable on any terms. As for the chick, you'll have
to manage the best you can."

"I'll do my best," the doctor says, without a particle of confidence
in his voice. "But about yourself, Fenwick?"

"I shall do very well, as long as I can have a chat with you now and
again. You've no idea what a lot of good it has done me, this talking
to you. And, of course, I haven't told you one-tenth of the things
I remember. There was one thing I wanted to say though just now, and
we got off the line--what was it now? Oh, I know, about my name. It
wasn't really Harrisson."

"Not really Harrisson? What was it then?" What next, and next?--is
the import of the speaker's face.

"I'll be hanged if I know! But it's true, rum as it seems. I know I
knew it wasn't Harrisson every time I signed a cheque in America. But
as for what it _was_, that all belongs to the dim time before. Isn't
that them coming to meet us?"

Yes, it was. And there was something else also the doctor had had it
on his tongue to say, and it had got away on a siding. But it didn't
matter--it was only about whether the return of memory had or had not
been due to the galvanic battery on the pier.



CHAPTER XXXVII

OF THE DOCTOR'S CAUTIOUS RESERVE, AND MRS. FENWICK'S STRONG COMMON-SENSE.
  AND OF A LADY AT BUDA-PESTH. HOW HARRISSON WAS ONLY PAST FORGOTTEN
  NEWSPAPERS TO DR. VEREKER. OF THE OCTOPUS'S PULSE, HOW THE HABERDASHER'S
  BRIDE WOULD TRY ON AT TWO GUAS. A WEEK, AND OF A PLEASANT WALK BACK
  FROM THE RAILWAY STATION


"You never mean to say you've been in the water?"

It was quite clear, from the bluish finger-tips of the gloveless
merpussy--for at St. Sennans sixes are not _de rigueur_ in the
morning--that she _has_ been in, and has only just come out. But
Fenwick, who asked the question, grasped a handful of loose black hair
for confirmation, and found it wet.

"Haven't I?" says the incorrigible one. "And you should have heard the
rumpus over getting a machine down."

"She's a selfish little monkey," her mother says, but forgivingly,
too. "She'll drown herself, and not care a penny about all the trouble
she gives." You see, Rosalind wouldn't throw her words into this
callous form if she was really thinking about the merpussy. But just
now she is too anxious about Gerry to be very particular.

What has passed between him and Dr. Conrad? What does the latter know
now more than she does herself? She falls back with him, and allows
the other two to go on in front. Obviously the most natural
arrangement.

"What has he told you, Dr. Conrad?" This is not unexpected, and the
answer is a prepared one, preconcerted under pressure between the
doctor and his conscience.

"I am going to ask you, Mrs. Fenwick, to do me a very great
kindness--don't say yes without hearing what it is--to ask you to
allow me to keep back all your husband says to me, and to take for
granted that he repeats to you all he feels certain of himself in
his own recollections."

"He _has_ told you more?"

"Yes, he has. But I am far from certain that anything he has said can
be relied upon--in his present state. Anyway, I should be very sorry
to take upon myself the responsibility of repeating it."

"He wishes you not to do so?"

"I think so. I should say so. Do you mind?"

"I won't press you to repeat anything you wish to keep back. But is
his mind easier? After all, that's the main point."

"That is my impression--much easier." He felt he was quite warranted
in saying this. "And I should say that if he does not himself tell
you again whatever he has been saying to me, it will only show how
uncertain and untrustworthy all his present recollections are. I
cannot tell you how strongly I feel that the best course is to leave
his mind to its own natural development. It may even be that the
partial and distorted images of events such as he has been speaking
of to me...."

"I mustn't ask you what they were?... Yes, go on."

"May again become dim and disappear altogether. If they are to do so,
nothing can be gained by dwelling on them now--still less by trying
to verify them--and least of all by using them as a stimulus to further
recollection."

"You think I had better not ask him questions?"

"Exactly. Leave him to himself. Keep his mind on other matters--healthy
occupations, surrounding life. I am certain of one thing--that the
effort to disinter the past is painful to him in itself, quite
independent of any painful associations in what he is endeavouring to
recall."

"I have seen that, too, in the slight recurrences he has had when
I was there. I quite agree with you about the best course to pursue.
Let us have patience and wait."

Of course, Vereker had not the remotest conception that the less
Fenwick remembered, the better his wife would be pleased. So the
principal idea in his mind at that moment was, what a very sensible
as well as handsome woman he was talking to! It was the way in which
most people catalogued Rosalind Fenwick. But her ready assent to his
wishes had intensified the doctor's first item of description. A
subordinate wave of his thought created an image of the girl Fenwick
must have pictured to himself coming out of the railway carriage. He
only repeated: "Let us have patience, and wait," with a feeling of
relief from possible further catechism.

But in order to avoid showing his wish to abate inquiry, he could talk
about aspects of the case that would not involve it. He could tell of
analogous cases well known, or in his own practice. For instance, that
of a Frenchwoman who wandered away from Amiens, unconscious of her
past and her identity, and somehow got to Buda-Pesth. There, having
retained perfect powers of using her mother-tongue, and also speaking
German fluently, she had all but got a good teachership in a school,
only she had no certificate of character. With a great effort she
recalled the name of a lady at Amiens she felt she could write to for
one, and did so. "Fancy her husband's amazement," said Dr. Conrad,
"when, on opening a letter addressed to his wife in her own
handwriting, he found it was an application from Fräulein Schmidt, or
some German name, asking for a testimonial!" He referred also to the
many cases of the caprices of memory he had met with in his studies of
the _petit-mal_ of epilepsy, a subject to which he had given special
attention. It may have crossed his mind that his companion had fallen
very thoroughly in with his views about not dissecting her husband's
case overmuch for the present. But he put it down, if it did, to her
strong common-sense. It is rather a singular thing how very ready men
are to ascribe this quality--whatever it is--to a beautiful woman.
Especially if she agrees with them.

Nevertheless the doctor was not very sorry when he saw that Sally and
Fenwick, on in front, had caught up with--or been caught up with by--a
mixed party, of a sort to suspend, divert, or cancel all conversation
of a continuous sort. Miss Gwendolen Arkwright and her next eldest
sister had established themselves on Fenwick's shoulders, and the
Julius Bradshaws had just intersected them from a side-alley. The
latter were on the point of extinction; going back to London by the
3.15, and everything packed but what they had on. It was a clear
reprieve, till 3.15 at any rate.

There could be no doubt, thought Rosalind to herself, that her
husband's conversation with Vereker had made him easier in his mind
than when she saw him last, just after breakfast. No doubt he was all
the better, too, for the merpussy's account of her exploit on the
beach; of how she managed to overrule old Gabriel and get a
machine put down, contrary to precedent, common caution, and public
opinion--even in the face of urgent remonstrance from her Swiss
acquaintance, almost as good a swimmer as herself; how she had picked
out a good big selvage-wave to pop in under, and when she got beyond
it enjoyed all the comfort incidental to being in bed with the door
locked. Because, you see, she exaggerated. However, one thing she
said was quite true. There were no breakers out beyond the said
selvage-wave, because the wind had fallen a great deal, and seemed
to have given up the idea of making any more white foam-crests for
the present. But there would be more wind again in the night, said
authority. It was only a half-holiday for Neptune.

Sally's bracing influence was all the stronger from the fact of her
complete unconsciousness of anything unusual. Her mother had said
nothing to her the day before of the revival of Baron Kreutzkammer,
nor had Dr. Conrad, acting under cautions given. And all Sally knew of
the wakeful night was that her mother had found Fenwick walking about,
unable to sleep, and had said at breakfast he might just as well have
his sleep out now. To which she had agreed, and had then gone away to
see if "the Tishies," as she called them, were blown away, and had met
the doctor coming to see if _she_ was. So she was in the best of moods
as an antidote to mind-cloudage. And Fenwick, under the remedy, seemed
to her no more unlike himself than was to be expected after not a wink
till near daylight. The object of this prolixity is that it may be
borne in mind that Sally never shared her mother's or her undeclared
lover's knowledge of the strange mental revival caused--as seemed most
probable--by the action of the galvanic battery on the previous day.

       *       *       *       *       *

Vereker walked back to his Octopus, whom he had forsaken for an
unusually long time, with his brain in a whirl at the strange
revelation he had just heard. His medical experience had put him well
on his guard anent one possibility--that the whole thing might be
delusion on Fenwick's part. How could such an imperfect memory-record
be said to prove anything without confirmation from without?

His habits of thought had qualified him to keep this possibility
provisionally in the background without forgetting it. There was
nothing in the mere knowledge of its existence to prevent his trying
to recall all he could of the story of the disappearance of Harrisson,
as he read it in the newspapers a year and a half ago. There had been
a deal of talk about it at the time, and great efforts had been made
to trace Harrisson, but without success. The doctor lingered a
little on his way, conscious that he could recall very little of
the Harrisson case, but too interested to be able to leave his
recollections dormant until he should get substantial information.
The Octopus could recollect all about it no doubt, but how venture to
apply to her? Or how to Sally? Though, truly, had he done so, it would
have been with much less hope of a result. Neither Sally nor her
mother were treasure-houses of the day's gossip, as _his_ mother was.
"We must have taken mighty little notice of what was going on in the
world at the time," so thought the doctor to himself.

What _did_ he actually recollect? A paragraph headed "Disappearance
of a Millionaire" in a hurried perusal of an evening paper as he rode
to an urgent case; a repetition--several repetitions--on the newspaper
posters of the name Harrisson during the fortnight following, chiefly
disclosing supposed discoveries of the missing man, sandwiched with
other discoveries of their falsehood--clue and disappointment by
turns. He could remember his own perfectly spurious interest in the
case, produced by such announcements staring at him from all points
of the compass, and his own preposterous contributions to talk-making
about them, such as "Have they found that man Harrisson yet?" knowing
himself the merest impostor all the while, but feeling it dutiful
to be up-to-date. How came no one of them all to put two and two
together?

A gleam of a solution was supplied to the doctor's mind when he
set himself to answer the question, "How should I have gone about
suspecting it?" How, indeed? Ordinary every-day people--_you_'s
and _me_'s--can't lightly admit to our minds the idea that we
have actually got mixed up with the regular public people in the
newspapers. Have not even our innocent little announcements that we
have been born, or died, or got married, always had a look of having
got in by accident, or under some false pretence? Have we not felt
inflated when a relation of ours has had a letter to a newspaper
inserted, in real print, with his own name as bold as brass? Vereker
was not surprised, on thinking it over, that he personally had missed
the clue. And if he, why not others? Besides, all the Harrisson talk
had been superseded by some more exciting matter before it had been
recognised as possible that Fenwick's memory might never come back.

Just as he arrived at Mrs. Iggulden's a thought struck him--not
heavily; only a light, reminding flick--and he stopped a minute to
see what it had to say. It referred to his interview with Scotland
Yard, some six weeks after Fenwick's first appearance.

He could recall that in the course of his interview one of the
younger officials spoke in an undertone to his chief; who thereon,
after consideration, turned to the doctor and said, "Had not your
man a panama hat? I understood you to say so;" and on receiving an
affirmative reply, spoke again in an undertone to his subordinate
to the effect, half-caught by Vereker, that "Alison's hat was black
felt." Did he say by any chance Harrisson, not Alison? If so, might
not that account for a rather forbidding or opposive attitude on the
Yard's part? He remembered something of fictitious claimants coming
forward, representing themselves as Harrisson--desperate bidders for
a chance of the Klondyke gold. They might easily have supposed this
man and his quenched memory another of the same sort. Evidently if
investigation was not to suffer from overgrown suspicion, only young
and guileless official instinct could be trusted--plain-clothes
_ingénus_. Dr. Conrad laughed to himself over a particularly
outrageous escapade of Sally's, who, when her mother said they always
sent such very young chicks of constables to Glenmoira Road in the
morning, impudently ascribed them to inspector's eggs, laid overnight.

       *       *       *       *       *

"My pulse--feel it!" His Goody mother greeted the doctor with a feeble
voice from inarticulate lips, and a wrist outstretched. She was being
moribund; to pay him out for being behindhand.

He skipped all interims, and said, with negligible inaccuracy, "It's
only a quarter past."

"Don't talk, but feel!" Her failing senses could indulge a little
impatience; but it was like throwing ballast out of a balloon. She
meant to be all the worse directly.

Her son felt the outstretched wrist, and was relieved to find it
normal--almost abnormally normal, just before lunch! But he had to
pretend. A teaspoonful of brandy in half a glass of water, clearly!
He knew she hated it, but she had better swallow it down. _That_ was
right! And he would hurry Mrs. Iggulden with lunch. However, Mrs.
Iggulden had been beforehand, having seen her good gentleman coming
and the table all laid ready, so she got the steak on, only she knew
there would something happen if too much hurry and sure enough she
broke a decanter. We do not like the responsibility of punctuation
in this sentence.

"I thought you had forgotten me," quoth the revived Goody to her son,
assisting her to lunch. But the excellent woman said _me_ (as if it
was the name of somebody else, and spelt _M_ double _E_) with a
compassionate moan.

Rosalind was glad to see her husband in good spirits again. He was
quite like himself before that unfortunate little galvanic battery
upset everything. Perhaps its effect would go off, and all he had
remembered of the past grow dim again. It was a puzzle, even to
Rosalind herself, that her natural curiosity about all Gerry's
unknown history should become as nothing in view of the unwelcome
contingencies that history might disclose. It spoke well for the
happiness of the _status quo_ that she was ready to forego the
satisfaction of this curiosity altogether rather than confront its
possible disturbing influences. "If we can only know nothing about
it, and be as we are!" was the thought uppermost in her mind.

It certainly was a rare piece of good luck that, owing to Sally's
leaving the house before Fenwick appeared, and running away to her
madcap swim before he could join her and the doctor, she had just
avoided seeing him during the worst of his depression. Indeed, his
remark that he had not slept well seemed to account for all she had
seen in the morning. And in the afternoon, when the whole party, minus
the doctor, walked over to St. Egbert's Station for the honeymoon
portion of it to take its departure for town, and the other three to
say farewells, Fenwick was quite in his usual form. Only his wife
watched for any differences, and unless it was that he gave way rather
more freely than usual to the practice of walking with his arm round
herself or Sally, or both, she could detect nothing. As the road they
took was a quiet one, and they met scarcely a soul, no exception on
the score of dignity was taken to this by Rosalind; and as for Sally,
her general attitude was "Leave Jeremiah alone--he shall do as he
likes." Lætitia's mental comment was that it wasn't Oxford Street
this time, and so it didn't matter.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I shall walk straight into papa's library," said that young married
lady in answer to an inquiry from Sally, as they fell back a little
to chat. "I shall just walk straight in and say we've come back."

"What do you suppose the Professor will say?"

