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Title: Spiritual Adventures
Author: Symons, Arthur, 1865-1945
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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http://www.pgdpcanada.net



  CONSTABLE'S MISCELLANY
  OF ORIGINAL & SELECTED
  PUBLICATIONS IN LITERATURE

  SPIRITUAL

  ADVENTURES

  BY

  ARTHUR

  SYMONS


  CONSTABLE·AND·CO·LIMITED·LONDON



  _First Published_ 1905.
  _Constable's Miscellany_ 1928.

  Printed in Great Britain by
  Lowe & Brydone Printers Limited. Park Street, N.W.1.



  TO

  THOMAS HARDY



  CONTENTS


                                                PAGE

  A PRELUDE TO LIFE                                3

  ESTHER KAHN                                     57

  CHRISTIAN TREVALGA                              91

  THE CHILDHOOD OF LUCY NEWCOME                  125

  THE DEATH OF PETER WAYDELIN                    157

  AN AUTUMN CITY                                 189

  SEAWARD LACKLAND                               213

  EXTRACTS FROM THE JOURNAL OF HENRY LUXULYAN    253



  A PRELUDE TO LIFE.


  I

I am afraid I must begin a good way back if I am to explain myself to
myself at all satisfactorily. I can see how the queer child I was laid
the foundation of the man I became, and yet I remember singularly little
of my childhood. My parents were never very long in one place, and I
have never known what it was to have a home, as most children know it; a
home that has been lived in so long that it has got into the ways, the
bodily creases, of its inhabitants, like an old, comfortable garment,
warmed through and through by the same flesh. I left the town where I
was born when I was one year old, and I have never seen it since. I do
not even remember in what part of England my eyes first became conscious
of the things about them. I remember the hammering of iron on wood, when
a great ship was launched in a harbour; the terrifying sound of cannons,
as they burst into smoke on a great plain near an ancient castle, while
the soldiers rode in long lines across the grass; the clop-clop of a
cripple with a wooden leg; with my intense terror at the toppling wagons
of hay, as I passed them in the road. I remember absolutely nothing else
out of my very early childhood; I have not even been told many things
about it, except that I once wakened my mother, as I lay in a little cot
at her side, to listen to the nightingales, and that Victor Hugo once
stopped the nurse to smile at me, as she walked with me in her arms at
Fermain Bay, in Guernsey. If I have been a vagabond, and have never been
able to root myself in any one place in the world, it is because I have
no early memories of any one sky or soil. It has freed me from many
prejudices in giving me its own unresting kind of freedom; but it has
cut me off from whatever is stable, of long growth in the world.

I could not read until I was nine years old, and I could not read
because I resolutely refused to learn. I declared that it was
impossible; that I, at all events, never could do it; and I made the
most of a slight weakness in my eyes, saying that it hurt them, and
drawing tears out of my eyes at the sight of a book. I liked being read
to, and I used to sit on the bed while my sister, who often had to lie
down to rest, read out stories to me. I had a theory that a boy must
never show any emotion, and the pathetic parts of 'Uncle Tom's Cabin'
tried me greatly. On one occasion I felt my sobs choking me, and the
passion of sorrow, mingled with the certainty that my emotion would
betray itself, sent me into a paroxysm of rage, in which I tore the book
from my sister's hands, and attacked her with my fists.

I never learned to read properly until I went to school at the age of
nine. I had been for a little while to a dame's school, and learned
nothing. I could only read easy words, out of large print books, and I
was totally ignorant of everything in the world, when I suddenly found I
had to go to school. I was taken to see the schoolmaster, whom I hated,
because I had been told he had only one lung, and I heard them
explaining to him how backward I was, and how carefully I had to be
treated. When the day came I left the house as if I were going to the
scaffold, walked very slowly until I had nearly reached the door of the
school, and then, when I saw the other boys hurrying in with their
satchels, and realised that I was to be in their company, to sit on a
form side by side with strangers, who knew all the things I did not
know, I turned round and walked away much more quickly than I had come.
I took some time in getting home, and I had to admit that I had not been
to school. In the afternoon I was sent back, not alone. I have no
recollection of more than the obscure horror of that first day at
school. I went home in the evening with lessons that I knew had to be
learned. Life seemed suddenly to have become serious. Up to then I had
always fancied that the grave things people said to me had no particular
meaning for me; for other people, no doubt, but not for me. I had played
with other boys on the terrace facing the sea; I had seen them going off
to school, and I had not had to go with them. Now everything had
changed. There was no longer any sea; I had to live in a street; I had
lessons to learn, and other people were to be conscious how well I
learned them.

It was that which taught me to read. What had seemed to me not worth
doing when I had only myself to please, for I could never realise that
my parents, so to speak, counted, became all at once a necessity,
because now there were others to reckon with. It was discovered that in
the midst of my unfathomable ignorance I had one natural talent; I could
spell, without ever being taught. I saw other boys poring over the
columns of their spelling-books, trying in vain to get the order of the
letters into their heads. I never even read them through; they came to
me by ear, instinctively. Finding myself able to do without trying
something that the others could not succeed in doing at all, I felt that
I could be hardly less intelligent than they, and I felt the little
triumph of outdoing others. I began to learn greedily.

The second day I was at school I found the schoolroom door shut when I
came into the playground, and I was told that I could not come in. I
climbed the gymnasium ladder and looked through the window. Two boys
were having a furious fight, and the bigger boys of the school were
gravely watching it. I was completely fascinated; it was a new
sensation. That day a boy bigger than myself jeered at me. I struck him.
There was a rapid fight before all the school, and I knocked him down. I
never needed to fight again, nor did I.

When I had once begun to learn, I learned certain things very quickly,
and others not at all. I never understood a single proposition of
Euclid; I never could learn geography, or draw a map. Arithmetic and
algebra I could do moderately, so long as I merely had to follow the
rules; the moment common sense was required I was helpless. History I
found entertaining, and I could even remember the dates, because they
had to do with facts which were like stories. French and Latin I picked
up easily, Greek with more difficulty. German I was never able to
master; I had an instinctive aversion to the mere sound of it, and I
could not remember the words; there were no pegs in my memory for them
to hang upon, as there were for the words of all the Romance languages.
When a thing did not interest me, nothing could make me learn it. I was
not obstinate, I was helpless. I have never been able to make out why
geography was so completely beyond my power. I have travelled since then
over most of Europe, and I have learned geography with the sight of my
eyes. But with all my passion for places I have never been able to find
my way in them until I have come to find it instinctively, and I suppose
that is why the names in the book or on the map said nothing to me. At
an examination when I was easily taking half the prizes, I have read
through my papers in geography and in Euclid, and taken them up to the
head-master's desk, and handed them back to him, calmly telling him that
I could not answer a single question. I was never able to go in for
matriculation, or any sort of general public examination, to the great
dissatisfaction of my masters, because, while I could have come out
easily at the top in most of the subjects, there were always one or two
in which I could do nothing.

I was not popular, at any of my schools, either with the boys or with
the masters, but I was not disliked. I neither hated out-of-door games
nor particularly cared for them. I rather liked cricket, but never
played football. I was terribly afraid of making a mistake before other
people, and would never attempt anything unless I was sure that I could
do it. I did not make friends readily, and I was somewhat indifferent to
my friends. I cannot now recollect a single school-friend at all
definitely, except one strange little creature, with the look and the
intelligence of a grown man; and I remember him chiefly because he
seemed to care very much for me, not because I ever cared much for him.
He had a mathematical talent which I was told was a kind of genius, but,
even then, he was only just kept alive, and he died in boyhood. He
seemed to me different from any one else I knew, more like a girl than a
boy; some one to be pitied. I remember his saying good-bye to me when
they took him away to die.

What the masters really thought of me I never quite knew. I looked upon
them as a kind of machine, not essentially different from the blackboard
on which they wrote figures in chalk. They sometimes made mistakes about
things which I knew, and this gave me a general distrust of them. I took
their praise coolly, as a thing which was my due, and I was quite
indifferent to their anger. I took no pains to conceal my critical
attitude towards them, and one classical master in particular was in
terror of me. He was not a sound scholar, and he knew that I knew it.
Every day he watched me out of the corner of his eye to see if I was
going to expose him, and he bribed me by lending me books which I wanted
to read. I loathed him, and left him alone. One day he carried his
deceit too far; there was an inquiry, and he disappeared. I have no
doubt my criticism was often unjust; I had the insolence of the parvenu
in learning. It had come to me too late for me to be able to take it
lightly. I corrected the dictation, put Maréchal for 'Marshal' because
the word was used in reference to Ney, who I knew was a Frenchman; and
was furious when my pedantry lost me a mark.

During all this time I was living in the country, in small country towns
in the South of England, places to which Blackmore and Kingsley had
given a sort of minor fame. I remember long drives by night over
Dartmoor, and the sea at Westward Ho. Dartmoor had always a singular
fascination for me, partly because of its rocky loneliness, the abrupt
tors on which one could so easily be surprised in the mist, and partly
because there was a convict prison there, in a little town which we
often had occasion to visit. The most exquisite sensation of pleasure
which the drinking of water has ever given me was one hot day on
Dartmoor, when I drank the coldest water there ever was in the world out
of the hollow of my hand under a little Roman bridge that we had to
cross in driving to Princetown. The convict settlement was at
Princetown, and as we came near we could see gangs of convicts at work
on the road. Warders with loaded muskets walked up and down, and the
men, in their drab clothes marked in red with the broad-arrow, shovelled
and dug sullenly, like slaves. I thought every one of them had been a
murderer, and when one of them lifted his head from his work to look at
us as we passed I seemed to see some diabolical intention in his eyes. I
still remember one horrible grimace, done, I suppose, to frighten me. I
feared them, but I pitied them; I felt certain that some one was
plotting how to escape, and that he would suddenly drop his shovel and
begin to run, and that I should see the musket pointed at him and hear
the shot, and see the man fall. Once there was an alarm that two
convicts had escaped, and I expected at every moment to see them jump
out from behind a rock as we drove back at night. The warders had been
hurrying through the streets, I had seen the bloodhounds in leash; I
sickened at the thought of the poor devils who would be captured and
brought back between two muskets. Once I saw an escaped convict being
led back to prison; his arms were tied with cords, he had a bloody scar
on his forehead, his face was swollen with heat and helpless rage.

But I have another association with Princetown besides the convicts. It
was in the house of one of the warders that I first saw 'Don Quixote.'
We had gone in to get some tea, and, as we waited in the parlour, and my
father talked with the man, a grave, powerful person dressed in
dark-blue clothes, I came upon a book and opened it, and began to read.
I thought it the most wonderful book I had ever seen; I could not put it
down, I refused to be separated from it, and the warder said he would
lend it to me, and I might take it back with me that night. There was a
thunderstorm as we drove back over the moor in the black darkness; I
remember the terror of the horse, my father's cautious driving, for the
road was narrow and there was a ditch on each side; the rain poured, and
the flashes of lightning lit up the solid darkness of the moor for an
instant, and then left us in the hollow of a deeper darkness. I clutched
the book tight under my overcoat; the majesty of the storm mingled in
my head with the heroic figure of which I had just caught a glimpse in
the book; I sat motionless, inexpressibly happy, and when we reached
home I had to waken myself out of a dream.

The dream lasted until I had finished the book, and after. I cannot
remember how I felt, I only know that no book had ever meant so much to
me. It was 'Don Quixote' which wakened in me the passion for reading.
From that time I read incessantly, and I read everything. The first
verse I read was Scott, and from Scott I turned to Byron, at twelve or
thirteen, as to a kind of forbidden fruit, which must be delicious
because it is forbidden. I had been told that Byron was a very, very
great poet, and a very, very wicked man, an atheist, a writer whom it
was dangerous to read. At school I managed to get hold of a Byron, which
I read surreptitiously at the same moment that I was reading 'The
Headless Horseman.' I thought 'The Headless Horseman' very fine and
gory, but I was disappointed in the Byron, because I could not find
'Don Juan' in it. I knew, through reading a religious paper which
condemned wickedness in great detail, that 'Don Juan' was in some way
appallingly wicked. I wanted to see for myself, but I never, at that
time, succeeded in finding an edition immodest enough to contain it.


  II.

While all this, and much more that I have forgotten, was building up
about me the house of life that I was to live in, I was but imperfectly
conscious of more than a very few things in the external world, and but
half awake to more than a very few things in the world within me. I
lived in the country, or at all events with lanes and fields always
about me; I took long walks, and liked walking; but I never was able to
distinguish oats from barley, or an oak from a maple; I never cared for
flowers, except slightly for their colour, when I saw many of them
growing together; I could not distinguish a blackbird from a thrush; I
was never conscious in my blood of the difference between spring and
autumn. I always loved the winter wind and the sunlight, and to plunge
through crisp snow, and to watch the rain through leaves. But I would
walk for hours without looking about me, or caring much for what I saw;
I was never tired, and the mere physical delight of walking shut my
eyes and my ears. I was always thinking, but never to much purpose; I
hated to think, because thinking troubled me, and whenever I thought
long my thoughts were sure to come round to one of two things: the
uncertainty of life, and the uncertainty of what might be life after
death. I was terribly afraid of death; I did not know exactly what held
me to life, but I wanted it to last for ever. I had always been
delicate, but never with any definite sickness; I was uneasy about
myself because I saw that others were uneasy about me, and my voracious
appetite for life was partly a kind of haste to eat and drink my fill at
a feast from which I might at any time be called away. And then I was
still more uneasy about hell.

My parents were deeply religious; we all went to church, a Nonconformist
church, twice on Sunday; I was not allowed to read any but pious books
or play anything but hymns or oratorios on Sunday; I was taught that
this life, which seemed so real and so permanent to me, was but an
episode in existence, a little finite part of eternity. We had grace
before and after meals; we had family prayers night and morning; we
seemed to live in continual communication with the other world. And yet,
for the most part, the other world meant nothing to me. I believed, but
could not interest myself in the matter. I read the Bible with keen
admiration, especially Ecclesiastes; the Old Testament seemed to me
wholly delightful, but I cared less for the New Testament; there was so
much doctrine in it, it was so explicit about duties, about the conduct
of life. I was taught to pray to God the Father, in the name of God the
Son, for the inspiration of God the Holy Ghost. I said my prayers
regularly; I was absolutely sincere in saying them; I begged hard for
whatever I wanted, and thought that if I begged hard enough my prayer
would be answered. But I found it very difficult to pray. It seemed to
me that prayer was useless unless it were uttered with an intimate
apprehension of God, unless an effort of will brought one mentally into
His presence. I tried hard to hypnotise myself into that condition, but
I rarely succeeded. Other thoughts drifted through my mind while my
lips were articulating words of supplication. I said, over and over
again, 'O Lord, for Jesus' sake!' and even while I was saying the words
with fervour I seemed to lose hold of their meaning. I was taught that
being clever mattered little, but that being good mattered infinitely. I
wanted to want to be good, but all I really wanted was to be clever. I
felt that this in itself was a wickedness. I could not help it, but I
believed that I should be punished for not being able to help it. I was
told that if I was very good I should go to heaven, but that if I was
wicked I should go to hell. I saw but one alternative.

And so the thought of hell was often in my mind, for the most part very
much in the background, but always ready to come forward at any external
suggestion. Once or twice it came to me with such vividness that I
rolled over on the ground in a paroxysm of agony, trying to pray God
that I might not be sent to hell, but unable to fix my mind on the words
of the prayer. I felt the eternal flames taking hold on me, and some
foretaste of their endlessness seemed to enter into my being. I never
once had the least sensation of heaven, or any desire for it. Never at
any time did it seem to me probable that I should get there.

I remember once in church, as I was looking earnestly at the face of a
child for whom I had a boyish admiration, that the thought suddenly shot
across my mind: 'Emma will die, Emma will go to heaven, and I shall
never see her again.' I shivered all through my body, I seemed to see
her vanishing away from me, and I turned my eyes aside, so that I could
not see her. But the thought gnawed at me so fiercely that a prayer
broke out of me, silently, like sweat: 'O God, let me be with her! O
God, let me be with her!' When I came out into the open air, and felt
the cold breeze on my forehead, the thought had begun to relax its hold
on me, and I never felt it again, with that certainty; but it was as if
a veil had been withdrawn for an instant, the veil which renders life
possible, and, for that instant, I had seen.

When my mother talked to me about pious things, I felt that they were
extraordinarily real to her, and this impressed me the more because her
thirst for this life was even greater than mine, and her hold on
external things far stronger. My father was a dryly intellectual,
despondent person, whose whole view of life was coloured by the
dyspepsia which he was never without, and the sick headaches which laid
him up for a whole day, every week or every fortnight. He was quite
unimaginative, cautious in his affairs, a great reader of the newspaper;
but he never seemed to me to have had the same sense of life as my
mother and myself. I respected him, for his ability, his scholarship,
and his character; but we had nothing akin, he never interested me. He
was severely indulgent to me; I never knew him to be unkind, or even
unreasonable. But I took all such things for granted, I felt no
gratitude for them, and I was only conscious that my father bored me. I
had no dislike for him; an indifference, rather; perhaps a little more
than indifference, for if he came into the room, and I did not happen to
be absorbed in reading, I usually went out of it. We might sit together
for an hour, and it never occurred to either of us to speak. So when he
spoke to me of my soul, which he did seriously, sadly, with an undertone
of reproach, my whole nature rose up against him. If to be good was to
be like him, I did not wish to be good.

With my mother, it was quite different. She had the joy of life, she was
sensitive to every aspect of the world; she felt the sunshine before it
came, and knew from what quarter the wind was blowing when she awoke in
the morning. I think she was never indifferent to any moment that ever
passed her by; I think no moment ever passed her by without being seized
in all the eagerness of acceptance. I never knew her when she was not
delicate, so delicate that she could rarely go out of doors in the
winter; but I never heard her complain, she was always happy, with a
natural gaiety which had only been strengthened into a kind of vivid
peace by the continual presence of a religion at once calm and
passionate. She was as sure of God as of my father; heaven was always as
real to her as the room in which she laughed and prayed. Sometimes, as
she read her Bible, her face quickened to an ecstasy. She was ready at
any moment to lay down the book and attend to the meanest household
duties; she never saw any gulf between meditation and action; her
meditations were all action. When a child, she had lain awake, longing
to see a ghost; she had never seen one, but if a ghost had entered the
room she would have talked with it as tranquilly as with a living
friend. To her the past, the present, and the future were but moments of
one existence; life was everything to her, and life was indestructible.
Her own personal life was so vivid that it never ceased, even in sleep.
She dreamed every night, precise, elaborate dreams, which she would tell
us in the morning with the same clearness as if she were telling us of
something that had really happened. She was never drowsy, she went to
sleep the moment her head was laid on the pillow, she awoke instantly
wide awake. There were things that she knew and things that she did not
know, but she was never vague. A duty was as clear to her as a fact;
infinitely tolerant to others, she expected from herself perfection,
the utmost perfection of which her nature was capable. It was because my
mother talked to me of the other world that I felt, in spite of myself,
that there was another world. Her certainty helped to make me the more
afraid.

She did not often talk to me of the other world. She preferred that I
should see it reflected in her celestial temper and in a capability as
of the angels. She sorrowed at my indifference, but she was content to
wait; she was sure of me, she never doubted that, sooner or later, I
should be saved. This, too, troubled me. I did not want to be saved. It
is true that I did not want to go to hell, but the thought of what my
parents meant by salvation had no attraction for me. It seemed to be the
giving up of all that I cared for. There was a sort of humiliation in
it. Jesus Christ seemed to me a hard master.

Sometimes there were revival services at the church, and I was never
quite at my ease until they were over. I was afraid of some appeal to my
emotions, which for the moment I should not be able to resist. I knew
that it would mean nothing, but I did not want to give in, even for a
moment. I felt that I might have to resist with more than my customary
indifference, and I did not like to admit to myself that any active
resistance could be necessary. I knelt, as a stormy prayer shook the
people about me into tears, rigid, forcing myself to think of something
else. I saw the preacher move about the church, speaking to one after
another, and I saw one after another get up and walk to the communion
rail, in sign of conversion. I wondered that they could do it, whatever
they felt; I wondered what they felt; I dreaded lest the preacher should
come up to me with some irresistible power, and beckon me up to that
rail. If he did come, I knelt motionless, with my face in my hands, not
answering his questions, not seeming to take the slightest notice of
him; but my heart was trembling, I did not know what was going to
happen; I felt nothing but that horrible uneasiness, but I feared it
might leave me helpless, at the man's mercy, or at God's perhaps.

As we walked home afterwards, I could see the others looking at me,
wondering at my spiritual stubbornness, wondering if at last I had felt
something. To them, I knew, I was like a man who shut his eyes and
declared that he could not see. 'You have only to open your eyes,' they
said to the man. But the man said, 'I prefer being blind.' It was
inexplicable to them. But they were not less inexplicable to me.


  III.

From the time when 'Don Quixote' first opened my eyes to an imaginative
world outside myself, I had read hungrily; but another world was also
opened to me when I was about sixteen. I had been taught scales and
exercises on the piano; I had tried to learn music, with very little
success, when one day the head-master of the school asked me to go into
his drawing-room and copy out something for him. As I sat there copying,
the music-master, a German, came in and sat down at the piano. He played
something which I had never heard before, something which seemed to me
the most wonderful thing I had ever heard. I tried to go on copying, but
I did not know what I was writing down; I was caught into an ecstasy,
the sound seemed to envelop me like a storm, and then to trickle through
me like raindrops shaken from wet leaves, and then to wrap me again in a
tempest which was like a tempest of grief. When he had finished I said,
'Will you play that over again?' As he played it again I began to
distinguish it more clearly; I heard a slow, heavy trampling of feet,
marching in order, then what might have been the firing of cannon over a
grave, and the trampling again. When he told me that it was Chopin's
Funeral March, I understood why it was that the feet had moved so
slowly, and why the cannon had been fired; and I saw that the melody
which had soothed me was the timid, insinuating consolation which love
or hope sometimes brings to the mourner. I asked him if he would teach
me music and if he would teach me that piece. He promised to teach me
that piece, and I learned it. I learned no more scales and exercises; I
learned a few more pieces; but in a little while I could read at sight;
and when I was not reading a book I was reading a piece of music at the
piano. I never acquired the technique to play a single piece correctly,
but I learned to touch the piano as if one were caressing a living
being, and it answered me in an intimate and affectionate voice.

Books and music, then, together with my solitary walks, were the only
means of escape which I was able to find from the tedium of things as
they were. I was passionately in love with life, but the life I lived
was not the life I wanted. I did not know quite what I wanted, but I
knew that what I wanted was something very different from what I
endured. We were very poor, and I hated the constraints of poverty. We
were surrounded by commonplace, middle-class people, and I hated
commonplace and the middle classes. Sometimes we were too poor even to
have a servant, and I was expected to clean my own boots. I could not
endure getting my hands or my shirt-cuffs dirty; the thought of having
to do it disgusted me every day. Sometimes my mother, without saying
anything to me, had cleaned my boots for me. I was scarcely conscious of
the sacrifices which she and the others were continually making. I made
none, of my own accord, and I felt aggrieved if I had to share the
smallest of their privations.

From as early a time as I can remember, I had no very clear
consciousness of anything external to myself; I never realised that
others had the right to expect from me any return for the kindness which
they might show me or refuse to me, at their choice. I existed, others
also existed; but between us there was an impassable gulf, and I had
rarely any desire to cross it. I was very fond of my mother, but I felt
no affection towards any one else, nor any desire for the affection of
others. To be let alone, and to live my own life for ever, that was what
I wanted; and I raged because I could never entirely escape from the
contact of people who bored me and things which depressed me. If people
called, I went out of the room before they were shown in; if I had not
time to get away, I shook hands hurriedly, and slipped out as soon as I
could. I remember a cousin who used to come to tea every Sunday for two
or three years. My aversion to her was so great that I could hardly
answer her if she spoke to me, and I used to think of Shelley, and how
he too, like me, would 'lie back and languish into hate.' The woman was
quite inoffensive, but I am still unable to see her or hear her speak
without that sickness of aversion which used to make the painfulness of
Sunday more painful.

People in general left me no more than indifferent; they could be
quietly avoided. They meant no more to me than the chairs on which they
sat; I was untouched by their fortunes; I was unconscious of my human
relationship to them. To my mother every person in the world became, for
the moment of contact, the only person in the world; if she merely
talked with any one for five minutes she was absorbed to the exclusion
of every other thought; she saw no one else, she heard nothing else. I
watched her, with astonishment, with admiration; I felt that she was in
the right and I in the wrong; that she gained a pleasure and conferred a
benefit, while I only wearied myself and offended others; but I could
not help it. I felt nothing, I saw nothing, outside myself.

I always had a room upstairs, which I called my study, where I could sit
alone, reading or thinking. No one was allowed to enter the room; only,
in winter, as I always let the fire go out, my mother would now and then
steal in gently without speaking, and put more coals on the fire. I used
to look up from my books furiously, and ask why I could not be left
alone; my mother would smile, say nothing, and go out as quietly as she
had come in. I was only happy when I was in my study, but, when I had
shut the door behind me, I forgot all about the tedious people who were
calling downstairs, the covers of the book I was reading seemed to
broaden out into an enclosing rampart, and I was alone with myself.

At my last school there was one master, a young man, who wrote for a
provincial newspaper, of which he afterwards became the editor, with
whom I made friends. He had read a great deal, and he knew a few
literary people; he was equally fond of literature and of music. Some
school composition of mine had interested him in me, and he began to
lend me books, and to encourage me in trying to express myself in
writing. I had already run through Scott and Byron, with a very little
Shelley, and had come to Browning, whom he detested. When I was laid up
with scarlatina he sent me over a packet of books to read; one of them
was Swinburne's 'Poems and Ballads,' which seemed to give voice to all
the fever that I felt just then in my blood. I read 'Wuthering Heights'
at the same time and Rabelais a little time afterwards. I read all the
bound volumes of the 'Cornhill Magazine' from the beginning right
through, stories, essays, and poems, and I remember my delight in 'Harry
Richmond,' at a time when I had never heard the name of George Meredith.
I read essays signed 'R. L. S.', from which I got my first taste of a
sort of gipsy element in literature which was to become a passion when,
later on, 'Lavengro' fell into my hands. The reading of 'Lavengro' did
many things for me. It absorbed me from the first page, with a curiously
personal appeal, as of some one akin to me, and when I came to the place
where Lavengro learns Welsh in a fortnight, I laid down the book with a
feeling of fierce emulation. I had often thought of learning Italian: I
immediately bought an Italian Bible, and a grammar; I worked all day
long, not taking up 'Lavengro' again, until, at the end of the fortnight
which I had given myself, I could read Italian. Then I finished
'Lavengro.'

'Lavengro' took my thoughts into the open air, and gave me my first
conscious desire to wander. I learned a little Romany, and was always on
the lookout for gipsies. I realised that there were other people in the
world besides the conventional people I knew, who wore prim and shabby
clothes, and went to church twice on Sundays, and worked at business and
professions, and sat down to the meal of tea at five o'clock in the
afternoon. And I realised that there was another escape from these
people besides a solitary flight in books; that if a book could be so
like a man, there were men and women, after all, who had the interest of
a book as well as the warm advantage of being alive. Humanity began to
exist for me.

But with this discovery of a possible interest in real people, there
came a deeper loathing of the people by whom I was surrounded. I had
for the most part been able to ignore them; now I wanted to get away, so
that I could live my own life, and choose my own companions. My vague
notions of sex became precise, became a torture.

When I first read Rabelais and the 'Poems and Ballads,' I was ignorant
of my own body; I looked upon the relationship of man and woman as
something essentially wicked; my imagination took fire, but I was hardly
conscious of any physical reality connected with it. I was irrepressibly
timid in the presence of a woman; I hardly ever met young people of my
own age; and I had a feeling of the deepest reverence for women, from
which I endeavoured to banish the slightest consciousness of sex. I
thought it an inexcusable disrespect; and in my feeling towards the one
or two much older women who at one time or another had a certain
attraction for me, there was nothing, conscious at least, but a purely
romantic admiration. At the same time I had a guilty delight in reading
books which told me about the sensations of physical love, and I
trembled with ecstasy as I read them. Thoughts of them haunted me; I put
them out of my head by an effort, I called them back, they ended by
never leaving me.

I think it was a little earlier than this that I began to walk in my
sleep, and to have nightmares; but it was just then that I suffered most
from those obscure terrors of the night. Once, when I was a child, I
remember waking up in my nightshirt on the drawing-room sofa, and being
wrapped up in a shawl and carried upstairs by my father, and put back
into bed. I had come down in my sleep, opened the door, and walked into
the room without seeing any one, and laid myself down on the sofa. I did
not often dream, but, whenever I dreamed, it was of infinite spirals, up
which I had to climb, or of ladders, whose rungs dropped away from me as
my feet left them, or of slimy stone stairways into cold pits of
darkness, or of the tightening of a snake's coils around me, or of
walking with bare feet across a floor curdling with snakes. I awoke,
stifling a scream, my hair damp with sweat, out of impossible tasks in
which time shrank and swelled in some deadly game with life; something
had to be done in a second, and all eternity passed, lingering, while
the second poised over me like a drop of water always about to drip: it
fell, and I was annihilated into depth under depth of blackness.

Into these dreams of abstract horror there began to come a disturbing
element of sex. My books and my thoughts haunted me; I was restless and
ignorant, physically innocent, but with a sort of naïve corruption of
mind. All the interest which I had never been able to find in the soul,
I found in what I only vaguely apprehended of the body. To me it was
something remote, evil, mainly inexplicable; but nothing I had ever felt
had meant so much to me. I never realised that there was any honesty in
sex, that nature was after all natural. I reached stealthily after some
stealthy delight of the senses, which I valued the more because it was a
forbidden thing. Love I never associated with the senses, it was not
even passion that I wanted; it was a conscious, subtle, elaborate
sensuality, which I knew not how to procure. And there was an infinite
curiosity, which I hardly even dared dream of satisfying; a curiosity
which was like a fever. I was scarcely conscious of any external
temptations. The ideas in which I had been trained, little as they had
seemed consciously to affect me, had given me the equivalent of what I
may call virtue, in a form of good taste. I was ashamed of my desires,
of my sensations, though I made no serious effort to escape them; but I
knew that, even if the opportunity were offered, something, some scruple
of physical refinement, some timidity, some unattached sense of fitness,
would step in to prevent me from carrying them into practice.


  IV.

Every now and then my father used to talk to me seriously, saying that I
should have to choose some profession, and make my own living. I always
replied that there was nothing I could possibly do, that I hated every
profession, that I would rather starve than soil my hands with business,
and that so long as I could just go on living as I was then living, I
wanted nothing more. I did not want to be a rich man, I was never able
to realise money as a tangible thing, I wanted to have just enough to
live on, only not at home; in London. My father did not press the
matter; I could see that he dreaded my leaving home, and he knew that,
for the time, going to London was out of the question.

One summer I went down to a remote part of England to stay with some of
my relations. I had seen none of them since I was a child, I knew
nothing about them, except that some were farmers, some business people;
there was an astronomer, an old sea-captain, and a mad uncle who lived
in a cottage by himself on a moor near the sea, and grew marvellous
flowers in a vast garden. I stayed with a maiden aunt, who was like a
very old and very gaunt little bird; she was deaf, wrinkled, and bent,
but her hair was still yellow, her voice a high piping treble, and she
ran about with the tireless vivacity of a young girl. She had been
pretty, and had all the little vanities of a coquette; she wore bright,
semi-fashionable clothes, and conspicuous hats. She had much of the
natural gaiety of my mother, who was her elder sister; and she was
infinitely considerate to me, turning out one of her little rooms that I
might have it for a study. She liked me to play to her, and would sit by
the side of the old piano listening eagerly. The mad uncle was her
brother, and he would come in sometimes from his cottage, bringing great
bundles of flowers. He was very kind and gentle, and he would sometimes
tell me of the letters he had been writing to the Prince of Wales on the
subject of sewage, and of how the Prince of Wales had acknowledged his
communications. He had many theories about sewage; I have heard that
some of them were plausible and ingenious; and he was convinced that his
theories would some day be accepted, and that he would become famous. I
believe his brain had been turned by an unlucky passion for a beautiful
girl; he was only in an asylum for a short time; and for the most part
lived happily in his cottage among his flowers, developing theories of
sewage, and taking sun-baths naked in the garden.

