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Title: A Crooked Mile
Author: Onions, Oliver [pseud.], 1873-1961
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "A Crooked Mile" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



  A CROOKED MILE


  BY THE SAME AUTHOR
    THE EXCEPTION
    GOOD BOY SELDOM
    THE TWO KISSES



  A CROOKED MILE

  BY

  OLIVER ONIONS
  AUTHOR OF "THE TWO KISSES"


  METHUEN & CO. LTD.
  36 ESSEX STREET W.C.
  LONDON

  _First Published in 1914_



CONTENTS


                           PART I

  CHAP.                                                           PAGE

    I  THE WITAN                                                     1

   II  THE POND-ROOM                                                17

  III  THE "NOVUM"                                                  33

   IV  THE STONE WALL                                               51

    V  THREE SHIPS                                                  76

   VI  POLICY                                                       98


                           PART II

    I  THE PIGEON PAIR                                             119

   II  THE 'VERT                                                   132

  III  THE IMPERIALISTS                                            148

   IV  THE OUTSIDERS                                               171

    V  "HOUSE FULL"                                                189

   VI  THE SOUL STORM                                              210


                           PART III

    I  LITMUS                                                      239

   II  BY THE WAY                                                  254

  III  _DE TROP_                                                   274

   IV  GREY YOUTH                                                  285

       TAILPIECE                                                   307



A CROOKED MILE



I

THE WITAN


Lady Tasker had missed her way in the Tube. She had been on, or rather
under known ground on the Piccadilly Railway as far as Leicester Square,
but after that she had not heard, or else had forgotten, that in order
to get to Hampstead by the train into which she had stepped she must
change at Camden Town. Or perhaps she had merely wondered what Camden
Town supposed itself to be that she should put herself to the trouble of
changing there. With the newspaper held at arm's length, and a little
figure-8-shaped gold glass moving slightly between her puckered old eyes
and the page, she was reading the "_By the Way_" column of the
"Globe."--"All change," called the man at Highgate; and, still
unconscious of her mistake, Lady Tasker left the train. She was the last
to enter the lift. But for an unhurried raising of the little
locket-shaped glass as the attendant fidgeted at the half-closed gate
she might have been the first to enter the next lift.

Only from the policeman outside Highgate Station did she learn that she
must either take the Tube back again to Camden Town or else walk across
the Heath.

Now Lady Tasker was seventy, and, with the exception of the Zoo, a place
she visited from time to time with troops of turbulent great-nephews,
the whole of North London was a sort of Camden Town to her, that is to
say, she had no objection to its existence so long as it wasn't
troublesome. It was half-past three when she said as much to the
Highgate policeman, who up to that time had been an ordinary easy-going
Conservative; by five-and-twenty minutes to four she had made of him a
fuming Radical. He was saying something about South Square and Merton
Lane. Lady Tasker addressed the bracing Highgate air in one of those
expressionless and semi-ventriloquial asides that, especially in a mixed
company, always made her ladyship very well worth sitting next to.

"Merton Lane! Does the man suppose that conveys anything to me?.... I
want to know how to get to Hampstead, not the names of the objects of
interest on the way!"

The newly-made Radical told her that there might be a taxi on the rank,
and turned away to cuff the ears of an urchin who was tampering with an
automatic machine. It was a wonder that Lady Tasker's glare, focussed
through the gold-rimmed glass on a point between his shoulder-blades,
did not burn a hole in his tunic.

Taxis at eightpence a mile, indeed, with the house at Ludlow already
full of those children of Churchill's, and three of Tony's little girls
eating their way through the larder in Cromwell Gardens, and young
Tommy, Emily's boy, who had just "pulled" his captaincy, arriving at
Southampton in the "Seringapatam" on Saturday with another batch for her
to take under her wing! Did people suppose she was made of money?...

The policeman's tunic was just beginning to scorch when Lady Tasker,
dropping the glass, turned away and set out for Hampstead on foot.

She might very well have been excused had she omitted to return Mrs.
Cosimo Pratt's call. Indeed she had vowed that very morning that nothing
should drag her up to Hampstead that day. But for twenty times that Lady
Tasker said "I will not," nineteen she repented and went, taking out the
small change of her magnanimity when she got there. And after all, she
would be killing two birds with one stone, for her niece Dorothy also
lived somewhere in this northern Great Karroo, and unless she got these
things over before the "Seringapatam" dropped anchor on Saturday there
was no knowing when next she would have an hour to call her own. As she
turned (after a brush with a second policeman, who summed her up quite
wrongly on the strength of her antiquated pelisse and trailing old
Victorian hat) down Merton Lane to the ponds, she told herself again
that she was a foolish old woman to have come at all.

For the Cosimo Pratts were not bosom friends of hers. True, they had
been, until six months ago, her neighbours at Ludlow, and for that
matter she had known young Cosimo's people for the greater part of her
life: but she had not forgotten the hearty blackguarding the young
couple had got, any time this last two years, from the rest of the
country-side. Small wonder. What else did they expect, after the way in
which they had made farm-labour too big for its jacket and beaters
hardly to be had for love or money? Not that Lady Tasker herself had
seen very much of their antics. Great-nieces and nephews had kept her
too busy for that, and she was moreover wise enough not to believe all
she heard. And even were it true, that, she now told herself, had been
in the country. They would have to behave differently now that they had
let the Shropshire house and had come to live in town. They could hardly
dance barefoot round a maypole in Hampstead, or stage-manage the yearly
Hiring-Fair for the sake of the "Daily Speculum" photographer (as they
had done in Ludlow), or group themselves picturesquely about the feet of
the oldest inhabitant while that shocking old reprobate with the
splendid head recited (at five shillings an hour) the stories of old,
unhappy, far-off things he had learned by heart from the booklets they
had printed at the Village Press. No: in London they would almost
certainly have to do as other people did, and Shropshire, after its
three years of social and artistic awakening, would no doubt forget all
about the æsthetic revival and would sink back into a well-earned rest.

It was a Thursday afternoon in September, warm for the time of the year,
and a half-day closing for the shops. Had Lady Tasker remembered the
half-holiday she certainly would not have come. She hated crowds, and,
if you would believe her, had no illusions whatever about the sanctity
of our common nature and the brotherhood of man. She would tell you
roundly that there was far too much aimless good-nature in the world,
and that every sob wasted over a sinner was something taken away from
the man who, if he was a sinner too, had at least the decency to keep up
appearances. And so much for brotherhood. Great-nephewship, of course,
was another matter. Somebody had to look after all those youngsters, and
if her sister Eliza, the one at Spurrs, went into a tantrum about every
bud that was picked in the gardens and every chair-leg that was an inch
out of its place in the house, so much the worse for Lady Tasker, who
must walk because she had something else to do with her money than to
waste it on taxis.

She had been told by her niece Dorothy to look out for a clump of tall
willows and an ivied chimney; that was where the Pratts lived; but
Dorothy had spoken of the approach from the Hampstead side, not from
Highgate way. Lady Tasker got lost. She was almost dropping for want of
a cup of tea, and the Heath seemed all willows, and all the wrong ones.
No policeman, Radical or Conservative, was to be seen. Walking across an
apparently empty space, well away (as she thought) from a horde of
shouting boys, the old lady suddenly found herself enveloped in a game
of football. This completed her exhaustion. Near by, one of Messrs.
Libertys' carts was ascending a steep road at a slow walk; somehow or
other Lady Tasker managed to get her hand on the tail of it; and the car
gave her a tow. She was seventy after all.

As it happened, that was her first piece of luck in a luckless
afternoon. The cart drew on to the left; Lady Tasker trailed after it;
and suddenly it stopped before a high privet hedge with a closed green
door in the middle of it. Lady Tasker did not look for the ivied
chimney. On the door was painted in white letters "The Witan." She was
where she wanted to be.

Ordinarily Lady Tasker would have approved of the height of the privet
hedge, which was seven or eight feet; that was a nice, reassuring,
anti-social height for a hedge; but as it was she could not even put up
her hand to the bell. The carter rang it for the pair of them. Over the
hedge came the low murmur of voices and the clink of cups and saucers,
and then the door was opened. It was opened by the mistress of the
house. No doubt Mrs. Pratt had expected the cart, had heard its drawing
up, and had not waited for a maid to come. Her eyes sought the carman,
who had stepped aside. She spoke with some asperity.

"It's Libertys', isn't it?" she said. "Well, I've a very good mind to
make you take it back. It was promised for yesterday."

"Can't say, I'm sure, m'm."

"It's always the same. Every time I----"

Then she saw her visitor, and gave a little start.

"Why, it's Lady Tasker! How delightful! Do come in! And do just excuse
me--I shan't be a minute.... Why didn't this come yesterday? It was
promised faithfully----"

She stepped outside to scold the carman, leaving Lady Tasker standing
just within the green door.

The altercation was plainly audible:

"Very sorry, m'm. You see----"

"I will see, if it occurs again----"

"The orders is taken as they come, m'm----"

"They said the first delivery----"

"We wasn't loaded till one o'clock----"

"That's none of my business----"

"Very sorry, m'm----"

"Well, the next time it occurs----"

And so forth.

Now in reading what happened the next moment you must remember that Lady
Tasker was very, very tired. Had she been less tired she might have
wondered why one of the two maids she saw crossing to the tea-table
under the copper beech had not been allowed to take in Mrs. Cosimo
Pratt's parcel. And she would certainly have thought it extraordinary
that she should be left standing alone while Mrs. Cosimo Pratt scolded
the carrier, and wanted to know why the parcel had not been brought
yesterday. But, tired as she was, her eyes had already rested on
something that had momentarily galvanized even the weariness out of her.
It was this:--

Seven or eight people sat in basket-chairs or stood talking; and, under
the copper beech, as if Mrs. Pratt had just slid out of it, a hammock
of coloured string still moved, slung from the beech to a sycamore
beyond. Lady Tasker saw these things at once; she did not at once see
what it was that stood just beyond the hammock.

Then it moved, and Lady Tasker raised her glass.

No doubt you have seen the cover of Mr. Wells's "Invisible Man." It will
be remembered that all that can be seen of that afflicted person is his
clothes; and all that Lady Tasker at first saw of the Invisible Man by
the copper beech was his clothes. These were of light yellow tussore,
with a white double collar and a small red tie, sharp-edged white cuffs
and highly polished brown boots. At collar and cuffs the man ended.

And yet he did not end, for the lenses of a pair of spectacles made
lurking lights in the shadow of the beech, a few inches above the white
collar.

The phantom wore no hat.

Then Lady Tasker, suddenly pale, dropped her glass. Between the collar
and the spectacles a white gash of teeth had appeared. The Invisible Man
had smiled, and at the same moment there had shown round the bole of the
beech a second smoky shape, this one without teeth, but with white and
mobile eyes instead.

Lady Tasker was in the presence of two Hindoos.

       *       *       *       *       *

Now all her life, and long before her life for that matter, Lady Tasker
had been accustomed ... but no: that is not the way to put it. The
following table will save many words:--


PORTION OF TREE OF THE LENNARDS AND TASKERS
(COMMENTS BY LADY TASKER)

Tasker, Sir Richard, 3rd Bart.;            Lennard, "Old John," "Spurrs,"
     "The Brear," Ludlow                           Montgomery

("Good old family? I don't know      ("Can't say I like the striking family
 about the 'good,' but they're        resemblances you meet up and down the
 certainly old.")                     valley; when you ask at a cottage-door
           |                          for a glass of milk and see that nose----")
           |                                            |
           |                                            |
 +---------+-----------+             +------+-----+-----+-----+--------+--------+
 |         |           |             |      |     |           |        |        |
Lucy     Arthur       Noel,   ==   GRACE  Susan  Dick;      Emily;   Trixie;  Eliza;
 |         |          4th Bart.;   (Lady    |    m. Ada     m. Tony    |    _unmarried_
 |   ("Don't ask me   d. 1900      Tasker)  |    Polperro:  Woodgate,  |     ("Black
 |   how he got into      _No issue_        |    Woods and  P.F.F.     |      pugs.")
 |  the India Office!")                     |    Forests,     |        |
 |                  |                       |    1873;        |   m. Sid Dealtry
("The Brear was     |                       |    d. 1886      |  ("The groom, my
always open to      |                       |       |         |  dear, and far too
her, but of course  |                       |       |         |   good for her.")
if she _preferred_  |                       |       |         |                |
to stay away----")  |                       |       |    Hard-up young         |
                    +====+==================+       |    captains and     ("Those children
                         |                          |     subalterns       of Trixie's:
                      Stanhope =====+============ Dorothy     |            colonies, assisted
                                    |                         |            passages: I rather
                                 1. Noel                   Crowds of       like the chauffeur
                              ("They called him           Anglo-Indian     one: hope he
                               that to please me:         babies, Lady     marries well.")
                               innocents!")             Tasker's charges        |
                                 2. Jack                                        |
                                 3. (See page 133)                        ("Can't keep
                                                                           count. I
                                                                           remember all the
                                                                           birthdays, I can,
                                                                           but----")

You see how it was, and had to be. Not only was Lady Tasker insular,
arrogant, and of opinion that Saint Paul made the mistake of his life
when he set out to preach the Gospel to all nations, but she made a
virtue of her narrowness and defect. Show her a finger-nail with a
purple half-moon, and you no longer saw a charming if acid-tongued old
English lady, who cut timber in order to pay for governesses for those
grandchildren of Emily's and sent, under guise of birthday gifts, useful
little cheques to the descendants of her brother-in-law the groom. Babu
or Brahmin, all were the same to her. No defence is offered of an
attitude so indefensible. Such people do still exist. Let us sigh for
their narrowness of mind, and pass on.

The smile of the first Hindoo was for Mrs. Pratt, who had got her row
with the carman over and had reappeared behind Lady Tasker and closed
the door of The Witan again. Her face, pretty and finished as a
miniature, and the great chestnut-red helm of her hair, showed over the
slant of the box in her arms. "Do excuse me, just _one_ moment!" she
said, smiling at Lady Tasker as she passed; and she ran off into the
house, her mistletoe-berry white robe with its stencilling of grey-green
whipping about her heels as she did so. And fortunately, as she ran in
at the door, Cosimo Pratt came out of the French window, saw Lady
Tasker, and strode to her. He broke into rapid and hearty speech.

"You here! How delightful!--Amory!--I didn't hear you come! So kind of
you!--Amory, where are you?--How are you? Do let me get you some
tea!--Amory!----"

Lady Tasker spoke faintly.--"I should like," she said, "to go into the
house."

"Rather! Hang on to my arm.--Amory! Where is that girl?--Sure you won't
have tea outside? I can find you a nice shady place under the beech----"

Lady Tasker closed her eyes.--"Please take me in."

"Tube headache? I hate the beastly thing. I thought you were in Ludlow.
Charming of you----"

And he led Lady Tasker into the house.

This was a low building of stucco, with slatted window-shuts which, like
the sashes of the slightly bowed French window and of the two windows
beyond, were newly painted green. This painting seemed rather to
emphasize than to mitigate a certain dogseared look the place had, not
amounting to dilapidation, but enough to make it probable that Cosimo
Pratt had taken it on a repairing lease. The copper beech, the high
privet hedge and the willows beyond it, shut out both light and air. The
fan-lighted door had two electric bell buttons, with little brass
plates. The upper plate read, "Mr. Cosimo Pratt"; the lower one "Miss
Amory Towers (Studio)."

But Lady Tasker noticed none of these things. In the hall she sank into
the first chair she came to. "Tea, please," she said faintly; and Cosimo
dashed out to get it. He returned, and began to murmur something
sympathetic, but Lady Tasker made a little movement with her hand. She
didn't want him to "send Amory." She only wanted to rest her tired legs
and to collect her dispersed thoughts.

An eight-foot hedge, not to shut the populace out, but to shut Indians
in! And she, Lady Tasker, had been kept standing while some parcel or
other had been taken into the house--standing, and watching a
still-moving hammock with a smiling Invisible Man bending over it! Was
this England, or a Durbar?... And even yet her hostess didn't come to
ask her if she felt better!... Not that Lady Tasker was greatly
surprised at that. She knew that Mrs. Pratt was quite capable of
reasoning that the greatest respect is shown to a tired old lady when no
fuss is made about her tiredness. The Pratts were like that--full of
delicacies so subtle that plain folk never noticed them, but jumped
instead to the conclusion that they were bad-mannered. And it would not
in the least surprise Lady Tasker if, presently, Mrs. Pratt allowed her
to leave without a word about her indisposition. Of course: Lady Tasker
had a little forgotten the Pratts at Ludlow. That would be it:
"Good-bye--and do come again!" She could see Mrs. Pratt's pretty
brook-brown eyes did anybody (say a Japanese or an Ethiopian) point out
this so-called omission to her. She could see the surprise in them. She
could hear her earnest voice: "_Say_ these things!... Why, does she
suppose I was _glad_ then?"...

Yes, Lady Tasker had a little forgotten her Pratts.

It was an odd little hall in which she sat. It appeared to be an
approach to the studio of which the electric bell gave notice, for it
was continued by a narrower passage that led to a garden at the back;
and either the studio "properties" were gradually thrusting the hatstand
and hall table out of the fan-lighted front door, or else these latter
ordinary and necessary objects were fighting as it were for admission.
Thus, the chair on which Lady Tasker sat was of oak, but it had a
Faust-like look; beyond it stood a glass-fronted cupboard of
bric-à-brac, with a trophy of Abyssinian armour hanging over it; and the
whole of the wall facing Lady Tasker was hung with a tapestry which, if
it had been the only one of its kind in existence, would no doubt have
been very valuable. And two other objects not commonly to be seen in
ordinary halls were there. One of these stood on the narrow gilt console
table next to Lady Tasker's cup of tea. It was a plaster cast, taken
from the life, of a female foot. The other hung on the wall above it.
This also was a plaster cast, of the whole of a female arm and shoulder,
ending with a portion of the side of the neck and the entire breast--of
its kind an exquisite specimen. Many artists make or buy such things,
but Brucciani has nothing half so beautiful.

It was as Lady Tasker finished her tea that her gaze fell on the two
casts. Half negligently she raised her glass and inspected, first the
foot, and then the other piece. It is probable that her first remark,
uttered in a casual undertone to the air about her, was prompted by mere
association of ideas; it was "Hm! I wonder if Mrs. Pratt nursed those
twins herself!" Any other reflection that might have followed it was cut
short by a sudden darkening of the doorway by which she had entered.
Mrs. Pratt stood there. Lady Tasker had been wrong. She _had_ come to
ask if she felt better. She did ask her, gathering up long swathes of
some newly unpacked white material she carried over her arm as she did
so.

"Sorry you were done up," she remarked. "Won't you have some more tea?"

Already Lady Tasker was rising.--"No more, thank you.--I was just
looking at these. What are they?" She indicated the casts.

The gesture that Mrs. Pratt gave she could probably no more have helped
giving than an eye can help winking when it is threatened with a blow.
Within one mistletoe-white sleeve an arm moved ever so slightly; very
likely a foot also moved within a curiously-toed Saxon-looking white
slipper; and she gave a confused and conscious and apologetic little
laugh.

"Oh, those silly things!" she said deprecatingly. "I really must move
them. But the studio is so full.... Do you know, it's a most horrid
feeling having them done--first the cold plaster poured on, and then,
when they take it off again--the mould--you know----"

Lady Tasker plainly did not understand. Perhaps she did not yet even
apprehend.--"But--but--," she said, "they're from a statue, aren't
they?"

Again Mrs. Pratt gave the pleased bashful little laugh. It was almost as
if she said it was very good of Lady Tasker to say so.

"No, they're from life," she said. "As a matter of fact they're me, but
I really must move them; they aren't so remarkable as all that.... Oh,
you're not going, are you?----"

For Lady Tasker had given a jump, and a movement as sudden and sprightly
as if she had only that moment got freshly out of her bed. Nervously she
put out her hand, while her hostess looked politely disappointed.

"Oh, and I was hoping you'd come and join us in the garden! We've Brimby
there, the novelist, you know--and Wilkinson, the young Member--and Mr.
Strong, of the 'Novum'--and I should so much like to introduce Mr.
Suwarree Prang to you----"

"Oh, thank you so much--," sprang as effusively from Lady Tasker's lips
as if she had been a schoolgirl allowed for the first time to come down
to dinner, "--it's so good of you, but really I half hoped you'd be out
when I called--I only meant to leave cards--I'm going on to see my
niece, and really haven't a moment----"

"Oh, I'm sure Dorothy'd excuse you for once!----," Mrs. Pratt pressed
her.

"Oh, she wouldn't--I'm quite sure she wouldn't--she'd never forgive me
if she knew I'd been so near and hadn't called," said Lady Tasker
feverishly.... "How do I get to Dorothy's from here?"

"Oh, Mr. Wilkinson will take you, or Mr. Prang; but are you sure you
won't stay?"

Lady Tasker was so far from staying that she was already out of the hall
and walking quickly towards the green door in the eight-foot hedge.
"Thank you, thank you so much," she was murmuring hurriedly. "I don't
see your husband anywhere about--never mind--so good of
you--good-bye----"

"Come again soon, won't you?"

"Yes, yes--oh, yes!... No, no, please don't!" (Mrs. Pratt had made a
half-turn towards the hammock and the copper beech). "Straight across
the Heath you said, didn't you? I shall find it quite easily! Don't come
any further--good-bye----"

And, touching Mrs. Cosimo Pratt's extended fingers as timorously as she
might have touched those of the cast itself, she fairly broke into a
run. The door of The Witan closed behind her.



II

THE POND-ROOM


The truth was not very far to seek: Lady Tasker was too old for these
things. Nobody could have expressed this more effectively than Mrs.
Cosimo Pratt herself, had it entered the mind of Mrs. Pratt to conceive
that any human soul could be so benighted as the soul of Lady Tasker
was. "Those casts!" Mrs. Pratt might have cried in amazement--or rather
Miss Amory Towers might have cried, for there is nothing in the Wedding
Service about making over to your husband, along with your love and
obedience, the valuable goodwill of a professional name. "Those poor
casts!... Of course they may not be _very_ beautiful--," here the
original of the casts might have modestly dropped her eyes, "--but such
as they are--goodness me! How _can_ people be so prurient, Cosimo? Don't
they see that what they really prove has nothing at all to do with the
casts, but--ahem!--a good deal to do with their own imaginations? I
don't want to use the word 'morbid,' but really!... Well, thank goodness
Corin and Bonniebell won't grow up like that! Afraid of the beautiful,
innocent human form!... Now that's what I've always claimed,
Cosimo--that that's the type of mind that's made all the mischief we've
got to set right to-day."

But for all that Lady Tasker was too old. Invisible Men in the garden
(or, if not actually invisible, at any rate as hard to be seen against
the leaves of the copper beech as a new penny would have been)--and in
the hall those extraordinary replicas! In the hall--the very forefront
of the house! It was to be presumed that Mrs. Pratt's foreign friends,
who were permitted to lean over her hammock, would not be denied The
Witan itself, and, for all Lady Tasker knew, the rest of Mrs. Pratt
might be reduplicated in plaster in the dining-room, the drawing-room,
and elsewhere....

Had she not said it herself, Lady Tasker would never have believed
it....

What a--what a--what an extraordinary thing!----

Lady Tasker had fled from The Witan still under the influence of that
access of effusive schoolgirlishness in which she had told Mrs. Pratt
that she really must go; nor did she grow up again all at once. But
little by little, as she walked, she began to resume the burden of her
years. She became eighteen, twenty-five, thirty again. By the time she
reached the lower pond Arthur had just got that billet in the India
Office, and her brother Dick, of the Department of Woods and Forests,
had married Ada Polperro, daughter of old Polperro of Delhi fame, and
her sister Emily had got engaged to Tony Woodgate, of the Piffers. (But
those casts!)... Then as she took the path between the ponds she
remembered the children at Ludlow, the three little girls at Cromwell
Gardens, and the arrival on Saturday of the "Seringapatam." (But those
natives!)... The thought of the children settled it. Her curious lapse
into juvenescence was over. By the time she rang Dorothy's bell she was
the same Lady Tasker who changed the political opinions of policemen and
deprecated the wanderings of Saint Paul.

Dorothy's flat was as different as it could well be from that other
house which (Lady Tasker had already decided) had something odd and
furtive about it--stagnant yet busy, segregated yet too wide open. The
flat had one really brilliant room. This room did not merely overlook
the pond in front of it; it seemed actually to have asked the pond to
come inside. A large triple window occupied the whole of one end of it;
this window faced west; and not only did the September sun shine
brightly in, but the inverted sun in the water shone in also, doubling
(yet also halving) all shadows, illumining the ceiling, and setting the
cream walls a-ripple with the dancing of the wavelets outside. Sprightly
chintzes looked as if they also might begin to dance at any moment; the
china in Dorothy's cupboards surprised the eye that had not expected
this altered light; and presently, to complete the complexity, the
shadow of the sycamore in the little garden below would move round, so
that you would hardly be able to tell whether the ceaseless creeping on
the cream walls was glitter of ripples, pattern of leaves, or both.

Dorothy sat in her accordion-pleats by the window, surrounded by
letters. And pray do not think it mere coincidence in this story that
her letters were Indian letters. Some interests that the home-amateur
takes up as he might take up poker-work or the diversion of jig-saw hold
a large part of the hearts and lives of others, and so Dorothy, as she
did more or less every week, had been reading her cousin Churchill's
letter, and that of her little niece and namesake Dot, up in Murree, and
Eva Woodgate's, who had sent her a parcel from Kohat, and others. She
rose slowly as her aunt was announced, and put her finger on the bell as
she passed.

"How are you, auntie?" she said, kissing Lady Tasker on both cheeks.
"Give me your things. Somehow I thought you might come to-day, but I'd
almost given you up. Do look what Eva's sent me! Really, with her own to
look after, I don't know how she finds the time! Aren't they sweet!----"

And she held them up.

Now Lady Tasker knew perfectly well the meaning of her niece's
accordion-pleating; but she was seventy and worldly-wise again now.
Therefore as she looked at the things she remarked off-handedly, "But
they're far too small."

"Too small!" Dorothy exclaimed. "Of course they aren't. Why, Noel was
only nine, and that's pretty big, and Jackie only just over
eight-and-a-half, though he put on weight while you watched him. They're
just right."

Lady Tasker reached for a chair. "But they _are_ for Jackie, aren't
they?"

Dorothy's blue eyes were as big as the plates in her
cupboards.--"Jackie! Good gracious, auntie!----"

"Eh?" said Lady Tasker, sitting down. "Not Jackie? Dear me. How stupid
of me. Of course, I did hear, but I've so many other things to think of,
and nobody'd suppose, to look at you----"

Dorothy ran to her aunt and gave her a kiss and a hug, a loud kiss and a
hug like two.

"You dear old thing!--Really, I'd begun to _hate_ all the horrid kind
people who asked me how I felt to-day and whether I shouldn't be glad
when it was over! What business is it of theirs? I nearly made Stan sack
Ruth last week, she looked so, and I positively refuse to have a young
girl anywhere near me!... But wasn't it sweet of Eva? I'll give you some
tea and then read you her letter. Indian or China?"

"China," Lady Tasker remarked.

"China, Ruth, and I'll have some more too. I don't know whether His
Impudence is coming in or not; he's gadding off somewhere, I expect....
But you weren't only _pretending_ just now, were you, auntie?----"

She put the plug of the spirit-kettle into the wall.

"Well, how are the Bits?" Lady Tasker asked....

(Perhaps "His Impudence" and "The Bits" require explanation. Both
expressions Dorothy had from her "maid," Ruth Mossop. "Maid" is thus
written because Ruth was a young widow, who, after a series of
disciplinary knockings-about by the late Mr. Mossop, was not
over-troubled with maternal anxiety for the four children he had left
her with. When asked by Dorothy whether she would prefer to be called
Mrs. Mossop or Ruth, Mrs. Mossop had chosen the latter name, giving as
her reason that it had been like Mr. Mossop's impudence to ask her to
accept the other name at all; and very many other memories also, brooded
on and gloomily loved, including the four children, had been bits of Mr.
Mossop's impudence. Stan had adopted the phrase, finding in it chuckles
of his own; and so His Impudence he had become, and Noel and Jackie the
fruits thereof.)

Dorothy put her fair head on one side, as if she considered the absent
Bits critically and dispassionately, and really thought that on the
whole she might venture to approve of them.

"Ra-ther little dears; but oh, Heaven, how _are_ we going to manage with
a third!"

Her aunt dissociated herself from the problem with a shrug.--"Well--if
Stan will persist in thinking that his dressing-room is merely a room
for him to dress in----"

"So I tell him," Dorothy murmured, with great meekness. "But--but flats
aren't made for children. We did manage to seize the estate agent's
little office for a nursery when all the flats were let, but when Stan
brings a man home we have to sleep him in the dressing-room as it
is--," (Lady Tasker shook her head, but the words "Wrong man" were
hardly audible), "--and a house will mean stair-carpets, and hall
furniture, and I don't know what else. Besides, Stan hasn't time to look
for one----"

"No?" said Lady Tasker drily.

"He really hasn't, poor boy," Dorothy protested. "And he's after
something really good this time--Fortune and Brooks, the
what-d'-you-call-'ems, in Pall Mall----"

"What about them?"

"Well, Stan's been told that they pay awfully good commissions, for
introductions, new accounts, you know; Stan dines out, say, and makes
himself nice to somebody with whole stacks of money, and mentions
Fortune & Brooks's chutney and pickled peaches and things, and--and----"

"I know," remarked Lady Tasker, with not much more expression than if
she had been a talking doll and somebody had pulled the string that
worked the speaking apparatus. She did know these dazzling schemes of
her smart and helpless nephew's--his club secretaryships, his projects
for journals that should combine the various desirable features of the
"Field" and "Country Life" and the "Sporting Times" and "Punch," his
pony deals, and his other innumerable attempts to make of his saunters
down Bond Street to St. James's and back _viâ_ the Junior Carlton and
Regent Street a source of income. Perhaps she knew, too, that Dorothy
knew of her knowledge, for she went on, "Well, well--let's hope there's
more in it than there was in the fishing-flies--now tell me what Eva's
got fresh."

"Oh, yes!" cried Dorothy, plunging her hand into her letters. "Eva sent
the things, but here's Dot's first--look at the darling's writing!----"

And from a sheet of paper with a regimental heading Dorothy began to
read:

     "DEAREST AUNT DOROTHY,--

     "were in murree and we got a servant that wigles his toes when we
     speak to him and he loves baba and makes noises like him and
     there are squiboos in the tres--"

--(she means squirrels)--

     "--and ive got a parrot uncle tony bought me and uncle tony says
     the monsoon will praps fale and the peple wont have anything to
     eat but weve lots and i like this better than kohat the shops are
     lovely but there are lots of flees and they bite baba and he
     cries this is a long letter how are Jackie and noel i got the
     photograf--"

--(that's the new one on the mantelpiece)--

     "--were going to tifin at major hirsts little girls one is called
     marjorie and were great friends----"

"Where's the other page got to? It was here----"

She found the other page, and continued the reading of the child's
letter.

Suddenly Lady Tasker interrupted her.

"Had Jack to borrow money to send them up there?"

"To Murree? I really don't know. Perhaps he had. But as adjutant of the
Railway Volunteers he'd have his saloon."

"H'm!... Anyway, the child oughtn't to be there at all. India's no place
for children."

"I know, auntie; but what can one do? They do come."

"H'm!... They didn't to me. Thank goodness I've done with love and
babies." (Dorothy laughed, perhaps at a mental vision of the houses in
Ludlow and Cromwell Gardens.) "Anyway, now they are here somebody's got
to look after them. They may as well be healthy...."

She mused, and Dorothy reached for other letters.

Lady Tasker's additions to her responsibilities usually began in this
way. Dorothy had very little doubt that presently little Dot also would
be handed like a parcel to some man or other coming home on leave, and
Lady Tasker would send to the makers for yet another cot.... Therefore,
pushing aside her last letter, she exclaimed almost crossly, "I _do_
think it's selfish of Aunt Eliza! There she is, with Spurrs all to
herself, and she never once thinks that Jack might like to send Dot to
England!"

"Neither would I if I had my time over again," said Lady Tasker
resolutely. "You needn't look like that--I wouldn't. Cromwell Gardens is
past praying for, and in another year there won't be a stick at the
Brear that's fit to be seen. The next batch I certainly intend to charge
for. I'm on the brink of the poorhouse as it is."

This time it was Dorothy who mused. She was a calculating young woman;
the wife of His Impudence had to be; and she was far too shrewd to
suppose for a moment that her aunt could ever escape her destiny, which
was to be imposed upon by her own flesh and blood while hardening her
heart against the rest of the world. Dorothy, and not Stan, had had to
keep that flat going, and the flat before it; unless Fortune & Brooks
turned up trumps--a rather remote contingency--she would have to
continue to do so; and she was quite casuistical enough to argue that,
while Aunt Eliza might keep her old Spurrs, Aunt Grace might properly be
victimized because Dorothy loved Aunt Grace. Therefore there were
musings in Dorothy's wide-angle blue eyes ... musings that only the
sound of a key in the outer lock interrupted.

"Hallo, that's His Impudence," Dorothy exclaimed. "I do hope he hasn't
brought anybody. I shall simply rush out if he has."

Stan hadn't. He came in at the door drawing off a pair of lemon-yellow
gloves, said "Hallo, Aunt Grace," and rang the bell. He next said,
"Hallo, Dot! Been out? Beastly smelly in town. No, I've not had tea.
Look here, you've eaten all the hot cakes; never mind; bread and
butter'll do, if you've got some jam--no, honey. Got an invitation for
you, Dot, to lunch, with Ferrers on Monday; can't you buck up and manage
it?... Well, Aunt Grace, what brings you up here? Bit off your beat,
isn't it? Awfully rude of me, I know, but it is a long way. Glad I came
in."

"I've been to see the Cosimo Pratts," said Lady Tasker.

Dorothy looked suddenly up.

"Oh, auntie, you didn't tell me that!" she exclaimed.

A grin lighted up Stan's good-looking face.

"Oh? How many annas to the rupee are they to-day? By Jove, they are a
rum lot up there! Any new prime cuts?"

"Stan, you mustn't!" said Dorothy, peremptorily. "Please don't! Don't
listen to him, auntie; he's outrageous."

But His Impudence went on, with his mouth full of bread and butter.

"I've only seen the fore-quarter and the trotter, but you see I haven't
been over the house. Did they show you the Bluebeard's Chamber? What is
there there? By Jove, it's like Jezebel and the dogs.... But I don't
suppose they'll have me up again. There was some chap there, and I got
him by himself and told him he didn't know what he was talking about;
rotten of me, I know, but you should have heard him! Anarchist--Votes
for Women--all the lot; whew!... More tea, Ruth, please----"

Lady Tasker felt the years beginning to ebb away from her again. She
had remembered the hammock and the Invisible Men.

"I hope he was--English?" she murmured.

"Who?"

"The man you say you were rude to."

"English? Yes. Why? English? Rather! No end of gas about the Empire.
Said it was on a wrong basis or something. Why do you ask?"

"I only wondered."

But Stan was perspicacious; he could see anything that was as closely
thrust under his nose as is the comparative rarity of the Englishman in
Hampstead. He laughed.

"Oh, that! We're used to that. We've all sorts up here.... By Jove, I
believe Aunt Grace has been thrown into the arms of a Jap or a nigger or
something! Well, if that doesn't put the lid on!... So of course you
wondered what I meant by the fore-quarter and Jezebel and the dogs.
Those are just some things they used to have.... Well, I'll tell you
what you can do about it next time, auntie. You talk to 'em about
Ludlow. That shuts 'em up. Sore spot, Ludlow; they're trying to forget
about Ye Olde Englysshe Maypole, and that row with old Wynn-Jenkins, and
old Griffin letting his hair grow and reciting those poems. They look at
you as if it never happened. But they didn't shut _me_ up."

"You seem to have been thoroughly rude," Lady Tasker remarked.

"Well, dash it all, they ask for it. She used to be some sort of a pal
of Dorothy's----"

"She's very clever, and she was always very kind to me," Dorothy
interpolated over her sewing.

"When, I should like to know? But never mind. I was going to say, Aunt
Grace, that I've had to put my foot down. I won't have the Bits meeting
those kids of Pratt's. It's perfectly awful; why, those children know as
much as I do--and I know a bit! They'll be wanting latchkeys presently.
That day I was up there I heard one of 'em say that little boys weren't
the same as little girls. I forget how she put it, but she knew all
right; think of that, at about four! I wish I could remember the words,
but it was a bit thick for four!----"

A restrained smile, perhaps at the thought of Stan putting his foot
down, had crossed Lady Tasker's face; no doubt it was part of the smile
that she presently said, toying with the little gold-rimmed glass,
"Quite right, Stan.... Anything fresh about Fortune & Brooks? Dorothy
told me."

Stan's feelings on any subject were never so strong but that at a word
he was quite ready to talk about something else. "Eh? Rather!" he said
heartily, and went straightway off at score.--New? Yes. He'd seen old
Brooks the day before; not a bad chap at all really; and they quite
understood one another, he and old Brooks. He'd told Stan things, old
Brooks had, (which Stan wasn't at liberty to disclose) about the
commissions they paid for really first-class introductions, things that
would astonish Lady Tasker!----

"You see," he explained, "as Brooks himself said, they can't afford to
advertise in the ordinary way; _infra dig_. They'd actually lose custom
if they put an ad. in the 'Daily Spec.' I don't mean that they don't put
a thing now and then into the right kind of paper, but just being
mentioned in general conversation, at dinners and tamashas and so on,
that's _their_ kind of advertisement! For instance--but just a minute,
and I'll show you----"

He jumped up and dashed out of the room. Lady Tasker took advantage of
his absence to give a discreet glance at Dorothy, but Dorothy's head
remained bent demurely over her work. Stan returned, carrying a small
parcel.

"Here we are," he said, unfastening the package: and then suddenly his
voice and manner changed remarkably. He took a small pot from the parcel
and set it on the palm of his left hand; he pointed at it with the
index-finger of his right hand; and a bright and poster-like smile
overspread his face. He spoke slightly loudly, and very, very
persuasively.

"Now I have here, Aunt Grace, one of our newest lines--Pickled Banyan.
Now I'm not going to ask you to take my word for it; I want you to try
it for yourself. It isn't what this man says or what that man says;
tasting's believing. Give me your teaspoon."

"My _dear_ Stan!" the astonished Lady Tasker gasped.

"We're selling a great many of this particular article, and are
prepared to stake our reputation on it," Stan went on. "Established
1780; more than One Hundred Gold Medals. Those are our credentials.
Those are what we lose.--Pass your spoon."

Lady Tasker was rigid. Perhaps Stan would have been better advised to
cast his spell over those who were going up in the world, and not on
those who, like themselves, were coming down or barely holding their
own. Again he went on, pointing engagingly at the small pot.

"But just try it," he urged, pushing the pot under his aunt's nose. "It
isn't what this man says or--I mean, it doesn't cost you anything to try
it. A free trial invited. Here's the recipe, look, on the
bottle--carefully selected Banyans, best cane sugar, lemon-juice refined
by a patent process, and a touch of tabasco. The makers' guarantee on
every label--none genuine without it--have a go!"

With a "Really, Stan!" Lady Tasker had turned away in her chair,
revolted. "And do you expect to go to a house again after an exhibition
like that?" she asked over her shoulder.

"Eh?" said Stan, a little discomfited. "Too much salesman about it,
d'you think? Brooks warned me about that. Fact is, he had a chap in as a
sort of object-lesson. This chap came in--I didn't know they had schools
and classes for this kind of thing, did you?--this chap came in, and I
was supposed to be somebody who didn't want the stuff at any price, and
he'd got to sell it to me whether I wanted it or not, and old Brooks
said to me, 'Now ask him how much the beastly muck is,' and a lot of
facers like that, and so we'd a set-to.... Then, when the fellow had
gone, he said he'd had him in just to show me how _not_ to do it.... But
he was an ingenious sort of beast, and I can't get his talk out of my
head. I'd thought of having a shot at it to-night, but perhaps I'd
better practise a bit more first. Thanks awfully for the criticism, Aunt
Grace. If you don't mind I'll practise on you as we go along. I'm dining
with a man to-night, but I'd better be sure of my ground.--Now what
about having the Bits in, Dot?"

"I think I hear them coming," said Dorothy, whose demureness had not
given as much as a flicker. Perhaps she was wondering whether she could
spare the sovereign His Impudence would presently ask her for.

The door opened, and Noel and Jackie stood there with a nurse behind
them. Noel walked stoutly in. Jackie, not yet very firm on his pins,
bumbled after him like an overladen bee.



III

THE "NOVUM"


Stan was quite right in supposing that the Cosimo Pratts wished to
forget all about the Ludlow experiment that had disturbed the Shropshire
country-side a year or more before, but he was wrong in the reason he
assigned them. They were not in the least ashamed of it. As a stage in
their intellectual development, the experiment had been entirely in its
place. Especially in Mrs. Pratt's career--as an old student of the
McGrath School of Art, a familiar (for a time) with Poverty in cheap
studios, the painter of the famous Feminist picture "Barrage," and so
forward--had this been true. Cosimo, in "The Life and Work of Miss Amory
Towers," a labour to which he devoted himself intermittently, pointed
out the naturalness and inevitability of the sequence with real
eloquence. Step had led to step, and the omission of any one step would
have ruined the whole.

But nobody with work still in them lingers long over the past. They had
dropped the task of regenerating rural England, or rather had handed it
over to others, only when it had been pointed out to them that capacity
so rare as theirs ought to be directed to larger ends. One evening
there had put in an appearance at one of the Ludlow meetings--a meeting
of the Hurdy-gurdy Octette, which afterwards gave instrumental
performances with such success at Letchworth, Bushey and Golder's
Green--Mr. Strong, the original founder and present editor of the "Novum
Organum," or, as it was usually called, the "Novum." Mr. Strong, as it
happened, was the man whom the scatter-brained Stan had met at The
Witan, and of whom he had expected that impossibility of any man
whomsoever--an admission that he did not know what he was talking about.
At that time Mr. Strong had been perambulating the country with a Van,
holding meetings and distributing literature; and whatever Mr. Strong's
other failings might have been, nobody had ever said of him that he did
not recognize a good thing when he saw it. The Cause itself had served
as an introduction between him and Cosimo; it had also been a sufficient
reason for his inviting himself to Cosimo's house for a couple of days
and remaining there for three weeks; and then he had got rid of the Van
and had come again. He was a rapturous talker, when there was an end to
be gained, and he had expressed himself as strongly of the opinion that,
magnificent a field for the sowing of the good seed as the country-side
was, there was simply stupendous propaganda to be done in London. He
knew (he had gone on) that Mrs. Pratt would forgive him (he had a
searching blue eye and an actor's smile) if he appeared for a moment to
speak disparagingly of what he might call the mere graces of the
Movement, (alluring as these were in Mrs. Pratt's capable and very
pretty hands); it was not disparagement really; he only meant that these
garlands would burgeon a hundred-fold if the stern and thankless work
was got out of the way first. Mr. Strong had a valuable trick of
suddenly making those searching blue eyes of his more searching, and of
switching off the actor's smile altogether; both of these things had
happened as he had gone on to point out that what the Cause was really
languishing for was a serious and responsible organ; and then, and only
then, when they had got (so to speak) the diapason, there would be time
enough for the trills and appoggiaturas of the Hurdy-gurdy Band.

Before the end of Mr. Strong's second visit Cosimo had put up the
greater part of the money for the "Novum."

So you see just where the feather-pated Stan was wrong. The Cosimo
Pratts were not outfaced from anything; they had merely seen a new and
heralding light. They did not so much recede from the Rural Experiment,
and discussions of the Suffrage, and eating buns on the floor at
assemblies of the Poets' Club, and a hundred and twenty other such
things, as become as it were translated. They still shed over these
activities the benignity of their approval, but from on high now. Amory
could no longer be expected actually to "run" the Suffrage Shop
herself--Dickie Lemesurier did that; nor the "Eden" (the new offshoot
off the Lettuce Grill)--that she left to Katie Deedes; nor the
"Lectures on Love" Agency--that was quite safe in the hands of her
friends, Walter Wyron and Laura Beamish. Amory merely shed approval
down. She was _hors concours_. She ... but you really must read Cosimo's
book. You will find it all there (or at any rate a good deal of it).

For Amory Pratt, in so far as Cosimo was the proprietor of the "Novum,"
was the proprietor of the proprietor of a high-class weekly review that
was presently going to put the two older parties out of business
entirely. She had more than a Programme now; she had a Policy. She had
crossed the line into the _haute politique_. Her At Homes were already
taking on the character of the political salon, and between herself and
the wives of ministers and ambassadors were differences, in degree
perhaps, but not in kind. And that even these differences should become
diminished she had taken on, ever since her settling-down at The Witan,
slight, but significant, new attitudes and condescensions. She was
kinder and more gracious to her sometime equals than before. She gave
them encouraging looks, as much as to say that they need not be afraid
of her. But it was quite definitely understood that when she took Mr.
Strong apart under the copper beech or retired with him into the studio
at the back of the house, she must on no account be disturbed.--Mr.
Strong, by the way, always dressed in the same Norfolk jacket, red tie
and soft felt hat, and his first caution to Cosimo and Amory had been
that Brimby, the novelist, was an excellent chap, but not always to be
taken very seriously.

Amory did not often put in an appearance at the "Novum's" offices. This
was not that she thought it more befitting that Mr. Strong should wait
on her, for she went about a good deal with Mr. Strong, and did not
always trouble him to come up to The Witan to fetch her. It was, rather,
if the truth must be told, that she found the offices rather dingy. Her
senses loved the newly-machined smell of each new issue of the paper,
but not the mingled odour of dust and stale gum and Virginia cigarettes
of the place whence it came. Moreover, the premises were rather
difficult to find. They lay at the back of Charing Cross Road. You
dodged into an alley between a second-hand bookseller's and a shop where
electric-light fittings were sold, entered a narrow yard, and, turning
to the right into a gas-lighted cavern where were stacked hundreds and
hundreds of sandwich-boards, some back-and-fronts, some with the iron
forks for the bearer's shoulders, you ascended by means of a dark
staircase to the second floor. There, at the end of a passage which some
poster-artist had half papered with the specimens of his art, you came
upon the three rooms. The first of these was the general office; the
second was Mr. Strong's private office; and the third was a room which,
the "Novum" having no need of it, Mr. Strong had thought he might as
well use as a rent-free bedroom as not. The door of this room Mr. Strong
always kept locked. It was more prudent. He was supposed to live
somewhere in South Kentish Town, and gave this address to certain of
his correspondents. The letters of these reached him sooner or later,
through the agency of a barber, in whose window was a placard, "Letters
may be addressed here."

Perhaps, too, the extraordinary people who visited Mr. Strong in the way
of business helped to keep Amory away. For an endless succession of the
queerest people came--contributors, and would-be contributors, and
friends of the Cause who "were just passing and thought they'd look in,"
and artists seeking a paper with the courage to print really stinging
caricatures, and article-writers who were out of a job only because they
dared to tell the truth about things, and Russian political exiles, and
Armenians who wanted passages to America, and Eurasians who wanted
rifles, and tramps, and poets, and the boy from the milkshop who brought
in the bread and butter and eggs for Mr. Strong's breakfast. And out of
these strange elements had grown up the paper's literary style. This was
unique in London journalism: philosophical, yet homely; horizon-wide of
outlook, yet never without hope that the shining thing in the gutter
might prove to be a jewel; and, despite its habitual omissions of the
prefix "Mr." from the names of statesmen, and its playful allusions to
this personage's nose or the waist-measurement of the other, with more
than a little of the Revelation of Saint John the Divine about it.
"Damn" and "Hell" were words the "Novum" commonly used. Once Amory had
demurred at the use of a word stronger still. But Mr. Strong had merely
replied, "If I can say it to you I think I can say it to them." He was
no truckler to his proprietors, and anyhow, the man whom the word had
encarnadined was only a colliery-owner.

The "Novum" had hardly been six weeks old when a certain desire on
Amory's part to make experiment of her power had, putatively at any
rate, lost it money. The little collision of wills had come about over
the question of whether the "Novum" should admit advertisements to its
columns or not. Now as most people know, that is a question that seldom
arises in journalism. A question far more likely to arise is whether the
advertisements can be got. But when a journal sets out to do something
that hitherto has not only not been done, but has not even been
attempted, you will admit that the case is special. The experience of
other papers is useless; their economics do not apply. What did apply
was the fact that Mrs. Pratt had been an artist, looked on sheets of
paper from another angle than that of the mere journalist and literary
man, and loved symmetry and could not endure unsightliness. Besides, "No
Compromise" was the "Novum's" motto, and what was the good of having a
motto like that if you compromised in the very form of your
expression?... A "shoulder-piece," "_The Little Mary Emollient_," had
brought out all Mrs. Pratt's finer artistic instincts. Here was a
journal consecrated to a great and revolutionary cause, and the very
first thing to catch a reader's eye was, not only an advertisement, but
a facetious advertisement at that--a Pill, without a Pill's robust
familiarity--a commercial cackle issuing from the "Novum's" august and
oracular mouth.... For the first time in her life Mrs. Pratt had wielded
the blue pencil, tearing the rubbishy proof-paper in the energy with
which she did so. Mr. Strong's blue eyes, bluer for the contrast with
his red knot of a tie, had watched her face, but he had said nothing. He
was willing to humour her....

