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Title: Gray youth - The story of a very modern courtship and a very modern marriage
Author: Onions, Oliver
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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  GRAY YOUTH

  OLIVER ONIONS



  NOVELS BY OLIVER ONIONS

  IN ACCORDANCE WITH THE EVIDENCE
  THE DEBIT ACCOUNT
  THE STORY OF LOUIE
  GRAY YOUTH

  GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
  NEW YORK



  GRAY YOUTH

  THE STORY OF A VERY MODERN COURTSHIP
  AND A VERY MODERN MARRIAGE


  BY

  OLIVER ONIONS

  Author of "In Accordance with the Evidence,"
  "The Debit Account."


  GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY
  NEW YORK

  _Publishers in America for Hodder & Stoughton_



  Copyright, 1913,
  BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY

  Copyright, 1914,
  BY GEORGE H. DORAN COMPANY



  TO
  MARY STEWART



PUBLISHER'S NOTE


Gray Youth is published in England in two volumes under the titles:
The Two Kisses and A Crooked Mile.



CONTENTS


BOOK ONE: A VERY MODERN COURTSHIP--THE TWO KISSES

PART I

  CHAPTER                               PAGE
      ARGUMENT                            11
    I CHEYNE WALK                         18
   II THE SURPRISE PARTY                  33
  III THE FASHION STUDIO                  52
   IV THE MCGRATH                         67
    V POUNDS AND SHILLINGS                83
   VI WOMAN'S WHOLE EXISTENCE             99
  VII THE VOICE THAT BREATHED O'ER EDEN  120

PART II

    I PENCE                              142
   II A DAMSEL ERRANT                    160
  III "BUSINESS AS USUAL"                176
   IV "IL FAUT QU' UNE PORTE--"          191
    V BOND AND FREE                      215

PART III

    I THE LEAGUE                         243
   II "BARRAGE"                          263
  III EPITHALAMIUM                       287
      ENTR' ACTE                         314


BOOK TWO: A VERY MODERN MARRIAGE--A CROOKED MILE

PART I

  CHAPTER                               PAGE
    I THE WITAN                          321
   II THE POND-ROOM                      337
  III THE "NOVUM"                        352
   IV THE STONE WALL                     369
    V THREE SHIPS                        393
   VI POLICY                             414

PART II

    I THE PIGEON PAIR                    435
   II THE 'VERT                          447
  III THE IMPERIALISTS                   463
   IV THE OUTSIDERS                      485
    V "HOUSE FULL"                       503
   VI THE SOUL STORM                     524

PART III

    I LITMUS                             553
   II BY THE WAY                         568
  III DE TROP                            588
   IV GRAY YOUTH                         598
    V TAILPIECE                          620



BOOK ONE

A VERY MODERN COURTSHIP



PART I

ARGUMENT


A girl of seventeen, with a knitted tam-o'-shanter cap and a thick
cable of red-bronze hair hanging down her back, walked along a gallery
of the Louvre, looking for her aunt. The eyes that turned whenever she
heard a footfall or, passing a statue or case, saw a fresh vista before
her, were of a light brown, with just such a hint of gold in their
irises as you see when some opals are turned and catch a different
light; and they were confused and overfilled with the treasures on
which they had rested. She was an art-student, and must return to
London on the morrow in order to resume her studies at the McGrath.

It was her first visit to Paris, and she had spent the whole of
her three weeks at the Cluny and the Luxembourg, at the Louvre and
Versailles. Now, drenched and sated with beauty, she still could not
bear to leave it all. A few minutes before, passing through the Salon
Carré, where an elderly lady had been copying the Entombment, she had
wished that she too might be old and white-haired if only age might so
enlarge her capacity for loveliness, that even youth would be well lost
for it. Already she loved the highest when she saw it, and, being an
artist, she needs must attempt it too.

The girl found her aunt near the spot where the Antinöus stands on its
pedestal, and walked along by her side, neither speaking nor listening
to the elder lady's remarks on the objects they passed. They did not
seem to her to be worth listening to. She knew that for her aunt art
had reached its _comble_ on the day when the late Sir Noël Paton had
affixed his signature to "The Man with the Muckrake," and she had got
out of the way of trying to explain that much water had flowed under
London Bridge and many students flowed through the McGrath since that
time. Besides, she did not want to talk. She wanted this last high hour
in the Louvre as much as might be to herself. She wanted to taste the
full emotion of it, not even analysing it, if only for once analysis
would cry a truce. At the end of the gallery they turned and walked
back again.

It was as they passed the Antinöus for the second time that the girl
felt her young bosom rise almost painfully. She could not have told
why, without premeditation, she suddenly lingered, so that her aunt
passed a little ahead. She watched her disappear behind some plinth or
pedestal or other, and then stopped opposite the marble bust.

There was no knowing when she might find herself in this wonderful
place again, and it seemed to her that her farewell of it now required
some symbol. She gave a furtive glance round. Neither visitor nor
_gardien_ was to be seen, and again something seemed to rise in her
throat. Noiselessly she stole to the pedestal. For a moment she
wondered whether she dared; the next instant she had risen,--in her
low-heeled brown shoes she was hardly more than five feet high,--she
had risen on tiptoe.

She crushed her lips against the Antinöus's marble cheek.

What it was she really kissed she had no idea. They say that male
artists have been known to kiss the pallid mask of the Girl said to
have been found in the Seine, but probably they have kissed, not the
senseless plaster, but some more glowing inner image. But the girl
thought of no young man, Greek and dead or modern and alive. Perhaps
by her act she set young men expressly aside, adoring the imperishable
expression instead. It was the first kiss she had ever given. There was
no sex-impulse in it, and yet it was a gesture of sex. She would not
have known what other gesture to employ.

With a fluttering heart and a heightened colour she rejoined her aunt,
and on the following day returned to London. For days after that a
nameless wistfulness still lingered in her shallow brook-brown eyes.

A fortnight after her return they gave a fancy-dress dance at the
McGrath, and the girl made one of a supper-party of a dozen or more
who, during the interval, in one of the smaller painting-rooms, settled
on the floor in a wide ring, with plates of sandwiches and jelly and
cakes and blancmange making a rapidly disappearing parterre of food in
the middle. The ring was as noisy as a merry-go-round of painted horses
on a Bank Holiday, and they played Hunt-the-Slipper, and perhaps in
the scuffling there was a little crude hand-holding--though nobody held
the girl's hand. Then they went back again to dance in the Antique
Room, where the tall casts, the "Discobolus" and the "Gladiator," the
"Germanicus" and the great writhe of the "Laocoön," had been wheeled
back against the walls, and stood, like so many sightless servitors,
holding wraps and shawls and the fans and oddments that had been put
down on their plinths. The girl danced again.

She was dressed this time as a porcelain shepherdess, in a hooped skirt
of tender pink with tiny sprigs of green sown throughout it. She had
borrowed the dress from one of the other girls. At supper, sitting in
the ring, she had resembled a rose-peony that had been taken by its
stalk and pressed down on the floor. About the slender hyacinth-stalk
of her neck was a black velvet ribbon with a locket, and the thick mass
of her hair peeped over the shoulders of her partners like an irregular
knob of bronze lustre. Her shallow ribboned hat was on "Homer's" head,
between the "Gladiator" and the "Greek Slave."

Some time during the later part of the evening, she was induced by a
young man in evening-dress, with restrained manners but a hardy eye,
to descend the stairs, and, passing the hall-porter's little glass box
and pushing at the outer swing-doors, to take a walk in the courtyard
of the School. The McGrath is only part of a larger institution. In the
forecourt are grass plots enclosed by low swinging chains, and, tall
and dim, with many broad steps and Corinthian columns, the pediment of
the great main portico towers over the court on the eastern side. The
girl and her cavalier crossed the grass plots, ascended the steps, and
stood within the gloom of the pillars.

There, without warning, the young man suddenly stooped and kissed her.

She knew that these things happened, and daily; but tears of misery
and revulsion and shame started into her eyes. It seemed--she did not
know what--a soilure, a coarseness, a bringing down of some lovely and
to-be-dreamed-of thing to mere brutal demonstration. The young man
was not even one of her companions of the McGrath; he was a medical
student, he had told her, and so perhaps naturally insensible to the
finer emotions. With a sudden pained "Oh!" she started from him, her
hands crushed with horror against her pretty cheeks and mouth. She
thought she heard him say, "Why, what's the matter?" but she was not
sure; she was sure of nothing in this moment but of her own sense of
miserable outrage. She left the young man calling softly behind her,
ran quickly down the steps, and reached the dancing-room again.

Near the door as she entered two men stood, looking on. Both were men
of forty-four or forty-five, and one of them was Jowett, the McGrath
Professor of Painting. His companion had just asked him a question; he
tugged at a ragged and grey-streaked moustache before replying.

"Art students? What becomes of 'em? God knows! You might as well ask
what becomes of people who eat their meals in restaurants or little
girls who learn to play the piano. They aren't a class. Perhaps one in
a thousand or fifteen hundred comes to something, but the rest--well,
what this place really is, if you want to know, is a sort of day
nursery for the children of the well-to-do middle class."

"You mean they marry and then drop it?" the other asked.

Jowett tugged again at the unkempt moustache. He spoke patiently and
wearily.

"Oh yes; and co-educate their offspring; and by and by I suppose we
shall have evolved a sort of intermediate sex, half women who make a
hash of doing men's work, and half men who put flowers in their hair
and talk about music. It always seems to me that these girls ought to
be sewing or baking, and the men drinking beer and singing limericks in
a canteen.--There's a girl, now----"

The small creature dressed as a shepherdess had just run past. The eyes
of both men followed her. Jowett continued.

"Miss Amory Towers. She's the pick of 'em; one of the clever ones, I
mean; and as far as my experience takes me, that means she's just a
little too clever for a woman and not nearly clever enough to make a
really satisfactory man. But, of course, she's young, and I may be
wrong.... I put her straight into the Life when she came here, but what
she really needs is somebody to put her into Life in another sense. But
I doubt if anybody here'll do it. These fellows don't see other men
enough; too much squiring these young women about.--Eh? Harm in it?
Not a ha'porth; they're too dashed blameless altogether. Sometimes
it's positively unnatural; it seems to me to raise the very questions
it's supposed to suppress. Probably these youngsters will grow up to
be fifty, and then discover all the follies they've had the chance
to commit and haven't committed, and then they'll go about preaching
doctrines about it all. Really, they scare me sometimes. I'm not
naturally gross, but they do drive a fellow----"

But here the other interrupted him.... "Hallo, your little shepherdess
seems to be going early."

Amory Towers, her tiny figure wrapped in a hood and cloak and her young
heart one unhappy ache to know the meaning of these two first kisses of
her life, was hurrying away.



I

CHEYNE WALK


In Cheyne Walk, Chelsea, there used to stand, and may stand yet, a
tenement of which the ground floor was a small "lock-up" greengrocer's
shop, and the remaining portions either dwelling-rooms or else rooms
that, like the shop, were left at night and returned to again the
next morning. The narrow entry to the right of the shop had once been
white-washed, but was now so discoloured that the street boys had
ceased to scribble on its walls the names of horses and other matters.
It was full of the smell of apples and oranges and of the more suspect
odour of earth and bruised rinds and decaying outer leaves, and there
was usually a cat or two about, licking up the last splash left by the
milkman's can. When a new milkman took the round he was lucky if he did
not come down all-fours at the bottom of the narrow winding staircase
that turned off sharp to the right. The staircase itself was as black
as the inside of a pair of bellows, and a piece of paper at the foot of
it bore two names:

  MISS DOROTHY LENNARD
    MISS AMORY TOWERS

These were followed by the words: "First Floor: if Out, leave Parcels
at Shop."

The landing of the first floor was slightly less black than the
staircase itself, but the grey half-light filtered through, not from
any window, but from the unhinged side of the door of the room rented
by Miss Lennard and Miss Towers. As if the landing had been damp and
the room beyond warm (which possibly was the case), this door, which
was of thin matchboarding, warped inwards quite two inches at the top,
and, indeed, seemed to be held only by the fastening in the middle.
When the door happened to be locked the glimpse through this crack was
always productive of a slight annoyance. It was as if Miss Dorothy
Lennard or Miss Amory Towers was nearly in, or not quite gone away, or
in any case must be returning in a few minutes. People often waited for
quite a long time before finally giving up hope.

Early on an April afternoon some years ago there walked quickly into
the entry and ran confidently up the dark stairs a tall young woman in
a large black picture-hat and a long tea-coloured silk raincoat. On the
first landing she pushed at the door with her foot. There was a short
succession of flapping and shot-like sounds (for if the door skellowed
inwards at the top it stuck correspondingly at the bottom), and then
the door started open and the young woman entered.

"Amory!" she called loudly. "Where are you?"

The last words were superfluous, since (unless she had climbed out
of the long front casement and on to the gutter) it was not possible
for Miss Towers to be in hiding in the room. And out of the square
aperture at the back, that commanded a view of washing, weeds,
discarded bottles, the greengrocer's "empties" and the back gardens
of the west side of Oakley Street, she could not as much as have got
her head. Nor did Miss Lennard wait for an answer. Down the chimney
opposite the door there came a dense yellow cauliflower of smoke; Miss
Lennard hastily closed the door again; and then, first looking for a
moment this way and that, she strode to a black-and-white desk near
the long casement and began to turn over the litter upon it. This,
which was a foot and more high, consisted of magazines and ladies'
journals and tracing-paper and proofs, and it was surmounted, first,
by a plate with a couple of bananas and a half-eaten bunch of grapes
upon it, and secondly, by a glass of water, clear above, cloudy in the
middle, and with a thick reddish sediment at the bottom. As she sought,
Miss Lennard popped three or four grapes into her large O of a mouth,
throwing the skins towards the fireplace, from which another opaque
yellow cauliflower poured, though this time not quite so far out into
the room. She had removed her gloves; her hands were large and firm
and waxen and without rings; and one or other of them found its way of
itself to the grapes while the other continued its search.

The smoking of the chimney had blackened the ceiling, which bellied
downwards in the middle like the under side of a giant's mattress; and
it had also dimmed the surfaces of such of the brighter objects of
furniture as the cheap working-room contained--the picture-glasses, the
gate-legged table, a bowl full of dead daffodils, and some crockery.
But Miss Lennard and Miss Towers frequently said that it was not for
the inside of the room, but for the sake of the views from the long
lattice in front, that they had chosen the place. These were for ever
changing and charming. From a standpoint just within the door you
looked over the Embankment Gardens and saw, through trees, lighters
following the bullying tugs, or barges, their sails reefed to the
sprits, resembling tall attenuated figures in the act of grasping
punting-poles. Placing yourself in the middle of the worn floor you
saw, crossed out as it were by the middle lattice, the Chelsea Jelly
Factory and other buildings across the river. And standing quite by the
fireplace you saw the lacy lines of the Suspension Bridge and the low
grey-green trees of Battersea Park. As the chimney emitted more yellow
curds, Miss Lennard, with an "Ugh!" opened the middle section of this
window. The papers among which she had been searching were instantly
whisked across the floor.

"Bother the thing!" she muttered. "How stupid if it's at Oxford Street
all the time!... I say, Amory, have you seen that Doubleday thing? You
know--the Chemisettes. I was sure I'd left it here."

The door had rattled again, and Miss Amory Towers had entered.

Miss Towers did not answer at once. From a brown pudding-bowl of
a hat with a silken cord round it, she drew out two enamel-headed
hatpins, and hung the hat on a hook. Its removal showed her rich
hair no longer in a plait, but wreathed round and round her head and
interplaited until it resembled a vividly painted fir cone. She wore a
peacock's-neck-coloured blouse with several necklaces of iridescent
shells at the collar; a roughened leather belt encircled the waist that
would have been large had she herself not been so small; and, while the
breeze from the open window rippled in Dorothy's tea-coloured raincoat,
it hardly stirred the folds of Amory's heavier skirt of dusty-looking
brown velvet.

She moved to the window. "I haven't touched your things," she said.

Then she stood, half leaning against the embrasure, gazing moodily
across the river.

Certainly she was fetchingly pretty. As if you had looked at her
through one of the very weak reducing-glasses illustrators use in
order to see how their work will diminish, so her features had not
only a special smallness, but somehow a special brightness of their
own as well. The slight neck was white as a bluebell stalk; the faint
flower-like stippling that never quite broke through into avowed
freckles reminded you of a rubbed old miniature that might have been
painted, not on ivory, but on a lamina of pale gold; and her inordinate
hair lighted up the whole casement angle. But she was perturbed about
something. She watched a string of lighters drift down with the tide,
and then, without turning her head, said, "Dorothy----"

Dorothy, who had been once more searching among the scattered papers,
rose from her knees. She held a piece of paper in her hand. "Got it!"
she cried triumphantly. "I knew I'd left it here.... What?"

"Have you heard about Aunt Jerry?"

"Thank goodness I haven't trailed all the way from Oxford Street for
nothing!... Aunt Jerry? No. What about her?"

"She's going to be married."

Ordinarily Dorothy Lennard's blue eyes were wide, receptive rounds; in
moments of surprise they always seemed to open to twice their size.
They did so now.

"No!... Oh, my dear, _do_ tell me, quick."

"Mr. Massey, at the boarding-house."

"Mr.----? _Not_ the safety-valve?" she cried.

"Yes."

"My--_dear_!... But he's forty if he's a day," Dorothy exclaimed.

"He's forty-three. Aunt Jerry's thirty-eight."

"Oh, but she's such a darling! Have they told people yet? May I write
her a note? When are they going to be married?" Miss Lennard came
as near to asking the three questions all in one as was physically
possible.

"Write if you like. They're getting married in July. I call it----"

But instead of saying what she called it Amory turned impatiently to
the window again. She was biting the corner of her upper lip.

"Why," said Dorothy, checked in her glee, "what's the matter?"

But Amory did not speak. She had been about to say, if a thing so
obvious needed to be said, that it was ridiculous (to say the least)
for people of thirty-eight and forty-three to be thinking about
marriage; but that was not all. There were other things, that, since
Dorothy could not understand them even if she did say them, were
perhaps not worth wasting breath over. Not that Dorothy was actually
dull; but for all that Amory had almost ceased to hope that Dorothy
would ever grasp her, Amory's, true position. Their circumstances were
so very different. Of course Amory was ready to concede that Dorothy,
like herself, did contrive to live on what she earned; she earned from
thirty to thirty-five shillings a week as a fashion artist; but it
was one thing to make do on that, with people behind you to catch you
when you stumbled, and quite another to have (as Amory had under her
godmother's will) a scanty thirteen pounds a quarter, to sell a sketch
or a picture once in a blue moon, and to know that that is all the help
you need look forward to. Dorothy would quickly have found out the
difference had it been she, Amory, who had had the people with houses
in town and places up and down the country, and herself, Dorothy, who
had been the daughter of a poor and clever Cambridge practitioner who
had died before he had managed to get on his feet, and had left his
daughter to live with the only relative she had in the world in a
hateful boarding-house in Shepherd's Bush! And it was all very fine for
Dorothy to joke about it, and to say that the fewer relatives she had
the luckier she was. There was no getting away from it: these things
did give a confidence to Dorothy's stride, and an assurance to her
glance, and an expectation of success to her eyes.

Therefore Amory did not answer when her friend asked her what was the
matter.

But Dorothy, after a moment's cogitation, contrived, though probably
by accident, to hit on what was the matter for herself.

"I must write to her at once," she said. "In July--so soon! I _am_
glad! I _do_ hope they'll be happy!... And what'll you do? Go on living
at the boarding-house?"

Ah! (Amory thought), so Dorothy did see it from somebody's point of
view besides Aunt Jerry's! She moved one shoulder petulantly.

"Aunt Jerry paid the bills there," she said.

"Do you mean that you'll go and live with them when they're married?"
Dorothy asked.

"No, I don't," said Amory with marked brevity. Dorothy hadn't seen her
aunt and Mr. Massey together or she wouldn't have asked that. And one
of them was thirty-eight and the other forty-three! Talk about the
loves of the valetudinarians!

"Well, what will you do?" Dorothy asked again.

Again Amory turned to the window. She spoke with her back to Dorothy.

"What _can_ I do? What is there left? Come and live here, as far as I
can see," she replied.

"Oh," cried Dorothy at once, struck with the idea, "that'll be jolly!"

(Jolly! With that warped door and that chimney! Jolly! Amory almost
laughed.)

"Oh yes, very jolly," she said, tossing the adorable little head.

But Dorothy caught the tone in which she said it.

"Oh, I don't suppose it will be if you're determined it shan't, but
don't I just wish _I_ had your talent and chances!" she replied
cheerfully. "My hat, wouldn't I swap! Why, think of what all the
critics--Hamilton Dix at any rate--are saying about you! You're going
to have a show all on your own----"

"H'm! If I ever do! Don't forget it's been put off three times already."

"Well, but each time it couldn't be helped, and you're going ahead
working all the time, and it'll be a tremendous leg-up for you when
it does come. You ought to have _my_ job, my dear, in the middle of
a catalogue rush, or when you've drawn the lingerie ladies as like
fishes as ever they can be, and you get letters complaining that you're
starting young men on the downward path--you'd come back to your
pictures thankfully enough then, _I_ can tell you! The fact is you
don't know what you do want.... Now I'm going to make a cup of tea and
then I must fly back; I only came for that Doubleday thing. Have some?"

She crossed to the sink, emptied the leaves from the teapot on to the
heap that already choked the trap, and filled the kettle and set it on
the fire.

It always annoyed Amory when Dorothy told her that she didn't know
really what she did want, for she always did know--at any rate for the
time being. True, she had worked in various styles in the past; to
an unintelligent watcher she might even have seemed vacillating and
changeable: but after all, what better course could a student follow
than that? Youth was the time for bold experiment. Settled convictions
too early arrived at were things to be distrusted. And there were
indications that she really had "found herself" at last. She had swept
aside, quite a long time ago, her earlier efforts of the days of the
McGrath; she had outgrown, too, the Meunier-like figures, all muscle
and hammers and leather aprons, that had first attracted Mr. Hamilton
Dix's attention; and all round that Cheyne Walk room were stacked the
canvases of her latest and (she hoped) her finally settled phase--her
Saturday night street-markets, her "character studies" worked up from
sketches made in Whitechapel and Shoreditch, her scenes sketched in
alleys and courts and during long waits in gallery-queues. Therefore
she was a little annoyed with Dorothy now.... Dorothy was clearing the
table and cutting bread-and-butter. Amory continued to look out of the
window.

Then, while Dorothy still prepared tea, she moved from the window
and walked to the little shelf of books that occupied the recess on
the farther side of the fireplace. She took down a volume protected
by a stout brown paper wrapper and began to read as she stood. Still
reading, she sidled slowly back to the window, where the light was
better, and mechanically turned the page. She could always pick up a
book and lose herself at a moment's notice like this. If at such times
she was spoken to, she usually gave an "Eh?" or a "Yes--no, I mean,"
and continued to read. She considered it to be evidence of her powers
of mental concentration.

The book she was reading now was the first volume of _The Golden
Bough_. Such a book, of course, was far too expensive for her to
buy; therefore, in order that she might read it and its kind, she
subscribed to a sort of private Association which was composed of
herself and a dozen or so of her old friends of the McGrath. They
bought the books as they were published, passed them (protected by
the brown paper covers) from one to another, and after a time sold
them back to the bookseller again at diminished (but still quite
good) prices. None but rather expensive and abstruse books were thus
bought; had _The Golden Bough_ been procurable in the Bohn Library the
Association would have felt that something of its choiceness had gone;
and Amory hoped, when she had got through _The Golden Bough_, to be the
next in rotation for certain of the Tudor Translations, and she did
wish Laura Beamish would hurry up with _Apuleius and the Golden Ass_.
These things contributed to breadth of outlook. It had for too long
been a justly-founded reproach against artists that they had no general
culture. Amory felt that, of all people, an artist certainly could
not know too much; and what an artist knows will go, sooner or later,
into his or her art.... She was still deep in _The Golden Bough_ when
Dorothy called, "Ready--come along, Amory----"

Reluctantly Amory laid aside the book and sat down at the little
gate-legged table.

As the two girls took tea they talked of Miss Geraldine Towers's
engagement, of Amory's own plans after the wedding, of the Exhibition
that for various reasons Mr. Hamilton Dix had repeatedly postponed, and
of one thing and another. Then Dorothy rose. She must get back to the
fashion studio in Oxford Street.

"You're going to work, I suppose?" she said, as she tucked the
Doubleday thing into her belt and adjusted her hat before the little
kitchen mirror.

Amory yawned. That was another thing Dorothy never seemed really to
grasp--that while she, Dorothy, might sit down to her absurd attenuated
fashion figures as it were with the striking of a clock, Amory's work
was rather different. Dorothy, of course, always professed to admire
Amory's painting enormously; in a sense she had no choice but to do so,
unless she wished to write herself down an out-and-out fool: but she
never really understood, in spite of the pains Amory had taken with
her. It was rather pathetic.... Amory yawned again.

"Oh, I don't suppose I shall do very much. This about Aunt Jerry's put
me quite off. And"--she grimaced slightly--"there's to-night. They're
having a party, or a celebration, or something at our boarding-house. I
expect that'll be rather ghastly. Want to come and see?"

But Dorothy only laughed.

"To-night? A party? Me? I shall be lucky if I get away by eleven....
And oh, I say, Amory,"--her tone changed suddenly, and all at once she
seemed embarrassed,--"I nearly forgot--there's something--it had almost
slipped out of my head--I hope you won't mind my suggesting it----"

It was part of Amory's cleverness, helped of course by her wide
reading, that she often knew what people were going to say almost
before they knew it themselves. She knew what Dorothy was going to say
now. And it was not true that Dorothy had nearly forgotten; that was
merely false delicacy and a roundabout way of approaching the subject.
Amory smiled.

"You see," Dorothy went on, "there's a job of sorts going--not a
fashion--not exactly a fashion, that is--more like a painting--and I
think the price could be screwed up to fifteen pounds for it--Mercier
would get twenty-five; but then he's Mercier. So I wondered----" She
paused diffidently.

It was not the first time she had tried to put work into Amory's
way. And Amory knew that she was perfectly right in refusing it; it
was Dorothy who did not know that the commercially acceptable thing
is separate in kind, and not a dilution of a different excellence.
Dorothy, by rising, might in time attain to the heights of the great
Mercier, who did "Doubleday Spring Covers," but Amory, stooping,
would only have stooped for nothing. She lifted her golden eyes to
her friend. She was half amused at the success of her guess, and half
sensible of Dorothy's well-meaningness and kindness of heart.

"It's awfully good of you--but you know I simply shouldn't know how to
begin," she said. "I think perhaps I'd better stick to my own job."

"Not if I gave you tips?" said Dorothy, almost wistfully.

"I'm afraid not."

Dorothy openly admired her. The two girls had been at the McGrath
together, and Dorothy's admiration was the homage that artistic vice
(fashion-drawing) paid to artistic virtue (street-markets and an
impending one-man-show).

"I say, Amory, you are plucky!" she exclaimed.

Amory knew that she was not plucky in the least, but it did not
displease her to let it go at that. She murmured something about
"Absurd!" and Dorothy, with a wave, was off. Amory heard her step in
the entry below; then the sound died away on Cheyne Walk.

Left alone, Amory set on the kettle again for washing-up; then, until
it should boil, she looked anew round the room in which, for all she
could see to the contrary, she would soon be living. And tea had now
put her into a rather better humour. After all, it might not be so bad.
Not that it was not all very fine for Dorothy to talk; anybody could
talk lightly about living over greengrocers' shops who had people who
rode in cars with tea-baskets and bridge-tables inside them and lived
in houses with eight-foot baths and electric lights in the wardrobes so
that they could see which frocks they were taking down; nevertheless,
it might not be so bad. Cosimo Pratt would help her. Cosimo was so good
at arranging things. If anybody could make this single dingy room with
the lovely view comfortable, Cosimo could. And Cosimo, unlike Dorothy,
really did understand her painting....

She did not pick up _The Golden Bough_ again; instead, she stood in
front of a photograph of the Gioconda that was pinned to the plaster
wall. It was one of a row--a Rembrandt, a Corot, the Infante, and
others--which she had bought in Paris four years before. She had
Pater's description of the Gioconda by heart, as also she had that of
Richard Jeffries of the Accroupie underneath it; and she was murmuring
the passage, when, with a great burst of steam, the kettle boiled over.
She set about her washing-up.

It was a task she loathed. All domestic work she loathed. In pouring
the boiling water on to the cups and saucers, with the kettle held out
at arm's length so that she should not splash herself, she got hold
of the hot part of the handle; and when she had run cold water on to
the utensils she dipped her fingers into a scalding cup in a corner of
the tin that had not been cooled. The butter on the plates was horrid,
and instead of the proper drying-cloth she got hold of a painting-rag,
with turps on it. A knife-handle came off in the boiling water, and,
incautiously drawing too near the sink, she splashed the brown velvet
skirt after all.

It was as she was washing her greasy hands afterwards that she became
conscious of a vague and familiar odour. From what part of the house
it came she did not know--perhaps from the greengrocer's downstairs,
perhaps from the rooms overhead. It came up the pipe, and it was the
smell of water in which cabbage had been boiled.

Hitherto it had not been worth complaining about, but now, if she
really was coming to live in this room, something would have to be
done. What it was that would have to be done--well, she would ask
Cosimo.



II

THE SURPRISE PARTY


"Glenerne," the boarding-house between Brook Green and Goldhawk Road
in which Amory lived with her aunt, was really two large houses thrown
into one; and, besides sheltering its twenty-odd guests, it served as a
sort of academy for the teaching of English to foreign waiters. These
came--German, Swiss, Danish, Belgian, even Turkish--without a word of
our tongue, gave their services for several months in return for their
food, and a year or so later were to be found in the restaurants of
Frith and Old Compton Streets and the brasseries of Leicester Square,
as English as you please. Perhaps in the manner of food they came off
better than did the guests themselves, for, while the establishment
provided four set meals a day, you had to sit down to all of these
unless you would go slightly hungry. Miss one and you never quite
caught up again.

But you forgot this slight nearness to the knuckle in the fullness with
which Miss Addams's advertisement in _The Shepherd's Bush Times_--the
one that began "Young Musical Society"--was redeemed. Every night there
was something "on"; if it was not a whist drive or singing it was an
impromptu dance in the large double drawing-room on the first floor,
or charades, or a semi-private rehearsal by the Glenerne contingent of
the Goldhawk Amateur Dramatic Society. The _esprit de pension_ was very
strong; it was as if a vow of loyalty to Miss Addams's cruets had been
taken.

The walls of the drawing-room were trophied with the photographs
of former guests; these stood, framed or unframed, in groves on
the mantelpiece (indeed, when Christmas came round with its cards,
it was impossible to open a door without bringing whole castles of
photographs and pasteboard greetings down into the fender); and, ranged
on one special little whatnot between the Nottingham lace curtains
and Millais's framed and glazed supplement of "Little Miss Muffet,"
were Miss Addams's "grand-children"--the offspring of the three or
four gentlemen or ladies who, at one time and another, had left the
boarding-house to get married. About these translated ones something of
the legendary, even of the grandiose, had grown up; and one particular
chair in the dining-room, that on Miss Addams's right hand, was still
known as "Mr. Wellcome's chair."

At half-past eight on the evening of the day on which Amory had told
Dorothy of her aunt's engagement a suppressed gaiety pervaded the whole
boarding-house. Dinner was over, and in the little greenhouse that
prolonged the hall at the expense of the narrow back garden a few of
the men were still smoking; but the drawing-room upstairs was filled
with a twittering of anticipation of the guests knew not what. Except
that it was to be in honour of Miss Towers's engagement, Miss Addams
had refused to tell what the evening's entertainment was to be. But
even those who had missed dinner had been told that that night Mr.
Massey had been promoted to Mr. Wellcome's chair, _vice_ Mr. Edmondson,
Glenerne's youngest gentleman, who hitherto had occupied it in order
to settle a disputed point of precedence between Mr. Rainbow and Mr.
Massey himself.

So, until Miss Addams should deign to declare herself, it seemed as
if whist or dancing might break out at any moment. Mr. Sandys, of the
Lille Road Branch of the East Midlands Bank, seemed loaded with song
on a hair-trigger, and had already cleared his throat once or twice;
little Mrs. Deschamps, who played the accompaniments, needed but a
look to remove her rings, set them in a neat row along the piano-top,
give the stool a twirl, and ask Mr. Geake, the Estate Agent, to turn
over for her; and young Mr. Edmondson, who was a booking-clerk, moved
here and there, humorously complaining that it was a bit thick, his
being ousted from Mr. Wellcome's chair like that. He did not cease to
pester Miss Addams to tell her little mystery. Miss Addams, huge and
pyramidal in her black satin, only smiled over her tatting (she smiled
frequently--the expression caused her slight moustache to pass for the
shadow of a dimple), and told him to wait and see.

"You know how you can get your place back again--after July," she said
demurely.

Miss Geraldine Towers and Mr. Massey were not in the room, and their
absence had already given rise to several of the rallies of wit that
were characteristic of Glenerne. For instance, when the little widow,
Mrs. Deschamps, had asked Amory with an air of great innocence where
her aunt was, and Amory had replied that she thought she was writing
letters, a ventriloquial voice, that might or might not have been that
of Mr. Sandys, had been heard to ask whether Mr. Massey was licking
the stamps; and again, when Mrs. Deschamps had asked Mr. Geake whether
he would be so good as to fetch her book for her (it was on the chair
by the aquarium), Mr. Geake had given the widow an intelligent look
and had replied that he rather thought the corner by the aquarium
was No Thoroughfare. Mrs. Deschamps had given a little apologetic
cough and had said, How stupid of her! and young Mr. Edmondson, whose
conversation was frequently a good deal beyond his years, had raised
a laugh by stroking his smooth lip and saying that he supposed it was
only Human Nature after all.

Amory was sitting on a painted three-legged stool under a standard
lamp, listlessly turning over the pages of a magazine. She hated this
place and these people, and only ironically had she asked Dorothy that
afternoon whether she would not like to come to this party. And she
almost hated her aunt, who was probably still sitting in the little
bead-curtained recess on the landing where the cloudy aquarium stood.
It seemed to her that if Aunt Jerry must get engaged at thirty-eight,
she might at least have done so without giving occasion for this kind
of vulgar and familiar comment. But she supposed that that was what
the "Young Musical Society" of Miss Addams's advertisement really
meant: gouty flirtations, ping-pong in middle age, having your toes
trodden on during scratch dances by stout and breathless partners,
and Progressive Whist with twenty-five-years-old stories told between
the deals. Amory's pretty mouth curled: she saw it all with merciless
clearness. Glenerne seemed to her to be half ancients trying to be
young, and half young people quickly getting old before their time. Oh,
that terrible and affable Mr. Edmondson--that awful Mr. Geake--that
impossible bank clerk, whatever his name was! And the place itself!
These Nottingham lace curtains, with the dreary joke of the artificial
spiders crawling upon them, and the macramé-hung mantelpieces, and the
Japanese joy-bells tinkling on the chandelier, when, with plain brown
or green paper, and a stencilled frieze in two colours, and a Japanese
print or two put just in the right places, and a few chosen books here
and there, even Glenerne might have been made quite passable!... She
was glad she was going to Cheyne Walk. She would at least be among her
own people and her own surroundings there!

She wished herself in Cheyne Walk at that moment when Mr. Edmondson
walked up to her where she sat. It never seemed to occur to Mr.
Edmondson that his company might not be at all times desirable, and
she almost shrank from him as she found her great fir-cone of red-gold
hair only an inch or two from his green knitted waistcoat. At a greater
distance, she sometimes glanced at this waistcoat with interest, as if,
in this place where the old became young again at the expense of their
juniors, she expected Mr. Edmondson to become visibly stouter from day
to day. Mr. Edmondson spoke now with idiotic cheerfulness.

"Looking at pictures, eh?" he said parentally. "Don't you get a bit
fed-up with 'em after a whole day of it?"

"No," said Amory.

"Don't you, really! Well, I must say illusterated papers have made
great strides this last few years. Who'd ha' thought of a _Daily
Spec_ a few years ago? And we think nothing about it now. I see 'em
out o' my little window once the morning rush slacks off a bit--the
bookstall's just opposight--they chuck their ha'pennies down one after
another--'_Spec!_' they say--never think twice about it."

"Oh?" said Amory. Mr. Edmondson might have been the historian of modern
journalism, looking back. He continued.

"'Uge circulation it must have; why, I've known 'em get through as
many as thirty-eight quires in a single morning at our place alone;
_some_body must make some money out of it! I forget what their divvy
is.--But I wonder you don't get fed-up with pictures for all that.
It'll be like me dealing out tickets instead of cards for whist."

"Almost the same," said Amory.

Mr. Edmondson looked at her for a moment suspiciously, as if he thought
she was getting at him. Not very long before, Mr. Edmondson would have
resented being got at by girls, especially in his green waistcoat; but
he had grown soberer and more tolerant since then. He went avuncularly
on.

"What d'you suppose Miss Addams is going to spring on us? I guessed
French blind-man's bluff for a start, with word-making and whist to
cool off a bit on: but Mrs. D. says forfeits.... What, are you off?"

"Yes, I've a letter to write."

"That's the style: business before pleasure. I hope you write in a good
light always: nothing worse for the eyes than writing in a bad light.
It's no good wishing you had your eyesight back again when it's gone:
the thing is to take care of it while you're young. I saw a bit in the
paper the other day--it was about reading in bed----"

But Amory fled.

As she dropped the _portière_ of the drawing-room door behind her
she encountered her aunt on the landing. She stopped. She was very
angry with her aunt; she felt that her aunt was making of her, too, a
laughing-stock. She turned her shallow brook-brown eyes, but hardly her
head, as she spoke.

"I do think----" she began impetuously, and stopped. She stopped out of
the sense that these things ought not to have to be said. In making it
necessary for Amory to remark on them at all her aunt was putting her
into a false position.

Miss Geraldine Towers had her hand on the knob of the door. She smiled,
but did not turn the knob.

"What, dear?" she asked amiably.

"I do think you needn't set them all talking the way you do. You might
think of me a bit. Really, it's rather much sometimes."

For a moment Miss Towers turned pink, then she laughed. She was plump
and personable; her new way of doing her hair had taken ten years off
her age and if her high lace collar was rather tight and did cut her a
little under her second chin, well, we all have our troubles, and there
are worse ones than plumpness. She straightened her wisteria-coloured
satin blouse so that the waist above the tailor-made fawn skirt looked
its smallest, and tilted her laughing head back so that it seemed to
rock on the two points of her collar-whalebones as if they had been
gimballs.

"My dear," she broke out, "_don't_ be so absurdly solemn! Try to enjoy
yourself; you'll never be younger than you are now! And I do wish you
wouldn't go about in those sad art-colours always. You look like a
sparrow having a dust-bath. They may be all right for pictures, but it
isn't as if you sat in a frame all day. Good gracious, anybody'd think
you were eighty to see you sometimes! Laugh and the world laughs with
you, my dear. Come inside, and don't be silly; we're going to have
great fun."

But again Amory turned away.

More than once she had had a wild wonder whether that trip to Paris had
not had something to do with her aunt's preposterous rejuvenescence;
but no, it was hardly possible that while she herself had wandered
in the museums Aunt Jerry had given herself to secret and wicked
pleasures. No, it was the boarding-house and the young musical society
again. That clever advertisement had really made Aunt Jerry think
that she was young.... It did not occur to Amory that perhaps these
ancient ones, of forty or fifty or more, had earned a rest. It did
not occur to her that life might have bruised and scarred them, and
that they laughed a little loudly and stridently for fear of worse,
and that there was hardly one of them whose eyes had not rested on
sadder and more sordid and tragic scenes than her own had ever seen.
She saw them, as it were, in the flat, as a mere human pattern, and
when she was bored with it, Glenerne was a thing to be shut up like
one of its own photograph albums. Their manners offended her, and she
inquired no further.... In the meantime, however, flirtatious little
Mrs. Deschamps would sit in a corner with anybody, and her aunt entered
into an engagement at an age when she really might have been expected
to be thinking of serious things, and the whatnot in the corner, with
its photographs of Glenerne's grandchildren, was a source of mirth that
seemed never to run dry, and if Amory must be misunderstood, well, it
was better to be misunderstood than to be understood by these terrible
people.

Amory went to her room and took down a volume of Pater.

But she had hardly opened the book when there came a tap at her door,
and, in response to her "Come in," her aunt's middle-aged fiancé
entered.

Dorothy Lennard had called Mr. Massey the safety-valve because he
always seemed to use three times as many "s's" in his conversation as
anybody else. These escaped over a neat little row of very white lower
teeth like those of a bulldog. The dark hair that grew up the sides
of his head always reminded Amory of the elastics of an old pair
of boots, and his cropped dark moustache did not interfere with his
perpetual gentle hissing. He wore gold glasses and a closely-buttoned
frock-coat; he was an educational bookseller in St. Mark's Road; and it
had now been known for some hours in the boarding-house that he, a man
of some substance, had been moved to come to Glenerne first of all by
the sight of Miss Geraldine Towers shaking the crumb-tray out of the
window to feed the birds.

"My dear Amory," said Mr. Massey, "Geraldine has asked me to come and
see whether you won't join the rest of us in our little celebration. I
need not say that it would be pleasant if you would assist."

Without (she thought) too open an appearance of resignation, Amory
closed her book again. She supposed she must.... "All right, if you
like," she said, without fervour.

"Thank you," said Mr. Massey gratefully. "I was sure you would not
absent yourself.--And since I am here, I wonder whether I might say a
word for which occasion has not hitherto presented itself?"

Amory was silent, noting the educational bookseller's periods. He
continued.

"It is perhaps a little too early to speak of it, but it might set your
mind at rest. When Geraldine and I are married, in July if all be well,
I do not want you to feel that any difference to yourself will be made.
Your home, if you wish it, will still be with us."

Amory broke out a little quickly, as if not to leave it for a moment in
doubt that she was properly grateful, "Oh, thank you so very much, Mr.
Massey----"

"George--or Uncle George----" said Mr. Massey gently.

"--Uncle George--and I do hope you won't think me horrid--but I thought
of living in my studio----"

Mr. Massey made a little calming gesture with his hands, as if to say
that all should be exactly as she pleased. He nodded several times.

"I understand; your art; you know best; don't think I wish to put the
least constraint on you. I only want to assure you that your aunt's
house is always at your disposal," he said kindly.

"Thank you so much," said Amory hurriedly; and there was a sudden pause.

"It will probably," Mr. Massey went on deliberatively, as if he passed
a succession of desirable dwellings in mental review, "be on the Mall.
Yes, Chiswick Mall. One sees such sweet sketches there, especially of
sunsets. But in case you do elect to occupy your studio, there will
be a little business we shall have to arrange. It may even include a
little money. But we can talk of that later.--Shall we join the others,
my dear?"

He was genuinely fond of her. When she touched her hair before the
little white-draped glass he discreetly turned his back, almost as if
he wished to reassure Amory about any stray jest she might have heard
about the aquarium corner; and then after a moment he punctiliously
gave Amory his arm. They returned to the drawing-room.

Perhaps Miss Addams herself had become a little anxious about her
promised surprise, and had decided to make sure of something else in
case it failed her, for they had begun to dance. Every boarder was
there, including M. Criqui, the Frenchman; and, ranged inseparably
against the wall, were the three Indians whose faces resembled olives
with white moving eyes. Mats and rugs had been pushed back to the
walls; M. Criqui "turned" for Mrs. Deschamps; Mr. Edmondson was
waltzing with pretty Miss Crebbin, the typist; and Mr. Sandys danced
with Miss Swan, of the Preparatory School near the tram terminus.
The window looking on to the back garden was open; the screen of
pock-marked coloured glass had been drawn in front of the fire; and
the pictures on the walls moved slightly in the draughts. Mr. Geake
had placed himself on point-duty near the folding-doors, and was
shepherding couples past the awkward place; and from a group of men
who conspired out on the landing came sudden bursts of laughter from
time to time. Mr. Massey, the hero of the occasion, left Amory, and
moved here and there, patting backs, touching elbows, and ever and anon
beaming with mild delight about him and rubbing his hands.

The waltz ended, and another began; and Mr. Edmondson, who seemed to
have shaken off his seriousness and to have lapsed into youth again,
came up to Amory and asked her whether he might have the pleasure.
Amory, resolved to go through it now that she was here, placed her
hand on his arm. "Might as well have one of these while there's any
left," he said genially, snatching a paper fan from the mantelpiece as
they passed; "I wonder what those blighters are up to!" He indicated
the group that conspired near the door.... "You ain't interested
in football, I s'pose? I'm going to the Final at the Palace on
Saturday--special leave, what oh!--Donkins'll take my place--and it
won't half be a squeeze, I give you _my_ word! Funny place to go for a
squeeze, eh, Miss Amory?"

Mr. Edmondson was now quite the Mr. Edmondson of the green waistcoat,
not to be got at by girls if he knew it.

And still the inscrutable Miss Addams, with her eye drifting a little
more frequently towards the door, gave no sign.

"Here, I say, come orf it!" Mr. Edmondson grinned as he and Amory
passed M. Criqui and Mrs. Deschamps for the fourth time. They were
talking French. "No taking advantage, Criqui!... I don't call that
playing the game," he continued to Amory. "But you talk French, of
course?"

"A little," said Amory.

"Hanged if I can make out half what them blighters say," Mr. Edmondson
continued cheerfully. "In English, I mean. One of 'em came up this
morning--8.45--right in the thick. '_To-tnm-co-croad!_' he says, just
like that; and if I don't give him a brief for Tott-n-m C't Road and
the right change before you can say knife I've got Aspinall down on me
like a cartload o'bricks. It ain't no tea-party, my job ain't, not in
the thick, you take _my_ word for it! Chap tried to ring a bad two-bob
on me this morning; broke in two in the clip--you've seen the clips we
use, haven't you? What, you haven't? Just you notice some time!--Broke
in two--like that--and him barging there with twenty people behind
shouting 'Hurry up' and prodding him with their sticks and brollies.
Oh, it's a pinch, I _don't_ think!"

But still Miss Addams's surprise didn't come. After that waltz Mrs.
Deschamps flatly refused to play again until she had had a dance, and
so Miss Crebbin, the typist, played, to calls of "New ribbon, Miss
C----! Mind the visible writing!" Then Mrs. Deschamps sat, first by the
door, where she told M. Criqui that all Frenchmen had such dreadful
reputations, and next at the open window at the back, where she asked
him what "In the Spring a Young Man's Fancy" was in French, and then
disappeared altogether. Aunt Geraldine, laughing, moved everywhere,
with Mr. Massey following her with his hands clasped behind his back,
and if she had to show her half-hoop of diamonds once she had to do so
a dozen times. Then Mrs. Deschamps came back, crying over her shoulder,
"If you tell, M. Criqui, I'll never speak to you again!" but M.
Criqui did tell, of how Mrs. Deschamps, venturing into the greenhouse
downstairs that was used as a smoking-room, had been detained almost by
force until she had smoked half a cigarette.

Nor was it Miss Addams's surprise even when one of the group of men who
had been conspiring by the door handed an envelope to Mrs. Deschamps.
"A note for you, Mrs. D.," he said, and Mrs. Deschamps turned it
backwards and forwards and said she wondered who it could be from.
She tore the envelope open and then fell back with a shriek, while
the circle of men about her roared and slapped one another on the
shoulders. A small object had leapt from the envelope with an angry
buzz, and now lay still on the floor.

"The Kissing Bee!" shouted elderly Mr. Rainbow, making a reckless
attempt to assume the voice of a Ludgate Hill hawker.

"Causes 'eaps o' fun and roars o' laughter!" Mr. Beeton, of the
cycle-works, cried.

"Don't go 'ome wifaht it!----"

"One penny!----"

"Knocks the jam-splosh and the spill of ink silly, eh, what?"

"Here, let's have a look--where do you get 'em?"

"_Oh_, you wretches!" pouted Mrs. Deschamps.

And then, in the very midst of the hubbub, Miss Addams's surprise was
upon them. A Belgian waiter stood in one of the doorways. He held
himself more erect than usual against the wall; save that the tips of
his fingers were turned in to prevent his too loose cuffs from falling
too far down, his attitude would have been that of perfect "attention."

"Mis-tairr----Ooell-come!" he announced.

A shout went up that stirred the dust on the chandeliers. Stout,
red-faced, rubbing his hands, and (in flat violation of Miss Addams's
rule) puffing a gigantic cigar, Mr. Wellcome himself stood in the
doorway, frowning humorously on the group that twisted with laughter
about Mrs. Deschamps.

"Now, now, now, now, now--what's all this about?" Mr. Wellcome cried
with mock severity.

Acclamations broke forth.

"Wellcome, by Jove!" cried Mr. Rainbow, in a sort of glad consternation.

"Bravo!" shouted Mr. Geake. "It's old Wellcome!"

"Come in out o' the wet!"

"Welcome, Wellcome!"

"Hooray!"

Mr. Wellcome came in, crossed straight to Miss Addams, kissed her
without a moment's hesitation (only remarking, "When the cat's
away--eh?"), slapped his hands loudly together, and then, turning his
head half a dozen times this way and that, cried, "Well, and how are we
all, eh?"

They cheered him again.

"And now where's Massey and the blushing one?" Mr. Wellcome demanded;
and when he had found them and shaken hands with them he almost doubled
the scholastic stationer in two with the blow he gave him between the
shoulder-blades. He gave a "Ha, ha, ha!" of amazing volume.

"Done it now, my boy!" he cried. "Nasty things, actions for Breach!
Twopence on the bus from High Street to the Broadway now! Well,
well, we all do it, even the flies on the sugar-basin! Congrats,
congrats.--Now, Mrs. Deschamps! Damme, I must have a kiss from you too,
if it was only for the sake of old times!--Where's Mrs. W----? Tut-tut,
_you_ ought to know better than to ask; ask Massey, he knows--or he
will one of these days!... Well, now we're all here let's get on with
the Prayer Meeting. _Phtt!_"

Mr. Wellcome whistled and snapped his fingers to the waiter at the door.

For Mr. Wellcome never came empty-handed. The Belgian waiter approached
with a tray, and it was now discovered that another tray chock-full
of jingling glasses stood outside. Mr. Wellcome travelled for Perclay
Barkins & Co., and knew butlers and wine-tasters and cellarmen and
head-waiters, and was to be relied on for valuable information about
vintages and bottling and tobacco-crops.--"Stand there, Whiskerino, by
Miss Addams," he commanded the waiter; and from the tray he began to
toss into Miss Addams's lap a number of articles.

"Thought you might find a use for these," he said off-handedly. (They
were packs of cards that had been used once in some Club or other.)
"And you might as well have the latest multiple corkscrew as anybody
else, I suppose, eh? Catch!--Now, friends and gentlemen all, oblige
me by joining me in a smoke. The curtains, mother? Dash the curtains;
Massey don't get engaged every day, at least I hope he doesn't; not
that there's any knowing what some of them does under the rose--ha, ha,
ha!... Now, Sandys, help yourself. Here's a cutter. Smoke half of it,
and then throw t'other half away; there's plenty more in the box.--Now,
where's Rainbow? Here you are; you're my man; _you_ know a little
bit of all right when you taste it; half a minute, and I'll ask your
opinion of _this_----"

Mr. Wellcome's face became deeply serious as he stooped for a minute;
then, as he stood upright again with a bottle in his right hand and a
liqueur glass in his left, it shone once more.

"Steady ... _there_!" He passed an exquisitely filled glass to Mr.
Rainbow. "Warm it in your hands a minute first--this way--smell it--and
now roll it slowly round the inside o' your mouth!----"

Had Mr. Rainbow been Cinquevalli balancing the billiard-balls every eye
could not have been more intently on him.

"_Mmmmmm!_" he murmured ecstatically, lips closed, nostrils gently
sniffing, eyes fondling the glass.

"Eh?" said Mr. Wellcome, winking to all and sundry, as much as to say,
Hadn't he told them so? "Eh? What? Spanish, should you say? _I_ should
think so! W. W. gives you _his_ word for that, worth something or worth
nothing as the case may be!... Now, all! Rainbow's only the taster,
in case it was poison; you hold that tray steady, Antonionio; ladies
first, I think, is the law of politeness----"

And the tiny glasses, rich and deep as Amory's hair, were passed round.

Never such a party had been given at Glenerne. The smell of the cigars
and the brandy filled the air like some incense burned before the god
of the naughty World; more witty things were said by loosened tongues
than their owners could ever hope to remember. Fun? Oh, there was fun
when Mr. Wellcome himself took matters in hand!... "Now, who says
a flutter?" he said by and by, shuffling one of the packs of cards
as only Mr. Wellcome could shuffle cards. "For love, Nellie--and
forfeits----" But Nellie (Mrs. Deschamps) had already been fluttered
by the Kissing Bee, and was in a mood too softened for cards; and, for
fear the brandy should have affected anybody, another tray with strong
coffee was passed round by Omar K, the red-fezzed boy from Smyrna with
the face of the hue of a chocolate "shape." They kept it up late; for
once the "lights out at eleven" rule was suspended; and even Amory sat
up quite a long time after she might without singularity have gone to
bed. At last Mr. Wellcome rose. He for one had enjoyed himself just
fair-to-middling, he said. The mats and rugs were left where they were,
pushed back against the walls. Quite twenty voices downstairs in the
hall sang that Mr. Wellcome was a jolly good fellow, and what remained
of the Spanish brandy was brought downstairs for the two policemen who
(nobody knew how) were presently discovered, smiling and with their
helmets in their hands, just within the front door.--"Best respects,
sir," said one of them, and "Many of 'em," said the other.

And so said all the rest.



III

THE FASHION STUDIO


The Fashion Studio that employed Miss Dorothy Lennard had originally
been, and in a sense was still, the enterprise of a small printer; and
Dorothy had been what Amory called "lucky" to get there. Had Amory
herself wanted a post as an apprentice to fashion-drawing, she would
have had to fill her folio with "specimens," to sit with half a dozen
other applicants in a waiting-room until it had pleased some manager or
proprietor to touch a bell and to give orders that the prettiest one
was to be admitted, and then, on her work or prettiness or both, to
take her chance. But Dorothy had been enabled to skip all that. Even
more than the wealthy Lennards and Taskers who stood in the background
behind her, a certain blindness to higher things had given Dorothy an
advantage from the start. She had, for example, quite unprincipled ways
with men. Almost any one woman (Dorothy was in the habit of reasoning
modestly) could turn any one man round her finger if she went the right
way about it; and it seemed to her that the men knew that too. If they
didn't, why were they always trying to dodge the individual issue, and
to say such fearfully solemn things about the abstraction of Womanhood
itself? Dorothy thought she saw the reason. It was that, in the lump,
men could usually manage them. It was in detail that they hadn't a
chance.

Therefore Dorothy, having quite made up her mind who her printer-victim
was to be, had not for a moment dreamed of writing him a letter
and then waiting on him with a folio. Instead, she had cast about
among cousins and so forth until she had found one who knew the
sleeping-partner of the firm. Then, after some little consideration of
ways and means, she had contrived to meet this sleeping-partner, this
maker and unmaker of mere printers, not in the firm's matchboarded
office with the machines growling overhead, but at supper at an hotel.
These things make all the difference to the consideration in which
you are held.... She had hardly had to ask for her job. Machinating
men, with their stories and drinks and cigars, can do a good deal, but
Dorothy knew how to make of her guileless blue eyes a spiritualizing
of mere drinks and stories and cigars. She had, too, ideas the very
_naïveté_ of which was likely to strike a man immersed in mere dull
business routine. Meeting the printers' sleeping-partner again, this
time at a lunch that spread over into tea-time, she had been able to
drop into his ears her own purely personal conviction (against which he
would, no doubt, see any number of reasons: still, there it was)--her
conviction that his fashion-business, as it stood, was not capable of
very much further development. It was not her affair, she had said;
that was merely how it struck her; but--she wondered whether the band
_could_ be induced to play the "Chanson Triste!"----

And so the printers' catalogue-business had been turned topsy-turvy.

The printing-office was in Endell Street, and the printing was still
done there; but the fashion-studio was there no longer. It was now
in Oxford Street, not far from Manchester Square and the Wallace
Collection. The single room on the top floor overlooked the vast
interior square where, later, acres of glass roofs and flying bridges
of iron were to arise; in a word, they had subrented part of the
premises of Hallowell & Smith's, the huge Ladies' Emporium--and if you
have never heard of Hallowell & Smith's it is not Hallowell & Smith's
fault. A mutually profitable "dicker" that had something to do with
Hallowell & Smith's minor printing made the place cheap; and, though
the firm's Summer and Winter Catalogues were still drawn and printed
elsewhere, nothing (it had seemed to Dorothy) would be lost by allowing
Hallowell & Smith's to discover presently that they had facilities for
this kind of work actually on the spot.... This was the kind of hint
she had dropped to the power behind the printer who had shown himself
so fussy about the ice-pail and the music "by request." She had no
plan, but streams did seem to set in certain directions, and it was
not much good going against them. They had not obtained the order for
Hallowell's Catalogues yet, but one thing at a time. Dorothy must learn
her own part of the business first. She must practise her Fur-touch,
graduating to Feathers, and so on to faces themselves. More might
happen by and bye.

In one respect at least the change was not altogether for the better,
for, bad as the rumble of the machines at Endell Street had been,
Hallowell's mammoth rebuilding, which included much throwing down of
old walls amid eruptions of lime and dust, and the running day and
night of a crane the top of which lost itself in the blue air, was
worse. These activities shook the whole fabric of the place, playing
the very deuce with Torchon and Valenciennes. But in every other
respect the change was not only an improvement, but the Fashion Studio
now stood in the full stream of general developments. It only needed
a time-serving, and, for choice, a feminine mind, and there was no
telling what might not happen.

To reach the upper room where the seven or eight girls worked, you
had to pass from the lift along a long concrete-floored corridor and
then through a large outer room that was one of the sitting-rooms
of Hallowell's "living-in" female employees. Of the fashion-drawing
factory Miss Porchester was head. She herself went out in the mornings
to shops and warehouses to sketch, sometimes taking as many as a
dozen buses and cabs in the course of a single morning; and in the
afternoon she returned with, the fruits of her wanderings--or, rather,
with the seeds, for they were yet to grow and ripen marvellously. Fat
Miss Benson took them in hand first. With a foot-rule by her side for
checking, lest there should be too much even of a good thing, she
roughed in those elongated and fish-like figures which, if you would
see them in normal proportion, you must squint at aslant up the tilted
page. Then Miss Hurst or blonde Miss Umpleby took over the drawing,
further developing the Tea-gown or the Walking Costume, or the lady
in her corsets riding in a motor car, or whatever it might be. From
them it passed to Miss Smedley or Miss Cowan, who worked it up with
lamp-black or Chinese-white or what not, for Miss Ruffell to put in
the faces, large-eyed and soulful. Dorothy measured and squared the
production, gave a last look to see that the fish-like ideal had not
been lost in its progress from hand to hand and that there was nothing
else that might start a young man on the downward path, and put a line
round it if a line was needed. Pigtailed little Smithie affixed the
protecting piece of tissue-paper. It was finished.

Miss Porchester, gaunt and dark, sat at a little table apart, where she
could keep an eye on her staff. She kept the register of work done, and
saw that the requisite "points" were properly emphasized--the new skirt
"set" with a slight difference, the hat tilted an inch lower over one
eyebrow than during the season before. She received the travellers, and
taught her girls, if they must talk to one another as they worked, to
do so without removing their eyes from their sheets of Bristol-board.
Quite animated conversations would go on by the hour together without
so much as a head moving; and Dorothy's own blue eyes, which were
never so wide open but that they could always open a little wider,
would contract and dilate over her work as she talked as if they had
contained a pulse.

Whatever Amory might think about it, the other girls too thought
Dorothy lucky to have had a real art-training. They had not been to the
McGrath.... And, quite apart from the _cachet_ this gave her, Dorothy
herself certainly had a way with her. Miss Smedley, for example, was
as old as Dorothy, but Miss Smedley, for no reason that could be
described, always seemed to move in an atmosphere of kindlily-bestowed
pity; but nobody would have dreamed of pitying Dorothy. It was
very much the other way. As if they had known her methods with
sleeping-partners (which they did not), they looked up to her. Her
sayings were repeated, her mistakes covered up for her; and even Miss
Porchester never gave her "one for herself." She was the only one of
the girls so exempted.

One morning at about the time Miss Geraldine Towers became engaged to
Mr. Massey, the fashion-studio was able at last to draw a long breath
of relief and to tell itself that the worst of the half-yearly rush was
about over. The last page of the last Summer Catalogue had been sent
off to Endell Street, and for a month or two only the normal trickle of
odd jobs would be coming in. Even the rule about not moving your head
as you talked had been relaxed, and only one cloud marred the general
sense of release--the certainty that some of the girls would be "given
a holiday" until the next rush began in the Autumn. The girls were
discussing this that afternoon. Miss Porchester had gone to Endell
Street; fat Miss Benson, her second in command, had passed through
the adjoining sitting-room half an hour before, and was guessed to be
talking on the stairs with Mr. Mooney, of Hallowell's Handkerchief
Department; and Dorothy also intended to take the risk of Miss
Porchester's inquiring for her and to fly off presently to Cheyne Walk.

"Oh, _you_ needn't worry, Smithie," said Miss Umpleby, her chair tilted
back so that her primrose hair and clasped hands rested against the
coats and jackets on the wall. "They always want somebody to run about
and be useful. Hilda and I'll be the ladies till August. We shall come
back again with the Furs."

Hilda Jeyes had her elbows on the table; she was munching an apple.

"It all comes of our being kept at the one thing, over and over again,"
she declared. "Look at me: what am I? A Camisole Specialist! Why, if I
was to be set to do Damask, or Mourning, or Boots, like Benny, I should
no more know where to begin than I could fly! If only that girl on the
_Daily Spec_ would die! I'd be after her place in two twos, I promise
you!"

"They never die when they're on newspapers," Miss Umpleby remarked,
with the detached air of one who reminds her hearers of a well-known
fact in mortality statistics. "Splendid thing for the health. I wonder
the doctors don't prescribe it."

"And when they get married they stick to their jobs just the same,"
another girl commented. (To be on the staff of a newspaper, it may be
said, is the prize of the fashion-artist's profession.)

"No ladies with one foot on a chair for the _Daily Spec_, like the one
you began this morning," Miss Umpleby remarked.

"Well, what chance have we here, I should like to know, with one
roughing out all the time, and another doing nothing but heads, and
another the curly-cues! There isn't one of us except Benny who could do
a job right through!" Hilda Jeyes grumbled.

"Just so that we can turn the stuff out quicker!" somebody else joined
in. "'Holiday's' a good name for it, I _don't_ think!"

Miss Umpleby turned her eyes nonchalantly to the coats above her head.
"Monte Carlo for me, I think," she said. "Then I shall be able to put
in those petticoat bodices with Casino backgrounds and do somebody else
out of a job."

Hilda Jeyes threw away the core of her apple. "You needn't growl,
anyway, Umpy. You are engaged."

"So I am," remarked Miss Umpleby, as if she had just remembered it. "I
think I'll ring my source of trouble up now." She brought the chair
down on to its fore-legs again. "Tell me if Benny comes. You can all
listen if you like.--Hallo, Exchange!--One-six-double-one Hop!"

And at the telephone on Miss Porchester's table she began a conversation
in which the words "Carlton ... or the Savoy if you like ... Mentone
... I've a little time on my hands now," recurred from time
to time.

Dorothy herself had more than once thought that this sub-division of
work was hard on the girls. Umpy lived with her mother near dotting
Hill Gate Station, and was engaged to a boy who got thirty shillings
a week as a clerk in the Russian Import trade; Benny and Hilda Jeyes
shared cheap rooms somewhere in Bloomsbury; the others lunched on buns
or brought bread-and-butter or sandwiches in paper, and would have had
to spend an hour in looking for a dropped shilling had they been so
fortunate as to possess a shilling to drop. All were at the mercy of
the half-yearly rush and the intervals of idleness between. Dorothy had
sometimes wondered whether she herself ought not to have sponged on her
relations rather than keep one of these needy girls out of a place....
But she was a practical young woman, with more plans than theories,
and eyes that did not carry over many of the dreams of the night into
the working days; and beyond a certain point she refused to shoulder
the responsibilities of a world she had had no hand in making. Up to
that point--well, if (say, by and by) she were ever to "run" a studio
of this kind, she would see that the work was not so sub-divided that
her girls had no chance in the open market. And she would offer now
and then a little inducement over and above wages, and would arrange
for them to get quite good but shop-soiled things at a fair reduction,
and would get them to take an interest in their work, and would stop
Hilda sucking her brushes, and would have the brick taken out of that
ventilation-pipe, and another set of wash-bowls, and would annex that
adjoining room, and--and--well, anyway, if Catalogues had to be done
like this, she would see that those who did them were no worse off
with her than with anybody else, and perhaps a bit better.... And now
she must get off to Cheyne Walk. She rose, and went for her hat and
raincoat.

"You're not off, are you, Lennie?" said Miss Umpleby. She had finished
talking into the telephone. Her last words had been, "Mean old
thing!... Well, will you treat me to eighteen-pennorth at the Finbec,
then?... Fried plaice and chips?... All right...."

"Yes. Another stroke in my unfortunate family, tell Porchester. They
came in a cab to fetch me. Good-bye...."

She sought the lift, descended, passed along the narrow alley to the
side street, and caught an Oxford Street bus.

Her reason for leaving early was to warn Amory that guests might
be expected at Cheyne Walk that evening. Going out to lunch that
day she had met, coming away from the Wallace, a party of her old
fellow-students of the McGrath. She had recognized them fifty yards
away up Duke Street--tall Cosimo Pratt, without hat and with a grey
flannel turned-down collar about his shapely throat, Walter Wyron in
his snuff-coloured corduroys, Laura Beamish, Katie Deedes, and two or
three other girls in clothes that (it seemed to Dorothy) looked as if
a touch of opaque Chinese-white had somehow found its way into clear
greens and russets and browns.--"Why, there's Dorothy!" Walter Wyron
had exclaimed, turning from the Peasant Industries Shop on the west
side of the street. "Hi, Dorothy!..." (Half the street had turned to
see who shouted so.) "_Dorothy!_..." (The other half of the street had
turned.) "Come here and tell us how's Fashions!..."

They had borne Dorothy off to a teashop to lunch.