"My dear!--it's the merest toss up. If he's got some very interesting
Greek or Phoenician nonsense on hand, he'll let me kiss him over
his shoulder and say, 'All right--I'm busy.' If it's only the
Cosmocyclopædia work--which he doesn't care about, only it pays--he
may look up and kiss me, or even go so far as to say: 'Well!--and
where's master Julius?' But I don't expect he'll give any active help
in the collision with mamma, which is sure to come. I rather hope she
won't be at home the first time."

"Why? Wouldn't it be better to have it over and done with?" Sally
always wants to clinch everything.

"Yes, of course; only the second time mamma's edge will be all taken
off, and she'll die down. Besides, the crucial point is Paggy kissing
her. It's got to be done, and it will be such a deal easier if I can
get Theeny and Classy kissed first." Classy was the married sister,
Clarissa. "After all, mamma must have got a shred of common-sense
somewhere, and she must know that when things can neither be cured
nor endured you have to pretend, sooner or later."

"You bottle up when it comes to that," said Sally philosophically.
"But I shouldn't wonder, Tishy, if you found your Goody aggravating,
too. She'll talk about haberdashers."

"Oh, my dear, haberdashers are a trifle! If that was all she might
talk herself hoarse. Besides, I can stop that by the mantle
department."

"What about it? Oh, I know, though!--about your being worth two guineas
a week to try on. She would know you were not serious, though."

"Would she? I'm not so sure about it myself--not sure I'm not serious,
I mean."

"Oh, Tishy! You don't mean you would go and try on at two guineas
a week?"

"I really don't know, Sally dear. If I'm to have my husband's
profession flung in my face at every turn, I may just as well have the
advantage of it by a side-wind. Think what two guineas a week means!
A hundred and four guineas a year--remember! guineas, not pounds.
And Paggy thinks he could get it arranged for us to go out and dine
together in the middle of the day at an Italian restaurant...."

"I say, what a lark!" Sally immediately warms up to the scheme. "I
could come, too. Do you know, Tishy dear, I was just going to twit
you with the negro and his spots. But now I won't."

       *       *       *       *       *

The Julius Bradshaws must have reached home early, as our story will
show later that the anticipated collision with the Dragon took place
the same evening. No great matter for surprise, this, to any one who
has noticed the energetic impatience for immediate town-event in folk
just off a holiday. These two were too keen to grapple with their
domestic problem to allow of delays. So, after getting some dinner in
a hurry at Georgiana Terrace, Bayswater, they must needs cab straight
away to Ladbroke Grove Road. As for what happened when they got there,
we shall know as much as we want of it later. For the present our
business lies with Fenwick and his wife; to watch, in sympathy with
the latter, for the next development in the strange mental state of the
former, and to hope with her, as it must be confessed, for continued
quiescence; or, better still, for a complete return of oblivion.

It seemed so cruelly hard to Rosalind that it might not be. What had
she to gain by the revival of a forgotten past--a past her own share
of which she had for twenty years striven to forget? Utterly guiltless
as, conceivably, she may have known herself to be, she had striven
against that past as the guilty strive with the memory of a concealed
crime. And here was she, at the end of this twenty years, with all
she most longed for at the beginning in her possession, mysteriously
attained with a thoroughness no combination of circumstances, no
patience or forbearance of her own, no self-restraint or generosity of
her young husband's could possibly have brought about. Think only of
what we do know of this imperfect story! Conceive that it should have
been possible for the Algernon Palliser of those days to know and
understand it to the full; indulge the supposition, however strained
it may be, that his so knowing it would not have placed him in a
felon's dock for the prompt and righteous murder of the betrayer--we
take the first convenient name--of the woman he loved. Convince
yourself this could have been; figure to yourself a happy wedded
life for the couple after Miss Sally had made her unconscious _début_
with the supremest indifference to her antecedents; construct a
hypothetical bliss for them at all costs, and then say if you can
fill out the picture with a relation between Sally and her putative
father to be compared for a moment to the one chance has favoured
now for the stepfather and stepdaughter of our story.

Our own imagination is at fault about the would-have-beens and
might-have-beens in this case. The only picture our mind can form of
what would have followed a full grasp of all the facts by Algernon
Palliser may be dictated or suggested by a memory of what sent Mr.
Salter, of Livermore's Rents, 1808, to the hospital. Rosalind knew
nothing of Mr. Salter, but she could remember well all Gerry's feats
of strength in his youth--all the cracking of walnuts in his
arm-joints and bending of kitchen-pokers across his neck--and also,
too well, an impotence against his own anger when provoked; it had
died down now to a trifle, but she could detect the trifle still.
Was such an executive to be trusted not to take the law into its own
hands, to fall into the grasp of an offended legislative function
later--one too dull to be able to define offence so as to avoid the
condemnation, now and again, of a culprit whose technical crime has
the applause of the whole human race? Had the author of all her
wrongs met his death at the hands of her young husband, might not
this husband of her later life--beside her now--be still serving his
time at the galleys, with every compulsory sharer in his condemnation
thinking him a hero?

It was all so much better as it had turned out. Only, could it
remain so?

At least, nothing was wrong now, at this moment. Whatever her husband
had said to Vereker in that morning walk, the present hour was a
breathing-space for Rosalind. The Kreutzkammer recurrence of the
previous evening was losing its force for her, and there had been
nothing since that she knew of. "Chaotic ideas"--the phrase he had
used in the night--might mean anything or nothing.

They came back from the railway-station by what was known to them as
the long short cut in contradistinction to the short short cut. The
latter, Sally said, had the courage of its opinions, while the former
was a time-serving cut. Could she have influenced it at the first
go-off--when it originally started from the V-shaped stile your skirts
stuck in, behind the Wheatsheaf--it might have mustered the resolution
to go straight on, instead of going off at a tangent to Gattrell's
Farm, half a mile out of the way. Was it intimidated by a statement
that trespassers would be prosecuted, nailed to an oak-tree, legible
a hundred years ago, perhaps, when its nails were not rust, and really
held it tight--instead of, as now, merely countenancing its wish to
remain from old habit? It may have been so frightened in its timid
youth; but if so, surely the robust self-assertion of its straight
start for Gattrell's had in it something of contempt for the poor old
board, coupled with its well-known intention of turning to the left
and going slap through the wood the minute you (or it) got there. It
may even have twitted that board with its apathy in respect of
trespassers. Had the threat _ever_ been carried out?

The long short cut was, according to the aborigines, a goodish
step longer than the road, geometrically. But there was some
inner sense--moral, ethical, spiritual--somehow metaphysical or
supraphysical--in which it was a short cut, for all that. The road
was a dale farther, some did say, along of the dust. But, then, there
was no dust now, because it was all laid. So the reason why was allowed
to lapse, and the fact to take care of itself for once. Helped by an
illusion that a path through an undergrowth of nut-trees and an
overgrowth of oak on such a lovely afternoon as this wasn't distance
at all--even when you got hooked in the brambles--and by other
palliative incidents, it was voted a very short cut indeed. Certainly
not too long for Rosalind's breathing-space, and had it been even
a longer short cut she would have been well contented.

Every hour passed now, without a new recurrence of some bygone, was
going to give her--she knew it well beforehand--a sense of greater
security. And every little incident on the walk that made a
change in the rhythm of event was welcome. When they paused for
refreshments--ginger-beer in stone bottles--at Gattrell's, and old
Mrs. Gattrell, while she undid the corks, outlined the troubles of her
husband's family and her own, she felt grateful for both to have kept
clear of India and "the colonies." No memories of California or the
Arctic Circle could arise from Mrs. Gattrell's twin-sister Debory,
who suffered from information--internal information, mind you; an
explanation necessary to correct an impression of overstrain to the
mind in pursuit of research. Nor from her elder sister Hannah, whose
neuralgic sick headaches were a martyrdom to herself, but apparently
a source of pride to her family. Of which the inflation, strange to
say, was the greater because Dr. Knox was of opinion that they would
yield to treatment and tonics; though the old lady herself was opposed
to both, and said elder-flower-water. She was a pleasant old personage,
Mrs. Gattrell, who always shone out as a beacon of robust health above
a fever-stricken, paralysed, plague-spotted, debilitated, and
disintegrating crowd of blood-relations and connexions by marriage.
But not one of all these had ever left the soil they were born on,
none of Mrs. Gattrell's people holding with foreign parts. And nothing
whatever had ever taken place at St. Egbert's till the railway come;
so it wasn't likely to arouse memories of the ice-fields of the
northern cold or the tiger-hunts of the southern heat.

Rosalind found herself asking of each new thing as it arose: "Will
this bring anything fresh to his mind, or will it pass?" The wood-path
the nut-tree growth all but closed over on either side she decided
was safe; it could taste of nothing but his English school-boyhood,
before ever she knew him. But the sudden uprush of the covey of
partridges from the stubble, and their bee-line for a haven in the
next field--surely danger lay that way? Think what a shot he was in the
old days! However, he only said, "Poor dears, they don't know how near
the thirty-first is," and seemed to be able to know that much from
past experience without discomfort at not knowing more.

When Sally proposed fortune-telling in connexion with a _bona-fide_
gipsy woman, who looked (she said) exactly like in "Lavengro," her
mother's first impulse was to try and recall if she and the Gerry
of old times had ever been in contact with gipsies, authentic or
otherwise, and, after decision in the negative, to feel that this
wanderer was more welcome than not, as having a tendency to conduct
his mind safely into new channels. Even the conclave of cows he had
to disperse that they might get through a gate--cows that didn't mind
how long they waited at it, having time on their hands--suggested the
same kind of query. She was rapidly getting to look at everything
from the point of view of what it was going to remind her husband
of. She must struggle against the habit that was forming, or it
would become insupportable. But then, again, the thought would come
back that every hour that passed without an alarm was another step
towards a safe haven; and who could say that in a week or so things
might not be, at least, no worse than they were before this pestilent
little galvanic battery broke in upon her peace?

The fact that he had spoken of new memories to Vereker and had not
repeated them to her was no additional source of uneasiness; rather,
if anything, the contrary. For she could not entertain the idea that
Gerry would keep back from her anything he could tell to Vereker. What
had actually happened was necessarily inconceivable by her--that
a _recollected recollection_ of his own marriage with her should be
interpreted by him as a memory of a marriage with some other woman
unknown, who might, for anything he knew, be still living; that his
inference as to the bearing of this on his own conduct was that he
should refrain, at any cost to himself, from claiming, so to speak,
his own identity; should accept the personality chance had forced upon
him for her sake; should even forego the treasure of her sympathy,
more precious far to him than the heavy score to his credit at the
banks of New York and San Francisco, rather than dig up what needs
must throw doubt on the validity of their marriage, and turn her path
of life, now smooth, to one of stones and thorns. For that was the
course he had sketched out for himself; and had it only been possible
for oblivion to draw a sharp line across the slowly reviving record,
and to say to memory: "Thus far shalt thou go, and no farther,"
Fenwick might have persevered in this course successfully till now.
And then all our story would have been told--at least, as far as
Rosalind and Fenwick go. And we might say farewell to them at this
moment as the cows reluctantly surrender passage-way of the long short
cut, and Gerry saunters on, seemingly at ease from his own mind's
unwelcome activities, with Sally on one arm and his wife in the other,
and Mrs. Grundy nowhere. But no conspiracies are possible to memory
and oblivion. They are a couple that act independently and consult
nobody's convenience but their own.

It may easily be that Rosalind, had she been mistress of all the facts
and taken in the full position, would have decided to run the risks
incidental to confronting her husband with his own past--taken him
into her confidence and told him. With the chance in view that his
reason might become unsettled from the chronic torment of constant
half-revivals of memory, would it not almost be safer to face the
acute convulsion of a sudden _éclaircissement_--to put happiness
to the touch, and win or lose it all? Sally could be got out of the
way for long enough to allow of a resumption of equilibrium after
the shock of the first disclosure and a completely established
understanding that she _must not be told_, come what might. Supposing
that she could tell, and he could hear, the whole story of twenty
years ago better than when a terrible position warped it for
teller and hearer in what had since become to her an intolerable
dream--supposing this done, and each could understand the other, might
not the very strangeness of the fact that the small new life that
played so large a part in that dream had become Sally since, and was
the only means by which Sally could have been established, might not
this tell for peace? Might it not even raise the question, "What does
a cloud of twenty years ago matter at all?" and suggest the answer,
"Nothing? For did not Sally come to us out of the cloud, and could
we do without her?"

But Rosalind's half-insight into the patchwork of her husband's
perceptions warranted no step so decisive. Rather, if anything, it
pointed to a gradual resumption of his _status quo_ of a few days ago.
After all, had he not had (and completely forgotten) recurrences like
that of the Baron and the fly-wheel? Well, perhaps the last was a
shade more vivid than the others. But then see now, had he not
forgotten it already to all outward seeming?

So that the minds of the two of them worked to a common end--silence.
Hers in the hope that the effects of the galvanic current--if that did
it--would die away and leave him rest for his; his in the fear that
behind the unraised curtain that still hid his early life from himself
was hidden what might become a baleful power to breed unrest for hers.

But it all depended on his own mastery of himself. Except he told it,
who should know that he was Harrisson? And _how_ he felt the shelter
of the gold! Who was going to suspect that a man who could command
wealth in six figures by disclosing his identity, would keep it
a secret? And for his wife's sake too! A pitiful four-or five-figure
man might--yes. But hundreds of thousands!--think of it!



CHAPTER XXXVIII

OF AN EXPEDITION AGAINST A GOODY, AND THE WALK BACK TO LOBJOIT'S. AND
  THE WALK BACK AGAIN TO IGGULDEN'S. HOW FENWICK TOOK VEREKER'S
  CONFIDENCE BY STORM. OF A COLLIER THAT PUT TO SEA. SUCCESSFUL
  AMBUSCADE OF THE OCTOPUS. PROVISIONAL EQUILIBRIUM OF FENWICK'S MIND.
  WHY BOTHER ABOUT HORACE? WHY NOT ABOUT PICKWICK JUST AS MUCH? THE
  KITTEN WASN'T THERE--CERTAINLY NOT!


So it came about that during the remainder of that day and part of the
next Fenwick either made no further exploration of his past; or, if
he did so, concealed his discoveries. For he not only kept silence
with Rosalind, but even with Vereker was absolutely reserved, never
alluding to their conversation of the morning. And the doctor accepted
this reserve, and asked no questions.

As for Rosalind, she was only too glad to catch at the support of the
medical authority and to abstain from question or suggestion; for the
present certainly, and, unless her silence--as might be--should seem
to imply a motive on her part, to maintain it until her husband
revived the subject by disclosing further recollections of the bygone
time. Happily Sally knew nothing about it; _that_ her mother was
convinced of. And Sally wasn't likely to know anything, for Vereker's
professional discretion could be relied on, even if her suspicions
were excited. And, really, except that Fenwick seemed a little drowsy
and reflective, and that Rosalind had a semitone of consolation in her
manner towards him, there was nothing to excite suspicion.