The people of whom I saw most were some cousins: the father kept a shop,
and they all helped in the business. They were very kind, and did all
they could for me by feeding me plentifully and taking me for long
drives in the country, which was very hilly and wooded, and sometimes to
the sea, which was not too far off to reach by driving. We had not an
idea in common, and I always wondered how it was possible that my aunt,
who was my mother's eldest sister, could ever have married my uncle. He
was a kind man, and, in his way, intelligent; but he talked incessantly,
insistently, and with something unctuous in his voice and manner; he
came close to me while he spoke, and tapped my shoulder with his fingers
or my leg with his stick. I could not bear him to touch me; sometimes he
dropped his h's, and, as I heard them drop, I saw the old man looking
fixedly into my face with his large, keen, shifting eyes.

One of the daughters had something inquiring in her mind, a touch of
rebellious refinement; she had enough instinct for another kind of life
to be at least discontented with her own; with her I could talk. But the
others fitted into their environment without a crease or a ruffle. They
went to the shop early in the morning, slaved there all day, taught in
the Sunday-School on Sundays, said the obvious things to one another all
day long, were perfectly content to be where they were, do what they
did, think what they thought, and say what they said. Their house
reflected them like a mirror. Everything was clean and new, there was
plenty of everything; and I used to sit in their drawing-room looking
round it in a vain attempt to find a single thing which I could have
lived with, in a house of my own.

I went home from the visit gladly, glad to be at home again. We were
living then in the Midlands, and I used to spend whole days at
Kenilworth, at Warwick, at Coventry; I knew them from Scott's novels,
but I had never seen a ruined castle, a city with ancient buildings, and
I began to feel that there was something else to be seen in the world
besides the things I had dreamed of seeing. I took a boat at Leamington,
and rowed up the river as far as the chain underneath Warwick Castle. I
do not know why I have always remembered that moment, as if it marked a
date to me. It was with a full enjoyment of the contrast that I found
them busy preparing for a _fête_ when I got back to Leamington;
stringing up the Chinese lanterns to the branches of the trees, and
putting out little tables on the grass. At Coventry I loved going
through the narrow streets, looking up at the windows which leaned
together under their gabled roofs. I saw Lady Godiva borne through the
streets, more clothed than she appears in the pictures, in the midst of
a gay and solemn procession, tricked out in old-fashioned frippery. And
I spent a long day there, one of the days of the five-day fair, which
feasted me with sensations on which I lived for weeks. It was the first
time I had ever plunged boldly into what Baudelaire calls 'the bath of
multitude'; it intoxicated me, and seemed, for the first time in my
life, to carry me outside myself. I pushed my way through the crowds in
those old and narrow streets, in an ecstasy of delight at all that
movement, noise, colour, and confusion. I seemed suddenly to have become
free, in contact with life. I had no desire to touch it too closely, no
fear of being soiled at its contact; a vivid spirit of life seemed to
come to me, in my solitude, releasing me from thought, from daily
realities.

Once I went as far as Chester. It was the Cup day, and there was an
excursion. I watched the race, feeling a momentary excitement as the
horses passed close to me, and the pellets of turf shot from their heels
into the air above my head; the crowd was more varied than any crowd I
had ever seen, and I discovered a blonde gipsy girl, in charge of a
cocoanut-shy, who let me talk a little Romany with her. I thought
Chester, with its arcades and its city-walls, the most wonderful old
place I had ever seen. As I walked round the wall, a woman leaned out of
a window and called to me: I thought of Rahab in the Bible, and went
home dreaming romantically about the harlot on the wall.

One day, as I was walking along a country road, I was stopped by a
sailor, who asked me how far it was to some distant place. He was
carrying a small bundle, and was walking, he told me, until he came to a
certain sea-port. He did not beg, but accepted gladly enough what I gave
him. He had been on many voyages, and had picked up a good many words of
different languages, which he mispronounced in a scarcely intelligible
jargon of his own. He had been left behind by his ship in Russia, where
he had stayed on account of a woman: she could speak no English, and he
but little Russian; but it did not seem to have mattered. It was the
first time I had seemed to come so close to the remote parts of the
world; and as he went on his way, he turned back to urge me to go on
some voyage which he seemed to remember with more pleasure than any
other: to the West Indies, I think. I began to pore over maps, and plan
to what parts of the world I would go.

Meanwhile, little by little, I was beginning to live my own life at
home; I played the piano on Sundays, to whatever tune I liked; I read
whatever I liked on Sundays; and, finally, I ceased to go to church.
Latterly I had come to put my boredom there to some purpose: I followed
the lessons word by word in Bibles and Testaments in many languages,
and, while the sermon was going on I kept my Bible quietly open on my
knees, and read on, chapter after chapter, while the preacher preached I
knew not what: I never heard a word of it, not even the text. I read,
not for the Bible's sake, but to learn the language in which I was
reading it. My parents knew this, but after all it was the Bible, and
they could hardly object to my reading the Bible. Sometimes I scribbled
down ideas that came into my head; sometimes I merely sat there, with a
stony inattention, showing, I fancy, in my face, all the fierce disgust
that I felt. During the sermon I always found it quite easy to abstract
my attention; during the hymns I amused myself by criticising the bad
rhymes and false metaphors; but during prayer-time, though I kept my
eyes wide open, and sat as upright as I dared, I could hardly help
hearing what was said. What was said, very often, made me ashamed, as if
I were unconsciously helping to repeat absurdities to God.

When I told my parents that I could go to church no longer, I had no
definite reason to allege, except that the matter did not interest me. I
did not doubt the truth of the Christian religion; I neither affirmed
nor denied; it was something, to me, beside the question. I could argue
about dogma; I defended a liberal interpretation of doctrines; I
insisted that there were certain questions which we were bound to leave
open. But I was not alienated from Christianity by intellectual
difficulties; it had never taken hold of me, and I gave up nothing but a
pretence in giving up the sign of outward respect for it. My parents
were deeply grieved, but, then as always, they respected my liberty.

The first time I remember going to London, for I had been there when a
child, was by an excursion, which brought me back the same night. Of the
day, or of what I did then, I can recall nothing; daylight never meant
so much to me as the first lighting of the lamps. I found my way back to
King's Cross, in some bewilderment, to find that one train had gone, and
that the next would leave me an hour or two more in London. I walked
among the lights, through hurrying crowds of people, in long, dingy
streets, not knowing where I was going, till I found myself outside a
great building which seemed to be a kind of music-hall. I went in; it
was the Agricultural Hall, and some show was being given there. There
were acrobats, gymnasts, equilibrists, performing beasts; there was a
vast din, concentrating all the noises of a fair within four walls;
people swarmed to and fro over the long floor, paying more heed to one
another than to the performance. I scrutinised the show and the people,
a little uneasily; it was very new to me, and I was not yet able to feel
at home in London. I found my way to the station like one who comes
home, half dizzy and half ashamed, after a debauch.

The next time I went to London, I went for a week. I stayed in a
lodging-house near the British Museum, a mean, uncomfortable place,
where I had to be indoors by midnight. During the day I read in the
Museum; the atmosphere weighed upon me, and gave me a headache every
day; the same atmosphere weighed upon me in the streets around the
Museum; I was dull, depressed, anxious to get through with the task for
which I had come to London, anxious to get back again to the country. I
went back with a little book-learning, of the kind that I wanted to
acquire; I began to have books sent down to me from a Library in London;
I worked, more and more diligently, at reading and studying books; and
I began to think of devoting myself entirely to some sort of literary
work. It was not that I had anything to say, or that I felt the need of
expressing myself. I wanted to write books for the sake of writing
books; it was food for my ambition, and it gave me something to do when
I was alone, apart from other people. It helped to raise another barrier
between me and other people.

I went up to London again for a longer visit, and I stayed in a
lodging-house in one of the streets leading from the Strand to the
Embankment, near the stage-door of one of the theatres. A little actress
and her mother were staying in the house, and I felt that I was getting
an intimate acquaintance with the stage, as I sat up with the little
actress, after her mother had gone to bed, and listened timidly to her
stories of parts and dresses and the other girls. She was quite young,
and still ingenuous enough to look forward to the day when she would
have her name on the placards in letters I forget how many inches high.
I had been to my first theatre, it was Irving in 'King Lear,' and now I
was hearing about the stage from one who lived on it. A little actress,
afterwards famous for her beauty, and then a child with masses of gold
hair about her ears, lived next door, at another lodging-house, which
her mother kept. I watched for her to pass the window, or for a chance
of meeting her in the street. When I went back again to the country, it
was with a fixed resolve to come and live in London, where, it seemed, I
could, if I liked, be something more than a spectator of the great,
amusing crowd. The intoxication of London had got hold of me; I felt at
home in it, and I felt that I had never yet found anywhere to be at home
in.

I lived in London for five years, and I do not think there was a day
during those five years in which I did not find a conscious delight in
the mere fact of being in London. When I found myself alone, and in the
midst of a crowd, I began to be astonishingly happy. I needed so little
at the beginning of that time. I have never been able to stay long under
a roof without restlessness, and I used to go out into the streets,
many times a day, for the pleasure of finding myself in the open air and
in the streets. I had never cared greatly for the open air in the
country, the real open air, because everything in the country, except
the sea, bored me; but here, in the 'motley' Strand, among these
hurrying people, under the smoky sky, I could walk and yet watch. If
there ever was a religion of the eyes, I have devoutly practised that
religion. I noted every face that passed me on the pavement; I looked
into the omnibuses, the cabs, always with the same eager hope of seeing
some beautiful or interesting person, some gracious movement, a delicate
expression, which would be gone if I did not catch it as it went. This
search without an aim grew to be almost a torture to me; my eyes ached
with the effort, but I could not control them. At every moment, I knew,
some spectacle awaited them; I grasped at all these sights with the same
futile energy as a dog that I once saw standing in an Irish stream, and
snapping at the bubbles that ran continually past him on the water.
Life ran past me continually, and I tried to make all its bubbles my
own.



  ESTHER KAHN.


Esther Kahn was born in one of those dark, evil-smelling streets with
strange corners which lie about the Docks. It was a quiet street, which
seemed to lead nowhere, but to stand aside, for some not quite honest
purpose of its own. The blinds of some of these houses were always
drawn; shutters were nailed over some of the windows. Few people passed;
there were never many children playing in the road; the women did not
stand talking at their open doors. The doors opened and shut quietly;
dark faces looked out from behind the windows; the Jews who lived there
seemed always to be at work, bending over their tables, sewing and
cutting, or else hurrying in and out with bundles of clothes under their
arms, going and coming from the tailors for whom they worked. The Kahns
all worked at tailoring: Esther's father and mother and grandmother, her
elder brother and her two elder sisters. One did seaming, another
button-holing, another sewed on buttons; and, on the poor pay they got
for that, seven had to live.

As a child Esther had a strange terror of the street in which she lived.
She was never sure whether something dreadful had just happened there,
or whether it was just going to happen. But she was always in suspense.
She was tormented with the fear of knowing what went on behind those
nailed shutters. She made up stories about the houses, but the stories
never satisfied her. She imagined some great, vague gesture; not an
incident, but a gesture; and it hung in the air suspended like a shadow.
The gestures of people always meant more to her than their words; they
seemed to have a secret meaning of their own, which the words never
quite interpreted. She was always unconsciously on the watch for their
meaning.

At night, after supper, the others used to sit around the table, talking
eagerly. Esther would get up and draw her chair into the corner by the
door, and for a time she would watch them, as if she were looking on at
something, something with which she had no concern, but which interested
her for its outline and movement. She saw her father's keen profile, the
great, hooked nose, the black, prominent, shifty eye, the tangled black
hair straggling over the shirt-collar; her mother, large, placid, with
masses of black, straight hair coiled low over her sallow cheeks; the
two sisters, sharp and voluble, never at rest for a moment; the brother,
with his air of insolent assurance, an immense self-satisfaction hooded
under his beautifully curved eyelids; the grandmother, with her bent and
mountainous shoulders, the vivid malice of her eyes, her hundreds of
wrinkles. All these people, who had so many interests in common, who
thought of the same things, cared for the same things, seemed so fond of
one another in an instinctive way, with so much hostility for other
people who were not belonging to them, sat there night after night, in
the same attitudes, always as eager for the events of to-day as they had
been for the events of yesterday. Everything mattered to them
immensely, and especially their part in things; and no one thing seemed
to matter more than any other thing. Esther cared only to look on;
nothing mattered to her; she had no interest in their interests; she was
not sure that she cared for them more than she would care for other
people; they were what she supposed real life was, and that was a thing
in which she had only a disinterested curiosity.

Sometimes, when she had been watching them until they had all seemed to
fade away and form again in a kind of vision more precise than the
reality, she would lose sight of them altogether and sit gazing straight
before her, her eyes wide open, her lips parted. Her hand would make an
unconscious movement, as if she were accompanying some grave words with
an appropriate gesture; and Becky would generally see it, and burst into
a mocking laugh, and ask her whom she was mimicking.

'Don't notice her,' the mother said once; 'she's not a human child,
she's a monkey; she's clutching out after a soul, as they do. They look
like little men, but they know they're not men, and they try to be;
that's why they mimic us.'

Esther was very angry; she said to herself that she would be more
careful in future not to show anything that she was feeling.

At thirteen Esther looked a woman. She was large-boned, with very small
hands and feet, and her body seemed to be generally asleep, in a kind of
brooding lethargy. She had her mother's hair, masses of it, but softer,
with a faint, natural wave in it. Her face was oval, smooth in outline,
with a nose just Jewish enough for the beauty of suave curves and
unemphatic outlines. The lips were thick, red, strung like a bow. The
whole face seemed to await, with an infinite patience, some moulding and
awakening force, which might have its way with it. It wanted nothing,
anticipated nothing; it waited. Only the eyes put life into the mask,
and the eyes were the eyes of the tribe; they had no personal meaning in
what seemed to be their mystery; they were ready to fascinate
innocently, to be intolerably ambiguous without intention; they were
fathomless with mere sleep, the unconscious dream which is in the eyes
of animals.

Esther was neither clever nor stupid; she was inert. She did as little
in the house as she could, but when she had to take her share in the
stitching she stitched more neatly than any of the others, though very
slowly. She hated it, in her languid, smouldering way, partly because it
was work and partly because it made her prick her fingers, and the skin
grew hard and ragged where the point of the needle had scratched it. She
liked her skin to be quite smooth, but all the glycerine she rubbed into
it at night would not take out the mark of the needle. It seemed to her
like the badge of her slavery.

She would rather not have been a Jewess; that, too, was a kind of badge,
marking her out from other people; she wanted to be let alone, to have
her own way without other people's help or hindrance. She had no
definite consciousness of what her own way was to be; she was only
conscious, as yet, of the ways that would certainly not be hers.

She would not think only of making money, like her mother, nor of being
thought clever, like Becky, nor of being admired because she had good
looks and dressed smartly, like Mina. All these things required an
effort, and Esther was lazy. She wanted to be admired, and to have
money, of course, and she did not want people to think her stupid; but
all this was to come to her, she knew, because of some fortunate quality
in herself, as yet undiscovered. Then she would shake off everything
that now clung to her, like a worn-out garment that one keeps only until
one can replace it. She saw herself rolling away in a carriage towards
the west; she would never come back. And it would be like a revenge on
whatever it was that kept her stifling in this mean street; she wanted
to be cruelly revenged.

As it was, her only very keen pleasure was in going to the theatre with
her brother or her sisters; she cared nothing for the music-halls, and
preferred staying at home to going with the others when they went to the
Pavilion or the Foresters. But when there was a melodrama at the
Standard, or at the Elephant and Castle, she would wait and struggle
outside the door and up the narrow, winding stairs, for a place as near
the front of the gallery as she could get. Once inside, she would never
speak, but she would sit staring at the people on the stage as if they
hypnotised her. She never criticised the play, as the others did; the
play did not seem to matter; she lived it without will or choice, merely
because it was there and her eyes were on it.

But after it was over and they were at home again, she would become
suddenly voluble as she discussed the merits of the acting. She had no
hesitations, was certain that she was always in the right, and became
furious if any one contradicted her. She saw each part as a whole, and
she blamed the actors for not being consistent with themselves. She
could not understand how they could make a mistake. It was so simple,
there were no two ways of doing anything. To go wrong was as if you said
no when you meant yes; it must be wilful.

'You ought to do it yourself, Esther,' said her sisters, when they were
tired of her criticisms. They meant to be satirical, but Esther said,
seriously enough: 'Yes, I could do it; but so could that woman if she
would let herself alone. Why did she try to be something else all the
time?'

Time went slowly with Esther; but when she was seventeen she was still
sewing at home and still waiting. Nothing had come to her of all that
she had expected. Two of her cousins, and a neighbour or two, had wanted
to marry her; but she had refused them contemptuously. To her sluggish
instinct men seemed only good for making money, or, perhaps, children;
they had not come to have any definite personal meaning for her. A
little man called Joel, who had talked to her passionately about love,
and had cried when she refused him, seemed to her an unintelligible and
ridiculous kind of animal. When she dreamed of the future, there was
never any one of that sort making fine speeches to her.

But, gradually, her own real purpose in life had become clear. She was
to be an actress. She said nothing about it at home, but she began to
go round to the managers of the small theatres in the neighbourhood,
asking for an engagement. After a long time the manager gave her a small
part. The piece was called 'The Wages of Sin,' and she was to be the
servant who opens the door in the first act to the man who is going to
be the murderer in the second act, and then identifies him in the fourth
act.

Esther went home quietly and said nothing until supper-time. Then she
said to her mother: 'I am going on the stage.'

'That's very likely,' said her mother, with a sarcastic smile; 'and when
do you go on, pray?'

'On Monday night,' said Esther.

'You don't mean it!' said her mother.

'Indeed I mean it,' said Esther, 'and I've got my part. I'm to be the
servant in "The Wages of Sin."'

Her brother laughed. 'I know,' he said, 'she speaks two words twice.'

'You are right,' said Esther; 'will you come on Monday, and hear how I
say them?'

When Esther had made up her mind to do anything, they all knew that she
always did it. Her father talked to her seriously. Her mother said: 'You
are much too lazy, Esther; you will never get on.' They told her that
she was taking the bread out of their mouths, and it was certain she
would never put it back again. 'If I get on,' said Esther, 'I will pay
you back exactly what I would have earned, as long as you keep me. Is
that a bargain? I know I shall get on, and you won't repent of it. You
had better let me do as I want. It will pay.'

They shook their heads, looked at Esther, who sat there with her lips
tight shut, and a queer, hard look in her eyes, which were trying not to
seem exultant; they looked at one another, shook their heads again, and
consented. The old grandmother mumbled something fiercely, but as it
sounded like bad words, and they never knew what Old Testament language
she would use, they did not ask her what she was meaning.

On Monday Esther made her first appearance on the stage. Her mother
said to her afterwards: 'I thought nothing of you, Esther; you were just
like any ordinary servant.' Becky asked her if she had felt nervous. She
shook her head; it had seemed quite natural to her, she said. She did
not tell them that a great wave of triumph had swept over her as she
felt the heat of the gas footlights come up into her eyes, and saw the
floating cluster of white faces rising out of a solid mass of
indistinguishable darkness. In that moment she drew into her nostrils
the breath of life.

Esther had a small part to understudy, and before long she had the
chance of playing it. The manager said nothing to her, but soon
afterwards he told her to understudy a more important part. She never
had the chance to play it, but, when the next piece was put on at the
theatre, she was given a part of her own. She began to make a little
money, and, as she had promised, she paid so much a week to her parents
for keeping her. They gained by the bargain, so they did not ask her to
come back to the stitching. Mrs. Kahn sometimes spoke of her daughter to
the neighbours with a certain languid pride; Esther was making her way.

Esther made her way rapidly. One day the manager of a West End theatre
came down to see her; he engaged her at once to play a small but
difficult part in an ambitious kind of melodrama that he was bringing
out. She did it well, satisfied the manager, was given a better part,
did that well, too, was engaged by another manager, and, in short, began
to be looked upon as a promising actress. The papers praised her with
moderation; some of the younger critics, who admired her type, praised
her more than she deserved. She was making money; she had come to live
in rooms of her own, off the Strand; at twenty-one she had done, in a
measure, what she wanted to do; but she was not satisfied with herself.
She had always known that she could act, but how well could she act?
Would she never be able to act any better than this? She had drifted
into the life of the stage as naturally as if she had never known
anything else; she was at home, comfortable, able to do what many others
could not do. But she wanted to be a great actress.

An old actor, a Jew, Nathan Quellen, who had taken a kind of paternal
interest in her, and who helped her with all the good advice that he had
never taken to himself, was fond of saying that the remedy was in her
own hands.

'My dear Esther,' he would tell her, smoothing his long grey hair down
over his forehead, 'you must take a lover; you must fall in love;
there's no other way. You think you can act, and you have never felt
anything worse than a cut finger. Why, it's an absurdity! Wait till you
know the only thing worth knowing; till then you're in short frocks and
a pinafore.'

He cited examples, he condensed the biographies of the great actresses
for her benefit. He found one lesson in them all, and he was sincere in
his reading of history as he saw it. He talked, argued, protested; the
matter seriously troubled him. He felt he was giving Esther good advice;
he wanted her to be the thing she wanted to be. Esther knew it and
thanked him, without smiling; she sat brooding over his words; she never
argued against them. She believed much of what he said; but was the
remedy, as he said, in her own hands? It did not seem so.

As yet no man had spoken to her blood. She had the sluggish blood of a
really profound animal nature. She saw men calmly, as calmly as when
little Joel had cried because she would not marry him. Joel still came
to see her sometimes, with the same entreaty in his eyes, not daring to
speak it. Other men, very different men, had made love to her in very
different ways. They had seemed to be trying to drive a hard bargain, to
get the better of her in a matter of business; and her native cunning
had kept her easily on the better side of the bargain. She was resolved
to be a business woman in the old trade of the affections; no one should
buy or sell of her except at her own price, and she set the price vastly
high.

Yet Quellen's words set her thinking. Was there, after all, but one way
to study for the stage? All the examples pointed to it, and, what was
worse, she felt it might be true. She saw exactly where her acting
stopped short.

She looked around her with practical eyes, not seeming to herself to be
doing anything unusual or unlikely to succeed in its purpose. She
thought deliberately over all the men she knew; but who was there whom
it would be possible to take seriously? She could think of only one man:
Philip Haygarth.

Philip Haygarth was a man of five-and-thirty, who had been writing plays
and having them acted, with only a moderate success, for nearly ten
years. He was one of the accepted men, a man whose plays were treated
respectfully, and he had the reputation of being much cleverer than his
plays. He was short, dark, neat, very worldly-looking, with thin lips
and reflective, not quite honest eyes. His manner was cold, restrained,
with a mingling of insolence and diffidence. He was a hard worker and a
somewhat deliberately hard liver. He avoided society and preferred to
find his relaxation among people with whom one did not need to keep up
appearances, or talk sentiment, or pay afternoon calls. He admired
Esther Kahn as an actress, though with many reservations; and he admired
her as a woman, more than he had ever admired anybody else. She appealed
to all his tastes; she ended by absorbing almost the whole of those
interests and those hours which he set apart, in his carefully arranged
life, for such matters.

He made love to Esther much more skilfully than any of her other lovers,
and, though she saw through his plans as clearly as he wished her to see
through them, she was grateful to him for a certain finesse in his
manner of approach. He never mentioned the word 'love,' except to jest
at it; he concealed even the extent to which he was really disturbed by
her presence; his words spoke only of friendship and of general topics.
And yet there could never be any doubt as to his meaning; his whole
attitude was a patient waiting. He interested her; frankly, he
interested her: here, then, was the man for her purpose. With his
admirable tact, he spared her the least difficulty in making her
meaning clear. He congratulated himself on a prize; she congratulated
herself on the accomplishment of a duty.

Days and weeks passed, and Esther scrutinised herself with a distinct
sense of disappointment. She had no moral feeling in the matter; she was
her own property, it had always seemed to her, free to dispose of as she
pleased. The business element in her nature persisted. This bargain,
this infinitely important bargain, had been concluded, with open eyes,
with a full sense of responsibility, for a purpose, the purpose for
which she lived. What was the result?

She could see no result. The world had in no sense changed for her, as
she had been supposing it would change; a new excitement had come into
her life, and that was all. She wondered what it was that a woman was
expected to feel under the circumstances, and why she had not felt it.
How different had been her feeling when she walked across the stage for
the first time! That had really been a new life, or the very beginning
of life. But this was no more than a delightful episode, hardly to be
disentangled from the visit to Paris which had accompanied it. She had,
so to speak, fallen into a new habit, which was so agreeable, and seemed
so natural, that she could not understand why she had not fallen into it
before; it was a habit she would certainly persist in, for its own sake.
The world remained just the same.

And her art: she had learned nothing. No new thrill came into the words
she spoke; her eyes, as they looked across the footlights, remembered
nothing, had nothing new to tell.

And so she turned, with all the more interest, an interest almost
impersonal, to Philip Haygarth when he talked to her about acting and
the drama, when he elaborated his theories which, she was aware,
occupied him more than she occupied him. He was one of those creative
critics who can do every man's work but their own. When he sat down to
write his own plays, something dry and hard came into the words, the
life ebbed out of those imaginary people who had been so real to him,
whom he had made so real to others as he talked. He constructed
admirably and was an unerring judge of the construction of plays. And he
had a sense of acting which was like the sense that a fine actor might
have, if he could be himself and also some one looking on at himself. He
not only knew what should be done, but exactly why it should be done.
Little suspecting that he had been chosen for the purpose, though in so
different a manner, he set himself to teach her art to Esther.

He made her go through the great parts with him; she was Juliet, Lady
Macbeth, Cleopatra; he taught her how to speak verse and how to feel the
accent of speech in verse, another kind of speech than prose speech; he
trained her voice to take hold of the harmonies that lie in words
themselves; and she caught them, by ear, as one born to speak many
languages catches a foreign language. She went through Ibsen as she had
gone through Shakespeare; and Haygarth showed her how to take hold of
this very different subject-matter, so definite and so elusive. And
they studied good acting-plays together, worthless plays that gave the
actress opportunities to create something out of nothing. Together they
saw Duse and Sarah Bernhardt; and they had seen Réjane in Paris, in
crudely tragic parts; and they studied the English stage, to find out
why it maintained itself at so stiff a distance from nature. She went on
acting all the time, always acting with more certainty; and at last she
attempted more serious parts, which she learned with Haygarth at her
elbow.

She had to be taught her part as a child is taught its lesson; word by
word, intonation by intonation. She read it over, not really knowing
what it was about; she learned it by heart mechanically, getting the
words into her memory first. Then the meaning had to be explained to
her, scene by scene, and she had to say the words over until she had
found the right accent. Once found, she never forgot it; she could
repeat it identically at any moment; there were no variations to allow
for. Until that moment she was reaching out blindly in the dark, feeling
about her with uncertain fingers.

And, with her, the understanding came with the power of expression,
sometimes seeming really to proceed from the sound to the sense, from
the gesture inward. Show her how it should be done, and she knew why it
should be done; sound the right note in her ears, arrest her at the
moment when the note came right, and she understood, by a backward
process, why the note should sound thus. Her mind worked, but it worked
under suggestion, as the hypnotists say; the idea had to come to her
through the instinct, or it would never come.

As Esther found herself, almost unconsciously, becoming what she had
dreamed of becoming, what she had longed to become, and, after all,
through Philip Haygarth, a more personal feeling began to grow up in her
heart toward this lover who had found his way to her, not through the
senses, but through the mind. A kind of domesticity had crept into their
relations, and this drew Esther nearer to him. She began to feel that he
belonged to her. He had never, she knew, been wholly absorbed in her,
and she had delighted him by showing no jealousy, no anxiety to keep
him. As long as she remained so, he felt that she had a sure hold on
him. But now she began to change, to concern herself more with his
doings, to assert her right to him, as she had never hitherto cared to
do. He chafed a little at what seemed an unnecessary devotion.

Love, with Esther, had come slowly, taking his time on the journey; but
he came to take possession. To work at her art was to please Philip
Haygarth; she worked now with a double purpose. And she made surprising
advances as an actress. People began to speculate: had she genius, or
was this only an astonishingly developed talent, which could go so far
and no farther?

For, in this finished method, which seemed so spontaneous and yet at the
same time so deliberate, there seemed still to be something, some
slight, essential thing, almost unaccountably lacking. What was it? Was
it a fundamental lack, that could never be supplied? Or would that
slight, essential thing, as her admirers prophesied, one day be
supplied? They waited.

Esther was now really happy, for the first time in her life; and as she
looked back over those years, in the street by the Docks, when she had
lived alone in the midst of her family, and since then, when she had
lived alone, working, not finding the time long, nor wishing it to go
more slowly, she felt a kind of surprise at herself. How could she have
gone through it all? She had not even been bored. She had had a purpose,
and now that she was achieving that purpose, the thing itself seemed
hardly to matter. Her art kept pace with her life; she was giving up
nothing in return for happiness; but she had come to prize the
happiness, her love, beyond all things.

She knew that Haygarth was proud of her, that he looked upon her talent,
genius, whatever it was, as partly the work of his hands. It pleased her
that this should be so; it seemed to bind him to her more tightly.

In this she was mistaken, as most women are mistaken when they ask
themselves what it is in them that holds their lovers. The actress
interested Haygarth greatly, but the actress interested him as a
problem, as something quite apart from his feelings as a man, as a
lover. He had been attracted by the woman, by what was sombre and
unexplained in her eyes, by the sleepy grace of her movements, by the
magnetism that seemed to drowse in her. He had made love to her
precisely as he would have made love to an ignorant, beautiful creature
who walked on in some corner of a Drury Lane melodrama. On principle, he
did not like clever women. Esther, it is true, was not clever, in the
ordinary, tiresome sense; and her startling intuitions, in matters of
acting, had not repelled him, as an exhibition of the capabilities of a
woman, while they preoccupied him for a long time in that part of his
brain which worked critically upon any interesting material. But nothing
that she could do as an artist made the least difference to his feeling
about her as a woman; his pride in her was like his pride in a play
that he had written finely, and put aside; to be glanced at from time to
time, with cool satisfaction. He had his own very deliberate theory of
values, and one value was never allowed to interfere with another. A
devoted, discreet amateur of woman, he appreciated women really for
their own sakes, with an unflattering simplicity. And for a time Esther
absorbed him almost wholly.

He had been quite content with their relations as they were before she
fell seriously in love with him, and this new, profound feeling, which
he had never even dreaded, somewhat disturbed him. She was adopting
almost the attitude of a wife, and he had no ambition to play the part
of a husband. The affections were always rather a strain upon him; he
liked something a little less serious and a little more exciting.

Esther understood nothing that was going on in Philip Haygarth's mind,
and when he began to seem colder to her, when she saw less of him, and
then less, it seemed to her that she could still appeal to him by her
art and still touch him by her devotion. As her warmth seemed more and
more to threaten his liberty, the impulse to tug at his chain became
harder to resist. His continued, unvarying interest in her acting, his
patience in helping her, in working with her, kept her for some time
from realising how little was left now of the more personal feeling. It
was with sharp surprise, as well as with a blinding rage, that she
discovered one day, beyond possibility of mistake, that she had a rival,
and that Haygarth was only doling out to her the time left over from her
rival.

It was an Italian, a young girl who had come over to London with an
organ-grinder, and who posed for sculptors, when she could get a
sitting. It was a girl who could barely read and write, an insignificant
creature, a peasant from the Campagna, who had nothing but her good
looks and the distinction of her attitudes. Esther was beside herself
with rage, jealousy, mortification; she loved, and she could not pardon.
There was a scene of unmeasured violence. Haygarth was cruel, almost
with intention; and they parted, Esther feeling as if her life had been
broken sharply in two.

