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Title: The Best British Short Stories of 1922
Author: O'Brien, Edward Joseph Harrington, 1890-1941 [Editor], Coppard, A. E. (Alfred Edgar), 1878-1957 [Contributor], Malet, Lucas, 1852-1931 [Contributor], Moult, Thomas, 1893-1974 [Contributor], Edginton, May, 1883-1957 [Contributor], Beresford, J. D. (John Davys), 1873-1947 [Contributor], Pertwee, Roland, 1885-1963 [Contributor], Caine, William, 1873-1925 [Contributor], Truscott, L. Parry [Contributor], Graham, Alan [Contributor], Easton, Dorothy, 1889- [Contributor], Crompton, Richmal, 1890-1969 [Contributor], Brighouse, Harold, 1882-1958 [Contributor], De la Mare, Walter, 1873-1956 [Contributor], Cournos, John, 1881-1966 [Editor], Kenney, Rowland [Contributor], Horn, Holloway, 1886- [Contributor], Stern, G. B. (Gladys Bronwyn), 1890-1973 [Contributor], Mordaunt, Elinor, 1877?-1942 [Contributor], Aumonier, Stacy, 1887-1928 [Contributor], Langbridge, Rosamond, 1880-1964 [Contributor], Pemberton, Max, Sir, 1863-1950 [Contributor], Galsworthy, John, 1867-1933 [Contributor], Sinclair, May, 1863-1946 [Contributor], Walpole, Hugh, Sir, 1884-1941 [Contributor], Blackwood, Algernon, 1869-1951 [Contributor]
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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THE BEST BRITISH SHORT STORIES OF 1922

EDITED BY EDWARD J. O'BRIEN AND JOHN COURNOS

TO STACY AUMONIER



BY WAY OF ACKNOWLEDGEMENT

Grateful acknowledgement for permission to include the stories and
other material in this volume is made to the following authors,
editors, literary agents, and publishers:

To the Editor of _The Saturday Evening Post_, the Editor of _The Dial_,
the Editor of _The Freeman_, the Editor of _The English Review_, the
Editor of _The Century Magazine_, the Editor of _Harpers' Bazar_, the
Editor of _The Ladies' Home Journal_, the Editor of _The Chicago
Tribune_ Syndicate Service, Alfred A. Knopf, The Golden Cockerel Press,
B.W. Huebsch, The Talbot Press, Dodd, Mead and Co., Stacy Aumonier,
J.D. Beresford, Algernon Blackwood, Harold Brighouse, William Caine,
A.E. Coppard, Miss R.C. Lamburn, Walter de la Mare, Miss Dorothy
Easton, Miss May Edginton, John Galsworthy, Alan Graham, Holloway Horn,
Rowland Kenney, Miss Rosamond Langbridge, Mrs. Mary St. Leger Harrison,
Mrs. J. Middleton Murry, Mrs. Elinor Mordaunt, Max Pemberton, Roland
Pertwee, Miss May Sinclair, Sidney Southgate, Mrs. Geoffrey Holdsworth,
Mrs. Basil Hargrave, and Hugh Walpole; to Curtis Brown, Ltd., as agent
for Stacy Aumonier, May Edginton, Elinor Mordaunt, Roland Pertwee, and
May Sinclair; to J.B. Pinker as agent for J.D. Beresford, Walter de la
Mare, John Galsworthy, G.B. Stern, and Hugh Walpole; to A.P. Watt and
Son as agent for Algernon Blackwood and Lucas Malet; to Andrew H.
Dakers as agent for A.E. Coppard; to Cotterill and Cromb as agent for
Alan Graham; and to Christy and Moore, Ltd., as agent for Holloway
Horn.

Acknowledgements are specially due to _The Boston Evening Transcript_
for permission to reprint the large body of material previously
published in its pages. We ask pardon of any one whose rights we may
have accidentally overlooked.

We shall be grateful to our readers for corrections, and particularly
for suggestions leading to the wider usefulness of this annual volume.
We shall particularly welcome the receipt from authors, editors,
agents, and publishers, of stories printed during the year beginning
July 1, 1922, which have qualities of distinction but yet are not
published in periodicals falling under our regular notice. Such
communications may be addressed to _Edward J. O'Brien, Forest Hill,
Oxfordshire_.

E.J.O.

J.C.



CONTENTS


INTRODUCTION

WHERE WAS WYCH STREET? By Stacy Aumonier
(From _The Strand Magazine_ and _The Saturday Evening Post_)

THE LOOKING-GLASS. By J.D. Beresford
(From _The Cornhill Magazine_)

THE OLIVE. By Algernon Blackwood
(From _Pearson's Magazine, London_)

ONCE A HERO. By Harold Brighouse
(From _Pan_)

"THE PENSIONER." By William Caine
(From _The Graphic_)

BROADSHEET BALLAD. By A.E. Coppard
(From _The Dial_)

THE CHRISTMAS PRESENT. By Richmal Crompton
(From _Truth_)

SEATON'S AUNT. By Walter de la Mare
(From _The London Mercury_)

THE REAPER. By Dorothy Easton
(From _The English Review_)

THE SONG. By May Edginton
(From _Lloyd's Story Magazine_)

A HEDONIST. By John Galsworthy
(From _Pears' Annual_, 1921 and _The Century Magazine_)

THE BAT AND BELFRY INN. By Alan Graham
(From _The Story-Teller_)

THE LIE. By Holloway Horn
(From _The Blue Magazine_)

A GIRL IN IT. By Rowland Kenney
(From _The New Age_)

THE BACKSTAIRS OF THE MIND. By Rosamond Langbridge
(From _The Manchester Guardian_)

THE BIRTH OF A MASTERPIECE. By Lucas Malet
(From _The Story-Teller_)

"GENIUS." By Elinor Mordaunt
(From _Hutchinson's Magazine_ and _The Century Magazine_)

THE DEVIL TO PAY. By Max Pemberton
(From _The Story-Teller_)

EMPTY ARMS. By Roland Pertwee
(From _The Ladies' Home Journal_)

LENA WRACE. By May Sinclair
(From _The Dial_)

THE DICE THROWER. By Sidney Southgate
(From _Colour_)

THE STRANGER WOMAN. By G.B. Stern
(From _John o'London's Weekly_)

THE WOMAN WHO SAT STILL. By Parry Truscott
(From _Colour_)

MAJOR WILBRAHAM. By Hugh Walpole
(From _The Chicago Tribune_)

THE YEARBOOK OF THE BRITISH AND IRISH SHORT STORY, JULY, 1921, TO JUNE,
1922

Abbreviations

Addresses of Periodicals Publishing Short Stories

The Roll of Honour

A List of Other Distinctive Stories

Articles on the Short Story in British Periodicals

Volumes of Short Stories Published in Great Britain and Ireland



INTRODUCTION


When Edward J. O'Brien asked me to cooperate with him in choosing each
year's best English short stories, to be published as a companion
volume to his annual selection of the best American short stories, I
had not realized that at the end of my arduous task, which has involved
the reading of many hundreds of stories in the English magazines of an
entire year, I should find myself asking the simple question: What is a
short story?

I do not suppose that a hundred years ago such a question could have
occurred to any one. Then all that a story was and could be was implied
in the simple phrase: "Tell me a story...." We all know what that
means. How many stories published today would stand this simple if
final test of being told by word of mouth? I doubt whether fifty per
cent would. Surely the universality of the printing press and the
linotype machine have done something to alter the character of
literature, just as the train and the telephone have done not a little
to abolish polite correspondence. Most stories of today are to be read,
not told. Hence great importance must be attached to the manner of
writing; in some instances, the whole effect of a modern tale is
dependent on the manner of presentation. Henry James is, possibly, an
extreme example. Has any one ever attempted to tell a tale in the Henry
James manner by word of mouth, even when the manner pretends to be
conversational? I, for one, have yet to experience this pleasure,
though I have listened to a good many able and experienced tale-tellers
in my time.

Now, there is a great connection between the manner or method of a
writer and the matter upon which he works his manner or method. Henry
James was not an accident. Life, as he found it, was full of
trivialities and polite surfaces; and a great deal of manner--style, if
you like--is needful to give life and meaning to trivial things.

And James was, by no means, an isolated phenomenon. In Russia Chekhov
was creating an artistic significance out of the uneventful lives of
the petty bourgeoisie, whose hitherto small numbers had vastly
increased with the advent of machinery and the industrialization of the
country; as the villages became towns, the last vestiges of the
"romantic" and "heroic" elements seemed to have departed from
contemporary Russian literature. As widely divergent as the two writers
were in their choice of materials and methods of expression, they yet
met on common ground in their devotion to form, their painstaking
perfecting of their expressions; and this tense effort alone was often
enough the very life and soul of their adventure. They were like
magicians creating marvels with the flimsiest of materials; they did
not complain of the poverty of life, but as often as not created bricks
without straw. Not for them Herman Melville's dictum, to be found in
_Moby Dick_: "To produce a mighty book you must choose a mighty theme."

Roughly, then, there are two schools of creative literature, and round
them there have grown up two schools of criticism. The one maintains
that form is everything, that not only is perfect form essential, and
interesting material non-essential, but that actually interesting
material is a deterrent to perfect expression, inasmuch as material
from life, inherently imaginative, fantastic or romantic, is likely to
make an author lazy and negligent and cause him to throw his whole
dependence on objective facts rather than on his ingenuity in creating
an individual atmosphere and vibrant patterns of his own making. The
other school maintains with equal emphasis that form is not enough,
that it wants a real and exciting story, that where a man's materials
are rich and "big" the necessity for perfection is obviated; indeed,
"rough edges" are a virtue. As one English novelist tersely put it to
me: "I don't care for the carving of orange pips. All I ask of a writer
is that his stuff should be big." Undoubtedly, some people prefer a
cultivated garden, others nature in all her wildness. Nature, it is
true, may exercise no selection; unfortunately it is too often
forgotten that she is all art in the wealth and minuteness of her
detail.

It seems to me that both theories are equally fallacious. I do not see
how either can be wholly satisfying. There is no reason at all why a
story should not contain both form and matter, a form, I should say,
suited to the matter. Among the painters Vermeer is admittedly perfect;
has then Rembrandt no art? Among the writers Turgenev is perfect.
George Moore has compared his perfection to that of the Greeks; is it
then justifiable to call Dostoevsky journalese, as some have called
him? Indeed, it takes a great artist to write about great things,
though, it is true, a great artist is often pardoned for lapses in
style, where a minor artist can afford no such lapses. It was in such a
light, with the true honesty and humility of a fine artist, that
Flaubert, than whom none sought greater perfection, regarded himself
before the towering Shakespeare.

This preamble is no digression, but is quite pertinent to any
consideration of the contemporary short story, for I must admit that
however fallacious is either of the prevalent theories which I have
outlined, in practice both work out with an appalling accuracy. Of the
hundreds of stories which I have had to read the number possessing a
sense of form is relatively small, and of these only a few are rich in
content; strictly speaking, most of them stick to the facts of everyday
life, to the intimate realities of urban and suburban existence. Other
stories, and these are more numerous, possibly as a reaction and in
response to the human craving for the fairy tale, are concerned with
the most impossible adventure and fantastic unreality, Romance with the
capital R. They are often attractive in plot, able in construction,
happy in invention, and their general tendency may be to fall within
the definition of "life's little ironies"; yet, in spite of these
admirable qualifications, the majority of these stories are
unconvincing, lacking in balance, in plausibility, in that virtue which
may be defined as "the writer's imagination," whose lack is something
more than careless writing. How often one puts down a story with the
feeling that it would take little to make it a "rattling good tale,"
but alas, that little is everything. A story-teller's craft depends not
only on a sense of style, that is, form and good writing, but also on
the creation of an atmosphere, shall we say hypnotic in effect, and
capable of persuading the reader that he is a temporary inhabitant of
the world the writer is describing, however remote in time or space
that world may be from the world of the reader's own experience. And
the more enlightened and culturally emotional the reader, the greater
the power of seduction is a writer called upon to exercise. For it is
obvious that all these hundreds of crude Arabian Nights tales and
jungle tales and all sorts of tales of impossible adventure appearing
in the pages of our periodicals would not be written if they were not
in demand by the large public.

The question arises: Why is it that authors who deal with the intimate
realities of our dull, everyday life are, on the whole, so much better
as writers than those who attempt to portray the more glamorous
existence of the East, of the jungle, of, so to speak, other worlds? I
have a theory of my own to offer in explanation, and it is this:

_A_, let us say, is a writer who has stayed at home. Let us suppose
that his experience has been largely limited to London, or still more
precisely, to the East End of London. He has either lived or spent a
great deal of time here, and without having actively participated in
the lives of the natives and denizens of the district has observed them
to good purpose and saturated himself with their atmosphere. He has, in
an intimate sense, secured not only his scene, but also, either
actually or potentially, his characters. English--of a sort--is the
language of his community; and the temper of this community, except in
petty externals, is, after all, but little different from his own. He
has lost no time in either travelling or in learning another's
language, he has had a great deal of time for developing his technique.
He has, indeed, spent the greater part of his time in working out his
form. He is, as you may guess, anything but a superlative genius;
certainly, we may venture to assume that he is, at all events, a fine
talent, a careful observer, a painstaking worker, possessed of
inventive powers within limitations. He knows his genre and his milieu,
and he knows his job. He observes his people with an artistic sympathy.
He is an etcher, loving his line, rather than a photographer. Vast
mural decorations are beyond him.

Then there is _B_. _B_ is a traveller, something of an adventurer too.
His _wanderlust_, or possibly his occupation as a minor government
official, journalist, or representative for some commercial firm, has
taken him East. He has spent some time in Shanghai or Hong Kong, in
Calcutta or Rangoon, in Tokyo or Nagasaki. He has lived chiefly in the
foreign quarter and occasionally sallied out to seek adventure in the
native habitat. He has secured a smattering of the native tongue, and
has even taken unto himself a temporary native wife. A bold man, he
has, in his way, lived dangerously and intensely. He has besides heard
men of his own race living in the quarter tell weird tales of romantic
nature, perhaps of a white girl who came out East, or of a native girl
who had won the heart of an Englishman to his undoing. At last _B_ has
had enough of it, and has come home to the old country, his England,
and sits down to his new job, the exploitation of his knowledge and
experience of the East. Possibly a few friends who had listened to his
tales urged him to set them down on paper, and _B_, who had not thought
of it before, thinks it is not such a bad idea, and getting a supply of
paper and a typewriter launches forth on a career as a writer. He is
intent on turning out a good tale, and does remarkably well for a
novice, but his inexperience as a writer, his lack of form and
technique and deliberateness will hinder his progress, though now and
then he will turn out a tolerable tale by sheer accident. The really
great man will, of course, break through the double barrier, and then
you have a Conrad: that is to say, you have a man who has lived
abundantly and has been able to apply an abundance of art to his
abundance of material. But that is, indeed, rare nowadays, and the
whole moral of the little parable of _A_ and _B_ is that in our own
time it is given but to few men to do both. The one has specialized in
writing, the other in living. And the comparison may be applied, of
course, to the two writers who have stayed at home, even in the same
district. _A_ hasn't much to say, but what he says he says well,
because writing means to him something as a thing in itself; he finds
compensation in the quality of his writings for his lack of rich
material; the whole content of his art is in his form, and that, if not
wholly satisfying, is surely no mean achievement. _B_, on the other
hand, may have a great deal to say, and says it badly. He thinks his
material will carry him through. He does not understand that the
function of art is to crystallize; synthesize the materials at hand, to
distil the essences of life, to formalize natural shapes. There should
be no confusing of nature and art. A mountain is nature, a pyramid is
art. We have no man in the short story today who has synthesized his
age, who has thrown a light on the peculiar many-sided adventure of
modernity, who has achieved a sense of universality. Maupassant came
near to it in his own time. Never before have men had such
opportunities for knowing the world, never before has it been so easy
to cover space, our means of communication have never been so rapid;
yet there is an almost maddening contradiction in the fact that every
man who writes is content in describing but a single facet of the great
adventure of life. Our age is an age of specialization, and many a man
spends a life in trying to visualize for us a fragment of existence in
multitudinous variations. An Empire may be said to stand for a
universalizing tendency, yet the extraordinary fact about the mass of
English stories today is that, far from being expressive of any
tendency to unity, they are mostly concerned with presenting the
specialized atmospheres of so many individual localities and vocations.
We have writers who do not go beyond Dartmoor, or Park Lane, or the
East End of London; we have writers of sea stories, jungle stories,
detective stories, lost jewel stories, slum stories, and we have
writers who seldom stray from the cricket field or the prize ring, or
Freudian complexes.

Yet, in putting on record these individual tendencies of the short
story, I should be overdrawing the picture if I did not call attention
to what general tendencies are in the ascendent. The supernatural
element is prominent among these. Stories of ghosts, spiritualism and
reincarnation are becoming increasingly popular with authors,
especially with the type I have described as _A_. This is interesting,
since it evinces a healthy desire to get away from the banal facts of
one's standardized atmosphere, the atmosphere of suburbia. It may be
both a reaction and an escape, and may express a desire for a more
spiritual life than is vouchsafed us. The love of adventure and the
love of love will, of course, remain with us as long as men live and
love a tale, and nine tenths of the stories still deal with the favored
hero and the inevitable girl.

This book is to be an annual venture and its object is the same as that
of Mr. O'Brien's annual selection of American stories. It is to gather
and save from obscurity every year those tales by English authors which
are published in English and American periodicals and are worth
preserving in permanent form. It is well known that short-story writers
in Anglo-Saxon countries have not the same chance of publishing their
wares in book form as their more fortunate colleagues, the novelists.
This prejudice against the publication of short stories in book form is
not to be justified, and it does not exist on the Continent. Most of
the fine fiction, for example, published in Russia since Chekhov made
the form popular, took precisely the form of the short story. It is a
good form and should be encouraged. It is also the object of this
volume to call attention to new writers who show promise and to help to
create a demand for their work by publishing their efforts side by side
with those already accepted and established.

It has been the custom to dedicate Mr. O'Brien's annual selection of
American stories to some author who has distinguished himself in the
particular year by his valuable contribution to the art of the short
story. We propose to adopt it with regard to our English selections. We
are glad of the opportunity to associate this year's collection with
the name of Stacy Aumonier. As for the stories selected for this
volume, that is to some degree a matter of personal judgement; it is
quite possible that other editors would, in some instances, have made a
different choice.

JOHN COURNOS.

An additional word may be added on the principles which have governed
our choice. We have set ourselves the task of disengaging the essential
human qualities in our contemporary fiction which, when chronicled
conscientiously by our literary artists, may fairly be called a
criticism of life. We are not at all interested in formulae, and
organised criticism at its best would be nothing more than dead
criticism, as all dogmatic interpretation of life is always dead. What
has interested us, to the exclusion of other things, is the fresh
living current which flows through the best British and Irish work, and
the psychological and imaginative reality which writers have conferred
upon it.

No substance is of importance in fiction, unless it is organic
substance, that is to say, substance in which the pulse of life is
beating. Inorganic fiction has been our curse in the past, and bids
fair to remain so, unless we exercise much greater artistic
discrimination than we display at present.

The present record covers the period from July, 1921, to June, 1922,
inclusive. During this period we have sought to select from the stories
published in British and American periodicals those stories by British
and Irish authors which have rendered life imaginatively in organic
substance and artistic form. Substance is something achieved by the
artist in every act of creation, rather than something already present,
and accordingly a fact or a group of facts in a story only attain
substantial embodiment when the artist's power of compelling
imaginative persuasion transforms them into a living truth. The first
test of a short story, therefore, in any qualitative analysis is to
report upon how vitally compelling the writer makes his selected facts
or incidents. This test may be conveniently called the test of
substance.

But a second test is necessary if the story is to take rank above other
stories. The true artist will seek to shape this living substance into
the most beautiful and satisfying form, by skillful selection and
arrangement of his materials, and by the most direct and appealing
presentation of it in portrayal and characterization.

The short stories which we have examined in this study have fallen
naturally into three groups. The first consists of those stories which
fail, in our opinion, to survive both the test of substance and the
test of form. These we have not chronicled.

The second group includes such narratives as may lay convincing claim
to further consideration, because each of them has survived in a
measure both tests, the test of substance and the test of form. Stories
included in this group are chronicled in the list which immediately
follows the "Roll of Honour."

Finally we have recorded the names of a smaller group of stories which
possess, we believe, the distinction of uniting genuine substance and
artistic form in a closely woven pattern with such sincerity that they
are worthy of being reprinted. If all of these stories were
republished, they would not occupy more space than six or seven novels
of average length. Our selection of them does not imply the critical
belief that they are great stories. A year which produced one great
story would be an exceptional one. It is simply to be taken as meaning
that we have found the equivalent of six or seven volumes worthy of
republication among all the stories published during the period under
consideration. These stories are listed in the special "Roll of
Honour." In compiling these lists we have permitted no personal
preference or prejudice to consciously influence our judgement. The
general and particular results of our study will be found explained and
carefully detailed in the supplementary part of the volume. Mr. Cournos
has read the English periodicals, and I have read the American
periodicals. We have then compared our judgements.

EDWARD J. O'BRIEN.



THE BEST BRITISH SHORT STORIES OF 1922



NOTE--The order in which the stories in this volume are printed is not
intended as an indication of their comparative excellence; the
arrangement is alphabetical by authors.



WHERE WAS WYCH STREET?

By STACY AUMONIER

(From _The Strand Magazine_ and _The Saturday Evening Post_)

1921, 1922


In the public bar of the Wagtail, in Wapping, four men and a woman were
drinking beer and discussing diseases. It was not a pretty subject, and
the company was certainly not a handsome one. It was a dark November
evening, and the dingy lighting of the bar seemed but to emphasize the
bleak exterior. Drifts of fog and damp from without mingled with the
smoke of shag. The sanded floor was kicked into a muddy morass not
unlike the surface of the pavement. An old lady down the street had
died from pneumonia the previous evening, and the event supplied a
fruitful topic of conversation. The things that one could get!
Everywhere were germs eager to destroy one. At any minute the symptoms
might break out. And so--one foregathered in a cheerful spot amidst
friends, and drank forgetfulness.

Prominent in this little group was Baldwin Meadows, a sallow-faced
villain with battered features and prominent cheek-bones, his face cut
and scarred by a hundred fights. Ex-seaman, ex-boxer, ex-fish-porter
--indeed, to every one's knowledge, ex-everything. No one
knew how he lived. By his side lurched an enormous coloured man who
went by the name of Harry Jones. Grinning above a tankard sat a
pimply-faced young man who was known as The Agent. Silver rings adorned
his fingers. He had no other name, and most emphatically no address,
but he "arranged things" for people, and appeared to thrive upon it in
a scrambling, fugitive manner. The other two people were Mr. and Mrs.
Dawes. Mr. Dawes was an entirely negative person, but Mrs. Dawes shone
by virtue of a high, whining, insistent voice, keyed to within half a
note of hysteria.

Then, at one point, the conversation suddenly took a peculiar turn. It
came about through Mrs. Dawes mentioning that her aunt, who died from
eating tinned lobster, used to work in a corset shop in Wych Street.
When she said that, The Agent, whose right eye appeared to survey the
ceiling, whilst his left eye looked over the other side of his tankard,
remarked:

"Where was Wych Street, ma?"

"Lord!" exclaimed Mrs. Dawes. "Don't you know, dearie? You must be a
young 'un, you must. Why, when I was a gal every one knew Wych Street.
It was just down there where they built the Kingsway, like."

Baldwin Meadows cleared his throat, and said:

"Wych Street used to be a turnin' runnin' from Long Acre into
Wellington Street."

"Oh, no, old boy," chipped in Mr. Dawes, who always treated the ex-man
with great deference. "If you'll excuse me, Wych Street was a narrow
lane at the back of the old Globe Theatre, that used to pass by the
church."

"I know what I'm talkin' about," growled Meadows. Mrs. Dawes's high
nasal whine broke in:

"Hi, Mr. Booth, you used ter know yer wye abaht. Where was Wych
Street?"

Mr. Booth, the proprietor, was polishing a tap. He looked up.

"Wych Street? Yus, of course I knoo Wych Street. Used to go there with
some of the boys--when I was Covent Garden way. It was at right angles
to the Strand, just east of Wellington Street."

"No, it warn't. It were alongside the Strand, before yer come to
Wellington Street."

The coloured man took no part in the discussion, one street and one
city being alike to him, provided he could obtain the material comforts
dear to his heart; but the others carried it on with a certain amount
of acerbity.

Before any agreement had been arrived at three other men entered the
bar. The quick eye of Meadows recognized them at once as three of what
was known at that time as "The Gallows Ring." Every member of "The
Gallows Ring" had done time, but they still carried on a lucrative
industry devoted to blackmail, intimidation, shoplifting, and some of
the clumsier recreations. Their leader, Ben Orming, had served seven
years for bashing a Chinaman down at Rotherhithe.

"The Gallows Ring" was not popular in Wapping, for the reason that many
of their depredations had been inflicted upon their own class. When
Meadows and Harry Jones took it into their heads to do a little wild
prancing they took the trouble to go up into the West-end. They
considered "The Gallows Ring" an ungentlemanly set; nevertheless, they
always treated them with a certain external deference--an unpleasant
crowd to quarrel with.

Ben Orming ordered beer for the three of them, and they leant against
the bar and whispered in sullen accents. Something had evidently
miscarried with the Ring. Mrs. Dawes continued to whine above the
general drone of the bar. Suddenly she said:

"Ben, you're a hot old devil, you are. We was just 'aving a discussion
like. Where was Wych Street?"

Ben scowled at her, and she continued:

"Some sez it was one place, some sez it was another. I _know_ where it
was, 'cors my aunt what died from blood p'ison, after eatin' tinned
lobster, used to work at a corset shop----"

"Yus," barked Ben, emphatically. "I know where Wych Street was--it was
just sarth of the river, afore yer come to Waterloo Station."

It was then that the coloured man, who up to that point had taken no
part in the discussion, thought fit to intervene.

"Nope. You's all wrong, cap'n. Wych Street were alongside de church,
way over where the Strand takes a side-line up west."

Ben turned on him fiercely.

"What the blazes does a blanketty nigger know abaht it? I've told yer
where Wych Street was."

"Yus, and I know where it was," interposed Meadows.

"Yer both wrong. Wych Street was a turning running from Long Acre into
Wellington Street."

"I didn't ask yer what _you_ thought," growled Ben.

"Well, I suppose I've a right to an opinion?"

"You always think you know everything, you do."

"You can just keep yer mouth shut."

"It 'ud take more'n you to shut it."

Mr. Booth thought it advisable at this juncture to bawl across the bar:

"Now, gentlemen, no quarrelling--please."

The affair might have been subsided at that point, but for Mrs. Dawes.
Her emotions over the death of the old lady in the street had been so
stirred that she had been, almost unconsciously, drinking too much gin.
She suddenly screamed out:

"Don't you take no lip from 'im, Mr. Medders. The dirty, thieving
devil, 'e always thinks 'e's goin' to come it over every one."

She stood up threateningly, and one of Ben's supporters gave her a
gentle push backwards. In three minutes the bar was in a complete state
of pandemonium. The three members of "The Gallows Ring" fought two men
and a woman, for Mr. Dawes merely stood in a corner and screamed out:

"Don't! Don't!"

Mrs. Dawes stabbed the man who had pushed her through the wrist with a
hatpin. Meadows and Ben Orming closed on each other and fought savagely
with the naked fists. A lucky blow early in the encounter sent Meadows
reeling against the wall, with blood streaming down his temple. Then
the coloured man hurled a pewter tankard straight at Ben and it hit him
on the knuckles. The pain maddened him to a frenzy. His other supporter
had immediately got to grips with Harry Jones, and picked up one of the
high stools and, seizing an opportunity, brought it down crash on to
the coloured man's skull.

The whole affair was a matter of minutes. Mr. Booth was bawling out in
the street. A whistle sounded. People were running in all directions.

"Beat it! Beat it for God's sake!" called the man who had been stabbed
through the wrist. His face was very white, and he was obviously about
to faint.

Ben and the other man, whose name was Toller, dashed to the door. On
the pavement there was a confused scramble. Blows were struck
indiscriminately. Two policemen appeared. One was laid _hors de combat_
by a kick on the knee-cap from Toller. The two men fled into the
darkness, followed by a hue-and-cry. Born and bred in the locality,
they took every advantage of their knowledge. They tacked through
alleys and raced down dark mews, and clambered over walls. Fortunately
for them, the people they passed, who might have tripped them up or
aided in the pursuit, merely fled indoors. The people in Wapping are
not always on the side of the pursuer. But the police held on. At last
Ben and Toller slipped through the door of an empty house in Aztec
Street barely ten yards ahead of their nearest pursuer. Blows rained on
the door, but they slipped the bolts, and then fell panting to the
floor. When Ben could speak, he said:

"If they cop us, it means swinging."

"Was the nigger done in?"

"I think so. But even if 'e wasn't, there was that other affair the
night before last. The game's up."

The ground-floor rooms were shuttered and bolted, but they knew that
the police would probably force the front door. At the back there was
no escape, only a narrow stable yard, where lanterns were already
flashing. The roof only extended thirty yards either way and the police
would probably take possession of it. They made a round of the house,
which was sketchily furnished. There was a loaf, a small piece of
mutton, and a bottle of pickles, and--the most precious
possession--three bottles of whisky. Each man drank half a glass of
neat whisky; then Ben said: "We'll be able to keep 'em quiet for a bit,
anyway," and he went and fetched an old twelve-bore gun and a case of
cartridges. Toller was opposed to this last desperate resort, but Ben
continued to murmur, "It means swinging, anyway."

And thus began the notorious siege of Aztec Street. It lasted three
days and four nights. You may remember that, on forcing a panel of the
front door, Sub-Inspector Wraithe, of the V Division, was shot through
the chest. The police then tried other methods. A hose was brought into
play without effect. Two policemen were killed and four wounded. The
military was requisitioned. The street was picketed. Snipers occupied
windows of the houses opposite. A distinguished member of the Cabinet
drove down in a motor-car, and directed operations in a top-hat. It was
the introduction of poison-gas which was the ultimate cause of the
downfall of the citadel. The body of Ben Orming was never found, but
that of Toller was discovered near the front door with a bullet through
his heart. The medical officer to the Court pronounced that the man had
been dead three days, but whether killed by a chance bullet from a
sniper or whether killed deliberately by his fellow-criminal was never
revealed. For when the end came Orming had apparently planned a final
act of venom. It was known that in the basement a considerable quantity
of petrol had been stored. The contents had probably been carefully
distributed over the most inflammable materials in the top rooms. The
fire broke out, as one witness described it, "almost like an
explosion." Orming must have perished in this. The roof blazed up, and
the sparks carried across the yard and started a stack of light timber
in the annexe of Messrs. Morrel's piano-factory. The factory and two
blocks of tenement buildings were burnt to the ground. The estimated
cost of the destruction was one hundred and eighty thousand pounds. The
casualties amounted to seven killed and fifteen wounded.

At the inquiry held under Chief Justice Pengammon various odd
interesting facts were revealed. Mr. Lowes-Parlby, the brilliant young
K.C., distinguished himself by his searching cross-examination of many
witnesses. At one point a certain Mrs. Dawes was put in the box.

"Now," said Mr. Lowes-Parlby, "I understand that on the evening in
question, Mrs. Dawes, you, and the victims, and these other people who
have been mentioned, were all seated in the public bar of the Wagtail,
enjoying its no doubt excellent hospitality and indulging in a friendly
discussion. Is that so?"

"Yes, sir."

"Now, will you tell his lordship what you were discussing?"

"Diseases, sir."

"Diseases! And did the argument become acrimonious?"

"Pardon?"

"Was there a serious dispute about diseases?"

"No, sir."

"Well, what was the subject of the dispute?"

"We was arguin' as to where Wych Street was, sir."

"What's that?" said his lordship.

"The witness states, my lord, that they were arguing as to where Wych
Street was."

"Wych Street? Do you mean W-Y-C-H?"

"Yes, sir."

"You mean the narrow old street that used to run across the site of
what is now the Gaiety Theatre?"

Mr. Lowes-Parlby smiled in his most charming manner.

"Yes, my lord, I believe the witness refers to the same street you
mention, though, if I may be allowed to qualify your lordship's
description of the locality, may I suggest that it was a little further
east--at the side of the old Globe Theatre, which was adjacent to St.
Martin's in the Strand? That is the street you were all arguing about,
isn't it, Mrs. Dawes?"

"Well, sir, my aunt who died from eating tinned lobster used to work at
a corset-shop. I ought to know."

His lordship ignored the witness. He turned to the counsel rather
peevishly.

"Mr. Lowes-Parlby, when I was your age I used to pass through Wych
Street every day of my life. I did so for nearly twelve years. I think
it hardly necessary for you to contradict me."

The counsel bowed. It was not his place to dispute with a chief
justice, although that chief justice be a hopeless old fool; but
another eminent K.C., an elderly man with a tawny beard, rose in the
body of the court, and said:

"If I may be allowed to interpose, your lordship, I also spent a great
deal of my youth passing through Wych Street. I have gone into the
matter, comparing past and present ordnance survey maps. If I am not
mistaken, the street the witness was referring to began near the
hoarding at the entrance to Kingsway and ended at the back of what is
now the Aldwych Theatre."

"Oh, no, Mr. Backer!" exclaimed Lowes-Parlby.

His lordship removed his glasses and snapped out:

"The matter is entirely irrelevant to the case."

It certainly was, but the brief passage-of-arms left an unpleasant tang
of bitterness behind. It was observed that Mr. Lowes-Parlby never again
quite got the prehensile grip upon his cross-examination that he had
shown in his treatment of the earlier witnesses. The coloured man,
Harry Jones, had died in hospital, but Mr. Booth, the proprietor of the
Wagtail, Baldwin Meadows, Mr. Dawes, and the man who was stabbed in the
wrist, all gave evidence of a rather nugatory character. Lowes-Parlby
could do nothing with it. The findings of this Special Inquiry do not
concern us. It is sufficient to say that the witnesses already
mentioned all returned to Wapping. The man who had received the thrust
of a hatpin through his wrist did not think it advisable to take any
action against Mrs. Dawes. He was pleasantly relieved to find that he
was only required as a witness of an abortive discussion.

      *       *       *       *       *

In a few weeks' time the great Aztec Street siege remained only a
romantic memory to the majority of Londoners. To Lowes-Parlby the
little dispute with Chief Justice Pengammon rankled unreasonably. It is
annoying to be publicly snubbed for making a statement which you know
to be absolutely true, and which you have even taken pains to verify.
And Lowes-Parlby was a young man accustomed to score. He made a point
of looking everything up, of being prepared for an adversary
thoroughly. He liked to give the appearance of knowing everything. The
brilliant career just ahead of him at times dazzled him. He was one of
the darlings of the gods. Everything came to Lowes-Parlby. His father
had distinguished himself at the bar before him, and had amassed a
modest fortune. He was an only son. At Oxford he had carried off every
possible degree. He was already being spoken of for very high political
honours. But the most sparkling jewel in the crown of his successes was
Lady Adela Charters, the daughter of Lord Vermeer, the Minister for
Foreign Affairs. She was his _fiancée_, and it was considered the most
brilliant match of the season. She was young and almost pretty, and
Lord Vermeer was immensely wealthy and one of the most influential men
in Great Britain. Such a combination was irresistible. There seemed to
be nothing missing in the life of Francis Lowes-Parlby, K.C.

One of the most regular and absorbed spectators at the Aztec Street
inquiry was old Stephen Garrit. Stephen Garrit held a unique but quite
inconspicuous position in the legal world at that time. He was a friend
of judges, a specialist at various abstruse legal rulings, a man of
remarkable memory, and yet--an amateur. He had never taken sick, never
eaten the requisite dinners, never passed an examination in his life;
but the law of evidence was meat and drink to him. He passed his life
in the Temple, where he had chambers. Some of the most eminent counsel
in the world would take his opinion, or come to him for advice. He was
very old, very silent, and very absorbed. He attended every meeting of
the Aztec Street inquiry, but from beginning to end he never
volunteered an opinion.

After the inquiry was over he went and visited an old friend at the
London Survey Office. He spent two mornings examining maps. After that
he spent two mornings pottering about the Strand, Kingsway, and
Aldwych; then he worked out some careful calculations on a ruled chart.
He entered the particulars in a little book which he kept for purposes
of that kind, and then retired to his chambers to study other matters.
But before doing so, he entered a little apophthegm in another book. It
was apparently a book in which he intended to compile a summary of his
legal experiences. The sentence ran:

"The basic trouble is that people make statements without sufficient
data."

Old Stephen need not have appeared in this story at all, except for the
fact that he was present at the dinner at Lord Vermeer's, where a
rather deplorable incident occurred. And you must acknowledge that in
the circumstances it is useful to have such a valuable and efficient
witness.

Lord Vermeer was a competent, forceful man, a little quick-tempered and
autocratic. He came from Lancashire, and before entering politics had
made an enormous fortune out of borax, artificial manure, and starch.

It was a small dinner-party, with a motive behind it. His principal
guest was Mr. Sandeman, the London agent of the Ameer of Bakkan. Lord
Vermeer was very anxious to impress Mr. Sandeman and to be very
friendly with him: the reasons will appear later. Mr. Sandeman was a
self-confessed cosmopolitan. He spoke seven languages and professed to
be equally at home in any capital in Europe. London had been his
headquarters for over twenty years. Lord Vermeer also invited Mr.
Arthur Toombs, a colleague in the Cabinet, his prospective son-in-law,
Lowes-Parlby, K.C., James Trolley, a very tame Socialist M.P., and Sir
Henry and Lady Breyd, the two latter being invited, not because Sir
Henry was of any use, but because Lady Breyd was a pretty and brilliant
woman who might amuse his principal guest. The sixth guest was Stephen
Garrit.

The dinner was a great success. When the succession of courses
eventually came to a stop, and the ladies had retired, Lord Vermeer
conducted his male guests into another room for a ten minutes' smoke
before rejoining them. It was then that the unfortunate incident
occurred. There was no love lost between Lowes-Parlby and Mr. Sandeman.
It is difficult to ascribe the real reason of their mutual animosity,
but on the several occasions when they had met there had invariably
passed a certain sardonic by-play. They were both clever, both
comparatively young, each a little suspect and jealous of the other;
moreover, it was said in some quarters that Mr. Sandeman had had
intentions himself with regard to Lord Vermeer's daughter, that he had
been on the point of a proposal when Lowes-Parlby had butted in and
forestalled him. Mr. Sandeman had dined well, and he was in the mood to
dazzle with a display of his varied knowledge and experiences. The
conversation drifted from a discussion of the rival claims of great
cities to the slow, inevitable removal of old landmarks. There had been
a slightly acrimonious disagreement between Lowes-Parlby and Mr.
Sandeman as to the claims of Budapest and Lisbon, and Mr. Sandeman had
scored because he extracted from his rival a confession that, though he
had spent two months in Budapest, he had only spent two days in Lisbon.
Mr. Sandeman had lived for four years in either city. Lowes-Parlby
changed the subject abruptly.

"Talking of landmarks," he said, "we had a queer point arise in that
Aztec Street inquiry. The original dispute arose owing to a discussion
between a crowd of people in a pub as to where Wych Street was."

"I remember," said Lord Vermeer. "A perfectly absurd discussion. Why, I
should have thought that any man over forty would remember exactly
where it was."

"Where would you say it was, sir?" asked Lowes-Parlby.

"Why to be sure, it ran from the corner of Chancery Lane and ended at
the second turning after the Law Courts, going west."

Lowes-Parlby was about to reply, when Mr. Sandeman cleared his throat
and said, in his supercilious, oily voice:

"Excuse me, my lord. I know my Paris, and Vienna, and Lisbon, every
brick and stone, but I look upon London as my home. I know my London
even better. I have a perfectly clear recollection of Wych Street. When
I was a student I used to visit there to buy books. It ran parallel to
New Oxford Street on the south side, just between it and Lincoln's Inn
Fields."

There was something about this assertion that infuriated Lowes-Parlby.
In the first place, it was so hopelessly wrong and so insufferably
asserted. In the second place, he was already smarting under the
indignity of being shown up about Lisbon. And then there suddenly
flashed through his mind the wretched incident when he had been
publicly snubbed by Justice Pengammon about the very same point; and he
knew that he was right each time. Damn Wych Street! He turned on Mr.
Sandeman.

"Oh, nonsense! You may know something about these--eastern cities; you
certainly know nothing about London if you make a statement like that.
Wych Street was a little further east of what is now the Gaiety
Theatre. It used to run by the side of the old Globe Theatre, parallel
to the Strand."

The dark moustache of Mr. Sandeman shot upwards, revealing a narrow
line of yellow teeth. He uttered a sound that was a mingling of
contempt and derision; then he drawled out:

"Really? How wonderful--to have such comprehensive knowledge!"

He laughed, and his small eyes fixed his rival. Lowes-Parlby flushed a
deep red. He gulped down half a glass of port and muttered just above a
whisper: "Damned impudence!" Then, in the rudest manner he could
display, he turned his back deliberately on Sandeman and walked out of
the room.

      *       *       *       *       *

In the company of Adela he tried to forget the little contretemps. The
whole thing was so absurd--so utterly undignified. As though _he_
didn't know! It was the little accumulation of pin-pricks all arising
out of that one argument. The result had suddenly goaded him to--well,
being rude, to say the least of it. It wasn't that Sandeman mattered.
To the devil with Sandeman! But what would his future father-in-law
think? He had never before given way to any show of ill-temper before
him. He forced himself into a mood of rather fatuous jocularity. Adela
was at her best in those moods. They would have lots of fun together in
the days to come. Her almost pretty, not too clever face was dimpled
with kittenish glee. Life was a tremendous rag to her. They were
expecting Toccata, the famous opera-singer. She had been engaged at a
very high fee to come on from Covent Garden. Mr. Sandeman was very fond
of music. Adela was laughing, and discussing which was the most
honourable position for the great Sandeman to occupy. There came to
Lowes-Parlby a sudden abrupt misgiving. What sort of wife would this be
to him when they were not just fooling? He immediately dismissed the
curious, furtive little stab of doubt. The splendid proportions of the
room calmed his senses. A huge bowl of dark red roses quickened his
perceptions. His career.... The door opened. But it was not La Toccata.
It was one of the household flunkies. Lowes-Parlby turned again to his
inamorata.

"Excuse me, sir. His lordship says will you kindly go and see him in
the library?"

Lowes-Parlby regarded the messenger, and his heart beat quickly. An
uncontrollable presage of evil racked his nerve-centres. Something had
gone wrong; and yet the whole thing was so absurd, trivial. In a
crisis--well, he could always apologize. He smiled confidently at
Adela, and said:

"Why, of course; with pleasure. Please excuse me, dear." He followed
the impressive servant out of the room. His foot had barely touched the
carpet of the library when he realized that his worst apprehensions
were to be plumbed to the depths. For a moment he thought Lord Vermeer
was alone, then he observed old Stephen Garrit, lying in an easy-chair
in the corner like a piece of crumpled parchment. Lord Vermeer did not
beat about the bush. When the door was closed, he bawled out, savagely:

"What the devil have you done?"

"Excuse me, sir. I'm afraid I don't understand. Is it Sandeman--?"

"Sandeman has gone."

"Oh, I'm sorry."

"Sorry! By God, I should think you might be sorry! You insulted him. My
prospective son-in-law insulted him in my own house!"

"I'm awfully sorry. I didn't realize--"

"Realize! Sit down, and don't assume for one moment that you continue
to be my prospective son-in-law. Your insult was a most intolerable
piece of effrontery, not only to him, but to me."

"But I--"

"Listen to me. Do you know that the government were on the verge of
concluding a most far-reaching treaty with that man? Do you know that
the position was just touch-and-go? The concessions we were prepared to
make would have cost the State thirty million pounds, and it would have
been cheap. Do you hear that? It would have been cheap! Bakkan is one
of the most vulnerable outposts of the Empire. It is a terrible
danger-zone. If certain powers can usurp our authority--and, mark you,
the whole blamed place is already riddled with this new pernicious
doctrine--you know what I mean--before we know where we are the whole
East will be in a blaze. India! My God! This contract we were
negotiating would have countered this outward thrust. And you, you
blockhead, you come here and insult the man upon whose word the whole
thing depends."

"I really can't see, sir, how I should know all this."

"You can't see it! But, you fool, you seemed to go out of your way. You
insulted him about the merest quibble--in my house!"

"He said he knew where Wych Street was. He was quite wrong. I corrected
him."

"Wych Street! Wych Street be damned! If he said Wych Street was in the
moon, you should have agreed with him. There was no call to act in the
way you did. And you--you think of going into politics!"

The somewhat cynical inference of this remark went unnoticed.
Lowes-Parlby was too unnerved. He mumbled:

"I'm very sorry."

"I don't want your sorrow. I want something more practical."

"What's that, sir?"

"You will drive straight to Mr. Sandeman's, find him, and apologize.
Tell him you find that he was right about Wych Street after all. If you
can't find him to-night, you must find him to-morrow morning. I give
you till midday to-morrow. If by that time you have not offered a
handsome apology to Mr. Sandeman, you do not enter this house again,
you do not see my daughter again. Moreover, all the power I possess
will be devoted to hounding you out of that profession you have
dishonoured. Now you can go."

Dazed and shaken, Lowes-Parlby drove back to his flat at Knightsbridge.
Before acting he must have time to think. Lord Vermeer had given him
till to-morrow midday. Any apologizing that was done should be done
after a night's reflection. The fundamental purposes of his being were
to be tested. He knew that. He was at a great crossing. Some deep
instinct within him was grossly outraged. Is it that a point comes when
success demands that a man shall sell his soul? It was all so absurdly
trivial--a mere argument about the position of a street that had ceased
to exist. As Lord Vermeer said, what did it matter about Wych Street?

Of course he should apologize. It would hurt horribly to do so, but
would a man sacrifice everything on account of some footling argument
about a street?

In his own rooms, Lowes-Parlby put on a dressing-gown, and, lighting a
pipe, he sat before the fire. He would have given anything for
companionship at such a moment--the right companionship. How lovely it
would be to have--a woman, just the right woman, to talk this all over
with; some one who understood and sympathized. A sudden vision came to
him of Adela's face grinning about the prospective visit of La Toccata,
and again the low voice of misgiving whispered in his ears. Would Adela
be--just the right woman? In very truth, did he really love Adela? Or
was it all--a rag? Was life a rag--a game played by lawyers,
politicians, and people?

The fire burned low, but still he continued to sit thinking, his mind
principally occupied with the dazzling visions of the future. It was
past midnight when he suddenly muttered a low "Damn!" and walked to the
bureau. He took up a pen and wrote:

"_Dear Mr. Sandeman_,--I must apologize for acting so rudely to you
last night. It was quite unpardonable of me, especially as I since
find, on going into the matter, that you were quite right about the
position of Wych Street. I can't think how I made the mistake. Please
forgive me.

"Yours cordially,

"FRANCIS LOWES-PARLBY."

Having written this, he sighed and went to bed. One might have imagined
at that point that the matter was finished. But there are certain
little greedy demons of conscience that require a lot of stilling, and
they kept Lowes-Parlby awake more than half the night. He kept on
repeating to himself, "It's all positively absurd!" But the little
greedy demons pranced around the bed, and they began to group things
into two definite issues. On the one side, the great appearances; on
the other, something at the back of it all, something deep,
fundamental, something that could only be expressed by one word--truth.
If he had _really_ loved Adela--if he weren't so absolutely certain
that Sandeman was wrong and he was right--why should he have to say
that Wych Street was where it wasn't? "Isn't there, after all," said
one of the little demons, "something which makes for greater happiness
than success? Confess this, and we'll let you sleep."

Perhaps that is one of the most potent weapons the little demons
possess. However full our lives may be, we ever long for moments of
tranquillity. And conscience holds before our eyes some mirror of an
ultimate tranquillity. Lowes-Parlby was certainly not himself. The gay,
debonair, and brilliant egoist was tortured, and tortured almost beyond
control; and it had all apparently risen through the ridiculous
discussion about a street. At a quarter past three in the morning he
arose from his bed with a groan, and, going into the other room, he
tore the letter to Mr. Sandeman to pieces.

Three weeks later old Stephen Garrit was lunching with the Lord Chief
Justice. They were old friends, and they never found it incumbent to be
very conversational. The lunch was an excellent, but frugal, meal. They
both ate slowly and thoughtfully, and their drink was water. It was not
till they reached the dessert stage that his lordship indulged in any
very informative comment, and then he recounted to Stephen the details
of a recent case in which he considered that the presiding judge had,
by an unprecedented paralogy, misinterpreted the law of evidence.
Stephen listened with absorbed attention. He took two cob-nuts from the
silver dish, and turned them over meditatively, without cracking them.
When his lordship had completely stated his opinion and peeled a pear,
Stephen mumbled:

"I have been impressed, very impressed indeed. Even in my own field
of--limited observation--the opinion of an outsider, you may say--so
often it happens--the trouble caused by an affirmation without
sufficiently established data. I have seen lives lost, ruin brought
about, endless suffering. Only last week, a young man--a brilliant
career--almost shattered. People make statements without--"

He put the nuts back on the dish, and then, in an apparently irrelevant
manner, he said abruptly:

"Do you remember Wych Street, my lord?"

The Lord Chief justice grunted.

"Wych Street! Of course I do."

"Where would you say it was, my lord?"

"Why, here, of course."

His lordship took a pencil from his pocket and sketched a plan on the
tablecloth.

"It used to run from there to here."

Stephen adjusted his glasses and carefully examined the plan. He took a
long time to do this, and when he had finished his hand instinctively
went towards a breast pocket where he kept a note-book with little
squared pages. Then he stopped and sighed. After all, why argue with
the law? The law was like that--an excellent thing, not infallible, of
course (even the plan of the Lord Chief justice was a quarter of a mile
out), but still an excellent, a wonderful thing. He examined the bony
knuckles of his hands and yawned slightly.

"Do you remember it?" said the Lord Chief justice.

Stephen nodded sagely, and his voice seemed to come from a long way
off:

"Yes, I remember it, my lord. It was a melancholy little street."



THE LOOKING GLASS

By J.D. BERESFORD

(From _The Cornhill Magazine_)

1921, 1922


This was the first communication that had come from her aunt in
Rachel's lifetime.

"I think your aunt has forgiven me, at last," her father said as he
passed the letter across the table.

Rachel looked first at the signature. It seemed strange to see her own
name there. It was as if her individuality, her very identity, was
impugned by the fact that there should be two Rachel Deanes. Moreover
there was a likeness between her aunt's autograph and her own, a
characteristic turn in the looping of the letters, a hint of the same
decisiveness and precision. If Rachel had been educated fifty years
earlier, she might have written her name in just that manner.

"You're very like her in some ways," her father said, as she still
stared at the signature.

Rachel's eyelids drooped and her expression indicated a faint,
suppressed intolerance of her father's remark. He said the same things
so often, and in so precisely the same tone, that she had formed a
habit of automatically rejecting the truth of certain of his
statements. He had always appeared to her as senile. He had been over
fifty when she was born, and ever since she could remember she had
doubted the correctness of his information. She was, she had often told
herself, "a born sceptic; an ultra-modern." She had a certain
veneration for the more distant past, but none for her father's period.
"Victorianism" was to her a term of abuse. She had long since condemned
alike the ethic and the aesthetic of the nineteenth century as
represented by her father's opinions; so, that, even now, when his
familiar comment coincided so queerly with her own thought, she
instinctively disbelieved him. Yet, as always, she was gentle in her
answer. She condescended from the heights of her youth and vigour to
pity him.

"I should think you must almost have forgotten what Aunt Rachel was
like, dear," she said. "How many years is it since you've seen her?"

"More than forty; more than forty," her father said, ruminating
profoundly. "We disagreed, we invariably disagreed. Rachel always
prided herself on being so modern. She read Huxley and Darwin and
things like that. Altogether beyond me, I admit. Still, it seems to me
that the old truths have endured, and will--in spite of all--in spite
of all."

Rachel straightened her shoulders and lifted her head; there was
disdain in her face, but none in her voice as she replied:

"And so it seems that she wants to see me."

She was excited at the thought of meeting this traditional, this almost
mythical aunt whom she had so often heard about. Sometimes she had
wondered if the personality of this remarkable relative had not been a
figment of her father's imagination, long pondered, and reconstructed
out of half-forgotten material. But this letter of hers that now lay on
the breakfast table was admirable in character. There was something of
condescension and intolerance expressed in the very restraint of its
tone. She had written a kindly letter, but the kindliness had an air of
pity. It was all consistent enough with what her father had told her.

Mr. Deane came out of his reminiscences with a sigh.

"Yes, yes; she wants to see you, my dear," he said. "I think you had
better accept this invitation to stay with her. She--she is rich,
almost wealthy; and I, as you know, have practically nothing to leave
you--practically nothing. If she took a fancy to you...."

He sighed again, and Rachel knew that for the hundredth time he was
regretting his own past weakness. He had been so foolish in money
matters, frittering away his once considerable capital in aimless
speculations. He and his sister had shared equally under their father's
will, but while he had been at last compelled to sink the greater part
of what was left to him in an annuity, she had probably increased her
original inheritance.

"I'll certainly go, if you can spare me for a whole fortnight," Rachel
said. "I'm all curiosity to see this remarkable aunt. By the way, how
old is she?"

"There were only fifteen months between us," Mr. Deane said, "so she
must be,--dear me, yes;--she must be seventy-three. Dear, dear. Fancy
Rachel being seventy-three! I always think of her as being about your
age. It seems so absurd to think of her as _old_...."

He continued his reflections, but Rachel was not listening. He was
asking for the understanding of the young; quite unaware of his
senility, reaching out over half a century to try to touch the
comprehension and sympathy of his daughter. But she was already bent on
her own adventure, looking forward eagerly to a visit to London that
promised delights other than the inspection of the mysterious,
traditional aunt whom she had so long known by report.

For this invitation had come very aptly. Rachel pondered that, later in
the morning, with a glow of ecstatic resignation to her charming fate.
She found the guiding hand of a romantic inevitability in the fact that
she and Adrian Flemming were to meet so soon. It had seemed so unlikely
that they would see each other again for many months. They had only met
three times; but they _knew_, although their friendship had been too
green for either of them to admit the knowledge before he had gone back
to town. He had, indeed, hinted far more in his two letters than he had
ever dared to say. He was sensitive, he lacked self-confidence; but
Rachel adored him for just those failings she criticised so hardly in
her father. She took out her letters and re-read them, thrilling with
the realisation that in her answer she would have such a perfectly
amazing surprise for him. She would refer to it quite casually,
somewhere near the end. She would write: "By the way, it's just
possible that we may meet again before long as I am going to stay with
my aunt, Miss Deane, in Tavistock Square." He would understand all that
lay behind such an apparently careless reference, for she had told him
that she "never went to London," had only once in her life ever been
there.

She was in her own room, and she stood, now, before the cheval glass
and studied herself; raising her chin and slightly pursing her lips,
staring superciliously at her own image under half-lowered eyelids.
Candidly, she admired herself; but she could not help that assumption
of a disdainful criticism. It seemed to give her confidence in her own
integrity; hiding that annoying shadow of doubt which sometimes fell
upon her when she caught sight of her reflection by chance and
unexpectedly.

But no thought of doubt flawed her satisfaction this morning. A sense
of power came to her, a tranquil realisation that she could charm
Adrian as she would. With a graceful, habitual gesture she put up her
hand and lightly touched her cheek with a soft, caressing movement of
her finger-tips.

II

The elderly parlour-maid showed Rachel straight to her bedroom when she
arrived at Tavistock Square, indicating on the way the extensive-looking
first-floor drawing-room, in which tea and her first sight of the
wonderful aunt would await Rachel in half an hour. She had been
eager and excited. The air and promise of London had thrilled her,
but she found some influence in the atmosphere of the big house that
was vaguely repellent, almost sinister.

Her bedroom was expensively furnished and beautifully kept; some of the
pieces were, she supposed, genuine antiques, perhaps immensely
valuable. But how could she ever feel at home there? She was hampered
by the necessity for moving circumspectly among this aged delicate
stuff; so wonderfully preserved and yet surely fragile and decrepit at
the heart. That spindling escritoire, for instance, and that mincing
Louis Quinze settee, ought to be taking their well-earned leisure in
some museum. It would be indecent to write at the one or sit on the
other. They were relics of the past, foolishly pretending an ability
for service when their life had been sapped by dry-rot and their
original functions outlived.

"Well, if ever I have a house of my own," Rachel thought regarding
these ancient splendours, "I'll furnish it with something I shan't be
afraid of."

With a gesture of dismissal she turned and looked out of the window.
From the square came the sounds of a motor drawing up at a neighbouring
house; she heard the throbbing of the engine, the slam of the door, and
then the strong, sonorous tones of a man's voice. That was her proper
_milieu_, she reflected, among the strong vital things. Even after
twenty minutes in that bedroom she had begun to feel enervated, as if
she herself were also beginning to suffer from dry-rot....

She was anxious and uneasy as she went slowly downstairs to the
drawing-room. Her anticipations of this meeting with her intimidating,
wealthy aunt had changed within the last half-hour. Her first idea of
Miss Deane had been of a robust, stout woman, frank in her speech and
inclined to be very critical of the newly found niece whom she had
chosen to inspect. Now, she was prepared rather to expect a fragile,
rather querulous old lady, older even than her years; an aunt to be
talked to in a lowered voice and treated with the same delicate care
that must be extended to her furniture.

Rachel paused with her hand on the drawing-room door, and sighed at the
thought of all the repressions and nervous strains that this visit
might have in store for her.

She entered the room almost on tiptoe, and then stood stock-still,
suddenly shocked and bewildered with surprise. Whatever she had
expected, it was not this. For a moment she was unable to believe that
the sprightly, painted and bedizened figure before her could possibly
be that of her aunt. Her head was crowned with an exuberant brown wig,
her heavy eyebrows were grotesquely blackened, her hollow cheeks stiff
with powder, her lips brightened to a fantastic scarlet. And she was
posed there, standing before the tea-table with her head a little back,
looking at her niece with a tolerant condescension, with the air of a
superb young beauty, self-conscious and proud of her charms.

"Hm! So you're my semi-mythical niece," she said, putting up her
lorgnette. "I'm glad at any rate to find that you're not, after all, a
fabulous creature." She spoke in a high, rather thin voice that
produced an effect of effort, as if she were playing on the top octave
of a flute.

Rachel had never in her life felt so gauche and awkward.

"Yes--I--you know, aunt, I had begun to wonder if you were not
fabulous, too," she tried, desperately anxious to seem at ease. She was
afraid to look at that, to her, grotesque figure, afraid to show by
some unconscious reflex her dislike for its ugliness. As she took the
bony, ring-bedecked hand that was held out to her, she kept her eyes
away from her aunt's face.

Miss Deane, however, would not permit that evasion.

"Hold your head up, my dear, I want to look at you," she said, and when
Rachel reluctantly obeyed, continued, "Yes, you're more like my father
than your own, which means that you're like me, for I took after him,
too, so every one said."

Rachel drew in her breath with a little gasp. Was it possible that her
aunt could imagine for one instant that there was any likeness between
them?

"Our--our names are the same," she said nervously.

Miss Deane nodded. "There's more in it than that," she said with a
touch of complacence; "and there's no reason why there shouldn't be.
It's good Mendelism that you should take after an aunt rather than
either of your parents."

"And you really think that we are alike?" Rachel asked feebly, looking
in vain for any sign of a quizzical humour in her aunt's face.

Miss Deane looked down under her half-lowered eyelids with a proud air
of tolerance. "Ah, well, a little without doubt," she said, as though
the advantages of the difference were on her own side. "Now sit down
and have your tea, my dear."

Rachel obeyed with a vague wonder in her mind as to why that look of
tolerance should be so familiar. It seemed to her as if it was
something she had felt rather than seen; and as tea progressed she
found herself half furtively studying the raddled ugliness of her
aunt's face in the search for possible relics of a beautiful youth.

"Ah, I think you're beginning to see it, too," Miss Deane said, marking
her niece's scrutiny. "It grows on one, doesn't it?"

Rachel shivered slightly. "Yes, it does," she said experimentally,
watching her aunt's face for some indication of a malicious teasing
humour. It seemed to her so incredible that this hideous parody of her
own youth could honestly believe that any physical likeness _still_
existed.

Miss Deane, however, was faintly simpering. "I have been told that I've
changed very little," she said; and Rachel suppressed a sigh of
impatience at the reflection that she was expected to play up to this
absurd fantasy.

"Of course, I can't judge of that," she said, "as we met for the first
time five minutes ago."

"No, no, you can't judge of _that_," her aunt replied, with the
half-bashful emphasis of one who awaits a compliment.

Rachel decided to plunge. "But you do look extraordinarily young for
your age still," she lied desperately.

Miss Deane straightened her back and toyed with a teaspoon. "I have
always taken great care of myself," she said.

Unquestionably she believed it, Rachel decided. This was no pose, but a
horrible piece of self-deception. This raddled, repulsive creature had
actually persuaded herself into the delusion that she still had the
appearance of a young girl. Heaven help her if that delusion were ever
shattered!

Yet outside this one obsession Miss Deane, as Rachel soon discovered,
had a clear and well-balanced mind. For, now that she had received her
desired assurance from this new quarter, she began to talk of other
things. Her boasted "modernism," it is true, had a smack of the stiff,
broadcloth savour of the eighties, but she had a point of view that
coincided far more nearly with Rachel's own than did that of her
father. Her aunt, at least, had outlived the worst superstitions and
inanities of the mid-Victorians.

Indeed, by the time tea was finished Rachel's spirits were beginning to
revive. She would have to be very careful in her treatment of her aunt,
but on the whole it would not perhaps be so bad; and presently she
would see Adrian again. She would almost certainly get a letter from
him by the last post, making some appointment to meet her, and after
that she would introduce him to Miss Deane. She had a feeling that Miss
Deane would not raise any objection; that she might even welcome the
visit of a young man to her house.

The time was passing so easily that Rachel was surprised when she heard
the gong sound.

"Does that mean it's time to dress already?" she asked.

Miss Deane nodded. "You've an hour before dinner," she said, "but I'll
go up now. I like to be leisurely over my toilet."

She rose as she spoke, but as she crossed the room, she paused with
what seemed to be a little jerk of surprise as she caught sight of her
own reflection in a tall mirror above one of the gilt-legged console
tables against the wall. Then she deliberately stopped, turned and
surveyed herself, half contemptuously, under lowered eyelids, with a
set of her head and back that belied plainly enough the pout of her
critical lips. And having admired that haggard image, she lifted her
wasted hand and delicately touched her whitened, hollow cheeks with the
tips of her heavily jewelled fingers.

Rachel stared in horror. It seemed to her just then as if the
reflection of her aunt in the mirror was indeed that of herself grown
instantly and mysteriously old. For now, whether because the reversal
of the image by the mirror or because of that perfect duplication of
her own characteristic pose and gesture, the likeness had flashed out
clear and unmistakable. She saw that her father had been right. Once,
incalculable ages ago, this repulsive old woman might have been very
like herself.

She slipped quickly out of the room and ran upstairs. She felt that she
must instantly put that question to the test; search herself for the
signs of coming age as she had so recently searched her aunt's face for
the indications of her former youth.

But when, with an effect of challenge, she scrutinised her reflection
in the tall cheval glass, the likeness appeared to have vanished. She
saw her head thrust a little forward, her arms stiff, and in her whole
pose an air of vigorous defiance. She was prepared to admit that she
was ugly at that moment, if the ugliness was of another kind than that
she had seen downstairs. No! She drew herself up, more than a little
relieved by the result of her test. The likeness was all a fancy, the
result of suggestions, first by her father and then by Miss Deane
herself. And she need at least have no fear that she was ugly. Why....

She paused suddenly, and the light died out of her face. Her image was
looking back at her stiffly, superciliously, with, so it seemed to her,
the contemptible simper of one who still fatuously admires the thing
that has long since lost its charm. She caught her breath and clenched
her hands, drawing down her rather heavy eyebrows in an expression of
angry scorn. "Oh! never, never, never again, will I look at myself like
that," Rachel vowed fiercely.

She was to find, however, before this first evening was over, that the
mere avoidance of that one pose before the mirror would not suffice to
lay the ghost of the suspicion that was beginning to haunt her.

At the very outset a new version of the likeness was presented to her
when, during the first course of dinner, Miss Deane, with a lowering
frown of her blackened eyebrows, found occasion to reprimand the
elderly parlour-maid. For a moment Rachel was again puzzled by the
intriguing sense of the familiar, before she remembered her own scowl
at the looking-glass an hour before. "Do I really frown like that?" she
thought. And on the instant found herself _feeling_ like her aunt.

That, indeed, was the horror that, despite every effort of resistance,
deepened steadily as the evening wore on. Miss Deane had, without
question, lost every trace of her beauty; but her character, her spirit
was unchanged, and it was, so Rachel increasingly believed, the very
spit and replica of her own.

They had the same characteristic gestures and expressions; the look of
kindly tolerance with which her aunt regarded Rachel was precisely the
same as that with which Rachel regarded her father. When her aunt's
voice dropped in speaking from the rather shrill, strained tone that
was obviously not natural to her, Rachel heard the inflexions of her
own voice. And as her knowledge of Miss Deane grew, so, also, did that
haunting unpleasant feeling of looking and speaking in precisely the
same manner. It seemed to her as if she were being invaded by an alien
personality; as if the character she had known and cherished all her
life were no longer her own, but merely a casual inheritance from some
unknown ancestor. Her very integrity was threatened by her
consciousness of that likeness, her pride of individuality. She was
not, after all, a unique personality, but merely another version--if
she were even that?--of a Miss Rachel Deane born in the middle of the
previous century.

Moreover, with that growing recognition of likeness in character, there
came the thought that she in time might look even as her aunt looked at
this present moment. She also would lose her beauty, until no facial
resemblance could be traced between the hag she was and the beauty she
had once been. For, through all her torment, Rachel proudly clung to
the certainty that, physically at least, there was no sort of likeness
between her aunt and herself.

Miss Deane's belief in that matter, however, was soon proved to be
otherwise; for when they were alone together in the drawing-room after
dinner, and the topic so inevitably present to both their minds came to
the surface of conversation, she unexpectedly said: "But we're
evidently the poles apart in character and manner, my dear."

"Oh! do you think so?" Rachel exclaimed. "I--it's a queer thing to say
perhaps--but I curiously feel like you, aunt; when you speak sometimes
and--and when I watch the way you do things."

Miss Deane shook her head. "I admit the physical resemblance," she
said; "otherwise, my dear, we are utterly different."

Did she too, Rachel wondered, resent the aspersion of her integrity?

By the last post Rachel received her expected letter from Adrian
Flemming. Her aunt separated it from the others brought in by her maid
and passed it across to her niece with a slight hint of displeasure in
her face. "Miss Rachel Deane, _junior_," she said. "Really, it hadn't
occurred to me how difficult it will be to distinguish our letters. I
hope my friends won't take to addressing me as Miss Deane, _senior_.
Properly, of course, I am Miss Deane, and you Miss Rachel, but I'll
admit there's sure to be some confusion. Now, my dear, I expect you're
tired. You'd better run up to bed."

Rachel was willing enough to go. She was glad to have an opportunity to
read her letter in solitude; she was even more glad to get away from
the company of this living echo of herself. "I believe I should go mad
if I had to live with her," she reflected. "I should get into the way
of copying her. I should begin to grow old before my time."

When she reached her bedroom, she put down her letter unopened on the
toilet-table and once more stared searchingly at her own reflection in
the mirror. Was there any least trace of a physical likeness, she asked
herself; and began in imagination to follow the possible stages of the
change that time would inevitably work upon her. She shrugged her
shoulders. If there were indeed any sort of facial resemblance between
herself and her aunt, no one would ever see it except in Miss Deane,
and she was obsessed with a senile vanity. Yet was it, after all,
Rachel began to wonder, an unnatural obsession? Might she not in time
suffer from it herself? The change would be so slow, so infinitely
gradual; and always one would be cherishing the old, loved image of
youth and beauty, falling in love with it, like a deluded Hyacinth, and
coming to be deceived by the fantasy of an unchanging appearance of
youth. Looking always for the desired thing, she would suffer from the
hallucination that the thing existed in fact, and imagine that the only
artifice needed to perfect the illusion was a touch of paint and
powder. No doubt her aunt--perhaps searching her own image in the
mirror at this moment--saw not herself but a picture of her niece. She
was hypnotised by the suggestion of a pose and the desire of her own
mind. In time, Rachel herself might also become the victim of a similar
illusion!

Oh! it was horrible! With a shudder, she picked up her letter and
turned away from the looking-glass. She would forget that ghastly
warning in the thought of the joys proper to her youth. She would think
of Adrian and of her next meeting with him. She opened her letter to
find that he had, rather timorously, suggested that she should meet him
the next afternoon--at the Marble Arch at three o'clock, if he heard
nothing from her in the meantime.

For a few minutes she lost herself in delighted anticipation, and then
slowly, insidiously, a new speculation crept into her mind. What would
be the effect upon Adrian if he saw her and her aunt together? Would he
recognise the likeness and, anticipating the movement of more than half
a century, see her in one amazing moment as she would presently become?
And, in any case, what a terrible train of suggestion might not be
started in his mind by the impression left upon him by the old woman?
Once he had seen Miss Deane, Rachel's every gesture would serve to
remind him of that repulsive image of raddled, deluded age. It might
well be that, in time, he would come to see Rachel as she would
presently be rather than as she was. It would be a hideous reversal of
the old romance; instead of seeing the girl in the old woman, he would
foresee the harridan in the girl!

That picture presented itself to Rachel with a quite appalling effect
of conviction. She suddenly remembered a case she had known that had
remarkable points of resemblance--the case of a rather pretty girl with
an unpleasant younger brother who, so she had heard it said, "put men
off his sister" because of the facial likeness between them. She was
pretty and he was ugly, but they were unmistakably brother and sister.

Oh! it would be nothing less than folly to let Adrian and her aunt
meet, Rachel decided. In imagination, she could follow the process of
his growing dismay; she could see his puzzled stare as he watched Miss
Deane, and struggled to fix that tantalising suggestion of likeness to
some one he knew; his flash of illumination as he solved the puzzle and
turned with that gentle, winning smile of his to herself; and then the
progress of his disillusionment as, day by day, he realised more
plainly the intriguing similarities of expression and gesture, until he
felt that he was making love to the spirit of an aged spinster
temporarily disguised behind the appearance of beauty.

III

Rachel had believed on the first night of her arrival in Tavistock
Square that, so far as her love affair was concerned, she would be able
to avoid all danger by keeping her lover and her aunt unknown to each
other. She very soon found, however, that the spell Miss Deane seemed
to have put upon her was not to be laid by any effect of mere distance.

She and Adrian met rather shyly at their first appointment. Both of
them were a little conscious of having been overbold, one for having
suggested, and the other for having agreed to so significant an
assignation. And for the first few minutes their talk was nothing but a
quick, nervous reminiscence of their earlier meetings. They had to
recover the lost ground on which they had parted before they could go
on to any more intimate knowledge of each other. But for some reason
she had not yet realised, Rachel found it very difficult to recover
that lost ground. She knew that she was being unnecessarily distant and
cold, and though she inwardly accused herself of "putting on absurd
airs," her manner, as she was uncomfortably aware, remained at once
stilted and detached.

"I suppose it's because I'm self-conscious before all these people,"
she thought, and, indeed, Hyde Park was very full that afternoon.

And it was Adrian who first, a little desperately, tried to reach
across the barrier that was dividing them.

"You're different, rather, in town," he began shyly. "Is it the effect
of your aunt's grandeurs?"

"Am I different? I feel exactly the same," Rachel replied mechanically.

"You didn't think it was rather impudent of me to ask you to meet me
here, did you?" he went on anxiously.

She shook her head emphatically. "Oh! no, it wasn't that," she said.

"But then you admit that it was--something?" he pleaded.

"The people, perhaps," she admitted. "I--I feel so exposed to the
public view."

"We might walk across the Park if you preferred it," he suggested; "and
have tea at that place in Kensington Gardens? It would be quieter
there."

She agreed to that willingly. She wanted to be alone with him. The
crowd made her nervous and self-conscious this afternoon. Always
before, she had delighted in moving among a crowd, appreciating and
enjoying the casual glances of admiration she received. Today she was
afraid of being noticed. She had a queer feeling that these smart,
clever people in the Park might see through her, if they stared too
closely. Just what they would discover she did not know; but she
suffered a disquieting qualm of uneasiness whenever she saw any one
observing her with attention.

They cut across the grass and, leaving the Serpentine on their left,
found two chairs in a quiet spot under the trees. Here, at least, they
were quite unwatched, but still Rachel found it impossible to regain
the relations that had existed between her and Adrian when they had
parted a month earlier. And Adrian, too, it seemed, was staring at her
with a new, inquisitive scrutiny.

"Why do you look at me like that?" she broke out at last. "Do you
notice any difference in me, or what? You--you've been staring so!"

"Difference!" he repeated. "Well, I told you just now, didn't I, that
you were different this afternoon?"