       *       *       *       *       *

After the cows--this is an expression borrowed from Sally, later in
the afternoon--conversation flagged through the rest of the walk home.
Except for regrets, more than once expressed, that it would be much
too late for tea when we got in, and a passing word on the fact that
at the seaside one got as greedy as some celebrated glutton--a Roman
emperor, perhaps--very few ideas were interchanged. But a little
conversation was made out of the scarcity of a good deal, for the
persistent optimism of Sally recognised that it was awfully jolly
saying nothing on such a lovely evening. Slight fatigue, combined
with the beauty of sky and sea and distant downland, the lengthening
shadows of the wheatsheaves, and the scarlet of poppies in the
stubble, seemed good to justify contemplation and silence. It was an
hour to caress in years to come, none the less that it was accepted as
the mere routine of daily life in the short term of its existence. It
was an hour that came to an end when the party arrived at the hedge of
the unripe sloes that had checked the onset of Albion Villas towards
the new town, and passed through the turnstile Fenwick and Vereker had
passed through in the morning. Then speech came back, and each did
what all folk invariably do after a long spell of silence--revealed
what they were being silent about, or seemed to be. Most likely
Fenwick's contribution was only a blind, as his mind must have been
full of many thoughts he wished to keep to himself.

"I wonder when Paganini's young woman's row with her mother's going
to come off--to-day or to-morrow?"

"I was wondering whether it would come off at all. I dare say she'll
accept the inevitable." Thus Rosalind, and for our part we believe
this also was not quite candid--in fact, was really suggested by her
husband's remark. But Sally's was a genuine disclosure, and really
showed what her mind had been running on.

"I've been meditating a Crusade," she said, with remoteness from
current topics in her voice. And both her companions immediately
made concessions to one that seemed to them genuine as compared with
their own.

"Against whom, kitten?" said her mother.

And Fenwick reinforced her with, "Yes, who's the Crusade to be
against, Sarah?"

"Against the Octopus." And Sally says this with the most perfectly
unconscious gravity, as though a Crusade against an octopus was a
very common occurrence in every-day life. The eyes of her companions
twinkle a little interchange across her unseen, but are careful to
keep anything suggesting a smile out of their voices as they apply
for enlightenment.

"Because of poor Prosy," Sally explains. "You'll see now. She won't
allow him to come round this evening, you see if she does!" She is
so intent upon her subject-matter that they might almost have smiled
aloud without detection, after all.

"When's it to come off, Sarah--the Crusade?"

"I was thinking of going round this evening if he doesn't turn up."

"Suppose we all go," Fenwick suggests. And Rosalind assents.
The Crusade may be considered organized. "We'll give him till
eight-forty-five," Sally says, forecasting strategy, "and then if
he doesn't come we'll go."

Eight-forty-five came, but no doctor. So the Crusade came off as
arranged, with the result that the Christian forces, on arriving in
the neighbourhood of Jerusalem, found that the Octopus responsible
for the personation of the Saracens had just gone to bed. It was an
ill-advised Crusade, because if the Christians had only had a little
patience, the released prisoner would have looked round as soon as
his janitor was asleep. As it turned out, no sooner were the visitors'
voices audible than the Octopus became alive to the pleasures of
society, and renounced sleep in its favour. She would slip something
on and come down, and did so. Her doing so was out of keeping with the
leading idea of the performance, presenting the Paynim as an obliging
race; but a meek and suffering one, though it never aired its
grievances. These, however, were the chief subjects of conversation
during the visit, which, in spite of every failure in dramatic
propriety, was always spoken of in after days as "the Crusade." It
came to an end in due course, the Saracen host retiring to bed, with
benedictions.

       *       *       *       *       *

Vereker walked back with our friends to Mrs. Lobjoit's through the
sweet night-air a considerate little shower of rain, that came down
while they were sympathetically engaged, had just washed clean.
Vapour-drifts that were wavering between earth and sky, and
sacrificing their birthright of either cloudship or foghood, were
accompanying a warm sea-wind towards the north. Out beyond, and quite
clear of all responsibility for them and theirs, was a flawless
heaven with the stellar and planetary universe in it, pitiless and
passionless eyes perhaps--as Tennyson calls them--and strange fires;
but in this case without power to burn and brand their nothingness
into the visitors to St. Sennans, who laughed and talked and smoked
and took no notice; and, indeed, rather than otherwise, considered
that Orion's Belt and Aldebaran had been put there to make it a fine
night for them to laugh and talk and smoke in.

It was pleasant to Vereker, after his walk with Fenwick in the
morning, to find the latter like his usual cheerful self again. The
doctor had had rather a trying time with his Goody mother, so that the
day had been more one of tension than of peace, and it was a heavenly
respite to him from filial duties dutifully borne, to walk home with
the goddess of his paradise--the paradise that was so soon to come to
an end and send him to the release of his "locum," Mr. Neckitt. Never
mind. The having such a time to look back to in the future was quite
as much as one general practitioner, with a duty to his mother, could
in reason expect. Was Dr. Conrad aware, we wonder, how much the
philosophical resignation that made this attitude of thought possible
was due to the absence of any other visible favoured applicant for
Miss Sally, and the certainty that he would see her once or twice
a week at least after he had gone back to his prescriptions and his
diary of cases?

Probably he wasn't; and when, on arriving at Lobjoit's, Fenwick
announced that he didn't want to go in yet, and would accompany the
doctor back to Iggulden's and take a turn round, the only misgiving
that could try for an insecure foothold in the mind now given up to a
delirium it called Sally was one that Fenwick might have some new
painful memory to tell. But he was soon at rest about this. Fenwick
wasn't going to talk about himself. Very much the reverse, if one's own
reverse is some one else. He was going to talk about the doctor, into
whose arm he slipped his own as soon as he had lighted his second cigar.
For they had not walked quick from Iggulden's.

"Now tell me about Sir Dioscorides Nayler and the epileptiform
disorders."

"Miss Sally's been telling you...."

"No, she didn't--Sally did." Both laughed. The doctor will make it
Sally next time--that's understood. "You told Sally and she told me.
What's the damage to be?"

"How much did Sally tell you?" The little formality comes easier to
the doctor's shyness as it figures, this time, quotation-wise. It is
a repeat of Fenwick's use of it.

"Sally said three thousand."

"Yes, that's what I told her. But it's not official. He may want more.
He may let me have it for three. Only I don't know why I should have
it for less than any one else."

"Never you mind why! That's no concern of yours, my dear boy. What
you've got to think of is of yourself and Mrs. Vereker. Dioscorides
will take care of himself--trust him!"

"Yes, of course, I have to think of my mother." One can hear in the
speaker's voice what may be either self-reproach for having neglected
this aspect of the case, or very tolerant indictment of Fenwick for
having mistakenly thought he had done so.

"What's the man thinking of? Of course you have, but I didn't mean
your mother. She's a dear old lady"--this came grudgingly--"but
I didn't mean her. I meant the Mrs. Vereker that's to come. Your wife,
dear fellow, your wife."

The way the young man flushed up, hesitated, stammered, couldn't
organize a sane word, amused Fenwick intensely. Of course he was, so
to speak, quite at home--understood the position thoroughly. But he
wasn't going to torment the doctor. He was only making it impossible
for him to avoid confession, for his own sake. He did not wait for
the stammering to take form, but continued:

"I mean the young lady you told Sally about--the young lady you
are hesitating to propose to because there'll be what you call
complications in medicine--complications about your mamma, to put it
plainly.... Oh yes, of course, Sally told me all about it directly."
Vereker cannot resist a laugh, for all his embarrassment, a laugh
which somehow had the image of Sally in it. "She _would_, you know.
Sally's the sort of party that--that, if she'd been Greek, would
have been the daughter of an Arcadian shepherdess and a thunderbolt."

"Of course she would. I say, Fenwick, look here...."

"Have another cigar, old man."

"No, I've smoked enough. That one's lasted all the time since we came
out. Look here--what I want to say is ... well, that I was a great
fool--did wrong in fact--to talk to Sally about that young lady...."

"And to that young lady about Sally," Fenwick says quietly. For half
a second--such alacrity has thought--Vereker takes his meaning wrong;
thinks he really believes in the other young lady. Then it flashes
on him, and he knows how his companion has been seeing through him
all the while. But so lovable is Fenwick, and so much influence is
there in the repose of his strength, that there is no resentment
on Vereker's part that he should be thus seen through. He surrenders
at discretion.

"I see you know," he says helplessly.

"Know you love Sally?--of course I do! So does her mother. So does
yours, for that matter. So does every one, except herself. Why, even
you yourself know it! _She_ never will know it unless she hears it on
the best authority--your own, you know."

"Ought I to tell her? I know I was all wrong about that humbug-girl I
cooked up to tell her about. I altogether lost my head, and was a fool."

"I can't see what end you proposed to yourself by doing it," says
Fenwick a little maliciously. "If Sally had recommended you to speak
up, because it was just possible the young lady might be pining for
you all the time, you couldn't have asked her _her_ name, and then
said, 'That's hers--you're her!' like the fat boy in 'Pickwick.'
No!--I consider, my dear boy, that you didn't do yourself any good by
that ingenious fiction. You know all the while you wouldn't have been
sorry to think she understood you."

"I don't know that I didn't think she did. I really don't know what I
did or didn't think. I quite lost my head over it, that's the truth."

"Highly proper. Quite consistent with human experience! It's the sort
of job chaps always do lose their heads over. The question now is,
What are we going to do next?" Which meant what was Vereker going to
do next? and was understood by his hearer in that sense. He made no
answer at the moment, and Fenwick was not going to press for one.

A Newcastle collier had come in to deliver her cargo some days since,
before the wind sprang up, and the coal-carts had been passing and
repassing across the sands at low water; for there was a new moon
somewhere in the sky when she came, as thin as a sickle, clinging
tight round the business moon that saw to the spring-tides, a phantom
sphere an intrepid star was daring to go close to. This brig had not
been disappointing her backers, for wagers had been freely laid that
she would drag her moorings in the wind, and drift. Fenwick and
Vereker stopped in their walk to lean on the wooden rail above the
beach that skirted the two inclines, going either way, up which the
waggons had been a couple of hours ago scrambling over the shingle
against time, to land one more load yet while the ebb allowed it.
They could hear the yeo-yeo! of the sail-hoisters at work on the big
mainsail abaft, and wondered how on earth she was going to be got
clear with so little sea-way and the wind dead in shore. But they were
reassured by the ancient mariner with the striped shirt, whose mission
in life seemed to be to stand about and enlighten land-minds about
sea-facts. The master of yander craft had doon that much afower, and
he'd do it again. Why, he'd known him from three year old, the striped
shirt had! Which settled the matter. Then presently the clink-clink of
the windlass dragging at the anchor. They watched her in silence till,
free of her moorings, any one could have sworn she would be on shore
to a certainty. But she wasn't. She seemed mysteriously to be able to
manage for herself, and just as a berth for the night on the shingle
appeared inevitable, leaned over to the wind and crept away from the
land, triumphant.

Then, the show being over, as Fenwick and Vereker turned to look the
lateness of the hour in the face, and get home to bed, the latter
answered the question of the former, as though he had but just asked it.

"Speak to Sally. I shall have to." And then added, with an awestruck
face and bated breath: "But it's _awful_!" A moment after he was
laughing at himself, as he said to his companion, referring to a very
palpable fact, "I don't wonder I made you laugh just now."

They walked on without much said till they came to Iggulden's; when
the doctor, seeing no light in the sitting-room, hoped his worthy
mother had fulfilled a promise made when they came away, and gone to
bed. It was then past eleven. But he was reckoning without his host.

Fenwick said to him, as they stood on Iggulden's threshold and doormat
respectively--presuming rashly, on imperfect information, to delay
farewells--"Now look here, Conrad, my dear boy (I like your name
Conrad), don't you go and boil over to Sally to-morrow, nor next day.
You'll only spoil the rest of your stay, maybe.... What! well--what
I mean is that nothing I say prejudices the kitten. You'll understand
that, I'm sure?"

"Perfectly. Of course, if Sally were to say she knew somebody she
would like a deal better, there's no reason why she shouldn't....
I mean _I_ couldn't complain."

"Yes--yes! I see. You'd exonerate her. Good boy! Very proper." And
indeed the doctor had felt, as the words passed his lips, that he was
rather a horrid liar. But the point didn't matter. Fenwick laughed it
off: "Just you take my advice, and refer the matter to the kitten the
last day you're here. Monday, won't it be? And don't think about it!"

"Oh no! I'm a philosophical sort of chap, I am! Never in extremes.
Good-night!"

"I see. _Sperat infestis metuit secundis alteram sortem bene
præparatum pectus_--Horace." Fenwick ran this through in a breath;
and the doctor, a little hazy in school-memories of the classics,
said, "What's that?" and began translating it--"The bosom well
prepared for either lot, fears...." Fenwick caught him up and
completed the sentence:

"Fears what is good, and hopes for what is not. Cut away to bed, old
chap, and sleep sound...." Then he paused a moment, as he saw the
doctor looking a question at him intently, and just about to speak
it. He answered it before it came:

"No, no! Nothing more. I mean to forget all about it, and take my life
as it stands. Bother Mr. Harrisson!" He dropped his voice to say this;
then raised it again. "Don't you fret about me, doctor. Remember, I'm
Algernon Fenwick! Good-night!"

"Good-night!" And then the doctor, with the remains of heart-turmoil
in him, and a brain reeling, more or less, went up into what he
conceived to be an empty dark room, and was disconcerted by an
ill-used murmur in the darkness--a meek, submissive voice of one
accustomed to slights:

"I told her to blow it out and go to bed. It is all--quite--right, my
dear. So do not complain. Now help me with my things, and I will get
to bed."

"My dear mother! I _am_ so sorry. I had no idea you had not gone long
ago!"

"My dear!--it does not matter in the least now. What is done, is done.
Be careful with the grease over my work. These candles drop
dreadfully, unless you hold them exactly upright. And gutter. Now give
me your arm, and I will go to bed. I _think_ I shall sleep." And the
worthy woman was really--if her son could only have got his eyes freed
from the scales of domestic superstition, and seen it--intensely happy
and exultant at this fiendish little piece of discomfort-mongering.
She had scored; there was no doubt of it. She was even turning it over
in her own mind whether it would not bear repetition at a future
time; and quite intended, if so, to enjoy herself over it. Now the
doctor was contrite and heavy at heart at his cruel conduct; walking
about--just think!--and talking over his own affairs while his
self-sacrificing mother was sitting in the dark, with the lamp out!
To be sure there was no visible reason why she should have had it
put out, except as a picturesque and imaginative way of rubbing her
altruism into its nearest victim. Unless, indeed, it was done in order
that the darkened window should seem to announce to the returning
truant that she had gone to bed, and to lull his mind to
unconsciousness of the ambush that awaited him.

