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Title: The Eighth Year - A Vital Problem Of Married Life
Author: Gibbs, Philip
Language: English
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THE EIGHTH YEAR

A Vital Problem Of Married Life

By Philip Gibbs

New York

The Devin-Adair Company 437 Fifth Avenue

1913

"_The Eighth Year is the most dangerous year in the adventure of
marriage._"

Sir Francis Jeune (afterwards Lord St. Helier). President of the Divorce
Court.



PART I--THE ARGUMENT



CHAPTER I

It was Sir Francis Jeune, afterwards Lord St. Helier, and President
of the Divorce Court, who first called attention to the strange
significance of the Eighth Year of married life. "The Eighth Year," he
said, "is the most dangerous year in the adventure of marriage."

Afterwards, in the recent Royal Commission on Divorce, this curious
fact was again alluded to in the evidence, and it has been shown by
statistics of domestic tragedy, by hundreds of sordid little dramas,
that at this period in the partnership of husbands and wives there
comes, in many cases, a great crisis, leading often to moral disaster.

It is in the Eighth Year, or thereabouts, that there is the tug-of-war
between two temperaments, mated by the law, but not mated, perhaps, in
ideals, in ambitions, or in qualities of character. The man and woman
pull against each other, tugging at each other's heartstrings. The
Eighth Year is the fatal year, when if there is no give-and-take, no
working compromise, no new pledges of loyalty and comradeship, the
foundations of the home are shattered, and the hopes with which it was
first built lie in ruins like a house of cards knocked down by a gust of
wind.

But why the Eighth Year? Why not the twelfth, fourteenth, or eighteenth
year? The answer is not to be found in any old superstition. There
is nothing uncanny about the number eight. The problem is not to be
shrugged off by people who despise the foolish old tradition which
clings to thirteen, and imagine this to be in the same class of folly.
By the law of averages and by undeniable statistics it has been proved
that it brings many broken-hearted men and women to the Divorce Court.
For instance, taking the annual average of divorces in England between
1904 and 1908, one finds that there were only six divorces between
husbands and wives who had been married less than a year, and only
eighteen divorces between those married less than two years. Between
the second and the fifth years the number increases to a hundred and
seventeen. Then there is a tremendous jump, and the numbers between the
fifth and tenth years are two hundred and ninety-two. The period of
the Eighth Year is the most productive of divorce. The figures are more
startling and more significant when they cover a longer period. But
apart from statistics and apart altogether from the Divorce Court,
which is only one house of trouble, by using one's own eyes in one's
own circle of friends one may see that young married couples who started
happily enough show signs of stress and strain as this year approaches.
The fact is undeniable. What is the cause behind the fact?

There is not one cause, there are many causes, all leading up from
the first day of marriage, inevitably, with the unswerving, relentless
fatality of Greek Tragedy to the Eighth Year. They are causes which lie
deep in the social system of our modern home life; in the little order
of things prevailing, at this time, in hundreds of thousands of small
households and small flats, inhabited by the middle-classes. It is
mainly a middle-class problem, because the rich and the poor are, for
reasons which I will show later in this argument, exempt in a large
measure from the fatality of the Eighth Year. But all the influences
at work among the middle-classes, in this strange age of intellectual
disturbance, and of blind gropings forward to new social and moral
conditions, have a close hearing upon this seeming mystery. The
economic position of this class, its social ambitions, its intellectual
adventures, its general education, its code of morality, its religion or
lack of religion, its little conventional cults, the pressure of outside
influences, thrusting inwards to the hidden life in these little
homes, bringing dangerous ideas through the front doors, or through the
keyholes, and all the mental and moral vibrations that are "in the
air" to-day, especially in the air breathed by the middle-classes,
produce--the Eighth Year.

Let us start with the first year of marriage so that we may see how the
problem works out from the beginning.

Here we have, in the first year, a young man and woman who have come
together, not through any overmastering force of passion, but as
middle-class men and women are mostly brought together, by the accidents
of juxtaposition, and by a pleasant sentiment. They met, before
marriage, at tennis parties, at suburban dances, at evening At Homes. By
the laws of natural selection, aided a little by anxious mothers, this
young man and this young woman find out, or think they find out, that
they are "suited" to each other. That is to say, the young man thrills
in a pleasant way in the presence of the girl, and she sees the timidity
in his eyes when she looks at him, and she knows that her laughter,
the touch of her hand, the little tricks and graces she has learnt from
girl-friends, or from actresses in musical comedy, or from instinct,
attract him to her. She leads him on, by absurd little tiffs, artfully
arranged, by a pretence of flirtation with other boys, by provocative
words, by moments of tenderness changing abruptly to sham indifference,
or followed by little shafts of satire which wound his pride, and sting
him into desire for her. He pursues her, not knowing that he is pursued,
so that they meet half-way. This affair makes him restless, ill at
ease. It interrupts his work and his ambitions. Presently it becomes an
obsession, and he knows that he has "fallen in love." He makes his plans
accordingly.

In the middle-classes love still presupposes marriage (though the idea
is not so fast-rooted as in the old days), but how the dickens is he to
manage it? He is just starting his career as Something in the City, or
as a solicitor, barrister, journalist, artist, doctor. His income is
barely sufficient for himself, according to his way of life, which
includes decent clothes, a club, a game of golf when he feels like it,
a motor-cycle or a small car, a holiday abroad, theatres, a bachelor
dinner now and again--the usual thing. He belongs to the younger
generation, with wider interests, larger ideas, higher ambitions than
those with which his father and mother started life.

He could not start on their level. Times have changed. He remembers his
father's reminiscences of early struggles, of the ceaseless anxiety to
make both ends meet, of the continual stinting and scraping to keep the
children "decent," to provide them with a good education, to give them
a fair start in life. He remembers his mother in his own childhood. She
was always mending stockings. There was always a litter of needlework on
the dining-room table after supper.

