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Title: It Never Can Happen Again
Author: De Morgan, William
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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      Text enclosed by underscores is in italics (_italics_).


      *      *      *      *      *      *



An intensely human and humorous novel of life near London in the '50s.

  "If the reader likes both 'David Copperfield' and 'Peter Ibbetson' he
  can find the two books in this one."--_The Independent._

  "The first great English novel that has appeared in the 20th
  Century."--_New York Times Review._


The story of a London waif, a friendly artist, his friends and family.

  "If any writer of the present era is read half a century hence,
  a quarter century, or even a decade, that writer is William De
  Morgan."--_Boston Transcript._

  "It is the Victorian age itself that speaks in these rich,
  interesting, overcrowded books.... Will be remembered as Dickens's
  novels are remembered."--_Springfield Republican._


A lovable, humorous romance of modern England. $1.75.

  "A higher quality of enjoyment than is derivable from the work of any
  other novelist now living and active in either England or America.
  Absolutely masterly."--_Dial._

  "A book as sound, as sweet, as wholesome, as wise, as any in the
  range of fiction."--_Nation._


      *      *      *      *      *      *




Author of "Joseph Vance," "Alice-for-Short"
and "Somehow Good"


New York
Henry Holt and Company

Copyright, 1909.
Henry Holt and Company

Published November, 1909


  CHAPTER I                                                        PAGE

  PREVIOUS STORY, AND LIZARANN'S BIRTH                                1


  HE WALKED HOME WITH LIZARANN                                       11


  WIFE                                                               24


  OF HOW MR. CHALLIS WROTE TO HIS WIFE                               37


  DIDN'T                                                             46


  CAT. HIS HEDGEHOG                                                  57


  BEAUTY A MATTER OF OPINION                                         76


  MARIANNE                                                           89


  TOWN HOUSES. JEALOUSY                                             101


  MISS ARKROYD'S MESSAGE DELIVERED                                  120


  WENT HOME WITHOUT DADDY                                           135


  SEE AT NIGHT, AND WAS UNDER THE BED. POLICE!                      148


  SLEEP ON A SECOND-HAND SOFA                                       163


  INVISIBLE                                                         175


  ABOUT HIM                                                         187


  PLACE. WHO WAS TO PAY?                                            202




  STINGY'S WEEDS, AND WHAT A GOOD COOK SHE WAS                      225


  OSTROGOTHS. THE ACROPOLIS CLUB                                    236


  HOW CHALLIS CAME HOME LATE                                        248






  SOLOMON AND HIS DJINN BOTTLE                                      284


  ALL RIGHT IN THE MORNING                                          297




  STOP                                                              323


  ON RELIGIOUS EDUCATION                                            337


  WAS SORRY                                                         353


  UNSATISFACTORY LETTER THAT!                                       368


  A FOOL'S PASSION. WHAT ABOUT BOB?                                 382


  TO TOWN. HOW SIBYL HAD SEEN IT ALL                                394




  TO WHAT? OF A FIRE GOD GAVE FOR OTHER ENDS                        425


  WOULDN'T HAVE JUDITH SLURRED OVER                                 434




  ELDRIDGE!                                                         456




  NOT TO COME TO BIARRITZ! THE SKEIN WOUND                          481


  A KNIGHT                                                          497


  HOW MISS FOSSETT MADE A NICE MESS OF IT                           513


  SCHEME, AND ITS EFFECTS ON JIM                                    523


  SHE MADE TO HIM                                                   534


  THEY MET SALADIN. HOW CHALLIS TOLD ALL                            543


  RECTOR TOLERATED HIS IMPIETY                                      552




  HAD TO GO TO CHIPPING CHESTER                                     574


  HOW LIZARANN DIED OF TUBERCULOSIS                                 585


  ARRIVED WITHOUT HER. OF JIM'S DEATH, AND HERS                     599


  TESTIMONY                                                         614




  AND CHALLIS RELAPSED                                              643


  IT CAME OUT WHO MR. KEITH HORNE'S FRIEND WAS                      652


  VANISHES, READABLE BITS AND ALL!                                  674

  THE AUTHOR TO HIS READERS ONLY                                    688




Lizarann Coupland did not know what her father's employment was; but
she knew that, every morning, she saw him to the corner of Bladen
Street, put his left hand on the palin's of number three, and left him
to shift for himself. She was on honour not to watch him down Bladen
Street, and she had a keen sense of honour. She also knew by experience
that when her aunt, Mrs. Steptoe, said she would learn her a lesson she
wouldn't easy forget, Mrs. Steptoe was not referring to teacher-book
instruction like at school. And this lesson, Lizarann understood, would
be imparted by her aunt with some blunt instrument, perhaps a slipper,
in case she failed to observe her promise. She was not to go spyin' and
starin' after Father no farther than where it was wrote up "Old Vatted
Rum, fivepence-halfpenny" at the Green Man and Still. It was a compact,
and Lizarann observed it--always running away as fast as possible to
get out of reach of temptation as soon as ever her father's fingers
closed on the knob of a particular low paling. It was a paling good to
turn upside down over, which affirmed the territorial rights of the
Green Man over a certain six-foot foreshore of pavement liable else to
be claimed by the Crown, or the Authority.

Lizarann's father, James Coupland, was stone-blind, and the reason she
was sent with him every morning was because he had to cross Cazenove
Street, and Dartley Street, and Trott Street, before you come to
pavement all the way, and it wasn't safe. As soon as you got to the
Green Man, why there you were! Only like touchin' the wall, and your
stick on the right, and on you kep' direck. But as to what Lizarann's
father did, at some place on this side of the next bad crossing,
his six-year-old daughter never could guess. All she knew was that
she was useful, and assisted towards some public object, not easily
understood by a little girl, when she piloted her father to and from
his starting-point of continuous pavement, as a ship through shoals and
cross-currents, to the mouth of a canal. But the metaphor of Lizarann's
flight when she left the ship to its captain is not an easy one. If
only metaphors would not be so lobsided!

That her father was a supplicant for public charity was a surmise that
never crossed Lizarann's mind. An idea can be got of how she thought
of him by any young lady who knows, for instance, that her father is
in the Custom-House, but who has never seen the Custom-House, and has
no idea what he does there; or even by one who, having for parent a
sexton, and being kept in ignorance of his functions, conceives of him
as the Archbishop of Canterbury; or more easily--to take yet another
parallel--by one situated like Lizarann's little friend Bridgetticks,
down a turnin' out of Trott Street, whose grandfather was in an
almshouse; but who was inflated past all bearing by his livery or
uniform when the old chap was out for his holiday, and Bridget was
allowed to walk with him all along Trott Street and round the Park.
There was no abidin' of her, struttin' about!

"My grandfather's richer than your father," said Bridgetticks, after
one such occasion, "and he's got his heyesight, too."

"Fathers are better than grandfathers," said Lizarann. "Fathers goes
down Bladen Street holdin' on to nuffin', and ain't they rich, neither?
My father he fetches home nine shillings in coarpers. Aunt Stingy,
she let Uncle Steptoe get at it, and he laid some of it out in gin."
The name of this aunt, as Lizarann pronounced it, seemed to ascribe a
waspish character to its owner rather than a parsimonious one.

"You lyin' little thing, how you ever can!" exclaimed Bridgetticks.
This was because the daring sum of nine shillings took her aback.
But on consideration another line of tactics seemed more effective.
"Nine shillin's ain't nothin'," she said. "My grandfather, he's got an
allowance regular, _he_ has."

Lizarann paused before replying. She was confronted with an unforeseen
thing, foreign to human experience. What _was_ an allowance? On the
whole, it would be better to keep clear of it. She changed the _venue_
of the discussion. "He's dressed up, he is," she said. But she spoke
with diffidence, too, and her friend felt conciliated.

"Dressed up's a falsehood," she said, but without asperity. "If
you'd 'a said cloze like the Lord Mayor's Show, now! But little
infant-school pippings like you don't know nothink." Lizarann felt put
upon her mettle.

"My father," she said, "he's got a board with wrote upon. Hangs it
round his neck, he does. Like on Harthurses carts and the milk."

"You never see it on his neck, not yet you can't read. You can't read
the words on Arthurses cart." But Lizarann could read one--the middle
one--and did it, a syllable at a time: "Prov-i-ded." It was correct,
and a triumph for the decipherer. But she was doomed to humiliation.
Bridgetticks was a great reader, like Buckle, and could read what was
wrote on milk-carts all through.

"Any little biby could read _that_! You can't read 'fammy-lies,' nor
yet 'dyly.' It's no use your tryin'." But Lizarann felt unhappy, and
yearned for Culture, and tried very hard to read "families" and "daily"
on each side of "provided," while Bridgetticks gave attention to a
doll's camp on the doorstep. But "families" is very hard to read--you
know it is!--and Lizarann quite forgot to put back a beautiful piece of
stick-liquorice in her mouth during her efforts to master it.

Anybody would have thought, to look along Tallack Street, where this
colloquy took place, that the announcement on Arthurses cart "Families
provided daily" was followed out literally by Arthurs, and that that
Trust or Syndicate was driving a brisk trade in the families it
provided daily. To-day was a holiday at the Board school, and the whole
street teemed with prams. And in every pram was one biby, or more,
assimilating Arthurses milk. But they themselves had not been provided
by Arthurs; merely the milk.

The prams were nearly the only vehicles in Tallack Street, which ran
straight acrost from the railway-arch to the 'Igh Road, parallel-like,
as you might say, to Trott Street. Even Arthurses cart wasn't a real
cart, only drove by hand. A nearer approach to an ideal was the coal,
which came behind a horse, and sold itself for a shillin' a hundred,
more or less, accordin' as the season. The scales, they'd weigh down
to twenty-eight pound, if you didn't want to have capital lying idle;
but then it was a sight easier to be cheated at that, and you could
always bring two coal-scuttles, and if one of 'em _was_ wore through,
why, a stout bit of brown paper, coverin' in the hole, and there you
were! Because the dropping of fragments of coal on the pavement was not
only wasteful, but giv' them boys something to aim with. Ammunition was
scarce, owing to the way the road was kep'; similar, them boys took
every opportunity.

There were two other vehicles that were known to Tallack Street.
One came every day with a drum, and sold vegetables. The proprietor
had made himself hoarse, many years since, with shouting about the
freshness of his stock between the outbreaks on the drum, and, as life
advanced and his lung-power declined, the drum-performances encroached
on the oratory. This suited a large majority of the inhabitants,
conveying a sense of Life--was, in fact, thought almost equal to the
Play--by those who had been to it--and was so appreciated by Lizarann
and Bridgetticks that they would petition to be allowed to stand in
contact with the drum to feel the noise inside of 'em like.

The other vehicle was, however, the climax of the Joy of Living in
Tallack Street, only it demanded a 'apenny a time, and you had to
save up. But if you could afford it, it was rapture. How describe it?
Well, it was drawed by a donkey, and went round and round and round.
You yourself, and your friends, sat on truncated chairs at the end of
radial spokes rotating horizontally on a hub, which played melancholy
tunes, and you could tell what they were by looking, because there
was the ticket of it, every time a new tune come. But the execution
supplied no clue, or very little, to its identity.

Tallack Street, as you will have inferred, was a cul-de-sac, and
therefore very popular as a playground with the children of the
neighbourhood. It ended in a dead wall, formerly enclosing an extinct
factory, which had survived the coming of the railway, by which it
had been acquired, and for some reason spared; about which factory,
or, rather, its remains, an understanding had been current for about
a generation that it could be took on lease from the Company and
adapted as workshops. The board was almost illegible, except one word
"inquire," of no value apart from its sequel, which anyone who could
read would have told you at once was a name and address; but as to what
name and what address, it would have taken a scollard to tell that.

       *       *       *       *       *

There came occasionally to Tallack Street a lady, who appeared to
Lizarann to make her way into her Aunt Steptoe's home on insufficient
pretexts. She certainly was not the sort of lady to get her shoes
mended by a working cobbler in a suburban slum, and Lizarann made no
pretence of understanding her. She saw very little of any of her aunt's
visitors, because she was always sent, or bundled, out the moment they
appeared, and only allowed in the house again after their departure.

She was interested and pleased, therefore, when this lady, who was
dressed quite beautiful, developed as a friend of Teacher, the familiar
spirit of the Dale Road Schools, where this little girl was learning
to sew quite beautiful. She was still more interested when she became
aware that the conversation between these two ladies related to her own
family. Teacher and the lady talked out quite loud close to her--as if
she didn't matter, bless you!

"All the streets are not as bad as Tallack Street," said the lady. "And
all the houses in Tallack Street are not so bad as that house at the
end. People named Townroe, I think--awful people!"

"Do you mean Steptoe?"

"Oh yes--Steptoe. I've tried to talk to the woman, and it's perfectly
useless. You can't do anything when the man's in the way. And as for
him--well, you know, Adeline, when these people don't attend either
church or chapel, it's simply hopeless. There's nothing to begin upon."

"The man drinks. Of course!"

"Of course! He seemed sober, though, the only time I saw him, but very
sulky. Oh dear!--he _was_ trying."

"What did he say?"

"He wouldn't say anything--wouldn't answer! And he said to his wife:
'You say a _something_ word'--you understand, Adeline?--'you say a
something word, and see if I don't smack your eye. You try it!' My
daughter talked for an hour, and then he said: 'If you think you'll
sedooce me into committing of myself, you'll find you're mistook. So
I should think better of it, if I was you. Yours werry truly, Robert
Steptoe.' Just as if he was writing a letter." Both ladies laughed,
and Lizarann pricked her finger badly, and it redded all over the
'emstitch. But she couldn't understand the laugh. She was not fond of
her aunt's husband; you can't love pock-marks unless they have some
counterpoise in beauty of disposition. But she had a certain spirit of
partisanship about her belongings, too!

"I suppose the children go to some school--Board School or something,"
said Teacher.

"They haven't children, thank Heaven! these people," said the outside
lady. "But there's a little girl--somehow--with a father. They said she
came here--at least, I suppose the 'school-house up the road' meant

"Then she must be here now. What was her name? Did you make out?"

"Eliza Ann something--Doubleday, I think, as near as I can recollect.
No, it wasn't Doubleday. What could it have been?..." And this lady
tapped one hand with the other, to keep on showing how hard she was

"Was it Eliza Ann Coupland? Come here, Lizarann, and tell the lady if
it was you."

Lizarann approached by instalments, in awe. She had received false
impressions from the conversation--one that her uncle could write a
letter, and this lady knew it. A second that her aunt's children--if
any--would have been all over little sand-pits that would catch and
hold the grime awful, like their father, and that therefore we ought to
be thankful. A third that she was a "little girl somehow," and she had
never been told that she was one somehow, only that she was a little

"Are you the little girl?" said the lady.

"I don't know, miss," said Lizarann. She thought the lady seemed
impatient. And whom did she mean by "they" when she said, "Oh
dear!--how trying they are!"?

"Ought I to tell her to say 'My lady,' or not?" said Teacher.

"Oh, bother!" said the lady. "What does your father do, my dear? You're
a nice little thing, only your mouth's too big."

Timid murmurs came from the catechumen. "What's that you say? Father
goes out to work? What does father go out to work at?"

"That's impossible!" said Teacher. "Her father's blind, and she leads
him about."

"I hope you're not telling stories, child, like the rest, because I
like you all except your mouth. Come close here, so that I can hear
you, and tell me what your father does. Only don't splutter or gabble!"

Whereupon Lizarann gave her version of her father's professional
employment. She knew she was to say, if pressed on the point, that
her father was "an asker," and she said it, standing first on one
leg and then on the other uneasily. She had a mixture of misgiving
and confidence that the statement would be sufficient; just as you
or I might have felt in stating, for instance, that our father was
an apparitor, or a stevedore, or a turnover-at-press. But she had
absolutely no idea of the meaning of her phrases.

"What on earth does the child mean? Say it again, small person!" Thus
the lady.

"A asker!" The child had the name perfectly clear, and added
"Yass!"--to drive it home--with eyes of assurance standing wide open.
Both ladies made her repeat it, and asked her what she meant by it;
but she evidently did not know. They pondered and speculated, till on
a sudden a light broke. "Is it possible she means a _beggar_?" said
Miss Fossett. Then the two of them spoke in an undertone, and Lizarann
felt that her family affairs were being discussed over her head, but by
creatures too great for her to take exception to, or even to interpret.
Presently the lady addressed her again:

"What does he ask for, little stuffy? Yes, you may come as close as
that. What does he ask for, child?"

Thereat Lizarann, in support of her family credit, said: "He took all
of nine shillings in coarpers once on a time." She couldn't compete
with the lady in birth and position, but she had a proper pride in her
race, for all that.

The lady and Miss Fossett looked at one another, and the latter said:
"It's quite possible. They do sometimes." And Lizarann felt flattered
and that she had done her duty. And that when she told her father,
he would certainly give her a peppermint-drop. She had a sense of an
improved position as she went back to her sewing. But the two ladies
went on talking about her under their breath, and she fancied they were
resuming some incidents of the previous Saturday at Tallack Street.
Teacher seemed to have heard something of them, and she now connected
them with her pupil. As the lady ripened towards departure she became
more audible.

"It only shows the truth of what I'm always saying to Sir Murgatroyd.
How can you _expect_ them to be any better when they have such wretched
homes? Give them air and light and sanitation and things, and then talk
goody to them if you like.... Oh dear!--I must rush. I've promised to
go with Sibyl and those Inglis girls to Hurlingham this afternoon."
Then the lady had a recrudescence of her perception that Lizarann was
funny, for she turned round, going away, to say to Miss Fossett: "Oh
dear, how funny they are! Fancy an Asker!" and, as it were, fell a
little into Miss Fossett's bosom to find sympathy, afterwards kissing
her, and saying, "But how good you are!" rather gushily, and making
off. She did say, however, to Lizarann: "Good-bye, little person!
Consider I've kissed you. I would, only it's such a sticky day."

Much of this conversation would have been quite unintelligible to the
child, even if she had heard the whole of it. Her mind was not prepared
to receive it, as, not having had much time to reflect since her birth,
she had not noticed that her domestic life had anything exceptional
about it. Extension of her social circle had not, so far, convinced her
that there was anything unusual in their rows and quarrels; in fact,
she was gently creeping on to a belief that Steptoes--their inclusive
name--was the rule, and the balance of the Universe the exception. But
her unconsciousness of the actual was liable to inroads from without,
and that day at school roused the curiosity of an inquiring mind.
Lizarann asked herself for the first time whether the conditions of
her home-life were really normal, and nothing better was to be looked
forward to in the future. No doubt Tallack Street would have sided with
the lady in the views she expressed of any one house in it, though each
house would have laid claim to an exceptional character for itself.
But in the case of Steptoe's its unanimity would have been impressive;
for Lizarann's Uncle Steptoe he'd be in liquor as often as not, and
frequently aim a stool or suchlike at his wife's head--besides language
you could hear the length of the street.

It does not follow that he had no provocation. Mrs. Steptoe was a
fine study of the effect of exasperating circumstances on a somewhat
uncertain temper, and Lizarann conceived of the result as a typical
aunt. She had married, some twelve years since, from motives difficult
of analysis, a cobbler who drank, towards whom she had always professed
indifference. She seemed to have based a low opinion of all mankind on
an assumption that they were none on 'em much better than her husband,
and most of 'em were a tidy sight worse. If so, the tidiness of the
sight might have disappointed orderly, old-fashioned folk. Not that Bob
Steptoe was a bad sort when he was sober. Only that was so seldom.

Now, on the Saturday evening in question, this uncle by marriage of
Lizarann, having previously taken too much beer, took too much whisky,
and became quarrelsome. "A man ain't always answerable, look at it
how you may!" said Tallack Street. Let us hope Mr. Steptoe was not,
as on this occasion he loosened three of his wife's front teeth and
indented the bridge of her nose. His blind brother-in-law, returning
at this moment, personally conducted by his small daughter, was unable
to see, but guessed that Steptoe was under restraint by neighbours,
and from mixed sounds of pain and rage and inarticulate spluttering
that his wife had been the victim of his violence. Poor Jim, mad with
anger, besought the restraining party only to let him get hold of his
brother-in-law, and he would give him what would recall him to his
memory on future occasions. Feeling the desirableness of this, they
complied; and Mr. Steptoe, when, after a painful experience of the
superior strength of Jim, he got his head out of Chancery, felt ill,
and was conducted to bed by his wife. Of whom Lizarann afterwards
reported that when she heard Uncle Bob get louder, Aunt Stingy, she
said, "You do, and I'll call Jim back again," and then Uncle Bob he
shut up.

This little girl's father had been in the Merchant Service and had
lost his eyesight through an explosion of petroleum in the harbour
at Cape Town. Current belief held that it was his own fault, saying
that Jim Coupland hadn't any call to drop a lighted match into a
hole in an oil-cask that was standing in the January sun; still less
was it necessary that he should look after it through the hole, and
receive the full blast of the inevitable explosion in his face. He
admitted these facts, but maintained that a hundred oil-casks might
have exploded in his face, and no harm done, if he had not, a few days
before, seen the Flying Dutchman. This belief could not be shaken by
argument, not even by the fact that the other men on his watch, all of
whom had seen the Phantom Ship, had retained their eyesight intact.
Didn't old Sam Nuttall--and nobody could pretend he hadn't been forty
years in the Navy--say the very first thing of all, when he told him
he'd seen the Dutchman: "Look you here, my son," he said, "you've got
to look sharp and get yourself hanged or shot or drownded, if you
want to die with eyes in your head"? And warn't he right? Anyhow, the
coincidence of the accident a few days later had created a firm faith
in the mind of Jim Coupland, and very few had the heart to try to shake

Whatever the cause, Jim Coupland came back eyeless from that voyage,
and found his wife lately delivered of a female infant that did well,
and became Lizarann. But her mother did ill, presumably, and the doctor
that attended her did certainly, if the verdict of Tallack Street was
warranted. She had no call to die, said Tallack Street. Perhaps its
many matrons did not allow enough for the hideous shock of poor eyeless
Jim's reappearance. She _did_ die, and poor Jim, the happy bridegroom
of a year ago, was left a widower at eight-and-twenty, hopelessly
blind, with a baby he could never see.

Oh the tragedies Life's records have to show, that remain unpublished,
and must do so!--all but a chance one or two, such as this one just

Lizarann was named after the ship her father made his last voyage in,
or almost after it. The ship was the _Anne Eliza_, and the parson got
the name wrong. Jim said it wasn't any odds, that he could reckon; and
Mrs. Steptoe, his sister, said, on the contrary, it ran easier, took
that way. So Lizarann she became, and Lizarann she remained. And the
tale how father lost his eyesight through seeing the Flying Dutchman
was the ever-present Romance of her youth, and would constantly
creep into her conversation, even when the subject-matter thereof was
already interesting--as, for instance, when she was discussing with
Bridgetticks an expected, or perhaps we should say proposed, addition
to the family of Lizarann's doll, which had been fixed for the ensuing
Sunday. There could be no doubt--as there is usually in the case of
human parents--about the exact hour of arrival, as the Baby was ready
dressed for the event her intended mother was looking forward to, in
hypothetical retirement, on the house-doorstep. She and her friend were
comparing notes on previous events of a like nature.

"Oh, you story!" said Lizarann, but not offensively--it was only
current chat. "My father _says_ I understand. He says I understand
ship's victuals and port and starboard." Grasp of these involved
proficiency in other departments of thought, so the implication seemed
to run. But Bridget wouldn't have it so.

"Ya'ar little silly!" she said, standing on the parapidge, and hanging
to the riling, so as to project backwards into the little forecourt;
you couldn't, speakin' accurately, call it a garden, but it had the
feelin' about it, too. "Ya'ar little silly Simplicity Sairah in a
track! Ship's victuals ain't nothing to understand, nor yet port and
starboard! Wait till you can understand fly-wheels and substraction
engines! _They'll_ make you sit up and talk!" This little girl's father
was an engineer in charge of a steam-roller.

Bridget would have said the exact reverse if the two excursions
into the relative fields of knowledge had been exchanged between
them. Lizarann respected her friend too much to conceive of her as a
time-server, and her mind cast about to fortify her position on other

"My father he says I can understand the Flying Dutchman, and he seen
her. Yass! Afore ever he lost his heyesight!"

"He's lyin', then. Dutchmen ain't women. I seen a picter-Dutchman in
trowsers." Lizarann cogitated gravely on this before she answered. "A
ship's a her," she then said. "All ships is hers." She then added, but
not as a saddening fact, merely as a thing true and noticeable, "He
never seen me, father didn't."



Can anyone among us whose life is full of action, with Hope in his
heart and Achievement on his horizon; whose pillow whispers at night
afterthoughts of a fruitful day, and on the day that follows can,
without affectation, reproach the head that lies too long on it with
having lost something precious that cannot be regained--can such a one
conceive the meaning of blind or crippled life, that left Hope dead by
the roadside long ago, and dares not look ahead to see the barren land;
whose pillow speaks no word about the past, but only welcome hints
about oblivion, and a question with the daylight--why rise? Why rise,
indeed, and maybe miss a dream of a bygone day? Better lie still, and
thank God for the dream-world!

"I wonder what that poor devil feels like," said one first-class
traveller outside the railway-station to another, who, like himself,
gave the impression that he had plenty of luggage somewhere else,
which was being well looked after by a servant whose wages were too
high. Both were young men, well under twenty-five at a guess; and
though one was fair and the other was dark, and they were not the same
height, and their features were not alike, still the predominant force
of their class-identity was so strong that individuality was lost in
it, and most folk, seeing them _en passant_ would have spoken of them
thenceforth as "those two young swells," and dismissed them with an
impression that either might be at any time substituted for the other
without any great violence to contemporary history. They appeared to
be sauntering to the train, and the poor devil was Jim Coupland, at
his usual post by the long blank wall he used to feel his way down,
after leaving Lizarann at the corner she might not pass. The wonderer
had bought matches of Jim that he didn't want--for Jim was obliged
to make a show of selling matches, to be within the law--and had
returned change for sixpence, honourably offered by Jim. "I can't see
you, master," said the blind man, "and I never shall, not if the sky
falls, but I thank ye kindly. And I'll tell my little lass on ye, home
to-night." It was the only recompense Jim had to offer, and he offered

"_I_ should kill myself straight off," said the other traveller. His
speech was quite as consequent on his friend's as most current speech
is on its antecedent; you listen closely when you hear talk, and see
if this is not the case! "Stop a bit! Don't make me split this cigar.
I haven't got another, and nothing fit to smoke is procurable in this
neighbourhood ... there!--that's right, now.... The little chocket
wouldn't snickle out. Let's see! What topic were we giving our powerful
brains to? Oh, ah!--the blind beggar. You recollect the fellah?"

"Never saw him before, that I know of."

"Perhaps you haven't. I have. But you remember the two little girls?"

"Which two?"

"That morning we went to inquire about the railroad arch. Of course,
you remember." His friend assented. "Well!--that little girl is this
chap's kid. She'll come in the evening to take him home. I've seen 'em
about together, many a time."

"I remember two little girls, where we went down that street my mother
and sister slum in. Tallack Street. Which was the kid? The bony one
with the nostril ajar, and the front teeth, that called you a cure?"

"No--the little plummy modest one, with both eyes stood open, and
something to suck. Large dark eyes." No really nice young man, such as
we like, can ever mention a girl's eyes, even a young child's, without
a shade of tenderness.

"What a sensitive youth you are, Scipio!" His friend sees through him.
"The other was a little Jezebel."

"Came out of Termagant's egg, I should say. Isn't there a bird called a
Termagant? There ought to be."

"I quite agree, but I doubt it. Well--to return to the point--you say
you would kill yourself, straight off. How do you know that? You think
you would now, but you wouldn't when it came to the scratch. This man
doesn't want to kill himself."

"Because of the little girl. He'd kill himself fast enough if he had
nothing to live for."

"My dear Scipio, that is sheer _petitio principii_. A man's having no
wish at all to live takes his wish to die for granted. Unless he has
an unnatural taste for mere equilibrium for its own sake. But the real
point is that if you were this chap, you would have exactly the same
inducements to live that he has--the little girl, for instance."

"Be calm, William! Allow me to point out that you are begging the
question yourself. The hypothetical form--'If you were this chap'--if
interpreted to imply an exchange of identity in all particulars, takes
for granted that what this chap does now I should do then. Clearly,
I shouldn't kill myself, or shouldn't have done so up to date, as he
hasn't. But the meaning of my remark is obvious to any mind not warped
and distorted by casuistry. I refer more particularly to your own. Its
meaning is that if I had two scabs instead of eyes, and was reduced to
flattering the vanity of my fellow-countrymen in order to stimulate
their liberality, I should by preference select Euthanasia." And he
lighted his cigar, which had been waiting.

"I wish that little girl was here now, to call you a 'cure' again,
Scipio. She did you a lot of good."

       *       *       *       *       *

Jim Coupland heard as far as "I should kill myself straight off," which
he certainly was not meant to do by the speakers. But neither of them
were on their guard against the quickened hearing of the blind, and
neither of them heard that Jim answered, though each had an impression
the blind man was talking to himself. As for Jim, _his_ impression was
that his words reached. But then he had no means of knowing how far
off the young men were, and that, as against the shrewdness of his own
hearing, they were little better than deaf at that distance. What he
said was:

"I was minded to, young Master, at the first go off. But the wish was
on me strong for the voice of my wife, and the lips of her. And when I
lost her--ye understand--it was the cry of the baby new-born that held
me. I'd be shamed to think upon it now, young Master. The day's bound
to go by, and I mean to bide it out."

"Who are you lecterin' to? Polly--pretty Polly!" Thus an unfeeling
fiend of a boy, who hears poor Jim talking to the empty air. But Jim,
if he hears, does not heed him. His mind is far away, thinking of the
dreadful day of his return to his wife and her week-old baby, and his
coming to know that his mishap, announced by letter the day before, had
been kept from her, and was still to tell. Of the ill-judged attempt
to keep it from her yet a while, and let him be beside her in the
half-dark. And the fatal sudden light of a fire that blazed out, and
her cry of terror: "Oh, Jim, man, what have you done to your eyes?"...

Then of yet one more forlorn hope--the ill-wrought, ill-sustained
pretext that this was but a passing cloud, a mere drawback of the hour,
a thing that time would remedy--so ill-sustained that even in the few
short days before her death Jim's wife had come to know that his eyes,
stone-blind beyond a doubt, would never laugh into her face again,
would never rest with hers upon the little face she longed to show
him was so like his own. And then the end, and a grave in the parish
burial-ground he could not see.

Then of a dream of the Valley of the Shadow of Death, and of a child's
cry that reached him and called him back, even as he longed of his
own free choice and will to plunge into its utter darkness. Then of a
growth of ease--a sort of working ease to get through life with--and a
term of reading, day by day, hour by hour, each tiniest change in the
inflection of the baby's cry, until one day Lizarann, to whom it had
occurred to glance round at the Universe she had been pitchforked into,
burst into a not very well executed laugh at its expense, and made poor
Jim for the first time fully conscious that he had a daughter.

It would be hard to tell all the struggles he went through before he
could reconcile himself to a new position in life, mendicancy under
pretence of match-selling. He did it at last, urged by grim necessity
and Mrs. Steptoe. Perhaps we should say _stung_ by the latter rather
than _urged_, for her attitude was that, eyes or no eyes, if her
brother wasn't going to do a hand's turn for himself, he might pack
up his traps and go, brat and all! Who was he that he was to eat his
sister out of house and home? And all because he was too proud to
beg, forsooth! Wasn't he begging already, and wasn't she alms-giving?
Yes!--only it was to be all underhanded! Nothing fair or above-board!
Why should he be ashamed to ask the public for what he wasn't ashamed
to take from two toiling relatives, the weaker of whom had suffered
so much already from the disgusting drinking habits of the other? Jim
gave way, and found excuses for his sister--he always did--in these
same disgusting habits. Perhaps he was right. Anyhow, he gave way. And
an old mate of his faked him up the inscription afore-mentioned, and
supplied the picture of the Flying Dutchman from his narrative of the
incident. And well Jim remembered how the cord he hung it from his neck
by got frayed and broke, and brought back to his mind another cord his
hand once grasped, as he swayed to and fro at the weather ear-ring of a
topsail; and his wondering--would the frayed strands of the sheet hold
under the great strain of his back-draw, or snap and fall with him into
the black gulf that was hungering for him below? He could hear again
the music of the gale that sang in the shrouds, feel again the downward
plunge of the hull into the trough of the sea, and breathe again the
air that bore its flying foam. Then he thought to himself, would not
a plunge into that black gulf, then and there, have been, after all,
the best thing for him? And answered his own thought without noting a
strangeness in its wording: "What!--and never seen my little lass!"

But the happy fancy that Jim did not beg, but only asked, took hold
of the imagination. Of course he would not beg--he would scorn to do
so--he, the strong seaman, who had lived a life of danger half of those
whose footsteps passed him daily would have flinched to think of! Why
should he hesitate to ask of them what he would have given so freely to
any one of them himself--to any one of them left in the dark? So when
Lizarann said to him one day, apropos of the fact that people's fathers
were their aunt's brothers, "Bridgettickses brother's a 'Orsekeeper.
Are you a 'Orsekeeper?" He replied that he wasn't, exactly. But he was
an Asker, to _be_ sure! And the child, catching a sort of resemblance
between the words, remembered it. And, referring to her Aunt Steptoe,
got it confirmed. It served as a barrier for a time against an insight
into the facts.

When poor Jim's speech was so brave of how the day was bound to go
by and he would bide it out, was his whole heart in his utterance?
Was there no reserve--no suppressed execration of that mysterious
unsolicited Cause that had stinted him down to darkness after a
short half-time of light? At that moment he was conscious of none--a
moment when he felt the world about him--heard the voices of his
fellow-men--felt on his face, without shrinking, the full stress of
the mid-day sun, whose rays he should never see again. But how about
the darkness of the night, that he had learned to know only by the
loneliness and the silence? In its solitude was it not now and again
almost his resolve to die, and not await another day? Almost, yes!--but
never quite. Always a decision to hear just once again the voice of his
little lass in the morning. If it were only this once, and he should
fail in strength to bear that other day; still, let it be, for now!
Just once again!

But the longest nights led each to its dawn, and poor Jim knew of each
dawn by hearsay, and started off early, on all days weather forbade not
too grossly, hold of Lizarann's 'and, and takin' good care not to crost
only when other parties done the same, actual-like, so you might place
reliance, and not get under the 'orses' 'oofs; and throughout each day
that followed Jim treasured the anticipation of its end, and looked
forward to the coming of his little lass to take him home. He would
sit and think of what her small hand would feel like in his when the
welcome hour should come for his departure; and each day as that hour
came, and he found his way back to Vatted Rum Corner to wait for her,
came also a short spell of tense anxiety lest he should not hear her
voice this time. And then the relief, when he caught the signal he had
taught her, through the noise of the traffic and the railway-whistles
near at hand.

"Ye shouldn't sing out _Poy_lot, little lass," said he, when she
turned up at the end of that day--the day of the two young men and
the sixpence. "Ye should say Pie-lott. Else ye might be anyone else's
little lass, not Father Jim's."

"I _ain't_," said Lizarann resolutely. "I'm Father Jim's. Pi-lot!" She
threw her soul into a reproduction of her father's articulation.

"Nor yet you've no need to lose your front teeth over it. Easy does it
in the end. Now again! Pi-lot!" Whereupon Lizarann repeated the word
with self-restraint, and received approval. "Not for to tear up the
paving-stones, lassie," added her father, explanatorily.

"What was that young varmint a-saying?" he asked, as they started to
return home. He was referring to words overheard--winged words that had
passed between his daughter and a boy. It was the same boy that had
called him Pretty Poll, who had followed him to the street-corner; and
had then gone on to greet Lizarann with the report that her Daddy was
waiting to give her "what-for," for being late--which she wasn't.

Probably he was the worst boy in existence--at least, Lizarann thought
he was. She was too young to appreciate his only virtue, a total
absence of hypocrisy.

"Saying as it was _your_ eyes as was out, and it didn't hurt _him_."
Jim seemed mightily amused.

"What did you say to him over that, little lass?" said he.

"Didn't say nuffint!" And, indeed, Lizarann had not seen her way to
quarrelling with two such obvious truths.

"What else was he a-saying? He said a bit more than that. I could hear
him giving it mouth."

"Sayin' he'd four nuts he hadn't ate, and me to guess which 'and they
was in beyont his back for a 'apenny." Lizarann then explained the
proposed deal at some length.

"He's a nice young sportin' charackter! Thimble-rigging isn't in it.
Why, lassie, if you _had_ guessed right, he'd just have swopped 'em
across, and took your ha'penny. He wants attendin' to with a rope's
end, he does--wants his trousers spilin'. His mother she sells the
fried eels and winkles, next door against the little shop where I"--Jim
hesitated a minute--"where I get my shaving-soap." For Jim remembered
in time that his connection with this shop was not to come to his
child's ears. His board was to be kept in the background.

Lizarann wanted badly to frame a question about this boy. Were all boys
nefarious whose mothers sold fried eels and winkles? And if so, had
this one acquired a low moral tone by contact with fried fish, or had
his parent's humble walk in life resulted from his depravity? Lizarann
gave up the idea of asking this question. It was too complex. But she
could get information about the barber's shop. She approached the
subject indirectly.

"Bridgetticks she can read what's wrote up on shaving-shops."

"What can she read on 'em, little lass?"

"She can read Easy Shaving Twopence. And Hegg-Shampoo Fourpence. And
Fresh Water Every Customer. Round in the winder in Cazenove Street."

"Brayvo, Bridgetticks! But my little lass she's going to read ever
so well as Bridgetticks--ah! and a fat lot better. And larn manners
belike, as well!"

"Bridgetticks said she'd learn Simpson's boy manners. Down the yard
where there's a dog killed his sister's cat." Lizarann spoke evidently
with some idea of joining the class. But her father had other views.

"Bridgetticks indeed! She couldn't teach manners to a biled owl, to
speak of. She better give her time to studying of 'em herself. Whatever
was the name she called the gentleman, lass? Tell us again."

"The long gentleman?"


"She didn't call him nuffint."

"Well, then--the short gentleman."

"A Cure."

"Well!--that wasn't manners, lassie. She had ought to have called him
Sir--or his name, for that matter, if she'd come by it. Couldn't she
say his name with Mister? In course she could, only she didn't know it."

Lizarann stopped and stood nodding on the pavement. "Bridgetticks, she
knowed his name--the short one," she said. "Because the tall gentleman,
he called it him." Then the two went on again, Jim having reclaimed the
hand he had let go for a moment to confirm a strange quick perception
of the child's emphatic nods by touching her head.

"What was the name of the short one the tall gentleman called him by?"
he asked. This was not merely to make conversation. Jim had fancied
he caught a familiar sound in the name one of his young swells of the
morning had applied to the other. He had not heard their reference to
Tallack Street. Had he done so, he would at once have identified them
as the subjects of a narrative of Lizarann's some days since. She now
offered an imperfect version of the name, and Jim at once caught the
connection. He _had_ heard the name Scipio--used by the young man when
he gave him his sixpence for a box of Vesuvians.

"Sippy-oh--was that it?" said he. "Well, that's a queer start too. I've
seen your two gentlemen, little lass, only this morning. One of 'em, he
planked down a tanner for one box. Not Sippy-oh--t'other young master.
What were the two of 'em doing again down in Tallack Street?"

Lizarann braced herself for her narrative by drawing a long breath
and standing with her eyes very wide open, then plunged _in medias
res_ with an oppressive sense of responsibility for historical truth,
but without punctuation. She pooled all her stops, however, and by
throwing in a handful at long intervals gave her lungs an opportunity
of expanding.

"They was two gentleman in one hansom and I seen 'em through the open
winder and Aunt Stingy she shet the winder and Bridgetticks she come
lookin' in at the winder and Aunt Stingy she says I'll flat your nose
for you she says an impident little hussy and she goes out for to catch
hold on her and Bridgetticks she sings out Old Mother Cobblerswax and
hooks it off...." All the consolidated overdue stops came in here.

Jim put in a word to steady the narrative, derived from its earlier
recital: "And then you got round behind your aunt, and the gentlemen
were talking to the cab-driver, hey, lassie?"

Lizarann nodded at her father exactly as if he could have seen her.
However, the way she said "yass" did all the work of her nod, as well
as its own, and she continued with a new lease of breath: "The driver
he says 'Don't see no spremises' he says, and the gentlemen they says
'Don't see no spremises' they says, and then--'Ho here's a little girl'
they says all at wunst...."

"And that was my little lass, warn't it, lassie? And she showed 'em
where the board was up. That was the way of it, I lay. And whereabout
was Bridgetticks the whilst?" Lizarann was becoming more reposeful in
style, and was working round to a proper distribution of stops.

"Bridgetticks," she replied, "was in behind the palin's at 'Acker's,
and was for biting Aunt Stingy if she laid 'ands. And Jimmy 'Acker's
granny she come out, and 'Leave the child alone' she says. But the
two gentleman come down out of the hansom scab and said there was no
spremises, but I was a nice little girl and should have a trep'ny bit.

"And then your aunt she looked round after you, I'll go bail. Wasn't
_she_ in it, little lass?"

"Then Aunt Stingy she giv' over, 'cos of Jimmy 'Acker's granny, and
come to see. And the tall gentleman, he needn't trouble her, he says,
and she kep' a little way off. And I kep' the threp'ny bit in my mouf,
I did."

"So she mightn't get it?" Lizarann nodded. "And where was Bridgetticks?"

"Over acrost, feelin' up like, 'cos of Aunt Stingy."

An image passes through Jim's mind of a powerful rodent working
stealthily round, clear of its enemy, to join the colloquy, and perhaps
secure another threepence. His image of Bridgetticks is not a pleasing
one. He doesn't believe in her sex or her girlhood--classes her with
the fiendish boy at the fish-shop, and rather wishes he could let her
loose on him to run him down, as one slips a dog from a leash. She
would do it.

"And how came she to cut in? It was my little lassie's cake."

But Lizarann felt hurt on her friend's account. "She giv' me two
apples," she said, and left the point, as one sure to be understood.
Then she continued: "The gentlemen wanted for to know our names, and
Bridgetticks said not if took down. So the gentleman put the pencil
away and she says Bridgetticks and I says Lizarann Toopland."

"Right you were! And then what did the gentleman say?"

"Not to shout both at once."

"Which did ye like best, little lass--which gentleman?" But the child
is uncertain on this point. Being pressed, she admits a _tendresse_ for
the one called Scipio; but it appears that Bridgetticks has condemned
him on account of his jaw, pointing to a certain sententiousness
of style, which has already been in evidence in this story. Her
discrimination of him as a Cure, too, will show those who are
familiar with the use of this term that she placed a low value on his

Her father, having certainly spoken with these two gentlemen, felt some
curiosity about what they could want in Tallack Street. His having
spoken with them himself had, of course, given them an interest for him
he had not felt before. But inquiry of a child not seven years old has
to be conducted cautiously. If too hard pushed, she will invent. "What
did ye make out they came for, lassie?" he asked.

"Spremises," was the reply, given with confidence. But this seemed
ill-grounded when she added, "What does spremises mean, daddy?"

"Houses with bills in the winder, lass. Sure! But didn't they never say
where they come from, nor what they wanted?"

"Bridgetticks she knew."

"Where did she say they came from?"

"Smallporks Hospital." Jim wondered how on earth Lizarann's friend had
struck on this vein of invention, but he only expressed the mildest
doubt of its accuracy lest he should upset his informant. As it was, he
disturbed her slightly. "She ain't tellin' no lies," she added.

"P'raps it warn't so bad as all that come to, lassie. P'raps it was
only Guy's or 'Tholomoo's?" But the little person was not prepared to
accept any composition that threw doubt on Bridgetticks. She might have
questioned her statements personally, even to the extent of calling her
a story. But she felt bound to defend her, even against her father. So
she nailed her colours, so to speak, to the Smallpox Hospital. That was
to be the very hospital, and no other, that these two gentlemen were
connected with. She gave illustrations of untruthfulness, as shown by

"Jimmy 'Acker he's a liar. And Uncle Steptoe he's a liar. Aunt Stingy
says so. Bridgetticks she ain't. She speaks the troof, she does. Yass!
She _says_ so." Very open eyes and a nod.

"In coorse she does, and in coorse she knows." Then poor Jim wondered
to himself what this young person was like that his little lass had
such faith in. He continued: "What's she like to look at, by way of
describing of her now?"

Lizarann had never described anybody, so far. That is to say, not
consciously. She might have done it without knowing it was description.
But she knew quite well what her father meant, and braced herself up to

"She's very 'ard, all over," she said, as a first item. "And she's
awful strong. She is--yass! And she don't stick out nowhere neither."
A form the reverse of _svelte_ is impressed upon her hearer's inner
vision. But she repents of the last item, and adds, "Only her nose!"

"What's her colour of hair--black colour?--yaller colour?"

"T'int no colour at all, Daddy."

"Just plain hair-colour--is that it?"

"Yass! Pline hair-colour."

"What's her eyes?" But this is too difficult. Lizarann gives it up.
To say plain eye-colour would be poor and unoriginal. However,
particulars could be given of Bridgettickses eyes, apart from questions
of their colour.

"She can squint, she can. Yass--acrost!"

"She don't want to it--not she!"

"Don't she want to it, Daddy?" A timid expression of doubt this. "I
said--I said--to Bridgetticks...."

"Hurry up, little lass! What was it ye said?"

"I said--to Bridgetticks--I said the boys said she couldn't be off of
it, they did. That's what the boys said."

"And she said _they_ was liars, I'll go bail. Hay, little lass?"

"She said they was liars. Yass!" And then the difficulties of
negotiating the passage across Cazenove Street, where they had by this
time arrived, stopped the conversation.

When the couple were safely landed on the opposite pavement, talk
went on again. Jim's image of Bridgetticks had not been improved by
Lizarann's description. And an incident of her narrative had caused him
to picture to himself a terrifying vision of her.

"She must have looked a queer un, lassie, flattening her nose against
the winder-pane."

"Aunt Stingy said she'd welt her down fine if she could once catch

"Your aunt don't seem to have thought her a beauty. Not with her nose
against the glass! What did you think yourself, lassie?"

"I didn't seen her." Her head shook a long continuous negative.

"How do ye make that out, lass?"

"We ply at bein' oarposite sides of the winder-pine. Her outside--me

"Well, then--o' course you _saw_ her, lassie. You've got eyes in your

"I was a-flotting of my own nose against the glast, inside, too clost
to see. Right oarposite--yass!" And then explained, at some expense
of words, that this gyme, or game, was played by two little girls,
or little boys, or a sample of each, jamming their noses one against
the other as it were with the cold, unpleasant glass between. The
gratification of doing this, whatever it was, might be enhanced and
intensified by a similar treatment of their tongue-tips. This last
variation caused Lizarann to end up with: "Outside tistés of rine.
Inside tistés of cleanin' windows."

"I don't see no kissin' to be got out of that," said Jim. But the
inventors of this game had evidently never anticipated its adoption by
grown-up persons, and did not advise it. _Their_ low natures could
not enter into it. It was, however, made clear why Bridgetticks was
invisible during an innings--if the term is permissible.

       *       *       *       *       *

But oh, to think of it! Poor Jim had never seen his little lass, whose
chatter had supplied him with a vivid image--albeit, perhaps, a false
one--of her friend of ten years old. Her voice and touch were all he
had to live for; but the only image of her he could get was from a
grudging admission of his sister's that she might grow to be like her
mother in time, but she would never have her looks. These looks were
only admitted by Mrs. Steptoe for strategic purposes--videlicet, the
cheapening of her brother's one possession and emphasizing of his
losses. She may have had no defined intention of giving him pain, but
the attitude of thought implied formed part of a scheme of Jeremiads
her life was devoted to fostering and maturing. The looks of Lizarann's
mother were the only pivot on which discussion of the child's own could
turn naturally and easily. The embittered and unsympathetic disposition
of her aunt made communication about them on other lines difficult or
impossible to poor Jim.

But he treasured in his heart the idea that one day he would meet
with some congenial soul whom he could take into his confidence, and
petition for a description of what his little lass was really like.
Unless, indeed, when she grew older, she was able to tell him what her
image in a mirror resembled better than she had done when once or twice
he had tried that way of eliciting information. For on those occasions
Lizarann had at first shown symptoms of becoming what her aunt called a
little giggling, affected chit, and had only been able to report that
she looked "like Loyzarann in the glast," and then had grown uneasy,
betrayed a tendency towards panic, and hid her face on her father when
he became earnest, and begged her for his sake to tell him what she
really looked like. She couldn't understand it at all, and may have had
misgivings that she was being entrapped into some sort of ritual of a
Masonic nature. So Jim had to wait for enlightenment from herself, and
looked forward to the day when she should become more old and serious.
Meanwhile what would he not have given for one little glimmer to help
his imperfect image of what his little lass was like, now--now that her
childhood was there?

But the darkness was upon him for all time. And the world that once
was his to see had vanished--vanished with the last image his eyes had
known; the quay at Cape Town in the blazing sun, the Dutch-built houses
on the hot hill-side, and Table Mountain dark against the sky; and
all the wide sea, a blaze of white beneath the blue, whose strongest
glare might never reach his cancelled sight again. And there--so Jim
believed, on the strength of a legend his informant may have invented
on the spot--when the winds were at their worst round the Cape of
Storms, might still be seen the source of all his evil, the Phantom
Ship that had blasted his eyesight and made him what he had become. So
fixed was this article of Jim's faith that it is not exaggeration to
say that he drew comfort from the unending doom of her shadowy crew.
Come what might to him, he always had this consolation, that as long
as the sea should last, there was no hope of rest for the soul of the
Flying Dutchman. It was something, if it wasn't much; and he told and
retold the tale to his little lass, who was grieved on his behalf; but
had somewhere, in the unrevengeful background of her mind, a chance
thought of pity now and again for the unhappy seaman who was the cause
of his misfortune.



The lady who had shown an interest in Lizarann at the Dale Road Schools
was the wife of Sir Murgatroyd Arkroyd, of Royal in Rankshire and Drum
in Banffshire, and even more places. The young man who had bought
Jim's matches and returned his change was their eldest son, William
Rufus Arkroyd. His friend, whom he called Scipio, who was his college
chum at Cambridge a year or so since, and had remained his inseparable
companion, was on this particular day starting with him to pay an
autumn visit to his paternal mansion, Royd Hall, about seven miles from
Grime, where the new Translucent Cast Steel Foundries are.

The two young men got a carriage to themselves, and played picquet all
the way to Furnivals, the little station where you get out for Royd
and Thanes Castle, and the omnibus meets you. Because you are the sort
probably that omnibuses meet. And it may be considered to have met
William Rufus and Scipio on this occasion, but only platonically; for
they rode to the house in a dog-cart that awaited them. However, the
omnibus had the consolation of being ridden in by Mr. Arkroyd's man
Schott, who came on in it with such luggage as would not go under a
seat amenable only to card-cases or the like.

The model groom, Bullett, who had driven the trap to the station, had
just time to establish himself on the back-seat, when the model mare
was off at a spin, and an agricultural population, whose convictions
and diet changed very little since the days of William the Norman, were
abasing themselves in a humiliating manner unworthy of the age we live
in--uncovering male heads and bobbing female skirts--at the doors of
cottages whose hygienic arrangements were a disgrace to a Christian
country and a reflection on civilization. So said the _Grime Sentinel_,
in an editorial; and, as it spoke as though the editor had tried all
these arrangements and found them wanting, no doubt it was right.

"Now, what have you and my affectionate brother been talking about
all the way here?" Thus Judith, the sister of the one she is not

Scipio replies at leisure. He is evidently accustomed to being
patronized by this handsome and self-possessed young lady, who is two
years his senior, and speaks as to a junior. But, though she patronizes
him, she waits until he chooses to answer.

"Your affectionate brother and myself, Miss Arkroyd, are so accustomed
to each other's society, after a long residence in college together,
that it is only on rare and special occasions that we exchange
any remarks at all. We agreed some time since that the edge of
conversation--that, I believe, was the expression--was taken off when
each of the parties to it is always definitely certain what the other
is going to say."

"Nonsense!--ridiculous boy! Do you expect me to believe that you two
rode all that way and never spoke?"

Scipio reconsiders, and takes exception to his own speech, with the
air of a person drawing on a reserve of veracity, a higher candour:
"Perhaps I have overstated the case. We played picquet all the way from
Euston. Picquet, as you are aware, involves an occasional interchange
of monosyllables...."

"I know. One for his heels and two for his nob. Go on."

"Excuse me. Allow me to correct a misapprehension. The expressions you
have quoted belong to another game--cribbage."

"Does it matter? Do go on with what you were saying ... 'involves an
occasional interchange of monosyllables'...." The young lady is a
little impatient, and taps.

"Which can scarcely be regarded as conversation." He completes the
sentence with deliberation. He seems to take a pleasure in doing so,
simply because of her impatience. "But with the exception of allusions
to the game, I can recall no remark or observation whatever, wise or

Whereupon the young lady, seeming to give him up as hopeless, calls
to her brother in an adjoining room: "Will!" and he replies: "What?
Anything wanted?"

"Yes!--come and make Lord Felixthorpe reasonable." From which it is
clear that Scipio is a lord, or has a right to be called one. He is
somebody's son, supposably.

This conversation is taking place in the drawing-room at Royd, where
the two young men arrived just in time to delay dinner half-an-hour,
that they might have time to dress. At Royd, undue hurry about
anything was unknown, and Mr. Schott had arranged young Mr. Arkroyd's
shirt-studs in his shirt, black silk stockings, coat, waistcoat, and
trousers in a most beautiful pattern on his bed almost before his
apologies to his mother were over for giving the wrong time of his
train. He ought to have arrived an hour sooner, and Bullett and the
dog-cart--or, rather, its mare--had been kicking their heels all
that time at Furnival Station, enjoying the great luxury of enforced
idleness, with a grievance against its cause. However, it was all right
by now, and everyone who had not eaten too many macaroons at tea had
dined extremely well.

"Smoke a cigarette," said William Rufus to his sister, as he settled
down on the split fauteuil. "Never mind Sibyl!" She disclaimed Sibyl's
influence, and lighted the cigarette he gave her at his own. He
continued: "_I_ can't make Scip reasonable. Nobody can."

"He says you and he never exchanged a word, and that you played
cribbage in the train all the way without speaking."

"It was picquet. I don't know cribbage."

"Oh dear!--how trying you boys are! As if that mattered! The _point_
is, did you speak, or didn't you?"

Whereupon each of the young men looked at the other, and said: "Did we
speak, or didn't we?"

"I can wait," said the young lady; and waited with a passiveness that
had all the force of activity.

"I understand"--thus Scipio, more deliberately than ever--"that
technical remarks relating to the game are excluded by hypothesis."

"Yes!" from the catechist.

"Stop a bit, Scip. We did speak. We spoke about the blind beggar."

"I knew you were talking nonsense. You talked all the way. But who was
the blind beggar?"

"A friend of Scip's--at least, a father of one of his young ladies."

Miss Arkroyd looked amused more than curious. "You haven't told us of
this one," said she. "Or have you?"

"I have had nothing official to communicate, so far. Possibly a mere
passing _tendresse_. I have only known the young lady a very short
time. I will promise further information as soon as there is anything
to communicate."

Miss Arkroyd continued to look at the speaker as though to find out
his real meaning, half in doubt, half taking him _au sérieux_. But her
brother struck in, saying: "Nothing interesting, Judith. This one's too
young, and might be unsuitable from other points of view--eh, Scip?"

"The family connection," Scipio answers reflectively, "may have
drawbacks. Nevertheless, I find, when I indulge in the position,
hypothetically, of a son-in-law, that I do not shrink from the image
of the relation I have created. It has a sort of sense about it of the
starboard watch, and keeping a good look-out on foc'sles, and knowing
how to splice cables. By-the-by, Will, this is an accomplishment that
might prove useful in my family--splicing cables, I mean. I am certain
that we can't, at present, any of us. Even my half-brother, though
his grandfather--on his mother's side--is an Admiral, cannot splice a

"Never mind the cables! Go on about the blind beggar."

Her brother, as one who knows his friend's disposition to wander,
supplies consecutive narrative: "The blind beggar's that sailor at
the railway. Most likely you've seen him.... No?"--replying to a
disclaiming headshake.--"Well!--take him for granted. The child's his

"What child?"

"You've seen her yourself, I think; or the same thing--the _madre_ has.
_You_ remember?--in that Tallack Street place, on the Remunerative
Artisans' Domicile Company's estate. You told us of it yourself, you

"I know Tallack Street perfectly well. It's the place where there was
land for a factory that I thought would do for the New Idea. Have you
seen it?"

"Why, of course! Scip and I went over next day. Well--it's that little
girl." But Judith has slummed so many little girls in Tallack Street,
all alike, that she can't recall any special one. She remembers
the front teeth of one very plainly. Her brother also remembers
Bridgetticks--not a young lady easily forgotten, clearly. But he has
forgotten her name.

"Yes, I know her. So does Scip. She called him a Cure. But not that
one--a younger child. I rather think our mother knows something about
her." He leans his head well back towards his mother in the next
room--sees its ceiling, perhaps, as he blows his cigarette-smoke
straight upwards--and calls to her, "Madre!" The Italian word may be
some mere family habit, without reason. A perceptive guest in the next
room makes a mental note of it as a useful point in his next novel. For
he is a literary celebrity. Lady Arkroyd answers: "Yes, dear, what?"
She looks quite round the high back of the chair she sits in, and
speaks fairly towards her son. He continues to throw his voice back
over his head to her:

"What was the name of the queer kid that said her father was 'an
Asker'? You told us about her, you know.... At the school place, down
by Tallack Street...."

"I know. Her father's blind, and she leads him about. Be quiet, and
don't ask, and perhaps I shall remember the name." Lady Arkroyd shuts
her eyes over the job and waits on Memory. It may take time. Her son
decides that he can listen just as well with his head down, and becomes
normal. Presently his mother reports: "I think it was Steptoe--no!--not
Steptoe. Eliza Ann Copeland, Adeline Fossett's schoolroom." If you look
back to where Lizarann made this lady's acquaintance, you will see that
there was underlying method in the seeming-disjointed action of her

Her son replies, "Yes--that child"; and adds, "All right--that'll do,"
meaning that he has now got all the information wanted for the moment.
So the perceptive guest infers, and listens with interest for the use
he is going to make of it. But he loses the thread of the conversation;
for, just as he is going to speak, the sister says to Scipio, "What did
you say 'er' for?"--meaning, why did you begin and stop?

"The expression," his lordship replies with intense deliberation,
"was an involuntary prefix to a statement I was preparing to make
concerning the patronymic of the little girl who----" He stops dead on
the pronoun, without finishing the sentence; then continues: "I need go
no farther, especially as I foresee a fresh confirmation forming on the
lips of my dear friend William Rufus of the view taken of my personal
character by the other little-girl-who. But perhaps the name of the
first little-girl-who may be taken as decided on. In that case I need
not adduce my evidence."

"Do shut up, Scip," is the comment of William Rufus. "The other little
girl spoke the truth. You _are_ a Cure--not the least doubt of it."

"What _is_ a Cure?" says Judith. "I don't know. But please don't shut
up; never mind Will! What was it you were going to say?"

"Merely this:--When your intractable brother and myself visited Tallack
Street, having previously interviewed Mr. Illingworth, the courteous
secretary of the Remunerative...."

"_Do_ get along, Scip!" from Mr. Arkroyd.

"My dear Will, I assure you that your impatience only defeats its own
object. If you will balance the time gained by skipping passages in my
statement--which may in the end prove essential to the context--against
the time lost in administering verbal stimulus to the speaker, you will
find--if I am not mistaken--that the latter exceeds the former."

"All right, old chap! I give up. Go ahead!"

"I shall have to go and talk to the new visitors. You had better get
on." These speeches come simultaneously from his two hearers; the last
speaker with her fine eyes fixed on a wrist-watch, little larger than
the iris of either. Scipio accelerates with docility.

"After getting the particulars of the land and buildings from
Illingworth, we drove round by Tallack Street to look at the site. We
always make a point of seeing everything. Illingworth was not justified
in saying that a small shed on the land, in the last stages of
disintegration, could be utilized for a motor-garage ... but never mind
that! We are at present concerned with the name of the little-girl-who.
The plummy little dark-eyed one, Will--not that shrill little fiend.
Well!--when we arrived at Tallack Street, and could see nothing the
least resembling a suitable site for a factory--or, indeed, anything
else--your accomplished brother, Miss Arkroyd, who cannot get in or
out of a hansom without breaking his knee-caps, urged upon me the
propriety of descending and inquiring at the Robin Hood. The Robin Hood
was congenial to me--the sort of pub I always frequent when I have
a choice. It had a picture of Robin dressed like a member of what I
always suppose to be a benefit-club, which extends to me, when I sit at
windows, a long pole with a collection-box, suggesting an inversion of
the way we fed bears in our youth...." His hearers become restive.

"This is irrelevant," says the brother. And the sister looked again at
her wrist.

"I am aware of it. I will not detain Miss Arkroyd long at the Robin
Hood. I will merely note the fact that it had a water-trough for
horses, and a space in front--it is in the main road, just as you
reach Tallack Street--and that it is a House of Call for Plasterers. I
mention this in case...."

"In case any of us should plaster unexpectedly? Do you feel that you
wish to plaster, Will?"

"I might. Sibyl probably will, sooner or later. Go on, Scip.... Yes, we
interrupted you--admitted!... Now go on."

"In the private bar of the Robin Hood--for it boasts a public and
private bar, though it stops short of making parade of a saloon bar--I
encountered a cobbler drinking a tumblerful of spirits. He was becoming
a cobblerful of tumblerfuls...."

"I'm sure I know that man," Judith says, in brackets. "It was the one
that said he was 'mine very truly, Robert Steptoe.' Never mind!--go

"But he was not too drunk to tell me that if I kept my eyes open I
should see a blooming board at the end of the street. There wasn't any
too much reading on it now, the boys having aimed at it successfully
ever since he came to Rose Cottage--'ouse on the right--but he took it
a board was always a board, reading or no. I could see for myself, by
looking. It warn't trespassers; he knew that.... Do not be impatient. I
am coming to the gist of my communication.... Shortly after leaving the
bar of the Robin Hood, I heard some boys singing a monotonous chant. A
name was frequently repeated in it; it sounded like:

    'Lizarann Coupland's
    Father begs for 'apence
    Just round the corner
    Down by the gasworks....'

And so on over and over again. I inquired of one small boy _whose_
father it was that begged for halfpence, but he turned the
conversation, and suggested that I should give him a farden kike.
However, another one repeated the name gratis; and though he was too
young to be quite intelligible I was satisfied that the name was Eliza
Ann Copeland or Coupland."

"Why couldn't you tell us that straight off, Lord Felixthorpe?" says
Judith. To which the narrator replies with a sweet smile, "My inherent
prolixity, no doubt." She says absently to the wrist-watch, "No doubt!"
and then, looking up at the speaker, illogically asks, "What was the
rest of the story? Go on."

Her brother protests: "Come, Judith, be reasonable! You're just like
the people that author-chap has been telling us about downstairs ...
people who complain that his books are too long, and then ask for more.
He says he's badgered for sequels, and untold gold wouldn't induce him
to bring an old character into a new book."

"He's perfectly right. Anyhow, I am sure he always finishes a story
when he begins it. I want the rest of what happened. Only I want this
one cut short--not too prosy, please! Did you give that little boy the
farthing cake?"

"I gave him a halfpenny. He ignored my application for change, and
walked away hand-in-hand with his friend towards a shop. I accompanied
the cab on foot to the end of Tallack Street, where we found the
blooming board, and decided on its illegible character. But there was
no doubt the piece of land was the one Illingworth had shown us on
the map. The fictitious motor-garage was a place that could only have
been a source of danger to rash intruders. We exclaimed together that
there _were_ no premises, and the cabman endorsed our opinion. At this
juncture an exacerbated female rushed from a doorway to intercept and
chastise, if possible, a little girl about ten years old, who had been
peering at her through a window on the ground-floor. This little girl
slipped through an impassable orifice and got away, shouting derision,
but pursued by the woman...."

"Who was more than half afraid of her." Thus Mr. Arkroyd

"I agree with you. However, she left her door open, and the
little girl, whom I think we may consider to be identified as
Eliza Ann Coupland, came out timidly, and sucked a corner of her
neck-handkerchief in our immediate neighbourhood. She seemed to regard
the clash between the other little girl and her mother as normal, and
appeared to court conversation with us...."

"It's not her mother. It's her aunt. _I_ know the people." The
interruption is Judith's. "But go on."

"Her aunt. Our conversation with her was handicapped by her shyness;
also by her objection to removing the handkerchief from her mouth. But
she appeared to be attracted to us by a kind of fascination, showing
itself in a fixed gaze in a direction contrary to the pull of the
handkerchief. Her aunt's injunction to her to put it out of her mouth
and answer the gentleman led the gentleman to prevail on the aunt to
withdraw. We then understood her to refer us to a friend, Bridget
Hicks, for local information...."

"Exactly. And Bridget Hicks called you a Cure."

"That is so. With what justice I am not in a position to say, without a
more exact acquaintance with the meaning of the term. Bridget Hicks was
the little girl who had fled before the wrath of the aunt. She joined
her friend on witnessing the discomfiture of that lady by the tactics
of your accomplished brother, who, I think, impressed her as Royalty."

"Very well, then!--it comes to this." It is Judith who is reporting
progress. "The last time you spoke in the train was about a blind
beggar whose little girl walks him about, and lives in that abominable
slum papa has allowed to be built on the Cazenove estate, where I sent
you because there was a board with something about vacant premises
suitable for a factory on it. Why couldn't you say so at once?"

"May I be pardoned for suggesting," Scipio replies with a reinforcement
of his sententious manner, which had lapsed slightly, "that, had I done
so, a lengthy cross-examination would have been necessary to put my
hearers in possession of details I have been able to supply."

His friend seems to think there is something in this. "Just consider,
Judith," he says. "If Scip had cut himself down, as you suggest,
you would have known nothing about Eliza Ann's neck-handkerchief. I
consider that it speaks volumes."

"Scip, as you call him, could have thrown it in."

And Miss Arkroyd, who is more tall, impressive, and handsome than her
mother, collects herself, which spreads over a great deal of fauteuil,
to join the party in the other room. Her brother and his friend follow

The house-party in the room adjoining--that is, the large drawing-room
with the Tintoret; perhaps you have been at Royd, and know it?--had
been making a good deal of noise, considering the connection. One
mustn't laugh too loud, if it's to be high-tension sweetness and light.
This thought passed through the mind of Mr. Alfred Challis, better
known to the world as "Titus Scroop," the great Author, who was one
of the party; it was to him we referred as the perceptive guest. But
he could not blame himself for causing any of the too-loud laughs;
because, whenever he thought of a good thing, instead of speaking it
out as he used to do when he was an Accountant, he kept it to himself
and made a mental note of it for copy. But when he was clear in his
mind, that a thing was not good enough for copy, he revealed it; and
then the company laughed gently and obligingly, because he was a great
Author. He felt sorry usually.

Mrs. Challis wasn't there. Mr. Challis used to visit at distinguished
houses alone. But there was nothing against her. Discussion of
whether she couldn't be asked this time always admitted that. But it
invariably ended in a decision that Mrs. Challis was an Impossible
Person--although Mrs. Candour had made every inquiry, and there was
nothing whatever against her. "Still," said Lady Arkroyd to the Duchess
of Rankshire, "even if there had been!..." And her Grace, predisposed
to forgiveness of antecedents by native good-nature and a flawless
record, saw regretfully that even then the lady would have been
welcome, if only she had been Possible. Not being so, and being also,
report said, huffy, she had never come to pass in polite society. Her
husband believed he believed she was just as happy at home because a
working hypothesis of life was _de rigueur_. She had certainly been
almost rude to Lady Arkroyd on the occasion of a conciliatory visit;
misunderstanding may have helped, but one thing is certain--she either
was not asked to Royd this time or refused the invitation.

As to other folks, there were several. Only it was not easy to say
which was which; it often isn't when there are several. They have
to be left alone to assume identities, and a certain percentage
succeeds. The balance dies away. And then one of them afterwards
writes a daring story, or ventilates a startling theory, or commits an
interesting murder. And there he was, all that time, at the Simpkins's
garden-party and you never knew! Were _you_ also--you yourself--a
nonentity some of the others were thinking of as a Person-at-a-Party,
_et præterea nihil_? And is one of them now thinking to _him_self--dear
him!--was that little, snuffy, unobtrusive chap really the author of
this remarkable work, which appeals to the better side of my nature,
and has scarcely a dull passage from beginning to end? Meaning, of
course--_you_! And just to think!--he lost his chance, and may never
get another. How sorry you feel for him!

These reflections are really in the story, because they were passing
through the mind of Mr. Challis while a lady who had been asked to
sing Carpathian Ballads was making up her mind which she would sing.
In these philosophizings of his--especially the last one--may be
detected the disagreeable sneering tone you never would have suspected
him of. You would have thought him an easy-going chap--no more. It was
there, though, and it affected his mind more or less all through the
Carpathian Ballads. Whenever he was thrown on his own resources for a
few minutes, the disagreeable sneering tone was apt to be audible to
himself in his communings with his innermost soul. On this occasion,
his innermost soul, being left alone with him for a short time, took
occasion to decide that his host was a pompous old Ass. All these heavy
landed proprietors were pompous Asses, more or less. The Woman--thus
it referred to the lady of the house--was more interesting, of course.
Women were. But she was a worldling, and a Philistine at heart, for
all this pretence of worshipping Art and Letters and Song. As for the
son, he gave himself airs; but it, the soul, wouldn't say anything
against him because his cigars were undeniable. And the soul shared
its owner's--if, indeed, he could call his soul his own!--appreciation
of good 'baccy. The young Lord, it decided, was not a bad sample
of his depraved class--would find his level in Parliament and be
Under-Secretary of something, sometime. But he would have to learn to
shout louder and speak faster. As for the two young women, the soul's
owner had really only just distinguished one from the other. As for the
music, the singer couldn't sing ballads, whatever else she could sing.
_She_ was nothing much to look at; but the eldest daughter had a fine
throat and shoulders. Only nowadays you never could tell how much was
real. As for the others, he hadn't made them out yet. Lady Arkroyd had
been civil to him at dinner, certainly. But then she had invited him.
He had a vague sense that he was regarded as her property, and that the
others all shirked responsibility on his account, and that he was, in
fact, to them an outsider. Anyway, it was bad form of the son and his
friend and the pair of shoulders, to go away and talk in the back room,
and take no notice of--well!--of himself, for instance. At which point
his innermost soul turned traitor--rounded on him, and accused him of
allowing his disagreeable sneering tone to get the better of him--of
giving way to ill-temper, in fact.

Perhaps these presents will be read by someone who has had a similar
experience as a newcomer in a great house. He or she may also have
found out that there is honey as well as wormwood, frankincense as well
as assafoetida, to be met with in such a position, even as did Mr.
Alfred Challis, the eminent novelist.

For, the Carpathian ballads coming to an end, that gentleman found
himself suddenly being apprized, by the owner of the shoulders, that
she had been longing for a word--with so eminent a writer--all the
evening. And there was a question she was dying to ask him. Only they
would have plenty of time to talk about that to-morrow. When was his
next book coming out?... not till the spring?... oh dear! And what was
the title?... "Titus Scroop" always had such interesting titles....
What? Not decided on? The fine eyes that went with the shoulders
seemed surprised at this. "No doubt," said the Author, "the novel is
as anxious as anyone to know what its title is going to be." This
wasn't worth keeping for copy. The lady laughed the laugh that concedes
that a joke has been made or meant, not the laugh of irresistible
appreciation. What did that matter? Mr. Challis's ill-humour was being
charmed away. Probably some student of human nature has noticed that it
is not very material that the flattery of a good-looking woman should
be sincere, provided mankind gets enough of it. Mr. Challis suspected
that he was being soothed, and "Titus Scroop" spoken of in inverted
commas, as compensation for having been left to choose between the
company of other males and no company at all. But still, he _was_ being
soothed. No more words about it! Mr. Challis acquitted the shoulders,
and even the mass of rich black hair, of any assistance from Art; and
when the party broke up for the night, went to his couch contented.

Having, as it were, obsessed this gentleman, in order to get a clear
view of this autumn's house-party at Royd, we may as well make further
use of him and peep over his shoulder as he writes his first letter to
his impossible wife in the cretonne bedroom at the end of the passage
where the German Baroness saw the ghost--you know that story, of
course? Oh dear, what a lot of candles one does light to write letters
by in other people's houses when one hasn't got to pay for them!

This is what Mr. Challis is writing now: "... I like the talky chap
better than the son and heir. He's a lord. They neither of them take
to me because I'm not 'Varsity. I came down in the train with them,
only not the same carriage. I rode third, of course; there were no
seconds." The writer felt that it was very clever of the thirds to be
thirds at all when there were no seconds, but decided not to write
it--as too subtle for the intellect of his impossible she--and wrote
on: "I saw them playing cards in a smoking-carriage, and recognized the
son and heir by his portrait. It isn't a bit like him. There's a fat
pink politician here, with little eyes, who talks thirty-two to the
dozen. His name is Ramsey Tomes. He pinned my host as he was coming
from the dinner-table, and detained him ever so long. We heard the
rumble of his rounded periods afar"--will she understand that? thought
the writer--"long after everyone else had followed the womankind to the
drawing-room. However, they came up in time for the music, and I heard
Mr. Tomes assuring Sir Murgatroyd that his respect for that Bart was so
intense that he would reconsider the whole of his political opinions
forthwith, but without the slightest expectation of changing one jot
or one tittle of them." Here the writer abstained, consideratively,
with his pen delayed over the inkstand, from inditing that he had
never met with a "tittle" out of the company of its invariable jot.
That would be too deep for this wife of his. He brought the pen slowly
into the arena again. "Sir Murgatroyd repeated the same sentiment in
several different words. As for all the other people, I must tell about
them gradually, or leave them till I come home. The younger daughter,
Sibyl--that's how to spell her name--not Sybil, remember--strikes me as
a little waspish. Judith, the other, is a tall, handsome woman, with a
figure expensive to dress but a little _prepotente_." He let this word
stand, having written it, though he felt sure that the impossible one's
Italian would not cover it. He did not mind leaving her to choose a
meaning for it; it franked him of any responsibility. Then he thought
he had written enough, and ended up: "You need not be uneasy about my
neuralgia. I feel better already and shall have a hot bath first thing
in the morning.--Your loving mate, A. C." But he added an amends for an
omission--"Kiss the kids from me."

Then he betrayed further uneasiness of conscience by saying to himself:
"After all, she's much better at home with the babies. She would never
get on among these people." Whether it occurred to the good gentleman
that he had it in his power to alter the position of the pieces on
the board we do not know. If it did, the idea soon vanished behind a
speculation whether the next guest after him would have a new acreage
of clean sheet and pillow all to himself; and if not, what a lot of
washing went for nothing! He almost wished he was a chimney-sweep, to
make it valid.



It is bewildering to reflect on the number of avenues open to Society
by which to approach its own final perfection. And disappointing, too,
when a start has been made along some promising one, to come so soon to
a parting of the ways, with never a signpost--not so much as a stray
uncrucified Messiah for a guide--as the night falls over the land. For
even so, each last new Theory of Perfectibility, each panacea for the
endemics that afflict us, seems to pass from the glory of its dawn to
the chill hours of its doubt; and its Apostles fall away and change
their minds, and its subscribers discontinue their subscriptions,
and it becomes out of date. And those who have not lain low, like
Br'er Fox, but have committed themselves past all recall to its
infallibility, are sorry because they cannot remind us that they said
so all along, only they were never paid the slightest attention to.

It is possible that some such perceptions passed through Mr. Challis's
reflective mind in the course of next day at Royd. He began to find
out that he was in a sort of hornet's nest of Reformers, every one of
them anxious to point out avenues of salvation for Society. For Sir
Murgatroyd, who was the soul of liberality towards every doctrine,
political, religious, or social, that he had no prejudice against,
liked nothing better than to crowd his house full of reforming
theorists. Was he not himself one, and the author of a pamphlet called
"The Higher Socialism: An Essay towards a Better Understanding of
the Feudal System"? He therefore welcomed with splendid hospitality
every advocate of every doctrine that was undoubtedly new, only
two conditions being complied with. One was that if it was a New
Morality it should be possible to enter into its details without
shocking--suppose we say--a hardened reader of Laurence Sterne;
and the other that it should not countenance, palliate, advocate,
encourage, support, or lend adhesion to his especial _bête noire_,
the Americanization of our Institutions. On this particular occasion
a fine bag of neo-archs--how apologize for such a word?--had been
secured by him during his summer holiday; and when Mr. Challis made his
appearance at the breakfast-table next morning, he was buttonholed away
from its beautiful clean damask by a brace of Thinkers, each anxious to
communicate his Thoughts, and, if possible, entangle the sympathies of
a powerful pen "Titus Scroop" was known to possess.

It _is_ annoying to be interrupted when you are making up your mind
what you'll have; and then you take poached eggs when you want filleted
plaice, or _vice-versa_. Mr. Challis showed intrepidity, saying to a
disciple of the learned German reformer Graubosch: "I make a point
of never listening to anything worth hearing at breakfast." It was
a clever repulse; but committed him to capitulation to Graubosch
later. He succeeded, but with a like reservation, in escaping from an
advocate of a really formidable system of Assurance which would have
widespread effects on Society, by saying--as though the first few words
of its exponent had gone home to him--"You and I must talk that out
over a game of billiards." The fact is this gentleman had not been
sufficiently congratulated about his last book, so far, by the ladies
of the family; and he felt a strong bias towards being flattered by
Miss Arkroyd particularly, although in his letter to his wife he had
spoken with coldness--ostentatious, and he knew it--of this young
lady's fascinations. So he was already scheming in his heart to get
her in a corner by herself, where she would be able to express her
wonder at his insight into things no one else--except she and he,
presumably--knew anything about. He was perceptibly conscious that
the short interview between himself and this very good-looking young
lady, the evening before, had lacked reference to his insight, and that
recognition in that quarter would be pleasant.

It is a little difficult to saunter away from Thinkers who are
convinced that you will be interested in their Thoughts, especially
if you have given any of them the right to begin, "Referring to what
we were saying yesterday, etc."; or, "I have been thinking over that
apparent contradiction, etc." But it can be done, with tact. Mr.
Challis had not a perfectly clear record of avoidance of Philosophy:
his buttonholers of the morning could have pleaded justifications. So
he felt diplomatic as he got into another coat because the sun was
quite hot in the garden, and then came down the other stairs, where
he was sure to meet nobody, and so through the kitchen-gardens to
the Inigo Jones orangery that was now an aviary. That was where Miss
Arkroyd had said she was going--not to him, but to someone else in
his hearing. So clearly so that it was almost as good as if he hadn't
heard, but had approached her by accident, when he came upon her out of
a side-avenue of clipped hedges. By that time he was sauntering quite
naturally, with a cigar in his mouth, just begun. This was as it should

"Have you seen my green parroquets?" said the lady.

"I haven't noticed any. Are they loose in the garden?" As though they
would have been! But Mr. Challis wasn't in earnest.

"Not that I know of! Did you see any?" She had taken him quite
seriously, and he had to explain.

"It was my ill-judged facetiousness," said he. "I meant I had been
nowhere except in the garden."

"Oh, I see! You quite frightened me. They are such nice little people.
Come in and look at them." But Mr. Challis felt that he would have
to practise a certain discretion in his accustomed modes of speech,
one of which was a perverse gravity over an obvious absurdity. But
he had long given up expecting insight into this from Marianne, the
impossible wife. Why should he, then, from this young woman, to whom
he and his ways were quite a novelty? Besides, we had to consider the
individualities of that strange creature, the human Toff. Mr. Challis
reflected that absurd tropes and inversions, without a smile, are the
breath of life to cab and bus men. Perhaps William the Norman never put
his royal tongue in his cheek: it may have been contrary to the Feudal

The little parroquets didn't wait for their proprietor and this new
gentleman to come into their palace. The moment they heard them they
came with a wild rush into an outside cage. But, being out, they
took no notice of their disturbers--none whatever! They conversed
about them, clewed side by side on a long perch, with a stunning and
unhesitating volubility that made the brain reel; a shrill, intolerable
prestissimo of demisemiquavers on one note that pierced the drum of the
ear like a rain of small steel shot. They had come to so exactly the
same conclusion, so it seemed, as they all repeated it at once, first
to right, then to left--had so precisely the same opinion about their
visitors, that it was hardly necessary to dwell upon it so long, Mr.
Challis thought.

"Are they sweet, or are they not?" was what his companion said.

Challis admitted the sweetness--or possible sweetness--of their
dispositions. But he took exception to their voices. He would have
preferred these to be more like Cordelia's. The nice little people kept
up such a fire of comment, although Miss Arkroyd was now supplying them
with cherries, that Challis could hardly hear what she was saying. But
he gathered that it was eulogy of the way in which he had referred to
the voice of Cordelia and King Lear's description of it, in one of his
novels. Only it seemed to him that she was putting the saddle on the
wrong horse--ascribing the passage to the wrong book, for she mentioned
the "Spendthrift's Legacy," the first work that introduced him to his
public. As is frequently the case, this book continued to be the one he
was most connected with by non-readers of his works, for all that many
more recent ones had had a much larger circulation.

"Are you sure it isn't in 'The Epidermis'?" he asked.

"What isn't?"

"'Gentle and low, an excellent thing in women'--or parrots--what you
referred to just now...."

"What's 'The Epidermis'? Who's it by? I mean--I've seen it. But I
didn't know it was yours." Whereat Mr. Challis felt crushed. Fancy
anybody not knowing whom "The Epidermis" was by! If it had only been
not having read it yet, _that_ could have been softened by confession
of intense yearning to do so, unfairly frustrated by anæmic Circulating
Libraries. But not to know whom it was by!

"Name of my last book. Fidgetts and Thrills. Six Shillings net." Mr.
Challis affected a light joking tone. But he was mortified. However,
Miss Arkroyd was under obligation to invent something of a palliative
nature, and in the effort Cordelia's voice lapsed.

"Oh yes-s-s-s!" said she, dwelling on the "s" to express a mind
momentarily bewildered, but awaiting a light that was sure to come,
if she made the hiss long enough, and then cutting sharply in with an
interruption to it. "I was thinking of another book. _Quite_ another!"
And then closed the subject for good, but as one that might have been
pursued had she been thinking of a book that was rather another, but
not quite.

You see, the fact was that this young woman had read _none_ of this
author's works, though it seemed she yearned to do so. She had had no
time for reading, and the book had always got sent back to Mudie's
before she had read it, and so on. Well!--we can all sympathize, can't
we? But, then, she shouldn't have pretended she had, because that was
fibs. At most she had read a quotation from one of his stories--she
couldn't say which--in a review.

Mr. Challis suspected all this, and was too much a man of the world
to commit the blunder of proving that a lady had told fibs, however
insignificant. He was rather glad the little green birds kept in such
good voice, for though they usually dropped their cherries and wanted
another, they never dropped their subject. They helped the position,
and Challis felt he ought to help, too. His vanity was a little
wounded; but, then, how jolly comfortable that bed was, and what a
lovely cold douche that was after a real hot bath and what a choice
cigar this was, just recently supplied by this lady's brother! No!--he
would be generous, and help.

"How charmingly your sister draws! I was looking at her landscapes last

"She's Prong's favourite pupil."

"She's very clever?"

"Oh yes!--she can do anything she turns her hands to. We differ on many
points. But it's impossible to deny her cleverness. Poor Sibyl!--I
suppose she can't help it."

"Can't help what?"

"Well!--rubbing me up the wrong way. But we all do that." Challis began
to feel that he was in the bosom of the Family. He might ask questions
freely, and did so as soon as the quiet of a retired walk in the garden
allowed freedom of speech. The parroquets dropped the subject abruptly
as soon as they found themselves alone.

"What's the Great Idea? I heard Lady Arkroyd talking of it to Lord
Felixthorpe. It was her idea, wasn't it?"

"Do you mean Mamma's?" Judith asked. Mr. Challis had not, and hesitated
a moment. Should he say, "Miss Sibyl's"? Surely no! Sunday citizens
would say that. Very well, then! Should it be "Sibyl's" or "Your
sister's"? He almost wished the young females of this landed family
were _ladyships_: it comes so much handier for outsiders. He risked the
point, and said, "Sibyl's," but softened the offence by adding, "Your
sister's, I mean." If the fine eyelids were offended, they concealed
it remarkably well. So much so that Mr. Challis said to himself that
no doubt the Normans Christian-named more than the Saxons. Or, were
those eyelids lenient towards his personal self? He was a married man,
certainly; only, then!--a married man may feel flattered, look you! But
this is not our affair at present. How about the Great Idea?

"Sibyl's idea, of course." The speaker accepted the Christian name; she
could have said "My sister's" stiffly. "It's a perfectly mad one. A
sort of new Factory, or perhaps I ought to say Institution. Everything
is to be made there, only nobody is to be allowed to work there who is
qualified to do anything else."

"Anything else than what?"

"Why--don't you understand? Arts and crafts. Enamels and lace and
tapestry and hammered brass and copper. Not manufactures--mediæval

"Oh, ah!--I know."

"All that sort of thing. Well!--the Great Idea is to take either some
premises of the proper sort, or a piece of land and build a Factory,
with studios for herself and Lady Betty Inglis; she must be in it to
make Sir Spender Inglis, who's enormously rich, find half the capital.
I've done _my_ best ... to prevent it. But it's no use my saying
anything. Will keeps her up to it."

"Your brother?"

"Yes. You see, he's been looking into the question of building, and is
certain he could build at half the usual cost. So he wants to try his
hand on the Factory."

"Poor Sir Spender!"

"That's what I say. And poor Papa! However, that's not Will's only
reason. He wants to build some workshops for himself to carry out
experiments in wireless high-tension currents and aerostation. _I_
don't understand these things."

"Your brother seems a universal genius, too?"

"Yes. But then, he took a very high degree at Cambridge. He always has
that excuse. Sibyl has no degree, and ought to know better."

"What exactly is going to be done at the Factory? And are all the hands
to be ladies? Or how?"

"Very much 'how?' I should say. The idea is, to employ no one who
can do anything else anywhere else. People with one hand or one eye.
Colour-blind guards who can't get places on railways. Deaf and dumb
people that can read the Scriptures aloud automatically and never be
any the wiser, don't you know?"

"Was that what your brother was talking about to your sister"--in this
exact context "Sibyl" would hardly have worked in--"last night? About a
blind chap he told her of. She thought he might be taught to model."

"Did they talk about him? I didn't hear them. A blind beggar-man in
a street where I slum--sells matches, or pretends to. They won't get
_him_ to work for ten shillings a week."

"Why not?"

"Because he's earning ten shillings a day, probably, and putting by
money. They do. Isn't that somebody calling me?... Yes.... I'm coming."

And then the young lady, with a parting benediction to her hearer for
the amusing talk they had had, vanished in response to some summons
which she had distinguished as intended for herself.

He for his part thought it necessary to propose to himself, and to
carry unanimously, a vote of confidence in the great advantage to
the brain it was to get away from one's surroundings now and again,
and get a complete change. He had the hypocrisy to add that the said
surroundings stood to derive benefit also, in ways not precisely
specified. He felt stimulated and braced, confirmed in the image he
treasured of his own identity. His interview with Miss Arkroyd had been
like having the hair of his soul brushed by machinery, and called for
classification. It was necessary to protest against a remark something
somewhere had made, that his own home need not suffer by contrast. He
indignantly repudiated the necessity for discussing the matter, as he
threw away a cigar he had taken some time to smoke.

Still, he did not feel so sure on the point as not to be glad to
be finally pinioned by a gentleman with a theory, whom he had
provisionally escaped from at breakfast, an hour before. This was
Mr. Triptolemus Wraxall, the Apostle of Universal Security, whose
belief that policies and premiums were remedies for all this world's
evils had taken possession of him while discharging the duties of
visiting inspector to a Fire Insurance Office. In the intervals of
his inspections, the object of which was to detect risks of fire in
order that no policies should be issued where any such risks existed,
he had evolved from his inner consciousness a number of systems, all
practicable in the highest degree--almost self-acting, in fact. At
least, they were none of them foolish, like the Rejected Proposal
Insurance (Matrimony), which we believe fell through in consequence
of the dishonest connivance of the parties, renewed proposals being
frequently accepted within twenty-four hours of the payment of the
sum assured. It was even reported that young ladies had advanced the
first year's premium in some cases, in return for a commission of
seventy-five per cent. at settlement; and that the Office was dissuaded
with difficulty by its solicitors from commencing proceedings for
conspiracy. An absurd scheme!

The scheme Mr. Wraxall was anxious to lay before Mr. Challis was at
least (said its inventor) worthy of serious consideration. It was a
simple System of Assurance in which unborn legitimate male children
would, by payment of a premium, secure to themselves the full
advantages of a University education. Of course, he did not rely on
their personal application--that was to be done on their behalf by
their proposed parents--but it was not only ladies and gentlemen who
had substantial guarantees for the appearance of these undergraduates,
but _any lady and gentleman whatever_ were to be at liberty to take
out Policies of Assurance, the premiums getting less and less in
proportion as the improbability of the couple ever having lawful issue
became greater and greater. The modest sum of fifty pounds was to
cover a claim for the possible son of an engaged couple (as bashfully
alluded to in marriage settlements); while a full hundred was required
for an infant of unknown sex awaiting advertisement in the birth
column of the _Times_. On the other hand, where there was very little
chance of the courtship having a successful issue (as in the case of
extreme youth of the parties) the premium went down contemptuously to
a sovereign. Children in arms betrothed by their parents were to enjoy
all the advantages of the institution for two shillings and sixpence.
But the lowest figure on the list, nine decimal point ought-six pence,
was the sum for which any married gentleman could secure its benefits
for the not necessarily impossible son, born in lawful wedlock of
himself and _any_ lady, also married elsewhere, provided that the
couple were of different nationalities and each resident at home. It
was thought necessary, said Mr. Wraxall, to bar cases of murder by the
policy-holder, of whichever sex.

"I can't see the necessity," said Challis. "The Office could not refuse
to carry out the bargain because of suspicion of murder; and in case of
conviction the chance of a family goes down to almost _nil_, because of
the hanging. See?"

"Quite so, as a rule. But cases might occur of conviction and hanging
deferred for months, even years. It might even happen that an insured
son had become a _bénéficiare_ to the extent of a complete University
education before either of his parents was arrested for murder. Such
an event would have to be provided against, or due allowance made in
fixing the amount of the premium. But without going so far as that, we
should meet with instances of murderers under this arrangement getting
married while out on bail. A posthumous son could not be fairly branded
as illegitimate because his father was hanged and his mother sentenced
to penal servitude before his birth. Holy Matrimony is all that
legitimacy demands."

"Couldn't you raise the premium, so as to cover all possible cases?
Distaste for murder, on its merits, would tend to keep the number low.
Make it eighteenpence."

"Pardon me, Mr. Challis, you do not understand Human Nature. The
passing from pence to shillings marks a crucial point of its
susceptibilities. For one man who will go over a shilling to provide
against a defined contingency you will meet with a million who will
invest pence on some chance they almost deny the existence of, simply
because, if it _did_ come to pass, the benefit would be so out of all
proportion to the sum risked to obtain it. If an investment of one
halfpenny could be shown to connect itself with a possible gain of
ten million pounds, the whole population of the world would plunge to
that extent. There can be no reasonable doubt that, however improbable
it may seem to any married man that he should marry the widow of a
particular foreigner, quite unknown, still, the advantage of having
their son's education provided at a cost of nine point-ought-six pence
would be an irresistible argument in favour of its outlay. Nothing
short of mathematical certainty that no such son was possible would...."

"I understand perfectly. That is my own view. _I_ draw the line at a
shilling. To go beyond it opens up a world of immoral extravagance...."
The speaker felt in danger of yawning, and, to avoid it and break loose
from his persecutor, had to fall back on the time-honoured expedient of
inventing a neglected duty elsewhere. He drew his watch suddenly from
its pocket with the _verve_ of an angler landing a fish, and exclaimed
with sudden deep conviction: "I really must run!"

And Mr. Alfred Challis ran, and found that letters for the Post had
to be ready at eleven forty-five. He had come away from home with the
best intentions of writing a line every day to his wife, and, indeed,
had meant to write long humorous letters with satirical descriptions of
the British Toff at Home, all the points of which would make good copy
after, as it was only Marianne. It wasn't like repeating a published
article. But this time it would have to be a line, or at most a sheet
of note-paper; and it was accordingly.

When one has arrived at the time of life when one weighs beforehand
each sentence one writes, even to an intimate friend--instead of
dashing recklessly on, as in one's glorious youth--how glad one
sometimes is to be put under compulsion about the contents of a letter!
Challis wouldn't acknowledge his obligation to the coercion of the
Postal limit--not he! But he felt it all the same. For he couldn't have
filled out his letter with Universal Security. Marianne wouldn't have
understood a word of it. It wasn't her line. And as for his long talk
with Judith Arkroyd ... well, now!--why on earth couldn't he just write
that he had had one, and that she had told him a lot about the family,
and he would write a long letter about it next time, but really this
was only a line to catch the Post. Why not, indeed? Yes, of course,
that was the proper thing to write. He wrote it, and denied the pause,
to his own satisfaction. But he was grateful to the Post for being so
coercive and superseding and cancelling all considerations of--of what?
He denied that there was anything to cancel, and directed the letter.



A little bit of duty done always seems at its best when it has taken
the form of a written letter. Because when the time comes for posting,
whatever the letter may contain--whether it be a lame apology for
breaking an engagement or a promise to send a cheque without fail next
week--the penny stamp and the direction are just the same as if it had
been to reproach Angela for not appearing yesterday at church-parade
in Hyde Park, or had enclosed a final discharge of your tailor's
account. So Mr. Challis's rather perfunctory line to catch the Post,
boldly stamped and directed, quite set his mind at ease about his home
obligations as soon as ever it was licked and stuck to, past recall.

In fact, so relieved was his conscience, after he had handed this
letter to Elphinstone the butler to see that it went to the Post for
him, that he felt quite at liberty to enjoy some more soul-brush the
next time the chance came. All the more from a conviction of the
importance of its contents conveyed by the professional manner of Mr.
Elphinstone's reception of it--a manner that said, "_This_ really
important letter _shall_ go, whatever other don't!" If this enjoyment
of the soul-brush became too oppressive to his conscience, he could
square accounts by an extra sheet or so of letter-paper.

Anyhow, he could now live for the present. He was rather disgusted to
find that, whatever he decided on to enjoy next, it would have to be in
the house, unless he was prepared to get wet out of doors. For, taking
a mean advantage of him while he was writing his short letter, it had
come on to rain.

In a country-house, when it comes on to rain after a fine early
morning, despair settles on the household, which wanders about moaning,
and looking for someone to come and have a game at billiards; or
lamenting the cruel fate which has beguiled it into putting its things
on, and now it supposes that it had better go and take them off again
and settle down to something, because it's going to pour; or asking
what was the name of that capital game we played every day at Fen
Grange, for instance, when it rained for three weeks on end, and nobody
was the least bored. It is in sad hours such as this that you seek for
a chess-opponent and find none, except a class of player that knows the
moves, whom you fly from candidly; and then, if fortunate, you may meet
with one of another class, who has forgotten the openings. Secure him,
but don't let him set you an interesting problem and run away.

"I've never played, but I should like to learn. Only I really don't
know where the men are. Nobody plays here, you see, and they get lost
or hidden in cupboards." Thus Judith in the second hour of a steady
downpour to Mr. Challis's inquiry, for he was always ready for a game
at chess, without being keen about it.

"You are not getting on with your book, anyhow!" said he. "Can't I
hunt about for the chessmen till I find them?" The book was one he had
recommended at the first coming of the rain, and it was when it was
closed in despair that Challis asked his question.

"I think we must ask Elphinstone. Would you ring?" Challis rang, and
a sub. who appeared was instructed to consult Mr. Elphinstone. Judith
continued: "No!--I hate sinners who are touched by the _Dies Iræ_ in
a cathedral and repent; especially when they've got too old to do any
real mischief. I would sooner they went to the Devil honestly...."
And so the chat ran on, Challis cordially concurring, and not hinting
at any joy whatever over the sinner that repenteth, until the young
man Samuel came back with chessmen. There was another set, of ivory,
it appeared, but Mr. Elphinstone had desired Samuel to say that a
prawn was defective, and one of the bishops was out of his socket, and
couldn't be got to screw in. Samuel had been put to it to charge his
memory with this obscure message; he was confident about the prawn,
but had misgiving about the bishop--feared it was disrespectful to the
Church perhaps; but went away relieved when nothing explosive came of
it. His situation was safe.

Many of us know that teaching chess is no sinecure. The _alumnus_
who refuses to accept the rules as they stand; who wants to know why
the pawns may not move backwards; why the pieces may not jump over,
like in draughts; why the queen should have such absurd latitude; who
thinks all the black pieces should remain on the black squares, and
_per contra_--how well we know him! And the difficulty a peculiar class
of intellect has in mastering the knight's move, condemning it on its
merits, as too much like squinting, or italics! And another yet,
which, on being shown how to make a particular move, makes it, and says
contentiously: "Well!--I don't see anything so very clever in that."

Miss Arkroyd did not quite do any of these things, but she was nearly
as bad. She remembered the moves, in the abstract, but forgot which of
the pieces made them; and this answered as well as forgetting the moves
for all purposes of confusion. With so beautiful a hand it couldn't
matter how much she fingered the pieces. And Mr. Challis seemed very
contented. The instruction was a farce, but it served its turn, and
a sort of appearance of a game developed while the rain outside came
steadily down, and checkmated everyone in the house. Desultory chat,
in which the question, "Whose move is it?" frequently occurred, helped
Challis to a further insight into family conditions and local history.
_En revanche_ the young lady added to her impressions of Challis's own
domestic circumstances and his literary career, and found that an image
was forming in her mind of Mrs. Challis. It wasn't a beautiful image,
but it was worthy. It was that of a good soul. But not a good sort of
body--nothing so bad as that! She felt glad, for Challis's sake. A good
soul and the best of wives; that kind of thing! You couldn't expect
education of very finished achievement in those sort of people, in the
class she came from. For Miss Arkroyd had got somehow a perfectly clear
impression of a class undefinable, but homogeneous and recognizable
by symptoms. A class that didn't dress for dinner, a class that liked
potatoes in their skins as a palliative to cold moist roast mutton
_d' obbligo_; and did not condemn, but merely looked coldly on, at
_menu_'s and finger-glasses. A class whose males smoked pipes and whose
females refused cigarettes; which, though its young learned French at
school, condemned France as the most salient foreign incident on an
incorrigibly foreign Continent, and a perfect moral plague-spot of
unfaithful wives and husbands.

But however good a soul this man's wife was, Judith caught herself
being sorry for him. Yesterday evening, when she went good-naturedly
to him, as to her mother's latest discovery, just to say a few words
and prevent his getting left out in the cold, he had seemed to her only
moderately interesting, and far from handsome. Now she began with a
discriminating eye to see that, though he was far from handsome, he was
just as far from ugly. Still, she perceived that it did credit to her
discriminating eye to find this out. She hadn't noticed it so much when
he turned up unexpectedly in the garden in the morning--unexpectedly,
because she was really unconscious of having said in his hearing
that she was going across the lawn to feed her birds. But now, in a
lucky half-light in the red drawing-room, with his eyes dropped on
the chess-board, his forehead and eye-framing had a look about them
that was certainly interesting, if not a good substitute for beauty.
Judith would have preferred the beauty, certainly; but she could look
contentedly at the good soul's property, and go on wondering what _she_
was like, while he considered knotty points connected with the game.

"You've put your king in check, Miss Arkroyd. You mustn't do that."
He looked up suddenly and caught her eyes. Her _rapport_ with the
game saved him from his vanity by good luck. "I see you thought you
had caught me," was his interpretation of her gaze. It was in token
of a supposed triumph, so he thought. Whatever it was, it became

"Oh!--mustn't I do that? I think it oughtn't to count, when one does it
oneself. Don't you?" Challis said to himself that this woman was rather
a goose. Why he felt a little disappointed at her being rather a goose
he could not have said off-hand. He apologized for the stupidity of the
laws of games generally; said they were clearly wrong all round. But it
would make such a lot of fuss to alter them now that he doubted if it
was worth it.

"You're not in earnest, Mr. Challis?" So the lady spoke, and Challis
said to himself that Marianne would never have found that out. "Sharp,
by comparison!" was his comment to himself; and then aloud: "But I
can't have you bored, Miss Arkroyd. You don't care about this." To
which Judith replied: "It's not exciting, so far;" and both laughed.
The discovery that each had been thinking the same thing was full of
conductivities. It improved their footing.

"It can't be, you know, when you come to think of it," said he,
pushing his chair expressively three inches back--an expression of
renunciation--with a slight boredom-admitting stretch. "Chess requires
apprenticeship before it can be enjoyed, like smoking."

"I see. And this game has made me sick, like a boy's first cigar. Why
didn't you tell me?"

"One must begin some time.... Well! I don't know either. Must one?..."

"There was nothing else to do."

"We might have gone into the billiard-room and heard politics. I heard
them going on through the door a little while ago. Mr. ... what's his
name?--the politician...."

"Mr. Ramsey Tomes?"

"Mr. Ramsey Tomes. I gathered that he was giving details of his great
scheme of Reciprocal Interdependent Taxation of Imports--what he
touched upon at dinner last night...."

"Don't let me disturb the chess!" says a passer through the room. It
is Lady Arkroyd with an armful of some form of embroidery which no
one is on any account to assist her in carrying to the drawing-room
beyond. But what she means is, "Don't arrest my progress. Mind your
own business." Challis makes a convulsive suggestion of willingness to
assist the Universe, but doesn't mean anything at all by it; and her
ladyship floats away, leaving him normal. But his plunge, overdone from
dramatic motives, has knocked the board over. The Fates seem to league
together to throw cold water on this ill-starred game. Judith conveys
the fact by a shrug, but adds a smile, that it may be understood there
is no _amertume_ in the situation. Further, she says she can hear Tea.
A sense that Life's problem is solved for the moment mixes with a
consciousness of hairbrush-time come again, and Mr. Challis disperses
to reassemble presently and enjoy it.

How it is pouring, to be sure! And how grateful one feels to
it--abstraction though it be--for doing it in earnest, and making an
end of all doubts whether we may not get out for a turn later. Nobody
is going to do that to-day.

Challis encounters young Lord Felixthorpe on the stairs, coming from
the billiard-room. He is always amiable and well-mannered, this young
nobleman, and manages to make everyone think he has their good opinion
of him at heart. But he often seems to be seeking their sympathy with
his derision of someone else. Or of himself, for that matter--so
Challis goes on thinking, for all this is what passes in _his_ mind;
the story does not vouch for its truth. During their slow ascent of the
great staircase together, he is more than half-convinced that the young
toff really cares about his views on motoring.

"I am quite aware," says his lordship, pausing at a corner, as though
one might go upstairs at any slowness, even with the young man Samuel
and a colleague agglomerating gilded porcelain within hearing as
tea-factors. "I am quite aware, my dear Mr. Challis, that the motor-car
is at present an object of execration to the public. But I sympathize
so keenly that I feel bound to spend as much time as possible in the
only place in which I am not tempted to forget myself and use bad
language against motorists. I refer to the motor-car itself. Believe
me that the only thing that can reconcile a well-constituted mind to
any practice essentially damnable is the practice itself. I shall look
forward to your accompanying me in my Panhard, after a profusion of
curses perfectly reasonably directed against it--in which you will have
my sincerest sympathy."

"When do you expect the detestable contrivance--I make no disguises,
you see--to arrive? I shall be here for a week, if my hosts continue to
tolerate me."

"It ought to be here now. From the fact that it is _not_ here now, I am
led to infer that something has happened. In this cautious expression
you will kindly observe that it includes the possibility that my
chauffeur, Louis Bossier, has got drunk on the road, and has stopped
the night at an inn to become sober."

"Or he may have been poisoned by petroleum."

"Yes, or his head may have been cut off by a police-wire, stretched
across the road in the dark. But in that case I fancy we should have

       *       *       *       *       *

When Challis descended the stairs, he paused to look out at the great
window with the quarried grisaille and armorial bearings in each light,
and saw through a quarry temporarily repaired with common window-glass
a clear view of the approach to the house, dutifully draining off the
deluge that continued to fall steadily--steadily--on the gravel road
the great beech avenue took such care of, standing on each side of
it all the way to just this side of the Lodge. How well he knew what
that soaked gravel would have to say to the pedestrian who ventured
out--what it _was_ saying to that unhappy man in some sort of oilskin
costume who was coming slowly, jadedly along, above his under-squelch
and below an umbrella that can have done him very little good. Mr.
Challis saw at a glance that he was not indigenous to the soil; a
second glance determined that he was a Frenchman; a third that he
was a chauffeur. Certainly Louis Rossier--who else? He smiled as a
non-motorist smiles when a motor comes to grief. When he reached the
drawing-room, Mr. Ramsey Tomes was already applying for a second cup.
That gentleman was thirsty, no doubt. He had talked for two hours. Not
that he meant to stop--far from it!