But when all was said and done he was an editor, and no sooner was
Amory's back turned than he had restored the announcement. The paper had
appeared, and there had been a row....

"Then I appeal to Pratt," Mr. Strong had said, with all the good-nature
in the world. "I take it the 'Novum's' a serious enterprise, and not
just a hobby?"

Cosimo had glanced a little timidly at his wife. Then he had replied
thoughtfully.

"I don't know. I'm not so sure. That is, I'm not so sure it oughtn't to
be a serious enterprise _and_ a hobby. The world's best work is always
done for love--that's another way of calling it a hobby--you see what I
mean--Nietzsche has something about it somewhere or other--or if he
hasn't Ruskin has----"

Any number of effective replies had been open to Mr. Strong, but he had
used none of them. Instead his eyes had given as it were a flick to
Amory's face. The proprietor's proprietor had continued indignantly.

"It ruins the whole effect! It's _unspeakably_ vulgar! After that
glowing, that impassioned Foreword--_this_! Hardly a month ago that
lovely apostrophe to Truth Naked--that beautiful image of her stark and
innocent on our banners but with a forest of bright bayonets bristling
about her--and now _this_! It's revolting!"

But Mr. Strong had himself written that impassioned Foreword, and knew
all about it. Again he had given his proprietor's wife that quietly
humouring look.

"Do you mean that the 'Novum's' going to refuse advertisements?"

"I mean that I blue-pencilled that one myself."

"And what about the others--the 'Eden' and the Suffrage Shop and Wyron's
Lectures?"

"They're different. They _are_ the Cause. You said yourself that the
'Novum' was going to be a sort of generalissimo, and these the brigades
or whatever they're called. They are, at any rate, doing the Work. Is
_that_ doing any Work, I should like to know?"

Mr. Strong had refrained from flippancy.--"I see what you mean," he had
replied equably. "At the same time, if you're going to refuse
advertisements the thing's going to cost a good deal more money."

"Well?" Amory had replied, as who might say, "Has money been refused you
yet?"

Strong had given a compliant shrug--"All right. That means I censor the
advertisements, I suppose. New industry. Very well. The 'Eden' and
Wyron's Lectures and Week-end Cottages and the Plato Press only, then.
I'll strike out that '_Platinum: False Teeth Bought_.' But I warn you it
will cost more."

"Never mind that."

And so the incident had ended.

But perhaps Mrs. Pratt's sensitiveness of eye was not the only cause of
the rejection of that offending advertisement. Another reason might have
lain in her present relation with her sometime fellow-student of the
McGrath School of Art, Dorothy Tasker. For that relation had suffered a
change since the days when the two girls had shared a shabby day-studio
in Cheyne Walk, Chelsea. At that time, now five years ago, Amory Towers
had been thrust by circumstances into a position of ignoble envy of her
friend. She had been poor, and Dorothy's people (or so she had supposed)
very, very wealthy. True, poor Dorothy, without as much as a single
spark of talent, had nevertheless buckled to, and, in various devious
ways, had contrived to suck a parasitic living out of the wholesome body
of real art; none the less, Amory had conceived her friend to be of the
number of those who play at hardship and independence with a fully
spread table at home for them to return to when they are tired of the
game. But the case was entirely changed now. Amory frankly admitted that
she had been mistaken in one thing, namely, that if those people of
Dorothy's had more money, they had also more claims upon it, and so were
relatively poor. Amory herself was now very comfortably off indeed. By
that virtue and good management which the envious call luck, she had
now money, Cosimo's money, to devote to the regeneration of the world.
Dorothy, married to the good-tempered and shiftless Stan, sometimes did
not know which way to turn for the overdue quarter's rent.

Now among her other ways of making ends meet Dorothy had for some years
done rather well out of precisely that kind of work which Amory refused
to allow the "Novum" to touch--advertisements. She had wormed herself
into the services of this firm and that as an advertisement-adviser. But
her contracts had begun in course of time to lapse, one or two fluky
successes had not been followed up, and two children had further
tightened things. Nor had Stan been of very much help. Amory despised
Stan. She thought him, not a man, but a mere mouth to be fed. Real men,
like Cosimo, always had money, and Amory was quite sure that, even if
Cosimo had not inherited a fortune from his uncle, he would still have
contrived to make himself the possessor of money in some other way.

Therefore Amory was even kinder to Dorothy than she was to Dickie
Lemesurier of the Suffrage Shop, to Katie Deedes of the "Eden," and to
Laura Beamish and Walter Wyron, who ran the "Lectures on Love." But
somehow--it was a little difficult to say exactly how, but there it
undoubtedly was--Dorothy did not accept her kindnesses in quite the
proper spirit. One or two she had even rejected--gently, Amory was bound
to admit, but still a rejection. For example, there had been that little
rebuff (to call it by its worst name for a moment) about the governess.
Amory had, in Miss Britomart Belchamber, the most highly-qualified
governess for Corin and Bonniebell that money and careful search had
been able to obtain; Dorothy lived less than a quarter of an hour's walk
away; it would have been just as easy for Britomart to teach four
children as to teach two; but Dorothy had twisted and turned and had
finally said that she had decided that she couldn't put Amory to the
trouble. And again, when the twins had had their party, Amory would
positively have _liked_ Noel and Jackie to come and dance "Twickenham
Ferry" in those spare costumes and to join in those songs from the Book
of Caroline Ditties; but again an excuse had been made. And half a dozen
similar things had driven Amory to the conclusion, sadly against her
will, that the Taskers were taking up that ridiculous, if not actually
hostile attitude, of the poor who hug their pride. It was not nice
between old friends. Amory could say with a clear conscience that she
had not refused Dorothy's help in the days when the boot had been on the
other leg. She was not resentful, but really it did look very much like
putting on airs.

But of course that stupid Stanhope Tasker was at the bottom of it all.
Amory did not so much mind his not having liked her from the first; she
would have been sorry to let a trifle like that ruffle her equanimity;
but it was evident that he did not in the least realize his position.
She was quite sure, in the first place, that he couldn't afford (or
rather Dorothy couldn't afford) to pay eighty pounds for that flat,
plus another twenty for the little office they had annexed and used as a
nursery. And in the next place he dressed absurdly above his position.
Cosimo dressed for hygiene and comfort, in cellular things and things
made of non-irritant vegetable fibre; but those absurdly modish jackets
and morning-coats of Stan's had, unless Amory was very much mistaken, to
be bought at the expense of real necessaries. And so with their
hospitality. In that too, they tried to cut a dash and came very near to
making themselves ridiculous. Amory didn't want to interfere; she
couldn't plan and be wise for everybody; she had her own affairs to
attend to; but she was quite sure that the Taskers would have done
better to regulate their hospitality as hospitality was regulated at The
Witan--that was, to make no special preparation, but to have the door
always open to their friends. But no; the Taskers must make a splash.
They must needs "invite" people and be a little stand-offish about
people coming uninvited. They were "At home" and "Not at home" for all
the world as if they had been important people. But Amory would have
thought herself very stupid to be taken in by all this ceremony. For
example, the last time she and Cosimo had been asked to the flat to
dinner she knew that they had been "worked off" only because the Taskers
had had the pheasants given by somebody, and very likely the fish too.
And it would have been just like Stan Tasker's insolence had he asked
them because he _knew_ that the Pratts did not eat poor beasties that
should have been allowed to live because of their lovely plumes, nor
the pretty speckled creatures that had done no harm to the destroyer who
had taken them with a hook out of their pretty stream.

But, kind to her old friend as Amory was always ready to be, she did not
feel herself called upon to go out of her way to be very nice to her
friend's husband. He had no right to expect it after his rudeness to
Edgar Strong about the "Novum." For it had been about the "Novum" that
Stan had given Strong that talking-to. Much right (Amory thought hotly)
he had to talk! Just because he consorted with men who counted their
money in rupees and thought nothing of shouldering their darker-skinned
brothers off the pavement, he thought he was entitled to put an editor
into his place! But the truth, of course, was, that that very
familiarity prevented him from really knowing anything about these
questions at all. Because an order was established, he had not
imagination enough to see how it could have been anything different. His
mind (to give it that name) was of the hidebound, official type, and too
many limited intelligences of that kind stopped the cause of Imperial
progress to-day. Or rather, they tried to stop it, and perhaps thought
they were stopping it; but really, little as they suspected it, they
were helping more than they knew. A pig-headed administration does
unconsciously help when, out of its own excesses, a divine discontent is
bred. Mr. Suwarree Prang had been eloquent on that very subject one
afternoon not very long ago. A charming man! Amory had listened from
her hammock, rapt. Mr. Prang did the "Indian Review" for the "Novum," in
flowery but earnest prose; and as he actually was Indian, and did not
merely hobnob with a few captains and subalterns home on leave, it was
to be supposed that he would know rather more of the subject than Mr.
Stanhope Tasker!----

And Mr. Stanhope Tasker had had the cheek to tell Mr. Strong that he
didn't know what he was talking about!

Amory felt that she could never be sufficiently thankful for the chance
that had thrown Mr. Strong in her way. She had always secretly felt that
her gifts were being wasted on such minor (but still useful) tasks as
the "Eden" Restaurant and the "Love Lectures" Agency. But her personal
exaltation over Katie Deedes and the others had caused her no joy. What
had given her joy had been the immensely enlarged sphere of her
usefulness; that was it, not the odious vanity of leadership, but the
calm and responsible envisaging of a task for which not one in ten
thousand had the vision and courage and strength. And Edgar Strong had
shown her these things. Of course, if he had put them in these words she
might have suspected him of trying to flatter her; but as a matter of
fact he had not said a single word about it. He had merely allowed her
to see for herself. That was his way: to all-but-prove a thing--to take
it up to the very threshold of demonstration--and then apparently
suddenly to lose interest in it. And that in a way was his weakness as
an editor. Amory, whom three or four wieldings of the blue pencil had
sufficed to convince that there was nothing in journalism that an
ordinary intelligence could not master in a month, realized this. She
herself, it went without saying, always saw at once exactly what Mr.
Strong meant; she personally liked those abrupt and smiling stops that
left Mr. Strong's meaning as it were hung up in the air; but it was a
mistake to suppose that everybody was as clever as she and Mr. Strong.
"I's" had to be dotted and "t's" crossed for the multitude. But it was
at that point that Mr. Strong always became almost languid.

It was inevitable that the man who had thus revealed to her, after a
single glance at her, such splendid and unsuspected capacities within
herself, should exercise a powerful fascination over Amory. If he had
seen all this in her straight away (as he assured her he had), then he
was a man not lightly to be let go. He might be the man to show her even
greater things yet. He puzzled her; but he appeared to understand her;
and as both of them understood everybody else, she was aware of a
challenge in his society that none other of her set afforded her. He
could even contradict her and go unsacked. Prudent people, when they
sack, want to know what they are sacking, and Amory did not know.
Therefore Mr. Strong was quite sure of his job until she should find
out.

Another thing that gave Mr. Strong this apparently off-hand hold over
her was the confidential manner in which he had warned her not to take
Mr. Brimby, the novelist, too seriously. For without the warning Amory,
like a good many other people, might have committed precisely that
error.... But when Mr. Brimby, taking Amory apart one day, had expressed
in her ear a gentle doubt whether Mr. Strong was quite "sound" on
certain important questions, Amory had suddenly seen. Mr. Strong had
"cut" one of Mr. Brimby's poignantly sorrowful sketches of the East
End--seen through Balliol eyes--and Mr. Brimby was resentful. She did
not conceal from herself that he might even be a little envious of Mr.
Strong's position. He might have been wiser to keep his envy to himself,
for, while mere details of routine could hardly expect to get Amory's
personal attention, there was one point on which Mr. Strong was quite
"sound" enough for Amory--his sense of her own worth and of how that
worth had hitherto been wasted. And Mr. Strong had not been ill-natured
about Mr. Brimby either. He had merely twinkled and put Amory on her
guard. And because he appeared to have been right in this instance,
Amory was all the more disposed to believe in his rightness when he gave
her a second warning. This was about Wilkinson, the Labour Member. He
was awfully fond of dear old Wilkie, he said; he didn't know a man more
capable in some things than Wilkie was; but it would be foolish to deny
that he had his limitations. He wasn't fluid enough; wanted things too
much cut-and-dried; was a little inclined to mistake violence for
strength; and of course the whole point about the "Novum" was that it
was fluid....

"In fact," Mr. Strong concluded, his wary blue eyes ceasing suddenly to
hold Amory's brook-brown ones and taking a reflective flight past her
head instead, "for a paper like ours--I'm hazarding this, you
understand, and keep my right to reconsider it--I'm not sure that a
certain amount of fluidity isn't a Law...."

Amory nodded. She thought it excellently put.



IV

THE STONE WALL


Amory sometimes thought, when she took her bird's-eye-view of the
numerous activities that found each its voice in its proper place in the
columns of the "Novum," that she would have allowed almost any of them
to perish for lack of support rather than the Wyron's "Lectures on
Love." She admitted this to be a weakness in herself, a sneaking
fondness, no more; but there it was--just that one blind spot that mars
even the clearest and most piercing vision. And she always smiled when
Mr. Strong tried to show this weakness of hers in the light of a merit.

"No, no," she always said, "I don't defend it. Twenty things are more
important really, but I can't help it. I suppose it's because we know
all about Laura and Walter themselves."

"Perhaps so," Mr. Strong would musingly concede.

Anybody who was anybody knew all about Laura Beamish and Walter Wyron
and a certain noble defeat in their lives that was to be accounted as
more than a hundred ordinary victories. That almost historic episode had
just shown everybody who was anybody what the world's standards were
really worth. Hitherto the Wyrons have been spoken of both as a married
couple and as "Walter Wyron" and "Laura Beamish" separately; let the
slight ambiguity now be cleared up.

Mrs. Cosimo Pratt became on occasion Miss Amory Towers for reasons that
began and ended in her profession as a painter; and everybody who was
anybody was as well aware that Miss Amory Towers, the painter of the
famous feminist picture "Barrage," was in reality Mrs. Cosimo Pratt, as
the great mass of people who were nobody knew that Miss Elizabeth
Thompson, the painter of "The Roll Call," was actually Lady Butler. But
not so with the Wyrons. Reasons, not of business, nor yet of fame, but
of a burning and inextinguishable faith, had led to their noble
equivocation. Deeply seated in the hearts both of Walter and of Laura
had lain a passionate non-acceptance of the merely parroted formula of
the Wedding Service. So searching and fundamental had this been that by
the time their various objections had been disposed of little had
remained that had seemed worth bothering about; and in one sense they
had not bothered about it. True, in another sense they had bothered, and
that was precisely where the defeat came in; but that did not dim the
splendour of the attempt. To come without further delay to the point,
the Wyrons had married, under strong protest, in the ordinary everyday
way, Laura submitting to the momentary indignity of a ring; but
thereafter they had magnificently vindicated the New Movement (in that
one aspect of it) by not saying a word about the ceremony of their
marriage to anybody--no, not even to the people who were somebody. Then
they had flown off to the Latin Quarter.

It had not been in the Latin Quarter, however, that the true character
of their revolt had first shown. Perhaps--nobody knows--their relation
had not been singular enough there. Perhaps--there were people base
enough to whisper this--they had feared the singularity of "letting on."
It is easy to do in the Boul' Mich' as the Boul' Mich' does. The real
difficulties begin when you try to do in London what London permits only
as long as you do it covertly.

And if there had been a certain covertness about their behaviour when,
after a month, they had returned, what a venial and pardonable
subterfuge, to what a tremendous end! Amory herself, up to then, had not
had a larger conception. For while the Wyrons had secretly married
simply and solely in order that their offspring should not lie under a
stigma, their overt lives had been one impassioned and beautiful protest
against any assumption whatever on the part of the world of a right to
make rules for the generation that was to follow. No less a gospel than
this formed the substance of those Lectures of Walter's; great as the
number of the born was, his mission was the protection of a greater
number still. The best aspects both of legitimacy and of illegitimacy
were to be stereoscoped in the perfect birth. And he now had, in quite
the strict sense of the word, a following. The same devoted faces
followed him from the Lecture at the Putney Baths on the Monday to that
at the Caxton Hall on the Thursday, from his ascending the platform at
the Hampstead Town Hall on the Tuesday to his addressing of a
garden-party from under the copper-beech at The Witan on the Sunday
afternoon. And in course of time the faithfulness of the followers was
rewarded. They graduated, so to speak, from the seats in the body of the
building to the platform itself. There they supported Laura, and gave
her a countenance that she no longer needed (for she had earned her
right to wear her wedding-ring openly now), and flocked about the
lecturer afterwards, not as about a mere man, but rather as seeing in
him the physician, the psychologist, the expert, the helper, and the
setter of crooked things straight that he was.

As a lecturer--may we say as a prophet?--Walter had a manner original
and taking in the extreme. Anybody less sustained by his vision and less
upheld by his faith might have been a little tempted to put on "side,"
but not so Walter. Perhaps his familiarity with the stage--everybody
knew his father, Herman Wyron, of the New Greek Theatre--had taught him
the value of the large and simple statement of large and simple things;
anyhow, he did not so much lecture to his audiences as accompany them,
chattily and companionably, through the various windings of his subject.
With his hands thrust unaffectedly into the pockets of his knickers,
and a sort of sublimated "Well, here we are again" expression on his
face, he allayed his hearers' natural timidity before the magnitude of
his mission, and gave them a direct and human confab. on a subject that
returned as it were from its cycle of vastness to simple personal
experience again. His every sentence seemed to say, "Don't be afraid;
it's nothing really; soon you'll be as much at your ease in dealing with
these things as I am; just let me tell you an anecdote." No wonder Laura
held her long and muscular neck very straight above her hand-embroidered
yoke. Everybody understood that unless she adopted some sort of an
attitude her proper pride in such a married lover must show, which would
have been rather rubbing it in to the rest of her sex. So she booked
dates for new lectures almost nonchalantly, and, when the platform was
invaded at the end of the Lecture, or Walter stepped down to the level
of those below, she was there in person as the final demonstration of
how well these things actually would work as soon as Society had decided
upon some concerted action.

Corin and Bonniebell, Amory's twins, did not attend Walter's Lectures.
It was not deemed advisable to keep them out of bed so late at night.
But Miss Britomart Belchamber, the governess, could have passed--had in
fact passed--an examination in them. It had been Amory who, so to speak,
had set the paper. For it had been at one of the Lectures--the one on
"_The Future Race: Are We Making Manacles?_"--that Miss Belchamber had
first impressed Amory favourably. Amory had singled her out, first
because she wore the guarantee of Prince Eadmond's Collegiate
Institution--the leather-belted brown sleeveless djibbah with the
garment of fine buff fabric showing beneath it as the fruit of a roasted
chestnut shows when the rind splits--and secondly because of her
admirable physique. She was splendidly fair, straight as an athlete, and
could shut up her long and massive limbs in a wicker chair like a
clasp-knife; and for her movements alone it was almost a sin that
Walter's father could not secure her for the New Greek Society's revival
of "Europa" at the Choragus Theatre. And she was not too quick mentally.
That is not to say that she was a fool. What made Amory sure that she
was not a fool was that she herself was not instinctively attracted by
fools, and it was better that Miss Belchamber should be ductile under
the influence of Walter's ideas than that she should have just wit
enough to ask those stupid and conventional and so-called "practical"
questions that Walter always answered at the close of the evening as
patiently as if he had never heard them before. And Miss Belchamber told
the twins stories, and danced "Rufty Tufty," with them, and "Catching of
Quails," and was really cheap at her rather stiff salary. Cosimo loved
to watch her at "Catching of Quails." If the children did not grow up
with a love of beauty after that, he said, he gave it up. (The twins, by
the way, unconsciously served Amory as another example of Dorothy
Tasker's unreasonableness. As the mother of Noel and Jackie, Dorothy
seemed rather to fancy herself as an experienced woman. But Amory could
afford to smile at this pretension. There was a difference in age of a
year and more between Noel and Jackie. No doubt Dorothy knew a little,
but she, Amory, could have told her a thing or two).

On a Wednesday afternoon about a fortnight after Lady Tasker's visit to
The Witan, Amory walked the garden thoughtfully. The weather was growing
chilly, the hammock had been taken in, and her feet in the fallen leaves
made a melancholy sound. Cosimo had left her half an hour before;
certain points had struck him in the course of conversation which he
thought ought to be incorporated in the "_Life and Work_"; and it was a
rule at The Witan that nothing must ever be allowed to interfere with
the impulse of artistic creation. For the matter of that, Amory herself
was creating now, or at any rate was at the last preparatory stage that
immediately precedes creation. Presently she would have taken the plunge
and would be deep in the new number of the "Novum." For the moment she
was thinking of Mr. Strong.

As she tried to clear up exactly what place Mr. Strong had in her
thoughts she was struck by the dreadful tendency words and names and
definitions have to attach themselves to vulgar and ready-made
meanings--a tendency so strong that she had even caught herself more
than once jumping to a common conclusion. To take an example, though a
rather preposterous one. Had Dorothy, with one of her ridiculous
advertisements waiting to be done, confessed to her that instead of
setting about it she was thinking of a male person with a pair of alert
blue eyes and a curiously mobile and clean-cut mouth (not that it was
likely that Dorothy would have had the candour to make such a
confession)--well, Amory might have smiled just like anybody else. She
was not trying to make herself out any better than others. She was
candid about it, however, which they were often not.

Still, the trouble about her feeling for Mr. Strong was to find a word
for it that had not been vulgarized. She was, of course, exceedingly
interested in him, but that was not saying very much. She "liked" him,
too, but that again might mean anything. Her difficulty was that she
herself was so special; and so on second thoughts she might have been
right in giving an interpretation to Dorothy's actions, and Dorothy
quite wrong in giving the same interpretation to hers merely because the
data were the same.

Nor had Mr. Strong himself been able to help her very much when, a
couple of days before, she had put the question to him, earnestly and
without hateful false shame.

"What _is_ this relation of ours?" she had asked him, point-blank and
fearlessly.

"Eh?" Mr. Strong had replied, a little startled.

"There _must_ be a relation of some sort between every two people who
come into contact. I'm just wondering exactly what ours _is_."

Then Mr. Strong had knitted his brows and had said, presently, "I
see.... Have you read '_The Tragic Comedians_?'"--Amory had not, and the
copy of the book which she had immediately ordered had not come yet. And
then she too had knitted her brows. She had caught the trick from him.

"I suppose that what it really comes to is knowing _yourself_," she had
mused; and at that Mr. Strong had given her a quick approving look,
almost as if he said that if she put in her thumb in the same place
again she might pull out a plum very well worth having.

"And not," Amory had continued, curiously heartened, "anything about the
other person at all."

"Good, good," Mr. Strong had applauded under his breath; "have you
Edward Carpenter's book in the house, by the way?... Never mind: I'll
send you my copy."

He had sent it. It was in Amory's hand now. She had discovered that it
had a catching and not easily identifiable smell of its own, of Virginia
cigarettes and damp and she knew not what else, all mingled; and somehow
the smell seemed quite as much an answer to the question she had asked
as anything in the book itself.

Nor, despite Walter's special knowledge of these indications, could she
go to the Wyrons for diagnosis and advice. For one thing, there was her
own position of high patronage to be considered; for another, splendidly
daring as the Wyrons' original protest had been, the Lectures had lately
begun to have a little the air of a shop, over the counter of which
admittedly valuable specifics were handed, but with a kind of "_And_ the
next article, please?" suspicion about it. Besides, the Wyrons, having
no children, had of necessity to "chic" a little in cases where children
formed a complicating element. Besides ... but anyway, Amory wasn't
going either to Laura Beamish or to Walter Wyron.

She made a charming picture as she walked slowly the length of the
privet hedge and then turned towards the copper beech again. Mr. Strong
had said that he liked her in that dress--an aluminium-grey one, very
simple and very expensive, worn with a handsome Indian shawl, a gift of
Mr. Prang's, the mellow colour of which "led up" to the glowing casque
of her hair; and she had smiled when Mr. Strong had added that Britomart
Belchamber's rough tabards and the half-gym costume in which she danced
"Rufty Tufty" would not have suited her, Amory, at all. Probably they
wouldn't--not as a regular thing. Cosimo liked those, especially when
the wearer was largish; indeed, it was one of Cosimo's humours to pose
as Britomart's admirer. But Amory was small, and never shut her limbs up
like a multiple-lever in a basket chair, but drew her skirt down a foot
or so below her toes instead whenever she sat down. She fancied, though
Mr. Strong had never used the word, that the "Novum's" editor found Miss
Belchamber just a little hoydenish.

Amory wished that something would bring Mr. Strong up that afternoon. It
was one of the days on which the editing of the "Novum" could take care
of itself, and besides, they would actually be editing it together. For
the next number but one--the forthcoming one was already passed--was to
be their most important utterance yet. It was to indicate clearly,
firmly and once for all, their Indian policy. The threatened failure of
the monsoon made the occasion urgent, and Mr. Suwarree Prang himself had
explained to Amory only the night before precisely what the monsoon was,
and how its failure would provide, from the point of view of those who
held that the present wicked regime of administration by the strong hand
was at last tottering to its fall, a providential opportunity. It had
struck Amory as wondrously romantic and strange that a meteorological
condition half-way round the world, in a place she had never seen,
should thus change the course of her quiet life in Hampstead; but,
properly considered, no one thing in this wonderful world was more
wonderful than another. It was Life, and Life, as she remembered to have
read somewhere or other, is for the Masters of it. And she was beginning
to find that after all these things only required a little confidence.
It was as easy to swim in six miles deep of water, like that place in
Cosimo's atlas of which the name escaped her for the moment, as it was
in six feet. And Mr. Prang had talked to her so long and so vividly
about India that she sometimes found it quite difficult to realize that
she had never been there.

Still wishing that Mr. Strong would come, she slowly left the garden
and entered the house. In the hall she paused for a moment, and a tender
little smile softened her face. She had stopped before the exquisite
casts of the foot and the arm. Pensively she took the foot up from the
console table, and then, coming to a resolution, she took the arm down
from its hook on the wall. After all, beautiful as she had to admit them
to be, the studio, and not the hall, was the proper place for them.

With the foot and Edward Carpenter in her left hand, and the plaster arm
hugged to her right breast, she walked along the passage and sought the
studio.

It was called the studio, and there certainly were canvases and easels
and other artists' paraphernalia there, but it was less used for
painting than as a room for sitting and smoking and tea and discussion.
It was a comfortable apartment. Rugs made islands on the thick cork
floor-covering, and among the rugs were saddlebag chairs, a long
adjustable chair, and a wide couch covered with faded tapestry. The room
was an annex of corrugated iron lined with matchboarding, but
electric-light fittings depended from the iron ties overhead, and in
place of an ordinary hearth was a sort of stage one, with an imitation
log of asbestos, which, when you put a match to it, broke into a licking
of blue and yellow gas-jets. The north window occupied the whole of the
garden end, and, facing it, was the large cartoon for Amory's unfinished
allegorical picture, "_The Triumph of Humane Government_." High up and
just within the door was the bell that answered to the button outside.

Amory was putting down the casts on a Benares tray when the ringing of
this bell startled her. But as it rang in the kitchen also, she did not
move to answer it. She stood listening, the fingers of one hand to her
lips, those of the other still resting on the plaster shoulder. Then she
heard a voice, and a moment later there came a tap at the door.

It was Mr. Strong.

He advanced, and did a thing he had not done before--lifted the hand she
extended to his lips and then let it drop again. But Amory was not
surprised. It was merely a new and natural expression of the homage he
had never concealed, and even had Amory been vain enough to suppose that
it meant anything more, the briskness of the "Good afternoon" that
followed it would have disabused her. "Glad I found you," Mr. Strong
said. "I wanted to see you. Cosimo in?"

Her husband was always Cosimo to him, but in speaking to herself he used
no name at all. It was as if he hesitated to call her Amory, and refused
to call her Mrs. Pratt. Even "Miss Towers" he had only used once, and
that was some time ago.

Amory's fingers left the cast, and Mr. Strong walked towards the
asbestos log.--"May I?" he said, drawing forth a packet of Virginia
cigarettes; and afterwards he put the match with which he lighted one of
the cigarettes to the log. Amory drew up a small square footstool, and
put her elbows on her knees and her interwoven fingers beneath her
chin. Mr. Strong examined the end of his cigarette, and thrust his chin
down into his red tie and his hands deep into his trousers pockets. Then
he seemed to plunge into thought.

Suddenly he shot a glance at Amory, and said abruptly, "I suppose you've
talked over the Indian policy with Cosimo?"

It was nice and punctilious of him, the way he always dragged Cosimo in,
and Amory liked it. She felt sure that the editor of the "Times,"
calling on the Prime Minister's wife, would not ignore the Prime
Minister. But to-day she was a little abstracted--dull--she didn't know
exactly what; and so she replied, without moving, "Would you like him
here? He's busy with the '_Life_'."

"Oh no, don't trouble him then."

There was a pause. Then, "I did talk to him about it. And to Mr. Prang,"
Amory said.

"Oh. Hm. Quite so," said Mr. Strong, looking at the toes of his brogues.

"Yes. Mr. Prang was here last night," Amory continued, looking at the
points of her own slippers.

"Yes."

Again Mr. Strong's chin was sunk into his red tie. He was rising and
falling slowly on his toes. His eyes moved ruminatively sideways to the
rug at Amory's feet.

"Yes. Yes. I've been wondering----" he said thoughtfully.

"Well?"

"Oh, nothing really. I dare say I'm quite wrong. You see, Prang----"

"What?" Amory asked as he paused again.

There was a twinkle in the eyes that rose to Amory's. Mr. Strong gave a
slight shrug.--"Well--Prang!----" he said with humorous deprecation.

Amory was quick.--"Oh!--You don't mean that Mr. Prang isn't sound?"

"Sound? Perfectly, perfectly. And a most capable fellow. Only I've
wondered once or twice whether he isn't--you know--just a little _too_
capable.... You see, we want to use Prang--not to have Prang using
_us_."

Amory could not forbear to smile. If that was all that was troubling Mr.
Strong she thought she could reassure him.

"I don't think you'd have been afraid of that if you'd been here last
night," she replied quietly. "We were talking over England's diabolical
misrule, and I never knew Mr. Prang so luminous. It was
pathetic--really. Cosimo was talking about that Rawal Pindi case--you
know, of that ruffianly young subaltern drawing down the blinds and then
beating the native.--'But how do they take it?' I asked Mr. Prang,
rather scornfully, you know; and really I was sorry for the poor fellow,
having to apologize for his country.--'That's it,' he said sadly--it was
really sad.--And he told me, frankly, that sometimes the poor natives
pretended they were killed, and sometimes they announce that they're
going to die on a certain day, and they really _do_ die--they're so
mystic and sensitive--it was _most_ interesting.... But what I mean is,
that a gentle and submissive people like that--Mr. Prang admits that's
their weakness--I mean they _couldn't_ use _us_! It's our degradation
that we aren't gentle and sensitive too. You see what I mean?"

"Oh, quite," Mr. Strong jerked out. "Quite."

"And that's why I call Mr. Prang an idealist. There must be something
_in_ the East. At any rate it was splendid moral courage on Prang's part
to say, quite openly, that they couldn't do anything without the little
handful of us here, but must simply go on suffering and dying."

There fell one of the silences that usually came when Mr. Strong lost
interest in a subject. Merely adding, "Oh, I've not a word to say
against Prang, but----," he began to rise and fall on his toes again.
Then he stepped to the Benares table where the casts were. But he made
no criticism of them. He picked the foot up, and put it down again. "I
like it," he said, and returned once more to the asbestos hearth. The
silence fell again.

Amory, sitting on the footstool with her knees supporting her elbows and
her wrists supporting her chin, would have liked to offer Mr. Strong a
penny for his thoughts. She had had an odd, warm little sensation when
he had picked up that cast of the perfect foot. She supposed he must
know that it was her foot, but so widely had his thoughts been ranging
that he had merely put it down again with an abstracted "I like it."
Amory was not sure that any other woman than herself would not have been
piqued. Any other woman would have expected him either not to look at
the thing, or else to say that it was small, or to ask whether the real
one was as white, or something foolish like that. But Amory was superior
to such things. She lived on higher levels. On these levels such an
affront to the pure intellect as a flirtation could not exist. Free Love
as a logical and defensible system--yes, perhaps; or a combination so
happy of marriage and cohabitation as that of the Wyrons'--yes again;
but anything lower she left to the stupid people who swallowed the
conventions whole, including the convention of not being found out.--So
she merely wondered about their relation again. Obviously, there must be
a relation. And yet his own explanation had been quite insufficient; it
had been no explanation at all to ask her whether she had read "_The
Tragic Comedians_" or whether she had Edward Carpenter in the house. No
doubt it was flattering to her intelligence to suppose that she could
"flash" at his meaning without further words on his part, but it was
also a little irritating when the flash didn't come. And, now that she
came to think of it, except that he allowed it to be inferred that he
found Britomart Belchamber a bit lumpish, she didn't know what he
thought, not merely of herself, but of women at all.

And yet there was a passed-through-the-furnace look about him that might
have piqued any woman. It was not conceivable that his eyes had softened
only over inspired passages in proof, or that the tenderest speeches his
lips had shaped had been the "Novum's" rallying-cries to the devoted
band of the New Imperialists. Amory was sure that his memory must be a
maze of things, less spacious perhaps, but far more interesting than
these. He looked widely now, but must have looked close and intense too.
He pronounced upon the Empire, but, for all he was not married, must
have probed deep into the palpitating human heart as well.

Amory was just thinking what a gage of intimacy an unembarrassed silence
can be when Mr. Strong broke it. He lighted another cigarette at the end
of the last, turned, threw the end on the asbestos log, and stood
looking at the purring blue and yellow jets. No doubt he was full of the
Indian policy again.

But as it happened it was not the Indian policy--"Oh," Mr. Strong said,
"I meant to ask you--Who was that fellow who came up here one day?"

This was so vague that when Amory said "What fellow?" Mr. Strong himself
saw the vagueness, and laughed.

"Of course: 'How big is a piece of wood?'--I mean the fellow who came to
The Witan in a morning-coat?"

This was description enough. Amory's back straightened a little.

"Oh, Stanhope Tasker! Oh, just the husband of a friend of mine. I don't
think you've met her. Why?"

Surely, she thought, Mr. Strong was not going to tell her that "Stanhope
Tasker was an excellent fellow in his way, but----," as he had said of
Mr. Brimby, Mr. Wilkinson and Mr. Prang!----

"Oh, nothing much. Only that I saw him to-day," Strong replied
offhandedly.

"He's often about. He isn't a very busy man, I should say," Amory
remarked.

"Saw him in Charing Cross Road as I was coming out of the office," Mr.
Strong continued. "I don't think he saw me though."

"After his abominable manners to you that day I should think he'd be
ashamed to look you in the face."

For a moment Mr. Strong looked puzzled; then he remembered, and laughed
again.

"Oh, I didn't mind that in the least! Rather refreshing in fact. Far
more likely he didn't notice me because he had his wife with him. I
think you said he was married?"

Amory was just about to say that Mr. Strong gave Stan far more
magnanimity than he deserved when a thought arrested her. Dorothy in
Charing Cross Road! As far as she was aware Dorothy had not been out of
Hampstead for weeks, and even then kept to the less frequented parts of
the Heath. It wasn't likely....

Her eyes became thoughtful.

"Oh? That's funny," she said.

"What, that he shouldn't see me? Oh no. They seemed far more interested
in electric-light fittings."

Amory's eyes grew more thoughtful still--"Oh!" she said; and added, "Did
you think her pretty?"

"Hm--in a way. Very well dressed certainly; they both were. But I don't
think these black Spanish types amuse me much," Mr. Strong replied.

Dorothy a black Spanish type!

"Oh, do tell me what she had on!" said Amory brightly.

She rather thought she knew most of Dorothy's dresses by this time.

A black Spanish type!

The task of description was too much for Mr. Strong, but he did his best
with it. Amory was keenly interested. But she pocketed her interest for
the present, and said quite banteringly and with an almost arch look,
"Oh, I should have thought Mrs. Tasker exactly your type!"

Again the quick motion of Mr. Strong's blue eyes suggested an audible
click--"Oh? Why?" he asked.

"Oh, there's no 'why' about it, of course. It's the impression of you I
had, that's all. You see, you don't particularly admire Miss
Belchamber----"

"Oh, come! I think Miss Belchamber's an exceedingly nice girl, only----"

"Well, Laura Beamish, then. But I forgot; you don't go to Walter's
Lectures. But I wonder whether you'd admire Laura?"

"If she's black and Spanish you think I should?" He paused. "Is she?"

"No. Brown and stringy rather, and with eyes that open and shut very
quickly.... But I'm very absurd. There's no Law about these things
really. Only, you see, I've no idea of the kind of woman you _do_
admire?"

She said it smilingly, but that did not mean that she was not perfectly
candid and natural about it too. Why not be natural about these things?
Amory knew people who were natural enough about their preferred foods
and clothing and houses; was a woman less than an entrée, or a bungalow,
or a summer overcoat? Besides, it was so very much more intrinsically
interesting. Walter Wyron had made a whole Lecture on it--Lecture No.
II, "_Types and Tact_," and Walter had barely touched the fringe of the
subject. Amory wanted to go a little deeper than that. But she also
wanted to get away from those vulgarized words and ready-made
conclusions, and to have each case considered on its merits. Surely it
ought to be possible to say that the presence of a person affected you
pleasantly, or unpleasantly, without sniggering inferences of a
_liaison_ in the one case or of a rupture in the other!

Therefore it was once more just a little irritating that Mr. Strong,
instead of telling her what type he did admire, should merely laugh and
say, "Well--not Mrs. Tasker." If Amory had a criticism at all to make of
Mr. Strong it was this habit of his of negatives, that sometimes almost
justified the nickname Mr. Brimby had given him, of "Stone Wall Strong."
So she dropped one hand from her chin, allowing it to hang loose over
her knee while the other forearm still kept its swan's-neck curve, and
said abruptly, "Well--about the Indian Number. Let's get on."

"Ah, yes," said Mr. Strong. "Let's get on."

"What had we decided?"

"Only Prang's article so far."

"But you say you have your doubts about it?"

Mr. Strong hesitated. "Only about its selling-power," he said with a
little shrug. "We must sell the paper, you see. It's not paying its way
yet."

"Well, I'm sure that's not Mr. Prang's fault," Amory retorted. "He's
practically made the export circulation."

"You mean the Bombay circulation? Yes, I suppose he has. I don't deny
it."

"You can't deny it. Since Prang began to write for us we've done awfully
well in Bombay."

To that too, Mr. Strong assented. Then Amory, after a moment's pause,
spoke quietly. She did not like to think of her editor as jealous of his
own contributors.

"I know you don't like Mr. Prang," she said, looking fixedly at the
asbestos log.

"I!" began Stone Wall Strong. "Why, you know I think he's a first rate
fellow, if only----"

This time, however, Amory really did intend to get it out of him. For
once she would have one of those hung-up sentences completed.

"If only what?" she said, looking up at him.

"Oh, I don't know--as you said a moment ago, there's no 'why' about
these things----"

"But I did give you my impression. You don't give me yours."

"You did, I admit. Yes, I admit you did.... What is it you want to know,
then?"

"Only why you seem so doubtful about Mr. Prang."

"Ah!" said Mr. Strong....

Those who knew Edgar Strong the best said that he was a man who, other
things being equal, would rather go straight than not. Even when the
other things were not quite equal, he still had a mild preference for
straightness. But if other people positively insisted that he should
deviate from straightness, very well; that was their look-out. He had
been a good many things in his time--solicitor's clerk, free-lance
journalist, book-pedlar, election-agent's minion, Vanner, poetic
vagabond, and always an unerring "spotter" of the literary son of the
farming squire the moment he appeared in sight; and the "Novum" was the
softest job he had found yet. If the price of his keeping it was that he
should look its owner's wife long and earnestly in the eyes, as if in
his own there lay immeasurable things, not for him to give but for her
to take if she list, so be it; he would sleep none the less well in his
rent-free bedroom behind the "Novum's" offices afterwards. His
experience of far less comfortable sleeping-quarters had persuaded him
that in this imperfect world a man is entitled to exactly what he can
get.

His eyes, nevertheless, did not seek Amory's. Instead, roving round the
room to see if nothing less would serve (leaving him still with the
fathomless look in reserve for emergencies), they fell on the Benares
tray and the casts. And as they remained there he suddenly frowned.
Amory's own eyes followed his; and suddenly she felt again that little
creeping thrill. A faint colour and warmth, new and pleasurable, came
into her cheeks.

Then with a little rush, her discovery came upon her....

She _had_ got something from Mr. Strong at last!

Her head drooped a little away from him, and the hand that had hung
laxly over her knee dropped gently to the rug. It was a delicious
moment. So all these weeks and weeks Mr. Strong _had_ cared that that
foot, that arm, had been exposed to the gaze of anybody who might have
entered the house! He had not said so; he did not say so now; but that
was it! More, he had cared so much that it had quite distorted his
judgment of Mr. Prang. And all at once Amory remembered something
else--a glance Edgar Strong had given her, neither more nor less
eloquent than the look he was bending on the casts now, one afternoon
when she had lain in the hammock in the garden and Mr. Prang, bending
over her, had ventured to examine a locket about her throat....

So _that_ was at the bottom of his reserve! _That_ was the meaning of
his "buts"!...

Amory did not move. She wished it might last for hours. Mr. Strong had
taken a step towards the casts, but, changing his mind, had turned away
again; and she was astonished to find how full of meaning dozens of his
past gestures became now that she had the key to them. And she knew that
the casts _were_ beautiful. Brucciani would have bought them like a
shot. And she seemed to see Mr. Strong's look, piteous and frowning both
at once, if she should sell them to Brucciani, and Brucciani should
publish them to hang in a hundred studios....

The silence between them continued.

But speak she must, and it would be better to do so before he did; and
by and bye she lifted her head again. But she did not look directly at
him.

"It was very foolish," she murmured with beautiful directness and
simplicity.

Mr. Strong said nothing.

"But for weeks I've been intending to move them."

Mr. Strong shrugged his shoulders. It was as if he said, "Well better
late than never ... but you see, _now_."

"Yes," breathed Amory, softly, but aloud.

The next moment Mr. Strong was himself again. He returned to his station
by the asbestos log.

"Well, there's Prang's article," he said in his business voice. "Am I to
have it set up?"

"Perhaps we'd better see what Cosimo says first," Amory replied.

She did not know which was the greater delicacy in Mr. Strong--the
exquisite tact of the glance he had given at the casts, or the quiet
strength with which he took up the burden of editing the "Novum" again.



V

THREE SHIPS


A white October mist lay over the Heath, and the smell of burning leaves
came in at the pond-room window of Dorothy Tasker's flat. But the smell
was lost on Dorothy. All her intelligence was for the moment
concentrated in one faculty, the faculty of hearing. She was sure Jackie
had swallowed a safety-pin, and she was anxiously listening for the
click with which it might come unstuck.

"Shall I send for the doctor, m'm?" said Ruth, who stood holding the
doorknob in her aproned hand. She had been called away from her
"brights," and there was a mournful relish of Jackie's plight on her
face.

"No," said Dorothy.... "Oh, I _know_ there were twelve of them, and now
there are only eleven!... _Have_ you put one of these things into your
mouth, Jackie?"

"He put it up his nose, mumsie, like he did some boot-buttons once,"
said Noel cheerfully.

"But he couldn't do that.... _Have_ you swallowed it, Jackie?"

"Mmm," said Jackie resolutely, as who should say that that which his
hand (or in this case his mouth) found to do he did with all his might.

"Oh dear!" sighed Dorothy, leaning back in her chair....

She supposed it was the still white weather that weighed on her spirits;
she hoped so, for if it was not that it was something worse. Even dreary
weather was better than bankruptcy. She had sent her pass-book to the
bank to be balanced; until it should come back she refused to look at
the pile of tradesmen's books that stood on her writing-desk; and
borrowing from her aunt was not borrowing at all, but simply begging,
since Aunt Grace regarded the return of such loans as the last of
affronts.

And (she sighed again) she had been _so_ well-off at the time of her
marriage! Why, she had had well over a thousand a year from Hallowell
and Smith's alone!... But Stan had had a few debts which had had to be
settled, and Stan's knowledge of the style in which things ought to be
done had been rather a drawback on that trip they had taken to the
Riviera, for his ideas of hotels had been a little splendacious, and of
dinners to "a few friends" rather daring; and, with one thing and
another, the problem of how to satisfy champagne tastes on a beer income
had never been really satisfactorily solved by Stan, poor old boy. And
he never, never grumbled at home, not even when the cold beef came on
three evenings together, which was harder on him than it was on most
people. He did what he could to earn, too. It wasn't his fault that the
standard of efficiency in the Army was so impracticably high, nor that
he had been packed off to try his luck in Canada with the disadvantage
of being a remittance-man, nor that, at the age of twenty-seven, when
his father had died, he had had to turn to and compete for this job or
that with a horde of capable youngsters years his juniors and with fewer
hampering decencies. It was his father's fault and Aunt Susan's really,
for having sent him to Marlborough and Sandhurst without being able to
set him properly on his feet afterwards. Such victims of circumstances,
on a rather different level, made husbands who stopped at home and
cleaned the knives and took the babies out in the perambulator. In
Stan's case the natural result had been to make a young man fit only to
join as a ranker or to stand with his back to a mirror in a suspect
card-room.

"Shall I take him away, m'm?" Mrs. Mossop asked--("And prepare his
winding-sheet," her tone seemed to add).

"Yes, do," Dorothy replied, with a glance at Ruth's blackened hands.
"And please make yourself fit to be seen, Ruth. You know you oughtn't to
be doing all that on the very day I let Norah out."

She knew that her rebuke had set Ruth up in the melancholy enjoyment of
resentment for half a week, but she was past caring. Ruth rose an inch
in height at being chidden for the faithful performance of her most
disagreeable duties; she turned; and as she bore the Bits away the
mighty roar into which Jackie broke diminished in volume down the
passage.

Dorothy sighed, that all her troubles should thus crowd on her at once.
Her eyes fell again on the tradesmen's books. It hardly seemed worth
while to pay them, since they would only come in again next week, as
clamourous and urgent as ever. They were thrust through the letterbox
like letters; Dorothy knew very well the thud with which they fell on
the floor; but she could never help running out into the hall when they
came. She had tried the plan of dispensing with books altogether and
paying for everything in cash as she got it, but that had merely meant,
not one large worry a week, but harassing little ones all the week
through.

Oh, why had she squandered, or allowed Stan to squander, those good
round sovereigns of Hallowell and Smith's!----

Still--there is measure in everything--she had not sent her pass-book to
the bank in order to learn whether she had a balance. That would have
been too awful. It was the amount of her margin that she wanted, and
feared, to know. For presently there would be the doctor to pay, and so
many guineas a week at the Nursing Home, and the flat going on just the
same, and poor old Stan pathetically hoping that a casual dinner-table
puff in a Marlborough voice would result in fat new ledger-accounts for
Fortune and Brooks' and magnificent commissions for himself. If only she
could get just a little ahead of her points! But the money went out
just slightly quicker than it came in. Stan carved it as it were in
twopences off the cold beef, the Bits swallowed it in pennorths with
their breadcrumbs and gravy, and directly the strain eased for a little,
down swooped the rent and set everything back again exactly where it had
been three months before.

And the Income Tax people had actually sent Stan a paper, wanting to
know all about his income from lands, hereditaments, etc., and warning
him that his wife's income must be accounted as part of his own!

But it must not be supposed that Dorothy had allowed things to come to
this pass without having had an idea. She had an idea, and one that she
thought a very good one. Nevertheless, an idea is one thing, and the
execution thereof at the proper time quite another. For example, the
proper moment for the execution of this idea of Dorothy's was certainly
now, or at any rate at the Christmas Quarter (supposing she herself was
up and about again by that time and had found a satisfactory sub-tenant
for the flat). But the person against whom her idea was designed--who,
by the way, happened to be her unsuspecting and much-loved aunt, Lady
Tasker--was a very present difficulty. Dorothy knew for a fact that what
would be admirably convenient for herself at Christmas could not
possibly be convenient to her aunt until, at the very earliest, next
summer. That was the crab--the intervening period of nine months. She
knew of no mandragora that would put herself, Stan and her Bits of
Impudence gently to sleep, to wake up again to easier times.