Dorothy sometimes wished that they would find a newer joke than that
about her occupation. It seemed to come virgin to them every time they
met. It was not as if she had had any illusions about it. Moreover,
when you came to think of it, Walter Wyron (much as Dorothy admired his
decorative drawings in black and white), only published one of them
every three or four months, and lived on his hundred and fifty a year
the rest of the time. And handsome Cosimo Pratt had never published a
drawing nor exhibited a painting in his life. Of course, even their
failures were as much higher than Dorothy's successes as the heavens
are higher than the earth: but Miss Porchester would not have trusted
one of them with a Summer or Winter Catalogue cover. In her secret
heart Dorothy was rather glad that Amory had not accepted her own offer
of a day or two before. Mercier was going to do it. And Mercier didn't
suppose it would be bought for the nation when it was done.

But for all that they had rather rubbed Dorothy's job in at lunch that
day, and, when they had tired of doing so directly, had continued to do
so indirectly by asking, in altered tones, questions about Amory and
what she was doing. When (they wanted to know) _was_ that show of hers
going to be? _Why_ didn't she hurry Hamilton Dix up? Didn't Amory know
that that Harris girl was painting all her subjects and had one at the
Essex Gallery now? A talent like Amory's!----

"You'd better come and ask her," Dorothy had replied. "Why not all come
round to-night? Cosimo, you're quite near, and Laura could fetch her
guitar----"

"No! Really?" Cosimo had broken out in his glad, rich voice. "I say,
shall we all go?"

"I'm on," Walter Wyron had cried eagerly.

"You could fetch your guitar, couldn't you, Laura?"

"And Amory hasn't heard Walter's new recitation----"

"Good. We'll come."

"Rather!"

And now Dorothy was hurrying to Cheyne Walk to help Amory to prepare.

She reached the room over the greengrocer's shop at half-past four, and
found Amory in a long pinafore, painting. "You needn't knock off," she
said, when she had made her announcement; "I'll go out and buy in."

But whether it was that Amory was in difficulties with her work, or
whether her pulse had suddenly bounded at the thought of a party really
after her own heart, she threw down her palette.

"Oh no, rather not!" she cried. "I'll come with you. Just half a
minute; I'll wash my brushes when we come back. How ripping!"

Joyously she snatched down from the hook her porringer hat; her eyes
shone as she thrust the enamel-headed pins through it. She had not seen
Cosimo for several weeks, the others for months and months, and she
was pining, simply pining, for a party that a rational person could
enjoy. So excited was she, and so full of the preparations for their
guests, that she quite forgot their own dinner; it was Dorothy who
stopped at the butcher's for three-quarters of a pound of steak, and,
at the confectioner's remembered the Chelsea buns. At a wine-shop they
bought a flask of Chianti, and at a grocer's nuts, biscuits, and a box
of dates. Walter and Cosimo could be relied on to provide cigarettes,
and oranges and bananas were to be had at the shop downstairs. As the
clock of Chelsea Church struck five they descended Oakley Street again,
so laden with parcels that the disturbance of a single package or paper
bag would have meant the spilling of the lot. For the oranges and
bananas Amory went downstairs again. By the time she returned Dorothy
had taken a brush and was making ready to sweep.

"Oh, please," said Amory, "just a minute till I've put my canvas out
of the way--and it won't take me three minutes to clean my palette and
wash my brushes----"

She carried her wet canvas out on to the landing beyond the warped door.

If, while Dorothy swept, Amory lingered a little over her brush-washing
and palette-cleaning, and then proceeded to make of the wasted paint a
paper "butterfly," she had this justification--that she swept as badly
as she washed up. Moreover, she was already running over beforehand
the heads of a really elevating talk she wanted to have with Cosimo on
the subject of Eugenics. Cosimo was the kind of man you could talk to
sanely and sensibly about these things; he could discuss them with her
in the proper inquiring spirit, and without either mock modesty or a
thought behind. He despised mock modesty and the thought behind as much
as Amory herself despised them; he had frequently said so. That, with
the knowledge that she herself was by a good deal the cleverer of the
two, seemed to Amory the really satisfactory relation. They were "the
best of pals." Amory liked the expression. It was so unlike Glenerne
and the leers about the aquarium corner.

Therefore, as Dorothy, sweeping, asked her how her aunt's
engagement-party had gone off, she replied with an almost indulgent
laugh. Dorothy wouldn't believe (she said) how absurd her aunt could
be. Dorothy, burrowing with the broom into a corner, laughed too.

"All aunts are, my dear. (Mind your foot.) Don't talk to me about
aunts. I've got some, thanks. (Sorry, and I'm afraid I shall sweep all
the dust on you if you stand there.) Our latest is a frightful row
between Aunt Emmie, that's the one in Calcutta, and Aunt Eliza, the
one in Wales. All about some diamonds everybody'd forgotten all about,
but some stupid old busybody of a bank-manager must go and turn them
up, and Aunt Emmie says grandfather gave them to _her_, and Aunt Eliza
says he gave them to _her_, and ... well, there you are. The less said
about those diamonds the better in a family like ours, _I_ should have
said. (Oh dear, Amory, _do_ stand somewhere else!) Cousin Clara says
they're pretty sure to be the wages of somebody's sin. Talk about your
one aunt! I've a dozen, half of 'em not quite right in their heads ...
(Amory, if you don't move I shall hit you with the brush!)..."

Amory moved, finished her "butterfly," and began to cut it out with a
pair of scissors.

"I'll unpack the bananas," she said, as Dorothy laid the broom aside.

Deftly she unpacked the bananas; skilfully she took the oranges
from their tissue-paper, dropping the tissue-paper on the floor.
She arranged them on a large apple-green dish, which she set on the
gate-legged table; and then she stood back surveying the colour and
grouping while Dorothy peppered and salted and prepared to cook the
three-quarters of a pound of steak. She turned the dish this way and
that, seeking fresh lights to put it in. Amory's work was never done.
Often she was busiest when she seemed most idle. _She_ could not say
to eye and brain, as Dorothy could say to mere hands, "It is finished
now ... you may rest...." It was not finished even when Dorothy had set
the table, cooked the steak, and made all ready for serving. There were
the yellow bananas and the glowing oranges to paint in her mind, on the
white cloth now instead of on the oaken board....

They dined and cleared away, and, while Dorothy washed up, Amory
replaced the dish of fruit on the table, set out the biscuits and cakes
on the Persian Rose plates, and made of all, with the flask of Chianti,
another still-life group. Then she disposed the chairs as if by happy
accident, and poked the fire. The casement looking over the river
became an oblong of dim blue; the fire burnt up, and glowed on the
black and sagging old ceiling; and Amory hoped that the people overhead
were going to be quiet to-night.

Then, at a little after eight, there came from outside, somewhere
beyond the Pier Hotel, the sound of a baritone voice. It was Walter
Wyron, singing "The Raggle-taggle Gipsies." Amory started up.

"Here they come!" she cried, clapping her hands.

And she ran down the stairs to meet them.



IV

THE MCGRATH


Amory liked people to be one thing or the other; that was the real
reason why she loathed and abhorred Glenerne. She had had ripping times
amid the naphtha-lights of the Saturday night street-markets and at
Bank Holiday merry-go-rounds and cocoanut-shies; and, of course, when
Van Eeden on Dreams came up for discussion, or Galton on Heredity, or
Pater on the Renaissance, or the clear-eyed Weiniger on the Relation
of the Sexes, she was again entirely at home. On the heights or in the
depths she felt the real throb of Humanity's heart. But those dreadful
middle grades! Those terrible estate-agents and booking-clerks and
bank-cashiers and brewers' travellers of whom the world seemed to be
so full! As so many phenomena in the science of vision--solid objects
for colour to possess and light to fall upon--she admitted they had
their uses; but she was entirely uninterested in them otherwise. Of all
the fine things Cosimo had done in the past, she thought he had done
nothing finer nor more full of profound meaning than when he had once
given a crossing-sweeper a shilling, taken the broom from his hand,
and for an hour swept the crossing himself. It took true nobility to
do that. Mr. Geake could not have done it, nor Mr. Wellcome, nor the
egregious young man in the green knitted waistcoat who had advised
her to take care of her eyes, and had then told her that the Crystal
Palace was a "funny place to go for a squeeze"--Mr. Edmondson.

All talking at once, Amory and her half-dozen guests trooped back up
the narrow stairs.

"Well, here we are----" they announced themselves.

"Donkey's years since we've seen you, Amory----"

"How are you?"

"How's Life and Work?"

"This is Bielby, Amory ... don't suppose you know him ... we just
brought him along----"

"You should see the view from here in the day-time, Bielby ...
stunning!----"

"Chuck your things down ... mind Laura's guitar----"

They threw their hats and coats and cloaks into the window-seat, and
filled the room as they stood talking, laughing and straightening their
hair. Amory asked Cosimo for a match, and approached the two candles
that stood in the brass sticks on the gate-legged table.

"Oh, don't light up!" three or four broke out at once; "the firelight's
so jolly!"

"No?"

"Positively sinful to spoil this effect!----"

"Pull the chairs up round the fire--the floor'll do for me----"

"Me too----"

"I'll lean against your knees, Dorothy----"

"Oh, now I've left my handkerchief in my pocket! Lend me yours,
Cosimo----"

"Well, Amory----!"

They settled about the hearth, Cosimo Pratt with his shoulder-blades
against Dorothy's knees, Walter Wyron propping up Laura Beamish, Katie
Deedes and Mr. Bielby on chairs, Dickie Lemesurier with the firelight
shining on her peacock-feather yoke at one end of the fender, Amory
curled up against the coal-box at the other.

"I say--Amory's hair!----" Walter Wyron broke rapturously out, as Amory
settled into her place.

"Quite unpaintable, Walter," said Laura Beamish, peering over the edge
of her hand.

"Suppose so--but _isn't_ it Venetian!----"

"Just put that green plate with the oranges in her lap----"

"Oh ... magnificent!"

It did indeed make an astonishing glow.

"Well," said Cosimo Pratt presently, when each had applied his or her
adjective to Amory's appearance, "and how's Jellies and Mrs. 'Ill,
Amory?"

You would not now have known Amory for the same girl who had conversed
with Mr. Edmondson on the progress of illustrated journalism and
statelily inclined her head when the awful Mr. Wellcome had offered
her a liqueur-glass of the famous old Spanish brandy. She gave a low
rippling laugh. She snuggled contentedly up against the coal-box.

"What! hasn't Dorothy told you?" she ejaculated. If Dorothy hadn't
told, that was really rather nice of Dorothy.

"No," said Cosimo, turning his huge black-coffee-coloured eyes on her,
all anticipation.

"Jellies is engaged!" Amory announced, with another low laugh.

Cosimo started dramatically. "_No!_"

Amory nodded. She could always rely on Cosimo.

"You don't say so! Oh, _do_ tell me! Do you think----" a short pause,
"--he's worthy of her?"

"Just look at Cosimo's face!" bubbled Laura Beamish. It bore an
expression of the deepest mock gravity.

"_Do_ tell me!" Cosimo implored....

Mrs. 'Ill was the woman who came in twice a week to do up the studio;
Jellies (so called because she worked at the Jelly Factory across the
river) was her daughter. Cosimo spoke again, in tragic tones.

"At least tell me whether he's 'in' or 'out'!" he begged.

"Bielby's out of this; tell Bielby, Amory," several voices said at
once; and Amory's pretty golden eyes sought Mr. Bielby. She explained.

Jellie's fiancé (she said) was 'in'--in prison. It had been (said
Amory), oh, so killing! He had snatched a jacket from outside a
second-hand clothes' shop, and had run away with it and had put it on:
but he had not had time to remove the wooden hanger--Mr. Bielby knew
those wooden hangers they hang coats on?--well, he'd not had time to
remove the hanger before a policeman had collared him, and there he
had been, swearing the coat was his, with the wire hook sticking up at
the back of his neck! Fancy--just fancy!--the psychological situation!
Really, somebody ought to write to William James about it!--'Orris
('Orris Jackman his name was--after orris-root, Amory supposed) vowing
that he'd bought the coat weeks ago, and then the policeman putting his
finger through the hook and hauling him away!...

"And Mrs. 'Ill----" Amory rippled on to Mr. Bielby----

"Oh yes--tell him about Mrs. 'Ill and the Creek!" they cried.

"Mrs. 'Ill, you see, Mr. Bielby, keeps what she calls a Creek--that's
a _crèche_! (We _must_ all go and see it one of these days!) It's in
the World's End Passage, next door to a fried fish shop, and there are
twenty babies, and the woman at the fried fish shop keeps an eye on
them when Mrs. 'Ill comes in here on Wednesdays and Saturdays, that is,
unless Jellies happens to be out of work----"

"But the hens are the best, Amory--tell him about the hens----" they
prompted.

With that Amory was fairly launched. Mrs. 'Ill (she said) not only took
charge of other people's babies; she kept hens also, in a sort of back
scullery, and at tea-time they sat in her lap and ate winkles off her
plate, and she said she felt towards them just as if they were her own!
Hens and babies--_Figurez vous!_--And there was always a christening
party or something at the Creek, to which the hens went too, and--(they
_must_ listen to this!)--at one party they'd had, last Christmas,
nobody'd been to bed for two nights, and Mrs. 'Ill had explained that
they'd had to cut it short because of 'Ill having been dead only a
week!----

"Oh, but about 'Ill--he hasn't heard about 'Ill----"

"Well, her name isn't 'Ill at all, you see. That didn't come out till
her husband died. His real name was Berry, or Barry, or something, and
he signed the register 'Barry' when he was married. But it seems he'd
been in the Army and deserted, and was afraid of being caught, so he
called himself Hill. But (here's Westermarck for you!) when his first
baby was going to be born his conscience seems to have been troubled
(it would make a lovely psychological story, Mrs. 'Ill with the child
and Mr. 'Ill with the conscience), and so he made a sort of bet with
himself, that if it was a boy he'd give himself up, and if it was a
girl he'd just go on being Mr. 'Ill and a deserter. And of course it
was Jellies, and so Mrs. 'Ill's Mrs. 'Ill...."

There was nothing of the snob about Amory. These were the people among
whom she had moved during her painting of Saturday night scenes and
street markets, and she did not pretend that they were not. And she
had an undeniable gift for such narrations. Laura Beamish, who tried
to cap her with some story of a Charing Cross flower-girl and a black
eye, fell by comparison quite flat; and even Katie Deedes's tale of
her mother's entrée-cook did not gain quite the same applause. And
Walter Wyron's, about the ex-sergeant who had looked after his father's
house-boat, was an old one. Yes, Amory liked people to be one thing or
the other.

But she did not tell any stories about Mr. Wellcome and Mr. Geake.

From these and similar stories to the larger issues of Democracy was
but a step, and as Dorothy rose and opened the flask of Chianti, the
step was taken. The Fabian Nursery and the S.D.F. came all in the
stride.... The space within the fender became half full of banana-skins
and orange peel; the fire-light shone up on the eager faces; and Amory,
in the half-shadow by the coal-box, fed her eyes on effects.

What ripping drawing there was in Dickie Lemesurier's neck as it issued
from its square-cut, peacock's-feather-embroidered frame! What a
perfectly glorious colour Walter's snuff-coloured corduroys took in the
glow (only glaze on glaze of burnt-sienna could ever get it!) And how
stunning was the shadow of Cosimo's hand over his handsome chin as he
put the cigarette into his mouth!... Cosimo's hair clung like tendrils
about his temples and over the back of his soft grey collar; Amory had
made at one time and another a dozen drawings of his splendid throat;
she hoped to make a dozen more. She was very proud of having Cosimo
for a friend. He set down appearances at their proper value, no more.
He was quite free from those stupid old-fashioned prejudices that, in
so arrogantly setting apart certain subjects as undiscussable between
young men and young women, had so delayed the real freedom that, for
all that, was coming. She laughed as Cosimo, who had just put a lump
of coal on the fire with his fingers, asked Dorothy whether he might
wipe them on her stockings, and made some remark about Spring Novelties
when Dorothy said that he might not. It was only Cosimo. Everybody
understood. There was just that touch of gentle womanliness in Cosimo
(Amory thought) that perfects and finishes a man.

In watching Cosimo and the others, but especially Cosimo, Amory had a
little disregarded the conversation. She was recalled to it by a sudden
exclamation from Katie Deedes--

"Oh no--carnations for Dickie, and just green leaves for Amory----"

"Late ones, slightly turning," Laura Beamish suggested, peering
critically over her hand again as she strove to compass a mental image
of Amory wearing the leaves.

"Or green grapes," Walter Wyron suggested, peering also.

"Amory, do take down your hair!" they suddenly implored.

Amory grumbled sweetly. It was such a bother to put it up again, she
said. But Cosimo, starting from his seat against Dorothy's knees,
cried, "Oh yes, Amory!" and took a fresh place by her feet. "With
the firelight through it it should be just unbelievable!" he cried
excitedly.... So Amory's hands went to the great red-gold fir cone; she
shook down the heavy plaits; and Cosimo's fingers parted and disposed
them.

"How's that? Wait--just a minute--it wants just one touch--there!" he
said, drawing back.

Cries of admiration broke out. Amory was as hidden by it as a weeping
elm is hidden by its leaves.

"Oh--green leaves, most decidedly!" cried Walter Wyron with conviction.
"Amory, you really _must_ paint yourself so--none of us could do
it--_what_ a sonnet Rossetti would have written!"

"_Or_ Swinburne----"

"_Or_ Baudelaire----!"

"_Or_ Verlaine!"

Rapt they gazed for some moments longer....

"Green leaves for Amory, then, and carnations for Dickie.... What's
Dorothy?"

"Oh, Dot's a tea-rose----"

"Periwinkle, to go with her eyes----"

"'_Pervenche_' they always call it in the Catalogues, don't they, Dot?
Must have superior terms for Catalogues!"

"And amethyst earrings----"

"No, pearls----"

"I say amethyst!"

"I say pearls!"

"Pooh! Pearls are obviously Laura's wear!"

"Laura! My dear chap! Why, what were emeralds made for if they weren't
made for Laura?..."

At this point the party split up into two cliques, Amory turning
to Cosimo again, and Walter and the others continuing their
semi-symbolistic pastime.

Amory had not yet told Cosimo that she intended presently to make this
room her home. Cosimo was leaning against her knees now, and had tied
two strands of her hair together in a loose knot on his breast; and
when she spoke to him he turned up his fine face so that she saw it
upside down. When Cosimo had removed into his studio near the Vestry
Hall seven or eight months ago, Amory had spent whole days with him,
reading aloud passages from one or other of her Association volumes
while he had papered and distempered and hung his curtains, and nothing
had ever been so jolly; and so she told him now of her own approaching
change. He twisted half round within the loop of hair.

"Give you a hand? Rather! By Jove, with your view you ought to be able
to make this place perfectly ripping! How are you thinking of doing
your windows?"

Amory had known that he would be enthusiastic. She began to say
something about muslin, but Cosimo shook his handsome tendrilled head
peremptorily. He loosed himself from the bond of hair and faced round,
cross-legged, before her.

"Oh no, you mustn't dream of having muslin! I know something _far_
better than that! There's a remnant-sale at Peter Hardy's, and they
have some shop-soiled casement-cloth at one-four-three double width,
all colours; _that's_ your stuff! Oh, decidedly!... Then stencil
it--something like Dickie's yoke there, only a broader treatment,
of course--and there you are! They'll take down and put up again
in a couple of jiffs, and you have to put muslin up wet, and it
catches every bit of dust, and only washes about twice--oh no: the
casement-cloth by all means!... Now, what furniture have you got?..."

He entered wholeheartedly into her plans; he was so handsome and
intuitive, so big and tall, yet so almost femininely sympathetic. Amory
could have hugged him, there was so little of the mere superior blatant
male about him.... They plunged into a discussion--or rather Cosimo
plunged into a harangue--on the most satisfactory way of staining
floors....

Dorothy had been talking to Mr. Bielby, the young man who had been
"just brought along," and had discovered that he was still at the
McGrath. Suddenly she gave a laugh and a call to Laura Beamish.

"I say, Laura! Mr. Jowett's still just the same as ever, Mr. Bielby
says," she said.

Walter Wyron broke into a laugh. "Jowett? 'Pon my word, I'd almost
forgotten poor old Jowett! Immortelle's _his_ flower, I should say!
What's Jowett's latest, Bielby?"

Mr. Bielby related the "latest" of the Painting Professor through whose
hands so many students had passed, all so different and all so exactly
alike, that he had been driven to find what peace of mind he could in a
saturnine resignation. Walter Wyron laughed again.

"Dear old Jowett! But he seems to be getting a bit below his game.
He used to get off better ones than that. Do you remember him on the
womanly woman, Dickie?"

"I remember his looking at my life-drawing and asking me if I couldn't
sew," Dickie Lemesurier replied, bridling still at the recollection.

"And he told me my drawing was the best in the class, and that didn't
mean it was worth the time I'd spent on it," Walter chuckled. "The joke
is that poor old Jowett can say such funny things and never dream that
they're funny!"

"Why, he didn't think tremendously of Amory herself!" said Katie Deedes
indignantly.

"And still," Laura remarked with dreamy irony, "I suppose we _ought_
to hide our abashed heads really--but somehow or other we go on
painting----"

"--still survive----"

"--bear up----"

"--quite happy in our ignorance----"

"Curiously blind all the world must be except Jowett----"

"Rather dreadful to know you're the only wise man left----"

"Funny old stick!... But it's only a pose really----"

"That exactly describes it----"

"Certainly the immortelle for Jowett!"...

But the party proper had not begun yet: Walter had not recited, and
Laura Beamish's guitar still lay in its case in the window-seat. Katie
Deedes, who always kept a sort of tally of the good things said and
awarded marks (as it were) to the sayers, had not thought of striking
her balance yet.

"Give Dickie another cigarette, Cosimo, and then do let's have a song,
Laura!" Amory exclaimed; and Walter Wyron jumped up to get Laura's
instrument. It had long, many-coloured streamers of ribbon, which
Walter disposed like _serpentins_ about Laura as she sat, and Laura,
turning pegs and tenderly strumming, asked what she should sing.

"Oh, 'The Trees they do Grow High!'" said Amory quickly; "and then 'The
Sweet Primeroses' and 'The Clouded Yellow Butterfly,' please!--Do stop
wriggling against my knees, Cosimo--and oh, how exquisite!--look, the
moon's just coming in at the window!"

And Laura's voice rose on the tender strumming as if a light and fluty
sound planed over the intervals between chord and chord.

"Lovely!" Amory murmured.... "Please, that verse again, about the
ribbon, Laura!"

    "'And she tied a piece of ribbon round his bonnie, bonnie waist,
    To let the ladies know he was married,'"

Laura sang....

"Oh, lovely!" Amory murmured, her golden eyes closed.

Then Walter, whose father was Herman Wyron the impresario, recited an
unpublished poem of Wilde's, following it with one of Aristide Bruant's
in French; and after that Laura sang again, 'The Morning Dew.' Amory
wished that she was coming into her new abode on the morrow, and that
these delightful companions might come to visit her every night. She
had whispered to Cosimo to get up quietly and get her a crayon and
a piece of paper; putting her hair from her eyes with the fingers
of her left hand, she quietly made notes on a piece of paper on the
floor with her right; and "Amory's going to do it!" the whisper went
softly round.... Amory felt that she really must "do" it. It ought to
"come" beautifully--Laura with the guitar and the coloured streamers,
so--Walter's thin face at its most pensive, so--Katie Deedes in that
adorable curled-up pose at Laura's feet, with the jewel of fire-light
on her shoe-buckle and her face quite lost in the shadow, so--and
perhaps when she came to paint it, she would get Cosimo to stand
quite behind, where the moonlight on the window-sill was almost of a
sulphur-flame blue.... And as she saw Amory busily sketching, Laura
did not put down the guitar, but went on softly singing song after
song, from her _Somersetshire Songs_ and the _Persian Garden_, her
fingers seeming to cull the sparse and chosen chords from the strings
as if each one had been a picked flower. How different from Glenerne,
with its brainless vamping and its bawled choruses from _The Scottish
Students' Song Book_!... Amory, as she worked, now revelled in the
thought that she would not be at Glenerne much longer....

The sulphur-blue moonlight crept farther along the lattice, and
shimmered on the river as if a piece of silver foil had been crumpled
and straightened out again; and on the smoky, sagging ceiling the
shadows fluctuated, soft and enormous, whenever a head or a hand was
moved. Laura had laid aside her guitar now, and they, had drawn more
closely together, and were telling ghost-stories. Dickie Lemesurier
told one that had happened to somebody her mother knew as well as they
knew one another sitting there; and then, as Amory put aside her hair
again and began to speak, she gave a little shriek: "No--not that
_frrrightful_ one out of Myers, Amory!"... But Amory told it, and Katie
Deedes remembered the dark stairs, and said that she would never dare
to go down them.... So by and by Cosimo got up and lighted the two
candles, and the terrors receded as the flames crept up, and Laura was
persuaded to sing just one more song and then (she said) she really
must go--her people would be wondering whatever had become of her. But
Walter said that that was all right: he'd see her home. And Mr. Bielby
would go along with Katie and Dorothy, who went together, and of course
Cosimo would take Amory herself. Laura tucked the guitar with the
coloured ribbons into its case, and reluctantly they sought their hats
and coats. Amory was putting her hair up again. Cosimo took two blazing
cobs of coal from the fire, putting them out of harm's way on an iron
shovel; and as Dorothy saw her friends out and locked the door, the
cheerful glow on the ceiling could still be seen where the upper part
of the door warped inwards. They groped their way down the dark stairs,
and passed in a body up Oakley Street; and at the corner by the King's
Road they said good-night.

"We walk, I suppose?" Cosimo said to Amory.

"Rather!" said Amory.

They turned their faces towards Shepherd's Bush.

It was as they walked up Redcliffe Gardens that Amory suddenly said,
with a little sigh of regret, "Poor Dorothy!"

Cosimo nodded. He always understood so quickly; that was the wonderful
thing about Cosimo.--"You mean she was a bit out of it?"

"She only spoke about three times, and that was to Mr. Bielby."

Cosimo gave a shrug, and that was delicate of him too. He knew that it
would be a pleasure to Amory to defend a lightly disparaged friend.
Amory did defend Dorothy.

"You really underrate her, Cosimo. Of course there's that dreadful job
of hers, but she does know better really. I do hope she wasn't bored."

"Well, you can't help Dorothy's shortcomings, Amory," Cosimo remarked,
as if true artists had sorrows enough of their own without taking those
of fashion-artists on their shoulders.

"But I'm worried about her, Cosimo----"

"Of course you are," Cosimo replied promptly. "That's what I always
find so fine about you. The stronger _always_ worries about the weaker.
It seems to be a Law----"

"Do you think it is a Law?" Amory asked thoughtfully.

"Well, _isn't_ it? Just look at it, now...."

Cosimo began to set it forth. Halfway up North End Road Amory had
reluctantly to confess that it did seem to be a Law. She had suspected
it before, but never, never had it been made quite so clear to her. She
resolved that she must be very gentle with Dorothy. At that moment she
was very fond of her indeed.

She continued her walk with Cosimo.



V

POUNDS AND SHILLINGS


When Mr. Hamilton Dix, the renowned critic, had first mentioned Amory
in print, he had made a perhaps pardonable error about her sex. But the
error itself had been a compliment. In speaking of "Mr. Amory Towers"
he had been misled by the rugged masculinity of "The Paviors," her
second exhibited picture.

Amory was not sure that she liked Mr. Dix very much. He seemed to her
to have a rather remarkable faculty for slightly impairing the value of
everything of which he wrote or spoke. His conclusions were undeniable;
when Mr. Hamilton Dix had pronounced on a thing Q.E.D. might be written
after that thing; there was no more to be said about it. But somehow
all the fun had gone out of it. You told yourself, grossly unfairly,
that if it interested Mr. Hamilton Dix it had no further interest for
you. That was your loss, since Mr. Dix usually fastened on the best
things. In appearance he was a big man with an overpowering presence, a
promising eye, and brown curls that frothed all over his head like the
"top" of a mug of porter; and you wondered whether a person could ever
be so glad to see anybody whomsoever as Mr. Hamilton Dix appeared to be
to see everybody. He still occasionally called Amory "Mr. Towers" by
way of a joke.

Mr. Dix had no official connection with the Crozier Gallery. He
frequently wrote of "another admirable Exhibition at the Crozier which
no serious student of art must miss," or "the gift of discovering the
best among our younger artists which the proprietors of the Crozier
seem to possess," but that was all. As a professional critic he was not
eligible for membership of the artists' clubs, but he blew like a March
gale through their studios, and the smaller and poorer the studio the
more he irradiated it with the light of his optimistic eye.

During their earlier interviews he had carried Amory entirely off her
feet. Though his tongue had cautioned and disclaimed, there had been
no resisting the promise of his eye. Croziers' were going to take her
up, and--well, at the present stage "Mr. Towers" (ha, ha) would quite
understand that Mr. Dix did not want to say too much about it.--But his
very reticence had seemed a guarantee. It was not to be supposed that
Messrs. Crozier took people up without a certain amount of belief in
them.... And that had kept Amory's head in the clouds for quite a long
time.... But little by little it had dawned on Amory that time seemed
of very little value to Messrs. Crozier. A thousand years in their
sight--or two years, to be precise--was but as yesterday. Delay after
delay had occurred; Messrs. Crozier had not judged this time to be
quite ripe, had considered that market to be a little overstocked; it
was necessary, if the success was to be made for which they hoped, that
the time should be chosen to the hour; and so on and so forth.--"You're
far from being old yet, if I may say so without offence, Miss Towers,"
Mr. Dix had remarked, rolling his eye over Amory's small, straight
little figure, as if the organ had been mounted on an universal
joint....

But lately it had looked as if things really were in motion again.
Amory had had several letters with the Crozier embossing on the
envelope flap, asking her to state at once in what state of advancement
her works were, and once she had even had a prepaid telegram.... Then
things had slowed up once more, and Amory had fumed.

Then, on a morning in May, a hansom cab drew up at the greengrocer's in
Cheyne Walk, and Mr. Hamilton Dix, seeing Amory look out of the window,
had waved his plump hand. He blundered up the stairs, and told Amory
that he wished to see the canvases themselves, at once; at once, mind
you.... There were between twenty-five and thirty of these canvases;
they were stacked round the walls like the slates in a builder's yard;
and Mr. Dix rolled his eye over them as Amory set them, one after
another, on her easel. Then he rolled the eye over Amory herself again.
Again Amory somehow had the impression of gluten. It was as if the eye
had left traces where it had rested.

"Excellent. Admirable. Very choice. Very good indeed," said Mr. Dix.
"And now, Miss Towers, I'm afraid I've a disappointment for you."

If Mr. Dix spoke of a disappointment it was sure not to be so bad as
it sounded. Amory watched him a little anxiously, however. Another
postponement would be really too bad.

"It's the old difficulty, the difficulty of fitting in the dates," Mr.
Dix said. "Mr. Hugh Crozier is deeply apologetic about it; he's quite
as much disappointed as you can possibly be; but--well, I see I shall
have to tell you a secret that must on no account pass these four
walls."

Mr. Dix told his secret. It was that Herbertson, the brilliant
pastelist, was not expected to live through the week.

"Not a word, mind," Mr. Dix cautioned Amory. "It's only because
the circumstances in your case are special that I have Mr. Hugh's
permission to tell you this at all. But you see the difficulty
it places him in. Poor Herbertson's exhibition will be ten times
as valuable if it comes while the papers are still full of his
obituary--valuable to poor Mrs. Herbertson, I mean--I'm sure you'll see
that----"

Even the little thrill of being taken into Mr. Dix's confidence did not
altogether compensate for Amory's disappointment. Another postponement
now would mean no exhibition until the autumn. Slowly she took down
from the easel the canvas she had last placed there.

"In that case I suppose there's no hurry," she said, plunging into
dejection once more.

But Mr. Dix's plump white hand went so far as to pat her reassuringly
on the shoulder. The touch of his hand was only slightly more a contact
than the resting of his eye.

"But you mustn't suppose that that is all I came to tell you," he said.
"My dear young lady, Mr. Crozier isn't that kind of man. He quite
appreciates the hardship this is on you, and--don't look dismayed--it
doesn't at all suit those pretty eyes--he has authorized me to make you
a proposal."

"What?" said Amory. She did not like the remark about her pretty eyes.
Cosimo never spoke of her pretty eyes.

"It is this: that I am empowered to ask you if it would be convenient
to you that he should pay you a sum of money now, in advance and on
account of sales, at our customary rate of interest in such cases,
the pictures themselves to be our security, at a valuation to be
arrived at in consultation between Mr. Crozier and yourself? In fact,
substantially the same terms that were accepted by poor Herbertson."

Amory's heart had given a leap. She did not entirely understand, but
there was one thing that she did understand, namely, that Mr. Dix was
offering her money at once. Money at once would enable her to begin her
tenancy at Cheyne Walk at once.... Mr. Dix looked into the pretty eyes
again, smiled, and continued.

"Well, what shall we say? If you were to ask my private opinion--but
there, I've no right to try to influence you. But a considerable sum
now--say a hundren pounds--eh----?"

He almost winked at Amory. It was as if he advised her to cry "Done" at
once before Mr. Crozier had time to change his mind.

A hundred pounds! Amory thought....

"Mr. Crozier doesn't mean that he buys the pictures for a hundred
pounds, does he?" she asked presently.

Mr. Dix laughed heartily. "My dear Miss Towers!... I can assure you
that if Mr. Crozier had meant that he'd have had to find another
messenger. No, no. You may regard this, if you like, as a mere
_solatium_ for the postponement--to be a first charge, of course, on
whatever the pictures may ultimately fetch. That, we trust, will be a
far greater sum. We're watching the market very keenly, and you may
trust Mr. Crozier to make the most of it when it comes.... Well, what
am I to tell him?"

A hundred pounds, now!----

Almost precipitately Amory accepted.

"Bravo!" cried Mr. Dix, as if Amory had performed a deed of bravery.
And he bent gallantly over her hand.

Amory was beside herself with importance and delight. She had not now a
mere promise from Croziers'--she was to have a proper contract, and a
cheque for a hundred pounds posted to her the very moment the contract
was signed. All that day she could not sit still for a minute in one
place, and in the afternoon she suddenly started up, crammed her hat
on her head, and ran out to the confectioner's in the King's Road,
where the use of a telephone was to be had for twopence. She must tell
Dorothy that she particularly wanted to see her at the studio that
afternoon--why, she refused to say. Then, treading on air, she returned
to the studio again, humming Laura's song "The Trees they do Grow High"
as she went. Still singing, she began to potter about among the tins
in the little cupboard, to see in which one the tea was kept.

Dorothy came running in an hour later, just as Amory sat down before
the plate of bread-and-butter and the saucerless cup she had placed
on the little gate-legged table. Her eyes were as big as the heads of
Amory's hatpins.

"What is it?" she cried breathlessly. "Not Cosimo----?"

"How Cosimo?" Amory asked, staring a little.

"I mean, I thought--I thought perhaps he'd proposed----"

Only for a moment or so was Amory a little stiff. "I think Cosimo can
be trusted not to do anything quite so obvious," she replied. "You
don't seem to understand, Dorothy.... No, it's far more exciting than
that----"

And she told her.

Somehow it struck Amory that Dorothy received the news in an
unexpectedly critical spirit. She had expected her to jump up with
delight, or at least to say that she was glad. But instead of that
Dorothy stared at Amory until Amory felt quite uncomfortable, and had
to say "Well?" If this was the way Dorothy took it, she was rather
sorry she had rung her up.

"Tell me what Mr. Dix said again," said Dorothy, still almost glaring
at Amory.

Amory did so.

"And he's sending for the pictures to-morrow?"

"Yes, but you don't understand; this isn't the price of the pictures."

"And he doesn't say when the Show will be?"

Amory spoke gently; of course it must be difficult for Dorothy to
realize that Picture Exhibitions were not Catalogues.

"It will be as soon as the market is favourable. They wait for a
favourable market and then----" She made an upward gesture with her
hands. "And you see, Dorothy," she explained kindly, "pictures aren't
much good to a dealer either just to shut up in a cellar and keep. They
buy them in order to sell them again. That's their business."

But Dorothy hardly seemed to hear.

"And they've got thirty pictures?" she asked presently.

"Twenty-eight."

"And can you exhibit new ones anywhere else?"

"They'll take the new ones too, at the same rate."

"But can you exhibit them anywhere else if you want?"

"Not for two years."

"Then," said Dorothy slowly, "I don't think I'd sign the contract,
Amory."

Amory took a drink of tea; then she leaned back with the air of one who
might say, "This is interesting."--"Oh? Why not?" she asked.

"Well, if it's as you say, it seems to me that they just muzzle you for
two years."

"Well, I can hardly expect to have dealings with two sets of people at
once, can I? I don't want to exhibit anywhere else. That would be to
nobody's interest. And my Show would have been next except for----"
She checked herself; she had almost forgotten that Herbertson's
condition was a secret. "And anyway, Mr. Dix is going to write a number
of articles on me at once, and Mr. Dix doesn't write articles for
amusement, I can assure you. There are wheels within wheels, Dorothy. I
call it a splendid bargain. _I'm_ perfectly satisfied----"

The last words seemed to say, "So if I am, I don't see what anybody
else has got to complain about." She was a little disappointed in
Dorothy. She thought that friends ought to rejoice at one another's
good fortune. She hoped there was not just a trace of jealousy in
Dorothy's demeanour.

When Dorothy next spoke Amory wondered, too, whether she had come from
Oxford Street entirely in obedience to her telephone-summons. For
Dorothy, it appeared, also had something to say. For the last ten days
Dorothy had been very little in the studio in Cheyne Walk; the reason
for this, Amory understood, was that certain of her fellow-artists (she
supposed they called themselves that) had been given a holiday; and now
Dorothy was telling Amory that Cheyne Walk was about to see even less
of her.

"You see," Dorothy explained, "I've known for some time that Miss
Porchester was after a job on the _Daily Speculum_, and now she's got
it. That means that Miss Benson takes her place. And as there are all
sorts of things going on, I shall simply have to be there most of my
time. There's this re-building, you see. Mr. Miller--he's Hallowell's
manager, and we're doing one or two of their jobs now--he's making all
sorts of new plans. They're going to launch out in all directions, he
says; in fact, they're going to waken London up. So what I was going to
say--I hope you won't find it inconvenient, and of course there are a
few weeks yet----"

There was no need for Dorothy to be more precise. Amory nodded. Dorothy
wanted to be released from her share of the Cheyne Walk place. That
simplified things. With Amory living there the place certainly would
not have been big enough for the pair of them.

"Well, if you hadn't mentioned it I suppose I should have had to do
so," she said. "I think I shall be able to manage now."

"You mean you're accepting that offer?"

"Accepting it? Of course I'm accepting it," said Amory with a laugh. "I
should be a perfect goose not to accept it."

"Oh, well," said Dorothy with a shrug. "I only meant that if any other
dealer happened to want you you're tied hand and foot for two years."

Amory laughed again. "Oh, I'll risk that," she assured Dorothy. "And
now," she said unselfishly, "tell me more about the changes at your
place."

For of course she was glad that, in her own peculiar line, Dorothy also
stood in advancement's way.

On the next day but one she signed her contract.

When, on the day following that, there was brought to Glenerne, by
an ordinary postman, along with other ordinary letters, an ordinary
envelope addressed to Miss Amory Towers with a cheque for ninety-five
pounds inside it, Glenerne felt that it was indeed privileged to
participate in the making of history. Amory was a little taken aback
to find that interest at the rate of five per cent. had already been
deducted from the sum; there seemed, not (of course) an indelicacy,
but a very great promptitude about this clipping at the round figure.
She would have liked the full hundred, if only to call hers for a day;
and she had not _quite_ realized that the euphemism "five per cent."
meant five real pounds.--But that was not Glenerne's way of looking at
it. The breakfast-table gaped with astonishment. Ninety-five pounds
for Miss Amory's pictures!... Pictures, of course, _were_ pictures;
they had never denied that; very pretty to look at, and hang on walls
and all that, especially water-colours: but--ninety-five pounds!...
Had ninety-five tongues of fire settled upon Amory's bright head they
could hardly have held her in greater awe. They looked at her anew.
They had actually been living in the same house with this prodigious
young woman! And Mr. Edmondson had asked her whether she did not get
"fed up" with painting towards the end of the day! "Fed up!" _They_
should think so! It would take a lot of feeding up of that sort before
the boarders of Glenerne cried "Enough!"... Mr. Edmondson was not there
when the cheque arrived; Mr. Edmondson rose at five-thirty, cleaned
his boots, made himself a cup of tea over the little spirit-lamp in
his bedroom, and was out of the house before half-past six; but Mr.
Rainbow missed the nine-two that morning, and Uncle George, who never
went to business before ten and (it was reverentially whispered) hardly
needed to go before lunch unless he chose, took the whole morning off.
He had something to say to Amory.--"He's going to advise her about
investments," Mr. Geake murmured to Miss Addams as Mr. Massey and Amory
left the breakfast-table together.

What Uncle George had really taken Amory apart for was, in the new
turn events had taken, a delight crowning a delight. At any other time
she would have had quite a number of interior comments to make on Mr.
Massey's bashful communication; her attitude about such as have not
the gift of continence was sometimes almost Pauline in its severity:
but that morning all was a golden hurly-burly. Mr. Massey, in a corner
of the double drawing-room that had been dusted, lisped, blushing,
that he and her aunt had been talking matters over--that they had come
to the conclusion that there seemed no sufficient reason why their
marriage should not take place _earlier_ than July--and so in the
circumstances.... Here Mr. Massey had hissed himself to a complete
standstill.

"There is really nothing to wait for," he went on presently, recovering
a little. "I have taken the house on the Mall from the June quarter,
and--and--I am sure you'll understand--at any rate I hope you will some
day----"

Amory, hardly hearing, said that she hoped so too.

"So," Mr. Massey continued, "we had come to that decision, and now this
happy circumstance has befallen--I think my bed will have been made;
if you will come into my bedroom there is a little business we might
discuss----"

Mr. Massey's bed had not been made, but Mr. Massey modestly covered
its disarray with the counterpane. Then placing a chair for Amory, he
plunged into the little matter of business.

An hour later Amory's pecuniary circumstances stood as follows:--

From her godmother she had long had her thirteen pounds a quarter,
and now she had her ninety-five pounds. This sum Mr. Massey had
begged, with many delicate preliminaries, to be allowed to bring up
to the round figure again out of his own pocket--"simply as a slight
present, Amory--please don't thank me--it is such a pleasure to be of
assistance to those who know how to help themselves." And in view of
the hastened marriage Mr. Massey had further to announce that of her
aunt's tiny fortune a sum was to be earmarked sufficient to allow Amory
the continuance of the pound or so a week that had been paid for her at
Glenerne. That, Mr. Massey said, made a steady two pounds a week, plus
the very nice little nest-egg of a hundred pounds.

"And dear Geraldine and I fully expect to see you a Kauffman or a
Butler or a Rosa Bonheur yet," he beamed in conclusion.

Amory hoped that the event would prove them to be mistaken, but for the
first time she kissed Uncle George. The educational bookseller wiped
his glasses. Somehow or other Amory had the impression that even his
engagement to Aunt Jerry had seemed to him to lack something without
this sanction of her own.

All that day Amory did nothing but build palaces of fairy gold, laying
them low again only to re-erect them more shining than before. Say her
pictures sold at the very lowest figure, ten pounds apiece (but twenty
or thirty or more would be nearer the mark--Croziers' didn't dabble
in mere ten-pound prices). Some of them she had painted in a day, but
call it two days, or even two pictures a week. Why, there, at the
most ridiculously low estimate, was a thousand pounds a year! Fifteen
hundred would really be nearer the mark, and that without counting
the moral encouragement that would come by mere force of success. Two
thousand would hardly be too much; but call it a thousand in order to
be perfectly safe. Her two pounds a week would be mere glove-money. She
could spend that on handkerchiefs. Not real lace ones, of course; she
would have to do better even than a thousand before she could afford
real lace ones, with everything else to match; but this, after all, was
only a beginning. Ten pounds a canvas? Why, Morton, who did not paint
half as well as she did, had got three hundred for that rubbishy "Fête
Galante" only the other day--a thing shockingly out of drawing, and the
colour--oh dear! "Aha!" (Amory smiled). Let them wait just a bit! She
would show them at the McGrath! She would make the saturnine Mr. Jowett
sit up presently! And she would help the less fortunate, too, provided
they were deserving. She would publish a book of Walter's drawings for
him; they were really quite good--better, at any rate, than a good deal
of the stuff that was published. That was what the country had wanted
for a long time; not so much patrons who bought pictures, but patrons
who knew what they had got when they had bought them. And even if she
only painted a few pictures a year, that, when she had made her name....

Of course she laughed at herself from time to time; she knew she was
piling it on, but it was delicious for all that. Like a queen she
received their full chorus of congratulations at Glenerne that night--a
stately little queen, crowned with the barbaric red gold of her hair.
She forbore to ask them whether they had thought that artists painted
pictures for the mere sake of killing time; she did not want to rub in
their booking-clerkships and estate-agencies too much. It was enough
that they saw things now as they really were. Young Mr. Edmondson would
no more have dared to speak to her of squeezing at the Crystal Palace
now than he would have dared to discuss with her the subjects that
made her friendship with Cosimo so wonderful; it was, rather, a quite
aged and very much subdued Mr. Edmondson who for a full hour talked
of Closing Prices to Mr. Rainbow.... And even when, the felicitations
over, Mr. Sandys slapped his hands together in a business-like way and
said to Mrs. Deschamps, "Well, what about a tune, Mrs. D.?" that too in
its way was a tribute. It meant that even of exalted things poor weak
human nature can have more than its fill. Amory knew that she had given
Glenerne something to talk about for many, many months to come.

Then, on the morrow, setting her cloud-castle building sternly on one
side, she riveted her attention to immediate things. She was going to
remove to Cheyne Walk immediately; she had announced the fact to Miss
Addams. Not only had no opposition been offered; it had been tacitly
accepted that Glenerne was no place for one to whom these stupendous
things could happen. Amory would seek Cosimo that morning; without
Cosimo nothing could be done. Dorothy, she was afraid, would have to
make other arrangements at once; she must telephone to Dorothy that day.

Blithely she tripped down the Glenerne steps and sought the Goldhawk
Road tram. It was early; it was not likely that Cosimo would have gone
out. She might even have time to call at Katie Deedes's and get _The
Golden Ass_ on the way.

When, two days later, there arrived at Glenerne a blue press-cutting
envelope containing an article nearly a column long on "The Art of Miss
Amory Towers," by Hamilton Dix--and when, a day or two later still,
there followed half a dozen quotations from that same article from the
provincial papers--Glenerne was almost glad of Amory's translation.
The honour was too heavy. It was felt on all hands that the crags of
Sinai, and not the boarding-houses of Shepherd's Bush, were the proper
habitation for Miss Towers and her renown.



VI

WOMAN'S WHOLE EXISTENCE


There was nobody like Cosimo for beginning at the beginning. "What,"
he asked, extending a magnificent arm, bare (and black) to the very
shoulder, "is the use of doing the floor when you're going to fetch all
sorts of cobwebs down from the walls and ceiling, and haven't as much
as got the chimney swept? It's simply doing work twice over. No; let
that plumber chap finish the sink-pipe first, then, when the things
we've bought come, I'll have the men give them a thorough sweeping in
the cart and Mrs. 'Ill or Jellies can wash them with ammonia and water
downstairs, so that everything'll come in perfectly clean. Jellies,
did you get lots of old newspapers? All right, I don't want 'em yet,
they're to cover the floor when I distemper the walls. Put 'em out on
the landing there.--Now give me that brush, Mrs. 'Ill----"

He took a long brush from Mrs. 'Ill and began at the corner of the
ceiling beyond the fireplace.

Dorothy had taken away her black-and-white desk and her other
belongings some days before; now the table, the chairs, Amory's easel
and a whole clutter of other things filled the landing and staircase
outside. The plumber worked crouched half under the sink; but the
chimney-sweep who had promised to come that morning at eight had
not yet put in an appearance. The floor was an inch deep in dust and
cobwebs and débris, and Cosimo's broom fetched down fresh showers
moment by moment. He wore an old deer-stalker cap, to keep them out
of his tendrilled hair. Amory, too, wore an old dust-bonnet of Mrs.
'Ill's and her oldest painting pinafore. Cosimo gave her loud warnings
to stand out of the way as each fall came down. Mrs. 'Ill and Jellies
grimaced and spat the dust out of their mouths as they swept the walls.

For a whole week Cosimo had been past telling helpful and enthusiastic.
He had not gone out when Amory had called on him that morning; he had
been still in bed; but, hearing her knock and knowing her step, he had
called, "That you, Amory? Oh, do come in!" So Amory had sat on the edge
of Cosimo's bed, and Cosimo had bounded upward into a sitting posture
as Amory had told him her great news. "No, by Jove, really, though!"
he had shouted joyously. "You've got the money? I say, Amory, that's
perfectly glorious! Tell me quickly what you're going to do!"

And they had taken a header into plans, both talking at once.

Cosimo had done the whole of the shopping; Amory had merely stood by
and nodded and admired. "Leave it all to me," he had said repeatedly;
"you have your own special work that nobody but you can do: I can just
about manage this.... Now, have you a bed? And a bath? And what about
somewhere for your clothes? Tell me everything you've got, and then we
shall know where we are."

So Cosimo had chosen Amory's narrow bed for her, going down into the
basement for a slightly out-of-date pattern, much cheaper and probably
better made; and since Amory must have a bath, Cosimo had advised her
to get one of those oval ones with a lid that served as a travelling
trunk as well; they were a little dearer, but much cheaper than
buying the bath and the trunk separately. Then he had known where a
second-hand chest of drawers was going for next to nothing, also a
bowl and basin. And, cleverest of all, he had given orders that these
things were to be sent, not at once, but on dates when, he calculated,
the place would be just ready for their reception. Amory had ticked off
these purchases on a slip of paper, as also she had those of turpentine
and paraffin, boiled oil and soap and firewood and tins of distemper.
She had read aloud from the list: "Soap, scrubbing-brushes, blacklead,
condensed milk----" and Cosimo, laying his hand on each article as she
named it, had replied with "Right--right----" It had been great fun.

It was lucky, too, that Jellies was out of work; that gave them
somebody to help when Mrs. 'Ill was at the Creek ("or buying winkles
for the hens," Amory laughed). And the pair of them were almost as
funny as a pantomime about Amory and Cosimo. They waited quite half a
minute between knocking at the door and entering the room where the
friends were, and if one of them went out again both of them did. It
caused Amory the greatest amusement; they were as funny as Dorothy,
when she had run in that afternoon thinking Amory wanted to tell her,
not about Croziers' and the pictures, but about--Cosimo! Really, these
one-ideaed people were killing! It never occurred to them that it was
just possible that their narrow, illiberal views were not shared by
everybody! There was her aunt, for example: Aunt Jerry was the most
comical, mid-Victorian survival imaginable. She had stated flatly,
not two nights ago, that if she wasn't married in a church, by two
clergymen, with a bouquet and bells and "The Voice that Breathed o'er
Eden," she should not consider herself married at all! Bouquets and
bells, at this time of day!... Amory (she thanked goodness) intended
never to marry. Hers and Cosimo's was a much more rational relation.
They had argued it out anthropologically from _Primitive Culture_ and
_The Golden Bough_.

The plumber under the sink had a gas-jet and a soldering-iron, and he
was raising a smell of warm lead and flux. He, too, seemed to have
jumped to the same ludicrous conclusion as Mrs. 'Ill and Jellies. There
was an intelligence about his back view, as if that aspect of him said,
"I see--I'm minding my business--nearly finished--three's none--'nuff
said." And when, as Cosimo swept, Amory approached the plumber and
asked him whether the smell of cabbage-water would now cease, he turned
round almost with a start.

"Beg pardon, Miss?... Oh, that! Don't you worry your 'ead about that.
A S-pipe'll do it if anything will, and I'll explain it to the master
afore I go."

The master!... Amory and Cosimo had to go out on to the landing in
order to laugh. Otherwise they would have stifled.

Then, at nearly midday, the sweep arrived, and to the smells of dust
and hot lead was added that of the soot that rustled down the chimney.
Amory and Cosimo, unable to eat in the room itself and too begrimed to
lunch at the little restaurant along the Embankment, sat with their
glasses of milk and paper bag of sandwiches on the dark stairs.

Amory always devoutly hoped that when Cosimo married he would marry
some nice girl whose friend she could be. At present he was as poor as
a church mouse, but would not be so when his uncle died; and Cosimo was
not the kind of man money would spoil. If he had not known the value
of money he would not have been able to do Amory's shopping for her so
admirably; and if anything at all could still further have uplifted
their beautiful friendship, it would have been that Cosimo should by
and by be buying chests of drawers and washbowls for some girl of whom
Amory could really approve. Girl after girl--Katie Deedes, Dickie
Lemesurier, and others--Amory had suggested them all at one time and
another as more or less eligible partners for her "pal"; but Cosimo had
only laughed. He supposed he would marry some time or other, he had
said, though why he must (now he came to think of it) he didn't quite
know. Indeed, he thought he probably wouldn't, after all. "You see," he
explained frankly, "it would have to be somebody so awfully like you,
and there _isn't_ anybody else so wonderful."--"What rubbish, Cosimo!"
Amory usually replied, "there are lots of girls; why, you couldn't find
a worse wife than me! What good should _I_ be about a house or nursing
a baby?"--"True," Cosimo would then reply,--thoughtfully yet equably:
"but you're unique, you see. You have your art."--And that, it always
seemed to Amory, was the whole point. An ordinary young man would not
have had the perception to recognize her art as the crux of the whole
matter. He would have wanted to hold her hand or to put his arm about
her, and so would have ruined all.

And Cosimo sometimes, but of course only as a joke, spoke of her art
with a sort of humorous resentment, as a man who is allowed much but
is still excluded from one favour might speak of the rival in whose
preference he after all concurs. Amory thought that a perfecting touch.
Seriousness must be unassailable before such gracious, humorous little
liberties can be taken with it.

As they drank their milk and ate their sandwiches that day they laughed
together over Aunt Jerry's old-fashioned courtship. Cosimo asked to
be told again what Aunt Jerry proposed to wear at her wedding. He had
already been told several times, but he had the power, so rare among
men, of visualizing a dress from a verbal description, and could carry
the precise shade of a ribbon "in his eye" for matching purposes better
than Amory herself....

"_Doesn't_ it sound like the year of the Great Exhibition!" he chuckled
when Amory had told him.

"The dress?" Amory laughed. "The dress is nothing; it's the whole
thing that's like the year of the Great Exhibition! Why, when I asked
auntie an ordinary, simple question--whether she thought there would be
any babies--she blushed as if she really believed the storks brought
them, and implored me not to _dream_ of saying anything of the sort to
George! Who to, I should like to know, if not to George? Such absurd
false shame!... And this to-day, my dear, if you please, with Forel's
book to be had at any French bookseller's, and Altruism and Camaraderie
taught at even ordinary schools, and everything thrown open to sensible
discussion just as you and I discuss these things! It's too funny!"

"There's only one word for it really--'prurient,'" Cosimo opined.

"Oh, but that's taking it too seriously; I prefer the funny side of
it. Babies! Is she expecting butterflies, I wonder?... I did my best
for her; I tried to explain what a chromosome was; but it was no good.
You've never seen Aunt Jerry; I must have you meet her; she's _so_ like
the lady who went to see Anthony and Cleopatra and said it was very
unlike the homelife of the dear late Queen!"

Cosimo was silent for a moment; then his voice came authoritatively out
of the darkness. Cosimo was not much of a painter, but he really had
views that were often quite well worth hearing.

"You see, Amory, it's the swing of the pendulum. Action and re-action.
Perfectly simple. Take wearing stays, for example. What woman to-day
would think of wearing the stays they used to wear? Half the women we
know wear none at all, and the other half only these ribbon corsets.
And it's just the same with their views on marriage. They make such
mysteries about it, and what's the result? Why, in trying to make it
impossibly beautiful they miss the real beauty that's there all the
time, the beauty of the physical process. We have to rediscover that
to-day. And we've got a whole lot of abolishing to do before we can
begin. Sorry to have to abolish your aunt, but really, as you say,
Amory, we haven't time to-day to waste on people who marry and expect
to have butterflies."

Sometimes Amory wondered whether these daring and illuminating talks
with Cosimo were altogether a good thing for her art. They sometimes
seemed to enlarge her ideas _too_ much. It was difficult, with a common
brush and an ordinary canvas and a paint-box like anybody else's, to
express the true philosophical meaning of the heart of things as Cosimo
sometimes set that meaning forth; or rather, she could explain what she
meant, but could not always make it explain itself. She expressed this
doubt to Cosimo now, and found him quite extraordinarily full of help.

"I know," he said thoughtfully. "It's hard, but it's what you've got
to do, Amory. It's your job. Fundamental brainwork, as Rossetti said.
The old traditions are _epuisées_--worn out; in making the new one you
must say to yourself, 'Is this that I am doing merely a repetition, or
does it belong to the age that has--well, say, wireless telegraphy?'
I don't mean that you've got to muddle yourself, of course; that's
the other danger: like Scylla and Charybdis; there are always two
dangers, underdoing and overdoing; it's a Law. What I mean is that
your art must be _the_ thing. See what I mean? Break fresh ground. Do
something new. Say to yourself 'I'm going to do something new.' That's
what the Pre-Raphaelites did, and look at Ford Madox Brown! As I say,
it's the swing of the pendulum; action and re----(Hallo, here's Mrs.
'Ill--listen to her cough).... What a dreadful cold you have, Mrs.
'Ill!"

And they chuckled for a quarter of an hour over Mrs. 'Ill's comical
confusion.

That afternoon they had one of their jolliest chats about Heredity.
Amory wished she had Galton by her so that she could show Cosimo what
she really meant, but Galton, in that topsy-turvy, was not to be laid
hands on. Cosimo rested on his broom from time to time to listen,
fastened his coffee-brown eyes earnestly on her face, and said that she
ought to paint a picture, not necessarily to be called "Heredity," but
to have something of Galton's meaning and spirit about it. "Express
him in a different medium, if you understand me," he said.... Then he
finished his walls, and they washed their begrimed hands and faces
together over a bucket and went out to tea. Mrs. 'Ill and Jellies
were left to sweep up and to make all ready for Cosimo to distemper
the walls and stain the floor to-morrow. They dined, talking ever the
more rapidly and brightly as the hours wore on; and Amory went as
reluctantly back to Glenerne that night as if she had been going from a
glorious liberty to a prison.

Here, however, a piece of bad news awaited her. After dinner Uncle
George drew her aside and handed her a paragraph he had cut from a
newspaper. Amory read it, and then looked inquiringly up at Mr. Massey.
Except that it contained a name with which she was somehow remotely
familiar, it conveyed nothing to her. Not many things in newspapers
did convey much to Amory. She thought them dull, and wished they had
a Cosimo at the head of them to fill them with the really interesting
things about the New Movement and criticism and art.

Nor did the scholastic bookseller himself appear to know the full
purport of the paragraph. It announced baldly and briefly that a
trustee had absconded with certain funds, and Mr. Massey feared that
those funds might include the capital sum that hitherto had yielded
the thirteen pounds a quarter Amory had had from her godmother.
The man might, of course (Mr. Massey said), be--something or
other--"extradited" she thought the word was; but, on the other hand,
he might not. Even if he were to be extradited, Mr. Massey feared that
such delinquents commonly bolted, not with the money, but after the
money was spent. So he would not advise Amory to build too much on
the recovery of the money.... And Amory discovered something new and
rather unexpected in her prospective uncle, namely, that while it was
"a pleasure to assist" (as he had softly hissed) a young woman who had
shown herself as capable as Amory had of assisting herself, he did not
think it necessary to keep hold of her hand once she was set on her
feet. She had a hundred pounds in actual cash, on account of a sum that
might be very large indeed; and he himself would have thought himself
lucky had he been possessed of half that capital at her age.... This
mid-Victorian, heavy-father view of Mr. Massey's, that young people
should be kept a little short in the very years of their capacity for
enjoyment, could, of course, have been demolished in a minute by any
modern and rational and hard-up young man: it was manifestly absurd
that people should have money only when they were past their pleasures:
but it would have taken more than Cosimo to knock it out of Mr.
Massey's head for all that.

Amory went to bed moodily that night, first trying to tell herself, and
then trying not to tell herself, that her income was in all probability
now reduced by a half.

She had begun, too, to be a little alarmed at the rate at which her
hundred pounds of actual capital was diminishing. Excellently and
cheaply as Cosimo had bought, she simply could not tell herself where
nearly thirty pounds had gone. There had been her bed, her bath, her
chest of drawers, her washstand, her this, that, and the other; and
there had been "sundries." She had had the conception of sundries
that they were quite small things, in paper packets and tins, that
cost a few pence; it came rather as a shock to her that kettles and
frying-pans and cups and saucers and scrubbing-brushes were sundries
too. And tablecloths and blankets and sheets and pillow-cases seemed
to be very considerable sundries indeed. Still--thirty pounds! She
would have thought that thirty pounds would have furnished the Glenerne
kitchens twice over. And at tea that afternoon, Cosimo had spoken of a
carved wood frame he had seen in Marylebone High Street that it would
be positively criminal not to buy for another three!...

Well, living would be cheaper at Cheyne Walk; that would be one thing.
Tea and bread-and-butter and a chop or steak once a day would be
quite enough for her; and when all these things were bought they were
bought, and would not be to buy again. She had another shrinking as
she remembered that, now that all her work had gone to Croziers',
she had hardly a canvas or stretcher in the place, and that half her
paint-tubes were mere flat metal ribbons with a screw-cap on the end,
and that she badly wanted a complete set of new brushes. She tried to
tell herself that five pounds would refit her, but she knew in her
heart that ten or twelve would hardly be too much; artists' colourmen
have their sundries too....

And now she must reckon a whole pound a week as good as gone....

But the press-cuttings from the provincial papers were still coming in,
and her courage revived as she remembered Mr. Hamilton Dix's newest
article on her and her work. He was coming to interview her. The market
for her twenty-eight canvases was already being prepared. Mr. Dix would
hardly be doing all that unless it was intended that her show should
come on in the autumn....

She went to sleep, once more resolved that when, presently, she
should come into her kingdom, no poor artist, provided he were really
deserving, should ask her help in vain.

Two days later she had cast her money cares almost entirely to the
winds. Naturally it was not to be supposed that she could come into
a hundred pounds and not buy herself at least one frock; as a matter
of fact she had bought two. She hoped she had not offended Dorothy
about them. It was one of the advantages of Dorothy's occupation that
she was frequently offered clothes, not merely at cost price, but
at truly absurd reductions. But then (Amory had thought) they were
_such_ clothes--inartistic and irrational in the extreme, conventional
Paris and Viennese models, some of them actually resembling those
excruciating drawings of Dorothy's, and hats that (to put it bluntly)
Amory would not have been found dead in. Dorothy had offered to get
her a number of these, and had said that it was a chance to be jumped
at!... Why, even Cosimo, a man, had laughed and said, "Dear old
Dot--she means awfully well, doesn't she?"... And Cosimo had chosen
the two frocks Amory actually had bought. One of them was terra-cotta,
the other green; both were exquisitely smocked at yoke and hips, and
any of the Pre-Raphaelites (Cosimo said) would have gone half wild
with delight over the drawing of the myriad intricate folds. He had
made a suggestion or two in the shop itself, and when the things had
been, delivered at the studio, Cosimo had not rested until he had seen
Amory put them on. Amory had looked round the room; the curtain that
was to enclose her new bed was not up yet, but she thanked goodness
she was not one of your shrinking prudes.... "I don't suppose a girl's
arms will shock you, will they?" she had asked, smiling.... So she
had tried, first the terra-cotta, then the green. "Oh, I say, you do
look stunning!" Cosimo had flattered her, lifting his fine dark eyes
as she had turned this way and that; "but you ought to have a Portia
cap, you know----" And that was only another instance of the way their
minds jumped together; for Amory, without saying anything to Cosimo,
had already got _two_ of the Portia caps, one for each frock.... Then
she had got back into the old frock again, and they had discussed the
preparation of the studio once more.

As Cosimo said, they had really got most of the work done. The
furniture would not arrive until the morrow, but the walls were already
distempered a light green colour, almost white, and the ceiling was
done, and the floor was a wide frame glassy with boiled oil and
paraffin and polish, only awaiting the square of Japanese matting in
the centre. The shining brown border was not yet quite dry, and Cosimo
had very cleverly built up a sort of gang-plank across it to the door.
To see Jellies, herself of a yielding figure, crossing this yielding
plank, was very funny indeed. The framing in _passe-partout_ of the
photographs of old masters went down as sundries; Amory, with Myers
on _Human Personality_ tucked under her arm, had spent half the day
in setting the photographs each in the one and only place for it; and
now, until the bed and chest of drawers and things should come, she and
Cosimo were sitting cross-legged in the middle of the unstained part
of the floor. A yard of casement-cloth was between them, which Cosimo
deftly ripped up with a pair of scissors. He had brought his own little
work-basket. He was as handy with a needle as a sailor. And as he
measured the casement-cloth he talked.

"Steady a moment--you've got hold of the wrong end; that's the end,
where I've basted it. If I were you I should buttonhole the eyelets....
Look out, you're giving me a finished pair to cut ... and I say,
Amory, you want a fresh binding on that skirt--you'll be catching your
heel and coming down; I'll put a stitch in it for you as soon as I've
finished this.... I say you're quiet; a penny for your thoughts!"

Amory, as a matter of fact, had been once more hoping that Cosimo would
by and by find some really nice girl to marry. In his case the wrong
one would be dreadfully wrong; he had the woman's point of view so
perfectly. That, in a sense, was why he was so exquisitely right in not
wanting to marry Amory herself--supposing, that was, that Amory had
not definitely decided never to marry at all. They knew one another
too well; were too much alike, too beautifully "pals"; somehow they
seemed almost to come within the prohibited degrees.... Still, if Amory
couldn't marry Cosimo, she could keep, as it were, an eye on him. It
would be dreadful if he fell into the hands of some jealous creature
or other, worthy neither of him nor of Amory herself. Amory had long
thought that it would be rather nice to be "Aunt Amory" to a number of
eugenically-selected and rationally-clothed boys and girls, who were
not told lies about where they came from, and had moral courage enough,
when they were afraid, to say that they were afraid; but she wasn't
going to be "come over" by their mother, and permitted as a favour to
see Cosimo once in a while, and to be put off with a "Not at Home" when
she and Cosimo wished to discuss her art.... So, when Cosimo said, "A
penny for your thoughts," Amory was silent for a moment, and then,
lifting her pretty brook-brown eyes over the yard of casement-cloth
that united their hands, she smiled pensively and said:

"I was wondering, Cosimo, why--why you don't marry Dorothy."

Cosimo dropped his end of the casement-cloth and reached for a needle
with black thread in it. He leaned forward.