Challis had no one to talk to for the moment, so he listened to Mr.
Tomes, who went on again as soon as he had made sure there were two

"I start from an aspect of the question that must compel the most
incredulous to admit that at least the matrix is ripe for solution."

As the orator paused a moment, everyone felt bound to fructify a
little, and said, "I see, you propose to ..." or, "I see your idea ..."
or merely got as far as "I see you ..." and remained stranded. All
except the disciple of Graubosch, who muttered knowingly, "The
Brandenbierenschreiligrath System. Graubosch's Appendix B deals with
it." He and Mr. Wraxall exchanged astute nods; the latter to oblige,
because he really knew nothing about it. But Mr. Tomes wasn't going to
leave anything vague. Not he!--a man with a fixed glare, and loaded to
the muzzle with exhaustive elucidation!

Challis did not wait for the next instalment. He cast about for an
anchorage, and had not found a satisfactory one when Lord Felixthorpe,
who had not appeared at the beginning of Tea, came into the room with
something to communicate written on his countenance.

"What's gone amiss, Scip?" said his friend, William Rufus.

"That idiot Rossier...."

"I told you he was a fool. What's he done now?"

"Left the machine in a ditch, and walked home through the mud....
Oh no, he hasn't hurt himself. I wish he had--in moderation." The
public becomes interested, and explanation spreads over the room. A
lady's voice says, afar, that its owner supposes now we shall lose our
excursion, and that place will be gone, and it would have been the very
thing. Challis doesn't understand this, and asks Judith the meaning. He
is in her neighbourhood somehow--seems to have sacrificed hearing more
about the accident. She supposes Sibyl meant the place for the Great
Idea. But they couldn't have gone to-morrow unless the weather mended,

People chatter so in a room full; you soon lose threads of
conversation. Challis knew little more about either the accident or
the Great Idea when he went away to dress for dinner an hour later.
He was only aware that Mr. Tomes was still at work on the Reciprocal
Interdependent Taxation of Imports, and that Miss Arkroyd was going to
play Halma with him if he came up soon enough after dinner.

       *       *       *       *       *

In his letter to Marianne, written after he went up to his room rather
early--people are very apt to think it's getting on for bedtime after
rain-beleaguered days in country-houses--Mr. Challis merely mentioned
two games at Halma, and adduced the exciting character of that game
as a reason why very little was said. His letter implied that he was
being bored, which was untrue. However, the words "in the house all
day" would do that without an antidote. And we couldn't expect him to
mention the soul-brush, especially as he disallowed its existence. He
said a good deal of what he did know of the motor-car mishap, which was
natural, for--so he said--he had inferred, from the excitement on the
subject, that this car, when it appeared, would be the first ever seen
by most of the inhabitants of the district.

This machine was the latest extravagance of young Lord Felixthorpe,
who had spent a thousand pounds upon it; and its arrival from the
agent at Grime, who was to welcome it--or rather its components--to
England, and to qualify it for the enjoyment of its riders, and the
execrations of its victims, was looked forward to with feverish anxiety
by both. But he could not give such details as were supplied next day,
after a fuller sifting of Louis Rossier's report, which was not very
intelligible at first. These had to wait for a postscript, which told
how the chauffeur, who did not understand three words of English, had
proved as sensitive to misdirection as the compass is to the magnetic
current. He went the wrong way instinctively several times, and was
headed back, or finger-pointed back, just as often. In the end he made
an unfortunate choice between two roads, although warned by a long
shouted instruction from a turnipfield--which ignored his nationality
robustly--that the cross-over bridge, when he come to Sto'an's mill,
nigh the running wa'ater, wasn't to be troosted to carry lo'ads; and
the shouter would be rather shoy of it, in yower place. But you might
take e'er a one of they two ways, at your liking. Being none the wiser,
Louis Rossier chose the more tempting one; and when he came to the
cross-over bridge, which spanned a ditch, could not, of course, tell
the meaning of the Local Authority's posted caution to the effect that
nothing over two tons was to use it; with the result that it gave way
in the middle. It was too small a bridge to let any vehicle larger than
a goat-chaise through and almost too small a ditch to accommodate one,
but the motor was trapped and detained in its sunk centre.

"You'll have to get to t' Hall on Sha'anks's mear, yoong ma-an," said a
native, who was not really taking pains to hide his joy at the mishap.
Louis got to the Hall, but didn't know he had ridden Shanks's mare.

However, for a first accident with a new Panhard, it wasn't so bad!
Only one tyre ruined; its comrade was mendable. In the end the gorgeous
scarlet vehicle was got to the house by horses, and was recovering
its spirits and snorting, with the new spare tyre on, by the time the
company at the Hall had eaten too much lunch, and were arranging how
they would spend their afternoon. Challis had despatched his letter of
the previous night, and was enjoying himself. A gloriously fine day,
following an isolated local depression of the barometer, had removed
the local depressions the latter had occasioned to everyone else,
and Miss Arkroyd had ended a second interview over the parroquets by
promising to take him to see the Roman and British camps on the other
side of the village.

       *       *       *       *       *

The first really professional excursion of the new motor was to be
dedicated to the Great Idea. For the Great Idea, however vaguely it was
formulated, was clear about one thing. Premises would be _de rigueur_.
It was therefore incumbent on its promoters to inspect premises, both
in town and country. At present the latter was the more popular,
because the weather was superb, and the notion of incorporating with
the Factory a Village Community, and perhaps a Garden City, both in the
evening with a flawless Autumn sky, was too tempting to be neglected.
So, this afternoon, William Rufus and Sibyl and Lord Felixthorpe--in
spite of an impression he gave that he was treating the Great Idea with
derision--were to run over to Whealhope Paulswell, about thirty miles
off, in the motor, to give that treasure a baptismal run and inspect
an extinct factory, which had been empty a quarter of a century. They
would be back by dinner-time.

Sir Murgatroyd, of whom we have seen nothing, as he has been
continually talking about the ruin of English Trade with Mr. Ramsey
Tomes, was going to take that gentleman to see some manure. People can
look at some manure, and talk about nefarious Germany, both at once.
There is reason to suppose that these two gentlemen talked of very
little but the ruin of English Trade during the whole of this visit
to Royd. And wherever any member of the household was employed--we
are recording the impressions of Mr. Alfred Challis--he or she could
always hear, in the remote distance, what was only too clearly Mr.
Tomes taking this opportunity to state, once for all; or Sir Murgatroyd
feeling bound, alike as a Statesman and an Englishman, to protest
against. A steady, continuous rumble, on these lines, accompanied the
not particularly busy hum of men, women, and chits, that made up the
round of life at Royd. The chits, by-the-by, of which there were two or
three, naturally involved a corresponding number of young men, each to
each; or each in the pocket of each, as you choose. None of them seemed
the least ashamed of never having a word to throw at anyone outside
the pocket, except its owner, and the rest of Europe seemed by common
consent to take no notice of them. And all the while each one, and the
contents of its pocket, was, like enough--so thought Mr. Challis--the
centre of an incubation of memories that were to last a lifetime. "As
they bake, so they will brew," philosophized Mr. Challis to himself,
and clouded over a little as he remembered that he, too, was in the
twenties once. Four of them played lawn-tennis that afternoon, and the
others got somehow lost sight of. No matter!

Lady Arkroyd had the carriage, and drove over to Thanes Castle, to see
the Duchess of Rankshire before the Royalties came. But she wasn't at
all sure she wouldn't have done something else if she had known that
Judith was going to cry off at the last minute. She relied a good deal
on her eldest daughter as a factor in social intercourse. But she
didn't confess it.

"What on earth is the girl going to do with herself? How can you be so
tiresome, Ju? Now do just get ready and come. There's no hurry. I can

"Now, Madre dear, you really ought to know by this time how bored I
always am with the sort of people they get at the Castle. And I've got
letters to write. I must answer Lady Kitty about the orchids."

"Nonsense, girl! You can't be all the afternoon over _that_."

"I shall go out later. In an hour or so. I dare say I shall take
Mr.--what's his name?--Harris--round the village and show him the Roman
Camp. He'll know what castrametation means, and things...."

"Mr. 'Titus Scroop'? My dear!--he's as happy as he can be talking to
that idiot Brownrigg about Metaphysics and nonsense. Do let him alone!"

"Well!--I dare say I shall. Or otherwise, as may be. But I won't come
to Thanes. Love to the Duchess."

Judith was a stronger character than her mother, and won. As the latter
was driven off, she said to herself, for no apparent reason "Mr. Titus

Lady Arkroyd was in the habit of asking every celebrity she came across
to her home, because she worshipped genius. But she took the genius for
granted if she saw any author, artist, or musician's name often enough
in print. Was she sometimes rash? Well--yes--sometimes! Perhaps a doubt
about "Titus Scroop's" genius was the reason she said his name. But if
so, why did it lead to a resolve in her mind to ask Mrs. Candour--_the_
Mrs. Candour of the moment, whom she was sure to meet at Thanes--more
about Mrs. "Titus Scroop"? She kept thinking of it, off and on, all the
way to the park gates with the dragon-sentinels on piers on each side
presenting arms.

And all the while Challis was being bored by that idiot Brownrigg, and
wishing anyone would come and rescue him. He resented the idea that he
had any special rescuer in view. But no one had said he had. However,
Miss Arkroyd had certainly spoken about a walk to the Roman Camp; so
naturally he would cast her for the part, don't you see?



The gentleman spoken of so disrespectfully by his hostess was Mr.
Adolphus Brownrigg, who was an enthusiastic disciple of the great
German philosopher Graubosch, whose scheme embodied a complete
Reorganization of Society on an entirely new basis. But whereas all
previous reorganizers of Society had started on the fallacious and
mischievous line of breaking up existing institutions and replacing
them by others of their own devising, this reformer proposed to utilize
them all as portions of his new System. Thus the reigning Sovereign
would fall easily into his place of Chairman of a great Central
Committee of Management, retaining the Crown as a distinguishing
badge of his office; the existing machinery of Parliamentary election
would answer equally well for the Members of the Central Committee;
the Bench would supply us with a most satisfactory staff for what he
termed Courts of Discriminative Decision, and so on, and so on. Even
the very Policemen's Uniforms would be available for the new staff of
Order-Keepers and Crime-Preventors that formed part of his System. Nay,
the Coinage itself would come in useful as Exchangeable Tokens in his
new Method of Sale and Purchase Accommodation.

"What attitude does Professor Graubosch adopt towards the Religions of
the world?" asked Challis, as he and the advocate of this new Reform
walked about the garden, discussing it.

"Graubosch," replied the latter, "is, broadly speaking, in favour of
their complete abolition. Nor do I myself think any continuation of
them would be found necessary in view of his new System of Metaphysical
Checks. No one recognizes more fully than Graubosch the necessity for
Moral Restraint derived from a Consciousness of the Unseen, whether
acting as a stimulus in connection with an exalted and unselfish
anxiety for personal rewards throughout Eternity, or as a deterrent
resulting from the anticipation of unpleasantness hereafter,
especially of continuous oxidation with evolution of caloric. But the
new System provides for both."

"As for instance?..."

"For instance, in respect of the Idea of a Deity.... But perhaps, Mr.
Challis, your own views on this subject are ... a ... well defined? I
should be sorry to ... to...."

"To give offence? Pray don't feel any scruples on my account."

"Well, I will continue. In respect of this Idea of a Deity, it is
true that Graubosch abolishes God, as such. But his System claims to
provide a substitute; and this substitute is, to my thinking, superior
in many respects for working purposes to the Idea it displaces. The
first Metaphysical Check he formulates is the Invariable Necessary
Antecedent. The acceptance of this as an inevitable condition of
thought is an essential of the System of Graubosch."

"How does it act as a check?"

"It is rather long to follow out; but, put as briefly as I can, it is
somewhat thus: Graubosch admits the possibility of an infinite number
of successions of Antecedents, as we have an infinite number of results
or sequents. But the effect on the Metaphysician of contemplating such
a condition of the Universe is fatal to reasoning, and may easily
produce suspension of the faculties. Philosophy stipulates for a _modus
vivendi_; and as a working necessity for argument, if for no other
reason, Graubosch refers the whole of the Universe to _one_ Invariable
Necessary Antecedent; which he accepts, for reasons which appear to me
satisfactory, as obviously superior to any one unit of its results or
sequences. We have no right, he says, to assume that _any_ result or
consequence is not achievable by such an Antecedent."

"I concur, on the whole. Does Graubosch ascribe intelligence, in our
sense of the word, to this Antecedent?"

"Certainly not. Intelligence is merely a sequence or consequence of
some minute fraction ... of ... of its power."

"Why did you hesitate?"

"From a feeling that Power itself may only be a finite humanism, so to
speak--an Entity on all fours with Intelligence. But the Metaphysician
has to leave himself a few words, to speak with. Now the idea of
_greater_ and _less_ is axiomatic, and it is difficult to avoid the
conclusion that _our_ Intelligence is a lesser thing than its working
substitute in the Invariable and Necessary Antecedent."

"I quite understand. To create Intelligence, its Creator when creating
himself must go one better--break his own anticipated record. What are
Graubosch's views about Good and Evil? They both are factors in our
existing System, especially the latter."

"He ignores both, as antiquated and unnecessary. In his System, the
fruitless discussions about which is which--where one ends and the
other begins, and so on--disappear entirely."

"That sounds good. Vice and Virtue could shake hands over it--a
Coalition Ministry, don't you know?"

"Pardon me!--the exact reverse. Party Government would be intensified.
But I ought to describe what Graubosch terms the _Plus_ and _Minus_
of his System, in its Moral or Ethical aspects. The first expression
recognizes in what has been hitherto absurdly called 'Good' merely
the Invariable and Necessary Antecedent leaking out, so to speak,
and becoming perceptible to our Senses. The second, in what has been
equally absurdly called 'Evil,' its diminution or repression."

Challis yawned. He was getting bored. "Does not that," he said, "assume
the existence of some counter-power, able to diminish and repress?"

"Graubosch avoids doing so. And therein lies the beauty of his System.
His _Minus_ is simply negation of his _Plus_. An exact parallel is
supplied by the phenomena of light and darkness. To ascribe to darkness
powers of extinguishing light is scientifically absurd."

"I see." Challis spoke in a winding-up tone. His bore perceived it, and
dexterously pinioned him.

"Pardon me one moment more," he said, "We are at a point where
the beauty of the System becomes most manifest. I refer to its
elasticity--its power of utilizing, provisionally at any rate, existing
Institutions pending its maturer development. Graubosch does not doubt
the efficacy at some future date of the Metaphysical Check on our
propensities supplied by the _Plus_ and _Minus_ of his System. But he
proposes for the present--at least, until believers in a Personal God
from early youth have had time to die out--to postpone the _Plus_ which
is to take his place. Also--and this is important in connection with
the operation of Metaphysical Checks--he is favourable to the retention
of a Personal Devil until the Masses have acquired an insight into

"I must ask you to excuse me," said Mr. Challis. "I have letters to
write, and they say the Post goes at twelve...."

"But I hope I have impressed you favourably. We must bear in mind...."

"Most favourably, my dear sir. And it seems to me that if we only let
things alone vigorously enough, we may regard Professor Graubosch's
great Reform as already in operation...." Mr. Challis paused on behalf
of a newcomer, to whom he resumed: "Not at all, Miss Arkroyd ... not
the least! I assure you Mr. Brownrigg and I have talked the subject
dry.... No!--I really am speaking the truth." This with absolute

"Because I do so hate interrupting," said Judith, who had been waiting
to speak. "And I saw you were so interested. But I can say what I
have to say and go--and then you can finish." Mr. Challis looked
dejected, and Judith continued: "I only wanted to say that I shall be
walking down to the village presently, and could show you the Roman
and British camps and the prehistoric monolith." Mr. Challis looked
elated. "Only _presently_, when you have really had your talk out.
I shall be on the terrace." Mr. Challis was just on the point of
arresting Miss Arkroyd's departure by another violent profession of
intense completion of the subject in hand, when prudence murmured in
his ear that his bore mustn't be allowed to come too. Now a pretence
that he was yearning for three words more, and would then meet the lady
on the terrace, just served to place Mr. Brownrigg in the position
of a fixture. It localized him. Otherwise he might have moved with
the train of events, unshaken off. Even as it was, a very vigorous "I
really mustn't keep Miss Arkroyd waiting any longer" was wanted to
effect the extraction--for it was quite like tooth-drawing. But the
force of handling--as the art-critics phrase it--was so strong that Mr.
Brownrigg couldn't say, "Why shouldn't I come too, I should like to
know?" He _would_ have, nevertheless. But he had to give the point up,
and went to look for Mr. Wraxall.

       *       *       *       *       *

Judith was waiting on the terrace looking handsome. She was wrestling
with an intractable glove-button, and her hand that was operative was
embarrassed by her sunshade having been taken into its confidence.
Mr. Challis could hold the sunshade, clearly. A very simple thing!
And when the glove-button socketed into its metallic nidus, and was
satisfactory, how obvious for the young lady to take that sunshade back
again, with a profusion of thanks as for a great service done! But did
the little incident leave the two performers exactly where it found
them? Sometimes things of this sort don't. Things of what sort, do you
ask? Well!--you see, we are watching Mr. Alfred Challis's mind, and
can, for the present, only answer--the sort that made that gentleman
conscious that the twenties and he had parted company many years ago.

Perhaps, however, it's only one of those nonsensical ideas Sibyl gets
(now, if you please, we are peering into the lady's mind) when she
tells her sister that flirtations with married men are detestable.
However, this time Sibyl couldn't have a word to say--a literary
man with an attenuated beard, and hair that seems to have thought
of curling once, and then thought better of it, and gone a little
gray hesitatingly! And a weak mouth! And a lay-down collar! And such
clothes! No!--this time Sibyl could find no excuse. If this man wasn't
safe, you might as well have no male friends or even acquaintances at
all, and live in a harem.

Besides, there was something very interesting about his eyes and
forehead, which were his good points. Oh yes!--his hands were not bad.
They looked sensitive, and showed the bones. Judith's mind made swift
excursion down a side-alley. What was the impossible Mrs. Challis like
to live with, she wondered? Did he adore her, or how? Perhaps she
wasn't really a "good soul" at all, but adorable--in reason.

"Thank you so much, Mr. Challis. I always get into such a mess with
buttons. I hope you are not afraid of dogs, because Saladin must come
with us. He never gets any exercise unless I take him out." A huge
Danish boarhound, conscious that he was spoken of, looked up and
appeared to sanction the use of his name. He had smelt Mr. Challis, and
found some excuse for him, presumably, in some nicety of bouquet human
nostrils know not of.

"Saladin's welcome," said he. "But I'm like Br'er Rabbit--a mighty puny
man myself, and I may very easily git trompled...." For Saladin was

"What's that out of?"

"Uncle Remus."

"I suppose I ought to read Uncle Remus?"

"Yes; but don't if you don't like."

"Not if I ought to?"

"The ought is not a high moral ought. You ought to read Uncle Remus if
you want something amusing to read."

"I haven't much time for reading, and I want to read 'The Epidermis.'
Everyone tells me I shall enjoy it."

"Perhaps everyone knows. I don't feel so much confidence myself. Read
Uncle Remus first, anyhow. If you do that, I'll ask you to accept a
copy of t'other one, from the Author."

"I've just written off for a copy to the publisher."

"Oh!--have you?--I would tell him to transfer the order to my
account--only that takes all the edge off the proceeding."

"When did Uncle Remus come out first?"

"Oh--a long time ago! It's odd to think how long. I'm over forty. I was
almost a boy."

"Perhaps that's why you liked it so much? Fancy your being fourteen
years older than me!"

"Perhaps." The last half of Miss Arkroyd's remark had to go without
answer. It was too parenthetical to call for one.

Experience teaches us that there is no meshwork of circumstance into
which flatter conversation may weave itself than the combination of a
married man, a young woman, and a walk out on a fine afternoon, of set
purpose. At least, that was the text of a literary reflection of Mr.
Challis at this juncture. He put it away in a mental storehouse for his
next book. Its truth or falsehood is immaterial at present.

Judith made no mental note of what _her_ experience taught; but she
knew she couldn't stand being bored and she felt it coming. She had
made up her mind to have an amusing walk with this popular favourite.
And Sibyl might say what she liked, but she wouldn't be balked!

A sense of intended impertinence may have heightened her colour
slightly, as she stopped and turned the fine eyes full on to her
companion. He stopped, too, looking round.

"Mr. Challis, I want you to tell me something.... No!--don't promise
till you know what it is...."

"I am sure, Miss Arkroyd, you will ask me nothing I should hesitate to
tell you...."

"Don't be too confident ... it's very impertinent!"

"All right--go on! I'll forgive you."

"Is 'Ziz' in the 'Spendthrift's Legacy' Mrs. Challis?"

"My wife? Marianne?" Mr. Challis was conscious of being reminded of
his wife. A fine _nuance_ of ashamedness--it could hardly be called
shame--affected his mind, surely? Else why note the perfectly obvious
fact that if he and Marianne were never to forget each other for
a single instant, life would be insupportable to both. Perhaps he
can hardly be said to have noted it, though; suppose we say that he
declined to note it, consciously, because of its absurd irrelevance.

"Yes!--Marianne." Judith's eyes, with no concession in them of any
shade of impertinence in the use of Mrs. Challis's Christian name,
waited for the answer, as she still stood, not stirring. Was she saying
to herself that this was tit-for-tat; a _riposte_ for his "Sibyl" of
their talk in the morning? Saladin, not used to this sort of thing,
waited also, reproachfully. Challis, rather accepting "Marianne" as a
sanction of his "Sibyl," was again conscious that his soul was being
brushed by machinery--not an intrusive brush though; an easy one he
could ignore. His answer was not difficult.

"Not a particle of resemblance between them! Ziz was a"--he stopped
himself just in time--"a ... a ... almost a sort of professional
beauty." The one word "professional" made all the difference--saved the

Now, Judith had a habit of despising dangerous ground in social
intercourse; it was part of what Mr. Challis had called her
_prepotente_ disposition. She would always put her horse at a quickset
hedge if any image crossed her mind of the finger of Discretion, the
monitress; especially if it looked like Sibyl's. While Mr. Challis
was breathing freely about his dexterous escape, she made up her mind
to know all about this impossible person who wasn't a professional
beauty. As to how she should get at this knowledge, that was another
matter. All she could see her way to at the moment was--not to be in
a hurry and spoil her chances. But she was very much mistaken if she
couldn't do with this man, whom she thought of as nerves and brains and
very little else, what she had done before now with stronger men than
he--viz., twist him round her little finger.

"Ah!--I'm so glad," said she. And then, as though to clothe her pause
in walking with the semblance of a moment of mental tension, she
resumed movement forward. Saladin emphasized her action by a single
tremendous bark, and did the same. A startled waterfowl decided that
his position was untenable, and condemned the neighbourhood, going off
in a bee-line with a rush. Two horses out at grass galloped round their
field, and stood at gaze, with open nostrils. Of which events Saladin,
their source and origin, took no notice, but moved on, smelling the
planet gently and thoughtfully.

"Why are you glad?" asked Challis. "You didn't like Ziz, I suppose?"
A note of pique in his voice. The young lady's confidence about the
finger-twisting grew.

"I _admired_ her," she said with marked emphasis. "She fascinated me
down to the ground. But ... if you ask me ... you mustn't mind my
saying, you know...."

"I can't tell you how I enjoy hearing what you really think. No
compliments, please!"

"Well ... if I can express myself! I should say your heroine's was
rather a ... rather a ... _shrill_ personality. I don't mean unlovable
exactly, but ... well!... I can't think of any other way of putting it."

"She was meant to be excitable. Neurotic, as the slang goes nowadays.
Marianne is neither. I hope you liked the reconciliation scene by the
open grave, and the way they appeal, as it were, to the coffin for
forgiveness. Some of the reviews thought it strained."

"Strained!--oh no! It seemed to me in some ways one of the most
touching things I ever read. And her explanation to Septimus that she
had divorced him on principle in order that he should marry Julia, and
both get a chance of recovering their position in society.... But do
tell me--only it's hardly fair to ask--did you mean that _she_ put the
arsenic in Julia's coffee, or the negress?"

"I leave that an open question for the reader to speculate about. But
you may rest assured of one thing, Miss Arkroyd--the young person in my
novel is about as unlike my dear wife as she can be." He had determined
to pay some little tribute to his dear wife as soon as the chance came,
that she should lie less upon his conscience. Here it was. "Marianne is
the exact opposite--a pussycat upon the hearthrug--a ... kettle singing
on the hob, you might almost say. She's not exactly what's called a
clever woman, certainly...."

"But she is none the worse for that! How I do hate clever women!" All
the same, Judith thought to herself: "Why couldn't he leave her in
peace, on the hearthrug or the hob?" His last reservation had spoiled
his little tribute, and indeed, he felt it himself. Bother!

Setting it right would make it worse. In spite of a fervent murmur from
the young lady, that she felt she knew exactly what Mrs. Challis was
like, and that they would be sure to understand each other, and what a
pity it was Mrs. Challis had not been able to come, he felt he would
do best to _brusquer_ the conversation. He couldn't well say "Marianne
isn't here because your mother never invited her--only told her she
might come." So, feeling that if he could detach the conversation
from Marianne personally he did not very much care by what means the
end was effected, he made a fragmentary remark to the effect that
he _had_ had an original in his mind for the neurotic heroine, but
quite a different person from his wife--utterly unlike her. "Unlike
in appearance--individuality--everything! Is that the market-cross?"
No, it wasn't the market-cross; it was the pump. So Mr. Challis's
conclusion did very little towards its object.

Judith halted as before, after establishing the pump. She knew she
was going to be impertinent again; and drawled a word or two to that
effect, to get on a safe footing. "But do forgive me," she said, "if
I ask who the lady was. You needn't tell me, you know." And then, as
Challis wavered between disclosure and concealment, put in a word to
clinch matters: "Treat me as a friend. We can always quarrel, you
know!" The soul-brush seemed to go a little quicker.

This author was a man who fancied he understood womankind--and probably
his was a fair average of knowledge in a department where so much
ignorance exists. But there was one sort of woman he could _not_
understand--the woman with a stronger nature than his own. He had only
mixed with his equals, so far. He could be quite unaware that he was
being influenced--could still persuade himself, as a tribute to his
manhood, that he was acting from a politic motive. He could make an
astute note that his insight into humanity--"Human Nature ... behooves
that I know it"--showed him that he could place confidence in this
lady. It had nothing to do with her eyes or her outline. It was his

"I don't mind telling you." A slight hitch before the last word showed
that the speaker had just avoided italics. He paused a moment, to be
quite sure he didn't mind, then continued: "The original of 'Ziz' was
my first wife. So far as there _was_ an original. But exaggerated out
of all--out of all individuality."

"I never knew that you had been married before." The wording of
this--"never" during the last forty-eight hours!--was ahead of their
intimacy, but her hearer accepted it. It chimed in with that luxury of
the soul-brush, always at work. He would not on any account have had
it exchanged for, "They did not tell me you had been married twice."
Nevertheless, he was unaware that he was being influenced, and went on
towards expansive confidence, unsuspicious of himself.

"I married about fourteen years ago, and lost my wife within a
twelvemonth. My son is a big boy now, at Rugby; he was born just before
his mother died. He always thinks and speaks of Marianne as his mother.
She has always been a mother to him, in fact. Her own children--we have
two little girls--do not realize his half-brothership. We have never
tried to make them do so."

"How right!" from Judith. Confidence was improving. She was giving
sanction to family arrangements.

"Yes, I think it has been best. Their difference of age suggests
nothing to them."

"I suppose they know?"

"Yes--academically, one might say. But knowledge of that is as nothing
against the force of a child's acceptance of its _status quo_. When
I married Marianne, the boy--he's Bob--was still too young to pay much
attention to the fact that she brought him away from his granny's
to live at my house. The only difference that impresses him between
himself and his sisters is that _he_ can remember so much more clearly
than they do the house where my first wife and I used to live. It is
the house described in 'The Spendthrift's Legacy.' I shall always
believe it was that title that made it so fetching. You see, you can't
guess whether the Spendthrift inherited the legacy or bequeathed it. It
gets on your brain, and then you ask for it at Mudie's...."

Judith interrupted. "Of course, the Spendthrift _left_ the Legacy. But
why was he a Spendthrift, one wants to know.... Yes, I see. It was a
lucky title. But did you always write?"

"Not until the firm of accountants I was with wound up the affairs of
Eatwell and Lushington, the big publishers. I was sent to check and
overhaul the stock. An almost unsold novel attracted my attention--an
edition of two thousand--fifteen hundred in sheets. Its issue had
been arrested by the discovery that the author--who had just died of
appendicitis, by-the-bye--had taken another man's title."

"I suppose you can be prosecuted for taking another man's title?"

"H'm--no! At least, there is no copyright in a title. It wasn't that.
It was for the book's own sake. Publishers don't like other people's
titles for their books. I was able to offer a suggestion which made it
possible to use the sheets. The bound copies were made paper-pulp of
again, I believe."

"I can't see much encouragement to authorship in that, Mr. Challis."

"None at all. But Mr. Saxby, who is virtually Eatwell and
Lushington--one's dead, and the other has become a missionary in
Marocco--saw reason to believe I should succeed as a writer, owing to
the new first chapter I wrote for this book to accommodate the new
title. He made me write a novel for the firm, and I succeeded."

"But I don't understand. Wasn't the old title printed anywhere on the
old sheets?"

"Printed everywhere! The novel was called 'Amaris,' and there were no
headlines. The page-tops were just Amaris, Amaris, Amaris all through."

"What is 'Amaris'? And how on earth did you manage?..."

"Stop a bit, or I shall want Gargantua's mouth. 'Amaris' was a name
the author concocted, like Mrs. Kenwig's 'Morleena.' He wanted to
be quite sure his heroine's name had never been used for a novel
before, so that he could make it the title. But it _had_, with a Latin
subtitle, in which _dulcibus_ and _amaris_ were put in contrast...."

"Never mind the Latin," said Judith. "What did it mean?"

"It amounted to the question, 'Is Life most full of bitter things or
sweet?' and the title answered the question. It might have been called
'Dulcibus' for any light it threw on the problem. But it wouldn't have
sold. Nothing sells without a snarl or a howl or a pig-sty in it."

"But I'm so curious to know how you got over the difficulty."

"Simple enough! We turned it into 'Tamarisk.'... How? Why, of course,
by printing a 'T' at the beginning and a 'K' at the end. It cost
something to run the sheets carefully through again, but not so much as
burning them."

"What was there about 'Tamarisk' in the book?"

"Not a word till I rewrote the first dozen pages. I had to read that
blessed book through till I nearly knew it by heart, in order to work
out the idea. But it seemed all right when it was done. I was rather
proud of it."

"I dare say it was tremendously clever. But how _was_ it done? That's
what I want to know."

"I made the name of the girl 'Tamarisk' instead of 'Amaris,' and then
her baby brother can't pronounce it--calls her Amaris; and the family
catch the pronunciation, and she adopts the name outright. It was
difficult to do, because the conditions implied were those of the bosom
of an affectionate family, and the sequel might have clashed...."


"Well, you see, the girl becomes a Vampire, and sucks the little
brother's blood. But I succeeded. In fact, I think the very
difficulties of the situation produced a certain pathos."

"I see," said Judith, with a gush of intense perception. "I see that
would be so.... Yes, that _is_ the market-cross, this time."

       *       *       *       *       *

Is the gap above large enough to include an inspection of a
market-cross, a pump, a camp, and a village church? Perhaps,
considering how little was left of the last--though, of course, some
of the walls had ancient invisible cores. But hardly for tea at the
Rectory, which had to be fresh-made; rather like the church, though
in the case of the latter a few of the old leaves were preserved from
the first brew, so to speak. Poor old leaves!--poor conscious objects
of active conservation, each paroxysm of which left a little less of
the flavour of the _moyen âge_ behind it--a shadow less of excuse for
another subscription list on their behalf, or another paper in the
Journal of the local Society of Antiquaries. They were being handed
down to posterity with such solicitude that whatever of bloom the axe
and hammer of Puritanism had left behind seemed like to come off on the
gloves of Ecclesiastical Archæology.

Is it necessary to say that the foregoing is only a peep into the
ill-regulated mind of Mr. Alfred Challis at about the time that the
fresh-made tea at the Rectory had begun to reanimate it? But, of
course, Mr. Challis never said a word to this effect to his host, and
that reverend gentleman naturally didn't want to talk about local
matters. He was sick of his interesting surroundings, and wanted to
hear about the new motor-car and wireless telegraphy and aerostation
and coloured photography, and all sorts of things that were up-to-date
three years ago, and for that matter are still, to a certain extent.
About which and other things the literary gentleman was silent and
absent-minded, in spite of the tea. Had he been bound to account to
himself for this, he would have found it very difficult to do so. Not
being bound, he allowed his mind to recognize the fact that he never
did talk much to Parsons--you could never be sure you wouldn't give
offence!--and to feel that reserve, short of incivility of course, was
plausible at least.

For he was one of those unpractical persons who, never having been
thrashed into a Creed in childhood, and being liberally ready to
doubt any Creed of his own concoction, associated Religions, broadly
speaking, with the opening or closing of shops on Sunday, the
suppression of bands in the parks, and the singing of the same tune
over and over again in unison at street-corners. When he came by
chance on the sound of a harmonium making an unintelligible droning,
he conceived of it as Christianity going on in a corner, fraught
with a quaint old-world feeling to the passer-by, but scarcely to be
encouraged by enlightenment. He had cultivated Ritual so far as to
be ready, on emergency, to take off his hat and look intently into
it, watching anxiously the while for subsidence of religious symptoms
without. At old-fashioned houses, where Prayers might be expected to
occur at any moment, he used to become in a sense demoralised, and
felt lost when he found himself out of reach of a chair or convenient
_prie-Dieu_ of some sort. His only really heart-felt expression of
gratitude to his own or anyone else's Maker was the "Thank God that's
over!" that he didn't say aloud at the end. Messiahs of all ranks,
from the highest to the lowest, he regarded as mere bones of contention
along interminable sectaries, all ready to fang each other, but kept in
check by Scotland Yard. Qualified practitioners of Religion, whether
Priest or Presbyter, he looked on as mere survivals of a past age
perishing slowly of Civilization. He was not prepared to take the
responsibility of hurrying their extinction, and, indeed, was ready
to make concession on minor points, complying in literature with the
public conviction that the pronoun standing for the name of the Maker
of the Stellar Universe, and possibly others, really ought to be
printed with a capital letter. We are merely putting him on record--not
hinting at any opinion how far he was right or wrong.

Why do we call Mr. Alfred Challis _unpractical_? it may be asked.
Simply because, while he avoided or ignored all experts in Applied
Religion, he himself was unprepared with any substitute for it. And
this was so even in the case of his own children. He had, however,
given _carte blanche_, by implication of supineness, to the partner of
his joys, sorrows, and admixtures of the two. He knew perfectly well
that if he could have cancelled the little restored church at Royd, and
the Parsonage and all its belongings, and left Royd free from what he
counted superstition, of a sort, he would have held his hand--simply
because he could not for the life of him have suggested any alternative
that would not have worked round to the same thing in the end. He was
convinced at heart, even while he made mental notes about Clerical
Humbugs who pretended to believe what they knew German criticism had
exploded long ago--for Mr. Challis had read whatever fostered his
predispositions, just like yourself and the present writer--that if
this athletic-looking, upright gentleman and his serious sister--for
it seemed he was a widower--were to be suddenly removed from Royd,
as well as any religious outscourings of a Dissenting nature hanging
about--if all these were cleared away and the village left in charge
of the human heart and intellect _ed id genus omne_, the human stomach
_et istud genus omne_ would get their way in double-quick time, and a
perfect Saturnalia would come about of Bacchus and Priapus, of Cabiric
deformities lurking round the corner for a chance, and Beer. At any
rate, he was enough convinced of this to be rather grateful to the
Clerical Humbugs for pretending, pending enlightenment. He felt it was
benevolent in him to be mean at the cost of his own conscience, and to
hold his tongue and leave them undenounced, in the interest of Humanity.

This chronicle has no opinions--note that! The foregoing is only a
peep into the mind of a literary man who was never at a University.
Had he been at one, many college-chums in Orders would have checked
his condemnations. The man one has read with, swum with, cricketed
with--_cannot_ be a Hypocrite. Absurd!

Our snapshots of Mr. Alfred Challis's mind have taken long to record,
but they serve their turn in this place better, perhaps, than the few
trifling incidents of the visit at the Rectory. Consider that the
lady and gentleman are on their way back to the Hall, in a golden
sunset-light which makes the former resplendent, and does no harm to
the appearance of the latter. Judith weighs him more carefully than she
has done yet, and the result may be more favourable in such a glow.
Quite passable!--is her verdict. And she knows how _she_ looks, bless
you, reasoning by analogy! For all her previous verdicts about her
companion's looks--so far as they were favourable--have run on lines of
intellectual rather than physical beauty.

The reason she looked at him carefully at that moment of starting from
the Parsonage may have been because of an impression she had that he
had cut a poor figure as against that of the Parson. It had so chanced
that Saladin, who had behaved well in the house--accepting small sweet
biscuits with reserves as to first approval of them--had, on coming
away through the garden, just as they reached the gate, become aware
of cats, as an abstraction. Mr. Challis's hold on his collar he hardly
took any notice of; and it was fortunate that the Rev. Athelstan Taylor
(that was his name) got hold on the other side just in time to prevent
Saladin starting for a concrete cat over the flower-beds. "You had,
perhaps, best let me have both sides, Mr. Challis," said he. Then had
followed a magnificent contest between the Rev. Athelstan and the
boarhound. If the former could have been unfrocked, it would have been
a Greek bas-relief. It ended in a draw, as the concrete cat vanished.
"I couldn't have held you much longer, old chap," said the Rector
unassumingly to Saladin, during apologies and explanations, dogwise.
These continued for some time after they had left the Rectory, and
Judith was really glad Saladin's chain was on, with no one to help
stronger than her literary friend, if a cat occurred. Rabbits had
palled on Saladin, owing to their absurd and unfair practice of running

"He's a fine fellow, your Parson, Miss Arkroyd," said Challis. He
acknowledged it readily; athletics were not his line.

"The Reverend Athelstan? (Yes, my darling precious pet, you did quite
right, and it was an odious cat!) Oh yes--he was a great athlete in
his old Oxford days; was in the 'Varsity eight. (Yes, dear love!--you
shall lick when we get home. Now walk quiet, and let people talk.)
Yes--he's painfully strong." There was something in this of implied
justification for people who were not.

"I'm afraid I'm painfully weak--by comparison. My sedentary employments
don't develop the muscles." But, after all, reading prayers and singing
of anthems does not, either. This was _in foro conscientiæ_--not spoken

"Oh, everybody can't Sandow. _I_ think that sort of thing rather
tiresome, carried too far. However, we are very good friends, the
Reverend and I. I like a man that has the courage of his opinions.
He's quite in a minority here about the Woman question--or I suppose I
should say questions. But I meant the Franchise business particularly.
He and the Bishop are at daggers drawn about it. I haven't heard him
say much about the other. I fancy, though, he's at heart in favour of
it--more than myself, perhaps. I mean the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill."

"Are not you...?" Mr. Challis had a hesitation on him, not like his
usual way of speech. That was an amused way usually, a confident one
almost always. This was neither.

"I must confess ..." said Judith hesitatingly--"I must confess to
having very little sympathy with men who want to marry their deceased
wives' sisters. It's a question of taste, according to me--nothing to
do with the high moralities." The implied sneer against all moral law
was no discomfort to her hearer. On the contrary, spoken as it was by
a good-looking young lady in a sunset light, it seemed to him alike
picturesque and liberal. But he changed the conversation suddenly, as
though something in it had disagreed with him.

"What a capital photographer the great Athelstan seems to be!" He said
it with a definite air of "Let us talk of something else." She glanced
round at him, decided with some surprise that she had shocked him, but
answered without showing it. She was quite a woman of the world, was

"He's a splendid photographer. You know he took all those photos for
'Ten Years of Slum Growth'--my cousin's book?" Mr. Challis pretended he
knew this book; but he didn't. "I made him come and photograph my own
special slum population in Tallack Street. But Lady Elizabeth wouldn't
have them in the book. She said Tallack Street could hardly rank as a
slum, in her sense of the word."

"Was it too swell?"

"She said so. Well!--you shall see the photographs, and judge for

But the conversation had fallen flat. A chill had come. Even the
discovery that the moon had risen when we were not looking did nothing
to remove it. We were not young enough, probably, or not old enough,
for lunar influences. Indifference to Phoebe begins with maturity, and
even outlasts it. So thought Mr. Challis, when rather mechanically
called on to admire the silver disc, shot with gold, just getting clear
of a purple gloom that was the hallowed smoke of unholy Grime--hallowed
by the sun's last word to twilight, its heir-at-law and sole executor.
For all that, Mr. Challis made notes in this connection for literary
purposes, while Judith thought to herself that this would never do.
She must make an effort, or the skein she was going to twist round her
finger would float away and be lost.

"I know I shocked you just now," said she.

"Shocked me?--when?"

"Just before we got to the photography...."

"I have quite forgotten. What were we saying?" This was not true; he
remembered perfectly.

"How kind of you to pretend to forget! Forgive my disbelieving you."

Challis was open to a recrudescence of veracity. Perhaps it _was_
a fib this time--he made the admission. But as he made it, he was
again conscious of the soul-brush at work. Had he perceived the
skein-analogy, he might have recognized its first clip round the
finger. "We were talking of the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, I think,"
said he. "But why you think you shocked me I can't imagine."

"Never mind!--if you don't recollect. But Sibyl would have lectured me.
She always says I ridicule Moral Law. Perhaps I do, in a certain sense.
But Sibyl is the soul of propriety."

"I can't see where ridicule of Moral Law comes in, so far. What you
_said_ was--well!--amounted to a condemnation of the _taste_ of men who
wish to marry their wives' sisters. Perhaps I misunderstood?" Challis's
manner had a flavour of personal interest; the amused tone had gone,
and the last words ended on a pause for an answer, with an intention
in them of hearing it and going on. The skein would run on easily from
now, said the winder. But not too quick at first.

"Oh no!--quite right," she said. "I meant that. For instance--I
shouldn't mention this, only I see you guessed it. You are so quick at
guessing things...."

"I'm not. What do you suppose I have guessed?"

"Why--about the Reverend Athelstan, of course, and Elizabeth

"Elizabeth who?"

"Well--you _saw_ her, just now!"

"I thought she was his sister?"

"Oh, no!--sister-in-law."

"What were you saying about them--just now? You began 'For instance,'
and pulled up...."

"I was going to say theirs was a case in point. If Mr. Taylor wanted
to marry Miss Caldecott, I should consider it simply a lapse from good
taste on his part. I shouldn't fret over the moralities. He and Bishop
Barham would have to fight that out between them.... Oh dear!--what
_has_ Saladin got? I'm afraid it's a hedgehog. _Do_ you think you could
keep hold of him, just for a few seconds, while I throw it out of his
reach?" This was achieved with difficulty; all the greater from a
misconception of the position by Saladin, who thought it was all done
for his sake, as a relaxation. The hedgehog was thrown over a long high
wall, and Saladin ran along it each way, leaping up at intervals.

"He gets so irritated with hedgehogs, and I don't wonder, poor darling!
I hope he hasn't strained your hand?" Mr. Challis couldn't say very
much about that. Nothing to speak of! "Let's go on. He'll get tired of
that, and I don't hear the bull anywhere--it's all right. What was I
saying?" It is perturbing to the non-bucolic mind to hear a necessary
and inevitable bull taken as a matter of course.

"You were speaking of Mr. Taylor and Miss Caldecott. Is he supposed to
want to marry her?"

"I really couldn't say. Men are so odd. Of course, if she were less
angular...." The young lady blew a whistle for Saladin. The intentness
with which both watched for the dog to appear from the quarter he
was last seen in enabled him to play off a little joke at their
expense. For when Challis turned his head, after much watching and
whistling, there was that confounded beast, pretending all the while
to wait, after a brief circuit of a mile or so out of sight. He made a
pretence of not being able to understand motives, combined with great
forbearance in not asking for an explanation of them.

The skein-winding had been a little spoiled, but Judith got it again
in order before arriving at the Hall, and it would wait for its
opportunity. Her mere acceptance of silence in the twilight of the
great avenue, as though conversation-making was not called for under
the circumstances, had its force. It might have been spoiled by a
quicker pace, to finish the walk up; but, if anything, there was a
disposition to loiter and to hate the idea of being indoors on such a
heavenly evening.

"Your wife's name was...?" Surely the subject franked a dropped voice,
in harmony with the beauty of the said evening--a touch of tenderness
for _its_ sake entirely. None but a coarse nature would shout against
the musical hushing of the wind in the beeches. Let there be no false
note in the chord.

Challis accepted this tenderness as a tribute to the departed. He
answered, "Kate--Kate Verrall." He need have said no more, but it
filled out a sympathetic funeral tone, in keeping with the hour, to
add: "She died within two years of our first meeting."

Miss Arkroyd's regret at having raked up a painful memory was so great
that she all but laid her hand on her companion's sleeve. "Oh no," she
said, still more tenderly, "I did not mean that. I meant Marianne's
maiden name." It would have been artificial, and stodgy, too, to call
her "your present wife." Better the frankness of a sympathetic nature,
and Marianne.

"Craik," was the unqualified answer. Challis wished that his first
wife's mother, when she married again, had chosen someone with a
more rhythmic name, not to interfere with the general feeling of the
foreground and middle distance. For, you see, she then provided this
maiden name for the second Mrs. Alfred Challis, whose mother she
was also. Mr. Challis had married his deceased wife's half-sister,
and would stand condemned--presumably, at least, in the eyes of his
companion--for bad taste certainly, possibly worse. He repeated the
name, rather crisply, in correction of Judith's first understanding
of it as "Blake," but never a word said he, there and then, about
Marianne's half-sistership with the original of "Ziz." Was he bound to
say anything?

He departed to his room, to dress for dinner, with a disjointed,
incomplete feeling that he was rather glad that a mere _au revoir_ had
involved no handshake. Could he have trusted himself not to emphasize
its pressure unduly? Faugh!--where was the sense of such an imbecile
speculation, or the need for it? He was angry with himself for the
thought--angry at the way he had enjoyed his walk with "that girl." He
brushed her off his mind discourteously as "that girl." Why, he had
only known her a couple of days! He even found that an impulse of his
wanted him to say, "Damn all these people! What are they to me, or I
to them, that they should come into my life, and make hay of a working
contentment I have never dreamed of questioning?" But he refused to
say it, merely noting what its syntax would have been if he had done
so. _En revanche_, he made up his mind to write a jolly long letter to
Marianne to-night.

The other party--though, indeed, it is hard to say to what--retired
to her room to dress, not very sorry to hear that Sibyl was not home
yet. She had quite made up her mind that if her sister talked any
nonsense about flirtations with married men, she would speak sharply
to her--give her a piece of her mind. But she hated rows. So if
the motor-car broke down--and it was pretty sure to--she shouldn't
be sorry. In a day or two she was going up to London, and would go
straight and call on Mrs. Challis, the Impossible one, and that would
put the friendship with her husband on a footing. She would wear that
white chiffon and the pearls again this evening, though; she had looked
so well in them last night.

She herself was conscious of no inconsistency in the half-formed
thoughts that passed through her mind as she stood before a mirror
waiting for her maid to find the white chiffon instead of the
black satin; which Sharratt, the said maid, who had found no male
in the company to allot to her mistress, had placed in readiness
on speculation. These thoughts can be told, but with a liberal
discount. She was not the kind of woman--so they ran--that made
mischief in families. That was the fascinating, tender, serpentine,
insinuating kind--Becky Sharp, in fact. Intellectual friendship was
her _rôle_--influence over men of genius and that sort of thing. Was
Challis, as a man of genius, worth practising on? She thought he might
be; as a lay figure, at any rate, if not for a specific purpose which
crossed her mind at the moment. But it was to be stirred aspirations,
roused sympathies. He was not the man to be worked on by Vulgar
Beauty. All the same, Miss Judith knew what she was going to look like
in this mirror when fully draped, when the majestic swoop of skirts
should quench the abruptness of the mere petticoat. Till that came,
she could fondle her fine arms and say to herself, "I'm not Becky
Sharp, certainly! But to think of the mischief I could do if I put my
mind to it!" And then modesty prompted a postscript, "Or any fairly
good-looking woman, for that matter."

This story has no insight into motives; it only deals with actions--at
least when motives are hard to get at. It is not its concern at present
that Judith Arkroyd, splendid in her beauty when she chooses to make
the most of it, may have much to learn about her own character--much
that she does not suspect herself of. If _she_ does not, why should



The party that assembled that evening to dinner at Royd was smaller
than usual, owing to the absence of the motorists, who had not
returned. Some of the chits, too--who were never counted; they were
always "those girls" or "those young people"--had vanished also, taking
with them an exactly equal number of male parallel cases; for they were
flirting fair--there was to be no cheating! Thus it came about that the
ladies' procession to the drawing-room did not make up to half-a-dozen,
and the men they left behind to smoke only just did so. But then, it
was easier to talk, because there was less noise.

Scarcely had the last inch of the last lady, regarded as a total
with all components included, disappeared through the door, when Mr.
Challis's two friends of the morning made a simultaneous rush for a
chair on either side of him. He succumbed, having no alternative,
but resolved to pay absolutely no attention to anything they said.
He would throw his whole soul into the enjoyment of the cigar he
foresaw. There it was--in a box of ivory and _madreperla_ which Sibyl
had somehow countenanced into existence, without doing anything to it
herself--being brought along in a tray, abetted by cigarettes. But
he would light it when he had drunk his coffee, thank you! The fact
was, Mr. Challis was acquiring presence of mind, and did not spoil his
opportunities now as he used to do formerly when the world of toffs was

Mr. Brownrigg the Grauboschite would not detain Mr. Challis more than
one moment from Mr. Wraxall, the Universal Insurer; no more, in fact,
than was necessary for him to emphasize a consideration he had alluded
to in the morning. But he might take this opportunity of pointing out
one or two inevitable inferences from that consideration which might
not have occurred to his hearer.

He was better than his word, for he pointed out half-a-dozen at least.
He then went on to say that it was only fair on his part to admit the
plausibility of three or four exceptions that he was well aware had
been taken to those inferences. But he was prepared to demonstrate the
fallacy of each of these on many different grounds, the least of which
would be fatal to the pretensions of his opponents' arguments in more
than one particular.

If he had stopped there, Mr. Triptolemus Wraxall would have gone in and
scored; and, indeed, double-wicket would have been quite possible if
Mr. Brownrigg would have played according to rule. But he wouldn't. Mr.
Wraxall struggled to get a hit and a run, but scarcely succeeded.

As, with the exception of Challis and one or two others who listened
and looked superior, everyone at the table became a contributor of
a vigorous analysis, an irrefutable demonstration, an exhaustive
enumeration, a thoughtful review, an indignant protest or a brief
summary of essential facts, or was laying stress upon an important
point that might easily be lost sight of, there was a great deal of
noise. Challis nearly succeeded, by a powerful effort, in abstracting
his mind from it and enjoying his cigar. He was able to believe
that he only resorted to a speculation as to what was going on in
the drawing-room as an assistance against all this chatter. That
speculation had certainly nothing to do with any particular young lady

But a drowsy semi-abstraction was only achievable when the components
of the Chaos were so numerous as to neutralize each other, becoming a
sustained inarticulate roar. The moment a single speaker, or even two,
became audible in an oasis of silence, Challis's attention was caught
by his words, and divided fairly between them and what was left of
the reveries they intruded on. Such an oasis was reached, as far as
Challis's immediate neighbours were concerned, about half-way through
his cigar, just as regret began to set in that he had smoked so much of

Now it happened that Mr. Ramsey Tomes, who was quite unexhausted,
though he had talked all day, and who was seated on the other side
of the table, had at that moment just sketched the extinction of the
British Empire in consequence of its ill-advised persistence in all
the _dementiæ_ of all the States that _Deus_ ever _voluit perdere_.
He had used up his Latin quotations, including the one we have taken
a liberty with, and had finished with a beautiful picture of the New
Zealander, our old friend, gazing across the site of vanished London
from Jack Straw's Castle, and murmuring to himself, "Perierunt etiam
ruinæ." Happy in his peroration, the orator sat sustaining a fat right
foot on a fat left knee with a fat left hand. His fat right thumb and
forefinger held a permanent glass of port; they seemed to be waiting
for it to evaporate. His attitude was unfavourable to his figure, as
it laid too much stress on a corporate capacity which might have been
described as pendant. But the _ensemble_ was majestic, as he fixed his
small but piercing eye on the cornice of the room opposite, grasping
the eyeglass that accompanied it with what almost seemed a materialized
allusion to his own powerful grasp of political issues. So sitting, his
appearance was that of a Mind, giving attentive consideration to most

"The disciple of Socrates," said he, with a decision and suddenness
that compelled respectful attention, "turns with satisfaction from the
contemplation of a spectacle that might well arrest the orgies of an
Epicurus, or soften the cynicism of a Diogenes, to the fields in which
Speculation, untrammelled by official responsibility, deposits--if I
may be permitted the simile--the eggs from which will emerge (like
Minerva from the brain of Jove) the fully-fledged Politician of the

Here an expression of discontent from a young Lieutenant, whose chit
was in the drawing-room awaiting his release, distracted Challis's
attention for the moment. A word of sympathy elicited from this youth
that he had a private grievance against Mr. Tomes. "_You_ wouldn't
like it any more than I do, if he had trod on _your_ pup. Poor little
beggar's only a month old!" He brooded over this injury in silence, and
the orator again became audible. He seemed to have been digressing.

"I will pursue this aspect of the case no further, but will return to
the subject in hand. It is not, I hope, necessary for me to say, at
this table, that I am not one of that group of indiscriminate Thinkers
who are prepared to welcome the germination of the Political Idea in
the crude brain of every Sciolist. The outcome of such a surrounding
is but too apt to out-Herod Herod. The _medio tutissimus ibis_, the
_procellas cautus horrescis_ that we may suppose to have guided Cæsar's
wife, should also serve as a beacon to those whose ambition it is to
deserve the gratitude of posterity." Challis was enjoying the cigar too
much to ask--"Why Cæsar's wife?"

Mr. Tomes's assumption of his right to the rostrum was so forcible as
scarcely to allow of usurpation while he was visibly bolting an _ad
interim_ glass of port with a view to going on again. Mr. Brownrigg
chafed, and Mr. Wraxall stood himself over in despair. The young
Lieutenant murmured a prayer to any Providence that would shape the
end of Mr. Tomes's speech, and help him on to it. There seemed no
hope. So he thought of the chit's teeth and chin in self-defence. Mr.
Tomes swallowed his glass of port with a clear conscience about its
non-evaporation--had he not given it every opportunity?--and resumed:

"I must not, however, allow myself to be led away...." But he had
to pause a few seconds, to remember something to have been led away
by. Feeling uncertain, he repeated: "I must not allow myself to
be led away by a side-topic, however fascinating. The maturity of
Political Thought claims our attention. Whether we contemplate the
vast areas of controversy laid bare to the scalpel of the Political
Analyst in connection with the aspirations of the Socialist pure
and simple, the Anarchist pure and simple, or the Nihilist pure and
simple, or differentiate by a closer scrutiny the theories of the
Socialist-Anarchist, the Socialist-Nihilist, or the Nihilist-Anarchist,
we are driven irresistibly to the same conclusion--that Omniscience is
still in its infancy. There is one element which all schemes for the
Readjustment of the Universe have in common--namely, that each differs
on some vital point from the whole of its neighbours. Do not let us
be discouraged by this. Let us rather be content to infer from it the
dangers that await those who advocate rash departures from the existing
order of things, and to recognize, in the discrepancies attendant on
the consolidations of Political Opinion in the thousand and one groups
into which it crystallizes, the indisputable fact that the Index-finger
of the Political Horizon is the maintenance of the _status quo_. I
trust I make myself clearly understood."

Mr. Tomes did not mean to stop for some time yet, but breath was
necessary to him, as to others, and he had got blown over those
groups that crystallized. He knew that his last words would make all
his hearers speak at once, and they did. In the Chaos of their joint
remark was concealed a statement apiece that Mr. Tomes had most lucidly
expounded the one great object of each one's several scheme, and that
the existing order of things would remain thereby much more truly the
same--would have a much more heart-felt identity than any mere banal
and Philistine letting-alone could confer upon it. The choral character
of the performance made the warning check of Mr. Tomes's outspread hand

"Pardon me one moment," said he, with recovered breath. "The point I
wish to lay stress upon is this: While the compass of the Political
Mariner points incontestably to the dangers of quitting a safe
anchorage, the Voice of Enlightenment enjoins that all new schemes
of a subversive nature should be looked at on their merits, and
rejected on their merits. This is what I understand by an Enlightened
Conservatism. Rejection without examination is the programme of the
Mere Bigot. I am sure Sir Murgatroyd will appreciate my meaning."

Sir Murgatroyd, thus appealed to, seized his opportunity, and
dexterously annexed the rostrum. He contrived to embark on a trip
through the pamphlet he had written, which claimed for William the
Conqueror the position of the earliest pioneer of Socialism.

Just as he was within a measurable distance of his demonstration that
the Feudal System contained in itself solutions of all difficulties
such as the present age meets by propounding a huge variety of remedies
and calling them all Socialism, noises of arrival interrupted him, and
were followed by an incursion of the motorists, very tired and greedy,
after a delay due to civilization, which prescribes soap and water
before meals, and a curb on one's impatience till the said meals can
be laid on the table. The absence of snorts without occasioned remark,
and compelled a grudging disclosure that the last time the motor broke
down nothing could bring it to the scratch again; and it had been
left behind ten miles off, the party having come home on a mean hired
vehicle. Their faith that this breakdown was abnormal and exceptional,
and a typical example of the sort of thing that never occurs again, was
touching and beautiful.

Mr. Triptolemus Wraxall was glad of the interruption. He had not
asserted himself, and felt that he was a mistake, in that society. His
forms of thought were more studious and reflective--sounder altogether!
One feels this when one has not asserted oneself, and bounced.

Mr. Brownrigg was sorry. He had made up his mind to point out
something, but had not quite made up his mind what it was to be; merely
that it would redound to the credit of Graubosch. Why should not he
point out, and venture to call your attention to, like other people?
However, the others were the losers.

Mr. Challis and the young Lieutenant were both very glad, but with a
difference. The former thought fit, for some reason, to represent to
his conscience that his gladness was due to a release from intolerable
boredom, and certainly had nothing to do with any young woman in the
drawing-room. The latter made no bones about it, but simply ran, the
moment the excuse came. Even so would the little beggar Mr. Tomes trod
on have gone for a saucer of milk.

       *       *       *       *       *

Challis passed the young soldier on the landing, he having found his
chit on the bottom stair of the next flight, devoting herself to the
little beggar, who had not been welcomed in the drawing-room, owing
to human prejudices. The chit had been so bored in the absence of her
counterchit, as the Lieutenant might be called, that she had found it
necessary to send for Cerberus. That was the little beggar's baptismal
name. Challis passed on into the drawing-room, breathing a prayer that
all would be well. What his foreboding was we do not know.

He thought it necessary to deny his own accusation against himself
that he had been pleased at the Lieutenant running on in front of him
to join the ladies first, that he might thereby seem even-minded on
the question of his own anxiety to do so. He denied it, and to satisfy
himself of the strength of his position, walked in indifferently. He
emphasized his denial by spending no more than a remark or two on Lady
Arkroyd, who, he thought, showed a lack of her usual cordiality, as
though she had read a disparaging review. He inquired a little whether
she found the ride to Thanes pleasant, and so on; and then went at once
to the other end of her daughter's sofa--not a very long one. Indeed
he could hardly do otherwise, as Judith certainly transferred her fine
eyes from him to its vacant corner-cushion. He was a little nettled at
finding he wanted an excuse for his alacrity.

We have read in some novel that the reason women are so fond of
unprincipled men is that they know the latter can and will enjoy their
society thoroughly, and never vex their souls with any questions as to
what that society may mean or lead to for either of them. They, the
women, will do the drawing the line, and that sort of thing. Why be
prigs? Now Challis was scarcely a prig, and he was certainly not an
unprincipled man. If he had been the one, he would have thought much
more talk necessary with the mother before monopolizing the daughter;
if the other, his choice of a satisfaction would have been as candid
as his young soldier's had been--as the little beggar's always was.
Whether the authoress of this novel was talking wisely or not, who
shall say? Broadly speaking, profligates are better company than prigs.
_Coeteris paribus_, mind you!

This is all by the way; will very likely be deleted before this
present writing goes to press. Miss Arkroyd was certainly not under
any necessity to speculate on the matter. _She_ knew perfectly well
that Mr. Challis, married man or no, was going to anchor at the far
end of her sofa as soon as he had got through that silly pretence of
chatting with her mother. And she had retired from a colloquy with this
same mother--whose influence was not strong over her, and with whom
something had disagreed, she thought--with that end in view. Sibyl
wasn't here, with her nonsense, and she should do as she liked. Nay,
more!--she would at once say something to show her independence of
Sibyl's nonsense.

"We thought you were never coming up." She decided to make it _we_,
not _I_, on the whole. Challis's vanity suspected the substitution,
recognizing in it a maiden-of-the-world's prudence, and applauded it.
But a recollection of what a letter he was going to write to Marianne
prompted a protest. He couldn't afford to enjoy his position too much,
without loss of self-respect. How important one's self-respect is!

"We were having some very interesting talk about Politics. Your brother
and sister and Lord Felixthorpe came back and interrupted it." There
was great detachment in this, but it was overdone; too much like
"pointing out" to a polypus that his tentacles were slipping.

Ought her response, thought Judith, to show pique at her quarry's
independence--at his contentment to be away from her society? Much
too soon!--was her verdict, passed, but not formulated. It would be
just like a girl in her first season. And she had not known this man
much above forty-eight hours. She was not going to behave like that
child in the passage, whose pretty sing-song voice chimed with her
young soldier's outside when Challis opened the door to come in just
now. Judith felt certain what she was saying was "I was so saw-ry for
you having to talk Pawlitics when you might have been up here with me
and this dahling pup." Her imagination committed itself to the words,
musical drawl and all; but negatived this sort of thing in her own case.

"I should like to have been there to hear it," she said. "What were
they talking about? The usual thing, I suppose?"

Challis felt she was an honourable polypus, in whose tentacles he could
trust himself. "I can't say," said he. "I'm too recent to know what is
or isn't usual. You'll hear the supplement immediately. There they are,
coming upstairs!"

The lady remained silent, listening handsomely. The thought in
Challis's mind--to the effect that she was the antipodes of Marianne,
in looks--was so irrelevant and inappropriate that he gave it notice
to quit, incontinently. But he could not serve the notice without
admitting possession. He could, though, as a _per contra_, do a little
mechanical forecasting of his letter to Marianne. Yes--his course was
clear; he would tell his wife how absurdly unlike her in all respects
this queenly young woman was; might even go the length of wondering how
the partner of _her_ joys and sorrows would be able to live with so
much dignity always taking place in his neighbourhood. Would that be
like reminding Marianne of her homeliness, though? Oh no!--_he_ would
take care of that. Still, if Marianne had been just one shade less
homely, it would have been easier. Never mind!

The voices on the stairs gathered audibility. Oh yes!--there was papa
and the Feudal System. Judith could hear that, plain enough. How sick
she was of William the Conqueror! And Mr. Tomes, of course, just as
usual! But we mustn't speak too loud, or Mrs. Tomes would hear. What a
fool that woman was! But Mr. Challis didn't know her. He must do so,
in the interests of his next book. All which, in a voice dropped to
confidence-point, tended to engage Mr. Challis's cogs--the simile is an
engineering one--in Miss Arkroyd's wheel.

What was that Mr. Tomes was saying? Something or other was to be
relegated to the Limbo of departed something-elses. If only those young
people wouldn't make such a noise with the puppy, we should hear! Why
were things always relegated to Limbos, and why was nothing ever sent
to Limbos except by relegation? The question was Challis's. But he was
talking at random, for reasons. So was Judith, perhaps, when she said
absently: "I have noticed that, too." She was listening carefully to
hear if her sister and her co-motorists were following. "I suppose they
all came in famished," she added.

"Didn't you see them when they came in?"

"I heard them."

"Didn't they sound famished?"

"Not especially. I didn't pay much attention. As long as no bones are
broken.... They won't be coming up for some time yet." There was in her
voice a very clear implication of relief. The inference was that we,
in this sofa-haven, should not be disturbed. Its correctness was soon
manifest. No two oratorically-disposed gentlemen, well wound up, ever
disturb a chat in a corner, further than mere shouting goes. And Sir
Murgatroyd and the sitting member for Grime were wound up to a high
pitch of agreement about what constituted an Enlightened Conservatism,
and each was anxious to supply the next link in the chain of Syllogism,
and get the credit of it. So they shouted against each other all the
way upstairs, and only lulled very slightly when they reached the

Mr. Brownrigg and Mr. Wraxall, on the other hand, were _aux grands
éprises_ on a vital question--never mind what; nobody knew or
cared!--which underlay the whole of their argument. Mr. Wraxall
had been unable to permit an inference of Mr. Brownrigg's to pass
unchallenged, and Mr. Brownrigg had impugned the data on which Mr.
Wraxall's objections were founded. Mr. Wraxall had replied that
something or other had been clearly laid down as a safe principle by
Baker, and Mr. Brownrigg had pointed out that the fallacy of Baker's
assumptions had been exhaustively dealt with by Smith. Mr. Wraxall had
counter-pointed out that Smith's penetrating insight into everything
else had led him into error in this one particular; and had laid
stress upon the fact that Hopkins, the weight of whose opinion it was
impossible to deny, had endorsed the opinions of Baker. Mr. Brownrigg
had then become patronizing, and went so far as to warn Mr. Wraxall
not to be led away by the plausibility of Hopkins. Who then, being
a weak controversialist, had rashly appealed to Mr. Ramsey Tomes to
countenance the authority of Hopkins. But that gentleman only gave a
weighty shake to a judicial head, claiming at once profound thought
in the past, and forecasting just censure to come. He feared that the
insidious ratiocinations of Hopkins were a rock we all split upon in
the forest of youth, and an _ignis fatuus_ to mislead the mariner in
the ocean of dialectical difficulty that chequered our steps in later

The controversy, of which the foregoing is a condensation, had passed
the quarrelsome point when the disputants arrived in the drawing-room,
shutting out the melodious trill of the chit, the squeaks of the
little beggar, and the lieutenant's bass voice, saying, "He and the
kitten were having a high old time with my boots early this morning."
The argument was in the mutual-amends stage, and Mr. Brownrigg
was enlarging on the enthralling and irresistible fascination of
Hopkins's style, while Mr. Wraxall was equally eloquent on the almost
Nicholsonian vigour and expansiveness of Smith's. They were then
separated, and presently the insurer was audible afar, enlarging to
Lady Arkroyd on a scheme for insuring against damage at the Wash, in
which she was much interested; while the Grauboschite was mentioning
some further details of that great man's system to Mrs. Ramsey Tomes.
Who, however, only said: "I think my husband would like to hear
that," or "Have you mentioned that to Mr. Tomes?" but gave no sign of
receiving, or of ever having in her life received, an idea on her own
account. The Baronet and the M.P. simply went on, like the water coming
in when the ball-cock has stuck, and nobody will be at work till Monday.

All this is only to impress on the story the quiet of that sofa-haven,
and to justify Judith for feeling practically out of reach of
interruption if she should be inclined to carry on the skein-twisting
a little prematurely--that is, without waiting for a visiting
acquaintance with the probably plebeian wife, to put her friendship
with the husband on an ascertained footing. Now Judith was not without
a well-defined motive for the skein-twisting, as was hinted at the end
of our last chapter. We rather think that if she had not been she would
have suspected something abnormal in Challis's matrimonies from his
manner when he said "Craik." Women are as sharp as all that--oh dear,

After a little discursive chat to make sure that no floating
interruption would desert the other group-units and bear down on their
haven, Judith was seized with a sudden intense apprehension that Mr.
Challis could write a tragedy. She can have had very slight grounds
for this conclusion; she had almost no knowledge of that author's
work, as we have seen. But she relied on his vanity to make him take
an easy-going view of any claims she had to pronounce him Shakespeare.
Pleasing verdicts soothe the cavils of incredulous modesty, and suggest
unsuspected data in the bush. But he was bound to make some sort of
protest. It would never do to say he rather thought he could.

"What makes you think that?" he said.

"I can't say. It has nothing to do with anything I have read of yours.
I think it is something in yourself makes me think so." It was as
well to head off any discussion of what she had read; and an ounce of
personality is worth a ton of mere evasion. The fine eyes examined Mr.
Challis's intelligent brow carefully to see what it was in himself that
made their owner think so. His own watched them as though expecting
their conclusion would be registered shortly.

"I have written a couple of comedies," said he, to help. "But no
tragedy, so far." And from thence a certain reality crept into the
conversation, which up to that moment had been rather words for words'
sake, or, perhaps it should be said, for their speaker's sake. For
so much talk that sets up to be interchange of ideas is uttered to
convince the speakers they are conversing, and to make them plausible
to themselves and each other.

"You _have_ written for the stage, then. That is what I meant. Have you
had anything performed yet? Forgive my not knowing."

"There is nothing to know that you could have known. One of the
comedies, 'Aminta Torrington,' is to come out after Christmas. The
other, 'Widow's Island,' is on the shelf. Nobody appreciates it."

"Do you see a great deal of theatrical people?" Now, Challis had wanted
the eyes to be interested about his plays--to abet the speaker in a
curiosity she ought to have felt. But no matter: that would wait.

"I see a great many. What makes you ask in such an interested way?"

"Because I want to know. I have a reason. I'll tell you sometime."
Whereat the mercury in the thermometer of this lady and gentleman's
intimacy went up a degree distinctly. So much was implied in the word
"sometime." Not very easy to summarize, certainly--but _there_, all the
same! It ratified anticipation of future intercommunications, on the
surface of it. Also, it hinted at confidences to come. But let us be
just to Judith here. She never meant it as another wind of the skein.
She was honestly unconscious this time, thinking frankly of an interest
of her own. She continued: "Tell me a good deal about them. Why doesn't
one know more of them?"

"I didn't know one didn't. That's nonsense, or sounds very like it.
But we know what we mean. I'll state it clearly, to save trouble. The
question is, 'Why do swell young women that are presented at Court,
and go to balls in the season, and sit in carriages at Ascot, and see
polo-matches at Hurlingham, and get married at St. George's, Hanover
Square' ... is that right so far?..."

"That will do very well, at any rate." Judith said this without a
laugh, where there might have been one. "Go on, Mr. Challis."

"Why does this sort of young woman not meet more actresses and actors
in the society she lives in? Well, I can tell you the answer--at least,
I can tell you my opinion, if you ask it."

"Yes, I do. What is it?"

"They are always at the play, the actors and actresses, either on the
stage or in the boxes. Or the pit. Or the gallery. I can't answer for
the whole profession. But that's my experience."

"I have always been told they were so disreputable. Are they?"

"My dear Miss Arkroyd, what a very old-fashioned idea!" Challis laughed
outright. "No!--they are just like everybody else as to manners and
morals, and that sort of thing. They are not monks and nuns, certainly.
But such a many folk are not that."

Judith looked at him doubtfully. Was not that rather the way men
sometimes talk, throwing dust in the eyes that want to distinguish
right from wrong? Monks and nuns, as we all know, are people that want
to deprive you and me of cakes and ale. But what is meant by cakes
and ale? She would push a test question home. If Mr. Challis had a
grown-up daughter, she asked, would he let her go on the stage, if she
wished it very much, and had a turn for it? Of course he would, was his
answer, without hesitation. Why should he not? This seemed to decide
Judith on an extension of confidence.

"I will tell you why I am asking. I know a girl ... well! I should say
_woman_ ... who wants to go on the stage. But it seems impossible. What
her capabilities would be I cannot say. But it seems hard that she
should be unable to give them a trial."

"Why cannot she?"

"Her family oppose it; or rather, she knows they would oppose it if the
proposal took form. At present she only knows that they treat the idea
with derision--as something hardly worth ridicule."

"But why?--if she has it at heart."

"Respectability. Position. Balls in the season. Carriages at Ascot. St.
George's, Hanover Square. Family, in short!"

"Tell me more about this friend. _Why_ does she suppose she has
qualifications? She must have had _some_ experience to convince her?"

Judith stopped to consider a few seconds. "Yes, I can tell you that,"
she said. "She played in the 'Antigone' a couple of years ago. You
know my brother and his friends played it in London, and got the
female parts played by women. Of course, at Cambridge it was the boys

"Did you think her performance good?"

Judith sticks a little over her answer, but it comes. "Not perfectly
satisfactory--not to me, at least. But everyone else spoke so well of
it that I may have been mistaken."

"Yet you would encourage her to make a very hazardous experiment, and
to incur the displeasure of her family, on the strength of no more than
what you now tell me. Do allow me to say that your friend ought to have
more experience...."

"She ought to keep out of the water till she can swim," Judith struck
in. "I know the sort of thing. What people always say! But can you
wonder that she thinks it hard that she isn't allowed to go in at the
shallow end of a swimming-bath; and all because of the merest Mrs.

"Not quite the merest Mrs. Grundy. Moderately mere, suppose we say! The
actress who fails is in a sorry plight...."

"She _wouldn't_ fail." Judith interrupted again, a little impatiently.
"At least--I mean--she wouldn't fail altogether. But, of course, she
would take her chance of that. Why should she not try, if she chooses
to run the risk?"

Challis was watching her image in a mirror as she said this, and
thought he saw a blush-rose tinge creeping over the cheek. Surely she
was taking this friend's case very much to heart. An idea crossed his
mind, and he schemed a test of its truth--a question he would ask.

"Is she beautiful? That would help matters."

The eyes in the mirror turned, and Challis had to withdraw his own
suddenly. You know how one feels _caught_, when a reflection in a glass
suddenly transfixes one? It is like conviction of treachery--quite
unlike the direct transaction analogous to it. But he need not have
been so conscious; as he saw, when a furtive glance back showed him
that the reflection was not looking at _him_, but at Miss Arkroyd, at
her corner of the sofa.

"Beauty is so much a matter of opinion," said she. "No doubt she
herself is convinced her allowance of it is enough for working
purposes." She stopped a moment, listening to sounds approaching--the
motor-party audible on the stairs. Then, as she began to get up from
the sofa, she said quickly, "If you think you can be of any use
to her--with introductions and so on--I will tell you who she is.
Sometime; not now. There they are!" The interview was at an end,
and Challis prepared to merge in a world he was sure would be less
interesting. However, he felt some curiosity to hear the tale of the
motor disaster.



The chit and her young officer felt unequal to remaining outside,
against the tidal wave of the returned motorists. Occasional suspension
is necessary to the greediest flirtation, to give it a flavour of
stolenness; else it loses its character, and palls. This is our surmise
as to why these young people allowed themselves to be swept into the
drawing-room by the current. Cerberus seemed to have been withdrawn. It
is not necessary to the story to know whether the little beggar had or
had not disappointed his backers. No questions were asked.

The way in which the motor-party ignored their accident was more like
the concerted vigour of artillerymen in charge of a gun than any mere
philosophical submission to the will of Fate. Practically the machine's
twenty-horse-power had brought them in triumph to the door exactly at
the time appointed. A trivial excursion into non-fulfilment of its
destiny was not the poor motor's fault, nor its inventor's, nor its
maker's, nor its _chauffeur's_. It was all due to a little bit of
original sin in the heart of a hexagon nut, which, having heard that
the only key that it could be got at with was mislaid, immediately
went slack. It resisted the importunities of a screw-hammer, and
demanded a box-key. Like some minute organism of humanity--a spiteful
_medulla oblongata_, say!--endowed with powers of striking work, it had
paralyzed the whole structure. But, unlike the _medulla oblongata_, it
could be set right in five minutes as soon as we had a proper box-key.
Therefore it was as clear as noonday that the mishap, as an incident in
the History of Motoring, hadn't happened at all. It was by-play--didn't

The expedition had been a great success. Its object had been attained;
like that of the scout who locates the enemy, but leaves his horse
behind. When you have seen premises that are the very thing, what
does it matter how you get home? For the purposes of the Great Idea,
these premises were the very thing. Three large waterwheels, one
overshot, ninety-four-horse-power in all, and the most glorious
oak- and beechwoods coming down to the waterside. And the most
interesting fourteenth-century pound William Rufus had ever seen. He
and his friend Scipio were fascinated with the place, and enthusiastic
about the Great Idea. But while apt to feel pique at any doubt thrown
on the wisdom of the scheme, the latter was not prepared to forego the
luxury of making fun of it himself.

"No historical associations," said he, with perfect deliberation of
manner, "could supply a more healthy stimulus to the production of
what I believe are called Art Objects. The church, a most interesting
example of several styles, has been judiciously restored in one--I
forget which--and the castle, some portions of which are previous to
something very early--I forget what----"

"Suppose you shut up, Scip," said his friend. "You're never in earnest
about anything. No--it really is the most delightful place I've ever
seen. You wouldn't look so scornful if you could see it, Ju. And as for
its suitability, I don't see how there can be any question about that."

His sister Sibyl's practical mind--her manner laid claim to one--went
straight on to details. "The only thing," she said, "that I didn't see
a place for was the ivorycarvers' shop."

"Couldn't one of those places in the roof be converted?" her brother

"Too hot in the summer," said Sibyl decisively. "I can see the
weaving-sheds, and the jewellery-shops, and the bookbinder's
department, and the printing-house, and the woodblock-cutter's little
shop round by the stairs, and the ceramic works--(only we really must
be sure that chimney-shaft will be any good)--and the bronze-casters,
and the printed fabrics, and the type-writing _de luxe_ for private
circulation." She checked off each department on her fingers, imagining
clearly--so Mr. Challis, who was watching her, thought--the place in
which it was to be located. Then she came to her exception--"But where
on earth these tiresome ivorycarvers are to be put I can't imagine!"

Her brother, with perfect gravity, accepted the difficulty as one to be
wrestled with. "I don't see why they need be downstairs at all," said
he. "Why not put them in--well!--if not in the roof, why not in that
room beyond the Art-needlework schools?"

"We can't conveniently have boys and young men passing and repassing."
Sibyl was giving it serious thought; no doubt of that! She added with
conviction: "We shall have to build in the end; so we may as well look
the matter in the face."

"What do you want with ivorycarvers?" Thus Judith, with a near approach
to a yawn. It never came off, owing to good breeding; but Mr. Challis
noted to himself that it would have been statuesque had it done so.
Marianne's yawn was not statuesque. He could recall cases in point....
What had that to do with the matter, by-the-bye? Challis brushed it
away by joining in a murmur of half-protest against Judith's question.
The world was listening interested to the evolution of the Great Idea.
Politics had slacked down--to give it a turn. And the world perceived,
in a doubt thrown on the necessity for ivory carving, a dangerous phase
of criticism that might undermine the whole scheme.

Sibyl said, with decisive resignation, "Oh dear!--how exactly like
you that is, Ju!" And her brother, "That's Judith all over." Then
both asked a mixed question, equivalent to--If not ivorycarvers, why
not anything? Why not no jewelery?--no art needlework?--no hammered
metal or wood carving? The world's murmur of half-protest--so Challis
thought--had really less to do with the demerits of the cavil it
condemned than with the obviousness of the answer to it. A mob is apt
to mistake its self-gratulation at having perceived something for
agreement with the thing it has perceived. Folk sing below par in
unison, and no one cares much which way he votes in a _plebiscite_.
This is what Mr. Challis thought, not a remark of the text. He resolved
to put it in his next book.

"I am in a minority." Judith dropped her fine eyelids with a hint in
the action of formal surrender, as one strikes a banner. "Even Mr.
Challis has deserted me!" Challis said, "Not altogether. I'm a trimmer
playing fast and loose. A sort of plaid, like Sam Weller." But he had
not understood his _monde_. It was one that knew nothing about Sam

The rest of the company--all but the chit and counterchit--showed
a disposition to talk to each other of conditions necessary to be
observed in the sudden inauguration of complex undertakings, these
conditions touching points familiar to the speaker, but not within the
experience of others. Each would call Mr. Arkroyd's attention to a
danger ahead, or an advantage to be attained by well-advised foresight,
as early as possible to-morrow, so that Opportunity might be taken by
the forelock.

Mr. Ramsey Tomes enjoined caution before all things. He spoke as
one having a monopoly of prudent instincts, to the exclusion of a
rash planetful of fellow-creatures, or as the voice of one crying
"Beware!" in the wilderness of pitfalls Don't-care neglected, with
such fatal consequences. He suggested, like the father of him who slew
the Jabberwock, that he who only took sufficient heed was certain of
success--need not make any positive efforts--could go on rather better
without them. One would have thought he meant--Mr. Challis _did_
think--that any commentator so cautious as never to open a volume was
well half-way to a triumph of exegesis, and that Columbus would have
discovered America all the quicker if he had stopped at home. The
story, Mr. Tomes concluded, of the failure of the plethora of rash
enterprises that were our inheritance from an otherwise glorious Past
would fill a volume. Mr. Challis thought to himself that this was
unworthy of its author--rather an anticlimax. But Mr. Tomes was sleepy.

In fact, it was getting late, and a sense of impending adjournment was
vitiating the discussion: a little pitted speck in the garnered fruits
of its intelligence was growing, and a period of sleepy incapacity
was in sight. Winding-up remarks became frequent, such as "We shall
have to think all that over," or "We must settle this, that, and the
other first, before anything practical can be done," or "One thing's
certain, at any rate"--this last being the prelude to several different
conclusions. In the end the view that we might sleep upon it was
welcomed as an epigrammatic truth, and acted on. The company broke up,
finding their bedroom-candles in the passage.

And as the chit and the counterchit tore themselves apart till morning,
the latter said to the former, "What was all the fun? Did you make
out?" To which the chit replied simply, "I wawesn't listening," in a
long sweet drawl. And to that young officer's ears--will you believe
it?--these words seemed the embodiment of divine wisdom, and he
remained intoxicated!

       *       *       *       *       *

Miss Sibyl Arkroyd, although she had just professed herself utterly
worn out with her hard afternoon's work, was not too tired to say to
her sister, over the lighting of a bedroom-candle in the passage, "Come
into my room; I've something to say to you."

Judith, majestically undisturbed at anything a younger sister can
possibly have to say, is in no hurry to comply with this request or
mandate. Rather, she is inclined to make a parade of deliberation,
exchanging understandings with Mr. Challis over the heads of the group
of males with whom he is retiring to the smoking-room, to end the day
with a cigar. Secret reciprocities seem to have set in, thinks Sibyl,
pausing on the landing above, out of sight. And these are too subtle
for the vernacular guests, and outclass the counterchits altogether.
Though, as each of these last is dwelling contentedly on his recent
chit, that doesn't come into court.

But Sibyl is wary, and gets away in time to her room. She just hears
her sister's farewell speech to the author: "Do consider your readers a
little, Mr. Challis, and don't ruin your brain with too many cigars,"
and his answer: "It all depends on the quality of the baccy;" followed
by a testimonial from William Rufus about the brand of the one Challis
has just chosen; and then she ends a majestic ascent of the broad
stairway, with the portraits of departed Arkroyds looking down from its
wainscoted walls, by disappearing into her sister's room.

"What's the something, Sibyl?"

"You'll be angry if I tell you."

"I may." Judith keeps her candle in her hand. Is it worth putting it
down, if dissension in the wind is pointing to a short interview? "But
how can I tell till I know? Why did you want me?"

"Well--I'll tell you. But you mustn't fly into a rage. That man Mr.
Scoop--or Harris, or whatever his name is--married his Deceased Wife's

"Is that any concern of mine?"

"You wouldn't speak in that way if it weren't."

"In what way?"

"The way you spoke." What may seem inexplicable here is due to the
inability of mere words to do justice to the intensity of Judith's
unconcern. There was no need for an indifference such as a humming-top
asleep shows to the history of its own time.

"I don't mind waiting till you are reasonable, Sib dear." This little
bit of Prussian tactics improved Judith's position. She put her
candlestick on a piece of real Chippendale, to express anchorage, but
remained standing. She had been looking very handsome in the white
chiffon all the evening, and thought so. Her subconscious judgment
confirmed this, as a mirror on a wardrobe door swung her reflection
before her for a moment. Sibyl had opened it. Judith looked at her
wrist-watch as she stood, but meant, subconsciously, to look up again
when the counterswing brought the image back. All which occurred, and
then Sibyl sat against the bed-end, having disposed of the wardrobe,
and said:

"You know you have been in Mr. Harris's company all day, Judith. And
I suppose it's going to be the usual thing. But there's no sense in
your calling me unreasonable simply because I want you to know what the
position is."

"What _is_ the position?"

"Just what I've told you. Mr. Harris ... well--Challis then ... is not
really a married man. He married--at least, made believe to marry--his
Deceased Wife's Sister."

"Then, now you've told me what the position is, I know. And I may go to

"Don't be irritating, Judith." It is provoking, you know, when your
enemy makes a successful rally after a seeming repulse. Judith's last
tactical move was masterly. Her success soothed her to moderation.

"I don't want to be irritating, Sib. And I don't think you have any
right to talk of being irritating after what you said just now. '_The_
usual thing!' What usual thing?"

"You know what I mean, and it doesn't matter."

"I don't think it matters the least. But what do you know about Mr.
Challis? I mean, what do you know that I don't?"

"Only what I told you."

"But how do you know? Really, Sibyl, I shall go if there are to be any
more mysteries."

"Well, don't be impatient, and I'll tell you." And thereon Sibyl,
seated on the end of the bed, gave the substance of a short chat with
her mother when she came in from the excursion. That lady must have
been mighty interested, Judith thought, to talk about Mr. Challis's
affairs, which could not possibly concern any of them. She said as
much, resentfully, to her sister.

"Well," said Sibyl, "I only tell you what she said to me. She drove
Mrs. Barham home from Thanes, and they talked about it all the way. The
Bishop had it on perfectly good authority. I think it was the editor
of some well-known paper who had heard it from a gentleman who had
interviewed Mr. Challis for him. You know how they do?" Oh yes!--Judith
knew. "Well, this gentleman had it from Mr. Challis himself, who had
begged him very earnestly to say nothing about it. So, of course,
nothing appeared in the article."

"What a delicate-minded editor!"

"I think it was very nice of him. Why not? But you always sneer, Ju.
Anyhow, that's what the _madre_ said to me. And we agreed that the
sooner you knew the better...."

"And why?"

"Oh, well, because, of course.... However, we can't discuss that now
at this time of night. I only know what Mrs. Barham said the Bishop

"What did His Holiness say?"

"Judith, if you sneer I won't talk to you.... Well, the Bishop said
that if he had his way, he would refuse Holy Communion to all people's
Deceased Wife's Sisters ... there!--you know what I mean perfectly
well, Judith."

Judith had started a protest, but gave up the point. "I know what you
mean. But why doesn't he?"

"Mrs. Barham said he did not feel sure of the support of Public
Opinion. But for all that this gentleman was living in Sin, technically
if not actually, or actually as well as technically, or ... well!--I
forget which ... with this woman." Sibyl paused; the pause was a
tribute to the force of the curl of her sister's lip. She ended: "Come,
Ju, you can't call her a _lady_, you know!"

"Did the Bishop say gentleman?"

"No. By-the-bye, I think the Bishop _did_ say man. But, of course, he
would speak scripturally. Besides, all gentlemen are men too, but all
women are not ladies."

The curl died very slowly on Judith's lip, if at all. "Poor Mr.
Challis!" said she. "He doesn't know what he's losing--at least, what
he _would_ lose if it wasn't for Bishop Barham's respect for the World.
Fancy having the Holy Communion refused one--by Bishop Barham!..."

"Judith! If you're going to blaspheme!..."

"I'm not, dear. I'm going to say good-night. And to-morrow I'll tell
Mr. Challis of his parlous plight."

"Oh, Ju, you never will!"

"Wait and see! Good-night, dear." The "dear" was rather perfunctory.
And it was not to correct it to tenderness that Judith turned back in
the doorway and reclosed it from within. "I want to know what you meant
by 'the usual thing,'" she said, and waited.

"I thought you said you didn't think it mattered."

"I don't think it does. But I want to know what you meant by it, just
the same."

The return into the room to ask the question added to its weight
somehow. Sibyl might have answered more forcibly and less pertly had
it been asked during conversation. "I should have thought, after the
Honourable Stephen, that that went without saying."

"'After the Honourable Stephen'!... Sibyl!" There is growing resentment
in the handsome woman's voice of protest, and a slight flinching in her
sister's manner recognizes it. She speaks uncomfortably.

"Well, what would you have me say? You know quite well, Ju, that the
_madre_ thinks so too. What is the use of pretending?"

Judith's colour is heightened as she closes the door to prevent someone
hearing in the passage--her maid perhaps or her sister's. "_I_ see no
use in pretending, Sib. If you and mamma are going to say spiteful
and malicious things, you had better speak them out.... Yes, it _is_
spiteful and malicious to try to make out that there was anything
between me and Stephen Lyell; it is simply wicked to use the word
flirtation.... No--I know you have not actually used it--but it's the
same thing. It was that woman entirely! And you know it!"

"I should have felt as she did. Besides, Lady Di Lyell's no fool.
Look how you had him to yourself all day long ... oh yes!--I know
what you are going to say. Perhaps there wasn't. But some people can
get on perfectly well without _any_ love-making. I think that way's
the worst; it's insidious and hypocritical. Yes, Judith!--if you
_are_ going to flirt with a married man, I would sooner you did it
above-board." Notice Sibyl's elisions, and how easily understood they
seemed to be. Sisters' intercourse is based on concurrent consciousness
of the actual; sometimes admitted, sometimes concealed. These two had
harboured theirs from the nursery, usually finding speech for them. In
the present case they had never spoken quite openly, though each knew
the other knew of her knowledge, and pointed allusions to flirtations
with married men had been perfectly well understood.

Judith has been keeping back a great deal of anger--she has
self-control in plenty--to affect a certain patronage of a younger
sister; albeit she has only a couple of years more to her half of the
fifty they share between them. "Sib dear!" she says. "You are entirely
absurd--quite childish. If her jealous ladyship wasn't secure against
me and poor good, honourable Stephen, where is married bliss to find
security? Unless men and women are never to be friends at all."

"Nobody objects to it that I know of. Only not one at a time. You know
the difference that makes as well as I do--as well as everyone does."

Probably Judith did, and that was why she said nothing--or, at least,
in what she did say made no reply to the last assertion, but went back
to the general question. She put her hand on the door-handle to suggest
peroration and spoke collectedly and coldly.

"You are quite wrong, Sibyl, when you use the word 'flirtation' about
me and Stephen Lyell. Cordial acquaintance is quite enough--even
friendship is a little overstrained. Not but that we are very good
friends, and should always keep so, only for that fool of a woman!
But I shall always think somebody made mischief." She turned the
door-handle to indicate the penultimate character of what was coming,
but did not open the door. "And as for this Mr. Alfred Challis or
'Titus Scroop'--who is a person, by-the-bye, with whom any sort of
flirtation would be _simply impossible_--he's just a clever playwriter
without the slightest pretence to be considered a ... no!--I wasn't
going to say gentleman; let me finish ... accustomed to the ways of
Society." Sibyl didn't feel convinced, but kept her counsel. "And I
have my own reasons for wishing to cultivate his acquaintance."

Now, surely, at this late hour of the night, and after so active a day,
and with these two young ladies' respective maids wondering _sotto
voce_ on the landing outside what on earth it's all about--surely that
door-handle might have turned in earnest! But we all know the fire that
seems put out with a spark still chuckling in its core at the nice
blaze it means to be one day. Perhaps if Sibyl had said "I ss--see"
with less of suggestion that some human frailty undefined had been
sighted by her shrewdness, and had commanded her sympathy; and perhaps
(even more) if she had abstained from saying to herself, "I thought it
was that," in a voice that was evidently intended to be heard, yet to
seem inaudible--perhaps the fire would not have broken out again. As
it was, the door-handle had a relapse, and its manipulator said rather
sharply: "Thought it was what?"

"The Stage," was the reply. "Oh yes, Ju!--I know all about it; so
you needn't look like a Tragedy Queen. Pray disgrace your family!
Good-night, dear."

"Sibyl, you are a thoroughly selfish woman ... did you say _why_?
Why--because you are indulging all your own fancies--just flinging
away hundreds on all sorts of useless fads, and all the while opposing
me in a reasonable wish--for it _is_ reasonable to wish to give it
a trial--because of a miserable, old-fashioned prejudice against a
profession which at least is as respectable as hammering little copper
pots and making little bits of fussy enamelled jewellery. I can't
tell you how _sick_ I get of hearing of it all...." Anger at mere
impertinence does not involve a flush, like resentment against a charge
of misdemeanour on a point of delicacy. But one can go white with
anger, and Judith's change of colour may be due to it, as she says what
she evidently means to be her last word. Sibyl tries to deprive it of a
last word's advantage.

"If you are going to take that tone, Ju," she replies, "I think we
had better talk no more about it. And how little copper pots can
have anything fast or disreputable about them I don't know. But pray
disgrace your family, if you can get anyone to help you--Mr. Scoop,
or Challis, or anyone." Then this young lady did not play fair, for
she said or as good as said that if her sister was as tired and sleepy
as she herself was, she wouldn't stand there talking, but would go to
bed. But even this was not so bad as adding: "And what all this has to
do with Mr. Scoop's Deceased Wife's Sister I can't imagine!" The dry
tone in which Judith said, "Nor I, dear!" may have conveyed her views
about her sister's powers of Logic, without more enlargement--at least,
she indulged in none and went away to her own bedroom rather despising
herself for feeling exasperated, but knowing that she was so by the
satisfaction she got from an increased indifference to what her family
thought about the theatrical profession. Her stage-mania was getting
the bit in its teeth. But she could find it in her heart to laugh
at Sibyl for trying to support her own fads on the moral repute of
little copper pots. Why, so far as that went, the little pots might be
anchorites in deserts for any power they had of blemishing it.

As for "Mr. Scroop's Deceased Wife's Sister," _that_, she knew, was
nonsense, because he had told her the name of his first wife. Or,
stop a minute!--might she not have been a half-sister? Judith guessed
shrewdly. But then--it occurred to her presently--would that count? She
thought of this after she was in bed, and was half inclined to get up,
and look up the point in her prayer-book.

       *       *       *       *       *

The suspicion that had crossed Challis's mind in the drawing-room
was confirmed by the way his companion had glanced at herself in the
mirror, before answering his question about the beauty of her friend
the stage-aspirant, more than by the wording of her answer. After
all, the fact that a good-looking woman had refused an unqualified
testimonial to the beauty of an alleged friend was very negative
evidence indeed that she was all the while speaking of herself. But
the glance at her reflection seemed natural enough to him under the
circumstances, though he was ready to admit that, much as he had
written about them, he did _not_ understand women. His conclusion
from it was supported by something not altogether natural in the tone
of the answer; the substance of it might be no more than provisional
modesty, to cover future confession. Had she answered that her friend
had a Juno-like figure, a splendid Greek brow and nose, rich coils of
dark hair, a stately column of a throat, and ample justification for
evening dress whenever warranted by authority--could she have looked
him in the face later and claimed the identity? Challis dwelt upon the
inventory more than was needed, and decided that the semi-evasion had
been skilful, and had shown that its author was superior to frivolous
vanities. There was glamour about this: men persist in ascribing high
qualities to beautiful women, and only concede them grudgingly to
dowdies as a set-off to their unhappy plainness.

Anyhow, even if he was mistaken, his mistake would give him a sound
ground for writing as much as he was inclined to write about this young
lady to Marianne; and he felt, without exactly knowing why, inclined
to write rather liberally about her. Perhaps, if he had had a mind for
self-vivisection, he would have found that he shrank from acknowledging
the reason he had hitherto flinched from writing about her to his
wife; which was, briefly, that he was just too far _entiché_ to feel
at ease in telling her how much in love he had fallen with one of the
daughters, and how awfully jolly she was, and how awfully jealous
she, Marianne, would be if she was there to see. _You_ know--male
reader over head and ears in wedlock!--that that is what _you_ would
have written, and despatched with an authenticating photograph if one
was attainable. And you would have asked for the last photo of your
correspondent in return--the one with baby pulling her hair; not that
beastly one yearning, with the lips slightly parted--to give as a swop
to your new love; because six copies were to come from Elliott and
Fry's, and we could have as many more as we wanted. But Mr. Alfred
Challis was not so detached as all this; and, without absolutely
suspecting it, he was not sorry to be supplied with a well-defined
_locus scribendi_, where all analysis and justification would merge
and be forgotten. He felt, with such a licence of free pen, much more
ready to go to work with his long letter to Marianne about that long
walk to the Rectory to-day. See what a lot he could find to tell about
that Parson who wanted (or didn't) to marry his Deceased Wife's Sister!
Partly on the question itself--one, of course, of the greatest interest
to both--and partly, if not more, because he had just remembered that
surely the name of the Parson who took on the duties for Charlotte
Eldridge's reverend cousin out Clapham way was Athelstan Something; and
hadn't he, the said cousin, been known to come away to this part of the
world to take his friend's duties in the country and get change of air?
Of course! And then, too, there was the incident of the sofa in the
evening. Yes!--he would make the peep into the mirror amusing.

They were new candles all through again this evening--really! ... the
extravagance in these great houses! What would Marianne say if she saw
it? But so much the better! Candles that have never been blown out
give a much better light than restarted ones--who can say why? Challis
settled down soon to his long letter, and wrote well into the night.
The four candles he had enlisted had burned down to mere housekeeper's
perquisites--substitute-justifiers--by the time he had signed himself
Marianne's loving Tite; and after a good stretch in acknowledgment
of an hour's bent back, had lighted an isolated sample with an
extinguisher-parasite, so as to blow all four out together, and keep
them neck and neck.

After he was in bed he said to himself that he must make sure that
letter went by the first post, or it would only reach Marianne such a
short time before the writer. It was very stupid of him, that it was,
to have allowed so many days to pass before writing a proper account
of "these people" to his wife. She had only had such very perfunctory
letters before. He classed it as a stupidity. However, it might end
by his overstaying the week he was asked for by more than an extra
day already bespoken, and then this long letter would seem in better
keeping. That would make it all right.



Marianne Challis had never become quite reconciled to her new life
at the Hermitage at Wimbledon, obvious as was the improvement on her
old home in Great Coram Street. What she would have liked would have
been that Titus--for she had adopted the Christian name of his _nom de
plume_, not without pride--should become a brilliant and successful
author, that a plentiful income should take the place of the modest
salary of a subordinate--important, but still a subordinate--in a City
accountant's; but that, nevertheless, their old life should go on as it
had done since their marriage nine years ago.

She made little concessions and reservations. They would have had
a bath put up in the little room next the nursery, on the second
floor, with a regular hot-water service from the kitchen. The old
kitchen-range might have been got rid of at the same time, and a new
one put in its place, with a proper oven, and then it wouldn't have
been one long grumble-grumble-grumble from Elizabeth Barclay all day
long. They could have had the roof seen to, and the window-frames seen
to, and the drains seen to, and all the substantial repairs attended
to; and they could have made the landlord do it as soon as they were
in a position to threaten him with legal proceedings if he didn't.
But really, when you have no means but a limited salary, and a boy's
schooling to pay for!----so Mrs. Challis said to Mrs. Eldridge, a
friend in her confidence, and as _she_ didn't finish the sentence, we
need not. And then the drawing-room could have been made quite pretty,
with the same patterned paper, of course, and as near as we could get
the carpet. Only it was second-hand when poor Kate bought it fourteen
years ago, and the man from Shoolbred's said the pattern was out of
date. And as for the beds and the blinds and curtains, it would have
been just as easy to have them all new at Coram Street as at Wimbledon.
And really Titus could have done perfectly well with the top back
attic, out of the noise, to do his writing in. It could have been made
quite nice, and would have looked ever so much bigger with bookcases

However, it couldn't be helped now. Titus had condemned the top back
attic, and made a fuss about the walls sloping in. Of course, she only
meant bookcases on the straight-up walls. But men were like that, and
you might talk to them till Doomsday. Mrs. Challis left something
defective here also, and we are again under no obligation to complete
the sentence for her.

Of course Titus had a much nicer room now--at least, a much larger one.
What he wanted such a big room for Marianne couldn't imagine. Just
look at the way he wrote that first book, "The Spendthrift's Legacy."
In pocket-books and on omnibuses! Just everywhere! However, it pleased
him, and when he was pleased he was satisfied. As long as he didn't
complain! And yet once more Mrs. Eldridge had to nod an implied easy
interpretation with closed lips. She--a wife herself--could understand.

Very likely the might-have-been, in Marianne Challis's mind, of a
glorified Great Coram Street, with the successful author turning out
immortal works in a glorified top back attic, was only an allotropic
form of a condemnation of things that had come to pass at the new home
at Wimbledon. Very likely, too, it was unconscious on her part. She may
never have noticed that the imaginary new chapters of the closed volume
of the old home contained no reference to the new friends her husband's
great success had brought about him, to the new Club he belonged to,
and met celebrities at, to the dinner invitations that frankly left her
out, and--almost more irritating--those that followed a perfunctory
card-shedding visit that shouted aloud, "Because we can't ask him
and leave _you_ out, good author's wife!" The imaginary visitors her
fancy saw in the renovated might-have-been drawing-room were John
and Charlotte Eldridge, and the Smithsons and Miss Macculloch--not
grandma; for Marianne's desire for her mother's presence did not go
to the length of cancelling her bronchitis in order to bring her out
on imaginary Saturday evenings. And those visionary social gatherings
never held a dream of young authoresses, with a strange power of
appealing to our hidden sympathies, and dresses that must have cost
God knows what. But she never noticed the omission. Nor that of the
theatrical people, nor the press people; nor the swells--male and
female--who came to sit at the feet of Genius, and be civil to its
wife, who, though she may have been slow about _some_ things, could see
through all _that_, and really never went out, thank you!

But a few days' change was just what her husband wanted. That was
what she had said to Lady Arkroyd of Royd Hall, in Rankshire, a case
in point, whom her husband had met at Sir Spender's, as he called
him, and had encouraged to call on Mrs. Challis at Wimbledon. Now,
at Great Coram Street, or the glorified fetch of it, no such person
appeared; though, indeed, a few inexplicable fetches were supplied by
fancy of people who were in earnest when they wanted her to come too.
Neither Lady Arkroyd nor Lady Betty Inglis, who accompanied her, had
gone beyond civility point--only men never saw anything, you knew they

Charlotte Eldridge (in this case) knew perfectly, dear!--and backed
up Marianne in refusing to go to Royd. Alfred Challis said it was the
merest temper; but was he sorry she didn't go?--Marianne wondered. She
rather preferred not going, to say the truth, but she would have liked
Titus to be really sorry. And even though she had known just as well
that he was only pretending he wanted her to come too, she would have
liked him to pretend a little better. If he had done this, she would
really have enjoyed his absence a great deal more, and it would have
helped her to believe she didn't enjoy it. She honestly wanted to.

Because she was one of those housekeepers who reconcile good
housekeeping with what they call a little peace and quiet. These
ends are contributed to by the temporary abeyance of the household.
Scarcely by its permanent absence--that would alter the character of
the position altogether. This position was that an unendurable stress
of responsibility was borne by the house's mistress in her position,
so to speak, of ship's master. The navigation rested entirely on her
shoulders, and the Captain meddled. Captains seldom did anything
else, and there _was_ no peace and quiet until they were at their
office in the City, or locked up in their cabin as might be. In that
cabin, as in Challis's case, they pursued some private end which had
no relation to the stern realities of Life. It might chance, as was
admitted in theory, to have something to do with the settlement of
weekly accounts--a remote connection of a vague ideal kind. But the
keeping of the log, the regulation of the chronometers, the comparison
of charts--well, really, it was impossible to attend to them for the
fidget, till the Captain was safely entombed in his cabin and out of
the way! And Charlotte Eldridge knew all that as well as Marianne did.
_She_ could understand, if anyone could. As for schoolboys, everybody
knew what a boy in a house was; hence, broadly speaking, the sooner he
was back at school the better. When home for the holidays, there was
_no_ peace; and it was just as well to look the fact in the face and
not be deceived by any false prophets.

However, there was something to be said for the prophets in that
Jerusalem at Wimbledon when the nominal head of the household was on
a visit in the country, and that dreadful boy was playing cricket
and wouldn't be back till late. This September afternoon there was a
little peace and quiet at last, and Charlotte Eldridge and Mrs. Challis
could chat--at least, till the husband of the former called in on his
way from the station to walk home with her across the common. Let the
record of their talk be taken anywhere, at random. Take the images of
them, also at random, from any one of a thousand semi-detached villas
in the suburbs of London, and, if you choose ladies of thirty odd, true
centres of the English middle-class, you will have all the description
you will want for the present.