There were times when she "did" without a maid, and exhausted herself
with domestic drudgery. There were no foreign holidays then, only a
week or two at the seaside once a year. There was precious little pocket
money for the boys. They were conscious of their shabby gentility, and
hated it.

The modern young man looks with a kind of horror upon all this domestic
squalor, as he calls it. He couldn't stand it. If marriage means that
for him he will have none of it. But need it mean that? He and Winifred
will scheme out their lives differently. They will leave out the baby
side of the business--until they can afford to indulge in it. They will
live in a little flat, and furnish it, if necessary, on the hire system.
They will cut out the domestic drudgery. They will enjoy the fun of
life, and shelve the responsibilities until they are able to pay for
them. After all it will not be long before he is earning a good income.
He has got his feet on the first rang of the ladder, and, with a little
luck----

So he proposes to the girl, and she pretends to be immensely surprised,
though she has been eating her heart out while he hesitated, and
delayed, and pondered. They pledge each other, "till death do us part,"
and the girl, who has been reading a great many novels lately, is very
happy because her own plot is working out according to the rules of
romance.

They live in a world of romance before the marriage day. The man seems
to walk on air when he crosses London Bridge on his way to the City.
Or if he is a barrister he sees the beauty of his girl's face in his
brief--and is in danger of losing his case. Or if a journalist he curses
his irregular hours which keep him from the little house in Tulse Hill,
or the flat in Hampstead, where there is a love-light in the windows.
He knows the outward look of the girl, her softness, her prettiness,
her shy glance when he greets her. He knows her teasing ways, her
tenderness, her vivacity. Only now and then he is startled by her
stupidity, or by her innocence, or by her ignorance, or--still more
startling--by her superior wisdom of the ways of the world, by her
shrewd little words, by a sudden revelation of knowledge about things
which girls are not supposed to know.

But these things do not count. Only sentiment and romance are allowed to
count. These two people who are about to start on the long road of life
together are utterly blind to each other's vices or virtues. They are
deeply ignorant of each other's soul. They know nothing of the real man
or the real woman hidden beneath the mask of social conventions, beneath
the delightful, sham of romantic affection. They know nothing of their
own souls, nor of the strength that is in them to stand the test of
life's realities. They know nothing of their own weakness.

So they marry.

And for the first year they are wonderfully happy. For the first year is
full of excitement. They thrill to the great adventure of marriage. They
are uplifted with passionate love which seems likely to last for
ever. They have a thousand little interests. Even the trivialities
of domesticity are immensely important. Even the little disasters of
domesticity are amusing. They find a lot of laughter in life. They
laugh at the absurd mistakes of the servant-maids who follow in quick
succession. They laugh at their own ridiculous miscalculations with
regard to the expense of house-keeping. They laugh when visitors call
at awkward moments and when the dinner is spoilt by an inefficient cook.
After all, the comradeship of a young man and wife is the best thing in
life, and nothing else seems to matter. They are such good comrades that
the husband never leaves his wife a moment in his leisure time. He takes
her to the theatre with him. They spend week-ends together, far from the
madding crowd. They pluck the flowers of life, hand in hand, as lovers.
The first year merges into the second. Not yet do they know each other.



CHAPTER II

It is in the third and fourth year that they begin to find each other
out. The bright fires of their passion have died down, burning with a
fitful glow, burning low. Until then they had been lovers to each
other, hidden from each other by the illusions of romantic love. It was
inconceivable that the man could be anything but kind, and tender, and
patient, and considerate. It was inconceivable that he could hold any
but the noblest ideals, the most exalted aspirations, the most generous
sentiments. He had been so wise, so witty, and so gay.

And to the man it had seemed that the woman by his side was gifted with
all the virtues. At least she had been eager to please him, to satisfy
his least desire, to bend to his will. She had pandered to his vanity,
fed his self-conceit, listened to his opinions on all the subjects of
life as though they were inspired. If he had been kept out late at work
he had found her waiting for him, quick to put her arms about him,
to cry out, "Oh, my poor dear, how tired you must be?" She had been
grateful to him for all his little gifts, for all his words of love. And
he had seen her as a beautiful thing, without flaw or blemish. He had
worshipped at the foot of the pedestal on which he had placed her in his
ideals.

But now both the husband and wife begin to see each other, not as
lovers, but as man and woman. It is rather disturbing. It is distressing
to the young wife to discover, gradually, by a series of little
accidents, that this man with whom she has to live all her life is not
made of different clay from other men, that he is made of the same clay.
One by one all the little romantic illusions out of which she had built
up the false image of him, from the heroes of sentimental fiction, from
the dreams of girlhood, are stripped from him, until he stands bare
before her, the natural man. She does not like the natural man at first.
It is quite a long time before she can reconcile herself to the thought
that she is mated to a natural man, with a touch of brutality, with
little meannesses, with moods of irritability, with occasional bad
tempers, when he uses bad words. She sees, too clearly for her spiritual
comfort, that they are not "twin-souls." They have not been made in
the same mould. His childhood was different from her childhood, his
upbringing from her upbringing. She sees that in little things--mere
trifles, but monstrously annoying, such as his untidy habits, the
carelessness with which he flicks his cigarette ash about the carpet,
the familiarity with which he speaks to the servant-maid. She begins to
dislike some of his personal habits--the way in which he sneezes, his
habit of shaving after breakfast instead of before breakfast, his habit
of reading the newspaper at the breakfast table instead of chatting with
her as he used to do about the programme for the day. In things less
trivial she finds out that her first ideal of him was false. They do not
think alike on the great subjects of life. He is a Radical and she is
Conservative, by education and upbringing. It hurts her when he argues
with revolutionary ideas which seem to her positively wicked, and
subversive of all morality. He has loose views about morality in
general, and is very tolerant about lapses from the old-fashioned
moral code. That hurts her too--horribly. It begins to undermine the
foundations of her faith in what used to seem the essential truth of
things. But, above all, it hurts her to realize that she and her husband
are not one, in mind and body, but utterly different, in temperament, in
their outlook on life, in their fundamental principles and ideas.

