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Title: Non-combatants and Others
Author: Macaulay, Rose, Dame, 1881-1958
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Non-combatants and Others" ***

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                         NON-COMBATANTS AND OTHERS

                             BY ROSE MACAULAY

        AUTHOR OF 'THE LEE SHORE,' 'THE MAKING OF A BIGOT,' ETC.


    HODDER AND STOUGHTON
    LONDON NEW YORK TORONTO

    _Printed in 1916_

             TO
         MY BROTHER
    AND OTHER COMBATANTS



    'Let the foul scene proceed:
      There's laughter in the wings:
    'Tis sawdust that they bleed,
      But a box Death brings.

    Gigantic dins uprise!
      Even the gods must feel
    A smarting of the eyes
      As these fumes upsweal.

    Strange, such a Piece is free,
      While we Spectators sit
    Aghast at its agony,
      Yet absorbed in it.

    Dark is the outer air,
      Cold the night draughts blow,
    Mutely we stare, and stare
      At the frenzied show.

    Yet heaven has its quiet shroud
      Of deep and starry blue--
    We cry "An end!" we are bowed
      By the dread "'Tis true!"

    While the Shape who hoofs applause
      Behind our deafened ear
    Hoots--angel-wise--"the Cause!"
      And affrights even fear.'

    WALTER DE LA MARE, _The Marionettes_.


     'War is just the killing of things and the smashing of things.
     And when it is all over, then literature and civilisation will
     have to begin all over again. They will have to begin lower
     down and against a heavier load.... The Wild Asses of the Devil
     are loose, and there is no restraining them. What is the good,
     Wilkins, of pretending that the Wild Asses are the instruments
     of Providence, kicking better than we know? It is all evil.'

     REGINALD BLISS, _Boon_.


     'There is work for all who find themselves outside the battle.'

     ROMAIN ROLLAND, _Above the Battle_.



CONTENTS


PART I. WOOD END

CHAPTER I. JOHN COMES HOME

CHAPTER II. JOHN TALKS

CHAPTER III. ALIX GOES


PART II. VIOLETTE

CHAPTER IV. SATURDAY MORNING AT VIOLETTE

CHAPTER V. AFTERNOON OUT

CHAPTER VI. EVENING AT VIOLETTE

CHAPTER VII. HOSPITAL

CHAPTER VIII. BASIL AT VIOLETTE

CHAPTER IX. SUNDAY IN THE COUNTRY

CHAPTER X. EVENING IN CHURCH

CHAPTER XI. ALIX AND EVIE

CHAPTER XII. ALIX AND BASIL

CHAPTER XIII. ALIX, NICHOLAS, AND WEST


PART III. DAPHNE

CHAPTER XIV. DAPHNE AT VIOLETTE

CHAPTER XV. ALIX AT A MEETING

CHAPTER XVI. ON PEACE

CHAPTER XVII. NEW YEAR'S EVE



PART I

WOOD END



CHAPTER I

JOHN COMES HOME


1

In a green late April evening, among the dusky pine shadows, Alix drew
Percival Briggs. Percival stood with his small cleft chin lifted
truculently, small blue eyes deep under fair, frowning brows, one
scratched brown leg bare to the knee, dirty hands thrust into torn
pockets. He was the worst little boy in the wood, and had been till six
months ago the worst little boy in the Sunday-school class of Alix's
cousin Dorothy. He had not been converted six months ago, but Dorothy,
like so many, had renounced Sunday-school to work in a V.A.D. hospital.

Alix, who was drawing Percival, worked neither in a Sunday-school nor in
a hospital. She only drew. She drew till the green light became green
gloom, lit by a golden star that peered down between the pines. She had
a pale, narrow, delicate, irregular sort of face, broad-browed, with a
queer, cynical, ironic touch to it, and purple-blue eyes that sometimes
opened very wide and sometimes narrowed into slits. When they narrowed
she looked as from behind a visor, critical, defensive, or amused; when
they opened wide she looked singularly unguarded, as if the bars were up
and she, unprotected, might receive the enemy's point straight and
clean. Behind her, on the wood path, was a small donkey between the
shafts of a small cart. A rough yellow dog scratched and sniffed and
explored among the roots of the trees.

Alix said to Percival, 'That will do, thank you. Here you are,' and
fished out sixpence in coppers from her pocket, and he clutched and
gripped them in a small retentive fist.

Alix, who was rather lame, put her stool and easel and charcoal into the
cart, got in herself, beat the donkey, and ambled on along the path,
followed by the yellow dog.

The evening was dim and green, and smelt of pines. The donkey trotted
past cottage gardens, and they were sweet with wallflowers. More stars
came out and peered down through the tree-tops. Alix whistled softly, a
queer little Polish tune, indeterminate, sad and gay.


2

Two miles up the path a side-track led off from it, and this the
donkey-cart took, till it fetched up in a little yard. Alix climbed out,
unharnessed the donkey, put him to bed in a shed, collected her
belongings, and limped out of the yard, leaning a little on the
ivory-topped stick she carried. She had had a diseased hip-joint as a
child, which had left her right leg slightly contracted.

She came round into a garden. It smelt of wallflowers and the other
things which flower at the end of April; and, underneath all these, of
pines. The pine-woods came close up to the garden's edge, crowding and
humming like bees. Pine-needles strewed the lawn. The tennis-lawn, it
was most summers; but this summer one didn't play tennis, one was too
busy. So the lawn was set with croquet hoops, a wretched game, but one
which wounded soldiers can play. Dorothy used to bring them over from
the hospital to spend the afternoon.

An oblong of light lay across the lawn. It came from the drawing-room
window, which ought, of course, to have been blinded against hostile
aircraft. Alix, standing in the garden, saw inside. She saw Dorothy,
just in from the hospital, still in her V.A.D. dress. The light shone on
her fair wavy hair and fair pretty face. Not even a stiff linen collar
could make Dorothy plain. Margot was there too, in the khaki uniform of
the Women's Volunteer Reserve; she had just come in from drilling. She
usually worked at the Woolwich canteen in the evenings, but had this
evening off, because of John. She was making sand-bags. Their mother,
Alix's aunt Eleanor, was pinning tickets on clothes for Belgians. She
was tall and handsome, and like Alix's mother, only so different, and
she was secretary of the local Belgian Committee (as of many other
committees, local and otherwise). She often wore a little worried frown,
and was growing rather thin, on account of the habits of this
unfortunate and scattered people. One of them had been their guest since
November; she was in the drawing-room now, a plump, dark-eyed girl,
knitting placidly and with the immense rapidity noticeable on the
Continent, and not to be emulated by islanders without exhaustion.

Alix's uncle Gerald (a special constable, which was why he need not
bother about his blinds much) stood by the small fire (they were
wholesome people, and not frowsty) with an evening paper, but he was not
reading it, he was talking to John.

For among them, the centre of the family, was John; John wounded and
just out of hospital and home on a month's sick-leave; John with a red
scar from his square jaw to his square forehead, stammering as he talked
because the nerves of his tongue had been damaged. Alix, watching from
the garden, saw the queer way his throat worked, struggling with some
word.

They were asking John questions, of course. Sensible questions, too;
they were sensible people. They knew that the conduct of this campaign
was not in John's hands, and that he did not know so much more about it
than they did.

The room, with its group of busy, attractive, efficient people, seemed
to the watcher in the dark piny garden full of intelligence and war and
softly shaded electric light. Alix narrowed her eyes against it and
thought it would be paintable.


3

The dark round eyes of the Belgian girl, looking out through the window,
met hers. She laughed and waved her knitting. She took Alix always as a
huge joke. Alix had from the first taken care that she should, since the
moment when Mademoiselle Verstigel had arrived, fluent with tales from
Antwerp. It is a safe axiom that those who play the clown do not get
confidences.

The others looked out at her too when Mademoiselle Verstigel waved. They
called out 'Hullo, Alix! How late you are. John's been here two hours.
Come along.'

Alix limped up the steps and in at the French window, where she stood
and blinked, the light on her pale, pointed face and narrowed eyes. John
rose to meet her, and she gave him her hand and her crooked smile.

'You're all right now, aren't you?' she said, and John, an accurate
person, said, 'Very nearly,' while his mother returned, 'I'm afraid he's
a long way from all right yet.'

'Isn't it funny, it makes him stammer,' said Dorothy, who was
professionally interested in wounds. 'But he's getting quite nice and
fat again.'

'N-not so fat as I was when I got hit,' said John. 'The trenches are the
best flesh-producing ground known; high living and plain thinking and no
exercise. The only people who are getting thin out there are the
stretcher-bearers, who have to carry burdens, the Commander-in-chief,
who has to think, the newspaper men, who have to write when there's
nothing to say, and the chaplains, who have to chaplain. I met old
Lennard of Cats, walking about Armentières in February, and I thought he
was the Bishop of Zanzibar, he'd gone so lean. When last I'd seen him he
was rolling down King's Parade arm-in-arm with Chesterton, and I
couldn't get by. It was an awfully sad change.... By the way, _you_ all
look thinner.'

'Well, we're not in the trenches,' said Margot. 'We're leading busy and
useful lives, full of war activities. Besides, our food costs us more.
But Dorothy and I are fairly hefty still. It's mother who's dwining; and
Alix, though she's such a lazy little beggar. Alix is hopeless; she does
nothing but draw and paint. She could earn something on the stage as the
Special Star Turn, the Girl who isn't doing her bit. She doesn't so much
as knit a body-belt or draw the window-curtains against Zepps.'

Alix looked round from the window to stick out the tip of her tongue at
Margot.

'Mais elle est boiteuse, la pauvre petite,' put in the Belgian girl,
with the literalness that makes this people a little _difficile_ in home
life. 'What can she do?'

Alix giggled in her corner. Margot said, 'All right, Mademoiselle, we
were only ragging. There's the post.' She went out to fetch it. Margot
was a good girl, but, like so many others, tired of Belgians, though
this Belgian was a nice one, as strangers in a foreign land go. Alix
hated and feared her whole nation; they had been through altogether too
much.

Margot came back with the letters.

'Betty and Terry,' she said, with satisfaction. 'Betty's is for me and
Terry's for you, mother.' (Terry was in France, Betty driving an
ambulance car in Flanders.) 'Two for you, Alix.'

Alix took hers, which were both marked 'On Active Service,' and put them
in her pocket. Simultaneously her aunt Eleanor began to read Terry's
aloud (it was about flies, and bread and jam, and birds, and some music
he had made and was sending home to be kept safe) and Margot began to
read extracts from Betty's (about nails, and bad roads, and different
kinds of shells, and people) and Uncle Gerald read bits out of the paper
(about Hill 60, and Hartmannsweilerkopf, and Sedd el Bahr, and the _Leon
Gambetta_, and liquor, and Mr. Lloyd George).


4

Alix slipped out at the window and limped round to the side door and
into the house and upstairs to the schoolroom, which she was allowed to
use as a studio. It was littered with things of hers: easels, chalks,
paints, piles of finished and unfinished drawings and paintings. Some
hung on the walls: some of hers and some by the writer of the letter she
took out to read. He painted better than she did, but drew worse--or
had, in the long-ago days when persons of his age and sex were drawing
and painting at all.

Alix read the letter. It was headed obscurely with an R, some little
figures of men, and two weeping eyes, which was where the writer was for
the moment stationed. Every now and then a phrase or sentence was
erased. The writer, apparently a man of honour, had censored it himself.
His honour had not carried him so quixotically far as to erase the
hieroglyphics at the head of the paper.

It said:--

     'DEAR ALIX,--Since I last wrote we've been moved some miles; I
     mustn't, of course, indicate where to. It is nice country--less
     flat than the other place, and jolly distant ridges,
     transparent blue and lavender coloured. I'll do a sketch when
     we get into billets at the end of the week. My company is in
     the trenches now; commodious trenches they are, the best in the
     line, but rather too near the people opposite for
     comfort--they're such noisy lunatics. It's eight o'clock now,
     and they've begun their evening hate; they do a bit every
     evening. The only creature they've strafed to-night yet is a
     brown rat, whom we none of us grudge them. It's interesting the
     different noises the shells make coming; you can nearly always
     tell what kind they are. If I was musical I'd make a symphony
     out of them. I should think your cousin Terry Orme could. Some
     of them scream, thin and peevishly, like a baby fretting; some
     howl like a hyena, some mew like a kitten. Then there's Lloyd
     George's Special, which says "Lloyd-Lloyd-Lloyd-Lloyd," and
     then all the men shout "_George_."' (A page of further
     discursion on shells, too technical for reproduction here.
     Then, resumed next morning,) 'I'm fairly sleepy this morning;
     we had to stand to from two to six A.M., expecting an attack
     which never came off. I wish it had, it would have been a way
     to get warm. We've had poor luck to-night; the Tommy who was
     sent over the top to look at the wire was made into a French
     landlord, and our sergeant-major stopped one with his head,
     silly ass, he was simply asking for it. It's my belief he was
     trying to get back to Blighty, but I hope they won't send him
     further than the base. You would like to see the dawn coming
     over this queer country, grey and cold and misty. I watched it
     through my peri for an hour. The Boches lay perdu in their
     trenches mostly, but sometimes you'd see one looming over his
     parapet through the mist. I want some tea now more than most
     things. You might write soon. You never answered my last, so
     it's generous of me to be writing again. How's every one at the
     School, and how's life and work? Your enemies the Ruski seem to
     be in a tight place, don't they?--Yours,

     'BASIL DOYE.'

Alix read this letter rather quickly. It bored her. It concerned the
things she least preferred to hear about. That was, of course, the worst
of letters from the front. Life at Wood End, as at other homes, was full
of letters from the front. They seemed to Alix like bullets and bits of
shrapnel crashing into her world, with their various tunes. She might,
from her nervous frown, have been afraid of 'stopping one.' She twisted
up the letter into a hard ball with her thin, double-jointed fingers, as
she stared, frowning, at a painting on the wall. The painting was of a
grey-green pond, floored with a thin, weedy scum. A hole-riddled,
battered old tin rode in the middle of it; reeds stood very quietly
round; a broken boot was half sunk in the mud among them. Over it all
brooded and slept a heavy June noon. It was well painted; Alix thought
it the best thing Basil Doye had ever done. They had spent an afternoon
by the pond in June 1914; Alix remembered it vividly--the sleepy,
brooding silence, the heavy fragrance of the hawthorn, the scum-green
pond, the tin and the boot, the suggestion of haunting that they had
talked of at the time and that Basil had got rather successfully into
his picture afterwards. Those were curious days, those old days before
August 1914; or rather it was the days ever since that were curious and
like a nightmare. Before that life was of a reality, a sanity, an
enduringness, a beauty. It still was, only it was choked and confused by
the unspeakable things that every one thought mattered so much, but
which were really evil dreams, to be thrown off impatiently. Underneath
them all the time the real things, the enduring things--green ponds,
music, moonlight, loveliness--ran like a choked stream....

Alix read her other letter, which was from her young brother Paul, and
also written in a trench. The chief thing she thought about this was
that Paul's handwriting was even worse than usual. He wrote in pencil on
a very small piece of paper, and scrawled up and down wildly. He might
have been twelve instead of eighteen and a half. Paul was rather a
brilliant boy. When the war broke out he had been a distinguished head
of his school, and had just obtained a particularly satisfactory Oxford
scholarship. His letters, since he went to the front in March, had been
increasingly poor in quality and quantity. It made Alix angry that he
should be out there. She thought it no place for children, and, as
Paul's elder by nearly seven years, she knew all about his nerves.



CHAPTER II

JOHN TALKS


1

'Alix, you'll be late for dinner,' Dorothy's voice called across the
landing. Alix went to the big bedroom she shared with Dorothy and
Margot. Margot was hooking up her frock; Dorothy was washing with vigour
and as much completeness as her basin would allow, and complaining that
John was occupying the bathroom.

'I hate not having a bath after hospital. But one can't grudge it to the
dear lamb. How do _you_ think he looks, Alix? Rather nervy, he is still.
That's the worst of a head wound. You know Mahoney, Margot, that Munster
Fusiliers man with a bit of shrapnel in his forehead? The other men in
ward 5 say he still keeps jumping out of bed in his sleep and standing
to. The only way they can get him back is to say 'Jack Johnson
overhead,' and then he scuttles into bed and puts his head under the
pillow; only sometimes he scuttles under the bed instead, and then the
only way they can get him out is to say 'Minnie's coming,' and he nips
out quick for fear of being buried alive. I believe he frightened one of
the young ladies he walks out with into fits one day by thinking he saw
snipers in the trees. Of course one never knows how much of it he's
putting on for a joke, he's so silly, but he is badly wrecked too.'

Margot said, 'Isn't Mahoney having massage now? Nan Goddard said she
thought she was going to have him to do. She has four every morning now.
She likes Mahoney; she thinks he looks such an innocent little dear.'

Dorothy said, 'Innocent, did she? Mahoney! Oh well, she'll get to know
him better if she has him for massage. Did you hear Mahoney and
Macpherson's latest exploit?' This need not be here retailed. It is well
known that a convalescent hospital containing forty soldiers is not
without its episodes, and provides many fruitful topics of conversation.

They dressed meanwhile. Dorothy, in white muslin, was fair-skinned and
fresh, with shining light brown hair and honest grey eyes. Margot, in
yellow tussore, had hair a shade darker and curlier, and her eyes were
hazel. They were both very nice to look at, and had pleasant, clear,
loud voices, with which they talked about soldiers. Alix put on an old
green shantung frock and a string of amber beads; she looked thin,
childish, elf-like; her eyes were rather narrowed under brooding brows.


2

They were at dinner. Alix sat opposite John, who wore a dinner jacket
again, as if there were no war. He looked brown and square and cheerful.
Between the daffodils Alix saw his eyes, nervous and watchful, with the
look in them that was in so many young men's eyes in these days. Next
him was Mademoiselle Verstigel, stolid, placid, eating largely, saying
little.

Mr. Orme spoke of the big advance that they all believed was coming
directly.

'Not yet,' said John. 'N-not enough shells.'

'Wish I could go and help make some,' said Margot.

They all discussed the munitions question. John had strong views on it,
differing in some particulars from his father's. John related the inner
history of several recent episodes of war, to support his view. He was
very interesting. John was not naturally an anecdotal person, but his
mind had been of late stored and fed with experiences. Some officers are
reduced by trench life to an extreme reticence; the conversational
faculty of others is stimulated. Nervous strain works in both of these
ways, often in the same person. Anyhow John had to talk about the war
to-night, because at Wood End they all did. He answered his father's
questions about barbed wire, his mother's about dug-outs, his sisters'
about things to eat. They asked him all the things they hadn't liked to
ask him while he was in hospital for fear of setting his brain working
and retarding his recovery. Dorothy wanted to know if it was true what
the men said, that their bully beef often climbed out of its tin and
walked down the trench. John said it was not, and that it was one of the
erroneous statements he had most frequently to censor in the men's
letters. Margot wanted to know what sort of meals he had in the
trenches. John said mess in the dug-out usually consisted of six courses
(preceded by vermuth), three drinks, and coffee. He proceeded to
describe the courses in detail.

His mother wanted to know about the nights, whether he got any sleep.
John said yes, quite a lot, when it didn't happen to be his watch. What
about the noise? his mother asked. Had he got at all used to it yet?
John said it wasn't nearly so noisy as the Royal Free Hospital, where he
had spent the last month. His father asked what he thought of the German
soldiers as clean fighters. John said they seemed much like anybody
else, as far as he'd noticed. Mademoiselle Verstigel, understanding
this, shook her head in protest. His mother asked, did he think it was
true that our Tommies were learning to pray, or was the contrary
statement truer, that they were losing such faith as they had? John said
he had not himself noticed either of these phenomena in his platoon, but
he might, of course, ask them. His father, who was interested, both as a
person of intelligence and as a man of business, in the Balkans, got
there, and they discussed the exhausting and exhaustive topic of those
wild and erratic states, the relations of each to other, to the Central
Powers, to the Allies, and to the war, at some length. It was the period
when people were saying that Greece would come in for us, that Rumania
might, and that it was essential to collar Bulgaria. So they said these
things duly.


3

In a pause John said to Alix across the table, 'What's Aunt Daphne doing
now?'

There was a slight sense of jar. Margot, who was sympathetic, was
ashamed for Alix, because of what her mother, Daphne Sandomir, was
doing. For this always unusual lady, instead of being engaged in working
for the Red Cross, Belgian refugees, or soldiers' and sailors' families,
was attending a peace conference in New York. She had gone there from
France, which she had been helping the Friends to reconstruct. She was
not a Friend herself, not holding with institutional religion, but she
admired their ready obedience to the constructive impulse. She was
called by some a Pacificist, by more a Pacifist, by others a Pro-German,
by most a member of the Union of Democratic Control, which she was not,
for reasons which she was ready to explain, but which need not be here
detailed.

Alix told John, in her clear, indifferent, rather melancholy little
voice, about the peace conference. In common with many children of two
intensely enthusiastic parents (her father had been a Polish
liberationist, who had died in a Russian prison) she had a certain
half-cynical detachment from and indifference to ardours and causes. Her
mother was always up to some stirring enterprise, always pursuing some
vividly seen star. She had been at Newnham in the days when girls went
to college ardently, full of aims and ideals and self-realisations and
great purposes (instead of as now, because it seems the natural thing to
do after school for those with any leanings towards learning) and she
had lived her life at the same high pitch ever since. Alix found her
admirable, but discomposing. She found Alix engaging, even intriguing,
but narrow-hearted, selfish and indolent; she accused her of shrinking
from the world's griefs in a way unworthy of her revolutionary father,
whom she closely resembled in face and brain.

John was rather interested in the peace conference. He had read
something about it the other day in one of the periodicals which
flourished in the University to which he belonged, and which wholly
approved of the enterprise. Not that John, for his part, wholly approved
of the periodical; he found it a trifle unbalanced, heady, partisan.
John was a very fair-minded and level-headed young man, of conservative
traditions. But independent, too. When the temporary second lieutenant
with both legs blown off, who had occupied the next bed to his in the
Royal Free, had said, perusing the comments on the peace conference in
the periodical in question (under the heading 'A Triumph of Pacifism'),
'What sickening piffle, isn't it?' John had said, after a little
cogitation, 'Well, I don't know. They _mean_ well.' The legless
lieutenant (Trinity Hall) had snorted, 'They mean well to the Boche....
After all our _trouble_ ... all the legs we've lost ... to cave in
now.... Besides, what do _they_ think they can do? A lot of people
gassing.... I wonder who they _are_?'

John had said he believed one of his aunts was keen on it.

'Sort of thing aunts _would_ be keen on,' the other youth had vaguely,
and, indeed, quite inaccurately commented.

On the whole John didn't much hold by such movements, but he took a more
lenient view of them than the rest of his family did.

His father said, 'A little premature, discussing peace terms before we
know we're going to be in a position to dictate them.'

His mother murmured, 'Peace, peace, where there is no peace,' and smiled
kindly at Alix to comfort her for her mother.

Dorothy said, answering her father, 'Well, _of course_ we know we are.
But I don't see any use in discussing things beforehand, anyhow: we
shall be able to think when the time comes.'

Mademoiselle looked with her round black eyes from one to another, like
a robin. She might have been reflecting in her mind that Dorothy was
very English, Mr. Orme very depressing, Mrs. Orme very kind, John very
impartial, and Alix very indifferent. What she said, turning to John,
was (and she would seem to have been preparing the remark for some time:
she was very keen on improving her English), 'The war is trulee
devileesh, yes? The Boches are not as humans, no? More, is it not,
Monsieur, as the devils from below?'

John grinned. Dorothy said, 'True for you, Mademoiselle.' Margot said,
'You're really coming on. Only you must say "like," not "as." "As" only
comes in books; it's too elegant. And devilish isn't elegant enough.'

'El-ee-gant,' Mademoiselle repeated the word softly. She was perhaps
wondering whether it was necessary to be elegant at all in one's
references to the Boches.


4

After dinner they got out a map of the western front and spread it on a
table and made John say, so far as he knew, in which parts of the line
the various battalions at the moment were, and Dorothy wrote their
names, very small, all down the line. Alix slipped away while they were
doing this, to smell the garden. Soon they began to sing in the
drawing-room. Margot sang, 'When we wind up the watch on the Rhine,' a
song popular among soldiers just then. She was no doubt practising for
canteen concerts. John joined in the chorus, in a baritone voice
somewhat marred by trench life.

Alix went indoors and up to bed. She was shivering, as if she was cold,
or very tired, or frightened....

She undressed hastily, whistling shrilly, and got into bed and pulled
the bedclothes up round her neck and read Mr. Give Bell's last book,
with much of which she differed violently, so violently that she made
marginal and unsympathetic notes on it in pencil as she lay.

'I'll send it to Basil and see what he thinks,' she thought.

Then Dorothy and Margot came up, merry and talking.

'You _are_ a lazy little unsociable slacker,' Margot told her. 'John was
telling us such ripping stories, too. Make him tell you to-morrow about
the sergeant-major and the pheasant and the barbed wire. It was awfully
funny.'

Dorothy yawned. 'Oh, I'm sleepy. Thank goodness it's Sunday to-morrow,
so we can lie in. Margot, you've pinched my slippers.... Oh no, all
right.'

Alix lay and read. Her cousins undressed and said their prayers and got
into bed.

'Ready, Alix?' asked Margot, her finger on the switch.

'Right,' said Alix, putting Mr. Clive Bell under her pillow, where,
deeply as she differed from him, he seemed to lie as a protection
against something.

The switch clicked, and the room was in darkness.

Margot and Dorothy murmured on drowsily, dropping remarks about the
hospital, the canteen, things John had said.... The remarks trailed away
into sleep.


5

Alix lay awake. Her forehead was hot and her feet were cold. She was
tense, and on the brink of shivering. Staring into the dark she saw
things happening across the seas: dreadful things, ugly, jarring,
horrifying things. War--war--war. It pressed round her; there was no
escape from it. Every one talked it, breathed it, lived in it. Aunt
Eleanor, with her committees, and her terrible refugees; Mademoiselle
Verstigel, with her round robin's eyes that had looked horror in the
face so near; Uncle Gerald, with his paper and his intelligent city
rumours; Dorothy and Margot with their soldiers, who kept coming to tea,
cheerful, charming, and maimed; John, damaged and stammering, with his
nervous eyes and his quiet, humorous trench talk; Basil, writing from
his dug-out of Boche and shells ... little Paul out there in the
dark ... they were all up against the monster, being strangled ... it
was like that beastly Laocoon....

There was a balcony running along outside the bedrooms at the front of
the house. The moonlight lay palely on it; Alix watched it through the
long open window. Through the window came a sound of quiet crying;
gasping, choked sobbing, as if a child were in despair. Alix sat up in
bed and listened. Margot and Dorothy breathed softly, each a
peace-drugged column of bedclothes.

Alix, pale and frowning, scrambled out of bed, shuddered, and pattered
on thin, naked feet to the window and out on to the moon-bathed stone
balcony floor.

Outside his own window, John, barefooted, in pink pyjamas, stood,
gripping with both hands on to the iron balustrade, his face turned up
to the moon, crying, sobbing, moaning, like a little child, like a man
on the rack. He was saying things from time to time ... muttering
them ... Alix heard. Things quite different from the things he had said
at dinner. Only his eyes, as Alix had met them between the daffodils,
had spoken at all like this; and even that had not been like this. His
eyes were now wide and wet, and full of a horror beyond speech. They
turned towards Alix and looked through her, beyond her, unseeing. John
was fast asleep.

Alix, to hear no more, put her hands over her ears and turned and ran
into the bedroom. She flung herself upon Dorothy and shook her by the
shoulders, shook her till she sat up startled and awake.

Alix stammered, 'John--John. He's walking in his sleep ... out there....
He's crying--he's talking ... go and stop him.'

Dorothy, efficient and professional in a moment, sprang out of bed into
her two waiting slippers, and ran into the balcony. Alix heard her,
gentle, quiet, firm, soothing John, leading him back to bed.

Alix was most suddenly and violently sick.

When Dorothy came back, twenty minutes later, she was huddled under the
bedclothes, exhausted, shuddering and cold.

'He's quiet now,' said Dorothy, taking off her slippers. 'Poor old boy.
They often do it, you know. It's the nervous shock. I must listen at
nights.... I say, don't tell him, Alix; he wouldn't like it. Specially
to know he was crying. Poor old Johnny. Just the thing he'd never do,
awake, however far gone he was. Nor talking like that; he was saying
awful things.... Did you hear?'

'Yes,' said Alix, in a small, faint voice.

Dorothy looked at her curiously, and saw her grey pallor and shut eyes.

'Why, you're ill too: I believe Johnny's upset you.' She spoke with a
kindly pity and contempt. 'Is that it, kiddie?'

'Don't know,' said Alix. 'No. Should think it was too many walnuts at
dinner. Let's go to sleep now.'

Dorothy, before she did this, turned her head on the pillow towards
Alix's corner and said kindly, 'You'll never be any use if you don't
forget _yourself_, Alix. You couldn't possibly nurse if you were always
giving in to your own nerves. After all, what they can bear to go
through, we ought to be able to bear to hear about. But of course you're
not used to it, I know. You should come to the hospital sometimes.
Good-night. If you feel rotten in the morning, don't get up.'

Dorothy went to sleep.

Alix lay and watched the shadows shifting slowly round on the balcony,
and listened for sobbing, but heard only the quiet murmur of the pines.

'What they can bear to go through.... But they can't, they can't, they
can't ... we can bear to hear about ... but we can't, we can't, we
can't....'

It was like the intolerable ticking of a clock, and beat itself away at
last into a sick dream.

On the other side of the wall, John started and sat bolt upright in bed,
with wide staring eyes.... John, like many thousand others, would
perhaps never sleep quietly through a night again. Yet John had been a
composed sleeper once.



CHAPTER III

ALIX GOES


1

It was Sunday next day. Dorothy and Margot conducted a party of wounded
soldiers to matins. Mrs. Orme, who thought it time Mademoiselle
Verstigel went to Mass again, sent her over to Wonford, where there was
a church of her persuasion. She herself had to go up to town to the
Sunday club where soldiers' and sailors' families were kept out of the
streets and given coffee, news, friendship, music, and the chance to
read good books, a chance of which Mrs. Orme, a sanguine person, hoped
undiscouraged that they would one day avail themselves. (Hope, faith,
and love were in her family. Her sister, Daphne Sandomir, when in
England, held study circles of working women to instruct them in the
principles which make for permanent peace, and hoped with the same
fervour that they would read the books and pamphlets she gave them.)

Mr. Orme and John walked over to the links to play golf. Alix, not
having either the church, club, or golf habit, and being unfitted for
much walking, sat in the wood, tried to paint, and failed. She felt
peevish, tired, cross and selfish, and her head ached, as one's head
nearly always does after being sick in the night. The pines were no
good: stupid trees, the wrong shape. What sort of pictures would
one be painting out there? Mud-coloured levels, mud-coloured men,
splashes of green here and there ... and red.... And blue sky, or
mud-coloured, with shells winging through it like birds, singing,
'Lloyd-Lloyd-Lloyd-Lloyd.'... The sort of picture Basil would be
painting and the way he would be painting it she knew exactly. Only
probably he wasn't painting at all to-day. It was Sunday-hate day.
Whizz-bangs, pom-poms, trench-mortars spinning along and bouncing off
the wire trench roof.... Minnie coming along to blow the whole trench
inside out ... legs and arms and bits of men flying in the air ... the
rest of them buried deep in choking earth ... perhaps to be dug out
alive, perhaps dead.... What was it John had said on the
balcony--something about a leg ... the leg of a friend ... pulling it
out of the chaos of earth and mud and stones which had been a trench ...
thinking it led on to the entire friend, finding it didn't, was a
detached bit.... Had John cried at the time? Been sick? Probably not;
John was a self-contained young man. He had waited till afterwards, when
he was asleep.

Alix, seeing her friends in scattered bits, seeing worse than that,
seeing what John had seen and mentioned with tears, turned the greenish
pallor of pale, ageing cheese, and dropped her head in her hands.
Painting was off for that morning. Painting and war don't go together.


2

Mrs. Orme came home in the afternoon, tired but still energetic. Mr.
Orme and John came in to tea too, with Sunday papers and having seen
telegrams about the German offensive being stopped at Ypres. Callers
dropped in to tea. They worried John by their questions. They kindly
drew out Mademoiselle Verstigel, in French worse than her English.

Directly after tea Margot had to hurry away up to town to the canteen.
The callers dropped out again, one by one. John and his father went out
to smoke in the garden, and to look at young trees. Dorothy went to make
a cake for the hospital.

Mrs. Orme sorted, filed, and pigeon-holed case-papers about Belgians.

Alix, sitting in the window seat, said, 'Aunt Eleanor, I think I'm too
far away from the School. I think I'd better go and stay in London, to
be nearer.'

Mrs. Orme abstracted part of her attention from the Belgians, paused,
paper in hand, and looked at her niece with her fine dark kind eyes,
that were like her sister's, only different.

'Very well, child. You may be right. I'm sorry, though....' She jabbed a
paper on the file, and gave more of her attention still. 'Go and stay in
London.... But with whom, dear? And what does your mother think?'

'Oh, mother,' said Alix, and gave her small, crooked smile. 'Mother
won't mind. She never does. I'll write to her about it, any time....
Well, I might be in rooms--alone or with some one else.'

'Not alone,' Mrs. Orme said promptly. 'You're not old enough.
Twenty-five, is it? You look less. Oh yes, I know girls do it, but I
don't like it. I wouldn't let Dorothy or Margot. Who could you share
them with? You've not thought of any one especial? It would have to be
some one sensible, who'd look after you, or you'd get ill.... Nicholas
lives with another man, doesn't he?... Wait: I've just thought of
something....' She began rummaging in her desk. 'I've a letter
somewhere; I kept it, I know. She looked for it. Alix thought how like
she was, as she searched, to her sister Daphne; both were so often
looking for papers which they knew they had kept; and both had the same
short-sighted frown and graceful bend of the neck.

'Here,' said Mrs. Orme, and held up an envelope addressed in a flowing
hand--the sort of hand once used by most ladies, but now chiefly by
elderly and middle-aged persons of an unliterary habit.

'Emily Frampton,' said Mrs. Orme. 'No, you wouldn't know her, but she's
a cousin. That is, not a cousin, but married to one. She's the widow of
your cousin Laurence, who died fifteen years ago. None of us could think
why ... well.' She checked herself. 'She's very nice and kind, Emily
Frampton.' But so different, she meant, from their cousin Laurence. This
was so. Laurence Frampton had been scholarly, humorous, keen-witted,
dry-tongued, and a professor of Greek. Emily Frampton was not; which is
sufficient description of her for the moment.

'She and her two girls (her own, you know; she was a widow even before
she married Laurence) live at Clapton. Violette, Spring Hill, Upper
Clapton, N. They're poor; they want some nice person to board with them.
She's very kind; you'd be taken care of.' Mrs. Orme puckered her wide,
white forehead and looked at Alix as if she were a Belgian with a
case-paper. 'Really, till your mother comes back and takes the
responsibility, I can't let you go just anywhere.'

'Well--' Alix drawled a little, uncertainly. 'I don't _like_ being taken
care of, Aunt Eleanor. And they sound dull.'

'Well, dear, you must settle. I own I couldn't personally live
at--what's the name of the house--Geranium--Pansy--no, Violet--Violette,
I mean. Those sort of people are so dreadfully out of the currents;
probably know nothing about the war, except that there is one, and....'

'Well,' said Alix, more quickly, 'perhaps I'll go there, Aunt Eleanor. I
think I will.'

'You'll be doing them a kindness,' said Mrs. Orme. 'And of course it
will be much more convenient for you than going up to town from here
every day. If you like I'll write to Mrs. Frampton to-day. We shall miss
you, dear.' She screwed up her eyes affectionately at Alix, and added,
'You don't look well, child. I wish your mother would come home. You
miss her.'

'It's fun when mother's home,' said Alix. 'But it's quieter when she
isn't. Mother's so--so stimulating.'

'Oh, very,' said Mrs. Orme, who thought of Mrs. Sandomir as a spoilt,
clever, fascinating but wrong-headed younger sister. She couldn't tell
Alix how wrong-headed she found her mother, but she added kindly, 'You
know, my dear, that I think she is mistaken in her present enterprise,
and would be much better at home.'

'Most enterprises are mistaken. All, very likely,' said Alix, and her
aunt was shocked, thinking she should not be cynical so young.

'The child's a funny outcome of Paul Sandomir and Daphne,' she
reflected, and returned to her case-papers.


3

John came in. Alix noticed how cheerful and placid he looked, and how
his hand, holding his pipe, shook. He sat down and began to talk about
the advantages of not digging up one of the lawns for potatoes, which
Margot wanted to do. His memories lay behind his watchful eyes, safely
guarded. But Alix knew.

'I must write to mother,' she said, and left the room.