"They're not girls. At least, _I_ don't call them girls," said Mrs.
Challis, shutting the pot-lid on the tea. Then she blew the spirit out,
because it wasn't wanted any more.

"Twenty-six and twenty-four," said the other lady. Not an opinion of
her own, but a placarding of authorized figures for consideration. They
remained in view, neither sanctioned nor censured. Marianne left the

"Why aren't they married, is what I look at."

"Looks, perhaps. Or short tempers. Either tells. Does Mr. Challis
mention their figures? Because figures go a long way." Mrs. Eldridge
seems to speak as an authority. Marianne nods agreement as a general
rule. But presently takes exception:

"There would be money," she says. "And that makes a difference.
Besides, his letter lays a good deal of stress on one of their figures.
I'm never surprised at figures when it's those sort of persons, in
girls. They have to." The implication seemed to be that the she-toff,
figureless, got suppressed--cancelled somehow.

"He says looks _too_, doesn't he?"

"One of them, certainly. But you can't tell, from men. And it's one
thing one time, another another." Here a pause, following a question
from Mrs. Eldridge, "Have you stirred it?" and an irrelevant answer, "I
don't want it to get too strong," from Mrs. Challis. Then tea. During
which the subject is picked up and dropped at intervals, an eye being
kept on it throughout. It is like a mouse a cat is warden of.

"I suppose the good-looking one is the one he sees most of. They do."
Mrs. Eldridge is enigmatical.

Her friend is almost equally so. "I suppose it's better always to take
no notice of it," she says.

"Always better." Decisively, as from an authority.

"The other one carves something, or does art needlework. When grandma
was a girl they did painting on velvet--poonah, it was called. Or took
likenesses. But then they wore ringlets."

"I know. And their waists were goodness knows where. But they did ruins
in water-colours."

"In sepia. Ma has some in a portfolio. Ready for your other cup?" The
answer is substantially in the affirmative.

"Don't put the sugar in this time. They're such big lumps....
Thanks!... Yes, that was before it was Art Things, and Liberty's. They
were just regarded as accomplishments where there were daughters.
Then, if they became old maids, they kept it up. Because they had such
families." This did not mean that the old maids of three generations
back created scandals, but that our grandmothers' domestic cares stood
in the way of their career as poonah-painters and so forth.

Mrs. Challis cut the cake. Some always wait till this stage of tea to
do this. But there are many schools. Then she said: "Titus says it's
photography has put an end to all that sort of thing. I shouldn't

"Nor I." But Mrs. Eldridge adds that she doesn't care about Art Objects
for their own sake, though they do for presents. She then picks up the
dropped mouse she has had an eye on. "Which is the one that slums?" she

"Oh--both! So does their lady-mother." There is a trace of bitterness
in this expression. "But only by the way. I don't suppose they stick to

"What does the good-looking one do?" No immediate answer coming, the
speaker throws a light, "Perhaps she's a vegetarian, or antivivisects?"

"No, it's neither of those. But I've no business to tell. Titus said
not, in the postscript."

"He wouldn't mind me."

"I don't know, dear. Perhaps it was you he meant. However, you must
promise not to tell, if I get the letter."

"My dear!--as if I should tell! You know I never say a word!"

Marianne felt she had done her duty by this letter as she left the room
to get it. For had she not honourably resolved not to show it, and even
gone the length of locking it into a drawer to prove her resolution?
And didn't her getting up from her tea show what an honourable intent
she had been acting under? Oh yes, she had done her duty. Besides, what
did it matter?

"Here's his letter. I don't expect he'll be home till Thursday.... No,
I suppose I mustn't show you the whole. I'll read the bits."

"You hadn't had your tea." Mrs. Eldridge felt quite secure of the
mouse, as she knew her husband wouldn't come before 6.30, and the
train was always behind. She felt so secure that she interjected a
remark on another subject--dress. She saw Marianne had on her plaid,
and admitted her wisdom; it had gone so much colder. How those stuffs
did last out! It really looked as good as new. Then she recommended
those little oblong things with jam in the middle, which she had tried
and her hostess hadn't; the latter, though, had bought them at the new

Marianne put the letter safe out of the way of spills and slops, and
finished her tea. During which the mouse may be said to have remained
on the floor, watched. Then she picked up the letter, and after
glancing through a page not germane to the matter, identified that
which was. "Here it is," she said, and went on reading:--"'You will
be amused at what I think I have found out about Judith, the handsome
eldest one I told you of. She is stage-struck--wants to go on the
boards! She has not said it directly to me, but I feel pretty certain
that a "friend" she tells me of, who has these aspirations, is no other
than _herself_. However, I may be mistaken. This is what I judge from:
We were sitting on a sofa'...." The reader paused, looking on into the

Mrs. Eldridge struck in: "Where was the sofa? Does he say where the
sofa was?"

"My dear Charlotte!" Marianne expostulated, "_can_ it matter? Besides,
he _says_---- However, I'll go straight on if you're going to fancy
I'm leaving anything out." And then continued, reading fair: "...
'on a sofa in the drawing-room after dinner. When she had told me
about this friend, having asked me first if I knew lots of actors and
actresses, I asked what sort of looking girl the friend was. _I saw her
look in a glass on the wall before she answered._ And then she said
something rather evasive about beauty being a matter of opinion, and
that there was probably enough in this case for working purposes. She
had disparaged her friend's performance, as it struck me, out of all
proportion to her apparent anxiety to advocate her cause, and a sort
of confidence that she would succeed. I put this down to protest of
personal modesty, as well as the look in the glass.'"

Marianne paused, saying, "I see that," and Mrs. Eldridge said also:
"I see _that_." Whereupon the former said, unreasonably: "What _don't_
you see?" and her friend replied: "Nothing. Go on." Which Marianne did,
after a very slight hesitation, as of doubt.

"'I annex a plan of the position showing the angle at which the mirror
was placed, the relative positions of myself and the lady, and our
respective images in the glass. So I could see plainly by looking
at her reflection that she took a good long look at herself before
answering my question.'"

"Is there another cup left, dear?" said Mrs. Eldridge. "Never mind if
you haven't...."

"It won't be good," said the tea-maker feelingly. But the applicant
said never mind, that would do! She liked it strong. But might she look
at the plan? She would promise not to read. There was nothing there she
needn't read, said her friend. Nevertheless, she folded back the script
behind the rough bird's-eye view, with dotted lines of sight to show
how things had worked.

"Well!" said Marianne, as she handed the cup of tea--which didn't look

"I don't believe the sofa was half as long as that."

"Charlotte--you're ridiculous!"

"Well, I _don't_! Now go on reading.... 'She took a good long look
at herself....'" Mrs. Eldridge considered whether she should reveal
the thought in her mind that Mr. Challis must also have taken a good
long look to know. No!--she would not! Whatever she was, she was not
a mischief-maker; and to prove this to her own satisfaction, she
not infrequently abstained from saying something about a lady and
gentleman. She often found an opportunity of doing this, as she never
thought on any subject not spiced with both. Satisfaction to conscience
through this abstention would be sure to result in free handling soon
after. Also, the abstention was easy to her this time, because she
believed--rightly or wrongly--that Marianne knew she was making it.

Perhaps rightly, but no outward sign to that effect came. Marianne
glanced forward in the letter, and went on reading: "'This young woman,
I fancy, is savagely jealous of the younger sister posing as an active
promoter of all sorts of upnesses-to-date....' I wish," said the reader
parenthetically, "that Titus wouldn't use such unusual expressions.
I dare say they are very clever, but I don't profess to understand
... what?... Oh, of course, I see what he _means_, but it's a kind
of thing I shall never understand.... No, my dear Charlotte!--it's
no use talking and trying to persuade me. 'Upnesses-to-date'--just
fancy!" Now Titus had been in two minds whether to allow this phrase
to remain, but had decided to do so, as better on the whole than
to provoke speculation over an obliterated text. _He_ might have
speculated himself over such an erasure.

"I don't think it implies anything," said Mrs. Eldridge, meaning of
course, anything about a lady and gentleman. "I fancy he is only
referring to Art Movements and Liberty silks and things. Go on." And
Marianne read:

"'All sorts of upnesses-to-date, doing things her grandmothers would
have thought _infra dig_....' What does that mean?"

"Lord, Marianne!--_that_ doesn't mean anything. Do go on. Only what
they would be too swell to do! That's all." Marianne continued:

"'_Infra dig._, while she herself is not allowed to try her luck and
face the music. She has the courage for it, evidently. Old Norman
blood! By-the-bye, I've been damning William the Conqueror up and down
ever since I came. For the old cock is besotted about him. Says he was
the first Socialist, and never talks of anything else!'... It's not
interesting, this!" She stopped.

"No--that's not interesting. I want to hear more about the girl's
looks. Couldn't you find what he says about her figure? You said he
laid stress on it."

"In his other letter. Tall and striking. Dignified kind of girl."

"I should hardly call that laying stress on her _figure_, as such."
Mrs. Challis reflects upon this rather paradoxical view of her
friend's. She is not as clear as she might be often over her husband's
elisions and hyperboles, and does not feel sure she reported him
rightly. "Perhaps," she says, "I should not have said 'laid stress
on.'" Her friend says oh no!--"laid stress on" was all right. But there
was some indeterminateness in what he was said to have laid stress
on. However, Mrs. Eldridge excuses further elucidation. "Sure there's
nothing more about that girl?" she asks.

"Yes, there's some more somewhere. Oh--here!... 'As to the lovely
Judith, of course, she might prove a duffer behind the footlights. But
then, again, she mightn't. She's the very thing for Aminta Torrington
in "Mistaken Delicacy."' That's the name his new play's to be called. I
liked 'Atalanta in Paddington' better myself."

"Not nearly such a good title. No! If 'Mistaken Delicacy' hasn't been
had a dozen times before, there couldn't be a better title. Of course,
he wants her to play in it. What else is there?"

"'Very thing for Aminta Torrington....' Oh yes!--it's here ... 'and I
shall try to get her to see Prester John about it' ... that's what they
call Mr.--what's his name?--the manager at the Megatherium, don't you
know?... 'about it, and see if we couldn't drill her up to performance
point. She couldn't be a total ...' something crossed out...."

"Let me look ... oh no--that's nothing! Only _fiasco_. It's the same
as failure." Mrs. Eldridge retained the letter and went on reading,
unopposed. The erasure had clearly been an almost insultingly merciful
one, to meet a defective knowledge half-way. She went on reading,
scrapwise, half inaudibly at times; sometimes saying "hm-hm-hm," to
stand for omissions.... "'Couldn't be a total failure, because it
isn't every day ... thing happens ... sort of Court-beauty ... good
family ... make a set-off against inexperience ...' hm-hm! ... 'elocution
very good, as far as I can judge....' I don't see any more about her."
Mrs. Eldridge read a good deal more of the letter to make sure of the
point, although Marianne reached out her hand to take it back. The
latter lady was looking rather nettled. She knew that _fiasco_ meant
_fizzle_ perfectly well, and it was ridiculous of Titus to treat her
like a schoolgirl.

Those who know the sort of person this young mater-familias in a plain
dress was, must know also what she meant by the phrase "a proper
pride." It is easy for superior persons--toffs of birth, toffs of
Science, Letters, Art--to decide that this phenomenon is a ridiculous
egotism in anything so middle, so Victorian, so redolent of Leech or
Cruikshank as Marianne Challis; to pronounce it an outcome of a simple
incapacity to realize her own insignificance. Gracious mercy!--suppose
we were all suddenly to "realize" our own insignificance!... But
really the subject is not one that will bear thinking of. Dismiss your
insignificance with a caution! And pray for a cloudy sky, that the
stars may not remind you of it.

When Charlotte Eldridge had read all down the next page of the letter,
she surrendered it to the hand that was waiting for it. But, even then,
not without a glance down the following one as she let it go. Her
friend apologized for taking it away.

"I shouldn't mind your reading it all, dear," she said. "But as I

"Quite right, dear!" And both these ladies felt they had made a
sacrifice to Duty. The letter wasn't to be shown, and a great deal of
it had _not_ been shown. What more could the most exacting ask? How
many ideals are as nearly attained in this imperfect world?

"However, there's nothing in what you haven't seen that could have
interested you in the very least." Having made out a good case for
Conscience, why weaken it? But probably Mrs. Challis is unaware that
she does so. "No!--there's not a word more about the girl." This is in
answer to a question that could hardly remain unanswered merely because
nobody had asked it. The negative chilled the conversation. _Why_ was
there not a word more about the girl?

A disturbance upstairs caused Mrs. Challis to get up and leave the
room. It was those children. Oh dear, what little plagues they were!
Presently she came back, explanatory. She believed it was really that
odious girl Martha's fault. She would have to get rid of her. But Titus
always sided with the girl, and that made it so difficult.... What was
it this time?... Oh, the child wanted the iron. Martha was ironing, and
of course paying no attention, and Emmie had burnt herself. No--not
badly; but a nasty burn! Marianne's style does not favour definition.

The two ladies sit on into the twilight--early, from a southeast
wind bringing the town-fog westward--and are less talkative. The
slow-combustion grate's first snail-like manifestations this year--for
the weather has been mild till to-day--begin to glimmer in a half-dusk
favourable to their detection. The children will be down directly to
say good-night. One can't talk till they are done with and out of the
way. Presently they come, but are not allowed to rush to the cake at
once. They shall have some directly. The casualty, Emmie, who yelled,
exhibits an arm between four and five years old with a scar on it. She
consents to goldbeater's skin on condition that she licks the place
herself. But what did that matter when there was cake? All children
have but one relation to cake. They _want_ it, and when that piece is
done, they want another the same size, or larger. These two were quite
one with their kind on this point, but they took the first piece behind
a sofa to devour it; even as a Royal Bengal Tiger at the Zoological
carries away a horror a vegetarian would die of into his bedroom, lest
you should get it and eat it first. But they came out for more; which
the tiger never does, because he knows it isn't any use, and prefers to
pretend he doesn't care to ask favours and be refused.

"I shall give them a couple of grains of Dover's powder apiece," said
their mother. "They've had nothing for a month." This good lady held
with the practice of a dose now and again, independent of symptoms. "If
it were not for me, they would be left altogether without medicine.
It's a thing their father always opposes me about." The words "Dover's
powder" were said a little too soon to be unheard by the persons
concerned, and the consequence was that Emmie, the younger one, bit
Martha, the nurse, going upstairs. However, this incident, with the
ructions that arose from it, was closed in time; and a little more
peace and quiet followed in its wake.

"I wonder at your husband and that Martha girl. Look at her teeth!"

"My dear Charlotte, Titus quite likes Martha, compared to Harmood,
whose teeth are really good, considering that she only takes sixteen
pounds." Harmood was the house-and-parlourmaid--a special antipathy of
the great author's.

"Well!--I wonder at it, is all I can say. They go so much by teeth.
Besides, look at the way she hooks her dress. The whole thing! You may
depend on it that Mr. Challis is only doing it for a blind, because
Harmood's pretty...."

"Doing what for a blind?"

"Oh, my dear child, what a silly you are! You know perfectly well what
I mean. That sort of thing. He wants you to think he hasn't any eyes,
and makes believe to prefer the ugly one. Lots of husbands go on like
that--only simpletons never see anything."

"I can't see that it makes any difference to me, either way."

"Very well, dear! Look at it your own way. Only don't blame me and say
I didn't tell you!"

Marianne wanted to say something sharp to her friend, but could not,
owing to lack of constructive power in emergencies. However, as that
lady closed with a snap, even as a moral physician who had written
a prescription and done her duty, there was time to consider an
extempore--an _ex multo tempore_, one might say.

"I wish you would say exactly what you mean, Charlotte."

"What about? About the servants?"

"No. About Titus."

"My dear Marianne, it isn't any use talking about it. A woman in your
position has to expect it...."

"Yes! But expect what?"

"If you won't interrupt me, I'll tell you. Of course, you know I
know perfectly well your husband is to be trusted, and all that sort
of thing. He has too much genuine regard for you. But I always have
thought, and always shall think, that men can't help themselves...."

"What for? I mean, why do you go on raking up? Can't you leave alone?"

"That's just what I was going to say, dear! Especially in this case.
Because there's really no need, if you come to think of it. I'll tell
you, dear, exactly what I should _recommend_ you to do--what _I_ should
do if I were in your place. I should either say _absolutely nothing_,
or if I said anything at all, just make it chaff--talk about his new
flame--say you will evidently have to get somebody else, don't you see?
As if it was entirely out of the question! Or perhaps that would be
dangerous, and it wouldn't do to have him thinking you suspected him of
fancying you weren't in earnest. No!--on the whole, I recommend saying
_absolutely nothing_."

Marianne's brain refuses to receive complications beyond a certain
point. She picks up the last intelligible phrase. "As if _what_ was
entirely out of the question?"

But Mrs. Eldridge is on her guard against making mischief. "You mustn't
run away with the idea that I said there _was_ anything," is the form
her caution takes. And then, in response to an angry flush on her
friend's face, "I'm sure there isn't the slightest reason for you to
be uneasy. I have far too much faith in your husband to suppose such a
thing possible for one moment.... No, indeed, dear!--even if she gets
him to get her into this play of his--and then, of course, they would
go on seeing each other--I shouldn't feel the smallest uneasiness.
Because look at her social position!"

"What _has_ her social position got to do with it?"

Mrs. Eldridge elevates her eyebrows, and perhaps her shoulders,
slightly, as though asking space what next? But she brings both down to
the level of her friend's knowledge of the world before answering: "I
should have said _everything_. A woman in her position doesn't commit
herself in any way with a man in your husband's, however distinguished
he may be. Read any divorce case of that sort of people, and see
if they don't have co-respondents of condition. Of course, I'm not
speaking of disgraceful cases, where the woman isn't received after.
But ordinary divorce cases in Fashionable Life."

"I can't see what you're talking about, Charlotte."

"Then I can't help it, dear. But I should have thought it was pretty
plain, for all that!"

Marianne laughs, a little uneasily. "Do you mean to say, Charlotte,
that because Titus goes away for a week to a country-house...?"

"Go on, dear." But Marianne is not constitutionally a
sentence-finisher. She begins again:

"Why isn't Titus to speak to a lady without a preach about it?"

"My dear child, nobody's preaching. If you were to listen to me,
instead of becoming impatient...."

"I'm not impatient! But you know it's irritating, and you can't deny

"Very well, dear, I don't then. But let me finish what I was saying.
If you had listened to me, you would have seen my meaning. I was
all the time exonerating your husband from the suspicion of even
the slightest flirtation with this showy girl. I was trying to make
your mind easy about them, and to say that even if they _are_ rather
thrown together--as of course they must be, because one knows what
country-houses are...."

"Now, Charlotte, that _is_ nonsense! Why are country-houses any
different from town-houses? What stuff!" Marianne sees a light on
the horizon. She knows about country-houses, because she was a girl
in the country once. But much of her friend's analyses and insights
had been so much unqualified Sordello to her, and had left her brain
spinning. She can and will hold fast that which is good, and stick to
the country-houses. And clearly, if she can prove that country and
town houses are on all fours for the purposes of Charlotte's world--a
world where a sort of dowdy Eros dodders respectably about, all the
Greek fire knocked out of him--then a stopper will be put on these
suggestions of infidelities. She does not see all the connecting-links,
but would like to unhorse her opponent somehow.

That lady is also ready to let the issue turn provisionally on town and
country-house life. But this is for a reason of her own. She pursues
the subject: "It's _not_ stuff, dear. There's all the difference in
the world. In country-houses people split up into couples, and there's
no check. Chaperones on long walks, of course!--only they can't go so
quick, and get left behind. In town, no such thing. And there's really
no such thing as staying with, in town, either. Practically! Of course,
now and again friends from the country to stay a few days. But it isn't
the same thing, going to the Royal Academy and the New Gallery. The
Zoological Gardens is a good deal more like, only scarcely anybody
goes. Wasn't that John's knock?"

It was, apparently, and was followed by John's pocket-handkerchief--at
least, that was how a very loud noise was inexactly classified.
Whatever its proper name was, it caused its promoter's wife to fear
his cold was worse. He must have his feet in mustard and hot water.
But his attitude was, when he had replaced the contingent remainder
of the noise--a real pocket-handkerchief--in his pocket, that his cold
was nearly well, and no human power should induce him to submit to
treatment of any sort; but mustard and hot water least of all. He would
go and have a Turkish Bath, and kill himself. Not that _he_ anticipated
a fatal result; his wife forecast that for him. It transpired shortly
that he habitually set himself in opposition to all her wishes, and
went his own way. But in so doing he encountered frequent disasters,
his rescues from which were always achieved by her, single-handed, with
constant addition to a long score of debt, unpaid by him, on account of
which he never so much as said, thank you!

Mr. Eldridge was a person who defied description, in a certain sense;
but only because description calls for materials, and he supplied
none, or nearly none. He might have been the Average Man himself, for
any salient point that he presented. An observant person, called on
to recollect what he was like, would probably have remembered that
he shaved, all but a little whisker, and given up the rest of him to

His conversation, after the Turkish Bath had passed away, was an
inquiry if his wife was ready; and, after he had been told not to fuss,
but to sit down and make himself agreeable, a statement that it was a
good deal colder than yesterday. So it afforded a natural opportunity
to his good lady of giving him a chance to enrich it by comment on the
subject in hand at the time of his arrival. She did not wish to drop
it, having, in fact--as hinted above--a purpose in dwelling on it.

"We're talking about country-houses," said she.

"What houses?" said he; and then, without waiting for an answer:
"Oh--country-houses! Where?"

"Don't pretend to be stupid, John. Nowhere, of course! No particular
houses--country-houses in general. And town-houses."

"Oh, I see! What about 'em? How's the children?"

"Never mind them! Listen to me." Marianne interjected that perhaps
they hadn't gone to bed, and she could ring for Martha to see. But
she didn't do it, and no one urged it. So the children lapsed, and
Mrs. Eldridge proceeded: "Pay attention to what I'm saying, John,
and put that glass down. You'll break it." He did as he was bid.
"We--_are_--_talking_--_about_--the differences between country-houses
and town-houses." To which Mr. Eldridge replied, "Oh, ah!--yes, to be
sure! Well!--you'd have to see 'em both," causing his wife to despair
visibly of male intelligence, with endurance, before starting afresh
with an appearance of willingness to make things easy for a slow
apprehension: "We were talking about the difference of the way one
lives, in town and in the country. Nothing to _do_ with premises."

She then went on to put a hypothetical case, to enable her husband to
grasp the full range of the recent conversation. Supposing that he
had been a young man enamoured of a damsel whose sentiments towards
himself were a matter of conjecture--suppose, in fact, he were "paying
attention"; that was how the lady put it--would he prefer to press
his suit in a town-house or a country-house? She made the question a
leading one by suggesting divine solitudes congenial to the development
of tender passions, and a climate favourable to the inspection of
sunsets and moonrises. So tempting was the prospect to the mind of
her hearer that he made a grimace expressive of greedy delight, and
gave a low whistle. "'Ooky!" said he, dropping an aspirate humorously.

"_Any_ man would say so at once, Marianne." Which Mrs. Eldridge
contrives to articulate in a way that implies, Heaven knows how, that
their discussion has had application to some particular case--no mere
abstract review of the subject. For the apprehension of her husband is
reached, with the effect that he says, with an expression of roused
interest: "I say, Lotty, tell up. Who's the party? Who's at it now?"
But he does not press for information, because his wife checks him
skilfully with, "Hush, John!--never mind now! I'll tell you after." His
comment, "Some gal, I suppose," suggests some lucid vision into life
and character beyond its drain on the resources of language.

Marianne Challis would have entered joyously enough with her friend
into the building up of a situation involving only a neighbour's
husband or wife, but she would fain have put a brake on the car of
Gossip in her own husband's case. The worst of it was that every word
she had said so far, with that intention, had only brought about an
increase of speed. And now she was conscious that if she put in any
protest of her faith in her husband's stability, matters would be made
ten times worse. The horses would get the bit in their teeth. At least,
his name had not been mentioned, nor the company he was in, before this
stupid John Eldridge. All this, or the protoplasm of it, hung about
her mind as she began saying, "If you mean ..." and stopped. But she
had, even with those three words, put her head in the lion's mouth past
recall. Her friend interrupted.

"I don't mean to say a _single_--_word_--_more_, dear, to you or to
anyone. So don't be uneasy. But you see what John thinks." The speaker,
as she rose to her feet with these words, as one gathering up for
departure, showed as a young woman in black, of a lissome, yet angular
type; taller than her friend, and with more claim, from personal
experience of her own figure, to sit in judgment on other women's. But
her complexion is not as good as Marianne's--a rather sallow one, not
free from a sense of freckles. However, that may only be the firelight.

John, merely conscious that something male and female was under
discussion, had put on what he conceived to be the proper look for the
father of a family equal to all moral emergencies. His face would have
served just as well for that of a person doing subtraction with a sense
of responsibility. This ambiguity of outward rendering of the phases
of his mind, of course, gave corresponding latitude to his wife's
interpretation of it.

Marianne had a growing misgiving that she was becoming skilfully
entangled in the meshwork of an undeserved embarrassment, and
floundered in desperation. "I don't the least understand what you
_mean_, Charlotte," she said. "What _does_ he think? What _about_?" On
this he asserted himself.

"No, I say, you know! Don't bring _me_ in--don't bring _me_ in! _I_
know nothing, you know--nothing at all, you know! Mum's the word, you
know--always keep out of this sort of thing!" He enforced his words by
pursing up his mouth and shaking his head continuously, in a kind of
paroxysm of caution. He also turned somewhat purple, and his eyes grew
smaller. These combinations put the finishing-touch on the strength of
his wife's position. She threw up a new and final entrenchment, and, as
it were, closed the subject officially.

"You do--quite--right, John," said she, "to keep out of it. That's all
you've got to do." She then assumed quite suddenly a large-hearted
tone of liberality. "And, after all," she said, "what does it all
come to? Just nothing whatever! I'm sure, dear Marianne, you need not
allow yourself to feel the _least_ uneasiness--not for a moment! With
a husband like yours! Only think! You'll see it will be all right,
dear--just recollect what I say! Now we must go. I'll go and get my
cloak--it's upstairs. No!--don't _you_ come...." But Marianne goes, for
all that.

Mr. Eldridge, left to himself, whistled a monotonous tune over and over
again, and flicked a glove that was on with another that was off. He
threw his eyes opener by fits and starts, as if he were trying on a new
pair of lids. Then he produced the vanished pocket-handkerchief, and
held it by two corners before him, spread out, as though he admired
the pattern. Then, as though he decided suddenly that it was not Saint
Veronica's, he availed himself of it as a resource of civilization,
and returned it resolutely to his pocket. We are not responsible for
this gentleman's actions, and can only record, without explanation,
that he then said quite distinctly, "Pum, pum, pum!" and slapped his
hands heavily together. He added: "Time's gettin' on"--a remark equally
true of all periods. Then he listened to the voices of the two ladies
returning down the stairs.

"Oh no!--you needn't be the _least_ afraid about John. He's discretion
itself in a thing of this sort. And you'll see it will be just as I
say. When your dear husband comes back it will all be _exactly_ the
same, and...." Here her voice dropped, and John listened hard, but
missed a great deal.... "So now, dear, you will promise to be quite
happy about it, and not let yourself fret. Won't you?"

"But, Charlotte dear, it's all about _nothing_...."

"That's the right view to take, dear. That's just exactly what it
_is_--all about nothing! Now let's try and be happy, and not think
about it. John!--where are you? Do come and let's be off! I hope it
isn't raining."

"Pavement was dry enough when _I_ came in," was Mr. Eldridge's
testimony. To corroborate it he went out in the front garden and gazed
upwards, open-mouthed. "Oh no--_it's_ not raining, fast enough," said
he. Which seemed to imply that perhaps something else was.

       *       *       *       *       *

Marianne went back into her parlour and rang the bell for Elizabeth
Barclay to come and take away the tea-things, because Harmood was out
for her holiday. She looked and felt flushed and irritated, but could
not have said whether it was with Charlotte Eldridge, with herself,
or with this showy girl at Royd. With all her stupidity--and she had
plenty--she was not wanting in loyalty to her husband; although it may
be a good deal of this loyalty was only a form "proper pride"--that
is to say, _amour propre_--took. How one wonders that commonplace,
uninteresting people should have any _amour propre_--should love those
insipid selves of theirs at all! But they have it--the dullest of them.

As she sat there in the growing dusk, watching the slow-combustion
stove economizing its coal, and making attempts to consume its own
smoke, her soul was doing battle on its own behalf against the
insidious siren Jealousy, who came and came and came again each time
she thrust her contemptuously away. Had she, perhaps, despised her
a little too roundly when her first whispers were audible? Had she
treated them too much as an absurdity when her husband's first great
success had been followed by a sudden uplifting of him into a world she
resented--resented because the only part she could play in it had been
a very minor one? Had she taken it too easily for granted that no harm
would come if he went his way and she hers--she, who didn't mean to be
patronized, whoever else did! Might it not have been really wiser to
brace herself up to the bearing of one or two slights and humiliations,
to laugh them off and acknowledge that a homely, uneducated woman of
her sort must needs fall contentedly into a back rank, rather than
to refuse indignantly to march with the army at all? _She_ was not
going to be tolerated, and made allowances for, not she!--that was
her attitude. That Arkroyd woman would have been just civil to her
in time, no doubt; but how about all the affronts and indignities
she would have had to put up with during apprenticeship? No--it was
best as it was: Titus to go his way and she hers! Besides, her being
constantly hatching him would do no good, if there _were_--that is to
say, if there _had been_--any truth in this nonsense of Charlotte's.
But, really, it was all so idiotic. As if she couldn't trust Titus for
five minutes away from her apron-strings! Of course, Titus was to be
trusted!... Was he?

She got up and walked about the room in the flickering firelight,
conscious of her heart-beats, and half-inclined to cry, if she could
have chosen. But her eyes felt dry over it, as a matter of fact. She
caught herself beginning to feel angry with Titus, convicted herself
of it, and reprimanded the culprit severely. Idiot that she was, to
be affected by mere unfounded gabble! For she was far from believing,
all the while, that Charlotte had any faith in her own insinuations.
She fully recognized that her friend's pleasure in dwelling on the
constructive relations of Paul and Virginia, Paolo and Francesca, Adam
and Eve, for that matter--anywhom male and female, anywhere--was only
human sympathy, leavened with hysteria. Had she not helped her, _lubens
et ex animo_, when the improper study of mankind seemed good to their
hours of leisure? The study, that is, of man and womankind in braces,
selected by the student? But when the model suggested for study was her
own husband, in leash with a strange young lady, whom she had not seen,
she felt the position of a philosophical analyst uncongenial.

Why could she not be angry with Charlotte? That might have seemed the
most natural safety-valve. Marianne had never read "Othello"--or much
to speak of else--but she had seen it at the play. So she may easily
have recalled Iago's cautions against the green-eyed monster that doth
make the meat it feeds on, and compared it with the way her friend
had somehow contrived to appear a warning voice, crying beware! to a
suspicious soul adrift in a wilderness of its own unreason. She was not
so very unlike the Moor in her ready acceptance of the character _her_
Iago had claimed for herself. Of course, Charlotte was a fool, and
fanciful; but, equally of course, she was no mischief-maker. Why, see
what a perfect faith she had in Titus's integrity! Marianne was angry
with herself for allowing a doubt of it, without having the shrewdness
to see that she never would have felt one if it had not been for
Charlotte. In fact, left to herself in the growing darkness, to brood
over her own scarcely fledged suspicion, she could not for the life of
her have said what on earth began it all. She forgot all details of her
conversation with Charlotte, and only knew that something in it had
made her feel very uncomfortable.

Really, one is sometimes inclined to believe that imps of darkness
hang about, to run and help whenever they see a little bit of mischief



Marianne's loving Tite did not come back at the time he had
appointed--not by many days. He postponed doing so in order to go
back on the same day as Mr. Brownrigg, whose society he had begun to
find rather amusing. Their departure together was again postponed in
order that they might travel up in company with William Rufus and Lord
Felixthorpe, with whom both had come to be on the best of terms, after
each had denounced either to the other, in the strictest confidence, as
purse-proud, rank-proud, toffish, and standoffish. They had collated
their respective observations of the ingrained vices of Aristocracy,
and found that they agreed. But, then, after they had unpacked their
hearts with unprejudiced and candid criticism, they had suddenly _volte
face_'d, and discerned that there was always a Something you could not
define about people of this sort. They had both noticed this singular
fact, and each was supplied by it with an insight into the unusual
powers of penetration of the other. It was a curious coincidence that
both had acquired a consciousness of this Something by comparing the
courteous demeanour and graceful hospitality of their host with what
they found it impossible to describe as anything but the Plebeian
Vulgarity of the sitting Conservative member for the borough. Mr.
Ramsey Tomes caught it hot. Then look at the indescribable grace of
Lady Arkroyd, and contrast it with the dowdy _personnel_ and awkward
manners of the political gentleman's wife. Why!--_there_ was a woman,
her ladyship to wit, who could be as rude as she pleased to anyone, and
the indefinable Something came in and carried it off!

Was it the indefinable Something, or a very easily definable
Nothing-of-the-Sort, that brought about a still further delay in
Alfred Challis's return home? Probably the latter, in the form of the
gradual cordiality that comes to folk living in the same house under
auspicious circumstances, and goes on growing till quarrelling time. It
was of less importance when once he had overstayed his return-ticket;
and the final outcome of two or three postponements, each to await a
reinforcement to the homeward-bound Londoners, was that the bulk of the
Royd house-party caught the two o'clock train ten days behind the date
of Mr. Challis's promised return to his domestic hearth, and arrived at
Euston in a drizzling mist, which knew that summer had gone, and had
the atmosphere all to itself.

The porter that carried his portmanteau and his game--a hare and
partridges, with which was associated a promise of pheasants next
month--to a four-wheeler, might have noticed that the literary-looking
gentleman and the good-looking young lady in blue said good-bye a great
deal--in fact, until a carriage called out to know whether the latter
was coming or not. But this porter's name was Onions, and he had no
soul, except one that was wrapped up in remuneration. So he accepted
fourpence and saw nothing.

But he might have. And also he might have heard the following
conversation between the good-looking--or best-looking--young lady
and the gentleman, after the latter had made sure that his selected
four-wheeler was prepared to go as far as Wimbledon.

"Now, Mr. Challis, I know you're not to be trusted to give my message
to your wife...."

"Yes, I am. She's to write you a line to say when she'll be at home."

"Stupid man! Now you know quite well it was nothing as bold as that.
No, dear Mr. Challis, tell her I don't want to make a formal 'call.' I
want to know her--as well as I know you. And I never shall unless we
see each other quietly, when there's no one else there. Oh dear!--if
only people I want to know would give me a cup of tea and say 'not at
home' to everyone else!"

"I should myself! But I quite understand. I'll wrap up the message to
Marianne exactly to that effect. She shall write and fix a day. And I'm
not to be there--that's it, isn't it?"

"That's it. Good man! And you understand that I'm entirely in earnest
about Aminta Torrington--(all right! Nobody can hear. They're all in
the carriage)--and you're to speak to Mr. Magnus at the Megatherium
about it."

"Oh yes! I'm going to speak. Honour bright!"

"Very well, then! Now good-bye, Mr. Challis."

"Good-bye. I _have_ had a pleasant time." But Mr. Onions heard none of
this, as, while he was disposing of the portmanteau, his attention was
engaged by conversation with the cabman.

"Where's Wimbledon, Honey?" the latter had said, as he took the box
from him. He seemed over-ripe, did this cabman. He could not fall off
the box, though, for he had bound himself to it by tarpaulins of an
inflexible nature. "Honey" was not Irish: it was short for "Onions."

"What's the use of askin' me, when you know yourself? Mean to say you

"I was born there, my son. I've lived there ever since. Likewise, I'm
going to hend my days there, exceptin' I should 'appen to live for
ever. I was just a-puttin' the question to see if _you_ knew."

"Couldn't say to harf an inch where it is. But it's a place _you_ get a
pint at, every wisit."

"Right you are, my son!... All right, governor--just off, as soon as
these cloths are tucked in. You never mentioned any 'urry, or I'd have
seen to it!"

And then Royd and its luxurious life have finally vanished, and
everyday life has come back, as the cab growls through its rather long
ride. Challis was paying the penalty of coming home by a different
route, and now almost wished he hadn't made up his mind to cab the
whole way. But you know what it is when you have a large portmanteau
that won't go on a hansom.

If it had not been for the hare and partridges, he could have managed
to consider the whole thing a dream. This would have been an advantage;
for no one stickles at finding waking life dull after a fascinating
sleep-experience. Do not we all rather love to rub it into our waking
surroundings how sweet that place was in the dream, how bright those
skies and seas were, how lovable that--well, usually--person of the
opposite sex was? Are you, if you are a lady, prepared to deny this
last item? Not that this concerns the story, for there they were--the
hare and partridges. And the memories they brought back clashed
with the long perspectives of street-lamps in the drizzle, and the
reflections of them; and the male umbrellas and female umbrellas
bobbing endlessly past below them, or waiting for a bus that somebody
may get out of, just there; and the busses that stopped to shed their
passengers and fill up again with Heaven-favoured fresh ones--while
they, the umbrellas, waited--and made the hearts of those no umbrella
could keep dry sick with Hope deferred. This hare and partridges,
fur-soft and feather-soft, though cold to the touch, were full of
suggestions of the life that had been switched off finally just now at
Euston Station. But then, of course--Challis ought to have recollected
this, and he felt it--they were equally full of suggestion of where
they were going to be devoured. Was he not going home to Marianne,
and the children, and his snug little writing-room looking out on the
Common across the garden, where he was on no account to be disturbed?
The very word "home" had a magic in it, and so forth: consult
Literature, _passim_!...

No, really, it was too absurd to allow his nasty cynical tone to creep
into his thoughts--here in Hyde Park; for that was the Marble Arch, and
the cab was making a good record--when in less than an hour he would be
back among his Lares and Penates. As he got nearer home he found that
the fire of pleasurable anticipation he had lighted began to crackle
and burn up of its own accord, without further effort on his part.
How he wished he could invent a word for that confounded hypothetical
wickedness--treachery or what not--that nervous imaginatives impute to
themselves, knowing its unreality all the while!

He had never allowed himself to believe for one moment that Royd owed
any of its charm for him to anything but ... well!--a sort of general
summary of the charms of a big wealthy country-house full of pleasant
people with balances at their Bankers'. So he expressly vetoed the idea
that in the dream he was now waking from, as he neared the Hermitage
and Marianne, there was any one individual that played a predominant
part. He vetoed it in obedience to that groundless guilt of conscience
he was going to find a name for. But for that he would have let it

He would have to find that name, to brand the intolerable nuisance;
to denounce it by it, when it appeared. Then he might look it in
the face unflinchingly, when it told him to snub his memory for
remembering so vividly the sunset-glow on his companion's face, that
day they walked back from the Rectory. What a luxury it would be
to give this phenomenon its proper place! As, for instance, Mental
Astigmatism--something of that sort! The more syllables the better!
Let him see!--didn't _aischune_ in Greek mean disgrace, or guilt? How
would _pseudoeschynomorphism_ serve the turn? Long enough, anyhow, to
convince a Grand Jury....

Well, it was this--no need to say the long name every time; at least,
until the Jury should be empanelled!--that was galling the kibe of
his mind at every chance thought of Judith Arkroyd that came into it.
Why, in Heaven's name, should he not dwell with pleasure on her eyes,
which were public property; on her lips, which he did not propose to
interfere with; on the touch of her hand at parting, which, by-the-bye,
had gone the round of the male units as the party broke up? He was not
going to appropriate a larger share than Felixthorpe, for instance,
whom he thought a very nice chap; or Brownrigg, for that matter!
Or ... but no!--one must draw a line somewhere. Let Mr. Ramsey Tomes
keep his fat hand to himself! At which point Pseudetcetera--(that would
do for the present)--said aloud: "Come, Alfred Challis, what business
have you with the word _desecration_ in your mind in connection with
this part of the business?" He rebuked the phenomenon, giving it its
name in full.

He was no match for it, though; and it ended by scoring. "Should I be
here at all," it said, "if Marianne were...?" He brushed the question
aside, but his heart knew the end of it. Marianne wasn't....

However, it was all Pseudetcetera, anyhow! Judith Arkroyd was
cultivating him from a purely selfish motive--this rather bitterly; and
as for Marianne, was he not really glad to be back again, and wouldn't
it be a pleasure to ... to present her with the hare and partridges,
and facilitate the housekeeping?

As to Miss Arkroyd's proposal to call, he did not know how it would be
received. Perhaps he would have to tell Marianne that she really must
be a sensible woman, and a Woman of the World.

Anyhow--and he drifted into a self-interested channel with some sense
of relief--it would never do to have what might be a golden prospect
for his play thwarted. He had only imperfect means, so far, of guessing
what Judith would sound like behind the footlights; but as to what
she would _look_ like, that was a thing there could be _no_ misgiving
about.... Why!--the horse was walking. Actually, Putney Hill! What a
much better lot of four-wheelers had come on the streets lately! In a
quarter of an hour he would be at home; and really very glad--honour
bright!--to be back with Marianne.

       *       *       *       *       *

When any lady or gentleman comes back from an absence, in a cab with
luggage on it--however passionate may have been her or his longing
for a corresponding him or her who may have been (or might have been)
watching at the door for its arrival, or however much the two of them
may feel disposed to

    "Stand tranced in long embraces
    Mixt with kisses sweeter, sweeter
    Than anything on earth"--

they usually find, in practice, that it is necessary to stand matters
over, because of the cab. This does not, of course, apply to where
a man-servant is kept, who can pay fares dogmatically, and conduct
himself like the Pope in Council. But where the yearnings of both
parties have to be suppressed all through a discussion of the fare
and a repulse of the unemployed, whose services have been anticipated
by your own mercenaries ... well!--do what you will in the way of
cordiality afterwards, it _is_ chilling, and you can't deny it. We know
we are putting this in a very homely way, but this is a very homely

If that over-ripe cabman had shown a different spirit, and accepted the
shilling or so too much that Challis offered him, and gone his way in
silence, who knows what course events would have taken in the Challis
household? But he not only said, "_My_ fare's nine shillings!" but
came down from his box as one comes down from a box when one's mind
is thoroughly made up, and one ain't going to stand any more of one's
ex-fare's trifling. He also unbuttoned a series of coats, and produced
from his inner core a pocket-book, supposed to contain documentary
evidence of some sort. It was eight mile o' ground, and three on 'em
outside the radius. Challis was irritated at the low valuation put on
his understanding by this cabman, and disputed a point he would have
given way on had an appeal been made to the goodness of his heart
to shut his eyes to obvious truth in the interest of extortion. He
was also obsessed by a woe-begone creature who had run all the way
from Putney Bridge to assist with the one portmanteau, but had been
headed off by Martha and Elizabeth Barclay. Who, thus intercepted, had
substituted a moral claim on account of the distance no one had asked
him to cover for a legal claim for carrying a portmanteau into a house,
and making the latter smell of his wardrobe till properly aired and the
mats shook next day. The consequence of which was that, when the cabman
had reconstituted himself on his box, under protest, and departed,
Challis, eager to make up for the postponement of his greeting by a
good husbandly _accolade_, found himself met by, "As soon as you've
done with the man!" and, turning, perceived an injured being touching
a soaked cap, and awaiting recognition or execration in a spirit of
meekness, but quite determined not to go away without a settlement.

"Run all the way from Putney, have you? What the devil did you do it
for? Nobody asked you." Here a gratuity, of coppers.

"Won't you make it up a shillin', Captain? It _is_ 'ard, when a
man's been out all day looking for a chance, and walked all over
Battersea and Chelsea and round Brixton--ask anybody if I ain't!--and
nobody to 'elp me to a job or say the word for me.... Thank ye
kindly, Captain!"--here more coppers; this mode of address proving
irresistible--"only if it was made up to a shillin' I could get my
tools out of pawn, being a carpenter by trade...."

Challis pushed the door to in the man's face with something like an
oath. Then at last he got a moment's leisure for his overdue kiss,
which he paid liberally, as he said: "Well, it _is_ jolly to be
back, at any rate! How are the kids?" For, whatever the malady he
had made the awkward name for had been, he wasn't going to show any
consciousness of it.

"The children you mean? There's nothing the matter with them that I
know of. Now make haste; because it's a small leg. If I'd thought you
were going to be so late it could have been rump-steak."

Challis looked at his watch. "H'm!" said he. Which meant that
seven-forty was not so enormously late, and really more elastic
arrangements might have been contrived. "I shouldn't have time for a
warm bath, should I?"

"I must tell Elizabeth Barclay, then. I dare say she can keep the meat
back. Only say!"

"Oh, it don't matter, if there's any difficulty...."

"My dear!--why should there be any difficulty! You've only got to
_say_.... Well!--am I to tell Elizabeth Barclay, or am I not?"

Challis decided, and said. That is, he did not formulate special
instructions, his words being merely, "Half-past, then. I'll be sure
not to be later," and went straight away to get a bath. It is the
greatest of luxuries, as we all know, after a journey, and Challis
had made up his mind to have one the moment he detected a flavour of
roasting, because that implied plenty of hot water in the bath-room.

Those who measure events only by the bounce they manifest--by their
rapidity, or unexpectedness, or by the clamour that accompanies
them--will wonder why any narrator of a story should think such flat
incident worth recording. But observe!--it was the very flatness of
this conversation that gave it its importance, coming as it did on the
top of the exhilaration of Mr. Challis's visit, and his parting with
that large and lively company of friends less than two hours ago. It
has its place--this flatness has--in the lives of these two folk we
write of, and really accelerates the story, although it is certainly
slow in itself.

How very much Challis would have preferred it if his wife had said,
"I won't kiss you if you swear," and had then done it _quandmême_!
His mind--a fictionmonger's--reconstructed his reception with things
more palatable for Marianne to say, this one among them. Another
thing he would have liked, quite inexplicably, was, "Well!--how's the
fascinating Judith?" Possibly this was because he would have welcomed
help from without to convince him he was indifferent about the young
woman. The answer he imagined for himself, which would have been
pleasant for him to give, was, "She's coming to see you next week,
Polly Anne. So get your best bib and tucker ready!" But there had been
none of this, nor the laughter--purely imaginary--that he garnished it
with. Only the flatness as recorded.

"Perhaps it was all that confounded cabman," said Challis to himself
and a bath-towel like a _toga_, after a very respectable warm bath--not
equal to that at Royd, though--and a cold douche. He had to hurry up to
keep his word at half-past eight. But he kept it.

"Well!" said he, as he joined his wife in the drawing-room, where she
was awaiting the announcement of dinner, Challis conceived.

"Well what?" She touched the nearest bell-handle. "They'll know it's
for dinner," she said, and the remark seemed relative. "Why well?"

"Well everything! Tell me all about the kids, about who's called,
about where you've been, about everything. Come, Polly Anne, I think
you might unbutton a little and be jolly when a chap's been away three
weeks. How are John and Charlotte Eldridge?"

"Yes!--I think you might have asked about them. John has been at
death's door. There's dinner!..." Challis made a sympathetic noise
about Mr. Eldridge, but postponed inquiry. Nothing made it easy until
he found himself a lonely soup-consumer; because, you see, Marianne
wasn't hungry.

"What has it been?" Too concise, perhaps. But really death's door, with
John on the step, had been the last thing mentioned.

"What has what been?"

"What you told me. What's been the matter with John?"

"Peritonitis. But he's going on well now. Dr. Kitt says he'll have to
live very carefully for some time.... I know what you mean, but it's
very unfeeling to laugh. Besides, I don't believe he eats more than
other people." Challis felt indefensible. Just fancy!--there he was,
eating gravy soup all by himself!

"I wasn't laughing, old girl," said he. "Poor Jack Eldridge!
Peritonitis is no joke. I'll go round to-morrow."

"It won't be any use. He won't be able to see you. Yes--you can take
the soup, Harmood. Mr. Challis isn't going to have any more...."

A mere rough sample of the conversation. It was not unlike others of
the same sort on like occasions. But was Challis wrong in imagining
that, this time, it was a little accentuated! Was it only his
imagination, gathering suggestions from the atmosphere that his home
had been that of self-denying endurance during his absence, and that
his own selfish indulgences elsewhere were being actively forgiven for
his sake? What had he done to deserve forgiveness? If he had known that
he was incurring it, would he have committed the offence at all?

Also he did feel that Marianne hadn't played fair. What could have
been more genial than her send-off, three weeks ago?--more apparently
genuine than her refusal to accompany her husband to Royd on the ground
of a real dislike for Society? To be sure, a throb of conscience
reminded him of a certain breath of relief--almost--that he drew at the
decisiveness of this refusal. Had Marianne been sharp enough to see it?
His instinct told him that a woman might have a sharp department in
her mind on points of this sort, and yet make a poor show in logic and
mental philosophy.

The sense that he was a naughty boy that had been eating three-cornered
jam-tarts, and giving no one else any, hung about him, and made
him unlike himself. If only that abominable cabman had not spoiled
the part he had sketched out for himself on his first arrival, one
of exaggerated self-denunciation for his beastly selfishness, and
tragi-comical commiseration for Marianne as Penelope or Andromeda!
It would then have come so much easier to deliver that message from
Judith Arkroyd. And now! Just look at _now_! Now, when he actually
found himself fallen so low as to half-ask if he might smoke in the
drawing-room! Not quite, of course; that would have been too absurd!
But he said something or other, or Marianne would not have replied as
she did.

"As if I ever minded! How can you be so ridiculous!" This was good and
lubricative. But she spoilt it by adding that there was the little
ash-pan. Nevertheless, by the time the incense from her husband's
cigar, and an atmosphere of consolatory coffee, were bringing back the
flavour of a thousand and one post-prandial hours of peace in days gone
by, the malignant influence of that cabman began to lose its force,
and there was concession in the way she added: "I suppose you weren't
allowed to smoke in the drawing-room at Boyd's--Royd's--whatever it

"Royd. Cigarettes--yes! Hardly cigars. At least, nobody did it. The
young women smoked cigarettes."

"Those sort of people do it now. At least, Charlotte Eldridge says so.
_I_ don't know."

"Wish you'd smoke, Polly Anne! Have a cigarette now."

"Oh no!--I've tried often enough to know I don't like it. You must go
away to some of your Grosvenor Squares if you're not happy smoking by

Things were pleasanter. Why couldn't Challis let it alone, instead
of at once discerning an opportunity of delivering Judith's message?
To say, as he did, "No--I've had enough of the Grosvenor Squares for
some time to come," wasn't unblemished truth, but it was an excusable
stepping-stone under the circumstances, with poor dear slow Polly
Anne waiting for consolation. The mistake was in what followed. Our
own belief is he would have done much better to make a forget of that
message until his life was running again in a married channel. He began
badly for one thing. You should never say "By-the-bye!" in order to
introduce the thing uppermost in your mind.

"By-the-bye, Polly Anne, it won't do to forget that the young female
Grosvenor Square wants to call on you." To this Marianne made no
answer, and her husband had to add: "Miss Arkroyd--Judith!"

It became difficult not to answer. Marianne fidgeted. "I suppose she'll
have to come," she said.

"Well!--I suppose so." There was a shade of asperity in this. But what
followed softened it. "You know, really, Polly Anne darling, you'll
have to put up with the fascinating Judith a little, for the sake of
the play. Besides, she sent you such a very nice message."

"Very kind of her!" However, Mrs. Challis has quite her share of
human inquisitiveness, and if she wants to hear the message after her
sardonic speech, she must make concession. "What _was_ the very nice
message?" she asks grudgingly.

Perhaps Challis's powers of fiction made him able to imagine exactly
how he would have behaved if Judith Arkroyd had been merely a showy,
smart-set sort of a girl--or merely an intelligent young woman, without
a figure to speak of--or, still more merely, one of those excruciating
well-informed persons of importance phrenologically, but with no figure
at all. On this occasion he felt he knew exactly what his conduct would
have been had he undertaken an embassage from the merest of these
three--the last. And he modelled his conduct accordingly.

"Don't be miffy with the poor woman, Polly Anne," said he. He had
thought of "poor girl," but decided on something bonier, with hair
brushed on to the shape of the head, and a black dress. This refers, of
course, to the provisional lay-figure he elected to give his message

"The poor woman!" Marianne repeated, looking rather suspicious over
it. But the image of the lay-figure in his mind, telepathically
communicated, produced a certain softening, so he thought. He moved
from the bent wood rocking-chair he was smoking in to the sofa beside
his wife.

"I'll tell you exactly her message word for word," he said. He did so,
as from the lay-figure. And, indeed, he almost wished that fiction had
been a reality, as far as this message went. He could have sketched out
the proposed visit so much more easily, in his inmost mind; which was,
to say truth, incredulous about its turning out satisfactory to either
lady, their respective personalities being as supplied.

"I suppose she'll have to come," said Marianne drearily. "Why can't she
come when other people are here?"

"Because she wants to see _you_, my dear. She doesn't want to see the
other people."

"Why need I be in it at all? Can't you introduce her to Mr. Magnus, and
let them settle it between them?" For in his last letter Challis had
enlarged on the Aminta Torrington scheme, and his wife was quite _au
fait_ of the position so far.

He hummed and hawed, and flushed slightly. The removal of a column of
ash from his cigar seemed to absorb him for a moment. "I don't think
you quite see all the ins and outs of the situation, Polly Anne. Don't
you understand?..."

"Understand what?"

"Well--I'm sure Miss Arkroyd really wishes to know you. You see, I've
talked so much about you." This was not really a _true_ truth, for
conversation about Marianne had always been at Judith's instigation.
"But there are other considerations, apart from that...."

"What considerations?"

"Well, you know, we _do_ live in a world! Don't we now, Polly Anne?"

"I thought it was something of that sort. Charlotte Eldridge said it
would be."

"What did Charlotte Eldridge say? I wish she'd keep her tongue to

"But you're getting angry before you know what she _did_ say."

"No, I'm not! I mean I'm not getting angry at all. Why should I get
angry? Come, old girl, be reasonable! What did Charlotte Eldridge
say?" Nevertheless, it is clear that Mr. Challis is keeping his
temper--keeping it admirably, perhaps, but still, keeping it! His
wife's answer shows painfully how well she is keeping hers.

"Charlotte Eldridge said I should be wanted the moment I told her about
Aminta Torrington.... No!--it's no use pretending, Tite!... Besides,
I'm _not_ hurt. Why should I be? Only I don't see why there need be a
make-believe friendship between me and this young lady--and me to have
to put on my black silk, and a new Madeira cake--and to give Harmood
directions to say not at home! Charlotte Eldridge and I have talked it
all over...."

"Oh!--you've talked it all over?" Challis either is, or pretends to be,
inclined to laugh.

"Yes, we have. And you know how sensible Charlotte is about things of
this sort.... No, Titus, you can try to make what I say ridiculous, and
I dare say you'll succeed, but you know what a good friend Charlotte
has been to me from the beginning...." Marianne pulls up short suddenly
in the middle of her speech, with a suggestion in it of a tear corked
in at its source. She gets the cork well in, and ends with: "I won't
say any more about it. You shall arrange it just as you like your
own way"--but this with the amenability of a traction-engine making
concession to its handle.

Challis, who had felt it rather hard that a tearfulness derived from
tender memories of Mrs. Eldridge's loyalty in past years should
slop over into his department, became awake to the fact that brisk
strategy would be needed to prevent that cork coming out. "Come, I
say now, Polly Anne!" said he with jovial remonstrance. "Fancy you
and me falling out about a Grosvenor Square young lady!" He burst
out laughing, roundly. "We _have_ shot up in the world. My word!" He
got his arm round an unresponsive invertebrate waist, in spite of a
collision with a hook, which rather took the edge off his caress. Why
cannot ladies have some sort of little smooth tie, just at that point,
in case? It was a very slight blot on the scutcheon, however, and,
indeed, would have counted for nothing with Challis had not Marianne
offered him her mole to kiss instead of her lips. For she had a mole--a
small one, certainly--just on the cheek-bone. Now a liberal, unreserved
warmth in this act of the drama would have been invaluable. It would
have helped Challis to snap his fingers at whatever it was that was
taunting him with having effected for politic purposes a half-derision
of Judith as a Grosvenor Squarian--and that, too, after the cordial
message to his wife!

However, it was quite impossible to pretend--it would not be fair to
say admit--that they were quarrelling, after that. In fact, it was so
established an assumption that their old confidence was again on its
old footing, that Challis felt it would be ungenerous to Marianne to
change the subject for safety's sake. Besides, he wanted an answer to a

"You didn't tell me what it was Charlotte _did_ say, Polly Anne....
I dare say she was all right, you know." The use of her Christian
name alone was a concession--showed good-will. Speech is full of such

Marianne got up and broke a coal on the fire. She couldn't think of two
things at once, naturally. This made a pause before answering, and a
pretence of having omitted an answer because of the slightness of its
subject was plausible.

"Oh--Charlotte? It really was the merest talk by the way. She only said
it would keep people from talking nonsense."

"What would?"

"If the Grosvenor Square young lady and I were bosom friends. She was
joking, you know."

"I see what she meant," said Challis; and seemed to, reflectively. But
really he was crossing Mrs. Eldridge out of one or two passages in
his good books where her name still occurred. Confound her! Couldn't
she leave it to _him_ to instruct Marianne--who was much too slow to
find out anything for herself--on this point? However, it was best
to confirm her, on the whole. He continued: "Of course, if it were
thought that you and she were at daggers drawn, spiteful people would
say things. They always do if they get a chance. But what I look at is
that she _is_ Aminta Torrington. It's quite miraculous. You never saw
anything so happy." He quite forgot that lay-figure.

Marianne waived discussion of the dramatic aspect of the question. She
knew nothing about these things--was an outsider. But she seemed to
register concession on the main point. She supposed the young woman
must come, and she could tell Charlotte and Maria Macculloch and Lewis
Smithson to be sure not to call that day, and then Harmood could say
"not at home." Better make it Thursday, and get it over.

"Didn't Charlotte say anything else?" This was chiefly conciliation on
Challis's part. He did not wish to seem in a hurry to get away from
Mrs. Eldridge, or to resent her discussion of his affairs.

"Oh--she _talked_, of course! You mean when I saw her yesterday? Only
she was still so anxious about John."

"He'll be all right, won't he? Did you say peritonitis? Are you sure?
Because peritonitis is the dooce's own delight."

"The doctor says there is no occasion for the slightest uneasiness."
Whereupon Challis settled in his own mind that John Eldridge would
be spared to his wife and relatives, for the present at any rate.
Peritonitis inside a week, and no need for uneasiness at the end of
it! He allowed the medical report to lapse, and referred again to what
Charlotte had said. It certainly seemed, to judge by Marianne's reply,
"I thought she was quite mistaken, you know," that Charlotte _had_
"talked, of course," although she _was_ so uneasy about John.

"What about?" But he didn't want to seem to catechize, so he discovered
that his cigar--which he was quite half through--didn't draw well, and
lit another. Then he was able to say, "Let's see!--what were we talking
about? What Charlotte said." He resumed his place beside his wife, too
manifestly to receive the answer for her to withhold it.

"It was only general conversation, about what Miss Arkroyd's
family--with all their ideas--would think of her going on the stage."

"My dear! I must say I do wish you hadn't mentioned Miss Arkroyd to her
at all. I hope you made her understand she must be quiet about it?"

"Oh, _she_ won't mention it--except perhaps to John." Challis looked
alarmed. However, John couldn't talk much at present, even if
peritonitis only meant obstruction. "Besides, I didn't really tell
her anything. It was an accident. I showed her something else in your
letter a week ago, and by the merest chance she read it by mistake. It
wasn't her fault."

"Nor yours. I see! But what did she read?"

"Only where you said you would have to talk to the old boy about his
daughter's stage-mania ... nothing that could possibly do any harm."

Now, Challis's conscience had been uneasy about the part he was going
to play in helping Judith towards a secret arrangement which was sure
to outrage the feelings of her family. So, when he said "Oh!" to this,
he had to jump abruptly on to make it seem a casual, ordinary "Oh!" He
succeeded pretty well. "What was Charlotte's idea?" said he.

"The same idea, of course. As long as Sir Thingummy knew all about it,
no one could possibly blame _you_."

"I don't know that it's really my concern. I don't know that it's any
of our...." A pause here is due to his duty to syntax.... "I mean
to say--that it is the business of any one of us. Miss Arkroyd is no
chicken. In fact, I'm not sure that her age won't stand in her way--for
training, I mean. However, of course I shall take care that her family
knows all about it." Challis's voice sounded well in his own ears, and
he was convinced that no fault could be found with his behaviour so
far. As to anyone saying he should not have made the promise about Mr.
Magnus of the Megatherium while he was a trusted guest at Royd, that
was sheer nonsense. He felt quite nettled with Marianne for saying,
"Oh, haven't you done it?" But he wasn't going to prolong discussion
about it.

He felt nettled, too, with himself for feeling, when Marianne left him
to read, before going to bed, the letters that had come for him--with
a charge to him not to make a noise when he came up--nettled for
feeling that he had got through the evening well, which was absurd;
and that to do so he had assumed a certain roughness in reference to
Judith, to accentuate his equable indifference to her personally,
which was absurder. What was it all about?--was the question he asked
himself. And then another that arose from it naturally, What was _what_
all about? The distraction afforded by a handful of miscellaneous
correspondence gave him an excuse for ignoring the latter question,
which, indeed, seemed to him the more unanswerable of the two.

One thing, however, he was glad of having achieved. Marianne would
write that letter, he felt sure. Only he would just keep his eye on her
to see that she did it. He would not have to write to Judith, "Please
don't come and see my wife!" in any form, transparent or otherwise.

For anything the story shows at this point, Alfred Challis and Marianne
might have tided over any little difficulties arising out of the visit
to Royd, if they had only been judiciously let alone. It was those
blessed Peacemakers!



Lizarann Coupland used to wonder how ever Daddy could go out in the
cold and stop all day. It was noble of him to do so in the public
service--that was how Lizarann thought of it. For she believed the
insinuations embodied in song by "the boys" in Tallack Street to be
malicious falsehoods, and as for "the boy" whose aunt sold fried eels
and winkles next door to the shop where her father purchased his
shaving-soap, she only hoped that a good basting her own aunt wished to
give to the whole clanjamfray of 'em--meaning boys generally--might be
concentrated on the unsheltered person of this particular boy. She had
improved her acquaintance with him, and had come to the conclusion that
for presumption and self-conceit, for ill manners and very doubtful
good feeling, that boy was without a parallel.

During the whole of this acquaintance it had never occurred to Lizarann
to ask this boy's name. And but yesterday she had committed the
tactical error of surrendering her own christened name in exchange
for peppermint drops. The moment of the present writing is a deadly
afternoon in January, gettin' on for four, but that dark you'll have to
light the gas in the end, and may just as well do it at once. The place
is the one spoken of in an earlier chapter as Vatted Rum Corner, and
that boy is a settin' on the rilin' eatin' of four 'ot chestnuts off
of Mrs. Groves's bikin' trye, for a 'ape'ny, and to be allowed to warm
your fingers at the grite. He had had to make room for other customers.

Lizarann came up cold, and envied the feast. The boy was a
self-indulgent boy, or seemed so. For he only said, "These four's for
me, bought and paid for, square. You git some for yourself, orf of
Mother Groves. Two for a farden's _your_ figger, Aloyzer." And then he
sketched a clog-dance on the hard-trodden snow of the pavement, with a
mouth quite full of chestnuts.

Lizarann felt the heartlessness of his attitude. Yesterday he had
cajoled her into an admission that her name was Lizarann by offering
peppermint drops. _Now_ he had nothing to gain by an offer of
chestnuts, and kept them all himself! She happened to be in funds, and
could have purchased four for a 'ape'ny, and in that case would as like
as not have given that boy one, as an exemplar towards generosity. But
at the moment a higher interest claimed her attention. He knew her
name, and she didn't know his. An iniquity, clearly! How could she
remedy it?

Now Lizarann had contrived, childwise, a curious idea about her name.
It may have originated in a chant she herself had joined in frequently,
merely for the sake of the music:

    "Oh fie--fie for shame!
    Everybody knows your name."

But it certainly had acquired its full force from an expression made
use of by her Aunt Stingy, who had spoken of a young person as having
"lost her good name." What the young person was called by her friends,
afterwards, was a problem Lizarann had given a good deal of thought
to. And she was now unable to dissociate the young person's position
altogether from her own. If her name had not been lost as a necessary
implement of social intercourse with the world at large, it at least
had been surrendered with no _per contra_, in the case of an immoral
and worthless member of it. But she felt that, could she become
possessed of _his_ name, as a set-off, the balance of righteousness
would be adjusted. And she was much more anxious about this than about
the chestnuts.

"What's your nime?" said she, after self-commune which suggested no
less trenchant way of approaching the subject.

The boy paused in the clog-dance. "Moses," said he. And then went on as

"Nuffint elst no more than Moses?"

"That's tellin's." The boy said this absently, and did some more steps.
Then he simulated a graceful subsidence of the dance, ending in an
attitude that seemed to acknowledge the applause of a delighted throng.
But a commercial possibility had presented itself. "What'll you stand,"
said he, "for to be told my name, and no lies?" This seemed mercenary;
but then, had not Lizarann herself surrendered hers for a deal? Why
condemn him?

No!--Lizarann lived in a glass house, and wouldn't throw stones. But
she would make conditions. "Real nime all froo," she said. "Moses is
lyin' stories!" For, you see, this was a crafty boy, and might consider
the concession of a true surname alone would discharge his obligations
under the contract.

"Then on'y Moses," said he; and began an encore--presumably, as it was
the same dance. But he was not too preoccupied by it to take off the
shell of his fourth chestnut, and when he had done so he smelt it, with
disappointment. For it was mouldy. An idea struck him, and he acted on

"Marcy me, no!" said Mother Groves of the chestnuts when requested by
him to 'and over a good un, fair and no cheating. "The riskis lies with
the buyers. Where 'ud I be, in half the time, at that rate?"

"Then I'll 'ave the law of yer. Just see if I don't." He danced again,
and this time his dance seemed to express confidence in his solicitor.
But presently he stopped, and offered a composition: "You lookee here,
Missis Groves," he said. "I'll 'and you back the mouldy one, onbit-into
and closin' over the busted shell, acrost a clean new un, and I'll take
another highp'orth off you, and pay square. If that ain't fair, nothin'
ain't! But you got to look sharp, or the chance'll be gone."

Mother Groves rejected the chance. "It ain't consideration enough to go
again' the rules on, and me to take my 'ands out in the perishing cold.
Make it a penn'orth and pick yourself, all exceptin' the three top."

"Hin't got no penny! Feel in my porket and see. It's open to yer to
feel. There hin't no horbstickle. Here's a highp'ny and the bloomin'
nut, shell and all. Mike your mind up!"

But Mrs. Groves's mind _was_ made up, apparently. The boy then
suggested that his motives had been the prosperity of trade,
throughout; he was, in fact, or said he was, full up till dinner-time.
So he must have been dining late, recently.

At this point Lizarann made a proposal. She, too, had a halfpenny, and
was ready to pool this halfpenny with the boy's, and give him sole
enjoyment of the extra chestnut, but only on one condition. He must
tell his name, and no lies.

Mrs. Groves brought her hands out in the perishing cold--pathetic old
hands, a young girl's once--and made two even groups of four nuts
each. Then, leave being giv', the boy chose the compensation nut; only
he took his time like a young 'Eathen as he was. Then Mrs. Groves,
as assessor and umpire, required his name as a preliminary to final

"'Orkins. Frederick. Frederick 'Orkins. Could have told yer it wasn't
Moses any day of the week! 'And over!" And thereon he and Lizarann each
had four bloomin' nuts, so 'ot you couldn't 'ardly 'andle 'em.

"I shall keep mine for my daddy, and keep 'em 'ot too," said Lizarann.
She placed them nearest her heart, and felt that it was good to do so.
They was a'most too 'ot, in the manner of speaking; but then a small
undergarment protected her, when discreetly scroozled up fluffy.

"You best 'ide 'em well up," said Frederick Hawkins. "Here's a coarper
comin' along. Don't you let 'em make no show, or he'll get his 'and on

But he only said this to perplex and annoy, and create unnecessary
panic; and Lizarann knew that, every bit as well as we do. So she
merely said: "Jimmy 'Acker can foight _you_," and enjoyed the warmth
fearlessly. Her daddy's stick was not audible yet, coming along by the
wall. He was late to-day. Lizarann's orders were to wait at the corner
till she heard it, and then call "Pilot," that he might know she was
waiting for him, and be happy. For he always had pangs of doubt that
he might not meet her this time. Think of that little thing--for he
knew how small she was still, by the feel, though there was no one
to tell him what she was like to look at--think of her coming along
that crowded street alone, to meet her daddy! She for her part had no
misgivings about _his_ coming. "Never you fear for me, lassie," he had
said. And _he_ knew, Law bless you!

"I'll Jimmy 'Acker _'im_!" said Frederick Hawkins boastfully. "I could
'tend on two like 'im at wunst. How old do you make him?" Which showed
the vaingloriousness of his character, for clearly he knew nothing
about Jimmy Hacker.

Lizarann couldn't commit herself to the age of the latter. But she
could to his bulk and prowess. "He's thicker than you," she said, and
added, with recollection of a combatant defeated by Jimmy Hacker: "He
can foight a boy twelve next birthday."

"Then he ain't any so much to count on. I don't go by ages. Weights
is what I go by. Any number o' stun I can foight, up to eight stun
seven. You tell 'im to keep indoors, or I'll fetch him somethin' for to
rek'lect me by. You see!"

But Mother Groves interposed to rebuke and check this inflated and
defiant spirit. "Don't you pay no attention to that boy, my dear," said
she to Lizarann. "He's that full of lip there's no placin' no reliance
on a word he says. If I was his mother I should know just where he
wanted a good canin'. Ah!--and he'd get it too, night or mornin'. A
young cock-sparrer _I_ call him, and if he don't come by a bad end
it'll be a moral. Ah!--wait till I find out where your mother lives,
and see." Mrs. Groves worked rising indignation into her speech, after
the manner of her class. Even so the Choctaw or Cherokee stimulates
himself to battle-point. But Frederick Hawkins remained unmoved.
He knew the old woman couldn't ketch holt upon him. He became most
offensive, assuming a nasal drone with an approach to a chant.

"I got a widdered mother. She keeps a fish-shop. And I ain't a-goin',
neither, for to tell you where." He threw a reminiscence of his
previous dance into this.

Now Lizarann knew perfectly well that the fish-shop was next door to
where her daddy bought his shaving-soap. But she wasn't going to tell.
No nice little boy or girl ever tells. The particulars kept back on
principle may relate to young cock-sparrows on whom no reliance can be
placed, or to mere heathens--as in the present instance--but as for
acquaintin' their parents, guardians, or other responsible grown-up
persons, what they done, or anything likely to lead to conviction--who
ever heard of such a thing? Even the London servant class retains this
one trace of an honourable usage. It won't tell.

Mother Groves merely referred to the ease of discovering fish-shops;
especially when localized, as this one practically was, by the constant
presence round her corner of a heathen residing there. She then gave
all her attention to the conservation of vital heat; and it was needed,
for her poor old clothes were thin on her poor old body. It wasn't
'ardly a reg'lar bad day, not to call it so, but it was a frost that
was going to give a lift to the plumbin' trade, and do a rare lot of
good that way. For the only good that can come now to this world is
evidently through the destruction of something it has worked at the
making of in years past, in order that people who have little may have
to pay people who have less to do a bit of repairs to it, so that it
won't want no lookin' to again, not yet awhile.

Can we wonder?--we who have read, for instance, of the revived
prosperity of ship-building, shown by the putting down on the stocks
of several new ... destroyers? But never mind this!--pardon it and get
back to the story and the degrees of frost at Vatted Rum Corner.

It wasn't so bad then, not when once you was out in it; it had been
a tidy sight worse two days ago, afore it froze so hard underfoot;
why--the busses couldn't keep goin', and a 'orse fell down so soon as
ever you got him on his feet! And as for cabs, they wouldn't set foot
outside of the yard, because where was the use? You couldn't stiddy
yourself on your feet, not unless there was cenders on the track, or
thored with boiling water.

Lizarann bore it bravely, in spite of chilblains and a blue complexion.
Frederick Hawkins was blue; but either his heathenism or some other
attribute enabled him to bear the cold defiantly. "It ain't freezin'
here," said he, denying the obvious. "Hicey cold it was Bart'sey Park
Sunday. The hice makes it cold 'acos of the skatin'." And Lizarann
accepted this view of cause and effect. She might have disputed it had
she not been beginning to feel uneasy about her daddy.

"Why, child, don't ye go along to'ards meetin' him? He'll be comin',
I lay." Thus Mother Groves. And the boy added: "Why don't yer 'ook
it along down to the Rilewye, to see for yourself? You 'ook it! 'Ook
it orf! I'm tellin' of yer." But Lizarann only stood on her two feet
alternately, and hugged the dying heat of the chestnuts. They wouldn't
be no good for daddy. Alas!

"I was tolded not to do it," said she. "Yass!"

Mrs. Groves approved. "Quite right, my dear, not to disobey your
parents. But your daddy he'll come, you'll see."

But Frederick Hawkins had another code of morals. "I'd disobey my
parents if I had any to speak on. If I'd a dozen on 'em, I'd disobey
the bilin'." Mrs. Groves pointed out that by doing this Frederick would
be brought into collision with his Creator, and dwelt on the impolicy
of such an action. But he continued obdurate.

"I'd disobey the kit on 'em. You'd see, if you kep' your eye open."
Then, addressing Lizarann, he added: "You give me a chestnut, and
_I'll_ disobey your parents for yer. You jist try! See if I don't!"
Then, when Lizarann timidly produced the chestnut, in great doubt of
whether her action was justifiable, he added: "See if I ain't back
again afore yer know where y' are," and, after a slight preliminary
quick-step or double-shuffle, fled away into the growing dusk.

"You keep your sperrits up, child," said Mother Groves. And, as is
usual when one hears that one's spirits want keeping up, Lizarann's
went down. But she felt the old lady's goodwill, and went and stood
close up to her, taking care to choose the side away from the
roasting-box, lest she should seem simply seeking warmth. However,
she was soon invited round to the other side. The warmth made her

"My daddy he's been to sea," she said. "Only in real ships, and come
home again. The Flying Dutchman she _never_ come home." This did not
explain itself to Mrs. Groves. She drew a false inference.

"She went to the bottom, I lay. And all aboard of her belike. Lord be
good to us!"

Lizarann shook her head. "Not the Dutchman. She's afloat, every
spar on her,"--she religiously gave Jim's exact words, with a sense
of saying a lesson--"and to stop afloat till the Lord comes to judge
sinners from repentance." She got a little confused here, but it
sounded good, and her hearer was impressed.

"Now only 'ark at that!" said she. "I'd 'a said you was a God-fearin'
child. And you may never need doubt but it's all true, my dear!" Mrs.
Groves, perhaps, was prepared to ascribe truth to any narrative that
had a religious phrase or two in it; still, she was probably impressed
with the little person's manner, for she referred to Frederick Hawkins,
in contrast. "Now, that young Turk, he's no respect, and won't come to
no good end, I lay."

But Lizarann didn't want the conversation coaxed away from the Flying
Dutchman. "Daddy _seen_ her, himself," she said fervently; and then,
resuming the lesson-manner: "Every stitch o' sail on her set in a
three-quarter gale freshenin' from the south. And the look-out forward,
he seen her too. And Job Collins, he seen her. And Marmaduke Flyn, he
seen her. And Peter Cortright, he seen her." All these were essential
items of the often-told tale.

Mother Groves's hearing was none of the best; so when she condemned
the time-honoured legend as outlandish and French, it may be she had
really supposed that some of the expressions were in a foreign tongue,
any variety of which she would naturally consider French, failing
instruction to the contrary. But Lizarann's reference to the Lord,
to sinners, and to repentance, was strong enough in itself to keep
suspicions of Voltaire and Tom Paine in abeyance. Mrs. Groves therefore
allowed the story to continue, and felt fortified against the heresies
abounding on the Continent by the approved religious bias of the

"Peter Cortright and Marmaduke Flyn they was both on the mainyard
reefin', alongside o' my daddy, and Job Collins he was aft by the
binnacle. Then Peter Cortright he sings out to my daddy to look; and
my daddy he looked and seen her, carryin' all sail afore the wind. And
then, no more time than what you says budget in, she was agone away,
out o' sight." A pause came here, for dramatic impressiveness. Then
followed, for reinforcement of testimony: "But Job Collins, he seen
her, too, plain!"

Mrs. Groves only said, "My sakes, now!--to think of that." But rather
as a courtesy to the narrator. She would no doubt have followed her
meaning better if thawed indoors before a nice warm fire. She certainly
could not, or did not, admit to her mind a comparison that surely hung
on the outskirts of the tale--a parallel between that moment on the
great sea, and _now_! To think of it all! Of the three reefers out on
the yard, struggling with the mighty wind; of the rising seas whose
crested foam it blew to spray; of its voice as it whistled through
the drenched cordage, and made a whisper of the sailor's shout to his
mate, that spoke of the ship he saw out yonder--the ship that, whatever
she really was, was to become the Flying Dutchman in the memories of
all the three! And then to think of what that child--that almost baby
girl--told about her as she nestled, welcome enough, to the side of
the old soul that had spent her last decade selling, in the London
Streets, the chestnuts that had ripened in the southern sun, above the
slopes the vines grew on. To think of the sordid and darkened lives,
closed round in the intolerable hive of their own contriving, so
stunted and suborned to a spurious contentment as never to long for an
escape; so strange to the meaning of the word "rejoicing" as to find
a version of it in the filth-house at the corner; whose swing-door,
to say the truth, the little maid looks rather enviously at as it
opens and closes, letting out the vapid bawlings from the human fools
within into the silence of the streets, and suggesting jolly bad ale
and new to the cold and empty passer-by! To think of the millions near
at hand, all sunless beneath the great black pall that has for weeks
past shrouded their visible world, but has left them unchoked as yet
and confident, and even a little boastful--Heaven knows why!--of some
strange indefinite advantages carbon and sulphur confer on those who
can breathe them and live.

No two items of the parallels could be more unlike, surely, than
the reefers out on the yard in the great sea wind, and such chance
wayfarers as are to be seen now--few enough, for all who can keep
indoors prefer to do so--making the best of their slippery way home,
let us hope, to the native joint and vegetables and rice-pudding.
Certainly--so one would have said--none more unlike than those of this
approaching crowd, close on the heels of three policemen in charge of a
wheeled ambulance, hand-driven, working slowly along the least slippery
part of the road. And most unlike of all, surely, the human burden,
sot or reprobate perhaps, that the closed curtain of the ambulance
hides from us. But he would have been wrong who said so. For it was Jim
himself that was inside that ambulance, and he ought by rights to have
come along that road on his feet.

"You lie still, my good feller. The doctor he'll see to you." The
policeman who says this to the interior of the ambulance says it as one
to whom any form of poll-parrotting--that is to say, human speech--is
distasteful. He slaps his gloves for warmth, as he walks beside the
ambulance. He is a reserve man, who has come out in charge of it. But a
moment after he listens again; there may be exceptions, after all, to a
rule of universal glum silence! What is this ambulance case saying?

"It ain't for myself, master. It's for my little lass. She comes for to
fetch me home to the Green Man ... house at the corner ... very nigh
to us now, as I take it...." Jim's voice is bad, and he is speaking
against pain, gallantly. A subordinate constable says, "That's so,
too!" and this confirmation reinforces Jim, who goes on, recognizing
the voice: "Your mate, he knows her. You'll tell her, master. I'll
trust ye for a good man ... there's only a little bit of harm done ...
say I've had worse happen many a time afore...." But Jim is at the end
of his tether. His voice goes faint. His instruction was clear, though.

"See for the child, Clancy," says the first officer. "And tell 'em
at the bar to send out a small brandy." Clancy goes on ahead. He is
a person incapable of feeling surprise, so when he meets a potboy
approaching with a glass of brandy, he makes no useless inquiries, but
merely points backward towards the approaching ambulance.

The potboy carries the brandy on, and the officer gets it down Jim's
throat somehow. "Very smart of you, Thomas," says he, inventing a
name for the potboy, a complete stranger to him. "Nothin' like being

But Thomas disclaims any credit for himself. His action was, he
affirms, due to instructions transmitted to him by a young customer.
His report is: "He cuts in and he says, says he, p'leece accident, he
says. Pickford's waggon gone over a bloke, he says. You cut along out
with a nip o' brandy for a stimilant, he says. That's what the orficer
says, he says. And off he goes!" As the brandy is consumed, it clearly
will be a good contribution to taciturnity to say nothing about it.
Moreover, the potboy, miscalled Thomas, conveys that his governor, at
the Man, is not a blooming screw; and that the brandy ain't worth going
to law about. The officer suggests, however, that a second nip would
not be unwelcome to himself, and would bring the total up to the point
of being chargeable to the Force.

There is time for all this, as a case of this sort must be carried
gently, apart from the fact that the slippery road makes caution
necessary. And by the time the ambulance reaches the corner Lizarann
is sticking to loyally, mindful to the last of her promise never to go
beyond where it was wrote up "Old Vatted Rum," her first tendency to
break into panic-stricken sobs, on hearing that her daddy has had an
accident, is already well under control; the policeman Clancy, whom
she knows by sight, and has even spoken with, and who therefore is
trustworthy, having told her that her daddy will soon come round, and
never be a penny the worse.

"Now _you're_ going to be a good little girl, ain't you, and not make
a shine?" Thus the policeman, on vernacular lines, supposed to be
soothing to the excitable. And Mother Groves, partly in deference to
a uniform, adds: "You do like the gentleman tells you, my dear, and
go along where he says!" This suggests to Clancy, who had at first
intended to limit himself to negative injunctions, to say: "Yes, you
run along home, little miss, and tell 'em your daddy's being took
proper care of."

But the terrified scrap, blue with the cold, half-choked with the
hysterical gasps she is fighting against so bravely, as bidden, sees a
deadlier possibility still before her in her arrival at home without
her daddy. It was the dread of having to tell, more than the fear of
being accounted the responsible culprit, that kept her glued to the
spot. She was docility itself towards constituted authorities of all
sorts, but now her feet simply would not move. Oh, what a huge relief
it was when the other policeman, him along of the hospital-barrer,
said: "Ketch that kid, some of you, and bring her along this way! Can't
wait here all day!" He slammed his hands one across the other very
hard, not only to procure circulation, but to express promptitude.

The kid didn't want any bringing. She was across the road and beside
the ambulance before the instruction to catch her could be obeyed.
"You'll do your daddy more harm than good, that way!" said the
hand-slapper, stopping short. Lizarann's first instinct, to scramble
up the hospital-barrer--to get at her daddy on any terms--had to be
combated on his behalf. "Peck the child up, and 'old her acrost the
edge," suggests the potboy from "The Man." The constable remarks, "Some
o' the public'll be feeling dry by now, and nobody to serve 'em! You
best carry that empty glass back, Thomas." But he accepts Thomas's
suggestion, and Lizarann is grateful to the strong hands that pick
her up to kiss her daddy's face. Was it really his?--she thinks to
herself, as they put her down again out of her father's sight, below
the couch-rim of the ambulance. She can't speak; he can.

"Ye never cried 'Pi-_lot_' little lass." How hard he tried to make
his voice cheerful, and how well he succeeded, too!--mere mass of
breathless pain that he was. The least word a man can speak over whom a
waggon has passed, crushing both legs, will show the constitution of a
giant behind it, even if it is followed perforce by a groan; and Jim
suppressed even that. Were not those his little lass's lips that had
just touched his cheek? She, poor child, could only say "Daddy!" or mix
it with a sob. Which of the two Jim heard, who can say? But just at
that moment the nip of brandy began to tell, and Jim was able to make
a great effort. "Never you fret, little lass," he said. "The ship's
doctor, he'll make a square job of my leg. You run away home and say
I'm took proper care of." What Lizarann's daddy said was to be done was
the thing to do, past doubt, and nothing else could be right. Lizarann
started straight for home.

Poor Jim!--he knew what he was and where he was well enough. But he
couldn't find his words right. So he talked of the ship's doctor,
knowing all the while that the surgeon of the Z division was going to
attend to his leg. As to the extent of his hurt and how it came about,
he knew almost as little as the story does, so far. All he was sure
of was that he lost his bearings after leaving his precious board at
the barber's shop, was shouted at to stand clear, didn't stand clear,
and was overwhelmed by what he should have stood clear of, and knocked
silly. Beyond that, the little that had reached him, since he recovered
consciousness, related so much to the prophetic certainty of its
speakers that what had happened had been sure to happen, and they could
have foreseen it any day, that it made him little the wiser. And what
the crash had left of his faculties was too actively employed about his
child to feel curious about the details of the accident.

       *       *       *       *       *

Lizarann's first information about it, as she completed the legend
of the Flying Dutchman to Mother Groves, was from the boy Hawkins,
who came running to report the disaster, just as she was standing
cross-examination on her first deposition. Instead of coming straight,
he just in at one door of the ale 'us, and out at the other, like you
might have said, only half a minute between! He then come crassin'
over--this was Mrs. Groves's experience--and queer he looked, causing
Lizarann to ask, "Ain't my daddy there?" in alarm. To which his
reply was alarming and ambiguous: "Oh ah!--he's _there_ all right
enough--wot there is of him." He did not improve this by beginning, in
a throat-clearing, gasping way, like a boy whose speech has lost its
orientation, "I say, Missis...." Whereat Lizarann, in growing terror,
broke into hysterical sobs, and would have started in her despair
along the forbidden way, if the sad procession with the ambulance had
not appeared, and chilled her to the marrow. She could hear the boy,
greatly relieved by the appearance of direct evidence of what had
happened, saying that there was nothing to make a hollerin' about; it
was only a haccident, and wot could you expect, a day like this? His
anxiety to minimize the evil did credit to a human heart that seemed,
in spite of appearances to the contrary, to underlie his Asiatic
nature. He was even attempting further exhortation towards fortitude
when the policeman came up, and he vanished.

In a very few minutes all were gone but Mother Groves and the chestnut
stove, in the yellow gloom of the growing fog, waiting for the grandson
of the former to come and see to the gettin' of 'em both home. As the
old woman looked back on the event, it presented itself to her as an
accident, and the accident had been took to the Hospital. That was all.
On'y, that poor little thing! But Mrs. Groves soon forgot her, and was
back on a great problem of her life--would the stove last out her time,
with a bit of patching now and again? It had been that patched already,
and was near falling to pieces. And when her grandson come, late, she'd
a'most forgotten the accident. There now, she declared if she hadn't!

       *       *       *       *       *

Lizarann pattered on as hard as she could go, so many steps to a sob,
until she got to Dartley Street, and then she heard, behind her, the
boy Frederick Hawkins, out of breath. "You ain't any call for to
watercart, young un," said he. His manner was superior and offensive,
but Lizarann felt that benevolent intention combined in it with
masculine dignity. Still, protest was called for.

"I hin't a-cryin'!" she said. "On'y my d-daddy--he's t-took to the
Hospital!" It was too dreadful, put into words, and Lizarann broke down
over it.

"Who do yer call the worse by that? _He_ ain't, not he!" This boy
means well. His better nature is roused, but he has no mode of speech
that is not truculent or threatening. He softens a little, though,
as he becomes communicative: "Why, I had two uncles and a aunt, flat
they was, under a street-roller! And they just off with 'em to the
Horspital, and, my eyes and witals!--you should a' seen 'em no better
than a fortnit after! Singin' they wos!"

Lizarann disbelieved this story, but not because of the main incident.
It was the singing that stuck in the gizzard of her credulity. Uncles
and aunts never sang. They might be raised from the dead; may not
Lazarus have had a niece? But _singing_!--no! She merely summarized her
views, not arguing the point: "They never sang nuffint."

A proud spirit brooks no contradiction. "Ain't I tellin' of yer?" said
the Turk indignantly. He adduced corroborative evidence. "Why!--warn't
a boy-makes-his-livin'-by-daily-journals-I-knows's father's corpse
h'isted up out of a shore and took to the Horspital stone-dead with
the un'olesome atmosphere and fetched to? And dined off of nourishin'
food the same evening, and rezoomed work on the Monday?" Meeting no
expression of doubt of this case, he adduced another, more calmly.
"Likewise Tom Scott, as 'arf killed Parker for five pounds a side, he
picked up six of his teeth he'd knocked out, he did; and he run after
him to the Horspital, he did; and they stuck 'em in again for Mr.
Parker, they did, as good as new. They can do most _anythin'_." So it
appeared. And the cases gained greatly in credibility by the Turk's
obviously true recitation of maturer ideas than his own in the language
of seniors. It was like Lizarann's own tale of the Flying Dutchman;
and she felt it so, and found solace accordingly. She hoped the Turk
would go all the way with her, to give moral support, and repeat his
experience. You see, this Turk was, to her vision, big, authoritative,
and mature. He did not present himself to her as an impident young
sprat, in want of local smacking. Which no doubt would have been Mrs.
Steptoe's view of him had he come all the way. But he forsook Lizarann
at the top of Tallack Street, leaving her grateful to him, all the
more for his narration of how he heard the blooming copper say a nip
o' brandy wouldn't be amiss as a stimilant, and he told 'em at the
Green Man. He added that he expected to be proarsecuted for telling
of 'em--recalling a little the saying of the third Napoleon, that the
Human Race always crucifies its Messiahs.

So there stands Lizarann trembling on the doorstep, after jumping up to
the knocker to strike it back and leave it to execute a single knock by
itself, and watching the great white flakes of snow that are beginning
to fall at their leisure--no hurry--plenty of time yet for three inches
deep of them and their mates before the milk comes in the morning!



Lizarann could not shut her eyes to the difference between Aunt Stingy,
as she anticipated her on the doorstep, and the Police Force, according
to her last impression of it. Her aunt's was not a bosom she could fly
to for solace in her trouble--well! no more was that of the Force,
if you insist on literalness up to the hilt; but metaphorically she
would far sooner have had recourse to the latter than the former. She
did not, however, expect penalties this time if she could get in her
explanation; but she had doubts whether the shortness of her aunt's
temper would allow of its development at sufficient length to be

She tried to think of some quick thing to say that would at once reveal
her daddy's mishap and the cause of her return without him. But she
should have done it before that sepulchral single knock had shown
the executive power of the knocker, and brought out by contrast the
footless, hoofless, wheelless silence of Tallack Street. Now that its
summons to open had been delivered, the poor little shivering author
of it could think of nothing at all. She might have done so, though,
as far as time went, for she had to repeat her knock after a pause
her terror made to seem short; while to her eagerness for any human
voice--even Uncle Bob's--it seemed awfully long. But, as it turned out,
the best she could have thought of would have been of little use.

The second knock brought about a shuffling in the house that fluctuated
a moment, threatened to subside as it had begun, then seemed to decide
on action, and approached the door--but heavily, being palpably Uncle
Bob, whose mission seemed to be considered complete by the household
when he had stood the door on the jar, and left it, without waiting to
see who had knocked. Of course, it could only have been Jim and the
child. So it looked as if Mr. Steptoe had decided that his duty was
discharged by removing obstacles to their entry, and leaving them to
close the door their own way. He'd stood the candle down and just left
it to gutter in the passage, when Lizarann got inside of the house.
There was something gone wrong there, too, evidently.

As her uncle was in the habit of using the adjectives popular in
his class rather freely, Lizarann was not surprised when, supposing
himself to be addressing her father, and asking him to "shet to that
door and keep the cold out of the house," he prefixed one open to many
objections to each of his three substantives. But she was surprised
at the tone of his voice, which chattered in gusts, as though control
over it went and came, and at the way he was crouching over the fire.
He had spoken to her father as Jim, and evidently was taking him for
granted--had grasped no facts.

"Please, where's Aunt Stingy?" The child could think of no better thing
to say. Something was altogether too wrong with her uncle. She could
see he was shaking. All things were all wrong clearly, and the world a

"In her bed, mayhap!--shamming ill, I take it." Then he raised his
voice, but never looked round: "Jim!--why can't you shut up that
da-da-damned d-d-door and come inside?" He had a fair convulsion over
those words, more like the chattering fit that sometimes comes before a
bad attack of sea-sickness than the effects of ordinary cold. Many may
not know this sort.

"Father ain't here," was all Lizarann could say.

"Then shet to the damned door till he comes." He could say this and
never look round, or notice the sob-broken voice, all a-strain with its
terrors, of the little speaker. If he had only cursed her for crying,
it would have sounded sane by comparison. Lizarann wished herself back
in the street, with the Turk. And how happy those few minutes seemed
now, when she did not know about daddy, and was telling Mother Groves
about the Flying Dutchman!

She could only stand speechless and utterly terrified at the oddity
of her uncle's manner--she well knew his ordinary one, of being in
the liquor he was never out of--and was just on the point of mere mad
screaming or starting to run God knows where, when the voice of Aunt
Stingy came from her bedroom above, also with alarm in it. "Jim, can't
you hear, you fool? Leave him to himself, I tell you. He's had the
horrors." Aunt Stingy seemed to imply that the horrors, whatever they
were, would subside of themselves.

Ill has a fixed point in the minds of young children--a simple maximum
it reaches and never goes beyond. Lucky for them that it is so! For a
step further would kill. Lizarann's mind could be dragged no farther
along the road of terrors that leads maturer lives to self-slaughter
or the madhouse. Or it may be some pitying angel wrapped her small soul
in a merciful stupefaction, that it might live. For when her aunt's
voice came again, peevish and impatient, but without sense of any very
abnormal conditions, she was able to answer, "Yass, Aunt Stingy," but
not very audibly.

"Why can't you answer when I speak? I tell you, let him bide. He's
best to himself, and he's had all what liquor there was.... Can't you
answer?... Fetchin' me down!..."

The child understood her aunt's context, for all its elisions. To
propitiate, she ran upstairs. A descent in wrath, portended by an
exaggerated foot-tramp, was averted by her words: "D-daddy ain't come
b-back--he ain't!"

"Why couldn't you speak?--little hussy! _You're_ a child to have in a
house. When's he coming?"

"He _ain't coming_! Yass--he _ain't_! He's took to the doctor on a
barrer. Yass--he _is_!" And Lizarann, whose small hands, cold and blue,
are all tremor and visible unrest from panic, would like to run, but
dares not. She has worded her awful message, though. That is something,
however much Aunt Stingy may doubt its truth.

"Who's to know you ain't lying? Who's to know he ain't in at the
Robin Hood? Now, if you're story-tellin'...!" A bony warning finger
should have been enough without any further details of the penalties
of falsehood. A reference to a flagellum that had once been inherent
in a discarded pair of the speaker's stays--an incredible wooden
lathe--ought to have been quite superfluous. But Mrs. Steptoe had had
great trials, to excuse her short temper.

However, nothing can alter the facts; and Lizarann can only repeat
her statement. Daddy had been took away on the p'leece barrer, with
curtings; and his leg was hurt. But the doctor was at the Horspital.
This was felt, and offered, as a palliative. Surely it deserved better
recognition than, "And why couldn't the child tell me all this before?
Keeping me standin' here!" very wrathfully fired off at poor Lizarann.
She _had_ told it, and at the earliest possible moment. What could she
do more?

Aunt Stingy's reception of the story, which was less _émotionné_ than
Lizarann had expected, had its good side. Perhaps the presumptuous
boy's description of the powers of Hospitals was not all fanciful, and
her aunt's wider experience knew that in a short time daddy would be
back home again; not only well and sound, but even better and sounder.
Lizarann extracted consolation from her aunt's half callous hearing of
her news, without closely analyzing it. Probably Mrs. Steptoe would
have been more sympathetic if her own cup of bitterness, like her
small niece's, had not been full to the brim already. But sympathy
would have intensified Lizarann's solicitude about her father; the fact
that the news could be apathetically received by anyone, even Aunt
Stingy, fortified her. It may even be that she was braced by her own
keen feeling of the injustice her aunt did her in apparently ascribing
her father's disaster to her, when really she was only the innocent
and most unwilling bearer of the news of it. That, however, was Mrs.
Steptoe's attitude. "There's a many'd 'a said you didn't deserve no
supper," said she, and claimed a weak good-nature as a quality of her
own. She hustled Lizarann into her father's bedroom, with needless
collateral pushes in wrong directions, and the admonition, "Don't let
me catch you in the parlour, or you'll know of it. Starin' round!" Her
truculence, no doubt, had something of a safety-valve character, and
she may have thought that the youth of its object would remain ignorant
of its full stress, while she herself had the whole advantage of the
relief it gave. But really the child understood more than she ascribed
to her, and felt its injustice, tempered by the broad consideration
that it was only Aunt Stingy.

Mere ferocity towards children is bad enough, but it is hardest to bear
when it is illogical. Aunt Stingy was inconsecutive in her grounds
of indictment against Lizarann, and this added to the sting of her
injustice. No child would have been readier than she to see to her own
supper, and hot up half a bloater on the bit of fire that had looked
so cheerful in the front room--though she couldn't above half see it
for Uncle Bob gettin' in the way--or to stoast a slice of bread afore
the bars with a fair allowance of butter on; or to do what she dared
not ask her aunt to do, and lie the four chestnuts, which she still
treasured mechanically inside her frock, on the top bar where it was
flat, to get the heat back in 'em a bit, before cracking off the shell.
So it was inconsistent and absurd in her aunt, after telling her to
keep where she was or she would let her know, to return presently
with all the supper she would get to-night, comin' in so late, and to
add: "_I_ wasn't waited on when I was a little girl. Standin' round,
expectin' your elders to fetch and carry!" quite ignoring the fact that
she herself had paralyzed her niece's activity by instructions not to
go outside of that room until she was told to it. And equally so when,
without any evidence that the child was going to say a word, she added:
"Now, don't you answer me, for that I can_not_ abide; but just you eat
your supper and go to bed, or we shall have _you_ ill next." Of course,
it was only when Jim was out of the way that Mrs. Steptoe allowed the
shortness of her temper to get the better of her so completely, and on
this occasion everything was against elasticity.

Things were all so nightmare-like that nothing could well make
them worse, or Lizarann might have been additionally terrified and
oppressed when her aunt, before consigning her supper finally to her
for consumption, looked it all over closely and said, more to herself
than the public: "_I_ don't see any things a-crawling." As it was,
in the Valley of Shadows Life was passing through to-night, Lizarann
merely said: "There ain't nuffint on the stoast," and began her supper
off it sadly. Her daddy's great effort to speak against his pain, and
his reassuring words about the doctor, had made that cheerless evening
meal a possibility to his little lass. Full knowledge, and a year or so
more of life, would have meant inability to eat. But Lizarann was very
young, and, moreover, could not credit a possibility of mistake to her
daddy. Had he not spoken confidently of the "ship's doctor" making a
square job of his leg? She had certainly a slight misgiving that this
pointed to his leg assuming a different shape after the operation. All
sorts of contingencies hung about Hospitals. You never could tell what
grown people wouldn't be at next. But whatever the outcome was, daddy
would be _there_. And this black cloud would roll away.

Aunt Stingy retired, and left Lizarann to herself and her supper with
a final imputation of rebelliousness and disobedience that was quite
groundless--so its object thought. "_You_ do like I tell you, and go
straight to bed when you've e't your supper. Burnin' the candle-ends
for nothing!" She then did violence to the understanding, by adding:
"The light won't last you out, except you look sharp; and then
you'll be in the dark." If a rigid economy was compulsory, how could
extravagance be possible? But menace without method was Aunt Stingy's
attitude to-night.

Lizarann, left alone, looked all round the tray and under the milk-jug,
but could see nothing crawling. She was not so much concerned with the
avoiding such things as articles of diet as a County Family would have
been, or even the Upper Middle Class; her object was to throw light on
her aunt's soliloquy, which she had not ventured to ask the meaning
of. Getting no light, she ate the scrop o' bloater, and the stoast and
butter, and drank the milk, and did very well, for her aunt was not
christened Stingy from any tendency to cut down rations unduly. Only
she would have done better still, had she been able to sob less, and
if the resources of a pocket-handkerchief ten inches square had not
required supplementing by sleeves, which can only be crudely engineered
against tear-drops, or their reincarnations. But she got through her
supper before ever the candle set alight to the paper, and flared.
Then she got to bed before the flare became convulsive; not to be left
in the dark with--who knows?--a nightgowned sleeve inside out and no
finding where. Because we all feel that spectres are not to be trusted,
unless you have something on. Indeed, timid persons are not happy till
the whole thickness of the bedclothes is between them and possibly
convincing phenomena.

The candle died hard. But Lizarann knew that the longer it took, the
less it would taint the atmosphere after its last convulsion, and left
it to smoke in peace. So she watched it from her bed that stood in
what was little more than a cupboard off the room her father slept in,
and cried to think that his was empty. She watched, and wondered which
would come first, the last flicker, or her last mouthful of chestnut.
For she ate those chestnuts cold, and shoved the shells well under the
bolster so Aunt Stingy shouldn't see. She was a very human little girl,
was Lizarann, for all she was so devoted to her daddy.

The candle outlived the last chestnut. Then consideration had to be
given to the problem how to get to sleep afore the nasty smell come
along the ceiling and down. Once asleep, you can ignore smells, even
when sut. Sut is the worst, but candlegutter has a nasty flaviour with
it. So Lizarann did wisely to go to sleep vigorously.

She was succeeding, and beginning to dream a nice dream, though she
wasn't getting warm yet, when her aunt made a tempersome re-entry
on the scene. Lizarann woke with a start, and, remembering all the
dreadful reality, broke out crying--she couldn't help it! Shaken by one
arm, and told to wake up and have done with that petering noise, she
recovered self-possession, except for a lagging sob at intervals, and
sat up. Directed, inconsecutively, to lie down and go to sleep again,
and no more nonsense, she was preparing to comply when her aunt gave a
first beginning of a screech and stopped it short.

"Whatever is it?... O Lard!..."

"It's a ch-chestnut sell. I eated it." Confession proved good policy in
this case, averting inquiry which would have revealed the hidden store
under the bolster.

"O Lard, what a turn it gave me!... he's made me as bad as himself...."
The woman had a frantic look about her; her husband's horrors evidently
had a sort of infection for her; though of course the child had little
insight into this. "You bad child, you! You little good-for-nothing
slut, lyin' in bed eating chestnuts, and your father in the Hospital!"

This wounded Lizarann to the quick, and righteous indignation overcame
both grief and fear. "I _ain't_," she shouted, and for the moment quite
forgot that she _was_, or at least _had been_, the moment before.

"Don't you tell me that, you ontruthful child, and your leavings
staring you in the face! Now just you tell no more stories, but say
where they've took your father, and what he's done to himself."

This retrospective use of a conviction for untruth--and a morally
unjust one--to suggest a course of antecedent misrepresentation on her
part, seemed to Lizarann quite the worst piece of mendacity within her
experience. But it got the conversation still further away from that
nutshell deposit; and that was good, so far. "Father _said_ he'd be
took proper care on, and I w-wasn't to c-cry, and I shan't!"

"_Can't_ you tell me where they've took your father _to_, instead of
vexin' me? Is he gone to the Station, or the Hospital?"

"The Spoleece, they carried him off to the Sospital. Yass!" Then,
sitting up in bed, a small monument of woe, for the moment tearless,
Lizarann considered whether she had grounds for deciding which
Hospital. She knew of three, the Smallporks, Guys's, and Bartholomew's,
but she was very uncertain about the two last. She decided on denying
the Smallporks, if asked. However, her aunt accepted _the_ Hospital as
sufficient. Let it go at that!

"What did your daddy say he'd done to his leg? Now, no makin' up! Say
the truth, like he told you." This would have been a signal to many
children to strain hard to invent the truth out of their own heads.
Goaded by stupid, unsympathetic people, they do this in self-defence.
But Lizarann was honourable and clear-headed.

"He only saided his leg--didn't say nuffint about it. Only the sip's
doctor would make a square job of it. Yass!"

"And what good's your schoolin' done you? Couldn't you have the sense
to ask and find? What ever do you suppose God gave you your tongue
for?--to set with your mouth wide open? Little plagues can talk
fast enough when they ain't wanted to it!" She then suggested, most
unfairly, that Lizarann was detaining her by holding out false hopes of
information. "_I_ should like to know how long you expect me to stand
here askin' questions. This time o' night! And me wanted to look after
your uncle! _Get_ down into your bed and ha' done with it! _I_ can't
waste _my_ time talkin' to you." After which she departed and locked
the door; Lizarann could not imagine why. But there was something
very queer with Uncle Bob, who had been audible all the time in fitful
outbreaks, conveying a sense of his adjective applied as a stigma to
many things, and as a refreshing emphasis to parts of speech.

Lizarann's last impression--a hazy one, before deep sleep came, and
total oblivion--was that her aunt went out from the house, leaving the
street door on the jar, and that then she heard the voice of their
neighbour Mrs. Hacker, saying, "He'll be all right by morning."