"Here, let me stitch that binding while I think of it.... What's that?
Marry Dorothy?... Why, you don't suppose Dorothy would have me, do you?
Because I don't."

Of course, Cosimo was far too well-bred to say that he wouldn't have
Dorothy. Still, she guessed what he meant. Dorothy (he seemed to
say) was a perfect dear, but not in that way. Nevertheless, Amory,
who sat in the light and could see herself ever so tiny in Cosimo's
black-coffee-coloured eyes, looked a little doubtful, and said, "Are
you quite sure of that?"

"Perfectly sure," Cosimo repeated, with the same beautiful tact.
"Don't suppose she'd look at me if there wasn't another man in London.
Besides, if I wanted to be absurd, I might ask you why _you_ don't
marry Walter!"

Amory straightened her back and the pretty bluebell-stalk of her neck.
She gave a rich little laugh.

"Oh, just at present I'm having enough of marriage to last me for
some time to come.... Cosimo," she added, in impressive tones, "Aunt
Jerry's--_awful_!"

"How, awful? (Just pull the edge round a bit, will you?")

"Ugh!... But you don't know her: I'll take you round and introduce
you: then you'll see for yourself. What about next Wednesday? or no,
I'd better have them here.... Really it seems to me to amount to a
public gloating? Their engagement was announced in the 'Times,' and
ever since they've had nothing but advertisements--advertisements for
wedding-cakes, dresses, veils, flowers, furniture, houses, and I don't
know what not. The most private things--you wouldn't believe! It's
as if every tradesman in London was looking at them as those shopmen
looked at us when we bought the bed! But the moment _I_ ask a perfectly
plain question, oh, the outraged modesty!... And what do you think her
latest is? She hopes that if there are any children at all they'll be
boys! Boys! Think of it!"

"Ah, the Feminist Movement was bound to tell," said Cosimo. "If we're
doing nothing else, we're driving the reactionaries into the opposite
camp and making them declare themselves."

"You think it's that?"

"Think, my dear! I'm quite sure. We're driving them to their last
defence. They know that woman's man's equal really, and that's why
they're afraid. Why, look at your own case. You needn't go further
than that. What's the good of theorizing when one knows? Take the
chromosome. If woman's got one and man hasn't, then she has something
he hasn't, and is actually his superior. You've a chromosome and I
haven't, and look at us.... Yes, that's why the stick-in-the-muds
nowadays all want boys. The female disability's going to be removed.
You're removing it in your work; the advance-guard are removing it by
having girls. It's all right as long as we know who's for us and who's
against us. I don't blame your aunt for a single moment. I'm sorry for
her, but that's a different thing."

"Dorothy says she'd rather have boys, too," Amory mused.

"Of course she would; so would Jellies; and making allowances for
accidentals, Dot and Jellies are intellectually on a par, you know."

("Here's a piece that wants a stitch too.) But oh, Cosimo, isn't that
going rather too far? Dorothy--and Jellies----!"

"Not far enough," Cosimo averred stoutly. "The cases are exactly on
all-fours. We know what Dorothy is, but we don't know what Jellies
might not have been if she'd had the chance. You aren't allowing for
Environment, you see...."

And only the arrival of the bed, the bath and the chest of drawers cut
short (three-quarters of an hour later) the most illuminating talk
about Environment that Amory and Cosimo had ever had.

By seven o'clock that evening the studio was practically ready for
Amory to come into it. It certainly looked exceedingly comfortable. A
fire had been lighted, more for the sake of decorative effect than from
any need of one, and the smell of the excellent little dinner Cosimo
had cooked filled the room with a delightfully homelike smell. Potatoes
roasted in their jackets in the ashes, liver-and-bacon keeping warm on
the two hot plates inside the fender, a pancake ready for pouring into
the pan, cheese, fruit, coffee in a little lustre jug only needing the
hot water to be poured upon it, and half a bottle of "Veuve Dodo" (an
Australian burgundy) from the wineshop in the King's Road--Cosimo had
seen to all. Mrs. 'Ill herself, coming in to give a last look round,
had found nothing wanting.

"Well, nobody can say as 'ow you won't be snug--can they, Florence?"
Mrs. 'Ill said, leaving it delicately in doubt whether she meant the
pronoun to be taken as in the plural. "A prettier little 'ome, all
things considered, I never see. I always says as it isn't riches as
makes contentment; and you 'aven't far to go for your potatoes anyway,
which is just downstairs, also apples and oranges. And eggs I can
always supply, though my experience is as artists puts too much trust
in eggs, which hasn't the nourishment of meat when all's said, and not
cheaper when you take your 'ealth into consideration, as all of us
must, young or old and married or not. Nor winkles, though I'm fond
of 'em myself, but not to rely on. Bring the bucket, Florence, and I
'ope you've taken notice, so you can tell 'Orris when 'e comes out next
week.... Oh, thank you, sir; I don't deny it would be acceptable, the
smell of turps being that drying--and wishing you good night and sweet
dreams...."

And Mrs. 'Ill and Jellies curtsied elaborately and left them.

"She _almost_ said the Creek wasn't five minutes away!" Cosimo laughed
when they had gone. "And that idea was a great success of yours, to
put the slippers I'd been whitewashing inside the fender. Jellies's
eyes nearly fell into them when she saw them! _Aren't_ people funny!...
Well, let's have the first meal in the new place...."

He put a pinch of salt into the coffee-jug and reached for the
liver-and-bacon.

As they ate and toasted the new studio, in the Veuve Dodo, they
discussed the house-warming that, of course, Amory must give. Including
the carved wood frame, the two frocks, and more sundries, Amory's
installation had cost her in all forty-three pounds. A fresh supply
of materials for her work would bring the sum up to forty-eight or
more--call it forty-eight, and to all intents and purposes forty-eight
was fifty. A party by all means; one might as well be hanged for a
sheep as for a lamb. They talked of it. Laura would bring her guitar
again, and--who was that new friend of Walter's, the one with the
glasses, who seemed to know Nietzsche by heart?... They would get
Walter to bring him. And Katie and Dickie, of course, and Phyllis
Hardy, and Amory supposed they'd have to ask Dorothy. They could pull
the bed from behind its curtain to sit on; and now, thank goodness,
there were plates and glasses enough to go round! Amory's eyes rested
on them where they stood in overlapping rows on the rack that Cosimo
had put up where the little bookshelf had been. They shone brightly,
and the cups twinkled on the new brass hooks below them; and there were
tea and coffee in the tins, and milk in a jug, and butter in a little
dish, and everything looked so spick-and-span that Amory had half a
mind to paint it all. The flat wide kettle Cosimo had bought would
boil on the oil-stove in twelve minutes. The bath was under the bed.
Cosimo had marked the spare bed and table linen that was neatly folded
in the chest of drawers. A curtain drew across the row of pegs on which
Amory's clothes hung, and the reflections of the candle-flames in the
polished floor-borders made simply ripping shimmers of colour. Amory
was quite cross that she must return to Glenerne that night; it was
such a long way for poor Cosimo to see her home. Well, she would be
nearer to him soon--practically just round the corner. Then they would
be able to see quite a lot of each other.

After supper Cosimo washed up, and then they drew up two chairs to
the fire; and Amory turned back her new terra-cotta skirt so as not
to scorch it, and they talked and ate apples. They talked of poor
Herbertson's show (he had died), and Mr. Dix's articles, and Amory's
own work; and it was long before Amory yawned sleepily. Then she rose.
Return to Glenerne she must. She begged Cosimo, who had had a hard day,
to let her go alone; but Cosimo would not hear of it. Then, as Cosimo
was putting out the lamp, they both laughed together. The absent-minded
fellow had actually been on the point of setting out with her to
Shepherd's Bush in the slippers in which he had white-washed, leaving
his boots by the side of her bed.



VII

THE VOICE THAT BREATHED O'ER EDEN


The invitations were out for Miss Geraldine Towers' wedding, and the
first acceptance Aunt Jerry received was that of Cosimo Pratt. For
Amory had kept her promise and had brought them together. It had been
at the studio in Cheyne Walk, which Aunt Jerry and Mr. Massey had come
to see the very night before Amory had left Glenerne; and really there
had seemed something to be said for Mrs. 'Ill's cautious practice of
coughing as she ascended the stairs and tapping and waiting before she
entered the room. Amory had held a candle at the head of the stairs
when they had left, but had not descended with them, and she had
re-entered her room to find Cosimo at his funniest and most solemn.

"I trust, Amory," he had said, looking gravely at her, "that my ears
deceived me?..."

"Cosimo," Amory had replied, looking as gravely at him, "I greatly
fear...."

"It _sounded_ like one, Amory...."

"It _was_ one, Cosimo...."

"You are sure?..."

"If an aquarium, why not a greengrocer's entry?... At their age!" Amory
had burst out laughing. "Well, one thing's pretty certain now--you'll
be invited to the wedding!"

At this Cosimo's gravity had become profounder and funnier still.

"You _don't_ mean...."

Amory had clapped her hands.

"I do! Didn't you see it in auntie's eyes?... Cosimo, dear, you're
approved of--quite an eligible young man!--So that makes Mrs. 'Ill
(one), Jellies (two), Dorothy (three), aunt and uncle (five), and the
plumber and the chimney-sweep (seven)--seven of these dear, quaint,
obsolete souls...."

"All trying to marry you and me, Amory?"

"Yes, Cosimo."

"And I shall be asked to the wedding as--er--one of the family?"

"Quite, if I know anything about auntie."

"Then," said Cosimo, in a deep voice, "I can only say that I shall
come."

"Oh, do!" Amory broke out. She clutched his arm. "And I'll make a bet
with you, Cosimo! Our great pandjandrum will be there--'Mr. Wellcome
Himself,' they call him, with a capital 'h,' almost like God--and I'll
bet you anything you like he says, 'May all your troubles be little
ones!'"

"You _promise_ me he shall say that?" said Cosimo incredulously.

"Oh, you don't know the atmosphere I've had to keep my art alive in!"

"I shall certainly come," Cosimo had said. He added that he would have
gone there barefoot if only Mr. Wellcome would say, "May all your
troubles be little ones."

The wedding was to take place at St. Mark's, not far from Mr. Massey's
bookshop, and the breakfast was to be given at Glenerne itself. It was
to be sent in from Bunters', all but what Mr. Sandys, the baritone, of
the Lillie Road branch of the East Midlands Bank, called "the wet."
That was to be Mr. Wellcome's wedding-gift. He had vowed that unless he
was allowed to stand just one little bottle with a bit of gold foil on
it to two of the very best that ever stepped, he would never set foot
in Glenerne again; and everybody knew that by "just one little bottle,"
Mr. Wellcome meant a case, if not two, not to speak of a liqueur for
the sake of which an invading general might have sacked a monastery.
Mr. Wellcome was also to give Miss Geraldine Towers away.

The clear-eyed Weiniger, the ruthless Strindberg, the hypochondriac
Schopenhauer himself--not one of these could have shed a more searching
light of criticism on the whole apparatus of Aunt Jerry's wedding than
did the bride's pretty and artistic niece. She reduced Cosimo to a
state of mere respectful admiration. First there was the age of the
contracting parties. It was not even (so to speak) a case of May and
December; it was November and December--or, at any rate, October and
November. If this was the outcome of young and musical society, what
was to be expected of those who really were in the April of their
lives? It was a very good thing indeed that Amory and Cosimo were able
to set an example of restraint. If age must go a-giddying, youth must
show itself sober and responsible. Amory put it fairly and squarely to
Cosimo: was that not a Law? Cosimo agreed that it was a Law--the Law
of Compensation.

Then there was the Service itself. Amory had just read the Service
again for the first time for a number of years, and really the claims
it made could only be described as stupendous!... How could you
_possibly_ know that you were going to honour somebody until death did
you depart? Suppose they turned out to be a different kind of person
altogether from what you had supposed? Surely, then, it would be your
clear duty, as an open-minded person, not to honour them! And how could
you _possibly_ know that you might not be doing a quite criminally
improvident thing in promising to endow somebody, as to whose real
character you were totally in the dark, with all your worldly goods? Of
course, the sensible view was that that person should be endowed with
the worldly goods who was best capable of looking after them. And how
could you _possibly_ know that you would cleave to one only, and so
on? Not that anybody else was likely to take Aunt Jerry away from Mr.
Massey, but suppose they _did_ want to? Amory called that stultifying.
It was not open-minded: it was a wilful and deliberate shutting of your
mind, perhaps to some really wonderful revelation.... And what had
Abraham and Sarah, and Isaac and Rebecca, and all these dead-and-gone
Jews got to do with it all? Pretty records some of _them_ had for that
matter!... Oh no, the whole thing was simply fossilized. Strictly
speaking, it ought to be looked on paleontologically, as a curious and
interesting historic survival. For that matter, people seemed to have
their doubts even in going into it, for they usually talked about "the
silken cord of Love" in an apologetic sort of way--silken cord, indeed,
with all those cast-iron regulations! Amory liked "silken cord!"... Oh
no; the Service started out all right; it hit the nail on the head with
"First it was ordained," and so on, but the rest, eugenically speaking,
was mere--mere----

"Obscurantism," Cosimo suggested, but rather diffidently. Even he had
never seen Amory so astonishingly into her stride before. He could have
listened to her all day; he did listen to her half the day.

"That's the very word!" Amory praised him. "Signifying darkness, where
it's pretending to shed light all the time! If exploded ideas like
those can be put into the Prayer Book, it seems to me that a Divorce
Service ought to go into the Prayer Book too, instead of having to go
to a court of law for it! And look, I ask you, at the position of woman
in divorce to-day!" (Amory drove ahead as if it had been a question of
Aunt Jerry's divorce already.) "Suppose she gets her decree: there's an
odium attaches to her just the same whether it's her fault or not! _I_
call it the fault of Abraham and Sarah, and their stupid old Service!
Laws that are too harsh are _bound_ to be broken! It's a duty to break
them, so that we can get them altered. What we want is a rational tie,
voluntarily entered into, and sweep all these archaic old penalties
aside! Not that it's any business of mine; thank goodness _I_ shan't
marry...."

None the less, out of a noble love of abstract justice and a hatred of
wrong merely because it was wrong, Amory found it intolerable.

Then there was the minor apparatus. From the point of view of Eugenics,
Amory would have thought that the worst possible preparation for the
perfect race of the future was all this over-eating of indigestible
things, and over-drinking of things that were, medically speaking,
poisons. "Healths" indeed! Pretty name for them!... And all these
buffooneries of throwing rice and confetti, and flinging an old shoe
after the "happy" (ahem!) pair. For the wedding presents, Amory
conceded, there was something to be said. The present economic
conditions made it difficult for the really splendid young people to
get married at all, and so it was right that they should be in a sense
subsidized by those who had wrested (principally by callousness) more
out of the competitive struggle than they (of a more sensitive make)
had managed to wrest for themselves. Indeed, Amory's only complaint
against the custom of giving presents was that it did not go far
enough. What really ought to be done was that the State should pick
its best specimens, on the principles laid down by Galton and others,
and pension them off for one understood purpose, putting them in the
midst of beautiful surroundings ... a sort of Endowment of Motherhood
idea, but on a scale of the first magnitude, and not by mere doles, ...
and, of course, with everything possible done to ensure the birth of
girls.... Science would soon be able to do that at the rate at which it
was advancing....

"I say, Amory, you are wonderful!" Cosimo breathed, rapt....

Amory said, "Silly old Cosimo!" But she herself could not help thinking
that her lips had rather been touched with the coal.

At Glenerne, nothing but the approaching wedding was talked about.
Unhappily, however, the talk was all about those very accidentals that
had the least to do with the propagation of a healthy and rational
race. True, a knowing eye rested once in a while on the whatnot that
contained the photographs of Miss Addams's "grandchildren," and a
smile was hidden behind a hand or turned hurriedly into a cough; but
for the rest the race was left to look after itself just as if Galton
had never been born, and a Eugenic Congress had never been held. Very
little whist or dancing went on in the large double drawing-room
upstairs. Everybody flocked downstairs again into the dining-room,
where the tablecloth and cruets were not now left for the next repast,
as usual, but removed to make room for Aunt Jerry's heaps and heaps
of linen. Miss Crebbin and Miss Swan marked; Miss Addams and Mrs.
Deschamps folded and set all into orderly heaps; and M. Criqui and Mr.
Edmondson wrapped the heaps in brown paper and wrote on each package
a description of its contents. Mr. Massey was frequently taken by
the shoulders by Mrs. Deschamps and turned out of the room, as being
only in the way. He either retired to his bedroom and wrote cheques,
or else, in the company of other smokers, sat on the garden roller
in the little back greenhouse and lighted and threw away again Cubeb
cigarettes.

Mr. Edmondson's case was generally commiserated. He had not been quite
himself since Amory's departure. He had held rather moping discussions,
on such subjects as the progress of illustrated journalism and the
decay of respect in the attitude of the young towards the old, with Mr.
Rainbow and stout Mr. Waddey, the timber-merchant; and he had more than
once dropped a dark hint that he might soon be leaving Glenerne--young
musical society becomes a little trying when you yourself are the
young and musical society. And he took it rather hardly that he
would not be able to be present at the wedding-breakfast, but must
rise at five-thirty, clean his boots, make his cup of tea over his
spirit-kettle, and lunch in the ticket-office as usual. Mrs. Deschamps
told M. Criqui that she thought Mr. Edmondson had had more than a
_penchant_ for Amory; M. Criqui, who was in the Lyons silk trade, and
had given Aunt Jerry a beautiful dress-length, had raised his brows and
said "Si?" M. Criqui's politeness never forsook him. It was as if he
asked Mrs. Deschamps where Mr. Edmondson's eyes could have been to have
had a _penchant_ for anybody when Mrs. Deschamps herself was there, to
be admired almost whether her victim wished it or not.

But if Mr. Edmondson must be absent, a pretty full gathering of the
others was to be present. Mr. Waddey, the timber-merchant, had put off
the buying of a Gloucestershire wood for the purpose; Mr. Rainbow had
put a red line round the date on the hanging calendar in his bedroom;
and Mr. Geake and Mr. Sandys had promised to run in, the one from the
Estate Office in Goldhawk Road, the other from the Branch Bank. Miss
Crebbin, away in the city, was in Mr. Edmondson's case, but Miss Swan
was turning her class over to the study of art for the afternoon (a
subject in which one of the monitors could be trusted to take them),
and Miss Tickell would close her milliner's shop from ten to four. As
for five or six of the other ladies, their time was their own. There
had been much discussion as to whether the olive-skinned Indians
should be invited; finally, they too had been included. Two of them
lunched daily at Glenerne. They could hardly be asked to move from
their accustomed chairs and wooden napkin-rings; and then there was
the solidarity of the Empire to consider. All three had been asked,
and were coming. Mr. Massey's brother and his wife were to be the only
outsiders, for Mr. and Mrs. Wellcome and the infant Master Wellcome
could hardly be called outsiders. Or if there was another outsider
at all it would be Mr. Cosimo Pratt, and he (Glenerne had been given
vaguely to understand) might not be an outsider very long. Really the
most outside of all was Amory herself. It was true she had lived in the
house, but in the body only, not in the spirit, if press-cuttings meant
anything. She had stooped on the wing from a brighter air. Her art was
not the same kind of art as that to which Miss Swan had turned over
her Board School class for the afternoon. It brought in cheques for
ninety-five pounds.

The wedding was fixed for a Tuesday, and by the Monday night the
Glenerne hall was almost impassable with trunks and bags and cases--the
trunks and bags for the going away (to the Lake District), the cases
containing nobody knew what until Mr. Massey and Miss Geraldine,
who had gone to the Vicarage, should return. Two of them, however,
were surmised to contain Mr. Wellcome's contribution to the morrow's
breakfast, and it was a "wheeze" of the men to attitudinize in mock
ecstasies before them and to make luscious noises as of drinking.
Another case, a yard square but not very high, was so heavy that the
porter had hardly been able to carry it in; and if one might judge from
certain conspiratorial whispers, one or two of the borders guessed
what that case also contained. Mrs. Deschamps had almost wept over Mr.
Massey's special licence; Mr. Waddey, who was a widower, had remarked
that it was strange, when you came to think of it, the meaning there
might be in a bit of paper you could easily crumple up and throw into
the fire. Mr. Edmondson, too, asked to be allowed to look at the
licence. Later he was heard going about saying that it was strange,
when you really considered it, how much bits of paper, that you could
easily tear up into little pieces, stood for sometimes. "A railway
ticket's nothing in itself," he said, by way of illustration of what he
meant, "but just you try to travel without one...."

The wedding-day dawned. Mr. Massey and his brother (a red-faced,
silent man who wore policeman's boots and seemed uncomfortable in his
collar) had gone off arm in arm somewhere; and Amory and Mr. Massey's
brother's wife were helping Aunt Jerry to dress. Mrs. Deschamps had
lent her bedroom for the display of the wedding-presents. The heavy
box in the hall had been opened, and had been found to contain, by
stupid mistake, a second wedding-cake, all snow and silver, which Mr.
Geake and Mr. Sandys had carried into the dining-room and set before
the bride's place. You had to look twice at lavender bonnets and white
veils and black coats and light gloves before you were quite sure who
the wearers were; and the string of cabs outside, with nosegays in the
lamps, stretched away to the end of the road and round the corner. And
Glenerne that morning was a school for waiters indeed, for six extra
ones had come from Bunters', and, with their heads held high, looked
as it were through their dropped lids at Glenerne's own Germans and
Belgians and the little red-fezzed Omar K.

Then a loud "Hi, Squeegee--Lueegee--Guliulimo! Them things come?"
was heard in the hall. Mr. Wellcome, with Mrs. Wellcome bearing a
torrent of lace in which the youngest Master Wellcome slept, had
arrived. "Brought her after all, you see, Nellie!" Mr. Wellcome cried
triumphantly to Mrs. Deschamps, whom he met at the foot of the stairs;
and then he spoke behind his hand: "Lucky ... always want one like that
at a wedding!"... "_Not_ again!" Mrs. Deschamps whispered back, half
shocked, half as if such a man was indeed a creature to be dreaded.
"Eh? Why not?" Mr. Wellcome blustered. "We don't adopt 'em at _our_
house! Not while we have our health! Now, time we were off; where's
this daughter o' mine _pro tem_?"

The arrival of the Wellcomes was all they had been waiting for. They
set off, the line of cabs drawing up at the gate, stopping, starting,
stopping again, until the last had driven off with a couple of urchins
sitting on the back of it.

Amory and Cosimo heard every word of that preposterous Service from
the front pew. The quick glances that passed between them from time to
time only emphasized their rock-like gravity between whiles. And after
all, there is such a thing as tolerance. If this Sacrament was really
the crumbling institution the pure beam of reason showed it to be, so
much the less abolition there would be for Amory and Cosimo to do. You
teach a lesson to those who do not respect your convictions when you
deal gently with their manifest prejudices, and the fewer who shared
the joke the more humour there would be for themselves. So Amory merely
noted that her aunt made no bones about the word "obey," and wondered,
as man and wife knelt, where Uncle George's brother, who was best man,
got those extraordinary boots.

But she had promised Cosimo that the real humour should come
afterwards, when the wedding-party returned to Glenerne; and her
promise was richly fulfilled. There were heads at every window in the
street, and they could hardly get in at the gate for the press of
watchers about it. And when they had got in and mounted the front steps
and passed along the hall, they could hardly get into the dining-room
for the crowd of waiters, Bunters' and Glenerne's, who, making an
international matter of it, covertly elbowed and shouldered one another
and muttered words of contempt under their breath and exchanged
malevolent glances. But when they had got in, and had found each his or
her name written by Mrs. Deschamps on the half-sheets of notepaper with
the silver-lettered Glenerne heading, it was worth coming miles to see
and participate in. Regular boarders eyed the table, with its dishes
glazed and its dishes garnished, its dishes frilled and crimped and
made strange with icing and aspic and cochineal, very much as a man who
knew a buttercup and a daisy when he saw them might peep, intimidated,
into a house of rare and exotic orchids. These fantastic growths of
the same kingdom as the dandelion and the dog-rose? These gemmed and
enamelled comestibles food also, like Miss Addams's thin soups and
strips of watery fish and semi-transparent slices of Argentine beef and
New Zealand lamb?... Each resolved to let his neighbour tackle them
first and to see what implement he did so with. For, while fingers
might have been made before forks, they were no fewer in number than
the bright plated objects of cutlery (including something that seemed
to start as a pair of sugar-tongs and to end as a sort of cigar-cutter)
that extended for quite six inches on either side of each plate. It
might be going too far to say that one must necessarily be born to
these things; nevertheless a fellow did feel a bit taken aback when he
was confronted with them straight away.

(To anticipate a little: Nobody knew who it was who first discovered
that here they had a tower of strength in Mr. Wellcome. But it was
presently seen that Mr. Wellcome knew all about fish-knives and
finger-bowls, and made nothing of them. Therefore all you had to do
was to watch Mr. Wellcome. Then, no idea being so good but that it is
capable of improvement, it was discovered that you were quite safe
if you watched Mr. Sandys, who watched Mr. Rainbow, who watched Mr.
Wellcome. Soon each _plat_ was being attacked with grace and confidence
at its proper remove from the fountainhead of good form, the movement
passing down the table very much as the cabs had drawn up one by one at
the door.)

To ask who occupied Mr. Wellcome's Chair were to ask who occupies
the Throne at a Coronation. Mr. Wellcome Himself occupied it. Mrs.
George Massey sat on his right hand, George Massey on his left. This
arrangement was duplicated at the other end of the long table, where
Miss Addams sat between Cosimo and Amory. These constellations of
primary and hardly secondary brilliance were united, along either side
of the table, by the lesser stars; and, just as a hole appears in the
Southern Heavens, so the three Indian students made a sort of Coal Sack
among the whiter faces on Miss Addams's right hand. Amory thought it
far better that she and Cosimo should not be sitting actually together.
Apart, they would have all the more notes to compare afterwards.

Cosimo was gathering these already. As once he had taken the broom
from the crossing-sweeper, so now he was talking across the corner of
the table to Mrs. Wellcome. He was talking about the only person who
breakfasted without taking his cue of deportment from anybody--the
child; he got, as he said afterwards, "simply priceless things." Amory,
across the other corner, was engaged in a series of lively rallies
with Mr. Rainbow. Mr. Rainbow always expanded when Mr. Wellcome came to
Glenerne. If he became a little deflated again when Mr. Wellcome had
turned his back, nobody thought the less of him on that account. To be
able to play up to Mr. Wellcome at all was an achievement beyond the
power of most.

Not that Mr. Wellcome Himself showed himself immediately at the top of
his form; he husbanded his resources better than that. He had almost
reunited the two hostile camps of waiters and set them to make common
cause against himself when he had asked which of them knew the top
from the bottom of a bottle of G. H. Mumm, and, taking a napkin and
a cutter, had shown them how to unwire one and to pour its contents
out; and when all the glasses had been filled, and Mr. Wellcome had
risen at the head of the table, dark against the bow-window with its
indiarubber-plants in the mustard-yellow faience vases, those who
rapped with the ends of their knives on the table and called "Order,
order!" felt that it would be some minutes yet before he was thoroughly
"warm."

And yet he started at a more humorous level than anybody else could
have attained. In the first place (he said) he must apologize for
speaking at all. It was all Mrs. W.'s fault. As everybody knew, he
was not allowed to get a word in edgeways at home (smiles)--led a
dog's life, in fact (more smiles)--indeed, as he had said to his old
friend Charlie Cutbush only the other day, Charlie Cutbush, who used
to travel for Dwu Mawr Whisky and now kept "The Silent Woman" in the
Borough, "Charlie," he had said, "you ought to get that sign o' yours
altered--it ought to be a man with his head cut off, not a woman!" (A
little more laughter, and a gallant remark from Cosimo to the speaker's
wife that at any rate Mr. Wellcome looked well on it). But to get on
(Mr. Wellcome continued). As they all knew, there was a good deal of
giving in connexion with weddings. In his own time at Glenerne it had
always been a bit of a puzzle where Miss Addams put 'em all to sleep;
but they all knew now where Mrs. Deschamps slept, and a pretty little
room it was, and its occupant lots of time before her yet (quite a
sudden outburst of mirth at this, and confusion and a cry of "Wretch!"
from Mrs. Deschamps). Tut-tut!--What Mr. Wellcome meant to say, if
they'd be quiet a bit and not jump down his throat like that, was that
they'd all been into Mrs. Deschamps' room to see the wedding-presents.
(Laughter.) Now Mr. Wellcome wasn't going to say they weren't, one
and all, very handsome wedding-presents, especially Miss Addams's
oak-and-silver biscuit-box and the embroidered quilt given by Mrs.
Deschamps herself (but Mr. Wellcome would have a word to say to his old
friend George Massey, about the comparative inefficacy of embroidered
quilts when your feet were really cold, by and by.) (More laughter.) But
what Mr. Wellcome _was_ going to say, and he'd say it twice if anybody
didn't hear it the first time, was that he'd been giving something away
that morning that he hoped and trusted his old friend George would
find worth more than all the rest put together--a bonny bride. (Loud
applause, and an instant recognition of their error on the part of
those who had thought that a humorist couldn't on occasion be serious
too.) Mr. Wellcome repeated: a bonnie bride. Mr. Wellcome didn't mean
that they didn't all joke about these things sometimes. He did himself,
and so would George Massey be doing by and by. But he _did_ say this
about marriage, and he spoke as a man who had been married more years
than he cared to remember: that there was nothing like it. (Cries of
"Hear, hear!" from married and unmarried alike, and a noisy drumming
of knives and hands on the table.) And while Mr. Wellcome was about it
he was going to say something else. There seemed to be people about
who thought themselves very wise nowadays. They wanted this changed
and that changed; Mr. Wellcome didn't know what they did want, and he
didn't think they themselves did either; sometimes it seemed to him
that they just wanted something different--good or bad, but different.
In fact he, Mr. Wellcome, called 'em grousers and grizzlers--a pack o'
frosty-faces. Now nobody expected the world to stand still. No doubt
there was lots of things could be improved on. There was off-licences,
for instance. Likewise Clubs. But (here Mr. Wellcome shook a fat
forefinger warningly and impressively) Marriage wasn't one of 'em. If
an Englishman's house was his castle, Marriage was what Mr. Wellcome
might call the front-door key of it! (Applause far more loud and
sustained than any mere humorous sally could have called forth.) Now he
kept his front-door key on the bunch. (A "Go on with you!" from Mrs.
Wellcome.) If the law allowed him two or three wives (and he had only
to look round that table to wish ... but that was neither here nor
there, and no doubt if he could he'd soon be wishing he hadn't--much
laughter)--what he was going to say was that if he had twenty wives
he'd keep 'em all on the bunch too.... "But instead o' that one of 'em
keeps me on a bit of string," said Mr. Wellcome, dropping his voice so
comically and despondingly that the whole table roared with laughter....

"And now," said Mr. Wellcome, beginning to pat his pockets in search of
something, "let's cut the cackle and come to the horses.... Where is
the dashed thing? Ah, here it is!..."

And, as if his gift of champagne had not been enough, from the bottom
of his breeches-pocket he drew forth a gold wrist-watch, ordered Aunt
Jerry to hold out her hand, and snapped the chain about her wrist.

It was, too, a "coming to the horses" in a sense quite other than
the figurative one in which Mr. Wellcome used the expression. They
were real horses to which he came. What else (Mr. Wellcome wanted to
know) could be expected of him when Toreador had come in at twelve to
one yesterday, and all the money on the favourite, and the bookies'
pockets simply spilling gold and notes?... Nay, Mr. Wellcome described
the scene. He set himself in an attitude, and his voice dropped to a
hush. "I don't know how ever Sammy did it!" he confided to them. "He
seemed to pick her together, then ... _hoooosh!_--Short head, and
a hundred-and-twenty o' the best for W.W.!... 'Who give _you_ the
office?' Dick Marks says to me when I goes to touch; 'if it hadn't
been for you, Old Knowall, it'ld ha' been grand slam; _you_ know a bit,
_you_ do' ... So now, ladies and gentlemen," Mr. Wellcome concluded,
raising his glass, "in asking you all to drink the health of Mr. and
Mrs. George Massey, I'll do so in the words of the poet:

    What is there in the vale of Life
    Half so delightful as a wife,
    When friendship, love and peace combine
    To stamp the marriage-bond divine?...

I ask you to join me, ladies and gentlemen...."

Then was begun the writing of a page unparalleled for brightness in
the annals of Glenerne. Health after health was drunk, and it was Mr.
Rainbow who proposed that of the youngest bachelor present--the infant
Wellcome. Yesterday, he said, had been a fine day for Toreador's race,
but no finer than to-day was for another race--the Human Race!... Such
a roar as went up! Nobody had supposed Rainbow had it in him. Aunt
Jerry blushed; Mrs. Deschamps, who was sipping champagne at the time,
had to have her back slapped by M. Criqui, and did not recover for
several minutes; Cosimo's laugh rivalled that of Mr. Wellcome himself.
And then Mr. Rainbow rounded on Cosimo likewise.... For nothing
succeeds like success, and Mr. Rainbow, having scored once, immediately
scored again. If little birds were to be believed, he said, giving
the discreetest of glances at Cosimo and Amory, they might be having
another jollification before long. He mentioned no names. He would
merely say that one of them was not unknown to fame, fame of what he
might call an artistic sort; and all he would say, in the words of a
song that used to be sung when he was a good many years younger, was,
"That's the time to do it--while you're young!"

Then Mr. Rainbow made his best hit of all--he sat down in the perfect
moment of his triumph.

"The cake, the cake!" everybody shouted; and one of Bunters' waiters
handed Aunt Jerry a knife.

Then there were fresh shrieks of merriment, for when Aunt Jerry
tried to cut that formidable cake it was discovered to be of solid
plaster-of-Paris--a white grindstone tricked out with silver-paper
cupids and spurious sugar-work.

"Beats Mrs. Deschamps and the Kissing Bee hollow!" roared the authors
of the imposture.

And so the real cake had to be brought and cut.

They rose from the table and ascended to the drawing-room, and there
the merriment became more furious still. For Mr. Wellcome's eyes fell
on the whatnot with the photographs of Miss Addams's "grandchildren,"
and the seed of an idea sprang into being in his mind. It grew; it
blossomed; it spread into the Rose of Eugenics itself. Mr. Wellcome
approached Amory and Cosimo. He was perhaps just slightly drunk. His
fingers moved lovingly on Cosimo's biceps, and passed to his pectoral
muscles: his other hand was out, almost as if he would have done the
same to Amory: and then he gave them, so to speak, their certificate of
physical fitness. Noisily he bade Cosimo kiss Amory there and then.

"Be a man ... kiss her, damme!" he cried, a forcible hand on each; and
Amory dropped her lids....

But Cosimo, who was there to see others make exhibitions of themselves
but not to make one of himself, hung reluctantly back. But the
irresistible Wellcome dragged them both forward again. There was no
help for it, and so, knocking his head against Amory's, he gave her a
stage kiss only, which, of course, in this tale of Two Kisses, does not
count.

"That's the style!" cried Mr. Wellcome heartily, deceived by
appearances. "_Hoooosh!_... Short head!--Hi, Bonzoline ... what's your
name ... Lorenzo! Hurry up with them liqueurs, and then go downstairs,
and feel in the right-hand pocket of my overcoat, and you'll find
a bundle of toothpicks--and hi!--see whether my Missis has changed
the boy yet ... I want to show 'em his legs, tell her.... Talk about
'legs'!... But you'll see...."

They had seemed to be merry up to then; but all agreed afterwards that
only with the bringing up of the coffee and liqueurs and toothpicks did
what might be called the _real_ merriment begin.

At six o'clock that evening Amory and Cosimo took tea in the studio in
Cheyne Walk and compared notes of the events of the day. Cosimo was
ecstatic. He had not believed such things existed. Amory's utterances,
too, were as breathless and explosive as his own, but seemed somehow
to lack ring. A close observer might have supposed her to be acting a
brightness. Then for the twentieth time Cosimo guffawed.

"But you lost your bet, Amory--he _didn't_ say, 'May all your troubles
be little ones!'"

"But he showed us the baby's legs."

"I admit he did that. That was rather beyond rubies."

"And he handed the toothpicks round."

"So he did. I shall keep mine--die in defence of it. And you'll find
that horse's name written on my heart. A horse-race at a wedding!--Oh,
oh, I'm not complaining! It was all you promised, and more!"

"I thought perhaps you were disappointed," Amory remarked.

"Good heavens, no! I wouldn't have missed it for worlds! (But, of
course, your aunt was charming.)... _Isn't_ Mr. Massey fond of the
police sergeant!"

"Sickly sentiment, I call it," said Amory abruptly.

"Oh no, not if you take it as part of the general show," Cosimo
explained. "Damon and Pythias, I suppose; not having a brother, can't
say. But the thing can't be taken to bits. It was a perfect whole. I
wonder what there _is_ about a perfect whole that makes it far more
than the sum of the parts?"

"Eh?... Oh yes, it is more," said Amory.

"More?... Rather! Why, take it in art...."

"Don't talk about art to-night, Cosimo, please," she said. "You always
give me so much to think of when you talk about art."

"Tired?" said Cosimo solicitously, bending over the back of her chair.

"A little."

Amory could not have told why she was tired. She only knew that,
to-night somehow, Cosimo did not seem as intuitive as he usually was.



PART II



I

PENCE


Amory was not the only one who was grumbling at the weather. Even
Mrs. 'Ill, who was usually of an imperturbable temper, complained.
The clothes that she hadn't had out, no, not half an hour, had been
drying that lovely it was a treat to see 'em; and of course in running
out quick to take 'em in she must go and drop an armful--her most
partickler gent's shirts too--and what with the babies and the hens
carrying the dirt in and out and one thing and another, it really was
enough to try anybody. Cheyne Walk! Rainy Walk more like----

Indeed, it must have rained an inch or more during the morning. It
overflowed so from the roof-gutter overhead that as Amory stood by the
casement window she might as well have been looking through a Bridal
Veil Waterfall. Not that there was anything to look at beyond it. The
park had gone; the Jelly Factory was blotted out; the Suspension Bridge
was vignetted into nothing half-way across the river. Gurglings came
from underneath the sink in the corner. Whether it was the rain or not,
the smell of cabbage-water had returned.

Amory was sure it was raining harder in Cheyne Walk than it was
anywhere else; harder than it could possibly be in Oxford Street, for
example. And she had wanted, yet not wanted, to go to Oxford Street
that morning. She had wanted to go because she wanted money; she had
not wanted to go because the only means she knew of getting it was to
borrow from Dorothy. Cosimo was away; his uncle had died a week before;
Cosimo could not possibly be disturbed. And she had seen Mr. Hamilton
Dix, and--thank you! It would be some time before she troubled Mr.
Hamilton Dix again!...

Overfed animal!...

October, and still no Show. More, Mr. Hamilton Dix hardly took the
trouble now to promise one immediately. But Mr. Dix need not think
that Amory didn't now see perfectly clearly the trick that had been
practised upon her. She knew now why he had come so hurriedly to her
that morning and dazzled her with his offer of a hundred pounds.
Angiers', a far better firm than Croziers', had wanted her; that was
why. Croziers' had bought her merely in order that Angiers' should not
have her. "Dishonest," Amory called it, and she had told Hamilton Dix
so to his face. And his reply had been to take her hand and try to pat
it.

Wasn't it dishonest? she had cried hotly to herself any time this past
month. If it wasn't, she would be glad if somebody would tell her
what honesty was! And Mr. Dix in his most odious and soothing voice,
had said that she really mustn't talk like that. "Dishonest?" he had
repeated. Why, Miss Towers talked as if Croziers' had anything to
gain by deliberately suppressing her work! Nothing (he had assured
her) was further from the truth. Croziers' were in the hands of
circumstances, too, the circumstances that made one time ripe for a
particular exhibition and another not.... Messrs. Angier? Mr. Dix knew
nothing about Messrs. Angier and their arrangements. They _might_ be
all right; Mr. Dix _had_ heard it said that Messrs. Angier were rather
in the habit of promising more than they performed, but that was only a
rumour, and Mr. Dix wouldn't give it currency. But he could assure Miss
Towers that such "options" as that which Messrs. Crozier had obtained
on her work were matters of everyday business.... Come now: would she
tell him, as her friend, exactly what the trouble was? Was it money? If
so, there was perhaps a chance that Messrs. Crozier might be willing to
take over a certain quantity of her more recent work on the same terms
as before....

Another "option," in fact....

Then, successively had come the stages when Mr. Dix had told her that
in his opinion she was injudicious to change her style so frequently
as she did ("Versatility's all very well, but it puzzles your public,"
he had said, as if it had not been precisely the ground of Amory's
complaint that Croziers' were seeing to it that she had _no_ public
at all)--when he had told her, that, if she really thought Angiers'
could do better for her, Croziers' might be willing to release her from
her obligation on repayment of the sum advanced plus a trifle for the
accommodation--and when he had ceased to say anything at all. A pretty
"option!"--Amory supposed that other man had called it an "option" when
he had run away with her godmother's fifty-two pounds a year.

And of course this was exactly why she didn't want to ask Dorothy for
money. For Dorothy would be able to say--perhaps to say it as if she
was crowing over her a little--that she had warned her about that
contract. Not that Dorothy had warned her one bit, really. Dorothy had
not known any more than herself that her Show would be put off and put
off and put off; and if the Show had _not_ been put off, all would
have been well. But Dorothy was so--peculiar. Her ways were peculiar.
She _had_ ways, in fact, not principles. Amory didn't want to be
severe on Dorothy, but some of the things she did seemed positively
_un_principled. Not to go any further, there was Dorothy's undignified
way of regarding her own sex. She seemed to concur in that view of
it that made it merely the plaything of the other sex. Of course (to
be quite fair) it wasn't to be supposed for a moment that Dorothy
would have let Mr. Hamilton Dix kiss her, as he had wanted to kiss
Amory. Amory was sure she wouldn't. But for all that there would have
been--something--not a kiss--not even a "leading on" perhaps--Amory
couldn't have said what it would have been--but there would have
been _something_.... Put coarsely, it was a sort of exaggerated
sex-consciousness in Dorothy--that and lack of principle. Amory ought
to know that exaggerated sex-consciousness by this time. Glenerne had
been full of it. The world seemed to be full of it. It seemed an
odious domination; Amory could not understand it at all. Why, Cosimo
did not want to kiss her....

Because, of course, that sham gesture at her aunt's wedding had not
been a kiss.

Cosimo quite understood that she was wedded to her art.

Amory could not conceive where the money had gone. Less than six months
ago she had had nearly sixty pounds, not counting her regular pound a
week; now she had a few shillings only, and quite a number of small
debts. She supposed it was because she was not really familiar with
the prices of things. Yes, it must be that, for she remembered how
surprised she had been at the cost of the little studio-warming she had
given when she had first come into this hateful little room. She had
not provided anything at all out of the way. There had been a rather
nice Greek wine Walter Wyron had told her about, not to be bought in
very small quantities, but of course they had not drunk the whole of
it that night--indeed, it had lasted for weeks. And there had been
cold sausages and salads from a German charcuterie, in glass, not in
tins--it was not true economy to run the risk of ptomaine poisoning.
And there had also been a few boxes of figs and candied fruits--she
admitted those had been rather dear. And so on. Nor, if the party had
been a great success, would she have minded a little extra expenditure
just for once; but, somehow, it had not been a success. Laura Beamish
had had a cold and had not been able to sing; Dickie Lemesurier had
wired at the last minute that she was not able to come; Cosimo had done
his best, but Dorothy had turned up in an evening frock and had said
she could not possibly stay more than an hour; and Walter's friend,
who could quote Nietzsche, had proved to be domineering and had done
nothing but wrangle with Walter the whole of the evening. In fact, the
party had fallen miserably flat.

But that, after all, was only one evening, and if Amory had been a
little extravagant that time, she had more than made up (or so she
should have thought) since. Eggs, sardines (in tins), cold boiled ham
(at half a crown a pound), bread, butter, and lots of nice hot tea--it
was not possible to live much more cheaply than that. At first Mrs.
'Ill cooked her an occasional joint in her own oven at the Creek, but
joints are not cheap when you throw a large portion of them away from
sheer weariness of the sight of them. She had spent rather a lot on
canvases, nothing on clothes. And twice she had been away with Katie
Deedes for weekends. Oh yes, and there had been one other party, a
river-party just before everybody went away for the summer, which had
been Amory's, all but the railway-fares and the claret and lemonade.
That had been quite a success.

Except for these things Amory had not the vaguest idea where the money
had gone.

She only wanted to borrow until the Christmas quarter; indeed, it was
not so much an advance on her allowance as an anticipation of the
Christmas present she was sure to receive from her uncle and aunt. Then
she would be straight again, and would know how to spend more wisely
for the future. And Dorothy could well afford it, if one might judge
of her fortune from her unhygienic but expensive dresses. If only
the rain would stop she would go to Dorothy at once. She knew that
Dorothy's position had improved, and, if the world chose to regard
its art as a parasitic thing, the artist could hardly be blamed if he
spoiled the Philistine whenever he had the opportunity. In one sense
she would actually be doing Dorothy a favour. A loan would put Dorothy
into the honourable position of being a patron. Many a Philistine name
lives on the formal page of an immortal work that otherwise would have
been forgotten.

Amory continued to watch the flounces of water that spilled from the
eaves and to listen to the runnings and gurglings of the West London
drainage system.

But all at once a merry "_Cooee!_" came from below; a flapping as of
shaken garments sounded in the entry; and a step and a call of "Amory!"
were heard on the stairs. It was the voice of Dorothy herself. The
door flew inwards, and Dorothy Lennard stood there, a pair of blue
eyes and the tip of a nose visible, the rest of her a shimmer of some
greenish-yellow material, thin as goldbeaters' skin and trickling
rivulets of water. She shook herself on the landing in a haze of
water-dust, like a dog that comes out of a pond, and then cried--

"Quick, Amory, and certify me--you shall take 'em off yourself and
feel--Mr. Miller said Sloane Street, but it was so near I thought I'd
come in--how are you?--No, I'll unbutton them, then your hands will be
quite dry to feel----"

She took from her head a sort of poke that fitted like a bathing-cap,
allowed the long garment to rustle in a small close heap to the floor,
and cried, "There! Now feel me!"

She seized Amory's wrist and patted herself with Amory's palm.

"That damp isn't the rain come through," she went on. "Quite the other
way; that's my warmth that did that, they're as impervious as that! And
of course they're rather dear. But it's a perfect day for it! There'll
be a column of floods and rainfall in all the papers to-morrow, and
we're setting all the telephones on the jump now getting the space next
to it. You do certify me? I said to Mr. Miller, 'What _is_ the good of
sticking a piece of the stuff under a tap in the window? What _does_
it convey to anybody? They only think there's some fake somewhere
(advertisers have faked so much, you see), and besides, it's been
done.' So I said, 'Why not let somebody go out in this rain in 'em? If
they'll stand this they'll stand anything. Then get some known person
to certify that at such-and-such a time yesterday (the wettest day for
eighteen years) so-and-so arrived as dry as a bone at such-and-such a
place, having walked in Ararat Extra Light and Japhet Boots'--but you
must feel my stockings too."

She sat down in one of Amory's basket-chairs, began to unlace her
boots, and presently thrust out for Amory's examination, one after the
other, her grey silk-stockinged soles.

"So they're mine," Dorothy cried jubilantly, "and if you'll give me
your signature I'll get you a set, not to speak of the advertisement
for you--can't do without that nowadays--'I, the undersigned, Amory
Towers'--if they've never heard of you they daren't say so when they
see that.... Those Cosimo's slippers? I'll put 'em on.... I say, you
have let your fire down! No, I'll set it going--you fill the kettle--I
_have_ enjoyed my walk!"

She began to potter about the black fire, gabbling without stopping as
she did so.

Amory was almost disinterestedly glad to see Dorothy; on such a day
she would have been glad to see anybody. For inside the studio was
more desolate than the streets without. No longer did that room over
the greengrocer's shop shimmer and twinkle as on the day when she and
Cosimo had sat down to their first little supper there. Half the plates
that had overlapped so prettily, half the cup that had dangled from
the bright hook, were broken; the sink was full of articles awaiting
that dreaded washing-up; and in the cupboard forgotten condensed milk
tins and brick-like half-loaves turned yellow and green. Amory had
cut off Mrs. 'Ill's daily visit; she now came on Saturdays only, and
Cosimo had not been there to give her a hand. By the time Dorothy had
drawn up the fire, and, going for the tea-things, had found plates
with sardine-tails on their edges and cups with graduations of brown
about their rims, she might have been pardoned had she thought tea
hardly worth troubling about; but she merely bustled cheerfully about,
scraping things into a bucket, clearing the table, sweeping the
hearth. All the time she chatted about the Ararat Extra Light and the
photograph of her that would appear in the papers on the morrow. Amory
had been shocked to hear that Dorothy had actually consented to this.

"Why not?" Dorothy had demanded. "It won't have my name on, and by the
time the machine men have finished with it, it won't be either like me
or anybody else! My dear, you're as bad as Aunt Emmie. Hang my family!
Would any of _them_ buy me a pair of Japhet Boots? My dear, I _have_
to dress myself well: _I_ can't afford to go about in rags! You don't
suppose I buy my clothes, do you? Why, you couldn't get these stockings
for thirty shillings! I don't mean that I get photographed for every
stitch I have on, but I have to get things one way or another!"

Amory sighed to be the possessor of a relentless intellect. It was
a heavy burden. Far, far happier were they, the simpler ones, whose
nature it was to laugh lazily and good-humouredly while others
shouldered the responsibility of the world. They did not even know that
in order that they might dance somebody else must weep. Dorothy had
condemned herself. All sorts of people could put forward that plea of
hers, "I have to get things one way and another." Amory wanted to know
what Dorothy _gave_ the world in return. She, Amory, gave her art; but
Dorothy would surely hardly claim that those fashion-drawings of hers
could not quite well be got along without. Therefore it was even a
little sorrowfully that Amory asked Dorothy how she was getting along
at the studio.

"_Please_ don't tread on my new Ararat!" Dorothy cried in fright.
"Sorry; my fault for leaving it there.... The studio? Oh, I'm under
Miss Benson, of course; it would be a shame to turn her out of a job,
and Miss Umpleby would come next anyway; so I just potter along. As a
matter of fact, I'm only in the studio about half my time; it's much
more fun downstairs, talking over ideas with Mr. Miller. You wouldn't
suppose, would you, Amory," she said suddenly, both earnestly and
excitedly, "that as I stand here now, filling this teapot, I've got an
idea worth--I don't know how much, but certainly Doubledays' would give
me a thousand for it, if Hallowells' won't take it, and I should want a
pretty stiff contract even then?"

With her hair all rumpled by the Ararat cap and her feet in Cosimo's
old slippers she certainly did not look worth a thousand.

"Sorry I can't tell you what it is," she went on, setting down the
teapot, thumbing a hard half-loaf and selecting a softer one. "I
haven't told Mr. Miller yet. We have to choose our time for these
things; wait for the ripe moment. Wait till Hallowells' get their last
storey up and the roof on, then we'll see. Mr. Miller thinks I'm just a
person who makes a useful suggestion now and then, and I let him think
so; but wait a bit. Something better than Benny's place for me!"----

"But--but--I don't understand. Is this fashion-drawing?" Amory asked.

"Oh, dear no!" Dorothy replied, drawing up a chair to the table.
"Let it stand a minute first--stir it with a spoon.... I don't mean
fashion-drawing now. You see, Hallowells' are going to wake London up.
Mr. Miller's pretty good at his job--waking London up--in other words,
advertising, and I'm only a fashion-artist a long as there's nothing
better going. It will probably come off next Spring--depends how they
get on with the building; and I'll buy a picture from you then, Amory."

Amory had smiled. Oh, advertisement! She had thought that Dorothy
could hardly mean that she was going to make all this money out of
fashion-drawing! Advertisements--those funny things that Aunt Jerry was
getting! Amory smiled again.

For Aunt Jerry had lately been showing her more of them--advertisements
now, not of caterers and wedding-cake makers, job-masters, and
house-agents and furnishers, such as she had had at the time of
her wedding, but of quite other things. Amory had thought she had
never seen anything so funny--and nauseating--funny and nauseating
both at once. Really, the things were an outrage! She supposed that
somebody--Mr. Miller perhaps--read the top left-hand corner of the
front page of the _Times_ and _Morning Post_ day by day, carefully
counted the weeks, felt (as it were) Aunt Jerry's pulse, asked her how
she was feeling each morning, penetrated into her hidden thoughts,
anticipated her desires, and then sent the things along--descriptions
of layettes and perambulators, of cribs and pens and patent bottles,
of foods and clothes and schemes for insurance. "_Baby will Soon be
Cutting his Teeth_," Mr. Miller, or whoever it was, began, whispering
(so to speak) confidentially behind his hand; or "_Of course if you
WANT your Wee One to have Wind!_"... That, Amory thought, was the
funny aspect; the nauseating one came when you remembered that,
properly diffused by this same means, really valuable information about
Eugenics and the Chromosome might have been given to the world. That,
if Aunt Jerry and Mr. Massey must have children, would have been, not
immediately perhaps, but ultimately far more to the purpose. But Amory
supposed it would be a waste of time to look for ultimate purposes to
Dorothy. Possibly she not only devised the advertisements, but drew the
layette too.

But Amory had not forgotten that she wanted Dorothy to lend her ten
pounds. The minutes were passing, and no doubt Dorothy would soon be
putting on the Ararat again, and going back to Oxford Street and Mr.
Miller. Amory turned over this and that "opening"; none of them seemed
very promising. Dorothy was already lacing up the Japhet Boots; she was
going to make her advertisement a "cinch" by walking back also in the
downpour. But suddenly Amory remembered her pride. There was no need
for abjectness. Therefore it was with a certain offhandedness that, as
Dorothy rose and stamped one Japhet boot after the other, she suddenly
said, "Oh, I say, Dorothy, will you lend me ten pounds?"

It is astonishing how rich everybody else appears when we ourselves are
poor. For a moment Dorothy's eyes opened widely, then she broke into a
humorous grimace.

"My dear!... Where from, I wonder?" Then she added, "Really? I mean,
you really want it?"

"Yes," said Amory shortly. She wondered whether Dorothy thought she
would ask for it if she didn't want it.

"I haven't ten pounds in the world," said Dorothy. Then she considered
for a moment. "If it's really urgent--I mean if you really _must_ have
it--I might--I never have yet, but I _might_ be able to get it----" She
paused.

There seemed to Amory a certain lack of delicacy in the pause. It was
as if she gave Amory an opportunity of saying what she wanted the
money for. Amory was sure that some day, when those poor and deserving
artists should come to her, she would neither ask questions nor break
off into pauses that came to the same thing. She did not deny Dorothy's
right to refuse; she did deny her any other right. If Dorothy's
fashion-drawing or advertisements or whatever it was could not provide
ten pounds, then absolutely the only thing that could be said for these
absurdities disappeared.

"You see, I should have to borrow it myself----" Dorothy said
hesitatingly, and Amory merely hoisted her shapely shoulders.

Then, however, it seemed to strike even Dorothy that she was not
behaving very well. Suddenly she said, "All right, I will borrow it;
will to-morrow do?"

"I should be awfully obliged," said Amory, helping Dorothy on with the
Ararat Coat.

But Dorothy relapsed from the right attitude again immediately. Without
stopping to think that the Ararat sleeve was wet and Amory dry, she
suddenly passed her arm about her. She held her close, making her
horridly wet, and began to say a number of the so-called sympathetic
things that, when they are not impertinences, are banalities.

"I _am_ sorry, dear," she said. "I see how it is; of course you aren't
cut out for this sort of life. I saw that the moment I came in. Now,
look here, what you ought to do would be to give Mrs. 'Ill a sum every
week, and to tell her that she's got to do you, all in, for that. Not
too much, either; _you_ can't buy, but she can. That's the way I do.
I saw how you'd been living when I washed up; eggs and sardines and
pressed beef; and you're really run down. You ought never to have
signed that contract, but I'll tell you what you perhaps can do about
that. Tell Croziers' that you won't go to another dealer, but that you
_must_ have leave to sell things privately, and that you'll pay them
commission just as if _they'd_ sold them. If they won't--well, just
you sell without their permission, and let 'em sue you if they like.
They won't sue you. They can't afford it. I'm seeing business men every
day, remember, and I'm sure that's what Mr. Miller would say. And if
my thing comes off I'll buy a picture from you next Spring. Will you
promise to do that, Amory?"

Even Amory saw the sense of it, but that did not alter the fact that to
all intents and purposes Dorothy was lending her money on the condition
that she did as she was told with it. Not _exactly_ that, of course,
but rather indelicately like it. And she had all but told Amory that
her place was disgracefully dirty and herself underfed. Amory wasn't
sure that Dorothy wasn't simply one mass of pose. She could come here
and speak her mind plainly enough, could talk in quite a grasping
spirit of the money she intended to get; but Amory could imagine her
with Mr. Miller--anything but plain; sly, wheedling, not helping in
the emancipation of her sex at all, but actually doing all she could
to rivet their chains the faster upon them; neither forgetting, nor
allowing Mr. Miller to forget, that she was rather a personable young
woman. Amory called it the next thing to--well, she wouldn't say what.
She would be kind, merely say that they were in opposite camps, and let
it go at that.

Therefore she was not giving Dorothy one for herself, but was merely
showing herself staunch to a high ideal, when she said, effusively,
but still with dignity, "Oh, thank you so very, very much ... if you
_could_ possibly get me the money.... Perhaps I haven't managed very
well, but as you say, I've other things to think of; and about what you
say about Croziers', I hardly think----"

But Dorothy cut bluntly in. "Rubbish! They've just taken advantage of
your ignorance and inexperience. I should tell 'em they could make
kite-tails of their silly old contract! Look here, shall _I_ see Mr.
Dix for you?"

Amory hesitated. She did not want to see Mr. Dix again herself, firstly
because she felt that an artist ought to be spared these sordid
matters, and secondly because she always wanted to wash herself when
Mr. Dix had covered her with those galantined eyes. But Dorothy was not
an artist, and apparently didn't mind a glutinous look more or less. To
the coarser nature the coarser task. One didn't chop firewood with a
razor....

"What'd be the good?" she sighed. "I signed the thing."

"Leave that to me," said Dorothy briskly. "I'll talk to Mr. Dix for
you. At least I'll get permission for you to sell things privately,
and then you can reckon the ten pounds off the price of the picture
I'll buy--for my scheme's bound to come off! So we'll call that a
bet. And now I must fly. Do try my plan with Mrs. 'Ill. When's Cosimo
coming back? Yes, I saw about his uncle. Good-bye, dear.... And oh,
dear, now I'm forgetting the very thing I came for! You will sign that
advertisement, won't you?"

"What advertisement?" Amory asked. She had forgotten all about the
Ararat Coat. But now she remembered.... "Oh, that waterproof thing! Oh,
you don't want me to sign that!"

Dorothy turned quickly. "Oh, Amory, don't be so silly!" she broke out.
"Of course it doesn't matter a button to us whether you sign it or not,
but I thought you might as well. Nobody need sign it for that matter,
but we have our space, and it's a pity to waste this rain. And I really
could get you the complete outfit, boots and all. As well as getting
your name before the public. But don't if you don't want."

Amory lifted her shallow (but penetrating) eyes.

"Well, dear--if it were _really_ necessary--especially after all your
kindness--but as you say it isn't--if you wouldn't very much mind--I
think my signature looks better on my pictures----"

"All right. It doesn't matter," said Dorothy. "I'll let you know how I
go on with Mr. Dix----"

And she was gone, once more to put the Ararat and the Japhet Boots to
the test of the heaviest rainfall for eighteen years.

No sooner was her back turned than Amory, flinging aside the curtain on
its little rail, lay down on her unmade bed. She had the promise of her
ten pounds, but it had cost its price. It had cost it in forbearance.
Still, that was no more than all the poets and seers and souls
dedicated to art had had to suffer before her, and she, like them, had
kept her ideal unsullied.

But she was disappointed in Dorothy.



II

A DAMSEL ERRANT


More and more as she thought it over, Amory was glad that she was not
going to see Mr. Hamilton Dix again. Excepting always Cosimo, who was
different, she had begun to have a poor opinion of men. And as this
opinion was based, not on her reading of Association books, nor on
anything Laura Beamish or Katie Deedes had told her, but on her own
unshakable and inalienable experience, it is perhaps worth a moment's
examination.

By no means, then, did she now think men the efficient, capable
creatures they appeared to consider themselves to be. Amory knew men;
she knew two of them, no fewer. One of these two men had inveigled
her into an all-but-fraudulent contract; the other, definitely
fraudulently, had absconded with the funds that had provided Amory
Towers with an income of a pound a week, and was not very likely ever
to be heard of again. We all speak of the world as we find it. This
was the world as Amory had found it; and, since the total sum of the
world's wrong and cruelty was admittedly enormous, what more natural
than to try to gauge its enormousness by a process of multiplication?

Amory, sternly and deliberately setting her painting aside until she
should have come to some really basic conclusion on these points, began
to multiply.

And the day on which she did so was an evil day for those
impostors--men. How should it not be an evil day for them? For men,
who had had the world's affairs entirely in their hands in the past,
still had them almost entirely in their hands to-day; and what had they
made of things? Plainly, the best system they had been able to devise
was a system in which it was possible for trustees to abscond with
funds entrusted to them by godmothers. And not only that. Forgetting
that a real man, Blake (unhappily now dead), had said that the sight
of a robin in a cage set all heaven in a rage--totally ignoring
that spiritual aspect of the matter--men, when asked for redress,
callously weighed the cost of prosecution and the chances of securing a
conviction, shrugged their shoulders, and (in Amory's case) apparently
proposed to do nothing at all. Men, in a word, actually approved
(though they pretended not to) of the organized robbery of poor girls.

Next, whether they liked it or not, men must shoulder the
responsibility for a state of things that permitted iniquitous
contracts to be fluttered in the face of necessitous people, and that
(in effect) ground the face of the poor because he (or in the present
instance she) was poor. Males, as males, could not escape the onus of
Mr. Hamilton Dix. Amory might have been more merciful had they made
any attempt to do so, but they did not. They spoke of such things as
everyday matters of business. They said that no humanly devisable
system could be perfect, and told her, with their hypocritical
"niceness," that the whole fabric of society could hardly be pulled
down merely because a self-seeking individual here and there crept
in and took advantage. But Amory knew that it was not a question of
individuals. It was the underlying spiritual principle that was the
whole point. That was radically wrong. Even men saw this, a few men,
and called themselves Radicals, which was really a Latin word, meaning
that they affected to go to the radix or root of the matter; but Amory
knew where the root of the matter really lay. It lay in this artificial
sex-distinction and in that frightfully laughable masculine theory of
the "natural dominance of the male."

But this was only a part of it, and not the finer part. It was in the
finer part that the whole evil came to a head. How (to put the thing in
a nutshell) did men (with the honourable exception of Cosimo and one or
two others) treat art (namely, Amory's art)? There you had it!

Here Amory was on her own ground, and could speak once more from that
astonishingly useful thing, experience. How had the world, under
male dominance, treated her art?... Well, Amory would be fair, even
generous. There actually had been a period of a few months, a sort
of lucid interval, when Mr. Hamilton Dix's articles really had given
the impression that Mr. Dix knew what he was talking about. They had
been written about the time Amory had signed her contract, and had
been copied by provincial papers. But oh! the downfall after that. The
adulation Dix had lately been spilling over that Harris girl, who (as
Amory could demonstrate, absolutely and up to the hilt) had simply
stolen Amory's own subjects and carried one or two of Amory's own
tricks of handling to simply screaming absurdities! More than once
Amory had wondered whether Miss Harris let Mr. Dix kiss her.... And
when Amory had pointed out the theft to Mr. Dix, and had said that
in her poor opinion an action for infringement of copyright might
lie (or if it mightn't, then it ought to), had Mr. Dix done anything
but ogle her and insult her with his sticky smile? Not he. He had
merely asked her whether she wished to make her demonstration before
a jury of matrons!... No doubt he had thought that smart, but even a
fool may sometimes tell the truth by accident and unawares. A jury of
matrons--that was to say an appeal to a court that did not condone
embezzlement and smile at thievish contracts--was exactly what _was_
needed. But had men, during all the centuries in which they had ruled,
ever founded such a court? Were they ever likely to do so until they
were absolutely driven to it? Not they! And it was probably too late
now. The women had seen through them, knew their real nature. At last
they had seen the thing to be the sex-war it really had been all along.
Amory could have named, offhand, quite a dozen of her old companions
of the McGrath who had put the whole question far more clearly than
the so-called statesmen. And even among men themselves there was the
clear-eyed Otto Weiniger--that notable exception.

For what had Weiniger said, if the dull world would but take the wool
out of its ears and listen? Why, what but that the classification by
sexes was nothing but the roughest of approximations after all? Because
the chromosome didn't actually _show_, illogical folk had got into
the habit of saying "This is a man" and "That is a woman," largely by
force of hearing it repeated time after time. But what of the masculine
qualities in woman, the feminine qualities in man? What about Cosimo's
exquisite perceptions, Amory's own strong art? Oh no; this rough
guesswork really would not do for a generation that at last, in spite
of bandages and blinkers, had begun to see the light! Amory knew--by
herself and Cosimo, to go no further--that the sexes _did_ intermerge
and graduate. The best women to-day had brains that pierced ruthlessly
through shams (which was what brains were primarily for); and the best
men were Feminist in their sympathies. No doubt it would take a little
time for this truth to force its way into the Glenernes of the land. No
doubt Mrs. Deschamps would continue to flirt with M. Criqui, and the
unspeakable Mr. Wellcome to boast that he was wholly (not partly) the
father of his own offspring and his placid wife entirely (and without
qualification) their mother. But nobody on the look-out for signs of
the true progress turned their eyes Glenernewards. Glenerne had never
heard of the chromosome. Ten to one it would have thought it was a
mechanical piano-player. That was why Amory had left Glenerne.

And how had the world treated its Weiniger--its Nietzsche--its
Strindberg? "Mad as hatters," it said, merely because they had shot
themselves, or died in the madhouses to which it had driven them!

Yes (Amory thought), if that was the best the men could do, it was time
the women took hold!

Hungrily, hungrily she wished Cosimo was back, so that they might
discuss these things together!

But Cosimo not only remained away; he did not even write very
frequently. He appeared to wait until he had received three letters
from Amory, and then to "answer" them together, obviously with the
letters before him. Amory understood that business in connection with
his uncle's estate detained him; he was in Shropshire: and a phrase
about "running up to town presently" had read as if, even when he
should come, he would go back to Shropshire again. But he had not given
up his studio near the Vestry Hall; Amory knew that because he had sent
her the key of it and had asked her to forward his letters; and Amory
went there daily. Once she had even tried to work there, but without
much success. She had hardly expected it would answer. She had only
tried it because she had come to hate her own place so.