As she went upstairs she met Mademoiselle Verstigel coming down. Her
Sunday dress was bright scarlet, with canary-coloured ribbons. She had
saved it out of the wreck at home, when all seemed lost, and fled in it,
like so many Belgians. She looked at Alix with her round eyes, and they
too held memories. Alix stumbled at a stair. Mademoiselle caught her
thin arm in her own plump one and saved her from falling. Alix hated the
touch; she said, 'Oh, merci,' and gripped her stick tight and hurried on
upstairs with her uneven, limping steps. She got into the schoolroom and
shut the door.

'I must get away,' she said, breathing hard. 'I will go to Violette.'



PART II

VIOLETTE



CHAPTER IV

SATURDAY MORNING AT VIOLETTE


1

Alix rode from South Kensington to Clapton in the warm mid-June night on
the last bus. She had been at a birthday party in Margaretta Terrace,
S.W. Bus 2 took her to the Strand end of Chancery Lane. Here she left
her companion, who had rooms in Clifford's Inn, and walked up Chancery
Lane to Holborn, and got the last Stamford Hill bus and rushed up Gray's
Inn Road and then into the ugly, clamorous squalor of Theobald's Road,
Clerkenwell and Old Street. The darkness hid the squalor and the dull
sordidness of the long straight stretch of Kingsland Road. Through the
night came only the flare of the street booths and the screaming of the
very poor, who never seem too tired to scream.

At Stamford Hill Alix got off, and walked down Upper Clapton Road, which
was quiet and dark, with lime-trees. Alix softly whistled a tune that
some one had played on a violin to-night at Audrey Hillier's party. The
party, and the music, and the students' talk of art-school shop, and the
childish, absurd jokes, and the chocolates and cigarettes (she had eaten
eighteen and smoked five) were like a stimulating, soothing drug.

A policeman at the corner of Spring Hill flashed his light over her and
lit her up for a moment, hatless, cloaked, whistling softly, limping on
a stick, with her queer, narrow eyes and white face.

She turned down Spring Hill, which is an inclined road running along the
northern end of Springfield Park down to the river Lea. It is a
civilised and polite road, though its dwellings have not the dignified
opulence of the houses round the common.

Alix stopped at Violette, and let herself softly in with her latchkey.
Violette was silent and warm; the gas in the tiny hall was turned low.
The door ajar on the right showed a room also dimly lit, with a saucepan
of milk ready to heat on the gas-ring, and a plate of Albert biscuits
and a sense of recent occupation. It is very clear in an empty room by
night what sort of people have sat and talked and occupied themselves in
it by day. Their thoughts and words lie about, with their books and
sewing.

There were also in this room crochet doylies on the chairs and tables, a
large photograph of a stout and heavily-moustached gentleman above the
piano (Mr. Tucker), a small photograph of a thin and shaven and
scholarly gentleman over the writing-table (Professor Frampton), some
Marcus Stones, Landseers, and other reproductions round the walls, two
bright blue vases on the chimney-piece, containing some yellow flowers
of the kind that age cannot wither, dry, rustling, and immortal, 'Thou
seest me' illuminated in pink and gold letters, circling the picture of
a monstrous eye (an indubitably true remark, for no inhabitant of the
room could fail to see it), and the _Evening Thrill_ and _The Lovers'
Heritage_ (Mrs. Blankley's latest novel) lying on the table.

Alix sat on the table and smoked another cigarette. She always smoked
far too many. She was pale, with heavy, sleep-shadowed eyes. She had
talked and smoked and been funny all the evening.

One o'clock struck. Alix turned out the gas and went up to bed, quietly,
lest she should disturb the family. She crept into the bedroom she
shared with Evie, and undressed by the light that came in through the
half-curtained window from the darkened lamps in the street.

The faint light showed Evie, asleep in her lovely grace, the grace as of
some lithe young wild animal. Alix never tired of absorbing the various
aspects of this lovely grace.

She got into bed and curled herself up. Between the half-drawn window
curtains she could see the tops of the Park trees, waving and fluttering
their boughs in a dark sky, where clouds drove across the waning moon.
Footsteps beat in the road outside, came near, passed, and died. The
policeman trod and retrod his allotted sphere, guarding Violette while
it drifted drowsily into the summer dawn, which broke through light,
whispering rain. Alix dreamed....

In Flanders, the rain sloped down on to men standing to in slippery
trenches, yawning, shivering, listening....


2

Evie pulled back the curtain, and the yellow day broke into Alix's
dreams and opened her sleepy eyes. She yawned, her thin arms, like a
child's arms, stretched above her head.

'Oh, Evie,' said Alix. 'Can't be morning, is it?'

'Not half,' said Evie, collecting her sponges and towels for her bath.
'It's last night still.... Whatever time did you get back, child?' (Evie
was a year younger than Alix, but more experienced. In her pink kimono
dressing-gown, with her long brown plait down her back, and her face
softly flushed from the pillow, she looked like the blossom a hazel-nut
might have had, had it been so arranged.)

'Twelve--one--two--don't know,' Alix yawned, and pulled the bedclothes
tight under her chin. 'Think I was too tipsy to notice.'

Evie, coming back from the bathroom, woke her again. She lay and
watched, between sleepy lids, Evie dressing. Drowsily she thought how
awfully, awfully pretty Evie was. Evie was lithe and long-limbed, with
sudden, swift grace of movement like a kitten's or a young panther's.
She had a face pink and brown, fine in contour, and prettily squared at
the jaw, eyes wide and dark and set far apart under level brows, and
dimples. Of the Violette household, Evie alone had charm. Except on
Saturdays and Sundays she trimmed hats at a very superior and artistic
establishment in Bond Street. There was a certain adequacy about Evie;
she did but little here below, but did that little well.

Alix sat up in bed, one dark plait hanging on either side of her small
pale face, her sharp chin resting on her knees.

'I must do it sometime, mustn't I?' she said, and did it forthwith,
tumbling out of bed and staggering across to the washstand for her
sponge and towel. She dropped and drowned her dreams in her cold bath,
and came back cool and indifferent. Through the open window the summer
morning blew upon her merrily; it was windy, careless, friendly, full of
light and laughter.


3

In the dining-room, when Alix came down, were Mrs. Frampton, who was
small, trim, fifty-three, and reading a four-page letter; Kate, who was
inconspicuous, neat, twenty-nine, and making tea; and Evie, who has
already been described and was perusing two apparently amusing letters.

Mrs. Frampton looked up from her letter to say, 'Good-morning, dear. You
came home with the milk this morning, I can see by those dark saucers.
You ought to have stayed in bed and had some breakfast there.'

Mrs. Frampton was very kind. She also was very early in going to bed:
anything after midnight was to her with the milk.

Kate said, having made the tea and turned out the gas-ring, 'We're all
late this morning. If we don't commence breakfast quick I shall never
get through my day.'

They stood round the table; Mrs. Frampton said, 'For what we are about
to receive,' and Kate said, 'Some bacon, mother?'

'A small helping only, love.... Such a nice long letter from Aunt
Nellie. Fred and Maudie have been staying with her for the week-end, and
the baby's tooth begins to get through. Aunt Nellie's rheumatism is no
better, though, and she thinks of Harrogate next month. Do you hear
that, Kate?'

Kate was critically examining a plate.

'Egg left on it _again_. If I've spoken to Florence once I've done so
fifty times, about egg on plates. I'd better ring for her and speak at
once, hadn't I, mother? She'll never learn otherwise.'

'Do, love.'

Kate rang. Florence came and Kate said, 'Florence, there's egg on this
plate again. Take it away and bring another, and recollect what I told
you about soda.'

'Oh dear me, dear me,' said Mrs. Frampton, who had opened the paper.
'Just listen to this. One of those Zeppelins came again last night and
dropped bombs on the East Coast, killing sixteen and injuring forty.
Now, isn't that wicked! Babies in the cradle formed a large proportion
of the fatalities, as usual. Poor little loves. You'd think those men
would be ashamed, with all the civilised world calling them baby-killers
last time.'

'They're just inhuman murderers,' said Kate absently. 'I expect they're
dead to shame by now.... This bacon is somewhat less streaky than the
last. We must speak to Edwards about it again. I shall tell him we shall
really have to deal with Perkins if he can't do better for us. Another
slice, Evie?'

'Some more toast, love,' Mrs. Frampton suggested to Alix. 'And a little
preserve. You don't eat properly, Alix. You'll never grow strong and big
and rosy.... Kate, this tea isn't so nice as the last. A touch raspier,
it seems. What do you think?'

'I prefer it, mother. It has somewhat more taste. But if you think it's
too strong....'

'No, love, I expect you're right. Is it the one-and-ninepenny?'

'One-and-eight.'

Evie giggled over her correspondence.

'And who have _you_ heard from, Evie?' asked her mother, looking
indulgently at her pretty younger daughter.

'Floss Vinney, for one. She's got some more blouse patterns, and wants
me to go round again and help her choose. There's one a perfect treat
she was thinking of last week; she thinks it'll make up to suit her, but
it won't a bit; it's fussy, and she's too fussy already, with that
frizzy hair. It would suit me nicely, or you, Alix, but it'll smother
Floss. I told her so, but she wouldn't believe me. She thinks Vin will
like her in it, but I bet he doesn't. Though, of course, you never can
say _what_ a man will like, they're so funny. Oh dear, they are comic!'
Evie gurgled over some private experiences of her own: she did not lack
them.

'Floss usually looks very nice in her clothes,' said Kate with
deliberate heroism, because, for reasons, she disliked to think so.
Alix, hearing her, passed her the jam (preserve, Violette called it)
impulsively, without being asked; and as a matter of fact, Kate, eating
bacon, did not want it. Mrs. Frampton, moved doubtless by some sequence
of thought known to herself, said, 'They say those Belgians in the
corner house eat ten pounds of cheese each week. Edwards' boy told
Florence. Just fancy that. Not that one grudges them anything, poor
things.'

Kate said, 'Mr. Alison' (the vicar of the church she attended) 'says
those corner Belgians have been very troublesome indeed lately. They've
all quarrelled among themselves, and all but the wounded young man and
his mother think the wounded young man is well enough to go to the front
now, and he will slam the doors so, and two new ones have come, so
they're packed as tight as herrings (but they say Belgians always _will_
overcrowd), and the one that lost her baby on the journey has found it
again, and the others aren't pleased because it cries at nights, and
they all say they don't get enough to eat. The vicar's had no end of
bother with them. And now two of them say they won't stay here, they'll
go off to Hull, where Belgians aren't allowed. The vicar reasoned with
them ever so long, but they will go. They say they have uncles there.
I'm sure it's very wrong if they have. It does seem sad, doesn't it?'
The lack of discipline among this unhappy people, she meant, rather than
the uncles at Hull.

Mrs. Frampton said, 'To think of them behaving like that, after all
they've been through!' She scanned the paper again, having finished her
small breakfast.

'Here's a German in Tottenham Court Road strangled himself with his
window cord. Ashamed of his country. Well, who can blame him? We must
leave that to his Maker. Now listen to this: Lord Harewood says
Harrogate is a nest of spies. Quite full of German wives, it is. Fancy,
and Aunt Nellie going to take the baths there next month. Lowestoft too,
and Clacton-on-Sea. I'm sure I shall never want to visit any of those
East Coast places again; you'd never know whom to trust; not to mention
all these airships coming, and being put into gaol if you forget to pull
the blinds, and having your dog confiscated if he runs out by night....
Girl robbed her grandmother; she spent it all on dress, too. Fancy, with
all the distress there is just now. Home Hints: Don't throw away a
favourite hat because you think its day is over. Wash it in a solution
of water and gum and lay it flat on the kitchen dresser. Stuff the crown
with soft paper and stand four flat-irons on the brim. But clean the
irons well first with brick-dust and ammonia. The hat will then be a
very nice new shape.... Here's a recipe for apple shortcake, Kate: I
shall cut that out for Florence.... Dear me, how late it gets! We must
all get to our day's work.... Have you heard news from your mother, Alix
dear?'

'Yes.' Alix had two letters before her. 'Mother writes from Athens.
She's been interviewing Tino (don't know how she managed it); trying to
get him to sit on a council for Continuous Mediation without Armistice.
I gather Tino thinks it a jolly sound plan in theory, but isn't having
any in practice. That's the position of most of the neutral governments,
apparently.'

As none of the family knew what Continuous Mediation without Armistice
meant, the only comment forthcoming was, from Mrs. Frampton, 'Your
mother is a very wonderful person. I only hope she isn't getting
over-tired, going about as much as she does.... You've had some news
from the front too, haven't you?'

'Yes,' said Alix. 'A friend of mine has just got wounded. He's being
sent home.'

'Oh, my dear, how unfortunate! Not seriously, I trust?'

'No, I shouldn't think so. A nice blighty one in the hand, he says. He
seems quite cheery about it. He tried to return a bomb to the senders,
and it went off just before its proper time. It happens often, he says.
It must be difficult to calculate about these time-bombs.'

'A dreadful risk to take, indeed! It's his left, I suppose, as he
writes?'

'He dictated it. No, not his left.'

'The right? Dear me, now, how sad that is. It so hampers a man. What
used he to work at, love?'

'He paints.'

'Well now, isn't that a pity! He must learn to paint left-handed when
the war's over, mustn't he? But I hope his hand will be quite well again
long before then. It's given you quite a shock, dearie, I can see.
You've gone quite pale. Would you like a little sal-volatile?'

'No thank you, Cousin Emily. It's not given me a shock a bit.... Do you
want me to do the lamps, Kate?'

'Well--I don't know why you should. Evie's nothing to do this
morning....' Kate looked doubtfully at her sister, who said promptly,
'Oh, hasn't she? That's all you know. I'm for a cutting-out morning.
Thanks muchly, Alix; I'll do the dusting if you'll do the lamps.'


4

Kate retired to domestic duties in the back regions.

Evie, before doing the dusting, took up the _Daily Message_ and glanced
through the feuilleton. It had been the same feuilleton for many weeks.
It was always headed by a synopsis and a list of characters: 'John
Hargreave, a strong, quiet man of deep feeling, to whom anything
underhand is abhorrent. Valerie Lascelles, a beautiful girl of nineteen,
who loves John. Sylvia, her sister, exactly like Valerie in face, but
not in character, for she is shallow and hard and lives abroad, the
widow of a foreign count. Cyril Arbuthnot, a smart man about town,
unscrupulous in his methods, who sticks at nothing.' No wonder Evie
found it interesting.

Then she flicked competently round the drawing-room with a duster,
calling to Florence to clear away quick, because she wanted the table
for cutting out.

Alix did the lamps in the pantry.

Mrs. Frampton did accounts and wrote to Aunt Nellie, in the dining-room.

Florence cleared away, also in the dining-room.

Kate looked in in her hat and coat, with the little red books that come
from shops on a Saturday morning.

'I'd better get in a new tongue, I suppose, mother. The one we have will
scarcely be sufficient for Sunday.'

'Yes, dear. Get one of the large ones.'

Kate went bill-paying.

Evie extracted incomprehensively-shaped pieces of brown paper from the
pages of _Home Chat_, a weekly periodical which she took in, and began
her cutting-out morning.

Alix returned from the lamps and said, 'I'm going out for the day with
some people. I may go on to Nicholas in the evening, very likely.' (It
may or may not have been before mentioned that Alix had a brother of
that name.)

'Very well, dear. Bring your brother or some of your friends back with
you afterwards, if you like. I'm sure it would be very nice if they
stopped to supper. Our supper's simple, but there's always plenty for
all. And the Vinneys are coming round afterwards, so we shall be a nice
party. I asked them because they've got that cousin, Miss Simon, staying
with them, and I thought they'd be glad of an evening's change for her.'

'That fatty in a sailor blouse,' Evie, who observed clothes, commented.
'I should think they'd be glad of a change _from_ her. She's a
suffragette, and talks the weirdest stuff; she's as good as a play to
listen to.... I shouldn't think your brother'd get on with the Vinneys a
bit, Alix.'

'Probably not,' said Alix. 'He doesn't with most people.'

Evie looked as if she shouldn't think he did.

'What's the name of that new floor-polish, to tell Aunt Nellie?' said
Mrs. Frampton, pausing in her letter.

But, as Kate was out, and as it was neither Ronuk nor Cherry Blossom
(suggestions of unequal levels of intelligence from Evie and Alix), she
had to leave a space for it.



CHAPTER V

AFTERNOON OUT


1

Alix sat on the bus and rushed through the shining summer morning down
Upper Clapton Road, Lower Clapton Road, Mare Street, Hackney Road,
Shoreditch, Bishopsgate, and so into the city. The noon war news leaped
from placards, in black and red and green. A mile of trenches taken near
Festubert--a mile of trenches lost again. Alix did not care and would
not look. Anyhow it wasn't Paul's part of the line. London was damp and
shining under a windy blue sky. They had cleared away the bodies of
those struck down last night by motor buses in the dark. What a
sacrifice of life! Was it worth while?

The traffic was held up every now and then by companies of recruits
swinging along, in khaki and mufti, jolly, absorbed, resolute,
self-conscious, or amused. There went down Threadneedle Street the
Artists' Rifles. Some looked like studio artists, pale, intelligent,
sometimes spectacled, others more like pavement artists, others again
suggested sign-painters. But this last was probably an illusion, as
sign-painters since last August had been mostly too busy painting out
and repainting names on signs to have time for soldiering. Many classes
have lost heavily by this war, such as publicans, milliners, writers,
Belgians, domestic servants, university lecturers, publishers, artists,
actors, and newspapers. But some have gained; among these are
sheep-growers, house-agents, sugar-merchants, munition-makers, colliers,
coal-owners, and sign-painters. An unequal world.

The bus waited, held up opposite a recruiting station. Alix, looking
down, met the hypnotic stare of the Great Man pictured on the walls, and
turned away, checking a startled giggle. Anyhow she was lame, and not
the sex which goes either, worse luck. (On that desperate root of
bitterness she never dwelt: that way madness lay.) Her swerving eyes
fell next on one of the pictures of domestic life designed and executed
(so common report had it) by the same Great Man; the picture in which an
innocent and reproachful infant inquires of a desperately embarrassed
but apparently not irate parent, 'Daddy, what did _you_ do to help when
Britain fought for freedom in 1915?' Alix giggled again, and looked up
at the white clouds racing across the summer sky, where was no war nor
rumours of war.


2

At Bond Street she left the bus and went to Grafton Street, where there
was a small exhibition of pictures by two young artists known to Alix.
Here she met by appointment three friends, her fellow-students at the
art school. Their names were Nonie Maclure, Oliver Banister, and Thomas
Ashe. Miss Maclure and Mr. Banister were there before her. They greeted
her with 'What cheer, Joanna?'--Joanna, because in a play composed and
produced recently by their combined talent, Alix had taken this part.
Alix went to speak to the exhibitors, who were standing about and
failing to look detached, and began to look round, murmuring to her
friends, 'What's the show like?... Oh, she's got that yellow thing
in...' and so forth. Presently Mr. Thomas Ashe joined them. (It may here
be mentioned, lest readers should be unfairly prejudiced against Mr.
Ashe and Mr. Banister, that one of them had a frozen lung and the other
a distended aorta. They were quite good young men really, and would have
preferred to go.)

They criticised and appreciated the pictures for an hour, with the
interested criticism and over-appreciation usually poured forth by young
persons on the works of their fellow-students and contemporaries, often
at the expense of the older and staler and less in the only movement
that really matters.

'That's like some of Doye's things,' said one of the young men, and the
other said, 'Doye's wounded, isn't he? I saw it in the paper to-day. I
hope it's not much.'

Alix said it wasn't.

'He's on his way home. I hope they send him to a hospital in town, so we
can all go and see him.'

Nonie Maclure shot her a curious glance. She had never known quite how
deep the intimacy between these two had gone. She sometimes wondered.
She had thought just before the war that it went very deep indeed. But
in these present days Alix seemed prepared to play round at large with
so many young men, and to flirt, when that was the game, with a
light-handed recklessness only exceeded by Nonie herself; and Nonie, of
course, was notorious.


3

They went out to lunch. The world is divided into those who have lunch
in their own homes, those who have lunch in some one else's, those who
have lunch in hotel restaurants, those who have lunch in nice
eating-shops, those who have lunch in less nice eating-shops, such as
A.B.C.'s, those who have lunch in eating-shops very far from nice, those
who have lunch in handkerchiefs, and those who do not have lunch at all.
The classes are, of course, not rigid; many people alternate from day to
day between one and another of them. Alix and her friends were, most
days, either in class four or class five. To-day they were in class
four, being out for a happy day, and they had lunch in a little place in
Soho, full of orange-trees in green tubs, and sunshine, and maccaroni.
They found one another interesting, entertaining, and attractive. Nonie
Maclure was dark and good-looking, a fitfully brilliant worker, and a
consistently lively companion. Oliver Banister was gentle and fair and
delicate, and indifferent to most things, only not to art or to Nonie
Maclure. He had tried to get passed for the army, but, as he was
rejected, he settled down tranquilly and without the bitterness that
eats the souls of so many of the medically and sexually unfit. He
recognised the compensations of his lot. Tommy Ashe, on the other hand,
was bitter and angry like Alix; like her he would have hated the war
anyhow, even if he had been fighting, being a sensitive and intelligent
youth, but as it was he loathed it so much that he would never mention
it unless he had to, and then only with a sneer. It was partly this that
drew him to Alix and her to him. They were in the same case. So they
found they could trust one another not to talk of the indecent monster.
Also he admired her unusual, delicate, ironic type. Anyhow it was the
fashion to have some special friend among the girls at the school, and
it helped one to forget. So he and Alix plunged into a flirtation not
normally natural to either.

The four of them flirted and ragged and joked and were funny all the
afternoon, which they spent in Richmond Park. Alix and Tommy Ashe went
off together and lost the other two, and lay on the grass, and became
rather more intimate than they had ever been before. When soldiers
strolled by they looked the other way and pretended not to see, and
talked very fast about anything that came into their heads. Sometimes
the soldiers were wounded; once a party of them, in hospital blues, sat
down quite near them, with two girls in V.A.D. uniform, who called the
soldiers by their surnames and chaffed them. They were all being merry
and funny and having a good time. One was a boy of eighteen,
pink-cheeked and hilarious, with his right leg cut short just below the
thigh.

'Look here, it's time we found those two people,' said Alix, sitting up.
'We must really set about it in earnest.'

So they went away, but presently they felt more like tea than finding
the others, so they had some. When finally the party joined itself
together, it went to Earl's Court and had a hilarious hour
flip-flapping, wiggle-woggling, and joy-wheeling. It desisted at
half-past six, dishevelled, battered and bruised, and separated to
fulfil its respective evening engagements.


4

Alix went to see her brother Nicholas. Nicholas was a journalist, on the
staff of a weekly paper which cost sixpence and with whose politics he
was not in agreement. As there was no paper, weekly, sixpenny or
otherwise, with whose politics he was in agreement, this was not
strange. It may further be premised of Nicholas that he was twenty-seven
years old, of good abilities, thought war too ridiculous a business for
him to take part or lot in, was probably medically unfit to do so but
would not for the world have had it proved, was completely lacking in
any sense of veneration for anything, negligently put aside as absurd
all forms of supernatural religion, shared rooms with a curate friend in
Clifford's Inn, and had from an infant reacted so violently against the
hereditary enthusiasm which nevertheless looked irrepressibly out of his
eyes that he had landed himself in an unintelligent degree of cynicism
in all matters.

Hither Alix went, when the evening sunshine lay mellow on Chancery Lane.
Alix had a curious and quite unaccountable feeling for Chancery Lane. It
seemed to her romantic beyond all reason. Just now it was as some wild
lane on the battle front, or like a trench which has been shelled, for
the most recent airship raid had ploughed it up. A week ago it had been
the scene of that wild terror and shrieking confusion which is
characterised by a euphemistic press as 'no panic.'

Alix limped past the chaos quickly. An old man tried to sell her a
paper. '_Star_, lady? _Globe_, _Pall Mall_, _Evening News_? British fail
to hold conquered trenches....' Alix hurried by; the newsvendor turned
his attention to some one else. Evening papers, of course, are
interesting, and should not really be missed; they often contain so much
news that is ephemeral and fades away before the morning into the light
of common day; they are as perishable and never-to-be-repeated as some
frail and lovely flower.

But Alix, ignoring them, reached Clifford's Inn, and climbed the narrow
oak stairway to the rooms inscribed:

    MR. N. I. SANDOMIR,
    REV. C. M. V. WEST.

Both these gentlemen were in their sitting-room. The Rev. C. M. V. West
reposed on a wicker couch, reading alternately two weekly church papers
and the _Cambridge Magazine_. One of these papers was High Church,
another Broad Church, the third did not hold with churches. The Rev. C.
M. V. West was a refined-looking young man, very neatly cassocked, with
a nice face and a sense of humour. In justice to him we must say that he
worked very hard as a rule, but had been enjoying a deserved rest before
evensong. To Alix he stood for a queer force that was at work in the
world and which she had been brought up to consider retrograde.

Nicholas Sandomir lay in an easy-chair, surrounded by review copies of
books. He was too broad-shouldered for his height; he was pale and
prominent-jawed, with something of the Slav cast of feature; his mouth,
like Alix's, was the mouth of a cynic; his eyes, small, overhung, and
deep blue, were the eyes of an idealist. This paradox of his face was
only one among many paradoxes in him; he was unreliable; he disbelieved
in all churches, and lived, unaccountably, with a High Church curate
(this, probably, was because he liked him personally and also liked to
have an intelligent person constantly at hand to disagree with; also he
came, on his father's side, of a race of devout and mystic Catholics).
He despised war, and looked with contempt on peace societies (this was
perhaps because, so far as he worshipped anything, he worshipped
efficiency, and found both peace societies and war singularly lacking in
this quality). He detested Germany as a power, and loathed Russia who
was combating her (this, doubtless, was because he was half a Pole).

Anyhow, this evening, when Alix came in, he was sulkily, even viciously,
turning the pages of a little book he had to review, called (it was one
of a series) _The Effects of the War on Literature_. He waved his
disengaged hand at Alix, and left it to West, who had much better
manners, to get up and put a chair for her and pass and light her a
cigarette.

'Did you meet Belgians on the stairs?' inquired West. 'They've put some
in the rooms above us--the rooms that used to be Hans Bauer's. Five of
them, isn't it, Sandomir?'

'Five to rise,' Nicholas replied. 'A baby due next week, I'm told.'
(Unarrived babies were among the things not alluded to at Violette in
mixed company: no wonder Violette found Nicholas peculiar.)

'It's awkward,' West added, lowering his voice and glancing at one of
the shut bedroom doors, 'because we keep a German, and they can't meet.'

'What do you do that for?' asked Alix unsympathetically.

'Awkward, isn't it?' said West. 'Because they keep coming to see us--the
Belgians, I mean (they like us rather), and he'--he nodded at the
bedroom--'has to scoot in there till they're gone. It's like dogs and
cats; they simply can't be let to meet.'

'Well, I don't know what you want with a German, anyhow.'

'He's a friend of ours,' explained Nicholas. 'He was living in the
Golders Green Garden City, and it became so disagreeable for him
(they're all so exposed there, you know--nothing hid) that we asked him
here instead. If they find him he's afraid they may put him in a
concentration camp, and of course if the Belgians sighted him they'd
complain. He means no harm, but unfortunately he had a concrete lawn in
his garden, about ten feet square, where he used to bounce a ball for
exercise. Also he had made a level place on his roof, among Mr. Raymond
Unwin's sloping tiles, where he used to sit and admire the distant view
through a spyglass. It's all very black against him, but he's a studious
and innocent little person really, and he'd hate to be concentrated.'
('It would make one feel so like essence of beef, wouldn't it?' West
murmured absently.) 'He's not a true patriot,' went on Nicholas. 'He
wants the Hohenzollerns to be guillotined and a disruptive country of
small waning states to be re-established. He writes articles on German
internal reform for the monthly reviews. He calls them "Kill or Cure,"
or, "A short way with Imperialism," or some such bloody title. I don't
care for his English literary style, but his intentions are
excellent.... Well, and how's life?' Nicholas turned his small keen blue
eyes on his sister. 'You look as if you'd been out for a joy-day. You
want some more hairpins, but we don't keep any here.'

'I've been wiggle-woggling,' Alix admitted, and added frankly, 'I feel
jolly sick after it.'

'Our family constitution,' said her brother, 'is quite unfit for the
strains we habitually subject it to. Mine is. I feel jolly sick too. But
my indisposition is incurred in the path of duty. I've got to review the
things, so I have to read them--a little here and there, anyhow. And
then, just as one feels one has reached one's limit, one gets a handbook
of wisdom like this, to finish one off.'

He read a page at random from _The Effects of the War on Literature_.
'The war is putting an end to sordidness and littleness, in literature
as in other spheres of human life. The second-rate, the unheroic, the
earthy, the petty, the trivial--how does it look now, seen in the light
of the guns that blaze over Flanders? The guns, shattering so much, have
at least shattered falsity in art. We were degenerate, a little, in our
literature and in our lives: we have been made great. We are come,
surely, to the heroic, the epic pitch of living; if we cannot express it
with a voice worthy of it, then indeed it has failed in its deepest
lesson to us. We may expect a renascence of beauty worthy to rank with
the Romantic Revival born of the French wars....'

'Who _is_ the liar?' asked Alix.

Nicholas named him. 'I am thinking,' he added, 'of starting an Effects
of the War series of my own. I shall call it _Some Further Effects_. It
will be designed to damp the spirits of the sanguine. I shall do the one
on Literature myself. I shall take revenge in it for all the mush I've
had to review lately. It's extraordinary, the stream of--of the heroic
and the epic, isn't that it--that pours forth daily. The war seems to
have given an unhealthy stimulus to hundreds of minds and thousands of
pens. One knew it would, of course. No doubt it was the same during the
siege of Troy, and all the great wars. Though, thank heaven, we shall
never know, as that sort of froth is blown away pretty quick and lost to
posterity. It's only the unhappy contemporaries who get it splashed all
over them. And this war is beastlier than any other, so the rubbish is
less counteracted by the decent writers. The first-rate people, both the
combatants and non-combatants, are too much disgusted, too upset, to do
first-rate work. The war's going on, and means to go on, too long. Wells
or some one said months ago that people don't so much think about it as
get mentally scarred. It's quite true. Lots of people have got to the
stage when they can only feel, not think. And the best people hate the
whole business much too much to get any 'renascence of beauty' out of
it. Who was it who said the other day that the writers to whom war is
glamorous aren't as a rule the ones who produce anything fit to call
literature. War's an insanity; and insane things, purely destructive,
wasteful, hideous, brutal, ridiculous things, aren't what makes art. The
war's produced a little fine poetry, among a sea of tosh--a thing here
and there; but mostly--oh, good Lord! The flood of cheap heroics and
commonplace patriotic claptrap--it's swept slobbering all over us; there
seems no stemming it. Literary revival be hanged. All we had before--and
precious little it was--of decent work, clear and alive and sane and
close to reality, is being trampled to bits by this--this imbecile
brute. And when the time comes to collect the bits and try to begin
again, we shan't be able to; there'll be no more spirit in us; we shall
be too battered and beaten....' Nicholas, wound up to excitement, was
talking too long at a stretch. He often did, being an egoist, and having
in his veins the blood of many eloquent and excited revolutionary Poles,
who had stood in market-places and talked and talked, gesticulating,
pouring forth blood and fire. Nicholas, reacting against this fervour,
repudiating gesticulation, blood and fire, still talked.... But on
'battered and beaten' he paused, in disgusted emphasis, and West came
in, half absently, still turning the pages of the _Challenge_, talking
in his high, clear voice, monotonous and fast (Nicholas was guttural and
harsh). 'You underrate the power of human recovery. You always do. It's
immense, as a matter of fact. Give us fifty years--twenty--ten....
Besides, look at the compensations. If the good are battered and beaten,
the bad are too. It's a well-known fact that many of the futurist poets,
in all the nations, have gone mad, through trying to get too many battle
noises into their heads at once. So they, at least, are silenced. I
suppose they still write, in their asylums--in fact I've heard they do
(my uncle is an asylum doctor)--but it gets no further....' He subsided
into the _Cambridge Magazine_.

'Well, I'd rather have the futurists than the slops poured out by the
people who unfortunately haven't brain enough even to go mad,' Nicholas
grumbled. ('And anyhow, I don't believe in any of your uncles--you've
too many.) The futurists at least were trying to keep close to facts,
even if they couldn't digest them but brought them up with strident
noises. But these imbeciles--the war seems to be a sort of tonic to
their syrupy little souls; it's filled them up with vim and banal joy.
Not that the rot that has always been rot particularly matters; it
merely means that the people who used to express themselves in one inane
way now choose another, no worse; but it's the silencing or the
unmanning of the good people that matters. Here's Cathcart's new book.
I've just read it. It's the work of a shaken, broken man. It's weak,
irrational, drifting, with no constructive purpose, no coherence. You
can almost hear the guns crashing into it as he tried to write, and the
atrocity reports shrieking in his ears, and the poison gas stifling him,
and the militarists and pacificists raving round him. His whole world's
run off its rails and upset and broken to bits, and he can't put it
right side up again; he's lost his faith in it. He can only fumble and
stammer at it helplessly, weak and maundering and incoherent. He ought
to be helping to build it up again, but he 's lost his constructive
power. Hundreds of people have. Constructive force will be the one thing
needed when the war is over; any one with a programme, and the brain and
will to carry it out; but where's it to come from? Those who aren't
killed or cut to bits will be too adrift and demoralised and dazed to do
anything intelligent. We're fast losing even such mental coherence and
concentration as we had. Look, for instance, at you two, while I'm
talking (quite interestingly, too); are you listening? Certainly not.
West is reading a Church newspaper, and Alix drawing cats on the margins
of my proofs.... I'm not blaming you; you can't help it; you are
mentally, and probably morally, shattered. I am too. People are more
than ever like segregated imbeciles, each absorbed in his or her own
ploy. Effects of the War on Human Intelligence: that shall be one of my
series. I've spent an idiotic day. So have both of you, I should guess.
Yet we all three have natural glimmerings of intelligence.'

'I've not spent an idiotic day,' said West placidly.

Nicholas looked at him sardonically. 'Well, let's hear about it.'

'By all means.' West drew a long breath and began, even faster than
usual. 'I'll skip my before-breakfast proceedings, which you wouldn't
understand. But they weren't in the least idiotic. After breakfast I
spent an hour talking to a friend of mine on leave from France. The
conversation was very interesting and instructive; for me, anyhow. We
talked about how rotten the grub in the trenches is, how shameless the
A.S.C. are, how unreliable time-fuse bombs, and so on. Then, since I am
a parson, he kindly talked my shop for a change, and naturally very soon
Jonah pushed his head in, and Noah, and a few more of the gentlemen who
seem to keep the church doors shut against the British working-man. I
kicked them outside the Church on to the dust-heap and left them there,
I hope to his satisfaction, and came home and wrote a sermon advocating
the disuse of the custom of perusing early Hebrew history or reading it
in churches. It's quite a good sermon, as my sermons go. (By the way,
that may, I'm hoping, be one of the Effects of the War on the Church.
We've all of us become so anxious to bring the working-man into it--and
it's very certain he won't come in with the Old Testament legends
barring the way. I'll write that one of your series for you, if I may.)
Well, then I had lunch with a lady who's interested in factory-girls'
trade unions, and we discussed the ways and means of them. That was
jolly useful.'

'He's one of the clergymen, you know,' Nicholas explained aside to
Alix, 'who have been said by an eminent Dean to be tumbling over one
another in their anxiety to become court chaplains to King Demos.
He's hopelessly behind the times, of course, because Demos is in
fetters now. West's an Edwardian churchman, though he fancies he is
Neo-Post-Georgian.'

'Oh, I'm as early as you like,' West said amiably.
'Pre-Edwardian--Victorian--or even Pauline; _I_ don't mind.... Well,
then I attended a meeting of my parish branch of the U.D.C. The meeting
was broken up by rioters. So I addressed them from a window on freedom
of speech. My vicar came along as I was doing so, and came in and
lectured me on taking part in political movements. So I stopped, and did
some parish visiting instead, and had a good deal of interesting
conversation, and incidentally was given very strong tea at three
different houses. Then I came home and read the _Church Times_, the
_Challenge_, and the _Cambridge Magazine_. All interesting in their way,
and quite different. No, I know you don't like any of them. People write
to the _Challenge_ every week asking 'Are Christianity and War
compatible?' and come to the conclusion that they are not, but that
Christians may often have to fight. People write to the _Church Times_
saying that they have found a clergyman who won't wear a chasuble, and
what shall they do to him? People write to the _Cambridge Magazine_
saying that every one over forty should be disenfranchised and interned,
if not shot. Jolly good papers, all the same. How can they help being
written to? None of us can. I get written to myself.... Well, next I'm
going to church to read evensong, and for an hour after evensong--but
you wouldn't understand about that. Anyhow, eventually I have supper
with the vicar.' He ran down with a jerk, and turned to Alix, who had
been following him with some interest. 'That's not an idiotic day; not
from my point of view,' he informed her.