Now this little maiden attached only two ideas to this husband of her
aunt: one, that he was a painful concomitant of all their lives, who
had to be put up with, and where was the use of complainin'?--the other
that he was the victim of a liver-disorder known as "the boil." His
absorption of gin was part of himself; a practice as much identified
with him as any inherent quality or fixed condition; perhaps the
celibacy of a priesthood presents a sort of parallel case. So all new
and strange developments in Uncle Bob were credited to this disorder,
and when Mrs. Hacker from over the way said the patient would be all
right by morning, the only suggestion to Lizarann's drowsy mind was
that there was a bottle of doctor's stuff never been took, and that it
had just come in handy. For--but perhaps you know this?--the masses,
_par excellence_, account all drugs good for all diseases, if took
reg'lar. The classes, prone to affectation, get prescriptions made up
each time.

So the child was soon sound asleep and happy.

       *       *       *       *       *

But the cobbler's disorder was the first beginning of the end of a
long devotion to gin, and, to speak scientifically--always do so when
you can!--he was in a very advanced condition of Alcoholism. But he
was very unlike the priest, who, in the most advanced conditions of
celibacy, passes his life--poor fellow!--in secret longing for the
remedy. For Mr. Steptoe hugged his Alcoholism, caressed it, and fed it
constantly with new supplies of raw gin. His affection for the cause of
his disease was self-supporting, and he longed for small goes of it as
keenly as the priest longs for the proper antidotes of his--for Home
and Love.

When Aunt Stingy took such pains to lock her niece into the bedroom she
might just as well have locked her husband into the front parlour. But
she was deceived by appearances. For it was just--only just--untrue
that he had had all the liquor there was. There was a short half-glass
in the bottom of an unnoticed bottle, put by to be took back, and a
penny on it. On this Steptoe greedily pounced, during his wife's first
interview with the child in the next room. It produced that momentary
flash that is so misleading in these cases, when actual improvement
seems to follow a new stimulus. Often the trembling hand and idiot
brain resume skill and coherency, for the moment, only to fall still
lower at the next reaction. The woman felt secure in her husband's
assurance that he was a blooming sight better, and that he couldn't
tell what the described Hell had been the described matter with him. He
promised to come to bed as soon as the fire giv' out; and she left him,
free from the horrors for the time being, standing with his back agin'
the mantelshelf, collecting the last heat with a view to sitting on
it--the heat, not the mantleshelf--while he finished through his pipe.

She ought not to have done it. Or she ought to have took the key out
of the outside of the bedroom door, or hid it anywheres handy--where
_he_ would never have looked for it, Law bless you! Instead, she went
to bed herself, and probably fell asleep as soon as a sense of her
husband moving, downstairs, seemed to warrant a belief that he was
going to keep his word. She slept sound, and it may have been two hours
past midnight when she was waked by a movement below, and found that
her husband had never come to bed; was still smoking, probably. But
this was not her first thought as, having lighted her candle, she sat
up in bed, noting the sounds that followed. Her spoken reflection was:
"If that's Lizarann prancing about, I'll let her know to-morrow." Then
she remembered the key, and couldn't understand the position. And then
took advantage of a silence to decide that it wasn't anything. When an
"anything" may involve our having to get out of bed in the cold, we are
apt to decide on its non-existence. She blew out the candle and lay
down again.

       *       *       *       *       *

This is not a medical work, and it is no part of its business to
locate exactly the case of Robert Steptoe in medical records. The
discrimination of the symptoms of _delirium tremens_ proper, and their
points of difference from those of ordinary delirium--nervous or
feverish--are matters of great interest, especially in their relation
to treatment, but they belong elsewhere. Our function is limited
to recording the symptoms of the case as they have been brought to
our knowledge; and we must hope that our medical readers will allow
a certain latitude to the description of the only instance of the
malady that has come within its writer's experience. Some of it is
necessarily conjectural, but nothing would be gained by a laborious
effort to separate these portions from the certainties. For instance,
the patient's hours in the room alone, after his wife left him, must
be matter of surmise. But surmise to the following effect appears well

So long as the effect continued of the small dose of stimulant he had
discovered, he remained sane and free from immediate delusion, and
had no other intentions than to smoke through his pipe and follow his
wife to bed, as promised. But after he had finished it, and knocked
the ashes out--they were found on the hob, and the pipe stuck in the
looking-glass frame, when the ground was gone over afterwards--his
attention was arrested by something crawling over the table. He had
seen one before (as appears by our narrative), in fact, he had seen
several, causing a sympathetic horror in Aunt Stingy. He tried to
destroy this one, but nothing came of the attempt. Putting a volume
on it and crushing it down only caused it to come through the book
and crawl over it. He tried this frequently, wondering at the result,
but not specially alarmed--more amused perhaps in a kind of vacuous
way--until he saw another, and then another. The place was all over
them, and he called them names--some very inappropriate--and qualified
them all with his favourite adjective. In themselves they really did
not matter. But most unfortunately the fact that they were all going
in the same direction showed him that they were emanations from a man
of the name of Preedy, a leather-seller, of whom he used to purchase
ready-closed uppers and cuttings. It was shrewd of him, he thought, to
identify Preedy as their original source by the steady way in which
they all kept going in one direction. And still shrewder to infer that
it was all part of a scheme to oust him from the sort of little kennel
or box in which he carried on his trade in a street half a mile off. It
was left locked at night; but, seen by the light of these vermin, and a
buzzing noise that accompanied them, what was to prevent Preedy getting
possession of it and bribing the police on duty to support him in his
usurpation? He sat down for a minute or two longer to think this out.
The room was always well lighted, because the street gas-lamp, just
outside, always showed through the clear space above the shutter.

Reflection did not even suggest that it might be a mistake about Mr.
Preedy. If it had, his condition would not have been delirious. On
the contrary, it all became clearer to him than ever. If it were not
true, how came he to have read half-an-hour since full particulars of
it under the heading "Late Entries" in the sporting journal that was
still lying on the table? He could find it again in a minute, only it
was so dark. He had a match and lit it, to read by; but his hand shook
so--always along of that (described) Preedy--that he couldn't master
the (described) small type. And his wife had got the candle away. Just
like her!--she done it a-purpose. But he knew there was a candle in
Jim's bedroom, next door.

The noise he made fumbling at the door, which was of course locked,
waked Lizarann, who, having fallen asleep on the fact that her aunt
had locked her in, knew that fact and no other as her senses returned.
She called drowsily, "You locked the key that side," conceiving the
disturber to be her aunt. Contrary to what might have been expected,
her uncle understood clearly, and opened the door. But the reason he
felt no surprise at the key having been turned outside was one of the
indescribables of delirium. It was, somehow, because Lizarann answered
instead of Jim. Of course--so it seemed to him--if Jim had answered, it
would have been inside. You think that too strange? Try delirium, and

His wife had had nothing to gain by telling him of Jim's accident, and
his faculties had not been at observation-point. Or, perhaps, he might
be said to have forgotten that he had never known that Jim didn't come
in to supper. Anyway, he accepted Jim as having gone to bed, and made a
sort of apology for disturbing him.

"Ashkpardon mashcandlestick," said he, in two husky words, consisting
of matter thrown loosely together, and added, as a single thought that
might help, "Looshfermash." He had no idea about time--thought his wife
had left him a few minutes since.

Lizarann was not frightened. She did not understand that Uncle Bob
imagined her daddy was in his bed as usual; and there was nothing
unusual in his coming to look for a lucifer-match. She called out
to him without moving: "On the mankleshelf, Uncle Bob." But she was
only half awake. She dimly heard him feeling about the room for the
candlestick, and muttering to himself. Sporadic examples of his
favourite adjective made outcrops in his monologue, becoming more and
more frequent as he failed to discover the object of his search. Still,
Lizarann thought herself at liberty to remain half-asleep, if she chose.

Not being sure how far she had done so--she might, indeed, have been
wholly asleep without knowing it--she could not have said how long this
continued. She was roused in the end by the delirious man suddenly
exclaiming, in a voice of terror that filled her, too, with terror:
"My Goard, then, he _has_ only one!" He then broke out in incoherent
fear: "You keep him off of me, master--you keep him off. Or I tell yer,
I'll brind him--I _will_!" At which Lizarann's heart stopped. Not from
anything in the words, which were of the sort that she would have told
Bridgetticks were "only Uncle Bob." Uncle Bob occurred too frequently
in daily life for her to fret much about his language. The cold shiver
had run down her back, this time, because she knew there was no one in
the room with him. But, may she not have known falsely? Surely there
was someone else there, that he was speaking to. Listen!

"Good job you come in, master! You're a good chap, you are. You're
Bonyparty, I take it, in the picter-book. You larn him to keep
his distance, and I'm your friend. Won't you take nothing? Just a
drain?..." He wandered on, with a thickness of speech that, if spelt
ever so successfully, would only encumber the text.

Uncle Bob had gone mad, clearly, and would get himself took to the
Asylum, where Bridgetticks's Aunt Tabither was. Bridget was very proud
of this aunt. And though there might, as in her case, be advantages in
the end, the present had to be faced. And poor Lizarann was the only
soul that knew anything about it, and was stiff with terror in bed, in
the dark, with a speechless tongue, but a calm interior spot somewhere,
that was wondering when she would begin to cry out in her agony of
fear, yet knew that daddy wasn't there to cry to.

In a few moments she was aware that the breath of the delirious man
was catching again, as in terror, and his voice followed: "He ain't
gone--he ain't gone! Don't you pay no attention to 'em, master! I can
see his eye under the bed, spinning round like a wheel. If there'd a
been two of 'em now...." Then in a sudden extremity of terror his voice
was worse than if it had been a scream; he forced it from his lungs
in a strained whisper. "My Goard!--he's a-coming. He's a-coming on.
He'll get me afore he's done, he will.... Leave hold of me! Leave hold,
you...." We have to stop short.

Lizarann's impression was that he then struck out to protect himself
against his imaginary aggressor. He certainly fell, and was stunned.
The child grasped this, and the fact that he was now harmless for the
moment. But she was so dumbstricken that it was perhaps the whole of
three or four minutes before she could find her voice, and then only
for inarticulate hysterical screams.

The fall of Steptoe on the floor was the sound that waked his wife in
the room above. The silence that followed was almost long enough to
convince her of the safety of going to sleep again. But Lizarann's
cries of heartfelt terror and entire panic came to stop that. The woman
jumped up and lit her candle, whose wick had smouldered to the grease
the last time it was blown out; it had to be coaxed, and a libation
of melted paraffin had to be poured off it before it would flare up
steady-like, so you could carry it and not spill. It taxed Mrs.
Steptoe's nerves to negotiate all this, with that tryin' child making
that noise downstairs. But it was either that or go down in the dark.
We borrow her own phraseology. Besides, Lizarann had had nightmare and
woke everybody, that time Jim gave Bob such a remindin', three months
ago. So her aunt made her light secure before going below.

Her expectation was to find her husband in a stupid drunken sleep in
the front parlour, and the door of the back room closed as she had left
it. She saw the open door and quickened her pace.

"What's that child been after outside of the room? _I'll_ soon
know about that...." She soon knew all that could be known at the
moment--that her husband, whom she nearly tumbled over, was insensible
on the ground--or half-insensible, muttering--and that Lizarann was
vociferous with terror in bed, and quite incapable, so far, of telling
anything. Her first instinct was faultfinding, as against the child
for screaming. "_Stop_ your noise or I'll make you.... Lizarann!...
do you _hear_?... _Will_ you stop?" And then in a voice of vengeful
resolution: "_I'll_ be in after you directly." Whereupon Lizarann
choked her screams back and waited.

Her aunt was examining Uncle Bob for bruises, so she thought; and
he appeared to be resenting the inquiry. Suddenly he recovered his
articulation in a wonderful way, and became quite unreasonably angry.

"You'll keep your hands off me, or I'll smack your chops for you." He
gathered himself up and got on his legs, but swayed a little as he
stood. "What's that you're a-sayin'? Why the (described) Hell can't
you speak up? _Your_ tongue's fast enough when nobody's asked you for
it. Look you here, Pry-scilla Coupland, I ain't going to be minced
about no more, for nobody." Lizarann knew from his calling his wife by
her maiden name that her uncle's state was a dangerous one. He did it
whenever he became savage with drink. What followed was no improvement.
"Ah!--you may go and tell Jim if you like. He's in it, like the rest
on 'em. I know all about their planning and scheming. I'll make my
affidavit afore a lawyer. First thing to-morrow morning, and make an
end of it all. I _will_!" His manner had such serious conviction in it
that the child thought him sane for a moment. It was something grown-up
that she didn't know about. Her aunt's reply, with an uneasy half-laugh
in it, was an attempt to soothe and conciliate. "Whatever are you
fancyin', Robert?" she said nervously. "Who's planning or scheming?
Just you come up to bed, and be done with your talk-talk-talk.
Affidavits and lawyers! Where shall we be next?"

"Don't you think to take me in!" His reply was in manner perfectly
sane and coherent--that of a shrewd man of business, who sees through
a clever imposture, being himself cleverer still. "Don't you think
to take me in! I wasn't born last Sunday mornin'. Now look 'ee here,
Pry-scilla Coupland! Shall I tell yer something I know? Shall I tell
yer a little thing I know? A little--little thing?" This was said as a
question of superhuman slyness, as he pointed an intuitive finger to
emphasize it and waited. Then, quite suddenly, he became ferocious.
"What the Hell, do you think I don't _know_? Do _you_ think _I_ don't
know that it's _you_ that's in behind it all? Ah!--you and Jim. One as
like as t'other. It's a bloody conspiracy, I tell yer. And I'll make
yer pay for it. I'll make yer pay." Still, Lizarann was impressed that
he was speaking of something real, as there is nothing _per se_ insane
in an idea of a conspiracy, however groundless.

But when he next spoke, she saw that he was really mad. For her aunt,
perceiving that her attempt at a soothing tone had only made matters
worse, tried a little intimidation. "You wouldn't kerry on like that,
Robert, exceptin' you knew Jim wasn't here. But he's a-coming, and I
tell it you, for you to know. So just you bear it in mind--there!"

"Jim's over there. I seen him." He pointed to the bed.

"Talking silly, you are! His bed's empty, anyhow! But he's
a-coming--that I tell you, plain. Now you come along upstairs."

"Aha!--right you are, Mrs. Hess." This was the initial of Steptoe. He
went on with a sly triumphant wrinkling of his face, that mixed oddly
with the tremor of eye and lip that is part of this disease. "No, he
ain't in that bed. But I can tell yer where he is--he's under it!
That's where Jim is. I seen his eye, plain to see!..."

"Jim's eye, ye silly! Come to bed, and sleep your drink off. Ye born
fool! Jim's eye!"

"Ah!--Jim's eye. The one he opens at night. He's under-'anded and
sly--sees a rare lot more than he'll put a name to! Why, I seen it, God
damn you!"--with a sudden revival of ferocity--"I _seen_ it, I tell
you, there under that there bed."

Then Lizarann knew that he was mad. Of course, she knew nothing of
_delirium tremens_, but she knew quite well the state often described
as "mad drunk," and that her uncle when so affected always became
violent; although since that occurrence three months since, fear of Jim
had been a wholesome check. Oh, if Daddy were only here!--so thought
Lizarann, as she stood in the doorway with her teeth chattering, and
literally sick with terror.

"I tell you I _seen_ it, and I'll tell you some more. Only just you
stand still. I'm a going for to cut it out, by Goard! Only you wait
till I get my * * * knife.... It's round the * * * corner against the
window...." These were the last articulate words Lizarann heard, as
her aunt followed their speaker into the front room. Then the voices
of both in confusion--his raving, hers concealing apprehension badly
under an attempt at command. This for a while; then a rapid crescendo
of terror ending in a shriek, and an appeal to Heaven-knows-who to get
the Police. And Lizarann--not seven yet!--had to make up her mind what
to do.



When the Rev. Augustus Fossett, the brother of Lizarann's
schoolmistress, and incumbent of St. Vulgate's Church, Clapham Rise,
got hæmoptysis, his friends tried to persuade him to throw up his
appointment and go away to Australia or South Africa. His brother
Jack wanted him to chuck the Church, and take to some healthy
employment--the young man's expressions, not ours--and took the
opportunity to generalize overmuch, on the subject of the causes of
death among the Clergy. He said that something he referred to merely as
"it" was "all very fine, but two-thirds of them died of consumption."
He was devoted to his brother, and wanted badly to get Gus clear of
that filthy slum, with its horrible rows of little houses that had two
or three families in them before the mortar was dry. But Gus refused to
comply with his family's wishes. "I know Jack thinks," said he, "that
if he could only get me into a lawyer's wig, or a sailor's trousers,
I shouldn't have an apex to my right lung, practically. And moist
sibilant _râles_ would be things unheard of." He added that he wasn't
married, and never meant to be; that the neighbourhood was healthy,
if it was a little damp; and that all he wanted was change of air now
and again. Taylor would come and take his duties for a week or so, and
he would go to Royd, and Bessie Caldecott would nurse him up, at the

For the Rector of Royd, whose acquaintance the story has already made,
was, in his relation to the Rev. Gus, the other half of one of those
friendships that, according to Tennyson, have mastered time. So every
now and again, as occasion arose, the Rev. Athelstan's broad chest and
shoulders loomed large in the pulpit of St. Vulgate's, and his voice
sounded altogether too big for the architectural treatment of the east

About six weeks before the story-time of last chapter, the reverend
gentleman had said to his sister-in-law: "Bess, I can't have Gus kill
himself this winter. He'll do it in the end, but let's keep him here as
long as we can. I'll go and see to his parishioners in January, and he
must come here. You mustn't let him work hard, and give him no end of
cream and new-laid new-laid eggs. I can get Tom Cowper to do his work
in February, and then I'll come back and take him for walks. Ah dear!"
The Rector's anxiety about his friend got to the surface, through his
tone of serene confidence, which was factitious.

"What are we to do about Phoebe and Joan?" said Miss Caldecott.

"Isn't it very likely all nonsense about infection?"

"I don't know." Then both looked perplexed; and that, as we all know,
doesn't do any good.

"There's plenty of places for them to go to ..." said the Rector; but
didn't say where.

"But they'll be so heart-broken," said Miss Caldecott, "if they are
away when their uncle's here." For Mr. Fossett had always held rank as
a "putative" uncle to Phoebe and Joan, with natural confusion in their
minds as a result.

"We must think it out somehow," said the Rector. "Their _potatoe_
uncle! Ah dear!"

It must have been thought out somehow, without danger of infection
to Phoebe and Joan; for January saw Augustus shepherding the flock
of Athelstan, and Athelstan heavily afflicted with the population of
a suburban slum. "At least," said he to himself, in the small hours
of the morning, as he plodded back to his temporary residence from a
death-bed side, through a thick snowstorm--"at least in the country we
are still Shakespearian. These Londoners get more unintelligible every
year." For a youth whom he had heard communing with another had first
said, "I'll have your hat, Maria," which seemed to have no meaning; and
then when the other said, "What price 'Igh 'Olborn, Joe?" had merely
replied, "So long," and trotted away whistling.

They were the last defilers of the English language, though, that he
heard speech of for the best part of a two-mile walk. For all that
had a bed to go to had done so an hour or more since, and left the
white world to the snowflakes and the police-force--the latter sadly
outnumbered by the former, and fairly driven to whatever shelters
official obligation allowed. For the flakes, which at midnight had been
large and rather benevolent than otherwise, with a disposition to lie
down quietly and not fuss, had become small and vicious and revengeful,
and were rushing point-blank along the streets seeking for the eyes
of passers-by and finding none. The gas-lamps, which had at first
enjoyed melting them as they came down, were giving up the attempt
in despair, and had each its incubus of thickening snow to darken it.
The Rev. Athelstan found it pleasant and stimulating--it reminded him
of the Alps, years ago--and he had only met three vehicles, all told,
in the whole of his walk, so far. One was a belated coster's cart,
drift-blocked; whose donkey, its owner, and a policeman were trying
to help it out of its difficulties. He lent a hand, and the rest of
his physical resources, most effectually, and earned benedictions and
a certificate that he was the right sort. Both the policeman and the
costermonger spoke as though several sorts had been tried, and been
found wanting. The former, as he wished him good-night, remarked that
it was a blizzard this time, and no mistake, as though serious mistakes
had been made in the classification of previous examples submitted.
A sense of pass-exams. hung in the air. The Rev. Athelstan said
good-night, and tramped or waded off through the snow, acknowledging
to himself that he didn't know why a blizzard was a blizzard. Now his
impression had been that this one was a bad snowstorm. However, a
policeman would know, of course.

"American, I suppose," said he to himself, "and well up to date! Now
I wonder...." He stopped opposite a wayside inn standing back from
the road; a record of the days of an old suburban highway, with a
drinking-trough for horses and a troughlet for dogs, and a swinging
sign, half obscured by snowblotch that might fall off, or not. But
it would in a minute, if waited for, for its framing creaked in the
wind. "I wonder where I am?" he continued. "I've seen this pothouse
before. I've photographed it, if it's the same. It was the Robin
Hood." A snow-slip occurred at this moment, and left the outlaw's
face and a portion of the merry greenwood visible. Oh dear yes!--the
Robin Hood. No mistake about that, anyhow! The pause ended in complete
enlightenment. "Then I know where I am. There's the new Cazenove
slum on the left. Now I've got to take care not to go down the wrong
turning. One's a _cul de sac_; ends in a fence. But I fancy mine's the
next--yes!--mine's the next. Addy Fossett's school's just a bit farther
on. Lady Arkroyd said it wasn't a slum! A slum made up of whited
sepulchres--well! suppose we say machine-pointed brick sepulchres, and
let 'em go at that." The difficulty of walking through the snow, and
the silence, both seemed to favour soliloquy. He plodded on, driving
aside the dry white snowdrift with his feet, and cogitating.

How deadly dark and silent it is down this side-street! Only one
gas-lamp alight that one can see, some way on. And the silence!
One might be murdered here so quietly, with so little inconvenience
to one's murderer. And the cold! "Thank God it is me and not Gus,"
says the man in the snow through whose mind these thoughts pass. "He
wouldn't be kept at home, even by a blizzard. Really--if I hadn't a
good pair of eyes.... Hullo! what's that?" He quickens his pace towards
something he has seen or heard.

An instant after, and the silence has vanished. Piercing shrieks
are on the night--a child's shrieks--shrieks of frenzied and
intolerable panic, there, where nothing can be distinguished yet....
Yes!--_there_--coming this way through the snow--this side of the dim
lamp-gleam the snowdrift all but hides ... but oh, so small! How can a
thing so small give such a cry?

How can it struggle so, either, as it is caught and picked up by a
pair of strong arms, and wrapped in the bosom of a big overcoat?
"Anything"--said the Rev. Athelstan, when he told the tale
after--"anything to get the poor little barefooted, nightgowned scrap
up off the snow, and out of the cold! The _pluck_ of the midget! I
never saw such a baby. Not seven yet--just think of it!" For he often
told of this adventure of his afterwards. But let us tell it now.

"Oh, pleathe--pleathe--let me down!" It is such a heart-harrowing cry
for liberty that its hearer almost believes himself cruel to shut his
ears to it. But--the cold! "Oh, _pleathe_ let me go to c-call for the
Spoleece to c-come to ... Uncle Bob...."

"_I'm_ the Police, dear child, this time. You show me where Uncle Bob
is, won't you? Hush-sh!... there, dear, now! ... that way, is he?
That's a good brave little girl.... In at this door, is it? _That's_
right! _Now_ I'll put you down." And then Uncle Bob's niece is on the
ground, pulling with all her small force at the skirt of the big coat
that has sheltered her. She doesn't believe the gentleman's statement
that he is the Police; or only with some important reservations. But he
is on the side of the right, she is sure, and is vast and powerful. It
is no use her pulling, if he does not mean to come after all. But all
is well, for he has only paused to get off the big coat the snow falls
in lumps from as he leaves it behind him on the floor, and is pulled
along the dark narrow passage towards some mysterious male voice out
of all keeping with its surroundings--a voice with something of a Hyde
Park orator's rant in it--pulled by the little nightgowned morsel that
seems, now that the end is gained, and help has come, to be quite dumb
with terror.

Along the narrow passage and through the door on the left. The room
is lighted by a candle at its last gasp on a side-table, and the gleam
through the window, above the closed shutters, of the street-lamp
outside. There is light enough to see all that is going on in that
room, and it is a sight to give pause to the readiest help, and unnerve
the most willing hand. For any succour, in the very bringing of it, may
in this case undo itself.

Against the wall, in the corner next the window, is the ashy face of
a terror-stricken woman, kneeling with hands outstretched to avert
violence threatened by a man who is waving some weapon before her
eyes, while he talks incoherently. It is his voice that sounded like a
popular orator's, making telling points. What seemed a meaning when the
words were unheard vanishes as they become audible.

"You keep still afore I pin you to the wall. You * * * well know that
what I swear to by Goard's the * * * truth. Climb up and see--all I say
is, climb up and see! The * * * noospaper's on my side, and d'you think
they don't * * * know.... Ah!--would you?--steady--steady! I'll put a
strap on either side of you to keep you steady. You and Jim thought you
were going to have it your own blooming way. And where d'you think he's
gone?... He--he--he!" He laughed a sniggering laugh. "Jim, he's gone
along the railings. Now, don't you go sayin' I haven't told you, or
I'll just rip you up afore the clock strikes. I can have your liver out
just as soon as not. I can give a reference, by Goard! Just you ask my
wife--she can get a * * * reference." And then the Rev. Mr. Taylor saw
that what he held in his hand was a pointed cobbler's knife, a deadly

The little girl, clinging to him in convulsive terror, made
sufficiently prompt action almost impossible. He felt that if he could
have caught the man's eye, he might have been able to control him. But
as it was, any movement on his part might have meant a stab in the
woman's heart. He could see she had on only a thin sort of flannel
wrapper over a night-dress, and he understood that the man, in his
delirium, conceived her to be some enemy, not his wife certainly. What
she was of course he did not know. The lips of his mind formed the
simple word "drink"--the evil principle whose name accounts for half
the ills flesh would have been so glad never to come to the enjoyment
of, but must perforce inherit.

He dared not spring upon the man to pinion him, with that hideous
knife so near the woman's life-blood. But a change was to come--one
caused by the woman herself. She could barely gasp, so paralyzed was
articulate speech; but the few words she said, "Catch hold upon him
behind, master!" were heard and understood by the man, who instantly
swung round to be ready for some unknown opponent. The Rev. Athelstan
felt greatly relieved. The position was simplified: he was now face to
face with a delirious maniac with a knife--a knife that seemed made for
murder--that was all!

"Thank God it isn't Gus, but me!" said a passing thought as he caught
the madman's eye, just too late to unsettle, as he might have done--so
he fancied--the delivery of a thrust backed by the whole strength of
the arm that sent it. It was well for him--so straight did the blow
come--that the clerical hat he pulled off to stop it had a wide hard
brim and a round hard crown, good for a point to slip on. The boss of
a Japanese targe could not have balked it more cleverly. Had it struck
the centre straight, it would have pierced through to the hand that
held it. As it was, it went aslant, striking twice on the shining silk
nap, but quite harmlessly.

"Give me the knife, my man. I can show you how to use it better than
that." His voice could not have been more collected if he had been
reading the Commination Service, without meaning it, in the little old
peaceful church at Royd. The delirious man, whose conception of his
own position was probably that of a victim somehow at bay, surrounded
by conspirators, was for a moment convinced that he would better it by
compliance, and was indeed actually surrendering the knife, when the
woman's hysterical voice broke in, and undid everything.

"Yes--you give the gentleman up the knife, Robert! You give it him to
keep for you now you ain't yourself, for to take good care of and giv'
back. He'll do the best by you! _You_ may trust the gentleman ... etc.,
etc." The Rev. Athelstan's mind said: "Deuce take the woman!--can't she
hold her tongue?" but of course he said nothing so secular aloud.

The lunatic--for he was little else--had all but given up the knife,
but of course now changed his mind. "_You're_ answerin' for him,
I see!" he exclaimed, with so sane a voice it was hard to think
him delirious. "I can see round some of yer better than you think.
Yes--Muster Preedy! Ah!... would you ... would you?..." This with an
expression of intense cunning, with the knife held behind him; and
a dangerous tendency to edge back towards the woman, all the while
watching the Rev. Athelstan with a sly, ugly half-grin.

As he got nearer to the woman, she became unable to control
herself--little wonder, perhaps!--and broke out hysterically: "Oh, God
ha' mercy!--stop him! stop him!--Oh, Lard!--oh, Christ!..." and so
on. It was time to act, and Athelstan Taylor knew it. Delay might be
fatal. Guided by some instinct he could not explain, he shouted with
sudden decision: "They're here, you fool! Can't you hear them?" and
then, seizing on the pause in which the maniac's attention--caught also
for the moment, perhaps, by railway sounds without--wandered to this
mysterious "they," sprang upon him, and by great good luck pinioned
his knife-hand as both rolled together on the carpetless floor. "Thank
heaven it's me, not Gus!" thought he again, as he and his antagonist
pitched heavily on the ground. He could feel the great strength there
was still in the miserable victim of the fiend Alcohol. Often patients
with this disorder will need three or four men to hold them--indeed,
sometimes develope abnormal muscular strength, even while its tremors
are running riot through their whole system.

But Mr. Steptoe's strength would have been abnormally developed indeed
to enable him to contend against the successful competitor in a hundred
athletic contests in the old 'Varsity days. A few sharp struggles,
and he lay powerless, his adversary kneeling over him, grasping his
two wrists, while he cursed and muttered below, before the railway
sounds, connected apparently with the stopping of an almost endless
luggage-train, had subsided into mere clinks that seemed to soothe it
to stillness. But the knife was still in his right hand.

"Now where's that little maid?" Our little Lizarann had never run away,
as some children might have done, but had held on bravely through
the whole of the terrifying scene, full of admiration for this new
Policeman--she almost thought he was really one; and when she heard
him ask for her, she found voice to reply, not very articulately. She
was there, please!--blue with the cold and her teeth chattering. Aunt
Stingy was g-goed away. So much the better, the new Policeman seemed to
think. He continued: "Very well, my child!--now you can be useful....
No, don't call your aunty. We'll do without her; she's no use. You do
just as I tell you--just exactly!" Lizarann nodded her alacrity to obey
orders. "Me?--yass!" is her brief undertaking.

The gentleman looked round at her, still grasping the wrists of his
captive, who muttered on wildly, lost in a forest of execrations
without meaning. He seemed satisfied that the child could be trusted,
and determined at any rate to try a desperate expedient to get that
horrible knife out of the maniac's clutch. The only other course would
be to call or send for help. Send whom? This baby out in the snow
again? Heaven forbid! As for the woman, _she_ was no use. He could
hear her hysterics in the next room. No!--if the child only dared do
exactly as he told her, he would soon have that knife safe out of the

"Look here, my dear, where's the box of matches--the lucifer matches?
Now don't you be frightened, but do as I tell you. You light a match!"
Lizarann obeyed dutifully, though her hand shook. "Now, you know, if
you blow that match out, there'll be a red spark, won't there?...
Very well then, or _yass_, if you prefer it. Now I want you just to
touch your father's hand with it ... oh, he's your uncle, is he?...
well!--now you'll have to light another.... Now you touch his hand with
it--don't you be frightened."

Lizarann followed her instructions without question. Whatever the
gentleman said was right. _Her_ duty was obedience. But she broke
out in spasmodic terror at the result of what she had supposed to be
some curious experiment; not to be understood by her, but certainly

And Athelstan Taylor needed all his strength to retain the hand that
was scorched, as his prisoner--or rather patient--gave a great plunge
and a yell, as the fire touched him. But he kept his grip, though it
was his left hand against the delirious man's right; and the knife,
relinquished in the uncontrollable start, was left lying on the floor
as he dragged him across the room away from it. He could breathe freer
now that the knife was out of the way.

He inferred afterwards that the whole thing had happened very quickly;
for the railway-occurrence without seemed to explain itself as a convoy
of empty trucks shunting on a siding to allow an express to shriek
past--an express that cared nothing for blizzards, and came with a
vengeance, just as he gave his last instructions to Lizarann, waiting a
moment for that little person's terror to subside.

"That's a good little girl. Now pick up that knife and take it away.
And then ... well!--and then ... shut the door after you and go to
bed, for God's sake, and get warm.... What? ... no!--never mind Aunt
What's-her-name?... don't say anything to her--only go to bed too. What
did you say her name was? Aunt Stingy?" It didn't seem probable, but
the little maiden evidently felt surprised at its being thought the
reverse. She confirmed it with gravity, and was departing, small and
bitterly cold, but intensely responsible, when the new Policeman called
her back.

"Look here, poppet!--you stand the street-door wide open, and then you
go to bed. Now shut the door."

Lizarann obeyed religiously, and crept away silently to bed. Only, as
she passed through her daddy's room with its empty pillow, life became
too hard for her to bear. But tears came to help, big ones in plenty;
and Lizarann's bed was kind. It absorbed, received, engulfed, all but
cancelled the small mass of affliction that cowered into it and stopped
its ears and did its best to cease. In two minutes after leaving
the New Policeman, Lizarann was little more than a stifled sob, at
intervals, in the dark; in five, at most, had cried herself to sleep.

       *       *       *       *       *

Mrs. Steptoe, after giving way--quite excusably, to our
thinking--upstairs for ten minutes or so, began to be aware that her
self-control was returning. But being hysterical as well as human,
she utilized it to go on moaning and gasping intentionally, some time
after she had ceased to be able to do it involuntarily. Curiosity
about who had given such a sudden and effectual succour then began to
get the better of mere terror, and she perceived she ought to make
an effort. So she went cautiously downstairs and listened, outside
the door, to the voices in the front room; her husband's, now seeming
less definitely insane, more weak and drivelling; and that of the
stranger, whom she found it easiest to take for granted, although
unexplained. Very severe shock makes the mind travel on the line of
least resistance. No!--she wouldn't knock at the door just yet to ask
if her services were wanted. That would do presently, especially as
she expected stupor would soon follow her husband's outbreak, and if
she showed herself now he might have a return. So after listening a
few moments, sufficiently to satisfy herself that the stranger's voice
showed a complete mastery of the position, Aunt Stingy retired into the
bedroom adjoining, to be handy in case of anything--so she described
her action afterwards--and then, having made sure that her niece was in
bed in the little room and sound asleep, lay down on Jim's vacant bed
for just a half-minute and closed her eyes. And would you have believed
it?--or rather, it should be said, would Mrs. Hacker, to whom she told
it, have believed it?--she was that dead wore out that only listening
for two minutes to the voices going on steady, as you might say, set
her off half unconscious-like, and in an unguarded moment sleep took
her by surprise. Just the letting of her eyes close to had made _all_
the difference! Kep' open, no such a thing! In this case they were not
kept open, and there was such a thing. It took the form of profound

But before leaving the passage--the one known by the rather grandiose
name of The Hall--Aunt Stingy first removed her rescuer's overcoat,
that still lay on the ground, and hung it on a neighbouring hook. A
more intelligent person would have seen that its owner might want it,
for warmth, in a fireless room. She must needs then decide that the
street door had no business to be on the jar, and it was just that
child's carelessness leaving it open; and closed it, noiselessly.
This was fatal to a calculation of Athelstan Taylor's, for he had
told Lizarann to leave the door open in the full confidence that the
policeman on the beat would notice it; and that he would by this means
be brought into communication with the outer world, without having to
leave his dangerous charge alone in the house with that plucky baby and
that weak woman!

No doubt a policeman did come down the _cul de sac_ street, but even a
policeman's step is inaudible on three inches of very dry snow. It is
otherwise when the snow is partly thawed, especially if a second frost
comes. Mr. Taylor concluded, believing that the street-door was "on the
jar," that the policeman's bull's-eye would at once detect it, and that
his guard was sure to be relieved; but the hours went by and nothing
came. It is more likely, though, that the policeman passed at a moment
of noise from the railway, for goods-trains occurred at intervals
through the night.

More than once he was all but resolved to leave the man's side and
summon the woman, or go himself for medical help, whatever the risk
might be. But he did not know what other knives might be within reach,
and he was one of those people who always decide on the righter of two
courses, however little may be the difference between them. Not the
smallest risk should be run through fault of his of harm to come to
that plucky infant--well!--or to the woman, for that matter. But he was
obliged to admit that he felt less keen on that point.

So, though he relaxed his hold on the man as his paroxysms of violence
died down--for they were intermittent--he never allowed him to go quite
free, and scarcely took his eyes from him to inventory the scanty
contents of the ill-furnished room he sat in. For he contrived to shift
the position in a moment of the patient's quiescence, some half an hour
after he found himself alone with him; half-dragging, half-lifting him
on to an untempting and unrestful sofa, whose innate horse-hair was
courting investigation through slits and holes that had evaded the
watchfulness of ineffectual buttons, guardians of its reticence in days
gone by. One of those articles of furniture of which we know at once
that the understraps have given, and will have to be seen to some day.
An analogous chair was within reach; and the New Policeman, not in love
with his job, but strong in his determination to see it out, made up
his mind to pass the rest of the night on it, if necessary, watching
the fluctuations of his patient's delirium. Oh, how thankful he felt
that all this had befallen him, not Gus! What a pleasure to think of
his consumptive friend in the best room at the Rectory; sound asleep,
said Hope, uncontradicted.

An hour or more passed. The violence of the patient had become more and
more fitful, and seemed at length to be giving place to mere stupor.
A little longer, and he would sleep. But suppose his heart failed and
he died in his sleep. Mr. Taylor had had an uncle who drank, and who
died of collapse after just such an attack of _delirium tremens_.
Yes--but how long after? Then, on the other hand, there was no evidence
to show how long this man's attack had been going on. Nor was the
Rev. Athelstan quite clear that the case was uncomplicated; the brain
might be unsound at the best of times. He tried to remember all he had
seen or heard of the disorder. His impression certainly had been that
insomnia was a characteristic symptom, and invariable. Now this man
seemed to be sinking into a state of coma. He would keep watch over
him, at least until he seemed quite unconscious, and then he would try
to get help from without. He might be able to rouse a neighbour, and
so communicate with the police and send for medical assistance. What
he was most anxious to do was to get the man safe out of the way, at
the workhouse-infirmary or the police-station, and to feel sure that
he could leave the house safely with that child in it. He would come
back next day as soon as he was at liberty, to find out more about her.
It was fortunate that to-day was Tuesday, not Saturday--or rather he
should have said, Wednesday, not Sunday. But one always thinks, when
one has been up all night, that it is still yesterday!

Yes!--the breath of the man was coming more regularly, and his pulse
felt slower and steadier. In a moment it would be safe to leave him and
look for help. He withdrew his hand from the wrist it held and touched
the sleeper's forehead. It was scarcely so hot as he had expected it to
be. But it seemed insensitive to his touch, as there was no perceptible
shrinking from it. The patient could be safely left for a moment.

He rose to his feet and stretched himself, glad of the respite. In the
account of the affair that he wrote later to his substitute at Royd, he
lays claim to having had no feeling at this moment but a wish for clean
warm water to wash the touch of the drunkard's wrists off. He watched
the motionless figure on the couch for a few moments, and the breathing
satisfied him. He could be spared; for as short a time as need be,

He opened the door quietly and went out. But he returned to lock it;
removing the key from within, but leaving it in the lock. Then he
opened the street door and looked out. The little one had evidently
misunderstood his instruction to leave it open--well! she really
was almost a baby. However, that was enough to account for the
non-appearance of any policeman. No police-officer ever leaves a "stood
open" door uninvestigated in the small hours of the morning.



How sweet and white and silent was the huge shroud of snow that lay
so carefully on road and roof alike; unbroken, in this untrodden
stillness, by so much as the memory of a rut inherited from yesterday's
traffic; unmelted, even on the chimney-stacks, by the expiring efforts
of yesterday's fires! How satisfied the stars that began to twinkle
through the clearing veil of the snowdrift dying down, that the work
of hiding London from them had been done thoroughly and well, and that
they might shine on something clean at last! For the blizzard had gone
to an appointment elsewhere, and the few flakes of belated snow that
were afloat had given up all thought of blinding human eyes, and only
seemed to pause in their selection of a resting-place. They had an
_embarras de choix_.

As the sole spectator of the stillness stood looking out into the
night, and thinking Wordsworth to himself, he saw the fixed red eye
of a Cyclops railway-signal through the clear air; snow-scoured, and
innocent, so far, of smoke. All that mighty heart was lying still--yes!
But that engine, idling on the line and wide awake, felt free to wander
to and fro, with clanks, and finally to execute an _arpeggio_ of
truncated snorts downwards, and give a sudden yell, and depart behind
a steam-blast from beneath its apron. Then Mr. Taylor saw distinctly,
at the end of his wrong turning, the fence that stultified it as a

A wall of snow was against the lower half of the door, and the whole
row of houses it made one of was nearly masked by the drift-pile
heaped against it; and the snow that had caught and held against every
roughness on the upright wall lay thick on every ledge and slope, and
filled in every cavity. A sense of compromise was abroad in the air--an
anticipated suggestion of a thaw; not yet, you know, but in time!
Athelstan Taylor, as a neighbour's clock struck five in a hurry, knew
so well what the shovels meant to sound like in the morning while all
was still dry; and what the falls of snow would be like from uncleared
roofs later on, when much would be slush.

There was not a soul in sight in the _cul de sac_ street, which had
so obviously been the wrong turning. There was consolation in that,
though, for the Rev. Athelstan, for if it had been Gus and not he, Gus
would have known his ground better, and passed on. But then!--what
might not have happened to that poor little kid, asleep in there?
However, it was necessary now to think what was to be done. Not a
soul in sight, and hardly a sound to be heard; the very murmur of the
city's traffic, that never quite dies, barely audible! Every house
more than ever like its neighbour, in its cloak of snow. Which door
should he choose, to knock at? One opposite looked the most promising,
he thought. But he would put on his greatcoat before crossing through
the cold night air. Where was that coat, by the way? So--back into the
house to get it!

He struck a wax vesta to make the dark passage visible, and soon
saw where the woman had hung it on a peg near the stairway. Should
he, after all, go upstairs and rouse her?--Well, no, on the whole!
Because he thought the woman bad for the patient, and better out of
the way on that account. It did not occur to him that she was in the
adjacent room, and the exploration above contributed as an obstacle to
his decision. He felt readier for a colloquy with a roused next-door
neighbour, than for shaking a stupefied sleeper to wakefulness--one,
too, whom he had very poor reliance on. Besides, his own clearest
scheme was to get some safe person to take charge of the patient, while
he himself went for a doctor. If he did this, the doctor would come. If
he sent, perhaps no! How could he tell?

But after this slight delay, just as well to look in at the sleeper
once more before leaving him! The Rev. Athelstan, feeling very much
like the New Policeman, opened the door cautiously. Just as well, for
his charge was no longer where he had left him. He could see him in the
half-light, blundering against the window-shutter, apparently without
purpose, and talking to himself.

"Everything's took away, by Goard! Now if I could just lay 'ands on
that there * * * knife, I could slit 'em all up. All the biling; and
that'd make me even with 'em! Who's makin' any offer to stop me?" He
muttered on, and there seemed no object in interrupting him. Very
likely he would lie down and doze off again. A few minutes' patience,

Suddenly he stopped and turned. And then perceiving Athelstan Taylor
as he stood by the half-open door watching him intently, he addressed
him exactly as though he were one of a succession of applicants or
customers, whom he had satisfied so far.

"Now who might you be, master? 'And over your job! I'll be answerable
to see to it by to-morrow forenoon." He seemed for the moment quite
composed and businesslike, then suddenly changed to shrewd suspicion.
"Unless you're--unless you're--unless you're.... No!--would you? That's
not playing fair, by Goard! Come--you're a gentleman!--give a beggar
his fair chance...." For a sort of wily approach, as though to somehow
circumvent an object of suspicion, had been promptly intercepted, and
he found himself firmly held as before. Then an intolerable horror
seemed to seize on him quite suddenly. "God's mercy--keep him off--keep
him off! I'll never let on about him to no one. I promise. Only give
me a blooming Testament. I'll swear!" He asked several times for a
Testament, variously described, rather to the amusement than otherwise
of his hearer, whose sense of language discriminated between words with
meanings and expletives without. The drunkard's manner seemed to him
to throw doubt on the validity of any affidavit made on an unstained

But there was no amusement--nothing but a shudder--to be got out of the
intense conviction of his delirium that there was some horror--some
spectre or nightmare, God knows what!--in ambush behind the man who
held him. Those who have nursed any ordinary fever-patient through the
hours of low vitality in the night, know how hard it is to struggle
against a sort of belief in the reality of his delusions--against the
sympathetic dread, at least, that all but does duty for a real belief.
In _delirium tremens_ this conviction is overwhelming, and the Rev.
Athelstan almost felt it would be an easement, just once, to glance
round behind him, and make sure there was no one else in the room. And
this, although the drunkard's description seemed to apply to a conjurer
(with the usual drawback) who had escaped from his coffin, but might be
got back if we was sharp. His conviction of the reality of this person
was too fervid to be ridiculous, or anything but unearthly; even when
he added, as confirmatory, that he was a Hebrew conjuror, as well as a
sanguinary one. Simon Magus, perhaps?--thought the Rev. Athelstan. And
when he told his friend Gus Fossett of this after, he pretended it had
made him laugh.

The sound of a child crying, surely? Yes--the voice of the little
girl, in an agony of grief or fear, in the next room! He flung the
madman from him, and passed out of the room, locking him in. "I heard
him," said he, afterwards, "begging me to keep Simon Magus off, but
I couldn't stop to see to it." He went into the back room, where
Lizarann, roused by memory of her miseries from the lighter sleep of
morning, was shedding bitter tears because Daddy was not there, but
in the Hospital. Who does not know how the consciousness of affliction
awaiting us will drag us awake, however much we may strive to remain
in dreamland? Lizarann was glad of the gentleman, though, whatever he
was. And it was all the easier for her to give a short abstract of
her tragedy of the night before, that her aunt had gone upstairs to
dress, as a preliminary to action in connection with the front parlour,
whatever it was that was going on there. For whether anyone was there
with her husband--the gentleman of the night before, or a policeman,
or doctor perhaps--she had yet to learn. And she was horribly cold. A
favourable disposition towards lighting a bit of fire in the kitchen
was all the more marked on this account.

The very small person sobbing in a very dirty nightgown in the middle
of the back room could not--so Athelstan Taylor decided--go on
indefinitely unwarmed on such a morning as this. He rejoiced to feel
that there was still plenty of vital heat in her rudiment of a carcass,
as he wrapped it in the first thing that came to hand, a stray relic of
a blanket of days gone by. He picked the little bundle, so compacted,
up on his knee, and helped the subsidence of its sobs with a word or
two of consolation. While doing so, he could hear what difficulties his
case next door was getting into with Simon Magus.

"Berbecause derdaddy's in the Sussospital and hurted his leg," said
Lizarann, as far as our spelling will carry us, in reply to inquiry.

"That's a good little woman! Now she'll tell me all about it. How did
Daddy hurt his leg?"

Lizarann settled down to her narrative. Here was human sympathy, at
last, for her real trouble. For all the dreadful scene of last night
was only Uncle Bob; and of course that sort of thing was always
happening, more or less, with uncles. Not daddies, look you!--that was
quite another pair of shoes.

"There was free spoleecemen," said she, beginning like a true artist
with the strong, conspicuous points of her narrative, "took Daddy along
like carrying a Guy, only the spoleeceman he pictited me up and held me
inside of the skirting for Daddy for to kiss me. And Daddy, he says why
didn't I call out like he told me 'Pi-lot!' so he could hear?..."

"But was Daddy being carried on a chair?" The reference to a Guy had
complicated matters.

"Not a chair to set upon. A hospital-barrer. With skirtings. Yass!
But I hadn't called out Pi-lot, so Daddy could hear...." Lizarann's
conscience torments her on this point, which is one her hearer cares
very little about. He wants to find out what hurt Daddy's leg, and the
extent of the damage. He waits a moment to listen; thinks he hears
a silence in the next room, as though Simon Magus had vanished and
left his victim in peace. Something like knocking about of furniture
follows. But the drunkard is safe locked in. He can do no great harm
for a few minutes anyhow.

"Was it an accident, or did he tumble down of himself?" he asks. He
knows the child will understand. A mere fall on a slippery pavement
would hardly rank as an accident with her. An accident, unclassified
otherwise, almost implies a vehicle, among this class of Londoners.

"Yass!--an accident. The boy said so." A self-explanatory boy, the
speaker seems to think. The hearer accepts him as explained. But what
was the accident, and how much was Daddy hurt? Didn't the boy tell?
Gradually all that Lizarann has to communicate is elicited, and Mr.
Taylor takes a cheerful view of the outlook.

"Then Daddy's gone to the Hospital? They'll set Daddy on his legs
again. What does Daddy do for his living?"

"He's a Asker. Askin', he does. Yass!" Lizarann's large dark eyes, and
her gravity, added force to this. "Every dye, by the Rilewye Stytion,
where I goes to fotch 'im."

Athelstan Taylor gave a low whistle. "Oho!--_that's_ where we are, is
it?" He at once recognised the little girl whose fame had reached him
from the great house at Royd, with which he was of course in frequent
communication. "You're Lizarann Coupland, then; Lady Arkroyd's friend?"

"Yass!" said Lizarann, nodding. Not that she was sure of it. But she
knew there was a Lidy, come to see Teacher at School, she did; and she
couldn't have been certain, off-hand, that this wasn't the Lidy's nime,
in the face of the gentleman's statement. So she assented. She felt
rather proud. Her daddy was well spoken of among the _élite_ evidently.
She continued: "And the boy said, he did, they could mike Daddy's leg
well any day of the week at the Sospital, because they done his Aunt
and Uncle. And a gentleman was a corpse they done, out of a shore. And
Mr. Parker's teef they done, as good as new! So they was all _singin'_!
Yass--they _was_!" This came in instalments; our report is shortened,
for convenience.

Athelstan Taylor said afterwards to his friend: "I was getting so
sleepy by that time, that I didn't above half enjoy the little maid's
hopeful chatter about her Daddy, which of course I confirmed. I had
to commit it to memory to laugh at it afterwards." Indeed, his great
strength and endurance had been sorely taxed by the trying nature of
his long vigil; mere sitting up all night he would have made light of.

       *       *       *       *       *

When Aunt Stingy appeared a few minutes after, having been employed
in lighting the kitchen fire as projected, she found Lizarann still
on Mr. Taylor's knee, kept warm in the extemporized wrap, and filling
in the blanks in her narrative, in reply to his cross-questionings.
With a curious lack of tact and insight, Mrs. Steptoe immediately
denounced her niece's presumption, suggesting that the child had taken
the gentleman by storm, as it were; and alleging that little g'yells
ought to know better how to behave than that. The gentleman cut this
ill-judged attempt to creep up his sleeve very short indeed.

"Now listen to me, if you please, Mrs. ... what's your name? ...
oh--Steptoe. Mrs. Steptoe. I am going at once to get the nearest doctor
to see your husband. And I think the best thing you can do will be to
leave him quiet in the front room till I come back. He won't take any
harm. And I hope when I come back I shall find the little girl dressed,
with a nice warm fire to warm herself at. I suppose you can't get
any breakfast for her yet awhile?... Well!--do what you can in that
direction. Yesterday's milk is better than no milk." And with a very
decisive refusal to take a cup of tea at any future time, on any terms,
he buttoned his coat tight round him, and left the room. Lizarann heard
the street door open and close, and then she was left friendless and
alone with a formidable aunt. That good woman stepped out after the
street door closed, and listened a moment at that of the front room,
but finding all silent did not open it. She saw it had been locked, as
the key had been inside overnight. Evidently her visitor had locked it.

She returned and afflicted Lizarann by a destructive co-operation in
the gettin' of her frock on, a form of help that twitched its victim
to and fro under the pretext of promoting her stability; that resented
her offered assistance and denounced it as henderin'; that left her
penalized by a sense of wrong hooks in wrong eyes, buttons adrift from
their holes, and holes aghast at the intrusion of strange buttons. But
Lizarann was used to this, and discerned in it the shortness of her
aunt's temper. Her Daddy he'd always said poor Aunty she couldn't help
her nater, and we must bottle up according. Lizarann beheld her aunt
through a halo of Jim's patience and forgiveness.

       *       *       *       *       *

Athelstan Taylor soon found the doctor in Cazenove Street, who came
readily in answer to his summons. It wouldn't do to lose sight of the
case, he said. The man, who was quite well known to him as a typical
case of Alcoholism, to the police as an habitual drunkard, and to the
neighbourhood as always the worse for liquor, might very easily die
of collapse if he wasn't carefully nourished when the reaction came.
He would be much safer in a Hospital. Often in cases of this sort,
life or death would turn on an injection of morphine on the spot.
Heart-failure might be very rapid. He spoke as though Mr. Steptoe's
decease would be a real calamity. Mr. Taylor, tramping beside him
through the snow, tried to shape a thought that hung in his mind.
How if he himself, who preached a Resurrection or Hereafter that as
like as not this scientific gentleman did not believe in--how if he
was less keen to preserve this depraved life, as a chance to clean
it up a bit for a wholesomer departure later on, than the doctor in
his professional enthusiasm, his sportsmanlike eagerness to win in a
game of Therapeutics against Death? He felt a little ashamed of having
thought more than once that the miserable victim of vice would be
"best out of the way." Out of the way!... where? And then, how did he
know that this consensus of all mortals to try and save even the most
worthless lives may not be an unconscious tribute to the underlying
sense of immortality throughout mankind? Would an honest belief in
extinction fight to preserve a life that is a pain to itself and a
curse to its neighbours? So thinking, he turned with his companion into
Tallack Street. "Last house on the right, isn't it?" said the doctor.

What was that policeman doing in front of the last house on the right?
Looking about on the snow as though in search for something, and then
stooping forward over the low railing to examine the window-fastenings.
It was all secure there when Athelstan Taylor came away. He quickened
his pace, and the doctor did so too.

"Anything wrong, officer?" Both ask the question at once.

"Couldn't say, Sir. Be so good as not to tread on these footmarks. I
want 'em kept till my relief comes. He'll be here in a few minutes....
No--the window's not been tampered with, so far as I see. That's where
it's so queer."

All three stand silent a moment. Then both gentlemen exclaim at once
that they see. The queerness is clear enough to both. The footsteps on
the snow all point away from the window, and a glance shows that there
is no corresponding track of an approach to it.

None of the three seem to think the mystery soluble, for the moment,
and mere speculation is useless. The policeman supplies an additional
fact, but does not claim importance for it. The hasp of the window is
visibly unclosed through the glass. But--so the officer testifies--they
don't shut 'em to, as often as not.

"You can open it from outside," says the parson-gentleman to the
policeman. "All right! I was coming to the house. I know the people."

"All right, officer!" says the doctor-gentleman. "You know me. Dr.
Ferris, Cazenove Street." And thus encouraged the constable easily
throws up the window from without. A touch on the shutters, and they
open inwards. They reveal an empty room, and the track of the footsteps
away from the window is at once explained--fully to the two who knew
that a delirious man was the only tenant of the room, and clearly
enough for purpose of action to the third, who only sees that some
person, to whom the exclamation of both at once, "He has escaped!"
applied, has been able to close the window behind him to disguise his
flight, and may by now be far away at the end of a long trail they
all start to follow, running through the snow as best they may. It is
difficult to run, as the drifted snow is nearly knee-deep sometimes.
But here and there the wind has kept the ground clear, blowing it like
dry dust.

The track goes straight to the closing fence at the street end, at a
point the youthful marauders of Tallack Street have chosen for inroads
into the railway territory beyond. It is passable, for those who can
climb a little, and whose clothes do not mind nail-rip or paint-stain.
As the three follow one another over this obstacle, Athelstan Taylor
and the doctor send back a shouted word or two of reassurance to
whoever it is that has opened the house-door and come out with a cry
of alarm--woman or child or both. They do not stop to see which, but
get on as fast as possible. The track ends for a few yards where
the railway arch has made a gap in the snow, but it is soon found
on the other side, and then is easy to follow over a desolation of
land ripe for building--ripe for the creation of ground-rents--ripe
with the deadly ripeness we all know so well, of the land that the
hay will never smell sweet upon again, the land that even now awaits
interminable streets of dwellings no man or woman of the days to come
shall ever think of as a home in childhood. Easy to follow as it
lies clear in the thick snow it has had all to itself, and will have
till the road is reached that leads to the Refuse Destroyer, with
its two hundred feet of chimney-shaft, from which a black cloud is
pouring--presumably of refuse that has refused to be destroyed; or
has reappeared after destruction in an astral body, or suppose we say
disastral--and the canal, and the Breweries, and the Chemical Bottle
Stout Works, and the Artificial Food Works the Sewage Appropriation
Company, Limited, are building down Snape's Lane this side of the

The track goes straight to the road, but on reaching it swerves aside,
baffled by a hedge, or the memory of what was once a hedge, whose
function has been reinforced by barbed wire; probably the last expiring
effort of a pastoral age to induce sheep to remain on the land and
be tempted by the dirty grass. The swerved footsteps follow on to an
opening two sad stumps face one another in, and think, perhaps, at
times of the days when they were a stile, and real villagers stepped
over them, and distant London was unknown. Then the track is lost for a
space in a maze of other tracks of men on their way to brew, to bottle
stout chemically, to appropriate sewage, that artificial food may be
stocked, in tins, for a race with powers of digestion up to date. Then
is found again, and followed on to a canal-bank with Platonic locks
that sleep sometimes from day's end to day's end, bargeless, and dream
of a past when railways were unknown, and they were full of purpose,
and the world was young. And then is lost again, at a bridge.

Stragglers are gathering round, anxious to satisfy curiosity about
the nature of the search; also anxious to impart information about
its object, whether possessed of any or not. Willingness to further
the public interest, without any qualifications of data to go upon,
is often a serious hindrance to the end in view. In this case several
casuals, who have _not_ seen a man in his shirt-sleeves, without ne'er
a hat on, go by, are so anxious to mould the particulars of something
else they _have_ seen into a plausible substitute for information
about the said man, that the necessity for hearing enough of their
evidence to reject it becomes an obstacle trying to the patience of the
searchers. It seems injudicious to snub a volunteer informant who see
a party go along the road in the opposite direction rather better than
an hour ago, with a sack over his head and shoulders, who "might have
been a dorg-fancier, to look at, in the manner of describing him," and
to tell him to shut up if he can't go any nearer than that; not only
because this drastic treatment may discourage other informants who
have really something to tell, but because, being put on his mettle,
he proceeds to adjust his evidence to the facts, so far as he can
ascertain them. He removes the sack from the head of his recollection,
makes it walk the other way at any acceptable time; won't undertake,
now you ask so partic'lar, that it hadn't shirt-sleeves, and surrenders
the dog-fancier in favour of any vocation you are inclined to put a
leading question about. In like manner, a party sim'lar to you describe
come straight--according to other proffered testimony--acrost yarnder
open ground to this very self-same spot, and so forrard over the bridge
to'ards the Princess Charlotte down the lane, and went in at the bar.
But the photographic likeness of this person to any description you
choose to give of the man sought for fails to establish the identity of
the two, as he was seen on the previous day, maybe about dinner-time.
Compromise is impossible; the informant stands committed to yesterday,
past recall.

But the track on the snow is lost--that is the one fact clear. Give
it up and go back?--is that the only course open to us? Not when the
chase ends so close to a canal-lock. True, the footsteps do not go to
the edge, but only because a wind-swept skirting of brick pavement is
clear of snow. The last one is none so far off the stone curb, above
the water. Look down into the empty lock, and think!

The parson and the doctor represent intelligent speculation; the
policeman, official reserve ready to listen to information and compare
it with his pre-omniscience; the gathering crowd of early workmen, the
uselessness of defective reasoning powers brought to bear on insoluble

After a moment the parson speaks to the doctor: "The ice is broken over
there--just where the water is running in."

"Are you sure?" asks the doctor. "Isn't it only the wash of the water
melting it off? But your eyesight is better than mine, I expect."

"No, there's a broken edge. The water-wash would scoop and leave a

"What do _you_ think?" the doctor asks the policeman, who replies
briefly: "Gentleman's right, perhaps. Worth trying, anyhow!...
Now then, some of you, idling round, I want that bit of ice broke
up--against the lower gate. Look alive now!... Yes!--a couple of planks
and a short ladder and a yard or so of scaffold-cord. Get 'em anywhere
round! I'm answerable. Never you mind what anyone says--just you take
'em!" And the leading casuals, probably labourers on the building job
down the lane, are off at a trot to requisition planks and cords. But
not without establishing a slight collateral grievance, in the manner
of their kind: "You've only got to _name_ what you want, and we'll
_get_ it fast enough. Who's to know what you're askin' for, exceptin'
you speak?"

Athelstan Taylor's surmise of course was that Uncle Bob had ended his
run by falling into the lock at the upper end, where the ice was thin;
and, breaking through it, had passed below the thicker ice, where he
remained--probably jammed against the lower gate, which was closed. He
noticed that this conjecture was at once accepted, but that no living
soul of all those present referred to it in words. Silence is kept
about it, but for a word between himself and the doctor, even till
after the planks and cords and ladder have come, and the planks are
laid athwart the sounder ice at the lower gate. One man can stand on
them safely without fear of its giving--perhaps two. But one can break
the ice with a pick fast enough, as soon as he can get at it. Hand him
down a shovel to clear the snow a bit!

The parson is feeling sick at heart with his long night's vigil, and
as though he could hardly face the dreadful end. He shrinks back, not
to see more than he need. Then from the depths of the lock comes the
crackling sound of the ice that breaks beneath the pick. Then the
tension of the growing excitement as those on the brink watch for a
result they feel confident of.

"Nothing there?"... "Nothing that side."... "Now you keep steady
across with your peck--right you are!--across the middle ... don't go
to sleep!... yes, now right up in the corner.... Something there?"...
"Ah!--easy a minute till I catch holt ... have that cord ready.... Got

       *       *       *       *       *

"You are quite certain nothing can be done?"

"Absolutely certain. He was ready for heart-failure, without being an
hour under the ice."

"Will you tell the poor woman, from me, that I had no choice but to go?
And that poor baby...."

"Is there a baby?"

"Well--little girl of six then! Say I'll come at three to take her to
see her father at the Hospital. You're sure it's the same case?"

"Not the least doubt. A blind sailor beggar--there couldn't be two. You
know the wards at St. Brides.... Never mind--you'll find out.... What
is it, my good woman?"

It is a woman with a tale to tell. Briefly, that she looked out of
her bedroom window about an hour and a half since, and saw what must
have been the unhappy inebriate running across the field, looking
back, time and again, as if he see some party follering of him. Then
he come to the lock, and stood close over the edge--back to, as you
might say. So standing, he went wild, on the sudden, and threw up his
arms, and there!--he was over in the lock, afore you could reckin
him up like--clear over! Both her hearers are indignant, or perhaps
incredulous about the truth of the story. For if she really saw this,
why in Heaven's name did she give no alarm?--the man's life might have
been saved! She expresses contrition as for an error of judgment, but
no great remorse. She told her master--meaning her husband--who said
it was a queer start. But it was that early! The exact bearing of this
fact on the matter was far from clear.

"She'll have to tell her tale before the coroner, anyhow," said the
doctor, as he showed his companion a short-cut into his road home.
"Well!--now keep straight on--you'll be in the main road in five
minutes. I hope you'll get a good breakfast and a good sleep before you
marry those two sinners. Good-bye! Remember, straight on!"

For the Rev. Athelstan had told this gentleman of the binding
engagement that he had to keep that morning as _locum tenens_ at St.
Vulgate's. He had with difficulty persuaded a navvy to remedy an
omission in his duties towards the mother of his family, whom he had
never led to the Altar of Hymen; and the said navvy had consented to do
so this morning, and was rather entering into the fun of the thing. But
if the parson were to fail in his appointment, was it certain that the
delinquent would be brought to the scratch a second time?

However, he had still time for breakfast and rest before this
appointment was due. So he walked briskly on through the thick snow,
sad at heart, but wonderfully little the worse physically for his
terrible experience. And as he walked he shuddered as he thought of the
unhappy case of Alcoholism, flying over the spotless, virgin snow from
God knows what, to his death. "I suppose Simon Magus had got out, after
all, and was sharp on his heels," said the Rev. Athelstan, and then
added: "At any rate, I'm glad it was me, not Gus!"



If Lizarann had had no grounds for looking forward to a reappearance
of the curious New Policeman who had rescued her, she would have been
more on the alert about the events of the previous night that concerned
Uncle Bob. But she had no doubt her rescuer would come back. And this
anticipation, as well as the hopeful tone in which he had spoken of
Daddy's prospects at the Hospital, set her mind quite at rest about
everything but the thing which presented itself to her merely as
exaggerated domesticity. It was Uncle Bob, only rather more so.

Seen from her point of view, the events that had preceded Uncle Bob
were that Daddy had been in collision with a Pickford's Van, and had
suffered, but not murderously, from the accident; that he had not been
able to walk, because of his leg; and that he had been carried away
by well-disposed officials to an institution that promoted soundness
of wind and limb, and had even been known to make its _bénéficiaires_
musical. A child's mind knows no proportion; and the last item, which
was really a gratuitous invention of the boy whose name was not Moses,
gained credence with Lizarann slowly, and ended by throwing every other
particular into the shade. Further, she knew that Uncle Bob, considered
as an infliction, had been worse--for he was to her merely an endemic
disease that increased or diminished, like gout--and that he had run
out in the snow. Nothing abnormal in that; besides, the police, new
and old, had run after him, to say nothing of the doctor-gentleman
from the house with "Surgery" wrote up big, where you could get a
supply of medicine if you said where you come from, and took back an
exhausted bottle with a surprisingly high number on it, considering
its pretensions. And these events having passed muster as normal, what
followed was only natural.

Her aunt had shown at first dispositions to join the chase, but had
desisted in consequence of remonstrance from neighbours, who had begun
to be aware that history had been in the making during the night at
Steptoe's; he, though chronic the previous evening, having become acute
in the small hours of the morning. Mrs. Hicks and Mrs. Hacker, and
others, having trooped round the vortex of excitement, had counselled
Aunt Stingy to remain where she would be of some use, and not go
canterin' over the buildin' land with no object, in the manner of
speaking. Wasn't three plenty?

Jimmy 'Acker, told off to follow the trail in the snow and bring back
word if he see 'em coming, had come back uneasy and evasive, had
told contradictory stories about what he see, and had confirmed the
public belief in the untrustworthiness of boys. Questioned, during
ostracism, by his sister and Lizarann, his replies had been mysterious,
and his refusal to make them less so unintelligible. The expression,
"Just you wait and see if what I told you ain't k'rect," laid claim
to having said something, sometime; and no effort of his hearers'
memory confirmed his having done so. Other emissaries departed to get
information, and did not come back.

This state of uncertainty had been ended by the reappearance of the
policeman and the doctor, who climbed back over the fence followed by
straggling units from among those who had witnessed the scene at the
lock. Everyone can read something written about Death on the faces of
those who have just seen him.

"Now which of you women was this man's wife?" That was what Lizarann
had heard the policeman--the old sort; she looked in vain for her
glorious friend--say to wifehood within hearing. Whereupon Aunt Stingy
became on a sudden hysterical, and was helped, gasping and crying, into
the house. Lizarann wanted to go too, moved by pity for she knew not
what--for something folk were speaking under their breath about to one
another, not to her; nodding about, pointing about, to something past
or present, beyond the railway-arch; drawing morals about and referring
to their own foresight about. Then she had heard the voice of the

"Which of you youngsters is his little girl?... Hadn't got a little
girl, hadn't he?... Oh ah!--of course he hadn't.... I should
say--which is the little girl whose dad's hurt his leg and gone to the
Hospital?... Ah, to be sure!--Lizarann. Now, Lizarann, suppose you get
your bonnet and wrop yourself up as warm as you can and come along o'
me to Teacher at the School, just till Mr. Taylor comes to go to see
Daddy with you. The big gentleman?... just him, and nobody else. Come
along!" Which Lizarann did, with alacrity. Daddy was in view again.

Then had come a very pleasant phase of what had really seemed more a
dream than a reality, all along, to Lizarann. She had found herself
being fed and washed and dressed and generally succoured by Miss
Fossett, otherwise Teacher, at her private residence next door to the
School, after the departure of the doctor-gentleman who left her there.
She couldn't for the life of her make out whether it was good news or
bad news he had been telling Teacher under his breath. All she knew
was that she was somehow appointed to go to Daddy in the Hospital,
and that nothing else mattered. Even had she known the tragedy of the
morning, it would only have been the fact of Death that would have
appalled her--not the loss of the man who died. Practically, the grave
was already closing over the remains of Uncle Bob, or the chief part
of them. Decision on that point scarcely rests with ignorance though;
who shall say that even Alcoholism can efface a soul? Nips won't,
however frequently took; a germ always remains. At least, that is our
experience, or an inference from it.

It is always pleasant to feel at liberty to over-indulge a child,
and Miss Fossett, a good-natured woman that might have married--that
describes her--interpreted something the doctor had told her about
Daddy as a licence to do so in this case. So Lizarann enjoyed herself
thoroughly--may almost be said to have been pampered--in the interval
between the doctor's departure and the arrival of the Rev. Athelstan.
When the latter came, as promised, Miss Fossett had said something to
him with concern, under her breath, and he had replied in a strain as
of reassurance, to judge from his tone: "Never you mind the doctor,
Addie. Like enough he was mistaken. Besides, he said he thought they
might save it." Which, half-heard by Lizarann, only left an impression
on her mind of the hospital staff on its knees hunting in the gutter
for poor Jim's takings in coppers, spilt from his pocket last night
when he met with this accident. Also at the moment Lizarann was doing
some arithmetic by herself, _hors de concours_, and honestly believed
she was conferring a real kindness on Teacher by adding up rows of
figures for her. She would have done them quicker, only she had to stop
to lick and rub out each carried cipher after writing in the next one.
Also, when she got the values wrong in an eight, which is difficult,
she had to rub it out and do it all over again.

"Lizarann says two and two make four, but fifteen and twelve don't make
twenty-seven." Lizarann thought Teacher said this rather maliciously.
But she was prompt in self-justification.

"Not of theirselves. Not till you do them in a sum. Like this...." And
she did it.

"Quite right, Lizarann! Of course they don't. But two and two will
make four if you leave 'em alone ever so. Isn't that it?" Thus the
gentleman--a sympathetic soul!

"Yass!" And the little woman felt that justice had been done. But she
didn't know why maturity should laugh, as it did.

"They may save it, of course," Miss Fossett continued. "I don't see
what's to be gained by taking the child to the Hospital, myself. Only
make her miserable! It won't be half as bad if it's a wooden leg and
he's up and well, as seeing him in a hospital ward. Besides, Dr. Ferris
said he couldn't be certain they'd let you see him."

"I fancy they would. I know a man there who would manage it, regular
hours or no!"

"I don't mean that. I mean it might not be safe for the man himself.
Just think!--suppose they have had to amputate both." Of course
Lizarann heard none of this. They were in the next room, having left
her engaged in arithmetic.

"Yes--he may be betwixt life and death. After all, we know nothing.
When did Dr. Ferris say he would be at the Hospital? Is that the child

"Is that you coughing, Lizarann?" Teacher raised her voice to ask, and
Lizarann replied that she had "a stiss" in her side whenever she licked
the slite. She licked it to try, and the experiment was crowned with
success. She then tried to readjust something out of gear inside her
by short coughs and wriggles. This did not seem so successful. Teacher
lowered her voice again: "Mucous membrane," said she, "or muscular."

"Very likely. She's had a deal of exposure though, snow and all. Let's
keep our eyes on her." But Lizarann didn't cough again, that time.

Nevertheless Miss Fossett seemed not quite easy in her mind about
that cough, and when Mr. Taylor remarked that he ought to be thinking
about starting, if we were to get to the Hospital by four o'clock, she
said--only she pretended it was quite a sudden idea of hers--that if
she spoke the truth she would really be much happier to have the child
not go out of doors in all this terrible cold and slush. For it was a
thaw, and an enthusiastic one; and, you see, Miss Fossett had come by
her knowledge of mucous membranes and so forth in a sad curriculum of
two courses; one of nursing a sister through phthisis to death; and
the other, which was incomplete, of doing the like at intervals for a
brother, with only a poor hope that it would end otherwise. So she knew
all about it.

"I really should feel easier, Yorick," she repeated. And Lizarann
looked up from the slate to see who else was in the room, that Teacher
could be speaking to. But seeing no one, and being a sharp little girl,
she perceived that it was her friend the gentleman that was addressed.
Only, of course, she couldn't guess that it was a sort of nickname,
given, years ago, to her brother's schoolfellow by her friend the lady.

"_I_ should, a good deal. It's not the right sort of day at all for
little girls with coughs. How shall we console her?"

"_You_ must."

"I suppose I shall have to, Addie. I always have to do all the dirty
work." This metaphor distracted Lizarann's attention from two uneven
numbers, one of which had to be took off the other and wouldn't come
out right. Did the New Police scrub underneath the beds, clear the
flues of sut, scour out the sink, and so on? Impossible! He went on:
"Look here, Lizarann! You're a good little girl, aren't you?"


"And you're not going to cry--that's about it, isn't it?"

"Ye-e-e--yass!" She is not quite so confident about this, but will
conciliate public opinion to the best of her ability.

"Well, Lizarann, the doctor says we mustn't see Daddy till--till a
day or two." The small face clouds over pitifully. The disappointment
is bitter. But Lizarann won't cry--well!--not _yet_, anyhow. Yorick
continues: "I shall go to the Sospital to hear about Daddy, and come
back and tell. But you mustn't go yet, because it would hurt Daddy." He
conceals his consciousness of the background of tears to the child's
Spartan resolution.

"You'll see it will come, though," says Miss Fossett, saying good-bye
at the street-door. "She'll have a good cry about it when you're
gone.... But oh dear!--what a lot of stories you have told that child,

"Of course I did. You put it on me, Addie, and then you sneak out! _I_
call it mean. But oh dear!--what a lot of stories one does have to tell

"You never tell them stories about anything you think serious. I know
you don't."

"Yes, I do. I tell them as matter of knowledge what I know to be only
matter of belief. They wouldn't believe it if I didn't say I knew it."

"But _you_ believe it?"

"I do. But I don't know it. Good-bye, Addie! I shall keep my promise
about the Hospital, though, and bring the news back. Cosset over the
little woman and console her." Which Teacher really did to the best of
her ability, but the fact is that though Lizarann was brave, she was
inconsolable. And--what was bitterest of all--she felt that faith had
been broken with her; which, coming home too late to Miss Fossett, made
her think that it might have been better to tell a child of Lizarann's
character the real reason why she wasn't to go to Daddy. It was a
doubtful point, though. Besides, it was far from certain, after all,
that she could have seen Daddy if she _had_ been taken to the Hospital.
It would have been the worst result of all to fail in that, and have
all the exposure for nothing.

So the Rev. Athelstan--or Yorick--certainly thought, as he started
to walk to St. Brides, meaning to avail himself of a townward-bound
hansom if one should overtake him before he got to the tram. Omnibuses
were all full, apparently, inside and out; and the opportunity of
enjoying a rapid thaw was open to those who had for three weeks been
praying for one. Streets overwhelmed with insufferable slush, and what
was beautiful clean snow only a few hours since turned to torrents of
an inkiness defying explanation. Roads that made even the sufferer
by the slides we so enjoyed the making of in the early morning wish
that he, too, was on our side, and could benefit by them, and knock
double-knocks on them and never tumble. And see them now, turned to
mere ill-mixed morass--floating pea-soup ankle-deep! Scavengers'
carts that seemed to spill more than they removed, and persons of low
ideals of energy losing sight of the objects for whose attainment
they had been entrusted with brooms and rakes, and contented to do
nothing particular with them, in rows. Malignant persons on roof-tops
discharging wicked accumulations on unsuspecting heads, and shouting
out "Be-low!" at the moment of impact. Butchers' carts coming as
close to you as possible, to splash mud in your mouth and inside your
collar, and reaching the horizon long before you become articulate to
curse them. And then that saddest of all depressing sights, the skater
who has been warned off the ice that won't be dangerous for another
hour at least, and is going home swinging his skates and doubting the
benevolence of his Maker.

So onward, through abating suburb and increasing town, to the zone
of the Effectual. Of impatient carts that won't wait for the snow to
thaw, but snap it up and carry it away without offering to account for
their conduct; of mowing-machines fitted with Brobdingnag revolving
hair-brushes that will have to be washed now to be put to their proper
use again, after sweeping up all that equivocal mess parallel with the
kerbstone; of turncocks looking happy from human appreciation in great
force, and alone able to cope with obstructions or relaxations in the
bowels of the earth whose nature we outsiders can only dimly guess at.
So travelling onward, on foot and by tram, the Rev. Athelstan arrived
at his destination, and slipping the fare he had provided for the cab
he had discarded into the contribution-box at the gate, entered St.
Brides Hospital.

"I didn't know you were in these parts, Taylor," said his friend, the
House Surgeon. "Haven't seen you for a century.... Yes!--I know I am
right. It's two years next Lady Day. How's the family? How's Miss
Caldecott?... all right, are they? That's well. Now let's have a look
at you. Turn round to the light...."

"I'm all right."

"Didn't say you weren't. Let's have a look! Turn well round and show
yourself ... h'm!"

"Well!--what's the matter?"

"I thought as much! You've been dissipating, my man. _Your_ sort of
dissipation! What was it this time? You've been up all night, my good
sir! It's no use your trying to deceive me."

"'I will not deceive you, my sweet!'" Mr. Taylor quoted Mrs. Gamp,
and was understood. "I chanced upon a bad case of _delirium tremens_
threatening its lawful wife with a knife, and I stayed to see it out.
Poor fellow!"

"H'm--why poor fellow?"

"Because I locked him up and went for the doctor round the corner.
He said he knew you. Man of the name of Ferris. Good sort of little

"I know him. Saw him yesterday--came to see a patient here. Well!--what
did he say to your man?"

"He never saw him alive. While I was away the poor fellow escaped
out of the room, ran a mile and a half through the snow, and pitched
himself into a canal-lock.... Oh yes!--he was fished out dead from
under the ice...."

"Rather a good job, I should think.... However, perhaps I oughtn't to
say that...."

"Glad to hear you say so, Crumpton! It sounds hopeful."

"I didn't mean that way. I meant he might have been an interesting
case. Anyhow, there's an end of _him_!"

"I wish I could think that. But suppose I tell you what brings me here
now: we can quarrel about the human soul after. I want to hear about a
man that was brought in yesterday night, a blind sailor-beggar that was
run over. Have you seen him?"

"Rather! I helped to get his leg off, just above the knee. A very good
case--a very good case!"

"What does that mean!--a very good case?"

"Means that if the limb hadn't been taken off on the nail, septic
poisoning might have set in--yes!--already!--By the merest chance
Brantock was here when he was brought in--he's our visiting
surgeon, you know--and he operated immediately.... Save it? Not a
chance--arteries all torn--circulation stopped--nothing for it but
the knife! The other leg we may save. He has a splendid constitution.
Couldn't have kept him so long under chloroform else."

"The other leg?"

"Compound comminuted fracture of tibia and fibula, with extensive
laceration of soft parts. Much extravasation. But vitality retained. Oh
yes!--we may save that one. It's in plaster of Paris. He was removed
into the surgical ward an hour ago. Do you want to see him?--he can't
talk, I fancy, and he'd better not try. He's had a good deal of opium
to allay pain, you see."

"_May_ I see him? I should like to say I have to his little girl.
Poor child! The _delirium tremens_ case was her uncle, and she has no
mother. She's the poor chap's only child."

The House Surgeon put a book he had been looking into as he talked,
inside a desk and locked it; wrote with extreme rapidity on half a
sheet of note-paper as people write on the stage; handed it to a chubby
nurse who seemed to have been indulging optimism while waiting for it;
remarked to her, "That's three hundred and forty-nine. I'll see about
the other presently;" and said to the Rev. Athelstan, briefly, "Come

       *       *       *       *       *

Poor Jim was worse now, as far as his own feelings went, than when he
spoke to Lizarann off of the hospital-barrer. _Then_ he was, in his own
eyes, a chap that had been knocked over and come by some damage to his
legs, which a week in hospital would set right. Pain enough!--ah, to
be sure!--and what might you expect? Not for to lie up in cotton-wool
all the days of your life. As a Spartan, and as against pain, with the
normal courage of his healthy hours upon him, Jim was matchless. Add
to that, that when he said those few words to his little lass, all
the pain was as nothing in itself, measured against the need that she
should not know it.

It was that nasty suffocating stuff that knocked all the heart out of
a man, getting at his innards and stopping his clock. For when the
time came to shift Jim from the couch he was first laid on to the
operating-table, and to place him under chloroform as a preliminary,
he was conscious enough of much that was going on--had drawn his own
inferences from the rapid undertone of consultation ending in a raised
voice: "Perfectly useless to try for the left. May save the right!" In
that instant he gave no thought to his own share in the matter; all
he could think of was the coming of the knowledge to his child that
her Daddy was legless as well as eyeless. Three things made up his
universe--his little lass, a crushed and spoiled thing on a couch, and
that mysterious thing, Jim's Self, independent of both, but mad with
anxiety for the former--until the chloroform came and made all three
things Nothing.

However, Jim never knew he was Nothing, because he had no sooner
swallowed the nasty stuff into his lungs than he was feeling very bad,
and sick-like, on a bed he had never been moved to at all, to his very
certain knowledge. And he was able to guess, although he could not
move his limbs to test it, that he was in the form in which he was to
fossilize. Then, as the slow rally of a splendid constitution against
the shock began, there grew with it an intense longing to know what
manner of figure he was going to cut when reinstated. Would it be one
wooden leg or two wooden legs? Would he be able to walk at all? Would
he, in short, be in trim to persuade his little lass that he was on the
whole rather better off than before his accident? He really thought
of nothing else when awake. But he chiefly slept, rousing himself for
dexterous doses of nourishment at short intervals. And when he slept,
he dreamed, as folk dream whose pain opium has half quenched.

He would have done very well in his dreams if he could only have had
them to himself, and been free from an awful _something_ that ran
through them all. Whereof the only certainty was that it was always the
same, and a curse. Preferably, as to form, it was cubic and immovable,
but of hideous weight. But then, it was by no means certain that it
was not a continuous sound, a sustained hoot of appalling power and
persistency that struck terror to the heart, and jarred the brain. Or
was it a wild beast, that kept the ship's crew from going ashore? Or
an evil fire Jim was hard at work to crawl away from, but could not,
seeing that it could follow him on wheels? Or, hardest to describe of
all--when he woke from his dream to recognize a fact he had recognized
fifty times uselessly, that it was merely his pain and nothing
else--was it a strange concerted action of malignant battalions,
always coming nearer, never in sight? It made him sick to know that it
was each and all of the others, just the same. Now if he could only
have enjoyed his dreams--for, look you, he could see in his dreams,
plain--he wouldn't have minded the pain, if he could only have kept it
square and intelligible. It was just the confusion that made him so hot
and dry, so unable to get properly _rangé_.

For instance, there was a dream of eight years back with Dolly in it.
Dolly was Lizarann's mother, and the reason Lizarann was not called
Dolly was that Aunt Stingy had always thought it such a _selly_ name,
and it had appeared to Jim that it couldn't much matter what anything
so small was called. Its size was all he knew of it, and a milky
flavour, and some squeaks. And Jim was in the dark, and Dolly in her
grave, and nothing mattered.

Jim was in the dark now, with a vengeance; but he could dream Dolly out
of her grave, and did it, in this dream. It was a dream of the day he
met her, when he came off his first voyage, a mere boy, and a perfect
stranger to her. There was the bar he and his mates off the _Pera_ had
trooped into for refreshment, just paid off and feeling good, with
money in their pockets. There were the square bottles with names on
the glass, and the round ones all over labels, and the pump-handles
in a row that Dolly's red-faced cousin Jane, the barmaid, was in the
confidence of, but which everyone else would have pulled wrong. There,
too, was the girl that came in behind the bar and berthed up alongside
the red-faced cousin, just as Murtagh O'Rourke called back to him
through the swing-door, "We're lavin' ye behind, James, me boy," and
vanished. And the girl was Dolly--Dolly herself. Jim didn't know in his
dream that he had married Dolly since, and that she was dead--not he!
It was all new and young again, and in a moment he would hear Dolly say
what she did then, when after some chat--during which the eyes of each
saw the other solely, Dolly's flinchingly, Jim's greedily--the red face
was called away and left them. Yes!--he knew what she would say, "You
never daren't come across to me," and that he in defiance of all Law
and Order would be over that bar like a shot, and then would be driven
forth by the righteous rage of the returning barmaid, with the remains
of a kiss on his lips, the spoil of war in this audacious enterprise.
And all the sequel of the story--how Dolly ran after him to say he
might come back, under reserves; and the lightning speed of their
unsophisticated courtship, under none--all this he knew in the dream
beforehand, but did not wonder why he knew it--took it as a matter of

It never came off, though, for the dream never got as far as the kiss,
to Jim's bitter disappointment. Jane, the cousin, instead of clearing
out and leaving the introduction to nature, swelled and became redder
still and very hot, and ended inexplicably by becoming the pain that
had passed through so many vicissitudes. Whereupon Jim was awake in
the dark, somewhere. And a man's voice, one good to hear, was saying,
"I'll sit down by him and wait till he wakes, nurse. I promised little
Lizarann I would see him."

"That's my little lass!" said Jim faintly. And the nurse said, "I
thought I heard him speak." Then Jim felt that a big man came and sat
beside him, who asked him what he had said. So he repeated, "The name
of my little lass at home, master," and then had said all he could,
and went off again in a drowze, and was far away in a new dream in two
seconds. In perhaps five he woke again with a start and said: "Have ye
been here long, master?" But his mind must have travelled quick from
the dream he was in, and his place in it. For he had to come back to
bed No. 146 at St. Brides Hospital from Singapore--from the hold of a
ship a Malay sailor had hidden himself in, after running amuck through
the decks, wounding right and left. And Jim and Ananias Driscoll, the
second mate, were the only men who would dare to ferret him out in
the dark, with a horn lantern and loaded revolvers, to use in earnest
if need was. And, mind you!--the fugitive might have put fire to the
ship, as lief as not, except they caught him. Now the bilge in this
ship, or something broke out of a cask in the hold, had a powerful bad
smell with it, that had a mortal strange effect on your legs. And when
Jim said so to Driscoll, a voice came that was not Driscoll's, and Jim
became aware that he was somehow in a trap, and woke just in time to
escape it. But the smell of that bilge was the pain of Jim's foot; for
the foot was there still, for all it had been cut off and carried away
in a pail. And the voice that had seemed Driscoll's, which was quite an
unnatural one for a sailor with earrings, and a crucifix tattooed on
his chest, was identified half-way by Jim's waking sense, and Singapore
had melted.

"Scarcely a minute," said the man who sat beside him, completing
Driscoll's speech. Which seemed incredible to Jim, after that affair
at Singapore. But he let it pass, the more so that at that moment the
nurse brought him something in a cup, which made him feel better.

"You was so good as to mention, master...."

"Your little girl? Yes--I saw her, an hour since.... Look!--I'll put
my ear down, close. Needn't try to raise your voice!" For Jim had
something he wanted to say badly.

"You'll not be mentioning any matters to my little lass, sir," said he
slowly. And then, as though he felt his words were a little obscure:
"You might chance to be saying something regarding of the matter of my
fut. Ye see, master, a young child don't take these-like things as
easy as we do, and my little lass's heart will be just abroke about her
Daddy's fut. I'd take it very kind of ye if ye'd make any sart of a bit
of contrivance like, only for a short spell o' deception, just till I
get the heart in me to make a game of it all. It's the chloroform done
it. A fair casuality don't knock all the heart out of a man...."

"Your little girl will have to know about it in the end."

"Ah!--in the end--yes! But then ... a wooden leg! See the difference!
Why, I can most hear the lass laughing at it." Jim paused a few seconds
to enjoy Lizarann's imagined hilarity, then added: "Ye'll keep it snug
about my fut, master? A stump's a stump, ye know."

"She shan't be told any particulars yet, Coupland. Don't try yourself
talking too much." For Jim's long speech has made his breath come
short, and his last words are almost inaudible. He submits to
listening. "The doctor has told me all about the accident. You'll
have to have a wooden leg. Let me tell you about Lizarann." The way
the speaker, whoever he is, accents the child's name, makes a family
friend of him at once. Jim, with a vague picture in his mind of a sort
of guardsman with quiet manners, moves his own big right hand, hot and
weak now, as it lies on the coverlid. It is taken by another as big and
the image of the guardsman is confirmed. Its voice suits the hand, and
continues: "We thought it best for her not to come--Miss Fossett and I
did. You know Miss Fossett, at the National School."

"Sure!" Jim's intonation acknowledges Miss Fossett, with approval in
it. Athelstan Taylor had made up his mind how much it would be safe to
tell of last night's work, so he continued:

"Your little maid and I made friends early this morning. I was passing
by your house, and she came running out. Her uncle had been drinking,
and his behaviour had frightened her.... What's that?" He stoops down
again to hear, and Jim tries for clearer speech:

"The Devil he'll take Bob Steptoe one of these odd-come-shortlies, or
I'm a liar. Only I wish he'd...."

"Wish he'd what?"

"Be alive about it--look a bit smarter! What was his game this time,

"He was drunk and violent, and I had to control him. He's quiet now.
I'll tell you more, Coupland, when you are stronger."

"Very right, sir!"

"I'll tell you now about Lizarann. I carried her off to Miss
Fossett's--with her aunt's consent, of course. The poor little woman
had had a bad time, you see. She wanted consolation badly after your
accident, and not being able to come to you. And her aunt's a good
woman, but...."

"She ain't that sort of good woman ... t'other sort!"

"Well, perhaps! Anyhow, I made her wrap Lizarann up, and trotted her
off to the School. Miss Fossett's got her there now, and she's in good

"You mustn't spin it out too long, Taylor." Thus the Doctor's voice, as
his footsteps stop by the bed-end. He comes to the other side of the
bed, and lays his finger on the near pulse. "Magnificent constitution!
Everything in his favour! Splendid case--pity to spoil it! Give you
seven minutes more by the clock. Look in to say good-bye as you go." He
is gone, and Jim is conscious of the slight rustle of a nurse, on the
watch to pounce, hard by.

"I must tell you what I came for, Coupland. Of course I wanted to find
how you were, and take back word to Lizarann." Mr. Taylor has to speak
quickly. "But I wanted to ask something of you."

"Give it a name, master!"

"I wanted to ask your consent to our keeping her--I should say to Miss
Fossett keeping her--at the School till you are about again. She shall
be well cared for. I know I am asking you to trust...." He stopped;
Jim's lips were moving.

"You're the School-lady's brother, belike?"

"Not quite, but that sort of thing! Her brother and I were at College
together. He is doing my work in the country, and I am doing his at St.
Vulgate's at Clapham."

"That parson-gentleman--he'd be her brother. Him I heard cough?" For
the brother and sister, interested in Lizarann, had visited Tallack
Street, and interviewed Jim.

"Him you heard cough. That's it!"

"But _he_ can't do no work, poor chap!--not work in the country."

"My work in the country is the same as his in London. Only not so hard.
And the country air does his cough good."

"Oh, master!--ye never mean to say _you're_ a parson!" Jim's voice
rises with the poignancy of his disappointment. To him, every cleric is
the Rev. Wilkinson Wilkins, the spiritual adviser of Aunt Stingy.

"I'm not a very bad one, Coupland. At least, I hope not." There is
humility in the speaker's tone, and recognition of the aggressive
and objectionable character of Cures of Souls, but a germ of a
good-humoured laugh buried in it. The seven minutes are near their end,
and the nurse, considered as a rustle, is increasing. She means action
in a moment.

"I'll be your bail for that, master." But Jim cannot quite conceal
his disappointment. He had formed such a high ideal of his visitor.
Still, he can and does show his faith in him by spending the rest
of his available speech-strength on a few words of gratitude to
Lizarann's protectors, and assenting without conditions to the proposed
arrangement. But when will he be "about again"? The nurse throws eight
weeks, somehow, into her expression, without speech, and the forgiven
parson interprets for the blind man's hearing.

"Quite a month, Coupland. But I will bring your little girl to see you
the moment the doctors will allow me. Now, good-bye!"

Alas, poor Yorick! He had been so enjoying his company--company that
had neither respect for his cloth, nor contempt for his cloth, nor
indifference to his cloth; that, in fact, knew nothing about his
cloth--and rejoicing in Jim's free speech, that would have been cramped
here and crimped there had the speaker known he was addressing a
parson-gentleman. It was like stepping back into the old days before
he took clerk's orders; days when he was still uninsulated, still one
with his kind. And yet there was never a man with a more earnest belief
in his inherited mission to fight the Devil in any of the half-score
of Churches that look askant at one another, and waste good powder and
shot over the creeds their congregations shout in unison, knowing all
the while that one or more of the chorus may be--must be--uttering
a lie. Athelstan Taylor had donned the cloth he wore simply because
it was the uniform of his territorial regiment in the army that, as
he conceived, was being for ever enrolled in the service of Ormuzd
against Ahrimanes. In his enthusiasm to fight beneath the banner of
his division of the army, the Cross, he had ridden roughshod over a
hundred scruples on petty details; and the consequence was that his
most earnest admirers were often fain to shake their heads over his
lawless expressions of opinion on sacred subjects, and to lament that
Taylor, with so many fine points in his character, should be on vital
points of Doctrine so painfully unsound. It was an open secret on the
part of both Augustus Fossett and his sister that they prayed for
Athelstan; the former with a belief as real as he was capable of that
the wanderer would be guided; the latter with a practical misgiving
that a very large number of thoughtful persons had _not_ been guided,
or so many samples would not be to be found outside the Communions of
the English--and Roman--Churches. For too many of her brother's idols
had "gone over" for it to be possible to pool the latter in the sum
total of orthodox, heterodox, and cacodox dissidents. Of which last, in
connection with this brother's and sister's petitions to the Almighty
to guide Athelstan into their way of thinking, the one they preferred
to call Socinianism was the most poisonous and insidious. A creed
baited with mere veracities, to get a bite from the unwary!

As for Athelstan, every time he came to take his friend's burden off
his shoulders in London he felt more clearly than before how apt he was
to lose sight of even Ormuzd and Ahriman in a blind struggle against
the brutalism and debauchery, and filth and disease, of a London
outskirt well up to its date. Encouraged at first by the tidiness of
the last-built bee-lines of bricks and mortar, he had half hoped a
compromise was being found between purchasing a sense of Christianity
for the rich at the cost of indefinite multiplication of the poor, and
passing sentence of death on those unable to enjoy living on nothing,
or to give anything in exchange for something. But as soon as he began
to get behind the scenes his poorer parishioners were enacting, he saw
and heard every day things that had dashed his hope; and by the time of
the story had quite come to the conclusion that the small population
whose souls he was supposed to be looking after were as vicious as
the Court of Charles the Second, and so idle as to affirm the right
of male mankind to sixteen hours out of twenty-four to eat, drink,
sleep, and do nothing in--slight exceptions to the last, to nobody's
credit, being allowed for. Of course it was an exaggerated feeling on
Athelstan's part; one thing was that he could not reconcile himself to
the ubiquitous _foetor_ of the beer in which, speaking broadly, his
flock--who didn't acknowledge him as their shepherd at all--lived and
moved and had their being. Under exasperation, he thought of them in
that way ... and forgave them!

Miss Fossett interrupted a reverie to this effect, by saying to him, as
he arrived, after striding five miles in an hour through the slush and
drizzle: "I've had to put that child to bed."

"Hullo!--nothing bad, I hope?" What a damper! And he had looked forward
so to the small anxious face, and the consolation he was going to give
it. All his clients were not so nice as Lizarann.

"Dr. Ferris said he wasn't sure if it was pleurisy. It might be

"Doctor's been, then?"

"Oh yes!--I sent for him. She's been poulticed ever since."

"Hope it's all a fuss about nothing."

"I hope so. Here's a visitor, Lizarann. Now don't you jump up!"



In a town-house of the Arkroyd order, a certain dramatic interest
attaches to the morning meal that is not shared by any later one.
Nobody knows who will come down to breakfast, except perhaps some
confidential lady's-maid; and _she_ won't tell, as often as not. So
that the knights-harbingers of fresh toast and tea and coffee can
always enjoy a little sport in the way of wagers as to who will take
which, and which of the young ladies will be up--or down, which is the
same thing--before ten. The pleasurable excitement which those who play
cards feel, before they pick their packs up and know the worst, is akin
to theirs, only less. Because the cards may be snapped up the moment
it isn't a misdeal; while the tension is prolonged for the watcher who
speculates beside a well-laid table as to whether the methylated will
last out under the urn till one of the ladies appears to make tea, or
will sputter and fizz and have to be taken out and refilled, and very
likely the wick too short all the time!

Lunch is different. People make a point of lunch, or else declare off,
and don't come home at all. Those who do not comply with this rule are
Foolish Virgins--and serve them right! Our own experience, an extended
one, points to the impossibility of being too late for breakfast. There
may be a case--but!...

Anyhow, the same human interest does not attach to the question of who
is, or isn't, coming to lunch. And as for tea, nobody cares a brass
farthing; because you can get tea somewhere else. On the other hand,
dinner is a serious matter, and you must make your mind up; and either
come, or not.

This tedious excursion into the ethics of Breakfast is all owing to
everybody coming down so late at 101, Grosvenor Square, on the morning
after the last chapter. The story is, as it were, kept waiting, and may
as well indulge in a few reflections. Samuel, the young man who brought
the chessboard at Royd, had to wait, and seemed able to do so without
change of countenance. He very likely reflected, for all that.

It may have struck Samuel, when Miss Arkroyd made her appearance first
of those expected by him, that when this young lady said, "Oh, nobody!"
on entering, she did not seem sorry, and picked up her share of the
morning's post from her plate to read nearer the fire quite resignedly.
It was getting colder again, and folk were pledging themselves not to
wonder if the wind were to go round to the north.

Judith looked at the outside of her mother's and sister's letters.
Sibyl's interested her most; and she looked them all through carefully,
numerous though they were. Why does one look at the directions on other
people's letters? So Judith thought to herself, as she got disgusted
with the monotony of the text on Sibyl's, and her inability to suggest
any emendations. She was very honourable, for she read nothing but a
signature or two on the numerous postcards. She was, in fact, only
acting under the impulse which prompts the least inquisitive of us all,
when we have undertaken to post a letter for a friend, to read the
address upon it carefully before we insert it into the inexorable box,
and feel inside to see that it hasn't stuck. Judith did not answer the
question she asked herself; yet her reading of the same address again
and again called more for explanation than that of the letter-poster;
for the latter may be put on his oath in the end, if a letter fails to

There were so many to "Miss Sybil Arkroyd" that she had become confused
over the spelling of the name by the time its owner's footstep was
heard on the stairs. However, she wasn't going to pretend she hadn't
been reading them. "There's one for you from Betty Inglis," she
said incidentally; and picking up her own letters from the table,
took them with her to read by the fire. It was a morning to make
the hardiest give in to the temptation of a hundred-weight of best
Wallsend, blazing. Judith enjoyed it; so much so that a sense of a
russet Liberty serge, baking, crept into the atmosphere as she sought
in vain for an inlet into an envelope cruelly gummed to its uttermost
corner. When will envelope-makers have compassion for their customers'

"You're scorching, Ju. Or you will be directly." So spoke Sibyl,
reading a letter attentively, and speaking through her absorption as
to a world without. "Who was that?... No--don't make the tea yet,
Elphinstone. Coffee for me. You're coffee, I suppose, Ju?..."

"Yes, coffee. Who was what?"

"Who was that in your cab last night?... Well, you made noise enough!
Of course I could hear! I'm not deaf." The letter is read by now, being
short, and Sibyl has come out into the world to hear the answer to her

But Judith is deep in half-a-quire of illegibility, after an episode of
a fork-point, and some impatience. "It's an old dress," she says, and
then ignores Sibyl altogether for a term, in favour of the letter. Her
eyebrows had moved in connection with the cab-inquiry, up to the point
of detection by a sharp younger sister. "I had no cab, dear," she says
at last. "I came in Mr. Challis's cab." This is quite a long time after.

"Has Mr. Challis a cab?"

"You know perfectly well what I mean, Sib."

Sibyl knows, but has become absorbed in a second letter. So she leaves
her tongue, as her representative, to say fragmentarily, "Hansom-cab
off the rank," and then retires altogether into the letter for a
moment. However, she comes out presently to say, "The question is, was
it Mr. Challis? I suppose it was, though, or it couldn't have been Mr.
Challis's cab ... oh no!--I'm not finding fault. It's all perfectly
right as far as I'm concerned."

The respectable domestics have been in momentary abeyance, and the
conversation has been more suggestive than it would have been in their
presence. The reappearance of Mr. Elphinstone, with the gist of two
breakfasts, causes an automatic adjournment of the subject. The day's
appointments make up the talk, during his presence.

But so late was the quorum of the total breakfast--in fact, it was
doubtful whether two of the constituent cujusses would appear at
all--that Sibyl got ample opportunity for resuming the conversation
exactly where it left off, at least a quarter-of-an-hour having elapsed.

"It's all perfectly right as far as I'm concerned," she repeated. "As
long as Marianne doesn't mind!" The Christian name may have been an
intentional impertinence.

"There is nothing for Marianne to mind, Sibyl."

Sibyl changes her ground unscrupulously. "It doesn't matter to me as
long as _I'm_ not his wife. But a hansom-cab is a hansom-cab, and you
know it as well as I do."

"I know it, dear." Judith speaks serenely. The attack is too puerile to
call for resentment. "They try one's nerves and destroy one's skirts,
getting in and out."

Sibyl's style has not been worthy of her Square, or Mr. Elphinstone.
There was too much of the lowlier air of Seven Dials in the suggestion
that a hansom-cab would promote an irregular flirtation to do more
than provoke a smile. Charlotte Eldridge, even, would have condemned it
as the bald scoff of inexperience.

But there was more maturity and force in Sibyl's next speech. "I want
to know, are you going to tell the _madre_ about it or not?" Judith
flushed angrily as she answered her with: "I have told you, Sibyl, that
as soon as there is something to tell, I will tell it at once to anyone
it concerns. Mamma certainly!"

"How far has it gone?--that's what I want to find out."

"How far has what gone?"

"You needn't look so furious, Ju. Do let's talk quietly. You know
perfectly well what I mean. This talk about a trial-performance." The
imputation that Judith looked furious was a sporting venture. No doubt
she felt furious, thought Sibyl; and how was she to know she didn't
show it?

"I told you days ago there was no talk of a trial-performance."

Sibyl restrained herself visibly--too visibly for the prospects of
peace. After some thirty seconds of self-command, she reworded her
question mechanically. "The talk about something that was not to be
a trial-performance." The forms of the court were complied with,
without admission of previous lack of clearness. This was shown in a
_parti pris_ of facial immobility. A licked lip, a scratched nose, an
eye-blink, would have marred its dramatic force.

"You needn't look so stony over it, Sib. There's no mystery of any
sort, and I can tell you about it in three words. Alfred Challis is
anxious ... what?"

"Nothing--go on!"

"Mr. Challis is anxious that I should get up enough of Aminta
Torrington's part to give Mr. Magnus an idea.... No!--Sibyl. Mr. Magnus
is _not_ vulgar, and _I_ think him picturesque. He smokes too many very
large cigars perhaps, and they don't improve his complexion. But what
objection there can possibly be to diamond shirt-studs...."

Sibyl interrupted. "You may just as well tell it all out, Ju. What do
you mean by 'enough'?"

"What do I mean by enough? Do be intelligible, Dandelion dear!" Judith
is patronizing.

"I wish you wouldn't call me by that hatefully foolish name. Yes--what
do you mean by 'enough'? Does it mean that what Mr. Magnus has heard
of what you can do _isn't_ enough? That doesn't mean that he's heard
nothing. And you know he hasn't."

Sibyl is really no match for her sister in the long run, and perhaps
this is a sample of it--of a run long enough for her to get ruffled in.
Judith's forbearance becomes exemplary. "Listen while tell I you," she
says, imputing impatience, "what Mr. Magnus _has_ heard; and then you
can talk about it."

"Very well, go on!" snappishly.

"The suggestion came from Mr. Magnus. Alfred Challis ...
certainly!--it's his name. Don't be absurd.... Alfred Challis may have
talked to him--no doubt has--of my fitness for the part. And yesterday
between the acts he asked us into his room, and made us read one of the
scenes. Of course I was Aminta, and Alfred Challis was Moorsom. It was
where they meet for the first time at the oculist's at Vienna, in the

"Is that the kissing scene?"

"The kissing scene! Sibyl!--I'm sorry you read that manuscript...."

"You shouldn't have left it lying about."