She was at the last rehearsals of a new play by Haygarth, a play in
which he had tried for once to be tragic in the bare, straightforward
way of the things that really happen. She went through the rehearsals
absent-mindedly, repeating her words, which he had taught her how to
say, but scarcely attending to their meaning. Another thought was at
work behind this mechanical speech, a continual throb of remembrance,
going on monotonously. Her mind was full of other words, which she heard
as if an inner voice were repeating them; her mind made up pictures,
which seemed to pass slowly before her eyes: Haygarth and the other
woman. At the last rehearsal Quellen came round to her, and, ironically
as she thought, complimented her on her performance. She meant, when the
night came, not to fail: that was all.

When the night came, she said to herself that she was calm, that she
would be able to concentrate herself on her acting and act just as
usual. But, as she stood in the wings, waiting for her moment to
appear, her eyes went straight to the eyes of the other woman, the
Italian model, the organ-grinder's girl, who sat, smiling contentedly,
in the front of a box, turning her head sometimes to speak to some one
behind her, hidden by the curtain. She was dressed in black, with a rose
in her hair: you could have taken her for a lady; she was triumphantly
beautiful. Esther shuddered as if she had been struck; the blood rushed
into her forehead and swelled and beat against her eyes. Then, with an
immense effort, she cleared her mind of everything but the task before
her. Every nerve in her body lived with a separate life as she opened
the door at the back of the stage, and stood, waiting for the applause
to subside, motionless under the eyes of the audience. There was
something in the manner of her entrance that seemed to strike the fatal
note of the play. She had never been more restrained, more effortless;
she seemed scarcely to be acting; only, a magnetic current seemed to
have been set in motion between her and those who were watching her.
They held their breaths, as if they were assisting at a real tragedy; as
if, at any moment, this acting might give place to some horrible, naked
passion of mere nature. The curtain rose and rose again at the end of
the first act; and she stood there, bowing gravely, in what seemed a
deliberate continuation, into that interval, of the sentiment of the
piece. Her dresses were taken off her and put on her, for each act, as
if she had been a lay-figure. Once, in the second act, she looked up at
the box; the Italian woman was smiling emptily, but Haygarth, taking no
notice of her, was leaning forward with his eyes fixed on the stage.
After the third act he sent to Esther's dressing-room a fervent note,
begging to be allowed to see her. She had made his play, he said, and
she had made herself a great actress. She crumpled the note fiercely,
put it carefully into her jewel-box, and refused to see him. In the last
act she had to die, after the manner of the Lady of the Camellias,
waiting for the lover who, in this case, never came. The pathos of her
acting was almost unbearable, and, still, it seemed not like acting at
all. The curtain went down on a great actress.

Esther went home stunned, only partly realising what she had done, or
how she had done it. She read over the note from Haygarth,
unforgivingly; and the long letter that came from him in the morning. As
reflection returned, through all the confused suffering and excitement,
to her deliberate, automatic nature, in which a great shock had brought
about a kind of release, she realised that all she had wanted, during
most of her life, had at last come about. The note had been struck, she
had responded to it, as she responded to every suggestion, faultlessly;
she knew that she could repeat the note, whenever she wished, now that
she had once found it. There would be no variation to allow for, the
actress was made at last. She might take back her lover, or never see
him again, it would make no difference. It would make no difference, she
repeated, over and over again, weeping uncontrollable tears.



  CHRISTIAN TREVALGA.


He had never known what it was to feel the earth solid under his feet.
And now, while he waited for the doctor who was to decide whether he
might still keep his place in the world, and make what he could of all
that remained to him of his life, the past began to come back to him,
blurred a little in his memory, and with whole spaces blotted out of it,
but in a steady return upon himself, as the past, it is said, comes back
to a drowning man at the instant before death. There was that next step
to take, the step that frightened him; was it into another, more
painful, kind of oblivion? He was still an artist, his fingers were
still his own; but had the man all gone out of him, the power to live
for himself, when his fingers were no longer on the keyboard? That was
to be decided; and the past was trying to make its own comment on the
situation.

Christian Trevalga was born in a little sea-coast village in Cornwall,
and the earliest thing he remembered was the sharp, creaking voice of
the sea-gulls, as they swept past him at the edge of the cliff, high up
over the sea. He was conscious of it, because it hurt him, sooner than
he was conscious of the many voices of the sea, which, all through his
childhood, sang out of the midst of all his dreams. Pain always meant
more to him than pleasure, though, indeed, he was not always sure if the
things that hurt him were not the things he cared for most.

He was thirty-six now, and he had never gone back to the village since
he left it, at the age of sixteen, to come to London and try to win a
scholarship at the College. His father was a gentleman, who had come
down in the world; drink, gambling, and a low kind of debauchery brought
him down; and when he came back from Spain in a certain year, sobered,
something of a wreck, and married to a slow-witted Spanish woman whom he
had found no one knew where, he had only an old-fashioned, untidy, but
large and rambling, house on a cliff to live in, on the outskirts of a
village, most of which had once belonged to him. Debts and mortgages
left just enough to live on uncomfortably; he was not exacting now, and
the place was good for an idle, helpless man, who was tired of what he
called living, and had taken a late fancy to the open air, and, as soon
as the child was old enough, to the companionship of his child. His wife
sat indoors all day, crouching over the fire, except when the summer
heat was extreme, and then she lay on the grass, under an umbrella. When
they sat at table her fingers were always crumbling the bread into tiny
crumbs, and often, at tea-time especially, she would take a large slice
of bread and mould it into little figures, little nude figures
exquisitely proportioned, with all the modelling of the limbs and
shoulder-blades. Sometimes she would do more than a single figure, a
little well, for instance, and a woman kneeling at the brink, and
leaning over it, with her arms outstretched. She loved the little
figures, and talked about them very seriously, criticising their
defects, not content with the lines that she had got, seeing them with
subtler curves than any she had been able to get. She would like to have
kept some of them, but, though she soaked them in milk, they would
always crumble away as soon as the bread dried. Christian stared at her
when her fingers were busy; he was puzzled, not exactly happy; he
generally ran away and left her for his father, who was not so queer,
half-absorbed, and busy about nothing.

His father had a great fondness for music, but he could not play any
instrument, only whistle. He whistled elaborate tunes, with really a
kind of skill. There was a good old Broadwood piano in the house, and,
from as long ago as he could remember, Christian had been put on the
music-stool, and told to play what his father whistled. The first time
he was put there he picked out every note correctly, with one finger.
The father caught him up in his exuberant way: 'You will be a great
musician, my boy!' he said. The mother nodded over the fire, and looked
down at her tiny fingers, which could pick out form as the child, it
seemed, could pick out sound.

Christian lived at the piano, playing all the music that he could find
in the house, and making up a strange, formless music of his own when
there was nothing else to play. His ear, from the first, was faultless;
if a poker fell in the fireplace he could tell you the pitch of the note
which it sounded. He was always listening, and sounds, with him, often
became visible, or at least reflected themselves upon his brain in
contours and patterns. The wind at night, when it flapped at the windows
with the sound of a sail flapping, seemed to surround the house with
realisable forms of sound. The music which he played on the piano made
lines, whenever he thought of it; never pictures. His mother, who did
not seem to herself to know or care anything about music, sometimes
described a little scene which the music he had been playing called up
to her, but he could never see things in that way. When he played the
first ballad of Chopin, for instance, she saw two lovers, sheltering
under trees in a wood, out of the rain which was falling around them,
and she followed their emotions, as the music interpreted them to her.
But he did not understand music like that; what was mathematical in it
he saw as pattern, but the emotion came to him in an almost equally
abstract way, as musical emotion, beginning and ending in the music
itself, and not needing to have any of one's own feelings put into it.
It was the music itself that cried and wept, and tore one; the passions
of abstract sound.

For, he knew from the beginning, the soul of music is something more
than the soul of humanity expressing itself in melody, and the life of
music something more than an audible dramatisation of human life.
Beethoven, let us say, is angry with the world, Schumann dreams about
the roots of a flower; and they sit down to make music under that
impulse. Well, the anger will be there, and the flower coming up out of
the earth, but the music itself will have forgotten both the dream and
the feeling, the moment it begins to speak articulately in sound. It
will have its own message, as well as its own language, and you will not
be able to write down that message in words, any more than your words
can be translated into that language.

And so Christian, with his divination of what music really means, was
never able to attach any expressible meaning to the pieces he played,
and became tongue-tied if any one asked him questions about them. The
emotion of the music, the idea, the feeling there, that was what moved
him; and his own personal feelings, apart from some form of music which
might translate them into a region where he could recognise them with
interest, came to mean less and less to him, until he seemed hardly to
have any personal feelings at all. It was natural to him to be kind,
people liked him and often imagined that he responded to their liking;
but, at many periods of his life, accused him of gross unkindness, or
even treachery, and he had not been conscious of the affection or of its
betrayal.

And outward things, too, as well as people, meant very little to him,
and meant less and less as time went on. What he saw, when he went for
long walks with his father, had vanished from his memory before he had
returned to the house; it was as if he had been walking through
underground passages, with only a little faint light on the roadway in
front of his feet. He knew all the sea-cries, but never seemed to notice
the movement, the colour, of the sea; the sunsets over the sea left him
indifferent; he looked, with the others, but said nothing, and seemed to
see nothing.

When he had decided that he was going to be a great pianist, and this
was when he was about ten, he had settled down to the hard work which
that meant, with an enthusiasm so profound and tenacious that it looked
like stolidity. They gave him a room at the top of the house, where he
could practise without disturbing anybody, and he shut himself in there,
until he was dragged out unwillingly to his meals, grudging the time
when he had to sit quiet at the table. 'What are you always thinking
about?' they would ask him, as he frowned silently over his food; but
he was thinking about nothing, he wanted to get back to the bar in the
middle of which he had been interrupted. The cadence seemed to hang in
space, swinging like a spider, and unable to catch the cornice on the
other wall.

He was sixteen when he went up to London for the first time, and it had
been arranged that he should take lodgings in Bloomsbury, and try to
hear some of the great pianists, and, if possible, get some help
privately, before he tried for the scholarship. He got a bedroom at the
top of a house in Coptic Street, and hired a piano, which took up most
of the space left over by the bed; and he began to go to the shilling
seats at concerts, especially when there was any piano music to be
heard. Just then several of the most famous pianists were in London; he
went to hear them, at first with a horrible apprehension, and then more
boldly, as he saw what could be learned from them, and yet seemed to
fancy that they, too, might have found something to learn from him. He
heard their thunders, and laughed: that was not his idea of the
instrument, a thing, in their hands, that could overtop an orchestra
playing fortissimo. He saw these athletes fight with the poor instrument
as if they fought with a dangerous wild beast. Some used it as an anvil
to hammer sparks out of it; the chords rang and rebounded as if iron had
struck iron; it was the new art of attack, and piano-makers were
strengthening their defences daily. Some displayed an incredible
agility, and invented all sorts of ugly difficulties, in order to
overcome them; they reminded him of the dancing girls he had read of,
who used, at Roman feasts, to leap head-foremost into the midst of a
circle of sword-blades, and dance there on their hands, and leap out
again. He knew that he could not do any of these things, as he heard
them done; but was that really the way to treat music, or the way to
treat the piano?

    *    *    *    *    *

Christian Trevalga remembered all this as he sat waiting for the doctor
in his rooms in Piccadilly; and it came to him like the first act of a
play which he was still watching, without knowing how the curtain was to
come down. That year in London, the loneliness, poverty, labour of it;
the great day of the competition, when he played behind the curtain, and
Rubinstein, sitting among the professors, silenced every hesitation with
his strong approval; the three years of hard daily work, the painful
perfecting of everything that he had sketched out for himself; life, as
he had lived it, a queer, silent, sullen, not unattractive boy, among
the students in whom he took so little interest; all this passed before
him in a single flash of memory. He had gone abroad, at the expense of
the college; had travelled in Germany and Austria; had extorted the
admiration of Brahms, who had said, 'I hate what you play, and I hate
how you play it, but you play the piano!' Tschaikowsky was in Vienna; he
had taken a warm personal liking to the unresponsive young Englishman,
who seemed to be always frowning, and looking at you distrustfully from
under his dark, overhanging eyebrows. It was not to the musician that he
was unresponsive, as he was to the musician in Brahms, the German doctor
of music in spectacles, that peered out of those learned, intellectual
scores. He felt Tschaikowsky with his nerves, all that suffering music
without silences, never still and happy, like most other music, at all
events sometimes. But the man, when he walked arm in arm with him,
seemed excessive, a kind of uneasy responsibility.

Then he had come back to London, lived and worked there, given concerts,
made his fame in the world, seen himself triumph, watching his own
career with an absolute certainty of being able to do what he wanted.
And all the time he had been, as he was that day at the college when he
won the scholarship, playing behind a curtain. He knew that on the other
side of the curtain was the world, with many things to do besides
listening to him, though he could arrest it when he liked, and make it
listen; then it went on its way again, and the other things continued to
occupy it. Well, for him, where were those other things? They hardly
existed. The great men who had given him their friendship, all the
people who came to him because they admired him, those who came to him
because his playing seemed to speak to them from somewhere inside their
own hearts, in the little voices of their blood, the women who, as it
seemed, loved him: why was it that he could not be as they were, respond
to them in their own language, which was that of humanity itself,
admire, like, love them back?

He had tried to find himself, to become real, by falling in love. Women
had not found it difficult to fall in love with him; his reticence, his
enigmatical reluctance to speak out, the sympathetic sullenness of his
face, a certain painful sensibility which shot like distressed nerves
across his cheeks and forehead and tugged at the restless corners of his
eyelids, seemed to attract them as to something which they could perhaps
find out, and then soothe, and put to rest. He had no morals, and was
too indifferent to refuse much that was offered to him. When it was a
simple adventure of the flesh, he accepted it simply, and, without
knowing it, won the reputation of being both sensual and hard-hearted, a
sort of coldly passionate creature, that promised everything in the
sincerity of one moment, and broke every promise in the sincerity of the
next. He did not go out of his way to find a woman who did not seem to
suggest herself to him; and when he mistook what was, perhaps, real love
for something else, all he wanted, he was genuinely sorry, and, at least
once, almost fancied that he was going to answer in key at last.

He had met Rana Vaughan at the college, where she was trying,
impossibly, to learn the piano. She had the artist's soul, and long,
white fingers, which seemed eager to touch the ivory and ebony of the
instrument; only, the soul and the fingers never could agree among
themselves, there was some stoppage of the electric current between
them. The piano never responded to her, but she knew, better than all
the professors, how it should respond; and Trevalga's playing was the
only playing she had ever liked. She adored him because he could do what
she wanted, above all things, to do; and it was with almost a vicarious
ecstasy that she listened to him. She admired, pitied, wanted to help
him; exulted in him, became his comrade, perhaps (he wondered?) loved
him, or would have loved him if he would have let her. He, who could
talk to no one else, could talk to her; and she brought him a warmth and
reality of life which he had never known. In her, for a time, he seemed
to touch real things; and, for a time, the experience quickened him.

She cared intensely for the one thing he cared for, and not less
intensely (and here was the wonder to him) for all the other things that
existed outside his interests. For her, life was everything, and
everything was a part of life. She would have given everything she had
to become a great player; but, if you found your way down to the root of
things, her feeling for music was neither more nor less than her feeling
for every form of art, and her feeling for art, which was unerring, was
the same thing as her feeling for skating or dancing. She got as much
pleasure from bending a supple binding in her hand as from reading the
poems inside it. She made no selections in life, beyond picking out all
the beautiful and pleasant things, whatever they might be. Trevalga
studied her with amazement; he felt withered, shrivelled up, in body and
soul, beside her magnificent acceptance of the world; she vitalised him,
drew him away from himself; and he feared her. He feared women.

To live with a woman, thought Christian, in the same house, the same
room with her, is as if the keeper were condemned to live by day and
sleep by night in the wild beast's cage. It is to be on one's guard at
every minute, to apprehend always the claws behind the caressing
softness of their padded coverings, to be continually ready to amuse
one's dangerous slave, with one's life for the forfeit. The strain of
it, the trial to the nerves, the temper! it was not to be thought of
calmly. He looked around him, and saw all the other keepers of these
ferocious, uncertain creatures, wearing out their lives in the exciting
companionship; and a dread of women took the place of his luxurious
indifference, as he imagined himself actually playing the part, too.

It would be, he saw, a conflict of egoisms, and he could not afford to
risk his own. Woman, as he saw her, is the beast of prey: rapacious of
affection, time, money, all the flesh and all the soul, one's nerves,
one's attention, pleasure, duty, art itself! She is the rival of the
idea, and she never pardons. She requires the sacrifice of the whole
man; nothing less will satisfy her; and, to love a woman is, for an
artist, to change one's religion.

Christian had tried honestly to explain himself to Rana, but the girl
would not understand him. She cared for his art as much as he did; she
would never come between him and his art; she would hate him if he
preferred her to his art. She said all that, sincerely; but he shook his
head obstinately, a little sadly, knowing that for him possible things
were impossible. The mere presence of any one he cared for, all the more
if he cared for her a great deal, disturbed him, upset his life. And he
must keep his life intact while he might.

After all, he considered, what was he? Caged already, for another kind
of slavery, the prisoner of his own fingers, as they worked,
independently of himself, mechanically, doing their so many miles of
promenade a day over the piano. He was such another as the equilibrist
whirling around his fixed bar, or swinging from trapeze to trapeze in
the air; a specialist in a particular kind of muscular movement, which
in him communicated itself to the mechanism of an instrument of sound.
For ever on the trapeze of sound, his life, the life of his reputation,
risked whenever he went through his performance before the public; yes,
he was only a kind of acrobat, doing tricks with his fingers.

As he looked fairly at all his imprisonments, dreading the worst, the no
longer solitary imprisonment, he realised that he had no outlook, that
he would never be able to look through the bars. 'I have only felt,' he
said to himself, 'I have never thought, and I have felt only one thing
very acutely, music.' He was almost frightened as he saw, in a flash,
within that narrow limits this one interest, this exercise of one
instinct, caged him. Other men were curious about many things; the
world existed for them, not only as substance, but as a matter for
thought; there were all the destinies of nations and of mankind to think
about, and he had never thought about them. He wondered what people
meant when they spoke about general interests. Were they a kind of
safety valve, for the lack of which he was bound, sooner or later, to
come to grief?

Occupied more and more nervously with himself, shutting himself up for
days and nights, almost without food, in an agony of attack on some
difficulty hardly tangible enough to be put into words, he let Rana
Vaughan drift away from him, with an unavowed sense of failure, of
having lost something which he could not bring himself to take, and
which might yet have saved him. She parted from him, at the last,
angrily, her pity worn out, her admiration stained with contempt. He
remembered the look of her face, flushed, indignant, as, withdrawn now
wholly into herself, she said good-bye for the last time. With her went
his last hold on the world.

Gradually sound began to take hold of him, like a slave who has overcome
his master. The sensation of sound presented itself to him continually,
not in the form of memory, nor as the suggestion of a composition, but
in a disquieting way, like some invisible companion, always at one's
side, whispering into one's ears. He was not always able to distinguish
between what he actually heard, a noise in the street, for instance,
which came to him for the most part with the suggestion of a cadence,
which his ear completed as if it had been the first note of a well-known
tune, and what he seemed to hear, through noise or silence, in some
region outside reality. 'So long as I can distinguish,' he said to
himself, 'between the one and the other, I am safe; the danger will be
when they become indistinguishable.'

He had realised a certain danger, always. He felt that he was a piece of
mechanism which was not absolutely to be trusted. There had been
something wrong from the beginning; the works did not wear evenly; one
part or another was bound to use itself up before its time; and then,
well, not even a shock would be needed to set everything out of order:
it was only a question of time.

He began to watch himself more closely, to watch for the enemy; and now
a kind of expectant uneasiness came of itself to suggest otherwise
imperceptible pains and troubles of sound. He was always listening, with
a frequent precipitation of pulses, to nothing, to something about to
come, to the fancy of music. The days dragged, and yet some feverish
idea seemed always to be hurrying him along; he was restless whenever
his fingers were not on the keys of the piano.

One day, at a concert, while he was playing one of Chopin's studies,
something in the curve of the music, which he had always seen as a wavy
line, going on indefinitely in space, spreading itself out elastically,
but without ever forming a pattern, seemed to become almost externally
visible, just above the level of the strings on the open top of the
piano. It was like grey smoke, forming and unforming as if it boiled up
softly out of the pit where the wires were coiled up. It was so distinct
that he shut his eyes for a moment, to see if it would be there when he
opened them again. It was still there, getting darker in colour, and
more distinct. He looked out of the corner of his eyes, to see if the
people sitting near him had noticed anything; but the people sitting
near him had their eyes fixed on his fingers, from which he seemed, as
usual, to be quite detached; they evidently saw nothing. He smiled to
himself, half apologetically; the piece had come to an end, and he was
bowing to the applause; he walked boldly off the platform.

When he came back to play again, he looked nervously at the top of the
piano, but there was nothing to be seen. He sat down, and bent over the
keyboard, and his hands began to run to and fro softly. When he looked
up he saw what he was playing as clearly as he could have seen the notes
if they had been there: but the wavy line was upright now, and drifted
upwards swiftly, vanishing at a certain point; it swayed to and fro like
a snake beating time to the music of the snake-charmer; and he looked at
it as if it understood him, and nodded his head to it, to show that he
understood. By this time it seemed to him quite natural, and he forgot
that there had ever been a time when he had not seen the music like
that.

On his way home after the concert, it occurred to him that something
unusual had happened, but he could not remember what it was. He dined by
himself, and after dinner went out into the streets, and walked in the
midst of people, as he liked to do, that he might take hold of something
real. But he could not concentrate his mind, he seemed somehow to be
slipping away from himself, dissolving into an uneasy vacancy. The
people did not seem, very real that night: he stopped for a long time at
the corner of the pavement, near Piccadilly Circus, and tried to see
what was going on around him. It was quite useless. The confusing
lights, the crush and hurry of figures wrapped in dark clothes, the
noise of the horses' hoofs striking the stones, the shouts of
omnibus-conductors and newsboys, all the surge and struggle of horrible
exterior forces, seeming to be tightened up into an inextricable
disorder, but pushing out with a hundred arms this way and that, making
some sort of headway against the opposition of things, brought over him
a complete bewilderment. 'I can see no reason,' he said to himself, 'why
I am here rather than there, why these atoms which know one another so
little, or have lost some recognition of themselves, should coalesce in
this particular body, standing still where all is in movement.' He
looked at the horses pulled back roughly at a cross-current, and tossing
back their heads as the hind-legs grew convulsively rigid, and he felt
sorry for them, and wondered why the driver was driving them and why
they were not driving the driver. Some one ran violently against him,
and apologised. The shock did nothing to wake him up; he noticed it,
waited for the effect, and was surprised that no effect came.
'Decidedly,' he said to himself, 'I am losing my sense of material
things, for, slight as it always has been, I have always resented being
pushed into the mud.'

He went home, and opened the piano; but he was afraid of it, and shut it
up, and went to bed. He slept well, but he dreamed that he was on the
island of Portland, among the convicts; there was a woman with him, who
seemed to be Rana, and they had tea at a farm, high up among trees; and
then he went away and forgot her, and found himself in a lonely place
where there were a number of cucumber-frames on the ground, and several
convicts were laid out asleep in each, half-naked, and packed together
head to heel. Then he remembered the woman, and went back to the farm
where he had left her; but she was no longer there, she had gone to look
for him, and he thought she must have lost her way among the convicts.
He was greatly distressed, but he found he was walking with her along
Piccadilly, and she told him that she had been waiting for him a long
time in an omnibus which had stopped at the corner of the Circus.

When he awoke in the morning he was relieved to find that his brain
seemed to have become quite clear, surprisingly clear, as if the fog
that had been gathering about him had lifted; and he sat at the piano
playing for many hours, and when he had finished playing he heard still
more ravishing sounds in the air, a music which was like what Chopin
might have written in Paradise. Tears of delight came into his eyes; he
sat listening in an ecstasy. Now everything had come right; all the
trouble and confusion had gone out of the sounds; they no longer teased
him with their muttering, coming and going elusively; they were all
about him, they flooded the air, they were like pure joy, speaking at
last its own language.

And for days after that he went about with a strange, secret smile on
his face, more than reconciled to his new companion, enamoured of him;
and at last he could keep the secret no longer, but had to tell every
one he met of this miracle that now went with him wherever he went. When
he stopped listening, and played the music that he had known before this
new music spoke to him, he seemed to play better than he had ever played
before. Only, when he had stopped playing, he sank back sleepily into
his ecstatic oblivion, not distinguishing between those he talked with
in his dream (the Chopin out of Paradise) and the few remaining friends,
who now came about him pityingly, and tried to do what they could for
him. Their coming awakened him a little; he awoke enough to realise that
they thought him mad; and it was with a very lucid fear that he waited
now for the doctor who was to decide finally whether he might still keep
his place in the world.

    *    *    *    *    *

Five years later, when Christian Trevalga died in the asylum at ----,
some loose scraps of paper were found, on which he had jotted down a few
disconnected thoughts about music. They are, perhaps, worth giving, for
they are more explicit than he ever cared, or was able, to be when he
was quite sane; and, fragmentary as they are, may help to complete one's
picture of the man.

'It has been revealed to me that there is but one art, but many
languages through which men speak it. When the angels talk among
themselves, their speech is art; for they do not talk as men do, to
discuss matters or to relate facts, but to express either love or
wisdom. It is partly the beauty of their voices which causes whatever
they say to assume a form of beauty. Music comes nearer than any other
of the human languages to the sound of these angelic voices. But
painting is also a language, and sculpture, and poetry; only these have
more of the atmosphere of the earth about them, and are not so clear. I
have heard pictures which spoke to me melodiously, and I have listened
to the faultless rhythm of statues; but it was as an Englishman who
knows French and Italian quite well follows a conversation in those
languages. He has to substitute one sound for another in his mind.

    *    *    *    *    *

'When I am playing the piano I am always afraid of hurting a sound. I
believe that sounds are living beings, flying about us like motes in the
air, and that they suffer if we clutch them roughly. Have you ever tried
to catch a butterfly without brushing the dust off its wings? Every time
I press a note I feel as if I were doing that, and it is an agony to
me. I am certain that I have hurt fewer sounds than any other pianist.

    *    *    *    *    *

'Chopin's music screams under its breath, like a patient they are
operating upon in the hospital. There are flowers on the pillow, great
sickly pungent flowers, and he draws in their perfume with the same
breath that is jarred down below by the scraping sound of the little
saw.

    *    *    *    *    *

'Chopin always treats the piano like a gentleman. He never gives it a
note that it cannot sing, he is always scrupulous towards its whims, he
indulges it like a spoilt child. Schumann comes back cloudily out of a
dream, and sets down the notes as he heard them, upon paper; then he
leaves the piano to make the best of it.

    *    *    *    *    *

'Most modern music is a beggar for pity. The musician tries to show us
how he has suffered, and how hopeless he is. He sets his toothache and
his heartache to music, putting those sufferings into the music,
without remembering that sounds have their own agonies, which alone they
can express in a perfect manner. He forgets also that joy is the natural
speech of music, and that when he comes to sound for the expression of
his joy he is asking it to sing out of its own heart.

    *    *    *    *    *

'I remember I once heard a Siamese band playing on board the yacht of
the King of Siam. It played its own music, of which I could make
nothing; and also passages from our operas. How can the same ears hear
in two different ways? And how far behind these Eastern musicians are
we, who cannot even understand their music when it is played to us! Some
day some one will dig down to the roots, and turn up music as it is
before it is tamed to the scale.

    *    *    *    *    *

'It is strange, I never used to think about music: I accepted it by an
act of faith; I was too near it to look all round it. But lately, I do
not know why, I have been forced to think out many of the things which
I used to know without thinking. It all comes to the same thing in the
end; one form or another of knowledge; and does it matter if I can
explain it to you or not?'



  THE CHILDHOOD OF LUCY NEWCOME.


The house which Lucy Newcome remembered as her home, the only home she
ever had, was a small house, hardly more than a cottage, with a little,
neat garden in front of it, and a large, untidy garden at the back.
There was a low wooden palisade cutting it off from the road, which, in
that remote suburb of the great town, had almost the appearance of a
road in the country. The house had two windows, one on each side of the
door, and above that three more windows, and attics above that. The
windows on each side of the door were the windows of the two
sitting-rooms; the kitchen, with its stone floor, its shining rows of
brass things around the walls, its great dresser, was at the back. It
was through the kitchen that you found your way into the big garden,
where the grass was always long and weedy and ill-kept, and so all the
pleasanter for lying on; and where there were a few alder-trees, a
pear-tree on which the pears never seemed to thrive, for it was quite
close to Lucy's bedroom window, a flower-bed along the wall, and a
great, old sundial, which Lucy used to ponder over when the shadows came
and stretched out their long fingers across it. The garden, when she
thinks of it now, comes to her often as she saw it one warm Sunday
evening, walking to and fro there beside her mother, who was saying how
good it was to be well again, or better: this was not long before she
died; and Lucy had said to herself, What a dear little mother I have,
and how young, and small, and pretty she looks in that lilac bodice with
the bright belt round the waist! Lucy had been as tall as her mother
when she was ten, and at twelve she could look down on her quite
protectingly.

Her father she but rarely saw; but it was her father whom she
worshipped, whom she was taught to worship. The whole house, she, her
mother, and Linda, the servant, who was more friend than servant (for
she took no wages, and when she wanted anything, asked for it), all
existed for the sake of that wonderful, impracticable father of hers; it
was for him they starved, it was to him they looked for the great future
which they believed in so implicitly, but scarcely knew in what shape to
look for. She knew that he had come of gentlefolk, in another county,
that he had been meant for the Church, and, after some vague misfortune
at Cambridge, had married her mother, who was but seventeen, and of a
class beneath him, against the will of his relations, who had cast him
off just as, at twenty-one, he had come into a meagre allowance from the
will of his grandfather. He had been the last of eleven children, born
when his mother was fifty years of age, and he had inherited the
listless temperament of a dwindling stock. He had never been able to do
anything seriously, or even to make up his mind quite what great thing
he was going to do. First he had found a small clerkship, then he had
dropped casually upon the post which he was to hold almost to the time
of his death, as secretary to some Assurance Society, whose money it was
his business to collect. He did the work mechanically; at first,
competently enough; but his heart was in other things. Lucy was never
sure whether it was the great picture he was engaged upon, or the great
book, that was to make all the difference in their fortunes. She never
doubted his power to do anything he liked; and it was one of her
privileges sometimes to be allowed to sit in his room (the sitting-room
on the left of the door, where it was always warmer and more comfortable
than anywhere else in the house), watching him at his paints or his
manuscripts, with great serious eyes that sometimes seemed to disquiet
him a little; and then she would be told to run away and not worry
mother.

The little mother, too, she saw less of than children mostly see of
their mothers; for her mother was never quite well, and she would so
often be told: 'You must be quiet now, and not go into your mother's
room, for she has one of her headaches,' that she gradually accustomed
herself to do without anybody's company, and then she would sit all
alone, or with her doll, who was called Arabella, to whom she would
chatter for hours together, in a low and familiar voice, making all
manner of confidences to her, and telling her all manner of stories.
Sometimes she would talk to Linda instead, sitting on the corner of the
kitchen fender; but Linda was not so good a listener, and she had a way
of going into the scullery, and turning on a noisy stream of water, just
at what ought to have been the most absorbing moment of the narrative.

Lucy was a curious child, one of those children of whom nurses are
accustomed to say that they will not make old bones. She was always a
little pale, and she would walk in her sleep; and would spend whole
hours almost without moving, looking vaguely and fixedly into the air:
children ought not to dream like that! She did not know, herself, very
often, what she was dreaming about; it seemed to her natural to sit for
hours doing nothing.