On the other side the husband makes unpleasant discoveries. He finds
out, with a shock, that he was utterly ignorant of the girl whom
he asked to be his wife, and that this woman who sits at his
breakfast-table is not the same woman as the one who dwelt in his
imagination, even as the one who lived with him during the first and
second year. She has lost her coyness, her little teasing ways, her
girlish vivacity. She begins to surprise him by a hard common-sense, and
no longer responds so easily to his old romantic moods. He can no longer
be certain of her smiles and her tenderness when he speaks the old
love-words. She begins to challenge his authority, not deliberately, nor
openly, but by ignoring his hints, or by disregarding his advice.

She even challenges his opinions, and that is a shock to him. It is a
blow to his vanity.

It takes down his self-conceit more than a peg or two, especially when
he has to acknowledge, secretly, that she is in the right, as sometimes
happens. He finds out faults in her now--a touch of selfishness, a trace
of arrogance, an irritability of temper of which he has to be careful,
especially when she is in a nervous state of health. They begin to
quarrel rather frequently about absurd things, about things that do not
matter a brass farthing. Some of these quarrels reach passionate heights
and leave them both exhausted, wondering rather blankly what it was all
about. Then the wife cries a little, and the husband kisses her.

By the end of the fourth year they know each other pretty well.



CHAPTER III

In the fifth and sixth years they have settled down to the jog-trot
of the married life. Not yet do they see the shadow of the Eighth Year
looming ahead. They have faced the reality of life, and knowing each
other as they really are have made a working compromise. Their love has
steadied down to a more even flame, and passion is almost extinguished.
They have decided to play the game, according to the creed of their
class, exactly as their neighbors are playing it.

It is largely a game of bluff, as it is played in thousands of small
households. It is a game, also, of consequences, as I shall have to
show. It consists in keeping up appearances, in going one better than
one's neighbor whenever possible, and in making a claim to a higher rung
of the social ladder than is justified by the husband's income and rank
in life. It is the creed of snobbishness. For this creed everything
is sacrificed--contentment of mind, the pleasure of life, the little
children of life.

In many flats of Intellectual Mansions, and even in the small houses
of the "well-to-do" suburbs, children do not enter into the scheme of
things. The "babies have been left out of the business." For people
who are keeping up appearances to the last penny of their income cannot
afford to be burdened by babies. Besides, they interfere seriously
with social ladder-climbing, drag down a married couple of the younger
generation to the domestic squalor of their parents' early life. The
husband cannot bear the thought that his wife should have to make
beds in the morning and mend stockings in the evening, and wheel out a
perambulator in the park. It is so very "low down." The husband wants
to save his wife from all this domestic drudgery. He wants her to look
pretty in the frocks he buys her. He wants her to wear more expensive
frocks than any other woman in his circle of friends. He likes to hear
his friends say, "How charming your wife looks to-night, old man!" and
to hear elderly ladies say to his wife, "What a beautiful gown you are
wearing, my dear!"

He is working hard now in order to furnish his wife's wardrobe--not only
for her pleasure, but for his pride. After the first romance of love,
ambition comes to gild reality. He is ambitious to build up a beautiful
little home. The furniture with which they started married life on the
hire system has been bought and paid for, and is now replaced here and
there by "genuine antiques." He puts some good prints on his walls and
buys some water-color sketches, and becomes in a small way a patron of
the arts. It is pleasant during one of his wife's evening At Homes to
take a guest on one side and say "What do you think of that? Pretty
good, eh? It's an original, by Verdant Green, you know."

He has urged upon his wife the necessity of giving _recherché_ little
dinners, to which he can invite friends better off than himself, and
distinguished guests whom he wishes to impress. As he explains to his
wife, "one has to do these things." And he does them rather well, paying
some attention to his wines--he keeps a good dinner claret--and to his
cigars, which he buys at the stores. He also suggests to his wife that
now she has an extra servant she had better establish a weekly At Home,
an informal little affair, but pleasant and useful, because it shows the
world, their world, that they are getting on in the social scale. Here
again, distinguished visitors may be invited to "drop in." It is good
for business. A pretty, well-dressed wife makes a favourable impression
upon solicitors who have briefs to give away or upon wealthy clients.
One must keep up appearances, and make a good show. Besides, it is
pleasant to put on evening clothes after a hard day's work and to play
the host. It gives a man some return for all his toil. It gives him a
reason for living. And it brightens up one's home-life. "Man does not
live by bread alone," he must have some cakes and ale, so to speak.

But it is expensive. As every year of marriage passes, the expenses
increase, steadily, miraculously. It is difficult to account for them,
but there they are, facing a man in his quarterly reckoning. And the two
ends must be made to meet, by extra work, by putting one's nose down to
the grindstone. The husband does not come home so soon as he used to do
in the early days. But he has the satisfaction of knowing that while he
is away at work his wife is keeping up his social reputation and doing
all the things which a lady in her station of life is expected to do. He
thanks heaven that his wife is happy.