Anyhow, the doctor was so impressed with his own delinquency that he
felt it would be impossible, the lamp having been put out, to take his
mother into his confidence about his conversation with Fenwick. Which
he certainly would have done--late as the hour was--if it had been
left in. So he said good-night, and carried the chaos of his emotions
away to bed with him, and lay awake with them till cock-crow.

       *       *       *       *       *

As Fenwick walked back home, timing his pace by his expectation of
his cigar's duration, he wondered whether, perhaps, he had not been
a little rash. He felt obliged to go back on interviews with Sally, in
which the doctor had been spoken of. He recalled for his justification
one in particular. The family conclave at Krakatoa Villa had recurred
to a remark of Rosalind's about the drawback to Vereker's practice of
his bachelorhood. He was then, as it were, brought up for a second
reading, and new clauses added to him containing schedules of possible
wives. Fenwick had noticed, then, that Sally's assent to the insertion
of any candidate's name turned on two points: one, the lady's consent
being taken for granted; the other, that every young single female
human creature known by name or describable by language was actually
out of the question, or inadmissible in its answer. She rejected
almost all applicants for the post of a doctor's wife without
examining their claims, on the ground of moral or physical defect--as,
for instance, you never would go and tie up poor Prosy to a wife that
golloped. Sylvia Peplow, indeed! Interrogated about the nature of
"golloping," Sally could go no nearer than that Miss Peplow looked as
if she couldn't help it. And her sister was worse: she was perfectly
pecky, and shut up with a click. And as for the large Miss Baker--why,
you knew how large _she_ was, and it would be quite ridiculous!
Besides, her stupidity!

The only candidates that got the least consideration owed their
success to their names or expectations. Caroline Smith had, or would
have sometime, a thousand a year. But she squinted. Still, she might
be thought over. Mrs. Pollicitus Biggs's cousin Isabella would have
two thousand when her mother died, but the vitality of the latter was
indescribable. Besides, she was just like her name, Isabella, and did
her hair religiously. There was Chariclea Epimenides, certainly, who
had got three thousand, and would have six more. She might be worth
thinking of....

"Why don't you have him yourself, Sarah?" Fenwick had asked at this
point. Rosalind had just left the room to speak to Ann. But he didn't
want Sarah to be obliged to answer, so he went on: "Why are all these
young ladies' incomes exactly in round thousands?"

To which Sally had replied: "They always are, when you haven't got
'em." But had fallen into contemplation, and presently said--out of
the blue--"Because I'm an unsettled sort of party--a vagrant. I
shouldn't do for a G.P.'s wife, thank you, Jeremiah! I should like
to live in a caravan, and go about the country, and wood fires out
of doors." Was it, Fenwick wondered, the gipsies they had seen to-day
that had made her think of this? and then he recalled how he afterwards
heard the kitten singing to herself the old ballad:

  "What care I for my goose-feather bed?
  What care I for my money oh?"

and hearing her so sing had somehow imputed to the parade of bravado
in the swing of its rhythm a something that might have belonged to a
touched chord. Like enough a mistake of his, said Reason. But for all
that the reminiscence played its part in soothing Fenwick's misgivings
of his own rashness.

"The kitten's all right," said he to himself. "And if she doesn't want
Master Conrad, the sooner he knows it the better!" But he had little
doubt of the course things would take as he stopped to look at that
venturesome star, that seemed to be going altogether too near the moon
for safety.

In a few moments he turned again towards home. And then his mind
must needs go off to the thing of all others he wished not to think
of--_himself_. He had come to see this much clearly, that until
the veil floated away from between him and his past and left the
whole atmosphere transparent, there could be no certainty that a
recrudescence of that past would not be fatal to his wife's happiness.
And inevitably, therefore, to his own. Having once formulated the idea
that for the future _he_ was to be one person and Harrisson another, he
found its entertainment in practice easier than he had anticipated. He
had only to say to himself that it was for her sake that he did it, and
he did not find it altogether impossible to dismiss his own identity
from the phantasmagoria that kept on coming back and back before his
mind, and to assign the whole drama to another person; to whom he
allowed the name of Harrisson all the easier from his knowledge that
it never had been really his own. Very much the easier, too, no
doubt, from the sense that the function of memory was still diseased,
imperfect, untrustworthy. How could it be otherwise when he still was
unable to force it back beyond a certain limit? It was mainly a vision
of America, and, previous to that, a mystery of interminable avenues
of trees, and an inexplicable horror of a struggle with death. There
he always lost himself. In the hinterland of this there was that vision
of a wedding somewhere. And then bewilderment, because the image of
his living wife, his very soul of the world he now dwelt in, the woman
whose daughter had grown into his heart as his own--yes, not only the
image, but the very name of her--had come in and supplanted that of the
forgotten wife of that forgotten day. So much so that more than once,
in striving to follow the clue given by that railway-carriage, his mind
had involuntarily called the warm living thing that came into his arms
from it "Rosey." In the face of that, what was the worth of anything he
should recollect now, that he should not discard it as a mere phantasm,
for her sake? How almost easy to say to himself, "that was Harrisson,"
and then to add, "whoever he was," and dismiss him.

Do you--you who read--find this so very difficult to understand? Can
you recall no like imperfect memory of your own that, multiplied a
hundredfold, would supply an analogy, a standpoint to look into
Fenwick's disordered mind from?

After his delirious collision with his first vigorous revival of the
past, he was beginning to settle down to face it, helped by the
talisman of his love for Rosalind, whom it was his first duty to
shield from whatever it should prove to hold of possible injury to
her. That happy hour of the dying sunset in the shorn cornfields, with
her and Sally and the sky above and the sea beyond, had gone far to
soothe the perturbation of the night. And his talk of the morning with
this young man he had just left had helped him strongly. For he knew
in his heart he could safely go to him again if he could not bear his
own silence, could trust him with whatever he could tell at all to any
one. Could he not, when he was actually ready to trust him with--Sally?

So, though he was far from feeling at rest, a working equilibrium was
in sight. He could acquiesce in what came back to him, as it came;
need never struggle to hasten or retard it. Little things would float
into his mind, like house-flies into the ray from a shutter-crack in
a darkened room, and float away again uncaptured, or whizz and burr
round and against each other as the flies do, and then decide--as the
flies do--that neither concerns the other and each may go his way. But
he was nowise bound to catch these things on the wing, or persuade
them to live in peace with one another. If they came, they came; and
if they went, they went.

Such a one caught his thoughts, and held them for a moment as,
satisfied that astronomy would see to that star, he turned to go
straight home to Lobjoit's. That would just last out the cigar. But
what was it now? What was the fly that flew into his sun-ray this
time, that it should make him remember a line of Horace, to be so
pat with it, and to know what it meant, too?

But this fact, that he could not tell how he came to know its meaning,
showed him how decisively the barrier line across the memory of his
boyhood was drawn, or, it might be, his early manhood. He could not
remember, properly speaking, the whole of his life in the States, but
he could remember telling a man--one Larpent, a man with a club-foot,
at Ontario--that he had been there over fifteen years. This man
has nothing to do with this story, but he happens to serve as an
illustration of the disjointed way in which small details would tell
out clear against a background of confusion. Why, Fenwick could
remember his face plainly--how close-shaven he was, and black over the
razor-land; how his dentist had inserted an artificial tooth that
didn't match, and shone out white. But as to the fifteen years he had
spent in the States, that he had told Mr. Larpent of, they grew dimmer
and dimmer as he tried to carry his recollection further back. Beyond
them--or rather, longer ago than they, properly speaking--came that
endless, intolerable labyrinth of trees, and then, earlier still, that
railway-carriage. It was getting clearer; but the worst of it was that
the clearer it got, the clearer grew the Rosey that came out of it.
As long as that went on, there was nothing of it all he could place
faith in. He had been told that no man could be convinced, by his own
reason, of his own hallucination. He would supply a case to the
contrary. It would amuse him one day, if ever he came to know that
girl of the railway-carriage was dead, to tell Rosalind all his
experiences, and how bravely he fought against what he knew to be
delusion.

But he must make an effort against this sort of thing. Here was he,
who had just made up his mind--so he phrased it--to remain himself,
and refuse to be Harrisson, no sooner was he left alone for a few
minutes than he must needs be raking up the past. And that, too,
because of a line of Horace!--sound in itself, but quite cut asunder
from its origin, the book he read it in, or the voice he heard read
it. What did that line matter? Leave it for Mr. Harrisson in that
state of pre-existence. As well make a point of recalling the
_provenance_ of any little thing that had happened in this his present
life. Well, for instance, Mary and the fat boy in "Pickwick." Rosalind
had read him that aloud, he knew, but he couldn't say when. Was he
going to worry himself to recall that which could do him no harm to
know? Surely not. And if so, why strive to bring back things better
forgotten? It is useless to endeavour to make the state of Fenwick's
mind, at this point of the imperfect revival of memory, appear other
than incredible. A person who has had the painful experience of
forgetting his own name in a dream would perhaps understand it best.
Or, without going so far, can no help be got towards it from our
frequent certainties about some phrase (for instance) that we think we
cannot possibly forget? about some date that we believe no human power
will ever obliterate? And in five minutes--gone--utterly gone! Truly,
there is no evidence but a man's own word for what he does or does
not, can or cannot, recollect.

       *       *       *       *       *

"I say, Rosey, when was it you read to me about Mary and the fat boy
in 'Pickwick'?" Fenwick, having suggested a doubt to himself about his
power to recall what he supposed to have happened recently, had, of
course, set about doing it directly. His question was asked of his
wife as he came into her bedroom on his return. He mounted the stairs
singing to himself,

  "Que nous mangerons Marott-e,
  Bec-à-bec et toi et moi,"

till he came in to where Rosalind was sitting reading, with her
wonderful hair combed free--probably by Sally for a treat. Then he
asked his question rather suddenly, and it made her start.

"I was in the middle of my book, and you made me jump." He gave her
a kiss for apology. "What's the question? When did I read to you about
Mary and the fat boy? I couldn't say. I feel as if I had, though."

"Was it out in the garden at K. Villa? It wasn't here." He usually
called Krakatoa "K." for working purposes.

"No, it certainty wasn't here. It must have been at home, only I
can't recollect when. Ask Sally."

"The kitten wasn't there."

"She would know, though. She always knows. She's not asleep yet ...
Sallykin!" The young person is on the other side of a mere wooden
partition, congenial to the architecture of Lobjoit's, and her reply
conveys the idea of a speaker in bed who hasn't moved to answer.

"What? Be quick. I'm going to sleep."

"I'm so sorry, chick. When was it I read to this man Mary and the
fat boy in 'Pickwick'?"

"How should I know? Not when I was there."

"All right, Sarah." Thus Fenwick, to whom Sarah responds:

"Good-night, Jeremiah. Go to bed, and don't keep decent Christian
people awake at this hour of the night. Take mother's book away,
and cut it."

Rosalind closes her book and says: "_I_ don't know, darling, if
Sally doesn't. Why do you want to know?"

"Couldn't say. It crossed my mind. I know the kitten wasn't there,
though. Good-night, love.... Oh yes, I shall sleep to-night. Ta, ta,
Sarah--pleasant dreams!"

But he had not reached the door when the voice of Sarah came again,
with the implication of a mouth that had come out into the open.

"Stop, Jeremiah!" it said. "It wasn't at K. Villa."

"Why not, chick?"

"Because Pickwick's _lost_! It was lent to those impossible people
at Turnham Green, and they stole it. I know they did. Name like
Marylebone."

"The Haliburtons? Why, that's ever so long ago." Thus Rosalind.

"Of course it is. It's been gone ages. I'm going to sleep.
Good-night!" And Jeremiah said good-night once more and departed.

Sally didn't go straight to sleep, but she made a start on her way
there. It was not a vigorous start, for she had hardly begun upon
it when she desisted, and sat up in bed and listened.

"What's that, mother? Nothing wrong, is there?"

"No, darling child, what should be wrong? Go to sleep."

"I thought I heard you gasp, or snuffle, or sigh, or sob, or click
in your throat. That's all. Sure you didn't?"

"Quite sure. Now, do be a reasonable kitten, and go to sleep; I
shall be in bed in half-a-second."

And Sally subsides, but first makes a stipulation: "You _will_ sleep
in your hair, mother darling, won't you? Or, at least, do it up, and
not that hateful nightcap?"

But though Rosalind felt conscientiously able to disclaim any of
the sounds Sally had described, something audible had occurred in her
breathing. Sally's first word had gone nearest, but it was hardly
a full-grown gasp.

Her husband's question about "Pickwick" had scarcely taken her
attention off an exciting story-climax, and she really did want to
know why the Archbishop turned pale as death when the Countess kissed
him. Gerry was looking well and cheerful again, and there was nothing
to connect his inquiry with any reminiscence of "B.C." So, as soon
as he had gone, she reopened her book--not without a mental allusion
to a dog in Proverbs--and went on where she had left off. The writer
had not known how to manage his Archbishop and Countess, and the story
went flat and slushy like an ill-whipped _zabajone_. She put the book
aside, and wondered whether "Pickwick" really _had_ been alienated by
the impossible Haliburtons; sat thinking, but only of the thing of
_now_--nothing of buried records.

So she sat, it might be for two minutes. Then, quite suddenly, she had
bitten her lip and her brows had wrinkled. And her eyes had locked to
a fixed look that would stay till she had thought this out. So her
face said, and the stillness of her hand.

For she had suddenly remembered when and where it was she had read to
that man about Mary and the fat boy. It was in the garden at her
mother's twenty-two years ago. She remembered it well now, and quite
suddenly. She could remember how Gerry, young-man-wise, had tried to
utilise Thackeray to show his greater knowledge of the world--had
flaunted Piccadilly and Pall Mall before the dazzled eyes of an
astonished suburban. She could remember how she read it aloud to him,
because, when he read over her shoulder, she always turned the page
before he was ready. And his decision that Dickens's characters were
never gentlemen, and her saying perhaps that was why he was so
amusing. And then how he got the book from her and went on reading
while she went away for her lawn-tennis shoes, and when she came
back found he had only two more pages to read, and then he would
come and play.

But it spoke well for her husband's chances of a quiet time to-night
that he should hold this memory in his mind, and yet be secure against
a complete resurrection of the past. Nothing else might grow from it.
He evidently thought the reading had been at Shepherd's Bush. He would
hardly have said, "the kitten wasn't there," unless his ideas had been
glued to that spot. But then--and Rosalind's mind swam to think of
it--how very decisively the kitten was "not there" in that other
garden two-and-twenty years ago.