Oh, why had she spent those beautiful thick sovereigns of Hallowell and
Smiths' so recklessly!--

The mist lay flat over the pond outside, making in one corner of it a
horrible scum, from which the swans, seeking their food, lifted
blackened necks. There was never a ripple on the pond-room walls to-day.
Slowly Dorothy rose. Moping was useless; she must do something. She
crossed to her writing-desk and took from one of its drawers a fat file,
concertina-ed like her own accordion-pleated skirts; and she sat down
and opened it fan-wise on her knee. It was full of newspaper-cuttings,
draft "ideas" for advertisements, and similar dreary things. She sighed
again as her listless fingers began to draw them out. She had not
thought at one time that she would ever come to this. By a remarkable
piece of luck and light-heartedness and ingenuity she had started at
Hallowell and Smith's at the top of the tree; the brains of underlings
had been good enough to cudgel for such scrap-stuff as filled her
concertina-file; but that was all changed now. Light come, light go; and
since the lapse of her contracts she had been glad not only to devise
these ignoble lures for the public, but to draw them also. They formed
the pennies-three-farthings that came in while Stan carved the twopences
from the joint. She had thought the good times were going to last for
ever. They hadn't. She now looked enviously up to those who had been her
own subordinates.

With no heart in her task at all, Dorothy set about the drafting of an
advertisement.

She was just beginning to forget about swallowed safety-pins, and poor
luckless Stan, and guineas for her Nursing Home, and the prospect of
presently having seven mouths, big and little, to feed--she was even
beginning to cease to hear the clamour of the Bits in the room along the
passage--when there came a ring at the bell. Her fair head did not move,
but her blue eyes stole abstractedly sideways as Ruth passed the
pond-room door. Then a man's voice sounded, and Dorothy dropped her
pen....

"Mrs. Tasker," she had heard, with the "a" cut very short and two "s's"
in her name....

The next moment Ruth had opened the pond-room door, and, in tones that
plainly said "You needn't think that I've forgotten about just now,
because I haven't," announced: "Mr. Miller."

Now it was curious that Dorothy had just been thinking about Mr. Miller.
Mr. Miller was Hallowells' Publicity Manager, and the time had been when
Dorothy had had Mr. Miller completely in her pocket. She had obtained
that comfortable contract of hers from Mr. Miller, and if during the
latter part of its continuance she had taken her duties somewhat lightly
and her pleasures with enormous gusto, she was not sure that Mr. Miller
had not done something of the same kind. But the firm, which could
excuse itself from a renewal of her own contract, for some reason or
other could not get rid of Mr. Miller; and now here was Mr. Miller
unexpectedly in Dorothy's flat--seeking her, which is far better for
you than when you have to do the seeking. He stood there with his grey
Trilby in his hand and his tailor-made deltoids almost filling the
aperture of the doorway.

"There, now, if I wasn't right!" said Mr. Miller with great
satisfaction, advancing with one hand outstretched. "I fixed it all up
with myself coming along that you'd be around the house. I've had no
luck all the week, and I said to myself as I got out of the el'vator at
Belsize Park, 'It's doo to change.' And here I find you, right on the
spot. I hope this is not an introosion. How are you? And how's Mr.
Stan?"

He shook hands heartily with Dorothy, and looked round for a place in
which to put his hat and stick.

"Why, now, this is comfortable," he went on, drawing up the chair to
which Dorothy pointed. "I like your English fires. They may not have all
the advantages of steam-heat, but they got a look about 'em--the
Home-Idee. And you're looking just about right in health, Mrs. Tasker,
if I may say so. You English women have our N'York ladies whipped when
it comes to complexion, you have for sure. And how's the family----?"

But here Mr. Miller suddenly stopped and looked at Dorothy again. If the
look that came into his eyes had come into those of a young unmarried
woman, Dorothy would have fled there and then. He dropped his head for a
moment as people do who enter a church; then he raised it again.

"If you'll pardon an old married man and the father of three little
goils," Mr. Miller said, his eyes reverently lifted and his voice
suddenly altered, "--but am I right in supposing that ... another little
gift from the storks, as my dear old Mamie--that was my dear old negro
nurse--used to say?" Then, without waiting for the unrequired answer, he
straightened his back and squared his deltoids in a way that would have
made any of Holbein's portraits of Henry the Eighth look like that of a
slender young man. His voice dropped three whole tones, and again he
showed Dorothy the little bald spot on the crown of his head.

"I'm glad. I say I'm glad. I'm vurry glad. I rejoice. And I should like
to shake Mr. Stan by the hand. I should like to shake you by the hand
too, Mrs. Tasker." Then, when he had done so: "It's the Mother-Idee. The
same, old-fashioned Idee, like our own mothers. It makes one feel good.
Reverent. I got no use for a young man but what he shows lats of
reverence for his mother. The old Anglo-Saxon-Idee--reverence for
motherhood.... And when, if an old married man may ask the
question----?"

Dorothy laughed and blushed and told him. Mr. Miller, dropping his voice
yet another tone, told her in return that he knew of no holier place on
oith than the chamber in which the Anglo-Saxon-Idee of veneration for
motherhood was renewed and sustained. And then, after he had said once
more that he rejoiced, there fell a silence.

Dorothy liked Mr. Miller. Once you got over his remarkable aptitude for
sincerities he had an excellent heart. Nevertheless she could not
imagine why he had come. She shuddered as he seemed for a moment to be
once more on the point of removing his shoes at the door of the Mosque
of Motherhood, but apparently he thought better of it. Squaring his
shoulders again, and no doubt greatly fortified by his late exercise, he
said, "Well, I always feel more of a man after I felt the throb of a
fellow-creature's heart. That's so. And now you'll be wondering what's
brought me up here? Well, the fact is, Mrs. Tasker, I'm wurried. I got
wurries. You can see the wurry-map on my face. Hallowells' is wurrying
me. I ain't going to tell you Hallowells' ain't what it was in its pammy
days; it may be, or it may not; mebbe you've heard the talk that's going
around?"

"No," said Dorothy.

"Is that so? Well, there is talk going around. There's a whole push of
people, knocking us all the time. They ain't of much account themselves,
but they knock us. It's a power the inferior mind has. And I say I'm
wurried about it."

Dorothy, in spite of her "No," had heard of the "knocking" of Hallowell
and Smiths', and her heart gave an excited little jump at the thought
that flashed across her mind. Did Hallowells' want her back? The firm
had been launched upon London with every resource of publicity; Dorothy
herself had been the author of its crowning device; and whereas the
motto of older firms had been "Courtesy Costs Nothing," Hallowells' had
vastly improved upon this. Courtesy had, as a matter of fact, cost them
a good deal; but the rewards of the investment had been magnificent. Mr.
Miller had known that if you say to people often enough "See how
courteous I am," you are to all intents and purposes courteous. But what
Mr. Miller had not known had been the precise point at which it is
necessary to begin to build up a strained reputation again.
Commercial credit too, like those joints Stan carved, comes in in
two-pence-halfpennies but goes out in threepences.... And so the
"knocking" had begun. Rumours had got about that Hallowells' was a shop
where you were asked, after a few unsuitable articles had been shown to
you, whether you didn't intend to buy anything, and where you might wait
for ten minutes at a counter while two assistants settled a private
difference behind it. Did Mr. Miller want her help in restoring the
firm's fair name? Did he intend to offer her another contract? Were
there to be more of Hallowells' plump, ringing sovereigns--that she
would know better how to take care of this time? It was with difficulty
that she kept her composure as Mr. Miller continued:

"There's no denying but what inferior minds have that power," he went
sorrowfully on. "They can't build up an enterprise, but they can knock,
and they been good and busy. You haven't heard of it? Well, that's good
as far as it goes, but they been at it for all that. Now I don't want to
knock back at your country, Mrs. Tasker, but it seems to me that's the
English character. You're hostile to the noo. The noo gives you cold
feet. You got a terrific capacity for stopping put. Your King Richard
Core de Lion did things in a certain way, and it ain't struck you yet
that he's been stiff and straight quite a while. And so when you see
something with snap and life to it you start knocking." Mr. Miller spoke
almost bitterly. "But I ain't holding you personally responsible, Mrs.
Tasker. I reckon you're a wonderful woman. Yours is a reel old family,
and if anybody's the right to knock it's you; but _you_ appreciate the
noo. _You_ look at it in the light of history. _You_ got the sense of
world-progress. _You're_ a sort of Lady Core de Lion to-day. I haven't
forgotten the Big Idee you started us off with. And so I come to you,
and tell you, straight and fair, we want you."

Dorothy was tingling with excitement; but she took up a piece of
sewing--the same piece on which she had bent her modest gaze when she
had machinated against her aunt on the afternoon on which Lady Tasker
had come on, weary and thirsty, from The Witan. It was a piece she kept
for such occasions as these. She stitched demurely, and Mr. Miller went
on again:--

"We want you. We want those bright feminine brains of yours, Mrs.
Tasker. And your ladies' intooition. We're stuck. We want another Idee
like the last. And so we come to the department where we got
satisfaction before."

Dorothy spoke slowly. She was glad the pond-room was beautifully
furnished--glad, too, that the hours Ruth spent over her "brights" were
not spent in vain. The porcelain gleamed in her cabinets and the silver
twinkled on her tables. At any rate she did not look poor.

"This is rather a surprise," she said. "I hardly know what to say. I
hadn't thought of taking on another contract."

But here Mr. Miller was prompt enough.

"Well, I don't know that we were thinking of a noo contract exactly.
You're a lady with a good many responsibilities now, and ain't got too
much time for contracts, I guess. No, it ain't a contract. It's an Idee
we want."

Far more quickly than Dorothy's hopes had risen they dropped again at
this. "An Idee:" naturally!... Everybody wanted that. She had not had to
hawk an idea like the last--so simple, so shapely, so beauty-bright. And
she had learned that it is not the ideas, but what follows them, that
pays--the flat and uninspired routine that forms the everyday work of a
lucrative contract. It is the irony of this gipsy life of living by your
wits. You do a stately thing and starve; you follow it up--or somebody
else does--with faint and empty echoes of that thing, and you are
overfed. An Idea--but not a contract; a picking of her brains, but no
permanent help against that tide of tradesman's books that flowed in at
the front door.... And Dorothy knew already that for another reason Mr.
Miller had sought her out in vain. Ideas are _not_ repeated. They visit
us, but we cannot fetch them. And as for echoes of that former
inspiration of hers, no doubt Mr. Miller had thought of all those for
himself and had rejected them.

"I see," she said slowly....

"Well," said Mr. Miller, his worry-map really piteous, "I wish you could
tell me where we've gone wrong. It must be something in the British
character we ain't appreciated, but what, well, that gets me. We been
Imperialistic. There ain't been one of our Monthly House Dinners but
what we've had all the Loyal Toasts, one after the other. There ain't
been a Royal Wedding but what we've had a special window-display, and
christenings the same, and what else you like. We ain't got gay with the
Union Jack nor Rotten Row nor the House of Lords. We've reminded folk it
was your own King George who said 'Wake up, England----!'"

But at this point Mr. Miller's doleful recital was cut short by a second
ring at the bell. Again Ruth's step was heard in the passage outside,
and again Ruth, loftily sulky but omitting no point of her duty, stood
with the door-knob in her hand.

"Mrs. Pratt," she announced; and Amory entered.

Seeing Mr. Miller, however, she backed again. Mr. Miller had risen and
bowed as if he was giving some invisible person a "back" for leapfrog.

"Oh, I do so beg your pardon!" said Amory hurriedly. "I didn't know
you'd anybody here. But--if I could speak to you for just a moment,
Dorothy--it won't take a minute----"

"Please excuse me," said Dorothy to Mr. Miller; and she went out.

She was back again in less than three minutes. Her face had an unusual
pinkness, but her voice was calm. She did not sit down again. Neither
did she extend her hand to Mr. Miller in a too abrupt good-bye.
Nevertheless, that worried man bowed again, and looked round for his hat
and stick.

"I shall have to think over what you've been saying," Dorothy said.
"I've no proposal to make off-hand, you see--and I'm rather afraid that
just at present I shan't be able to come and see you----"

There were signs in Mr. Miller's bearing of another access of reverence.

"So I'll write. Or better still, if it's not too much trouble for you to
come and see me again----? Perhaps I'd better write first.--But you'll
have tea, won't you?"

Mr. Miller put up a refusing hand.--"No, I thank you.--So you'll do your
possible, Mrs. Tasker? That's vurry good of you. I'm wurried, and I rely
on your sharp feminine brains. As for the honorarium, we shan't quarrel
about that. I wish I could have shaken hands with Mr. Stan. There ain't
a happier and prouder moment in a man's life than----"

"Good-bye."

And the father of three little goils of his own took his leave.

No sooner had he gone than Dorothy's brows contracted. She took three
strides across the room and rang for Ruth. Never before had she
realized the inferiority, as a means of expressing temper, of an
electric bell to a hand-rung one or to one of which a yard or two of
wire can be ripped from the wall. Only by mere continuance of pressure
till Ruth came did she obtain even a little relief. To the high resolve
on Ruth's face she paid no attention whatever.

"A parcel will be coming from Mrs. Pratt," she said. "Please see that it
goes back at once."

Ruth's head was heroically high. The late Mr. Mossop had had his faults,
but he had not kept his finger on electric-bell buttons till she came.

"No doubt there's them as would give better satisfaction, m'm," she said
warningly.

But Dorothy rushed on her fate.--"There seems very little satisfaction
anywhere to-day," she answered.

"Then I should wish to give the usual notice," said Ruth.

"Very well," said the reckless mistress.... "Ruth!" (Ruth returned).
"You forgot what I said about always shutting the door quietly."

This time the door close so quietly behind Ruth that Dorothy heard her
outburst into tears on the other side of it.

Second-hand woollies for her Bits!... Of course Amory Pratt had made the
proposal with almost effusive considerateness. No doubt the twins, Corin
and Bonniebell, _had_ outgrown them. Dorothy did not suppose for a
moment that they were _not_ the best of their kind that money could
buy; the Pratts seemed to roll in money. And beyond all dispute the
winter _might_ come any morning now, and the garments _would_ just fit
Jackie. But--her own Bits!... She had had her back to the bedroom window
when the offer had been made; she knew that her sudden flush had not
showed; and her voice had not changed as she had deliberately told her
lie--that she had bought the children's winter outfits only the day
before....

"I'm sure you won't have any difficulty in giving them away," she had
concluded as she had passed to the bedroom door.

"Far less difficulty than you'll find here," she might have added, but
had forborne....

Other children's woollies for her little Jackie!----

What gave sting to the cut was that Jackie sorely needed them; but then
it was not like Amory Pratt, Dorothy thought bitterly, to make a
graceful gift of an unrequired thing. She must blunder into people's
necessities. A gift of a useless Teddy Bear or of a toy that would be
broken in a week Dorothy might not have refused; but mere need!--"Oh!"
Dorothy exclaimed, twisting in her chair with anger....

What a day! What a life! And what a little thing thus to epitomize the
whole hopeless standstill of their circumstances!

And because it was a little thing, it had a power over Dorothy that
twenty greater things would not have had. She was about to call the
precious and disparaged Jackie when she thought better of it. Instead,
she dropped her face into her hands and melted utterly. What Ruth did in
the kitchen she did in the pond-room; and Jackie, who caught the
contagion, filled the passage between with an inconsolable howling.

It was into this house of lamentation that Stan entered at half-past
four.

"Steady, there!" he called to his younger son; and Jackie's bellow
ceased instantaneously.

"Ruth's c'ying, so I c'ied too," he confided solemnly to his father; and
the two entered the pond-room together, there to find Dorothy also in
tears.

"Hallo, what's this?" said Stan. "Jackie, run and tell Ruth to hurry up
with tea.... Head up, Dot--let's have a look at you----"

Perhaps he meant that Dot should have a look at him, for his face shone
with an--alas!--not unwonted excitement. Dorothy had seen that shining
before. It usually meant that he had been let in on the ground floor of
the International Syndicate for the manufacture of pig-spears, or had
secured an option on the world's supply of wooden pips for blackberry
jam, or an agency for a synthesized champagne. And she never dashed the
perennial hopefulness of it. The poor old boy would have been
heartbroken had he been allowed to suppose that he was not, in intent at
any rate, supporting his wife and children.

"What is it, old girl?" he said. "Just feeling low, eh? Never mind. I've
some news for you."

Dorothy summoned what interest she could,--

"Not an agency or anything?" she asked, wiping her eyes.

"Better than that."

"Well, some agencies are very good."

"Not as good as this!"

"Put your arm round me. I've been feeling _so_ wretched!"

"Come and sit here. There. Wretched, eh? Well, would three hundred a
year cheer you up any?"

It would have, very considerably; but Stan's schemes were seldom
estimated to produce a sum less than that.

"Eh?" Stan continued. "Paid weekly or monthly, whichever I like, and a
month's screw to be going on with?"

Suddenly Dorothy straightened herself in his arms. She knew that Stan
was trying to rouse her, but he needn't use a joke with quite so sharp a
barb. She sank back again.

"Don't, dear," she begged. "I know it's stupid of me, but I'm so dull
to-day. You go out somewhere this evening, and I'll go to bed early and
sleep it off. I shall be all right again in the morning."

But from the pocket into which she herself had put four half-crowns that
very morning--all she could spare--Stan drew out a large handful of
silver, with numerous pieces of gold sticking up among it. A glance told
her that Stan was not likely to have backed a winner at any such price
as that. Other people did, but not Stan. She had turned a little pale.

"Tell me, quick, Stan!" she gasped.

"You laughed rather at the Fortune & Brooks idea, didn't you?"

"Oh, don't joke, darling!----"

"Eh?... I say, you're upset. Anything been happening to-day? Look here,
let me get you a drink or something!"

"Do you mean--you've got a job, Stan?"

"Rather!--I say, do let me get you a drink----"

"I shall faint if you don't tell me----"

She probably would....

Stan had got a job. What was it, this job that had enabled Stan to come
home, before he had lifted a finger to earn it, with masses of silver in
his pocket, and the clean quids sticking up out of the lump like almonds
out of a trifle?

--He would have to lift more than a finger before that money was earned.
He would have to hang on wires by his toes, and to swim streams, and to
be knocked down by runaway horses, and to dash into burning houses, and
to fling himself on desperate men, and to ascend into the air in
water-planes and to descend in submarines into the deep. Hydrants would
be turned on him, and sacks of flour poured on him, and hogsheads of
whitewash and bags of soot. Not for his brains, but for his good looks
and steady nerves and his hard physical condition had he been the chosen
one among many. For Stan had joined a Film Producing Company, less as an
actor than as an acrobat. Go and see him this evening. He is as well
worth your hour as many a knighted actor. And the scene from "Quentin
Durward," in which Bonthron is strung up with the rope round his neck,
is not fake. They actually did string Stan up, in the studio near Barnet
that had been a Drill Hall, and came precious near to hanging him into
the bargain.

But he passed lightly over these and other perils as he poured it all
out to Dorothy at tea. Pounds, not perils, were the theme of his song.

"I didn't say anything about it for fear it didn't come off," he said,
"but I've been expecting it for weeks." He swallowed tea and cake at a
rate that must have put his internal economy to as severe a strain as
"Mazeppa" (Historical Film Series, No. XII) afterwards did his bones and
muscles. "I start on Monday, so breakfast at eight, sharp, Dot. 'Lola
Montez.' They've got a ripping little girl as Lola; took her out to tea
and shopping the other day; I'll bring her round." ("No you don't--not
with me sitting here like a Jumping Bean," quoth Dorothy). "Oh, that's
all right--she's getting married herself next month--furnishing her flat
now--I helped her to choose her electric-light fittings--you'd like
her.... _Ain't_ it stunning, Dot!----"

It was stunning. Part of the stunningness of it was that Dorothy, with
an abrupt "Excuse me a moment," was enabled to cross to her desk and to
dash off a note to Harrods. Second-hand woollies for her Bits! Oh no,
not if she knew it!... "Yes, go on, dear," she resumed, returning to the
tea-table again. "No, I don't wish it was something else. If we're poor
we're poor, and the Services are out of the question, and it's just as
good as lots of other jobs.--And oh, that reminds me: I had Mr. Miller
in this afternoon!"...

"And oh!" said Stan ten minutes later; "I forgot, too! I met a chap,
too--forgotten all about it. That fellow I gave a dressing-down about
India to up at the Pratts' there. He stopped me in the street, and what
do you think? It was all I could do not to laugh. He asked me whether I
could put him on to a job! Me, who haven't started myself yet!... I said
I could put him on to a drink if that would do--I had to stand somebody
a drink, just to wet my luck, and I didn't see another soul--and I
fetched it all out of my pocket in a pub in St. Martin's Lane--," he
fetched it all out of his pocket again now, "--fetched it out as if it
was nothing--you should have seen him look at it!--Strong his name
is--didn't catch it that day he was burbling such stuff----"

Dorothy's eyes shone. Dear old Stan! That too pleased her. No doubt the
Pratts would be told that Stan was going about so heavily laden with
money that he had to divide the weight in order not to walk lopsided----

Worn woollies for His Impudence's Bits!----

Rather not! There would be a parcel round from Harrods' to-morrow!



VI

POLICY


Amory would have been far less observant than she was had it not
occurred to her, as she left Dorothy's flat that day, that she had been
hustled out almost unceremoniously. She hoped--she sincerely hoped--that
she did not see the reason. To herself, as to any other person not
absolutely case-hardened by prejudice, the thing that presented itself
to her mind would not have been a reason at all; but these conventional
people were so extraordinary, and in nothing more extraordinary than in
their regulations for receiving callers of the opposite sex. That was
what she meant by the vulgarizing of words and the leaping to ready-made
conclusions. A conventional person coming upon herself and Mr. Strong
closeted together would have his stereotyped explanation; but that was
no reason why anybody clearer-eyed and more open-minded and
generous-hearted should fall into the same degrading supposition. It
would be ridiculous to suppose that there was "anything" between Dorothy
and Mr. Miller. Amory knew that in the past Dorothy had had genuine
business with Mr. Miller. And so now had she herself with Mr. Strong.
And as for Stan's going about in open daylight with a "dark Spanish
type"--a type traditionally wickeder than any other--Amory thought
nothing of that either. Stan had as much right to go about with his
Spanish female as Cosimo had to take Britomart Belchamber to a New Greek
Society matinée or to one of Walter's Lectures. Amory would never have
dreamed of putting a false interpretation on these things.

Nevertheless, her visit _had_ been cut singularly short, and Dorothy
plainly _had_ wanted to be rid of her. Because hearts are kind eyes need
not necessarily be blind. Amory could not conceal from herself that in
magnanimously passing these things over as nothing, she was, after all,
making Dorothy a present of a higher standard than she had any right to.
Judged by her own standards (which was all the judgment she could
strictly have claimed), there was--Amory would not say a fishiness about
the thing--in fact she would not say anything about it at all. The less
said the better. Pushed to its logically absurd conclusion, Dorothy's
standard meant that whenever people of both sexes met they should not be
fewer than three in number. In Amory's saner view, on the other hand,
two, or else a crowd, was far more interesting. Nobody except
misanthropists talked about the repulsion of sex. Very well: if it was
an attraction, it _was_ an attraction. And if it was an attraction to
Amory, it was an attraction to Dorothy also; if to Cosimo, then to Stan
as well. The only difference was that she and Cosimo openly admitted it
and acted upon it, while Stan and Dorothy did not admit it, but probably
acted furtively on it just the same.

It was very well worth the trouble of the call to have her ideas on the
subject so satisfactorily cleared up.

At the end of the path between the ponds she hesitated for a moment,
uncertain whether to keep to the road or to strike across the sodden
Heath. She decided for the Heath. Mr. Strong had said that he might
possibly come in that afternoon to discuss the Indian policy, and she
did not want to keep him waiting.

Then once more she remembered her unceremonious dismissal, and reflected
that after all that had left her with time on her hands. She would take
a turn. It would only bore her to wait in The Witan alone, or, which was
almost the same thing, with Cosimo. The Witan was rather jolly when
there were crowds and crowds of people there; otherwise it was dull.

She turned away to the right, passed the cricket-pitch, found the cycle
track, and wandered down towards the Highgate ponds.

She had reached the model-yacht pond, and was wondering whether she
should extend her walk still further, when she saw ahead of her, sitting
on a bench beneath an ivied stump, two figures deep in conversation. She
recognized them at a glance. They were the figures of Cosimo and
Britomart Belchamber. Britomart was looking absently away over the
pond; Cosimo was whispering in her ear. Another second or two and Amory
would have walked past them within a yard.

Now Amory and Cosimo had married on certain express understandings, of
which a wise and far-sighted anticipation of the various courses that
might be taken in the event of their not getting on very well together
had formed the base. Therefore the little warm flurry she felt suddenly
at her heart could not possibly have been a feeling of liberation. How
could it, when there was nothing to be liberated from? Just as much
liberty as either might wish had been involved in the contract itself,
and a formal announcement of intention on either part was to be
considered a valid release.

And so, in spite of that curious warm tingle, Amory was not one atom
more free, nor one atom less free, to develop (did she wish it) a
relationship with anybody else--Edgar Strong or anybody--than she had
been before. She saw this perfectly clearly. She had talked it all over
with Cosimo scores of times. Why, then, did she tingle? Was it that they
had not talked it over enough?

No. It was because of a certain furtiveness on Cosimo's part. Evidently
he wished to "take action" (if she might use the expression without
being guilty of a vulgarized meaning) _without_ having made his formal
announcement. That she had come upon them so far from The Witan was
evidence of this. They had deliberately chosen a part of the Heath they
had thought it unlikely Amory would visit. They could have
done--whatever they were doing--under her eyes had they wished, but
they had stolen off together instead. It was a breach of the
understanding.

Before they had seen her, she left the path, struck across the grass
behind them, and turned her face homewards. She was far, far too proud
to look back. Certainly it was his duty to have let her know. Never
mind. Since he hadn't....

Yet the tingling persisted, coming and going in quite pleasurable little
shocks. Then all at once she found herself wondering how far Cosimo and
Britomart had gone, or would go. Not that it was any business of hers.
She was not her husband's keeper. It would be futile to try to keep
somebody who evidently didn't want to be kept. It would also take away
the curious subtle pleasure of that thrill.

She was not conscious that she quickened the steps that took her to the
studio, where by this time Edgar Strong probably awaited her.

Most decidedly Cosimo ought to have given her warning----

As for Britomart Belchamber--sly creature--no doubt she had persuaded
him to slink away like that----

Well, there would be time enough to deal with her by and bye----

Amory reached The Witan again.

As she entered the hall a maid was coming out of the dining-room. Amory
called her.

"Has Mr. Strong been in?"

"He's in the studio, m'm," the maid replied.

"Are the children with Miss Belchamber?"

"No, m'm. They're with nurse, m'm."

"Is Miss Belchamber in her room?"

"No, m'm. She's gone out."

"How long ago?"

"About an hour, m'm."

"Is Mr. Pratt in?"

"I think so, m'm. I'll go and inquire."

"Never mind. I'm going upstairs."

Ah! Then they had gone out separately, by pre-arrangement! More slyness!
And this was Cosimo's "pretence" at being Miss Belchamber's devoted
admirer! Of course, if there had been any pretence at all about it, it
would have had to be that he was not her admirer. Very well; they would
see about that, too, later!----

She went quickly to her own room, changed her blouse for a tea-gown, and
then, with that tingling at her heart suddenly warm and crisp again,
descended to the studio.

It was high time (she told herself) that the "Novum's" Indian policy was
definitely settled. Mr. Strong also said so, the moment he had shaken
hands with her and said "Good afternoon." But Mr. Strong spoke
bustlingly, as if the more haste he made the more quickly the job would
be over.

"Now these are the lines we have to choose from," he said....

And he enumerated a variety of articles they had in hand, including Mr.
Prang's.

"Then there's this," he said....

He told Amory about a crisis in the Bombay cotton trade, and of a scare
in the papers that very morning about heavy withdrawals of native
capital from the North Western Banks....

"But I think the best thing of all would be for me to write an article
myself," he said, "and to back it up with a number of Notes. What I
really want cleared up is our precise objective. I want to know what
that's to be."

"We'll have tea in first, and then we shall be undisturbed," said Amory.

"Better wait for Cosimo, hadn't we?"

"He's out," said Amory, passing to the bell.

She sat down on the corner of the sofa, and watched the maid bring in
tea. Mr. Strong, who had placed himself on the footstool and was making
soughing noises by expelling the air from his locked hands, appeared to
be brooding over his forthcoming number. But that quick little tingle of
half an hour before had had a curious after-affect on Amory. How it had
come about she did not know, but the fact remained that she was not,
now, so very sure that even the "Novum" was quite as great a thing as
she had supposed it to be. Or rather, if the "Novum" itself was no less
great, she had, quite newly, if dimly, foreseen herself in a more
majestic rôle than that of a mere technical _directrice_.

Politics? Yes, it undoubtedly was the Great Game. Strong men fancied
themselves somewhat at it, and conceited themselves, after the fashion
of men, that it was they who wrought this marvel or that. But was it?
Had there not been women so much stronger than they that, doing
apparently nothing, their nothings had been more potent than all the
rest? She began to give her fancy play. For example, there was that
about a face launching a thousand ships. That was an old story, of
course; if a face could launch a thousand ships so many centuries ago,
there was practically no limit to its powers with the British Navy at
its present magnificent pitch of numerical efficiency. But that by the
way. It was the idea that had seized Amory. Say a face--Helen's, she
thought it was--had launched a thousand, or even five hundred ships;
where was the point? Why, surely that that old Greek Lord High Admiral,
whoever he was--(Amory must look him up; chapter and verse would be so
very silencing if she ever had occasion to put all this into
words)--surely he had thought, as all men thought, that he was obeying
no behest but his own. The chances were that he had hardly wasted a
thought on Helen's face as a factor in the launching....

Yet Helen's face had been the real launching force, or rather the brain
behind Helen's face ... but Amory admitted that she was not quite sure
of her ground there. Perhaps she was mixing Helen up with somebody else.
At any rate, if she was wrong about Helen she was not wrong about
Catherine of Russia. Nor about Cleopatra. Nor about the Pompadour. These
had all had brains, far superior to the brains of their men, which they
had used through the medium of their beauty. She knew this because she
had been reading about them quite recently, and could put her finger on
the very page; she had a wonderful memory for the places in books in
which passages occurred.... So there were Catherine the Second, and
Cleopatra, and the Pompadour, even if she had been wrong about Helen.
That was a curious omission of Homer's, by the way--or was it
Virgil?--the omission of all reference to the brain behind. Perhaps it
had seemed so obvious that he took it for granted. But barring that, the
notion of a face launching the ships was very fine. It was the Romantic
Point of View. Hitherto Amory had passed over the Romantic Point of View
rather lightly, but now she rather thought there was a good deal in it.
At any rate that about the face of a woman being the real
launching-force of a whole lot of ships--well, it was an exaggeration,
of course, and in a sense only a poetic way of putting it--but it was
quite a ripping idea.

So if a ship could be launched, apparently, not by a mere material
knocking away of the thingummy, but by the timeless beauty of a face, an
Indian policy ought not to present more difficulties. At all events it
was worth trying. Perhaps "trying" was not exactly the word. These
things happened or they didn't happen. But anybody not entirely stupid
would know what Amory meant.

The maid lighted the little lamp under the water-vessel that kept the
muffins hot and then withdrew. Amory turned languidly to Mr. Strong.

"Would you mind pouring out the tea? I'm so lazy," she said.

She had put her feet up on the sofa, and her hands were clasped behind
her head. The attitude allowed the wide-sleeved tea-gown into which she
had changed to fall away from her upper arm, showing her satiny triceps.
The studio was warm; it might be well to open the window a little; and
Amory, from her sofa, gave the order. It seemed to her that she had not
given orders enough from sofas. She had been doing too much of the work
herself instead of lying at her ease and stilly willing it to be done.
She knew better now. It was much better to take a leaf out of the book
of _les grandes maitresses_. She recognized that she ought to have done
that long ago.

So Mr. Strong brought her tea, and then returned to his footstool again,
where he ate enormous mouthfuls of muffin, spreading anchovy-paste over
them, and drank great gulps of tea. He fairly made a meal of it. But
Amory ate little, and allowed her tea to get cold. The cast which Stan
had coarsely called "the fore-quarter" had been hung up on the wall at
the sofa's end, and her eyes were musingly upon it. The trotter lay out
of sight behind her.

"Well, about that thing of Prang's," said Mr. Strong when he could eat
no more. "Hadn't we better be settling about it?"

"Don't shout across the room," said Amory languidly, and perhaps a
little pettishly. She was wondering what was the matter with her hand
that Mr. Strong had not kissed it when he had said good afternoon. He
had kissed it on a former occasion.

"Head bad?" said Mr. Strong.

"No, my head's all right, but there's no reason we should edit the
'Novum' from the housetops."

"Was I raising my voice? Sorry."

Mr. Strong rose from his footstool and took up a station between the
tea-table and the asbestos log.

Amory was getting rather tired of hearing about that thing of Prang's.
She did not see why Mr. Strong should shuffle about it in the way he
did. The article had been twice "modified," that was to say more or less
altered, and Amory could hardly be expected to go on reading it in its
various forms for ever. What did Mr. Strong want? If he whittled much
more at Mr. Prang's clear statement of a point of view of which the
single virtue was its admitted extremeness, he would be reducing the
"Novum" to the level of mere Liberalism, and they had long ago decided
that, of the Conservative who opposed and the Liberal who killed by
insidious kindnesses, the former was to be preferred as a foe. Besides,
there was an alluring glow about Mr. Prang's way of writing. No doubt
that was part and parcel of the glamour of the East. The Eastern style,
like the Eastern blood, had more sun in it. Keats had put that awfully
well, in the passage about "parched Abyssinia" and "old Tartary the
Fierce," and so had that modern man, who had spoken of Asia as lying
stretched out "in indolent magnificence of bloom." Yes, there was a
funny witchery about Asia. In all sorts of ways they "went it" in Asia.
Bacchus had had a spree there, and it was there--or was that
Egypt?--that Cleopatra or the Queen of Sheba or somebody had smuggled
her satiny self into a roll of carpets and had had herself carried as a
present to King Solomon or Mark Antony or whoever it was. It seemed to
be in the Asian atmosphere, and Mr. Prang's prose style had a smack of
it too. Mr. Strong--his literary style, of course, she meant--might have
been all the better for a touch of that blood-warmth and thrill....

And there were ripping bits of reckless passion in Herodotus too.

But Mr. Strong continued to stand between the tea-table and the asbestos
log, and to let fall irresolute sentences from time to time. Prang, he
said, really was a bit stiff, and he, Mr. Strong, wasn't sure that he
altogether liked certain responsibilities. Not that he had changed his
mind in the least degree. He only doubted whether in the long run it
would pay the "Novum" itself to acquire a reputation for exploiting what
everybody else knew as well as they did, but left severely alone. In
fact, he had assumed, when he had taken the job on, that the work for
which he received only an ordinary working-salary would be conditioned
by what other editors did and received for doing it.... At that Amory
looked up.

"Oh? But I thought that the truth, regardless of consequences, was our
motto?"

"Of course--without fear or favour in a sense--but where there are extra
risks----"

What did this slow-coach of a man mean?----"What risks?" Amory asked
abruptly.

"Well, say risks to Cosimo as proprietor."

"You mean he might lose his money?" she said, with a glance round the
satiny triceps and the apple-bud of an elbow.

"Well--does he _want_ to lose his money?--What I mean is, that we aren't
paying our way--we've scarcely any advertisements, you see----"

"I think that what you mean is that we ought to become Liberals?" There
was a little ring in Amory's voice.

Mr. Strong made no reply.

"Or Fabians, perhaps?"

Still Mr. Strong did not answer.

"Because if you _do_ mean that, I can only say I'm--disappointed in
you!"

Now those who knew Edgar Strong the best knew how exceedingly sensitive
he was to those very words--"I'm disappointed in you." In his large and
varied experience they were invariably the prelude to the sack. And he
very distinctly did not want the sack--not, at any rate, until he had
got something better. Perhaps he reasoned within himself that, of
himself and Prang, he would be the more discreet editor, and so lifted
the question a whole plane morally higher. Perhaps, if it came to the
next worst, he was prepared to accept the foisting of Prang upon him and
to take his chance. Anyway, his face grew very serious, and he reached
for the footstool, drew it close up to Amory's couch, and sat down on
it.

"I wonder," he said slowly, looking earnestly at his folded hands,
"whether you'll put the worst interpretation on what I'm going to say."

Amory waited. She dropped the satiny-white upper arm. Mr. Strong
resumed, more slowly still--

"It's this. We're risking things. Cosimo's risking his money, but he may
be risking more than that. And if he risks it, so do I."

Into Amory's pretty face had come the look of the woman who prefers men
to take risks rather than to talk about them.--"What do you risk?" she
asked in tones that once more chilled Mr. Strong.

"Well, for one thing, a prosecution. Prang's rather a whole-hogger. It's
what I said before--we want to use him, not have him use us."

"Oh?" said Amory with a faint smile. "And can't you manage Mr. Prang?"

There was no doubt at all in Mr. Strong's mind what that meant. "Because
if you can't," it plainly meant, "I dare say we can find somebody who
can." Without any qualification whatever, she really was beginning to be
a little disappointed in him. She wondered how Cleopatra or the Queen of
Sheba would have felt (had such a thing been conceivable) if, when that
carpet had been carried by the Nubians into her lover's presence and
unrolled, Antony or whatever his name was had blushed and turned away,
too faint-hearted to take the gift the gods offered him? Risks!
Weren't--Indian policies--worth a little risk?...

Besides, no doubt Cosimo was still with Britomart Belchamber....

She put her hands behind her head again and gave a little laugh.

Well, (as Edgar Strong himself might have put it in the days when his
conversation had been slangier than it was now), it was up to him to
make good pretty quickly or else to say good-bye to the editorship of a
rag that at least did one bit of good in the world--paid Edgar Strong
six pounds a week. And if it must be done it must, that was all. Damn
it!...

Perhaps the satiny upper arm decided his next action. Once before he had
made its plaster facsimile serve his turn, and on the whole he would
have preferred to be able to do so again; but even had that object not
been out of reach on the wall and its original not eighteen inches away
at the sofa's end, three hundred pounds a year in jeopardy must be made
surer than that. He would have given a month's screw could Cosimo have
come in at that moment. He actually did give a quick glance in the
direction of the door....

But no help came.

Damn it----!

The next moment he had kissed that satiny surface, and then, gloomily,
and as one who shoulders the consequences of an inevitable act, stalked
away and stood in the favourite attitude of Mr. Brimby's heroes under
great stress of emotion--with his head deeply bowed and his back to
Amory. There fell between them a silence so profound that either became
conscious at the same moment of the soft falling of rain on the studio
roof.

Then, after a full minute and a half, Mr. Strong, still without turning,
walked to the table on which his hat lay. Always without looking at
Amory, he moved towards the door.

"Good-bye," he said over his shoulder.

There was the note of a knell in his tone. He meant good-bye for ever.
All in a moment Amory knew that on the morrow Cosimo would receive Edgar
Strong's formal resignation from the "Novum's" editorial chair, and
that, though Edgar might retain his hold on the paper until his
successor had been found, he would never come to The Witan any more. He
had called Mr. Prang a whole-hogger, but in Love he himself appeared to
be rather a whole-hogger. He had all but told her that to see her again
would mean ... she trembled. The alternative was not to see her again.
His whole action had said, more plainly than any words could say, "After
that--all or nothing."

She had not moved. She hardly knew the voice for her own in which she
said, still without turning her head, "Wait--a minute----"

Mr. Strong waited. The minute for which she asked passed.

"One moment----," murmured Amory again.

At last Mr. Strong lifted his head.--"There's nothing to say," he said.

"I'm thinking," Amory replied in a low voice.

"Really nothing."

"Give me just a minute----"

For she was thinking that it was her face, nothing else, that had
launched him thus to the door. For a moment she felt compunction for
its tyranny. Poor fellow, what else had he been able to do?... Yet what,
between letting him go and bidding him stay, was she herself to do? At
his touch her heart had swelled--been constricted--either--both; even
had she not known that she was a pretty woman, now at any rate she had
put it to the proof; and the chances seemed real enough that if he
turned and looked at her now, he must give a cry, stride across the
studio floor, and take her in his arms. Dared she provoke him?...

The moment she asked herself whether she dared she did dare. Not to have
dared would to have been to be inferior to those great and splendid and
reckless ones who had turned their eyes on their lovers and had
whispered, "Antony--Louis--I am here!" If she courted less danger than
she knew, her daring remained the same. And the room itself backed her
up. So many doctrines were enunciated in that studio, the burden of one
and all of which was "Why not?" The atmosphere was charged with
permissions ... perhaps for him too. He was at the door now. It was only
the turning of a key....

Amory's low-thrilled voice called his name across the studio.

"Edgar----"

But he had thought no less quickly than she. He had turned. Shrewdly he
guessed that she meant nothing; so much the better--damn it! There was
something female about Edgar Strong; he knew more about some things than
a young man ought to know; and in an instant he had found the "line" he
meant to take. It was the "line" of honour rooted in dishonour--the
"line" of Cosimo his friend--the "line" of black treachery to the hand
that fed him with muffins and anchovy paste--or, failing these, the
all-or-nothing "line."... But on the whole he would a little rather go
straight than not....

Nor did he hesitate. Amory had turned on the sofa. "Edgar!" she had
called softly again. He swung round. The savagery of his reply--there
seemed to Amory to be no other word to describe it--almost frightened
her.

"Do you know what you're doing?" he broke out. "Haven't you done enough
already? What do you suppose I'm made of?"

The moment he had said it he saw that he had made no mistake. It would
not be necessary to go the length of turning the key. He glared at her
for a moment; then he spoke again, less savagely, but no less curtly.

"You called me back to say something," he said. "What is it?"

Instinctively Amory had covered her face with her hands. It was
fearfully sweet and dangerous. Flattery could hardly have gone further
than that tortured cry, "What do you think I'm made of?" Her heart was
thumping--thump, thump, thump, thump. A lesser woman would have taken
refuge in evasions, but not she--not she, with Cosimo carrying on with
Britomart, and Dorothy Tasker no doubt whispering to her Otis or Wilbur
or whatever her American's name might be, and Stan perhaps deep in an
intrigue with his Spanish female at that very moment. No, she had
provoked him, and he had now every right to cry, not "Have you read
'_The Tragic Comedians_'?" but "Do you know what you're doing?"... And
he was speaking again now.

"Because," he was saying quietly, "if _that's_ it ... I must know. I
must have a little time. There will be things to settle. I don't quite
know how it happened; I suddenly saw you--and did it. Anyway, it's
done--or begun.... But I won't stab Cosimo in the back.... It will have
to be the Continent, I suppose. Paris. There's a little hotel I know in
the Boulevard Montparnasse. It's not very luxurious, but it's cheap and
fairly clean. Seven francs a day, but it would come rather less for the
two of us. And you wouldn't have to spend much on dress in the Quartier.
Or there's Montmartre. Or some of those out-of-the-way seaside places. I
should like to take you to the sea first, and then to a town----"

He stopped, and began to walk up and down the studio.

Amory was suddenly pale. She had not thought of this. She had thought
that perhaps Mr. Strong might give a cry, rush across the studio, and
take her in his arms; but of this cold and almost passionless prevision
of details she had not dreamed. And yet that was magnificent too. Edgar
wasted no time in dalliance when there was planning to be done. There
would be time enough for softer delights when the whole of the Latin
Quarter lay spread out before them in indolent magnificence of bloom. He
was terrifying and superb. Such a man not manage Mr. Prang! Why, here he
was, ready to bear her off that very night at a word!

Paris--Montmartre--the Quartier!

It was Romance with a vengeance!

Then at a thought she grew paler still. The children! What about Corin
and Bonniebell? It didn't matter so much about Cosimo; it would serve
him right; but what about the twins? Were they also to be included in
the seven francs a day? And wouldn't it matter how they dressed either
in the Quarter? Or did Edgar propose that they should be left behind in
Cosimo's keeping, with Britomart Belchamber for a stepmother?

Edgar had reached the door again now. He was not hurrying her, but there
was a look on his face that seemed to say that all she needed was a hat
and a rug for the steamer.

Such a very different thing from a carpet to roll round her----

She had risen unsteadily from the sofa. She crossed the floor and stood
before Edgar, looking earnestly up into his blue eyes. She moistened her
lips.

"What's happened----" she began in a whisper....

He interrupted her only to make the slightest of forbidding gestures
with his hand; her own hands had moved, as if she would have put them on
his shoulders. And she saw that he was quite right. At the touch of her
his control would certainly have broken down. She went on, appealingly
and almost voicelessly.

"What's happened--had to happen, hadn't it?" she whispered. "_You_ felt
it sweeping us away too--didn't you?... But need we say any more about
it to-night?... I want to think, Edgar. We must both think.
There's--there's a lot to think about--and talk over. We mustn't be too
rash. It _would_ be rash, wouldn't it? Look at me, Edgar----"

"Oh--I must go----," he said with an impatience that he had not to
assume.

"But look at me," she begged. "I shan't sleep a wink to-night. I shall
think about it all night. It will be lovely--but torturing--dear!--But
you'll sleep, I expect...." She pouted this last.

"I'm going away," he announced abruptly.

"Oh!" she cried, startled.... "But you'll come in to-morrow?"

"I shall go away for a few days. Perhaps longer."

"But--but--we haven't settled about the paper!----"

He was grim.--"You don't suppose I can think about the paper _now_, do
you?"

"No, no--of course not--but it _must_ be done to-day, Edgar! Or
to-morrow at the very latest!... Can't we _try_ to put this on one side,
just for an hour?"

He shook his head before the impossibility....

And that was how it came about that the Indian policy of the "Novum" was
left in the hands of Mr. Suwarree Prang.



Part II



I

THE PIGEON PAIR


Amory had been at a great deal of trouble to gather all the opinions she
could get about the education of her twins, Corin and Bonniebell; but it
was not true, as an unkind visitor who had been once only to The Witan
had said, that they were everybody's children. Just because Amory had
taken Katie Deedes' advice and had had their hair chopped off short at
the nape like a Boutet de Monvel drawing--and had not disdained to
accept the spelling-books which Dickie Lemesurier had given them (books
in which the difficult abstraction of the letter "A" was visualized for
their young eyes as "Little Brown Brother," "B" as "Tabby Cat," and so
on)--and had listened to Mr. Brimby when he had said what a good thing
it would be to devote an hour on Friday afternoons to the study of
Altruism and Camaraderie--and, in a word, had not been too proud and
egotistical to make use of a good suggestion wherever she found
it--because she had done these things, it did not at all follow that she
had shirked her duties. If she did not influence them directly, having
other things to do, she influenced those who did influence them, which
came to the same thing. She influenced the Wyrons, for example, and
nobody could say that the Wyrons had not made a particularly careful
study of children. They had, and Walter had founded at least two
Lectures directly on the twins and their education.

But the Wyrons, who had submitted to the indignity of marriage for the
sake of the race, laboured and lectured under an obvious disadvantage;
they had no children of their own. And so Amory had to fill up the gaps
in their experience for herself. Still, it was wonderful how frequently
the Wyrons' excogitations and the things Amory had found out for herself
coincided. They were in absolute accord, for example, about the promise
of the immediate future and the hope that lay in the generation to come.
The Past was dead and damned; the Present at best was an ignoble
compromise; but the Morrow was to be bright and shining.

"Walter and I," Laura sometimes said sadly, "aren't anything to brag
about. There is much of the base in us. Our lives aren't what they
should be. We're in the grip of inherited instincts too. We strive for
the best, but the worst's sometimes too much for us. It's like Moses
seeing the Promised Land from afar. We're just in the position of Moses.
But these young Aarons----"

Amory thought that very modest and dignified of poor old Laura. She
frequently thought of her as 'poor old Laura,' but of course she didn't
mean her actual age, which was only two years more than Amory's own. And
that was very good, if a little sad, about Moses. The Wyrons did look
forth over a Canaan they weren't very likely ever to tread.

Lately--that is to say since that secret and tremendous moment between
herself and Edgar Strong in the studio--Amory had fallen into the habit
of musing long over the sight of the twins at lessons, at play, or at
that more enlightened combination that makes lessons play and play
lessons. Sometimes Mr. Brimby, the novelist, had come up to her as she
had mused and had asked her what she was thinking about.

"Your little Pigeon Pair, eh?" he had said. "Ah, the sweetness; ah,
lucky mother! Grey books have to be the children of some of us; ah, me;
yours is a pleasanter path!"

Then he would fondle the little round topiary trees of their heads.
Amory was almost as sorry for Mr. Brimby as she was for Laura. His books
sold only moderately well, and she had more than once thought she would
like the "Novum" to serialize one of them--the one with the little boy
rather like Corin and the little girl rather like Bonniebell in it--if
Mr. Brimby didn't want too much money for it.