"It was in my bedroom, child.... Well!--it certainly wasn't what you
choose to call the kissing scene ... but it doesn't matter. I don't
believe I should ever be able to make you understand how purely
_professional_ it all was. Mr. Magnus sat on the arm of a chair
smoking, with his thumbs in his waistcoat, and said that sort of
thing wouldn't go down with the public." Judith omitted Mr. Magnus's
reason, which was that it wasn't half "schick" enough, thick enough;
for it wasn't clear which he said, as his tongue interfered with his

Sibyl listened, chafing. When no more seemed to be coming, she elected
to treat the communication as a confession forced from reluctant lips.
"You see I was right, after all," she said. "And it _was_ Mr. Challis
in the cab." The discontinuity of semi-accusation was bewildering,
and refutation hung fire for a moment. She ran on, giving her sister
no chance. "I really must say, Judith, that I do not understand
you at all. But you must go your own way. Do you suppose--can you
suppose--that _any_ member of your family would approve of what is
going on, if they knew it?"

At this point the fact that Judith is really much the cooler of the two
tells. "I don't know whom you mean, Sib," she says temperately, "by
_they_. No member of my family is plural, that I know of ... well!--it
isn't grammar, according to me. However, if you mean the _madre_, we
shall very soon see; that is, if the thing doesn't turn out a flash in
the pan. I shall tell her all about it at the proper time...."

"Meanwhile, hold my tongue, you mean? I'm not at all sure, Judith, that
any other sister in my place wouldn't at once tell her mother all she
knew about such goings on...."

"What are the goings on? I know of no goings on."

"I do. This visit to the back slums of a theatre, alone; I mean
unaccompanied by any other lady. The impropriety--yes! impropriety--of
the whole thing...."

"Please don't make a scene, with Elphinstone every half-minute, and
mamma just coming down. I never said we were alone. If you had asked
me, I should have told you that Mrs. Eldridge was with us."

"Who's Mrs. Eldridge?"

"A very nice person, a friend of Marianne Challis. Her husband's in the
Post Office. Madame Louise could dress her to look almost pretty, if
her complexion were better. And _propriety_--oh dear!--the very pink!
She rather bored me, in fact, because she wouldn't let it alone."

"And was this Mrs. Ostrich--or whatever her name is--satisfied?"

"Perfectly. She has known Alfred Challis since before his first wife
died, and has the most absolute confidence in him."

"I don't fancy your Mrs. Ostrich. Where was Mr. Challis's wife all this
time?... well!--this deceased wife's sister, anyhow."

"Sibyl! I won't talk to you. Marianne Challis was where we left her, in
the stage-box. I don't suppose she left it, but I didn't ask her."

"And then did she and Mrs. Ostrich go home separately?"

"Eldridge. Marianne Challis and she went away together. They were not
going home; Wimbledon's too far, where they are. I really don't know
where they are staying."

"I'm not curious. But you and Mr. Challis drove home lovingly in a
hansom, after acting lovers in a play! There!--you needn't fly out...."

Was it any wonder that Judith then lost her temper? For she had not
flown out. The insinuation that she would do so was based on Sibyl's
knowledge that she would have been perfectly justified in doing so. But
now, she did lose her temper, subject to that disguise of self-command
which tells for more than any outburst.

"You are taking too much on yourself, Sibyl. Mamma knows. At least,
she knows Alfred Challis and his wife. They have dined here, and we
agreed--mamma and I--to know nothing about the deceased wife's sister
business. It may even be false from beginning to end.... _Ask_ her, did
you say? I should never dream of doing so.... And as for your other
disgraceful--yes! disgraceful--speech just now...."

"Well--it's true! You _had_ been, and you know you had."

"Had been what?"

"Acting Moorhouse and Aminta Dorrington."

"That's not the way you put it. But I don't care about that. It's only
your silliness and inexperience makes you say these things...."

"What is it you do care about, then?"

"I won't submit to be catechized, Sibyl. But I'll tell you. I do care
about what the _madre_ thinks--and papa. And I shall tell _her_.... I
wonder who that can be?"

The "that" in question was a knock at the front door, one that
expressed confidence that it was at the right house, and even that it
would find someone at home--well-founded confidence in both cases.
For the Miss Arkroyds, listening for the identity of the abnormal
visitor--at ten o'clock in the morning!--only wait for a barely
perceptible instalment of voice and footstep to exclaim jointly: "The
Rector ... just fancy--what can he want?... In here, Elphinstone!" And
it may be neither is sorry for the interruption. How very frequently
a visitor is the resolution of a family discord! Judith, pale with
suppressed anger, recovers her colour. Sibyl's flush of excitement dies.

It is the Rector of Royd, no doubt of that! And something equivalent to
a breeze of fresh air, or the tide in an estuary, or the new crackle
of a clean pine-wood fire--but not exactly any one of the three--comes
into the room with him and his laugh. He has an effect that is
usual with him. The under-housemaid, who has passed him on to Mr.
Elphinstone, hopes she won't have done dusting when he comes out. Mr.
Elphinstone is seriously hurt at his having breakfasted three hours ago
and now refusing food, which would have promoted their intercourse; and
the young ladies are not sorry, on inquiry, to hear that her ladyship
is not coming down, but will have her breakfast upstairs, because
thereby they will have the Rev. Athelstan all to themselves longer.

However, they chorus sorrow which they don't feel about their mother;
and affect an equally hypocritical satisfaction at a probable
appearance of their father, which they don't believe in.

"You'll see papa will come in presently and say he never heard the
bell." Thus Judith, who shows her pack by adding: "Now do let's talk
and be comfortable till he comes." All right--_nem. con.!_

"I think you the most profligate and dissipated family in London and
Westminster.... Come nearer the fire? Not if I know it. Both you girls
are scorching.... Well now! What was it last night?"

"They went to 'Ibsen.'" Judith summarizes, abruptly. Sibyl says: "And
you went to the Megatherium," rather as a counter-accusation than a
contribution of fact. The visitor looks quickly from the one to the
other. Whatever he notes, he passes it by.

"I've been to 'Ibsen,'" he says, "and know all about it. The people
commit suicide. What was the other play?"

"A stupid thing. I really hardly made out what it was about. But the
author's a friend of the people I went with. You remember Mr. Challis,
Mr. Taylor? I brought him to tea at the Rectory."

"Of course. I thought him such a shy customer. But I met him after
that. We had quite a chat."

"Oh yes--I remember he talked about it to me. I'm afraid you found him
a great heathen."

"Absolutely." Mr. Taylor laughs cheerfully over Alfred Challis's
heathenism. "But a very good Christian for all that. I shouldn't say so
to the Bishop, though. He never came to church, and I wasn't sorry...."

"Do take care, Mr. Taylor. We shall tell the Bishop."

"... Not on his account, you know--on my own. He would have convicted
me of plagiarism. I took all his ideas for my sermon."

This was incidental chat, leading to nothing. Then followed inquiry,
overdue, about the Rector's establishment, especially his _locum
tenens_ at Royd, the reporting of whom brought disquiet to his face.
His hearers knew he was making the best of it; he was not a good
actor. This led naturally to conversation about his own temporary
_locus tenendus_ in his friend's behalf, and so to the miserable
tragedy of the drunkard's death in the canal-lock. Now it was well
over four months since either young lady had done any slumming in
the Tallack Street quarter: indeed, their visits there soon lost the
charm of novelty, so neither recollected its inhabitants off-hand.
The description failed to identify, until Mr. Taylor mentioned the
unhappy Uncle Bob by name, first heard by him at the inquest. Then a
recollection struck Judith.

"That must have been the man that said he was 'mine truly, Robert
Steptoe,'" said she. "How very shocking!" The horror of the story
of course increased tenfold the moment a _nexus_ was established.
Reminiscence, at work in Sibyl's mind, caused her to strike in upon Mr.
Taylor's continuation of his narrative; on which he arrested it to hear
what she was going to say. She said: "Never mind, go on!" till pressed
to take her turn first; then said: "Wasn't that the blind beggar and
the little girl--the same family, I mean?"

"Exactly. I was just coming to them." And then the Rev. Athelstan
proceeded with a full account of poor Jim's sad plight in the Hospital,
and of how the little girl had been a great source of anxiety to
Addie Fossett. He contrived to assign the whole of the activities on
Lizarann's behalf to that lady; having, indeed, a most happy impersonal
faculty of narration, which detailed the facts without his own
connection with them.

"They are really the reason of my coming here this morning," said he in
conclusion. "I dare say you have both been wondering what it was all
about. However, it's that. This poor fellow, Jim Coupland, oughtn't to
be allowed to sell matches in the streets. And although he makes a good
deal by what is really begging in disguise...."

"He makes three times what he would at any trade." Sibyl speaks
positively; she always knows things.

"But he's putting it all by for the child." The clergyman justifies
Jim, promptly.

"Please go on with what you were saying, Mr. Taylor!" Judith speaks.
"'Although he makes a good deal by what is really begging in

"He might be dissuaded from it even if the loss of his foot--poor
fellow!--should make it more lucrative."

"I don't see how." This is Sibyl, naturally. The Rector makes a mental
note that she is always in opposition. Her sister says nothing, and he

"You remember the story of the _asker_?" Sibyl remembers it with
a snap, and "Of course!--go on!" Judith, more slowly, thinks she
remembers, and then--oh yes!--she remembers now. The speaker continues:
"You know the child isn't seven, and doesn't the least realize about
her father. She has been indoctrinated from babyhood with a false
idea of some employment he has; he's as professional to her as the
turncock or lamplighter. But he--poor chap!--is most anxious she
should never know the truth. Yesterday he consented to not seeing the
child for another six weeks--although he's longing for her, day and
night--because he wants to spare her the knowledge of his stump. He's
convinced that a wooden leg will be a great joke between them, and is
devising shifts by which it may be concealed from his 'little lass,' as
he calls her, that it is ever taken off. And yesterday, after swearing
me, as it were, into the conspiracy for the child's deception, he
ended up with an earnest request that I would never 'let on' about his
being a 'cadging varmint.' I pointed out to him the utter uselessness
of the attempt, and that it must fail in the end, and that the longer
the knowledge is put off, the more painful it will be when it comes.
I suspect he would give it up, to spare her. But he would have to be
provided for, somehow."

"Have to be!" Sibyl's tone suggests impatient protest against Jim's
case being made a claim on Society. The whole duty of a Christian
includes a liberal amount of slumming; but it must be distinctly
understood to be Christianity, not bald equity. Athelstan Taylor didn't
feel analytical on the subject. He knew he would have "had to" cross
the road between Jerusalem and Jericho if he had happened to come up
before the Samaritan, or else that he would have been miserable all
night about the man that had fallen among thieves and come to grief. He
was like that at school, you see. Such an awfully good-natured chap!
Probably Samaria was an awfully good-natured place. Anyhow, he didn't
see his way to discussing the point this morning. He made a concession:

"Well--suppose we say it would be a pleasure to do it! You would feel
it so if you knew the child. Really that infant's pluck when that poor
madman was flourishing that horrible knife about...."

"But you didn't tell us about that." Both ladies speak. Indeed, Mr.
Taylor had slurred over a great deal of his adventure, merely saying he
was passing the house and had given what assistance he could, with very
little detail till he got to Uncle Bob's escape.

"I never saw such a courageous child in my life. Addie Fossett's
got her at the Schoolhouse now. She got a bad chill that night, and
we've been very uneasy about her. Perhaps we are both of us given to
fidgeting about coughs and temperatures and things. However!" This
isolated word expresses, as briefly as possible, dismissal of the
subject as material for depression, with retention of it as stimulus to

Judith is only languidly interested. "What do you think of doing, Mr.
Taylor?" she says absently. Her mind is on the playhouse, yesterday.

"I'm not very clear about details, but if Jim will be tractable, and do
as he's told, there ought to be some arrangement possible. He admits
that he has some money in the savings-bank, and the Carriers' Co. that
ran over him ... yes!--I've seen the manager ... are inclined to be
liberal in the matter of compensation; and then there's...." Here a
hesitation comes in.

"There's papa, of course." Both ladies agree about their parent, as a
sort of _fons et origo nummorum_. Mr. Taylor had better talk to him
about it. Mr. Elphinstone, after thirty-five years in the family,
has no scruple about showing that he overhears conversation, and
subinforms Miss Arkroyd that Sir Murgatroyd is imminent. Pending
the baronet, the conversation is general, then drifts towards the
Great Idea. Sibyl becomes gracious--points with pride to a mountain
of letters on the subject that she will have to answer before she
goes out. Mr. Elphinstone has restricted them to a clear spot on the
breakfast-table, without presuming to fold or envelope. Miss Arkroyd
detracts from their glory. Most of them are from artists who want
to make designs for the cripples to execute, or from cripples who
can do nothing at present, but would take three-and-sixpence a week
during apprenticeship. Sibyl is indignant. The letters are the _exact
contrary_ of what Judith alleges. It is easy to sneer, but read what
Mr. Brewdover says. There's his letter! But Judith says she isn't
prepared to take up her parable on the subject--doesn't know enough
about the matter. No doubt it's all right! She withdraws an incipient
yawn, and Sibyl says something _sotto voce_, possibly that Judith might
just as well have held her tongue.

Athelstan Taylor, writing of this interview to his friend Gus later,
said: "I was glad at this point that the Bart. came in, apologetic--as
I didn't fancy having to make peace between those two girls. Why need
well-brought-up young women to be so quarrelsome--without the excuse
of Alcoholism? They are rather a disappointment--those two--they used
to be so nice as kids. I must say the old boy is my favourite of the
family still--he was quite exemplary about this poor sailor chap--said,
if _I_ was convinced, that was enough for him, and I had only to say
how much would be wanted. Her ladyship was very good too--do her
justice!--promised to come and see poor Jim at the Hospital; and I
think will keep her promise." He added a postscript next day: "Lady
Arkroyd's visit came off this morning, and passed off without ructions.
I was rather nervous, because her ladyship thinks it her duty to get up
a sort of theologico-ethico-moral-goody steam _because I'm there_--and
poor Jim is such a terrible and appalling example of theoretical
irreligion that I was on tenterhooks."



The reference to Jim's irreligious attitude, in the Rector's letter,
makes it almost incumbent on the story to give some particulars of Lady
Arkroyd's visit to the Hospital.

Athelstan Taylor, of course, came to his appointment to the minute.
He always preferred to do the waiting himself if he could spare the
time, and he usually found something to avert tedium. On this occasion,
seeing no sign, when he arrived at St. Brides, of the Arkroyd pair of
bays, or the dark chestnuts with starred foreheads--both well known to
him--he made short excursions into the neighbourhood, hoping each time
to just catch Lady Arkroyd on her arrival when he returned.

He made three such excursions, amounting in all to half an hour. The
first and longest was made so by his lighting on a fight between two
small boys, which he felt bound to interrupt. But not at the very
earliest; it was such a good fight, and the two pugilists and their
friends were enjoying it so. So he spun out his approach as much as
possible, and then pounced with, "Why aren't you two at school, hey?"
They looked at each other, and at him, as their friends did also, but
could not agree on a reason. Then they said, "Let's go down the lyne,"
and fled, carrying jackets, to begin again as soon as possible. Pursuit
down the lane did not seem to come into practical politics.

The second excursion was shorter, and he was sorry he could not spare
time for more conversation with a purveyor of tortoises, who was
offering them to the public from a truck. Why should the trade in
tortoises flourish in South London? Why tortoises at all? He could not
stop to learn; and when he found that her ladyship was still in arrear,
he started back to find the tortoise-monger, but failed to do so. On
his return this time, he thought it best to step into the Hospital
and get a few words with his friend the House Surgeon, to whom he had
sent a card overnight. It was all right, said that gentleman, about
the dressers. They had nearly done by now, and Jim's case had been
made a point of--was quite ready for visitors; nothing doing now till
the visiting surgeon came--in an hour and a half about. Mr. Taylor,
reassured, went out again to meet her ladyship, and presently saw the
carriage coming down the street. In a very short time he was telling
Jim he had brought a lady to see him.

"It's mighty kind of you, master. And it's mighty kind o' the lady. I'm
not so fit to see company as I might be." He did not mean he could not
see; for he always forgot his blindness. He referred entirely to his
uncourtly _entourage_.

"We mustn't trouble about that," said her ladyship, and really didn't
mean to be condescending. "I shall sit here, Mr. Taylor. Where will you
come?" _Here_ being the chair beside the bed. Mr. Taylor wouldn't sit
down; indeed, it was easier to stand, as long as Jim kept his hand,
which he did not seem inclined to let go.

"Tell this lady about your accident, Jim."

"Oh, do, please! I should so like to hear." This was true, and opened
up an avenue of respite to a feeling of her ladyship's that she ought
to say something good, if it was only about how we should bow to the
will of an All-wise Providence. She had got that ready in the carriage
coming through Old Bond Street, and had felt quite sure she should
think of something better presently, and hadn't succeeded. So she was
glad of a pause, to think in. Besides, it was interesting.

"There's none so much to tell about it, lady; you might put it all
inside of a minute, in the manner o' speaking. Ye see, I never see
this van coming along--never took note, I should say!--more by token I
was listening like to hear the voice of my little lass call 'Pilot'--a
kind of divarsion we make out between us, me and the lassie ... you'll

"I quite understand. Your little lass is the child I have seen at Miss
Fossett's Schoolroom. Little Eliza Ann."

"Belike you have, lady. She's Lizarann, sure! Well, this here van come
along in the dark, and there was I mazed like, by reason of not finding
the granite curb. It come with a nasty rush, and I had no way on me to
steer clear, set apart the want of sea-room. But I'm a bit uncertain
how it come about, there's the truth of it!" Jim paused, and felt for
an expression, probably one akin to loss of presence of mind; then
ended with, "In a quick turn about o' things, you don't easy come by
the time to get your considerin' cap on. But it was no fault of any
man, as I see it."

Lady Arkroyd saw an opportunity. "It was the will of Providence," she
said. There could be no harm in that, although her clerical friend
had cautioned her that Jim's mind was not an easy one to deal with on
religious lines. But Jews, Turks, Heretics, and Infidels innumerable
could have subscribed to this, surely. Jim only said, with the most
perfect simplicity: "I wouldn't wish to fix the blame, with any
confidence. It was just a chance, as I see it." Her ladyship did not
catch the exact tenor of the remark, and did not see the amused,
benevolent smile on the face of the big man who still stood looking
down on Jim, holding his hand as he would have held a child's.

The fact was that, on one of the two or three occasions when the Rev.
Athelstan had referred--but quite colloquially, and without any idea
of taking a mean advantage of Jim's helplessness--to the Almighty as
the responsible agent in the matter, Jim had taken up the theological
position that if God hadn't "cut in," he--Jim--might have been still
the strong seaman on the great free sea, might have actually _seen_
his little lass! Dolly must have died, of course--"my wife, seven
year agone, master," said Jim. "Because a many on us may die, any
time"--but that was another matter. At least, why need both his eyes
go? "Ah, master!" said he, when it was settled that if God had done
one job, he'd done the other, "why couldn't he leave me just no more
than a quarter-allowance of one of them--just for to see my wife and
the little lass together, what time there was for it?" Perhaps it was
part of the Rector of Royd's unsoundness that he almost lost sight of
Jim's anthropomorphism--the naïveté of his presentment of his Maker
as a meddlesome old plague--in the heartbroken voice that could still
speak about the eyes that could no longer see, about the child his
touch and hearing alone could tell him of. Part of that unsoundness,
too, maybe, that he resolved thenceforward to make no attempt to change
Jim's views, except by hypnotic suggestions, or their equivalent! No
crop could grow on land so foully manured! Better to leave it to the
wild-flowers for a season.

He certainly thought he saw an improvement of Jim's feelings towards
this strange deity of his conception, in this readiness to exonerate
him, or it, and to lay the blame on the metaphysico-religious
scapegoat, Chance. It was manifested in the tone of his voice,
one of willingness to spare even an author of mischief--maybe a
well-intentioned blunderer--and to find an insensitive back to
flagellate in his place.

"The merest chance, I am sure!" Lady Arkroyd welcomed the scapegoat,
and the Rev. Athelstan looked more amused than ever, under the skin.
The lady never suspected herself of any absurdity. "But Sir Murgatroyd
says the matter ought to be gone into, and proper inquiries made."
The Baronet had done so, certainly; but may be said to have been left
speaking, like M.P.'s when a reporter packs off an instalment of
shorthand _in mediis rebus_. "Of course, if there was any doubt about
the driver of the van being sober at the time...."

Jim showed anxiety on the carman's behalf. "He mightn't be any the
worse driver for that, lady," he said. "It was the sart o' night a pint
or so don't go far on, to keep the life in a man."

"Jim won't grudge him that much, on such a night, Lady Arkroyd. But Sir
Murgatroyd's quite right, of course! However, as a matter of fact, the
whole thing has been thoroughly sifted, and it seems certain drink had
nothing to do with it, this time."

"Not likely, master! Didn't the pore feller make a shift to get over
here a'ter work hours--took a night-turn all the way from Camden Road
goods station--so they told me--just for to hear the end of the story?
And the follerin' night? So they _said_, and I'm tellin' ye all I know.
In coorse, I never seen him, myself!"

"No--of course you could not." Lady Arkroyd's pity for Jim's blindness,
which _his_ speech ignored, is mistaken by him for regret at the
stringency of visiting regulations. The feeling of compassion in
her voice seems to him only man's natural resentment against rules,
interpreted by womanly sensibility.

"I'll see him one o' these days, lady," Jim says consolatorily.
Of course, he means in the days of the wooden leg to come, if not
sooner. Her ladyship, still conscious of the desirability of a
religious atmosphere, has some vague impression that Mr. Taylor has
been guaranteeing Jim eyesight on a cloud, through the whole of an
exasperating Sunday lasting for ever; and she makes up her mind Jim
could be read to out of the Bible with advantage, and of course
there were any number of people ready to do this sort of thing. She
will inquire about that. But Jim had really wanted to change the
conversation to a subject nearer his heart.

"My little lass, lady!" he said. "You seen the lass once, round to the
Schoolhouse. Happen you might see her again?"

"If I see Miss Fossett, Coupland, I shall certainly ask her to point
out your little girl. She may not be there, you know."

"That's so, lady. But supposin'! Any guess thing you might speak about,
ye know. So I was just thinkin', if you was to be so very kind as to
bear in mind...."

"Yes. Indeed I will, Coupland. Is there something you wish I should

"Well, lady, yes! And be very thankful to ye! Would ye be so very kind
as just say to her ... from her Daddy, ye know ... nothing at all
about any sort of an ill-convenience come of this here accident. Just
make it easy, like ... for she's but young, ye'll understand...."

"Jim means ... I know, Jim"--for Jim seemed about to interrupt the Rev.
Athelstan--"he means he wants Lizarann to think the accident a slight

"Right you are, master!" Jim is much relieved, and his interpreter
continues: "So he wants her to know as little as possible till he can
walk about and make the least of it."

"Oh yes! I quite understand that. I'll be very careful and discreet."

"Not for to let on, anyways, about her Daddy being a fut the less!"
Jim's relief is enormous at the completeness of the understanding.

The conversation ran on, on such general lines as the diet of hospital
life--highly approved of--the sanguineness of the head-surgeon that
Jim would make a record in recovery, and the peculiarly small amount
of inconvenience endured (if the truth were known) by the wearers of
wooden legs. Jim was very cheerful about this. "Bob Steptoe, he'll lose
a good half o' my custom," said he, immensely amused.

At this moment an interruption occurred. A nurse who had passed through
the room a few minutes before rather hurriedly was returning, with
a slightly perplexed manner on her, as of one who had not found a
thing sought for. At the same moment another, who seemed a superior
functionary, came in from the opposite door, and they met and spoke
together in an undertone. Both looked round towards Jim's bed.

"I can ask him, anyhow!" said the senior nurse, and approached
Athelstan Taylor. She spoke to him rapidly under her breath, but of
what she said neither Jim nor the lady heard anything. When she had
finished, he said, "Of course, certainly!" and then, turning to Lady
Arkroyd, explained that a man who was dying in another part of the
Hospital had asked to see a clergyman, and that an unusual conjunction
of circumstances had made it difficult to comply with his request,
which was urgent. He might die any moment, the nurse had said, and
Mr. * * * was ill--he being, presumably, the usual resource in such
cases. Mr. Taylor was sure Lady Arkroyd would excuse him. But it would
be better for him to say good-bye provisionally, as no one could tell
how long he might be detained. Her ladyship would no doubt stay and
talk with Jim a little longer.

Lady Arkroyd was not sorry to do so. She had not quite come up to
her own standard of self-justification; having, indeed, a well-marked
conviction of her capability of doing anything she turned her hands
to, and certainly not least of affording consolation and help to
the distressed. Without cataloguing the instances, she had an inner
conviction of the existence of a class of persons who were sick, and
she visited them. She was a good-natured woman enough, and really
took sufficient pleasure in doing good on purpose, to make playing at
Providence a luxury, or at least to prevent its ever becoming a bore.
No wonder that on this occasion she felt a little damped, with nothing
further to her score so far than an undertaking on her part to hold her
tongue and be discreet, under specified circumstances.

"The master's coming back--the gentleman?" says Jim, as the door closes
on Mr. Taylor and the nurse.

"Oh yes!--he'll come back to see you before he goes." Jim has to be
satisfied with this. "You must try to keep quiet and be patient,
Coupland, and then the healing will go on quicker...."

"It ain't hardly impatience, lady." Jim pauses to think what it is.
"Not so much as the want of a good stretch. I'd be all right if they'd
take this here plaister off o' my right leg. It's a mighty thick
plaister, anyhow." Jim's slight movement is terribly expressive of
the irksomeness of his lot. The nurse in charge notes the fact, and
contrives such alleviation as may be--an alteration in the angle of the
couch, an adjustment of a pillow, a dose of some refreshing stimulant
that seems not unwelcome. "He's not the trouble many are," says she.
Jim seems a favourite.

Lady Arkroyd, left to herself, casts about for something to say which
shall neither be aggressively religious nor too cowardly a concession
to Jim's heathenism, of which Mr. Taylor has spoken freely to her.
After a few more words about collateral matter, especially about the
Hospital's veto on smoking--a bitter privation--she thinks she sees her

"It is very hard, Coupland, and one can't help saying so. Only, of
course, it doesn't do to call the Wisdom of Providence in question...."

"What might that be, missis--lady, I should say?" Now the fact is,
Jim was not inquiring about the Wisdom of Providence--of which he had
heard before from Mr. Wilkins--but about the meaning of "calling in
question." The lady thought otherwise, mistakenly.

"I only meant," she said, feeling very unsafe, "that we know--at least,
_we_ believe--that events are Divinely ordered for the best."

"Ye know better than I do about that, lady," said Jim. And then Lady
Arkroyd thought he was an Agnostic. He had really only paid tribute
to her superior education. But it seemed to set him a-thinking, too!
For he added, after a pause: "If they'd a' been ordered for the worst,
maybe I might have had my barker-pipe." The word "Divinely" had not
carried his mind outside the Hospital regulations. Poor Jim had not the
remotest conception that he had shocked his lady visitor.

Nevertheless, she was shocked, and felt the case called for an effort.
But her own religious convictions--only she had been quite properly
educated, mind you!--were few and vapid. Her proprietorship of a
Prayer-Book, with a mark in the right place, nearly covered the whole
ground. However, there was always the Rev. Athelstan; she could make
him responsible, by indirect engineering, for any amount of belief,
whatever her own unprofessional laxity might be. So she assumed a
definitely religious air, and ignored Jim's unfortunate remark about
the pipe.

"I feel so sure, Coupland, that Mr. Taylor has told you, and will tell
you more, about Where to look, in tribulation for...."

"Sakes alive, Lady! _Me_ look!..." Jim, who had interrupted, stopped
suddenly, confused and perturbed at something. Her ladyship,
interpreting this as some protest of Agnosticism, now felt her
insufficiency to deal with the case, and only wished to transfer the
conversation elsewhere. She felt she had done her duty, in what she
would not have hesitated to mention in Society as "goody talk," when
she executed that superb _entrechat_, so to speak, of the big initial
W of "Where." She had done her duty, and had not succeeded. She would
be quite justified now in relaxing from the exalted serenity, tempered
with due humility, of a spiritual instructress, and referring to the
minor consolations of this earth. She ignored Jim's exclamation, and
continued speaking as though her last sentence had been completed.

"Besides, in a very little while you will be able to have Eliza Ann
back again, and really you'll be able to move about quite easily."

Jim laughed out--a big hearty laugh of contempt for any mere personal
mishap of his own. "I'll have the less weight to carry, sure!" he said.
And then her ladyship looked at her watch, and asked the nurse whether
that clock was right; who promptly replied that that clock was, if
anything, slow. Seeing the good effect of which, she went on to say
that it was slower still. However, this was not needed, for the visitor
was only feeling about for departure, which, in view of the possible
indefinite postponement of Mr. Taylor's return, was given up with
insincere professions of regret on the part of both, and Lady Arkroyd
took her leave, consolable, but with a noble sense of duty done.

"The master _be_ coming back, though, missis...?" Jim asks anxiously of
the nurse.

"Oh, yes, he's bound to come back, and you may make your mind easy."

       *       *       *       *       *

When Athelstan Taylor and the nurse left the ward, they passed through
the avenue of beds in the adjoining ward without speaking, and into a
lobby beyond. Then the nurse stopped and spoke. "This is a bad ward
that we are going to. Perhaps I ought to have told you?"

"You are going there yourself?"

"It is my duty to go."

"And mine." They said no more, but no more was necessary. It was a
little way further that they had to go, through wards and passages; but
the circumstances did not seem to favour chat. Arriving at the door of
the ward, Mr. Taylor turned and said: "This is a man, is it not--this
patient--I think you said?"

"A man. The case developed in the hospital. He was brought in as sudden
paralysis. He has been here a month or more."

"Do they keep cases of this sort so long?"

"Not always. They kept this one. He had an epileptic seizure which was
followed by torpor. Dr. ---- thinks now that the disease has affected
the valves of the heart. He might die suddenly, at any moment. When I
told him so to-day, he asked to see the Chaplain, Mr. ----. He and all
his family have mumps."

A young doctor was in the ward, who said, "Is this the gentleman?" and
after "Yes" from the nurse, continued: "You mustn't be alarmed at our
precautions. We only take them in order to be on the safe side." The
precautions which, it seemed, St. Bride insisted on for all who should
enter a contagion-ward were a close overall of some germ-proof canvas
or linen, and thin, invulnerable rubber gloves. Mr. Taylor, as he drew
them on, shuddered to think how many a time, conceivably, they might
have been some wearer's only safeguard against a blasted life, and the
inheritance of a dire poison by generations yet unborn.

When he was safely attired in them, the young surgeon, as he conducted
him through the ward, said in reply to a question: "Oh no!--not the
slightest _danger_ from the breath. You may be quite happy about that.
Let Sister Martha put a little eau-de-Cologne on your handkerchief.
This is your man."

This! This semi-mummy that is little else than bandages! This thing,
at least, only manifested to us, otherwise, as an exposed mouth; or
what was a mouth and is an orifice, to be identified by two carious,
projecting teeth; or as the nailless fingers of an enclosed hand,
escaping from its wraps. This, it seems, is the Rev. Athelstan Taylor's
man, by whom he takes a chair the nurse brings him, as he thinks to
himself: "My man, thank God, not Gus's!" For his invalid friend might
easily have been here in his place, and could _he_--poor delicate
fellow!--have borne the awful flavour of this place, breaking through
all antiseptic spray and palliation of ozone, and making him, himself,
as physically sick as he is sick at heart? "Not Gus's man, thank God!
At least, a great overgrown giant like myself!" So he thought as he
tried to catch the words of the wretched remnant on the bed beside
him. They were audible only by him, as he stooped resolutely, brushing
all caution aside, and placed his ear close to the dreadful mouth.
It needed an effort, even with Sister Martha's benediction on his

"What is my name, and who am I?" He repeats the whispered words as he
hears them. "I am Athelstan Taylor, a priest in holy orders.... Yes--a
clergyman of the Church of England ... yes!--I understand what you say.
You have something on your conscience which you wish to tell. Try and
tell me."

The nurse evidently thinks the man is dying, and may die without
receiving the Sacrament, which she has supposed his principal object.
She makes a suggestion to that effect. But Mr. Taylor thinks otherwise.
"Presently!" he says. "Let him tell his story first." The nurse
retires, and the tale goes on.

It was a hard tale to catch the threads of. But its hearer was able
to master the main points. The narrator had married, sixteen years
before, a very young and inexperienced girl, unknown to her parents,
who seemed to have remained in ignorance throughout. Even when he
deserted her, a very short time after marriage, she kept her secret
from everyone but a young clerk, a friend of his own, with whom, as
a natural consequence, the poor girl, apparently afraid to divulge
the facts to her family, became very _liée_. His story was obscure at
this point, the only clear thing being that, in order to shake her off
and remain free to contract another marriage, he had written a mock
confession to this young man; alleging, on grounds which the dying
man's condition prevented his explaining in full, that the wedding had
been really a fraud, and his statement that it was so seemed to have
been held sufficient by the girl. The friend, either convinced of its
truth or in love with the girl himself, had accepted it, or seemed to
accept it, as indisputable. Was it to be wondered at that, when she
returned to her home after an absence of some months, with nothing to
show that this concealed marriage had taken place, she had accepted
this young man as her lover, and married him with the full consent of
her parents? The narrator had clearly foreseen this, and looked to it
as a practical release from an encumbrance. His own subsequent career
had been one of profligacy and crime, some of his sins being, to all
appearance, far worse than this one, as such things are estimated;
one achievement having, in fact, procured him a long term of penal
servitude. How strange it seemed that now, with the hand of Death upon
him, he should feel the lighter offence an exceptional weight upon
his conscience! Yet so it was! And his hearer thought he could detect
the relief the confession had given him in the changed whisper that
followed the completion of his story. Mr. Taylor was glad that the
atrocity that sent him to Portland Island was not specially referred to
in the culprit's final inquiry--could he hope for forgiveness?

"I told the unhappy creature," wrote Athelstan to Gus, in the letter
he wrote that evening, "that his chances of forgiveness must depend on
the truth or falsehood of his own contrition, and I am afraid I had the
cruelty to say it with some severity. You know my severe manner. But,
then, it was true. I'm afraid, Gus dear, that I have hardly your faith
in the efficacy of my holy office, taken by itself. But these things
are awful to face. I had hardly time to fulfil my function as a priest
when the poor wretch breathed his last."

It was at that last moment that the need of the rubber gloves became
manifest. Just at the end, the dreadful nailless hand, moving painfully
about, and fraught with some sudden strength, had caught the healthy
one that lay near it on the coverlid, and drew it up to touch it with
the things that had once been lips. The young doctor seemed relieved
when he had himself seen the priest in holy orders well drenched in
water with strange suspicions of sanitation in it, after a heart-felt
lather of carbolic soap.

       *       *       *       *       *

When the Rev. Athelstan came back to Jim's bedside, his face no longer
wore its cheerful aspect of an hour ago. In that short time his sad
experience--surely something more than a mere death-bed, such as his
daily routine of life brought him to the sight of so often!--had
changed it, and made him almost like another man.

"I'm martal glad ye've come, master," said Jim. And, at the sound of
a voice with a memory in it of the chant the windlass echoes when the
anchor leaves its bed in the sand, and the last shore-boat waves
God-speed to the ship set free, his hearer seemed to shake off some
of the gloom that oppressed him. "I'm martal glad to see ye back," he
repeats, "by token of the good lady."

Athelstan takes the hand that seeks his. "Why the good lady, Jim?" he

"Why, master, the good lady she says to me, she says, did I know where
to look for soomat or other? Lard knows what! And I says to her, '_Me_
look!' I says, because I was thinking belike this drawback on my
eyesight might have slipped out of memory...."

"Not very likely, Jim! But if it did, Lady Arkroyd's recollected it by

"Ye think so, master? But put it she hasn't! I'd be sorry she should
come to the knowledge late in the day. These here ladies, master,
they ain't a rough sart, like we"--this did not mean his hearer, only
himself and his congeners--"and she might easy get tender-hearted what
with thinkin' over. And _I'd_ never be the worse, bless you!"

"_I_ see what you mean, Jim." The light dawns; the speaker had been
till then in the dark. He has a laugh ready for it, as he adds: "You
thought the lady would be unhappy when she found she'd been talking to
a blind man about his eyesight? Wasn't that it?" That was it, clearly.
But Jim discerns a justification for his idea, when he learns that his
blindness had been fully talked over.

"There's just what I said, in that, ye see!" says he. "The lady
wouldn't be talking, not to hurt my feelings! Jim Coupland's feelings
now!... where are we at that?" They seem to be a rare good joke to Jim.
But there is material for regret in the background. "'Tain't a matter
to cry one's eyes out over," says he, "but a bit of a pity, too!..."

"What is, Jim?"

"If I'd kept a lookout ahead, I could have steered the good lady clear
of any fret about me and my eyesight. And if we'd only 'a known,
I might 'a told her the starry o' the Flying Dutchman--just for
entertainment like! A yarn's a yarn, master!"

       *       *       *       *       *

Athelstan Taylor was puzzled on his way home by the curious selection
of a restless conscience as aliment for disquiet. But thinking back
on his own past, he found that _his_ disquiets had not been about his
mistakes that had most harmed others. Could he not remember his own
prolonged remorse, at five years old, when an overtwist brought off
the wooden leg of a minute doll, and he had the meanness to put the
limb in place, and leave it, sound to all seeming, for its owner to
discover its calamity? And how he _never told_! Even now, he wished he
had confessed. It was no use now! The sister that doll had belonged to
had been dead thirty years, and this tale he had just heard was, so he
gathered, well within the last twenty.

He was wondering that evening, after writing to Gus, whether his
friend, whose place he was so glad to occupy, would not have raised
some technical difficulty about the Administration of the Sacrament in
rubber gloves, when a note came from his friend the House Surgeon. Had
the man he had talked with given his name? It appeared that the name
entered in the list of patients was an alias. Probably he had several
aliases. But he had a right to be buried and registered under his last
one. A line by return would do. The letter made very light of the
matter--said the deceased couldn't have had any property!

Athelstan Taylor's reply was that the name given, as far as he could
hear it, was Edward Kay Thorne. He walked out and posted it himself,
as the servants had gone to bed. He posted at the same time his letter
to his friend Gus, to which he had added a long postscript about the
events of the day. "You need not think," it ended, "that I have broken
the 'seal of the confessional' in telling this man's story. He said I
was at liberty to do as I liked." He felt rather glad to have a sharer
in such a confidence. Then he went back to his comfortable library, put
coals on the fire, and sat up till one in the morning reading.



The dead drunkard's funeral expenses had been made conditional on his
widow postponing her visit to the Hospital. No doubt the stress laid
by Miss Fossett and her brother's friend on Jim's unfitness to receive
visitors, was owing to their desire to justify this. It is fair to
say that the woman spent the money honourably on its assigned object.
She belonged to a class that expresses its emotions in the presence
of Death by the celebration of obsequies, just as much as Kings and
Princes--perhaps even more, considering its limitations. The classes
that keep funeral ecstasies in check are to be found half-way on the
human ladder, somewhere.

The object of using the power thus gained was not so much to conceal
the story of the drunkard's death--for it was soon clear that Jim
would not be injuriously affected by hearing of that--as to keep from
him that Lizarann was the worse for her exposure in the snow on that
terrible night. It appeared to Miss Fossett and the Rev. Athelstan--or
Yorick, as she always called him and thought of him--that a certain
amount of playing double was justified by the circumstances. It might
have been a very serious throwback to Jim to know that his little lass
was being kept away from him by anything but his own wish to be "on
his pins again" next time he saw her; and he held on so stoically to
his resolution not to see her till then that it seemed a very diluted
mendaciousness to say no more of Lizarann's health than that she
had caught a slight cold, and would be much better cared for at the
schoolhouse than at her aunt's--unless, indeed, Jim especially wished
Mrs. Steptoe to have her back. Jim didn't.

"She's such a nice little girl in herself, Yorick," said Miss Fossett a
fortnight after Lady Arkroyd's visit to the Hospital, "that one wishes
it could be managed." She was referring to a suggestion her ladyship
had made.

"Does one, altogether?" was Yorick's reply. "What was it she
said?--'Get her away from her terrible surroundings, and give her
a chance of doing well.' Our Baronetess is a good-hearted woman in
reality--with a little flummery--only she's apt to be taken in by
sounding phrases. This one would either mean taking the little person
away from her Daddy, or else getting _him_ away from _his_ terrible
surroundings. Who's to do it, Addie? You would shirk the task just as
much as I, if you knew Jim."

"But couldn't he be got away, too?"

"Well!--of course, I was thinking of that as impracticable at the

"But is it?"

"Why--no! It's only a question of money. Jim would be ductile enough, I
see that. I suppose I should be right in getting Sir Murgatroyd's money
used that way?"

"Certainly. He has twenty thousand a year. What does it matter?
One-pound-five a week is fifty-two pounds for the pound, and thirteen
pounds for the five shillings--one-fourth part. Sixty-five pounds! Oh,
Yorick, what _can_ it matter?"

"I don't know," says Yorick. He is one of those rare people who don't
think misappropriation of funds grows less and less immoral in the
inverse ratio of the one borne to them by the source of their supply.

"Well!--I _do_," says Miss Fossett. "Sir Murgatroyd can perfectly well
afford it."

There was time to discuss the matter, and Yorick and Miss Fossett
did so at intervals during the weeks that followed. Discussion of
any project favours its materialization, which often comes about
more because it is kept alive than in consequence of any agreement
on details among its promoters. The idea that "something would have
to be done" about Lizarann and her Daddy took root both in Grosvenor
Square and the neighbourhood of Tallack Street, and only waited for
Jim's wooden leg, to become a reality. It was taken for granted that
Lizarann's cough, which was really hardly anything now, would be quite
gone by then, and that her pulse would be normal. Six whole weeks!

Meanwhile Lizarann herself was not prepared to admit there was
anything the matter with her. She secretly regarded the whole thing
as a conspiracy to keep her away from her Daddy--a conspiracy somehow
fostered and encouraged by Dr. Ferris's stethoscope; but not one to
be denounced and rebelled against, because of the obviously good
intentions of Teacher, the gentleman, and the doctor-gentleman. It
wasn't _their_ fault! They were misled by that audacious little lying
pipe, which was no use either to play upon or look through, and yet
had the effrontery to pretend you could listen with it. Absurd!

Other forms of medical investigation she regarded as games, and
resolved that when she and her Daddy were back at Aunt Stingy's,
she was going to ply them gymes with Bridgetticks. She would listen
to Bridgetticks's chest with a hoopstick many a day when the spring
came, and weather permitted doorsteps. And _vice versa_; fair play,
of course! And she would get her down flat, and put one hand on lots
of different places on her chest, and thud it unfairly hard with the
other, and say, "Does that hurt you?" and make her draw long breaths.
She accepted diagnosis as human and lovable in benefactors, but still a
weakness, and a sure road to misapprehension in chest cases.

If it had not been for cod-liver oil, and restraints, and mustard
poultices that printed her small chest red, she would have regarded
the whole thing as a lark, especially in view of the banquets that
accompanied it. And was she not assured that Daddy was having the
same, only heaps more? The oil was the worst trial. It pretended to
be tasteless certainly, but that was mere pharmaceutical hypocrisy;
the bottles knew better, whatever the labels might say. Her first
hearing of the name of this nasty _elixir vitæ_ produced a curious
confusion in her mind, the revelation of which shocked Miss Fossett,
taxed Yorick's command of his countenance, and made the doctor chuckle
at intervals all the way home. For she recalled an occasion on which
the Rev. Wilkinson Wilkins had denounced "ungodly livers." Herein lay
great possibilities of misapprehension, and Lizarann was not slow to
infer that cod-liver oil was divine, as opposed to some still worse
abomination on draught in the opposite camp--devil-liver oil, perhaps!

The foregoing shows to what an extent Teacher had turned her residence
next door to the School into a hospital for the accommodation of this
case. The good-natured lady was always liable to get involved in the
fortunes of any of her young students, and though the present one had
no claim on her that a hundred others might not have had, she was no
doubt a lovable child, and her courage under trial had fairly engaged
the affections of the Rev. Athelstan. Now Yorick had always been an
idol of Adeline Fossett's from the day when he was first introduced
to her, a girl his junior in years, but older than he for all that,
as an Eton friend to whom her favourite brother probably owed his
life. She had been much in his confidence in the years that followed;
had been his great friend and adviser all through his Oxford days;
had sympathized with him in all his youthful love-affairs. Why it was
invariably taken for granted that he and she were always to beat up
different covers for a lifelong mate it would have been difficult
to say. But so it was, and so it continued, quite to the seeming
satisfaction of both. She remained his confidante during all the
hesitations and perplexities of his courtship of Sophia Caldecott,
while only giving a qualified approval to his choice; and when he
departed, beaming, with that young lady on a wedding-tour, she honestly
believed that her own burst of tears as soon as she found herself,
after the day's excitement, alone with her sense that the world had got
empty and chill, was due to the fact that Yorick had married, as she
viewed the matter, the wrong sister--Sophia instead of Elizabeth, her
great friend. Sophia was the pretty one, of course! But men were blind!

Adeline's life was so interwoven with that of a brother who, she
believed, would certainly never marry that she looked on herself as
not entered for the race of life at all. The idea held her with such
force that she could build castles in the air for a bosom friend
without a suspicion of a wish for self-election to their suzerainship.
Sophia--once fourteen, and nothing--changed into a woman and captured
the best castle for herself. Is it certain that Elizabeth's entry into
that castle would have left Adeline's world so much less empty and
chill? Who can say? All there is room to tell here is that Sophia's
death came in a few years; and that Adeline's contemplation of
Elizabeth's instalment as Queen Regent, without rights of coronation,
was productive of involutions of thought and feeling that would have
baffled Robert Browning. She was glad to believe she believed her
secret grief that Yorick and Elizabeth could never be man and wife
genuine. Perhaps it was.

Very likely the readiness of Miss Fossett to harbour and cherish
Lizarann does not want such an elaborate explanation. Lizarann, as the
story has shown, was far from being an unattractive scrap in herself,
although the mouth _was_ too large for beauty--no doubt of it! She was
especially so in these well-washed days when Miss Fossett went after
her own very early breakfast to wake her in the morning; or, if awake,
to prevent her trying to get up before Dr. Ferris came.

"Maten't I go to see Daddy to-day, Teacher?" she said--always the first
question--one such morning about a month after her appropriation by
Miss Fossett.

"_Maten't_ you--funny child! _Mayn't you_'s what you mean. No, dear,
you mayn't--not yet! No till Dr. Ferris says yes. You must be a good
little girl and have patience." For Miss Fossett knew children too well
to weep with them invariably in their troubles. Here was one that
would bear a bracing treatment. Its effect this time was that a sob
never came to maturity--was resolutely swallowed--and that the career
of a couple of tears was nipped in the bud by a nightgown-sleeve. A
sniff made a protest in their favour, but cut a poor figure. Courage
had the best of it.

"Mustn't I only send a kiss to Daddy, Teacher?" Lizarann says this very

"Teacer!" Miss Fossett mimics her pronunciation. "Of course you may,
dear, as many as you like! You give them to me, and _I'll_ see that
Daddy gets them." This is very rash, as Lizarann springs like a tiger,
and discharges a volley that would have kept a game of kiss-in-the-ring
going for a fortnight. An evil, you will say, easily endurable by a
childless woman, with perhaps a hungry heart! Agreed. But embarrassing
complications followed. As soon as Lizarann, who was evidently going to
be much better to-day, had disposed of a very respectable breakfast for
an invalid, and was brought into good form to receive the doctor--she
was very nice when she smelt of soap, was Lizarann--her mind harked
back on the kissing transaction.

"Who shall you give the skisses to, to tike to Daddy?"

"Never you mind! Daddy shall get them, and that's enough for any little
girl at this time in the morning. Now lie still and be good. There's
Dr. Ferris's knock."

Lizarann complied. But curiosity rankled. Would Miss Fossett entrust
those kisses to Dr. Ferris to give to Daddy? That was the substance of
the question that came in perfect good faith from the pillow Lizarann
was lying still and being good on. And this with Dr. Ferris audible

"Most certainly _not_! I don't know him well enough." This was very
decisive; and Lizarann's impersonal mind discerned in it a mistrust of
the goods reaching their destination. Dr. Ferris might give them to
someone else. Another carrier must be found.

"But you do the gentleman?"

"Yes, of course! I could give them to the gentleman. But we'll do
better than that, Lizarann. I'll give them back to you, and you'll give
them to the gentleman." An arrangement that pleases Lizarann, whose
allegation that there was siskteen, makes the refund a long job. It
lasts till the doctor knocks at the room door.

"Who were you talking to, Doctor?" Lizarann's tickle is still on the
speaker's face, as she smooths matters--hair and such-like.

"It's the aunt, Widow Steptoe...."

"Do take care, Doctor!"

"Oh--I forgot! It's all right, I think, though ... she wants a
testimonial, to say she can cook. She can't, of course! How's the

"Look and see! I suppose I must see Mrs. Steptoe. She wants to talk,
you know. I could just as easily write to this Mrs. What's-her-name ...
oh yes; I know who it's for ... as have a long talkee-talkee. If she
keeps me, come in as you go, to tell me."

       *       *       *       *       *

There is a twofold advantage in the loss of a husband who is a curse to
your existence--who is bone of your bone and flesh of your flesh, with
all the disadvantages of a community of goods, such as was endured by
Zohak the tyrant, who shared his with two serpents that had grown out
of him, and partook of him at intervals. One gain is, that your husband
is now no more--as the vernacular puts it when not claiming various
forms of hereafters for the departed; the other, that we may now mourn
his loss and ascribe beauties of character to him without fear of his
coming to life to give them practical disclaimers. We can do it with
crape, and if we can't afford a pair of black kids, Lisle thread lasts
a long time, if wore careful; indeed, Mrs. Hacker, whose testimony we
are quoting, was able to dwell on the cheapness of job-lots in the
article of mourning, and the advantages we enjoy from sales--advantages
unknown to Zohak in his day; only perhaps his snakes outlived him. If
they did, there can have been no false note in the pathos with which
they spoke of him as "now no more."

Mrs. Steptoe, having been so liberally assisted towards funeral
expenses, had been able to enjoy herself thoroughly over the millinery
department. Even Bridgetticks had been impressed by the respectability
of her appearance. Tallack Street felt it, and joined in tributes
to the moral qualities of Mr. Steptoe. It did not shut its eyes to
his failing, but rather utilized it to the advantage of his memory,
sketching an exalted character that he would certainly have possessed
if it had not been undermined by his unfortunate propensity. Each male
inhabitant of Tallack Street could conscientiously call upon all his
neighbours to bear witness to the many times he had dwelt on what a
good, honest, generous, trustworthy nature underlay this unfortunate
proclivity to drinking spirits continually, during waking hours,
whenever he had a trup'ny bit left, or could get credit, or stood
treat to. All agreed to regard it as a sort of involuntary habit,
like blinking; or at worst a flaw in culture--like eating peas, or
the butter, with the blade of your knife. "The man he was, be'ind it
all!"--that was what Tallack Street looked at. The Philosopher might,
if Time permitted, have exclaimed: "_De non apparentibus et non
existentibus eadem est ratio!_" Tallack Street would have replied,
forcibly as we think, that it warn't messin' about with any blooming
reasonings--only turning of it over like.

But we doubt if Tallack Street would have recognized Uncle Bob's
virtues so readily if his widow's grief had been less effectively shown.

Her mourning gownd was that respectable to look at you couldn't 'ardly
tell her for Mrs. Steptoe, goin' along the street, or in at the
butcher's. Whereat Tallack Street shook its heads, and accepted the
past as a lesson for the future, its older ones saying to its younger
ones: "Pore Bob! What did I tell you, N. or M., concernin' of small
goes of gin took at all hours and no sort o' system!" The tone of
melancholy forgiving retrospect being entirely a reaction produced by
the correct attire of the widow.

The same influence made Miss Fossett believe, for the moment, that
Mrs. Steptoe _could_ cook, for all Dr. Ferris said. She wrote a
testimonial for her which suggested that behind the good plain-cooking
accomplishment, as scheduled, were unexplored possibilities this
candidate for a place would not lay claim to, from modesty. But for the
applicant's decent gown and gloves and new umbrella, she would have
thought nothing of her account of her cooking powers, as shown many
years since in the early days of her marriage, in certain apartments
at Ramsgate, where her husband then worked, before they came to
London. She had then cooked a dinner for ten persons, with _entrées_
and sweets. Miss Fossett hesitated, metaphorically, to swallow this
dinner--tried to persuade Mrs. Steptoe to reduce it to eight. That good
woman, however, on taxing her memory, rather showed a disposition to
increase it to twelve. On which Miss Fossett surrendered at discretion.

"Of course you'll soon get your hand back again, Mrs. Steptoe; and I
hope you'll get this place." At this point the character was written,
with a full certificate of the circumstances. It seemed worded to
convey that a female _cordon bleu_, who had been seeing better days,
had been forced by ill-hap to resume her old _rôle_ of life. Completing
it, Miss Fossett again spoke: "Where did you say you were in service,
Mrs. Steptoe? Ramsgate?"

"Not exactly in service, miss."

"What, then?"

"In apartments to let." Mrs. Steptoe seemed a little uncertain; like
a respectable person telling fibs, and in a difficulty. Then she saw
her way, and went on, relieved. "I was requested to it, as a faviour.
Owing to landlady indisposed--having known her from early childhood."
She was proud of this expression evidently. "By the name of Cantrip. I
was left in charge, and give every satisfaction. Thirty-two, Sea View
Terrace, on the clift."

"And the lodgers had ten people at dinner!" Miss Fossett was surprised,
and showed it. The image her mind formed of thirty-two, Sea View
Terrace, did not jump with a dinner of ten persons, with _entrées_
and sweets. But was it reasonable in not doing so? Mrs. Steptoe must
have appreciated the difficulty, for she threw in, "Did you know the
house, miss?" and the question was skilful. Miss Fossett admitted that
she did not. "But I certainly thought it seemed a large party for a
lodging-house," said she, feeling apologetic. She did not wish to be
unjust, even to a lodging-house.

Mrs. Steptoe was all amazement that the extensive accommodation of
Sea View Terrace should be unknown anywhere in Europe. Her desire to
express it seemed to expand beyond dictionaries. Her sakes--why, a
many more could have sat down! She then went on to substantiate her
statement, giving the names of the guests: "There was Mr. and Mrs.
Hallock and family was five, staying in the apartments. And Mrs.
Bridgman and her daughter was seven. And Mr. and Mrs. Thorne, and Mr.
Hollings--no!--Harris, a young gentleman from town. Countin' up to
ten!" Mrs. Steptoe was triumphant. Such detail would verify anything.

"Well!--anyhow, there's the letter, Mrs. Steptoe, and I hope you'll get
the place and do well." Miss Fossett was convinced the good woman had
been lying, more or less; and so she had, but the only portion of her
statement that affects this story was true enough. She had relieved
her conscience about the fib that she had cooked this dinner by giving
the actual names of those who had eaten it as nearly as she remembered
them. Can we not sympathize with her? Are we not human?

She took the letter with abasement and deep gratitude, neither
altogether unconnected with a religious fog, unexplained, hanging about
the memory of her lamented husband. She inquired after her brother--was
looking forward to seeing him on Friday, the next visiting-day at the
Hospital--understood he had asked for her to come, with a distinct
implication that his nature was a neglectful one, and that she was

"He has asked for you several times," said Miss Fosset. "But Mr. Taylor
thought--so did I--that it would be best for him to know nothing of
your husband's death till he was stronger. He puts it down to the
Hospital regulations--thinks you have not been admitted. Mr. Taylor
will tell him all about it before you see him."

"As you and the gentleman think best, miss! And the little girl, you
was a-sayin', is better?"

"The little girl is a great deal better. Wait a minute, and I'll ask
Dr. Ferris if he thinks you could see her."

Mrs. Steptoe, who was quite able to keep her anxiety to see her niece
in due subordination, dwelt upon her unwillingness to encroach on Miss
Fossett's time. Who, accounting these professions honest--which they
weren't--went away and met the doctor coming down. He had been a long
time over his patient, she remarked. "This patient," said he, "is good
company. Glad to say she's going on capitally. Temperature all but

"That aunt-woman's here still." Miss Fossett drops her voice to say
this. "Could I take her up to see her safely, do you think?"

"Can you be sure she won't talk about her conf ... about her husband, I

"Ye-es! I think so, if she promises. I don't _know_."

"It can't do any great harm, in any case. The child is thinking of
nothing but Daddy. Five past nine--oh dear! I'm off ... oh yes!--you
may try it." And off goes the doctor.

As to Lizarann's interview with her aunt that followed, a few words
will be enough. For no story can record everything everywhere closely;
it must take and reject. It was, on the part of Aunt Stingy, an
unpresumptuous interview, fraught with meek reminders to little girls
of what was due on their part towards their benefactors; as also with
suggestions of the depravities inherent in all their species. An
interview mysteriously saturated with a sense of religious precepts
refrained from, but conferring a sense of moral superiority in one who
could, had she chosen, have become a well-spring and fountain-head of
little-girl-crushing platitudes. On Lizarann's part, an interview with
a background of indictments against herself undisclosed connected,
no doubt, somehow with her demeanour on the terrible occasion when
she saw her aunt and uncle last. She dared not ask what she had done,
preferring to refer her blood-guiltiness--of which, as a general rule,
she entertained no doubt--in this case to the lucifer-match negotiation
which had induced Uncle Bob to leave hold. That seemed more likely
than that she had left the street-door stood on the jar. Of course,
she might have been convicted of concealed chestnuts; or even, by some
necromancy, Aunt Stingy might have divined how near she had felt to
passing the forbidden Vatted Rum Corner limit. But the lucifer-match
theory seemed the most probable--not to be broached, however, without
the gentleman himself there to protect her. Teacher was good--angelic,
indeed--but she was uninformed. And who could say that the evil
plausibilities of a subtle human aunt might not persuade her to turn
against her _protégée_, and rend her? However, the question was not
raised, and Lizarann felt grateful when the said aunt departed, after a
horny farewell peck.

But as soon as she had departed, Lizarann became suddenly talkative.
"Is Aunt Stingy's new gownd pide for?" said she.

"Inquisitive little monkey!" said Teacher. "Perhaps it is; perhaps it

"What did it costited?" asked Lizarann. But she was really uninterested
about the purchase. She was keeping the question before the House in
the hope that the debate would throw a light on a collateral point.
"Mrs. Hacker's married daughter Sarah was a widow," said she, to give
the conversation a lift. "She wore her cloze out, _she_ did."

But why had widowhood come suddenly on the tapis? Evidently sharp ears
had heard the doctor's indiscreet speech. Miss Fossett grasped the
position. Lizarann would have to know some time. Why not now?

"Poor Aunt Stingy!" She spoke with her eye on Lizarann, on the watch
for a guess on the child's part that would assist disclosure. She saw
in the large puzzled orbs that met hers, and the small hands pulling
nervously at the sheet, that the idea she wanted was either dawning or
fructifying. She continued: "Aunt Stingy will have to be a widow now,

The idea had taken hold, and another young mind that up to that moment
had looked on Death as a visitor to other families, not hers, had got
to face the black terror--just as terrible a mystery, just as cold
a cloud, when that which dies is what none would wish should live,
as when all worth living for seems lost with it. Even the opportune
removal of an Uncle Bob turns the whole world into an antechamber
of the great Unknown, and veils the sun in heaven. Nobody had died,
in Lizarann's immediate circle, so far, and as for outsiders that
was their look out! Uncle Bob wasn't wanted certainly, rather the
reverse; but none the less the two large eyes that were fixed on Miss
Fossett's informing face filled slowly with tears, and their small
owner's hands came out towards her, feeling for something to cry on.
Yes!--Uncle Bob was dead, and would never mend any more boots; thus,
substantially, the testimony of Teacher, confirming and amplifying the
deluge that followed. It was some time before mere awe of Death allowed
Lizarann to refer to the fact that Daddy would never enjoy Uncle Bob's
society again; there may have been ambiguity here--was it all unmixed
disadvantage?--and still longer, quite late in the day, in fact, before
her reflections reminded her that Mrs. Hacker's married daughter
Sarah, having wore her cloze out, took up with Mr. Brophy, her present
husband. A reminiscence evidently recording the exact language of older
persons than herself.

       *       *       *       *       *

"What did you say was the name of that gentleman you met at Royd,
Yorick?--the amusing one?..."


"No--the other."


"The same name as the author?"

"He _is_ the author. Titus Scroop is his _nom-de-plume_. Why do you

"Because it must be his wife I wrote Mrs. Steptoe's character for last
week. Mrs. Alfred Challis, The Hermitage, Wimbledon."

"Oh yes--that would be. How did you know of her?"

"That Mrs. Eldridge--she's a sort of cousin, you know--wrote to see if
I knew of a cook."

"But you knew nothing about Mrs. Steptoe's cooking."

"No--but she can try."

"I don't call that conscientious."

"Oh, my dear Yorick? Isn't that just like you now? If everyone was such
a dragon, no one would ever do a good-natured action."

"_Was_ it good-natured--to Mrs. Challis?"

"It may turn out so. Mrs. Steptoe may be a real treasure."

The above is short and explains itself. The time of it may have been
three days after the previous story time.



It was certainly our friend Marianne at the Hermitage, Wimbledon, to
whom Mrs. Steptoe, now a free-lance, was going to apply for a cook's
place. It was rather an audacious piece of effrontery; so also are
two-thirds of the applications the Registry sends you on, and charges
you five shillings for. Mrs. Steptoe was a very poor cook indeed; but,
then, it was so long since she done any cooking reg'lar that it was
easy for her to forget how poor it had been.

The coincidence was not a miraculous one, and it will not appear so
if you will image to yourself Mrs. Charlotte Eldridge coming down
very late one morning and opening letters. Further, imagine that the
contents of one takes her aback, binds her attention, and excites a
sort of torpid curiosity in Mr. John Eldridge, who is just off to catch
his train; but the nine thirty-eight will do if he misses it. Then that
the lady throws the letter down, and says: "Well, I declare! Elizabeth
Barclay, of all people in the world!"

Don't try to imagine Mr. Eldridge, nor his hat, nor its band, nor the
woollen comforter he buttons his coat over. It isn't worth the effort.
But take the story's word for it that he said "Elizabeth Barclay?" six
times, and ended with, "What's she been had up for?"

"John, you're a fool! She's Marianne's cook, and she wants me to find
her another. Of course!"

"But what's her game? What's Marianne's cook's little game? What's she
been a-takin' shares in? Where's she been selling her dripping to?
Tell away, Lotty!--spit it out!" But he does not forward matters, for
he again says "Elizabeth Barclay" several times, and finishes up with

"When you've done." A pause. "She's going to marry a corn-factor."

Mr. Eldridge closes one eye. "Females do," he says; and then adds,
quite inexplicably: "I shouldn't wonder if he was in the Brixton Road."

"It doesn't matter whether he is or isn't. The question is, where am I
to go to find a really good plain cook for Marianne?"

"Ah!--that's the question."

"Well, but you might help, instead of looking like a gaby."

"Why not ask that party?"

"What party?"

"Over Clapham way. Some connection. Where you got Ellen Sayce." Mrs.
Eldridge looks her despair, for was not Ellen Sayce a girl who wept
on the stairs instead of doing them down, and had to return to her
parents? Nevertheless the attempt was worth a postcard, which was
written as Mr. Eldridge--whose peritonitis had gone--trotted away
down a snow-swept footway slapping his gloves, and saying "Elizabeth
Barclay" at intervals. But she omitted the date, as she decided not to
post it then and there, but to exhaust her other resources first. Ellen
Sayce was a poor result.

The consequence of this was that for a month or thereabouts Mr.
Eldridge was never without a topic of conversation, frequently
calling attention to the unborn postcard in a recess on his wife's
_escritoire_. "I say, Lotty, when's Miss Fossijaw's letter a-going?"
being his form of query, connecting the matter in hand with
phosphorus-poisoning, humorously but not intelligently.

However, when Mrs. Eldridge's other presentments ran dry, the postcard
was despatched, and reached Adeline Fossett just the moment after Mrs.
Steptoe had been submitting her cookworthiness, and lodging her claims
for favourable consideration. Whereupon Miss Fossett despatched a
summons to her to come next day for a written character (which would do
in this case), and the events we know of followed. There was nothing
remarkable in the coincidence whatever.

But there was something very remarkable--so Mrs. Challis had
thought--about Elizabeth Barclay's unaccountable desire to marry a
corn-factor, after being in the family fourteen years! For the Challis
family had monopolized Mrs. Barclay during the whole of that time,
and it was natural it should be indignant at her desertion. In fact,
Marianne had hardly been able to believe her ears when one day the good
woman, who had been very _distraite_ over the ordering of dinner, took
advantage of its conclusion to say, through huskiness and hesitation,
that she had been thinking it well over, and had decided on it, in
spite of her attachment to the family and heartfelt desire to cause it
no inconvenience. Being pressed to say what she had decided on--which
she had not so far mentioned--she had turned the colour of a tomato,
and with a determined rush had said: "I have decided, ma'am, to change
my condition," and had then revealed the corn-factor with such a
tremendous accent on his first syllable that an impression followed
it in the mind of Bob Challis, the boy, home for the holidays, that
factors of many other goods had been under consideration, and that Mr.
Soul had been the fortunate candidate. For his name was actually Seth

This, of course, was at the Christmas following Challis _père's_
visit to Royd. But Mrs. Barclay had kept her condition unchanged for
the time being, to oblige Miss Marianne, which was how she as often
as not spoke of Mrs. Challis. That lady had really exerted herself
to find a substitute, any plausible application having been referred
for settlement to the corn-factor's _fiancée_. That very honest
woman had denounced and rejected every candidate for the place so
far. She applied the same formula to all: "It don't speak much for
her"--that there was such a flaw in her register, or such a defect in
her demeanour. It didn't speak much for one that she had just taken a
twelvemonth's leisure at a relative's; or for another that she smelt
of spirits at that time in the morning; or for another that she nearly
came tumblin' down the kitchen flight, and couldn't walk straight. It
certainly didn't. But it spoke volumes for Mrs. Barclay's integrity
that she rejected them all, when, by accepting one, she might have
flown straight to the corn-factor and nested under his wing, the minute
her things were got.

The acceptance of our friend Aunt Stingy was the result of desperation,
as we have hinted, on Mrs. Challis's part. However, to do her justice,
she tried to shift the responsibility off her own shoulders.

"I should not have dared to send her packing after what you said
this morning, Titus," said she; scarcely, perhaps, quite fairly. But
Titus replied good-humouredly--for think how well that chapter had
started!--"Never mind, Polly Anne! I'll be responsible. She'll turn out
all right enough, I dare say."

And thus it had come about that Mrs. Steptoe found herself, within
six weeks of her husband's death, in a situation where, although its
standard of cooking was no better than that of most English houses of
the same type, she was hard put to it to keep up the pretence of any
knowledge at all. A very slight early experience had to go a long way,
and detection and conviction would have ensued if Marianne Challis had
profited by her dozen of years of housekeeping. But Elizabeth Barclay
had been a treasure; and treasures--that is to say, persons who don't
drink, can roast and boil, and know three sorts of soup--make it
quite unnecessary for any English mistress to give any thought to the
subject. The new cook, too, was entrenched in a strong position. Who
shall say that any chance person who does not know how to pull and
grill now was incompetent to pull and grill ten or fifteen years ago?
Or that it is impossible that she passed a culinary youth in contact
with mayonnaise sauce, truffles, or Gorgonzola cheese, and yet should
in that period have forgotten the very names of them? The problem Aunt
Stingy had to solve was how to acquire knowledge without admitting
ignorance. And the attitude she took up in the pursuit of this object
was that of a higher cult graciously stooping to accommodate itself
to insular prejudice or mere bucolic barbarism. She elicited a great
deal of information by dwelling on skilful achievements hard to believe
in, but practised for all that in the Augustan age of her experience,
for the tables of an almost Parisian circle of connoisseurs. There was
danger in the method, but her intrepidity was more than Murat-like.
As, for instance, when, apropos of omelettes, she said that "we"--that
is, the cooks attached to that circle--always made them without eggs.
On learning that omelettes contained nothing but eggs, she exclaimed
with the greatest presence of mind, "Oh yes!--what we used to call

"I'm afraid you'll have to give this woman the sack, Polly Anne. She
can't cook worth a cent." Thus Mr. Challis, sampling something one day
at lunch, perhaps an omelette without eggs.

"Oh, _do_ have a little patience, Titus!"

"Well--of course we must give her a fair trial. I didn't mean

"Anyone would have thought you did. And it only upsets me, and does
no good at all. Do leave it alone till Elizabeth Barclay has shown
her one or two of her receipts. She's very willing to learn, and
goes to chapel." For Marianne was disposed to be lazy about this as
about other things, and was inclined to temporize. If Mrs. Steptoe
could be educated, why not retain Mrs. Steptoe? "Even if you dined
out every night for a time--you know you _can_; look at all those
invitations!--it would be better than having to go through it all
again. Oh dear!"

But Challis was not anxious either to dine out every night, or to
quarrel over the dinners at home. He was really well pleased with
himself and his surroundings, when he could feel that he had passed a
comfortable domestic evening free from self-questionings and collisions
with--well!--that disorder he made the awkward compound word for. But
he never got off without scars. When he thought he had succeeded, after
a very well-executed quiet evening with his wife, in saying to himself:

    "Jam me juvaverit
    Viros relinquere
    Doctaeque conjugis
    Sinu quiescere,"

really almost with earnestness!--all the wind was taken out of his
sails by a perfectly uncalled-for reflection on Marianne's education.
He was angry after with himself for making it. Besides, no one in his
senses could ascribe any abnormal culture to.... Never you mind!--what
on earth had _she_ to do with it?

The fact is that, at this date of the story, some two or three weeks
after we last heard his voice in that cab that drew up in Grosvenor
Square, Challis was keeping watch and ward over his love of his own
home and the mother of his two children. His other world--especially
the brilliant and fascinating one that centred in the Megatherium
Theatre and the preparation of his new play--was both courted and
kept at bay by him. He could make no strong stand against its
temptations; but he could resent them, and did so. And whenever his
conscience--however he nicknamed it--had been especially intrusive,
he could always rebuke it by a little more home life than usual, by a
more patient toleration of some home discomfort. He did not see that
the very fact of his doing penance, as it were, for his enjoyment of
that outer world of enchantment, was really opening a postern-gate to
admit the enemy his culverins were pounding from the battlements. When
he paid himself out for that delightful supper with the Megatheriums
in the small hours of the morning by showing forbearance over Mrs.
Steptoe's fatuous attempts at cookery, he was no more conscious that he
was really pleading guilty on the main issue than was Judith Arkroyd,
when she declined an invitation to join it, conscious that she was only
hedging against her dallyings with perfect truth and honour towards
her family in keeping back the lengths she had gone in rehearsals
of the part of Aminta Torrington. Mrs. Steptoe's greasy cookery and
a dull pompous dinner at the Duke's each did duty as a salve to
conscience without the unwilling sharers in either detecting their own
self-deception. But it was good for Mr. Ramsey Tomes, who took Miss
Arkroyd in to the banquet and bored her by his appreciation more than
by his talk; which Judith mimicked extremely well, to Mr. Challis's
great delight, when she met him next day at the theatre. And it was
good for Mrs. Steptoe, who between Challis's penances and Marianne's
indisposition for another excursion into disengaged-cook land, seemed
likely to attain the low standard of excellence we have mentioned as
satisfactory to the British housekeeper.

Marianne gave her husband no help. Of course, she was not bound to.
_We_ know! No woman is under any legal obligation to assist her husband
against himself, if his affections--promised at the altar, don't you
see?--become weak-kneed and uncertain. He may have to love uphill, but
he must take his chance of that. Still, she need not skid his wheels or
put stones in his path. But did Marianne do so?

In our opinion she did. Mere words, told in a story, go for little; a
shade of accent makes them much or nothing. How, we ask you, did Bob
Challis, Rugby-sharpened, know that his mater, whenever she made an
allusion to churches or chapels, was having a fling at his Governor?
How did Bob know that his Governor was making no answer in italics, as
one might say, when he turned to him and said: "Got your new skates,
human schoolboy? Let's have a look! Now, why is it no new strap ever
has a hole in the right place?" And made conversation, transparently.
Bob did know, somehow; and had he been present to hear his mother say
that Mrs. Steptoe went to Chapel, he would have quite understood her
inflection of voice to convey an addendum, "which _you_ don't; or, at
least, Church, and you wouldn't say the responses if you did."

If Mrs. Challis would only have left that point alone, it would have
made a world of difference in her relation with her husband. Why would
she not? He had left her free to secure salvation, not only to her own
children, but to her nephew or stepson, whichever you like to call Bob.
And he had made no conditions except that he himself should be allowed
the luxury of perdition on his own terms. "You let me go to the Devil
my own way, Polly Anne," he had said, "and you shall have poor Kate's
boy, and tell him any gammon you like." Perhaps the reason why he
said--just now in the story--"_Docta conjux_, indeed!" may have been
some memory of how, when Bob blacked another boy's eye for calling the
Founder of Christianity a Jew, Marianne had defended his action, and
condemned the other boy for impiety and heathenism. "And you know I'm
right, Titus," said the lady triumphantly.

Of course, it is impossible to say that a really honest fulfilment of
the religious bargain would have diverted the current of events into
another channel. All the story points to is that if Challis could
have reposed on the bosom of his "docta conjux" with less fear of
its bristling suddenly--like the image of the Virgin with which the
Inquisition convinced the most sceptical--with suggestions of precept
or reproof, even as the blessed image shot out spikes, then there would
have been one needless apple of discord the less. And if Marianne
had carried out her half of the compact, Titus would certainly have
been more scrupulous in saying, before the boy, things of a racy
nature on subjects of reverence in the eyes of all Christendom and
many thoughtful persons outside it. It wasn't fair to Marianne, who
had no sense of humour at all, to develope an old line of critical
analysis of the Scriptures for the benefit of Bob; to consider that
young man, in fact, as a Bible Class, anxious to discover and record
the first mentions of all the trades, all the professions, all the
popular complaints delicacy allows to be canvassed in public, all the
sports and all the winners, in a volume his mother regarded as sacred.
What did it matter how indistinct an idea she had of what she meant
by the word _sacred_, or anything else? She might at least have been
spared one especial atrocity--the first mention of pugilism. To do him
justice, however, Challis was not himself guilty of this triumph of
successful research, which we need not record here. It came home from
school with Bob next Easter holidays, and Bob teemed and twinkled with
it until at last he got the chance of delivering it into his father's
ear as he sat astride of his knee, with all the license of a boy just
released from the classics.

"You young scaramouch! Where do you expect to go to? Don't you go and
tell your mother that!" For Challis, in the presence of this youth,
kept up a certain parade of potential reverence, available in extreme
cases. He could countenance the first mention of Cannibalism--"The
woman tempted me, and I did eat." But this one ran near the confines of
the unpermissible--overpast them.

"Shuttleworth and Graves Minor's going to tell their sisters. Because
they'll be in such an awful rage!"

"A very low motive. Perhaps you'll be good enough to regulate your
conduct on better models than Shuttleworth and Graves Minor."

"Their father's a Bishop. At least, Graves Minor's is. He only allows
him a shilling a month pocket-money. He's gone to his aunts Jane and
Mary's for the holidays because they're infectious...."

"Which--the holidays or the aunts? Pay attention to your antecedents,
young man!"

"Neither. They're infectious at home; they've got scarlet fever. He's
awfully glad, because his Aunt Jane lives in a haunted house, and he
can get out on the leads. I say, pater!"

"What, offspring?"

"When's that lady coming that gave me my skates at Christmas, and the
'Lives of the Buccaneers'?"

"I don't know. I can't say. Some day." Challis has become reserved
suddenly. "Give me the little Japanese ash-pan, and find yourself a
chair. A strong one, I should recommend." For Bob is at that pleasant
growing age that has relapses into babyhood, if not checked by a hint
now and then. He accepts the hint this time, but declines the chair,
preferring to lean over the back of his father's, and pull his hair.

"The mater hates her. I don't." Now, if this had been said immediately,
it would have seemed much slighter conversation, easy to pass by.
Coming after a good pause of hairpulling, it implied a confidence in
the speaker's mind that his hearer's had been dwelling, during that
pause, on the person he didn't hate and his mother did.

"It's no concern of any young monkey's who his mother hates or doesn't

"Well!--it's true. And I say it's a beastly shame. After all, it wasn't
_her_ fault that it thawed."

"You unblushing young egotist! Is the whole world to be nothing but
skates--skates--skates? _Whose_ fault wasn't it? Your mother's?"

"No fear! The mater wanted me to chuck it up, and not skate at all.
Rather!" This youth's language depends for expression on a tone of
overstrained contempt for experience outside his own. But the desert of
his egotism has oases. He reaches one now, and says in quite a natural
voice: "I say, pap!"

"Go on, human creature!"

"Shall I tell you what me and Cat...."

"What _who_?" This is accompanied by a pantomimic threat of

"Well! Cat and I, then ... what we call her, when we're alone?"

"By all means. Only look alive! Because your father's cigar is waning,
and copy is behindhand. Go it!"

"_We_ call her Judy. Cat and I do. Short for Judith."

"You'll make your little sister as bad as yourself, and she's too
sharp by half already. How do you know her name's Judith? It might be
Sarah--or Euterpe."

"But it ain't. It's Judith."

"Ah!--but how do you know? That's the point."

"Because we listened. And we knew the mater meant _her_."

Perhaps if Master Bob had seen his father's face, it would have checked
his outflow of virgin candour. But he was behind him, and saw nothing.
Challis was balancing a nice question in his mind. Ought he not to
check this revelation? Was it not like eavesdropping to listen to it?
He decided that he might, as Marianne would surely never say before
the children anything she would not wish him to hear. But he wanted to
know, too. Still, he was conscious enough of his wish to know, to find
it necessary to impute his reluctance to be influenced by it to that
mental vice he had invented a name for.

"How did you know your mother meant her? How did you know she didn't
mean the new cook?"

"No fear! _Her_ name's Priscilla. Besides, the mater calls her Steptoe.
Besides, Aunt Lotty did it, too."

"Did what? What did Aunt Lotty do?"

"Called her Judith. Cat heard her, same as me."

"Probably you ought to say 'same as I,' young man. But it may be an
open question." Challis paused, half-minded to request his promising
son and heir to keep his confidences in reserve. But the evil genius
of himself or Marianne stepped in, and caused Catharine, the little
girl, who was still under seven, to sing with her mouth shut as she
hung over the bannisters in the passage outside. Master Bob immediately
left off pulling his father's hair and rushed to the door, shouting
loud enough for the Universe to hear, "Didn't she, Cat?" and ended a
perfectly orthodox interview for the collection of evidence by lugging
the witness in, nearly upside down, to testify.

"Put your sister down, you young ruffian--do you hear?" And Challis
adds under his breath: "Much good your school's doing you!" But the
young persons explain simultaneously, "That's how we do," not without
pride in an ancient usage.

Now, this little provincialism, or scrap of folklore, had its share
in moulding events. For consider!--if a Sabine woman, after Rubens,
had been put down right-end-up, anxious to make a statement, who could
have refused to listen to her? Challis, who would not have objected
to hearing no more of what Aunt Lotty said, felt bound to take the
readjusted maiden on his knee--she wasn't Sabine, and he could--and
get at the upshot of her disjointed testimony. Master Bob, following
ascertained usage, dictated or suggested her evidence; and nipped
anticipated statement in the bud, at his convenience. Between the two
of them, however, it was clear-enough what sort of talk had gone on
between their mother and Aunt Lotty.

"After all," said the vexed man to himself, after packing off his young
informants to presumable mischief elsewhere--"after all, what can it
matter if Marianne _did_ say in a moment of irritation that I might go
away to ..." he paused on the next two words, and finished without
them abruptly "... altogether if I liked?" Then he tormented himself a
little about his own shrinking from uttering the words "my Judith," and
ended by saying them in a cowardly way, under his breath, to show his

He was sitting in his library at the time, opposite to a half-written
sheet of foolscap. It was copy, waiting for more copy, which came not.
Challis denied his self-accusation that this was owing to the way that
fool of a woman's words had upset him--meaning Charlotte Eldridge;
he absolved his wife. Had he not often to wait for an idea, to get a
start with? Let him see, where was he? Oh yes!--where Estrild tears
off her jewels and flings them at the Ostrogoths. Judith Arkroyd would
be simply magnificent there! For this was the great tragedy he had
promised Judith he would try his hand on expressly for her. How that
incomparable arm and hand would tell, with Estrild's blood visible on
it, torn by the bracelet her vehemence had plucked off!...

Very likely it was all a blunder of the kid's, and Charlotte Eldridge
had never said any such thing. Was it likely she would say, "Of course,
Titus calls her Judith, when they're alone"? Still, the deposition
did sound like that, and that was a damnable mischief-making woman,
mind you! Challis was conscious, as he said this to himself, of an
image of Charlotte Eldridge, rather a graceful one, turning an impish
glance over her shoulder to see the effect of some apple of discord,
just thrown. There was a skittishness about this image, a skirt-sweep,
that was true to life. So was the becoming hat the odious woman always
wore indoors whenever she could, with that meaning feather in it.
How Challis hated her as he thought to himself that they all meant,
somehow, her studentship in the University in which that dowdy Eros,
whom we mentioned before, was Dean of the Faculty of Discord-breeding
between a lady and gentleman, about a gentleman or lady. But they were
the constituents of a Stylish Female, according to John Eldridge, her
husband, the victim of peritonitis.

"Come _in_!" No wonder Mr. Challis said it a little impatiently, when a
knock came at his study-door, because he had just got his idea, and was
at last effectively at work again upon the Ostrogoths. The impatience
caused Marianne, who had knocked, to say that another time would do
as well. But to her husband's sensitive hearing the tone, distant and
severe, in which she said it spoke volumes. And the Tables of Contents
of those volumes related to gulfs placed between married couples
resident in Wimbledon by fashionable beauties with a turn for the
stage. It was a large order for a mere tone of voice, but it was quite
filled out, as the commercial phrase it. Challis could not possibly
allow Marianne to depart, closing the door with aggressive gentleness.
It would have been checking the items of the large order. "Come back!"
he shouted. "What _is_ it? How _can_ you be absurd, Polly Anne? Come

Polly Anne came in, but every step of her entry was fraught with
instant withdrawal. "I won't keep you a minute, because of Steptoe and
the dinner," she said, jumbling her context horribly. "Only I must know
if you're going out or not."

Challis really tried to be jolly and good-natured over it. "Oh no! it's
all right," said he. "I'm at home to-night."

"You had better make sure." She spoke rather like an iceberg--a
forbearing one, but still an iceberg. "Look at your cards on the

Now, the fact was that the lady knew the position, having gone over
the ground the evening before in her husband's absence. "The pink
card!" said she. And thus guided, Challis found himself brought to
book--convicted of inconsiderate forgetfulness alike of his friend and
his household. "I wish you would be more careful," said the iceberg.

"But I really did think the Acropolis was to-morrow, the twenty-third."

"To-day is the twenty-third." One more degree of frost on the iceberg.

"I thought to-day was Wednesday." A feeble effort to extenuate.

"To-day is Thursday. You see on the card. It doesn't matter. I can
easily arrange with Steptoe.... Oh no!--you can't throw them over at
the last moment. Quite absurd!"

"Well!--I'm awfully sorry."

"It makes no difference at all. Now, I won't disturb you any more." And
the iceberg retired.

But if Challis had given way to his first impulse, had run after his
wife, kissed her, said good-humouredly, "Don't be miffy, Polly Anne!--I
shall be at home to-morrow. And you know the Acropolites _did_ ask you
too"--had he done this, all might have gone better. But his impulse was
weakened by the thought--or the knowledge--that his wife knew perfectly
well when she entered the room that he had this engagement, and must
already have made all her household arrangements with reference to it.
He resented her insincerity, and though he rose from his chair and
went towards the door, his resentment had the best of it half-way,
and he bit his lip and returned, looking vexed. Now, why couldn't she
have said honestly to him at breakfast, "Recollect, to-night's the
Acropolis dinner"? He was in such a state of sensitive irritation that,
just as he was getting into stroke again, he had a new upset--caught a
crab, as it were--because Estrild reminded him of Eldridge, and brought
the whole vexation back in full force!



Be good enough to note that none of the characters in this story are
picturesque or heroic--only chance samples of folk such as you may
see pass your window now, this moment, if you will only lay your book
down and look out. They are passing--passing all day long--each with a
story. And some little thing you see, a meeting, a parting, a quickened
step, a hesitation and return, may make the next hour the turning-point
of an existence. For it is of such little things the great ones are
made; and this is a tale made up of trifles--trifles touching human
souls that, for aught we know to the contrary, may last for ever.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is the share Marianne had in a thousand little things like the
triviality with which our last chapter ended that makes us say that
she gave her husband no help against himself. Many a time a word of
concession from her, in answer to any of his unspoken appeals for
help--for the plain truth is, he made many such appeals--might have led
to a rushed embrace of reconciliation, and a flood of not altogether
uncontrite tears from her, and even some from him; for though one may
pity him, he cannot be held absolutely blameless. The fact is, Alfred
Challis had loved this Marianne even better than ever he did her
sister, Bob's mother--loved her, that is, as men love what is called
_beauté de diable_, and a kind of rough, good-natured manner. Besides,
see how good she was with the boy!

If there had been no core of jealous reserve born of overstrained
self-respect inside this rosy-seeming apple--if the girl would have
obligingly matured without change--she would always have remained Polly
Anne, as of old. But the core was there, and there Challis was to find
it, after a pleasant year or so of experience of the outside of the
fruit--the best part. Hence she came to be Marianne rather than Polly
Anne to him, oftener and oftener; Mrs. Challis rather than Marianne to
friends; and "your mother" rather than "mamma" to the children.

She was not the woman for the position in which she found herself.
There was really only one chance of steady sailing for the domestic
ship, and that was that she should go everywhere with her husband,
brave the snubs of the scornful toff, laugh at her own inferiorities,
and, above all, rejoice publicly at every new success of her husband.
Inwardly she may have done the last; all the other conditions she
failed in. The one chance was not caught at, and this man found himself
alternately in the brilliant world of Imperial London, made much of,
looked up to as an authority and quoted, refusing from sheer plenitude
welcomes to one rich house after another--all these on the one hand,
and on the other--suppose we put it briefly--Mrs. Steptoe.

If Marianne had only had a friend who would have pointed out the
exaggerated nature of her impressions about the motley crew we owe so
much to Sir Bernard Burke for telling the likes of us about! A friend,
even, who would have said to her, "Don't give way to jealous pride,
stupid; but go and observe the ways of the human toff, and come home
and tell me, _ici bas_. I'll do your hair for you." But there was none
such!--only Charlotte Eldridge!

Mrs. Eldridge certainly got some satisfaction out of the concern; it
would have been a sad pity if no one had got any. It was all in the way
of her own specialty, the proper--or improper--study of her kind. It
may as well be admitted that the conversation the children overheard
part of had run thus:

"I don't think, dear, that my feeling uneasy whenever John is out of
my sight ought to count. John is a fool. Besides, girls that apply
for situations are very mixed, whether telegraph or sorters. The most
dangerous class of girl may apply. The safeguard in his case is that
there is so little reserve in his nature. When his admiration is
excited he always makes grimaces about them, and then I know who, at
once. If taxed with them he always whistles popular airs and shuts one
eye. 'Pop goes the Weasel' or 'Tarara-boomdeay.' But I try to believe
he knows where to draw the line. This case is different."

"I don't see the difference."

"The girls are different. This Miss Sibyl What's-her-name...."

"The one Titus admires so much is Judith. Sibyl's the Art Coiffure one,
that wanted to do my hair like a picture of Titian's...."

"Titian's mistress, I suppose. They did, then. Well!--I meant
Judith. Don't you see how entirely different the cases are? Judith's
position!--the publicity, dear!--the whole thing!..."

"No!--I see no difference."

"My dear!--what nonsense! Do you mean to say ... why, only look how he
'Miss Arkroyds' and 'Miss Sibyls' them! One judges from little things."

"When we're here, Titus does. But when they're alone...?"

"Well, of course! When they're alone, Mr. Challis _may_ call her
Judith. I don't say he _does_, but suppose he does, what does it all
amount to?... Now _don't_ be unreasonable, Marianne dear!"

"I am _not_ unreasonable, Charlotte.... Nonsense! I'm _not_ crying
about it. I wouldn't be such a fool. But all I can say is, if Titus
wants to go away to his Judith, let him go? _I_ don't want to keep him,
against his will.... What are those children at, in there?" At which
point the conversation may stop.

Incidentally, it helps us to see that Sibyl had lent herself to an
effort, which seemed to her--as to us--a politic one, to induce Mrs.
Alfred Challis to be a little more coming and tractable. She quite
appreciated that friendship between her sister and Challis, if Marianne
was included in it, would be a very different thing from the same
thing, conditioned otherwise. And when she called at the Hermitage with
her sister, she was strongly impressed that scandal, if any arose,
would be the more dangerous unless Marianne could be induced to change
her attitude, which suggested that of a civil tigress, with a grievance
against the jungle.

       *       *       *       *       *

"You needn't make a fuss about me," said Mrs. Challis to her husband,
just departing for the Acropolis Club. He always went through an
apologetic phase, partly real, every time he deserted the domestic
hearth. This time his remorse was superficial; for surely Marianne
might just as well have accompanied him to this entertainment. You know
the Acropolis Club, no doubt?--a cock-and-hen club of the purest water,
with about the proportion of hens one sees in farmyards. He would have
preferred her coming. However, he wasn't to make a fuss about her; that
was settled. It was fine, she said; and Charlotte had said she would
come in if it was fine. Challis became aware that Charlotte must have
said she would come in, sometime before he himself had been reminded
of his engagement to go out. His remorse vanished all the quicker, and
he was beginning to enjoy his clean shirt-front--a phrase his mind put
by for his next story on any light social subject--before his hansom
landed him at Wimbledon Station. The Acropolis, you remember, is
barely ten minutes cab from Waterloo, so this way did perfectly.

       *       *       *       *       *

"John finds it do better," said Mrs. Eldridge, arriving in due course.
"Only when he wants a walk he goes by East Putney, because the
District saves him at the other end. Eight o'clock dinner, I suppose.
Besides, they won't be punctual. They never are, nowadays." This was
said to show how thoroughly _au fait_ the speaker was of the ways of
fashionable life. It was mere talk by the way, unspiced by direct
reference to any Eros, respectable or otherwise.

"I know nothing about them," said Marianne damningly--that is, so far
as a suggestion that she was none the worse thereby could condemn.
Another, that it was best to know little of the class referred to, was
latent. It rankled though, all the more that Mrs. Eldridge's expressive
silence recognized its existence better than words. A garrulous
person's silence may have all the force of a pause in a symphony. When
the _bâton_ of Mrs. Eldridge's conductor, Mischief, allowed the music
to steal gently in again, it came on tiptoe, with subtle finished
skill; a pianissimo flute-phrase in the stillness, harbinger perhaps of
a volume of sound.

"Couldn't you--Marianne dear--couldn't you...?"

"Couldn't I what?" It may be unfair to use the adjective grumpy to
describe this question. When a lady beds her chin in both hands, with
her elbows on her knees, and gazes at a slow-combustion stove doing its
best, while she speaks, her words may have an altogether false effect.

"Ah--well! Perhaps I oughtn't to say.... Never mind, dear! Let's talk
of something else. How's Mrs. Steptoe getting on with her soups?" A
brisk rally of the orchestra--a rousing thrill on the drum. But too

"Elizabeth Barclay's been here to-day, to show her about
blotting-paper. Greasy, and then Titus grumbles. But what did you mean
to say?"

The conductor hushes the orchestra--gives gentle permission again to
the flute. "No, dear, I oughtn't to say. Because I know how you feel
about it, exactly. But what I thought of saying was...."

"Yes. Do go on, Charlotte!"

"Couldn't you have made up your mind to go--just this once? Because you
_were_ asked, this time."

"I shouldn't have enjoyed myself."

"Of course not, dear! Neither should I. But you know what I think.
It all turns on a question of prudence. _Anything_ is better than an
_esclandre_." The other instruments come in again, and the conductor is
warming to his work.

"I don't see why we want anything French in it. There's nothing of that
sort, so far as I know."

"Of course not, with the people!" Given, that is, this character cast,
Parisian laxities have no chance. But distinctions must be made.
"Nobody's the least likely to _do_, but people will _say_, exactly the
same as if they did do." Better expressed by Hamlet, in the plague he
offered poor Ophelia as a dowry! Who shall escape calumny?

Marianne mutters something her friend takes to be, "I don't care
what people say." The orchestra--pursuing our strained musical
metaphor--sees a _crescendo_ phrase ahead, and the conductor interprets
it as _accelerando_.

"That's where you're so wrong, dear--do forgive me for saying it! But
you _are_ wrong. Pure and honest natures like yours always make that
mistake. Of course you know, and I know--we all know--that to speak
of anything really wrong in the same breath with your husband would
be absurd, and even this fashionable girl for that matter. I mean,
you know, really wrong." A nod-supported whisper--the music goes to
_pianissimo_ quite suddenly; consider the sharp ears of Mrs. Steptoe,
and Harmood, in the kitchen! But enough of that. _Our_ text calls for
no secrecies; brush them aside, and resume without pedals, but _con
espressione_. "But everyone is not like you, dear! So many people take
pleasure in putting--well! the most horrid constructions on the most
_inno_cent.... What?" For Mrs. Charlotte had stopped to gloat so long
over the first syllable of _innocent_--she did not enjoy the "horrid
constructions" half so much--that she had not heard what Marianne said.
Who, on request, repeated it:

"I didn't say I didn't care what people said ... oh well!--I've
forgotten what I did say now, and it doesn't matter. Anyhow, I consider
I've done _my_ duty, and now I simply won't _go_ to any of their
dinners, come what may, Acropolis Club or no! So there!" This is a
stronger ground than a plea of simple non-enjoyment as a cause of
abstention, and Charlotte makes no protest. Her mind, too, is attracted
by another point. She speaks dreamily to express that it is feeling its
way, as through a mist, to illumination.

"What was it ... oh, don't you know? Lewis Smithson heard it ...
oh dear!--what _was_ the name of the club now? One of these mixed
clubs ... oh no!--of course, I know what the story itself was--you
needn't tell me that!... I mean what was the name of the club?" But
Marianne cannot help, and conversation can't stop for it. At any rate,
it wasn't the Acropolis. Which Mrs. Eldridge repeats more than once
confirmatorily, to make the Acropolis safe before resuming the general
question. She dismisses the legend itself--what it was does not matter
here--as quite unworthy of credence. "I believe Lewis Smithson made it
himself," she says. "Anyhow, it's nonsense. For my part, I should say
they were much more likely to be stiff and straight up, for fear of its
getting about. Besides, who was it you said was coming to this party?
Lord and Lady Who?"

"Some name like Albatross."

"Ross Tarbet. Why, my dear, they're _the pink_! Corstrechan Castle in
Banffshire. Oh no!--it's all right enough as far as that goes. But
still I _do_ think, if you ask me, it would have been just as well if
you hadn't refused."

"Why? I do wish you would speak plainly, Charlotte, and not go round
and round."

Mrs. Eldridge won't commit herself to a statement without passing
through a period of reflection. It is consistent with the contemplation
of the shadow of her free hand, held beyond it, on the screen she is
interposing between her face and the fire. Its silhouette of outspread
fingers seems to satisfy her, and not to interfere with the thoughts
that her drooped eyelids and fixed look are grave about. After quite
enough cogitation, she says abruptly: "I wasn't thinking of _at_ the
dinner. Nor the rest of the evening. But seeing home comes in. However,
if you think of it, she would be with the Ross Tarbets, and they would
drive her home. Let's see! The club's in Jermyn Street. Her family are
in Grosvenor Square. I fancy the Ross Tarbets are in Park Lane. It's
all in the way."

Such talk ought to have had a soothing, reassuring influence. Miss
Arkroyd under the wing of a live Countess, safe of an escort to the
paternal mansion, what more could be asked? Nevertheless, there is an
hysterical sound--to Mrs. Eldridge's experienced ear--in the laugh with
which Marianne says: "What silly nonsense! As if it made any difference
to me if Titus saw the girl home in twenty cabs!"

"Because you have such confidence in Titus, my dear. And that is right!
I wouldn't trust John myself. But he's different."

If Marianne had been in the least a humorist, the image of Mr.
Eldridge, in danger from an aristocratic enchantress, seeking to
unsettle his devotion to the stylish female he could now call his
own, would have drawn from her a more genuine laugh than her last. But
she was in no mood for laughing, and the greatest booby in Christendom
might have passed muster with her as a parallel to her husband. We are
not prepared to say he had not done so in the present case.

Marianne got up uneasily from the low chair she sat on before the
fire; took another, but did not keep it long; rose again, and walked
restlessly about the room. Unlike her!--so thought her companion,
glancing up at her keenly, but furtively. Mrs. Eldridge had no definite
plan of mischief; she only wanted the luxury of caressing her favourite
subject. She felt a little alarmed, and rather wished the disquieted
one would sit down again. But Marianne showed no tendency to do so.
On the contrary, she said suddenly: "I forgot to tell Martha those
underthings must not go to the wash. That woman always shrinks them,"
and left the room. Mrs. Eldridge heard her bedroom door close above,
but no sound of colloquy with Martha. Then her attention was taken off
by a tap at the door, whose executant she gave leave to come in.

It was Mrs. Steptoe, meek and creditable as an evening-cook; to wit,
one that has done her washing-up. A sense of chapel hangs upon her,
and the cough she gives as preface to speech seems conscious of its
indebtedness to a pause in some sort of devotional service undefined.
Her widowhood and the distinction of her sudden loss have given Aunt
Stingy a chastened identity. But though in the ascendant, she will not
obtrude herself. Mrs. Challis--servants seem lately to have left off
saying _missis_ and _master_--not being to the fore, she will retire
and remain in abeyance, exceptin' rang for. It was only to remind about
ordering Huntley and Palmer, Mr. Challis being that particular. But
Mrs. Challis would be back directly, said Mrs. Eldridge. Aunt Stingy,
nothing loth, would remain to chat.

Interrogated, Lizarann's aunt is finding the place comfortable. The
ketching chemley draws a little imperfect, certainly; but the boiler
full up, if hot over-night, lastis on the next day, and any quantity.
A great convenience! It is noticeable about Mrs. Steptoe's speech that
it does not improve when she tries to talk up to her company. When she
spoke to her equals in Tallack Street, without desire to impress, she
was provincial and unpolished, but seldom Cockney. Now, her attempts to
be classical and win respect from Mrs. Eldridge are failures.

"What sort of a place was Mrs. Fossett's!"

"_Miss!_--excusin' my makin' bold to correct. But not in a place there.
Only as a reference."

"Where was your last place, then?" But Mrs. Steptoe explained, with
many reserves and sidelights, that she had never been truly in service;
having led, broadly speaking, a regal life, until she married beneath
her, but, nevertheless, into a respectable trade connection. The
suggestion that her husband's brain had been affected rounded off a
tale that hinted at ancestry and a pursuing evil destiny--the race
of Laius! "But you used to cook, wherever you were, once," said Mrs.
Eldridge, wedded to practical issues.

"Oh, there, now!--cook, indeed! Why, I was sayin', only today, to Miss
Harmood, 'If you could have seen the table they kep' at Sea View, soups
and jellies and made-up dishes and the whole attention left to me, in
the manner of speakin'.' Owing, ma'am, you see, to uncertain health,
my aunt's sister--in charge of the establishment--suffering with a
complication, and terminated fatally eleven years this Easter Day.
Coming back to me, naturally, with the season." A retrospective sigh,
over life's changes, came well in here.

"Was it a sort of private hotel, or boarding-house?" Mrs. Eldridge
thought she saw light.

Mrs. Steptoe conveyed general assent, without close definition. "But
very select!" she added. And Mrs. Eldridge said, "Of course," entirely
without reason.

Aunt Stingy felt encouraged, and made up her mind to resume in full
all particulars of the banquet we have heard about. After all, she
is not the only person that ever dwelt overmuch on scanty incidents
of slight importance in themselves; but oases, for all that, in the
arid stretches of an eventless life. Besides--as her tale showed after
Mrs. Eldridge had heard all about the splendid cooking accommodation
of this establishment at Ramsgate, and full particulars almost of
every dish on the table--there was revealed a curious sequel to this
seaside dissipation, which no doubt would have been communicated to
Mrs. Challis, if that lady had been as inquisitive as her friend. For
Mrs. Charlotte hearing of an occasion--fifteen years ago!--when six or
eight persons of either sex had dined together, forthwith smelt rats,
and made for their places of concealment with the alacrity of a Dandie

"You seem to remember them all very well, Mrs. Steptoe."

"Along of what followed, no doubt, ma'am." The speaker appeared to
become suddenly reserved, but awaiting catechism for all that.

Mrs. Eldridge's shrewd intelligence reached the issue promptly.
"Perhaps you promised not to tell it. Don't tell me!" This would have
disappointed Aunt Stingy, if she had believed it genuine. But she
didn't, and confirmation of her disbelief came. "Only really, it's
so long ago! It's almost ridiculous." The catechumen still awaited
pressure. "But do just as you feel, Mrs. Steptoe. Of course, it's no
affair of mine."

Aunt Stingy laughed slightingly, to remove the matter from among grave
responsibilities. "Ho, as for that," she said, "I was never under any
promise--only Mr. and Mrs. Hallock wished no reference made. Only,
as you was sayin', such a many years after.... Is that Mrs. Challis
coming?" But it wasn't.

"She's speaking to Martha upstairs. She won't come yet." Mrs. Eldridge
betrays her curiosity--is very transparent. So urged, Aunt Stingy
gives, not at all obscurely, a narrative some ten minutes long, which,
for all purposes of this story, may be condensed as follows:--

The Mr. and Mrs. Hallock who figure in it had, for some not very
evident reasons, felt justified in abetting the marriage of their
nursery-governess with a man supposed to be of good means and
antecedents, with the full knowledge that this marriage was concealed
from her family, and was to remain so for a term. The dinner that was
Aunt Stingy's culinary triumph was a festivity to welcome this happy
couple on their return from a short honeymoon. The young gentleman
named as Harris among the guests was a friend of the bridegroom. So
far, nothing very criminal. But there was a sequel. The Hallocks,
returning next season to the same apartments, where it seemed they
spent every summer, frequently referred to the affair, but always with
surprise that no news had reached them of the wedded couple, and this
in spite of inquiries by letter. "Ungrateful girl!" was their verdict.
One morning towards the end of their stay they were dumbfounded by an
advertisement of a wedding, in the _Telegraph_. The bride actually bore
the name of their ex-governess--her maiden name, that is--while the
bridegroom's was, to their nearest recollection, that of the friend who
had been introduced to them as Mr. Harris the year before. That was the
substance of Mrs. Steptoe's story.

"They were that surprised," she said, "you might have knocked either
of 'em down with an electric shock. 'My word,' says Mr. Hallock, 'to
think of that!' he says. 'Then Horne must be dead, and that girl
married to his friend already! And not so much as a letter!'... Oh
yes! Mr. Hallock, he was resentful like, but Mrs. Hallock, she leans
across to him, and she says: 'My dear, it's a coincidence! Kate never
would--never! I _knew_ the girl,' she says. So she talked him down,
and they put it at a coincidence, and let it go."

"But did you hear no more?"

"_They_ heard--not me! Or only remarks fell by chance. There come a
letter next day, and they was a-talking and she a-crying over it.
Little scraps they let drop, loud enough to reach. 'Ho, the miscreant!'
and 'The licensual scoundrel!' And then Mrs. Hallock she says:
'Whatever could possess us, Edwin, not to make more certain about the
ceremony?' Then they see me, and dropped to a whisper. Only saying to
me after, not to repeat anything I'd heard, which I made the promise,
as requested."

"There's Mrs. Challis coming. I wish you could have been more sure
of the names, because it's interesting. Couldn't you think them up a

Mrs. Steptoe cogitated. Hallock, of course, she said. Because she
knew _them_ a long time. But the other names hardly, to be any surer.
Except it was the young lady's single name. Because that she see in the
newspaper, when she come to look at the advertisement. Then she must
have seen the bridegroom's name, said her interrogator. It seemed not;
the glance was a hurried one. But she was sure about the girl's. It was
Catherine Verrall.