She is not unhappy, this wife, in the fifth and sixth year of marriage.
After the first romantic illusions failed her she settled down quietly
enough to play the game. It is quite interesting, quite amusing. Now and
again queer doubts assail her, and she has strange flutterings at the
heart, and little pinpricks of conscience. It is about the question of
motherhood. Perhaps it would be better for her to have a baby. However,
she has threshed out the question a hundred times with her husband, and
he has decided that he cannot afford a family yet, and after all the
flat _is_ very small. Besides, she shirks the idea herself--all the pain
of it, and the trouble of it.... She thrusts down these queer doubts,
does not listen to the flutterings at the heart, ignores the little
pinpricks of conscience. She turns quickly to the interests of her
social life and falls easily into the habit of pleasant laziness,
filling her day with little futile things, which seem to satisfy her
heart and brain. When her husband has gone to business she dresses
herself rather elaborately for a morning stroll, manicures her nails,
tries a new preparation for the complexion, alters a feather, or a
flower, in one of her hats, studies herself in the glass, and is pleased
with herself. It passes the time. Then she saunters forth, and goes
to the shops, peering in through the great plate-glass windows at the
latest display of lingerie, of evening gowns, of millinery. She fancies
herself in some of the new hats from Paris. One or two of them attract
her especially. She makes a mental note of them. She will ask her
husband to let her buy one of them. After all Mrs. Fitzmaurice had a new
hat only last week--the second in one month. She will tell him that.
It will pique him, for there is a rather amusing rivalry between the
Fitzmaurices and them.

So the morning passes until luncheon, when she props the morning
newspaper against the water-jug, reading the titbits of news and the
fashion page while she eats her meal, rather nicely cooked by the new
servant, and daintily served by the little housemaid. Another hour of
the day passes, and it is the afternoon.

She lies down for half an hour with the latest novel from Mudie's. It
has a good plot, and is a rather exciting love-story. It brings back
romance to her. For a little while she forgets the reality which she
has learnt since her own romantic days. Here love is exactly what
she imagined it to he, thrilling, joyous, never-changing. The hero
is exactly what she imagined her husband to be--before he was her
husband--strong, gentle, noble, high-souled, immensely patient. And
after many little troubles, misadventures, cross-purposes, and strange
happenings, marriage is the great reward, the splendid compensation.
After this the hero and heroine live happily ever afterwards, till death
does them part, and--there is nothing more to be said. The novel ends
with the marriage bells.

She knows that her novel has not ended with the marriage hells, that,
in fact, the plot is only just beginning as far as she is concerned.
But she does not allow herself to think of that. She revels in romantic
fiction, and reads novel after novel at the rate of three a week.
Occasionally one of these novels gives her a nasty shock, for it deals
with realism rather than romance, and reveals the hearts of women rather
like herself, and the tragedies of women rather like herself, and the
truth of things, in a cold, white light. She reads the book with burning
eyes. It makes her pulse beat. It seems rather a wicked book, it is
so horribly truthful, not covering even the nakedness of facts with a
decent layer of sentiment, but exposing them brutally, with a terrible
candor. She hates the book. It makes her think of things she has tried
to forget. It revives those queer doubts, and makes her conscience prick
again. She is glad when she has sent it back to the library and taken
out another novel, of the harmless kind, in the old style. She lulls
her conscience to sleep by the dear old love-stories, or by the musical
comedies and the costume-plays to which she goes with one of her
girl-friends on Wednesday or Saturday matinées.

She goes to the theatre a good deal now, because she is living more
independently of her husband. That is to say she no longer waits for his
home-coming, as in her first days of marriage, with an impatient desire.
She has long seen that they cannot be all in all to each other, sharing
all pleasures, or having none. He has realized that, too, and goes
to his club at least once a week--sometimes more often, to enjoy the
society of men, to get a little "Bohemianism," as he calls it.

She has made her own circle of friends now, the young wives of men like
her husband, and many of her afternoons are taken up with little rounds
of visits, when she is amused by the tittle-tattle of these wives, by
their little tales and scandals, by their gossips about servants, frocks
and theatres.

She, too, has social ambitions like her husband. Her evenings At Home
are agreeable adventures when she is pleased with the homage of her
husband's friends. She takes some trouble with her little dinner-parties
and writes out the _menus_ with a good deal of care, and arranges the
flowers, and occasionally looks into the kitchen to give a word to
the cook. She wears her new evening gown and smiles at her husband's
compliments, with something of her old tenderness. After one of these
evening At Homes the husband and wife have moments of loving comradeship
like those in the first days of their marriage. It is a pity that some
trivial accident or dispute causes ill-temper at the breakfast-table.

But, on the whole, they play the game rather well in the fifth and
sixth years of their married life. The husband takes the rough with the
smooth. In spite of occasional bad tempers, in spite of grievances which
are growing into habits of mind, he is a good fellow and--he thanks
heaven his wife is happy.



CHAPTER IV

It is the seventh year. The wife is still doing exactly what she did in
the fifth and sixth years. Her daily routine is exactly the same. Except
that she can afford extra little luxuries now, and indulge in more
expensive kinds of pleasure--stalls at the theatre instead of seats
in the pit, an occasional visit to the opera, an easy yielding to
temptations in the way of hats. Her husband has been "getting on," and
he is glad to give her what she wants.

But somehow or other she is beginning to realize that she has not got
what she wants. She does not know what she wants, but she knows that
there is a great lack of something in her life. She is still "playing
the game," but there is no longer the same sport in it. The sharp edge
of her interest in things has worn off. It has been dulled down. She
goes languidly through the days and a matinée jaunt no longer thrills
her with a little excitement. The plays are so boring, full of stale old
plots, stale old women, stale old tricks. She is sick of them. She still
reads a great number of romantic novels, but how insufferably tedious
they have become! How false they are! How cloying is all this sickly
sentiment! She searches about for the kind of novel which used to
frighten her, problem novels, dangerous novels, novels dealing with real
problems of life. They still frighten her a little, some of them, but
she likes the sensation. She wants more of it. She wants to plunge
deeper into the dangerous problems, to get nearer to the truth of
things. She broods over their revelations. She searches out the
meaning of their suggestions, their hints, their innuendoes. It is like
drug-drinking. This poisonous fiction stimulates her for a little while,
until the effect of it has worn off and leaves her with an aching head.
Her head often aches now. And her heart aches--though goodness knows
why. Everything is so stale. The gossip of her women friends is, oh--so
stale! She has heard all their stories about all their servants, all
their philosophy about the servant problem in general, all their shallow
little views about life, and love, and marriage. She has found them all
out, their vanities, their little selfish ways, their little lies and
shams and fooleries. They are exactly like herself. She has been brought
up in the same code, shaped in the same mould, cut out to the same
pattern. Their ideas are her ideas. Their ways of life her ways. They
bore her exceedingly.