Indeed, there had been days when she had approached her easel as
reluctantly as if the instrument had been a guillotine with a basket
behind it to receive her severed head; and there had been other days
when to contemplate the daub on the canvas had almost made her wish
it had been one. For she now found her own work execrable. And yet
she could not summon the courage to take a knife and scrape it out.
Each afternoon she hoped it would appear better in the morning, but it
never did. It seemed as if Croziers' carrier, in fetching away those
twenty-eight pictures, had taken away also whatever talent had gone
to their painting. On one canvas only that she had produced since
then could she bear to look, and that was neither study, sketch, nor
picture. It showed the group, all red with firelight, that had sat
about her hearth when Laura Beamish, with the coloured ribbons of her
guitar falling about her, had sung "The Trees they do Grow High."

She knew that the reasons for this wretched falling off lay close
at hand. In the first place, she badly needed a change. Next, she
was making far, far greater attempts than when she had been content
to state (as it were with a "Something like this--you know--and
this--you've seen these things"), the results of her Saturday night
wanderings in the streets and of her Sunday mornings in Petticoat Lane
or where the Salvation Army gathered to sing. She told herself that
she had acquired knowledge more quickly than she had been able to
assimilate it. Next, the lean years were always followed by the fat,
the fat by the lean: it was a Law.... But she had gleams of hope too.
Broadly considered, discontent was no bad sign. Only fatuity could
regard its work with unvarying complacence. Despondency might not be
in itself a guarantee of genius, but genius and despondency were no
strangers. Her work was in a stage of transition. She was in mental
and spiritual labour, and a new style would emerge. To the old one
she refused to return.... And so on. The more she groped the more she
read, and the more she read the more she groped. They are lucky who are
merely required to love the highest when they see it: let us sorrow
for those who are condemned, not only to love, but also to attempt to
realize, the highest when they do not see it.

And let us sorrow especially for the artist who has no choice but to
sacrifice, to the vast and thunderous things he cannot do, the frail
and small and comfortable things that he can.

Amory's refuge from herself at that time was to walk the streets until
she was ready to drop with fatigue. North, south, east, and west she
went, numbing herself with mechanical movement, exhausting herself with
speculations that even for herself had no interest. Faces passing,
passing, for ever passing, seemed to lend her a stupor; they seemed,
not individuals, but aspects of one general, horrible human phenomenon.
Sometimes, in this multiple beast of a crowd, her heart palpitated as
the heart of a bird palpitates before a spinning, fascinating snare.
Sometimes for an hour at a time she would see nothing but eyes--eyes
various in shape and colour as the pebbles on a beach, sometimes
looking into hers, sometimes looking past her, sometimes tipped with
arrowheads of white as they turned, sometimes only to be seen under
their lowered lids as a finger-nail is to be seen under the finger
of a glove. She wondered how many of them, like her own, were seeing
nothing but eyes too. She wondered on what pillows they closed, within
what walls, behind what doors and windows, with what other eyes sealed
by their sides.... And at other times she saw nothing but doors and
windows. As if she had been paid to keep a catalogue of these things,
she counted and classified the fanlights of Lincoln's Inn and the
Bloomsbury Squares, the high-railinged balconies of the tenements
behind Victoria Street and Shaftesbury Avenue, the numbers on Soho
doors, the window-boxes of Mayfair. Then there would take her the
fancy that everybody she saw knew everybody else, as the bees of a
hive may be supposed to know one another, and that she alone was an
intruder and unknown. And for a time she rather liked that. It gave
her a sense of specialness. But presently it began to frighten her
a little. The specialness turned to an intolerable loneliness. Her
elbows touched theirs, but they were remoter from her than the stars.
If she could have stopped one of them and asked it what name it bore
it would have been rather a relief; to know even a name would have
been something; it would have helped in that frightening blankness,
and she would have been quite willing to tell her own name in return.
But she knew nothing about them--nothing, nothing. Even their sex (if
Weiniger was to be believed) was a matter of presumption. Of course
some had beards and some had not, but that was a shallow, superficial
view. No doubt with the advance of knowledge (she fancied Galton had
said something of the sort) beards might be bred on every face, or bred
out of existence entirely. Amory hoped the latter. Mr. Jowett, at the
McGrath (she remembered), had once lifted his moustache to show her the
growth and construction of the ornament, and it had not struck her as
a pretty sight; and she could not have endured Cosimo with a beard. It
would have been a contradiction of all she found most sympathetic in
Cosimo. That nice, friendly other girl Amory was ready to choose for
Cosimo should certainly not be a girl who would allow Cosimo to grow a
beard....

Amory went into Cosimo's studio one night, after a long walk through
Wandsworth, past Clapham Common, and back through the Old Town to the
bus at Victoria, in order to see whether there were any letters for
him. There were none, and she sat down on the edge of his bed, where
she had sat that morning when she had come to tell Cosimo that she was
moving into Cheyne Walk at once. Cosimo's studio was on the ground
floor, at the back of a block. Amory had not lighted the gas. Somewhere
away across a yard somebody was going to bed with a blind up, and the
distant incandescent shed a raw ugly light. It shone through a narrow
side-window of Cosimo's studio, making quite a bright patch on the
floor at the foot of his bed. Amory watched it dully, trying to summon
up force to get up and go home.

Aching as she was for Cosimo's return, she was still a little
displeased with him. To be sure, he told her, in those rather
perfunctory letters, how horribly he missed her, but somehow she did
not feel that his sense of loss was quite as great as her own. She
resented his staying so long away. It hardly rose to her conception
of their past beautiful friendship. Of course his uncle was dead, but
his uncle would still be dead if Cosimo stayed away another couple of
months, making four in all, and Amory still waiting and waiting....
Well, he mustn't think that she was going to ask him to come back,
though he never returned at all. She would continue to forward his
letters, adding a patient little note of her own once in a while.
Indeed, had it not been that Cosimo understood her art, she would
hardly have done as much as that for him....

Then, still sitting on the edge of Cosimo's deserted bed, she
remembered the richly comical interpretation that Dorothy and the
plumber, the chimney-sweep and Glenerne, had put upon Cosimo's
wellnigh perfect understanding of her art. And that recollection led
to another--that of the "stage-kiss" Cosimo had given her when Mr.
Wellcome had thrust them into one another's arms. She remembered that
she had been--she hardly knew how to put it--say a little disappointed
in Cosimo about that. Hitherto she had not asked herself the reason of
this, but she thought she saw it now. Cosimo, for once, had not done
the proper thing at all. The proper way to fool those inquisitive,
stupid people to the top of their bent would have been to give her a
_real_ kiss, not a mock one. As likely as not that clumsy caress had
seemed the shyness of a real lover. No; the proper way to throw dust in
their eyes would have been to take her face deliberately between his
hands, turn it up, and plant the ridiculous emblem fairly and squarely
on her mouth. _Then_, when they had found themselves alone again, they
could have laughed together at Glenerne and its folly. Cosimo had not
played the game.

And she felt the slight disappointment in him that night especially,
for, reaching North Side an hour or two before, she had suddenly left
the pavement and struck across the Common towards the "Plough." It
was a coldish night, and not, from the point of view of the phenomena
she had passed on the Common, to be compared with any warm evening in
the Spring; nevertheless she had seen enough to give an exquisitely
ironical point to this obsession of bodily contacts that seemed to
engage the world. Simply, they had been kissing everywhere, and Cosimo
certainly ought to have been there to exchange with her humorous
Olympian comments on the screaming absurdity of it all. Perhaps--Amory
was not sure--but perhaps, merely as part of the general joke--as a
sort of recognition of their surroundings--a sort of politeness (if
you cared to put it in that way)--as a doing in Rome as Rome does, and
on Clapham Common as Clapham Common does, Amory might have let him
kiss her too.... And then they would have come back here or to Cheyne
Walk, to laugh together as he cleared supper away and she braided
her inordinate hair. To taste the full savour of folly you yourself
must have been a fool too--just once. Perhaps--Amory was not quite
certain--it was a Law....

But Cosimo had not been a fool even once....

But Amory was almost too fagged out even for resentment. She could
only weakly wish, as she rested her aching back on Cosimo's bed, that
even with his few imperfections he was there. For one thing, twice
that very night she had been frightened on the Common by the approach
of men. Hating herself for doing anything so unmasculine, she had
clutched her skirts and almost made a run for it. To the turning heads
of women in the streets, who apparently found something amusing in
her demonstratively serviceable Portia hat and her obviously sensible
square-toed, flat-heeled shoes, she had long been accustomed; but such
alarms as she had felt when Mr. Jowett had turned up his moustache
to show the growth of it were only the beginning of her instinctive
shrinkings from the rough physique of men. They were not Antinöuses
on Clapham Common. She preferred masculinity sublimated, so to
speak--purified by the processes of art. Anything else--a caress of
Cosimo's, for example--would have owed its bearableness largely to the
philosophic or ironic meaning behind.

She continued to wish that Cosimo was there. Then they would have
talked quite a lot about those things.

She had not noticed that the glaring incandescent across the yard had
been extinguished and that the studio was now pitch-dark. She wished
that before he had left Cosimo had not removed the linen cases from his
pillows; the striped ticking tickled her cheek. But she was too tired
to move. Some time ago a clock had struck a quarter-past something;
a quarter-past eleven she supposed; she decided that when it struck
half-past she would get up. That would not be for five minutes yet. She
closed her eyes.

She did not immediately realize what it was that caused her to open
them again when she did. She only knew that some sound had caused her
alarm, and that, a moment later, she was sitting up with a fluttering
heart on Cosimo's bed. She would have called out, but suddenly, at a
repetition of the sound, she dared not. Nor dared she move. She put her
hand to her breast. Her tiny face had gone white.

Somebody was fumbling softly at the door.

Never in her life had Amory fainted, but she wellnigh did so now. She
knew that there were other men in this block of studios; had she been
observed to come in and not seen to depart again? It was possible,
and burglars also were possible. Instantaneously it had flashed into
her mind that the latch was an ordinary one and that it had closed of
itself behind her--she remembered to have heard its click--otherwise
she would have been defenceless. Terror seized her. It was not her own
restraint that prevented her from giving a shrill scream. She had no
voice with which to scream....

Then suddenly whoever was at the door was heard to depart again. As the
sound of steps died away Amory fell back on Cosimo's bed.

And as she dared not go out, there was nothing for her to do but to
remain where she was.

She simply dared not go out now.

So she lay, hardly closing her eyes once, until the side window became
a leaden oblong. Then, slowly and laggardly, Cosimo's chest of drawers,
his washstand, his little bureau, and his row of boots crept into dim
shape out of the shadows. The sheet over his arm-chair ceased to be
a grey crouching figure, the easel with the duster over it to be a
criminal hanging in chains. Soon the milk-carts would be coming round,
and the postman----

But she would not wait to see whether any letters came for him----

Cold and stiff, at last she rose. Her feet were leaden, and she neither
knew nor cared what anybody might think who saw her coming out into
the street at that hour of the morning. She groped for the latch of
the front door, and closed the door behind her. Ten minutes later she
reached her own studio, dead-beat.

But there, too, somebody--the same somebody--awaited her. She had cast
herself wearily into the low window-seat and was watching the sullen
day-break over the river, when from behind the curtain that enscreened
her bed there came a creak and a heavy sigh. For all her fatigue she
sprang up as a skip-jack springs up when its piece of cobbler's wax
yields. It _could_ only be one person.

She ran across the room and flung the curtain aside.

At the same moment Cosimo opened his eyes.

"Urro!" he grunted.

Then he sat sluggishly up.

"Hullo! It's you. Wherever have you been?" he muttered.

"However did you get in here?" Amory demanded almost sharply.

"Put my hand through that stupid old door and slipped the latch, of
course. You ought to get that door seen to, Amory; anybody could get
in. But where on earth have you been all night? I came for my key,
and then went to my place to see if you were there--went twice, in
fact--but I thought you'd be coming in, so I waited and went to sleep.
What time is it? By jove, it's cold."

Cosimo had lain down dressed on her bed, but his hair--this was the
first thing Amory noticed about him--was less disarranged than it might
have been. It no longer clung about his head in tendrils. He had had
it cut quite short. But Amory did not comment upon the change. She had
come to a sudden resolution. She did not intend to tell Cosimo that she
had spent the night lying on his bed. So when presently he asked her
again where she had been she assumed a brightness that, haggard as it
was, was still a feat when her exhaustion was considered. She laughed.

"Oh, I've been out looking for subjects. I've found one--a
ripper--Covent Garden Market. But oh, I'm _so_ tired!"

"But surely you haven't been there all night, my dear girl?" Cosimo
expostulated.

"There and other places. Why not?... Do be an angel and light the fire,
Cosimo."

And as Cosimo rose, stretched himself, and took off his coat, she
stole a covert look at his cut hair again. It seemed to her to be not
impossible that that might be an index of other changes also.



III

"BUSINESS AS USUAL"


Valuable as were the qualities that had placed Dorothy's friend, Mr.
Miller, high in the estimation of Hallowells', they entailed one defect
that was more valuable than all of them put together. Resolution, hard
work, and singleness of purpose had given him an enviable position in
the most humorous job of the age; but these would have availed him
comparatively little had there not been in that part of him where his
sense of humour should have resided, a void that approached as near to
a vacuum as nature permits. It was to that void that Mr. Miller really
owed his success.

For you simply cannot do these things with your tongue in your cheek.
Had Mr. Miller not been able to make, with perfect belief in them,
statements that anybody else would have had to laugh in the middle of,
he would not have been the Man of Ideas he was. In the ordinary run
of his business smart young men came to Mr. Miller with notions and
devices for this and that; he bought them, paid for them at the current
rates, merely because he had to have them; but they were not what he
really wanted. What he really wanted let him explain for himself.

The moment you were shown into his room you were aware that you were
in the presence of no funny man. Suppose you had the good fortune not
to be "turned down" at once as a mere "smartie," Mr. Miller would take
trouble with you. He would frankly admit that he and his fellows had
only themselves to thank for the disrepute into which their craft had
fallen; and bold would have been the advertising freebooter or mere
space-broker who had held up his head before Mr. Miller's righteous
anger.

"We've overdone it," he would sorrowfully admit. "We want noo
blood--noo blood, noo idees, and belief in the reel dignity of our
work. If you've got them, sit right down and let's have a look at them;
if you haven't, you're a busy man and so am I, and I keep my door plain
inside and pretty in the passage where it looks best from. Now show."

Let us assume that you showed and that Mr. Miller found you worth still
more trouble. He might then address you as follows:--

"Too smart. Smartness took the full count the fall before last; we're
pushing these funny stunts underground where they belong. And that
other idee--too noisy. Shouting don't go any more to-day. N. G.---- Now
you're an Englishman, and cann't be expected to see these things in
their reel perspective; but you've assets right here in this country
without these vodeville acts. It ain't my business to put you wise,
but I'll tell you this: neither noise nor smartness is good enough for
Hallowell and Smiths'. Look out o' that window. You see that edifice.
That edifice isn't going up to be run like the one next door to it.
It's a noo edifice, and it's going to be run on noo methods. You think
your methods are noo. You think again. You think quite a lot. Then
when it's hit you good and hard, ring me up and I'll make another date
with you. You got the right look, and there might be business done
between you and I yet. The door closes itself. If you hear a hiss that
ain't me, but the piston. I hope you found the elevator-man courteous
in his manner. You did? That's one of the things there's going to be
at Hallowells'--etiquette. But unobtroosive. Not sticking out a foot
on each side. You didn't observe it sticking out, did you? So. Good
morning."

Mr. Miller had looked up in an etymological dictionary the meaning
of the word "gospel," and had found that it meant "good tidings";
and that, he said, was exactly what advertisement meant too. He had
looked up other words also--Valour, Hero, Dignity, Gentleman--and he
was for restoring their dimmed lustre. And since he saw things in
their true perspective, he saw also the only way in which that could
be done. To cut the cackle and come (like Mr. Wellcome) to the horses,
he proposed to do it by a putting of the founts of honour to purposes
of irrigation. Commerce had vulgarized itself; dignity must therefore
be restored to it from where dignity was to be had in quantities
sufficient if necessary to throw at the birds--from above. One day Mr.
Miller, passing a more than usually ingenious advertisement in a shop
window, had stated his point of view in twenty words. "Look at that!"
he had exclaimed to his companion. "Now I say the man who invented
that was a live wire. He connects. You feel the man. But what does the
British public know about him? If he'd rescued a comrade under fire
he'd have got your V.C. for it, and everybody'd have known all there
was to him; but you stop a hundred people on this sidewalk and ask 'em
his name, and if a single one of 'em can tell you then the drinks are
on me!"

It is true that Mr. Miller did not say that he wanted the Cross
bestowed (as it were) For Value instead of For Valour, but that was
the direction in which his thoughts strayed. Before his perspective
had become quite so clear he had tried to get permission for the Royal
Standard to float over Hallowells' new premises (the Union Jack having
become common trade property, and so of no more value to one emporium
than to another); and though he had failed, it was still better to have
failed in such an attempt than to have succeeded in the funny stunts
that had been pushed underground the fall before last. It remained an
ideal for commerce to lift up its eyes to.

In the business sense, though in none other, Mr. Miller had paid a
good deal of court to Dorothy Lennard--or perhaps less at first to
Dorothy than to Lady Tasker's niece. Nominally Dorothy was still "third
hand" in the fashion studio; but Miss Benson had been wise enough to
leave her free to do pretty much as she liked (without that freedom
the studio would never have got Hallowells' catalogue, nor have become
what to all intents and purposes it now was--one of Hallowells'
departments), and Dorothy's intimacy with Mr. Miller had ripened
quickly after the famous buying of Glenister's picture, "Sir Walter and
the Cloak," at the Academy more than a year before. Dorothy had gone
round the Exhibition with Mr. Miller, and had seen him stop long before
the picture and presently return to it.

"Now that's what I call a picture, Miss Lennard," he had said at
last. "A reel thoughtful bit of art. I don't care whether you call it
pre-Raphaelite or whatever you call it--you as a lady-artist can put it
all over me there--but speaking as a plain man of business I say that
picture just appeals to me. It calls me. I feel it. It's got meaning.
There's your Raleigh, look. And there's your Queen Bess. And I ask
you to observe the chivalrous spirit of it. That's the reel old-world
English courtesy. That's the thing that hasn't got to be let die.
Hallowells' has got to pitch its key up to that. It's got to be as if
there was a puddle in front of the Grand Entrance every day, and every
lady-shopper was a Queen, and Hallowells' was"--Mr. Miller had made a
low, sweeping gesture with both his arms--"spreading its Cloak. That's
the deportment I want for our Hosts. Where do they keep the Sales
Department here?"

And, that an object-lesson should be ever before his Departmental
Hosts' eyes, Mr. Miller had bought the picture.

How Hallowells' had contrived, during the past two years, with an army
of painters and gilders, carpenters and shopfitters, plasterers and
electricians and inspectors and engineers swarming all over the place,
that business should be "carried on as usual during rebuilding" was
nothing short of a modern miracle; but so it had been. And the gradual
rising of the visible edifice had been accompanied, course by course
and tier by tier, by bright palatial uprearings in Mr. Miller's busy
brain. If the weather should hold for another month, all was expected
to be ready for the Grand Inauguration in the spring; and even if the
weather did not hold, the impression had somehow got about that the
weather must be a mightier power even than had been supposed to be able
to postpone an event of such magnitude.... But all this is ancient
history now. London knows its Hallowells' and the wonders that the
man who held its Portfolio of Publicity (for surely he was entitled
to a seat in the Cabinet of the World's Commerce) called forth. It
has accepted the Hallowell touch. It knows that its shopwalkers rank
as Marshals and its head-salesmen as Hosts. It knows that the employé
who would win his spurs at Hallowells' must fast and keep his vigil
before the picture of Sir Walter and the Cloak. The funny stunt _has_
taken the full count. Mr. Miller _has_ corrected the perspective of
things.... Therefore pass we on to how Dorothy Lennard had now and then
a voice in certain of the tertiary wonders of the organization and how
into the vast complexity she had contrived to drag the name of Mr.
Hamilton Dix.

Mr. Dix had come into the concern over the pictorial advertising. Of
Dorothy as an ex-student of the McGrath Mr. Miller had presently come
to think almost as much as he did of Dorothy the niece of Lady Tasker;
and he had taken her word about Mr. Dix. "Couldn't your posters and
things be made somehow a bit more--important?" Dorothy had suggested
one day. "Tell me how," Mr. Miller had instantly replied--"tell us
how; you've grasped the idee! You don't suppose we could enlist the
patronage of our president of the Royal Academy, do you?" (Mr. Miller
had lately begun to speak of "our" Royal Standard and "our" House of
Peers.) Thereupon Dorothy had given a light, rapid sketch of Sir Edward
Pointer, not so much disdaining as debarred by his official position
from superintending Hallowells' pictorial advertising; and she had
suggested Mr. Hamilton Dix instead. "Is he a live wire?" Mr. Miller
had demanded. "No push about him, I mean, no noise, not always forcing
himself forward, but the reel solid dignity? If he ain't excloosive and
hard to get, he's no good to us! He ain't a 'Sir,' is he?"

"No."

"Nor an 'Honourable,' with a 'u' in it?"

"No, he's just plain Mr. Dix."

"And what place does he take among our critics of art? Is he a one-cent
paper man or two cents? I ain't calling your friend down at all, Miss
Lennard, but we can't afford any but what he's the very top-tip-top."

"I think he'd do really well."

"Then let him name his figure and buy him in.... And now tell me what's
the difficulty about Mr. Stanhope Tasker."

For a moment Dorothy's composure was a little shaken. She smiled and
blushed both at once. Mr. Stanhope Tasker was her second cousin, and
Mr. Miller's next words explained how Lady Tasker's nephew had come to
be at Hallowells'.

"I hope he ain't afraid he won't be able to hold the job down. Between
you and I, Miss Lennard, it don't matter a rusty nail whether he do
or he don't. He's here to _look_ good; if he does that he fills the
bill from A to Zee. Why, walking up our Bond Street only this morning
brought it home to me good and hard. 'Here they are,' says I, 'ten of
'em in as many minutes, the reel high-grade goods, with centuries of
blue blood in the very way they wear their pantaloons--Sir Walters
from 'way back, all with their names spelt one way and pronounced
another--the genu-i-ne all-wool article; but can I get 'em? I cann't.
And that's what Mr. Stan is, if I might call him that without
familiarity. Now just you tell me, Miss Lennard, what's the bother?"

Again Dorothy had bitten her lip, grown pink, and laughed. "Leave him
to me. I'll keep him for you if I can."

"But great snakes (pardon me) what _do_ these gentlemen want? They fix
their own honorarium (has that got a 'u' in it?)--a captain in our army
don't get as much by a half--we don't ask 'em to get shot--they don't
handle goods--they just stand around--it would cipher out at a dollar a
smile and a few 'This way pleases'--_and_ the rank of marshal."

"But you just said that if they weren't hard to get they were no good
to you."

"Hard--hard's the word! That's a fact! But we got to have 'em. Selling
ladies' goods has got to be made just as noble as killing their
husbands and sweethearts on a field of battle. It _is_ as noble. In
a properly organized community there ought to be a Distinguished
Salesmanship Order just as there's a Distinguished Service Order for
our military classes. And Mr. Stan's only asked to graduate for the
Distinguished Smiling Order, if I may take the liberty of saying so."

"Well, perhaps he'll do better after the Inauguration."

"You think that?" Mr. Miller had questioned eagerly. "You think he'll
be all right on the night, so to say? Well now, if I thought that it
would be a weight off my mind. I hope you'll assist me, Miss Lennard.
And thank you very much for your assistance about Mr. Dix. It's a fact
that if these people were easy to get everybody'd be getting 'em.
Pardon me, after you----"

And they had parted, but not before Dorothy had wondered whether Mr.
Miller's intelligent look, when he had asked her to help him in the
difficulty with Mr. Stan, had meant anything.

If you had asked Dorothy Lennard how it was that her Cousin Stanhope
had come to find himself at Hallowell and Smiths', she would probably
have answered you only half candidly. You would have had to guess (as
the chances were that Mr. Miller had guessed) the rest. Poor Stan, she
would have told you, so far frankly, was a perfect darling, but he had
no brains. Successively he had been ploughed for the army, had tried
six months in the city, had spent a year in Canada, three months in
a motor works, two months more in hawking from club to club a really
brilliant idea for a weekly comic paper, and finally, when at the end
of every natural asset he possessed, saving only his good looks, had
come upon a piece of Mr. Miller's own publicity--a column article in
an evening paper on "The Disappearance of the Slur of Trade." Stan had
been much impressed by the new field thus thrown open. Chancing to meet
Dorothy at about that time, for the first time since they had been
children, he had spoken of the new opening, and Dorothy had offered
there and then to introduce him to the writer of the article. From
the first moment Stanhope had shown a willingness to be introduced to
anybody whomsoever by Dorothy; and perhaps Mr. Miller had less hope
than Dorothy supposed that Mr. Stan now hung about the premises for
any reason at all except that Dorothy was to be seen there.... It was
a case of love among the ruins, or whatever the upset may be called
that is the result, not of demolition, but of rebuilding; and now, when
the two were not meeting one another in halls full of trestles and
plasterers' buckets or on passages down which they had to retreat as
counters and glass screens and heavy fittings came along, Dorothy, in
Miss Benson's absence, was fighting with Miss Umpleby for possession
of the telephone, and talking with the bewildered marshal through a
hundred and fifty yards of party-wall and fireproof floor, ceilings and
lift-wells and cornices and plate-glass.... Unless an aunt or somebody
died, Dorothy supposed that when they got married she would have to
keep him.

Having decided that Mr. Miller's solemn articles on the "Art of the
Poster" and the "Academy of the Hoardings" might as well be written by
Mr. Hamilton Dix as by anybody else, Dorothy Lennard was not such a
fool as to receive that handy critic in the fashion studio on the upper
floor. Instead she asked Mr. Miller when he would be out, and borrowed
his office--his fourth office since the building had been in progress,
and, though not yet his permanent one, still an oasis of upholstery
and quietness in a waste of concrete and ladders and new paint and
half-hung walls. She also ordered cut flowers, whisky and soda, and
tea. She had not forgotten her promise to Amory, that she would, if it
was possible, obtain some mitigation of the Crozier contract.

Mr. Dix, for his part, accustomed to shedding the lustre of his name
at ordinary space rates, was prepared to be as lustrous as anybody
liked when money was flowing as it flowed about the new Hallowells'.
He knocked at the door that was plain inside but ornamental without
at four o'clock of a Friday afternoon early in January, and Dorothy
had all in readiness for him. Before showing Mr. Dix the proofs of the
posters on which for many months past Hallowells' had been spending
money like water (they were bound together at the top edge and set,
like a huge book of wallpaper patterns, on a special easel so as to
be conveniently turned over), she gave him an outline of the general
scheme and the part it was hoped he would consent to play in it;
and from the outset Mr. Dix liked this young woman's attitude. For
Croziers' he was not much more than a pen; at Hallowells', if the
bashful and deferential manner in which he found himself received
meant anything, he would be a Berenson or a Cavalcaselle at the very
least, and really well paid for it at that. She was a comely young
woman, too, and appeared to know what she was talking about.... Ah!
She had been at the McGrath! (Dorothy had negligently dropped the name
of Toulouse-Lautrec.) That explained it! Mr. Dix had thought she spoke
with some inside knowledge! A good school, the McGrath. Mr. Dix knew
Professor Jowett quite well: a capable master, very, but shockingly
given over to a habit of cynicism, especially about the poor critics.
By the way, had Miss Lennard ever known a Miss Towers there?...

Dorothy had only mentioned the McGrath in order to give Mr. Dix an
opportunity of mentioning Miss Towers; but Miss Towers could wait a
bit. It would be better to get Mr. Dix to commit himself to magnanimous
generalities before coming to a specific case. Therefore as she gave
him tea she told him how lucky Hallowells' thought themselves to be
able to get his services. When (she said) Mr. Miller had first asked
her whether she thought he would be approachable about mere posters
she had shaken her head; but now that she had seen him (Dorothy slowly
lifted her great blue eyes) she was glad she had asked him. Wasn't it
odd, how afraid you were of the pretentious and mediocre people, and
not at all of the really big men? (At this point Mr. Dix had begun
really to bask.) But of course nothing but the best was good enough for
Hallowells'. Not (she went on) that they pretended for a moment to be
anything but tradespeople, with no views on art at all; but they _did_
believe this, that while an inferior writer might _seem_ to be just
as good, only one thing really paid the best, and that was--the best.
That was why they had sent for Mr. Dix. They wanted the incorruptible
man. As for what Mr. Dix would see fit to do now that they had got him,
that rested entirely with Mr. Dix. It was not for Hallowells' to say
what they wanted, but for Mr. Dix to give them what he thought best for
them. And as for the posters themselves....

"But suppose we look at them," said Dorothy.

They looked at the posters, and Dorothy gave Mr. Dix a whisky and soda
and a cigar. And at that point the curtain went down, so to speak, on
the first act. Mr. Dix declined for the moment to commit himself; with
an hour or two in which to think the matter over he might (he said)
be able to come to a conclusion. He understood that time pressed; it
was half-past five now. Could--_could_ Miss Lennard possibly dine with
him at eight o'clock? He might perhaps say at once that he thought the
subject a fascinating one. As Miss Lennard had so truly said, only the
mediocre mind thought these things beneath its dignity; in fact---- But
if Miss Lennard would give him the pleasure, they could talk about that
later. She would? That was charming of her. He would be round with a
taxi, then, at twenty minutes to eight.

For the second time the scene was set in the Trocadero Grill. Mr. Dix
pointed out that the decoration, garish in detail, nevertheless took
its place in the _ensemble_; and Dorothy's eyes widened, and she said
that she hoped he would say that, in those very words, in one of his
articles--she had thought that very thing so many times herself, but
had lacked the knowledge to express it: she supposed that was where the
genius came in. Didn't Mr. Dix think (she wanted to know) that genius
_was_ just that--the power of expressing what everybody had thought
in terms they had never thought of? Given genius as a text, he is a
poor critic who cannot talk for an hour without a break; and, as Mr.
Dix slowly consumed liqueur brandy as he talked, Dorothy became very
beautiful to him. He became tender, not to say mushy. He vowed that
the sentimental point of view was something to be proud, not ashamed,
of. He spoke of the struggles of poor artists, of the temptations that
beset poor critics when they were asked to sell the truth for gold; and
Dorothy said that it must be awful, but that it would be a comfort to
her thenceforward, whenever she heard such dreadful tales, to know that
one man at least understood. Was the Miss Towers of whom he had spoken
one of those unfortunate ones? She had heard (she said) of a _Mr._
Towers, a painter, but that could not be the same....

"The same--the very same!" Mr. Dix laughed, while the curls shook on
his head; and he told the story of his early mistake....

"And she has actually signed a contract with these hard-hearted
dealers, whoever they are, and can't sell her own work?" Dorothy sighed
meltingly. "Poor thing! And can nothing be done to help her?"

"What a large soft heart you have, Miss Lennard!" murmured Mr. Dix,
squegeeing her, so to speak, with his gelatinous eyes; they really
might have been of the same substance as printing-machine rollers.

"Poor child!" Dorothy sighed compassionately. "Really, I feel like
going round and seeing these horrible people myself! They couldn't eat
me, could they?"

Mr. Dix looked as if he could have eaten Miss Lennard, without sugar.

"Poor dear! But, I'm sure they couldn't resist _you_, Mr. Dix--not if
you said the beautiful things to them you've been saying to me----"

If they could, they could have done more than Mr. Dix could Dorothy.

"_Do_ help the poor child!" Dorothy pleaded. "Half the trouble in the
world seems to me to come of goodness and power being in the wrong
hands, Mr. Dix."...

Again she lifted the large baby eyes....

"I'm sure you will...."

       *       *       *       *       *

And the worst feature about the whole immoral transaction was that she
did not ask, but conferred a favour--the favour of showing Mr. Hamilton
Dix what a sympathetic, chivalrous, and large-hearted person Mr.
Hamilton Dix could be.



IV

"IL FAUT QU' UNE PORTE--"


Now that Cosimo was back in town again for the second time (he
had stayed a week the first time, and had then departed again for
Christmas, coming back the first week in the New Year) his manner
puzzled Amory a little. Sometimes he seemed changed, sometimes (barring
the hair) exactly as before. Sometimes he told Amory all about his
business, and sometimes seemed more than ordinarily interested in
hers--almost as if he had her a little on his mind and would have liked
to be rid of some responsibility. Then, hardly more than three weeks
after the previous cutting, he got his hair cut again. It was cooler
so, he said--this on a distinctly raw January day.

The cutting altered his appearance surprisingly. Amory thought the
change very much for the worse. The tendrilled clusters had "massed" so
beautifully before; she had sometimes given them a light touch or two
with her fingers, taking an æsthetic delight in the way they "came."
He had reminded her a little of the Antinöus. But now he reminded her
of nothing save of a young human animal of the opposite sex. He wore
starched white collars too, and went about in a hat.... On the other
hand, he mended Amory's door so that it was no longer possible to
intrude a hand and to slip the latch. It wasn't the thing, he said.
What did it matter? Amory asked; but Cosimo only replied that he didn't
like the idea at all.

The door, however, gave way again; and this time Cosimo made a thorough
job of it, taking it from its hinges and laying it on the floor while
he screwed a stout batten on the back that remedied its warping once
for all. This was late on a Saturday evening; in order to bring the
bent door flush with the batten Amory had to sit down on one end of
it; and the lamp stood on the floor between them as Cosimo, kneeling,
screwed. The lamp was not so near, however, as to be a source of danger
if Amory (as she had so often done before) took down her hair. She did
take it down. Cosimo, the top of his cropped head turned to Amory,
continued to screw.

"There!" he said at last. "I think that'll make you safe, Amory."

"Thanks most awfully, Cosimo," Amory replied quietly.

"I've intended to do that ever since that night you were out at Covent
Garden," Cosimo continued. "If I could have got in, anybody else could,
of course. Anyway, you're all right now. You can get up."

"Thanks," said Amory again.... "I'm sure I don't know what I'm safe
from," she added. "Jellies' young man might burgle me, I suppose; but
he's 'in' again."

"No! Really?" said Cosimo, so eagerly that Amory wondered whether he
was glad to change the subject. "I _say_! What is it this time?"

"Oh, they found no fewer than ten bicycles in his place, all bright
green, newly enamelled. And he isn't a cycle dealer. I suppose they
drew conclusions."

"By Jove!" Cosimo exclaimed. "When was that?"...

Amory was quite sure that that too was part of the change in Cosimo. He
wanted to be on a topic that was--like the mended door--"safe." He had
risen on his knees and straightened his back; Amory had thought he was
about to rise altogether; but she herself did not move, and he sat down
again, cross-legged, on the other end of the door. He asked further
questions about Jellies, Orris, and the ten bicycles. Amory, shaking
back her thick, raw-gold mane, answered him quite freely; and then
Cosimo returned to the subject of the door again.

"It ought to have new hinges too, really," he grunted, "but I suppose
it's too late to get them to-night. Look how rusty that one is."

Amory leaned forward, and together they inspected the hinge. Then she
gave a little laugh. It was almost a reckless little laugh.

"Oh, it will do," she said lightly. "I shouldn't bother about it. Leave
it till to-morrow. You can just prop it up for to-night."

"Prop it up!" repeated Cosimo. "Oh no. Wouldn't do at all."

Then, all at once, apparently, Amory saw. She laughed again.

"Oh!... Good gracious, Cosimo, how ridiculous you are! Why, I
thought you were joking at first! As if anybody but you ever came up
here nowadays--and even you only once in awhile!" Then, with another
reckless little laugh, she added, "Why, what difference could a door
make?"

"A good deal, or else why have 'em?" Cosimo retorted. He did not seem
comfortable.

"Quite so: why?" Amory replied. "What a strange idea! Really, I never
knew you confuse Accidentals and Essentials so before! Why, if a
person's made up his mind to do a thing, how will a door stop it? And
if it won't, why a door? You know as well as I do that these things
happen _within ourselves_. Besides, I thought we'd arrived at our
conclusions."

"Of course, so we have," said Cosimo apologetically. "I know we've got
quite down to fundamentals. Still, there's no actual _harm_ in having a
hinge."

Amory shook her head slowly. The lamp on the floor shone tiny in either
brook-brown eye. Somehow Cosimo felt as uncomfortable as a guilty dog
under those eyes.

"You've changed, Cosimo," she said. "Something's changed you.... Why,"
she suddenly made a soft little appeal and held out both hands--"why
don't you tell me what it is?"

Cosimo appeared not to notice her hands. His own fumbled with a screw.

"I haven't changed, Amory, really--really I haven't," he protested.

"You have, Cosimo," Amory replied, her head critically a little on one
side. "You mayn't know it, but you're becoming--ordinary."

"Oh!" Cosimo broke out, revolted. "Ordinary--Cosimo!----"

"I'm not reproaching you," Amory continued. "I suppose that if you
examine it, it's nothing to be ashamed of--I mean that 'ashamed' isn't
quite the word. But words are only symbols after all; it's the thing
that matters."

"Of course," Cosimo agreed quickly. "You don't think I've changed my
mind about that, I hope, Amory? We came to the conclusion that words
were only symbols years ago."

But again Amory made her tender little appeal. Her fingers touched
Cosimo's hand lightly for a moment.

"Won't you tell me, Cosimo? You see, it's purely a matter of our
intellectual identity. That's been such a beautiful thing. Hasn't it
been a beautiful thing?" The fingers rested on his hand.

"Don't say 'been,' Amory--it is," Cosimo interrupted.

"Such a precious thing. Isn't it Emerson who says that at bottom all
friendship is based on equality of intellectual understanding? It's
a mingling of minds, Cosimo. When we use the same words we mean the
same things by them, and--oh, how rare that is! Of course, I know your
uncle's dead, and that may have upset you, and you've all sorts of
business about property and so on on your mind, but I can't believe
that accounts for all of it. I know you too well, you see! Or is
it"--she gave a little start, as at a quite new surmise--"I don't
believe it can be, but is it--that you find _me_ changed?"

Cosimo protested that Amory had not changed in the least. Neither of
them had changed. A person might change from prejudice and intolerance
to the larger view, but nobody in their senses thought of changing back
again.

"Because if we have, either of us," Amory continued, looking fearlessly
before her, "I think we ought to face the fact. There can't be two
opinions about that. Whatever else we do, Cosimo, don't let's muddle.
I simply couldn't bear to sloven along, keeping up a pretence of
friendship that was simply an intellectual hypocrisy. Either we still
think the same about the great basic facts of Life, or we don't; but
don't in either case let's be cowards about it. If I'm to go forward
alone, I'd much, much rather know it. No doubt it'll be strange at
first, but I shall get used to it, I suppose."

She might have found it a little difficult to tell Cosimo exactly
what it was she was so brave about, but unflinchingly brave about
something she certainly seemed to be. With both hands she cast back
her hair, showing her dauntless brow; her chin was held high above the
bluebell-stalk of a throat, the lids were dropped over the shallow,
gold-flecked eyes. As if she saw before her the bleak prospect of years
to come without the intellectual companionship of Cosimo, the corners
of her mouth gave a momentary twitch, but were instantly courageous
again; and she reopened the eyes. They were full of sorrow and
resolve. Cosimo _had_ changed....

"Amory," he pleaded, "don't look like that." This time he touched her
hand.

"Like what?" she asked, without emotion.

"As if--it's so ridiculous--as if it wasn't all your fancy. You're a
bit run down, that's all that's the matter with you."

"I have felt better," she admitted, closing the eyes again and passing
her finger-tips over the lids.

"Look here--can I get you something--knock a chemist up or anything?"

"No, thank you, Cosimo."

"But--but--I'm really worried about you, dear----"

"You mustn't worry, Cosimo. These things have to be faced."

"But, my dear girl!... _What_ things? I assure you it's pure fancy!
Look here," he said resolutely, "tell me what you've been doing with
yourself this past week, and I'll bet I can tell you what's the matter
with you! In the first place, have you had proper meals?"

"All I wanted, thank you."

"That means eggs, I expect. You haven't a headache, have you?"

"Only quite a slight one. No, please don't brush my hair; if you
wouldn't mind getting me a drink of water instead----"

"But," said Cosimo presently, bending solicitously over her with the
water he had fetched, "I used to be able to stroke your headaches
away. Do let me try----"

"No, thank you so awfully much, Cosimo--I don't think it would do this
one any good--and I really think you ought to be going now. I shall go
to bed."

"Is it made?"

"I don't know. Would you mind giving me a hand up? I expect I shall be
all right again in the morning----"

He helped her weary but enduring form to the curtained corner where the
bed lay. Then he looked anxiously at her. He stood irresolute.

"I'll put you a jug of water by your side, shall I?"

"Yes, please, and Tchekoff--the little book there----"

"Oh, come, reading in bed's the very worst thing you can do!"

"Perhaps Tchekoff'll buck me up. He _is_ stimulating. You haven't read
him? You should. I feel I need him to-night. Thank Heaven, one can
always have the companionship of these men through their works.... When
are you going away again? I suppose you'll be giving up the studio in
March? I shall go out for a long walk to-morrow by myself. I'll prop
the door up after you, but it really didn't matter; there's nothing
anybody would come for. Thank you so much for mending it, though, and
for the glass of water. I'm quite all right now. Good night, Cosimo----"

She had crossed the floor again. They held the tottering door up
between them. "Stupid not to have waited till Monday," Cosimo was
muttering; "look here, shall I try to fix it up again as it was? Afraid
the screwholes wouldn't hold, though; they'll have to be plugged....
Then put something heavy against it inside--your chest of drawers or
something--won't you?"

"Oh, very well, if you wish."

"I was a fool not to wait till Monday.... You're all right?"

"Perfectly."

"I shall come round in the morning to see how you are.... Good night."
He was peering round the edge of the door.

"Good night."

Cosimo left slowly. He felt a brute. He couldn't have told why, but it
seemed to him that, by comparison with this brave girl, who preferred
the sharpest pains of knowledge to the lethargy of ignorance, and would
have the truth though it were a blade in her lonely breast, he was
inferior and a coward. But for all that, Amory had been quite wrong in
thinking he had changed. He had not. He still thought Amory splendid.
And not only that: he hadn't quite realized before how very pretty
she was. He had known she was pretty, but not how pretty; perhaps she
hadn't been quite so pretty before?... And now Cosimo came to think
of it, he had been noticing lately whether girls were pretty or not.
Somehow Pattie Wynn-Jenkins had got him into the way of it. Pattie,
whose father's plantation adjoined the western boundary of the grazing
that was now Cosimo's own, was pretty herself, and seemed to raise the
question.... Still, Cosimo had _not_ changed. He could admire Pattie
without in the least taking away from the devotion he owed to Amory.
And as for anything else than mere prettiness, Pattie wasn't in it.
Pattie would never have dreamed of reading Weiniger and Tchekoff. Just
at present she cared for nothing in the world so much as how she should
reduce her golf handicap. It was hard to call a girl so pretty as
Pattie a fool, but, not to mince matters, that was about the long and
the short of it....

And, on the whole, Cosimo was rather glad that Amory didn't suspect
there was such a girl as Pattie in existence.

Cosimo half expected to find Amory still in bed when he went round
to Cheyne Walk at ten o'clock on the following morning; but she was
dressed and ready for going out. He was lucky, she said, to have caught
her; she would have been off in another five minutes.--"Off where?"
Cosimo asked. Oh, Amory didn't know.--"All right, come along," he said.

But when she turned her eyes slowly round to his he saw that the night
had only set higher their clear courage. Again he could not have told
why he felt guilty.

"Do you think it would be wise?" she asked gravely.

"Why not?" he asked, taken aback anew.

"Oh, very well," she answered indifferently. "I'm ready."

Many times they had walked together in the direction of Earl's Court
and Brook Green, but never in such a silence as this. Yet on Amory's
part it was a calm and cheery silence. It was so calm and cheery that
uneasily Cosimo fell to wondering whether Amory had not been right
and he had not, after all, changed without knowing it. These geniuses
were terrible people: there was never any telling what they did not
see. As they passed through Hammersmith, Cosimo longed to break out,
"I _haven't_ changed, Amory--you'd _know_ I thought more of you than
ever if you'd seen the pretty but awfully stupid sort of girl I've been
seeing while I've been away--everything we've agreed a self-respecting
woman can't be any longer: a mere man's toy, a chattel, property,
on sale just as much as if she was in an Oriental slave-market,
economically dependent, hopelessly apathetic to everything that's
fine and feminist and new----" He knew that Amory would have called
that "facing the facts." But something, he knew not what, held him
back. Oh, it was none of the things you might have thought--that
Amory might make more of it than there had been (indeed, there had
been nothing), nor that he realized that the whole truth can never be
told, and that the more you explain the more there remains still to be
explained, nor that hypocrisy and lack of candour are not without their
poor uses when all is said and done. Cosimo would have denied these
obsolescent propositions one by one.... So he concluded that he could
not be very well either. That must be the reason for his reticence.
Pattie's company must have put him a little out of accord with the
finer things. Pattie in Shropshire, too, seemed a thought less pretty
than did Amory by his side that Sunday morning. If Amory were only a
little differently dressed she might be incomparably pretty, as she was
already incomparably clever....

But suddenly Amory broke the silence. It was as they approached
Ravenscourt Park.

"Cosimo," she said slowly--"I've been wondering again----"

He waited for her to continue. As she delayed to do so, he said, "What,
Amory?"

"I've been wondering again--why you don't marry Dorothy."

When Amory had said this same thing before, Cosimo had laughed, and
with beautiful tact had replied that Dorothy would never have married
him: but there was something of the still, of the rapt, about Amory
that morning that would have made a laugh an offence. Instead, he said,
almost reproachfully, "Oh,--Amory!"

"Why don't you?" she continued dreamily. "I hope it's not that mere
settling down of opinion that is fatal to real vitality of thought. An
_idée fixe_ isn't an _idée_ at all; it's a Law that in course of time
thoughts become petrified. Then they've got to be got fluid again. Are
you sure that you haven't got Dorothy wrongly classified?"

She looked earnestly at him.

"But----" he began, but Amory interrupted him gently.

"Let's face the facts about Dorothy without prejudice," she said.
"First, I know she's mixed up with perfectly impossible people, but
you mustn't forget that she was with us at the McGrath. Her work's
impossible too, poor dear Dot, but search where you will, Cosimo,
you won't find a better _appreciator_ than she is. It would only
need a little encouragement of that side of her nature and a little
suppression of the other and Dorothy would be an almost ideal wife
for an advanced and fine-thinking man. It's merely her Environment
that doesn't give her a chance. Of course, from the point of view of
Eugenics, those people of hers may be a little _epuisées_; intermarried
too much: but she doesn't show it--she may be a throw-back. And it
isn't a drawback any longer that Dorothy's rather fond of her own way.
Equality of Opportunity is admitted nowadays, and in another ten years
the conception of woman as property will be quite dead. And think
how much worse you might do, Cosimo! Suppose you got hold of a mere
doll!... Cosimo," she added earnestly, "it would be--hell!"

Cosimo quailed inwardly, nor could he, in the face of Amory's
earnestness, dissemble his quailing with a laugh. "But," he protested
by and by, "I--I don't _want_ Dorothy, Amory!"

"I only ask you to ask yourself whether that isn't an _idée fixe_."

"I really don't think it's an _idée fixe_," Cosimo returned, after
further examination of it. "And besides, _you've_ rather spoiled me for
the companionship of--of anybody who comes along----"

"It has been beautiful," said Amory, with a detached air, "and it will
be more beautiful still to look back on. I don't conceal from you,
Cosimo, that quite the most precious and significant part of my life
has been shared with you."

He broke out almost angrily--"The past tense again, Amory! Really, I--I
don't know what's come over you!"

"You mean that you'd miss me a little too?"

"Miss you!----" This time he did give a little mirthless laugh.

"Then," Amory went on presently, "there's something else to remember.
Dorothy's used to me. We are friends. Another girl might not be. You
see how much I care who you marry, Cosimo, and why."

"But--but--whatever's put it into your head that I want to marry at
all?" Cosimo cried, stopping and looking blankly at her.

She, too, looked at him; then she moved slowly forward again.

"Ah, you're at the very heart of the feminist Movement there, if you
only knew it, Cosimo," she replied. "A man has only his intelligence; a
woman has intelligence _and_ her intuitions as well."

"You mean you've an intuition I want to get married?" Cosimo broke out.
"I swear----"

"Oh, Cosimo, what's the good of swearing? That's merely like that
antiquated old Service again, when you promise to love and honour and
all the time you're absolutely in the dark. You may not want to at this
moment. But you don't know that to-morrow somebody may not want to
marry you. I only want it to be the right person--chum of mine," she
added softly.

As she put her hand on his arm Cosimo had a little brotherly warming.

He was not aware--or if he had been aware, he had forgotten--that
Amory's Aunt Jerry and Mr. Massey lived on Chiswick Mall, hardly a
stone's-throw from where they were. They were passing the "Doves" when
suddenly Amory exclaimed, "Why, we're quite near to Aunt Jerry's. Shall
we go in to lunch?"

Her quick tone seemed a change from the past tense and broodings about
his marriage, and he welcomed it eagerly. Moreover, to call on the
Masseys would recall enlivening thoughts of that merry wedding day
when Mr. Wellcome had got slightly drunk and had passed round the
toothpicks. It would be the very thing to take Amory out of herself.

"Ripping idea!" said Cosimo enthusiastically. "Which is the house?"

"The one you're walking past now," said Amory, putting her hand on the
knob of a tall wrought-iron gate. "I don't suppose Aunt Jerry's been to
church."

They walked up a narrow flagged path and Amory rang an old bell by the
side of a torch-extinguisher. Already Aunt Jerry had waved her hand
from the drawing-room window of the first floor. The door was opened,
and they were admitted.

"We've asked ourselves to lunch, Cosimo and I," said Amory, kissing her
aunt where she sat by the window. "May we stay?"

Aunt Jerry affected a severity.

"I'm not so sure, after the disgraceful time you've thought fit to stop
away," she replied. "I'm very cross with both of you. If you'd left it
one week longer, Cosimo--you see I haven't forgotten I was to call you
Cosimo--I really don't think George would have had you in the house.
But I forgive you now you are here. George will be back from church
presently. Go and take your things off, child, and Cosimo will talk to
me. You know the little room--or is it so long since you were here that
you've forgotten?"

There were hyacinth bulbs in the glasses of Aunt Jerry's rounded
bow-window, and a canary in a white and gilt cage; and to Amory the
house seemed furnished consonantly with the age of its owners, that
is to say, its chairs and tables were not old enough in style to be
antique and not new enough to be anything but what doubtless some of
them were--second-hand. But the panelling was pleasant, and the airy
view up the river delightful. Aunt Jerry pointed out the view to Cosimo
at once; she sat there all day, she said, but it was almost as good
as being out of doors. There was no need to ask why she sat there,
watching her swelling hyacinths and listening to the trilling of her
bird. Amory expected to be made a cousin early in April.

"I'm so glad you've come," said Aunt Jerry to Cosimo. "Mrs. Deschamps
is coming; George will meet her after church; and Miss Crebbin (do you
remember Miss Crebbin?)--she's bringing _her_ young man. But I ought
to say that our lunch is really our dinner on Sundays because of the
girls' afternoon off. Well, and now tell me how you are."

She was fresh as a rose, and talked as if she and Cosimo had been
old friends. Cosimo remembered the joke of Mrs. 'Ill, the plumber,
Mr. Wellcome, and the chimney-sweep. Only for a moment had Aunt
Jerry glanced at Cosimo's suit of tweeds. She had heard of Cosimo's
bereavement, but, after all, a loss can be felt as deeply in tweeds
as in anything else, and the glance had seemed to admit that perhaps
it wasn't altogether a bad thing that the old custom of extravagant
funerals, often at the expense of the needs of the living, was dying
out. "We must all go sometime," her short silence seemed to say, "and
those who follow us must take up the burdens we leave." Perhaps it was
not all burden either. Aunt Jerry had forgotten the precise number of
acres, but she remembered that Cosimo was now "eligible."

Aunt Jerry was telling Cosimo how all at sea Amory had seemed during
the past weeks, when Mr. Massey arrived with Mrs. Deschamps. They were
followed a few minutes later by Miss Crebbin and _her_ young man, a Mr.
Allport. And Mrs. Deschamps, too, greeted Cosimo as quite an old friend.

"I shall never, never forget that wedding day, Mr. Pratt!" she
exclaimed vivaciously. "That cake--the wretches! But they're always
up to something, scaring you out of your wits with a jam-splash on
the tablecloth or a spill of ink on your book--you've seen them, Mr.
Pratt; they're a penny, and I've had dreadful turns with them! But I
simply can_not_ call you 'Mr. Pratt.' It isn't like Glenerne here. I
admit it's best to be on the safe side there, but at Oasthouse View
we're a family party--aren't we, George? And don't I come on Sundays
till you're sick of the sight of me and say, 'Here's that nuisance of
a Nellie again?' He needn't shake his head," the bright little widow
continued to Cosimo; "Geraldine thinks we go to church together, but
really I'm making love to him--aren't I, George?"

"Yes--yes, yes, yes," Mr. Massey hissed softly over his teeth, entering
into the joke and smiling amiably about him.

And Mrs. Deschamps confided to Cosimo in a stage whisper that it was
already arranged that she was to be "Number Two."

They lunched in the panelled room beneath Aunt Jerry's drawing-room,
Amory and Cosimo on one side of the table facing Miss Crebbin and _her_
young man on the other. Cosimo presently became aware that this was a
quite amusing variation of the joke of Jellies, Dorothy, the plumber,
etc. It lacked the boisterousness of that day when Mr. Wellcome had
thrust him into Amory's arms, but it had a subtle flavour of its own.
Cosimo had only one uneasiness, which was that Amory was perhaps not
well enough in health to extract the last particle of savour from all
this taking-for-granted. She sat next to Mr. Allport, but said little.
She ate hungrily of roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, and quite agreed
when Mr. Allport said what "an A1 little pitch Oasthouse View was."
Then Mr. Allport talked water-rates and gas-fittings to Mr. Massey. He
could be seen making mental notes of fixtures and furniture against
the day when he and _his_ young woman should set up together for
themselves. He seemed, too, to be advising Cosimo also to be picking up
wrinkles in good time. Cosimo was secretly glad that Mr. Wellcome was
not there. His robustiousness would have spoiled the quiet and artistic
character of the comedy.

And again he hoped that Amory was not missing anything.

Then the ladies ascended to the drawing-room again, and Mr. Massey,
who knew perfectly well everything that the sideboard did and did not
contain, pretended to be in doubt, and "thought there _ought_ to be a
little port somewhere." He found it, and the three men sat, Mr. Allport
again talking of cupboards and drains, but obviously thinking that ...
but let Cosimo and Amory tell the rest.

"My--dear!" Amory broke out when, at half-past three, they passed the
"Doves" again. "Did you _ever_!"

Cosimo's light fears that Amory might have missed the delicate comedy
had been wasted; Amory was quite her old self again. That, Cosimo
thought, was the good meal of roast beef. She bubbled freely, and
caught at Cosimo's arm.

"My--dear! If _only_ you could have heard the priceless things that
were said upstairs!"

Cosimo was wondrously bucked by the change in her.

"Oh, this is torture--do tell me!" he implored.

"Oh, it's beyond words--I don't know where to begin! Aunt Jerry--and
that incredible Deschamps woman--and that doll of a girl who's going to
love, honour, obey, and all the rest of it!... Have the poor dears an
_inkling_ of what it all really means?"

"You mean----?" said Cosimo tentatively.

"Of course I do--the stupid institution of the Family again! Did George
say anything to you? No, I suppose he wouldn't; high-and-mighty man
again; quite too superior; hopes that as long as he says nothing he'll
be taken for wise, as somebody says. But Aunt Jerry's got it all--oh,
perfection hardly describes it!" Lightly she threw up her hands and
allowed them to drop again.

"_Not_ the old conceptions, of the father as the head of the Family and
so on?" Cosimo said incredulously.

"_Yes!_"

"_No!_--Parental Despotism?"

"Despotism!"

"_Not_ corporal punishment!"

"Cor-por-al punishment!"

"No Justice for children?"

"Love and Authority instead!"

"And woman as the mere plaything of man?"

"The mere plaything of man!"

"Property?"

"A chattel!"

"Woman's place at home with her children?"

"_C'est ça!_"

"By--Jove!"

Cosimo whistled.

"Yes, I thought I should surprise you," said Amory, with quiet
satisfaction.

"Surprise!--I'm thunderstruck!"

"You didn't know you'd been lunching in a regular museum of it all, did
you?"

"A museum? A catacomb!"

"You wouldn't suppose that we lived in this Year of Grace, would you?"

"About 1100, _I_ should have said."

"Oh no," Amory interrupted, "under Feudalism it would have been all
right. It would have been proper to their stage of development.
But--to-day! Or rather next April, I should say----!"

"The hands of the clock are to be set back in April?"

"So the doctor says. I dare say his rule-of-thumb carries him as far as
that."

"Awful impostors, doctors."

Then Amory spoke slowly and impressively.--"What I want to know is,
how much longer _can_ Individualism last? We heard that American
lady last year; would you have thought it _possible_ that the system
could have survived such a slashing attack? When _will_ people begin
to have even a rudimentary conception of the function of the State
in these matters? When _will_ they see, for instance, that when a
dispute arises between a parent and a child the case is exactly like
any other dispute, with the plaintiff on one side and the defendant
on the other? If the parent's the plaintiff, how can he speak for the
defendant as well? Why, it's making him judge and executioner and all
the lot!... And those, Cosimo," she went on, with still deeper gravity,
into which contempt crept, "are my aunt's and uncle's ideas! Violence,
harshness, and repression. Russianizing the Home, instead of abolishing
it altogether, or only allowing it under the very strictest inspection,
in such cases as when a parent has really proved his fitness for
Child-culture! The Home!... Oh, when _will_ the dawn come?" She turned
up the pretty eyes to the sky; she spoke passionately. "Aunt Jerry fit
to be a Mother of the Race! Why," she broke out witheringly--"has she
(to begin with the very elements) a notion of what to feed a child on?
Does she know what a proteid is? Does she know what albumen is? Has
she as much as seen a bit of yeast under the microscope? (I have; a
girl once showed me.) Doesn't she choose her very feeding-bottles out
of these awful circulars of Dorothy's or whose ever they are? And the
clothes she showed us!... Ribbons, pink if it's a girl and blue if
it's a boy! This hateful insistence on sex from the very beginning!
From before the beginning!... And the pride of these people in their
ignorance and conceit! Bursting with it!"...

Cosimo was awed. But he was glad, too, that there was no more talk
about the end of their friendship. Amory was incomparable. Never had
he honoured her so. It was almost a pity she painted, so magnificent
a lecturer was lost in her. Not that just at present she was painting
very much. She was doing better than painting. With all the strength
of which she was capable she was resolutely _not_ painting. She was
laying strong and enduring foundations. There would be time enough for
pinnacles by and by.

"And then," Amory continued, more quietly, but even more stingingly,
"in what spirit do they undertake this enormous responsibility? From
the highest motive known to Ethics you'd think, wouldn't you--the sense
of Duty to Mankind? Yes, you'd think so. You wouldn't think they'd
regard it as a mere personal gratification, would you? You wouldn't
think they thought they'd accounted for it all when they said they were
'in love,' would you? But it is so, Cosimo. That's exactly their mental
development. They are exactly as advanced as the animals. Neither more
nor less.... Mind you, I don't deny what's called 'love' altogether.
I suppose it does serve some such purpose as the perfume does to the
flower. The perfume attracts insects, and insects do fertilize some
flowers. So love has its place. But what I want to know is, is it going
to be allowed to supplant plain reason and common sense? I say no.
There ought to be a State Mating-season. They can do it about fishing
and game; why not about love? Because everything's in the hands of men,
and men think more about fishing and game than they do about these
things. Oh, if only a Woman would arise! We should soon see all this
altered!"...

"Well, you know I'm heart and soul with you about that, Amory," Cosimo
said, a little uneasily, as if he personally might be included in her
arraignment of his sex.

"You!" said Amory, with an intellectually affectionate look of her
golden eyes.... "If it weren't for you, Cosimo, I should despair
altogether. Nobody else understands me--nobody. The others--well,
take a man like Hamilton Dix, who might be supposed to have higher
interests: really, it's as much as I've been able to do sometimes to
keep him from pawing me! And once he did kiss my hand.... Cosimo"--she
lifted the golden eyes almost bashfully, and then dropped them
again--"I said last night that there ought perhaps to be an end of
our friendship. Not an end, I mean, because I should always respect
you and honour your views. And I still think it might be best. But--I
don't know whether I should have the strength to do it, Cosimo. I ought
to, but--I'm only a woman in some things. I know they aren't the real
things, and it's only because my sex has been downtrodden and we've
been denied our opportunities; but we do have transmitted fears from
those barbarous times when you used to drag us about by the hair. So I
don't know whether I should really have the strength, Cosimo----"

She was even nobler in her confession of weakness than she had been in
the strength and rush of her outburst. Again, for no reason that he
could have explained, Cosimo felt a brute.... He paw this bright little
creature, as the odious Dix had done? He sully a thing so radiant as
their relation with--pawing?

Suddenly Cosimo found himself disliking Mr. Hamilton Dix more intensely
than he had ever done before.

Amory, for her part--though she did not know whose--rather fancied that
she had put a spoke into somebody's wheel.



V

BOND AND FREE


The truth was, Amory presently began to tell herself, that Cosimo's
life was in danger of becoming rather an aimless sort of thing. Few
people knew the perils of aimlessness so well as did Amory Towers. She
knew them because for a time she had suffered them in her own thought
and work. But that was all past now. She had begun to work again. The
foundations of a real picture were being laid at last. This was the
famous canvas, "Barrage," that afterwards made her name. None knew
better than Amory herself its shortcomings as mere painting, but she
had learned in bitterness that issues greater than those of painting
were at stake to-day. To-day or never was the time to do all the
things that had never been done. Accordingly, her picture was partly
a painting and partly a sociological symbol. It was, as far as it was
at present designed, a medley in which, before a series of guarded
cave-mouths and dropped portcullises and defended doors, women of the
various stages of civilization were grouped with men. Now they were
in the attitude of menials at their feet, or hewing their wood, or
drawing their water; anon, set on high pedestals, before which men made
mock reverences, they stood wreathed with roses from beneath which
iron fetters peeped grimly forth; and later, in apotheosis, Womanhood
herself walked by man's side, equal, sworded, flashing and free. If
something of a likeness to Amory herself was to be traced in all these
figures, every artist who works in a single room knows how frequently,
for lack of pence, he must use himself as a model. It was this picture,
of which more later, that enabled Amory to see so clearly the peril
that beset Cosimo.

Of course Amory recognized that Cosimo was not absolutely aimless as
long as he had Amory's own art to admire; but that was a narrow and
selfish way of looking at it. Amory didn't want Cosimo to admire her
art for any personal glory she might get of it. She wanted him, not for
herself, but for a Cause. In her picture he posed as the champion who
had stricken the bonds from the belted and sworded and flashing and
free young woman (who was quite frankly Amory herself), because that
was the _rôle_ she wished to see him in; but she knew how easy it would
be (Cosimo was so good natured) for any designing and retrogressive
young woman to get hold of him and to enlist his support for the forces
of conservatism and the night. That (Amory's pretty lips compressed and
her eyes shone with a cold and opal-like fire) _must_ not be. In order
that it might not be, Amory had made use of Dorothy's name; not that
she really wanted him to marry Dorothy, but that even to marry Dorothy
would be better than to marry somebody more benighted still. It was a
mere _ruse de guerre_, justified by the larger issue. These things have
to be done when the fiends of ignorance and the angels of knowledge
contend. Amory called these fiends and angels the Anabolic and the
Katabolic forces in human progress. It didn't matter what you called
them. Two principles always had contended and always would contend. It
was a Law.

Therefore Amory wanted Cosimo on the side of the angels and victory.
Ever so much more she wanted him on that side now that he was a man
of some substance. For money is the sinews of Anabolic and Katabolic
warfare also. Cosimo with his money and Amory with her new art--what
might they not accomplish, working together? A whole Promised Land of
endeavour lay shining before them. For Amory herself (for example)
there were all the possibilities of symbolic painting--a style of
painting which (actual draughtsmanship being admittedly her weak point)
would suit her genius the more exactly for that very reason. Nobody can
dismiss a symbol because it is badly drawn; any old drawing will do for
a symbol. For the holy purposes of social regeneration the novelists
thought any old writing good enough; and so it was. So it should be for
Amory too. She had half a mind to let drawing go altogether. Then, with
drawing out of the way, she saw her task. "Barrage" would be followed
by a picture (perhaps a newer word than "picture" would be necessary to
describe it) that would symbolize Labour Unrest; she was thinking it
out in her spare moments already. Then there should be another, a slap
in the face for Militarism. After that should come canvases dealing
with Education, and Disestablishment, and the Triumph of Sentimental
Government and the establishment of the New Matriarchy. Oh yes, Amory
saw her task though twenty lifetimes lay before her....

And Cosimo? She could guide Cosimo too. No doubt at his own doors
in Shropshire there lay wrongs to be righted--sites for village
halls waiting to be built upon, libraries and communal kitchens and
wash-houses to be founded, greens for morrice-games (Amory vetoed
archery, as coming dangerously near to Militarism and the miniature
rifle-range), societies for the study of folk-song, ethical societies,
lectures on economics, bands for the exchange of foreign picture
postcards (that the spirit of brotherhood among the enlightened of all
nations might be fostered), and so on.... Oh, with Amory to direct him,
there would be plenty for Cosimo, too, to do. And he had the money with
which to do it.

And if Amory shrank from the cost to herself--the cost, namely, of
conforming to the outworn institution of marriage--it was but for a
moment. What was she, to attempt to stem the River of the Race? She
must bear the burden cheerfully. And after all, with a little thought
she ought to be able to ensure it that Cosimo as her husband should
not be very different from Cosimo as he was now. By keeping his eyes
constantly uplifted to the shining peaks of their joint duty, mere
personal thoughts of self could be kept in their place. He would hardly
want a wife when he possessed the heroine of a Feminist Crusade,
she hardly a husband when she had an ally placed by his sex in the
fortress that, whether by beleaguering or by assault, must be won.
Yes, she would strive to bear even this. The glory of a campaign would
supplant the private self-seeking of a courtship. They would mingle,
not love-sick sighs, but the aspirations of their souls. No doubt when
they were both old, and looked back, it would seem well worth the
cost....