'Sounds all right,' she said. 'But it's not the sort of day Nicholas and
I were brought up to understand, you know. We know nothing about the
Church. From not going, I suppose.'

'You should go,' he assured her. 'You'd find it interesting.... Of
course it's been largely a failure so far, and dull in lots of ways,
because we've not yet fulfilled its original intention; it hasn't so far
succeeded in preventing (though it's fought them and largely lessened
them) any of the things it's out to prevent--commercialism and cant and
cruelty and classes and lies and hate and war. It's got to break the
world to bits and put it together again, and before it can do that it's
got to break itself to bits and put itself together. It's got to become
like dynamite, and blow up the rubbish--its own rubbish first, then the
world's....' He consulted his wrist-watch, said, 'I must go,' shook
hands with Alix, and went quickly, trim and alert and neat, to blow up
the world.

'He talks too much,' said Nicholas, in his hearing. 'Who doesn't, in
these days? I do myself. It's better than to talk too little. If we say
a great deal, we may say a word of sense sometimes. If we say very
little, the odds are that all we do say is rubbish, from lack of
practice.' He yawned. 'You'd better stay to dinner. I've got
Andreiovitch Romevsky coming, to meet Adolf Kopfer, our German friend,
so talk on the European situation will be hampered and constrained.'

'Funny things he stands for,' Alix commented, still thinking of Mr.
West. 'The Church.... I suppose it really _is_ out to stop war.'

'Presumably. But, as its representatives say, its endeavours so far have
been a frost. It's been as unsuccessful as the peace conferences mother
attends. But apparently the members of both are obliged, by their faith,
to be incurable optimists. West's always full of life and hope; nothing
daunts him.'

'Funny,' Alix mused still. The thought glanced through her, 'Clergymen
can't fight either, they're like me. Perhaps religion helps them to
forget; takes their minds off. Like painting. Like Richmond Park and
Tommy Ashe. Like wiggle-woggling. I wonder.'

On that wonder she left the Church, and said, 'Cousin Emily asked me to
bring you back to supper with me. You'd meet the Vinneys, from the
Nutshell, who are coming in afterwards, so we should be a nice party,
she says. But Evie says you and the Vinneys wouldn't get on. I don't
think Evie thinks you're fit for respectable society at all. So you'd
better not come.'

'Shouldn't dream of it,' Nicholas grunted. 'Even if I hadn't got
Russians and Germans coming here. You and your Violettes and your
Nutshells! It beats me what you think you're up to there.'

Alix gave her faint, enigmatic smile. 'It's nice and peaceful,' she
said. 'Like cotton-wool.... Well, good-night, Nicky. No, I won't stay to
dinner, thanks. You can tackle your own awkward social situations for
yourself. I'm for Violette.'


5

She limped down the wooden stairs, and the court was golden in the
evening light, a haven beyond which the wild river of Fleet Street
surged.

'Special. War Extra. British driven back....' The cries, the placards,
were like lost ships tossed lightly on the top of wild waters. They
would soon sink, if one did not listen or look....



CHAPTER VI

EVENING AT VIOLETTE


1

After supper Kate got out the good coffee cups, and they waited for the
Vinneys. Kate was rather pink, and wore a severe blouse, in which she
looked plain; it was a mortification she thought she ought to practise
when the Vinneys came. Evie was skilfully altering a hat. Alix made a
pen-and-ink sketch of her as she bent over it.

Mrs. Frampton knitted a sock. The _Evening Thrill_ came in, and Kate
opened it, for Mrs. Frampton liked to hear tit-bits of news while she
worked.

'Stories impossible to doubt,' read Kate, in her prim, precise voice,
'reach us continually of atrocities practised by the enemy....' She read
several, unsuitable for these pages. Mrs. Frampton clicked horror with
her tongue. The papers she took in were rich in such stories. As it was
impossible to doubt them, she did not try. Possibly they gave life a
certain dreadful savour.

'To think of the march of civilisation, and this still going on,' Mrs.
Frampton commented. 'I'm sure any one would think they'd be ashamed.'

Kate said, with playful acidity (Kate had reached what with many is a
playful age), 'Thank you, Alix. Thank you ever so much, Alix, for
getting between me and the lamp.'

Alix moved, her attempt foiled.

Kate read next the letter of a private soldier at the front. 'The Boches
are all cowards. They can't stand against our boys. They fly like
rabbits when we charge with the bayonet. You should hear them squeal,
like so many pigs. There's not a German private in the army that wants
to fight. The officers have to keep flogging them on the whole time.'

'Poor things, I'm sure one can't but be sorry for them,' said Mrs.
Frampton. 'Knit two and make one, purl two, slip one, pass the slipped
one over, drop four and knit six.' (Or anyhow, something of that sort,
for she had got to the heel, as one unfortunately at last must.)

'It's wonderful how long the war goes on, since all the Germans are like
that,' said Kate, without conscious irony, as she took up her own
knitting. Hers was a body-belt. 'I believe this new wool is different
from the last. Somewhat stringier, it seems. Brown will have to take it
back, if it is.'

'I say, just fancy,' said Evie, 'those sequin tunics at B. & H.'s have
come down to seven and eleven three. I think I could rise to that, even
in war time.'

The war mainly affected Evie by reducing the demand for hats, and
consequently lowering the salary she received at the exclusive and
ladylike milliner's where she worked.

As she spoke she caught sight of her three-quarter likeness as etched by
Alix.

'Goodness gracious,' she commented. 'You've made me look anything on
earth! I mayn't be much, but I hope I'm not that sort of freak.'

'It's very good,' said Alix complacently. 'Rather particularly good. I
shall take it to the School on Monday and show it to Mr. Bendish.'

'It may be good,' said Evie, 'since you say so. All I say is, it isn't
me. It's more like some wild woman out of a caravan. Don't you go
telling people it's me, or they'll be coming to shut me up. There's the
bell; that's them.'

The Vinney party arrived. It consisted of Mr. Vincent Vinney, a bright
young solicitor of twenty-eight; his lately acquired wife, a pretty girl
who laughed when he was witty, which was often; his young brother
Sidney, a stout, merry youth of nineteen, a bank clerk; and their cousin
Miss Simon, the fat girl in the sailor blouse, which was, it seemed, her
evening toilette also. (In case some should blame the Vinney brothers
for not taking an active part in the war, it may be remarked that the
elder supported a wife and the younger a mother, that they represented a
class which, for several good reasons, produces fewer soldiers than any
other, and that they both belonged to the Clerks' Drill Corps, and wore
several flags on their bicycles. And young Mrs. Vinney belonged to a
Voluntary Aid Detachment, not at present in working.)

They came in with the latest news. The British had been driven back out
of a thousand yards of trench they had taken. They hadn't enough
ammunition.

'Well,' said Mrs. Frampton, knitting, and really more interested in her
heel than in the fortunes of war, 'it's all very dreadful to think of.
But I suppose we must leave it in the hands of the Almighty, who always
moves in a mysterious way.'

(Mrs. Frampton had been brought up evangelically, and so mentioned the
Almighty more casually than Kate, who was High, thought fit.)

'Well, what I say is,' said young Mrs. Vinney, who was of a cheerful
habit, 'it's not a bit of use being depressed by the news, because no
one can ever tell if it's true or not. It's all from that Bureau, and we
all know what they are. Why, they said there weren't any Russians in
England, when every one knew there were crowds, and they always say the
Zepp. raids don't do any damage to factories and arsenals, and every one
knows they do. They don't seem to mind _what_ they say.'

'Well, for my part,' Evie said, 'I don't see why we shouldn't all be as
chirpy as we can. We can't _help_ by being glum, can we?'

'That's just it,' said Mrs. Vinney. 'Now, there's the theatre. Of
course, you know, Vin and I wouldn't go to anything really _festive_
just now, like the _Girl on the Garden Wall_, but I'm not ashamed to say
we did go to the _Man Who Stayed Behind_.'

'Why wouldn't you go to anything really festive?' Alix asked, curious as
to the psychology of this position.

Mrs. Vinney looked round for sympathy.

'Why, what a question! It's not the moment, of course. One wouldn't
_like_ to. _You_ wouldn't, would you?'

'Oh, me. I'd go to anything I thought would amuse me.'

'Well,' Mrs. Vinney decided, 'I suppose you and I aren't a bit alike. I
just couldn't, and there it is. I dare say it's all my silliness. But
with the men out there in such danger, and laying down their lives the
way they're doing ... well, I _couldn't_ sit and look at the _Girl on
the Garden Wall_, not if I had a stall free. The way I see it is, the
men are fighting for us women, and where should we be but for them, and
the least we can do is not to forget all about them, seeing gay musical
plays. The way I'm made, I suppose, and I don't pretend to judge for
others.'

'It's all a question of taste and feeling,' Kate pronounced absently,
more interested in a new stitch she was introducing into her body-belt.

The fat dark girl, Miss Simon, came in on the mention of women. It was
her subject.

'Women's work in war time is every bit as important as men's, that's
what I say; only they don't get the glory.'

Mrs. Vinney giggled and looked at the others.

'Now Rachel's off again. She's a caution when she gets on the woman
question. She spent most of her time in Holloway in the old days, didn't
you, dear?'

'She thinks she ought to have the vote,' Sid Vinney explained to Alix in
a whisper. Alix, who had hitherto moved in circles where every one
thought, as a matter of course, that they ought to have the vote,
disappointed him by her lack of spontaneous mirth.

Miss Simon was inquiring, undeterred by these comments, 'Who keeps the
country at home going while the men are at the war? Who brings up the
families? Who nurses the soldiers? What do women get out of a war,
ever?'

'The salvation of their country, Miss Simon,' said Mrs. Frampton, 'won
for them by brave men.'

'After all,' said Sid, 'the women can't _fight_, you know. They can't
_fight_ for their country.'

Miss Simon regarded him with scorn.

'How much are _you_ fighting for your country, I'd like to know?'

'One for you, Sid,' said Evie cheerily, ignoring Sid's aggrieved, 'Well,
you know I can't leave mother.'

'And fighting isn't everything,' Miss Simon went on, 'and war time isn't
everything. There's women's work in peace time. What about Octavia Wills
that did so much for housing? Wasn't _she_ helping her country? And, for
war work, what price Florence Nightingale? What would the country have
done without _her_, and what did she get out of all she did?'

Mrs. Frampton, who had not read the life of that strong-minded person,
but cherished a mid-Victorian vision of a lady with a lamp, sounder in
the heart than in the head, said, 'She kept her place as a woman, Miss
Simon.'

Evie, who was not listening much, finding the subject tedious, put in
vaguely, 'After all, when it comes to fighting, we _are_ left in the
lurch, aren't we?'

Sid said, 'Oh dear no, Miss Evie. What price Christabel and Co.? They
ought to have had the iron cross all round, the militants ought. They
did more to earn it than the Huns ever did.'

'Cheap sarcasm,' said Miss Simon, 'is no argument. And I don't blame any
woman for using what means she's got. There are times when a woman's
_got_ to forget herself.'

Kate said, 'I don't think a woman's _ever_ got to forget herself,' and
there was a murmur of applause. Alix giggled. She wondered if social
evenings at Violette were often like this.

'You don't understand,' said the round-faced girl helplessly. '_You_ may
be all right, in your station of life, but you've got to look at other
women's--the poor. We've got to do something about the poor. The vote
would help us.'

'There have always,' said Mrs. Frampton, 'been the poor, and there
always will be.'

'That's just why,' suggested Alix, momentarily joining in, 'it might be
worth while to do something about them.' Miss Simon looked at her in
sudden gratitude; she had a misplaced and soon-quenched hope that this
seemingly indifferent and amused girl might prove an ally.

Kate said, placidly, 'Well, they say that if you were to take a lot of
men and women and give them all the same money, they'd all be quite
different again to-morrow....'

Mrs. Frampton added that she went by the Bible. 'The poor ye shall have
always with you.'

'Mrs. Frampton, it doesn't say that. And even if it did--well, it's as
Miss Sandomir says, it's all the more reason for thinking about them.
Anyhow, you can't take the Bible that way; it's nothing to _do_ with
it.'

'It's the plain word of God, and that's sufficient for me,' said Mrs.
Frampton repressively.

Vincent Vinney, tired of the poor, who are indeed exhausting, regarded
in the mass as a subject for contemplation, brought the discussion back
to women.

'What I'd like to know is, where is a woman to get her knowledge from,
if she's to help in public affairs? A man can pick up things at his work
and his club, but a woman working in the house all day has no time even
to read the papers. And if she did, her husband wouldn't like her to
start having opinions, perhaps different to his. There are far too many
divorces and separations already because husbands and wives go different
ways, and it would be worse than ever. Eh, Flossie?'

Mrs. Frampton said, 'We heard of a woman only last month who went out to
a public meeting--something about foreign politics, I think it was--and
her baby fell on to the fire and was burnt to a cinder, poor little
love.'

'Well, she might just as likely have been going out shopping.'

'But she wasn't,' said Kate conclusively.

'I don't think,' said Mrs. Frampton, 'that a woman desires any more than
her home and her husband and children, if she's a proper woman.'

Evie's contribution was, 'Well, I must say I do prefer men to girls, and
I don't mind saying so.'

Sid's was, 'I heard of a man whose wife took to talking about politics,
and he hung his coat to one peg in her wardrobe and his trousers to
another, and he said, 'Now, Eliza, which will you wear?'

It was apparently the combination of this anecdote and Evie's remark
before it that broke Miss Simon down. She suddenly collapsed into
indignant tears. Every one was uncomfortable. Mrs. Frampton said kindly,
'Come, come, my dear, it's only talk. It isn't worth crying about, I'm
sure, with so many real troubles in the world just now.'

'You won't _see_,' sobbed Miss Simon, who looked particularly plain when
crying. 'You none of you _see_. Except her'--she indicated Alix--'and
she won't talk; she only smiles to herself at all of us. You tell silly
tales, and you say silly things, and you think you've scored--but you
haven't. It isn't _argument_, that you like men more than women or women
more than men. And that man married to Eliza was an idiot, and not a bit
funny or clever, and you all think he scored over her.'

'Well, really,' said Sid, and grinned sheepishly at the others.

Kate had fetched a glass of water. 'Drink some,' she said kindly. 'It'll
make you feel better.' But Miss Simon pushed it aside and mopped her
eyes and blew her nose and pulled herself together.


2

'Fancy crying before every one,' thought Evie. 'And just from being in a
passion about getting the worst of it in talk. She _is_ a specimen.'

'The boys shouldn't draw Rachel on to make such a silly of herself,'
thought young Mrs. Vinney.

'Poor girl, she must have been working too hard, she's quite
hysterical,' thought Mrs. Frampton.

'Having her staying with them must draw Vin and Floss very close
together,' thought Kate, who had loved Vin long before Floss met him.

'We shan't have any more fun out of this evening; we'll go home,'
thought Vincent, and glanced at his wife.

'What a difference between one girl and another,' thought Sid, and gazed
at Evie.

'I wonder if many people are like these,' thought Alix, speculating.
Were discussions at Violette, discussions in all the thousands of
Violettes, always like this? Not argument, not ideas, not facts. Merely
statements, quotations rather, of hackneyed and outworn sentiments,
prejudices second-hand, yet indomitable, unassailable, undying, and the
relation of stories, without relevance or force, and (but this much more
rarely, surely) a burst of bitterness and emotion to wind it all up.
Curious. Rachel Simon, like the rest, was stupid and ignorant, her brain
a chaos of half-assimilated, inaccurate facts (she said Wills when she
meant Hill) and crude sentiments. She seemed to belong, oddly, to an
outworn age (the late eighties, was it? Alix wasn't old enough to know).
But Alix was sorry for her, remembering the look in her face when they
had each in turn dealt her a finishing blow. Alix rather wished Evie
hadn't made that idiotic remark about men and girls; wished Mrs.
Frampton hadn't talked of proper women; wished Kate hadn't said 'But she
wasn't'; even wished she herself had joined in a little. Only it was all
too inane....


3

To change the subject Vincent Vinney said they had collared another
German baker spy down in Camberwell.

'These bakers,' said Mrs. Frampton, 'do seem to be dreadful people.
We've left off taking our Hovis loaf, since they found that wireless in
Camberwell the other day.'

'You can't be too careful, can you?' said Mrs. Vinney. 'For my part I'd
like to see every German in England shut up in gaol for a life-sentence.
But we must be trotting, Mrs. Frampton, or we shall miss our
beauty-sleep. Good-night; we've enjoyed the evening awfully. Oh, Evie,
I've got those blouse patterns from Harrod's; can you come round
to-morrow afternoon and help me choose? Come early and stay to tea. You
too, Kate, won't you? You _are_ a girl; you never come when I ask you.'

Kate looked uncomfortable, and helped Miss Simon (now composed, but
looking plainer than ever with her red eyes and nose) into her coat. To
see the Vinneys together by their own fire-side was rather more than
Kate could bear, though she had a good deal of stolid outward endurance.
Her hands shook as she handled the ugly green coat. She wanted to avoid
shaking hands with the Vinneys, but she could not. The familiar physical
thrill ran through her at Vincent's hearty clasp, and left her limp.

'I'm afraid it's commencing to rain,' said Kate.

'Good-night all,' said Mrs. Frampton. 'We've had quite a little
discussion, haven't we? I'm sure one ought to talk things out sometimes,
it improves the mind. Now I do hope you won't all get wet. You must take
our umbrellas.'



CHAPTER VII

HOSPITAL


1

About a week later, Alix and Nonie Maclure went to see Basil Doye in
hospital.

'Hate hospitals, don't you?' Nonie remarked, as they entered its
precincts. 'I've a sister V.A.D.ing here--Peggy, you know her, she's
having a three-months' course--but I've not been to see her yet. I can't
remember her ward; it's a men's surgical, I think. We'll go and find her
afterwards. I don't think she'll be able to stick her three months,
because of her feet. They swell up so; they make the nurses stand all
the time, you know, even when they're doing needlework and things. She
says half the nurses in the hospital have foot and leg diseases. Silly,
isn't it? The V.A.D.'s _could_ sit down sometimes, but they don't like
to when the regulars mayn't. They're unpopular enough as it is. Peggy
asked the staff-nurse in her ward why all the nurses didn't combine and
ask to have the standing-rule altered, but she only said you can't get
hospital rules altered, they _are_ like that. Nurses must be idiots....'

They crossed the court that led to the wing with the officers' wards. It
was dotted with medical students.

'Rabbits,' Nonie considered them. 'All that are left of them, I suppose.
Peggy says they're mostly rather rotters. They have a great time with
the nurses. One of them tried to have a great time with Peggy the other
day, but she wasn't having any.... The Royal Family wing we want, don't
we? Darwin, Lister.... No, that must be men of science. I suppose that's
ours, up those stairs.'

It was one of those hospitals in which the wards are named after persons
socially or intellectually eminent. In the wing Nonie and Alix wanted
the wards were entitled Victoria, Albert Edward, Alexandra, Princess
Mary, George, and so forth. One, named doubtless in happier
international times, was even called Wilhelm. Out of Wilhelm, as they
passed its glass door, came four figures, white-clad from head to foot,
wheeling a stretcher on which lay a round-faced little girl of sixteen,
trying to smile.

'Going down to the theatre,' Nonie whispered. 'Rather shuddery, isn't
it?'


2

They entered Albert Edward, which was a small ward of twelve beds, used
just now for officers. It smelt of iodoform. Several of the beds had
visitors round them. Some of the patients were in wheeled chairs,
smoking. One, in bed, was singing, unintelligibly, in a high, shrill
voice. At the table by the centre window two nurses stood, a probationer
and a V.A.D., making swabs and talking. They looked tired, and were very
young. The other two nurses, the staff-nurse and the super, were talking
to two of the patients. They had learnt not to look so tired. Also
perhaps the pleasant excitement of being in Albert Edward bore them up.

The staff-nurse said, 'Mr. Doye? That's his bed over there--nine. He's
up in a chair this afternoon. He's in pretty bad pain most of the time.
They may have to amputate, but the doctor hopes to manage without.'

Alix and Nonie went across the ward to nine, where Mr. Doye, in a brown
dressing-gown, sat in a wheeled chair, smoking a cigarette and talking
to the super, who was rather nice-looking and had auburn hair. In the
next bed lay the singer, with fixed blue eyes and flushed cheeks and a
capeline bandage round his head, carolling German songs in a high,
monotonous voice.

'Quite delirious, poor thing,' the super explained to the visitors. 'His
nerves are all to bits. He was a prisoner, till he got exchanged. And
would you believe it, they'd never taken the shrapnel out of his head;
he went under operation for it here last week.' She moved away,
whispering first to Nonie behind the patient's back, 'He has to be kept
pretty quiet, please; the pain gets bad on and off.'

'Hullo,' said Basil Doye, smiling at them. 'This is great.'

He had a soft, rather quick way of speaking; to-day he was huskier than
usual, perhaps because he was ill. He was long and slim; he had used, in
pre-war days, to lounge and slouch, but possibly did that no more.
Anyhow to-day he merely lay limply in a chair, so they could not judge.
His long pale face and flexible mouth and dark eyebrows were always
moving and changing; so were his rather bright eyes, that kept shading
and glinting from green to hazel. His forehead and rumpled hair were
damp just now, either from the heat or from some other cause. His
bandaged right hand was raised in a sling.

'You do look an old wreck,' said Nonie frankly. 'What did you go and do
it for? A silly way of getting wounded, I call it, playing ball with
bombs.'

'Rotten, wasn't it? But it would have played ball with me if I hadn't.
It was bound to go off in a moment, you see, and I naturally tried to
house it with the foe first; one often can. My mistake, I know. These
little things will happen.... I say, you're the first people I've seen
from the shop. How's it going? Who are the good people this year?'

They began to tell him. He listened, fidgeting, with restless eyes.

'Have a smoke?' he broke in. 'No, I suppose you mustn't here. Sorry;
didn't mean to interrupt....'

They were talking about the exhibition in Grafton Street.

'I must get round there,' he said, 'when I'm not so tied by the leg.'

'How long will they keep you here, d'you imagine?'

'Haven't an earthly. They may be depriving me of a finger or two in a
few days. Or not. They don't seem to know their own minds about it.'

'Good Lord!' murmured Nonie, taken aback. 'I say, don't let them.
You--you'd miss them so.'

    'Halli, hallo, halli, hallo!
    Bei uns geht's immer so!'

shrilled number eight.

Doye moved impatiently. 'He ought to be taken away, poor beggar.... I
loathe hospitals. People who are ill oughtn't to be with other people in
the same miserable condition; it's too depressing. One wants the
undamaged, as an antidote. That's why visitors are so jolly.' His
restless eyes glanced at Nonie's dark, glowing brilliance in her yellow
frock, and at Alix, pale and cool and thin in green.

'Above all,' he added, 'one wants sanity and normalness and cheeriness,
not people with their nerves in rags, like that poor chap.'

Eight broke out again, half singing, half humming some students'
chorus--

    'Tra la la, in die Nacht Quartier!'

The auburn-haired nurse came and stood by him for a moment, quieting
him.

'Come now, come now, you must be quiet, you know.'

'Rather a pleasant person, that nurse,' said Doye when she had gone.
'Jolly hair, hasn't she?... Alix,' he added, 'do you know, you don't
look up to much. Is it overwork, or merely the air of London in June?'

'It's the air of hospitals, I expect,' Nonie answered for her. 'She
turned white directly we got into the ward.'

'Beastly places,' Basil agreed.

Alix began to talk, rather fast. She told stories of the other people at
the art school; Nonie joined in, and they made Basil laugh. He talked
too, also fast. His unhurt hand drummed on the arm of his chair; his
forehead grew damper, his eyes shifted about under his black brows. He
talked nonsense, absurdly; they all did. They all laughed, but Basil
laughed most; he laughed too much. He said it was a horrible bore out
there; funny, of course, in parts, but for the most part irredeemably
tedious. And no reason to think it would ever end, except by both sides
just getting too tired of it to go on.... Idiotic business, chucking
bombs over into trenches full of chaps you had no grudge against and who
wished you no ill ... and they chucking bombs at you, much more idiotic
still. The whole thing hopelessly silly....

'Heil'ge Nacht, Heil'ge Nacht,' trilled Eight, with a nightmare of
Christmas on him.

'Oh, damn,' muttered Basil, and got scarlet and then white.

The staff-nurse came to them. She was not auburn-haired, but efficient
and good-looking and dark, with a clear, sharp voice.

'I think your visitors had better go now, Mr. Doye.'

She made signs to them that he was in pain, which they knew before. They
went; he joked as he said good-bye, and they joked back. As they left
the ward, Eight's wild voice rose, in a sad air they knew:

    'Mein Bi-er und Wei-ein ist fri-isch und klar;
    Mein Töchterlein liegt auf der To-otenbahr....'

'Come now, come now,' admonished Staff.


3

On the stairs they met a tall woman with a long pale face and black
hair, and eyes full of green light. She stopped and said to Alix, 'How
do you do? Basil told me you were going to see him to-day, so I left you
a little time. He mustn't have too many at once. He has a lot of pain,
for so slight a thing.... I shall be glad when I can get him away for a
change.'

Her eyes, looking at Alix's pale face, were kind and friendly. She liked
Alix, who was Basil's friend and had stayed with them last summer in the
country. She thought her clever and attractive, if selfish. She hurried
on through the glass door into Albert Edward.

'Mrs. Doye, isn't it?' said Nonie. 'Must have been just like him twenty
years ago.... I say, how sickening, isn't it, people getting smashed up
like that. Poor old Basil. All on edge, I thought, didn't you? What rot
he talked.... I _say_, if he loses those fingers it will be all U. P.
with his career.... I don't expect he will.' She shot a glance at Alix,
whom she suspected of feeling faint. 'Let's come and find Peggy. I
haven't an earthly where her ward is. It's called after some man of
science.' But there are so many of these, and all so much alike.

'If it was painters,' said Nonie presently, 'I might have remembered.
Who _are_ the men of science?'

'Darwin,' suggested Alix intelligently. 'Galileo. Sir Isaac Newton. Sir
Oliver Lodge. Lots more.'

'Well, let's try this passage.'

They tried it. It led them on and on. It looked wrong, but might be
right, in such a strange world as a hospital, where anything may be
right or wrong and you never know till you try.

They saw at last ahead of them a closed door--not a glass door but a
baize one. From behind it screaming came, wild, shrill, desperate, as if
some one was being hurt to death.

'O Lord!' said Nonie, 'it's the theatre. Look, it's written on the door.
Come away quick. There must be an operation on.'

Beyond the door there was a shuffling and scuffling; it was pushed open,
and two figures muffled in white, like the stretcher-women, dragged out
a Red Cross girl in a faint.

'Fetch her some water,' said one. 'Idiot, why didn't she come out before
she went off? These Red Cross girls--All right, she 's coming round....
I _say_, you know, you mustn't do that again. People are supposed to
come out of the theatre _before_ they faint, not after. It's an awful
crime.... Is it your first operation? Well, it was silly of them to send
you down to such a bad one. I expect the screaming upset you. She didn't
_feel_ anything, you know.... Here, drink this. You're all right now,
aren't you? I must get back. You'd better go up to your ward and ask
your Sister if you can lie down for a bit.'

Alix and Nonie had retreated down the passage.

'What a place,' Alix was muttering savagely. 'Oh, _what_ a place.'

They came out on a different staircase; fleeing down it they were in a
corridor, long and unhappy and full of hurrying housesurgeons and nurses
and patients' friends (for it was visiting-hour).


4

'Huxley,' said Nonie suddenly. 'That's the creature's name.... I say,'
she accosted a fat little nurse with strings, 'where's Huxley, please?'

Huxley was far away. They reached it through many labyrinthine and sad
ways. Through the glass door they saw a keen-faced doctor going from bed
to bed with an attendant group of satellites--medical students, who
laughed at intervals because he was witty, either about the case in hand
or about some other amusing cases this one recalled to his memory, or at
the foolish answers elicited from some student in response to questions.
They were a cheery set, and this doctor was a wit. Every few minutes he
washed his hands. The wardsister companioned him round, and by the
window stood four nurses at attention--the staff-nurse, the probationer,
and two V.A.D.'s with red crosses on their aprons. It was a men's
surgical ward. It was long and light, and had twenty-one beds, and Cot.
Cot was in the middle of the ward. He was three, and had peritonitis of
the stomach, and he sat up on his pillow and wept, and wailed at
intervals, 'Want to do 'ome. Want to do 'ome.'

'You're not the only one, sonny,' number three told him bitterly. 'We
all want that.'

Twenty-one sad faces apathetically testified to his truthfulness.
Twenty-one weary sick men, whose rest had been broken at dawn because
the night-nurses had to wash them all before they went off duty, and
that meant beginning at 3.30 or 4, stared with sad, hollow eyes, and
wanted to go 'ome.

The doctor washed his hands for the last time and went, his satellites
after him. The probationer respectfully opened the door for them. Nonie
and Alix stood back out of the way as they passed, then Nonie's Peggy,
who had seen them long since, came and fetched them in.

'I _am_ glad to see you,' she said.

Nonie said, 'You look dead, my child,' and she returned, 'Oh, it's only
the standing. We're all in the same box. She,' she indicated the
probationer, 'fainted this morning. And the staff-nurse has the most
awful varicose veins. I believe most nurses get them sooner or later.
They _ought_ to be let to sit down when they get a chance, for sewing
and things, but hospital rules are made of wood and iron. The other Red
Crosser and I do sometimes sit, when Sister's out of the ward, but it's
rather bad form really, when the regulars mayn't. Funny places,
hospitals.... I've been getting into rows this morning for not polishing
the brights bright enough. Staff told me they had quite upset Sister.
Sister's very easily upset, unfortunately. Staff's a jolly good sort,
though.... But look here, you must go. It's time for tea-trays; I shall
have to be busy. I'll come round to-night after I'm off, Nonie--if I can
get so far. You've got to go now; Staff's looking at us.'

They went. Staff called wearily to Peggy, 'Go and help Nurse Baker with
trays, will you, dear. And you might take Daddy Thirteen's basin away.
He's done being sick for now, I dare say, and he's going to drop it on
to the floor in a moment.'

Peggy hurried, but was too late. These things will happen sometimes....


5

'Hate hospitals, don't you?' said Nonie, as she had said when they
entered. They were going out at the gates now. 'I suppose they have to
be, though.'

'Suppose so,' Alix agreed listlessly.

Then with an effort she threw the hospital off.

'That's over, anyhow. I shan't go again. Let's come and do something
awfully different now.'

They did.


6

When Alix got back to Violette, she was met in the little linoleumed
hall by distress and pity, and Mrs. Frampton preparing to break
something to her, with a kind, timid arm round her shoulders.

'Dearie, there was a telegram.... You were out, so we opened it.... Now
you must be ever so brave.'

'No,' said Alix, rigid and leaning on her stick and whitely staring from
narrowed eyes. 'No....'

'Oh, darling child, it's sad news.... I don't know how to tell you....
Dear, you _must_ be brave....'

'Oh, do get on,' muttered Alix, rude and sick.

'Dearie,' Mrs. Frampton was crying into her handkerchief. 'Poor Paul ...
your dear little brother ... dreadfully, badly wounded....'

'Dead,' Alix stated flatly, pulling away and leaning against the wall.

Violette was hot and smelt of food. Florence stumbled up the kitchen
stairs with supper. From a long way off Mrs. Frampton sobbed, 'The Lord
gave, and the Lord hath taken away.... It's the Almighty's will.... The
poor dear boy has died doing his duty and serving his country ... a
noble end, dearie ... not a wasted life....'

'Not a wasted....' Alix said it after her mechanically, as if it was a
foreign language.

'He died a noble death,' said Mrs. Frampton, 'serving his country in her
need.'

Alix was staring at her with blue eyes suddenly dark and distended. The
horror rose and loomed over her, like a great wave towering, just going
to break.

'But--but--but--' she stammered, and put out her hands, keeping it
off--'But he hadn't lived yet....'

Then the wave broke, like a storm crashing on a ship at sea.

'It's a lie,' she screamed. 'Give me the telegram.... It's made up; it's
a damnable lie. The War Office always tells them: every one knows it
does....'

They gave it her, pitifully. She read it three times, and it always said
the same thing. She looked up for some way of escape from it, but found
none, only Violette, hot and smelling of supper, and Mrs. Frampton
crying, and Kate with working face, and Evie sympathetic and moved in
the background, and Florence compassionate with the supper tray, and a
stuffed squirrel in a glass case on the hall table.

Alix shivered and shook as she stood, with passion and sickness and
loss.

'But--but--' she began to stammer again, helplessly, like a bewildered
child--'But he hadn't lived yet....'

Kate said gently, 'He has begun to live now, dear, for ever and ever.'

'World without end, amen,' added Mrs. Frampton, mopping her eyes.

Alix looked past them, at the stuffed squirrel.

'It's just some silly lie of course,' she said, indifferent and quiet,
but still shaking. 'It will be taken back to-morrow.... I shall go to
bed now.'

When Kate brought her up some supper on a tray, she found her lying on
the floor, having abandoned the lie theory, having abandoned all
theories and all words, except only, again and again, 'Paul ... Paul ...
Paul....'



CHAPTER VIII

BASIL AT VIOLETTE


1

June went by, and the war went on, and the Russians were driven back in
Galicia, and the Germans took Lemberg, and trenches were lost and won in
France, and there was fighting round Ypres, and Basil Doye had the
middle finger of his right hand cut off, and there was some glorious
weather, and Zeppelin raids in the eastern counties, and it was warm and
stuffy in London, and Mrs. Sandomir wrote to Alix from the United States
that more than ever now, since their darling Paul was added to the toll
of wasted lives, war must not occur again.

July went by, and the war went on, and trenches were lost and won, and
there was fighting round Ypres, and a German success at Hooge, and the
Russians were driven back in Galicia, and Basil Doye left hospital and
went with his mother to Devonshire, and there were Zeppelin raids in the
eastern counties, and the summer term at the art school ended, and Alix
went away from Clapton to Wood End, and her mother wrote that American
women were splendid to work with, and that it was supremely important
that the States should remain neutral, and that there were many hitches
in the way of arbitration, but some hope.

August went by, and the war went on, and Warsaw was taken, and the
National Register, and trenches were lost and won, and there was
fighting round Ypres, and a British success at Hooge and in Gallipoli,
and Zeppelin raids on the eastern counties, and Nicholas and Alix went
away together for a holiday to a village in Munster where the only
newspaper which appeared with regularity was the _Ballydehob Weekly
Despatch_, and Violette was shut up, and Mrs. Frampton stayed with Aunt
Nellie and Kate and Evie with friends, and Mrs. Sandomir wrote from
Sweden that the Swedes were promising but apathetic, and their
government shy.

September went by, and the war went on, and the Russians rallied and
retreated and rallied in Galicia, and a great allied advance in France
began and ended, and the hospitals filled up, and there were Zeppelin
raids on the eastern counties, and Mrs. Frampton and Kate and Evie came
back to Violette, and the art school opened, and Alix came back to
Violette, and the Doyes came back to town, and Mrs. Sandomir wrote from
Sermaize-le-Bains, where she was staying a little while again with the
Friends and helping to reconstruct, that it was striking how amenable to
reason neutral and even belligerent governments were, if one talked to
them reasonably. Even Ferdinand, though he had his faults....

October began, and the war went on, and Bulgaria massed on the Serbian
frontier, and Russia sent her an ultimatum, and the Germans retook the
Hohenzollern Redoubt, and the hospitals got fuller, and the curious
affair of Salonika began, and Terry Orme came home on leave, and Basil
Doye interviewed the Medical board, was told he could not rejoin yet,
visited Cox's, and, coming out of it, met Alix going up to the Strand.


2

Alix saw him first; he looked listless and pale and bored and rather
cross, as he had done last time she saw him, a week ago. Basil was
finding life something of a bore just now, and small things jarred. It
was a nuisance, since he was on this ridiculous fighting business, not
to be allowed to go and fight. There might be something doing any moment
out there, and he not in it. His hand was really nearly all right now.
And anyhow, it wasn't much fun in town, as he couldn't paint, and nearly
every one was away.

His eyes followed a girl who passed with her officer brother. He would
have liked a healthy, pretty, jolly sort of girl like that to go about
with ... some girl with poise, and tone, and sanity, and no nerves, who
never bothered about the war or anything. A placid, indifferent, healthy
sort of girl, with all her fingers on and nothing the matter anywhere.
He was sick of hurt and damaged bodies and minds; his artistic instinct
and his natural vitality craved, in reaction, for the beautiful and the
whole and the healthy....