Often, however, she knew quite well what she was dreaming about; and
first of all she was dreaming about herself. Really, she would explain
if you asked her, she did not belong to her parents at all; she belonged
to the fairies; she was a princess; there was another, a great mother,
who would come some day and claim her. And this consciousness of being
really a princess was one of the joys of her imagination. She had
composed all the circumstances of her state, many times over, indeed,
and always in a different way. It was the heightening she gave to what
her mother had taught her: that she was of a better stock than the other
children who lived in the other small houses all round, and must not
play with them, or accept them as equals. That was to be her consolation
if she had to do without many of the things she wanted, and to be
shabbily dressed (out of old things of her mother's, turned and cut and
pieced together), while perhaps some of those other children, who were
not her equals, had new dresses.

And then she would make up stories about the people she knew, the ladies
to whom she paid a very shifting devotion, very sincere while it lasted.
One of her odd fancies was to go into the graveyard which surrounded the
church, and to play about in the grass there, or, more often, gather
flowers and leaves, and carry them to a low tomb, and sit there, weaving
them into garlands. These garlands she used to offer to the ladies whose
faces she liked, as they passed in and out of the church. The strange
little girl who sat among the graves, weaving garlands, and who would
run up to them so shyly, and with so serious a smile, offering them her
flowers, seemed to these ladies rather a disquieting little person, as
if she, like her flowers, had a churchyard air about her.

Blonde, tall, slim, delicately-complexioned, with blue eyes and a
wavering, somewhat sensuous mouth, the child took after her father; and
he used to say of her sometimes, half whimsically, that she was bound to
be like him altogether, bound to go to the bad. The big, brilliant man,
who had made so winning a failure of life, so popular always, and the
centre of a little ring of intellectual people, used sometimes to let
her stay in the room of an evening, while he and his friends drank their
ale and smoked pipes and talked their atheistical philosophy. These
friends of her father used to pet her, because she was pretty; and it
was one of them who paid her the first compliment she ever had,
comparing her face to a face in a picture. She had never heard of the
picture, but she was immensely flattered; for she did not think a
painter would ever paint any one who was not very pretty. She listened
to their conversation, much of which she could not understand, as if she
understood every word of it; and she wondered very much at some of the
things they said. Her mother was a Catholic, and, though religion was
rarely referred to, had taught her some little prayers; and it puzzled
her that all this could be true, and yet that clever people should have
doubts of it. She had always learned that cleverness (book-learning, or
any disinterested journeying of the intellect) was the one important
thing in the world. Her father was clever: that was why everything must
bow to him. There must be something in it, then, if these clever people,
if her father himself, doubted of God, of heaven and hell, of the good
ordering of this world. And she announced one day to the pious servant,
who had told her that God sees everything, that when she was older she
meant to get the better of God, by building a room all walls and no
windows, within which she would be good or bad as she pleased, without
his seeing her.

Lucy was never sent to school, like most children; that was partly
because they were very poor, but more because her father had always
intended to teach her himself, on a new and liberal scheme of education,
which seemed to him better than the education you get in schools. And
sometimes, for as much as a few weeks together, he would set her lessons
day by day, and be excessively severe with her, not permitting her to
make a single slip in anything he had given her to learn. He would even
punish her sometimes, if she still failed to learn some lesson
perfectly; and that seemed to her a mortal indignity; so that one day
she rushed out into the garden, and climbed up into a tree, and then
called out, tremulously but triumphantly: 'If you promise not to punish
me, I'll come down; but if you don't, I'll throw myself down!'

She always disliked learning lessons, and those fits of scrupulousness
on his part were her great dread. They did not occur often; and between
whiles he was very lenient, ready to get out of the trouble of teaching
her on the slightest excuse; only too glad if she did not bother him by
coming to say her lessons. Both were quite happy then; she to be allowed
to sit in his room with her lesson-book on her knees, dreaming; he not
to be hindered in the new sketch he was making or the notes he was
preparing for that great book of the future, perhaps out of one of those
old, calf-covered books which he used to bring back from second-hand
shops in the town, and which Lucy used to admire for their ancient
raggedness, as they stood in shelves round the room, brown and
broken-backed.

And then if she had not her geography to learn by heart (those lists of
capes and rivers and the population of countries, which she could indeed
learn by heart, but which represented nothing to her of the actual world
itself) she had of course all the more time for her own reading. When
she had outgrown that old fancy about the fairies, and about being a
princess, she cared nothing for stories of adventure; but little for the
material wonders of the 'Arabian Nights'; somewhat more for the
'Pilgrim's Progress,' in which she always lingered over that passage of
the good people through the bright follies of Vanity Fair; but most of
all for certain quiet stories of lovers, in which there was no
improbable incident, and no too fantastical extravagance of passion; but
a quiet probable fidelity, plenty of troubles, and of course a wedding
at the end. One book, 'The Story of Mrs. Jardine,' she was never tired
of reading; and she liked almost all the stories in the bound volumes of
the 'Argosy.' Then there was a little book of poetical selections; she
never could remember the name of it afterwards; and there were the songs
of Thomas Moore, and, above all, there was Mrs. Hemans. Those gentle and
lady-like poems 'of the affections,' with their nice sentiments, the
faded ribbons of their second-hand romance, seemed to the child like a
beautiful glimpse into the real, tender, not too passionate world, where
men and women loved magnanimously, and had heroic sufferings, and died,
perhaps, but for a great love, or a great cause, and always nobly. She
thought that the ways of the world blossomed naturally into Casabiancas
and Gertrudes and Imeldas, who were faithful to death, and came into
their inheritance of love or glory beyond the grave. She used to wonder
if she, too, like Costanza, had a 'pale Madonna brow'; and she wished
nothing more fervently than to be like those saintly and affectionate
creatures, always so beautiful, and so often (what did it matter?)
unfortunate, who took poison from the lips of their lovers, and served
God in prison, and came back afterwards, spirits, out of the angelical
rapture of heaven, to be as some rare music, or subtle perfume, in the
souls of those who had loved them. Many of these poems were about death,
and it seemed natural to her, at that time, to think much about death,
which she conceived as a quite peaceful thing, coming to you invisibly
out of the sky, and which she never associated with the pale faces and
more difficult breathing of those about her. She had never known her
mother to be quite well; and when, on her twelfth birthday, her mother
called her into her room, where she lay in bed now so often, and talked
to her more solemnly than she had ever talked before, saying that if she
became very ill, too ill to get up at all, Lucy was to look after her
father as carefully as she herself had looked after him, always to look
after him, and never let him want for anything; even then it did not
seem to the child that this meant more than a little more illness; and
it was so natural for people to be ill.

And so, after all, the end came almost suddenly; and the first great
event of her childhood took her by surprise. The gentle, suffering
woman had been failing for many months, and when, one afternoon in early
March, the doctor told her to take to her bed at once, life seemed to
ebb out of her daily, with an almost visible haste to be gone. Whenever
she was allowed to come in, Lucy would curl herself up on the foot of
the bed, never taking her eyes off the face of the dying woman, who was
for the most part unconscious, muttering unintelligible words sometimes,
in a hoarse voice, broken by coughs, and breathing, all the time, in
great, heavy breaths, which made a rattle in her throat. When she was in
the next room, Lucy could hear this monotonous sound going on, almost as
plainly as in the room itself. It was that sound that frightened her,
more than anything; for, when she was sitting on the bed, watching the
face lying among the pillows (drawn, and glazed with a curious flush, as
it was), it seemed, after all, only as if her mother was very, very ill,
and as if she might get better, for the lips were still red, and sucked
in readily all the spoonsful of calvesfoot jelly, and brandy and water,
which were really just keeping her alive from hour to hour. On Friday
night, in the middle of the night, as Lucy was sleeping quietly, she
felt, in her dream, as it seemed to her, two lips touch her cheek, and,
starting awake, saw her father standing by the bedside. He told her to
get up, put on some of her things, and come quietly into the next room.
She crept in, huddled up in a shawl, very pale and trembling, and it
seemed to her that her mother must be a little better, for she drew her
breath more slowly and not quite so loudly. One arm was lying outside
the clothes, and every now and then this arm would raise itself up, and
the hand would reach out, blindly, until the nurse, or her father, took
it and laid it back gently in its place. They told her to kiss her
mother, and she kissed her, crying very much, but her mother did not
kiss her, or open her eyes; and as she touched her hair, which was
coming out from under her cap, she felt that it was all damp, but the
lips were quite dry and warm. Then they told her to go back to bed, but
she clung to the foot of the bed, and refused to go, and the nurse said,
'I think she may stay.' The tears were running down both her cheeks,
but she did not move, or take her eyes off the face on the pillow. It
was very white now, and once or twice the mouth opened with a slight
gasp; once the face twitched, and half turned on the pillow; she had to
wait before the next breath came; then it paused again; then, with an
effort, there was another breath; then a long pause, a very slow breath,
and no more. She was led round to kiss her mother again on the forehead,
which was quite warm; but she knew that her mother was dead, and she
sobbed wildly, inconsolably, as they led her back to her own room,
where, after they had left her, and she could hear them moving quietly
about the house, she lay in bed trying to think, trying not to think,
wondering what it was that had really happened, and if things would all
be different now.

And with her mother's death it seemed as if her own dream-life had come
suddenly to an end, and a new, more desolate, more practical life had
begun, out of which she could not look any great distance. After the
black darkness of those first few days; the coming of the undertakers,
the hammering down of the coffin, the slow drive to the graveside, the
wreath of white flowers which she shed, white flower by white flower,
upon the shining case of wood lying at the bottom of a great pit, in
which her mother was to be covered up to stay there for ever; after
those first days of merely dull misery, broken by a few wild outbursts
of tears, she accepted this new life into which she had come, as she
accepted the black clothes which Linda the servant, now more a friend
than ever, had had made for her. Her father could no longer bear to
sleep in the room in which his wife had died, so Lucy gave up her own
room to him, and moved into the room that had been her mother's; and it
seemed to bring her closer to her mother to sleep there. She thought of
her mother very often, and very sadly, but the remembrance of those
almost last words to her, those solemn words on her twelfth birthday,
that she was to look after her father as her mother had looked after
him, and never let him want for anything, helped her to meet every day
bravely, because every day brought some definite thing for her to do.
She felt years and years older, and quietly ready for whatever was now
likely to happen.

For a little while she saw more of her father, for they had their
mid-day meal together now, and she used to come and sit at the table
when he was having his nine o'clock meat supper, with which he had
always indulged himself, even when there was very little in the house
for the others. He still took it, and his claret with it, which the
doctor had ordered him to take; but he took it with scantier and
scantier appetite; talking less over his wine, and falling into a
strange and brooding listlessness. During his wife's illness he had let
his affairs drift; and the society of which he was the secretary had
overlooked it, as far as they could, on account of his trouble. But now
he attended to his duties less than ever; and he was reminded, a little
sharply, that things could not go on like this much longer. He took no
heed of the warning, though the duns were beginning to gather about
him. When there was a ring at the door, Lucy used to squeeze up against
the window to see who it was; and if it was one of those troublesome
people whom she soon got to know by sight, she would go to the door
herself, and tell them that they could not see her father, and explain
to them, in her grave, childish way, that it was no use coming to her
father for money, because he had no money just then but he would have
some at quarter-day, and they might call again then. Sometimes the men
tried to push past her into the hall, but she would never let them; her
father was not in, or he was very unwell, and no one could see him; and
she spoke so calmly and so decidedly that they always finished by going
away. If they swore at her, or said horrid things about her father, she
did not mind much. It did not surprise her that such dreadful people
used dreadful language.

In telling the duns that her father was very unwell, she was not always
inventing. For a long time there had been something vaguely the matter
with him, and ever since her mother's death he had sickened visibly,
and nothing would rouse him from his pale and cheerless decrepitude. He
would lie in bed till four, and then come downstairs and sit by the
fireplace, smoking his pipe in silence, doing nothing, neither reading,
nor writing, nor sketching. All his interest in life seemed to have gone
out together; his very hopes had been taken from him, and without those
fantastic hopes he was but the shadow of himself. It scarcely roused him
when the directors of his society wrote to him that they would require
his services no longer. When they sent a man to unscrew the brass plate
on the door, on which there were the name of the society and the amount
of its capital, he went outside and stood in the garden while it was
being done. Then he gave the man a shilling for his trouble.

Soon after that, he refused to eat or get up, and a great terror came
over Lucy lest he, too, should die; and now there was no money in the
house, and the duns still knocked at the door. She begged him to let her
write to his relations, but he refused flatly, saying that they would
not receive her mother, and he would never see them, or take a penny of
their money as long as he lived. One day a cab drove up to the door, and
a hard-featured woman got out of it. Lucy, looking out of the bedroom
window, recognised her aunt, Miss Marsden, her mother's eldest sister,
whom she had only seen at the funeral, and to whose grim face and rigid
figure she had already taken a dislike. It appeared that Linda, unknown
to them, had written to tell her into what desperate straits they had
fallen; and her severe sense of duty had brought her to their help.

And the aunt was certainly good to them in her stern, unkindly way. The
first thing she did was to send for a doctor, who shook his head very
gravely when he had examined the patient; and spoke of foreign travel,
and other impossible, expensive remedies. That was the first time that
Lucy ever began to long for money, or to realise exactly what money
meant. It might mean life or death, she saw now.

Her father now lay mostly in bed, very weak and quiet, and mostly in
silence; and whether his eyes were closed or open, he seemed to be
thinking, always thinking. He liked Lucy to come and sit by him; but if
she chattered much he would stop her, after a while, and say that he was
tired, and she must be quiet. And then sometimes he would talk to her,
in his vague, disconnected way, about her mother, and of how they had
met, and had found hard times together a great happiness; and he would
look at her with an almost impersonal scrutiny, and say: 'I think you
will live happily, not with the happiness that we had, for you will
never love as we loved, but you will find it easy to like people, and
many people will find it easy to like you; and if you have troubles they
will weigh on you lightly, for you will live always in the day, that is,
without too much memory of the day that was, or too much thought of the
day that will be to-morrow.' And once he said: 'I hardly know why it is
I feel so little anxiety about your future. I seem somehow to know that
you will always find people to look after you. I don't know why they
should, I don't know why they should.' And then he added, after a pause,
looking at her a little sadly, 'You will never love nor be loved
passionately, but you have a face that will seem to many, the first time
they see you, like the face of an old and dear friend.'

Sometimes, when he felt a little better, the sick man would come
downstairs, and at times he would walk about in the garden, stooping
under his great-coat and leaning upon his stick. One very bright day in
early February he seemed better than he had been since his illness had
come upon him, and as he stood at the window looking at the white road
shining under the pale sun, he said suddenly: 'I feel quite well to-day,
I shall go for a little walk.' His eyes were bright, there was a slight
flush on his cheek, and he seemed to move a little more easily than
usual. 'Lucy,' he said, 'I think I should like some claret with my
supper to-night, like old times. You must go into the town and get me
some: I suppose there is none in the house.' Lucy took the money gladly,
for she thought: 'He is beginning to be better.' 'Get it from Allen's,'
he called after her, as she went to put on her hat and jacket; 'it won't
take so very much longer to go there and back, and it will be better
there.' When she came downstairs her aunt was helping him to put on his
coat. 'Don't wait for me,' he said, smiling, and tapping her cheek with
his thin, chilly fingers; 'I shall have to walk slowly.' She went out,
and turning, as she came to the bend in the road, saw him come out of
the gate, leaning on his stick, and begin to walk slowly along in the
middle of the road. He did not look up, and she hurried on.

It was the last time she ever saw him. The house, when she returned to
it, after her journey into town, had an air of ominous quiet, and she
saw with surprise that her father's hat and coat were lying in a heap
across the chair in the hall, instead of hanging neatly upon the
hat-pegs. As she closed the door behind her, she heard the bedroom door
opened, and her aunt came quickly downstairs with a strange look on her
face. She began to tremble, she knew not why, and mechanically she put
the bottle of wine on the floor by the side of the chair; and her aunt,
though she would always have everything put in its proper place, did not
seem to notice it; but took her into the sitting-room, and said: 'There
has been an accident; no, you must not go upstairs'; and she said to
herself, seeming to hear her own words at the back of her brain, where
there was a dull ache that was like the coming-to of one who has been
stunned: 'He is dead, he is dead.' She felt that her aunt was shaking
her, and wondered why she shook her, and why everything looked so dim,
and her aunt's face seemed to be fading away from her, and she caught at
her; and then she heard her aunt say (she could hear her now), 'I
thought you were going to faint: I'll have no fainting, if you please; I
must go up to him again.' So he was not dead, after all; and she
listened, with a relief which was almost joy, while her aunt told her
rapidly what had happened: how the mail-cart had turned a corner at full
speed just as he was walking along the road, more tired than he had
thought, and he had not the strength to pull himself out of the way in
time, and had been knocked down, and the wheel had just missed him, but
he had been terribly shaken, and one of the horse's hoofs had struck him
on the face. They hoped it was nothing serious; he seemed to feel little
pain; but he had said: 'Don't let Lucy come in; she musn't see me like
this.'

Lucy had been so used to obey her father, his commands had always been
so capricious, that she obeyed now without a murmur. She understood him;
the fastidiousness which was part of his affection, and which made him
refuse to be seen, by those he loved, under a disfigurement which time
would probably heal, was one of the things for which she loved him, for
it was part of her pride in him.

The doctor had come and gone; he had been very serious, she had seen his
grave face, and had overheard one or two of his words to her aunt; she
had heard him say: 'Of course, it is a question of time.' Night came on,
and she sat in the unlighted room alone, and looking into the fire, in
which the last dreams of her childhood seemed to flicker in little
wavering tongues of flame, which throbbed, and went out, one after
another, in smoke or ashes. She cried a little, quietly, and did not
wipe away the tears; but sat on, looking into the fire, and thinking.
She was crying when her aunt came downstairs, and told her that she must
go to bed; he was resting quietly, and they hoped he would be better in
the morning.

She slept heavily, without dreams; and the hour seemed to her late when
she awoke in the morning. It was Linda, not her aunt, who came into the
room, and took her in her arms, and cried over her, and did not need to
tell her that she had no father. He had died suddenly in his sleep, and
just before he turned over on his side for the last rest, he had said to
her (she thought drowsily): 'I am very tired; if anything happens, cover
my face.' When Lucy crept into the room, on tip-toe, his face was
covered. It was a white, shrouded thing that lay there, not her father.
The terror of the dead seized hold upon her, and she shrieked, and
Linda caught her up in her arms, and carried her back to her room, and
soothed her, as if she had been a little, wailing child.

At the funeral she saw, for the first time, her father's relations, the
rich relations who had cast him off; and she hated them for being there,
for speaking to her kindly, for offering to look after her. She was rude
to them, and she wished to be rude. 'My father would never touch your
money,' she said, 'and I am sure he wouldn't like me to, and I don't
want it. I don't want to have anything to do with you.' She clung to the
severe aunt who had been good to her father; and she tried to smile on
her other uncle and aunt, and on her cousin, who was not many years
older than she was: he had seemed to her so kind, and so ready to be her
friend. 'I will go with my aunt,' she said. The rich relatives
acquiesced, not unwillingly. They did not linger in the desolate house,
where this unreasonable child, as they thought her, stood away from them
on the other side of the room. She seemed to herself to be doing the
right thing, and what her father would have wished; and she saw them go
out with relief, not giving a thought to the future, only knowing that
she had buried her childhood, on that day of the funeral, in the grave
with her father.



  THE DEATH OF PETER WAYDELIN.


Peter Waydelin, the painter of those mysterious, brutal pictures, who
died last year at the age of twenty-four, spent a week with me at
Bognor, trying to get better, a little while before it was quite
certainly too late; and we had long talks of a very intimate kind as we
lay and lounged about the sand from Selsey to Blake's Felpham, along
that exquisite coast. To him, if he were to be believed, all that meant
very little; he hated nature, he was always assuring you; but at Bognor
nature deals with its material so much in the manner of art that he can
hardly have been sincere in not feeling the colour-sense of those
arrangements of sand, water, and sky which were perpetually changing
before him. One of our conversations that I remembered best, because he
seemed to put more of himself into it than usual, took place one
afternoon in June as we lay on the sand about half-way towards Selsey,
beyond the last of those troublesome groins, and I remember that as I
listened to him, and heard him defining so sincerely his own ideas of
art, I was conscious all the time of a magnificent silent refutation of
some of those ideas, as nature, quietly expressing herself before us,
transformed the whole earth gradually into a new and luminous world of
air. He did not seem to see the sunset; now and then he would pick up a
pebble and throw it vehemently, almost angrily, into the water. We were
talking of art. He began to explain to me what art meant to him, and
what it was he wanted to do with his own art. I remember almost the very
words he used, sometimes so serious, sometimes so petulant and boyish. I
was interested in his ideas, and the man too interested me; so young and
so experienced, so mature already and so enthusiastic under his
cynicism. He puzzled me: it was as if there were a clue wanting; I could
not get further with him than a certain point, frank, self-explanatory
even, as he seemed to be. Of himself he never spoke, only of his ideas.
I knew vaguely that he had been in Paris, and I supposed that he had
been living there for some time. I had met him in London, in the street,
quite casually, and he had looked so ill that I had asked him there and
then to come with me to Bognor, where I was going. He agreed willingly,
and was at the station with his bag the next day. I never ask people
about their private affairs, and his talk was entirely about pictures,
his own chiefly, and about ideas. As he talked I tried to piece together
the man and his words. What was it in this man, who was so much a
gentleman, that drew him instinctively, whenever he took up a brush or a
pencil, towards gross things, things that he painted as if he hated
them, but painted always? Was it a theory or an enslavement? and had he,
in order to interpret with so cruel a fidelity so much that was
factitious and dishonourable in life, sunk to the level of what he
painted? I could not tell. He was not obviously the man of his pictures,
nor was he obviously the reverse. I felt in those pictures, and I felt
equally, but differently, in the man, a fundamental sincerity; after
that came I know not how much of pose, perhaps merely the defiant pose
of youth. He was a problem to me, which I wanted to think out; and I
listened very attentively to everything that he said on that afternoon
when he was so much more communicative than usual.

'All art, of course,' he said, 'is a way of seeing, and I have my way. I
did not get to it at once. Like everybody else, I began by seeing too
much. Gradually I gave up seeing things in shades, in subdivisions; I
saw them in masses, each single. It takes more choice than you think,
and more technical skill, to set one plain colour against another,
unshaded, like a great, raw morsel, or a solid lump of the earth. The
art of the painter, you observe, consists in seeing in a new,
summarising way, getting rid of everything but the essentials; in seeing
by patterns. You know how a child draws a house? Well, that is how the
average man thinks he sees it, even at a distance. You have to train
your eye not to see. Whistler sees nothing but the fine shades, which
unite into a picture in an almost bodiless way, as Verlaine writes songs
almost literally "without words." You can see, if you like, in just the
opposite way: leaving in only the hard outlines, leaving out everything
that lies between. To me that is the best way of summarising, the most
abbreviated way. You get rid of all that molle, sticky way of work which
squashes pictures into cakes and puddings, and of that stringy way of
work which draws them out into tapes and ribbons. It is a way of seeing
square, and painting like hits from the shoulder.

'I wonder,' he went on, after a moment, 'how many people think that I
paint ugly pictures, as they call them, because I am unable to paint
pretty ones? Perhaps even you have never seen any of my quite early
work: Madonnas for Christmas cards and hallelujah angels for
stained-glass windows. They were the prettiest things imaginable,
immensely popular, and they brought me in several pounds. I take them
out and show them to people who complain that I have no sense of
beauty, and they always ask me pityingly why I have not gone on turning
out these confectionaries.'

'I contend that I have never done anything which is without beauty,
because I have never done anything which is without life, and life is
the source and sap of beauty. I tell you that there is not one of those
grimacing masks, those horribly pale or horribly red faces, plastered
white or red, leering professionally across a gulf of footlights, or a
café-table, that does not live, live to the roots of the eyes, somewhere
in the soul, I think! And if beauty is not the visible spirit of all
that infamous flesh, when I have sabred it like that along my canvas,
with all my hatred and all my admiration of its foolish energy, I at
least am unable to conjecture where beauty has gone to live in the
world.'

He looked at me almost indignantly, as if he took me for one of his
critics. I said nothing, and he went on:

'I have done nothing, believe me, without being sure that I was doing a
beautiful thing. People don't see it, it seems. How should they, when
we do our best to train them up within the prison walls of a Raphael
æsthetics, when we send them to the Apollo Belvedere, instead of to the
marbles of Ægina? Our academies shut out nine parts of beauty and
imprison us with the poor tenth, which we have never even the space to
frequent casually and grow familiar with. How much of the world itself
do you think exists as a thing of beauty for the average man? Why, he
has to know if the most exquisite leaf in the world, the thing I came
upon just now in the lane, belongs to a flower or a weed before he can
tell whether he ought to commend it for existing. I hate nature, because
fools prostrate themselves before sunsets; as if there is not much
better drawing in that leaf than in all the Turners of the sky. You see,
one has to quote Turner to apologise for a sunset!'

He laughed, really without malice, waving his hand towards the sky with
a youthful impertinence. For a little while he was silent, and then, in
a different tone, he said:

'I wonder if it is possible to paint what one doesn't like, to take
one's models as models, and only know them for the hours during which
they sit to you in this attitude or that. I don't believe that it is.
Much of our bad painting comes from respectable people thinking that
they can soil their hands with paint and not let the dye sink into their
innermost selves. Do you know that you are the only man of my own world
that I ever see, or have seen for years now? People call me eccentric; I
am only logical. You can't paint the things I paint, and live in a
Hampstead villa. You must come and see me some day: will you take the
address? 3 Somervell Street, Islington. It's not much like a studio.
However, there's "Collins's" at hand, and I live there a good deal, you
know. I lived in the Hampstead Road for some time on account of the
"Bedford." But "Collins's" suits me and my models better.'

He broke off with an ambiguous laugh, flung his last stone into the
water, and jumped up, as if to end the conversation. Something in the
way he spoke made me feel vaguely uneasy, but I was used to his
exaggerations, his way of inventing as he went along. Was I, after all,
any nearer to his secret, to himself as he really was?

Waydelin went back to London and I to Russia, which I shall always
remember, after that terrible summer under the gold and green domes of
Moscow, as the hottest country in which I have ever been. When I came
back to London I thought of Waydelin, made plan after plan to visit him,
when one evening in November I received a brief note in his handwriting,
asking me if I would come and see him at once, as he was very ill, and
wanted to see me on a matter of business. I started immediately after
dinner and got to Islington a little after nine. The street was one of
those drab, hopeless streets to which a Russian observer has lately
attributed the 'spleen' from which all Englishmen are thought to suffer.
There was a row of houses on each side of the way, every house exactly
like every other house, each with its three steps leading to the door,
its bow window on one side, its strip of dingy earth in which there were
a few dusty stalks between the lowest step and the railing, the paint
for the most part peeling off the door, the bell-handle generally
hanging out from its hole in the wall. I rang at No. 3. I had to wait
for some time, and then the door was opened by an impudent-looking
servant girl in a very untidy dress. I asked for Waydelin. 'Mrs.
Waydelin, did you say?' said the girl, leering at me; then, calling over
my head to the driver of a four-wheeler which just then drew up at the
door, 'Wait five minutes, will you?' she turned to me again: 'Mr.
Waydelin? I don't know if you can see him.' I told her impatiently that
I had come by appointment, and she held the door open for me to come in.
She knocked at a room on the first floor. 'Come in,' said a shrill voice
that I did not know, and I went in.

It was a bedroom; a woman, with her bodice off, was making-up in front
of the glass, and in a corner, with the clothes drawn up to his chin, a
man lay in bed. The cheeks were covered by a three days' beard; they
were ridged into deep hollows; large eyes, very wide open, looked out
under a mass of uncombed hair, and as the face turned round on the
pillow and looked at me without any change of expression I recognised
Peter Waydelin. The woman, seeing me in the glass, nodded at my
reflection, and said, as she drew a black pencil through her eyelashes:
'You'll excuse me, won't you? I have to be at the hall in ten minutes.
Don't stand on ceremony; there's Peter. He'll be glad to see you, poor
dear!' She spoke in a common and affected voice, and I thought her a
deplorable person, with her carefully curled yellow hair, her rouged and
powdered cheeks, her mouth glistening with lip salve, her big, empty
blue eyes with their blackened under-lids, her fat arms and shoulders,
the tawdry finery of her costume, half on and half off the body. I moved
towards the bed, and Waydelin looked up at me with a queer, mournful
smile.

'It was good of you to come,' he said, stretching out a long, thin hand
to me; 'Clara has to go out, and we can have a talk. How do you like the
last thing I've done?'

I lifted the drawing which was lying on the bed. It was a portrait of
the woman before the glass, just as she looked now, one of the most
powerful of his drawings, crueller even than usual in its insistence on
the brutality of facts: the crude contrasts of bone and fat, the vulgar
jaw, the brassy eyes, the reckless, conscious attitude. Every line
seemed to have been drawn with hatred. I looked at Mrs. Waydelin. She
had finished dressing, and she came up to the bedside to say good-bye to
Peter. 'Horrid thing,' she said, nodding her head at the drawing; 'not a
bit like me, is it? I assure you none of them like it at the hall. They
say it doesn't do me justice. I'm sure I hope not.' I bowed and murmured
something. 'Good-bye, Peter,' she said, smiling down at him in a kindly,
hurried way, 'I'll come back as soon as I can,' and with a nod to me she
was out of the room.

Peter drew himself slowly up in the bed, pointed to a shawl, which I
wrapped round his shoulders, and then, looking at me a little defiantly,
said: 'My theory, do you remember? of living the life of my models! She
is a very nice woman and an excellent model, and they appreciate her
very much at "Collins's"; but it appears that I have no gift for
domesticity.'

I scarcely knew what to say. While I hesitated he went on: 'Don't
suppose I have any illusions, or, indeed, ever had. I married that woman
because I couldn't help doing it, but I knew what I was doing all the
time. Have you ever been in Belgium? There is stuff they give you there
to drink called Advokat, which you begin by hating, but after a time you
can't get on without it. She is like Advokat.'

'You are ill, Waydelin,' I said, 'and you speak bitterly. I don't like
to hear you speak like that about your wife.'

Waydelin stared at me curiously. 'So you are going to defend her against
my brutality,' he said. 'I will give you every opportunity. Did you know
I was married?'

I shook my head.

'I have been married three years,' he said, 'and I never told even you.
I know you did not take me at my word when I talked about how one had to
live in order to paint as I painted, but I did not tell you half. I
have been living, if you like to call it so, systematically, not as a
stranger in a foreign country which he stares at over his Baedeker, but
as like a native as I could, and with no return ticket in my pocket. Why
shouldn't one be as thorough in one's life as in one's drawing? Is it
possible for one to be otherwise, if one is really in earnest in either?
And the odd thing is, as you will say, I didn't live in that way because
I wanted to do it for my art, but something deeper than my art, a
profound, low instinct, drew me to these people, to this life, without
my own will having anything to do with it. My work has been much more
sincere than any one suspected. It used to amuse me when the papers
classed me with the Decadents of a moment, and said that I was probably
living in a suburban villa, with a creeper on the front wall. I have
never cared for anything but London, or in London for anything but here,
or the Hampstead Road, or about the Docks. I never really chose the
music-halls or the public-houses; they chose me. I made the music-halls
my clubs; I lived in them, for the mere delight of the thing; I liked
the glitter, false, barbarous, intoxicating, the violent animality of
the whole spectacle, with its imbecile words, faces, gestures, the very
heat and odour, like some concentrated odour of the human crowd, the
irritant music, the audience! I went there, as I went to public-houses,
as I walked about the streets at night, as I kept company with
vagabonds, because there was a craving in me that I could not quiet. I
fitted in theories with my facts; and that is how I came to paint my
pictures.'