Edgar Strong, on the other hand, never fondled the children, and Amory's
heart told her why. How could he be expected to do anything but hate
those poor innocents who had come between him and his desire? He must
have realized that only the twins had frustrated that flight to Paris.
Of course he was polite about it; he said that he was not very fond of
children at all; but Amory was not deceived. She was, in a way,
flattered that he did not fondle them. It was such an eloquent
abstention. But it would have been more eloquent still had he come to
The Witan and not-fondled them oftener.

Therefore it was that Amory looked on Corin and Bonniebell as the
precious repositories of her own relinquished joys, and heirs to a
happier life than she herself had known. She dreamed over them and their
future. Laura Wyron was quite right: by the time they had grown up the
fogs of cowardice and prejudice and self-seeking would have disappeared
for ever. Perhaps even by that time, as in Heaven, there would be no
more marrying nor giving in marriage. Things would have adjusted
themselves out of the rarer and sweeter and more liberal atmosphere.
Corin, grown to be twenty, would one day meet with some mite who was
still in her cradle or not yet born, and the two would look at one
another with amazement and delight, and the Ideal Love would be born in
their eyes, and Corin would recite a few of those brave and pure and
unashamed things out of "Leaves of Grass" to her, and--well, and there
they would be.... And Bonniebell, too, would do the same, on a Spring
morning very likely, simply clad, cool and without immodest
blushes--yes, she too would see somebody, and she would say, gladly and
simply, "I am here" (for there would be no reason, then, why she should
wait for the youth to speak first), and--well, and there they would be
too. And it would be Exogamy, or whatever the word was that Walter used.
Either would go forth from the family on the appointed day--or perhaps
only Corin would go, and Bonniebell remain behind--but anyway, one, if
not both of them would go forth, and rove the morning-flushed hills,
alone and free and singing and on the look-out for somebody, and they
would look just like pictures of young Greeks, and nobody would laugh,
as they did at the poor lady who walked in Greek robes down the
Strand....

And Amory herself? Alas! She would be left with the tribe. She would be
old then--say fifty-something on the eleventh of October. And Edgar
would be old too. They would have to recognize that _their_ youth had
been spent in the night-time of ignorance and suspicion. _They_ would
only be able to think of those spirited young things quoting "Leaves of
Grass" to one another and wondering what had happened to them....

No wonder Amory was sometimes pensive....

Mr. Wilkinson, the Labour Member, had been to all intents and purposes
asked not to fondle the twins. He was a tall spare man with a great bush
of pepper-and-salt hair, a Yorkshire accent, and an eye that hardly
rested on any single object long enough to get more than a fleeting
visual impression of it. He wrote on the first and third weeks of the
month the "Novum's" column of "Military Notes," and on the alternate
weeks filled the same column with officially inspired "Trade Union
Echoes." Between these two activities of Mr. Wilkinson's there was a
connexion. He, in common with everybody else at The Witan, was loud in
decrying the jobberies and vested interests of Departments, with the War
Office placed foremost in the shock of his wrath. But the Trade Unions
were another matter, and never a billet-creating measure came before
Parliament but he strove vehemently to have its wheels cogged in with
those of the existing Trade Union machine. That is to say, that while in
theory he was for democratic competitive examination, in practice he
found something to be said for jobbery, could the fitting Trade Unionist
but be found. He was, moreover, a firebrand by temperament, and this is
where the connexion between the "Military Matters" and the "Echoes"
appears. Trade Unionists he declared, ought to learn to shoot. The other
side, with their cant about "Law and Order," never hesitated to call out
the regular troops; therefore, until the Army itself should have been
won over by means of the leaflets that were disseminated for the
purpose, they ought in the event of a strike to be prepared to throw up
barricades, to shoot from cellar-windows, and to throw down
chimney-stacks from the housetops. Capitalist-employed troops would not
destroy more property than they need; in a crooked-streeted town the
advantage of long-range fire would be gone; and Mr. Wilkinson was
prepared to demonstrate that a town defended on his lines could hold
out, in the event of Industrial War pushed to an extreme, until it was
starved into surrender.--These arguments, by the way, had impressed Mr.
Prang profoundly.

Now (to come back to the twins) on Corin's fourth birthday Mr.
Wilkinson, moved by these considerations, had given him a wooden gun,
and in doing so had committed a double error in Amory's eyes. His first
mistake had been to suppose that even if, under the present lamentable
(but nevertheless existing) conditions of militarism, Corin should ever
become a soldier at all, he would be the uncommissioned bearer of a gun
and not the commissioned bearer of a sword. And his second mistake had
been like unto it, namely, to think that, in the case of a proletariat
uprising say in Cardiff or York, Corin would not similarly have held
some post of weight and responsibility on the other side. Corin shoot up
through the street-trap of a coal-hole or pot somebody from behind a
chimney-stack!... But Amory admitted that it must be difficult for Mr.
Wilkinson to shake off the effects of his upbringing. That upbringing
had been very different from, say, Mr. Brimby's. Mr. Brimby had been at
Oxford, and in nobly stooping to help the oppressed brought as it were a
fragrant whiff of graciousness and culture with him. Mr. Wilkinson was a
nobody. He came from the stratum of need, and, when it came to fondling
the twins, must not think himself a Brimby.... Therefore, Amory had had
to ask him to take the gun back (a deprivation which had provoked a
mighty outcry from Corin), and to give him, if he must give him
something, a Nature book instead.

Katie Deedes and Dickie Lemesurier were both permitted to fondle the
twins, though in somewhat different measure. This difference of measure
did not mean that either Katie or Dickie suffered from a chronic cold
that the twins might have contracted. Here again the case was almost as
complicated as the case of Mr. Wilkinson. Cases had a way of being
complicated at The Witan. It was this:--

Both of these ladies, as Amory had assured Mr. Brimby, were "quite all
right." She meant socially. No such difference was to be found between
them in this respect as that which yawned between Mr. Brimby and Mr.
Wilkinson. Indeed as far as Dickie was concerned, Amory had given a
little apologetic laugh at the idea of her having to place and appraise
a Lemesurier of Bath at all. The two girls had equally to work for their
living, and--but perhaps it was here that the difference came in. There
are jobs and jobs. It was a question of tone. Dickie, running the
Suffrage Book Shop, enjoyed something of the glamour of Letters; but
Katie, as manageress of the Eden Restaurant, was, after all, only a
caterer. It was not Amory's fault that Romance had pronounced
arbitrarily and a little harshly on the relative dignity of these
occupations. She could not help it that books are books and superior,
while baked beans are only baked beans, necessary, but not to be talked
about. If Dickie had, by her calling, a shade more consideration than
was strictly her due, while Katie, by hers, was slightly shorn of
something to which she would otherwise have been entitled, well, it was
not Amory who had arranged it so.

But between books and baked beans the twins did not hesitate for an
instant. They saw from no point of view but their unromantic own.

Dickie, overhauling the remainder stock at the Suffrage Shop, was able
to bring them a book from time to time; but Katie, whose days were spent
in a really interesting place full of things to eat, brought them
sweetened Proteids, and cold roasted chestnuts, and sugared Filbertine,
and sometimes a pot of the Eden Non-Neuritic Honey for tea. And because
the flesh was stronger in them than Amory thought it ought to be (at any
rate until the day should come when they must leave the tribe with a
copy of "Leaves of Grass" in their hands), they adored Katie and thought
very much less of Dickie.

Now this belly-guided preference was a thing to be checked in them; and
one day Amory had asked Katie (quite nicely and gently) whether she
would mind _not_ bringing the children things that spoiled their
appetites, not to speak of their tempers when they clamoured for these
comestibles at times when they were not to be had. Then, one afternoon
in the nursery, Amory actually had to repeat her request. Half an hour
later, when the children had been brought down into the studio for their
after-tea hour, she learned that Katie had left the house. It was Corin
himself who informed her of this.

"Auntie Katie was crying," he said. "About the vertisements," he added.

"_Ad_-vertisements, dear," Amory corrected him. "Say _ad_-vertisements,
not vertisements."

"_Ad_-vertisements," said Corin sulkily. "But--" and he cheered up
again, "--she _was_, mother."

"Nonsense," said Amory. "And you're not to say 'Auntie' to Katie. It
isn't true. Your Auntie is your father's or your mother's sister, and we
haven't any.... And now you've played enough. Say good-night, both of
you, and take Auntie Dickie's book, and ask Miss Belchamber to read you
the story of the Robin and her Darling Eggs, and then you must have your
baths and go to bed."

"I want the tale about Robin Hood, that Mr. Strong once told me," Corin
demurred.

"No, you must have the one about the dear Dickie Bird, who had a wing
shot off by a cruel man one day, and had to hide her head under the
other one, so that when her Darling Eggs were hatched out the poor
little birds were all born with crooked necks--you remember what I told
you about the fortress in a horrible War, when the poor mothers were all
so frightened that all the little boys and girls were born lame--it's
the same thing--"

"Were there guns, that went bang?" Corin demanded. He had forgotten that
the story contained this really interesting detail.

"Yes."

"Great big ones?" Corin's eyes were wide open.

"Very big. It was very cruel and anti-social."

But Corin's momentary interest waned again.--"I want Robin Hood," he
said sullenly.

"Now you're being naughty, and I shall have to send you to bed without
any nice reading at all."

"I want Robin Hood." The tone was ominous....

"And I want some chestnuts," Bonniebell chimed in, her face also
puckering....

And so Amory, who had threatened to send them bookless to bed, must keep
her word. It is very wrong to tell falsehoods to children. She dismissed
them, and they went draggingly out, their Boutet de Monvel hair and
fringed _éponge_ costumes giving them the appearance of two luckless
pawns that had been pushed off the board in some game of chess they did
not understand.

Amory thought it very foolish of Katie to take on in this way. She might
have known that her advertisements had not been refused without good
reason. Amory had fully intended to explain all about it to Katie, but
she really had had so many things to do. Nor ought it to have needed
explaining. Surely Katie could have seen for herself that Dickie's
Bookshop List, with its names of Finot and Forel and Mill and the rest,
was a distinction and an embellishment to the paper, while her own
Filbertines and Protolaxatives were a positive disfigurement. The proper
place for these was, not in the columns of the "Novum," but in the
"Please take One" box at the Eden's door.... But if Katie intended to
sulk and cry about it, well, so much the worse.... (To jump forward a
little: Katie did elect to sulk. Or rather, she did worse. She was so
ill-advised as to go behind Amory's back and to speak to Cosimo himself
about the advertisements. With that Katie's goose--or perhaps one should
say her Anserine--was cooked. Amory did not allow that kind of thing.
She certainly did not intend to explain anything after that. It was
plain as a pikestaff that Katie was jealous of Dickie. Amory was
bitterly disappointed in Katie. Of course she would not forbid her the
house; she was still free to come to The Witan whenever she liked;
but--somehow Katie only came once more. She found herself treated so
very, very kindly.... So she gulped down a sob, fondled the twins once
more, and left).

Miss Britomart Belchamber saw enough of the twins not to wish to fondle
them very much. Amory was not yet absolutely sure that she fondled
Cosimo instead, but she was welcome to do so if she could find any
satisfaction in it. Cosimo fondled the twins to a foolish extreme. Mr.
Prang could never get near enough to them to fondle them. Both Corin and
Bonniebell displayed a most powerful interest in Mr. Prang, and would
have stood stock-still gazing at him for an hour had they been
permitted; but the moment he approached them they fled bellowing.

And in addition to these various fondlings there were casual fondlings
from time to time whenever the more favoured of the "Novum's"
contributors were asked to tea.

But the Wyrons remained, so to speak, the _ex-officio_ fondlers, and
perhaps childless Laura felt a real need to fondle at her heart. It was
she who first asked Amory whether she hadn't noticed that, while Mr.
Brimby and Dickie frequently fondled the twins separately, more
frequently still they did so together.

"No!" Amory exclaimed. "I hadn't noticed!"

"Walter thinks they would be a perfect pair," Laura mused....



II

THE 'VERT


Stan saw very little in the scheme that Dorothy darkly meditated against
her aunt. He seldom saw much in Dorothy's schemes. Perhaps she did not
make quite enough fuss about them, but went on so quietly maturing them
that her income seemed to be merely something that happened in some not
fully explained but quite natural order of events. Stan thought it
rather a lucky chance that the money usually had come in when it was
wanted, that was all.

But of his own job he had quite a different conception. _That_ took
thought. This appeared plainly now that he was able to dismiss his own
past failures with a light and almost derisive laugh.

"I don't know whatever made me think there was anything in them," he
said complacently one night within about ten days of Christmas. He had
put on his slippers and his pipe, and was drowsily stretching himself
after a particularly hard "comic film" day, in the course of which he
had been required to fall through a number of ceilings, bringing the
furniture with him in his downward flight. He had come home, had had a
shampoo and a hot bath, and the last traces of the bags of flour and
the sacks of soot had disappeared. "I don't think now they'd ever have
come to very much."

"Hush a moment," said Dorothy, listening, her needle arrested half-way
through the heel of one of his socks.... "All right. I thought I heard
him--Yes?"

She could face young girls now. The third Bit had turned out to be yet
another boy.

"I mean," Stan burbled comfortably, "there wouldn't have been the money
in them I thought there would. Now take those salmon-flies, Dot. Of
course I can tie 'em in a way. But what I mean is, it's a limited
market. Not like the boot-trade, I mean, or soap, or films. Everybody
wears boots and sees films. There's more scope, more demand. But
everybody doesn't carry a salmon-rod. Comparatively few people do. And
the same with big-game shooting. Or deerstalking. Everybody can't afford
'em."

"No, dear," said Dorothy, her eyes downcast.

"Then there was Fortune and Brooks," Stan continued with a great air of
discovery. "_I_ see their game now. You see it too, don't you?--They
just wanted orders. New accounts. That's what they wanted. If I could
have put 'em on to a chap who'd have spent say five hundred a year on
Chutney and things--well, what I mean is, where would they be without
customers like that?"

"Nowhere, dear," said the dutiful Dorothy.

"Exactly. Nowhere. That's what I was leading up to. They wouldn't be
anywhere. They just wanted to be put on to these things. And it's just
struck me how _I_ should have looked, going out to dinner somewhere,
strange house very likely, and I'd said to somebody I'd perhaps met for
the first time, 'Don't think much of these salted almonds; our hostess
ought to try the F. and B. Brand, a Hundred Gold Medals, and see that
the blessed coupon isn't broken.'--Eh? See what I mean?"

"I was never very keen on the idea," Dorothy admitted gravely.

"No, and I'm blessed if I see why I was, now," Stan conceded
cheerfully....

She loved this change in him which a real job with real money had
brought about. Poor old darling, she thought, it must have been pretty
rotten for him before, borrowing half-crowns from her in the morning,
which he would spend with an affected indifference on drinks and cab
fares in the evening. And he _should_ speak with a new authority if he
wished. Not for worlds would she have smiled at His Impudence's new air
of being master in his own house. He _should_ be a Sultan if he
liked--provided he didn't want more than one wife.

Moreover, his bringing in of money had been a relief so great that even
yet she had hardly got out of the habit of reckoning on her own earnings
only. It had taken her weeks to realize that now the twopences came in
just a little more quickly than they went out, and that she could
actually afford herself the luxury of keeping Mr. Miller waiting for his
Idea, or even of not giving it to him at all. She really had no Idea to
give him. She was entirely wrapped up now in her plot against Lady
Tasker.

That plot, summarized from several conversations with Stan, was as
follows:--

"You see, there's the Brear, with all that land, Aunt Grace's very own.
The Cromwell Gardens lease is up in June, and it's all very well for
auntie to say she doesn't hate London, but she does. She spends half a
rent, with one and another of them, in travelling backwards and
forwards, and she's getting old, too.--Then there's us. We can't go on
living here, and the Tonys will be home just as Tim's leave's up, and
they're sure to leave their Bits behind. Very well. Now the Tims and the
Tonys can't afford to pay much, but they can afford something, and I
think they ought to pay. They're sure to want those boys to go into the
Army, and they'd _have_ to pay for that anyway.--So there ought to be a
properly-managed Hostel sort of place, paying its way, and a fund
accumulating, and Aunt Gracie at the head of it, poor old dear, but
somebody to do the work for her.--I don't see why we shouldn't clear out
that old billiard-table that nobody ever uses, and throw that and the
gun-room into one, and make that the schoolroom, and have a proper
person down--a sort of private preparatory school for Sandhurst and
Woolwich, and the money put by to help with the fees afterwards. It
would be much easier if we all clubbed together. And I should jolly well
make Aunt Eliza give us at least a thousand pounds--selfish old thing."

"Frightful rows there'd be," Stan usually commented, thinking less of
Dorothy's plan than of his own last trick-tumble. "Like putting brothers
into the same regiment; always a mistake. And we're all rather good at
rows you know."

"Well, they're our _own_ rows anyway. We keep 'em to ourselves. And we
_do_ all mean pretty much the same thing when all's said. I'm going to
work it all out anyway, and then tackle Aunt Grace.... _I_ shall manage
it, of course."

She did not add that her Lennards and Taskers and Woodgates would sink
their private squabbles precisely in proportion as the outside attacks
on their common belief rendered a closing-up of the ranks necessary. But
she _had_ been to The Witan and had kept her eyes open there, and knew
that there were plenty of other Witans about. If stupid Parliament, with
its votes and what not, couldn't think of anything to do about it, that
was no reason why she should not do something, and make stingy old Aunt
Eliza pay for the training of her Bits into the bargain.

She had not seen Amory since that day when the episode of the winter
woollies had made her angry, for, though Amory had called once at the
Nursing Home soon after the birth of the third Bit, Dorothy had really
not felt equal to the hair-raising tale of the twins all over again, and
had sent a message down to her by the nurse. There was this difference
between this tragic recital of Amory's and the fervour with which Ruth
Mossop always hugged to her breast the thought of the worst that could
happen--that Ruth _had_ known brutality, and so might be forgiven for
getting "a little of her own back"; but Amory had known one hardish
twelvemonths perhaps, a good many years ago and when she had been quite
able to bear it, and had since magnified that period of discomfort by a
good many diameters. Amory, Dorothy considered, didn't really know she
was born. She was unfeignedly sorry for that. Whatever measure of
contempt was in her she kept for Cosimo.

For she considered that Cosimo was at the bottom of all the trouble. If
Stan, at his most impecunious and happy-go-lucky, could still stalk
about the house saying "Dot, I won't have this," or "Look here, Dorothy,
that has got to stop," it seemed to her that Cosimo, with never a care
on his mind that was not his own manufacture, might several times have
prevented Amory from making rather a fool of herself. But it seemed to
Dorothy that kind of man was springing up all over the place nowadays.
Mr. Brimby was another of them. Dorothy had read one of Mr. Brimby's
books--"_The Source_," and hadn't liked it. She had thought it terribly
dismal. In it a pretty and rich young widow, who might almost have been
Amory herself, went slumming, and spent a lot of money in starting a
sort of Model Pawn Shop, and by and by there came a mysterious
falling-off in her income, and she went to see her lawyer about it, and
learned, of course, that her source of income was that very slum in
which she had stooped to labour so angelically.... Dorothy didn't know
very much about pawnshops, but then she didn't believe that Mr. Brimby
did either; and if her interest in them ever should become really keen,
she didn't think she should go to Oxford for information about them. And
Mr. Brimby himself seemed to feel this "crab," as Stan would have called
it, for after "_The Source_" he had written a Preface for a book by a
real and genuine tramp.... And it had been Amory who had recommended
"_The Source_" to Dorothy. She had said that it just showed, that with
vision and thought and heart and no previous experience ("no prejudice"
had been her exact words), there need be none of these dreadful grimy
establishments, with their horrible underbred assistants who refused a
poor woman half a crown on her mattress and made a joke about it, but
airy and hygienic rooms instead, with rounded corners so that the dust
could be swept away in two minutes (leaving a balance of at least
twenty-eight minutes in which the sweeper might improve himself), and
really courtly-mannered attendants, full of half crowns and pity and
Oxford voice, who would give everybody twice as much as they asked for
and a tear into the bargain.

And Amory knew just as much about real pawnshops as did Dorothy and Mr.
Brimby.

For the life of her Dorothy could not make out what all these people
were up to.

And--though this was better now that Stan was earning--the thought of
the money that was being squandered at The Witan had sometimes made her
ready to cry. For at the Nursing Home she had had one other visitor, and
this visitor had opened her eyes to the appalling rate at which Cosimo's
inheritance must be going. This visitor had been Katie Deedes. Katie
too, was an old fellow-student of Dorothy's; it had not taken Dorothy
long to see that Katie was full of a grievance; and then it had all come
out. There had been some sort of a row. It had been simply and solely
because Katie ran a Food Shop. Amory thought that _infra dig_. And just
because Katie had given the children a few chestnuts Amory had
practically said so.

"_I_ shan't go there again," Katie had said, trying on Dorothy's account
to keep down her tears. "_I_ didn't marry a man with lots of money, and
turn him round my finger, and make him write my _Life and Works_, and
then snub my old friends! And none of the people who go there are really
what she thinks they are. _She_ thinks they go to see _her_, but Mr.
Brimby only goes because Dickie does, and because he wants to sell the
'Novum' something or other, and Mr. Strong of course has to go, and Mr.
Wilkinson goes because he wants Cosimo to stop the 'Novum' and start
something else with him as editor, and Laura goes because they get
things printed about Walter's Lectures, and I don't know what those
Indians are doing there at all, and anyway _I've_ been for the last
time! I'm just as good as she is, and I should like to come and see you
instead, Dorothy, and of course I won't bring your babies chestnuts if
you don't want.... But I'm frightfully selfish; I'm tiring you out....
May an A B C girl come to see you?"

And Katie had since been. There is no social reason why the manager of a
Vegetarian Restaurant may not visit the house of a film acrobat.

As it happened, Katie came in that very night when the weary breadwinner
was painstakingly explaining to his thoughtful spouse his reasons for
doubting whether he would ever have got very rich had he remained one of
Fortune and Brooks' well-dressed drummers. Katie had a round face and
puzzled but affectionate eyes, and Stan was just beginning to school his
own eyes not to rest with too open an interest on her Greenaway frocks
and pancake hats. Katie for her part was intensely self-conscious in
Stan's presence. She felt that when he wasn't looking at her clothes he
was, expressly, _not_-looking at them, and that was worse.... But she
couldn't have worn a hobble skirt and an aigrette at the "Eden."... Stan
had told Dorothy that when he knew Katie better he intended to get out
of her the remaining gruesome and Blue-Beard's-Chamber details which the
hoof and the forequarter seemed to him to promise.

"Poor little darlings!" Dorothy exclaimed compassionately by and
by--Katie had been relating some anecdote in which Corin and Bonniebell
had played a part. "I _do_ think it's wrong to dress children
ridiculously! The other day _I_ saw a little girl--she must have been
quite six or seven--and _she'd_ knickers like a little boy, and long
golden hair all down her back! What _is_ the good of pretending that
girls are boys?"

"Awful rot," Stan remarked with a mighty stretch. "I say, I'm off to
bed; I shall be yawning in Miss Deedes' face if I don't. Is there any
arnica in the house, Dot?... Good night----"

"Good night," said Katie; and as the door closed behind the master of
the house she settled more comfortably in her chair. "Now that he's
stopped not-looking at me we can have a good talk," her gesture seemed
to say; "how _does_ he expect I can get any other clothes till I've
saved the money?"...

They did talk. They talked of the old days at the McGrath, and who'd
married who, and who hadn't married who after all, and, in this
connection, of Laura Beamish and Walter Wyron, whom they had both
known.... And it just showed how little glory and fame were really worth
in the world. For Dorothy, who had been living in London all this time,
had not heard as much as a whisper of that memorable revolt of the
Wyrons against the Marriage Service, and, though she did know vaguely
that Walter lectured, had not the ghost of an idea of what his lectures
were about. She had been too busy minding her own petty and private and
selfish affairs. Katie couldn't believe it. She thought Dorothy was
joking.

"You've never heard of Walter's Lecture on '_Heads or Tails in the
Trying Time_,' nor his '_Address on the Chromosome_'?" she gasped....

"No; do tell me. What is a Chromosome?"

"A Chromosome? Why, it's a--it's a--well, you know when you've a
cell--or a nucleus--or a gland or something--but it isn't a gland--it's
the--but you _do_ astonish me, Dorothy!"

"But surely you're joking about Walter and Laura?" Dorothy exclaimed in
her turn.

"Indeed I'm not! Why, I thought _every_body knew!..."

"(It's all right--he won't come in again). But _why_ did they pretend
not to be married?" Dorothy asked in amazement.

"I don't know--I mean I forget for the moment--it seemed perfectly clear
the way Walter explained it--you ought to go and hear him----"

"But what difference could being married--I mean not being
married--make?"

"Ah!" said Katie, with satisfaction at having found her bearings again.
"Walter's got a whole Lecture on that. It always thrills everybody.
Amory thinks it's almost his best--after the '_Synthetic Protoplasm_'
one, of course--that's admitted by everybody to be quite _the_ best!"[1]

"Proto ... but I thought those were a kind of oats!" said poor Dorothy,
utterly bewildered.

"Oats!" cried Katie in a sort of whispered shriek. "Why, it's--it's--but
I don't know even how to _begin_ to explain it! Do you mean to say you
haven't read about these things?"

"No," murmured Dorothy, abashed.

"Not Monod, nor Ellen Key, nor Sebastien Faure, nor Malom!----"

"N-o." Dorothy felt horribly ashamed of herself.

"But--but--those _lovely_ little boys of yours!----"

She gazed wide-eyed at the disconcerted Dorothy....

       *       *       *       *       *

It was the humiliating truth: Dorothy had never heard of the existence
of a single one of these writers and leaders of thought. She had borne
Noel in black ignorance of what they had had to say about the Torch of
the Race, and Jackie and the third Bit for all the world as if they had
never set pen to paper. Monod had not held her hand, nor Faure been
asked for his imprimatur; Key had hymned Love superfluously, and the
Synthesists, equally superfluously, its supersession. For a moment she
anxiously hoped that it was all right, and then, as Katie went on, the
marvel of it all overwhelmed her again.

The dictum that desirable children could be born only _out_ of wedlock!
That stupendous suggestion of Walter's to millionaires who did not know
what to do with their money, that, for the improvement of the Race, they
should endow with a thousand pounds every poor little come-by-chance
that weighed eleven pounds at birth! That other proposal, that twenty
years could straightway be added to woman's life and beauty by a mere
influencing of her thoughts about the Chromosome--whatever it was!...
Poor uncultured Dorothy did not know whether she was on her head or her
heels. She had never dreamed, until Katie told her, that before marrying
Stan she ought to have gone to the insect-world, or to the world of
molluscs and crustacæ, to learn how _they_ maintained the integrity of
their own highest type--whether by pulling their wings off after the
flight, or devouring their husbands, or--or--or what! She had heard of
the moral lessons that can be learned of the ant, but it had not struck
her that she and Stan might, by means of a little more study and care,
have lifted up the economy of their little flat to the level of the
marvellously-organized domesticity you see when you kick over a stone.

But Katie's hesitations and great gaps of confessed ignorance gave her
a little more courage. Katie was at pains to explain that all that she
herself knew about it all was that these things were what they _said_,
and Dorothy must go to Walter and the books for the rest.

"They're all very expensive books, and I may not really have understood
them," she said wistfully. "They must be awfully deep and so on if
they're so dear--twelve and fifteen and twenty shillings! But I did try
so hard, and sometimes it seemed quite reasonable and plain, especially
when the print was nice and big.... Close print always seems so
frightfully learned.... And I know I've explained it badly; I haven't
Walter's gift of putting things. Amory has, of course. When she and
Walter have a really good set-to it makes one feel positively _abject_
about one's ignorance. I doubt if Cosimo can always _quite_ follow them,
and I'm quite sure Mr. Strong can't--I know he's only hedging when he
says, 'Ah, yes, have you read Fabre on the Ant or Maeterlinck on the
Bee?'--and I believe he just glances at the review books that come to
the 'Novum' instead of really studying them, as Walter and Amory do. And
it's very funny about Mr. Strong," she rattled artlessly on. "Sometimes
I've thought that it isn't just that Amory doesn't know what they all go
to The Witan for, but that everybody else _does_ know. They all seem to
want it to themselves. Of course if Mr. Wilkinson wants Cosimo to stop
the 'Novum,' and to start something else for him, it's only natural that
he and Mr. Strong should be a little jealous of one another; but Dickie
and Mr. Brimby are jealous of the Wyrons, and I suppose I was jealous of
Dickie too--and everybody seems jealous of everybody, and Amory of
Cosimo, and Amory's always interfering between Britomart Belchamber and
the twins' lessons, and that _can't_ be a very good thing for
discipline, but Britomart's like me in being rather stupid, and I wish
I'd her screw--she gets nearly twice as much as I do. The only people
who don't seem jealous of anybody are those Indians. They're _always_
affable. I suppose it's rather nice for them, so far from their own
country, having a house to go to...."

But here Dorothy's humility and self-distrust ended. The moment it came
to India, she shared her aunt's deplorable narrow-mindedness and
propensity to make a virtue of her intolerance. It seemed to her that it
was one thing for the Tims and Tonys, in India, to have to employ a
native interpreter (and to be pretty severely rooked by him) when they
had their Urdu Higher Proficiency to pass, but quite another for these
same natives to come over here, and to learn our law and language, and
our excellent national professions, and our somewhat mitigated ways of
living up to them. No, she was not one whit better than her hide-bound
old aunt, and she did not intend to have too practical a brotherly love
taught at that meditated foundation at the Brear....

She became silent as she thought of that foundation again, and presently
Katie rose.

"I suppose I couldn't see him in his cot?" she said wistfully.

Dorothy smiled. Katie meant the youngest Bit.

"Well ... I'm afraid he's in _our_ room, you see ...," she said.

Katie had been thinking of The Witan. She coloured a little.

"Sorry," she murmured; and then she broke out emphatically.

"I _like_ coming to see you, Dorothy. I don't feel so--such a _fool_
when I'm with you.... And do tell me where you got that frock, and how
much it was; I _must_ have another one as soon as I can raise the money!
I do wish I could make what Britomart Belchamber makes! Two-twenty a
year! Think of that!... But of course Prince Eadmond teachers do come
expensive----"

More and more it was coming to seem to Dorothy that the whole thing was
terrifically expensive.

FOOTNOTE:

[1] I have been charged with the invention of these facetiæ. Here is the
Synthetic Protoplasm idea:--

"The dream of creating offspring without the concurrence of woman has
always haunted the imagination of the human race. The miraculous
advances which the chemical synthesis has accomplished in these latter
days seem to justify the boldest hopes, but we are still far from the
creation of living protoplasm. The experiences of Loeb or of Delage are
undoubtedly very confounding. But in order to produce life these
scientists were obliged, nevertheless; to have recourse to beings
already organized. Thousands of centuries undoubtedly separate us from
any possibility of realizing the most magnificent and most disconcerting
dream ever engendered in the human brain. In the meantime, as the Torch
of Life must be transmitted to the succeeding generations, woman will
continue gloriously to fulfil her character of mother."--"Problems of
the Sexes," Jean Finot; 12_s._ 6_d._ net; p. 352.

Lightly worked up and chattily treated, this theme, as Katie said, drew
quiet smiles of appreciation from every cultured audience which Walter
addressed.



III

THE IMPERIALISTS


They were great believers in the Empire, they on the "Novum." Indeed,
they were the only true Imperialists, since they recognized that ideas,
and not actions, were by far and away the most potent instruments in the
betterment of mankind. Everybody who was anybody knew that, a mere
sporadic outbreak here and there (such as the one in Manchuria)
notwithstanding, war had been virtually impossible ever since the
publication of M. Bloch's book declaring it to be so. What, they asked,
was war, more than an unfortunate miscalculation on the part of the lamb
that happened to lie down with the lion? And what made the
miscalculation so unfortunate? Why, surely the possession by the lion of
teeth and claws. Draw his teeth and cut his claws, and the two would
slumber peacefully together. So with the British lion. He only fought
because he had things ready to fight with. Philosophically, his
aggressions were not much more than a kind of sportive manifestation of
the joy of life, that happened, rather inconsequentially, to take the
form of the joy of death. Take away the ships and guns, then, and
everything would be all right.

These views on the Real Empire were in no way incompatible with Mr.
Wilkinson's desire to see all Trade Unionists armed. For a war at home,
about shorter hours and higher wages, would at any rate be a war between
equals in race. It was wars between unequals that had made of the Old
Empire so hideous a thing. Amory herself had more than once stated this
rather well.

"I call it cowardice," she had said. "Every fine instinct in us tells us
to stick up for the weaker side. It makes my blood boil! Think of those
gentle and dusky millions, all being, to put it in a word, bullied--just
bullied! We all know the kind of man who goes abroad--the conventional
'adventurer' (I like 'adventurer!') He's just a common bully. He drinks
disgustingly, and swears, and kicks people who don't get out of his
way--but he's always careful to have a revolver in his pocket for fear
they should hit him back!... And he makes a tremendous fuss about his
white women, but when it comes to their black or brown ones ... well,
anyway, _I_ think he's a brute, and we want a better class of man than
_that_ for our readers!"

And that was briefly why, at the "Novum," they tried to reduce armaments
at home, and gave at least moral encouragement to the other side
whenever there was a dust-up abroad.

But it had been some time ago that Amory had said all this, and her
attitude since then had undergone certain changes. One of these changes
had been her acquisition of the Romantic Point of View; another had been
that suspended state of affairs between herself and Mr. Strong. The
first of these curtailed a good deal of the philosophy in which Mr.
Strong always seemed anxious to enwrap the subject (in order, as far as
Amory could see, to avoid action). It also made a little more of the
position of women, white, black or brown, and especially when rolled up
in carpets, in Imperial affairs. And the second, that hung-up relation
between Edgar Strong and herself, had left her constantly wondering what
would have happened had she taken Mr. Strong at his word and fled to
Paris with him, and exactly where they stood since she had not done so.

For naturally, things could hardly have been expected to be the same
after that. Since Edgar had ceased to come quite so frequently to The
Witan, Amory had thought the whole situation carefully over and had come
to her conclusion. Perhaps the histories of _les grandes maitresses_ and
the writings of Key had helped her; or, more likely, Key in Sweden (or
wherever it was) and herself in England had arrived at the same
conclusion by independent paths. That conclusion, stated in three words,
was the Genius of Love.

It was perfectly simple. Why had Amory Towers, the painter of that
picture ("Barrage") so enthusiastically acclaimed by the whole of
Feminist England, now for so long ceased to paint? What had become of
the Genius that had brought that picture into being? It is certain that
Genius cannot be stifled. Deny it one opportunity and it will break out
somewhere else--in another art, in politics, in leadership in one form
or another, or it may be even in crime.

Even so, Amory was conscious, her own Genius had refused to be
suppressed. It had found another outlet in politics, directed in a
recumbent attitude from a sofa.

Yet that had landed her straightway in a dilemma--the dilemma of Edgar
and the twins, of Paris on seven francs a day and the comforts Cosimo
allowed her, of a deed that was to have put even that of the Wyrons into
the shade and a mere settling down to the prospect of seeing Edgar when
it pleased him to put in an appearance.

She had not seen this protean property of Genius just at first. That
could only have been because she had not examined herself sufficiently.
She had been introspective, but not introspective enough.

And lest she should be mistaken in the mighty changes that were going on
within herself, at first she had tried the painting again. Her tubes
were dry and her brushes hard, but she had got new ones, and one after
another she had taken up her old half-finished canvases again. A single
glance at them had filled her with astonishment at the leagues of
progress, mental and emotional, that she had made since then. She had
laughed almost insultingly at those former attempts. That large canvas
on the "_Triumph of Humane Government_" was positively frigid! And Edgar
had liked it!... Well, that only showed what a power she now had over
Edgar if she only cared to use it. If he had liked that chilly piece of
classicism, he would stand dumb before the canvas that every faculty in
her was now straining to paint. She began to think that canvas out....

It must be Eastern, of course; nay, it must be The East--tremendously
voluptuous and so on. She would paint it over the "_Triumph_." It should
be bathed in a sunrise, rabidly yellow (they had no time for decaying
mellowness in those vast and kindling lands to which Amory's inner eye
was turned)--and of course there ought to be a many-breasted
what-was-her-name in it, the goddess (rather rank, perhaps, but that was
the idea, a smack at effete occidental politeness). And there ought to
be a two-breasted figure as well, perhaps with a cord or something in
her hand, hauling up the curtain of night, or at any rate showing in
some way or other that her superb beauty was actually responsible for
the yellow sunrise....

And above all, she must get _herself_ into it--the whole of herself--all
that tremendous continent that Cosimo had not had, that her children had
not had, that her former painting had left unexpressed, that politics
had not brought out of her....

The result of that experiment was remarkable. Two days later she had
thrown the painting aside again. It was a ghastly failure. But only for
a moment did that depress her; the next moment she had seen further. She
was a Genius; she knew it--felt it; she was so sure about it that she
would never have dreamed of arguing about it; she had such thoughts
sometimes.... And Genius could never be suppressed. Very well; the
Eastern canvas was a total failure; she admitted it. Ergo, her Genius
was for something else than painting.

That was all she had wanted to know.

For what, then? No doubt Edgar Strong, who had enlightened her about
herself before, would be able to enlighten her again now. And if he
would not come to see her, she must go and see him. But already she saw
the answer shining brightly ahead. She must pant, not paint; live, not
limn. Her Genius was, after all, for Love.

True, at the thought of those offices in Charing Cross Road she had an
instinctive shrinking. Their shabbiness rather took the shine out of the
voluptuousnesses she had tried, and failed, to get upon her canvas. But
perhaps there was a fitness in that too. Genius, whether in Art or in
Love, is usually poor. If she could be splendid there she could be so
anywhere. No doubt heaps and heaps of grand passions had transfigured
grimy garrets, and had made of them perfectly ripping backgrounds....

So on an afternoon in mid-January Amory put on her new velvet costume of
glaucous sea-holly blue and her new mushroom-white hat, and went down to
the "Novum's" offices in a taxi. It seemed to her that she got there
horribly quickly. Her heart was beating rapidly, and already she had
partly persuaded herself that if Edgar wasn't in it might perhaps be
just as well, as she had half-promised the twins to have tea with them
in the nursery soon, and anyway she could come again next week. Or she
might leave Edgar a note to come up to The Witan. There were familiar
and supporting influences at The Witan. But here she felt dreadfully
defenceless.... She reached her destination. Slowly she passed through
the basement-room with the sandwich-boards, ascended the dark stairs,
and walked along the upper corridor that was hung with the specimens of
poster-art.

Edgar was in. He was sitting at his roll-top desk, with his feet thrust
into the unimaginable litter of papers that covered it. He appeared to
be dozing over the "Times," and had not drunk the cup of tea that stood
at his elbow with a sodden biscuit and a couple of lumps of sugar awash
in the saucer.--Without turning his head he said "Hallo," almost as if
he expected somebody else. "Did you bring me some cigarettes in?" he
added, still not turning. And this was a relief to Amory's thumping
heart. She could begin with a little joke.

"No," she said. "I didn't know you wanted any."

There was no counterfeit about the start Mr. Strong gave. So swiftly did
he pluck his feet away from the desk that twenty sheets of paper planed
down to the floor, bringing the cup of tea with them in their fall.

But Mr. Strong paid no attention to the breakage and mess. He was on his
feet, looking at Amory. He looked, but he had never a word to say. And
she stood looking at him--charming in her glaucous blue, the glint of
rich red that peeped from under the new white hat, and her slightly
frightened smile.

"Haven't you any?" she said archly.

At that Mr. Strong found his tongue.

"Excuse me just a moment," he muttered, striding past her and picking up
something from his desk as he went. "Sit down, won't you?" Then he
opened the door by which Amory had entered, did something behind it, and
returned, closing the door again. "Only so that we shan't be disturbed,"
he said. "They go into the other office when they see the notice.--I
wasn't expecting you."

Nor did he, Amory thought, show any great joy at her appearance. On the
contrary, he had fixed a look very like a glare on her. Then he walked
to the hearth. A big fire burned there behind a wire guard, and within
the iron kerb stood the kettle he had boiled to make tea. He put his
elbows on the mantelpiece and turned his back to her. Again it was Mr.
Brimby's sorrowing Oxford attitude. Amory had moved towards his swivel
chair and had sat down. Her heart beat a little agitatedly. He
remembered!...

He spoke without any beating about the bush.--"Ought you to have done
this?" he said over his shoulder.

She fiddled with her gloves.--"To have done what?" she asked nervously.

"To have come here," came in muffled tones back. It was evident that he
was having to hold himself in.

Then suddenly he wheeled round. This time there was no doubt about
it--it was a glare, and a resolute one.

But he had not been able to think of any new line. It was the one he had
used before. He made it a little more menacing, that was all.

"I'm only flesh and blood--," he said quickly, his hands ever so
slightly clenching and unclenching and his throat apparently swallowing
something.

Her heart was beating quickly enough now.--"But--but--," she
stammered,--"if you only mean my coming here--I've been here lots of
times before----"

He wasted few words on that.

"Not since----," he rapped out. He was surveying her sternly now.

"But--but--," she faltered again, "--it's only me, Edgar--I _am_
connected with the paper, you know--that is to say my husband is----"

"That's true," he groaned.

"And--and--I should have come before--I've been intending to come--but
I've been so busy----"

But that also he brushed aside for the little it was worth. "_Must_ you
compromise yourself like this?" he demanded. "Don't you see? I'm not
made of wood, and I suppose your eyes are open too. Prang may be here at
any moment. He'll see that notice on the door, and wait ... and then
he'll see you go out. You oughtn't to have come," he continued gloomily.
"Why did you, Amory?"

Once more she quailed before the blue mica of his eye. Her words came
now a bit at a time. The victory was his.

"Only to--to see--how the paper was going on--and to--to talk things
over--," she said.

"Oh!" He nodded. "Very well."

He strode forward from the mantelpiece and approached the desk at which
she sat.

"I suppose Cosimo wants to know; very well. As a matter of fact I'm
rather glad you've come. Look here----"

He grabbed a newspaper from the desk and thrust it almost roughly into
her hands.

"Read that," he said, stabbing the paper with his finger.

The part in which he stabbed it was so unbrokenly set that it must have
struck Katie Deedes as overwhelmingly learned.--"There you are--read
that!" he ordered her.

Then, striding back to the mantelpiece, he stood watching her as if he
had paid for a seat in a playhouse and had found standing-room only.

Amory supposed that it must be something in that close and grey-looking
oblong that was at the bottom of his imperious curtness. She was sure of
this when, before she had read half a dozen lines, he cut in with a
sharp "Well? I suppose you see what it means to us?"

"Just a moment," she said bewilderedly; "you always did read quicker
than I can----"

"Quicker!--" he said. "Just run your eye down it. That ought to tell
you."

She did so, and a few capitals caught her eye.

"Do you mean this about the North-West Banks?" she asked diffidently.

"Do I mean----! Well, yes. Rather."

"I do wish you'd explain it to me. It seems rather hard."

But he did not approach and point out particular passages. Instead he
seemed to know that leaden oblong by heart. He gave a short laugh.

"Hard? It's hard enough on the depositors out there!... They've been
withdrawing again, and of course the Banks have had to realize."

"Yes, I saw that bit," said Amory.

"A forced realization," Mr. Strong continued. "Depreciation in values,
of course. And it's spreading."

It sounded to Amory rather like smallpox, but, "I suppose that's the
Monsoon?" she hazarded.

"Partly, of course. Not altogether. There's the rupee too, of course. At
present that's at about one and twopence, but then there are these
bi-metallists.... So until we know what's going to happen, it seems to
me we're bound hand and foot."

Amory was awed.--"What--what do you think will happen?" she asked.

Edgar gave a shrug.--"Well--when a Bank begins paying out in pennies
it's as well to prepare for the worst, you know."

"Are--are they doing that?" Amory asked in a whisper. "Really? And is
that the bi-metallists' doing--or is it the Home Government? Do explain
it to me so that I can visualize it. You know I always understand things
better when I can visualize them. That's because I'm an artist.--Does it
mean that there are long strings of natives, with baskets and things on
their heads to put the pennies in, all waiting at the Banks, like people
in the theatre-queues?"

"I dare say. I suppose they have to carry the pennies somehow. But I'm
afraid I can't tell you more than's in the papers."

Amory's face assumed an expression of contempt. On the papers she was
quite pat.

"The papers! And how much of the truth can we get from the capitalist
press, I should like to know! Why, it's a commonplace among us--one is
almost ashamed to say it again--that the 'Times' is always wrong! We
have _no_ Imperialist papers really; only Jingo ones. Is there _no_ way
of finding out what this--crisis--is really about?"

This was quite an easy one for Mr. Strong. Many times in the past, when
pressed thus by his proprietor's wife for small, but exact, details, he
had wished that he had known even as much about them as seemed to be
known by that smart young man who had once come to The Witan in a
morning coat and had told Edgar Strong that he didn't know what he was
talking about. But he had long since found a way out of these trifling
difficulties. Lift the issue high enough, and it is true of most things
that one man's opinion is as good as another's; and they lifted issues
quite toweringly high on the "Novum." Therefore in self-defence Mr.
Strong flapped (so to speak) his wings, gave a struggle, cleared the
earth, and was away in the empyrean of the New Imperialism.

"The 'Times' always wrong. Yes. We've got to stick firmly to that," he
said. "But don't you see, that very fact makes it in its way quite a
useful guide. It's the next best thing to being always right, like us;
we can depend on its being wrong. We've only got to contradict it, and
then ask ourselves why we do so. There's usually a reason.... So there
is in this--er--crisis. Of course you know their argument--that a lot of
these young native doctors and lawyers come over here, and stop long
enough to pick up the latest wrinkles in swindling--the civilized
improvements so to speak--and then go back and start these wildcat
schemes, Banks and so on, and there's a smash. I think that's a fair
statement of their case.--But what's ours? Why, simply that what they're
really doing is to give the Home Government a perfectly beautiful
opportunity of living up to its own humane professions.... But we know
what that means," he added sadly.

"You mean that it just shows," said Amory eagerly, "that we aren't
humane at all really? In fact, that England's a humbug?"

Mr. Strong smiled. He too, in a sense, was paying out in pennies, and so
far quite satisfactorily.

"Well ... take this very crisis," he returned. "Oughtn't there to be a
grant, without a moment's loss of time, from the Imperial Exchequer? I'm
speaking from quite the lowest point of view--the mere point of view of
expediency if you like. Very well. Suppose one or two natives _are_
scoundrels: what about it? Are matters any better because we know that?
Don't the poverty and distress exist just the same? And isn't that
precisely our opportunity, if only we had a statesman capable of seeing
it?... Look here: We've only got to go to them and say, 'We are full of
pity and help; here are a lot of--er--lakhs; lakhs of rupees; rupee one
and twopence: you may have been foolish, but it isn't for us to cast the
first stone; it's the conditions that are wrong; go and get something to
eat, and don't forget your real friends by and by.'--Isn't that just the
way to bind them to us? By their gratitude, eh? Isn't getting their
gratitude better than blowing them from the muzzles of guns, eh? And
isn't that the real Empire, of which we all dream? Eh?..."

He warmed up to it, while keeping one ear open for anybody who might
come along the passage; and when he found himself running down he
grabbed the newspaper again. He doubled it back, refolded it, and again
thrust it under Amory's nose.... There! That put it all in a nutshell,
he said! The figures spoke for themselves. The Home Government, he said,
knew all about it all the time, but of course they came from that
hopeless slough of ineptitude that humorists were pleased to call the
"governing classes," and that was why they dragged such red herrings
across the path of true progress as--well, as the Suffrage, say....
What! Hadn't Amory heard that all this agitation for the Suffrage was
secretly fomented by the Government itself? Oh, come, she must know
that! Why, of course it was! The Government knew dashed well what they
were doing, too! It was a moral certainty that there was somebody behind
the scenes actually planning half these outrages! Why? Why, simply
because it got 'em popular sympathy when a Minister had his windows
smashed or a paper of pepper thrown in his face. They were only too glad
to have pepper thrown in their faces, because everybody said what a
shame it was, and forgot all about what fools they'd been making of
themselves, and when a real--er--crisis came, like this one, people
scarcely noticed it.... But potty little intellects like Brimby's and
Wilkinson's didn't see as deep as that. It was only Edgar Strong and
Amory who saw as deep as that. That was why they, Edgar and Amory, were
where they were--leaders of thought, not subordinates....

"Just look rather carefully at those figures," he concluded....