It was at that moment the gasp, or sigh, or sob, or whatever it
was, awoke Sally. Her mother had been strong against the mere memory
of the happy hour of thoughtless long ago; but then, this that was
to come--this thing the time was thoughtless of! Was it not enough
to force a gasp from self-control itself? a cry from any creature
claiming to be human? "_The kitten wasn't there!_" No, truly she
was not.



CHAPTER XXXIX

HOW MEMORY CREPT BACK AND BACK, AND FENWICK KEPT HIS OWN COUNSEL.
  ROSALIND NEED NEVER KNOW IT. OF A JOLLY BIG BLOB OF MELTED CANDLE,
  AND SALLY'S HALF-BROTHER. OF FENWICK'S IMPROVED GOOD SPIRITS


That was a day of many little incidents, and a fine day into the
bargain. Perhaps the next day was helped to be a flat day by the
barometer, which had shown its usual untrustworthiness and gone down.
The wind's grievance--very perceptible to the leeward of keyholes and
window-cracks--may have been against this instability. It had been
looking forward to a day's rest, and here this meteorology must needs
be fussing. Neptune on the contrary was all the fresher for his
half-holiday, and was trotting out tiny white ponies all over his
fields, who played bo-peep with each other in and out of the valleys
of the plough-land. But they were grey valleys now, that yesterday
were smiling in the sun. And the sky was a mere self-coloured sky
(a modern expression, as unconvincing as most of its congeners), and
wanted to make everything else as grey as itself. Also there came
drifts of fine rain that wetted you through, and your umbrella wasn't
any good. So a great many of the visitors to St. Sennans thought they
would stop at home and get those letters written.

Sally wouldn't admit that the day was flat _per se_, but only that it
had become so owing to the departure of Lætitia and her husband. She
reviewed the latter a good deal, as one who had recently been well
under inspection and had stood the test. He was really a very nice
fellow, haberdasher or no, wasn't he, mother? To which Rosalind
replied that he was a very nice fellow indeed, only so quiet. If he
had had his violin with him, he would have been much more perceptible.
But she supposed it was best to travel with it as little as possible.
For it had been decided, all things considered, that the precious
Strad should be left locked up at home. "It's got an insurance policy
all to itself," said Sally, "for three hundred pounds." She was quite
awestruck by the three hundred golden sovereigns which these pounds
would have been if they had had an existence of their own off paper.

"_You_ ought to have an insurance policy all to yourself, Sarah," said
Fenwick. "Only I don't believe any office would accept you. Fancy your
swimming out like that yesterday! How far did you go?"

"Round the buoy and aback again. I say, Jeremiah, if ever I get
drowned, mind you rush to the bathing-machine and see if there's a
copy of 'Ally Sloper' or 'Tit-Bits'. Because there'd be fifty pounds
for each. Think of that!" Sally is delighted with these sums, too, to
the extent of quite losing sight of the sacrifice necessary for their
acquisition.

"Two whole fifties!" Fenwick says, adding after consideration: "I
think we had sooner keep our daughter, eh, Rosey?" And Rosalind
agreed. Only she really was a shocking madcap, the kitten!

Had some flavour of Fenwick's mental history got in the air, that
Sally, presumably with no direct information about its last chapter,
should say to him suddenly: "It _is_ such a puzzle to me, Jeremiah,
that you've never recollected the railway-carriage"? He was saved from
telling fibs in reply--for he _had_ recollected the railway-carriage,
and left it, as it were, for Mr. Harrisson--by Sally continuing: "When
you were Mr. Fenwick, and I wasn't at liberty to kiss you." She did
so to illustrate.

"I don't see how I could reasonably have resented your kissing me,
Sarah. And I'm Mr. Fenwick now."

"On the contrary, you're Jeremiah. But if you were he ever so, I'm
puzzled why Mr. Fenwick _now_ can't remember Mr. Fenwick _then_."

"He _can't_, Sarah dear. He can no more remember Mr. Fenwick
_then_ than if no such person had ever existed." It was a clever
equivocation, for though he had so far made nothing of the name on his
arm, he was quite clear he came back to England Harrisson. His gravity
and sadness as he said it may have been not so much duplicity as a
reflection from his turgid current of thought of the last two days.
It imposed on Sally, who decided in her own mind on changing the topic
as soon as she could do it without a jerk. Meanwhile, a stepping-stone
was available--extravagant treatment of the subject with a view to
help from laughter.

"I wonder what Mr. Fenwick _then_ would have thought if I had kissed
him in the railway-carriage."

"He'd have thought you must be Sally, only he hadn't noticed it.
_He_ wouldn't have made a rumpus on high moral grounds, I'm sure. But
I don't know about the old cock that talked about the terms of the
Company's charter...."

"Hullo!" Sally interrupts him blankly. He had better have let it
alone. But it wouldn't do to admit anything.

"What's 'hullo,' Sarah?"

"See how you're recollecting things! Jeremiah's recollecting the
railway-carriage, mother--the electrocution-carriage."

"Are you, darling?" Rosalind, coming behind his chair, puts her hands
round his neck. "What have you recollected?"

"I don't think I've recollected anything the kitten hasn't told me,"
says Fenwick dreamily. But Sally is positive she never told him
anything about the terms of the Company's charter.

Rosalind adheres to her policy of keeping Sally out of it as much as
possible. In this case a very small fib indeed serves the purpose:
"You must have told him, chick; or perhaps I repeated it. I remember
your telling _me_ about the elderly gentleman who was in a rage with
the Company." Sally looked doubtful, but gave up the point.

Nevertheless, Fenwick felt certain in his own heart that "the terms
of the Company's charter" was a bit of private recollection of his
own. And Rosalind had never heard of it before. But it was true she
had heard of the elderly gentleman. Near enough!

       *       *       *       *       *

As to the crowd of memories that kept coming, some absolutely clear,
some mere phantoms, into the arena of Fenwick's still disordered mind,
they would have an interest, and a strong one, for this story if its
object were the examination of strange freaks of memory. But the only
point we are nearly concerned with is the rigid barrier drawn across
the backward pathway of his recollection at some period between ten
and fifteen years ago. Till this should be removed, and the dim image
of his forgotten marriage should acquire force and cohesion, he and
his wife were safe from the intrusion of their former selves on
the scene of their present happiness--safe possibly from a power of
interference it might exercise for ill--safe certainly from risk of a
revelation to Sally of her mother's history and her own parentage--but
safe at a heavy cost to the one of the three who alone now held the
key to their disclosure.

However vividly Fenwick had recalled the incidents of his arrival in
England, and however convinced he was that no part of them was mere
dream, they all belonged for him to that buried Harrisson whose
identity he shrank from taking on himself--_would_ have shrunk from,
at the cost that was to be paid for it, had the prize of its
inheritance been ten times as great. Still, one or two connecting
links had caught on either side, the chief one being Sally, who had
actually spoken with him whilst still Harrisson--although it must be
admitted she had not kissed him--and the one next in importance, the
cabman. The pawnbroker made a very bad third--in fact, scarcely
counted, owing to his own moroseness or reserve. But the cabman! Why,
Fenwick had it all now at his fingers' ends. He could recall the start
from New York, the wish to keep the secret of his gold-mining success
to himself on the ship, and his satisfaction when he found his name
printed with one _s_ in the list of cabin passengers. Then a pleasant
voyage on a summer Atlantic, and that nice young American couple whose
acquaintance he made before they passed Sandy Hook, every penny of
whose cash had been stolen on board, and how he had financed them,
careless of his own ready cash. And how then, not being sure if he
should go to London or to Manchester, he decided on the former, and
wired his New York banker to send him credit, prompt, at the bank he
named in London; and then Livermore's Rents, 1808, and the joy of the
cabman; and then the Twopenny Tube; and then Sally. He tried what he
could towards putting in order what followed, but could determine
nothing except that he stooped for the half-crown, and something
struck him a heavy blow. Thereupon he was immediately a person, or a
confusion, sitting alone in a cab, to whom a lady came whom he thought
he knew, and to this lady he wanted to say, "Is that you?" for no
reason he could now trace, but found he could scarcely articulate.

Recalling everything thus, to the full, he was able to supply links
in the story that we have found no place for so far. For instance,
the loss of a small valise on the boat that contained credentials that
would have made it quite unnecessary for him to cable to New York for
credit, and also an incident this reminded him of--that he had not
only parted with most of his cash to the young Americans, but had
given his purse to the lady to keep her share of it in, saying he had
a very good cash pocket, and would have plenty of time to buy another,
whereas _they_ were hurrying through to catch the tidal boat for
Calais. This accounted for that little new pocket-book without a card
in it that had given no information at all. He could remember having
made so free with his cards on the boat and in the train that he had
only one left when he got to Euston.

He found himself, as the hours passed, better and better able to dream
and speculate about the life he now chose to imagine was Harrisson's
property, not his; and the more so the more he felt the force of the
barrier drawn across the earlier part of it. Had the barrier remained
intact, he might ultimately have convinced himself, for all practical
purposes, that Harrisson's life was all dream. Yes, all a dream! The
cold and the gold of the Klondyke, the French Canadians at Ontario,
four years on a cattle-ranch in California, five of unsuccessful
attempts to practise at the American Bar--all, all a dream of another
man named Harrisson, dreamed by Algernon Fenwick, that big hairy man
at the wine-merchant's in Bishopsgate, who has a beautiful wife and a
daughter who swims like a fish. One of the many might-have-beens that
were not! But a decision against its reality demanded time, and his
revival of memory was only forty-eight hours old so far.

Of course, he would have liked, of all things, to make full
confession, and talk it all out--this quasi-dream--to Rosalind; but
he could not be sure how much he could safely bring to light, how much
would be best concealed. He could not run the _slightest_ risk when
the thing at stake was her peace of mind. No, no--Harrisson be hanged!
Him and his money, too.

So, though things kept coming to his recollection, he could hold his
peace, and did so. There was nothing to come--not likely to be--that
could unsay that revelation that he had been a married man, and did
not know of his wife's death; not even that he and she had been
divorced, which would have been nearly as bad. He knew the worst of
it, at any rate, and Rosalind need never know it if he kept it all
to himself, best and worst.

So that day passed, and there was nothing to note about it, unless
we mention that Sally was actually kept out of the Channel by
Neptune's little white ponies aforesaid, which spoiled the swimming
water--though, of course, it wasn't rough--backed by the fact that
these little sudden showers wetted you through, right through your
waterproof, before you knew where you were. Dr. Conrad came in as
usual in the evening, reporting that his mother was "rather better."
It was a discouraging habit she had, when she was not known to have
been any worse than usual. This good lady always caught Commiseration
napping, if ever that quality took forty winks. The doctor was very
silent this evening, imbibing Sally without comment. However, St.
Sennans was drawing to a close for all others. That was enough to
account for it, Sally thought. It was the last day but one, and poor
Prosy couldn't be expected to accept her own view--that the awful
jolliness of being back at Krakatoa Villa would even compensate--more
than compensate--for the pangs of parting with the Saint. Sally's
optimism was made of a stuff that would wash, or was all wool.

According to her own account, she had spent the whole day wondering
whether the battle between Tishy and her mother had come off. She
said so last thing of all to _her_ mother as she decanted the melted
paraffin of a bedroom candle whose wick, up to its neck therein, was
unable to find a scope for its genius, and yielded only a spectral
blue spark that went out directly if you carried it. Tilted over,
it would lick in the end--this was Sally's testimony; and if you
dropped the grease on the back of the soap-dish and thickened it up
to a good blob, it would come off click when it was cold, and not
make any mess at all.

"Yes, I've been wondering all day long," said she. "How I should enjoy
being there to see! How freezing and dignified the Dragon will be!
Mrs. Sales Wilson! Or perhaps she'll flare. (I wish this wick would;
and it's such disgraceful waste of good candle!)"

"I do think, kitten, you're unkind to the poor lady. Just think how
she must have dreamed about the splendid match her handsome daughter
was going to make! And, you know, it _is_ rather a come down...."

"Yes, of course it's a come down. But I don't pity the Dragon one bit.
She should have thought more of Tishy's happiness, and less of her
grandeur. (It's just beginning; the flame will go white directly.)"

"She'd got some one else in view then?" Rosalind was quickly
perceptive about it.

"Oh yes; don't you know? Sir Penderfield. (That'll do now, nicely;
there's the white flame!) Sir Oughtred Penderfield. He's a Bart.,
of course. But he's a horror, and they say his father was even worse.
Like father, like son! And the Dragon wanted Tishy to accept him."

At the name Rosalind shivered. The thought that followed it sent
a knife-cut to her heart. This man that Sally had spoken of so
unconsciously was _her brother_--at least, he was brother enough to
her by blood to make that thought a blade to penetrate the core of her
mother's soul. It was a case for her strength to show itself in--a
case for nettle-grasping with a vengeance. She would grasp this nettle
directly; but oh, for one moment--only one moment--just to be a little
less sick with the slice of the chill steel! just to quench the tremor
she knew would come with her voice if she tried now to say, "What was
the name? Tishy's _prétendu_'s, I mean; not his father's."

But she could take the whole of a moment, and another, for that
matter. So she left her words on her tongue's tip to say later, and
felt secure that Sally would not look up and see the dumb white face
she herself could see in the mirror she sat before. For, of course,
she saw Sally's reflection, too, its still thoughtful eyelids half
shrouded in a broken coil of black hair their owner's pearly teeth
are detaining an end of, to stop it falling in the paraffin she is
so intent on, as she watches it cooling on the soap-dish.

"I've made it such a jolly big blob it'll take ever so long to cool.
You can, you know, if you go gently. Only then the middle stops soft,
and if you get in a hurry it spoils the clicket." But it is hard
enough now to risk moving the hair over it, and Sally's voice was free
to speak as soon as her little white hand had swept the black coils
back beyond the round white throat. Mrs. Lobjoit's mirror has its
defects apart from some of the quicksilver having been scratched off;
but Rosalind can see the merpussy's image plain enough, and knows
perfectly well that before she looks up she will reap the harvest of
happiness she has been looking forward to. She will "clicket" off the
"blob" with her finger.

The moment of fruition comes, and a filbert thumbnail spuds the
hardened lozenge off the smooth glaze. "There!" says Sally, "didn't
I tell you? Just like ice.... What, mother?" For her mother's question
had been asked, very slightly varied, in a nettle-grasping sense. She
has had time to think.

"_What_ was Tishy's man's name--the other applicant? Christian name,
I mean; not his father's."

"Sir Oughtred Penderfield. Why?"

"I remember there was a small boy in India, twenty-two years ago,
named Penderfield. Is Oughtred his only name?" The nettle-grasping
there was in this! Rosalind felt consoled by her own strength.

"Can't say. He may have a dozen. Never seen him. Don't want to! But
his hair's as black as mine, Tishy says.... I say, mother, isn't it
deliciously smooth?" But this refers to the paraffin lozenge, not
to the hair.

"Yes, darling. Now I want to get to bed, if you've no objection."