As he spoke, with bitter ardour, I looked at him as if I were seeing him
for the first time. The room, the woman, that angry drawing on the bed,
and the dishevelled man dying there, just at the moment when he had
learnt everything that such experiences could teach him, fell of a
sudden into a revealing relation with each other. I did not know whether
to feel that the man had been heroic or a fool; there had been, it was
clear to me, some obscure martyrdom going on, not the less for art's
sake because it came out of the mere necessity of things. A great pity
came over me, and all I could say was, 'But, my dear friend, you have
been very unhappy!'

'I never wanted to be happy,' said Waydelin; 'I wanted to live my own
life and do my own work; and if I die to-morrow (as likely enough I
may), I shall have done both things. My work satisfies me, and, because
of that, so does my life.'

'Are you very ill?' I asked.

'Dead, relatively speaking,' he said in his jaunty way, which death
itself could not check in him; 'I'm only waiting on some celestial order
of precedence in these matters, which, I confess, I don't understand. So
it was good of you to come; I would like to arrange with you about what
is to be done with my work, presently, when they will have to accept me.
I always said that I had only to die in order to be appreciated.'

I had a long talk with him, and I promised to carry out his wishes. All
the money that his pictures brought in was to go to his wife, but, as he
said, she would not know what to do with them if they were left in her
own hands, not even how to turn them into money. He was quite certain
that they would sell; he knew exactly the value of what he had done, and
he knew how and when work finds its own level.

I sat beside the bed, talking, for more than two hours. He could no
longer do much work, he said, and he hated being alone when he was not
working. But it amused him to talk, for a change. 'Clara talks when she
is here,' he said, with one of his queer smiles. I promised to come back
and see him again. 'Come soon,' he said, 'if you want to be sure of
finding me.'

I went back two days afterwards, a little later in the evening so that I
need not meet Mrs. Waydelin, and he seemed better. He had shaved, his
hair was brushed and combed, and he was sitting up in bed, with the
shawl thrown lightly about his shoulders.

'Would you like to know,' he began, almost at once, 'how I came to paint
in what we will call, if you please, my final manner? One day, at the
theatre, I saw Sada Yacco. She taught me art.'

'What do you mean?' I said.

'Look here,' he went on, 'they say everything has been done in art. But
no, there is at least one thing that remains for us. Have you ever seen
Sada Yacco? When I saw her for the first time I said to myself, "I have
found out the secret of Japanese art." I had never been able to
understand how it was that the Japanese, who can imitate natural things,
a bird, a flower, the rain, so perfectly, have chosen to give us,
instead of a woman's face, that blind oval, in which the eyes, nose, and
mouth seem to have been made to fit a pattern. When I saw Sada Yacco I
realised that the Japanese painters had followed nature as closely in
their woman's faces as in their birds and flowers, but that they had
studied them from the women of the Green Houses, the women who make up,
and that Japanese women, made up for the stage or for the factitious
life of the Green Houses, look exactly like these elegant, unnatural
images of the painters. What a new kind of reality that opened up to me,
as if a window had suddenly opened in a wall! Here, I said to myself, is
something that the painters of Europe have never done; it remains for
me to do it. I will study nature under the paint by which woman, after
all, makes herself more woman; the ensign of her trade, her flag as the
enemy. I will get at the nature of this artificial thing, at the skin
underneath it, and the soul under the skin. Watteau and the Court
painters have given us the dainty, exterior charm of the masquerade,
woman when she plays at being woman, among "lyres and flutes." Degas, of
course, has done something of what I want to do, but only a part, and
with other elements in his pure design, the drawing of Ingres, setting
itself new tasks, exercising its technique upon shapeless bodies in
tubs, and the strained muscles of the dancer's leg as she does
"side-practice." What I am going to do is to take all the ugliness,
gross artifice, crafty mechanism, of sex disguising itself for its own
ends: that new nature which vice and custom make out of the honest
curves and colours of natural things.

'Well, I have tried to do that; in all my best work, my work of the last
two or three years, I have done it. I am sure that what I have done is
a new thing, and I think it is the one new thing left to us Western
painters.'

'I am beginning to understand you,' I said, 'and I have not always found
it easy. When I admire you, it has so often seemed to me irrational. I
am gradually finding out your logic. Do you remember those talks we used
to have at Bognor, one in particular, when you told me about your way of
seeing?'

'Yes, yes,' he said, 'I remember, but there was one thing I am almost
sure I did not tell you, and it is curious. I don't understand it
myself. Do you know what it is to be haunted by colours? There is
something like a temptation of the devil, to me, in the colour green. I
know it is the commonest colour in nature, it is a good, honest colour,
it is the grass, the trees, the leaves, very often the sea. But no, it
isn't like that that it comes to me. To me it is an aniline dye,
poisoning nature. I adore and hate it. I can never get away from it. If
I paint a group outside a café at Montmartre by gas-light or electric
light, I paint a green shadow on the faces, and I suppose the green
shadow isn't there; yet I paint it. Some tinge of green finds its way
invariably into my flesh-colour; I see something green in rouged cheeks,
in peroxide-of-hydrogen hair; green lays hold of this poor, unhappy
flesh that I paint, as if anticipating the colour-scheme of the grave. I
know it, and yet I can't help doing it; I can't explain to you how it is
that I at once see and don't see a thing; but so it is.

'And it grew upon me too like an obsession. I always wanted to keep my
eyes perfectly clear, so that I could make my own arrangements of things
for myself, deliberately; but this, in some unpleasant way, seemed
horribly like "nature taking the pen out of one's hand and writing," as
somebody once said about a poet. I would rather do all the writing
myself; the more so, as I have to translate as I go.'

He broke off suddenly, as if a wave of exhaustion had come over him. His
eyes, which had been very bright, had gone dull again, and he let his
head droop till the chin rested on his breast.

'I have tired you,' I said, 'you must not talk any more. Try to go to
sleep now, and I will come back another day.'

'To-morrow?' he said, looking at me sleepily.

I promised. When I went back the next day he was weaker, but he insisted
on sitting up and talking. He spoke of his wife, without affection and
without bitterness; he spoke of death, with so little apprehension, or
even curiosity, that I was startled. His art was still a much more
realisable thing to him.

'Do you believe in God, religion, and all that?' he said. 'To tell you
the honest truth, I have never been able to take a vital interest in
those or any other abstract matters: I am so well content with this
world, if it would only go on existing, and I don't in the least care
how it came into being, or what is going to happen to it after I have
moved on. I suppose one ought to feel some sort of reverence for
something, for an unknown power, at least, which has certainly worked to
good purpose. Well, I can't. I don't know what reverence is. If I were
quite healthy, I should be a pagan, and choose, well! Dionysus Zagreus,
a Bacchus who has been in hell, to worship after my fashion, in some
religious kind of "orgie on the mountains." That is how somebody
explains the origin of religion, or was it of religious hymns? I forget;
but, you see, having had this rickety sort of body to drag about with
me, I have never been able to follow any of my practical impulses of
that sort, and I have had to be no more than an unemployed atheist,
ready to gibe at the gods he doesn't understand.

'I am afraid even in art,' he went on, as if leaving unimportant things
for the one thing important, 'I don't find it easy to look up to
anybody, at least in a way that anybody can be imagined as liking. I
have never gone very much to the National Gallery, not because I don't
think Venetian and Florentine pictures quite splendid, painted when they
were, but because I can get nothing out of them that is any good for me,
now in this all but twentieth century. You won't expect me, of all
people, to prate about progress, but, all the same, it's no use going to
Botticelli for hints about modern painting. We have different things to
look at, and see them differently. A man must be of his time, else why
try to put his time on the canvas? There are people, of course, who
don't, if you call them painters: Watts, Burne-Jones, Moreau, that sort
of hermit-crab. But I am talking about painting life and making it live.
If it comes to making pictures for churches and curiosity shops!'

He spoke eagerly, but in a voice which grew more and more tired, and
with long pauses. I was going to try to get him to rest when the front
door opened noisily and I heard Mrs. Waydelin's voice in the hall. I
heard other voices, men's and women's, feet coming up the stairs. I
looked apprehensively at Waydelin. He showed no surprise. I heard a door
open on the landing; then, a moment after, it was shut, and Mrs.
Waydelin came into the bedroom, flushed and perspiring through the
paint, and ran up to the bed. 'I have brought a few friends in to
supper,' she said. 'They won't disturb you, you know, and I couldn't
very well get out of it.'

She would have entered into explanations, but Waydelin cut her short. 'I
have not the least objection,' he said. 'I must only ask you to
apologise to them for my absence. I am hardly entertaining at present.'

She stared at him, as if wondering what he meant; then she asked me if I
would join her at supper, and I declined; then went to the
dressing-table, took up a pot of vaseline and looked at her eyelashes in
the glass; then put it down again, came back to the bed, told Peter
Waydelin to cheer up, and bounced out of the room.

I could see that Waydelin was now very tired and in need of sleep. I got
up to go. The partition between the two rooms must have been very thin,
for I could hear a champagne-cork drawn, the shrill laughter of women,
men talking loudly, and chairs being moved about the floor. 'I don't
mind,' he said, seeing what I was thinking, 'so long as they don't sing.
But they won't begin to sing for two hours yet, and I can get some
sleep. Good-night. Perhaps I shall not see you again.'

'May I come again?' I said.

'I always like seeing you,' he said, smiling, and thereupon turned over
on the pillow, just as he was, and fell asleep.

I looked at his face as he lay there, with the shawl about his shoulders
and his hands outside the bedclothes. The jaw hung loose, the cheeks
were pinched with exhaustion, sweat stood out about the eyes. The sudden
collapse into sleep alarmed me. I could not leave him in such a state,
and with no one at hand but those people supping in the next room. I sat
down in a corner near the bed and waited.

As I sat there listening to the exuberant voices, I wondered by what
casual or quixotic impulse Waydelin had been led to marry the woman, and
whether the woman was really heartless because she sat drinking
champagne with her friends of the music-hall while her husband, a man of
genius in his way, lay dying in the next room. I forced myself to
acknowledge that she had probably no suspicion of how near she was to
being a widow, that Waydelin would deceive her to the end in this
matter, and the last thing in the world he would desire would be to see
Mrs. Waydelin in tears at the foot of the bed.

As time went on the supper-party got merrier, but Waydelin did not stir,
and I sat still in my corner. It was probably in about two hours, as he
had foreseen, that a chord was struck on the piano, and a man began to
sing a music-hall song in a rough, facile voice. At the sound Waydelin
shivered through his whole body and woke up. In a very weak voice he
asked me for water. I brought him a glass of water and held it to his
lips. He drank a little and then pushed it away and began shivering
again. 'Let me send for a doctor,' I said, but he seized my hand, and
said violently that he would see no doctor. In the next room the piano
rattled and all the voices joined in the chorus. I distinguished the
voice of Mrs. Waydelin. He seemed to be listening to it, and I said,
'Let me call her in.' 'Poor Clara may as well amuse herself,' he said,
with his odd smile. 'What is the use? I feel very much as if I am going
to die. Will it bother you: being here, I mean?' His voice seemed to
grow weaker as he spoke, and his eyes stared. I left him and went
hastily into the other room. The singer stopped abruptly, and the girl
at the piano turned round. I saw the remains of supper on the table, the
empty glasses and bottles, the chairs tilted back, the cigars,
tobacco-smoke, the flushed faces, rings, artificial curls; and then Mrs.
Waydelin came to me out of the midst of them, looking almost frightened,
and said, 'What's the matter?' 'Get rid of these people at once,' I said
in a low voice, 'and send for a doctor.' Her face sobered instantly, she
took one step to the bell, was about to ring it, then turned and said to
one of the men, 'Go for a doctor, Jim,' and to the others, 'You'll go,
all of you, quietly?' and then she came with me into the bedroom.

Waydelin lay shivering and quaking on the bed; he seemed very conscious
and wholly preoccupied with himself. He never looked at the woman as she
flung herself on the floor by the bedside and began to cry out to him
and kiss his hand. The tears ran down over her cheeks, leaving ghastly
furrows in the wet powder, which clotted and caked under them. The curl
was beginning to come out of her too yellow hair, which straggled in
wisps about her ears. She sobbed in gulps, and entreated him to look at
her and forgive her. At that he looked, and as he looked life seemed to
revive in his eyes. He motioned to me to lift him up. I lifted him
against the pillows, and in a weak voice he asked me for drawing-paper
and a pencil. 'Don't move,' he said to his wife, who knelt there struck
into rigid astonishment, with terror and incomprehension in her eyes.
The pose, its grotesque horror, were finer than the finest of his
inventions. He made a few scrawls on the paper, trying to fix that last
and best pose of his model. But he could no longer guide the pencil, and
he let it drop out of his hand with a look of helplessness, almost of
despair, and sank down in the bed and shut his eyes. He did not open
them again. The doctor came, and tried all means to revive him, but
without success. Something in him seemed consciously to refuse to come
back to life. He lay for some time, dying slowly, with his eyes fast
shut, and it was only when the doctor had felt his heart and found no
movement that he knew he was dead.



  AN AUTUMN CITY.


To Daniel Roserra life was a matter of careful cultivation. He respected
nature, for what might be cunningly extracted from nature; provided only
that one's aim was a quite personal thing, willingly subject to
surroundings on its way to the working out of itself. He tended his soul
as one might tend some rare plant; careful above most things of the
earth it was to take root in. And so he thought much of the influence of
places, of the image a place makes for itself in the consciousness, of
all that it might do in the formation of a beautiful or uncomely
disposition. Places had virtues of their own for him; he supposed that
he had the quality of divining their secrets; at all events, if they
were places to which he could possibly be sensitive. Much of his time
was spent in travelling, in a leisurely way, about Europe; not for the
sake of seeing anything in particular, for he had no interest in
historical associations or in the remains of ugly things that happened
to be old, or in visiting the bric-a-brac museums of the fine arts which
make some of the more tolerable countries tedious. He chose a city, a
village, or a seashore for its charm, its appeal to him personally;
nothing else mattered.

When Roserra was forty he fell in love, quite suddenly, though he had
armed himself, as he imagined, against such disturbances of the æsthetic
life, and was invulnerable. He had always said that a woman was like a
liqueur: a delightful luxury, to be taken with discretion. He feared the
influence of a companion in his delicate satisfactions: he realised that
a woman might not even be a sympathetic companion. He had, it is true,
often wished to try the experiment, a risky one, of introducing a woman
to one of his friends among cities; it was a temptation, but he
remembered how rarely such introductions work well among people. Would
the cities be any more fortunate?

When, however, he fell in love, all hesitation was taken out of his
hands by the mere force of things. Livia Dawlish was remarkably
handsome, some people thought her beautiful; she was tall and dark, and
had a sulky, enigmatical look that teased and attracted him. Some who
knew her very well said that it meant nothing, and was merely an
accident of colour and form, like the green eye of the cat or the golden
eye of the buffalo. Roserra tried to study her, but he could get no
point of view. He felt something that he had never felt before, and this
something was like a magnetic current flowing subtly from her to him;
perhaps, like the magnetic rocks in the 'Arabian Nights,' ready to draw
out all the nails and bolts of his ship, and drown him among the wrecked
splinters of his life.

He was rich, not too old, of a good Cornish family; he could be the most
charming companion in the world; he knew so many things and so many
places and was never tedious about them: Livia thought him on the whole
the most suitable husband whom she was likely to meet. She was happy
when he asked her to marry him, and she married him without a misgiving.
She was not reflective.

After the marriage they went straight to Paris, and Roserra was
surprised and delighted to find how childishly happy Livia could be
among new surroundings. She had always wanted to see Paris, because of
its gaiety, its bright wickedness, its names of pleasure and fashion.
Everything delighted her; she seemed even to admire a little
indiscriminatingly. She thought the Sainte-Chapelle the most beautiful
thing in Paris.

They went back to London with more luggage than they had brought with
them, and for six months Livia was quite happy. She wore her Paris hats
and gowns, she was admired, she went to the theatre; she seemed to get
on with Roserra even better than she had expected.

During all this time Roserra seemed to have found out very little about
his wife. It gave him more pleasure to do what she wanted than it had
ever given him to carry out his own wishes. So far, they had never had a
dispute; he seemed to have put his own individuality aside as if it no
longer meant anything to him. But he had not yet discovered her
individuality from among her crowds of little likes and dislikes, which
meant nothing. Nothing had come out yet from behind those enigmatical
eyes; but he was waiting; they would open, and there would be treasure
there.

Gradually, while he was waiting, his old self began to come back to him.
He must do as he had always wanted to do: introduce the most intimate of
his cities to a woman. Autumn was beginning; he thought of Arles, which
was an autumn city, and the city which meant more to him than almost any
other. He must share Arles with Livia.

Livia had heard of the Arlesiennes, she remembered Paris, and, though
she was a little reluctant to leave the new London into which she had
come since her marriage, she consented without apparent unwillingness.

They went by sea to Marseilles, and Livia wished they were not going any
further. Roserra smiled a little satisfied smile; she was so pleased
with even slight, superficial things, she could get pleasure out of the
empty sunlight and obvious sea of Marseilles. When the deeper appeal of
Arles came to her, that new world in which one went clean through the
exteriorities of modern life, how she would respond to it!

They reached Arles in the afternoon, and drove to the little
old-fashioned house which Roserra had taken in the square which goes
uphill from the Amphitheatre, with the church of Notre Dame la Major in
the corner. Livia looked about her vividly as the cab rattled round
twenty sharp angles, in the midst of narrow streets, on that perilous
journey. Here were the Arlesiennes, standing at doorways, walking along
the pavements, looking out of windows. She scarcely liked to admit to
herself that she had seen prettier faces elsewhere. The costume,
certainly, was as fine as its reputation; she would get one, she
thought, to wear, for amusement, in London. And the women were a noble
race; they walked nobly, they had beautiful black hair, sometimes
stately and impressive features. But she had expected so much more than
that; she had expected a race of goddesses, and she found no more than a
townful of fine-looking peasants.

'Do not judge too quickly,' said Roserra to her; 'you must judge neither
the place nor the people until you have lived yourself into their midst.
The first time I came here I was disappointed. Gradually I began to see
why it was that even the guide-books tell you to come to this quiet,
out-of-the-way place, made up of hovels that were once palaces.'

'I will wait,' said Livia contentedly. The queer little house, with its
homely furniture, the gentle, picturesque woman who met her at the door,
amused her. It was certainly an adventure.

Next day, and the days following, they walked about the town, and
Roserra felt that his own luxuriating sensations could hardly fail to be
shared by Livia, though she said little and seemed at times
absent-minded. They strolled among the ruins of the theatre begun under
Augustus, and among the coulisses of the great amphitheatre; they sat
on the granite steps; they went up the hundred steps of the western
tower. From the cloisters of St. Trophime they went across to the museum
opposite, where a kindly little dwarf showed them the altar to Leda, the
statue of Mithras, and the sarcophagi with the Good Shepherd. He sold
them some photographs of Arlesian women: one was very beautiful. 'That
is my sister,' he said shyly.

When the soul of Autumn made for itself a body, it made Arles. An autumn
city, hinting of every gentle, resigned, reflective way of fading out of
life, of effacing oneself in a world to which one no longer attaches any
value; always remembering itself, always looking into a mournfully
veiled mirror which reflects something at least of what it was, Arles
sits in the midst of its rocky plains, by the side of its river, among
the tombs. Everything there seems to grow out of death, and to be
returning thither. The town rises above its ruins, does not seem to be
even yet detached from them. The remains of the theatre look down on
the public garden; one comes suddenly on a Roman obelisk and the
fragments of Roman walls; a Roman column has been built into the wall of
one of the two hotels which stand in the Forum, now the Place du Forum;
and the modern, the comparatively modern houses, have an air which is
neither new nor old, but entirely sympathetic with what is old. They are
faded, just a little dilapidated, not caring to distinguish themselves
from the faint colours, the aged slumber, of the very ancient things
about them.

Livia tried to realise what it was that charmed Roserra in all this. To
her there was no comfort in it; it depressed her; in the air itself
there was something of decay. There was a smell of dead leaves
everywhere, the moisture of stone, the sodden dampness of earth, water
forming into little pools on the ground, creeping out of the earth and
into the earth again. There was dust on everything; the trees that close
in almost the whole city as with a leafy wall were dust-grey even in
sunlight. The Aliscamps seemed to her drearier than even a modern
cemetery, and she wondered what it was that drew Roserra to them, with
a kind of fascination. On the way there, along the Avenue Victor Hugo,
there were some few signs of life; the cafés, the Zouaves going in and
out of their big barrack, the carts coming in from the country; and in
the evening the people walked there. But she hated the little melancholy
public garden at the side, with its paths curving upwards to the ruined
walls and arches of the Roman theatre, its low balustrades of crumbling
stone, its faint fountains, greenish grey. It was a place, she thought,
in which no one could ever be young or happy; and the road which went
past it did but lead to the tombs. Roserra told her that Dante, when he
was in hell, and saw the 'modo più amaro' in which the people there are
made into alleys of living tombs, remembered Arles:

  'Si com' ad Arli ove 'l Rodano stagna.'

She laughed uneasily, with a half shudder. The tombs are moved aside now
from the Aliscamps, into the little secluded Allée des Tombeaux, where
they line both sides of the way, empty stone trough after empty stone
trough, with here and there a more pompous sarcophagus. There is a quiet
path between them, which she did not even like to walk in, leading to
the canal and the bowling-green; and in the evening the old men creep
out and sit among the tombs.

At first there was bright sunshine every day, but the sun scorched; and
then it set in to rain. One night a storm wakened her, and it seemed to
her that she had never heard such thunder, or seen such lightning, as
that which shook the old roof under which she lay, and blazed and
flickered at the window until it seemed to be licking up the earth with
liquid fire. The storm faded out in a morning of faint sunshine; only
the rain clung furtively about the streets all day.

Day after day it rained, and Livia sat in the house, listlessly reading
the novels which she had brought with her, or staring with fierce
impatience out of the window. The rain came down steadily, ceaselessly,
drawing a wet grey curtain over the city. Roserra liked that softened
aspect which came over things in this uncomfortable weather; he walked
every day through the streets in which the water gathered in puddles
between the paving-stones, and ran in little streams down the gutters;
he found a kind of autumnal charm in the dripping trees and soaked paths
of the Aliscamps; a peaceful, and to him pathetic and pleasant, odour of
decay. Livia went out with him once, muffled in a long cloak, and
keeping her whole face carefully under the umbrella. She wanted to know
where he was taking her, and why; she shivered, sneezed, and gave one or
two little coughs. When she saw the ground of the Aliscamps, and the
first trees began to drip upon her umbrella with a faint tap-tapping on
the strained silk, she turned resolutely, and hurried Roserra straight
back to the house.

After that she stayed indoors day after day, getting more irritable
every day. She took up one book after another, read a little, and then
laid it down. She walked to and fro in the narrow room, with nothing, as
she said, to think about, and nothing to see if she looked out of the
window. There was the square, every stone polished by the rain; the
other houses in the square, most of them shuttered; the little church in
the corner, with its monotonous bell, its few worshippers. She knew them
all; they were mostly women, plain, elderly women; not one of them had
any interest, or indeed existence, for her. She wondered vaguely why
they went backwards and forwards, between their houses and the church,
in such a regular way. Could it really amuse them? Could they really
believe certain things so firmly that it was worth while taking all that
trouble in order to be on the right side at last? She supposed so, and
ended her speculations.

When Roserra was with her, he annoyed her by not seeming to mind the
weather. He would come in from a walk, and, if she seemed to be busy
reading, would sit down cheerfully by the stove, and really read the
book which he had in his hand. She looked at him over the pages of hers,
hating to see him occupied when she could not fix her mind on anything.
She felt imprisoned; not that she really wanted to go out: it was the
not being able to that fretted her.

About the time when, if she had been in London, she would have had tea,
the uneasiness came over her most actively. She would go upstairs to her
room, and sit watching herself pityingly in the glass; or she would try
on hat after hat, hats which had come from Paris, and were meant for
Paris or London, hats which she could not possibly wear here, where her
smallest and simplest ones seemed out of place. Sometimes she brought
herself back into a good temper by the mere pleasurable feel of the
things; and she would run downstairs forgetting that she was in Arles.

One afternoon, when she was in one of her easiest moods, Roserra
persuaded her to attend Benediction with him at the church of Notre Dame
la Major, in the corner of the square. The church was quite dark, and
she could only dimly see the high-altar, draped in white, and with
something white rising up from its midst, like a figure mysteriously
poised among the unlighted candles. Hooded figures passed, and knelt
with bowed heads; presently a light passed across the church, and a lamp
was let down by a chain, lighted, and drawn up again to its place. Then
a few candles were lighted, and only then did she see the priest
kneeling motionless before the altar. The chanting was very homely, like
that in a village church; there was even the village church's harmonium;
but the monotony of one air repeated over and over again brought even to
Livia some sense of a harmony between this half-drowsy service and the
slumbering city outside. They waited until the service was over, the
priests went out, the lamps and the candles were extinguished, and the
hooded figures, after a little silence, began to move again in the
dimness of the church.

Sometimes she would go with Roserra to the cloisters of St. Trophime,
where Arles, as he said, seemed to withdraw into its most intimate self.
The oddness of the whole place amused her. Every side was built in a
different century: the north in the ninth, the east in the thirteenth,
the west in the fourteenth, and the south in the sixteenth; and the
builders, century by century, have gathered into this sadly battered
court a little of the curious piety of age after age, working here to
perpetuate, not only the legends of the Church, but the legends that
have their home about Arles. Again and again, among these naïve
sculptures, one sees the local dragon, the man-eating Tarasque who has
given its name to Tarascon. The place is full of monsters, and of
figures tortured into strange dislocations. Adam swings ape-like among
the branches of the apple-tree, biting at the leaves before he reaches
the apple. Flames break out among companies of the damned, and the devil
sits enthroned above his subjects. A gentle Doctor of the Church holding
a book, and bending his head meditatively sideways, was shown to Livia
as King Solomon; with, of course, in the slim saint on the other side of
the pillar, the Queen of Sheba. Broken escutcheons, carved in stone,
commemorate bishops on the walls. There is no order, or division of
time; one seems shut off equally from the present and from any
appreciable moment of the past; shut in with the same vague and
timeless Autumn that has moulded Arles into its own image.

But it was just this, for which Roserra loved Arles above all other
places, that made Livia more and more acutely miserable. Wandering about
the streets which bring one back always to one's starting-point, or
along the boulevards which suggest the beginning of the country, but set
one no further into it, nothing seems to matter very much, for nothing
seems very much to exist. In Livia, as Roserra was gradually finding
out, there was none of that sympathetic submissiveness to things which
meant for him so much of the charm of life. She wanted something
definite to do, somewhere definite to go; her mind took no subtle colour
from things, nor was there any active world within her which could
transmute everything into its own image. She was dependent on an
exterior world, cut to a narrow pattern, and, outside that, nothing had
any meaning for her. He began to wonder if he had made the irremediable
mistake, and, in his preoccupation with that uneasy idea, everything
seemed changed; he, too, began to grow restless.

Meanwhile Livia was deciding that she certainly had made a mistake,
unless she could, after all, succeed in getting her own way; and to do
that she would have to take things into her own hands, much more
positively than she had yet done. She would walk with him when it was
fine, because there was nothing else to do. Once they walked out to the
surprising remains of the abbey of Mont-Major, and it began to rain, and
they lingered uncomfortably about the ruins and in the subterranean
chapel. She walked back with him, nursing a fine hatred in silence. She
turned it over in her heart, and it grew and gathered, like a snowball
rolled over and over in the snow. It was comprehensive and unreasoning,
and it forgot the small grievance out of which it rose, in a sense of
the vast grievance into which it had swollen. To Roserra such moods,
which were now becoming frequent, were unintelligible, and he suffered
from them like one who has to find his way through a camp of his enemies
in the dark.

When they got back to the house, Livia would silently take up a book and
sit motionless for hours, turning over the pages without raising her
eyes, or showing a consciousness of his presence. He pretended to do the
same, but his eyes wandered continually, and he had to read every page
twice over. He wanted to speak, but never knew what to say, when she was
in this prickly state of irritation. To her, his critical way of
waiting, and doing nothing, became an oppression. And his silence, and
what she supposed to be his indifference, grew upon her like a heavy
weight, until the silent woman, who sat there reading sullenly, felt the
impulse to rise and fling away the book, and shriek aloud.

Livia did not say that she wished to go away from Arles, anywhere from
Arles, but the desire spoke in all her silences. She made no complaint,
but Roserra saw an unfriendliness growing up in her eyes which terrified
him. She held him, as she had held him since their first meeting, by a
kind of magnetism which he had come to realise was neither love nor
sympathy. He felt that he could hate her, and yet not free himself from
that influence. What was to be done? He would have to choose; his life
of the future could no longer be his life of the past. His introduction
of a woman to his best friend had been unfortunate, as such
introductions always are, in one way or another. He had tended his soul
for more than half a lifetime, waited upon it delicately, served it with
its favourite food; and now something stronger had come forward and
said: No more. What was it? He had no wish to speculate; it mattered
little whether it was what people called his higher nature, or what they
called his lower nature, which had brought him to this result. At least
he had some recompense.

When he told Livia that he had decided to go back to Marseilles ('Arles
does not suit you,' he said; 'you have not been well since we came
here') Livia flung herself into his arms with an uncontrollable delight.
On the night before they left, he sat for a long time, alone, under the
Allée des Tombeaux. When he came back, Livia was watching for him from
the window. She ran to the door and opened it.

It was midday when they reached Marseilles. The sun burned on the blue
water, which lay hot, motionless, and glittering. There was not a breath
of wind, and the dust shone on the roads like a thick white layer of
powder. The light beat downwards from the blue sky, and upwards from the
white dust of the roads. The heat was enveloping; it wrapped one from
head to foot like the caress of a hot furnace. Roserra pressed his hands
to his forehead, as he leaned with Livia over the terrace above the sea;
his head throbbed, it was an effort even to breathe. He remembered the
grey coolness of the Allée des Tombeaux, where the old men sat among the
tombs. A nausea, a suffocating nausea, rose up within him as he felt the
heat and glare of this vulgar, exuberant paradise of snobs and tourists.
He sickened with revolt before this over-fed nature, sweating the fat of
life. He looked at Livia; she stood there, perfectly cool under her
sunshade, turning to watch a carriage that came towards them in a cloud
of dust. She was once more in her element, she was quite happy; she had
plunged back into the warmth of life out of that penetential chillness
of Arles; and it was with real friendliness that she turned to Roserra,
as she saw his eyes fixed upon her.



  SEAWARD LACKLAND.


Seaward Lackland was born on a day of storm, when his father was out at
sea in his fishing-boat; and the mother vowed that if her husband came
home alive the boy should be dedicated to the Lord. Isaac Lackland was
the only one of his mates who came home alive out of the storm; and the
boy got the queer name of Seaward because his mother had looked out to
sea, as soon as she had strength enough to be propped up in bed, praying
for her husband every minute of the time until he came back. She could
see the sea through the little leaded windows of the cottage which stood
right on the edge of the cliff above Carbis Bay. The child's earliest
recollection was of the shape and colour of the waves, between the
diamond leadings, as he was held up to the window in his mother's arms.
It was like looking at pictures in frames, he thought afterwards.

The child was dedicated to the Lord. Isaac knelt down by the bedside and
prayed over him as Mary held him in her arms, and when he got up from
his knees he said: 'Mary, if the boy lives, please God, he shall have
his schooling; and I wouldn't say but he might make a fine preacher of
the Gospel.'

'It was little schooling Peter ever had,' said his wife.

'Peter was wanted in the boat; this youngster can wait.'

'Oh, Isaac, do you think he'll go to America, when he's grown up, like
Peter?'

'No, Mary, he'll not go farther than Land's End by land, or Mount's Bay
by sea, if what I feel is the truth. We've given him to the Lord, and I
say the Lord will lend him to us.'

Mary said under her breath, 'Oh, please, Lord Jesus,' several times
over, with her eyes tight shut, as she did when she seemed to pray best.
Her first son had been drowned at sea, her second had run away from home
and gone to America; and she hardly dared think of what would happen to
this one. But they had done what they could. Would not God watch over
him, and would he not be kind to her because she had given up some of
her rights in the child?