"Yes, but in what way?" she asked. "Do I--do I look different?"

He paused a little judiciously over his answer. "N--no," he hesitated.
"There's something, though. Don't be offended, will you, if I say that
you don't seem to be quite yourself to-day; not quite natural. I miss a
rather characteristic expression of yours. You've never once looked at
me with that rather tolerating air you used to put on."

"It was a horrid air," she said sharply. "I've made up my mind to cure
myself of it."

"Oh! no, don't," he protested. "It wasn't at all horrid. It was--don't
think I'm trying to pay you a compliment--it was, well, charming. I've
missed it dreadfully."

She turned and looked at him, determined to try an experiment. "This
sort of air, do you mean?" she asked, and with a sickening sensation of
presenting the very gestures and appearance of her aunt, she regarded
him under lowered eyelids with an expression of faintly supercilious
approval.

His smile at once thanked and answered her.

"But it's an abominable look," she exclaimed. "The look of an old, old,
painted woman, vain, ridiculous."

He stared at her in amazement. "How absurd!" he protested. "Why, it's
_you_; and you're certainly not old or painted nor unduly vain, and no
one could say you were ridiculous."

"And you want me to look like that?" she asked.

"It's--it's so _you_," he said shyly.

"But, just suppose," she cried, "that I went on looking like that after
I'd grown old and ugly. Think how hateful it would be to see a hideous
old woman posturing and pretending and making eyes. And, you see, if
one gets a habit, it's so hard to get rid of it. Think of me at
seventy, all painted and powdered, trying to seem as if I hadn't
altered and really believing that I hadn't."

He laughed that pleasant, kind laugh of his which had been one of the
first things in him that had so attracted her.

"Oh! I'll chance the future," he said. "Besides if--if it could ever
happen that--that your growing old came to me gradually, that I should
be seeing you every day, I mean, I shouldn't notice it. I should be old
too; and _I_ should think you hadn't altered either." He was afraid, as
yet, to be too plain spoken, but his tone made it quite clear that he
asked for no greater happiness than that of seeing her grow old beside
him.

She did not pretend to misunderstand him. "Would you? Perhaps you
would," she said. "But, all the same, I don't think you need insist on
that particular--pose."

He passed that by, too eager at the moment to claim the concession she
had offered him. "Is there any hope that I may be allowed to--to watch
you growing old?" he asked.

"Perhaps--if you'll let me do it in my own way," Rachel said.

Adrian shyly took her hand. "You mean that you will--that you don't
mind?" He put the question as if he had no doubt of its
intelligibility--to her.

She nodded.

"When did you begin to know?" he asked, awed by the wonder of this
stupendous thing that had happened to him.

"From the beginning, I think," Rachel murmured.

"So did I, from the very beginning--" he agreed, and from that they
dropped into sacred reminiscences and comparisons concerning the
innumerable things they had adoringly seen in each other and had had as
yet no opportunity to glory in.

And in the midst of all these new and bewildering, embarrassing,
delightful revelations and discoveries, Rachel completely forgot the
shadow that was haunting her, forgot how she looked or felt or acted,
forgot that there was or had ever been a terrible old woman who lived
in Tavistock Square and whose hold on life was maintained by her
horrible mimicry of youth. And then, in a moment, she was lifted out of
her dream and cruelly set down on the hard, unsympathetic earth by the
sound of her lover's voice.

"I suppose I'll have to meet your aunt?" he was saying. "Shall we go
back there now, and tell her?"

Rachel flushed, as if he had suggested some startling invasion of her
secret life. "Oh! no," she ejaculated impulsively.

Adrian looked his surprise. "But why not?" he asked. "I'm--I'm a
perfectly respectable, eligible party."

"I wasn't thinking of that," Rachel said.

"Is she a terrible dragon?" he inquired with a smile.

Rachel shook her head, rejecting the excuse offered in favour of a more
probable modification. "She's odd rather. She might prefer my giving
her some kind of notice," she said.

He accepted that without hesitation. "Will you warn her then?" he
replied. "And I'll come and do my duty to-morrow. I understand she's a
lady to be propitiated."

"Not to-morrow," Rachel said.

The irk and disgust of it all had returned to her with renewed force at
the first mention of her aunt's name. The thought of Miss Deane had
revived the repulsive sense of acting, speaking, looking like that aged
caricature of herself. Yet she wanted strangely enough, to get back to
Tavistock Square; for only there, it seemed to her, was she safe from
the examination of an inquisitive stare that might at any moment
penetrate her secret and reveal her as a posturing hag masquerading in
the alluring freshness of a young girl.

"I ought to be going back to her now," she said.

"But you promised that we should have tea together," Adrian
remonstrated.

"Yes, I know; but please don't pester me. I'll see you again
to-morrow," Rachel returned with a touch of elderly hauteur. And,
despite all his entreaties, she would not be persuaded to change her
mind. Already he was looking at her with a touch of suspicion, she
thought; and as she checked his remonstrances, she was aware of doing
it with the air, the tone, the very look that were her inheritance from
endless generations of precisely similar ancestors.

IV

If she could but have lived a double life, Rachel thought, her present
position might have been endurable, and then, in a few months or even
weeks, the problem would be solved for ever by her marriage with Adrian
and the final obliteration of Miss Deane from her memory. But she could
not live a double life. Day by day, as her intimacy with her aunt
increased, Rachel found it more difficult to forget her when she was
away from Tavistock Square. In the deepest and most beautiful moments
of her intercourse with Adrian, she was aware now of practising upon
him a subtle deception, of pretending that she was other than she was
in reality--an awareness that was constantly pricked and stimulated by
the continually growing consciousness of her likeness to Miss Deane.

Miss Deane on her part evidently took a great pleasure in her niece's
society. The fortnight of her original invitation had already been
exceeded, but she would not hear of Rachel's return to Devonshire.

"Why should you go back?" she demanded scornfully. "Your father doesn't
want you--Richard is one of those slip-shod people who prefer to live
alone. I used to try to stir him up, and he ran away from me. He'll run
away from you, my dear, in a few years' time. He hasn't the courage to
stand up to women like us."

Miss Deane unquestionably wanted her niece to stay with her. She was
even beginning to hint at the desirability of making the present
arrangement a permanent one.

Rachel, however, was not flattered by this display of pleasure in her
society. She knew that it was due to no individual charm of her own,
but to the fact that she had become her aunt's mirror. For Miss Deane
no longer, in Rachel's presence at least, gazed at herself in the
looking-glass; she gazed at her niece instead. And as Rachel endured
the posings and simperings, the alternate adoration and fond contempt
with which her aunt regarded her, she was unable to resist the impulse
to reflect them. Every day she fell a little lower in that weakness,
and however slight the likeness had once been, she knew that now it
must be patent to every observer. She copied her aunt, mimicked,
duplicated her. It was easier to do that than fight the resemblance,
against her aunt's determination; and so, by unnoticed degrees, she had
permitted herself to become a lay figure upon which was dressed the
image of Miss Deane's youth. She had even come to desire the look of
almost sensual gratification on her aunt's face when she saw her niece
so perfectly reflecting her own well-remembered airs.

And Rachel, too, had come to avoid the looking-glass, dreading to see
there the poses and gesticulations of the old, repulsive woman whose
every feature and expression had become so sickeningly familiar.

And, in all that time, Adrian had not once been to the house in
Tavistock Square. Rachel had kept him away by what she felt had become
all too transparent excuses. That terror, at least, she felt must be
kept at bay. For she could not conceive it possible that, once he had
seen her and her aunt together, he could retain one spark of his
admiration. He would, he must, see her then as she was, see that her
contemptible vanity was the essential enduring thing, all that would
remain when time had stripped her of youth's allurement.

Nevertheless, the day came when Rachel could no longer endure to
deceive him. He had challenged her, at last, with hiding something from
him. Inevitably, he had become increasingly curious about her strange
reticences concerning the Miss Deane whom he, in turn, had grown to
regard as almost mythical; and all his suppressed suspicions had
suddenly found expression in a question.

"What are you hiding? Do you really live with your aunt in Tavistock
Square?" he had asked that day, with all the fierce intensity of a
jealous lover.

Rachel had been stirred to a quick response. "Oh, if you don't believe
me, you'd better come and see for yourself," she had said. "Come this
afternoon--to tea." And afterwards, even when Adrian had humbly sought
to make amends for his unwarrantable jealousy, she had stuck to that
invitation. The moment that she had issued it, she had had a sense of
relief, a sense of having gratefully confessed her weakness. Adrian's
visit would consummate that confession, and thereafter she would have
no further secrets from him. And if he found that he could no longer
love her after he had seen her as she was, well, it would be better in
the end than that he should marry a simulacrum and make the discovery
by slow degrees.

"Yes, come this afternoon. We'll expect you about four" had been her
last words to him. And, now, she had to tell her aunt, who was still
unaware that such a person as Adrian Flemming existed. Rachel postponed
the telling until after lunch. Her knowledge of Miss Deane, though in
some respects it equalled her knowledge of her own mind, did not tell
her how her aunt would take this particular piece of news. She might
possibly, Rachel thought, be annoyed, fearful lest her beloved
looking-glass should be stolen from her. But she could wait no longer.
In half an hour Miss Deane would go upstairs to rest, and Adrian
himself would be in the house before she appeared again.

"I've something to tell you, aunt," Rachel began abruptly.

Miss Deane put up her lorgnette and surveyed her lovely portrait with
an interested air.

"Aunt--I've never told you and I know I ought to have," Rachel blurted
out. "But I'm--I'm engaged to a Mr. Adrian Flemming, and he's coming
here to call on you--to call on us, this afternoon at four o'clock."

Miss Deane closed her eyes and gave a little sigh.

"You might have given me _rather_ longer notice, dear," she said.

"It isn't two yet," Rachel replied. "There are more than two hours to
get ready for him."

Miss Deane bridled slightly. "I must have my rest before he comes," she
said, and added: "I suppose you've told him about us, dear?"

"About _you_?" Rachel asked.

Miss Deane nodded, complacently.

"Well, not very much," Rachel admitted.

Miss Dean's look, as she playfully threatened Rachel with her
long-handled lorgnette, was distinctly sly.

"Then he doesn't know yet that there are two of us?" she simpered.
"Won't it be just a little bit of a shock to him, my dear?"

Rachel drew a long breath and leaned back in her chair. "Yes," she said
curtly, "I expect it will."

Never before had the realisation of that strange likeness seemed so
intolerable as at that moment. Even now her aunt was looking at her
with the very air and gesture which had once charmed her in her own
reflection, and that she knew still charmed and fascinated her lover.
It was an air and gesture of which she could never break herself. It
was natural to her, a true expression of something ineradicable in her
being. Indeed, one of the worst penalties imposed upon her during the
past month had been the omission of those pleasant ceremonies before
the mirror. She had somehow missed herself, lost the sweetest and most
adorable of companions!

Miss Deane got up, and holding herself very erect, moved with a little
mincing step towards the tall mirror over the console table. Rachel
held her breath. She saw that her aunt, suddenly aroused by this
thought of the coming lover, was returning mechanically to her old
habit of self-admiration. Was it possible, Rachel wondered, that the
sight of the image she would see in the looking-glass, contrasted now
with the memories of the living reflection she had so intimately
studied for the past four weeks, might shock her into a realisation of
the starkly hideous truth?

But it seemed that the aged woman must be blind. She gave no start of
surprise as she paused before the glass; she showed no sign of anxiety
concerning the vision she saw there. Her left hand, in which she held
her lorgnette, had fallen to her side, and with the finger-tips of her
right she daintily caressed the hollows of her sunken cheeks. She
stayed there until Rachel, unable to endure the sight any longer, and
with some vague purpose of defiance in her mind, jumped to her feet,
crossed the room and stood shoulder by shoulder with her aunt staring
into the glass.

For a moment Miss Deane did not move; then, with a queer hesitation,
she dropped her right hand and slowly lifted her lorgnette.

Rachel felt a cold chill of horror invading her. Something fearful and
terrible was happening before her eyes; her aunt was shrinking,
withering, growing old in a moment. The stiffness had gone out of her
pose, her head had begun to droop; the proud contempt in her face was
giving way to the moping, resentful reminiscence of the aged. She still
held up her lorgnette, still stared half fearfully at the glaring
contrast that was presented to her, but her hand and arm had begun to
tremble under the strain, and, instant by, instant, all life and vigour
seemed to be draining away from her.

Then, suddenly, with a fierce effort she turned away her head,
straightened herself, and walked over to the door, passing out with a
high, thin cackle of laughter that had in it the suggestion of a
vehement, petulant derision; of a bitterness outmastering control.

Rachel shivered, but held her ground before the mirror. She had nothing
to fear from that contemplation. As for her aunt, she had had her day.
It was time she knew the truth.

"She _had_ to know," Rachel repeated, addressing the dear likeness that
so proudly reflected her.

V

She found consolation in that thought. Her aunt _had_ to know and
Rachel herself was only the chance instrument of the revelation. She
had not _meant_, so she persisted, to do more than vindicate her own
integrity.

Nevertheless, her own passionate problem was not yet solved. Her aunt
would not, so Rachel believed, give way without a struggle. Had she not
made a gallant effort at recovery even as she left the room, and would
she not make a still greater effort while Adrian was there; assert her
rivalry if only in revenge?

She must meet that, Rachel decided, by presenting a contrast. She would
be meek and humble in her aunt's presence. Adrian might recognise the
admired airs and gestures in those of the old woman, but he should at
least have no opportunity to compare them....

And it was with this thought and intention in her mind that Rachel
received him, when he arrived with a lover's promptness a little before
four o'clock.

"Are you so dreadfully nervous?" he asked her, when they were alone
together in the drawing-room. "You're like you were the first day we
met in town--different from your usual self."

"Oh! What a memory you have for my looks and behaviour," she replied
pettishly. "Of course, I'm nervous."

He tried to argue with her, questioning her as to Miss Deane's probable
reception of him, but she refused to answer. "You'll see for yourself
in a few minutes," she said; but the minutes passed and still Miss
Deane did not come.

At a quarter to five the elderly parlour-maid brought in tea. "Miss
Deane said you were not to wait for her, Miss Rachel," was the message
she delivered. "She'll be down presently, I was to say."

Rachel could not suppress a scornful twist of her mouth. She had no
doubt that her aunt was taking very special pains with her toilet;
trying to obliterate, perhaps, her recent vision before the console
glass. Rachel saw her entrance in imagination, stiff-necked and proud,
defying the criticisms of youth and the suggestions of age.

"Oh! why doesn't she come and let me get it over?" she passionately
demanded, and even as she spoke she heard the sounds of some one coming
down the stairs, not the accustomed sounds of her aunt's finicking,
high-heeled steps, but a shuffling and creaking, accompanied by the
murmurs of a weak, protesting voice.

Rachel jumped to her feet. She knew everything then--before the door
opened, and she saw first of all the shocked, scared face of the
elderly parlour-maid who supported the crumpled, palsied figure of the
old, old woman who, three hours before, had been so miraculously young,
magically upheld and supported then by the omnipotent strength of an
idea.

She only stayed in the drawing-room for five minutes; a querulous,
resentful old lady, malignantly jealous, so it seemed, of their vigour
and impatient of their sympathy.

When the parlour-maid had been sent for and Miss Deane had gone, Rachel
stood up and looked down at Adrian with all her old hauteur.

"Can you realise," she asked, "that once my aunt was supposed to be
very, very like me?"

He smiled and shook his head, as if the possibility was too absurd to
contemplate.

Rachel turned and looked at herself in the glass, raising her chin and
slightly pursing her lips, staring superciliously at her own image
under half-lowered eyelids.

"Some day I may be as she is now," she said, with the superb
contemptuous arrogance of youth.

Adrian was watching her with adoration. "You will never grow old," he
said.

"So long as one does not get the idea of growing old into one's head,"
Rachel began speculatively....

      *       *       *       *       *

But Miss Deane had got the idea so strongly now that she died that
night.

Rachel was with her at the last.

The old woman was trying to mouth a text from the Bible.

"What did you say, dear?" Rachel murmured, bending over her, and caught
enough of the answer to guess that Miss Deane was mumbling again and
again: "Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face."



THE OLIVE

By ALGERNON BLACKWOOD

(From _Pearson's Magazine_, London)

1922


He laughed involuntarily as the olive rolled towards his chair across
the shiny parquet floor of the hotel dining-room.

His table in the cavernous _salle à manger_ was apart: he sat alone, a
solitary guest; the table from which the olive fell and rolled towards
him was some distance away. The angle, however, made him an unlikely
objective. Yet the lob-sided, juicy thing, after hesitating once or
twice _en route_ as it plopped along, came to rest finally against his
feet.

It settled with an inviting, almost an aggressive air. And he stooped
and picked it up, putting it rather self-consciously, because of the
girl from whose table it had come, on the white tablecloth beside his
plate.

Then, looking up, he caught her eye, and saw that she too was laughing,
though not a bit self-consciously. As she helped herself to the _hors
d'oeuvres_ a false move had sent it flying. She watched him pick the
olive up and set it beside his plate. Her eyes then suddenly looked
away again--at her mother--questioningly.

The incident was closed. But the little oblong, succulent olive lay
beside his plate, so that his fingers played with it. He fingered it
automatically from time to time until his lonely meal was finished.

When no one was looking he slipped it into his pocket, as though,
having taken the trouble to pick it up, this was the very least he
could do with it. Heaven alone knows why, but he then took it upstairs
with him, setting it on the marble mantelpiece among his field glasses,
tobacco tins, ink-bottles, pipes and candlestick. At any rate, he kept
it--the moist, shiny, lob-sided, juicy little oblong olive. The hotel
lounge wearied him; he came to his room after dinner to smoke at his
ease, his coat off and his feet on a chair; to read another chapter of
Freud, to write a letter or two he didn't in the least want to write,
and then go to bed at ten o'clock. But this evening the olive kept
rolling between him and the thing he read; it rolled between the
paragraphs, between the lines; the olive was more vital than the
interest of these eternal "complexes" and "suppressed desires."

The truth was that he kept seeing the eyes of the laughing girl beyond
the bouncing olive. She had smiled at him in such a natural,
spontaneous, friendly way before her mother's glance had checked her--a
smile, he felt, that might lead to acquaintance on the morrow.

He wondered! A thrill of possible adventure ran through him.

She was a merry-looking sort of girl, with a happy, half-roguish face
that seemed on the lookout for somebody to play with. Her mother, like
most of the people in the big hotel, was an invalid; the girl, a
dutiful and patient daughter. They had arrived that very day
apparently. A laugh is a revealing thing, he thought as he fell asleep
to dream of a lob-sided olive rolling consciously towards him, and of a
girl's eyes that watched its awkward movements, then looked up into his
own and laughed. In his dream the olive had been deliberately and
cleverly dispatched upon its uncertain journey. It was a message.

He did not know, of course, that the mother, chiding her daughter's
awkwardness, had muttered:

"There you are again, child! True to your name, you never see an olive
without doing something queer and odd with it!"

A youngish man, whose knowledge of chemistry, including invisible inks
and such-like mysteries, had proved so valuable to the Censor's
Department that for five years he had overworked without a holiday, the
Italian Riviera had attracted him, and he had come out for a two
months' rest. It was his first visit. Sun, mimosa, blue seas and
brilliant skies had tempted him; exchange made a pound worth forty,
fifty, sixty and seventy shillings. He found the place lovely, but
somewhat untenanted.

Having chosen at random, he had come to a spot where the companionship
he hoped to find did not exist. The place languished after the war,
slow to recover; the colony of resident English was scattered still;
travellers preferred the coast of France with Mentone and Monte Carlo
to enliven them. The country, moreover, was distracted by strikes. The
electric light failed one week, letters the next, and as soon as the
electricians and postal-workers resumed, the railways stopped running.
Few visitors came, and the few who came soon left.

He stayed on, however, caught by the sunshine and the good exchange,
also without the physical energy to discover a better, livelier place.
He went for walks among the olive groves, he sat beside the sea and
palms, he visited shops and bought things he did not want because the
exchange made them seem cheap, he paid immense "extras" in his weekly
bill, then chuckled as he reduced them to shillings and found that a
few pence covered them; he lay with a book for hours among the olive
groves.

The olive groves! His daily life could not escape the olive groves; to
olive groves, sooner or later, his walks, his expeditions, his
meanderings by the sea, his shopping--all led him to these ubiquitous
olive groves.

If he bought a picture postcard to send home, there was sure to be an
olive grove in one corner of it. The whole place was smothered with
olive groves, the people owed their incomes and existence to these
irrepressible trees. The villages among the hills swam roof-deep in
them. They swarmed even in the hotel gardens.

The guide books praised them as persistently as the residents brought
them, sooner or later, into every conversation. They grew lyrical over
them:

"And how do you like our olive trees? Ah, you think them pretty. At
first, most people are disappointed. They grow on one."

"They do," he agreed.

"I'm glad you appreciate them. I find them the embodiment of grace. And
when the wind lifts the under-leaves across a whole mountain
slope--why, it's wonderful, isn't it? One realises the meaning of
'olive-green'."

"One does," he sighed. "But all the same I should like to get one to
eat--an olive, I mean."

"Ah, to eat, yes. That's not so easy. You see, the crop is--"

"Exactly," he interrupted impatiently, weary of the habitual and
evasive explanations. "But I should like to taste the _fruit_. I should
like to enjoy one."

For, after a stay of six weeks, he had never once seen an olive on the
table, in the shops, nor even on the street barrows at the market
place. He had never tasted one. No one sold olives, though olive trees
were a drug in the place; no one bought them, no one asked for them; it
seemed that no one wanted them. The trees, when he looked closely, were
thick with a dark little berry that seemed more like a sour sloe than
the succulent, delicious spicy fruit associated with its name.

Men climbed the trunks, everywhere shaking the laden branches and
hitting them with long bamboo poles to knock the fruit off, while women
and children, squatting on their haunches, spent laborious hours
filling baskets underneath, then loading mules and donkeys with their
daily "catch." But an olive to eat was unobtainable. He had never cared
for olives, but now he craved with all his soul to feel his teeth in
one.

"Ach! But it is the Spanish olive that you _eat_," explained the head
waiter, a German "from Basel." "These are for oil only." After which he
disliked the olive more than ever--until that night when he saw the
first eatable specimen rolling across the shiny parquet floor,
propelled towards him by the careless hand of a pretty girl, who then
looked up into his eyes and smiled.

He was convinced that Eve, similarly, had rolled the apple towards Adam
across the emerald sward of the first garden in the world.

He slept usually like the dead. It must have been something very real
that made him open his eyes and sit up in bed alertly. There was a
noise against his door. He listened. The room was still quite dark. It
was early morning. The noise was not repeated.

"Who's there?" he asked in a sleepy whisper. "What is it?"

The noise came again. Some one was scratching on the door. No, it was
somebody tapping.

"What do you want?" he demanded in a louder voice. "Come in," he added,
wondering sleepily whether he was presentable. Either the hotel was on
fire or the porter was waking the wrong person for some sunrise
expedition.

Nothing happened. Wide awake now, he turned the switch on, but no light
flooded the room. The electricians, he remembered with a curse, were
out on strike. He fumbled for the matches, and as he did so a voice in
the corridor became distinctly audible. It was just outside his door.

"Aren't you ready?" he heard. "You sleep for ever."

And the voice, although never having heard it before, he could not have
recognised it, belonged, he knew suddenly, to the girl who had let the
olive fall. In an instant he was out of bed. He lit a candle.

"I'm coming," he called softly, as he slipped rapidly into some
clothes. "I'm sorry I've kept you. I shan't be a minute."

"Be quick then!" he heard, while the candle flame slowly grew, and he
found his garments. Less than three minutes later he opened the door
and, candle in hand, peered into the dark passage.

"Blow it out!" came a peremptory whisper. He obeyed, but not quick
enough. A pair of red lips emerged from the shadows. There was a puff,
and the candle was extinguished. "I've got my reputation to consider.
We mustn't be seen, of course!"

The face vanished in the darkness, but he had recognised it--the
shining skin, the bright glancing eyes. The sweet breath touched his
cheek. The candlestick was taken from him by a swift, deft movement. He
heard it knock the wainscoting as it was set down. He went out into a
pitch-black corridor, where a soft hand seized his own and led him--by
a back door, it seemed--out into the open air of the hill-side
immediately behind the hotel.

He saw the stars. The morning was cool and fragrant, the sharp air
waked him, and the last vestiges of sleep went flying. He had been
drowsy and confused, had obeyed the summons without thinking. He now
realised suddenly that he was engaged in an act of madness.

The girl, dressed in some flimsy material thrown loosely about her head
and body, stood a few feet away, looking, he thought, like some figure
called out of dreams and slumber of a forgotten world, out of legend
almost. He saw her evening shoes peep out; he divined an evening dress
beneath the gauzy covering. The light wind blew it close against her
figure. He thought of a nymph.

"I say--but haven't you been to bed?" he asked stupidly. He had meant
to expostulate, to apologise for his foolish rashness, to scold and say
they must go back at once. Instead, this sentence came. He guessed she
had been sitting up all night. He stood still a second, staring in mute
admiration, his eyes full of bewildered question.

"Watching the stars," she met his thought with a happy laugh. "Orion
has touched the horizon. I came for you at once. We've got just four
hours!" The voice, the smile, the eyes, the reference to Orion, swept
him off his feet. Something in him broke loose, and flew wildly,
recklessly to the stars.

"Let us be off!" he cried, "before the Bear tilts down. Already Alcyone
begins to fade. I'm ready. Come!"

She laughed. The wind blew the gauze aside to show two ivory white
limbs. She caught his hand again, and they scampered together up the
steep hill-side towards the woods. Soon the big hotel, the villas, the
white houses of the little town where natives and visitors still lay
soundly sleeping, were out of sight. The farther sky came down to meet
them. The stars were paling, but no sign of actual dawn was yet
visible. The freshness stung their cheeks.

Slowly, the heavens grew lighter, the east turned rose, the outline of
the trees defined themselves, there was a stirring of the silvery green
leaves. They were among olive groves--but the spirits of the trees were
dancing. Far below them, a pool of deep colour, they saw the ancient
sea. They saw the tiny specks of distant fishing-boats. The sailors
were singing to the dawn, and birds among the mimosa of the hanging
gardens answered them.

Pausing a moment at length beneath a gaunt old tree, whose struggle to
leave the clinging earth had tortured its great writhing arms and
trunk, they took their breath, gazing at one another with eyes full of
happy dreams.

"You understood so quickly," said the girl, "my little message. I knew
by your eyes and ears you would." And she first tweaked his ears with
two slender fingers mischievously, then laid her soft palm with a
momentary light pressure on both eyes.

"You're half-and-half, at any rate," she added, looking him up and down
for a swift instant of appraisement, "if you're not altogether." The
laughter showed her white, even little teeth.

"You know how to play, and that's something," she added. Then, as if to
herself, "You'll be altogether before I've done with you."

"Shall I?" he stammered, afraid to look at her.

Puzzled, some spirit of compromise still lingering in him, he knew not
what she meant; he knew only that the current of life flowed
increasingly through his veins, but that her eyes confused him.

"I'm longing for it," he added. "How wonderfully you did it! They roll
so awkwardly----"

"Oh, that!" She peered at him through a wisp of hair. "You've kept it,
I hope."

"Rather. It's on my mantelpiece----"

"You're sure you haven't eaten it?" and she made a delicious mimicry
with her red lips, so that he saw the tip of a small pointed tongue.

"I shall keep it," he swore, "as long as these arms have life in them,"
and he seized her just as she was crouching to escape, and covered her
with kisses.

"I knew you longed to play," she panted, when he released her. "Still,
it was sweet of you to pick it up before another got it."

"Another!" he exclaimed.

"The gods decide. It's a lob-sided thing, remember. It can't roll
straight." She looked oddly mischievous, elusive.

He stared at her.

"If it had rolled elsewhere--and another had picked it up----?" he
began.

"I should be with that other now!" And this time she was off and away
before he could prevent her, and the sound of her silvery laughter
mocked him among the olive trees beyond. He was up and after her in a
second, following her slim whiteness in and out of the old-world grove,
as she flitted lightly, her hair flying in the wind, her figure
flashing like a ray of sunlight or the race of foaming water--till at
last he caught her and drew her down upon his knees, and kissed her
wildly, forgetting who and where and what he was.

"Hark!" she whispered breathlessly, one arm close about his neck. "I
hear their footsteps. Listen! It is the pipe!"

"The pipe----!" he repeated, conscious of a tiny but delicious shudder.

For a sudden chill ran through him as she said it. He gazed at her. The
hair fell loose about her cheeks, flushed and rosy with his hot kisses.
Her eyes were bright and wild for all their softness. Her face, turned
sideways to him as she listened, wore an extraordinary look that for an
instant made his blood run cold. He saw the parted lips, the small
white teeth, the slim neck of ivory, the young bosom panting from his
tempestuous embrace. Of an unearthly loveliness and brightness she
seemed to him, yet with this strange, remote expression that touched
his soul with sudden terror.

Her face turned slowly.

"Who _are_ you?" he whispered. He sprang to his feet without waiting
for her answer.

He was young and agile; strong, too, with that quick response of muscle
they have who keep their bodies well; but he was no match for her. Her
speed and agility out-classed his own with ease. She leapt. Before he
had moved one leg forward towards escape, she was clinging with soft,
supple arms and limbs about him, so that he could not free himself, and
as her weight bore him downwards to the ground, her lips found his own
and kissed them into silence. She lay buried again in his embrace, her
hair across his eyes, her heart against his heart, and he forgot his
question, forgot his little fear, forgot the very world he knew....

"They come, they come," she cried gaily. "The Dawn is here. Are you
ready?"

"I've been ready for five thousand years," he answered, leaping to his
feet beside her.

"Altogether!" came upon a sparkling laugh that was like wind among the
olive leaves.

Shaking her last gauzy covering from her, she snatched his hand, and
they ran forward together to join the dancing throng now crowding up
the slope beneath the trees. Their happy singing filled the sky. Decked
with vine and ivy, and trailing silvery green branches, they poured in
a flood of radiant life along the mountain side. Slowly they melted
away into the blue distance of the breaking dawn, and, as the last
figure disappeared, the sun came up slowly out of a purple sea.

They came to the place he knew--the deserted earthquake village--and a
faint memory stirred in him. He did not actually recall that he had
visited it already, had eaten his sandwiches with "hotel friends"
beneath its crumbling walls; but there was a dim troubling sense of
familiarity--nothing more. The houses still stood, but pigeons lived in
them, and weasels, stoats and snakes had their uncertain homes in
ancient bedrooms. Not twenty years ago the peasants thronged its narrow
streets, through which the dawn now peered and cool wind breathed among
dew-laden brambles.

"I know the house," she cried, "the house where we would live!" and
raced, a flying form of air and sunlight, into a tumbled cottage that
had no roof, no floor or windows. Wild bees had hung a nest against the
broken wall.

He followed her. There was sunlight in the room, and there were
flowers. Upon a rude, simple table lay a bowl of cream, with eggs and
honey and butter close against a home-made loaf. They sank into each
other's arms upon a couch of fragrant grass and boughs against the
window where wild roses bloomed ... and the bees flew in and out.

It was Bussana, the so-called earthquake village, because a sudden
earthquake had fallen on it one summer morning when all the inhabitants
were at church. The crashing roof killed sixty, the tumbling walls
another hundred, and the rest had left it where it stood.

"The Church," he said, vaguely remembering the story. "They were at
prayer----"

The girl laughed carelessly in his ear, setting his blood in a rush and
quiver of delicious joy. He felt himself untamed, wild as the wind and
animals. "The true God claimed His own," she whispered. "He came back.
Ah, they were not ready--the old priests had seen to that. But he came.
They heard his music. Then his tread shook the olive groves, the old
ground danced, the hills leapt for joy----"

"And the houses crumbled," he laughed as he pressed her closer to his
heart--

"And now we've come back!" she cried merrily. "We've come back to
worship and be glad!" She nestled into him, while the sun rose higher.

"I hear them--hark!" she cried, and again leapt, dancing from his side.
Again he followed her like wind. Through the broken window they saw the
naked fauns and nymphs and satyrs rolling, dancing, shaking their soft
hoofs amid the ferns and brambles. Towards the appalling, ruptured
church they sped with feet of light and air. A roar of happy song and
laughter rose.

"Come!" he cried. "We must go too."

Hand in hand they raced to join the tumbling, dancing throng. She was
in his arms and on his back and flung across his shoulders, as he ran.
They reached the broken building, its whole roof gone sliding years
ago, its walls a-tremble still, its shattered shrines alive with
nesting birds.

"Hush!" she whispered in a tone of awe, yet pleasure. "He is there!"
She pointed, her bare arm outstretched above the bending heads.

There, in the empty space, where once stood sacred Host and Cup, he
sat, filling the niche sublimely and with awful power. His shaggy form,
benign yet terrible, rose through the broken stone. The great eyes
shone and smiled. The feet were lost in brambles.

"God!" cried a wild, frightened voice yet with deep worship in it--and
the old familiar panic came with portentous swiftness. The great Figure
rose.

The birds flew screaming, the animals sought holes, the worshippers,
laughing and glad a moment ago, rushed tumbling over one another for
the doors.

"He goes again! Who called? Who called like that? His feet shake the
ground!"

"It is the earthquake!" screamed a woman's shrill accents in ghastly
terror.

"Kiss me--one kiss before we forget again...!" sighed a laughing,
passionate voice against his ear. "Once more your arms, your heart
beating on my lips...! You recognised his power. You are now
altogether! We shall remember!"

But he woke, with the heavy bed-clothes stuffed against his mouth and
the wind of early morning sighing mournfully about the hotel walls.

      *       *       *       *       *

"Have they left again--those ladies?" he inquired casually of the head
waiter, pointing to the table. "They were here last night at dinner."

"Who do you mean?" replied the man, stupidly, gazing at the spot
indicated with a face quite blank. "Last night--at dinner?" He tried to
think.

"An English lady, elderly, with--her daughter----" at which moment
precisely the girl came in alone. Lunch was over, the room empty.
There was a second's difficult pause. It seemed ridiculous not to
speak. Their eyes met. The girl blushed furiously.

He was very quick for an Englishman. "I was allowing myself to ask
after your mother," he began. "I was afraid"--he glanced at the table
laid for one--"she was not well, perhaps?"

"Oh, but that's very kind of you, I'm sure." She smiled. He saw the
small white even teeth....

And before three days had passed, he was so deeply in love that he
simply couldn't help himself.

"I believe," he said lamely, "this is yours. You dropped it, you know.
Er--may I keep it? It's only an olive."

They were, of course, in an olive grove when he asked it, and the sun
was setting.

She looked at him, looked him up and down, looked at his ears, his
eyes. He felt that in another second her little fingers would slip up
and tweak the first, or close the second with a soft pressure----

"Tell me," he begged: "did you dream anything--that first night I saw
you?"

She took a quick step backwards. "No," she said, as he followed her
more quickly still, "I don't think I did. But," she went on
breathlessly as he caught her up, "I knew--from the way you picked it
up----"

"Knew what?" he demanded, holding her tightly so that she could not get
away again.

"That you were already half and half, but would soon be altogether."

And, as he kissed her, he felt her soft little fingers tweak his ears.



ONCE A HERO

By HAROLD BRIGHOUSE

(From _Pan_)

1922


Standing in a sheltered doorway a tramp, with a slouch hat crammed low
over a notably unwashed face, watched the outside of the new works
canteen of the Sir William Rumbold Ltd., Engineering Company. Perhaps
because they were workers while he was a tramp, he had an air of
compassionate cynicism as the audience assembled and thronged into the
building, which, as prodigally advertised throughout Calderside, was to
be opened that night by Sir William in person.

There being no one to observe him, the tramp could be frank with his
cynicism; but inside the building, in the platform ante-room, Mr.
Edward Fosdike, who was Sir William's locally resident secretary, had
to discipline his private feelings to a suave concurrence in his
employer's florid enthusiasm. Fosdike served Sir William well, but no
man is a hero to his (male) secretary.

"I hope you will find the arrangements satisfactory," Fosdike was
saying, tugging nervously at his maltreated moustache. "You speak at
seven and declare the canteen open. Then there's a meal." He hesitated.
"Perhaps I should have warned you to dine before you came."

Sir William was aware of being a very gallant gentleman. "Not at all,"
he said heroically, "not at all. I have not spared my purse over this
War Memorial. Why should I spare my feelings? Well, now, you've seen
about the Press?"

"Oh, yes. The reporters are coming. There'll be flash-light
photographs. Everything quite as usual when you make a public
appearance, sir."

Sir William wondered if this resident secretary of his were quite
adequate. Busy in London, he had left all arrangements in his local
factotum's hands, and he was doubting whether those hands had grasped
the situation competently. "Only as usual?" he said sharply. "This War
Memorial has cost me ten thousand pounds."

"The amount," Fosdike hastened to assure him, "has been circulated,
with appropriate tribute to your generosity."

"Generosity," criticised Rumbold. "I hope you didn't use that word."

Mr. Fosdike referred to his notebook. "We said," he read, "'the cost,
though amounting to ten thousand pounds, is entirely beside the point.
Sir William felt that no expense was excessive that would result in a
fitting and permanent expression of our gratitude to the glorious
dead.'"

"Thank you, Fosdike. That is exactly my feeling," said the gratified
Sir William, paying Fosdike the unspoken compliment of thinking him
less of a fool than he looked. "It is," he went on, "from no egotistic
motive that I wish the Press to be strongly represented to-night. I
believe that in deciding that Calderside's War Memorial should take the
form of a Works Canteen, I am setting an example of enlightenment which
other employers would do well to follow. I have erected a monument, not
in stone, but in goodwill, a club-house for both sexes to serve as a
centre of social activities for the firm's employees, wherein the great
spirit of the noble work carried out at the Front by by the Y.M.C.A.
will be recaptured and adapted to peace conditions in our local
organisation in the Martlow Works Canteen. What are you taking notes
for?"

"I thought----" began Fosdike.

"Oh, well, perhaps you are right. Reporters have been known to miss
one's point, and a little first aid, eh? By the way, I sent you some
notes from town of what I intended to say in my speech. I just sent
them ahead in case there was any local point I'd got wrong."

He put it as a question, but actually it was an assertion and a
challenge. It asserted that by no possible chance could there be
anything injudicious in the proposed speech, and it challenged Fosdike
to deny that assertion if he dared.

And Fosdike had to dare; he had to accuse himself of assuming too
easily that Rumbold's memory of local Calderside detail was as fresh as
the memory of the man on the spot.

"I did want to suggest a modification, sir," he hazarded timidly.

"Really?"--quite below zero--"Really? I felt very contented with the
speech."

"Yes, sir, it's masterly. But on the spot here----"

"Oh, agreed. Quite right, Fosdike. I am speaking to-night to the
world--no; let me guard against exaggeration. The world includes the
Polynesians and Esquimaux--I am speaking to the English-speaking races
of the world, but first and foremost to Calderside. My own people. Yes?
You have a little something to suggest? Some happy local allusion?"

"It's about Martlow," said Fosdike shortly.

Sir William took him up. "Ah, now you're talking," he approved. "Yes,
indeed, anything you can add to my notes about Martlow will be most
welcome. I have noted much, but too much is not enough for such an
illustrious example of conspicuous gallantry, so noble a life, so great
a deed, and so self-sacrificing an end. Any details you can add about
Timothy Martlow will indeed----"

Fosdike coughed. "Excuse me, sir, that's just the point. If you talk
like that about Martlow down here, they'll laugh at you."

"Laugh?" gasped Rumbold, his sense of propriety outraged. "My dear
Fosdike, what's come to you? I celebrate a hero. Our hero. Why, I'm
calling the Canteen after Martlow when I might have given it my own
name. That speaks volumes." It did.

But Fosdike knew too well what would be the attitude of a Calderside
audience if he allowed his chief to sing in top-notes an unreserved
eulogy of Tim Martlow. Calderside knew Tim, the civilian, if it had
also heard of Tim, the soldier. "Don't you remember Martlow, sir?
Before the war, I mean."

"No. Ought I to?"

"Not on the bench?"

"Martlow? Yes, now I think of the name in connection with the old days,
there was a drunken fellow. To be sure, an awful blackguard,
continually before the bench. Dear me! Well, well, but a man is not
responsible for his undesirable relations, I hope."

"No, sir. But that was Martlow. The same man. You really can't speak to
Calderside of his as an ennobling life and a great example. The war
changed him, but--well, in peace, Tim was absolutely the local bad man,
and they all know it. I thought you did, or----"

Sir William turned a face expressive of awe-struck wonder. "Fosdike,"
he said with deep sincerity, "this is the most amazing thing I've heard
of the war. I never connected Martlow the hero with--well, well _de
mortuis_." He quoted:

  "'Nothing in his life
  Became him like the leaving it; he died
  As one that had been studied in his death
  To throw away the dearest thing he owed
  As 'there a careless trifle.'

"Appropriate, I think? I shall use that."

It was, at least, a magnificent recovery from an unexpected blow,
administered by the very man whose duty it was to guard Sir William
against just that sort of blow. If Fosdike was not the local watch-dog,
he was nothing; and here was an occasion when the dog had omitted to
bark until the last minute of the eleventh hour.

"Very apt quotation, sir, though there have never been any exact
details of Martlow's death."

Sir William meditated. "Do you recall the name of the saint who was a
regular rip before he got religion?" he asked.

"I think that applies to most of them," said Fosdike.

"Yes, but the one in particular. Francis. That's it." He filled his
chest. "Timothy Martlow," he pronounced impressively, "is the St.
Francis of the Great War, and this Canteen is his shrine. Now, I think
I will go into the hall. It is early, but I shall chat with the people.
Oh, one last thought. When you mentioned Martlow, I thought you were
going to tell me of some undesirable connections. There are none?"

"There is his mother. A widow. You remember the Board voted her an
addition to her pension."

"Oh, yes. And she?"

"Oh, most grateful. She will be with you on the platform. I have seen
myself that she is--fittingly attired."

"I think I can congratulate you, Fosdike," said Sir William
magnanimously. "You've managed very well. I look forward to a pleasant
evening, a widely reported speech, and--"

Then Dolly Wainwright came into the ante-room.

"If you please, sir," she said, "what's going to be done about me?"

Two gentlemen who had all but reached the smug bathos of a mutual
admiration society turned astonished eyes at the intruder.

She wore a tam, and a check blanket coat, which she unbuttoned as they
watched her. Beneath it, suitable to the occasion, was a white dress,
and Sir William, looking at it, felt a glow of tenderness for this
artless child who had blundered into the privacy of the ante-room.
Something daintily virginal in Dolly's face appealed to him; he caught
himself thinking that her frock was more than a miracle in bleached
cotton--it was moonshine shot with alabaster; and the improbability of
that combination had hardly struck him when Fosdike's voice forced
itself harshly on his ears.

"How did you get in here?"

Sir William moved to defend the girl from the anger of his secretary,
but when she said, with a certain challenge, "Through the door," he
doubted if she were so defenceless as she seemed.

"But there's a doorkeeper at the bottom," said Fosdike. "I gave him my
orders."

"I gave him my smile," said Dolly. "I won."

"Upon my word--" Fosdike began.

"Well, well," interrupted Sir William, "what can I do for you?"

The reply was indirect, but caused Sir William still further to
readjust his estimate of her.

"I've got friends in the meeting to-night," she concluded. "They'll
speak up for me, too, if I'm not righted. So I'm telling you."

"Don't threaten me, my girl," said Sir William without severity. "I am
always ready to pay attention to any legitimate grievance, but----"

"Legitimate?" she interrupted. "Well, mine's not legitimate. So there!"

"I beg your pardon?" She puzzled Sir William. "Come now," he went on in
his most patriarchal manner, "don't assume I'm not going to listen to
you. I am. To-night there is no thought in my mind except the welfare
of Calderside."

"Oh, well," she said apologetically, "I'm sorry if I riled you, but
it's a bit awkward to speak it out to a man. Only" (the unconscious
cruelty of youth--or was it conscious?) "you're both old, so perhaps I
can get through. It's about Tim Martlow."

"Ah," said Sir William encouragingly, "our glorious hero."

"Yes," said Dolly. "I'm the mother of his child."

We are all balloons dancing our lives amongst pins. Therefore, be
compassionate towards Sir William. He collapsed speechlessly on a hard
chair.

Fosdike reacted more alertly. "This is the first I've heard of
Martlow's being married," he said aggressively.

Dolly looked up at him indignantly. "You ain't heard it now, have you?"
she protested. "I said it wasn't legitimate. I don't say we'd not have
got married if there'd been time, but you can't do everything on short
leave."

There seemed an obvious retort. Rumbold and Fosdike looked at each
other, and neither made the retort. Instead, Fosdike asked: "Are you
employed in the works here?"

"I was here, on munitions," she said, "and then on doles."

"And now you're on the make," he sneered.

"Oh, I dunno," she said. "All this fuss about Tim Martlow. I ought to
have my bit out of it."

"Deplorable," grieved Sir William. "The crass materialism of it all.
This is so sad. How old are you?"

"Twenty," said Dolly. "Twenty, with a child to keep, and his father's
name up in gold lettering in that hall there. I say somebody ought to
do something."

"I suppose now, Miss----" Fosdike baulked.

"Wainwright, Dolly Wainwright, though it ought to be Martlow."

"I suppose you loved Tim very dearly?"

"I liked him well enough. He was good-looking in his khaki."

"Liked him? I'm sure it was more than that."

"Oh, I dunno. Why?" asked the girl, who said she was the mother of
Martlow's child.

"I am sure," said Fosdike gravely, "you would never do anything to
bring a stain upon his memory."

Dolly proposed a bargain. "If I'm rightly done by," she said, "I'll do
right by him."

"Anything that marred the harmony of to-night's ceremony, Miss
Wainwright, would be unthinkable," said Sir William, coming to his
lieutenant's support.

"Right," said Dolly cheerfully. "If you'll take steps according, I'm
sure I've no desire to make a scene."

"A scene," gasped Sir William.

"Though," she pointed out, "it's a lot to ask of any one, you know.
Giving up the certain chance of getting my photograph in the papers. I
make a good picture, too. Some do and some don't, but I take well and
when you know you've got the looks to carry off a scene, it's asking
something of me to give up the idea."

"But you said you'd no desire to make a scene."

"Poor girls have often got to do what they don't wish to. I wouldn't
make a scene in the usual way. Hysterics and all that. Hysterics means
cold water in your face and your dress messed up and no sympathy. But
with scenes, the greater the occasion the greater the reward, and
there's no denying this is an occasion, is there? You're making a big
to-do about Tim Martlow and the reward would be according. I don't know
if you've noticed that if a girl makes a scene and she's got the looks
for it, she gets offers of marriage, like they do in the police-court
when they've been wronged and the magistrate passes all the men's
letters on to the court missionary and the girl and the missionary go
through them and choose the likeliest fellow out of the bunch?"

"But my dear young lady----" Fosdike began.

She silenced him. "Oh, it's all right. I don't know that I want to get
married."

"Then you ought to," said Sir William virtuously.

"There's better things in life than getting married," Dolly said. "I've
weighed up marriage, and I don't see what there is in it for a girl
nowadays."

"In your case, I should have thought there was everything."

Dolly sniffed. "There isn't liberty," she said. "And we won the fight
for liberty, didn't we? No; if I made that scene it 'ud be to get my
photograph in the papers where the film people could see it. I've the
right face for the pictures, and my romantic history will do the rest."

"Good heavens, girl," cried the scandalised Sir William, "have you no
reverence at all? The pictures! You'd turn all my disinterested efforts
to ridicule. You'd--oh, but there! You're not going to make a scene?"

"That's a matter of arrangement, of course," said the cool lady. "I'm
only showing you what a big chance I shall miss if I oblige you.
Suppose I pipe up my tale of woe just when you're on the platform with
the Union Jack behind you and the reporters in front of you, and that
tablet in there that says Tim is the greatest glory of Calderside----"

Sir William nearly screamed. "Be quiet, girl. Fosdike," he snarled,
turning viciously on his secretary, "what the deuce do you mean by
pretending to keep an eye on local affairs when you miss a thing like
this?"

"'Tisn't his fault," said Dolly. "I've been saving this up for you."

"Oh," he groaned, "and I'd felt so happy about to-night." He took out a
fountain pen. "Well, I suppose there's no help for it. Fosdike, what's
the amount of the pension we allow Martlow's mother?"

"Double it, add a pound a week, and what's the answer, Mr. Fosdike?"
asked Dolly quickly.

Sir William gasped ludicrously.

"I mean to say," said Dolly, conferring on his gasp the honour of an
explanation, "she's old and didn't go on munitions, and didn't get used
to wangling income tax on her wages, and never had no ambitions to go
on the pictures, neither. What's compensation to her isn't compensation
to me. I've got a higher standard."

"The less you say about your standards, the better, my girl," retorted
Sir William. "Do you know that this is blackmail?"

"No, it isn't. Not when I ain't asked you for nothing. And if I pass
the remark how that three pounds a week is my idea of a minimum wage,
it isn't blackmail to state the fact."

Sir William paused in the act of tearing a page out of Fosdike's
note-book. "Three pounds a week!"

"Well," said Dolly reasonably, "I didn't depreciate the currency. Three
pounds a week is little enough these times for the girl who fell from
grace through the chief glory of Calderside."

"But suppose you marry," suggested Mr. Fosdike.

"Then I marry well," she said, "having means of my own. And I ought to,
seeing I'm kind of widow to the chief glory of--"

Sir William looked up sharply from the table. "If you use that phrase
again," he said, "I'll tear this paper up."

"Widow to Tim Martlow," she amended it, defiantly. He handed her the
document he had drawn up. It was an undertaking in brief, unambiguous
terms to pay her three pounds a week for life. As she read it,
exulting, the door was kicked open.

The tramp, whose name was Timothy Martlow, came in and turning, spoke
through the doorway to the janitor below. "Call out," he said, "and
I'll come back and knock you down again." Then he locked the door.

Fosdike went courageously towards him. "What do you mean by this
intrusion? Who are you?"

The tramp assured himself that his hat was well pulled down over his
face. He put his hands in his pockets and looked quizzically at the
advancing Mr. Fosdike. "So far," he said, "I'm the man that locked the
door."

Fosdike started for the second door, which led directly to the
platform. The tramp reached it first, and locked it, shouldering
Fosdike from him. "Now," he said, Sir William was searching the wall,
"are there no bells?" he asked desperately.

"No."

"No?" jeered the tramp. "No bell. No telephone. No nothing. You're
scotched without your rifle this time."

Fosdike consulted Sir William. "I might shout for the police," he
suggested.

"It's risky," commented the tramp. "They sometimes come when they're
called."

"Then----" began the secretary.

"It's your risk," emphasised the tramp. "And, I don't advise it. I've
gone to a lot of trouble this last week to keep out of sight of the
Calderside police. They'd identify me easy, and Sir William wouldn't
like that."

"I wouldn't like?" said Rumbold. "I? Who are you?"

"Wounded and missing, believed dead," quoted the tramp. "Only there's
been a lot of beliefs upset in this war, and I'm one of them."

"One of what?"

"I'm telling you. One of the strayed sheep that got mislaid and come
home at the awkwardest times." He snatched his hat off. "Have a good
look at that face, your worship."

"Timothy Martlow," cried Sir William.

Fosdike staggered to a chair while Dolly, who had shown nothing but
amusement at the tramp, now gave a quick cry and shrank back against
the wall, exhibiting every symptom of the liveliest terror. Of the
trio, Sir William, for whom surely this inopportune return had the most
serious implications, alone stood his ground, and Martlow grimly
appreciated his pluck.

"It's very near made a stretcher-case of him," he said, indicating the
prostrated Fosdike. "You're cooler. Walking wounded."

"I ... really...."

"Shake hands, old cock," said Martlow, "I know you've got it writ up in
there----" he jerked his head towards the hall--"that I'm the chief
glory of Calderside, but damme if you're not the second best yourself,
and I'll condescend to shake your hand if it's only to show you I'm not
a ghost."

Sir William decided that it was politic to humour this visitor. He
shook hands. "Then, if you know," he said, "if you know what this
building is, it isn't accident that brings you here to-night."

"The sort of accident you set with a time-fuse," said Martlow grimly.
"I told you I'd been dodging the police for a week lest any of my old
pals should recognise me. I was waiting to get you to-night, and
sitting tight and listening. The things I heard! Nearly made me take my
hat off to myself. But not quite. Not quite. I kept my hat on and I
kept my hair on. It's a mistake to act premature on information
received. If I'd sprung this too soon, the wrong thing might have
happened to me."

"What wrong thing, Martlow?" asked Sir William with some indignation.
If the fellow meant anything, it was that he would have been spirited
away by Sir William.

"Oh, anything," replied Martlow. "Anything would be wrong that made me
miss this pleasure. You and me conversing affable here. Not a bit like
it was in the old days before I rose to being the chief glory of
Calderside. Conversation was one-sided then, and all on your side
instead of mine. 'Here again, Martlow,' you'd say, and then they'd
gabble the evidence, and you'd say 'fourteen days' or 'twenty-one
days,' if you'd got up peevish and that's all there was to our friendly
intercourse. This time, I make no doubt you'll be asking me to stay at
the Towers to-night. And," he went on blandly, enjoying every wince
that twisted Sir William's face in spite of his efforts to appear
unmoved, "I don't know that I'll refuse. It's a levelling thing, war.
I've read that war makes us all conscious we're members of one
brotherhood, and I know it's true now. Consequently the chief glory of
the place ain't got no right to be too high and mighty to accept your
humble invitation. The best guest-room for Sergeant Martlow, you'll
say. See there's a hot water-bottle in his bed, you'll say, and in case
he's thirsty in the night, you'll tell them to put the whisky by his
side."

After all, a man does not rise to become Sir William Rumbold by being
flabby. Sir William struck the table heavily. Somehow he had to put a
period to this mocking harangue. "Martlow," he said, "how many people
know you're here?"

Tim gave a good imitation of Sir William's gesture. He, too, could
strike a table. "Rumbold," he retorted, "what's the value of a secret
when it's not a secret? You three in this room know, and not another
soul in Calderside."

"Not even your mother?" queried Rumbold.

"No. I been a bad son to her in the past. I'm a good one now I'm dead.
She's got a bit o' pension, and I'll not disturb that. I'll stay
dead--to her," he added forcibly, dashing the hope which leapt in
Rumbold.

"Why have you come here? Here--to-night?"

The easy mockery renewed itself in Martlow's voice. "People's ideas of
fun vary," he stated. "The fly's idea ain't the same as the spider's.
This 'ere is my idea--shaking your hand and sitting cosy with the bloke
that's sent me down more times than I can think. And the fun 'ull grow
furious when you and I walk arm in arm on to that platform, and you
tell them all I'm resurrected."

"Like this?" The proper Mr. Fosdike interjected.

"Eh?" said Tim. "Like what?"

"You can't go on to the platform in those clothes, Martlow. Have you
looked in a mirror lately? Do you know what you look like? This is a
respectable occasion, man."

"Yes," said Tim drily. "It's an occasion for showing respect to me.
I'll do as I am, not having had time to go to the tailor's for my dress
suit yet."

"Martlow," said Sir William briskly, "time's short. I'm due on that
platform."

"Right, I'm with you." Tim moved towards the platform door.

Sir William, with a serene air of triumph, played his trump card. He
took out his cheque-book. "No," he said. "You're not coming. Instead--"

He shrank back hastily as a huge fist was projected vehemently towards
his face. But the fist swerved and opened. The cheque-book, not Sir
William's person, was its objective. "Instead be damned," said Tim
Martlow, pitching the cheque-book to the floor. "To hell with your
money. Thought I was after money, did you?"

Sir William met his eye. "Yes, I did," he said hardily.

"That's the sort of mean idea you would have, Sir William Rumbold. They
say scum rises. You grew a handle to your name during the war, but you
ain't grown manners to go with it. War changes them that's changeable.
T'others are too set to change."

Sir William felt a strange glow of appreciation for this man who, with
so easy an opportunity to grow rich, refused money. "It's changed you,"
he said with ungrudging admiration that had no tincture of diplomacy in
it.

"Has it?" mused Tim. "From what?"

"Well--" Sir William was embarrassed. "From what you were."

"What was I?" demanded Tim. "Go on, spit it out. What sort of character
would you have given me then?" "I'd have called you," said Sir William
boldly, "a disreputable drunken loafer who never did an honest day's
work in his life." Which had the merit of truth, and, he thought, the
demerit of rashness.

To his surprise he found that Tim was looking at him with undisguised
admiration. "Lummy," he said, "you've got guts. Yes, that's right.
'Disreputable drunken loafer.' And if I came back now?" he asked.

"You were magnificent in the war, Martlow."

"First thing I did when I got civvies on was to get blind and skinned.
Drink and civvies go together in my mind."

"You'll get over that," said Sir William encouragingly; but he was
puzzled by the curiously wistful note which had replaced Tim's
hectoring.

"There's a chance," admitted Tim. "A bare chance. Not a chance I'd
gamble on. Not when I've a bigger chance than that. You wouldn't say,
weighing me up now, that I've got a reformed look, would you?"

Sir William couldn't. "But you'll pull yourself together. You'll
remember--"

"I'll remember the taste of beer," said Tim with fierce conviction.
"No, I never had a chance before, but I've got one now, and, by heaven,
I'm taking it." Sir William's apprehension grew acute; if money was not
the question, what outrageous demand was about to be made of him? Tim
went on, "I'm nothing but a dirty, drunken tramp to-day. Yes, drunk
when I can get it and craving when I can't. That's Tim Martlow when
he's living. Tim Martlow dead's a different thing. He's a man with his
name wrote up in letters of gold in a dry canteen. Dry! By God, that's
funny! He's somebody, honoured in Calderside for ever and ever, amen.
And we won't spoil a good thing by taking chances on my reformation.
I'm dead. I'll stay dead." He paused in enjoying the effect he made.

Sir William stooped to pick his cheque-book from the floor. "Don't do
that," said Tim sharply. "It isn't out of your mind yet that money's
what I came for. Fun's one thing that brought me. Just for the treat of
showing you myself and watching your quick-change faces while I did it.
And I've had my fun." His voice grew menacing. "The other thing I came
for isn't fun. It's this." Dolly screamed as he took her arm and jerked
her to her feet from the corner where she had sought obscurity. He
shook her urgently. "You've been telling tales about me. I've heard of
it. You hear all the news when you lie quiet yourself and let other
people do the talking. You came in here to-night to spin a yarn. I
watched you in. Well, is it true?"

"No," said Dolly, gasping for breath. "I mean--" he insisted, "what you
said about you and me. That isn't true?"

She repeated her denial. "No," he said, releasing her, "it 'ud have a
job to be seeing this is the first time I've had the pleasure of
meeting you. That'll do." He opened the platform door politely. "I hope
I haven't made you late on the platform, sir," he said.

Both Sir William and the secretary stared fascinated at Dolly, the
enterprising young person who had so successfully bluffed them. "I
repeat, don't let me make you late," said Tim from the now wide open
door.

Rumbold checked Fosdike who was, apparently, bent on doing Dolly a
personal violence. "That can wait," he said. "What can't wait is this."
He held out his hand to Martlow. "In all sincerity, I beg the honour."

Tim shook his hand, and Rumbold turned to the door. Fosdike ran after
him with the notes of his speech. "Your speech, sir."

Sir William turned on him angrily. "Man," he said, "haven't you heard?
That muck won't do now. I have to try to do Martlow justice." He went
out to the platform, Fosdike after him.

Tim Martlow sat at the table and took a bottle from his pocket. He drew
the cork with his teeth, then felt a light touch on his arm. "I was
forgetting you," he said, replacing the bottle.

"I ain't likely to forget you," said Dolly ruefully.

He gripped her hard. "But you are going to forget me, my girl," he
said. "Tim Martlow's dead, and his letters of gold ain't going to be
blotted by the likes of you. You that's been putting it about
Calderside I'm the father of your child, and I ain't never seen you in
my life till to-night."

"Yes, but you're getting this all wrong," she blubbered. "I didn't have
a baby. I was going to borrow one if they'd claimed to see it."

"What? No baby? And you put it across old Rumbold?" Laughter and sheer
admiration of her audacity were mingled in his voice. With a baby it
was a good bluff; without one, the girl's ingenuity seemed to him to
touch genius.

"He gave me that paper," she said, pride subduing tears as she handed
him her splendid trophy.

"Three pounds a week for life," he read, with profound reverence. "If
you ain't a blinkin' marvel." He complimented her, giving her the paper
back. Then he realised that, through him, her gains were lost.

"Gawd, I done wrong. I got no right to mess up a thing like that. I
didn't know. See, I'll tell him I made you lie. I'll own the baby's
mine."

"But there ain't no baby," she persisted.

"There's plenty of babies looking for a mother with three pounds a
week," he said.

She tore the paper up. "Then they'll not find me," she said. "Three
pounds a week's gone. And your letters of gold, Mr. Martlow, remain."

The practised voice of Sir William Rumbold, speaking on the platform,
filled the ante-room, not with the rhetorician's counterfeit of
sincerity, but, unmistakably, with sincerity itself. "I had prepared a
speech," he was saying. "A prepared speech is useless in face of the
emotion I feel at the life of Timothy Martlow. I say advisedly to you
that when I think of Martlow, I know myself for a worm. He was despised
and rejected. What had England done for him that he should give his
life for her? We wronged him. We made an outcast of him. I personally
wronged him from the magistrate's bench, and he pays us back like this,
rising from an undeserved obscurity to a height where he rests secure
for ever, a reproach to us, and a great example of the man who won. And
against what odds he played it out to a supreme end, and----"

"You're right," said Tim Martlow, motioning the girl to close the door.
He wasn't used to hearing panegyrics on himself, nor was he aware that,
mechanically, he had raised the bottle to his lips.

Dolly meant to close the door discreetly; instead, she threw it from
her and jumped at the bottle. Tim was conscious of a double crash,
putting an emphatic stop to the sound of Sir William's eulogy--the
crash of the door and the bottle which Dolly snatched from him and
pitched against the wall.

"Letters of gold," she panted, "and you shan't tarnish them. I'll see
to that."

He gaped for a moment at the liquor flowing from the bottle, then
raised his eyes to hers. "You?" he said.

"I haven't got a baby to look after," said Dolly. "But--I've you. Where
were you thinking of going now?"

His eyes went to the door behind which Sir William was, presumably,
still praising him, and his head jerked resolutely. "Playing it out,"
he said. "I've got to vanish good, and sure after that. I'll play it
out, by God. I was a hero once, I'll be a hero still." His foot
crunched broken glass as he moved. "I'm going to America, my girl. It's
dry."

Perhaps she distrusted the absolute dryness of America, and perhaps
that had nothing to do with Dolly. She examined her hand minutely.
"Going to the Isle of Man on a rough day, I wasn't a bit ill," she said
casually. "I'm a good sailor."

"You put it across Sir William," he said. "You're a blinkin' marvel."

"No," she said, "but a thing that's worth doing is worth doing well.
I'm not a marvel, but I might be the metal polish in those gold letters
of yours if you think it worth while."

His trampish squalor seemed to him suddenly appalling. "There, don't do
that," he protested--her arm had found its way into his. "My sleeve's
dirty."

"Idiot!" said Dolly Wainwright, drawing him to the door.



THE PENSIONER

By WILLIAM CAINE

(From _The Graphic_)

1922


Miss Crewe was born in the year 1821. She received a sort of education,
and at the age of twenty became the governess of a little girl, eight
years old, called Martha Bond. She was Martha's governess for the next
ten years. Then Martha came out and Miss Crewe went to be the governess
of somebody else. Martha married Mr. William Harper. A year later she
gave birth to a son, who was named Edward. This brings us to the year
1853.

When Edward was six, Miss Crewe came back, to be his governess. Four
years later he went to school and Miss Crewe went away to be the
governess of somebody else. She was now forty-two years old.

Twelve years passed and Mrs. Harper died, recommending Miss Crewe to
her husband's care, for Miss Crewe had recently been smitten by an
incurable disease which made it impossible for her to be a governess
any longer.

Mr. Harper, who had passionately loved his wife, gave instructions to
his solicitor to pay Miss Crewe the sum of one hundred and fifty pounds
annually. He had some thoughts of buying her an annuity, but she seemed
so ill that he didn't. Edward was now twenty-two.

In the year 1888, Mr. Harper died after a very short illness. He had
expected Miss Crewe to die any day during the past thirteen years, but
since she hadn't he thought it proper now to recommend her to Edward's
care. This is how he did it.

"That confounded old Crewe, Eddie. You'll have to see to her. Let her
have her money as before, but for the Lord's sake don't go and buy her
an annuity now. If you do, she'll die on your hands in a week!" Shortly
afterwards the old gentleman passed away.

Edward was now thirty-five. Miss Crewe was sixty-seven and reported to
be in an almost desperate state. Edward followed his father's advice.
He bought no annuity for Miss Crewe. Her one hundred and fifty pounds
continued to be paid each year into her bank; but by Edward, not by his
late father's solicitors.

Edward had his own ideas of managing the considerable fortune which he
had inherited. These ideas were unsound. The first of them was that he
should assume the entire direction of his own affairs. Accordingly he
instructed his solicitors to realise all the mortgages and
railway-stock and other admirable securities in which his money was
invested and hand over the cash to him. He then went in for the highest
rate of interest which anyone would promise him. The consequence was
that, within twelve years, he was almost a poor man, his annual income
having dwindled from about three thousand to about four hundred pounds.

Though he was a fool he was an honourable man, and so he continued to
pay Miss Crewe her one hundred and fifty pounds each year. This left
him about two hundred and fifty for himself. The capital which his so
reduced income represented was invested in a Mexican brewery in which
he had implicit faith. Nevertheless, he began to think that he might do
well were he to try to earn a little extra money.

The only thing he could do was to paint, not at all well, in
water-colours. He became the pupil, quite seriously, of a young artist
whom he knew. He was now forty-seven years old, while Miss Crewe was
seventy-nine. The year was 1900.

To everybody's amazement Edward soon began to make quite good progress
in his painting. Yes, his pictures were not at all unpleasant little
things. He sent one of them to the Academy. It was accepted. It was, as
I live, sold for ten pounds. Edward was an artist.

Soon he was making between thirty and forty pounds a year. Then he was
making over a hundred. Then two hundred. Then the Mexican brewery
failed, General Malefico having burned it to the ground for a lark.

This happened in the spring of 1914 when Edward was sixty-one and Miss
Crewe was ninety-three. Edward, after paying her money to Miss Crewe,
might flatter himself on the possibility of having some fifty pounds a
year for himself, that is to say, if his picture sales did not decline.
A single man can, however, get along, more or less, on fifty pounds
more or less.

Then the Great War broke out.

It has been said that in the autumn of 1914 the Old Men came into their
kingdom. As the fields of Britain were gradually stripped bare of their
valid toilers, the Fathers of each village assumed, at good wages, the
burden of agriculture. From their offices the juniors departed or were
torn; the senior clerks carried on desperately until the Girls were
introduced. No man was any longer too old at forty. Octogenarians could
command a salary. The very cinemas were glad to dress up ancient
fellows in uniform and post them on their doorsteps.

Edward could do nothing but paint rather agreeable water-colours, and
that was all. The market for his kind of work was shut. A patriotic
nation was economising in order to get five per cent on the War Loans.
People were not giving inexpensive little water-colours away to one
another as wedding gifts any longer. Only the painters of high
reputation, whose work was regarded as a real investment, could dispose
of their wares.

Starvation stared Edward in the face, not only his own starvation, you
understand, but Miss Crewe's. And Edward was a man of honour.

He hated Miss Crewe intensely, but he had undertaken to provide for
her, and provide for her he must--even if he failed to provide for
himself.

He wrapped some samples of his paintings in brown paper, and began to
seek for a job among the wholesale stationers. He offered himself as
one who was prepared to design Christmas-cards and calendars, and
things of the kind.

Adversity had sharpened his wits. Even the wholesale stationers were
not turning white-headed men from their portals. To Edward was accorded
the privilege of displaying the rather agreeable contents of his
parcel. After he had unpacked it and packed it up again some thirty
times he was offered work. His pictures were really rather agreeable.
It was piecework, and he was to do it off the premises, no matter
where. By toiling day and night he might be able to earn as much as £4
a week. He went away and toiled. His employers were pleased with what,
each Monday, he brought them. They did not offer to increase his
remuneration, but they encouraged him to produce, and took practically
everything he offered. Edward was very fortunate.

During the first year of the war he lived like a beast, worked like a
slave, and earned exactly enough to keep his soul in his body and pay
Miss Crewe her one hundred and fifty pounds. During the second year of
the war he did it again. The fourth year of the war found him still
alive and still punctual to his obligations towards Miss Crewe.

Miss Crewe, however, found one hundred and fifty pounds no longer what
it had been. Prices were rising in every direction. She wrote to Edward
pointing this out, and asking him if he couldn't see his way to
increasing her allowance. She invoked the memory of his dear mother and
father, added something about the happy hours that he and she had spent
together in the dear old school-room, and signed herself his
affectionately.

Edward petitioned for an increase of pay. He pointed out to his firm of
wholesale stationers that prices were rising in every direction. The
firm, who knew when they had a marketable thing cheap, granted his
petition. Henceforth Edward was able to earn five pounds a week. He
increased Miss Crewe's allowance by fifty pounds, and continued to live
more like a beast than ever, for the price of paper and paints was
soaring. He worked practically without ceasing, save to sleep (which he
could not do) and to eat (which he could not afford). He was now
sixty-four, while Miss Crewe was rising ninety-seven.

Edward had been ailing for a long time. On Armistice Day he struck work
for an hour in order to walk about in the streets and share in the
general rejoicing. He caught a severe cold, and the next day, instead
of staying between his blankets (he had no sheets), he went up to the
City with some designs which he had just completed. That night he was
feverish. The next night he was delirious. The third night he was dead,
and there was an end of him.

He had, however, managed, before he died (two days before), to send to
Miss Crewe a money order for her quarter's allowance of fifty pounds.
This had left him with precisely four shillings and twopence in the
Post Office Savings Bank.

He was, consequently, buried by the parish.

Miss Crewe received her money. She was delighted to have it, and at
once wrote to Edward her customary letter of grateful and affectionate
thanks. She added in a post-script that if he _could_ find it in his
generous heart to let her have a still little more next quarter it
would be most acceptable, because every day seemed to make it harder
and harder for her to get along.

Edward was dead when this letter was delivered.

Miss Crewe sent her money order to her bank, asking that it might be
placed to her deposit account. This she reminded the bank, would bring
up the amount of her deposit to exactly two thousand pounds.



BROADSHEET BALLAD

By A.E. COPPARD

(From _The Dial_)

1922


At noon the tiler and the mason stepped down from the roof of the
village church which they were repairing and crossed over the road to
the tavern to eat their dinner. It had been a nice little morning, but
there were clouds massing in the south; Sam the tiler remarked that it
looked like thunder. The two men sat in the dim little tap-room eating,
Bob the mason at the same time reading from a newspaper an account of a
trial for murder.

"I dunno what thunder looks like," Bob said, "but I reckon this chap is
going to be hung, though I can't rightly say for why. To my thinking he
didn't do it at all: but murder's a bloody thing and someone ought to
suffer for it."

"I don't think," spluttered Sam as he impaled a flat piece of beet-root
on the point of a pocket-knife and prepared to contemplate it with
patience until his stuffed mouth was ready to receive it, "he ought to
be hung."

"There can be no other end for him though, with a mob of lawyers like
that, and a judge like that, and a jury too ... why the rope's half
round his neck this minute; he'll be in glory within a month, they only
have three Sundays, you know, between the sentence and the execution.
Well, hark at that rain then!"

A shower that began as a playful sprinkle grew to a powerful steady
summer downpour. It splashed in the open window and the dim room grew
more dim, and cool.

"Hanging's a dreadful thing," continued Sam, "and 'tis often unjust
I've no doubt, I've no doubt at all."

"Unjust! I tell you ... at majority of trials those who give their
evidence mostly knows nothing at all about the matter; them as knows a
lot--they stays at home and don't budge, not likely!"

"No? But why?"

"Why? They has their reasons. I know that, I knows it for truth ...
hark at that rain, it's made the room feel cold."

They watched the downfall in complete silence for some moments.

"Hanging's a dreadful thing," Sam at length repeated, with almost a
sigh.

"I can tell you a tale about that, Sam, in a minute," said the other.
He began to fill his pipe from Sam's brass box which was labelled cough
lozenges and smelled of paregoric.