"Certainly, mother darling; but say I'm right about the Dragon and
Sir Penderfield. Because I _am_, you know."

"Of course you are, chick. Only you never told me about him; now,
did you?"

"Because I was so honourable. It was a secret. Very well, good-night,
then.... Oh, you poor mother! how cold you are, and I've been keeping
you up! Good-night!"

And off went Sally, leaving her mother to reason with herself about
her own unreasonableness. After all, what was there in the fact that
the little chap she remembered, seven years old, at the Residency at
Khopal twenty odd years ago had grown up and inherited his father's
baronetcy? What was there in this to discompose and upset her, to make
her breath catch and her nerves thrill? A longing came on her that
Gerry should not look in to say good-night till she was in a position
to refuse interviewing on the score of impending sleep. She made a
dash for bed, and got the light out, out-generalling him by perhaps
a minute.

What could she expect? Not that little Tamerlane, as his father called
him, should die just to be out of her path. It was no fault of his
that he was his father's son, with--how could she doubt after what
Sally had just said?--the curse of his father's form of manhood or
beasthood upon him. And yet, might it not have been better that he
should have died, the innocent child she knew him, than live to follow
his father's footsteps? Better, best of all that the whole evil brood
should perish and be forgotten.... Stop!

For the thought she had framed caught her breath and held it, caught
her by the heart and checked its beating, caught her by the brain and
stopped its thinking; and she was glad when her husband's voice found
her, dumb and stunned in the silence, and brought a respite to the
unanswerable enigma she was face to face with.

"Hullo! light out already? Beg your pardon, darling. Good-night!"

"I wasn't asleep." So he came in and said good-night officially and
departed. His voice and his presence had staved off a nightmare idea
that was on the watch to seize on her--how if chance had brought Sally
across this unsuspected relation of hers, and events had forced a full
declaration of their kinship? Somnus jumped at the chance given by its
frustration; the sea air asserted itself, and went into partnership
with him, and Rosalind's mind was carried captive into dreamland.

But not before she had heard her husband stop singing to himself a
German student's song as he closed his door on himself for the night.

  "War ich zum grossen Herrn geboren, wie Kaiser Maximilian...."

There could be no further unwelcome memories there, thank Heaven!
No mind oppressed by them could possibly sing "Kram-bam-bambuli,
krambam-bu-li!"



CHAPTER XL

BATHING WEATHER AGAIN, AND A LETTER FROM TISHY BRADSHAW. THE TRIUMPH
  OF ORPHEUS. BUT WAS IT EURYDICE OR THE LITTLE BATTERY? THE REV. MR.
  HERRICK. OF A REVERIE UNDER A BATHING-MACHINE, AND OF GWENDOLEN'S
  MAMMA'S CONNECTING-LINK. OF DR. CONRAD'S MAMMA'S DONKEY-CHAIR, AND
  HIS GREAT-AUNT ELIZA. HOW SALLY AND HE STARTED FOR THEIR LAST WALK
  AT ST. SENNANS


The next day the morning was bright and the sea was clear of
Poseidon's ponies. They had gone somewhere else. Therefore, it
behooved Mrs. Lobjoit to get breakfast quick, because it was absurd
to expect anybody to go in directly after, and the water wouldn't be
good later than half-past ten. Which Sally, coming downstairs at eight,
impressed on Mrs. Lobjoit, who entered her own recognisances that it
should appear as by magic the very minute your mamma came down. For
it is one of the pleasures of anticipation-of-a-joy-to-come to bring
about its antecedents too soon, and so procure a blank period of
unqualified existence to indulge Hope in without alloy. Even so, when
true prudence wishes to catch a train, she orders her cab an hour
before, and takes tickets twenty minutes before, and arrives on the
platform eighteen minutes before there is the slightest necessity to
do so; and then she stands on the said platform and lives for the
train that is to be, and inquires of every guard, ticket-taker, and
pointsman with respect to every linear yard of the platform edge,
whether her train is going to come up there; and they ask each other
questions, and give prismatic information; and then the train for
Paradise (let us say) comes reluctantly backwards into the station
with friends standing on its margin, and prudence seizes her valise
and goes at a hand-gallop to the other end, where the _n_th class
is, and is only just in time to get a corner seat.

So, though there was no fear of the tide going out as fast as the
train for Paradise, Sally, relying on Mrs. Lobjoit, who had become
a very old friend in eight weeks, felt she had done well to be
beforehand, and, as breakfast would be twenty minutes, sat down to
write a letter to Tishy. She wrote epistle-wise, heedless of style
and stops, and as her mother was also twenty minutes--we are not
responsible for these expressions--she wrote a heap of it. Then
events thickened, as Fenwick, returning from an early dip, met the
postman outside, and came in bearing an expected letter which Sally
pounced upon.

"All about the row!" said she, attacking an impregnable corner of the
envelope with a fork-point, in a fever of impatience to get at the
contents. "Hang these envelopes! There, that's done it! Whatever they
want to sticky them up so for I can't imagine...."

"Get your breakfast, kitten, and read it after."

"I dare say. Catch me! No, I'm the sort that never waits for
anything.... No, mummy darling; it shan't get cold. I can gormandize
and read aloud both at once."

But she doesn't keep her promise, for she dives straight into an
exploration ahead, and meanly says, "Just half a minute till I see
what's coming," or, "Only to the end of this sentence," and also
looks very keen and animated, and throws in short notes of exclamation
and _well_'s and _there_'s and _think of that_'s till Fenwick enters
a protest.

"Don't cheat, Sarah!" he says. "Play fair! If you won't read it aloud
yourself, let somebody else."

"There's the first sheet to keep you quiet, Jeremiah!" Who, however,
throws it over to Rosalind, who throws it back with a laugh.

"What a couple of big babies you two are!" she exclaims. "As if I
couldn't possess my soul in peace for five minutes! Do put the letter
by till you've had your breakfasts."

But this course was not approved, and the contents of Lætitia's
epistle came out by fits and jerks and starts, and may be said to have
been mixed with tea and coffee and eggs and bacon and toast. Perhaps
we had better leave these out, and give the letter intact. Here it is:

    "DEAREST SALLY,

    "I am going to keep my promise, and write you a long letter at
    once, and tell you all about our reception at home. You will
    say it wasn't worth writing, especially as you will be back on
    Monday. However, a promise is a promise!

    "We got to Victoria at seven, and were not so very late
    considering at G. Terrace; but when we had had something to
    eat I propounded my idea I told you of, that we should just go
    straight on, and beard mamma in her own den, and have it out.
    I knew I shouldn't sleep unless we did. Paggy said, 'Wouldn't
    it do as well if he called there to-morrow for the
    Strad--which we had left behind last time as a connecting-link
    to go and fetch away--and me to meet him as he came from the
    shop?' But surprise-tactics were better--I knew they would
    be--and now Paggy admits I was right.

    "Of course, Thomas stared when he saw who it was, and was
    going to sneak off without announcing us, and Fossett, who
    just crossed us in the passage, was perfectly comic. Pag said
    afterwards she was bubbling over with undemonstrativeness,
    which was clever for him. I simply said to Thomas that I
    thought he had better announce us, as we weren't expected, and
    he asked who he was to announce, miss! Actually, I was rather
    relieved when Pag said, 'Say Mr. and Mrs. Julius Bradshaw.'
    I should have laughed, I know. Thomas looked a model of
    discretion that wouldn't commit itself either way, and did as
    he was bid in an apologetic voice; but he turned round on the
    stairs to say to me, 'I suppose you know, msam, there's two
    ladies and a gentleman been dining here?' Because he began
    miss and ended ma'am, and then turned scarlet. Pag said after
    he thought Thomas wanted to caution us against a bigamist
    mamma was harbouring.

    "Papa was very nice, really. His allusion to our little
    escapade was the only one made, and might have meant nothing
    at all. 'Well, you're a nice couple of people, upon my word!'
    and then, seeing that mamma remained a block (which she
    can), he introduced Paggy to one of the two ladies as 'My
    son-in-law, Mr. Julius Bradshaw.' I'm sure mamma gave a wooden
    snort and was ashamed of it before visitors, because she did
    another rather more probable one directly after, and pretended
    it was only that sort. Really, except a peck for me and saying
    _howd_ and nothing more to Paggy, she kept herself to herself.
    But it didn't matter, because of what happened. Really, it
    quite made me jump--I mean the way the lady Pag was
    introduced to rushed into his arms. I wasn't sure I hadn't
    better take him away at once. She was a celebrated German
    pianiste that had accompanied him in Paris. Mamma was at
    school with her at Frankfort. She had been inconsolable at
    the disappearance of the great Carissimi, whose playing of the
    Kreutzer was the only perfectly sympathetic one she had ever
    met. Was she never to play it with him again? Alas, no! for
    she was off to Vienna to-morrow, and then to New York, and if
    the ship went down she would never play the Kreutzer with
    Signore Carissimi again!

    "I saw papa's eye looking mischievous, and then he pointed to
    the Strad, where it was lying on the piano--locked up safe;
    we saw to that--and said there was Paganini's fiddle, why not
    play the _Cruet-stand_, or whatever you called it, _now_?
    Mamma found her voice, but lost her judgment, for she tried
    to block the performance on a fibby ground. Think how late
    it was, and how it would be keeping Madame von Höfenhoffer!
    She put her head in the lion's mouth there, for the Frau
    immediately said she would play all night rather than lose
    a note of Signore Carissimi. The other two went, and nobody
    wanted them. I've forgotten the woman's second husband's
    name--he's dead--but her son's the man I told you about. Of
    course, he hadn't expected to meet me, and I hope he felt like
    a fool. I was so glad it wasn't him, but Paggy. They played
    right through the Kreutzer, and didn't want the music, which
    couldn't be found, and then did bits again, and it was
    absolutely glorious. Even mamma (she's fond of music--it's her
    only good quality--and where should I get mine from if she
    wasn't?) couldn't stop quite stony, though she did her best,
    I promise you. As for papa, he was chuckling so over mamma's
    dilemma--because she wanted to trample on Paggy, and it _was_
    a dilemma--that he didn't care how long it went on. And do you
    know, dear, it _did_ go on--one thing after another, that Frau
    glued to the clavier like a limpet not detachable without
    violence--till nearly one in the morning, having begun at ten
    about! And there was papa and Egerton and Theeny all
    sniggering at mamma, I know, in secret, and really proud of
    the connexion, if the truth were known. Mamma tried to get a
    little revenge by saying to me freezingly when the Höfenhoffer
    had gone: 'I suppose you are going home with Mr. Bradshaw,
    Lætitia? Good-night.' And then she said _goodn_ to Paggy just
    as she had said _howd_. I thought Paggy behaved so nicely.
    However, I'll tell you all about that on Monday.

    "Papa was _very_ nice--came out on the doorstep to say
    good-night, and, do you know--it really _is_ very odd; it must
    be the sea air--papa said to Paggy as we were starting: 'How's
    the head--the nerves, you know--eh, Master Julius?' And
    actually Paggy said: 'Why, God bless my soul, I had forgotten
    all about them!' Oh, Sally darling, just think! Suppose they
    got well, and all because I treated him to a honeymoon! Oh,
    my gracious, what a long letter!"

"There now! that _is_ a letter and a half. 'With love from us both,'
mine affectionately. And twelve pages! And Tishy's hand's not so
large, neither, as all that." This is Sally, as epilogue; but her
mother puts in a correction:

"It's thirteen pages. There's a bit on a loose page you haven't read."
Sally has seen that, and it was nothing--so she says; but Fenwick
picks it up and reads it aloud:

"P.S.--Just a line to say I've remembered that name. She's
Herrick--married a parson in India soon after her Penderfield
husband died. She's great on reformatories."

Sally reread her letter with a glow of interest on her face and a
passing approval or echo now and then. She noticed nothing unusual
in either her mother or her stepfather; but she did not look up,
so absorbed was she.

Had she done so she might have wondered why her mother had gone so
pale suddenly, and why there should be that puzzled absent look on
the handsome face her eyes remained fixed on across the table; but her
own mind was far away, deep in her amusement at her friend's letter,
full of her image of the disconcerted Dragon and the way Paganini
and Beethoven in alliance had ridden rough-shod over Mrs. Grundy and
social distinctions. She saw nothing, and finished a cup of coffee
undisturbed, and asked for more.

Fenwick, caught by some memory or association he could not define or
give its place to, for the moment looked at neither of his companions.
Rosalind, only too clear about all the postscript of the letter had
brought before her own mind, saw reason to dread its effect on his.
The linking of the name of Penderfield and that of the clergyman who
had married them at Umballa--a name that, two days since, had had
a familiar sound to him when she incautiously uttered it--was using
Suggestion to bait a trap for Memory. She felt she was steering
through shoal-waters perilously near the wind; but she made no attempt
to break his reverie. She might do as much harm as good. She only
watched his face, feeling its contrast to that of the absorbed and
happy merpussy, rejoicing in the fortunate outcome of her friend's
anxieties.

It was a great relief when, with a deep breath and a shake, akin to
a horse's when the flies won't take a hint, Fenwick flung off the
oppression, whatever it was, and came back into the living world on
a stepping-stone of the back-talk.

"Well done, Paganini! Nothing like it since Orpheus and Eurydice--only
this time it was Proserpine, not Pluto, that had to be put to sleep....
What's the matter, darling? Anything wrong?"

"Nothing at all. I was looking at you."

"Well, _I'm_ all right!" And Sally looked up from her letter for a
moment to say, "There's nothing the matter with Jeremiah," and went on
reading as before. Sally's attitude about him always implied a kind of
proprietorship, as in a large, fairly well-behaved dog. Rosalind felt
glad she had not looked at _her_.

Presently Fenwick said: "Now, who's coming for a walk with me?" But
Sally was off directly to find the Swiss girl she sometimes bathed
with, and Rosalind thought it would be nice in a sheltered place on
the beach. She really wanted to be alone, and knew the shortest way
to this was to sit still, especially in the morning; but Gerry had
better get Vereker to go for a walk. Perhaps she would look in at
his mother's later. So Fenwick, after a customary caution to Sally
not to drown herself, went away to find Conrad, as he generally
called him now.

Rosalind was shirking a problem she dared not face from a cowardly
conviction of its insolubility. What would she do if Gerry should,
without some warning, identify her? She had to confess to herself that
she had no clue at all to the effect it would have, coming suddenly,
on him. She could at least imagine aspects, attitudes, tones of voice
for him if it came slowly; but she could not supply any image of
him, under other circumstances, not more or less founded on her
recollections of twenty years ago. Might she not lose him again, as
she lost him then? She _must_ get nearer to safety than she was now.
Was she not relying on the house not catching fire instead of
negotiating insurance policies or providing fire extinguishers?