She is bored by things which for a time were very pleasant. It is, for
instance, boring to go shopping in the morning. It is annoying to her to
see her own wistful, moody eyes in the plate-glass windows, and in the
pier-glasses. She has not lost her love of pretty frocks and pretty
things, but it bores her to think that her husband does not notice them
so much, and that she has to wear them mostly to please herself. She is
tired of the little compliments paid to her by her husband's middle-aged
friends. She has begun to find her husband's friends very dull people
indeed. Most of all is she bored by those evening At Homes with their
familiar ritual--the girl who wants to sing but pleads a bad cold, the
woman who wants to play but says she is so fearfully "out of practice,"
the man who asks the name of a piece which he has heard a score of
times, the well-worn jokes, the well-known opinions on things which do
not matter, the light refreshments, the thanks for "a pleasant evening."
Oh, those pleasant evenings! How she hates them!

She is beginning to hate this beautiful little home of hers. The very
pictures on the walls set her nerves on edge. She has stared at them
so often. She wishes to goodness that Marcus Stone's lovers on an
old-fashioned stone seat would go and drown themselves in the distant
lake. But they do not move. They sit smirking at each other, eternally.
She wishes with all her heart that the big Newfoundland dog over there
would bite the fluffy haired child who says "Does 'oo talk?" But it will
not even bark. She stares at the pattern on the carpet, when a Mudie's
novel lies on her lap, and comes to detest the artificial roses on the
trellis-work. She digs her heels into one of them. If the roses were
real she would pluck them leaf by leaf and scatter the floor with them.
The ticking of the clock on the mantelshelf irritates her. It seems a
reproach to her. It seems to be counting up her waste of time.

She stays more at home, in spite of hating it, because she is beginning
to loathe her round of visits. She feels lonely and wishes her husband
would come home. Why does he stay so late at the office now? Surely it
isn't necessary? When he comes home she is so snappy and irritable that
he becomes silent over the dinner-table, and then she quarrels with him
for his silence. After dinner he sits over his papers, thinking out some
knotty point of business, which he does not discuss with her as in the
old days. He buries his nose in the evening paper, and reads all the
advertisements, and is very dull and uninteresting. Yet she nourishes
a grievance when he goes off on his club-nights and comes home in the
early hours of the morning, cheerful and talkative when she wants to go
to sleep.



CHAPTER V

In some cases, indeed in many cases, the presence of an "outsider"
adds to the unhappiness of the wife and divides her still more from her
husband. It is the presence of the mother-in-law.

She, poor soul, has had a terrible time, and no one until now has said a
good word for her. The red-nosed comedian of the music-hall has used her
for his most gross vulgarities, sure that whenever he mentions her name
he will raise guffaws from the gallery, and evoke shrieks of ill-natured
merriment from young women in the pit. In the pantomimes the man dressed
up as a woman indulges in long monologues upon his mother-in-law as
the source of all domestic unhappiness, as the origin of all quarrels
between husbands and wives, as the greatest nuisance in modern life, and
so long as he patters about the mother-in-law the audience enjoys itself
vastly.

It is idle to pretend that the mother-in-law is a blessing in a small
household. I am bound to admit that the success of the rednosed comedian
who uses her as his text is due to the truth which lies hidden beneath
his absurdity. He raises roars of laughter because the people who make
up his audience realize that he is giving a touch of humor to something
which is a grim tragedy, and according to the psychology of humor
this is irresistibly comic, just as the most primitive and
laughter-compelling jokes deal with corpses, and funerals, and death
made ridiculous. They have suffered from their own mothers-in-law, those
elderly women who sit in the corner with watchful eyes upon the young
wives, those critics of their sons' marriages, those eavesdroppers of
the first quarrel, and of all the quarrels that follow the first, those
oracles of unwelcome wisdom, whose advice about household affairs,
about the way of dealing with the domestic servants, with constant
references to _their_ young days, are a daily exasperation to young
married women.

All that is painfully true. In many cases the mother-in-law becomes so
terrible an incubus in small households that domestic servants leave
with unfailing regularity before their month is "up," husbands make a
habit of being late at the office, and wives are seriously tempted to
take to drink.

But what of the mother-in-law herself? Is _she_ to be envied? Did she
willingly become a mother-in-law? Alas, her tragedy is as great as that
of the young wife upon whose nerves she gets so badly, as great as that
of the young husband who finds his home-life insufferable because of her
presence.

For the mother-in-law is a prisoner of fate. She is the unwanted
guest. She is dependent upon the charity of those who find her a daily
nuisance. During the days of her own married life she devoted herself
to her husband and children, stinted and scraped for them, moulded
them according to her ideals of righteousness, exacted obedience to
her motherly commands, and was sure of their love. Then, one day, death
knocked at the door, and brought black horses into the street. After
that day, when her man was taken from her, she became dependent upon her
eldest son, but did not yet feel the slavery of the dependence.

For he paid the debt of gratitude gratefully, and kept up the little
home.

But one day she noticed that he did not come home so early, and that
when he came home he was absent-minded. He fell into the habit of
spending his evenings out, and his mother wondered, and was anxious. He
was not so careful about her comforts, and she was hurt. Then one day
he came home and said, "Mother, I am going to get married," and she
knew that her happiness was at an end. For she knew, with a mother's
intuition, that the love which had been in her boy's heart for her must
now be shared with another woman, and that instead of having the first
place in his life, she would have the second place.