"Just about ten years ago I was working over in Cotswold country. I
remember I'd been into Gloucester one Saturday afternoon and it rained.
I was jogging along home in a carrier's van; I never seen it rain like
that afore, no, nor never afterwards, not like that. B-r-r-r-r! it came
down ... bashing! And we came to a cross-roads where there's a public
house called The Wheel of Fortune, very lonely and onsheltered it is
just there. I see'd a young woman standing in the porch awaiting us,
but the carrier was wet and tired and angry or something and wouldn't
stop. 'No room'--he bawled out to her--'full up, can't take you!' and
he drove on. 'For the love o' God, mate,' I says, 'pull up and take
that young creature! She's ... she's ... can't you see!' 'But I'm all
behind as 'tis'--he shouts to me--'You knows your gospel, don't you:
time and tide wait for no man?' 'Ah, but dammit all, they always call
for a feller'--I says. With that he turned round and we drove back for
the girl. She clumb in and sat on my knees; I squat on a tub of
vinegar, there was nowhere else and I was right and all, she was going
on for a birth. Well, the old van rattled away for six or seven miles;
whenever it stopped you could hear the rain clattering on the
tarpaulin, or sounding outside on the grass as if it was breathing
hard, and the old horse steamed and shivered with it. I had knowed the
girl once in a friendly way, a pretty young creature, but now she was
white and sorrowful and wouldn't say much. By and bye we came to
another cross-roads near a village, and she got out there. 'Good day,
my gal'--I says, affable like, and 'Thank you sir,'--says she, and off
she popped in the rain with her umbrella up. A rare pretty girl, quite
young, I'd met her before, a girl you could get uncommon fond of, you
know, but I didn't meet her afterwards: she was mixed up in a bad
business. It all happened in the next six months while I was working
round those parts. Everybody knew of it. This girl's name was Edith and
she had a younger sister Agnes. Their father was old Harry Mallerton,
kept The British Oak at North Quainy; he stuttered. Well, this Edith
had a love affair with a young chap William, and having a very loving
nature she behaved foolish. Then she couldn't bring the chap up to the
scratch nohow by herself, and of course she was afraid to tell her
mother or father: you know how girls are after being so pesky natural,
they fear, O they do fear! But soon it couldn't be hidden any longer as
she was living at home with them all, so she wrote a letter to her
mother. 'Dear Mother,' she wrote, and told her all about her trouble.

"By all accounts the mother was angry as an old lion, but Harry took it
calm like and sent for young William, who'd not come at first. He lived
close by in the village so they went down at last and fetched him.

"'Alright, yes,' he said, 'I'll do what's lawful to be done. There you
are, I can't say no fairer, that I can't.'

"'No,' they said, 'you can't.'

"So he kissed the girl and off he went, promising to call in and settle
affairs in a day or two. The next day Agnes, which was the younger
girl, she also wrote a note to her mother telling her some more strange
news:

"'God above!' the mother cried out, 'can it be true, both of you girls,
my own daughters, and by the same man! Oh, whatever were you thinking
on, both of ye! Whatever can be done now!"

"What!" ejaculated Sam, "both on 'em, both on 'em!"

"As true as God's my mercy--both on 'em--same chap. Ah! Mrs. Mallerton
was afraid to tell her husband at first, for old Harry was the devil
born again when he were roused up, so she sent for young William
herself, who'd not come again, of course, not likely. But they made him
come, O yes, when they told the girl's father.

"'Well may I go to my d-d-d-damnation at once!' roared old Harry--he
stuttered you know--'at once, if that ain't a good one!' So he took off
his coat, he took up a stick, he walked down street to William and cut
him off his legs. Then he beat him till he howled for his mercy, but
you couldn't stop old Harry once he were roused up--he was the devil
born again. They do say as he beat him for a solid hour; I can't say as
to that, but then old Harry picked him up and carried him off to The
British Oak on his own back, and threw him down in his own kitchen
between his own two girls like a dead dog. They do say that the little
one Agnes flew at her father like a raging cat until he knocked her
senseless with a clout over head; rough man he was."

"Well, a' called for it sure," commented Sam.

"Her did," agreed Bob, "but she was the quietest known girl for miles
round those parts, very shy and quiet."

"A shady lane breeds mud," said Sam.

"What do you say?--O ah!--mud, yes. But pretty girls both, girls you
could get very fond of, skin like apple bloom, and as like as two pinks
they were. They had to decide which of them William was to marry."

"Of course, ah!"

"I'll marry Agnes'--says he.

"'You'll not'--says the old man--'you'll marry Edie.'

"'No I won't'--William says--'it's Agnes I love and I'll be married to
her or I won't be married to e'er of 'em.' All the time Edith sat
quiet, dumb as a shovel, never a word, crying a bit; but they do say
the young one went on like a ... a young ... Jew."

"The jezebel!" commented Sam.

"You may say it; but wait, my man, just wait. Another cup of beer? We
can't go back to church until this humbugging rain have stopped."

"No, that we can't."

"It's my belief the 'bugging rain won't stop this side of four."

"And if the roof don't hold it off it 'ull spoil the Lord's
Commandments that's just done up on the chancel front."

"Oh, they be dry by now," spoke Bob reassuringly and then continued his
tale. "'I'll marry Agnes or I won't marry nobody'--William says--and
they couldn't budge him. No, old Harry cracked on, but he wouldn't have
it, and at last Harry says: 'It's like this.' He pulls a half-crown out
of his pocket and 'Heads it's Agnes,' he says, 'or tails it's Edith,'
he says."

"Never! Ha! ha!" cried Sam.

"Heads it's Agnes, tails it's Edie, so help me God. And it come down
Agnes, yes, heads it was--Agnes--and so there they were."

"And they lived happy ever after?"

"Happy! You don't know your human nature, Sam; wherever was you brought
up? 'Heads it's Agnes,' said old Harry, and at that Agnes flung her
arms round William's neck and was for going off with him then and
there, ha! But this is how it happened about that. William hadn't any
kindred, he was a lodger in the village, and his landlady wouldn't have
him in her house one mortal hour when she heard all of it; give him the
right-about there and then. He couldn't get lodgings anywhere else,
nobody would have anything to do with him, so of course, for safety's
sake, old Harry had to take him, and there they all lived together at
The British Oak--all in one happy family. But they girls couldn't bide
the sight of each other, so their father cleaned up an old outhouse in
his yard that was used for carts and hens and put William and his Agnes
out in it. And there they had to bide. They had a couple of chairs, a
sofa, and a bed and that kind of thing, and the young one made it quite
snug."

"'Twas a hard thing for that other, that Edie, Bob."

"It was hard, Sam, in a way, and all this was happening just afore I
met her in the carrier's van. She was very sad and solemn then; a
pretty girl, one you could like. Ah, you may choke me, but there they
lived together. Edie never opened her lips to either of them again, and
her father sided with her, too. What was worse, it came out after the
marriage that Agnes was quite free of trouble--it was only a trumped-up
game between her and this William because he fancied her better than
the other one. And they never had no child, them two, though when poor
Edie's mischance come along I be damned if Agnes weren't fonder of it
than its own mother, a jolly sight more fonder, and William--he fair
worshipped it."

"You don't say!"

"I do. 'Twas a rum go, that, and Agnes worshipped it, a fact, can prove
it by scores o' people to this day, scores, in them parts. William and
Agnes worshipped it, and Edie--she just looked on, long of it all, in
the same house with them, though she never opened her lips again to her
young sister to the day of her death."

"Ah, she died? Well, it's the only way out of such a tangle, poor
woman."

"You're sympathizing with the wrong party." Bob filled his pipe again
from the brass box; he ignited it with deliberation; going to the open
window he spat into a puddle in the road. "The wrong party, Sam; 'twas
Agnes that died. She was found on the sofa one morning stone dead, dead
as a adder."

"God bless me," murmured Sam.

"Poisoned," added Bob, puffing serenely.

"Poisoned!"

Bob repeated the word poisoned. "This was the way of it," he continued.
"One morning the mother went out in the yard to collect her eggs, and
she began calling out 'Edie, Edie, here a minute, come and look where
that hen have laid her egg; I would never have believed it'--she says.
And when Edie went out her mother led her round the back of the
outhouse, and there on the top of a wall this hen had laid an egg. 'I
would never have believed it, Edie'--she says--'scooped out a nest
there beautiful, ain't she; I wondered where her was laying. T'other
morning the dog brought an egg round in his mouth and laid it on the
doormat. There now, Aggie, Aggie, here a minute, come and look where
the hen have laid that egg.' And as Aggie didn't answer the mother went
in and found her on the sofa in the outhouse, stone dead."

"How'd they account for it?" asked Sam, after a brief interval.

"That's what brings me to the point about this young feller that's
going to be hung," said Bob, tapping the newspaper that lay upon the
bench. "I don't know what would lie between two young women in a
wrangle of that sort; some would get over it quick, but some would
never sleep soundly any more not for a minute of their mortal lives.
Edie must have been one of that sort. There's people living there now
as could tell a lot if they'd a mind to it. Some knowed all about it,
could tell you the very shop where Edith managed to get hold of the
poison, and could describe to me or to you just how she administrated
it in a glass of barley water. Old Harry knew all about it, he knew all
about everything, but he favoured Edith and he never budged a word.
Clever old chap was Harry, and nothing came out against Edie at the
inquest--nor the trial either." "Was there a trial then?"

"There was a kind of a trial. Naturally. A beautiful trial. The police
came and fetched poor William, they took him away and in due course he
was hanged."

"William! But what had he got to do with it?"

"Nothing. It was rough on him, but he hadn't played straight and so
nobody struck up for him. They made out a case against him--there was
some onlucky bit of evidence which I'll take my oath old Harry knew
something about--and William was done for. Ah, when things take a turn
against you it's as certain as twelve o'clock, when they take a turn;
you get no more chance than a rabbit from a weasel. It's like dropping
your matches into a stream, you needn't waste the bending of your back
to pick them out--they're no good on, they'll never strike again. And
Edith, she sat in court through it all, very white and trembling and
sorrowful, but when the judge put his black cap on they do say she
blushed and looked across at William and gave a bit of a smile. Well,
she had to suffer for his doings, so why shouldn't he suffer for hers.
That's how I look at it...."

"But God-a-mighty...!"

"Yes, God-a-mighty knows. Pretty girls they were, both, and as like as
two pinks."

There was quiet for some moments while the tiler and the mason emptied
their cups of beer. "I think," said Sam then, "the rain's give over
now."

"Ah, that it has," cried Bob. "Let's go and do a bit more on this
'bugging church or she won't be done afore Christmas."



THE CHRISTMAS PRESENT

By RICHMAL CROMPTON

(From _Truth_)

1922


Mary Clay looked out of the window of the old farmhouse. The view was
dreary enough--hill and field and woodland, bare, colourless,
mist-covered--with no other house in sight. She had never been a woman
to crave for company. She liked sewing. She was passionately fond of
reading. She was not fond of talking. Probably she could have been very
happy at Cromb Farm--alone. Before her marriage she had looked forward
to the long evenings with her sewing and reading. She knew that she
would be busy enough in the day, for the farmhouse was old and
rambling, and she was to have no help in the housework. But she looked
forward to quiet, peaceful, lamplit evenings; and only lately, after
ten years of married life, had she reluctantly given up the hope of
them. For peace was far enough from the old farm kitchen in the
evening. It was driven away by John Clay's loud voice, raised always in
orders or complaints, or in the stumbling, incoherent reading aloud of
his newspaper.

Mary was a silent woman herself and a lover of silence. But John liked
to hear the sound of his voice; he liked to shout at her; to call for
her from one room to another; above all, he liked to hear his voice
reading the paper out loud to her in the evening. She dreaded that most
of all. It had lately seemed to jar on her nerves till she felt she
must scream aloud. His voice going on and on, raucous and sing-song,
became unspeakably irritating. His "Mary!" summoning her from her
household work to wherever he happened to be, his "Get my slippers,"
or "Bring me my pipe," exasperated her almost to the point of
rebellion. "Get your own slippers" had trembled on her lips, but had
never passed them, for she was a woman who could not bear anger. Noise
of any kind appalled her.

She had borne it for ten years, so surely she could go on with it. Yet
today, as she gazed hopelessly at the wintry country side, she became
acutely conscious that she could not go on with it. Something must
happen. Yet what was there that could happen?

It was Christmas next week. She smiled ironically at the thought. Then
she noticed the figure of her husband coming up the road. He came in at
the gate and round to the side-door.

"Mary!"

She went slowly in answer to the summons. He held a letter in his hand.

"Met the postman," he said. "From your aunt."

She opened the letter and read it in silence. Both of them knew quite
well what it contained.

"She wants us to go over for Christmas again," said Mary.

He began to grumble.

"She's as deaf as a post. She's 'most as deaf as her mother was. She
ought to know better than to ask folks over when she can't hear a word
any one says."

Mary said nothing. He always grumbled about the invitation at first,
but really he wanted to go. He liked to talk with her uncle. He liked
the change of going down to the village for a few days and hearing all
its gossip. He could quite well leave the farm to the "hands" for that
time.

The Crewe deafness was proverbial. Mary's great-grandmother had gone
stone deaf at the age of thirty-five; her daughter had inherited the
affliction and her grand-daughter, the aunt with whom Mary had spent
her childhood, had inherited it also at exactly the same age.

"All right," he said at last, grudgingly, as though in answer to her
silence, "we'd better go. Write and say we'll go."

      *       *       *       *       *

It was Christmas Eve. They were in the kitchen of her uncle's
farmhouse. The deaf old woman sat in her chair by the fire knitting.
Upon her sunken face there was a curious sardonic smile that was her
habitual expression. The two men stood in the doorway. Mary sat at the
table looking aimlessly out of the window. Outside, the snow fell in
blinding showers. Inside, the fire gleamed on to the copper pots and
pans, the crockery on the old oak dresser, the hams hanging from the
ceiling.

Suddenly James turned.

"Jane!" he said.

The deaf woman never stirred.

"Jane!"

Still there was no response upon the enigmatic old face by the
fireside.

"_Jane_!"

She turned slightly towards the voice.

"Get them photos from upstairs to show John," he bawled.

"What about boats?" she said.

"_Photos_!" roared her husband.

"Coats?" she quavered.

Mary looked from one to the other. The man made a gesture of irritation
and went from the room.

He came back with a pile of picture postcards in his hand.

"It's quicker to do a thing oneself," he grumbled. "They're what my
brother sent from Switzerland, where he's working now. It's a fine
land, to judge from the views of it."

John took them from his hand. "She gets worse?" he said nodding towards
the old woman.

She was sitting gazing at the fire, her lips curved into the curious
smile.

Her husband shrugged his shoulders. "Aye. She's nigh as bad as her
mother was."

"And her grandmother."

"Aye. It takes longer to tell her to do something than to do it myself.
And deaf folks get a bit stupid, too. Can't see what you mean. They're
best let alone."

The other man nodded and lit his pipe. Then James opened the door.

"The snow's stopped," he said. "Shall we go to the end of the village
and back?"

The other nodded, and took his cap from behind the door. A gust of cold
air filled the room as they went out.

Mary took a paper-backed book from the table and came over to the
fireplace.

"Mary!"

She started. It was not the sharp, querulous voice of the deaf old
woman, it was more like the voice of the young aunt whom Mary
remembered in childhood. The old woman was leaning forward, looking at
her intently.

"Mary! A happy Christmas to 'ee."

And, as if in spite of herself, Mary answered in her ordinary low
tones.

"The same to you, auntie."

"Thank 'ee. Thank 'ee."

Mary gasped.

"Aunt! Can you hear me speaking like this?"

The old woman laughed, silently, rocking to and fro in her chair as if
with pent-up merriment of years.

"Yes, I can hear 'ee, child. I've allus heard 'ee."

Mary clasped her hand eagerly.

"Then--you're cured, Aunt--"

"Ay. I'm cured as far as there was ever anything to be cured."

"You--?"

"I was never deaf, child, nor never will be, please God. I've took you
all in fine."

Mary stood up in bewilderment.

"You? Never deaf?"

The old woman chuckled again.

"No, nor my mother--nor her mother neither."

Mary shrank back from her.

"I--I don't know what you mean," she said, unsteadily. "Have you
been--pretending?"

"I'll make you a Christmas present of it, dearie," said the old woman.
"My mother made me a Christmas present of it when I was your age, and
her mother made her one. I haven't a lass of my own to give it to, so I
give it to you. It can come on quite sudden like, if you want it, and
then you can hear what you choose and not hear what you choose. Do you
see?" She leant nearer and whispered, "You're shut out of it all--of
having to fetch and carry for 'em, answer their daft questions and run
their errands like a dog. I've watched you, my lass. You don't get much
peace, do you?"

Mary was trembling.

"Oh, I don't know what to think," she said. "I--I couldn't do it."

"Do what you like," said the old woman. "Take it as a present,
anyways--the Crewe deafness for a Christmas present," she chuckled.
"Use it or not as you like. You'll find it main amusin', anyways."

And into the old face there came again that curious smile as if she
carried in her heart some jest fit for the gods on Olympus.

The door opened suddenly with another gust of cold air, and the two men
came in again, covered with fine snow.

"I--I'll not do it," whispered Mary, trembling.

"We didn't get far. It's coming on again," remarked John, hanging up
his cap.

The old woman rose and began to lay the supper, silently and deftly,
moving from cupboard to table without looking up. Mary sat by the fire,
motionless and speechless, her eyes fixed on the glowing coals.

"Any signs o' the deafness in her?" whispered James, looking towards
Mary. "It come on my wife jus' when she was that age."

"Aye. So I've heered."

Then he said loudly, "Mary!"

A faint pink colour came into her cheeks, but she did not show by look
or movement that she had heard. James looked significantly at her
husband.

The old woman stood still for a minute with a cup in each hand and
smiled her slow, subtle smile.



SEATON'S AUNT  By WALTER DE LA MARE

(From _The London Mercury_)

1922


I had heard rumours of Seaton's Aunt long before I actually encountered
her. Seaton, in the hush of confidence, or at any little show of
toleration on our part, would remark, "My aunt," or "My old aunt, you
know," as if his relative might be a kind of cement to an _entente
cordiale_.

He had an unusual quantity of pocket-money; or, at any rate, it was
bestowed on him in unusually large amounts; and he spent it freely,
though none of us would have described him as an "awfully generous
chap." "Hullo, Seaton," he would say, "the old Begum?" At the beginning
of term, too, he used to bring back surprising and exotic dainties in a
box with a trick padlock that accompanied him from his first appearance
at Gummidge's in a billycock hat to the rather abrupt conclusion of his
school-days.

From a boy's point of view he looked distastefully foreign, with his
yellow skin, and slow chocolate-coloured eyes, and lean weak figure.
Merely for his looks he was treated by most of us true-blue Englishmen
with condescension, hostility, or contempt. We used to call him
"Pongo," but without any better excuse for the nickname than his skin.
He was, that is, in one sense of the term what he assuredly was not in
the other sense, a sport.

Seaton and I were never in any sense intimate at school, our orbits
only intersected in class. I kept instinctively aloof from him. I felt
vaguely he was a sneak, and remained quite unmollified by advances on
his side, which, in a boy's barbarous fashion, unless it suited me to
be magnanimous, I haughtily ignored.

We were both of us quick-footed, and at Prisoner's Base used
occasionally to hide together. And so I best remember Seaton--his
narrow watchful face in the dusk of summer evening; his peculiar
crouch, and his inarticulate whisperings and mumblings. Otherwise he
played all games slackly and limply; used to stand and feed at his
locker with a crony or two until his "tuck" gave out; or waste his
money on some outlandish fancy or other. He bought, for instance, a
silver bangle, which he wore above his left elbow, until some of the
fellows showed their masterly contempt of the practice by dropping it
nearly red-hot down his neck.

It needed, therefore, a rather peculiar taste, a rather rare kind of
schoolboy courage and indifference to criticism, to be much associated
with him. And I had neither the taste nor the courage. None the less,
he did make advances, and on one memorable occasion went to the length
of bestowing on me a whole pot of some outlandish mulberry-coloured
jelly that had been duplicated in his term's supplies. In the
exuberance of my gratitude I promised to spend the next half-term
holiday with him at his aunt's house.

I had clean forgotten my promise when, two or three days before the
holiday, he came up and triumphantly reminded me of it.

"Well, to tell you the honest truth, Seaton, old chap----" I began
graciously; but he cut me short.

"My aunt expects you," he said; "she is very glad you are coming. She's
sure to be quite decent to _you_, Withers."

I looked at him in some astonishment; the emphasis was unexpected. It
seemed to suggest an aunt not hitherto hinted at, and a friendly
feeling on Seaton's side that was more disconcerting than welcome.

      *       *       *       *       *

We reached his home partly by train, partly by a lift in an empty
farm-cart, and partly by walking. It was a whole-day holiday, and we
were to sleep the night; he lent me extraordinary night-gear, I
remember. The village street was unusually wide, and was fed from a
green by two converging roads, with an inn, and a high green sign at
the corner. About a hundred yards down the street was a chemist's
shop--Mr. Tanner's. We descended the two steps into his dusky and
odorous interior to buy, I remember, some rat poison. A little beyond
the chemist's was the forge. You then walked along a very narrow path,
under a fairly high wall, nodding here and there with weeds and tufts
of grass, and so came to the iron garden-gates, and saw the high flat
house behind its huge sycamore. A coach-house stood on the left of the
house, and on the right a gate led into a kind of rambling orchard. The
lawn lay away over to the left again, and at the bottom (for the whole
garden sloped gently to a sluggish and rushy pond-like stream) was a
meadow.

We arrived at noon, and entered the gates out of the hot dust beneath
the glitter of the dark-curtained windows. Seaton led me at once
through the little garden-gate to show me his tadpole pond, swarming
with what, being myself not the least bit of a naturalist, I considered
the most horrible creatures--of all shapes, consistencies, and sizes,
but with whom Seaton seemed to be on the most intimate of terms. I can
see his absorbed face now as he sat on his heels and fished the slimy
things out in his sallow palms. Wearying at last of his pets, we
loitered about awhile in an aimless fashion. Seaton seemed to be
listening, or at any rate waiting, for something to happen or for some
one to come. But nothing did happen and no one came.

That was just like Seaton. Anyhow, the first view I got of his aunt was
when, at the summons of a distant gong, we turned from the garden, very
hungry and thirsty, to go into luncheon. We were approaching the house
when Seaton suddenly came to a standstill. Indeed, I have always had
the impression that he plucked at my sleeve. Something, at least,
seemed to catch me back, as it were, as he cried, "Look out, there she
is!"

She was standing in an upper window which opened wide on a hinge, and
at first sight she looked an excessively tall and overwhelming figure.
This, however, was mainly because the window reached all but to the
floor of her bedroom. She was in reality rather an under-sized woman,
in spite of her long face and big head. She must have stood, I think,
unusually still, with eyes fixed on us, though this impression may be
due to Seaton's sudden warning and to my consciousness of the cautious
and subdued air that had fallen on him at sight of her. I know that
without the least reason in the world I felt a kind of guiltiness, as
if I had been "caught." There was a silvery star pattern sprinkled on
her black silk dress, and even from the ground I could see the immense
coils of her hair and the rings on her left hand which was held
fingering the small jet buttons of her bodice. She watched our united
advance without stirring, until, imperceptibly, her eyes raised and
lost themselves in the distance, so that it was out of an assumed
reverie that she appeared suddenly to awaken to our presence beneath
her when we drew close to the house.

"So this is your friend, Mr. Smithers, I suppose?" she said, bobbing to
me.

"Withers, aunt," said Seaton.

"It's much the same," she said, with eyes fixed on me. "Come in, Mr.
Withers, and bring him along with you."

She continued to gaze at me--at least, I think she did so. I know that
the fixity of her scrutiny and her ironical "Mr." made me feel
peculiarly uncomfortable. But she was extremely kind and attentive to
me, though perhaps her kindness and attention showed up more vividly
against her complete neglect of Seaton. Only one remark that I have any
recollection of she made to him: "When I look on my nephew, Mr.
Smithers, I realise that dust we are, and dust shall become. You are
hot, dirty, and incorrigible, Arthur."

She sat at the head of the table, Seaton at the foot, and I, before a
wide waste of damask tablecloth, between them. It was an old and rather
close dining-room, with windows thrown wide to the green garden and a
wonderful cascade of fading roses. Miss Seaton's great chair faced this
window, so that its rose-reflected light shone full on her yellowish
face, and on just such chocolate eyes as my schoolfellow's, except that
hers were more than half-covered by unusually long and heavy lids.

There she sat, eating, with those sluggish eyes fixed for the most part
on my face; above them stood the deep-lined fork between her eyebrows;
and above that the wide expanse of a remarkable brow beneath its
strange steep bank of hair. The lunch was copious, and consisted, I
remember, of all such dishes as are generally considered mischievous
and too good for the schoolboy digestion--lobster mayonnaise, cold game
sausages, an immense veal and ham pie farced with eggs and numberless
delicious flavours; besides sauces, kickshaws, creams, and sweetmeats.
We even had wine, a half-glass of old darkish sherry each.

Miss Seaton enjoyed and indulged an enormous appetite. Her example and
a natural schoolboy voracity soon overcame my nervousness of her, even
to the extent of allowing me to enjoy to the best of my bent so rare a
"spread." Seaton was singularly modest; the greater part of his meal
consisted of almonds and raisins, which he nibbled surreptitiously and
as if he found difficulty in swallowing them.

I don't mean that Miss Seaton "conversed" with me. She merely scattered
trenchant remarks and now and then twinkled a baited question over my
head. But her face was like a dense and involved accompaniment to her
talk. She presently dropped the "Mr.," to my intense relief, and called
me now Withers, or Wither, now Smithers, and even once towards the
close of the meal distinctly Johnson, though how on earth my name
suggested it, or whose face mine had reanimated in memory, I cannot
conceive.

"And is Arthur a good boy at school, Mr. Wither?" was one of her many
questions. "Does he please his masters? Is he first in his class? What
does the reverend Dr. Gummidge think of him, eh?"

I knew she was jeering at him, but her face was adamant against the
least flicker of sarcasm or facetiousness. I gazed fixedly at a
blushing crescent of lobster.

"I think you're eighth, aren't you, Seaton?"

Seaton moved his small pupils towards his aunt. But she continued to
gaze with a kind of concentrated detachment at me.

"Arthur will never make a brilliant scholar, I fear," she said, lifting
a dexterously-burdened fork to her wide mouth....

After luncheon she preceded me up to my bedroom. It was a jolly little
bedroom, with a brass fender and rugs and a polished floor, on which it
was possible, I afterwards found, to play "snow-shoes." Over the
washstand was a little black-framed water-colour drawing, depicting a
large eye with an extremely fishlike intensity in the spark of light on
the dark pupil; and in "illuminated" lettering beneath was printed very
minutely, "Thou God Seest ME," followed by a long looped monogram,
"S.S.," in the corner. The other pictures were all of the sea: brigs on
blue water; a schooner overtopping chalk cliffs; a rocky island of
prodigious steepness, with two tiny sailors dragging a monstrous boat
up a shelf of beach.

"This is the room, Withers, my brother William died in when a boy.
Admire the view!"

I looked out of the window across the tree-tops. It was a day hot with
sunshine over the green fields, and the cattle were standing swishing
their tails in the shallow water. But the view at the moment was only
exaggeratedly vivid because I was horribly dreading that she would
presently enquire after my luggage, and I had not brought even a
toothbrush. I need have had no fear. Hers was not that highly-civilised
type of mind that is stuffed with sharp material details. Nor could her
ample presence be described as in the least motherly.

"I would never consent to question a schoolfellow behind my nephew's
back," she said, standing in the middle of the room, "but tell me,
Smithers, why is Arthur so unpopular? You, I understand, are his only
close friend." She stood in a dazzle of sun, and out of it her eyes
regarded me with such leaden penetration beneath their thick lids that
I doubt if my face concealed the least thought from her. "But there,
there," she added very suavely, stooping her head a little, "don't
trouble to answer me. I never extort an answer. Boys are queer fish.
Brains might perhaps have suggested his washing his hands before
luncheon; but--not my choice, Smithers. God forbid! And now, perhaps,
you would like to go into the garden again. I cannot actually see from
here, but I should not be surprised if Arthur is now skulking behind
that hedge."

He was. I saw his head come out and take a rapid glance at the windows.

"Join him, Mr. Smithers; we shall meet again, I hope, at the tea-table.
The afternoon I spend in retirement."

Whether or not, Seaton and I had not been long engaged with the aid of
two green switches in riding round and round a lumbering old gray horse
we found in the meadow, before a rather bunched-up figure appeared,
walking along the field-path on the other side of the water, with a
magenta parasol studiously lowered in our direction throughout her slow
progress, as if that were the magnetic needle and we the fixed pole.
Seaton at once lost all nerve in his riding. At the next lurch of the
old mare's heels he toppled over into the grass, and I slid off the
sleek broad back to join him where he stood, rubbing his shoulder and
sourly watching the rather pompous figure till it was out of sight.

"Was that your aunt, Seaton?" I enquired; but not till then.

He nodded.

"Why didn't she take any notice of us, then?"

"She never does."

"Why not?"

"Oh, she knows all right, without; that's the dam awful part of it."
Seaton was about the only fellow at Gummidge's who ever had the
ostentation to use bad language. He had suffered for it, too. But it
wasn't, I think, bravado. I believe he really felt certain things more
intensely than most of the other fellows, and they were generally
things that fortunate and average people do not feel at all--the
peculiar quality, for instance, of the British schoolboy's imagination.

"I tell you, Withers," he went on moodily, slinking across the meadow
with his hands covered up in his pockets, "she sees everything. And
what she doesn't see she knows without."

"But how?" I said, not because I was much interested, but because the
afternoon was so hot and tiresome and purposeless, and it seemed more
of a bore to remain silent. Seaton turned gloomily and spoke in a very
low voice.

"Don't appear to be talking of her, if you wouldn't mind. It's--because
she's in league with the devil." He nodded his head and stooped to pick
up a round flat pebble. "I tell you," he said, still stooping, "you
fellows don't realise what it is. I know I'm a bit close and all that.
But so would you be if you had that old hag listening to every thought
you think."

I looked at him, then turned and surveyed one by one the windows of the
house.

"Where's your _pater_?" I said awkwardly.

"Dead, ages and ages ago, and my mother too. She's not my aunt by
rights."

"What is she, then?"

"I mean she's not my mother's sister, because my grandmother married
twice; and she's one of the first lot. I don't know what you call her,
but anyhow she's not my real aunt."

"She gives you plenty of pocket-money."

Seaton looked steadfastly at me out of his flat eyes. "She can't give
me what's mine. When I come of age half of the whole lot will be mine;
and what's more"--he turned his back on the house--"I'll make her hand
over every blessed shilling of it."

I put my hands in my pockets and stared at Seaton. "Is it much?"

He nodded.

"Who told you?" He got suddenly very angry; a darkish red came into his
cheeks, his eyes glistened, but he made no answer, and we loitered
listlessly about the garden until it was time for tea....

Seaton's aunt was wearing an extraordinary kind of lace jacket when we
sidled sheepishly into the drawing-room together. She greeted me with a
heavy and protracted smile, and bade me bring a chair close to the
little table.

"I hope Arthur has made you feel at home," she said as she handed me my
cup in her crooked hand. "He don't talk much to me; but then I'm an old
woman. You must come again, Wither, and draw him out of his shell. You
old snail!" She wagged her head at Seaton, who sat munching cake and
watching her intently.

"And we must correspond, perhaps." She nearly shut her eyes at me. "You
must write and tell me everything behind the creature's back." I
confess I found her rather disquieting company. The evening drew on.
Lamps were brought by a man with a nondescript face and very quiet
footsteps. Seaton was told to bring out the chess-men. And we played a
game, she and I, with her big chin thrust over the board at every move
as she gloated over the pieces and occasionally croaked "Check!" after
which she would sit back inscrutably staring at me. But the game was
never finished. She simply hemmed me defencelessly in with a cloud of
men that held me impotent, and yet one and all refused to administer to
my poor flustered old king a merciful _coup de grâce_.

"There," she said, as the clock struck ten--"a drawn game, Withers. We
are very evenly matched. A very creditable defence, Withers. You know
your room. There's supper on a tray in the dining-room. Don't let the
creature over-eat himself. The gong will sound three-quarters of an
hour before a punctual breakfast." She held out her cheek to Seaton,
and he kissed it with obvious perfunctoriness. With me she shook hands.

"An excellent game," she said cordially, "but my memory is poor,
and"--she swept the pieces helter-skelter into the box--"the result
will never be known." She raised her great head far back. "Eh?"

It was a kind of challenge, and I could only murmur: "Oh, I was
absolutely in a hole, you know!" when she burst out laughing and waved
us both out of the room.

Seaton and I stood and ate our supper, with one candlestick to light
us, in a corner of the dining-room. "Well, and how would you like it?"
he said very softly, after cautiously poking his head round the
doorway.

"Like what?"

"Being spied on--every blessed thing you do and think?"

"I shouldn't like it at all," I said, "if she does."

"And yet you let her smash you up at chess!"

"I didn't let her!" I said indignantly.

"Well, you funked it, then."

"And I didn't funk it either," I said; "she's so jolly clever with her
knights." Seaton stared fixedly at the candle. "You wait, that's all,"
he said slowly. And we went upstairs to bed.

I had not been long in bed, I think, when I was cautiously awakened by
a touch on my shoulder. And there was Seaton's face in the candlelight
and his eyes looking into mine.

"What's up?" I said, rising quickly to my elbow.

"Don't scurry," he whispered, "or she'll hear. I'm sorry for waking
you, but I didn't think you'd be asleep so soon."

"Why, what's the time, then?" Seaton wore, what was then rather
unusual, a night-suit, and he hauled his big silver watch out of the
pocket in his jacket.

"It's a quarter to twelve. I never get to sleep before twelve--not
here."

"What do you do, then?"

"Oh, I read and listen."

"Listen?"

Seaton stared into his candle-flame as if he were listening even then.
"You can't guess what it is. All you read in ghost stories, that's all
rot. You can't see much, Withers, but you know all the same."

"Know what?"

"Why, that they're there."

"Who's there?" I asked fretfully, glancing at the door.

"Why, in the house. It swarms with 'em. Just you stand still and listen
outside my bedroom door in the middle of the night. I have, dozens of
times; they're all over the place."

"Look here, Seaton," I said, "you asked me to come here, and I didn't
mind chucking up a leave just to oblige you and because I'd promised;
but don't get talking a lot of rot, that's all, or you'll know the
difference when we get back."

"Don't fret," he said coldly, turning away. "I shan't be at school
long. And what's more, you're here now, and there isn't anybody else to
talk to. I'll chance the other."

"Look here, Seaton," I said, "you may think you're going to scare me
with a lot of stuff about voices and all that. But I'll just thank you
to clear out; and you may please yourself about pottering about all
night."

He made no answer; he was standing by the dressing-table looking across
his candle into the looking-glass; he turned and stared slowly round
the walls.

"Even this room's nothing more than a coffin. I suppose she told
you--'It's all exactly the same as when my brother William died'--trust
her for that! And good luck to him, say I. Look at that." He raised his
candle close to the little water-colour I have mentioned. "There's
hundreds of eyes like that in the house; and even if God does see you,
he takes precious good care you don't see Him. And it's just the same
with them. I tell you what, Withers, I'm getting sick of all this. I
shan't stand it much longer."

The house was silent within and without, and even in the yellowish
radiance of the candle a faint silver showed through the open window on
my blind. I slipped off the bedclothes, wide awake, and sat irresolute
on the bedside.

"I know you're only guying me," I said angrily, "but why is the house
full of--what you say? Why do you hear--what you _do_ hear? Tell me
that, you silly foal!"

Seaton sat down on a chair and rested his candlestick on his knee. He
blinked at me calmly. "She brings them," he said, with lifted eyebrows.

"Who? Your aunt?"

He nodded.

"How?"

"I told you," he answered pettishly. "She's in league. You don't know.
She as good as killed my mother; I know that. But it's not only her by
a long chalk. She just sucks you dry. I know. And that's what she'll do
for me; because I'm like her--like my mother, I mean. She simply hates
to see me alive. I wouldn't be like that old she-wolf for a million
pounds. And so"--he broke off, with a comprehensive wave of his
candlestick--"they're always here. Ah, my boy, wait till she's dead!
She'll hear something then, I can tell you. It's all very well now, but
wait till then! I wouldn't be in her shoes when she has to clear
out--for something. Don't you go and believe I care for ghosts, or
whatever you like to call them. We're all in the same box. We're all
under her thumb."

He was looking almost nonchalantly at the ceiling at the moment, when I
saw his face change, saw his eyes suddenly drop like shot birds and fix
themselves on the cranny of the door he had just left ajar. Even from
where I sat I could see his colour change; he went greenish. He
crouched without stirring, simply fixed. And I, scarcely daring to
breathe, sat with creeping skin, simply watching him. His hands
relaxed, and he gave a kind of sigh.

"Was that one?" I whispered, with a timid show of jauntiness. He looked
round, opened his mouth, and nodded. "What?" I said. He jerked his
thumb with meaningful eyes, and I knew that he meant that his aunt had
been there listening at our door cranny.

"Look here, Seaton," I said once more, wriggling to my feet. "You may
think I'm a jolly noodle; just as you please. But your aunt has been
civil to me and all that, and I don't believe a word you say about her,
that's all, and never did. Every fellow's a bit off his pluck at night,
and you may think it a fine sport to try your rubbish on me. I heard
your aunt come upstairs before I fell asleep. And I'll bet you a level
tanner she's in bed now. What's more, you can keep your blessed ghosts
to yourself. It's a guilty conscience, I should think."

Seaton looked at me curiously, without answering for a moment. "I'm not
a liar, Withers; but I'm not going to quarrel either. You're the only
chap I care a button for; or, at any rate, you're the only chap that's
ever come here; and it's something to tell a fellow what you feel. I
don't care a fig for fifty thousand ghosts, although I swear on my
solemn oath that I know they're here. But she"--he turned
deliberately--"you laid a tanner she's in bed, Withers; well, I know
different. She's never in bed much of the night, and I'll prove it,
too, just to show you I'm not such a nolly as you think I am. Come on!"

"Come on where?"

"Why, to see."

I hesitated. He opened a large cupboard and took out a small dark
dressing-gown and a kind of shawl-jacket. He threw the jacket on the
bed and put on the gown. His dusky face was colourless, and I could see
by the way he fumbled at the sleeves he was shivering. But it was no
good showing the white feather now. So I threw the tasselled shawl over
my shoulders and, leaving our candle brightly burning on the chair, we
went out together and stood in the corridor. "Now then, listen!" Seaton
whispered.

We stood leaning over the staircase. It was like leaning over a well,
so still and chill the air was all around us. But presently, as I
suppose happens in most old houses, began to echo and answer in my ears
a medley of infinite small stirrings and whisperings. Now out of the
distance an old timber would relax its fibers, or a scurry die away
behind the perishing wainscot. But amid and behind such sounds as these
I seemed to begin to be conscious, as it were, of the lightest of
footfalls, sounds as faint as the vanishing remembrance of voices in a
dream. Seaton was all in obscurity except his face; out of that his
eyes gleamed darkly, watching me.

"You'd hear, too, in time, my fine soldier," he muttered. "Come on!"

He descended the stairs, slipping his lean fingers lightly along the
balusters. He turned to the right at the loop, and I followed him
barefooted along a thickly-carpeted corridor. At the end stood a door
ajar. And from here we very stealthily and in complete blackness
ascended five narrow stairs. Seaton, with immense caution, slowly
pushed open a door and we stood together looking into a great pool of
duskiness, out of which, lit by the feeble clearness of a night-light,
rose a vast bed. A heap of clothes lay on the floor; beside them two
slippers dozed, with noses each to each, two yards apart. Somewhere a
little clock ticked huskily. There was a rather close smell of lavender
and eau de Cologne, mingled with the fragrance of ancient sachets,
soap, and drugs. Yet it was a scent even more peculiarly commingled
than that.

And the bed! I stared warily in; it was mounded gigantically, and it
was empty.

Seaton turned a vague pale face, all shadows: "What did I say?" he
muttered. "Who's--who's the fool now, I say? How are we going to get
back without meeting her, I say? Answer me that! Oh, I wish to goodness
you hadn't come here, Withers."

He stood visibly shivering in his skimpy gown, and could hardly speak
for his teeth chattering. And very distinctly, in the hush that
followed his whisper, I heard approaching a faint unhurried voluminous
rustle. Seaton clutched my arm, dragged me to the right across the room
to a large cupboard, and drew the door close to on us. And, presently,
as with bursting lungs I peeped out into the long, low, curtained
bedroom, waddled in that wonderful great head and body. I can see her
now, all patched and lined with shadow, her tied-up hair (she must have
had enormous quantities of it for so old a woman), her heavy lids above
those flat, slow, vigilant eyes. She just passed across my ken in the
vague dusk; but the bed was out of sight.

We waited on and on, listening to the clock's muffled ticking. Not the
ghost of a sound rose up from the great bed. Either she lay archly
listening or slept a sleep serener than an infant's. And when, it
seemed, we had been hours in hiding and were cramped, chilled, and half
suffocated, we crept out on all fours, with terror knocking at our
ribs, and so down the five narrow stairs and back to the little
candle-lit blue-and-gold bedroom.

Once there, Seaton gave in. He sat livid on a chair with closed eyes.

"Here," I said, shaking his arm, "I'm going to bed; I've had enough of
this foolery; I'm going to bed." His lids quivered, but he made no
answer. I poured out some water into my basin and, with that cold
pictured azure eye fixed on us, bespattered Seaton's sallow face and
forehead and dabbled his hair. He presently sighed and opened fish-like
eyes.

"Come on!" I said. "Don't get shamming, there's a good chap. Get on my
back, if you like, and I'll carry you into your bedroom."

He waved me away and stood up. So, with my candle in one hand, I took
him under the arm and walked him along according to his direction down
the corridor. His was a much dingier room than mine, and littered with
boxes, paper, cages, and clothes. I huddled him into bed and turned to
go. And suddenly, I can hardly explain it now, a kind of cold and
deadly terror swept over me. I almost ran out of the room, with eyes
fixed rigidly in front of me, blew out my candle, and buried my head
under the bedclothes.

When I awoke, roused by a long-continued tapping at my door, sunlight
was raying in on cornice and bedpost, and birds were singing in the
garden. I got up, ashamed of the night's folly, dressed quickly, and
went downstairs. The breakfast-room was sweet with flowers and fruit
and honey. Seaton's aunt was standing in the garden beside the open
French window, feeding a great flutter of birds. I watched her for a
moment, unseen. Her face was set in a deep reverie beneath the shadow
of a big loose sunhat. It was deeply lined, crooked, and, in a way I
can't describe, fixedly vacant and strange. I coughed, and she turned
at once with a prodigious smile to inquire how I had slept. And in that
mysterious way by which we learn each other's secret thoughts without a
sentence spoken I knew that she had followed every word and movement of
the night before, and was triumphing over my affected innocence and
ridiculing my friendly and too easy advances.

We returned to school, Seaton and I, lavishly laden, and by rail all
the way. I made no reference to the obscure talk we had had, and
resolutely refused to meet his eyes or to take up the hints he let
fall. I was relieved--and yet I was sorry--to be going back, and strode
on as fast as I could from the station, with Seaton almost trotting at
my heels. But he insisted on buying more fruit and sweets--my share of
which I accepted with a very bad grace. It was uncomfortably like a
bribe; and, after all, I had no quarrel with his rum old aunt, and
hadn't really believed half the stuff he had told me.

I saw as little of him as I could after that. He never referred to our
visit or resumed his confidences, though in class I would sometimes
catch his eye fixed on mine, full of a mute understanding, which I
easily affected not to understand. He left Gummidge's, as I have said,
rather abruptly, though I never heard of anything to his discredit. And
I did not see him or have any news of him again till by chance we met
one summer's afternoon in the Strand.

He was dressed rather oddly in a coat too large for him and a bright
silky tie. But we instantly recognised one another under the awning of
a cheap jeweler's shop. He immediately attached himself to me and
dragged me off, not too cheerfully, to lunch with him at an Italian
restaurant near by. He chattered about our old school, which he
remembered only with dislike and disgust; told me cold-bloodedly of the
disastrous fate of one or two of the old fellows who had been among his
chief tormentors; insisted on an expensive wine and the whole gamut of
the "rich" menu; and finally informed me, with a good deal of niggling,
that he had come up to town to buy an engagement-ring.

And of course: "How is your aunt?" I enquired at last.

He seemed to have been awaiting the question. It fell like a stone into
a deep pool, so many expressions flitted across his long un-English
face.

"She's aged a good deal," he said softly, and broke off.

"She's been very decent," he continued presently after, and paused
again. "In a way." He eyed me fleetingly. "I dare say you heard that
she--that is, that we--had lost a good deal of money."

"No," I said.

"Oh, yes!" said Seaton, and paused again.

And somehow, poor fellow, I knew in the clink and clatter of glass and
voices that he had lied to me; that he did not possess, and never had
possessed, a penny beyond what his aunt had squandered on his too ample
allowance of pocket-money.

"And the ghosts?" I enquired quizzically. He grew instantly solemn,
and, though it may have been my fancy, slightly yellowed. But "You are
making game of me, Withers," was all he said.

He asked for my address, and I rather reluctantly gave him my card.

"Look here, Withers," he said, as we stood in the sunlight on the
thronging kerb, saying good-bye, "here I am, and it's all very well;
I'm not perhaps as fanciful as I was. But you are practically the only
friend I have on earth--except Alice.... And there--to make a clean
breast of it, I'm not sure that my aunt cares much about my getting
married. She doesn't say so, of course. You know her well enough for
that." He looked sidelong at the rattling gaudy traffic.

"What I was going to say is this. Would you mind coming down? You
needn't stay the night unless you please, though, of course, you know
you would be awfully welcome. But I should like you to meet my--to meet
Alice; and then, perhaps, you might tell me your honest opinion of--of
the other too."

I vaguely demurred. He pressed me. And we parted with a half promise
that I would come. He waved his ball-topped cane at me and ran off in
his long jacket after a 'bus.

A letter arrived soon after, in his small weak handwriting, giving me
full particulars regarding route and trains. And without the least
curiosity, even, perhaps with some little annoyance that chance should
have thrown us together again, I accepted his invitation and arrived
one hazy midday at his out-of-the-way station to find him sitting on a
low seat under a clump of double hollyhocks, awaiting me.

His face looked absent and singularly listless; but he seemed, none the
less, pleased to see me.

We walked up the village street, past the little dingy apothecary's and
the empty forge, and, as on my first visit, skirted the house together,
and, instead of entering by the front door, made our way down the green
path into the garden at the back. A pale haze of cloud muffled the sun;
the garden lay in a grey shimmer--its old trees, its snap-dragoned
faintly glittering walls. But there seemed now an air of neglect where
before all had been neat and methodical. There was a patch of
shallowly-dug soil and a worn-down spade leaning against a tree. There
was an old broken wheelbarrow. The goddess of neglect was there.

"You ain't much of a gardener, Seaton," I said, with a sigh of ease.

"I think, do you know, I like it best like this," said Seaton. "We
haven't any gardener now, of course. Can't afford it." He stood staring
at his little dark square of freshly-turned earth. "And it always seems
to me," he went on ruminatingly, "that, after all, we are nothing
better than interlopers on the earth, disfiguring and staining wherever
we go. I know it's shocking blasphemy to say so, but then it's
different here, you see. We are farther away."

"To tell you the truth, Seaton, I don't quite see," I said; "but it
isn't a new philosophy, is it? Anyhow, it's a precious beastly one."

"It's only what I think," he replied, with all his odd old stubborn
meekness.

We wandered on together, talking little, and still with that expression
of uneasy vigilance on Seaton's face. He pulled out his watch as we
stood gazing idly over the green meadow and the dark motionless
bulrushes.

"I think, perhaps, it's nearly time for lunch," he said. "Would you
like to come in?"

We turned and walked slowly towards the house, across whose windows I
confess my own eyes, too, went restlessly wandering in search of its
rather disconcerting inmate. There was a pathetic look of draggledness,
of want of means and care, rust and overgrowth and faded paint.
Seaton's aunt, a little to my relief, did not share our meal. Seaton
carved the cold meat, and dispatched a heaped-up plate by the elderly
servant for his aunt's private consumption. We talked little and in
half-suppressed tones, and sipped a bottle of Madeira which Seaton had
rather heedfully fetched out of the great mahogany sideboard.

I played him a dull and effortless game of chess, yawning between the
moves he generally made almost at haphazard, and with attention
elsewhere engaged. About five o'clock came the sound of a distant ring,
and Seaton jumped up, overturning the board, and so ending a game that
else might have fatuously continued to this day. He effusively excused
himself, and after some little while returned with a slim, dark, rather
sallow girl of about nineteen, in a white gown and hat, to whom I was
presented with some little nervousness as "his dear old friend and
schoolfellow."

We talked on in the pale afternoon light, still, as it seemed to me,
and even in spite of real effort to be clear and gay, in a
half-suppressed, lack-lustre fashion. We all seemed, if it were not my
fancy, to be expectant, to be rather anxiously awaiting an arrival, the
appearance of someone who all but filled our collective consciousness.
Seaton talked least of all, and in a restless interjectory way, as he
continually fidgeted from chair to chair. At last he proposed a stroll
in the garden before the sun should have quite gone down.

Alice walked between us. Her hair and eyes were conspicuously dark
against the whiteness of her gown. She carried herself not
ungracefully, and yet without the least movement of her arms or body,
and answered us both without turning her head. There was a curious
provocative reserve in that impassive and rather long face, a
half-unconscious strength of character.

And yet somehow I knew--I believe we all knew--that this walk, this
discussion of their future plans was a futility. I had nothing to base
such a cynicism on, except only a vague sense of oppression, the
foreboding remembrance of the inert invincible power in the background,
to whom optimistic plans and love-making and youth are as chaff and
thistledown. We came back, silent, in the last light. Seaton's aunt was
there--under an old brass lamp. Her hair was as barbarously massed and
curled as ever. Her eye-lids, I think, hung even a little heavier in
age over their slow-moving inscrutable pupils. We filed in softly out
of the evening, and I made my bow.

"In this short interval, Mr. Withers," she remarked amiably, "you have
put off youth, put on the man. Dear me, how sad it is to see the young
days vanishing! Sit down. My nephew tells me you met by chance--or act
of Providence, shall we call it?--and in my beloved Strand! You, I
understand, are to be best man--yes, best man, or am I divulging
secrets?" She surveyed Arthur and Alice with overwhelming graciousness.
They sat apart on two low chairs and smiled in return.

"And Arthur--how do you think Arthur is looking?"

"I think he looks very much in need of a change," I said deliberately.

"A change! Indeed?" She all but shut her eyes at me and with an
exaggerated sentimentality shook her head. "My dear Mr. Withers! Are we
not _all_ in need of a change in this fleeting, fleeting world?" She
mused over the remark like a connoisseur. "And you," she continued,
turning abruptly to Alice, "I hope you pointed out to Mr. Withers all
my pretty bits?"

"We walked round the garden," said Alice, looking out of the window.
"It's a very beautiful evening."

"Is it?" said the old lady, starting up violently. "Then on this very
beautiful evening we will go in to supper. Mr. Withers, your arm;
Arthur, bring your bride."

I can scarcely describe with what curious ruminations I led the way
into the faded, heavy-aired dining-room, with this indefinable old
creature leaning weightily on my arm--the large flat bracelet on the
yellow-laced wrist. She fumed a little, breathed rather heavily, as if
with an effort of mind rather than of body; for she had grown much
stouter and yet little more proportionate. And to talk into that great
white face, so close to mine, was a queer experience in the dim light
of the corridor, and even in the twinkling crystal of the candles. She
was naïve--appallingly naïve; she was sudden and superficial; she was
even arch; and all these in the brief, rather puffy passage from one
room to the other, with these two tongue-tied children bringing up the
rear. The meal was tremendous. I have never seen such a monstrous
salad. But the dishes were greasy and over-spiced, and were
indifferently cooked. One thing only was quite unchanged--my hostess's
appetite was as Gargantuan as ever. The old solid candelabra that
lighted us stood before her high-backed chair. Seaton sat a little
removed, with his plate almost in darkness.

And throughout this prodigious meal his aunt talked, mainly to me,
mainly at Seaton, with an occasional satirical courtesy to Alice and
muttered explosions of directions to the servant. She had aged, and
yet, if it be not nonsense to say so, seemed no older. I suppose to the
Pyramids a decade is but as the rustling down of a handful of dust. And
she reminded me of some such unshakable prehistoricism. She certainly
was an amazing talker--racy, extravagant, with a delivery that was
perfectly overwhelming. As for Seaton--her flashes of silence were for
him. On her enormous volubility would suddenly fall a hush: acid
sarcasm would be left implied; and she would sit softly moving her
great head, with eyes fixed full in a dreamy smile; but with her whole
attention, one could see, slowly, joyously absorbing his mute
discomfiture.

She confided in us her views on a theme vaguely occupying at the
moment, I suppose, all our minds. "We have barbarous institutions, and
so must put up, I suppose, with a never-ending procession of fools--of
fools _ad infinitum_. Marriage, Mr. Withers, was instituted in the
privacy of a garden; _sub rosa_, as it were. Civilization flaunts it in
the glare of day. The dull marry the poor; the rich the effete; and so
our New Jerusalem is peopled with naturals, plain and coloured, at
either end. I detest folly; I detest still more (if I must be frank,
dear Arthur) mere cleverness. Mankind has simply become a tailless host
of uninstinctive animals. We should never have taken to Evolution, Mr.
Withers. 'Natural Selection!'--little gods and fishes!--the deaf for
the dumb. We should have used our brains--intellectual pride, the
ecclesiastics call it. And by brains I mean--what do I mean, Alice?--I
mean, my dear child," and she laid two gross fingers on Alice's narrow
sleeve. "I mean courage. Consider it, Arthur. I read that the
scientific world is once more beginning to be afraid of spiritual
agencies. Spiritual agencies that tap, and actually float, bless their
hearts! I think just one more of those mulberries--thank you.

"They talk about 'blind Love,'" she ran inconsequently on as she helped
herself, with eyes fixed on the dish, "but why blind? I think, do you
know, from weeping over its rickets. After all, it is we plain women
that triumph, Mr. Withers, beyond the mockery of time. Alice, now!
Fleeting, fleeting is youth, my child! What's that you were confiding
to your plate, Arthur? Satirical boy! He laughs at his old aunt: nay,
but thou didst laugh. He detests all sentiment. He whispers the most
acid asides. Come, my love, we will leave these cynics; we will go and
commiserate with each other on our sex. The choice of two evils, Mr.
Smithers!" I opened the door, and she swept out as if borne on a
torrent of unintelligible indignation; and Arthur and I were left in
the clear four-flamed light alone.

For a while we sat in silence. He shook his head at my cigarette-case,
and I lit a cigarette. Presently he fidgeted in his chair and poked his
head forward into the light. He paused to rise and shut again the shut
door.

"How long will you be?" he said, standing by the table.

I laughed.

"Oh, it's not that!" he said, in some confusion. "Of course, I like to
be with her. But it's not that only. The truth is, Withers, I don't
care about leaving her too long with my aunt."

I hesitated. He looked at me questioningly.

"Look here, Seaton," I said, "you know well enough that I don't want to
interfere in your affairs, or to offer advice where it is not wanted.
But don't you think perhaps you may not treat your aunt quite in the
right way? As one gets old, you know, a little give and take. I have an
old godmother, or something. She talks, too.... A little allowance: it
does no harm. But, hang it all, I'm no talker."

He sat down with his hands in his pockets and still with his eyes fixed
almost incredulously on mine. "How?" he said.

"Well, my dear fellow, if I'm any judge--mind, I don't say that I
am--but I can't help thinking she thinks you don't care for her; and
perhaps takes your silence for--for bad temper. She has been very
decent to you, hasn't she?"

"'Decent'? My God!" said Seaton.

I smoked on in silence; but he still continued to look at me with that
peculiar concentration I remembered of old.

"I don't think, perhaps, Withers," he began presently, "I don't think
you quite understand. Perhaps you are not quite our kind. You always
did, just like the other fellows, guy me at school. You laughed at me
that night you came to stay here--about the voices and all that. But I
don't mind being laughed at--because I know."

"Know what?" It was the same old system of dull question and evasive
answer.

"I mean I know that what we see and hear is only the smallest fraction
of what is. I know she lives quite out of this. She _talks_ to you; but
it's all make-believe. It's all a 'parlour game.' She's not really with
you; only pitting her outside wits against yours and enjoying the
fooling. She's living on inside, on what you're rotten without. That's
what it is--a cannibal feast. She's a spider. It does't much matter
what you call it. It means the same kind of thing. I tell you, Withers,
she hates me; and you can scarcely dream what that hatred means. I used
to think I had an inkling of the reason. It's oceans deeper than that.
It just lies behind: herself against myself. Why, after all, how much
do we really understand of anything? We don't even know our own
histories, and not a tenth, not a tenth of the reasons. What has life
been to me?--nothing but a trap. And when one is set free, it only
begins again. I thought you might understand; but you are on a
different level: that's all."

"What on earth are you talking about?" I said, half contemptuously, in
spite of myself.

"I mean what I say," he said gutturally. "All this outside's only
make-believe--but there! what's the good of talking? So far as this is
concerned I'm as good as done. You wait."

Seaton blew out three of the candles and, leaving the vacant room in
semi-darkness, we groped our way along the corridor to the
drawing-room. There a full moon stood shining in at the long garden
windows. Alice sat stooping at the door, with her hands clasped,
looking out, alone.

"Where is she?" Seaton asked in a low tone.

Alice looked up; their eyes met in a kind of instantaneous
understanding, and the door immediately afterwards opened behind us.

"_Such_ a moon!" said a voice that, once heard, remained unforgettably
on the ear. "A night for lovers, Mr. Withers, if ever there was one.
Get a shawl, my dear Arthur, and take Alice for a little promenade. I
dare say we old cronies will manage to keep awake. Hasten, hasten,
Romeo! My poor, poor Alice, how laggard a lover!"

Seaton returned with a shawl. They drifted out into the moonlight. My
companion gazed after them till they were out of hearing, turned to me
gravely, and suddenly twisted her white face into such a convulsion of
contemptuous amusement that I could only stare blankly in reply.

"Dear innocent children!" she said, with inimitable unctuousness.
"Well, well, Mr. Withers, we poor seasoned old creatures must move with
the times. Do you sing?"

I scouted the idea.

"Then you must listen to my playing. Chess"--she clasped her forehead
with both cramped hands--"chess is now completely beyond my poor wits."

She sat down at the piano and ran her fingers in a flourish over the
keys. "What shall it be? How shall we capture them, those passionate
hearts? That first fine careless rapture? Poetry itself." She gazed
softly into the garden a moment, and presently, with a shake of her
body, began to play the opening bars of Beethoven's "Moonlight" Sonata.
The piano was old and woolly. She played without music. The lamplight
was rather dim. The moonbeams from the window lay across the keys. Her
head was in shadow. And whether it was simply due to her personality or
to some really occult skill in her playing I cannot say: I only know
that she gravely and deliberately set herself to satirise the beautiful
music. It brooded on the air, disillusioned, charged with mockery and
bitterness. I stood at the window; far down the path I could see the
white figure glimmering in that pool of colourless light. A few faint
stars shone; and still that amazing woman behind me dragged out of the
unwilling keys her wonderful grotesquerie of youth and love and beauty.
It came to an end. I knew the player was watching me. "Please, please,
go on!" I murmured, without turning. "Please go on playing, Miss
Seaton."

No answer was returned to my rather fluttering sarcasm, but I knew in
some indefinite way that I was being acutely scrutinised, when suddenly
there followed a procession of quiet, plaintive chords which broke at
last softly into the hymn, _A Few More Years Shall Roll_.

I confess it held me spellbound. There is a wistful strained, plangent
pathos in the tune; but beneath those masterly old hands it cried
softly and bitterly the solitude and desperate estrangement of the
world. Arthur and his lady-love vanished from my thoughts. No one could
put into a rather hackneyed old hymn-tune such an appeal who had never
known the meaning of the words. Their meaning, anyhow, isn't
commonplace. I turned very cautiously and glanced at the musician. She
was leaning forward a little over the keys, so that at the approach of
my cautious glance she had but to turn her face into the thin flood of
moonlight for every feature to become distinctly visible. And so, with
the tune abruptly terminated, we steadfastly regarded one another, and
she broke into a chuckle of laughter.

"Not quite so seasoned as I supposed, Mr. Withers. I see you are a real
lover of music. To me it is too painful. It evokes too much
thought...."

I could scarcely see her little glittering eyes under their penthouse
lids.

"And now," she broke off crisply, "tell me, as a man of the world, what
do you think of my new niece?"

I was not a man of the world, nor was I much flattered in my stiff and
dullish way of looking at things by being called one; and I could
answer her without the least hesitation.

"I don't think, Miss Seaton, I'm much of a judge of character. She's
very charming."

"A brunette?"

"I think I prefer dark women."

"And why? Consider, Mr. Withers; dark hair, dark eyes, dark cloud, dark
night, dark vision, dark death, dark grave, dark DARK!"

Perhaps the climax would have rather thrilled Seaton, but I was too
thick-skinned. "I don't know much about all that," I answered rather
pompously. "Broad daylight's difficult enough for most of us."

"Ah," she said, with a sly inward burst of satirical laughter.

"And I suppose," I went on, perhaps a little nettled, "it isn't the
actual darkness one admires, its the contrast of the skin, and the
colour of the eyes, and--and their shining. Just as," I went blundering
on, too late to turn back, "just as you only see the stars in the dark.
It would be a long day without any evening. As for death and the grave,
I don't suppose we shall much notice that." Arthur and his sweetheart
were slowly returning along the dewy path. "I believe in making the
best of things."

"How very interesting!" came the smooth answer. "I see you are a
philosopher, Mr. Withers. H'm! 'As for death and the grave, I don't
suppose we shall much notice that.' Very interesting.... And I'm sure,"
she added in a particularly suave voice, "I profoundly hope so." She
rose slowly from her stool. "You will take pity on me again, I hope.
You and I would get on famously--kindred spirits--elective affinities.
And, of course, now that my nephew's going to leave me, now that his
affections are centred on another, I shall be a very lonely old
woman.... Shall I not, Arthur?"

Seaton blinked stupidly. "I didn't hear what you said, Aunt."

"I was telling our old friend, Arthur, that when you are gone I shall
be a very lonely old woman."

"Oh, I don't think so;" he said in a strange voice.

"He means, Mr. Withers, he means, my dear child," she said, sweeping
her eyes over Alice, "he means that I shall have memory for
company--heavenly memory--the ghosts of other days. Sentimental boy!
And did you enjoy our music, Alice? Did I really stir that youthful
heart?... O, O, O," continued the horrible old creature, "you billers
and cooers, I have been listening to such flatteries, such confessions!
Beware, beware, Arthur, there's many a slip." She rolled her little
eyes at me, she shrugged her shoulders at Alice, and gazed an instant
stonily into her nephew's face.

I held out my hand. "Good night, good night!" she cried. "'He that
fights and runs away.' Ah, good night, Mr. Withers; come again soon!"
She thrust out her cheek at Alice, and we all three filed slowly out of
the room.

Black shadow darkened the porch and half the spreading sycamore. We
walked without speaking up the dusty village street. Here and there a
crimson window glowed. At the fork of the high-road I said good-bye.
But I had taken hardly more than a dozen paces when a sudden impulse
seized me.

"Seaton!" I called.

He turned in the moonlight.

"You have my address; if by any chance, you know, you should care to
spend a week or two in town between this and the--the Day, we should be
delighted to see you."

"Thank you, Withers, thank you," he said in a low voice.

"I dare say"--I waved my stick gallantly to Alice--"I dare say you will
be doing some shopping; we could all meet," I added, laughing.

"Thank you, thank you, Withers--immensely;" he repeated.

And so we parted.

But they were out of the jog-trot of my prosaic life. And being of a
stolid and incurious nature, I left Seaton and his marriage, and even
his aunt, to themselves in my memory, and scarcely gave a thought to
them until one day I was walking up the Strand again, and passed the
flashing gloaming of the covered-in jeweller's shop where I had
accidentally encountered my old schoolfellow in the summer. It was one
of those still close autumnal days after a rainy night. I cannot say
why, but a vivid recollection returned to my mind of our meeting and of
how suppressed Seaton had seemed, and of how vainly he had endeavoured
to appear assured and eager. He must be married by now, and had
doubtless returned from his honeymoon. And I had clean forgotten my
manners, had sent not a word of congratulation, nor--as I might very
well have done, and as I knew he would have been immensely pleased at
my doing--the ghost of a wedding-present.

On the other hand, I pleaded with myself, I had had no invitation. I
paused at the corner of Trafalgar Square, and at the bidding of one of
those caprices that seize occasionally on even an unimaginative mind, I
suddenly ran after a green 'bus that was passing, and found myself
bound on a visit I had not in the least foreseen.

All the colours of autumn were over the village when I arrived. A
beautiful late afternoon sunlight bathed thatch and meadow. But it was
close and hot. A child, two dogs, a very old woman with a heavy basket
I encountered. One or two incurious tradesmen looked idly up as I
passed by. It was all so rural and so still, my whimsical impulse had
so much flagged, that for a while I hesitated to venture under the
shadow of the sycamore-tree to enquire after the happy pair. I
deliberately passed by the faint-blue gates and continued my walk under
the high green and tufted wall. Hollyhocks had attained their topmost
bud and seeded in the little cottage gardens beyond; the Michaelmas
daisies were in flower; a sweet warm aromatic smell of fading leaves
was in the air. Beyond the cottages lay a field where cattle were
grazing, and beyond that I came to a little churchyard. Then the road
wound on, pathless and houseless, among gorse and bracken. I turned
impatiently and walked quickly back to the house and rang the bell.

The rather colourless elderly woman who answered my enquiry informed me
that Miss Seaton was at home, as if only taciturnity forbade her
adding, "But she doesn't want to see _you_."

"Might I, do you think, have Mr. Arthur's address?" I said.

She looked at me with quiet astonishment, as if waiting for an
explanation. Not the faintest of smiles came into her thin face.

"I will tell Miss Seaton," she said after a pause. "Please walk in."

She showed me into the dingy undusted drawing-room, filled with evening
sunshine and the green-dyed light that penetrated the leaves
overhanging the long French windows. I sat down and waited on and on,
occasionally aware of a creaking footfall overhead. At last the door
opened a little, and the great face I had once known peered round at
me. For it was enormously changed; mainly, I think, because the old
eyes had rather suddenly failed, and so a kind of stillness and
darkness lay over its calm and wrinkled pallor.

"Who is it?" she asked.

I explained myself and told her the occasion of my visit.

She came in and shut the door carefully after her and, though the
fumbling was scarcely perceptible, groped her way to a chair. She had
on an old dressing-gown, like a cassock, of a patterned cinnamon
colour.

"What is it you want?" she said, seating herself and lifting her blank
face to mine.

"Might I just have Arthur's address?" I said deferentially. "I am so
sorry to have disturbed you."

"H'm. You have come to see my nephew?"

"Not necessarily to see him, only to hear how he is, and, of course,
Mrs. Seaton too. I am afraid my silence must have appeared...."

"He hasn't noticed your silence," croaked the old voice out of the
great mask; "besides, there isn't any Mrs. Seaton."

"Ah, then," I answered, after a momentary pause, "I have not seemed so
black as I painted myself! And how is Miss Outram?"

"She's gone into Yorkshire," answered Seaton's aunt.

"And Arthur too?"

She did not reply, but simply sat blinking at me with lifted chin, as
if listening, but certainly not for what I might have to say. I began
to feel rather at a loss.

"You were no close friend of my nephew's, Mr. Smithers?" she said
presently.

"No," I answered, welcoming the cue, "and yet, do you know, Miss
Seaton, he is one of the very few of my old schoolfellows I have come
across in the last few years, and I suppose as one gets older one
begins to value old associations...." My voice seemed to trail off into
a vacuum. "I thought Miss Outram," I hastily began again, "a
particularly charming girl. I hope they are both quite well."

Still the old face solemnly blinked at me in silence.

"You must find it very lonely, Miss Seaton, with Arthur away?"

"I was never lonely in my life," she said sourly. "I don't look to
flesh and blood for my company. When you've got to be my age, Mr.
Smithers (which God forbid), you'll find life a very different affair
from what you seem to think it is now. You won't seek company then,
I'll be bound. It's thrust on you." Her face edged round into the clear
green light, and her eyes, as it were, groped over my vacant,
disconcerted face. "I dare say, now," she said, composing her mouth, "I
dare say my nephew told you a good many tarradiddles in his time. Oh,
yes, a good many, eh? He was always a liar. What, now, did he say of
me? Tell me, now." She leant forward as far as she could, trembling,
with an ingratiating smile.

"I think he is rather superstitious," I said coldly, "but, honestly, I
have a very poor memory, Miss Seaton."

"Why?" she said. "_I_ haven't."

"The engagement hasn't been broken off, I hope."

"Well, between you and me," she said, shrinking up and with an
immensely confidential grimace, "it has."

"I'm sure I'm very sorry to hear it. And where is Arthur?"

"Eh?"

"Where is Arthur?"

We faced each other mutely among the dead old bygone furniture. Past
all my scrutiny was that large, flat, grey, cryptic countenance. And
then, suddenly, our eyes for the first time, really met. In some
indescribable way out of that thick-lidded obscurity a far small
something stooped and looked out at me for a mere instant of time that
seemed of almost intolerable protraction. Involuntarily I blinked and
shook my head. She muttered something with great rapidity, but quite
inarticulately; rose and hobbled to the door. I thought I heard,
mingled in broken mutterings, something about tea.

"Please, please, don't trouble," I began, but could say no more, for
the door was already shut between us. I stood and looked out on the
long-neglected garden. I could just see the bright greenness of
Seaton's old tadpole pond. I wandered about the room. Dusk began to
gather, the last birds in that dense shadowiness of trees had ceased to
sing. And not a sound was to be heard in the house. I waited on and on,
vainly speculating. I even attempted to ring the bell; but the wire was
broken, and only jangled loosely at my efforts.

I hesitated, unwilling to call or to venture out, and yet more
unwilling to linger on, waiting for a tea that promised to be an
exceedingly comfortless supper. And as darkness drew down, a feeling of
the utmost unease and disquietude came over me. All my talks with
Seaton returned on me with a suddenly enriched meaning. I recalled
again his face as we had stood hanging over the staircase, listening in
the small hours to the inexplicable stirrings of the night. There were
no candles in the room; every minute the autumnal darkness deepened. I
cautiously opened the door and listened, and with some little dismay
withdrew, for I was uncertain of my way out. I even tried the garden,
but was confronted under a veritable thicket of foliage by a padlocked
gate. It would be a little too ignominious to be caught scaling a
friend's garden fence!

Cautiously returning into the still and musty drawing-room, I took out
my watch and gave the incredible old woman ten minutes in which to
reappear. And when that tedious ten minutes had ticked by I could
scarcely distinguish its hands. I determined to wait no longer, drew
open the door, and, trusting to my sense of direction, groped my way
through the corridor that I vaguely remembered led to the front of the
house.

I mounted three or four stairs and, lifting a heavy curtain, found
myself facing the starry fanlight of the porch. Hence I glanced into
the gloom of the dining-room. My fingers were on the latch of the outer
door when I heard a faint stirring in the darkness above the hall. I
looked up and became conscious of, rather than saw, the huddled old
figure looking down on me.

There was an immense hushed pause. Then, "Arthur, Arthur," whispered an
inexpressively peevish, rasping voice, "is that you? Is that you,
Arthur?"

I can scarcely say why, but the question horribly startled me. No
conceivable answer occurred to me. With head craned back, hand clenched
on my umbrella, I continued to stare up into the gloom, in this fatuous
confrontation.

"Oh, oh;" the voice croaked. "It is you, is it? _That_ disgusting
man!... Go away out. Go away out."

Hesitating no longer, I caught open the door and, slamming it behind
me, ran out into the garden, under the gigantic old sycamore, and so
out at the open gate.

I found myself half up the village street before I stopped running. The
local butcher was sitting in his shop reading a piece of newspaper by
the light of a small oil-lamp. I crossed the road and enquired the way
to the station. And after he had with minute and needless care directed
me, I asked casually if Mr. Arthur Seaton still lived with his aunt at
the big house just beyond the village. He poked his head in at the
little parlour door.

"Here's a gentleman enquiring after young Mr. Seaton, Millie," he said.
"He's dead, ain't he?"

"Why, yes, bless you," replied a cheerful voice from within. "Dead and
buried these three months or more--young Mr. Seaton. And just before he
was to be married, don't you remember, Bob?"

I saw a fair young woman's face peer over the muslin of the little door
at me.

"Thank you," I replied, "then I go straight on?"

"That's it, sir; past the pond, bear up the hill a bit to the left, and
then there's the station lights before your eyes."

We looked intelligently into each other's faces in the beam of the
smoky lamp. But not one of the many questions in my mind could I put
into words.

And again I paused irresolutely a few paces further on. It was not, I
fancy, merely a foolish apprehension of what the raw-boned butcher
might "think" that prevented my going back to see if I could find
Seaton's grave in the benighted churchyard. There was precious little
use in pottering about in the muddy dark merely to find where he was
buried. And yet I felt a little uneasy. My rather horrible thought was
that, so far as I was concerned--one of his esteemed few friends--he
had never been much better than "buried" in my mind.