She would go and sit under the shelter of one of the many unemployed
machines--for only a few daring spirits would follow Sally's example
to-day--and try to think it out. Just a few instructions to Mrs.
Lobjoit, and a word or two of caution to Gerry not to fall over
cliffs, or to get run over at level-crossings or get sunstrokes,
or get cold, etc., and she would fall back on her own society and
think....

Yes, that was the question! Might she not lose him again? And if she
did, how live without him?... Oh yes, she would be no worse off than
before, in a certain sense. She would have Sally still ... but....

Which would be the worse? The loss of the husband whom every day
taught her to love more dearly, or the task of explaining the cause
of her loss to Sally? The one she fixed her mind on always seemed
intolerable. As for the other contingencies--difficulties of making
all clear to friends, and so forth--let them go; they were not worth
a thought. But she _must_ be beforehand, and know how to act, how to
do her best to avert both, if the thing she dreaded came to pass....

There now! Here she was settled under the lee of a machine--happily
the shadow-side, for the sun was warm--and the white foam of the
undertow was guilty of a tremendous glare--the one the people who
can't endure the seaside get neuralgia from--and Sally was going to
come out of the second machine directly in the Turkey-twill knickers,
and find her way through the selvage-wave and the dazzle, or get
knocked down and have to try back. Surely Rosalind, instead of saying
over and over again that she _must_ be ready to meet the coming evil,
possibly close at hand, ought to make a serious effort to become so.
She found herself, even at this early hour of the day, tired with the
strain of a misgiving that an earthquake was approaching; and as those
who have lived through earthquakes become unstrung at every slightest
tremor of the earth's crust beneath them, so she felt that the
tension begun with that recurrence of two days ago had grown and
grown, and threatened to dominate her mind, to the exclusion of all
else. Every little thing, such as the look on her husband's face half
an hour ago, made her say to herself, as the earthquake-haunted man
says at odd times all through the day and night, "Is this _it_? Has
it come?" and she saw before her no haven of peace.

What was it now she really most feared? Simply the effect of the
revelation on her husband's mind--an effect no human creature could
make terms with. She was not the least afraid of anything he could say
or do, delirium apart; but see what delirium had made of him--she was
sure it was so--in that old evil hour when he had flung her from
him and gone away in anger to try to get her sentence of banishment
ratified. How could she guard against a repetition, in some form
or other, of the disastrous errors of that unhappy time?

As we know, she was still in ignorance of all the revived
memories he had told to Vereker; but she knew there had been
something--disjointed, perhaps, and not to be relied on, as the
doctor had said, but none the less to be feared on that account. She
had seen the effect of his sleepless night before he went away with
Vereker, and knew it to be connected with mental disturbance outside
and beyond mere loss of rest; and she had an uneasy sense that
something was being kept from her. She could not but believe Gerry's
cheerfulness was partly assumed. Had he been quite at ease about his
recollections, surely he would have told them to _her_. Then this
had all come on the top of that Kreutzkammer one. The most upsetting
thing of all, though, was the change that had come over him suddenly
at breakfast, just after he had read aloud the name Herrick--a
name he had seemed not free from memory of when her tongue was
betrayed into speaking it--and the name Penderfield. If it was
due to this last, so much the worse! It was the name of all others
that was best for oblivion.

How hard it seemed that it must needs force itself to the fore in this
way! Its present intrusion into her life and surroundings was utterly
unconnected with anything in the past. Sally's friendship with Lætitia
began in a music-class six years ago. The Sales Wilsons were people
to all appearance as un-Indian as any folk need be. Why must Sally's
friend, of all others, be the object of its owner's unwelcome
admiration? To think, too, how near she had been to a precipice
without knowing it! Suppose she had come face to face with that woman
again! To be sure, her intercourse with Ladbroke Grove Road was
limited to one stiff exchange of calls in "the season." Still, it
might have happened ... but where was the use of begging and borrowing
troubles?

Was it, or was it not, the fact, she asked herself, that now, after
all these years, she thought of this woman as worse than her husband,
the iniquity of the accomplice as more diabolical than that of the
principal? She found she could not answer this in the negative
off-hand. The paradox was also before her that that incorrigible
amphibious treasure of hers, whose voice was even now shouting to
her more timorous friend from beyond the selvage-wave she had just
contemptuously dived through--that that Sally, inexchangeable for
anything she could conceive or imagine, must needs have been something
quite other than she was, had she come of any other technical
paternity than the accursed one she had to own to. Was there some
terrible law in Nature that slow forgiveness of the greatest wrong
that can be wrought must perforce be granted to its inflictor, through
the gracious survivor of a brutal indifference that would almost add
to his crime, if that were possible? If, so, surely the Universe must
be the work of an Almighty Fiend, a Demiurgus with a cruel heart, and
this the masterstroke of all his cunning. But what, in Heaven's name,
was the use of bruising her brains against the conundrums of the great
unanswered metaphysical sphinx? Better be contented with the easy
vernacular solution of the rhymester:

  "Praise God from whom all blessings flow,
  Evils from circumstances grow."

Because she felt she was getting no nearer the solution of her own
problem, and was, if anything, wandering from the point.

Another way of looking at the matter was beginning to take form: had
hung about her mind and forsaken it more than once. Might it not be
better, after all, to dash at the position and capture it while her
forces were well under control? To pursue the metaphor, the
commissariat might not hold out. Better endure the ills we have--of
course, Rosalind knew all that--than fly to others that we know not
of. But suppose we have a chance of flying to others we can measure
the length and breadth of, and staving off thereby an uncalculable
unknown? She felt she almost knew the worst that could come of taking
Gerry into her confidence, telling him boldly all about himself,
provided she could choose her opportunity and make sure Sally was well
out of the way. The concealment from Sally was the achievement whose
failure involved the greatest risk. Her husband's mind would bear the
knowledge of his story well or ill according to the way in which it
reached him; but the necessity of keeping her girl in ignorance of it
was a thing absolute. Any idea that Sally's origin could be concealed
from her, and her stepfather's identity made known, Rosalind dismissed
as simply fantastic.

A lady who had established herself below high-water mark with many
more books than she could read, and plant capable of turning out much
more work than she could do, at this point fled for safety from a rush
of white foam. It went back for more, meaning to wet her through next
time; but had to bear its disappointment. Mrs. Arkwright--for it was
Gwendolen's mamma--being driven from the shadow of the breakwater,
cast about her for a new lodgment, and perceived one beside Mrs.
Fenwick, whom she thought very well for the seaside, but not to leave
cards on. _Might_ she come up there, beside you? Rosalind didn't want
her, but had to pretend she did, to encourage her advent. It left
behind it a track of skeins and volumes, which had trickled from the
fugitive, but were recovered by a domestic, and pronounced dry.
Besides, they were only library books, and didn't matter.

"I haven't seen you since the other day on the pier, Mrs. Fenwick,
or I wanted to have asked you more about that charming young couple,
the Julian Attwoods. Oh dear! I knew I should get the name wrong....
_Bradshaw!_ Yes, of course." Her vivid perception of what the name
really is, when apprised of it, almost amounts to a paroxysm. You see,
on the pier that day, she made a bad blunder over those Bradshaw
people, and though she had consoled her conscience by admitting to
her husband that she had "_mis le pied dans le plat_," still, she
thought, if she was actually going to plump down on Mrs. Fenwick's
piece of beach, she ought to do a little more apology. By-the-bye,
why is it that ladies of her sort always resort to snippets of French
idiom, whenever they get involved in a quagmire of delicacy--or
indelicacy, as may be? Will Gwendolen grow like her mother? However,
that doesn't concern us now.

A little stiffness on Rosalind's part was really due to her wish to
be by herself, but Mrs. Arkwright ascribed it to treasured resentment
against her blunders of two days since. Now, she was a person who
could never let anything drop--a tugging person. She proceeded to
develop the subject.

"Really a most interesting story! I need hardly say that my informants
had given me no particulars. Very old friends of my husband's. Quite
possible they really knew nothing of this young gentleman's musical
gifts. Simply told my husband the tale as I told it to you. Just
that the daughter of an old friend of theirs, Professor Sales
Wilson--_the_ Professor Sales Wilson--of course, quite a famous name
in literature--scholarship--that sort of thing--had run away with a
shopman! That was what my husband heard, you know. _I_ merely
repeated it."

"Wasn't it, as things go, rather a malicious way of putting it--on
their part?"

Mrs. Arkwright gave sagacious nods, indicative of comfortable
"_we_-know-the-world-we-live-in-and-won't-pretend" relationships
between herself and the speaker. They advertised perfect mutual
understanding on a pinnacle of married experience. Fancy there being
any need for anything else between _us_! they said. Their editor then
supplied explanatory text: "Of course there may have been a _soupçon_
of personal feeling in the case--bias, pique, whatever one likes to
call it. _You_ know, dear Mrs. Fenwick?" But Mrs. Fenwick waited for
further illumination. "Well, you know ... I suppose it's rather a
breach of confidence, only I know I shall be safe with _you_...."

"Don't tell me any secrets, Mrs. Arkwright. I'm not safe." But Mrs.
Arkwright was not a person to be put off in this way. Not she! She
meant elucidation, and nothing short of bayonets would stop her.

"Well, really, perhaps I'm making it of too much importance to talk
of breaches of confidence. After all, it only amounts to a gentleman
having been disappointed. Of course, his relations would ... don't
you see?..."

"Was it some man that was after Tishy?" asked Rosalind, wondering
how many more rejected suitors were wearing the willow about the
haberdasher's bride. She had heard of one, only last night. She was
not putting two and two together.

"I dare say everybody knows it, and it's only my nonsensical caution.
But one does get _so_ timorous of saying anything. _You_ know, dear
Mrs. Fenwick! However, it's better to say it out now--of course, quite
between ourselves, you know. It was Mrs. Samuel Herrick's son, Sir
Charles Penderfield. He's the present baronet, you know. Father was
in the army--rather distinguished man, I fancy. Her second husband was
a clergyman...." Here followed social analysis, some of which Rosalind
could have corrected. The speaker floundered a little among county
families, and then resumed the main theme. "Mrs. Herrick is a sort of
connexion of my husband's (I don't exactly know what; but then, I
never _do_ know--family is such a bore), and it was _she_ told _him_
all about this. I always forget these things when they're told _me_.
But I can quite understand that the young man's mother, in speaking
of it ... _you_ understand?..."

"Oh, of course, naturally. I think my daughter's coming out. I saw her
machine-door move." Rosalind began collecting herself for departure.

"But, of course, you won't repeat any of this--but, of course, I know
I can rely upon you--but, of course, it doesn't really matter...."
A genial superior tone of toleration for mankind's foibles as seen by
the two speakers from an elevation comes in at this point juicily. It
meets an appreciative response in the prolonged first syllable of
Rosalind's "_Cer_tainly. I never should dream," etc., whose length
makes up for an imperfect finish--a dispersal of context from which
a farewell good-morning emerges clear, hand-in-hand with a false
statement that the speaker has enjoyed sitting there talking.

Rosalind had not enjoyed it at all. She was utilising the merpussy's
return to land as a means of escape, because, had there been no Mrs.
Arkwright, and no folk-chatter, Sally would have come scranching up
the shingle, and flung herself down beside her mother. As it was,
Rosalind's "Oh, _I am_ so glad to get away from that woman!" told
a tale. And Sally's truthful soul interpreted the upshot of that
tale as prohibitive of merely going away and sitting down elsewhere.
She and her mother were in honour bound to have promised to meet
somebody somewhere--say, for instance, Mrs. Vereker and her son and
donkey-chair. Sally said it, for instance, seeing something of the
sort would soothe the position; and the two of them met the three, or
rather the three and a half, for we had forgotten the boy to whom the
control of the donkey was entrusted, and whose interpretation of his
mission was to beat the donkey incessantly like a carpet, and to drag
it the other way. The last held good of all directions soever. Which
the donkey, who was small, but by nature immovable, requited by
taking absolutely no notice whatever of his exertions.

"What's become of my step-parent? I thought he was going to take you
for a walk." So spoke Sally to Dr. Conrad as she and her mother met
the three others, and the half. The doctor replied:

"He's gone for a walk along the cliff by himself. I would have
gone...." The doctor pauses a moment till the donkey-chair is a few
paces ahead, accompanied by Mrs. Fenwick. "I would have gone, only,
you see, it's just mother's last day or two...." Sally apprehends
perfectly. But he shouldn't have dropped his voice. He was quite
distant enough to be inaudible by the Octopus as far as overhearing
words went. But any one can hear when a voice is dropped suddenly,
and words are no longer audible. Dr. Conrad is a very poor
Machiavelli, when all is said and done.

"I can hear _every word_ my boy is saying to your girl, Mrs. Fenwick."
This is delivered with exemplary sweetness by the Octopus, who then
guesses with diabolical acumen at almost the exact wording of her
son's speech. Apparently, no amount of woollen wraps, no double
thickness of green veil to keep the glare out, no smoked glasses with
flanges to make it harmless if it gets in, can obscure the Goody's
penetrative powers when invoked for the discomfiture of her kind. "But
does not my dear boy know," she continues gushily, "that I am _al_ways
content to be _alone_ as long as I can be _sure_ that he is happily
employed _elsewhere_. I am a _dull old woman_, I know; but, at least,
my wish is not to be a burden. That was the wish of my great-aunt
Eliza--your great-great-aunt, Conrad; you never saw her--in her last
illness. I borrow her expression--'not to be a burden.'" The Octopus,
having seized her prey in this tentacle, was then at liberty to
enlarge upon the unselfish character of her great-aunt, reaping the
advantages of a vicarious egoism from an hypnotic suggestion that that
character was also her own. The great-aunt had, it appeared, lost the
use, broadly speaking, of her anatomy, and could only communicate
by signs; but when she died she was none the less missed by her
own circle, whose grief for her loss took the form of a tablet. The
speaker paused a moment for her hearers to contemplate the tablet,
and perhaps ask for the inscription, when Sally saw an opening, and
took advantage of it.

"Dr. Conrad's going to be very selfish this afternoon, Mrs. Vereker,
and come with us to Chalke, where that dear little church is that
looks like a barn. I mean to find the sexton and get the key this
time."

"My dear, I shall be _per_fectly happy knitting. Do not trouble about
me for one moment. I shall think how you are enjoying yourselves.
When I was a girl there was nothing I enjoyed more than ransacking
old churches...."

And so forth. Rosalind felt almost certain that Sally either said or
telegraphed to the doctor, who was wavering, "You'll come, you know.
Now, mind; two-thirty punc.," and resolved, if he did _not_ come,
to go to Iggulden's and extract him from the tentacles of his mamma,
and remain entangled herself, if necessary.

In fact, this was how the arrangement for the afternoon worked out.
Dr. Conrad did _not_ turn up, as expected, and Rosalind carried out
her intention. She rescued the doctor, and sent him round to join her
husband and Sally, promising to follow shortly and catch them up. The
three started to walk, but Fenwick, after a little slow walking to
allow Rosalind to overtake them, had misgivings that she had got
caught, and went back to rescue her, telling Sally and the doctor it
was no use to wait--they would follow on, and take their chance. And
the programme so indicated was acted on.