Amory herself would have been the first to confess the weakness that
set her wondering how many bedrooms the Shropshire house had, and
whether there were rose gardens and fruit trees on the southern walls.
Even from thoughts of duty weak mortals must sometimes stoop. Besides,
if there was not a village green with a maypole on it, some arrangement
would probably have to be made. Amory didn't think she would want
morrice-dancing on the lawn in front of the drawing-room windows,
except, of course, on birthdays and festival days and the days when the
tenants paid their rent. The people themselves would probably prefer
to have their merrymaking to themselves. Very likely they would only
be shy before their betters. She would show the tenantry (she did not
insist on the name) every consideration, as she should expect them
to consider her.... And if there was a lily garden as well as a rose
garden, she would send lilies as well as roses to the cottages quite
frequently.

But Cosimo must be saved for the Cause quickly, for he was giving up
his studio in March, and once he got away again he might fall into the
hands of the designing woman whose existence Amory had suspected. She
knew those designing women. She knew them by the simple process of
inversion of everything that was noble within herself.

Amory had only seen Dorothy Lennard once since the afternoon when
Dorothy had promised to see what she could do about Croziers' contract.
That had been when Dorothy had come to tell her of the mitigation of
its rigour she had secured from Hamilton Dix. But, finding herself
in Oxford Street one afternoon, she sought Hallowells', and tried to
find her way upstairs to the fashion-studio. "Tried," one says, for
nearly twenty minutes Amory was hopelessly lost in the wilderness that
seemed to grow ever more and more complicated as the time fixed for the
opening drew nearer. It was during her wandering through this labyrinth
that Amory received a shock. Passing along a corridor of such vast
length that she seemed to be looking at it through the wrong end of a
pair of opera-glasses, she entered a large apartment where three women
on their knees polished the floor. There she saw a large historical
painting. It was the picture of Queen Bess, Sir Walter, and the Cloak.

Her first impulse was to fall back; her second one, which she obeyed,
was to stand her ground, to put her head back and a little on one side,
and to smile defiantly, indulgently, truculently, all three. It was as
if she said to the picture, "We meet unexpectedly, but since we are
here we may as well have a few words together, you and I!"

A certain amount of skill, manual and ocular, had gone to the making
of the picture--enough, as we have seen, to "hit" Mr. Miller "right
there." Perhaps that was the reason why it hit Amory right there too,
though in the contrary sense. She stepped forward and examined it near;
then she stepped back and examined it at a distance. As she did so, a
man in an astrachan-collared overcoat and an indented grey hat hurried
past, dropping his cigar and uncovering his head as he found himself
in the presence of a lady, even one he did not know; and then Amory
continued her gazing.

The picture struck her as incredibly funny. First, there was the
subject--"Our old friend Chivalry," Amory mused. Oh yes, Chivalry
in other words, those garlands of roses in her own picture beneath
which the iron chains peeped forth. Chivalry! Oh yes, Amory knew--any
feminist knows--the toils men impose on women when they talk about
Chivalry! Amory became cynical.... Let them amend the Divorce Laws,
and _then_ Amory would listen to what they had to say about Chivalry!
Let them give women equal opportunities with men, and she would excuse
the lifting of a hat or the offering of a seat in a train! Chivalry
might have had its place in the social organization of the Year Dot
(see "Barrage"), but things had moved a bit since then, and woman
to-day _would_ walk through puddles if she wished, though twenty
cloaks were outspread for her to step on! Thank you very much for
your Chivalry ... and _now_ will you give us a little Justice for a
change?... And then the complacent handling of the thing! There was
really nothing to be said! Nobody could say it wasn't "finished";
that was just it; it was fatally "finished"; the man had done exactly
what he had set out to do, and--there it was. No unseizable desire,
no unattainable dream, no Promethean attempt, no suspicion that here
was not the last possible word on the subject; and _this_ in a new and
straining and eager age, when men were just beginning to know that
they knew nothing, and to put off their past boastings, and to take
the cave-dweller into their counsels as their equal, perhaps their
superior, in knowledge! Here, actually to-day, was a man who truly
thought that he knew a thing or two more than the cave-dweller! Oh, the
smugness, the self-satisfaction! Really, Amory would not dare to show
such a man her "Barrage"; its pure heart of fire, shining even through
all its shortcomings, would have shrivelled him and his conceit up! For
surely there, in "Barrage," was the true impulse of the arts to-day.
Some called it "propagandist," but what, Amory wanted to know, had all
these Virgins and Children, all these Crucifixions, all these Holy
Families of the past been but propaganda? The arts had been shackled
to the propagation of superstition and dogma, and of the tenets of a
religion that had found its expression one day in seven; but in the
Newer Day all days were going to be equally holy, with the abolition
of the Sabbath as a first step to the consecration of the other six.
To the Virgins and Children of the future a proper comprehension of
the Rights of Woman and the Responsibilities of Parentage would be
brought. Eugenics would have a word to say about the Holy Families. The
Crucifixions would probably be cut out altogether.... To bring that
day nearer was Amory's mission. If she could only sell "Barrage"--and
she thought she could now, for the Women's Manumission Guild had
approached her about it, and an Executive was further considering it....

And she would ask a good price for it, for the labourer is worthy of
her hire, and she really must study her dress a little more....

Amory turned away from the picture and resumed her search for Dorothy.

But she had hardly left the room where the women polished the floors
(showing how, even in physical strength, women were not the inferiors
of men), when she received a second shock. She was backing out again
from a room where a telescopic ladder rose to a sagging sheet under a
skylight when she saw, beyond an oval section of redwood counter, the
fair head of Dorothy herself. It was now luncheon time, the workmen had
left, and Dorothy appeared to be eating her lunch amid the smell of
shavings and varnish and plaster. Amory advanced.

But once more, she started back. She saw that Dorothy was not alone.
And not only was Dorothy not alone, but she was sitting with a
good-looking but ridiculously smart young man on a box so narrow that
from mere necessity the young man had passed his arm about Dorothy's
waist. They were eating sandwiches from a paper bag, and if they were
not sharing the same glass of lemonade, the second glass was certainly
not visible.

Then, with his mouth full of sandwich, the young man kissed Dorothy,
who performed the same idiotic gesture on him in return.

Now no really sensitive person likes to see other persons in the act of
an embrace, and Amory was exquisitely sensitive. And in this hard world
it is the sensitive person who suffers for the dull. Further, even
suffering takes a keener edge when you are seen to suffer. Therefore
the least that Dorothy and her smart young man could have done, when,
turning, they became aware of Amory's presence, would have been to
spare her the gratuitous pain of looking at her. But they did not.
Having outraged her, they stared at her. They stared at her almost as
if they asked her what she meant by stealing upon them like that. It
struck Amory as it had never struck her before that Glenerne would have
been Dorothy's proper place. If this was the way she carried on during
lunch time at Hallowells', nothing at the boarding-house would have
shocked her.

"Hallo!" said Dorothy, not (Amory thought) exactly welcomingly.

Still, if Dorothy had no tact, that was no reason why Amory should not
act up to her own finest instincts. The truest delicacy would be to let
it be supposed that she had noticed nothing. Therefore she too said
"Hallo!" very brightly. They must not guess that they had caused her
pain.

At first Amory thought that Dorothy was not going to introduce her
friend, but when Dorothy did so, in three words--"My cousin Stan"--she
was able to guess that even Dorothy was not quite without some sense
of shame and confusion. Her cousin! Such unfertility of invention
would have done discredit even to Jellies! But of course Dorothy was
embarrassed, and had said the first thing that had come into her head.
Amory bowed with reserve to "the cousin," who, for his part, seemed
inclined to laugh. Very rudely, he pulled out his watch.

"By Jove, a quarter to two! I must cut, Dot. Dusty'll be looking for
me. See you at tea-time? Right, I'll ring you up. So long."

And with scarce a look at Amory he was off.

No sooner had he gone than Amory broke into voluble speech.

"My dear, _what_ a place! I've been looking everywhere for you this
last half-hour--upstairs, downstairs, everywhere! I was almost sure I
remembered the way to the studio--wasn't it past a square room that has
a painting in it now?"

"It was, but they moved us two months ago," Dorothy replied. "Did you
ask for me?"

"Do you mean how did I get in? I just walked up. Nobody stopped me. Is
it against the rules?"

"It doesn't matter, as it happens. But I'm afraid I've had lunch."

"Oh, thanks awfully, but I always go to one of those Food Reform places
now; I feel ever so much better for it. I was only passing, and thought
I'd look in."

"Good of you," said Dorothy, and there was a longish pause.

Amory thought it was not very clever of Dorothy not to be able to
conceal her chagrin. Amory herself always tried to behave better than
that to people who went out of their way to call on her. Probably what
was really the matter was Dorothy's conscience; one cannot hold aloof
from the noble movements of the day without at times feeling a little
uneasy about it. But Causes can afford to be magnanimous. If Dorothy
wanted to out-pause Amory, Amory would let her; and, that absurd
picture being uppermost in her mind, she gave a little laugh and spoke
of that.

"It's easy to see _you're_ not the art-adviser to Hallowells',
Dorothy," she said. "_Must_ they buy such things? And what are they
going to do with it? Get it lithographed, I suppose, for a supplement
or something?"

When the subject of painting was raised Dorothy was still a little
afraid of Amory and her superior knowledge--but less so than she had
been. Twice in the course of its production she had seen "Barrage,"
and had stood apologetically silent before Amory's picture. At another
time she would not have excited herself one way or the other about Sir
Walter, but new forces thrust some of us into conservatism whether we
will or not, and "Barrage" had made Dorothy almost ready to swallow Sir
Walter holus-bolus. Therefore she said a little defensively, "What's
the matter with it?"

"The matter!" Amory exclaimed. She was smiling. If Dorothy meant this
for a joke she was quite willing to enter into it.

"Well," said Dorothy, more defensively still, "everybody isn't trying
to do nothing but the greatest things all the time, after all."

"Oh, ça se voit!" Amory returned, rippling outright into a laugh.

"And," Dorothy continued, hating herself because Amory seemed to be
driving her into a defence even of the absurd and solemn Miller, "we're
only a business concern, not an Exhibition, you know."

"Oh? The wonderful thing isn't for sale, then?"

"No; and anyway, Mr. Dix didn't laugh at it." (This was true. Mr. Dix
did not laugh at his bread when Hallowells' spread it with an extra
thick helping of butter.)

Amory kept a straight face.--"Dorothy," she said, "what's happened to
you?"

"How, happened to me?" Dorothy returned, a little tartly. That
confounded "Barrage" had put her into an altogether false position.
"Nothing's happened to me. Never mind me; tell me what's fresh with
you. Has anything happened about your own picture yet?"

The fact that Dorothy was evidently rather cross was enough to make
Amory aware of the superiority of cheerfulness. Besides, it might
not be amiss to show Dorothy that, high and ideal as the Cause was,
it was not quite without its mundane and practical side. That at any
rate would not be beyond Dorothy's comprehension. Therefore Amory told
Dorothy how the negotiations stood between herself and the Manumission
League for the purchase of "Barrage."

Dorothy listened attentively. When Amory had finished she paused....

"Two hundred pounds, you say? Would that be for a sale outright?"

"Yes."

"And they'd be able to do whatever they liked with it--reproduce it or
anything?"

"I suppose so. Do you mean it isn't enough?"

"I wasn't thinking of that so much. I was thinking--but of course I
don't know all the circumstances."

"I'm not keeping anything back from you, Dorothy," said Amory. Indeed
she wasn't. She knew that Dorothy's advice on such a point would be
well worth having.

"Oh, I don't mean that at all," Dorothy hastened to say. "I only mean
that it's hard to form a judgment without having seen for yourself.
I don't like the idea of selling anything outright. If it was only a
nominal royalty, in case they wanted to reproduce or anything of that
sort----"

"Oh, that! As for that, I should be only too glad to let them reproduce
if they wanted."

"Of course you would get the advertisement, but I don't see why you
shouldn't have a small royalty too."

Amory smiled. The advertisement! Wasn't that just like dear old
Dorothy! As if all the costly things that had gone to the making of
"Barrage" could be valued and bartered like that! Amory explained
gently.

"I don't think you quite understand, Dorothy. You see, it isn't like
those other things Croziers' got. Those were just knocked off. I don't
want to be conceited about 'Barrage,' but it has rather taken it out
of me, in thought and emotion and those things. I've been feeling a
perfect rag after a day at it. Of course, there were heaps of things
I should like to do to it, but 'No,' I said that morning, 'you've
expressed yourself, and if you began tickling it up here and there
you'd only take away from the fierce meaning of it.' So I threw my
brushes down, and then collapsed--perfectly limp."

"Oh!" said Dorothy deferentially. She herself had once collapsed
during a spring rush, but that had been a quite inferior collapsing,
from too long hours simply, not from any emotional strain. But Amory
misinterpreted her mild and respectful "Oh!" She spoke rather sweetly.

"Of course I must live, and nobody can say I don't live frugally. But
that apart, I don't do this for money at all. I do it because of my
beliefs."

"Oh!" said Dorothy again, this time very much as some gallant monarch
might have protested that he never meddled with the beliefs of ladies.

"I know," Amory continued firmly, "that there are some things we
don't agree on, and of course I think I'm right and you're wrong, or
I shouldn't believe what I do. But I do think that that picture in
there," she made a little vague pointing movement, "preaches--well, a
perfectly damnable lesson--from the feminist point of view perfectly
damnable."

"I--I don't think it's meant to," Dorothy ventured to say. "I don't so
much mind it really--not that it pretends to be very much--but parts of
it are quite like something, and I think painting has to be like things
when all's said and done--I mean--certain sorts of painting----"

It was rather a tickling experience for Amory to be schooled by a
fashion-artist on "sorts of painting," and she wished Cosimo had been
there to hear. And on these lines she knew that she could play with
Dorothy as a cat plays with a mouse. So she was beginning, "Oh, why
must painting necessarily be 'like' things, as you say? Is it a Law? Do
tell me!" when suddenly Dorothy took her back altogether. For all the
world as if both of them had been talking about one thing and thinking
of another all the time, Dorothy boiled up.

"Oh, Amory, you do make me so cross!" she cried. "Really, to hear you
sometimes, nobody would think an awfully pretty girl was talking! Who
cares a button about your opinions, with looks like yours? I could
understand it if you were plain! I do wish you could manage to be a bit
more like a human being; why don't you put on some clothes like other
people's, instead of always dressing as if you were going to have a
baby? Can't you take an interest in things, instead of always moping
the way you do? Why, you might be a superfluous woman yourself!"

For one moment Amory fairly lost her composure, but only for one
moment. The next moment she had seen what was the matter. By "taking an
interest in things" Dorothy meant forsaking her principles; by "putting
on clothes like other people's," she meant abandoning her velvets and
corduroys that took the light in such lovely broken bits of accidental
colour, and dressing like one of her own impossible fashion-plates;
and by being "a bit more like a human being," she meant sitting with
a young man on a box and kissing him with a mouth full of sandwich.
It was almost too funny to laugh at. If Dorothy would only ask her
outright what she evidently had in her mind to ask her--why she didn't
marry Cosimo--it would be perfect. Poor old Dot! She had been fairly
caught only a few minutes before, and naturally would still feel rather
sore. Amory waited for her to go on.

She did go on. "I've wanted to say this for a long time," she said.
"Look here, Amory, why don't you marry Cosimo and have done with it?
You're lovely--he's quite good-looking--you seem to understand one
another all right--I'm sure you ought to by this time--and it would be
ever so much more sensible! It seems to me you could drag on like this
for ever!"

Amory's golden eyes seemed to dance with mirth. Of course that
accidental discovery had forced Dorothy's hand beautifully. Dorothy
was pleading with her as earnestly as if she had just been seen, not
"canoodling" under a counter (that Amory believed was the word used
in such cases), but lifted up on a plinth, in a heroic pose, with an
archangel by her side, grouped with their faces towards the east or
in whatever quarter the sun of Feminism might be expected to rise....
Amory had not even to say anything. All she needed to do was to stand
smiling at dear old Dot and to watch her grow redder and redder.
Obviously there was no need to accuse Dorothy when Dorothy was accusing
herself.

In another moment, too, Dorothy was defending herself. Her eyes, in the
surrounding flush of colour, seemed bluer than ever. And in jumping
straight at Amory's thought she skipped a stage.

"I don't care anyway," she blurted out. "Some things _are_
understandable, but you and Cosimo--well, who's to make head or tail of
_you_? You're always together, early and late, sometimes in your place
and sometimes in his--of course _I_ understand, dear, but really I
don't see how you could blame people who didn't if--if----"

Already Amory had drawn herself up to her full five foot against the
redwood counter and had tossed back the bright nasturtium of her head.

"If what?" she asked, the brook-brown eyes looking full into Dorothy's
blue ones.

"Well, if they draw their own conclusions, if you must know," Dorothy
blurted out.

As a wet cloth wipes chalk from a blackboard, so the smile had gone
from Amory's face. Most decidedly she wasn't going to stand this--at
any rate not from Dorothy.

"Oh!" she said. "What people? And what conclusions?"

"Well, people do. You can't expect to have no conclusions drawn but
your own."

"You mean conclusions about me and Cosimo?"

"I'm not saying _I_ draw any, Amory. I understand perfectly, of course.
I mean I know there's nothing wrong. But you can't stop people talking."

Amory became still taller.

"May I ask who's been talking?" she added. "I won't say besides
yourself, but this is the first I've heard of it."

"Amory!" said Dorothy, deeply wounded. She lifted her eyes almost
humbly. "Do you really think that of me?"

"What am I to think?" Amory replied loftily. Yet she was glad that
Dorothy had the grace to be ashamed. By twisting and turning and a
shameless use of her charms Dorothy might contrive to get her own way
with men, but she must not think she could come it over one of her own
sex in the same way.

"Oh dear, I'm sorry I said anything at all!" Dorothy wailed.

"Oh, I'm glad, I assure you!" Amory replied quickly. "I don't believe
in driving these things underground and then pretending they don't
exist! If a thing is, I want to see it _as_ it is!"

"I know you're ever so much braver than I am, dear--I know I'm a
dreadful coward at a push--you're worth twenty of me--but still, Amory,
people _do_ say things, and not very nice ones, and it could so easily
be avoided----"

"Avoided!"

"I know there isn't anything--I only mean the appearance to people who
don't know----"

"And what," said Amory slowly, "do you suppose _I_ care for people of
that kind, and what they think?"

"Yes, you always were splendid and brave--still----"

"Have you heard anybody talking like this?" Amory demanded.

"I said it was a wicked lie----"

"Ah, you _have_ heard somebody!"

"Not really saying anything--only wondering--you know how people
wonder----"

"Then please tell me at once who it was," said Amory with dignity.

But Dorothy only grew more confused than ever.

"Oh, Amory, I can't do that--it was nothing that wasn't fair in a
way--you oughtn't to ask me to do that----"

"Be so good as to tell me at once."

Dorothy was silent.

As a matter of fact the people who had been speaking of Amory and
Cosimo were Walter Wyron and Laura Beamish, but Dorothy did weakly hope
that if things were driven underground they might at least be forgotten.

"Aren't you going to tell me?" Amory demanded.

"No," Dorothy mumbled.

"You refuse?"

"Yes," Dorothy mumbled. And then suddenly she broke out almost
passionately--

"I don't blame you in the very least, Amory, but I do blame Cosimo!
I do, and it's no good saying I don't. A man's no right to be always
about with a woman, getting her talked about, and doing things for her,
and always in and out of her place! I do think he might know better!"

Amory was smiling again now, but not very pleasantly--"Oh!" she said.
"So when you said you thought I ought to marry Cosimo, you meant that
things had gone so far that I might as well?"

"I didn't, Amory. I didn't, I didn't!" Dorothy cried appealingly. "I
really think you do seem to hit it off together somehow. And as for
what people say, _you_ say what _you_ think about people, and they've
a right to do the same, and anyway you can't stop them, and you can't
expect to have the world to yourself. Why, I thought you were always
talking about 'equal rights.'"

"I don't know whether you know that just at present you're talking
about a very precious and beautiful friendship!" said Amory proudly.

"Yes, I do know--I mean I suppose so--you really are such chums, I
know----"

"And I hope and trust the day's coming when such a thing can be without
nasty prurient minds 'drawing their own conclusions,' as you call it,
Dorothy!... Perhaps," the golden eyes were sidelong now on Dorothy's,
"perhaps there was some particular--compromising situation--your friend
objected to? Or was it merely the whole scandalous relation?"

Suddenly Dorothy, for her part also, did not much like the tone of
this. She felt as if that sandwich might still have left crumbs
upon her mouth. There might be a good many things to be said about
her cousin Stanhope, but at any rate he did not compromise her on
principle, nor did he discuss with her some of the rather astonishing
subjects that seemed to come into this precious and beautiful
friendship of Amory Towers and Cosimo Pratt. She would bow to Amory's
superior knowledge when it came to matters of art, but she wasn't
going to have even Amory's foot on her neck if Stan was to be dragged
into the dispute. And if Dorothy again skipped a step in the chain of
processes, she thought she had reason.

"I suppose that's because you caught me out a few minutes ago?" she
said, rather challengingly.

"I'm not sure that I quite follow you. I'm sorry if I'm dull."

"Very well, if you want it more plainly, you said 'compromising
situation' because you caught us just now. I've always stood up for
you, Amory, but I'm not going to let you talk like that."

"Sorry," said Amory offhandedly.

"Well, you needn't say so in that tone either; we don't expect
everybody to go about whistling, or knocking at doors and then waiting,
like that charwoman and her daughter. I'm sorry if we shocked you."

"I don't think I mentioned--what you seem to be talking about, Dorothy.
If I did I don't remember."

"You were thinking about it, though."

"Oh!..."

As if people might say what they liked about Amory and Cosimo, but
Amory might not even think what she liked about Dorothy and Stan!

There was a rather hostile pause. Probably either felt that the
particular male of her preference was being subjected to criticism.

"Well, we needn't quarrel about it," Dorothy resumed.

Amory brightened remarkably.

"Quarrel? Of course not, dear Dorothy--what an absurd idea! And of
course, as you say, I _was_ thinking.... Are you--you know--may I
congratulate you?" she asked softly.

Again Dorothy reddened. She would dearly have liked to fling a
triumphant "Yes, we _are_ engaged!" into Amory's pretty face, but
she and Stanhope had their pact about that. They were not officially
engaged. Once more Amory had her at a disadvantage.

"No," she said shortly. It cost her a struggle not to add the
mitigating words "Not yet."

"Oh ... I beg your pardon," said Amory, instantly apologetic. "You
see----" she hesitated.

"Well, what do I see?" Dorothy Lennard demanded. Against her wishes she
felt herself getting angry again.

"Well, dear, you _did_ ask me about Cosimo----"

"You're not engaged to him, are you?"

"No--but then----"

"You mean you don't let him kiss you?" sprang from Dorothy's lips.

Amory thought it crude--revolting....

Then for the second time Dorothy boiled up and over.

"Well, it seems to me you might just as well!" she cried. "Better,
I should say--it seems to me you do everything else! I think I've
given up trying to understand you clever people; you're beyond me
entirely. I _like_ being a man's plaything--_there!_ I don't mind one
little bit being a chattel--_there!_ And I think it would be perfectly
ripping being property, as long as you belonged to the right person!
And I _do_ believe in one law for the man and another for the woman.
They _are_ different--they _are_, Amory! They're--they're--_ever_ so
different! And I'm glad!... And it seems to me that if you and Cosimo
lived in the same house you needn't kiss one another if you didn't
want to, and anyway it would save a good deal of walking about! That
alone might be worth getting married for--you could talk about the
State quite undisturbed then! I know it's no business of mine, but you
shouldn't look at me as you have been doing for the last ten minutes
all on account of nothing! I'm sorry if I seem angry, because I'm not
bad-tempered really, but dash it all, I do think it's the one thing a
woman can't afford to be impracticable about, and sometimes you really
do seem hopeless, Amory!... Unless----" she checked herself instantly.

But it was too late. She had said the word. Amory knew what it was that
she had cut off so short--"Unless you _do_ know your business after
all, and think that always sitting in his pocket, and letting him play
with your hair, and talking about Heredity all the time, is the way to
get him!" That was the peck that Dorothy measured her out of her own
bushel! Those were the very methods by which Dorothy herself got round
her Mr. Miller, and her Mr. Hamilton Dix, and this smart young man,
whoever he was....

She meant that between herself and Amory there was not at bottom a pin
to choose....

And since the Cause of Progress did demand that Amory should marry
Cosimo, even had it all been true the end would still have justified
those or almost any other means. There precisely lay the rub. What
are you to say to a person so blind to true meanings as to accuse you
of doing what, quite inessentially, you do merely happen to be doing?
You cannot admit that they are right--they are so hideously wrong: you
cannot tell them they are wrong--they cling so stupidly to a certain
appearance of being right. What _are_ you to do?

One thing at least Amory did: she hated Dorothy in that moment. And
because she herself wished to be merciful to Dorothy she did not take
up that fatal "Unless----" Instead she said, very gently indeed:

"Aren't you rather taking the lowest view of things? _Must_ this
physical side always be dragged in?"

Nor was Dorothy very much disposed now to mince matters. The word
had popped out, and she was not going to run away from it. If Amory
wanted to talk about physical sides, she might; Dorothy's own physique
overshadowed Amory's as a ruffled swan overshadows a duckling. She
turned, her bosom high, her hands stroking down her waist.

"But it's _you_ who drag it in!" she cried. "If only you _weren't_
always talking about it! But you only pretend you're only talking about
something else; it seems to me you _never_ let it alone! What's your
Eugenics, if it isn't that, and your Balance of the Sexes, and your
State Nurseries? You aren't a snuffy old man writing learned treatises
about it all; you're a pretty girl, and I dare say you're quite right,
but I don't see the use of pretending----"

"Do you mean that I'm pretending to be something I'm not?" Amory asked
sharply. "Say what you mean. Perhaps you mean virtuous?"

Dorothy stamped. "Oh ... need we?"

"Because if you really care to know----" said Amory proudly.

"Oh ... I'm going. Good-bye."

"You _can't_ go now," said Amory significantly. "Think for a moment and
you'll see that you can't go now. People can't make charges and then
run away. It isn't done, Dorothy."

"How absurd! Who's made charges?"

"I understood you to say that I was a pretender?"

"Don't be so ridiculous! You know very well what I mean!"

"Then you should be more careful about your expressions, Dorothy.
Expression is all people have to go by, you know; expression's
precisely art, in fact. But I should like you to tell whoever it is
who's been talking about me and Cosimo something."

"What's that?" Dorothy grunted over her shoulder.

"You can tell them that they could be present at every one of those
dreadful meetings and hear every word we say, if that's the idea. They
wouldn't take any harm; in fact, it might take them out of themselves
for a bit. And even if it was as they supposed, I don't admit that
that would be as important as they seem to think. An altogether false
importance is given to these things, Dorothy. My friendship with
Cosimo wouldn't be one bit less beautiful whatever the 'conclusions'
were people drew. Nor one bit more. I'm not a pretender, Dorothy. I
don't pretend to be any wiser than I am. But I do think I'm rational.
I--object--most--strongly" (she gave each word its special emphasis)
"to this really secondary matter of sex being made a thing of the first
importance. I hope that's all going to be changed before very long,
and that more enlightened views will take its place. And, really, the
brave women of the Movement are the very last people who ought to be
talked about in that way. They haven't time for such things. They've
far, far too much to do. I know some are married, but they have the
true conception of marriage; it's the rational conception, not mere
legalized tyranny on the one hand and submission on the other. So
though we don't admit that what's commonly called virtue has anything
to do with it one way or the other, we give you the virtue in as a sort
of present. I think I shall have to lend you John Stuart Mill, Dorothy;
he'd clear your ideas on the subject. I'll lend you _Subjection_.
It's all in there, art and everything. If you read only a quarter of
an hour every night you'll soon feel the benefit. Do read him.... And
now I must go. I'm sorry if our talk has seemed a bit of a wrangle,
but I have to state these things fearlessly, you see. At whatever cost
we have to avoid false positions. The world really doesn't matter
_that_ so long as we have the Right on our side. Do try to see it,
Dorothy.--Good-bye."

She touched Dorothy's hand and turned away to the door; but, for all
her serenity, one thought and one thought only occupied her as she
plunged into Hallowells' labyrinth again and wandered through rooms and
corridors in search of the way out. The more she thought of it the
less it bore thinking of. It was the thought that Dorothy had to all
intents and purposes told her that she allowed Cosimo to admire her and
to help her to take down her glorious hair for the same reason that
Dorothy sat on a box eating sandwiches with her own unenlightened young
man, and that when young men came into the question there was not a pin
to choose between them after all.

"Poor, dear, dull old thing!" she muttered as she left Hallowells'.
"And it's she who pretends, for she'd have given anything to have heard
me coming. All the same, if it _had_ been me and Cosimo...."

It would have been irrational, but she supposed she would have resented
an intrusion too. Inherited prejudice is very strong....



PART III



I

THE LEAGUE


Other grounds of complaint against the Manumission League you might
have, but you could never, never say that they minced matters. As they
themselves declared, they could not afford to. Woman had been told
for so long that she was a creature of impulse and caprice, not to be
depended on for a judgment uninfluenced by personal considerations,
that the eagle itself was not clearer-eyed than it now behoved her to
show herself to be. Therefore the League's members were rigorously
rational. They saw opposing principles in stark and irreconcilable
conflict. You agreed with the League and all its ways, or you did not;
you subscribed to its funds, which were considerable, or you identified
yourself with the White Slave Traffic. You were for Manumission or
Immorality. It was because woman had not seen so piercingly and
ruthlessly in the past that she had got the name of an illogical and
non-political animal; the League had changed all that. True, a weaker
member did now and then hint in private that the League demanded more
than it expected to get, so that the basis of a bargain might be
established, but these admissions were looked upon with disfavour as a
drag of darkness and the past. All or nothing: and he or she who was
not for the League was against it.

It was for this reason that the barb that Dorothy had planted in
Amory's breast so galled her that there would have been no getting
rid of it without cutting out a portion of her heart also. She, on a
point of sex, no different from anybody else! It was monstrous. Why,
who in such matters was spotless if Amory was not? Who, unstayed by an
exalted and pure ideal, could have behaved as Amory had behaved? Oh,
these worser meanings, and the glee with which a world, base itself,
seized upon them! Amory would have given anything to know the name
of the person who had been talking about her; not that she hated any
person, but oh, she hated, with a hatred that set a red spot glowing
in either cheek, a slanderous tongue! She and Cosimo, her dear, brave
old pal! Forked tongues had been at work on a relation so heavenly-pure
as theirs!... Well, at any rate Cosimo must know. She would have felt
a traitor to her chum had she kept this from him. "The world draws its
own conclusions!" Cosimo must be told that without loss of time. It
would be in the highest degree unjust to Cosimo to allow him to remain
for another hour in a position so damnably false!

And Amory had been told this by a blue-eyed fashion-artist, whose wiles
had no doubt corrupted a young man who, for all Amory knew, might have
been one of Hallowells' shop-walkers!

With the red spots still burning in her cheeks, she sought Cosimo that
very afternoon.

Until March Cosimo still had his studio, but he no longer lived there.
He had taken a bedroom and sitting-room in Margaretta Terrace, the
short right-angled street off Oakley Street that runs into Oakley
Crescent. Amory gave her soft treble knock at his door at a little
before five o'clock. The knock had been arranged between them. The
landlady in the basement was deaf, and if, after waiting for a minute,
Cosimo did not descend, Amory always went away again.

Cosimo was at home, and even as he opened the door he was aware of
Amory's perturbation. He followed her upstairs to his sitting-room on
the first floor, and the moment he had closed the door asked her what
was the matter. She pulled out her enamel-headed hatpins and threw the
hat into an arm-chair; but when she turned she was a little calmer.

"The matter? How the matter?" she said. "I'm dying for some tea. Have
you got some? I've been to see Dorothy, but I suppose it was a bit
early for tea when I left."

Cosimo had tea; he made it for himself in his room. As he lighted his
spirit-lamp and filled the little kettle from the jug in the next room
Amory listlessly tossed over the magazines on his little round table;
but there was nothing new in them. She had grown suddenly dejected.
There seemed to be nothing new in the world. She was as tired of
Cosimo's little furnished sitting-room as she was of his studio in the
King's Road or of her own studio in Cheyne Walk. She was tired of her
work; she was tired of her friends--especially when they spread gross
reports about her; for the moment she was even tired of "Barrage" and
the League. And she was not sure that she was not tired of herself.
Although Cosimo was back in town, she was plunged again into the mood
in which she had wandered the streets during his absence, looking into
eyes strange and various as the pebbles on a shore and thinking that
the solitude would have been less frightening had she known as much
as the names of their enigmatical possessors. She wanted a change;
"Barrage" had taken more out of her even than she had supposed; she
was petulant with herself. She was also exceedingly sorry for anybody
of brilliant gifts on whom the world presses so harshly as to make
that person petulant with herself. Self-contempt is ever the artist's
blackest despair.

"Well," said Cosimo cheerfully, taking cakes from a square biscuit-tin
which he had produced from a cupboard, "and what had Dorothy to say for
herself?"

Amory did not hesitate. Though Dorothy could not keep her tongue from
repeating a slander and then running away from it by refusing the
slanderer's name, Amory respected herself a little too much to give
Dorothy or anybody whomsoever away. So she lay back on one of Cosimo's
sofa-cushions and put her cheek on the sofa-end.

"Oh, quite a lot," she answered dully. "She seemed to be enjoying
herself. She asked after you."

"Really, awfully kind of her. She's still at the Juperies, of course?"

"Oh yes, still there."

"I say, you look fagged out. But tea won't be a minute. No, don't get
up to help; all's ready when the water boils.... Nothing wrong, is
there?" he asked, as Amory sank wearily back on the cushion again.

"Oh, give me some tea first."

"Then there is?" said Cosimo quickly, catching at the last word. "Not
about 'Barrage,' I hope? They haven't cried off, have they?"

"No, it's nothing about 'Barrage.'"

"Then what ... but I'm worrying you, poor dear. I'll give you some tea
and you can tell me then."

And, the water boiling, he made the tea and carried Amory a cup where
she lay. He packed a cushion in the small of her back and made her put
her feet up; then, sitting down on a little square hassock by her side,
he patted her hand.

"No, don't talk just yet," he murmured. "Will you have a phenacetin?
Well, perhaps the tea will set you right. Close your eyes and I'll try
to take it away."

And, rising from the hassock, he drew a chair to the sofa-end, sat
behind Amory, and began gently to draw his fingers over her closed lids
and back towards the roots of her hair,--"Don't talk--give yourself
quite up to it," he murmured....

Amory, relaxing totally, did so.

Sympathetic in all things as Cosimo was, in nothing was he so
sympathetic as in his touch of an aching head. Softly as a woman, he
changed from stroking Amory's lids, and began lightly to draw his
sensitive tips along the angle of her jaw and up the sides of her
bluebell-stalk of a neck. And he knew when she felt better, for he
whispered "Sssh--I can feel it passing into my fingers and wrists--keep
your eyes closed----" and continued to stroke. Amory could not have
borne to let anybody else touch her so; it was only because of their
intellectual affinity that she could bear Cosimo's long fingers upon
her lids and cheek and neck. Mr. Hamilton Dix she must certainly have
struck; and as she lay back, with Cosimo's silky tips passing over her
face, she remembered, apropos of nothing, the only other male contact
she had ever experienced--a brutal kiss, snatched years ago under the
dark portico of the McGrath, with a knocking together of crania, and a
smell of tobacco, and a horrible stiff little moustache.... She could
not have endured even Cosimo with a moustache....

And Dorothy talked about the world and its "conclusions!"

By and by her fingers softly touched Cosimo's, in token that she felt
better. Slowly she opened her eyes again.

"Ah!" she said.... "Thanks, dear. I don't know why I should come all
over like that."

"By Jove, you had got it," said Cosimo, stroking his hands and
wringing, as it were, the numbness from them. "I feel it all up my
forearms."

"So now you've got it."

"Oh, it's rather pleasant; only like your foot going to sleep. It's
going already. Now have some more tea and you'll be quite all right. I
expect you've had too much on your mind, that's what's been the matter
with you."

"I have, rather. And I've been upset to-day, too."

"I knew you had. What was it?"

"It was something Dorothy told me. Perhaps I'll tell you in a few
minutes, but I don't in the least want to. Yes, I will have some more
tea, please. Cosimo----"

She spoke so shortly that Cosimo started and almost dropped the teacup.
There was that in her tone which suggested that, though she had only
that moment resolved that what she had to tell him might be told by and
by, it was torn from her now by something stronger than herself. Cosimo
had turned.

"What? Good gracious, how you startled me."

"I want you to tell me something, Cosimo."

"What?" said Cosimo. The golden eyes were glittering on his. Evidently
Amory was fighting hard to keep in check some powerful emotion.

"I want you to tell me this, and truthfully, please, and without any
false modesty: Do I strike you as the kind of girl decent people might
wish not to know?"

Cosimo was thunderstruck. He could only look at her incredulously. Was
something worse than a headache the matter with her?

"Do you strike me----" he repeated.

"Yes," she interrupted. "Am I a--peculiar--sort of person?"

"Peculiar----?"

"Yes. I'll tell you why I ask in a minute. I want to know how I strike
you first. You wouldn't call me an immodest girl, would you?"

Still Cosimo was all at sea.

"Do you mean--I mean, has somebody been shocked because--well, because
you have brave and enlightened views?"

"I don't mean anything about my views. I mean about myself. To put it
brutally, would you think that anybody had the right to say I led--a
horrid life?"

Cosimo had been standing gaping, with the cup in his hand. This time he
did drop the cup. He gasped.

"Do I understand----"

"Answer my question," Amory commanded. "Do I give people that
impression?"

"You----!" was all that Cosimo could say.

"Do I give _you_ that impression?"

"Amory----!"

But she put up her hand peremptorily and continued.

"So that if anybody _does_ think that, you'd say it was just the
vileness of their own minds?" (Amory herself could not help noticing
that somehow it sounded worse when put in this way than it had when
Dorothy had talked about "conclusions.")

"My dear girl----!"

"Mere unconventionality apart, you wouldn't say that?"

"Wouldn't ... why, anybody who'd say that must be mad!"

Amory straightened her back and nodded. "Thank you. That's all I wanted
to know," she said. "I was a little afraid to trust my own judgment,
that's all. Thank you."

But apparently it was not all that Cosimo wanted to know. Of course
such a subject was always interesting quite apart from its personal
application; many times he and Amory had discussed that kind of thing
in the abstract by the half-day together; but now that was not all. His
face was quite grimly set. Slowly he drew up a chair to where Amory
sat, bolt upright and robed in her consciousness of rectitude, on the
sofa.

"This," he said slowly, "is interesting. May I hear a little more about
it, please?"

Amory had more than half expected him to take that attitude. Since
Cosimo had had his hair cut he was still to be counted as "one of
them," one of the enlightened ones; but, like Samson, he had lost
perhaps a little of his strength in the process of shearing. He still
saw the light, but sometimes it dazzled him a little--that was another
reason why he needed an unflinching pair of eyes always by his side.
Now his grimness was almost the ordinary conventional thing. The male
behaved like that in most novels and in all theatres. Taken properly in
hand, Cosimo would not be very difficult to manage.

"Need we go into it?" said Amory quietly. There was withering disdain
of her traducers in the single glance she shot at him.

"I think we've got to," Cosimo replied, with the same slightly
histrionic quietness. "I really think we'd better, don't you know."

"As regards myself, I don't consider it worth it," Amory replied
proudly.

"I know you don't," the still strong man pursued doggedly. "That's
because you're so high-minded and scornful and wonderful. You're so
high above it all that really it's difficult for you to understand.
But I think I'll make this my business, if you don't mind. Please tell
me."

"Don't you think that by touching pitch you'd only be defiling
yourself?"

"It isn't a question of me. It's you. I really think you'd better tell
me."

"But what could you do?"

"Leave that to me. If it's a man who's been talking----" Cosimo left
the sentence significantly unfinished. "Is it a man?"

"I don't know. Dorothy wouldn't tell me."

Cosimo half rose. "Oh, she wouldn't, wouldn't she? Perhaps she'll tell
me, though! Will she have left that place of hers if I take a cab?"

Amory put up her hand rather quickly.

"Oh, Cosimo, do treat it with the contempt it deserves! You'd get
nothing out of Dorothy. You know how obstinate she can be."

"Well, tell me what she said; then I'll consider whether I'll go or
not."

"No, Cosimo, I'd rather not."

"But you must!"

At that Amory once more broke passionately out. She hit at the sofa
cushion with her tiny white fist.

"Oh, it's--I _know_ I've not deserved it! That ought to be enough for
me, and I do try to look at it in that light, but I'm not always so
high-minded as you think, Cosimo, and it does hurt when they spring
a thing like that on you without warning! And the way she did it!...
Listen. I didn't mean to tell you, but _she_ seems to have been
talking _me_ over, and there does come a point when the truth has to
be told! I went up when she was having her lunch; she was having it
with somebody or other, I forget his name; and--Cosimo--but I'm sure I
needn't tell you----"

"Not----?" The golden eyes and the black-coffee brown ones were crossed
as it were like swords for a moment, as if either had started into an
attitude of defence against some monstrous meaning--the meaning that,
Dorothy had said, was always between them.

"Yes," Amory sighed as if in disgust.

Cosimo stared, frowning.

"You _do_ mean kissing, don't you?"

"If you must have the horrid word."

"And it was _after_ that that she said----?"

"Yes. Rather unbelievable, isn't it?... And that," Amory broke out
anew, "is what made me so angry. In a room where the workmen might come
at any moment, too! And then to talk about _me_!... Listen, Cosimo, I'm
going to make a confession. I know it isn't necessary with you, but I
want to make it. I want you to know exactly how much and how little I
have to reproach myself with; then you'll see. An awful man did once
kiss me, at a dance at the McGrath--and once I did give a kiss--I'll
tell you----"

Cosimo made a little protesting movement.

"Oh, Amory, do you think you need defend yourself to me----?"

"But I want to tell you. It wasn't to a man--it was to a beautiful
object--the Antinöus in the Louvre. I dare say it was foolish, but
I thought it so beautiful, and anybody with any understanding at
all would have regarded it as--don't think me silly--as a sort of
dedication--to my art--and I have been faithful to my ideal ever
since----"

Cosimo's eyes were moist with emotion. The beautiful gesture! What
a ripping touch that would be if anybody ever wrote the life of the
painter of "Barrage!"... "Oh!" he breathed reverentially. "You are
superb, Amory."

"And of course I'm not counting that stupid thing at my aunt's
wedding----"

"That----," said Cosimo, straightway dismissing it.

"And that's all--absolutely all," said Amory, softly and bitterly. "To
all intents and purposes I've never been kissed.... So don't you think,
Cosimo, that from her at any rate I might have been spared this?"

She lifted the shallow opals of her eyes.

Suddenly Cosimo ceased to be the still strong man. He became the hero,
dreadful in his anger.

"It's unbelievable--cruel!" he cried. "And I'm going to see about
it! You wait here--I'm going now--I'm going to get to the bottom of
this--you stay here till I come back."

He was half-way across the room, reaching for his hat.

But Amory called him. "Cosimo----!"

"We'll talk about it when I get back!" Cosimo muttered, grim once more.
Talking would do any time. This was the hour for action.

"But--Cosimo--wait! You can't go to her! She'd think I'd been telling
you things--she doesn't understand these moments when the truth simply
must be told! Come here and be reasonable. She'd only round on you; I
know her! If I can take it calmly I think you might. I'm not angry now.
I'm going to take simply no notice. 'Let Gryll be Gryll and have his
hoggish mind'--you know--it's in the _Faerie Queene_. That's what _I_
think about it.... So _you_ don't mind, do you, Cosimo?"

Something in this, he did not know what, arrested Cosimo, but Amory
gave him no time to think. She continued--

"We should show ourselves quite unworthy of the faith we profess
to take the least bit of notice, either of us. It's merely the old
prejudice about the Subjection persisting. Why should the woman be
compromised, as they call it, and not the man? They're equally guilty
or equally innocent, one would have thought? But that's not our
business really; our business is to strike and suffer, and strike and
suffer, and to go on striking and suffering until not a tongue in the
whole wide world dare say those hateful words again, 'One Law for the
Man and Another for the Woman!'"

"But----" Cosimo gasped.

"Isn't it?" Amory bore him down, flinging out an adorable arm. "Isn't
it? What is the battle, then, if that isn't it? What is every woman
worth her salt, and a few devoted men, working and suffering and
fighting for if it isn't for that? They're fighting against Wrong,
Cosimo, and Vivisection, and Tuberculosis, and Man-made Laws, and the
White Slave Traffic----"

But Cosimo was white. He had heard all this before, but something he
had not heard before had evidently seized on him now. Again he tried to
speak, but again Amory went triumphantly on.

"And with _that_ noble task before us, what does it matter what
scurrilous tongues say? Let them say! We defy the world! The world!"
(She gave a contemptuous laugh). "Why, the world will be drawing its
'conclusions' (I believe that's the expression) at this very moment.
A young man and a young woman, discussing ideals together----," she
became brightly mocking, "--dreadful! Two beings of the opposite sex
merely discussing great Social Problems--ha ha! Heavens, if they only
knew! I really believe, Cosimo, that of all the times we've been
together, if once--just once--the roof could have been lifted off and
we could have been seen, perfectly innocently occupied, the world would
have had such a shock to its conceit and ignorance that the Dawn would
begin to-morrow! I really think that----"

But here Cosimo found his tongue. "Amory," he gasped, "do you mean that
they've been talking about--you and me?"

Amory laughed. "Why, you stupid old Cosimo, who else?"

"Do you mean--you and me?"

At that Amory's laugh ceased. She stared. "You?... Cosimo, did
you--tell me--did you think I had a scandalous relation with anybody
else?"

"No--no, no--but----"

"Then who did you suppose they'd been talking about?" she asked,
staring.

"I--I--I didn't know----"

"Do you _mind_?" This was said slowly, as if Amory struggled with a new
idea.

"No--of course not--I mean, I think you're magnificent--but it--it
didn't occur to me--just at first----"

Amory smiled cynically. "Oh, I've not had any scandalous relation with
anybody except you!"

"Er--er--ha--have some more tea," said Cosimo quaveringly, putting out
his hand to the cold teapot.

There was a moment's silence.

"Perhaps _you_ don't believe me either?" said Amory presently, her head
suddenly thrown back. "Perhaps you thought I'd found another friend
while you were away?"

"Oh, Amory!" Cosimo reproached her; but he fidgeted uneasily. Perhaps
he had suddenly remembered Pattie Wynn-Jenkins.

"Because--because----" Amory's voice quavered now, "because if you
did, Cosimo, it wasn't true--it wasn't--I trusted you as I thought you
trusted me----"

She showed signs of breaking down. That was infinitely pathetic. Is it
not pathetic, when one who is prepared to defy the whole world provided
she is allowed her single beautiful friendship, finds that friendship
too yielding under the strain? Cosimo thought so, and put out his hand
rather aimlessly.

But Amory drew her own hand back. The pathetic weakness passed.
Wearily she laughed now.

"Oh no, better not, Cosimo. There are perfectly innocent things that we
can't allow ourselves. It's hard, isn't it? but you see what the world
is. It's probably damned us already; we're probably damned at this
moment for being together here; but as long as we give it no reason
it only recoils on its own head. I'm perfectly willing to accept the
situation. I accepted it in a sense when I did that foolish thing with
the Antinöus. I thought then that I was just vowing myself to my art,
but I see now that it was a far greater thing. It really meant that I
chose all the large and beautiful and abstract things--a sort of life
of toil--and put off these other things once for all. I didn't know;
I might not have had the courage if I'd known; but there's no going
back. Once I said our friendship must end, Cosimo, but that's over too.
They'd talk just the same if we ended it now. So let them talk. It's
bitter, but if I can bear it you ought to be able to. After all, there
is that petty sense in which I lose more than you do."

Cosimo had been staring hard at her. Again he had a merely conventional
look. This time it was that of a man who, occupied with important and
practical things, indulgently allows a woman to talk while he arrives
at his conclusion. Presently he seemed to have come to the conclusion.
His face was set.

"Well," he said, rousing himself, "that leaves only one thing to be
done."

"Precisely," said Amory, with a little shrug.

"You must marry me," said Cosimo.

Amory fell back into the sofa-corner and for a moment looked at him as
if she did not believe she could have heard aright. Then she smiled.
She shook her head slowly.

Poor, foolish Cosimo! Was _that_ all he saw? Well she must teach him....

"Don't you see, Cosimo," she said, as patiently as if she had been
instructing a child, "that that's the one thing that _can't_ be done?"

"Can't!--It must!"

"Really, Cosimo----"

"But it's as plain as it can be----"

"But you don't, you don't see, dear," Amory replied, still smiling.
"That would be to be false to everything. It would be an admission.
Think how all those people who have been so hideously wrong would
instantly be sure they'd been perfectly right all the time! Why, it
might just as well have been so!... No, Cosimo, that would be mere
weakness--yielding to pressure, and an acknowledgment of that very
opinion we hate so. We can't be on both sides at once, Cosimo. Either
we've been right or we've been wrong, and I know which _I_ think
we've been. Don't you see _yet_, dear, what it meant when I kissed
the Antinöus? It meant that I removed myself _away_ from all that!...
Really, Cosimo, I think you are almost dull enough sometimes to marry!"

"But--but--lots of the League people _are_ married----" said Cosimo,
bewildered.

"Ah, but they aren't you and me, Cosimo! They haven't our perfect
friendship. Besides, I'm _ra_ther proud, you know. I don't think I
could ever accept a man who merely thought he was under an obligation
to marry me. You never asked me before, and you were quite right,
just as you're quite wrong in this. If you really want an answer,
it's--No. And if you want to know whether you've got to behave one bit
differently because of this--well, that's No too. I admit I was angry,
but now that I've talked it over I find it really rather amusing. It's
quite funny, in fact, coming from Dorothy, after you know what. There
are Dorothy's ideas, and there are mine, and I do sometimes think that
if Dorothy thinks a thing right that's almost enough in itself to make
it wrong for me. I hope you see _now_, Cosimo?"

Cosimo may not have seen, but he was at any rate silenced. A new
fear had seized on him now. Hitherto he had taken this question of
"compromising" very much at Amory's valuation, without overmuch
thought about it on his own account; but now--now that he had had his
hair cut--that irrational conventional point of view refused to be
altogether banished. Though it came late and should have come earlier,
perhaps he ought to consider her a little more; indeed, things being so
hatefully as they seemed to be, it might be better if, for some time
to come at any rate, they were less together than they had been in the
past. The thought afflicted him with a melancholy sense of loneliness
and hopelessness; he felt a little as a man feels after a weakening
attack of influenza. Something he had grown to need he must now be
more or less deprived of.... But again, as he mumbled something of
this kind, Amory came out shining and magnificent. Not go on precisely
as before? Why (she exclaimed) that would be the next worst thing
to marrying! If any difference was to be made at all, they must be
seen even _more_ constantly together than before! Just as the League
sometimes overstated things in order that those things should "carry,"
so even by a slight parade of intimacy they must enter their protest.
To weaken now would never, never do! Surely Cosimo saw _that_?

So they dined that night at the Lettuce Grill, in St. Martins Lane,
and Amory had never been more trenchant and brilliant, more bright and
tender and free and brave. And after dinner they joined a larger party
at one of the long tables, and Walter Wyron and Laura Beamish dropped
in, and everybody was absolutely at his and her best, and it was almost
like a larger and more responsible McGrath over again, and the Dawn,
if emotion and enthusiasm and resolve counted for anything at all,
was hastened that night by several years. And before the party broke
up Amory definitely clinched the sale of "Barrage".... And Cosimo was
pensive and abstracted now. He saw, not only how right Amory was in
everything she said and did, but how temerarious he himself had been
when, that afternoon, he had said, almost as if he had been making a
sacrifice, that a being so daring and dashing and gloriously winged
must of course marry him. There was no of course about it. It would
be she, not he, who would be making the sacrifice. He would be lucky
to get her. Laura Beamish, whispering to him that Amory, drinking to
the Dawn in the Lettuce Grill's Unfermented Grape-fruit Moselle, was
stunningly pretty, told Cosimo nothing that he could not now see for
himself.

Yes, Cosimo Pratt saw at last that he had come near making a precious
ass of himself when he had taken her acceptance of him so entirely
for granted. He did not suppose for a moment that a girl so frank and
free and brave could (to put it grossly) be holding out for her price;
nevertheless her price could be no light one. And because it was not a
light one, Cosimo was now full of eagerness to pay it.



II

"BARRAGE"


The sale of "Barrage" to the Manumission League was definitely
concluded within the week. Amory thought it a distinct smack in the
eye for Mr. Hamilton Dix. Mr. Dix, in hoodwinking her, and all but
fraudulently getting her to accept Croziers' miserable hundred pounds,
had no doubt thought he was doing a smart stroke of business; but he
was likely to squirm now, and to wish he had not given her permission
to sell privately what work she could. True, Amory admitted that in a
sense she had been indebted to Dorothy Lennard for this release--but
only in a sense. It was a thing anybody would have thought of, and
things anybody might think of were very lightly and happily hit off in
that perfect phrase of Nietzsche's, "the vulgarity of the lucky find."
In any case, Amory and nobody else had actually painted "Barrage." So
if Dorothy liked to go about boasting that she herself had procured the
sale to the League--not that Amory knew for a fact that she had done
or was doing this--well, it would be a little beneath Amory's dignity
to contradict her. Some people cannot bear to hear of the success of
others. Amory thanked goodness that she was not like that.

The transaction put her into possession of no less a sum than two
hundred pounds. Two hundred pounds, and for a single picture--at last
that was something like! She had always known it would come, and
come it had. Again, as she had done after the Crozier agreement, she
counted the time "Barrage" had taken to paint; again she saw those
other pictures she intended to paint--the Education picture, the State
Motherhood picture, the terrible indictment of all non-members of the
Manumission League that the White Slave canvas was to set forth; and
again she saw herself rich. "Barrage" had left her limp and a rag, but
that was past. It paid in cash to soar. Throes meant thousands. She
laughed at her immediate two hundred, and straightway set about the
spending of it.

And first of all she discovered that no system of physical exercises
yet invented can compare for one moment with silk stockings for
giving an erect carriage to the female head. She bought a couple of
dozen pairs, taking Cosimo with her to choose the colours. She bought
scarves, too, Indian and Japanese, and the most exquisitely embroidered
peasant smocks, and a kind of goose-girl costume for the evenings,
to go with which Cosimo, as a joke, made her buy a pair of sabots
also. She put on the costume in the studio in Cheyne Walk, and her
tiny feet were bare inside the sabots, and her hair was done in two
glorious plaits, and she had a Breton cap on the top of it. For the
studio itself she bought nothing new; that, she said, was to be kept
severely for work--she had already begun a cartoon for the White Slave
picture, and Cosimo had posed for the angelic and accusing figure that
symbolized Manumission and the League. The only new piece of furniture
that she did buy was a hanging cupboard so tall that it would hardly
go under the blackened and sagging ceiling. She filled it with the new
velvets and silks and put the stockings and shawls and the dyed leather
belts with the enamelled clasps in the drawers beneath; and then one
Sunday she bore off Cosimo to Oasthouse View again, on the Mall,
Chiswick. He was to see Aunt Jerry's baby.

This time they did not go to lunch; they arrived at about tea-time
instead. But if by going later Amory had expected to avoid Mrs.
Deschamps and Miss Crebbin and _her_ young man, she was disappointed.
And not only that; as it happened, she and Cosimo walked straight into
a party so large that its talk and laughter could be heard twenty yards
before they reached the wrought-iron gate. Indeed, at the gate Amory
hesitated for a moment and exchanged a quick glance with Cosimo; one
voice had risen above all the rest; it was the voice of Mr. Wellcome.
"Shall we hurry past?" Amory's glance seemed to say; but Cosimo
hoisted himself out of a rather quiet mood and replied, "Oh, we'll go
in--rather!" Perhaps he still lived in hopes of hearing Mr. Wellcome
say "May all your troubles be little ones."

It would have been laughable, if at the same time it had not been so
terribly socially deplorable, to see the ridiculous fuss they made of
that baby of Aunt Jerry's. These people did not seem to have as much as
a glimmer of the true significance of childhood--not to speak of its
rights. They did not seem to realize that every false impression it
acquired now would have to be corrected, painfully and with labour and
tears, in the long years to come. It did not seem to occur to them, for
example, that it was in the last degree important that, from the very
beginning, its eyes should rest on none but beautiful and sage-green
objects; instead they let it see Mr. Wellcome. They seemed to be
totally ignorant of the fact that, already, beauty born of murmuring
sound should be passing into its mite of a face; they prodded it, and
guffawed in its tender ears, and said "Boh!" and "Diddums!" And was
it conducive to a proper modesty and earnestness of purpose in later
years that the child should be told already that it was precious and
a gem, and that its mother could eat it, and (when it expressed its
just resentment by a cry, so that its father had to take it into his
arms and to sing to it), that the hills and the towers (the oasthouses
presumably) that it could see from the window all belonged to it? That
was a lie. They did not, and never would. Amory hoped that by the time
it grew up there would be no such thing as private ownership of hills
and oasthouses. But there they were, all of them, poisoning its vague
young mind, and really not thinking of it at all, but of their own
stupid cachinnations and witticisms. No wonder it cried.

And Mr. Wellcome was positively devastating in his humour. Mrs.
Deschamps had her small fingers on his mouth even as Amory and Cosimo
entered, trying to prevent the utterance of some dreadful facetiousness
or other; pretty Miss Crebbin was blushing at it yet; but Mr. Wellcome
tore Mrs. Deschamps' hand away as he saw the newcomers, and cried,
"Well, all I can say is hooray for the little difference--here's Cos
and Am--is all right behind, George?--Here, Cos, come and be getting
your hand in----"

And he snatched the baby and forced it into Cosimo's arms.

Truth to tell, Cosimo held the infant quite as well as Amory did. When,
in the course of the shocking display of promiscuity, it arrived at
Amory, she stood with it much as a hatstand stands with the hat that is
hung upon it. But she thanked goodness that she knew a little more than
to say "Diddums" to it. It was a little boy; Amory was rather sorry
for that; nevertheless she bent an earnest gaze upon it, as if, male
as it was, she still sealed it as more or less vowed to the Cause. Mr.
Wellcome was entirely wrong when he cried that he'd take short odds he
could guess what she was thinking of. Mr. Wellcome could never have
guessed. Mr. Wellcome was for the propagation of Tuberculosis and the
direct encouragement of the Social Evil. In fact, Amory was not at all
sure that men like Mr. Wellcome were not the real Antichrist.

Then the babe was borne away by a nurse, and, while George Massey,
mingling his hissings with those of the silver kettle over Aunt Jerry's
spirit-lamp, passed round cups of tea, the conversation came round
to Amory herself and "Barrage." Mr. Wellcome had failed to catch the
figure for which the picture had been sold.

"How much did you say?" he demanded again over his cup.

Amory glanced at Cosimo.

"Two hundred pounds," said Cosimo with a negligent air.

Mr. Wellcome's respect for the Cause evidently went up. "Come, that's
not so dusty," he approved. "Have you been raking it in at this rate
ever since you left Glenerne, Miss Am?" he asked, fixing her with his
eye and tapping her on the knee. He was a friendly man.

Amory replied graciously that she had, more or less; it was not easy
to fix a rate; sometimes she would be quite a long time without making
very much, and then----

"I see; like winnings," said Mr. Wellcome. "Well, and Cos here's been
touching too from all I hear." He winked slowly.

"_Mis_-ter Wellcome!" Mrs. Deschamps interposed, shocked.

But Mr. Wellcome only guffawed.

"Well, it makes the mare to go--eh, George? No doin' your duty as a
citizen without it, George, what? I always say, every time I have a
good win, '_Now_ for the duty as a citizen!' Not that horses ain't
precarious, like art; but getting married's like learning to swim--when
you're neck and crop in for it you find a way out all right. Well, I
don't care, among friends, where it is, Glenerne or where you like--I
know where there's a bottle or two of G. H. Mumm left, and the Spanish
brandy's got no force, I give you _my_ word! It's betwixt Miss Crebbin
and somebody--Miss Crebbin's favourite for the moment, but betting
alters----"

And the opening of an oyster is not larger nor more watery than the
next wink Mr. Wellcome gave.

"Aren't you going to stay and see him in his bath, Amory?" Aunt Jerry
asked wistfully when, at a little after five, Amory and Cosimo rose to
go.

"I'm afraid not," Amory replied, drawing on her new gloves. "Cosimo and
I have to go and see _Europa_ at the New Greek Society; it's the first
performance in England."

"The theatre--on Sunday!" Aunt Jerry exclaimed softly.

And Amory and Cosimo left. If they had stayed there would have been
nothing to beat Aunt Jerry's consternation at the idea of going to a
theatre on Sunday.

Hitherto it had not struck Amory that the Manumission League, in paying
her two hundred pounds for "Barrage," had paid a very good price indeed
for a canvas by an artist who, save for a few columns about her by
Mr. Hamilton Dix (who was not to a column or so about anybody on whom
Croziers' wandering eyes might rest), was unknown. Nor had it occurred
to her that the League might want to see its money back again. Dorothy
Lennard might entertain such suspicions, but then Dorothy was of a
suspicious nature, always thinking somebody might be getting the better
of her, and naturally crediting other people with intentions no better
than her own. "I don't like sales outright," Dorothy had said.... And
Amory, too, began to wonder whether righteousness also may not have its
mammon when she first heard, at the Lettuce Grill, of the purpose to
which it was intended to put her picture. It was only a rumour; indeed,
Amory had it from a source no more official than Walter Wyron and Laura
Beamish; but Walter's father was the mainstay of the New Greek Society,
and things that he said had a way of being authentic, and Amory began
to wonder whether she ought not to have had a royalty, or a percentage,
or whatever Dorothy had called it after all. The rumour was to the
effect that, merely as a means of sowing the good seed, "Barrage"
was to be exhibited, not in an ordinary gallery with a hundred other
pictures, but by itself, with drapery round it, set back in a sort of
proscenium, with lights at the top and bottom, and a muffled harmonium
playing sacred music in the next room, and a faint odour of Ruban de
Bruges burning, and other appurtenances of reverence and solemnity.
That converts might be made, the whole of the League's resources were
to be concentrated on the enterprise, and the admission was to be a
shilling. If the picture drew neophytes and shillings enough in London
it was to be taken to the Provinces.

There are twenty shillings in a pound, and in two hundred pounds four
thousand shillings. When four thousand shillings had been taken,
"Barrage," omitting other expenses, would have paid for itself.

Now the League had many times four thousand members in London alone....

A royalty of, say, a penny in the shilling would have worked out at
more than four pounds per thousand....

The League was going to do the thing _very_ thoroughly, and a special
"Barrage" Committee was to be formed....

Two hundred pounds was well enough as far as it went, but there was
going to be increment beyond that, earned really by Amory....

She felt a sharp stab of regret that she had let "Barrage" go for so
little.

But the regret did not last long. She remembered in time that she was
bringing herself down to Dorothy's level. The full reward she might
not get, but all the renown would be hers, and, though she was no
Dorothy, she was yet not so ignorant of business but that she knew
that in other ways her market was now as good as made. And compared
with the kudos that would be hers, even the foregone royalty fell away
into the background. "Foregone," she told herself, was the world;
for the effect was the same as if she had had the royalty and had
magnanimously handed it back again to the Cause. To all intents and
purposes, she was subscribing to the Cause's funds (say) a thousand
guineas. Her name would not appear with that figure after it in any
list, but it is well to do good by stealth, and the name would ring
resoundingly enough in other ways. "Amory Towers, you know, the painter
of 'Barrage'"--"'Barrage,' Miss Towers' great work"--"That feminist
picture that everybody's going to see, 'Barrage,' by Amory Towers" ...
yes, there would be lots of that. And in the Movement itself she would
be a person of consideration and authority. She would have a voice in
its councils. "Has Miss Towers given her opinion yet?" the leaders
would ask one another on this point or that; and there were the other
propagandist pictures yet to come. In the meantime it was a little odd
that Amory was not asked to join the "Barrage" Committee. But perhaps
that was as well too. Anybody can serve on a Committee, but it takes a
somebody to paint a "Barrage." To inferior minds inferior work. It was
better after all that there should be a little mystery about Amory and
that she should be shut off from the common gaze as it were by a veil.
More than her own exclusion she resented the inclusion of the name
of Mr. Hamilton Dix. For Mr. Dix had been called in. Mr. Dix, whose
articles on Hallowells' advertisements had brought him very much to the
fore, had evidently been deemed by the Committee to be the very man
to act as Art Director for "Barrage" also. And as that man of parts,
who had no interest in Croziers', still never abandoned an attitude of
benevolence towards Croziers' and such artists as they elected to "take
up," Amory's twenty-odd older pictures also seemed in a fair way for
being fetched up out of Croziers' cellars. One thing brings another.
Amory had known it would come, and it had come, or was coming. And it
was coming without her having receded from the highest that was in her
by as much as a single inch. That (as Cosimo said) was what was so
wonderful. In an age of polluted altars she had kept her single taper
burning pure and bright.

To anticipate a little: those contingent results of the enormous
publicity that was presently given to "Barrage" came duly to pass.
Croziers' sold all but two of those old Saturday-night street-markets
of hers at prices that varied from ten to thirty pounds apiece. Their
numerous charges and commissions struck Amory as merely capacious;
for all that, she received a series of cheques that totted up in all
to more than four hundred pounds; and in several articles he wrote
on the astonishing combination of human sympathy and pure idealism
that distinguished the work of Miss Towers from the work of all other
living artists, Mr. Hamilton Dix fairly let himself go. This was when
"Barrage" left London for Manchester, Liverpool, and the North, to
draw its thousands of visitors per week and to be chosen as a popular
and attractive text, though with various applications, by half the
Nonconformist ministers in the land; and one of the curious little
after-effects of the enterprise was to show how entirely right Mr.
Miller was when he said that the mere advertising "stunt" was over,
and that advertising, to be effective to-day, must attach itself to
something higher than itself. He would have attached a drapery business
to the Royal Standard; but the feminist picture did even better. The
"Barrage" turnstiles took their toll of shillings that were really the
sinews of a Holy War.