THE REAPER

By DOROTHY EASTON

(From _The English Review_)

1922


Milgate is a rich farmer, owning his own machines; not like those
poorer, smaller men who hire an engine from a neighbour. He has his
reaping machine, a red and yellow "Walter Wood" Cleveland brand. Every
morning now, as soon as it's dry enough, about nine o'clock, the engine
starts, and from the farmer's Manor House its heavy, drowsy sounds are
heard. For those on the machine the noise is harder. The only human
sound that penetrates it is the old conductor's "Ohoy!" to the driver
if the canvas sticks, or if weeds are making a "block." Then the young
man in front slows his engine down, and wipes his forehead with his
hand. Reaping goes on until nine at night.

No strange workman sits on the reaper, but one of Milgate's best men,
the most trustworthy, most faithful--the waggoner; a man well over
sixty, with side-whiskers, grey eyes, a long nose, and forehead and
chin carved out of granite. On his head a flat "wide-awake" hat, on his
bent back a white jacket. When he speaks, his mouth moves sideways
first; there's always a spot of dried blood on his lip; when he smiles
a tooth-stump appears like an ancient fossil. He talks slowly, stopping
to spit now and then; every day of his life he gets up at half-past
three. Now, mounted on the high iron seat (a crumpled sack for saddle),
he rides like some old charioteer, a Hercules with great bowed back,
head jutting out, chin straight; a hard, weathered look about his face,
and in his heart disgust--this year, for the first time, they are using
a motor engine to pull the reaper round instead of horses. He lives for
his horses; he's the "Waggoner," they are his "job;" if one falls ill,
he sleeps with it. He believes in horses; but, speaking of the motor,
he says: "She's arlraight--when she's arlraight!" with a look which
ends the sentence for him! In his youth he had reaped with a scythe.

This "Walter Wood" is a neat arrangement, you can't deny that; one bit
of mechanism works as a divider, while a big, light kind of wooden
windmill arrangement, continually revolving, beats the corn down into a
flat pan from which it's carried, on a canvas slide, up an incline,
then shot over and down the other side in one continual long, flat
stream like yellow matting. And then the needle, the "threadle" as he
calls it, nips in somewhere, binding the flat mass into separate, neat,
round sheaves, pitched out every few moments with perfect precision by
a three-pronged iron fork. Above the one big, heavy central wheel the
charioteer is shaken and jolted from nine till nine. In front, on
another iron seat by the boxlike engine, the driver works. Behind runs
a red-faced labourer "clearing corners." The motor has to run out the
full length of its cogged iron wheel bands before it can turn, and
sheaves dropped on the last round get in the way; so at each corner
they have to be lifted and set back. The labourer "clears," then runs
after the machine--now half-way up the field--stops at the next corner,
stoops once more to lift and shift three sheaves, then runs again.

This labourer was a man of forty with a face as naïve as a boy of
fifteen. Though getting bald, his eyes were young; his mouth loose,
untrained as a child's. He's "touched," as we say, and had never really
grown up. He slept in an attic, ate in a kitchen, and worked, but was
not "responsible;" he was always given "light jobs"--walking with the
"clappers," weeding, cleaning sties, "clearing." His greatest friend
was a boy of twelve; on Sundays they'd laugh for an hour at nothing.
Going to the coast for the first time last year, he was so taken by a
Punch and Judy show that he never saw the sea. His smile was the most
ridiculous thing in the world. He blushed continually, panted, grinned
like some boy caught kissing, and was always apologetic. Lightning made
him hide his head, and he was afraid of engines--their regularity upset
him. Running behind the reaper--this quick-moving, noisy thing smelling
of oil, made up of sliding chains--appalled him; there were five wheels
at an angle, and all the time an oil-wet, black, flat, chain-band ran
round over them! Underneath, the heavy central wheel ran round and
round! To the imbecile the waggoner's courage appeared supernatural.

There should have been another man to take two corners, but all hands
were wanted; so the labourer had to run all day. It was hot, no wind,
no shade. If he looked up for a moment, the hills and distant elms
appeared bright blue. The big field itself was ablaze with colour;
wheat like brown burnt amber, poppies, small white daisies, thistles.
When the engine stopped the only sounds were plaintive, anxious
bird-calls from the centre of the field; sometimes a rabbit or a hare
looked out, then bolted back. Once five graceful, sleek, brown
pheasants ran out towards the hedge, then lost their nerve, turned and
went running back. The sun shone steadily; sheaves picked up by the
labourer made his hands smell oily, their string band raised a blister
on his forefinger. Very often he grabbed hold of nettles and sharp
thistles, and the backs of his hands were swollen and covered with
stings. Blue butterflies twirled in front of his face, pale moths flew
out. When his hat fell off he had no time to get it. The sweat ran down
his egg-shaped forehead to his long, square, hairy chin (though he
could shave himself on Sundays, he looked a little like a monkey).

When the engine stuck, the waggoner asked in his slow, flat voice:

"Woan't she speak?"

"She's not comin' out!" was the youth's reply.

Once the driver was thrown up a foot when the motor went over a hole.
He yelled: "Men are often killed by the reaper." The imbecile got the
startled look of a child seeing snakes at the Zoo. Each time the engine
snorted, or the waggoner called out "Ohoy!" a spurt of sweat ran down
his spine; the blood was beating in his head; the sun shone mercilessly
on his pale, bald patch; the field began to bounce before his eyes,
bloodshot from stooping. When yards of bindweed shackled the machinery,
the waggoner just turned his head--a sign--for the labourer, who had to
run, had to catch and tear away the long green chains full of small
pink flowers.

By four o'clock they were overtaking him before he got round; the
driver had to turn more sharply, the canvas stuck.

"Doan you do that agen!" the old waggoner scolded with stern eye;
"you'll tourn us oover!"

The engine stuck when they tried to start again; for half an hour the
young driver tinkered with tools from the box, unscrewing small oily
"nuts," testing "wires," feeling "levers," and in desperation wiping
his black, dripping hands on his hair. Twenty times he turned the
"starting handle," but "she wouldn't speak!" Then, suddenly, with a
sound like a pistol-shot, the engine "fired," the machine ran
backwards, upsetting the labourer, and before he could move, the
central wheel ran over his ankles.

When the imbecile came to himself they were still at the corner, his
feet were tied up in a jacket, he was suffering horribly, yet seemed
unable to focus it; but seeing the red and yellow reaper standing close
beside his head, some memory soaked his face with sweat; he fainted.

Brandy was fetched; they had lifted him on to a hurdle when he
recovered again. The whole group were still at the corner. His employer
stood there, stout, well-dressed, and anxious, in his grey felt hat,
dark coat and trousers; the driver stood there, too, and the old
waggoner. Corn was still "up" in the middle of the field. The labourer
looked surprised at seeing sky before him; as a rule when he stared he
saw fields. He turned his face; the men watching saw his round, boyish
eyes project at sight of something red and wet and sticky (like the
mess they made out sheep-killing) splashed on the stubble, while two
broken boots lay oozing the same stuff in a large pool of it. Following
this look, the old waggoner said slowly:

"Eh, me boy, they'm youers...." Tears were running down his stiff,
dried cheeks.

"How d'you feel?" asked the farmer. His labourer blushed, then
whispered to the waggoner:

"What's 'appened, Mister Collard?"

"Why, you've a-loarst your feet."

For yet another minute the imbecile lay panting, shy, self-conscious
under his master's eye--until an idea struck him; once more whispering
to the waggoner, he said:

"'Elp me oop. I'll get 'ome, Willy."

"You carn't walk," said the old man simply. "You carn't walk no moar."

Black hairs stiffened suddenly on the idiot's chin; he had understood
that in those bleeding, mangled boots his feet were lying; he began to
cry. But then, catching sight of his master, smiled as though to
apologise----



THE SONG

By MAY EDGINTON

(From _Lloyd's Story Magazine_)

1922


Charlie had no true vice in him. All the same, a man may be overtaxed,
over-harassed, over-routined, over-driven, over-pricked, over-preached
and over-starved right up to the edge; and then the fascination of the
big space below may easily pull him over.

But his wife's uncle's assertion that he must always, inwardly, have
been naturally wild and bad, was as wrong as such assertions usually
are, for he was no more truly vicious than his youngest baby was.

On the warm evening when he came home on that fateful autumn day,
Charlie had been pushed, in the course of years, right up to the edge,
and was looking into the abyss, though he was hardly aware of it, so
well had he been disciplined. He emerged from a third-class carriage of
the usual train without an evening paper because his wife had shown him
the decency of cutting down small personal expenses, and next morning's
papers would have the same news in anyway; he walked home up the
suburban road for the four thousandth five hundredth and fiftieth time;
entered quietly not to disturb the baby; rubbed his boots on the mat;
answered his wife brightly and manfully; washed his hands in cold
water--the hot water being saved for the baby's bath and the washing-up
in the evenings--and sat down to about the four thousandth five
hundredth and fiftieth cold supper.

His wife said she was tired and seemed proud of it.

"But never mind," she said, "one must expect to be tired." He went on
eating without verbally questioning her; it was an assertion to which
she always held firmly. But in his soul something stirred vaguely, as
if mutinous currents fretted there.

"I have been thinking," she said, "that you really ought not to buy
that new suit you were considering if Maud is to go to a better school
next term. I have been looking over your pepper-and-salt, and there are
those people who turn suits like new. You can have that done."

"But----" he murmured.

"We ought not to think of ourselves," she added.

"I never have," said Charlie in rather a low voice.

"We ought to give a little subscription to the Parish Magazine," she
continued. "The Vicar is calling round for extra subscriptions."

Charlie nodded. He was wishing he knew the football results in the
evening paper.

His wife served a rice shape. She doled out jam with a careful hand and
a measuring eye. "We ought to see about the garden gate," she said.

"I'll mend it on Saturday," Charlie replied.

"I was thinking," she said presently, "that we ought to ask Uncle Henry
and Aunt round soon. They will be expecting it."

Charlie put his spoon and fork together, hesitated and then replied
slowly: "Life is nothing but 'ought.' 'Ought' to do this: 'Ought' to do
that."

His wife looked at him, astonished. He could see that she was
grieved--or rather, aggrieved--at his glimmer of anarchy.

"Of course," she explained at last. "People can't have what they like.
There's one's duty to do. Life isn't for enjoyment, Charlie. It's given
to us ... it is given to us...."

As she paused to crystallise an idea, Charlie cut in.

"Yes," he said, "it is given to us.... What for?"

He leaned his head on his hand. He was not looking at her. He was
looking at the cloth, weaving patterns upon it. And with this question
something of boyhood came upon him again, and he weaved visions upon
the cloth.

"To do one's duty in," she replied gently, but rebukingly.

Charlie did not know the classic phrase, "Cui bono." He merely
repeated:

"What for?"

After supper he helped her to wash up, for the daily help left early in
the afternoon; and then he asked her, idle as he knew the question to
be, if she would like to come for a walk--just a short walk up the
road.

She shook her head. "I ought not to leave the children."

"They're in bed," he argued, "and Maud's big enough to look after the
others for half-an-hour. Maud's twelve."

She shook her head. "I ought not to leave the house."

"But," he began slowly.

"I am not the kind of woman who leaves her house and children in the
evenings," she said gently, but finally.

Charlie took his hat. He turned it round and round in his hands,
pinching the crown in, and punching it out. He had a curious, almost
uncontrollable wish to cry. For a moment it was terrible. Before it was
over, she was speaking again.

"You ought not to mess your hats about like that; they don't last half
as long."

Charlie went out.

He knew other men who were as puzzled about life as himself, but mostly
they were of cruder stuff, and if things at home went beyond their
bearing they flung out of their houses, swearing, and went to play a
hundred up at the local club. Then they were philosophers again. But
for Charlie this evening there was no philosophy big enough, for he was
looking, though he did not know it, over the edge of that awful, but
enchanting abyss. Its depths were obscured by rolling clouds of mist,
and it was only this mist which he now saw, terrifying and confusing
him. He was a little man, and knew it. He was a poor man, and knew it.
He was a weary man, and knew it. He hated his wife, and knew it. He
hated his children--whom she had made like herself, prim, peeking and
childishly censorious--and knew it.

He had not meant it to be like this at all.

When he got married she was the starched daughter of starched parents
from a starched small house--like the one he came from--but she was
young, and her figure was pliant, and her hair curled rather sweetly.

He had dreamed of happy days, cosy days with laughter; little treats
together--Soho restaurants, Richmond Park, something colourful,
something for which he had vaguely and secretly longed all the dingy,
narrow, church-parading, humbugging days of his good little boyhood.
But he soon woke up to find he had married another hard holy woman like
his mother.

He walked along, thinking mistily and hotly. Supposing he had a baby
who roared with joy and stole the sugar ... but she wouldn't have
babies like that. The first coherent thing her babies learned to say
was a text.

Babies.... He hadn't wanted three, because they couldn't afford them.
He tried to talk to her about it. She made him ashamed of himself,
though he didn't know why; and showed him how wicked he was, though he
didn't know why; and how good she was, though he didn't know why--then.
But he knew now that there are still many women who are gluttons for
martyrdom, who long to exalt themselves by a parrot righteousness, and
who are only happy when destroying natural joy in others. And he knew
there were many men like himself, married and done for; tied up to
these pettifogging saints; goaded under their stupid yoke; belittled
through their narrow eyes.

He thought all this mistily and hotly.

He had come to the end of the road; and the end of another road more
populous; and the end of another road, more populous.

At a corner of this road stood Kitty.

She was soft and colourful, painted to a perfect peachiness,
young--twenty-four and looking less; old as the world and wise. She was
gay. She did not much care if it snowed; she knew enough to wriggle in
somewhere, somehow, out of it. The years had not yet scared her. She
was joy.

Charlie paused before he knew why. She looked at him. Then the mists
rolled away from the abyss below the tottering edge on which he had
been balanced for longer time than he guessed, and he saw the garden
far below; lotus flowers dreaming in the sun. He launched himself
simply into space towards them.

Kitty helped him. She knew how.

Charlie had, as it happened, his next week's personal allowance of
seven and sixpence in his pocket--for to-day had been pay day; and his
season ticket. The rest he had handed over to his wife at supper time.
He had also, however, the moral support of knowing that he had in the
savings bank the exact amount of his sickness and life insurance
premiums due that very week. So it did not embarrass him to take Kitty
straight away up to town--she, making a shrewd summary of him, did not
object to third-class travelling--and to stand her coffee and a
sandwich at the Monico.

"I don't happen to have much change on me, and my bank's closed," was
the explanation he offered, and she tactfully accepted of this modest
entertainment.

It was ten-thirty when she took him to see her tiny flat a stone's
throw away. She was looking for another supporter for that flat, and
explained her reason for being in Charlie's suburb that evening. She'd
been trying to find the house of a man friend--a rich friend--who lived
there, and might have helped her over a temporary difficulty, but when
she found the house the servants told her he was away. She confided
these things, leaning in Charlie's arms on a little striped divan by a
gas fire. She made him a drink, and showed him the cunning and
luxurious little contrivances for comfort about the flat. He loved it.
She didn't try to conceal from him her real vocation, for that would
have been too silly. Even Charlie might not have been such a fool as to
believe her. But she invested it with glamour; she made of it romance.
Once more as in boyhood he saw the world full of allurement.

So he went home, having promised her that to-morrow he would come
again.

And going in quietly, so as not to disturb the baby, he undressed
quietly so as not to disturb his wife, and he crept cautiously into the
double bed that she decreed they must share for ever and ever, whatever
their feelings towards one another, because they were married; and he
hoped to fall asleep with enchantment unbroken. But she was awake, and
waiting patiently to speak. "Where have you been, Charlie?"

"At the club," he whispered back. "Watching two fellows play a billiard
match."

She sighed.

"Charlie," she said, "you ought to have more consideration for me.
Maudie said to me when I went in to look at them before I came to bed:
'Is daddy still out?' she said. 'I do think he ought not to go out and
leave you alone, mamma.' She's such a sweet child, Charlie, and I do
think you ought to think more of her. Children often say little things
in the innocence of their hearts that do even us grown-up people good
sometimes."

So the next morning Charlie left home with a suit-case--alleged to
contain the one suit for turning, but really crammed to bursting. His
wife being busy with the baby, Maud saw him off with her usual air of
smug reproof; and that evening he did not come back. He had written a
letter to his wife, on the journey to town, telling her his decision,
which she would receive by the afternoon post. But he gave her no
address.

He drew out the whole amount in the savings bank, surrendered his life
insurance, realising £160; and he went home after the day's work to
Kitty.

Little Kitty was looking for any kind of mug, pending better
developments, and she certainly had found one; but what a happy mug he
was! Life was warm and light, gay and uncritical. He spent even less on
his own lunches--he retained his seven and sixpence weekly personal
allowance, though of course he posted the rest of his salary home--so
that he might have an extra half-crown or so to buy chocolates for
Kitty. It was nice to buy chocolates instead of subscribing to the
Vicar's Fund. And little Kitty, who was wise, guessed he hadn't much
and couldn't afford her long, so pending better things, like a sensible
person, she eked him out.

She made him so happy. They laughed. She sang--

  I'm for ever blowing bubbles,
  Pretty bubbles in the air.
  They fly so high, nearly reach the sky....

She had a gramophone and she taught him to dance, and then he had to
take her to the best dancing place he could afford and they danced a
long evening through. He bought her a wonderful little woollen frock at
one of the small French shops in Shaftesbury Avenue, and she looked
exactly what she was in it; and he knew she was the most wonderful
thing in the world. When he propounded the frock question to her one
morning when they woke up, saying: "I would like to see you in a dress
I'd bought, Kitty," she did not tell him it was wrong to consider
themselves, and she would have her old black turned. She put a dear fat
little arm round his neck, laid a soft selfish cheek to his, and
muttered cosily, "It shall buy her a frock then. It shall."

She was sporting enough not to protest when she knew where his weekly
pay went. "Three kids must be fed," she said. In fact, according to her
own codes, she was not ungenerous towards the other woman.

All the while he knew: £160 can't last. What will happen when...?

Charlie's wife thought she was sure of what must happen pretty soon. So
did her Uncle Henry and Aunt, for whom she had sent a day or two after
the blow had fallen.

They found her cutting down Maud's oldest dress for the second child in
her tidy house.

"Charlie has left me for an immoral woman," she said, after preparing
them with preliminaries.

"What!" said Uncle Henry. He was a churchwarden at the church to which
Charlie, in a bowler hat, had had to take the critical Maud on Sundays.

"Fancy leaving _that_!" said Aunt, when they had digested and credited
the news. She pointed at her niece sewing diligently even through this
painful conversation. "Look at her scraping and economising and
contriving. And he leaves her!"

"He must be naturally wild and bad," said Uncle Henry. "Shall I speak
to the Vicar for you?"

"Have you written to his firm?" asked Aunt.

Charlie's wife spoke wisely, gently, and with perfection as ever. "No,"
she said. "I have thought it over, and I think the best thing, for the
children's sake, is to say nothing. We ought not to consider ourselves.
Besides, I dare say it's my duty to forgive him."

"Always thinking of your duty!" murmured Aunt admiringly.

"If I wrote to his firm about it," said Charlie's wife, "they would
dismiss him."

"Ah! and he sends you his pay, you say?" said Uncle Henry, seizing the
point like a business man.

"What a position for a conscientious woman like you!" mourned Aunt.

"You are quite right, my dear," said Uncle Henry. "You have three
children and no other means of sustenance, and you cannot afford to do
as I should otherwise advise you."

"Besides, he will come back," said Charlie's wife gently. "Men are soon
sickened of these women."

"Of course," agreed Aunt.

"Well! Well!" said Uncle Henry, "you are very magnanimous, my dear, and
one day Charles will fully appreciate it. And I hope he will be duly
thankful to you for your great goodness. Yes! You will soon have Master
Charles creeping back, very ashamed of himself, and when he comes, I
for one, intend to give him the biggest talking to he has ever had in
his life. But I really think the Vicar too, should be told, in
confidence, so that he may decide upon the right course of action for
himself."

"Because he could not allow your husband to communicate, my love," said
Aunt, "without being sure of his genuine repentance."

"I have been thinking of that too," said Charlie's wife. "It would not
be right."

"I wonder what he feels about himself, when he remembers his dear
little children," said Aunt. "Maud nearly old enough to understand, and
all!"

So they lay for Charlie, while he basked and thrived in the abyss of
the lotus-flower; and the £160 dwindled.

It was towards the end of the second month that Charlie sensed a new
element in his precarious dream. All day when he was out, thinking of
Kitty through the routine of his work, he had no idea of what she was
doing. Sometimes he was afraid to think of what she might be doing, and
for fear of shattering the dream, he never dared to ask. Always she was
sweet and joyful towards him--save for petulant quarrels she raised as
if to make the ensuing sweetness and joyfulness the dearer--until
towards the close of the second month. Then one evening she was
distrait; one evening, critical; one night, cold; then she had a dinner
and dance engagement at the Savoy. Then he knew that his time had come.

He waited up for her. He had the gas fire lighted in the tiny
sitting-room, and little sugary cakes and wine on the table; and the
gas fire lighted in the bedroom to warm it for her, and the bed turned
down, and her nightgown and slippers, so frail, warming before the
fire.

But he knew.

In the early dawn her key clicked in the lock, and she came in,
followed by a man. He was pale, sensual, moneyed, fashionable. Charlie
got up stoutly; but he was already beaten.

The Jew looked at him, and turned to Kitty.

"I told you," she said, stammering a little, "I told you how it was. By
to-morrow ... I told you...."

"I'll come again, to-morrow, then," said the man very meaningly, "fetch
you out----"

"At eight," she nodded firmly.

He kissed her on the mouth, while Charlie stood looking at them with
eyes that seemed to stare themselves out of his head, turned and went
out.

"Nighty-night!" Kitty called after him.

After the front door clicked again there was a moment's silence. Kitty
advanced, shook off her cloak, took up one of the sugary cakes, and
began to munch it. She looked beautiful and careless and sorry and hard
all at once.

"What are you sitting up for, Charlie?" she asked. "I didn't expect to
see you. I brought that fellow in to talk."

"What about?" said Charlie in a hoarse desolate voice.

"Charlie," said Kitty, hurriedly, "you know this arrangement of ours
can't last, now, can it, dear? You haven't the cash for one thing,
dear. Now, have you? And I've got to think of myself a little; a girl's
got to provide. You've been awf'ly good to me. Let's part friends."

"'Part!'" he repeated.

His eyes seemed to start from his head.

"Let's part friends," wheedled Kitty. "Shall us?"

The night passed in a kind of evil vision of desolation, and Kitty was
asleep long before he had stopped his futile whisperings into her ear.

Before he went to the office in the morning, he asked her from a
breaking heart: "You mean it?"

"I've got to," she explained. She cried easily. "Dearie, you'll leave
peaceably? You won't make a row? Now, for my sake! To oblige me! While
you're out to-day I'll pack your suit-case and give it to the
hall-porter for you to call for. Shall I, Charlie? Kiss me, dear. Don't
take your latch-key. Good-bye. You've been awfully decent to me. We'll
part friends, shall us?"

He kissed her, and went out to work, speaking no more. He had said all
the things in his heart during the hours of that sleepless dawn. She
knew how he loved her ... though possibly she didn't quite believe. He
realised her position acutely, perhaps more acutely than his own. She
had to live. And yet....

He had taken his latch-key the same as usual, and he found himself at
the end of the day, going the same as usual to the tiny flat that was
home if ever there was any place called home. He let himself in
noiselessly. The little hall was dark. He stood in a corner against the
coat cupboard. The flat was silent. He stood there a long while
without moving and a clock chimed seven. He heard her singing--

  "I'm for ever blowing bubbles....
  Lal-la! la! la!... la! la! la!..."

She would be in her bedroom, sitting before the mirror in her
diaphanous underwear, touching up her face. The pauses in the song made
him see her.... Now she was using the eyebrow pencil.... The song went
on and broke again; now she would be half turning from the mirror,
curved on the gilt chair as he had so often seen her, hand-glass in
hand, looking at the back of her head, and her eyelashes, and her
profile, fining away all hard edges of rouge and lipstick. He felt
quite peaceful as he imaged her.

Peace was shattered at a blast by the ringing of the front door bell.
Then light streamed from the opened bedroom door, was switched off, and
Kitty ran into the darkish hall. She clicked on the light by the front
door, opened the door, and the big man came in.

He kissed her on the mouth.

Then Charlie stepped from beside the coat cupboard, suddenly as though
some strong spring which held him there had been released, and the
strong spring was in his tense body alone. For the first time in his
life he felt all steel and wire and whipcord, and many fires. He threw
himself on the intruder and fought for his woman.

Kitty did not scream. She knew better.

"Oh Charlie!" she panted. "For ---- sake go! Go! I can't have a row
here. Oh, Charlie, be a good boy, do."

"He _shall_ go," said the other man.

He was a big man; and still young and lithe. Kitty opened the front
door, whispering: "Oh, Charlie! Oh! Charlie!" and the man pushed
Charlie out. The lift was not working at the moment, the landing was
quiet, there was not a soul on the stairway beside the liftshaft when
the man flung Charlie headlong down the first flight and broke him on
the unyielding stone.

Charlie heard his own spine crack; but as the other, scared and pale,
reached him, he heard something else also; the voice of Kitty, who
stood above them, looking down, sobbing: "I c-c-can't have a row here.
It'd break me. Oh! Charlie! Oh Charlie! If you love me, go away!"

Charlie loved Kitty very much. "My back's broken," he whispered to the
enemy bending over him. "But if you get me under the armpits, lift me
down the stairs, and put me into the street, and if the hall-porter
sees us go out tell him I'm dead drunk----"

The man lifted him as instructed, an arm round him, just under the
shoulder-blades and armpits. Below he could feel the crumpled weight
sway and sag. He tried to be merciful in his handling. "D-d-do you no
g-g-good," he faltered as he lifted Charlie downstairs, "t-to get me
into a mess. I'm sorry. D-d-didn't mean.... But I've got a wife and
don't want hell raised.... You asked for it.... I'm sorry. I'm
sorry...." When they reached the ground floor the single-handed porter
was just carrying a passenger in the lift to the floor above, so they
got unobserved into the street, a quietish street, a cul-de-sac.

"Take me a f-f-few d-d-doors off, and put me down," said Charlie, and
the sweat of pain ran down his face, but when the man had put him down
against some area railings, and laid him straight, he was comfortable.

The other man simply vanished.

A taxi-driver found Charlie by-and-by, and the police fetched an
ambulance and took him to the hospital, and in a white bed he lay
sleepily, revealing nothing, all that night. But they found, searching
for an address in his pockets, the address of his family, and they sent
a message to his wife.

His wife received it early the next morning, and first she sent Maud
for Uncle Henry and Aunt, who found that all was turning out as they
prophesied, save for the slight deviation of Charlie's accident.

"They don't say exactly how bad he is?" said Uncle Henry. "Ah! but he
was well enough to send for you! He knows which side his bread's
buttered. Yes! we shall have Master Charles creeping back again, very
thankful to be in his home with every comfort, nursed by you; and I
will give him the worse talking to be has ever had in his life!"

"And if he's ill he can't prevent the Vicar visiting him too," said
Aunt.

So Charlie's wife set out to do her duty.

But still earlier that morning, instructed by the tremendous peace
which was stealing over him that time was short, Charlie was making his
first request. Would they please ring up _Shaftesbury_ 84 to ask for
"Kitty" and tell her "Charlie" just wanted to see her very urgently for
a few minutes at once, but not to be frightened, for everything would
be perfectly all right?

Pending her arrival, which in a faltering voice over the phone she
promised as soon as possible, Charlie asked the kindly Sister who was
hovering near to help him die:

"Sister, when a friend of mine comes in, a young lady who isn't used
to--to seeing--things, if I go off suddenly as it were-what I'm afraid
of is, she may be afraid if there's any kind of struggle--I saw a
fellow die once and he gave a sort of rattle--well, will you just pull
the bed-clothes up over me, so that she doesn't see?"

Kitty came in, wearing, perhaps incidentally, perhaps by some grace of
kindness, the woollen frock, and she crept, shaking, round the screen,
and stood beside Charlie, and said, "Oh Charlie! Oh Charlie!" opening
his closing eyes.

"Kitty!" he smiled, "sing 'Bubbles.'"

The look Sister--who had taken her right in--gave her, pried Kitty's
trembling mouth open like a crowbar, and leaning against Charlie's cot
she sang--

  "When shadows creep,
  When I'm asleep,
  To lands of hope I stray,
  Then at daybreak, when I awake...."

The Sister drew the bed-clothes shadily round Charlie's face.

  "... My blue bird flutters away,
  I'm forever blowing bubbles....
  Pretty bubbles in the air...."

Just then the good woman was brought into the ward, bearing with her
messages from Maud worthy of Little Eva herself; and full of holy
forgiveness; and at edge of the screen Sister met her.

"His wife?" said Sister. "A moment too late. I am sorry." The good
woman was looking at the bad woman by the bed, so Sister made a vague
explanation.

"He just wanted a song," she said.



A HEDONIST

By JOHN GALSWORTHY

(From _Pears' Annual_ and _The Century Magazine_)

1921


Rupert K. Vaness remains freshly in my mind because he was so fine and
large, and because he summed up in his person and behavior a philosophy
which, budding before the war, hibernated during that distressing
epoch, and is now again in bloom.

He was a New-Yorker addicted to Italy. One often puzzled over the
composition of his blood. From his appearance, it was rich, and his
name fortified the conclusion. What the K. stood for, however, I never
learned; the three possibilities were equally intriguing. Had he a
strain of Highlander with Kenneth or Keith; a drop of German or
Scandinavian with Kurt or Knut; a blend of Syrian or Armenian with
Kahalil or Kassim? The blue in his fine eyes seemed to preclude the
last, but there was an encouraging curve in his nostrils and a raven
gleam in his auburn hair, which, by the way, was beginning to grizzle
and recede when I knew him. The flesh of his face, too, had sometimes a
tired and pouchy appearance, and his tall body looked a trifle
rebellious within his extremely well-cut clothes; but, after all, he
was fifty-five. You felt that Vaness was a philosopher, yet he never
bored you with his views, and was content to let you grasp his moving
principle gradually through watching what he ate, drank, smoked, wore,
and how he encircled himself with the beautiful things and people of
this life. One presumed him rich, for one was never aware of money in
his presence. Life moved round him with a certain noiseless ease or
stood still at a perfect temperature, like the air in a conservatory
round a choice blossom which a draught might shrivel.

This image of a flower in relation to Rupert K. Vaness pleases me,
because of that little incident in Magnolia Gardens, near Charleston,
South Carolina.

Vaness was the sort of a man of whom one could never say with safety
whether he was revolving round a beautiful young woman or whether the
beautiful young woman was revolving round him. His looks, his wealth,
his taste, his reputation, invested him with a certain sun-like
quality; but his age, the recession of his locks, and the advancement
of his waist were beginning to dim his lustre, so that whether he was
moth or candle was becoming a moot point. It was moot to me, watching
him and Miss Sabine Monroy at Charleston throughout the month of March.
The casual observer would have said that she was "playing him up," as a
young poet of my acquaintance puts it; but I was not casual. For me
Vaness had the attraction of a theorem, and I was looking rather deeply
into him and Miss Monroy.

That girl had charm. She came, I think, from Baltimore, with a strain
in her, they said, of old Southern French blood. Tall and what is known
as willowy, with dark chestnut hair, very broad, dark eyebrows, very
soft, quick eyes, and a pretty mouth,--when she did not accentuate it
with lip-salve,--she had more sheer quiet vitality than any girl I ever
saw. It was delightful to watch her dance, ride, play tennis. She
laughed with her eyes; she talked with a savouring vivacity. She never
seemed tired or bored. She was, in one hackneyed word, attractive. And
Vaness, the connoisseur, was quite obviously attracted. Of men who
professionally admire beauty one can never tell offhand whether they
definitely design to add a pretty woman to their collection, or whether
their dalliance is just matter of habit. But he stood and sat about
her, he drove and rode, listened to music, and played cards with her;
he did all but dance with her, and even at times trembled on the brink
of that. And his eyes, those fine, lustrous eyes of his, followed her
about.

How she had remained unmarried to the age of twenty-six was a mystery
till one reflected that with her power of enjoying life she could not
yet have had the time. Her perfect physique was at full stretch for
eighteen hours out of the twenty-four every day. Her sleep must have
been like that of a baby. One figured her sinking into dreamless rest
the moment her head touched the pillow, and never stirring till she
sprang up into her bath.

As I say, for me Vaness, or rather his philosophy, _erat
demonstrandum_. I was philosophically in some distress just then. The
microbe of fatalism, already present in the brains of artists before
the war, had been considerably enlarged by that depressing occurrence.
Could a civilization, basing itself on the production of material
advantages, do anything but insure the desire for more and more
material advantages? Could it promote progress even of a material
character except in countries whose resources were still much in excess
of their population? The war had seemed to me to show that mankind was
too combative an animal ever to recognize that the good of all was the
good of one. The coarse-fibred, pugnacious, and self-seeking would, I
had become sure, always carry too many guns for the refined and kindly.

The march of science appeared, on the whole, to be carrying us
backward. I deeply suspected that there had been ages when the
populations of this earth, though less numerous and comfortable, had
been proportionately healthier than they were at present. As for
religion, I had never had the least faith in Providence rewarding the
pitiable by giving them a future life of bliss. The theory seemed to me
illogical, for the more pitiable in this life appeared to me the
thick-skinned and successful, and these, as we know, in the saying
about the camel and the needle's eye, our religion consigns wholesale
to hell. Success, power, wealth, those aims of profiteers and premiers,
pedagogues and pandemoniacs, of all, in fact, who could not see God in
a dewdrop, hear Him in distant goat-bells, and scent Him in a
pepper-tree, had always appeared to me akin to dry rot. And yet every
day one saw more distinctly that they were the pea in the thimblerig of
life, the hub of a universe which, to the approbation of the majority
they represented, they were fast making uninhabitable. It did not even
seem of any use to help one's neighbors; all efforts at relief just
gilded the pill and encouraged our stubbornly contentious leaders to
plunge us all into fresh miseries. So I was searching right and left
for something to believe in, willing to accept even Rupert K. Vaness
and his basking philosophy. But could a man bask his life right out?
Could just looking at fine pictures, tasting rare fruits and wines, the
mere listening to good music, the scent of azaleas and the best
tobacco, above all the society of pretty women, keep salt in my bread,
an ideal in my brain? Could they? That's what I wanted to know.

Every one who goes to Charleston in the spring, soon or late, visits
Magnolia Gardens. A painter of flowers and trees, I specialize in
gardens, and freely assert that none in the world is so beautiful as
this. Even before the magnolias come out, it consigns the Boboli at
Florence, the Cinnamon Gardens of Colombo, Concepcion at Malaga,
Versailles, Hampton Court, the Generaliffe at Granada, and La Mortola
to the category of "also ran." Nothing so free and gracious, so lovely
and wistful, nothing so richly coloured, yet so ghostlike, exists,
planted by the sons of men. It is a kind of paradise which has wandered
down, a miraculously enchanted wilderness. Brilliant with azaleas, or
magnolias, it centres round a pool of dreamy water, overhung by tall
trunks wanly festooned with the grey Florida moss. Beyond anything I
have ever seen, it is otherworldly. And I went there day after day,
drawn as one is drawn in youth by visions of the Ionian Sea, of the
East, or the Pacific Isles. I used to sit paralysed by the absurdity of
putting brush to canvas in front of that dream-pool. I wanted to paint
of it a picture like that of the fountain, by Helleu, which hangs in
the Luxembourg. But I knew I never should.

I was sitting there one sunny afternoon, with my back to a clump of
azaleas, watching an old coloured gardener--so old that he had started
life as an "owned" negro, they said, and certainly still retained the
familiar suavity of the old-time darky--I was watching him prune the
shrubs when I heard the voice of Rupert K. Vaness say, quite close:

"There's nothing for me but beauty, Miss Monroy."

The two were evidently just behind my azalea clump, perhaps four yards
away, yet as invisible as if in China.

"Beauty is a wide, wide word. Define it, Mr. Vaness."

"An ounce of fact is worth a ton of theory: it stands before me."

"Come, now, that's just a get-out. Is beauty of the flesh or of the
spirit?"

"What is the spirit, as you call it? I'm a pagan."

"Oh, so am I. But the Greeks were pagans."

"Well, spirit is only the refined side of sensuous appreciations."

"I wonder!"

"I have spent my life in finding that out."

"Then the feeling this garden rouses in me is purely sensuous?"

"Of course. If you were standing there blind and deaf, without the
powers of scent and touch, where would your feeling be?"

"You are very discouraging, Mr. Vaness."  "No, madam; I face facts.
When I was a youngster I had plenty of fluffy aspiration towards I
didn't know what; I even used to write poetry."

"Oh! Mr. Vaness, was it good?"

"It was not. I very soon learned that a genuine sensation was worth all
the uplift in the world."

"What is going to happen when your senses strike work?"

"I shall sit in the sun and fade out."

"I certainly do like your frankness."

"You think me a cynic, of course; I am nothing so futile, Miss Sabine.
A cynic is just a posing ass proud of his attitude. I see nothing to be
proud of in my attitude, just as I see nothing to be proud of in the
truths of existence."

"Suppose you had been poor?"

"My senses would be lasting better than they are, and when at last they
failed, I should die quicker, from want of food and warmth, that's
all."

"Have you ever been in love, Mr. Vaness?"

"I am in love now."

"And your love has no element of devotion, no finer side?"

"None. It wants."

"I have never been in love. But, if I were, I think I should want to
lose myself rather than to gain the other."

"Would you? Sabine, _I am in love with you_."

"Oh! Shall we walk on?"

I heard their footsteps, and was alone again, with the old gardener
lopping at his shrubs.

But what a perfect declaration of hedonism! How simple and how solid
was the Vaness theory of existence! Almost Assyrian, worthy of Louis
Quinze!

And just then the old negro came up.

"It's pleasant settin'," he said in his polite and hoarse half-whisper;
"dar ain't no flies yet."

"It's perfect, Richard. This is the most beautiful spot in the world."

"Such," he answered, softly drawling. "In deh war-time de Yanks nearly
burn deh house heah--Sherman's Yanks. Such dey did; po'ful angry wi'
ol' massa dey was, 'cause he hid up deh silver plate afore he went
away. My ol' fader was de factotalum den. De Yanks took 'm, suh; dey
took 'm, and deh major he tell my fader to show 'm whar deh plate was.
My ol' fader he look at 'm an' say: 'Wot yuh take me foh? Yuh take me
foh a sneakin' nigger? No, sub, you kin du wot yuh like wid dis chile;
he ain't goin' to act no Judas. No, suh!' And deh Yankee major he put
'm up ag'in' dat tall live-oak dar, an' he say: 'Yuh darn ungrateful
nigger! I's come all dis way to set yuh free. Now, whar's dat silver
plate, or I shoot yuh up, such!' 'No, suh,' says my fader; 'shoot away.
I's neber goin' t' tell.' So dey begin to shoot, and shot all roun' 'm
to skeer 'm up. I was a li'l boy den, an' I see my ol' fader wid my own
eyes, suh, standin' thar's bold's Peter. No, suh, dey didn't neber git
no word from him. He loved deh folk heah; such he did, suh."

The old man smiled, and in that beatific smile I saw not only his
perennial pleasure in the well-known story, but the fact that he, too,
would have stood there, with the bullets raining round him, sooner than
betray the folk he loved.

"Fine story, Richard; but--very silly, obstinate old man, your father,
wasn't he?"

He looked at me with a sort of startled anger, which slowly broadened
into a grin; then broke into soft, hoarse laughter.

"Oh, yes, suh, sueh; berry silly, obstinacious ol' man. Yes, suh
indeed." And he went off cackling to himself. He had only just gone
when I heard footsteps again behind my azalea clump, and Miss Monroy's
voice.

"Your philosophy is that of faun and nymph. Can you play the part?"

"Only let me try." Those words had such a fevered ring that in
imagination I could see Vaness all flushed, his fine eyes shining, his
well-kept hands trembling, his lips a little protruded.

There came a laugh, high, gay, sweet.

"Very well, then; catch me!" I heard a swish of skirts against the
shrubs, the sound of flight, an astonished gasp from Vaness, and the
heavy _thud, thud_ of his feet following on the path through the azalea
maze. I hoped fervently that they would not suddenly come running past
and see me sitting there. My straining ears caught another laugh far
off, a panting sound, a muttered oath, a far-away "_Cooee!_" And then,
staggering, winded, pale with heat and vexation, Vaness appeared,
caught sight of me, and stood a moment. Sweat was running down his
face, his hand was clutching at his side, his stomach heaved--a hunter
beaten and undignified. He muttered, turned abruptly on his heel, and
left me staring at where his fastidious dandyism and all that it stood
for had so abruptly come undone.

I know not how he and Miss Monroy got home to Charleston; not in the
same car, I fancy. As for me, I travelled deep in thought, aware of
having witnessed something rather tragic, not looking forward to my
next encounter with Vaness.

He was not at dinner, but the girl was there, as radiant as ever, and
though I was glad she had not been caught, I was almost angry at the
signal triumph of her youth. She wore a black dress, with a red flower
in her hair, and another at her breast, and had never looked so vital
and so pretty. Instead of dallying with my cigar beside cool waters in
the lounge of the hotel, I strolled out afterward on the Battery, and
sat down beside the statue of a tutelary personage. A lovely evening;
from some tree or shrub close by emerged an adorable faint fragrance,
and in the white electric light the acacia foliage was patterned out
against a thrilling, blue sky. If there were no fireflies abroad, there
should have been. A night for hedonists, indeed!

And suddenly, in fancy, there came before me Vaness's well-dressed
person, panting, pale, perplexed; and beside him, by a freak of vision,
stood the old darky's father, bound to the live-oak, with the bullets
whistling past, and his face transfigured. There they stood
alongside the creed of pleasure, which depended for fulfilment on its
waist measurement; and the creed of love, devoted unto death!

"Aha!" I thought, "which of the two laughs _last_?"

And just then I saw Vaness himself beneath a lamp, cigar in mouth, and
cape flung back so that its silk lining shone. Pale and heavy, in the
cruel white light, his face had a bitter look. And I was sorry--very
sorry, at that moment for Rupert K. Vaness.



THE BAT AND BELFRY INN

By ALAN GRAHAM

(From _The Story-Teller_)

1922


It was the maddest and most picturesque hotel at which we have ever
stopped. Tony and I were touring North Wales. We had left Llandudno
that morning in the twoseater, lunched at Festiniog, and late in the
afternoon were trundling down a charming valley with the reluctant
assistance of a road whose surface, if it ever had possessed such an
asset, had long since vanished. On rounding one of the innumerable
hairpin bends on our road, there burst upon us the most gorgeous
miniature scene that we had ever encountered. I stopped the car almost
automatically.

"Oh, George, what a charming hotel!" exclaimed Tony. "Let's stop and
have tea."

Tony, I should mention, is my wife. She is intensely practical.

I had not noticed the hotel, for before us the valley opened out into a
perfect stage setting. From the road the land fell sharply a hundred
feet to a rocky mountain stream, the rustle of whose water came up to
us faintly like the music heard in a sea-shell. Beyond rose hills--hill
upon hill lit patchily by the sun, so that their contours were a
mingling of brilliant purple heather, red-brown bracken, and indigo
shadow. Far down the valley the stream glinted, mirror-like, through a
veil of trees.

And Tony spoke of tea!

I dragged my eyes from the magnet of the view and found that I had
stopped the car within a few yards of a little hotel that must have
been planted there originally by someone with a soul. It lay by the
open roadside five miles from anywhere. It was built of the rough
grey-green stone of the district, but it was rescued from the
commonplace by its leaded windows, the big old beams that angled across
its white plastered gables, and by the clematis and late tea roses that
clung about its porch.

I could hardly blame Tony for her materialism. The hotel blended
admirably with its surroundings. There was nothing about it of the
beerhouse-on-the-mountain-top so dear to the German mind. It looked
quiet, refined and restful, and one felt instinctively that it would be
managed in a fashion in keeping with all about it.

"By Jove, Tony!" I said, as I drew up to the clematis-covered porch,
"we might do worse than stop here for a day or two."

"We'll have tea anyhow, and see what we think of it." I clattered over
the red-tiled floor, and when my eyes had grown accustomed to the dim
light that contrasted so well with the sunshine without, found myself
in a small sunshiny room, with a low ceiling, oak-rafted, some
comfortable chairs, an old eight-day clock stopped at ten-thirty-five,
and a man.

He was a long thin man, clean-shaven, wearing an old shooting coat and
a pair of shabby grey flannel trousers. He smoked a pipe and read in a
book. At my entrance he did not look up, and I set him down as a guest
in the hotel.

One side of the room was built of obscured glass panes, with an open
square in the middle and a ledge upon which rested several suggestive
empty glasses, so I crossed to this hospitable-looking gap, and tapped
upon the ledge. Several repetitions bringing no response, I turned to
the only living creature who appeared to be available.

"Can you tell me, sir, if we can have tea in the hotel," I asked.

The long man started, looked up, closed his book, and jumped to his
feet as if galvanized to life.

"Of course, of course, of course," he cried hastily, and added, as by
an afterthought, "of course."

I may have shown a natural surprise at this almost choral response, for
he pulled himself together and became something more explicit.

"I'll see to it at once," he said hurriedly. "I'm--I'm the proprietor,
you know. You won't mind if we're--if we're a little upset. You see,
I--I've just moved in. Left me by an uncle, you know, an uncle in
Australia. I'll see to it at once. Anything you would like--specially
fancy? Bread and butter now, or cake perhaps? Will you take a seat--two
seats." (Tony had followed me in). "And look at yesterday's paper. Oh
yes, you can have tea--of course, of course, of course. Of----"

His words petered out, as he clattered off down a like-flagged passage.
I looked at Tony and raised my eyebrows.

"Seems a trifle mad," I said.

"How delightfully cool," said she, looking round the old-fashioned room
appraisingly, "and so clean! I think we'll stop."

"Let's have tea before we decide," I suggested. "The proprietor is
distinctly eccentric, to say the least of it."

"He looked quite a superior man. I thought," said Tony. "Not the least
like a Welshman."

Tony herself comes from far north of the Tweed.

The hotel was small, and the kitchen, apparently, not far away, for we
could not avoid hearing sounds of what appeared to be a heated argument
coming from the direction in which mine host had vanished. We were used
to heated arguments in the hotels at which we had put up, but they had
invariably taken place in Welsh, whereas this one was undoubtedly in
English. Snatches of it reached our ears.

"... haven't the pluck of a rabbit, Bill."

"... all very well, but----"

"I'm not afraid, I'll----"

Then our host returned.

"It's coming, it's coming, it's coming," he said, his hands thrust deep
in his trousers pockets, jingling loose change in a manner that
suggested agitation.

He stood looking down at us as though we were something he didn't quite
know what to do with, and then an idea seemed to strike him, and be
vanished for a moment to reappear almost immediately in the square gap
of the bar window.

"Have a drink while you're waiting?" he asked, much more naturally.

I looked at my watch. It was half-past four. Very free-and-easy with
the licensing laws, I thought.

"I thought six o'clock was opening time?" I said.

The thin man was overcome with confusion. His face flushed red, he shut
the window down with a bang, and a moment after came round to us again.

"Awfully sorry," he stammered apologetically. "Might get the house a
bad name. Deuced inconsiderate of--of my uncle not to leave me a book
of the rules. Very bad break, that--what?"

Evidently Tony was not so much impressed by the eccentricities of our
host as was I. She approved of the hotel and its situation, and had
made up her mind to stop. I could tell it by her face as she addressed
the proprietor.

"Have you accommodation if we should make up our minds to stay here for
a few days?" she asked.

"Stay here? You want to stay?" he repeated, consternation written large
all over his face. "Good G---- I mean certainly, of course, of course."

He bolted down the passage like a rabbit, and we heard hoarse
whispering from the direction in which he had gone.

"Dotty?" I suggested.

"Not a bit of it," retorted Tony. "Nervous because he is new to his
job, but very anxious to be obliging. We shall do splendidly here."

I shrugged my shoulders and said no more, because I know Tony. I have
been married to her for years and years.

Light steps upon the tiles heralded something new--different, but
equally surprising.

"Tea is served, madam, if you will step this way."

She was the apotheosis of all waitresses. Her frock was black, but it
was of silk and finely cut. Her apron, of coarse white cotton, was
grotesque against it. She had neat little feet encased in high-heeled
shoes, and her stockings were of silk. Her common cap that she wore sat
coquettishly on her dark curls, and her face was charming, though
petrified in that unnatural expression of distance which, as a rule,
only the very best menials can attain.

There were no other guests in the coffee-room, and this marvel of maids
devoted the whole of her attention to us, standing over us like a
column of ice which thawed only to attend upon our wants. There was no
getting past her veil of reticence. Tony tried her with questions, but
"Yes, madam," "No, madam," and "Certainly, madam," appeared the sum of
her vocabulary. Yet when we sent her to the kitchen for more hot water,
we were conscious of a whispering and giggling which assured us that
off the stage she could thaw.

"We must stay a day or two," said Tony. "I'm dying to paidle in that
burn."

"My dear, how often have you promised me that you would never subject
me to Scotch after we were married!" I protested.

"When I see a burn I e'en must juist paidle in it," retorted Tony,
deliberately forswearing herself. "So we'll book that room."

At that moment the celestial waitress returned with the hot water, and
Tony made known her determination. I drive the car, but Tony supplies
the driving-power.

"Certainly, madam. I shall speak to Mr. Gunthorpe." Quickly she
returned.

"Number ten is vacant. The boots and chambermaid are both away at a
sheep-trial, but we expect them back any moment. I shall show you the
room, madam, and if you will leave the car, sir, until the boots
returns----"

"That will be all right. No hurry, no hurry."

While we were examining our bedroom and finding it all that could be
desired, I heard a car draw up before the hotel, and the sound of
voices in conversation. A few minutes later, on going downstairs, I
made the acquaintance of the boots. He was obviously awaiting me by my
car, and touched his forelock in a manner rarely seen off the stage. He
wore khaki cord breeches with leather leggings, a striped shirt open at
the neck, and chewed a straw desperately. In no other respect did he
resemble the boots of an out-of-the-way hotel.

"Garage round this way, sir," he said, guiding me to my destination,
which, I found, already contained a two-seater of the same make as my
own.

"Ripping little car, eh?" said the boots, chewing vigorously at his
straw as he stood, his hands deep in what are graphically known as
"go-to-hell" pockets and his legs well straddled. "Hop over anything,
what? Topping weather we're having--been like this for weeks. If you
don't mind, old chap, you might wiggle her over this way a bit.
Something else might blow in, eh?"

I looked at this latest manifestation with undisguised astonishment,
but he was imperturbable, and merely chewed his straw with renewed
energy.

"That's the stuff, old lad," he said, as I laid the car in position.
"What now? Shall I give you a hand up with the trunk, or will you hump
it yourself? Don't mind me a bit. I'm ready for anything."

He looked genial, but I found him familiar, so with a curt:

"Take it to number ten," I strode off to overtake Tony, whom I saw
half-way down a rough path that led to her beloved "burn."

"I've seen the chambermaid," she said, when I overtook her. "Such a
pretty girl, but very shy and unsophisticated. Quite a girl, but wears
a wedding-ring."

I watched Tony "paidling" for some time, but as the amusement consisted
mainly of getting her under-apparel wet, I grew tired of it, and
climbed back to the hotel.

The bar-window was open once more in the little lounge, and Mr.
Gunthorpe was behind, his arms resting upon the ledge.

"Have a drink?" he said, as I entered. "It's all right now. The
balloon's gone up."

I looked at my watch. It was after six o'clock.

"I'll have a small Scotch and soda," I decided.

"This is on the house," said the eccentric landlord.

He produced two glasses and filled them, and I noticed that he took
money from his pocket and placed it in the till.

"Well, success to the new management!" I said, raising my glass to his.

"Cheerio, and thank you," said he, smiling genially upon me.

He seemed to me more self-possessed and less eccentric than he had
appeared upon our arrival. I determined to draw him out.

"It's funny that an Australian should have owned an hotel away up in
the Welsh hills," I hazarded. "Did he die recently?"

"Australia? You must have misunderstood me," said Mr. Gunthorpe with a
hunted look in his eyes. "Very likely--very likely I said Ostend."

"Ostend? Well, possibly I did," I agreed, feeling certain that I had
made no mistake. "Had he a hotel there as well?"

"Yes, yes. Of course, of course, of course," agreed the landlord,
largely redundant.

"And are you running that as well?"

"Heaven forbid!" he exclaimed, with a shudder. "You see ... this--this
is just a small legacy. It'll be all right by and by. All right, all
right. Let's have another drink."

"With me," I insisted.

"Not at all, not at all. On the house. All for the good of the house.
Come along, Bob, have a drink!"

It was the boots who had now entered, and he strolled up to the bar
with all the self-possession of a welcome guest.

"Just a spot of Scotch, old thing!" he said brightly. "It's a hard
life. Shaking down good and comfy, laddie?"--this last to me. "Ask for
anything you fancy. It doesn't follow you'll get it, but if we have it,
it's yours. Tinkle, tinkle; crash, crash!" With this unusual toast he
raised his glass and drained it.

"Have another," he said. "Three Scotches, Boniface."

I protested. This was too hot and fast for me altogether. Besides, I
did not fancy being indebted to this somewhat overwhelming boots. My
protest was of no avail. The glasses were filled while yet the words
were upon my lips. I thought of Tony, and trembled. Common decency
would force me to stand still another round before I could cry a halt.

"All well in the buttery?" asked the boots, in a confidential tone of
the landlord.

"The banquet is in preparation," replied the latter. "Everything is in
train."

"Heaven grant that it comes out of train reasonably, laddie," said
boots fervently. "But you know Molly. I wouldn't trust an ostrich to
her cooking. Here's hoping for the best."

He drained his glass again, and this time I managed to get a show.
"Three more whiskies, please landlord," and Tony in clear view cut up
into nice squares by the little leaded panes. I got mine absorbed just
in time, and was on the doorstep to meet her, draggle-skirted and
untidy, but enthusiastic about her "burn." She broke her vows three
times on the way up to number ten, and excused her lapses on the ground
that the "burn" was the perfect image of one near a place she called
"Pairth."

When she rang for hot water to wash away the traces of her ablutions in
the burn, I had my first view of the chambermaid. I found her even more
ravishing than the waitress downstairs, and with the additional
advantage that she was not stand-offish--indeed, she was a giggler. She
giggled at my slightest word, and Tony altered her first impression and
dubbed her a forward hussy. Personally, I liked the girl, though she
broke all precedent by attending upon us in a silk blouse and a
tailor-made tweed skirt.

When I wandered downstairs before dinner I came upon her again, this
time unmistakably in the arms of the ubiquitous boots. I had walked
innocently into a small sitting-room where a lamp already shone, and I
came upon the romantic picture unexpectedly. With a murmured word of
inarticulate apology I made to retire.

"It's all right, old fruit, don't hurry away," said boots affably.
"Awfully sorry, and all that. Quite forgot it was a public room, don't
you know."

The chambermaid giggled once more and bolted, straightening her cap as
she went.

"You don't mind, do you?" continued boots, making a clumsy show of
trimming the lamp. "Warm is the greeting when seas have rolled between
us. Perhaps not quite that, but you see the idea, eh?"

He would doubtless have said more, being evidently of a cheery nature,
had not the waitress of the afternoon appeared in the doorway, her face
as frozen as a mask of ice.

"Bob--kennel!" she said sharply, and held the door wide.

The cheeriness vanished and the boots followed it through the open
doorway.

"I trust you will excuse him, sir," said the waitress deferentially.
"He is just a little deranged, but quite harmless. We employ him out of
charity, sir."

I may have been mistaken, but a sound uncommonly like the chambermaid's
giggle came to me from the passage without.

The sound of a car stopping outside the hotel drew me to the window as
the waitress left me, and I was in time to see an old gentleman with a
long white beard step from the interior of a Daimler landaulette, the
door of which was held open by a dignified chauffeur, whose attire
seemed to consist mainly of brass buttons.

A consultation evidently took place in the smoking-room or bar between
this patriarch and the proprietor, and then I heard agitated voices in
the passage without.

"It's a blinking invasion," said Mr. Gunthorpe. "I tell you we can't do
it. Good heavens, they threaten to stop a month if they are
comfortable."

"Don't worry then, old bean. They won't stop long." This in the voice
of boots.

"And they want special diet. Old girl can't eat meat. Suffers from a
duodenal ulcer. I tell you, we got quick intimate! We can't do it,
Molly."

"Fathead, of course we can. I'll concoct her something the like of
which her what-you-may-call-it has never before tackled. Run along,
Bill, and be affable."

"Shall I stand them a drink?"--Mr. Gunthorpe again.

"Do, old bean. I'll come and have one, too," said boots.

"You won't, Bob. You'll see to the chauffeur and the car, _and_ the
luggage."

"Hang the luggage! I'll stand the chauffeur a drink."

Then the female voice spoke warningly.

"You've had enough drinks already, both of you," it said. "You ought to
bear in mind that you're not running the hotel just for your two
selves."

"It's all right, old girl. There's plenty for everybody. Cellar's full
of it."

The voices died away, and I strolled out into the bar once more. Mr.
Gunthorpe was being affable, according to instructions, to the old
gentleman, while an old lady in a bonnet looked on piercingly.

"Quite all right about the diet," the landlord was saying as I entered.
"We make a specialty of special diets. In fact, our ordinary diet is a
special diet. Certainly, of course. We've got mulligatawny soup,
sardines, roast beef, trifle and gorgonzola cheese. Perhaps you'll have
a drink while you wait?"

"Certainly not, sir," replied the old gentleman testily. "You seem to
be unable to comprehend. My wife has a duodenal ulcer, sir. Had it for
fourteen years in September, and you talk to me of mulligatawny soup."

"I quite understand, of course, of course," replied Mr. Gunthorpe
urbanely. "Everything of a--an irritating character will be left out of
the--"

"Then it won't be mulligatawny soup, you fool!" exploded the old lady,
whose pressure I had seen rising for some time.

"Certainly not, madam. Of course, indubitably. We'll call it beef-tea,
and it will never know."

"What will never know?" asked the old gentleman, with an air of
puzzlement.

"Madam's duodenal ulcer, sir," replied the landlord, with a deferential
bow, dedicated, doubtless, to that organ.

Each separate hair in the old gentleman's beard began to curl and coil
with the electricity of exasperation, and at every moment I expected to
see sparks fly out from it. The old lady folded her hands across her
treasure, and looked daggers at the landlord.

"How far is it to the nearest hotel, John?" she demanded acidly.

"Too far to go to-night, Mary. I'm afraid we must put up with
this--this sanatorium," replied her husband.

As a diversion I demanded an appetizer--a gin and bitters.

Mr. Gunthorpe's face lit up and he bolted behind the bar.

"Certainly, of course. Have it with me!" he exclaimed eagerly, his eyes
full of gratitude for the diversion.

I had the greatest difficulty in paying for our two drinks, for of
course Mr. Gunthorpe would not let me drink alone, and I was equally
insistent that the house had done enough for me.

"Then we must have another," he declared, as the only way out of the
difficulty.

Fortunately for me, Tony appeared on the scene, clothed and in her
right mind, speaking once more the English language, and I contrived to
avoid further stimulation. Mr. Gunthorpe looked at me reproachfully as
I moved off with my wife. I could see that he dreaded further
interrogation on the subject of diets.

Nothing further of moment occurred before dinner. Tony and I went out
and admired the wonderful view in the dim half-light, and just as the
midges got the better of us--even my foul old pipe did not give us the
victory--the gong sounded for dinner and covered our retreat.

It was the maddest dinner in which I have ever participated. Three
tables were laid in the little coffee-room, and, as Tony and I were the
first to put in an appearance, I had the curiosity to look at the bill
of fare at the first table I came to.

"This way, sir, if you please," said the chilling voice of our
exemplary waitress.

Already I had deciphered "beef-tea" and "steamed sole" on the card, and
concluded that the table was reserved for the duodenal ulcer. At the
table to which we were conducted I found "mulligatawny soup" figuring
on the menu, and I wondered.

The old lady and gentleman were ushered to their seats by the boots,
now smartly dressed in striped trousers and black coat and waistcoat. I
say "smartly," because the clothes were of good material, and the
wearer looked easily the best-clad man in the hotel.

The two places laid at the third table were taken by a boy and girl of
such youthful appearance that both Tony and I were astonished to find
them living alone in an hotel. The boy might have been fifteen and the
girl twelve at the most; but that they were overwhelmingly at home in
their surroundings was quickly manifest, as was the fact that they were
brother and sister. This latter fact was evidenced by the manner in
which the boy bullied the girl, and contradicted her at every
opportunity.

There was something of a strained wait when all of us had taken our
places. I saw the old gentleman, eye-glasses on the tip of his nose,
studying the bill of fare intently. Then he turned to his wife.

"Minced chicken and rice--peptonized," he said suspiciously. "Did you
ever hear of such a dish, Mary?"

"Never. But nothing would surprise me in this place," replied his wife,
looking round the room with a censorious eye that even included the
innocent Tony and myself.

The two children chuckled. They wore an air of expectancy such as I
have noticed in my nephews and nieces when I have been inveigled into
taking them to Maskelyne's show. They seemed on very intimate terms
with the waitress, and the mere sight of the boots sent them into fits
of suppressed chuckling. He, standing by the sideboard, napkin over
arm, added to their hilarity by winking violently at regular intervals.
Catching my eye upon him, he crossed to our table.

"Everything all right, eh?" he said, glancing over the lay-out of our
table.

"Everything--except that so far we have had no food," I replied.

"It's the soup," he said, leaning confidentially to my ear. "The cat
fell into it, and they're combing it out of her fur. Have a drink while
you wait? No! All right, old thing. I dare say you know best when
you've had enough. Shut up, you kids! Don't you see you're irritating
the old boy."

This in a hoarse aside to the children at the next table. It made them
giggle the more.

"Surely they are very young to be stopping here alone!" said Tony, with
a touch of her national inquisitiveness.

"Very sad case, madam," replied the boots. "We found them here when we
came. You know--wrapped in a blanket on the doorstep. Not quite,
perhaps, but you see the idea. Sort of wards of the hotel."

He was interrupted by the entrance of the waitress with soup. She gave
him a frozen glance and a jerk of the head, and he vanished to the
kitchen, to return with more soup, and at last we got a start on our
meal. The soup was good notwithstanding the story of the cat. It really
was mulligatawny. There was no doubt about that.

The old couple were not so well satisfied. They sipped a little, had a
whispered consultation, and beckoned the boots.

"Waiter, why do you call this beef-tea?" demanded the old gentleman.

"You can't have me there, my lad," retorted boots cheerily. "From the
Latin beef, beef and tea, tea--beef-tea. Take a spoonful of tea and a
lump of beef, shake well together, simmer gently till ready, and serve
with a ham-frill."

The old gentleman's face showed deep purple against his white whiskers,
and the waitress left our table hurriedly, hustled the boots from the
room, and crossed to the old couple. I could not hear all she said, but
I understood that the boots was liable to slight delusions, but quite
harmless. The beef-tea was the best that could be prepared on such
short notice, and so on.

It was the main course of the meal that brought the climax. It was
roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, excellently cooked, and, so far as we
were concerned, efficiently served. The irrepressible boots had,
however, by this time drifted back to duty. I saw him bear plates to
the old people's table containing a pale mess which I rightly concluded
was the "minced chicken and rice--peptonized," already referred to by
the old gentleman. The couple eyed it suspiciously while their
attendant hovered near, apparently awaiting the congratulations which
were bound to follow the consumption of the dish.

"John, it's beef!" screamed the old lady, starting to her feet and
spluttering.

"Damme, so it is!" confirmed her husband, after a bare mouthful. "Hi,
you--scoundrel, poisoner, assassin--send the manager here at once."

He waved his napkin in fury, and boots cocked an eye at him curiously.

"Won't you have another try?" he urged. "Be sporty about it. Hang it,
it looks like chopped chicken, and it is chopped. I chopped it myself.
Have another try. You'll believe it in time if you persevere. It's the
first step that counts, you know. I used to be able to say that in
French, but--"

He only got so far because the old gentleman had been inarticulate with
rage.

"Fetch the manager, and don't dare utter another word, confound you!"
he shouted.

A few moments later our friend Mr. Gunthorpe entered. His eyes were
bright, and a satisfied smile rested on his lips.

"Good evening, sir," he began affably. "I believe you sent for me. I
hope everything is to your taste?"

"Everything is nothing of the sort, sir!" retorted the old gentleman.
"You have attempted a gross fraud upon us, sir. I find on the menu,
chicken, and it is nothing more nor less than chopped beef. And
'peptonized'--peptonized be hanged, sir! It's no more peptonized than
my hat!"

"Well, sir, as for your hat I can say nothing, but--"

"None of your insolence, sir. I insist on having this--filth taken away
and something suitable put before us. My wife has possessed a duodenal
ulcer for fourteen years come September, and--"

"Be hanged to your duodenal ulcer! As this isn't its birthday, why
should it have a blinking banquet. Let it take pot-luck with the rest
of us."

A sudden burst of uncontrollable laughter made me turn sharply, to find
that the reserve had fallen from our chilly waitress, who was vainly
endeavouring to smother her laughter in her professional napkin.

"Oh, Bill!" she cried, "you've done it now. The game's up."

The old lady and gentleman arose in outraged dignity and started to
leave the room, when a diversion was caused by the entrance of a
pleasant-faced lady in hat and cloak. I had been semi-conscious for
some moments of a motor-engine running at the hotel door.

"Oh, Mr. Gunthorpe, what luck!" cried the newcomer. "I've collected a
full staff, and brought them all up from Dolgelly with me, look you."

"Thank heaven!" exclaimed the proprietor. "As soon as your barmaid is
on her job we'll drink all their healths. I hope you won't be annoyed,
Miss Jones, but I fear, I very greatly fear, you will lose a couple of
likely customers at dawn or soon after. Here they are. Perhaps you can
still pacify them. I can't."

Miss Jones turned to the old couple, who were waiting for the doorway
to clear, with a disarming and conciliatory smile.

"I hope you will make allowances," she said, with a musical Welsh
intonation. "I am the manageress, and everything is at sixes and
sevens, look you. This morning I had trouble with the staff, and just
to annoy me they all cleared off together. I had to leave the hotel to
see what I could find in Dolgelly. Mr. Gunthorpe and the other guests
in the hotel very kindly offered to see to things while I was away, and
I'm sure they have done their best, indeed."

"Done their best to poison us, certainly," growled the old gentleman.
"My wife has a duo--"

"That's all right, old chap," interrupted Mr. Gunthorpe. "Miss Jones is
an expert in those things. She'll feed it the proper tack, believe me.
Give her a chance, and don't blame her for our shortcomings."

By this time the whole mock staff had taken the stage--waitress, boots,
chambermaid, and a pleasant-faced lady of matronly appearance who, I
learnt, was Mrs. Gunthorpe and the mother of the two children of whom
we had been told such a harrowing history.

"And just think, dear," said Tony, smiling at me across the table. "The
boots and the chambermaid are on their honeymoon. He is a journalist."

"How do you know all this?" I demanded suspiciously.

"I wormed the whole thing out of the chambermaid at the very
beginning," said Tony. "I didn't tell you because I thought it would be
more fun."

Miss Jones succeeded in pacifying the old couple somehow--mainly, I
think, by promises of a new régime--and we left them in the coffee-room
looking almost cheerful.

Tony and I went out to talk in the moonlight, while I smoked an
after-dinner cigar. We were gone for some time, and on our return
decided to go straight upstairs to bed. I noticed that lights still
burned in the coffee-room, and heard the sound of voices from that
direction. Thinking that some late guests had arrived during our
absence, I had the curiosity to glance round the door. The whole of our
late staff sat round a table, on which were arrayed much food and
several gilt-topped bottles.

"Come along. Do join us!" cried Mr. Gunthorpe, sighting us at once.

"Come and celebrate the end of this bat in the belfry sort of
management," added boots, holding high a sparkling glass.

It ended in _Tony_ and I being dragged into the celebration, and _that_
ended in quite a late sitting.

Tony and I lingered on for over a week at the Bat and Belfry Inn, as we
all called it, and so, strange to say, did the duodenal couple, whom,
indeed, we left there, special-dieting to their hearts' content.



THE LIE

By HOLLOWAY HORN

(From _The Blue Magazine_ and _Harper's Bazar_)

1922


The hours had passed with the miraculous rapidity which tinctures time
when one is on the river, and now overhead the moon was a gorgeous
yellow lantern in a greyish purple sky.

The punt was moored at the lower end of Glover's Island on the
Middlesex side, and rose and fell gently on the ebbing tide.

A girl was lying back amidst the cushions, her hands behind her head,
looking up through the vague tracery of leaves to the soft moonlight.
Even in the garish day she was pretty, but in that enchanting dimness
she was wildly beautiful. The hint of strength around her mouth was not
quite so evident perhaps. Her hair was the colour of oaten straw in
autumn and her deep blue eyes were dark in the gathering night.

But despite her beauty, the man's face was averted from her. He was
gazing out across the smoothly-flowing water, troubled and thoughtful.
A good-looking face, but not so strong as the girl's in spite of her
prettiness, and enormously less vital.

Ten minutes before he had proposed to her and had been rejected.

It was not the first time, but he had been very much more hopeful than
on the other occasions.

The air was softly, embracingly warm that evening. Together they had
watched the lengthening shadows creep out across the old river. And it
was spring still, which makes a difference. There is something in the
year's youth--the sap is rising in the plants--something there is,
anyway, beyond the sentimentality of the poets. And overhead was the
great yellow lantern gleaming at them through the branches with ironic
approval.

But, in spite of everything, she had shaken her head and all he
received was the maddening assurance that she "liked" him.

"I shall never marry," she had concluded. "Never. You know why."

"Yes, I know," the man said miserably. "Carruthers."

And so he was looking out moodily, almost savagely, across the water
when the temptation came to him.

He would not have minded quite so much if Carruthers had been alive,
but he was dead and slept in the now silent Salient where a little
cross marked his bed. Alive one could have striven against him, striven
desperately, although Carruthers had always been rather a proposition.
But now it seemed hopeless--a man cannot strive with a memory. It was
not fair--so the man's thoughts were running. He had shared Carruthers'
risks, although he had come back. This persistent and exclusive
devotion to a man who would never return to her was morbid. Suddenly,
his mind was made up.

"Olive," he said.

"Yes," she replied quietly.

"What I am going to tell you I do for both our sakes. You will probably
think I'm a cad, but I'm taking the risk." He was sitting up but did
not meet her eyes.

"What on earth are you talking about?" she demanded.

"You know that--apart from you--Carruthers and I were pals?"

"Yes," she said wondering. And suddenly she burst out petulantly. "What
is it you want to say?"

"He was no better than other men," he replied bluntly. "It is wrong
that you should sacrifice your life to a memory, wrong that you should
worship an idol with feet of clay."

"I loath parables," she said coldly. "Will you tell me exactly what you
mean about feet of clay?" The note in her voice was not lost on the man
by her side.

"I don't like telling you--under other conditions I wouldn't. But I do
it for both our sakes."

"Then, for goodness sake, do it!"

"I came across it accidentally at the Gordon Hotel at Brighton. He
stayed there, whilst he was engaged to you, with a lady whom he
described as Mrs. Carruthers. It was on his last leave."

"Why do you tell me this?" she asked after a silence; her voice was low
and a little husky.

"Surely, my dear, you must see. He was no better than other men. The
ideal you have conjured up is no ideal. He was a brave soldier, a
darned brave soldier, and--until we both fell in love with you--my pal.
But it is not fair that his memory should absorb you. It's--it's
unnatural."

"I suppose you think I should be indignant?" There was no emotion of
any kind in her voice.

"I simply want you to see that your idol has feet of clay," he said,
with the stubbornness of a man who feels he is losing.

"What has that to do with it? You know I loved him."

"Other girls have loved----" he said bitterly.

"And forgotten? Yes, I know," she interrupted him. "But I do not
forget, that is all."

"But after what I have told you. Surely----"

"You see I knew," she said, even more quietly than before.

"You--knew?"

"Yes. It was I who was with him. It was his last leave," she added
thoughtfully.

And only the faint noise of the water and the wistful wind in the trees
overhead broke the silence.



A GIRL IN IT

By ROWLAND KENNEY

(From _The New Age_)

1922


I was just cooking a couple of two-eyed steaks when Black Mick walked
in, and, noting the look in his eyes and being for some reason in an
expansive mood, I offered him a sit down. After comparing notes on the
various possibilities of the district with regard to job-getting, we
turned on to a discussion of the relative moralities of begging and
stealing. But in this, I found, Mick was not vitally interested--both
were too deeply immoral for him to touch. For Mick was a worker. He
liked work. Vagrancy to him made no appeal. To "settle down" was his
one definite desire. But jobs refused to hold him, and the road gripped
him in spite of himself. So the problem presented itself to him in an
abstract way only; to me there was a real--but let that go.

Mick's respectability was uncanny. He could speculate on these things
as if they were matters affecting none of us there. In that fourpenny
doss-house he remained as aloof as a god, and in some vague way the
calmness of the man in face of this infringing realism for a time
repelled me.