CHAPTER XLI

OF LOVE, CONSIDERED AS A THUNDERSTORM, AND OF AGUR, THE SON OF JAKEH
  (PROV. XXX.). OF A COUNTRY WALK AND A JUDICIOUSLY RESTORED CHURCH.
  OF TWO CLASPED HANDS, AND THEIR CONSEQUENCES. NOTHING SO VERY
  REMARKABLE AFTER ALL!


Love, like a thunderstorm, is very much more intelligible in its
beginnings--to its chronicler, at least--than it becomes when it is,
so to speak, overhead. We all know the clear-cut magnificence of the
great thundercloud against the sky, its tremendous deliberation, its
hills and valleys of curdling mist, fraught with God knows what
potential of destruction in volts and ohms; the ceaseless muttering
of its wrath as it speaks to its own heart, and its sullen secrets
reverberate from cavern to cavern in the very core of its innermost
blackness. We know the last prismatic benedictions of the sun it means
to hide from us--the strange gleams of despairing light on the other
clouds--clouds that are not in it, mere outsiders or spectators. We
can remember them after we have got home in time to avoid a wetting,
and can get our moist water-colours out and do a recollection of
them before they go out of our heads--or think we can.

But we know, too, that there comes a time of a sudden wind and
agitated panic of the trees, and then big, warm preliminary drops,
and then the first clap of thunder, clear in its own mind and full of
purpose. Then the first downpour of rain, that isn't quite so clear,
and wavers for a breathing-space, till the tart reminder of the first
swift, decisive lightning-flash recalls it to its duty, and it becomes
a steady, intolerable torrent that empties roads and streets of
passers-by, and makes the gutters rivulets. And then the storm
itself--flash upon flash--peal upon peal--up to the blinding and
deafening climax, glare and thunderbolt in a breath. And then it's
overhead, and we are sure something has been struck that time.

It was all plain sailing, two days since, in the love-storm we want
the foregoing sketch of a thunderstorm to illustrate, that was brewing
in the firmament of Conrad Vereker's soul. At the point corresponding
to the first decisive clap of thunder--wherever it was--Chaos set in
in that firmament. And Chaos was developing rapidly at the time when
the doctor, rescued by Sally's intrepidity from the maternal clutch,
started on what he believed would be his last walk with his idol at
St. Sennans. Now he knew that, when he got back to London, though
there might be, academically speaking, opportunities of seeing Sally,
it wasn't going to be the same thing. That was the phrase his mind
used, and we know quite well what it meant.

Of course, when some peevish author or invalid sends out a servant
to make you take your organ farther off, a good way down the street,
you can begin again exactly where you left off, lower down. But a
barrel-organ has no soul, and one has one oneself, usually. Dr.
Vereker's soul, on this occasion, was the sport of the love-storm of
our analogy, and was tossed and driven by whirlwinds, beaten down by
torrents, dazzled by lightning and deafened by thunder, out of reach
of all sane record by the most eloquent of chroniclers. It was not in
a state to accept calmly the idea of transference to Shepherd's Bush.
A tranquil mind would have said, "By all means, go home and start
afresh." But no; the music in this case refused to welcome the change.
Still, he would forget it--make light of it and ignore it--to enjoy
this last little expedition with Sally to the village church across
the downs, that had been so sweetly decorated for the harvest
festival. A bird in the hand was worth two in the bush. _Carpe diem!_

So Dr. Conrad seemed to have grown younger than ever when he and Sally
got away from all the world, after Fenwick had fallen back to rescue
the captive, octopus-caught. Whereat Sally's heart rejoiced; for this
young man's state of subordination to his skilful and overwhelming
parent was a constant thorn in her side. To say she felt for him is
to say nothing. To say that she would have jumped out of her skin with
joy at hearing that he was engaged to that young lady, unknown; and
that that young lady had successfully made terms of capitulation,
involving the disbanding of the Goody, and her ultimate dispersal to
Bedford Park with a companion--to vouch for this actually happening
might be rash. But Sally told herself--and her mother, for that
matter--that she should so jump out of her skin; and you may believe
her, perhaps. We happen not to; but it may have been true, for all
that.

Agur, the son of Jakeh (Prov. xxx.), evidently thought the souls of
women not worth analysis, and the way of a maid with a man not a
matter for Ithiel and Ucal to spend time and thought over, as they
seem to have said nothing to King Solomon on the subject. But then
Agur candidly admitted that he was more brutish than any man, and
had not the understanding of a man. So he contented himself with
wondering at the way of a man with a maid, and made no remarks about
the opposite case. Even with the understanding of a man, would he
have been any nearer seeing into the mystery of a girl's heart? As
for ourselves, we give it up. We have to be content with watching
what Miss Sally will do next, not trying to understand her.

She certainly _believed_ she believed--we may go that far--when she
started to walk to Chalke Church with a young man she felt a strong
interest in, and wanted to see happily settled in life--(all her
words, please, not ours)--that she intended, this walk, to get out
of Prosy who the young lady was that he had hinted at, and, what was
more, she knew exactly how she was going to lead up to it. Only
she wouldn't rush the matter; it would do just as well, or better,
after they had seen the little church, and were walking back in the
twilight. They could be jolly and chatty then. Oh yes, certainly a
good deal better. As for any feeling of shyness about it, of relief at
postponing it--what _nonsense_! Hadn't they as good as talked it all
over already? But, for our own part, we believe that this readiness
to let the subject wait was a concession Sally made towards admitting
a personal interest in the result of her inquiry--so minute a one that
maybe you may wonder why we call it a concession at all. Dr. Conrad
was perhaps paltering a little with the truth, too, when he said to
himself that he was quite prepared to fulfil his half-promise to
Fenwick and reveal his mind to Sally; but not till quite the end of
this walk, in case he should spoil it, and upset Sally. Or, perhaps,
to-morrow morning, on the way to the train. Our own belief is, he was
frightened, and it was an excuse.

"We shall go by the beech-forest," was Sally's last speech to Fenwick,
as he turned back on his mission of rescue. And twenty minutes later
she and Dr. Conrad were crossing the smooth sheep-pasture that ended
at the boundary of the said forest--a tract of woodland that was
always treated with derision on account of its acreage. It was small,
for a forest, certainly; but, then, it hadn't laid claim to the name
itself. Sally spoke forgivingly of it as they approached it.

"It's a handy little forest," said she; "only you can't lie down in
it without sticking out. If you don't expect to, it doesn't matter."
This was said without a trace of a smile, Sally-fashion. It took its
reasonableness for granted, and allowed the speaker to continue
without a pause into conversation sane and unexaggerated.

"What were you and Jeremiah talking about the day before yesterday,
when you went that long walk?"

"We talked about a good many things. I've forgotten half."

"Which was the one you don't want me to know about? Because you
haven't forgotten that, you know." Vereker thinks of Sally's putative
parents, the Arcadian shepherdess and the thunderbolt. Obviously
a reality! Besides--so ran the doctor's thought--with her looking
like _that_, what can I do? He felt perfectly helpless, but wouldn't
confess it. He would make an effort. One thing he was certain of: that
evasion, with those eyes looking at him, would mean instant shipwreck.

"We had a long talk, dear Miss Sally, about how much Jeremiah"--a
slight accent on the name has the force of inverted commas in
text--"can really recollect of his own history." But Sally's reply
takes a form of protest, without seeming warranty.

"I say, Dr. Conrad, I wish you wouldn't.... However, never mind that
now. I want to know about Jeremiah. Has he remembered a lot more, and
not told?"

"He goes on recovering imperfect versions of things. He told me a good
many such yesterday--so imperfect that I am convinced as his mind
clears he will find that some of them, though founded on reality, are
little better than dreams. He can't rely on them himself.... But what
is it you wish I wouldn't?"

"Oh, nothing!--I'll tell you after. Never mind that now. What are the
things--I mean, the things he recovers the imperfect versions of? You
needn't tell me the versions, you know, but you might tell me what
they were versions of, without any breach of confidence." Dr. Conrad
has not time for more than a word or two towards the obvious protest
against this way of stating the case, before Sally becomes frankly
aware of her own unfairness. "No, I won't worm out and inquisit,"
she says--and we are bound to give her exact language. "It isn't
fair on a general practitioner to take him for a walk and get at
his professional secrets." The merry eyebrows and the pearly teeth,
slightly in abeyance for a serious moment or two, are all in evidence
again as the black eyes flash round on the doctor, and, as it were,
convey his reprieve to him. He acknowledges it in this sense.

"I'm glad you don't insist upon my telling, Miss Sally. If you had
insisted, I should have had to tell." He paused a second, drawing an
inference from an expression of Sally's face, then added: "Well, it's
true...."

"I wasn't thinking of that." This refers to her intention to say
something, which never fructified; but somehow got communicated,
magnetically perhaps, to Dr. Conrad. "Never mind what, now. Because
if your soles are as slippy as mine are, we shall never get up. Catch
hold!"

This last refers to the necessity two travellers are under, who,
having to ascend a steep escarpment of slippery grass, can only do so
by mutual assistance. Sally and the doctor got to the top, and settled
down to normal progress on a practicable gradient, and all the
exhilaration of the wide, wind-swept downland. But what had been to
the unconscious merpussy nothing but a mutual accommodation imposed by
a common lot--common subjection to the forces of gravitation and the
extinction of friction by the reaction of short grass on leather--had
been to her companion a phase of stimulus to the storm that was
devastating the region of his soul; a new and prolonged peal of
thunder swift on the heels of a blinding lightning-flash, and a deluge
to follow such as a real storm makes us run to shelter from. On Dr.
Conrad's side of the analogy, there was no shelter, and he didn't ask
for it. Had he asked for anything, it would have been for the power to
tell Sally what she had become to him, and a new language he did not
now know in which to tell it. And such a vocabulary!

But Dr. Conrad didn't know how simple the language was that he felt
the want of--least of all, that there was only one word in its
vocabulary. And when the two of them got to the top of their slippery
precipice, breathless, he was no nearer the disclosure he had made up
his mind to, and as good as promised Fenwick to make, than when they
were treading the beechmast and listening to the wood-doves in the
handy little forest they had left below. But oh, the little things
in this life that are the big ones all the while, and no one ever
suspects them!

A very little thing indeed was to play a big part, unacknowledged till
after, in the story of this walk. For it chanced that as they reached
the hill-top the diminution of the incline was so gradual that at
no exact point could the lease of Sally's hand to that of the doctor
be determined by either landlord or tenant. We do not mean that he
refused to let go, nor that Sally consciously said to herself that it
would be rude to snatch back the gloveless six-and-a-half that she had
entrusted to him, the very minute she didn't want his assistance. It
was a _nuance_ of action or demeanour far, far finer than that on
the part of either. But it was real all the same. And the facts of
the case were as clear to Sally's subconsciousness, unadmitted and
unconfessed, as though Dr. Conrad had found his voice then and there,
and said out boldly: "There is _no_ young lady I am wavering about
except it be you; she's a fiction, and a silly one. There is no one
in the world I care for as I do for you. There is nothing in the world
that I can name or dream of so precious to me as this hand that I now
give up with reluctance, under the delusion that I have not held it
long enough to make you guess the whole of the story." All that was
said, but what an insignificant little thing it was that said it!

As for Miss Sally, it was only her subself that recognised that any
one had said anything at all. Her superself dismissed it as a fancy;
and, therefore, being put on its mettle to justify that action, it
pointed out to her that, after that, it would be the merest cowardice
to shirk finding out about Dr. Conrad's young lady. She would
manage it somehow by the end of this walk. But still an element of
postponement came in, and had its say. Yet it excited no suspicions
in her mind, or she ignored them. She was quite within her rights,
technically, in doing so.

It was necessary, though, to tide over the momentary reciprocity--the
slight exchange of consciousnesses that, if indulged, must have ended
in a climax--with a show of stiffness; a little pretence that we were
a lady and gentleman taking a walk, otherwise undescribed. When the
doctor relinquished Sally's hand, he felt bound to ignore the fact
that hers went on ringing like a bell in the palm of his, and sending
musical messages up his arm; and to talk about dewponds. They occur on
the tops of downs, and are very scientific. High service and no rate
are the terms of their water-supply. Dr. Conrad knew all about them,
and was aware that one they passed was also a relic of prehistoric
man, who had dug it, and didn't live long enough, poor fellow! to know
it was a dewpond, or prehistoric. Sally was interested. A little bird
with very long legs didn't seem to care, and walked away without undue
hurry, but amazingly quickly, for all that.

"What a little darling!" Sally said. "Did you hear that delicious
little noise he made? Isn't he a water-ouzel?" Sally took the first
name that she thought sounded probable. She really was making talk,
to contribute her share to the fiction about the lady and gentleman.
So was her companion. He reflected for a moment whether he could say
anything about Grallæ and Scolopacidæ, or such like, but decided
against heaping up instructive matter on the top of the recent
dewponds. He gave it up, and harked back quite suddenly to congenial
personalities.

"What was it you wished I wouldn't, Miss Sally?"

Our Sally had it on her lips to say, "Why, do _that_--call me _Miss_
Sally, of course! I can't _tell_ you how I hate it." But, this time,
she was seized with a sudden fit of shyness. She could have said it
quite easily before that trivial hand-occurrence, and the momentary
stiffness that followed it. Now she backed out in the meanest way, and
even sought to fortify the lady and gentleman pretext. She looked back
over the panorama they were leaving behind, and discerned that that
was Jeremiah and her maternal parent coming through the clover-field.
But it wasn't, palpably. Nevertheless, Sally held tight to her
groundless opinion long enough for the previous question to be
droppable, without effrontery. Then her incorrigible candour bubbled
up, and she refused to take advantage of her own subterfuge.

"Never mind, Dr. Conrad; I'll tell you presently. I've a bone to pick
with you. Wait till we've seen the little churchy-wurchy--there it
is, over there, with a big weathercock--and then we can quarrel and
go home separate."

Even Agur, the son of Jakeh, would have seen, at this point, the way
that this particular maid, in addressing this particular man, was
exaggerating a certain spirit of bravado; and if he had been
accompanying them unseen from St. Sennans, would certainly have
deserved his own self-censure if he had failed to trace this spirit
to its source--the hand-incident. We believe it was only affectation
in Agur, and that he knew all about the subject, men, maids, and
every other sort; only he didn't think any of the female sorts worth
his Oriental consideration. It was a far cry to the dawn of Browning
in those days.

Down the hill to the flatlands was a steep pathway, where talk paused
naturally. When you travel in single file on a narrow footway with
a grass slide to right or left of you, which it does not do to tread
on with shoe-soles well polished on two miles of previous gras