Nevertheless, lofty as these flights were, they had a little lost their
thrill for Amory. She had heard them so very, very often. She had
trembled in the taxi in vain if _this_ was all that her stealthy coming
to the "Novum's" offices meant. Nor had she put on her new sea-holly
velvet to be told, however eloquently, that Wilkinson and Brimby were
minor lights when compared with Edgar and herself, and that the "Times"
was always wrong. Perhaps the figures that Edgar had thrust under her
nose as if he had been clapping a muzzle on her meant something to the
right person, but they meant nothing to Amory, and she didn't pretend
they did. They were man's business; woman's was "visualizing." The two
businesses, when you came to think of it, _were_ separate and distinct.
Whoever heard of a man wrapping himself up in a carpet and being
carried by Nubians into his mistress's presence? Whoever heard of a
man's face launching as much as an up-river punt, let alone fleets and
fleets of full-sized ships? And whoever heard of the compelling beauty
of a man's eyes, as he lay on a sofa with one satiny upper-arm upraised,
simply making--making--a woman come and kiss him?... It was ridiculous.
Amory saw now. Even Joan of Arc must have put on her armour, not so much
because of all the chopping and banging of maces and things (which must
have been very noisy), but more with the idea of _inspiring_.... Yes,
inspiring: that was it. There _was_ a difference. Why, even physically
women and men were not the same, and mentally they were just as
different. For example, Amory herself wouldn't have liked to blow
anybody from the mouth of a gun, but she wasn't sure sometimes that
Edgar wouldn't positively enjoy it. He had that hard eye, and square
head, and capacity for figures....

She wasn't sure that her heart didn't go out to him all the more because
of that puzzle of noughts and dots and rupees he had thrust into her
hands....

And so, as he continued (so to speak) to gain time by paying in pennies,
and to keep an ear disengaged for the passage, it came about that Edgar
Strong actually overshot himself. The more technical and masculine he
became, the more Amory felt that it was fitting and feminine in her not
to bother with these things at all, but just to go on inspiring. She
still kept her eyes bent over the column of figures, but she was
visualizing again. She was visualizing the Channel steamer, and the
Latin Quarter, and satiny upper-arms. And the taxi-tremor had
returned....

Suddenly she looked softly yet daringly up. She felt that she must be
Indian--yet not too Indian.

"And then there's suttee," she said in a low voice.

"Eh?" said Strong. He seemed to scent danger. "Abolished," he said
shortly.

But here Amory was actually able to tell Edgar Strong something. She
happened to have been reading about suttee in a feminist paper only a
day or two before. No doubt Edgar read nothing but figures and grey
oblongs.

"Oh, no," she said softly but with a knowledge of her ground. "That is,
I know it's prohibited, but there was a case only a little while ago. I
read it in the 'Vaward.' And it was awful, but splendid, too. She was a
young widow, and I'm sure she had a lovely face, because she'd such a
noble soul.--Don't you think they often go together?"

But Edgar did not reply. He had walked to a little shelf full of
reference books and books for review, and was turning over pages.

"And the whole village was there," Amory continued, "and she walked to
the pyre herself, and said good-bye to all her relatives, and then----"

Edgar shut his book with a slap.--"Abolished in 1829," he said. "It's a
criminal offence under the Code."

Amory smiled tenderly. Abolished!... Dear, fellow, to think that in such
matters he should imagine that his offences and Codes could make any
difference! Of course the "Vaward" had made a mere Suffrage argument out
of the thing, but to Amory it had just showed how cruel and magnificent
and voluptuous and grim the East could be when it really tried.... And
then all at once Amory thought, not of any particular poem she had ever
read, but what a ripping thing it would be to be able to write poetry,
and to say all those things that would have been rather silly in prose,
and to put heaps of gorgeous images in, like the many-breasted
what-was-her-name, and Thingummy--what-did-they-call-him--the god with
all those arms. And there would be carpets and things too, and limbs,
not plaster ones, but flesh and blood ones, as Edgar said his own were,
and--and--and oh, stacks of material! The rhymes might be a bit hard, of
course, and perhaps after all it might be better to leave poetry to
somebody else, and to concentrate all her energies on inspiring, as
Beatrice inspired Dante, and Laura Petrarch, and that other woman
Camoens, and Jenny Rossetti, and Vittoria Colonna Michael Angelo. She
might even inspire Edgar to write poetry. And she would be careful to
keep the verses out of Cosimo's way....

"Abolished!" she smiled in gay yet mournful mockery, and also with a
touch both of reproach and of disdain in her look.... "Oh well, I
suppose men think so...."

But at this he rounded just as suddenly on her as he had done when he
had told her that she ought not to have come to the office. Perhaps he
felt that he was losing ground again. You may be sure that Edgar Strong,
actor, had never had to work as hard for his money as he had to work
that afternoon.

"Amory!" he called imperiously. "I tell you it won't do--not at this
juncture! I'd just begun to find a kind of drug in my work; I've locked
myself up here; and now you come and undo it all again with a look! I
see we must have this out. Let me think."

He began to pace the floor.

When he did speak again, his phrases came in detached jerks. He kept
looking sharply up and then digging his chin into his red tie again.

"It was different before," he said. "It might have been all right
before. We were free then--in a way. It was different in every way....
(Mind your dress in that tea).... But we can't do anything now. Not at
present. There's this crisis. That's suddenly sprung upon us. There's
got to be somebody at the wheel--the 'Novum's' wheel, I mean. I hate
talking about my duty, but you've read the 'Times' there. The 'Times' is
always wrong, and if we desert our posts the whole game's up--U.P.
Prang's no good here. Prang can't be trusted at a pinch. And Wilkinson's
no better. Neither of 'em any good in an emergency. Weak man at bottom,
Wilkinson--the weakness of violence--effeminate, like these strong-word
poets. We can't rely on Wilkinson and Prang. And who is there left? Eh?"

But he did not wait for an answer.

"Starving thousands, and no Imperial Grant." His voice grew passionate.
"Imperial Grant must be pressed for without delay. What's to happen to
the Real Empire if you and I put our private joys first? Eh? Answer
me.... There they are, paying in pennies--and us dallying here.... No.
Dash it all, no. May be good enough for some of these tame males, but
it's a bit below a man. I won't--not now. Not at present. It would be
selfish. They've trusted me, and----," a shrug. "No. That's flat. I see
_my_ nights being spent over figures and telegrams and all that sort of
thing for some time to come.... Don't think I've forgotten. I understand
perfectly. I suppose that sooner or later it _will_ have to be the
Continent and so on--but not until this job's settled. Not till then.
Everything else--everything--has got to stand down. You do see, don't
you, Amory? I hope you do."

As he had talked there had come over Amory a sense of what his love must
be if nothing but his relentless sense of duty could frustrate it even
for a day. And that was more thrilling than all the rest put together.
It lifted their whole relation exactly where she had tried to put it
without knowing how to put it there--into the regions of the heroic. Not
that Edgar put on any frills about it. On the contrary. He was simple
and plain and straight. And how perfectly right he was! Naturally, since
the "Times" and its servile following of the capitalist Press would not
help, Edgar had to all intents and purposes the whole of India to carry
on his shoulders. It was exactly like that jolly thing of Lovelace's,
about somebody not loving somebody so much if he didn't love Honour
more. He did love her so much, and he had as much as said that there
would be plenty of time to talk about the Continent later. Besides, his
dear, rough, unaffected way of calling this heroic work his "job!" It
was just as if one of those knights of old had called slaying dragons
and delivering the oppressed his "job!"

Amory was exalted as she had never been exalted. She turned to him where
he stood on the hearth, and laved him with a fond and exultant look.

"I see," she said bravely. "I was wretchedly selfish. But remember,
won't you, when you're fighting this great battle against all those
odds, and saying all those lovely things to the Indians, and getting
their confidence, and just showing all those other people how stupid
they are, that _I_ didn't stop you, dear! I know it would be beastly of
me to stop you! I shouldn't be worthy of you.... But I think you ought
to appoint a Committee or something, and have the meetings reported in
the 'Novum,' and I'm sure Cosimo wouldn't grudge the money. Oh, how I
wish I could help!----"

But he did not say, as she had half hoped he would say, that she did
help, by inspiring. Instead, he held out his hand. As she took it in
both of hers she wondered what she ought to do with it. If it had been
his foot, and he had been the old-fashioned sort of knight, she could
have fastened a spur on it. Or she might have belted a sword about his
waist. But to have filled his fountain-pen, which was his real weapon,
would have been rather stupid.... He was leading her, ever so
sympathetically, to the door. He opened it, took from it the notice that
had kept Mr. Prang away, and stood with her on the landing.

"Good-bye," she said.

He glanced over his shoulder, and then almost hurt her hands, he gripped
them so hard.

"Good-bye," he said, his eyes looking into hers. "You _do_ understand,
don't you, Amory?"

"Yes, Edgar."

Even then he seemed loth to part from her. He accompanied her to the top
of the stairs.--"You'll let me know when you're coming again, won't
you?" he asked.

"Yes. Good-bye."

And she tore herself away.

At the first turning of the stairs Amory stood aside to allow a rather
untidy young woman to pass. This young woman had a long bare neck that
reminded Amory of an artist's model, and her hands were thrust into the
fore-pockets of a brown knitted coat. She was whistling, but she stopped
when she saw Amory.

"Do you know whether Mr. Dickinson, the poster artist, is up here?" she
asked.

"The next floor, I think," Amory replied.

"Thanks," said the girl, and passed up.



IV

THE OUTSIDERS


"No, not this week," Dorothy said. "Dot wrote a fortnight ago. This
one's from Mollie. (You remember Mollie, Katie? She came to that funny
little place we had on Cheyne Walk once, but of course she was only
about twelve then. She's nearly nineteen now, and _so_ tall! They've
just gone to Kohat).--Shall I read it, auntie?"

And she read:--

     "'I'm afraid I wrote you a hatefully skimpy letter last time--,'"
     h'm, we can skip that; here's where they started: "'It was the
     beastliest journey that I ever made. To begin with, we were the
     eighteenth tonga that day, so we got tired and wretched ponies;
     we had one pair for fifteen miles and couldn't get another pair
     for love or money. We left Murree at two o'clock and got to Pindi
     at nine. The dust was ghastly. Mercifully Baba slept like a lump
     in our arms from five till nine, so he was all right. We had from
     nine till one to wait in Pindi Station, and had dinner, and Baba
     had a wash and clean-up and a bottle, and we got on board the
     train and off. Baba's cot, etc.; and we settled down for the
     night. Nurse and Baba and Mary and I were in one carriage and
     Jim next door. I slept beautifully till one o'clock, and then I
     woke and stayed awake. The bumping was terrific, and it made me
     so angry to look down on the others and see them fast asleep! I
     had an upper berth. Baba slept from eleven-thirty till
     six-thirty! So we had no trouble at all with  him----'

"Well, and so they got to Kohat. (I hope this isn't boring you, Katie.)"

     "'It was most beautifully cool and fresh, and we had the mess
     tonga and drove to the bungalow. The flowering shrubs here would
     delight Auntie Grace. I've fallen in love with a bush of hibiscus
     in the compound, but find it won't live in water, but droops
     directly one picks it. The trees are mostly the palmy kind, and
     so green, and the ranges of hills behind are exactly like the Red
     Sea ranges. The outside of our bungalow is covered with purple
     convolvulus, and the verandah goes practically all round it.
     Jim's room is just like him--heads he's shot, study,
     dressing-room, and workshop, all in one, and it's quite the
     fullest room in the house. Beyond that there's my room, looking
     out over the Sinai Range----'

"Then there are the drawing and dining-rooms----"

     "'The curtains are a pale terra-cotta pink over the door and dark
     green in the bay-windows, with white net in front. The
     drawing-room is all green. The durrie (that's the carpet) is
     green, with a darker border, and the sofa and chairs and
     mantelpiece-cover and the screen behind the sofa all green.
     There's another bay-window, with far curtains of green and the
     near ones chintz, an awfully pretty cream spotted net with a
     green hem let in. That makes three lots, two in the window itself
     and a third on a pole where the arch comes into the room. Then
     over the three doors there are chintz curtains, cream, with a big
     pattern of pink and green and blue, just like Harrods'
     catalogue----'

"Can't you _see_ it all!--H'm, h'm!... Then on the Sunday morning they
got the mess tonga and went out to Dhoda, with butterfly-nets, and Jim
went fishing--h'm, h'm--and she says--

     "'It's just like the Old Testament; I shouldn't have been in the
     least surprised to meet Abraham and Jacob. It's the flatness of
     it, and the flocks and herds. There are women with pitchers on
     their heads, and a man was making scores of bricks with mud and
     straw--exactly like the pictures of the Children of Israel in
     "_Line upon Line_." And about a hundred horses and mules and
     donkeys and carts all stopped at midday, because it was so hot,
     and it was just what I'd always imagined Jacob doing. But inside
     cantonments it isn't a bit Biblical, but rather too civilized,
     etc.'

("Isn't Katie patient, listening to all this, auntie!")

     "'But you can't go far afield at Kohat. At Murree you could
     always get a three or four mile walk round Pindi Point, but here
     it's just to the Club and back. We go to the Central Godown and
     the Fancy Godown to shop. The Central is groceries, and the Fancy
     tooth-powder, Scrubb's Ammonia, etc. On Saturday they were afraid
     Captain Horrocks had smallpox, and so we all got vaccinated, but
     now that we've all taken beautifully it seems it isn't smallpox
     after all, and we've all got swelled arms, but Captain Horrocks
     is off the sick-list to-morrow. Colonel Wade is smaller than
     ever. Mrs. Wade is coming out by the "Rewa." Mrs. Beecher came to
     tea on Sunday----'

("Is that _our_ Mrs. Beecher, when Uncle Dick was at Chatham,
auntie?")--

     "'--and I forgot to say that Dot's parrots stood the journey
     awfully well, but they've got at the loquat trees and destroyed
     all the young shoots. Jim saw us safely in and is now off on his
     Indus trip. The 56th are going in March, and the 53rd come
     instead. I'm sure the new baby's a little darling; what are you
     going to call him?----'

"And so on. I _do_ think she writes such good letters. Now let's have
yours, Aunt Grace (and that really _will_ be the end, Katie)."

And Lady Tasker's letters also were "put in."

       *       *       *       *       *

It was a Sunday afternoon, at Cromwell Gardens. Stan was away with his
film company for the week-end, and Dorothy had got Katie to stay with
her during his absence and had proposed a call on Lady Tasker. They had
brought the third Bit with them, and he now slept in one of the cots
upstairs. Lady Tasker sat with her crochet at the great first-floor
window that looked over its balcony out along the Brompton Road. On the
left stretched the long and grey and red and niched and statued façade
of the Victoria and Albert Museum, and the failing of the western flush
was leaving the sky chill and sharp as steel and the wide
traffic-polished road almost of the same colour. Inside the lofty room
was the still glow of a perfect "toasting fire," and Lady Tasker had
just asked Katie to be so good as to put more coal on before it sank too
low.

Katie Deedes had made no scruple whatever about changing her coat in
more senses of the words than one. She had bought a navy-blue costume
and a new toque (with a wing in it), and since then had got into the way
of expressing her doubts whether Britomart Belchamber's hockey legs and
Dawn of Freedom eye were in the truest sense feminine. Nay, that is
altogether to understate the change in Katie. She had now no doubt about
these things whatever. As Saul became Paul, so Katie now not only
reviled that which she had cast off, but was even prepared, like the
Apostle at Antioch, to withstand the older Peters of Imperialism to
their faces, did she detect the least sign of temporizing in them. And
this treason had involved the final giving-way of every one of her old
associates. She was all for guns and grim measures; and while she looked
fondly on Boy Scouts in the streets, and talked about "the thin end of
the wedge of Conscription," she scowled on the dusky-skinned sojourners
within London's gates, and advocated wholesale deportations.

And in all this Katie Deedes was only returning to her own fold, though
her people were not soldiers, but lawyers. For the matter of that, her
father's cousin was a very august personage indeed, for whose comfort,
when he travelled, highly-placed railway officials made themselves
personally responsible, and whose solemn progress to Assize was
snapshotted for the illustrated papers and thrown on five hundred cinema
screens. In the past Katie had been privileged to call this kingpost of
the Law "Uncle Joe."...

And then Mr. Strong had got hold of her....

And after Mr. Strong, Mr. Wilkinson....

And according to Mr. Wilkinson, the most ferocious of the hanging-judges
had been a beaming humanitarian by comparison with Sir Joseph. Mr.
Wilkinson had the whole of Sir Joseph's career at his fingers' ends: the
So-and-So judgment--this or that flagrant summing up--the other
deliberate and wicked misdirection to the jury. Sir Joseph's heart was
black, his law bunkum, and he had only got where he was by
self-advertisement and picking the brains of men a hundred times fitter
for heaven than himself....

Therefore Katie, hearing this horrible tale, had quailed, and had
straightway given away this devil who was the sinister glory of her
house. She had agreed that he was a man whom anybody might righteously
have shot on sight, and had gathered her Greenaway garments about her
whenever she had passed within a mile of Sir Joseph's door....

But now he was "Uncle Joe" again, and--well, it must have been rather
funny. For Katie's impressionable conscience had given her no rest day
or night until she had sought Uncle Joe out and had made a clean breast
of it all before him. Katie had fancied she had seen something like a
twinkle in those sinful old eyes, but (this was when she mentioned the
name of the "Novum") the twinkle had vanished again. Oh, yes, Sir Joseph
had heard of the "Novum." Didn't a Mr. Prang write for it?...

And thereupon Katie had given Mr. Prang away too....

But in the end Sir Joseph had forgiven her, and had told her that she
had better not be either a revolutionary, nor yet the kind of
Conservative that is only a revolutionary turned inside-out, but just a
good little girl, and had asked her how she was getting on, and why she
hadn't been to see her Aunt Anne, and whether she would like some
tickets for a Needlework Exhibition; and now she was just beginning to
forget that he had ever been anything but "Uncle Joe," who had given her
toys at Christmas, and Sunday tickets for the Zoo whenever she had
wanted to go there on that particularly crowded day.

Dorothy had had something of this in her mind when she had brought Katie
to Cromwell Gardens that Sunday afternoon. From Katie's new attitude to
her own Ludlow project was not so far as it seemed. If she could lead
the zealous 'vert to such promising general topics as Boy Scouts,
Compulsory Service, and the preparation of boys for the Army (topics
that Katie constantly brought forward by denunciation of their
opposites), her scheme would certainly not suffer, and might even be
advanced.

And, as it happened, no sooner had Dorothy tucked her last letter back
into its envelope than Katie broke out--earnestly, proselytizingly, and
very prettily on the stump.

"There you are!" she exclaimed. "That's all _exactly_ what I mean! Why,
any one of those letters ought to be enough to convince anybody! Here
are all these stupid people at home, ready to believe everything a
native tells them, going on as they do, and hardly one of them's ever
set foot out of England in his life! Of course the Indians know exactly
what _they_ want, but don't you see, Dorothy--," very patiently she
explained it for fear Dorothy should not see, "--don't you see that it's
all so much a matter of course to Mollie and those that they can
actually write whole letters about window-curtains! I _love_ that about
the window-curtains! It's all such an old story to _them_! They _know_,
you see, and haven't got to be talking about it all the time in order to
persuade themselves! There it _is_!--But these other people don't know
anything at all. They don't even see what a perfect answer
window-curtains are to them! They go on and on and on--you _do_ see what
I mean, Dorothy?----"

"Yes, dear," said Dorothy, mildly thinking of the great number of people
there were in the world who would take no end of trouble to explain
things to her. "Go on."

And Katie continued to urge upon her friend the argument that those know
most about a country who know most about it.

Katie had got to the stage of being almost sure that she remembered
Mollie's coming into the studio in Cheyne Walk one day, when Lady
Tasker, who had not spoken, suddenly looked up from her crochet and
said, "Look, Dorothy--that's the girl I was speaking about--coming along
past the Museum there."

Dorothy rose and walked to the window.--"Where?" she said.

"Passing the policeman now."

Dorothy gave a sudden exclamation.--"Why," she exclaimed, "--come here,
Katie, quick--it's Amory Towers!--It is Amory, isn't it?"

Katie had run to the window, too. The two women stood watching the
figure in the mushroom-white hat and the glaucous blue velvet that idled
forlornly along the pavement.

"Do you mean Mrs. Pratt?" said Lady Tasker, putting up her glass again.
"Are you quite sure?"

       *       *       *       *       *

Once before in her life, in the days before her marriage, Amory Towers
had done the same thing that she was doing now. Then, seeking something,
perhaps a refuge from herself, she had walked the streets until she was
ready to drop with fatigue, watching faces passing, passing, for ever
passing, and slowly gathering from them a hypnotic stupor. Sometimes,
for hour after hour, she had seen nothing but eyes--eyes various in
shape and colour as the pebbles on a beach, sometimes looking into hers,
sometimes looking past her, sometimes tipped with arrow-heads of white
as they turned, sometimes only to be seen under their lids as a
finger-nail is seen within the finger of a glove. And at other times,
weary of her fellow-beings and ceasing to look any more at them, she had
seen nothing but doors and windows, or fan-lights, or the numbers of
houses, or window-boxes, or the patterns of railings, or the serried
shapes of chimneys against the sky. She had been looking, and yet not
looking, for Cosimo Pratt then; she was looking, and yet not looking,
for Edgar Strong now. Had she met him she had nothing new to say to him;
she only knew that he had taken weak possession of her mind. She was
looking for him in South Kensington because he had once told her, when
asked suddenly, that he lived in Sydney Street, S.W., and frequently
walked to the Indian section of the Imperial Institute in order to
penetrate into the real soul of a people through its art; and she was
not looking for him, because one day she had remembered that he had said
before that he lived in South Kentish Town--which was rather like South
Kensington, but not the same--and something deep down within her told
her that the other was a lie.

But yet her feet dragged her to the quarter, as to other quarters, and
she talked to herself as she walked. She told herself that her husband
did not understand her, and that it would be romantic and silencing did
she take a lover to her arms; and she could have wept that, of all the
flagrant splendours of which she dreamed, London's grey should remain
her only share. And she knew that the attendants at the Imperial
Institute had begun to look at her. Once she had spoken to one of them,
but when she had thought of asking him whether he knew a Mr. Strong who
came there to study Indian Art, her heart had suddenly failed her, and
the question had stayed unspoken. Nevertheless she had feared that the
man had guessed her thought, and must be taking stock of her face
against some contingency (to visualize which passed the heavy time on)
that had a Divorce Court in it, and hotel porters and chambermaids who
gave evidence, and the Channel boat, and two forsaken children, and
grimy raptures in the Latin Quarter, and its hectic cafés at night....

And so she walked, feeling herself special and strange and frightened
and half-resolved; and thrice in as many weeks Lady Tasker, sitting with
her crochet at her window, had seen her pass, but had not been able to
believe that this was the woman, with a husband and children, on whom
she had once called at that house with the secretive privet hedge away
in Hampstead.

       *       *       *       *       *

"It _is_ Amory!" Dorothy exclaimed. "Is she coming here?"

Lady Tasker spoke reflectively.--"I don't know. I don't think so.
But--will you fetch her in? I should like to see her."

"If you like, auntie," said Dorothy, though a little reluctantly.

But Lady Tasker seemed to change her mind. She laid down her crochet and
rose.

"No, never mind," she said. "I'll fetch her myself."

And the old lady of seventy passed slowly out of the room, and Katie and
Dorothy moved away from the window.

Lady Tasker was back again in five minutes, but no Amory came with her.
She walked back to her chair, moved it, and took up her work
again.--"Switch the table light on," she said.

"Was it Amory?" Dorothy ventured to ask after a silence.

"Yes," Lady Tasker replied.

"And wouldn't she come in?"

"She said she was hurrying back home."

That raised a question so plain that Dorothy thought it tactful to make
rather a fuss about finding some album or other that should convince
Katie that she really had met the Mollie who had written the letter
about the window-curtains. Lady Tasker's needle was dancing rather more
quickly than usual. Dorothy found her album, switched on another light,
and told Katie to make room for her on her chair.

Amory, dawdling like that, and then, when spoken to, to have the face to
say that she was hurrying back home!----

It was some minutes later that Lady Tasker said off-handedly, "Has she
any children besides those twins?"

"Amory?" Dorothy replied, looking up from the album. "No."

"How old is she?" Lady Tasker asked.

"Thirty-two, isn't she, Katie?"

"About that."

"Is she very--athletic?" Lady Tasker next wanted to know.

"Not at all, I should say."

"I mean she doesn't go in for marathon races or Channel swimming or
anything of that kind?"

"Amory? No," said Dorothy, puzzled.

"And you're sure of her age?" the old lady persisted.

"Well--she may only be thirty-one."

"I don't mean is she younger. Is she _older_ than that?"

"No--I know by my own age."

"H'm!" said Lady Tasker; and again her needle danced....

Dorothy was explaining to Katie that Mollie was fair, about her own
colour, but of course the hair never came out right in a photograph,
when Lady Tasker suddenly began a further series of questions.

"Dorothy----"

"Yes?"

"Did she--develop--early?"

"Who--Amory? I don't know. Did she, Katie? Of course she was quite the
cleverest girl at the McGrath."

"Ah!... What did she do at the McGrath?"

"Why, painted. You're awfully mysterious, auntie! It was soon after she
left the McGrath that she painted 'Barrage'--you've heard of her
feminist picture that made such a stir!"

"Ah, yes. Yes. I didn't see it, but I did hear about it. I don't know
anything about art.--Had she any affair before she married young Pratt?"

"No. I'm sure of that. I knew her so well." Dorothy was quite confident
on that point, and Katie agreed. Lady Tasker's questions continued.

And then, suddenly, into this apparently aimless catechism the word
"doctor" came. Dorothy gave a start.

"Aunt Grace!... Do you mean Amory's ill?" she cried.

Lady Tasker did not look up from her crochet.--"Ill?" she said. "I've no
reason to suppose so. I didn't say she was ill. There's no illness about
it.... By the way, I don't think I've asked how Stan is."

But for the curiously persistent questions, Dorothy might have seized
the opportunity to hint that Stan was made for something more nationally
useful than getting himself black and blue by stopping runaway horses
for the film or running the risk of double pneumonia by being fished out
of the sea on a January day--which was the form his bread-winning was
taking on that particular week-end. But the Ludlow design was for the
moment forgotten. She would have liked to ask her aunt straight out what
she really meant, but feared to be rude. So she turned to the album
again, and again Katie, turning from turban to staff-cap and from
staff-cap to pith helmet, urged that _those_ were the people who really
knew what they were talking about--surely Dorothy saw _that_!----

Then, in the middle of Dorothy's bewilderment, once more the
questions.... About that painting of her friend's, Lady Tasker wanted to
know: did Mrs. Pratt get any real satisfaction out of it?--Any emotional
satisfaction?--Was she entirely wrapped up in it?--Or was it just a sort
of hitting at the air?--Did it exhaust her to no purpose, or was it
really worth something when it was done?----

"If Dorothy doesn't know, surely you do, Katie."

Katie coloured a little.--"I liked 'Barrage' awfully at the time," she
confessed, "but--," and she cheered up again, "--I _hate_ it now."

"But did her work--what's the expression?--fill her life?"

Here Dorothy answered for Katie.--"I think she rather liked the fame
part of it," she said slowly.

"Does she paint now?"

"Very little, I think, Lady Tasker."

"Has her children to look after, I suppose?"

"Well--she has both a nurse and a governess----"

"They're quite well off, aren't they? I seem to remember that Pratt came
into quite a lot."

"They seem to spend a great deal."

"But that's only a small house of theirs?"

"Oh, yes, they're rather proud of that. They don't spend their money
selfishly. It goes to the Cause, you see."

"What Cause?" Lady Tasker asked abruptly.

This was Katie's cue....

She ceased, and Lady Tasker muttered something. It sounded rather like
"H'm! Too much money and not enough to do!" but neither of her
companions was near enough to be quite sure.

And thereupon the questions stopped.

But a surmise of their drift had begun to dawn glimmeringly upon
Dorothy. She ceased to hear the exposition of Imperialism's real needs
into which Katie presently launched, and fell into a meditation. And of
that meditation this was about the length and breadth:--

Until the law should allow a man to have more wives than one (if then),
of course only one woman in the world could be perfectly happy--the
woman who had Stan. That conviction came first, and last, and ran
throughout her meditation. And of what Dorothy might compassionately
have called secondary happinesses she had hitherto not thought very
much. She had merely thanked her stars that she had not married a man
like Cosimo, had once or twice rather resented Amory's well-meant but
left-handed kindnesses, and that had been the extent of her concern
about the Pratt household. But first Katie, and now her aunt, had set
her wondering hard enough about that household now.

What, she asked herself, had the Pratts married on? What discoveries had
they made in one another, what resources found within themselves? Apart
from their talks and books and meetings and "interests" and that full
pack of their theories, what was their marriage? Thrown alone together
for an hour, did they fret? Did their yawning cease when the bell rang
and a caller was admitted? Did even the same succession of callers
become stale and a bore, so that strangers had to be sought to provide a
stimulus? And did they call these and half a hundred other forms of
mutual boredom by the rather resounding names that blabbing Katie had
repeated to her--"wider interests," "the broad outlook," "the breaking
down of personal insularity," and the rest?

And for once Dorothy dropped her excusatory attitude towards her friend.
She dropped it so completely that by and by she found herself wondering
whether Amory would have married Cosimo had he been a poor man. She was
aware that, stated in that way, it sounded hideous; nor did she quite
mean that perhaps Amory had married Cosimo simply and solely because he
had _not_ been poor; no doubt Amory had assumed other things to be equal
that as a matter of fact had unfortunately proved to be not equal at
all; but she _did_ doubt now whether Amory had not missed that
something, that something made of so many things, that caused her own
heart suddenly to gush out to the absent Stan. The thought frightened
her a little. Had Amory married and had babies--all, as it were, beside
the mark?...

Dorothy did not know.

But an obscurer hint still had seemed to lie behind her aunt's
persistent questions. "Was Amory ill?" she herself had asked in alarm
when that unexpected word "doctor" had been quietly dropped; and "Ill? I
didn't say she was ill; there's no illness about it," Lady Tasker had
replied. No illness about what? Apparently about something Lady Tasker
saw, or thought she saw, in Amory.... An old lady whose years had
earned her the right to sit comfortably in her chair had gone so far as
to descend the stairs and go out into the street to have a closer look
at a young one: why? Why ask "Is she a Channel swimmer?" and "Is her
painting a mere hitting of the air?" Why this insistence on some
satisfaction for labour, as if without that satisfaction the labour
wreaked on the labourer some sort of revenge? What sort of a revenge?
And why on Amory?

Yes, Dorothy would have liked to ask her aunt a good many questions....

She did not know that Lady Tasker could not have answered them. She did
not know that the whole world is waiting for precisely those replies.
She did not know that the data of a great experiment have not yet begun
to be gathered together. She did not know that, while she and Stan would
never see the results of that experiment, little Noel and the other
Bits, and Corin and Bonniebell might. She only knew that her aunt was a
wise and experienced woman, with an appetite for life and all belonging
to it that only grew the stronger as her remaining years drew in, and
that apparently Lady Tasker found something to question, if not to fear.

"Is she a Channel swimmer? Does she get any emotional satisfaction out
of what she does?"

They were oddly precise questions....

Much less odd was that homely summing-up of Lady Tasker's: "Too much
money, and not enough to do."...

Dorothy had often thought that herself.



V

"HOUSE FULL"


The gate in the privet hedge of The Witan had had little rest all the
afternoon. It was a Sunday, the one following that on which Lady Tasker
had issued bareheaded from her door, had crossed the road, and had
caused Amory to start half out of her skin by suddenly speaking to her.
The Wyrons had come in the morning; they had been expressly asked to
lunch; but it was known that Dickie Lemesurier was coming in afterwards
to discuss an advertisement, and if Dickie came the chances were that
Mr. Brimby would not be very long after her. As a matter of fact Dickie
and Mr. Brimby had encountered one another outside and had arrived
together at a little after three, bringing three young men, friends of
Mr. Brimby's still at Oxford, with them. These young men wore Norfolk
jackets, gold-pinned polo-collars, black brogues and turned-up trousers;
and apparently they had hesitated to take Cosimo at his word about
"spreading themselves about anywhere," for they stood shoulder to
shoulder in the studio, and when one turned to look at a picture or
other object on the wall, all did so. Then, not many minutes later, Mr.
Wilkinson had entered, in his double-breasted blue reefer, bringing with
him a stunted, bowlegged man who did not carry, but looked as if he
ought to have carried, a miner's lamp; and by half-past four, of The
Witan's habitués, only Mr. Prang and Edgar Strong were lacking. But
Edgar was coming. It had been found impossible, or at any rate Amory had
decided that it was impossible, to discuss the question of Dickie's
advertisement without him. But he was very late.

When Britomart Belchamber came in simultaneously with the tea and the
twins at a little before five, the studio was full. The asbestos log
purred softly, and Mr. Brimby's three Oxford friends, glad perhaps of
something to do, walked here and there, each of them with a plate of
bread and butter in either hand, not realizing that at The Witan the
beautiful Chinese rule of politeness was always observed--"When the
stranger is in your melon-patch, be a little inattentive." Had Dickie
Lemesurier and Laura Wyron eaten half the white and brown that was
presented to them, they must have been seriously unwell. It was Cosimo,
grey-collared and with a claret-coloured velvet waistcoat showing under
his slackly-buttoned tweed jacket, who gave the young men the friendly
hint, "Everybody helps themselves here, my dear fellows." Then the
Norfolk jackets came together again, and presently their owners turned
with one accord to examine the hock and the top-side that hung on the
wall over the sofa.

Not so much a blending of voices as an incessant racket of emphatic and
independent pronouncements filled the studio. Walter Wyron had fastened
upon the man who looked as if he ought to have carried a miner's lamp,
and his forefinger was wagging like a gauge-needle as he explained that
one of his Lectures had been misrepresented, and that he had _never_
taken up the position that a kind of Saturnalia should be definitely
state-established. He admitted, nevertheless, that the question of such
an establishment ought to be considered, like any other question, on its
merits, and that after that the argument should be followed
whithersoever it led.--Dickie Lemesurier, excessively animated, and with
the whites showing dancingly all round her pupils, was talking Césanne
and Van Gogh to Laura, and declaring that something was "quite the"
something or other.--Mr. Brimby's hand was fondling Bonniebell's head
while he deprecated the high degree of precision of the modern rifle to
Mr. Wilkinson. "If only it wasn't so ruthlessly logical!" he was
sighing. "If only it was subject to the slight organic accident, to
those beautiful adaptations of give-and-take that make judgment harsh,
and teach us that we ought never to condemn!"--Corin, drawn by the word
"gun," was demanding to be told whether that was the gun that had been
taken away from him.--And Britomart Belchamber, indifferent alike to the
glances of the Oxford men and their trepidation in her presence, stood
like a caryatid under a wall-bracket with an ivy-green replica of
Bastianini's Dante upon it.

"No, no, not for a moment, my dear sir!" Walter shouted to the man who
looked like (and was) a miner. "That is to ignore the context. I admit I
used the less-known Pompeian friezes as a rough illustration of what I
meant--but I did _not_ suggest that Waring & Gillow's should put them on
the market! What I did say was that we moderns must work out our
damnation on the same lines that the ancients did. Read your Nietzsche,
my good fellow, and see what _he_ says about the practical
serviceability of Excess! I contend that a kind of general _oubliance_,
say for three weeks in the year, to which everybody without exception
would have to conform (so that we shouldn't have the superior person
bringing things up against us afterwards)----"

"Ah doan't see how ye could mak' fowk----," the miner began, in an
accent that for a moment seemed to blast a hole clean through the
racket. But the hole closed up again.

"Ah, at present you don't," Walter cried. "The spade-work isn't done
yet. We need more education. But every new and great idea----"

But here an outburst from Mr. Wilkinson to Mr. Brimby drowned Walter's
voice. Mr. Wilkinson raised his clenched fist, but only for emphasis,
and not in order to strike Mr. Brimby.

"Stuff and nonsense! There you go, Brimby, trimming again! We've heard
all that: 'A great deal to be said on both sides,'"--(Mr. Wilkinson all
but mimicked Mr. Brimby). "There isn't--not if you're going to do
anything! There's only one side. You've got to shoot or be shot. I'm a
shooter. Give me five hundred real men and plenty of barricade
stuff----"

"Oh, oh, oh, my dear friend!" Mr. Brimby protested. "Why, if your
principles were universally applied----"

"Who said anything about applying 'em universally? Hang your universal
applications! I'm talking about the Industrial Revolution. I'll tell you
what's the matter with you, Brimby: you don't like the sight of blood.
I'm not blaming you. Some men are like that. But it's in every page of
your writing. You've got a bloodless style. I don't mind admitting that
I liked some of your earlier work, while there still seemed a chance of
your making up your mind some day----"

But here Mr. Wilkinson in his turn was drowned, this time by an
incredulous laugh from Cosimo, who had joined Dickie and Laura.

"Van Gogh says _that_?" his voice mounted high. "Really? You're sure he
wasn't joking? Ha ha ha ha!... But it's rather pathetic really. One
would think Amory'd never painted 'Barrage,' nor the 'White Slave,' nor
that--," he pointed to the unfinished canvas of "The Triumph of Humane
Government" on the wall. "By Jove, I must make an Appendix of that!...
Here--Walter!--Have you told him, Dickie?--Walter!----"

But Walter was now at deadly grips with the man who had forgotten his
miner's lamp.

"I tell you I never used Saturnalia in that sense at all!----"

But the miner stood his ground.

"Happen ye didn't, but I'll ask ye one question: Have ye ever been to
Blackpool of a August Bank Holiday?----"

"My good man, you talk as if I proposed to do something with the stroke
of a pen, to-morrow, before the world's ready for it----"

"Have ye ever been to Blackpool of a Bank Holiday?"

"What on earth has Blackpool to do with it?----"

"Well, we'll say Owdham Wakes week at t' Isle o' Man--Douglas----"

"Pooh! You've got hold of the wrong idea altogether! Do you know what
Saturnalia _means_?----"

"I know there's a man on Douglas Head, at twelve o'clock i' t' day, wi'
t' sun shining, going round wi' a stick an' prodding 'em up an' telling
'em to break away----"

"I shouldn't have thought anybody could have been so _incredibly_ slow
to grasp an idea--!" cried Walter, his hands aloft.

"Have--you--ever--been--to--Blackpool--when--t' Wakes--is on?"

Then Cosimo called again--

"Walter! I say! Come here!... Dickie's just told me something that makes
the '_Life and Work_' _rather_ necessary, I think!----"

And Walter turned his back on the miner and joined his wife and Dickie
and Cosimo.

Anybody who wasn't anybody might have supposed the noise to be a series
of wrangles, but of course it wasn't so at all really. Issues far too
weighty hung in the balance. It is all very well for people whose
mental range is limited by _matinées_ and Brooklands and the newest car
to talk in pleasant and unimpassioned voices, but what was going to
happen to Art unless Cosimo hurled himself and the '_Life and Work_'
against this heretic Van Gogh, and what was to become of England if
Walter allowed a pig-headed man who could say nothing but "Blackpool
Pier, Blackpool Pier," to shout him down, and what would happen to
Civilization if Mr. Wilkinson did not, figuratively speaking, take hold
of the dilettante Brimby and shake him as a terrier shakes a rat? No:
there would be time enough for empty politenesses when the battle was
won.

In the meantime, a mere nobody might have thought they were merely
excessively rude to one another.

Then began fresh combinations and permutations of the talk. Mr.
Wilkinson, whose square-cut pilot jacket somehow added to the truculence
of his appearance, planted himself firmly for conversation before Dickie
Lemesurier; the miner, whose head at a little distance appeared bald,
but on a closer view was seen to be covered with football-cropped and
plush-like bristles, nudged Cosimo's hip, to attract his attention: and
Walter Wyron sprang forward with a welcoming "Hallo, Raffinger!" as the
door opened and two young McGrath students were added to the crowd. For
a minute no one voice preponderated in the racket; it was--

"Hallo, Raff! Thought you weren't coming!"

"I want a gun!" (This from Corin.)

"My dear Corin" (this from Bonniebell), "Miss Belchamber's told you over
and over again guns are anti-social----"

"Anybody smoking? Well, I know they don't mind----"

"But, Miss Lemesurier, where a speaker reaches only a hundred or two,
the written word----"

"Ah, but the personal, magnetic thrill----" (This was in Dickie's rather
deep voice.)

Then Walter, to somebody else, not the miner--

"I should have thought _anybody_ would have known that when I said
Saturnalia I meant----"

"Where's Amory?"

"Sweet, in those little tunics!----"

"A subsidy from the State, of course----"

Then the miner, but not to Walter--

"I' t' daylight, proddin' 'em up wi' a stick--to say nowt o' Port
Skillian bathin'-place of a fine Sunda'----"

"That hoary old lie, that Socialism means sharing----"

"Oh, at any artists' colourman's----"

"No; it will probably be published privately----"

"Van Gogh----"

"Oh, you're _entirely_ wrong!----"

And then, in the middle of a sudden and mysterious lull, the man who had
come without his safety-lamp was heard addressing Cosimo again:--

"Well, what about t' new paaper? Owt settled yet?... Nay, ye needn't
look; Wilkinson telled me; it's all right; nowt 'at's said 'll go beyond
these fower walls. Wilkinson's gotten a rare list together, names an'
right, I can tell ye! But t' way I look at it is this----"

Cosimo looked blank.

"But, my dear--I'm afraid I didn't catch your name----," he said.

"Crabtree--Eli Crabtree. This is t' point I want to mak', mister. Ye
see, I can't put things grammar; but there's lots about 'at can; so I
thowt we'd get a sec'etary, an' I'd sit an' smoke whol' my thowts come,
and then I'd tell him t' tale. Ye see, ye want to go slap into t' middle
o' t' lives o' t' people. Now comin' up o' t' tram-top I bethowt me of a
champion series: '_Back to Back Houses I've Known_.' I'll bet a crahn
that wi' somb'dy to put it grammar for me----"

"My dear Crabtree, I'm afraid, don't you know, that there's been some
mistake----"

And at this point, everybody becoming conscious at the same moment that
they were listening, a fresh wave of sound flowed over the assembly; and
presently Mr. Wilkinson was seen to take Cosimo aside and to be making
the gestures of a man who is explaining some ridiculous mistake.

Then once more:--

"I beg your pardon--I thought you were Mrs. Pratt----"

"Put grammar--straight to fowk's hearts--sinks and slopstones an' all t'
lot----"

"No, Balliol----"

"But listen, Pratt, the way the mistake arose----"

"Ellen Key, of course----"

"The 'Times!'--As if the 'Times' wasn't _always_ wrong!----"

"There's a raucousness about her paint----"

"The Caxton Hall, at eight--do come!----"

"But we authors are so afraid of sentiment nowadays!----"

"Bombay, I think--or else Hyderabad----"

"Oh, he talks like a fool!----"

"Raff! Come here and recite '_The King is Duller_'----"

"But Love _is_ Law!----"

"Suspend our judgments until we've heard the other side----"

"Only water--but they couldn't break her spirit--she was out again in
three days----"

And again there came an unexpected lull.

This time it was broken by, perhaps not the loudest, but certainly the
most travelling voice yet--the voice of the caryatid beneath the bracket
with the bust upon it. Miss Belchamber was dressed in a sleeveless
surcoat chess-boarded with large black and white squares; the skirt
beneath it was of dark blue linen; and there were beards of leather on
her large brown brogues. One of the young Oxford men, greatly daring,
had approached her and asked her a question. She turned slowly; she gave
the young man the equal-soul-to-equal-soul look; and then the apparatus
of perfect voice-production was set in motion. Easily and powerfully the
air came from her magnificent chest, up the splendid six-inch main of
her throat, rang upon the hard anterior portion of her palate, and was
cut, as it were, to its proper length and shaped into perfect
enunciation by her red tongue and beautiful white teeth.

"What?" she said.

The undergraduate fell a little back.

"Only--I only asked if you'd been to many theatres lately."

"Not any."

"Oh!... I--I suppose you know everybody here?"

"Yes."

"Do point them out to me!"

"That's Walter Wyron. That's Mrs. Wyron. That's Miss Lemesurier. I don't
know who the little man is. That's Mr. Wilkinson. My name's Belchamber."

"Oh--I say--I mean, thanks awfully. We've heard of them all, of course,"
the unhappy young man faltered.

"What?"

"All distinguished names, I mean."

"Of course."

"Rather!----"

And again everybody listened, became conscious of the fact, and broke
out anew.

But where all this time was Amory?

Demonstrably, exactly where she ought to have been--in her bedroom. She
was too dispirited to be accessible to the rational talk of others; she
did not feel that she had energy enough to be a source of illumination
herself; surely, then, merely because a lot of people, invited and
uninvited, chose to come to The Witan, she need not put herself out to
go and look after them. They might call themselves her "guests" if they
liked; Amory didn't care what form of words they employed; the
underlying reality remained--that she was intensely bored, and too
fundamentally polite to bore others by going down. Perhaps she would go
down when Edgar came. She had left word that she was to be informed of
his arrival. But he was very late.

Nevertheless, she knew that he would come. Lately she had grown a little
more perspicacious about that. It had dawned on her that, everything
else apart, she had some sort of hold on him through the "Novum," and
there had been a trace of command in her summons that he was pretty sure
not to disregard. No doubt he would try to get away again almost
directly, but she had arranged about that. She intended to keep him to
supper. Also the Wyrons. And Britomart Belchamber too would be there.
And of course Cosimo.

She moved restlessly between her narrow bed and the window, now
polishing her nails, now glancing at her hair in the glass. From the
window she could see over the privet hedge and down the road, but there
was no sign of Edgar yet. She looked at herself again in the glass,
without favour, and then sat down on the edge of her bed again.

Her meeting with Lady Tasker the week before had greatly unsettled her.
Very stupidly, she had quite forgotten that Lady Tasker lived in
Cromwell Gardens. She would have thought nothing at all of the meeting
had Lady Tasker had a hat on her head and gloves on her hands; she would
have set that down as an ordinary street-encounter; but Dorothy's aunt
had evidently seen her from some window, perhaps not for the first time,
and, if not for the first, very likely for the third or fourth or fifth.
In a word, Amory felt that she had been caught.

And, as she had been thinking of Edgar Strong at the moment when the old
lady's voice had startled her so, it was not beyond the bounds of
possibility that her start had seemed remarkable. Lady Tasker was so
very sharp.

At all events, even Edgar was not going to have everything all his own
way.

For she was sure now that she had the hold of the "Novum" on him, and
that that hold was not altogether the single-minded devotion to his duty
he had made it out to be on that day when she had last gone to the
office. Not that she thought too unkindly of him on that account. The
labourer, even in the field of Imperial Politics, is still worthy of his
hire, and poor Edgar, like the rest of the world, had to make the best
compromise he could between what he would have liked to do and what
circumstances actually permitted him to do. Of course he would be
anxious to keep his job. If he didn't keep it a worse man would get it,
and India would be no better off, but probably worse. She sighed that
all work should be subject to compromises of this kind. Edgar, in a
word, was no longer a hero to her, but, by his very weakness, something
a little nearer and dearer still.

But for all that she had not hesitated to use her "pull" in order to get
him to The Witan that day.

She saw him as she advanced to the glass again. He was nearly a quarter
of a mile down the road. She found a little secret delight in watching
his approach when he was unconscious of her watching. His figure was
still very small, and she indulged herself with a fancy, closing her
eyes for a moment in order to do so. Suppose he had been, not
approaching, but going away--then when she opened her eyes again he
would look smaller still.... She opened them, and experienced a little
thrill at seeing him nearer and plainer. She could distinguish the red
spot of his tie. Now he turned his head to look at some people who
passed. Now he stepped off the pavement to make room for somebody. Now
he was on the pavement again--now hidden by a tree--now once more
disclosed, and quite near----

She straightened herself, gave a last look into the glass, and
descended.

She met him in the hall. They shook hands, but did not speak. There was
no need for him to ask whether anybody had come; the babble of noise
could be plainly heard through the closed studio door. They walked along
the passage, descended the two steps into the garden, and reached the
studio.

Strong opened the door, and--

"_Ha, ha, ha!_ I shall tell them that at the Nursery!----"

"No--just living together----"

"Corin!--Corin!----"

"The eighteenth, at the Little Theatre----"

Then the voice of Mr. Crabtree vociferating to his friend Mr.
Wilkinson.

"I thowt ye telled me 'at Pratt knew all about it----"

"One day in the High, just opposite Queens----"

"Not know the '_Internationale_'!--Debout, les damnés de la terre----!"

Next, sonorously, Miss Belchamber.

"Yes, I dance 'Rufty Tufty' and 'Catching of Quails'----"

"But my good chap, don't you see that the Referendum----"

"Oh, throw it down anywhere--on the hearth----"

"Really, the bosh he talks----"

"The Minority Report----"

"Corin!----"

"Plato----"

"Prang----"

Then, before anybody had had time to notice the entry of Amory and Edgar
Strong, an extraordinary, not to say a regrettable thing occurred.