We cleaned up my packet to the last shred and crumb, and I found a
couple of fag ends in my pocket. We smoked silently. Mick's manner
gradually affected me. We became somehow mentally detached from the
place in which we sat. We were in a corner of the room, at the end of
the longest table, and so incurious about the rest of the company that
neither of us knew whether there were two or twenty men there. For a
while Mick was absorbed in his smoke, and then I saw him slowly turn
his head to the door. It was a languid movement. His dark eyes were
half veiled as he watched for the entrance of someone who fumbled at
the latch. Then, in an instant, as the face of the newcomer thrust
forward, Black Mick's whole personality seemed to change. His eyelids
lifted, showing great, glowing eyes staring from a cold set face. His
back squared, and the table, clamped to the floor, creaked protestingly
as his sprawled legs were drawn up and the knees pressed against the
under part. A second only he stared, then slung himself full forward.

The newcomer was a live man, quicker than Mick. The recognition between
the two was apparently mutual; for as Mick vaulted the table the other
rushed forward, grabbed the poker from the grate, and got home on
Mick's head with it. Before I could get near enough to grip, the door
again banged and our visitor had disappeared.

"There was a girl in it," said Mick to me when we took the road
together a fortnight later, and that was as far as he got in
explanation. It was enough. I could read men a little. To Mick
women--all women--were sacred creatures. In the scheme of nature woman
was good and man was evil. Passion was a male attribute, an evil fire
that scorched and burned and rendered impotent the protesting innocence
of hapless femininity....

So we tramped. One public works after the other we made, always with
the same result--no chance of a take-on. Often we got a lift in food,
ale, or even cash from some gang where one of us was known, but that
was all. Everywhere the reply to our request for a job was the same:
Full Up. And then we made Liverpool.

My favourite kip in Liverpool was Bevington House in the Scotland Road
district, but on this occasion I had news that Twinetoes, an old mate
of mine, had taken in that night at a private doss-house, and the
probability was that he would not only give us a lift but would be able
to tell us pretty accurately what was the state of the labour market.

It was a rotten kip. Four men were squabbling over the frying pan when
we entered, and over against the far wall sat an old crone, crooning an
Irish song. The men were of the ordinary dock rat type, scraggily
built, unshaven, with cunning, shifty eyes. The woman had an old
browned-green kerchief round her head, and a ragged shawl drawn tightly
round her breasts. One side of her face had evidently been burned some
time, and the eye on that side ran continually.

"Got any money, dearie?" she said to Mick.

"No, mother," Mick replied, gently taking her hand. "Is there a fellow
here called Twinetoes?"

"No blurry use t'me if no money," and she went on with her damnable
singing, like a lost soul wailing for its natural hell.

The Boss came in from the kitchen. "Twinetoes? Damned funny moniker!
Never 'eerd it," he said. "But there's a bloke asleep upstairs as calls
'isself Brum. Mebbe it's 'im."

It was. Twinetoes lay in his navvy clobber on a dirty bed, drunk, dead
to the world. We could not rouse him.

"What a kennel!" said Mick. "There's a smell about it I don't like."
There was a smell; not the common musty smell of cheap doss-houses,
something much worse than that....

"You pay your fourpence and takes your choice," I said, with an
intended grandiloquent sweep of my hand towards the dozen derelict
beds. We selected two that lay in an alcove at the end of the room
farthest from the door, and turned in. In a few minutes we were both
asleep.

Suddenly I awoke. A clock outside struck one. There was no sound in the
room but the now subdued snoring of Twinetoes. I was at once wide
awake, but I lay quite still, breathing as naturally as possible,
keeping my eyes more than half closed, for I felt some sinister
presence in the room. A new pollution affected the atmosphere. Bending
over me was the old crone. Downstairs she had seemed aimless,
shapeless, almost helpless, an object of disgusting pitifulness. Now,
dark as it was, and unexpected as was the visit, I could at once see
that she was as active and alert as a monkey.

On going to bed I had put my boots under my pillow, and thrown my coat
over me, keeping the cuff of one sleeve in my hand. A practised claw
slipped under my head and deftly fingered the insides of my boots:
Blank. The coat pockets were next examined: Blank. Still I dog-slept.
The wrinkled lips were now working angrily, churning up two specks of
foam that shone white in the corners of the mouth. The running eye
rained tears of rage down her left cheek; and the other one glowed and
dulled, a winking red spark in the gloom, as she looked quickly up and
down the bed. Her left hand hung down by her side, the arm tense. Then,
as she slipped her right hand under the clothes in an effort to go over
the rest of me, I gave a half turn and a low sleep moan to warn her
off. At once the left hand shot up over my head, the lean fingers
clutching a foot of lead pipe. Again I tried to appear sound asleep.
With eyes tight shut I lay still. I dared not move. One glimpse of that
tortured face had shown me that I could hope for nothing; the utter
folly of mercy or half measures was fully understood. Yet, effort was
impossible. I was simply and completely afraid.

The lead pipe did not, however, meet my skull. Hearing a slight
scuffle, I peeped out to find that there were now two figures in the
gloom. The Boss had crept up, seized the hag's left arm, and was
pointing to the door. She held back, and in silent pantomime showed
that Mick had not been gone over yet. With her free hand she gathered
her one skirt over her dirty, skinny knees and danced with rage by the
side of my bed. She looked like the parody of some carrion creature
seen in the nightmare of a starving man. The most terrible thing about
her was her amazing silence; the mad dance of her stockinged feet on
the bare boards made no sound.

The Boss loosened his hold on her wrist, but took away the lead pipe
from her, and she slipped over to Mick. Again those skinny claws went
through their evolutions with uncanny silence and effect, whilst I lay,
every muscle taut, ready to spring up if occasion required. My nerve
had returned, and now that the piece of lead pipe was in the hands of
the less fiendish partner of this strange concern, I was ready to wade
in. But she found nothing, and Mick slept on. We were too poor to rob;
but this only enraged her the more. Her fingers twisted themselves into
the shawl at her breast, and she silently but vehemently spat at Mick's
head as she moved away.

For half an hour I tried in vain to sleep, and then the Boss again
appeared. This time he bore a huge bulk of patched and soiled canvas,
part of an old sail, which he hung from the ceiling across the middle
of the room, thus shutting off Twinetoes, Mick and myself from that
part where was the door on to the stairs. He was not noisy, but he made
no attempt to keep the previous death stillness of the house.

As the Boss descended the stairs, a surprising thing happened--and Mick
awoke. Girlish laughter rippled up the stairs! "God Almighty," said
Mick, "what's that?"

Again it came, and with it the gurgling of the old woman. It was
impossible and incredible, that mingling in the fetid air of those two
sounds, as if the babble of clear spring water had suddenly broken into
and merged with the turgid roll of a city sewer. Mick sat up. "But this
is bloody!" he said.

"Wait," was all I replied.

We waited. Mick slipped out of bed, carefully opened his knife and made
a few judicious slits in the veiling canvas. My senses had become
abnormally acute. I seemed to hear every shade of sound within and
without the house. I could sense, I imagined, the very positions in
which sat the persons in the kitchen below. Even Twinetoes was affected
by the tense atmosphere. He murmured in his sleep and seemed somewhat
sobered, for his limbs took more natural positions on the bed. The
darkness was no longer a bar to vision. By now I could see quite
clearly; and so, I believe, could Mick.

The old woman was mumbling to the girl. "'S aw ri', mi dear. 'Av' a
drink o' this. W'll fix y'up aw ri'."

She had again dropped into the low uncertain voice of aimless senility.
The girl remained silent. Glasses clinked. The Boss, I could hear,
walked up and down the kitchen, busy with some final work of the night.
A confused murmur came from another corner; but I could not distinguish
the words: The dock rats were apparently discussing something.

Again that ripple of sound ascended the stairs, but this time there was
an added note of apprehension. It broke very faintly but pitifully,
before dying away to the sound of light footsteps. Half a dozen stairs
were pressed, then came a stumble and a girlish "A-ah." She recovered
herself as the hateful voice from behind said, "Aw ri', m'dear," and
older, surer feet felt the stairs and pushed on behind the girl.
Through the veiling canvas and the old walls I seemed to see the pair
ascending. A few seconds more, and a slight farm rounded the jamb of
the door. The girl's eyes blinked in the walled twilight of the room.
She hesitated on the threshold, but only for a second. The touch of a
following frame impelled her forward. Her uncertain foot caught against
a bed leg and a white hand gripped the steadying rail. Long-nailed
claws laced themselves in the fingers of her other hand and the old
woman half drew, half twisted her into sitting down on the edge of the
bed. They began to talk quietly. I examined them more closely....

The old crone still played the part of ancient childhood, mumbling
words of little import and obscenely fingering the girl's arms, head,
and waist. Some instinct led her to veil her eyes from the girl, for
from those differing orbs gleamed all the wickedness of her mangled and
distorted soul. Fountains rained from her left eye, whilst the right
again held that sinister glow. The girl was half drunk, and, I fancied,
drugged. She swayed slightly where she sat.

She wore a small hat of a dark velvety material; a white, loose blouse,
and what seemed a dark blue skirt. Round her neck hung an old-fashioned
link of coral beads. Her brow was low but broad, and her hair, brushed
back from the forehead, was bunched large behind, but not below, the
head. Her roving eyes, gradually overcoming the clinging gloom of the
place, were dark brown and unnaturally bright. Half open in an empty
smile, her lips disclosed white but somewhat irregular teeth. Seen
plainly in such surroundings, she was--to me--a pitiable and
undesirable creature. I did not like the looks of her now. The mental
image formed on the sound of her laughter was infinitely preferable to
the sight of her. She was, I fancied, some servant girl of a romantic
nature. I was right. "I don't care," she was saying, "I'll never go
back. Trust me. Had enough. Slavey for four bob a week. 'Taint good
enough. They said if I couldn't be in by arf past nine I'd find the
door locked. And I did! They c'n keep it locked."

"'S aw 'ri'. You go t'sleep 'ere wi' me. W'll put yo' t' ri's. Y'll
'av' a luvly dress t'morro', an' a go' time. Wait t'l y'see the young
man we'll find y' t'morro'. Now go t'bed." Those twining fingers ceased
toying with the girl's hair and deftly slipped a protecting hook from
an all-too-easy eye in the back of the girl's blouse.

"Three years I've been a slavey for those stuck-up pigs," said the girl
in a subdued mutter, and then she went on to recount, quaintly and in a
half incoherent jumble, the salient facts of her life. I glanced at
Mick. He was leaning forward, peering through another slit. His face
had its old set look; stern, condemnatory. Twice I had had to reach out
and grip his wrist. He wanted to interfere; I was waiting--I knew not
for what.

As the muttering proceeded, the busy fingers of the old woman loosened
the clothes of the indifferent girl, who soon stood swaying by the side
of the bed in her chemise. Deftly the dirty quilt was slipped back and
the girlish form rolled into the creaking bed. The muttering went on
for a few minutes whilst the old woman sat watching the flushed face
and the tumbled hair on the pillow. The girl's right arm was thrown
carelessly abroad over the quilt, the shoulder gleaming white in the
deeper shadow thrown by the old woman who sat with her back to us,
looking down intently at this waiting morsel of humanity. If we had not
seen her before, we could have imagined her to be praying.

Mick, for the first time since their entry into the room, suddenly
looked over at me. The same thoughts must have flashed through both our
brains. What was wrong? Was anything wrong? Surely the affair was quite
simple; and the canvas screen, violated by Mick's knife, had expressed
the needed attempt at decency.

The muttering died down and the room was hushed to strained silence--to
be broken soon by a furtive pad on the stairs. Mick and I were again
alert, staring through the canvas slits. The Boss now appeared,
followed by one of the dock rats. They glanced at the bed and then
looked enquiringly at the old woman.

"Ol' Soloman sh'd fork out a termer for this," she said in low but
clear tones. "But it's got to be a proper job." Then, to the Boss, and
pointing to the screen, indicating the position of our beds: "You
lamming idiot! Didn't I tell yo'? Yo' sh'd a took their bits an' outed
'm."

The dock rat was tip-toeing about the bed, like a starved rodent
outside a wire-screened piece of food. His glance shifted from that
gleaming shoulder hunched up over the slim neck to the heavy face of
the Boss and then to the old woman, returning quickly to the form on
the bed.

"Oo's goin' t'do it?" asked the old crone of the Boss. "You or Bill?"
and she drew down the clothes, exposing the limp sprawled limbs of the
sleeping girl. The Boss did not reply. He simply took a half-stride
back, away from the bed. The dock rat's eyes gleamed: he had noted the
movement. He ceased his tip-toeing about and looked at the Boss.
"What's my share?"

"Blimy! Your share?" returned the Boss in a hoarse whisper. Then,
pointing to the waiting, half-naked form: "That!"

In their contemplation of their victim they were so absorbed that they
apparently forgot entirely the three of us bedded on the other side of
the hanging sail. Mick and I were staggered. We looked at each other,
realising at the self-same instant the whole purpose of this curious
conference. By some subtle and secret processes of the mind again there
seemed to be a change in the atmosphere of the room. Its sordid
dinginess was no longer present to our consciousness. There was new
life, heart, and vigour and, in some curious way, our mentalities
seemed merged together. No longer puzzled, we were vibrant with a
common purpose. I was angry and disgusted; Mick was moved to the inmost
sanctuary of his Celtic being. He manifested the last degree of outrage
and insult, of agonised anger. For the moment we were cleansed of all
the pettiness and grossness common to manhood, inspired only with a
new-born worship of the inviolable right of the individual to the
disposal of its own tokens of affection and life.

And this new spirit of ours pervaded the room. The girl moaned in her
drunken sleep. Twinetoes turned restlessly in bed, and the lines of his
face sharpened and deepened. Something was killing the poison in both.
Even the trio about the girl were momentarily moved by some new
sensation.

Mick's accustomed recklessness of action was gone, he was cool and
prepared to be calculating. We slipped on our boots and I moved over to
Twinetoes' bed. I touched his arm. Mumbling curses he opened his eyes.
"It's Mac," I whispered, leaning over and looking steadyingly into his
face.

"Wot the 'ell...." he began, but I managed to silence him. Once
accustomed to the gloom, his eyes took in the strangeness of the
situation and, painfully swallowing the foul nausea of his drunk, he
calmly and quietly pulled on his boots.

The old woman had again covered up the still sleeping girl and engaged
the Boss in a wrangle about money. "You'll bloody well swing yet," said
the Boss irrelevantly.

"Mebbe; but that don't alter it. I wants my full share 'n I means to
'av' it."

Dispassionately, the dock rat eyed them both and hoped for the best for
himself. We had ceased to exist for them. "Goin'?" asked the dock rat
as the others moved towards the stairs. They looked at him, but did not
reply. So far as we were aware, though we had forgotten the entire
world outside that room, there had been complete silence downstairs;
but now we could hear movement. The other dock rats were evidently
awake and waiting. As the foot of the Boss fell on the top stair, the
spell seemed to fall from Mick. He glared fixedly at the dock rat who
stood by the girl's bed. "I'll tear his guts out," said Mick with
appalling certainty of tone.

The old woman heard it. The lead pipe again in her fist, like a
cornered rat she whipped round. Mick did not wait; full at the canvas
he sprang. His Irish impulsiveness overcame caution, and in a moment he
was wrapped in the hanging sail, the old woman battering the bellying
folds. The dock rat's head was knocking at the wall, Twinetoes cursing
rhythmically and shutting off his breath with fingers of steel. My left
eye was half closed and the Boss's knuckles were bleeding. The girl,
awake and utterly confounded, blinked foolishly and silently, weakly
trying to fix her eyes on some definite point in the tangled thread of
palpitating life that surged about her.

"Look out! Drop him!" I shouted to Twinetoes as I swung in, furious but
with some care, to the face of the Boss. Twinetoes did not heed; he
staggered across the room under a blow from one of the new arrivals;
but he did not loose his hold. He was a hefty man, entirely reliable,
indeed almost happy in such an affair. As number two dock rat tried to
follow up his blow, Twinetoes swung number one round in his way; then,
changing his hold, taking both the man's shoulders in his hands, he
drew back his head as a snake does and butted his man clean over one of
the beds.... His face a pitiful pulp, number one was definitely out of
it.

Ordinarily, the Boss would have been much too much for me; but now fate
favoured me. He was considerably perturbed about the possible outcome
of the row and its effect on his business; I was intent only on the
fight. With a clean left-hand cut I drove him over, tore a quilt from a
bed and flung it over his dazed head, then swung round to where the
lead pipe was still flailing. I was concerned for Mick. Seizing the old
woman's shoulders I flung her back from Mick and the sail. He would
have cleared himself, but his legs were somehow mixed up with the foot
of the bed, and she occupied his attention too much. The hag raised the
lead and rushed, and for the only time in my life I hit a woman.
Without hesitancy or compunction, only revolted at the thought of such
contact with such matter, I smashed her down. The Boss and Mick freed
themselves together and embraced each other willingly. Twinetoes was
playing skittles with the remaining dock rats. There was surprisingly
little noise. No one shouted. There was no howling hounding on of each
other. All but the girl were absorbed in the immediate business of
giving or warding off of blows.

"Dress, quick!" I said to the girl.

The fight had shifted to the centre, and her bed had remained unmoved,
herself unmolested. In wondering silence she obeyed. "Quicker!
Quicker!" I enjoined, with a new brutal note in my voice. The reaction
had set in. I could cheerfully have shoved her down the stairs and
flung her garments after her.

The kip was hidden away in a dark alley, the history and reputation of
which were shudderingly doubtful, but there were police within
dangerous hailing distance. The girl's lips began to quiver. Supposing
she broke down and raised the court by hysterical howling! "Don't
breathe a sound, or we'll leave you to it," I threatened. She shrank
back, gave a low moan, and clutched my coat. I tore her hand loose and
turned away in time to floor the Boss by an easy blow on his left ear.
The fight was finished.

We wasted no time but descended the stairs and passed out through the
court into the street. There were signs of life in the gloomy court,
though no one spoke or molested us; the street was dead silent. Mick's
arms and shoulders were a mass of bruises from the lead pipe, but his
face was clear. Twinetoes was all right, he said, but craving for a
wet. I alone showed evidence of the struggle; my eye was unsightly and
painful, and my left wrist was slightly sprained. The girl sobbed
quietly. "Oh! Oh!" she cried repeatedly, "whatever's to become of me!"

She irritated me. "Shut up!" I said at last, "_You_'ll be all right."
She snuffled unceasingly. I looked across at Mick--she walked between
us, Twinetoes on my right--and at once I saw the outcome of it all.
"Stop it, blast you!" I shook her shoulder. "My pal is the best,
biggest fool that ever raised a fist. He's silly enough for anything
decent," and then, with the voice of conviction born of absolute
certainty of mind: "He'll never chuck you over. He'll marry you
sometime, you fool!"

And he did.



THE BACKSTAIRS OF THE MIND

By ROSAMOND LANGBRIDGE

(From _The Manchester Guardian_)

1922


Patrick Deasey described himself as a "philosopher, psychologist, and
humorist." It was partly because Patrick delighted in long words, and
partly to excuse himself for being full of the sour cream of an inhuman
curiosity. His curiosity, however, did not extend itself to science and
_belles lettres_; it concerned itself wholly with the affairs of other
people. At first, when Deasey retired from the police force with a
pension and an heiress with three hundred pounds, and time hung heavy
on his hands, he would try to satisfy this craving through the medium
of a host of small flirtations with everybody's maid. In this way he
could inform himself exactly how many loaves were taken by the Sweeneys
for a week's consumption, as compared with those which were devoured by
all the Cassidys; for whom the bottles at the Presbytery went in by the
back door; and what was the real cause of the quarrel between the twin
Miss McInerneys.

But these were but blackbird-scratchings, as it were, upon the deep
soil of the human heart. What Deasey cared about was what he called
"the secrets of the soul."

"Never met a man," he was wont to say, "with no backstairs to his mind!
And the quieter, decenter, respectabler, innocenter a man looked--like
enough!--the darker those backstairs!"

It was up these stairs he craved to go. To ring at the front door of
ordinary intercourse was not enough for him. When Deasey invested his
wife's money in a public-house he developed a better plan. It was the
plan which made him ultimately describe himself as a humorist. He would
wait until the bar was deserted by all but the one lingering victim
whom his trained eye had picked out. Then, rolling that same eye about
him, as though to make quite sure no other living creature was in
sight, he would gently close the door of the bar-parlour, pick up a
tumbler, breathe on it, polish the breath, lean one elbow on the bar,
look round him once again, and, setting the whisky-bottle betwixt his
customer and himself, with a nod which said "Help yourself," he would
lean forward, with the soft indulgent grin of the human
man-of-the-world, and begin:

"Now, don't distress yourself, me dear man, but as between frien's,
certain delicate little--facts--in your past life have come
inadvertently to me hearing."

Sometimes he would allude to a "certain document," or "incriminating
facts," or "certain letters"--he would ring the changes on these three,
according to the sex and temperament with which he had to deal. But
always, whatever the words, whatever the nature or sex, the shot would
tell. First came the little start, the straightened figure, the pallor
or flush, the shamed and suddenly-lit eyes, and then--

"Who told you, Mr. Deasey, sir?" Or "Where did you get the letter?"

"Ah, now, that would be telling!" Deasey would make reply. "But 'twas
from a _certain person_ whom, perhaps, we need not name!" Then the
whiskey-bottle would move forward, like a pawn in chess, and the next
soothing words would be, "Help yourself now--don't be shy, me dear man!
And--your secret is safe with me!"

Forthwith the little skeleton in that man's cupboard would lean forward
and press upon the door, until at last the door flew open and a bone or
two, and sometimes the whole skeleton, would rattle out upon the floor.

He had played this game so often, that, almost at first sight he could
classify his dupes under the three heads into which he had divided
them: Those who demanded with violent threats--(which melted like snow
before the sunshine of John Jamieson) the letter, or the name of the
informant; those who asked, after a gentle sip or two how the letter
had come into his hands, and those who asked immediately if the letter
hadn't been destroyed. As a rule, from the type that demanded the
letter back, he only caught sight of the tip of the secret's ears. From
those--they were nearly always the women--who swiftly asked if he
hadn't destroyed the letters, he caught shame-faced gleams of the
truth.

But those who asked between pensive sips, how the facts or the letter
had come his way, these were the ones who yielded Deasey the richest
harvest of rattling skeleton bones.

Indeed, it was curiously instructive how John Jamieson laid down a
causeway of gleaming stepping-stones, so that Deasey might cross
lightly over the turgid waters of his victims' souls. At the words,
accompanied by John Jamieson--"A certain dark page of your past
history--help yourself, me boy!--has been inadvertently revealed to me,
but is for ever sacred in me breast!"--it was strange to see how, from
the underworld of the man's mind, there would trip out the company of
misshapen hobgoblins and gnomes which had been locked away in darkness,
maybe, this many a year.

"Well--how would I get the time to clane the childer and to wash their
heads, and I working all the day at curing stinkin' hides! 'Twas
Herself should have got it, and Herself alone!"...

Or--

"No, I never done it, for all me own mother sworn I did. I only give
the man a little push--that way!--and he fell over on the side, and
busted all his veins!"

Or--

"Well, an' wouldn't you draw two pinsions yourself, Mr. Deasey, if
you'd a wife with two han's like a sieve for yellow gold!"

But there were some confessions, haltingly patchy and inadequate, but
hauntingly suggestive, which Deasey could neither piece out on the
spot, nor yet unravel in the small hours of the night. There was one of
this nature which troubled his rest long:

"Well, the way of it was, you see, he put it up the chimbley, but when
the chimbley-sweepers come he transferred it in his weskit to my place,
and I dropped it down the well. They found it when they let the bucket
down, but I wasn't his accomplice at all, 'twas only connivance with
me!"

When he had spoken of the chimney and the well Deasey concluded at once
it was a foully murdered corpse. But then, again, you could not well
conceal a corpse in someone's waistcoat; and gold coins would melt or
be mislaid amongst the loose bricks of a sooty chimney. Deasey had
craved for corpses, but nothing so grim as that had risen to his
whisky-bait until he tried the same old game on Mrs. Geraghty. What
subtle instinct was it that had prompted him to add to the first
unvarying words: "But all that is now past and over, and safe beneath
the mouldering clay!"

At these last words, the Widow Geraghty knew well, the barrier was down
that fences off one human soul from another; all the same, she shook
her trembling head when Deasey drew the cork. At her refusal Deasey was
struck with the most respectful compassion; until that hour he had
never known one single lacerated soul decline this consolation.

"And to look at me!" she wept forthwith, "would you think I could shed
a drop of ruddy gore?"

"No, ma'am," returned Deasey. "To look at you, ye'd think ma'am ye
could never kill a fly!"

And respectfully he passed the peppermints.

"Sometimes," the widow muttered, "I hears it, and it bawling in me
dreams o' night. And the two bright eyes of it, and the little clay
cold feet!" Deasey knew what was coming now, and he twitched in every
vein. And she so white-haired and so regular at church: and the black
bonnet on the head of her, an' all! "It was the only little one she
had," went on the widow, bowed almost to the bar by shame, "and it
always perched up on her knee, and taking food from her mouth, and she
nursing it agin her face. But I had bad teeth in me head, and I
couldn't get my rest, with the jaws aching, and all the whiles it
screeching with the croup. 'Twould madden you!"

"All the same," Deasey whispered, "maybe it wasn't your fault: 'twas
maybe your man egged you on to do the shameful deed----"

"It was so," said the widow. "'Let you get up and cut its throat,' says
he, 'and then we will be shut of the domned screechin' thing.'" "Then
you got the knife, ma'am," prompted Deasey. "It was the bread-knife,"
she answered, "with the ugly notches in the blade,--and I stole in the
back way to her place in the dead hours of the night--and I had me
apron handy for to quench the cries; and when I c'ot it be the throat
didn't it look up at me with the two bright, innocent eyes!"

"And what'd you do with the body?" he asked.

"I dug a grave in the shine of the moon," she answered. "And I put it
in by the two little cold grey feet----"

This touch of the grey feet laid a spell on Deasey's hankering
morbidity.

"_What turned the feet grey_?" he whispered.

"Nature, I s'pose!" replied the white-haired widow. She drew her shawl
about her shrinking form before she turned away.

"'Twas never found out, from that hour to this, who done it!" muttered
the Widow Geraghty, "but, may the Divvle skelp me if I touch one drop
of chucken-tea again!"



THE BIRTH OF A MASTERPIECE

By LUCAS MALET

(From The _Story-Teller_)

1922


Looking back on it from this distance of time--it began in the early
and ended in the middle eighties--I see the charm of ingenuous youth
stamped on the episode, the touching glamour of limitless faith and
expectation. We were, the whole little band of us, so deliciously
self-sufficient, so magnificently critical of established reputations
in contemporary letters and art. We sniffed and snorted, noses in air,
at popular idols, while ourselves weighted down with a cargo of
guileless enthusiasm only asking opportunity to dump itself at an
idol's feet. We ached to burn incense before the altar of some
divinity; but it must be a divinity of our own discovering, our own
choosing. We scorned to acclaim ready-made, second-hand goods. Then we
encountered Pogson--Heber Pogson. Our fate, and even more, perhaps, his
fate, was henceforth sealed.

He was a large, sleek, pink creature, slow and rare of movement, from
much sitting bulky, not to say squashy, in figure, mild-eyed, slyly
jovial and--for no other word, to my mind, so closely fits his
attitude--resigned. A positive glutton of books, he read as
instinctively, almost as unconsciously, as other men breathe. But he
not only absorbed. He gave forth and that copiously, with taste, with
discrimination, now and again with startlingly eloquent flights and
witty sallies. His memory was prodigious. The variety and vivacity of
his conversation, the immense range of subjects he brilliantly
laboured, when in the vein, remain with me as simply marvellous. With
us he mostly was in the vein. And, vanity apart, we must have composed
a delightful audience, generously censer-swinging. No man of even
average feeling but would be moved by such fresh, such spontaneous
admiration! Thus, if our divinity melodiously piped, we did very
radiantly dance to his piping.

Oh! Heber Pogson enjoyed it. Never tell me he didn't revel in those
highly articulate evenings of monologue, gasconade, heated yet
brotherly argument, lasting on to midnight and after, every bit as much
as we did! Anyhow at first. Later he may have had twinges, been
sensible of strain; though never, I still believe, a very severe one.
In any case, Nature showed herself his friend--his saviour, if also, in
some sort, his executioner. When the strain tended to become
distressing, for him personally, very simply and cleverly, she found a
way out.

A background of dark legend only brought the steady glow of his--and
our--present felicity into richer relief. We gathered hints of, caught
in passing smiling allusion to, straitened and impecunious early years.
He had endured a harsh enough apprenticeship to the profession of
letters in its least satisfactory, because most ephemeral, form--namely
journalism, and provincial journalism at that. This must have painfully
cribbed and confined his free-ranging spirit. We were filled by
reverent sympathy for the trials and deprivations of his past. But at
the period when the members--numbering a dozen, more or less--of our
devoted band trooped up from Chelsea and down from the Hampstead
heights to worship in the studio-library of the Church Street,
Kensington, house, Pogson was lapped in a material well-being
altogether sufficient. He treated us, his youthful friends and
disciples, to very excellent food and drink; partaking of these
himself, moreover, with evident readiness and relish. Those little
"help-yourselves," stand-up suppers in the big, quiet, comfortably
warmed and shaded room revealed in him no ascetic tendency, though, I
hasten to add, no tendency to unbecoming excess. Such hospitality
testified to the soundness of Pogson's existing financial position; as
did his repeated assertions that now, at last--praise heaven--he had
leisure to do worthy and abiding work, work through which he could
freely express his personality, express in terms of art his judgments
upon, and appreciations of, the human scene.

We listened breathless, nodding exuberant approval. For weren't we
ourselves, each and all of us, mightily in love with art and with the
human scene? And hadn't we, listening thus breathlessly to our amazing
master, the enchanting assurance that we were on the track of a
masterpiece? Not impossibly a whole gallery of masterpieces, since
Heber Pogson had barely touched middle age as yet. For him there still
was time. Fiction, we gathered to be the selected medium. He not only
meant to write, but was actually now engaged in writing, a novel during
those withdrawn and sacred morning hours when we were denied admittance
to his presence. We previsaged something tremendous, poetic yet
fearlessly modern, fixed on the bedrock of realism, a drama and a
vision wide, high, deep, spectacular yet subtle as life itself. Let his
confreres, French and Russian--not to mention those merely British
born--look to their laurels, when Heber Pogson blossomed into print!
And--preciously inspiring thought--he was our Pogson. He inalienably
belonged to us; since hadn't we detected the quality of his genius when
the veil was still upon its face? Oh! we knew, bless you; we knew. We'd
the right to sniff and snort, noses in air, at contemporary reputations
because we were snugly awaiting the disclosure of a talent which would
prick them into nothingness like so many bubbles, pop them like so many
inflated paper bags, knock them one and all into the proverbial cocked
hat!

Unfortunately youth, with a fine illogic, though having all the time
there is before it, easily waxes impatient. In our eagerness for his
public recognition, his apotheosis, we did, I am afraid, hustle our
great man a little. Instead of being satisfied with his nocturnal
coruscations--they brilliant as ever, let it be noted--we just a
fraction resented the slowness of his progress, began ever so gently to
shove that honoured bulky form behind and pull at it in front. We
wanted the tangible result of those many sacred and secret morning
hours during which his novel was in process of being formed and
fashioned, gloriously built up. Wouldn't he tell us the title,
enlighten us as to the theme, the scheme, thus allaying the hunger
pangs of our pious curiosity by crumbs--ever so small and few--dropped
from his richly furnished table? With exquisite good-humour, he fenced
and feinted. Almost roguishly he would laugh us off and launch the
conversation into other channels, holding us--after the first few
vexatiously outwitted seconds--at once enthralled and delicately
rebuked.

But at last--in the late spring, as far as I remember, of the second
year of our devotion--there came a meeting at which things got pressed
somehow to a head. Contrary to custom feminine influence made itself
felt.

And here I pause and blush. For it strikes me as so intimately
characteristic of our whole relation--in that earlier stage, at
least--that I should have written all this on the subject of Heber
Pogson without making one solitary mention of his wife. She existed.
Was permanently in evidences--or wasn't it, rather, in eclipse?--as a
shadowy parasitic entity perambulating the hinterland of his domestic
life. She must have been by some years his junior--a tall, thin,
flat-chested woman, having heavy, yellowish brown hair, a complexion to
match, and pale, nervous eyes. Her clothes hung on her as on a
clothes-peg. She affected vivid greens--as was the mistaken habit of
Victorian ladies possessing the colouring falsely called "auburn"--but
clouded their excessive verdure to neutrality by semi-transparent
over-draperies of black. Harry Lessingham, in a crudely unchivalrous
mood, once described her as "without form and void," adding that she
"had a mouth like a fish." These statements I considered unduly harsh,
yet admitted her almost miraculously negative. She mattered less, when
one was in the room with her, than anything human and feminine which I,
so far, had ever run across. And I was at least normally susceptible,
I'm very sure of that.

As a matter of course, on our arrival at the blest house in Church
Street, we one and all respectfully greeted her, passed, to put it
vulgarly, the time of day with her. But there intercourse ceased. At
some subsequent instant she faded out--whether into space or into some
adjacent connubial chamber, I had no notion. I only realized, when the
act was accomplished, that we now were without her, that she had
vanished, leaving behind her no faintest moral or emotional trace.

But, on the occasion in question, she did not vanish. We fed her at
supper. And still she remained--in the interests of social propriety,
as we imagined, since for once the Pogson symposium included a
stranger, an eminently attractive lady guest.

Harry Lessingham had begged to bring his sister with him. He told me of
this beforehand, and I rejoiced. Lessingham had long been dear to me as
a brother; while that Arabella should only be dear to me as a sister
was, just then, I own, among the things I wished least. I craved,
therefore, to have her share our happy worship. She had a pretty turn
for literature herself. I coveted to see her dazzled, exalted,
impressed--it would be a fascinating spectacle. Before I slept that
night, or rather next morning, I recognized her coming as a disastrous
mistake. For she had received insufficient instruction in ritual, in
the suitable forms of approach to so august a presence as that of our
host. She played round him, flickering, darting, like lightning round a
cathedral tower, metal tipped. Where we, in our young male modesty, had
but gently drawn or furtively shoved, she tickled the soft, sedentary
creature's ribs as with a rapier point. And--to us agitated
watchers--the amazing thing was, that Pogson didn't seem to mind. He
neither rebuked her nor laughed her off; but purred, veritably purred,
under her alternate teasing and petting like some big, sleek cat.

At last, with a cajoling but really alarming audacity, she went for him
straight.

"Of course, dear Mr. Pogson, Harry has told me all about your wonderful
novel," she said. "I am so interested, so thrilled--and so grateful to
you for letting me join your audience to-night. But I want quite
frightfully to know more. Speaking not only for myself, but for all who
are present, may I implore a further revelation? Pray don't send us
empty away in respect of the wonderful book. It would be so lovely
while we sit here at your feet."...

She, in fact, sat by his side, her chair placed decidedly close to his.

"If you would read us a chapter.... A chapter is impossible?"...

Her charming, pliant mouth; her charming dancing eyes; her caressing
voice--I won't swear even her caressing hands didn't, for a brief
space, take part--all wooed him to surrender.

"Well, a page then, a paragraph? Ah! don't be obdurate. The merest
sentence? Surely we may claim as much as that? Picture our pride, our
happiness."

She enclosed us all in a circular and sympathetic glance, which ended,
as it had started, by meeting his mild eyes, lingering appealingly upon
his large, pink countenance.

Pogson succumbed. No, he wouldn't read; but, since she so amiably
desired it....

"More than anything in all my life!" with the most convincing and
virginal sincerity.

... He thought he might rehearse a passage, which wasn't--as he gladly
believed--altogether devoid of merit. He did rehearse it. And we broke
into applause the more tempestuous because suspicion of a chill queerly
lay upon us. A chill insidious as it was vague, disturbing as it
was--wasn't it? we silently, quite violently, hoped so--ridiculously
uncalled for.

"After all, that passage is thundering good, you know," Harry
Lessingham announced, as though arguing with himself, arguing himself
out of that same invidious chill, an hour later.

Arabella had refused a hansom, declaring herself excited, still under
the spell, and so wanting to walk. Leaving the Church Street house, the
three of us crossed into Campden Grove, with a view to turning down
Campden House Road, thus reaching Kensington High Street.

"It was out of sight of the average--packed with epigram; worthy of all
we've ever believed or asked of him. It takes a master of technique, of
style, to write like that."

"Beloved brother, which of us ever said it didn't?" Arabella took him
up sweetly.

Slender, light-footed, the train of her evening gown switched over her
arm, beneath her flowing orange and white-flowered satin cloak, she
walked between us.

"Why, it was good to the point of being inevitable. One seemed--I
certainly did--to know every phrase, every word which was coming. None
could have been other, or been placed otherwise than it was--and that's
the highest praise one can give to anybody's prose, isn't it? One
jumped to the perfect rightness of the whole--a rightness so perfect as
to make the sentences sound quite extraordinarily familiar."

This last assertion dropped as a bomb between Lessingham and myself.

"By the way," the girl presently said, as our awkward silence
continued, "has either of you happened to read, or re-read, Meredith's
'Egoist' just lately?"

Lessingham stopped short, and in the light of a neighbouring gas-lamp I
saw his handsome, boyish face look troubled to the point of physical
pain.

"What on earth are you driving at? What do you mean, Arabella--that
Pogson is a plagiarist?"

"Don't eat me, Harry dearest, if I incline to use a shorter, commoner
expression."

"A thief?"

"An unconscious one, no doubt," she threw off quickly, fearful of
explosions, possibly, in her turn. "He may have been betrayed by his
own extraordinary memory."

"But this is horrible, horrible," Lessingham cried. "All the names,
though, were different."

Arabella appeared to have overcome her fear of explosions. Her charming
eyes again danced.

"Exactly," she said. "That was the peculiar part of it, the thing which
riveted my attention. He had--I mean the names of the characters and
places were different--were altered, changed."

Lessingham stood bare-headed in the light of a gas-lamp. He ran the
fingers of his left hand through his crisp fair hair, rumpling it up
into a distracted crest. I could see, could almost hear, the travail of
his honest soul. Loyalty, faith and honour worked at high pressure to
hit on a satisfactory explanation.

Suddenly he threw back his head and laughed.

"Why, of course," he cried, "it's as clear as mud. Pogson wasn't
betrayed by anything. He did it on purpose. Don't you understand, you
dear goose, you very-much-too-clever-by-half dear goose? It was simply
his kindly joke, his good-natured little game. And we, like the pack of
idiots which--compared with him--we are, never scented it. You
pestered--yes, Arabella, most unconscionably pestered him to read an
excerpt from his novel; and to pacify you he quoted a page from
Meredith instead."

Harry Lessingham tucked his hand under the folds of the orange and
white-flowered cloak, and taking the girl affectionately by the elbow,
trotted her down the sloping pavement towards Kensington High Street.

"All the honours of war rest with Pogson," he joyfully assured her.
"You made an importunate, impertinent demand for bread. He didn't mean
to be drawn; but was too civil, too tender-hearted to put you off with
a stone, so slyly cut you a slice from another man's loaf. Does it
occur to you, my sweet sister, you've been had--very neatly had?"

"If it comes to that, Miss Lessingham by no means stands alone," I
interrupted. "We've all been had, as you so gracefully put it, very
neatly and very extensively had."

For though I trusted Lessingham's view was the correct one--trusted so
most devoutly--I could not but regret the discomfiture of Arabella. Her
approach to our chosen idol may have slightly lacked in reverence; she
may, indeed, in plain English, have cheeked him. But she had done so in
the prettiest, airiest manner. Pogson's punishment of her indiscretion,
if highly ingenious, still struck me as not in the best taste. For was
it not at once rather mean and rather cheap to make so charming a
person the subject, and that before witnesses, of a practical joke?

If, after all, it really was a joke. That insidious, odious chill which
earlier prompted my tempestuous applause, as I woefully registered,
hung about me yet. Unquestionably Arabella Lessingham's visit to Church
Street showed more and more, when I considered it, as a radical
mistake! From it I date the waning of the moon of my delight in respect
of both Pogson and herself. I had bowed in worship, equally sincere,
though diverse in sentiment, before each; and to each had pledged my
allegiance. To have them thus discredit one another represented the
most trying turn of events.

For a full month I cold-shouldered the band, abjured the shrine, and
avoided the lady. Then, while still morose and brooding, my trouble at
its height, a cousin--in the third degree--rich, middle-aged, and
conveniently restless, invited me to be his travelling companion. We
had taken trips together before. This one promised fields of wider
adventure--nothing less than the quartering of southern Europe, along
with nibblings at African and Asiatic Mediterranean coasts. It was the
chance of a life-time. I embraced it. I also called at the house in
Church Street to make my farewells. I could do no less.

I have used the word "resigned" in describing Pogson. To-day that word
notably covered him. Our friend appeared depressed; yet bland in his
depression, anxious to mollify and placate rather than reproach. His
attitude touched me. I hardly deserved it after my neglect--to which,
by the way, he made no smallest reference. But as I unfolded my plans,
he increasingly threw off his depression and generously entered into
them. Would have me fetch an atlas and trace out my proposed itinerary
upon the map. It included names to conjure with. These set wide the
flood-gates of his speech. He at once enchanted and confounded me by
his knowledge of the literature, art, history, of Syria, Egypt, Italy,
Greece, and the Levant.

For the next three-quarters of an hour I had Pogson at his best. And
oh! how vastly good that same best was! Under the flashing,
multi-coloured light of it, he routed my suspicions; put my annoyance
and distrust to flight. As he leaned back in the roomy library chair,
filled to veritable overflowing by his big, squashy, brown-velvet
jacketted person--Pogson had put on flesh of late; put it on sensibly,
as I remarked, even during the few weeks of my absence--he reconquered
all my admiration and belief.

As I rose to depart:

"Ah! you fortunate youth," he thus genially addressed me; "thrice
fortunate youth, in your freedom, your enterprise, your happy
elasticity of flesh and spirit! What won't you have to tell me of
things actually seen, of lands, cities, civilizations, past and
present, and the storied wonder of them, when you come back!"

"And what won't you have to read to me in return, dear Master," I
echoed, eager to testify to my recovered faith. "By then the book will
be finished on which all our hopes and affections are set. Ten times
more precious, more illuminating than anything I have seen, will be
what I hear from you when I come back!"

But, as I spoke, surely I wasn't mistaken in thinking that for an
agitating minute the pinkness of Pogson's large countenance sickly
ebbed and blanched. And while my attention was still engaged by this
disquieting phenomenon, I became aware that Mrs. Pogson had joined us.
Silently, mysteriously, she faded--the term holds good--into evidence,
as on so many former occasions she had silently, mysteriously faded
out.

Dressed in one of those verdant gowns, so dolorously veiled in
semi-transparent black, she stood behind her husband's chair. Her eyes
met mine. They were no longer nervous or in expression vague; but oddly
aggressive, challenging, defiantly alight.

"Oh, yes," she declared, "by then Heber will have completed his great
novel, without doubt."

When uttering his name, she laid a thin, long-fingered hand upon his
rounded shoulder, and to my--little short of--stupefaction, I saw
Pogson's fat, pink hand move up to seek and clasp it.

On me this action--hers soothing, protective; his appealing,
welcoming--produced the most bewildering effect. I felt embarrassed and
abashed; an indecently impertinent intruder upon the secret places of
two human hearts. That any such intimate and tender correspondence
existed between this so strangely ill-assorted couple I never dreamed.

I uttered what must have sounded wildly incoherent farewells and fled.

Of the ensuing eighteen months of foreign travel it is irrelevant here
to speak. Suffice it that on my return to England and to Chelsea, the
earliest news which greeted me was that Arabella Lessingham had been
now five weeks married and Heber Pogson a fortnight dead. Lessingham,
dear, good fellow, was my informant, and minded acquainting me, so I
fancied, only a degree less with the first item than with the second.

For some considerable time, he told me, Pogson had been ailing. He grew
inordinately stout, unwieldy to the extent of all exertion, all
movement causing him distress. Suffocation threatened if he attempted
to lie down; so that, latterly, he spent not only all day, but all
night sitting in the big library chair we knew so well. If not actually
in pain, he must still have suffered intolerable discomfort. But he
never complained, and to the last his passion for books never failed.

"We took him any new ones we happened to run across, as you'd take a
sick woman flowers. To the end he read."

"And wrote?" I asked.

"That I can't say," Lessingham replied. "There were things I could not
make out. And I couldn't question him. It didn't seem to be my place,
though I had an idea he'd something on his mind to speak of which would
be a relief. It worried me badly. I felt sure he wanted to tell us, but
couldn't bring himself to the point. He talked of you. He cared for you
more than for any of us; yet--I may be all wrong--it seemed to me he
was glad you weren't here. Once or twice, I thought, he felt almost
afraid you might come back before--before it was all over, you know. It
sounds rather horrible, but I had a feeling he longed to slink off
quietly out of sight--for he did not dread death, I'm certain of that.
What he dreaded was that life had some trick up her sleeve which, if he
delayed too long, might give him away; put him to shame somehow at the
last."

"And Mrs. Pogson?"

Lessingham looked at me absently.

"Oh! Mrs. Pogson? She's never interested me. She's too invertebrate;
but I believe she took care of Pogson all right."

Next day I called at the house in Church Street. After some parley I
was admitted into the studio-library. Neither in Mrs. Pogson nor in the
familiar room did I find any alteration, save that the green had
disappeared from her dress. She wore hanging, trailing, unrelieved
black. And that a piece of red woollen cord was tied across, from arm
to arm, of Pogson's large library chair, forbidding occupation of it.
This pleased me. It struck the positive, the, in a way, aggressive
note, which Mrs. Pogson had once before so strangely, unexpectedly,
sounded in my presence.

I said the things common to such occasions as that of our present
meeting; said them with more than merely conventional feeling and
emphasis. I praised her husband's great gifts, his amazing learning,
his eloquence, the magnetic charm by which he captivated and held us.

Finally I dared the question I had come here to ask, which had burned
upon my tongue, indeed, from the moment I heard of Pogson's death.

"What about the novel? Might we hope for speedy, though posthumous,
publication? We were greedy; the world should know how great a literary
genius it had lost. Was it ready for press, as--did she
remember?--she'd assured me it would certainly be by the time I came
back?"

Mrs. Pogson did not betray any sign of emotion. Her thin hands remained
perfectly still in her crape-covered lap.

"There is no novel," she calmly told me. "There never has been any
novel. Heber did not finish it because he never began it. He did not
possess the creative faculty. You were not content with what he gave.
You asked of him that which he could not give. At first he played with
you--it amused him. You were so gullible, so absurdly ignorant. Then he
hesitated to undeceive you--in that, I admit, he was weak. But he
suffered for his weakness. It made him unhappy. Oh I how I have
hated--how I still hate you!--for I saved him from poverty, from hard
work. I secured him a peaceful, beautiful life, till you came and
spoilt it.... All the money was mine," she said.



"GENIUS"

By ELINOR MORDAUNT

(From _Hutchinson's Magazine_ and _The Century Magazine_)

1921, 1922


I have written before of Ben Cohen, with his eternal poring and humming
over the scores of great masters; of the timber-yard at Canning Town,
for ever changing and for ever the same, devouring forests with the
eternal wind-like rush of saws, slide of gigantic planes; practical and
chill; wrapped in river-fogs, and yet exotic with the dust of cedar,
camphor, paregoric.

In those days Ben Cohen was wont to read music as other boys read their
penny-dreadfuls, avidly, with the imagined sounds like great waves for
ever a-rush through his soul.

In the very beginning it was any music, just music. Then for a while
Wagner held him. Any Wagnerian concert, any mixed entertainment which
included Wagner--it seemed as though he sniffed them upon the
breeze--and he would tramp for miles, wait for hours; biting cold,
sleet, snow, mud, rain, all alike disregarded by that persistence which
the very poor must bring to the pursuit of pleasure, the capture of
cheap seats.

Once ensconced, regardless of hard, narrow seats, heights, crowds, his
passion of adoration and excitement took him, shook him, tore him so
that it was wonder his frail body did not split in two, render up the
soul coming forth as Lazarus from the sepulchre. It was indeed, if you
knew little Ben Cohen, him, _himself_, difficult to realise that his
body had anything more to do with him than the yellow-drab water-proof
which is a sort of uniform--a species of charity, covering a multitude
of sins of poverty, shabbiness, thread-bareness--had to do with the
real Jenny Bligh.

And yet, Ben Cohen's body was more completely his than one might have
imagined. Jenny could, and indeed did, slough off her disguise on
Sundays or rare summer days; but Ben and that self which was apart from
music--that wildly-beating heart, pulsing blood, flooding warmth,
grateful as the watchman's fire in the fog-sodden yard, that little
fire over which he used to hang, warming his stiffened hands--were,
after all, amazingly one.

The thing surprised him even more than it surprised any one else; above
all, when it refused to be separated from his holy of holies, crept,
danced, smiled its way through the most portentous scores--a thrilling
sense of Jenny Bligh, all crotchets and quavers, smiles and thrills,
quaint homeliness, sudden dignity.

By the time he first met Jenny he was clear of Wagner, had glanced a
little patronisingly at Beethoven, turned aside and enwrapped himself
in the sombre splendour of Bach, right away from the world; then,
harking back, with a fresh vision, a sudden sense of the inevitable,
had anchored himself in the solemn, wide-stretching harbourage of
Beethoven.

It was like a return from a long voyage, tearing round a world full of
beauty and interest, and yet, at the same time, full of pettiness,
fuss, annoyance: a home-coming beyond words. There was a sense of
eternity, a harmony which drew everything to itself, smoothing out the
pattern of life, the present life and the life to come, so crumpled
that, up to this time, he had had no real idea of the meaning of it.

All at once everything was immensely right, with Jenny as an essential
and inevitable part of the rightness. He felt this so strongly that he
never stopped to wonder if other people felt it as plainly as he did.

Apart from all this, he was bound by the inarticulateness of his class.
His Jewish blood lent him a wider and more picturesque vocabulary than
most, and yet it stopped at any discussion of his feelings.

We have an idea that what we call the "common people" are more
communicative on such subjects than we are; but this is not so. They
talk of their physical ailments and sensations, but they are deeply shy
upon the subject of their feelings. Ben's mother would discuss the
state of her inside, the deaths of her relations and friends; his own
birth, down to the smallest detail. But she would never have dreamt of
telling her son that she loved him, desired his love, hungered for his
coming, grieved at his going.

Ben himself put none of his feeling for Beethoven into words, above all
to his mother; she would not have understood him if he had. He said
nothing of Jenny, either, save as a girl he'd met, a girl he was going
to bring home to tea; but she understood that without any words; that
was courting, part of the business of human nature; much like the
preparation of meals.

It was odd, coming to think of it--might have been ridiculous, save
that ridicule was the sort of thing which could find no possible
lodgment with Ben--that his determination to devote his whole musical
life to Beethoven, to interpret him as no Englishman had ever done
before, should have been synonymous with his sacred, heady, and yet
absolute determination to marry Jenny Bligh.

Jenny worked in the jam-factory, and there was something of the aroma
of ripe fruit about her: ripe strawberries, raspberries, plums,
damsons. She was plumpish and fresh: very red lips and very bright
eyes, reddish-brown, the colour of blackberry leaves in autumn, with
hair to match. Her little figure was neat; her small hands, with their
square-tipped fingers, deft and quick in their movements; there was
something at once rounded and clear-cut about everything she did.

A sea-faring admirer used to say that she was "a bit short in the beam,
but a daisy fur carryin' sail"; and that was the idea she gave: so
well-balanced, so trim, going off to work in her wide white apron on
those rare mornings when she shook off the yellow mackintosh.

Ben saw her like that for the first time crossing the Lee just below
the timber-yard with its cranes like black notes zigzagging out over
the river, which had for once discarded its fog. It was a day of bright
blue sky, immense, rounded, silvery clouds, fresh and clean; with a
wind which caught up the white apron and billowed it out for the sheer
fun of the thing: showing trim ankles, the turn of a plump calf, such
as Ben Cohen had never even thought of before, the realisation of which
was like wine: freshly tasted, red, fruity, running through his veins,
mounting to his head. He had known that women had legs; his mother, the
laundress, suffered from hers--complainingly, devoted woman as she
was--swollen with much standing, and "them there dratted veins": stocky
legs, with loose folds of stocking.

As to thinking any more of a woman's legs than of the legs of a table,
the idea had never even occurred to him. But there you are! It is the
unexpected that happens: the sort of thing which we could never have
imagined ourselves as doing, thinking, feeling. The temptations we have
recognised, struggled against, are nothing; but there comes a sort of
wild, whistling wind from nowhere--much the same as that wind about
jenny's skirts, white apron--and our life is like a kaleidoscope,
suddenly shaken up and showing a completely fresh pattern.

Who could have thought it--who?--that Ben Cohen, dreamer, idealist,
passionate, pure, the devotee of art, would have fallen in love with
Jenny Bligh's legs--or, rather, a pair of ankles, and a little more at
that side where the wind caught her skirt--before he had so much as a
glimpse of her face?

Just over the bridge she stopped to speak with another girl who worked
in his own counting-house. As Ben hurried up to pass them before they
separated, really see her, this other girl recognised him, flung him a
friendly "Hullo!" and was answered in the same fashion.

As he moved on he heard her--was meant to hear, knew that he was meant
to hear, from the pitch of the voice--"Clever ain't no word fur it!
There ain't no tune as----"

The end of the sentence was lost; but he knew the sort of thing, knew
it by heart, had spent his time running away from it. Now, however, he
was grateful: more grateful still when he met Miss Ankles again, and
she herself, regarding Florry Hines' eulogy as a sort of introduction,
smiled, moved on a step, and herself tossed a "Hullo" over one
shoulder.

Ben's thin olive-tinted face was flushed as he drew forward to her side
with his odd stoop, his way of ducking his head and raising his eyes,
dark and glowing. He took jenny's dinner-basket, and she noticed his
hands, large and well-shaped, with long fingers, widened at the tips.
Florry had said that he was a "Sheeny," but there was nothing of the
Jew about him apart from his colouring, his brilliant dark eyes; unless
it were a sort of inner glow, an ardour, curbed by his almost childlike
shyness, lack of self-confidence in everything apart from his music:
that something, at once finer and more cruelly persistent, vital, than
is to be found in the purely Anglo-Saxon race.

Though Jenny liked what she called "a pretty tune," she knew nothing
whatever of music, understood less. And yet, almost from that first
moment, she understood Ben Cohen, realising him as lover and child:
understood him better, maybe, then than she did later on: losing her
sureness for a while, shaken and bewildered; everything blurred by her
own immensity of love, longing; of fearing that she did not
understand--feeling out of it.

But that was not for sometime to come: in the meanwhile she was like a
dear little bantam hen with one chick; while Ben himself was content to
shelter under her wing, until it grew upon him that, loving her as he
did, loving his mother--realising what it meant to be a mother, in
thinking of jenny herself with a child--his child--in her arms--it was
"up to" him to prove himself for their sakes, to make them proud of him
and his music, without the faintest idea of how proud they were
already, lift the whole weight of care from their shoulders.

The worst of it was, he told them nothing whatever about it. The better
sort of men are given to these crablike ways of appearing to move away
from what they intend to move towards. It simply seemed as though he
were forgetting them a little--then, more and more; elbowing them aside
to clear the way for his beloved music.

He was no longer deprecating, appealing, leaning upon them: each woman
thought of him as "her child," and when his love made a man of him,
they realised the hurt, nothing more.

He overdid it, too, as genius does overdo things; was brusque, entirely
immersed in his great scheme. Sometimes he even laughed to himself over
this. "They don't know what I'm up to!" he would declare to himself,
with a sense of triumph.

He had never even thought of his music in the money sense before, but
as his love and ambition for the two women grew upon him, he was like a
child with a new toy. He would not only make a great name, he would
make an immense fortune: his mind blinked, dazzled at the very thought.
He moved with a new pride, and also--alas!--a new remoteness.

His health had broken when he was about seventeen--his bent shoulders
still showed that old drag upon the chest--and he was away in a
sanatorium for a year. When he came back he was cured. It was young
Saere, the junior partner in the timber business, who had sent him
away; and it was he who, when Ben returned, paid for lessons for him,
so that he learnt to play as well as read music.

From that time onward he had always stuck to the firm, working in the
tally sheds; paid, out of his earnings, for the use of a room and a
piano for practising upon so many hours each week, completely happy and
contented.

He had never even thought of leaving the business until he realised his
immense love for Jenny, and, through her, for his mother; the necessity
for doing something big. What did sacrifice matter? What did it matter
being poor, hungry, shabby?--What did anything matter just for a while?
There was so little he wanted; meals were a nuisance; his eyes were so
dazzled by the brilliance of the future, set upon a far horizon, that
he forgot the path of the present, still beneath his feet.

If his mother had not set food before him he would scarcely have
thought of it. But, all the same, he ate it, and money had to be earned
by some one or other.

His mother had never let him know the actual pinch of poverty; she wore
that shoe upon her own foot. He had no more idea than a child of the
cost of mere daily necessities; and during the last few years, between
his work and hers, they had been comfortable enough.

"We can hang on for a bit," he said, when he spoke of leaving the
wood-yard; and she answered, almost with triumph, that she had "hung
on" well enough before he'd earned "aught but a licking."

At first she was proud of reshouldering the entire burden; it made him
more entirely hers. He could not do without her; even with Jenny he
could not do without her. But she had not been a young woman when Ben
was born; she was old now, and tired, with that sort of tiredness which
accumulates, heaps up, and which no single night's rest can ever cure;
the tiredness which is ready, more than ready, for a narrower
bed--eternal sleep.

"--Hold on until after the concert?"

"Sorry fur meself if I couldn't."

The concert! That was the goal. There was a public hall at Clapton
where Ben had chanced on some really good music--just one night of it,
and quite by chance--and this, to his mind, ennobled the Claptonites;
there was the place in which to start the revolutionising of the
musical world. Besides--and here he thought himself very canny, by no
means a Jew for nothing--there were fine old houses at Clapton, and
where there were such houses there must be rich people.

When the date was actually arranged, he practised for the best part of
the day. While he was at home he read music; he lived in a maze of
music. He never thought of advertising, collecting his public; he even
avoided his old friends, his patrons at the timber-yard, overcome by
agonies of shyness at the very thought of so much as mentioning his
concert. Quite simply, in a way he did not even attempt to explain to
himself, he felt that the world of London would scent it from afar off.
As to paid _claques_, presentation-tickets, patrons, advance agents,
all the booming and flattery, the jam of the powder for an English
audience, he had no idea of the existence of such things. Beethoven was
wonderful, and he had found out wonderful things about him: that was
enough.

When the Angel Gabriel blew the last trump, there would be no need to
invite the dead to rise. Neither was there any need to invite the
really elect to his concert. Not to hear him, Ben Cohen, but to hear
Beethoven as he ought to be heard; that's how he felt.

During those weeks of preparation for the concert, his mother worked
desperately hard to keep their home together without his earnings,
while Jenny helped. At first that had been enough for her, too: to
help. But later--

Throughout those long evenings when, already tired from her work in the
factory, she had stood sorting, sprinkling, folding, ironing, the two
women got to a state where they scarcely dared to look at each other:
just a passing glance, a hardish stare, but no _looking into_.

If he had but once said, "I can't bear you to work so hard for me,"
everything would have been different, the fatigue wiped out. But he
didn't; he didn't even know they were working for him, working beyond
the limit of an ordinary working-woman's working-day, hard enough, in
all conscience.

"Men can't not be expected to notice things the way we do." That's what
they told themselves--they did not say even this much to each other.
But far, far away, out of sight, out of all actual knowledge, was the
fear which neither of them would have dared to realise, a vague horror,
a sort of ghost....

"He don't care--he's changed."

And, indeed, this is how it appeared. All through that time he wore an
odd look of excitement, triumph, pleasure, which lifted him away from
himself. There was a sort of lilt in his very step; his eyes shone, his
cheeks were flushed. When he cleared a pile of freshly-ironed, starched
things from the end of a table, so as to spread out a score upon it,
laid them on the floor where the cat padded them over with dirty feet,
and his mother railed at him, as she still did rail--on any subject
apart from this of not caring--he glanced up at her with bright, amused
eyes, his finger still following the black-and-white tangle of notes,
looked at Jenny, and laughed--actually laughed.

"You great oaf!" cried Mrs. Cohen, and could have killed him. Up at
four o'clock next morning, rewashing, starching, ironing, she retched
with sick fatigue and something more--that sense of giddiness, of being
hit on the head which had oppressed her of late. It was as though that
laugh of Ben's had stuck like a bone in her chest, so sharp that she
could scarcely draw breath; driven all the blood to her head.

And yet it had been full of nothing but triumph, a sort of tender
triumph, almost childish delight. He was going to do wonders--
wonders!--open a new world to them! He was so dazzled by his
own work, dreams, by all he had in store for them, that he did not even
see them, themselves, worn with toil, realise the meaning of it, the
reason for it. In any case he would have laughed, because they had no
idea how near it was to an end.

That concert! It would be like nothing so much as opening a door into a
new world, where they need never so much as soil a finger: floating
around, dressed in silk, feeding from off the finest china, sleeping
upon down.

Man-like, his eyes were fixed upon the future. No two women had ever
been loved as they were loved. All this work, this washing and ironing,
it resembled nothing more than the opening scene in an opera: a sort of
prelude, for the sake of contrast. They would see--O-o-oh, yes, they
would see!

It was like that old childish "Shut your eyes and open your mouth."

But they--they were bound in the close-meshed strait-waistcoat of
endless toil, petty anxiety. The days and hours heaped in front of them
obliterated all possible view of the future.

In the beginning they had been as excited as he was over the thought of
the concert. He must wear a rosette--no, a flower in his button-hole;
and white kid gloves; as he moved forward upon the platform, he must
bow right and left, and draw them off as he bowed.

This was Jenny's idea. It was Jenny who made him practise his bows, and
it was Jenny who borrowed a dress-suit from a waiter-friend; while it
was his mother who "got up" the borrowed shirt to go with it, stiff and
shining; who polished his best boots until they looked "near as near
like patent."

All this had been done close upon a fortnight before. Jenny was a good
girl, but if she was not there to see to things, Jenny might fail with
a bubble on the shirt-front. No amount of meaning well was of any use
in getting up a stiff shirt as it ought to be got up.

"Better 'ave it all ready, 'a-case o' anything happening." That was
what Mrs. Cohen said to herself, with a dull dread at the back of her
mind: a feeling as though every next day were a Friday.

Her face had been oddly flushed of late, with a rather fixed and glassy
look about the eyes. Jenny thought of this, on her way to the concert;
alone, for by some ill fate, his nearer vision blurred in that golden
maze of the future, Ben had fixed his concert for a Friday.

This Friday! Always a bad day, bad in itself, bad for every one, like
an east wind; worst of all for a laundress: not so depressing as a
Monday, but so hurried, so overcrowded, with all the ironing and
folding, the packing of the lots, all small, into their separate
newspaper parcels; the accumulated fatigue of a whole week. Some demon
seemed to possess her clients that week: they had come in with a collar
here, a shirt there, an odd pillow-slip, tablecloth, right over
Thursday. She was working until after twelve o'clock that night--so was
Jenny--up before dawn next morning, though no one save herself knew of
this.

"Whatever they do, they shan't not keep me from my Ben's concert!" That
was what she said, with a vision of motors blocking the road in front
of the little hall. But she had been a laundress best part of a
lifetime--before she discovered herself as the mother of a genius--and
it had bit into her bone: she could not get finished, and she could not
leave the work undone.

"Some one's got to earn a living!"--that was what she said, embittered
by fatigue, the sweat pouring down her face, beaten to every
sensibility, apart from her swollen feet, by the time that Jenny called
in for her, soon after six. She had longed to go, had never even
thought of not going; but by now, apart from her physical pain and
weariness, she was alive to but one point, her whole being drawn out to
a sort of cone with an eye at the end of it; and far, far away at the
back of her brain, struggling with impenetrable mists, but one
thought--if she scorched anything, she would have to replace it.

When Jenny found that it was impossible to move her, she made her own
way up to Clapton alone. For Ben had to be at the hall early; there
were certain matters to arrange, and he would try over the piano.

Her efforts with Mrs. Cohen had delayed her; she was driven desperate
by that cruel malice of inanimate things: every 'bus and tram was
against her, whisking out of sight just as she wanted them, or blocked
by slow crawling carts and lorries. There was a tight, hard pain in her
heart, like toothache, round which her whole body gathered, pressing,
impaled upon it; a sense of desperation, and yet at the heart of this,
like a nerve, the wonder if anything really mattered.

Ben had promised to reserve seats for his mother and herself; but had
he?--Had he? Would she find the place blocked by swells with their hard
stare, duchesses and such-like, glistening in diamonds? In her mind's
eye she saw billows of silk, slabs of black cloth and shining white
shirt-fronts--hundreds and hundreds of them. And Ben bowing, bowing to
them as she had taught him to do.

For some time past he had been so far away, so detached that she was
haunted by the fear that if she put out a finger to touch him it might
go through him, as though he were a ghost. At times she had caught him,
held him to her in a passion of love and longing. But even then, with
his head against her heart, his lips, or some pulse or nerve, had moved
in a wordless tune, the beat of time.

If only he had still seemed to need her, nothing, nothing would have
mattered. But he didn't: he needed no one--no one. He seemed so frail,
she had made sure that he wanted looking after; but he didn't. A
drunkard might have fallen down in the street, needed fetching,
supporting, exhorting; a bully come home with a broken head. But it
seemed as though Ben were, in reality, for all his air of appeal,
sufficient to himself, moving like a steady light through the darkness;
unstirred by so much as a breath of wind.

Overcome by anxiety, she got out of the tram too soon. It had begun to
rain, a dull, dark night, and there was a blur of misty light flooding
the pavement a little way ahead. That must be the hall. She was afraid
of over-shooting the mark. Those trams had such a way of getting going
just as one wanted to be out of them!

But the light was nothing more than a cinema, and she she had a good
quarter of a mile to walk in the wet. The cruel wet!--just like it to
be wet on this night of all nights! Even her optimism was gone. She
kept on thinking of Mrs. Cohen, her flushed face and oddly-glazed eyes;
the queer stiff way in which she moved, held her head. For once she was
angry with Ben.

"'Im and his crowds,' 'Im an' 'is fine lydies! 'Im an' 'is
_motor-cars_!"

After all, she did overshoot her mark; on inquiry for the hall, she was
told that she had passed it, and was obliged to retrace her steps.

No wonder she had passed it; with all she had expected at the back of
her mind! The strip of pavement outside was dark, with not so much as a
single taxi in sight; the door half-shut, the dreary vestibule
badly-lighted, empty, smelling of damp. The sodden-looking sketch of a
man in the pay-box seemed half asleep; stretched, yawned when she
spoke, pushing a strip of pink paper towards her as she gave her name.

"For two." He poked out a long neck and peered round the edge of the
box, like a tortoise from its shell.

"The other lydy wasn't not able ter come ter-night," answered Jenny
with dignity, and the beast grinned, displaying a wreckage of broken
teeth.

"Ain't not what you might call a crowd, anyway," he remarked.

She could have killed him for that! She realised the white face of a
clock, but she would not look at it. She was early, that was it. Look
how she had hurried. No wonder that she was early. And great ladies
were always late: she had learnt that from the _Daily Mail_ stories.

"Two an' two make four--them too late an' me too early!" she said to
herself, with a gallant effort after her own brisk way of taking
things, a surer tap of heels on the stone floor as she turned towards a
swing-door to her left; pushed it open, and was hit in the face by what
seemed like a thick black curtain.

A dim white-gloved hand was thrust through it and took her ticket.

"Mind you don't fall--no good wasting the lights until they come--if
ever they does come," exhorted and explained a voice out of the
darkness; for, after all, it was not a curtain, but just darkness.

At first Jenny could see nothing. Then, little by little, it seemed as
though different objects crept forward, one by one, like wild animals
from their lair.

Those white patches, the hands of two white-gloved men, holding sheaves
of programmes--she realised one between her own fingers--whispering
together.

There was the platform, the great piano sprawling over it; and in front
of this, rows and rows and rows--and rows upon rows--of empty seats.

She looked behind her--they had argued long over the question of places
for herself and his mother. "The very best," that's what Ben had said;
but they fought against this, fought and conquered, for the best seats
meant money. "What's a seat more or less, I'd like to know?"

"Money, all money." Old Mrs. Cohen had been firm upon this point.

Still, there were a great many seats yet further back--and all empty: a
little raised, seeming to push themselves forward with the staring
vacuity of an idiot: more seats overhead in a curving balcony, rising
above each other as though proud of their emptiness. It would have been
impossible to believe that mere vacant places could wear so sinister,
as well as foolish, an aspect. An idiot, but a cruel idiot, too: the
whole thing one cruel idiot, of the sort that likes to pull legs from
flies.

There was a clock there, also. For a long while Jenny would not allow
herself to look at it. But something drew her, until it became an
unbearable effort to keep her eyes away from it, to look anywhere else;
and at last she turned her head, stared, sharply, defiantly, as though
daring it.

It was five-and-twenty minutes to nine. Five-and-twenty minutes to
nine, and the concert was to have begun at eight!--Five-and-twenty
minutes to nine, and there was no one there--no one whatever!

The clock hands dragged themselves on for another five-minutes; then
one of the men disappeared behind the scene; came back, speaking
excitedly, gesticulating with white hands:

"We're to turn on the light. 'E swears as 'e won't give it up--'e's
goin' ter play."

"Goin' ter play? Well, I'll be blowed!--Goin' ter play! An' with
nothing 'ere but _That_"

Jenny saw how he jerked his head in her direction. So she was
"That"--she, Jenny Bligh!--and so far gone that she did not even care.

As the lights went up the hall seemed to swim in a sort of mist: the
terra-cotta walls, the heavy curtains at either side of the platform,
those awful empty seats!

Jenny spread her skirt wide, catching at the chair to either side of
her, stretching out her arms along the backs of them. She had a wild
feeling as though it were up to her to spread herself sufficiently to
cover them all. She half rose. Perhaps she could hide more of that
emptiness if she moved nearer to the front: that was her thought.

But no; she mustn't do that: this was the place Ben had chosen for her;
she must stay where she was. He might look there, miss her, and imagine
that there was nobody, nobody at all; that even she had failed him.

If only she could spread herself--spread herself indefinitely--multiply
herself: anything, anything to cover those beastly chairs: sticking out
there, grinning, shaming her man!

Then she had a sudden idea of running into the street, entreating the
people to come in; was upon her feet for the second time, when Ben
walked on to the platform.

For once he was not ducking or moving sideways; he came straight
forward, bowed to the front of him, right and left; drew off his gloves
and bowed again. Mingling with her agony of pity, a thrill, ran through
Jenny Bligh at this. He remembered her teaching; he was
hers--hers--hers--after all, hers--more than ever hers!

The borrowed coat, far too big for him, rose in a sort of hood at the
back of his neck; as he bowed something happened to the centre stud of
his shirt, and it disappeared into an aperture shaped like a dark gourd
in the whiteness.

But, for all that, Jenny felt herself overawed by his dignity, as any
one would have been: there was something in the man so much greater
than his clothes, greater than his conscious, half-childish self.

Jenny's hands were raised to clap; but they dropped into her lap, lay
there, as, with a face set like marble, Ben turned and seated himself
at the piano. There was a moment's pause, while he stared straight in
front of him--such a pause that a feeling of goose-flesh ran down the
back of her arms--then he began to play.

Jenny had not even glanced at her programme; she would have understood
nothing of it if she had; but it gave the Sonata, Op. III, as the
opening piece.

Ben, however, took no notice of this; but, for some reason he could not
have explained, flung himself straight-way into the third item, the
tremendous "Hammerclavier."

The sounds flooded the hall; swept through it as if it were not there,
obliterating time and space. It was as though the Heavenly Host had
descended upon the earth, sweet, wonderful, and yet terrible, with a
sweep of pinions, deep-drawn breath--Tubal Cain and his kind, deified
and yet human in their immense masculinity and strength.

Jenny Bligh was neither imaginative nor susceptible to sound, but it
drew her out of herself. It was like bathing in a sea whose waves
overpower one so that, try as one may to cling to the earth, it slips
off from beneath one's feet--shamed, beaten. She had a feeling that if
it did not stop soon she would die; and would yet die when it did stop.
Her heart beat thickly and heavily, her eyes were dim; she was
bewildered, lost, and yet exhilarated. It was worse than an air raid,
she thought--more exciting, more wonderful.

The end left her almost as much exhausted as Ben himself. The sweat was
running down his face as he got up from his seat, came forward to the
front of the platform, and bowed right and left. Jenny had not
clapped--she would as soon have thought of clapping God with His last
trump--but Ben bowed as though a whole multitude had applauded him.

By some chance, the only direction in which he did not turn his eyes
was the gallery: even then, he might not have seen a single figure
seated a little to one side--a man with a dark overcoat buttoned up to
his chin, who clapped his two thumbs noiselessly together, drawing in
his breath with a sort of whistle.