Looking up, he saw Alix standing at the corner of the Strand, leaning on
her ivory-topped stick and looking at him. She looked pale and thin and
frail and pretty in her blue coat and skirt and white collar. (The
Sandomirs never wore mourning.) He went up to her, a smile lifting his
brows.

'Good. I was just feeling bored. Let's come and have tea.'

Alix wasn't really altogether what he wanted. She was too nervy. Some
nerve in him which had been badly jarred by the long ugliness of those
months in France winced from contact with nervous people. Besides, he
suspected her of feeling the same shrinking from him: she so hated the
war and all its products. However, they had always amused each other;
she was clever, and nice to look at; he remembered vaguely that he had
been a little in love with her once, before the war. If the war hadn't
come just then, he might have become a great deal in love with her.
Before the war one had wanted a rather different sort of person, of
course, from now; more of a companion, to discuss things with; more of a
stimulant, perhaps, and less of a rest. He remembered that they had
discussed painting a great deal; he didn't want to discuss painting now,
since he had lost his finger. He didn't particularly want cleverness
either, since trench life, with its battery on the brain of sounds and
sights, had made him stupid....

However, he said, 'Let's come and have tea,' and she answered, 'Very
well, let's,' and they turned into something in the Strand called the
Petrograd Tea Rooms.

'I suppose one mustn't take milk in it here,' said Alix vaguely. She
looked him over critically as they sat down, and said, 'You don't _look_
much use yet.'

'So I am told. They say I shall probably have at least a month's more
leave.... Well, I don't much care.... There's a rumour my battalion may
be sent to Serbia soon. I met a man on leave to-day, and he says that's
the latest canard. I rather hope it's true. It will be a change, anyhow,
and there'll be something doing out there. Besides, we may as well see
the world thoroughly on this show, while we are about it. We shall never
have such a chance again, I suppose. It's like a Cook's tour gratis.
France, Flanders, Egypt, Gallipoli, Serbia, Greece.... I may see them
all yet. This war has its humours, I'll say that for it. A bizarre war
indeed, as some titled lunatic woman driving a motor ambulance round
Ypres kept remarking to us all. 'Dear me, what a very bizarre war!' It
sounded as if she had experienced so many, and as if they were mostly so
normal and conventional and flat.'

'Bizarre.' Alix turned the word over. 'Yes, I suppose that is really
what it is.... It's the wrong shape; it fits in with nothing; it's
mad.... My cousin Emily says it's a righteous war, though of course war
is very wicked. Righteous of us and wicked of the Germans, I suppose she
means. And Kate says it was sent us, for getting drunk and not going to
church enough. I don't know how she knows. Do you meet people who talk
like that?'

'I chiefly meet people who ask me why I'm not taking part in it. There
was one to-day, in Trafalgar Square. She told me I ought to be in khaki.
I said I supposed I ought, properly speaking, but that I was waiting to
be fetched. She said it was young fellows like me who disgraced Britain
before the eyes of Europe, and that I wouldn't like being fetched,
because then I should have to wear C for Coward on my tunic. I said I
should rather enjoy that, and we parted pleasantly.'

'The wide ones are two and eleven three, and the narrow ones one and
nine. I like B. & H.'s better than Evans', myself.'

The voice was Evie's; she was entering the Petrograd Tea Rooms with
young Mrs. Vinney. She saw Alix, nodded, and said 'Hullo.' It was Basil
who made room for them at the table with him and Alix (the tea shop was
crowded). He had met Evie once before.

'Oh, thanks muchly. Don't you mind?' Evie was apologetic, thinking two
was company. Mrs. Vinney was introduced to Basil, settled herself in her
dainty fluffiness, emphasised by her feather boa, and ordered crumpets
for herself and Evie.

'Quite a nice little place, don't you think so, Miss Sandomir? More
_recherché_ than an A.B.C. or one of those. I often come here....
_What's_ that boy shouting? The Germans take something or other
redoubt.... Fancy! How it does go on, doesn't it?'

Alix said it did.

'Quite makes one feel,' said Mrs. Vinney, 'that one _oughtn't_ to be
sitting snug and comfortable having crumpets, doesn't it? You know what
I mean; it's just a feeling one has, no sense in it. One oughtn't to
give in to it, _I_ don't think; Vin says so too. What's the use, he
says, of brooding, when it helps nobody, and what we've got to do is to
keep cheery at home and keep things going. I must say I quite agree with
him.'

'Rather, so do I,' said Basil.

'But of course it all makes one think, doesn't it?' she resumed. 'Makes
life seem more _solemn_--do you know what I mean? And all the poor young
fellows who never come home again. I'm thankful none of my people or
close friends are gone. Mother simply wouldn't let my brother go; she
says we've always been a peace-loving family and she's not going to
renounce her principles now. Percy doesn't really want to; it was only a
passing fancy because some friends of his went. Vin says, leave war to
those that want war; he doesn't, and he's not going to mix up in it, and
I must say I think he's right.'

'Quite,' agreed Basil.

'All this waste of life and money just because the Germans want a war!
Why should we _pander_ to them, that's what he says. _Let_ them want.
He's no Prussian Junker, shouting out for blood. There's too many of
them in this country, he says, and that's what makes war possible. He's
all for disarmament, you know, and I must say I think he's right. If no
one had any guns or ships, no one could fight, could they?'

Evie agreed that they couldn't, forgetting knives and fists and printed
words and naked savages and all the gunless hosts of the ancient world.
Violette thought always gaped with these large omissions; it was like a
loose piece of knitting, stretched to cover spaces too large for it and
yawning into holes.

'Mr. Doye's been fighting, you know,' Evie explained, since Mrs. Vinney
was obviously taking him for one who left war to those that wanted war.
'He's wounded.'

'Oh, is that so?' Mrs. Vinney regarded Mr. Doye with new interest.
'Well, I must say one can't help _admiring_ the men that go and fight
for their country, though one should allow liberty to all.... I hope
you're going on favourably, Mr. Doye.'

'Very, thanks very much.'

'Well, we must be trotting, Evie, if we're going to Oxford Street before
we go home.... Check, if you please.... They're always so slow, aren't
they, at these places. Good-bye, Miss Sandomir; good-bye, Mr. Doye, and
I'm sure I hope you'll get quite all right soon.'

Basil stood aside to let them out, and looked after them for a moment as
they went.


3

He sat down with a grin.

'Makes life more _solemn_--do you know what I mean?... What a cheery
little specimen.... I say, I'd like to draw Miss Tucker; such good
face-lines. That clear chin, and the nice wide space between the eyes.'
He drew it on the tablecloth with his left hand and the handle of his
teaspoon.

'She's ripping to draw,' Alix agreed. 'I often do her. And the colour's
gorgeous, too--that pink on brown. I've never got it right yet.'

'I should think she's fun to live with,' suggested Basil. 'She looks as
if she enjoyed things so much.'

'Yes, she has a pretty good time as a rule.'

'You know,' said Basil, thinking it out, 'being out there, and seeing
people smashed to bits all about the place, and getting smashed oneself,
makes one long for people like that, sane and healthy and with nothing
the matter with their bodies or minds. It gets to seem about the only
thing that matters, after a time.'

'I suppose it would.'

'Now a person like that, who looks like some sort of wood goddess--(I'd
awfully like to paint her as a dryad)--and looks as if she'd never had a
day's illness or a bad night in her life, is so--so _restful_. So alive
and yet so calm. No nerves anywhere, I should think.... Being out there
plays the dickens with people's nerves, you know. Not every one's, of
course; there are plenty of cheery souls who come through unmoved; but
you'd be surprised at the jolly, self-possessed sportsmen who go to
pieces more or less--all degrees of it, of course. Some don't know it
themselves; you can often only see it by the way their eyes look at you
while they're talking, or the way their hand twitches when they light
their cigarette....' Alix remembered John Orme's eyes and hands. 'They
dream a bit, too,' Basil went on, and his own eyes were fixed and queer
as he talked, and his brows twitched a little. 'Talk in their sleep, you
know, or walk.... It's funny.... I've censored letters which end "Hope
this finds you the same as it leaves me, _i.e._ in the pink," from chaps
who have to be watched lest they put a bullet into themselves from sheer
nerves. You'll see a man shouting and laughing at a sing-song, then
sitting and crying by himself afterwards.... Oh, those are extreme
cases, of course, but lots are touched one way or another.... I'm sorry
for the next generation; they'll stand a chance of being a precious
neurotic lot, the children of the fighting men.... It's up to every one
at home to keep as sane and unnervy as they can manage, I fancy, or the
whole world may become a lunatic asylum.... I say, what are you going to
do now?'

'Buy some chalks. Then go home.'

'Violette? I'll see you home, may I?'


4

They went to the chalk shop, then to the Clapton bus. The evening wind
was like cool hands stroking their faces. It was half-past six. The
streets were barbarically dark.

'One would think,' said Basil, peering through the darkness at the
ugliness, 'that in Kingsland Road Zepps might be allowed to do their
worst.'

'On Spring Hill too, perhaps,' Alix said. Slums and the screaming of the
disreputable poor: villas and the precise speech and incomparably
muddled thinking of the respectable genteel: which could best be spared?

But Basil said, 'Oh, Spring Hill. Spring Hill is full of joy and
dryads.'

'Kate is afraid a very common type of person is coming to live there.
We're getting nervous about it at Violette. We're very particular, you
know.'

Alix, with the instinct of a cad, was laughing at Violette, wanting him
to laugh with her.

'Sure to be,' he returned; and Alix realised blankly that he might laugh
at Violette to her heart's content and his attitude towards dryads and
Evie Tucker's face-lines would remain unaltered by his mockery.

With a revulsion towards breeding, she said, 'They're most awfully
kind.... Here's where I get off.'

He got off too, and they walked down Upper Clapton Road.


5

Some one came behind them, walking quickly, came up with them, slowed,
and looked.

'Here we are again,' said Evie, in her clear gay voice. 'You're coming
in to see us, Mr. Doye, I hope?'

Basil glanced from Alix to Evie. They were passing under a dim lamp,
which for a moment threw Evie's startling prettiness in lit relief
against the night. Extreme prettiness is not such a common thing that
one can afford to miss chances of beholding it.

Basil said, 'Well, may I?'

Evie returned, 'Rather. Stop to supper.'

'I can't do that, thanks very much. But I'll come in for a moment, if I
may.'

As they entered Violette's tiny hall, the clock struck seven. They went
into the drawing-room, where Mrs. Frampton and Kate sat knitting. It was
stiff and prim and tidy, and rather stuffy, and watched from the wall by
the monstrous Eye.

'Here's Mr. Doye, mother,' said Evie. 'He saw Alix home.'

Mr. Doye was introduced to Kate. Mrs. Frampton said how kind it was of
him to see Alix home.

'Particularly with the streets black like they are now. Have we a
_right_ to expect to be preserved if we go against all common-sense like
that?'

'I never do,' said Basil, meaning he never expected to be preserved, but
Mrs. Frampton took it that he never went against common-sense.

'Well, I'm sure I go out after dark as little as I can; but the girls
have to, coming back from work, and it makes me worry for them.... Now
you sit in that easy-chair, Mr. Doye, and make yourself comfortable, and
rest your hand. It's going on well, I hope? You'll stop and have some
supper, of course? We have it at half-past seven, so it won't keep you
long.'

Basil said he wouldn't, because he was dining somewhere at eight.

They talked of the news. Mrs. Frampton said it seemed to get worse each
day. She had been reading in the paper that Bulgaria was just coming in.
Was that really so? Mrs. Frampton was of those who inquire of their male
acquaintances and relatives on these and kindred subjects, and believe
the answers, more particularly when the males are soldiers. Basil Doye,
used to his mother, who told him things and never believed a word he
said, because, as she remarked, he was so much younger, found this
gratifying, and said it was really so. Mrs. Frampton said dear me, it
seemed as if all the world would have to come in in time, and what about
poor Serbia, could she be saved? Basil, wanting to leave the state of
Europe and ask Evie if she had seen any plays lately, said casually that
Serbia certainly seemed to stand a pretty good chance of being done in.

'And then, I suppose,' said Mrs. Frampton, 'we shall have the poor
Serbian refugees fleeing to us for safety, like the Belgians. I'm sure
we shall all welcome them, the poor mothers with their little children.
But it will be awkward to know where to put them or what to do with
them. They've got those two houses at the corner of the Common full of
Belgians now. I wonder if the Belgians and the Serbs would get on well
together in the same houses. They say the poor Serbs are very wild
people indeed, with such strange habits. Do you think we shall all be
asked to take them as servants?'

'Sure to be,' said Basil, his eyes on Evie. Evie sat doing nothing at
all, healthy, lovely, amused, splendidly alive. The vigorous young
bodily life of her called to Basil's own, re-animating it. Alix sat by
her, all alive too, but weak-bodied, lame, frail-nerved, with no
balance. Kate knitted, and was different.

'It will be quite a problem, won't it?' said Mrs. Frampton. 'My maid
tells me girls can't get enough places now, people all take Belgians
instead.'

'They say the Belgian girls make very rough servants. We know those who
have them,' said Kate, who had the Violette knack of switching off from
the general to the personal. To Violette there were no labour problems,
only good servants and bad, no Belgian or Balkan problem, only
individual Belgians and Serbs (poor things, with their little children
and strange habits). They had the personal touch, which makes England
what it is.

Mrs. Frampton wanted to know next, 'And I suppose we shall be having
conscription very soon now, Mr. Doye, shall we?'

'Lord Northcliffe says so, doesn't he?' Basil returned absently.

Mrs. Frampton accepted that.

'Well! I suppose it has to be. It seems hard on the poor mothers of only
sons, and on the poor wives too. But if it will help us to win the war,
we mustn't grudge them, must we? I suppose it _will_ help us to victory,
won't it?'

'Lord Northcliffe says that too, I understand.... What do _you_ think,
Miss Tucker?' He turned to Evie, to hear her speak.

She said, 'Oh, don't ask me. _I_ don't know. Don't suppose it will make
much difference. Things don't, do they?'

Basil chuckled. 'Precious little, as a rule.... So that settles that.'
He caught sight of the clock and got up.

'I say, I'm afraid I've got to go at once. I shall be awfully late and
rude. I often am, since I joined the army. I was a punctual person once.
The war is very bad for manners and morals, have you discovered, Mrs.
Frampton?'

'Oh well,' Mrs. Frampton spoke condoningly, 'I'm sure we must all hope
it won't last much longer. How long will it be, Mr. Doye, can you tell
us that?'

'Seven years,' said Mr. Doye. 'Till October 1922, you know. Yes, awful,
isn't it? I'm frightfully sorry I had to tell you. Good-bye, Mrs.
Frampton.' He shook hands with them all; his eyes lingered, bright and
smiling, on Evie, as if they found her a pleasant sight. In Alix that
look seemed to stab and twist, like a turning sword. Perhaps that was
what men felt when a bayonet got them.... The odd thing in the
psychology of it was that she had never known before that she was a
jealous person; she had always, like so many others, assumed she wasn't.
Certainly Evie's beauty had been to her till now pure joy.

As she went to the door with Basil, he said, 'I say, I wish you and your
cousin would come into the country one Sunday. We might make up a small
party. Your cousin looks as if she would rather like walking.'

'She's rather past it, I'm afraid,' said Alix, and added, in answer to
his stare, 'Cousin Emily, you mean, don't you? The Tuckers aren't my
cousins, you know. And she's only a dead cousin's wife. The Tuckers
aren't even that.'

'No, hardly that, I suppose. Well, ask Miss Tucker if she'd care to
come, will you? I should think she'd be rather a good country person. We
might go next Sunday, if it's fine.'

Alix did not remark that Kate was not a particularly good country
person. She merely said, 'All right.... Mind the step at the gate....
Good-night,' and shut the door.


6

She stood for a moment listening to the tread of his feet along the
asphalt pavement, then sat down on the umbrella stand thoughtfully.

For a moment it came to her that among the many things the war had taken
from her (Paul, Basil, sleep at nights) were two that mattered just now
particularly--good breeding, and self-control. She knew she might feel
and behave like a cad, and also that she might cry. It was the second of
these that she least wanted to do. She had to be very gay and bright....
For a moment her fingers were pressed against her eyelids. When she took
them away she saw balls of fire dancing all over the hall and up the
stairs.

'I shall ask Kate,' she said.

Florence came up the kitchen stairs with food. Kate came out of the
sitting-room to help her set the table. Alix said, 'Let me help, Kate,'
and began to bustle about the dining-room.

'You're giving mother Evie's serviette,' said Kate, who probably thought
this outburst of helpfulness more surprising than useful.

'By the way, Kate,' said Alix suddenly, giving Mrs. Frampton Kate's
serviette instead, 'I suppose you wouldn't care to come for a long walk
in the country on Sunday? I'm going with Basil Doye and some other
people, and he asked me to ask you.'

Kate looked repressive.

'Considering my class, and church, and that I never take train on
Sunday, it's so likely, isn't it?... And I rather wonder you like to go
these Sunday outings, Alix. Don't you think it's nice to keep one day
quiet, not to speak of higher things, with all the rushing about you do
during the week?'

Kate felt it her duty to say these things sometimes to Alix, who had not
been well brought up.

'It might be nice,' returned Alix, absently juggling with napkins. 'But
it's difficult, rather.... I say, I believe I've got these wrong
still.... I must go and change now.'

She found Evie changing already, cool, clear-skinned, cheerful, humming
a tune.

It was difficult to speak to Evie, but Alix did it. She even hooked her
up behind. She saw Evie's reflection in the glass, pretty and brown. She
tried not to think that Evie was gayer than usual, and knew she was. She
changed her own dress, and talked fast. She saw her face in the glass;
it was flushed and feverish.


7

They went down to supper. There was cold brawn, and custard, and stewed
apple, and cheese, and what Violette called preserve. An excellent meal,
but one in which Alix found no joy. She wanted something warming.

'It was a pity Mr. Doye wasn't able to stay,' said Mrs. Frampton. 'He's
quite full of fun, isn't he?'

'Talks a lot of nonsense, _I_ think,' said Evie.

'The brawn would hardly have been sufficient,' said Kate, meaning if Mr.
Doye had been able to stay.

'A little custard, love?' Mrs. Frampton said to Alix. 'Why, you don't
look well, Alix. You look as if you had quite a temperature. I hope
you've not a chill beginning. These east winds are so searching and your
necks are so low. You'd better go to bed early, dear, and Florence shall
make you some hot currant tea.'

'Florence says,' said Kate, reminded of that, 'that those people at
Primmerose have lost their third girl this month. The girls simply won't
stay, and Florence says she doesn't blame them. They're dreadfully
common people, I'm afraid, those Primmerose people. There are some funny
stories going round about them, only of course one can't encourage
Florence to talk. I believe the amount of wine and spirits they take in
is something dreadful. In wartime, too. It does seem sad, doesn't it?
You'd think people might restrain themselves just now, but some seem
never to think of that. Mr. Alison says all this luxury and intemperance
is quite shameful. He preached on it on Sunday night. His idea is that
the war was sent us as a judgment, for all our wicked luxury and vice,
and it will never cease till we are converted, Lord Derby or no Lord
Derby, conscription or no conscription. He says all that is just a
question of detail and method, but the only way to stop the war is a
change of life. He was very forcible, I thought.'

'Perhaps,' said Mrs. Frampton, 'that's what Mr. Doye meant when he said,
didn't he, how all these measures, conscription and so on, don't make so
much difference after all. No, it was Evie said it, wasn't it? and Mr.
Doye agreed and seemed quite pleased with her, I thought. Perhaps he
meant the same as Mr. Alison, about a change of life. I expect he's very
good himself, isn't he, Alix?'

Evie, to whom goodness meant dullness, said, 'I bet he isn't. Is he,
Al?'

'_I_ don't know,' said Alix. 'You'd better ask him.'

She added after a moment, 'I'll ask him for you on Sunday, if you like.
We're going out somewhere, if it's fine.'

'It was very kind of him to ask me too,' said Kate. 'You must explain to
him how it is I can't, with its being Sunday.'

Across the table Alix's eyes met Evie's, suddenly widened in guileless,
surprised mirth, with a touch of chagrin.

Evie said, 'Why, whatever did he ask Kate for? He might have known she
wouldn't.... Men are ...'

'You're not coming, you're not coming, you're _not_ coming,' said Alix
within herself, breathing fast and clenching her napkin tight in her two
hands and staring across the table defensively out of narrowed eyes.

So they left it at that.


8

But in the night Evie won. One may begin these things, if sufficiently
unhinged and demoralised by private emotions and public events, but one
cannot always keep them up.

The policeman paced up and down, up and down Spring Hill, the rain
dripped, the gutters gurgled, Evie breathed softly, asleep, the dark
night peered through waving curtains, Alix turned her pillow over and
over and cursed.

'I suppose,' she said at last, at 2 A.M., 'she's got to come....'

At 2.30 she said, 'It will be a beastly day,' and sighed crossly and
began to go to sleep.


9

At half-past seven, while Evie did her hair, Alix said, on a weary yawn,
'I say, you'd better come out with us on Sunday, as Kate won't.'

Evie, with hairpins in her mouth, said, 'Me? Oh, all right, I don't
mind. Will it amuse me? What's the game?'

'Oh, nothing especial. Just a day in the country. No, I shouldn't think
it would amuse you much, especially as you won't know hardly any of the
people. But come if you like.'

'You're awfully encouraging.' Evie considered it, and pinned her hair
up. 'Oh, I expect I may as well come. It will be cheerier than stopping
at home. And I rather like meeting new people.... All right, I'm on.
Gracious, there's the bell. You'll be late, child. If they're half as
particular at your shop as they are at mine, you must get into a lot of
rows.'

So that was settled.



CHAPTER IX

SUNDAY IN THE COUNTRY


1

Sunday morning was quiet and misty, and Clapton was full of bells. At
Violette on Sundays each person led a different life. Kate, who attended
St. Austin's church, went to early Mass at eight, sung Mass for children
at 9.45, Sunday-school at 10.30, matins (said hastily) at 11, High Mass
(sung slowly) at 11.30, children's catechising at 3, and evensong at 7.

Mrs. Frampton went to a quite different church, to 11 o'clock matins,
and once a month (the first Sunday) did what was called in that church
'staying on.' She often went again in the evening.

Evie often accompanied her mother, and found, as many have, that after
church is a good time and place for the gathering together of friends.

Alix did not attend church, not having been brought up to do so. She
often went off somewhere on Sunday with friends, as to-day.

Mrs. Frampton said at breakfast, 'Take warm coats, dears; it's quite a
fog, and your cough sounds nasty, Alix love. And don't leave your
umbrellas; it might very well turn to rain.'

'It's quite cold enough for furs, _I_ think,' said Evie, pleased,
because her furs became her.

Through a pale blurred morning Alix and Evie travelled by bus and
metropolitan to Victoria. Evie, lithe and fawn-like in dark brown, with
her wide, far-set, haunting eyes and sudden dimples, was a vivid note in
the blurred world; any one must be glad of her. Evie needed not to say
words of salt or savour; her natural high spirits and young buoyancy
were lifted from the commonplace to the charming by her face and smile.
Alix by Evie's side was pale and elusive and dim; her only note of
colour was the dark, shadowed blue of her black-lashed eyes. She
coughed, and her throat was sore. She talked, and made Evie laugh.


2

They entered Victoria Station at 10.29. Waiting in the booking-hall were
their friends: Basil Doye, a married young man and young woman of
prepossessing exterior, two or three others of both sexes, and Terry
Orme with a friend, both on a week's leave. Terry was spending the
week-end in town, with another subaltern, and was joining in the
expedition at Alix's suggestion. Alix was fond of Terry, who was John's
younger brother, and a fair, serene, sweet-tempered, mathematical, very
musical person of nineteen. He seemed one of those who, as Basil Doye
had put it, come through the war unmoved. His smile was sweet and
infectious, and he was restful and full of joy, and could consume more
chocolates at a sitting than any one else (of over fifteen) that he
knew.

His friend was a cheery, sunburnt youth called Ingram, who had got the
D.C.M.

Terry said, 'Hullo, Alix, how are you?' and had the gift of showing,
without demonstration, that he knew things were rotten for her, because
of Paul. He was a sympathetic boy, and tender-hearted, and thought Alix
looked in poor case; quite different from his own vigorous and cheerful
and busy sisters at Wood End. But then of course he and John hadn't been
killed, and Paul had. It was frightfully rough luck on Alix. Terry was
inclined to think that people out there had much the best of it, on the
whole, beastly as it often was, and interrupting to the things that
really mattered, such as music, and Cambridge.

Evie was introduced to every one, and they all had a friendly and
pleased look at so much grace and vividness.

In the train they filled a compartment. Alix sat between Terry and the
married young man, who was something in a government office. Opposite
were Evie and Basil and the married young woman, who had lovely furs and
a spoilt, charming face, and was selfish about the foot-warmer.

In the train they read a newspaper. Evie got the impression from their
manner of reading it that they all knew beforehand what the news was,
and a good deal more than was in the paper too; perhaps this impression
was produced merely by nobody's saying 'Fancy,' as they did at Violette.
From their style of comment Evie was inclined to gather that some of
them had helped to write the paper and that others were acquainted with
the unwritten facts behind and so different from the printed words;
perhaps it was merely that they had studied last night's late editions,
or perhaps some were journalists, others makers of history, others
gifted with invention. Anyhow they seemed to think they knew as much as,
or a good deal more than, the paper did. Even the married young woman
stopped for a moment being sleepy and sulky about the cold to contribute
something she had heard from a Foreign Office man at dinner.

'He was pulling your leg,' her husband said. 'Linsey always does; he
thinks it's funny.'

Evie thought him and his high sweet voice conceited.

Alix, looking at Evie opposite, speculated amusedly for a moment where
Evie came in: Evie, who knew and cared for no news and had heard nothing
from people behind the scenes, and hadn't even had her leg pulled by
Foreign Office men. Well, Evie, of course, came in on her face. It was
jolly to have a face like that, to cover all vacancies within. Evie sat
there, understanding little, yet people spoke to her merely to discover
what, with that face, she would say. And what she said pleased and
amused merely by reason of its grace of setting.

Evie shivered, and Basil asked if she would like the window up.

'Well, it _is_ cold,' said Evie, and he leaned across and pulled it up,
asking no one else.

'Thanks so much,' said Evie, taking it prettily to herself. Her face and
eyes were brilliant above her furs. Basil, with an artist's pleasure,
took in her beauty; Alix felt him doing it. Yes, Evie came in all right.

They got out at some station. The air was like damp blankets, thick and
pale and chill. There was no joy in it; dead wet leaves floated
earthwards, unhappy like tears. They started walking somewhere. Alix
leaned on her stick. She could walk all right, but she limped. She might
soon tire, but she wasn't going to say so. They walked uphill, on a
forlorn, muddy road. They walked in groups of two or three, changing and
mixing and dividing as they went. They talked....


3

Basil for a minute was beside Alix. He said, 'I say, will this be too
much for you? Do say if you get tired, and we'll stop and rest.'

Alix hated him because she was lame and he hated lameness and loved
wholeness and strength.

She said, 'No thanks, I'm all right,' and had no more to say at the
moment. His eyes were on Evie's back, where she walked ahead with
Maynard, the married man. He thought she walked like Diana, straight and
free, with a swing.

Alix turned to speak to Terry, who was just behind with his friend
Ingram. He came abreast of her, answering. Basil caught up the two in
front.

'You look pretty fit, Terry,' said Alix.

'Oh, I'm in the pink.' His fair, unbrowned face was serene and smiling.
His far-set blue eyes were not nervous, only watchful, and seemed to see
a long way. He hadn't got Basil's or John's quick, jerky, restless
movements of the hands. He looked as if the war had more let him alone,
left him detached, unconsumed. Perhaps it was because he was a musician;
perhaps because he was naturally of a serene spirit; perhaps because he
was so young.

'Have a choc,' said Terry, and produced a box of them from the pocket of
his Burberry.

Alix had one.

'How are they all at Wood End?' she asked.

'They too appear to be in the pink. They haven't much time to spare for
me, though, they're so marvellously busy. Mother always was, of course;
but Margot and Dorothy are at it all day too now. I wonder what they'll
do with it when the war's over, all this energy. Mother says the war has
been good for them; made them more industrious, I suppose. It's a funny
thought, that the war can have been _good_ for any one; I can't quite
swallow it. I don't think a thing bad in itself can be good for people,
do you? It's very bad for me; it's spoiling my ear; the noise, you know;
guns and shells and gramophones and so on.... By the way, I wish you'd
come and hear Lovinski with me on Monday night, it's a jolly programme.'

'All right,' said Alix, who found Terry restful.

She talked to Terry, and saw Evie and Basil walking in front, side by
side, laughing, Evie's joyous, young smile answering that other quick,
amused, friendly smile that she knew.


4

'You _are_ all funny,' said Evie to Basil.

'No?'

'Oh, you are. You do talk so.... About such mad things.'

'Do we? What do _you_ talk about at home?'

Evie tried to consider.

'Don't know, I'm sure. Oh, just things that happen, I suppose; and
mother and Kate talk about servants and household things, and we all
talk about the people we know, and what they've done and said. But
you ... you all talk about....'

'About the people we don't know, and what they've done and said. Is that
it?'

'Perhaps. And public things, out of the papers, and what's going to
happen, and why, and pictures, and ... nonsense.... Oh, I don't know....
And you find such queer things funny.... Anyhow, you all _talk_, even if
it's only nonsense most of the time.... And the girls and the men talk
just the same way. That's funny. Alix is the same. She's the queerest
kid; makes me scream with laughter often. She's a pet, though.'

'She is,' said Basil. 'But what people say--the way they talk--makes
extraordinarily little difference, you know. It's what they are.... The
funny thing is, I didn't know that, not so clearly, at least, till I'd
been out at the war. A thing like a war seems to settle values,
somehow--shows one what matters and what doesn't; shovels away the cant
and leaves one with the essentials....' ('Oh dear me,' said Evie.)
'Sorry; I'm talking rot. What I mean is, isn't it a jolly day and jolly
country, and don't you love walking and getting warm?... I suppose you
chose your hat to match your face, didn't you?--pink on brown. Don't
apologise: I like it. Yes, the hat too, of course, but I didn't mean
that.'

'Well, really!' said Evie.


5

They stopped at an inn for lunch. They crowded round a fire and got
warm. They had hot things to eat and drink. They laughed and talked.
Outside the wet leaves blew about. Alix's leg ached. Maynard, who talked
too much and about the wrong things, persisted in talking about the
psychological and social effects of the war. An uncertain subject, and
sad, too; but probably he was writing an article about it somewhere; it
was the sort of thing Maynard did, in his spare time.

'It's an interesting intellectual phenomenon,' he was saying. 'So many
of the intelligent people in all the nations reduced largely to
emotional pulp--sunk in blithering jingoism, like a school treat or a
mothers' meeting.'

His wife, who had been a bored vicar's daughter before her marriage, and
knew, said sleepily, 'Mothers' meetings aren't a bit like that. You
don't know anything about them. They mostly don't think anything about
jingoism or the war, except that they hope their boys won't go, and that
the Keyser must be an 'ard-'earted man. That's not blithering jingoism,
it's common sense.'

Ingram, the cheerful young subaltern, said boldly, 'I think jingoism is
an under-rated virtue. There's a lot to be said for it. It makes
recruits, anyhow. As long as people don't _talk_ jingo, I think it's a
jolly useful thing.'

'It's turning some of our best professional cynics into primitive
sentimentalists, anyhow,' said Maynard, thinking out his article. 'It's
making Europe simple, sensuous and passionate. As evidenced by the
war-poetry that was poured forth in 1914. (That flood seems a little
spent now; I suppose we're all getting too tired of the war even to
write verse about it.) ... As evidenced also by the Hymn of Hate and the
Deptford riots and other exhibitions of primitive emotion. The question
is, is all this emotion going to last, and to be poured out on other
things after the war, or shall we be too tired to feel anything at all,
or will there be a reaction to dryness and cynicism? People, for
instance, have learnt more or less to give their money away: will they
go on giving it, or shall we afterwards be closer-fisted than before?'

'O Lord!' said Basil, 'we shall have nothing left to give. Not even
munition-makers will, if it's true that the income-tax is going to be
quadrupled next year. It's about five bob now, isn't it? Give, indeed!'

'People,' continued Maynard, still on his own train of thought, 'may be
divided, as regards the ultimate effects on them of any movement, into
two sections--those who respond to the movement and join in all its
works and are propelled along in a certain direction by it and continue
to be so; and those who, either early or late, react against it, and are
propelled in the opposite direction. Every movement has got its reaction
tucked away inside it; and the more violent the movement, the more
violent the possible reaction. The reactionary forces that come into
play during and after war are quite incalculable. Goodness only knows
where they'll land us ... whether they'll prevail over the responding
forces or not. For instance, shall we be left a socialistic,
centralised, autocratically governed, pre-Magna-Carta state, bound hand
and foot by the Defence of the Realm Act, with all businesses
state-controlled and all persons subject to imprisonment and sudden
death without trial by jury, or will there be a tremendous reaction
towards liberal individualism and _laissez-faire_? Who knows? None of
us.... What do you think about it all, Miss Tucker?' He addressed Evie,
to tease her, and make her say something in that fresh, buoyant voice of
hers.

She did. She said, 'I'm sure I don't know anything about it. I can't see
that the war makes such a lot of difference, to ordinary people. One
seems to go on much the same from day to day, doesn't one?'

'I'm not at all sure,' said Basil, suddenly interested, 'that Miss
Tucker hasn't got hold of the crux of the whole matter. There aren't two
sections of people, Maynard--there are three; the respondents, the
reactors, and the indifferents--ordinary people, that's to say. What
difference _does_ the war make, after all--to ordinary people? I believe
the fact that it, so to speak, doesn't, is going to settle the destiny
of this country. People like you talk of effects and tendencies; you're
caught by influences and reactions and carried about; but then, perish
the thought that you're an ordinary person. You're only an ordinary
person of a certain order, the fairly civilised, not quite unthinking
order, that sees and discusses and talks a lot too much. A thing like a
war, when it comes along, upsets the whole outlook of your lot; it
dissolves the fabric of your world, and you have to build it up
again--and whether you like it or not, it will be something new for you.
But does it upset and dissolve, or even disturb very much, the world of
all the people (the non-combatants, I mean, of course, not the fighters)
who don't think, or only think from hand to mouth? There'll be no
reaction for them, or any such foolishness, because there's been no
force. Here's to Ordinary People!' He emptied his glass of beer, and if
he seemed to do it to Evie Tucker, that might be taken merely as
acknowledgment of her discerning remark.

'Oh, mercy,' said Evie, on a laugh and a yawn. 'You do all go on, don't
you.'

Alix, black-browed and sulky, thought so too. Why talk about rotten
things like these? Why not talk about the weather, or the countryside,
or birds and leaves, or servants, as at Violette, instead of these
futile speculations on the effects of a war that should not be thought
about, should not be mentioned, and would probably anyhow never never
end? It was Maynard's fault; he was conceited, and a gasbag, and talked
about the wrong things. Terry Orme agreed with her.

But young Ingram said, practically, 'Surely that's all rot, isn't it? I
mean, there can be no indifferents, in your sense of the word. Every one
must be affected, even if they haven't people of their own in the show,
by the general kick-up. I don't believe in your indifferents; they
wouldn't be human beings. They'd be like the calm crowds in the papers,
don't you know, who aren't flustered by Zepps. I simply don't believe
they exist.'

'The fundamentally untouched,' Maynard explained. 'Superficially, of
course, they are, as you put it, flustered. They read the papers, of
course, for the incidents; but the fundamental issues beneath don't
touch them. They're impervious; they're of an immobility; they're
sublimely stable. The war, for them, really isn't. The new world,
however it shapes, simply won't be. What's the war doing to them? All
the beastliness, and bravery, and ugliness, and brutality, and cold, and
blood, and mud, and gaiety, and misery, and idiotic muddle, and
splendour, and squalor, and general lunacy ... you'd think it must
overturn even the most stable ... do something with them--harden them,
or soften them, or send them mad, or teach them geography or foreign
politics or knitting or self-denial or thrift or extravagance or
international hatred or brotherhood. But has it? Does it? I believe
often not. They haven't learnt geography, because they don't like using
maps. They've not learnt to fight, because it's non-combatants I'm
talking of. They've not even learnt to write to the papers--thank
goodness. Nor even to knit, because I believe they mostly knew how
already. Nor to preserve their lives in unlit streets, for they are
nightly done in in their hundreds. Nor, I was told by a clergyman of my
acquaintance the other day, to pray (but that is still hoped for them, I
believe). The war, like everything else, will come and go and leave them
where it found them--the solid backbone of the world. The rest of the
world may go on its head with ideas, or progress, or despair, or war, or
joy, or madness, or sanctity, or revolution--but they remain unstirred.
I don't suppose a foreign invasion would affect them fundamentally. They
couldn't take in invasion, only the invaders. They remain themselves,
through every vicissitude. That's why the world after the war will be
essentially the same as the world before it; it takes more than a war to
move most of us.... We all hope our own pet organisation or tendency is
going to step in after the war and because of the war and take
possession and transform society. Social workers hope for a new burst of
philanthropic brotherhood; Christians hope for Christianity; artists and
writers for a new art and literature; pacificists for a general
disarmament; militarists for permanent conscription; democrats say there
will be a levelling of class barriers; and I heard a subaltern the other
day remark that the war would 'put a stopper on all this beastly
democracy.' We all seem to think the world will emerge out of the
melting-pot into some strange new shape; optimists hope and believe it
will be the shape they prefer, pessimists are almost sure it will be the
one they can least approve. Optimists say the world will have been
brought to a state of mind in which wars can never be again; pessimists
say, on the contrary, we are in for a long succession of them, because
we have revived a habit, and habit forms character, and character forms
conduct. But really I believe the world will be left very much where it
was before, because of that great immobile section which weighs it
down.'