The child grew strong and gentle; he learned quickly what he was taught,
and when he had learned it he would set himself to think out what it
really meant, and why it meant that and not something else. He was
always good to his mother, and as soon as he had learned to read he
would read to her out of a few books which she cared for, the Bible
chiefly, and Bogatzky's 'Golden Treasury,' and the 'Pilgrim's Progress.'
Through reading it over and over to his mother, he got to know a good
part of the Bible by heart, and he was always asking what this and that
puzzling passage meant exactly, and, when he got no satisfying answer,
trying to puzzle out a meaning for himself.

Every day he went in to the Wesleyan day-school at St. Ives, and as he
walked there and back along the cliff-path, generally alone, all sorts
of whimsical ideas turned over in his head, ideas that came to him out
of books, and out of what people said, and out of the queer world in
which he found himself, half land and half water. It was always changing
about him and yet always there, in the same place, with its regular and
yet unaccountable tides and harvests. Sometimes there was a storm at sea
and all the boats did not come back, and the people he had talked with
yesterday had gone, like the stone he kicked over the cliff in walking,
or he saw them carried up the beach with covered faces. Death is always
about the life of fishermen, and he saw it more visibly and a thing more
natural and expected than it must seem to most children.

He had always loved the sea, and it was his greatest delight to be taken
out when the pilchards were in the bay, and to sit in the boat watching
the silver shoals as they crowded into the straining net. He waited for
the cry of 'Heva!' from the watchman on the hill, and often sat beside
him, or stared out to sea through his long telescope, longing to be the
first to catch the moving glitter of silver. He talked with the men
'like a grown-up chap' they said, and they talked with him as if he
were a man, telling him stories, not the stories they would have told
children, but things out of their own lives, and ideas that came into
their heads as they lay out at sea all night in the drift-boats.

There was one old man with whom the boy liked best to talk, because he
had been a sailor in his youth and had gone through all the seas and
landed at many ports, and had been shipwrecked on a wild island and
lived for a year among savages, and he was not like the other men, who
had always been fishers, and thought Plymouth probably as good as
London. Old Minshull seemed to the boy a very clever as well as a
far-travelled person, and he discussed some of his difficulties with him
and got help, he thought, from the old man.

His difficulties were chiefly religious ones. He knew much more about
the Bible than about the world, and his imagination was constantly at
work on those absorbing stories in Kings and Judges, and all sorts of
cloudy pictures which he made up for himself out of obscure hints in the
Prophets and the Apocalypse. The old Cornishman knew his Bible pretty
well, but not so well as the boy; and the boy would bring the book out
on the cliff and read over some of the confusing things; murders, with
God's approval, it seemed, and treacheries which set nations free, and
are called 'blessed,' and the sins of the saints; and then mysterious
curses and unintelligible idolatries, and the Scarlet Woman and Jonah's
whale. He liked best the Old Testament, and had formed a clear idea of
God the Father as a perfectly just but constantly avenging deity; it
pained him if he could not bring everything into agreement with this
idea; and in the New Testament he was often perplexed by what Jesus
seemed to do and undo in the divine affairs. The old sailor turned over
all these matters in his head; they were new to him, but he faced them,
and he was sometimes able to suggest just the common-sense way out of
the difficulty.

When Mary Lackland thought the boy old enough to understand the full
meaning of it, she told him how, on the day of his birth, he had been
dedicated to God, and she told him that he was never to forget this,
but to think much of God's claims upon him, and to be certain of a
special divine guardianship. He listened gravely, and promised. From
that time he began to look on God, not with less awe, but with a more
intimate sense of his continual presence, and a kind of filial feeling
grew up in him quite simply, a love of God, which came as a great
reality into his life. He felt that he must never dishonour this divine
father, either by anything he did or by the way in which he thought of
him even. Did not God, in a sense, depend on him as a father depends on
his son, to keep his honour spotless, to be more jealous of that honour
than of his own? That, or something like it, only half-defined to
himself, was what he felt about God, to whom his whole life had been
dedicated.

When he had finished his schooling, the boy joined his father in the
boats, first, only by day, in the pilchard fishery, and then in the
drift-boats that went far out, at night, in the herring season. His
father was a silent man and rarely spoke to him; the other men half
feared and half despised him, because he would not drink or play cards
with them, and seemed to be generally either reading or thinking. He
thought a great deal in those long nights, and when he was eighteen he
began to be seriously alarmed because, so far as he knew, he was not
converted.

He knew that he tried to do what was right, that he kept all the
commandments, prayed night and morning, and that he had this instinctive
love of God; but, according to the Methodists, all that was not enough.
There must be a moment, they held, in every man's life when he becomes
actively conscious of salvation; for every man there is a road to
Damascus. Seaward Lackland had not yet come to that great crisis, and he
waited for it, wondering what it was and when he would come to it.

He began to be troubled about his sins. The Bible said that every evil
thought was a sin, and he did not know how many evil thoughts had come
into his mind since he had become conscious of good and evil. A heavy
burden of guilt weighed upon him; he could not put it aside; the more
he thought of God, the more conscious did he become of that awful gulf
which lay between him and God. Conversion, he had heard, bridged that
gulf, or your sins fell off into it and were no more seen, even if,
somewhere out of sight, they still existed, and would exist through all
eternity. He would have despaired but for the hope of that miracle. And
if I die, he said to himself, before I am converted?

He had always gone regularly to chapel on Sundays and as often as he
could on week-days, but now he began to stay to the prayer-meetings
after the service, and the minister at St. Ives noticed him, and often
prayed with him and talked with him, but to no avail. A year went by,
and he grew more despondent; even his love for God seemed to be
slackening. One winter evening he heard that a famous revivalist was
coming to Lelant. He thought he would go and hear him, then something
seemed to urge him not to go; and he walked half-way there, and then
back again, unable to make up his mind. Then, thinking that it was the
devil who was trying to keep him away, he turned and walked resolutely
to Lelant.

When he reached the chapel the service had begun. They were singing
'Jesu, lover of my soul,' and the preacher was standing inside the
communion-rail (he liked to be nearer the people than he could be in the
pulpit), and, as Seaward had the first glimpse of his face, he was
singing as if every word of the hymn meant something wonderful to him.
His eyes were wide open and shining; he held the closed hymn-book in
both hands, rigid in front of him, and the people seemed already to have
begun to feel that magnetic influence which he rarely failed to
establish between himself and his hearers. After the hymn he stretched
out his hand with a sudden gesture, and the people stood motionless for
a moment and then gradually sank down on their knees as he began to pray
rapidly. He seemed to be talking with God as if God were there in the
midst of them, and as he passed from supplication into a kind of vivid
statement, meant for the people rather than for the ear of God, there
seemed to be a dialogue going on, as if the answers which he gave were
hardly his own answers. He ended abruptly, and, without the harmonium,
started an almost incoherent marching-song which was well known at all
revivals. 'Hallelujah, send the glory!' he sang, and the voices of the
people rose louder and louder and feet began to beat time to the heavy
swing of the tune. Then he read the lesson and, without a pause, gave
out the text, and began to speak.

Seaward Lackland had stepped into a pew near the door, and in the
furthest corner of the chapel. Something in the preacher's voice had
thrilled him, and he could not take his eyes off the long lean face,
with its eyes like two burning coals, as it seemed to him, under a high
receding forehead, from which the longish hair was brushed straight
back. A huge moustache seemed to eat up the whole lower part of the
face; and, as the man spoke, you saw nothing but the eyes and the
quivering moustache. He began quietly, but, from the first, in the
manner of one who has some all-important, and perhaps fatal, secret to
tell. An uneasiness spread gradually through the chapel, which
increased as he went on, with more urgency. People shifted in their
seats, looked sideways at their neighbours, as if they feared to have
betrayed themselves. Seaward felt himself turning hot and cold, for no
reason that he could think of, and he took out his handkerchief and
wiped his forehead. Near him he saw a young woman begin to cry, quite
quietly, and a man not far off drew long breaths, that he could hear,
almost like groans. The preacher's voice sounded like pathetic music,
and he heard the tones rather than the words, tones which seemed to
plead with him like music, asking something of him, as music did; and he
wanted to respond; and he realised that it was his sin that was keeping
him back from somehow completing the harmony, and he heard the
preacher's voice talking with his soul, as if no one were there but they
two. And God? God, perhaps.

By this time many people in the chapel were weeping, men groaned
heavily, some jumped up crying 'Hallelujah!' and when the preacher ended
and said, 'Now let us have silent prayer,' and came down into the
aisle, and moved from pew to pew, one after another, as he spoke to
them, got up, and went to the communion-rail, and knelt there, some of
them with looks of great happiness. As Seaward saw the preacher coming
near him, he felt a horrible fear, he did not know of what; and he rose
quietly and stepped out into the night. But there, as he stood listening
to some exultant voices which he still heard crying 'Hallelujah!' and as
he felt the comfort of the cool air about him, and looked up at the
stars and the thin white clouds which were rushing across the moon, a
sense of quiet and well-being came over him, and he felt as if some
bitter thing had been taken out of his soul, and he were free to love
God and life at the same time, and not, as he had done till then, with
alternate pangs of regret. 'If God so loved the world,' he found himself
repeating; and the whole mercy of the text enveloped him. He walked home
along the cliff like one in a dream: he only hoped not to waken out of
that happiness.

From this time, year by year, Seaward Lackland grew more eager to do
some work for God. He had made few friends among the young men and women
of his own age; to the women he seemed at once too cold and too earnest,
and the men were not quite certain of the comradeship of one who had so
much book-learning, and who was so full of strange ideas. He did not
mean to be unfriendly, but he had not the qualities that go to the easy
making of friendships; and he found no one, neither man nor woman, with
whom he had anything in common. The men respected him, for he was a good
fisherman; but the women had for the most part a certain contempt for
this large-boned, dull-eyed, heavy-jawed young man, who was never at his
ease when he was with them, and who waited on no occasions for meeting
them when they might have liked his company. The minister at St. Ives
had noticed him and asked him sometimes to come and have a talk with him
in his study. One day Lackland, warmed out of his reserve, had been
talking so well that the minister said to him: 'I think we must have
you as a local preacher, Lackland. What do you say to it?' He said
quietly: 'I would like to try, sir.'

A few weeks afterwards, when the quarterly 'plan' was handed in at the
Lacklands' cottage, and Mrs. Lackland had unfolded it eagerly, to see
who were appointed to take the services at Carbis, she came suddenly
upon a name which startled her so much, that the broad sheet of paper
fluttered off her knees to the floor. 'My boy,' she said, as Seaward
picked it up, and handed it back to her with a smile, 'I have been
praying for this ever since I dedicated you to the Lord. Now I hardly
know what there is left for me to pray for.'

'Pray that I may be steadfast in the faith, mother,' said Seaward.

'I will, my son; but I wouldn't mind trusting him for that.'

Everybody in the village was in Carbis Chapel to hear Seaward Lackland's
first sermon. He was not afraid of them; he had something to say, and he
was to speak for God; he said quietly all that was in his mind to say.

After the sermon, while he was walking across to the cottage with his
father and mother, both very happy, and saying nothing at all, one or
two of the older people stayed behind to discuss the sermon. 'Do you
think he is quite orthodox?' said one of them, dubiously. 'I don't
know,' said another; 'there were some ideas, sure enough, I never heard
before; but I wouldn't say for that they weren't orthodox.' 'We must be
careful,' said a third; 'these young people think too much.' 'A great
deal too much,' said the first, 'once you begin to think for yourself,
what's to stop you?'

    *    *    *    *    *

From the time of his first sermon Seaward Lackland looked upon his
dedication to God as not only complete, but, in a sense, accepted. He
had offered himself as an interpreter of the will of God to men, and
power was put into his hand. Now, he said to himself, if I should prove
a backslider, that would be a calamity for God also. The thought of his
sins, which he believed God to have pardoned, came back to him again and
again; he saw them still existing, like atoms which refused to go out
into nothingness; even if pardoned, not literally extinct. What if his
soul were one day to reinherit them, to slip back into their midst,
having let go of the hand of God, which needed at all times to hold him
up out of that deadly gulf? And now that he, who needed help so much,
had taken it upon him to try to help others, could he be sure that he
was rightly helping them? Could he, in all obedience, be sure that he
was interpreting the divine will aright?

He had never found help in any book but the Bible. Once or twice he had
borrowed a commentary from the minister at St. Ives, but he could not
read these dry and barren discourses, which seemed to tell you so many
unnecessary things, but never the things that you wanted to know. He put
them aside, and the conviction came to him that with prayer and thought
everything would explain itself to him. Did not the Holy Ghost still
descend into men's minds, illuminating that patient darkness? He waited
more and more expectantly on that divine light, and it seemed to come
to him with a more punctual answer. At night, on the water, while the
other men lay across the seats, smoking their pipes in silence, he would
withdraw into his own mind until visible things no longer existed, and
he was alone in a darkness which began to glow with soft light. Only
then did he seem to see quite clearly, and what he saw was not always
what he had reasoned out for himself; but it was a solution, and it came
irresistibly.

Once, when he had fallen asleep, he dreamed a dream from which he awoke
with a cry of terror. In his dream he had seen an evil spirit (it had
the appearance of a man, but he knew it to be an evil spirit because of
the infinitely evil joy which shone through the melancholy of its eyes),
and he was sitting talking with the evil spirit on the edge of a tall
cliff above the sea; and it said to him: Do you know that Seaward
Lackland is damned? and he said No, and it said: He is damned because he
has sinned the sin against the Holy Ghost; and the evil joy began to
grow and grow in its eyes, and it was watching him as if to discover
whether he knew that he himself was Seaward Lackland, and he tried to
say No again, more loudly, and as he drew back, the cliff began to
crumble away, but very slowly, so that a hundred years might have passed
while he felt himself slipping down into the gulf of the sea; and his
own cry awakened him.

He knew that he had been dreaming, but the dream might have been a
message. He knew the text in the Bible, and he had often wondered what
it meant. Had not Jesus said: 'All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be
forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be
forgiven unto men'? It was the most terrible saying in the Bible. What
was the sin which even God could not forgive? He remembered that
reiteration in Matthew: 'And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son
of Man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the
Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, nor in
the world to come.' Might it not be possible for a man to sin that sin
in ignorance? Would his ignorance avail him, if he had actually sinned
it? These thoughts troubled him strangely, and he tried to put them away
from him.

They came back to him again, and more searchingly. Since his conversion
he had been as much troubled by the thought of his past sins as he had
been before that change occurred. They were put away; yes, but was it
not a kind of putting off the payment of a debt which might be still
accumulating? And now, if there was one sin which could never be atoned
for, and if he had committed that one sin? It was possible, and the
thought filled him with horror.

One July night, when the boats were away in the North Sea, he set
himself to think the whole matter out; he would get at the truth, and
not endure this doubt and trouble any longer. He was sitting in the
stern of the boat, the other men were talking in low voices, but he was
used not to hear them. He put his elbows on his knees, and bowed his
head over till his hands met above it. He shut his eyes and stared hard
into the darkness under his eyelids. The boat rocked gently: he wanted
to keep quite still, so that he might think, and he put his feet against
the sides of the boat, steadying himself.

As he sat there, annihilating thought that he might think the more
deeply, it seemed to him after a time as if all his past life came back
to him under a new aspect, as something which had been wrong from the
beginning. Had he not, as a child, been angry, greedy, loving only his
own pleasure, ungrateful to those who had refused him any of his desires
for his own good? Had he not been heedless and self-willed as a young
man, had he not even made a boast of his own righteousness after he had
found Christ? Was there a day since he had come to a knowledge of good
and evil when he had not sinned at least in thought? He imagined God
adding up all those sins, from the animal sins of childhood to the sins
of the mature mind. 'The Lamb's book of life': he remembered the words,
and they became terrible to him, for he saw all the pages in which his
account was written. For him it would be the book of eternal death.

He lifted his head and looked up. God was up there, beyond that roof
which was his pavement. He was afraid of the great loneliness which lay
between him and God.

He looked around. The drift-net lay out for a mile along the water, its
brown corks heaving gently, at regular intervals. Other boats lay
alongside, with their nets adrift; some of the boats were silent, the
men all asleep; from others he heard voices, a sudden laugh, and then
silence. The water was all about him, and the water was friendly, a
great breathing thing, that had him in its arms. He only felt at home
when he was on the water, because the water was so living, and the land
lay like a dead thing, always the same, but for the change of its
coverings. There was in the Bible one of those hard sayings: that in
heaven 'there shall be no more sea.' It was too difficult for him to
understand.

The sea comforted him a little, but he said to himself: 'I do not want
to be dandled to sleep like a child; I want to see the truth.' Had he,
or had he not, among the numberless sins, which he had seen God adding
up in his book, committed the one sin which should never be pardoned? He
did not know what that sin was, but, he argued, my ignorance makes no
difference. If I pick toad-stools for mushrooms, and eat them, I shall
pay the penalty, just the same as if I had eaten them on purpose. The
Bible, it was true, did not tell you, as far as he could discover; but
there must be people who knew. There was the minister, who had a
reference Bible, and knew Hebrew. He would certainly know.

'When we get back to St. Ives,' said Lackland to himself, 'I will go and
see Mr. Curnock; meanwhile the less I think about this the better.' But
there was one thought that he could not put out of his mind. Suppose he
had not sinned the unpardonable sin, had he not sinned so often, and so
deeply, that God ought not to pardon him, if he were really a just
judge, and not swayed, as men are, by a pity which is only one form of
partiality? He had always conceived sternly of God; the Jehovah of the
Old Testament was always before him, a mighty avenger, a God of battles
and judgments, inexorably just. If God was also love, God might forgive
him; he would want to forgive him; but would it be right to accept
mercy, if that mercy lowered his creator in his own eyes? The thought
stung him, raced through him like poison; he could not escape from it.
His old sense of honour towards God came back on him with redoubled
force. If God were just, God would not forgive him. Did he not love God
so much that he would suffer eternal misery, gladly, in order that God
might be just?

When the boats went home with their fish, Lackland had only one thought:
to go and see Mr. Curnock at St. Ives. He walked in from Carbis that
evening, and found the minister alone in his study. Mr. Curnock
respected him; he had gone steadily on, year after year, preaching
whenever he was wanted, and though one or two people had complained that
his sermons were not strictly orthodox, most of the people spoke well of
him; many said that he had helped them. On that night he was very
serious, and he seemed to be hesitating to say all that he had to say.
At last he admitted that it was the text in the Bible which was
troubling him.

Mr. Curnock went up to his shelves and looked along them. 'I know,' he
said, 'that many people have been needlessly disturbed about that
saying. And, as the Bible does not tell us, we cannot be quite certain
what that sin is. But if I can find one or two passages that recur to
me, in some of the people who have written about the Gospels, I think
they will throw some light on the matter.' He took down a big black
book, and turned over the pages. 'Here, for instance: "Not a particular
_act_ of sin but a _state_ of wilful, determined opposition to the Holy
Spirit, is meant." That is very much what I should imagine to be the
truth. But it is a little vague, perhaps?'

'I don't thoroughly see it,' said Lackland. 'The Bible says "blasphemy
against the Holy Ghost."'

'Well now,' said the minister, taking down another book, 'here is a
translation from a Spaniard of the sixteenth century, who has been
called "a Quaker before his time." He puts things quaintly, but I like
him better than the formal people. Let me see: "Whence, considering that
..." No, that doesn't concern us; here it is: "do I come to understand
that a man then sins against the Holy Spirit, when, with mental
malignity he persuades men that the works of the Holy Spirit are the
works of the devil, he being soul-convinced of the contrary." Is that
clear?'

'That's clearer,' said Lackland.

'He goes on, on the next page,' said Mr. Curnock, '"And I understand
that sin against the Holy Ghost that worked in Christ was inexcusable,
for it could not spring save from the most depraved minds, obstinate in
depravity."' Mr. Curnock shut the book, and put it back in its place.
'Now, do you see,' he said, sitting down by the table, 'this awful sin,
such as it is, could not be sinned unconsciously; its very essence is
that it is a deliberate rejection of what we know to be truth. I might
almost say that to sin it, a man must make up his mind that he will do
so.'

'I think I see,' said Lackland, staring before him; 'and I was wrong
there, for certain: I never committed that sin. But, all the same, I
don't feel quite clear yet.'

'Why is that?' said the minister.

'Have you never thought, sir,' said Lackland, 'that the only return we
can make to God for his love to us, is to love him more than we love
ourselves?'

'But certainly,' said Mr. Curnock.

'Well,' said Lackland, 'do you see it might be that a good Christian
would think most of saving his own soul.'

'That is his duty,' said Mr. Curnock.

'But are they both true?' said Lackland.

'Both things you have said are perfectly true,' said Mr. Curnock; 'only,
I see no contradiction between them.'

'Thank you, sir,' said Lackland, getting to his feet; 'I'll go and think
it all over; I'm not very ready at thinking, I have to set my mind to
things slowly; and you've given me a good lot to think over. Good-night,
Mr. Curnock.'

'And now, my dear Lackland,' said the minister, as he opened the door of
the house, 'above all, don't worry over a text which none of us are very
sure about. Be certain of one thing, that God's mercy is infinite, and
that he'll bring you through.'

Lackland walked slowly away from the door, along the terrace above the
sea, and then more rapidly, as he came out on the rough path along the
cliff. The wind blew sharply against him; the moon glittered in the sky,
among a multitude of glittering stars; and he heard the sea screaming
and tearing at the pebbles, as he sat down on the edge of the cliff,
just before getting to Carbis Bay, and looked along the uneasy water,
which quivered all over with little waves, hunching themselves up, one
after another, and leaping forward, all in a white froth, as they struck
upon the beach. 'They are like the lives of men,' thought Lackland; 'all
that effort, a struggling onward, a getting to the journey's end: see,
that wave is making for just that old tin can, and it has hit it, and
the can rolls over and remains, and the wave is gone.' He drew his
breath in sharply, drawing up the salt smell of the sea into his
nostrils, and sat there for a long time thinking.

No, he had not committed the sin against the Holy Ghost: God could still
pardon him. But was it right, was it just, that God should pardon him?
One after another of the hard sayings of the Old Testament came into his
mind: it was clearly impossible to fulfil every one of those
obligations; he could but strive towards them, and fail, and fall back
on the mercy of God. At that thought something rose up in him like a
pride on behalf of God, and he said to himself: 'I will never ask God to
stoop in order that I may rise.' As he said the words he looked round
him; the aspect of the place, which he had known all his life, seemed to
change, to become dim, to become mysteriously distinct, and he saw that
he was sitting where he had sat with the evil spirit in his dream. He
got up hastily and went indoors.

Night after night Seaward Lackland went out with the fishing-boats; he
did his share of the work just as usual, took his share of the profits,
slept by day, and sat awake by night; and, to all about him, he was the
same man as before. But an ecstasy was growing up within him which kept
his own ears shut to everything but one interior voice; he was
meditating a great sacrifice; and a great happiness began to inhabit his
soul. 'If God so loved the world,' he repeated, as he had repeated it on
the night of his conversion, 'that he gave his only begotten Son ...' He
brooded over the words, wondering if a mere man could imitate that
supreme surrender. He was only a poor fisherman; the disciples had been
that, and Jesus had called them to leave their fathers and their nets
and follow him. Both his father and mother were dead; no one in the
world depended on him; he was free to give up the world, if he chose,
for God. The thought intoxicated him; he saw nothing but the thought,
like a light beckoning to him in the darkness: perhaps calling him to
destruction. The pride of a vast magnanimity thrilled through him: he
would sin the one sin that God could not pardon, in order that God
should deal with him according to his justice, and not according to his
mercy. He would, as he had dreamed when a child, prefer God's honour to
his own; he would give up heaven in order that God might be worthy of
his own idea of him. I will sin, he said to himself, the sin against the
Holy Ghost, and I will do it for the love of God.

When he had made up his mind, and was full of an exultant inner peace
because of it, he still waited and pondered, not knowing quite how he
would do the thing he had decided to do. It must be done publicly, and
he must suffer for it here, as he was to suffer for it hereafter. It
must be done in Carbis Chapel, when his turn came to preach there.

It was some time before his turn came, and he waited with a feverish
impatience. He tried to think out what he should say, but he could not
imagine anything that seemed to him sufficiently 'obstinate in
depravity.' He remembered the phrase, 'when, with mental malignity, he
persuades men that the works of the Holy Spirit are the works of the
devil'; and he tried to work out an argument, at which he shuddered,
which would seem to show Jesus as one working miracles with the help of
Satan. At first he could not put two words together, but gradually the
task became easier; strange arguments came into his head, which seemed
almost plausible to himself; he wondered if it was actually the devil,
for his own ends, helping him. He did not write down a word, though he
was accustomed to write every word of his sermons; every word, as he
thought it, stamped itself in his mind, like a seal pressed into burning
wax.

The night before the Sunday on which he was to preach his last sermon,
he lay in bed trying to sleep, but unable to close his eyes on the
darkness that seemed to palpitate about him. He got out of bed, threw
open the window, and leaned out. The night was quite black, he could see
nothing, but he could hear the waves splashing upon the sand down below
in the bay. A chill wind bit at his face, and made his body shiver. He
shut the window, and lay down in bed again, staring for the dawn. He
felt cold right through to the heart, and he felt horribly alone. By
to-morrow night he would have cut himself adrift; he would be like that
seaweed which the sea was tossing upon the sand, and dragging away from
the sand. For God's sake he would have cast off God, and he had no other
friend. To-morrow he would have none. His resolution never wavered, but
he no longer wished the dawn to come quickly; he would have liked, when
he saw the first light on the window-panes, to have held back the dawn.

He was to preach in the evening, and in the morning he sat in the chapel
and heard the minister from St. Ives telling of the mercy of God. His
text was: 'I say unto you that likewise joy shall be in heaven over one
sinner that repenteth, more than over ninety and nine just persons which
need no repentance.' He spoke of salvation for all; not a word was said
about that one exception. Lackland felt a bitter smile twitching at the
corners of his lips.

At night he made his own tea as usual, and walked up and down the room,
often looking at the clock, until it was time to go across to the
chapel. He saw the people passing his window on their way; some of them
looked in, saw him, and nodded in a friendly manner. He looked again at
the clock; now it was time for him to go, and he went into a corner of
the room, knelt down, and prayed to God for strength to deny him. Then
he walked rapidly across to the chapel.

The chapel was very full, it seemed to him oppressively hot, and he felt
the blood flushing his forehead. Many of the people remembered
afterwards that they had noticed something strange in his manner from
the moment in which he set foot on the steps of the pulpit. They were
quick to recognise the outward signs of a flame lighted within; and they
anticipated a fine sermon. His first prayer was very short, but it was
like a last confession. Each word seemed to live with a sharp, painful
life of its own; the words cried out, and called down heaven for an
answer. The text was a verse out of the twenty-fourth chapter of St.
Matthew: 'Then if any man shall say unto you, Lo, here is Christ, or
there; believe it not.' It was not the first time he had chosen a
strange text. He began slowly, and with an unusual solemnity. It seemed
to him that they were not understanding him aright. As he went on, his
voice, which had at first been low, grew louder; he spoke as if he were
hurrying through some message which had been laid upon him to deliver;
yet with the calmness of one who has mastered his own fever. He was
speaking the most terrible words they had ever heard, and they were at
first too bewildered even to think. As he went on, they began to look at
one another, wondering if he were mad or they; one or two women near the
door got up quietly and went out; men stirred in their seats; a great
shudder went through the whole congregation. Blasphemies such as they
had never dreamed of filled their ears, dazed their senses; and Seaward
Lackland stood there calmly, like a martyr, one of them said afterwards;
the sweat stood out on his forehead, but he spoke in an even voice: was
it Seaward Lackland or was it the devil who stood there denying God,
denying the Holy Spirit? There were those who looked up at the ceiling
above them, thinking that the roof would fall in and bury them with the
blasphemer. But as heaven did not stir in its own defence, it was for
them to assume the defence of heaven. An old class leader stood up in
his pew, near the communion-rail, and turning his back on the preacher,
said in a loud voice: 'I entreat you all to listen to this man no
longer, but to go instantly home, and pray God Almighty to forgive you
for what you have heard this day.' Lackland stood silent, and every one
in the chapel got up and went quickly out, the old class-leader the
last; and Lackland was left alone in the chapel, standing before the
open Bible in the pulpit. He fell on his knees and covered his face with
his hands: 'O God, forgive me,' he prayed, 'for what I have done for
thee to-day.'

    *    *    *    *    *

From that day Seaward Lackland was an outcast in the village. The mates
with whom he shared the boat and the nets refused to go to sea in his
company, lest they should share a judgment reserved for him, and all be
drowned together. He accepted his fate without protest, and, as one
thing after another slipped out of his hands, made no complaint. When
there was nothing else for him to do, he drove a cart which used to
carry the fish from the boats to the salting-cellars, and afterwards
from the cellars to the railway station, where they were sent in barrels
to the nearest port for Genoa and Leghorn. He was too poor now to live
in his cottage, and housed with some others as poor as himself, in a
half-fallen shanty on the way to Lelant. Even his housemates mocked him,
and held themselves more decent folks than he. It was thought that his
brain had weakened, for he became more and more eccentric in his ways,
and got to talk with himself, for hours together, in a low voice, but
with the gestures of one explaining something to an unseen disputant.
One day as he was racing up the hill by the side of his cart, urging on
the horses, his foot slipped, and he fell under the near wheel, which
had crushed into his breast-bone before the horses could be stopped. He
was carried back, and laid on his ragged bed; and was just able to ask
those about him to fetch the minister from St. Ives. He was not quite
dead when the minister came, and he said 'Amen,' simply, to the prayer
which the minister offered up for him. Then, as he seemed anxious to say
something, the minister stooped down, and, to help him, said: 'Perhaps
you want to tell us why you sinned against God ...' he was going to add,
'and that you repent of it, and hope for salvation,' but the dying man,
in a very faint but ecstatic voice, said: 'Because I loved God more than
I loved myself'; and so died, with a great joy on his face. But the
minister shook his head sorrowfully, not understanding what he meant.



  EXTRACTS FROM THE JOURNAL OF HENRY LUXULYAN.


When Henry Luxulyan died in Venice, a few years ago, he left a written
request that all his papers should be sent to me under seal. He was a
townsman of mine, and that, I think, had been almost the only link
between us, though I had known him from childhood, and we used to meet,
more or less accidentally, and at long intervals, all through his life.
As a boy he had few friends; he did not seek them; and I was never sure
that he looked upon me as in any real sense a friend. It was always
vaguely supposed that he was very clever, and as he took part in no
boyish games, and did not ride, or swim, or even walk much, but seemed
to brood, and linger, and be thinking, it was supposed that he had
interests of his own, and would one day be or do something remarkable.
He was never communicative about anything, but once or twice in later
years, he spoke to me of his historical studies, and I gathered that he
was making researches (for a book, I supposed) into the life of Attila:
a subject remote and gloomy enough, I thought, to be naturally
attractive to him. For some years I lost sight of him altogether, and
then, to my surprise, met him at the house of a German Baron and his
wife, who were settled in London, where they entertained lavishly. It
was the last house at which I had ever expected to meet him; though
indeed the Baroness was a woman of considerable learning, and very
intelligent and sympathetic. I found that he had become her librarian,
and was living in the house. He looked ill and restless. Whenever I
dined at the house, he was always there. I noticed that the Baroness
treated him more like a friend than a librarian; appealing to him on
every occasion as if he had the management of the whole household. I
never had much private talk with him, but he seemed glad to see me, and
referred sometimes, but never very definitely, to his work, which I
encouraged him to persevere with. He seemed almost pathetically alone;
but I remembered that he had never cared to be otherwise. The nervous
restlessness which I had observed in him was more marked every time that
I saw him; and it was with no surprise that I heard he had broken down,
and was in Venice, trying to recover. But it was in Venice that he took
the fever of which he died.