This story has only had occasion once to refer to the name of Challis's
first wife, Marianne's half-sister. And though Mrs. Eldridge had often
talked with her friend about this half-sister, dead five or six years
before the families became acquainted, it was always about "Kate"--no
other name--or "my sister" when Marianne was the speaker. It is quite
an open question whether she would at once have felt the name familiar,
if it had not been for Bob's full name. Her knowledge that it was
Robert Verrall Challis was perhaps what made her say, "What?--what's
that?--did you say Verrall?" with stimulated interest. Mrs. Steptoe
repeated "Catherine Verrall" quite distinctly, just as her mistress,
returning, opened the door. Mrs. Eldridge hoped, without having had
time to make up her mind why, that Marianne had not heard the name. For
a few moments she thought she had not. The whole thing happened very

Mrs. Steptoe delivered her reminder about Huntley and Palmer's Oatmeal
Biscuits, to be ordered with the stores. Mrs. Challis had not forgotten
them. One or two other small matters were referred to, and then Mrs.
Steptoe said good-night with due humility, and departed. She was
instructed not to sit up for Master Bob, who had gone to a neighbour's
to assist in acting charades. Marianne would let him in. She did not
resume her seat by the fire, but lay down on the sofa, away from it.
She had a flushed, turbulent look, and a smell of eau-de-Cologne,
backed by ruffled hair over the forehead, conveyed the idea that she
had been putting it on her face, to cool it. Mrs. Eldridge felt uneasy.
Had she gone too far?

"Was it all right about the flannels?" she asked.

"I think so. I don't know. I didn't see Martha. I felt sick, and lay
down.... Oh yes!--I'm all right now."

"No, you're not, dear! You look very flushed. Shan't I get something? A
little brandy-and-water?"

"Oh heavens, no!--make me sick! Like on the steamer--the very idea
makes me ill! There's nothing the matter."

Mrs. Eldridge wasn't convinced. Should she open the window to let a
little air in? She was one of those plaguing people that _will_ remedy,
whether you like it or no. Mrs. Challis repulsed her open-window
movement with some asperity; reduced her to fiddling with her screen
with a fixed gaze of solicitude, fraught with ultimatums about medical
advice, failing prompt improvement in the patient.

Marianne remained still on the sofa, with her eyes closed for a few
minutes. Then she said suddenly, rather as one who turns to an offered
relief: "What were you and Steptoe saying about my sister when I came

Her hearer started; grasped the coincidence of name fully for the first
time probably. "Your sister, Marianne.... Why, how?" And then, with a
complete perplexity: "How could that be?"

"My sister was Catherine Verrall--my sister Kate, that died. Why were
you talking about her?"

"It must have been another Catherine Verral--_must_ have been."

"_Who_ must have been?"

"This girl. Stop, and I'll tell you!... But, really, the
coincidence!" And, indeed, Mrs. Charlotte seems almost knocked silly
by it, as the pugilists say. Marianne is roused and interested
at her perplexity--sits up on the sofa fanning herself with her
pocket-handkerchief--seems half inclined to laugh.

"What's it all _about_, Charlotte?" she says, and then adds--a little
passing tribute to the memory abruptly revived--"Poor Kate!"

"Oh, my dear, of course it's nothing to do with poor Kate. Just an odd
coincidence of a girl Mrs. Steptoe knew at Ramsgate, I think--years

"Kate was at Ramsgate, though, when I was a child. She taught music
to some people's children. What _was_ their name now?" But the name
would not come back, on any terms. Marianne gave it up. Her friend felt
actually glad, for the puzzle was too incisive to be pleasant.

"Very likely she was at Ramsgate. Why not? But she hadn't been twice a
widow when she married your Titus, at any rate. Come, Marianne!"

"Certainly not! She wasn't nineteen, for one thing. Was this
coincidence-lady a widow?"

"Perhaps I had better tell you the story?"

"Much better, I should say." On which Mrs. Eldridge repeats Mrs.
Steptoe's tale, neither confounding the persons nor dividing the
substance, but with a tendency--very common in narratives we pass on
to others, but ourselves have no part in--to substitute descriptions
or epithets for names. Thus the Mr. and Mrs. Hallock of the original
narrative appeared as "this lady and gentleman" until Mrs. Challis,
whose puzzled look was on the increase, asked a question about them:

"What were they--this lady and gentleman? What was their name?"

"I fancy he was a coal merchant or dealer in something. Mrs. Steptoe
didn't say. The name was Hallock." Mrs. Challis sprang up from the sofa

"Charlotte!--_what_ did you say? Hallock?"

"Yes--Hallock. Why not?"

Marianne's breath is quite taken away. "But that is the name I had
forgotten--Hallock," she says, as soon as she can speak. "They're
in one of those photographs in the old book--the one I brought from
mother's." Her speech is rapid and frightened. The strangeness of the
story is getting its mastery, and she feels, without imaging them, the
ambushes in wait for her. "Oh dear!" she gasps, sinking back again on
the sofa, "all this--it's so odd! Charlotte, I'm afraid to look at the

Charlotte's nerves are stronger, and she, recovered from the momentary
alarm her friend had given her, is ready, one might say, to be in
mischief again. "Don't be a goose, Marianne," she says. "You're
frightened of everything. Do let's get the thing explained, dear,
instead of going dotty over it. Which photograph book is it?...
left-hand chiffonier?... no?--right-hand ... top shelf?... No!--I won't
make a mess.... I expect it's this."

It was, and it exactly confirmed Mrs. Eldridge's anticipation of a coal
merchant and his wife, two young daughters, and a governess a few years
older than themselves. A stupid seaside photographer's group, but
with well-marked face-features. The artist's address in a little oval
underneath, conspicuously Ramsgate.

"Of course it's all some confusion of Mrs. Steptoe's," says Mrs.
Eldridge. She knows she is talking nonsense, but she wants to calm all
troubled waters while she gets her curiosity satisfied. "You'll see she
won't recognize any of these--unless you give her hints, Marianne."

This is unprovoked, and Marianne resents it. "Show them to her when
I'm not there if you like. Show her now and I'll go. Only I'm afraid
they're gone to bed." If they have, no harm in ringing the bell! It is
rung, and evolves Harmood, apologetic for not having gone up yet. And
then Mrs. Steptoe, even more so.

Marianne does not go, but then that was mere talk. Mrs. Eldridge wants
Steptoe--so she tells her--to see if she recognizes a photograph.
Aunt Stingy is not dissatisfied to be consulted about anything. Mrs.
Eldridge shows diplomacy, astutely getting her to identify Mrs. Challis
at different ages. Having put the witness on a false scent, she shows
the group, and asks: "Now which of those is Mrs. Challis?"

The witness tried to find an excuse for identification, but failed. But
having admitted failure, why hold so tightly to the photo-album?

"Well, Mrs. Steptoe?" Mrs. Eldridge speaks.

"Nothing, ma'am. Oh no!--only what unaccountably caught my eye. Nothing
to detain. What would be termed an impression." She relinquished the
album slowly with a vaguely constructed "Excusin' the liberty I took,
I'm sure!"

"You noticed something, Mrs. Steptoe?"

"In the manner of speaking, yes! But not to detain. It just cut across
me like ... yes, ma'am, thank you, just a minute!" For Mrs. Eldridge
had said, "Look at it again," and handed the open book back.

Aunt Stingy looked and looked, in more and more visible bewilderment.
Pressed to explain it, she at last said: "I can't make no less of it,
put it how you may. That's Mr. and Mrs. Hallock I was telling of, just
now half-an-hour gone. And _that_ is the young lady."

Iterations, stimulated by an incredulity Mrs. Eldridge affects in order
to procure them, are interrupted by a knock at the front door. Mrs.
Steptoe departs to open it. It is Mr. Eldridge, to accompany his wife
home. He is not, she says, to hurry and fuss, but to sit down and wait,
and not knock things over. He makes the remark, "Somethin' up! Easy
does it!" implying, perhaps, readiness to wait for enlightenment, and
becomes seated, but knocks nothing over. His wife throws him a gleam,
to live on. "We are discussing the identity of a photograph," she says.

An occurrence interposes, Master Bob's arrival; the toleration for a
few brief moments of exultation over the evening's successes, and his
dismissal to bed, rather disgusted at Europe's want of appreciation.
Then Mrs. Steptoe, who had retired to admit him, re-enters and resumes.

"Those are the parties I told you, ma'am," says she, in an undertone
of confidence brought forward from the previous conversation, rather
definitely exclusive of the newcomer, who had overlapped it. But he has
his ideas, and as soon as he has thoroughly polished with his wrist the
bridge of a nose he has just blown, he offers counsel:

"No name on 'em? Look on the back. Look on the edges where they tuck
in. Nothin' like lookin'!" His wife accepts the suggestion without
tribute to his sagacity; and when the photo is slipped from the
_passepartout_, there on the back is plainly written: "Mr. and Mrs.
Hallock, Nelly, Totty, and self. June, 1888."

       *       *       *       *       *

"She'll be all right," said Mrs. Eldridge, returning to her husband
in the drawing-room a quarter of an hour later. For Mrs. Challis,
already upset by her previous interview with her friend, had been
in no condition to have it burst upon her suddenly that important
events--which she could not the least understand, so far--relating to
her sister's life, and perhaps to his own, had been concealed from
her by this husband whom she was now called upon to have so much
faith in. She had completely broken down; had left the room white as
ashes, having been previously flushed and feverish; and had nearly
fainted away on the stairs. She had been got safely to bed, and had so
far recovered as to be able to say that she should go to sleep soon.
Perhaps her chief wish was to be let alone. She wanted to think to the
bottom of this photograph story. What was it all about?

But Mr. Eldridge perceived that this sort of weather was trying to
some constitutions, and suggested drastic treatment. His wife said,
"Be quiet while I write this," and ignored his suggestions. She wrote
a brief note to Mr. Challis, and left it in his bedroom candlestick
on the hall-table outside. He was sure to see it. She then asked her
husband whether he was coming, or was going to go on mooning there
indefinitely. He chose the former course without insisting on closer
definition of the latter.

A couple of hours later Alfred Challis paid a cabman a shilling too
much, to avoid discussion, through his confessional _guichet_ overhead,
and escaped from a guillotine--thanks to its momentary forbearance--in
a steady shower of rain that had heard that the wind had fallen,
and caught at the opportunity to come down. It was lucky he had a
waterproof on, though he had only to negotiate the garden's length to
reach shelter and discover his latchkey.

He was not in the best of humours; all the more so that Miss Arkroyd,
who was to have accompanied the Ross Tarbets, had been unable to do so
on account of a sprained ankle--a trifle in itself, but warranted to
become serious if walked on.

Seeing the envelope after lighting his candle, he opened it and read
the note. His comments, in their order, were a "Hm--hm!" of concern and
apprehension, another with some impatience in it, a grunt with nothing
else, and a suppressed "Damn the woman!" He read it twice, and again,
and went upstairs noiselessly.

Marianne was not asleep. She was wide awake, and wholesomely disposed
to trust her husband, and tell the events of the evening at whatever
risk. It would have to come out some time. Besides, the relief of
knowing, either way! However, to tell him as natural sequence to
an enquiry how things had gone with her was one thing; to rush the
position another. She could not bring herself to call out to him--so
little concerned about her as to make no such enquiry, and still
scintillating, as it were, with sparks from the brilliancies of his
evening's entertainment--to come into her room and hear the story. No,
let him go--him and his Grosvenor Squares and Countesses!

Meanwhile he, however little weight he attached to anything Charlotte
Eldridge said, conceived that he was on the safe side in paying
attention to what she enjoined about a patient whom she had seen, and
he had not. She might have been more definite about the nature of
the attack. It was just like her to make a mystery of it. But it was
evidently better to take her hint not to disturb his wife--now at near
one in the morning! Challis made as little noise as possible, and got
to bed in his own room, next to hers, without opening the door between
lest he should wake her.

This was the text of Mrs. Charlotte's letter:

  "She is _much_ better, and will sleep. John and I both think you need
  not be the _least_ alarmed. She has been too much excited lately, but
  will be all right now. Be very careful not to disturb her when you go
  up. I will try to come round in the morning. C. E."



Lizarann's deferred hopes of being allowed to rejoin her Daddy made
her heart sick, but they never ceased to be hopes. No undercurrent of
despair made itself felt. If Teacher's reassuring tones had not been
sufficient, were there not the gentleman's, known to Lizarann's direct
simplicity as Mr. Yorick--a designation remaining uncontradicted in his
laughing acceptance of it. But he was going back to his own Rectory, in
order that Gus should be once more in harness at St. Vulgate's--his own
proper field of labour--during the approaching Holy Week. The invalid
was enormously better; so he himself said.

However, Mr. Yorick was destined before his departure to put the
crowning corner-stone on the fabric of Lizarann's affection for himself.

"Now, Miss Coupland," said he, "you sit still! And don't kick! And then
tell me where you suppose you are going to be taken to-day."

Lizarann was cautious--wouldn't commit herself. "Who's a-going to tight
me?" she asked, to get a clue.

"Me," said Mr. Yorick, falling to the grammatical level of his company.
"I'm going to take you, as soon as ever you've guessed where. But only
one guess, mind!"

Lizarann thought this shabby. But then, after all, when there is only
one guess worth making, you may just as well use it up and have done
with it. She looked from one of the faces that was watching to the
other, and back; then risked her guess. "To Daddy in the Sospital!" she
fairly shouted. But, alas!--disappointment was in store for her.

"No! Not Daddy in the Sospital. Guess again."

"Oh, Yorick, how can you? Playing with the child! I shouldn't have
thought you could be so wicked. No, Lizarann dear, don't you believe
him! Daddy's out of the Hospital, and you're to go and see him.
There!... I'm telling the truth, child!" For Lizarann, bewildered,
still glances from one to the other.

"That's it, Lizarann. Not Daddy in the Sospital, but Daddy out of the
Sospital. Now wrap up warm, and we'll go at once." A wild shriek of
delight, an "undue subordination" of limbs, as in pictures of a debased
period, and a rush for wraps, is followed, we are sorry to say, by some
coughing. There is no such thing as flawless event anywhere.

"Oh no!--it won't do her any harm to go out," says Teacher. "Dr. Ferris
said it might do her good if it got mild. Now, Lizarann!--Mr. Yorick's
ready." For this Monday, known to the Rev. Gus as "Annunciation," and
to most of his flock as Lady Day--a dreadful day when your rent isn't
ready--had come as a herald of early spring, and a belief in violets
was in the air.

       *       *       *       *       *

"How far mustn't we go to the Sospital?" Lizarann speaks obscurely, but
the meaning is clear to her conductor. How long is the road we are not
going to the Hospital on?--surely that's clear.

"How far is it to Daddy? Daddy's at home." And, surely enough, when
Mr. Yorick comes to Tallack Street he turns the corner. This bewilders

"But Aunt Stingy, she's took a place," she says. She is not certain
of the exact sense of her words. The place might be Badajoz; or a
Chancellorship of something, with a portfolio. But it doesn't matter!
In either case, Aunt Stingy has left her home desolate--cookless! Again
Lizarann is sympathetically understood.

"Your Daddy's being seen to, Miss Coupland. So he won't starve. Here
we are!" And it is actually true! Lizarann is back in the home she
has been eight weeks away from. For although of late the child had
been allowed out, cautiously, no expedition had covered the half-mile
between the school and Tallack Street. It is actually true that she
is back there now, and wild with delight on the knee her Daddy still
has left for her--in a rapture of tears and laughter that can just
allow--but only just--the moderation of deportment called for when
knees but lately the subjects of comminuted fractures are sat upon,
even by very light weights.

Jim was garrulous about the Hospital, and the kindness and attention
he had received there. "Yes, master, I was main sorry to come away,
one side o' lookin' at it. I'll carry the doctor-gentleman and Nurse
Lucy in my mind a long day on. Many's the time I said to myself what
I'd be tellin' of 'em to the little lass, home again. There was a
bit o' sameness, as might be, when you think of it, and I got fixed
uneasy-like about the lass. But, dear Lard bless you!--there was a many
there worse off than me. Why, there was that pore chap you see, next
bed off on the right! How might you suppose he come there?"

"Don't know, Jim; give it up! How was it?" Mr. Yorick does all the
conversation. Lizarann will find her tongue presently, when she and
Daddy are alone. At present she merely nestles to him, speechless, but
blissful. Jim pursues his topic:

"As I made it out, master, it was this sort o' way: It was a kind o'
small-arms factory, and there was two young wenches in the finishin'
shop o' one mind about him. So it came to making ch'ice, for him.
And one o' them, by name Clara, she warns him if she catches him
sweethearting with her shopmate, she'd just mark him. Both decent
girls, ye see! And she was all as good as her word, with a little pot
of vitrol, right in his eyes! And he run, roaring mad with pain, and
was caught in the machinery, and made a spoiled man of, as I reckon,
all his days. Name of Linklater."

"What a terrible business! And it may have been _he_ wasn't to blame,

"No--pore chap! He'd just no consolation, as you might say. I count
myself a well-off man, set against him. Just wait a bit, master, and
see me when I'm clear of them crutches. Once I get to use my stick
again, anybody'll say, to see me: 'Why, there's a man ain't got
anything the matter with him!' Nor yet I shan't have, to speak of!"

Athelstan Taylor could not help comparing Jim's resolute optimism--poor
crushed wreck that he was!--with his sister's aggressive meekness
and its pious claim to resignation or uncomplaining acquiescence in
what was really a most happy release, though paraded as a cruel blow
of Fate. But he could not stay to chat. He had to get back to St.
Vulgate's; have a talk about the local flock, chiefly goats, with his
friend, who had come home the evening before; pack his trunk, and get
to Euston by one-thirty, with or without lunch. So he had only a few
more hurried words with Jim.

"You'll think of what I was saying to you, Jim?"

"Sure, master!"

"And the lassie will just trot back to Miss Fossett, before it's dark.
She'd better; the house might be cold here. Won't you, Lizarann?"
Lizarann will, honour bright! "And how about those kisses I'm to take
to my own little girls?" Payable on demand, three crossed to the
account of Phoebe, three to Joan; both names being now familiar to
drawer. They are very loud--those kisses! Mr. Yorick says farewell and
goes. Lizarann and her Daddy are again alone together. Eight whole

Oh, the hours that had seemed weeks, and the days that had seemed
years, of waiting--waiting for this moment. And here it was! Daddy
himself--come back out of that mysterious Hospital, where Lizarann had
never been to see him! No wonder Lizarann did not know where to begin!

"Well, then, little lass! They haven't cut the little lass's tongue
out amongst 'em?" A vehement headshake of denial precedes the first
of the many things Lizarann can select, at random, from the multitude
she has been resolving to tell Daddy all through this dreary period of

"Teacher's new cat's black all over, only white on the stomach. Yass!
And four of the kittens was drownded." Jim's sympathies are all ready
for Teacher's cat's kittens. But he is not further called on to show
them, for the child deserts the kittens almost instantly with "Oh,
Daddy!--they took you to the Sospital."

"Coorse they did! How many policeman was there, lassie?"

"There was free I see first. And one he turned back down the road. Only
there was men, as well as policemen."


"Yass! And there was the boys. And there was a woman. And there was
another woman. Only not sober." So she didn't count, that one; was
civilly disqualified, as it were. But was the sober one making herself
of use?--Jim inquires. "She wasn't finding any fault," is all the
testimony Lizarann can give. It seems to imply that the drunken one
was indicting the executive. Lizarann finishes up her report: "Then
there was Mother Groves, and the 'ot-chestnut stall at the corner, and
the Young Varmint." For this is the name--no less--by which Frederick
Hawkins is known to Lizarann and her Daddy.

"So there they all was, the biling of 'em," said Jim. "And there was
Daddy, he'd got himself under a cart, and was a bit the worse by it.
And his little lass, she come and kissed him, for to cheer him up--hay,
lassie? Nor never cried, nor made no noise, like he told her not to."

Lizarann felt proud and happy. But she could not endure a position
with the slightest false pretence in it. "I _did_ cried, too," she
said, "when I got so far as Dartley Street. And the boy, he says not to

"The Young Varmint?"

"Yass! He toldited me his nime, he did. Hawkins--Frederick--Hawkins."
Lizarann gives the exact words the boy had said. "And he says not
to water-cart because of his aunt and uncle. Took to the Sospital
quite flat they was, and begun singing a fortnight after!" Jim made
concession to the Young Varmint--went so far as to say that he would
not warm his hide for him this time, pr'aps! But he spoke without
confidence of the like abstention being justified in the future.

"And then the lassie come home," said he. "And who come to the door?"

"Only me, Daddy!"

"Ah!--but t'other side--who come?"

"Uncle Bob didn't come to the door, only he set it just on the jar
for me to push." Clearly "coming to a door" involves opening it wide
for friends, or conferring with strangers to learn their reason for
knocking or ringing. He who takes letters from a letter-box does not
go to the door, even if he rushes downstairs like a madman when the
postman's knock comes.

You may be sure that Lizarann's narrative that followed was full of
little niceties of language, as spoken in Tallack Street. But you have
had all the substance, and it need not be repeated in a new form.

Jim interspersed the story of the suppression of his delirious
brother-in-law with exclamations of applause. Lizarann deserved what
the players call "a hand" now and again for the vivacity of her
descriptive report of the knife scene, with its dramatic ending of
the application of the spent lucifer-match to Uncle Bob's hand. "He
just give one scroatch, and there he was!" The introduction of a new
self-explanatory word into the language alone deserved recognition. But
Jim was not concerned with this. The conduct of Athelstan Taylor in a
difficult position took his attention off minor points.

"I could have named the sart of man he was," said he, speaking half
to himself, "from the feel of his hand, and maybe no more than just
a 'Good-marning, mate!' by the way. And--but to think of it!--him a
_parson_!" Jim couldn't get over this at all. He dwelt on the unfitness
of the arrangement: "Now, if they'd 'a made pore Bob a parson, it might
'a broke him of his habit, and we'd not have had a bad miss of him
on our side." He seemed to go on thinking of the subject in all its
aspects--possibly of the utilization of ecclesiastical preferments as
an antidote to drunkenness. But his fingers kept wandering about his
little girl's face and head, as if to detect the change eight weeks had
made in it.

"Uncle Bob's dead," said she, getting closer to say it, in a dropped,
awe-struck voice.

"Ah--he's dead! He might have turned over a better day's work, mayhap!
But Lard!--if you come to that, what a many of us mightn't! Poor Bob!"

"Does it hurt, Daddy?"

"Does what hurt, lassie?"

"Being dead."

"I reckoned you might mean my old leg.... No--it don't hurt, bless
you!--not good little lassies, like mine. Other folks' I couldn't say
about. They do say the Devil gets some on 'em, now and again. But he
ain't a sartainty, himself. Though in coorse he manages all he can
see his way to." That is to say that, unless handicapped by absolute
non-existence, Satan might be trusted to do his best to get all bad
little lassies.

Lizarann knew her catechism, and all that was necessary for her
salvation, as school-knowledge. But she could not help being curious
about these things as actual facts--knowledge-knowledge, one might say.
Daddy could be relied on. Why not go straight to the point? So after
some mere conversation-making about whether Mr. Winkleson had ever
actually seen the Devil, Lizarann did so. "Has he got Uncle Bob?" she

Her father's answer was not consistent with his previous expressions
of opinion. "Never you fear for him, lass! The Devil don't take a poor
chap for making mistakes with his grog. And as for his handling that
knife a bit too free, I doubt the liquor had just got the mastery of
him. And then, you know, lass, a man ain't himself when that happens.
Ye may make your mind easy about Bob."

So Lizarann felt no further disquiet. Perhaps she was unconsciously
soothed by observing the differences of opinion among her seniors--Mr.
Winkleson, Teacher, and Daddy. The last was most likely to know, and
gave the pleasantest answer to the problem.

"And there was my little lass out in the snow in her night-shimmee.
To think of that! And her Daddy all the while no more use than a
turned turtle!" This had to be explained; and the continuity of the
conversation was risked, owing to Lizarann's womanly pity for turtles
on their backs and helpless. However, this very pity caused reaction
towards the previous questions, as Jim's situation had been no better
than that of the turtles. Lizarann had to cry a little over this, and
then renewed her petition--previous applications having been met by
evasion or postponement--to actually see the wooden substitute for a
limb that, in spite of its boasted efficacy, compelled her Daddy to
sit on a chair with more or less disguise of coat or blanket over it,
both limbs being preferably kept horizontal for the present. But she
might look at it, sure, might Lizarann; and, indeed, anyone would have
thought, to see Jim exhibiting the business-end of a very new wooden
leg, that some great improvement on a previous unsatisfactory condition
had been attained. The little woman was incredulous about this; and,
suspecting guile, put her Daddy through a severe cross-examination.

"'Sposin' you was obliged to it, Daddy; 'sposin' you had to walk all
the way up Tallack Street, and all the way acrost Cazenove Street,
and all the way acrost Trott Street to Blading Street where the cart

"Lard, lassie!--I could do it on my head, as the saying is, any minute
o' the week!" But Jim demurs to an actual performance--says the doctor
don't allow any tricks to be played. Lizarann gives the point up; but,
oh dear!--how dreadfully afraid she feels that she is being practised
on, and that in reality this shiny, well-turned, clean-leather-strapped
contraption is, after all, no better--even perhaps worse--than an
ordinary human foot. She will--she must!--elicit the truth somehow.



"When you was out on the yard-arm, and the wind was a-freshenin' up
from the south...."

"To be sure, lass! Freshening to a three-quarter gale, and none too
little canvas on her.... Easy ahead, lassie!" Jim is only helping the
memory of the well-worn story, and the child accepts the prompting.

"... None too little canvas on her. And Peter Cortright and Marmaduke
Flyn, they was both on the mainyard reefin' alongside. And Peter
Cortright he sings out to look...."

"Ah!--and your Daddy, he looked, and there he see her, the Dutchman,
carrying all sail afore the wind.... Well, little lass, and what o'

"When you was then, 'sposin' you'd only had a wooden leg!"

Jim's big laugh comes; and so lost is he in his little lass, so free
from all thought of his own great privation, even in the face of the
bygone time, that he can make it a heart-whole laugh and never flinch.

"'Sposin' I'd only had a wooden leg? Well--as I reckon it--I shouldn't
have taken much notice. Not for one such! If you'd 'a named two wooden
legs now, lassie! That might have constitooted a poor kind of holt on
a slippery yard. But I might have made a shift to do, even at that."

Lizarann was silenced, but not convinced. She resolved to thresh the
subject out with Bridgetticks, whom she had secretly resolved to call
upon on her way home. Bridget might know nothing about wooden legs,
but she could cite a parallel experience, having herself walked on her
brother's stelts, what he made out of two broomsticks and the foot'old
nyled on, and mide syfe with a scrop of narrer iron hooping. She would
refer it to Bridgetticks whether her brother--or a Circus, for that
matter--could walk upon a bare yard, of which her own image was akin to
a yard-measure, with a pair of stelts. If she, Bridget, felt confident
of her brother's powers, no doubt Jim's assurance of his own might have
been well grounded.

"Doesn't Aunt Stingy come to see to you, Daddy?" she asked anxiously.
For she couldn't see no sign neither of breakfast, nor yet of dinner,
nor yet of supper.

"No--lassie! Your aunt, she's got to 'tend on somebody else, away off
to Wimbledon Common; and these here Simses--or Groombridges; I didn't
catch the name right--she's got a short let to, are mostly away on
a job. So she's packed together her bit of furniture, like you see
it, and Mrs. Hacker, she's so obliging as to give me her time and
attention; 'cos the master, ye see, he put the matter in trim for me.
One don't look for hospital fare all the days of one's life."

Lizarann had heard where her aunt's "place" was, but her experience of
places was of such as could be got to by half-past seven in the morning
and come back to sleep at home. She thought now that she saw her way to

"Is where Aunt Stingy's gone where Mr. Winkleson lives?"

"Never a bit of it, lassie! He's by name Wilkins--Wilkinson Wilkins.
This here's Wimbledon, a place with a Common to it. I went there once,
for to see a review. I wouldn't mind going to see one again, and take
the little lass." Perhaps he meant that his child's sight would serve
for both; but more probably it was an instance of the strange way blind
folk forget their own blindness. "Your aunty, she's come over once or
twice, to pack up her traps and make straight, but I've got to put my
dependence on Mrs. Hacker, so far as I can't shift for myself."

Lizarann derived from this and what followed one broad impression
that the history of No. 27, Tallack Street had reached the end of a
chapter--the one that contained her own biography to date. Another,
that Aunt Stingy would be much less in evidence for the future.
Another, that a new force had come into her life and Daddy's--a
welcome one, connected with Miss Fossett and Mr. Yorick. She had a
happy guardian-angel sensation about this, and took it to her bosom
with only one slight misgiving--that they were too easily duped by
that ridiculous little pipe of Dr. Ferris's, that would hold up like a
candlestick certainly, and you could blow through if he let you, but
that was impotent for every other purpose.

If this story could ask its reader a question at this point, it would
be: "Have you not noticed that Lizarann has scarcely coughed, all
through this long interview with her Daddy?" It was the case, anyhow,
and rather points to the truth of what a physician once said to
ourself, the writer: "If in the early stages of lung-disease doses of
unalloyed joy, of perfect happiness, could be administered three times
a day to the patient, the later stages would be much rarer than they
are at present." Certainly Lizarann's happiness had almost touched
rapture, doubts about the wooden leg being the only alloy in the pure
gold. And she certainly had coughed mighty little. Perhaps Dr. Ferris
would have known what claim Lizarann had to be considered a case of the
kind referred to.

The delightful time had to come to an end, and Lizarann found herself
compelled to say good-bye. Daddy would have it so, although darkness
was a long way off yet awhile. So she departed, bidden first to go to
Mrs. Hacker's, and say to that good lady, that she was on no account
to be in any tirrit to come away from her own supper to attend to
Jim's, for that he had got his pipe, Lizarann having helped him to
light it,--a thing to rejoice at, after that one defective usage of
an Institution otherwise perfect--and wasn't in any driving hurry.
This message Lizarann gave fairly honestly, in an interview with Mrs.
Hacker, which--being repeated to Jim--may be held responsible for some
borrowed phrases used lately to describe impressions on her mind of his
surroundings. But she was not uneasy about him; her faith in Mr. Yorick
was too great for that.

Having given her message, it did not strike her as a serious
transgression to pay a visit to Bridgetticks. The injunction to go
straight home covered the line of road--did not deal with continuity of
movement. That seemed to her a just interpretation of it. But of course
not stopping only five minutes!

So she went to the door of Bridgetticks, and shouted through its
keyhole, in preference to knocking or ringing. But Bridget was
assisting her mother at the washtub, and up to her elbers in suds; so
she sent an emissary to the door instead of going herself. He was very
young, and was eating an apple; he was, in fact, too young and crude
to be trusted to do like he was told; and he put a false construction
on his mission, endeavouring to spit some of his apple through the
keyhole, with a mistaken hospitality. His name was, as pronounced,
Halexandericks. His bursts of laughter at each new failure of his
attempts on the keyhole obscured the voice that was calling through it.
He had a vacuous though not unpleasant laugh.

"I'll let you know directly, if you don't open that door," shouted
his sister. She gave close particulars of the means she would resort
to, but without effect. So she onsoapied the suds off of her arms,
which she then placed akimbo, and went herself; not without a certain
dancing effect, in consonance with a rhythmic utterance difficult to
class as either song or recitation. Its words were certainly, "Waxy
diddle-iddle-iddle, high-gee-wo!" ending in a pounce on Alexander, who
spat his last piece of apple in his captor's face with a fiendish crow
of delight. She wiped if off on his costume without comment.

"I seen my Daddy," said Lizarann, beaming, when the door was opened.

"I seen him afore ever you did," said Bridget, not to be outdone. "I
seen him fetched along in a cab, last night just on seven-thirty. I
seen him holped into the house."

"You story!" said Lizarann, hurt. "He can help himself, he can. He
don't call for no help. Who was helping him?"

"Clapham Church Parsing--same as see your uncle Mr. Steptoe
drownded--and rilewye-stytion cabman with rilings for trunks atop.
Three thousand six hundred and thirty-two. Got him indoors they did."

Lizarann felt inclined to cry; this was a throw-back! But she wasn't
one to give in easily. "My Daddy says he could swarm up the rigging as
soon as not," said she. "Only the doctor he says for to keep quiet a
bit, owing to prudence." When Lizarann repeated phrases lately heard,
you would have thought, to listen to her, she was quite a big girl.

Now, it must not be supposed that Lizarann and Bridgetticks had not met
during the past eight weeks. On the contrary, visits had been arranged,
by request, even before Lizarann had been thought plenty well enough
for school, only not to fret herself. These were the terms in which
Miss Fossett's Anne confirmed that lady's opinion, and sanctioned a
continued study of arithmetic and calligraphy. But intercourse during
school-hours is fettered by formula; and when there's carpets and the
bed made and all, you have to set quiet, and it's not the same thing.
So when these two found themselves once more in their old haunt, it was
as though a ceremonial padlock had been removed from their tongues.
Lizarann's improved exterior--for Teacher and Anne had reconstructed
it--clashed a little with Bridgetticks; but the principle held good.
Here, on Mr. 'Icks's doorstep, when an imputation of falsehood as
an exordium to any reply seemed natural and genial, neither speaker
felt bound to check her inspirations. Lizarann and Bridgetticks were
themselves again.

They sat on the doorstep, cloze or no!--this referred to Lizarann's
frock--and Bridget retained her younger brother, perhaps for slight
rehearsals of the vengeance she had in store for him; he was that
troublesome! Bridget smelt of soap and warm steam.

"_You_ wented on stelts, and wooden legs is better than stelts!"
Lizarann's uneasiness rankles, and she longs for public acknowledgment
of her Daddy's prospects of rehabilitation.

"I shouldn't 'a said so," Bridget answered. "Stelts you catches hold
atop. Wooden legs is balancin'. Stelts is your hands as well as your
legs. Wooden legs you're stood-on-end and pitches yourself over,
just as like as not. Not onlest you have crutches. Your Daddy he 's
crutches, he has. I see 'em myself!" Lizarann could say nothing about
Job's comforters, if only because, on the one occasion when she had
heard them mentioned--by Mr. Winkleson--she had supposed them to be
woollen ones. Besides, she was interested on another point.

"My Daddy hasn't no scrutches," said she. She had caught their name,
without understanding it, when her father used it; and now decided on
denying them provisionally, pending inquiry into their nature. "What's
a scrutch?"

"Oh, you little ignorance!" said Bridget. "Never to know what a
crutch is, at your age!" She appealed to her infant brother to say,
directly minute, what a crutch was, or she would take advantage of his
unprotected youth to smack him. His reply, needing interpretation, was
that it was a penny-farden. Halexandericks had evidently a turn for
negotiation. His sister cast him off, telling him to go and ply by
himself on the pivement, and then resumed: "If you'd 'a knowed 'em when
you seed 'em, you might have kep' your eye open, and took note."

Lizarann, skipping the unnecessary, immediately replied: "Daddy said
they was second-hand, and to go back when done with."

Bridget skipped some more. "Very well, then!--you see them cross-pieces
for the 'ands?... Very well, then!--there's a lather pad for under
the shoulder-j'int, and they're n'isy going down the street. Now don't
you go to say I never told you." There was nothing really unkind or
overbearing in Bridget's peculiar manner; it was only the strong
working of a leading mind. She was, in fact, a very clever child, being
less than two years her friend's senior.

She saw that Lizarann was downcast by hearing of the crutches, never
having rightly appreciated the position, and set herself good-naturedly
to consolation. "It's always tender where your leg's took off," said
she, "and you want something to ketch the weight, walking." She spoke
as if she had often had legs off. "But my father, he says it's nothing
to get the hump about, with a little accommodatin'. And I seen a
man with one leg and one crutch took two coppers to tike him to the
stytion." Lizarann brightened visibly. "You see what your Daddy he'll
look like when he's been a month in the country!"

Obviously this was repetition of something said by an older mouth. "Who
toldited anything about the country?" said Lizarann.

"Clapham Church Parsing. Him as see Mr. Steptoe drownded. I heard him
telling. 'You see,'--he says to your Daddy--'you see what you'll feel
like when you've been a month in the country,' he says. 'You do just as
I tell you,' he says, 'and I'll make it all square for you,' he says.
And then he says you to go too."

"Me!" Lizarann exclaimed, open-mouthed with amazement. And then
Bridgetticks gave more particulars of what really was a bout of
careful eavesdropping on her part, she having succeeded in overhearing
a good deal of conversation between Jim and the Rector of Royd, who
had accompanied him from the Hospital the night before. It pointed
to a scheme by which Lizarann was to be taken in at the Rectory, and
carefully nurtured--treated, in fact, for a disease which had existence
only on the authority of that lying little stethoscope of Dr. Ferris's!
However, as long as no project involved a new separation from Daddy,
what did Lizarann care?

Besides, look at the new experience of a world she had been so little
in--it was glorious to think of! She was not so much dazzled as
she might have been had every minute of her life been passed--for
instance--in Drury Lane. She and Bridget had both benefited by
school-treats. "I've been in the country," she said. "It's at Dorking."

But Bridget had a larger horizon. "There's more sorts than that," said
she, "without taking count of foring parts. Like you'll find when you
done some more geography." Lizarann felt awe-struck.

But it was getting along towards six, and she knew she ought to be
reporting herself to Teacher. Perhaps she would have delayed still
later, if she had not become anxious to ask that lady point-blank about
this fascinating bucolic scheme. As it was, she was received with
some displeasure--on her own behalf entirely--and decided to postpone
investigations. We, for our part, have never believed that that extra
half-hour of exposure to the evening air made in the long run the
slightest difference.



If there had been no cause of irritation between Alfred Challis and his
wife about his relations with Grosvenor Square, it would have mattered
much less what he kept back from her of his previous history. And if he
had taken her fully into his confidence about the story of his early
marriage with her sister, his relations with Grosvenor Square would
have been much less capable of embitterment and misinterpretation. But
his palpable concealment of Heaven-knew-what from one who conceived she
had of all others the fullest right to know it, played the part, in
this domestic misunderstanding, of poor Desdemona's bad faith towards
her father. "She has deceived her father, and may thee," said Brabantio.

Could Marianne have known _what_ Heaven knew, she would probably have
held her husband blameless, if ill-judging; though she might have felt
very little leniency towards her sister for contracting a marriage
unknown to her family. But the ground was not in order for the sowing
of a crop of explanation, to be reaped as a harvest of reconciliation.
It was cumbered with the clover her husband was supposed to be enjoying
at the Acropolis Club and elsewhere, and choked with a creeping weed of
Jealousy unacknowledged. And as the trivial things of life are always
the ones that play the biggest parts, so that unfortunate resolution
not to disturb his wife, when Alfred Challis came home from the Club
dinner, had to answer for quite ten times its fair share of the events
that followed. No doubt her silence was a little vindictive--it would
have been so easy to give a hint that she was awake--but the truth
is it had very little to do with the matter. What had a great deal
to do with it was the fact that Mr. Challis had _not_ been enjoying
himself. Had it been otherwise, he would have felt apologetic; the
monitor he would not admit was his conscience would have prescribed
amends to Marianne for contriving to be so jolly without her. But
she had no guess that her Grosvenor Square enemy was laid up with a
sprained ankle, any more than he had that the new cook had been the
means of bringing to light a great deal--the worst half in disjointed
fragments--of a story his good if mistaken intentions had concealed.
For, needless to say, the actual story was still very obscure to her;
and Mrs. Eldridge, though clever enough, was a biassed assistant in its

Lest it should still be equally obscure to the reader, let him note its
broad facts as follows: Edward Keith Horne married, or went through
a marriage ceremony, with Kate Verrall, a governess at the house of
a coal-merchant named Hallock. Six weeks later he went away to New
York, promising an early return; there was some pretence of winding
up a relative's affairs. He repudiated his wife shortly after; as
she became convinced, and as Challis, his friend, also believed, on
legally good grounds. As we have already said, Challis may have met
conviction half-way, being in love with the girl himself. Of course,
it was he whose name Mrs. Steptoe had remembered wrongly as Harris.
And, equally of course, the miserable reprobate of Athelstan Taylor's
painful experience at St. Brides was Horne, who succeeded with what
was left of his mouth in nearly articulating his true name rightly.
"Kay Thorne" was close to the truth, considering the circumstances.
This story is fortunate in having very little to do with this man; as
his young wife, or victim, may also have been in having for her only
adviser a youth with a strong interest in urging her passive acceptance
of her position. If only half the betrayed girls in the world could
have such an adviser ready to hand! Alas!--how seldom is one found with
the courage to say, "Think yourself at least in luck, silly girl, that
you are not fettered for life to this lout or devil! Hug to your heart
this one consolation, that though you have bought your experience of
him, and what he calls love, dear, you have escaped scot-free of the
blessed sacrament of marriage!" Too often the poor thing finds herself
alone in the desert--the desert where correct expressions grow--sin,
and shame, and penitence, and so on--and where marriage-lines and
marriage-settlements make oases, from which she is excluded, for the
Grundy family to breed in.

Perhaps Challis had a concealed motive for his decision when, at the
time he married Kate's sister, he made up his mind to treat the whole
story as a sealed book. But, even with none, was he wrong, knowing
that his wife elect was quite convinced that no belonging of hers had
ever set foot outside her particular Grundy oasis? Remember, too,
that he was only pursuing the course he would have held it a point of
honour to pursue if he had never married Marianne at all. Why should
his marriage with her make it incumbent on him to dig up a story that
his wife had already passed years in ignorance of, without any living
creature being perceptibly the worse? No doubt Mrs. Eldridge would have
said, with a portentous gush of deep conviction, "She ought to have
been told." But why?

At least, the story shows that Challis himself had nothing disgraceful
to conceal, and that all his actions were dictated by consideration for
others. It is more than likely that an explanation, had the position
favoured it, would have ended--if not by placing him in the position
of a hero--at least by a discharge with a first-class certificate from
the high court of Morality. But the atmosphere teemed with suggestions
of malpractice undefined, and the master-hand of Mrs. Eldridge made the
most of them.

No explanation took place between Challis and Marianne at the only
time when it was easily possible--on the morning after we saw them
last. Explanations are like strawberries--bottled up, they spoil.
Now, whatever chance there would have been of Challis hearing of the
photograph mystery and Mrs. Steptoe's memories was cancelled by the
malign arrival on the scene of Mrs. Eldridge and her John, bound for
his daily toil at St. Martin's-le-Grand. So, you see, it was early in
the morning.

Charlotte had been so uneasy about dear Marianne that she felt she must
come over to find out. It was so entirely unexpected. She had been
laughing and joking the minute before. So Charlotte thought fit to say,
and Challis, to whom it was said privately, detected a flavour of an
unasked-for assurance that Marianne was cheerful in his absence. "It"
had come quite suddenly, when Marianne went away to speak to Martha.
Challis had no means of guessing what "it" had been, except Mrs.
Eldridge's note, and a certain demeanour of his wife's, which no doubt
had to answer for an expression of Master Bob's, in secret conclave
with his sister Cat. According to him, his mater was savage, if you
liked, this morning. Challis had gone to his wife's room to ask about
"it" as soon as he heard that the servant had abated; and had been
told, coldly, that nothing had been the matter that Marianne knew of.
His production of Mrs. Eldridge's note was met by, "That's just like
Charlotte!" He waited a few moments for counter-inquiry about himself,
rather anxious to tell what a failure the Acropolis had turned out;
but no curiosity was shown, and he went back to his own room to dress,
saying nothing further. Had he been wise, he would have sat on the bed
in his pyjamas, and said he meant to stop there until the mystery was
accounted for.

Matters got definitely worse when Mrs. Eldridge, whose invasion
occurred just at the end of breakfast, took advantage of a chance exit
of Marianne's, in connection with housekeeping matters, to follow
her and contrive a sympathetic interview within hearing of the two
gentlemen. Not that a word was audible, but anyone with the slightest
knowledge of human nature would have discerned that one of the
speakers, the tone of whose voice was mellow with the opposite sexes
of the persons she was speaking of, was recognizing the patience and
forbearance of the other under trials, and exhorting her to renewed
efforts in the same direction.

"What do you suppose was the matter?" Challis was filling his pipe, as
he asked this question of Mr. Eldridge.

"Mean to say you don't know?"

"I certainly don't. Nobody has told me."

"I ain't any help. Don't ask me--that's all! Don't put it on me to
say!" Mr. Eldridge, however, implies that his attitude is one of
Discretion, not Ignorance. For he closes one eye, an action that can
bear no other interpretation. He also shakes his head continuously and
gently, as one who would convey to an interviewer the hopelessness of

"I suppose it was nothing but an upset. The weather's trying." It had
really been unusually normal. But Mr. Challis was talking as gentlemen
do when they are lighting a pipe, and thinking more about whether
that's enough than about the topic in hand.

"Stomach!" said Mr. Eldridge, as nearly in a monosyllable as spelling
permits. He repeated the word just half-a-dozen times in a run; then
added this rider: "Say nervous system, when a lady. Puts it better."

"Something of that sort!" The pipe draws, and the smoker ought to
look happy. He doesn't. But, then, the sympathetic murmur, with its
unguessed import, of Mrs. Eldridge afar, is reaching his ears. Sudden
appreciative gushes, and the firm tone of sound advice, are very
unsettling when inarticulate. Cannot that fool John be made to throw
a light on the mystery? Try again! "Charlotte told you all about it,
John; you know she did!" The Christian names give cordiality. But John
is not to be cajoled.

"Tellin's is tellin's," says he; and goes so far as to place a finger
against one side of his nose, in token of perspicuity. "Put it at
stomach!... Got the right time?"

"That clock's right."

"Then Greenwich is fast. Must see about gettin' off! Gettin'
off--gettin' off--gettin' off!" Mr. Eldridge's repetitions no doubt
have some bearing on his relations with his fellow-man, but it is not
easy to say what. They seem to sanction concurrent event; that is the
most one can say. He continued his last repetition even after he had
taken his leave, saying he wouldn't wait for Lotty, _because_ she was
going the other way, and seeming quite content with his speech-work.

Hence, when Lotty reappeared hurriedly, and was surprised at his
departure, having something she _must_ say to him before he went,
Challis got very little speech of the lady. All her limited time
allowed her to say was that she had had a long talk with dear Marianne,
and she was quite sure "it" would be all right now. Only she was
convinced it would be so much better to say nothing to her--just to
take no notice of "it" and let "it" drop. However, rush she must, or
she would never catch John! And rush she did. And Challis grunted, but
retired to his own room, and was soon absorbed in the Ostrogoths.

A stand-up fight between Titus and his wife at this period might have
saved the situation. It would not have mattered one straw whether
it had turned on Grosvenor Square or on the unsolved mystery of the
photograph. Anything that led to fiery out-speech would have been a
precursor of reconciliation.

       *       *       *       *       *

It is difficult to tell anything with certainty about any love-affairs.
Nobody ever knows anything at all about them; even the two
constituents, if called on to explain and analyze themselves, make but
a poor show. We know pretty well what the Poet is good for at a pinch.
And as for the Man of the World and the Man in the Street--well!--all
we can say is, give us the Woman of the World or the Woman in the
Street; preferably the latter. But the duty of the story, in reference
to the psychology of Challis's two marriages, is to tell what has come
to light, or seems most probable--what it thinks or believes, not
knows, about the depths of an unfathomable ocean.

Challis, then, being a young man irreligiously brought up--that is to
say, made to understand that he was responsible for his behaviour,
and that no attempt to shift his sins off on other shoulders would be
held fair play--found himself at five-and-twenty in a position that
would have been a sore trial to the strongest fortitude. He was, if
not actually left in charge of a friend's recently married wife, at
any rate in her close confidence; and, after her return to a home and
friends from whom her marriage was a secret, the sole depository of
that secret. He might never have fallen in love with Kate had they
met on fair ground. But a youth unfamiliar with girl-kind that is not
of his own belongings--sisters, to wit, and cousins earmarked as
sisters--is always in danger if even a moderately pretty or attractive
outsider takes him into her confidence. Challis's danger was all
the greater owing to his terror of being treacherous to his friend.
Perhaps, if the avowal of his passion had been legitimately possible,
he might never have suspected himself of any passion to avow. But when
you believe your conscience will brand you as a traitor to all eternity
if you pursue a particular course, you naturally want to pursue it.

So it was a great relief to him when a letter, shown to him alone by
the terrified girl, disclosed the atrocious deception that had been
practised on her, and the miserable position in which she was placed.
No wonder the avowal came. Our own belief is that it would have come,
exactly the same, to a girl of almost any personality. Nothing could
have averted it, short of a hare-lip, an isolated projecting tusk,
or--suppose we say--onions. And this girl had pretty lips, and the
interview occurred after tea.

Information is scanty about what followed. But no serious inquiry can
have been made into the truth of Mr. Home's accusation against himself.
The exact nature of it--the particular illegality he appealed to in
support of his case--does not come to light. There really was no one to
inquire, except Challis, unless the whole story had come out. It did
not. A twelvemonth later Kate exchanged the name of Verrall--whether
rightly or wrongly borne--for that of Challis, and two years later
Master Bob was born, and his poor little mother had died of him. He
showed no compunction, but kicked and made a horrible noise.

His father was only reasonably overwhelmed by his loss. It may be that,
like many another inexperienced youth, he had not reckoned with the
difficulties this world's Bobs and their like are apt to inflict on
their family before they are formally enrolled in it, especially when
the mothers they select have nervous temperaments. Challis felt, when
he was left alone with the baby, that he had had a fierce tussle with
Fate, and had come out of it severely punished. Probably, if his wife
had survived, and Bob had lived to be a year old, without alarms about
another brother or sister, his father would have been much less easily
reconciled to his widowerhood. He would then have had a short draught
of the nectar of life at its best; that is, if--as we suppose--a
tempestuous excitability, which appeared two or three months after
marriage, was entirely due to Master Bob. Mental unsoundness seems to
have been denied; but, then, surely someone must have affirmed it?

As it was, Bob did a good deal--the best he could--to make up for the
mischief he had done. He was a satisfaction to his father; and, being
taken in hand by his Aunt Marianne, then a girl of eighteen, and in a
sense adopted by her, became a strong connecting link between the two,
and was really the agency that brought about Challis's second marriage
four or five years later. It would have happened sooner, no doubt, but
for the anomalous and grotesque condition of English Law, which, till a
year or so since, made certain marriages diversely legal in different
portions of the British Empire. The Angels might weep, but if they
cried their eyes out it would still remain impossible for a man to wed
with his deceased wife's sister on certain square yards of it. He had
to be domiciled in a special portion of the Empire on which the sun
never sets to do that, and yet live ungrundied. Marianne was slow to
give in on the point. She had, in common with many of her countrywomen,
a religious conviction--a belief in the plenary inspiration of any book
in a religious binding--you know the sort. She may have had others,
but the qualifications of her intelligence were not such as to enable
bystanders to discover their exact nature. Alfred Challis certainly
never did so. And this religious conviction did not give way until
her brother-in-law deliberately wrote formal proposals to a Miss Bax,
with elbows, whom she hated; to a fascinating young Jewish widow, who
had lawlessly said she would just as soon marry a Gentile as a Jew;
and to the daughter of a Unitarian minister. He took the three letters
to her, and said, "Now, Polly Anne, which is it to be? You may burn
two of these; the other one I post." Polly Anne promptly destroyed
the two last; her brother-in-law was blasphemous and impious enough
already without that, she said. But Emma Bax!--no, when she came to
think of it, it was impossible! However, Challis directed the letter
and, as it were, invested a postage-stamp in intimidation; so there
was nothing for it but to throw her arms around his neck and surrender
at discretion. Anything rather than Emma Bax! He kissed her tears away
and said: "You know, Polly Anne, after all, you're only poor Kate's
half-sister, when all's said and done!" This she found very consolatory.

It was a pity, at this juncture, that the girl's mother was a fool.
Had she been a reasonably good guardian for her daughter, she would at
least have insisted on the nuptials being celebrated in a land where
the marriage would have been held lawful. But she contented herself
with condemning the union in the abstract, and flinging Holy Writ--also
in the abstract--at its perpetrators. The Bench of Bishops would have
done the same, no doubt; but that Bench would have forbidden the
banns, to a certainty. As she remained silent, and no outsider could
be expected to screw himself up to prohibition-point in the case of
a half-sister, the pair were wedded by a priest who knew nothing of
them beyond their bare names, and never really became man and wife, as
they would have done if they had been married sixty-odd years before;
unless, indeed, some busybody had obtained a decree annulling the
marriage--as the Law, with a keen sense of fun, directed in the days of
our great-grandfathers.

The notable point in the psychology of these two marriages surely
is that in neither case was the bride the free selection of the
bridegroom, except in the sense that he was absolutely free to take
or leave either. He never, strictly speaking, fell in love at all.
He found himself in a well, and love trickled in. But even in this
metaphor he never was over head and ears. He never wished to be a glove
on any hand, to press any cheek. To call him passionately in love with
either of the two sisters would have been just as absurd as to say that
Romeo "got very fond" of Rosaline and Juliet. Exchange the phrases, and
each fits its place. Challis got very fond of both his wives, being an
affectionate sort of chap. But he remained a stranger to the divine
intoxication which is known in its fulness only to Romeo and his like,
and which some men never know at all.

Short of this last sort may often be found men who have escaped Romeo's
experience early in life, yet whom some cunning context of circumstance
may just upset, and convert for the moment into idiots as infatuated
as the young Montague and Capulet we have cried over so many a time.
For our own part, we count none quite safe from what is really an
ennobling phase of sheer madness; except it be, for instance, a Charles
the Second, a Rochester, a Tiberius, or a Joe Smith. _Id genus omne_ is
safe enough.



Mr. Elphinstone, responsible for No. 101, Grosvenor Square, and
the morals and dignity of the family that dwelt in it, was not
without uneasiness about the literary and artistic circles that
his two young ladies had elected to move in. This description is
superficial; it judges from externals. Say that Mr. Elphinstone's
appearance conveyed that he, like Atlas, had the whole house on his
shoulders--was practically answerable for the honourable repute of
all his subordinates, and morally for that of his superiors. That was
the construction Alfred Challis felt obliged to put on such flawless
shaving; such a weighty deference to the slightest personalities--his
own, for instance--on production of adequate credentials; such a
hypnotic suggestion of having foregone an episcopate elsewhere to take
service with a beloved family whose interests he had at heart. It was
a construction not free from the derision Mr. Challis was in the habit
of meting out to dignitaries of all sorts. In this case he may not
have been free from personal feeling; for he must have been aware that
Elphinstone regarded him as an interloper--one who outraged the sacred
traditions of the household, calling at unearthly hours in a soft felt
hat, and smoking on the doorstep until compelled to throw away too much
cigar by hearing that the family was at home.

This is substantially what was happening about two hours after Mr.
Eldridge had declined to shed any light on anything at all, and his
wife had departed enjoining silence about Heaven-knows-what. Challis,
_désoeuvré_ by the mystification, had found himself unable to invent
any single thing a Scythian mercenary would have been likely to say in
English blank verse, and an approach towards Marianne of a conciliatory
sort was met by, "I must see Steptoe now about the dinner."
Unfortunately, this speech was absolutely passionless; if it had only
been tempersome, there might have been a row. And a row--as the Press
delights to phrase it--might have spelt salvation. But Challis could
see in it nothing that justified more than a languid "All right!" on
his part. And he had departed to the banks of the Danube again, with no
better success than before.

Presently his wife knocked at his door in an excluded, ostracised sort
of way, and he got up to open it. She was dressed for going out. "I
won't disturb you," she said. "Don't come out. I only wanted to say
that if the man comes about the gas you had better see him, because he
won't believe Steptoe, and the meter is certainly out of order. That's

It was one of those queer little turning-points of existence. Challis
was not ready with any reply that would have caused a moment's delay
and saved the situation. Before he could manage more than general
assent, Marianne was gone, too far for anything short of demonstrative
recall. He did not see his way to this, and the chance was lost.

He was unable to work, and wanted to go out. But he had been, as it
were, put in bond on account of the gas-man, who wouldn't believe. He
failed to console himself by an accusation of Sadduceeism against that
functionary, and repeated Blake--

    "The bat that flits at close of eve
    Comes from the brain that won't believe"

--without benefit to his ill-temper. Then he impatiently wrote a note
about the meter to leave with Steptoe, to whom he said with immovable
gravity: "Is it a Sapphic or an Alcaic meter, do you know?" Aunt
Stingy's reply, without a shadow of suspicion in her voice, "I could
not say, myself, sir, but The Man would be sure to know," put him in
a much better humour. He actually chuckled as soon as he was sure the
good woman was out of hearing.

He wanted a book from the London Library, and could get it easily and
come back to lunch. He really did not admit to himself, when he left
home, that he had any good grounds for suspecting that he meant to call
in Grosvenor Square to inquire about that sprained ankle. He took pains
to disbelieve in any such intention till he had got the volume he was
in want of from the Library, and then it occurred to him that it would
be unfeeling not to inquire after the victim of an accident which might
prove serious, after all. His image of the injury done became very bad
as he told his cabman to drive to 101, Grosvenor Square. Was he aware
that he welcomed this solicitude about the sprained ankle because it
disguised, for the comfort of his conscience, his disposition to call
upon its owner?

The only palliative to the disgust of that doorstep in Grosvenor
Square--to which it is time to return--was that this time Mr. Challis
was not actually smoking on its brink; as, when his cab pulled up,
he was descried, before he had time to descend, by Mr. Elphinstone
himself, who had come out tentatively into the Universe to look round
at it, with a sense upon him of possible sudden retractation through
the open door, like a hermit-crab. A Piccadilly hansom, equal to
bespoke for Royalty, had in this case levelled its occupant up. Even
so a growler of the deepest dye, lurching, springless, effluvial,
knacker-destined as to its horse, drags down the noblest blood that
dares to ride in it--yes! even a Duke's; but who can cite a case in
point? Only, when Mr. Elphinstone crossed the pavement, he did it to
confer with the contents of the cab, as such; not with Mr. Alfred
Challis, thank you!

He was reassuring about the ankle; a slight strain that with care--his
own and Sir Rhyscombe Edison's--would disappear in a day or two. Oh
no!--in answer to inquiry--Miss Arkroyd had not been compelled to
keep her bed; a phrase that entered a respectful protest against
"stop in bed," the coarse, familiar expression Mr. Challis had made
use of. But he was, after all, a married man with a family, so it
might be overlooked, this once. He went on to say that Miss Arkroyd,
he believed, was up, though nursing the injured limb on a sofa. He
arrived, after responsible doubts, at the conclusion that he might
send Mr. Challis's card up, in case of any message. Delicacy dictating
a female emissary, Samuel was despatched with it to Miss Arkroyd's
maid; who presently, being an unpolished sample from the dairy at
Royd, came down and said briefly that Mr. Challis was to come up. Mr.
Elphinstone's expression was well-restrained protest.

But it may not have been so much the little dairy-maiden's bluntness
that provoked it, as an indescribably small shade of demeanour of Mr.
Challis's. As the girl came along the passage, and before she spoke,
Challis threw his cigar away, or the two-thirds that was left of it.
Such a little matter! But unless he had known what she was going to
say, he surely would have kept it till he did, to finish at leisure.
How came he to be so positive?

Anyhow, there it was!--the cigar--not half smoked, on the pavement when
the house door closed. And the cabman's eye rested on it. And he spoke
thus to a butcher's boy, who appeared from an area: "Wipe your fingers
on your apron, young dripping, and just hand me up that cigar, and I'll
see if I'll smoke it. I ain't proud. Only don't you discharge off any
of your natural grease upon it!"

To be addressed, even in disparaging terms, by such a hansom, was
flattering to this butcher-boy's vanity, and he did not resent it.
"Licked, but not busted, that I can see!" was his comment as he handed
the cigar up to the cabman, who went on with it, contentedly.

It is two months of the story since it saw, or rather heard of, Miss
Arkroyd and Mr. Challis driving up to this door after midnight in
another hansom. All that it said, or implied, at that time amounted to
little more than that a not very strait-laced lady and gentleman had
been rather free and easy over some theatrical schemes interesting to
both, and that the lady's sister, being less free or less easy, had
intimated that the conduct of the two might be laced a little more
straitly, with advantage. It is over six months of the story since they
discussed "The Spendthrift's Legacy" and "Ziz" in the garden at Royd.
If Charlotte Eldridge, as an authority, had been asked, "On which of
these two occasions, madam, should you suppose the chances were best of
this gentleman and lady supplying you with a story made to your hand,
akin to the one Robert Browning never went on with?" what would her
answer have been?

Our own impression is that at this present date of writing, when
Challis, smelling rather strongly of tobacco, is following the little
ex-dairymaid up the second flight of stairs to what is known as the
young ladies' sitting-room--at this very moment, with the cabman
making the most of his inherited Havana, and Judith forming to receive
visitors, the position would have been much less likely to supply copy
for Mrs. Eldridge than the previous one, but for one thing. Challis's
relations with Marianne were, at the moment--say--of the parroquets,
intact. What were they now?...

They were _something_, or Challis's last unspoken speech to himself on
the stairs would not have been, "At any rate, it isn't my fault!" It
needed the atmosphere of Judith--amused, if irritated, at her absurdity
in getting a sprained ankle--to enable him to shake free--though always
under protest--of the Hermitage.

"Wasn't it ridiculous of me!... No!--don't sit there; I can't see
you.... Wasn't it ridiculous of me to do this--just now of all times in
the year?"

"I thought you were a passive agent. I mean I didn't know that you
_did_ do anything."

"No more I did! No more than one does. You know what I mean?"

"Couldn't be better expressed! Like when one chokes and thinks one
could have helped it, and what a fool one is! But how did it happen?"

"Perfectly simple! I was getting down out of the carriage, and forgot
to think about my feet. Fenton Arkroyd was passing, and if he's not
taken notice of he's sensitive, because he married a laundress, or
something. So I forgot to think about my feet. It might have been so
easily avoided--with a little common-sense."

"So might so many things." Challis isn't the least clear how the
common-sense would act in the cases he is talking at--the plagues
that beset his own path. But what a capital thing to say!--on general
grounds, of course, with a little esoteric meaning all to oneself.

Judith, perhaps, thinks it too early in the morning for ethics, as
she changes the conversation. "How did you like my little maid?" she
says, keeping her eyes closed; which seems absurd after stipulating for
visibility on Challis's part. But it all belongs to a certain imperious
humour in the grain of her character. And rights of translation are
reserved. She can open them if she pleases.

"She's new, isn't she? Jolly little party!" Thus Challis.

"You're not warm enough! Didn't you want to kiss her?"

"Yes, badly--when she gave your message--half-way up...."

Judith opened her eyes. You can't laugh with your eyes shut; you
snigger. "She really gave it? Do tell me exactly! What did she say?"
she asks delightedly, keeping her eyes open to hear the answer.

"She turned round on the landing, and became for the moment a mere mass
of blooming conscience...."

"Is that--excuse me!--to be taken as _language_, or how?"

"No, no!--literally.... Blown flowers of intense truthfulness, and
buds on the burst.... Well!--she _said_, as near as I remember: 'Miss
Arkroyd said if Mr. Challis didn't smell too strong of smoke, only
Mr. Elphinstone wasn't to hear.' And then she got away up the second
flight with some alacrity. I thought she was afraid I might propose
investigation, and Elphinstone was still in the neighbourhood."

Judith is intensely amused. "I shall have to give that child one of
Sibyl's bead necklaces. Turquoise. It goes with her eyes exactly--they
have just the violet tinge." She closed her own again on the slight
subject, but it has suggested a weightier one. "Couldn't you give
Estrild a little Visigoth _ingénue_--I mean Ostrogoth--to wait upon

"What!--and train the little Rankshire beauty to the part? Think of her
parents--the stage!--merciful Heaven!..." But Challis stops suddenly,
discomposed by a discomposure in his hearer.

"Never mind," says she, shaking it off. "You didn't mean it. You're
forgiven! Go on."

"I naturally didn't think of it from that point of view. The cases are
so entirely different."

"Never mind!" Judith repeats her words with more emphasis. "You _are_
forgiven. Now go on about the Ostrogoths."

"I could put the little beauty in; she would be very useful as
a set-off to Estrild. Besides, I want to get rid of Isarnes the
Cappadocian, and she would work in...."

Judith interrupts him, calling to the little attendant, who comes in
answer from somewhere within hearing. "Child!" she says--"bring me
that hand-mirror off my dressing-table," and when it comes, continues,
interrupting a recommencement of the Cappadocian, "That's right!--give
it me. Now put your face over my shoulder and look in."

The order is complied with, but an inexplicable apology follows:
"Please, miss, I know. Because I looked. And I've tried monkey-soap,
and it won't wash out." The seriousness of the young voice is
heart-rending. Judith bursts out laughing, but consoles: "It wasn't
that, child! But I like you to be a funny little goose, so don't stop!
Now take away the glass, and let the monkey-soap alone, for Heaven's
sake!... You got a good view, Mr. Dramatist?... Well!--you saw what I
mean. Now, tell me what you were saying about the Cappadocian."

"Why, you see, he ought to make a showy end, after dyeing his hands in
the blood of so many inoffensive persons, and killing a Sarmatian bison
with a single blow in the arena. He might be just giving a hideous
laugh of triumph, and his innocent victim might be struggling vainly in
the grasp of a giant--it would be Jack Potter; you know what a biceps
he has--and a sudden arrow would be shot from across the Danube and
pierce his brain through the eye...."

"Of course--shot by What's-his-name?--the man that wouldn't embrace
Christianity, but does heroic deeds. You know, Challis, you'll have to
make him embrace Christianity. What _is_ the use of being unpopular?"

"Of course he embraces Christianity in the end. The high-priest or
bishop elevates a crucifix. I've been trying to think of a good name
for him. Ingomar or Anthrax...."

"That won't do. It's what the sheep die of. How would Zero do?"

"Something between Zeno and Nero. Very good name, only the
thermometer's been beforehand with us...." And so the conversation
ran on for a little, throwing an interesting light on the human drama
in its connection with Gibbon. But it was a conversation that murmured
continually: "You know you did not allow me to go my own way because
you thought I was going to be disagreeable. Finish me piecemeal as I
arise, or take the consequence--misgiving on either part about what
the other did or didn't think." Judith, who, after all, was the one
responsible for the discontinuity, gave in to these murmurs first, and
harked back.

"I know you think, Challis, that I am keeping the _madre_ and papa in
the dark about what I mean to do. But I'm not, because Sibyl knows, and
_they_ can know perfectly well if they like; it's only that they don't
choose to know. Besides, what on earth _is_ the use of making scenes,
when I've made up my mind? I'll confess when the time comes."

The levity or laxity of Challis's voice is gone from it in his reply,
scarcely a sequel to the words just spoken: "When I said that about
your little maid, I had no thought that it could possibly apply in your
case. The child, remember, is under the legal control of parents. How
old is she?--sixteen?..."

"Yes, perhaps--not more, certainly. You mean that I'm...."

"Over twenty-one. I don't say you would assert a legal independence
against the wishes of your family. But it separates the two cases. I
wouldn't have any hand in getting a very young girl on the stage in
any case. And I think I should avail myself of the existing legal ...
well!--call it pretext, if you will ... to excuse myself from doing so."

"That's just like you, Challis! You really are a disciple of Mr.
Brownrigg's Groschenbauer--what's his name? You deride every existing
usage, merely because it exists, and then you make use of it for your
own purposes! You're just the same about the parsons, and all religion!
You tolerate it, or pose as tolerating it, because you dislike
wickedness on the whole, and can't see your way to a substitute--not
even to a Metaphysical Check."

Challis's laugh left his face twinkling with paradoxical intention.
"I believe I am the only known example," said he deliberately, "of
a person apparently of sound mind who has never once succeeded in
justifying a single position he has taken up...."

"Don't talk like Felixthorpe! At any rate, you can justify the position
you have taken up that I'm more than twenty-one."

"Because you told me!"

"Yes--the day after my birthday. I was twenty-six the day you came
to Royd. I remember telling you the day we went to the Rectory. Six
months ago! Oh dear!--how the time does run away!"

In obedience to a mysterious law, which dictates that no speech of
any good-looking woman to any passable man shall mean to him nothing
beyond its obvious meaning, this little reminiscence of Judith assumed
an identity. It reminded Challis of the existence of that soul-brush,
which had become--it is useless to deny it--so much a part of his
relation with Judith that he had ceased to hear the machinery. _He_
denied it, mind you!--denied it systematically. Yet he was indignant
with anything that reminded him that it was time to deny it. Plague
take this necessity for walking guardedly! How acceptable it would
have been to be able to say, "_How_ we enjoyed that walk back through
the sunset!" Another type of man--the type that says, "Let Charlotte
Eldridge do her worst, and be blowed!"--would have had no scruples
on the subject. But Challis was a nervous person, and his Self was
perplexing him--very especially now, with poor, dear, stupid Polly Anne
making life a weariness, with her tempers and her fancies.

Was Judith Arkroyd aware, all the time, that this man's bark was in
troubled waters, while she was floating in a secure haven--secure, at
least, for now? Did she ask herself any questions?

Or was Challis just a shade priggish to show a stony front to such a
very meek little reminiscence? His actual reply was: "I thought it was
a good deal more, since my visit to Royd, I mean."

"I hope you'll pay us another visit." Judith thought to herself
that two could play that game. And Challis immediately felt chilly,
illogically; rather as though the soul-brush had slacked off. He would
have to say something serious now, to merge this little fault in the
stratification of their conversation.

"I hope to, certainly. Well!--what were we saying?... Oh yes!--you told
me your age, you know. But even then I had misgivings about Aminta
Torrington. I can't say I wasn't glad when old Magnus put his foot
down. It's an odious part, and it wouldn't have suited you. Thyrza
Schreckenbaum won't look so well on the stage, but it's more her part
than yours."

"I should have thought Estrild was wicked enough for anything."

"So she is. But it's mediæval--good, honest, outrageous atrocity. It's
almost Scriptural. Suppose, now, you had to apologize to the papa of
your little tire-maiden for putting her on the stage, think how much
easier it would be if she was only to play Messalina or Lucrezia Borgia
than if it was Frou-frou, for instance!"

"That little sugar-plum--just fancy! No, I shouldn't like her to play
Frou-frou at all. The atmosphere is purer in the other cases. How
ridiculous one is! But point your moral, Mr. Dramatist."

"Let me see!--what are we talking about?" For Challis had forgotten.
"I believe I'm on a line of self-justification. Didn't I tell you I
never succeeded? I believe I'm creeping round to a sneaking apology for
having offered you Aminta Torrington at all. I wouldn't have written
the part for you--even then. But there it was, and you asked for the
chance, and it was the only thing I had to offer."

Judith's laugh rang out. She had a capital stage laugh, musical but
penetrating. "Nobody's finding fault with you, stupid man! But why
'even then'? It's not four months since. Where is the difference?" She
had opened her eyes full on him to laugh at him, and now closed them
again to wait for an answer. Had Challis been at his best, observing
nature with a view to copy, he would have noticed that last time she
laughed--about the sugar-plum's message--she had left her eyes open,
full flash on him.

But he was too busy with a difficulty to do his duty by human nature,
that it behoved him to know, like Peter Ronsard. That unfortunate "even
then" that he had blundered out had brought him face to face with a
fact that--so it struck him now--he had never felt properly ashamed
of. How came it that, up to this moment, he had scarcely seen in it
a matter to be ashamed of at all; and now, almost involuntarily, he
had drawn a distinction between _now_ and _then_ that seemed to place
Judith Arkroyd _then_ on a lower level? It was actually true that three
months ago he was trying for all he was worth to negotiate this girl
into the good graces of his stage Jupiter; to get her on the boards to
represent a woman whose wickedness he had specially invented, thereby
to fall into the fashion of a time that he himself accounted an age of
stark fools. For he had never come across an Aminta Torrington; but
he conceived, for all that, when he put her on the stage, and set Mr.
Guppy and Dick Swiveller off being up-to-date about her, that he was
performing his part in the dance--the dance of fools! He felt he was
in difficulties, and even for a moment contemplated an appeal to the
Artist's Love for His Work, as an excuse for his own attempt to get
the help of Judith's beauty for his _corps dramatique_. He hesitated,
negatived it, and said to himself uncandidly that--thank God!--he had
not fallen as low as that. But he never suspected, as this story has
begun to do, that his sense of shame was due to the fact that this lady
had become less cheap to him in these three months--dangerously less.

But he could not leave that "Why _even then_?" unanswered, with his
questioner waiting there behind her closed eyelids for whatever excuse
he might see his way to. _Why_ even then? He felt he was flushing a
little, and hoped she would not open her eyes. But his speech hung fire
too long; and when they turned on him suddenly to see what it was going
to be, he was caught, and could only see his way out through frankness.
"I know," he said--"I know. Of course, I was wrong to suggest it.
Still, it was the only thing that came to hand. It was either that or
nothing. And you wished it ... and besides...."

"I am not blaming you. Go on ... 'and besides'...." The beautiful eyes
that were to make so much mischief on the Danube were almost cruel in
the way they waited for what Challis felt he had better not have begun
to say.

But there was no help for it now. He had to continue, and did so:
"... And besides, I did not know you so well as I do now.... I mean,
I saw the thing differently...." He was getting deeper and deeper in
the mire, and the eyes showed no signs of letting him off. "No; it's
no use," he said abruptly. "I did wrong. But then, can you understand
me?--how could I know it was _you_?" Then he made a weak attempt to
_dispersonalize_ his words. "No one of us remains the same." And then,
feeling he wasn't shining, settled to hold his tongue. But he did not
look Judith in the face over it.

She, for her part, being perfectly collected and thoroughly mistress
of herself, only saw in his confusion a clear token that she was also
mistress of the situation. She had done this sort of thing before--love
of power being always her chief incentive--and had come out scathless.
If a doubt now crossed her mind that she might be playing with edged
tools, it was not strong enough to stop her.

"How true that is! Do you know, Challis"--please note this habit of
address; it has somehow become natural to Judith--"I was thinking only
just now, before you came in, how completely you have changed your
identity since those days. Do you remember when we played chess?...
Well, I'm almost ashamed to tell you how I thought of you then...."

"You owe it me. See how I've been at the confessional myself!" Challis
submits to the soul-brush without protest. It is no use. Why resist?

"You were merely an author whose works I hadn't read--yes!--that's
true; authors never have any idea what a lot of people haven't read
their books. I thought you would just come and go, like the rest of
them. But I fancied you seemed at a loose end, and I would take pity on
you. I never thought...."

"Never thought what?"

"Don't look so _empressé_ over it, Challis!" Really, this woman's
faculty for going close to precipices, foot-sure, is something
perfectly marvellous. Tenderness outright seemed the only natural
sequel just now. But she will get back to safety, after gazing coolly
over the edge. Trust her! "I couldn't say it all in one word, you
see.... Never thought that in six months you would be writing a tragedy
for me to play in. That's all that it comes to. At any rate, you
seemed quite a different person then." Had she recoiled too abruptly
from the precipice? Is there slight concession, just to accommodate a
working equilibrium, in her last words? Her own working equilibrium,
mind you;--in which to dangle her victim over that precipice at
leisure, and yet to keep able to deny its proximity undisturbed, or
pooh-pooh it altogether, at choice. For a thorough-paced female flirt
enjoys driving her quarry mad best, when she knows she has plausible
innocent unconsciousness enough left in the cellar to quench any fever
of self-accusation of her own. "Who ever said a word, or thought a
thought, about love-making?..." Don't we know the sort of thing?

Challis's own frame of mind--for the story must needs try to define it,
however difficult it is to deal with--was one of a sort of thankfulness
that he had perturbation of feeling all to himself. Therein lay
his safety; he could keep it secret. He could and would pay for it
by additional tenderness to poor dear Polly Anne--who _was_ Polly
Anne, after all, mind you!--when this last stupid bit of purposeless
quarrelsomeness should have cleared away. But he wanted security that
the conflagration whose smouldering he could not disguise from himself
would be local. He had just, only just, stamped out a spark that might
have become a flame at that precipice-edge, now a moment since. He was
willing to go great lengths in persuading himself that there were no
fires smouldering elsewhere; for to what end, in Heaven's name, should
he recognize them?

But suppose he should be forced to! Suppose he should find one day
that he could no longer parade before his mind this creed that was his
security--this impossibility that he was ever present in his absence to
this woman; as he had to confess perforce, struggle as he might against
growing conviction, she was so often--nearly always--present to him. He
built this faith upon a rock of friendship, genial and firm, but always
cold, that an exaggerated respect for her character--which really
did him honour--chose to assign as the only leasehold her heart could
accommodate him with. Perhaps unfounded hallucinations about the beauty
of Judith's character were the most dangerous features of the disease
Alfred Challis was sickening for, if it had not developed already.

All this may seem too many words about a simple thing. Perhaps Sibyl's
way of disposing of the subject was more intelligible--saved trouble,
certainly. "That man admires you too much, Judith, for it to be safe
to play tricks with him. You'll do this sort of thing once too often.
And then you'll be sorry." However, it was clear that there could be no
real danger as long as the lady remained detached, and very little as
long as the gentleman was convinced that she was so.

And he may have been so convinced--one would have said--when he
found himself able to answer Judith with a philosophical, "Have you
ever known a new acquaintance not to change completely in the first
six months?" And she may have thought he was running too much to
abstractions when she said, "I did not say you had changed completely";
as though she would not have him suppose her too unconcerned. He was
not to slip from the web she was weaving round him by a device of
gossipy discussion. Her remark just met the case; and the soul-brush,
which had got a little out of gear, got to work again.

They went back to the tragedy, and talked of it so long that at length
it came to measuring the minutes by his watch. Then Judith said to him,
as though she had but just recollected it: "You found my letter, I
suppose?" No, he had not--had she written? Oh yes!--it was posted last
thing last night. There was nothing in it, or she would have spoken
about it. The fact that she had written lubricated that soul-brush. But
he must go, or he would be late. A few more words, mostly about how
last night's entertainment had missed her presence, and the lady the
Ross Tarbets had brought in her stead had proved a failure, and then
Challis was standing beside her to say adieu--her hand in his. Really
inevitable, if you think of it, on the supposition that the forms of
civilization are to continue to hold good.

It was a perversity of Fate that chose this very moment for the only
other frequenter of that room to open the door unheard. Judith could
not see her sister through Challis as he stood there. He turned to go.

"Oh, Mr. Challis. I did not see it was you. Perhaps you are talking
business. Don't let me disturb you."

"Not at all. I am just going."

"Stop one minute, Mr. Challis." Thus Judith. "Never mind Sibyl! You
_must_ try to persuade Mrs. Challis to come and see us. Now promise you
will!" She had not referred to Marianne before, by the way.

"I'll try what I can do. But my wife goes her own way. Good-bye!
Good-bye, Miss Sibyl!"

       *       *       *       *       *

"How long had he been here?"

"Over an hour. I can't say exactly. You must ask Elphinstone when he
came, if you want to know."

"It doesn't matter to me when he came."

"You asked." Sibyl made no reply. A lunch-gong sounded below, and she
vanished, but presently returned.

"You are not coming down to lunch?" she said. "At least, are you? Or

"Of course not! How could I, without flying in Sir Rhyscombe's face?"

But Sibyl's question had been mere conversation-making, or
skirmish-seeking. She said what she meant directly after. "I suppose
it's perfectly useless _my_ saying anything. But you know what I think."

"I know what you think, dear! Go to lunch."

"Very well, Judith!" And Sibyl departed for lunch as Judith sounded her
bell for her little handmaid, the reputed sugar-plum.

       *       *       *       *       *

"How long will it take you to get to Wimbledon?" Challis asked the
driver of the waiting cab.

"A tidy long time, the rate I'm going now!" was the reply. "Jump in!"
Challis, feeling he was in the hands of a master-mind, obeyed without
question, and the cab was off, at speed. Presently the master-mind said
briefly, through his orifice above--as King Solomon may have spoken
to the evil djinn he bottled--"Within the hour," and closed it on his
fare for that period. The djinn was in for a lifer, and was immortal;
so thought Challis to himself. That was too long, but short of that,
something over an hour would not be unwelcome--just to think things
over a little!



If King Solomon's captive had gone on scheming conciliatory attitudes
through all eternity, he would probably have failed to hit upon the
right one at the end of it, from mere want of presence of mind. Even
the short "Within the hour" of Challis's cabman was a little too long
for his fare to think things over in safety, without a risk of the
things tripping one another up. He conceived a very good deportment to
suit his return, based on sorrow for being so late, and then began to
complicate it with considerations whether he should at once inquire
more particulars about Marianne's alleged--and denied--indisposition
of last night, or let it alone. Also, should he confess up at once
where he had spent most of the morning, or let _that_ alone! Perhaps
that letter of Judith's that he would find on arriving would help
matters. Yes, it would! He pictured himself to himself--as an actor
in the concurrent drama of Life that he always made notes of by the
way--saying, "Oh yes! That's nothing!--only about the play. I saw Miss
Arkroyd for a few minutes this morning. You know, she was kept away
last night by a sprained ankle, so I went to inquire. Hm-hm-hm!" He
went the length of supplying the sound of reading a letter to himself,
and threw the imaginary pieces he had torn it up into, to show how
unimportant it was, into an image of a waste-paper basket. Then he
turned round, that actor, and kissed his wife, who had recovered her
temper. And then all went well in that play, and that actor told
himself not to be a damned idiot about a fashionable beauty, who knew
he was a married man with a family, and hadn't the slightest idea
that--well?--that anything!

That was the play. The reality did not work out so comfortably.
Challis was in time for lunch, as the cabman was as good as his word.
"Fifty-six and a half," said he, looking at his watch; and added, in
a comfortable sort of way, "Make it up eight shillings," as one who
felt he really deserved the extra half-crown or so. He had a pleasant,
engaging manner with the opposite sex, this cabman, saying to Harmood,
when she brought him his money out: "Don't you get married without
letting me know, my dear! My old woman, she might get sick of me any
minute!" But Miss Harmood was accustomed to admiration.

Mrs. Challis had left word not to wait lunch, said the young lady,
returning undisturbed. Also, there was a note to say with the
letters--that is, to wit, with the postal accumulations. Challis,
opening it, found a bald and severe statement that the writer was
going to Tulse Hill, and might be late. Marianne's mother's domicile
was always spoken of as Tulse Hill. Challis knew that this mother and
daughter were seldom on cordial terms except when he was in disgrace
with both, and it did not tend to allay the feeling of irritated
mystification that came back now to Challis, with quickened memory of
the events of the morning, that his wife should have pitched on this
particular moment for a visit to Tulse Hill. She really seldom went
to see her mother, for she was very lazy. But--and this was a big
_but_--she _always_ went to see her when there had been dissensions. So
much so that when at any time Challis found that she had gone to Tulse
Hill his tendency was to look back through the last twenty-four hours
to discover what skirmish was responsible for the visit.

This time he was completely baffled. His wife knew perfectly well
that she had been invited--cordially invited--to this last night's
entertainment. Did all this mean that in the end he would have to give
up associating with the outer world, and restrict himself to John
Eldridge and Lewis Smithson? That seemed the only programme compatible
with the enjoyment of a comfortable home. Only for God's sake let it be
formulated! Let him know what he had to expect, and Challis would put
his sign-manual to any reasonable treaty.... He stopped suddenly, yet
asked himself--why stop? Then, knowing well that he dared not answer
his own question, flinched off the subject.

This phase of reflection did not come immediately on opening Marianne's
note. He had passed through a brief epoch of lunch for himself and
dinner for Bob and Cat and Emmie since then. It had been a riotous
but not unpleasant experience, and Challis was grateful for it. Bob's
greeting to him had been, exactly transcribed: "Mater's gone to Tulse
Hill. I say!--if you were to give me five shillings, I could buy a
phonograph, because I've saved up fifteen. Tommy Eldridge has got one
that does a menagerie, and you can hear a man having his head bit off."
This felt jolly and cheerful, especially as the two little girls jumped
with eagerness to hear the subsidy voted. Imitations of insubordinate
wild beasts, and the sounds incidental to detaching a Bengal tiger from
his prey with red-hot irons, made lunch pass pleasantly, and Challis
felt much happier. He granted the five shillings on condition that no
operatic records should be purchased. He had heard "Voi che sapete"
through a gramophone once, and he knew!

He was in his study, and Bob had probably nearly arrived at the
phonograph local plague-centre in Putney, when he got to speculation,
acknowledged as such, about a _modus vivendi_ for himself and the
mother of those two little wenches. He denied Judith any place in the
problem, preferring to recognize, as the sole difficulty he had to
fight against, the attitude of Marianne towards what he summed up as
"Grosvenor Square" compendiously. He refused to admit that the class of
feelings he entertained towards that lady--or might have entertained;
he wouldn't quite admit them--could possibly come under discussion
so long as he kept them to himself. Why, if every trifling vibration
of personal feeling, every grain of salt on the dish of a man's
friendship for a woman, was to be made the foundation of an indictment
of faithlessness to his wife, where would matrimony be? But he nearly
lost the thread of his reflections in the obligation to define what the
feelings were that he was refusing to admit.

He would not allow for a moment that these feelings could possibly
interfere with his affection for his wife. In fact, he actually shouted
"Nonsense!" aloud in answer to some accusation to that effect for
which he was not responsible. So loud, in fact, that Harmood came,
and said, "Did you call, sir?" and disbelieved the "No, _I_ didn't!"
that she was met with. He would not have felt foolish on hearing his
own voice getting out of bounds, but he did when it came home to him
that Harmood must have heard him two rooms off at least. This would
never do. He would get back to the Ostrogoths. How about Estrild's
little handmaiden?--a good name for her?--something ending in _illa_?
Favilla?--Scintilla?--Yes, that would do, without the _S_; otherwise,
like Law Courts and tittles of evidence! Yes--certainly Cintilla! But
he got no further.

Because the little sugar-plum brought back his interview of the
morning. There was Judith again--he had nearly given up thinking of
her as Miss Arkroyd--holding the mirror at arm's-length to make it
include both faces easily, watching the _ensemble_ with a slightly
Ostrogothic effect, sympathetically resumed from some passage in the
play she had half read, and knew the purport of; eyelids thrown up as
per instructions of stage-trainer, to secure the glare which seems to
have come so freely on the faces of all our forbears whom the Stage
has thought worthy of portrayal; just a hint of what upper lip and
nostrils could do, if they tried, in the way of callousness towards
tortured prisoners. For Judith had been thinking over the part. And how
grand her eyes were, too!--something of the dark colour of sapphires by
artificial light. And the little chick's face had come so well! That
episode of the monkey-soap had produced a _nuance_ of terror-stroke;
exactly how Cintilla would have looked over a Christian martyrdom; a
penalty deserved by a Dissenter, but alarming, for all that. He would
tell Judith next time he wrote.... Well!--he _would_ write, of course.
But it was all in the way of business. What of that?... He would tell
her he had christened the child Cintilla. She would call her Cintilla
now; he was sure of it.... Now he must get to work! This would never do.

He actually did get to work this time. He wrote blank verse, or prose
abstract to turn into blank verse, or other blank verse that was
better than the first blank verse; or, if worse, could be rejected
when found wanting. But the worst was when alternatives turned out
equal--impossible to make choice of. After a while, he found himself
with two such samples to choose between. Which speech of the two would
come best from the lips of Estrild? He had to acknowledge that he was

And yet a good deal might depend on it. He was wavering between two
courses in the plot of the play. Each of these speeches seemed to
point to one. Suppose he chose the one that, afterwards, Judith liked
least, and followed on the line of plot that suited it! He would not
feel happy over it, that way. Obviously, Judith was the proper person
to decide. Master Bob might just as well carry the speeches to a handy
typewriter at Putney, wait for them to be executed, and bring them
back. Or stop! Challis knew he could rely on the accuracy of this
typist, at a pinch. Why not write to Judith, leaving the envelope open,
and let Master Bob put the typed copy in and post it? It would save a
deal of time. Then he would be able to get on with the play first thing
in the morning, if an answer came by the early post, as it might. He
could mention Cintilla, too.

So said, so done! Master Bob was off like a shot, though reluctant to
leave his phono, whose hideous din had been audible from afar since
its arrival an hour ago. No sooner was he past recall than Challis
remembered that if he had decided the question himself, it never would
have been necessary to show the rejected version to Judith at all! But
the fact is he had got rather into the way of consulting her. Anyhow,
it couldn't matter much, either way. He went back to his writing, and
found something else to go on with. He went on with it peacefully until
a cab arrived, and he looked out, expecting that it was Marianne. It
was not, and he had an odd sensation of being glad he was sorry it was
not. He saw who the visitor was, and retired.

Confound that woman! Why on earth need Charlotte Eldridge come
bothering in when Marianne was away? A confirmatory announcement is
followed by, "Oh, Mrs. Eldridge!--Did you _tell_ her your mistress
wasn't here?" Thus Challis to Harmood, who checks the incorrectness of
his speech. "I said Mrs. Challis was not at home, sir. Mrs. Eldridge
said she would come in and wait." On which Challis's comment--too much
to himself to rank as an answer--is, "She'll have to wait."

"Am I to tell her so, sir?" Harmood, docile and well-bred, awaits

"_No!_--don't tell her anything. Perhaps your mistress will be in soon."

Challis made a show, for his own satisfaction, of going on with his
work--but not for very long. As tea-time drew near, he looked at
his watch, and decided not to have tea in the drawing-room with his
visitor, but to go out. So, when he looked in on Charlotte for a
moment, he was in walking trim, and merely shook hands hurriedly, and
said: "Marianne must be in soon. She'll never stay to dine at Tulse
Hill. _I_ have to go. Ring the bell for tea, and make Harmood attend to
you properly. Ta-ta!" and departed, affecting haste.

Mrs. Eldridge was not quite ready for tea, and also hoped Mrs. Challis
would reappear shortly. So she postponed summoning the handmaiden,
and took Challis's old novel, "The Spendthrift's Legacy," from the
bookshelves, wishing to compare the portrait of his first wife, which
she knew it contained, with current events. As she speculated over this
and that, an unmistakable boy's head--that first wife's boy's--came in
at the door, and said "Hullo!" in a very uncompromising way. It was
merely greeting--no more!

"Well, Master Bob, where have you been? Come in and talk, and shut the

"Haven't got much time for talk. I say! I wonder if you can hear up
here. We've got such a ripping phonograph."

"I can hear beautifully." Indeed, a woe-begone and God-forgotten croak
has been audible for some minutes, rendering patter-songs. Bob warms to
his subject: "Isn't it awfully jolly? You're really sure you can hear,
though? I say, though, isn't it a pity? I got 'Movement in A flat,'
and I might have had 'The White-Eyed Musical Kaffir,' and it's such
rot. Harmood says she's sure it's only music--like pianos."

"Why don't you open it and see?"

"Because then they won't change it. I might have changed it when I was
out, if I'd known. But I thought it was a row in a house, and furniture
getting broke, don't you know?" He gives further particulars of his
misapprehension, but it will be as clear as it needs to be without them.

"Where did you go when you were out?" Mrs. Eldridge seems strangely
unconcerned about the phonograph. But Bob is too high in the seventh
heaven about it to conceive it possible that such indifference
should exist. He takes his hearer's sympathy for granted, and as for
suspecting any non-phonographic motives in his questioner--impossible!

"Putney. I could have gone to the shop twice over in the time I was

"What were you waiting for?"

"Typewriter. For the governor. Oh--quite half an hour!"

"What a shame! And you wasted all that time waiting. But you got what
you went for? I mean your father got his type-writing?"

"No fear!" This with scorn. Then, to keep the heaven of veracity
spotless: "_He_ didn't get it, you know. I shoved it in her envelope,
and shoved it in the pillar-box in High Street. Not the one near the

"Whose envelope?"

"It was all right. There wasn't any other. Judith's. I say--are you
quite sure you can hear up here? Hadn't I better bring it up, while you
have tea?" For tea is coming of its own accord, audibly, outside the

"No--after tea. I shall listen better. Whose letter did you say you put
in? Judith's--who's Judith?"

"Oh--_you_ know! Me and Cat always call her Judith. Miss _Ark_royd."
There is a trace of contempt, quite unexplained, in the accent on
the first syllable. But Bob will be lenient, adding, "But she gave
me my skates." Then, for he cannot honestly conceal a defect, "She's
duchessy, for all that. A hundred-and-one, Grosvenor Square, W." And
leaves her, classified.

Should Harmood make the tea? Not on Mrs. Eldridge's account, certainly!
Mrs. Challis was sure to be back. Too probably, in practice, for either
speaker to say "D.V." about it. But no atheism was meant--far from it!
Harmood attended to the fire; enough just to keep it in, although if
it went on like this we should soon be able to do without. And the
water couldn't go off the boil as long as there was ever so little
methylated. Mrs. Eldridge was beginning to fear that there _was_ ever
so little, and that the boil's hour was come; and was questioning
whether it would not be better on the whole to make tea in order that
its getting cold should favour Marianne's return, when a cab-sound
recommended itself to her notice for some unexplained reason, and she
began making the tea. She really wished to see Mrs. Challis, having a
card in her hand she wanted to play. One fights against a misdeal when
one has seen the ace of trumps in one's hand. But let us be just to
Mrs. Charlotte. Of course, it was well understood, between her and her
conscience, that her motive was to make sure that no mischief came of
that letter to Miss Arkroyd. Suppose that young monkey were to say he
posted the letter, and say nothing about the palliative typewriting!
And then suppose Alfred never thought it worth mentioning that he had
written at all. Quite a case for a judicious friend, etc., etc. Oh,
these meddlers!

The cab _was_ Mrs. Challis--not literally; only household _patois_--and
Mrs. Challis was sorry she was so late, Charlotte. Why had that lady
not had tea? Marianne's manner was dry and hard. No--she was not the
least tired, she said. She would go up and take her things off and come
down immediately. She threw out a skirmisher to stop that horrible
noise on her way up; and when she returned, if peace did not exactly
reign where Bob was, somewhere below, at any rate the sounds that
continued were human, not diabolical.

"Well?" Mrs. Eldridge spoke first.

"Wait till I've had some tea, and I'll tell you." A cup apiece elapsed,
and then Marianne said briefly: "Says it's a parcel of lies. If poor
Kate had been married, she _must_ have known."

Charlotte considered. The detective character asserted itself. "How
does she account for Mrs. Steptoe knowing the name of these Hallock

"She doesn't account for it."

"What does she suppose her motive to be?"

"She doesn't suppose."

"Even if she knew the name, it's impossible to believe she would trump
up such a story! With nothing to gain by it, Marianne dear, with
nothing to gain by it!"

"I didn't say I did believe it. I only told you what mamma said."

A conversation that flags from lack of any visible step forward
welcomes another cup of tea, to pause on. After a measure of silence,
so filled out, consciousness of the _impasse_ brought in a new element,
as stimulus.

"I talked to John about it."

"Why must you talk to John?"

"My dear Marianne! Well! John's a fool, I know, but I have a great
respect for his judgment, sometimes. I shouldn't have begun about
it myself. But he was there when Mrs. Steptoe was looking at the
photographs, and he spoke of it to me.... What did he speak of? Oh--the
whole thing!"

"What did he say?"

"It wasn't so much what he _said_. You know his way. He only said that
a party he knew in the City knew a man in a Private Inquiry Office, and
that sort of thing always ran into money. So his idea was--you know how
funnily he phrases things?--his idea was that 'keep it snug' was the
word. In fact, he repeated it several times. John's habit of repetition
gets rather irritating, now and then."

"Did he say nothing else?"

"I don't think he did ... oh yes!--he exonerated your husband. At
least, he said that that sort of trap wasn't the sort of trap anyone
would suspect Titus of being up to. It was a little obscure, but John
is obscure."

Marianne showed no disposition to take an interest in John's opinions,
even assuming them to be capable of recasting in an intelligible
form. She sat holding her teacup, as one anxious not to break with a
pleasant memory. But her face was not pleasant for all that. It might
be unfair to say it had a set jaw and a scowl, because that suggests
a prizefighter without a prize. But accept as much of the description
as leaves an image of a comely woman with dark hair--plenty of it--in
a plait, and rather _embonpoint_ for thirty. Put in the mole we have
spoken of, just on the cheekbone; but don't run away with the idea
that there must be a stye in the eye on the other side, that you are
not looking at. Let Marianne have all that is left of a bonny robust
girlhood that was in its day rather more acceptable--consciously so--to
her brother-in-law than the more delicate approach to beauty of his
deceased wife. But Marianne had gone off, too; there was no doubt of
it. Nevertheless--and in spite of occasional acerbity and frequent
sullenness--her husband loyally cherished the idea that she was good
with a deep-buried goodness, a quality that might be relied on when the
hour of trial came, a rockbed of sound-heartedness, to build on even
when appearances suggested earthquake.

Some such appearance may have made Mrs. Eldridge cautious about
pursuing the thread of John's judgments, as she joined in her friend's
silence beyond her usual habit--a loquacious one. Presently she said,
to relieve the monotony, "Shall I put your cup down?" and took it
with a well-formed hand she was vain of--indeed, it ran close to
beauty--from one that was rather a defect in its owner; too chubby,
too accented at the rings, to be redeemed by a mere addendum of
filbert-nailed fingers.

Marianne then said, as she surrendered the cup: "You saw him before he
went out?" She spoke as though she took her companion's knowledge of
the contents of her own silence for granted.

Mrs. Eldridge seemed to acquiesce. "He looked in for a moment," she

"I suppose he got his letter." This was mainly thinking aloud, for
how could Charlotte know anything about his letter? She could guess,
though, and was not slow over it.

"I suppose so, because he answered it." Then she may have felt that her
knowing so much without data might seem unwarranted; for she added:
"At least, if it was a letter from her," and then explanatorily, in
response to an inquiring look, "Yes!--Judith Arkroyd, of course."
She probably had no definitely mischievous motive in the phrasing of
this. The assumption that any "her" must be Miss Arkroyd only showed
what she herself had been thinking of. But it teemed with suggestion
of continuous correspondence between the lady and gentleman in hand.
Marianne flushed angrily, far more moved by the way in which she heard
of it than by the mere letter itself. It was only one of many letters,
after all!

"How do you know? How can you tell?"

"Marianne dear--really!"

"Really what? No, Charlotte, you're nonsensical. Of course it was her!
Why _do_ you take a pleasure in mystifying me? Can't you tell me what
you mean? How do you know he answered it?"

"Dear, if you'll be patient, I'll tell you. But, really, you do make so
much out of nothing ... it's all about _nothing_." And, indeed, Mrs.
Eldridge looked frightened, as a mischief-maker may whose hobby has got
the bit in its teeth.

"If it's nothing, at least you can tell me what it is." And Marianne,
who a moment since was red, now goes white, with hands just restless
and a foot that taps uneasily. There had been nothing in antecedent
circumstance to warrant so much excitement. So thinks Mrs. Charlotte,
and would like to hark back, and make her mischief gradually, on
congenial safe lines. A row would be premature, to her thinking.

"What _what_ is, Marianne dear?" she says. But then makes concession:
"Only, of course, dear, I know what you _mean_. How did _I_ come to
know about the letter he sent her? It's quite simple...."

"Well--go on!"

"... It was Bob. He was in here just now, and told me his father had
sent him to post a letter to Judith--that's what the young monkey calls
her--and then you asked if he had got his letter. Of course, I thought
it _must_ be from her."


"Oh, nonsense _why_, Marianne dear! How _could_ it be anyone else?"
And Mrs. Challis cannot answer this, naturally, as she knows quite
well it was Judith's handwriting alone that attracted her attention to
the letter, and that there were at least a dozen other items by the
same post. Charlotte continued: "I can see nothing to make such a fuss
about. With this play-acting going on, a letter might be anything."

"How do you know I thought it wasn't anything?"

"I dare say you didn't, dear. Of course, one takes for granted that
one's husband ... well!--even if it was John, it would never occur to
me. And look at the difference between my John and your Titus!"

As it is impossible to fathom Mrs. Eldridge's motive for ascribing the
character of Lovelace to the chosen of her affections, the attempt
shall not be made. Some things begin, exist, and cease, and none knows
why. But one may conjecture. Was it that Charlotte wanted a certificate
to her understanding--from experience--of Man the Baboon that she
sometimes sketched St. Martin's-le-Grand and the Royal Exchange as a
sort of ilex-groves furnished with Mænads and Bassarids, all for the
delectation of respectable Satyrs with stove-pipe hats or billy-cocks,
each in his degree? Like Nicholas Poussin, you know! Yes--that was it!
John's character had to be sacrificed, to show through what slant or
squint in a side-aisle his wife had got a glance at the mystic altar of
the Bona Dea.

But Marianne was not prepared to accept the view suggested. "One man's
the same as another," said she. Then, with an access of feeling that
she was being entangled in something, she knew not what, that she was
not clever enough to escape from, "I wish you wouldn't talk like this,
Charlotte. I hate it!"

"Talk like what, dear?" says Charlotte, but adds illogically, "It
wasn't me began talking like this. It was you said, how did I know he
answered it? I could only tell you."

"I don't care what who said, or anyone. It's nothing to do with it.
You know what you're trying to make out, so where is the use of
pretending?" Mrs. Eldridge interjects, "What am I trying to make out?"
But this is ignored, and Marianne continues, "And you know you're wrong
and the thing's ridiculous." Through all this runs a tacit acceptance
of the existence of "the thing." But it remains undefined, by mutual

At this point Mrs. Eldridge began to suspect that Marianne was showing
more tension of feeling than the case, as known to her, seemed to call
for. She must find out, in the interests of the drama she wanted to
enjoy--for, of course, true mischief-maker that she was, she never
admitted that mischief was her motive--what had passed at Tulse Hill to
account for her friend's _accès_ of asperity. Because of course it was
that! It was that horrid old woman.

"I suppose you talked it all over with your dear mother, Marianne?"

"There wasn't anything to talk over with my dear mother that I know of.
Yes, I did--I talked over what you mean."

"And she agreed with me, I'm sure?"

"I don't know whether she did or didn't, and I don't know what 'agree'
means. But I do know that I won't talk to mamma again, neither about
this or anything else, unless...."

"Unless what?"

"If she talks as she does. She knows, because I told her."

"Don't tell me about it, dear, if you don't like." With which licence
to silence Mrs. Eldridge settles down to the hearing of a good long
tale, which she knows will have to be elicited by jerks, as Marianne
is profoundly Anglo-Saxon--not a drop of Celtic blood in her veins. It
comes, and, summed up, amounts to this:

Marianne had carefully avoided saying a single word at Tulse Hill
about "it"--in fact, had wanted to keep Grosvenor Square out of
the conversation altogether. She had really only spoken about Mrs.
Steptoe's story and the photographs, and how "it" came in Heaven
only knew. But there "it" was, and mamma had been very disagreeable
about it, and said things. What things? Oh, of course the sort of
things she always said ... well!--about her own marriage with Titus,
and the Deceased Wife's Sister business. Just as if she, Marianne to
wit, wasn't only poor Kate's half-sister--and it just made all the
difference! But what did she say? Well, it seemed that she had up and
denounced, in the most positive way, about how she had always said,
and always should say: that the Blessing of God could never rest
on an Unscriptural Union. And then, being pressed to develope this
thesis, had fallen back feebly on the position that "we were told"
it was Sinful, and that Marianne knew where just as well as she did;
which was indeed true in a sense, for neither of them knew anything of
theology, or divinity, or exegesis, except that the Bible was the Word
of God, and contained everything necessary to Salvation, as well as
to the fostering of all our little particular prejudices. In fact, it
would have been difficult to light upon any two completer agnostics,
etymologically, than this mother and daughter. So, though the former
was happily unconscious of the whereabouts of any texts bearing on
the question, she was convinced of their existence; only making this
much concession to her daughter's position--that the marriage of a man
with a half-sister-in-law was only half as bad as with the complete
article. It was a Venial Sin, and a commodious one thus far, that it
still permitted intercourse under protest between a daughter who had
committed it and a mother who went to church.

On this occasion, when the admixture of foreign matter into the
discussion had raised the question of possible nuptial infidelities,
the old lady had embittered her criticism of her daughter's position
by pointing out that Titus might do whatever he liked, and she would
never be able to get a divorce, like a legally married woman. The knot
that had never been tied could never be untied, clearly; and one of
the great advantages of conformity to established usage was hopelessly
lost. This view had fairly enraged Marianne, who had fought for her
right to a divorce as the tigress fights for her young. Not to be a
wife at all according to the law of the land was bad enough, but if you
had to forego your birthright to be a legal _divorcée_ or _divorceuse_,
whatever were we coming to?

"I must ask John how that is," said John's wife, really to make talk,
for she was at the moment weighing the question whether this item in
Marianne's recent collision with her dear mother was enough to account
for her ill-temper. "You would never suppose John knew anything at
all, by his manner; but it's wonderful what he does know. There he
is!" There he was, and there also was Mr. Challis, who had met him on
his way from the station, and told him he believed Charlotte was at
the Hermitage, and he had better come in. And there also was a Mrs.
Parminter, or Westrop--Marianne wasn't sure which--who had really
wanted to leave a card and cease, only Titus had gone and asked her in,
and now Marianne supposed we should have to be civil.