Mrs. Maynard, who had been making a very good lunch, yawned at this
point, and said, 'Roger, you're boring every one to death. You don't
know anything more about the future than we do. None of us know anything
at all. You're not Old Moore.'

'Old Moore,' Evie contributed (she had not been attending to Maynard's
discourse, but was caught by this), 'says something important in foreign
courts is going to happen in November, connected with a sick-bed. I
expect that means the Kaiser's going to be ill. Perhaps he'll die.'

'Sure to,' agreed Basil. 'He's done it so many times already this year,
it's becoming a habit.... I say, we ought to be getting on, don't you
think?'

Mrs. Maynard shivered, and said it was quite an unfit day to be out in,
and she wasn't enjoying herself in the least, and was anybody else?

Basil said he was, immensely, and found the day picturesque in colour
effects.

Evie said she thought it was jolly so long as they kept moving.

Maynard said it was jollier talking and eating, but he supposed that
couldn't last.

Terry said it could, if one had chocolates in one's pocket and didn't
hurry too much.


6

Basil walked beside Evie. Evie's beauty was whipped to brilliancy by the
damp wind. Evie was life. She might not have the thousand vivid
awarenesses to life, the thousand responses to its multitudinous calls,
that the others had, the keen-witted young persons who had been bred up
to live by their heads; but, in some more fundamental way, she was life
itself: life which, like love and hate, is primitive, uncivilised,
intellectually unprogressive, but basic and inevitable.

Basil had once resented the type. In old days he would have called it
names, such as Woman, and Violette. Now he liked Woman, found her
satisfactory to some deep need in him; the eternal masculine, roused
from slumber by war, cried to its counterpart, ignoring the
adulterations that filled the gulf between. Possibly he even liked
Violette, which produced Woman.

Ingram walked by Alix. The yellow leaves drifted suddenly on to the wet
road. Alix's hands were as cold as fishes; her lame leg was tired. She
talked and laughed. Ingram was talking about dogs--some foolish pug he
knew.

Alix too talked of pugs, and chows, and goldfish, and guinea-pigs.
Ingram said there had been a pug in his platoon; he told tales of its
sagacity and intrepidity in the trenches.

'And then--it was a funny thing--he lost his nerve one day absolutely;
simply went to pieces and whimpered in my dug-out, and stayed so till we
got back into billets again. He wouldn't come in to the trench again
next go; he'd had enough. Funny, rather, because it was so sudden, and
nothing special to account for it. But it's the way with some men, just
the same. I've known chaps as cheery as crickets, wriggling in frozen
mud up to the waist, getting frost-bitten, watching shrapnel and
whizz-bangs flying round them as calmly as if they were gnats, and
seeing their friends slip up all round them ... and never turning a
hair. And then one day, for no earthly reason, they'll go to pot--break
up altogether. Funny things, nerves....'

Alix suddenly perceived that he knew more about them than appeared in
his jolly, sunburnt face; he was talking on rapidly, as if he had to,
with inward-looking eyes.

'Of course there are some men out there who never ought to be there at
all; not strong enough in body or mind. There was a man in my company;
he was quite young; he'd got his commission straight from school; and he
simply went to pieces when he'd been in and out of trenches for a few
weeks. He was a nervous, sensitive sort of chap, and delicate; he ought
never to have come out, I should say. Anyhow he went all to bits and
lost his pluck; he simply couldn't stand the noise and the horror and
the wounds and the men getting smashed up round him: I believe he saw
his best friend cut to pieces by a bit of shell before his eyes. He kept
being sick after that; couldn't stop. And ... it was awfully sad ... he
took to exposing himself, taking absurd risks, in order to get laid out;
every one noticed it. But he couldn't get hit; people sometimes can't
when they go on like that, you know--it's a funny thing--and one night
he let off his revolver into his own shoulder. I imagine he thought he
wasn't seen, but he was, by several men, poor chap. No one ever knew
whether he meant to do for himself, or only to hurt himself and get
invalided back; anyhow things went badly and he died of it.... I can
tell you this, because you won't know who he was, of course....' (But
really he was telling it because, like the Ancient Mariner, he had to
talk and tell.) He went on quickly, looking vacantly ahead, 'I was there
when he fired.... Some of us went up to him, and he knew we'd seen.... I
shan't forget his face when we spoke to him.... I can see it now ... his
eyes....' He looked back into the past at them, then met Alix's, and it
was suddenly as if he was looking again at a boy's white, shamed face
and great haunted blue eyes and crooked, sensitive mouth and brows....
He stopped abruptly and stood still, and said sharply beneath his
breath, 'Oh, good Lord!' Horror started to his face; it mounted and grew
as he stared; it leaped from his eyes to the shadowed blue ones he
looked into. He guessed what he had done, and, because he guessed, Alix
guessed too. Suddenly paler, and very cold and sick, she said, 'Oh ...'
on a long shivering note; and that too was what the boy in the trenches
had said, and how he had said it. Perspiration bedewed the young man's
brow, though the air hung clammy and cold about them.

'I beg your pardon,' said Ingram, 'but I didn't hear your name. Do you
mind....'

'Sandomir,' she whispered, with cold lips. 'It's the same, isn't it?'

He could not now pretend it wasn't.

'I--I'm sickeningly sorry,' he muttered. 'I'm an ass ... a brute ...
telling you the whole story like that.... Oh, I do wish I hadn't. If
only you'd stopped me.'

Alix pulled her dazed faculties together. She was occupied in trying not
to be sick. It was unfortunate: strong emotion often took her like that;
in that too she was like Paul.

'I d-didn't know,' she stammered. 'I never knew before how Paul died.
They never said ... just said shot....'

He could have bitten his tongue out now.

'You mustn't believe it, please.... Sandomir wasn't the name ... it was
my mistake.... Sandberg--that was it.'

'They never said,' Alix repeated. She felt remote from him and his
remorse, emptied of pity and drained of all emotions, only very sick,
and her hands were as cold as fishes.

A little way in front Evie and Basil were laughing together. A robin
sang on a swaying bough. Alix thought how sad he was. She had a sore
throat and a headache. The mist clung round, clammy and cold, like her
hands....

'I don't know what to say,' Ingram was muttering. 'There's nothing _to_
say....'

Alix stopped walking. The sky went dark.

'Terry,' she said.

Terry was at her side.

'All right.... Aren't you well?'

She held on to his arm.

'Terry, I'm going home.'

He looked at her face.

'All right. I'll come too.... If you're going to faint, you'd better sit
down first.'

'I shan't faint,' said Alix. 'But I think ... I think I may be going to
be sick.'

'Well,' said Terry, 'just wait till the others have gone on, or they'll
fuss round.... I say, good-bye, all of you; Alix is rather done, and
we're going to the nearest station for the next train. No thanks, don't
bother to come; we shall be all right.'

Alix heard far-away offers of help; heard Evie's 'Shall I come with you,
Al?' and Basil's 'What bad luck,' and the others' sympathies and
regrets, and Terry keeping them off.


7

Alix and Terry were alone together.

Then Alix was, as she had foretold, sick, crouching on damp heather by
the roadside.

'Have you done?' inquired Terry presently.

'Yes. I hope so, at least. Let's go on to the station.'

'I wonder, is it something beginning? Do you feel like flu? Or is it
biliousness, or a chill? Or have you walked too far? I was afraid you
were.'

'I'm all right. Only that man--Mr. Ingram--told me things, and suddenly
I felt sick.... He told me things about Paul.... He didn't know who I
was, and then suddenly he knew, and I saw him know, and I knew too. Do
_you_ know, Terry?'

'No,' said Terry, levelly. 'I know what some men who were out there
thought, but it wasn't true.'

Terry was a good liar, but now no use at all. Alix twisted her cold
hands together and whispered hoarsely, 'You've known all the time,
then.... Oh, Paul, Paul--to have minded as much as all that before you
died ... to have been hurt like that for weeks and weeks....'

She was crying now, and could not stop.

'Don't,' said Terry gently. 'Don't think like that about it; it's not
the way. Don't think of Paul, except that he got out of it quicker than
most people, and is safe now from any more of it. One's got to keep on
thinking of that, whenever any of them slip up.... I hoped you'd none of
you ever know.... That bungling ass.... Alix, don't: it was such a short
time he had of it....'

Alix gasped, her hands pressed to her choked throat, 'It seemed hundreds
of years, to him. Hundreds and hundreds of years, of being hurt like
that, hurt more than he could bear, till he had to end it.... He was
such a _little_ boy, Terry ... he minded things so much....'

'The thing is,' Terry repeated, frowning, and prodding the mud in the
road with his stick, 'not to _think_. Not to _imagine_. Not to
_remember_.... It's _over_, don't you see, for Paul. He's clean out of
it.... It's a score for him really, as he was like that and did mind so
much.'

'It would be easier,' said Alix presently, husky and strangled, 'if he
hadn't liked things so much too; if he hadn't been so awfully happy; if
he hadn't so loved being alive.... It isn't a score for him to lose all
the rest of his life, that he might have had afterwards.'

'No,' Terry agreed, sadly. 'It isn't. It's rotten luck, that is. Simply
rotten. That's one of the most sickening things about this whole show,
the way people are doing that.... But there's one thing about Paul,
Alix; if he'd come through it he'd have kept on remembering all the
things one tries to forget. More than most people, I mean. He was that
sort. Lots of people don't mind so much, and can get things out of their
heads when they aren't actually seeing them. I can, pretty well, you
know. I think about other things, and don't worry, and eat and sleep
like a prize-fighter. A chap like Ingram's all right, too; lots of men
are. (Though what I suppose Ingram would call his brain seems to have
gone pretty well to pot to-day. My word, I shall let him hear about that
this evening.) But Paul--Paul would have minded awfully always; it might
have spoilt his life a bit, you know.... And worse things might have
happened to him, too; he might have been taken prisoner.... Paul,' he
added slowly--'Paul is better off than lots of men.'

Alix was staring at him now with wide, frightened eyes.

'I say, Terry,' she said hoarsely, 'what--what on earth are we to _do_
about it all? It--it's going on now--this moment.... I've tried so hard
not to let it come near ... and now ... now....' She was cold and
shaking with terror.

'Now you'd better go on trying,' Terry suggested, and looked at his
watch. 'Thinking's no good, anyhow.... We ought to hit off the 3.15 with
any luck. Are you going to be sick any more, by the way?'

'I can never tell, till just beforehand,' said Alix gloomily. 'But I
wouldn't be much surprised.'

That was a sad thing about the Sandomirs: when they began to be sick it
often took them quite a long time to leave off. It was most unfortunate,
and they got it from their father, who had sometimes been taken that way
on public platforms.

'Well,' said Terry patiently.


8

The others walked, and had tea, and walked again, and took a train back.
Londoners like this sort of day. They like to see hedges, and grass, and
pick berries, and hear birds. It refreshes them for their next week's
work, even though they have been at the time cold, and tired, and
perhaps bored.



CHAPTER X

EVENING IN CHURCH


1

Alix was huddled on her bed in a rug. She had taken two aspirin tablets
because her head ached, and really one is enough. She felt cold and low.
She was occupied in not thinking about Paul or the war; it was rather a
difficult operation, and took her whole energies. Paul was insistent;
she pressed her hands against her eyes and saw him on the darkness, her
little brother, white-faced, with the nervous smile she knew; Paul in a
trench, among the wounded and killed, seeing things, hearing things ...
taken suddenly sick ... unable to leave off ... putting his head above
the parapet, trying to get hit, called sharply to order by superiors....
Paul desperate, at the end of his tether, in the night full of flashes
and smashes and laughter and grumbling and curses.... Paul laughing too,
and talking, as she and Paul always did when they were hiding things....
Paul in his dug-out, alone ... unseen, he supposed ... with only one
thought, to get out of it somehow.... The shot, the pain, like flame ...
the men approaching, who knew.... Paul's face, knowing they knew ...
white, frightened, staring, pain swallowed up in shame ... the end ...
how soon? Ingram hadn't said that. Anyhow, the end; and Paul, out of it
at last, slipping into the dark, alone.... A noble end, Mrs. Frampton
had said, not a wasted life.... Anyhow, all over for Paul, as Terry had
said.

And then what? Ingram hadn't said that either; nor had Terry; no one
could say, for no one knew. What, if anything, _did_ come then?
Darkness, nothingness, or something new?

'He has begun to live now, dear, for ever and ever,' Kate had said.
'World without end, amen,' Mrs. Frampton had rounded it off.

World without end! What a thought! Poor Paul, finding a desperate way
out from the world, slipping away into another which had no way out at
all. But Mrs. Frampton's and Kate's world without end was a happy, jolly
one, presumably, and the more of it the better. It would give Paul space
for the life he hadn't lived here. Oh, could that be so? Was it
possible, or was it, as so many people thought, only a dream? Who could
know? No one, till they came to try. And then perhaps they would know
nothing at all either way, not being there any more....

Yet people thought they knew, even here and now. Nicky's friend, Mr.
West; he, presumably, thought he knew; anyhow, if not going so far as
that, he had taken a hypothesis and was, so to speak, acting, thinking,
and talking on it. He was clever, too. Mrs. Frampton and Kate thought
they knew, too; but they weren't clever. They believed in God: but Alix
could have no use for the Violette God. Mrs. Frampton's God was the
Almighty, an omnipotent Being who governed all things in gross and in
detail, including the weather (though the connection here was
mysteriously vague). A God of crops and sun and rain, who spoke in the
thunder; a truly pagan God (though Mrs. Frampton would not have cared
for the word), of chastisements and arbitrary mercies, who was capable
of wrecking ships and causing wars, in order to punish and improve
people. The God of the 'act of God' in the shipping regulations. A God
who could, and would, unless for wise purposes he chose otherwise, keep
men and women physically safe, protect them from battle, murder, and
sudden death. An anthropomorphic God, in the semblance, for some strange
reason known only to the human race, of a man. A God who somehow was
responsible for the war. A God who ordered men's estates so that there
should be a wholesome economic inequality among them.

Such was Mrs. Frampton's God, in no material way altered from the
conception of the primitive Jews or the modern South Sea Islanders, who
make God in their image. He had no attractions for Alix, who could not
feel that a God of weather was in any way concerned with the soul of the
world.

Kate's God, on the other hand, was for Alix enshrined in the little
books of devotion that Kate had lent her sometimes, and all of which she
found revolting, even on the hypothesis that you believed that sort of
thing. They propounded ingenuous personal questions for the reader to
ask himself, such as 'Have I eaten or drunk too much? Have I used bad
words? Have I read bad books?' (As if, thought Alix, any one would read
a bad book on purpose, life being so much too short to get through the
good ones; unless one had the misfortune to be a reviewer, like Nicky,
or to have bad taste, like many others; and then wasn't it rather a
misfortune than a fault?) 'Have I been unkind to animals?' the inquiries
went on. 'Have I obeyed those set over me? Have I kept a guard of my
eyes?' (a mysterious phrase, unexplained by any footnote, and leaving it
an open question whether to have done so or to have omitted to do so
would have been the sin. Alix inclined to the former view; it somehow
sounded an unpleasant thing to do.)

These books adopted a tone too intimate and ejaculatory for Alix's
taste; and they were, it must be admitted, about all she knew of Kate's
God, and her distaste for Him merely meant that she disliked some of
Kate's methods of approach.

Alix felt, vaguely, that West's God was different. There was no softness
about Him, or about West's approach to Him; no sentimental sweetness, no
dull piety, but energy, effort, adventure, revolt, life taken at a rush.
Dynamite, West had said, to blow up the world. Poetry, too; harsh and
grim poetry, often, but the real thing. Kate's religion might be sung in
hymns by Faber; Mrs. Frampton's in hymns by Dr. Watts; West's had very
little to do with any hymns sung in churches. And it was West's religion
which thought it was going to break up the world in pieces and build it
anew. Certainly neither Mrs. Frampton's nor Kate's would be up to the
task; they would not even want it. Mrs. Frampton worshipped a God of
Things as they Are, who has already done all things well, and Kate one
who is little concerned with the ordering of the world at all, but only
with individual souls.

One would like to know more about West's God.

'You should go to church,' West had told her. 'You'd find it
interesting.'

She might find it so, of course; anyhow, she could try. Paul was driving
her to find things out; his desperation and pain, her own, all the
world's, must somehow break a way through, out and beyond, fling open a
gate on to new worlds.... Anyhow, it might take one's mind off, help one
not to think. It occurred to Alix that she would go to church this
evening. It seemed, at the moment, the simplest way of watching these
odd mystical forces, if there were any such forces, at work. She would
be able thus to see them concentrated, working through a few people
gathered together for the purpose. Alix's acquaintance with Sunday
evening services, it may be observed, was rudimentary.


2

Meanwhile there was tea. Alix went down to it. There were Mrs. Frampton,
Kate, a Mrs. Buller from Anzac next door, and a toasted bun.

Mrs. Frampton said to Alix, 'You do look low, dear. I'm sure it's a good
thing you came home. Biliousness isn't a thing to play with. Suppose you
were to go to bed straight away, and let Kate bring you up a nice hot
cup of tea there?'

Kate said, playfully, 'This is what Sunday outings lead to.'

They were both at a great distance, as if Alix were at the bottom of the
sea. So was Mrs. Buller, who talked to Mrs. Frampton about girls. Girls
are, of course, an inexhaustible and fruitful topic--there are so many
of them coming and going, and nearly all so bad. Mrs. Frampton and Mrs.
Buller and Kate all found them interesting, if a nuisance. Alix found
them a safe subject.

Mrs. Buller was saying, 'On one thing I have made up my mind, Mrs.
Frampton; never again will I have a G.F.S. girl in my house. Besides all
the meetings and things at all hours, to have the girl's Associate
coming into my kitchen and talking about prayer (it was prayer, for I
overheard) and ending up with a kiss you could hear upstairs--it was
more than I could be expected to stand. And the girl smashed three cups
that same afternoon, and answered me back in a downright impertinent
way. So I said, 'If _that's_ what your G.F.S. teaches you for manners,
the sooner you and I part company the better,' and I gave her her
month.'

'I'm sure you were right,' said Mrs. Frampton. 'Though of course one
mustn't put it all on the G.F.S.' She said this because of Kate, who was
a church worker. But as it happened Kate did not care for the G.F.S.,
having fallen out with the local secretary, and also having been told by
her vicar that it was a society which drew too rigid an ethical line and
no denominational line at all. Kate also drew rigid ethical lines, when
left to herself and her own natural respectability; the comic spirit
must be largely responsible for driving people like Kate into the
Christian church, a body which, whatever opprobrium it may have at
various times incurred, has never yet been justly accused of
respectability. So Kate joined in about Girls and the G.F.S.

Mrs. Buller said, 'However, we may be thankful we aren't in the country,
for my sister at Stortford has had five soldiers billeted on her, and
how is her girl to keep her head among them all? She won't, of course.
Girls and a uniform--it goes to their heads like drink.'

'It does seem an upset for your sister,' said Mrs. Frampton.

'And Bertie's started again wanting to enlist,' continued their visitor,
who had many troubles. 'If I've told him once I've told him fifty times,
"Not while _I_ live you don't, Bertie." So I hope he'll settle down
again. But he says he'll only be fetched later if he doesn't; such
rubbish. He actually wants to go as a common soldier, not even a
commission. Think of the class of _company_ he'd be thrown into, not to
speak of the risk. Fancy his thinking his father and I could let him do
such a thing.'

Mrs. Frampton made sympathetic sounds.

They had tea. They went on talking, of Belgians, Zeppelins, bulbs, and
Girls. Belgians as a curiosity (in the corner house), Zeppelins as
murder ('to call that war, you know'), bulbs as a duty (to be put in
quite soon), and Girls as a nuisance (to be changed as speedily as may
be). Mrs. Buller stayed till nearly six.

'It's always a treat to see Mrs. Buller,' said Mrs. Frampton. 'But
fancy, it's nearly time to get ready for church.'

Mrs. Frampton's church was at half-past six. Kate's was at seven. It was
to Kate's that Alix wanted to go. She did not think that Kate's church
would be much use, but she was sure that Mrs. Frampton's wouldn't. Mrs.
Frampton's was florid Gothic outside, with a mellifluous peal of bells.
Kate's was of plain brick, with a single tinny bell. Mrs. Frampton's
looked comfortable. Kate's did not. The road into another world, if
there was another world, surely would not be a comfortable one....


3

Kate was pleased when Alix said she was coming. She thought the little
books had borne fruit.

'It'll be something to do,' said Alix cautiously.

'I hope Mr. Alison will preach,' Kate said. 'He's so helpful always.'

Alix wondered if Mr. Alison knew about another world, and if he would
tell in his sermon. If he did not, he would not be helpful to her.
Probably not even if he did.

They went diagonally across the little common, to the unpretentious
brick church whose bell tinkled austerely. It was an austere church both
within and without, and had a sacrificial beauty of outline and of
ritual that did not belong to Mrs. Frampton's church, which was full of
cheery comfort and best hats and Hymns A. and M. Kate's church had an
oblative air of giving up. It gave up succulent, completed tunes for the
restrained rhythms of plain-song, which, never completed, suggest an
infinite going on; it gave up comfortable pews for chairs which slid
when you knelt against them; its priests and congregation gave up food
before Mass and meat on fast-days. The chief luxury it seemed to allow
itself was incense, of which Alix disliked the smell. Certainly the air
of cheery, everyday respectability which characterises some churches was
conspicuously absent: this church seemed to be perpetually approaching a
mystery, trying to penetrate it, laying aside impedimenta in the
quest.... The quest for what? That seemed to be the question.

The candles on the far altar quivered and shone like stars. They sang
hymns out of little green books. They began by singing, in procession, a
long hymn about gardens and gallant walks and pleasant flowers and
spiders' webs and dampish mists, and the flood of life flowing through
the streets with silver sound, and many other pleasant things. Alix
glanced at Kate, curiously. Kate, prim and proper, so essentially of
Violette, seemed in herself to have no point of contact with such
strange, delightful songs, such riot of attractive fancy. For this was
poetry, and Kate and poetry were incongruous.

Poetry: having found the word, Alix felt it pervade and explain the
whole service--the tuneless chants, the dim glooms and twinkling lights,
the austerity. Kate interpreted this poetry for her own needs through
the medium of little books of devotion for which prose was far too
honourable a word; jargon, rather; pious, mushy, abominable....

It was odd. Kate seemed to be caught in the toils of some strange,
surprising force. Alix hadn't learnt yet that it is a force nowhere more
surprising than in the unlikely people it does catch. The further
question may then arise, how is it going to use them? Can it use them at
all, or does the turning of its wheels turn them out and get rid of
them, or does it retain them, unused? It is certainly all very odd. This
essentially romantic and adventurous and mystical force seems to have a
special hold on many timid, unromantic and unimaginative persons. This
essentially corporate and catholic body lays its grasp as often as not
on extreme individualists. Perhaps it is the unconscious need in them of
the very thing they have not got, that makes the contact. Perhaps it
reveals poetry and adventure to those who could find them in no other
guise. Perhaps it links together in a body those who must otherwise
creep through life unlinked, gives awareness of the community to the
otherwise unaware. Perhaps, on the other hand, it doesn't. The powers in
human beings of evading influences and escaping obvious inferences is
unlimited.

The lights were suddenly dimmer. Some one got into the pulpit and
preached. He preached on a question, 'Who will lead me into the strong
city?' A very pertinent inquiry, Alix thought, and just what she wanted
to know. Who would? Who could? Was there a strong city at all, or only
chaos and drifting ways of terror and unrest? If so, where was it, and
how to get there? The strong city, said the preacher, is the city of
refuge for which we all crave, and more especially just now, in this day
of tribulation. The kings of the earth are gathered and gone by
together; but the hill of Sion is a fair place and the joy of the whole
earth; upon the north side lieth the city of the great King; God is well
known in her palaces as a sure refuge. Above the noise of battle, above
the great water-floods, is the city of God that lieth four-square,
unshaken by the tempests.

Jolly, thought Alix, and just where one would be: but how to get into
it? One had tried, ever since the war began, to shut oneself away,
unshaken and undisturbed by the tempests. One had come to Violette
because it seemed more unshaken than Wood End; but Violette wasn't
really, somehow, a strong city. The tempests rocked one till one felt
sick.... Where was this strong city, any strong city? Well, all about;
everywhere, anywhere, said the preacher; one could hardly miss it.

    ''Tis only your estrangèd faces
    That miss the many-splendoured thing....'

and he quoted quite a lot of that poem. Then he went on to a special
road of approach, quoting instead, 'I went into the sanctuary of God.'
Church, Alix presumed. Well, here she was. No: it transpired that it
wasn't evening service he meant; he went on to talk of the Mass. That,
apparently, was the strong city. Well, it might be, if one was of that
way of thinking. But if one wasn't? Did Kate find it so, and was that
why she went out early several mornings in the week? And what sort of
strength had that city? Was it merely a refuge, well bulwarked, where
one might hide from fear? Or had it strength to conquer the chaos? West
would say it had; that its work was to launch forces over the world like
shells, to shatter the old materialism, the old comfortable selfishness,
the old snobberies, cruelties, rivalries, cant, blind stupidities, lies.
The old ways, thought Alix (which were the same ways carried further,
West would say), of destruction and unhappiness and strife, that had led
to the bitter hell where boys went out in anguish into the dark.

The city wasn't yet strong enough, apparently, to do that. Would it be
one day?

'I will not cease from mental fight,' cried the preacher, who was fond,
it seemed, of quoting poetry, 'nor let my sword sleep in my hand, till
we have built Jerusalem in England's green and pleasant land.'

The next moment he was talking of another road of approach to the city
on the hill, besides going to church, besides building Jerusalem in
England. A road steep and sharp and black; we take it unawares, forced
along it (many boys are taking it this moment, devoted and unafraid.
Unafraid, thought Alix); and suddenly we are at the city gates; they
open and close behind us, and we are in the strong city, the drifting
chaos of our lives behind us, to be redeemed by firm walking on whatever
new roads may be shown us. God, who held us through all the drifting,
unsteady paths, has led us now right out of them into a sure refuge....
How do you know? thought Alix. Beyond the steep dark road there may be
chaos still, endless, worse chaos: or, surely more natural to suppose,
there may be nothing. How _did_ people think they knew? Or didn't they?
Did they only guess, and say what they thought was attractive? Did Kate
know? And Mrs. Frampton? How _could_ they know, people like that? How
could it be part of their equipment of knowledge, anything so
extraordinary, so wild, so unlike their usual range as that? They knew
about recipes, and servants, and dusting, and things like that--but
surely not about weird and wonderful things that they couldn't see? Alix
could rather better believe that this preacher knew, though he did
sometimes use words she didn't like, such as tribulation and grace. (It
would seem that preachers sometimes must: it is impossible, and not
right, to judge them.)

When the sermon ended abruptly, and they sang a hymn of Bunyan's about a
pilgrim (402 in the green books), one was left with a queer feeling that
the Church had its hand on a door, and at any moment might turn a handle
and lead the way through.... Alix caught for a moment the forces at
work; perhaps West was right about them, and they were adequate for the
job of blowing up the debris of the world. If only the Church could
collect them, focus them, use them.... Kate, and church people of Kate's
calibre, were surely like untaught children playing, ignorantly and
placidly, with dynamite. They would be blown up if they weren't careful.
They kept summoning forces to their aid which must surely, if they fully
came, shatter and break to bits most of the things they clung to as
necessary comforts and conveniences. But perhaps people knew this, and
therefore prayed cautiously, with reservations; so the powers came in
the same muffled, wrapped way, with reservations.

Such were Alix's speculations as the music ended and the congregation
filed down the church and shook hands with the tired vicar at the door
and went out into the dark evening. The fog came round them and choked
the light that streamed from the church, and made Alix cough. They
hurried home through the blurred, gas-lit roads.

'Did you enjoy the service?' asked Kate.

'I think so,' said Alix, wondering whether she had.

'It's queer,' she added, meaning the position of the Christian church in
this world.

But Kate said, 'Queer! Whatever do you mean? It was just like the
ordinary; like it always is.... I wish Mr. Alison had preached, though;
I never feel Mr. Daintree has the same _touch_. He preaches about things
and people in general, and that's never so inspiring; he doesn't seem to
get home the same way to each one. Now, Mr. Alison this morning was
beautiful. Mr. Daintree, I always think, has almost too many _ideas_,
and they run away with him a little. However.' Kate's principle (one of
them) was not to criticise the clergy, so she stopped.

'I wonder if Florence is in yet,' she said instead, 'and if she's left
the larder open, as usual, and let that kitten get at the chicken? I
shouldn't be a bit surprised. She _is_ a girl.'

Alix felt another incongruity. If Kate really believed the extraordinary
things she professed to believe about the interfusion of two worlds (at
least two), how then did it matter so much about chickens and kittens
and Florence? Yet why not? Why shouldn't it give all things an intenser,
more vivid reality, a deeper significance? Perhaps it did, thought Alix,
renouncing the problem of the Catholic church and its so complicated
effects.

'You've got your cough worse,' said Kate, fitting the key into
Violette's latch. 'You'd better go to bed straight, I think, and have a
mustard leaf on after supper. You're the colour of a ghost, child.
Evie's back, I can hear.'

So could Alix.

'I shall go to bed,' she said. 'I don't want supper.'

While she was undressing, Evie came in, to wash her hands for supper.
Evie was radiant and merry.

'Hard luck your having to go back, Al,' said Evie, splashing her face
and hands. 'I'm stiff all over; I'm for a hot bath afterwards. We had a
lovely time; simply screaming, it was. Mr. Doye is rather a sport.
They're all a jolly set, though. Even that Mr. Ingram, the one you were
talking to, brightened up later on, though when first you turned back he
looked as if he was at his father's funeral. You must have made an
impression. But he got over it all right and was quite chirpy.'

'Was he?' said Alix.

'I've promised Mr. Doye to go out again with him, next Sat. He's quite
determined. I don't know what Sid Vinney'll say, because I'd half
promised him. But I don't care. Sid's an old silly, anyhow.'

Evie smothered herself in the towel, scrubbing her smooth skin that no
scrubbing could hurt.

'Dommage, you being seedy,' said Evie, and pulled off her walking shoes.
'You'd have enjoyed the day no end. Still feeling sick? Oh, poor kid,
bad luck.... Well, there's the bell, I must run. I've heaps more to tell
you. But you'd better go off straight to sleep after supper; I won't
disturb you when I come up.'

She ran downstairs. Alix heard her voice in the dining-room below,
through supper. Evie had had a good day. Evie was lovely, and jolly, and
kind, and a good sort, but Alix did not want to see her, or to hear her
talk.


4

It was Kate who came up after supper, with a mustard leaf, which she put
on Alix's chest.

'Shall I read to you till I take it off?' Kate said; and what she
selected to read was the current issue of the _Sign_, the parish
magazine she took in. (Mrs. Frampton took the _Peep of Day_, which was
the magazine of the church she attended.)

The mustard leaf, an ancient and mild one, which needed keeping on for
some time, allowed of reading the _Sign_ almost straight through, apart
from the parish news on the outer pages, which, though absorbing, is
local and ephemeral, and should not be treated as literature. Kate began
with an article on the Organs in our Churches, worked on through a
serial called Account Rendered; a poem on the Women of the Empire; a
page on Waifs and Strays; A Few Words to Parents and Teachers on the
Christian Doctrine of the Trinity; Thoughts to Rest Upon; Keeping Well,
some Facts for our Families; The Pitman's Amen (a short story);
Wholesome Food for Baby; and so at last to Our Query Corner, wherein the
disturbed in mind were answered when they had during the month written
to inquire, 'Why does my clergyman worship a cross? Is not this against
the second commandment?' 'What amusements, if any, may be allowed on
Sunday?' 'If I take the Communion, should I go to dancing-classes?' 'How
can I turn from Low Church to High Church?' 'Should not churchwardens be
Christians?' and about many other perplexing problems. The answers were
intelligent and full, never a bald Yes, or No, or We do not know; they
often included a recommendation to the inquirer to try and look at the
matter from a wider, or higher, standpoint, and (usually) to read the
little book by an eminent Canon that bore more particularly on his case.

Alix got it all, from the Organs in our Churches to the Christian
Churchwardens, mixed up with the mustard leaf, so that it seemed a
painful magazine, but, one hoped, profitable. She looked at Kate's
small, prim head in the shadow under the gas, and thought how Kate had
been through love and loss and jealousy and still survived. But Kate's
love and loss and jealousy could not be so bad; it was like some one
else's toothache.

'We do not quite understand your question,' read Kate. (This was on
turning from Low to High.) 'You should try to detach yourself from these
party names, which are often mischievous.... We think you might be
helped by the following books.... Twenty-five minutes: I should think
that must be enough, even for that old leaf. Does it smart much?'

'Dreadfully,' said Alix, who was tired of it.

'Well, two minutes more,' said Kate, and went on to the Churchwardens,
who, it seemed, _should_ be Christians, if possible.

'Now then,' said Kate, advancing with cotton wool.

'Oo,' said Alix. 'It's been on too long, Kate.'

'You do make a fuss,' said Kate, padding her chest with cotton wool and
tucking the clothes round her. 'Now you go off to Sleepy Town quick.'

Alix thought how kind Kate was. When one had any physical ailment,
Violette came out strong. It was soft-hearted. Women are.


5

When Kate had gone, Alix lay with her eyes tight shut and her head
throbbing, and tried to go to sleep, so that she need no longer make her
brain ache with keeping things out. But she could not go to sleep. And
she could not, in the silence and dark, keep things out; not Paul; nor
the war; nor Basil; nor Evie.

At last Evie came. Alix, feigning sleep, lay with tight-shut eyes, face
to the wall. Every movement of Evie, undressing in her frightful
loveliness, was horribly clear. Alix was afraid Evie, in passing her
bed, would brush against her, and that she would have to scream. If only
Evie would get to bed and to sleep.

Evie, after her undressing and washing, knelt in prayer for thirty
seconds (what was Evie's God, who should say? One cannot tell with
people like Evie, or see into their minds), then took her loveliness to
bed and fell sweetly asleep.

Alix knew from her breathing that she slept; then she unclenched her
hands and relaxed her body and cried.



CHAPTER XI

ALIX AND EVIE


1

Basil had Evie on the brain. He liked her enormously. He was glad he had
a month's more leave. He took to meeting her after she came out from her
hat shop and seeing her home. They spent Saturday afternoons together.

Alix saw them parting one Saturday evening, as she came home. Spring
Hill was dim and quiet, and they stood by the door into the Park, on the
opposite side of the road to Violette, chaffing and saying good-bye.
Alix saw Basil suddenly kiss Evie. It might be the first time: in that
case it would be an event for them both, and thrilling. Or it might be
not the first time at all: in that case it would be a habit, and jolly.

Anyhow Evie said, 'Oh, go along and don't be a silly.... Are you coming
in to-night?'

He said 'No' and laughed.

Then they saw Alix turning into Violette.

'There now,' said Evie. 'She must have seen you going on. Couldn't have
missed it.... Whatever will she think?'

'She won't think anything,' said Basil Doye. 'Alix is a nice person, and
minds her own business.'

'I believe it's her you're in love with really,' said Evie, teasing him.

He kissed her again, and said, 'Oh, do you?'

After a little more of the like conversation, which will easily be
imagined, they parted. Evie went into Violette. She ran upstairs and
into her dark bedroom and flung off her outdoor things. Turning, she saw
Alix sitting on the edge of her bed.

'Goodness, how you startled me,' said Evie.

'Sorry,' said Alix. 'Got a toothache.' She was holding her face between
her hands.

Evie said, 'Oh, bad luck. Try some aspirin. Or suck a clove.... I say,
Al.'

'What?'

'Did you see me and Mr. Doye just now, in the road? You did, didn't
you?'

'No,' said Alix.

'Oh,' said Evie, dubious, glancing at Alix's face, that was dimly wan in
the faint light from the street lamps, and twisted a little with her
toothache.

Pity seized Evie, who was kind.