For a little while her jealousy is like that of a woman robbed of her
lover. She hides it, and hides her hate for that girl whose simpering
smile, whose prettiness, whose coy behavior, light fires in her son's
eyes, and set his pulse beating, and make him forgetful of his mother.

Then the marriage takes place and the mother who has dreaded the day
knows that it is her funeral. For she is like a queen whose prerogatives
and privileges have been taken away by the death of the king, and by
the accession of a new queen. Her place is taken from her. Her home is
broken up. She is moved, with the furniture, into the new home, put into
the second-best bedroom, and arranged to suit the convenience of the new
household in which another woman is mistress.

She knows already that she has begun to be a nuisance, and it is like a
sharp dagger in her heart. She knows that the young wife is as jealous
of her as she is of the young wife, because her son cannot break himself
of the habit of obedience, cannot give up that respect for his mother's
principles and advice and wisdom, which is part of the very fibre of his
being, because in any domestic crisis the son turns more readily to the
mother than to the young woman who is a newcomer in his life, and in any
domestic quarrel he takes the mother's part rather than the wife's.
It is the law of nature. It cannot be altered, but it is the cause of
heartburning and squalid little tragedies.

The mother-in-law, in the corner of the sitting-room, watches the drama
of the married life, and with more experience of life, because of her
years, sees the young wife do foolish things, watches her blundering
experiments in the great adventure of marriage, is vigilant of her
failures in housekeeping, and in the management of her husband. She
cannot be quite tongue-tied. She cannot refrain from criticism, advice,
rebuke. Between the mother-in-law and the daughter-in-law there is a
daily warfare of pinpricks, a feud that grows bitter with the years.

But the mother-in-law is helpless. She cannot escape from the lamentable
situation. She must always remain a hindrance, because she needs a roof
over her head, and there is no other roof, and she is dependent for her
daily bread upon the son who is faithful to her, though he is irritable,
moody and sharp of speech, because of the fretfulness of his wife.

This is the eternal tragedy of the mother-in-law, which is turned into
a jest by the red-nosed comedian to get the laughter from "the gods."
It is also a tragedy to the daughter-in-law, who could shriek aloud
sometimes when the presence of the elderly woman becomes intolerable.

Many things are becoming intolerable to the young wife. Her nerves are
out of order. Sometimes she feels "queer." She cannot explain how queer
she feels, even to herself. She says bitter things to her husband, and
then hates herself for doing so. She has a great yearning for his love,
but is very cold when he is in a tender mood. She cannot understand her
own moods. She only knows that she is beginning to get frightened when
she thinks of the long vista of years before her. She cannot go on like
this always. She cannot go on like this very long. She is getting rather
hysterical. She startles her husband by laughing in a queer shrill way
when he expresses some serious opinions, or gives vent to some of his
conventional philosophy, about women, and the duties of married life,
and the abomination of the Suffragettes. But he does not see her tears.
He does not see her one day, when suddenly, after she has been reading
a Mudie's novel, page after page, without understanding one word, tears
well up into her eyes, and fall upon the pages, until she bends her head
down and puts her hands up to her face, and sobs as though all her heart
had turned to tears.



CHAPTER VI


I_t is the Eighth Year_. The wife does not know the significance of
that. The husband goes on his way without seeing the ghosts that have
invaded his little household. He is too busy to see. The whole energy of
his mind now is devoted to the business of his life. He must earn money,
more money, still more money, because expenses still keep increasing,
by leaps and bounds. He finds it more and more difficult to cut his coat
according to his cloth. He is often surprised because with a much larger
income he seems to be just as "hard up" as when he started the adventure
of marriage. He wonders, sometimes, whether the game is worth the
candle. What does he get out of it? Precious little. Not much fun. In
the evenings he is tired, although his brain is still worrying over the
details of his work, over his business disappointments and difficulties,
and plans. Now and again he is surprised at the strange quietude and
lassitude of his wife. He catches a look of tragedy in her eyes, and it
startles him for a moment, so that he asks her if she is feeling unwell.
She laughs, in a mirthless way, and seems to resent the question.
"Perfectly well, thanks," she says. He shrugs his shoulders. He cannot
bother about a woman's whims and moods. Women are queer kittle-cattle.
He can't make 'em out. Even his own wife is a perfect mystery to him.
It is a pity they get on each other's nerves so much. What more does she
want? He has given her everything a woman may desire--a beautiful little
home, many little luxuries, plenty of pin-money. He does not stint her.
It is he that does the stinting. He is always working for her so that
she may play. However--work is best. To do our job in life is the best
philosophy.

So the husband has on one side the passing suspicion that something is
wrong with his wife, and the wife hides her heart from him.

Something _is_ wrong with her. Everything is wrong, though she does not
know why and how. She feels lonely--horribly lonely in spite of all her
friends. She feels like a woman alone in a great desert with no other
human soul near her, thrust back upon her own thoughts, brooding over
her own misery. There is a great emptiness in her heart, and she has
a great hunger and a great thirst of soul which she cannot satisfy.
Nothing satisfies that empty, barren heart of hers, that throbbing
brain. She has finished with Mudie's novels. She can find no
satisfaction in _them_. She revolts from the tittle-tattle of her women
friends. That is no longer amusing. She finds no pleasure in the beauty
of her face. It is no longer beautiful. She hates the sight of her face
in the glass. She is afraid of those big wistful eyes which stare at
her. She is sick to death of dressing herself up. How futile it is! How
utterly vain and foolish!

She is haunted with ghosts; the ghosts of What-Might-Have-Been. They
whisper about her, so that she puts her hands to her ears, when she is
alone in her drawing-room. Faces peer at her, with mocking eyes, or with
tempting eyes--the faces of men who might have been her lovers, baby
faces of unborn children. Little hands flutter about her heart, pluck at
her, tease her. The ghosts of her girlhood crowd about her, the ghosts
of dead hopes, of young illusions, of romantic dreams. She thrusts them
away from her vision. She puts her hands before her eyes, and moans a
little, quietly, so that the servants in the kitchen shall not hear.