Nothing, in Cosimo's opinion, could have been more simple and
unaffected and fine than the way in which Amory still stuck to the
shabby little studio in Cheyne Walk. More than once he protested, but
she lifted her eyes to him and asked him, Was it not enough? The roof
kept out the rain; the door kept out intruders; and she could open the
diamond-latticed window and look at the stars whenever she liked. She
liked the solitude, she said; out of just such a solitude the strength
must be gathered that is to be put to the service of the multitude.
She did sometimes sigh for the country; she was not sure that soon
she might not take a trip away somewhere, a longish one, quite alone;
she had always promised herself such a trip, to Italy, but the loved
servitude of her career had never permitted her to get farther than
Paris; but now there was nothing to keep her in England. She might even
go and live permanently abroad, working for the Cause from wherever it
might be. But wherever she went, Cosimo must not suppose she would ever
forget him. She would write to him quite frequently. And he must write
to her.

The first time Amory allowed Cosimo this peep at her plans his face
became blank with dismay. They were sitting together on a bench in the
little Embankment garden where the Carlyle statue is. It was an evening
early in April, approaching dusk, and on another bench, twenty yards
away, a dim huddle under the trees had caused Amory's lips to curl into
a smile; it had reminded her of that horrible hypnotizing evening when
she had walked on Clapham Common and had returned to pass a night of
starts and tremors, lying dressed on Cosimo's bed. She could afford to
smile now, though she did so a little disdainfully. Things had improved
since then--rather! Cosimo, though he had always been splendid, had
been somehow a little off-handed at odd times; not exactly casual, but
as if, while esteeming her very highly indeed, his esteem had none the
less fallen just a little short of her true deserts; but that, too, was
being quickly altered now. And she _would_ like to see Rome too. Quite
inferior people had seen Rome, and Amory owed it to herself and to her
art not to be crowed over by anybody. She told Cosimo so.

"Yes," he said dejectedly; "I thought that would be the next. You're
rising, Amory. You'll remember us poor grovellers sometimes, though,
won't you?" Amory's tone of reproach almost passed reproach; it was as
if she had received a twinge of pain.

"I don't think I've deserved that of you, Cosimo," she could not
forbear saying.

But Cosimo persisted sadly.

"I beg your pardon, dear, but it is so. You might remember a little
longer than most others, because you're finer and truer than they are,
but time and distance do make a difference, and it's no good saying
they don't. I know."

Amory wondered whether Cosimo knew the difference time and distance
made because of Pattie Wynn-Jenkins, but she only shook her head on its
white hyacinth-stalk of a neck.

"I don't forget my friends, Cosimo," she said quietly.

"I'm not accusing you, Amory. But," he continued mournfully, "there are
brilliant circles in Rome, and I know exactly how you'd take your place
there, and it would be quite right and proper in one sense, and nobody
would be gladder than I. But I should be buried in that beastly hole
Shropshire all the time, boring myself to tears with cows and grass and
pheasants and a lot of stupid yokels----"

Gently Amory tried to show him how ungrateful he was.

"Oh, Cosimo, how can you speak so of the country that gave the world
'The Shropshire Lad'! I should always have beautiful thoughts of
you--as my Shropshire Lad--and it isn't as if there wasn't a noble
work to do in the country too. There's the Housing Problem, and an
iniquitous Land System, and sanitary dwellings for the agricultural
labourer----"

She went on, but Cosimo refused to see it. It was as if her "Barrage"
would be carried in triumph through the streets of Rome as Cimabue's
"Madonna" was carried through those of Florence, while he would be
tapping the barometer each morning, and then taking a walk with no
other company than that of his dog, and returning to his solitary
lunch, and going to sleep in the afternoon, and wishing to goodness
he'd never seen his beastly estate. And so strongly did he now feel
how little he had to offer Amory that he did not offer it, but sighed
instead, and said that he supposed he'd be driven to marry some wench
from the nearest dairy in order not to die of sheer weariness within
six months. Amory mused.

"About that, Cosimo," she said slowly at last. "You know what I've
always wanted for you. I've always wanted you to marry some nice girl I
could make a friend of. At one time I thought Dorothy might have done,
but I see now that I was wrong. But you'd be better not marrying at all
than marrying somebody who wouldn't enter into your ideas. Can't you
live for duty alone, Cosimo, as I can?"

"You've more to sustain you," he replied dully.

"All duties are alike precious," said Amory firmly. "Yours is a more
even temperament. I grant I rise a little sometimes, but for every rise
there's a despair, Cosimo, and I often think almost anybody is happier
than I. Besides, you'd have the richest of my thought in my letters.
You remember that fine passage in Ruskin--I think it's in the _Crown of
Wild Olive_--about the spoken word often being hasty and inaccurate,
but the written one being choice and considered; I forget exactly how
it goes. But you'd have that, Cosimo."

"Oh, that----" Cosimo sighed.

His eyes had rested on the grey huddle on the bench twenty yards away.
The huddle had moved, and a dim face had appeared. It was the face of
Mrs. 'Ill's daughter, Jellies, and Amory had seen it too. It seemed to
brighten her. She gave a gay little laugh.

"There you are," she said; "when you say you'd marry a dairymaid,
do you mean--that?" She made a little movement of her head. "If you
do, Cosimo, by all means marry one. When things come to _that_ pitch
I don't see that anything matters very much. Marry a dairymaid, by
all means, if _that's_ what you mean by marriage. But"--her laughter
suddenly ceased--"don't forget, Cosimo, that there is another side to
it. You'd perhaps get all that some men seem to require, and perhaps
you are that kind of man, but I shouldn't have thought it. I should
have planned something very different for you.... And think what
you'd forego. No Societies for the study of those lovely Folk-Songs.
No revival of Morrice Dancing. No bringing back the peasantry to
those beautiful and rational old smock costumes. No bringing up of
the standard of rustic morals to the level of that of the chaste
animals. No education of the people up to an enlightened system of Land
Tenure. No jolly Socialist Vans, no Pamphlets, nothing fine. Only the
extortions of Landlordism and the old hateful Three--Rent, Interest,
and Profits.... I'm not saying that to do all this is your work,
Cosimo. I'm only pointing out that it's _somebody's_ work. I don't
know Shropshire; perhaps Shropshire isn't ripe for it; but it's being
done elsewhere. It attracts me. But of course that is no reason why it
should attract you. I only mean that I should have said it was worth
examining."

Cosimo sat in the falling dusk, thrilled. What a daring and constructive
brain!... And still some fools said women had no capacity for affairs!
What (he wondered) would they have said could they have heard Amory as
she was now--not argumentative, urging nothing, pleading nothing, with
nothing to gain, quite detached and disinterested, merely anxious that,
as she saw her own work before her, so others should see theirs? He
rather thought they would have been silenced!...

And now there was no expressing how much Cosimo wanted her. Alone and
of himself he could never have thought of these things, but with Amory
by his side!... He seemed to see that Shropshire estate as it might be
made. The bright parts of his vision seemed to gather as it were about
a Maypole; the Maypole was in the middle; Cosimo knew the very spot
for it. And the place really needed a Village Hall, on a contributory
basis. In wet weather they could have the Folk-Songs and the Morrice
Dancing there, and in fine weather on the green. There might be Vans
and Pamphlets too; they might even set up a Village Press. And with
these as a beginning the rest would come in time; but he could do
nothing without Amory. He must have her. He knew it would not be
easy, but he fancied--he was not sure, but he fancied--that there had
been suppressed emotion in the tone in which she had called him her
Shropshire Lad. Again he glanced at Jellies, whose face had disappeared
again. The huddle, as far as he could see in the gloom, was quite
motionless. Often and often with Amory he had laughed at this slow and
elementary and adhesive love-making of the lower orders; it had always
seemed so funny; and of course it was funny still with people of that
class; Cosimo was not running away from that. Still, Cosimo had once
taken a crossing-sweeper's broom and had swept for half an hour for
him, and Amory _was_ temptingly pretty as she sat by his side in the
dusk....

Between his dream of a Model Village, of which he was proud, and
something else for which he felt a little apologetic, Cosimo did not
quite know where he was; but he knew that he wanted Amory. A soft "Ow!"
came from the huddle on the other bench; it rather put Cosimo off for a
moment or two; but all was silent again, and he took heart. He altered
his position, and ran his arm along the back of the bench.

"Do you really think, Amory----" he began huskily.

"Eh?" said Amory. Apparently he had startled her. She had been quite
lost in abstraction.

"Do you think that's the choice--for me?"

"The choice?... Oh, I see! You mean what I was saying. Well, Cosimo,
what do you think yourself?"

Cosimo spoke spiritlessly.

"I don't know. Sometimes it doesn't seem worth while my thinking when
you're here. I want you to tell me."

"I don't think," Amory answered slowly, "that in cases like this one
person has really the right to settle things for another. As you know,
I hate the word Conscience; I prefer the expression Personal Will; but
that's what it seems to me to be."

"But in so many things my will's yours, Amory. You see deeper than I.
You're constructive. You're one of the world's Makers of Things. I
should be a very good lieutenant or something, but I'm quite without
the creative gift. Won't you help me to do all those beautiful things,
Amory?"

But evidently Amory didn't understand him. She replied, with quick
eagerness--

"Gladly--oh, so gladly! You know you have only to ask, Cosimo, now or
at any time."

Cosimo tried again.

"I--I don't mean that exactly," he stammered. "That's splendid, that
part in the _Crown of Wild Olive_, I know, but--but--I mean something
else, Amory--dear----"

His hand had slipped from the back of the bench; softly it lay on
Amory's shoulder. He could hardly believe that it had lain there many
times before, it lay so differently softly now. And yet Amory did not
seem to recognize the difference in the softness, nor did she appear
conscious that he had called her "dear" in a tone he had never used
before. She put her finger-tips lightly on his knee. "Wait a bit,"
she said. "I have it on the tip of my tongue--it's not the _Crown of
Wild Olive_; it's _Sesame and Lilies_--you know--that passage about
gossiping with housemaids and stableboys when you might be conversing
with kings and queens--I shall remember it in a moment----"

For one fleeting instant it did strike Cosimo that if he had not taken
down Amory's hair for her and called her "dear" in the past he might
have had more resources at his disposal now--at any rate in the sense
that Amory would have apprehended him more quickly; and yet that, too,
had its little furtive compensation. His hand could remain where it
was....

Amory continued to try to recollect the passage from _Sesame and
Lilies_.

But suddenly she too gave, not a common "Ow!" but a quite sudden start
into perception. She moved a little, but the hand on her shoulder did
not. With quiet firmness she put her own hand upon it, but her slight
effort to draw it away met with resistance. She had seen. She made as
if to rise.

"Isn't it getting late?" she said, looking away over the river.

"Amory--don't go--you know what I mean----" Cosimo pleaded throatily.
"It's--it's what I said the other day--you know----"

"Let's be going, Cosimo," said Amory. "I really don't know what you
mean by the other day."

"After you'd seen Dorothy--and I wanted you to marry me--do marry me,
dear----"

Somehow his hold of her suddenly loosened, and Amory was on her feet.
From the bench twenty yards away two faces watched them through the
gloom. Amory looked sorrowfully at Cosimo. She was not angry. She did
not pretend that she did not understand.

"Cosimo," she said, and her voice was low, "I don't see how you can
expect things to be the same after this."

Cosimo sat helplessly, as if still to sit might be construed as an
invitation for her also to resume her place.

"I--I don't want them to be the same, dear----" he begged almost
abjectly.

"And you mustn't call me dear--not in this new way," Amory commanded,
softly, but with decision. "I do see what you mean--now. And I admit it
makes matters clearer--too clear, perhaps. In that way our friendship
may have been a disadvantage. It's committed us to a certain course,
and we must either keep to that course or else undo things. I think
you'll admit that's a Law. I----"

"Oh, undo them!" Cosimo cried ardently, catching, as he sat, at her
hands.

But Amory drew the hands away and glanced towards Alf and Jellies. Her
low voice thrilled, as it were, with the first tones of a tragic scene.

"Cosimo--no, I say. Not now. Not here. Perhaps never, and not anywhere.
I'm almost sure it would be better not. I'm quite sure. It's not like
that time the other day. I'd seen Dorothy then, you see, and she'd said
that horrid thing. Mere pride made us go on as we had been doing in the
face of the whole world. It was noble of you to offer it then--noble in
a way, but quite impossible; and that's all past. Now our paths seem to
lie in different directions, and we must follow them; it's a L--it's
our duty. In the sense you mean, the sense of doing a sacred work, I
was actually more your wife during that long and beautiful friendship
than I can be now that you say you love me----"

"Oh, I do love you!" Cosimo groaned, hearing these words of doom. "I do
love you, Amory!"

"Then I bid you love your duty more," Amory replied, with sweet
mournfulness, placing her finger-tips ever so lightly for one moment
on his shoulder, as it were an accolade. "Go, my Shropshire Lad, and
do it. And I will try to do mine. Let that unite us, and let nothing
gross and of the earth"--from the next bench came a resounding smack
of two mouths placed together--"let nothing of the earth come near. So
you will be my Cosimo, and I your Amory. Isn't that the higher and the
better way?"

"Oh, but, Amory, it's so hard! You know you've often said yourself that
the physical relation has its proper place! How--how would the world
go on without it?"

"The world, Cosimo, goes on by the progress of ideas. Ideas can be
in a sense our children, yours and mine. And these are born of no
contact but the contact of the mingling spirits. I will write to you
quite frequently--after a time, when I have forgotten a little; I will
write such letters as you'd never, never receive from anybody else!
And perhaps, after a number of years, we could meet again. When it was
safer. I couldn't meet you until it was safe, and I must leave you now.
Don't come with me, dear friend. I am not really going away; only the
mortal part of me; everything else is yours, Cosimo. Good night----"

"Amory! Amory!"

"Don't make it harder, dearest thought--you _are_ thought of my
thought----"

Cosimo sat still.

"Must that be all, Amory?"

"Is it so little? Oh, you don't know! Have you forgotten what I told
you about the Antinöus? You are all _that_ to me!"

"Then----" Cosimo supplicated, his arms outstretched; but Amory turned
away her head.

"Ah no! You mean I kissed the Antinöus. But I daren't kiss you, my
Shropshire Lad; I might fail utterly. And it would be no good your
trying to kiss me; you'd hold my corporeal part for a moment, but think
of all you'd lose! Would it be worth while, Cosimo?" She smiled, benign
as a star, down on him. "Would it?"

How could he say Yes? How, on the other hand, could he say No? He was
between the highest she had ever taught him, and that common, blissful
lethargy of the huddle on the neighbouring seat. Thus two Principles
run through that multicoloured pattern of the world's web. It is a Law.
Cosimo saw that it was a Law. He also saw that it was a hard one.

Suddenly he did the most sensible thing he could have done. He rose.

"Well, I'll walk along with you as far as your place," he said wearily.
"I suppose I may do that?"

"Yes," said Amory. She would not have had the heart to refuse him so
little. They walked in silence, and stopped before the greengrocer's
entry.

"Mayn't I come up?" Cosimo asked.

"No."

"Oh, Amory! You can't mean never again?"

"Never again, I think, Cosimo. I'm going up to think, and to gather my
things together. I shall leave to-morrow or the day after."

An "Oh!" broke from Cosimo's lips. So might a prisoner failingly
exclaim who, having known that he must die at sunrise, should be
ordered forth from his cell before the stars had begun to pale.

"Good night--and good-bye," said Amory, smiling bravely as she held out
her little hand.

"Oh!... Not like this! Amory, I can't bear it!"

"It must be borne. I see now that this had to come. I don't say you may
not see me just once more."

Even at that Cosimo caught eagerly. "When? To-morrow?"

"No, not to-morrow; I shall be packing. Nor the day after; I shall be
busy with the 'Barrage' Committee. I'll write to you, Cosimo."

"Write!"

"Do you get many letters such as I should write to you?" she asked
gently. "I'll write, Cosimo; perhaps you may see me once or twice more."

"Oh," Cosimo groaned, "however shall I get through the time!"

The years they had spent together now seemed as nothing compared with
these last eternal days before the new order, whatever it was to be,
should begin.



III

EPITHALAMIUM


It is not impossible, though it is in the last degree unlikely, that
you may have lived in England in those days of Amory Towers' rise to
fame without having heard of the furore created by "Barrage," and of
its triumphant tour through the country, drawing shillings wherever
it went; but you certainly did not live in London that spring without
having another and not dissimilar event hammered home on you morning,
noon, and night--the astounding series of social functions with which
Hallowells' immortalized its Inauguration. "Not dissimilar," one
says, and that is the truth, if not the very obvious truth. For both
successes were due to the same cause--high, victorious advertisement.
It made no difference that the two glories were different glories--that
Mr. Miller knew the dignity due to millinery, and the "Barrage"
Committee, ably assisted by Mr. Hamilton Dix, had the secret of making
art boom. And perhaps the hidden causes that slowly make history
decreed that both successes should come to pass at pretty much the
same time. You put pressure upon an object, but that object also puts
pressure upon you. Mr. Miller recognized the need of commerce for
ideals, and the leaders of the Manumission League recognized the need
ideals had of business organization. The one would elevate business
into a Faith, the others make their Faith into an effective and
shilling-producing business. It is a Law. It was also one of the Laws
that Amory did not see.

For Amory forgot the slight and constant bitterness of having sold
"Barrage" outright in the renown that was now hers. Virtually, by
an omission so ludicrously accidental that even Dorothy Lennard had
noticed it (so, in these miserable mercenary matters, has the small
mind the advantage over the great one), she was pouring streams of gold
into the League's war-chest. She solaced herself with that thought--but
she intended to see that matters were placed on a very different
footing next time. She did not know that there could be no next time.
She did not know that though her signature might now be clamoured for
by the advertisers of Brain Foods and Hair Washes, Dentifrices and the
makers of Portia Caps, the public does not rise to the same fly twice.
There was to be no successor to "Barrage." She might paint--she did
paint--all those other fiery-cross canvases, the White Slave canvas,
the Tuberculosis canvas, the State Motherhood canvas, and the rest,
but she remained Miss Amory Towers, the painter of the famous feminist
picture, "Barrage." And presently there grew up a cult of her finer but
unrecognized masterpieces. Cosimo began it later, when he set about
the writing of the _Life and Work of Amory Towers_. It became a test
of your knowledge and discrimination. Your lip, if you were really one
of the elect, curled a little at the mention of "Barrage"; not (you
were expected, if you were a superior person, to say) that "Barrage"
was not all very well in its way; popular and so forth; but--did your
hearer know the "Tuberculosis" canvas? _That_ was the true Towers. So
it was in this pluperfect esteem that Amory by and by came to bask,
with Cosimo as her showman.

Benighted Dorothy Lennard, on the other hand, fluked into _her_
wretched success by sheer luck. She had never an ideal to her name,
never realized that the best possession to which she could lay claim
was a certain knack, a certain low business cunning. And it was only
to be expected that this should pay her, in mere despicable cash,
twenty times as well as Amory's purer _awen_ had paid. Amory was not in
the least envious. Poor Dorothy would need it all, and more. However
rich she became, she could never become a prophet; she might become a
millionaire, but she could never qualify for the martyr's crown. Amory
hoped her money might make her happy. But she did not see how it could.

But to this fluke of Dorothy's:--

When, long, long before, Dorothy Lennard had told Amory Towers that
she had an idea that alone had made her wealthy as she stood, she had
spoken with a superb confidence. Amory had looked for something of
national, nay, more, of feminist value; but later she had begun to
think that Dorothy had been merely giving utterance to an idle boast;
some people, seeing others achieving something, must needs boast,
merely to keep up appearances. Since that day Dorothy had kept her own
counsel. She had kept her project even from Mr. Miller, without whom
she had known she could do nothing; she had kept it from Miss Benson,
and Miss Umpleby, and for long enough, from her cousin Stanhope. But
presently she had had to tell Stan. He shared her sandwiches, and must
share her ignoble scheming also.

It appeared that Mr. Miller and Hallowells' were to provide the money
for them to marry on. They _must_ marry, they told one another twenty
times a week--simply must. It was stupid, Stan said, not marrying;
what on earth was there _not_ to get married about? He didn't believe
in that off-and-on sort of business, as if they didn't know their
own minds.... But _ought_ second cousins to marry? Dorothy had urged
(scuffling disgustingly for the biggest bite of the sandwich); wasn't
it said to be a bad thing? Weren't all these Eugenist people always
saying what a bad thing it was? Miss Towers said so--

"Was that Miss Towers, that red-haired little thing you were in such a
paddy with that day?"

"What day?"

"The day she caught us--doing this."

"(There, I'm glad you pricked yourself!)... Yes, that was Miss Towers."

"Seemed to creep up rather quietly, didn't she?"

"Stan! Of course she didn't!"

"Oh, all right. I wondered where you picked her up, that's all.... And
does she say second cousins oughtn't to marry?"

"Oh, I don't know. Perhaps she doesn't. She says so many things."

"Well, you can tell her from me that I don't know anything about
'ought,' but I want to, and I'm jolly well going to. And look here,
Dot, I won't have you wearing pins--just look what you've done to my
hand."

"_Did_ it tratch its hand!"...

Then, of course, the question of prospects had arisen, and Dorothy had
had to tell Stanhope Tasker what was in her mind.

"All right, if you think there's anything in it," Stan had agreed when
Dorothy had unfolded her plan. "I don't quite see it, though."

"Idiot!" Dorothy had chuckled, taking a butt at him with her face as if
they had been two of the chaste animals at play. "You just wait and see
if Mr. Miller doesn't see it, though!"

"Hope he does, that's all," Stan had grunted over the glass of
ginger-beer. "Then we'll clear out of this. I've got my eye on a job
as secretary to a polo club. Just suit me. And I might get a game
sometimes."

Before Dorothy had allowed Mr. Miller either to "see it" or to know
anything whatever about it, however, she had first taken good care of
the receptivity of Mr. Miller's mind. At that time the Inauguration
had occupied him day and night; ideas for cheap stunts had come to him
plenty as blackberries; but no idea had occurred to him that combined
the flashy and ephemeral attractions of these with that real dignity of
which the Throne, the Royal Standard, and the Established Church stood
as the outward and visible symbols. And Dorothy had let him fume and
fret. The longer he fumed and fretted the higher her price was likely
to rise. And presently, by the time Mr. Miller had fumed and fretted
himself into a state of nerves lest, after all his vaunting Hallowell
& Smith's Inauguration might turn out to be just like any other
Inauguration, the price was likely to be very high indeed.

Moreover, Dorothy had seen Mr. Miller's somewhat unscrupulous ways with
the originators of other ideas. Mr. Miller was painfully subject to
a weakness which might have been constitutional to himself or merely
part of the general keenness of his job. This weakness was that he had
sometimes been known to help himself to an idea, and to deny its real
author as much as an acknowledgment. It was in vain that those authors
screened themselves with elaborate and formal contracts drawn up in
black and white. The law, by the one master-phrase that there is no
copyright in idea, indemnified Mr. Miller. Dorothy knew that if she
also did not want to be robbed, she must make herself more secure than
any black and white could make her. Now there is only one way of doing
this. It is by means of the free and flexible understanding of which
agreements and contracts are but the rather clumsy letter. She had seen
that, touch by touch, she must so prepare Mr. Miller's attitude that
_any_ suggestion of hers would be more likely to appear valuable than
not. That had meant such present sacrifices as the leaving of really
quite passable "stunts" to others. Dorothy could not afford to suggest
ordinary things. An imaginary red carpet, so to speak, was to be laid
down before she approached Mr. Miller with a suggestion. And Mr. Miller
would think the more highly of it in proportion as he paid highly for
it.

So she had carefully "nursed" Mr. Miller, had used her charms when the
use of charms would serve a turn and had been businesslike and off
when the charm of her sex would have been out of place, had dined and
supped with Mr. Miller, had left Mr. Miller alone for a week, had one
day dropped a hint that Doubledays' manager was a friend of her people
(expressing quite a liking for Doubledays' manager personally), and
so on and so forth, until Mr. Miller thought her not only one of the
brightest young women that had ever happened, but one with whom it
was a pleasure to be seen in the well-dressed assemblies his British
heart loved. And, of course, here Dorothy's connexions helped too.
Lady Tasker crossed over at the Ritz one evening and sat talking with
Dorothy for a full ten minutes, with Mr. Miller standing all the time
and bowing whenever he got a chance; and his bow when Lady Tasker left
was the bow of Sir Walter with the cloak. Thereafter he kept glancing
across in the direction of Lady Tasker's party as if he wondered
whether it would be permissible to take wine with Lady Tasker across
the width of the room; and he spoke to Dorothy as follows:--

"Now that's the reel thing; I say this is an Experience, Miss Lennard.
The way you introdooced me: 'Mr. Miller--,' no more than thaaat, but
with a manner, so to say: 'Mr. Miller--,' and then went on conversing
about intimate things just as if you'd been at home or in her
ladyship's private suite of rooms at this ho-tel ... that's the Note!
Now if we could secure Lady Tasker for our Inauguration--not to be on
voo, but just to be there--that would be worth dallars, guineas, I
mean, both to us and to her ladyship.... And is she Mr. Stan's aunt,
if I may use the word, too? Well, now! I have to thank you for a real
experience, Miss Lennard. 'Mr. Miller'--just like that--I might have
been anybody way up! Some of our Misters make some of our Sirs look
poor, if I may use the expression--cheap skates--'bum's' the word they
use in America--nooveau. I'm vurry glad to have had the pleasure of
Lady Tasker's acquaintance. Now indicate to me who the rest of the
party are----"

And when, a week later, Mr. Miller, bowing to Lady Tasker at the
theatre, received a bow in return, he certainly felt, if he was not
actually, many "dallars" better off. Perhaps actually he was, too.
Perhaps his Idea had received confirmation and support, so that he was
enabled to go forward with fresh energy and enthusiasm. We must get
our inspiration from somewhere, and these things are very difficult to
explain.

It may be supposed that this and a few similar things did Dorothy
no harm at all; and of course she lied grossly, at any rate by
implication, when she introduced the name of Doubledays'. Not that
Doubledays', too, were not straining every nerve. They and everybody
else knew of the coming Inauguration that was already as completely
planned as--say, "Hamlet" without the Prince. Perhaps Dorothy did
actually say something to them; perhaps she gave Mr. Miller an account
that she thought quite good enough for Mr. Miller; not all of us can
take our truth nascent and unsullied from the Fountainhead of all
Truth. Mr. Miller at any rate thought she might possibly be dickering
with Doubledays', and that was the practical matter. An introduction
to Lady Tasker at the Ritz was no good to him if Doubledays' also
was going to be introduced to Lady Tasker at the Ritz, and these and
other things were Dorothy's to give or to withhold.... You see how
it was. You see how time-serving and unprincipled and altogether
immoral it was. Amory would not have touched it with the end of a long
pole. Had Stan written the "Life and Work of Miss Dorothy Lennard" he
would probably have written the most deplorable record of our whole
deplorable age.

Apart from these things, however, there was the intrinsic beauty of
the idea itself. That went straight to the heart of every woman, and
of nearly every man also. And it touched every single being of the
future, too. To Mr. Wellcome it peculiarly belonged, and Jellies and
the Eugenist might have shaken hands upon it. Actuarially its basis was
as sound as it could be. Dorothy went carefully into this. The cost
for the whole week would be nothing to Hallowells', and its return
would be incalculable. Without it, those shining palatial premises
would be as a setting that begged, prayed, implored for its jewel. If
Mr. Miller didn't take it, Doubledays'--might. You don't bargain for
these things; you show them, and name your price. If you are robbed,
it is your own fault before the fact; only the people are robbed who
deserve to be robbed. Dorothy didn't guarantee a gem of such water
every spring; nevertheless she intended to ask for fifteen hundred
pounds a year for a number of years on the strength of it--this
time (for contracts have their dull uses) to be clinched by a formal
contract. She was not a fashion artist now; she had barely passed her
Sealskin; she was a Publicity Adviser, and what she did not know about
wheedling and scheming and other gross misuses of her sex was not
worth knowing. And she did not care one rap for Emancipation and the
Cause. She thought the Cause a very useful thing, merely because it
collected all the cranks together, so that you might know where to find
them if you happened to want them and how to avoid them when you did
not; and, applying her publicity training to the extraordinary success
"Barrage" was by this time having, she had no difficulty whatever in
seeing to what that success was really due. Given the occasion and the
organization, anybody else's picture would have done quite as well as
Amory's. Amory was merely lucky to have hit on the idea at the right
moment, and foolish if she thought the idea and the moment were likely
ever to jump so happily together again. And if Amory didn't know this,
the odds were that Mr. Dix did.

This idea of Dorothy's, then (not to beat any longer about the bush),
was that of the famous Wedding Week that has now passed into history.
"Shopping Weeks" had been tried before, but they had struck Dorothy
as "some of our Sirs" had struck Mr. Miller by comparison with the
unadorned simplicity of some Misters--as "poor," "nooveau," and (to
use the American expression) "bum." And yet they had paid. If those,
then, had paid, such an idea as Dorothy's was likely to pay at least
as well. It seemed to her that all that these highly-paid Captains
of Commerce lacked was inventiveness. They could be trusted with the
details, but they had no largeness of conception. They niggled where
they should have drawn with a free hand: Dorothy knew that she had
ideas enough to keep a dozen of them going.

Hallowell & Smith's, then, were going to provide, for a week, and up to
the capacity of their largest hall, free weddings. Subject to certain
conditions, that varied from the purchase of a veil to the opening of
a monthly account--and even these were imposed only to stem the rush
that was confidently anticipated--Hallowells' would supply carriages,
the breakfast, flowers, cake, music, wine, silver-paper boxes, awnings,
liveries, crimson carpets, souvenirs and what not, entirely without
charge, deduction, obligation, or any catch about it whatever. Between
the pronouncing of the Benediction at the Church and your stepping on
to the footboard of the train that was to take you away, you simply put
yourself into Hallowells' hands. Indeed, it was not Hallowells' fault
that they were not able to do even more for you. Certainly it was not
Mr. Miller's fault. For Mr. Miller simply could not see why, if in
Scotland a wedding might be celebrated in an ordinary drawing-room, in
England it might not take place in an up-to-date Store. He took advice,
both legal and ecclesiastical; he approached both the Church and the
Registry Office; and the only result was that he found something
more inaccessible even than he had found the Royal Standard to be.
Hallowells', dedicated though it was (subject to the Shops' Hours Acts)
to that practical form of Faith which the Apostle James offered to
show by his works, still remained, in the hidebound sense that is the
only one accepted of dogma, an unconsecrated building. Mr. Miller felt
this as an injustice. It seemed to him that the Church could not after
all be very sure of its own position. If, as it preached, it was the
duty of the strong to help the weak, surely it was equally the duty
of an Establishment that had dignity enough and to spare to bestow a
little of that dignity where there was need of it. Not to do so was
a stultification of reel enterprise, and a refusal to give live and
go-ahead brains (his brains and Dorothy's) their proper reward. He
would have met the Church more than half-way; would have dressed his
marshal-celebrant in any way they had wished; cloth-of-gold if they
liked; no expense should have been spared: but the authorities of the
Chapel Royal and St. George's, Hanover Square, stuck to their cobwebby
old monopoly, and in a business sense Mr. Miller was forced to the
conclusion that the Church was "bum."

But while the Sacrament itself lay beyond his power, its appurtenances
provided an opportunity more glorious than Publicity had dreamed of
yet. Never was a Publicity-secret more jealously guarded. Day and night
a picket kept the door of the room in the Clerkenwell factory where the
gigantic papier-maché Old Shoe was being made; and the white-and-silver
hymeneal torches, both the large ones for the trophies and the small
ones for table-decoration and the holding of flowers, were allotted to
separate firms. All "roughs" given out to printers were red-labelled,
like poison-bottles, "Destroy at Once"; and the deliveries of Menus,
Souvenirs, Wedding-cake Boxes and so on were sealed with private seals.
The theatrical costumiers who supplied the wings and wreaths for the
Cupids were given for secrecy's sake, an address in Scotland from which
the consignments were brought back by private van by road; and for
long enough the Executive of the Wedding Week was divided about the
building of an organ in the place. Mr. Miller rather wanted an organ:
it would be, he thought, rather a scorching come-back on the Church;
but his stunt-advisers persuaded him otherwise, and a string-band
carried the day. And before it was absolutely too late for Doubledays'
or any other firm to have queered the whole thing and to have got ahead
of Hallowell's, Dorothy got her contract. The office of Consultant to
Hallowell's for five years was signed, sealed and delivered unto her.
Thereafter she might stick to the job or allow it to lapse, as she
pleased; in the meantime, not counting contingent benefits that were
sure to come, it would start her and Stan very comfortably together.

And so, with London at its fairest and fullest, and the flower-barrows
in the Circuses ablaze with tulips and narcissi and gladioli and
escholtzsias, and Bond Street blocked with cars and taxis, and the
Park on Sunday mornings for all the world as if rivers of confetti and
black patches flowed slowly back and forth, all was made in readiness
at Hallowell's. And so well had the secret been kept that it was only
when Miss Umpleby happened one day to go into the room where the Bell
was being unpacked that anybody in the place (outside the Executive)
had the faintest notion of what was going on. But the Bell gave it away
to Miss Umpleby. Mr. Miller had got the idea of the Bell from that
foreign land, America. It was twelve feet high and composed entirely of
artificial flowers; and while it had originally been intended that each
bridal pair should hew its way out of it with a silver axe, bringing
the souvenirs for its particular party out with it, that idea had been
abandoned as impracticable, and the Bell opened with two flaps like a
roc's egg at a pantomime instead. Miss Umpleby was an intelligent young
woman; she had read of the device before in the newspapers; and she
flew to Dorothy.

"What are they up to in there, Lennie?" she demanded. "Mr. Miller isn't
going to be married, is he?"

Nobody would have known from Dorothy's face that she guessed that the
secret had leaked out.

"Mr. Miller get married? Mr. Miller is married. What are you talking
about?" she asked.

"That thing in the room at the end of the corridor there. I peeped in."

"Then you'd no business to peep," Dorothy replied; and she denied all
knowledge of what was toward.

But presently she was sorry she had done so. Miss Umpleby, being under
no obligation of secrecy, told the girls of the fashion studio what she
had seen. Dorothy entered the studio as they were discussing it that
same afternoon, and the hail of questions that greeted her almost blew
her out of the room again.

"Here's Lennie--she knows!"

"Is it going to be like that New York one that was in the papers,
Lennie?"

"And who is it?"

"It isn't you, Lennie, is it?"

They paused for breath, and then went on.

"And there's stacks and stacks of mock-orange in boxes----"

"And lots of lace-paper----"

"And they're doing the Central Hall downstairs all in white and silver."

"_Do_ tell us!" they implored.

But it was only some days later, when there was no longer any danger
of betrayal, that Dorothy told Miss Umpleby, as a great secret. Miss
Umpleby clutched at Dorothy's arm.

"Really?" she cried excitedly. "Do you mean there'll be champagne, and
flowers, and a cake, all for nothing?"

"Well, you give Hallowells' an order, and they'll do as many as there's
room for."

"_Oh!_... How much is the order?"

"What, do you mean that you'd----?"

"Me and Arthur? Rather! I don't suppose we shall be married this side
of the next eclipse if we don't do something of the sort! I'm not
proud, as long as they don't mix the husbands up; I've had to watch
Arthur, I can tell you, ever since he got his new Sans Souci hat!...
But really, Lennie, do you think you could get us a ticket or whatever
it is?"

"If you _really_ mean it----"

"Of _course_ I mean it. Oh, I say, you are a brick! What a lark!"

And so Miss Umpleby, who otherwise would have had to wait for another
year, put her name down for that public wedding-breakfast.

And so a word was dropped here and a word was dropped there, and
the business spies stole back and forth piecing gathered rumours
together, and, some days before the announcements appeared in the
papers, Doubledays' and the rest of them knew that they were done. No
counter-device they could have prepared in the time would have compared
for one single instant with that clean-cut and beauty-bright idea of
Dorothy's. So some of them touched hidden springs that caused letters
on over-advertised business to appear in the papers, but most of them
took their defeat magnanimously, merely sending out fresh spies to try
to discover "whose notion Miller had stolen that time" and to try to
secure the services of that ingenious brain for themselves. Oh, Dorothy
would have had no difficulty whatever in selling herself two or three
times over! In fact she did so, at varying figures, though of course
not to Hallowell's trade competitors. It is quite simple. When you are
more anxious to sell your brains than somebody else is to buy them,
then your price is a low one; but when people come running to you with
their money in their hands, that is the time to stick it on....

Dorothy stuck it on. If Stan got his game of polo once in a while he
must have just as good ponies as anybody else's...

And so, you know, in the beginning of the June of that year the
famous Wedding Week opened. You do not need to dig deep into your
newspaper files in order to read all about it and to remember how, for
brilliance and festivity and renown, for crowds and mirth and family
gatherings and thundering good business, it by far outdistanced any
mere Shopping Week that had ever been held in this island realm. It
caught on instantaneously. London talked of nothing else. From eleven
o'clock to four daily, Oxford Street was blocked. Folk stood up to
watch from the standing buses; streams of traffic were diverted into
the side streets; it took you half an hour to walk on foot from Oxford
Circus to Tottenham Court Road, and high across the street, all pale
blue and silver and white, Hallowell's swinging banner, "OUR WEDDING
WEEK," flapped and fluttered in the spring wind. And the evening papers
reserved special columns for the daily doings. Press-photographers
snapped; descriptive reporting soared; ponderously playful editorials
gave the Wedding Week their imprimatur; comedians made it the theme
of their choicest "gags." The _Daily Speculum_ rose to a million
a day on the strength of its photographs of bridal-parties alone.
There were rumours of a Manchester Wedding Week. One couple journeyed
all the way from Stornoway to be married by Special Licence and to
breakfast at Hallowells'; another couple came from the Potteries. In
both these cases Hallowells' handsomely paid for the railway-tickets
also. Newly-made husbands and wives were interviewed as they signed
the large Bridal Book; they bore testimony that the champagne was
excellent, the wedding-cakes not made of plaster of Paris, and that
there were absolutely no gratuities whatever. Hallowells' defiantly
invited investigation on these points. They issued a public challenge
to anybody who could prove that they were not doing all they had
undertaken to do. Especially they drove it home that any genuine
bride or bridegroom or member of their party might drink just as much
champagne as ever he or she wished. Doubts, they said, had been cast
upon their _bona fides_, and they considered that they owed it to
themselves to set themselves right with the public. And surely you
could not blame them.

And inside the great domed Central Hall was the sight of a lifetime.
The large twenty-four-hours' clock was embowered with cherubs' heads
so that it almost resembled the picture by Reynolds, and quivers and
darts and nuptial torches, big and little, were arranged in trophies
everywhere. A real sculptor had been commissioned to model the figure
of Hymen that stood in the middle of the hall, and at or in among the
fifty tables the wedding-parties sat or moved. Ordinarily the parties
were limited to a dozen; special notice had to be given of larger
parties; _but_ the mirth those dozens made!... Party succeeded party
while the chairs were yet warm; as one party ate its fruit those who
waited for the vacated chairs stood so close behind them that they
also might almost have bitten of the same banana or apple or pear.
The room that is now the world-famed Juperies was the reception-room;
there those who did not breakfast joined their friends who did; and the
Umbrella Department was turned into a smoking-room for the men. And
in they came, party after party, to Hallowells' to breakfast. Cheers
went up from those whom Hallowells' carriages passed in the streets.
An amber-yellow, the same yellow in which their parcels are now done
up, was Hallowells' chosen colour; flowers of that colour filled the
carriage lamps, rosettes of that colour were tied to the drivers'
whips. The souvenirs and favours were tied with ribbons of that colour,
and confetti of that colour (unless not desired) was thrown at the
parties that descended from Hallowells' vestibule to Oxford Street;
this confetti thinned gradually out on the pavements for a quarter of
a mile either way, east and west. And every bride and bridegroom who
breakfasted was made to enter the great Floral Bell, and to take, from
the shelves that lined the structure, the parcel of souvenirs for the
party. Two Cupids kept the flap-doors of the Bell. They shot harmless
darts at Hallowells' guests. Sometimes these darts had _serpentins_
of coloured paper (amber yellow) attached to them; sometimes they had
whistles. These last, as they flew through the air, made a noise like
swallows.

And the parties themselves!... Arthur and Miss Umpleby were among
the first to breakfast and then, to the strains of the Wedding March
from the string band, to take their souvenirs from the Bell; but on
the following day Mr. Nolan, of the Satteens, took Miss Feather, of
the Fancies Counters, to have and to hold, and the whole of those two
Departments took tea in relays in the room where Sir Walter spread the
Cloak, and Mr. Miller himself presided at the tea, and gave Mr. Nolan
an advance of salary, and the reporters, too, joined in the applause
that greeted the announcement. Mr. Miller would have given his ears
to have dared to suggest to Dorothy that she and Mr. Stanhope, Lady
Tasker's nephew and niece, should eat their cake and enter the Bell
along with the others; but though he guessed an understanding to exist,
he knew no more than that, and in the end funked it. Moreover, to his
chagrin, he was losing Mr. Stanhope. His swellest Marshal of all had
handed in his paper. In vain had Mr. Miller offered to confer on him
the title of Field-Marshal; Stan had told him that he really didn't
feel up to the job, and had refused to reconsider his decision. But
that drop of mortification was as nothing in the buckets and buckets of
good business the Wedding Week was doing. If Stan was leaving, there
was still Sir Walter, and a daily drilling of Marshals for an hour
before that inspiring picture might be expected to work wonders. They
had really performed very creditably at the Nolan-Feather wedding-tea,
and a touch here and there of the easy negligence Dorothy had used
when she had introduced him to Lady Tasker in the simple words, "Mr.
Miller," should presently give their deportment its consummation and
crown.

Thus, from a hundred churches, east and west and south and north, the
newly joined couples came to Hallowells' to make merry with their
friends. They came from Fulham and Wimbledon, from Kilburn and Epping,
from Finchley and Streatham and Woolwich and Denmark Hill; and the
hinges of the Bell wore loose with much work, and parcels' delivery
vans took the cakes away in great loads each evening, and the strains
of the Wedding Marches never ceased, and enough champagne was opened
to have converted the great silver-and-white Central Hall into a
swimming-bath. And besides the wedding parties, sightseers came also.
One of these came daily, occupying a chair under the garlanded and
cherubimed twenty-four-hours' clock. His eyes were agog; sometimes,
as one in a dream, he half rose from his chair, grasped the hand of
some passing bride or bridegroom, murmured something unintelligible,
and sat down again, once more watching in a sort of stupid ecstasy.
He was Mr. Wellcome.... And Walter Wyron came with Laura Beamish, and
they clutched one another, and, both speaking at once, said that Amory
and Cosimo must on _no_ account miss this, and Walter sent Cosimo a
postcard that very night. Amory and Cosimo came on the morrow, but
missed Walter and Laura in the crush, and retired to a sort of recess
on the second floor, past which the lift-well ascended. There, sitting
down on a narrow padded bench without a back, they talked. Cosimo had
all but won Amory. Only a few points remained on which it was necessary
that their understanding should be quite clear.

"You see, Cosimo," Amory explained earnestly, while the noisy parties
went up and down in the lift, "in one sense two rational beings have
hardly the right to marry at all as long as the Divorce Laws are in
their present chaotic condition. Even a Judicial Separation places a
quite unjust stigma on the woman, and the Restitution Decree has become
a mere formal step to Divorce itself. There's absolutely no Equality
in the contract. As Equity it's a farce from beginning to end. I'm not
sure that the wisest thing to do wouldn't be to wait until the Law is
altered. I want that one-sided plea of cruelty done away with, or else
made the same for both. It's anomalous--it belongs to the Stone Age."

"I quite agree," said Cosimo slowly. "But we have our private
arrangement about that. It's quite understood that if it isn't a
success we each go our own way. You're to be as free as I am, Amory.
I've no right to choose your friends for you, male or female. If things
come to the worst, I fancy I'm not altogether without a sense of
fairness and rationalness and philosophy. So our eyes are quite open."

Amory mused. "It's a risk for all that," she murmured. "There may be
all sorts of things about both of us that neither of us knows. In a
sense, we're complete strangers."

"Then," Cosimo urged, "let us be brave and take it. There's very little
doubt that they'll reform those ridiculous laws before long. They're
bound to. With the spread of Democracy cheaper Divorce is inevitable;
and when it becomes quite common much of the stigma you speak of will
disappear. Look here: I've an idea!... Why shouldn't we start a sort of
private Insurance against not getting on together--put away a sum each
year for the contingency, so that the expenses of Divorce would be met
out of a fund? We could arrange some means of drawing on it, too, in
case we decided to live apart. Don't you think that's a good idea?"

"Ye-es," said Amory slowly. "Ye-es. It's certainly a Law, I should
say, that the only real way of keeping people together is to leave
them perfectly free to separate whenever they like. The day of
force, whether physical or legal, is over. That's what makes all
that downstairs so exquisitely funny. They think that the way to
bind yourself is to tie yourself fast! So of course it's our duty to
dissociate ourselves as far as ever we can from all that.... Isn't it
nearly time 'Orris and Jellies were here?"...

"Oh, they aren't due for half an hour yet. Now about Incompatibility,
Amory----"

And their love-making went on.

The remark about 'Orris and Jellies had to do with their dissociation
from the semi-communal feasting that was going on in the Central Hall.
It had been Amory's idea that this dissociation would be more complete
if 'Orris and Jellies also feasted with the rest of the world, and
the joke had been cheap at the cost of the qualifying purchase at
Hallowells' of Jellies' wedding-veil. So 'Orris, Jellies, Mrs. 'Ill,
a woman who lent a hand at the Creek sometimes, together with one or
two friends, had been told off to a table midway between Hymen and
the Bell. Amory and Cosimo intended to watch from the gallery. They
still regarded the world and its happenings much as they might have
regarded a stereoscope, to be taken up for a few minutes when they
found themselves in the humour for it, and put down again when it no
longer amused them; and if Dorothy did not like the presence of this
particular party at Hallowells', that could only be because Dorothy was
a snob.

So Amory and Cosimo, presently descending by the lift again, watched
Jellies' nuptial party from the balcony, and went on to discuss their
own affairs again. They would be married--unless even yet they amicably
agreed that it would be best that they should not marry--at a Registry
Office; and if they did happen to feel hungry afterwards (certainly
_not_ unless) they would go to the Lettuce Grill. The noise that came
up from the vast oval below was no doubt a mere reaction from the
false religiosity in the church an hour or so before, and champagne
certainly heated the blood. Amory drank nothing at meals, Cosimo only
barley-water. Jellies' husband, as they could see from where they
leaned over the rail, was already a little drunk on champagne; there
was no doubt whatever that he would presently be quite drunk on beer.
And these were the people to whom England looked for a eugenically
begotten race! Black eyes were in front of Jellies, and intervals
of returning to her mother when 'Orris happened to be "in," and a
shamefully large family, and work at the Jelly Factory as before, and
very little prospect indeed of ever having either the money or the
initiative to obtain a Divorce. It made Amory sad....

And as she stood, with Cosimo by her side, looking down on the
laughing, moving crowd below, she thought of a picture that should move
the best women and men of her land as even "Barrage" had not moved
them. It was this:--

She would take a large canvas, and would rough out upon it that
very oval down on which she now looked. And she would fill it with
figures, even as it was filled with figures now. But they should
not be giggling, guffawing, gesticulating figures such as these,
uttering the inanities about lifelong happiness that they themselves
knew to be untrue, and filling and refilling their glasses with the
blood-heating champagne. No. They should be the enlightened men and
women of To-morrow; rational, responsible, of a nobler-moulded flesh
and a more ardent spirit; they should average about nine heads high.
And their eyes should be centred, not on their own selfish and private
parties, but on the figure in the centre of the room that she would
put where that absurd Hymen now stood. This figure should be symbolic,
colossal, twenty-five heads high. It should represent the Earthly
Authority of the marriage-contract. Its feet should be set upon broken
figures, each one of which should typify some marriage-form of the
past--hedge-priests, broomstick-weddings, handfastings, morganatic
unions, savage rites (from _Primitive Culture_), ecclesiastical rites,
even the Registry Office; and the fragments of such pagan emblems as
hearts and torches and Cupids and bells should appear all about it. And
in her right hand the figure should bear, as it were, a crystal with a
flame in it, which should be Marriage, and in her left another crystal
with a flame in it, no less perfect, no less honourable, which should
be Divorce. And these she should offer to the Children of the Morrow
together, both at the same time. Either should be the warranty of the
other, as the olive-branch justifies the sword, the sword maintains the
olive-branch. So should that figure be set up. And benignly brooding
over all, exactly where she and Cosimo now stood, should be two
larger and vaguer shapes, rather difficult to do, but probably to be
achieved by scraping and scumbling and pumice. These should symbolize
the Divine Sanction. Soft and reassuring rays should shoot from their
angelic eyes and rest upon the Earthly figure below; this should turn
up its glad gaze to receive the rays. In one sense, it was true, Amory
did not approve of this paraphernalia of angel-shapes, but merely as
emblems they might prove serviceable. They were prejudices that must be
accepted _pro tem_. Though she dreamed of To-morrow, she must paint her
picture in terms of To-day.

Rapidly and earnestly she began to describe the picture to Cosimo....

"Oh! By Jove, Amory----" he breathed, wellnigh breathless before the
daring of her genius.

"And those two wonderful shapes, just here, exactly where we are."...

"Looking down and comprehending everything----"

"Oh--like you, Amory!"

"Like you, too, Cosimo--for, if you don't actually paint the picture,
you help in other ways----"

"Shall I, Amory," he breathed--"shall I always be there to help in
those other ways?"

Her eyelids fluttered and dropped.

"You _do_ understand me as nobody else does."...

"I do--I do--I'm sure I do----"

"And you understand, too, that there's always that other kiss--the kiss
of the Antinöus----"

"It shall be _our_ picture, Amory--all three of us," he said, with
ardour.

"I hope we're not acting in haste, Cosimo."

"I'm quite sure we're not. Oh, let it be soon, Amory!"

He had put his hand on her arm, but she drew a little away.

"Don't touch me just yet, Cosimo, please," she asked him.

"No--I beg your pardon," he said humbly. "I know that in a sense you
aren't here--you're creating. By Jove, it _is_ wonderful!"

He would have felt unworthy of her had he wanted to kiss her just then.

And, down below them, Jellies and her party rose, and a Marshal made a
signal, and the conductor gave a couple of taps with his baton, and the
bored musicians reached for their instruments, and their eyes rested
sullenly on the tip of the poised stick....

"Hooray--let 'er go!" 'Orris roared huskily....

And once more the Wedding March broke forth.


END OF BOOK ONE



ENTR' ACTE


Two men turned out of the gateway of the McGrath and walked up the
street that led to the Euston Road. Just before they reached the corner
one of them stopped and gave a lingering, but sardonic, look behind
him. He was Jowett, the Professor of Painting, and his companion was
the friend who had once talked with him at a students' dance, while
the Discobolus and the Gladiator had held the shawls and fans of the
dancers. Then they went forward together again.

"So you're shaking the dust off your feet?" Jowett's friend said. "How
many years has it been?"

"Twenty-odd. Twenty-two or three. Twenty-three years next March, to be
precise. Nice way for a man to spend twenty-three years of his life,
isn't it?"

"A very nice way, I should say. Beautiful things about you all the
time--lots of pleasant young people and so on. One gets older, of
course, but you have the fun of starting 'em in the world and seeing
how far they go."

With an "Eh?" Jowett looked sideways at his companion; then he looked
before him again.

"The world? That place hasn't got anything to do with the world," he
said.

"No? Well, one of your old students seemed to be making quite a stir
in it not so long ago--that girl who painted 'Barrage'--what's her
name--Miss Towers, wasn't it?"

"Yes. Amory Towers. A small red-haired girl. I fancy I pointed her out
to you once. She was married a year or so ago; married another of our
students. Pratt, his name was."

"Then she's in the world now, at any rate."

"Think so? I very much doubt it. Of course she is, in one sense; I
can't deny that; but this is what I mean: There's too much paper in
their lives. They read too much. Draw too much. Especially reading.
Lord, the books they get hold of! Weeks and months together I've heard
'em: Myers says this, and Galton says that, and Tolstoi says the other;
and they make up a sort of world out of all that, and think it's the
real one, or is soon going to be, and they live in it, and go on living
in it, and never get out of it. I hope I've heard the last of Myers and
Galton and Tolstoi."

"But--my good chap!"

Jowett glared. "Well?"

"Well!"

"You mean these _are_ the great men? Well, I'm not a great man myself,
so what does it matter to me? And what does it matter to those infants?
Oh, it's all in the old Greek tag: 'A great book is a great evil.'...
You're laughing; look here: I'll tell you the kind of thing that used
to happen half a dozen times a day. I used to set these boys and girls
to draw a simple object--simple, but more than they could do, for all
that, or ever would be able to do; it all depends on how much you see
in a simple object. And I'd even show 'em how to do it--for there
are one or two simple things I really know and can do myself. Well,
presently I'd look up, and there would be sweet seventeen, giving me a
pitying sort of smile. I'd ask her what she was smiling at, and then
she'd coo, 'Oh, but Degas didn't draw like that!'--or Beardsley, or the
newest man from Montmartre (but the chances were it was somebody rather
corrupt). 'But you don't happen to be his pupil just at this moment,'
I'd say.... Anyhow, the point is, that an adorable young female person,
or a decent young fellow for that matter, with no more use for an idea
than I have for Moses' Rod, would throw one of these names at my head
as soon as look at me. And the bigger the duffer the bigger the name:
get that well into your head: that was unvarying. They used to think it
was a joke when I asked them, whether they could make an omelette--of
course, I really meant make a baby's shirt and contrive to get a baby
inside it, but I couldn't exactly say that, so I used to say 'omelette'
very slowly and distinctly, and look hard at 'em.... A baby? If I had
said it, another piece of paper would have come in. They wouldn't have
been able to get a baby until they'd seen what Strindberg or Nietzsche
or somebody had to say about it first! And even if they did manage it,
then there'd be more paper--systematics--newest methods of this and
that and the other--lectures on proteids before they dared to feed
it--paper, paper, paper--I know--I've had twenty-three years of it----"

His friend twinkled. "Has the little red-haired girl any family yet?"
he asked.

"I don't know; but"--something like a twinkle flickered for a moment
under Jowett's shaggy brows also--"perhaps I'm wrong. Perhaps Pratt
knows at least one little bit about Life by this time. One of the girls
there used to sing some song or other, I remember--something about--

    "'Tying a piece of ribbon round his bonnie, bonnie waist,
    To let the ladies know he was married.'

and I shouldn't be surprised--I don't know, of course, but at a
guess----"

"Oh?... You mean she'll be likely to be jealous?"

"Well, I fancy she'll have him safe under her pretty little thumb. I
suppose there's nothing new about the whole thing really--same old
twig, same old lime, same old bird. But a vast deal more paper--I still
stick to that."

Jowett's friend twinkled again. "I know what's the matter with you and
me," he chuckled. "We're both on the wrong side of five-and-forty.
That's all that's the matter with us."

Jowett had been muttering within his shaggy moustache some extempore
Litany or other; his friend caught the words, "From all young women who
talk paper with their hair down--From all young men who think the New
Woman isn't just the same as the Old one--And from all day-nurseries
for the children of the well-to-do middle classes----" He stopped short.

"Think so?" he said. "You think that's it? Perhaps you're right....
Well, it's not my habit, but suppose--if it was only for the sake of
the name----"

He indicated an establishment with large hanging lamps----

And they entered the Adam and Eve.



BOOK TWO

A VERY MODERN MARRIAGE



PART I



I

THE WITAN


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The altercation was plainly audible:

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

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

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

"They said the first delivery----"

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

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

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

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

And so forth.

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

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

Then it moved, and Lady Tasker raised her glass.

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

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

The phantom wore no hat.

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

Lady Tasker was in the presence of two Hindoos.

       *       *       *       *       *

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

PORTION OF TREE OF THE LENNARDS AND TASKERS

(COMMENTS BY LADY TASKER)

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

                            3. (See page 448)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And he led Lady Tasker into the house.

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

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

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

Yes, Lady Tasker had a little forgotten her Pratts.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Come again soon, won't you?"

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

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



II

THE POND-ROOM


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And she held them up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"China," Lady Tasker remarked.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No?" said Lady Tasker drily.

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

"What about them?"

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

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

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

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

  "DEAREST AUNT DOROTHY,--

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

--(she means squirrels)--

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

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

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

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

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

Suddenly Lady Tasker interrupted her.

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

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

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

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

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

She mused, and Dorothy reached for other letters.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dorothy looked suddenly up.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Who?"

"The man you say you were rude to."

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

"I only wondered."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



III

THE "NOVUM"


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Never mind that."

And so the incident had ended.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amory nodded. She thought it excellently put.



IV

THE STONE WALL


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was Mr. Strong.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes."

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

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

"Well?"

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

"What?" Amory asked as he paused again.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Her eyes became thoughtful.

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

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

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

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

Dorothy a black Spanish type!

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

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

A black Spanish type!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"What had we decided?"

"Only Prang's article so far."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She _had_ got something from Mr. Strong at last!

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

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

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

The silence between them continued.

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

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

Mr. Strong said nothing.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



V

THREE SHIPS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"No," said Dorothy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But here Mr. Miller was prompt enough.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Good-bye."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dorothy summoned what interest she could.--"Not an agency or anything?"
she asked, wiping her eyes.

"Better than that."

"Well, some agencies are very good."

"Not as good as this!"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

She probably would....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



VI

POLICY


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Amory reached The Witan again.

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

"Has Mr. Strong been in?"

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

"Are the children with Miss Belchamber?"

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

"Is Miss Belchamber in her room?"

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

"How long ago?"

"About an hour, m'm."

"Is Mr. Pratt in?"

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

"Never mind. I'm going upstairs."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Head bad?" said Mr. Strong.

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

"Was I raising my voice? Sorry."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Well, say risks to Cosimo as proprietor."

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

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

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

Mr. Strong made no reply.

"Or Fabians, perhaps?"

Still Mr. Strong did not answer.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But no help came.

Damn it----!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Really nothing."

"Give me just a minute----"

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

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

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

"Edgar----"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Paris--Montmartre--the Quartier!

It was Romance with a vengeance!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He shook his head before the impossibility....

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



PART II



I

THE PIGEON PAIR


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

No wonder Amory was sometimes pensive....

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes."

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



II

THE 'VERT


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

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

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

"I don't think now they'd ever have come to very much."

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

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

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

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

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

"Nowhere, dear," said the dutiful Dorothy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

        O. O.

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

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

"No," murmured Dorothy, abashed.

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dorothy smiled. Katie meant the youngest Bit.

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

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

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

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

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



III

THE IMPERIALISTS


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

That was all she had wanted to know.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At that Mr. Strong found his tongue.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He wasted few words on that.

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

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

"That's true," he groaned.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

He began to pace the floor.

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

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

But he did not wait for an answer.

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

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

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

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

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

"Good-bye," she said.

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

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

"Yes, Edgar."

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

"Yes. Good-bye."

And she tore herself away.

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

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

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

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



IV

THE OUTSIDERS


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

And she read:--

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Passing the policeman now."

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

       *       *       *       *       *

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Yes," Lady Tasker replied.

"And wouldn't she come in?"

"She said she was hurrying back home."

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

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

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

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

"How old is she?" Lady Tasker asked.

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

"About that."

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

"Not at all, I should say."

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

"Amory? No," said Dorothy, puzzled.

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Dorothy----"

"Yes?"

"Did she--develop--early?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Does she paint now?"

"Very little, I think, Lady Tasker."

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

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

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

"They seem to spend a great deal."

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

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

"What Cause?" Lady Tasker asked abruptly.

This was Katie's cue....

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

And thereupon the questions stopped.

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

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

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

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

Dorothy did not know.

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

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

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

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

They were oddly precise questions....

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

Dorothy had often thought that herself.



V

"HOUSE FULL"


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

But the miner stood his ground.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Then Cosimo called again--

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Anybody smoking? Well, I know they don't mind----"

"But, Miss Lemesurier, where a speaker reaches only a hundred or two,
the written word----"

"Ah, but the personal, magnetic thrill----" (This was in Dickie's
rather deep voice.)

Then Walter, to somebody else, not the miner--

"I should have thought _anybody_ would have known that when I said
Saturnalia I meant----"

"Where's Amory?"

"Sweet, in those little tunics!----"

"A subsidy from the State, of course----"

Then the miner, but not to Walter--

"I' t' daylight, proddin' 'em up wi' a stick--to say nowt o' Port
Skillian bathin'-place of a fine Sunda'----"

"That hoary old lie, that Socialism means sharing----"

"Oh, at any artists' colourman's----"

"No; it will probably be published privately----"

"Van Gogh----"

"Oh, you're _entirely_ wrong!----"

And then, in the middle of a sudden and mysterious lull, the man who
had come without his safety-lamp was heard addressing Cosimo again:--

"Well, what about t' new paaper? Owt settled yet?... Nay, ye needn't
look; Wilkinson telled me; it's all right; nowt 'at's said 'll go
beyond these fower walls. Wilkinson's gotten a rare list together,
names an' right, I can tell ye! But t' way I look at it is this----"

Cosimo looked blank.

"But, my dear--I'm afraid I didn't catch your name----," he said.

"Crabtree--Eli Crabtree. This is t' point I want to mak', mister. Ye
see, I can't put things grammar; but there's lots about 'at can; so
I thowt we'd get a sec'etary, an' I'd sit an' smoke whol' my thowts
come, and then I'd tell him t' tale. Ye see, ye want to go slap into t'
middle o' t' lives o' t' people. Now comin' up o' t' tram-top I bethowt
me of a champion series: '_Back to Back Houses I've Known_.' I'll bet a
crahn that wi' somb'dy to put it grammar for me----"

"My dear Crabtree, I'm afraid, don't you know, that there's been some
mistake----"

And at this point, everybody becoming conscious at the same moment that
they were listening, a fresh wave of sound flowed over the assembly;
and presently Mr. Wilkinson was seen to take Cosimo aside and to be
making the gestures of a man who is explaining some ridiculous mistake.

Then once more:--

"I beg your pardon--I thought you were Mrs. Pratt----"

"Put grammar--straight to fowk's hearts--sinks and slopstones an' all
t' lot----"

"No, Balliol----"

"But listen, Pratt, the way the mistake arose----"

"Ellen Key, of course----"

"The 'Times!'--As if the 'Times' wasn't _always_ wrong!----"

"There's a raucousness about her paint----"

"The Caxton Hall, at eight--do come!----"

"But we authors are so afraid of sentiment nowadays!----"

"Bombay, I think--or else Hyderabad----"

"Oh, he talks like a fool!----"

"Raff! Come here and recite '_The King is Duller_'----"

"But Love _is_ Law!----"

"Suspend our judgments until we've heard the other side----"

"Only water--but they couldn't break her spirit--she was out again in
three days----"

And again there came an unexpected lull.

This time it was broken by, perhaps not the loudest, but certainly
the most travelling voice yet--the voice of the caryatid beneath
the bracket with the bust upon it. Miss Belchamber was dressed in a
sleeveless surcoat chess-boarded with large black and white squares;
the skirt beneath it was of dark blue linen; and there were beards
of leather on her large brown brogues. One of the young Oxford men,
greatly daring, had approached her and asked her a question. She turned
slowly; she gave the young man the equal-soul-to-equal-soul look; and
then the apparatus of perfect voice-production was set in motion.
Easily and powerfully the air came from her magnificent chest, up the
splendid six-inch main of her throat, rang upon the hard anterior
portion of her palate, and was cut, as it were, to its proper length
and shaped into perfect enunciation by her red tongue and beautiful
white teeth.

"What?" she said.

The undergraduate fell a little back.

"Only--I only asked if you'd been to many theatres lately."

"Not any."

"Oh!... I--I suppose you know everybody here?"

"Yes."

"Do point them out to me!"

"That's Walter Wyron. That's Mrs. Wyron. That's Miss Lemesurier. I
don't know who the little man is. That's Mr. Wilkinson. My name's
Belchamber."

"Oh--I say--I mean, thanks awfully. We've heard of them all, of
course," the unhappy young man faltered.

"What?"

"All distinguished names, I mean."

"Of course."

"Rather!----"

And again everybody listened, became conscious of the fact, and broke
out anew.

But where all this time was Amory?

Demonstrably, exactly where she ought to have been--in her bedroom. She
was too dispirited to be accessible to the rational talk of others; she
did not feel that she had energy enough to be a source of illumination
herself; surely, then, merely because a lot of people, invited and
uninvited, chose to come to The Witan, she need not put herself out
to go and look after them. They might call themselves her "guests" if
they liked; Amory didn't care what form of words they employed; the
underlying reality remained--that she was intensely bored, and too
fundamentally polite to bore others by going down. Perhaps she would go
down when Edgar came. She had left word that she was to be informed of
his arrival. But he was very late.

Nevertheless, she knew that he would come. Lately she had grown a
little more perspicacious about that. It had dawned on her that,
everything else apart, she had some sort of hold on him through the
"Novum," and there had been a trace of command in her summons that he
was pretty sure not to disregard. No doubt he would try to get away
again almost directly, but she had arranged about that. She intended to
keep him to supper. Also the Wyrons. And Britomart Belchamber too would
be there. And of course Cosimo.

She moved restlessly between her narrow bed and the window, now
polishing her nails, now glancing at her hair in the glass. From the
window she could see over the privet hedge and down the road, but there
was no sign of Edgar yet. She looked at herself again in the glass,
without favour, and then sat down on the edge of her bed again.

Her meeting with Lady Tasker the week before had greatly unsettled
her. Very stupidly, she had quite forgotten that Lady Tasker lived in
Cromwell Gardens. She would have thought nothing at all of the meeting
had Lady Tasker had a hat on her head and gloves on her hands; she
would have set that down as an ordinary street-encounter; but Dorothy's
aunt had evidently seen her from some window, perhaps not for the first
time, and, if not for the first, very likely for the third or fourth or
fifth. In a word, Amory felt that she had been caught.

And, as she had been thinking of Edgar Strong at the moment when the
old lady's voice had startled her so, it was not beyond the bounds of
possibility that her start had seemed remarkable. Lady Tasker was so
very sharp.

At all events, even Edgar was not going to have everything all his own
way.

For she was sure now that she had the hold of the "Novum" on him, and
that that hold was not altogether the single-minded devotion to his
duty he had made it out to be on that day when she had last gone to the
office. Not that she thought too unkindly of him on that account. The
labourer, even in the field of Imperial Politics, is still worthy of
his hire, and poor Edgar, like the rest of the world, had to make the
best compromise he could between what he would have liked to do and
what circumstances actually permitted him to do. Of course he would be
anxious to keep his job. If he didn't keep it a worse man would get it,
and India would be no better off, but probably worse. She sighed that
all work should be subject to compromises of this kind. Edgar, in a
word, was no longer a hero to her, but, by his very weakness, something
a little nearer and dearer still.

But for all that she had not hesitated to use her "pull" in order to
get him to The Witan that day.