'I say, kiddie, do go to bed. What's the use of coming down with a
face-ache? You'd be much better tucked up snug, with a clove poultice.'

'No,' said Alix, uncertainly, and stood up. 'It's better now. I've put
on cocaine.... Where are my shoes?... Of course I saw you and Basil in
the road.... Did you have a jolly afternoon?'

Evie knew that way of Alix's, of going back upon her lies; that was
where Alix as a liar differed from herself; you only had to wait.

'Yes, it was a lark,' said Evie carelessly. 'Mr. Doye's priceless, isn't
he? Doesn't mind _what_ he says. Nor what he does, either. He makes me
shriek, he's so comic. You should have heard him go on at tea. We went
to the rink, you know, and had tea there. He's so _silly_.' Evie laughed
her attractive, gurgling laugh.

They went down to supper.


2

Sometimes Basil and Evie lunched together. By habit they lunched in
different shops and had different things to eat. Evie liked pea-soup, or
a poached egg, bread and honey, a large cup of coffee with milk, and
what she and the tea-shop young ladies called fancies. Basil didn't.
When they lunched together they both had the things Basil liked, except
in coffee.

'Did you tell him two _noirs_?' Evie would say. 'Rubbish, you know I
always have _lait_.'

'A corrupt taste. One _café au lait_, waiter. You like the most
ridiculous things, you know; you might be eight. You aren't grown-up
enough yet for black coffee, or smoking, or liqueurs. You must meet my
mother; you'd learn a lot from her.'

'Oh well, I'm happy in my own way.... As for smoking, I think it's jolly
bad for people's nerves, if you ask me. Alix smokes an awful lot, and
her nerves are like fiddle-strings. I don't go so far,' Evie said
judicially, 'as to say I don't think it's good form for girls. That's
what mother thinks, only of course she's old-fashioned, very. So is
Kate. But after all, there _is_ a difference between men and girls, in
the things they should do; _I_ think there's a difference, don't you?'

'Oh, thank goodness, yes,' said Basil, fervently, not having always
thought so.

'And I don't know, but I sometimes think if girls can't fight for their
country, they shouldn't smoke.'

'Oh, I see. A reward for valour, you think it should be. That would be
rather hard, since the red-tape rules of our army don't allow them to
fight. If they might, I've no doubt plenty would.'

Evie laughed at him. 'A girl would hate it. She'd be hopeless.'

'Plenty of men hate it and are hopeless, if you come to that.'

'Oh, it's not the same,' asserted Evie. 'A girl couldn't.' She added,
after a moment, sympathetically curious, 'Do _you_ hate it much?'

'Oh, much,' Basil deprecated the adverb. 'It's quite interesting in some
ways, you know,' he added. 'And at moments even exciting. Though mostly
a bit of a bore, of course, and sometimes pretty vile. But, anyhow,
seldom without its humours, which is the main thing. Oh, it's
frightfully funny in parts.'

'Anyhow,' Evie explained for him, 'of course you're glad to be doing
your bit.'

He laughed at that. 'You've been reading magazine stories. That's what
the gallant young fellows say, isn't it?... Look here, bother the war. I
want to talk about better things. Will you meet me after you get off
this evening? I want a good long time with you, and leisure. These
scraps are idiotic.'

Evie looked doubtful.

'You and me by ourselves? Or shall we get any one else?'

'Any one else? What for? Spoil everything.'

'Oh, _I_ don't mind either way. Only mother's rather particular in some
ways, you know, and she ... well, if you want to know, she thinks I go
out with you alone rather a lot. It's all rubbish, of course; as if one
mightn't go out with who one likes ... but, well, you know what mother
is. I told you, she's old-fashioned, a bit. And of course Kate's
shocked, but I don't care a bit for Kate, she's too prim for anything.'

'We won't care a bit for any one,' suggested Basil. 'I never do. I don't
believe you do really, either. If people are so particular, we must just
shock them and have done. Anyhow, you don't suppose I'm going to give up
seeing you.'

The quickening of his tone made her draw back from the subject. Evie
liked flirtation, but did not understand passion; it was not in her cool
head and heart. It was the thing in Basil that made her at times,
lately, shy of him in their intercourse; vaguely she realised that he
might become unmanageable. She liked him to love her beauty, but she was
occasionally startled by the way he loved it. She thought it was perhaps
because he was an artist, or a soldier, or both.

'Well, perhaps I'll come,' she said, to soothe him. 'Where shall we go?
Let's go _inside_ something, I say, not walking in the dark like last
time. Oh, it was very jolly, of course, but it's not so snug and comfy.
We might do a play?... I say, it's nearly two. I must get back. I got
into a row yesterday for being late--that was your fault.'

They walked together to the side door of the select hat shop.

'Not really a shop,' as Evie explained sometimes. 'More of a studio, it
is. It's awfully artistic, our work.'

While she went upstairs, she was thinking, 'Dommage, his getting so warm
sometimes. It spoils the fun.... He'll be wanting to tie me up if I'm
not careful, and I'm not ready for that yet.... There are plenty of
others.... I don't know.'


3

As it happened, she met one of the others when she left the shop at
five, and he took her out to tea at the most expensive tea place in
London, which was always his way with tea and other things. He was on
leave from France, and had met Evie for the first time three days ago,
when she was out with Doye, whom he knew. His name was Hugh Montgomery
Gordon, and he was the son of Sir Victor Gordon of Ellaby Hall in Kent,
Prince's Mansions in Park Lane, and Gordon's Jam Factory in Hackney
Wick. He was handsome in person, graceful, clear-featured, an old
lawn-tennis blue, and a young man with great possessions, who, having
been told on good authority that he would find it hard to enter into the
kingdom of heaven, had renounced any idea of this enterprise he might
otherwise have had, and devoted himself whole-heartedly to appreciating
this world. He was in a cavalry regiment, and had come through the war
so far cool, unruffled, unscathed, and mentioned in despatches. He had a
faculty for serenely expecting and acquiring the best, in most
departments of life, though in some (such as art, literature, and social
ethics) he failed through ignorance and indifference. Meeting Evie
Tucker in Bond Street, and perceiving, as he had perceived before, that
her beauty was in a high class of merit, he was stirred by a desire to
acquire her as a companion for tea, and did so. Evie liked him; he was
really more in her line than Basil Doye (artists were queer, there was
no getting round that, even if they had given it up for soldiering and
had lost interest in it and fingers), and she liked the place where they
had tea, and liked the tea and the cakes and the music, and liked him to
drive to Clapton with her in a taxi afterwards.

'You don't seem economical, do you?' she remarked, as they whirred
swiftly eastward.

'I hope not,' said Hugh Montgomery Gordon, in his slow, level tones. 'I
can't stand economical people.'

He left her at Violette and drove back to his club, feeling satisfied
with himself and her. She was certainly a find, though it was a pity one
had to go so far out into the wilderness to return her where she
belonged. Her people were, no doubt, what his sister Myrtle would call
quite imposs.


4

As Evie and Captain Gordon had taxied down Holborn, they had passed, and
been held up for a minute near Alix, Nicholas, and West, who stood
talking at the corner of Chancery Lane.

'Hugh Montgomery Gordon,' Nicholas murmured. 'Bright and beautiful as
usual. Know him, Alix? Surely he doesn't visit at Violette? I can't
picture it, somehow.'

'Oh, he might, for Evie's sake. Evie picks them up, you know; it's
remarkable how she picks them up. They look very beautiful together,
don't they? Is he nice?'

'Just as you saw. I scarcely know him more than that. He was a Hall man;
my year. I believe he had a good time there. He looks as if he had a
good time still. West's opinions about him are more pronounced than
mine. Is he nice, West?'

'He's in the family jam,' West told Alix, as sufficient answer.
'Gordon's jam, if that means anything to you.'

'Wooden pips and sweated girls,' Alix assented, having picked up these
things from her mother. 'It must be exciting: so many improvements to be
made.'

'No doubt,' agreed West. 'But the Gordons won't make them. They make jam
and they make money--any amount of it--but they don't make improvements
that won't pay. A bad business. It will be more tolerable for Sodom and
Gomorrah in the day of judgment, at least I hope it will. They've been
badgered and bullied about it by social workers for years, but they
don't mind.... And at the same time, of course, they've no more ideas
about what to do with their money than--than Solomon had. They put it
into peacocks and ivory apes. These rich people--well, I should like to
have the Gordons in a dungeon and pull out their teeth one by one, as if
they were Jews, till they forked out their ill-gotten gains for worthy
objects.... If you ever meet Gordon, Miss Sandomir, you might tell him
what I think about him. Tell him we have a meeting of the Anti-Sweating
League in our parish room every Monday, and should be glad to see him
there.'

Nicholas wondered, though he didn't ask Alix, whether Evie was still on
with Basil Doye, or whether a breach there had made a gap by which Hugh
Montgomery Gordon was entering in. One thought of Evie's friendships
with men in these terms; whereas Alix might drive with a different man
every day without suggesting to the onlooker that one was likely to oust
another. The difference was less between Evie and Alix (for Evie was of
a fine and wide companionableness) than in what men required of them
respectively.

'Evie and he,' Alix commented, considering them. 'They might be good
friends, I think. They might fit. The jam wouldn't get between them--nor
the money.... _I_ rather like him too, I think. He's so beautiful, and
looks as if he'd never been ill. That's so jolly.' She was giving the
same reasons which Basil had given for liking Evie. It occurred to her
to wonder whether, if she'd been to the war, these two things would take
her further in her mild inclination towards Hugh Montgomery Gordon--much
further. Perhaps they would....

Alix went to her bus at the corner of Gray's Inn Road. Nicholas went
back to his rooms to finish an article. West went to a Sweated
Bootmakers' protest meeting in his parish room. West attended too many
meetings: that was certain. Meetings, a clumsy contrivance at best,
cannot be worth so much attendance. But he went off to this one full of
faith and hope, as always.


5

Evie was using the telephone in the hall. She was saying, in her clear,
cheery tones, 'Hullo, is that you? Awfully sorry, don't expect me
to-morrow evening. I can't come.... Awfully sorry.... Don't quite
know.... I'll write.'

Alix went up to her room.

Presently Evie came in.

'Did you hear me 'phoning?' she inquired superfluously. 'It was to Mr.
Doye. Fact is, I think he and I'd both be better for a little rest from
each other. It'll give him time to cool down a bit. He's got keener than
I like, lately. Fun's all very well, but one doesn't want to be hustled,
does one? I don't want him asking me anything for a long time.'

Alix, sitting on her bed with one shoe off, pulling at the other, said
in a small voice, 'I don't think he will.'

Evie turned round and looked at her, questioningly.

'You don't? Why, whatever do you know about it?'

Alix was bent over her shoe; her voice was muffled.

'Basil is like that. He doesn't mean things....'

'Oh....' Evie turned to the glass, and drew four pins out of the roll of
hair behind her head, and it fell in a heavy nut-brown mass, glinting in
the yellow gaslight. She began to comb it out and roll it up again.

'Doesn't mean anything, doesn't he?' she said thoughtfully. 'You seem
awfully sure about that.'

'Yes,' agreed Alix. She had pulled off both shoes now, and tucked her
stockinged feet under her as she sat curled up on the bed. She drew a
deep breath and spoke rather quickly.

'He's always the same, he was the same with me once, he doesn't really
mean it....'

'The same with you--' Evie, without turning round, saw in the glass the
blurred image of the huddled figure and small pale face in the shadows
behind her.

She drove in two more hairpins, then turned sharply and looked at Alix.

'You don't mean to say he used to be in love with you.'

'Oh ... in love....' Alix's voice was faint, attenuated, remote.

'Well--anything, then.' Evie was impatient. 'You needn't split hairs....
He went on with you, I suppose.... And you....'

She broke off, staring, uncomfortably, at a situation really beyond her
powers.

Her cogitations ended in, 'Well, I think you might have told me at
first. I thought you and he were just good friends. _I_ didn't want him.
I wouldn't have let him come near me if I'd known it was like that. I
never do that sort of thing. Now do I, Alix? You've never seen me mean
to other girls like that, have you? I never have been and I never will
be.... _I_ don't want him. You can have him back.'

Alix giggled suddenly, irrepressibly.

'What's the matter now?' said Evie.

'Nothing. Only the way you talk of Basil--handing him about as if he was
a kitten. He's not, you know.'

Evie smiled grudgingly. 'Well, anyhow _I_ don't want him. Particularly
if he doesn't mean anything, as you say.... It isn't every one I'd
believe if they told me that; they might be jealous or spiteful or
something. But I don't believe you'd say it, Al, if you didn't think it
was true'--(Alix said, 'Oh,' on a soft, indrawn breath)--'and you know
him, so I expect you're right. And I'm not going on playing round with a
man who makes love like he does and doesn't mean anything. It isn't
respectable.'

'Oh--respectable.' Alix laughed, again, shakily; it was such a funny
word in this connection, and so like Violette.

'Well, I don't see it's funny,' said Evie. 'It's awfully important to be
respectable, and I always am. I'll be good pals with any number of men,
but when they begin to get like Basil Doye I won't have it unless they
_mean_ something.'

Thus Evie enunciated her code, and washed her hands and face and put on
her dress and went downstairs. At the door she paused for a moment and
looked back at Alix.

'I say, Al--I'm awfully sorry. I didn't mean to be a sneak, you know; I
_wouldn't_ have, if I'd known.'

'Not a bit,' Alix absurdly and politely murmured.

'Well, do get a move on and come down. It's too cold for anything up
here.... I say'--Evie paused awkwardly--' I say, kiddie, you didn't
really _care_, did you?'

Alix shook her head. 'Oh no.' Still her voice was small, polite, and
attenuated.

'Well then,' said Evie cheerfully, 'no harm's done to any one. But
still, it's not the style I like, a man that plays about first with one
girl, then another.... I'm going down.'

She went.


6

The cold made Alix shiver. She stiffly uncurled herself and got off the
bed. She brushed her hair before the glass. Her face looked back at her,
pointed and ghostly, in the gaslight and shadows.

'Cad,' whispered Alix, without emotion, to the pale image. 'Cad--and
liar.'

'It's the war,' explained Alix presently, with detached, half-cynical
analysis. 'I shouldn't have done that before the war. I suppose I might
do anything now. Probably I shall. There seems no way out....'

Alix had heard and read plenty of views on the psychological effects of
war; some of them were interesting, some were true; many were true for
some people and false for others; but she did not remember that even the
most penetrating (or pessimistic) had laid enough emphasis on the mental
and moral collapse that shook the foundations of life for some people.
For her, anyhow, and for Paul; and they surely could not be the only
ones. Observers seemed more apt to take the cases of those men and women
who were improved; who were strengthened, steadied, made more unselfish
and purposeful (that was the favourite word), with a finer sense of the
issues and responsibilities of life; or of those young sportsmen at the
front who kept their jollity, their sweetness, their equilibrium,
through it all. Well, no doubt there were plenty of these. Look at
Terry. Look at Dorothy and Margot at Wood End, in their new
strenuousness and ardours. They weren't demoralised by horror, or eaten
by jealousy like a canker. They could even minister to combatants
without envying them....

There were such. There might be many. But Alix looked at them far off,
herself a broken, nerve-wracked, frightened child, grabbing at other
people's things to comfort herself, ashamed but outrageous.

'There seems no way out,' said Alix, and looked, as she changed her
frock, down vistas of degradation.

Downstairs Florence rang the supper bell. The smell of Welsh rarebit
drifted through Violette. That, anyhow, was something; Alix liked it.



CHAPTER XII

ALIX AND BASIL


1

Evie had a good time for the rest of the week of Captain Gordon's leave.
Mrs. Frampton began to wonder whether this enormously wealthy and
overwhelmingly well-dressed young man really meant anything. If you
could tell anything by the size of the chocolate boxes he sent, he
certainly meant quite a lot. Kate looked repressive when they arrived.

'How Evie does go on,' she said to Mrs. Frampton at breakfast, before
Evie came down, referring to the immense box from Buszard's by Evie's
plate. That was the morning after Hugh Montgomery Gordon had returned to
his duties in France. Apparently whatever else he meant, he meant not to
be forgotten.

'She's a naughty girl,' Mrs. Frampton admitted indulgently. 'I shouldn't
wonder if that's from this new friend of hers, Captain Gordon. He looks
such an extravagant man. But very handsome.... What does your brother
think of Captain Gordon, Alix? Didn't you say he knew him?'

Mrs. Frampton was of those ladies who believe that men, good judges in
most matters, are especially good judges of each other.

Alix said she didn't believe Nicholas had thought about Captain Gordon
at all. 'But his friend Mr. West has, quite a lot,' she added.

'Well, love, what does Mr. West think?' Mr. West was even better than
Nicholas as a source of knowledge, being not only a man but a clergyman.

'Mr. West,' said Alix, 'thinks Captain Gordon too rich. It's a fad of
Mr. West's that people shouldn't be too rich. I think they should.'

'Well, we're told, aren't we, that it is hard for a rich man to enter
into the kingdom of heaven.... A little more ham, Alix?'

'It's all a question,' said Kate, 'of the use people make of their
wealth. They say that some of the wealthiest families in the land make
the best landlords and are the kindest to all. I can't say I hold with
socialism. It seems to me most wrong-headed.'

'Well,' Mrs. Frampton agreed, 'it certainly does seem like flying in the
face of what Providence has ordained, doesn't it? Let me see now, Alix,
your brother doesn't hold with socialism, does he?'

Alix's brother, being clever and queer, might hold with anything. Mrs.
Frampton appeared to feel a morbid interest in his opinions.

'Nicky? He doesn't hold with anything, Cousin Emily; he's a general
disapprover. I believe he hates socialism; he thinks it makes for
dullness and stagnation and order and all sorts of things he doesn't
like.'

Mrs. Frampton said, 'Why, I should have thought what socialists wanted
was quite an uprooting and an upset,' and then Evie's entrance
interrupted a discussion which might have been fruitful.

Evie kissed her mother. She said, 'Whatever in the world are you talking
about? Socialism? What a subject for breakfast. Buttered egg for me,
please.... Oh, chocs--' She opened them, smiling, and looked at the card
inside.

'He _is_ extravagant,' she said. 'This is an awfully special box. He
must have ordered it from Buszard's before he went.'

'I don't think you should permit it,' said Kate primly.

'Oh, it's all right. He likes it. He's simply rolling.'

Evie was absorbed in the pencilled inscription on the card.

Life was pleasant to Evie. Her mother smiled indulgently on her. Evie
certainly did seem to have a lot of young men at once, but then how
pretty the child was, and how she enjoyed it. And she had sense, too;
Evie never lost her head.

Evie opened the letter by her plate. She read it and laid it aside
carelessly, and looked up.

'Yes, some ham, please.... Mr. Doye writes he's seen the Board again and
he's to join in a week. I suppose he's satisfied now.'

Mrs. Frampton clicked deprecatingly with her tongue. She regarded it
always as a matter for great regret that wounded young men should have
to return to the wars.

'Well, I'm sorry for that. Any one would think he'd done enough, having
lost a finger for his country. I call it shameful, sending him out
again.'

'Perhaps he'll go to Serbia this time,' said Evie. 'He said there was a
chance of his battalion getting sent there from France soon.'

'Well, well.' That seemed, if anything, more unreasonable still. 'I'm
sure one's dreadfully sorry for poor Serbia--she does seem to be having
a bad time; but I'm not sure that our men ought to be sent out to those
parts. They're all so wild out there; it seems as if, in a way, they
rather _like_ fighting each other; anyhow they've always been at it
since I can remember, and I think they'd much better be left to fight it
out among themselves, while we defend poor France. But who are we to
judge? I suppose Lord Kitchener knows what's right.'

'They say,' put in Kate, 'that Joffre had a great to do before he could
persuade Kitchener to send forces out there at all. They say he came to
the War Office and broke his riding-whip right across.'

'Fancy that! He must be a very violent man. But the French are always
excitable. Lord Kitchener's one of the quiet ones, I've heard. A regular
Englishman.... Well, I'm sure I hope they're taking the right course....
Alix, you haven't had half a breakfast; I'm sure you could manage
another bit of toast. Evie dear, you'll have to hurry with your
breakfast or you'll be late.'

Evie hurried.

She spent the week, with partial success, in avoiding Basil Doye. Since
she had done with him, what was the use of scenes? She certainly wasn't
going to let him go away with the impression that he would find her
waiting on his next return from the war to beguile his leave-time. Her
natural generosity forbade her to take and keep Alix's young man; her
natural prudence forbade her to philander too ardently (having a good
time is different, of course) with a young man who probably didn't mean
business. Rightly Evie condemned these practices as Not Respectable. So
she went off at lunch time with other friends, with a little pang,
indeed, but less acute than she would have felt a week ago, before her
rapid friendship with Hugh Montgomery Gordon. Basil Doye was being
relegated quickly to the circle of Evie's numerous have-beens, to be
remembered with pleasant indifference.

On the Saturday before he left London, Basil obtained an interview with
Evie, by means of going, at immense sacrifice of time, to Violette. It
was a short interview, and not intimate, for Mrs. Frampton and Kate were
present at it.

After it Basil called at Clifford's Inn to say good-bye to Nicholas and
Alix, who, they told, him, was there.


2

He found Alix alone, waiting for Nicholas to come in. She had been
having tea, and was reading _Peacock Pie_. She preferred this poetry to
any written since August 1914, which had killed fairies.

Looking up from it, she saw Basil standing at the door. He was flushed,
and looked cross; she knew of old the sulky set of his brows and mouth,
that made him look like a petulant boy. It hurt Alix so much that she
couldn't muster any sort of smile, only look away from him and say, 'I'm
sorry; Nicky's not in yet.'

He said 'No,' abstractedly, and sat down in the chair on the other side
of the fire. He sat in the attitude she had seen him in a thousand times
(it seemed to her) before; his elbow resting on his knee, his hand
supporting his chin, the other hand, with its maimed third finger,
hanging at his side. She had seen him sitting thus happy, intimately
talking; she had seen him moody and brooding, as now. There had been a
time when she could always lighten these moods, tickle his sullenness to
laughter; but that time was past.

He said presently, 'I'm off to-morrow, you know.'

'Yes,' said Alix, who did know.

In her another knowledge grew: the knowledge that if he did not speak of
Evie she could get through this interview without disgrace, but that if
he did speak of Evie she could not. She did not want him to speak of
Evie and break down the wall between them; yet she did want it.

He did speak of Evie. He said he had been to Violette to say good-bye.

'I said it to the whole family together. Evie wouldn't see me alone....
I suppose she doesn't really care a hang. In fact, she's made that very
obvious for the last fortnight.'

'Yes,' said Alix again, clinging to that one small word as to a raft in
a stormy sea, which might yet float her through.

Basil pushed the tongs with his foot, so that they made a clattering
noise in the grate.

'She doesn't care a hang,' he repeated. 'She's on with that jam fellow
now. Well, every one to his taste. Hugh Montgomery Gordon obviously
appeals to hers.'

Alix's hands were clasped tight over her knee. Her knuckles were white.
She kept her eyes on the fire. She would not look at him.

'Yes,' she said.

Then silence fell between them, and though she would not look she felt
his nearness, knew how he sat, angry and sullen, brooding over his hurt.

A coal fell from the fire. Alix, as if some one was physically forcing
her, raised her eyes from it and looked at Basil, and knew then that she
was not going to get through this interview without disgrace. For she
saw him sit as she had seen him sit (it seemed to her) a thousand times
before, inert, bent forward a little, with the shadows leaping and
flickering on his thin olive face and vivid eyes, with one hand
supporting his sharp-cut chin, the other hanging maimed (and that alone
was something new, belonging to the cruel present not the kindly past)
at his side. It seemed that those lean, quick, brown artist's fingers
were dragging her soul from her. The sharp sense of all those other
times when she and he had thus sat stabbed her like a turning-knife. A
thousand intimacies rose to shatter her, and, so shattered, she spoke.

'She doesn't care a hang.' She repeated his phrase, mechanically,
sitting very still. 'But I do.'

Then she leant towards him, putting out her hands, and a sob caught in
her throat.

'Oh, Basil--I do.'

For a moment the silence was only broken by the leaping, stirring fire.

Basil looked swiftly at Alix, and Alix saw horror in his eyes before he
veiled it. The next moment it was veiled: veiled by his quick friendly
smile. He leant forward and took her outstretched hands in his, and
spoke lightly, easily. He did it well; few people could have attained at
once to such ease, such spontaneous naturalness of affection.

'Why, of course--I know. The way you and I care for each other is one of
the best things I've got in my life. It lasts, too, when the other sorts
of caring go phut....'

'Yes,' said Alix faintly. The raft of that small word drifted back to
her, and she climbed on to it out of the engulfing sea. She took her
hands from his and lay back in her chair, impassive and still.

Basil rose, and stood by the chimney-piece, playing with the things on
it. He talked, naturally, easily, of what he was going to do, the
probabilities of his being sent out with a draft to France almost at
once, the possibility of his battalion being sent to Serbia. He talked
too of their common friends, even of painting, which he seldom mentioned
now.

Alix heard his voice as from a great distance off, and from time to time
said 'Yes.'

There was a sharp crack, and Basil held the stem of one of Nicholas's
pipes in one hand, the bowl in the other; he had broken it in two. His
fluent tongue, his flexible face, were under his control; but it seemed
that his hands were not; they had shown thus blatantly the
uncontrollable strain he felt. Alix winced away from it. She couldn't
bear any more: he must go, quickly, before either of them broke anything
else.

He went, slipping as it were unnoticeably away, with 'Good-bye'
unemphasised, half ashamed, sandwiched between fatuities about the pipe
and comments on the future.

'It was an ugly pipe, wasn't it? Tell Sandomir I broke it for his sake,
compelled by my artistic conscience; it'll be for his good in the
end.... I'm sorry I've not seen him; but you'll say good-bye for me....
And to any of them at the shop.... Good-bye.... If we do get out to the
East, we shall have a funny time in some ways, I fancy. I hear
Salonika's a great place; glorious riviera climate. But less so inland;
too much snow on the hills. Well, it can't be worse than France in
winter, anyhow. I believe the Bulgars are very good-natured people to
fight against; they aren't really a bit keen on this show.... Want to
get back to till their fields....'

His voice came from beyond the door. Then it shut, and muffled his steps
running down wooden stairs.

Alix let go her raft, and was submerged by the cold, engulfing seas.



CHAPTER XIII

ALIX, NICHOLAS, AND WEST


1

Nicholas, coming in ten minutes later, found Alix lying in his cane
chair, limp and white and sick.

'My dear,' he said after a glance, 'you seem very ill. You prescribe,
and I'll see if West has any in his medicine cupboard.'

'Sal-volatile, perhaps,' Alix murmured, and he went to find some. When
he came back, she was sitting up, with a more pulled-together air. She
sipped the sal-volatile, and gave him a dim, crooked smile.

'It's my feelings really, you know, not my body. It's only that I'm ...
shocked to death.'

Nicholas stood, short and square, with his back to the fire, looking
down on her with his small, keen, observant eyes.

'What's shocked you?'

'Me myself,' said Alix, forcing an unconcerned grin. 'Alone I did it.'

'What on earth's the matter, Alix?' asked Nicholas after a pause. 'Or
don't you want to talk about it?'

It wasn't his experience of his sister, who he had always known of a
certain exterior and cynical hardness where the emotions were concerned,
that she ever wanted to 'talk about it.' But this evening she seemed
queer, unlike herself, unstrung.

'Talking doesn't matter now,' said Alix, still swung between flippancy
and tears. 'All the talking that matters is done already.... Basil has
gone away, Nicky. He'll perhaps never come back.'

'Oh, he will. Basil does.' Nicholas looked away from her, down at the
fire.

'Yes,' said Alix. 'I expect he's sure to.... I told him I cared for
him,' she went on, in her clear, thin, indifferent voice, emptied of
emotion. 'He doesn't care for me, you know. He pretended he hadn't
understood. He pretended so hard that he broke your pipe. I was to tell
you he was sorry about it--no, that he was glad, I think....' Her voice
changed suddenly; anguish shook it. 'Can you make it any less bad,
Nicky?' There was a pause, while Nicholas, resting his arm on the
chimney-piece, stared down into the fire. He and Alix, like many
brothers and sisters, had always had a shyness about them about intimate
things. They were both naturally reserved; both fought shy of emotion as
far as they could. They were, in some ways, very like. Despair had
broken down Alix's reserve; Nicholas put his aside and considered her
case in his detached way, as if it were a mathematical problem.

'Bad?' he repeated, weighing the word. 'Well, the fact is bad, of
course--that you care and he doesn't. There's no altering that. It's his
fault, of course, for caring himself once and leaving off. Well, anyhow,
there it is. He's the poorer by it, not you.... But the other part--your
telling him--isn't bad. It was merely the truth; and it's simpler and
often more sensible to tell the truth about what one feels. I wouldn't
mind that, if I were you. Don't bring absurdities of sex etiquette into
it. They're mere conventions, after all; silly, petty, uncivilised
conventions. Aren't they?'

'Perhaps,' said Alix dully. 'I don't know.'

'Well, I do. Telling the truth is all right. It oughtn't to make things
worse.'

'No,' said Alix. 'It does, you know.'

Nicholas, giving the subject the attention of his careful mind, knew it
did. He couldn't theorise that away.

'Well,' he said at last, slowly, 'if it does, you might quite truly look
at the whole thing as a mental case; a case of nervous breakdown. The
war's playing the devil with your nerves--that's what it means. You do
things and feel things and say things, I dare say, that you wouldn't
have once, but that you can scarcely help now. You're only one of many,
you know--one of thousands. The military hospitals are full of them; men
who come through plucky and grinning but with their nerves shattered to
bits. There are the people, like Terry and plenty more, who come through
mentally undamaged, their balance not apparently upset, and the people
like John (at least I rather guessed so when I saw him) and thousands
more, who--well, who don't.... War's such an insane, devilish thing; its
hoofs go stamping over the world, trampling and breaking.... O Lord!
I've seen so much of it; it meets one all over the place. It makes one
simply sick. This affair of yours is nothing to some things I've come
upon lately.... West says the same, you know. Of course, as a parson, he
sees much more of people, in that way, than I do. He says lots of the
quite nice, decent women he visits have taken to getting drunk at the
pubs; partly they're better off than they were, of course, but it's
mostly just nerves. You don't drink at pubs, do you?'

'Not come to it yet,' said Alix.

'Well, you're lucky. I consider you're jolly lucky, considering the
state you've been in for some time, to have done nothing worse yet than
to have told a man you've every right to care for that you care for
him.'

Alix was crying now, quietly.

'And I have done worse things, too.... I tried to get him back from
Evie. I told her he didn't really care for her--that he had been just
the same with me. Oh, I know he did care for me a little, of course,
but--' she choked on a laugh, 'he didn't behave as he does with Evie, a
bit....'

'Probably not,' Nicholas admitted.

'Well, there you are; I behaved like a cad about it. That's worse than
drinking at pubs--much worse. It's even worse than telling him I
cared.... What can I do about it, Nicky? Is that part of the war disease
too?'

'Certainly,' said Nicholas promptly. 'Precisely the same thing, and
bears out all I was saying. And, as you remark, much worse than drinking
at pubs.... Sorry, but it does prove my case, you know. You don't do
that sort of thing in peace time, at least, do you?' he added with
impartial curiosity.

'I've forgotten about peace time.... No, I don't think I used to....
Suppose I shall have to tell Evie,' Alix added morosely. 'Though she
doesn't care for him, a bit.... What a bore.... All right, Nicky; I'll
try to look at myself as a mental case.... And what's left is that Basil
has gone.... I love him, you know, extraordinarily. I--Oh, Nicky, I love
him, I love him, I love him.' She passionately sobbed for a time.

Nicholas stood silent, thinking, till she lay back exhausted and quiet.

'I'm sorry,' she said huskily. 'I won't cry any more. That's all.'
Nicholas was looking at her consideringly.

'I wonder,' he murmured, 'what the best remedy for you is. Something
that takes your whole thoughts, I fancy, you want. Of course there's the
School. But it doesn't seem altogether to work. Some strong
counter-interest to the war, you want.'

'To take me outside myself,' Alix amplified for him. 'Perhaps you'd like
me to collect bus tickets or lost cats or something, to distract my
mind, Nicky dear.'

'I think not. Your mind, I should say, is distracted enough already. You
need to collect that, rather than bus tickets or cats.... To me it seems
a pity you should live at Violette. I think you should stop that.'

Alix said apathetically, 'I don't think it much matters where I live. I
can't live at Wood End. It's all war and war-work there, and I should go
mad--even madder than now. I might drink at pubs.... I thought Violette
would be a rest, because they none of them care about the war really, a
bit; but it isn't a rest any more. Ever since Paul ... I've known one
can't really put the war away out of one's mind: it can't be done. It's
hurting too many people too badly; it's no use trying to pretend it
isn't there and go on as usual. I can't. I can't even paint decently; my
work's simply gone to pot.'

'Sure to,' Nicholas agreed.

'I believe,' said Alix, 'it's jealousy that's demoralising me most.
Jealousy of the people who can be _in_ the beastly thing.... Oh, I do so
want to go and fight.... How can you not try to go, Nicky? I can't
understand that. Though of course you wouldn't get passed.

'It's quite easy,' returned Nicholas. 'I don't approve of joining in
such things.'

'But I want to go and help to end it.... Oh, it's rotten not being able
to; simply rotten.... Why _shouldn't_ girls? I can't bear the sight of
khaki; and I don't know whether it's most because the war's so beastly
or because I want to be in it.... It's both.... Oh bother, why were we
born at a time like this, as Kate calls it?'

'We weren't. The late 'eighties and early 'nineties were very different.
They probably unfitted us for the Sturm und Drang of the twentieth
century. Though, if you come to that, there was plenty of Sturm und
Drang in our own country at that period, as usual.... I suppose Poles
have no right to look for peace.... O Lord, how good it would be to see
Germany and Russia exterminate each other altogether! I believe I'd
cheat my way into the army and fight, if I thought I could help in
that.'

'I dare say we shall see it, if this war goes on much longer.... I've
been wondering lately,' went on Alix, 'if there isn't a third way in war
time. Not throwing oneself into it and doing jobs for it, in the way
that suits lots of people; I simply can't do that. And not going on as
usual and pretending it's not there, because that doesn't work.
Something _against_ war, I want to be doing, I think. Something to fight
it, and prevent it coming again.... I suppose mother thinks she's doing
that.'

'She does,' said Nicholas. 'Undoubtedly. I'm not sure I agree with her,
but that's a detail. She _thinks_ she's doing it.... Well, I gather
she'll be home very soon now.'

'And I suppose Mr. West thinks he's doing it, doesn't he--fighting war,
I mean, with his Church and things.'

'Yes, West thinks so too. Again, I don't particularly agree with his
methods, but that's his aim.'

'You don't particularly agree with any methods, do you?'

'No; I think they're mostly pretty rotten. And in this case I believe,
personally, we're up against a hopeless proposition. West calls it the
devil, and is bound by his profession to believe it will be eventually
overcome. I'm not bound to believe that any evil or lunacy will be
overcome; it seems to me at least an open question. Some have been, of
course; others have scarcely lessened in the course of these several
million years. However, as West remarks, the world, no doubt, is still
young. One should give it time. Anyhow, one has to; no other course is
open to us, however poor a use we may think it puts the gift to....
That's West, I think. Hullo, West; we've been talking about you. We were
discussing your incurable optimism.'


2

West looked tired. He shook hands with Alix and sat down by the window.
Alix did not feel it mattered that he should see she had been crying,
because clergymen, who visit the unfortunate, the ill-bred, the
unrestrained, must every day see so many people who have been crying
that they would scarcely notice.

'Incurable,' West repeated, and the crisp edge of his voice was
flattened and dulled by fatigue. 'Well, I hope it is. There are moments
when one sees a possible cure looming in the distance.'

'I was saying,' said Nicholas, 'that you're bound, by your profession,
to believe in the final vanquishing of the devil.'

'I believe I am,' West assented, without joy. 'I believe so.'

He cogitated over it for a moment, and added, 'But the devil's almost
too stupid to be vanquished. He's an animal; a great brainless beast,
stalking through chaos. He's got a hide like a rhinoceros, and a mind
like an escaped idiot: you don't know where to have him. He drags people
into his den and sits on them ... it's too beastly.... He wallows in his
native mud, full of appetites and idiot dreams, and his idiot dreams
become fact, and people make wars ... and get drunk. There are men and
women and babies tight all about the streets this evening. Saturday
night, you know.... Sorry to be depressing,' he added, more in his usual
alert manner; 'it's a rotten thing to be in these days.... The fog's bad
outside.'

Alix rose to go, and West stood up too. For a moment the three stood
looking at each other in the fog-blurred, firelit room, dubious,
questioning, grave, like three travellers who have lost their way in a
strange country and are groping after paths in the dark.... Nicholas
spoke first.

'That's your bell, isn't it, West? You two could walk together as far as
Gray's Inn Road.'