"That's the stuff!" he said. "That's the stuff to give 'em!"

After a moment's pause, Ben turned again to the piano. This time he
played the Sonata Pathétique in C Minor, Op. XIII; then the Sonata
Walstein in C Major. Between each, he got up, moved forward to the edge
of the platform, and bowed.

At the end of the Sonata, Op. III--by rights the first on the
programme--during the short interval which followed it he straightened
his shoulders with a sort of swagger, utterly unlike himself, swung
round to the piano again, and slammed out "God Save the King."

He played it through to the very end, then rose, bowed from where he
stood, stared round at the empty hall--a dreadful, strained, defiant
smile stiffening upon his face--and sinking back upon his stool, laid
his arms across the keyboard with a crash of notes, burying his head
upon them.

In a moment Jenny was out of her seat. There were chairs in her way,
and she kicked them aside; raked one forward with her foot, and
scrambled on to the platform; then, catching a sideways glimpse of the
empty seats, bent forward and shook her fist at them.

"Beasts! Pigs! A-a-a-ah!--You!"

The attendants had disappeared, the stranger was lost in shadows. There
was nobody there but themselves: it would not have mattered if there
had been: all the lords and ladies, all the swells in the world, would
not have mattered. The great empty hall, suddenly friendly, closed,
curving, around them.

Jenny dropped upon her knees at Ben's side, and flung her arms about
him, with little moans of love and pity; slid one hand beneath his
cheek, with a muffled roll of notes, raised his head and pressed it
against her heart.

"There, my dear! There, my love--there--there--there!"

She laid her lips to his thick dark hair, in a passion of adoration,
loving every lock of it; and then, woman-like, picked a white thread
from off his black coat; clasped him afresh, with joy and sorrow like
runnels of living water pouring through and through her.

"There, there, there, there!"

He was too much of a child to fight against her: all his pride was
gone. "Oh, Jenny, Jenny, Jenny!" he cried; then, in an extremity of
innocent anguish, amazement--

"They didn't come! They don't care--they don't want it! Jenny, they
don't want it!"

"Don't you worry about them there blighters, my darling. Selfish pigs!
they ain't not worth a thought. Don't you worry about them."

"But--Beethoven...."

"Don't you worry about Beethoven, neifer--ain't no better nor he
oughter be, taeke my word fur it. Lettin' you in like this 'ere!
There--there--there, my dear!"

They clung together, weeping, rocking to and fro. "Well," said the man
in the gallery, "I'm jiggered!" and crept out very softly, stumbling a
little because of the damp air which seemed to have got into his eyes
and made them smart.

As the lovers came out into the little vestibule, clinging to each
other, they did not so much as see the stranger, who stood talking to
the man in the box-office, but went straight on out into the rain, with
their umbrellas unopened in their hands.

"A good thing as the 'all people insists upon payment in advance,"
remarked the man in the box-office.

The other gave him a curious, half-contemptuous glance. "I'd like to
hear you say that in a year's time."

"Why?"

"Because that chap will be able to buy and sell a place like this a
hundred times over by then--Queen's Hall--Albert Hall--I know. It's my
business to know. There's something about his playing. That _something
different_ they're all out for."

It took a long time to get back to Canning Town. Even Jenny had lost
her certainty: her grasp of the ways of 'buses and such things. She
felt oddly clear and empty: like a room swept and garnished, with the
sense of a ghost in some dim corner of it; physically sapped out.

Ben clung to her. He said very little, but he clung to her, with an
odd, lost air: the look of a child who has been slapped in the face,
and cannot understand why.

She was so much smaller than he, like a diminutive, sturdy steam-tug;
and yet if she could have carried him, she would have done so.

As it was, she threw her whole heart and soul into guiding, comforting;
thinking of a hundred things at once, her soft mouth folded tight with
anxiety.--How to prevent him from feeling shamed before his mother: how
to keep the trouble away from her: though at the back of her own mind
was a feeling--and she had an idea that it would be at the back of old
Mrs. Cohen's also--of immense relief, of some load gone: almost as
though her child had been through a bad attack of scarlet-fever, or
something which one does not take twice.

With all this, there was the thought of what she would step out and buy
for their supper, if the fried-fish shop were still open; all she would
do and say to cheer them.

As for Ben, the "Hammerclavier" was surging through his brain, carrying
the empty hall with it, those rows upon rows of empty seats--swinging
them to and fro so that he felt physically sick, as though he were at
sea.

Quite suddenly, as they got out of the last tram, the rain ceased. At
the worst it had been a mild night of velvety darkness and soft airs,
the reflection from the lamps swimming in a haze of gold across the wet
pavement; but now, just as they reached the end of his own street, the
black sky opened upon a wide sea of pinkish-amber and a full moon
sailed into sight. At the same moment, Ben's sense of anguished
bewilderment cleared away, leaving in its place a feeling of
incalculable weariness.

To be back in his own home again--that was all he asked. "You'll stay
the night at our place, Jenny?" "Yes; I promised your mother." Her brow
knitted, and then cleared again. Ah, well; that was all over: Ben would
go back to his regular job again; they would get married; then there
would be her money, too: no need for old Mrs. Cohen to do another
hand's turn. Plenty of time for her to rest now: all her life for
resting in.

"Your mother." As she spoke Ben remembered, for the first time,
actively remembered, for of course it was his mother that he meant when
he thought of home.

"She wasn't there, Jenny! She wasn't there!"

"She was very busy, 'adn't not finished 'er work." Something beyond
Jenny's will stiffened within her. So he had only just realised it! She
tried not to remember, but she could not help it--the flushed face, the
glassy eyes: the whole look of a woman beaten, with her back against a
wall; condemning Ben by her very silence, desperate courage.

"Work?"

"Yes, work." Jenny snapped it: hating herself for it, drawing him
closer, and yet unable to help it. "Why----" began Ben, and then
stopped--horrified. At last he realised it: perhaps it ran to him
through Jenny's arm; perhaps it was just that he was down on earth
again, humble, ductile, seeing other people's lives as they were, not
as he meant to make them.

"Ter-night--workin'"

"All night; one the saeme as another."

"But why----" he began again; stopped dead, loosed his own arm and
caught hers. "All this while workin' like that! She works too hard.
Jenny, look here: she works too hard. And I--this damned music! Look
here, Jenny, it's got to stop! I'll never play a note again; she shall
never do a hard stroke of work again; never, never--not so long as I'm
here to work for her. All my life--ever since I can remember--washing
and ironing, like--like--the very devil!"

He pulled the girl along with him. "That was what I was thinking all
the time: to make a fortune so that you'd both have everything you
wanted, a big house, servants, motors, silk dresses----And all the time
letting you both work yourselves to death! But this is the end; no more
of that. To be happy--that's all that matters--sort of everyday
happiness.

"No more of that beastly washing, ironing--it's the end of that,
anyhow. When I'm back at the timber-yard----"

He was like a child again, planning; they almost ran down the street.
"No more o' that damned washin' and ironin'--no more work----"

True! How true! The street door opened straight into the little
kitchen. She was not in bed, for the light was still burning; they
could see it at either side of the blind, shrunk crooked with steam.
There was one step down into the kitchen; but for all that, the door
would not open when they raised the latch and pushed it, stuck against
something.

"Some of those beastly old clothes!" Ben shoved it, hailing his mother.
"Mother! Mother, you've got something stuck against the door." Odd that
she did not come to his help, quick as she always was.

After all, it gave way too suddenly for him to altogether realise the
oddness; and he stumbled forward right across the kitchen, seeing
nothing until he turned and faced Jenny still standing upon the step,
staring downward, with an ashy-white face, wide eyes fixed upon old
Mrs. Cohen, who lay there at her feet, resting--incomprehensibly
resting.

They need not have been so emphatic about it all--"No more beastly
washing, no more work"--for the whole thing was out of their hands once
and for all.

She had fallen across the doorway, a flat-iron still in her hand--the
weapon with which she had fought the world, kept the wolf from that
same door--all the strain gone out of her face, a little twisted to the
left side, and oddly smiling. One child's pinafore was still unironed;
the rest were folded, finished.

They raised her between them, laid her upon her bed. It was Jenny who
washed her, wrapped her in clean linen--no one else should touch her;
Ben who sat by her, with hardly a break, until the day that she was
buried, wiped out with self-reproach, grief; desolate as any child,
sodden with tears.

He collected all his music into a pile, the day before the funeral,
gave it to Jenny to put under the copper--a burnt-offering.

"If it hadn't been for that, she might be here now. I don't want ever
to see it again--ever to hear a note of it!" That was what he said.

Jenny went back to the house with him after the funeral: she was going
to give him his tea, and then return to her own room. In a week they
were to be married, and she would be with him for good, looking after
him. That evening, before she left, she would set his breakfast, cut
his lunch ready for the morrow. By Saturday week they would be settled
down to their regular life together. She would not think about his
music; pushed it away at the back of her mind--over and done
with--would not even allow herself the disloyalty of being glad. And
yet was glad, deeply glad, relieved, despite her pride in it, in him:
as though it were something unknown, alien, dangerous, like things
forbidden.

Two men were waiting at the door of the narrow slip of a house: the
tall, thin one with his overcoat still buttoned up to his chin, and
another fat and shining, with a top-hat, black frock-coat, and white
spats.

"About that concert----" said the first man.

"We were thinking that if we could persuade you to play----" put in the
other.

"There was no one there," interrupted Ben roughly. His shoulders were
bent, his head dropped forward on his chest, poking sideways, his eyes
sullen as a child's.

"I was there," put in the first man, "and I must say, impressed----"

"Very deeply impressed," added the other; but once again Ben brushed
him aside.

"You were there--at my concert!" Jenny, standing a little back--for
they were all three crowded upon the tiny door-step--saw him glance up
at the speaker with something luminous shining through the darkness of
his face. "At my concert----! And you liked it? You liked it?"

"'Like' is scarcely the word."

"We feel that if you could be persuaded to give another concert," put
in the stout man, blandly, "and would allow----"

"I shall never play again--never--never!" cried Ben, harshly; but this
time the other went on imperturbably: "--allow us to make all
arrangements, take all responsibility: boom you; see to the advertising
and all that--we thought if we were to let practically all the seats
for the first concert go in complimentary tickets; get a few good names
on the committee--perhaps a princess or something of that sort as a
patroness--a strong claque"

"Of course, playing Beethoven--playing him as you played him the other
night. Grand-magnificent!" put in the first man realising the
weariness, the drop to blank indifference in the musician's face. "The
'Hammerclavier' for instance----"

It was magical.--"Oh, yes, yes--that--that!" Ben's eyes widened, his
face glowed. He hummed a bar or so. "Was there ever anything like it?
My God! was there ever anything like it!"

Jenny, who had the key, squeezed past them at this, and ran through the
kitchen to the scullery, where she filled the kettle and put it upon
the gas-ring to boil; looked round her for a moment, with quick,
darting eyes--like a small wild animal at bay in a strange place--then
drew a bucketful of water, turned up her sleeves, the skirt of her new
black frock, tied on an old hessian apron of Mrs. Cohen's, with a
savage jerk of the strings, and dropping upon her knees, started to
scrub the floor, the rough stone floor.

"Men!--trapsin' in an' out, muckin' up a place!"

She could hear the murmur of men's voices in the kitchen, and through
it that "trapsin'" of other men struggling with a long coffin on the
steep narrow stairs.

On and on it went--the agonised remembrance of all that banging,
trampling; the swish of her own scrubbing-brush; the voices round the
table where old Mrs. Cohen had stood ironing for hours and hours upon
end.

Then the door into the scullery was opened. For a moment or so she kept
her head obstinately lowered, determined that she _would_ not look up.
Then, feeling her own unkindness, she raised it and smiled upon Ben,
who stood there, flushed, glowing, and yet too shame-faced to
speak--smiled involuntarily, as one must smile at a child.

"Well?"

"That--that--music stuff--I suppose it's burnt?" he began, fidgeting
from one foot to another, his head bent, ducking sideways, his shoulder
to his ear.

Her glance enwrapped him--smiling, loving, bitter-sweet. Things were
not going to be as she had thought; none of that going out regularly to
work, coming home to tea like other men; none of that safe sameness of
life. At the back of her calm was a fierce battle; then she rose to her
feet, wiped her hands upon her apron, stooped to the lowest shelf of
the cupboard, and drew out a pile of music.

"There you are, my dear. I didn't not burn it, a'cause Well, I suppose
as I sorter knowed all the time as you'd be wantin' it."

Children! Well, one knew where one was with children--real children.
But men, that was a different pair of shoes altogether--something you
could never be sure of--unless you remembered, always remembered, to
treat them as though they were grown-up, think of them as children.

"Now you taeke that an' get along back to yer friends an' yer playin',
and let me get on with my work. It'll be dark an' tea-time on us afore
ever I've time ter so much as turn round."

"That woman," said the fat, shining man, as they moved away down the
street, greasy with river-mist.--"Hang it all! where in the world are
we to get a taxi?--Common-place little thing; a bit of a drag on him, I
should think."

"Don't you believe it, my friend--that's the sort to give 'em--some'un
who will sort of dry-nurse 'em--feed em--mind 'em. That's the wife for
a genius. The only sort of wife--mark my word for it."



THE DEVIL TO PAY

By MAX PEMBERTON

(From _The Story-Teller_)

1922


To say that the usually amiable Ambrose Cleaver was in the devil of a
temper would be merely to echo the words of his confidential clerk,
John, who, looking through the glass partition between their offices,
confessed to James, the office boy, that he had not seen such goings on
since old Ambrose, the founder of the firm, was gathered to his
fathers.

"There won't be a bit of furniture in the place presently," said he,
"and I wouldn't give twopence for the cat when he's finished kicking
her. This comes of the women, my boy. Never have nothing to say to a
woman until you've finished your dinner and lighted your cigar. Many a
good business have I seen go into the Bankruptcy Court because of a
petticoat before lunch. You keep away from 'em if you want to be Lord
Mayor of London, same as Dick Whittington was."

James did not desire particularly to become Lord Mayor of London, but
he was greatly amused by his employer's temper.

"Never heard such language," said he--"and him about to marry her. Why,
he almost threw them jewels at her 'ead; and when she told him he must
have let the devil in by accident, he says as he was always glad to see
her friends. They'll make a happy couple, surely."

John shook his old dense head, and would express no opinion upon the
point.

"Misfortunes never come singly," said he. "Here's that Count Florian
waiting for him in the ante-room. Now that's a man I can't abide. If
anybody told me he was the devil, I'd believe him soon enough. A bad
'un, James, or I don't know the breed. An evil man who seems to pollute
the very air you breathe."

James was not so sure of it.

"He give me half a crown for fetching of a cab yesterday, and told me
to go to the music-hall with it. He must have a lot of money, for he
never smokes his cigars more than half-way through, and he wears a
different scarf-pin every day. That's wot comes of observation, Mr.
John. I could tell you all the different pairs of trousers he's worn
for the last three weeks, and so I'm going to make my fortune as the
advertisements say."

Mr. John would not argue about that. The bell of the inner office now
tinkled, and that was an intimation that the Count Nicholas Florian was
to be admitted to the Holy of Holies. So the old man hurried away and,
opening the sacred door with circumspection, narrowly escaped being
knocked down by an enraged and hasty cat--glad to escape that inferno
at any cost.

"You rang, sir?"

Ambrose Cleaver, thirty-three years of age, square-jawed, fair-haired,
a florid complexion and with a wonderful pair of clear blue eyes,
admitted that he did ring.

"And don't be so d----d slow next time," he snapped. "I'll see the
Count Florian at once."

The old man withdrew timidly, while his master mopped up the ink from
the pot he had broken in his anger.

"Enough to try the devil himself," was the sop that argument offered to
his heated imagination. "She knows I hate Deauville like poison, and of
course it's to Deauville she must go for the honeymoon. And she looks
so confoundedly pretty when she's in a temper--what wonderful eyes
she's got! And when she's angry the curls get all round her ears, and
it's as much as a man can do not to kiss her on the spot. Of course, I
didn't really want her to have opals if she thinks they're unlucky, but
she needn't have insisted that I knew about it and bought them on
purpose to annoy her. Good God! I wish there were no women in the world
sometimes. What a splendid place it would be to live in, and what a
fine time the men would have--for, of course, they are all the
daughters of the devil really, and that's why they make life too hot
for us."

Mr. John entered at this moment showing in the Count, and so a very
cheerful argument was thus cut short. Ambrose pulled himself together
and suppressing, as best he could, any appearance of aversion from the
caller who now presented himself, he sat back in his chair and prepared
to hear "the tale."

Count Florian was at that time some fifty-nine years of age, dark as an
Italian and not without trace of an Eastern origin. Though it was early
in the month of May, he still wore a light Inverness cape of an ancient
fashion, while his patent-leather boots and his silk hat shone with the
polish of a well-kept mirror. When he laughed, however, he showed
ferocious teeth, some capped with gold, and in his eyes was a fiery
light not always pleasant to behold.

"A chilly morning," he began. "You have no fire, I see."

"You find it so?" queried Ambrose. "Well, I thought it quite warm."

"Ah," said the count, "you were born, of course, in this detestable
country. Do not forget that where I live there are people who call the
climate hell," and he laughed sardonically, with a laugh quite
unpleasant to hear.

Ambrose did not like such talk, and showed his displeasure plainly.

"The climate is good enough for me," he said. "Personally, I don't want
to live in the particular locality you name. Have a cigar and tell me
why you called--the old business, I suppose? Well, you know my opinion
about that. I want none of it. I don't believe it is honest business,
and I think that if we did it, we might all end in the dock. So you
know my mind before we begin."

The Count heard him patiently, but did not seem in any way disturbed.

"There is very little business that is honest," he said; "practically
none at all. Look at politics, the Church, art, the sciences--those who
flourish are the imposters, while your honest men are foolish enough to
starve in garrets. If a man will undertake nothing that is open to the
suspicion of self-interest, he should abandon all his affairs at once
and retire to a monastery, where possibly he will discover that the
prior is cheating the abbot and the cellarer cheating them both. You
have a great business opportunity, and if anybody suffers it is only
the Government, which you must admit is a pure abstraction--suggesting
chiefly a company of undiscovered rascals. The deal which I have to
propose to you concerns a sum of half a million sterling, and that is
not to be passed by lightly. I suggest, therefore, that at least you
read the documents I have brought with me, and that we leave the matter
of honesty to be discussed by the lawyers."

He laid upon the table a bundle of papers as he spoke, and lighted a
cigarette by lightly rubbing a match against the tip of the fourth
finger of his left hand. Ambrose felt strangely uneasy. A most uncanny
suspicion had come upon him while the man was speaking. He felt that no
ordinary human being faced him, and that he might in very truth be
talking with the devil. Nor would this idea quit him despite its
apparent absurdity.

"You must have great influence, Count," he remarked presently--"great
influence to get such a valuable commission as this!"

The Count was flattered.

"I have servants in every country," he said; "the rich are always my
friends--the poor often come to me because they are not rich. Few who
know me can do without me; indeed, I may say that but for such men as I
am the world would not go on. I am the mainspring of its endeavour."

"And yet when I met you it was on the links above La Turbie."

The count laughed, showing his glittering teeth as any carnivorous
animal might have done.

"Ah, I remember. You met me when I was playing golf with a very saintly
lady. Latterly, I hear, she has ceased to go to church and taken to
bobbed hair. Women are strange creatures, Mr. Cleaver, but difficult,
very difficult sometimes. I have had many disappointments with women."

"You find men easier?"

"Indeed, there are few men who are not willing to go to the devil if
the consideration be large enough. A woman, on the other hand, is too
often the victim of her emotions. She will suffer eternal torment for
the man she loves, and she will cheat for him. But for the rest of
us--nothing, positively nothing at all; she is neither honest nor
dishonest, she merely passes us by."

"Ah," exclaimed Ambrose, a little wearily, "I wish I could think that
about my _fiancée_. She's just been up--that's why you find me upset. I
bought her opals, and, of course, she wants diamonds. You see, I forgot
she wasn't born in October."

The Count nodded his head in sympathy.

"I must have a little talk to her. I am sure we shall be good friends.
Miss Kitty Palmer, is it not? Forgive me, I read it in the newspapers--a
charming face but a little temper, I think. Well, well, there is no
harm in that. What a dull place the world would be but for a little
temper! You have much to be thankful for, Mr. Cleaver--very, very much.
And now this concession, by which you will make two hundred thousand
pounds at a very moderate estimate. There will be very little temper
when you take home that news. No woman is angry with a man who makes
money, but she has a great contempt for him who does not."

"Even if he made it dishonestly?"

"She does not care a snap of the fingers how he makes it, believe me."

"And afterwards, when he goes to prison----"

"Pshaw--only fools go to prison. If your foolish principles were made
the test, there would hardly be a free man in Mincing Lane. We should
have to lock up the whole City. Come, let me have your signature, and I
will do the rest. To refuse is madness. You are offered the chance of a
lifetime."

Ambrose did not reply to him immediately. It had come to him suddenly
that this was the hour of a great temptation, and he sat very still,
conscious that his heart beat fast because of the evil that was near
him. The Count watched him, meanwhile, as a wild beast may watch its
prey. The man's eyes appeared to have turned to coals of fire; his
fingers twitched; his teeth were on edge--he had even ceased to smoke.

"Well?" he said at last, unable to suffer the silence any longer.

Ambrose rose from his chair and went over slowly to the great safe,
which stood in the corner of his office; he unlocked it and took some
documents from a shelf upon the right-hand side. The Count stood at his
elbow while he did so, and he could feel the man's breath warm upon his
shoulder.

Suddenly a violent impulse overcame him. He swung round and seized the
fellow by the collar, and in an instant, endowed as it were with
superhuman strength, he hurled the man into the safe and turned the key
upon him.

"By heaven!" he cried, "but I have locked up the devil."

II

Ambrose dismissed John, the man, and James, the boy, and told them he
would have no need of their services for some days.

"I am going away for a little holiday," he said. "The letters can await
my return. You may both go down to Brighton for a week, and I will pay
your expenses. It is right that you should have a little change of air
more than once a year, so away with you both, and don't let me hear of
you until Monday next."

James looked at John and John looked at James. Was their excellent
employer demented, then, or had they understood him incorrectly?

"Not," said John, when they were alone together, "that I particularly
wished to go to Brighton just now, but there you are. Half the pleasure
in life, my boy, is wanting to do things, and when you have to do them
without wanting it, even though they are pleasant things, somehow all
the savour has gone out of the salt, so to speak. But, of course, we
shall have to go, seeing that we couldn't tell Mr. Cleaver a lie."

James was a little astonished at that, for he had told thousands of
lies in his brief life, though now he really had no desire to tell one
at all.

"I shall be glad to get away from here for a few days, any'ow," he
said; "it's so 'ot and close, and when you go near the safe in the
other horfice it's just as though you stood by a roaring fire. Good
thing, Mr. John, that the thing is fire-proof, or we might have the
whole show burned down, as Mr. Ambrose hisself was saying. 'Very 'ot
for the time of year, James,' says he, and 'burnin, 'ot,' says I. We'll
find it cooler at Brighton, Mr. John, and perhaps we can go to the
pictures, though I'm fed up with all them rotten stories about crooks
and such like, and so are you, I'm sure."

Mr. John said that he was, though he was surprised at such an opinion
emanating from James. When they locked up the inner office--their
master being gone home--they discovered in the fire-grate the ashes of
what had been a formidable-looking document, and it really did seem as
though the concrete upon which the great safe stood had become quite
hot, but there was no visible sign of fire, and so they went off,
wondering and contented, but by no means in a mood of exhilaration, as
properly they should have been.

Ambrose had taken a cab at his own door, and his first visit was to the
Bond Street jeweller who had sold him the opals.

He was quite sure that he had shut up the devil in his office safe, and
as he drove it seemed to him that he became conscious of a new world
round about him, though just how it was new he could not have told you.

Everybody wore a look of great content--there was subdued laughter but
no real merriment--nor did any hasten as though he had real business to
do; while the very taxi-cabs drove with circumspection, and actually
waited for old ladies to cross the street before them. When his own cab
stopped he gave the man half a crown as usual; but the driver called
him back and pointed out his error.

"Excuse me, sir, eighteenpence is the fare with threepence for my
gratuity, that makes one and ninepence. So I have to give you ninepence
back, although I thank you all the same."

Ambrose pocketed the money, quite insensible of anything but the man's
civility, and entered immediately into the sanctum of the great
jeweller. He found that worthy a little distrait and far from any
desire to do big business. In fact, his first words told of his coming
retirement from an occupation which had enriched him during a good
forty years of profit and rarely of loss.

"The fact is, Mr. Cleaver, that I foresee the day coming when women
will wear no jewellery. Already the spirit of competition has passed,
and it is by competition and the pride of competition that this trade
has flourished. A woman buys a rope of pearls because another woman
wears one. Lady A cannot allow Lady B to have more valuable diamonds
than she possesses. Very few really admire the gems for their own sake,
and when you think of the crimes that have been committed because of
them, the envious passions they arouse, and the swindles to which they
give birth, then, indeed, we may wish that every precious stone lay
deep at the bottom of the sea."

"But, my dear sir, are you not thus banishing much beauty from the
world--did not the Almighty create precious stones for pretty women to
wear?"

The jeweller shrugged his shoulders, sweeping aside carelessly some
priceless pearls that lay on the table before him.

"The Almighty created them to lie securely in their shells, or deep in
the caverns of the earth; for the rivers to wash them with sweet waters
or the lurid fire to shape them in the bowls of the mountains. The
beauties given us to enjoy are those upon which our eyes may light in
the woodlands or from the heights--the glory of the sunset, the
stillness of the sea, the thousand hues of a garden of flowers, or the
cascade as it falls from the mountain top. These things are common to
all, but the precious stone is too often for the neck or the fingers of
the harlot and the adventuress. No, sir, I shall retire from this
business and seek out some quiet spot where I can await with composure
the solemn moment of dissolution we all must face."

Ambrose was almost too astonished to speak.

"I admire your philosophy," he said at length, "but the fact is, that I
want a diamond ring and a rope of pearls and if----"

"Ah," said the old man interrupting him, "it is odd that you should
speak of pearls, for I have just been telling my partner here that
whatever he may do in the future, he will find pearls of little profit
to him. What with imitations and the 'cultured' article, women are
coming already to despise them. But even if you take your _fiancée_ a
diamond ring, will she not merely say to herself: 'an excellent
beginning, now what is the next thing I can get out of him?' Be wise
and cultivate no such spirit of cupidity, foreign to a good woman's
nature but encouraged by the men, who, for vanity's sake, heap presents
upon her. Take rather this little cross, set with pure amethysts, the
emblem of faith and so discover, my dear sir, whether she loves the man
or the jewel, for indeed but few women love both, as all their story
teaches us."

Ambrose took the cross and thanked the old man for his words of wisdom.
Another cab carried him on his way to Upper Gloucester Place where
Kitty Palmer then lived with her saintly mother--and as he went, he
reflected upon the jeweller's words.

"I'll put her to the proof," he said to himself, "if she likes this
twopenny halfpenny cross, she is a miracle among women. But, of course,
she won't like it and there'll be another scene. What a devil of a
temper she was in this morning and how she made the fur fly! If she's
like that now, I shall just take her into my arms and kiss her until
she's done fighting. After all, I wouldn't give sixpence for a woman
who had no spirit. It's their moods that make them so fascinating
--little devils that they are at their best!"

The arrival at the house cut short his ruminations and he hastened into
the well-known drawing-room and there waited impatiently while the maid
summoned Kitty from her bedroom. She came down immediately to his great
surprise--for usually she kept him waiting at least half an hour--and
her mood was strangely changed, he thought. A pretty, flaxen-haired,
blue-eyed, cream and white English type she was, but her chin spoke
also of determination and the eyes which could "look love to eyes that
looked again," upon occasion could also speak of anger which resented
all control. This afternoon, however, Kitty was as meek as a lamb. She
had become so utterly changed in an hour that Ambrose hardly knew her.

"My dear girl," he began, "I am so sorry that I lost my temper this
morning----"

"Oh, no--not you, Ambrose dear. It was I--of course it was awfully
silly and we won't go to Deauville if you don't want to. Let it be
Fontainebleau by all means--though really, it does not seem important
whether we do get married or don't while you love me. Love after all is
what matters, isn't it, Ambrose dearest?"

He had to say that it was, though he did not like her argument. When,
with some hesitation and not a little fear he showed her the little
gold cross, she admitted to his astonishment that it was one of the
prettiest things she had ever seen.

"Somehow," she said, "I do not seem to care much for jewellery now. It
has become so vulgar--the commoner the people, the more diamonds they
wear. I shall treasure this, darling--I'll wear it now at lunch. Of
course you are going to take me to lunch, aren't you? Suppose we go to
the Ritz grill-room, the restaurants are so noisy, and I know that you
like grill-rooms, don't you, dear?"

Ambrose said "yes" and they started off. Somehow he felt rather
depressed and he had to confess that Kitty--usually so smart--looked
quite shabby. She wore one of her oldest dresses and obviously had
neither powder on her face nor the lightest touch of the rouge which
became her so well. Moreover, she was listless beyond experience, and
when he asked her if she would go to the Savoy and dance that night,
she answered that she thought she would give up dancing altogether. It
quite took his breath away.

"Give up dancing--but, Kitty, you're mad about it!"

"No, dear, I was mad to be mad about it: but what good does it do to
anybody, just going up and down and round and round with a man you may
never see again. Surely we were not sent into the world to do that! Ask
the vicar of the parish what he thinks, or Doctor Lanfry, who is doing
such splendid work at the hospitals. I think we have to make good in
life, and dancing, surely, will not help us. So I mean to give it up,
and smoking and all horrid things. I'm sure you'll like me better for
that, dear; you know how jealous my dancing used to make you, but now
you'll never have any cause to be jealous again."

Ambrose did not know what to say. This seemed to him quite the flattest
lunch he had ever sat out with her, while, as for the people round
about, he thought he had never seen a duller lot. Perhaps, after all,
he had been a little hasty in shutting up the devil so unceremoniously,
but it made him laugh to think that the fellow would get no lunch
anyway and that his stock of cigars would hardly last him through the
day. "And at any rate," he argued, "the rascal will do no mischief
to-day."

He drove Kitty to the King's New Hospital when the stupid meal was
over--she was visiting some old people there--and while he waited for
her, he met Dr. Lanfry himself and had a little chat with that
benevolent old gentleman. Naturally their talk concerned the hospital
and he was not a little surprised to find the worthy doctor altogether
in an optimistic mood.

"Yes," he said, "we shall have no need of these costly places. Disease
is disappearing rapidly from our midst. I see the day coming when men
and women will go untroubled by any ailment from the cradle to the
grave. In some ways, I confess the world will be poorer. Think of all
the human sympathy which human suffering awakens--the profound love of
the mother for the ailing child, the sacrifice of those who wait and
watch by the beds of the sick, the agony of parting leading to the
eternal hope in the justice of God. All these things, the world will
miss when we conquer disease, and the spirit will be the poorer for
them. Indeed, I foresee the day when men will forget the existence of
God just because they have no need to pray for those who suffer; the
devil will have no work to do in that day; but, who knows, humanity may
be worse and not better because of his idleness."

Ambrose agreed with him, though he would never have expressed such
sentiments to Kitty. He found her a little sad when she came out of the
ward, and it seemed that all the patients were so very much better that
they cared but little for her kindly attentions, and when she tried to
read to them, most of them fell asleep. So she went back to Ambrose and
asked him to drive to the vicarage where she hoped to see Canon Kenny,
her good pastor, and find out if he could tell her of some work of
mercy to be done.

"I feel," she said, "that I must find out the sorrow in the world, I
must help it."

"But suppose, my dear, that there isn't any sorrow----"

"Oh, then the world would not be worth living in, I should go out to
the islands of the Pacific and become a missionary. Do you know,
Ambrose dear, I've often thought of putting on boys' clothes and going
to live in the wilderness. A boy seems so much more active than a girl,
and what does it matter since sex no longer counts?"

He looked at her aghast.

"Sex no longer counts!"

"No," she said in the simplest way, "people will become too spiritual
for that. You will have to love me as though I were your sister,
Ambrose----"

Ambrose gulped down a "d----n" and was quite relieved to find himself
presently in the study of the venerable canon, who was just leaving
England for a Continental holiday. He said that he was not tired, but
really there was very little work to do--and he added, with a laugh:
"It would almost appear, my children, as though some one had locked up
the devil and there was no more work left for us parsons."

"But that surely would be a great, good thing," exclaimed Ambrose,
astonished.

"In a way, yes," the canon rejoined, "but consider, all life depends
upon that impulse which comes of strife--strife of the body, strife of
the soul. I worship God believing He has called upon me to take my
share in fighting the evil which is in the world. Remove that evil, and
what is my inspiration? Beyond the grave, yes, there may be that sphere
of holiness to which the human condition contributes nothing--a sphere
in which all happiness, all goodness centres about the presence of the
Eternal--but here we know that man must strive or perish, must fight or
be conquered--must school his immortal soul in the fire of temptation
and of suffering. So, I say, it may even be a bad day for the world
could the devil be chained in bonds which even he could not burst. It
might even be the loss of the knowledge of the God by whom evil is
permitted to live that good may come."

This and much more he said, always in the tone of one who bared his
head to destiny and had a faith unconquerable. When they left him,
Kitty appeared to have made up her mind, and she spoke so earnestly
that even her lover could not argue with her.

"Ambrose, dear," she said, "I must see you no more, I shall devote my
life to good works. To-night I shall enter the Convent of the Little
Sisters at Kensington. It is a long, long good-bye, my dearest."

He did not answer her, but calling a taxi, he ordered the man to drive
to Throgmorton Street like the deuce.

III

He had told James and John to go home, but to his annoyance he found
them still in the office and busy as though nothing extraordinary had
happened. Brushing by them, he dashed into the inner room and turned
the key in the lock of his safe.

"Come out!" he cried, but nobody answered him.

It was odd, but when he looked inside that massive room of steel,
nobody was to be discerned there. At the same instant, however, he
heard the Count's voice immediately behind him, and turning he
discovered the man at his elbow.

"Well?" asked the fellow.

So there he stood, exactly in the same attitude as Ambrose had left him
when he crossed the room to find the document. Indeed, the very same
cigarette was held by his evil-looking fingers, and it was clear that
he waited for the word which would signify acceptance of his contract.

"Good heavens," thought Ambrose, "I must have imagined it all."

He returned to his chair and tossed the paper across the table.

"I refuse to sign it," he said curtly, "you had better call on Alderman
Karlbard; he's a church-warden, a justice of the peace and a
philanthropist. He's your man and he's pretty sure to end in prison
anyway."

"Thank you for your introduction," said the Count quietly, and, bowing,
he withdrew with the same nonchalant air as he had entered. Trust the
devil to know when he is beaten.

Ambrose watched him go and then calling John, he asked what time it
was.

"A quarter to one, sir," said that worthy.

"Just in time to lunch with Kitty," Ambrose thought. And then jumping
up as a man who comes by a joyous idea, he cried: "By Gad, what a row I
mean to have with her--the darling!"



EMPTY ARMS

By ROLAND PERTWEE

(From _The Ladies' Home Journal_)

1922


There was a maroon wall paper in the dining-room, abundantly decorated
with sweeping curves unlike any known kind of vegetation. There were
amber silk sashes to the Nottingham lace curtains at the huge bow
window and an amber winding sheet was wrapped about the terra cotta pot
in which a tired aspidistra bore forth a yearly leaf. Upon the Brussels
carpet was a massive mahogany dining table, and facing the window a
Georgian chiffonier, brass railed and surmounted by a convex mirror.
The mantlepiece was draped in red serge, ball fringed. There were
bronzes upon it and a marble clock, while above was an overmantel,
columned and bemirrored, upon the shelves of which reposed sorrowful
examples of Doulton ware and a pair of wrought-iron candlesticks. It
was a room divorced from all sense of youth and live beings, sunless,
grave, unlovely; an arid room that bore to the nostrils the taint and
humour of the tomb.

From somewhere near the Edgware Road came the clot-clot of a late
four-wheeler and the shake and rumble of an underground train. The
curtains had been discreetly drawn, the gas turned off at the metre and
an hour had passed since the creaking of the old lady's shoes and the
jingle of the plate basket ascending the stairs had died away. A dim
light from the street lamp outside percolated through the blinds and
faintly illuminated the frame and canvas of a large picture hanging
opposite the mantlepiece.

It was a beautiful picture, a piece of perfect painting--three figures
in a simple curve of rocks, lit as it were by an afterglow of sunset.
In the centre was a little Madonna draped in blue and gold. Her elbows
were tight to her sides and her upturned palms with their tender
curving fingers were empty. It seemed almost as though they cradled
some one who was not there. Her mouth was pulled down at the corners,
as is a child's at the edge of tears, and in her eyes was a questing
and bewildered look. To her right, leaning upon a slender staff, was
the figure of St. John the Baptist, and upon his face also perplexity
was written. A trick brushwork had given to his eyes a changing
direction whereby at a certain angle you would say he was looking at
the Madonna, and again that he was following the direction of her gaze
out into unknown places. His lips were shaped to the utterance of such
a word as "why" or "where." It seemed as though the two were in a
partnership of sorrow or of search.

The third figure was of Saint Anne, standing a little behind and
looking upward. A strange composition, oddly incomplete, giving an
impression of sadness, of unrest and of loss irredeemable.

A clock was chiming the parts of an hour when the little Madonna
stepped from the frame and tiptoed across the room. To her own
reflection in the mirror opposite she shook her head in a sorrowful
negative. She peeped into a cupboard and behind the draperies of the
mantlepiece, but there was nothing there. She paused before an
engraving of Raphael's Holy Family, murmured "Happy Lady" and passed
on.

On a small davenport table next to one of the two inexorable armchairs
she found the old lady's workbasket. That was a great piece of good
fortune, since nightly it was locked away with the tea, the stamps and
other temptations that might persuade a soul to steal should
opportunity allow.

In the many years of her dwelling in the house, but three times only
had she found it unguarded. There are glorious possibilities in a
workbasket. Once she had found wool there, not carded, but a hank of
it, soft, white and most delicate to touch. To handle it had given her
the queerest sensation. She had shut her eyes, and it had seemed to
weave itself into the daintiest garments--very small, you understand,
and with sleeves no longer than a middle finger. But it was a silly
imagining, for not many days afterward, looking down from the canvas,
she had seen the old lady, with her clicking ivory needles, knit the
wool into an ugly pair of bed socks.

Quite a while she played in the basket that night. She liked the little
pearl buttons in the pill box, and the safety pins were nice too. Kind
and trustworthy pins they were to hide their points beneath smooth
round shields. She felt it would be good to take some of them back in
one of her empty hands and hide them in that little crevice of rock
under the juniper tree.

It was the banging of a front door opposite and the sound of running
footsteps that moved her to the window. She drew back the curtain and
peeped out across the way. There were lights in an upstairs window and
a shadow kept crossing and recrossing the blind. It was a nice shadow
and wore a head-dress like her own except that it was more sticky out.

The hall, too, showed a light, and, looking up the street, she saw a
maidservant, running very fast, disappear round the corner. After that
there was silence for a long time. In the street no one moved; it was
deserted, empty as the little Madonna's arms, and dark. A fine rain was
falling, and there were no stars. The sound of distant traffic had died
away. The last underground train had drilled its way through sulphurous
tunnels to the sheds where engines sleep.

She could not tell what kept her waiting at the window; perhaps it was
the moving shadow on the blind, perhaps a prescience, a sense of
happenings near at hand, wonderful yet frightening. A thousand other
times she had looked across the street in the dead of night, only to
shake her head and steal back sorrowfully to her canvas. But to-night
it was different; there was a feeling of promise, as though the
question that she ever asked with her eyes might at last be given an
answer.

The front door opened a second time, and a man came out and, though he
was quite young, he looked older than the world. He was shaking and
very white; his hair was disordered and straggled across his brow. He
wore no collar, but held the lapels of his coat across his throat with
trembling fingers. Fearfully he looked up the street where the maid had
gone, then stamped his foot on the paving stones and with his free hand
rubbed his forehead and beat it with his knuckles.

"Oh, will he never come!" she heard him cry, and the words echoed
through her as though they had been her own. If it was a prayer he had
uttered it was swiftly answered; for at the moment the maid and a
bearded man came round the corner at a fast walk. The bearded man had a
kind face and broad shoulders.

She did not hear what passed between them; but the bearded man seemed
confident and comfortable and compelling, and presently he and the maid
went into the house, while the other man leaned against the railings
and stared out before him at a tiny star which had appeared in a crack
between the driven clouds. Lonely and afraid he looked, and strangely
like herself. The misery of him drew her irresistibly. Always before,
she had shunned the people of every day, having no understanding of
their pleasures or sorrows, seeing little meaning in their lives or
deaths. But here was a mortal who was different, who was magnetic, and,
almost without realising, she passed out of the house, crossed the road
and stood before him, the corners of her cloak draped across her arms.

He did not seem aware of her at once, and even when she spoke to him in
Italian of the Renaissance he did not hear. So she spoke again and this
time in English: "What is it?"

He started, rubbed his eyes, blinked at her and answered: "Hullo, who
are you?"

"What is it?" she repeated. "Have you lost something?"

"Don't--don't!" he pleaded. "Don't even suggest such a thing, little
lady."

"I won't. I only thought--and you looked so sad."

"Be all right directly. It's the waiting. Kind of you to stop and speak
to me." His eyes strayed over the gold and blue of her cloak. "Been to
a theatre?" he asked.

She shook her head and looked up at him with a child's perplexity.

"A play?" he amended.

"I've no one to play with," she answered simply. "See!" And she held
out her empty arms.

"What's wrong then?"

"I don't know." She seemed to dwell on the last word. "I only
thought--perhaps you could tell me."

"Tell you what?"

"Help me to find it perhaps. It seemed as if you were looking, too;
that's why I came."

"Looking?" he repeated. "I'm waiting; that's all."

"Me too. But it's such a long time, and I get no nearer."

"Nearer to what?"

"Finding."

"Something you lost?"

"I think so. Must be. I'll go back now."

He put out a hand to stop her. "Listen," he said. "It'll be hours
before I shall know. I'm frightened to spend them alone. Be a friend,
little lady, and bear me company. 'Tisn't fair to ask, but if you could
stay a little."

"I'll stay," she said.

"And will you talk to me?"

"Yes."

"Tell me a story then--just as if I were a kid, a child. A man isn't
much more these times."

At the word "child" her arms went out to him, but dropped to her sides
again as he said "a man."

"Come under the porch, where the rain won't spoil your pretty silk.
That's better. Now tell away."

They sat side by side, and she began to talk. He must have been
listening for other sounds, or surely he would have been bewildered at
the very beginning of what she told.

"It's hard to remember when one was alive, but I used to be--yes,
hundreds of years ago. I lived--can't remember very well; there was a
high wall all around, and a tower and a bell that rang for prayers--and
long, long passages where we walked up and down to tell our beads.
Outside were mountains with snow caps like the heads of the sisters,
and it was cold as snow within, cold and pure as snow. I was sixteen
years old and very unhappy. We did not know how to smile; that I learnt
later and have forgotten since. There was the skull of a dead man upon
the table where we sat to eat, that we might never forget to what
favour we must come. There were no pretty rooms in that house."

"What would you call a pretty room?" he asked, for the last sentence
was the first of which he was aware.

"I don't know," she answered. "I think a room with little beds, and
wooden bars across the window, and a high fender would be a pretty
room."

"We have been busy making such a room as that," he said. "There's a
wall paper with pigs and chickens and huntsmen on it. But go on."

"There were iron bars to the window of my cell. He was very strong and
tore them out with his hands as he stood up on the saddle of his horse.
We rode into Florence as dawn broke, and the sun was an angry red;
while we rode his arm was around me and my head upon his shoulder. He
spoke in my ear and his voice trembled for love of me. We had thrown
away the raiment of the sisterhood to which I had belonged, and as I
lay across the saddle I was wrapped in a cloak as crimson as the sun."

"Been reading Tennyson, little lady?" asked the man.

She did not understand, and went on: "It was a palace to which he
brought me, bright with gold, mosaic and fine hangings that dazzled my
eyes after the grey they had been used to look upon. There were many
servants and richly clad friends, who frightened me with their laughter
and the boldness of their looks. On his shoulder he bore me into the
great dining hall, where they sat awaiting us, and one and all they
rose to their feet, leaping upon stools and tables with uplifted
goblets and shouting toasts.

"The noise was greater than any I had heard before and set my heart
a-beating like the clapper of the convent bell. But one only stayed in
his chair, and his looks were heavy with anger. At him the rest pointed
fingers and called on him derisively to pay the wager and be glad.
Whereat he tugged from his belt a bag of gold which he flung at us as
though with the will to injure. But he who held me caught the bag in
his free hand, broke the sealed cord at the neck of it and scattered
the coins in a golden rain among the servants.

"After this, he set me by his side at the board, gave me drink from a
brimming goblet and quails cooked in honey from wild bees and silver
dishes of nectarines and passion fruit. And presently by twos and
threes the guests departed, singing and reeling as they went, and he
and I were left alone. Alone," she repeated shuddering.

"Did you hear anything?" said the young man, raising his head. "A cry,
a little cry? No? I can hear footsteps moving up and down. Doctors'
boots always creak. There! Listen! It was nothing. What were you
saying?"

"Twice in the months that followed I tried to run away, to return to
the convent; but the servants whom I had counted my friends deceived
me, and I was brought back to a beating, brought back strapped to his
stirrup iron as I might have been a Nubian slave. Long since he had
ceased loving me; that lasted such a little while. He called me
Madonna, as though it were a term of shame, and cursed me for coldness
and my nunnery ways. He was only happy when he read in my face the fear
I held him in. And I was always afraid!"

"Afraid!" echoed the man. "Until to-night I was never afraid."

"And then my baby came, and I was not afraid any more, but contented
all through. I carried him always in my arms by day and night. So pink
and little and with a smile that warmed like sunshine." She paused and
added plaintively: "It's hard to remember when one was alive. My hands,
my arms have forgotten the feel of him."

"I wish," said the man, "I'd had a second opinion. It might have
frightened her though. Oh, heaven, how much longer! Don't mind me,
little lady. You're helping no end. You were speaking of baby. Yes!"

"He killed my baby," said the little Madonna, "because he had killed my
fear of him. Then being done with me, he threw me out in the streets
alone. I thought to end it that night, because my arms were empty and
nothing could be good again. But I could not believe the baby was
indeed gone; I thought if I searched I would find him in the course of
time. Therefore I searched the city from end to end and spoke with
mothers and peeped into nurseries and knocked at many doors. And one
day a door was opened by a man with great eyes and bronze hair swept
back from his brow--a good man. He wore a loose smock over his doublet,
smeared with many colours, and in his left hand he held a palette and
brushes. When he saw me he fell back a pace and his mouth opened.
'Mother of mercy!' he breathed. 'A real Madonna at last!' His name was
Andrea del Sarto, and he was a painter."

"I am a painter, too," said the young man, forgetting his absorption at
the mention of a great name.

"He brought me into his room, which was bright with windows and a fire.
He bade me tell my story, and while I spoke never once did his eyes
desert me. When I had ended he rose and walked up and down. Then he
took from a chest a cloak of blue and gold and draped it round me.
'Stand upon that throne, Madonna,' said he, 'and I will put an infant
in your arms that shall live down all the ages.' And he painted me. So
with the child at my breast, I myself had passed into the picture and
found contentment there.

"When it was finished the great ones of many cities came to look upon
it, and the story of how I came to be painted went from mouth to mouth.
Among those who were there was he who had taken me from the nunnery,
and, seeing me in perfect happiness, a fury was born in him.

"I was hidden behind a hanging and watched the black anger rising up
and knotting his brow into ugly lines. He bought the canvas, and his
servants carried it away. But since the child was in my arms for all
time it mattered little to me.

"Then one night two men came to my lodging and without question took me
across the city and led me into the palace where I had lived with him.
And he came forward to meet me in the great hall. There was a mocking
smile on his lips and he pointed to a wall upon which a curtain was
hanging.

"'I took away that child,' he said, 'because you valued it higher than
the love of man. Look now.' At a gesture a servant threw back the
hanging and revealed the picture. The babe was gone and my arms crooked
to cradle him were empty with the palms upturned.

"I died then--to the sound of his laughter I died, and, looking down
from the canvas, I watched them carry me away. And long into the night
the man who twice had robbed me of my child sat at the long table
staring out before him, drinking great draughts and sometimes beating
the boards with his bare fists. As dawn broke he clapped his hands and
a servant entered. He pointed at me with a shaking hand. 'Take it
away,' he cried. 'To a cellar, and let masons brick up the door.' He
was weeping as they carried me down to the dark beneath the house."

"What a strange being you are!" said the young man. "You speak as
though these were real memories. What happened to the picture then?"

"I lay in the dark for so long--hundreds of years, I think--and there
was nowhere I might look. Afterward I was found and packed in a box and
presently put upon the wall in the sad room, where everything is so old
that I shall not find him there. This is the furthest I have dared to
look. Help me find him, please! Won't you help me find him?"

"Why, little lady," he answered soothingly, "how shall I help? That's a
woman's burden that heaven isn't merciful enough to let a man share."
He stopped abruptly and threw up his head. "Did you hear that--there?"

Through the still, early morning air came a faint, reedy cry.

The young man was upon his feet, fiercely fitting a key into the lock.

The little Madonna had risen, too, and her eyes were luminous, like
glowworms in the dark.

"He's calling me," she cried. "He's calling."

"Mine," said the young man.

She turned to follow, but the door closed between them.

       *       *       *       *       *

To the firm of Messrs. Ridgewell, Ridgewell, Hitchcock and Plum was
given the task of disposing of the furniture and effects of the late
Sabina Prestwich, spinster, of 22a Cambridge Avenue, Hyde Park, W.

As Mr. Ridgewell, junior, remarked to Mr. Plum while engaged in
compiling the sale list and supplying appropriate encomiums to describe
an upright grand by Rubenthal, Berlin: "Victorian muck! Lucky if we
clean up two-fifty on the lot."

Mr. Plum was disposed to agree. "Though I must say," he added, "it
wouldn't surprise me if that picture was worth a bit. Half a mind to
let old Kineagie have a squint at it."

"Please yourself," responded Mr. Ridgewell, junior, "but to my mind
it's ten guineas for nix."

It was the chance discovery of an old document amongst a litter of
receipts and papers that persuaded them to engage an expert opinion.
The document stated that the picture had been discovered bricked up in
a Florentine cellar some fifty years before and had been successfully
smuggled out of Italy. But the man who found it died, and it passed
with a few other unvalued possessions to Sabina Prestwich, now
deceased.

The result of Eden Kineagie's visit to the house in Cambridge Avenue
was the immediate transference of the canvas to Sotheby's Sale Rooms, a
concerted rush on the part of every European and American connoisseur,
a threatening letter from the Italian Foreign Office, some extravagant
bidding and the ultimate purchase of the picture for the nation, after
a heated debate on the part of twenty-two Royal Academicians and five
painters of the new school, who would have accepted death rather than
the letters; R.A., after their names. Extensive correspondence appeared
in the leading papers; persons wrote expressing the opinion that the
picture had never been painted by Del Sarto, that it was the finest
example of his work, that the price paid was a further example of
government waste, and that the money would have been better employed
repairing the main road between Croydon Town Hall and Sydenham High
Street, the condition of which constituted a menace to motor-cyclists.

For nearly ten days scarcely a single publication appeared that failed
to reproduce a comment or criticism upon the subject; but, strangely
enough, no single leader, writer or casual contributor remarked upon
the oddness of the composition or the absence of the Infant from the
Madonna's arms. In the course of time--that is to say, on the eleventh
day--the matter passed from the public mind, a circumstance explainable
perhaps by the decent interment of the canvas in the National Gallery,
where it affected no one save those mysterious folk who look at
pictures for their pleasure and the umbrellaless refugee who is driven
to take shelter from the fierceness of storms.

The little Madonna was placed upon a south wall, whence she could look
out upon a brave company. And sometimes people would pause to gaze at
her and then shake their heads. And once a girl said, "How sad she
looks! I wonder why." And once a little old lady with industrious hands
set up an easel before her and squeezed little twists of colour upon a
palette, then thought a long time and pursed her lips, and puzzled her
brow and finally murmured, "I could never copy it. It's so--so
changing." And she, too, went away.

The little Madonna did not dare to step from her frame at night, for
other mothers were at hand cradling their babes and the sound of her
footfalls might have wakened them. But it was hard to stay still and
alone in that happy nursery. She could see through an archway to the
right a picture Rubens had painted, and it was all aglow with babies
like roses clustered at a porch--fat, dimpled babies who rolled and
laughed in aërial garlands. It would have been nice to pick one and
carry it back with her. Yet perhaps they were not really mothers'
children, but sprites and joys that had not learned the way to nestle.
Had it been otherwise surely the very call of her spirit must have
brought one leaping to her arms.

And then one day came a man and girl, who stopped before her. The girl
was half child, half woman, and the man grey and bearded, but with
brave blue eyes. It was seventeen years since the night she had stolen
across the way and talked with this man in his hour of terror, but time
did not cloud the little Madonna's memory with the dust of
forgetfulness.

"That's the new Del Sarto," said the girl, who was reading from a small
blue book. "See, daddy?"

Then the man turned and looked at her, fell back a step, came forward
again, passed a hand across his mouth and gasped. "What is it?" asked
the girl.

He did not answer at once, then: "The night you were born----" he said.
"I'm certain.... It's--it's Del Sarto too! And the poor empty arms.
Just how she looked, and I closed the door on her."

"Daddy, what are you saying?" There was a frightened tone in the girl's
voice.

"It's all right, dear, don't mind me. I must find the keeper of the
gallery. Poor little lady! Run back home, tell your mother I may be
late."

"But, daddy----"

"There are more things in heaven and earth," he began, but did not
finish. It seemed as though the Madonna's eyes were pleading to him,
and it seemed as if he could still hear her say, "Help me find him,
please!"

He told his story to the Committee of the National Gallery and, to do
them credit, it was received with the utmost courtesy.

They did not require him to leave them while their decision was made.
This was arrived at by a mere exchange of glances, a nod answered by a
tilt of the head, a wave of the hand, a kindly smile; and the thing was
done.

As the chairman remarked: "We must not forget that this gentleman was
living at the time opposite to the house in which the picture was
hanging, and it is possible that a light had been left burning in the
room that contained it.

"Those of us who are fathers--and I regret for my own part that I
cannot claim the distinction--will bear me out that the condition of a
man's mind during the painful period of waiting for news as to his
wife's progress is apt to depart from the normal and make room for
imaginings that in saner moments he must dismiss as absurd. There has
been a great deal of discussion and not a little criticism on the part
of the public as to the committee's wisdom in purchasing this picture,
and I am confident you will all agree with me that we could be
responsible for no greater folly than to work upon the canvas with
various removers on the bare hypothesis, unsupported by surface
suggestion, that the Madonna's arms actually contain a child painted in
the first intention. For my own part, I am well assured that at no
period of its being has the picture been tampered with, and it is a
matter of no small surprise to me, sir, that an artist of your
undoubted quality and achievement should hold a contrary opinion. We
are, greatly obliged for the courtesy of your visit and trust that you
will feel after this liberal discussion that your conscience is free
from further responsibility in the matter. Good-day."

That was the end of the interview. Once again the door was slammed in
the little Madonna's face.

That night the man told his wife all about it. "So you see," he
concluded, "there is nothing more I can do."

But she lay awake and puzzled and yearned long after he had fallen
asleep. And once she rose and peeped into the room that used to be the
nursery. It was a changed room now, for the child had grown up, and
where once pigs and chickens and huntsmen had jostled in happy,
farmyard disorder upon the walls, now there were likenesses of Owen
Nares and Henry Ainley, obligingly autographed.

But for her the spirit prevailed, the kindly bars still ribbed the
windows and the sense of sleeping children still haunted the air.

And she it was who told the man what he must do; and although it scared
him a great deal he agreed, for in the end all good husbands obey their
wives.

It felt very eerie to be alone in the National Gallery in the dead of
the night with a tiny electric lamp in one's buttonhole and a sponge of
alcohol and turpentine in one's hand. While he worked the little
Madonna's eyes rested upon him and it could hardly have been mere fancy
that made him believe they were full of gratitude and trust. At the end
of an hour the outline of a child, faint and misty, appeared in her
arms, its head, circled by a tiny white halo, snuggling against the
curve of her little breast.

Then the man stepped back and gave a shout of joy and, remembering the
words the painter had used, he cried out, "I will put an infant in your
arms that shall live down all the ages."

He had thought perhaps there would come an answering gladness from the
Madonna herself and looked into her face to find it. And truly enough
it was there. Her eyes, which for centuries had looked questingly forth
from the canvas, now drooped and rested upon the baby. Her mouth, so
sadly downturned at the corners, had sweetened to a smile of perfect
and serene content.

But the men will not believe he washed away the sadness of her looks
with alcohol and turpentine. "I did not touch the head. I am certain I
did not," he repeated.

"Then how can you explain----"

"Oh, heaven!" he answered. "Put a child in any woman's arms."



LENA WRACE

By MAY SINCLAIR

(From _The Dial_)

1921, 1922


She arranged herself there, on that divan, and I knew she'd come to
tell me all about it. It was wonderful, how, at forty-seven, she could
still give that effect of triumph and excess, of something rich and
ruinous and beautiful spread out on the brocades. The attitude showed
me that her affair with Norman Hippisley was prospering; otherwise she
couldn't have afforded the extravagance of it.

"I know what you want," I said. "You want me to congratulate you."

"Yes. I do."

"I congratulate you on your courage."

"Oh, you don't like him," she said placably.

"No, I don't like him at all."

"He likes you," she said. "He thinks no end of your painting."

"I'm not denying he's a judge of painting. I'm not even denying he can
paint a little himself."

"Better than you, Roly."

"If you allow for the singular, obscene ugliness of his imagination,
yes."

"It's beautiful enough when he gets it into paint," she said. "He makes
beauty. His own beauty."

"Oh, very much his own."

"Well, _you_ just go on imitating other people's--God's or somebody's."

She continued with her air of perfect reasonableness. "I know he isn't
good-looking. Not half so good-looking as you are. But I like him. I
like his slender little body and his clever, faded face. There's a
quality about him, a distinction. And look at his eyes. _Your_ mind
doesn't come rushing and blazing out of your eyes, my dear."

"No. No. I'm afraid it doesn't rush. And for all the blaze--"

"Well, that's what I'm in love with, the rush, Roly, and the blaze. And
I'm in love, _for the first time_" (she underlined it) "with a man."

"Come," I said, "come."

"Oh, _I_ know. I know you're thinking of Lawson Young and Dickey
Harper."

I was.

"Well, but they don't count. I wasn't in love with Lawson. It was his
career. If he hadn't been a Cabinet Minister; if he hadn't been so
desperately gone on me; if he hadn't said it all depended on me--"

"Yes," I said. "I can see how it would go to your head."

"It didn't. It went to my heart." She was quite serious and solemn. "I
held him in my hands, Roly. And he held England. I couldn't let him
drop, could I? I had to think of England."

It was wonderful--Lena Wrace thinking that she thought of England.

I said "Of course. But for your political foresight and your virtuous
action we should never have had Tariff Reform."

"We should never have had anything," she said. "And look at him now.
Look how he's crumpled up since he left me. It's pitiful."

"It is. I'm afraid Mrs. Withers doesn't care about Tariff Reform."

"Poor thing. No. Don't imagine I'm jealous of her, Roly. She hasn't got
him. I mean she hasn't got what I had."

"All the same he left you. And you weren't ecstatically happy with him
the last year or two."

"I daresay I'd have done better to have married you, if that's what you
mean."

It wasn't what I meant. But she'd always entertained the illusion that
she could marry me any minute if she wanted to; and I hadn't the heart
to take it from her since it seemed to console her for the way, the
really very infamous way, he had left her.

So I said, "Much better."

"It would have been so nice, so safe," she said. "But I never played
for safety." Then she made one of her quick turns.

"Frances Archdale ought to marry you. Why doesn't she?"

"How should I know? Frances's reasons would be exquisite. I suppose I
didn't appeal to her sense of fitness."

"Sense of fiddlesticks. She just hasn't got any temperament, that
girl."

"Any temperament for me, you mean."

"I mean pure cussedness," said Lena.

"Perhaps. But, you see, if I were unfortunate enough she probably
_would_ marry me. If I lost my eyesight or a leg or an arm, if I
couldn't sell any more pictures--"

"If you can understand Frances, you can understand me. That's how I
felt about Dickey. I wasn't in love with him. I was sorry for him. I
knew he'd go to pieces if I wasn't there to keep him together. Perhaps
it's the maternal instinct."

"Perhaps," I said. Lena's reasons for her behaviour amused me; they
were never exquisite, like Frances's, but she was anxious that you
should think they were.

"So you see," she said, "they don't count, and Norry really _is_ the
first."

I reflected that he would be also, probably, the last. She had, no
doubt, to make the most of him. But it was preposterous that she should
waste so much good passion; preposterous that she should imagine for
one moment she could keep the fellow. I had to warn her.

"Of course, if you care to take the risk of him--" I said. "He won't
stick to you, Lena."

"Why shouldn't he?"

I couldn't tell her. I couldn't say, "Because you're thirteen ears
older than he is." That would have been cruel. And it would have been
absurd, too, when she could so easily look not a year older than his
desiccated thirty-four.

It only took a little success like this, her actual triumph in securing
him.

So I said, "Because it isn't in him. He's a bounder and a rotter."
Which was true.

"Not a bounder, Roly dear. His father's Sir Gilbert Hippisley.
Hippisleys of Leicestershire."

"A moral bounder, Lena. A slimy eel. Slips and wriggles out of things.
You'll never hold him. You're not his first affair, you know."

"I don't care," she said, "as long as I'm his last."

I could only stand and stare at that; her monstrous assumption of his
fidelity. Why, he couldn't even be faithful to one art. He wrote as
well as he painted, and he acted as well as he wrote, and he was never
really happy with a talent till he had debauched it.

"The others," she said, "don't bother me a bit. He's slipped and
wriggled out of their clutches, if you like.... Yet there was something
about all of them. Distinguished. That's it. He's so awfully fine and
fastidious about the women he takes up with. It flatters you, makes you
feel so sure of yourself. You know he wouldn't take up with _you_ if
you weren't fine and fastidious, too--one of his great ladies.... You
think I'm a snob, Roly?"

"I think you don't mind coming _after_ Lady Willersey."

"Well," she said, "if you _have_ to come after somebody--"

"True." I asked her if she was giving me her reasons.

"Yes, if you want them. _I_ don't. I'm content to love out of all
reason."

And she did. She loved extravagantly, unintelligibly, out of all
reason; yet irrefutably. To the end. There's a sort of reason in that,
isn't there? She had the sad logic of her passions.

She got up and gathered herself together in her sombre, violent beauty
and in its glittering sheath, her red fox skins, all her savage
splendour, leaving a scent of crushed orris root in the warmth of her
lair.

Well, she managed to hold him, tight, for a year, fairly intact. I
can't for the life of me imagine how she could have cared for the
fellow, with his face all dried and frayed with make-up. There was
something lithe and sinuous about him that may, of course, have
appealed to her. And I can understand his infatuation. He was decadent,
exhausted; and there would be moments when he found her primitive
violence stimulating, before it wore him out.

They kept up the _ménage_ for two astounding years.

Well, not so very astounding, if you come to think of it. There was
Lena's money, left her by old Weinberger, her maternal uncle. You've
got to reckon with Lena's money. Not that she, poor soul, ever reckoned
with it; she was absolutely free from that taint, and she couldn't
conceive other people reckoning. Only, instinctively, she knew. She
knew how to hold Hippisley. She knew there were things he couldn't
resist, things like wines and motor cars he could be faithful to. From
the very beginning she built for permanence, for eternity. She took a
house in Avenue Road with a studio for Hippisley in the garden; she
bought a motor car and engaged an inestimable cook. Lena's dinners, in
those years, were exquisite affairs, and she took care to ask the right
people, people who would be useful to Hippisley, dealers whom old
Weinberger had known, and journalists and editors and publishers. And
all his friends and her own; even friends' friends. Her hospitality was
boundless and eccentric, and Hippisley liked that sort of thing. He
thrived in a liberal air, an air of gorgeous spending, though he
sported a supercilious smile at the _fioritura_, the luscious excess of
it. He had never had too much, poor devil, of his own. I've seen the
little fellow swaggering about at her parties, with his sharp, frayed
face, looking fine and fastidious, safeguarding himself with twinklings
and gestures that gave the dear woman away. I've seen him, in goggles
and a magnificent fur-lined coat, shouting to her chauffeur, giving
counter orders to her own, while she sat snuggling up in the corner of
the car, smiling at his mastery.

It went on till poor Lena was forty-nine. Then, as she said, she began
to "shake in her shoes." I told her it didn't matter so long as she
didn't let him see her shaking. That depressed her, because she knew
she couldn't hide it; there was nothing secret in her nature; she had
always let "them" see. And they were bothering her--"the others"--more
than "a bit." She was jealous of every one of them, of any woman he
said more than five words to. Jealous of the models, first of all,
before she found out that they didn't matter; he was so used to them.
She would stick there, in his studio, while they sat, until one day he
got furious and turned her out of it. But she'd seen enough to set her
mind at rest. He was fine and fastidious, and the models were all
"common."

"And their figures, Roly, you should have seen them when they were
undressed. Of course, you _have_ seen them. Well, there isn't--is
there?"

And there wasn't. Hippisley had grown out of models just as he had
grown out of cheap Burgundy. And he'd left the stage, because he was
tired of it, so there was, mercifully, no danger from that quarter.
What she dreaded was the moment when he'd "take" to writing again, for
then he'd have to have a secretary. Also she was jealous of his writing
because it absorbed more of his attention than his painting, and
exhausted him more, left her less of him.

And that year, their third year, he flung up his painting and was, as
she expressed it, "at it" again. Worse than ever. And he wanted a
secretary.

She took care to find him one. One who wouldn't be dangerous. "You
should just see her, Roly." She brought her in to tea one day for me to
look at and say whether she would "do."

I wasn't sure--what can you be sure of?--but I could see why Lena
thought she would. She was a little unhealthy thing, dark and sallow
and sulky, with thin lips that showed a lack of temperament, and she
had a stiffness and preciseness, like a Board School teacher--just that
touch of "commonness" which Lena relied on to put him off. She wore a
shabby brown skirt and a yellowish blouse. Her name was Ethel Reeves.

Lena had secured safety, she said, in the house. But what was the good
of that, when outside it he was going about everywhere with Sybil
Fermor? She came and told me all about it, with a sort of hope that I'd
say something either consoling or revealing, something that she could
go on.

"_You_ know him, Roly," she said.

I reminded her that she hadn't always given me that credit.

"_I_ know how he spends his time," she said. "How do you know?"

"Well, for one thing, Ethel tells me."

"How does she know?"

"She--she posts the letters."

"Does she read them?"

"She needn't. He's too transparent."

"Lena, do you use her to spy on him?" I said.

"Well," she retorted, "if he uses her--"

I asked her if it hadn't struck her that Sybil Fermor might be using
him?

"Do you mean--as a _paravent_? Or," she revised it, "a parachute?"

"For Bertie Granville," I elucidated. "A parachute, by all means."

She considered it. "It won't work," she said. "If it's her reputation
she's thinking of, wouldn't Norry be worse?"

I said that was the beauty of him, if Letty Granville's attention was
to be diverted.

"Oh, Roly," she said, "do you really think it's that?" I said I did,
and she powdered her nose and said I was a dear and I'd bucked her up
no end, and went away quite happy.

Letty Granville's divorce suit proved to her that I was right.

The next time I saw her she told me she'd been mistaken about Sybil
Fermor. It was Lady Hermione Nevin. Norry had been using Sybil as a
"_paravent_" for _her_. I said she was wrong again. Didn't she know
that Hermione was engaged to Billy Craven? They were head over ears in
love with each other. I asked her what on earth had made her think of
her? And she said Lady Hermione had paid him thirty guineas for a
picture. That looked, she said, as if she was pretty far gone on him.
(She tended to disparage Hippisley's talents. Jealousy again.)

I said it looked as if he had the iciest reasons for cultivating Lady
Hermione. And again she told me I was a dear. "You don't know, Roly,
what a comfort you are to me."

Then Barbara Vining turned up out of nowhere, and from the first minute
Lena gave herself up for lost.

"I'm done for," she said. "I'd fight her if it was any good fighting.
But what chance have I? At forty-nine against nineteen, and that face?"

The face was adorable if you adore a child's face on a woman's body.
Small and pink; a soft, innocent forehead; fawn skin hair, a fawn's
nose, a fawn's mouth, a fawn's eyes. You saw her at Lena's garden
parties, staring at Hippisley over the rim of her plate while she
browsed on Lena's cakes and ices, or bounding about Lena's tennis court
with the sash ribbons flying from her little butt end.

Oh, yes; she had her there. As much as he wanted. And there would be
Ethel Reeves, in a new blouse, looking on from a back seat, subtle and
sullen, or handing round cups and plates without speaking to anybody,
like a servant. I used to think she spied on them for Lena. They were
always mouthing about the garden together or sitting secretly in
corners; Lena even had her to stay with them, let him take her for long
drives in her car. She knew when she was beaten.

I said, "Why do you let him do it, Lena? Why don't you turn them both
neck and crop out of the house?" "Because I want him in it. I want him
at any cost. And I want him to have what he wants, too, even if it's
Barbara. I want him to be happy.... I'm making a virtue of necessity.
It can be done, Roly, if you give up beautifully."

I put it to her it wasn't giving up beautifully to fret herself into an
unbecoming illness, to carry her disaster on her face. She would come
to me looking more ruined than ruinous, haggard and ashy, her eyes all
shrunk and hot with crying, and stand before the glass, looking at
herself and dabbing on powder in an utter abandonment to misery.

"I know," she moaned. "As if losing him wasn't enough I must go and
lose my looks. I know crying's simply suicidal at my age, yet I keep on
at it. I'm doing for myself. I'm digging my own grave, Roly. A little
deeper every day."

Then she said suddenly, "Do you know, you're the only man in London I
could come to looking like this."

I said, "Isn't that a bit unkind of you? It sounds as though you
thought I didn't matter."

She broke down on that. "Can't you see it's because I know I don't any
more? Nobody cares whether my nose is red or not. But you're not a
brute. You don't let me feel I don't matter. I know I never did matter
to you, Roly, but the effect's soothing, all the same.... Ethel says if
she were me she wouldn't stand it. To have it going on under my nose.
Ethel is so high-minded. I suppose it's easy to be high-minded if
you've always looked like that. And if you've never _had_ anybody. She
doesn't know what it is. I tell you, I'd rather have Norry there with
Barbara than not have him at all."

I thought and said that would just about suit Hippisley's book. He'd
rather be there than anywhere else, since he had to be somewhere. To be
sure she irritated him with her perpetual clinging, and wore him out.
I've seen him wince at the sound of her voice in the room. He'd say
things to her; not often, but just enough to see how far he could go.
He was afraid of going too far. He wasn't prepared to give up the
comfort of Lena's house, the opulence and peace. There wasn't one of
Lena's wines he could have turned his back on. After all, when she
worried him he could keep himself locked up in the studio away from
her.

There was Ethel Reeves; but Lena didn't worry about his being locked up
with _her_. She was very kind to Hippisley's secretary. Since she
wasn't dangerous, she liked to see her there, well housed, eating rich
food, and getting stronger and stronger every day.

I must say my heart bled for Lena when I thought of young Barbara. It
was still bleeding when one afternoon she walked in with her old
triumphant look; she wore her hat with an _air crâne_, and the powder
on her face was even and intact, like the first pure fall of snow. She
looked ten years younger and I judged that Hippisley's affair with
Barbara was at an end.

Well--it had never had a beginning; nor the ghost of a beginning. It
had never happened at all. She had come to tell me that: that there was
nothing in it; nothing but her jealousy; the miserable, damnable
jealousy that made her think things. She said it would be a lesson to
her to trust him in the future not to go falling in love. For, she
argued, if he hadn't done it this time with Barbara, he'd never do it.

I asked her how she knew he hadn't, this time, when appearances all
pointed that way? And she said that Barbara had come and told her.
Somebody, it seemed, had been telling Barbara it was known that she'd
taken Hippisley from Lena, and that Lena was crying herself into a
nervous break-down. And the child had gone straight to Lena and told
her it was a beastly lie. She hadn't taken Hippisley. She liked ragging
with him and all that, and being seen about with him at parties,
because he was a celebrity and it made the other women, the women he
wouldn't talk to, furious. But as for taking him, why, she wouldn't
take him from anybody as a gift. She didn't want him, a scrubby old
thing like that. She didn't _like_ that dragged look about his mouth
and the way the skin wrinkled on his eyelids. There was a sincerity
about Barbara that would have blasted Hippisley if he'd known.