She is assailed by strange temptations, horrible temptations, from
which she shrinks back afraid. This hunger and thirst in her soul are so
tormenting that she has frightful cravings for Something to satisfy her
hunger and quench her thirst. She is tempted to take to drink, or to
drugs, to dull the throbbing of her brain, to wake her up out of this
awful lassitude, to give her a momentary excitement and vitality, and
then--forgetfulness. She must have some kind of excitement--to break
the awful monotony of her life, this intolerable dullness of her little
home. If only an adventure would come to her! Some thrilling, perilous
adventure, however wicked, whatever the consequences. She feels the
overmastering need of some passionate emotion. She would like to plunge
into romantic love again, to be set on fire by it. Somewhere about the
world is a man who could save her, some strong man with a masterful way
with him, brutal as well as tender, cruel as well as kind, who would
come to her, and clasp her hands, and capture her. She would lean
upon him. She would yield, willingly.... She tries to crush down these
thoughts. She is horrified at the evil in them. Oh, she is a bad woman!
Even in her loneliness her face scorches with shame. She gives a faint
cry to God to save her. But again and again the devilish thoughts leer
up in her brain. She begins to believe that the devil is really busy
with her and that she cannot escape him.

She has a strange sense of impending peril, of something that is going
to happen. She knows that something _must_ happen.

In this Eighth Year she is in a state bordering on hysteria, when
anything may happen to her. Even her husband is beginning to get
alarmed. He is at last awakened out of his self-complacency. He is
beginning to watch her, with a vague uneasiness. Why does she look so
queerly at him sometimes as though she hated him? Why does she say such
bitter, cruel, satirical things, which stab him and leave a poison in
the wound? Why does she get into such passionate rages about trivial
things, and then reveal a passionate remorse? Why does she sink into
long silences, sitting with her hands in her lap, staring at the
pattern on the carpet, as though it had put a spell upon her? He cannot
understand. She says there is nothing wrong with her health, she refuses
to see a doctor. She scoffs at the idea of going away for a little
holiday to the seaside. She says it would bore her to death. Once she
bursts into tears and weeps on his shoulder. But she cannot, or will
not, explain the cause of her tears, so that he becomes impatient with
her and talks to her roughly, though he is sorry afterwards. He begins
to see now that marriage is a difficult game. Perhaps they were not
suited to each other. They married too young, before they had understood
each other.... However they have got to make the best of it now. That is
the law of life--to make the best of it.

So in the Eighth Year the husband tries to take a common-sense view of
things, not knowing that in the Eighth Year it is too late for common
sense as far as the wife is concerned. She wants uncommon sense. Only
some tremendous and extraordinary influence, spiritual, or moral, or
intellectual, beyond the limits of ordinary common sense, may save her
from the perils in her own heart. She must find a way of escape, for
these unsatisfied yearnings, for this beating heart, for this throbbing
brain. Her little home has become a cage to her. Her husband has become
her jailer. Her life has become too narrow, too petty, too futile. In
the Eighth Year she must find a way of escape--anyhow, anywhere. And in
the Eighth Year the one great question is in what direction will she go?
There are many ways of escape.



CHAPTER VII

One way of escape is through the door of the Divorce Court. Sir Francis
Jeune, when he was President of the Divorce Court, saw before him many
of these escaping women, and he noted down the fact about the Eighth
Year; and sitting there with an impassive face, but watchful eyes, he
saw the characters in all these little tragedies and came to know the
type and the plot from constant reiteration. Sometimes the plot varied,
but only in accidentals, never in essentials. As the story was rehearsed
before him, it always began in the same way, with a happy year or two
of marriage. Then it was followed by the first stress and strain. Then
there came the drifting apart, the little naggings, the quarrels, the
misunderstandings, until the wife--it was generally the wife--became
bored, lonely, emotional, hysterical, and an easy victim for the first
fellow with a roving eye, a smooth tongue, and an easy conscience. The
procession still goes on, the long procession of women who try to escape
through the Divorce Court door. Every year they come, and the same story
is told and retold with sickening repetition. In most cases they are
childless wives. That is proved, beyond dispute, by all statistics of
divorce. Sometimes they have one or two children, but those cases are
much more rare. But even when there are children to complicate the
issues and to be the heirs of these tragedies, the causes behind the
tragedies are the same. The woman has had idle hands in her lap before
the Eighth Year of marriage has been reached. In the early years her
little home was enough to satisfy her mind and heart, and her interests
were enough to keep her busy. The coming of the first child, and of the
second, if there is a second, was for a time sufficient to crowd her
day with little duties and to prevent any restlessness or any deadly
boredom. All went well while she had but one maidservant, and while
her husband's feet were still on the lower rungs of the ladder. But
the trouble began with the arrival of the extra servant and with the
promotion of her husband. It began when gradually she handed over
domestic duties to paid people, when she was seldom in the kitchen and
more in the drawing-room, when the children were put under the charge
of a nurse, and when the responsibilities of motherhood had become a
sinecure. The fact must be faced that a child is not always a cure for
the emptiness of a woman's heart, nor an absolute pledge of fidelity
between husband and wife. These women who seek a way of escape from
their little homes are not always brought to that position by the
unfulfilled instincts of motherhood. For many of them have no instincts
of motherhood. They feel no great natural desire to have a child.
They even shrink from the idea of motherhood, and plead their lack of
courage, their ill-health, their weakness. With their husbands they are
partners in a childless scheme, or if they have a child--they quickly
thrust it into the nursery to leave themselves free.

But, on the other hand, it is a fact borne out by all the figures that
a child does in the vast majority of cases bind together the husband and
wife, as no other influence or moral restraint; and that among all the
women who come to the Divorce Court the overwhelming majority is made up
of childless wives.