She saw him as she advanced to the glass again. He was nearly a
quarter of a mile down the road. She found a little secret delight in
watching his approach when he was unconscious of her watching. His
figure was still very small, and she indulged herself with a fancy,
closing her eyes for a moment in order to do so. Suppose he had been,
not approaching, but going away--then when she opened her eyes again
he would look smaller still.... She opened them, and experienced a
little thrill at seeing him nearer and plainer. She could distinguish
the red spot of his tie. Now he turned his head to look at some people
who passed. Now he stepped off the pavement to make room for somebody.
Now he was on the pavement again--now hidden by a tree--now once more
disclosed, and quite near----

She straightened herself, gave a last look into the glass, and
descended.

She met him in the hall. They shook hands, but did not speak. There was
no need for him to ask whether anybody had come; the babble of noise
could be plainly heard through the closed studio door. They walked
along the passage, descended the two steps into the garden, and reached
the studio.

Strong opened the door, and--

"_Ha, ha, ha!_ I shall tell them that at the Nursery!----"

"No--just living together----"

"Corin!--Corin!----"

"The eighteenth, at the Little Theatre----"

Then the voice of Mr. Crabtree vociferating to his friend Mr. Wilkinson.

"I thowt ye telled me 'at Pratt knew all about it----"

"One day in the High, just opposite Queens----"

"Not know the '_Internationale_'!--Debout, les damnés de la terre----!"

Next, sonorously, Miss Belchamber.

"Yes, I dance 'Rufty Tufty' and 'Catching of Quails'----"

"But my good chap, don't you see that the Referendum----"

"Oh, throw it down anywhere--on the hearth----"

"Really, the bosh he talks----"

"The Minority Report----"

"Corin!----"

"Plato----"

"Prang----"

Then, before anybody had had time to notice the entry of Amory and
Edgar Strong, an extraordinary, not to say a regrettable thing occurred.

Mr. Eli Crabtree had spent the last twenty minutes in going
deliberately from one person to another, often thrusting himself
unceremoniously between two people already engaged in conversation,
and in subjecting them to questionings that had become less and less
reticent the further he had passed round the room. And it appeared
that this collier who had forgotten his Davy had yet another lamp
with him--the lamp of his own narrow intelligence and inalienable,
if worthless, experience. By the help of that darkness within him
that he mistook for light, he had added inference to inference and
conclusion to conclusion. Cosimo--Wilkinson--Walter Wyron--Brimby--the
Balliol men--the young students of the McGrath--he had missed not one
of them; but none knew the portent of his tour of the studio until he
had reached the hearth again. Then he was seen to be standing with his
hands behind him, as if calmly summing them up.

"By--Gow!" he said half to himself, his football-cropped head moving
this way and that and his eyes blinking rapidly as he sought somebody
to address.

Then, all in a moment, he ceased his attempt to single out one more
than another, and was addressing them in the lump, for all the world
as if he had been allowed the entrée of the house, not as a high and
memorable privilege and in order that he might learn something he had
never suspected before, but as if, finding himself there, _he_ might as
well tell _them_ a thing or two while he was about it. And though his
astonishment at what he had seen might well have rendered him dumb, his
good temper did not for an instant forsake him.

"By--Gow!" he said again. "But this is a menagerie, an' reight!"

The instantaneous dead silence and turn of every head might have
disconcerted a prophet, but they made not the slightest impression on
Mr. Crabtree.

"It _is_ a menagerie!" he continued superbly. "Ding, if onnybody'd told
me I wadn't ha' believed 'em!--Let's see how monny of ye there is----"

And calmly he began to count them.

"Fowerteen--fifteen--sixteen countin' them two 'at's just come in
an' leavin' out t' barns. Sixteen of ye, grown men an' women, an'
not a single one of ye knows ye're born! Nay, it's cappin'!--Him wi'
his Salmagundys or whativver he calls 'em, an' niver been on Douglas
Head!--T' maister here, 'at doesn't know what a back-to-back is, I'se
warrant!--An' yon chap--," Mr. Crabtree's forefinger was straight as
a pistol between Mr. Brimby's eyes, "--'at says there's a deeal to be
said o' both sides an'll be having his pocket'-ankercher out in a
minute!--An' these young men thro' t' Collidge!--Nay, if it doesn't
beat all! I ne'er thowt to live to see t' day!----"

And he made a T-t-t-ing with his tongue on his palate, while his sharp
little eyes looked on them all with amusement and pity.

Out of the silence of consternation that had fallen on the studio
Walter Wyron was the first to come. He nudged Cosimo, as if to warn him
not to spoil everything, and then, with his hands deep in the pockets
of his knickers and an anticipatory relish on his face, said "I say,
old chap--make us a speech, won't you?"

But if Walter thought to take a rise out of Mr. Crabtree he was quite,
quite mistaken. With good-natured truculence the collier turned on him
also.

"A speech?" he said. "Well, I wasn't at t' back o' t' door when t'
speechifyin'-powers was given out; it wadn't be t' first time I'd made
a speech, nut by a mugfull. Mony's t' time they've put Eali Crabtree
o' t' table i' t' 'Arabian Horse' at Aberford an' called on him for a
speech. I'd sooner mak' a speech nor have a quart o' ale teamed down
my collar, an' that's all t' choice there is when t' lads begins to
get lively!... I don't suppose onny o' ye's ever been i' t' 'Arabian
Horse'? We owt to come, of a oppenin'-time of a Sunda' morning. Ye'd
see a bit o' life. Happen ye might ha' to get at t' back o' t' door--if
they started slinging pints about, that is--but it's all love, and
ye've got to do summat wi' it when ye can't sup onny more. I should
like to have him 'at talks about t' Paraphernalia there; it 'ld oppen
his eyes a bit! An' him 'at wor reciting about t' King an' all--t'
little bastard i' t' corner there----"

At this word, used in so familiar and cheerful a sense, Laura Wyron
stiffened and turned her back; but Walter still hoped for his "rise."

"Go on," he said; "give us some more, old chap."

The child of nature needed no urging.

"Ay, as much as ivver ye like," he said accommodatingly. "But I wish
I'd browt my voice jewjewbes. Ay, I willn't be t' only one 'at isn't
talking! T' rest on ye talks--ding, it's like a lamb's tail, waggin'
all day and nowt done at neet--so we mud as weel all be friendly-like!
Talk! Ay, let's have a talk! Here ye all are, all wi' your fine voices
an' fine clothes, an' ivvery one o' ye wi' t' conveeanience i' t'
house, I don't doubt, an' I'll bet a gallon there isn't one o' ye's
ivver done a hands-turn i' your lives! Nay, ye're waur nor my Aunt
Kate! Come down to Aberford an' I'll show ye summat! Come--it's a
invitaation--I'll see it doesn't cost ye nowt! T' lads is all working,
all but t' youngest, an' we're nooan wi' out! No, we're nooan wi'out at
our house! I'll interdewce ye to t' missis, an' ye can help her to peel
t' potates, an' ye can go down i' t' cage if ye like! Come, an' I'll
kill a pig, just for love. Come of a Sunda' dinnertime, when t' beef's
hot. Wilkinson knows what I mean; he knows t' life; he reckons not to
when he's wi' his fine friends, but Wilkie's had to lie i' bed while
his shirt was being mended afore to-day!... Nay, the hengments!" He
broke into a jovial laugh. "Ye know nowt about it, an' ye nivver will!
These 'ere young pistills fro' t' Collidge--what are they maalakin'
at? It doesn't tak' five thousand pound a year to learn a lad not to
write a mucky word on a wall!" (Here Dickie Lemesurier turned her back
on the speaker).... "They want to get back to their Collidges. T' gap's
ower wide. They'll get lost o' t' road. Same as him 'at wrote t' book
about t' pop-shop----," again Mr. Crabtree's forefinger was levelled
between Mr. Brimby's eyes. "Brimbyin' about, an' they don't know a
black puddin' from a Penny Duck! Has he ivver had to creep up again
t' chimley-wall to keep himself warm i' bed, or to pull t' kitchen
blinds down while he washed himself of a Saturda' afternooin? But ye
can all come an' see if ye like. We've had to tew for it, but we're
nooan wi'out now. An' I'll show ye a bit o' sport too. We all have we'r
whippets, an' we can clock t' pigeons in, an' see what sort of a bat
these young maisters can mak' at knurr-an'-spell--eighteen-and-a-half
score my youngest lad does! Ay, we enjoy we'rsens! An' there's quoits
an' all. Eighteen yards is my distance if onnybody wants to laake for
a beast's-heart supper! Come--ding it, t' lot o' ye come! We can sleep
fower o' ye, wed 'uns, heads to tails, if ye don't mind all being i' t'
little cham'er----"

By this time Mr. Crabtree was having to struggle to keep his audience.
Mr. Brimby too had turned away, and Mr. Wilkinson, and even Miss
Belchamber had spoken several words of her own accord to the young
Balliol boy. The tide of sound began to rise again, so that once more
Mr. Crabtree's voice was only one among many. Then Walter started
forward with an "Ah, Amory!" and "Hallo, Strong!" Mr. Raffinger of the
McGrath exclaimed....

"Perseverance Row, fower doors from t' 'Arabian Horse'----", Mr.
Crabtree bawled hospitably through the hubbub....

"Oh, you _must_ see it--the New Greek Society, on the seventeenth----"

"But I say--what _is_ 'Catching of Quails,' Miss Belchamber----?"

"Mr. Wilkinson brought him, I think----"

"Fellow of All Souls, wasn't he?----"

Then that genial Aberford man again:

"I tell ye t' gap's ower wide, young man--ye'll get lost o' t' road----"

"No, the children take her name----"

"Got a match, old fellow?----"

"Rot, my dear chap!----"

"But what _is_ condonation if that isn't?----"

"Oh, the ordinary brainless Army type----"

"I read it in the German----"

"They gained time by paying in pennies----"

"In Père Lachaise----"

"Well, we can talk about it at suppertime----"

"But with cheaper Divorce----"

"One an' all--whenivver ye like--Eali Crabtree, Perseverance Row,
Aberford, fower doors from t' 'Arabian Horse'----"

"Nietzsche----"

"Finot----"

"Weininger----"

"Wadham----"

"Aberford----"

"Rufty Tufty----"



VI

THE SOUL STORM


"I--_say_!----"

"_Wasn't_ he priceless!----"

"You got his address, Cosimo? I _must_ cultivate him!----"

"Pure delight!----"

"You had come in, hadn't you, Amory?----"

"He _shot_ Brimby!----"

"To all intents and purposes--with his finger----"

"Can you do his accent, Walter?----"

"I will in a week, or perish----"

"His bath in the kitchen!----"

"T' wed 'uns can sleep i' t' little chamber----"

"No--he didn't sound the 'b' in 'chamber,' and there were at least
three 'a's' in it----"

"'T' little chaaam'er'----"

"No, you haven't quite got it----"

"Give me a little time----"

The party had dwindled to six--Cosimo and Amory, the Wyrons, and
Britomart Belchamber and Mr. Strong. They were still in the studio, but
they were only waiting for the supper-gong to ring. Cigarette ends were
thickly strewn about the asbestos log. The bandying of short ecstatic
phrases had been between Walter and his wife, with Cosimo a little
less rapturously intervening; the subject of them was, of course,
Mr. Crabtree. To his general harangue Mr. Crabtree had added, before
leaving, more particular words of advice, making a second tour of the
studio for the purpose; and he had distinguished Walter above all the
rest by inviting him, not merely to the house four doors from the
"Arabian Horse," but to spend a warm afternoon with him on Douglas Head
also.

But the Wyrons had these raptures pretty much to themselves. Perhaps
Cosimo was thinking of Mr. Wilkinson, of some new paper of which he had
never heard, and of the assumption that he, apparently, was to find the
money for it. Miss Belchamber was rarely rapturous, so that her silence
was nothing out of the way. Edgar Strong could be rapturous when he
chose, but he evidently didn't choose now. And Amory had far too much
on her mind.

Her original idea in asking the Wyrons to stay to supper had been
that they, as acknowledged experts in the subject that perplexed her,
would be the proper people to keep the ring while the four persons
immediately concerned talked the whole situation quietly and reasonably
and thoroughly out. But she was rather inclined now to think again
before submitting her case to them. It would be so much better, if the
case must be submitted to anybody, that Cosimo should do it. Then she
herself would be able to shape her course in the light of anything that
might turn up. Nothing, she had to admit, had turned up yet, and Amory
was not sure that in that very fact there did not lie a sufficient
cause for resentment. Had Cosimo pleaded a passion for Britomart
Belchamber he would have had Passion's excuse. Lacking Passion, it
could only be concluded that he was bored with Amory herself.

And that amounted to an insult....

The booming of the gong, however, cut short her brooding. They passed
to the dining-room. Britomart and Walter sat with their backs to the
tall black dresser with the willow pattern stretching up almost to the
ceiling; Laura and Edgar took the German chairs that had their backs to
the copper-hooded fireplace; and Cosimo and Amory occupied either end
of the highly polished clothless table. This absence of cloth, by the
way, gave a church-like appearance to the flames of the candles in the
spidery brass sticks that had each of them a ring at the top to lift
it up by; the preponderance of black oak and dull black frames on the
walls further added to the effect of gloom; and the putting down of the
little green pipkins of soup and the moving of the green-handled knives
and round-bowled spoons made little knockings from time to time.

Again Walter and Laura, with not too much help from Cosimo, sustained
the weight of the conversation; and it was not until Amory asked a
question in a tone from which rapture was markedly absent that they
sponged, as it were, the priceless memory of Mr. Crabtree from their
minds. Amory's question had been about Walter's new Lecture, still in
course of preparation, on "_Post-Dated Passion_"; and Walter cursorily
ran over its heads for the general benefit.

"I admit I got the idea from Balzac," he said between mouthfuls
(whenever they came to The Witan the Wyrons supped almost as
heartily as did Edgar Strong himself). "'Comment l'amour revient aux
vieillards,' you know. But of course that hasn't any earthy interest
for anybody. 'Aux vieilles' it ought to be. Then--well, then you've
simply got 'em."

"Why not 'vieillards?'" Amory asked, not very genially.

"I say, Cosimo, I'll have another cutlet if I may.--Why not
'vieillards?' Quite obvious. Men aren't the interest. I've tried men,
and you can ask Laura how the bookings went.--But 'vieilles' and I've
got 'em. Really, Amory, you're getting quite dull if you don't see
that! I'll explain. You see, I've already got the younger ones, like
Brit here--shove the claret along, Brit--but the others, of forty or
fifty say, well, they've all had their affairs--or if they haven't
better still--and it's merely a question of touching the right chord.
Regrets, time they've lost, fatal words 'Too late' and so on--it's
simply _made_ for me! Touch the chord and they do the rest for
themselves. They probably won't hear half of it for sobbing.--Of course
I shall probably have to modify my style a bit--not quite so--what
shall I say----"

"Jaunty," his wife suggested, "--in the best sense, I mean----"

"Hm--that's not quite the word--but never mind. It's a great field.
Certainly women, not men, are the draw."

Amory made a rather petulant objection, and the argument lasted some
minutes. In the end Walter triumphantly gained his first point, that
women and not men were the "draw" in the box-office sense; and also
his second one, namely, that not the Britomarts, but the older women,
who would put their hearts into his hands and pay him for exploiting
their helplessness and ache and tenderness and regret, and never
suspect that they were being practised upon, were "simply made for
him...." "What do you think of my title?" he asked.

And the title was discussed.

Amory was beginning to find Walter just a little grasping. She wished
that after all she had not asked the Wyrons to stay to supper. Formerly
she had thought that marriage-escapade of theirs big and heroic (that
too, by the way, had been in the Latin Quarter, and probably on seven
francs a day); but now she was less sure about that. Quite apart from
the inapplicability of the Wyrons' experience to her own case, she
now wondered whether theirs had in fact been experience at all. Now
that she came to think of it, they had taken no risks. They _had_ been
married, and in the last event could always turn round on their critics
and silence them with that fact....

Nor was she quite so ready now to lay even the souls of Britomart and
Cosimo on the dissecting-table for the sake of seeing Walter exercise
his professional skill upon them. This was not so much that she wanted
to spare Cosimo and Britomart as that she did not want to give Walter
a gratification. She was inclined to think that if Walter couldn't
be a little more careful about contradicting her he might find his
advertisement omitted from the "Novum" one week, as Katie Deedes'
had been omitted, and where would he be then? The way in which he had
just said that she was "getting quite dull" had been next door to a
rudeness....

But she had to admit that she felt dull. Edgar, who sat next to her,
did not speak, and Cosimo, who faced her, was apparently still brooding
on people who planned the spending of his money without thinking it
necessary to consult him first. She was tired of the whole of the
circumstances of her life. Paris on seven francs a day could hardly be
much worse. Nor, if she could but shake off her lethargy, need that
sum be fixed as low as seven francs. For she had lately remembered
an arrangement made between herself and Cosimo before she had ever
consented to become engaged to him. It was a long time since either of
them had spoken of this arrangement--so long that Cosimo would have
been almost within his rights had he maintained that the circumstances
had so altered as to make it no longer binding; but there it was,
or had been, and it had never been expressly revoked. It was the
arrangement by which they had set apart a fund to insure themselves,
either or both of them, against any evils that might arise from
incompatibility. Amory had no idea how the matter now stood. She didn't
suppose for a moment that Cosimo had actually set a sum by each week
or month; but, hard and fast or loose and fluid, he must have made,
or be still ready to make, some provision. It was an inherent part of
the contract that a solemn affirmation, with reason shown (spiritual,
not mere legal reason) by either one or the other, should constitute a
sufficient claim on this fund.

Therefore Paris need not necessarily be the worst penury.

But, for all her new inclination to leave the Wyrons out of it, she
still thought it a prudent idea to carry the fight (not that there
would be any fight--that was only a low way of expressing the high
reasonableness that always prevailed at The Witan) to Cosimo and
Britomart, rather than to have it centre about Edgar and herself.
Walter's eyes were mainly on the box-office nowadays. The original
virtue of that fine protest of theirs was--there was no use in denying
it--gone. He spread his Lectures frankly now as a net. Well, that
was only one net more among the many nets of which she was becoming
conscious. Edgar too, poor boy, was compelled to regard even the
"Novum" as in some manner a net. Mr. Brimby, Amory more than guessed,
had nets to spread. Mr. Wilkinson, in his own way, was out for a catch;
and Dickie fished at the Suffrage Shop; and Katie had fished at the
Eden; and the only one who didn't fish was Mr. Prang, who wrote his
articles about India for nothing, just to be practising his English.

All these nets were spread for somebody's money--a good deal of it
Cosimo's. It had been the same, though perhaps not quite so bad, at
Ludlow. That experiment on the country-side had been alarmingly costly.
And all this did not include the dozens and dozens of nets of narrower
mesh. The "Novum" might gulp down money by the hundred, but the lesser
things were hardly less formidable in the sum of them--subscriptions,
contributions, gifts, loans, investments, shares in the Eden and the
Book Shop, mortgages, second mortgages, subsidies, sums to "tide over,"
backings, guarantees, losses cut, more good money sent to bring back
the bad, fresh means of spending devised by somebody or other almost
every day. It had begun to weary even Amory. The people who came to The
Witan became rather curiously better-dressed the longer their visiting
continued; but the things they professed to hold dear appeared very
little further advanced. All that first brightness and promise had
gone. Amory's interest had gone. She wanted to escape from it all, and
to go away with Edgar appeared once more to be the readiest way out.

But, though she might now wish to keep Walter Wyron out of it all,
that did not necessarily mean that Walter would be kept out. This
_ex-officio_ specialist on the (preferably female) heart, this
professional rectifier of unfortunate marriages, had not done a number
of years' platform-work without having discovered the peculiar beauties
of the _argumentum ad hominem_, and it was one of his practices to
enforce his arguments with "Take the case of Brit here"--or "Let's
get down to the concrete: suppose Amory--" And these descents to
the particular had always a curiously accusatory effect. Walter,
interrupting Amory's meditation, broke into one of them now.

"But my dear chap,"--this was to Cosimo, "--I can't imagine what's come
over all of you to-night! First Amory, now you! You're usually quicker
than this! Let's take a case.--Brit here----"

One sterno-mastoid majestically turned the caryatid's head. Again Miss
Belchamber's grand thorax worked as if somebody had put a penny into
the slot.

"What?" she said.

"Quiet, Brit; I'm only using you as an illustration.--Suppose Brit here
was to develop a passion for somebody--Cosimo, say; yes, Cosimo'll
do capitally; awfully good instance of the cant that's commonly
talked about 'treachery' and 'under his own roof' and all the rest
of it--as if a roof wasn't a roof and it hadn't got to be under
somebody's--unless they went out on the Heath!--Well, suppose it was to
happen to Cosimo and Brit; what then? We're civilized, I hope. We're
a little above the animals, I venture to think. Amory wouldn't fly at
Brit's eyes, and Brit's father wouldn't come round with a razor to cut
Cosimo's throat. In fact----"

"My fa-ther al-ways uses a safety-razor," said Miss Belchamber with a
reminiscent air.

"Don't interrupt, Brit.--I was going to say that the world's got past
all that. Nor Brit wouldn't fly at Amory, nor Cosimo kick the old
josser out of the house--though we should be much more ready to condone
that part of it if they did--if it was only to get quits with the past
a bit----"

"My fa-ther's forty-five," Miss Belchamber announced, as the
interesting result of an interesting mental process of computation.
"Next June," she added.

"More interruptions from the back of the hall.--In fact, I'm not sure
that _wouldn't_ be entirely defensible--Brit going for Amory and Cosimo
kicking the old dodderer out, I mean. That's the justification of the
_crime passionel_. It's the Will to Live. And by Live I mean Love. It's
the old saying, that kissing lips have no conscience. Or Jove laughs at
lovers' oaths. Quite right. It's the New Greek Spirit. But for all that
we're modern and rational about these things. If Strong here wanted to
take Laura from me I should simply say, 'All you've got to do, my dear
chap, is to table your reasons, and if they're stronger than mine you
take her.' See?"

At that Edgar Strong, like Britomart, looked up. He spoke for the first
time.--"What's that you're saying?" he asked.

"I don't suppose you'd want her, but suppose you did...."

Mr. Strong dropped his eyes to his plate again.--"Ah, yes," he said.
"Ellen Key's got something about that." And he relapsed into silence
again.

It sounded to Amory idiotic. Walter was so evidently "trying" it on
them in order to see how it would go down with an audience afterwards.
She wouldn't have scratched Britomart's eyes out for Cosimo,--but she
coloured a little, and bit her lip, at the thought that somebody might
want to come between herself and Edgar.... But perhaps that was what
Walter meant--real affinities, as distinct from the ordinary vapid
assumptions about marriages being made in Heaven. If so, she agreed
with him--not that she was much fonder of him on that account. She
wished he would keep his personalities for Cosimo and Britomart, and
leave herself and Edgar alone.--Walter went on.

"And then, when you've got your New Greek Certificate, so to speak,
it's plainly the duty of everybody else, not to put obstacles in your
way and to threaten you with razors and cutting off supplies, but to
sink their personal feelings and to do everything they can to help you.
And without snivelling either. I shouldn't snivel, I hope, if anybody
took Laura, and she wouldn't if anybody took me----"

Here Laura interposed softly.--"I don't want any one to take you,
dear," she said.

Walter turned sharply.

"Eh?... Now you've put me off my argument.... What was I saying?...
Haven't I told you you must _never_ do that, Laura?... No, it's quite
gone.... You see...."

Laura murmured that she was very sorry....

"No, it's gone," said Walter, almost cheerfully, as if not sorry that
for once the worth of what he had been about to say should be measured
by the sense of loss. "So since Laura wishes it I'll shut up."

He passed up his plate for a second helping of trifle.

By this time Amory was perhaps rather glad that she had had the Wyrons
after all. That about people not putting obstacles in the way was quite
neat. "A plain duty," he had said. She hoped Cosimo'd heard that, and
would remember it when she raised the subject of the fund. And so far
was she herself from putting obstacles in _his_ way that, although she
could have sent Britomart Belchamber packing with her wages at any
moment, she had not done so. That, as Walter had said, would only have
been another way of flying at her eyes.... Besides, Amory had been
far too deeply occupied to formulate definitely her charges against
Cosimo and Britomart. For all she knew it might have gone much, much
further than she had thought. Sometimes, when Amory took breakfast in
her own room, she did not see Cosimo until the evening, and Britomart
too had heaps of time on her hands when she had finished with Corin
and Bonniebell. Cosimo must not tell her that the "_Life and Work_"
occupied him during every minute of his time....

Then, presently, she was sorry again that the Wyrons had been asked,
for Walter had suddenly remembered the thread of his discourse, and,
in continuing it, had been almost rude to Laura. She wondered whether
he would have turned with a half angry "Why, what's the matter?" had
Laura cried. Perhaps it was really a good thing the Wyrons hadn't
any children, for this kind of thing would certainly have been a bad
example for them. She herself was never rude to Cosimo before Corin and
Bonniebell. She was always markedly polite. There were excuses to be
made for Passion, but none for rudeness.

By this time Edgar Strong had finished his last piece of cheese and was
wiping his lips with his napkin. Then he looked at his watch, and for
the second time during the course of the meal spoke.

"Look here, Cosimo, I've got to be off presently, and we haven't
settled about those advertisements yet. And there's something else I
want to say to you too. Could we hurry coffee up? Where do we have it?
In the studio, I suppose? Or do the others go into the studio and you
and Walter and I have ours here?"

"We might as well all go into the studio," said Cosimo, rising; and
they left the sombre room and sought the studio, all except Miss
Belchamber, who went upstairs.

The sight of the innumerable cigarette-ends about the asbestos log
reminded Walter of Mr. Crabtree again; and for a minute or two--that
is to say during the time that Walter, taking her aside, told her of
the quiet but penetrating side-light Mr. Crabtree had innocently shed
on Mr. Wilkinson's scheme for some new paper or other that Cosimo was
to finance--Amory was once more glad that the Wyrons had come. But the
next moment, as Walter loitered away and Laura came and sat softly down
beside her, she was sorry again. Laura was gently crying. That struck
Amory as stupid. As if she hadn't enough great troubles of her own,
without burdening herself with the Wyrons' trivial ones!

So, as she had nothing really helpful to say to Laura, she left her,
and sat down on the footstool she had occupied on the day when Edgar
Strong had said that he liked the casts and had asked her whether she
had read something or other--she forgot what.

Edgar was talking in low tones to Cosimo, and Amory thought she heard
the name of Mr. Prang. Then Cosimo, who always thought more Imperially
with a map before him, got out the large atlas, and the two of them
bent over it together. Walter joined them, and, after an interlude that
appeared to be about the Lectures' advertisement, Walter strolled
away again and joined Laura. Amory heard an "Eh?" and a moment later
the word "touchy," and Walter went off to the window with his hands
in the pockets of his knickers, whistling. Edgar took not the least
notice of Amory's eyes intently fixed upon him. He continued to talk
to Cosimo. Walter, who was examining a Japanese print, called over his
shoulder, "This a new one, Amory? What is it--Utamaro?" Then he walked
up to where Laura sat again. He was speaking in an undertone to her:
"Rubbish ... take on like that ... better clear off then"; and a moment
later, seeing Edgar Strong buttoning up his coat, he called out, "Wait
a minute, Strong--we're going down too--get your hat, Laura----"

Five minutes later Cosimo Pratt and his wife were alone.

It was the first time they had been so for nearly a fortnight. Indeed,
for weeks the departure of the last visitor had been the signal for
their own good-night, Cosimo going his way, she hers. There had never
been anything even remotely approaching a "scene" to account for this.
It had merely happened so.

Therefore, finding himself alone with his wife in the studio again,
Cosimo yawned and stretched his arms above his head.

"Ah-h-h!... You going to bed?"

As he would hardly be likely to take himself off before she had
answered his question, Amory did not reply at once. She sat down on
the footstool and stretched her hands out to the asbestos log. Then,
after a minute, and without looking up, she broke one of their tacitly
accepted rules by asking a direct question.

"What were you and Edgar Strong discussing?" she asked.

He yawned again.--"Oh, the Bookshop advertisement--and advertisements
generally. It begins to look as if we should have to be less exclusive
about these things. Strong tells me that it's unheard of for a paper to
refuse any advertisement it can get."

"I mean when you got out the atlas."

"Oh--India, of course. The Indian policy. Strong isn't altogether
satisfied about Prang. He seems to think he might get us into trouble."

"How? Why?" Amory said, her eyes reflectively on the purring gas-jets.

"Can't make out. Some fancy of his. The policy hasn't changed, and
Prang hasn't changed. I wonder whether Wilkinson's right when he
says Strong's put his hand to the plough but is now ... _ah!_ That
reminds me!--Were you here when that preposterous fellow--what's his
name--Crabtree--rather let the cat out of the bag about Wilkinson?"

"You mean about another paper? No. But Walter said something about it."

"Yes, by Jove! He seems to have it all cut-and-dried! Crabtree seems to
think I knew all about it. Of course I did know that Wilkinson had a
scheme, but I'd no idea he was jumping ahead at that rate. I don't want
two papers. One's getting rather serious."

Still without looking at her husband, Amory said, "How, serious?"

"Why, the expense. I'm not sure that we didn't take the wrong line
about the advertisements. Anyway, something will have to be done.
Thirty pounds a week is getting too stiff. I'm seriously thinking of
selling out from the Eden and the Bookshop. Do you know that with one
thing and another we're down more than three thousand pounds this year?"

Amory was surprised; but she realized instinctively that that was not
the moment to show her surprise. Were she to show it, the moment would
not be opportune for the raising of the subject of the fund, and she
wanted to raise that subject. And she wanted to raise it in connexion
with Cosimo and Britomart Belchamber. She continued to gaze at the
log. The servants, she thought, might have taken the opportunity of
dinner to sweep up the litter of cigarette-ends that surrounded it; and
then she had a momentary fancy. It was, that the domestic relations
that existed between herself and Cosimo were a thing that, like that
mechanical substitute for a more generous fire, could be turned off and
on as it were by the mere touching of a tap. She wondered what made her
think of that....

Cosimo had taken out his penknife and was scraping his nails, moodily
running over items of disbursement as he scraped; and then the silence
fell between them again.

It was Amory who broke it, and in doing so she turned her head for the
first time. She gave her husband a look that meant that, though he
might talk about expenses, she also had a subject.

"Walter was excessively stupid to-night," she said abruptly.

He said "Oh?" and went on scraping.

"At the best he's never a model of tact, but I thought he rather
overstepped the mark at dinner."

Again he said "Oh?" and added, "What about?"

"His manners. His ideas are all right, I suppose, but I'm getting
rather tired of his platform-tricks."

"His habit of illustration and so on?"

"And his want of tact generally. In fact I'm not sure it isn't more
than that. In a strange house it would have been simply a _faux pas_,
but he knows us well enough, and the arrangement between us. He might
at any rate wait till he's called in."

Cosimo started on another nail.--"What arrangement?" he said.

Again Amory gave him that look that might have told him that, though he
might think that only a lot of money had gone, she knew that something
far more vital had gone with it.

"Do you mean that you didn't hear what he was saying about you and
Britomart Belchamber?"

"Yes, I heard that, of course. Of course I heard it."

"Well?"

"Well!"

And this time their eyes met in a long look....

Cosimo had only himself to thank for what happened to him then. After
all, you cannot watch a superb piece of female mechanism playing
"Catching of Quails," and openly admire the way in which it can shut
up like a clasp-knife and fold itself upon itself like a multiple
lever, and pretend to be half in love with it lest sharp eyes should
see that you are actually half in love with it, and take it for walks,
and discuss Walter's Lectures with it, and tell it frequently how
different things might have been had you been ten years younger, and
warn it to be a good girl because of dangerous young men, and stroke
its hair, and tell it what beautiful eyes it has, and kiss its hand
from time to time, and walk with your arm protectingly about its
waist, and so on and so forth, day after day--you cannot, after all,
do these things and be entirely unflurried when your ever-so-slightly
tiresome wife reminds you that, be it only by way of illustration,
a young expert in such matters has coupled your name with that of
the passive object of your philanderings. Nor can you reasonably be
surprised when that wife gives you a long look, that doesn't reproach
you for anything except for your stupidity or hypocrisy if you pretend
not to understand, and then resumes her meditative gazing into a
patent asbestos fire. Appearances _are_ for the moment against you.
You can_not_ help for one moment seeing it as it must have appeared
all the time to somebody else. Of course you know that you are in the
right really, and the other person entirely wrong, and that with a
little reasonableness on that other person's part you could make this
perfectly clear; but you _are_ rather trapped, you know it, and the
state of mind in which you find yourself is called by people who aren't
anybody in particular "flurry."

Which is perhaps rather a long way of saying that Cosimo was suddenly
and entirely disconcerted.

And his flurry included a certain crossness and impatience with Amory.
She was--could be--only pretending. She knew perfectly well that there
was nothing really. The least exercise of her imagination must have
told her that to press Britomart Belchamber's hand, for example, was
the most innocent of creature-comforts. Why, he had pressed it with
Amory herself there; he had said, jokingly, and Amory had heard him,
that it was a desirable hand to press, and he had pressed it. And so
with Britomart's dancing of "Rufty Tufty." Amory, who, like Cosimo, had
had an artist's training, ought to be the last person to deny that any
eye so trained did not see a hundred beauties where eyes uneducated saw
one only. And that of course meant chaste beauties. Such admiration was
an exercise in analysis, not in amorousness.... No, it was far more
likely that Amory was getting at him. She was smiling, a melancholy
and indifferent little smile, at the asbestos log. She had no right
to smile like that. It made him feel beastly. It made him so that he
didn't know what to say....

But she continued to smile, and when Cosimo did at last speak he hated
himself for stammering.

"But--but--but--oh, come, Amory, this _is_ absurd! You're--you're
tired! Me and Britomart! Oh, c-c-come!----"

And then it occurred to him that this was a ridiculous answer, and that
the proper answer to have made would have been simply to laugh. He did
laugh.

"Ha, ha, ha! By Jove, for the moment you almost took me in! You really
did get a rise out of me that time! Congratulations.--And I admit it is
rather cool of Walter to pounce on the first name that occurs to him
and make use of it in that way. Deuced cool when you come to think of
it. It seems to me----"

But again that quite calm and unreproaching look silenced him. There
was a loftiness and serenity about it that reminded him of the Amory of
four or five years before. And she spoke almost with a note of wonder
at him in her tone.

"My dear Cosimo," she said very patiently, "what is the matter? You
look at me as if I had accused you of something. Nothing was further
from my thoughts. I suppose, when you examine it, it's a matter for
congratulation, not accusation at all. As Walter said, I don't want to
fly at anybody's eyes. We foresaw this, and provided for it, you know."

At this cool taking for granted of a preposterous thing Cosimo's
stammer became a splutter.--"But--but--but--," he broke out: but Amory
held up her hand.

"I raise no objection. I've no right to. What earthly right have I,
when I concurred before ever we were married?"

"Concurred!... My dear girl, concurred in what? Really this is the most
ridiculous situation I was ever in!"

Amory raised her brows.--"Oh?... I don't see anything ridiculous about
it. It received my sanction when Britomart stopped in the house, and I
haven't changed my mind. As I say, we foresaw it, and provided for it."

"'It!'" Cosimo could only pipe--one little note, high and thin as that
of a piccolo. Amory continued.

"I'm not asking a single question about it. I'm not even curious. I
didn't become your property when we married, and you're not mine. Our
souls are our own, both of us. I think we were very wise to foresee it
quite at the beginning.--And don't think I'm jealous. Perfectly truly,
I wish you every happiness. Britomart's a very pretty girl, and nobody
can say she's always making a display of her cleverness, like some of
them. I respect your privacy, and want you to do the best you can with
your life."

The piccolo note changed to that of a bassoon.--"Amory--listen to me."

"No. I'd _very_ much rather not hear anything about it. As Walter said,
Life _is_ Love, and I only mentioned this at all to-night because there
is one quite small practical detail that doesn't seem to me entirely
satisfactory."

She understood Cosimo to ask what that was.

"This: You ought to be fair to her. I know you'll forgive my mentioning
anything so vulgar, but it is--about money. She can't be expected to
think of such things herself just now,"--there were whole honeymoons
in the reasonable little nod Amory gave, "--and so _I_ mention it.
It's my place to do so. For us all just to dip our hands into a common
purse doesn't seem to me very satisfactory. She's rights too that I
shouldn't dream of disputing. And don't think I'm assuming more than
there actually is. I only mean that I don't see why, in certain events,
you shouldn't, et cetera; that's all I mean. You see?... But I admit
that for everybody's sake I should like things put on a proper footing
without loss of time."

Cosimo had begun to wander up and down among the saddlebag chairs. His
slender fingers rested aimlessly on the backs of them from time to
time. Amory thought that he was about to try the remaining notes within
the compass of his voice, but instead he suddenly straightened himself.
He appeared to have come to a resolution. He strode towards the door.

"Where are you going?" Amory asked.

"I'm going to fetch Britomart," he replied shortly. "This is
preposterous."

But again he hesitated, as perhaps Amory surmised he might. His offer,
if it meant anything, ought to have meant that his conscience was so
clear that Amory might catechize Britomart to her heart's content; but
there _had_ been those hair-strokings and hand-pattings, and--and--and
Britomart, as Amory had said, was "not always making a display of
her cleverness." She might, indeed, let fall something even more
disconcerting than the rest--

Cosimo was trying a bluff.

In a word, between fetching Britomart and not fetching her, Amory had
her husband by the short hairs.

She mused.--"Just a moment," she said.

And then she rose from the footstool, put one hand on the edge of the
mantelpiece, and with the other drew up her skirt an inch or two and
stretched out her slipper to the log.

"It really isn't necessary to fetch Britomart," she said after a
moment, looking up. "Fetch her if you prefer it, of course, but first I
want to say something else--something quite different."

That it was something quite different seemed to be a deep relief to
Cosimo. He returned from the door again.

"What's that?" he said.

"It's different," Amory said slowly, "but related. Let me think a
moment how to put it.... You were speaking a few minutes ago of selling
out from the Eden and the Suffrage Shop. If I understand you, things
aren't going altogether well."

"They aren't," said Cosimo, almost grimly.

"And then," Amory continued, "there's Mr. Prang. Neither you nor Strong
seem very satisfied about him."

"It's Strong who isn't satisfied. I've no complaints to make about
Prang."

"Well, I've been thinking about that too, and I've had an idea. I'm not
sure that after all Strong mayn't be right. I admit Prang states a case
as well as it could be stated; the question is whether it's quite the
case we _want_ stated. His case is ours to a large extent, but perhaps
not altogether. And as matters stand we're in his hands about India,
simply because he knows more about it than we do. You see what I mean?"

"Not quite," said Cosimo.

"No? Well, let me tell you what I've been thinking...."

Those people who are nobodys, and have not had the enormous advantage
of being taken by the hand by the somebodys, are under a misconception
about daring and original ideas. The ideals seem original and daring to
them because the processes behind them are hidden. The inferior mind
does not realize of itself that every sudden and miraculous blooming is
already an old story to somebody.

But Cosimo occupied a sort of intermediary position between the sources
of inspiration and the flat levels of popular understanding. Remember,
he was in certain ways one of the public; but at the same time he was
the author of the "_Life and Work_." He took his Amory, so to speak,
nascent. Therefore, when she gave utterance to a splendour, he credited
himself with just that measure of participation in it that causes us
humbler ones, when we see the airman's spiral, to fancy our own hands
upon the controls, or, when we read a great book, to sun ourselves
in the flattering delusion that we do not merely read, but, in some
mysterious sense, participate in the writing of it also.

And so the words which Amory spoke now--words which would have
caused you or me to give a gasp of admiration--affected him less
extraordinarily.

"Why don't you go to India and see for yourself?" she said.

Nevertheless, Cosimo was not altogether unaffected. Even to his
accustomed ear it was rather stupendous, and, if he hadn't been again
uneasily wondering whether he dared risk having Britomart down when
Amory should return to the former subject again, might have been more
stupendous still. He resumed his walk along the saddlebag chairs, and,
when at last he did speak, did not mar a high occasion with too much
vulgar demonstrativeness.

"That's an idea," he said simply.

"You see, Mr. Chamberlain went to South Africa," Amory replied, as
simply.

"Yes," said Cosimo thoughtfully.... "It's certainly an idea."

"And you know how people have been getting at the 'Novum' lately, and
even suggesting that Prang was merely a pen-name for Wilkinson himself."

"Yes, yes."

"Well, if you went, for six months, say, or even three, nobody'd be
able to say after that that you didn't know all about it."

"No," Cosimo replied.

"The stupid people go. Why not the people with eyes and minds?"

"Exactly," said Cosimo, resuming his walk.

Then, as if he had been a mere you or a simple me, the beauty of the
idea did begin to work a little in him. He walked for a space longer,
and then, turning, said almost with joy, "I say, Amory--would you
_like_ to go?"

But Amory did not look up from the slippered foot she had again begun
to warm.--"Oh, I shouldn't go," she said absently.

"You mean me to go by myself?" said Cosimo, the joy vanishing again.

Then it was that Amory returned to the temporarily relinquished subject
again.

"Well ...", she said, with a return of the quiet and wan but brave
smile, "... I've nothing to do with that. I shouldn't set detectives to
watch you. I was speaking for the moment purely from the point of view
of the 'Novum's' policy.--But I see what you mean."

But Cosimo didn't mean that at all. He interposed eagerly, anxiously.

"You _do_ jump to conclusions!"--he began.

"My _dear_ Cosimo," she put up her hand, "I'm doing nothing of the
kind. As I said, the other isn't my affair. Oh, I do wish you'd believe
that I was perfectly calm about it! As Emerson said, soul ought to
speak from the top of Olympus or something, and, except that I want
you to be happy, it's a matter of indifference to me who you go with.
Do try to see that, Cosimo. Let's try to behave like civilized beings.
We agreed long ago that sex was only a matter of accident. Don't let's
make it so hatefully pivotal. After all, what practical difference
would it make?"

But this was too much for Cosimo. He must have Britomart down and take
his chance, that was all. At the worst, he did not see how Amory could
be so unreasonable that a hand-pat or a hair-stroke or two could not be
put before her in the proper light.

Unfortunately, the trouble was, not that she made a fuss, but that she
made so little fuss....

Again he moved towards the door.

But Miss Belchamber herself, as it happened, saved him the trouble
of fetching her. Their hands were at the door at the same moment,
his inside, hers outside. She entered. She was wrapped in the large
black-and-gold Chinese dressing-gown Cosimo had given her for a
Christmas present, and there were pantofles on her bare feet, and her
hair hung down her back in two enormous yellow plaits. She was eating a
large piece of cake.

"I've left the hot water tap running," she announced. "I hadn't gone to
bed. Does anybody else want a bath? I like lots of hot baths. I came
down for a piece of cake."

She crossed to the sofa, crammed the last piece of cake into her mouth,
dusted the crumbs from her fingers, tucked the dressing-gown close
under her, and with her fingers began softly to perform the motions of
_pétrissage_ upon herself in the region of the _erectors spinae_. As
she did so she again spoke, placidly and syllabically.

"I made a mistake," she said. "Father's forty-six. Next June. And
I shall go to Walter's new Lecture. He's in the guard's van. I
mean the van-guard. And Prince Ead-mond's is in the van-guard too.
Especially Miss Miles. She says the Saturn-alia is a time of great
li-cen-tiousness and dancing. Are they going to start it soon?"

Cosimo was nervous again. He cleared his throat.--"Britomart--," he
began; but Miss Belchamber went on.

"I hope they are. Walter says it would be a very good thing. I shall
dance 'Rufty Tufty.' And 'The Black Nag.' I love 'The Black Nag.'
That's why I'm having a hot bath. Hot baths open the pores, or
sweat-ducts. Then you close them again with a cold sponge. I always
close them again with a cold sponge."

Cosimo cleared his throat again and had another try.--"Listen,
Britomart--we were talking about you----"

Miss Belchamber looked complacently at her crossed Parian-marble
ankles. Then she raised one of them, and her fingers explored the
common tendon of the soleus and gastrocnemius.

"The soleus," she said, "acts when the knee-joint is flexed. In 'Rufty
Tufty' it acts. Both of them, of course. And the manage-ment of the
breath is very important. It would be a very good thing if every-body
opened their windows and took a hun-dred deep breaths before the
Saturn-alia begins. I shall, and I shall make Corin and Bonniebell. Or
won't they be able to go if it's very late? If it's after their bedtime
I could bring them away early and then go back. I am so looking forward
to it."

Cosimo made a third attempt.--"Britomart--", he said gravely.

"What?" said Miss Belchamber.

"I want to tell you about a rather important discussion we've been
having----"

"Then shall I go and turn the tap off? The water will run cold. Then
the sweat-ducts would have to be closed before they are opened, and
that's wrong."

But this time Amory had moved towards the door. Cosimo, and not she,
had wanted Miss Belchamber down, and now that he had got her he might
amuse her. She thought he looked extremely foolish, but that was his
lookout; she was going to bed. It seemed an entirely satisfactory
moment in which to do so. She had managed better than she had hoped.
The question of the fund had been satisfactorily raised, and it was
obvious that the "Novum" would gain by having somebody on the spot,
somebody perhaps less biassed than Mr. Prang, to advise upon its Indian
policy. At the door she turned her nasturtium-coloured head.

"You might think over what I've been saying," she said. "We can talk of
it again in a day or two. Especially my second suggestion, that about
the 'Novum.' That seems to me very well worth considering. Good night."

And she passed out, leaving Cosimo plucking his lip irresolutely, and
Miss Britomart Belchamber deeply interested in the common tendon of the
other soleus and gastrocnemius.



PART III



I

LITMUS


It was on an afternoon in May, and the window of Dorothy's flat
overlooking the pond was wide open. Ruffles of wind chased one another
from moment to moment across the water, and the swans, guarding their
cygnets, policed the farther bank, where dogs ran barking. The two
elder Bits played in the narrow strip of garden below; again the frieze
of the room was a soft net of rippling light; and the brightness of the
sun--or so Ruth Mossop declared--had put the fire out.

Ruth was alone in the flat. As she passed between the pond-room and the
kitchen, re-lighting the fire, "sweeping in," and preparing tea, she
sang cheerfully to herself, "_A few more years shall roll, a few more
sorrows come._" Ruth considered that the sorrows would probably come by
means of the youngest Bit. He ought (she said) to have been a little
girl. Then, in after years, he might have been a bit of comfort to his
mother. Boys, in Ruth's experience, were rarely that.

As she put the cakes for tea into the oven of the stove there came a
milk-call from below. Ruth leaned out of the lift-window, and there
ensued a conversation with the white-jacketed milk-boy.

"Saw your guv'nor last night," the boy grinned.

"Where's that cream I ordered, and that quart of nursery milk? You
can't mind your business for thinking of picture palaces."

"Keep your 'air on; coming up now.--I say, they put 'is 'ead under a
steam-'ammer. I said it was a dummy, but Gwen said it wasn't. _Was_ it
'im?"

"You mind your own interference, young man, and leave others to mind
theirs; you ought to have something better to do with your threepences
than collecting cigarette cards and taking girls to the pictures."

"It was in '_Bullseye Bill: A Drarmer of Love an' 'Ate_'--'Scoundrel,
'ow dare you speak those words to a pure wife an' mother on the very
threshold of the 'Ouse of----'"

"That's enough, young man--we don't want language Taken in Vain
here--and you can tell 'em at your place we're leaving soon."

"But _was_ that 'im in the long whiskers at the end, when the powder
magazine blew up?"

But Ruth, taking her cans, shut down the window and returned to the
kitchen.

"'Then O, my Lord, prepare----'" she crooned as she gave a peep into
the oven and then clanged the door to again, "'My soul for that blest
day----'"

They were leaving soon. Already the sub-letting of the flat was in an
agent's hands, and soon Stan would be braving the perils of his career
no longer. Dorothy had unfolded her idea to her aunt, and Lady Tasker
had raised no objection, provided Dorothy could raise the money by
bringing Aunt Eliza into line.

"It's as good as Maypoles and Village Players anyway," she had said,
"and I'm getting too old to run about as I have done.--By the way, is
it true that Cosimo Pratt's gone to India?"

Dorothy had replied that it was true.

"Hm! What for? To dance round another Maypole?"

"I don't know, auntie. I've seen very little of them."

"Has she gone?"

"No."

"No more babies yet, I suppose?"

"No."

"Well ... you'd better see your Aunt Eliza. She's got all the money
that's left.--But I don't see how you're going to get any very much out
of Tony and Tim."

"Oh, I'll see they don't impose on me as they've been imposing on
you!... So I may move that billiard-table, and alter the gun-room?"

"Yes, if you pay for it."

"Thanks--you are a dear!..."

By what arts Dorothy had contrived to lay Aunt Eliza under contribution
doesn't matter very much here. Among themselves the Lennards and
Taskers might quarrel, but they presented an unbroken front to the
world--and Dorothy, for Aunt Eliza's special benefit, managed to make
the world in some degree a party to her project. That is to say, that
a paragraph had appeared in certain newspapers, announcing that an
experiment of considerable interest, etc., the expenses of which were
already guaranteed, and so forth, was about to be tried in the County
of Shropshire, where "The Brear," the residence of the late Sir Noel
Tasker, was already in course of alteration. And so on, in Dorothy's
opinion, neither too much nor too little for her design.... It had been
a public committance of the family, and it had worked the oracle with
Aunt Eliza. Rather than have a public squabble about it, she had come
in with her thousand, the work was now well advanced, and the venerable
sinner who had recited the poems printed by Cosimo Pratt's Village
Press was in charge of the job. Dorothy, hurriedly weaning the youngest
Bit, had run down to Ludlow for the express purpose of announcing to
him that it _was_ a job, and not an aesthetic jollification.

Moreover, at that time she had half a hundred other matters to attend
to; for Stan, escaping from powder-magazines as the last inch of fuse
sputtered, and fervently hoping that the man had made no mistake about
the length of stroke of the Nasmyth hammer under which he put his
devoted head, could give her little help. Besides her own approaching
_déménagement_, she had much of the care of that of her aunt. As
Stan's earnings were barely sufficient for the current expenses of
the household, she still had to turn to odds and ends of her old
advertisement work. She had--Quis custodiet?--the nurse to look after,
and the tradesmen, and letters, and callers, and Ruth. In short, a
simple inversion of her aunt's dictum about the Pratts--"Too much money
and not enough to do"--would have fitted Dorothy's case to a nicety.

Therefore, as another burden more or less would make little difference
to one already so burdened, Dorothy had added still further to her
cares. Ever since that day when Lady Tasker had come bare-headed out of
her house and had spoken to Amory Pratt outside the Victoria and Albert
Museum, Dorothy had had her sometime friend constantly on her mind. She
had spoken of her to her aunt, who had again shown herself deplorably
illiberal and incisive.

"I don't pretend to understand the modern young woman," she had
remarked carelessly. "Half of 'em seem to upset their bodies with too
much study, and the other half to play hockey till they're little
better than fools. I suppose it's all right, and that somebody knows
what they're about.... I often wonder what they'd have done, though,
if it hadn't been for Sappho and Madame Curie.... By the way," she
had gone irrelevantly on without a break, "does she _want_ any more
children besides those twins?"...

Nevertheless, Dorothy had had Amory so much on her mind that twice
since Cosimo's departure for India she had been up to The Witan in
search of her. After all, if anybody was to blame for anything it was
Cosimo. But on neither occasion had Amory been at home. Dorothy had
left messages, to which she had received no reply; and so she had gone
a third time--had gone, as it happened, on that very afternoon when
Ruth sang "A few more years shall roll" as she made the hot cakes for
tea. This time she had persuaded Katie Deedes to come with her--for
Katie had left the Eden, was out of a job, and for the time being had
afternoon hours to spare.

But again they had failed to find Amory, and Dorothy and Katie took
a turn round the Heath before returning to the flat for tea. As they
walked along the hawthorn hedge that runs towards Parliament Hill
and South Hill Park they talked. Kites were flying on the Hill; the
Highgate Woods and the white spire showed like a pale pastel in the
Spring sunshine; and from the prows of a score of prams growing babies
leaned out like the figure-heads of ships.

"That's where Billie was born," said Dorothy, nodding towards the backs
of the houses that make the loop of South Hill Park.

Katie only said "Oh?" She too had caught the uneasiness about Amory.
And what Katie thought was very soon communicated.

"You see, Dot," she broke suddenly out, "you've no idea of what a--what
a funny lot they are really.... No, I haven't told you--I haven't told
you _half_! It's everything they do. Why, the nurse practised for
months and months at a school where they washed a celluloid baby--I'm
not joking--she did--a life-sized one--they did it in class, and
dressed it, and put it to sleep--as if _that_ would be any good at all
with a real one!... And really--I'm not prudish, as you know, Dot--but
the way they used to sit about, in a dressing-gown or a nightgown or
anything--I don't mean when there was a _big_ crowd there, of course,
but just a few of them--Walter, and Mr. Brimby, and Edgar Strong--and
all of them going quite red in the face with puremindedness! At any
rate, I never did _think_ that was quite the thing!"

She spoke with great satisfaction of the point of the New Law she had
not broken. It seemed to make up for those she had.

"And those casts and paintings and things about--it's all right being
an artist, of course, but if I ever got married, _I_ shouldn't like
casts and paintings of me about for everybody to see like that!----"

"Oh, just look at that hawthorn!" Dorothy interrupted.

"Yes, lovely.--And Walter talking about Dionysus, and what Lycurgus
thought would be a very good way of preventing jealousy, and a lot
more about Greeks and Romans and Patagonians and Esquimaux! Do you
know, Dot, I don't believe they know anything at all about it--not
_really_ know, I mean! I don't see how they can! One man might know
a little bit about a part of it, and another man a little bit about
another part--and that would be rather a lot, seeing how long ago it
all is--but Walter knows it _all_! At any rate nobody can contradict
him. But what does it matter to us to-day, Dorothy? What _does_ it
matter?... Of course I don't mean they're wicked. But--but--in some
ways I can't help thinking it would be better to _be_ wicked as long as
you didn't say anything about it----!"

"Oh, I don't think they're wicked," said Dorothy placidly. But the
'vert went eagerly on.

"That's just it!" she expounded. "Walter says 'wicked's' only a
relative term. If you face the truth boldly, all the time, lots of
things wouldn't be wicked at all, he says. And I believe he's really
awfully devoted to Laura--in his way--though he does talk about these
things with Britomart Belchamber sitting there in her nightgown. But
it's always the _same bit_ of truth they face boldly. They never think
of going in for astronomy--or crystal-what-is-it--crystallography--or
something chilly--and face that boldly----"

Dorothy laughed.--"You absurd girl!"

"--but no. It's always whether people wear clothes because they're
modest or whether they're modest because they wear clothes, or
something like that.--And Walter begins it--and then Laura chimes in,
and then Cosimo, and then Amory, and then Dickie--and when they've said
it all on Monday they say it again on Tuesday, and Wednesday, and every
day--and I don't know what they've decided even yet----"

"Well, here we are," Dorothy said as she reached her own door. "Let's
have some tea.... Mr. Miller hasn't been in yet, has he, Ruth?"

"No, m'm."

"Well, we'll have tea now, and you can make some fresh when he comes.
And keep some cakes hot."

Mr. Miller's visit that afternoon had to do with a care so trifling
that Dorothy merely took it in her stride. She had not found--she knew
that she would never find--the "Idee" that Mr. Miller wanted; but if
no Idees except real ones were ever called Idees we should be in a
very bad way in this world. She knew that there is always a middling
chance that if you state a pseudo-Idee solemnly enough, and trick it
out with circumstance enough, and set people talking enough about it,
it will prove just as serviceable as the genuine article; and she was
equally familiar, as we have seen, with that beautiful and compensating
Law by which quick and original minds are refused money when they are
producing of their best but overwhelmed with it when their brains have
become as dry as baked sponges. She had given Mr. Miller quite good
Idees in the past; she had no objection to being paid over again for
them now; and if they really had been new ones they would have been of
no use to Mr. Miller for at least ten years to come. That is why the
art of advertisement is so comparatively advanced. Any other art would
have taken twenty years.

Therefore, as she remembered the exceeding flimsiness of the one
poor Idee she had, she had resolved that Mr. Miller's eyes should be
diverted as much as possible from the central lack, and kept to the
bright irrelevancies with which she would adorn it. The Idee was that
of the Litmus Layette ... but here we may as well skip a few of Katie's
artless betrayals of her former friends, and come to the moment when
Mr. Miller, with his Edward the Sixth shoulders, appeared, bowed, was
introduced to Katie, bowed again, sat down, and was regaled with hot
cakes and conversation.--He had risen and bowed again, by the way,
when Dorothy, for certain reasons of policy, had mentioned Katie's
relationship to the great Sir Joseph Deedes, and Katie had told of a
stand-up fight she had had with her uncle's Marshal about admittance to
his lordship's private room.

"Well, now, that's something I've learned to-day," Mr. Miller
magnanimously admitted, sitting down again. "So your English Judges
have Marshals! I was under the impression that that was a military
title, like Marshal Macmann and Field-Marshal Sir Evelyn Wood. Well
now.... And how might Judge Deedes' Marshal be dressed, Miss Deedes?"

"Not 'Judge' Deedes," said Katie smiling. "That's a County Court
Judge." And she explained. Mr. Miller opened his eyes wide.

"Is that so-o-o? Well now, if that isn't interessting! That's noos.
He's a Honourable with a 'u' in it, and a Sir, and you call him his
Lordship, and he's Mister Justice Deedes! Ain't that English!...
Now let me see if I'm on the track of it. 'Your Worship'--that's
a Magistrate. 'Your Honour'--that's the other sort of Judge. And
'My Lord'--that's Miss Deedes' uncle. And an English Judge has a
Marshal.... Do you recollect our Marshals, Mrs. Stan?----"

Building (as it now appeared) even better than he knew, Mr. Miller
had, in the past, granted the rank of Marshal to Messrs. Hallowell and
Smiths' shopwalkers.

Dorothy's reason for thus flagrantly introducing Sir Joseph's name was
this:--

Katie had left the Eden, and she herself was presently off to Ludlow.
Thus there was the possible reversion of a job of sorts going
a-begging. Katie might as well have it as anybody else. Dorothy had
strictly enjoined upon her impulsive friend that on no account was she
to contradict or disclaim anything she, Dorothy, might choose to say on
her behalf to Mr. Miller; and she intended that the credit, such as it
was, of the last Idee she even intended to propose to Mr. Miller--the
Litmus Layette--should be Katie's start. Once started she would have to
look after herself.

So when Mr. Miller passed from the subject of Hallowell and Smiths'
Marshals to that of his long-hoped-for Idee, Dorothy was ready for him.
Avoiding the weak spot, she enlarged on the tradition--very different
from a mere superstition--that, in Layettes, blue stood always for a
boy and pink for a girl.

"You see," she said, "this is England when all's said, and we're
_fright_fully conservative. Don't condemn it just because it wouldn't
go in New York.... You've heard of the Willyhams, of course?" she broke
off suddenly to ask.

"I cann't say I have, Mrs. Stan. But I'm sitting here. Tell me. They're
a Fam'ly, I presoom?"

"Yes. Upshire's their title. Now that title's descended in the female
line ever since Charles the First. Ever since then the Willyham
Layettes have been pink as a matter of course. And now, not a month
ago, there was a boy, and they had to rush off and get blue at the very
last moment.... Let me see, your children are little girls, aren't
they?" she again interrupted herself to say.

"Three little goils, Mrs. Stan, with black-and-white check frocks and
large black bows in their hair."

"Well, and mine are boys. Blue for me and pink for you. But we'll come
to that in a moment.--The thing that really strikes me as extraordinary
is that in all these ages, with all the countless babies that have
been born, we don't know _yet_ which it's going to be!... And I don't
think we ever shall. Now just think what that means--not just to a
Royal House, with a whole succession depending on it, and crowns and
dynasties and things--but to _every_ woman! You see the _tremendous_
interest they take in it at once!--But I don't know whether a man can
ever understand that----"

She paused.

"Go on, Mrs. Stan--I want the feminine point of voo," said Mr.
Miller.--"The man ain't broken Post Toasties yet that has more
reverence for motherhood than what I have----"

"I know," said Dorothy bashfully. "But it isn't the same--being a
father. It's--it's different. It's not the same. I doubt whether _any_
man knows what it means to us as we wait and wonder--and wait and
wonder--day after day--day after day----"

Here she dropped her eyes. Here also Mr. Miller dropped his head.

"It isn't the same--being a father--it's different," Dorothy was heard
to murmur.

Mr. Miller breathed something about the holiest spot on oith.

"So you see," Dorothy resumed presently, hoping that Mr. Miller did not
see. "It's the nearest subject of all to us. The very first question we
ask one another is, 'Do you hope it's a little boy or a little girl?'
And as it's impossible to tell, it's impossible for us to make our
preparations. Lady Upshire doesn't know one bit more about it than the
poorest woman in the streets. And this is an age that boasts of its
Science!"

"Well," said Mr. Miller, giving it consideration, "that's ver-ry true.
I ain't a knocker; I don't want to get knocking our men of science; but
it's a fact they cann't tell. I recollect Mrs. Miller saying to me----"

"Yes--look at it from Mrs. Miller's point of view----"

"I remember Mrs. Miller using the ver-ry woids you've just used,
Mrs. Stan. (I hope this don't jolt Miss Deedes too much; it's ver-ry
interessting). And that's one sure thing, that it ain't a cinch
for Mrs. Bradley Martin any more than what it is for any poor lady
stenographer at so many dallars per. But--if you'll pardon me putting
the question in that form--where's the _point_, Mrs. Stan? What's the
reel prapasition?"

This being precisely what Dorothy was rather carefully avoiding, again
she smiled bashfully and dropped her head, as if once more calling on
those profound reserves of Mr. Miller's veneration for motherhood.
These even profounder reserves, of Mr. Miller's veneration for dallars,
were too much to the point altogether.

"I was afraid you wouldn't understand," she sighed.

"But," said Mr. Miller earnestly, "give me something to get a hold
of, Mrs. Stan. I ain't calling the psychological prapasition down
any; a business man has to be psychologist all the time; but he wants
it straight. Straight psychology. The feminine point of voo, but
practical. It ain't for Harvard. It's for Hallowell and Smith's."

"Well," said Dorothy, "it's Miss Deedes' idea really--and it would
never have occurred to her if it hadn't been for Lady Upshire--would
it, Katie?"

"No," said Katie.

"Very well. Suppose Lady Upshire had had the Litmus Layette. All she
would have had to do would have been to take the ribbons out--the work
of a moment--the pink ribbons--dip them in the preparation--and there
they'd have been, ready for immediate use. And blue ones would be
dipped in the other solution and of course they'd have turned pink....
You see, you can't alter the baby, but you can alter the ribbons. And
it isn't only ribbons. A woolly jacket--or a pram-rug--or socks--or
anything--I think it's an exceedingly clever Idea of Miss Deedes!----"

Mr. Miller gave it attention. Then he looked up.

"Would it woik?" he asked.

"Well," said Dorothy ... "it works in chemistry. But that's not the
principal thing. It's its value as an advertisement that's the real
thing. Think of the window-dressing!--Blue and pink, changing before
people's very eyes!--Just think how--I mean, it interests _every_
woman! They'd stand in front of the window, and think--but you're a
man. Mrs. Miller would understand.... Anyhow, you would get crowds
of people, and that's what you want--crowds of people--that's its
advertisement-value.--And then when you got them inside it would be
like having the hooks at one end of the shop and the eyes at the
other--a hook's no good without an eye, so they have to walk past half
a mile of counters, and you sell them all sort of things on the way.
_I_ think there's a great deal in it!"

"It's a Stunt," Mr. Miller conceded, as if in spite of himself he must
admit thus much. "It's soitainly a Stunt. But I'm not sure it's a reel
Idee."

"That," said Dorothy with conviction, "would depend entirely in your
own belief in it. If you did it as thoroughly as you've done lots of
other things----"

"It's soitainly a Stunt, Miss Deedes," Mr. Miller mused....

He was frowningly meditating on the mystic differences between a Stunt
and an Idee, and was perhaps wondering how the former would demean
itself if he took the risk of promoting it to the dignity of the
latter, when the bell was heard to ring. A moment later Ruth opened the
door.

"Lady Tasker," she said.

Lady Tasker entered a little agitatedly, with an early edition of the
"Globe" crumpled in her hand.



II

BY THE WAY


Lady Tasker never missed the "Globe's" _By the Way_ column, and there
was a curious, mocking, unpleasant By-the-Way-ishness about the
announcement she made as she entered. There is a special psychological
effect, in the Harvard and not in the Hallowell and Smith's sense, when
you come unexpectedly in print upon news that affects yourself. The
multiplicity of newspapers notwithstanding, revelation still hits the
ear less harshly than it does the eye; telling is still private and
intimate, type a trumpeting to all the world at once. Dorothy looked at
the pink page Lady Tasker had thrust into her hand as if it also, like
the Litmus Layette, had turned blue before her eyes.

"_Not_ Sir Benjamin who used to come and see father!" she said, dazed.

Lady Tasker had had time, on her way to the flat, to recover a little.

"There's only one Sir Benjamin Collins that I know of," she answered
curtly.

"But--but--it _can't_ be!----"

Of course there was no reason in the world why it couldn't. Quite on
the contrary, there was that best of all reasons why it could--it had
happened. Three bullet-wounds are three undeniable reasons. It was the
third, the brief account said, that had proved fatal.

"They say the finest view in Asia's Bombay from the stern of a
steamer," said Lady Tasker, with no expression whatever. "I think your
friend Mr. Cosimo Pratt will be seeing it before very long."

But Dorothy was white. _Their_ Sir Benjamin!... Why, as a little girl
she had called him "Uncle Ben!" He had not been an uncle really, of
course, but she had called him that. She could remember the smell of
his cigars, and the long silences as he had played chess with her
father, and his hands with the coppery hair on them, and his laugh, and
the way the markhor at the Zoo had sniffed at his old patoo-coat, just
as cats now sniffed at her own set of civet furs. And she had married
him one day in the nursery, when she had been about ten, and he had
taken her to the Pantomime that afternoon for a Honeymoon--and then,
when she had really married Stan, he had given her the very rugs that
were on her bedroom floor at this moment.

And, if this pink paper was to be believed, an Invisible Man had shot
at him three times, and at the third shot had killed him.

She had not heard her aunt's words about Cosimo. She had been standing
with her hand in Mr. Miller's, having put it there when he had risen to
take himself off and forgotten to withdraw it again. Then Mr. Miller
had gone, and Dorothy had stood looking stupidly at her aunt.

"What did you say?" she said. "You said something about Cosimo Pratt."