I never knew why he left that strange request that his papers should be
sent to me; nor was there any message among them, or the least
indication of what he wanted me to do with them. Most of them were
concerned with the life of Attila, but there were not three properly
finished chapters; and the mass of fragments, quotations, references,
tentative notes, mutually destructive and unresolved conjectures,
baffled my utmost endeavours, and remained for me, and I fear must
always remain, so much lost labour, like an enigma of which the key is
missing. But in the midst of these papers, thrust as if hurriedly into
one of the bundles, so that the string had cut into the outer leaves of
loose manuscripts, there was a thin book bound in parchment, almost
filled with Luxulyan's close, uneasy writing. It was a journal, many
times begun and relinquished, ending with a date not many days before
his death. Between the pages were two letters, in a woman's handwriting.
I burnt the letters without reading them; then I read the journal.

What I print here is printed with but few omissions; only I have changed
the names, and not left any allusion, as far as I know, to circumstances
which it is likely that any one could easily identify. For the omissions
I make myself wholly responsible; as, indeed, for the printing of the
journal at all. It seems to me a genuine document; odd, disconcerting,
like the man who wrote it; profoundly disconcerting to me, on reading
it, as I discovered the real subterranean being whom I had known, during
his lifetime, only by a few, scarcely perceptible outlines on the
surface. Such as it is, I give it here, reserving till afterwards
something more which I shall have to say by way of comment or epilogue.

    *    *    *    *    *

April 5.--I have been talking with the doctor to-day, and he tells me
that my nerves are seriously out of order. There, of course, he is quite
right, and he tells me nothing I did not know already. Only, why tell
me? That is just what it does me no good to think about. If I am to keep
in even so shaky an equilibrium as this, which at least might be worse,
it is essential for me to forget there is any danger. What folly, to be
a doctor and honest!

For my part, I was quite frank with him. I told him it was terrible, to
be alone and to think about death every day of one's life. He put out a
soothing hand professionally, and began to say something about 'with
care' and 'I see no reason why,' and so forth; 'no reason why, with
care, you should not live, well----' 'How long,' I interrupted him, as
he hesitated. 'Thirty years, forty years,' he said confidently, 'why
not? I tell you there is no reason why you should not die an old man.'
And he thought he was comforting me! I only said, 'It is horrible.' 'In
heaven's name,' he said, with real amazement, 'what is horrible?' I told
him: this dwindling away, this continual losing of all the forces that
hold one to life, this inevitable encroachment of the other thing, the
darkness; and the uncertainty of it all, except the ending. 'Come now,'
he said, as if he were arguing with a child, 'be reasonable; you don't
expect to live for ever?' 'That is just it,' I said; and then I put it
to him: 'don't you find it horrible to think of?' 'I never think of it,'
he said. 'I have to see to it every day. One accustoms oneself to the
things one sees every day. You brood over it because it is hidden away
from you.'

He said that as if he was saying something fine, courageous, even
intelligent.

I shivered as he spoke so lightly of seeing people die every day, and I
said, 'You think nothing of it!' 'To me,' he said, more seriously, 'it
is the one quite natural thing in the world. One is tired, one lies
down, one sleeps. And even if one isn't conscious of being tired, there
is nothing so good as sleep.' It struck me that he was quoting from
Marcus Aurelius, in a sort of roundabout way, and I let him go on
talking; but when he looked at me and said: 'I have never met any one
before who worried over the thought that he would have to die when he
was seventy, eighty, ninety: how do you know you won't live to be
ninety?' the simplicity of the man struck me as being laughable; a child
could have reasoned better, and I said: 'If I live to be ninety I shall
never have passed a day without thinking about death, and I know that I
am logically right in never losing sight of the only thing in the world
which is of infinite importance. You call it morbid, but what if only I
am wide awake, after all, and you others are walking straight into a pit
with your eyes shut?' It was then that he repeated that my nerves were
seriously out of order. He told me that I must find distraction. In
other words, I must shut my eyes from time to time. Well, there is no
doubt about it. That is what I must try to do. But how?

    *    *    *    *    *

April 6.--I suppose it is only because I am nervous, and because the
doctor told me I must not live so much by myself, but I am beginning to
think again about Clare, and I had not thought of her for a long time.
When one has lived with a woman, in the same house with her, every day
and every night for three years: think, there are one thousand and
ninety-five days in three years! well, something remains, in the very
look and touch of the furniture, in the treacherous blank of the
mirrors, which forget nothing, and hide so much, something that will
never wholly go; and I must not expect to release my senses, as I have
released my mind and my will, from the power of that woman.

Only, the less I think about her the better; and there is no danger of
my wanting her back again. That would be singularly inconvenient, if, as
I can but suppose, she is perfectly happy with that ordinary person whom
she had the curious taste to prefer to me. One must guard against being
ridiculous, even when one is alone with oneself, and I am content to
seem no hero to this serviceable valet, my journal; but it is partly
the incapacity of good taste in them that makes women so intolerable.
There are men of whom I have said to myself: Now, if Clare fell in love
with this man, or that man, it would seem to me so natural, so
legitimate; I could almost despise her for not submitting to a
fascination which is insensitive not to feel. But a poseur, a fop, a
cad; one of those men whom every man sees through at the first
hand-shake; a sleek flatterer, whose compliments are vulgarities; the
shopman air of 'inquire within upon everything'; yes, that is the man
who takes his choice of women. Is vulgarity a curable thing? and will
the vulgarity of women ever be cultured out of them?

I once tried to believe that there are women and women; but I have never
found that the 'and' meant anything essential.

    *    *    *    *    *

April 7.--I dined out at night, with my Jew friends, the Kahns, whom I
have not cared to see for so long; and the distraction has done me good.
They were charming, sympathetic, not obtrusively anxious about me; they
welcomed me as if I were really a friend; and there were some pleasant
people at the dinner-table. Only, I do not understand how they could ask
to dinner a certain Baroness von Eckenstein who was there. One should
preserve a certain decency in intercourse; there are things one should
be spared! I sat opposite to her, and she talked to me a good deal
across the table; she seemed intelligent; she might be all that is
admirable. Her figure was firm, ample, almost majestic, and the face had
once been not less finely designed, but over the whole left side, from
the forehead to the neck, there was a great white scar, shapeless,
horribly white, and scored as with deep cuts, which had formed
cicatrices of a yet more ghastly white. The bloodless and livid skin,
ploughed and wrinkled with these raised cicatrices, was drawn tightly
over the cheek-bone. The eyelid, strangely misshapen, was alone the
natural colour of flesh, but this eyelid looked as if it were
artificially attached to the underpart of the eyebrow, and on the
forehead above the eye there was a white scar, as if the flesh had been
cut away to form the eyelid. I dared not look at her, and yet, in spite
of myself, my eyes kept seeking her face. A death's head would be a more
agreeable companion at table. They tell me she is newly come to London,
very rich, very hospitable; Mrs. Kahn, with her intolerable indulgence,
means to make a friend of her; if I go there again I am sure to meet
her, and only the thought of that disgrace of nature makes me shiver.
Must I cut myself off again from just what had promised to be a real
distraction? I will stay at home, work, not think, bury myself in my
books.

    *    *    *    *    *

April 8.--I realise, on thinking it over in a perfectly calm mood,
without any sort of nervous excitement, that I have always been afraid
of women; and that is one reason, the chief perhaps, why I have always
been so lonely, both when Clare was with me, and before and after it.
Just as I cannot get out of my head that there is some concealed
conspiracy against me, in earthly things, so there seems to be, in the
other sex, a kind of hidden anger or treachery, which makes me uneasy. I
was never really happy when a woman sat on the other side of the table,
at the other corner of the fireplace. Vigny was right:

  'Toujours ce compagnon dont le coeur n'est pas sûr.'

I will quote no more: the verse becomes Biblical; and indeed it is of
Samson and Delilah. Just what attracts me in a woman revolts me: the
'love strong as death,' which is no more than 'la candeur de l'antique
animal,' raised to the power of self-expression. It bewilders, distracts
yes, terrifies me. That women are better and worse than we think them, I
am certain; and no doubt nature was wise in setting us on our knees
before the enigma. To be so mysterious and so contemptible! Merely for
us to think that, shuts us away from them, our possible friends, as by a
great wall, outside which there can be only enemies. We capitulate,
perhaps, but it is the enemy who has conquered.

    *    *    *    *    *

April 9.--I have been working hard, going nowhere, and I suppose staying
indoors too much. I begin to be restless again. The Kahns have written
asking me to dine with them on Sunday: will that woman be there? Hans
Greger is coming with his old music, and I should like to hear the viols
and harpsichord again. I think I must go.

Meanwhile some rumours of war which I read on the newspaper placards
have set me puzzling over one of my favourite enigmas. Is it not
incredible that there should be people in the world who will kill one
another, and even themselves, for any one of a multitude of foolish
reasons? As if life was not short enough at the longest, and one's
bodily pains troublesome enough without even the added risk of
accidents; and yet we must do our best to aid the enemy of us all; we
must make ourselves lieutenants of death; and for what? The thing begins
in our fantasies of honour, precedence, patriotism, or by whatever name,
big or small, we choose to christen the tiny germ of unreason. War
reduces to an absurdity, with its pompous mortal emphasis, the whole
argument. I have been thinking out a theory of this disease of humanity,
to which scientific people should have given a name. It might be
studied, in cellars, as they study bacilli.

    *    *    *    *    *

April 10.--To-day has been one of those days in which London becomes
intolerable. The dust-carts in the street, the reek of chop-houses, the
unwashed bodies in frowsy clothes, stink on the air, and the air is too
heavy to drain off this odious foulness, and one breathes it, and seems
to sicken. I am sure some loathsome gas is rising up out of the canal
under my windows; my head turns if I lean out and look over; and now it
is between two lights, almost too dark to see by daylight and not dark
enough to draw the curtains and turn on the electric light. It is the
time of day that I hate most; it is the only time of the day when I
actively want to be doing something, and when I am acutely miserable
because I have nothing to do.

The last half-hour, since I wrote these words, has been as miserable a
half-hour as I remember spending in my life. And yet there is nothing to
account for it, except this absurd sensitiveness which is growing upon
me. Why is it that one clings to life when it bores one in this manner?
I am not sure that I have ever felt what people call the joy of living:
life has always seemed to me a more or less ridiculous compromise; and
yet there is nothing I dread so much as any sort of truth, the truth
which might put an end, once and for all, to this compromise. Was there
ever any one so illogical? I hate life, and yet I want to go on living
for ever. Sometimes, coming back at night, after a concert in which some
great music has struck one into a profound seriousness, a strange and
terrifying sensation takes hold of me as the cab turns suddenly, out of
a tangle of streets, into a broad road between trees and houses: one
enters into it as into a long dimly lighted alley, and at the end of the
road is the sky, with one star hung like a lantern upon the darkness;
and it seems as if the sky is at the end of the road, that if one drove
right on one would plunge over the edge of the world. All that is solid
on the earth seems to melt about one; it is as if one's eyes had been
suddenly opened, and one saw for the first time. And the great dread
comes over me: the dread of what may be on the other side of reality.
And it seems as if all the years of the longest life, measured out into
days and hours, would not be long enough to hold me back from the horror
of that plunge.

    *    *    *    *    *

April 11.--She deceived me: all women deceive. I have no right to
condemn her any more than I condemn my doctor for deceiving me when I am
ill. He tells me: You will be better to-morrow; knowing that the only
way to make me better is to make me think I am going to be so. It would
be worse for us if women did not deceive us.

She was vain, selfish, sensual: should I have cared for her if she had
not been all three? To almost everybody she seemed gentle and modest:
was it really that I knew her better, or did everybody else know
something about her which I had never discovered? That is the odd thing
which I am beginning to wonder. She lived with me for three years, and
then left me. Whose fault was it that she left me after three years? In
this wholly unusual state of humility in which I find myself at
present, I cannot say that the fault was not partly mine, and partly
that she was a woman. What a thing it is to be a woman, and how
perplexing are even their virtues! They are not made, as we are, all of
a piece; they are not made to be consistent; they think so little of
what we think so much of; even sex is a light, simple, and natural thing
to them, to which they attach none of our morbid valuations. It is for
all this that, when I am not in this particular mood, I hate and fear
them; but to-day it all seems so natural, and women themselves seem so
pardonable. Think of the daily habits of their life: how many times a
day they dress and undress themselves, and all it means. With each new
gown a woman puts on a new self, made to match it. All day long they are
playing the comedian, while we do but sit in the stalls, listen, watch
and applaud. At least the play is for our entertainment; we pay them to
act it: let us be indulgent if the acting is not always to our taste.

    *    *    *    *    *

April 13.--I have just come from the Kahns'. Certainly there is no music
like this old, tinkling, unwearied music of Greger's for giving one a
sort of phantom or ghostly peace, as if the present faded into the
distance, and life became a memory, half sad and half happy, and above
all not too poignant. I can no longer allow myself to hear Wagner, much
less Tschaikowsky: music made to make people suffer.

Of course the Baroness was there. She sat by me at dinner, but on my
left, and I could only see the unspoilt half of her face. Every now and
then I thought of the other half, and a kind of sickness came over me.
Once I turned to my other neighbour, in the middle of a sentence. But,
for the most part, I forgot, and then it seemed to me that I was talking
with the most accomplished woman I had ever met. She has travelled,
knows many languages, many people; she has the feeling, and, I think,
some of the knowledge of an artist; we spoke of music, painting, the art
of living; and, oddly enough, she has a passion for just my own
subject; history is her favourite reading, and when I spoke of one of
my own hobbies, of Attila, she quoted Jornandes, and a passage, I
remembered, that Thierry has not translated: she must have read it in
Latin. How has she found time to do all this? To me she does not seem
very young, but I suppose she is very little over forty. She spoke of
everything with great frankness; only, never of herself. I have hardly
spoken to the husband, to whom I have never seen her speak. He is very
tall, very dark, very thin, with an air of politeness so excessive that
it seems a kind of irony. She has asked me to come and see her; she
promises me the use of her library. Can I, I wonder, ever get the better
of that repugnance which rises in me when I see the ragged mask, the
mended eyelid?

    *    *    *    *    *

April 14.--I have been filling these pages with rumours and
apprehensions, and now, just when I least expected it, something
definite has happened, which seems to make them all very trivial and
secondary. The Argonaut Building Society, into which I had put nearly
all the little money I had, has failed; there has been swindling; I am
ruined. What am I to do? I shall have to earn my living, heaven knows
how; I shall have to give up my work, sell my books, find some cheaper
rooms. This is the one thing I never thought would happen. I have been
afraid of most things but poverty, and now it is poverty which has come
upon me. Perhaps something will be saved out of the wreck of this false
Argonaut. I must wait until I know for certain that there is nothing.

    *    *    *    *    *

April 15.--I called on the Baroness von Eckenstein. I did not expect to
see such a library. It was made by three generations of savants, and
continued by herself. There are folios not in the British Museum; one
that I had come to think had never existed. If she will really let me
sometimes use her library, I can sell my books cheerfully. She has a
remarkable intelligence. But for that scar she would have been
singularly handsome. What can have caused it, I wonder? It is like the
scar which I once saw on the face of a woman over whom her rival had
thrown vitriol. I am far from supposing any such vulgar tragedy in the
household of the Eckensteins!

    *    *    *    *    *

April 16.--No further news yet from the Argonaut. I can only anticipate
the worst. Nothing but rain without, and this intolerable suspense in
one's mind. I can neither work nor think.

    *    *    *    *    *

April 17.--To-day the weather has changed, and see how this barometer of
my nerves registers the change! I have been walking in Regent's Park,
the nearest country, and I feel singularly good, wise, and happy. That
uninteresting park, uninteresting in itself, has a gift of refreshment,
as one turns into it out of the streets. I find myself leaning against
the railing to watch a little dark creature with red legs and a red
bill, that swims between the swans, and clambers up on the grass, and
runs about there stealthily with a shy grace. There is an island, to
which all the water-birds go, and it is grown over with trees and
bushes and green weeds, down to the edge of the water, and they go there
when they want to be alone, as one goes into a deep wood, out of the
streets in which people stare. To-day I was perfectly happy, merely
walking about the park. I sat under a tree for half an hour, and it was
only when I realised that a queer sound which had come to me at
intervals, a mournful and deep cry, which I had heard in a kind of
dream, was the crying of the wild beasts, over yonder, inside their
bars, that I got up and came away.

I have gone back to my journal at three o'clock in the morning, because
I cannot sleep, and one of my old horrors has taken hold of me again. I
am writing in order to give myself almost a sense of companionship: this
talking to oneself on paper is so different from the loud emptiness of
the night, when one is awake, and one's thoughts cry out. I woke up
suddenly, and felt the darkness about me, like a horrible oppression. I
felt as I have sometimes felt when the train has been carrying me
through a long tunnel. All the blood went to my head, as if I were
stifling, and I had a need of daylight. I turned on the electric light,
but it made no difference; it was no more than the light in the
railway-carriage while the darkness is thundering about one's ears, I
had the sensation of a world in which the daylight had been blotted out,
and men stumbled in a perpetual night, which the lamps did but make
visible. I felt that I should not be able to go on breathing unless I
thrust the thought out of my mind, and I got up and turned on all the
lights and walked to and fro in the rooms, and then came in here to
quiet myself in the way I have found so good, by writing down all these
fears and scruples of mine, as coldly as I can, as if they belonged to
somebody else, in whose psychology I am interested. Already the
uneasiness has almost left me. And yet who knows if I am only wrapping
the blanket round my head once more, in order that I may run through
fire and not see it?

    *    *    *    *    *

April 18.--I have had one of my old headaches to-day, partly because I
slept so little last night and partly because there has been thunder,
at intervals, all day long; and now at night, when it is quite cool
again, after the rain which washed off the suffocating heat of the day,
the sky still gives a nervous twitch now and again, like a face which
has lost control of its muscles. Yesterday it seemed as if Spring had
come, but to-day a premature Summer leapt out on the world, in one of
those distressing paroxysms of the elements in which I get more than my
share of the general discomfort. It is only for the last few hours that
I have recognised myself, and already I find it difficult to remember
that other self, which lay on the sofa with half-shut eyes and a
forehead eaten away by the little sharp teeth of the nerves. How we
measure ourselves by time, and time by ourselves! Then, it seemed
incredible that I should ever be my usual self again; my focus had been
suddenly altered, and nothing was the same. I think we ought to be more
grateful for such occasions than we are; for this sort of readjustment
is certainly useful. All habits, and not only what we call bad habits,
are hurtful; and life is one long habit, which it is good to vary
sometimes.

I suppose that my headache is not quite gone yet, and that it is this
which makes me write down these obvious reflections. I must stop writing
for to-night.

    *    *    *    *    *

April 20.--I have had a strange, generous, almost incredible letter from
the Baroness. She has heard from the Kahns that I have lost all my
money, and she offers me the post of librarian; I can live in the house,
and I am to have a salary which is much more than I had before the
Argonaut went to pieces. I have only to say yes, and I am saved.

Can I accept this charity? It is nothing less. What can I give in
return? Nothing. What can have induced her to offer me this immediate
kindness? That she is generous I do not doubt; but to this point? I must
revise my opinions about women.

There is charity, certainly, and I shall soon be penniless, and not well
able to refuse it. She prizes her library; she wishes it to be put in
order, catalogued, kept in order, added to; she saw my interest, she
knew that I am perfectly capable to do what she wants to have done. Is
there anything unnatural after all in what must after all remain her
immense kindness?

One thing remains. Can I accustom myself to see her every day, to sit at
table with her, to be constantly at her call? At first it will not be
easy, and then afterwards, who knows? but that would be the worst of
all, I may come to find a sort of perverse pleasure in looking at her,
the pleasure which is part horror, and which comes from affronting and
half encouraging disgust.

    *    *    *    *    *

April 28.--I have written nothing in my journal for the last week; too
many things have happened, and I have seemed to go through them almost
mechanically. I am already in my new quarters; I have my rooms, near the
library in which I work, in the vast house at Queen's Gate; and I am
already more than half regretting my old flat over Regent's Canal, where
I could be alone from morning to night.

There was no serious question of refusing this most fortunate
opportunity; I had no choice: it was this or nothing, for if I recover
£100 out of the Argonaut, it will be the utmost I have to hope for. The
Baroness is a woman of action; she insisted, she arranged everything,
and I found myself here without having done more than consent to let
things be done for me. Certainly that is a form of arrangement which
suits me, and life here seems to go not less smoothly; I have but to
accept it, not without a certain satisfaction. The Baron must be
enormously rich; there is something almost ostentatious in the display
of gold, silver, and silk. Nothing is simple; the cost of these
expensive things seems as if ticketed upon them; and there are coronets
everywhere. But I, who never seriously thought about money until the
little I had melted away, have never realised what an efficacious oil
can be distilled out of gold for making all the wheels of life go
smoothly. I am treated as one of the family; I profit hardly less than
they from all that I care for in the possession of riches.

And yet, there is something here which weighs upon me; a sort of moral
atmosphere which renders me uneasy. I see clearly, what I had guessed
before, that there is no affection, that there is even a certain degree
of alienation, between the Baron and Baroness. Nothing can be more
polite, but with a sort of enigmatical politeness, which hides I know
not what, than the Baron's manner towards his wife. He is scrupulously,
exaggeratedly, polite towards every one; and his excessive ceremony with
me puts a certain restraint upon me. I imagine that he detests me,
merely from the extreme care with which he tries to convince me of his
amiability. The whole man seems to me false; or, it may be, he has acted
a part so long that the part has fastened itself upon him. His eyes and
his mouth seem never to say the same thing; both guard, as at two
doorways, the thoughts which are at work in his brain.

The attitude of the Baroness towards her husband has a different
inflexion of meaning; it is frigidly polite, but with a more evident
shade of aversion. If he puts forward an opinion, she contradicts it;
while he assents, outwardly, to all her opinions, but with an ironical
air which seems itself a negation. He is a great sportsman, and I have
never seen him with a book in his hands; she cares passionately for
reading, and hates every form of sport. But it is not merely a
difference of temperament; there is, I am convinced, something very
definite which sets a barrier between them. What is it? Here is a
problem, for once outside the eternal, wearing, for the most part
inevitable, problem of myself, which I shall do well to study. How
gladly I welcome anything which can distract me from my own sensations,
in which I have so long lived isolated, alone with myself!

    *    *    *    *    *

May 5.--The library is even finer than I thought. The labour of
cataloguing it will be an amusement. For the present I do none of my own
work; I am absorbed in this new occupation. How strange, how fortunate,
to be at the same time taken outside myself in my thoughts, and away
from what becomes monotonous in my studies! I have found, it would
seem, precisely the distraction which the doctor ordered me. Only, the
old solitary life seems a thing to regret, now I have left it behind me;
and ought I not to regret the self which I left with it?

It is certain that I shall never accustom myself to look at the Baroness
without repugnance. From my childhood I have never been able to endure
the sight of any human disfigurement. I used to faint at the sight of
blood, and I have always looked away when I have seen people crowding
about a man or a horse fallen in the street. It is not pity, it is a
very sensitive egoism: before an accident I imagine the thing happening
to me, or I imagine myself obliged to touch the wound or the broken
limb. I never look at the Baroness without a mental shiver at the
thought of what that dead, furrowed, and discoloured skin must be like
to the touch.

    *    *    *    *    *

May 9.--I have got no further in my study of these two enigmatical
people, who seem to have not one thought, not one feeling, in common,
and yet who seem to live so calmly side by side, in this vast house
where they need never meet except at meals, or when the presence of
strangers isolates them. I am wholly unable to talk with the Baron, who
ignores me with the most punctilious deference. He never enters the
library, and, in the drawing-room, is never without a newspaper, of
which he rarely turns the pages. With the Baroness I can always talk; I
can even, what is rare with me, listen. For a woman, her ideas are
surprisingly well informed: quotations, of course, but arranged with a
personal sense of decoration. She can discuss general questions broadly,
with a rare frankness, a kind of eager sincerity. What does the Baron
think, I wonder, behind that screen of the newspaper, if, as he sits
motionless, he is listening, as I cannot but believe, to every word that
is said? I often look at the newspaper, hoping to see it at least
quiver, if not drop to the floor, and the man leap out of his ambush.
The Baroness interests me a little more every day, and this interest is
oddly balanced by my equal difficulty in looking or in not looking at
her. When she is talking with me she invariably arranges herself so as
to be on my left; often she leans her head on her left hand, as if to
shield even what remains unseen. How horribly she must suffer from this
living mask, under which she is condemned to exist! How long, I wonder,
has she worn it, and shall I ever know the cause? Is she always
conscious of its presence, of the eyes that seek to avoid it, and
return, despite themselves, stealthily? I can conceive no more exquisite
torture. Or yes, there is one. Suppose this woman, in whom I can
distinguish a quite unusual force and energy of emotion, were to fall in
love again: she is at the age of lasting passions, and what could be
more natural in her? That would be a tragedy which I hardly like to
think of; the more so, as I can easily conceive how powerful must have
been her attraction before the time of this accident. There is something
almost magnetic in her nature, and I can see that the Kahns, for
instance, are attracted by her to the point of hardly seeing her as she
is, of forgetting to look at her with their own eyes.

    *    *    *    *    *

May 15.--The dinner-parties which women in society condemn themselves to
the task of giving become less and less intelligible to me as I see them
from so close a point of view. How little pleasure they seem to give to
any except very young or very old people! It is a kind of slavery: penal
servitude with hard labour. I am sure neither of the Eckensteins gets
the slightest personal pleasure out of these big dinners which they are
so constantly giving. I am equally sure that the people who accept their
invitations would generally rather not come; that they accept them
largely because it is difficult to write and say I will not come; partly
out of a vague hope, almost invariably deceived, that they will meet
some delightful new person; partly out of the mere social necessity of
killing time. I have never seen so much before of a London season, and I
shall be glad when it is over.

    *    *    *    *    *

August 10.--They have taken a house for the summer down here in this
remote part of my own county, Cornwall; there is fishing for the Baron,
and golf not far off, and boating, I suppose. The heat in London was
becoming intolerable; my old headaches began to come back; and I was
only too glad to say yes when the Baroness asked me, almost
hesitatingly, if I would come with them. Here I have nothing to do; we
walk on the cliffs, drive across Cornwall and back again, sit under the
trees on this lawn, from which one can hear the sea, not quite knowing
if it is the sound of the sea or of the trees. In short, one is idle,
and in the open air. I am well again already; only, inexpressibly lazy.

The Baroness and I are thrown together so much, by the mere loneliness
of the place, and the determined absence of the Baron, that we are
getting to know one another better. In driving and walking she
invariably keeps on my left; for which I am grateful to her. She is a
good walker, and cares for the sea, I think, as much as I do.

Is it chiefly the influence of the place, the weather, the homeliness
and familiarity of the old manor-house, where we sit and walk in the
garden, as in a grassy opening in the midst of a wood? That, and the
stillness and unconfined space on the cliffs, where one can sit silent
for so long, until only intimate words come; all that, I am sure, has
had its influence on both of us, certainly on me. The Baroness has begun
to question me about myself, and I, who hate confidences, find myself
telling her what I have told no one.

I have told her about Clare, about my thoughts, my ideas, my sensations,
all that I have up to now only confessed to my journal. How is it that
she draws my secrets out of me, and how is it that I feel a pleasure in
telling them to her?

    *    *    *    *    *

August 15.--To-day we drove to the Lizard, and sat for an hour on that
high peak of rocks which goes down into the sea at this last southerly
edge of England. The sea was steel-blue, almost motionless except where
it made a little circle of foam around each rock, and it seemed to
stretch endlessly, as if it flowed over all the rest of the world. Ships
were going by, with sails and black smoke, with a great haste to be
somewhere. We sat silent for a time, and then she began to tell me about
herself; little confidences of no moment, only they seemed to be
hesitating on the verge of some fuller confidence. At first I thought
she was going to tell me all; but the wind began to get chill, and the
sun faded out behind clouds, and her mood changed, and she got up, and
we went back to the carriage.

    *    *    *    *    *

August 20.--At last I know the whole story, or as much of it as I am
likely to know. Last night, after dinner, we were sitting alone in the
garden, in a corner where the trees darken the grass; she sat with her
hand half covering her face, in that attitude which is habitual with
her, though only the right side of her face was visible, and the long
silence became more and more intimate until at last she spoke. She began
to tell me of herself, and first of her childhood among the Bohemian
woods, her escapes from the army of governesses and tutors, her dreams
in the depths of the forest, the 'Buch der Lieder' read by moonlight and
thrust under the pillow as she fell asleep: in short, a very pretty,
very German, sentimental education. Then the young English tutor, with
his tragic beauty, his Byronic sighs; she pities, admires, falls in love
with him; their meetings, declarations; they plot a romantic elopement,
but the coachman turns traitor; the Byronic gentleman is dismissed, and
the girl sent to her cousins in Vienna, where she begins to see the
world, and to dream more worldly dreams. The Baron presents himself,
with his title, his money, his serious reputation; the parents implore
her to accept him, and she accepts him, in order that she may accomplish
a social duty. By this time she has made innumerable friends, Vienna is
the world to her, she cannot exist without people, excitement,
admiration; and when the Baron, who hunts during half the year, takes
her away to his castle, and leaves her there, from morning to night, day
after day for months together, she lives the life of a prisoner, alone
with her books and her more and more discontented thoughts. Time passes,
and the husband whom she has never loved becomes a polite stranger, then
an unwelcome guest. He sees indifference passing into aversion, and
makes no attempt to arrest the course of things. It is enough if she is
submissive, and his pride does not so much as dream of a revolt.

Meanwhile there are neighbours, hunting friends who come to the castle,
and among them is a young Frenchman. She told me simply, quietly, as if
she were telling me the story of some one else, how this man had
gradually attracted her, how delicately and perseveringly he had made
love to her, and how his presence rendered the tedium of her life less
insupportable. She loved him, she believed that he loved her, and a new
happiness came into her life. One day the husband, who had appeared to
suspect nothing, came back unexpectedly. She had been playing the piano,
her lover was seated just behind her, and as she rose from the piano and
flung herself passionately into his arms, she saw, over his shoulder,
the reflection of her husband's face in the mirror. He had opened the
door while she was playing, and stood motionless, holding the door half
open, with his eyes fixed upon them. Before she could make a movement
the door had closed silently. It did not open again. The lover left the
castle hastily, meeting no one on the way. Hours passed, and she sat
watching the door, quiet with terror. At last she could bear it no
longer, and she went straight to her husband's apartments. The painters
had been at work, and their tools, paints, brushes, and bottles were
still lying about. Her husband was seated at his writing-table. As she
entered the room he put down the pen, turned to her calmly and said: 'I
am writing to ask Xavier to dinner, but you will have to fix the date. I
have a little surprise for him.' He rose, took three steps towards her,
with a look of inexpressibly sarcastic malignity, and, stooping rapidly,
picked up a bottle from the floor, and flung the contents in her face.
She shrieked in agony as the vitriol burnt into her like liquid fire,
and she rolled over at his feet, shrieking.

When, after months of suffering, the bandages were at last taken off,
and she could resume her place at the table, she found, on coming
downstairs to dinner, one guest awaiting her with her husband. It was
her lover. She had not seen him, no word from him had reached her, since
the accident. During dinner the Baron was cheerful, almost gay; he
related amusing stories, turning from one to the other with an air of
cordiality, and affecting not to notice that neither spoke more than a
few words. Soon after dinner, the guest excused himself. A few days
afterwards it was reported that he had left the neighbourhood.

    *    *    *    *    *

August 21.--I lay awake last night for several hours, unable to get this
horrible story out of my head. I thought these were things that no
longer happened, or only in Russia, perhaps; I thought we were at least
so far civilised. It is the meanness of the revenge that horrifies me
most in its atrocity. And that these two people, after that moment's
revelation of the one to the other, should have gone on living together,
under the same roof: it is incredible. There, I suppose, is
civilisation, the hypocrisy of our conventions, which, if they cannot
suppress the brute in the human animal, are prompt to cloak the thing
once done, to pretend that it never was done, never could have been
done.