Nicholas lit the gas and settled down to write.

Alix and West went down the stairs and out into Fleet Street, and the
city in the fog was as black as a wood at night.


3

Alix thought, 'Christians must mind. Clergymen must mind awfully. It's
their business that's being spoilt. It's their job to make the world
better: they must mind a lot, and they can't fight either,' and saw
West's face, tired and preoccupied, in the darkness at her side.

'War Extra. 'Fishul. Bulgarian Advance. Fall of Kragujevatz,' cried a
newsboy, as best he could.

'It'll be all up with Serbia presently,' said West. 'Going under fast. A
wipe out, like Belgium, I suppose.... And we look at it from here and
can't do anything to stop it. Pretty rotten, isn't it?' His voice was
bitter.

'If we could go out there and try,' said Alix, 'we shouldn't feel so
bad, should we?'

He shook his head.

'No: not so bad. War's beastly and abominable to the fighters: but not
to be fighting is much more embittering and demoralising, I believe.
Probably largely because one has more time to think. To have one's
friends in danger, and not to be in danger oneself--it fills one with
futile rage. Combatants are to be pitied; but non-combatants are of all
men and women the most miserable. Older men, crocks, parsons, women--God
help them.'

'Yes,' Alix agreed, on the edge of tears again.

Then West seemed to pull himself up from his despondency.

'But really, of course, they've a unique opportunity. They can't be
fighting war abroad; but they can be fighting it at home. That's what
it's up to us all to do now, I'm firmly convinced, by whatever means we
each have at our command. We've all of us some. We've got to use them.
The fighting men out there can't; they're tied. Some of them never can
again.... It's up to us.... Good-bye, Miss Sandomir: my way is along
there.'

They parted at the corner of Gray's Inn Road. Alix saw him swallowed up
in black fog, called by his bell, going to his church to fight war by
the means he had at his command.

She got into her bus and went towards Violette, where no one fought
anything at all, but where supper waited, and Mrs. Frampton was anxious
lest she should have got lost in the fog.



PART III

DAPHNE



CHAPTER XIV

DAPHNE AT VIOLETTE


1

Daphne Sandomir was in the train between Cambridge and King's Cross. She
was always very busy in trains, as, indeed, everywhere else. On this
journey she was correcting the proofs of the chapter (Chapter IV.,
Education of the Children) which she was contributing to a volume by
seven authors, shortly to appear, to be entitled alliteratively _Is
Permanent Peace Possible_? and to come to the conclusion that it was.

Daphne Sandomir's interest in many things had always been so keen that
before the war you could not have picked out one as absorbing her more
than a score of others. She had been used to write pamphlets and address
meetings on most of them: eurhythmics, for instance, and eugenics, and
the economic and constitutional position of women, and sweated
industries, and baby crèches, and suggestion healing, and health food,
and clean milk, and twenty other of the causes good people have at
heart.

Then had come the war, an immense and horribly surprising shock, to
which her healthy and vigorous mind, not shattered like some, had
reacted in new forms of energy.

There were in England no ladies more active through that desperate time
than Daphne Sandomir and her sister Eleanor Orme; but their activities
were for the most part different. Mrs. Orme was secretary of a Red Cross
hospital, superintended canteens, patrolled camps, relieved and
entertained Belgians and dealt them out clothes, was the soul of Women's
Work Committees, made body-belts, respirators and sand-bags, locked up
her cellar, bought war loan, and wrote sensible letters to the _Times_,
which usually got printed.

Mrs. Sandomir also relieved Belgians, got up Repatriation and
Reconstruction societies for them, spoke at meetings of the Union of
Democratic Control (to which society, as has been before mentioned, she
did not belong) and of other societies to which she did belong, held
study circles of working people to educate them in the principles making
for permanent peace, went with a motor ambulance to pick up wounded in
France, tried, but failed, like so many others, to attend the Women's
International Congress at the Hague, travelled round the world examining
its disposition towards peace, helped to form the S.P.P.P. (Society for
Promoting Permanent Peace), wrote sensible letters to the _Times_, which
sometimes got printed and sometimes not, articles in various
periodicals, pamphlets on peace, education and such things, and chapters
in joint books.

She had just returned now from her journey round the world, where she
had been interviewing a surprising number of the members of the
governments of the belligerent and neutral countries and making a study
of such of the habits and points of view of their subjects as could be
readily investigated by visitors. Immediately, she came from Cambridge,
where her home was, and where she had been starting a local branch of
the S.P.P.P., and addressing a meeting of the Heretics Society on the
Attitude of Neutral Governments towards Mediation without Armistice.

She was a tall, graceful, vigorous person, absurdly young and beautiful,
vivid, dark-eyed, clever, and tremendously in earnest about life. She
had lately (it seemed lately to herself and all who knew her) gone down
from Newnham, where she had done brilliantly in the Economics Tripos and
got engaged to Paul Sandomir, an exiled Pole studying the habits and
history of the English constitution at Fitzwilliam Hall. Their married
career had been stimulating and storm-tossed. Finally Paul Sandomir had
died in a Warsaw prison, worn out with consumption, revolution, and
excitement. The extreme energy of the parents had always reacted on the
children curiously, discounting enthusiasms, and flavouring their
activities with the touch of irony which one often notes in the families
of one or more very zealous parents. They greatly esteemed and loved
their father and mother. To them Daphne was one of the dearest and most
beautiful people in the world, if too stimulating. They felt, on the
whole, older than she was, and worldly-wise in comparison.


2

King's Cross. Daphne, taken by surprise, seized her scattered proofs and
crammed them into her despatch-box. Gathering her possessions to her,
she turned to see Alix at the carriage door.

'Oh--you dear child.... A porter, Alix. Do you see one? Yes, will you
take them to a taxi, please.' Relieved of them, she turned with her
quick, graceful movement and took the smaller Alix in her arms.
Physically, mentally, morally, it was certainly Daphne who had the
advantage.

They got into the taxi. Daphne said to the porter, 'I think you get
eighteen-and-six now, don't you? Are you married?'

'Yes, ma'am.'

'How many children?'

'Nine, ma'am.'

'Oh, I think not. You're too young for that, really you are, you know.
Let's say four. Well, here's eightpence. Tell him Spring Hill, Clapton.
Thank you so much.'

The taxi sprang up the incline to the street.

'Of course,' said Daphne, frowning over it, 'eighteen-and-six is
shocking, with these high prices. Goodness only knows when we're going
to get it improved. But it's immoral to try and make it up by private
subsidies.... Is there anything the matter with our driver, child? You
seem to be interested in him.'

'I was only trying to discern how many children he's old enough to
have,' Alix explained. 'It seems nicer not to have to ask him; it's so
embarrassing not being able to believe his answer. I think five is the
outside limit, don't you, darling?'

Daphne put on her pince-nez and regarded the driver's back.

'Certainly not. Three, if that. In fact, I doubt if he's married at all.
But never mind now. I want to hear about you, child. Nicholas gave me a
rather poor account of you when he wrote the other day. He seemed to
think this Clapton life had been getting a little on your nerves.'

'Oh, I don't think so. I'm all right.'

Daphne regarded her consideringly.

'Nerves. Yes. You oughtn't to have any at your age, of course. No one
need, at any age. You should do eurhythmics. You'd find it changed the
whole of life--gave it balance, coherence, rhythm. I find it wonderful.
You must certainly begin classes at once.'

'I don't think I've time, mother. I'm going to the art school every
day.'

'I think you should make time. I hadn't much time while I was on my
travels, if you come to that. But I made some to practise my
eurhythmics. I knew how important it was to keep fit and balanced and
healthy, and that I should never be much use in influencing all those
people I interviewed (_so_ reasonable and delightful they mostly were,
Alix, and simply _longing_ for peace--I must tell you all about it)
unless I kept my own poise. It's the same for you. You'll never be any
use at painting or anything else while you're mentally and physically
incoherent and adrift. That's one thing settled--eurhythmics. And the
other is, you must leave this Pansy, or Violet, or whatever it is, at
once, of course, and we'll take a flat. What about these Frampton Tucker
people? Of course I know they're hopelessly dull and ordinary--I've met
Emily Frampton very seldom, but quite often enough. A kind little
mediocrity, the widow of a rather common man of business. Laurence
Frampton married her, for some incomprehensible reason of his own;
people do sometimes. He took her to Oxford with him, and only survived
it a year. They lived at Summertown. Her two girls were quite little
then. I believe she was quite happy. I met her once when I was staying
at Oriel.... She never took _in_ Oxford, of course; it was too many
miles outside her ken, and she very sensibly hardly attempted to belong
or mix. But she rather liked Summertown society, I remember. They lived
in a house called Thule, and kept six cats. I suppose she hasn't changed
at all, probably.'

'Probably not. She's very nice and kind.'

'Oh--all that.' Daphne waved it aside. 'Of course. But too stupid to be
tolerable, even as a background to your day's work, no doubt. I'm sorry
I've left you there so long, child. I should have thought of it before,
but it was all arranged without me, and I was too busy to send you
advice. I don't wonder you look a wreck.'

'I don't,' said Alix. 'And Cousin Emily's not bad. She's always giving
me hot milk--gallons of it. And ovaltine, to make me fat, she says.
She's awfully kind.'

'Encouraging you to think about your constitution. No wonder you're
nervy. What about the girls?'

'Oh ... they're quite good sorts.'

'The younger one is good-looking, isn't she?'

'Yes. Evie is beautiful. And jolly, and popular. Kate goes to church and
does parish work, and reads the _Daily Thrill_ aloud in the evenings.
Evie has young men. Her chief one just now is at the front; he's a
Gordon, of Gordon's jams.'

'That sink of iniquity! The girl can have no principle. But jam is going
to be nationalised very soon, I trust, like many better things. I hope
so. It richly deserves it.... Another thing, Alix--you must start health
food. I'm going to help Linda Durell to start a Health and Thrift Food
Shop, you know. Linda's terribly unbusinesslike, of course. So many
people are, if you come to that. And so many people don't eat the right
things at the right moments. That man Nicky lives with, now, who stayed
with us--he never seems to have the faintest notion of healthy feeding.
Goes out every morning before breakfast without an apple or a glass of
milk. One should _always_ begin the day with an apple, Alix--remember
that. But parsons are hopeless, of course. Such insane ideas about this
world not mattering, as if it wasn't the only one we've got. I've no
patience with religious people; can't think why Nicky lives with one of
them. Though, mind, I like this Mr. West in himself; he's quite sound on
most points of importance, and intelligent, too; I've been on Sweated
Industries committees with him, and I believe he's doing good work for
women's trade unions. Perhaps he'll change his mind about this church
business when he's older.'

'I don't believe he will. It seems to mean rather a lot to him, doesn't
it? To him it's the way of jogging the world on. As committees are to
you.'

'My dear, I detest committees. Most of their members are too stupid and
tiresome for words individually, and their collective incompetence is
quite unthinkable. But what other way is there in this extraordinarily
stick-in-the-mud world?'

Alix shook her head. Indeed, she didn't know. She felt helpless to give
the world any sort of jog out of its mud, by any means whatsoever.

Daphne caught the blank look of her eyes, and suddenly put her strong
arm round the thin, small body.

'My poor baby, you must get strong, you know, and happy. No one needs to
be ailing or depressed if they'll just say to themselves, 'I am going to
be well and strong and to stand up to the world. I'm not going to give
in to it. I am the master of my body and soul.' I said that when our
darling died; I kept on saying it, and I came through on it. There was
too much to do to give way. There is still. We've got to be strong
women, for our own sakes and the world's--especially we who have the
brains to be some use if we try. The poor old world needs help so very
badly just now, with all the fools there are who hinder and block the
way. You and I have both got to help, Alix.... There _is_ so much to get
done.'

Daphne, holding her close, lightly kissed the thin fingers she held.
Alix thought, 'Mother is splendid, of course. But she's bigger than I
am, and stronger, and she hardly ever feels ill, and she doesn't know
how Paul died, and she's not in love with Basil and didn't tell him so.
And I believe she's so keen and busy that she doesn't have time to think
about the war, except about how to stop it.... Perhaps that's the
way--to be thinking only how to stop it and prevent another.... _Is_
that the way?'

Alix became aware, from the clasp of Daphne's hands on hers, their firm,
light pressure, full of purpose, that Daphne was willing her to health
and happiness, trying, in fact, suggestion. Daphne believed in health
suggestion, as well as health food. She belonged to societies for
promoting both. She had often in the past made health suggestions to
Alix, but Alix had not always taken them. At the present moment Alix,
overcome by the contrast between her mother's undying hope and purpose
for her and her own inability to justify them, giggled weakly, in the
sudden way she had.

'I'm sorry, darling,' she apologised. 'No, I'm not hysterical, only
footling. I'm sorry I'm such a rotter and no credit to you and no use to
the world. But I'm all right really, you know. I don't need healing a
bit.'

Daphne held her from her, scrutinised her critically, and said, 'You're
suffering from hyperæsthesia. How many cigarettes are you smoking a
day?'

'Nine. No, I'm too young for that, like the porter--let's say three. Oh,
I don't know--I don't count really. Quite few. Cousin Emily doesn't
really like it much. She and Kate don't smoke at all, and Evie's only
just learning. We're not a vicious household; our chief excesses are
chocolates and hot milk.'

'Well, my outside rule is five, you know, in peace time, and now it's
three. I should advise only two for you. Linda Durell is for starting
and selling Health Cigarettes, but I won't have it, I think they are too
disgusting. One must draw the line somewhere.... Is this Clapton? Who
_lives_ in Clapton, by the way? I know the secretary of the Women's Wage
Increase Committee does--but who else? Of course people _used_ to, in
the nineteenth century. Your great-grandfather did. And Cowper, I
think--or was it Dr. Watts? Some one who wrote hymns. Those look like
good people's houses there.'

'Yes. Oh, bishops live here, and retired generals, and stockbrokers, and
thousands of babies. And the Vinneys. And lots of dreadfully common
people, Kate says. They all play tennis in the Park. This is Spring
Hill.'

'So I see. And there's Primmerose. Tell him to stop.'

'No, darling, Primmerose is some one else's. It's Violette we want; do
remember, mother, because the Primmerose people are common, and we don't
like being confused. Here we are.'


3

They got out. Daphne, having decided without discussion the probable
size of the chauffeur's family, judicially tipped him and told him to
return for her at half-past five. She then entered Violette and met Mrs.
Frampton in the hall. Mrs. Frampton, like Alix and so many others, was
much smaller than she was; Daphne had to bend graciously to shake hands.
Mrs. Frampton was a little shy of the tall, distinguished, clever,
beautiful cousin of her clever, distinguished, little-known second
husband. Daphne, was, in a manner, a public personage; most people knew
her name. She had for long been at once ornamental and useful, a
fountain-head of a perpetually vigorous stream of energies, some
generally approved, others regarded by many as harmful, that watered
England; but Violette, for good or ill, was outside their furthest
spraying. Mrs. Frampton looked from far off, as she had looked at
Professor Frampton, at the brilliant, not-to-be-understood energies of a
worker in worlds by her not realised. This makes one shy, even if one
believes oneself to be a denizen of a superior world, and Mrs. Frampton
lacked this consolation. She was a humble person, and knew that Daphne
and Professor Frampton had the best of it.

They sat in the drawing-room, where there would soon be tea. Daphne
looked round the room with an inward gasp: she really hadn't expected it
to be quite so bad as this. The Summertown drawing-room, which she
vaguely remembered, had been a little the drawing-room of her cousin
Laurence. She took it all in rapidly, and, as if hypnotised, came back
to rest on 'Thou seest me' and the watching Eye.

'My poor child,' she thought. 'I must take her away _at once_. It's a
wonder she's not actually had a _crise de nerfs_, with the wretched
nervous system she inherits from Paul, and that Eye always watching
her....'

Mrs. Frampton meanwhile was amiably talking, nervous but pleased.

'It's been so delightful having dear Alix all these months. So nice for
the girls, too. We've made quite a little party of young people, haven't
we, Alix? And other young people drop in quite frequently--Alix's
brother, of course, which is always so very nice--he's wonderfully
clever, isn't he--and that pleasant Mr. Doye, who lost his finger; I'm
sure we quite miss him now he's gone back to the army again; and friends
of my girls, and friends of Alix's. Often we're quite a party. It keeps
us all quite cheerful and merry, even in these dreadful days, doesn't
it, Alix?'

'Yes,' said Alix.

'Only this child works so hard at her drawing and painting all day, she
doesn't get much time for play. I'm sure they work them too hard at
these art schools. She looks quite overdone and poorly, don't you think
so, Mrs. Sandomir?'

'Oh, she'll be all right directly,' said Daphne, who didn't approve of
discussing people's poor health in their presence, thinking it made them
worse.

'It's mostly nerves and fancy, I expect,' she added, giving a light pat
to Alix's arm. 'Shouldn't be given way to. I expect you've been spoiling
her.'

'No, I haven't--no, indeed.' Mrs. Frampton was pleased. 'I _have_
thought she looked thin and below par often, and I've made her take lots
of milk, and that nice ovaltine, and even malt and cod-liver oil, but
she wouldn't go on with that. There's a very nice stuff that's being
advertised everywhere now--Fattine--and I want her to try that.'

'Oh, Alix was always thin. I don't believe in worrying with medicines.
We mustn't make her sorry for herself by talking about her like this....
That's Evie, isn't it? _She_ doesn't look as if she needed medicine,
anyhow. I should like to have her for an advertisement in the windows of
my Health Food shop.'

Evie was followed by Kate, Florence, and tea. Daphne thought Kate and
the tea-cups both deplorable. Kate had been going round her district
with parish magazines. She hadn't succeeded (district visitors never do)
in collecting all the pennies for them, and told her mother which
persons hadn't paid.

'And of course that Mrs. Fittle, in Paradise Court, lay low and
pretended to be out, as usual. I expect she was--' Kate pursed her lips,
which meant drunk. Mrs. Frampton nodded intelligently.

'The Clapton people are terribly difficult to deal with,' Kate explained
to Daphne. 'Dreadfully ungrateful, too, very often. The clergy and
workers may do anything for them, but it's all no more than what's their
due, and no thanks, only grumbles. Do you find them like that in
Cambridge?' (which was the town in which Daphne, if she had one
anywhere, presumably had a district).

'Not a bit,' said Daphne briskly. 'The idea of expecting me to find
anything so commonplace,' was her inward comment. 'This girl is the
worst of the lot.'

'Kate does a great deal of parish work,' Mrs. Frampton explained. 'She's
quite busy always, with church things.'

'Yes?' Daphne was vague, hiding how much she disapproved of church
things.

'Now I'm afraid I'm used to a rather different sort of service from
those Kate attends,' Mrs. Frampton continued. 'I'm old-fashioned, I
know. Kate's church goes a touch too high for me.'

Something in her visitor's face, a certain blankness, suggested to her
that probably Daphne knew no difference between high and low, but
condemned both with impartial unfairness. She remembered that Alix
hadn't been brought up to go to any sort of church. Alix, being of a
later generation, had indeed a fairly open mind on these matters; but
Daphne, the product of a more pronounced and condemning age, rejected
with emphasis. The Christian religion, as taught in churches, was to her
pernicious, retrograde, the hampering relic of a darker age. Some
glimmering of this attitude filtered through to Mrs. Frampton, and
flustered her. She added, 'But of course we can't all think the same way
about things, can we?... I hope you enjoyed your trip round the world,
Mrs. Sandomir.'

'Very much, thank you.'

'You visited the Balkans, didn't you? That must have been very alarming
and wild. I'm sure it was wonderfully brave of you to go there, with all
this upset, and all the natives so unsettled. I'm afraid I shouldn't
have had the courage.'

'The upset,' said Daphne, 'was less advanced than it is now, when I was
there. I had a most interesting time....' But not really, in the main,
suitable to tell Mrs. Frampton about, so she rapidly selected.

'The Bulgarian babies--you never saw anything so pleasant. You'd love
them, Mrs. Frampton. You should go there some time. And their teeth come
through when they're about six weeks old, for some reason. It's just as
well, because their ideas about milk cleanliness are most behindhand. I
talked to a sort of mothers' meeting about it, but I don't think they
even began to understand. I expect my Bulgarian wasn't idiomatic enough.
Oh dear, the _dirt_ of those infants....'

'Fancy! It does seem a wickedness not to keep little babies clean,
doesn't it? There's one at a house in this road--Primmerose--and I'm
sure it goes to one's heart to see the way it's kept.'

Kate said, fastidiously, 'Those Primmerose people aren't nice in any
way, I'm afraid. There are some very regrettable people come settling
round here lately--people one can't dream of knowing. It's a great
pity.'

'People will settle, won't they,' Daphne said vaguely. 'It's better
perhaps than being unsettled, like the Balkan people.' Daphne never
punned except in absence of mind, rightly believing the habit to rise
from weakness of intellect; but she was thinking now not of Clapton nor
of the Balkan people, but of an address she was giving that evening to a
meeting of the N.U.W.S.S. on her recent experiences, and which she had
only inadequately prepared. She pulled herself together, however, and
became charming, attentive, and intelligent for the rest of tea.

'And what did you think of the United States?' Mrs. Frampton inquired.
'Will they come in, do you think, or won't the President let them,
whatever occurs? You met the President, didn't you? How did he strike
you?'

'Oh, delightful. Like most governments; they're nearly all charming
personally, I believe. So much stronger, as a rule, in the heart than in
the head. They mean so much good and do much harm, poor dears. A curse
seems to dog them. They're the victims of an iniquitous and insane
system; and they lack fore-sight and sound judgment so terribly, for all
their good intentions.'

'You would scarcely say the Kaiser had good intentions,' Mrs. Frampton
suggested dubiously.

Daphne said, 'I don't know him, but I'm told he has all sorts, good and
bad, like other mischievous people.'

'We all know, anyhow, where good intentions pave the way to,' said Kate,
more epigrammatic than usual, so that Mrs. Frampton said, 'Hush, dear,'
and added, 'He'll have to face the consequences of his actions some day,
when he's called to give account of his life. Perhaps we oughtn't to
forestall his condemnation, poor man.'

Daphne said, 'Indeed, I'm quite sure we ought. Condemnation will be
singularly little use at the moment you refer to,' and then, because
that moment would be a fruitless, and indeed most unsuitable, topic of
conversation between her and Mrs. Frampton, she left it, and talked
about flats in town, a subject which she and Violette regarded from
standpoints very nearly as far sundered as those from which they
contemplated the last judgment.

After tea, Mrs. Frampton said she and Kate and Evie would now go away
and leave Daphne and Alix alone together, which they did.

The door shut behind them, and Daphne passed her long, capable hand over
her forehead and shut her eyes for a moment.

'My dear child--what you have been through! It must end at once. So
kind, and so unthinkably trying! No wonder--oh well, never mind, you'll
soon be all right now.... Do they know _anything_ about anything that
matters? No, quite obviously not.'

'I'd rather they didn't, mother. I don't like the things that matter.
I've been quite comfortable.'

'Comfortable! With that Eye! Nonsense, child.... The idea of our
_having_ such relations, even by marriage.... Laurence Frampton was
really too queer. I've often wondered whether his head wasn't a little
going when he did it; he had been peculiar in several ways. Quite
suddenly voted conservative--which year was it, now? I think myself life
had tired him; people wanted to abolish Greek in Responsions, and so on,
and he had some worries in his college, and private money difficulties
too, I believe; Oxford people are so extravagant sometimes; so he fell
back on a little cushiony wife as one might on to a pillow, and died
quietly soon afterwards. Most tragic, really; such a brilliant fellow he
was.... Now there's my taxi back again. I'm going first to Nicky's, then
to dine at the Club with Francie Claverhouse, before addressing the
N.U.W.S.S. By the way, I'm fearfully out of temper with them--have you
been following their policy lately? They've been _criminally_ weak on
Conscription.... We shall have to have a split, as usual.... Good-bye,
darling. Run and fetch your cousin Emily to say good-bye to me. No, only
your cousin Emily; I can't speak to Kate, she's the epitome of all the
ages of the drab and narrow feminine. And Evie is immoral, and carries
on with Gordon's jam. It isn't right that you should be here. None of
them have any principles.'

While she talked, Daphne was collecting her bags, papers and furs, with
her quick, graceful, decisive movements. Alix watched her, feeling, as
she sometimes did in her mother's presence, as if she sucked up all the
ozone in the air and left none for her.

They found Mrs. Frampton in the hall, full of shy and beaming kindness.
Daphne took her hand and looked down on her cordially.

'I must be flying. I'll look in to-morrow, if I may.... Good-bye, and
thank you so much for being good to the child.'

The narrow Kate and the immoral Evie appeared in the background, and
Daphne had to shake hands with them after all before escaping into the
taxi.


4

Violette watched her drive away up Spring Hill.

Evie thought how handsome she was, and how well she wore her clothes.

Kate was not quite certain she wasn't a touch fast.

Alix thought, 'How jolly it must be to be like mother, so certain and so
strong.'

Mrs. Frampton thought, 'She seems so nice and clever, but a little
alarming, perhaps,' and said to Alix, 'Your mother seems wonderfully
well and busy. I expect she's always quite full of plans and occupations
and interests, isn't she?'

'Yes,' said Alix.



CHAPTER XV

ALIX AT A MEETING


1

Daphne took Alix from Violette to stay with her at her club. It was the
end of November. Daphne proposed that they should spend a fortnight in
town, till the end of the art school term, then go down to their house
at Cambridge for the Christmas vacation. She meant to spend this period
holding meetings about the county of Cambridgeshire with a view to
starting village branches of the Society for Promoting Permanent Peace.
Meetings--branches--study circles--this was the machinery behind the
ideals. Daphne, at times irrelevant, inconsequent, prejudiced,
whimsical, perverse, was an idealist and a business woman.

She made Alix come to meetings while they were in town. She saw in Alix
the raw material of a member of the S.P.P.P. She said, 'You mustn't be
selfish, darling. You are a little selfish, you know, and you're old
enough now to leave it off. You try to hide from things, like an
ostrich. You try and pretend they don't exist. In point of fact, they
do, and you know it. You know it all the time: you can't forget it, so
you waste your trouble trying. You must leave that to the Violettes.
They can ignore. You can't.... Ignoring: that's always been the curse of
this world. We shut our eyes to things--poverty, and injustice, and
vice, and cruelty, and sweating, and slums, and the tendencies which
make war, and we feed ourselves on batter, and so go on from day to day
getting a little fatter--and so the evils too go on from day to day
getting fatter, till they get so corpulent and heavy that when we do
open our eyes at last, because we have to, they can scarcely be moved at
all. It's sheer criminal selfishness and laziness and stupidity. Mr.
West was talking about it the other day. I like that young man; he
believes in all the right things. And in so many of the wrong ones as
well--I can't imagine why. I told him I couldn't imagine why; and he
said he found the same difficulty about me. So there we are. However,
what was I saying? Oh yes--laziness, selfishness and stupidity. It's
those three we've got to fight. We've got to replace them by hard
working, hard living, and hard thinking. And the last must come first.
We've got to _think_, and make every one think.... One of the worst
things about a war is that so many of the best thinkers are in the
middle of it, and can't think, and may never be able to think again. I
don't in the least agree with those complacent young men and women who
believe that no one over forty either can or will think. 'The war has
let the old men loose upon the world,' I believe is the phrase.
Conceited rubbish, of course. They won't talk it when they and their
friends are forty-eight, like me. Personally I know just about as many
young fools and obscurantists and militarists as elderly ones. Any
number of both. It's not a question of age; it's temperament and
training. But still, grant that the young men of fighting age form a
very large proportion in each nation of the clearest intellects and the
keenest idealists and the best workers for truth, and that they are
nearly all now in action, or put out of action. Grant that many of them
will never come back, that many others will come back weakened
physically and mentally and incapable of the work they might have done
before, and some perhaps with their mental vision a little blinded and
perverted by what they've had to play a part in for so long. That's the
worst tragedy of all, of course, that possible perversion. Better never
come back at all.' Daphne's voice shook momentarily, but she went on
bravely: 'Paul would have been a fine worker. He was going to be very
like his father. Well, Paul's gone under--a sacrifice to the Brute.
Thousands of other finely-wrought instruments like Paul have been
smashed and lost to the world.... It's an irreparable tragedy, of
course.... But we who are left and who are free have got to do their
work as well as our own. And we've got to begin at once. There's no time
to be lost.'

Daphne consulted her watch, and added, 'You'd better come to a meeting
of the S.P.P.P. at Queen's Hall with me after dinner, dearest. It would
interest and instruct you. Several people are going to speak, including
me.'

'It's all right when _you_ speak,' said Alix. 'But some of them are
rather the limit, really, mother.'

'Oh, my dear, of course. The very outside edge: over it. What does it
matter? It's causes that count, thank goodness, not the people who work
for them. When you're my age you'll have learnt to _swallow_ people,
without getting indigestion. Now we must have dinner at once, and then
you shall come and begin to practise impersonal idealism. It _is_ so
important.'


2

Alix supposed it must be. Meetings are so very mixed, speeches so
unequal, people so various.

Lack of clear thinking--that, as Daphne had said, was probably what was
wrong with nearly every one. Perhaps it is the commonest defect, and the
most irritating. It makes people talk sentimental rubbish. It makes them
lump other people together in masses and groups, setting one group
against another, when really people are individual temperaments and
brains and souls, and unclassifiable. It makes them say (Alix picked out
all these utterances in the Queen's Hall to-night, among many other
utterances truer and sounder and more relevant--indeed, indubitably
sound, relevant and true) that young men are good and intelligent and
pacificist (no, pacifist) and admire Romain Rolland, and elderly men
bad, stupid and militarist, and admire Bernhardi. That women are the
guardians of life, and therefore mind war more than men do. That
democracies are inherently and consistently peaceful enough (stated) and
intelligent enough (assumed) to prevent wars from ever occurring if the
reins of foreign policy were in their hands. ('Rubbish,' muttered
Daphne. 'He's missing the whole point, which is to _make_ democracies
so, by a long and difficult education. Every one knows they've not much
sense yet.') That the reason why war is objectionable is that the human
body is sacred and should be inviolate. What did that mean, precisely,
Alix wondered? That women are the chief sufferers from war. A debatable
point, anyhow; and what did it matter, and why divide humanity into
sexes, further than nature has already done so? That among the newspaper
owners and members of the governments of each nation were some so
misguided and lacking in financial fore-sight as to encourage wars
because they had some shares in armament industries, and hoped,
presumably, to recoup themselves therefrom for the heavy financial
losses which they, in common with all other members of the community,
must suffer in case of war. 'Fools they must be,' Alix commented, and
speculated that these covetous individuals, even granting that they had
pinned their hopes entirely on the financial issue, must be feeling
pretty badly sold. For their other and nicer shares would be declining;
their income-tax was enormous (and they probably had to pay super-tax
too, which was even worse); the papers they owned were losing the
advertisements they lived by; and their food cost them more. A bad
look-out for these covetous ones.

From this the speaker got on to capitalism in general. Well, Alix was
entirely with him there.

A new speaker (much better, quite good, in fact) was speaking of secret
ententes, as speakers will at these meetings. The Moroccan crisis ...
that was rather interesting. The Balance of Power. A rotten theory, but
surely, as things were, necessary? Yes, as things were; but not as they
were going to be. For there must, in time, be General Disarmament.
Disarmament. A fancy some lean to and others hate, no doubt. But most
hate it. The question was, would they hate it more after this war, or
less? _Si vis bellum, para bellum_; that was the true version of that
saying. True, for it had been proved so. Look at the Germans, preparing
for war for years; look at all the other nations, also preparing for
years. And now they had all got it. That is what armies and fleets lead
to. So, instead of armies and fleets, let us have International Councils
for Arbitration. A Concert of Europe.

A jolly sound notion, thought Alix, but wished the speaker would meet
rather more precisely the obvious difficulties in the way of this method
of keeping the peace. It certainly _was_ a sound notion: one felt that
it could, after much shaping and experimenting and failure, be workable,
be made something of. There was no earthly reason why not. And certainly
the more it was discussed and publicly aired in all the nations, the
better for its chances. But people were apt, on this subject, not to be
quite practical enough; they often laid stress on the advantages of the
principle, rather than on its detailed methods of working. Of course the
advantages, if it could be worked, were incontrovertible; surely no one
could be found to question them.

And here Alix found a weakness she had vaguely felt before in the
standpoint taken by many of these people. Many of them (not nearly all,
but many) seemed to imply, 'We, a select few of us called Pacificists,
hate war. The rest of you rather like it. We will not allow you to have
it. WE will stop it.' As if some of a race stricken with agonising
plague had risen up and said to the rest, 'You, most of you, are content
to be ill and in anguish and perishing. But WE do not like it. WE insist
on stopping it and preventing its recurrence.' An admirable resolution,
but ill-worded. What they meant, what they would mean if they thought
and spoke accurately, was surely, 'We all loathe this horror--how should
any one not loathe it? We all want to stop it occurring again, and WE
have thought of a way which we believe may work. This is it....'

That was sense; that was what was wanted, that any one who thought they
had found a way should use it and expound it to the rest. But oh, it
wasn't sense, it was madness, to talk as if people differed in aim and
desire, not merely in method. For there was one desire every one had in
these days, beneath, through and above their thousand others. People
wanted money, wanted victory, wanted liberty, wanted economic
individualism, wanted socialism, wanted each other, wanted love, wanted
beauty, wanted virtue, wanted a vote, wanted fame, wanted genius, wanted
God, wanted things to drink, even to eat, wanted more wages, wanted less
taxes, less work, wanted children, wanted adventure, wanted death,
wanted democracy, oligarchy, anarchy, any other archy, wanted new
clothes, wanted a new heaven or a new earth or both, wanted the old back
again, wanted the moon. They wanted any or all of these things and a
thousand more; but through them, above them, beneath them, a quenchless
fire of longing, burning, searing and consuming more passionately as the
crazy weeks of frustration swung by, they wanted peace.... Even some who
wanted nothing else in this world or any other just had energy to want
peace. There were those so tired and so forlorn and so battered and
broken that they could scarcely want at all; they had lost too much.
They had almost too utterly lost their health, or their courage, or
their limbs, or their hope, or their faith, or their sons, husbands,
brothers, lovers and friends, or their minds, to want anything from life
except its end; but still, with broken, drifting, numbed desires, they
wanted peace....

All the heterogeneous crowd of humanity, so at variance in almost
everything else, was just now surely one in the common bond of that
great desire. They swayed, that heterogeneous crowd, into Alix's giddy
vision; she saw them thus strangely, perhaps unwelcomely, linked, in
incongruous fellowship, those who had possibly never before believed
themselves to want the same things. The one desire linked, in all the
warring nations, socialists and individualistic men of business,
capitalists and wage-earners, slum landlords and slum dwellers, judges
and criminals, soldiers and conscientious objectors, catholics and
quakers, atheists and priests, prize-fighters and poets, representatives
of societies differing so widely in some ways as the Fellowship of
Reconciliation and the National Service League, the W.S.P.U. and the
Anti-Suffrage Society, the Union of Democratic Control and the
Anti-German League, the German Social and Democratic Party and the
Radicals; the staffs of journals as widely sundered by temperament and
habit as the _Times_ and the _Manchester Guardian_, the _Morning Post_
and the _Daily News_, the _Spectator_ and the _English Review_,
the _Vorwärts_ and the _Kreuz Zeitung_, the _Church Times_, the
_Freethinker_ and the _Record_.

Alix saw humanity as a great mass-meeting, men and women, 'clergymen,
lawyers, lords and thieves,' hand in hand, lifting together one confused
voice, crying for peace, peace, where there was no peace. Where there
could not yet be, nor ever had been, peace, because ... because of what?
That really seemed the question to be solved. Because, one supposed, of
some anti-peace elements in every country, in every class, in every
interest, nay, in every human being, that somehow subverted and hindered
the great desire.

An odd world, certainly, and paradoxical, and curiously tragic. But lit
by glimmers of hope....


3

More and more through that evening Alix came to believe that these
so-called Pacificists (idiotic name--as if every one wasn't Pacificist)
really _had_ found a way, really had, if not exactly their hands on the
ropes, anyhow their feet on a road that might possibly lead somewhere.
It was the same rather breathless feeling of possible ways out, or in,
that she had about the Church sometimes. Only sometimes; for at other
times she happened on people who belonged to the Church who made her
feel that there were no roads out, or in, or anywhere, but only dull
enclosures, leading nowhere; and she hadn't yet attained to the
impersonal idealism Daphne urged on her (so necessary, so difficult a
thing) which could swallow people for the sake of the causes they stood
for. She attached too much importance to people.