Do not suppose this Mrs. Parminter or Westrop has nothing to do with
the story. She will go out of it, certainly, very soon; because she has
promised to be at the Spurrells' at six, and it takes a full quarter of
an hour. But she has an influence on it, by the spell of her presence
acting on the social _rapports_ of the household. Briefly, we all know
it's quite different when there are people; and this Mrs. Parminter
or Westrop was quite as much people, _ad hoc_, as if she had been the

When there are people, you assume a genial smile, and affect a crisp
alacrity of interest you do not feel in their loves or their sheep, or
even their digestions. You shout; so do they. Then someone else shouts
louder, and you try to finish what you were shouting. But you don't
succeed, and perhaps you give in; and then your family--lady-wife,
mother, sister, what not!--says afterwards, need you have been so glum,
and couldn't you have exerted yourself to make things _go_ a little?
And you're sorry, because it's too late now, and the Mrs. Parminter or
Westrop of your case, or your particular Spurrells, have trooped away
with parting benedictions, and left the hush of daily life behind. And
then your family lady looks at the cards the Mrs. Parminter or Westrop
has deposited, and sees which of the two she is, and says she thought

All this happened in the present case, the Mrs. Parminter or Westrop
having swept Mr. and Mrs. Eldridge away in her vortex, because they
were going in the same direction; and having said to them what a
delightful call she had had, and what delightful people the Challises
were! To which Mr. Eldridge had appended a note to the effect that he
had known Challis quite a long time, now you came to think of it. And
the equivocal lady had said dear her!--how very interesting!

The genial wooden smile, as of the visited, on the faces of Marianne
and her husband died abruptly as its cause became a distant shout. It
gave place to a mere puzzled look on his, provoked, no doubt, by the
expression of cold fatigue on hers and her silence. So far as he could
recollect there was nothing to account for this--at least, at the date
of their last parting. The interview about the gas-man was unleavened
with tenderness, certainly, but then it was the merest household
colloquy. But, to be sure, there had been Tulse Hill since then! That
was it!--it was that horrid old woman! So it was just as well to say
nothing. Challis said it, and went to get ready for dinner.

"Getting ready" amounted to little more than washing his face and
hands. It could not interfere with mental schemes for approaching and
conciliating his wife. He really wanted to do so, for he knew in
his inmost heart that he had more than once this day turned angrily
against suppositions that _would_ present themselves--hypothetical
readjustments of his life, always with Judith Arkroyd sooner or later
working into them through a mist of the honour in which he held
Marianne. Suppose--oh, suppose!--all his life had been different!
Suppose he had known her in her girlhood, this Judith! He had let
the image he had formed of the self he would have been, had all been
otherwise--just for one moment he had let it hunger for the hand, the
lips, the eyes of this hypothetical girlhood. It seemed so slight a
wrong to grant himself that luxury, when by hypothesis he was then
never to have seen or spoken to either of his wives of the time to
come. But the moment he had recognized the nature of this supposition
he had flung it from him, as he had others of a like sort. Just so the
watcher, sworn not to sleep, believes himself awake even as the spell
seizes him; then strikes hard to slay the coming dream, and is awake
again. Alfred Challis had been secretly guilty of this particular
dream, was angry with himself for it, and was scheming now to lay some
stress on his affection for his living wife. He knew enough from long
experience of Tulse Hill to ascribe to it powers of producing an even
greater severity of deportment than Marianne's at this moment.

He judged it best "not to be too previous," and went from his own
dressing-room straight to the drawing-room. That would make the best
job. He felt obliged to John Eldridge for this expression of his.

Marianne followed in due course, and appeared in conflict with a
preoccupying wrist-button. His proposed arrangement was to say, "Well,
Polly Anne, now let's near all about it!" And she spoiled it with,
"Stop one moment. I must get Harmood to do this for me."

A new departure became necessary. But it would not be half so _dégagé_.
A certain amount of spontaneity would have to be surrendered. Try again!

"Got it right now?" Yes--that was best!--not to go outside current

"What--the button? Oh yes, it's right enough! At least, it'll do." And
then dinner, according to Harmood, was on the table, and the button

"Did you find your mother well?" This followed on the heels of
soup, concluded. By this time Challis had given up all his little
conciliations, and was drifting, a mere log on the current of
matrimony. Oh yes!--Marianne had found mamma well--that is, just as
usual. She wasn't going to help, evidently. However, he would try
yet again, but presently. Presently did not come, apparently, till
cigar-time. Then he made a more vigorous attempt. "Well, Polly Anne, I
think you might ask me where _I've_ been."

"Where _have_ you been?" The amount of concession there was in this was
just sufficient to make it impossible to indict the conversation as
unendurable, and demand improvement or silence; but not enough to pave
the way to cordiality.

Challis would probably not have ventured on his last attempt if he
had had nothing to report but his visit to Grosvenor Square. But
this afternoon excursion, later, had given him confidence. He was
able to answer that he had looked in to tea at the Ponsonby-Smiths',
or whatever the name was; and what did Polly Anne think? Celia
Ponsonby-Smith had got twins.

"Celia Robinson, I suppose you mean," said Marianne coldly. "I saw it
in the _Telegraph_. Did you go nowhere else?"

"In the morning--yes! I went for a book to the London Library, and made
a call. Nowhere else this afternoon."

"I meant in the morning. Don't spill your coffee. The cup's too full."

"No--it's all right. There!" Challis reduced his coffee to
safety-point, and was not ungrateful for the slight break in the
conversation. He was able to affect a balked readiness to speak, as
one whose swallowed coffee has left him free to say the words it

"I called in at Grosvenor Square."

"I see." This is a simple speech enough, but if the _I_ lasts a long
time and the _S_ even longer, it expresses diabolical insight. Yet one
can say nothing. Challis could only ignore it, and continue:

"I told you Judith Arkroyd had had an accident. Or didn't I?" But
he knew quite well; and Marianne knew he knew, and merely shook her
head. He went on: "Well--she has. And she wasn't able to come to the
Acropolis last night."

"A bad accident?" Marianne seems determined to keep her words at the

"Nothing very serious! A sprained ankle. She'll have to lay up for it.
Not a hanging matter!"

"Of course you didn't see her?"

"I did. There is nothing to prevent her receiving visitors."

"Was she up?"

"My dear Marianne! Of course she was up. What do you suppose?"

"I don't know. I don't pretend to understand these sort of people. I
suppose it's all right, either way." And this lady then withdrew from
the conversation, leaving her husband half-nettled and half-apologetic,
but quite unable to lay hold of any excuse for expressing either
irritation or apology. Especially the latter, because why should he
think confessions or apologies necessary?

Perhaps nothing could throw more light on the way the heads of this
household quarrelled--for domestic bliss has many forms--than the
internal comment made by its eldest son when he returned by contract
at half-past ten from supping with his friend Tommy Eldridge. What
Master Bob said to himself, after a short wait for sounds of human
voices, was: "_Row_ on, I expect. Pater and mater not talking!" He put
his head in at the drawing-room door and made a statement. "I say. I'm
not late." His father, who understood Master Bob down to the ground,
attached the right meaning to "What are you?" which followed. He looked
at his watch. "Ten-thirty-three," said he. "Three minutes late! Now go
to bed, and leave the phonograph alone till to-morrow."

"What!--not only just one, in the breakfast-room, with the door shut?"
But even so conditioned, it is too late for phonographs, and Bob goes
to his couch a sadder boy but as great a goose as ever. Before doing
so, he has to give securities that he will not pound about overhead and
wake his sisters; and to note that his pater is reading and sorting
letters, and his mater has settled down to a book.

You know what that means, especially when the book is bicolumnar,
microtypical, and there's such a lot to read before it gets to where
everyone says it's so improper. You read the first brisk spirt, till
you get to the point at which the author's inventive power has flagged,
and then you become strangely content to repose underneath that work,
with your eyes closed and your hands peacefully folded over your
foreground. But Bob was wrong. His mater had not settled down to her
book in the true sense of the words, and Challis knew it by the speed
at which the leaves turned. Marianne couldn't read at that rate, even
without stopping to think of the meaning. And you must, sometimes.

Besides, Challis had glanced at that book himself, and knew his wife
would never understand local Americanisms and Indian dialects in
Kamschatka. It was an interesting book, though, and Challis remembered
how the first chapter began: "Midnight in Nootka Sound, and the blood
still dripped monotonously from the shelf above, etc." He was just
thinking could he safely venture on asking the reader why this first
chapter was called "Hello!" when she put the book aside, and said
briefly: "I'm going to bed." She had not spoken a word since Bob's

Special effort is needed to keep in mind how little Marianne's husband
knew of the causes of her perturbation. So far as he could see, the
whole ground was covered by illogical resentment against a group of
his friends, whose advances to herself--as it seemed to him--she had
inexcusably rejected. Still, he could frame excuses for her; it was
not for her as it was for him; he had the key of the position. It was
a case for compromise, and Marianne was uncompromising. That was all!
As for any conception that a new light thrown on his past had presented
him to her as distrustful and secretive--certainly keeping back
something she must have a right to know; possibly, though she hesitated
over this, something disgraceful to himself--no such idea crossed his
mind for a moment.

It would be all right in the morning! He had said that many a time
overnight, in tiff-times, and peace had followed as predicted. Tulse
Hill, considered as an incident, was too recent for any sort of
conciliatory effort to be worth making--to-night, at any rate. Let it
alone, and have a finishing smoke! Go back to the Ostrogoths!

Then, as he wondered whether, for all its slow combustion, the grate
would not consume its coal before he got through his cigar, there came
back to him an image of Judith Arkroyd in a dangerous form--an image
in which physical beauty was subordinate to a subtle relationship of
soul, which he had imperceptibly slipped into ascribing to his own and
hers. A dangerous form, because Love played a new part in it for this
man. His first wife had probably been--put it plainly--a mistake; his
second ... well!--he was very fond of Marianne--very--and they had had
many happy times together. But it wasn't quite the same thing as--oh,
dear!--well, it couldn't be, you know! One can't have everything.

Much more dangerous, that sort of thing, to our thinking, than the
primitive fascinations of Aphrodite herself! Indeed, we have sometimes
thought that lady didn't go the right way to work in that affair with
Adonis. She should have _sympathized_ with him. All the same, mind
you!--so Cynicism murmurs at our elbow--man has an extraordinary
faculty for detecting companion-souls to his own, pulses preordained
to beat in unison with his, in bodies of extraordinary beauty, of
indisputable grace. _He_ may squint, and his eyesight be defective, but
his predestined She, the mate of his soul, will gaze on him through
lustrous orbs of tender radiance. Her voice will reach him through the
rosiest of lips, the pearliest of teeth, without so much as one gold
stopping; and all the while there will he be, without a sound tooth in
his head to boast of, unless he has the effrontery to make a parade of
his crown-and-bridge treatment. He may even wear a wig, and brazen it
out, in the same breath with a protest against a single false tress on
the head of his other dearer life-in-life--this comes out of Poetry,
somewhere--while as for a Venus Calva ... simply out of the question,
thank you!

Anyhow, the predestined mate of the soul was a much more kittle
head of cattle to shoe behind when chosen for her beauty from among
the daughters of an aristocracy not celebrated for ugliness, and
manipulated by photographers into bestowing their eyes upon the
readers of the shiniest print that ever lay on the table of an hotel



The Mistake's son was the unfortunate means of causing the next day to
begin badly. For he rose early, and hastened to the plague-centre at
Putney whence Records flowed, to acquire in exchange for the condemned
piece of mere music either "The White-Eyed Musical Kaffir" or something
equally juicy. Naturally, he found the shop not open, at an hour when
sparse milk and eggs were the only things procurable. "Won't open till
ten," was the current opinion. Bob, disgusted, called on his friend
Tommy Eldridge, and found sympathy and consolation. Tommy had had the
"Musical Kaffir" for two days past, and the Kaffir had palled. He
would swop him for the "mere music" record and twopence. Bob closed
with the offer, but the bargain had taken time; and, as a consequence,
he burst in upon breakfast at half-past eight o'clock, and announced
his acquisition with an evident conviction that his hearers had been
awaiting his return with suspended breaths. His step-mother--or aunt;
either will do--confiscated his treasure promptly, and denounced
Science within the home-circle. Lectures, she said truly, were one
thing; houses another. Bob cited the indulgences shown to other
fellows by their parents in respect of phonographs, and Cat said that
Tommy Eldridge always had his till tea-time. Her mother told her not
to speak with her mouth full, and met Master Bob's half-inaudible "I
shall ask the Governor, anyhow!" with so harsh an enquiry, "What's that
you're saying, sir? Don't mumble to yourself!" that Bob evacuated his
position, and awaited reinforcements.

Marianne was making the common mistake of easing ill-temper by
attacking objects blameless of provoking it--blowing off steam through
wrong channels. At another time she would have been too lazy to open
a campaign against a phonograph. Now she found it a relief to pitch
in--Bob's phrase--and enlarged her scheme of operations. "If it wasn't
for your father," she said, "you would all be breakfasting upstairs."
Bob, who was afraid of her because she had boxed his ears for him
before now--and not so very long ago--only muttered a _sotto-voce_
"I'm a Rugby boy now, and that would be grandmother," expressing in
his simple, limited way his sense of acquired status, and the folly of
ignoring it. Marianne, who was not really the least angry with Bob, and
certainly didn't care twopence about the "Musical Kaffir," saw in this
suppressed defiance an outlet for her own high-pressure atmosphere,
and jumped at its inaudibility as though it were the head and front
of its offending. What was it he was mumbling?--she said again, with
growing anger. He wouldn't mumble if his father was here. Bob denied
this audibly, probably meaning that he had said nothing he would have
scrupled to say to his father. He felt indignant and injured; having,
indeed, meant no wrong, though his preoccupation about the glorious
phonograph had no doubt made his speech appear careless.

As ill-luck would have it, Challis, coming down at this moment to
breakfast, and not in a beaming good-humour himself, heard his wife's
indictment, and quickened his descent of the stairs. He resolved
at once on his usual policy whenever Marianne came to open warfare
with any of the family--namely, to take her part at the moment, for
discipline's sake, even supposing he had to make amends for it after by

"What is the matter?" said he magisterially, in the pause of silence
his entry created. It was more impressive than any amount of
excitement, and the younger little girl, Emmie, began to cry in a
terrified way. Nothing creates the formidable like fear, even when it
is only a small child's. The tension became full-blown, having--please
observe!--all grown out of nothing.

"You must ask your boy what he means, Alfred, and find for yourself.
All I can say is, that if I am to be spoken to so before the servants,
I cannot go on."

"How dare you speak to your mother so--eh? What do you mean by it?"
Challis's assumption of uncontrollable anger is affectation, merely
from motives of policy. He knows he can make it up with Bob, any time.

"_I didn't._" Bob no more knows what he is denying than his father
knows what he has accused him of. Never mind! Families don't quarrel
by the book. Bob is scarlet, for all that, and warms to his subject.
"_She_ took my Record, and it cost a shilling, and twopence over. _She_
wanted to prevent me...." But it remains untold, whatever it was, for
Marianne interrupts:

"You can hear for yourself how he calls me _she_. But do as you like,
Alfred!"--use of this name means a state of siege, observe!--"He is
your boy." After which disclaimer of a parentage no one had accused her
of, she repeats, "_She, indeed!_" to rub it in.

Challis at once perceived that he must either sacrifice poor Bob on the
altar of Peace, or be entangled in a hopeless discussion of rights and
wrongs with Marianne; _how_ hopeless, only experience such as his could
know! Action was necessary, and he pounced on Bob, seizing him by the
collar of his coat. "How _dare_ you speak so to your mother? How _dare_
you...." But stop! He could never ask him how he dared say _she_ to his
mother! Even Marianne would suspect him of making game of her. So he
had to pretend that his indignation had overwhelmed him. "Don't answer
me, sir," he shouted, shaking the culprit with a severity probably more
apparent than real. "Be off to your room directly, and stop there!" And
the child that was crying broke into a roar, to do honour to the way
the scene had climaxed. Bob vanished.

The roaring slowed down, and was gradually merged in
bread-and-marmalade. An intermediate period of sobs and bites,
overlapping, was filled out with public discomfort--an embarrassed
silence in which Challis's visible vexation was unfairly taken
advantage of by Marianne, to say, "You can't wonder at the child, when
you're so violent." Challis closed his lips lest he should speak;
but it came home to him, in some mysterious way, that he was in the
wrong. Men are; or if they are not, it comes to the same thing. For
a firm conviction in the mind of a woman with a strong will and a
proper spirit has all the force of fact. But Challis's acquiescence
in his guilt was accompanied by a growing resolution to take Bob to
the play, _coûte que coûte_, before he went back to school on Monday.
He had no misgivings about the boy's breakfast. He knew Harmood might
be relied on, as Bob was a favourite in that quarter. Probably a
compensation-breakfast was in store for Bob, later.

It was a bad moment for dealing with a female correspondent who is
"always sincerely yours." Had Challis been confident that an unopened
letter on the table was from one who was only "his faithfully"--though,
indeed, Rebekah could not have been much more to Isaac--or even "his
truly," he might have opened it confidently and made some excuse to
throw it carelessly along the table to his wife while he went on to his
last consignment of press-clippings. Or he might have done so equally,
however "sincerely his" Judith Arkroyd's signature said she was, if
only this stupid needless row had not been bred by Mrs. Challis's
Short Temper out of Bob's Phonograph. But then, in addition to the
sincerity with which Judith surrendered herself for ever, Challis knew
the letter would contain a repeat of her invitation of the day before
to his wife--probably to accompany him to Royd at Whitsuntide. So
he postponed opening all his letters, and made the fatal mistake of
hustling them together as though he valued them all alike. Marianne
knew better. Had she not seen him pause half a second over that
characteristic, unmistakable hand--a strong bold upright script that
seemed to speak its contempt in every line for the scratchy Italicisms
of its writer's ancestors? How was she to interpret its being packed
away out of her sight in this way? However, she wished the jury in the
court of her inner conscience to understand distinctly that she did not
care one straw what Titus did or did not do in respect of Grosvenor
Square--but within well-defined lines. For, apart from the degree to
which she relied on the social safeguards of that Square's aristocratic
pride, she had about her husband the feeling many students of nature
ascribe to married folk who are not ripening for divorce--the feeling
Geraint had about Enid, according to Tennyson. Marianne, for all her
tempersomeness and jealousy, loved and reverenced Challis too much
to dream he could be guilty of anything that would supply copy for a
modern novel.

A more frank nature than Marianne's would have said to him when he
pocketed his unopened letters, "What!--not read her letter? Well!--_I_
wouldn't write again, if I were she!" or some such pleasantry. Her
obdurate silence provoked him to say what might else have stopped on
his tongue's tip. It came just after the children had vanished to the
nursery. "I think, Marianne, considering that the boy is going back
to school on Monday, you might have.... Well!--you might have been a
little easier with him."

"I'm sorry he is going back to school; that is where he learns it all.
But I expected to be found fault with."

"Learns all what? What does he learn?" But the lady simply bristles
with silence in reply to this question, so intensely does it call
for no answer. Titus continues, letting it lapse: "I don't think you
remember that it was I that gave him the phonograph; at least, I gave
him leave to buy it."

"I don't remember anything about it, and I'm not going to try to. Of
course you gave it him, to encourage him against me. Very well, Alfred,
you take his part! Oh, _I_ know!--oh yes, I'm not his mother. But I
know what poor Kate would have said, if she had been here now." This
was rather a favourite position of Marianne's; only she never by any
chance filled out her claim to knowledge of what would have happened
under perfectly inconceivable circumstances. She kept details secret.

He thought of replying: "Poor Kate wouldn't be a fool, anyhow!" For he
was vexed about Bob. But he was ashamed to find how Time had changed
the face of things, that he should actually take exception to his own
statement on its merits! Wouldn't she? He wasn't at all sure. He gave
it up, and merely said: "We won't talk any more about it now. Where's
Bob's Record?"

This was unfortunate. He had better have swept his letters into his
pocket, with the hand that was waiting to do it, and carried them off
to his study. Instead, he waited for the confiscated Musical Kaffir.

"No--Alfred--it's no use! I won't give it you if Bob's to have it.
Horrible noise! Besides, look at the way he's been behaving!"

Challis gets visibly angry, or angrier. "You had much better give it
me, Marianne," he says, reaching out his hand for it. But he just
misses it, and it goes into Marianne's pocket; past recovery, without
concession on her part or physical force on his. All might have been
well if the dispute had not got to this point.

Things being thus, nothing remains for the story but to tell what
actually took place. The lady persisted. No, she would _not_ give it
up! Nothing would induce her. Appeals on moderate lines, to come,
to be reasonable, and so on, only made matters worse--tending, in
fact, towards admission of weakness on Challis's part. He became more
irritated, and in his annoyance at having to give up the point made an
unfortunate speech. "Well--keep it, then, if you're so obstinate. I
won't try to take it from you. But I tell you this, Marianne: there are
many husbands that would." His only meaning was to lay a little stress
on his own forbearance. He would not even try. But his speech sounded
like an assertion of male power against female weakness, as well as of
legal right.

The last was what stung Marianne. Her recent encounter with her
mother had thrown doubts on her right to a divorce. How could they be
reconciled with a husband's legal right to confiscate a White-Eyed
Musical Kaffir, or any record, for that matter? Her eyes flashed, and
she bit her lip as she turned to leave the room. A laugh that was
no laugh came of it, but scarcely speech, to speak of. All she said
was, "Because they could"--not very intelligibly. And then the nurse,
Martha, with some appeal through the just opened door, cut off the
interview, and imposed an every-day demeanour on both.

Challis went to his room to cool down. To him his wife's last words
were inexplicable, unless they meant that his physique was not his
strong point, and that he might not have recaptured the Musical Kaffir
so very easily. But that did not seem to ring quite true, neither.
Never mind!--he had to look at his letters. After all, it was not the
first time Marianne had been unintelligible.

But her exclamation had no relation whatever to what Bob chose to call
"vim." It was part of the new phase of thought connecting her mother's
views about the legitimacy of her own marriage-knot with Challis's
suggestion of a male domination that others--not he--might have
legitimately claimed. If she was not to be Titus's lawful wife--if she
was to be swindled by a trick of jurisdiction--at least let her have
the advantages of her freedom. Let there be no rubbish about a man's
right to rule, about a wife's duty to obey. Keep that sort of thing for
authenticated marriage-lines, if hers were to be flawed.

It was the vaguest hint of an idea--no more! A gleam not worth a
thought, except for what it grew to.

       *       *       *       *       *

A human creature with an unopened letter in its hand is raw material
for an Essay on the Past, Present, and Future. Rather dangerous things
for a thoughtful scribbler to touch on rashly! Better say as little
about them as possible.

That, or something like it, was Challis's thought as he stood in his
writing sanctum, reasonlessly hanging fire over the opening of Judith
Arkroyd's letter. Or was it that he wanted time to settle down after
the recent _émeute_? Some nervous characters--like his--shrink from a
clash of conditions, a discordance of consecutive surroundings, and are
prone to let each association die down before another takes its place.
Challis wanted to shake clear of his domesticities, maybe, before
transferring his thoughts to Judith and the invitation to Royd that he
knew her letter would repeat.

For whatever reason, he hung fire. And when in the end he opened the
letter, he did it slowly. He took a broad view of it; then placed it
on the table while he lighted a pipe, with a misgiving that there was
a flaw in it that would prevent his showing it to Marianne. When he
picked it up for deliberate revision, smoke-encircled, he found it read


  "Speech A. will suit me best--but never mind that if you feel like
  deciding on the other. Both enclosed back.

  "Remember about Whitsuntide. Only please do succeed in persuading
  Mrs. Challis to come this time. Shall I come and go down on my knees
  to her? It does seem such a shame that she should keep so much in
  the background. Tell her she _must_ come. I leave it to you--but do

    "Sincerely yours,
      "J. A."

What the dickens possessed Judith--not Miss Arkroyd, please!--to use
that unfortunate expression, "keep so much in the background"? Of
course, Grosvenor Square is the foreground of the Universe--a little
of Challis's style as an author outcropped here--but why not take it
for granted? Why, in a communication that was to be shown to a fretful
porcupine, need Grosvenor Square let the cat of its deep-rooted faith
in its position out of the bag of its good-breeding? That was Challis's
metaphorical standpoint. But really Judith very seldom sinned in this
way; scarcely ever, so Challis persuaded himself, trespassed on Mr.
Elphinstone's department.

Now, why need Mrs. Challis choose this exact moment to remind her
husband that his Fire Insurance expired on the twenty-fifth, within
fifteen days of which, et cetera? Why had he left his door on the jar,
so that she should look in, unannounced, just as he was deciding that
it would never do to show her this letter from Judith? He had no time
to reflect--barely enough to replace it in its envelope. And that,
after all, was the worst thing he could do. For Marianne knew the
envelope by heart already. The only way of accounting for things of
this sort is by imputing to Eblis a conscientious attention to detail.
He reaps his reward, as we know, the smallest interventions often
yielding a profit. This remark is suggested by Challis's decision,
after his wife had left the room, that the Devil was in it.

       *       *       *       *       *

Has all this incident of Bob's phonograph been worth recording?
Certainly it has. Because, coming as it did on the top of Mrs.
Steptoe's reminiscence, and Mrs. Challis's visit to Tulse Hill, it
blocked explanations by supplying reasons for the attitude of that
hill--reasons valid enough to throw dust in the eyes of Mrs. Challis.
The phonograph ruction was an effect, not a cause of ill-temper,
and poor Bob was really a victim, not a prime mover in it. It did
not matter much to him, for his release was not long delayed, and
reinstatement and compensation followed somehow. Besides, his father
took him to hear the _Barbiere di Siviglia_ before he went back to
school. But he refused to admit that Melba was any better than her
record would be, if he might only buy it for three bob.

By itself the Steptoe incident might have been explained. So might
Challis's correspondence with Judith, or might never have attracted
attention. It was the correlation of each to each, and the visit to
Tulse Hill, with the subtle touch of Charlotte Eldridge at critical
points, that provoked the dissension over the boy's harmless instrument
of torture, and gave the Devil his opportunity.

Mrs. Steptoe had never recognized the young man whom she remembered as
Harris, who, of course, was Challis himself. But the identification was
in the air--bound to be made sooner or later. Although Mrs. Challis
kept silence towards her husband, she lost no time in recurring to
the subject with Mrs. Steptoe. Her own penetration had gone very
little way, but Mrs. Eldridge had not been behindhand in finding out
that either Kate Verrall had been thrice married, or that the second
husband of the Brighton story was Challis himself. Charlotte would
not have made a bad female detective. "Don't be a goose!" said she to
her bewildered friend. "Don't give the woman any hints. Show her an
old photograph of your husband, and see if she doesn't recognize it."
Marianne did so, and it was straightway identified as that young Mr.
Harris. "But," said she, "that is Mr. Challis, before we were married."
Aunt Stingy, completely taken aback for a moment, recovered herself
with great presence of mind and laid claim to having said many things
she never had said the first minute she set eyes on Mr. Challis. In a
very little while she persuaded herself she had known him at once. But
she could not be induced to admit that she had got the name wrong; and
as it was quite unimportant that she should do so, both ladies agreed
to leave her unconvinced.

Mrs. Eldridge's suggestion was made at her own semi-detached residence,
a quarter of an hour's walk from the Hermitage, where she and Marianne
were reviewing the position some days after "it" occurred. The latter
had been dwelling on a suggestion of her mother's, a very stupid old
woman, that her husband had been, and still was, ignorant of poor
Kate's first marriage.

"_Ab_solutely impossible, dear!" said the authority. "Thing couldn't
be! Besides, she would have had to be twice a widow, in such a very
short time, if this young man Harris wasn't your husband. He _must_
have been." And then she added her detective suggestion, as recorded,
and the result removed all chance of acquittal on this score.



That Whitsuntide the may-trees were thick with bloom at Royd when
Marianne Challis once for all flatly decided not to accompany her
husband there. As for him, he couldn't possibly refuse to go merely
because she wouldn't. And when you particularly want to do anything,
intrinsic impossibility to refuse to do it is always welcome. So on
an early day in June Challis found himself again on the lawn at Royd;
not exactly breathing freely because Marianne had refused to join the
party, but distinctly glad that he was not called on to speculate as
to what she would have said or done in this contingency or that, or
which of the guests she would have fallen out with, or the extent to
which he would have been bound to try to lubricate the situation, or
the exact nature of the mess he would have made of it. Marianne had
decided the matter, in spite of _bona fide_ efforts on his part to
reverse her decision. He had made them _bona fide_, in the interest of
his conscience later on.

Anyhow, that was all settled, and he could inhale the aroma of the
may-trees and the lilacs, and identify the note of the wood-pigeon--he
was just bucolic enough for that--and pretend he meant blackbird
when he said nightingale, and, in short, betray his Cockney origin
_ad libitum_, while basking on the lawn in the first enjoyment of
his escape from the hoots and shrieks and petroleum-stench of town.
For even Wimbledon Common is not exempt. And nowhere can the music
and the silence--strange compound!--of the world of growing trees go
home more strongly to the jaded sense of a mere town-rat than in the
charmed circle of a park-girt home, with centuries of repose behind
and possible decades of conservation ahead. Not too many, because
that would savour of sentimentalism; and it is always our duty to be
prosaic in the interests of an advancing Civilization. Not too many,
in this case of Royd, because that would imply too great a delay in
the development of the wealth of coal that is known to exist below the
beech and cedar of the three-mile drive, and the woods of ash and oak
the deer and the keepers have pretty nearly kept to themselves since
the days of William the Socialist. And when the coal comes, what that
means in the end is--perhaps more people! Never mind what sort! Don't

Don't bother! That was Alfred Challis's view of the Universe in two
words as he settled down to the enjoyment of faultless afternoon tea,
which would be a little stronger presently for those who waited; of the
society of his hostess, the Rector, and two of the previous chits; of
whom one, the young soldier's idol of last September, was drawling with
sweetness, but without interest, to oblige. She was looking frequently
towards the house. Challis said to himself that she need not be uneasy,
because _he_ would come, all right enough, in due time. He knew
this, because they had ridden from Euston together, and talked about
tobacco the whole way, that being their only topic in common. When the
young man appeared, with the visible benediction on his head of two
ivory-backed hair-brushes with no handles--which Challis had seen when
a dressing-case was opened in the train for a moment--the young lady
received him ceremoniously, almost distantly. Never mind!--thought the
author to himself--they'll be romping like school-children the minute
we oldsters are turned off.

There was no one else yet, of all a large house-party; nearly the
same as in September, said Lady Arkroyd. She apologized for this to
Mr. Challis, who replied that he, too, was nearly the same as in
September, if not quite, and that it was a coincidence. He hoped his
identity would be as welcome to the house-party as its would be to
him. Lady Arkroyd smiled acquiescence without analysis. She remained
gracefully on the surface of things, confident that all would go well
below it in the hands, for instance, of an eminent, if sometimes
puzzling novelist. Lady Arkroyd had not the insight of Judith, Challis
perceived. He indulged a disposition to detect insight in Judith.
_Geist_ in that quarter made their relation--not that they had any,
mind you!--plausible and warrantable.

There may have been concession to some such relativity in her
ladyship's remark that Judith would not be back till dinner. Challis
fell flat over it, not knowing whether he ought to say, "Cheer up!--I
can wait," or shed tears. Athelstan Taylor relieved the position
by saying that he hoped Miss Arkroyd had stopped on her way at the
Rectory, as he wanted her to see the little girl. Then her ladyship
bestowed on Challis, for a snack, as it were, the odd chit, who was at
a loose end; devised her to him by name, and went back to a talk on
local games at Providence with the Rector. The chit's name, however
improbable it may seem, was Lady Henrietta Mounttullibardine, and she
did not look as if she could live up to it. She coloured at intervals,
and seemed hushed. Challis distinctly saw her want to say something
several times, and give it up. He encouraged her tenderly, and in
time she confessed that she really wanted to know whether it was
Pepperstraw, in Challis's last novel, that hit upon the idea of using
digitalis, or Bessie. He told her, and she retired on her information,
in awe at having spoken to a live author. Challis could listen
undisturbed to the conversation of the Parson and their hostess.

"There is something very engaging about the child," said the latter.
"Of course, she has that defect. The mouth is too large for beauty. But
she cossets up to you nicely, and opens her eyes wide. The eyes are
fine in themselves, and remind me of ... oh dear!--what was that girl's
name, now, in Somersetshire? I can't recollect the least." Athelstan
Taylor felt helpless, and was wondering if it would be legitimate to
say never mind, when her ladyship decided that it didn't matter, and
continued: "Sir Murgatroyd is quite of our opinion, that it would never
do to let the child lapse."

"Never do at all!" said the Rector. "Indeed, even if the child were
not there, I should be very reluctant to lose sight of the father. I
suspect, too, that the people at the cottage--where I put him to stay,
you know--wouldn't thank me for taking him away. It's very curious to
me how a man with such qualifications for being an encumbrance can
manage to make himself welcome at all. But he's become very popular
there, especially with old Margy. She says it's like a clock to hear
him tell. I think she means that he goes on chatting in a pleasant,
easy kind of way. Sea stories, you know--that sort of thing!"

"Didn't you say he was inclined to give trouble?--they _are_
troublesome sometimes." She referred, no doubt, to the _intransigeant_
pauper population, and their natural love of independence combined with
outdoor relief.

"I didn't mean exactly troublesome in that sense. Troublesomely averse
to giving trouble, perhaps I should have said. He never said anything
to me, but old Margy is in his confidence. It seems that that sister of
his--the Steptoe woman, you know? ... oh yes!--_you_ know--the woman
whose husband was drowned in the lock--the _delirium tremens_ man...."

"_Delirium tremens_ man?" said her ladyship dimly. And then suddenly,
"Oh yes, I know, of course," almost in one word. Challis listened with
stimulated attention, and Mr. Taylor continued:

"Well!--she's Jim Coupland's sister, you see--and it seems that she
used to twit him with eating the bread of idleness before he took to
the retail match-trade. He considers that he is eating the bread of
idleness now. Perhaps he is. But he is submitting, until he is strong
on his legs again--that's his expression. Besides, we have made a
composition, and half his keep is to be deducted from his savings.
By-the-bye...." The Rector paused, with recollection on his face.

Lady Arkroyd's speech is apt to have a superseding character--to pass
by lesser folks' unimportant remarks. "I liked the father at the
Hospital," she says indifferently. "I hope the child isn't going to be
delicate." Mr. Taylor was arrested long enough to say, oh dear no!--oh
no, it was or would be all right as far as that went--and then left it,
whatever it was, to finish his own beginning.

"I was just going to say what an odd chance it was that Mr. Challis's
housekeeping should have absorbed Mrs. Steptoe. How does the woman
answer, Challis?" For, as we have heard, these two gentlemen had become
fairly well acquainted last September, in spite of the cloth of the
one and the predisposition of the other--a better word for the case
than "antipathies," which had almost crept into the text. One or two
country-walk chats had ended in Challis giving the Rev. Athelstan
practical absolution for his black stock and silk waistcoat, and the
latter reflecting much on the figments of mediæval creed and formulary
that make a gulf between so many intellects with concord at the root,
and play into the hands of their common enemy, the Devil. Why was
he glad that his friend Gus was safe in London dabbling in incense,
coquetting with Holy Water, preaching Immaculate Conceptions, and not
letting his left hand know that his right hand had renounced the Bishop
of Rome--when a visitor like Challis might accrue at any moment at Royd
Rectory, as per promise given eight months ago? Why?--simply because
he felt that the bridge of his own liberality, however long the span
of it, was not enough to cover the great gulf! And there was Ahriman,
chuckling all the while!

"I am given to understand that Mrs. Steptoe is a good plain cook," was
Challis's answer to the Rector's question. Something in the manner
of it seemed to throw doubt on his good faith. Otherwise, why seek
confirmatory evidence, as his hearers seemed to do?

"I suppose you dine at home?" said the Rector, going to the point.

"I don't judge so much by that. It wouldn't be fair to do so,
because I gather that in our house the flues don't act, and the best
kitchen-coal at twenty shillings has no burn in it, and goes to
cender in no time. Also we have no saucepans the right size. Also
our greengrocer supplies us with potatoes which on peeling turn out
irregular polyhedrons. So it doesn't do to be biassed by what we get to
eat. But I am convinced she is a good plain cook."

Lady Arkroyd was accepting all Challis said in the spirit of Bradshaw.
A territorial lady knows nothing of the small domesticities of any
middle class. The Rector, perceiving a danger ahead--a new-born
interest in the peculiar potatoes obtaining in suburban villas--headed
Lady Arkroyd off just as she had begun, "What very curious pota...!"
without a smile.

"Challis isn't in earnest," said he. "It's only his chaff." Her
ladyship said, "Oh!" and looked puzzled--awaited enlightenment. Challis
laughed, admitting jurisdiction. But he pleaded in extenuation of his
offence that it was difficult to fight against the conviction that Mrs.
Steptoe was a good plain cook--whatever direct evidence there was to
the contrary--in the face of her apron and the material of her dress,
her punctual attendance at chapel, her handwriting and its blots, her
arithmetic and its totals. She really had all the qualities of a good
plain cook, except the bald and crude ability to do plain cookery--a
thing no one who looks below the surface ever bothers over.

"I'm afraid the good woman's a bit of a humbug," was Athelstan Taylor's
conclusion. It was welcomed by the lady, as a relief to the necessity
for smiling in a well-bred way--a Debretticent way, call it--while
queer arrivals from below uttered paradoxes on Olympus.

Judith might be late; she was at Thanes. Challis pretended he hadn't
known this. But he knew well enough that the young lady had forgiven
the Castle, because they were going to have theatricals; and she, with
an imputed experience, had been petitioned to accept the principal
part. All this was in her last letter, written to Challis at his club.
It had also told him that William Rufus, her brother, would not be at
Royd for a few days, as he was busy in town over the Great Idea, which
was going to be a very great Idea indeed, as some men had come forward
and were going to put a good deal of Capital into it. Challis had said,
"Dear me!--how like!..." and had not finished the sentence.

A little thing occurred that amused the novelmonger's heart and
stirred his sympathies. When he began talking with his hostess and
the Rector, he had turned his back on the chit and the young soldier.
When, as the Rector's departure provoked dispersal, he looked their
way again--behold!--they had vanished, as by magic. "I think," said
the second chit, "they have gone for a walk to Fern Hollow." And
thenceforward there was a consciousness about this young couple and
their destiny between Mr. Challis and the second chit. For had she not
detected his thought about them, when his eyes looked for them and
found them not?

The other visitors, some of whom were as identical with those of
September as circumstance permits in such a case, were scattered about
elsewhere, subject to well-grounded confidences that they would be back
to dinner. And the only important variation of identity among these was
that one had become a Confirmed Christian Scientist. Challis didn't
know whether he was expected to be glad or sorry.

He became somehow aware that her ladyship was going to drive to Thanes
Castle accompanied by the second chit, to bring Judith back. Also that
he was not going to be asked to accompany her. "_What_ is Mr. Challis
going to do if we all forsake him?" spoken with a sweet smile, left no
doubt on the point. Mr. Challis had a letter he must write; so that was

"You haven't got a letter to write, Challis," said the Rector at the
front gate, to which both had walked in company. "Come some of the
way with me, and talk as profanely as you like. I won't go fast." For
the resolute stride of a pedestrian had made Challis cry for mercy in

"Yes--it was a lie about the letter," said he. "But it was good and
unselfish in me to tell it. Saved bother, in fact! Can you wait two
minutes while I put on walking-boots?"

"I can wait five, luckily; which I take it is your meaning." He waited
six, beguiling them by letting the gate swing to and fro, and noting
what a long time it took to reach equilibrium. "Wait a second," said
he to Challis, arriving booted at the end of the fourth experiment.
"Let's see how long it means to go on!" And then, having settled the
point, the two were walking along the great avenue through the murmur
of the beeches, conscious of a dispute between the woodlands and the
hay-fields as to which was adding the sweeter flavour to the air of

Neither spoke at first. Then Challis said, as though still thinking
over recent words: "Why 'as profanely as I liked'? I am a Profane
Author, certainly, in the old sense of the word. Was that what you

"Why--yes! That is, if that was the sense you used the word in the last
time we talked together, in September. Do you remember? You said you
always had diabolical promptings towards profanity in the presence of
anything sacred. Then you said my cloth was conventionally sacred, and
that made matters worse."

"I remember. We were getting very candid. You said you liked it."

"So I did. I said what I said just now because I wanted to go on where
we left off. We were just going to quarrel healthily when Mr. Brownrigg
pointed out that in the millennium of Graubosch the impious man would
have no cause for despondency. The class of Insulated Ideas, evolved
from the theory of Metaphysical Checks, will at once provide the
Dogmatist with materials, and the Blasphemer with an object to give his
attention to...."

"I remember. If I belonged to the latter class, I shouldn't be a
Grauboschite. Too much like Temperance Drinks, that make you feel as
if you were drunk...." Challis arrested his own speech, as if he had
had enough of triviality, and spoke seriously. "I want you to tell me
something, without any reserve."

"Go on. I will, if I can."

"You read one of my books, I know ... what!--two more since
September!--fancy that!... Well--what was your impression? As to what
we are speaking of, I mean. Did it strike you that I made light of
subjects usually held sacred?"

"It struck me that you did not hold them sacred. I do not mean a
syllable more than I say. Your writing, so far as I have read it, is

"I have wished to keep it so. Why should any author try to disturb or
unsettle beliefs that he cannot replace--even by a Metaphysical Check?
You remember what I said to you last year, just the other side of
where the brook runs across the road on its own account, by the little
footbridge?... well!--it was quite true. I have no antipathy to any
beliefs of other people, having none of my own. I merely take exception
to the recitation of Creeds."

"Even when the reciter is free to choose silence."

"If he stands up it comes to the same thing."

"He needn't unless he likes. At least, in my Church."

"Then suppose he _does_ believe some of it, is he to jump up and down?
There must be what my Bob calls a good few persons who believe the
first seven and the last four words of the Creed ... well!--the regular
Creed--you know which one I mean ... and you could hardly expect them
to sit still all through the business part of the recitation and cut in
at the end."

"You're only half serious, Challis. Your inveterate propensity to quips
of thought and paradox, as it is called, misleads you and spoils your
talk. Surely a declaration of faith is an intrinsic necessity in a
communion! How can it exist otherwise?"

"You must keep the disbelievers out--is that it?" Challis thought it
time for a cigar. When he had got it lighted, he resumed: "Yes!--as a
means of constructing communions, Creeds are invaluable. The communion
that had none would be too big. As for me, I never can help thinking of
those lines:

    "'One all too sure of God to need
    That token to the world without
    Of homage paid by faith to doubt,
    The recitation of a Creed.'

... Where do they come from, did you say? 'In Memoriam,' I suppose."

"Can't recollect them!... I wish you would tell me what you understand
by the word 'believe.'"

"I'm very doubtful. It just depends on how I use it. When I tell my
wife that I believe her letter has gone to the Post, my meaning is
clear. I mean that I didn't see it on the hall-table when I last
looked. When I say that I believe I am engaged on Thursday, it is
equally unmistakable. I mean that I don't want to meet the So-and-so's
at your house, morning-dress. But when I say, as I am apt to do, that
I believe in God Almighty, I do so with a misgiving that my meaning is
not intelligible to myself. Perhaps I regard my speech as a civility to
the absolutely Unknown--I really couldn't say. Or it may be I only use
it in fulfilment of a convention which, so long as I comply with its
conditions, binds all the other signatories not to bother."

"You always make me think you are going to be serious, and then you go
off at a tangent. I never have any doubt what I mean by the word...."

"What, for instance?"

"Whatever my mind does not question, I believe."

"Then the Creed might be reworded, 'I don't and won't question the
existence of God the Father,' and so on. Somehow it doesn't sound

"Because it seems to imply that the question is an open one."

"And saying you believe it doesn't? I'm agreeable, if you're satisfied.
But, then, you see, I stop away from Church, by hypothesis. And I
should do so just the same if the re-wording were made. Nokes and
Stokes and Styles and Brown and Thompson in a row, shouting that they
didn't and wouldn't question the existence of God Almighty, would keep
me out just as much as if they said they 'believed' in Him."

They walked on a little in silence, the Rector very thoughtful.
Presently he said, rather as one who comes to a sudden conclusion: "My
definition of the word doesn't cover it. One means more...."

"And doesn't exactly know what," said Challis.

"Precisely. But isn't it possible that the common use of a word long
received among many people may, from the habit of its usage, acquire a
meaning to each and all alike, and yet continue to baffle definition?"

"Very possible indeed, and certain. I know a case in point. I went to a
sort of spiritualistic _séance_ once, and in the course of operations
the audience was requested to _will_ powerfully. To my surprise, all
the _habitués_ seemed prepared to comply as a matter of course. One
young man said, 'How?' but was sat upon by public opinion. I heard him
after ask a friend, 'How did _you_ will'? And the reply was: 'I held
my breath and caught firmly hold of four-and-sixpence in my breeches
pocket. How did you?' He answered that he had shut his eyes tight and
thought of his toes. But all the faithful--these two were outsiders,
like myself--seemed to know what to do; and did it right, I suppose,
because an accordion played. They had found out what _willing_ meant,
by habit and telepathic interchange. Probably believers know in the
same way what is meant by belief. But it's no use outsiders holding
their breath and thinking of their toes."

This sort of chat continued till the two reached the Rectory. It is
given in the story to throw light on the friendship that sprang up
between two such opposites, or seeming opposites.

When one walks part of the way home with a friend, Euclid's axioms get
flawed sometimes, for the whole of the way is no greater than its part.
Challis went all the way to the Rectory, of course; said he wouldn't
come in, of course; said he mustn't sit down, of course; did so, of
course; and kept his eye on his watch, of course. Having complied with
all forms and precedents, he started to walk back.

His short visit had given him odds and ends of human things to think
of. That was the Rector's sister-in-law, that dry lady who had made
him feel tolerated; and that other one who had begged him not to throw
his cigar away was only an old friend. Challis was sorry the reverse
was not the case, for the Rector's sake. He felt that the old friend
might be kissed with advantage to the kisser, while the officially
permissible peck of the dry lady's cheek could not be a source of
satisfaction to any connoisseur. It was a thought entirely on his
friend's behalf--he himself was indifferent. However, he might be
wrong. The dry lady seemed very congenial to the two little girls,
her nieces, who, it appeared--hurriedly, for his visit was short--had
engaged a nurse for their baby. Challis suspected that a dispute
between the two children, which the dry lady peremptorily silenced,
turned on a question of paternity. Which of them was to be the baby's
papa? It seemed late in the day for considering the point, thought
Challis. The oldest sister was _always_ the papa, said that claimant;
and confirmed it by adding, "Eliza Ann says so, and she knows." The
colloquy was half-heard, but this seemed the upshot.

That little Eliza Ann in the blue cotton dress--the nurse in this
drama--was, of course, the little girl whose mouth was too large for
beauty; Mrs. Steptoe's brother's child. How small the world was! "So is
the kid herself, for that matter," was Challis's reflection thereon; a
typical instance of the whimsical way his mind twisted things. He would
have said it aloud with perfect gravity to any hearer, had he had one.

She was a nice little wench, anyhow, the nurse, with her great big eyes
and her Cockney-up-to-date accent. Also Challis had noted her quickness
in repeating words just heard. "The biby is on no attount to be wyked,"
she had said, with an earnest sense of the reality of her part. "_O si
sic omnes!_" Challis had thought to himself.

But the nurse forgot herself the moment after, saying: "I must sow this
biby to my daddy, tomollow--maten't I?" However, she resumed her part
at once, on assurance given. She was certainly to show that baby to her
daddy. And he would feel it, and see how fat it was. Thereon Challis
had remembered what had till then escaped his mind, that Mrs. Steptoe's
brother was eyeless and half legless. Oh, what an indurated baby, for
an appreciator dependent on touch alone! And, oh, the stony glare of
its eyes fixed on the zenith, when roused from sleep by a practicable
wire in its spine!

A man with a permanent source of disquiet always lights on something
to remind him of it, go where he may. Challis had succeeded on his way
from London in persuading himself that the warmth of his own farewell
to Marianne had been more than skin-deep, whatever hers was; and had
felt that he could justifiably stand his own self-reproaches over, and
enjoy the day that was passing, without remorse. And then what must he
needs come across, of all things in the world, but a sister-in-law! Not
one certainly resembling in the least the sister-in-law of a decade
past, whom she reminded him of! There was nothing in this one of the
girl who then, in the language of Oliver, bestowed herself like a ripe
sister, and was accepted with a sense that she more than made up for a
too mature mother-in-law, and put the advantages of marriage outside
all question. Nothing of Marianne then or now, for that matter, in the
dry lady personally; but much to remind him of his own case in the way
she had taken over the two little girls, much as Marianne had taken
over Bob.

Was it his fault--the whole thing? For there was a "whole thing" by
now. He could not disguise that whole thing from himself, and that
it was a thing that had somehow grown, slowly and surely, since the
first days when he and Marianne were rejoicing together in the dark
front parlour of the Great Coram Street house over a letter just come
from the publishers, Saxby's, Ltd., which accepted "The Spendthrift's
Legacy," and named terms which led to a calculation that success,
followed by a book per annum equally successful, would yield two
thousand a year; and to castles in Spain, the building of which would
have cost that sum twice over.

Or, if not from that hour exactly, it had grown since the days of the
success that followed. It was hard to say when it began. Was he aware
of it--of "the whole thing"--when Marianne refused to go with him
to Lady Horse's because the Honourable Mrs. Diamonds had been rude
to her first, and encouraged her after? These were not the ladies'
real names, but everything else held good. Marianne had then said
that once was quite enough, and she knew all along exactly how it was
going to be, ever since that woman in skirts had given herself such
airs--a reference to a previous delinquent. Oh dear!--now suppose the
Honourable Diamonds had not "encouraged" her--how then? Anyhow, Challis
could see now, too late, what he ought to have done. He ought to have
taken bulls by the horns, and bits in his teeth, and opportunities by
their forelocks, and said flatly that _he_ wouldn't go to Lady Horse's
unless Marianne came, too. It was his going that once without her that
had done it! And all because of the confounded good-nature of that
diamond woman, who must needs go _encouraging_ her. That was what hurt
the most, a thousandfold. The Diamonds might have stood on Marianne's
lilac silk all day long, and broken that little crickly man's arm with
her fan, if she chose, and her victim would have forgiven it. But
when she came off, she scarcely apologized. And then, after that, to
_encourage her_!

Still, in those days he was not aware of "the whole thing" that had
"come about." Suspicion that something was amiss was followed by belief
that the something had melted away. Intermittent phases succeeded,
now and then with an appearance of concession to Society on Marianne's
part; occasional acceptances of invitations to houses where Challis
innocently hoped all had gone well, till he found himself driving home
with a hurt and silent lady, and came to know that the very things he
had fondly fancied almost angelic ebullitions of sweetness in their
hostess were really only the woman's impertinence; and that what
seemed to him good-humoured informality in her daughters was nothing
but that sort of hoydenishness that seemed to be thought the proper
thing nowadays. He could recall many incidents of this description, yet
none that seemed to warrant the evolution of married discomfort--of
disintegrated family life--that kept on gaining slowly, slowly on his
resistance to it.

It had intensified, he knew, since his first visit to Royd in
September. It was mixed up with his professional association with
Judith Arkroyd. It _was_ a professional relation, and nothing else.
He called the ancestral beeches of the family to bear witness to the
utter impossibility of its being anything else. If he, Alfred Challis,
ex-accountant, ephemeral scribbler of an empty day, was conscious
of a certain warmth in his admiration for that lady, that was _his_
concern--not even the business of the beech-trees, or the new young
fern he was treading underfoot. It would remain a buried secret,
unknown to all men, most of all to Judith herself. He would even, as
an act of discipline, never think of it but to question its reality,
as he did now. It was to die, and should do so. At least he could keep
his own counsel about this soul-quake, heart-quake, self-quake--call
it what you will!--admitting that one existed. If he failed to do so
successfully, would he be the first man that had ever loved two women,
and been forced to hide away his love for one from the other and
herself? But he was obliged to admit that this was the first time he
had allowed the word "love" to be heard in his intercourse with himself
on this subject, even as an hypothesis.

He was relieved to observe the pleasure he felt in the thought that,
at any rate, Polly Anne need never know anything about it. _She_ need
never have any real cause for a moment's disquiet. Of course, any
_groundless_ suspicions she might choose to nourish were entirely
her own look-out. He could only recognize those that had a warrant
in reality. She should not be provided with materials for any such.
Of course, Polly Anne _was_ Polly Anne, after all, and her happiness
must always be a first consideration with him. Think of all their old
days together! Think of his hours of acute misery, when that young
monkey Emmie, five years ago, must needs imperil her mother's life
and her own by her indecent haste to see the World. Think, never too
often, of his gratitude to her when she took him, a mere derelict, in
tow, ten years since, and piloted him into safe waters. Think as much
as possible of her many nursings of him--of the many pipes they had
virtually had together, though he was the operative smoker--of the
many welcomes he had looked forward to. And as little as possible of
the shortness of temper that had certainly grown upon her, but was
very likely only a phase of health that would one day pass away and
be forgotten. Remember that confounded little monkey--bless her! of
course--and be forbearing to her mother.

There was one thought about her that twisted and tortured this
victim of over-self-examination beyond all reason. Look how utterly,
how almost terribly, Polly Anne had replaced poor Kate! Surely the
Great Unknown had made a record in cruelty when he created Love the
Monopolist! Why feel shocked because, after Kate had ceased, her sister
had taken over her inheritance so thoroughly? Besides, this entire
supersession of poor Kate showed him how really devoted he was to
Marianne, and how safe he and she were from intrusions from without.
It never struck him as strange that he should be seeking for assurance
that he loved his own wife.

It probably would have done so, in time, if his reflections had not
been interrupted at this point. The sound of the carriage--with Judith
in it, no doubt--returning from Thanes. Saladin, the huge boarhound,
coming on the scene first, examined Mr. Challis without any sign of
recognition, and seemed to decide that he had nothing contraband about
him. Then he waited till the carriage he had charge of came in sight,
and trotted on. The import of his demeanour was that an appointment
awaited him at the house, but that he could find time to see that
carriage and pair to the door--if only it wouldn't dawdle!

Whether it was from consideration for Saladin, or because it was
haughty, that carriage hardly stopped. Its pause was barely long enough
to say, through the mixed and hurried inspirations of its occupants,
that it could bring itself to accommodate Mr. Challis on the front
seat. Mr. Challis, alive to the importance of not sitting down on
miscellanea, preferred walking; for all that the miscellanea professed
readiness to be quite happy elsewhere. It was only a step to the house
now. And Saladin was waiting. All right--go on!

Why should Challis feel something akin to pique because that carriage
and pair took him at his word and went on, all right? Why need that
unfortunate propensity of the foot-passenger beset him, the vice of
mind that ascribes every action of a two-horse carriage to aristocratic
pride? Perhaps he wanted to file an accusation against something or
someone, and was not ready to admit that Judith's majestic smile and
head-inclination had anything to do with it. Anyhow, the rest of his
step to the house associated itself with a warm forgiving feeling
towards Polly Anne the tiresome, the miffy; and an intensified sense
of outsideness as to his own social whereabouts; the insidedness being
that of a fold with Sir Bernard Burke for shepherd, and Rouge Dragon
and Garter King-at-arms for collie dogs.

He arrived at the house to find the world flocking to dress for dinner,
or doing it already, out of sight. Flying cordialities from members
of the family, unseen till then, or visitors known to him previously,
intercepted him in his flight up the great staircase; but innuendoes
from well-informed contemporaries that dinner was at a quarter to eight
justified abruptness and pointed to opportunities for explanation.
Challis escaped to his room, and found his external self of the evening
to come--all but the head and hands he had on--laid out upon the bed,
waiting patiently to be scrambled into in a hurry, and have its studs
and buttons sworn at.

But he was not destined to be the last in the drawing-room, although he
thought it could not be otherwise. For when he arrived at the foot of
the stairs, it was with a consciousness on him of having heard, as in
a waking-dream, the sweetest possible drawl to the following effect:
"It was awl yaw fault. It wawsn't mine one bit," and a male reply, with
the climax of human contentment in every syllable, "I'm jolly glad--it
lasted so much longer?" and then a headlong rush to a chaotic toilette.

And that young man's appearance seven minutes later, looking as
if butter wouldn't melt in his mouth, would have done honour to a
lightning transformationist. But the distant manner of the guilty
couple was carried too far, as everybody guessed all about it, and
would have done so even without the furtive looks they exchanged from
either end of a long table.



The story has scarcely room for anything that was said or done at Royd
until two days after the reunion that closed the last chapter. All it
wants may be told in a few words. Challis was sulky all the rest of the
first evening, and would not admit it to himself. Judith was dignified,
glittering, and universal; talked to everybody, whereas Challis wanted
her to talk to him. She was judicious, no doubt--woman of the world,
and so on--but was it necessary to carry it so far? Surely Marianne in
the background safeguarded the situation?

The party made itself at home rapidly, having begun at an advantage
from previous experience. On the third day after its arrival any
two members of it were ripe for arranging their day in each other's
pockets, and treating their hosts as a sort of lay inn-keepers of
benevolent dispositions, but quite negligible. Challis had taken the
latter at their word when they said he was to stop in his room and
write all day if he liked. He had brought his MS. of "Estrild" with
him, and had made up his mind to complete it. The play would have its
value, even if the Estrild he had set his heart on, and had written the
part for, decided on not attempting it.

For a doubt had crept into the scheme as it stood when Challis paid
that visit to the sprained-ankle patient in Grosvenor Square. Something
had influenced Judith since then; probably some passage of arms with
her family. At least, so Challis surmised. But she had told him next
to nothing, so far. Her passing lameness had occasioned a break in
tentative readings of the play, in which others than herself had taken
part; and during this interruption it had been evident that the young
lady's ambition to fly in the face of Society and family tradition had
undergone a change. But the invitation to Royd at Whitsuntide remained
in black and white, and could not be gainsaid.

Therefore, Challis had found himself on that well-remembered lawn, as
recorded in our last chapter, at the time appointed, with no misgiving
on him at the moment as to the cordiality of his welcome. Nothing had
happened to create one. But as the hours grew to a day, and then to
days, he began to be conscious somehow that his hosts had towards him a
feeling they were too well-bred to show; and not only that, but that an
indefinable discomfort had arisen between himself and Judith. Something
had flawed the relation that each called friendship, and refrained from
speculating about any other designation for. He had recognized this
consciousness for the first time at that moment beside the carriage.
And the reason he so readily accepted her ladyship's permission to
indulge his inspirations _ad libitum_ in his own room was that he felt
it was a sort of release to him to do so. Was it a release for them
also?--for Judith?

If this visit was to be no more than the fulfilment of an invitation
to which his hosts stood pledged, let him work it out like a term of
penal servitude, and go his ways at the end of it. But he chafed at the
impossibility of challenging the position in any way. How in the name
of common-sense could he say to the Baronet or her ladyship, "I see
through your persistent amiability of manner that your feelings towards
this eminent author are not the same to a nicety as they were six
months since, and I should like to review the situation with you, with
a view to the removal of misunderstandings"?

Still less was it possible to say to Judith, "You know that an
indescribable change of manner has come over you in your demeanour
towards your humble admirer, and he would give worlds to know the
cause of it. But, in consideration of a certain effect you have upon
him, of a certain exaltation he experiences in your presence, a
certain depression at your absence, a very certain exasperation at any
suspicion of a slight to him in favour of another male, he much doubts
his powers of self-command through an explanatory interview. So he
cannot ask questions. But if you could, with your womanly tact, frame
some communication that would let him know what-the-anything it is all
about, he would feel very grateful."

The position was a delicate one, with that necessity in the background
for locking his heart up tight, for the sake of Polly Anne, of
whom--odd though it may seem--he never lost sight. Only he never
actually formulated an admission of its delicacy. The nearest approach
to it was when a sudden image of Mr. John Eldridge flashed across his
mental bioscope, shut one of its eyes, and said, "Rather ticklish,
Master Titus--eh?"

Very few people will understand the odd freaks of Challis's mind, but
it is useless to write this story and omit them.

There was only one thing he was absolutely clear about. Nothing
the word _dishonourable_ would apply to was admissible into any
hypothetical drama his mind would construct, to cut the--rather
hypothetical, please!--Gordian knot of his relation to Judith.
He pictured himself to himself as potentially Don Juan, Captain
Macheath, Silenus, or the late Prince Regent, as far as his normal
ideas of morality went; but _he_ was one thing, mind you, and Judith
was another! She, being what she was, made any speculations in that
department irrelevant. They did not arise from any question before the
House. Besides--her position! Think of it!

He never contrasted his estimation of Judith now with his rough
valuation of her at first sight. Just a handsome woman--the fine
contents of an expensive, well-cut dress--a fit mate for fifty thousand
a year, deer-forests in Scotland, houses in Park Lane, opera-boxes,
and newspaper paragraphs! If he had done so, might he not have
suspected, in the exaggeration of thought that placed her above and
beyond suspicion, an element of danger more formidable to him than the
imaginary laxity he was so ready to credit himself with. He might at
least have seen the moral imbecility of what was virtually an appeal
to Judith's self-respect and integrity to protect him from his own
weakness. Perhaps he had subcutaneous misgivings of the correctness of
his insight into her character when he decided that it would never do
to tempt confidences of a personal nature.

If a friendship between a man and a woman is to remain contented with
itself, seeking neither promotion nor dissolution, there must not be
present in it, on the part of either, any longing to gain power over
the other. Our own belief is that if Miss Arkroyd's self-love had not
felt hurt at what seemed to her a too ready acceptance by Challis of
the position in which a slight change in her manner had placed him, he
might have paid his visit to Royd, gone back home, and maybe pretended
to himself that the still waters of his inner soul had never been
ruffled by Judith or any other fashionable enchantress. But a woman's
pleasure in the power of her beauty is like that of dram-drinking.
She may "swear off," as Rip Van Winkle did, a thousand times--but
she will go back and do it again, or die for it. How can she help
it, when a glance, a movement, a slight inexplicable intonation of
her voice, is enough to bring back to bondage the idiot that thinks
he has broken free? Why should she try to help it, from the point of
view of self-interest, when she believes--as Judith did, without
misgiving--that she can throw her end of the chain away at any moment,
and wash her hands of that booby, and go on to another?

Judith believed her position was security itself, and was a little
piqued at the readiness with which Challis had jumped at the permission
to withdraw into his own sanctum. Whatever behaviour of her own had
influenced this readiness, she resented it as an interruption to an
assertion of power she was beginning to feel herself entitled to. Like
the dram-drinker, she could not do without it. So, after three days of
cordial civility, too dexterous to indite as a change of front, and
equally dexterous postponement of Estrild for some future discussion,
the young lady, without explanation, resumed the half-familiar,
half-patronizing tone Challis had become accustomed to in Grosvenor

Some three days later it happened that this household decided on a
sort of picnic known to it as "half-a-mile-off tea." A houseful of
able-bodied servants made this festivity, which was exactly what its
name implies, easily possible. All the most critical tea-drinker
could want had gone before, and the house-party, or most of it, was
straggling across the parkland to Fern Hollow, the place appointed.
Challis and Judith were accidentally last.

A chance left him the only hearer of a voice dropped languidly for the
benefit of his ears alone. "Let these noisy people go on in front,
Scroop," said its owner to him; and then, in reply to his amused look
at hearing himself so addressed, "I knew I should do it in the end,
because of the newspaper reviews. Do you mind my calling you Scroop now
and then, by accident?"

"Nothing can please me better," said he. "Biggest compliment you can
pay me!" It started the soul-brush afresh, and he had to settle whether
it was to be submission or protest. He fancied he could manage the
latter even though he acknowledged the voice, that continued, "Suppose
we go by Trout Bend! It's nonsense hurrying. The tea can wait. Or
we can have fresh made." This was concession, both in the proposed
_tête-à-tête_, and something in the familiarity of treatment, which
seemed to savour more of the Hermitage than Grosvenor Square. But it
was only the simple vocabulary common to all tea-worlds; they are above
class distinctions.

"Suppose we do," said Challis. And they did.

Trout Bend is a small incident in Geography. But it has a quality in
common with--for instance--the Arctic Circle. It is always the same.
Its lower segment has the same merry ripple over the same stones, and
its upper one spreads to the same pools, that foster here and there
each year the very selfsame bulrushes, to all appearance. And in the
middle of the best one--the one, that is, that lends itself best to
self-deception on the part of the fisherman--the fish that leaped last
year, when you were looking at it and wondering how deep it was in
the middle, does it again, and doesn't bore you. Because if he did,
you wouldn't watch for him a third time. Only then he _doesn't_ do it
again, and that does bore you. And where the pools end and the ripples
begin are the same infatuated stepping-stones, that think they can bear
your weight, and can't. And then you become spell-bound on them as they
wobble, and are rescued by extended walking-sticks from either side,
and get across quite dry, or only a very little water in one shoe.

It was all the same this time, certainly, as when Challis was here in
the autumn; all but a black swimming-bird, who had nodded a great deal,
and surprised him, but not his companion--it was Athelstan Taylor--by
diving suddenly and never coming up. The Rector had explained the ways
of water hens, and that this slyboots was still under some floating
rubbish, with her nose out for breath. Challis remembered wondering
whether the whole of this class of birds was feminine, and watercocks
only existed in connection with the Company. There was none this
time--neither cock nor hen--and the open pastureland this side the
beech-covert was all ablaze with buttercups in the high grass. For the
fallow-deer found their pasture farther from the house, and never a
little tail wagged on a dappled back in sight of Challis and Judith as
they crossed the bridge--one slice of an elm-tree, with the outline on
it of its trunk of a hundred years ago.

"I suppose you know the legend of this bridge and the convict," said
the lady, turning to the gentleman.

"What legend of this bridge and what convict?" His inattention to his
words was shown in the way he echoed them--sounds without meaning.

"You must have heard it. When he was a boy--the convict--he was sent
with a small package containing a ring to a lady at Tallack's Gate--one
of the Cazenoves, I think it was--and on the way he thought it would be
good fun to have a look inside his parcel. So he got the ring out, and,
standing near this bridge, dropped it. He hunted for it in vain, and
then, in terror of his mishap, ran away. I never quite understood it,
but I suppose in those days they convicted people very easily...."

"Much more than now! Was this chap convicted?"

"Yes--and sent to Botany Bay. Twenty years after, having served his
time, he came back to England, married, and lived to be an old man, but
always under a ban. One day he came here, to this spot, with a grown-up
daughter to whom he then told the whole tale for the first time. When
he finished he said to her: 'I was standing just where you are when I
dropped it.' She said, 'Here on the ground, or here on the bridge,'
and touched the plank with her parasol. The point of it slipped into a
knothole in the wood, and when she drew it out, something glittered on
it. It was the ring."

Challis was in the habit of inventing horrors for serials, and had
had some success. But it chanced that he had never before heard this
story--which, by the way, is told in connection with more than one
locality in England--and he envied the master-hand that had fashioned
it. He told in exchange the tale of the man who brought what he thought
was his wife out of a house on fire, too black for recognition by his
scorched and dazzled eyesight, and sat with his hand in hers till
a strange voice came from the lips, and asked if the lady had been
got out, naming his wife. "But your story is more probable," he in
conclusion. "A man would know...."

"Know his own wife's hand? Of course he would! But are we under any
obligation to sup full of horrors on a day like this?" Her voice was
that of indifference, dismissing an unpleasant topic. Challis slightly
resented its placidity, which looked as if the horrors had been easily
digested, at least. It seemed to him to do injustice to a sweetness of
disposition he chose to consider inseparable from the beautiful eyelids
at ease under a slight protest of raised brows--the beautiful lips that
waited unclosed for an answer to their question.

"What do you prefer me to talk about?" said he. "The crops? The

"Nonsense, Scroop!" She paused in her walk, so that he had either to
look round at her or show no wish to know why. "I suppose you must
have guessed," she said, without logical continuity. A request for
explanation would have been warranted.

But Challis was in no mind for make-believe. He took her meaning,
which he knew quite well, for granted. "I have had my suspicions,"
said he. "But I could not catechize, as you seemed so silent. Tell me
now!... Which is it?--mother--father?--sister?... Is it Sibyl?--or the
Bart?--or the _madre_?" The way in which these familiar designations
were accepted as a matter of course showed how their relations of last
September had defined and strengthened themselves.

"All three. At least--I ought to be fair--my father least of all! Indeed
I believe that if an instance could be found of any lady of William the
Conqueror's taking part in a Court performance, he would concede the
point altogether. Has he spoken to you about it?... Well!--of course he
wouldn't do that. But has he 'approached the subject'? Of course, that
is what he would do--'approach the subject.'"

"No--no one has said a word about it. But I guessed, soon after I came
down, that the play was doomed. I did not at first suppose it was
your family, as a matter of course. I thought you might have settled
to throw it up on your own account." She made a sort of impatient
disclaimer--a head-shake that flung that possibility aside, and
forgot it. But she said nothing, and he continued: "There was a row,
I suppose? Don't tell me more about it than you like. Don't tell me
anything if you...."

"I prefer to tell you. Who is there that I can talk to about it if
not to you?" This was the soul-brush again; and again Challis's inner
consciousness gasped at the choice he had to make between giving way
to a luxury, a dangerous intoxication, and attempting to freeze the
conversation down to a safe temperature.

Duty dictated a struggle for the latter. He affected a manner of
equable unconcern fairly well. "No one," said he, "unless you were
to make a confidante of...." He stopped short of saying "Marianne,"
conscious of difficulties ahead. But he could shelve the side-issue,
and fall back on the previous question with a sense of getting out of
shoal water. "There _was_ a row, then ... well--a warm discussion,
suppose we say? It's more refined, certainly. What form did it take?"

"Then we mustn't go so quick," said Judith. "Or I shan't have time."
She was inconsecutive; but it was clear, when she paused in her walk
through the long grass, that it was for an anchorage. "Suppose we sit
down a little here," she said. "Unless you mind?" Challis didn't.

"Here" was an oak trunk that must have said to itself when it was a
sapling--four hundred years ago, maybe--"I will see to it, when I am
grown up, that my roots shall live above ground, and be thick with
moss; and one shall be horizontal and a seat for a king, who shall lean
against me contented. But he shall go, that lovers may come; and they
shall make up _my_ contentment, and I shall hear their voices in the
twilight." Challis half made this little legend as he took his place by
Miss Arkroyd on that tree-trunk. But he fought shy of the sequel their
presence suggested--what word ought his fancy to supply as the tree's
imaginary speech about themselves? He shrank from it, and he knew the
reason why. It was because, as his own disordered passion grew, as he
found himself more and more at loggerheads with his lot, he became more
and more alive to the danger of relying on this woman _her_self as his
protection against _him_self. How if _she_ gave way, too?

As far as any conscious loss of self-control at that moment went, on
the part of Miss Judith Arkroyd, Challis need not have fretted. Never
was a young woman more perfectly cool and collected, more equal to any
occasion that might arise in connection with a love of power that she
just felt this man was a satisfactory lay-figure for. That best defines
all the feeling she had on his account--so far.

She resumed the conversation where the question of anchorage had
interrupted her. "I don't think we have rows in our family, in the
ordinary sense of the word. That is, if I understand it rightly....
No!--I know what you are going to say. It has nothing to do with that
repose that marks the caste of Vere de Vere. It is entirely individual
and local. We have our quarrels, of course, but they take the form of
distant civility, entirely due, as I understand, to our self-respect.
There is nothing we Arkroyds respect more than ourselves, not even the
Bill of Rights or the Protestant Succession...."

Challis interrupted: "But the distant civility, this time?..."

"Followed naturally on my telling Sibyl that the first act of Estrild
was ready for rehearsal. She merely said she supposed I must go my own
way. But that day after lunch she allowed me to leave the apartment
first. It had been a cold lunch, as far as emotions went; and I knew,
when Sibyl stood courteously on one side to let me pass, what was
coming. So I wasn't the least surprised to find a letter from my mother
on the dressing-table next morning."

"A letter from your mother!" Challis's tone was puzzled, awaiting
enlightenment. Judith was not to be hurried, though. For one thing,
she was engaged with a beetle, who wanted either to go home or to get
farther away from home. She had been heading off his successive rushes
in different directions with an ungloved hand, which he always refused
to crawl upon. The perseverance she gave to this seemed not altogether
without its charm to her companion.

"He seems to be praying for those that despitefully use him," she said,
referring to the action of his antennæ. Then, without discontinuing her
amusement, she went back to the conversation. "Yes--a letter, with 'My
dearest daughter' at the beginning, and 'Your affectionate mother'
at the end. Do you not believe me? It's quite true--all my family do
it! In fact, it was a long time before I found out that other families
didn't do it, too. I can tell you this letter all through."

Then in a semi-humorous, indifferent way she gave alternately its
actual wording and the upshot of some of its passages. Lady Arkroyd
hoped she had been misinformed about her daughter's intentions. She was
aware that she had no longer any legal control over her, and she made
no appeal to anything but her good feeling. She would not comment on
the character of the associates with whom her daughter would probably
be brought in contact. She would limit what she had to say entirely to
the underlined deep grief that Sir M. and herself would experience if
their child persisted in a course which could only lead to degradation
and disgrace. She then forgot her promise to say nothing against
the profession, and gave a brief sketch of it founded on Hogarth's
"Strolling Players." After which she wound up with an exhortation
to her daughter not to break her father's underlined heart in his
underlined old age. "And so on," said Judith, in placid conclusion,
still continuing her persecution of the beetle. Challis's infatuation
believed that all this was _parti pris_--mere bravado; and that his
insight saw truly a hinterland of devoted affection to her parents, and
consideration for the comfort of beetles. Such is the power of beauty!

"And that letter determined you to give up the drama?"

"Oh no!--it was only the beginning of it. I wrote in reply, saying I
was sorry to give pain to such an exemplary parent as my papa--that was
not the wording, only the sense--but that I had made up my mind, and
was not prepared to disappoint you in order to keep up the traditions
of a rather dreary respectability. I said you had written this part
for me, and I had promised to play it, and that ended the matter. My
ancestors had always kept their promises, and I should keep mine. I
laid a good deal of stress on Sibyl." At this point the beetle got away
cleverly, threatening a break in the conversation. This was not what
Challis wanted.

"I don't understand," said he. "Why 'stress on Sibyl'?"

"I mean on Sibyl's being allowed to indulge all her fancies, at any
cost; and to take up trade, too--a thing that our ancestors would not
have tolerated for a moment. Why is the Great Idea to be capitalized
with thousands?..."

"And Shakespeare's trade discountenanced? I see, and agree in the main.
I suppose they said it wasn't a trade--the Great Idea?"

"They did. Sibyl said it was Guilds and Crafts, and Mediæval, and
quite another thing. Perhaps it is; I don't know. But I'm sure '_Sibyl
Arkroyd, Limited_' is neither Mediæval nor Guilds, and that's what they
propose to call it."

"It sounds like six three-farthings, and pay at the desk. They can
hardly be in earnest."

"Well, I don't know! People of--of condition are getting to take such
curious views of things. It's nothing nowadays for a Countess to
promise punctual attention to orders. Was it you told me there was a
Curate who preached a Sermon on the New Atheism in its relation to
Socialism?... No?--oh, then, it was somebody else!"

Challis suspected that Judith was talking in this way to defer telling
him the upshot of the family discussion. He said nothing, and the
flight of a heron filled out a lapse into silence which followed. And
then Judith, who had risen from the tree-root to watch the vanishing
bird, turned to Challis, and resumed:

"Shall we go on?... Oh, what was I talking about? Sibyl and the Great
Idea. Well!--you see, the thing worked out like this: Papa had been
wavering a good deal about financing the Great Idea, and Sir Spender
Inglis had become very restive indeed, and was ready to jump at any
excuse for backing out of his undertaking. He saw his opportunity, and
pointed out--like Mr. Brownrigg--that my logic was irresistible, and
that it was impossible to forbid my appearing on the boards if Sibyl
was to be allowed to go behind the counter. A recent slump in Kaffirs
had fostered economical impulses, I suppose. Anyhow, if I surrender the
stage conditionally, my parent will keep his money in his pocket."

"Won't Sibyl Limited get it somewhere else?"

"She thinks she will, and my brother thinks so, no doubt. But will
they? Perhaps you know about these things. I don't."

"I know little or nothing," said Challis. "But I understand that
the chief point is settled. You won't play Estrild." There was no
affectation of unconcern in his manner now.

The two walked on together along the river-brink of Trout Bend in
silence; until, leaving the river, a path, winding through scattered
gorse and fern, brought them in sight of the picnic party in the shade
of a great beech, the vanguard of the deep woods beyond. Then Judith
stopped and said: "I suppose you are angry with me?"

To which Challis replied, with vexation in his voice: "I could have
forgiven you more than that." Said as a politeness this speech would
have meant, "That is a mighty small matter to forgive you for." Said
with a gasp, or something like it, it meant, to Judith's ears, that she
had been winding that skein--this man's life, you see!--too quickly
round her finger. He might become embarrassing.

"You will find another Estrild," she said. An attempt at a laugh
failed, and its failure was worse than its omission would have been.

"I shall not try," said he. And then his evil genius saw his chance,
and made Alfred Challis conceive that he could, for the release of his
soul, make a false fetch of what he would have liked to say, in terms
of a parallel line of thought. "I care little or nothing for the play
for its own sake. My interest was in your presentation of the leading
part." The words were safe, so far as they went--might have been spoken
to a male actor who had taken another engagement. But he could not
leave it there. That Evil Genius must needs make him go on speaking,
with more and more betrayal of the great share she whom he addressed
had personally in his visible chagrin. Visible in the restless movement
of his hand about his face. And audible in the way he crushed his
words out, cut them short on their last letter, threw them behind him:
"Listen to me, and believe what I say. I count the play not worth
completion now. With you the life goes out of it. It has become nothing
for me." Then his voice fell, and whatever it had of petulance settled
down to determination. "As for what is written of the play, I tell
you plainly, I shall destroy it. At least, it shall never be acted by
anyone else.... Stop one minute, and let me finish. I have not a word
or a thought of blame for you, Judith Arkroyd. It was a mad idea--the
whole thing! Now I see plainly that it never could have been. Let us
forget it--all!"

The face that he spoke to was none the less beautiful that its owner
was frightened at his vehemence. It continued to be--to this fool of
a man who had not the courage to run away from it, but who was not at
liberty to love it--the face of six months ago that had been growing
on him ever since. He would almost have been thankful--though he
would not confess it to himself--for visible flaws in it; a squint, a
twist, an artificial tooth or two betraying their extraction, or their
predecessors'. A wig would have spelt salvation, as the Press puts it.

As for Judith, she was perfectly alive, by now, to the sub-intents of
meaning woven into Challis's speech, for the easement of a feeling
he could neither tell nor conceal. "Let us forget it all!" was so
overtense in emphasis, if referring only to a disappointment about
a part in a play, that it scarcely left room for an equable society
response. Her tone of voice had to keep at bay any hint of a meaning
that might have betrayed both into a recognition of the precipice they
were so close to. As might have been expected, she lost her presence
of mind, and overdid it. "I can't see any occasion for hysterics about
it," said she. "Of course, I am awfully sorry, and all that sort of
thing. But we live in a world, after all! And I suppose one must
sometimes accommodate one's views to the necessities of Society....
Oh dear!--these people are quite close." She referred to their near
approach to the assembled tea-drinkers, some of whom, at peace with
all mankind under its influence, were scattering abroad through the
neighbouring woods and dingles, discussing religious education and the
fighting power of nations, pigeon-shooting, and Psychical Research.

"We came away from the tree too soon," Challis said. "Can't we turn?..."

"Suppose we do. We can go round the coppice.... What was I saying?
Oh--about Society! Don't you think it is so? One has to reckon with
one's Social Duties. So I'm told."

"We could have thought of Society before," Challis said, rather
sullenly. And then he felt brutal. "No, Judith Arkroyd, I won't say
that. Forgive me! All I mean is--it was all just as true--what you say
about Society--six months ago as it is now. The mistake was then."

A small thing in his speech unnerved Judith--the way he used her
full name. This was the second time he had done so. It seemed to
imply some new aspect of their relation--the throwing aside of some
veil--the recognition of some discarded formality. She was no longer
"Miss Arkroyd"; and "Judith" would have been either patronage or
impertinence. In her case there was no professional name to build a
half-way house to familiarity on.

She dropped her worldly tone as misplaced or useless, as she said:
"I had at one time half thought I would leave you to finish the play
before I cried off. But should I have done you any service? I thought
not, in the end, and I wished to get it over."

He said: "It _is_ over now. No harm is done. I would not have had it

She replied: "Your work will not be lost. You will think better of
it--better about destroying it, I mean. You will finish it, I hope."

"No--I think I shall probably destroy it. I hate having incomplete
manuscripts hanging about. They keep me always in doubt whether to go
on with them or not."

"Then give this one the benefit of the doubt, and finish it. Come!"
She tried to _leggierire_ the tone of the conversation, but it was
a failure--worse than a failure, by the speech that followed on its

"I can have no woman play the leading part but you. It was written
for you, and I have kept you in my mind as I wrote. I...." And then
Alfred Challis stopped dead. But his speech, had he let it all out of
his heart, would have been: "I have kept you in my mind, and now you
will not leave it. You have crept into its secret corners, and rise
up between me and my duty at every turn. It is not for nothing that
those eyes of yours have flashed through every syllable of my very
commonplace blank verse, that that voice of yours has filled out my
imagination of a dozen soliloquies complying with the highest canons of
dramatic art, that that hand of yours has caressed undeserving tyrants
and stabbed innocent persons on insufficient provocation!" It would
have been all this, for he would not have been himself if he had kept
back his constant sense of the ridiculous, a term in which his mind
included himself as a prime factor. But he said never a word further
than what we have reported. Only the last particle, "I," as good as
contained all the rest.

Judith understood it all now--all that was needed--and began to
find her breath and the pulsation of her heart--things one usually
forgets--forcing themselves on her attention. Why need the former catch
and trip, and clip or magnify her words? Could not the last keep still?
Plague take human nature! To think that she, Judith Arkroyd, mistress
of herself in her own conceit, should be thus upset; unable to steer
her ship out of the currents of a semi-flirtation--granted, that much,
Sibyl!--with a middle-aged scribbler, who meant to be bald, in a year
or so!

Had Challis dared to look at her at that moment, he would have seen
that she had lost colour, as she stopped beside a hawthorn with some
pretence of gathering the pink may-bloom. No one gathers may without a
knife, and what Judith really did was to get a passing stay, against
a slight dizziness, from a hand rested on a bough in easy reach. The
gathering pretence sanctioned Challis's half-dozen paces in advance.
But he did not look back at her--and it was well for him, perhaps, so
beautiful was she against the may-tree--nor she at him. She knew, and
he knew she knew.

Both were so conscious of their mutual consciousness that they tacitly
agreed to say nothing. But there was a difference of feeling due to
their positions. Challis could not live with a Tantalus cup held to
his lips, and was, moreover, constantly stung with the injustice to
Marianne of admission of--entertainment of--submission to love for
another woman. Poor dear old Marianne, at home there by herself! So he
honestly wished to fly--fly from himself if you like to put it so--from
Judith, at any rate, as her beauty had become insupportable, and to his
home as a haven by preference, just to live this folly down and forget

And as for the young woman--well!--she didn't want to lose Challis
altogether. She could see no reason why a sort of affectionate
friendship should not be cherished between them, not she! It was in the
nature of the animal, and it may be Challis had been entirely at fault
in casting the part of Estrild, whom he had certainly not portrayed as
a person who would be content, like Bunthorne, with a vegetable love.
It may be also that the cold-blooded faculty Sibyl objected to in her
sister was part of this nature. A pleasure in disconcerting married
folks' confidence in each other may belong to systems without a heart.
Only, biters are sometimes bit.

Whether or not what this lady said next, after the two had walked,
a little way apart, exchanging neither look nor speech, until the
tea-party came again in view--for they had made the circuit of the
coppice-wood--whether this had anything to do with her wish to avoid a
complete separation from her literary friend or not, we cannot guess.
It may have, and yet she herself may not have known it.

"Marianne has never answered my letter," she said. "You knew I had

"No," he replied. "I did not. What had you to say to Marianne?"

"I wrote to beg her earnestly once more to change her mind, and pay us
a visit. We do wish her to come."

"What good would it do?" His question vexed Judith. Why could he not
help her at least to shut her eyes to a change in their relation each
had to know of, yet to seem, in self-defence, to ignore the other's
knowledge of? He evidently had no intention of doing so.

"What good?" she repeated. "What an odd way of putting it, Scroop!
Why--of course--only that it would be pleasant, and that we should be
glad to have her! I always feel that I should like to know her better,
for my own part." Her pique at his want of tact had been a bracing
stimulus, and enabled her to put their talk more on its old footing.
The subdued tone gave place to what was almost like that of those
thoughtless, unembarrassed groups they were drawing so near to. How
free from care everyone else does seem when one meets him out!

Of course, she threw off their late conversation--washed her hands of
it--quicker than he could. But by the time they came within hearing
of the nearest group, and heard the word _denominational_, and knew
thereby that religious education was under discussion, Challis had
shaken off the gloom or distraction that made his answer ring so false:
"You are kindness itself to Marianne. I wish she were more tractable."
Those were his words. They had sounded rather civil than true or
heart-felt. But behind them, inexplicably, was a feeling akin to
gratitude to Judith, who had somehow made it easier to his mind to go
back to Marianne without a shock. Not that it would have been good form
in him to acknowledge it!

In the pre-Shakespearian days of Love, did ever a King Solomon, we
wonder, feel grateful to the last Hareem capture for a courtesy shown
to a disused, tolerated survival of other days?

Challis was intercepted by the group of heated discutients, saturated
with religious education. Judith passed on without looking at him,
merely referring to the abstract truth, "There is tea," and leaving his
teawardness to develope itself at leisure, or die of neglect. The huge
boarhound left a sweet biscuit to meet her, and after exchanging a few
words and a kiss, made believe that he had found her in the wilderness,
and brought her in safety to refreshments, which it was distinctly
understood that he was to share.

The conclave on religious education, like Polly's employers after Sukey
had taken the kettle off again--presumably--had all had tea, and were
horridly indifferent about anyone else going without.

They were confident they might rely on Mr. Challis's impartiality to
distinguish between things that to the casual observer might seem
identical; to assign due weight to considerations which the superficial
observer would overlook; and to sift and examine evidence which the
prejudiced observer would be only too prone to reject.

Mr. Challis, appealed to to give an impromptu casting-vote on a
variety of subjects, felt impartial and flattered. He could only
contribute, he said, an absolute freedom from bias on the question of
religious education. He regretted his total absence of information, the
possession of which, in however small a degree, always adds weight
to the decisions of the most unbiassed judgment. However, it soon
became clear that all that was asked of him was that he should listen
impartially to all three disputants, and hold his tongue _sine die_
while they talked sixteen to the dozen. As he was not in a humour for
talking, he had no objection to this.



In the absence of Master Bob at Rugby, and of his father with those
Royd people in the country, Mrs. Challis had a quiet time in the
Hermitage. She was able to keep housekeeping at bay by ordering in a
joint for the family to prey on slowly for three days or thereabouts;
after which Mrs. Steptoe had to help her to think of what to have in.
Marianne sat still and bit a pen-stick, while Mrs. Steptoe remarked at
intervals, "You see, as I say, ma'am, it isn't as if there was anything
in the house."

When Aunt Stingy had done this two or three times, her mistress
indicated the nature of the problem to be dealt with; saying, as a
contented giraffe might have done, "I don't want another neck."

Mrs. Steptoe advanced a cautious suggestion: "You don't take to liver,
ma'am?" Mrs. Challis did _not_; that was flat! But a piece for the
kitchen was a different thing. Just as you liked! Mrs. Steptoe said in
a soothing manner, "A nice little bit of liver!" and that was settled.

Should anyone not accustomed to these islands ask why the question of
one day's rations should be approached as though it had been raised
for the first time in the history of mankind, no answer can be given
in the present state of human knowledge. All that can be said is that
an equivalent interview is going on in most households of the natives
every other morning, or thereabouts.

In time stimulated perspicuity saw a light. Shrewd discriminative
subtlety was on Aunt Stingy's face as she said, "Why not the fowl
to-day, ma'am, and stand the joint over for a day or two? Because
in this briling weather it is that liable to smell faint!" Marianne
cogitated deeply, turning the pencil in her mouth; then said, "If we
were to have Mrs. Eldridge to-day instead of to-morrow.... It doesn't
matter which, because Mr. Eldridge won't be back till Wednesday."
This will not bear close analysis; but Marianne was not pricking pins
at a tissue, and all purposes were answered. When the children went
out for their walk, they brought back word that Mrs. Eldridge would
"come instead of to-morrow." And that is how on this particular Monday
evening these two ladies are agreeing that this coffee is too strong,
and there's no hot water, and the more florid one of the two is saying
that she must speak to Steptoe about it.

The heat of the weather tells differently on them, which has to do
with our epithet for Marianne's complexion. Charlotte's look is rather
sallower than usual, as she leans back fanning the full lids of her
half-closed eyes. She is not bad-looking, certainly--must have been
very graceful when she was a girl.

The coffee-incident must have interrupted a conversation, for the sound
of resumption is in Charlotte's remark as she sips it. "I should write"
is what she says.

"Which to? Him or her?"

"Her. No!--him. I should write to him."

"Which do you mean?"


"I don't know what to say."

"What you've been saying to me just now."

"Nonsense, Charlotte! How can you talk such stuff?"

"Well!--I _should_." After which neither lady spoke for awhile, but
seemed to be thinking over points raised. Marianne uneasily, and even
with an occasional impatient jerk, resented as selfish by a cat asleep
on her knees; Charlotte introspectively, but as one enjoying some
internal satisfaction.

Presently Marianne spoke, looking curiously at her friend, as though
she suspected this concealed something. "I wish you would say plainly
what you mean, Charlotte," she said.

Charlotte answered evasively. "It doesn't the least follow that what
I should do you ought to do." She had on Marianne the sort of effect
the ringed snake is said to have on the oriole--was sure her victim
would jump down her throat if she bided her time. And if Marianne
did this of her own accord, she herself would clearly be free from
all complicities. For there was nothing Charlotte was so clear about
in theory as that she did not wish to mix herself up in the affair;
or any affair, for that matter. It was curious how frequently she
found herself abstaining from getting mixed up. In this case, even
when Marianne said point-blank, "But what _would_ you do?" she still
replied, "Never mind, dear! What can it matter what I should or
shouldn't do?"

"Charlotte, you're unkind! At least, you're not friendly. You go in and
out. First it's one thing, and then it's another. Suppose you were me,
what would you do? Write to this girl, and just refuse the invitation?"

After all, Charlotte was not so very clear about what she would write.
"N--no, dear!" she said. "I don't think I should write to _her_. I
should send her a message, through him. All civility, don't you know?
Couldn't leave home at present. Hope some other time. So nice of her to
ask you! Best thanks. Kindest regards. That sort of thing. But writing
to _my_ husband, you know--the rule mightn't hold good for yours; I
quite see that--I shouldn't mince matters."

"What _does_ 'not mincing matters' mean? I think you might speak plain,
Charlotte. Can't you _say_ what you mean?" She puts her hand up to her
head restlessly, causing her friend to ask, "Headache?" To which she
replies impatiently, "_Not_ headache!" and takes it down. Charlotte
then resumes, with much implication that the use of her husband as a
lay-figure franks her of responsibility.

"I should tell _him_ plainly that if he wanted to make love to
fashionable young women he might go his own way, and I could do without
him perfectly well. I should let him know he's not the treasure he
fancies he is."

Marianne looked unconvinced, incredulous. "Suppose he took you at your
word, Charlotte!" said she.

Charlotte laughed out scornfully. "My dear woman," she said, "John's a
born fool, I know. But he's not such a fool as that! He knows what he's
like well enough to know that this sort of young woman is not the sort
to give me a case."

"Give you a case?"

"Stupid girl!--don't you see? A case for divorce. It's plain enough
to anyone who isn't a downright fool. A telegraph-girl would be quite
another pair of shoes."

"I suppose I don't understand these things."

"Now, my dear Marianne, do you mean to say that if you heard that your
Titus had been lunching at Jules's with Lady Thingammy What's-her-name,
it wouldn't be quite different from a telegraph-girl and an ABC?"
Marianne said she couldn't see any difference. But this was only her
obstinacy. Charlotte continued: "Well, _I_ should! And so would the
jury. Why, I know by this--that if it was Jules's I shouldn't lose a
wink of sleep about it; but if it was a telegraph-girl, I wouldn't go
to Clacton-on-Sea in August and leave John alone in London. Not with
my ideas, which are rather strict. Of course, one isn't a Frenchwoman
or an Italian."

"What are _their_ ideas? How should _I_ know anything about them?"

"Do you want me to tell you anything about them, or not? That's the
question.... Well, of course, one knows what a Frenchwoman's ideas are,
and I suppose Italians are exactly the same." Strange to say, this
shadowy suggestion in a dropped voice, to fend off the dangers of empty
space, seems to convey a distinct impression to its hearer, for she
says, "Suppose they are, what then?" and the reply is, "Well--I suppose
you wouldn't want us to do as they do! Would you?"

Mrs. John Eldridge possessed in the very highest degree the faculty of
making it understood, by slight inflections and modulations of voice,
by pauses in the right place, by gestures the shrewdest eyesight could
not swear to, though the dullest could never remain in ignorance of
them, that a lady and gentleman were engaging her attention. She had
manipulated the subject in hand by a dexterous introduction of the
Latin races, who are notoriously immoral, until a halo of profligacy
had encircled her friend's husband and his aristocratic acquaintance.
Marianne kicked in her soul against all suggestions of the kind, but
with a misgiving that her friend knew more about "this sort of thing"
than she herself did. This, too, she strove to keep under, not to allow
Titus, whom she believed incapable of the part Charlotte's management
would have assigned to him, to be attired for it in the cast-off
garments of some reprobate of the Parisian stage.

"I can't see what the ways of French people have to do with the matter.
When I said what I did just now I wasn't thinking of that sort of

"Then, dear, perhaps you'll tell me what you _were_ thinking of.
Because I can't make out, for the life of me." This came rather coldly
from Charlotte.

"It's very simple. I meant that if Titus is tired of me, I had just
as soon that he should go away to someone else. And so I would--just
as soon. S-s-sooner!" If Marianne had stopped on the penultimate
word, there might have been no breakdown. But it came, with the
intensification of her courageous little falsehood; came in the
stereotyped course one knows so well--first, the failure of the lips to
be still, then the quickened breath, and then the final irrepressible
tears. Then the beseeching to be left alone--only just for one
minute!... all will be right in a minute, only don't speak to me,
please! Go on talking!

"There!--I've been a fool, and I'm sorry." As she said this, Mrs.
Challis returned to her pocket a handkerchief that had dried her tears,
certainly, but had finished by taking a very unpoetical part in the
transaction. The cat, bored by her demonstrativeness, had left her lap
for a short stretch on the rug, and now returned with returning quiet.

Mrs. Eldridge took a base advantage. "No, dear!--you're very, very
brave about it. I know just what I should feel myself. Any woman would
feel exactly as you do.... Oh no, dear!--of course we both thoroughly
understand. There's nothing really wrong, and nobody is to be suspected
of anything."

"You don't see what--I--mean!" said Marianne. "You never have,
Charlotte. But it ought to be simple enough. You don't suppose I think
Titus isn't to be trusted away from my apron-strings after all the
years I've known him."

"_I_ don't know, dear. Don't ask me! Men are men. However, if you _can_
trust him, I don't see what you want."

"I can want a great deal, and I do. I want him not to care about other
people more than his own home."

"You want him not to care so much about this girl? Isn't that it?"

"In a certain sense, _yes_!"

"Very well, dear. Perhaps if there are more senses than one in the
business, you'll tell me what they are. According to me, a man either
cares for a girl, or he doesn't. I can't see any half-way."

"I can see heaps of half-ways. What I mean is, when he takes more
pleasure in her society than he does in...."

"In his wife's? I don't see that we don't mean the same thing, so far."

"Then I don't mean that at all, but something else. What is the use
of talking if you always twist what I say round?" Marianne is like a
witness in the hands of a clever counsel, but with an advantage. If
the witness resorts to the use of a bludgeon against the legal rapier,
the Court interposes to protect his assailant. There was no Court in
Marianne's case.

Charlotte retreated into the entrenchments of forbearance. "I don't
want to quarrel, dear!" she said. "Suppose you write the letter!"

"To her?"

"To him. Do it now! You may just as well." None the less, Charlotte
was surprised--only she didn't show it--when Marianne shook off the
re-established cat, and rose to go to the writing-table. The cat,
this time disgusted beyond words, stretched herself, and weighed the
comforts of divers corners available. Mrs. Eldridge could have afforded
one, but decided that cats were too hot in this weather. So Pussy had
to be content with an angle in sofa-cushions.

The long-expiring light of the summer evening had been good to talk by,
but enough of it was not left for letter-writing. Nevertheless, Mrs.
Challis wouldn't ring for the lamp. Candles would do, she said. And
having lighted them, she sat down to write.

A fly had perished in the ink since it was last used, and had to be
coaxed out gradually, legs having got left behind by the first drags
employed. Also, the pens--so described--consisted of a single example,
which was a very long pen with diabolical corrugations at its shoulder,
and a terrible sharp point. It refused to write on any terms, and on
examination was proved to consist of one widowed nib, a source of
despair to the scribe. There were no other pens; at least, Harmood had
put them somewhere. Never mind!--there was a fountain-pen that did
perfectly if you dipped it in the ink. It was really a lot better that
way, because then you didn't inky your fingers all over. The experience
of many among us is that _escritoires_ are strewn with writing
materials of these sorts, especially the last.

However, there was no doubt of the fountain-pen, once its haughty
spirit could be curbed and induced to submit to the position of a mere
agent. And the sounds of writing come presently from the writing-table,
mixed with the curses of its occupant, who presently discovers that she
has been writing on a sheet with a "limerick" on the back.

"Never mind. Let's see how far you've written." Mrs. Eldridge stretches
her fingers out to receive the letter without taking her eyes off a
paragraph she is reading in a _Daily Mail_. She holds the letter till
she has finished, then reads it, and gives an immediate verdict. "You
can't send _that_," she says.

"And why not?" asks Marianne, a little nettled at this rather cavalier
treatment of her effort. But she knows she has not the courage to
rebel, not having a particle of faith in her powers of composition.

"You can't say, 'Your Miss Arkroyd has written to me, and I won't come,
and you know perfectly well why.'"

"Why not?"

"My dear!... However, do if you like."

"Well, then--I _shall_." This was mere bluster, of which Charlotte took
no notice.

"And you can't say: 'You know I am not wanted, and both of you will be
wishing me somewhere else all the while.' Simply impossible!"

"I cannot see the impossibility. Titus would be in a panic about what I
should say next. I hate their rooms, full of people. They always make
me nervous."

Charlotte sees that interpretation down to her companion's level is
necessary. "Rooms-full have nothing to do with it," she says. "He will
think you meant you would be _de trop_."

"Well, and what does that mean?"

Charlotte coughed explanatorily. "It is only used under circumstances
of three," she says, not without obscurity. And then adds, as a full
light on the subject: "One has to go."

"Same as 'two's company and three's none,' I suppose? But why French?"

"It means more. There are niceties." And this lady seems to keep back a
suggestion that these niceties are beyond her friend's range of French.
She goes on with a roused attention, having glanced farther on as she
spoke last, absently. "And, my dear, look here! You can't possibly send
this: 'Why can't we agree each to go our own way? Lots of people don't
go about everywhere in couples.' You can't send that!"

"Well, Charlotte, I _shall_ send that, and I think you're ridiculous.
Why shouldn't I send it when I mean it? If Titus would only not worry
about, and think it his duty to say things, these people wouldn't
want me. Why should they? And then perhaps we should have an end of
complaining about Steptoe's gravy. I'm simply sick of it all." And Mrs.
Challis taps with her foot, and shows a feverish irritability.

Charlotte keeps well on her higher level. "My dear Marianne, you are
the most unworldly baby! Don't you see the interpretation that might
be put--I don't say your Titus _would_ put it, but he _might_--on 'Why
can't we agree, et cetera?' If I were to say such a thing to John, it
would be a telegraph-girl directly."

Marianne flushes angrily. "Charlotte! How often have I said to you that
I hate you when you draw comparisons between Titus and your John! It
might be fifty telegraph-girls with him, but I know Titus well enough
to know...."

"Oh!" A slight interjection, but it checks Marianne half-way.

"At any rate, he has never deceived me about anything of this sort."
The flush is vanishing.

"Not _exactly_ of _this_ sort--no!" Now, Charlotte had been watching
her opportunity to say this, having noted that the effect produced by
Mrs. Steptoe's story had been falling into abeyance, owing to the
subsidence of a policy of pin-pricks between Mr. and Mrs. Challis, in
view of his pending visit to Royd, and still more in consequence of a
sufficiently affectionate farewell at his departure. Marianne had in
fact been gradually minimising the incident, and was on her way towards
asking Titus straightforwardly for an explanation, as, of course, she
ought to have done at first.

It is quite possible Mrs. Eldridge might have kept this card up her
sleeve if Marianne had not nettled her by the way she spoke of her
John. She may have provoked it; but did that matter? She was not going
to let anyone else pelt him. Anyhow, she played the card, and, glancing
up at Marianne, had reason to be satisfied with the effect it had

Marianne may have known she looked white, and wished for darkness to
hide it, for she blew both candles out, and returned to her seat with
her back to the window. The cat sighed, as lamenting the selfishness
of mortals, and resumed her old place, now again available, with a
pretence of magnanimity.

"I shall copy that letter on a clean sheet, and send it." The darkness
seemed to give the speaker fortitude.

"Go your own way, dear! I've done my best." Mrs. Eldridge claimed
freedom from responsibility.

"You know, I suppose, that I spoke to mamma about that Steptoe
nonsense--the photograph?"

"No, I didn't. What did she say?"

"Said it was all sheer impossibility. Said Steptoe had been turning the
cupboards over when we were away at Easter, and cooked it all up."

"That won't do us any good. How did Steptoe know the name of the

"Saw it on the back of the photo, mamma says."

"And how did she know the name Verrall?"

"Because it's Bob's second name. Besides, it's on a brass plate on
Kate's old portmanteau in the trunk-room."

"I can't say I think that accounts for anything." Mrs. Eldridge pointed
out two or three weak points in Mrs. Craik's explanation, and condemned
it as worthless. She was wrong. The explanation was a good one _per
se_, but, like so many explanations, taxed human powers of belief more
than the thing it explained. However, no one who has the faculty of
selecting his creeds ever stickles about the trouble one will give him.
He only thinks of the advantages it will bring with it.

"Perhaps it doesn't explain. That's what mamma said, anyhow."
Thus Marianne, as if it didn't matter much, either way. Then, more
convincedly: "I don't believe Steptoe is lying, because I can't see
what she has to gain by it. Besides, I pulled the photo out of the
_passe-partout_, and it was gummed in, and the name on the back."

"Did you say so to your mother?"

"Yes, and she said I must have been mistaken, because, if not, the
story would have been true."

"I can't see"--Mrs. Eldridge is talking reflectively,
introspectively--"I cannot see _why_ your husband did not tell you all
about it! Suppose your sister _was_ married to this man first, I don't
see that it was any such hanging matter. Unless...."

"Unless what?"

"Well!--nothing, dear. That is, perhaps I oughtn't to say...."

"Charlotte!--that's you all over! You know you're wanting to say all
the time. _Do speak out and have done with it!_" Marianne got up
uneasily, and walked from place to place in the room. The cat went back
to the sofa cushion, and resumed her task of getting a little sleep.

Charlotte means to say, in time. Trust her! "You know, dear Marianne,
that all this is the _merest_ speculation. We really know _nothing_!
And ten to one, when you do speak of it to Titus, he'll be able to
clear it all up. Besides, after all, it could only be the sort of thing
that's always happening, and one says nothing about it as long as the
parties get married afterwards...."

Marianne interrupts stormily. "Will you have the goodness, Charlotte,
to tell me what you mean, and not beat about the bush? You can't mean
that poor Kate...."

"I can't tell you anything, dear, if you get so excited (Your hair's
coming undone. A pin?--here's one.) Remember, I'm only mentioning this
as _one_ of the possibilities, and I don't suppose it's true. But if
it were ever so true, I don't see that it would be anything to fly out
about. After all these years!... Will I tell you what I mean? Yes,
dear, if you'll be quiet and listen."

"Will you _go on_?"

Mrs. Eldridge braces herself up to consecutive narrative, as in
response to unreasonable impatience. "There was a marriage. That's
understood--I mean your sister's with her first husband. And it was
kept dark...."

"I wish you wouldn't talk as if it was the Criminal Classes. Go on!"

"I can't if you interrupt. Well!--Mr. Challis was quite a young man
then, and a friend of the first husband's, and she was young. You see?"

"I see their youngness would make it all the worse, instead of better.
If it was true! But it isn't." At this point Marianne gives up the
attempt to engineer the hairpin. "Can't you stop stopping, Charlotte,
and go _on_?"

Charlotte deserts the extreme of deliberation for irritating rapidity
and conciseness. "The first husband may have been anything, for
anything we know of him. Only, there must have been a reason for their
parting, if you think of it. Within a few months! Now suppose--don't be
in a rage, Marianne dear, it doesn't do any good!--suppose your husband
_was_ the reason! Of course, he would never tell you, if Kate never

"I was a child!"