Mr. Eli Crabtree had spent the last twenty minutes in going deliberately
from one person to another, often thrusting himself unceremoniously
between two people already engaged in conversation, and in subjecting
them to questionings that had become less and less reticent the further
he had passed round the room. And it appeared that this collier who had
forgotten his Davy had yet another lamp with him--the lamp of his own
narrow intelligence and inalienable, if worthless, experience. By the
help of that darkness within him that he mistook for light, he
had added inference to inference and conclusion to conclusion.
Cosimo--Wilkinson--Walter Wyron--Brimby--the Balliol men--the young
students of the McGrath--he had missed not one of them; but none knew
the portent of his tour of the studio until he had reached the hearth
again. Then he was seen to be standing with his hands behind him, as if
calmly summing them up.

"By--Gow!" he said half to himself, his football-cropped head moving
this way and that and his eyes blinking rapidly as he sought somebody to
address.

Then, all in a moment, he ceased his attempt to single out one more than
another, and was addressing them in the lump, for all the world as if he
had been allowed the entrée of the house, not as a high and memorable
privilege and in order that he might learn something he had never
suspected before, but as if, finding himself there, _he_ might as well
tell _them_ a thing or two while he was about it. And though his
astonishment at what he had seen might well have rendered him dumb, his
good temper did not for an instant forsake him.

"By--Gow!" he said again. "But this _is_ a menagerie, an' reight!"

The instantaneous dead silence and turn of every head might have
disconcerted a prophet, but they made not the slightest impression on
Mr. Crabtree.

"It _is_ a menagerie!" he continued superbly. "Ding, if onnybody'd told
me I wadn't ha' believed 'em!--Let's see how monny of ye there is----"

And calmly he began to count them.

"Fowerteen--fifteen--sixteen countin' them two 'at's just come in an'
leavin' out t' barns. Sixteen of ye, grown men an' women, an' not a
single one of ye knows ye're born! Nay, it's cappin'!--Him wi' his
Salmagundys or whativver he calls 'em, an' niver been on Douglas
Head!--T' maister here, 'at doesn't know what a back-to-back is, I'se
warrant!--An' yon chap--," Mr. Crabtree's forefinger was straight as a
pistol between Mr. Brimby's eyes, "--'at says there's a deeal to be said
o' both sides an'll be having his pocket'ankercher out in a minute!--An'
these young men thro' t' Collidge!--Nay, if it doesn't beat all! I ne'er
thowt to live to see t' day!----"

And he made a T-t-t-ing with his tongue on his palate, while his sharp
little eyes looked on them all with amusement and pity.

Out of the silence of consternation that had fallen on the studio Walter
Wyron was the first to come. He nudged Cosimo, as if to warn him not to
spoil everything, and then, with his hands deep in the pockets of his
knickers and an anticipatory relish on his face, said "I say, old
chap--make us a speech, won't you?"

But if Walter thought to take a rise out of Mr. Crabtree he was quite,
quite mistaken. With good-natured truculence the collier turned on him
also.

"A speech?" he said. "Well, I wasn't at t' back o' t' door when t'
speechifyin'-powers was given out; it wadn't be t' first time I'd made a
speech, nut by a mugfull. Mony's t' time they've put Eeali Crabtree o'
t' table i' t' 'Arabian Horse' at Aberford an' called on him for a
speech. I'd sooner mak' a speech nor have a quart o' ale teamed down my
collar, an' that's all t' choice there is when t' lads begins to get
lively!... I don't suppose onny o' ye's ever been i' t' 'Arabian Horse'?
Ye owt to come, of a oppenin'-time of a Sunda' morning. Ye'd see a bit
o' life. Happen ye might ha' to get at t' back o' t' door--if they
started slinging pints about, that is--but it's all love, and ye've got
to do summat wi' it when ye can't sup onny more. I should like to have
him 'at talks about t' Paraphernalia there; it 'ld oppen his eyes a bit!
An' him 'at wor reciting about t' King an' all--t' little bastard i' t'
corner there----"

At this word, used in so familiar and cheerful a sense, Laura Wyron
stiffened and turned her back; but Walter still hoped for his "rise."

"Go on," he said; "give us some more, old chap."

The child of nature needed no urging.

"Ay, as much as ivver ye like," he said accommodatingly. "But I wish I'd
browt my voice jewjewbes. Ay, I willn't be t' only one 'at isn't
talking! T' rest on ye talks--ding, it's like a lamb's tail, waggin' all
day and nowt done at neet--so we mud as weel all be friendly-like! Talk!
Ay, let's have a talk! Here ye all are, all wi' your fine voices an'
fine clothes, an' ivvery one o' ye wi' t' conveeanience i' t' house, I
don't doubt, an' I'll bet a gallon there isn't one o' ye's ivver done a
hands-turn i' your lives! Nay, ye're waur nor my Aunt Kate! Come down to
Aberford an' I'll show ye summat! Come--it's a invitaation--I'll see it
doesn't cost ye nowt! T' lads is all working, all but t' youngest, an'
we're nooan wi'out! No, we're nooan wi'out at our house! I'll interdewce
ye to t' missis, an' ye can help her to peel t' potates, an' ye can go
down i' t' cage if ye like! Come, an' I'll kill a pig, just for love.
Come of a Sunda' dinner-time, when t' beef's hot. Wilkinson knows what I
mean; he knows t' life; he reckons not to when he's wi' his fine
friends, but Wilkie's had to lie i' bed while his shirt was being mended
afore to-day!... Nay, the hengments!" He broke into a jovial laugh. "Ye
know nowt about it, an' ye nivver will! These 'ere young pistills fro'
t' Collidge--what are they maalakin' at? It doesn't tak' five thousand
pound a year to learn a lad not to write a mucky word on a wall!" (Here
Dickie Lemesurier turned her back on the speaker).... "They want to get
back to their Collidges. T' gap's ower wide. They'll get lost o' t'
road. Same as him 'at wrote t' book about t' pop-shop----," again Mr.
Crabtree's forefinger was levelled between Mr. Brimby's eyes. "Brimbyin'
about, an' they don't know a black puddin' from a Penny Duck! Has he
ivver had to creep up again t' chimley-wall to keep himself warm i' bed,
or to pull t' kitchen blinds down while he washed himself of a Saturda'
afternooin? But ye can all come an' see if ye like. We've had to tew for
it, but we're nooan wi'out now. An' I'll show ye a bit o' sport too. We
all have we'r whippets, an' we can clock t' pigeons in, an'
see what sort of a bat these young maisters can mak' at
knurr-an'-spell--eighteen-and-a-half score my youngest lad does! Ay, we
enjoy we'rsens! An' there's quoits an' all. Eighteen yards is my
distance if onnybody wants to laake for a beast's-heart supper!
Come--ding it, t' lot o' ye come! We can sleep fower o' ye, wed 'uns,
heads to tails, if ye don't mind all being i' t' little cham'er----"

But by this time Mr. Crabtree was having to struggle to keep his
audience. Mr. Brimby too had turned away, and Mr. Wilkinson, and even
Miss Belchamber had spoken several words of her own accord to the young
Balliol boy. The tide of sound began to rise again, so that once more
Mr. Crabtree's voice was only one among many. Then Walter started
forward with an "Ah, Amory!" and "Hallo, Strong!" Mr. Raffinger of the
McGrath exclaimed....

"Perseverance Row, fower doors from t' 'Arabian Horse'----," Mr.
Crabtree bawled hospitably through the hubbub....

"Oh, you _must_ see it--the New Greek Society, on the seventeenth----"

"But I say--what _is_ 'Catching of Quails,' Miss Belchamber----?"

"Mr. Wilkinson brought him, I think----"

"Fellow of All Souls, wasn't he?----"

Then that genial Aberford man again:

"I tell ye t' gap's ower wide, young man--ye'll get lost o' t' road----"

"No, the children take her name----"

"Got a match, old fellow?----"

"Rot, my dear chap!----"

"But what _is_ condonation if that isn't?----"

"Oh, the ordinary brainless Army type----"

"I read it in the German----"

"They gained time by paying in pennies----"

"In Père Lachaise----"

"Well, we can talk about it at suppertime----"

"But with cheaper Divorce----"

"One an' all--whenivver ye like--Eeali Crabtree, Perseverance Row,
Aberford, fower doors from t' 'Arabian Horse'----"

"Nietzsche----"

"Finot----"

"Weininger----"

"Wadham----"

"Aberford----"

"Rufty Tufty----"



VI

THE SOUL STORM


"I--say!----"

"_Wasn't_ he priceless!----"

"You got his address, Cosimo? I _must_ cultivate him!----"

"Pure delight!----"

"You had come in, hadn't you, Amory?----"

"He _shot_ Brimby!----"

"To all intents and purposes--with his finger----"

"Can you do his accent, Walter?----"

"I will in a week, or perish----"

"His bath in the kitchen!----"

"T' wed 'uns can sleep i' t' little chamber----"

"No--he didn't sound the 'b' in 'chamber,' and there were at least three
'a's' in it----"

"'T' little chaaam'er'----"

"No, you haven't quite got it----"

"Give me a little time----"

The party had dwindled to six--Cosimo and Amory, the Wyrons, and
Britomart Belchamber and Mr. Strong. They were still in the studio, but
they were only waiting for the supper-gong to ring. Cigarette ends were
thickly strewn about the asbestos log. The bandying of short ecstatic
phrases had been between Walter and his wife, with Cosimo a little less
rapturously intervening; the subject of them was, of course, Mr.
Crabtree. To his general harangue Mr. Crabtree had added, before
leaving, more particular words of advice, making a second tour of the
studio for the purpose; and he had distinguished Walter above all the
rest by inviting him, not merely to the house four doors from the
"Arabian Horse," but to spend a warm afternoon with him on Douglas Head
also.

But the Wyrons had these raptures pretty much to themselves. Perhaps
Cosimo was thinking of Mr. Wilkinson, of some new paper of which he had
never heard, and of the assumption that he, apparently, was to find the
money for it. Miss Belchamber was rarely rapturous, so that her silence
was nothing out of the way. Edgar Strong could be rapturous when he
chose, but he evidently didn't choose now. And Amory had far too much on
her mind.

Her original idea in asking the Wyrons to stay to supper had been that
they, as acknowledged experts in the subject that perplexed her, would
be the proper people to keep the ring while the four persons immediately
concerned talked the whole situation quietly and reasonably and
thoroughly out. But she was rather inclined now to think again before
submitting her case to them. It would be so much better, if the case
must be submitted to anybody, that Cosimo should do it. Then she herself
would be able to shape her course in the light of anything that might
turn up. Nothing, she had to admit, had turned up yet, and Amory was not
sure that in that very fact there did not lie a sufficient cause for
resentment. Had Cosimo pleaded a passion for Britomart Belchamber he
would have had Passion's excuse. Lacking Passion, it could only be
concluded that he was bored with Amory herself.

And that amounted to an insult....

The booming of the gong, however, cut short her brooding. They passed to
the dining-room. Britomart and Walter sat with their backs to the tall
black dresser with the willow pattern stretching up almost to the
ceiling; Laura and Edgar took the German chairs that had their backs to
the copper-hooded fireplace; and Cosimo and Amory occupied either end of
the highly-polished clothless table. This absence of cloth, by the way,
gave a church-like appearance to the flames of the candles in the
spidery brass sticks that had each of them a ring at the top to lift it
up by; the preponderance of black oak and dull black frames on the walls
further added to the effect of gloom; and the putting down of the little
green pipkins of soup and the moving of the green-handled knives and
round-bowled spoons made little knockings from time to time.

Again Walter and Laura, with not too much help from Cosimo, sustained
the weight of the conversation; and it was not until Amory asked a
question in a tone from which rapture was markedly absent that they
sponged, as it were, the priceless memory of Mr. Crabtree from their
minds. Amory's question had been about Walter's new Lecture, still in
course of preparation, on "_Post-Dated Passion_"; and Walter cursorily
ran over its heads for the general benefit.

"I admit I got the idea from Balzac," he said between mouthfuls
(whenever they came to The Witan the Wyrons supped almost as heartily as
did Edgar Strong himself). "'Comment l'amour revient aux vieillards,'
you know. But of course that hasn't any earthly interest for anybody.
'Aux vieilles' it ought to be. Then--well, then you've simply got 'em."

"Why not 'vieillards?'" Amory asked, not very genially.

"I say, Cosimo, I'll have another cutlet if I may.--Why not
'vieillards?' Quite obvious. Men aren't the interest. I've tried men,
and you can ask Laura how the bookings went.--But 'vieilles' and I've
got 'em. Really, Amory, you're getting quite dull if you don't see that!
I'll explain. You see, I've already got the younger ones, like Brit
here--shove the claret along, Brit--but the others, of forty or fifty
say, well, they've all had their affairs--or if they haven't better
still--and it's merely a question of touching the right chord. Regrets,
time they've lost, fatal words 'Too late' and so on--it's simply _made_
for me! Touch the chord and they do the rest for themselves. They
probably won't hear half of it for sobbing.--Of course I shall probably
have to modify my style a bit--not quite so--what shall I say----"

"Jaunty," his wife suggested, "--in the best sense, I mean----"

"Hm--that's not quite the word--but never mind. It's a great field.
Certainly women, not men, are the draw."

Amory made a rather petulant objection, and the argument lasted some
minutes. In the end Walter triumphantly gained his first point, that
women and not men were the "draw" in the box-office sense, and also his
second one, namely, that not the Britomarts, but the older women, who
would put their hearts into his hands and pay him for exploiting their
helplessness and ache and tenderness and regret, and never suspect that
they were being practised upon, were "simply made for him...."

"What do you think of my title?" he asked.

And the title was discussed.

Amory was beginning to find Walter just a little grasping. She wished
that after all she had not asked the Wyrons to stay to supper. Formerly
she had thought that marriage-escapade of theirs big and heroic (that
too, by the way, had been in the Latin Quarter, and probably on seven
francs a day); but now she was less sure about that. Quite apart from
the inapplicability of the Wyrons' experience to her own case, she now
wondered whether theirs had in fact been experience at all. Now that she
came to think of it, they had taken no risks. They _had_ been married,
and in the last event could always turn round on their critics and
silence them with that fact....

Nor was she quite so ready now to lay even the souls of Britomart and
Cosimo on the dissecting-table for the sake of seeing Walter exercise
his professional skill upon them. This was not so much that she wanted
to spare Cosimo and Britomart as that she did not want to give Walter a
gratification. She was inclined to think that if Walter couldn't be a
little more careful about contradicting her he might find his
advertisement omitted from the "Novum" one week, as Katie Deedes' had
been omitted, and where would he be then? The way in which he had just
said that she was "getting quite dull" had been next door to a
rudeness....

But she had to admit that she felt dull. Edgar, who sat next to her, did
not speak, and Cosimo, who faced her, was apparently still brooding on
people who planned the spending of his money without thinking it
necessary to consult him first. She was tired of the whole of the
circumstances of her life. Paris on seven francs a day could hardly be
much worse. Nor, if she could but shake off her lethargy, need that sum
be fixed as low as seven francs. For she had lately remembered an
arrangement made between herself and Cosimo before she had ever
consented to become engaged to him. It was a long time since either of
them had spoken of this arrangement--so long that Cosimo would have been
almost within his rights had he maintained that the circumstances had so
altered as to make it no longer binding; but there it was, or had been,
and it had never been expressly revoked. It was the arrangement by which
they had set apart a fund to insure themselves, either or both of them,
against any evils that might arise from incompatibility. Amory had no
idea how the matter now stood. She didn't suppose for a moment that
Cosimo had actually set a sum by each week or month; but, hard and fast
or loose and fluid, he must have made, or be still ready to make, some
provision. It was an inherent part of the contract that a solemn
affirmation, with reason shown (spiritual, not mere legal reason) by
either one or the other, should constitute a sufficient claim on this
fund.

Therefore Paris need not necessarily be the worst penury.

But, for all her new inclination to leave the Wyrons out of it, she
still thought it a prudent idea to carry the fight (not that there would
be any fight--that was only a low way of expressing the high
reasonableness that always prevailed at The Witan) to Cosimo and
Britomart, rather than to have it centre about Edgar and herself.
Walter's eyes were mainly on the box-office nowadays. The original
virtue of that fine protest of theirs was--there was no use in denying
it--gone. He spread his Lectures frankly now as a net. Well, that was
only one net more among the many nets of which she was becoming
conscious. Edgar too, poor boy, was compelled to regard even the "Novum"
as in some manner a net. Mr. Brimby, Amory more than guessed, had nets
to spread. Mr. Wilkinson, in his own way, was out for a catch; and
Dickie fished at the Suffrage Shop; and Katie had fished at the Eden;
and the only one who didn't fish was Mr. Prang, who wrote his articles
about India for nothing, just to be practising his English.

And all these nets were spread for somebody's money--a good deal of it
Cosimo's. It had been the same, though perhaps not quite so bad, at
Ludlow. That experiment on the country-side had been alarmingly costly.
And all this did not include the dozens and dozens of nets of narrower
mesh. The "Novum" might gulp down money by the hundred, but the lesser
things were hardly less formidable in the sum of them--subscriptions,
contributions, gifts, loans, investments, shares in the Eden and the
Book Shop, mortgages, second mortgages, subsidies, sums to "tide over,"
backings, guarantees, losses cut, more good money sent to bring back the
bad, fresh means of spending devised by somebody or other almost every
day. It had begun to weary even Amory. The people who came to The Witan
became rather curiously better-dressed the longer their visiting
continued; but the things they professed to hold dear appeared very
little further advanced. All that first brightness and promise had gone.
Amory's interest had gone. She wanted to escape from it all, and to go
away with Edgar appeared once more to be the readiest way out.

But, though she might now wish to keep Walter Wyron out of it all, that
did not necessarily mean that Walter would be kept out. This
_ex-officio_ specialist on the (preferably female) heart, this
professional rectifier of unfortunate marriages, had not done a number
of years' platform-work without having discovered the peculiar beauties
of the _argumentum ad hominem_, and it was one of his practices to
enforce his arguments with "Take the case of Brit here"--or "Let's get
down to the concrete: suppose Amory--" And these descents to the
particular had always a curiously accusatory effect. Walter,
interrupting Amory's meditation, broke into one of them now.

"But my dear chap,"--this was to Cosimo,"--I can't imagine what's come
over all of you to-night! First Amory, now you! You're usually quicker
than this! Let's take a case.--Brit here----"

One sterno-mastoid majestically turned the caryatid's head. Again Miss
Belchamber's grand thorax worked as if somebody had put a penny into the
slot.

"What?" she said.

"Quiet, Brit; I'm only using you as an illustration.--Suppose Brit here
was to develop a passion for somebody--Cosimo, say; yes, Cosimo'll do
capitally; awfully good instance of the cant that's commonly talked
about 'treachery' and 'under his own roof' and all the rest of it--as if
a roof wasn't a roof and it hadn't got to be under somebody's--unless
they went out on the Heath!--Well, suppose it was to happen to Cosimo
and Brit; what then? We're civilized, I hope. We're a little above the
animals, I venture to think. Amory wouldn't fly at Brit's eyes, and
Brit's father wouldn't come round with a razor to cut Cosimo's throat.
In fact----"

"My fa-ther al-ways uses a safety-razor," said Miss Belchamber with a
reminiscent air.

"Don't interrupt, Brit.--I was going to say that the world's got past
all that. Nor Brit wouldn't fly at Amory, nor Cosimo kick the old josser
out of the house--though we should be much more ready to condone that
part of it if they did--if it was only to get quits with the past a
bit----"

"My fa-ther's forty-five," Miss Belchamber announced, as the interesting
result of an interesting mental process of computation. "Next June," she
added.

"More interruptions from the back of the hall.--In fact, I'm not sure
that _wouldn't_ be entirely defensible--Brit going for Amory and Cosimo
kicking the old dodderer out, I mean. That's the justification of the
_crime passionel_. It's the Will to Live. And by Live I mean Love. It's
the old saying, that kissing lips have no conscience. Or Jove laughs at
lovers' oaths. Quite right. It's the New Greek Spirit. But for all that
we're modern and rational about these things. If Strong here wanted to
take Laura from me I should simply say, 'All you've got to do, my dear
chap, is to table your reasons, and if they're stronger than mine you
take her.' See?"

At that Edgar Strong, like Britomart, looked up. He spoke for the first
time.--"What's that you're saying?" he asked.

"I don't suppose you'd want her, but suppose you did...."

Mr. Strong dropped his eyes to his plate again.--"Ah, yes," he said.
"Ellen Key's got something about that." And he relapsed into silence
again.

It sounded to Amory idiotic. Walter was so evidently "trying" it on them
in order to see how it would go down with an audience afterwards. She
wouldn't have scratched Britomart's eyes out for Cosimo,--but she
coloured a little, and bit her lip, at the thought that somebody might
want to come between herself and Edgar.... But perhaps that was what
Walter meant--real affinities, as distinct from the ordinary vapid
assumptions about marriages being made in Heaven. If so, she agreed with
him--not that she was much fonder of him on that account. She wished he
would keep his personalities for Cosimo and Britomart, and leave herself
and Edgar alone.--Walter went on.

"And then, when you've got your New Greek Certificate, so to speak, it's
plainly the duty of everybody else, not to put obstacles in your way and
to threaten you with razors and cutting off supplies, but to sink their
personal feelings and to do everything they can to help you. And without
snivelling either. I shouldn't snivel, I hope, if anybody took Laura,
and she wouldn't if anybody took me----"

Here Laura interposed softly.--"I don't want any one to take you, dear,"
she said.

Walter turned sharply.

"Eh?... Now you've put me off my argument.... What was I saying?...
Haven't I told you you must _never_ do that, Laura?... No, it's quite
gone.... You see ..."

Laura murmured that she was very sorry....

"No, it's gone," said Walter, almost cheerfully, as if not sorry that
for once the worth of what he had been about to say should be measured
by the sense of loss. "So since Laura wishes it I'll shut up."

He passed up his plate for a second helping of trifle.

By this time Amory was perhaps rather glad that she had had the Wyrons
after all. That about people not putting obstacles in the way was quite
neat. "A plain duty," he had said. She hoped Cosimo'd heard that, and
would remember it when she raised the subject of the fund. And so far
was she herself from putting obstacles in _his_ way that, although she
could have sent Britomart Belchamber packing with her wages at any
moment, she had not done so. That, as Walter had said, would only have
been another way of flying at her eyes.... Besides, Amory had been far
too deeply occupied to formulate definitely her charges against Cosimo
and Britomart. For all she knew it might have gone much, much further
than she had thought. Sometimes, when Amory took breakfast in her own
room, she did not see Cosimo until the evening, and Britomart too had
heaps of time on her hands when she had finished with Corin and
Bonniebell. Cosimo must not tell her that the "_Life and Work_" occupied
him during every minute of his time....

Then, presently, she was sorry again that the Wyrons had been asked, for
Walter had suddenly remembered the thread of his discourse, and, in
continuing it, had been almost rude to Laura. She wondered whether he
would have turned with a half angry "Why, what's the matter?" had Laura
cried. Perhaps it was really a good thing the Wyrons hadn't any
children, for this kind of thing would certainly have been a bad example
for them. She herself was never rude to Cosimo before Corin and
Bonniebell. She was always markedly polite. There were excuses to be
made for Passion, but none for rudeness.

By this time Edgar Strong had finished his last piece of cheese and was
wiping his lips with his napkin. Then he looked at his watch, and for
the second time during the course of the meal spoke.

"Look here, Cosimo, I've got to be off presently, and we haven't
settled about those advertisements yet. And there's something else I
want to say to you too. Could we hurry coffee up? Where do we have it?
In the studio, I suppose? Or do the others go into the studio and you
and Walter and I have ours here?"

"We might as well all go into the studio," said Cosimo, rising; and they
left the sombre room and sought the studio, all except Miss Belchamber,
who went upstairs.

The sight of the innumerable cigarette-ends about the asbestos log
reminded Walter of Mr. Crabtree again; and for a minute or two--that is
to say during the time that Walter, taking her aside, told her of the
quiet but penetrating side-light Mr. Crabtree had innocently shed on Mr.
Wilkinson's scheme for some new paper or other that Cosimo was to
finance--Amory was once more glad that the Wyrons had come. But the next
moment, as Walter loitered away and Laura came and sat softly down
beside her, she was sorry again. Laura was gently crying. That struck
Amory as stupid. As if she hadn't enough great troubles of her own,
without burdening herself with the Wyrons' trivial ones!

So, as she had nothing really helpful to say to Laura, she left her, and
sat down on the footstool she had occupied on the day when Edgar Strong
had said that he liked the casts and had asked her whether she had read
something or other--she forgot what.

Edgar was talking in low tones to Cosimo, and Amory thought she heard
the name of Mr. Prang. Then Cosimo, who always thought more Imperially
with a map before him, got out the large atlas, and the two of them bent
over it together. Walter joined them, and, after an interlude that
appeared to be about the Lectures' advertisement, Walter strolled away
again and joined Laura. Amory heard an "Eh?" and a moment later the word
"touchy," and Walter went off to the window with his hands in the
pockets of his knickers, whistling. Edgar took not the least notice of
Amory's eyes intently fixed upon him. He continued to talk to Cosimo.
Walter, who was examining a Japanese print, called over his shoulder,
"This a new one, Amory? What is it--Utamaro?" Then he walked up to where
Laura sat again. He was speaking in an undertone to her: "Rubbish ...
take on like that ... better clear off then"; and a moment later, seeing
Edgar Strong buttoning up his coat, he called out, "Wait a minute,
Strong--we're going down too--get your hat, Laura----"

Five minutes later Cosimo Pratt and his wife were alone.

It was the first time they had been so for nearly a fortnight. Indeed,
for weeks the departure of the last visitor had been the signal for
their own good-night, Cosimo going his way, she hers. There had never
been anything even remotely approaching a "scene" to account for this.
It had merely happened so.

Therefore, finding himself alone with his wife in the studio again,
Cosimo yawned and stretched his arms above his head.

"Ah-h-h!... You going to bed?"

As he would hardly be likely to take himself off before she had answered
his question, Amory did not reply at once. She sat down on the footstool
and stretched her hands out to the asbestos log. Then, after a minute,
and without looking up, she broke one of their tacitly accepted rules by
asking a direct question.

"What were you and Edgar Strong discussing?" she asked.

He yawned again.--"Oh, the Bookshop advertisement--and advertisements
generally. It begins to look as if we should have to be less exclusive
about these things. Strong tells me that it's unheard-of for a paper to
refuse any advertisement it can get."

"I mean when you got out the atlas."

"Oh--India, of course. The Indian policy. Strong isn't altogether
satisfied about Prang. He seems to think he might get us into trouble."

"How? Why?" Amory said, her eyes reflectively on the purring gas-jets.

"Can't make out. Some fancy of his. The policy hasn't changed, and Prang
hasn't changed. I wonder whether Wilkinson's right when he says Strong's
put his hand to the plough but is now ... _ah!_ That reminds
me!--Were you here when that preposterous fellow--what's his
name--Crabtree--rather let the cat out of the bag about Wilkinson?"

"You mean about another paper? No. But Walter said something about it."

"Yes, by Jove! He seems to have it all cut-and-dried! Crabtree seems to
think I knew all about it. Of course I did know that Wilkinson had a
scheme, but I'd no idea he was jumping ahead at that rate. I don't want
two papers. One's getting rather serious."

Still without looking at her husband, Amory said, "How, serious?"

"Why, the expense. I'm not sure that we didn't take the wrong line about
the advertisements. Anyway, something will have to be done. Thirty
pounds a week is getting too stiff. I'm seriously thinking of selling
out from the Eden and the Bookshop. Do you know that with one thing and
another we're down more than three thousand pounds this year?"

Amory was surprised; but she realized instinctively that that was not
the moment to show her surprise. Were she to show it, the moment would
not be opportune for the raising of the subject of the fund, and she
wanted to raise that subject. And she wanted to raise it in connexion
with Cosimo and Britomart Belchamber. She continued to gaze at the log.
The servants, she thought, might have taken the opportunity of dinner to
sweep up the litter of cigarette-ends that surrounded it; and then she
had a momentary fancy. It was, that the domestic relations that existed
between herself and Cosimo were a thing that, like that mechanical
substitute for a more generous fire, could be turned off and on as it
were by the mere touching of a tap. She wondered what made her think of
that....

Cosimo had taken out his penknife and was scraping his nails, moodily
running over items of disbursement as he scraped; and then the silence
fell between them again.

It was Amory who broke it, and in doing so she turned her head for the
first time. She gave her husband a look that meant that, though he might
talk about expenses, she also had a subject.

"Walter was excessively stupid to-night," she said abruptly.

He said "Oh?" and went on scraping.

"At the best he's never a model of tact, but I thought he rather
overstepped the mark at dinner."

Again he said "Oh?" and added, "What about?"

"His manners. His ideas are all right, I suppose, but I'm getting rather
tired of his platform-tricks."

"His habit of illustration and so on?"

"And his want of tact generally. In fact I'm not sure it isn't more than
that. In a strange house it would have been simply a _faux pas_, but he
knows us well enough, and the arrangement between us. He might at any
rate wait till he's called in."

Cosimo started on another nail.--"What arrangement?" he said.

Again Amory gave him that look that might have told him that, though he
might think that only a lot of money had gone, she knew that something
far more vital had gone with it.

"Do you mean that you didn't hear what he was saying about you and
Britomart Belchamber?"

"Yes, I heard that, of course. Of course I heard it."

"Well?"

"Well!"

And this time their eyes met in a long look....

Cosimo had only himself to thank for what happened to him then. After
all, you cannot watch a superb piece of female mechanism playing
"Catching of Quails," and openly admire the way in which it can shut up
like a clasp-knife and fold itself upon itself like a multiple lever,
and pretend to be half in love with it lest sharp eyes should see that
you are actually half in love with it, and take it for walks, and
discuss Walter's Lectures with it, and tell it frequently how different
things might have been had you been ten years younger, and warn it to be
a good girl because of dangerous young men, and stroke its hair, and
tell it what beautiful eyes it has, and kiss its hand from time to time,
and walk with your arm protectingly about its waist, and so on and so
forth, day after day--you cannot, after all, do these things and be
entirely unflurried when your ever-so-slightly tiresome wife reminds you
that, be it only by way of illustration, a young expert in such matters
has coupled your name with that of the passive object of your
philanderings. Nor can you reasonably be surprised when that wife gives
you a long look, that doesn't reproach you for anything except for your
stupidity or hypocrisy if you pretend not to understand, and then
resumes her meditative gazing into a patent asbestos fire. Appearances
_are_ for the moment against you. You can_not_ help for one moment
seeing it as it must have appeared all the time to somebody else. Of
course you know that you are in the right really, and the other person
entirely wrong, and that with a little reasonableness on that other
person's part you could make this perfectly clear; but you _are_ rather
trapped, you know it, and the state of mind in which you find yourself
is called by people who aren't anybody in particular "flurry."

Which is perhaps rather a long way of saying that Cosimo was suddenly
and entirely disconcerted.

And his flurry included a certain crossness and impatience with Amory.
She was--could be--only pretending. She knew perfectly well that there
was nothing really. The least exercise of her imagination must have told
her that to press Britomart Belchamber's hand, for example, was the most
innocent of creature-comforts. Why, he had pressed it with Amory herself
there; he had said, jokingly, and Amory had heard him, that it was a
desirable hand to press, and he had pressed it. And so with Britomart's
dancing of "Rufty Tufty." Amory, who, like Cosimo, had had an artist's
training, ought to be the last person to deny that any eye so trained
did not see a hundred beauties where eyes uneducated saw one only. And
that of course meant chaste beauties. Such admiration was an exercise in
analysis, not in amorousness.... No, it was far more likely that Amory
was getting at him. She was smiling, a melancholy and indifferent little
smile, at the asbestos log. She had no right to smile like that. It made
him feel beastly. It made him so that he didn't know what to say....

But she continued to smile, and when Cosimo did at last speak he hated
himself for stammering.

"But--but--but--oh, come, Amory, this _is_ absurd! You're--you're tired!
Me and Britomart! Oh, c-c-come!----"

And then it occurred to him that this was a ridiculous answer, and that
the proper answer to have made would have been simply to laugh. He did
laugh.

"Ha, ha, ha! By Jove, for the moment you almost took me in! You really
did get a rise out of me that time! Congratulations.--And I admit it is
rather cool of Walter to pounce on the first name that occurs to him and
make use of it in that way. Deuced cool when you come to think of it. It
seems to me----"

But again that quite calm and unreproaching look silenced him. There was
a loftiness and serenity about it that reminded him of the Amory of four
or five years before. And she spoke almost with a note of wonder at him
in her tone.

"My dear Cosimo," she said very patiently, "what is the matter? You look
at me as if I had accused you of something. Nothing was further from my
thoughts. I suppose, when you examine it, it's a matter for
congratulation, not accusation at all. As Walter said, I don't want to
fly at anybody's eyes. We foresaw this, and provided for it, you know."

At this cool taking for granted of a preposterous thing Cosimo's stammer
became a splutter.--"But--but--but--," he broke out: but Amory held up
her hand.

"I raise no objection. I've no right to. What earthly right have I, when
I concurred before ever we were married?"

"Concurred!... My dear girl, concurred in what? Really this is the most
ridiculous situation I was ever in!"

Amory raised her brows.--"Oh?... I don't see anything ridiculous about
it. It received my sanction when Britomart stopped in the house, and I
haven't changed my mind. As I say, we foresaw it, and provided for it."

"'It!'" Cosimo could only pipe--one little note, high and thin as that
of a piccolo. Amory continued.

"I'm not asking a single question about it. I'm not even curious. I
didn't become your property when we married, and you're not mine. Our
souls are our own, both of us. I think we were very wise to foresee it
quite at the beginning.--And don't think I'm jealous. Perfectly truly, I
wish you every happiness. Britomart's a very pretty girl, and nobody can
say she's always making a display of her cleverness, like some of them.
I respect your privacy, and want you to do the best you can with your
life."

The piccolo note changed to that of a bassoon.--"Amory--listen to me."

"No. I'd _very_ much rather not hear anything about it. As Walter said,
Life _is_ Love, and I only mentioned this at all to-night because there
is one quite small practical detail that doesn't seem to me entirely
satisfactory."

She understood Cosimo to ask what that was.

"This: You ought to be fair to her. I know you'll forgive my mentioning
anything so vulgar, but it is--about money. She can't be expected to
think of such things herself just now,"--there were whole honeymoons in
the reasonable little nod Amory gave,"--and so _I_ mention it. It's my
place to do so. For us all just to dip our hands into a common purse
doesn't seem to me very satisfactory. She's rights too that I shouldn't
dream of disputing. And don't think I'm assuming more than there
actually is. I only mean that I don't see why, in certain events, you
shouldn't, et cetera; that's all I mean. You see?... But I admit that
for everybody's sake I should like things put on a proper footing
without loss of time."

Cosimo had begun to wander up and down among the saddlebag chairs. His
slender fingers rested aimlessly on the backs of them from time to time.
Amory thought that he was about to try the remaining notes within the
compass of his voice, but instead he suddenly straightened himself. He
appeared to have come to a resolution. He strode towards the door.

"Where are you going?" Amory asked.

"I'm going to fetch Britomart," he replied shortly. "This is
preposterous."

But again he hesitated, as perhaps Amory surmised he might. His offer,
if it meant anything, ought to have meant that his conscience was so
clear that Amory might catechize Britomart to her heart's content; but
there _had_ been those hair-strokings and hand-pattings, and--and--and
Britomart, as Amory had said, was "not always making a display of her
cleverness." She might, indeed, let fall something even more
disconcerting than the rest--

Cosimo was trying a bluff--

In a word, between fetching Britomart and not fetching her, Amory had
her husband by the short hairs.

She mused.--"Just a moment," she said.

And then she rose from the footstool, put one hand on the edge of the
mantelpiece, and with the other drew up her skirt an inch or two and
stretched out her slipper to the log.

"It really isn't necessary to fetch Britomart," she said after a moment,
looking up. "Fetch her if you prefer it, of course, but first I want to
say something else--something quite different."

That it was something quite different seemed to be a deep relief to
Cosimo. He returned from the door again.

"What's that?" he said.

"It's different," Amory said slowly, "but related. Let me think a moment
how to put it.... You were speaking a few minutes ago of selling out
from the Eden and the Suffrage Shop. If I understand you, things aren't
going altogether well."

"They aren't," said Cosimo, almost grimly.

"And then," Amory continued, "there's Mr. Prang. Neither you nor Strong
seem very satisfied about him."

"It's Strong who isn't satisfied. I've no complaints to make about
Prang."

"Well, I've been thinking about that too, and I've had an idea. I'm not
sure that after all Strong mayn't be right. I admit Prang states a case
as well as it could be stated; the question is whether it's quite the
case we _want_ stated. His case is ours to a large extent, but perhaps
not altogether. And as matters stand we're in his hands about India,
simply because he knows more about it than we do. You see what I mean?"

"Not quite," said Cosimo.

"No? Well, let me tell you what I've been thinking...."

Those people who are nobodys, and have not had the enormous advantage of
being taken by the hand by the somebodys, are under a misconception
about daring and original ideas. The ideas seem original and daring to
them because the processes behind them are hidden. The inferior mind
does not realize of itself that every sudden and miraculous blooming is
already an old story to somebody.

But Cosimo occupied a sort of intermediary position between the sources
of inspiration and the flat levels of popular understanding. Remember,
he was in certain ways one of the public; but at the same time he was
the author of the "_Life and Work_." He took his Amory, so to speak,
nascent. Therefore, when she gave utterance to a splendour, he credited
himself with just that measure of participation in it that causes us
humbler ones, when we see the airman's spiral, to fancy our own hands
upon the controls, or, when we read a great book, to sun ourselves in
the flattering delusion that we do not merely read, but, in some
mysterious sense, participate in the writing of it also.

And so the words which Amory spoke now--words which would have caused
you or me to give a gasp of admiration--affected him less
extraordinarily.

"Why don't you go to India and see for yourself?" she said.

Nevertheless, Cosimo was not altogether unaffected. Even to his
accustomed ear it was rather stupendous, and, if he hadn't been again
uneasily wondering whether he dared risk having Britomart down when
Amory should return to the former subject again, might have been more
stupendous still. He resumed his walk along the saddlebag chairs, and,
when at last he did speak, did not mar a high occasion with too much
vulgar demonstrativeness.

"That's an idea," he said simply.

"You see, Mr. Chamberlain went to South Africa," Amory replied, as
simply.

"Yes," said Cosimo thoughtfully.... "It's certainly an idea."

"And you know how people have been getting at the 'Novum' lately, and
even suggesting that Prang was merely a pen-name for Wilkinson himself."

"Yes, yes."

"Well, if you went, for six months, say, or even three, nobody'd be able
to say after that that you didn't know all about it."

"No," Cosimo replied.

"The stupid people go. Why not the people with eyes and minds?"

"Exactly," said Cosimo, resuming his walk.

Then, as if he had been a mere you or a simple me, the beauty of the
idea did begin to work a little in him. He walked for a space longer,
and then, turning, said almost with joy, "I say, Amory--would you
_like_ to go?"

But Amory did not look up from the slippered foot she had again begun to
warm.--"Oh, I shouldn't go," she said absently.

"You mean me to go by myself?" said Cosimo, the joy vanishing again.

Then it was that Amory returned to the temporarily relinquished subject
again.

"Well ...," she said, with a return of the quiet and wan but brave
smile, "... I've nothing to do with that. I shouldn't set detectives to
watch you. I was speaking for the moment purely from the point of view
of the 'Novum's' policy.--But I see what you mean."

But Cosimo didn't mean that at all. He interposed eagerly, anxiously.

"You _do_ jump to conclusions!"--he began.

"My _dear_ Cosimo," she put up her hand, "I'm doing nothing of the kind.
As I said, the other isn't my affair. Oh, I do wish you'd believe that I
was perfectly calm about it! As Emerson said, soul ought to speak to
soul from the top of Olympus or something, and, except that I want you
to be happy, it's a matter of indifference to me who you go with. Do try
to see that, Cosimo. Let's try to behave like civilized beings. We
agreed long ago that sex was only a matter of accident. Don't let's make
it so hatefully pivotal. After all, what practical difference would it
make?"

But this was too much for Cosimo. He must have Britomart down and take
his chance, that was all. At the worst, he did not see how Amory could
be so unreasonable that a hand-pat or a hair-stroke or two could not be
put before her in the proper light.

Unfortunately, the trouble was, not that she made a fuss, but that she
made so little fuss....

Again he moved towards the door.

But Miss Belchamber herself, as it happened, saved him the trouble of
fetching her. Their hands were at the door at the same moment, his
inside, hers outside. She entered. She was wrapped in the large
black-and-gold Chinese dressing-gown Cosimo had given her for a
Christmas present, and there were pantofles on her bare feet, and her
hair hung down her back in two enormous yellow plaits. She was eating a
large piece of cake.

"I've left the hot water tap running," she announced. "I hadn't gone to
bed. Does anybody else want a bath? I like lots of hot baths. I came
down for a piece of cake."

She crossed to the sofa, crammed the last piece of cake into her mouth,
dusted the crumbs from her fingers, tucked the dressing-gown close under
her, and with her fingers began softly to perform the motions of
_pétrissage_ upon herself in the region of the _erectors spinae_. As she
did so she again spoke, placidly and syllabically.

"I made a mistake," she said. "Father's forty-six. Next June. And I
shall go to Walter's new Lecture. He's in the guard's van. I mean the
van-guard. And Prince Ead-mond's is in the van-guard too. Especially
Miss Miles. She says the Saturn-alia is a time of great
li-cen-tiousness and dancing. Are they going to start it soon?"

Cosimo was nervous again. He cleared his throat.--"Britomart--," he
began; but Miss Belchamber went on.

"I hope they are. Walter says it would be a very good thing. I shall
dance 'Rufty Tufty.' And 'The Black Nag.' I love 'The Black Nag.' That's
why I'm having a hot bath. Hot baths open the pores, or sweat-ducts.
Then you close them again with a cold sponge. I always close them again
with a cold sponge."

Cosimo cleared his throat again and had another try.--"Listen,
Britomart--we were talking about you----"

Miss Belchamber looked complacently at her crossed Parian-marble ankles.
Then she raised one of them, and her fingers explored the common tendon
of the soleus and gastrocnemius.

"The soleus," she said, "acts when the knee-joint is flexed. In 'Rufty
Tufty' it acts. Both of them, of course. And the manage-ment of the
breath is very im-portant. It would be a very good thing if every-body
opened their windows and took a hun-dred deep breaths before the
Saturn-alia begins. I shall, and I shall make Corin and Bonniebell. Or
won't they be able to go if it's very late? If it's after their bedtime
I could bring them away early and then go back. I am so looking forward
to it."

Cosimo made a third attempt.--"Britomart--", he said gravely.

"What?" said Miss Belchamber.

"I want to tell you about a rather important discussion we've been
having----"

"Then shall I go and turn the tap off? The water will run cold. Then the
sweat-ducts would have to be closed before they are opened, and that's
wrong."

But this time Amory had moved towards the door. Cosimo, and not she, had
wanted Miss Belchamber down, and now that he had got her he might amuse
her. She thought he looked extremely foolish, but that was his look-out;
she was going to bed. It seemed an entirely satisfactory moment in which
to do so. She had managed better than she had hoped. The question of the
fund had been satisfactorily raised, and it was obvious that the "Novum"
would gain by having somebody on the spot, somebody perhaps less biassed
than Mr. Prang, to advise upon its Indian policy. At the door she turned
her nasturtium-coloured head.

"You might think over what I've been saying," she said. "We can talk of
it again in a day or two. Especially my second suggestion, that about
the 'Novum.' That seems to me very well worth considering. Good night."

And she passed out, leaving Cosimo plucking his lip irresolutely, and
Miss Britomart Belchamber deeply interested in the common tendon of the
other soleus and gastrocnemius.



Part III



I

LITMUS


It was on an afternoon in May, and the window of Dorothy's flat
overlooking the pond was wide open. Ruffles of wind chased one another
from moment to moment across the water, and the swans, guarding their
cygnets, policed the farther bank, where dogs ran barking. The two elder
Bits played in the narrow strip of garden below; again the frieze of the
room was a soft net of rippling light; and the brightness of the sun--or
so Ruth Mossop declared--had put the fire out.

Ruth was alone in the flat. As she passed between the pond-room and the
kitchen, re-lighting the fire, "sweeping in," and preparing tea, she
sang cheerfully to herself "_A few more years shall roll, a few more
sorrows come_." Ruth considered that the sorrows would probably come by
means of the youngest Bit. He ought (she said) to have been a little
girl. Then, in after years, he might have been a bit of comfort to his
mother. Boys, in Ruth's experience, were rarely that.

As she put the cakes for tea into the oven of the stove there came a
milk-call from below. Ruth leaned out of the lift-window, and there
ensued a conversation with the white-jacketed milk-boy.

"Saw your guv'nor last night," the boy grinned.

"Where's that cream I ordered, and that quart of nursery milk? You can't
mind your business for thinking of picture palaces."

"Keep your 'air on; coming up now.--I say, they put 'is 'ead under a
steam-'ammer. I said it was a dummy, but Gwen said it wasn't. _Was_ it
'im?"

"You mind your own interference, young man, and leave others to mind
theirs; you ought to have something better to do with your threepences
than collecting cigarette cards and taking girls to the pictures."

"It was in '_Bullseye Bill: A Drarmer of Love an' 'Ate_'--'Scoundrel,
'ow dare you speak those words to a pure wife an' mother on the very
threshold of the 'Ouse of----'"

"That's enough, young man--we don't want language Taken in Vain
here--and you can tell 'em at your place we're leaving soon."

"But _was_ that 'im in the long whiskers at the end, when the powder
magazine blew up?"

But Ruth, taking her cans, shut down the window and returned to the
kitchen.

"'Then O, my Lord, prepare----'" she crooned as she gave a peep into the
oven and then clanged the door to again, "'My soul for that blest
day----'"

They were leaving soon. Already the sub-letting of the flat was in an
agent's hands, and soon Stan would be braving the perils of his career
no longer. Dorothy had unfolded her idea to her aunt, and Lady Tasker
had raised no objection, provided Dorothy could raise the money by
bringing Aunt Eliza into line.

"It's as good as Maypoles and Village Players anyway," she had said,
"and I'm getting too old to run about as I have done.--By the way, is it
true that Cosimo Pratt's gone to India?"

Dorothy had replied that it was true.

"Hm! What for? To dance round another Maypole?"

"I don't know, auntie. I've seen very little of them."

"Has she gone?"

"No."

"No more babies yet, I suppose?"

"No."

"Well ... you'd better see your Aunt Eliza. She's got all the money
that's left.--But I don't see how you're going to get any very much out
of Tony and Tim."

"Oh, I'll see they don't impose on me as they've been imposing on
you!... So I may move that billiard-table, and alter the gun-room?"

"Yes, if you pay for it."

"Thanks--you are a dear!..."

By what arts Dorothy had contrived to lay Aunt Eliza under contribution
doesn't matter very much here. Among themselves the Lennards and Taskers
might quarrel, but they presented an unbroken front to the world--and
Dorothy, for Aunt Eliza's special benefit, managed to make the world in
some degree a party to her project. That is to say, that a paragraph
had appeared in certain newspapers, announcing that an experiment of
considerable interest, etc., the expenses of which were already
guaranteed, and so forth, was about to be tried in the County of
Shropshire, where "The Brear," the residence of the late Sir Noel
Tasker, was already in course of alteration. And so on, in Dorothy's
opinion, neither too much nor too little for her design.... It had been
a public committance of the family, and it had worked the oracle with
Aunt Eliza. Rather than have a public squabble about it, she had come in
with her thousand, the work was now well advanced, and the venerable
sinner who had recited the poems printed by Cosimo Pratt's Village Press
was in charge of the job. Dorothy, hurriedly weaning the youngest Bit,
had run down to Ludlow for the express purpose of announcing to him that
it was a job, and not an aesthetic jollification.

Moreover, at that time she had half a hundred other matters to attend
to; for Stan, escaping from powder-magazines as the last inch of fuse
sputtered, and fervently hoping that the man had made no mistake about
the length of stroke of the Nasmyth hammer under which he put his
devoted head, could give her little help. Besides her own approaching
_déménagement_, she had much of the care of that of her aunt. As Stan's
earnings were barely sufficient for the current expenses of the
household, she still had to turn to odds and ends of her old
advertisement work. She had--Quis custodiet?--the nurse to look after,
and the tradesmen, and letters, and callers, and Ruth. In short, a
simple inversion of her aunt's dictum about the Pratts--"Too much money
and not enough to do"--would have fitted Dorothy's case to a nicety.