Besides, she wouldn't have hurt Lena for the world. She wouldn't have
spoken to Norry if she'd dreamed that Lena minded. But Lena had seemed
so remarkably not to mind. When she came to that part of it she cried.

Lena said that was all very well, and it didn't matter whether Barbara
was in love with Norry or not; but how did she know Norry wasn't in
love with _her_? And Barbara replied amazingly that of course she knew.
They'd been alone together.

When I remarked that it was precisely _that_, Lena said, No. That was
nothing in itself; but it would prove one way or another; and it seemed
that when Norry found himself alone with Barbara, he used to yawn.

After that Lena settled down to a period of felicity. She'd come to me,
excited and exulting, bringing her poor little happiness with her like
a new toy. She'd sit there looking at it, turning it over and over, and
holding it up to me to show how beautiful it was.

She pointed out to me that I had been wrong and she right about him,
from the beginning. She knew him. "And to think what a fool, what a
damned silly fool I was, with my jealousy. When all those years there
was never anybody but me. Do you remember Sybil Fermor, and Lady
Hermione--and Barbara? To think I should have so clean forgotten what
he was like.... Don't you think, Roly, there must be something in me,
after all, to have kept him all those years?"

I said there must indeed have been, to have inspired so remarkable a
passion. For Hippisley was making love to her all over again. Their
happy relations were proclaimed, not only by her own engaging
frankness, but still more by the marvellous renaissance of her beauty.
She had given up her habit of jealousy as she had given up eating
sweets, because both were murderous to her complexion. Not that
Hippisley gave her any cause. He had ceased to cultivate the society of
young and pretty ladies, and devoted himself with almost ostentatious
fidelity to Lena. Their affair had become irreproachable with time; it
had the permanence of a successful marriage without the unflattering
element of legal obligation. And he had kept his secretary. Lena had
left off being afraid either that Ethel would leave or that Hippisley
would put some dangerous woman in her place.

There was no change in Ethel, except that she looked rather more subtle
and less sullen. Lena ignored her subtlety as she had ignored her
sulks. She had no more use for her as a confidant and spy, and Ethel
lived in a back den off Hippisley's study with her Remington, and
displayed a convenient apathy in allowing herself to be ignored.

"Really," Lena would say in the unusual moments when she thought of
her, "if it wasn't for the clicking, you wouldn't know she was there."

And as a secretary she maintained, up to the last, an admirable
efficiency.

Up to the last.

It was Hippisley's death that ended it. You know how it
happened--suddenly, of heart failure, in Paris. He'd gone there with
Furnival to get material for that book they were doing together. Lena
was literally "prostrated" with the shock; and Ethel Reeves had to go
over to Paris to bring back his papers and his body.

It was the day after the funeral that it all came out. Lena and Ethel
were sitting up together over the papers and the letters, turning out
his bureau. I suppose that, in the grand immunity his death conferred
on her, poor Lena had become provokingly possessive. I can hear her
saying to Ethel that there had never been anybody but her, all those
years. Praising his faithfulness; holding out her dead happiness, and
apologizing to Ethel for talking about it when Ethel didn't understand,
never having had any.

She must have said something like that, to bring it on herself, just
then, of all moments.

And I can see Ethel Reeves, sitting at his table, stolidly sorting out
his papers, wishing that Lena'd go away and leave her to her work. And
her sullen eyes firing out questions, asking her what she wanted, what
she had to do with Norman Hippisley's papers, what she was there for,
fussing about, when it was all over?

What she wanted--what she had come for--was her letters. They were
locked up in his bureau in the secret drawer.

She told me what had happened then. Ethel lifted her sullen, subtle
eyes and said, "You think he kept them?"

She said she knew he'd kept them. They were in that drawer.

And Ethel said, "Well then, he didn't. They aren't. He burnt them. _We_
burnt them.... We could, at least, get rid of _them_!"

Then she threw it at her. She had been Hippisley's mistress for three
years.

When Lena asked for proofs of the incredible assertion she had _her_
letters to show.

Oh, it was her moment. She must have been looking out for it, saving up
for it, all those years; gloating over her exquisite secret, her return
for all the slighting and ignoring. That was what had made her
poisonous, the fact that Lena hadn't reckoned with her, hadn't thought
her dangerous, hadn't been afraid to leave Hippisley with her, the
rich, arrogant contempt in her assumption that Ethel would "do" and her
comfortable confidences. It made her amorous and malignant. It
stimulated her to the attempt.

I think she must have hated Lena more vehemently than she loved
Hippisley. She couldn't, _then_, have had much reliance on her power to
capture; but her hatred was a perpetual suggestion.

Supposing--supposing she were to try and take him?

Then she had tried.

I daresay she hadn't much difficulty. Hippisley wasn't quite so fine
and fastidious as Lena thought him. I've no doubt he liked Ethel's
unwholesomeness, just as he had liked the touch of morbidity in Lena.

And the spying? That had been all part of the game; his and Ethel's.
_They_ played for safety, if you like. They had _had_ to throw Lena off
the scent. They used Sybil Fermor and Lady Hermione and Barbara Vining,
one after the other, as their _paravents_. Finally they had used Lena.
That was their cleverest stroke. It brought them a permanent security.
For, you see, Hippisley wasn't going to give up his free quarters, his
studio, the dinners and the motor car, if he could help it. Not for
Ethel. And Ethel knew it. They insured her, too.

Can't you see her, letting herself go in an ecstasy of revenge, winding
up with a hysterical youp? "You? You thought it was you? It was
me--_me_--ME.... You thought what we meant you to think."

Lena still comes and talks to me. To hear her you would suppose that
Lawson Young and Dickey Harper never existed, that her passion for
Norman Hippisley was the unique, solitary manifestation of her soul. It
certainly burnt with the intensest flame. It certainly consumed her.
What's left of her's all shrivelled, warped, as she writhed in her
fire.

Yesterday she said to me, "Roly, I'm _glad_ he's dead. Safe from her
clutches."

She'll cling for a little while to this last illusion: that he had been
reluctant; but I doubt if she really believes it now.

For you see, Ethel flourishes. In passion, you know, nothing succeeds
like success; and her affair with Norman Hippisley advertised her, so
that very soon it ranked as the first of a series of successes. She
goes about dressed in stained-glass futurist muslins, and contrives
provocative effects out of a tilted nose, and sulky eyes, and
sallowness set off by a black velvet band on the forehead, and a black
scarf of hair dragged tight from a raking backward peak.

I saw her the other night sketching a frivolous gesture--



THE DICE THROWER

By SIDNEY SOUTHGATE

(Thomas Moult)

(From _Colour_)

1922


Hunger is the most poignant when it has forced physical suffering to
the highest point without impairing the mental functions. Thus it was
with Silas Carringer, a young man of uncommonly high spirit, when he
found himself a total stranger in a ramshackle Mexican city one rainy
night in November. In his possession remained not a single article that
he might have pawned for a morsel of food. And he had already stripped
his body of every shred of clothing except the few garments he was
compelled by an inborn sense of the fitness of things to retain. Bodily
starvation, as a consequence, was added to hunger, and his misery was
complete.

It chanced that an extraordinary happening awaited Silas Carringer that
night in Mexico; otherwise he would either have drowned himself in the
river within twenty-four hours or died of pneumonia within three days.
He had been without food for seventy hours, and his mental desperation
had driven him far in its race with his physical needs to consume the
remaining strength of his emaciated body. Pale, weak, and tottering, he
took what comfort he could find in the savoury odours which came
streaming up from the basement kitchens of the restaurants in the main
streets. He lacked the courage to beg or steal. For he had been reared
as a gentleman, and was accordingly out of place in the world.

His teeth chattered, his eyes had dark, ugly lines under them, he
shambled, stooped, and gasped. He was too desperate to curse his
fate--he could only long for food. He could not reason. He could not
reflect. He could not understand that there were pitying hands
somewhere that might gladly have succoured him. He could think only of
the hunger which consumed him, of the food that could give him warmth
and comparative happiness.

Staggering along the streets, he came at last to a restaurant a little
way from the main thoroughfares. Stopping before the window, he stared
greedily at the steaks within, thick and juicy and lined with big, fat
oysters lying on ice; at the slices of ham as large as his hat; at the
roasted chickens, brown and ready for the table; and he ground his
teeth, groaned, and staggered on.

A few steps onward was a drinking saloon. At one side of it was a
private door with the words "Family entrance" painted thereon. And in
the recess of the door (which was closed) there stood the dark figure
of a man.

In spite of his own agony, Carringer saw something which appalled him
in the stranger's face as the street light fell upon it; and yet at the
same time he was fascinated. Perhaps it was the unspeakable anguish of
those features that appealed to the starving man's sympathy, and he
came to an uncertain halt at the doorway and stared rudely upon the
stranger. At first the man did not notice him, seeming to look straight
out into the street with a curious fixity of expression, and the
death-like pallor of his face sent a chill through Carringer's limbs,
chilled nigh to stone though they were already.

The stranger caught sight of him at last. "Ah," he said slowly, and
with peculiar clearness, "the rain has caught you too, without overcoat
or umbrella. Stand in this doorway--there is room for two."

The voice was not unkind, though it sounded strangely harsh. It was the
first word that had been addressed to Carringer since hunger possessed
him, and to be spoken to at all gave him cheer. So he took his place in
the doorway beside the mysterious stranger, who at once relapsed into
his fixed gaze at nothingness across the street.

"It may rain for a long time," he said presently, stirring himself. "I
am cold, and I can feel you trembling and shivering. Let us step inside
and drink."

He turned and opened the door. Carringer followed, hope slowly warming
his chilled heart. The pale stranger led the way into one of the little
private compartments with which the place was fitted. Before sitting
down he drew from his pocket a roll of bank bills.

"You are younger than I," he said to Carringer. "Will you go to the bar
and buy a bottle of absinthe, and bring also a pitcher of water and
some glasses? I don't like the waiters hanging round. Here is a
twenty-dollar bill."

Carringer took the money and started down the corridor towards the bar.
He clutched the sudden wealth in his hand tightly. It felt warm and
comfortable, sending a delicious tingling sensation through his arm.
How many glorious meals did not the money represent? He could smell an
imaginary steak, broiled, with fat mushrooms and melted butter in the
steaming dish. Then he paused and looked stealthily backward to where
he had left the stranger. Why not slip away while he had the
opportunity--away from the drinking saloon with the money, to the
restaurant he had passed half-an-hour ago, and buy something to eat? It
was risky, but.... He hesitated, and the coward in him (there are other
names than this) triumphed. He went straight to the bar as the stranger
had requested, and ordered the liquor.

His step was weaker as he returned to the compartment. The stranger was
sitting at the little table, staring at the opposite wall just as he
had stared across the street. He wore a wide-brimmed slouch hat, pulled
well over his eyes. Carringer could only vaguely take the measure of
the man's face.

It was only after Carringer had set the bottle and the glasses on the
table and seated himself opposite that the stranger noticed his return.
"Oh, you have brought it!" he exclaimed without raising his voice. "How
kind of you. Now please close the door."

Carringer was counting out the change from his pocket when the stranger
interrupted him. "Keep that," he said. "You will need it, for I am
going to win it back in a way that may interest you. Let us drink
first, though, and I will explain."

He mixed two drinks of absinthe and water, and the two men lifted their
glasses. Carringer had never tasted the liquor before, and it offended
his palate at first; but no sooner had it passed down his throat than
he began to feel warm again, and the most delicious thrills. He had
heard of the absinthe drinkers of Paris, and he wondered no longer at
the deadly fascination of the liquor--not realising that his extreme
weakness and the emptiness of his stomach made him peculiarly
susceptible to its effects.

"This will do us good," murmured the stranger, setting down his glass.
"Presently we shall have more. Meanwhile, tell me if you know how to
play with the dice."

Carringer replied that he did not.

"I was afraid that you might not," said the stranger. "All the same,
please go to the bar and bring a dice-box. I would ring for it," he
explained, seeing Carringer glance towards the bell, "but I don't want
the waiters coming in and out."

Carringer brought the dice-box, closed the door carefully again, and
the play began. It was not one of the simpler games, but had
complications in which judgment as well as chance played a part. After
a game or two without stakes, the stranger said:

"You have picked it up very quickly. All the same, I will show you that
you don't understand it. We will throw for a dollar a game, and in that
way I shall win the money that you received in change. Otherwise I
would be robbing you, and I imagine that you cannot afford to lose. I
mean no offence. I am a plain-spoken man, but I believe in honesty
before politeness." Here his face relaxed into a most fearful grin....
"I merely want a little recreation, and you are so good-natured that I
am sure you will not object."

"On the contrary," replied Carringer politely, "I shall enjoy it."

"Very well; but let us drink again before we start. I believe I am
growing colder."

They drank again. Carringer took the liquor now with relish, for it was
something in his stomach at least, and it warmed and soothed him. Then
the play commenced. He won.

The pale stranger smiled quietly and opened another game. Again
Carringer won.

Then the stranger pushed back his hat, and fixed his quiet gaze upon
his opponent, smiling yet. Carringer obtained a full view of the man's
face for the first time, and it appalled him. He had begun to acquire a
certain self-possession and ease, and the novelty of the adventure was
beginning to pall before the new advances of his terrible hunger, when
this revelation of the man's face threw him back into confusion.

It was the extraordinary expression of the face that alarmed him. Never
upon the face of a living being had he beheld a pallor so chilling, so
death-like. The features were more than pale. They were ghastly as
sunless frost. Carringer's powers of observation had been sharpened by
the absinthe, and after having detected the stranger in an
absent-minded effort on several occasions to stroke a beard which had
no existence, he reflected that some of the whiteness of the face might
be due to the recent shaving and removal of a full beard. The eyes were
black, and his lower lip was purple. The hands were fine, white and
thin, and black veins bulged out upon them.

After gazing for a few moments at Carringer, the stranger pulled his
hat down over his eyes again. "You are lucky," he said, referring to
the success of his opponent. "Suppose we try another drink. There is
nothing to sharpen a man's wits like absinthe, and I see that you and I
are going to have a delightful game."

After the drink the play proceeded. Carringer won from the first,
rarely losing a game. He became greatly excited. Colour flooded his
cheeks, and he forgot his hunger. The stranger exhausted the little
roll of bills which he had first produced and drew forth another, much
larger in amount. There were several thousand dollars in the roll.

At Carringer's right hand were his winnings--something like two hundred
dollars. The stakes were raised, and the game went on. Another drink
was taken and then fortune turned to the stranger. He began to win
easily. Carringer was stung by these reverses, and began to play with
all the skill and judgment at his command. He took the lead again. Only
once did it occur to him to wonder what he should do with the money if
he continued to win. But a sense of honour decided for him that it
belonged to the stranger.

As the play went on Carringer's physical suffering returned with
increased aggressiveness. Sharp pains darted through him viciously, and
he writhed within him and ground his teeth in agony. Could he not order
a supper with his winnings, he wondered? No; it was, of course, out of
the question.

The stranger did not observe his suffering, for he was now completely
absorbed in the game. He seemed puzzled and disconcerted. He played
with great care, studying each throw minutely. Not a word escaped him.
The two men drank occasionally, and the dice continued to rattle. And
the money kept piling up at Carringer's hand.

The pale stranger suddenly began to behave strangely. At moments he
would start and throw back his head, listening intently. His eyes would
sharpen and flash as he did so; then they sank back into heaviness once
more. Carringer saw a strange expression sweep over the man's face on
several occasions--an expression of ghastly frightfulness, and the
features would become fixed in a peculiar grimace.

He noticed also that his companion was steadily sinking deeper and
deeper into a condition of apathy. Occasionally, none the less, he
would raise his eyes to Carringer's face after some lucky throw, and he
would fix them upon him with a steadiness that made the starving man
grow chiller than ever he had been before.

Then came the time when the stranger produced another roll of bills,
and braced himself for a bigger effort. With speech somewhat thick, but
still deliberate and very quiet, he addressed his young opponent.

"You have won seventy-four thousand dollars, and that is the exact
amount I have remaining. We have been playing for several hours, and I
am very tired, and so are you. Let us hasten the finish. You have
seventy-four thousand dollars, I have seventy-four thousand dollars.
Nether of us has a cent beside. Each will now stake his all and throw a
final game for it."

Without hesitation Carringer agreed. The bills made a considerable pile
upon the table. Carringer threw, and his starving heart beat violently
as the pale stranger took up the dice-box with exasperating
deliberation. Hours seemed to pass before he threw, but at last the
dice rattled on to the table, and the pale stranger had won. The winner
sat staring at the dice, and then he leaned slowly back in his chair,
settled himself with seeming comfort, raised his eyes to Carringer's
and fixed that unearthly stare upon him.

He did not speak. His face showed not a trace of emotion or even of
intelligence. He simply stared. One cannot keep one's eyes open very
long without winking, but the stranger never winked at all. He sat so
motionless that Carringer became filled with a vague dread.

"I will go now," he said, standing back from the table. As he spoke he
recollected his position and found himself swaying like a drunken man.

The stranger made no reply, nor did he relax his gaze. Under that gaze
the younger man shrank back into his chair, terrified and faint. A
deathly silence filled the compartment.... Suddenly he became aware
that two men were talking in the next room, and he listened curiously.
The walls were of wood, and he heard every word distinctly.

"Yes," said a voice, "he was seen to turn into this street about three
hours ago."

"And he must have shaved?"

"He must have shaved. To remove a full beard would naturally make a
great change in the man. His extreme pallor attracted attention. As you
know, he has been seriously troubled with heart disease lately, and it
has greatly altered him."

"Yes, but his old skill remains. Why, this is the most daring
bank-robbery we have ever had! A hundred and forty-eight thousand
dollars--think of it! How long is it since he came out of prison after
that New York affair?"

"Eight years. In that time he has grown a beard, and lived by throwing
dice. No human being can come out winner in a game with him."

The two men clinked glasses and a silence fell between them. Then
Carringer heard the shuffling of their feet as they passed out, and he
sat on, suffering terrible mental and bodily pain.

The silence remained unbroken, save for the sounds of voices far off,
and the clink of glasses. The dice-players--the pale man and the
starving one--sat gazing at each other, with a hundred and forty-eight
thousand dollars piled upon the table between them. The winner made no
attempt to gather up the money. He merely sat and stared at Carringer,
wholly unmoved by the conversation in the adjoining compartment.

Carringer began to shake with an ague. The cold, unwavering gaze of the
stranger sent ice into his veins. Unable to bear it longer, he moved to
one side, and was amazed to discover that the eyes of the pale man,
instead of following him, remained fixed upon the spot where he had
sat.

A great fear came over him. He poured out absinthe for himself with
shaking fingers, staring back at his companion all the while, watching
him, watching him as he drank alone and unnoticed. He drained the
glass, and the poison had a peculiar effect upon him; he felt his heart
bounding with alarming force and rapidity, and his breathing came in
great, pumping spasms. His hunger was now become a deadly thing, for
the absinthe was destroying his vitals. In terror he leaned forward to
beg the hospitality of the stranger, but his whisper had no effect. One
of the man's hands lay on the table. Carringer placed his own upon it,
and drew back quickly, for the hand was as cold as stone!

Then there came into the starving man's face a crafty expression, and
he turned eagerly to the money. Silently he grasped the pile of bills
with his skeleton fingers, looking stealthily every moment at the stark
figure of his companion, mortally dreading lest he should stir.

And yet, instead of hastening from the room with the stolen fortune, he
sank back into his chair again. A deadly fascination forced him there,
and he sat rigid, staring back into the wide stare of the other man. He
felt his breath coming heavier and his heart-beats growing weaker, but
he was comforted because his hunger was no longer causing him that
acute pain. He felt easier, and actually yawned. If he had dared he
would have gone to sleep. The pale stranger still stared at him without
ceasing. And Carringer had no inclination for anything but simply to
stare back.

      *       *       *       *       *

The two detectives who had traced the notorious bank robber to the
drink saloon moved slowly through the compartments, searching in every
nook and cranny of the building. At last they reached a compartment
from which no answer came when they knocked.

They pushed the door open with a stereotyped apology on their lips.
They beheld two men before them, one of middle age and the other very
young, sitting perfectly still, and in the queerest manner imaginable
staring at each other across the table. Between the two was a pile of
money, and near at hand an empty absinthe bottle, a water pitcher, two
glasses, and a dice-box. The dice lay before the elder man as though he
had just thrown them.

With a quick movement one of the detectives covered the older man with
a revolver and commanded him to put up his hands. But the dice-thrower
paid not the slightest heed.

The detectives exchanged startled glances. They stepped nearer, looked
closely into the gamesters' faces, and knew in the same instant that
they were dead.



THE STRANGER WOMAN

By G.B. STERN

(From _John o'London's Weekly_)

1922


After Hal Burnham had banged himself with his usual vigour out of the
house, Dickie sat quite inconsolably staring in front of him at a
favourite picture on his wall; a dim, sombre effect of quays and masts
and intent hurrying men; his neat little brows were pulled down in a
worried frown, his childish mouth was puckered.

Was it accurate and just, what Hal had said? Or, simpler still, was it
true?

"What you damn well need, Dickie, old son, is life in the raw. You're
living in a lady's work-box here."

It was a bludgeoning return for the courteous attention with which
Dickie had that evening listened to his friend's experiences of travel,
for Hal was not even a good raconteur; he started an anecdote by its
point, and roughly slapped in the scenery afterwards; he had likewise a
habit of disconnecting his impressions from any sequence of time; also
he exaggerated, and forgot names and dates; and even occasionally
lapsed into odd silence just when Dickie was offering himself
receptively for a climax.

And then the inevitable: "Well--and what have _you_ been doing
meanwhile?"

Dickie was not in the least at a loss; he had refurnished his rooms, to
begin with; and that involved a diligent search in antique shops and at
sale rooms, and one or two trips across country in order not to miss a
real gem. And they had to be ready for comfortable habitation before
the arrival of M. and Mlle. St. André for their annual stay with him--a
delightful old pair, brother and sister, with peppery manners and
hypercritical appreciation of a good cuisine--but so poor, so really
painfully poor, that, as Dickie delicately put it: "I could not help
knowing that it might make a difference to them if I postponed their
visit, of less trivial annoyance, but more vital in quality, than with
other of my friends for whom I should therefore have hurried my
preparations rather less--this is in confidence, of course, my dear
Hal!" He had set himself to complete his collection of Watts's Literary
Souvenirs--"I have the whole eleven volumes now----" And he had been a
guest at two charming house-parties in the country, and at one of them
had been given the full responsibility of rehearsing a comic opera in
the late eighteenth-century style. "Amateurs, of course. But I was so
bent on realizing the flavour of the period, that I'm indeed afraid
that I did not draw a clear enough line between the deliciously robust
and the obnoxiously coarse----"

"Coarse--_you_!" Hal guffawed. And then--out came the accusation which
was so disturbing little Dickie.

Life in the raw! Why did the phrase make him want to clear his throat?
Raw--yes, that was the association--when you opened your mouth and the
fog swirled in. Newsboys scampering along a foggy street that was
neither elegant nor squalid, but just a street of mixed shops and mixed
traffic and barrows lit with a row of flapping lights, and men and
women with faces that showed they worked hard to earn a little less
than they needed.... Public-houses.... Butchers' shops with great
slabs of red meat.... Yes, and a queue outside the picture palace--and
a station; people bought the evening papers as they hurried in and out
of the station. "'Ere yer are, sir," and on the sheets were headlines
that blared out all the most sordid crimes of the past twenty-four
hours, ignored during a sober morning of politics and commerce, but
dragged into bold view for the people's more leisured reading.

Newsboys in a foggy street on a Saturday night--thus was Dickie's first
instinct to define "life in the raw...." Then he discovered that this
was only the archway, and that the crimes themselves were life in the
raw--and the criminals.

But one must get nearer by slow degrees.

If at all.

Hal had said that he was living in a lady's work-box. Dickie was
sensitive, and not at all stupid. His penetration was quite aware that
Burnham's remark was not applied to the harmonizing shades of the walls
between which he dwelt, nor to the soft, mellow pattern of his silky
Persian rugs, nor to his collections--heavens, _how_ he collected!--of
glowing Sèvres china, of Second Empire miniatures, of quaint old
musical instruments with names that in themselves were a tender tinkle
of song, and of the shoes that had been worn by queens.

All these things were merely accessories: his soul making neat, tiny
gestures, shrugging its shoulders, pointing a toe. What Hal meant was
that Dickie dared not live dangerously.

"What am I to do?"

He raised wistful, light brown eyes to the picture which was the one
incongruous touch to the dainty perfection of his octagonal
sitting-room. He had bought it at a rummage sale; it was unsigned, and
the canvas, overcrowded with figures, had grown sombre and blurred; yet
queerly Dickie liked the suggestion of powerful, half-naked men; the
foreign quay-side street, with a slatternly woman silent against a
doorway, and the clumsy ship straining to swing out to a menacing sea
beyond.

All these things that he would never do: strip and carry bales on his
back; linger in strange doorways and love hotly an animal woman who was
unaccomplished and without grace and breeding; and then embark on an
evil-smelling hulk that would have no human sympathy with his human
ills.

He had done a little yachting, of course; with the Ansteys the year
before last.

His lips bent to a small ironical smile as he reflected on the
difference between "a little yachting" and the sinister fascination of
that ugly, uninspired painting....

Slowly he got up and went out; that is to say, he very precisely
selected the hat, gloves, coat, and silk muffler suitable to wear, and
as precisely put them on. Then he blew up the fire with an
old-fashioned pair of worked brass bellows; turned out the lamp; told
Mrs. Derrick--who would have died in his service every day from eight
to eight o'clock, but would not crook a finger for him a minute before
she entered the house nor five seconds after she left it--that he was
going for a walk and would certainly be back at a quarter to seven, but
probably before; and then went out.

For this was the natural way for Dickie Maybury to behave.

At twenty to seven he returned, with a sheaf of news-papers--raucous,
badly-printed papers with smudged lines and a sort of speckled film
over the illustrations, and startlingly intimate headlines to every
item of news.

Dickie was trying to get into touch with "life in the raw."

At first he was merely bewildered. He had read his daily newspaper, of
course--though not with the stolid regularity with which the average
man does so. And besides, it was pre-eminently a journal of dignity and
good form, with an art column, and a curio column, and a literary page,
and a chess problem, and rather a delicately witty causerie by
"Rapier"; it is to be feared that Dickie absorbed himself in these
items first, and altogether left out most of the topical and
sensational news.

Now, however, he read it. And out of it, the horror of the underworld
swayed up at him. A twilit world, where cisterns dripped, and where
homely, familiar things like gas-brackets and braces and coal-shovels
were turned to dreadful weapons of death. The coroner and the broker's
man and the undertaker sidled in and out of this world, dispassionately
playing their frequent parts.... Stunted boys and girls died for love,
like Romeo and Juliet, leaving behind them badly-punctuated cries of
passion and despair that made Dickie wince as he read them....

Pale but fascinated, Dickie turned over a page, and came to the great
sensation of the moment. "Is Ruth Oliver Guilty?" "Dramatic
Developments." "I Wish You Were Dead, Lucas!"

The account of the first day of the trial filled the entire page, and
dribbled excitedly over on to the next. There was a photograph of Ruth
Oliver, accused of murdering her husband. You could see that she had
gay eyes in a small oval face, and a child's wistful mouth. This must
have been taken while she was very happy.

Dickie had never read through a murder trial before. But he did so now,
every line of it ... and the next day, and the next. Until the woman
who had pleaded "Not guilty" was acquitted. And then he wrote to her,
and asked her to marry him.

And who would dare say of him now that he had feared to meet life in
the raw?

He did not know, of course, that his offer was one among fifty; did not
know that the curious state of mind he was in, between trance and
hysteria, was a very common one to the public after a trial in which
the elements are dramatic or the central figure in any way picturesque.
He did not even know how Ruth Oliver was being noisily besieged by
Pressmen and Editors anxious for her biography; by music-hall and
theatrical managers willing to star her; by old friends curiously proud
of association with her notoriety; by religious fanatics with their
proofs of a strictly localized Deity--"whose Hand has clearly been
outstretched to save you!"; by unhealthy flappers who had Believed in
her all along--(autograph, please).

But not knowing, yet his letter, chivalrous, without ardour, promised
her a cool, quiet retreat from the plague of insects which was buzzing
and stinging in the hot air all about her.... "My house is in a little
square with trees all around it; it is shady and you cannot hear the
traffic. I wonder if you are interested in old china and Japanese
water-colours?..." Finally: "I shall be very proud and happy if you can
trust me to understand how deeply you must be longing for sanctuary
after the sorrowful time you have been through...."

"Sanctuary." She saw it open for her like a cloistered aisle between
cold pillars. He offered her, not the emotional variations, intolerable
to her weariness just then, of a new devotion; but green shaded rooms,
and the beauty of old things, and a little old-fashioned gentleman's
courtesy.... So, ignoring the fifty other offers of marriage which had
assailed her, she wrote to Dickie Maybury and asked him to come and see
her.

He went, still in a strangely exultant mood, in which his will acted as
easily and yet as fantastically as though it were on a slippery
surface. And if he had met Hal Burnham on his way back from his visit
to Ruth Oliver he would undoubtedly have swaggered a little.
Nevertheless, he was thinking of Ruth, too, as well as of his own
dare-devilry in thus seizing reality with both hands. Ruth's face, much
older and more tormented than it had been in the photograph, had still
that elusive quality which had from the beginning and through all the
period of her trial haunted him. It outraged his refinement that any
woman with the high looks and the breeding of his own class should have
been for any space of time the property of a coarse public. As _his_
wife, the insult should be tenderly rectified.... "The poor child! the
poor sweet child!" He felt almost godlike with this new power upon him
of acting, on impulse.

As for the peril of death which for a short while had threatened her,
that was a fact too stark and hideous for contemplation: even with
Dickie's altered appetite for primitive adventure....

They did not leave town after their quiet, matter-of-fact wedding at
the registrar's. A journey, in Dickie's eyes, would have seemed too
blatant an interruption to his everyday existence, as though he were
tactlessly emphasising to his wife the necessity of a break and a
complete change; she might even think--and again "poor child!" that
events should have rubbed into such super-sensitiveness--that he was
slightly ashamed of his act, and was therefore hustling her and himself
out of sight. So they went straight home. And Mrs. Derrick said:
"Indeed, sir," when informed that her new mistress was the Ruth Oliver
who had recently been acquitted of the charge of murdering her husband;
she neither proffered a motherly bosom to Ruth, nor did she tender a
haughty resignation from Mr. Maybury's service; but said she hoped it
wouldn't be expected of her, under the new circumstances, to arrive
earlier, nor to leave later, because she couldn't do it. As for
Dickie's friends, most of them were of the country-house variety whom
he visited once a year; next autumn would show whether Ruth would be
included in those week and week-end invitations. Meanwhile, those few
dwelling in London marvelled in a detached sort of way at Dickie's
feat, liked Ruth, and pronounced it a shame that she should have been
accused. Hal Burnham, the indirect promoter of the match, had returned
to China.

Nobody was unkind; no word jarred; life was padded in dim brocade--Ruth
drew a long breath, and was at peace. She was perfectly happy, watching
Dickie. And Dickie was at play again, enjoying his collection and his
_objets d'art_, and even his daily habits, with the added appreciation
of a gambler who had staked, but miraculously, not lost them. Because,
after all, anything might have resulted from his tempestuous decision
at all costs to get into contact with naked actuality; all that _had_
resulted was the presence in his house of a slim, grave woman who
dressed her hair like a very skilful and not at all unconscious
Madonna; whose taste was as fastidious as his own, and whose radiantly
human smile had survived in vivid contrast to something quenched from
her voice and shadowed in her eyes. A woman who, with a "May I?" of
half-laughing reverence, discovered that she could slip on to her
exquisite feet one pair after another from his collection of the shoes
of dead queens--"It sounds like a ballade--Austin Dobson, I
think--except that they're not all powder-and-patch queens."

For she had an excellent feel of period--the texture of it, the fine
shades of language, the outlook; Dickie hated people who had a blunt
sense of period and in a jumbled fashion referred to old Venetian lace,
and the Early Spanish School, and Louise de la Vallière, and a play by
Wycherley indiscriminately as "historical."

Yes, Dickie had certainly been lucky, and, like a wise man, he did not
strain his star to another effort. The big thing--well, he had squared
up to it--and, truth to say, he had been fearfully shaky and uncertain
about his capacity to do so when Hal had first roused his pride in the
matter. Now the little things again, the little beautiful things--he
had earned them.

Anyway, he could not have a newspaper in the house nowadays, for Ruth's
sake--he owed it to Ruth to shut out for ever those cries of horror and
fear and violence from the battering underworld.

"What I love about the way we live, Dickie, is that the just-rightness
of it all flows on evenly the whole time; one can be certain of it.
Most people get it set aside for them in stray lumps--picture galleries
and churches and a holiday on the Continent. And all the rest of their
time is just-wrongness."

Dickie wondered how much of her existence with Lucas Oliver had been
"just-wrongness"--or indeed "all-wrongness." But he never disturbed her
surface of creamy serenity by referring to the husband who had been
murdered by "some person or persons unknown."

He and Ruth were the most harmonious of comrades, but never, so far,
confidential. Perhaps Dickie overdid tact and non-intrusiveness; or
perhaps Ruth, in her very passion of gratitude to him, was yet checked
for ever from passionate expression by the memory that her innermost
love and her innermost hate, wrung into words, had once, and not so
long ago, been read aloud and commented upon in public court and in
half the homes of England.

One evening, sitting together in front of the fire, they drifted into
talk of their separate childhoods.

"There was a garden in mine," said Ruth.

"And in mine--a Casino garden!" His eyes twinkled. "Palm trees like
giant pineapples, and flower beds in a pattern, and a fountain--"

"Oh, you poor little Continental kiddie!"

He shrugged his shoulders. "The ways of the Lord are thoughtful and
orderly. Why should He have wasted a heavenly wilderness of gnarled old
apple-trees on a small boy who hated climbing?"

"You can't have hated climbing--if you hang that on your wall." She
nodded towards the quayside picture. "Surely you must have played
'pirates and South Seas' with your brothers."

"I had none. A sister, that's all--who carried a sunshade." "I had no
sisters; but there was a girl next door--and her brother."

"I note in jealous anguish of spirit," remarked Dickie. "that you do
not simply say 'a girl and boy next door.'"

Ruth's mischievous laugh affirmed his accusation. "The wall was not
very high--I kicked a foothold into it half-way up, and Tommy gave me a
pull from the top."

"Tommy was ungallant enough to leave the wall to you?"

"There were cherries in his garden--sweet black cherries. And only
crab-apples in ours."

"He might have filled his pockets with cherries, and then climbed.
No--I reject Tommy, he was unworthy of you. I may have been a horrid
little Casino brat, I may even have worn a white satin sailor-suit with
trousers down to my ankles--"

"Oh!" Ruth winced.

"I may have danced too well, and I understood too early the art of
complimenting ladies whose hats were too big and whose eyes were too
bright.... But once, after Annunciata Maddalena's nose had bled over
this same sailor-suit, I said it was my own nose, because I knew how
bitterly she was ashamed of her one bourgeois lapse...."

"Tommy would have disowned her, instead of owning the nose. Oh, I grant
you the nobler nature ... but it breaks my heart that you didn't have
the wild English garden and the cherries and the grubby old dark-blue
jersey."

"If we have a kiddie--" Dickie began softly, his mouth puckered to its
special elvish little smile. Then he met her eyes lapping him round
with such velvet tenderness--that Dickie suddenly knew he was loved,
knew that impulsively she was going to tell him so, and breathlessly
happier than he had ever been before, waited for it--

"I _did_ kill my husband. They acquitted me, but I was guilty. It was
an accident. I was so afraid. They would never have believed it could
be an accident. But I had to, in self-defence."

And now she had told him she loved him.

Only Dickie was too numb to recognise the form her confession of love
had taken; love, as always, was clamouring to be clearly seen--naked,
if need be, blood-guilty, if need be--but _seen_ ... and then swept up,
sin and all, by another love big enough to accept this truth, also, as
essentially part of her.

Ruth waited several seconds for Dickie to speak. Then she got up, and
strolled over to the picture, and said, examining intently, as though
for the first time, the woman in the doorway: "I'm not sorry, Dickie.
That is to say, I'm sorry, of course, if I've shattered an illusion of
yours, but--I can't be melodramatic, you know, not even to the extent
of using the word 'murderess' on myself. If I hadn't killed Lucas--"

"He would have killed you?" So he was able to utter quite natural and
coherent sounds! Dickie was surprised.

"Yes--" But Ruth found that, after all, she could not tell Dickie much
about Lucas. Lucas had not been a pleasant gentleman to live with--and
there were things that Dickie was too fine himself, and too innocent,
to realise. The only comprehension in this thoroughly well-groomed
atmosphere of soft carpets and dim silken panels and miniatures and
rare frail china might have come from the woman in the doorway of that
incongruous picture ... a woman sullenly patient, brutalised, but--yes,
her man might quite easily have been another Lucas.

For that which Dickie had always thought of as mysterious, elusive,
was, to Ruth's eyes, only sorrowful wisdom.

"Come here, Ruth."

She dragged her eyes away from the picture; crossed the room; broke
down completely, her head on his knees, her shuddering body crouched
closely to the floor: "When you've--been frightened--and have to live
with it--and it doesn't even stop at night--for weeks and months and
years--one's nerves aren't quite reliable.... They've no right to call
that murder, have they? have they, Dickie? When you've been afraid for
a long time--and there's no one you can tell about it except the person
who _makes_ the _fear_...."

But Dickie was all that she had perilously dared to hope he would be at
this crisis. He soothed her and healed her by his loyalty; promised,
without her extorting it, that he would never tell a soul what she had
just told him; pixie-shy, yet he spoke of his personal need of
her--and more than anything else she had desired to hear this. He
mentioned some trivial intimate plans for their unbroken, unchanged
future together, so as to reassure her of its continuance. He even made
her laugh.

In fact, for a last appearance in the _rôle_ of a gallant little
gentleman, Dickie did not do so badly.

He woke in the night from a bad dream--with terror clinging thickly
about his senses. But it did not slowly dissolve and release him, as
nightmare is wont to do. It remained--so that he lay still as a man in
his winding-sheet, afraid to move--remembering--

"I _did_ kill my husband."

Yes--that was it. In the room with him was a strange woman who had
killed her husband.

Not Ruth--but a strange woman. How had she got into the room with him?

She had killed her husband. And now, _he_ was her husband.

He lay motionless, but his imagination began to crawl.... What might
happen to a man shut up alone in a house with a woman who--murdered?

His imagination began to race--and he lost control of it. Murder ...
with dry, sandy throat and a kicking heart, Dickie had to pay for his
audacity in imagining he was big enough to claim life in the raw.

"Not big enough! Not big enough!"--the goblins of the underworld
croaked at him in triumphant chorus.... They capered ... they snapped
their fingers at him ... they spun him down to where fear was ... he
had delivered himself to them, by not being big enough.

"Mrs. Bigger had a baby--which was bigger, Mrs. Bigger or the baby?"

The silly conundrum sprang at him from goodness knows what void--and
over and over again he repeated it to himself, trying to remember the
answer, trying to forget fear....

"Mrs. Bigger had a baby--"

He dared not fall asleep ... with the woman who had killed her husband,
alone in the room with him ... alone in the house with him.

A stir from the other bed, and one arm flung out in sleep. Dickie's
knees jerked violently--his skin went cold and sticky with sweat. "You
fool--it's only Ruth!"

But she _did_ it--she did it once. There are people who can't kill, and
a few, just a very few, who can. And because they can, they are
different, and have to be shut away from the herd.

But--but this woman. They've made a ghastly mistake--they've let her go
free--and I can't tell anyone ... nobody knows, except me and Ruth----
Ah, yes--a quivering sigh of relief here--Ruth knows, too--Ruth, my
wife--ruth means pity....

There is no Ruth ... there never was ... quite alone except for a
strange, strange woman--the kind that gets shut away and kept by
herself....

      *       *       *       *       *

To this bondage had Dickie's nerves delivered him. The custom of
punctilious courtesy, so deeply ingrained as to mean in his case the
impossibility of wounding another, decreed that some pretence must be
kept up before Ruth. But with one shock she divined the next morning
the significant change in him, and bowed her head to it. What could she
do? She loved him, but she had overrated the capacity of his spirit.
There had never been any courage, only kindness and sweetness and
chivalry--all no good to him, now that courage was wanted. She had made
a mistake in telling him the truth.

Suffering--she thought she had suffered fiercely with Lucas, she
thought she had suffered while she was being ignominiously tried for
her life--but what were either of these phases compared with the
helpless bitterness of seeing Dickie, whom she loved, afraid of her?

Even her periodic fits of wild arrogant passion, which usually, when
they surged past restraint, wrecked and altered whatever situation was
hemming her in, and left gaps for a passage through to something
else--even these had now to be curbed. Useful in hate, they were
impotent in love. So Ruth recognised in her new humility. But when one
day, seized by panic at having spoken irritably to her, Dickie hastily
tried to propitiate her, to ingratiate himself so that she might spare
him, might let him live a little longer, then Ruth felt she must cry
aloud under the strain of this subtle torture. Why, he was her lover,
her man, her child.... In thought, her arm shaped itself into a crook
for his head to lie there; her fingers smoothed out the drawn
perplexity of his brows; her kisses were cool as snow on his hot,
twitching little mouth; her voice, hushed to a lullaby croon, promised
him that nobody should hurt him, nobody, while she was there to heal
and protect--

  "Sleep, baby, sleep,
  The hills are white with sheep----"

Over and over again she lulled herself with the old rhyme, for
comfort's sake. But Dickie she could not comfort, since, irony of
ironies, she was the cause of his pitiful breakdown. Why, if she spoke,
he started; if she moved towards him, he shrank. Yet still Ruth dreamt
that if he would only let her touch him, she could bring him
reassurance. But meanwhile his appetite was meagre, the rare half-hours
he slept were broken with evil dreams, from which he awoke whimpering.
He did not care any more about the little beautiful things he had
collected and grouped about him, but sat for hours listless and blank;
his appearance a grotesque parody of the trim and dapper Dickie Maybury
of the past--what could it matter how he looked with death slicing so
close to him?

"The master seems poorly of late, don't he, ma'am? His digestion ain't
strong. P'r'aps something 'as disagreed with 'im." Thus Mrs. Derrick,
taking her part in the drama, as the simple character who makes
speeches of more significant portent than she is aware of.

Something had, indeed, disagreed with Dickie. In the slang phrase: "He
had bitten off more than he could chew."

And the goblins were hunting him; whispering how she would creep up to
him stealthily from behind, this woman who killed ... and put her arms
round him, and put her fingers to his throat--that was one way.

Other ways there were, of course. He must learn about them all, so as
to be watchful and prepared. Self-defence ... accident. Of course, they
always said it was accident. He knew that now, for the evening
crime-sheets began to appear in the flat again, and Dickie studied
them, in place of the _villanelles_, the graceful essays, the
_belles-lettres_ of his former choice. Ruth saw him, with his delicate
shaking hands clutching the newspapers, his mild eyes bright with
sordid fascination. He was ill, certainly; and brain-sick and
oppressed; and she yearned for his illness to show itself a tangible,
serious matter; a matter of bed and doctor and complete prostration and
unwearied effort on the part of his nurse. "My darling--my darling....
He did everything for me, when I most needed it. And now, I can do
nothing.... It isn't fair!"

She stood by one of the open windows of the pretty Watteau
sitting-room. The lamps had just sprung to fiery stars in the blue
glamorous twilight of the square; the fragrance of wet lilac blew up to
her, and a blackbird among the bushes began to sing like mad ... the
fist which was cruelly squeezing Ruth's spirit seemed slowly to
unclench ... and suddenly it struck her that things might be made worth
while again for her and Dickie.

After all, how insane it was for him to be huddling miserably, as she
knew he would be, in the arm-chair of his study, gazing with forlorn
eyes at the squalid columns, which it had grown too dark for him to
decipher. She had a vision of what this very evening might yet hold of
recovered magic, if only she had the courage to carry out her simple
cure of his head drawn down on to her left breast, just where her heart
was beating. "Dickie, it's _all right_, you know--it's only Ruth I
You've been sitting with your bogies all the time the white lilac has
been coming out----"

A faint smile lay at last on Ruth's mouth, and in the curve of her
tired eyelids. She went softly into the study. The door was open....

Dickie sprang to his feet with a yell of terror as her hands came round
his neck from behind. He clutched at the revolver in his pocket and
fired, at random, backwards.... In the wall behind them was the round
dark mark of a merciful bullet. And----

"Dickie--oh, Dickie--when you've been frightened--and have to live with
it--and it doesn't even stop at nights--do you understand, now, how it
happens? They've no right to call _that_ murder, have they, Dickie?"

And now, indeed, understanding that the awful act of killing could be,
in a rare once or twice, a human accident for the frightened little
human to commit--understanding, Dickie was shocked back to sanity.

"Dear, dear Ruth----" Why, this stranger woman was no stranger, after
all, but Ruth, his own sweet wife. Dickie was tired, and he knew he
need not explain things to her. He laid his head down on her left
breast, just where the heart was beating.



THE WOMAN WHO SAT STILL

By PARRY TRUSCOTT

(From _Colour_)

1922


When he went, when he had to go, he took with him the memory of her
that had become crystallised, set for him in his own frequent words to
her, standing at her side, looking down at her with his keen, restless
eyes--such words as: "It puzzles me how on earth you manage to sit so
still...."

Then, enlarging: "It is wonderful to me how you can keep so happy doing
nothing--make of enforced idleness a positive pleasure! I suppose it is
a gift, and I haven't got it--not a bit. It doesn't matter how tired I
am, I have to keep going--people call it industry, but its real name is
nervous energy, run riot. I can't even take a holiday peacefully. I
must be actively playing if I cannot work. I'm just the direct
descendant of the girl in the red shoes--they were red, weren't
they?--who had to dance on and on until she dropped. I shall go on and
on until I drop, and then I shall attempt a few more useless yards on
all fours...."

"Come now," in answer to the way she shook her head at him, smiled at
him from her sofa, "you know very well how I envy you your gift, your
power of sitting still--happily still--your power of contemplation...."

And one day, more intimately still, with a sigh and a look (Oh, a look
she understood!), "To me you are the most restful person in the
world...."

      *       *       *       *       *

Why he went, except that he had to go; why he stayed away so long, so
very long, are not really relevant to this story; the facts, stripped
of conjecture, were simply these: she was married, and he was not, and
there came the time, as it always comes in such relationships as
theirs, when he had to choose between staying without honour and going
quickly. He went. But even the bare facts concerning his protracted
absence are less easily stated because his absence dragged on long
after the period when he might, with impeccable honour, have returned.

The likeliest solution was that setting her aside when he had to,
served so to cut in two his life, so wrenched at his heartstrings, so
burnt and bruised his spirit, that when, in his active fashion he had
lived some of the hurt down, he could not bring himself easily to
reopen the old subject--fresh wounds for him might still lurk in
it--how could he tell? Although it had been at the call, the insistence
of honour, still hadn't he left her--deserted her? Does any woman, even
his own appointed woman, forgive a man who goes speechless away?
Useless, useless speculation! For some reason, some man's reason, when
another's death made her a free woman, yet he lingered and did not
come.

He knew, afterwards, that it was from the first his intention to claim
her. He wanted her--deep down he wanted her as he had always wanted
her; meant to come--some time. Knew all the time that he could not
always keep away. And then, responding to a sudden whim, some turn of
his quickly moving mind--a mind that could forcibly bury a subject and
as forcibly resurrect it--hot-foot and eager he came.

      *       *       *       *       *

He had left her recovering slowly and surely from a long illness; an
illness that must have proved fatal but for her gift of tranquillity,
her great gift of keeping absolutely, restfully still in body, while
retaining a happily occupied mind. Her books, and her big quiet room,
and the glimpse of the flower-decked garden from her window, with just
these things to help her, she had dug herself into the deep heart of
life where the wells of contentment spring. Bird's song in the early
morn and the long, still day before her in which to find herself--to
take a new, firmer hold on the hidden strength of the world. And, just
to keep her in touch with the surface of things, visits from her
friends. Then later, more tightly gripping actuality, with a new, keen,
sharp, growing pleasure--the visits of a friend.

While those lasted there was nothing she would have changed for her
quiet room, her sofa: the room that he lit with his coming; where she
rested and rested, shut in with the memory of all he said, looked,
thought in her presence--until again he came.

While they lasted! She had been content, never strong, never able to do
very much, with seclusion before. During the time of his visits she
revelled, rejoiced in it, asking nothing further. While they lasted,
sitting still (Oh, so still), hugging her joy, she didn't think,
wouldn't think, how it might end.

Sometimes, just sometimes, by a merciful providence, things do not end.
She lived for months on the bare chance of its not ending.

Yet, as we know, the end came.

At first while the world called her widowed she sat with her unwidowed
heart waiting for him in the old room, in the old way. Surely now he
would come? She had given good measure of fondness and duty and
friendship--that was only that under another name--to the one who until
now had stood between her and her heart's desire, and parting with him,
and all the associations that went with him, had surprisingly hurt her.
Always frail, she was ill--torn with sorrow and pity--and then, very
slowly again, she recovered. And while she recovered, lying still in
the old way, she gave her heart wings--wild, surging wings--at last, at
last. Sped it forth, forth to bring her joy--to compel it.

While she waited in this fashion a sweet, recaptured sense of
familiarity made his coming seem imminent. She had only to wait and he
would be here. She couldn't have mistaken the looks that had never been
translated into words--that hadn't needed words. Though she had longed
and ached for a word--then--she was quite content now. He had wanted
her just as she was, unashamed and untainted. And to preserve her as
she was he had gone away. And now for the very first time she was truly
glad he had gone in that abrupt, speechless fashion--in spite of the
heartache and the long years between them, really and truly glad.
Nothing had been spoilt; they had snatched at no stolen joys. And the
rapture, (what rapture!) of meeting would blot out all that they had
suffered in silence--the separation--all of it!

As she waited, getting well for him, she had no regrets, growing more
and more sure of his coming.

It was not until she was well again, not until the months had piled
themselves on each other, that, growing more frightened than she knew,
she began her new work of preparation.

      *       *       *       *       *

Suddenly, impulsively, when she had reached the stage of giving him up
for days at a time, when hope had nearly abandoned her, then he came.

He had left a woman so hopeful in outlook, so young and peaceful in
spirit, that with her the advancing years would not matter. On his
journey back to her, visualising her afresh, touching up his memory of
her, he pictured her going a little grey. That would suit her--grey was
her colour--blending to lavender in the clothes she always wore for
him. A little grey, but her clear, pale skin unfaded, her large eyes
full of pure, guarded secrets--secrets soon to unfold for him alone.

A haven--a haven! So he thought of her, and now, ready for her, coming
to her, he craved the rest she would give him--rest more than anything
in all the world. She, with her sweet white hands, when he held them,
kissed them, would unlock the doors of peace for him, drawing him into
her life, letting him potter and linger--linger at her side. Even when
long ago he had insisted to her that for him there was no way of rest,
he had known that she, just she, meant rest for him, when he could
claim her for his own. Other women, other pursuits, offered him
excitement, stimulation--and then a weariness too profound for words.
But rest, bodily, spiritually, was her unique gift for him. She--he
smiled as he thought it--would teach him to sit still.

And tired, so tired, he hurried to her across the world as fast as he
could go.

Waiting at her door, the door opened, crossing the threshold--Oh, he
had never thought his luck would be so great as to be taken direct to
the well remembered room upstairs! Yet with only a few short inquiries
he was taken there--she for whom he asked, the mistress of the house,
would be in her sitting-room, he was told, and if he was an old
friend...? He explained that he was a very old friend, following the
maid upstairs. But the maid was mistaken; her mistress was not in her
private sitting-room; not in the house at all--she had gone out, and it
proved on investigation that she had left no word. The maid, returning,
suggested however, that she would not be long. Her mistress had a
meeting this evening; she was expecting some one before dinner; no, she
would certainly not be long, so--so if he would like to wait?

He elected to wait--a little impatiently. He knew it was absurd that
coming, without warning--after how many years was it?--he should yet
have made so sure of finding her at home. Absurd, unreasonable--and yet
he was disappointed. He ought to have written, but he had not waited to
write. He had pictured the meeting--how many times? Times without
number--and always pictured her waiting at home. And then the room?

Left alone in it he paced the room. But the room enshrined in his heart
of hearts was not this room. Was there, surely there was some mistake?

There could be no mistake. There could not be two upstairs rooms in
this comparatively small house, of this size and with this aspect;
westward, and overlooking with two large windows the little walled
garden into which he had so often gazed, standing and talking to her,
saying over his shoulders the things he dare not say face to face--that
would have meant so much more, helped out with look and gesture, face
to face.

The garden, as far as he could see, was the same except that he fancied
it less trim, less perfect in order: in the old days it would be for
months at a time all the outside world she saw--there had been object
enough in keeping it trim. Now it looked, to his fancy, like a woman
whose beauty was fading a little because she had lost incentive to be
beautiful. He turned from the garden, his heart amazed, fearful, back
to the room.

The room of the old days--with closed eyes he reproduced it; its white
walls, its few good pictures, its curtains and carpet of deep blue. Her
sofa by the window, the wide armchair on which he always sat, the table
where, in and out of season, roses, his roses, stood. The little old
gilt clock on the mantlepiece that so quickly, cruelly ticked away
their hour. Books, books everywhere, the most important journals and a
medley of the lighter magazines; those, with her work-basket, proving
her feminine and the range of her interests, her inconsistency. A
woman's room, revealing at a glance her individuality, her spirit.

But this room--! He looked for the familiar things--the sofa, the
bookshelves, the little table dedicated to flowers. Yes, the sofa was
there, but pushed away as though seldom used; on the bookshelves new,
strange books were crowding out the old; on the little table drooped a
few faded flowers in an awkward vase. On the mantlepiece, where she
would never have more than one or two good ornaments, and the old gilt
clock, were now stacks of papers, a rack bulging with packing
materials--something like that--an ink-bottle, a candlestick, the candle
trailed over with sealing-wax, and an untidy ball of string. And right
in the centre of the room a great clumsy writing-table, an office
table, piled with papers again, ledgers, a portable typewriter, and--a
litter of cigarette ends.

Like a Mistress on the track of a much-doubted maid he ran his finger
along the edge of a bookcase and then the mantlepiece. He looked at his
fingers; there was no denying the dust he had wiped away.

She must have changed her room--why had she done it? But the maid had
said--in her sitting-room--

He waited now frightened, now fuming. Still she did not come. Should he
not wait--should he go--if this was her room? But he had come so far,
and he needed her so--he must stay. For some dear, foolish woman's
reason she must have lent her room for the use of a feminine busy-body;
a political, higher-thought, pseudo-spiritualistic friend. (He must
weed out her friends!) The trend of the work done in this room now his
quick mind had seized upon--titles of books, papers, it was enough.
Notices stuck in the Venetian Mirror (the desecration!) for meetings of
this and that society, and all of them, so he judged, just excuses for
putting unwanted fingers into unwanted, dangerous pies. He thought of
it like that--he could not help it; he saw too far into motive and
internal action; was too impatient of the little storms, the paltry,
tea-cup things. She, with her unique gift of serenity--her place was
not among the busybodies grinding axes that were better blunt;
interfering with the slow, slow working of the Mills of God. Her gift
was example--rare and delicate; her light the silver light of a soul,
that through 'suffering and patience and contemplation, knows itself
and is unafraid.

For such fussing, unstable work as it was used for now she ought not
even to have lent her room--the room he had looked on as a temple of
quietness; the shrine of a priceless temperament.

He smiled his first smile--she should not lend it again.

Then the door opened. Suddenly, almost noisily, she came in.

She had heard, downstairs, his name. So far she was prepared with her
greeting. She came with hands out-stretched--he took her hands and
dropped them.

When he could interrupt her greeting he said--forcing the words--"So
now you are quite strong--and busy?"

She told him how busy. She told him how, (but not why) she had awakened
from her long, selfish dream. She said she had found so late--but
surely not too late?--the joy of action; constant, unremitting work for
the world's sake. _"Do you remember how you used to complain you
couldn't sit still? I am like that now--"_

And he listened, listened, each word a deeper stab straight at his
defenceless heart.

Of all the many things he had done since they met he had nothing to
say.

Having just let her talk (how she talked!) as soon as he decently could
he went. Of all he had come to tell her he said not a word. Tired, so
bitterly tired, he had come seeking rest, and now there was no more a
place of rest for him--anywhere.

Yes, he had come across the world to find himself overdue; to find
himself too late. He went out again--as soon as he decently
could--taking only a picture of her that in sixty over-charged minutes
had wiped out the treasured picture of years.

Sixty minutes! After waiting for years she had kept him an hour,
desperately, by sheer force of will keeping a man too stunned at first
to resist, to break free. (Then at last he broke free of that room and
that woman, and went!) For years he had pictured her sitting still as
no other woman sat still, tranquil and graceful, her hair going a
little grey above her clear, pale skin, her eyes of a dream-ridden
saint. And now he must picture her forced into life, vivaciously,
restlessly eager; full of plans, (futile plans, how he knew those
plans!) for the world's upheaval, adding unrest to unrest. And now he
must picture her with the grey hair outwitted by art, with paint on her
beautiful ravaged face.

At first he had wanted to take her in his arms; with his strength to
still her, with his tears to wash the paint off.

But he couldn't--he couldn't. He knew that his had been a dream of such
supreme sweetness that to awaken was an agony he could never hide; knew
that you can't re-enter dreamland once you wake.

So he went.

He never knew, with the door shut on him, how she fell on her sofa--her
vivacity quenched, her soul spent. He never knew that having failed,
(as she thought) to draw him to her with what she was, she had vainly,
foolishly tried a new model--himself.

He did not know how inartistic love can be when love is desperate.



MAJOR WILBRAHAM

By HUGH WALPOLE

(From _The Chicago Tribune_)

1921


I am quite aware that in giving you this story just as I was told it I
shall incur the charge of downright and deliberate lying.

Especially I shall be told this by any one who knew Wilbraham
personally. Wilbraham was not, of course, his real name, but I think
that there are certain people who will recognize him from this
description of him. I do not know that it matters very much if they do.
Wilbraham himself would certainly not mind did he know. (Does he know?)
It was the thing above all that he wanted those last hours before he
died--that I should pass on my conviction of the truth of what he told
me to others. What he did not know was that I was not convinced. How
could I be? But when the whole comfort of his last hours hung on the
simple fact that I was, of course I pretended to the best of my poor
ability. I would have done more than that to make him happy.

It is precisely the people who knew him well who will declare at once
that my little story is impossible. But did they know him well? Does
any one know any one else well? Aren't we all as lonely and removed
from one another as mariners on separate desert islands? In any case I
did not know him well and perhaps for that very reason was not so
greatly surprised at his amazing revelations--surprised at the
revelations themselves, of course, but not at his telling them. There
was always in him--and I have known him here and there, loosely, in
club and London fashion, for nearly twenty years--something romantic
and something sentimental. I knew that because it was precisely those
two attributes that he drew out of me.

Most men are conscious at some time in their lives of having felt for a
member of their own sex an emotion that is something more than simple
companionship. It is a queer feeling quite unlike any other in life,
distinctly romantic and the more that perhaps for having no sex feeling
in it.

Like the love of women, it is felt generally at sight, but, unlike that
love, it is, I think, a supremely unselfish emotion. It is not
acquisitive, nor possessive, nor jealous, and exists best perhaps when
it is not urged too severely, but is allowed to linger in the
background of life, giving real happiness and security and trust,
standing out, indeed, as something curiously reliable just because it
is so little passionate. This emotion has an odd place in our English
life because the men who feel it, if they have been to public school
and university, have served a long training in repressing every sign or
expression of sentiment towards any other man; nevertheless it
persists, romantically and deeply persists, and the war of 1914 offered
many curious examples of it.

Wilbraham roused just that feeling in me. I remember with the utmost
distinctness my first meeting with him. It was just after the Boer war
and old Johnny Beaminster gave a dinner party to some men pals of his
at the Phoenix. Johnny was not so old then--none of us were; it was a
short time after the death of that old harpy, the Duchess of Wrexe, and
some wag said that the dinner was in celebration of that happy
occasion. Johnny was not so ungracious as that, but he gave us a very
merry evening and he did undoubtedly feel a kind of lightness in the
general air.

There were about fifteen of us and Wilbraham was the only man present
I'd never seen before. He was only a captain then and neither so red
faced nor so stout as he afterwards became. He was pretty bulky,
though, even then, and with his sandy hair cropped close, his staring
blue eyes, his toothbrush moustache and sharp, alert movements, looked
the typical traditional British officer.

There was nothing at all to distinguish him from a thousand other
officers of his kind, and yet from the moment I saw him I had some
especial and personal feeling about him. He was not in type at all the
man to whom at that time I should have felt drawn. My first book had
just been published and, although as I now perceive, its publication
had not caused the slightest ripple upon any water, the congratulations
of my friends and relations, who felt compelled, poor things, to say
something, because "they had received copies from the author," had made
me feel that the literary world was all buzzing at my ears. I could see
at a glance that Kipling was probably the only "decent" author about
whom Wilbraham knew anything, and the fragments of his conversation
that I caught did not promise anything intellectually exciting from his
acquaintanceship.

The fact remains that I wanted to know him more than any other man in
the room, and although I only exchanged a few words with him that
night, I thought of him for quite a long time afterwards.

It did not follow from this as it ought to have done that we became
great friends. That we never were, although it was myself whom he sent
for three days before his death to tell me his queer little story. It
was then at the very last that he confided to me that he, too, had felt
something at our first meeting "different" to what one generally feels,
that he had always wanted to turn our acquaintance into friendship and
had been too shy. I also was shy--and so we missed one another, as I
suppose in this funny, constrained, traditional country of ours
thousands of people miss one another every day.

But although I did not see him very often and was in no way intimate
with him, I kept my ears open for any account of his doings. From one
point of view, the Club Window outlook, he was a very usual figure, one
of those stout, rubicund, jolly men, a good polo player, a good man in
a house party, genial-natured, and none too brilliantly brained, whom
every one liked and no one thought about. All this he was on one side
of the report, but, on the other, there were certain stories that were
something more than the ordinary.

Wilbraham was obviously a sentimentalist and an enthusiast; there was
the extraordinary case shortly after I first met him of his
championship of X, a man who had been caught in an especially bestial
kind of crime and received a year's imprisonment for it. On X leaving
prison Wilbraham championed and defended him, put him up for months in
his rooms in Duke Street, walked as often as possible in his company
down Piccadilly, and took him over to Paris. It says a great deal for
Wilbraham's accepted normality and his general popularity that this
championship of X did him no harm. It was so obvious that he himself
was the last man in the world to be afflicted with X's peculiar habits.
Some men, it is true, did murmur something about "birds of a feather";
one or two kind friends warned Wilbraham in the way kind friends have,
and to them he simply said: "If a feller's a pal he's a pal."

All this might in the end have done Wilbraham harm had not X most
happily committed suicide in Paris in 1905. There followed a year or
two later the much more celebrated business of Lady C. I need not go
into all that now, but here again Wilbraham constituted himself her
defender, although she robbed, cheated, and maligned him as she robbed,
cheated, and maligned every one who was good to her. It was quite
obvious that he was not in love with her; the obviousness of it was one
of the things in him that annoyed her.

He simply felt apparently that she had been badly treated (the very
last thing that she had been), gave her any money he had, put his rooms
at the disposal of herself and her friends, and, as I have said,
championed her everywhere. This affair did very nearly finish him
socially, and in his regiment. It was not so much that they minded his
caring for Lady C--(after all, any man can be fooled by any woman)--but
it was Lady C's friends who made the whole thing so impossible. Such a
crew! Such a horrible crew! And it was a queer thing to see Wilbraham
with his straight blue eyes and innocent mouth and general air of
amiable simplicity in the company of men like Colonel B and young
Kenneth Parr. (There is no harm, considering the later publicity of his
case, in mentioning his name.) Well, that affair luckily came to an end
just in time. Lady C disappeared to Berlin and was no more seen.

There were other cases into which I need not go when Wilbraham was seen
in strange company, always championing somebody who was not worth the
championing. He had no "social tact," and for them at any rate no moral
sense. In himself he was the ordinary normal man about town, no prude,
but straight as a man can be in his debts, his love affairs, his
friendships, and his sport. Then came the war. He did brilliantly at
Mons, was wounded twice, went out to Gallipoli, had a touch of
Palestine, and returned to France again to share in Foch's final
triumph.

No man can possibly have had more of the war than he had, and it is my
own belief that he had just a little too much of it.

He had been always perhaps a little "queer," as we are most of us
"queer" somewhere, and the horrors of that horrible war undoubtedly
affected him. Finally he lost, just a week before the armistice, one of
his best friends, Ross McLean, a loss from which he certainly never
recovered.

I have now, I think, brought together all the incidents that can throw
any kind of light upon the final scene. In the middle of 1919 he
retired from the army, and it was from this time to his death that I
saw something of him. He went back to his old home at Horton's in Duke
street, and as I was living at that time in Marlborough Chambers in
Jermyn street we were in easy reach of one another. The early part of
1920 was a "queer time." People had become, I imagine, pretty well
accustomed to realizing that those two wonderful hours of Armistice day
had not ushered in the millennium any more than those first marvellous
moments of the Russian revolution produced it.

Every one has always hoped for the millennium, but the trouble since
the days of Adam and Eve has always been that people have such
different ideas as to what exactly that millennium shall be. The plain
facts of the matter simply were that during 1919 and 1920 the world
changed from a war of nations to a war of classes, that inevitable
change that history has always shown follows on great wars.

As no one ever reads history, it was natural enough that there should
be a great deal of disappointment and a great deal of astonishment. Men
at the head of affairs who ought to have known better cried aloud, "How
ungrateful these people are, after all we've done for them!" and the
people underneath shouted that everything had been muddled and spoiled
and that they would have done much better had they been at the head of
affairs, an assertion for which there was no sort of justification.

Wilbraham, being a sentimentalist and an idealist, suffered more from
this general disappointment than most people. He had had wonderful
relations with the men under him throughout the war. He had never tired
of recounting how marvelously they had behaved, what heroes they were,
and that it was they who would pull the country together.

At the same time he had a naive horror of bolshevism and anything
unconstitutional, and he watched the transformation of his "brave lads"
into discontented and idle workmen with dismay and deep distress. He
used sometimes to come around to my rooms and talk to me; he had the
bewildered air of a man walking in his sleep.

He made the fatal mistake of reading all the papers, and he took in the
Daily Herald in order that he might see "what it was these fellows had
to say for themselves."

The Herald upset him terribly. Its bland assumption that Russians and
Sein Feiners could do no wrong, but that the slightest sign of
assertion of authority on the part of any government was "wicked
tyranny," shocked his very soul. I remember that he wrote a long, most
earnest letter to Lansbury, pointing out to him that if he subverted
all authority and constitutional government his own party would in its
turn be subverted when it came to govern. Of course, he received no
answer.

During these months I came to love the man. The attraction that I had
felt for him from the very first deeply underlay all my relation to
him, but as I saw more of him I found many very positive reasons for my
liking. He was the simplest, bravest, purest, most loyal, and most
unselfish soul alive. He seemed to me to have no faults at all unless
it were a certain softness towards the wishes of those whom he loved.
He could not bear to hurt anybody, but he never hesitated if some
principle in which he believed was called in question.

He had not, of course, a subtle mind--he was no analyst of
character--but that did not make him uninteresting. I never heard any
one call him dull company, although men laughed at him for his good
nature and unselfishness and traded on him all the time. He was the
best human being I have ever known or am ever likely to know.

Well, the crisis arrived with astonishing suddenness. About the second
or third of August I went down to stay with some friends at the little
fishing village of Rafiel in Glebeshire.

I saw him just before I left London, and he told me that he was going
to stay in London for the first half of August, that he liked London in
August, even though his club would be closed and Horton's delivered
over to the painters.

I heard nothing about him for a fortnight, and then I received a most
extraordinary letter from Box Hamilton, a fellow clubman of mine and
Wilbraham's. Had I heard, he said, that poor old Wilbraham had gone
right off his "knocker"? Nobody knew exactly what had happened, but
suddenly one day at lunch time Wilbraham had turned up at Grey's (the
club to which our own club was a visitor during its cleaning), had
harangued every one about religion in the most extraordinary way, had
burst out from there and started shouting in Piccadilly, had, after
collecting a crowd, disappeared and not been seen until the next
morning, when he had been found, nearly killed, after a hand-to-hand
fight with the market men in Covent Garden.

It may be imagined how deeply this disturbed me, especially as I felt
that I was myself to blame. I had noticed that Wilbraham was ill when I
had seen him in London, and I should either have persuaded him to come
with me to Glebeshire or stayed with him in London. I was just about to
pack up and go to town when I received a letter from a doctor in a
nursing home in South Audley street saying that a certain Major
Wilbraham was in the home dying and asking persistently for myself. I
took a motor to Drymouth and was in London by five o'clock.

I found the South Audley Street nursing home and was at once surrounded
with the hush, the shaded rooms, the scents of medicine and flowers,
and some undefinable cleanliness that belongs to those places.

I waited in a little room, the walls decorated with sporting prints,
the green baize table gloomily laden with volumes of Punch and the
Tatler. Wilbraham's doctor came in to see me, a dapper, smart little
man, efficient and impersonal. He told me that Wilbraham had at most
only twenty-four hours to live, that his brain was quite clear, and
that he was suffering very little pain, that he had been brutally
kicked in the stomach by some man in the Covent Garden crowd and had
there received the internal injuries from which he was now dying.

"His brain is quite clear," the doctor said. "Let him talk. It can do
him no harm. Nothing can save him. His head is full of queer fancies;
he wants every one to listen to him. He's worrying because there's some
message he wants to send... he wants to give it to you."

When I saw Wilbraham he was so little changed that I felt no shock.
Indeed, the most striking change in him was the almost exultant
happiness in his voice and eyes.

It is true that after talking to him a little I knew that he was dying.
He had that strange peace and tranquillity of mind that one saw so
often with dying men in the war.

I will try to give an exact account of Wilbraham's narrative; nothing
else is of importance in this little story but that narrative; I can
make no comment. I have no wish to do so. I only want to pass it on as
he begged me to do.

"If you don't believe me," he said, "give other people the chance of
doing so. I know that I am dying. I want as many men and women to have
a chance of judging this as is humanly possible. I swear to you that I
am telling the truth and the exact truth in every detail."

I began my account by saying that I was not convinced. How could I be
convinced?

At the same time I have none of those explanations with which people
are so generously forthcoming on these occasions. I can only say that I
do not think Wilbraham was insane, nor drunk, nor asleep. Nor do I
believe that some one played a practical joke....

Whether Wilbraham was insane between the hours when his visitor left
him and his entrance into the nursing home I must leave to my readers.
I myself think he was not.

After all, everything depends upon the relative importance that we
place upon ambitions, possessions, emotions,--ideas.

Something suddenly became of so desperate an importance to Wilbraham
that nothing else at all mattered. He wanted every one else to see the
importance of it as he did. That is all....

It had been a hot and oppressive day; London had seemed torrid and
uncomfortable. The mere fact that Oxford street was "up" annoyed him.
After a slight meal in his flat he went to the Promenade Concert at
Queen's Hall. It was the second night of the season--Monday night,
Wagner night.

He bought himself a five shilling ticket and sat in the middle of the
balcony overlooking the floor. He was annoyed again when he discovered
that he had been given a ticket for the "non-smoking" section of the
balcony.

He had heard no Wagner since August, 1914, and was anxious to discover
the effect that hearing it again would have upon him. The effect was
disappointing. The music neither caught nor held him.

"The Meistersinger" had always been a great opera for him. The third
act music that Sir Henry Wood gave to him didn't touch him anywhere. He
also discovered that six years' abstinence had not enraptured him any
more deeply with the rushing fiddles in the "Tannhäuser" Overture nor
with the spinning music in the "Flying Dutchman." Then came suddenly
the prelude to the third act of "Tristan." That caught him; the peace
and tranquillity that he needed lapped him round; he was fully
satisfied and could have listened for another hour.

He walked home down Regent Street, the quiet melancholy of the
shepherd's pipe accompanying him, pleasing him and tranquillizing him.
As he reached his flat ten o'clock struck from St. James' Church. He
asked the porter whether any one had wanted him during his
absence--whether any one was waiting for him now--(some friend had told
him that he might come up and use his spare room one night that week).
No, no one had been. There was no one there waiting.

Great was his surprise, therefore, when opening the door of his flat he
found some one standing there, one hand resting on the table, his face
turned towards the open door. Stronger, however, than Wilbraham's
surprise was his immediate conviction that he knew his visitor well,
and this was curious because the face was, undoubtedly strange to him.

"I beg your pardon," Wilbraham said to him, hesitating.

"I wanted to see you," the Stranger said, smiling.

When Wilbraham was telling me this part of his story he seemed to be
enveloped--"enveloped" is the word that best conveys my own experience
of him--by some quite radiant happiness. He smiled at me confidentially
as though he were telling me something that I had experienced with him
and that must give me the same happiness that it gave to him.