"I don't think anything of that. Children are easier to tell than
half-grown-up people. Remember, too, as time went on, how much harder
it would get to tell. Fancy his beginning to speak of it! How would
he? Come, Marianne!" And Marianne's silence admitted that she felt
the difficulty her husband would have had in publishing for private
circulation an early transgression of his own--and Bob's mother,
please! It may all have been, and yet Titus may have done rightly to
let bygones be bygones. That was her thought at the moment, but it
jumped gladly at leave to go when further speech of Charlotte's brought
a respite: "Of course, _the_ obstacle to accounting for it this way is
the divorce. It seems impossible there should have been a divorce, and
your mother never heard of it!"

"Why, of course, Charlotte! What nonsense it all is!" Marianne is
greatly relieved. But we must not halloa before we are out of the wood.
Charlotte had a reservation:

"Only there's just one thing--I'm afraid I must shock you, Marianne;
only, mind you, I don't believe for a moment that it's true--just one
thing, and that is ... yes!--I'm going on ... that is, that there may
have been _no need for a divorce_. You see?"

She doesn't, evidently. For, after a moment's consideration, she says:
"If there was no need for a divorce, why drag Titus in? What nonsense,
Charlotte!" She is breathing freely over it--too freely.

"No, dear--not that way! You don't understand." A pause to get a clear
start. "Your sister Kate and this man were _supposed_ to be lawfully
married. At least, the coal-merchant and his wife must have thought so.
But suppose they were _not_! Don't you see, dear"--this very gently,
not to tax her hearer overmuch--"don't you see that _then_ no divorce
would have been necessary?"

"You puzzle me so, Charlotte! Do stop and let me think. Say it again."
She opened to the full a window partly raised for the heat, and found
the sweet air from the Common grateful. For her head had become hot,
and her lips were dry.

Charlotte followed her last instruction, by choice. "Try to imagine,
dear, for instance, that your sister had been entrapped into a false
marriage by this man, and that he discarded her because he was jealous
of your husband. You know if he had grounds for his jealousy your
husband might be bound in honour to keep silence--especially to her own
sister. And then consider!--they _were_ married afterwards."

It was beginning to dawn on Mrs. Challis that in the little drama
her friend's imagination had constructed her husband figured as a
licentious youth, a traitor to his friend; and a dissimulator, when he
was posing at her mother's house as an honourable suitor to her sister,
his only redeeming feature being his constancy to the girl of whose
second betrayal he was the guilty author. While, as for that young
woman herself!... Marianne's whole soul recoiled from the semblance
of an indiscriminate _liaison_-monger with which Charlotte had not
scrupled to clothe her. The intrinsic impossibility of associating such
an image with her sister made her feel as though she really disposed of
the whole question when she said, with perfect _naïveté_, "But this was

How perfectly clear and exhaustive! That was Kate--or would have
been had there been any truth in the tale--and Kate was her grown-up
sister in the early days when her father was living, and they were a
household. That was our Kate that was just thinking about being a young
lady when she herself, Marianne, was just beginning to take intelligent
notes of her surroundings--our Kate that knew how to play the piano
and had a governess--our Kate that became one herself in a modest way
when father died, and it turned out that Uncle Barker had invested her
mother's settlement money in himself, contrary to the behests of the
Lord Chancellor. How in Heaven's name could a thing one knew as a girl,
unlengthened, become an immoral, unprincipled woman, like in books and
newspaper-paragraphs! Absurd!

And yet--may not this be a question as hard for us to answer as poor,
slow, middle-class, muddle-headed Marianne? Look at it from the other
side! How many reprobates, dashing and otherwise, may there not
be who began good and sweet, and kept so till they became bad and
putrid--can even look back, from the gutter their last stage of decay
is on the watch to defile, on a spell of blameless maturity? That
ill-complexioned thing that thought it was singing as it reeled from
the pothouse door but now, was once--maybe--a savoury little maid
enough, with a sweetheart. What if he saw her at this moment?--saw the
passers-by shrink from her and leave her a clear pavement?--heard the
mock approval of London humour, seasoned to the shameful sight, and
unashamed, "Go it, old Sairah"?

The story disclaims imputing all these thoughts to Marianne, or any of
them. But the sum and gist of them came out--just as clearly, maybe
more so--in those four words, "But this was Kate."

She turned from the window and looked her friend full in the face, in
return for "What if it was?"--which was the answer she got. She felt
angry with Charlotte, who, for all her profession of belief that her
surmises were probably baseless, seemed to be always supporting the one
that ascribed most lawlessness to her husband and sister.

"What if it was?" said she. "Everything if it was." She couldn't
argue to save her life. But she dealt with dialectical difficulties
in a method of her own that was quite as effectual. This time it told

"Don't blaze out at me like that, Marianne," said the enemy. "_I_ can't
help it. I suppose everyone was somebody's Kate once--even Jezebel
and Judas Iscariot!" The selection sounded trenchant, and no Biblical
critic was at hand. "Besides, as I said, it wasn't a hanging matter, at
the worst."

"I thought you said you were strict, Charlotte."

"So I am. But this sort of thing _does_ take place, and one knows it,
and I don't see the use of going on nagging for ever." Marianne's
religious feelings prompted her towards pointing out that the
Almighty might not subscribe to this view, but she was not quick
enough. Charlotte continued: "And how a girl who knows nothing can
know if a ceremony's done correctly is more than I can tell. Look at
vaccination--all the little ivories exactly alike! Why, you may be
vaccinated from a mad bull and never be a penny the wiser!"

Any metaphor or analogy makes Marianne's head go round, and she still
keeps silence. Charlotte ends with consolation: "And when you come to
think of it, if they weren't correctly married, it was all to the good."

"What on earth you mean, Charlotte. I cannot imagine!"

"Well, dear!--I should have thought anyone would spot that at once.
Even John saw that! Of course, if the first marriage was irregular,
there _was_ no breach of the Seventh Commandment." Marianne felt a
distinct relief from one of the nightmare apprehensions about her
husband's past that Charlotte's ingenious speculations had aroused.
She and her friend shared with a large section of the respectable
World, strict and otherwise, the idea that trespassers who jump over a
wedding-ring fence should be prosecuted, while poachers on unenclosed
property may escape with a caution.

But her mind was not capable of more than one idea at a time, and in
dwelling on this remission of the imputations against him, she quite
forgot that the theory of a victimization of Kate by her first husband,
if it did not acquit him of any indiscretion towards her sister, at
any rate altered all the circumstances under which the indictment was
framed. If there was no divorce, why select a co-respondent? Marianne
just missed the important point. Out of the chaotic cross-questionings
of the mystery she emerged with one false fixed idea, that her
husband's reason for concealing the story _must have been_ his desire
to draw a veil over that Brighton period before his pretended courtship
and marriage. Mrs. Eldridge encouraged this idea.

"I hope you see now, dear, what I mean about the letter," said she,
after some more talk, embodying the foregoing, more or less. She pulled
the letter from under the cat, who had lain down on it, and read
again: "'You know I am not wanted, and both of you will be wishing me
somewhere else all the while.' I'm sure I'm right in saying you can't
send that. If it was all innocence and Paul and Virginia and Jenny and
Jessamy and Arcadian shepherds, I dare say! But, with that story not
cleared up! My dear Marianne, _do_ be a little a woman of the World....
Isn't that my cab?"

Marianne said drearily: "I think so. They'll tell us." Because,
although Mrs. Eldridge made things worse for her every time she
spoke, she clung to her as the only person in her confidence--for she
restrained her communications to her mother--and as one for whose
knowledge of the mysterious thing called "the World" she had always had
a superstitious reverence. So, when Harmood announced the advent of
the cab--in cypher, as it were; for she merely said, "Adcock, for Mrs.
Eldridge, ma'am"--she was sorry.

"It _is_ Adcock," said Mrs. Eldridge; and Harmood would bring her
things down to save her going upstairs, and did so. During Harmood's
absence the conversation could be rounded off and wound up.

"Am I to send the letter or not?" said Marianne. This was concession,
for had she not flounced her intention of sending it in Mrs. Eldridge's
face half-an-hour ago?

"Do as you like, dear! But I hope you won't. That's all I can say. Now
good-night!" Charlotte's lips are extended as towards a farewell kiss;
her hands tell well, anticipating embrace, and all her suggestions are
graceful--as a lady's may be, who terminates musically in skirts.

But Marianne wants a straight tip for that letter.

"What am I to say, then?" says she doggedly. "I _must_ write."

"Say what I told you, dear! So sorry--too much wanted at home to be
able to come away just now--hope to see Miss Arkroyd ... or Judith, if
you call her Judith ... in town before she goes away for good. Just a
civil-letter sort of business! Don't you see how much better it will
be yourself?" Harmood has come again, and is tendering a shroud from
behind. Two hands accept it gracefully over each shoulder, and it abets
the music of the skirts.

"I suppose it will," says Marianne doubtfully, and they go out to
where Mr. Adcock awaits them. And then either of them who desires
to do so may study the relations to one another of a very civil man
with a flavour you would pronounce beer if encouraged by an expert;
a four-wheeler he has to bang the door of--_you_ are no good!--or it
wouldn't shut; a horse that wants to be at home, and a summer moon
doing its level best to make some birch-trees down the road look like
silver. It is overhead, and you have to crane your neck to look at it.

Mrs. Challis did so, but saw nothing in it to make her eyes and lips
less dry and hot. She returned to the drawing-room, and told Harmood
not to shut the shutters; she would herself ultimately. Whereupon
Harmood asked whether she would like anything. And being told she would
like nothing else, thank you! said good-night, and was soon after
audible passing upstairs with the plate, and not being absolutely
cordial with Mrs. Steptoe.

Did Charlotte know how miserable she was making her? So thought the
poor lady to herself as she looked out at the persevering moon. She
felt feverish--and revengeful. Not with Charlotte, of course; a little
aggravated, perhaps--that was all! But this girl--this Judith, with
her insolent beauty and her knowledge of its power! This anxiety that
she should go to Royd--what was it worth? Was she asked because it was
so clear the invitation would never be accepted, or because she was
wanted to cover the position? One or the other, or something like
it--no good or honourable motive!... Oh no!--nothing dishonourable, of
course, in that sense--so Marianne reasoned with herself--but there
were distinctions of honour and dishonour in higher strata of morality,
above the gutter-ethics Charlotte would always be harping on. And
yet!--suppose there had been any truth in that Steptoe legend, with the
worst interpretations on it, might not Titus have concealed another
self all along? He had concealed something: that she knew. Why not many
things? Why not everything?

The condemned letter was not altogether judicious, but its very errors
of judgment might have led to plain speech, recrimination, a storm,
and a reconciliation. Anything would have been better, as the result
showed, than an ill constructed epistle Marianne wrote in the end, a
message for her husband to pass on to Miss Arkroyd much on the lines
Charlotte had suggested. Too many words for a message, too few for a
letter from any wife to a husband under circumstances where brevity
might be ascribed to pique. In which, too, she could not bring herself
to the point of saying she hoped to see Miss Arkroyd, either in town or
elsewhere, because she didn't. She hated Judith, but would not confess
the reason to herself. So the letter worked out as nothing but a cold
and civil message, refusing a very cordially written invitation. And it
was all the worse that it contained a few lines in answer to Titus's
last--not an unaffectionate epistle, written promptly on the evening
of his arrival. But Marianne was a truthful person when her back was
up, and wasn't going to tell any lies when candour tasted sweet in her
mouth. So she indulged in a word or two of postscript on the back of
the letter, and didn't quite like it when re-read. But really the text
was just as bad without it. Look at the chilly "My dear Alfred," and
"yr: aff: wife"! She fought off her vacillation, helped by a glance
at Judith's letter and an allusion to her "dear husband"; closed the
envelope, directed and stamped it, feeling determined, while she knew
under the skin that she was wrong, and showing a proper spirit.

Then, possessed by her evil genius, she must needs go downstairs,
undo the front door and walk out in the sweet moonlight to the red
pillar-box only a few paces off, that was so convenient. Then, when she
had heard the letter fall to the bottom of the empty box, past hope,
past help, past cure, she was sorry. Then she called herself a coward
and went back to bed. But she felt like a criminal as she pushed open
the door she had left unhasped.

What a many miscarriages proper spirits have to answer for!



The persistent self-absorption and stunning monotonous clatter of one's
fellow-creatures, however execrable it may seem when one wants to
predominate over them by the legitimate employment of one's superior
gifts--without shouting, you know!--may be not unwelcome when one
longs for an excuse for silence, as Challis did after that unsettling
interview with Judith--silence, and a little time to think things over
before any further speech with the source of his disquiet. The more row
other people were making, the better! This feeling was quite consistent
with susceptibility to a magnetism which needed some device to veil
its nature. He would call it tea, for the nonce, anyhow. He made tea
the pretext to escape from his position of arbiter without rights of
speech, and left the disputants, promising to return forthwith, and
meaning to break his promise.

He made the most of the hundred yards to the tea-camp, nodding
remotely to casuals by the way. He looked for an excuse to avoid
joining the group at headquarters, who appeared at his distance off
to be discoursing brilliantly, interestedly, on absorbing topics,
with smiles. He knew they were talking nonsense about nothing
particular, and was glad to find his excuse in Athelstan Taylor and his
sister-in-law, who had joined the party, bringing with them their own
little girls and the small cockney waif in blue, whose aunt was Mrs.
Steptoe. That was how our Lizarann presented herself to Mr. Challis.

"I like you better than your aunt," said that gentleman candidly, when
Lizarann was introduced.

"So do I," replied Lizarann. But this answer, clear as its meaning
was to all sympathetic souls, was taken exception to by the Rector's

"What can the unintelligible child mean by that?" said she. "Because
you _are_ unintelligible, you know you are, Lizarann!"

"Yass, please!" said Lizarann. And then she felt when people laughed
that she was being treated like a child, which at her age was absurd.

Miss Caldecott, the sister-in-law, was one of those tiresome people
who are always forming grown-up Leagues against children, and making
it distinctly understood that these leagues, though ready to stoop to
the level of children's understanding, do so under protest, and with
reservations as to their own superiority. Miss Caldecott paraded hers,
greatly to Lizarann's umbrage, in the tone in which she said, "We do
not yet know, my dear, that Mr. Challis has an aunt"; into which tone
she contrived to infuse a suggestion of respect for Challis's family,
even if the previous generations consisted only of the direct line.

Challis refused to be taken into the League. To avoid it he stated
that he had more aunts than was really the case. He went further, and
ascribed to one of them attributes that have surely never belonged to
any person's aunt. She had, he said, a front, and lived on tea-leaves,
which came out on her person as a kind of stiff black net which he had
the impudence to say he believed was never removed at night.

Lizarann recalled a like experience which she thought would bear

"Bridgetticks," she said, in a loud, outspoken way that commanded an
audience, "she's a hunkle comes out a Sundays and Schristmas Day, and
gold trimmings to his coat, and brarse buttons, and Bridgetticks, she
could count up eight and two behind."

"You must try to say 'uncle,' my dear, not 'hunkle,'" said Miss
Caldecott, which Lizarann did, meekly, with an impression that
perhaps she had claimed too much for Old Shakey, which was the old
man's bye-name in Tallack Street, where he appeared at intervals. She
had used the "h" to give an adventitious force of character to the
tremulous relic of better days she was referring to. She wished him to
be thought of as resolute, without presenting him in the aspect of a

"What do you make of _him_, Rector?" asked Challis.

"I know all about him. At least, Gus knows." Athelstan Taylor had
appropriated a camp stool, that he might accommodate Lizarann and his
younger daughter on his knees. He looked round at his sister-in-law.
"Don't you remember, my dear? Gus told us about him. A sort of old
pensioner chap!"

Miss Caldecott remembered him, primly. "Not very sober, I fear!" said

Lizarann joined in the conversation. "Wunst you get him inside of the
bust," she said, "the sconductor keeps his eye upon him. Yass!--All
the way to Stockwell." Lizarann's confidence that her hearers knew the
world had something very pretty and touching about it.

But Miss Caldecott, as the exponent of the League--which no one had
asked her to form--checkmated Bridgetticks's relative. "We won't talk
any more about him now, my dear," she said. The smallest shade passed
over the Rector's face. However, it didn't matter for him. He could
tickle Lizarann slightly, thanks to his position of vantage, and thus
avoid being misunderstood.

With Challis it was otherwise. The effect upon his mind of the action
of the League was that he now felt that Bridget's disreputable uncle
was absolutely the only topic of conversation possible. He tried in
vain to remember that anything else existed in the Universe.

"Mayn't we hear more about Miss Hicks's family?" said he, with some
sense of proposing a compromise--not to run counter to the feeling of
the League, as it were. Miss Caldecott said something confidentially to
Space about not encouraging the child too much.

But she did not understand the earnestness and good faith of the said
child. Lizarann had no suspicion that the gentleman's anxiety to know
about her friend's connection was sheer affectation, and hastened to
supply particulars. She proceeded to sketch the Hicks family, laying
stress as much as possible on the excellence of its motives and the
sobriety of its demeanour.

"Bridgetticks," she said, "she spinched her finger in the jam of the
door, and felt it a week after in her shoulder-j'int. Yass--she _did_!
And Mr. 'Icks, he don't take nothing till after gone twelve o'clock,
and then mostly at meals. And Mrs. 'Icks, she never touches anything.
Only then she never has scarcely no rheumatic pains to speak of."

"You see that point, Challis?" said the Rector parenthetically, in a
quick undertone, over the heads of the two young ladies. "What Mr.
'Icks does touch is part of a course of treatment for rheumatism."
Challis nodded the completeness of his understanding, and then the
little girl Phoebe, who was listening with gravity, leaning on the
shoulder of her father, said, "And then say why!"

Lizarann, prompted, continued, "Yass--she hasn't! Because of the nature
of the suds. Because she's over her elbers all day, and can't roll
nothin' up high enough, not to keep dry. And Dr. Ferris, he puts it
down to the lump soda." An inquiring look of Challis's produced the
additional information. "Yass!--you can buy it at the oilshop just
acrost the road from the Robin Hood. Only it comes to less by the
quarter-hundredweight." All this did the greatest credit to Lizarann's
power of storing information.

But the League had been tolerating this sort of thing too long, and
its Secretary or Solicitor--whichever Miss Caldecott was--struck in
with, "Perhaps we've talked _qui-ite_ enough now about Bridget Hicks
and her family, my dear! We mustn't trespass too much on Mr. Challis's
good-nature." Suspicion of the sinister intentions of the League
gleamed in Lizarann's eye; for she disbelieved in its representative,
while admitting her goodness. She might have ignored her intrusion
if it had not been that the extraordinary sensitiveness of childhood
to impressions that never penetrate the thick hide of manhood made
her detect in Challis's disclaimer an understanding between himself
and the League--one that civility had dictated reference to on his
part, but that he would have preferred to conceal. Now Lizarann might
have fallen back disconcerted on silence, even on tears, had it not
been for Athelstan Taylor's keen understanding of children, and the
supreme necessity for not letting them know allowances are being made
for them. He said, with great presence of mind and an appearance of
absolute sincerity: "Old Mrs. Fox sells it--where your Daddy lives,
Lizarann. She'll let you have twopenny-worth if you say it's for me.
So mind you bring it on with you when you come home." For Lizarann
was to call on her Daddy on her way back from this visit. The Rector
added that he should like old Christopher to try it, and this confirmed
Lizarann's belief in his _bona fides_. She would not have believed his
sister-in-law, who, with the best intentions, had been unfortunate
enough to incur unpopularity by throwing doubt on the Flying Dutchman.
This was her chief offence; but she had also questioned the accuracy
of the surgical reports of the boy Frederick Hawkins, and other minor
matters. So that Lizarann, while she acknowledged her kindness, took a
low view--but secretly--of her intelligence.

When the children had gone away dutifully to play, discussing by
the way such things as might be played at with advantage, the Rev.
Athelstan said, "Now I must be getting home, or I shall be late for
Mrs. Silverton." Said Mr. Challis: "Then I'll walk with you, Rector; I
don't want any tea." Said the Rector: "Then I'll wait till you've had
it," and waited. Presently they were walking through the long grass,
overfield, having said little till the Rector spoke, as one who resumes
conversation in earnest:

"What was all the interesting discussion about?"

"As far as I could gather--because they all spoke at once--they agreed
in condemning the measure now before the House. But that may have been
merely the common form of political discussion. There must be agreement
about something to establish cordiality."

"Didn't they agree about anything else?"

"I think not--as far as I recollect. But really, in listening
to discussions of this sort, I find myself handicapped by not
understanding any of the terms in use. I am convinced I shall die in
ignorance of what Secondary Education is, and though I talk confidently
of University Extension, I am painfully conscious that the meaning I
attach to it is founded, not on information of any sort, but on a washy
inference that it can't mean anything else. So it's quite possible our
friends were agreeing about something, and I didn't catch them at it."

"What had the M.P. to say?" asked the Rector.

"What M.P.'s generally do say. Things lay in nutshells, and called
aloud for decisive handling, which there was but little reason to
anticipate from a venal Press and an apathetic electorate. He would
not presume to arraign the judgment of any fellow-mortal, but he would
venture to call our attention to several things, and to lay before
us a great variety of alternatives with which it would, sooner or
later, be our bounden duty to grapple. He dwelt once more, at the
risk of wearying his hearers, on the necessity for dealing with each
political problem, as it arose, in a truly Imperial Spirit. I believe
he did touch upon some aspects of the question of religious education,
but then he also said he would not dwell upon them, and proceeded to
consider everything else. I have a very vague idea of his views, but I
understand they were luminous."

Athelstan Taylor thought he could detect in his friend to-day rather
more than usual of his spirit of careless perversity. Something was
the matter. But he made no attempt to find out what, and pursued the

"It would be interesting to know what he thought."

"It would--in view of the difficulty of inferring it from what he says.
Mr. Brownrigg was more intelligible."

"What did _he_ say?"

"Brownrigg pointed out. Of course! He pointed out that the subject
had been exhaustively dealt with by Graubosch in his twenty-ninth
volume. The forty-eighth chapter of that volume--one of its most
brilliant passages--indicates the means by which all the objects of
moral and religious education can be attained, without involving the
instructor of youth in the solution of a single difficult problem.
Strictly speaking, all such problems will at once disappear with the
abolition of Morality, Religion, and Education--changes which form a
fundamental feature of the scheme of Graubosch. But each of these will
be more than replaced. The Great Doctrine of Retributive Inconvenience
will result, as an inevitable consequence, in the Theory of the
Avoidance of Retributive Inconvenience, which will attain all the
ends Morality proposes to itself, but falls very short of. Religion
will cease to be a necessity to a race of beings to whom it has been
pointed out in their babyhood that they will do well to comply with the
Apparent Aims of the Metaphysical Check, who will supply more fully
the place the human imagination has hitherto supplied with Deities so
unsatisfactorily that even now monotheism is not quite agreed about
their number...."

"Never mind me!" said the Rector, who thought Challis hesitated. "Go

"Well--it was Brownrigg, you know; it wasn't me."

"It's all quite right, my dear fellow! I want to know now about the
Education. Suppose a member of the human race refuses to pay any
attention to the Apparent Aims of the Metaphysical Check...."

"He will come into collision, clearly, with the Doctrine of Retributive
Inconvenience. In the case of young persons, on whom a certain amount
of Inconvenience can be inflicted without overtaxing the Salaried
Suggesters who will take the place of the so-called Educational
Classes, an exact system might be formulated. Brownrigg gave as
an example the case of a child refusing to comply with the System
of Hypothetical Notification, under which it would be required to
address propitiatory sentiments, or requests for personal benefit, to
an unseen Metaphysical Check, whose hearing of the Application the
Salaried Suggester might hold himself at liberty to guarantee. He might
also--this was Brownrigg's point--endorse his suggestion, in the case
of a child refusing to Notify, by the infliction of a certain amount
of Inconvenience, tending to produce, if not an actual belief in the
existence of the Metaphysical Check, at any rate a readiness to confess
it, which would be for working purposes exactly the same."

The Rector shook his head doubtfully. "At present," said he, "the
practice in this village is to threaten rebellious youth with the
wicked fire. Would Brownrigg's substitute be as effectual?"

"You remember what he said in September--that Graubosch meant to retain
the Personal Devil until the new System had had time to settle down?
Just as people keep the gas on till the electric light is a certainty!"

The Rector laughed. "You'll make me as bad as yourself, Challis, before
you've done." Then he became more serious. "I would give a good deal,"
said he, "to know what you _really_ think on matters of this sort."

But Challis was persuading a pipe to light inside his hat, and no
immediate answer came. One vesta had perished in the attempt. The
second made a lurid flash on his face, in the shadow of the protecting
hat, his invariable grey felt. As Athelstan Taylor looked at him, he
saw again, more clearly than before, that the face was inconsistent
with its owner's levity of tone two minutes since. He negatived his own
impulse to ask questions, and waited. Perhaps it was part of a growing
interest in his companion that made him mix with this curiosity, about
what was going on inside that head, a wish to see the hat back on it.
For the sun was still fierce at the end of a hot June day, and the soft
brown hair the wind blew about so easily seemed to have little shelter
in it for the somewhat delicate skin the blue veins made so much show
on below, on the forehead.

"You would give a good deal," said Challis, when the pipe was well
alight, "to know what I think about the religious education of
children? So would I!" It was a disappointing ending. His hearer had
expected something better.

"What have you done about your own boy?" said he, with a kind of
magnanimous impatience. "Come! That's the point."

"Nothing. At least, I have sent him to Rugby, where he will be brought
up a member of the Church of England."

"But before?"

"I left him to his mother--at least, his aunt.... I told you...."

"I know."

"So you observe that with respect to Master Bob I have pursued a policy
of well-considered devolution of responsibility. Perhaps I should
say of evasion. However, I think I may lay claim to having given my
son every reasonable opportunity of believing the creeds that will
best advance his interests in the world. He has had the advantage of
imbibing them from a lady who enjoys the privilege of being able to
believe what she chooses, and has inherited or selected the tenets of
the well-to-do. He has been till lately at a preparatory Academy, where
every one of the masters is in orders, and every other boy the son of
a Bishop. And now he's gone to Rugby! What can a human father do more,
in the name of respectability?"

"My dear Challis, if you want to make your son's education a text for a
sermon against worldliness and hypocrisy, do so by all means. We have
weak joints enough in our armour, God knows, for you to shoot your
arrows into. But let me finish finding fault with you first."

Challis slipped his arm into the Rector's. "Go on finding fault," he
said. "Don't finish too soon."

"I won't. It seems to me, my dear friend, that under cover of a
complete confession you have contrived to raise issues which have
nothing to do with the question before the House, which I take to
be--what is a father's conscientious duty towards the child for whose
existence he is partly responsible? I want to keep you to the point."

"I'm a slippery customer, I know. Go on."

"Do you, or do you not, think a parent is bound to supply a child
with a religious faith? Failing the parent, is it the duty of the
guardian--of the State? That seems to me to lie at the root of all
questions of religious education. But our question is about the
parent's duty when one exists. _Exempli gratiâ_, yourself and Master
Bob! It seems to me that your policy was one of evasion, and that the
devolution of responsibility upon your wife was a rather cowardly
evasion. Especially as her responsibility could only be for her own

Challis's hand pressed the arm he held a little more warmly. There was
certainly no offence. "You are perfectly right, Rector," said he. "I
took a mean advantage of a little local patch of obscurantism to get
my boy inoculated in his youth with a popular form of Christianity, in
order that his father's heretical ideas should not stand in the way of
his advancement. But I lay this unction to my soul; that if ever he
sees his way to a bishopric, nothing I have ever said to him need stand
in his way.... Oh no!--there is no idea at present of his entering
the Church. The Army is engaging his attention at this moment--and
phonographs.... But go on pitching into me about cowardly evasions."

"I am afraid you are incorrigible, Challis. I can't help laughing
sometimes. But for all that, I think you were wrong. You were wrong
towards your wife, because, instead of helping her, you made her task
difficult. What can be harder than to turn a child's mind into any
channel with a strong counter-influence, as a father's must needs be,
constantly at work against one's efforts?"

Challis smiled in his turn. "It was Marianne, you see," he said. "I
can't express it. The position was harder to deal with than you think."
He then went on to tell one or two incidents connected with Bob's early
indoctrinations of the Scriptures. How, for instance, when Marianne
once crushed him under, "You know perfectly well, Titus, what the
words of Our Lord were," and followed it up with a quotation, he had
remarked in the presence of Master Bob that at any rate Jesus Christ
didn't speak English; and then she had flounced out of the room white
with anger, and not spoken to him for two days; and when she did at
last, it was to declare that if there was to be any more blasphemy and
impiety before the boy, she should go straight away to Tulse Hill, and
not come back. Also, when he once innocently remarked that he believed
there was now a tram-line from Joppa to Jerusalem, she had become very
violent, and accused him of speaking of Jerusalem as if it was a place
in Bradshaw.

The Rector considered, and then said: "I was just going to say Mrs.
Challis must be unusually ill-informed, when I happened to recollect
what a number of very good people are exactly like her. In fact, a very
dear old friend of mine"--he was thinking of the Rev. Mr. Fossett--"is
rather shocked when he hears Our Lord spoken of as a real person; and
with him it isn't exactly ignorance, because he's a priest in orders.
It's a phase of mind that seems to have its source in a belief that
nothing can be both Good and Actual." He stopped abruptly, as one who
changes a subject. "By-the-bye, should _you_ have said the little
person looked delicate--that little Lizarann, I mean?"

Challis had stopped to think. "N-no!" he said. "On the contrary,
I thought she had such a good colour." On which the Rector said,
"Ah--well!" and then more cheerfully, "Well--well!--I suppose it's all
right. However, we must keep our eyes open."

"Isn't the child strong? She's a funny little party."

"Why, no!--they say she isn't. Isn't strong, I mean. Never mind! What
were we talking about?"

"People and Scripture, don't you know. Things being actual...."

"I know. I was just going to tell you what dear old Gus--my
friend--won't forgive me for. I'll risk it. Only don't you make copy
of it.... Very well!--mind you don't.... It was this. Some years ago I
was urging him to marry, and he pleaded in extenuation of his celibacy
that he wished to model his life on Our Lord's in every point within
his power. 'It's all very fine,' I said. 'But why do you suppose the
Apostles did not model their lives on Our Lord's? Do you mean that they
all led celibate lives?' Gus said this was almost an insinuation that
Our Lord was or had been married. I'm sorry to say I couldn't help
saying, 'Can you produce a single particle of direct evidence that Our
Lord was not a widower when John baptized Him?' Gus hardly spoke to
me all that day. But what hurt him was the realism of the expression
'widower.' The case was exactly on all fours with your wife's."

They were just in sight of the Rectory, and Challis had to get back in
time for dinner. So he shook hands with his friend, remarking: "You
will go on blowing me up another time." Athelstan Taylor replied with
a cordial handshake. "You deserve it, you know!" and pulled out his
watch. "I shall be in time for Mrs. Silverton," said he. But who and
what that lady was this story knoweth not, neither whence she came nor
whither she went. But she occurs in the text for all that.

       *       *       *       *       *

Challis wandered back, having intentionally allowed himself time to do
so, keeping out of the direct path to avoid meeting people. He liked
his own company best.

His talk with Athelstan Taylor, which else could claim little place in
the story, had had a curious effect on him. It had brought back vividly
his early days with his wife. As he sauntered on with his eyes on the
ground, choosing rather destructively special whitey-green heads of
new young fern to crush down, or cutting here and there an inoffensive
flower with his stick, his ears heard nothing of the wind-music in
the trees, his eyes saw nothing of the evening rabbits, popping away
and vanishing one by one--for which of them could say he had no gun,
off hand?--as he approached. The small village maiden who stopped and
stood still through a blank bar, and dropped a semiquaver curtsey
in the middle and then went on _andante capriccioso_, might almost
as well not have been there for any notice Challis took of her. His
thoughts were back in Great Coram Street, in the dingy London home this
Marianne--yes! this very Marianne--made cheerful, more than cheerful,
to the industrious accountant of ten years since; who parted from
her each morning looking forward to the return each evening brought
to the grubby domicile he associated with so many blackbeetles in
the impenetrable basement, such smells of mice in spite of such much
stronger smells of cats, and the wails and choral conclusions of these
last in the backyard they held against all comers, in the small hours
of so many foggy mornings.

How many escapes from the fog without to the firelight within could he
recall, in those days when he rose from his office-desk without a dream
of what he could have used his brain for, instead of those interminable
figures! How many a shock of trivial disappointment to find that
Missis wasn't home yet!--how many an insignificant reviving thrill of
contentment when Missis's knock followed near upon his own arrival and
his thwarted expectation! For now and again it must happen to a man
that some woman he has no passionate love for, pedantically speaking,
shall grow round his heart and make the comfort of his life. That was
the sort of thing that had come to pass in the case of Marianne and
Alfred Challis. And now, as he--the flattered guest of folk he then had
never thought to sit at meat with--passed up the great beech-avenue to
the house, respectfully saluted by a great game-keeper, a Being who, in
those older years, would simply have spurned him, his thoughts had all
gone back to the rosy, if rather short-tempered girl who then seemed
plenty for his life, and might surely have remained so, only ... only
Challis couldn't finish the sentence. Now, why was he, in his own mind,
commenting a moment after on the inappropriateness of two lines of
Browning that had come into it:

    "... Strange, that very way
    Love begun! I as little understand
    Love's decay."

He resented their intrusion. Who would dare to say his affection for
Marianne was not what it had always been? It was--he would swear
it!--and that in spite of the fact that Marianne, look you, was not now
what she was in those days.

How and when had the change come over things? He was on the alert to
keep Judith out of the answer to this question. He must see to that, or
Unfairness, that was in the air, would twist awry the admiration of her
beauty that was all mankind's--womankind's, for that matter, jealousy
apart!--and put a misconstruction on his simplest actions, his most
obvious feelings. He could have held his head up better, true enough,
over this passage of his analytical self-torment, if only it had not
been for that unhappy revelation of unspoken suspicion, by the river
there, not two hours since. But be fair!--be fair! It _was_ unspoken,
at least! Who had said anything? As he asked the question of himself,
Challis wiped from his brow perspiration he ascribed to the weather!

Did he not know of old how often he had deceived himself? Might not all
this be self-delusion, too? At least, he had as good a vantage-ground
as the man to whom some woman may often say, truly: "You have looked
love, and there has been love in the pressure of your hand, in the
tone of your voice. But I cannot indite you. Live safe behind your
equivocations." Nay, he was safer than such a one! For in his case the
more he could ignore love, the better he would discharge his duty to
Judith. The other man would be the greater sneak, the more he did so.

But the question--the question! It was still unanswered. When did the
change come over Marianne? Oh, he knew perfectly well! It was from
the day when he began, to all seeming at her request, to go out into
this accursed Society without her. Very well, then!--it was all mere
glamour, the whole thing. Let him do now what he should have done at
first--insist on her being his companion, among his kind as well as in
his home. Then would the old Marianne come back, and all would be well.

So by the time he was two-thirds through the avenue, his thoughts had
worked back into his old existence, and taken him with them. If only
his knowledge of his surroundings in his daily life at home would bear
him out, and help him to keep at bay this image of Judith that forced
itself upon him now--this image of her as she stood in the sunset light
last September, just on this very spot!

       *       *       *       *       *

What he recognized at once as the nose of a large grey boarhound
touched him gently, and he turned. There stood Saladin, satisfied to
all seeming that what he had smelt was in order, but content to take
no further steps. Challis glanced round, expecting to see the dog's
mistress; in a sense rather afraid to do so. She was near at hand, a
few paces from the pathway, and her perfect self-possession reassured

"I never told Saladin to disturb your reverie, Mr. Challis," she said,
quite easily, and with deliberation. "The darling acted on his own
responsibility." Saladin, hearing his own name, seemed to think he had
leave to go, and trotted on, giving attention to tree-trunks and the
like. Challis had to say something.

"Are we not late for dinner?" was what it came to.

"I believe we are, but it never matters. Did you get your letter?"

"No--I got no letter. What letter?"

"Haven't you been up at the house? It was there when I went back. I
thought it looked like your wife's handwriting. I hope it's to say we
shall see her on Saturday."

"I hope so, too." But Challis wasn't sanguine.

No pretence that no embarrassment exists between two people, however
determined, can do more than encourage a hope that a _modus vivendi_
may be found. These two persevered in theirs, because each hoped for
a working pretext that would carry Challis's visit through, without
further useless complications, and this one of Marianne was a good one
to make a parade of their detachment about. See how anxious we both
are to emphasize the perfect self-possession a friendship like ours
allows!--was what it seemed to say. Each knew it was a pretext, but
each was loyally ready to accept the other's belief in it as a reality.

So when Judith said those last words of hers, Challis went so cordially
through the form of believing her in earnest that he powerfully helped
the image he had set his mind to construct of a Marianne based on his
impressions--illusions, if you must have it so!--of ten years past.
Conversation that followed on the way to the house, artificial though
it might be, all tended towards a cheap local apotheosis of Marianne,
with a beneficial side-influence on her husband's disposition to
idealize her. Thus Judith: "Of course, a change would do her so much
good. Housekeeping is tiresome work."

"Yes," said Challis. "It's wearing! And if you understand what I mean,
it makes her unlike herself."

"Oh, I understand so exactly. Everyone would--every woman, I mean. It
has nothing to do with ill-temper."

"Nothing whatever!" Challis made the most of this. "There isn't a
better-tempered creature in the world than Polly Anne." He called her
a creature, though, to keep the position properly qualified. "And one
knows what children are."

"They are darling little people." Judith yawned slightly. "But they are
nicest when you know them as acquaintances. Too much intimacy palls.
Unless they are very nice children. I am sure yours are. But all the
same, Marianne would be the better for a change." And so on. But there
was very little life in this talk.

None the less, Challis was feeling good about his wife, when he reached
the house looking forward to finding Marianne's letter awaiting him,
and carried it up into his room to read it. He was more curious to
read it than to wait for the arrival of the motor, whose hoot had just
become audible from somewhere near the park-gate, a mile off. Saladin
immediately started at a gallop either to sanction or condemn it, and
Judith lingered, awaiting its arrival.

"I see Mr. Challis didn't go to Ashcroft," is what Sibyl says first to
her sister. It refers to a projected excursion a full day long, which
had been cancelled after the departure of the motor in the morning.

Judith looks ostentatiously indifferent. "No one went," she says. "It
was given up. But how came you to know?"

"That Mr. Challis didn't go? We saw you from the Links, walking
together in the avenue."

Judith turns with handsome languor to Lord Felixthorpe, the other
occupant of the motor. "Did she?" she says. "Did you? I mean." Sibyl
says: "Thank you for doubting my word! The avenue is visible from the

His lordship is deliberate, as usual. The answer to Judith's first
question is, he says, in the affirmative; to the second, in the
negative. Identification, even of eminent authors, at a distance in
an evening light, is difficult when a time-limit is fixed by the
rapid locomotion of the observer. Sibyl's comment, in an undertone,
Judith understands to be a caution against prosiness. But a respectful
reference by Elphinstone to the many minutes ago that the first gong
sounded causes a hurried flight to dress.

       *       *       *       *       *

Challis felt good about his wife as he opened her letter; and the
feeling grew rather than lessened when he saw how short it was. She
must be coming, that was clear! But the satisfaction in his face died
out as his eye caught the "Yr: aff: wife" at its conclusion. He read
the two ill-covered pages twice and again before he threw it down with
an angry "Humph!" and set himself to make up for lost time with his

He only just succeeded in scrambling into his coat in time for the
second, or heart-whole, dinner-bell. All right!--he would run,
directly. But it would only make him a minute late to glance once more
at that letter. Besides, he could do it as he went downstairs. He
did so, and ended by pocketing it just in time to appear last in the
drawing-room, apologetic.



That was a very fortunate interview in the park-avenue between Challis
and Miss Arkroyd. If their sequel to that half-hour before they joined
the tea-party, when they stood hand-in-hand on the edge of a volcano,
had been a stiff meeting in society, the position would have become a
rigid one; its joints would have ossified. Some may hold that it would
have been best that they should do so, and that the lubrication of this
interview was really unfortunate. It depends on how one looks at it.
Efficacious it certainly was.

So efficacious that Challis almost felt at liberty to be sorry that
Judith was moved to the far end of the long table at dinner, beyond his
range of communication. He grudged the geometrical distance between
them, while he acknowledged their moral or spiritual _éloignement_. He
had to confess to his regret when a fresh dress she had on that evening
rustled and glittered--it was all sparks and flashes--past the place
she occupied the evening before. "We move up, like the Hatter and the
Dormouse," said she to her partner.

The house-party had become enormous; indeed, some of it had oozed
out into an adjoining apartment, and had a little round table all to
itself--which it may be said to have forgotten, for it made a great

Challis's own flank-destinies for this dinner were an elderly young
lady with a bridge to her nose--a county family in herself--whom he had
protected through the dangerous passage from the drawing-room; and the
extraneous chit, Lady Henrietta Mounttullibardine. The latter had been
provided with a counter-chit, who was always spoken of as Arthur, and
seemed to be many people's cousin. The former had a powerful pair of
eyeglasses on a yard-arm, or sprit, workable from below; these, Challis
noticed, were manoeuvred so as to leave the bridge free. He imputed
powder, or something that might come off, to its owner. She seemed to
have been very carefully prepared to go into Society, and to look
down on it now that she had arrived. But she had to be talked to about
something within its confines, and Challis had to find out what.

"I wonder what the brilliant stuff is called," said he, therefore.
Judith's dress was the stuff.

"Sequin net is the name, I believe." This suggested somehow that the
stuff's sphere was one grade below the speaker's.

"How much is a sequin?" asked Challis.

"It is not an expensive material," said the lady.

"I don't want a dress for myself," said Challis.

"Oh, indeed!" said the lady. Settlements ensued. And then Challis's
other neighbour addressed him.

"They are in the other room this evening," said the chit. Her remark
related to a mutual confidence between herself and Challis, begun on
the lawn on the day of his arrival. They never spoke of anything else.

"I can hear them," said he. "They're making noise enough. But I thought
they had quarrelled this morning?"

"This _morning_--oh _yes_!" This was very _empressé_. "But they made
that up _long ago_!"

"When do they?... when are they?... when will it?... Clear, please! Oh
no!--that'll do beautifully. I meant thick." This was to the servant,
respecting soup.

"I'm so afraid it never _will_! Do you know, I really _am_!"

"Instances are not wanting of young ladies and gentlemen who haven't
got married.... Hock, thank you!"

"Of _course_! But they _always_ do, if they _can_. Don't they now, Mr.

"I admit it. Unless they meet with someone they like better. Of course,
that does happen."

"Oh yes--of _course_! But then it only matters when it isn't _both_."
Challis, on the watch for copy, noticed that whenever this chit
italicized a word--which was frequently--she opened her large blue eyes
as far as possible.

"You express it to perfection. When it's both, it doesn't matter the
least. But this time it's neither, so far!"

"Oh no!--they can't _look_ at anyone else."

"Nothing can be more satisfactory. But why shouldn't it?... why
shouldn't they?..."

"Oh dear! I'm so afraid they never _will_. Because he has only his
pay, and she has--_nothing_!" Human eyes have only limited powers of
opening, and the speaker's had done all they could.

"Couldn't a rich aunt settle something on them, or someone place a
fund at their disposal? Or something of that sort?... What a shindy
they _are_ making!... Not before Christmas." This was because his
left-hand neighbour had said sternly: "When is your next book coming
out, Mr. Challis?"

But the chit had a secret knowledge of the _vera causa_ of the
riot in the next room, when three chits and as many counter-chits,
uncontrolled, had the small round table to themselves. She knew exactly
what they were doing--trying to pick up tumblers upside down, like
this!--"this" being the thumb on one side, and one finger only on the

"I have forgotten when your last book came out, Mr. Challis." This
left-hand neighbour seemed reproachful. But Challis couldn't help it.
"Just eight weeks ago," said he.

A lull came in the next room, with the young soldier's voice audible
in it, "Now all together, or it doesn't count!" Some sort of wager
was being put to the test. Challis's chit murmured in the moments
of suspense that followed, "They broke several yesterday in the
billiard-room." Challis, amused, waited for the inevitable smash.

It came, and was a grand one. And the chorus of contrition and apology
from the culprits was only equalled by their indignation at the way the
Laws of Nature had proved broken reeds. If there was one thing more
than another that the student of dynamics could not have credited, it
was that under the circumstances a single tumbler should have been
broken. Challis perceived that Lady Arkroyd spoke _sotto voce_ to Mr.
Elphinstone, who, he thought, replied, "Plenty, your ladyship. They
came this morning." Then followed a fine exhibition of dexterity in
the rapid collection and removal of broken glass. Challis thought to
himself, but did not say so, that it reminded one of being on board

The chit had done her duty by Mr. Challis, and now deserted him. Arthur
had done his by Mrs. Ramsey Tomes, on his other flank, who had told
him she wasn't quite sure if Mr. Tomes approved of football. She was
almost certain he thought young men gave up too much time to rowing,
and cricket, and lawn-tennis, and cycling, and everything else,
and perfectly certain he didn't disapprove of anti-vivisection or
anti-vaccination, but she wasn't quite sure which. She was not a gifted
person, and was quite unable to keep pace with her husband's powerful
mind. She had been freely spoken of before now, by heedless linguists,
as a Juggins. Arthur deserted her with a sense of duty done, and passed
the remainder of the banquet in exchanging wireless undertones with
his other neighbour. It was wonderful how much communication they
seemed to get through, considering how little noise they made. It
seemed to be done with eyebrows, slight facial adaptations, new ways of
keeping lips closed, but rarely completed speech.

Challis was conscious that each of these young people would be the
other's _menu_ for the rest of the banquet, so he surrendered himself
to a portentous catechism from the lady with the eyeglass touching his

"Where do you write, Mr. Challis?"

"At home--when I'm at home. Or wherever I happen to be at the time."
When he had said this, he wondered whether he was going idiotic. It was
like saying a mother was always present at the birth of her child.

"But upstairs or down? And is the room at the back of the house?" He
gave close particulars of all the rooms at the Hermitage. A capital way
of making conversation! But in the end it ran dry.

"I like writing in bed," said he, for variety. "Rabelais wrote in bed."
He wasn't sure of this at all. But it didn't matter.

"Oh, indeed!" said the lady. She was an Honourable Miss Something, and
not nearly dissolute enough to know anything about authors who write
in bed; and, besides, she had her doubts about Rabelais. She changed
the conversation delicately. Did Mr. Challis use a Fountain Pen? No,
he didn't. Because he thought for a quarter of an hour at every third
word, and that was time enough for an active person under fifty to dip
his pen in the ink. Pressmen had to write straight on without stopping.
The lady took this seriously, and said, "Dear me!"

What followed was very like the sample. Challis could make talk and
think of something else quite well. So he thought how different his
right-hand neighbour was from Charlotte Eldridge. And that set him
a-thinking again about his wife. But there were unnavigable straits in
that sea. His thoughts got into shoal-water, and his neighbour pursued
a topic unaccompanied until she found she had left him behind. Then
indignation kindled, but subject to good-breeding. She would put a test
question, though, to see how much attention this gentleman had been

"How many words are there in a book?" The question came with sudden
severity, and Challis had to pull himself together to reply.

"Of course," he said, "there's not always exactly the same number. But
a hundred thousand, more or less." It was a good answer, and embodied
a feeling current in the book-trade. And the conversation, thus
re-established, developed on the same lines until the vanishing-point
of the army of womankind. Challis fancied he saw commiseration on
Judith's face as she brought up the rear. He certainly had seldom in
his life passed a duller hour.

He knew what it was going to be next. Dreary politics, wearisome
ethics, maudlin philosophy, execrable--thrice execrable!--Social
Problems which it was every man's duty to confront, and every other
man's duty to hear him elucidate. Yes!--there was Mr. Ramsey Tomes at
it already! He had got a good new word to talk with--"noumenal"--and
was brandishing it over his hearers' heads....

Oh dear!--metaphysics! Not even free treatment of what Challis's mind
classed as Charlottology! That always appealed to our common something
or other. Now what he could catch at first hearing seemed bare, cold,
cruel Metaphysics. Never an indiscreet lady nor an unprincipled
gentleman, nor even a New Morality, of any sort! No fun at all!

But stop a bit! Was there none? Challis listened, and perceived, before
coffee-time, that the changed guest of last September, who had become
a Complete Christian Scientist, had denied the existence of matter.
He took a chair nearer to the discussion, not to seem out of it, and
so attracted to himself the attention of Mr. Ramsey Tomes, whose
lung-power had taken possession of the rostrum.

"I appeal," said that gentleman, "to Mr. Challis." He went on with a
testimonial or appreciation beginning with "than whom I will venture to
say," and elucidating Challis's great accomplishments and intellectual
powers, Challis seized the opportunity of a coffee-deal to ask what
he was being appealed to about. A mixed response informed him on this
point. A definition of Matter had been called for, and the Confirmed
Christian Scientist had demurred to giving any such definition. "No
one," said he, "can be logically called on to define a thing he denies
the existence of. The burden of definition manifestly lies with those
who affirm it."

"Personally," said Challis, "I prefer--but I admit it may be only
idiosyncrasy on my part--to know, when I deny the existence of
anything, what the thing is that I am denying the existence of. Perhaps
I should say, rather, what it would be if it existed. If I knew, I
think I should always communicate my knowledge, both from civility and
as a politic act. For how the dickens anyone else would know what I
was denying the existence of if I didn't tell him, I'll be hanged if
_I_ know!"

An indignant murmur was perceptible round the table. It gathered force,
and became a protest against this treatment of the subject. Everybody,
it said, knew perfectly well what matter _was_. All that was wanted was
a Definition of it.

"What _is_ Matter?" said Challis. But he had some difficulty in hearing
all the answers to this question. However, he caught the following:

"Obviously, there is no such distinct thing as Matter. What we
call matter--stuff, substance, body, or what not--is really only a
manifestation of energy."

"Obviously, Matter is a phenomenon."

"Obviously, Matter is the negation of mind."

"Obviously, Matter is the antithesis of spirit."

"Obviously, Matter is the reciprocal interdependent externalization of
what used at one time to be called Forces, but which are now almost
universally recognized to be merely modes of motion."

"Something you can prod." This last piece of crudity came from the
young man Arthur, and attracted no attention.

Now, when several persons shout simultaneously a profound and intuitive
judgment apiece, each naturally pauses to hear what effect his own has
had upon the Universe. An opening for speech is then given to anyone
who has the presence of mind to abstain from wasting time over the
detection of a stray meaning anywhere. In this case, Mr. Ramsey Tomes
saw his opportunity, and seized it.

"Am I mistaken," said he, "in supposing that at least one suggestion
has been made that the Universe, as at present formulated, has but two
constituents--namely, the subject under discussion, Matter, on the one
hand; and on the other what has been variously called Mind or Spirit.
Shall I presume too far on the attention the Philosophical Mind is
prepared to vouchsafe to the voice of a mere sciolist in Metaphysical
profundity if I indicate the existence of yet a third constituent of
what has been not inaptly called the Universal Whole? I refer to what I
may term the Unknown."

The speaker felt that this was so admirably expressed that he rashly
paused to lick his lips over it. This gave Challis, who was in a
malicious or impish mood, time to interject a remark. Its effect
was that, for the purpose of discussing the Existence of Matter,
no definition of it would be of any use to us, unless we provided
ourselves also with an accurate definition of Existence. Agreement on
these two points would enable us to _approfondir_ the question of the
entity or nonentity of the appreciable Universe.

There seemed to be no serious difficulty, unless it were the selection
of the required definitions from an _embarras de richesses_. Among
those which survived the tumult of many confident voices, Challis
distinguished the following:

"The relation a thing has to itself."

"The condition precedent of the concept 'nothing,' which is itself a
fundamental condition of thought."

"A quality thought imputes to the external cause of every phenomenon."

"The recognition by the Ego of the reality of its environments."

"When you've nothing particular to do." This one was Arthur, who,
however, was heard a moment after to say, "All right; I'll come!"
in response to a summons, and thereafter went, carrying away his
unfinished cigar. Challis heard his voice afar very soon, probably
in the garden in the moonlight, where chits and counterchits were
in council on the lawn. He wanted to go out in that garden himself,
but--he supposed--he recognized the reality of his environments, like
the Ego, and felt that such conduct would be rude. Besides, he was
rather amused, too. What was that Mr. Brownrigg was saying?

He was pointing out, of course. Nay, more!--he was pointing out
that Graubosch had already pointed out, in his Appendix B, that we
had no direct evidence of any existence whatever independently of a
percipient. The Confirmed Christian Scientist applauded this audibly,
but remarked that that was merely Immanuel Kant, after all! On the
other hand, Mr. Brownrigg continued, we have not a particle of evidence
that any percipient could exist as such, independent of a percipiendum.
We could not collect his evidence, clearly, without exposing ourselves
to his untried observation, and thereby upsetting the conditions of the

The Confirmed Christian Scientist's face fell, and he asked
dejectedly, What conclusion did Graubosch draw? Mr. Brownrigg replied
that Graubosch considered the problem afforded a fine instance of
Metaphysical Equilibrium, which would under that name continue to
engage the attention of thinkers long after the Insolubility of
Problems had ceased to be admitted as a Scientific possibility. The
final solution of all questions could not be regarded with complacency
by a thoughtful world; and the recognition of Metaphysical Equilibrium,
in questions which the Primitives of Philosophy had condemned as
unanswerable, was a welcome addition to the resources of Modern
Thought, for which the world had to thank its originator and greatest
exponent, Graubosch, et cetera.

Challis began to think he must really make an effort, and go. He would
watch for an opportunity. It came.

The advocates of the Existence of Matter were disposed to make a stand
in favour of Human Reason; in fact, they were inclined to claim for
Man, before the dawn of sight, hearing, or feeling, the position of a
Unit charged with Syllogism, ready to make short work of any Phenomenon
that might present itself. But, then, how about anthropoid apes?
Didn't Sally count up to five? Well, then--Reason be blowed! Make it
perception, and include all forms of Life.

This brought up Mr. Ramsey Tomes in great force. We were now landed,
he said, in a crux on the axis of which this most interesting group of
problems might be said to rotate. Let the many-headed activities of
Ratiocinative Speculation agree on a Definition of Life, and he would
venture to say without fear of contradiction that a keynote would have
been struck that would resound through the proper quarters. Challis
missed their description, owing to Mr. Brownrigg's voice intercepting
it resolutely.

"Surely," said he, "we need go no further than the one supplied by
Herbert Spencer." Everyone listened with roused attention, and Mr.
Brownrigg continued. "You will all recall it at once! 'The definite
combination of heterogeneous changes, both simultaneous and successive,
in correspondence with external coexistences and sequences.' It is
among the few decisions of modern thought which Graubosch has been able
to accept intact; and the translation he himself made of it into German
surpasses, if anything, its English original in force and lucidity."

Challis thought he might go. No need to stay for the German
translation. On the way from the entrance-hall into the garden, he
nearly collided with the largest possible white shirt-front associated
with the smallest possible black waistcoat. The owner, Arthur, the
universal cousin, begged his pardon. He begged it awfully, it seemed;
but why? What he added, before going away up the broad staircase four
steps at a time, was enigmatical: "No gloves--only I can lend Jack a
pair." Challis left the meaning of this in a state of Metaphysical
Equilibrium, till the sound of music under moonlit cedars on the lawn
explained it. A chit-extemporized dance was afoot on the close-cropped
turf. Challis remembered this young subaltern's definition of
Existence, and felt he knew what sort of definition of Life his would

He himself would not mix with it, under the cedars there, but would
finish his cigar with his arms crossed on this ledge of clean stone
balustrade, all silvery with lichens in the moonlight, where he would
see and not be seen. Perhaps he would remember the name of the little
creeping flowers that last September were climbing all over the shrub
that half hid him; that were only pledges as yet, but that he knew the
morning sun would soon make rubies of. Cockney that he was, he had
had to ask the little flower's name of Judith, as she stood on that
gravel path below, near ten months back. What a short time it seemed!
Petroleum?--No!--Protæolum, was it?--No!--that wasn't it exactly. But
near enough!...

Footsteps were coming along the pathway now. Was it honourable to
overhear what those two girls were discussing in the moonlight?
Pooh!--stuff and nonsense! These chits--the idea! What _could_ those
children have to say that they could mind his hearing? Besides, they
would never know; and he could cough at a moment's notice.

"You could have lawts of awfers, if you liked, Flawcey. I know a girl
that's had eleven awfers. I've had three awfers. I suppose now it is
Jack I shan't have any maw awfers." The sweet drawler, who is of course
the speaker, has rather a rueful sound over this.

"I could have been engaged twice," says the other; "only one was
forty-five, and the other was a Hungarian."

They do not interest the drawler. She ripples on musically: "Of
cawce, I shall have Cerberus, because he belawngs to Jack. Oh, he is
a dahling!" Then the two go out of hearing; but the drawl is there,
in the distance still. Challis notes afar, under the cedar-trees, how
Chinese lanterns are coming to birth in the twilight. There will only
be real darkness quite late to-night.

Two other voices are audible near for a few seconds, with a roused
interest for Challis, whose sense of eavesdropping increases. Before he
can decide on stopping his ears, he has heard Sibyl say: "I have eased
my conscience, and you can't blame _me_, whatever happens!" She is
speaking as one who has the Universe on her shoulders. Judith's answer
is lost, rather to his relief, all but the _timbre_ of its resentment.

Here come the chits back! _They_ don't matter. What's the story now?

"Oh, it was hawrible! If only it had been an awdinary eyeglass, with a

"But then it would have had to be fished up, you know!"

"Of cawce it would. I didn't think of that. Perhaps it's just as well
it wawse a lens.... No, it was quite easy how it happened, if you

"But whatever did you do?"

"Of course, d'ya, we both pretended it had rolled on the floor, and
kneeled down to look for it. But we both knew quite well where it was,
and I could feel it cold all down my back. Oh, it was hawrible!" The
speaker added thoughtfully after a pause: "I am so glad it's Jack now,
and not Sholto. He did look such a fool, and _such_ strong cigars!"

Challis was able, being a dramatist, to put an intelligible
construction on this little dramatic experience of the young lady and
her previous admirer. We need not probe into its obscurity, as its only
interest in this story is that it reminded him of an incident of his
own bygone youth--the disappearance of a pearl from a ring of his first
wife's, and its resurrection from the inside of his own stocking after
setting him limping, inexplicably, all the way home to his rooms from
her mother's house. Oh, the ridiculous trifles of life!--nothing at the
time, but all-powerful for sadness in the days to come.

So powerful, in this case, that he was less than ever ready for the
sphere of pink and green illumination and dance-music, just becoming
self-assertive. Of course!--those young monkeys were hanging about
in the suburbs merely in order to be fetched. They knew their value,
bless you! So Challis thought to himself as he lit another cigar,
sauntering among the cut yew-hedges of a side-garden. A wing of the
house was between him and the dancers, and their sounds were dim. But
from a back-window of the room he had left a quarter of an hour since
still came such noise as is inevitable when a number of close reasoners
with strong lungs go seriously to work on the Nature of Things, and
point out each other's fallacies. "Word-changers in the Temple of
the Inscrutable," thought Challis to himself, as he turned to seek
congenial silence farther afield.

He would find it, he knew, if it were nowhere else in the world, in the
sweet little rose-garden called, for no sane reason, "Tophet."

He and Judith had walked there more than once on his previous visit,
and he had surmised that its most inapt name might be connectable with
the now common word _toff_, meaning a person of birth and position--a
descendant of ancestors. Judith had asked why, and he had told her she
would never be an etymologist at that rate. Bother _why_!

It was a very exclusive little garden certainly--if that would make a
reason--with four high stone walls and a very small door with a very
large key. Perhaps this was locked. It was sometimes. But no one had
ever confessed to having locked it. And the large key always hung on
a hook almost in the lock's pocket, so to speak. A very old gardener
had told Challis it was done on the understanding it might be used.
"I see," said Challis. "'Locke on the Understanding.'" And the old
gardener had said "Ah!" with perfect unsuspicion.

This night it seemed that someone had taken advantage of the
understanding, for the key was in the lock, and the door stood partly
open. Someone must be inside. There was an unaccountable little grating
in the door one could look through. Challis did so, and saw who it
was--the woman in the moonlight.

It was strange how his relations with this woman had changed since
their walk by the river two days since; when, mind you!--not a word had
been spoken to which either ascribed a meaning that could have changed
them. A few days ago theirs was a normal friendship enough, bearing in
mind difference of age and social standards; always factors in human
problems all the world over, shut our eyes to them as we may! Now, the
weft of _his_ consciousness at least was hot with a new disturbing
tint. Why, in Heaven's name, else, need his first instinct be to turn
and run? And all because, forsooth, he had come on Judith Arkroyd
walking in a garden! Surely all the circumstances were vociferous
enough of detachment and independence, for both, to make a start and
a quickened pulse enormously illogical. Why will emotions never be

One thing is certain, that he did all but turn and slip quietly
away. He accounted to the upper stratum of his consciousness for
this by referring it to a strong desire to be alone and "think over
things." But he had to ignore a mind-flash that had crossed its lower
stratum--one the story should almost apologize for recording, as too
improbable--a sudden image of his odious neighbour, John Eldridge;
which he knew, without hearing anything, had said: "You can't stand
that, Master Titus--never do!--never do at all!" Again, this story is
compelled to disclaim all responsibility for Challis's mental oddities.
But they have to be recorded, for all that.

Perhaps that speech of Sibyl's, in the garden just now, had something
to answer for. What had she been protesting against? Not the stage;
that was all over and done with. Challis never detected his own
absurdity in jumping to the conclusion that the protest must have
related to himself! What right had he to infer, from a tone of Judith's
voice, that she spoke about him?

He did not run, though he went near it. Self-contempt stepped in.
What imbecile cowardice! What a miserable fear that he would lose
the whip-hand of a fool's passion he was not even prepared to admit
the existence of! He--Alfred Challis--who but half-an-hour ago had
been moved to a puny heartache over that memory of the pearl and its
wanderings and recovery! And then, to stagger in a fraction of time all
sane contemplation of past and present, came the clash between that
memory and his moment of shame, a short while since, that "poor Kate's"
place in his heart had so soon been filled by poor slow Marianne. His
wife now!--how his brain reeled to think of it all! There was that home
of his, and the children, and Bob; the thought of the boy as good as
stung him. What should he--what could he--say to Bob hereafter, if...?



There was a little fountain in the middle of the little garden, with a
little _amorino_ from the court of the Signoria at Florence to attend
to the squirting. The moon was comparing the light she could make on
its shower of drops with sparkles from the lady's dress who stood
beside it. It was in no hurry to decide--might perhaps ask a tiny
cloud, that was coming, to help. Once inside the garden Challis was
committed to approaching its centre. There was--remember!--no official
recognition of any change in the position of the two since Trout Bend.

"I came here to be alone, but you may come." Judith's words might well
have made matters worse. But her tranquil, unconcerned, almost insolent
beauty in the moonlight was fraught with a sense of self-command that
more than counterbalanced them. It gave her hearer a sort of _rangé_
feeling--determined his position--put him on his good behaviour. He
could trust to her control of their interview, but all the same a
little resented feeling so much like a child in her hands.

"I came here to be alone, too," said he.

"Perhaps I ought to go?" Manifestly not spoken seriously, but not
jestingly enough to set _badinage_ afoot. She did not wait for his
answer, but went on, "Perhaps we both ought, for that matter. Did you
find the politics bored you?... oh!--metaphysics, was it? _I_ came here
because I found my little sister unendurable."

Challis thrust what he had overheard, when eavesdropping, into the
background of his mind: "About the stage, I suppose? Why do you not
tell her--set her mind at ease?" But he knew Sibyl knew already, and
this was only to help him to keep his foreground clear.

Judith appeared to select her answer at leisure, from among reserves.
"Sibyl knows," she said. "The indictment related to something else this
time." Then, as though she were weighing a possibility: "No--I suppose
I could hardly tell you about that. One is too artificial. We should be
much nicer if we were small children. Never mind! Some day, perhaps!"

Challis decided on saying, with a laugh, "I suppose I mustn't be
inquisitive and ask questions," as the best way of suggesting that his
own guesses, if any, were trivial and impersonal. She ended a silence
in which he fancied the subject was to be forgotten by saying: "I
should tell you nothing, whatever you asked. Besides, you have never
had a little sister, and would not understand. Family relations are

"No, I have never had a little sister." And then Challis felt like a
liar, and heart-sick as he thought of the thoroughness with which he
had accepted Kate's "little sister" as his own. What a compensation he
had thought her for a mother-in-law his most gruesome anticipations had
not bargained for! When did the change come about?--when?--when? Why
need the memory of it all come on him now, of all times? But Judith
stopped his retrospect short with: "Get me that rose-bud, if you have
a knife. Don't scratch yourself on my account." For Challis to reply:
"What care I how much I scratch myself, if it is on your account?"
would have savoured of Chitland, musically audible afar. Challis left
it unsaid.

The rose-bud was soon got with the aid of a little tortoiseshell
knife that was really Marianne's. There was another twinge in ambush
for her husband over that, and a sharp cross-fire between it and the
soul-brush, that was being kept at work all this while--unconsciously,
one hopes; but this story knows exactly what Charlotte Eldridge would
have thought and said. And she might have been right, for it makes
little pretence of being able to see behind the veil this Judith's
beauty hides her inner soul with, nor to read her heart. All it, the
story, has known of her so far has been that beauty and her love of
power. A perilous quality, that!

All it can say now is that if this woman knows, as she bends, careless
how close, to take the flower from the hand that gathered it; as she
flashes the diamonds on her white fingers quite needlessly near his
lips--if she has any insight, as she does this, into the way she is
playing with a human soul, then is she a thoroughly bad woman. And to
our thinking all the worse if she knows, or believes, her reputation
is safe in her own keeping. For then what is she, at best, but a keen
sportswoman wicked enough to poach on her fellow-woman's preserves,
destroying the peace of a home merely to show what a crack shot she is.
We must confess to a preference for the standard forms of honourable,
straightforward lawlessness. But perhaps these reflections are doing
injustice to Judith. She may be capable of good, honest, downright
wickedness. Remember that she is comparatively young and inexperienced.

One should surely beware, too, of doing injustice to beautiful
women--ascribing to them motives of overt fascination, to entangle
man, in every simple action a discreet dowdy might practise unnoticed
and unblamed. Make an image of such a one in your mind--make it ropy,
bony, obliging, with unwarrantable knuckles--let it place a flower in
its bosom, if any; and then say whether Charlotte Eldridge's keenest
analysis could detect in its action the smallest element she could
pounce on as seductive; the slightest appearance of a hook baited to
captivate her John, or anybody else's? No, no!--let us be charitable,
and suppose, for the present, at any rate, that Judith was unconscious
in this flower incident of every trace of guile--merely _wanted_ the
flower, in fact, and asked Challis to get it, rather than risk her
"Princess" skirts in the thorns which would have made shoddy of them in
no time.

There are those, we believe, who hold that all the fascination of woman
is due to adjuncts; that the thrill of enchantment that "goes with"
adroit coiffures and well-cut skirts--especially the latter--would not
survive seeing their owner, or kernel, run across a ploughed field in
skin-tights--for we assume that the Lord Chamberlain would allow no
more crucial experiment. It may be they are right. High Art teaches
us the truth of the converse proposition. For that draggled-tailed,
ill-hooked, ill-eyed, ill-buttoned thing with a bad cold and a shock of
tow on its head, that is emerging from a damp omnibus to the relief of
its next-door neighbour, is going, please--when it has got rid of some
raiment which would certainly go to the wash with advantage--is going
to sit for _Aphrodite_, of all persons in the world; for that very
goddess and no other!--for her the light of whose eyelids and hair in
the uttermost ends of the sea none shall declare or discern....

There!--it's no use talking about it, and stopping the story. Besides,
Miss Arkroyd "had on" her "Princess" dress aforesaid, a strange
witchery of infinitely flexible woven texture, snake-scaled and
gem-fraught without loss of a fold, rustling and glittering till none
could say which was rustle and which was glitter. And it all seemed
a running comment on its owner--its pith and marrow, as it were!--a
mysterious outward record of her inner self. Where is the gain of
trying to guess how much was shell and how much was self? Enough that
few women would have looked as lovely as she did, then and there.

For all this speculation--let the story confess it--is due simply to
the excessive beauty the moonbeams made the most of, as its owner's eye
dropped on the flower her fingers were adjusting, to make sure it was
exactly in the right place, and to engineer stray thorn-points that
else might scratch. As for what is really passing in her heart, the
story washes its hands of it.

"Marianne refuses again, of course," said she, when the rose was
happily settled--or sadly, as it must have felt the parting from its

"Again, of course!" said he. "But...!"

"But how did I know, you mean? Why, you would have told me at once if
she had been coming."

"Not necessarily. I might have hoped for a second letter, to say she
had changed her mind. It is no pleasure to me that she refuses."

"It might be to some husbands. But you are an affectionate husband. Do
tell me something."

"Anything!" His emphasis on this was a satisfaction to him. It was like
a very small instalment of what he had no right to say, or even to
think; but, uttered in an ambush of possible other meanings, it franked
the speaker of any particular one among them.

"If I were to ask to see her letter, should you be offended?"

He knew he could not answer, "Nothing you do can possibly give me
offence," in the tone of empty compliment that would have made it safe.
He gave up the idea, and said, with reality in his voice: "I should not
show it to you."

"I like you when you speak like that," said Judith.

He felt a little apologetic. "After all," he said, "it's only
tit-for-tat. _You_ wouldn't tell me what Sibyl said."

"_I_ am not offended," said Judith. A certain sense of rich amusement
in her voice made these words read: "I take no offence at your male
caprices. I know your ways. You are forgiven." But aloud her speech
was, with a concession to seriousness: "I cannot well repeat what Sibyl
said. But do not think of showing me Marianne's letter if you wish not
to do so. It is not idle curiosity that made me ask to see it. I had a
motive--perhaps not a wise one--but I think...."


"I think you would forgive it." The suggestion certainly was that the
speaker would see some way of influencing Marianne--making her drop her
absurd obstinacy. No other motive was possible, thought Challis.

After all, what was there in the text of the letter that it would be a
hanging matter for Judith to read? She, from her higher standpoint--for
Challis believed in her, you see?--could forgive, overlook, understand
a scrap or two of rudeness, a misspelt word or so. Why should he not
show the letter, and have done with it?

"It is in your pocket, you know!" Judith was certainly _clairvoyante_,
and Challis said so. "_Clairvoyante_ enough to see you put it in your
pocket as you came into the drawing-room!" said she, laughing.

Why this context of circumstances should make Challis plead
illegibility by moonlight as a reason for not producing the letter he
could not have said for the life of him. It was a weak plea; because,
when Judith "pointed out" that so inveterate a smoker probably had wax
vestas in his pocket, it seemed to leave him no line of defence to fall
back upon. He produced the letter, and to our thinking was guilty of a
breach of faith to Marianne in allowing Judith to take it from him. At
least, he should only have read to her what related to the invitation.

The first wax vesta blew out, and the second. "Hold it inside this,"
said Judith, making a shelter for the third with a gauzy thing of
Japanese origin she really had no need for, the night was so warm.
"You must hold it steadier than that," she added. "If this caught, it
would blaze up." She was holding the open letter herself, with perfect

"This is the last vesta," said Challis. "So you must read quick. Look
sharp!" It was the fifth match, and the flame was nearing his fingers.

"Half-a-second more!" said Judith. She had turned the letter over.
There was writing on the back that Challis had missed. He tried to
read it now, over the shoulder that was so white in the moonlight, and
failed. For the flame touched his fingers, and burned him.

Man is absolutely powerless against the sudden touch of fire. Remember
Uncle Bob and the knife! Challis _had_ to leave go, _nolens volens_.
The burning remnant of the wax fell on the gauzy scarf, which caught
instantly. The moment was critical. But Challis showed a presence
of mind beyond what one is apt to credit neurotic literary men
with--mere mattoids, after all! Instead of trying to beat the flame
out, or waiting to get his coat off to smother it, he tore the scarf
sharply away from its wearer, who, happily, had the nerve to release a
safety-pin in time to get it clear.

"Are you burned?" His voice seemed out of keeping with the resolution
of his action.

"Very little, if at all. Just a touch, on this shoulder. Nothing
really--but I am afraid your hands...."

"Oh no!--they're all right. Stop a bit!--what's that?" It was
Marianne's letter, half-burned, and still burning. The unextinguished
scarf it had fallen to the ground with had got through its combustion
briskly. Challis was only just in time to save half the letter; and it
was not the half he wanted.

"I dare say it doesn't matter," said he to Judith; "but there was
something I hadn't read on the back. What you were reading when the
match gave out."

"Yes--I think there was. A postscript. I didn't make it out. Shall we
go in, or over on the lawn, where they are dancing?" She added a moment
later: "I don't know why I am taking it for granted that you don't

"I certainly don't; nowadays, at least. But you do, of course. The lawn
by all means!" They passed through the little _porticino_, and complied
with the understanding it had entered into. As Challis was turning the
key, he paused an instant to look round at Judith and say: "Are you
sure you can't remember anything of what was written on the back of
the letter?" And she replied without hesitation: "Not a word. I had
no time." Then he said: "I wish you could remember only just one word
or two, to show what it was about." She answered: "But I can't. I am
sorry. We must hope it was of no importance."

They walked side by side, without speaking, to the end of the last
yew-hedged terrace, just on the open garden. Then, inexplicably, they
turned and went back along the path. When they arrived again at the
little gate in the wall, Challis suddenly faced his companion. He
looked white and almost handsome in the moonlight--or so she may have
thought, easily enough--for his eyes had a large, frightened look, that
became them and the thoughtful thinness of their bone-marked setting.
He spoke quite suddenly, keeping his voice under, with quick speech
that showed its tension.

"Judith--Judith Arkroyd! It is no use. I can bear it no longer. I must
leave you. It would have been well for me if I had done so earlier.
It would have been best for me if I had never seen you." He turned
from her, almost as though he shrank from the sight of her, and leaned
against the grey stone angle of the little doorway, his face hidden
in his arms. Had the woman who watched him--shame if it were so!--a
feeling akin to triumph, as she saw how his visible hand caught and
clenched and trembled in the moonlight? It may have been so. The story
has no plummet to take soundings of her heart.

Her mere words may have meant fear lest she had overplayed her part--no
more! "Oh, Scroop, you cannot blame me." But the way she too leaned, as
for support in dizziness, on the edge of a great Italian garden-pot,
raised on a pedestal at the path-corner, and pressed her hand to her
side as though her breath might catch the less for it--these things
seemed to belong to more than the alarm of a sudden start.

He turned, with some recovery of self-possession, as one who shakes
free of any unmanliness. "Blame _you_, Judith!" he cried, calling her
freely by her name--a thing he had never yet done. "Not I, God knows!
I am all self-indictment, if ever man was. And this, look you, is my
offence: that I, knowing myself as I am, knowing what I owe to my wife,
to my children--they are dear to me still, I tell you, believe it who
may!--that _I_ have allowed the image and presence of _you_, Judith
Arkroyd, to take such possession of me, my mind, my whole soul, that
you are never absent from me. And the bondage that is on me is one I
cannot see the end of. All I know is that I am powerless against it.
It may be--it _may_ be--that the memory of you will die out and leave
me--that when I see you no longer, your voice and your beauty will
become things of the past, and be forgotten. When we have parted, as we
must, Heaven grant me this oblivion! But I cannot conceive it now."

He paused, and as he wiped the drops from his brow, seemed to hark back
a little to his daily self, saying in a quick undertone: "It is a good
world to forget in. Precedents are in favour of it. There is that to be

The little change in his manner made her find her voice. "Yes!" she
said. "I see how it is. You must go. I shall always grieve that I could
not keep your friendship ... yes--you see my meaning? I _have_ valued
it. But this kind of thing is the misfortune of some women. It is a
bitter thing--we must part in a few hours, so I may speak plainly--a
bitter thing to be forced to lose a friend one loves as a friend,
merely because one chances to be a woman."

If only this interview might have ended here! If only Mr. Ramsey Tomes
and Mr. Brownrigg could have come on the scene now, instead of five
minutes later! But there never was good came of last words, from the
world's beginning.

The unhappy, storm-tossed man and his tormentor--for that was what
Judith was, meaningly or without intent--turned to go back towards the
noisy world. Half-way, as though she would use the silence and darkness
of the alley they were passing through for the freedom of speech such
surroundings give, Judith spoke again. If Charlotte Eldridge had been
there, her interpretation of Judith certainly would have been: "_She_
doesn't mean to let him go--not she!" Would it have been a fair one?

Possibly. But all Judith said was: "I am afraid I am a woman without a

Challis said interrogatively: "Because...?" and waited.

"Because I find myself only thinking of what _I_ shall lose when you
go. If I were _good_, Scroop"--a slight sneer here--"I should have a
little thought for you. I suppose I'm bad. Very well!"

"I am taking no credit to myself for any sort of altruism in my--my
feelings towards yourself." Challis shied off from the use of the word
"love"; but whether because it would have rung presumptuously without
the sanction of its object, or because of the bald rapidity of its use
on the stage, where Time is of the essence of the contract, he might
have found it hard to say.

"I should not thank you for it. Nor any woman. But many a woman who
injures a friend unawares--being unselfish and pious and so on--would
gladly...." She hesitated.

"Put a salve to the wound?"

"Well--yes--that sort of thing! But I am afraid I am rather brutal
about it. Can you not, after all, forget this foolish infatuation for
my sake? Consider the wild words you spoke just now unsaid, and give me
back my friend. Come, Scroop!" Her beautiful eyes were surely full of
honest appeal--no _arrière pensée_ Mrs. Eldridge would have damned her
for--as she went frankly close to him and laid her hand on his.

He shrank from her--absolutely shrank!--and gasped as though her touch
took his breath away. He found no words, and she had not finished.

"Think--oh, think!--what rights could I ever have in you? Think of your

"I do think of her--oh, I do think! But it makes me mad."

"Go back to her and forget me then, if it must be so. Remember this,
Scroop--that the bond that holds you to her is thrice as strong as it
would be if...."

"If what?"

"Well!--I must say it. If it were a legal one...."

"How do you mean?"

"I mean you are not married to her--there!"

"Oh, the Deceased Wife's Sister rubbish?"

"Yes." And then Challis thought to himself, through the fog of all his
soul-torture and perplexity, "How comes she to be so ready to go home
to the mark? _We_ have never talked beyond the bare fact that Marianne
and Kate were sisters." But he let the thought go by, to make way for
another of greater weight with him.

"You never can mean," he cried--"you--you--you never can mean that
_I_----" She interrupted him with the self-command that seemed to
belong to her--to grow upon her, if anything--and completed his speech
for him: "That you would take advantage of a legal shuffle to evade a
promise given in honour? Of course, I mean the exact reverse. I mean
that you, of all men, would hold yourself three times bound to an
illegal contract."

"All men would, worth the name of men. Debts Law disallows are debts
of honour. But all that is nothing. I love my wife. I tell you I
love my wife; I will not have it otherwise." His voice was almost
angry, as against some counter-speech. But he dropped it in a kind
of exhaustion, with a subdued half-moan. "What have I to do," said
he wearily, "with all these wretched nostrums of legislation and
religion, that would dictate the terms of Love? Mine have come to me,
and my soul is wrenched asunder. Surely the penalty is enough to make
beadledom superfluous. No man who knows what Love means will ever love
two women.... There--that's enough!" He stopped abruptly, as cutting
something needless short. She spoke:

"It comes to good-bye, then?"


"Unless what?"

"You will say I am strange."

"You are. But you cannot change yourself. Speak plainly!"

"Listen, Judith! If you can look me in the face and say you have no
love for me--you know the sense I use the word in as well as I--then
I will pack away a sorrow in my heart till it dies; and the time will
come when you shall say: 'That man is my good friend, but he declared
a fool's passion to me once, for all that, and now he seems to have
forgotten it.' It shall be so. But, better still, and easier for me, if
you could say with truth that there was some other man elsewhere whose
hand in yours would be more welcome than mine; whose voice, whose look,
whose lips would be a dearer memory. If you could tell me this, the
fool's passion would at least be all the shorter lived." He stopped as
they reached the end of the sheltered path, and looked her full in the
face. He had stopped, as it were, on a keynote of self-ridicule--the
habit was inveterate--and he was one of those men who are at their best
when individuality comes out strongest.

She had never looked so beautiful in his eyes as when she stood there,
silent in the moonlight, weighing to all appearance the answer she
should make. Perhaps she knew how beautiful--who can say? She remained
motionless through a long pause--through the whole of a nightingale's
song in the thicket hard by. Then her bosom heaved--a long breath--and
then, with a sort of movement of surrender of her hands--how the
diamonds flashed!--she said, "I cannot," and then again, "No--I
cannot." Then, in a more measured and controlled voice: "This means
that we must part--now! I shall not see you to-morrow."

"Strangers and foes do sunder and not kiss," said Helena to Bertram.
But how about those who are neither foes nor strangers, yet must be
more than friends, and dare not be lovers? An interview of this sort
had best not end in an embrace, if two victims of infatuation are to be
saved from themselves. Let the description remain for Judith as well as
Challis. But she had the self-command to check his impulse, throwing
out her jewelled hands against it, and crying--not loudly, but beneath
her breath: "No--no--no! Remember what we are--what we must be. For
Heaven's sake, no madness!" And then, as he let fall his hands and
their intention, but with all his hunger on him, and the foreknowledge
of sleepless hours to come, she turned towards the voices that were
approaching them from the house.

"I cannot recall"--it was Mr. Tomes who couldn't--"any occasion on
which a discussion of so abstruse, and I may say elusive, a topic
has been conducted with more philosophical insight, and a stronger
sense of what I need not scruple to term the argumentative _meum_ and
_tuum_. Neither am I prepared to admit what possibly inexperience in
debate may be eager to affirm, that the ratiocinative perspicuity
of a post-prandial collective intelligence has been fruitless in
result. I may point with satisfaction to at least two conclusions--the
impossibility of drawing safe inferences in discussions where the same
word is used in several different senses, and the uselessness of the
attempt to define the meaning of words until we are agreed upon the
nature, and, I may add, the legitimate limits, of Definition." Mr.
Tomes paused. He was a little disconcerted at the discovery that he was
being intelligible by accident, and also he had caught sight of Challis
and Miss Arkroyd. His abrupt full-stop as he met them was unwelcome to
this former, who would have had the orator continue, to hide his own
perturbation. But it did not matter, for Judith was more than equal to
the occasion.

"I have narrowly escaped being burned alive, Mr. Tomes. Mr. Challis set
fire to me lighting his cigar. However, he put me out." Nothing could
exceed her easy grace and perfect self-possession.

Very fortunately Mr. Wraxall, the Universal Insurer, was one of Mr.
Tomes's companions. The opportunity was a splendid one, and he seized
upon it. Challis got away in a most dastardly manner, leaving Judith
exposed to risks and averages and premiums beyond the wildest dreams of
Negotiation run mad. As a matter of fact, Mr. Wraxall must have been
welcome enough. When life jars, let others do the volubility, and spare

       *       *       *       *       *

The dispersal of guests and the family at the foot of the great
staircase was to-night more tumultuous than usual. Not only was the
house-party at its maximum--its noisy maximum!--but many outsiders
from the neighbourhood were among the dancers. Challis noticed, though
whether as cause or consequence he never inquired, four more young
soldiers, who, he understood, had come from as far off as it would take
a blood mare in a dog-cart, that just held them and no room to spare,
an hour and fifty minutes to trot back to, over a good road. These
youths were in such tremendous spirits that when the last farewells of
the dog-cart died away on the offing, a sort of holy hush seemed to
ensue, and people drew long breaths, and smiled excusefully--for young
folk are young folk, you know--and said now we could hear ourselves
speak. Why was it that Challis, not unobservant, for all his own hidden
fever, pictured the occupants of the dog-cart, beyond the offing, as
speaking little now, each dwelling on his own private affairs? Was it
because four corresponding chits, at least, had hushed down and become
self-absorbed and absent? And where was the relevance of measles, and
Challis's thought to himself that it was best to have them young?

The Rector was there, too. He had not been a dancer, but had refrained
merely because, in view of this great accession of force from Jack's
and Arthur's friends from the garrison, no further male dancers were
wanted. When Challis reached the house, after prolonging a voluntary
ostracism in the garden-silences until he heard the guests dispersing,
and saw Chinese lanterns being suppressed, he found Athelstan Taylor
just on the point of taking leave. He was explaining to her ladyship
why he had not come to dinner--for it seemed he had been invited--when
she stopped him with a question about one of the children who came into
his explanation. His reply was: "Oh yes!--just a bad inflammatory
cold. But she'll be all right in a day or two. Only we shall have to be
careful. Good-night, Lady Arkroyd!"

"'I think it is good-morrow, is it not?'" said Challis, quoting. "Is
Charles's Wain over the new chimney, I wonder. Perhaps, Rector, you
know which Charles's Wain is. I don't. I always confuse between him and

"You'll have a hard job to do so now. Why, my dear fellow, can't you
remember how we talked of Orion last Autumn, and he was hardly visible
even then?"

"I remember--in your garden. You must show him to me again some day!"
The Rector looked attentively at the speaker. He had caught the minor
key in his voice; it had crept in alongside of a misgiving. "I shall
lose this friend I would so gladly keep, cloth or no!"

"All right! But you mustn't stop away till Orion comes. When shall I
tell my sister to lay a place for you? I believe we are clear next
Thursday--will that do?" He took out a notebook for an entry.

"I'm sorry," said Challis. "But I'm obliged--I was just going to tell
Lady Arkroyd--I am obliged to return to town to-morrow. I had a letter
to-day, calling me back on business. It's a case of compulsion--oh
no!--nothing wrong. A mere matter of business relating to publication!"

Her ladyship's sorrow at losing her distinguished guest knew no bounds.
She must look forward to seeing him in town, where the family would
return in a fortnight. But Mr. Challis would stay over to-morrow.
No!--Mr. Challis couldn't do any such thing, thank you! He ought to
go by the early train--was sorry to give trouble--but if he and his
box could be taken to the railway early enough.... Oh no!--_he_ didn't
mind breakfast at 6:30, only it was the trouble! But as Lady Arkroyd's
heart was rejoicing--hostesses' hearts do--at her guest getting clear
of the mansion before she was out of bed, she was able, from gratitude,
to make her grief at his departing at all almost a reality. Otherwise
she was consciously relieved that he should go; but as for any mental
discomfort on the score of her daughter's relations with him--the
idea!--a middle-aged, married, professional man! The eleventh century
to the rescue!

Athelstan Taylor said "Good-bye, then!" with real regret, especially
as there was something wrong, manifestly. His first instinct was to
forswear driving back with Miss Caldecott to the Rectory, and to
persuade Challis to walk "part of the way" with him. But--breakfast
at 6:30, and Charles's Wain over the new chimney, or its equivalent!
After all, he was human. Only, what a pity! A talk with him might have
meant so much to Challis.

Sibyl's regrets merely meant, "See how well-bred I am, to be able to
conceal my rejoicing! Go away, and don't call in Grosvenor Square when
I'm there! Do not give my kind regards to your wife, though a worthy
woman, no doubt!" That is, if Challis translated an overflow of suave
speech rightly.

Other _adieux_ followed, genuine enough. Mr. Brownrigg was honestly
sorry to lose the opportunity of showing Mr. Challis those extracts
from Graubosch. Mr. Wraxall was seriously concerned at not being
able to supply the figures necessary to a complete understanding of
Differential Equivalents, a system by which all deficits would be
counteracted. Mr. Ramsey Tomes said he should always regard with
peculiar satisfaction the opportunities for which he was indebted to
his friend Sir Murgatroyd, of shaking the hand of an author of whom
he had always predicted a very large number of remarkable things,
"considering"--thought his author--"that he does not appear to have
read any of my immortal works." The Baronet himself seemed to be
developing a scheme for correlating Feudalism with everything else,
in connection with his regret that Mr. Challis had to go away next
morning, until her ladyship reminded him that Mr. Challis had to go to
bed. So at last Mr. Challis went.

       *       *       *       *       *

Sibyl hung back. Judith had not gone up yet, she said, in answer to
her mother's "I suppose you do mean to go to bed, child, some time!"
Why, then, couldn't she leave Judith till breakfast to-morrow? But
her ladyship stopped short of pushing for an answer, for she mixed
"Good-night" with a yawn, and got away upstairs.

Mr. Elphinstone testified discreetly that he could hear Miss Arkroyd
coming. Yes--there she was! Who was that with her? Only the young girl,
Tilley, miss! This was what the name Cintilla had become, naturally, in
the mouths of the household.

"Go up, child, and see that my hot water isn't cold. Cold hot water
is detestable.... _Yes_, Sibyl?" This was in answer to a particular
method of saying nothing, containing an intention to say something
disagreeable presently.

"I didn't say anything."

"Please don't be tiresome. You know what I mean, quite well. What was
it you didn't say?"

"I suppose you know Mr. Challis is going away to-morrow?"

Judith's demeanour is exemplary. Something pre-engages her. Mr.
Challis must come after. She calls the little ex-dairymaiden back; and
then, turning to Mr. Elphinstone, waiting patiently to be the last to
retire, says to him, "What is good for a burn, Elphinstone?"--as to a
universal referee. He replies, "I always use olive-oil, miss," as if he
belonged to a particular school of singed butlers. "Give the child some
for me," says Judith; and then, being free to give attention to her
sister, goes on with, "Yes, what is it? Oh yes! Do I know Mr. Challis
is going away to-morrow? Of course I know Mr. Challis is going away

"I thought you did," says Sibyl. This is hardly consecutive, but
Judith's equanimity is impregnable. No impertinences or aggressions are
to affect it, that's clear! She is easily able to compare the watch on
her wrist with the hall-clock, and to find their testimony is the same,
for all their difference of size, before she makes further answer.

"Mr. Challis is called away by business. So he says.... Good-night!"
Cintilla, or Tilley, will bring the magic oil; so Judith goes upstairs
leisurely. Her sister follows. But she has not said good-night yet.

Telepathy makes very funny terms, sometimes, between sisters. And a
fact ignored, that has called for comment, may broach a reciprocal
consciousness that will never be at rest without speech in the end.
This time it is that burn, which Sibyl has said nothing about--has
asked no explanation of. And both know it.

At the stair-top both sisters say good-night, with a sort of decision
that seems overloaded for the occasion. But the valediction seems
inoperative; as both wait, for no apparent reason. Then Sibyl speaks in
a quick undertone:

"You wouldn't listen to me, Ju.... No, you needn't be
frightened--they're not coming yet...." For Judith had glanced back
down the staircase. "You wouldn't listen, and now you see what has come
of it."

"What _has_ come of it?"

"Judith!--do you think I am blind, or do you take me for a fool?"

"Yes, dear--the last! But go on. I can wait any time, in reason, for
an explanation." She embarked on a period of waiting, gracefully
indulgent, a tranquil listener.

"Do you suppose I am taken in by this story?"

"What story?"

"This story of Mr. Challis's going home on business."

"It's a very simple story."

"Very simple ... oh dear!--there's the girl. I'll tell you in the

"I want to hear now.... Put it in my room, child, and go to bed." And
Cintilla says, "Yes, miss!" and vanishes to an innocent pillow. "I want
to hear now, and perhaps you'll be so kind as to tell me."

"Come into my room!"

"Certainly!" Judith complies without reserves, dropping gracefully into
an armchair, after placing her candle in safety. She makes a parade of
her waiting patience. Sibyl, all aflame with flashing eyes, turns on
her after closing the door carefully.

"After what I have seen this evening, Judith, I know what to think....
No!--it's no use your denying it." Then in a lower voice, with the
flush on her cheeks spreading to her temples, she adds: "Not an
hour ago I saw that man Challis...." She pauses on the edge of her

"You saw that man Challis...?"

"I saw that man Challis ... yes!--I don't care, Judith ... making love
to you in Tophet, with his arm round your waist."

"And where were you?"

"Up here in this room. My hair came down, dancing. And I looked out of
that window and _saw_ you. Oh, Judith!"

"Oh, Sibyl!" Judith repeats mockingly. She goes to the window with easy
deliberation. It is wide open on the summer night, for heat. "Of course
one sees Tophet from here," she says. "But how you could distinguish
Mr. Challis's arm, or my waist, is a mystery to me, at this distance."

"Have I no eyesight, Judith? I tell you I saw it all, as I stood
there where you are now. I saw him set fire to your scarf thing with
his cigar. And his arm was round you, and he was looking over your
shoulder. I saw it by the blaze-up, as plain as I see you now!"

Judith is undisturbed. "I see you have withdrawn my waist," she says.
She circles her diamonded fingers round its girth, and seems not
dissatisfied with the span they cannot cover. "But you've got the story
wrong, little sister."

"Being offensive won't do you any good."

"You _are_ my little sister, Sib dear! And you're a goose. Mr. Challis
showed me a letter, and was kind enough to hold a lighted match for me
to read it by."

Sibyl makes no reply. Her eyes remain fixed on her sister as she turns
a bracelet on her arm uneasily. Evidently she only half believes her.
Can she be lying? It is a matter on which a woman who has never lied
before will lie freely. One who has flirted, at such close quarters,
with another woman's husband, will tell her sister lies rather than
admit it. Sibyl wishes, on the whole, that Judith would look her in the
face as she speaks, instead of being so wrapped up in a landscape she
knows by heart.

Judith seems inclined to get out of hearing of that subject--has had
enough of it. "It seems a shame," she says, "to go to bed on such a
heavenly night. But I suppose one must!"

Sibyl is not going to be fubbed off with any such evasions. She has
made up her mind, this evening--this is in strict confidence--to accept
a peer's son who will be a peer himself when his father ceases to be
one, and she is keenly alive to the desirability of avoiding family
scandals just at this crisis. If Judith is going to bring a slur on
an honourable name, thinks Sibyl, let her do it after my coronet is
landed. Her blood is up.

"What was there in the letter?" she says bluntly.

"Sibyl dear, really!" There is amusement in Judith's tone, as of
forbearance towards juvenility.

Her sister mocks her. "Yes--_me_ dear, really!" she says. "What was
there in the letter?"

"May the catechism stop, if I tell you?" The yawn that begins in
these words lasts into what follows: "Oh, no, I don't mind telling
you, child! There was nothing to make a secret of. It was from his
affectionate wife--poor fellow! He really deserves something less
dowdy. Let me see, now, how did it run? Her dear Titus--that was
it!--she had had another letter from me, pressing her to come. Hadn't
written back. Would her dear Titus make me understand that she was too
much wanted at home to come away just now? Besides, she did not care
for society, as her dear Titus perfectly well knew. She would only be
in the way if she did come. It was much better she should have her
friends, and he his--spelt wrong: _ei_ instead of _ie_. Do you want to
know all the rest of the important letter? Very well! She had spent
yesterday evening with grandmamma at Pulse Hill, and dear Charlotte was
just gone. He was not to hurry back on her account, as it was easier
for--some name of a cook--when he was away. He had better stay as long
as he could, where he was being amused and flattered. And she was his
affectionate wife Marianne.... Have _you_ been flattering Mr. Titus
Scroop, Sibyl dear?"

Sibyl ignored the question. "Tulse Hill, I suppose," said she
thoughtfully. "Who's dear Charlotte, I wonder?"

"A Mrs. Eldridge. Nobody you know!"

"I wonder if she's good for dear Marianne." Simple truth must now
and then tax credulity, or be excluded from fiction. The whole of
the conversation is given above, and where or when on earth Sibyl
found in it anything to warrant this wonderment of hers Heaven only
knows! However, one can wonder at nothing, oneself, in these days of
Marconigraphs. Sibyl ended her speech with, "The woman's as jealous as
she can be--one can see that!"

"Can one?... oh, I dare say one can, dear! Only she's no concern of
mine. Suppose we go to bed."

"If you were Mr. Challis's wife, you might feel just as she does. And
if you were not really his wife, it would be all the worse."

"Of course, when one's neither, one doesn't care." This was faulty in
construction, yet neither sister felt that it could not be understood.

The hardships of a forgotten casual on the landing outside were
recognized with, "Oh dear! Why didn't you go to bed? It's nearly two
o'clock." And then sleep came in view, for those who were at home to

If Judith said, "Not at home," was it any wonder? Think what an
amount of dissimulation she had gone through since that revelation
of Challis's in the garden--since what may have been a discovery
about herself of something she may have suspected before, but had
half-contemptuously dismissed! She may have more than once asked
herself the question, "Do I possibly love this man?" and laughed a
negative. But oh, the difference it makes when a man has said roundly,
"I carry your image in my heart, and cannot be quit of it." She had
played with edged tools, and had cut herself. The burn on her shoulder
was not the only result of tampering with fire that day, for her. Most
surely for her own sake, and his, concealment was the sacramental word,
for the moment. She had let him know she was unable to say she did not
love him; that was all! But an intent she had half formed in the very
core of her heart must be hidden from him. He must have no suspicion
that she would lend herself to a scheme that would take advantage of
a wretched legal shuffle--one of the most wretched that even Themis
has scheduled as a shift for the cancelling of a solemn contract.
Was she quite prepared to say she would not, for her own sake, jump
at an expedient granted by the solemnity of Law, to make Dishonour
seem honourable, and disallow the claims of this stupid, commonplace,
would-be wife, who was no wife at all? And who knew it, for that matter.

For this intention had sounded its first note in her heart as she read
that postscript, when the last match was all but burned out. She could
remember every word of it, as she paced to and fro in the silence of
her bedroom, fostering the idea it suggested. "I suppose you know"--so
poor fool Marianne had written, in her momentary fit of spleen and
obduracy--"what mamma always says about you and me--that we are not
really married at all. If so, I ought to go back and live with her,
and the sooner the better. Then you would be free, and I suppose it
would be Judith." For that was what the stupid, exasperated woman had
actually written, and next morning would have been so glad to plunder
the postman's bag of, when he disembowelled the vermilion pillar-box at
the corner.

But, as for Judith, her business was to bury the suggestion--which she
had read, and Challis had not--in her heart. Had she not a right to
hide her cloven foot, if it was one--to wear over it a pretext of her
reverence for the bond that linked this man to his dowdy wife, until
it broke asunder from its natural rottenness? What was that nauseous
saying male man was so fond of? "All's fair in Love!" and what the
foetid interpretations he felt no shame to put upon it? Why was all the
selfishness and meanness to belong to one sex alone?

And meanwhile Challis himself was tossing through the fever of a
sleepless night, until some wretched sleep was broken by Samuel calling
him at 6.30 in the morning, and the hoot of a motor outside. Samuel
explained that he had come later than the first time fixed, as his
lordship had placed the Panhard at Mr. Challis's disposal, and it would
more than make up the time. Challis was grateful.



Lizarann was, of course, the patient Mr. Taylor spoke of. But it
was all her own fault, said Public Opinion, that she had such a bad
inflammatory cold. If she and Joan had been good, obedient children,
and done as they were told when they came home from the tea-party at
Royd, instead of giving Aunt Bessy the slip and running away to Daddy
at Mrs. Forks's cottage, all would have been well. But be lenient to
Lizarann! It was all through her anxiety that old Christopher should
have his bicarbonate of soda. Her anxiety on his behalf was great,
although she did not know him personally.

"Maten't Phoebe and Jones go round to old Mrs. Forks, where Daddy is,
and bring it screwed up in piper like acrost the road to Mr. Curtis's?"
So Lizarann had said--for she really believed that Joan's name was
one and the same with that of the Wash, in Cazenove Street--and Aunt
Bessy's negative had been emphatic.

"Certainly _not_, my dear! At this time of the evening! Why, it's past
six o'clock.... Yes, you and Joan may run on in front, only don't get
over the gate till I come. The gate of the next field, you know." But
when Aunt Bessy and Phoebe reached that gate--where were Lizarann and
Joan? The wicked imps had gone to Mrs. Forks's.

The worst of it was that when the Rector had personally recaptured
the truants, and was taking them home, a motor-car, with a lady and
gentleman in it, passed them, going at speed. That, as they escaped
alive, was no harm. But, having passed, it stopped, and something
disagreed with it all through the colloquy that followed.

"Isn't that Mr. Taylor? Can't we give you a lift?"

"You're going the wrong way. And we're too numerous."

"Nonsense! Any amount of room! And it won't take us three minutes to
run you back to the Rectory. Jump in."

The Rector hesitated a moment. It was just on to dinner-time at the
Hall, and it seemed a shame to make this lady and gentleman late.
But Lizarann was coughing again. It may have been the petrol, but
still----! Then, too, Aunt Bessy's anxiety would be over all the
sooner. And there were those children almost frantic with delight at
the idea of a ride in a motor!

So he agreed. And it _was_ fun! Only there were two drawbacks--one,
that it was over so soon; the other, that no sooner were they deposited
at the Rectory gate, and the lady and gentleman in the motor off at
great speed to be in time for dinner, than Lizarann had such a terrible
attack of coughing that Miss Caldecott and her brother-in-law were
quite alarmed.

The report the Rector gave to Lady Arkroyd was too sanguine. Bad
inflammatory colds don't yield to treatment in a couple of hours, which
was about how long it had been at work by the time he and Aunt Bessy
drove away to the Hall, to come in after dinner, having been forced to
cry off, with apology and explanation, owing to the escapade of the

Lizarann's didn't yield to treatment for many days, and during that
period was a serious source of alarm to all her circle of friends at
the Rectory, and a frequent subject of inquiry by interested outsiders.
For the little maid had a happy faculty of remaining in the memory
of chance acquaintances. Also, it was generally understood in the
neighbourhood that she was a delicate _protégée_ of the Rector's
friend's sister, Adeline Fossett, and had been sent away from town to
get the benefit of the air at Royd. So Lizarann got quite her fair
share of public interest.

But her attack must have been a sharp one, or we may rely upon it she
wouldn't have been kept in bed next day, and more days after next day.
And Dr. Sidrophel--it wasn't his real name, mind you!--wouldn't have
said, as he did till Lizarann really felt quite sick of hearing it,
that it would be as well to continue the poultices, for the present, as
a precaution. Her own view, to be sure, was that inflammation was the
result of mustard poultices and stethoscopes primarily, and that it was
bound to get worse if you had to put a glass tube in your mouth at the
bidding of well-meaning friends. But she concealed these convictions
in deference to public opinion, and did everything she was told to do,
however gross the infatuation might be that instituted the obnoxious
treatment. Her conviction that she had, intrinsically, nothing the
matter with her was, however, not one to be shaken lightly. She went so
far once as to say so to Dr. Pordage--that _was_ his real name!--who
replied, "Oh ah, that's it, is it? Nothing the matter! But you _will_
have, if you don't look alive, as safe as a button! So there we are,
little miss!"--but absently, as though she was a child and wouldn't
understand him--and blotted the prescription he had been writing. But
Lizarann heard every word, and resolved to look alive, so far as in her
lay, whenever an opportunity came. Meanwhile, none being manifest, she
reflected a good deal on buttons, wondering what was the nature of the
security they tendered, and why she had never heard it before.

When Mr. Yorick--the name she preferred for the Rector, because, you
see, Miss Fossett must know best--came to pay her a visit shortly
after, she inquired on this point, giving the whole of the doctor's
speech, and making herself cough. Now, Mr. Yorick always talked
to Lizarann as if she was a sensible person; and if there was one
attribute for which the child loved him more dearly than another, it
was that. But her devotion to him was so complete--second only to her
love for her Daddy--that analysis of it was absurd.

"Was he talking to you, or talking to himself, Lizarann?" said he,
sitting by the bed with the patient's hand in his. It was small and

The reply called for reflection. Having thought well over it, Lizarann
said decisively: "Bofe!"

"Was he writing all the while?"

"Yass!" Nods helped the emphasis. "All the while! Scritch-scratch!"

"That was it, Lizarann! Dr. Sidrophel can't write and hear what he says
to himself at the same time. So nobody knows what he means." But the
little woman's great eyes were full of doubtful inquiry, and more must
be said. "I expect he only meant that if you went out in the air you
would get your cough back. So you must just look alive and lie in bed."
It was plausible, and would have to do for the present. The button
question might stand over.

"Mustn't I go and see Daddy where Mrs. Forks is?"

"Yes, in a little while. Daddy will come and see you every day."

"And bring his crutches to come upstairs with?"

"Daddy left his crutches here yesterday. To be ready for him whenever
he comes."

"And not tear a hole in the drugget?"

"Not if he goes gently and I put my hand on his back!"

"Which hand?"

"This one I've got hold of you with, Miss Coupland! Any more

Lizarann pursed up her lips and shook her head. But she reconsidered
her decision. "Yass! About Dr. Side--Dr. Side...."

"Dr. Sidrophel? What about him?"

"Why's his real nime Pordage?" She had the name very pat, showing close
observation and reflection.

Mr. Yorick had to consider the point. "Well!" said he presently, "I
admit it's rather a bad job. But there's no way out of it now. It
_is_ his real name, and that's all about it!" But Lizarann looked
dissatisfied. "_W