Therefore, as another burden more or less would make little difference
to one already so burdened, Dorothy had added still further to her
cares. Ever since that day when Lady Tasker had come bareheaded out of
her house and had spoken to Amory Pratt outside the Victoria and Albert
Museum, Dorothy had had her sometime friend constantly on her mind. She
had spoken of her to her aunt, who had again shown herself deplorably
illiberal and incisive.

"I don't pretend to understand the modern young woman," she had remarked
carelessly. "Half of 'em seem to upset their bodies with too much study,
and the other half to play hockey till they're little better than fools.
I suppose it's all right, and that somebody knows what they're about....
I often wonder what they'd have done, though, if it hadn't been for
Sappho and Madame Curie.... By the way," she had gone irrelevantly on
without a break, "does she _want_ any more children besides those
twins?"...

Nevertheless, Dorothy had had Amory so much on her mind that twice since
Cosimo's departure for India she had been up to The Witan in search of
her. After all, if anybody was to blame for anything it was Cosimo. But
on neither occasion had Amory been at home. Dorothy had left messages,
to which she had received no reply; and so she had gone a third
time--had gone, as it happened, on that very afternoon when Ruth sang
"A few more years shall roll" as she made the hot cakes for tea. This
time she had persuaded Katie Deedes to come with her--for Katie had left
the Eden, was out of a job, and for the time being had afternoon hours
to spare.

But again they had failed to find Amory, and Dorothy and Katie took a
turn round the Heath before returning to the flat for tea. As they
walked along the hawthorn hedge that runs towards Parliament Hill and
South Hill Park they talked. Kites were flying on the Hill; the Highgate
Woods and the white spire showed like a pale pastel in the Spring
sunshine; and from the prows of a score of prams growing babies leaned
out like the figureheads of ships.

"That's where Billie was born," said Dorothy, nodding towards the backs
of the houses that make the loop of South Hill Park.

Katie only said "Oh?" She too had caught the uneasiness about Amory. And
what Katie thought was very soon communicated.

"You see, Dot," she broke suddenly out, "you've no idea of what a--what
a funny lot they are really.... No, I haven't told you--I haven't told
you _half_! It's everything they do. Why, the nurse practised for months
and months at a school where they washed a celluloid baby--I'm not
joking--she did--a life-sized one--they did it in class, and dressed it,
and put it to sleep--as if _that_ would be any good at all with a real
one!... And really--I'm not prudish, as you know, Dot--but the way they
used to sit about, in a dressing-gown or a nightgown or anything--I
don't mean when there was a _big_ crowd there, of course, but just a few
of them--Walter, and Mr. Brimby, and Edgar Strong--and all of them going
quite red in the face with puremindedness! At any rate, I never did
think _that_ was quite the thing!"

She spoke with great satisfaction of the point of the New Law she had
not broken. It seemed to make up for those she had.

"And those casts and paintings and things about--it's all right being an
artist, of course, but if I ever got married, _I_ shouldn't like casts
and paintings of me about for everybody to see like that!----"

"Oh, just look at that hawthorn!" Dorothy interrupted.

"Yes, lovely.--And Walter talking about Dionysus, and what Lycurgus
thought would be a very good way of preventing jealousy, and a lot more
about Greeks and Romans and Patagonians and Esquimaux! Do you know, Dot,
I don't believe they know anything at all about it--not _really_ know, I
mean! I don't see how they can! One man might know a little bit about a
part of it, and another man a little bit about another part--and that
would be rather a lot, seeing how long ago it all is--but Walter knows
it _all_! At any rate nobody can contradict him. But what does it matter
to us to-day, Dorothy? What _does_ it matter?... Of course I don't mean
they're wicked. But--but--in some ways I can't help thinking it would be
better to _be_ wicked as long as you didn't say anything about it----!"

"Oh, I don't think they're wicked," said Dorothy placidly. But the 'vert
went eagerly on.

"That's just it!" she expounded. "Walter says 'wicked's' only a relative
term. If you face the truth boldly, all the time, lots of things
wouldn't be wicked at all, he says. And I believe he's really awfully
devoted to Laura--in his way--though he does talk about these things
with Britomart Belchamber sitting there in her nightgown. But it's
always the _same bit_ of truth they face boldly. They never think of
going in for astronomy--or crystal-what-is-it--crystallography--or
something chilly--and face that boldly----"

Dorothy laughed.--"You absurd girl!"

"--but no. It's always whether people wear clothes because they're
modest or whether they're modest because they wear clothes, or something
like that.--And Walter begins it--and then Laura chimes in, and then
Cosimo, and then Amory, and then Dickie--and when they've said it all on
Monday they say it again on Tuesday, and Wednesday, and every day--and I
don't know what they've decided even yet----"

"Well, here we are," Dorothy said as she reached her own door. "Let's
have some tea.... Mr. Miller hasn't been in yet, has he, Ruth?"

"No, m'm."

"Well, we'll have tea now, and you can make some fresh when he comes.
And keep some cakes hot."

Mr. Miller's visit that afternoon had to do with a care so trifling that
Dorothy merely took it in her stride. She had not found--she knew that
she would never find--the "Idee" that Mr. Miller wanted; but if no
Idees except real ones were ever called Idees we should be in a very bad
way in this world. She knew that there is always a middling chance that
if you state a pseudo-Idee solemnly enough, and trick it out with
circumstance enough, and set people talking enough about it, it will
prove just as serviceable as the genuine article; and she was equally
familiar, as we have seen, with that beautiful and compensating Law by
which quick and original minds are refused money when they are producing
of their best but overwhelmed with it when their brains have become as
dry as baked sponges. She had given Mr. Miller quite good Idees in the
past; she had no objection to being paid over again for them now; and if
they really had been new ones they would have been of no use to Mr.
Miller for at least ten years to come. That is why the art of
advertisement is so comparatively advanced. Any other art would have
taken twenty years.

Therefore, as she remembered the exceeding flimsiness of the one poor
Idee she had, she had resolved that Mr. Miller's eyes should be diverted
as much as possible from the central lack, and kept to the bright
irrelevancies with which she would adorn it. The Idee was that of the
Litmus Layette ... but here we may as well skip a few of Katie's artless
betrayals of her former friends, and come to the moment when Mr. Miller,
with his Edward the Sixth shoulders, appeared, bowed, was introduced to
Katie, bowed again, sat down, and was regaled with hot cakes and
conversation. He had risen and bowed again, by the way, when Dorothy,
for certain reasons of policy, had mentioned Katie's relationship to the
great Sir Joseph Deedes, and Katie had told of a stand-up fight she had
had with her uncle's Marshal about admittance to his lordship's private
room.

"Well, now, that's something I've learned to-day," Mr. Miller
magnanimously admitted, sitting down again. "So your English Judges have
Marshals! I was under the impression that that was a military title,
like Marshal Macmann and Field-Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood. Well now.... And
how might Judge Deedes' Marshal be dressed, Miss Deedes?"

"Not 'Judge' Deedes," said Katie smiling. "That's a County Court Judge."
And she explained. Mr. Miller opened his eyes wide.

"Is that so-o-o? Well now, if that isn't interesting! That's noos. He's
a Honourable with a 'u' in it, and a Sir, and you call him his Lordship,
and he's Mister Justice Deedes! Ain't that English!... Now let me see if
I'm on the track of it. 'Your Worship'--that's a Magistrate. 'Your
Honour'--that's the other sort of Judge. And 'My Lord'--that's Miss
Deedes' uncle. And an English Judge has a Marshal.... Do you recollect
our Marshals, Mrs. Stan?----"

Building (as it now appeared) even better than he knew, Mr. Miller had,
in the past, granted the rank of Marshal to Messrs. Hallowell and
Smiths' shopwalkers.

Dorothy's reason for thus flagrantly introducing Sir Joseph's name was
this:--

Katie had left the Eden, and she herself was presently off to Ludlow.
Thus there was the possible reversion of a job of sorts going a-begging.
Katie might as well have it as anybody else. Dorothy had strictly
enjoined upon her impulsive friend that on no account was she to
contradict or disclaim anything she, Dorothy, might choose to say on her
behalf to Mr. Miller; and she intended that the credit, such as it was,
of the last Idee she even intended to propose to Mr. Miller--the Litmus
Layette--should be Katie's start. Once started she would have to look
after herself.

So when Mr. Miller passed from the subject of Hallowell and Smiths'
Marshals to that of his long-hoped-for Idee, Dorothy was ready for him.
Avoiding the weak spot, she enlarged on the tradition--very different
from a mere superstition--that, in Layettes, blue stood always for a boy
and pink for a girl.

"You see," she said, "this is England when all's said, and we're
_fright_fully conservative. Don't condemn it just because it wouldn't go
in New York.... You've heard of the Willyhams, of course?" she broke off
suddenly to ask.

"I cann't say I have, Mrs. Stan. But I'm sitting here. Tell me. They're
a Fam'ly, I presoom?"

"Yes. Upshire's their title. Now that title's descended in the female
line ever since Charles the First. Ever since then the Willyham Layettes
have been pink as a matter of course. And now, not a month ago, there
was a boy, and they had to rush off and get blue at the very last
moment.... Let me see, your children are little girls, aren't they?" she
again interrupted herself to say.

"Three little goils, Mrs. Stan, with black-and-white check frocks and
large black bows in their hair."

"Well, and mine are boys. Blue for me and pink for you. But we'll come
to that in a moment.--The thing that really strikes me as extraordinary
is that in all these ages, with all the countless babies that have been
born, we don't know _yet_ which it's going to be!... And I don't think
we ever shall. Now just think what that means--not just to a Royal
House, with a whole succession depending on it, and crowns and dynasties
and things--but to _every_ woman! You see the _tremendous_ interest they
take in it at once!--But I don't know whether a man can ever understand
that----"

She paused.

"Go on, Mrs. Stan--I want the feminine point of voo," said Mr.
Miller.--"The man ain't broken Post Toasties yet that has more reverence
for motherhood than what I have----"

"I know," said Dorothy bashfully. "But it isn't the same--being a
father. It's--it's different. It's not the same. I doubt whether _any_
man knows what it means to us as we wait and wonder--and wait and
wonder--day after day--day after day----"

Here she dropped her eyes. Here also Mr. Miller dropped his head.

"It isn't the same--being a father--it's different," Dorothy was heard
to murmur.

Mr. Miller breathed something about the holiest spot on oith.

"So you see," Dorothy resumed presently, hoping that Mr. Miller did not
see. "It's the nearest subject of all to us. The very first question we
ask one another is, 'Do you hope it's a little boy or a little girl?'
And as it's impossible to tell, it's impossible for us to make our
preparations. Lady Upshire doesn't know one bit more about it than the
poorest woman in the streets. And this in an age that boasts of its
Science!"

"Well," said Mr. Miller, giving it consideration, "that's ver-ry true. I
ain't a knocker; I don't want to get knocking our men of science; but
it's a fact they cann't tell. I recollect Mrs. Miller saying to me----"

"Yes--look at it from Mrs. Miller's point of view----"

"I remember Mrs. Miller using the ver-ry woids you've just used, Mrs.
Stan. (I hope this don't jolt Miss Deedes too much; it's ver-ry
interessting). And that's one sure thing, that it ain't a cinch for Mrs.
Bradley Martin any more than what it is for any poor lady stenographer
at so many dallars per. But--if you'll pardon me putting the question in
that form--where's the _point_, Mrs. Stan? What's the reel prapasition?"

This being precisely what Dorothy was rather carefully avoiding, again
she smiled bashfully and dropped her head, as if once more calling on
those profound reserves of Mr. Miller's veneration for motherhood. These
even profounder reserves, of Mr. Miller's veneration for dallars, were
too much to the point altogether.

"I was afraid you wouldn't understand," she sighed.

"But," said Mr. Miller earnestly, "give me something to get a hold of,
Mrs. Stan. I ain't calling the psychological prapasition down any; a
business man has to be psychologist all the time; but he wants it
straight. Straight psychology. The feminine point of voo, but practical.
It ain't for Harvard. It's for Hallowell and Smith's."

"Well," said Dorothy, "it's Miss Deedes' idea really--and it would never
have occurred to her if it hadn't been for Lady Upshire--would it
Katie?"

"No," said Katie.

"Very well. Suppose Lady Upshire had had the Litmus Layette. All she
would have had to do would have been to take the ribbons out--the work
of a moment--the pink ribbons--dip them in the preparation--and there
they'd have been, ready for immediate use. And blue ones would be dipped
in the other solution and of course they'd have turned pink.... You see,
you can't alter the baby, but you can alter the ribbons. And it isn't
only ribbons. A woolly jacket--or a pram-rug--or socks--or anything--I
think it's an exceedingly clever Idea of Miss Deedes!----"

Mr. Miller gave it attention. Then he looked up.

"Would it woik?" he asked.

"Well," said Dorothy ... "it works in chemistry. But that's not the
principal thing. It's its value as an advertisement that's the real
thing. Think of the window-dressing!--Blue and pink, changing before
people's very eyes!--Just think how--I mean, it interests _every_ woman!
They'd stand in front of the window, and think--but you're a man. Mrs.
Miller would understand.... Anyhow, you would get crowds of
people, and that's what you want--crowds of people--that's its
advertisement-value.--And then when you got them inside it would be like
having the hooks at one end of the shop and the eyes at the other--a
hook's no good without an eye, so they have to walk past half a mile of
counters, and you sell them all sort of things on the way. _I_ think
there's a great deal in it!"

"It's a Stunt," Mr. Miller conceded, as if in spite of himself he must
admit thus much. "It's soitainly a Stunt. But I'm not sure it's a reel
Idee."

"That," said Dorothy with conviction, "would depend entirely in your own
belief in it. If you did it as thoroughly as you've done lots of other
things----"

"It's soitainly a Stunt, Miss Deedes," Mr. Miller mused....

He was frowningly meditating on the mystic differences between a Stunt
and an Idee, and was perhaps wondering how the former would demean
itself if he took the risk of promoting it to the dignity of the latter,
when the bell was heard to ring. A moment later Ruth opened the door.

"Lady Tasker," she said.

Lady Tasker entered a little agitatedly, with an early edition of the
"Globe" crumpled in her hand.



II

BY THE WAY


Lady Tasker never missed the "Globe's" _By the Way_ column, and there
was a curious, mocking, unpleasant By-the-Way-ishness about the
announcement she made as she entered. There is a special psychological
effect, in the Harvard and not in the Hallowell and Smith's sense, when
you come unexpectedly in print upon news that affects yourself. The
multiplicity of newspapers notwithstanding, revelation still hits the
ear less harshly than it does the eye; telling is still private and
intimate, type a trumpeting to all the world at once. Dorothy looked at
the pink page Lady Tasker had thrust into her hand as if it also, like
the Litmus Layette, had turned blue before her eyes.

"_Not_ Sir Benjamin who used to come and see father!" she said, dazed.

Lady Tasker had had time, on her way to the flat, to recover a little.

"There's only one Sir Benjamin Collins that I know of," she answered
curtly.

"But--but--it _can't_ be!----"

Of course there was no reason in the world why it couldn't. Quite on the
contrary, there was that best of all reasons why it could--it had
happened. Three bullet-wounds are three undeniable reasons. It was the
third, the brief account said, that had proved fatal.

"They say the finest view in Asia's Bombay from the stern of a steamer,"
said Lady Tasker, with no expression whatever. "I think your friend Mr.
Cosimo Pratt will be seeing it before very long."

But Dorothy was white. _Their_ Sir Benjamin!... Why, as a little girl
she had called him "Uncle Ben!" He had not been an uncle really, of
course, but she had called him that. She could remember the smell of his
cigars, and the long silences as he had played chess with her father,
and his hands with the coppery hair on them, and his laugh, and the way
the markhor at the Zoo had sniffed at his old patoo-coat, just as cats
now sniffed at her own set of civet furs. And she had married him one
day in the nursery, when she had been about ten, and he had taken her to
the Pantomime that afternoon for a Honeymoon--and then, when she had
really married Stan, he had given her the very rugs that were on her
bedroom floor at this moment.

And, if this pink paper was to be believed, an Invisible Man had shot at
him three times, and at the third shot had killed him.

She had not heard her aunt's words about Cosimo. She had been standing
with her hand in Mr. Miller's, having put it there when he had risen to
take himself off and forgotten to withdraw it again. Then Mr. Miller had
gone, and Dorothy had stood looking stupidly at her aunt.

"What did you say?" she said. "You said something about Cosimo Pratt."

"Don't you go, Katie; I want to talk to you presently.--Sit down,
Dot.--Get her a drink of water."

Dorothy sat heavily down and put out one hand for the paper
again.--"What did you say?" she asked once more.

"Never mind just now. Put your head back and close your eyes for a
minute."...

       *       *       *       *       *

That was the rather unpleasant, By-the-Way part of it. For of course it
was altogether By-the-Way when you looked at the matter broadly. Amory
could have explained this with pellucid clearness. The murder of a
Governor?... Of course, if you happened to have known that Governor, and
to have married him in a child's game when you were ten and he forty,
and to have gone on writing letters to him telling him all the news
about your babies, and to have had letters back from him signed "Uncle
Ben"--well, nobody would think it unnatural of you to be a little
shocked at the news of his assassination; but Amory could easily have
shown that that shock, when you grew a little calmer and came to think
clearly about it, would be only a sort of extension of your own egotism.
Governors didn't really matter one bit more because you were fond of
them. Everybody had somebody fond of them. Why, then, make a
disproportionate fuss about a single (and probably corrupt) official,
when thousands suffered gigantic wrongs? The desirable thing was to look
at these things broad-mindedly, and not selfishly. It was selfish,
selfish and egotistical, to expect the whole March of Progress to stop
because you happened to be fond of somebody (who probably hadn't been
one bit better than he ought to have been). These pompous people of the
official classes were always bragging about their readiness to lay down
their lives for their country; very well; they had no right to grumble
when they were taken at their word. Ruskin had expressed much the same
thought rather finely when he had said that a soldier wasn't paid for
killing, but for being killed. Some people seemed to want it both
ways--to go on drawing their money while they were alive, and then to
have an outcry raised when they got shot. In strict justice they ought
to have been, not merely shot, but blown from the mouths of guns; but of
course neither Amory nor anybody else wanted to go quite so far as
that.... Nevertheless, perspective was needed--perspective, and vision
of such scope that you had a clear mental picture, not of misguided
individuals, who must die some time or other and might as well do so in
the discharge of what it pleased them to call their "duty," but of
millions of our gentle and dark-skinned brothers, waiting in rows with
baskets on their heads (and making simply ripping friezes) while the
Banks paid in pennies, and then holding lots of righteous and
picturesque Meetings, all about Tyrant England and throwing off the
Yoke. Amory would have conceded that she had never had an Uncle Ben; but
if she had had fifty Uncle Bens she would still have hoped to keep some
small sense of proportion about these things.

But that again only showed anybody who was anybody how hopelessly behind
the noble movements of her time Dorothy was. The sense of proportion
never entered her head. She gave a little shiver, even though the day
was warm, and then that insufferable old aunt of hers, who might be a
"Lady" but had no more tact than to interfere with people's liberty in
the street, praised her gently when she came round a bit, and said she
was taking it very bravely, when the truth was that she really ought to
have condemned her for her absurd weakness and lack of the sense of
relative values. No, there would have been no doubt at all about it in
Amory's mind: that it was these people, who talked so egregiously about
"firm rule," who were the real sentimentalists, and the others of the
New Imperialism, with their real grasp of the true and humane principles
of government, who were the downright practical folk....

All this fuss about a single Governor, of whom Mr. Prang himself had
said (and there was no gentler soul living than Mr. Prang) that his
extortions had been a byword and his obstinacy proof positive of his
innate weakness!----

But Amory was not in the pond-room that day, and so Dorothy's sickly
display of emotion went unchecked. The nurse herded the Bits together,
but they were not admitted for their usual tea-time romp. Indeed,
Dorothy said presently, "Do you mind if I leave you for a few minutes
with Katie, auntie?" She went into her bedroom and did not return. Of
all his "nieces" she had been his favourite; her foot caught in one of
his Kabuli mats as she entered the bedroom. She lay down on her bed. She
longed for Stan to come and put his arms about her.

He came in before Lady Tasker had finished her prolonged questioning of
Katie. Aunt Grace told him where Dorothy was. Then she and Katie left
together.

The newspapers showed an excellent sense of proportion about the
incident. In the earlier evening editions the death of Sir Benjamin was
nicely balanced by the 4.30 winners; and then a popular actor's amusing
replies in the witness-box naturally overshadowed everything else. And,
to anticipate a little, on the following day the "Times" showed itself
to be, as usual, hopelessly in the wrong. Indeed there were those who
considered that this journal made a deplorable exhibition of itself. For
it had no more modesty nor restraint than to use the harsh word
"murder," without any "alleged" about it, which was, of course, a
flagrant pre-judging of the case. Nobody denied that at a first glance
appearances _were_ a little against the gentle and dusky brother, who
had been seized with the revolver still in his hand; but that was no
reason why a bloated capitalist rag should thus undermine the principles
of elementary justice. It ought to have made it all the more
circumspect.... But anybody who was anybody knew exactly what was at the
bottom of it all. The "Times" was seeking a weapon against the
Government. The staff was no doubt secretly glad that it had happened,
and was gloating, and already calculating its effect on an impending
by-election.... Besides, there was the whole ethical question of capital
punishment. It would not bring Sir Benjamin back to life to try this
man, find him guilty, and do him barbarously to death in the name of the
Law. That would only be two dead instead of one. The proper way would be
to hold an inquiry, with the dusky instrument of justice (whose faith in
his mission must have been very great since he had taken such risks for
it) not presiding, perhaps, but certainly called as an important witness
to testify to the Wrongness of the Conditions.... Besides, an
assassination is a sort of half-negligible outbreak, regrettable
certainly, for which excuse can sometimes be found: but this other would
be deliberate, calculated, measured, and in flat violation of the most
cardinal of all the principles on which a great Empire should be
based--the principle of Mercy stiffened with exactly the right modicum
of Justice....

And besides....

And besides....

And besides....

And when all is said, India is a long way off.

The publication of the news produced a curious sort of atmosphere at The
Witan that afternoon. Everybody seemed desirous of showing everybody
else that they were unconcerned, and yet an observer might have fancied
that they overdid it ever such a little. At about the time when Lady
Tasker left Dorothy with Stan, Mr. Wilkinson drove up in a cab to the
green door in the privet hedge and asked for Amory. He was told that she
had given word that she did not want to see anybody. But in the studio
he found Mr. Brimby and Dickie Lemesurier, and the three were presently
joined by Laura and Walter Wyron. A quorum of five callers never
hesitated to make themselves at home at The Witan. They lighted the
asbestos log, Walter found Cosimo's cigarettes, and Dickie said she was
sure Amory wouldn't mind if she rang for tea. When they had made
themselves quite comfortable, they began to chat about a number of
things, not the murder.

"Seen Strong?" Mr. Brimby asked Mr. Wilkinson.

Mr. Wilkinson was at his most morose and truculent.

"No," he said. "I called at the office, but he was out. Doesn't put in
very much time there, it seems to me. Perhaps he's at the Party's
Meeting."

"How is it you aren't there, by the way?"

Mr. Wilkinson made a little sound of contempt.

"Bah! All talk. Day in and day out, talk, talk, talk. I want action. The
leadership's all wrong. Want a man. I keep my seat because if I cleared
out they'd be no better than a lot of tame Liberal cats, but I've no use
for 'em----"

It was whispered that the members of the Party had no use for Mr.
Wilkinson, and very little for one another; but it doesn't do to give
ear to everything that is whispered.

Then Mr. Brimby appeared suddenly to recollect something.

"Ah yes!... Action. Speaking of action, I suppose you've seen this
Indian affair in to-night's papers?"

Mr. Wilkinson was still fuming.

"That Governor? Yes, I saw it.... But it's too far away. Thousands of
miles too far away. We want something nearer home. A paper that calls a
spade a spade for one thing.... Anybody heard from Pratt this week?"

They discussed Cosimo's latest letter, and then Mr. Brimby said, "By the
way--how will this affect him?"

"How will what affect him?"

"This news, to-night. Collins."

"Oh!... Why should it affect him at all? Don't see why it should. The
'Pall Mall' has a filthy article on it to-night. That paper's getting as
bad as the 'Times.'"

Here Walter Wyron intervened.--"By the way, who _is_ this man Collins?
Just pass me 'Who's Who,' Laura."

They looked Sir Benjamin up in "Who's Who," and then somebody suggested
that their party wasn't complete without Edgar Strong. "I'll telephone
him," said Walter; "perhaps he'll be back by this."--The telephone was
in the hall, and Walter went out. Dickie told Laura how well Walter was
looking. Laura replied, Yes, he was very well indeed; except for a
slight cold, which anybody was lucky to escape in May, he had never been
better; which was wonderful, considering the work he got through.--Then
Walter returned. Strong had not yet come in, but his typist had said
he'd be back soon.--"Didn't know it ran to a typist," Walter remarked,
helping himself to more tea.

"It doesn't," Mr. Wilkinson grunted.

"Girl's voice, anyway.... I say, I wonder how old Prang's getting on!"

"I wonder!"

"He's gone back, hasn't he?" Dickie asked.

"Oh, a couple of months ago. Didn't Strong give him the push, Wilkie?"

"Don't suppose Strong ever did anything so vigorous," Mr. Wilkinson
growled. "The only strong thing about Strong's his name. He's simply
ruined that paper."

"I agree that it was at its best when Prang was doing the Indian notes."

"Oh, Prang knew what he wanted. Prang's all right in his way. But I tell
you India's too far away. We want something at our own doors, and
somebody made an example of that somebody knows. Now if Pratt had only
been guided by me----"

"Hallo, here's Britomart Belchamber.--Why doesn't Amory come down, Brit?
She's in, isn't she?"

"What?" said Miss Belchamber.

"Isn't Amory coming down?"

"She's gone out," said Miss Belchamber, adjusting her hair. "A min-ute
ago," she added.

Walter Wyron said something about "Cool--with guests----," but Amory's
going out was no reason why they should not finish tea in comfort. No
doubt Amory would be back presently. Laura confided to Britomart that
she hoped so, for the truth was that her kitchen range had gone wrong,
and a man had said he was coming to look at it, but he hadn't turned
up--these people never turned up when they said they would--and so she
had thought it would be nice if they came and kept Amory company at
supper....

"We've got some new cheese-bis-cuits," said Miss Belchamber
ruminatively. "I like them. They make bone. I like to have bone made.
The muscles can't act unless you have bone. That's why these bis-cuits
are so good. Good-bye."

And Miss Belchamber, with a friendly general smile, went off to open her
sweat-ducts by means of a hot bath and to close them again afterwards
with a cold sponge.

       *       *       *       *       *

Amory had not gone out this time to press amidst strange people and to
look into strange and frightening eyes, various in colour as the pebbles
of a beach, and tipped with arrow-heads of white as they turned. Almost
for the first time in her life she wanted to be alone--quite alone, with
her eyes on nobody and nobody's eyes on her. She did not reflect on
this. She did not reflect on anything. She only knew that The Witan
seemed to stifle her, and that when she had seen Mr. Wilkinson alight
from his cab--and Mr. Brimby and Dickie come--and the Wyrons--with all
the others no doubt following presently--it had come sharply upon her
that these wearisomely familiar people used up all the air. The Witan
without them was bad enough; The Witan with them had become
insupportable.

It was not the assassination of Sir Benjamin that had disturbed her.
Since Cosimo's departure she had glanced at Indian news only a shade
less perfunctorily than before, and she had turned from this particular
announcement to the account of New Greek Society's production with
hardly a change of boredom. No: it was everything in her
life--everything. She felt used up. She thought that if anybody had
spoken to her just then she could only have given the incoherent and
petulant "Don't!" of a child who is interrupted at a game that none but
he understands. She hated herself, yet hated more to be dragged out of
herself; and as she made for the loneliest part of the Heath she wished
that night would fall.

She had to all intents and purposes packed Cosimo off to India in order
to have him out of the way. His presence had become as wearisome as that
of the Wyrons and the rest of them. And that was as much as she had
hitherto told herself. She had taken no resolution about Edgar Strong.
But drifting is accelerated when an obstacle is removed, and her heart
had frequently beaten rapidly at the thought that, merely by removing
Cosimo, she had started a process that would presently bring her up
against Edgar Strong. She had pleased and teased and frightened herself
with the thought of what was to happen then. So many courses would be
open to her. She might actually take the mad plunge from which she had
hitherto shrunk. She might do the very opposite--stare at him, should
he propose it, and inform him that, some thousands of miles
notwithstanding, she was still Cosimo's wife. She might pathetically
urge on him that, now more than ever, she needed a friend and not a
lover--or else that, now more than ever, she needed a lover and not a
friend. She might say that nothing could be done until Cosimo came
back--or that when Cosimo came back would be too late to do anything. Or
she might....

Or she might....

Or she might....

Yet when all was said, Edgar and the "Novum's" offices were perilously
near....

For it was not what she might do, but what he might do, that set her
heart beating most rapidly of all. Her dangerous dreaming always ended
in that. Here was no question of that trumpery subterfuge of the Wyrons.
It struck her with extraordinary force and newness that she was what was
called "a married woman." It was a familiar phrase; it was as familiar
as those other phrases, "No, just living together," "Well, as long as
there are no children," "Love _is_ Law"--familiar as the air. Left to
herself, the phrases might have remained both her dissipation and her
safeguard.... But he? Would phrases content him? After she had tempted
him as she knew she had tempted him? After that stern repression of
himself in favour of his duty? Or would he ask her again what she
thought he was made off?... It was always the man who was expected to
take the decisive step. The woman simply--offered--and, if she was
clever, did it in such a way that she could always deny it after the
fact. If Edgar should _not_ stretch out his hand--well, in that case
there would be no more to be said. But if he should?...

A little sound came from her closed lips.

Cosimo had been away for nearly three months, and had not yet said
anything about returning; and Amory had smiled when, after many eager
protestings that there was no reason (Love being Law) why he should go
alone, he had after all funked taking his splendid turnip of a Britomart
with him. Of course: when it had come to the point, he had lacked the
courage. Amory could not help thinking that that lack was just a shade
more contemptible than his philanderings. Courage!... Images of
Cleopatra and the carpet rose in her mind again.... But the images were
faint now. She had evoked them too often. Her available mental material
had become stale. She needed a fresh impulse--a new experience----

But--she always got back to the same point--suppose Edgar should take
her, not at her word, nor against her word, but with words, for once,
left suddenly and entirely out of the question?...

Again the thumping heart----

It was almost worth the misery and loneliness for the sake of that
painful and delicious thrill.

She was sitting on a bench under the palings of Ken Wood, watching a
saffron sunset. A Prince Eadmond's girl in a little green Florentine cap
passed. She reminded Amory of Britomart Belchamber, and Amory rose and
took the root-grown path to the Spaniards Road and the West Heath. She
intended to take a walk as far as Golders Green Park; but, as it
happened, she did not get so far. A newsboy, without any sense of
proportion whatever, was crying cheerfully, "Murder of a
Guv'nor--Special!" This struck Amory. She thought she had read it once
before that afternoon, but she bought another paper and turned to the
paragraph. Yes, it was the same--and yet it was somehow different. It
seemed--she could not tell why--a shade more important than it had done.
Perhaps the newsboy's voice had made it sound more important: things did
seem to come more personally home when they were spoken than when they
were merely read. She hoped it was not very important; it might be well
to make sure. She was not very far from home; her Timon-guests would
still be there; somebody would be able to tell her all about it....

She walked back to The Witan again, and, still hatted and dressed,
pushed at the studio door.

Nobody had left. Indeed, two more had come--young Mr. Raffinger of the
McGrath, and a friend of his, a young woman from the Lambeth School of
Art, who had Russianized her painting-blouse by putting a leather belt
round it, and who told Amory she had wanted to meet her for such a long
time, because she had done some designs for Suffrage Christmas Cards,
and hoped Amory wouldn't mind her fearful cheek, but hoped she would
look at them, and say exactly what she thought about them, and perhaps
give her a tip or two, and, if it wasn't asking too much, introduce her
to the Manumission League, or to anybody else who might buy them....
Young Raffinger interrupted the flow of gush and apologetics.

"Oh, don't bother her just yet, Eileen. Let her read her cable first."

Amory turned quickly.--"What do you say? What cable?" she asked.

"There's a cable for you."

It lay on the uncleared tea-table, and everybody seemed to know all
about the outside of it at all events. As it was not in the usual place
for letters, perhaps it had been passed from hand to hand. Quite
unaffectedly, they stood round in a ring while Amory opened it, with all
their eyes on her. They most frightfully wanted to know what was in it,
but of course it would have been rude to ask outright. So they merely
watched, expectantly.

Then, as Amory stood looking at the piece of paper, Walter was almost
rude. But in the circumstances everybody forgave him.

"Well?" he said; and then with ready tact he retrieved the solecism.
"Hope it's good news, Amory?"

For all that there was just that touch of _schadenfreude_ in his tone
that promised that he for one would do his best to bear up if it wasn't.

Amory was a little pale. It was the best of news, and yet she was a
little pale. Perhaps she was faint because she had not had any tea.

"Cosimo's coming home," she said.

There was a moment's silence, and then the congratulations broke out.

"Oh, good!"

"Shall be glad to see the old boy!"

"Finished his work, I suppose?"

"Or perhaps it's something to do with this Collins business?"

It was Mr. Brimby who had made this last remark. Amory turned to him
slowly.

"What is this Collins business?" she asked.

Mr. Brimby dropped his sorrowing head.

"Ah, poor fellow," he murmured. "I'm afraid he went to work on the wrong
principles. A _little_ more conciliation ... but it's difficult to blame
anybody in these cases. The System's at fault. Let us not be harsh. I
quite agree with Wilkinson that the 'Pall Mall' to-night is very harsh."

"Cowardly," said Mr. Wilkinson grimly. "Rubbing it in because they have
some sort of a show of a case. They're always mum enough on the other
side."

Amory lifted her head.

"But you say this might have something to do with Cosimo's coming back.
Tell me at once what's happened.--And put that telegram down, Walter.
It's mine."

They had never heard Amory speak like this before. It was rather cool of
her, in her own house, and quite contrary to the beautiful Chinese rule
of politeness. And somehow her tone seemed, all at once, to dissipate a
certain number of pretences that for the last hour or more they had been
laboriously seeking to keep up. That, at any rate, was a relief. For a
minute nobody seemed to want to answer Amory; then Mr. Wilkinson took
it upon himself to do so--characteristically.

"Nothing's happened," he said, "--nothing that we haven't all been
talking about for a year and more. What the devil--let's be plain for
once. To look at you, anybody'd think you hadn't meant it! By God, if
_I'd_ had that paper of yours!... I told you at the beginning what
Strong was--neither wanted to do things nor let 'em alone; but _I'd_
have shown you! I'd have had a dozen Prangs! But he didn't want one--and
he didn't want to sack him--afraid all the time something 'ld happen,
but daren't stop--doing too well out of it for that ... and now that
it's happened, what's all the to-do about? You're always calling it War,
aren't you? And it _is_ War, isn't it? Or only Brimby's sort of
War--like everything else about Brimby?----"

Here somebody tried to interpose, but Mr. Wilkinson raised his voice
almost to a shout.

"Isn't it? Isn't it?... Lookee here! A little fellow came here one
Sunday, a little collier, and he said 'Wilkie knows!' And by Jimminy,
Wilkie does know! I tell you it's everybody for himself in this world,
and I'm out for anything that's going! (Yes, let's have a bit o'
straight talk for a change!) War? Of course it's War! What do we all
mean about street barricades and rifles if it isn't War? It's War when
they fetch the soldiers out, isn't it? Or is that a bit more Brimby? And
you can't have War without killing somebody, can you? I tell you we want
it at home, not in India! I've stood at the dock gates waiting to be
taken on, and I know--no fear! To hell with your shillyshallying! If
Collins gets in the way, Collins must get out o' the way. We can't stop
for Collins. I wish it had been here! I can just see myself jumping off
a bridge with a director in my arms--the fat hogs! If I'd had that
paper! There'd have been police round this house long ago, and then the
fun would have started!... Me and Prang's the only two of all the bunch
that _does_ know what we want! And Prang's got his all right--my turn
next--and I shan't ask Brimby to help me----"

Through a sort of singing in her ears Amory heard the rising cries of
dissent that interrupted Mr. Wilkinson--"Oh no--hang it--Wilkinson's
going too far!" But the noise conveyed little to her. Stupidly she was
staring at the blue and yellow jets of the asbestos log, and weakly
thinking what a silly imitation the thing was. She couldn't imagine
however Cosimo had come to buy it. And then she heard Mr. Wilkinson
repeating some phrase he had used before: "There'd have been police
round this house and then the fun would have begun!" Police round The
Witan, she thought? Why? It seemed very absurd to talk like that. Mr.
Brimby was telling Mr. Wilkinson how absurd it was. But Mr. Brimby
himself was rather absurd when you came to think of it....

Then there came another shouted outburst.--"Another Mutiny? Well, what
about it? It _is_ War, isn't it? Or is it only Brimby's sort of
War?----"

Then Amory felt herself grow suddenly cold and resolved. Cosimo was
coming back. Whether he had made India too hot to hold him, as now
appeared just possible, she no longer cared, for at last she knew what
she intended to do. Her guests were wrangling once more; let them
wrangle; she was going to leave this house that Mr. Wilkinson apparently
wanted to surround with police as a preliminary to the "fun." Edgar
might still be at the office; if he was not, she would sleep at some
hotel and find him in the morning. Then she would take her leap. She had
hesitated far too long. She would not go and look at the twins for fear
lest she should hesitate again....

Just such a sense of rest came over her as a swimmer feels who, having
long struggled against a choppy stream, suddenly abandons himself to it
and lets it bear him whither it will.

Unnoticed in the heat of the dispute, she crossed to the studio door.
She thought she heard Laura call, "Can I come and help, Amory?" No doubt
Laura thought she was going to see about supper. But she no longer
intended to stay even for supper in this house of wrangles and envy and
crowds and whispering and crookedness.

Her cheque-book and some gold were in her dressing-table drawer
upstairs. She got them. Then she descended again, opened the front door,
closed it softly behind her again, passed through the door in the privet
hedge, and walked out on to the dark Heath.



III

_DE TROP_


Those who knew Edgar Strong the best knew that the problem of how to
make the best of both worlds pressed with a peculiar hardship on him.
The smaller rebel must have the whole of infinity for his soul to range
in--and, for all the practical concern that man has with it, infinity
may be defined as the condition in which the word of the weakest is as
good as that of the wisest. Give him scope enough and Mr. Brimby cannot
be challenged. There is no knowledge of which he says that it is too
wonderful for him, that it is high and he cannot attain unto it.

But Edgar Strong knew a little more than Mr. Brimby. He bore his share
of just such a common responsibility as is not too great for you or for
me to understand. Between himself and Mr. Prang had been a long and slow
and grim struggle, without a word about it having been said on either
side; and it had not been altogether Edgar Strong's fault that in the
end Mr. Prang had been one too many for him.

For, consistently with his keeping his three hundred a year (more than
two-thirds of which by one means and another he had contrived to save),
he did not see that he could have done much more than he had done.
Things would have been far worse had he allowed Mr. Wilkinson to oust
him. And now he knew that this was the "Novum's" finish. Whispers had
reached him that behind important walls important questions were being
asked, and a ponderous and slow-moving Department had approached another
Body about certain finportations (Sir Joseph Deedes, Katie's uncle, knew
all about these things). And this and that and the other were going on
behind the scenes; and these deep mutterings meant, if they meant
anything at all, that it was time Edgar Strong was packing up.

Fruit-farming was the line he fancied; oranges in Florida; and it would
not take long to book passages--passages for two----

He had heard the news in the early afternoon, and had straightway sent
off an express messenger to the person for whom the second passage was
destined. Within an hour this person had run up the stairs, without
having met anybody on a landing whom it had been necessary to ask
whether Mr. So-and-So, the poster artist, had a studio in the building.
Edgar Strong's occupation as she had entered had made words superfluous.
He had been carrying armfuls of papers into the little room behind the
office and thrusting them without examination on the fire. The girl had
exchanged a few rapid sentences with him, had bolted out again, hailed a
taxi, sought a Bank, done some business there on the stroke of four, and
had driven thence to a shipping office. Edgar Strong, in Charing Cross
Road, had continued to feed his fire. The whole place smelt of burning
paper. A mountain of ashes choked the grate and spread out as far as the
bed and the iron washstand in the corner.

The girl returned. From under the bed she pulled out a couple of bags.
Into these she began to thrust her companion's clothes. Into a third and
smaller bag she crammed her own dressing-gown and slippers, a comb and a
couple of whalebone brushes, and other things. She had brought word that
the boat sailed the day after to-morrow....

"There's the telephone--just answer it, will you?" Strong said, casting
another bundle on the fire....

"Wyron," said the girl, returning.

"Never mind those boots; they're done; and you might get me a
safety-razor; shall want it on the ship.... By the way--I think we'd
better get married."

The girl laughed.--"All right," she said as she crammed a
nightdress-case into the little bag....

       *       *       *       *       *

Amory walked quickly down the East Heath. As she walked she could not
help wondering what there had been to make such a fuss about. Indeed she
had been making quite a bugbear of the thing she was now doing quite
easily. What, after all, would it matter? Would a single one of the
people she passed so hurriedly think her case in the least degree
special? Had they not, each one of them, their own private and probably
very similar affairs? Was there one of them of whom it could be said
with certainty that he or she was not, at that very moment, bound on the
same errand? She looked at the women. There was nothing to betray them,
but it was quite as likely as not. Nor could they tell by looking at
her. For that matter, the most resolute would hide it the most. And a
person's life was his own. Nobody would give him another one when he had
starved and denied the one he had. There might not be another one. Some
people said that there was, and some that there wasn't. Meetings were
held about that too, but so far they hadn't seemed to advance matters
very much....

Nor was it the urge of passion that was now driving her forward at such
a rate. She could not help thinking that she had been rather silly in
her dreams about carpets and Nubians and those things. If Edgar was
passionate, very well--she would deny him nothing; but in that case she
would feel ever so slightly superior to Edgar. She rather wished that
that was not so; she hoped that after all it might not be so; on the
whole she would have preferred to be a little his inferior. She had not
been inferior to Cosimo. They, she and Cosimo, had talked a good deal
about equality, of course, but, after all, equality was a balance too
nice for the present stressful stage of the struggle between man and
woman; a theoretical equality if you liked, but in practice the thing
became a slight temporary feminine preponderance, which would, no doubt,
settle down in time. Virtually she had been Cosimo's master. She did not
want to be Edgar's. Rather than be that he might--her tired
sensibilities gave a brief flutter--he might even be a little cruel to
her if he wished....

A Tottenham Court Road bus was just starting from the bottom of Pond
Street. She ran to catch it. It moved forward again, with Amory sitting
inside it, between a man in a white muffler and opera-hat and a
flower-woman returning home with her empty baskets.

Many, many times Amory Pratt, abusing her fancy, had rehearsed the scene
to which she was now so smoothly and rapidly approaching; but she
rehearsed nothing now. It would suffice for her just to appear before
Edgar; no words would be necessary; he would instantly understand. Of
course (she reflected) he might have left the office when she got there;
it was even reasonably probable that he would have left; it was not a
press-night; twenty to one he would have left. But her thoughts went
forward again exactly as if she had not just told herself this.... He
would be there. She would go up to him and stand before him. As likely
as not not a word would pass between them. She felt that she had used
too many words in her life. She and her set had discussed subjects
simply out of existence. Often, by the time they had finished talking,
not one of them had known what they had been talking about. It had been
sheer dissipation. Men, she had heard, took drinks like that, and by and
by were unable to stand, and then made hideous exhibitions of
themselves. Nobody could say exactly at what point they, the men,
became incapable, nor the point at which the others, Amory and her set,
became word-sodden; in the one case the police (she had heard) made them
walk a chalk-line; but there was no chalk-line for the others. Their
paths were crooked as scribble....

But she was going straight at last--as straight as a pair of tram-lines
could take her--and so far was she from wishing that the tram would go
more slowly, that she would have hastened it had she been able.

The "Mother Shipton"--the Cobden Statue--Hampstead Road--the "Adam and
Eve." At this last stopping-place she descended, crossed the road, and
boarded a bus. She remembered that once before, when she had visited the
office in a taxi, the cab had seemed to go at a terrifying speed; now
the bus seemed to crawl. A fear took her that every stop might cause her
to miss him by just a minute. She tapped with her foot. She looked
almost angrily at those who got in or out. That flower-woman: why
couldn't she have got out at the proper stopping-place, instead of
upsetting everything with her baskets hardly a hundred yards further
on?... Off again; she hoped to goodness that was the last delay. She had
been stupid not to take a taxi after all.

She descended opposite the "Horse Shoe," not three minutes' walk from
the "Novum's" offices. Then again she called herself stupid for not
having sat where she was, since the bus would go straight past the door.
But she could be there as soon as the bus if she walked quickly.----

The bus overtook her and beat her by twenty yards.

The bookseller's shutters were down, and in the window of the
electric-fittings shop could be dimly seen a ventilating fan, a
desk-lamp, and a switchboard or two. Amory turned in under the arch that
led to the yard behind. Her eyes had gone up to the third floor almost
before she had issued from the narrow alley----

Ah!... So she was not too late. There was a light.

Through the ground-floor cavern in which the sandwich-boards were
stacked she had for the first time to slacken her pace; the floor was
uneven, and the place was crowded with dim shadows. A man smoking a pipe
over an evening paper turned as she entered, but, seeing her make
straight for the stairs, he did not ask her her business. The winding
wooden staircase was black as a flue. On the first landing she paused
for a moment; the man with the pipe had, after all, challenged her, "Who
is it you want, Miss?" he called from below.... But he did not follow
her. A vague light from the landing window showed her the second flight
of wedge-shaped wooden steps. She mounted them, and gained the corridor
hung with the specimens of the poster-artist's work. Ahead along the
passage a narrow shaft of light crossed the floor. She gave one more
look behind, for fear the man below had, after all, followed her; she
was determined, but that did not mean that she necessarily wished to be
seen....

Her life was her own, to do what she liked with. Nobody would give her
another one....

And Edgar might be cruel if he wished....

For one instant longer she hesitated. Then she pushed softly at the door
from which the beam of light came.

The quietness of her approach was wasted after all. There was nobody in
the office. The floor was untidy with scattered leaves of paper, and
Edgar had carelessly left every drawer of his desk open; but that only
meant that he could not be very far away. Probably he was in the
waiting-room. She approached the door of it.

But, as she did so, some slight unfamiliarity about the place struck
her. The first room of the three, or waiting-room, she knew, from having
once or twice pushed at the first door of the passage and having had to
pass through that ante-room. Of the third room she knew nothing save
that it was used as a sort of general lumber-room. But the rooms seemed
somehow to have got changed about. It was from this third room, and not
from the waiting-room, that a bright light came, and the smell of
charred paper. The door was partly open. Amory advanced to it.

As she did so somebody spoke.

For so slight a cause, the start that Amory gave was rather
heartrending. She stopped dead. Her face had turned so chalky a white
that the freckles upon it, which ordinarily scarcely showed, looked
almost unwholesome.

In her mind she had given Edgar Strong leave to be cruel to her, but
not with this cruelty. The cruelty we choose is always another cruelty.
Once a man, who miraculously survived a flogging, said that by
comparison with the anguish of the second stroke that of the first was
almost a sweetness; and after the third, and fourth, men, they say, have
laughed. It happened so to Amory. The voices she heard were not loud; so
much the worse, when a few ordinary, grunted, half expressions could so
pierce her.

"----months ago, but I wasn't ready. I stayed on here for nobody's
convenience but my own, I can tell you." It was Edgar who said this.

Then a woman's voice--

"I don't think this waistcoat's worth taking; I've patched and patched
it----"

"Oh, chuck it under the bed. And I say--we've had nothing to eat. Make
the cocoa, will you?"

"Just a minute till I finish this bag.--What'll Pratt say when he comes
back?"

"As I shan't be here to hear him, it's hardly worth while guessing."

"Will Wilkinson take it over?"

"The 'Novum'?... I don't think there'll be any more 'Novum.' I suppose
these London Indians will be holding a meeting. I don't like 'em, but
let's be fair to them: most of 'em are all right. They've got to
dissociate themselves from this Collins business somehow. But I expect
some lunatic will go and move an amendment.... Well, it won't matter to
us. We shall be well down the Channel by that time."

Then the girl gave a low laugh.--"I _do_ think you might buy me a
trousseau, Ned--the way it's turned out----"

The man's voice grunted.

"I thought that would be the next. Give you something and you all want
something else immediately.... Can't afford it, my dear. I've only
pulled between three and four hundred out of this show, living here,
paying myself space-rates and all the lot; and we shall want all that."

Again the low voice--very soft and low.

"But you'll be a little sorry to leave here, won't you--m'mmm?----"
(This was the second stroke, by comparison with which the first had been
sweet.)