"Ought I to have expected? Ought I to have known--" he stammered.

"No, you couldn't have known," the Stranger answered. "You're not late.
I knew when you would come."

Wilbraham told me that during these moments he was surrendering himself
to an emotion and intimacy and companionship that was the most
wonderful thing that he had ever known. It was that intimacy and
companionship, he told me, for which all his days he had been
searching. It was the one thing that life never seemed to give; even in
the greatest love, the deepest friendship, there was that seed of
loneliness hidden. He had never found it in man or woman.

Now it was so wonderful that the first thing he said was: "And now
you're going to stay, aren't you? You won't go away at once...?"

"Of course, I'll stay," he answered. "If you want me."

His Visitor was dressed in some dark suit; there was nothing about Him
in any way odd or unusual. His Face was thin and pale, His smile
kindly.

His English was without accent. His voice was soft and very melodious.

But Wilbraham could notice nothing but His Eyes; they were the most
beautiful, tender, gentle Eyes that he had ever seen in any human
being.

They sat down. Wilbraham's overwhelming fear was lest his Guest should
leave him. They began to talk and Wilbraham took it at once as accepted
that his Friend knew all about him--everything.

He found himself eagerly plunging into details of scenes, episodes that
he had long put behind him--put behind him for shame perhaps or for
regret or for sorrow. He knew at once that there was nothing that he
need veil nor hide--nothing. He had no sense that he must consider
susceptibilities nor avoid self-confession that was humiliating.

But he did find, as he talked on, a sense of shame from another side
creep towards him and begin to enclose him. Shame at the smallness,
meanness, emptiness of the things that he declared.

He had had always behind his mistakes and sins a sense that he was a
rather unusually interesting person; if only his friends knew
everything about him they would be surprised at the remarkable man that
he really was. Now it was exactly the opposite sense that came over
him. In the gold-rimmed mirror that was over his mantlepiece he saw
himself diminishing, diminishing, diminishing ... First himself, large,
red-faced, smiling, rotund, lying back in his chair; then the face
shrivelling, the limbs shortening, then the face small and peaked, the
hands and legs little and mean, then the chair enormous about and
around the little trembling animal cowering against the cushion.

He sprang up.

"No, no ... I can't tell you any more--and you've known it all so long.
I am mean, small, nothing--I have not even great ambition ... nothing."

His Guest stood up and put His Hand on his shoulder.

They talked, standing side by side, and He said some things that
belonged to Wilbraham alone, that he would not tell me.

Wilbraham asked Him why He had come--and to him.

"I will come now to a few of My friends," He said. "First one and then
another. Many people have forgotten Me behind My words. They have built
up such a mountain over Me with the doctrines they have attributed to
Me, the things that they say that I did. I am not really," He said
laughing, His Hand on Wilbraham's shoulder, "so dull and gloomy and
melancholy as they have made Me. I loved Life--I loved men; I loved
laughter and games and the open air--I liked jokes and good food and
exercise. All things that they have forgotten. So from now I shall come
back to one or two.... I am lonely when they see Me so solemnly."

Another thing He said. "They are making life complicated now. To lead a
good life, to be happy, to manage the world only the simplest things
are needed--Love, Unselfishness, Tolerance."

"Can I go with You and be with You always?" Wilbraham asked.

"Do you really want that?" He said.

"Yes," said Wilbraham, bowing his head.

"Then you shall come and never leave Me again. In three days from now."

Then he kissed Wilbraham on the forehead and went away.

I think that Wilbraham himself became conscious as he told me this part
of his story of the difference between the seen and remembered Figure
and the foolish, inadequate reported words. Even now as I repeat a
little of what Wilbraham said I feel the virtue and power slipping
away.

And so it goes on! As the Figure recedes the words become colder and
colder and the air that surrounds them has in it less and less of
power. But on that day when I sat beside Wilbraham's bed the conviction
in his voice and eyes held me so that although my reason kept me back
my heart told me that he had been in contact with some power that was a
stronger force than anything that I myself had ever known.

But I have determined to make no personal comment on this story. I am
here simply as a narrator of fact....

Wilbraham told me that after his Visitor left him he sat there for some
time in a dream. Then he sat up, startled, as though some voice,
calling, had wakened him, with an impulse that was like a fire suddenly
blazing up and lighting the dark places of his brain. I imagine that
all Wilbraham's impulses in the past, chivalric, idealistic, foolish,
had been of that kind--sudden, of an almost ferocious energy and
determination, blind to all consequences. He must go out at once and
tell every one of what had happened to him.

I once read a story somewhere about some town that was expecting a
great visitor. Everything was ready, the banners hanging, the music
prepared, the crowds waiting in the street.

A man who had once been for some years at the court of the expected
visitor saw him enter the city, sombrely clad, on foot. Meanwhile his
Chamberlain entered the town in full panoply with the trumpets blowing
and many riders in attendance. The man who knew the real thing ran to
every one telling the truth, but they laughed at him and refused to
listen. And the real king departed quietly as he had come.

It was, I suppose, an influence of this kind that drove Wilbraham now.
Suddenly something was of so great an importance to him that nothing
else, mockery, hostility, scorn, counted. After all, simply a supreme
example of the other impulses that had swayed him throughout his life.

What followed might I think have been to some extent averted had his
appearance been different. London is a home of madmen and casually
permits any lunacy so that public peace is not endangered; had poor
Wilbraham looked a fanatic with pale face, long hair, ragged clothes,
much would have been forgiven him, but for a stout, middle-aged
gentleman, well dressed, well groomed.... What could be supposed but
insanity and insanity of a very ludicrous kind?

He put on his coat and went out. From this moment his account was
confused. His mind, as he spoke to me, kept returning to that
Visitor... What happened after his Friend's departure was vague and
uncertain to him, largely because it was unimportant. He does not know
what time it was when he went out, but I gather that it must have been
about midnight. There were still people in Piccadilly.

Somewhere near the Berkeley Hotel he stopped a gentleman and a lady. He
spoke, I am sure, so politely that the man he addressed must have
supposed that he was asking for a match, or an address, or something of
the kind. Wilbraham told me that very quietly he asked the gentleman
whether he might speak to him for a moment, that he had something very
important to say.

That he would not, as a rule, dream of interfering in any man's private
affairs, but that the importance of his communication outweighed all
ordinary conventions; that he expected that the gentleman had hitherto,
as had been his own case, felt much doubt about religious questions,
but that now all doubt was, once and forever, over, that...

I expect that at that fatal word "Religion" the gentleman started as
though he had been stung by a snake, felt that this mild-looking man
was a dangerous lunatic and tried to move away. It was the lady with
him, so far as I can discover, who cried out:

"Oh, poor man, he's ill," and wanted at once to do something for him.
By this time a crowd was beginning to collect and as the crowd closed
around the central figures more people gathered upon the outskirts and,
peering through, wondered what had happened, whether there was an
accident, whether it were a "drunk," whether there had been a quarrel,
and so on.

Wilbraham, I fancy, began to address them all, telling them his great
news, begging them with desperate urgency to believe him. Some laughed,
some stared in wide-eyed wonder, the crowd was increasing and then, of
course, the inevitable policeman with his "move on, please," appeared.

How deeply I regret that Wilbraham was not, there and then, arrested.
He would be alive and with us now if that had been done. But the
policeman hesitated, I suppose, to arrest any one as obviously a
gentleman as Wilbraham, a man, too, as he soon perceived, who was
perfectly sober, even though he was not in his right mind.

Wilbraham was surprised at the policeman's interference. He said that
the last thing that he wished to do was to create any disturbance, but
that he could not bear to let all these people go to their beds without
giving them a chance of realizing first that everything was now
altered, that he had the most wonderful news..

The crowd was dispersed and Wilbraham found himself walking alone with
the policeman beside the Green Park.

He must have been a very nice policeman because before Wilbraham's
death he called at the Nursing Home and was very anxious to know how
the poor gentleman was getting on.

He allowed Wilbraham to talk to him and then did all he could to
persuade him to walk home and go to bed. He offered to get him a taxi.
Wilbraham thanked him, said he would do so, and bade him good night,
and the policeman, seeing that Wilbraham was perfectly composed and
sober, left him.

After that the narrative is more confused. Wilbraham apparently walked
down Knightsbridge and arrived at last somewhere near the Albert Hall.
He must have spoken to a number of different people. One man, a
politician apparently, was with him for a considerable time, but only
because he was so anxious to emphasise his own views about the
Coalition Government and the wickedness of Lloyd George. Another was a
journalist, who continued with him for a while because he scented a
story for his newspaper. Some people may remember that there was a
garbled paragraph about a "Religious Army Officer" in the _Daily
Record_. One lady thought that Wilbraham wanted to go home with her and
was both angry and relieved when she found that it was not so.

He stayed at a cabman's shelter for a time and drank a cup of coffee
and told the little gathering there his news. They took it very calmly.
They had met so many queer things in their time that nothing seemed odd
to them.

His account becomes clearer again when he found himself a little before
dawn in the park and in the company of a woman and a broken down
pugilist. I saw both these persons afterwards and had some talk with
them. The pugilist had only the vaguest sense of what had happened.
Wilbraham was a "proper old bird" and had given him half a crown to get
his breakfast with. They had all slept together under a tree and he had
made some rather voluble protests because the other two would talk so
continuously and prevented his sleeping. It was a warm night and the
sun had come up behind the trees "surprisin' quick." He had liked the
old boy, especially as he had given him half a crown.

The woman was another story. She was quiet and reserved, dressed in
black, with a neat little black hat with a green feather in it. She had
yellow fluffy hair and bright childish blue eyes and a simple, innocent
expression. She spoke very softly and almost in a whisper. So far as I
could discover she could see nothing odd in Wilbraham nor in anything
that he had said. She was the one person in all the world who had
understood him completely and found nothing out of the way in his talk.

She had liked him at once, she said. "I could see that he was kind,"
she added earnestly, as though to her that was the most important thing
in all the world. No, his talk had not seemed odd to her. She had
believed every word that he had said. Why not? You could not look at
him and not believe what he said.

Of course it was true. And why not? What was there against it? It had
been a great help for her what the gentleman had told her... Yes, and
he had gone to sleep with his head in her lap... and she had stayed
awake all night thinking... and he had waked up just in time to see the
sun rise. Some sunrise that was, too.

That was a curious little fact that all three of them, even the
battered pugilist, should have been so deeply struck by that sunrise.
Wilbraham on the last day of his life, when he hovered between
consciousness and unconsciousness, kept recalling it as though it had
been a vision.

"The sun--and the trees suddenly green and bright like glittering
swords. All shapes--swords, plowshares, elephants, and camels--and the
sky pale like ivory. See, now the sun is rushing up, faster than ever,
to take us with him, up, up, leaving the trees like green clouds
beneath us--far, far beneath us--"

The woman said that it was the finest sunrise she had ever seen. He
talked to her all the time about his plans. He was looking disheveled
now and unshaven and dirty. She suggested that he should go back to his
flat. No, he wished to waste no time. Who knew how long he had got? It
might be only a day or two ... He would go to Covent Garden and talk to
the men there.

She was confused as to what happened after that. When they got to the
market the carts were coming in and men were very busy.

She saw the gentleman speak to one of them very earnestly, but he was
busy and pushed him aside. He spoke to another, who told him to clear
out.

Then he jumped on to a box, and almost the last sight she had of him
was his standing there in his soiled clothes, a streak of mud on his
face, his arms outstretched and crying: "It's true! Stop just a
moment--you _must_ hear me!"

Some one pushed him off the box. The pugilist rushed in then, cursing
them and saying that the man was a gentleman and had given him half a
crown, and then some hulking great fellow fought the pugilist and there
was a regular mêlée. Wilbraham was in the middle of them, was knocked
down and trampled upon. No one meant to hurt him, I think. They all
seemed very sorry afterwards....

He died two days after being brought into the Nursing Home. He was very
happy just before he died, pressed my hand and asked me to look after
the girl....

"Isn't it wonderful," were his last words to me, "that it should be
true after all?"

As to Truth, who knows? Truth is a large order. This _is_ true as far
as Wilbraham goes, every word of it. Beyond that? Well, it must be
jolly to be so happy as Wilbraham was.

This will seem a lying story to some, a silly and pointless story to
others.

I wonder....



THE YEARBOOK OF THE BRITISH
AND IRISH SHORT STORY
JULY, 1921, TO JUNE, 1922


ABBREVIATIONS

The following abbreviations are used in this yearbook.

_A._                   Annual
_Adelphi_              Adelphi Magazine
_Asia_                 Asia
_Atl._                 Atlantic Monthly
_Beacon_               Beacon
_Black_                Blackwood's Magazine
_Blue_                 Blue Magazine
_Book (N.Y.)_          Bookman (N.Y.)
_Broom._               Broom
_By._                  Bystander
_Cas._                 Cassell's Magazine
_Cen._                 Century Magazine
_C.H._                 Country Heart
_Cham._                Chambers' Journal
_Chic. Trib._          Chicago Tribune (Syndicate Service)
_Colour_               Colour
_Corn._                Cornhill Magazine
_D.D._                 Double Dealer
_Del._                 Delineator
_Dial_                 Dial
_Eng.R._               English Review
_Ev._                  Everybody's Magazine
_Eve_                  Eve
_Form._                Form
_Free._                Freeman
_G.H._                 Good Housekeeping
_Gra_                  Graphic
_Grand_                Grand Magazine
_Harp B._              Harper's Bazar
_Harp. M._             Harper's Magazine
_Hear_                 Hearst's International Magazine
_Hut_                  Hutchinson's Magazine
_John_                 John o'London's Weekly
_L.H.J._               Ladies' Home Journal
_Lloyd_                Lloyd's Story Magazine
_L.Merc_               London Mercury
_Lon_                  London Magazine
_Man. G_               Manchester Guardian
_McC_                  McClure's Magazine
_McCall_               McCall's Magazine
_Met_                  Metropolitan
_Nash_                 Nash's and Pall Mall Magazine
_Nat. (London)_        Nation and Athenaeum
_New_                  New Magazine
_New A._               New Age
_New S._               New Statesman
_Novel_                Novel Magazine
_Outl. (N.Y.)_         Outlook (N.Y.)
_Pan_                  Pan
_Pears' A._            Pears' Annual
_Pearson (London)_     Pearson's Magazine (London)
_Pearson (N.Y.)_       Pearson's Magazine (N.Y.)
_Pict. R._             Pictorial Review
_Pop._                 Popular Magazine
_Pre._                 Premier
_Queen_                Queen
_Qui._                 Quiver
_(R)_                  Reprinted
_Roy._                 Royal Magazine
_Scr._                 Scribner's Magazine
_S.E.P._               Saturday Evening Post
_Sketch_               Sketch
_Sov._                 Sovereign Magazine
_Sphere_               Sphere
_S.S._                 Smart Set
_Sto._                 Story-Teller
_Str._                 Strand Magazine
_Tatler_               Tatler
_Time_                 Time and Tide
_Times Lit. Suppl._    Times Literary Supplement
_Truth_                Truth
_Voices_               Voices
_West._                Weekly Westminster Gazette
_Wind._                Windsor Magazine
_Yel._                 Yellow Magazine
(11:261)                    Volume 11, page 261
(261)                       Page 261



ADDRESSES OF PERIODICALS
PUBLISHING SHORT STORIES


I. ENGLISH PERIODICALS

Note. _This address list does not aim at completeness, but is based
simply on the periodicals which we have consulted for this volume, and
which have not ceased publication._

Adelphi Magazine, Henry Danielson, 64, Charing Cross Road, London,
     W.C.2.
Beacon, Basil Blackwood, Broad Street, Oxford, Oxon.
Blackwood's Magazine, 37, Paternoster Row, London, E.C.4.
Blue Magazine, 115, Fleet Street, London, E.C.4.
Bystander, Graphic Buildings, Whitefriars, London, E.C.4.
Cassell's Magazine, La Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill, London, E.C.4.
Chambers' Journal, 38, Soho Square, London, W.C.1.
Colour Magazine, 53, Victoria Street, London, S.W.1.
Cornhill Magazine, 50a, Albemarle Street, London, W.1.
Country Heart, George Allen and Unwin, Ltd., Ruskin House, 40,
     Museum Street, London, W.C.1.
Country Life, 20, Tavistock Street, Strand, London, W.C.2.
English Review, 18, Bedford Square, London, W.C.1.
Eve, Great New Street, London, E.C.4.
Grand Magazine, 8-11, Southampton Street, Strand, London, W.C.2.
Graphic, Graphic Buildings, Whitefriars, London, E.C.4.
Happy Magazine, George Newnes, Ltd., 8, Southampton Street, Strand,
     London, W.C.2.
Hutchinson's Magazine, 34-36, Paternoster Row, London, E.C.4.
John o'London's Weekly, 8-11, Southampton Street, London, W.C.2.
Ladies' Home Magazine, 8-11, Southampton Street, London, W.C.2.
Lloyd's Story Magazine, 12, Salisbury Square, London, E.C.4.
London Magazine, Fleetway House, Farringdon Street, London, E.C.4.
London Mercury, Windsor House, Bream's Buildings, London, E.C.4.
Manchester Guardian, 3, Cross Street, Manchester.
Nash's and Pall Mall Magazine, I, Amen Corner, Paternoster Row,
     London, E.C.4.
Nation and Athenaeum, 10, Adelphi Terrace, London, W.C.2.
New Age, 38, Cursitor Street, Chancery Lane, London, E.C.4.
New Magazine, La Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill, London, E.C.4.
New Statesman, 10, Great Queen Street, Kingsway, London, W.C.2.
Novel Magazine, 18, Henrietta Street, London, W.C.2.
Outward Bound, Edinburgh House, 2, Eaton Gate, London, S.W.1.
Pan, Long Acre, London, W.C. 2.
Pearson's Magazine, 17, Henrietta Street, London, W.C.2.
Premier, Fleetway House, Farringdon Street, London, E.C.4.
Queen, Bream's Buildings, London, E.C.4.
Quest, 21, Cecil Court, Charing Cross Road, London, W.C.2.
Quiver, La Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill, London, E.C.4.
Red Magazine, Fleetway House, Farringdon Street, London, E.C.4.
Royal Magazine, 17-18, Henrietta Street, London, W.C.2.
Saturday Review, 10, King Street, Covent Garden, London, W.C.2.
Sketch, 172, Strand, London, W.C.2.
Sovereign Magazine, 34, Paternoster Row, London, E.C.4.
Sphere, Great New Street, London, E.C.4.
Story-Teller, La Belle Sauvage, Ludgate Hill, London, E.C.4.
Strand Magazine, 8-11, Southampton Street, Strand, London, W.C.2.
Tatler, 6, Great New Street, London, E.C.4.
Time and Tide, 88, Fleet Street, London, E.C.4.
Truth, 10, Bolt Court, Fleet Street, London, E.C.4.
20-Story Magazine, Odhams Press Ltd., Long Acre, London, W.C.2.
Tyro, Egoist Press, 2, Robert Street, Adelphi, London, W.C.2.
Westminster Gazette (Weekly), Tudor House, Tudor Street, London, E.C.4.
Windsor Magazine, Warwick House, Salisbury Square, London, E.C.4.
Yellow Magazine, Fleetway House, Farringdon Street, London, E.C.4.
Youth, Shakespeare Head Press, Ltd., Stratford-on-Avon.


II. AMERICAN PERIODICALS

Ace-High Magazine, 799 Broadway, New York City.
Adventure, Spring and Macdougal Streets, New York City.
Ainslee's Magazine, 79 Seventh Avenue, New York City.
All's Well, Gayeta Lodge, Fayetteville, Arkansas.
American Boy, 142 Lafayette Boulevard, Detroit, Michigan.
American Magazine, 381 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
American-Scandinavian Review, 25 West 45th Street, New York City.
Argosy All-Story Weekly, 280 Broadway, New York City.
Asia, 627 Lexington Avenue, New York City.
Atlantic Monthly, 8 Arlington Street, Boston, Mass.
Ave Maria, Notre Dame, Indiana.
Black Mask, 25 West 45th Street, New York City.
Blue Book Magazine, 36 South State Street, Chicago, Ill.
Bookman, 244 Madison Avenue, New York City.
Breezy Stories, 112 East 19th Street, New York City.
Brief Stories, 714 Drexel Building, Philadelphia, Pa.
Broom, 3 East 9th Street, New York City.
Catholic World, 120 West 60th Street, New York City.
Century, 353 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
Chicago Tribune, Chicago, Ill.
Christian Herald, Bible House, New York City.
Clay, 3325 Farragut Road, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Collier's Weekly, 416 West 13th Street, New York City.
Cosmopolitan Magazine, 119 West 40th Street, New York City.
Delineator, Spring and Macdougal Streets, New York City.
Designer, 12 Vandam Street, New York City.
Detective Story Magazine, 79 Seventh Avenue, New York City.
Dial, 152 West 13th Street, New York City.
Double Dealer, 204 Baronne Street, New Orleans, La.
Everybody's Magazine, Spring and Macdougal Streets, New York City.
Extension Magazine, 223 W. Jackson Boulevard, Chicago, Ill.
Follies, 25 West 45th Street, New York City.
Freeman, 32 West 58th Street, New York City.
Gargoyle, 7, Rue Campagne-Première, Paris, France.
Good Housekeeping, 119 West 40th Street, New York City.
Harper's Bazar, 119 West 40th Street, New York City.
Harper's Magazine, Franklin Square, New York City.
Hearst's International Magazine, 119 West 40th Street, New York City.
Holland's Magazine, Dallas, Texas.
Jewish Forum, 5 Beekman Street, New York City.
Ladies' Home Journal, Independence Square, Philadelphia, Pa.
Leslie's Weekly, 627 West 43d Street, New York City.
Liberator, 34 Union Square, East, New York City.
Little Review, 24 West 16th Street, New York City.
Live Stories, 35 West 39th Street, New Fork City.
McCall's Magazine, 236 West 37th Street, New York City.
McClure's Magazine, 80 Lafayette Street, New York City.
MacLean's Magazine, 143 University Avenue, Toronto, Canada.
Magnificat, Manchester, N.H.
Menorah journal, 167 West 13th Street, New York City.
Metropolitan, 432 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
Midland, Box 110, Iowa City, Iowa.
Modern Priscilla, 85 Broad Street, Boston, Mass.
Munsey's Magazine, 280 Broadway, New York City.
Open Road, 248 Boylston Street, Boston, Mass.
Outlook, 381 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
Pagan, 23 West 8th Street, New York City.
Pearson's Magazine, 34 Union Square, New York City.
People's Home journal, 76 Lafayette Street, New York City.
People's Popular Monthly, 801 Second Street, Des Moines, Iowa.
Pictorial Review, 216 West 39th Street, New York City.
Popular Magazine, 79 Seventh Avenue, New York City.
Queen's Work, 626 North Vandeventer Avenue, St. Louis, Mo.
Red Book Magazine, North American Building, Chicago, Ill.
Saturday Evening Post, Independence Square, Philadelphia, Pa.
Saucy Stories, 25 West 45th Street, New York City.
Scribner's Magazine, 597 Fifth Avenue, New York City.
Short Stories, Garden City, Long Island, N.Y.
Smart Set, 25 West 45th Street, New York City.
Snappy Stories, 35 West 39th Street, New York City.
Sunset, 460 Fourth Street, San Francisco, Cal.
Telling Tales, 799 Broadway, New York City.
10-Story Book, 538 South Dearborn Street, Chicago, Ill.
Today's Housewife, Cooperstown, N.Y.
Top-Notch Magazine, 79 Seventh Avenue, New York City.
Town Topics, 2 West 45th Street, New York City.
True Story Magazine, 119 West 40th Street, New York City.
Wave, 2103 North Halsted Street, Chicago, Ill.
Wayside Tales, 6 North Michigan Avenue, Chicago, Ill.
Western Story Magazine, 79 Seventh Avenue, New York City.
Woman's Home Companion, 381 Fourth Avenue, New York City.
Woman's World, 107 South Clinton Street, Chicago, Ill.
Young's Magazine, 112 East 19th Street, New York City.
Youth, 66 East Elm Street, Chicago, Ill.



THE ROLL OF HONOR

JULY. 1921, TO JUNE, 1922

Note. _Only stories by British and Irish authors are listed_

A., G.M.
Cobbler's Quest. Man. G. Dec. 15, '21. (14.)

ALLATINI, R.
"While There's Life--." Time. Sept. 2, '21. (2:838.)

AUMONIER, STACY.
Accident of Crime. S.E.P. March 11. (20.)
Angel of Accomplishment. Sto. Feb. (481.)
Beautiful Merciless One. Pict. R. Sept. (14.) Lon. March (137:9.)
"Face." Hut. Aug., '21. (5: 143.)
Funny Man's Day. Str. May. (63: 455.)
Heart-Whole. Str. March. (63:201.)
Man of Letters. Str. July, '21. (62: 46.)
Where Was Wych Street? Str. Nov., '21. (62:405.)

BARRINGTON, E.
Mystery of Stella. Atl. March. (129:311.)

BECK, L. ADAMS.
Interpreter. Atl. July, '21. (128: 37.) Aug., '21. (12 8: 233.)

BEERBOHM, MAX.
T. Fenning Dodworth. L. Merc. Aug., '21. (4: 355.) Dial. Aug., '21.
(71:130.)

BENNETT, ARNOLD.
Fish. Nash. April. (69:20.)
Mysterious Destruction of Mr. Lewis Apple. Harp. B. Aug., '21.
(27.) Nash. Dec., '21. (68: 297.)
Nine o'Clock To-morrow. Nash. May. (69: 111.)

BENSON, EDWARD FREDERICK.
Outcast. Hut. April. (6:337.)

BERESFORD, JOHN DAVYS.
Looking-Glass. Corn. Aug., '21. (302:185.)
Sentimentalists. Corn. Jan. (303:48.)
Soul of an Artist. Broom. Nov., '21. (1: 56.)

BLACKWOOD, ALGERNON.
Nephele. Pears' A. Dec. 25, '21. (15.)
Olive. Pearson. (London.) July. '21. (24.)
Woman's Ghost Story. Pearson. (N.Y.) June. (32.)

BLAKE, GEORGE.
Dun Cow. Corn. Aug., '21. (302:223.)

BRIGHOUSE, HAROLD.
Once a Hero. Pan. July, '21.

BRUNDRIT, D.F.
In the End. Man. G. Dec. 8, '21. (12.)

BURKE, THOMAS.
Song of a Thousand Years. Pre. Feb., '21. (5.)

BUTTS, MARY.
Change. Dial. May. (72:465.)
Speed the Plough. Dial. Oct., 21. (71:399.)

CAINE, WILLIAM.
Doob in Europe. Str. April. (63:366.)
Pensioner. Gra. July 2, '21. (104:22.)
Spider's Web. Str. Dec., '21. (62: 577.)
Wise Old Bird. Gra. April. (105:400.)

CHESTERTON, GILBERT KEITH.
Shadow of the Shark. Nash. Dec., '21. (68:239.)
Temple of Silence. Harp. M. May. (144: 783.)
Vengeance of the Statue. Harp. M. June. (145: 10.)

COPPARD, ALFRED EDGAR.
Black Dog. Met. Feb. (9.)
Broadsheet Ballad. Dial. March. (72:235.)
Hurly-Burly. L. Mere. July, '21. (4: 243.)
Pomona's Babe. Eng. R. March. (34: 217.)
Tiger. Sov. April. (500.)

CORKERY, DANIEL.
By-Product. Free. May 3. (5:176.)
Colonel MacGillicuddy Goes Home. Free. April 19. (5:128.)
Ember. Free. May 24. (5:247.)
Price. Free. April 5. (5:80.)
Unfinished Symphony. Free. March 15. (5:8.)

"CROMPTON, RICHMAL." (R.C. LAMBURN.)
Christmas Present. Truth. Dec. 21, '21.

DAGNAL, DEVERELL.
Windows of the Cupola. Adelphi. June. (1:3.)

DAVEY, NORMAN.
Joyous Adventure of the Lady and the Large Sponge. (_R_.)
Tatler. Christmas No. (12.)

DE LA MARE, WALTER.
Seaton's Aunt. L. Merc. April. (5:578.)

EASTON, DOROTHY.
Afterwards. Man. G. July 6, '21. (14.)
Inheritors. Man. G. Dec. 2, '21. (14.)
Reaper. Eng. R. May. (34:435.)

EDGINTON, MAY.
Bella Donna. Cas. Winter A., '21. (103.)
House on the Rock. Pre. March 7. (5.)
Mary Gets Married. S.E.P. Nov. 5, '21. (12.) Nash. Nov.
'21. (68:127.)
Song. Lloyd. June. (415:825.)

GALSWORTHY, JOHN.
Feud. Del. Feb. (7.) March. (13.)
Hedonist. Cen. July '21. (102: 321.) Pears' A. Dec. 25, '21.(11.)
Man Who Kept His Form. Del. Oct., '21. (8.) Lon. Jan.
(135: 423.)
Santa Lucia. Del. April. (5.) Lon. May. (139:207.)

GIBBON, PERCEVAL.
Saint Flossie. S.E.P. Dec. 3, '21. (10.) Str. March.
(63:223.)

GOLDING, LOUIS.
Green Gloom. Colour. Nov., '21. (15:88.)

GRAHAM, ALAN.
Bat and Belfry Inn. Sto. May. (154.)

GREAVES, CHARLES.
Land of Memories. Colour. April. (16:50.)

HARRINGTON, KATHERINE. (MRS. ROLF BENNETT.)
O'Hara's Leg. Hut. July, '21. (5:90.)

HICHENS, ROBERT.
Last Time. Hut. July, '21. (5:1.)

HORN, HOLLOWAY.
Lie. Blue. May. (35:25.)

HOWARD, FRANCIS MORTON.
"One Good Turn--." Pre. Feb. 21. (27.)

HUXLEY, ALDOUS.
Fard. West. May 27. (16.)
Gioconda Smile. Eng. R. Aug., '21. (33:88.)

JEROME, JEROME KLAPKA.
Fiddle That Played of Itself. Cas. Winter A., '21. (69.)

JESSE, FRYNIWYD TENNYSON.
Virtue. Hut. June. (6:639.)
Wisdom. Lon. June. (140:377.)

KAYE-SMITH, SHEILA.
Mrs. Adis. Cen. Jan. (103:321.)
Mockbeggar. Roy. Feb. (321.) Harp. M. Feb. (144:331.)

KENNEY, ROWLAND.
Girl In It. New A. Dec. 15, '21. (30:78.)

KEPPEL, FRANCIS.
Conversation Before Dawn. Beacon. Oct., '21. (1:20.)

KING, MAUDE EGERTON.
Madman's Metropole. C.H. April-June. (205.)

KINROSS, ALBERT.
Traitors. S.S. April. (93.)

LANGBRIDGE, ROSAMOND.
Backstairs of the Mind. Man. G. Feb. 7. (12.)

LAWRENCE, C.E.
Thirteenth Year. Gra. Aug. 6, '21. (104:168.)

LAWRENCE, DAVID HERBERT.
Episode. Dial. Feb. (72:143.)
Fanny and Annie. Hut. Nov., '21. (5:461.)
Horse-dealer's Daughter. Eng. R. April. (34:308.)
Sick Collier. (_R_) Pearson (N.Y.). Feb. (10.)

LIVEING, EDWARD.
Storm in the Desert. Black. April. (211:446.)

LYONS, A. NEIL.
Marrying Ellen. By. A., '21. (81.)

MCFEE, WILLIAM.
Knights and Turcopoliers. Atl. Aug., '21. (128:170.)

MACKENZIE, COMPTON.
New Pink Dress. Sto. Dec., '21. (281.)
Sop. Cas. Winter A., '21. (76.)

MACMANUS, SEUMAS.
Mrs. Maguire's Holiday. C.H. July-Sept_ '21. (108.)

"MALET, LUCAS." (MRS. MARY ST. LEGER HARRISON.)
Birth of a Masterpiece. Sto. Jan. (390.)
Fillingers. Nash. Aug., '21. (67:447.)

MANNING-SANDERS, RUTH.
Significance. Voices. Autumn. '21. (5:127.)

MANSFIELD, KATHERINE. (MRS. J. MIDDLETON MURRY.)
At the Bay. L. Merc. Jan. (5:239.)
Cup of Tea. Sto. May. (121.)
Doll's House. Nat. (London.) Feb. 4. (30: 692.)
Fly. Nat. (London.) March 18. (30: 896.)
Garden-Party. West. Feb. 4. (9.) Feb. 11. (10.) Feb. 18. i (16.)
Her First Ball. Sphere. Nov. 28, '21. (15.)
Honeymoon. Nat. (London.) April 29. (31:156.)
Ideal Family. Sphere. Aug. 20, '21. (86:196.)
Marriage à la Mode. Sphere. Dec. 31, '21. (87:364.)
Sixpence. Sphere. Aug. 6, '21. (86:144.)
Taking the Veil. Sketch. Feb. 22. (117:296.)

MAXWELL, WILLIAM BABINGTON.
All to Husband. Lloyd. Jan. (410:275.)
Romance of It. Outl. (N.Y.) June 21. (131: 3 47.)

MERRICK, LEONARD.
Pot of Pansies. Nash. Dec., '21. (68:269.)

MONKHOUSE, ALLAN N.
Life and Letters. Man. G. Feb. 15. (12.)

MONTGOMERY, K.L.
Graineog. Corn. Nov., '21. (594.)
Wave Desart. Corn. March. (314.)

MOORE, GEORGE.
Peronnik the Fool. Dial. Nov., '21. (71:497.) L. Merc.
Sept., '21. (4:468.) Oct., '21. (4:586.)
Wilfrid Holmes. L. Mere. Feb. (5:356.)

MORDAUNT, ELINOR.
Fighting-Cocks. Hut. March. (6: 290.) Piet. R. May. (14.)
Ganymede. Met. Aug., '21. (33.) Pan. Dec., '21. (6:75.)
"Genius." Cen. Nov.. '21. (103:102.) Hut. Feb. (6: 113.)
Kelly O'Keefe. Lloyd. June. (415:783.) Met. April. (19.)
Parrots. Met. June. (30.)
Rider in the King's Carriage. Lloyd. July, '21. (33:814.)
Yellow Cat. Hut. Aug., '21. (5:157.)

NEWTON, WILFRID DOUGLAS.
Mai D'Agora. Blue. Sept., '21. (27:16.)

NORRY, M.E.
Barge. Time. Sept. 23. '21. (2:916.)

PEMBERTON, MAX.
Devil to Pay. Sto. March. (563.)

PERROT, F.
Mr. Tweedale Changes His Mind. Man. G. Aug. 19, '21. (14.)

PERTWEE, ROLAND.
Chap Upstairs. S.E.P. May 13. (10.) Str. June. (63:550.)
Empty Arms. L.H.J. March. (12.)
Man Who Didn't Matter. Sto. Nov., '21. (160.)
Summer Time. Str. Aug., '21. (62: 105.)

RAWLENCE, GUY.
Return. Corn. June. (674.)

ROBERTS, CECIL EDRIC MORNINGTON.
Silver Pool. Hut. July, '21. (5:98.)

S., R.H.
Supplanter. Man. G. Feb. 26. (10.)

SABATINI, RAFAEL.
Casanova in Madrid. Pre. July 15, '21. (32.)

SEWELL, CHRIS.
Suspension Bridge. Truth. Jan. 18.

SINCLAIR, MAY.
Heaven. Pict. R. June. (12.)
Lena Wrace. Dial. July. '21. (71:50.)
Token. Hut. March. (6:259.)
Villa Désirée. Hut. Dec., '21. (5:627.)

SOUTHGATE, SIDNEY.
Dice Thrower. Colour. Dec., '21. (15:105.)

STEPHENS, JAMES.
Hunger. Broom. Nov., '21. (1:3.)

"STERN, G.B." (MRS. GEOFFREY LISLE HOLDSWORTH.)
Achille. Sketch. Dec. 7, '21. (116:372.)
Little Rebel. Grand. June. (361.)
"New Whittington." John. March 25. (6: 809.)
"P.L.M." Sketch. Dec. 14, '21. (116: 410.)
Stranger Woman. John. Jan. 28. (6:537.) Feb. 4. (6:573.)

TORRY, E. NORMAN.
Gourmand of Marseilles. John. April I. (6:849.)

"TRUSCOTT, PARRY." (MRS. BASH. HARGRAVE.)
Hint to Husbands. Colour. Jan. (15:133.)
Theft. Colour. June. (16:108.)
Woman Who Sat Still. Colour. Nov., '21. (15:78.)

VAHEY, JOHN HASLETTE.
Treasure. Corn. Nov., '21. (560.)

WALPOLE, HUGH SEYMOUR.
Bombastes Furioso. Hut. July, '21. (5:69-)
Conscience Money. Pict. R. May. (22.) Sto. June. (311.)
Major Wilbraham. Chic. Trib. Nov. 13, '21.
Mrs. Comber at Rafiel. Sto. Aug. '21. (453.)

YOUNG, FRANCIS BRETT.
Octagon. Dec. 10, '21, (747.) Dec. 17.'21. (765.)



A LIST OF
OTHER DISTINCTIVE STORIES

JULY, 1921, TO JUNE, 1922

NOTE. Only stories by British and Irish authors are listed.

A., G.M.
Misers. Man. G. March 20. (10.)

ALEN, HOWARD.
Magic of His Excellency. Sov. Feb. (27:263.)

ALTIMUS, HENRY.
Sacrifice of Madeleine Duval. Lloyd. Sept., '21. (406:1025.)
Underworld-on-the-Sound. Lloyd. Oct., '21. (407:1144.)

ANONYMOUS.
Holiday. Man. G. Nov. 8,'21. (12.)

APPLETON, EDGAR.
Arrest. Pan. March. (7:29.)

AUMONIER, STACY.
Old Lady with Two Umbrellas. Hut. Dec., '21. (5:581.)

AUSTIN, FREDERICK BRITTEN.
Murderer in the Dark. Str. June. (63:542.)
Red Shawl. Hear. Feb.(8.) Nash. May. (69:121.)

B., I.
Education. Man. G. Feb. 3. (12.)

BARBER, GEORGE.
Super-Clerk and a Card Index. Wind. Jan. (169.)

BARKER, CHARLES H.
Week End. Nat. (London.) July 16,'21. (29:580.)

BARRINGTON, E.
Walpole Beauty. Atl. Sept., '21. (128:300.)

BARRY, IRIS.
Resentment. Time. April l4. (3:356.)

BAX, CLIFFORD.
Leaf. Form. Jan. (1:87.)

BEAUFOY, P.
Story of a Pin. Truth. July 13.

BECK, L. ADAMS.
Flute of Krishna. Asia. Jan. (22:28.)
Loveliest Lady of China. Asia. Oct., '21. (21: 843.)
Round-Faced Beauty. Atl. Dec., '21. (128:750.)

BEESTON, L.J.
Chips of One Block. Hut. April. (6:358.)
Fiendish Laugh. Grand. Nov., '21. (279.)

BENNETT, ROLF.
Cold Fact. Pan. Feb. (7:83.)
Education of the Bishop. Pearson (London). Oct., '21. (307.)

BENSON, CLAUDE E.
Puppets. Corn. Feb. (182.)

BENSON, EDWARD FREDERICK.
Light in the Garden. Eve. Nov. 23, '21. (7:236.)
Mrs. Amworth. Hut. June. (6:561.)

BIBESCO, ELIZABETH.
Quickening Spirit. Book. (N.Y.) March. (55:6.)

BLACK, DOROTHY.
To Every Woman Once--. Roy. June. (167.)

BLACKWOOD, ALGERNON.
Lane That Ran East and West. McCall. Sept., '21. (10.)

BRAMAH, ERNEST.
Lao Ting and the Luminous Insect. L. Merc. June. (6:132.)

BRIGHOUSE, HAROLD.
Adventurer. Man. G. July 28, '21. (10.)
Feud. Man. G. May 22. (12.)
Sceptic. Man. G. Aug. 25, '21. (12.)

BROWNE, K.R.G.
Professional Pride. Truth. Nov. 23, '21.

BURRAGE, A.M.
At the Toy Menders. Eve. Nov. 2, '21. (7:142.)

CAINE, WILLIAM.
Boker's Stocking. Tatler. April 26. (144.)
Carols. Pears' A. Dec. 25. '21. (29.)
Corner in Worms. Str. Feb. (63:181.)
Extravaganza. West. Jan. 7. (10.)
Fanny's Friends. Lon. Aug., '21. (130:513.)
On the Palace Pier. Pearson. (London.) Aug. '21. (140.)
Presentation Portrait. Qui. May. (655.)
Suicide's Aid Society. Lon. May. (139:269.)
Three Kings. S.S. Dec., '21. (63.)

CANDLER, EDMUND.
Bogle. Black. March. (211:370.)

CASTLE, AGNES _and_ CASTLE, EGERTON.
Challenge. Lloyd. Oct., '21. (407:1087.)

CHESTERTON, GILBERT KEITH.
Bottomless Well. Sto. July, '21. (381.)
Hole in the Wall. Harp. M. Oct., '21. (143:572.) Cas.
Sept., '21. (114:47.)
House of the Peacock. Harp. B. Jan. (36.)

CHOLMONDELEY, MARY.
End of the Dream. Pict. R. Oct., '21. (21.)

CLARK, F. LE GROS.
Buried Caesars. John. Dec. 31, '21. (6:421.)
Christopher. West. Feb. 25. (16.)
Overflow. Colour. March. (16:26.)
Simone. John. April 22. (7:73.)

CLEAVER, HYLTON.
Better Man. Sto. Jan. (397.)

COLLINS, GILBERT.
Beyond the Skyline, Roy. March, (379.)

COLUM, PADRAIC.
Sad Sequel to Puss-in-Boots. Dial. July, '21. (71:28.)

COPPARD, ALFRED EDGAR.
Mordecai and Cocking. West. Sept. 3, '21. (10.)

COULDREY, OSWALD.
Idols of the Cave. Beacon. June. (1:580.)
Story of Conversion. Beacon. Feb. (1:246.)

CRACKANTHORPE, HUBERT.
Fellside Tragedy. D.D. Dec., '21. (2:252.)

CROOKS, MAXWELL.
If Mr. Greene Hadn't 'Phoned. Truth. June 21. (1088.)

CUMMINGS, RAY.
Silver Veil. Grand. Jan. (446.)

DALTON, MORAY.
Forest Love. Corn. Dec., '21. (726.)

DARMUZEY, JACK.
Blessed Miracle. L. Merc. June. (1:23.)

DEEPING, GEORGE WARWICK.
Failure. Sto. May. (163.)
Sheik Jahir. Sto. July, '21. (329.)

DELAGREVE, C.J.
Blue Pony. Man. G. Nov. 9, '21. (14.)

DESMOND, SHAW.
Gallows-Tree. Scr. April. (71:481.)

DOYLE, SIR ARTHUR CONAN.
Adventure of the Mazarin Stone. Str. Oct., '21. (62:289.)
Hear. Nov., '21. (6.)
Bully of Brocas Court. Str. Nov., '21. (62:381.) Hear.
Dec., '21. (6.)
Lift. Str. June. (63:471.)
Nightmare Room. Str. Dec., '21. (62:545.)

DUDENEY, MRS. HENRY.
Embrace. Harp. M. Feb. (144:303.)
Feast. Harp. M. Jan. (144:216.)

DUFF, NELLIE BROWN.
Golden Gown. Pearson (London.) Oct., '21. (328.)

EASTERBROOK, LAURENCE.
Man Who Said "Yes" Without Thinking. West. Oct. 15, '21. (10.)

EDGINTON, MAY.
Cards. Sto. Sept., '21. (597.)

ELLIOT, RICHARD.
Obstacle. Hut. April. (6:423.)

FIGGIS, DARRELL.
His Old Comrade. Beacon. Nov.-Dec., '21. (1:87.)

FRANK AU, GILBERT.
Moth and the Star. Ev. July, '21. (113.)

FRIEDLAENDER, V.H.
Dinner. Time. Oct. 14. '21. (2:985.)

G., C.
"Dancing Pan." Man. G. July 4, '21. (12.)

GARRATT, JOHN HILARY.
Miniature. Lloyd. Oct., '21. (407:1173.)

GEORGE, W.L.
Lady Alcuin Intervenes. S.E.P. July 16.'21. (8.) Novel.
May. (206:111.)

GIBBON, PERCEVAL.
Gold That Glitters. Str. May. (63:405.) Pop. Jan. 20. (109.)
When America Goes East. S.E.P. May (14.)

GODWIN, GEORGE.
Chinese Puzzle. Time. Dec. 9,'21. (2:1184.)

GOLDING, LOUIS.
House of Six Maidens. Colour. Jan. (15:123.)
Miss Pomfret and Miss Primrose. Eng. R. Feb. (34:190.)

GORDON, ALBAN.
Diary of the Dead. Hut. March. (6:277.)

GORDON, JAN.
Hot Evening. John. Oct. 8.'21. (6:5.)

GRAHAM, ALAN.
Black and White. Blue. June. (36:15.)

GREENE, PATRICK.
Delayed. Pan. Feb. (7:18.)

GRIFFITHS, ALEXANDER.
Bet. Adelphi. June. (1:27.)

GROGAN, WALTER E.
Back to the Old Love. Sketch. March 29. (117:504.)
Realization. Truth. Oct. 5.'21.

H., C.
Lion-Breaker. Man. G. Aug. 16.'21. (12.)

H., M.
Pavement Philosopher. Man. G. Aug. 10,'21. (12.)

HAMILTON, MARY AGNES.
Sacred Terror. Time. Dec. 9,'21. (2:1182.) Dec. 16,'21.
(2:1210.)

HARRINGTON, KATHERINE. (MRS. ROLF BENNETT.)
Survivor. Nash. Aug., '21. (67:473.)

HARRISON, IRENE.
Thirty-Nine Articles. Gra. Aug. 13,'21. (104:196.)

HASTINGS, BASIL MACDONALD.
Interviewer. Eve. March 1. (8:272.)

HAWLEY, J.B.
Honour of Wong Kan. Novel. Feb.

HERBERT, ALICE.
Magic Casements. Queen. Feb. 11. (176.)

HORN, HOLLOWAY.
Escape. By. Nov. 2,'21.
Inclemency. By. June 14. (718.)
Jade. Sketch. June 14. (424.)
Lesson. Sketch. Feb. 1. (117:176.)
Life Is Hard on Women. Novel. June. (207:251.)

HOWARD, D. NEVILL.
Nocturne. By. Nov. 9,'21.

HOWARD, FRANCIS MORTON.
"A La Frongsy!" Pre. Sept. 23, '21. (56.)
Her Christmas Present. Pan. Dec. '21. (6:57.)
Lucky Sign. Pre. July 15, '21. (15.)
Masquerade. Lloyd. Nov. '21. (408:61.)

HUNT, LIAN.
King of the Reef. Pre. March 21. (49.)

JACOB, VIOLET. (MRS. ARTHUR JACOB.)
Fiddler. Corn. April. (442.)

JORDAN, HUMFREY.
Passing of Pincher. Corn. Oct., '21. (304:440.)

KAYE-SMITH, SHEILA.
Good Wits Jump. Harp. M. March. (144:483.) Sto. May. (172.)
Man Whom the Rocks Hated. Sto. Sept., '21. (567.)
Rebecca at the Well. Grand. Oct., '21. (156.)

KELLY, THOMAS.
Balance. Man. G. July 15, '21. (14.)

KINGSWORTH, R.V.
Pig's Head. West. March 25. (16.)

KINROSS, ALBERT.
Behind the Lines. Cham. May. (137:283.)
Elysian Fields. Atl. Jan. (129:33.)
Forbidden Fruit. Cen. July, '21. (102:342.)
Profiteer. Cen. Nov., '21. (103:28.) Dec., '21. (103:290.)

KNOX, E.V.
Meadow. New S. June 24. (19:322.)

LANG, JEAN.
Turkish Bath. Truth. May 3. (773.)

LAWRENCE, DAVID HERBERT.
Fragment of Stained Glass. (R.) Pearson. (N.Y.) March. (7.)
Wintry Peacock. Met. Aug., '21. (21.)

LEE, VERNON.
Dom Sylvanus. Eng. R. Nov., '21. (33:365.)

LEGGETT, H.W.
Chance of a Lifetime. Pearson (London). May. (418.)
Dinner at Seven-Thirty. Str. Jan. (63:41.)

LITCHFIELD, C. RANDOLPH.
Scent of Pines. Pre. Dec. 27, '21.

LINFORD, MADELINE.
Blue Shawl. Man. G. Dec. 22, '21. (12.)

LUCAS, ST. JOHN.
Columbina. Black. Feb. (211:137.)

MACHEN, ARTHUR.
Marriage of Panurge. Wave. Jan. (2.)
Secret Glory. Wave. Feb. (41.)

MCKENNA, STEPHEN.
Daughter of Pan. Chic. Trib. Aug. 14, '21. Pears' A. Dec. 25,
'21. (2.)

MACKENZIE, COMPTON.
Bill Shortcoat. Sto. Oct., '21. (39.)

MAGILL, ROBERT.
Poor Sort of Policeman. Novel. May. (206:103.)

MAITLAND, CECIL.
Raising the Devil. Form. Jan. (1:83.)

MAKIN, WILLIAM J.
Above the Jungle. Man G. Aug. 24, '21. (12.)
In Chinatown. Man. G. July 20, '21. (12.)

"MALET, LUCAS." (MRS. MARY ST. LEGER HARRISON.)
Pill-Box. Nash. Dec., '21. (68:219.)

MANNING-SANDERS, GEORGE.
List. John. April 8. (7:5.)
Mist. John. May 6. (133.)
Storm. John. Jan. 21. (6:505.)

MANNING-SANDERS, RUTH.
Carpenter's Wife. West. July 9, '21. (10.)

MANSFIELD, KATHERINE. (MRS. J. MIDDLETON MURRY.)
Mr. and Mrs. Dove. Sphere. Aug. 13, '21. (86:172.)

MASSIE, CHRIS.
Ex-Service. Eng. R. Oct. '21. (33:273.)

MASSON, ROSALINE.
Sir Malcolm's Heir. Cham. May. (137:273.)

MATTINGLY, SIDNEY.
Affair of Starch. Pearson (London). Nov., '21. (391.)

MAUGHAM, W. SOMERSET.
Fear. Cen. March. (103:712.)
Philosopher. McC. April. (20.)

MAXWELL, WILLIAM BABINGTON.
Getting Rid of M. Str. Nov., '21. (62:441.) Met. April. (59.)

MÉGROZ, PHYLLIS.
Executioner. Voices. Autumn, '21. (5:135.)

METHLEY, VIOLET.
"Dusty Death." Truth. Nov. 16, '21.

MILLS, ARTHUR.
Rien Ne Va Plus. Eng. R. April. (34:335.)

MILNE, EDGAR.
An Individual from Blue Wing. Str. Jan. (63:84.)

MILNE, JAMES.
Dream That Happened. Gra. Aug. 20, '21. (104:224.)

MONKHOUSE, ALLAN N.
Testimonial. Man. G. April 5. (12.)

MONTGOMERY, K.L.
Quarrelling of Queens. Corn. Sept., '21. (303:297.)

NEW, CLARENCE HERBERT.
In Old Delhi. Pre. Dec. 27, '21. (12.)

NEWTON, WILFRID DOUGLAS.
Chosen. Yel. May 5. (3:229.)
"I'll Show Her!" Blue. Nov., '21. (29:14.)
Little Woman of Russia. Gra. July 30, '21. (104:136.)
Point Blank. By. Sept. 7, '21.
Psychic. Sketch. June 7. (396.)

NORTH, LAURENCE.
Barmecide. Eng. R. Dec., '21. (33:503.)

OLLIVANT, ALFRED.
Old For-Ever. Black. June. (211:693.)

P., L.A.
Man Who Saw Through Things. Man. G. Aug. 15, '21. (10.)

PARKER, SIR GILBERT.
After the Ball. Sto. May. (111.) Scr. May. (71:565.)

PEACH, L. DU GARDE.
Ben Trollope. Man. G. May 18. (14.)

PEMBERTON, MAX.
Rosa of Colorado. Lloyd. Oct., '21. (407:1135.)

PERTWEE, ROLAND.
Cinderella. S.E.P. Feb. 4. (10.) Pearson (London). April.
(283.)
Evil Communications. Cas. Nov., '21. (68.)
Uncle from Australia. Hut. Aug., '21. (5:188.)

POLLEXFEN, CLAIRE D.
Devon Pride. Sto. Sept., '21. (606.)

PUGH, EDWIN.
Impostor. John. Dec. 24, '21. (6:393.)

QUIRK, VIOLET.
Bundle of Faggots. Colour. Feb. (16:2.)

R., E.
Furnace. Man. G. Nov. 29, '21. (12.)
Great Woman. Man. G. May 26. (14.)

RICKWORD, EDGELL.
Ball. Colour. March. (16:31.)

RIDGE, WILLIAM PETT.
Curtain-Raiser. Gra. July 23, '21. (104:112.)

ROBERTS, MORLEY.
Egregious Goat. Str. July, '21. (62:35.)

ROBERTS, THEODORE GOODRIDGE.
"No Chances." Grand. Nov., '21. (286.)

ROBEY, GEORGE.
Brink of Matrimony. Grand. Dec., '21. (336.)
Double or Quits. Ev. Sept., '21. (81.)
Solving the Servant Problem. New. May. (120.)

ROSENBACH, A.S.W.
Evasive Pamphlet. Str. June. (63:520.)

SALMON, ARTHUR LESLIE.
Musician. Colour. April. (16:68.)

SANDYS, OLIVER.
Short Story. Blue. June. (36:39.)

"SAPPER." (MAJOR CYRIL MCNEILE.)
Man Who Could Not Get Drunk. Str. March. (63:187.)

SCOTT, WILL.
Wanted! Pan. April. (7:21.)

SEWELL, CHRIS.
Lawful Issue. Truth. June 28. (1135.)
Nocturne. Truth. June 14. (1042.)
Peacock Screen. Truth. May 10. (813.)

SHANKS, EDWARD.
  "Battle of the Boyne Water." Cen. Feb. (103:492.)

SINGLETON, A.H.
  Hairy Mary. Atl. May. (129:623.)
  Jack the Robber. Atl. Feb. (129:174.)
  Larry. Atl. March. (129:364.)

SOUTHGATE, SIDNEY.
  Schoolmaster. Colour. March. (16:40.)

STACPOOLE, HENRY DE VERE.
  End of the Road. Pop. Aug. 20, '21. (139.) Sto. April. (1.)

"STERN, G.B." (MRS. GEOFFREY LISLE HOLDSWORTH.)
  Cinderella's Sister. John. Dec. 10, '21. (6:303.)
  Claret and Consommé  Blue. June. (36:6.)

STONE, C.M.
  Twenty-four Hours. Lloyd. Oct., '21. (407:1157.)

STORRS, MARGUERITE.
  Wife of Ivan. Pre. May 30. (141:5.)

"THORNE, GUY." (CYRIL A.E. RANGER-GULL.)
  Confession. Blue. April. (34:1.)

THURSTON, E. TEMPLE.
  Hate. Sto. June. (344.)

"TRUSCOTT, PARRY." (MRS. BASIL HARGRAVE.)
  Mary--A Spiritual Biography. Colour. Aug., '21. (15:2.)

Oubliette. Colour. Feb. (16:7.)
  Penalty Imposed. Colour. Sept., '21. (15:26.)

VAHEY, JOHN HASLETTE.
  Case of Cadwallder Jones. Black. June. (211:774.)

VAN DER VEER, LENORE.
  Glamour. Hut. June. (6:651.)

W., S.F.
  Old Adam. Man. G. Nov. 25, '21. (14.)

WALPOLE, HUGH SEYMOUR.
  Come Out of the Kitchen. Sto. May. (133.) Pict. R. April. (6.)
  Dance. Pict. R. June. (14.)
  Little Cure for Bachelors. Lon. March. (137:24.)

WALSHE, DOUGLAS.
  Collision. Corn. July. '21. (301:48.)

WATSON, FREDERICK.
  New Sentimental Journey. Wind. Jan. (129.)

WATTS, M.F.
  Orange Blossoms. John. March 11. (6:741.)

WAUGH, ALEC.
  Dress Rehearsal. Blue. June. (36:1.)

WEBSTER, F.A.M.
  Cup. Lloyd. Oct., '21. (407:1149.)
  Statue. Lloyd. Sept., '21. (406:1000.)

WHITE, E.L.
  Seven Years Secret. Grand. Nov., '21. (268.)

WILLIAMS, ORLO.
  Interior. Corn. March. (343.)
  Nature Morte. Corn. Dec., '21. (685.)

WILLIAMSON, MRS. CHARLES NORRIS.
  Advantage of Making Friends. Gra. July 16. '21. (104:80.)
  Decision. Gra. Dec. 10, '21. (104:690.)
  How He Found His Fate. Gra. Aug. 27, '21. (104:252.)
  Ideal Man. Gra. Oct. I, '21. (104:392.)
  Room That Was His. Gra. July 9, '21. (104:52.)
  Strange Case of Jessamine Lynd. Qui. Nov., '21. (37.)
  Villa of the Fountain. Gra. Nov. 28, '21. (5.)

WILLIAMSON, CHARLES NORRIS, _and_ WILLIAMSON, ALICE MURIEL.
  Chinese Cabinet. Str. April. (63:281.)

WYLIE, IDA ALENA ROSS.
  Greatness and Jamey Pobjoy. G.H. Nov., '21. (16.)
  Rendezvous, Sto., May. (177.)



ARTICLES ON THE SHORT STORY IN
BRITISH PERIODICALS

JULY, 1921, TO JUNE, 1922

NOTE. _Capital letters are employed to indicate the author of an
article_.

Anderson, Sherwood.
  Anonymous. Nat. (London.) Feb. 4. (30:695.)
  By C.E. Bechhofer. Times Lit. Suppl. Jan. 19. (21:44.)
  By Rebecca West. New S. Feb. 18. (18:564.)
Balzac, Honoré de.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Jan. 5. (21:9.)
  By Desmond MacCarthy. New S. Dec. 10, '21. (18:288.)
Baroja, Pio.
  By J.B. Trend. Nat. (London.) April 1. (31:26.)
BECHHOFER, C.E.
  Sherwood Anderson. Times Lit. Suppl. Jan. 19. (21:44.)
Bibesco, Elizabeth.
  By Rebecca West. New S. March 4. (18:621.)
BIRRELL, AUGUSTINE.
  Henry James. Nat. (London.) July 16, '21. (29:581.)
Blackwood, Algernon.
  By Kathleen Shackleton. John. Sept. 3, '21. (612.)
Blasco Ibánez, Vincente.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Nov. 10, '21. (20:733.)
Bunin, I.A.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Aug. 18, '21. (20:530.)
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. April 20. (21: 256.)
  By J. Middleton Murry. Nat. (London.) June 24. (31:444.)
Cabell, James Branch.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Jan. 26. (21:57.)
  By Rebecca West. New S. May 13. (19:156.)
Chekhov, Anton.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Sept. 22, '21. (20:609.)
  By J. Middleton Murry. Nat. (London.) April 8. (31:57.)
  By M.P. Willcocks. Eng. R. March. (34:207.)
COLLIS-MORLEY, LUCY.
  Federigo Tozzi; Mario Puccini. Nat. (London.) July 16, '21.
    (29:585.)
Coppard, A.E.
  Anonymous. Nat. (London.) July 30, '21. (29:656.)
CROCE, BENEDETTO.
  Gustave Flaubert. L. Merc. March. (5:487.)
  Guy de Maupassant. L. Merc. May. (6:61.)
Dostoevsky, Fyodor.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Jan. 12. (21:25.)
  By J. Middleton Murry. Nat. (London.) Dec. 24, '21. (30:505.)
Flaubert, Gustave.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Dec. 15, '21. (20:833.)
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Jan. 5. (21:12.)
  By Benedetto Croce. L. Mere. March. (5:487.)
  By T. Sturge Moore. Times Lit. Suppl. Dec. 29, '21. (20:876.)
FREEMAN, JOHN.
  Robert Louis Stevenson. L. Merc. April. (5:617.)
Govoni, Corrado.
  By Mario Praz. L. Merc. Sept., '21. (4:527.)
Hare, Bret.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. March 16. (21:169.)
  By H.M. Tomlinson. Nat. (London.) March 11. (30:861.)
Hawthorne, Nathaniel.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. April 6. (21:225.)
  By Robert Lynd. New S. April 22. (19:68.)
Hearn, Lafcadio.
  Anonymous. New S. Sept. 10, '21. (17:628.)
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Aug. 25, '21. (20:545.)
Heidenstamm, Verner von.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. April 20. (21:257.)
Hudson, W.H.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Sept. 29, '21. (20:625.)
Huxley, Aldous.
  By Edward Shanks. L. Merc. June. (6:212.)
  By Rebecca West. New S. May 13. (19:156.)
Jacob, Max.
  By Pierre Robert. New A. May 18. (31:32.)
James, Henry.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Dec. 22, '21. (20:849.)
  By Augustine Birrell. Nat. (London.) July 16, '21. (29:581.)
Lawrence, D.H.
  By Rebecca West, New S. June 24. (19:326.)
LISLE, GEORGE.
  Robert Louis Stevenson. Corn. Dec., '21. (706.)
London, Jack.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Nov. 3, '21. (20:709.)
LYND, ROBERT.
  Nathaniel Hawthorne. New S. April 22. (19:68.)
MACCARTHY, DESMOND.
  Honoré de Balzac. New S. Dec. 10, '21. (18:288.)
  Guy de Maupassant. New S. Sept. 24, '21. (17:677.)
Mansfield, Katherine.
  Anonymous. Nat. (London.) March 25. (30:949.)
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. March 2. (21:137.)
  By Edward Shanks. Queen. March 25. (360.)
  By Rebecca West. New S. March 18. (18:678.)
Maugham, W. Somerset.
  Anonymous. Nat. (London.) Jan. 14. (30:593.)
  By Rebecca West. New S. Nov. 5, '21. (18:140.)
Maupassant, Guy de.
  By Benedetto Croce. L. Merc. May. (6:61.)
  By Desmond MacCarthy. New S. Sept. 24, '21. (17:677.)
Mauriac, François.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. March 9. (21:152.)
MOORE, T. STURGE.
  Gustave Flaubert. Times Lit. Suppl. Dec. 29, '21. (20:876.)
Morand, Paul.
  By J. Middleton Murry. Nat. (London.) April 29. (31:161.)
MURRY, J MIDDLETON.
  Ivan Bunin. Nat. (London.) June 24 (31:444.)
  Anton Chekhov. Nat. (London.) April 8. (31:57.)
  Fyodor Dostoevsky. Nat. (London.) Dec. 24, '21. (30:505.)
  Paul Morand. Nat. (London.) April 29. (31:161.)
  Hugh Walpole. Nat. (London.) July 16, '21. (29:584.)
Pérez de Ayala, Rámon.
  By J.B. Trend. Nat. (London.) July 9, '21. (29:550.)
Pirandello, Luigi.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. April 13. (21: 243.)
PRAZ, MARIO.
  Corrado Govoni. L. Merc. Sept., '21. (4:527.)
Puccini, Mario.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Aug. 25, '21. (20: 546.)
  By Lucy Collis-Morley. Nat. (London.) July 16, '21. (29:585.)
ROBERT, PIERRE.
  Max Jacob. New A. May 18. (31: 32.)
Schwob, Marcel.
  Anonymous. 'Times Lit. Suppl. Jan. 19. (21:37.)
SHACKLETON, KATHLEEN
  Algernon Blackwood. John. Sept. 3, '21. (612.)
SHANKS, EDWARD.
  Aldous Huxley. L. Merc. June. (6:212.)
  Katherine Mansfield. Queen. March 25. (360.)
  H.G. Wells. L. Merc. March. (5: 506.)
Sternheim, Carl.
  Anonymous. Nat. (London.) Dec. 17, '21. (30:478.)
Stevenson, Robert Louis.
  By John Freeman. L. Merc. April. (5:617.)
  By George Lisle. Corn. Dec.. '21. (706.)
TOLSTOI, COUNTESS SOPHIE.
  Leo Nikolaevich Tolstoi. John. April 22. (69.) April 29. (97.)
Tolstoi, Leo Nikolaevich.
  By Countess Sophie Tolstoi. John. April 22. (69.) April 29.
TOMLINSON, H.M.
  Bret Harte. Nat. (London.) March 11. (30:861.)
Tozzi, Federigo.
  By Lucy Collis-Morley. Nat. (London.) July 16, '21.
  (29:595.)
Trancoso, Fernandez.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Aug. 25, '21. (20:546.)
TREND, J.B.
  Pio Baroja. Nat. (London.) April 1. (31:26.)
  Rámon Pérez de Ayala. Nat. (London.) July 9, '21. (29:550.)
  Miguel de Unamuno. Nat. (London.) Nov, 19, '21. (30:316.)
Turgenev, Ivan.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. Dec. 8, '21. (20:813.)
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. June 15. (21:393.)
  By M.P. Willcocks. Eng. R. Sept., '21. (33:175.)
Unamuno, Miguel de.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. July 28. '21. (20:483.)
  By J.B. Trend. Nat. (London.) Nov. 19, '21. (30:316.)
Von Heidenstamm, Verner.
  Anonymous. Times Lit. Suppl. April 20. (21: 257.)
Walpole, Hugh.
  By J. Middleton Murry. Nat. (London.) July 16, '21.
  (29:584.)
Wells, H.G.
  By Edward Shanks. L. Merc. March. (5:506.)
WEST, REBECCA.
  Sherwood Anderson. New S. Feb. 18. (18:564.)
  Elizabeth Bibesco. New S. March 4. (18:621.)
  James Branch Cabell. New S. May 13. (19:156.)
  Aldous Huxley. New S. May 13. (19:156.)
  D.H. Lawrence. New S. Jane 24. (19:326.)
  Katherine Mansfield. New S. March 18. (18:678.)
  W. Somerset Maugham. New S. Nov. 5, '21. (18:140.)
WILLCOCKS, M.P.
  Anton Chekhov. Eng. R. March. (34:207.)
  Ivan Turgenev. Eng. R. Sept. '21. (33:175.)



VOLUMES OF
SHORT STORIES PUBLISHED IN
GREAT BRITAIN AND IRELAND

JULY, 1921, TO JUNE, 1922

NOTE. _An asterisk before a title indicates distinction. The name
of the American publisher follows in parentheses._


I. ENGLISH AUTHORS

ALBANESI, E. MARIA. Truth In a Circle. Hutchinson.

ARLEN, MICHAEL. *Romantic Lady. Collins. (Dodd, Mead.)

ARMSTRONG, MARTIN. *Puppet Show. Golden Cockerel Press.

BIBESCO, ELIZABETH. *I Have Only Myself to Blame. Heinemann.
(Doran.)

"BIRMINGHAM, GEORGE A." Public Scandal. Hutchinson.

BLATCHFORD, ROBERT. Spangles of Existence. Lane.

BOYD, HALBERT. Men and Marvels. Mathews.

BRADBY, G.F. Ginger and Co. Heinemann.

CASTLE, AGNES _and_ EGERTON. Kitty and Others. Hutchinson.

COPPARD, A.E. *Clorinda Walks In Heaven. Golden Cockerel
Press. (Knopf.)

CRICHTON, C.H. Tales of Love and Hate. Mills and Boon.

DELL, ETHEL M. Odds. Cassell. (Putnam.)

DENNIS, ENID. Once Upon Eternity. Sands.

ELLIS, HAVELOCK. *Kanga Creek. Golden Cockerel Press.

ELSON, ROBERT. Maxa. Hutchinson.

*GEORGIAN STORIES, 1922. Chapman and Hall. (Putnam.)

GIBES, SIR PHILIP. Venetian Lovers. Hutchinson.

GRIMSHAW, BEATRICE. Little Red Speck. Hurst and Blackett.

HARRADEN, BEATRICE. Thirteen All Told. Methuen.

HAZLEWOOD, A. Decision. Morland.

HOWARD, FRANCIS MORTON. *Little Shop In Fore Street. Methuen.

HUXLEY, ALDOUS. *Mortal Coils. Chatto and Windus. (Doran.)

JOHNS, ROWLAND. Mind You: or, Lewys Lad and His Friend
Shadrach. Methuen.

LAMB, T.A. Quilt Tales. Digby Long.

LE QUEUX, WILLIAM. In Secret. Odham's.

LOTHIAN. OSWALD. Little Mediator. Drane's.

LOWIS, CECIL CHAMPAIN. Snags and Shallows. Lane.

LUCAS, ST. JOHN. *Certain Persons. Blackwood.

"MALET, LUCAS." *Da Silva's Widow. Hutchinson. (Dodd.
Mead.)

MANSFIELD, KATHERINE. *Garden Party. Constable. (Knopf.)

MAUGHAM, W. SOMERSET. *Trembling of a Leaf. Heinemann. (Doran.)

MORDAUNT, ELINOR. *Short Shipments. Hutchinson.

*NEW DECAMERON. Third Volume. Blackwell. (McBride.)

NORTHCOTE, AMYAS. In Ghostly Company. Lane.

OSBOURNE, LLOYD. Wild Justice. Heinemann. (Appleton.)

PILCHER, T. D. East Is East. Lane.

QUEER STORIES from TRUTH. Cassell.

RANSOME, ARTHUR. Soldier and Death. John G. Wilson.

RAYMOND, ADOLPHUS, _and_ BUNIN, Miss A. Amongst the Aristocracy
  of the Ghetto. Stanley Paul.

RESSICH, JOHN. Oddly Enough. Richards.

REYNOLDS, MRS. BAILLIE. Confession Corner. Hurst and Blackett.

RHODES, KATHLYN. Desert Cain. Hutchinson.

"RITA." Best Lover. Hutchinson.

ROBERTS, MORLEY. Mirthful Nine. Nash.

ROBEY, GEORGE. Honest Living. Cassell. Thereby Hangs a Tale.
  Richards.

ROBINSON, MAUDE. Nicholas the Weaver. Swarthmore Press.

"ROHMER, SAX." Tales of Chinatown. Cassell.

SACKVILLE-WEST, V. *Heir. Heinemann.

STACPOOLE, H. DE VERE. Men, Women, and Beasts. Hutchinson.

STURT, E.M. LEADER. Detectives' Memoirs. Drane's.

SWAN, E.F.O. Tales of the Western Tropics. Heath Cranton.

"TONIDA." Shy Man's Fantasies. Lund Humphries.

WALLACE, EDGAR. Sandi, the King Maker. Ward, Lock.

WALPOLE, HUGH. *Thirteen Travellers. Hutchinson. (Doran.)

WEEKS, WILLIAM. 'Twas Ordained. W. Pollard and Company.

WINTLE, W. JAMES. Ghost Gleams. Heath Cranton.


II. IRISH AUTHORS

MORTAL COILS. Gill.

O'CONAIRE, PADRAIC. *Woman at the Window. Talbot Press.

O'KELLY, SEUMAS. *Hillsiders. Talbot Press.

SCOT, MICHAEL. Three Tales of the Times. Talbot Press.


III. AMERICAN AUTHORS

ANDERSON, SHERWOOD. *Triumph of the Egg. Cape. (Huebsch.)
  *Winesburg, Ohio. Cape. (Huebsch.)

BERCOVICI, KONRAD. *Gipsy Blood. Nash. (Boni and Liveright.)

CABELL, JAMES BRANCH. *Figures of Earth. Lane. (McBride.)

CATHER, WILLA. *Youth and the Bright Medusa. Heinemann. (Knopf.)

COIES, BERTHA LIPPINCOTT. Wound-Stripes. Lippincott. (Lippincott.)

COMFORT, WILL LEVINGTON _and_ DOST, ZAMIN KI. Son of Power.
  Butterworth. (Doubleday, Page.)

FITZGERALD, F. SCOTT. Flappers and Philosophers. Collins. (Scribner.)

GELZER, JAY. Street of a Thousand Delights. Mills and Boon.

KYNE, PETER B.
  Go-Getter. Hodder and Stoughton.

MARQUIS, DON.
  Carter and Other People. Appleton. (Appleton.)

O'HIGGINS, HARVEY.
  *From the Life. Cape. (Harper.)

TARBELL, IDA M.
  He Knew Lincoln. Macmillan. (Macmillan.)

TERHUNE, ALBERT PAYSON.
  Buff: a Collie. Hodder and Stoughton. (Doran.)

WILEY, HUGH.
  Jade. Heinemann. (Knopf.)


IV. TRANSLATIONS

BUNIN, IVAN. (_Russian_.)
  *Gentleman from San Francisco. Hogarth Press.

CHEKHOV, ANTON. (_Russian_.)
  *Cook's Wedding. Chatto and
  Windus. (Macmillan.)
  *Schoolmaster. Chatto and Windus. (Macmillan.)

"HAMP, PIERRE." (_French_.)
  *People. Cape. (Harcourt.)

PINSKI, DAVID. (_Yiddish_.)
  *Temptations. Allen and Unwin. (Brentano.)

TURGENEV, IVAN. (_Russian_.)
  *Knock, Knock, Knock. Heineman. (Macmillan.)
  *Two Friends. Heinemann. (Macmillan.)





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