Now, when I sit at table between that man and woman, I scarcely know
whether I am judge, witness, or accuser. What had been instinctive in my
distrust of the man has become a mental revulsion not less intense than
the physical revulsion which I must always feel towards the woman. Only,
towards her, I have a new feeling, a kind of sympathetic confidence,
mingled with pity; and it pleases me that she has confidence in me. It
would give me pleasure if I could aid her, in some way that I cannot
even conjecture, to avenge herself on that diabolical tyrant, her
husband.

    *    *    *    *    *

September 25.--As I look back over these pages it seems to me that I
have lost the habit of writing down my thoughts about general questions,
which my once wholly personal preoccupations brought constantly before
me. How a journal changes with one's life, if it is really, as mine is,
the confidant of one's moods, the secret witness of one's growth or
decay! I suppose it is that, as I accustom myself to look for my
interest outside the circle of my own brain, I become less personal,
less sick with myself. My old terrors, my old preoccupations, have
loosened their hold on me, I think; my brain is getting more quiescent,
more conventional. If only the nerves do not break out again, as I find
it so easy to realise their doing; if I can avoid excitement, that is,
keep myself as I am now, an interested spectator of other people's
lives, with no too eager interests of my own: that will at last set me
wholly to rights. And, certainly, this divine Cornish air, half salt,
half honey, will have done something for me, in helping to cure me of a
too narrow, London philosophy.

    *    *    *    *    *

August 3.--It is almost exactly a year since I have written anything in
my journal, which I find where I left it, forgotten in the corner of a
drawer in the Cornish manor-house, to which we have gone back again this
summer. I am glad to be here again, but, all the same, it is not quite
as it was last year. The Baroness and I are better friends than ever. I
am more accustomed to her, she is kindness itself. Ah yes, that is it.
Her kindness begins to become fatiguing; I would prefer a little
liberty. Why is it that good people forge chains with their kindness,
adding link to link with the best intentions in the world, until one is
tripped up and weighed down and held by the fetters of innumerable
favours? To break so much as a link is held to be ingratitude. But one's
liberty, then, is there anything comparable in the price one pays, and
in the utmost one can receive in place of it?

Is it that a woman is unable to conceive of the fatigue of kindness? How
incomprehensible to them must be that marvellous sentence in 'Adolphe':
'Je me reposais, pour ainsi dire, dans l'indifférence des autres, de la
fatigue de son amour.' And, even if it is not love, the heaviest of all
burdens when it comes unasked, there is still a fatiguing weight in that
affectionate vigilance which is one long appeal for gratitude, in that
sleepless solicitude which 'prevents,' in both senses of the word, all
one's goings. I am beginning to find this with the Baroness, who would
replace Providence for me, but with a more continual intervention.

    *    *    *    *    *

August 18.--O this intolerable demand on one's gratitude, this assumed
right of all the world to receive back favour for favour, to be paid for
giving! Must there be a market for kindness, and balances to weigh
charity by the pound weight? I am not sure that the conventional
estimation of gratitude as one of the main virtues, of gratitude in all
circumstances and for all favours received, has not a profoundly
bourgeois origin. I have never been able clearly to recognise the
necessity, or even the possibility, of gratitude towards any one for
whom I have not a feeling of personal affection, quite apart from any
exchange of benefits. The conferring of what is called a favour,
materially, and the prompt return of a delicate sentiment, gratitude,
seems to me a kind of commercialism of the mind, a mere business
transaction, in which an honest exchange is not always either possible
or needful. The demand for gratitude in return for a gift comes largely
from the respect which most people have for money; from the idea that
money is the most 'serious' thing in the world, the symbol of a physical
necessity, but a thing having no real existence in itself, no real
importance to the mind which refuses to realise its existence. Only the
miser really possesses it in itself, in any significant way; for the
miser is an idealist, the poet of gold. To all others it is a kind of
mathematics, and a synonym for being 'respected.' You may say it is
necessary, almost as necessary as breathing, and I will not deny it.
Only I will deny that any one can be actively grateful for the power of
breathing. He cannot conceive of himself without that power. To
conceive of oneself without money, that is to say, without the means of
going on living, is at once to conceive of the right, the mere human
right, to assistance. And when, instead of money, it is some unasked,
necessary or unnecessary, gift which is laid before us, to be taken
whether we choose or not, what more have we to do than to take it,
silently, without thanks, without complaint, as we would pick up an
apple that has dropped to us over an orchard hedge? I say all that to
myself, and believe it, and yet some irrational obligation weighs upon
me, whenever I think of breaking away from this woman and her affection.

    *    *    *    *    *

October 25.--Can it be possible, or am I falling into the most absurd of
misapprehensions? What has happened, that I should seem to-day to be
conscious of what I had not even dreamt of yesterday? Nothing has
happened; she, her husband, and I have sat in our usual places at the
table and in the garden; not a word different from our usual words has
passed between us; and yet ... Why is it that no man can ever be
friends with any woman? It is the woman, usually, who puts the question.
And she, I am certain that she never wanted to be anything but my
friend. Then she wanted to be my only friend; she wanted to make my mind
her possession. I see it step by step, now that I think back. Then what
we call nature came in to trouble the balance. She is a healthy, normal
woman; she has all the natural affections. Why is it that tenderness in
women must always take the fever? For there is no doubt about it, none.
Once you have seen a certain look in a woman's eyes, once a certain
thrill has come into her fingers, there is no mistaking. I have seen
that look in her eyes, I can still feel the thrill of her fingers, as
her hand touched mine, and seemed to forget to let go.

    *    *    *    *    *

October 26.--I awoke this morning in a cold sweat. I had been dreaming
of Clare, I heard her footstep coming along the corridor, the door
opened, I knew it was she, but she was veiled, and when she called my
name her voice sounded far away, as if the veil muffled it; and I put
up my hand to lift her veil, and she prayed me not to lift it, but I
would not listen to her, and when I saw her face it was Clare, but with
the cheek and eyelid of the Baroness. One of us shrieked, and I awoke
trembling.

It is still early morning, but I have no mind to sleep again, and
perhaps dream. I must try to put these ugly thoughts out of my head, and
here is a morning which should help me, if anything in nature could. Is
it that some sense, which other people have is lacking in me? I have
never found that peace in nature of which I have heard so often, and
which, on such a morning as this, when the light begins to glow softly
over the world, and the wind comes in salt from the sea, and the leaves
rustle as if at an imperceptible caress, should come to me as simple as
to trees. There is a physical delight in it, certainly; but it goes no
deeper than the skin of my forehead.

I remember, when I first met the Baroness, thinking how cruel, how
ironical, it would be, if she were to fall in love again. I remember
also, when I first knew her story, wishing that I could help her: yes,
here it is written down, last August: 'if I could aid her, in some way
that I cannot even conjecture, to avenge herself on that diabolical
tyrant, her husband.' I certainly saw no connection between the two
things, nor any relation of myself to either of them. And yet, see how
both have come together, and how strangely I stand between them,
touching both.

The notion seems to me, at present, incredible; and yet, why? Yet more
improbable things have happened, and who am I, or who is she, after all,
that, in the malice of nature, no such idea should enter into a woman's
head?

I wrote here, not so long ago, 'I am more accustomed to her.' Shall I
ever be able to say more than that? And it is terrible to be able to say
no more than that.

I suppose, if I loved her, I should notice nothing. Is it that pity
would come in to take up all the room? But I have never had any gift for
pity; and then, all conjecture is idle, for I certainly do not love
her.

    *    *    *    *    *

October 28.--Is it possible that I could have been mistaken, or is she
conscious that she has betrayed her secret, and now hides it away again?
To-day she has seemed really, not affectedly indifferent. Do I
altogether wish that it were so? Have I not got used to being looked
after not quite as a stranger, to a kindness on which it has seemed to
me that I could always rely? Is there not something I should find myself
missing, if it were taken away from me?

    *    *    *    *    *

October 29.--We are to go back to London in a day or two. It rains every
day, and almost all day long. Every one stays indoors, and we seem
always to find ourselves in different rooms. After dinner the Baron
looks up sometimes from his newspaper; the talk is quite formal, because
he joins in it. Can she have shown him some sign of encouragement, or is
it he? And is she keeping back something, or am I wrong in all that I
have conjectured? Nothing is as it was. I shall be glad when we are back
in London.

    *    *    *    *    *

November 2.--We are back in London. I hardly see her now. For nearly a
week she has avoided me, and I am astonished to find myself, I can
hardly say piqued, and yet there is a little pique in it too. It is so
evident to me that she is playing a part, but the part is well played,
and I feel oddly disquieted. I hate change, uncertainty, that kind of
uneasiness which women used to cause me, but which I have so long given
up feeling. I miss the old freedom of her talk, her confidences to me,
her faculty for taking an interest in one's ideas, one's personal
sensations. How odd that this should have come to mean so much more to
me than I knew! And there is something else that I miss, in her new
reserve, now that it comes suddenly up between us as a barrier. I used
to wish for just such a barrier. And now it annoys me to find it there.
It is only restlessness on my part, I know, but it surprises me to find
that I am capable of so near an approach to, after all, some kind of
feeling. I thought I had buried all that quite securely, years ago.

    *    *    *    *    *

November 5.--To-day I have heard news of Clare for the first time during
all these years since she went away. And it is not as I fancied; she is
not happy, not even well off; she has been seen in poor lodgings at the
seaside, and alone. Has the man, the turgid fop and brute, whom I
criticised her and all her sex for caring about, left her, then? It
looks like it. Could one imagine, on his part, anything else? I knew him
so much better than she did! But I am horribly sorry; I do not want to
see her again, but I should like, if I could, to help her. I wonder if
she will write to me. I shall take it as a compliment if she writes.

    *    *    *    *    *

November 7.--She has written, and the letter has reached me here, after
a little delay. She must think I am not going to write. She wants to see
me, and it will perhaps be better for me to see her. She is in London;
it would be kinder if I called; and heaven knows there is no danger. Her
letter is full of dignity; she knows me and there are no tears in it;
the regrets are duly temperate; she does not even ask to be forgiven. 'I
am in trouble: you once cared for me: I have not forgotten that you can
be kind: will you help me?' That is the substance of her letter. I will
write to her to-night, and say that I will come and see her.

1 A.M.--Shall I never understand women? will nothing ever teach me
wisdom? I was foolish enough to think that the Baroness would help me,
that I could be open with her, as I have been till now. I had no secrets
from her in regard to Clare, and she knows how much all that is in the
past. I showed her the letter. She read it in silence, with her hand
over her eyes. Then, not raising her head, she said, in a voice that
seemed her ordinary voice: 'You will go and see her?' 'I think it would
be best,' I said. She lifted her head suddenly, clenched the paper in
her hand, and flung it on the carpet at my feet. For a moment I was too
startled even to move. Her face was convulsed with rage; her face was
terrible, more terrible than I have ever seen it. The scar seemed to
whiten, the blood rushed to her other cheek and made her forehead
purple; her eyes glowed. I stooped to pick up the letter, and began to
smooth it out on my knee. I fixed my eyes on it, so as not to see her;
and she knew why I did not look at her. She seemed to make a great
effort to recover her self-control, and I saw her fingers clutch a fold
of her skirt and clench tightly upon it. 'You want to see her?' she
said, still in a low voice; and I said, what was quite the truth: 'No, I
do not want to see her, I only want to help her, and I think it would be
kinder, as well as more satisfactory, to go than to write.' 'I
understand,' she said coldly; 'you want to see her again. I understand
your feeling.' I was annoyed at her misinterpretation, and said nothing.
'You still care for her,' she said, 'I can see it, it is useless for you
to deny it; you want to go back to her. Well, she is free now: go back
to her.' I was going to protest, but she rose, and held up her hand to
silence me. Tears were in her eyes, the anger was gone, she could hardly
speak. 'Yes,' she said, 'go and see her; I will not keep you from her;
if you still love her, there is nothing else to be done. I understand, I
understand.' And she sank back in the chair again, with her hands over
her face, weeping big tears.

When I saw her suffering, I was sorry, and I knelt down beside her and
took away one of her hands from before her face, and kissed the hand
still wet with tears. I assured her that Clare was nothing to me now,
and I convinced her of my sincerity. She dried her eyes, smiled sadly,
and said, 'Then you promise me you will not go and see her.' 'But no, I
said, 'I have told you that it is best to go and see her; but you know
the whole reason why I mean to do so.' She turned rigid in an instant,
and I should have had to go through the whole scene over again, if I had
not had the cowardice to say, 'I promise that I will not see her.' She
begged me to show her the letter that I wrote. Why should I refuse?

After to-day there can be no further disguise between us. On her side
everything has been said, and on mine everything has been understood. By
what I have done to-day I have put myself into her hands, I have given
her the right to arrange my life as she pleases; I have shown her my
weakness, I have let her see her own strength. Does it matter how one
gives way, or how a woman overcomes? To-day I honestly wanted to do the
right thing, to be kind to a woman I had once cared for, and I am
powerless to do it. These agitations, these restrictions, this
sentimental ceremony, are too much for me. How is it that I did not
sooner realise the way things were tending, and set a barrier, not only
against this passionate foe without, but against this weakness, this
kindness, that turn traitors within, and run so readily to the closed
gates to open them?

    *    *    *    *    *

November 8.--The letter I wrote was cold; it was as if one were giving
charity. Clare replies gratefully, as if to a benevolent stranger. I
have spoilt the idea which she still had of me. I am sorry for it; the
more so as I have no desire to see her; but I should like to have
behaved at least instinctively. It is for another woman, always, that
one is unjust to a woman. And why is it? Is it because I pity this woman
so much, that I have been unjust to the other? I did not know till
yesterday how much she cared for me. What is going to happen? I ask
myself, not liking, or not daring, to wait for an answer. How one evades
coming to a conclusion, precisely when too much depends on that
conclusion! I have never understood myself, and just now the brain in me
seems to sit aside and reserve judgment, while all manner of feelings,
instincts, sensations, chatter among themselves. No, I will confess
nothing to these pages, and chiefly because it would take a casuist to
prepare my confession.

    *    *    *    *    *

November 9.--She loves me cruelly, with a dull passion that does not
come till after youth and the years one calls the years of love are long
past. I have had a terrible scene with her; terrible because, for the
first time, a woman's love seems to me a wholly serious thing, and one's
own feeling to matter less. My own feeling: what is it here? Shall I
understand one woman, at last, when the desire to do so is over?
Passions, then, are real things in women, and, if no one is responsible,
at least one cannot always hold aloof from them, or go by on the other
side. She loves me, and she can conceal it no longer; and she is ashamed
that I should see her as she is, and she exults in her shame, and is
reckless and timorous, and is at my mercy, and does not know that it is
just this that holds me, and that I cannot, if I would, turn away from
one now helpless, and a beggar. Something in her helplessness takes hold
of me like a great force, breaks down my indifference; because, I think,
it convinces me, to the roots of my mind, as no woman ever before
convinced me, that what one calls love may be life itself, carrying away
all the props of the world in its overflow. I am afraid of this horrible
reality; but I cannot escape it.

    *    *    *    *    *

November 10.--I try to persuade myself that I have become her lover
wholly out of pity; but the more intimate self which listens is not to
be persuaded. Certainly I do not love her, but is it only because she
loves me, and because she is the most unfortunate of women, that ... No,
there is something else, some animal attraction, which comes to me in
spite of my repugnance; a gross, unmistakable desire, which I would not
admit even to myself if the consciousness of it were not forced upon me.
What I should not have believed in another, I experience, beyond denial,
in myself.

Shall a man never know what it is in him that responds, without love, to
a woman's gesture? Is it a kind of animal vanity? Is it that love
creates, not love, but a flattered readiness to be loved? Did I not
think how terrible it would be if she fell in love again, and did I not
mean, for the main part, because she could expect no return? And I was
wrong. Something has taken hold of me, an appeal, a partly honest and
partly perverse attraction; and I say to myself that it is pity, but
though pity is part of it, it is not all pity; and I find myself, as I
have always found myself, doing the exact opposite of what seems most
natural and desirable. Why?

    *    *    *    *    *

November 20.--I have made a mistake, but it was inevitable. I have put
back my shoulders under the yoke, and all the peace is over. I have had
just time enough to rest, and to get ready for the old labour, and now I
am troubled with all a woman's ingenuity of trouble: her nerves, her
cares, her affections, her solicitudes, her whole minute and
never-ceasing possession. How am I to explain myself? There was no
choice; it is useless to regret what could but have been accepted. She
has a calm will to love, she is like some force of nature against which
it is useless to struggle.

    *    *    *    *    *

November 22.--I do not know why it is, but all my old nervous uneasiness
is coming back on me again, against all sense or reason. I have that
curious feeling that something is going to happen; I find myself
listening to noises, unable to sit quiet, watching my own brain. All
the restlessness has come back, and some of the fear. I am afraid of
this woman's love. I could not leave her, but I am afraid of what will
happen to me.

    *    *    *    *    *

December 3.--No, I shall never get accustomed to it; the same physical
horror will always be there; it has been there when the attraction was
strongest; it has never been out of my mind, or away from the eyes of my
senses. She is aware of it, and suffers; and I am helpless before her
suffering. And it is this, nothing but this, which turns my thoughts
morbid, whenever I think over a situation which might otherwise have had
nothing unusual in it. The husband studies me with a kind of curious and
mocking interest, which he allows to remain on his face when he sees us
together. Does he suspect, know, approve, or disapprove? Do I seem to
him ... But in any case all that is beside the question: I once thought
that it would be a generous revenge to make him suffer; now I am
conscious how idle the thought was. Is it not all idle, is not
everything more or less beside the question?

I am tired of writing in my journal, always the same things. I will shut
the book, and perhaps not open it again.

    *    *    *    *    *

January 5.--I have not written anything in my journal for years (how
many years is it?), and I do not know what impulse or what accident has
led me to open it again, and to turn over some of the pages on which the
dust has settled, and to begin to write there as I am doing, half
mechanically. What is it that seems strange as I read what I have
written here? I suppose that I should have considered, discussed,
questioned the very things which are now as if they had always been. I
do not dream of changing them, any more than I dream of changing the
course of life itself, on its inevitable way. But a rage in me never
quite dies out: against this woman who has taken me from myself, and
against life that is wasting me daily. I have no happiness if I look
either forward or backward. I have always succumbed to what I have most
dreaded, and every reluctance has turned in me to an irresistible force
of attraction. And now I am softly, stealthily entangled, held by loving
hands, imprisoned in comfort; I do some good at last, for certainly I
help to make a wronged and pitiable woman happy; I have no will to break
any bond, and yet I am more desolately alone than I have ever been, more
fretted by the old self, by apprehensions and memories, by the passing
of time and the lack of hope or desire. I would welcome any change,
though it brought worse things, if I could but end this monotony in
which there is no rest; end it somehow, and rest a little, and be alone.

    *    *    *    *    *

October 12.--I have been ill, I am better, I am in Venice. Surely one
gets well of every trouble in Venice, where, if anywhere in the world,
there should be peace, the oblivion of water, of silence, the unreal
life of sails? I have come to an old house on the Giudecca, where one is
islanded even from the island life of Venice: I look across and see
land, the square white Dogana, the Salute, like a mosque, the whole
Riva, with the Doges' Palace. There lies all that is most beautiful in
the world, and I have only to look out of my windows to see it. Palladio
built the house, and the rooms are vast; the beams overhead are so high
that I feel shrunk as I look at them, as if lost in all this space;
which, however, delights my humour.

    *    *    *    *    *

October 14.--The art in life is to sit still, and to let things come
towards you, not to go after them, or even to think that they are in
flight. How often I have chased some divine shadow, through a whole day
till evening, when, going home tired, I have found the visitor just
turning away from my closed door.

To sit still, in Venice, is to be at home to every delight. I love St.
Mark's, the Piazza, the marble benches under the colonnade of the Doges'
Palace, the end of land beyond the Dogana, the steps of the Redentore;
above all, my own windows. Sitting at any one of these stations one
gathers as many floating strays of life as a post in the sea gathers
weeds. And it is all a sort of immense rest, literally a dream, for
there is sleep all over Venice. I have been sitting for a long time in
St. Mark's, thinking of nothing. The voices of the priests chanting
hummed and buzzed like echoes in an iron bell. They troubled me a
little, but without breaking the enchantment, as importunate insects
trouble a summer afternoon. Very old men in purple sat sunk into the
stalls of the choir, loth to move, almost overcome with sleep; waiting,
with an accustomed patience, till the task was over.

Here (infinite relief!) I can think of nothing. She writes to me, and I
put aside the letters, and I forget quite easily that some day she will
come for me, and the old life must begin over again. I do not dread it,
because I do not remember it. I am still weak, and I must not excite
myself; I must sink into this delicious Venice, where forgetfulness is
easier than anywhere in the world. The autumn is like a gentler summer;
no such autumn has been known, even in Venice, for many years; and I am
to be happy here, I think.

    *    *    *    *    *

October 25.--I have been roaming about the strange house, upstairs, in
these vast garrets paved with stone, with old carved chimneys, into
which they have put modern stoves, and beams, the actual roof-trees
overhead; nearly all unoccupied space, out of which a room is walled up
or boarded off here and there. Some of the windows look right over the
court, the two stone angels on the gateway, and the broad green and
brown orto, the fruit garden which stretches to the lagoon, its vine
trellises invisible among the close leaves of the trees. Beyond the
brown and green, there is a little strip of pale water, and then mud
flats, where the tide has ebbed, the palest brown, and then more pale
water, and the walls and windows of the madhouse, San Servolo, coming up
squarely out of the lagoon.

    *    *    *    *    *

October 26.--Does the too exciting exquisiteness of Venice drive people
mad? Two madhouses in the water! It is like a menace.

I went out in the gondola yesterday on the lagoon on the other side of
the island. It was an afternoon of faint, exquisite sunshine, and the
water lay like a mirror, bright and motionless, reflecting nothing but a
small stake, or the hull, hoisted nets, and stooping back of a fisher
and his boat. I looked along the level, polished surface to where sails
rose up against the sky, between the black, compact bulk of the forts.
The water lapped around the oar as it dipped and lifted, and trickled
with a purring sound from the prow. I lay and felt perfectly happy, not
thinking of anything, hardly conscious of myself. I had closed my eyes,
and when I opened them again we were drifting close to a small island,
on which there was a many-windowed building, most of the windows grated
over, and a church with closed doors; the building almost filled the
island; it had a walled garden with trees. A kind of moaning sound came
from inside the walls, rising and falling, confused and broken. 'It is
San Clemente,' said the gondolier over my shoulder; 'they keep mad
people there, mad women.'

    *    *    *    *    *

November 1.--She writes affectionate letters to me, without a respite;
she will not let me alone to get well. For I am sure I could get well
here if I were quite left to myself. And now even Venice is turning
evil. Is it in the place, in myself, is it my disease returning to take
hold of me? Is it the power of the woman coming back across land and
water to take hold of me? I am getting afraid to go about this strange
house at night; the wind comes in from the sea, and tears at the old
walls and the roof; I scarcely know if it is the wind I hear when I wake
up in the night.

    *    *    *    *    *

November 3.--There is something unnatural in standing between water and
water and hearing the shriek of a steam-engine. I am hardly too far, I
suppose, from the railway-station, to have actually heard it. But the
idea seems a foolish joke, unworthy of the place.

    *    *    *    *    *

November 6.--Every day I find myself growing more uneasy. If I look out
of the windows at dawn, when land and water seem to awaken like a
flower, some poison comes to me out of this perhaps too perfect beauty.
I dread the day, which seems to follow me and drag me back, after I have
escaped another night; I never felt anything like this insidious coiling
of water about one.

I came to Venice for peace, and I find a subtle terror growing up out of
its waters, with a more ghostly insistence than anything solid on the
earth has ever given me. Daylight seems to mask some gulf, which, with
the early dark and the first lamps, begins to grow visible. As I look
across at Venice from this island, I see darkness, and lights growing
like trees and flowers out of the creeping water, and, white and
immense, with its black windows and one lighted lamp, the Doges' Palace.
Nothing else is real, and the beauty of this one white thing, the one
thing whose form the eye can fasten upon, is the beauty of witchcraft. I
expect to see it gone in the morning.

And the noises here are mysterious. I hear a creak outside my window,
and it comes nearer, and a great orange sail passes across the window
like a curtain drawn over it. Bells break out, and ring wildly, as if
out of the water. Steamers hoot, with that unearthly sound to which one
can never get accustomed. The barking of a dog comes from somewhere
across the water, a voice cries out suddenly, and then the shriek of
steam from a vessel, and again, from some new quarter, a volley of
bells.

    *    *    *    *    *

November 9.--The wind woke me from sleep, rattling the wooden shutter
against the panes of the windows, and I could hear it lifting the water
up the steps of the landing-place, where there is always a chafing and
gurgling whenever the wind is not quite still. I looked out, and,
pressing my face close against the glass, I could just distinguish the
black bundle of stakes in the dim water, which I could see throbbing
under a very faint light, where the gas-lamp, hung from the next house,
shone upon it. Beyond, there was nothing but darkness, and the level row
of lights on the Riva, and the white walls, cut into stone lacework, of
the Doges' Palace. The wind seemed to pass down the canal, as if on its
way from the sea to the sea. I felt it go by, like a living thing, not
turning to threaten me.

    *    *    *    *    *

November 13.--I am beginning almost to wish that she were here. She
writes that she is coming, and I scarcely know whether to be glad or
sorry. I fear her more than anything in the world, but there is
something here which is hardly of the world, a vague, persistent image
of death, impalpable, unintelligible, not to be shaken off; and I know
not what I am dreading, not the mere fear of water, though I have always
had that, but some terrible expectancy, which keeps me now from getting
any rest by day or by night.

    *    *    *    *    *

November 22.--At last something has happened, nothing indeed to my hurt,
but it has broken the strain a little. The last days have been windless,
warm, and, till yesterday afternoon, cloudless. Suddenly, as I sat in
the Piazza, the daylight seemed to be put out by a great blackness
which came up rapidly out of the north, and hung over half the sky. A
wind swept suddenly in from the lagoon, and blew sharply across the open
space and along the arcades. In hardly more than a moment the Piazza was
empty. I went down to the Riva, and called to my gondolier, who swung to
and fro in his moored boat. The water was blackening, and had begun to
race past. He called to me that we must wait, and I saw one or two
gondolas hurrying up the Grand Canal, carried along by the tide, the men
rowing hard. As the rain began I went into the Grand Hotel, and sat
looking out on the water, which blackened and whitened and flung itself
forward in actual waves, and splashed right up the steps and over the
balcony. The rain came down steadily, and the lightning flickered across
the sky behind the Salute, and lit up the domes, the windows, the steps,
and a few people huddled there. Every now and then the water turned
white; I saw every outline as it shouldered forward like a sea and broke
on the marble steps; and the water was empty, not a gondola, not even a
steamer; and then a steamer which had turned home drifted past without
a passenger. I went out, and felt the rain on my face, and the water
splashing on the steps; not far off I could see the gondolas tossing on
their moorings. I seemed to be on the shore of some horrible island, and
I had to cross the sea, which there was no crossing. I was afraid the
gondola would come for me; but nothing, I thought, should tempt me upon
that tossing water: I saw the black hull whirled sideways, and the man
reeling over on his oar. No gondola came, and I slept that night in the
Grand Hotel, which seemed to me, as I heard the water splashing under my
windows, impregnably safe.

    *    *    *    *    *

November 27.--She is here, she has become kind to me now, only kind and
gentle; I am no longer afraid of her love. I have been ill again, and
she has taken care of me, she has taken me away from this horrible
Giudecca. I look out on a great garden, in which I can forget there is
any water in Venice; I am near the land and I see nothing but trees. The
house is full of pictures, beautiful old Venetian things; it is like
living in another century, yet in the midst of a comfort which rests me.
I am no longer afraid of her love; I seem to have become a child, and
her love is maternal. When I look at her I can see her face as it was,
as it is, without a scar; I see that she is beautiful. If I get well
again I will never leave her.

    *    *    *    *    *

December 12.--There is a phrase of Balzac which turns over and over in
my head. It is in the story called 'Sur Catherine de Médicis,' and he is
speaking of the Calvinist martyr, who is recovering after being
tortured. 'On ne saurait croire' says Balzac, 'à quel point un homme,
seul dans son lit et malade, devient personnel.' Since I have been lying
in bed, in this queer fever which keeps me shaking and hot (some
Venetian chill which has got into my very bones), I have had so
singularly little feeling of personality, I seem to have become so
suddenly impersonal, that I wonder if Balzac was right. The world,
ideas, sensations, all are fluid, and I flow through them, like a
gondola carried along by the current; no, like a weed adrift on it.

    *    *    *    *    *

The journal ends there, and the writing of the last page is faint and
unsteady.

Here I might leave the matter, but I am impelled to mention a
circumstance which I always associate in my mind with the tragical
situation revealed in poor Luxulyan's journal. A year after it had come
into my hands, and while I was still hesitating whether or not to have
it printed, I happened to be passing through Rome, where the Eckensteins
had gone to live; and a sort of curiosity, I suppose, more than any
friendly feeling I had for them, suggested to me that I should call upon
them in the palace which they had taken in the Via Giulia. The concierge
was not in his loge, and I went up the first flight of broad low marble
stairs and rang at the door. It was opened by a servant in livery. 'Is
the Baroness von Eckenstein at home?' I asked; and as the man remained
silent, I added, 'Will you send in my card?' He still stared at me
without replying, and I repeated my question. At last he said: 'Madame
la Baronne died the day before yesterday. She was buried this morning.'

I can hardly say that I was profoundly grieved, but the suddenness of
the announcement struck me with a kind of astonishment. I inquired for
the Baron; he was in, and I was taken through one after another of the
vast marble rooms which, in Roman palaces, lead to the reception-room.
Every room was crowded with pictures, statues, rare Eastern vases,
tables and cases of bibelots, exotic plants, a profusion of showy things
brought together from the ends of the world. The Baron received me with
almost more than his usual ceremony. His face wore an expression of
correct melancholy, he spoke in a subdued and slightly mournful voice.
He told me that his beloved wife had succumbed to a protracted illness,
that she had suffered greatly, but, at the end, through the skilful aid
of the best surgeons in Europe, she had passed into a state of
somnolency, so that her death had been almost unconscious. He raised his
eyes with an air of pious resignation, and said that he thanked God for
having taken to himself so admirable, so perfect a being, whose loss,
indeed, must leave him inconsolable for the rest of his life on earth.
He spoke in measured syllables, and always in the same precise and
mournful tone. I found myself unconsciously echoing his voice and
reflecting his manner, and it seemed to me as if we were both playing in
a comedy, and repeating words which we had learnt by heart. I went
through my part mechanically, and left him. When I found myself in the
street I dismissed the cab which was waiting to take me to the Vatican.
I wanted to walk. I do not know why I felt a cold shiver run through me,
for the sky was cloudless, and it was the month of June.


  =Transcriber's Notes:=
  - hyphenation, spelling and grammar have been preserved as in the
    original (other than as listed below)
  Page 35, 'Lavengro" took my thoughts ==> 'Lavengro' took my thoughts
  Page 37, trembled with ecstacy ==> trembled with ecstasy
  Page 60, immensly, and especially ==> immensely, and especially
  Page 93, mortages left just enough ==> mortgages left just enough
  Page 116, in an ecstacy ==> in an ecstasy
  Page 129, a little pale and she ==> a little pale, and she
  Page 162, these confectionaries. ==> these confectionaries.'
  Page 196, Arlesian women one was ==> Arlesian women: one was
  Page 209, Allee des Tombeaux ==> Allée des Tombeaux
  Page 214, grown up, like Peter? ==> grown up, like Peter?'
  Page 229, divine will aright?' ==> divine will aright?
  Page 259, But what if only ==> but what if only
  Page 261, which is insensative ==> which is insensitive
  Page 262, artifically attached ==> artificially attached
  Page 275, in whose pyschology ==> in whose psychology
  Page 288, first of her chilhood ==> first of her childhood
  Page 291, agony as the vitrol ==> agony as the vitriol





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