Strong spoke brusquely.--"Look here, old girl--we've heaps of things to
do to-night--lots of time before us--don't let's have any nonsense----"

"No-o-o?"----

Amory, besides hearing, might have seen; but she did not. Something had
brought into her head her own words to Walter Wyron of an hour or two
before, when Walter had picked up the cable announcing Cosimo's return:
"Put that down, Walter; it's mine." This other, that was taking place in
that inner room, was theirs. It would have been perfectly easy to strike
them dumb by appearing, just for one moment, in the doorway of
this--lumber-room; but she preferred not to do it. If she had, she felt
that it would have been the remains of a woman they would have seen.
There is not much catch in striking anybody dumb when the process
involves their seeing--that. Much better to steal out quietly....

Noiselessly she turned her back to the half-open door. She tiptoed out
into the corridor again. For a dozen yards she continued to tiptoe--in
order to spare them; and then she found herself at the head of the steep
stairs. She descended. She had not made a single sound. Down below the
man was still reading the paper, and again he looked round. At another
time Amory might have questioned him; but again she did not. There was
nothing to learn. She knew.

It was the first thing she had ever really known.

Bowed with the strangeness of knowledge, she walked slowly out into
Charing Cross Road.



IV

GREY YOUTH


She continued to walk slowly; the slowness was as remarkable as her
haste had been. She had intended, had she missed Edgar, to go to an
hotel; but home was hotel enough, hotel home. Home--home to a house
without privacy--home to children of whom she was not much more than
technically the mother--home to an asbestos log and to the absence of a
husband that was at least as desirable as his presence: nothing else
remained.

For her lack seemed total--so total as hardly to be a lack. She desired
no one thing, and a desire for everything is an abuse of the term
"desire." So she walked slowly, stopping now and then to look at a
flagstone as if it had been a remarkable object. And as she walked she
wondered how she had come to be as she was.

She could not see where her life had gone wrong. She did not remember
any one point at which she had taken a false and crucial step. For
example, she did not think this grey and harmonious totality of
despondency had come of her marrying Cosimo. They were neither
outstandingly suited nor unsuited to one another, and a thousand
marriages precisely similar were made every day and turned out well
enough. No; it could not be that she had expected too much of marriage.
She had not courted disappointment that way.... (But stay: had the
trouble come of her not expecting largely enough? Of her not having
assumed enough? Of her not having said to Life, "Such and such I intend
to have, and you shall provide it?" Would she have fared better
then?)... And if Cosimo had brought her no wonder, neither had her
babes. People were in the habit of saying astonishing things about the
miracle of the babe at the breast, but Amory could only say that she had
never experienced these things. She had wondered that she should not,
when so many others apparently did, but the fact remained, that bearing
had been an anguish and nursing an inconvenience. And so at the twins
she had stopped.

Would it have been better had she not stopped? Would she have been
happier with many children? Without children at all? Or unmarried? Or
ought her painting to have been husband, home and children to her?...

It was a little late in the day to ask these questions now----

And yet there had been no reason for asking them earlier----

It had needed that, her first point of knowledge, to bring it home into
her heart....

But do not suppose that she was in any pain. As a spinally-anaesthetized
subject may have a quite poignant interest in the lopping off of one of
his own limbs, and may even wonder that he feels no local pain, so she
assisted at her own dismemberment. Home, husband, babes, her art--one
after another she now seemed to see them go--or rather, seemed to see
that they had long since gone. She saw this going, in retrospect. It was
as if, though only degree by degree had the pleasant things of life
ticked away from her, the escapement was now removed from her memory,
allowing all with a buzz to run down to a dead stop. She could almost
hear that buzz, almost see that soft rim of whizzing teeth....

Now all was stillness--stillness without pain. She knew now what Edgar
Strong had been doing. She knew that he had been making use of her,
pocketing Cosimo's money, using the "Novum's" office as his lodging, had
had his bed there, his slippers in the fender, his kettle, his cocoa,
his plates, his cups, his.... And she knew now that Edgar Strong was
only one of those who had clustered like leeches about Cosimo.... She
forgot how much Cosimo had said that from first to last it had all cost.
She thought twenty thousand pounds. Twenty thousand pounds, all vanished
between that first Ludlow experiment and that last piece of amateur
sociology, three revolver shots in a man's back! As a price it was
stiffish. She did not quite know what the provider of the money had had
out of it all. At any rate she herself had this curious stilly state of
painless but rather sickening knowledge. And knowledge, they say, is
above rubies. So perhaps it was cheap after all....

But where had she gone wrong? Had she simply been born wrong? Would it
have made any difference whatever she had done? Or had all this been
appointed for her or ever her mother had conceived her?

She asked herself this as she passed Whitefield's Tabernacle; still
walking slowly, she was well up Hampstead Road and still no answer had
occurred to her. But somewhere near the gold-beater's arm on the
right-hand side of the road a thought did strike her. She thought that
she would not go home after all. This was not because to go home now
would be inglorious; it was no attempt to keep up appearances; it was
merely that she would have preferred anything to this horrible numbness.
Pain would be better. It is at any rate a condition of pain that you
must be alive to feel it, and she did not feel quite alive. This might
be a dream from which she would presently wake, or a waking from which
she would by and by drop off to sleep again. In either case it was more
than she could bear for much longer, and, did she go home, she would
have to bear it throughout the night--for days--until Cosimo came
back--after that----

But where else to go, if not to The Witan? To Laura's? To Dickie's? That
would be the same thing as going home: little enough change from spinal
anaesthesia in that! They could not help. Of all her old associates,
there was hardly one but might--that was to say if anything
extraordinary ever happened to them, like suddenly getting to know
something--there was hardly one of them but might experience precisely
this same hopeless perfection of wrongness, and fail to discover any one
point at which it had all begun. It was rather to be hoped (Amory
thought) that they never would get to know anything. They were happier
as they were, in a self-contained and harmonious ignorance. Knowledge
attained too late was rather dreadful; people ought to begin to get it
fairly early or not at all. They ought to begin at about the age of
Corin and Bonniebell....

A month ago the last person she would have gone to with a trouble would
have been Dorothy Tasker. They had not a single view in common.
Moreover, it would have been humiliating. But now that actually became,
in a curious, reflex sort of way, a reason for going. She did not know
that she actually wished to be humiliated; she did not think about it;
but she had been looking at herself, and at people exactly like herself,
for a long, long, long time, and, when you have looked at yourself too
much you can sometimes actually find out something new about yourself by
looking for a change at somebody else as little like you as can possibly
be found. Amory had tried a good many things, but she had never tried
this. It might be worth trying. She hesitated for one moment longer.
This was when she feared that Dorothy might offer her, not the change
from numbness to pain, but a sympathy and consolation that, something
deep down within her told her, would not help her.... A little more
quickly, but not much, she walked up Maiden Road. She turned into Fleet
Road, and reached the tram-terminus below Hampstead Heath Station.
Thence to Dorothy's was a bare five minutes. What she should say when
she got to Dorothy's she did not trouble to think.

And at first it looked as if she would not be allowed to say anything at
all to her, for when she rang the bell of the hall-floor flat Stan
himself opened the door, looked at her with no great favour, and told
her that Dorothy was not to be seen. From that Amory gathered that
Dorothy was at least within.

Now when your need of a thing is very great, you are not to be put off
by a young man who admits that his wife is at home, but tells you that
she has some trifling affair--is in her dressing-gown perhaps, or has
not made her hair tidy--that makes your call slightly inconvenient.
Therefore Amory, in her need, did what the young man would no doubt have
called "an infernally cheeky thing." She repeated her request once more,
and then, seeing another refusal coming, waited for no further reply,
but pushed past Stan and made direct for Dorothy's bedroom. Why she
should have supposed that Dorothy would be in her bedroom she could not
have told. She might equally well have been in the dining-room, or in
the pond-room. But along the passage to the bedroom Amory walked, while
Stan stared in stupefaction after her.

Dorothy was there. She had not gone to bed, but, early as it was,
appeared to have been preparing to do so. Amory knew that because,
though in Britomart Belchamber's case a dressing-gown and plaited hair
might merely have meant that she wanted to listen to Walter Wyron's talk
in looseness and comfort, or else that a plaster cast was to be taken,
they certainly did not mean that in Dorothy's. And she supposed that
differences of that kind were more or less what she had come to see.

Dorothy was gazing into the fire before which the youngest Bit had had
his bath. Close to her own chair was drawn the chair that had evidently
been lately occupied by Stan. The infant Bit's cot was in a corner of
the room. At first Dorothy did not look up from the fire. Probably she
supposed the person who was looking at her from the doorway to be Stan.

But as that person neither spoke nor advanced, she turned her head. The
next moment a curious little sound had come from her lips. You see, in
the first place, she had expected nobody less, and in the second place,
she wholeheartedly shared many of her worldly old aunt's prejudices,
among which was the monstrous one that established a connexion between
recently-bibbed politicians in this country and revolver shots in
another. And there was no doubt whatever that her presentable but
brainless young husband had fostered this fallacious conviction. He
might even have gone so far as to say that Amory herself was not
altogether unresponsible....

And that, too, in a sense, was what Amory had come for.

The eyes of the two women met, Amory's at the door, Dorothy's startled
ones looking over her shoulder; blue ones and shallow brook-brown ones;
and then Dorothy half rose.

But whatever the first expression of her face had been, it hardly lasted
for a quarter of an instant. Alarm instantly took its place. She had
begun to get up as a person gets up who would ask another person what he
is doing there. Now it was as if, though she did not yet know what it
was, there was something to be done, something practical and with the
hands, without a moment's delay.

"What's the matter?" she cried. "Cried" is written, but her exclamation
actually gained in emphasis from the fact that, not to wake the Bit, she
voiced it in a whisper.

For a moment Amory wondered why she should speak like that. Then it
occurred to her that the face of a person under spinal anaesthesia might
in itself be a reason. She had forgotten her face.

"May I come in?" she asked.

She took Dorothy's "Shut the door--and speak low, please--what do you
want?" as an intimation that she might. Amory entered. But she was not
asked to sit down. The man who runs with a fire-call, or fetches a
doctor in the night, is not asked to sit down, and some urgency of that
kind appeared to be Dorothy's conception of Amory's visit.

"What do you want?" she demanded again.

Amory herself felt foolish at her own reply. It was so futile, so
piteous, so true. She stood as helpless as a Bit before Dorothy.

"I--I don't know," she said.

"What's the matter? What are you looking like that for? Has anything
happened to Cosimo?"

"No. No. No. He's coming home. No. Nothing's happened."

"Can I be of use to you?" She was prepared to be that.

"No--yes--I don't know----"

Dorothy's eyes had hardened a little.--"_Do_ you want something--and if
you don't--_had_ you to come--to-night?"

Amory spoke quite quickly and eagerly.

"Oh yes--to-night--it had to be to-night--I had to come to-night----"

Dorothy's eyes grew harder still.

"Then I think I know what you mean.... I don't think we'll talk about
it. There's really nothing to be said.--So----"

Amory was vaguely puzzled. Of Dorothy's relation to Sir Benjamin she
knew nothing. Dorothy appeared to be waiting for her to go. That would
mean back to The Witan. But she had come here expressly to avoid going
back to The Witan. Again she spoke foolishly.

"Cosimo's coming back," she said.

"My aunt thought he might be," said Dorothy in an even voice.

"And I was going away--but I'm not now----"

"Oh?"

"May I sit down?"

She did so, with her doubled fists thrust between her knees and her head
a little bowed. Then her eyes wandered sideways slowly round the room.
Dorothy's blouse was thrown on the wide bed; from under the bed the
baby Bit's bath peeped; and on the blouse lay Dorothy's hairbrushes.

Amory was thinking of another bed, a bed she had never seen, with
portmanteaus on it, and a patched old waistcoat cast underneath it, and
a girl busily packing at it, a girl whose voice she had heard pouting
"You might buy me a trousseau--"

Dorothy also had sat down, but only on the edge of her chair. And she
thought it would be best to speak a little more plainly.

"If you'll come to-morrow I shall know better what to say to you," she
said. "You see, you've taken me by surprise. I didn't think you'd come,
and I don't know now what you've come for. It isn't a thing to talk
about, certainly not to-day. I should have liked to-day to myself. But
if you feel that you must--will you come in again to-morrow?"

But Amory hardly seemed to hear. Her eyes were noting the appointments
of the bedroom again. The time had been when she would at once have
denounced the room as overcrowded and unhygienic. A cot, and a bed with
two pillows ... in some respects her own plan was to be preferred. But
this again was the kind of thing she had come to see, and she admitted
that these things were more or less governed by what people could
afford. From the kicked and scratched condition of the front of the
chest of drawers she imagined that Dorothy's children must romp all over
the flat. A parti-coloured ball lay under the cot where the baby slept.
There was a rubber bath-doll near it. The two older boys would be
sleeping in the next room.

She spoke again.--"I was going away," she said, dully, "with somebody."

Once more Dorothy merely said "Oh?"

Then it occurred to Amory that perhaps Dorothy did not quite understand.

"I mean with--with somebody not my husband."

She had half expected that Dorothy would be shocked, or at least
surprised; but she seemed to take it quite coolly. Dorothy, as a matter
of fact, was not surprised in the very least. She too guessed at the
futility of looking for a starting-point of things that grow by
inevitable and infinitesimal degrees. It was rather sad, but not at all
astonishing. On Amory's own premises, there was simply no reason why she
shouldn't. So again she merely said "Oh?" and added after a moment, "But
you're not?"

"No."

"How's that? Has what we've heard to-day made you change your mind?"

Again Amory was slightly puzzled; and at Dorothy's question she had,
moreover, a sudden little hesitation. _Was_ it after all necessary that
Dorothy should know everything? Would it not be sufficient, without
going into details, to let Dorothy suppose she had changed her mind? It
came to the same thing in the end.... Besides, Edgar Strong had not
refused her that night. He had not even known of her presence in the
office. Of the rest she would make a clean breast, but it was no good
bothering Dorothy with that other.... She was still plunged into a sort
of stupor, but these reflections stirred ever so slightly under the
surface of it....

Then "what we've heard to-day" struck her. She repeated the words.

"What we've heard to-day?"

"Oh, if you haven't heard.... I only mean about the murder of my uncle,"
said Dorothy coldly.

This was far more than Amory could take in. She reflected for a moment.
Then, "What do you say, Dorothy?" she asked slowly.

"At least he wasn't my uncle really. I liked him better than any of my
uncles."

"Do you mean Sir Benjamin Collins?"

It was as if Amory had not imagined that Sir Benjamin could by any
possibility have been anybody's uncle.

"I called him uncle," said Dorothy, in a voice that she tried to keep
steady. "Before I could say the word--I called him----." But she decided
not to risk the baby-word she had used--"Unnoo"----

It seemed to Amory a remarkable little coincidence.

"I--I didn't know," she said stupidly.

"No."

"You--you mean you--knew him?----"

"Oh ... oh yes."

Amory said again that she hadn't known....

"Then why," Dorothy would have liked to cry aloud, "_have_ you come, if
it isn't to make matters worse by talking about it? That wouldn't have
surprised me very much! I should have been quite prepared for you to
apologize! It's the kind of thing you would do. I don't think very much
of you, you see"... But again that worse than frightened look on her
visitor's face struck her sharply, and again a remark of her aunt's
returned to her: "They puzzle their brains till their bodies suffer, and
overwork their bodies till they're little better than fools." Suddenly
she gave her sometime friend more careful attention.

"Amory--," she said all at once.

Amory had her fists between her knees again.--"What?" she said without
looking up.

"You just said something about--going away. I want to ask you something.
You haven't ...?"

The meaning was quite plain.

As if she had been galvanized, Amory looked sharply up.--"How dare----",
she began.

But it was only a flash in the pan. Dorothy was looking into her eyes.

"You're telling me the truth?" She hated to ask the question.

"Yes," Amory mumbled, dropping her head again.

"Has Cosimo been unkind to you?"

"No."

"Nor neglected you?"

"No."

"Has--has anybody been unkind to you?" She could not speak of "somebody"
by name.

Here Amory hesitated, and finally lied. It was rather a good sign that
she did so. It meant returning animation....

"No," she said.

"Then what _has_ happened?"

"Nothing. That's what I asked myself. That's just it. Nothing. Nothing
at all's happened."

Dorothy spoke in a low voice, as if to herself.--"I know," she
murmured....

And, on the chance that she really did know, Amory clutched at the
sleeve of Dorothy's dressing-gown almost excitedly.

"Yes, that's what I mean ... you do know?" she asked in a quick whisper.

"Yes--no--I'm not sure----"

"But you _do_ know that--nothing happening, nothing at all, and
everything happening--everything? That's what I mean--that's what I want
to know--that's why I came----"

"Don't speak so loudly. Put your hands to the fire; they're like ice.
Wait; I'll get you a shawl; you're shivering.... Now I want you to tell
me some things...."

And, first wrapping her up and putting Stan's pillow behind her back,
she began to question her.

       *       *       *       *       *

What, again, was the purport of her questions? What of those of her
aunt? What of those of a good many others in an age that is producing,
and for some mysterious reason or other counts it a sign of progress to
produce, innumerable Amorys--so many that, stretch out your hand where
you will, and you will touch one?

All is guessing: but it will pass on the time if we hold a Meeting about
it now. Everybody is agreed that the way to arrive at the best
conclusions is to hold a Meeting, and this will be only one more
Meeting added to the cloud of Meetings in which the "Novum" went up and
out--the Meeting which, as Edgar Strong had prophesied, the loyal London
Indians held (in the Imperial Institute) in order to dissociate
themselves from the Collins affair (as Edgar Strong had also prophesied,
Mr. Wilkinson moved an amendment, "That this Meeting declines to
dissociate itself, etc. etc.")--the numerous secondary Meetings that
arose out of that Meeting--the Meetings of the "Novum's" creditors (for
Edgar Strong in his haste to be off had omitted to pay all the
bills)--the Meetings at which (Cosimo Pratt having withdrawn his
support) the Eden and the Suffrage Shop had to be reconstructed--the
Meetings convened to talk about this, that and the other--as many of
them as you like.

Let us too, then, hold a nice, jolly Meeting, in order to find out what
was the matter with Amory--a Meeting with Mr. Brimby in the Chair, to
tell us that there is a great deal to be said on both sides, and that no
party has a monopoly of Truth, and that the words that ought always to
be on our lips as we hurl ourselves into the thickest and hottest of the
fray, whatever it may be, are "To know all is to forgive all."

But let us keep our Meeting as quiet as we can, for we shall have no end
of a crowd of Meeting-lovers there if we don't. The Wyrons will of
course have to be admitted, and Mr. Wilkinson, and Dickie Lemesurier,
and a few of the older students of the McGrath; but we do not
particularly want the others--those who feel that in a better and
brighter world they would have been students of the McGrath, but, as
matters stand, are merely young clerks who can draw a little, young
salesmen who can write a little, young auctioneers with an instinct for
the best in sculpture, young foremen who yearn to express themselves in
music, young governesses (or a few of them) who have heard of the
enormous sums of money to be made by playwriting, New Imperialists,
amateur regenerators, social prophets after working-hours, and, in a
word, all the people who have just heard that it is not true that Satan
is yet bound up for his promised stretch of a thousand years. A terrible
number of them will get in whether we wish it or not; but let the rest
be our own little party; and you shall sit next to Britomart Belchamber,
and I will stand by to open the windows in case we feel the need of a
little fresh air.

So Mr. Brimby will open the proceedings. He will say the things
above-mentioned, and presently, with emotion and his sense of the
world's sorrow gaining on him, will come to the case of their dear
friend Amory Pratt. Here, he will say, is a young woman, one of
themselves, who does not know what is the matter with her--who does not
know what has become of her joy--who cannot understand (if Mr. Brimby
may be allowed to express himself a little poetically) why the bloom of
her life has turned to an early rime. And so (Mr. Brimby will continue),
knowing that if two heads are better than one, two hundred heads must be
just one hundred times better still, their friend has submitted her case
to the Meeting. He will beg them to approach that case sympathetically.
Let the extremists of the one part (if there be any) balance the
extremists of the other, leaving as an ideal and beautiful middle
nullity those words he had used before, but did not apologize for using
again--to know all is to forgive all. And with these few remarks (if we
are lucky), Mr. Brimby will say no more, but will call upon their friend
Mr. Walter Wyron to state his view of their friend's case.

Then Walter will get up, with his hands in the pockets of his knickers,
and it will not be his fault if he does not get off an epigram or two of
the "Love is Law" kind. But you will not fail to notice that Walter is
not his ordinary jaunty self. The withdrawal of Cosimo's support is
going to hit him rather hard, and glances will be exchanged, and one or
two will whisper behind their hands, "Isn't Walter beginning to live a
little on his reputation?" Still, Walter will contribute his quotum. We
shall hear that, in his opinion, the Cause of Synthetic Protoplasm is
making such vast strides to-day that we must revise every one of our
estimates in the light of the most recent knowledge, having done which
we shall probably find that what is really the matter with Amory is
that, by comparison with the mechanical appliances of Loeb and
Delage--appliances which he will take leave to call the Womb of the
Workshop--their friend Amory is over-vitalized.

Then Mr. Wilkinson will spring to his feet. And Mr. Wilkinson also will
be more than a little sore about Cosimo's cowardly backsliding. He will
say first of all that their Chairman, as usual, is talking out of his
hat, and that anybody with a grain of sense knew that to know all was to
have a contempt for all; and then he will point out that all the trouble
had come of shillyshallying with the wrong policy. Under Strong's
direction of the "Novum," he will say, Amory had been hitting the air to
no purpose; whereas had he, Mr. Wilkinson, been allowed a chance, they
would have had the proletariat armed with rifles by this, and Pratt's
wife would have been a _tricoteuse_, doing a bit of knitting
conspiratoriably and domestically useful at one and the same time--would
have worn a Phrygian cap, and carried a pike, and sung "A la Lanterne,"
and put a bit of fire into the men! That's what she ought to have done,
and have had a bit of a run for her money, instead of shillyshallying
about with that idiot Strong----

And then a maiden speech will be given us. Mr. Raffinger, of the
McGrath, will get timidly but resolutely up, and we shall all applaud
him when he says that the bad old _régime_ at the McGrath was at the
bottom of all the mischief. The stupid old Professors of the past had
tried to drill instruction into the students instead of allowing each
one to do exactly as he pleased and so to find his own soul. Amory had
been crushed under the cruel old Juggernaut of discipline. But that,
happily, was a thing of the past at the McGrath. Now they went on the
more enlightened principles laid down by Séguin, who cured a child of
destructiveness by giving it a piece of priceless Venetian glass to play
with, and when he broke it gave it another unique piece, and then
another, and another after that, and another, until by degrees the child
learned, _and would never have to unlearn_ (that was the important
thing!) that it was very naughty to break valuable Venetian glass. (A
"Hear hear" from Mr. Brimby, which will probably prove so disconcerting
to young Mr. Raffinger that he will sit down as suddenly as if Mr.
Wilkinson had discharged two bullets at him).

And then Laura Wyron will speak, saying tremulously that she can't
understand why Amory isn't happy when she has those two lovely babies;
but she is not happy, and never will be again, because she has turned
her back on her art; and Britomart Belchamber (who will be hoisted to
her feet because she has lived in the same house with Amory, and may
have something interesting and intimate to say) will doubt whether Amory
has always quite closed the sweat-ducts with a cold sponge; and then the
crowd will rush in--the governess playwrights will say what they think,
the clerk sculptors what they think, and everybody else what he or she
thinks--and presently they will have strayed a little from the business
in hand, and will be discussing Cubism, or Matriarchy, or Toe-posts, or
the Revival of the Ballad, or Rufty Tufty, quite beyond Mr. Brimby's
power to hale them back to the proper subject. And so the Meeting will
have to be adjourned, and we shall all go again to-morrow night, when
Mr. Wilkinson will be in the Chair, and there ought to be some fun----

But Edgar Strong will not be there, because he will be on the water, and
Cosimo will not be there, because he will be anxiously counting what
money remains to him, and Mr. Prang will not be there, because he will
be under arrest in Bombay. But, except for these absences, it will be a
perfectly ripping Meeting----

       *       *       *       *       *

But none of these things were Dorothy's business. Instead, by the time
she had finished her questioning of Amory, there was no thought at all
in her breast, save only the pitiful desire to help. She saw before her
an old young woman, more drained and disillusioned and with less to look
forward to at thirty-odd than her aunt had at seventy. Her very presence
in Dorothy's house that night was a confession of it. It was the last
house she would willingly have gone to, and yet there she was, begging
Dorothy to tell her what had happened to her. And there was nothing for
Dorothy to say in reply....

She knew that Stan, in the dining-room, was waiting to come to bed, but
he must wait; Dorothy had the fire to mend, and Amory's cold hands to
chafe, and to get her something hot to drink, and a dozen other things
to do that had never had a beginning either, yet there they were, mere
helpful habit and nothing more. Presently she set a cup of hot soup to
Amory's lips.

"Drink this," she said, "and when you're rested my husband will take you
home."

But that did not happen either. Amory spoke very tiredly.

"I should like--I don't want to trouble you--anywhere would do--but I
don't want to go home to-night----"

Dorothy made a swift and doubting mental calculation. Where could she
put her?----

"I'm simply done up," muttered Amory closing her eyes.

"I'm afraid we could only give you a shakedown in the dining-room----"

"Yes--that would do----"

Dorothy went out to give Stan his orders. Stan swore. "Rather cool, one
of _that_ crew coming here, to-night of all nights!" But Dorothy was
peremptory.

"It isn't cool at all. You don't know anything about it. You'll find
blankets in the chest in your dressing-room, and mind you don't wake
Noel. Then get some cushions--I'll air a pillowcase--and then you must
go up there and tell them where she is--they'll be anxious----"

"Shall I bring those twins of hers back with me while I'm about it?"
Stan asked satirically. "May as well put the lot up."

When he heard Dorothy's reply he thought that his wife really had gone
mad.

"I've arranged that," she said. "We shall be putting the twins up for a
time at Ludlow by and by while she and her husband go away somewhere for
a change. It's the least we can do. Don't stand gaping there, Stan----"

"Hm! May I ask what's up?"

"You may if you like, but I shan't tell you."

"Hm!... Well--it's a dog's life--but I suppose it's no good my saying
anything----"

"Not a bit."

So Amory was put to bed, most unhygienically, in Dorothy's dining-room;
but in the middle of the night she woke, quite unable to remember where
she was. There was a narrow opening between the drawn curtains; through
it a glimmer of light shone on the Venetian blinds from the street-lamp
outside; and without any other light Amory got out of her improvised
couch. She felt her way along the wall to a switch, and then suddenly
flooded the room with light.

Blinking, she looked around. She herself wore one of Dorothy's
nightgowns. On Stan's armchair, near his pipe-rack, was her hat, and her
clothing lay in a heap where she had stepped out of it. Dorothy's
slippers lay by the fender, and Dorothy had been too occupied to
remember to remove the photograph of Uncle Ben from the mantelpiece. It
seemed to be watching Amory as she stood, only half awake, in her
borrowed nightgown.

It was odd, the way things came about----

If you had asked Amory at six o'clock the evening before where she
intended to spend the night, she would not have replied "In Dorothy
Tasker's flat----"

But she felt frightfully listless, and the improvised bed was very
warm----

She switched off the light and crept back.



TAILPIECE


Along the terrace of the late Sir Noel Tasker's house--"The Brear,"
Ludlow--there rushed a troop of ten or twelve urchins. They were dressed
anyhow, in variously-coloured jerseys, shirts, jackets and blazers, and
the legs of half of them were bare, and brown as sand. Their ages varied
from five to fifteen, and it is hardly necessary to say that as they ran
they shouted. A retriever, two Irish terriers, an Airedale and a
Sealyham tore barking after them. It was a July evening, amber and
windless, and the shouting and barking diminished as the horde turned
the corner of the long low white house and disappeared into the beech
plantation. Their tutor was enjoying a well-earned pipe in the
coach-house.

From the tall drawing-room window there stepped on to the terrace a
group of older people. The sound of wheels slowly ascending the drive
could be heard. Lady Tasker came out first; she was followed by Cosimo
and Amory and Dorothy and Stan. A little pile of labelled bags stood
under the rose-grown verandah; the larger boxes had already gone on to
the station by cart.

Stan took a whistle from his pocket and blew two shrill blasts; then he
drew out his watch. The sounds of shouting drew near again.

"I give 'em thirty seconds," Stan remarked.... "Twenty-five,
twenty-six--leg it, Corin!--ah; twenty-eight!... Company--fall in!"

The young Tims and the young Tonys, Corin and Bonniebell and the
terriers, stood (dogs and all, save for their tails) stiff as ramrods.
Stan replaced his watch. He had been fishing, and still wore his tweed
peaked cap, with a spare cast or two wound round it.

"Company--'Shun! Stand a-a-at--ease! 'S you were! Stand a-a-at--ease!
Stand easy.... Tony, fall out and see to the bags. Tim, hold the horse.
Corin--Corin!--What do you keep in the trenches?"

"Silence," piped up Corin. He had a rag round one brown knee, his head
was half buried in an old field-service cap, and he refused to be
parted, day nor night, from the wooden gun he carried.

"Not so much noise then.--Who hauls down the flag to-night?"

"Billie."

"Billie stand by. The rest of you dismiss, but don't go far--'Evening,
Richards----"

The trap drew up in front of the house. Tim held the horse's head, Tony
stood among the bags. The leavetaking began.

Amory and Cosimo were going to Cumberland for the rest of the summer.
They would have liked to go to Norway, but the money would no longer
run to it. They seemed a little shy of one another. They had been at the
Brear a fortnight, and had had the little room over the porch. The twins
were remaining behind for the present. Dorothy had said they would be no
trouble. This was entirely untrue. They were more trouble than all the
rest put together. Corin, near the schoolroom window, was wrangling with
an eight years old Woodgate now.

"They do, there! On Hampstead Heath! I've seen them, an' they've hats,
an' waterbottles, an' broomsticks!"

"Pooh, broomsticks! My father has a big elephant-gun!"

"Well ... mine goes to great big Meetings, an' says 'Hear hear!'"

"My father's in India!"

"Well, so was mine!"

"_I've_ seen them troop the Colour at the Horse Guards' Parade!"

"So've I!" Corin mendaciously averred.

The other boy opened his eyes wide and protruded his mouth. It is rarely
that one boy does not know when another boy is lying.

"Oh, what a big one! _You'd_ catch it if Uncle Stan heard you!"

"Well," Corin pouted, "--I will--or else I'll cry all night--hard--and
I'll make Bonnie cry too!--"

"Well, an' so shall I, again, an' then I'll have seen it twice, an'
you'll only have seen it once, an' if I see it every time you do you'll
_never_ have seen it as often as me!"

Then Stan's voice was heard.

"Corin, come here."

It was an atmosphere of insensate militarism, but the Pratts were
content to leave their offspring to breathe it for the present. They had
another matter to attend to--their own marital relations. It had at last
occurred to them that you cannot rule others until you can govern
yourself, and they were going to see what could be done about it. They
had secured a cottage miles away from anywhere, at the head of a
narrow-gauge railway, and it remained to be seen whether quiet and
privacy and the resources they might find within themselves would avail
them better than the opposites of these things had done. There was just
the chance that they might--their only chance. The twins, if all went
well, would join them by and by. In the meantime they must see red, and
learn to do things with once telling.

So Amory took the struggling Corin into her arms--he wanted to go to the
armoury of wooden guns--and kissed him. Then he ran unconcernedly off.
Dorothy saw the sad little lift of Amory's bosom, guessed the cause, and
laughed.

"Shocking little ingrates!" she said. "Noel's joy when I go away is
sometimes indecent.--But don't be afraid they'll be any trouble to us
here. You see the rabble we have in any case."

"It's very good of you," Amory murmured awkwardly.

"Nothing of the sort. Stan loves to manage them--it keeps his hand in
for managing me, he says.... Now, I don't want to hurry you, but you'd
better be off if you're going to get as far as Liverpool to-night.
Good-bye, dear----"

"Good-bye, Dorothy----"

"So long, Pratt--up with those bags, Tim----"

"Good-bye, Bonnie----"

"Corin! Corin!--(Hm! See if I don't have you in hand in another week or
two, my boy!)--Come and say good-bye to your father."

"Good-bye, Lady Tasker----"

"All right?"

The wheels crunched; hands were waved; the rabble gave a shockingly
undisciplined cheer; and young Arthur Woodgate, who had run along the
terrace and stood holding the gate at the end open, saluted. Stan took
out his watch again.

"Four minutes to sunset," he announced.

But there was no need to tell Billie to stand by to strike the flag that
hung motionless above the gable where the old billiard-room and gun-room
had been thrown together to make the schoolroom. The halyards were
already in his hands.

"Here, Corin," Stan called, "you shall fire the gun to-night."

Corin gave a wild yell of joy. Well out of reach, there was an electric
button on one of the rose-grown verandah posts. Stan lifted his newest
recruit to it, who put a finger-tip on it and shut his eyes----

"BANG!" went the little brass carronade in the locked enclosure behind
the woodshed----

And hand over hand Billie hauled the flag down.

But it would be run up again in the morning.



_Printed by_ BUTLER & TANNER, _Frome and London_.



                                                         _SPRING 1914_
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previous story, _The Two Kisses_, of a very modern courtship. In it two
_ménages_ are contrasted, the one run on new and liberal and enlightened
lines, the other still dominated by the ideas of the benighted past.
What the difference between them comes to in the end depends entirely on
the interpretation put upon the story, but the comedy 'note' speaks for
itself. It may be remembered that _The Two Kisses_ touches on the
foibles of certain artists. _A Crooked Mile_ deals with the vagaries of
a certain airy amateurism in Imperial Politics.


THE SEA CAPTAIN

     By H. C. BAILEY, Author of 'The Lonely Queen.'

One of the great company of Elizabethan seamen is the hero of this
novel. There is, however, no attempt at glorifying him or his comrades.
Mr. Bailey has endeavoured to mingle realism with the romance of the
time. Captain Rymingtowne is presented as no crusader but something of a
merchant, something of an adventurer and a little of a pirate. He has
nothing to do with the familiar tales of the Spanish Main and the
Indies. His voyages were to the Mediterranean when the Moorish corsairs
were at the height of their power, and of them and their great leaders,
Kheyr-éd-din Barbarossa and Dragut Reis, the story has much to tell.
Captain Rymingtowne was concerned in the famous Moorish raid to capture
the most beautiful woman in Europe and in the amazing affair of the
Christian prisoners at Alexandria.


FIREMEN HOT

     By C. J. CUTCLIFFE HYNE, Author of 'The Adventures of Captain
     Kettle.'

In _Firemen Hot_, Mr. Cutcliffe Hyne has added three clearly etched
portraits to a gallery which already contains those marine 'musketeers,'
Thompson, McTodd, and Captain Kettle. The marine fireman is probably at
about the bottom of the social scale, but, in Mr. Hyne's pages, he is
very much the human being. In each chapter the redoubtable trio play
before a different background, but whether they are in New Orleans or
Hull, in Vera Cruz or Marseilles, one can tell in a paragraph that the
author is writing of his ground from first-hand knowledge, and his
characters from intimate and joyous study of them. A few Captain Kettle
stories have been added.


SIMPSON

     By ELINOR MORDAUNT, Author of 'The Cost of It.'

Simpson is a retired business man in the prime of life, who, beneath a
rugged exterior, possesses a sympathetic heart. Yet, finding no woman to
fill it, he organizes a bachelor's club of congenial spirits and leases
a fine old English country estate, there to live in _dolce far niente_
untroubled by feminism in any form. How first one member of the club and
then another drops away for sentimental reasons until only Simpson is
left, and then his final capitulation to the only woman--all this makes
a delightful bit of comedy. The book, however, is more than a comedy.
Running through it is a sound knowledge of human life and character, and
the writing is always brilliant. It is a book out of the ordinary in
every way.


TWO WOMEN

     By MAX PEMBERTON, Author of 'The Mystery of the Green Heart.'


DAVID AND JONATHAN IN THE RIVIERA

     By L. B. WALFORD, Author of 'Mr. Smith.'

Two simple, unsophisticated bachelors, respectively minister and elder
of a Scotch country parish, go to the Riviera for health's sake, and the
rich and jovial 'Jonathan,' older by fifteen years than his friend,
means to have a merry time, and to force the reluctant, shy, and
sensitive 'David' into having a merry time too. He 'opines' that David
needs waking up. Jonathan Buckie reminds us of Mrs. Walford's earlier
hero 'Mr. Smith,' but unluckily his heart of gold is not united to the
latter's personal charms, and he continually jars upon his companion,
especially when making new acquaintances. His habit of doing this in and
out of season eventually leads to disaster, and both men pass through a
never-to-be-forgotten experience of the sirens of the South before they
return home. An old Scotch serving-man, who attends Mr. Buckie as valet,
plays no small part in the story, and his sardonic comments, grim
humour, and the way in which he handles his master, whose measure he has
taken to a nicety, make many amusing episodes.


THE ORLEY TRADITION

     By RALPH STRAUS.

The Orleys are an old noble family, once powerful, but now living
quietly in a corner of England (Kent). They do nothing at all, in spite
of people's endeavours to make them reach to the older heights. But they
are happy in their retirement, and the real reason for this is that they
have few brains. John Orley, the hero, has all the family
characteristics, and is preparing himself for a humdrum country life,
when he meets with an accident which prevents him from playing games,
etc. He becomes ambitious, goes out into the world, and--fails at
everything. He recovers his strength, and sees the mistake he has made,
and the book ends as it began, the Orley Tradition holding true.


ON THE STAIRCASE

     By FRANK SWINNERTON.

The scene of Mr. Frank Swinnerton's new novel is set in the heart of
London, in the parish of Holborn. The reproduction of manners, and the
revelation by this means of the spirit underlying those manners, forms
the framework of a story of passion. In the main, therefore, _On the
Staircase_ is a romance with a clearly defined setting of commonplace
happenings, in which the loves of Barbara Gretton and Adrian Velancourt
are shown in conflict with the action of circumstance. The book is in no
sense photographic, but it has value as a social picture, being based
upon genuine observation.


MAN AND WOMAN

     By L. G. MOBERLY, Author of 'Joy.'

This story, which is based on Tennyson's lines--'The woman's cause is
man's, they rise or sink together'--has for its chief character a woman
who takes the feminist view that man is the enemy; a view from which she
is ultimately converted. Another prominent character is one whose love
is given to a weak man, her axiom being that love takes no heed of the
worthiness or unworthiness of its object. The scene is laid partly in
London, partly in a country cottage, and partly in India during the
Durbar of the King-Emperor.


MAX CARRADOS

     By ERNEST BRAMAH, Author of 'The Wallet of Kai Lung.'

Max Carrados is blind, but in his case blindness is more than
counter-balanced by an enormously enhanced perception of the other
senses. How these serve their purpose in the various difficulties and
emergencies that confront the wealthy amateur when, through the
instigation of his friend Louis Carlyle, a private inquiry agent, he
devotes himself to the elucidation of mysteries, is the basis of Mr.
Ernest Bramah's new book. The adventures that ensue range from
sensational tragedy to romantic comedy as the occasions rise.


THE MAN UPSTAIRS

     By P. G. WODEHOUSE, Author of 'The Little Nugget.'

Under this title Mr. Wodehouse has collected nineteen of the short
stories written by him in the past four years. Mr. Wodehouse is one of
the few English short-story writers with an equally large public on both
sides of the Atlantic: but only two of these stories have an American
setting. All except one of this collection are humorous, and some idea
of the variety of incident of the remainder may be gathered from the
fact that their heroes include a barber, a gardener, an artist, a
playwriter, a tramp, a waiter, an hotel clerk, a golfer, a stockbroker,
a butler, a bank clerk, an assistant master at a private school, an
insurance clerk, a peer's son who is also a leading member of a First
League Association football team, and a Knight of King Arthur's Round
Table who is neither brave nor handsome.


SQUARE PEGS

     By CHARLES INGE, Author of 'The Unknown Quantity.'

This novel raises again the absorbing question as to what is failure and
what success. It tells how a big man from South Africa sets out to
conquer London--the London of the Lobby and the Clubs--with a threepenny
weekly paper and sympathy for the unemployed; how he fails, but in
failure wins his woman; how she too suffers in the London of women
workers. There is, on the other side, the little solicitor who
calculates for and succeeds by the other's failure; but in succeeding
loses. The background includes the life drama of an enthusiast for
Labour reform.


MESSENGERS

     By MARGARET HOPE, Author of 'Christina Holbrook.'

A story of the sudden yielding to temptation of a woman of good
position. She suffers for her fault in prison, but her sufferings on
release are ten times greater. She tries her utmost to keep the
knowledge of her guilt from her daughter, a girl just left school, but
in vain. The girl, in a painful scene, demands to be told the truth, and
the mother, unable to bear the sight of her child's misery, flies from
home, hoping still in some way to retrieve the past. But the net of
circumstance is too strongly woven.


ENTER AN AMERICAN

     By E. CROSBY-HEATH, Author of 'Henrietta taking Notes.'

The hero of Miss Crosby-Heath's new novel is a self-made American, who
comes to London and enters a Home for Paying Guests. He is an optimistic
philanthropist, and he contrives to help all the English friends he
makes. His own crudity is modified by his London experiences, and the
dull minds of his middle-class English friends are broadened by contact
with his untrammelled personality. A humorous love interest runs through
the book.


THE FRUITS OF THE MORROW

     By AGNES JACOMB, Author of 'The Faith of his Fathers.'

_The Fruits of the Morrow_ is a novel showing the consequences of a
man's and a woman's conduct in the past and how it affects the lives of
their two sons. The other characters of the story are in different
degrees involved in the results of the old romance, but not
irredeemably. There is no hero in the ordinary sense of the word, the
four male characters being of almost equal importance. The action takes
place mainly in East Anglia and during the months of one summer.


A GIRL FROM MEXICO

     By R. B. TOWNSHEND, Author of 'Lone Pine.'

Adventures are to the adventurous, and a very young Oxford man who
strikes out for himself in the wild and woolly West is apt to come in
for some lively developments. He gets an exciting start by going
partners with a Mormon-eating American desperado, and when the
unsophisticated youth falls in love with a velvet-eyed Mexican senorita,
and then finds himself called upon in honour to play the part of Don
Quixote, things begin to get tangled up. Finally he becomes involved in
a struggle, not only with Mormons but with Mexican self-torturers in a
great scene on the Calvary of the Penitentes which forms the climax of
the story.


SARAH MIDGET

     By LINCOLN GREY.

In the sedate atmosphere of a quiet country town there develop the later
phases of a man's sin, when he has become rich and powerful, and the
woman whom he thrust aside in his early manhood learns, all
unconsciously, to love the son of her successful rival. How Sarah Midget
rises, in the shock of a great tragedy, to supreme heights of
self-sacrifice, is shown in poignant and moving scenes.


AN ASTOUNDING GOLF MATCH

     By 'STANCLIFFE,' Author of 'Fun on the Billiard Table' and 'Golf
     Do's and Dont's.'

The narrative of the adventures of two golfers of equal handicaps, but
different styles, who being dissatisfied with the result of two home and
home matches, decide that golf across country from links to links, would
be more scientific and interesting than golf where all the hazards are
known. The troubles that befell them, and how the match came to an
abrupt termination, to the discomfort of one and the joy of the other,
are told in this book.


BLACKLAW

     By Sir GEORGE MAKGILL.

This is a study in temperaments--a contrast between the old and the new
views of the relations between parent and child. Lord Blacklaw throws up
rank and fortune, takes his children to the Colonies to live 'the
Patriarchal Life,' and sacrifices their future to his own impulses. John
Westray, on the other hand, gives up happiness, even life itself, for
what he deems his son's welfare. Each from his own point of view fails,
yet neither life is wholly wasted. The scenes are laid in Scotland, New
Zealand, and in a Cornish Art Colony.


POTTER AND CLAY

     By Mrs. STANLEY WRENCH, Author of 'Love's Fool,' 'Pillars of
     Smoke,' 'The Court of the Gentiles,' etc.

In this story the author returns to the peasant folk of the Midlands
whom she knows so well, and of whom she has written with sympathetic
frankness in several books already. Just now, when the land question is
so much discussed, this novel, dealing in the main with tillers of the
soil, should receive careful attention.


A ROMAN PICTURE

     By PAUL WAINEMAN, Author of 'A Heroine from Finland.'

Mr. Paul Waineman, the Finnish novelist who has so far allowed his pen
only to describe his native land Finland, has in his latest work essayed
a new and also very old hunting ground for those in search of romance.
_A Roman Picture_ is a romantic love story, set in the Mother City of
the world, Rome. The author, from personal experience, shows up in a
daring manner the hatred that still exists between the old and the new
Rome. The heavy shadows and many memories within the vast decaying Roman
palace, haunted by the living presence of the young and beautiful Donna
Bianca Savelli, the last representative of an ancient line, form a
pen-picture which will appeal to the many lovers of Rome.


THE GIRL ON THE GREEN

     By MARK ALLERTON, Author of 'Such and Such Things.'

The atmosphere of the links pervades Mark Allerton's new novel. The wind
from the sea blows fresh through its pages. The heroine is a charming,
high-spirited girl who on her way from college to Bury St. Dunstan's,
has an unexpected excursion into Militancy. The author has no views to
present on the Suffrage Movement; nor, indeed, has his heroine, whose
not-to-be-explained week-end in a police cell gives ample scope for a
highly amusing and exciting story. While _The Girl on the Green_ makes a
bid for general popularity, golfers will find it of particular interest.
Mark Allerton is well known as a writer on the game, and his description
of the great golf match between the hero and heroine will be found full
of sly allusions to topics in the knowledge of all golfers, as well as
an uncommonly racy and exciting finish to a breezy story.


DICKIE DEVON

     By JOHN OVERTON, Author of 'Lynette.'

Mr. John Overton's second novel is laid in Worcestershire in the summer
of 1644, and is the story of a young Cavalier, forced by adverse
circumstances to become a spy among the Roundheads. His position is a
difficult and dangerous one, and matters are made worse by the advent of
a spoilt Court beauty, who--mistaking him for another man--imagines
herself to be his wife. Readers of _Lynette_ will welcome the
reappearance of the happy-go-lucky Irishman, Michael Fleming, who plays
a leading part in this romance of love and war.


THE STORY OF A CIRCLE

     By M. A. CURTOIS, Author of 'A Summer in Cornwall.'

A story of an experiment in the Occult, in which some ladies who began
by being idly interested in psychical research, find themselves in
dangerous contact with the material necessities of mediums. Much light
is cast upon that strange population of charlatans who grow fat on the
credulity of the foolish in London.


LOTTERIES OF CIRCUMSTANCE

     By R. C. LYNEGROVE.

This story is laid in Germany, and describes the matrimonial adventures
of two sisters belonging to the impoverished German aristocracy. The
elder, gentle and unselfish, marries into the vulgar domineering family
of Gubbenmeyer. The other, flirtatious and attractive, saves herself and
her family from penury by securing a rich officer, only to jeopardize
everything through her undisciplined and sensuous temperament.

  +-----------------------------------------------------------------+
  | Transcriber's Notes:                                            |
  |                                                                 |
  | Words surrounded by _ are italicized.                           |
  |                                                                 |
  | Obvious punctuation errors repaired.                            |
  |                                                                 |
  | Printer's errors repaired, including:                           |
  | - Page 128, "interestng" corrected to be "interesting" (really  |
  |   interesting detail)                                           |
  | - Page 129, "advertisments" corrected to be "advertisements"    |
  |   (advertisements had not)                                      |
  | - Page 217, "necesarily" corrected to be "necessarily" (did not |
  |   necessarily)                                                  |
  | - Page 219, "relasped" corrected to be "relapsed" (relapsed     |
  |   into silence)                                                 |
  | - Page 227, "if" corrected to be "it" (take it for)             |
  | - Page 233, "ideals" corrected to be "ideas" (ideas seem        |
  |   original)                                                     |
  | - Page 295, "premisses" corrected to be "premises" (own         |
  |   premises)                                                     |
  | - Page 296, "what "what" corrected to be "what" ("what we've    |
  |   heard)                                                        |
  | - Page 302, "consspiratoriably" corrected to be                 |
  |   "conspiratoriably" (knitting conspiratoriably)                |
  |                                                                 |
  | Other variable spellings within the text retained, including:   |
  | - The same word with and without apostrophe, for example:       |
  |   "Golder's Green" and "Golders Green"                          |
  | - The same word with and without accent, for example:           |
  |   "régime" and "regime"                                         |
  | - The same word with and without hyphen, for example:           |
  |   "off-handedly" and "offhandedly"                              |
  | - Inconsistent spelling, for example: "by and by" and "by and   |
  |   bye"                                                          |
  |                                                                 |
  +-----------------------------------------------------------------+





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