"Don't you go, Katie; I want to talk to you presently.--Sit down,
Dot.--Get her a drink of water."

Dorothy sat heavily down and put out one hand for the paper
again.--"What did you say?" she asked once more.

"Never mind just now. Put your head back and close your eyes for a
minute."...

       *       *       *       *       *

That was the rather unpleasant, By-the-Way part of it. For of course
it was altogether By-the-Way when you looked at the matter broadly.
Amory could have explained this with pellucid clearness. The murder of
a Governor?... Of course, if you happened to have known that Governor,
and to have married him in a child's game when you were ten and he
forty, and to have gone on writing letters to him telling him all the
news about your babies, and to have had letters back from him signed
"Uncle Ben"--well, nobody would think it unnatural of you to be a
little shocked at the news of his assassination; but Amory could easily
have shown that that shock, when you grew a little calmer and came to
think clearly about it, would be only a sort of extension of your own
egotism. Governors didn't really matter one bit more because you were
fond of them. Everybody had somebody fond of them. Why, then, make a
disproportionate fuss about a single (and probably corrupt) official,
when thousands suffered gigantic wrongs? The desirable thing was to
look at these things broad-mindedly, and not selfishly. It was selfish,
selfish and egotistical, to expect the whole March of Progress to stop
because you happened to be fond of somebody (who probably hadn't been
one bit better than he ought to have been). These pompous people of the
official classes were always bragging about their readiness to lay down
their lives for their country; very well; they had no right to grumble
when they were taken at their word. Ruskin had expressed much the same
thought rather finely when he had said that a soldier wasn't paid for
killing, but for being killed. Some people seemed to want it both
ways--to go on drawing their money while they were alive, and then to
have an outcry raised when they got shot. In strict justice they ought
to have been, not merely shot, but blown from the mouths of guns; but
of course neither Amory nor anybody else wanted to go quite so far as
that.... Nevertheless, perspective was needed--perspective, and vision
of such scope that you had a clear mental picture, not of misguided
individuals, who must die some time or other and might as well do so
in the discharge of what it pleased them to call their "duty," but
of millions of our gentle and dark-skinned brothers, waiting in rows
with baskets on their heads (and making simply ripping friezes) while
the Banks paid in pennies, and then holding lots of righteous and
picturesque Meetings, all about Tyrant England and throwing off the
Yoke. Amory would have conceded that she had never had an Uncle Ben;
but if she had had fifty Uncle Bens she would still have hoped to keep
some small sense of proportion about these things.

But that again only showed anybody who was anybody how hopelessly
behind the noble movements of her time Dorothy was. The sense of
proportion never entered her head. She gave a little shiver, even
though the day was warm, and then that insufferable old aunt of hers,
who might be a "Lady" but had no more tact than to interfere with
people's liberty in the street, praised her gently when she came round
a bit, and said she was taking it very bravely, when the truth was that
she really ought to have condemned her for her absurd weakness and lack
of the sense of relative values. No, there would have been no doubt at
all about it in Amory's mind: that it was these people, who talked so
egregiously about "firm rule," who were the real sentimentalists, and
the others of the New Imperialism, with their real grasp of the true
and humane principles of government, who were the downright practical
folk....

All this fuss about a single Governor, of whom Mr. Prang himself had
said (and there was no gentler soul living than Mr. Prang) that his
extortions had been a byword and his obstinacy proof positive of his
innate weakness!----

But Amory was not in the pond-room that day, and so Dorothy's sickly
display of emotion went unchecked. The nurse herded the Bits together,
but they were not admitted for their usual tea-time romp. Indeed,
Dorothy said presently, "Do you mind if I leave you for a few minutes
with Katie, auntie?" She went into her bedroom and did not return. Of
all his "nieces" she had been his favourite; her foot caught in one of
his Kabuli mats as she entered the bedroom. She lay down on her bed.
She longed for Stan to come and put his arms about her.

He came in before Lady Tasker had finished her prolonged questioning of
Katie. Aunt Grace told him where Dorothy was. Then she and Katie left
together.

The newspapers showed an excellent sense of proportion about the
incident. In the earlier evening editions the death of Sir Benjamin was
nicely balanced by the 4.30 winners; and then a popular actor's amusing
replies in the witness-box naturally overshadowed everything else.
And, to anticipate a little, on the following day the "Times" showed
itself to be, as usual, hopelessly in the wrong. Indeed there were
those who considered that this journal made a deplorable exhibition
of itself. For it had no more modesty nor restraint than to use the
harsh word "murder," without any "alleged" about it, which was, of
course, a flagrant prejudging of the case. Nobody denied that at a
first glance appearances _were_ a little against the gentle and dusky
brother, who had been seized with the revolver still in his hand; but
that was no reason why a bloated capitalist rag should thus undermine
the principles of elementary justice. It ought to have made it all the
more circumspect.... But anybody who was anybody knew exactly what
was at the bottom of it all. The "Times" was seeking a weapon against
the Government. The staff was no doubt secretly glad that it had
happened, and was gloating, and already calculating its effect on an
impending by-election.... Besides, there was the whole ethical question
of capital punishment. It would not bring Sir Benjamin back to life
to try this man, find him guilty, and do him barbarously to death in
the name of the Law. That would only be two dead instead of one. The
proper way would be to hold an inquiry, with the dusky instrument of
justice (whose faith in his mission must have been very great since
he had taken such risks for it) not presiding, perhaps, but certainly
called as an important witness to testify to the Wrongness of the
Conditions.... Besides, an assassination is a sort of half-negligible
outbreak, regrettable certainly, for which excuse can sometimes be
found: but this other would be deliberate, calculated, measured, and
in flat violation of the most cardinal of all the principles on which
a great Empire should be based--the principle of Mercy stiffened with
exactly the right modicum of Justice....

And besides....

And besides....

And besides....

And when all is said, India is a long way off.

The publication of the news produced a curious sort of atmosphere
at The Witan that afternoon. Everybody seemed desirous of showing
everybody else that they were unconcerned, and yet an observer might
have fancied that they overdid it ever such a little. At about the
time when Lady Tasker left Dorothy with Stan, Mr. Wilkinson drove up
in a cab to the green door in the privet hedge and asked for Amory. He
was told that she had given word that she did not want to see anybody.
But in the studio he found Mr. Brimby and Dickie Lemesurier, and the
three were presently joined by Laura and Walter Wyron. A quorum of
five callers never hesitated to make themselves at home at The Witan.
They lighted the asbestos log, Walter found Cosimo's cigarettes, and
Dickie said she was sure Amory wouldn't mind if she rang for tea. When
they had made themselves quite comfortable, they began to chat about a
number of things, not the murder.

"Seen Strong?" Mr. Brimby asked Mr. Wilkinson.

Mr. Wilkinson was at his most morose and truculent.

"No," he said. "I called at the office, but he was out. Doesn't put
in very much time there, it seems to me. Perhaps he's at the Party's
Meeting."

"How is it you aren't there, by the way?"

Mr. Wilkinson made a little sound of contempt.

"Bah! All talk. Day in and day out, talk, talk, talk. I want action.
The leadership's all wrong. Want a man. I keep my seat because if I
cleared out they'd be no better than a lot of tame Liberal cats, but
I've no use for 'em----"

It was whispered that the members of the Party had no use for Mr.
Wilkinson, and very little for one another; but it doesn't do to give
ear to everything that is whispered.

Then Mr. Brimby appeared suddenly to recollect something.

"Ah yes!... Action. Speaking of action, I suppose you've seen this
Indian affair in to-night's papers?"

Mr. Wilkinson was still fuming.

"That Governor? Yes, I saw it.... But it's too far away. Thousands of
miles too far away. We want something nearer home. A paper that calls a
spade a spade for one thing.... Anybody heard from Pratt this week?"

They discussed Cosimo's latest letter, and then Mr. Brimby said, "By
the way--how will this affect him?"

"How will what affect him?"

"This news, to-night. Collins."

"Oh!... Why should it affect him at all? Don't see why it should. The
'Pall Mall' has a filthy article on it to-night. That paper's getting
as bad as the 'Times.'"

Here Walter Wyron intervened.--"By the way, who _is_ this man Collins?
Just pass me 'Who's Who,' Laura."

They looked Sir Benjamin up in "Who's Who," and then somebody suggested
that their party wasn't complete without Edgar Strong. "I'll telephone
him," said Walter; "perhaps he'll be back by this."--The telephone was
in the hall, and Walter went out. Dickie told Laura how well Walter
was looking. Laura replied, Yes, he was very well indeed; except
for a slight cold, which anybody was lucky to escape in May, he had
never been better; which was wonderful, considering the work he got
through.--Then Walter returned. Strong had not yet come in, but his
typist had said he'd be back soon.--"Didn't know it ran to a typist,"
Walter remarked, helping himself to more tea.

"It doesn't," Mr. Wilkinson grunted.

"Girl's voice, anyway.... I say, I wonder how old Prang's getting on!"

"I wonder!"

"He's gone back, hasn't he?" Dickie asked.

"Oh, a couple of months ago. Didn't Strong give him the push, Wilkie?"

"Don't suppose Strong ever did anything so vigorous," Mr. Wilkinson
growled. "The only strong thing about Strong's his name. He's simply
ruined that paper."

"I agree that it was at its best when Prang was doing the Indian notes."

"Oh, Prang knew what he wanted. Prang's all right in his way. But I
tell you India's too far away. We want something at our own doors, and
somebody made an example of that somebody knows. Now if Pratt had only
been guided by me----"

"Hallo, here's Britomart Belchamber.--Why doesn't Amory come down,
Brit? She's in, isn't she?"

"What?" said Miss Belchamber.

"Isn't Amory coming down?"

"She's gone out," said Miss Belchamber, adjusting her hair. "A min-ute
ago," she added.

Walter Wyron said something about "Cool--with guests----," but Amory's
going out was no reason why they should not finish tea in comfort. No
doubt Amory would be back presently. Laura confided to Britomart that
she hoped so, for the truth was that her kitchen range had gone wrong,
and a man had said he was coming to look at it, but he hadn't turned
up--these people never turned up when they said they would--and so she
had thought it would be nice if they came and kept Amory company at
supper....

"We've got some new cheese-bis-cuits," said Miss Belchamber
ruminatively. "I like them. They make bone. I like to have bone made.
The muscles can't act unless you have bone. That's why these bis-cuits
are so good. Good-bye."

And Miss Belchamber, with a friendly general smile, went off to
open her sweat-ducts by means of a hot bath and to close them again
afterwards with a cold sponge.

       *       *       *       *       *

Amory had not gone out this time to press amidst strange people
and to look into strange and frightening eyes, various in colour
as the pebbles of a beach, and tipped with arrow-heads of white as
they turned. Almost for the first time in her life she wanted to be
alone--quite alone, with her eyes on nobody and nobody's eyes on her.
She did not reflect on this. She did not reflect on anything. She only
knew that The Witan seemed to stifle her, and that when she had seen
Mr. Wilkinson alight from his cab--and Mr. Brimby and Dickie come--and
the Wyrons--with all the others no doubt following presently--it had
come sharply upon her that these wearisomely familiar people used up
all the air. The Witan without them was bad enough; The Witan with them
had become insupportable.

It was not the assassination of Sir Benjamin that had disturbed
her. Since Cosimo's departure she had glanced at Indian news only
a shade less perfunctorily than before, and she had turned from
this particular announcement to the account of New Greek Society's
production with hardly a change of boredom. No: it was everything in
her life--everything. She felt used up. She thought that if anybody had
spoken to her just then she could only have given the incoherent and
petulant "Don't!" of a child who is interrupted at a game that none but
he understands. She hated herself, yet hated more to be dragged out
of herself; and as she made for the loneliest part of the Heath she
wished that night would fall.

She had to all intents and purposes packed Cosimo off to India in order
to have him out of the way. His presence had become as wearisome as
that of the Wyrons and the rest of them. And that was as much as she
had hitherto told herself. She had taken no resolution about Edgar
Strong. But drifting is accelerated when an obstacle is removed, and
her heart had frequently beaten rapidly at the thought that, merely by
removing Cosimo, she had started a process that would presently bring
her up against Edgar Strong. She had pleased and teased and frightened
herself with the thought of what was to happen then. So many courses
would be open to her. She might actually take the mad plunge from which
she had hitherto shrunk. She might do the very opposite--stare at him,
should he propose it, and inform him that, some thousands of miles
notwithstanding, she was still Cosimo's wife. She might pathetically
urge on him that, now more than ever, she needed a friend and not a
lover--or else that, now more than ever, she needed a lover and not
a friend. She might say that nothing could be done until Cosimo came
back--or that when Cosimo came back would be too late to do anything.
Or she might....

Or she might....

Or she might....

Yet when all was said, Edgar and the "Novum's" offices were perilously
near....

For it was not what she might do, but what he might do, that set her
heart beating most rapidly of all. Her dangerous dreaming always
ended in that. Here was no question of that trumpery subterfuge of the
Wyrons. It struck her with extraordinary force and newness that she
was what was called "a married woman." It was a familiar phrase; it
was as familiar as those other phrases, "No, just living together,"
"Well, as long as there are no children," "Love _is_ Law"--familiar
as the air. Left to herself, the phrases might have remained both her
dissipation and her safeguard.... But he? Would phrases content him?
After she had tempted him as she knew she had tempted him? After that
stern repression of himself in favour of his duty? Or would he ask her
again what she thought he was made of?... It was always the man who was
expected to take the decisive step. The woman simply--offered--and,
if she was clever, did it in such a way that she could always deny it
after the fact. If Edgar should _not_ stretch out his hand--well, in
that case there would be no more to be said. But if he should?...

A little sound came from her closed lips.

Cosimo had been away for nearly three months, and had not yet said
anything about returning; and Amory had smiled when, after many eager
protestings that there was no reason (Love being Law) why he should
go alone, he had after all funked taking his splendid turnip of a
Britomart with him. Of course: when it had come to the point, he had
lacked the courage. Amory could not help thinking that that lack was
just a shade more contemptible than his philanderings. Courage!...
Images of Cleopatra and the carpet rose in her mind again.... But the
images were faint now. She had evoked them too often. Her available
mental material had become stale. She needed a fresh impulse--a new
experience----

But--she always got back to the same point--suppose Edgar should take
her, not at her word, nor against her word, but with words, for once,
left suddenly and entirely out of the question?...

Again the thumping heart----

It was almost worth the misery and loneliness for the sake of that
painful and delicious thrill.

She was sitting on a bench under the palings of Ken Wood, watching a
saffron sunset. A Prince Eadmond's girl in a little green Florentine
cap passed. She reminded Amory of Britomart Belchamber, and Amory
rose and took the root-grown path to the Spaniards Road and the West
Heath. She intended to take a walk as far as Golders Green Park;
but, as it happened, she did not get so far. A newsboy, without any
sense of proportion whatever, was crying cheerfully, "Murder of a
Guv'nor--Special!" This struck Amory. She thought she had read it once
before that afternoon, but she bought another paper and turned to the
paragraph. Yes, it was the same--and yet it was somehow different. It
seemed--she could not tell why--a shade more important than it had
done. Perhaps the newsboy's voice had made it sound more important:
things did seem to come more personally home when they were spoken
than when they were merely read. She hoped it was not very important;
it might be well to make sure. She was not very far from home; her
Timon-guests would still be there; somebody would be able to tell her
all about it....

She walked back to The Witan again, and, still hatted and dressed,
pushed at the studio door.

Nobody had left. Indeed, two more had come--young Mr. Raffinger of the
McGrath, and a friend of his, a young woman from the Lambeth School of
Art, who had Russianized her painting-blouse by putting a leather belt
round it, and who told Amory she had wanted to meet her for such a long
time, because she had done some designs for Suffrage Christmas Cards,
and hoped Amory wouldn't mind her fearful cheek, but hoped she would
look at them, and say exactly what she thought about them, and perhaps
give her a tip or two, and, if it wasn't asking too much, introduce her
to the Manumission League, or to anybody else who might buy them....
Young Raffinger interrupted the flow of gush and apologetics.

"Oh, don't bother her just yet, Eileen. Let her read her cable first."

Amory turned quickly.--"What do you say? What cable?" she asked.

"There's a cable for you."

It lay on the uncleared tea-table, and everybody seemed to know all
about the outside of it at all events. As it was not in the usual
place for letters, perhaps it had been passed from hand to hand. Quite
unaffectedly, they stood round in a ring while Amory opened it, with
all their eyes on her. They most frightfully wanted to know what was
in it, but of course it would have been rude to ask outright. So they
merely watched, expectantly.

Then, as Amory stood looking at the piece of paper, Walter was almost
rude. But in the circumstances everybody forgave him.

"Well?" he said; and then with ready tact he retrieved the solecism.
"Hope it's good news, Amory?"

For all that there was just that touch of _schadenfreude_ in his tone
that promised that he for one would do his best to bear up if it wasn't.

Amory was a little pale. It was the best of news, and yet she was a
little pale. Perhaps she was faint because she had not had any tea.

"Cosimo's coming home," she said.

There was a moment's silence, and then the congratulations broke out.

"Oh, good!"

"Shall be glad to see the old boy!"

"Finished his work, I suppose?"

"Or perhaps it's something to do with this Collins business?"

It was Mr. Brimby who had made this last remark. Amory turned to him
slowly.

"What is this Collins business?" she asked.

Mr. Brimby dropped his sorrowing head.

"Ah, poor fellow," he murmured. "I'm afraid he went to work on the
wrong principles. A _little_ more conciliation ... but it's difficult
to blame anybody in these cases. The System's at fault. Let us not be
harsh. I quite agree with Wilkinson that the 'Pall Mall' to-night is
very harsh."

"Cowardly," said Mr. Wilkinson grimly. "Rubbing it in because they have
some sort of a show of a case. They're always mum enough on the other
side."

Amory lifted her head.

"But you say this might have something to do with Cosimo's coming back.
Tell me at once what's happened.--And put that telegram down, Walter.
It's mine."

They had never heard Amory speak like this before. It was rather cool
of her, in her own house, and quite contrary to the beautiful Chinese
rule of politeness. And somehow her tone seemed, all at once, to
dissipate a certain number of pretences that for the last hour or more
they had been laboriously seeking to keep up. That, at any rate, was a
relief. For a minute nobody seemed to want to answer Amory; then Mr.
Wilkinson took it upon himself to do so--characteristically.

"Nothing's happened," he said, "--nothing that we haven't all been
talking about for a year and more. What the devil--let's be plain
for once. To look at you, anybody'd think you hadn't meant it! By
God, if _I'd_ had that paper of yours!... I told you at the beginning
what Strong was--neither wanted to do things nor let 'em alone; but
_I'd_ have shown you! I'd have had a dozen Prangs! But he didn't want
one--and he didn't want to sack him--afraid all the time something 'ld
happen, but daren't stop--doing too well out of it for that ... and now
that it's happened, what's all the to-do about? You're always calling
it War, aren't you? And it _is_ War, isn't it? Or only Brimby's sort of
War--like everything else about Brimby?----"

Here somebody tried to interpose, but Mr. Wilkinson raised his voice
almost to a shout.

"Isn't it? Isn't it?... Lookee here! A little fellow came here one
Sunday, a little collier, and he said 'Wilkie knows!' And by Jimminy,
Wilkie does know! I tell you it's everybody for himself in this world,
and I'm out for anything that's going! (Yes, let's have a bit o'
straight talk for a change!) War? Of course it's War! What do we all
mean about street barricades and rifles if it isn't War? It's War when
they fetch the soldiers out, isn't it? Or is that a bit more Brimby?
And you can't have War without killing somebody, can you? I tell you we
want it at home, not in India! I've stood at the dock gates waiting to
be taken on, and I know--no fear! To hell with your shillyshallying! If
Collins gets in the way, Collins must get out o' the way. We can't stop
for Collins. I wish it had been here! I can just see myself jumping
off a bridge with a director in my arms--the fat hogs! If I'd had that
paper! There'd have been police round this house long ago, and then the
fun would have started!... Me and Prang's the only two of all the bunch
that _does_ know what we want! And Prang's got his all right--my turn
next--and I shan't ask Brimby to help me----"

Through a sort of singing in her ears Amory heard the rising cries of
dissent that interrupted Mr. Wilkinson--"Oh no--hang it--Wilkinson's
going too far!" But the noise conveyed little to her. Stupidly she was
staring at the blue and yellow jets of the asbestos log, and weakly
thinking what a silly imitation the thing was. She couldn't imagine
however Cosimo had come to buy it. And then she heard Mr. Wilkinson
repeating some phrase he had used before: "There'd have been police
round this house and then the fun would have begun!" Police round The
Witan, she thought? Why? It seemed very absurd to talk like that. Mr.
Brimby was telling Mr. Wilkinson how absurd it was. But Mr. Brimby
himself was rather absurd when you came to think of it....

Then there came another shouted outburst.--"Another Mutiny? Well,
what about it? It _is_ War, isn't it? Or is it only Brimby's sort of
War?----"

Then Amory felt herself grow suddenly cold and resolved. Cosimo was
coming back. Whether he had made India too hot to hold him, as now
appeared just possible, she no longer cared, for at last she knew
what she intended to do. Her guests were wrangling once more; let
them wrangle; she was going to leave this house that Mr. Wilkinson
apparently wanted to surround with police as a preliminary to the
"fun." Edgar might still be at the office; if he was not, she would
sleep at some hotel and find him in the morning. Then she would take
her leap. She had hesitated far too long. She would not go and look at
the twins for fear lest she should hesitate again....

Just such a sense of rest came over her as a swimmer feels who, having
long struggled against a choppy stream, suddenly abandons himself to it
and lets it bear him whither it will.

Unnoticed in the heat of the dispute, she crossed to the studio door.
She thought she heard Laura call, "Can I come and help, Amory?" No
doubt Laura thought she was going to see about supper. But she no
longer intended to stay even for supper in this house of wrangles and
envy and crowds and whispering and crookedness.

Her cheque-book and some gold were in her dressing-table drawer
upstairs. She got them. Then she descended again, opened the front
door, closed it softly behind her again, passed through the door in the
privet hedge, and walked out on to the dark Heath.



III

DE TROP


Those who knew Edgar Strong the best knew that the problem of how to
make the best of both worlds pressed with a peculiar hardship on him.
The smaller rebel must have the whole of infinity for his soul to range
in--and, for all the practical concern that man has with it, infinity
may be defined as the condition in which the word of the weakest is as
good as that of the wisest. Give him scope enough and Mr. Brimby cannot
be challenged. There is no knowledge of which he says that it is too
wonderful for him, that it is high and he cannot attain unto it.

But Edgar Strong knew a little more than Mr. Brimby. He bore his share
of just such a common responsibility as is not too great for you or for
me to understand. Between himself and Mr. Prang had been a long and
slow and grim struggle, without a word about it having been said on
either side; and it had not been altogether Edgar Strong's fault that
in the end Mr. Prang had been one too many for him.

For, consistently with his keeping his three hundred a year (more than
two-thirds of which by one means and another he had contrived to save),
he did not see that he could have done much more than he had done.
Things would have been far worse had he allowed Mr. Wilkinson to oust
him. And now he knew that this was the "Novum's" finish. Whispers
had reached him that behind important walls important questions were
being asked, and a ponderous and slow-moving Department had approached
another Body about certain finportations (Sir Joseph Deedes, Katie's
uncle, knew all about these things). And this and that and the other
were going on behind the scenes; and these deep mutterings meant, if
they meant anything at all, that it was time Edgar Strong was packing
up.

Fruit-farming was the line he fancied; oranges in Florida; and it would
not take long to book passages--passages for two----

He had heard the news in the early afternoon, and had straightway sent
off an express messenger to the person for whom the second passage
was destined. Within an hour this person had run up the stairs,
without having met anybody on a landing whom it had been necessary
to ask whether Mr. So-and-So, the poster artist, had a studio in the
building. Edgar Strong's occupation as she had entered had made words
superfluous. He had been carrying armfuls of papers into the little
room behind the office and thrusting them without examination on the
fire. The girl had exchanged a few rapid sentences with him, had bolted
out again, hailed a taxi, sought a Bank, done some business there on
the stroke of four, and had driven thence to a shipping office. Edgar
Strong, in Charing Cross Road, had continued to feed his fire. The
whole place smelt of burning paper. A mountain of ashes choked the
grate and spread out as far as the bed and the iron washstand in the
corner.

The girl returned. From under the bed she pulled out a couple of bags.
Into these she began to thrust her companion's clothes. Into a third
and smaller bag she crammed her own dressing-gown and slippers, a comb
and a couple of whalebone brushes, and other things. She had brought
word that the boat sailed the day after to-morrow....

"There's the telephone--just answer it, will you?" Strong said, casting
another bundle on the fire....

"Wyron," said the girl, returning.

"Never mind those boots; they're done; and you might get me a
safety-razor; shall want it on the ship.... By the way--I think we'd
better get married."

The girl laughed.--"All right," she said as she crammed a
nightdress-case into the little bag....

       *       *       *       *       *

Amory walked quickly down the East Heath. As she walked she could not
help wondering what there had been to make such a fuss about. Indeed
she had been making quite a bugbear of the thing she was now doing
quite easily. What, after all, would it matter? Would a single one
of the people she passed so hurriedly think her case in the least
degree special? Had they not, each one of them, their own private and
probably very similar affairs? Was there one of them of whom it could
be said with certainty that he or she was not, at that very moment,
bound on the same errand? She looked at the women. There was nothing to
betray them, but it was quite as likely as not. Nor could they tell by
looking at her. For that matter, the most resolute would hide it the
most. And a person's life was his own. Nobody would give him another
one when he had starved and denied the one he had. There might not
be another one. Some people said that there was, and some that there
wasn't. Meetings were held about that too, but so far they hadn't
seemed to advance matters very much....

Nor was it the urge of passion that was now driving her forward at such
a rate. She could not help thinking that she had been rather silly in
her dreams about carpets and Nubians and those things. If Edgar was
passionate, very well--she would deny him nothing; but in that case she
would feel ever so slightly superior to Edgar. She rather wished that
that was not so; she hoped that after all it might not be so; on the
whole she would have preferred to be a little his inferior. She had
not been inferior to Cosimo. They, she and Cosimo, had talked a good
deal about equality, of course, but, after all, equality was a balance
too nice for the present stressful stage of the struggle between man
and woman; a theoretical equality if you liked, but in practice the
thing became a slight temporary feminine preponderance, which would,
no doubt, settle down in time. Virtually she had been Cosimo's master.
She did not want to be Edgar's. Rather than be that he might--her tired
sensibilities gave a brief flutter--he might even be a little cruel to
her if he wished....

A Tottenham Court Road bus was just starting from the bottom of Pond
Street. She ran to catch it. It moved forward again, with Amory sitting
inside it, between a man in a white muffler and opera-hat and a
flower-woman returning home with her empty baskets.

Many, many times Amory Pratt, abusing her fancy, had rehearsed the
scene to which she was now so smoothly and rapidly approaching; but she
rehearsed nothing now. It would suffice for her just to appear before
Edgar; no words would be necessary; he would instantly understand.
Of course (she reflected) he might have left the office when she got
there; it was even reasonably probable that he would have left; it was
not a press-night; twenty to one he would have left. But her thoughts
went forward again exactly as if she had not just told herself this....
He would be there. She would go up to him and stand before him. As
likely as not not a word would pass between them. She felt that she
had used too many words in her life. She and her set had discussed
subjects simply out of existence. Often, by the time they had finished
talking, not one of them had known what they had been talking about. It
had been sheer dissipation. Men, she had heard, took drinks like that,
and by and by were unable to stand, and then made hideous exhibitions
of themselves. Nobody could say exactly at what point they, the men,
became incapable, nor the point at which the others, Amory and her set,
became word-sodden; in the one case the police (she had heard) made
them walk a chalk-line; but there was no chalk-line for the others.
Their paths were crooked as scribble....

But she was going straight at last--as straight as a pair of tram-lines
could take her--and so far was she from wishing that the tram would go
more slowly, that she would have hastened it had she been able.

The "Mother Shipton"--the Cobden Statue--Hampstead Road--the "Adam and
Eve." At this last stopping-place she descended, crossed the road, and
boarded a bus. She remembered that once before, when she had visited
the office in a taxi, the cab had seemed to go at a terrifying speed;
now the bus seemed to crawl. A fear took her that every stop might
cause her to miss him by just a minute. She tapped with her foot. She
looked almost angrily at those who got in or out. That flower-woman:
why couldn't she have got out at the proper stopping-place, instead of
upsetting everything with her baskets hardly a hundred yards further
on?... Off again; she hoped to goodness that was the last delay. She
had been stupid not to take a taxi after all.

She descended opposite the "Horse Shoe," not three minutes' walk
from the "Novum's" offices. Then again she called herself stupid for
not having sat where she was, since the bus would go straight past
the door. But she could be there as soon as the bus if she walked
quickly.----

The bus overtook her and beat her by twenty yards.

The bookseller's shutters were down, and in the window of the
electric-fittings shop could be dimly seen a ventilating fan, a
desk-lamp, and a switch-board or two. Amory turned in under the arch
that led to the yard behind. Her eyes had gone up to the third floor
almost before she had issued from the narrow alley----

Ah!... So she was not too late. There was a light.

Through the ground-floor cavern in which the sandwich-boards were
stacked she had for the first time to slacken her pace; the floor was
uneven, and the place was crowded with dim shadows. A man smoking a
pipe over an evening paper turned as she entered, but, seeing her make
straight for the stairs, he did not ask her her business. The winding
wooden staircase was black as a flue. On the first landing she paused
for a moment; the man with the pipe had, after all, challenged her,
"Who is it you want, Miss?" he called from below.... But he did not
follow her. A vague light from the landing window showed her the second
flight of wedge-shaped wooden steps. She mounted them, and gained the
corridor hung with the specimens of the poster-artist's work. Ahead
along the passage a narrow shaft of light crossed the floor. She gave
one more look behind, for fear the man below had, after all, followed
her; she was determined, but that did not mean that she necessarily
wished to be seen....

Her life was her own, to do what she liked with. Nobody would give her
another one....

And Edgar might be cruel if he wished....

For one instant longer she hesitated. Then she pushed softly at the
door from which the beam of light came.

The quietness of her approach was wasted after all. There was nobody
in the office. The floor was untidy with scattered leaves of paper,
and Edgar had carelessly left every drawer of his desk open; but that
only meant that he could not be very far away. Probably he was in the
waiting-room. She approached the door of it.

But, as she did so, some slight unfamiliarity about the place struck
her. The first room of the three, or waiting-room, she knew, from
having once or twice pushed at the first door of the passage and having
had to pass through that ante-room. Of the third room she knew nothing
save that it was used as a sort of general lumber-room. But the rooms
seemed somehow to have got changed about. It was from this third room,
and not from the waiting-room, that a bright light came, and the smell
of charred paper. The door was partly open. Amory advanced to it.

As she did so somebody spoke.

For so slight a cause, the start that Amory gave was rather
heartrending. She stopped dead. Her face had turned so chalky a white
that the freckles upon it, which ordinarily scarcely showed, looked
almost unwholesome.

In her mind she had given Edgar Strong leave to be cruel to her,
but not with this cruelty. The cruelty we choose is always another
cruelty. Once a man, who miraculously survived a flogging, said that
by comparison with the anguish of the second stroke that of the first
was almost a sweetness; and after the third, and fourth, men, they say,
have laughed. It happened so to Amory. The voices she heard were not
loud; so much the worse, when a few ordinary, grunted, half expressions
could so pierce her.

"----months ago, but I wasn't ready. I stayed on here for nobody's
convenience but my own, I can tell you." It was Edgar who said this.
Then a woman's voice--

"I don't think this waistcoat's worth taking; I've patched and patched
it----"

"Oh, chuck it under the bed. And I say--we've had nothing to eat. Make
the cocoa, will you?"

"Just a minute till I finish this bag.--What'll Pratt say when he comes
back?"

"As I shan't be here to hear him, it's hardly worth while guessing."

"Will Wilkinson take it over?"

"The 'Novum'?... I don't think there'll be any more 'Novum.' I suppose
these London Indians will be holding a meeting. I don't like 'em,
but let's be fair to them: most of 'em are all right. They've got to
dissociate themselves from this Collins business somehow. But I expect
some lunatic will go and move an amendment.... Well, it won't matter to
us. We shall be well down the Channel by that time."

Then the girl gave a low laugh.--"I _do_ think you might buy me a
trousseau, Ned--the way it's turned out----"

The man's voice grunted.

"I thought that would be the next. Give you something and you all want
something else immediately.... Can't afford it, my dear. I've only
pulled between three and four hundred out of this show, living here,
paying myself space-rates and all the lot; and we shall want all that."

Again the low voice--very soft and low.

"But you'll be a little sorry to leave here, won't you--m'mmm?----"
(This was the second stroke, by comparison with which the first had
been sweet).

Strong spoke brusquely.--"Look here, old girl--we've heaps of things to
do to-night--lots of time before us--don't let's have any nonsense----"

"No-o-o?"----

Amory, besides hearing, might have seen; but she did not. Something
had brought into her head her own words to Walter Wyron of an hour or
two before, when Walter had picked up the cable announcing Cosimo's
return: "Put that down, Walter; it's mine." This other, that was taking
place in that inner room, was theirs. It would have been perfectly easy
to strike them dumb by appearing, just for one moment, in the doorway
of this--lumber-room; but she preferred not to do it. If she had, she
felt that it would have been the remains of a woman they would have
seen. There is not much catch in striking anybody dumb when the process
involves their seeing--that. Much better to steal out quietly....

Noiselessly she turned her back to the half-open door. She tiptoed out
into the corridor again. For a dozen yards she continued to tiptoe--in
order to spare them; and then she found herself at the head of the
steep stairs. She descended. She had not made a single sound. Down
below the man was still reading the paper, and again he looked round.
At another time Amory might have questioned him; but again she did not.
There was nothing to learn. She knew.

It was the first thing she had ever really known.

Bowed with the strangeness of knowledge, she walked slowly out into
Charing Cross Road.



IV

GRAY YOUTH


She continued to walk slowly; the slowness was as remarkable as her
haste had been. She had intended, had she missed Edgar, to go to an
hotel; but home was hotel enough, hotel home. Home--home to a house
without privacy--home to children of whom she was not much more than
technically the mother--home to an asbestos log and to the absence of
a husband that was at least as desirable as his presence: nothing else
remained.

For her lack seemed total--so total as hardly to be a lack. She desired
no one thing, and a desire for everything is an abuse of the term
"desire." So she walked slowly, stopping now and then to look at a
flagstone as if it had been a remarkable object. And as she walked she
wondered how she had come to be as she was.

She could not see where her life had gone wrong. She did not remember
any one point at which she had taken a false and crucial step.
For example, she did not think this gray and harmonious totality
of despondency had come of her marrying Cosimo. They were neither
outstandingly suited nor unsuited to one another, and a thousand
marriages precisely similar were made every day and turned out well
enough. No; it could not be that she had expected too much of
marriage. She had not courted disappointment that way.... (But stay:
had the trouble come of her not expecting largely enough? Of her not
having assumed enough? Of her not having said to life, "Such and such I
intend to have, and you shall provide it?" Would she have fared better
then?).... And if Cosimo had brought her no wonder, neither had her
babes. People were in the habit of saying astonishing things about the
miracle of the babe at the breast, but Amory could only say that she
had never experienced these things. She had wondered that she should
not, when so many others apparently did, but the fact remained, that
bearing had been an anguish and nursing an inconvenience. And so at the
twins she had stopped.

Would it have been better had she not stopped? Would she have been
happier with many children? Without children at all? Or unmarried? Or
ought her painting to have been husband, home and children to her?...

It was a little late in the day to ask these questions now----

And yet there had been no reason for asking them earlier----

It had needed that, her first point of knowledge, to bring it home into
her heart....

But do not suppose that she was in any pain. As a spinally-anaesthetized
subject may have a quite poignant interest in the lopping off of one of
his own limbs, and may even wonder that he feels no local pain, so she
assisted at her own dismemberment. Home, husband, babes, her art--one
after another she now seemed to see them go--or rather, seemed to see
that they had long since gone. She saw this going, in retrospect. It
was as if, though only degree by degree had the pleasant things of life
ticked away from her, the escapement was now removed from her memory,
allowing all with a buzz to run down to a dead stop. She could almost
hear that buzz, almost see that soft rim of whizzing teeth....

Now all was stillness--stillness without pain. She knew now what Edgar
Strong had been doing. She knew that he had been making use of her,
pocketing Cosimo's money, using the "Novum's" office as his lodging,
had had his bed there, his slippers in the fender, his kettle, his
cocoa, his plates, his cups, his.... And she knew now that Edgar Strong
was only one of those who had clustered like leeches about Cosimo....
She forgot how much Cosimo had said that from first to last it had all
cost. She thought twenty thousand pounds. Twenty thousand pounds, all
vanished between that first Ludlow experiment and that last piece of
amateur sociology, three revolver shots in a man's back! As a price it
was stiffish. She did not quite know what the provider of the money
had had out of it all. At any rate she herself had this curious stilly
state of painless but rather sickening knowledge. And knowledge, they
say, is above rubies. So perhaps it was cheap after all....

But where had she gone wrong? Had she simply been born wrong? Would it
have made any difference whatever she had done? Or had all this been
appointed for her or ever her mother had conceived her?

She asked herself this as she passed Whitefield's Tabernacle; still
walking slowly, she was well up Hampstead Road and still no answer
had occurred to her. But somewhere near the gold-beater's arm on the
right-hand side of the road a thought did strike her. She thought
that she would not go home after all. This was not because to go home
now would be inglorious; it was no attempt to keep up appearances; it
was merely that she would have preferred anything to this horrible
numbness. Pain would be better. It is at any rate a condition of pain
that you must be alive to feel it, and she did not feel quite alive.
This might be a dream from which she would presently awake, or a waking
from which she would by and by drop off to sleep again. In either case
it was more than she could bear for much longer, and, did she go home,
she would have to bear it throughout the night--for days--until Cosimo
came back--after that----

But where else to go, if not to The Witan? To Laura's? To Dickie's?
That would be the same thing as going home: little enough change
from spinal anaesthesia in that! They could not help. Of all her old
associates, there was hardly one but might--that was to say if anything
extraordinary ever happened to them, like suddenly getting to know
something--there was hardly one of them but might experience precisely
this same hopeless perfection of wrongness, and fail to discover any
one point at which it had all begun. It was rather to be hoped (Amory
thought) that they never would get to know anything. They were happier
as they were, in a self-contained and harmonious ignorance. Knowledge
attained too late was rather dreadful; people ought to begin to get it
fairly early or not at all. They ought to begin at about the age of
Corin and Bonniebell....

A month ago the last person she would have gone to with a trouble
would have been Dorothy Tasker. They had not a single view in common.
Moreover, it would have been humiliating. But now that actually became,
in a curious, reflex sort of way, a reason for going. She did not know
that she actually wished to be humiliated; she did not think about
it; but she had been looking at herself, and at people exactly like
herself, for a long, long, long time, and, when you have looked at
yourself too much you can sometimes actually find out something new
about yourself by looking for a change at somebody else as little like
you as can possibly be found. Amory had tried a good many things, but
she had never tried this. It might be worth trying. She hesitated
for one moment longer. This was when she feared that Dorothy might
offer her, not the change from numbness to pain, but a sympathy and
consolation that, something deep down within her told her, would not
help her.... A little more quickly, but not much, she walked up Malden
Road. She turned into Fleet Road, and reached the tram-terminus below
Hampstead Heath Station. Thence to Dorothy's was a bare five minutes.
What she should say when she got to Dorothy's she did not trouble to
think.

And at first it looked as if she would not be allowed to say anything
at all to her, for when she rang the bell of the hall-floor flat Stan
himself opened the door, looked at her with no great favour, and told
her that Dorothy was not to be seen. From that Amory gathered that
Dorothy was at least within.

Now when your need of a thing is very great, you are not to be put off
by a young man who admits that his wife is at home, but tells you that
she has some trifling affair--is in her dressing-gown perhaps, or has
not made her hair tidy--that makes your call slightly inconvenient.
Therefore Amory, in her need, did what the young man would no doubt
have called "an infernally cheeky thing." She repeated her request once
more, and then, seeing another refusal coming, waited for no further
reply, but pushed past Stan and made direct for Dorothy's bedroom. Why
she should have supposed that Dorothy would be in her bedroom she could
not have told. She might equally well have been in the dining-room, or
in the pond-room. But along the passage to the bedroom Amory walked,
while Stan stared in stupefaction after her.

Dorothy was there. She had not gone to bed, but, early as it was,
appeared to have been preparing to do so. Amory knew that because,
though in Britomart Belchamber's case a dressing-gown and plaited hair
might merely have meant that she wanted to listen to Walter Wyron's
talk in looseness and comfort, or else that a plaster cast was to be
taken, they certainly did not mean that in Dorothy's. And she supposed
that differences of that kind were more or less what she had come to
see.

Dorothy was gazing into the fire before which the youngest Bit had
had his bath. Close to her own chair was drawn the chair that had
evidently been lately occupied by Stan. The infant Bit's cot was in a
corner of the room. At first Dorothy did not look up from the fire.
Probably she supposed the person who was looking at her from the
doorway to be Stan.

But as that person neither spoke nor advanced, she turned her head. The
next moment a curious little sound had come from her lips. You see, in
the first place, she had expected nobody less, and in the second place,
she wholeheartedly shared many of her worldly old aunt's prejudices,
among which was the monstrous one that established a connexion between
recently-bibbed politicians in this country and revolver shots in
another. And there was no doubt whatever that her presentable but
brainless young husband had fostered this fallacious conviction. He
might even have gone so far as to say that Amory herself was not
altogether unresponsible....

And that, too, in a sense, was what Amory had come for.

The eyes of the two women met, Amory's at the door, Dorothy's startled
ones looking over her shoulder; blue ones and shallow brook-brown ones;
and then Dorothy half rose.

But whatever the first expression of her face had been, it hardly
lasted for a quarter of an instant. Alarm instantly took its place. She
had begun to get up as a person gets up who would ask another person
what he is doing there. Now it was as if, though she did not yet know
what it was, there was something to be done, something practical and
with the hands, without a moment's delay.

"What's the matter?" she cried. "Cried" is written, but her exclamation
actually gained in emphasis from the fact that, not to wake the Bit,
she voiced it in a whisper.

For a moment Amory wondered why she should speak like that. Then it
occurred to her that the face of a person under spinal anaesthesia
might in itself be a reason. She had forgotten her face.

"May I come in?" she asked.

She took Dorothy's "Shut the door--and speak low, please--what do you
want?" as an intimation that she might. Amory entered. But she was not
asked to sit down. The man who runs with a fire-call, or fetches a
doctor in the night, is not asked to sit down, and some urgency of that
kind appeared to be Dorothy's conception of Amory's visit.

"What do you want?" she demanded again.

Amory herself felt foolish at her own reply. It was so futile, so
piteous, so true. She stood as helpless as a Bit before Dorothy.

"I--I don't know," she said.

"What's the matter? What are you looking like that for? Has anything
happened to Cosimo?"

"No. No. No. He's coming home. No. Nothing's happened."

"Can I be of use to you?" She was prepared to be that.

"No--yes--I don't know----"

Dorothy's eyes had hardened a little.--"_Do_ you want something--and if
you don't--_had_ you to come--to-night?"

Amory spoke quite quickly and eagerly.

"Oh yes--to-night--it had to be to-night--I had to come to-night----"

Dorothy's eyes grew harder still.

"Then I think I know what you mean.... I don't think we'll talk about
it. There's really nothing to be said.--So----"

Amory was vaguely puzzled. Of Dorothy's relation to Sir Benjamin she
knew nothing. Dorothy appeared to be waiting for her to go. That would
mean back to The Witan. But she had come here expressly to avoid going
back to The Witan. Again she spoke foolishly.

"Cosimo's coming back," she said.

"My aunt thought he might be," said Dorothy in an even voice.

"And I was going away--but I'm not now----"

"Oh?"

"May I sit down?"

She did so, with her doubled fists thrust between her knees and her
head a little bowed. Then her eyes wandered sideways slowly round the
room. Dorothy's blouse was thrown on the wide bed; from under the bed
the baby Bit's bath peeped; and on the blouse lay Dorothy's hairbrushes.

Amory was thinking of another bed, a bed she had never seen, with
portmanteaus on it, and a patched old waistcoat cast underneath it, and
a girl busily packing at it, a girl whose voice she had heard pouting
"You might buy me a trousseau--"

Dorothy also had sat down, but only on the edge of her chair. And she
thought it would be best to speak a little more plainly.

"If you'll come to-morrow I shall know better what to say to you," she
said. "You see, you've taken me by surprise. I didn't think you'd come,
and I don't know now what you've come for. It isn't a thing to talk
about, certainly not to-day. I should have liked to-day to myself. But
if you feel that you must--will you come in again to-morrow?"

But Amory hardly seemed to hear. Her eyes were noting the appointments
of the bedroom again. The time had been when she would at once have
denounced the room as overcrowded and unhygienic. A cot, and a bed with
two pillows ... in some respects her own plan was to be preferred. But
this again was the kind of thing she had come to see, and she admitted
that these things were more or less governed by what people could
afford. From the kicked and scratched condition of the front of the
chest of drawers she imagined that Dorothy's children must romp all
over the flat. A parti-coloured ball lay under the cot where the baby
slept. There was a rubber bath-doll near it. The two older boys would
be sleeping in the next room.

She spoke again.--"I was going away," she said, dully, "with somebody."

Once more Dorothy merely said "Oh?"

Then it occurred to Amory that perhaps Dorothy did not quite
understand.

"I mean with--with somebody not my husband."

She had half expected that Dorothy would be shocked, or at least
surprised; but she seemed to take it quite coolly. Dorothy, as a
matter of fact, was not surprised in the very least. She too guessed
at the futility of looking for a starting-point of things that grow by
inevitable and infinitesimal degrees. It was rather sad, but not at all
astonishing. On Amory's own premises, there was simply no reason why
she shouldn't. So again she merely said "Oh?" and added after a moment,
"But you're not?"

"No."

"How's that? Has what we've heard to-day made you change your mind?"

Again Amory was slightly puzzled; and at Dorothy's questions she had,
moreover, a sudden little hesitation. _Was_ it after all necessary that
Dorothy should know everything? Would it not be sufficient, without
going into details, to let Dorothy suppose she had changed her mind?
It came to the same thing in the end.... Besides, Edgar Strong had not
refused her that night. He had not even known of her presence in the
office. Of the rest she would make a clean breast, but it was no good
bothering Dorothy with that other.... She was still plunged into a sort
of stupor, but these reflections stirred ever so slightly under the
surface of it....

Then what "what we've heard to-day" struck her. She repeated the words.

"What we've heard to-day?"

"Oh, if you haven't heard.... I only mean about the murder of my
uncle," said Dorothy coldly.

This was far more than Amory could take in. She reflected for a moment.
Then, "What do you say, Dorothy?" she asked slowly.

"At least he wasn't my uncle really. I liked him better than any of my
uncles."

"Do you mean Sir Benjamin Collins?"

It was as if Amory had not imagined that Sir Benjamin could by any
possibility have been anybody's uncle.

"I called him uncle," said Dorothy, in a voice that she tried to keep
steady. "Before I could say the word--I called him----." But she
decided not to risk the baby-word she had used--"Unnoo"----

It seemed to Amory a remarkable little coincidence.

"I--I didn't know," she said stupidly.

"No."

"You--you mean you--knew him?----"

"Oh ... oh yes."

Amory said again that she hadn't known....

"Then why," Dorothy would have liked to cry aloud, "_have_ you come,
if it isn't to make matters worse by talking about it? That wouldn't
have surprised me very much! I should have been quite prepared for you
to apologize! It's the kind of thing you would do. I don't think very
much of you, you see".... But again that worse than frightened look on
her visitor's face struck her sharply, and again a remark of her aunt's
returned to her: "They puzzle their brains till their bodies suffer,
and overwork their bodies till they're little better than fools."
Suddenly she gave her sometime friend more careful attention.

"Amory--," she said all at once.

Amory had her fists between her knees again.--"What?" she said without
looking up.

"You just said something about--going away. I want to ask you
something. You haven't...?"

The meaning was quite plain.

As if she had been galvanized, Amory looked sharply up.--"How
dare----", she began.

But it was only a flash in the pan. Dorothy was looking into her eyes.

"You're telling me the truth?" She hated to ask the question.

"Yes," Amory mumbled, dropping her head again.

"Has Cosimo been unkind to you?"

"No."

"Nor neglected you?"

"No."

"Has--has anybody been unkind to you?" She could not speak of
"somebody" by name.

Here Amory hesitated, and finally lied. It was rather a good sign that
she did so. It meant returning animation....

"No," she said.

"Then what _has_ happened?"

"Nothing. That's what I asked myself. That's just it. Nothing. Nothing
at all's happened."

Dorothy spoke in a low voice, as if to herself.--"I know," she
murmured....

And, on the chance that she really did know, Amory clutched at the
sleeve of Dorothy's dressing-gown almost excitedly.

"Yes, that's what I mean ... you do know?" she asked in a quick whisper.

"Yes--no--I'm not sure----"

"But you _do_ know that--nothing happening, nothing at all, and
everything happening--everything? That's what I mean--that's what I
want to know--that's why I came----"

"Don't speak so loudly. Put your hands to the fire; they're like ice.
Wait; I'll get you a shawl; you're shivering.... Now I want you to tell
me some things...."

And, first wrapping her up and putting Stan's pillow behind her back,
she began to question her.

       *       *       *       *       *

What, again, was the purport of her questions? What of those of her
aunt? What of those of a good many others in an age that is producing,
and for some mysterious reason or other counts it a sign of progress to
produce, innumerable Amorys--so many that, stretch out your hand where
you will, and you will touch one?

All is guessing: but it will pass on the time if we hold a Meeting
about it now. Everybody is agreed that the way to arrive at the
best conclusions is to hold a Meeting, and this will be only one
more Meeting added to the cloud of Meetings in which the "Novum"
went up and out--the Meeting which, as Edgar Strong had prophesied,
the loyal London Indians held (in the Imperial Institute) in order
to dissociate themselves from the Collins affair (as Edgar Strong
had also prophesied, Mr. Wilkinson moved an amendment, "That this
Meeting declines to dissociate itself, etc. etc.")--the numerous
secondary Meetings that arose out of that Meeting--the Meetings of
the "Novum's" creditors (for Edgar Strong in his haste to be off had
omitted to pay all the bills)--the Meetings at which (Cosimo Pratt
having withdrawn his support) the Eden and the Suffrage Shop had to be
reconstructed--the Meetings convened to talk about this, that and the
other--as many of them as you like.

Let us too, then, hold a nice, jolly Meeting, in order to find out what
was the matter with Amory--a Meeting with Mr. Brimby in the Chair, to
tell us that there is a great deal to be said on both sides, and that
no party has a monopoly of Truth, and that the words that ought always
to be on our lips as we hurl ourselves into the thickest and hottest of
the fray, whatever it may be, are "To know all is to forgive all."

But let us keep our Meeting as quiet as we can, for we shall have
no end of a crowd of Meeting-lovers there if we don't. The Wyrons
will of course have to be admitted, and Mr. Wilkinson, and Dickie
Lemesurier, and a few of the oldest students of the McGrath; but we do
not particularly want the others--those who feel that in a better and
brighter world they would have been students of the McGrath, but, as
matters stand, are merely young clerks who can draw a little, young
salesmen who can write a little, young auctioneers with an instinct for
the best in sculpture, young foremen who yearn to express themselves
in music, young governesses (or a few of them) who have heard of the
enormous sums of money to be made by playwriting, New Imperialists,
amateur regenerators, social prophets after working-hours, and, in
a word, all the people who have just heard that it is not true that
Satan is yet bound up for his promised stretch of a thousand years. A
terrible number of them will get in whether we wish it or not; but let
the rest be our own little party; and you shall sit next to Britomart
Belchamber, and I will stand by to open the windows in case we feel the
need of a little fresh air.

So Mr. Brimby will open the proceedings. He will say the things
above-mentioned, and presently, with emotion and his sense of the
world's sorrow gaining on him, will come to the case of their dear
friend Amory Pratt. Here, he will say, is a young woman, one of
themselves, who does not know what is the matter with her--who does
not know what has become of her joy--who cannot understand (if Mr.
Brimby may be allowed to express himself a little poetically) why the
bloom of her life has turned to an early rime. And so (Mr. Brimby will
continue), knowing that if two heads are better than one, two hundred
heads must be just one hundred times better still, their friend has
submitted her case to the Meeting. He will beg them to approach that
case sympathetically. Let the extremists of the one part (if there
be any) balance the extremists of the other, leaving as an ideal and
beautiful middle nullity those words he had used before, but did not
apologize for using again--to know all is to forgive all. And with
these few remarks (if we are lucky), Mr. Brimby will say no more, but
will call upon their friend Mr. Walter Wyron to state his view of their
friend's case.

Then Walter will get up, with his hands in the pockets of his knickers,
and it will not be his fault if he does not get off an epigram or two
of the "Love is Law" kind. But you will not fail to notice that Walter
is not his ordinary jaunty self. The withdrawal of Cosimo's support is
going to hit him rather hard, and glances will be exchanged, and one or
two will whisper behind their hands, "Isn't Walter beginning to live a
little on his reputation?" Still, Walter will contribute his quotum.
We shall hear that, in his opinion, the Cause of Synthetic Protoplasm
is making such vast strides to-day that we must revise every one of
our estimates in the light of the most recent knowledge, having done
which we shall probably find that what is really the matter with Amory
is that, by comparison with the mechanical appliances of Loeb and
Delage--appliances which he will take leave to call the Womb of the
Workshop--their friend Amory is over-vitalized.

Then Mr. Wilkinson will spring to his feet. And Mr. Wilkinson also
will be more than a little sore about Cosimo's cowardly backsliding.
He will say first of all that their Chairman, as usual, is talking out
of his hat, and that anybody with a grain of sense knew that to know
all was to have a contempt for all; and then he will point out that all
the trouble had come of shillyshallying with the wrong policy. Under
Strong's direction of the "Novum," he will say, Amory had been hitting
the air to no purpose; whereas had he, Mr. Wilkinson, been allowed
a chance, they would have had the proletariat armed with rifles by
this, and Pratt's wife would have been a _tricoteuse_, doing a bit of
knitting conspiratoriably and domestically useful at one and the same
time--would have worn a Phrygian cap, and carried a pike, and sung "A
la Lanterne," and put a bit of fire into the men! That's what she ought
to have done, and have had a bit of a run for her money, instead of
shillyshallying about with that idiot Strong----

And then a maiden speech will be given us. Mr. Raffinger, of the
McGrath, will get timidly but resolutely up, and we shall all applaud
him when he says that the bad old _régime_ at the McGrath was at the
bottom of all the mischief. The stupid old Professors of the past had
tried to drill instruction into the students instead of allowing each
one to do exactly as he pleased and so to find his own soul. Amory had
been crushed under the cruel old Juggernaut of discipline. But that,
happily, was a thing of the past at the McGrath. Now they went on the
more enlightened principles laid down by Séguin, who cured a child
of destructiveness by giving it a piece of priceless Venetian glass
to play with, and when he broke it gave it another unique piece, and
then another, and another after that, and another, until by degrees
the child learned, _and would never have to unlearn_ (that was the
important thing!) that it was very naughty to break valuable Venetian
glass. (A "hear hear" from Mr. Brimby, which will probably prove so
disconcerting to young Mr. Raffinger that he will sit down as suddenly
as if Mr. Wilkinson had discharged two bullets at him).

And then Laura Wyron will speak, saying tremulously that she can't
understand why Amory isn't happy when she has those two lovely babies;
but she is not happy, and never will be again, because she has turned
her back on her art; and Britomart Belchamber (who will be hoisted
to her feet because she has lived in the same house with Amory, and
may have something interesting and intimate to say) will doubt whether
Amory has always quite closed the sweat-ducts with a cold sponge;
and then the crowd will rush in--the governess playwrights will say
what they think, the clerk sculptors what they think, and everybody
else what he or she thinks--and presently they will have strayed a
little from the business in hand, and will be discussing Cubism, or
Matriarchy, or Toe-posts, or the Revival of the Ballad, or Rufty
Tufty, quite beyond Mr. Brimby's power to hale them back to the proper
subject. And so the Meeting will have to be adjourned, and we shall all
go again to-morrow night, when Mr. Wilkinson will be in the Chair, and
there ought to be some fun----

But Edgar Strong will not be there, because he will be on the water,
and Cosimo will not be there, because he will be anxiously counting
what money remains to him, and Mr. Prang will not be there, because he
will be under arrest in Bombay. But, except for these absences, it will
be a perfectly ripping Meeting----

       *       *       *       *       *

But none of these things were Dorothy's business. Instead, by the time
she had finished her questioning of Amory, there was no thought at all
in her breast, save only the pitiful desire to help. She saw before her
an old young woman, more drained and disillusioned and with less to
look forward to at thirty-odd than her aunt had at seventy. Her very
presence in Dorothy's house that night was a confession of it. It was
the last house she would willingly have gone to, and yet there she
was, begging Dorothy to tell her what had happened to her. And there
was nothing for Dorothy to say in reply....

She knew that Stan, in the dining-room, was waiting to come to bed, but
he must wait; Dorothy had the fire to mend, and Amory's cold hands to
chafe, and to get her something hot to drink, and a dozen other things
to do that had never had a beginning either, yet there they were, mere
helpful habit and nothing more. Presently she set a cup of hot soup to
Amory's lips.

"Drink this," she said, "and when you're rested my husband will take
you home."

But that did not happen either. Amory spoke very tiredly.

"I should like--I don't want to trouble you--anywhere would do--but I
don't want to go home to-night----"

Dorothy made a swift and doubting mental calculation. Where could she
put her?----

"I'm simply done up," muttered Amory closing her eyes.

"I'm afraid we could only give you a shakedown in the dining-room----"

"Yes--that would do----"

Dorothy went out to give Stan his orders. Stan swore. "Rather cool, one
of _that_ crew coming here, to-night of all nights!" But Dorothy was
peremptory.

"It isn't cool at all. You don't know anything about it. You'll find
blankets in the chest in your dressing-room, and mind you don't wake
Noel. Then get some cushions--I'll air a pillow case--and then you
must go up there and tell them where she is--they'll be anxious----"

"Shall I bring those twins of hers back with me while I'm about it?"
Stan asked satirically. "May as well put the lot up."

When he heard Dorothy's reply he thought that his wife really had gone
mad.

"I've arranged that," she said. "We shall be putting the twins up for
a time at Ludlow by and by while she and her husband go away somewhere
for a change. It's the least we can do. Don't stand gaping there,
Stan----"

"Hm! May I ask what's up?"

"You may if you like, but I shan't tell you."

"Hm!... Well--it's a dog's life--but I suppose it's no good my saying
anything----"

"Not a bit."

So Amory was put to bed, most unhygienically, in Dorothy's dining-room;
but in the middle of the night she woke, quite unable to remember where
she was. There was a narrow opening between the drawn curtains; through
it a glimmer of light shone on the Venetian blinds from the street-lamp
outside; and without any other light Amory got out of her improvised
couch. She felt her way along the wall to a switch, and then suddenly
flooded the room with light.

Blinking, she looked around. She herself wore one of Dorothy's
nightgowns. On Stan's armchair, near his pipe-rack, was her hat, and
her clothing lay in a heap where she had stepped out of it. Dorothy's
slippers lay by the fender, and Dorothy had been too occupied to
remember to remove the photograph of Uncle Ben from the mantelpiece.
It seemed to be watching Amory as she stood, only half awake, in her
borrowed nightgown.

It was odd, the way things came about----

If you had asked Amory at six o'clock the evening before where she
intended to spend the night, she would not have replied "In Dorothy
Tasker's flat----"

But she felt frightfully listless, and the improvised bed was very
warm----

She switched off the light and crept back.



TAILPIECE


Along the terrace of the late Sir Noel Tasker's house--"The Brear,"
Ludlow--there rushed a troop of ten or twelve urchins. They were
dressed anyhow, in variously-coloured jerseys, shirts, jackets and
blazers, and the legs of half of them were bare, and brown as sand.
Their ages varied from five to fifteen, and it is hardly necessary to
say that as they ran they shouted. A retriever, two Irish terriers, an
Airedale and a Sealyham tore barking after them. It was a July evening,
amber and windless, and the shouting and barking diminished as the
horde turned the corner of the long low white house and disappeared
into the beech plantation. Their tutor was enjoying a well-earned pipe
in the coach-house.

From the tall drawing-room window there stepped on to the terrace a
group of older people. The sound of wheels slowly ascending the drive
could be heard. Lady Tasker came out first; she was followed by Cosimo
and Amory and Dorothy and Stan. A little pile of labelled bags stood
under the rose-grown verandah; the larger boxes had already gone on to
the station by cart.

Stan took a whistle from his pocket and blew two shrill blasts; then he
drew out his watch. The sounds of shouting drew near again.

"I give 'em thirty seconds," Stan remarked.... "Twenty-five,
twenty-six--leg it, Corin!--ah; twenty-eight!... Company--fall in!"

The young Tims and the young Tonys, Corin and Bonniebell and the
terriers, stood (dogs and all, save for their tails) stiff as ramrods.
Stan replaced his watch. He had been fishing, and still wore his tweed
peaked cap, with a spare cast or two wound round it.

"Company--'Shun! Stand a-a-at--ease! 'S you were! Stand a-a-at--ease!
Stand easy.... Tony, fall out and see to the bags. Tim, hold the horse.
Corin--Corin!--What do you keep in the trenches?"

"Silence," piped up Corin. He had a rag round one brown knee, his head
was half buried in an old field-service cap, and he refused to be
parted, day nor night, from the wooden gun he carried.

"Not so much noise then.--Who hauls down the flag to-night?"

"Billie."

"Billie stand by. The rest of you dismiss, but don't go far--'Evening,
Richards----"

The trap drew up in front of the house. Tim held the horse's head, Tony
stood among the bags. The leavetaking began.

Amory and Cosimo were going to Cumberland for the rest of the summer.
They would have liked to go to Norway, but the money would no longer
run to it. They seemed a little shy of one another. They had been at
the Brear a fortnight, and had had the little room over the porch. The
twins were remaining behind for the present. Dorothy had said they
would be no trouble. This was entirely untrue. They were more trouble
than all the rest put together. Corin, near the schoolroom window, was
wrangling with an eight years old Woodgate now.

"They do, there! On Hampstead Heath! I've seen them, an' they've hats,
an' waterbottles, an' broomsticks!"

"Pooh, broomsticks! My father has a big elephant-gun!"

"Well ... mine goes to great big Meetings, an' says 'Hear hear!'"

"My father's in India!"

"Well, so was mine!"

"_I've_ seen them troop the Colour at the Horse Guards' Parade!"

"So've I!" Corin mendaciously averred.

The other boy opened his eyes wide and protruded his mouth. It is
rarely that one boy does not know when another boy is lying.

"Oh, what a big one! _You'd_ catch it if Uncle Stan heard you!"

"Well," Corin pouted, "--I will--or else I'll cry all night--hard--and
I'll make Bonnie cry too!--"

"Well, an' so shall I, again, an' then I'll have seen it twice, an'
you'll only have seen it once, an' if I see it every time you do you'll
_never_ have seen it as often as me!"

Then Stan's voice was heard.

"Corin, come here."

It was an atmosphere of insensate militarism, but the Pratts were
content to leave their offspring to breathe it for the present. They
had another matter to attend to--their own marital relations. It had
at last occurred to them that you cannot rule others until you can
govern yourself, and they were going to see what could be done about
it. They had secured a cottage miles away from anywhere, at the head of
a narrow-gauge railway, and it remained to be seen whether quiet and
privacy and the resources they might find within themselves would avail
them better than the opposites of these things had done. There was just
the chance that they might--their only chance. The twins, if all went
well, would join them by and by. In the meantime they must see red, and
learn to do things with once telling.

So Amory took the struggling Corin into her arms--he wanted to go to
the armoury of wooden guns--and kissed him. Then he ran unconcernedly
off. Dorothy saw the sad little lift of Amory's bosom, guessed the
cause, and laughed.

"Shocking little ingrates!" she said. "Noel's joy when I go away is
sometimes indecent.--But don't be afraid they'll be any trouble to us
here. You see the rabble we have in any case."

"It's very good of you," Amory murmured awkwardly.

"Nothing of the sort. Stan loves to manage them--it keeps his hand in
for managing me, he says.... Now, I don't want to hurry you, but you'd
better be off if you're going to get as far as Liverpool to-night.
Good-bye, dear----"

"Good-bye, Dorothy----"

"So long, Pratt--up with those bags, Tim----"

"Good-bye, Bonnie----"

"Corin! Corin!--(Hm! See if I don't have you in hand in another week or
two, my boy!)--Come and say good-bye to your father."

"Good-bye, Lady Tasker----"

"All right?"

The wheels crunched; hands were waved; the rabble gave a shockingly
undisciplined cheer; and young Arthur Woodgate, who had run along the
terrace and stood holding the gate at the end open, saluted. Stan took
out his watch again.

"Four minutes to sunset," he announced.

But there was no need to tell Billie to stand by to strike the flag
that hung motionless above the gable where the old billiard-room and
gun-room had been thrown together to make the schoolroom. The halyards
were already in his hands.

"Here, Corin," Stan called, "you shall fire the gun to-night."

Corin gave a wild yell of joy. Well out of reach, there was an electric
button on one of the rose-grown verandah posts. Stan lifted his newest
recruit to it, who put a finger-tip on it and shut his eyes----

"BANG!" went the little brass carronade in the locked enclosure behind
the woodshed----

And hand over hand Billie hauled the flag down.

But it would be run up again in the morning.


THE END



Transcriber's note


Extra titles were removed. The family tree on page 329 was adapted
to a limited page width. Words in italics have been surrounded with
_underscores_ and smalll capitals changed to all capitals. Errors in
punctuation were corrected silently. Also the following changes were
made, on page

   72 "flash" changed to "flask" (opened the flask of Chianti)
  182 "Hamlton" changed to "Hamilton" (she had suggested Mr. Hamilton
      Dix instead)
  210 "Cest" changed to "C'est" (C'est ça!)
  252 "than" changed to "that" (spring a thing like that on you)
  311 "represnt" changed to "represent" (It should represent the
      Earthly Authority)
  527 "I'amour" changed to "l'amour" (Comment l'amour revient aux
      vieillards)
  538 "excepted" changed to "accepted" (broke one of their tacitly
      accepted rules)
  590 "woman" changed to "women" (She looked at the women. There was
      nothing to betray them).

Otherwise the original was preserved, including unusual or archaic
words and expressions, and inconsistent spelling and hyphenation.





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