She was glad when a young, keen-faced, humorous woman, with a charming
voice, began to speak about Continuous Mediation without Armistice. A
fascinating subject, competently handled. A continuous conference of the
neutral nations, to convey the ever-changing desires of the belligerents
to one another, to inquire into the principles of international justice
and permanent peace underlying them, to discuss, to air proposals, to
suggest, to promote understanding between belligerents. It couldn't,
anyhow, do much harm, and might do much good. It would express the views
of impartial observers (are any observers impartial, Alix wondered?) on
these vexed questions; it would express through intermediaries the views
of the peace-seekers in each warring nation to the peace-makers in the
others, now that they were hindered from direct speech together. For so
many thousands in the enemy countries are longing for peace; there must
be no mistake about that. Of course, thought Alix, impatient again. How
should there be any mistake about so obvious a thing? The only
difficulty was that each country longed for peace on its own terms;
peace, as they would say, with honour; and no country liked its enemies'
terms. This continuous mediation business would perhaps draw them nearer
together, make them see more nearly eye to eye. It certainly seemed
sound.


4

'They're talking sense all right,' said one young officer to another,
behind Alix.

Then Daphne spoke, on the attitude towards war of the common people in
the neutral and belligerent nations, on principles of education, and
particularly on the training of children in sound international
ideals--her special subject. She told of how in Austria the Women's
Committee for Permanent Peace had issued an appeal to parents and
teachers urging them to counteract the influences exciting children to
race hatred, and train them in respect for their enemies and
constructive national service.

A comprehensive subject, treated with breadth, detail, and clarity. The
young officers again approved.

Alix thought how fine a person Daphne looked and was: gracious,
competent, vivid, dominating, alive. Possessed of some poise, some
strength, some inner calm.... What was it, exactly, and why? One saw it
in some religious people. Perhaps in them and in Daphne it was the same
thing: they both had a definite aim; they both knew where they were
trying to go, and why. Perhaps that is what makes for strength and calm,
thought Alix. Daphne wasn't running away from things, or from life: she
was facing them and fighting them.

'She's good, isn't she?' said one of the officers. 'I like hearing Mrs.
Sandomir. She never talks through her hat. So many of these Pacifist and
Militarist people do.'

Alix was glad Daphne had a sense of humour, and didn't rant or
sentimentalise. She could talk of the part to be played by women in the
construction of permanent peace without calling them the guardians of
the race or the custodians of life. She didn't draw distinctions, beyond
the necessary ones, between women and men; she took women as human
beings, not as life-producing organisms; she took men as human beings,
not as destroying-machines. She spoke about propaganda work to be
undertaken by the S.P.P.P. in the country districts; she suggested
methods; she became very practical. Alix listened with interest, for
that was what Daphne was going to do in Cambridgeshire in the Christmas
vacation. It sounded, as foreshadowed, sensible and useful, though of
course you never know, with meetings in the country, till you try, and
not always then.


5

Enough, more than enough, no doubt, has been said of a meeting so
ordinary as to be familiar in outline to most people. That it was not
familiar to Alix, who had hitherto avoided both meetings and literature
on all subjects connected with the war, is why it is here recorded in
some detail. There was some more of it, but it need not be here set
down.

When it was over, Daphne and Alix returned to the club. They sat in the
writing-room and talked and smoked before going to bed.

'Rather sensible, on the whole, I thought,' said Alix, lighting Daphne's
cigarette. She had more colour than usual, and her eyes were bright and
sleepless. Daphne glanced at her sidelong.

'Glad you approved,' she said. 'The S.P.P.P. _is_ rather sensible,
on the whole: just that.... What about joining it, on those grounds?
It will only bind you to approve of its general programme, and,
when you can, assist in it. And its programme is really purely
educational--training people (beginning with ourselves) in the kind of
thinking and principles which seem to make for international
understanding and peace. You'd better join us. We're fighting war, to
the best of our lights, and with the weapons at our command. One can't
do more than that in these days, and one can scarcely do less. One
mayn't be very successful, and one may be quite off the lines; but one
has to keep trying in the best way one personally knows. One can't be
indifferent and inert nowadays.... Well?'

Alix leant forward and dropped her cigarette end into the fire.

'Well,' she returned, and thought for a moment, and added, 'I wonder.
I'm not really good at joining things, you know.'

'You are not,' Daphne agreed, decisively. 'You sit on hedges,
criticising the fields on both sides and wondering what good either of
them is going to be to you. Such a paltry attitude, my dear!
Unpractical, selfish, and sentimental; though I know you think you hate
sentimentality. It's quite time you learnt that there's no fighting with
whole truths in this life, and all we can do is to seize fragments of
truth where we can find them, and use them as best we can. Poor weapons,
perhaps, but all we've got. That's how I see it, anyhow.... Well,
darling, at least it can't do any _harm_ to try and get children and
grown-up people taught to get some understanding of international
politics and the ways to keep the peace, or to look upon arbitration as
a possible, practical, and natural substitute for war--can it, now? If
it only in the end results in improving ever so slightly the mental
attitude of a person here and there, adding ever so little to the
political information of a village in each county, it will have done
_something_, won't it? And--you never know--it may do quite a lot more
than that. You must remember we've got branches in all the belligerent
countries now. Free discussion of these things gets them into the air,
so to speak; trains people's ways of thought; and thought, collective
thought, is such a solid driving-power; it gets things done. Thoughts
are alive,' said Daphne, waving her cigarette as she talked,
'frightfully, terrifyingly, amazingly alive. They fly about like good
and bad germs; they cause health or disease. They can build empires or
slums; they can assault and hurt the soul' (unconsciously in moments of
enthusiasm, Daphne sometimes used a prayer-book phrase stored in her
memory cells from childhood, for her father had been a bishop), 'or they
can save it alive. They can make peace and make war. They made _this_
war: they must make the new peace. Thought is _everything_. We've got to
make good, sane, intelligent thought, how ever and where ever we can,
all of us.... Come and work with me in Cambridgeshire next week and help
me to make it, my dear.'

'Well,' said Alix again. 'I might do that. Come and watch you, I mean,
and listen. I think I will do that.'


6

It was late. Every one in the club except them had gone to bed. They
went too.

Alix thought, in bed, 'Fighting war. That's what Mr. West said we must
all be doing. Fighting war. I suppose really it's the only thing
non-combatants can do with war, to make it hurt them less ... as they
can't go....' She wrenched her mind sharply away from that last familiar
negation, that old familiar bitterness of frustration. 'I suppose,' she
thought, 'it may make even that hurt less....'

On that thought, selfish by habit as usual, a thought not suggested by
Daphne, who was not selfish, she fell asleep.



CHAPTER XVI

ON PEACE


1

On the tenth of December, Daphne, Alix, and Nicholas went down to
Cambridge. Liverpool Street Alix found restful. Liverpool Street, as the
jumping-off place for East Anglia, has a soothing power of its own.
Stations often have, probably because they indicate ways of escape,
never the closed door.

But Cambridge, which they reached all too soon, was not restful.
Cambridge city, even out of term time, even during terms such as these,
which all the young thinkers are keeping in trenches overseas, is too
conscious of the world's complexities and imminent problems and
questionable destinies, to be peaceful. Cambridge is the brain of
Cambridgeshire, which, having all its more disturbing thinking thus done
for it, can itself remain quiet, like a brainless animal.

Daphne's sphere of work did not include Cambridge, which already thought
about these things, and heard, gladly and otherwise, Mr. Ponsonby on
Democratic Control and Lord Bryce on International Relations, and many
other people on many other subjects. All she did in Cambridge was to
foster and stimulate the life of the already existing branch of the
S.P.P.P., and to make it her centre for propaganda in Cambridgeshire.

Nicholas and Alix, having been brought up in Cambridge, did not know
Cambridgeshire much. Alix discovered Cambridgeshire, through this quiet,
pale December. There are moments in some lives when it is the only shire
that will do. Many feel the same about Oxfordshire; more about
Shropshire, Sussex, Worcestershire, Hampshire, or the north, or the
southwest. The present writer once knew some one who felt it about
Warwickshire, but these, probably, are few. Most people may like
Warwickshire, to live in or walk in or bicycle in, but will give it no
peculiar place as healer or restorer. It is, perhaps, essentially a
shire for the prosperous, the whole in body and mind; it has little to
give, beyond what it receives. But Cambridgeshire, 'of all England the
shire for men who understand,' in its quiet, restrained way gives. It is
not for the rich, and not for sentimentalists, and not for Americans;
but it is for poets and dreamers. To those who leave it and return it
has a fresh and sad significance, like the face of a once familiar and
understood but half-forgotten friend, whose point of view has become
strange. New meanings, old meanings reasserted, rise to challenge them;
the code of values inherent in those chalky plains that are the setting
of a quiet city seem to emerge in large type. Cambridge is of a quite
different spirit. In Cambridge is intelligence, culture, traditionalism,
civilisation, some intellectualism, even some imagination, much
scholarship, ability, and good sense, above all a high idealism, a
limitless fund of generous chivalry, that would be at war with the
world's ills, the true crusading spirit, that can never fit in with the
commercial.

And round it, strangely, lies Cambridgeshire, quiet, chalky, unknown,
full of the equable Anglian peoples and limitless romance; the country
of waste fens and flat wet fields and dreamy hints of quiet streams, and
grey willows, and level horizons melting into blue distance beyond blue
distance, and straight white roads linking ancient village to ancient
village, and untold dreams; and probably not one Cambridge person in two
hundred understands anything at all about it; they are too civilised,
too urban, too far above the animal and the peasant. Here and there some
Cambridge poet, or painter, or even archæologist, has caught the spirit
of Cambridgeshire; but mostly Cambridge people are too busy, and too
alive, to try. You need to be of a certain vacancy....

But, though they understand so little of it, in times of need it
sometimes raises quiet hands of healing to them. Sometimes, again, it
doesn't.


2

Alix, wandering over it with Daphne, who held meetings, found it grey,
toneless, faintly-hued, wintry, with larks carolling over the chalky
downs and brown ploughed fields. That country south of Cambridge seemed
to her the truest Cambridgeshire, rather than the level plains of Ely
and the fenlands, and rather than the border regions of the north-west,
where Royston, among its huddle of strange hills, broods with its hint
of a hostile wildness. Royston is rather terrifying, unless you use it
for golf, and Daphne had a poor meeting there.

Meetings in Cambridgeshire are often poor, that is the truth (excepting
only in election time, when apathy gives place to fierce excitement).
Whether they are about National Service, or Votes for Women, or Tariff
Reform, or Free Trade, or Welsh Disestablishment, or Recruiting, or
Peace--you cannot really rely on them. Cambridgeshire, rightly believing
that the day for toil was given, for rest the night, does not lightly
thwart this dispensation of Providence. And the few borderland hours of
twilight or lamplight which providence has set between these two spaces
of time, are, there seems little doubt, given us for the purposes of
tea, smoking, conversing, and courting. So meetings do not really come
in.

But Daphne held them, all the same, and some people came. She usually
held them in the village schoolroom. Sometimes she got the vicar's
permission to address the children during school hours, sometimes that
of the vicar's wife to speak to the Mothers' Meeting while it met. But
she preferred evening meetings, because of her lantern slides, which
showed the photographs she had taken on her travels of men, women, and
children in the other villages of other countries, thinking, so she
said, the same thoughts as these men, women, and children in
Cambridgeshire, saying, in their queer other tongues, the same things,
playing, very often, with the same toys. (This, of course, was by way of
Promoting International Sympathy.)

The women and children liked these meetings and slides. The women, being
open-hearted, kindly, impressionable, pacific, saw what Daphne meant,
and said, 'To think of it! I expect those mothers, pore things, miss
their boys that are fighting, the same as we do ours. Well, it isn't
their fault, is it? it's all that wicked Keyser.'

The children said merely, 'Oo-ah! look at that!'

Then Daphne would go on from that starting-point to expound that it
wasn't all, not quite all, that wicked Keyser. That it was, in fact, in
varying degrees, not only all governments but all peoples, who had made
war possible and so landed themselves at last in this.

This was less popular. The women didn't mind it; they were receptive and
open to conviction, and didn't much mind either way, and were prepared
to say, 'Well, to be sure, we're none of us very good Christians yet,
are we?' For ideas didn't matter to them very much, nor the wrongs and
rights of the war, but the fact of the war did. But some man behind, who
had made up his mind on this business and knew that black was black and
white was white, would sometimes observe, with vigour and decision,
'Pro-Hun.'

'I am not a pro-anyone,' said Daphne, 'nor an anti-anyone. But I am, in
a general way, pro-peace and anti-war, as I am sure we all are in this
room.' Then those who believed themselves to differ would shout 'Fight
to a finish,' and 'Crush all Germans,' and 'Smash the Hun, _then_ you
may talk of peace,' and 'Here's some soldiers back here, you hear what
_they've_ got to say about it,' and other things to the same purpose;
and once or twice they sang patriotic songs so loud that the meeting
closed in disorder. But at other times they gave Daphne a chance to
explain that she meant by peace, peace in general and in future, not a
premature end to this particular war. That end, she remarked, must now
be left to be decided by others; it was the future they were all
concerned with. When once she got through to this point, the room
usually began to listen again, and heard, with varying degrees of
attention, interest and tolerance, how they could help to make a
permanent peace, and even put up good-humouredly with hearing how they
had helped, for some centuries, to make war, by encouraging
commercialism, capitalism, selfishness, ignorance, and bad habits of
thought.

On the whole, and with exceptions, so far as Cambridgeshire listened to
Daphne at all, it was receptive and not unkind. The villages, of course,
varied, as villages will. In some the squire and the vicar and the other
chief people would not allow the meeting at all, rightly thinking it
pacificist. In others they allowed it and came, and sat in front, and
differed, asking Daphne if she had not heard the recommendation, _Si vis
pacem, para bellum_, and remarking that while we are in a war is not the
time to talk of peace. 'You might as well say,' said Daphne 'that while
we are suffering from a plague is not the time to talk of measures to
prevent its recurrence.'

Villages, as has been said, differ. Some, for instance, are more
intelligent than others. Great Shelford is rather intelligent, and means
well; many of its inhabitants are leisured, and will readily, if
advised, form study circles and read recommended literature. In fact,
they did. Quite a promising little nucleus of the S.P.P.P. was
established there. Sawston, two miles and a half away, is otherwise; so
is Whittlesford. Of Linton, Pampisford, Landbeach, Waterbeach, the
Chesterfords, and Duxford, it were better, in this connection, not to
speak. Frankly, they did not understand or approve the S.P.P.P. They
thought it Pro-German.

'That silly word,' said Daphne helplessly, to Nicholas, after a rather
exhausting evening at Sawston. (Nicholas's own evening had been restful,
for he had spent it at home, reading Russian fairy-stories.) 'What does
it _mean_? Do they mean _anything_ by it? Do they _know_ what they
mean?'

'Oh, they know all right,' returned Nicholas, grinning. 'They mean you
have exaggerated sympathies with the Hun.'

'Have I?' Daphne wondered. 'Well, I suppose one tries to have some
sympathies with every one--even with nations which prepare for and start
wars and brutally destroy small adjacent nations in the process. But as
little, almost as little, with these as it is possible to have.... When
will people understand that what we're out to do is not to sympathise or
to apportion blame, but simply to learn together the science of
reconstruction--no, of construction rather, for we've got to make what's
never yet been. People do so leave things to chance--mental and
spiritual things. When it's a case of reconstructing material things, as
we shall have to do in Belgium and France after the war, no one will be
allowed to help without proper training; people are training for it
already, taking regular courses in the various branches of constructive
science. But we seem to think that the nations can build themselves up
spiritually without any learning or preparing at all, just because it's
not towns and villages and trades and wealth and agriculture that will
need building up, but only intelligence and beauty and sanity and mind
and morals and manners. The building up has got to be done in the same
industrious and practical spirit; you can't leave spiritual things to
grow into the right shape for themselves, any more than material ones.
You've got to have your constructionists, with their constructive
programmes; you can't leave things to luck, sit down and say 'Trust in
Time, the great mender,' or 'Wait and see.' Time isn't a mender of
anything: time, unused, is like an aged idiot plodding along a road
without signposts into nowhere.... We can't each go about our individual
businesses grabbing our share of the world without troubling ourselves
to get a grasp of the whole and help to shove it along the right track.
It's uneducated; it's like the modern Cretan, so different from his
early ancestors, who saw life steadily and saw it whole--at least that's
what one gathers from his remains.' (Daphne had, just before the war,
been in Crete, excavating.)

Nicholas said, 'You over-rate the early Cretan. I've noticed it before.
You over-rate him. He wasn't all you think; and anyhow, he had a smaller
island to think out; any one could have got a grasp of Cretan affairs.
He was probably really as selfish as--as Alix, or me.'

'I can't imagine,' said Daphne, considering him with disapproval, 'why
you don't join the S.P.P.P., Nicky, or some other good educative
society, and help me a little.'

'I? I never join anything. I never agree with anybody. I don't want to
educate any one. Why should I? I leave these things to enthusiasts, with
faith, like you and West. I've no faith in my own ideas being any better
than other people's, so I let them go their ways and I go mine.'

'You won't always do that,' Daphne told him, encouraging him, because
she had faith in the spirit of his fathers, which looked despite himself
out of his eyes. 'When you're my age....'

'I shall then,' said Nicholas, 'doubtless be suffering from what is, I
believe, called by the best people 'the more embittered temper and
narrower faith of age.' You need entertain no further hopes for me
then.'


3

During the Hauxton meeting, which was in the schoolroom on the afternoon
of new year's eve, Alix sat on the low churchyard wall in faint sunshine
and looked over brown fields and heard the larks. Hauxton is quiet, and
smells of straw, and has a little grey church with a Norman door. Its
road runs east and west, and there are geese on the little green. On
this last afternoon of the year it lay quietly asleep in the pale winter
sunshine. Whenever the little east wind moved, wisps and handfuls of
straw drifted lightly down the road. The larks carolled and twittered
exuberantly over bare fields. From time to time a flock of chaffinches
rose suddenly from the ricks and flew, a chattering flutter of wings,
down the wind. Beyond the fields, cold, faintly-hued horizons brooded.
Hauxton looked drowsily to the sunset and the dawn, to the past and
future, to the old year and the new.

'The future is dubious,' Daphne had been saying in the schoolroom,
before Alix came out. Well, of course futures always are, if you come to
that. 'In this dim, dubious future, let us see that we build up one
positive thing, which shall not fail us....' And by that, of course, she
meant Peace.

Peace: yes, peace must be, of course, a positive thing. Here, in
Hauxton, was peace; a bare, austere, quiet peace, smelling of straw. No
one had had to make that peace; it just was. But the world's peace must
be made, built up, stone on stone. No, stones were a poor figure. Peace
must be alive; a vital, intricate, intense, difficult thing. No
negation: not the absence of war. Not the quiet, naturally attained
peace of Samuel Miller and Elizabeth his wife, who slept beneath a grey
headstone close to the churchyard wall, having drifted into peace after
ninety and ninety-five years of living, and having for their engraven
comment, 'They shall come to the grave in the fullness of years, like as
a shock of corn cometh in in his season.' Not that natural peace of the
old and weary at rest; but a young peace, passionate, ardent,
intelligent, romantic, like poetry, like art, like religion. Like
Christmas, with its peace on earth, goodwill towards men. Like all the
passionate, restless idealism that the so quiet-seeming little Norman
church stood for....

Alix believed that it stood for the same things that Daphne stood for.
It too would say, build up a living peace. It too would say, let each
man, woman, and child cast out first from their own souls the forces
that make against peace--stupidity (that first), then commercialism,
rivalries, hatreds, grabbing, pride, ill-bred vaunting. It too was
international, supernational. It too was out for a dream, a wild dream,
of unity. It too bade people go and fight to the death to realise the
dream. Only it said, 'In _my_ name they shall cast out devils and speak
with new tongues,' and the S.P.P.P. said, 'In the name of humanity.'
There was, no doubt, a difference in method. But at the moment Alix had
more concern with the likenesses, with the common aim of the fighters
rather than with their different flags.

The pale sun dipped lower in the pale west, and was drowned in haze. It
was cold. The little wind from the east whispered along the bare hedges.
The year would soon be running down into silence, like an old clock.


4

Daphne and the meeting came out of the school. Alix went to meet her.
Daphne looked satisfied, as if things had gone well. The few women and
many children coming out of the meeting looked good-hearted, and still
full of Christmas cheer.

'Such dears,' said Daphne, as they got into the car. (Lest a damaging
impression of Daphne be given, it may be mentioned that she always drove
her own car herself, and only, in war time, used it for meetings for the
public good and for taking out wounded soldiers.) 'So attentive and
nice. I left pamphlets; and I'm coming again after the Christmas holiday
to speak to the children in school. I told them about German and
Austrian babies.... The mothers loved it.... It's _fun_ doing this.
People are such dears, directly they stop misunderstanding what one is
after. Understanding--clear thinking--it nearly all turns on that;
everything does. Oh for more _brains_ in this poor old muddle of a
world! Educate the children's brains, give them right understanding, and
then let evil do its worst against them, they'll have a sure base to
fight it from.'

Alix thought of and mentioned the Intelligent Bad, who are surely
numerous and prominent in history.

But Daphne said: 'Cleverness isn't right understanding. I mean something
different from that. I mean the trained faculty of looking at life and
everything in it the right way up. It's difficult, of course.'

Alix thought it was probably impossible, in an odd, upside-down world.

The sun set. The face of Cambridgeshire, the face of the new year, the
face of the incoherent world, was dim and inscrutable, a dream lacking
interpretation. So many people can provide, according to their several
lights, both the dream and the interpretation thereof, but with how
little accuracy!


5

The Sandomirs, in their house in Grange Road, saw the new year in. They
drank its health, as they did every year. Daphne, though she suddenly
could think of nothing but Paul, who would not see the new or any other
year, nevertheless drank unflinching to the causes she believed in.

'Here's to the new world we shall make in spite of everything,' she
said. 'Here's to construction, sanity, and clear thinking. Here's to
goodwill and mutual understanding. Here's to the clearing away of the
old messes and the making of the new ones. Here's to Freedom. Here's to
Peace.'

'Heaven help you, mother,' Nicholas murmured drowsily into his glass.
'You don't know what you're saying. All your toasts are incompatible,
and you don't see it. And what in the name of anything do you mean by
Freedom? The old messes I know, and the new ones I can guess at--but
what is Freedom? Something, anyhow, which we've never had yet.'

'Something we shall have,' said Daphne.

'You think so? But how improbable! After war, despotism and the strong
hand. You don't suppose the firm hand is going to let go, having got us
so nicely in its grasp. Rather not. War is the tyrant's opportunity. The
Government's beginning to learn what it can do. After all this Defending
of the Realm, and cancelling of scraps of paper such as Magna Carta and
Habeas Corpus, and ordering the press, and controlling industries and
finance and food and drink, and saying, 'Let there be darkness' (and
there was darkness)--you don't suppose it's going to slip back into
_laissez-faire_, or open the door to mob rule? The realm will go on
being defended long after it's weathered this storm, depend on it. And
quite right too. Lots of people will prefer it; they'll be too tired to
want to take things into their own hands: they'll only want peace and
safety and an ordered life. They'll be too damaged and sick and have
lost too much to be anything but apathetic. Peace, possibly (though
improbably): but Freedom, no. Anyhow, it's what neither we nor any one
else have ever had, so we shouldn't recognise it if we saw it.... There
are too many pips in this stuff,' he grumbled. 'Much too many.'

Daphne finished hers and stood up, as midnight struck, with varying
voices and views as to the time, from various church clocks in Cambridge
city. 'So,' she said, 'that's the end of _that_ year. No doubt it is as
well.... And now I'm going to bed. I've a great deal to do to-morrow.'

She went to bed. She had a great deal to do on all the days of the
coming year. But the first thing she did (in common with many others
this year) was to cry on the stairs, because it was a year which Paul
would never see, Paul having been tipped out by the last year in its
crazy career and left behind by the wayside.


6

Nicholas and Alix lay languidly, in fraternal silence, in their chairs.
They never went to bed or did anything else with Daphne's prompt
decision. At a quarter past twelve Alix said, 'I'm thinking of joining
this funny society of mother's.'

Nicholas opened his small blue eyes at her.

'You are? I didn't know you joined things.'

'Nor did I,' said Alix. 'But I'm beginning to believe I do.... I think I
shall very probably join the Church, too, before long.'

Nicholas opened his eyes much wider, and sat up straight.

'The _Church_? The Church of England, do you mean?'

'I suppose that would be my branch, as I live in England. Just the
Christian Church, I mean.... Do you think mother'll mind much?'

Nicholas cogitated over this.

'Probably,' he concluded. 'She doesn't like it, you know. She thinks it
stands for darkness.'

'That's so funny,' said Alix, 'when really it seems to me to stand for
all the things she stands for--and some more, of course.'

'Exactly,' Nicholas agreed. 'It's the "more" she takes exception to.'

'Oh well,' Alix sighed a little. 'Mother's very large-minded, really.
She'll get used to it.'

Nicholas was looking at her curiously, but not unsympathetically.

'Why these new and sudden energies?' he inquired presently. 'If you
don't mind my asking?'

'It's what I told you once before,' Alix explained, and the memory of
that anguished evening attenuated her clear, indifferent voice, making
it smaller and fainter. 'As I can't be fighting in the war, I've got to
be fighting against it. Otherwise it's like a ghastly nightmare,
swallowing one up. This society of mother's mayn't be doing much, but
it's _trying_ to fight war; it's working against it in the best ways it
can think of. So I shall join it.... Christianity, so far as I can
understand it, is working against war too; must be, obviously. So I
shall join the Church.... That's all.'

'H'm.' Nicholas looked dubious. 'Not quite all, I fancy. There are
things to believe, you know. You'll have to believe them--some of them,
anyhow.'

'I suppose so. I dare say it's not so very difficult, is it?'

'Very, I believe. I've never tried personally, but so I am told by those
who have.'

'Oh well, I don't care. Lots of quite stupid people seem to manage it,
so I don't see why I shouldn't. I shall try, anyhow. I think it's worth
it,' said Alix with determination.

'Well,' said Nicholas, after a pause, 'I dare say you're right. Right to
try things, I mean. I suppose it's more intelligent.'

For a moment the paradox in the faces of both brother and sister was
resolved, and idealism wholly dominated cynicism.

'Well,' said Nicholas again, 'here's luck!'

He finished his punch. It had, as he had said, too many pips, so that he
drank with care and rejections rather than hope.



CHAPTER XVII

NEW YEARS EVE


1

On this (surely) most unusual planet, nothing is more noticeable than
the widely differing methods its inhabitants have of spending the same
day. One person's new year's eve, for instance, will be quite different
from another.

Even within the Orme family, they were different. Margot spent the
evening at a canteen concert. She took a prominent part in the
programme, having a charming, true and well-trained contralto voice. She
sang charming songs with it, some of them a little above the taste of
the majority of soldiers, but pleasing to the more musical, others not.
It was a long and miscellaneous programme, varying from Schubert and
Mendelssohn to 'Stammering Sam' and 'Turn the lining inside out till the
boys come home,' so every one was pleased.


2

Dorothy Orme was assisting at a dance at the hospital. (You must do
something with soldiers on new year's eve; it is particularly urgent
that they should be kept indoors, because of the Scotch.) It was a jolly
dance, and both the soldiers and nurses enjoyed it extremely. When
twelve struck they joined hands and sang 'Auld Lang Syne,' and every one
hopefully wished every one else a Happy new year. (Only two Jocks had
got out and kept their Hogmanay elsewhere and quite elsehow--a
creditably small proportion out of forty men.) Dorothy got home by two,
said it had been a topping evening and she was dead tired, and went to
bed.


3

At Wood End, Mr. and Mrs. Orme entertained Belgians. Nine Belgian
children, and parents and guardians to correspond. They played games,
and danced a little, and fished for presents with a rod and line in a
fish-pond in a corner of the dining-room, where Mr. Orme lay curled up,
secretive and helpful, so that the right things got on to the right
hooks.

It was a great success, and ended at ten. Mrs. Orme's head ached, and
Mr. Orme's back.

They had had a great deal to do; they had had Mademoiselle Verstigel to
help them, but none of their children, who were all busy elsewhere, and
whom, therefore, they did not grudge. They were generous with their
children, as well as with their time, energy and money.


4

Betty Orme, who has hitherto been only remotely referred to in these
pages, spent the evening driving three nurses and a doctor from Fruges
to Lillers. She was a steady, level-headed child, with a fair placid
face looking out from a woollen helmet, and wide blue eyes like Terry's.
She acted chauffeur to a field hospital, drove perfectly, repaired her
car with speed and efficiency, and was extremely useful. Her nerves,
health, and temper were of the best brand; horrors left her unjarred and
merely helpful.

The nurse at her side, a garrulous person, said, 'Why, it's new year's
eve, isn't it? How funny. I've only just remembered that!... I wonder
what they're all doing at home, don't you?'

But Betty was only wondering whether her petrol was going to last out
till Lillers.

'I know I'd a lot rather be out here, wouldn't you?' said the talkative
nurse.

'Rather,' said Betty abstractedly.

Even through their helmets and motorcoats and thick gloves they felt the
wind very cold, and a few flakes of snow began to drift down from a
black sky.

'More snow,' said Betty. 'It really _is_ the limit.... I wonder if it'll
be finer next year.'


5

John Orme was in a trench, not far from Ypres. It was bitterly cold
there; snow drifted and lay on his platoon standing to, their feet in
freezing mud. They were standing to at that hour of the night (11.30
P.M.) because they had been warned of a possible enemy attack. They had
been badly bombarded earlier in the evening, but that was over. There
had been four men hit. The stretcher-bearers hadn't come for them yet;
they lay, roughly first-aided, in the mud. John, vigilantly strolling up
and down, seeing that no one slept (John was a very careful and
efficient young officer), passed a moaning boy with his arm blown off
and his tunic a red mess, and said gently, 'Hang on a bit longer,
Everitt. They won't be long now.' Everitt merely returned, beneath his
breath, 'My God, sir! Oh, my _God_!' He could not hang on at all, by any
means whatever. And there were no morphia tablets left in the
platoon.... John turned away.

Some one said, 'New year'll be in directly, Ginger. How's this for a
bright and glad new year?'

John remembered, for the first time, that it was December the 31st. It
didn't mean anything more to him than the 30th. After all, it must be
some day, even in this timeless and condemned trench.

He didn't believe in this attack, anyhow. It had been a ration party
rumour, and ration parties are full of unfulfilled forecastings. But he
wished he had a morphia tablet for that poor chap....


6

Terry Orme was in his dug-out, which was called Funk Snuggery. It was a
very noisy night. The enemy seemed to be having a special new year's eve
hate. Whizz-bangs, sugar-loaves, beans, all sorts and conditions and
shapes of explosive missiles filled the earth and heavens with unlovely
clamour. It was disturbing to Terry, who was reading Moussorgsky. (Terry
belonged to that small but characteristic class of persons who read
themselves to sleep with music. John preferred Mr. Jorrocks.) Terry dug
his fingers into his ears, and perused his score.

There was another man in Funk Snuggery. The other man looked at his
watch, waited three minutes, and said 'Happy new year.' Terry, stopping
his ears, did not respond, till he shouted it louder.

Terry looked up. 'What's that?' he inquired. 'Oh, is it? Fancy! Thanks;
the same to you.... But I _shan't_ be happy this year unless they let me
hear myself think. Beastly, isn't it?... They say after a time it spoils
one's ear. Wouldn't that be rotten. Have a stick?'

The stick was of chocolate, and they each sucked one in drowsy silence.
It was next year, and still they would not let Terry hear himself think.
He put away Moussorgsky with a sigh, and curled up to go to sleep.


7

Hugh Montgomery Gordon was in billets, in a village in Artois. He and a
friend went out for a stroll in the evening; they visited an
_estaminet_, where they found poor wine but a charming girl. They told
her it was new year's eve; she told them it was _la veille du jour de
l'an_. They taught her to say 'Happy new year' and other things. She and
they all spent a very enjoyable evening.

'Absolutely it, isn't she?' said Hugh Montgomery Gordon languidly to his
friend as they walked back to their billets. 'Don't know when I've seen
anything jollier.' He yawned and went indoors, and spent the rest of the
year playing auction.


8

Basil Doye, in camp on the Greek mountains, sat and smoked in a tent
assaulted and battered by a searching north-east wind from Bulgaria. He
and his platoon had been occupied all day in digging trenches, and
spreading wire entanglements which caught and trapped unwary Greek
travellers on their own hills. Basil Doye was tired and bored and cold,
in body and mind. A second lieutenant who shared the tent was telling
him a funny story of a bomb the enemy had dropped on Divisional H.Q.
last night, and of the General and staff, pyjama-clad, rushing about
seeking shelter and finding none.... But Basil was still bored and cold.

'O Lord!' said the other subaltern presently, 'the year'll soon be done
in. It's going out without having given us a scrap with the Bulgars; how
sickening!... Why in anything's name couldn't they have sent us out here
_earlier_, if at all?'

'Our government,' said Basil, abstracted and unoriginal, 'is slow and
sure. Slow to move and sure to be too late. That's why. So here we are,
sitting on a cold hill in a draught, with nothing doing, nor likely to
be.'

To himself he was saying, 'She'd fit on these hills; she'd belong here,
more than to Spring Hill. She's a Greek really ... that space between
the eyes, and the way she steps ... like Diana.... Oh, strafe it all,
what's the good of thinking?' Savagely he flung away his cigarette.

A great gust of wind from Bulgaria flung itself upon the tent and blew
it down. Then the sleet came, and the new year.


9

West was in church. The lights were dim, because of Zeppelins. The vicar
was preaching, on the past and the future, from the texts 'They shall
wax old, as doth a garment; as a vesture shalt thou lay them aside, and
they shall be changed,' and 'Behold, I make all things new.'

The year was going to be changed and made new in nineteen minutes and a
half. West (and the vicar too, perhaps), though tired and despondent
(the week after Christmas is a desperate time for clergymen, because of
treats), were holding on to hope with both hands. A desperate time: a
desperate end to a desperate year. But clergymen may not, by their
rules, become desperate men. They have to hope: they have to believe
that as a vesture they shall be changed, and that the new will be better
than the old. If they did not succeed in believing this, they would be
of all men the most miserable.

West sat in his stall, looking, so the choirboys opposite thought, at
them, to see if any among them whispered, or any slept. But he did not
see them. He was looking through and beyond them, at the vesture, ragged
and soaked with blood, which so indubitably wanted changing. Once his
lips moved, and the words they formed were: 'How long, O Lord, how
long?' Which might, of course, refer to a number of things: the war, or
the vicar's sermon, or the present year, or, indeed, almost anything.

The sermon ended, and there was silent prayer till twelve o'clock
struck. Then, as is the habit on these occasions, they sang hymn 265 (A.
and M.).


10

Violette had a new year's eve party. A quiet party; only the Vinneys to
chat and play quiet card games and see the new year in.

At half-past eleven they had done with cards, and were conversing. Kate
had gone to church at eleven. Vincent and Sidney Vinney were now in
khaki; they had, in view of the coming compulsion scheme, joined the
army (territorials) and got commissions. Vincent, being married, had
applied for home service only. Sidney, as he had just pointed out to
Evie, might get sent anywhere at any moment. But Evie, receiving letters
from Hugh Montgomery Gordon at the battle front, and, indeed, from many
others, was not to be touched by Sid Vinney.

Evie was talking to young Mrs. Vinney about the fashions.

'Those new taffeta skirts at Robinson's are ten yards wide, I should
think. You wouldn't believe it, the amount there is to them. And quite a
yard off the ground. We shall have to think so much about our _feet_
this next year. Feet--well, more than that, too!'

Mrs. Vinney said, 'Well, do you know, I don't think it's _right_, at a
time like this. Not _ten_ yards. I say nothing against six; because we
women must try and carry on, and look smart and so on. It would never do
for the men to come home and find us skimpy and dowdy and peculiar, like
some of those suffragettes.... What I say is, it'll be lucky for the
girls with neat ankles this year....'

They said a little more like this, till it was time to mix the punch.
Then they drank it, and said 'Here's how,' and 'A very happy new year to
all and many _of_ them,' and 'Here's to our next festive gathering,' and
'Here's to the ladies,' and 'Luck to our soldiers,' and other things
respectively suitable. Then the Vinneys went home to bed, because Mrs.
Vinney did not approve of making nights of it at times like these.

Soon after twelve Kate came back from church.

Kate said, 'It's turned so cold outside, I shouldn't wonder if we get
snow.... Those Primmerose people are spending a terribly loud evening; I
heard it all across the common. You'd think people would want to be
somewhat quieter on new year's eve, and this year in particular' (with
all these sorrows and Zeppelins about, she meant). 'A quiet evening with
a few friends is one thing; but it doesn't seem quite fitting to have
all that shouting and banjos. And I could smell the drink as I passed,
for they had a window open, and it was wafted right out at me.'

'Well now,' said Mrs. Frampton, 'just fancy that!'


11

The year of grace 1915 slipped away into darkness, like a broken ship
drifting on bitter tides on to a waste shore. The next year began.


THE END





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