These women are not naturally vicious. They have not gone wrong because
their principles are perverted. They are not, as a rule, intellectual
anarchists who have come to the conclusion that the conventional moral
code is wrong and that the laws of marriage are neither divine nor just.
On the contrary, they are conscience-stricken, they are terrified by
their own act. Many of them are brokenhearted and filled with shame.
It is pitiful to hear their letters read in court, letters to their
husbands pleading for forgiveness, asking for "another chance,"
or trying, feebly, to throw the blame on the man, and to whitewash
themselves as much as possible. To judge from their letters it would
seem that they were under some evil spell, and that they were conscious
of being dragged away from their duty as though Fate had clutched them
by the hair, so that although they struggled they could not resist, and
were borne helplessly along upon a swift tide of passion carrying them
to destruction. "I could not help myself" is the burden of their cry, as
though they had no free-will, and no strength of will. Occasionally they
give tragic pictures of their idle lives, so lacking in interest, so
barren, so boring. There is another phrase which crops up again and
again: "Oh, I was bored--bored--bored!" It was the man that saved her
from boredom who now shares the woman's guilt, and stands in the witness
box in this court of honor. He came to her just at that moment in the
Eighth Year when she was bored to death. He was kind, sympathetic,
understanding. He brought a little color back into her cheeks, a little
laughter into her eyes, a little sunshine into her life. He seemed such
a boy, so youthful and high-spirited, such a contrast to her husband,
always busy, and always worrying over his business. He told good
stories, took her to the theatre, arranged little supper-parties, made
a new adventure of life. He would sit chatting with her over the fire,
when there were flickering shadows on the walls. He chased away the
ghosts, gave her new dreams, brought new hopes.... And then suddenly he
begins to tempt her; and she shrinks back from him, and is afraid. He
knows she is afraid, but he tries to laugh away her fears. She pleads
with him to go away, but there is insincerity in her voice, her words
are faltering. She knows that if he were to go away she would be left
more lonely than before, in intolerable loneliness till the ghosts would
rush back at her. So he stays, and tempts her a little more. Gradually,
little by little, he becomes her great temptation, overwhelming all
other things in life dwarfing all other things, even her faith and
honor. How can she resist? By what power within her can she resist?

She does not resist. And yet by yielding she does not gain that
happiness to which she stretched out her hands. She does not satisfy the
great hunger in her heart or quench her burning thirst. She has not
even killed the ghosts which haunt her, or healed the pin pricks of her
conscience. Her conscience is one great bleeding wound. For this woman
of the middle-classes is a creature of her caste Nor in most cases can
she break the rules of her caste without frightful hurt to herself. She
was brought up in a "nice" home. Her mother was a woman of old-fashioned
virtues. Her father was a man who would have seen her dead rather than
shamed. She received a High School education, and read Tennyson and
Longfellow with moral notes by her class-mistress. She used to go to
church, and sometimes goes there still, though without any fervor or
strength of faith. She has heard the old words, "The wages of sin is
death," and she shrinks a little when she thinks of them. Above all she
has been brought up on romantic fiction, and that is always on the side
of the angels. The modern problem novel has arrested her intellect, has
startled her, challenged her, given her "notions"; but in her heart of
hearts she still believes in the old-fashioned code of morals, in the
sweet old virtues. This sin of hers is a great terror to her. She is not
brazen-faced. She does not justify it by any advanced philosophy. She is
just a poor, weak, silly woman, who has gone to the edge of a precipice,
grown giddy, and fallen off the cliff. She throws up her hands with a
great cry. The way of escape through the Divorce Court door is not a way
to happiness. It is a way to remorse, to secret agonies, to a life-long
wretchedness. Her second husband, if he "plays the game" according to
the rules of the world, is not to be envied. Between him and this woman
there are old ghosts. This way of escape is into a haunted house.



CHAPTER VIII

Thousands, and tens of thousands of women who pass through the Eighth
Year, not unscathed, find another way out. They are finding it now
through this new femininist movement which is linked up with the
cause of Women's Suffrage. The Eighth Year produces many suffragettes,
militant and otherwise. At first, in the first years of their married
life, they scoffed at the idea of Votes for Women. They could not
see the sense of it. They hated the vulgarities of the business, the
shamelessness of it, the ugly squalor of these scuffles with the police,
these fights with the crowds, these raids on the House of Commons.
It was opposed to all their ideals of femininity and to all their
traditions of girlhood. "The hussies ought to be whipped," is the
verdict of the young wife in the first stage of her romantic affection.
But, later on, when romance has worn very threadbare in the little home,
when reality is beginning to poke its head through the drawing-room
windows, she finds herself taking an interest in this strange
manifestation which seems to be inspired by some kind of madness. She is
silent now when some new phase in the conflict is being discussed in her
presence. She listens and ponders. Presently she goes out of her way
to get introduced to some suffrage woman on the outskirts of her
acquaintance. She is surprised to find her a wonderfully cheerful, and
apparently sane, woman, very keen, very alert, and with a great sense of
humor--utterly unlike her tired, bored and melancholy self. Perhaps she
is quite a young woman, a bachelor girl, earning her own living, down in
Chelsea, or as a typist secretary in the City. But young as she is she
has dived into all sorts of queer studies--the relations between men and
women, the divorce laws, the science of eugenics--and she discusses
them with an amazing frankness, and in a most revolutionary spirit,
startling, and a little appalling, at first to this wife in her Eighth
Year. She has made up her mind conclusively on all the great questions
of life. She pooh-poohs romantic love. "There is too much fuss made
about it," she says. "It is a mere episode, like influenza. There are
bigger things." She holds herself perfectly free to choose her mate,
and to remedy any little mistake which she may make in her choice. At
present she prefers her independence and her own job, which she likes,
thank you very much. She is tremendously enthusiastic about the work
which women have got to do in the world, and there is nothing they
cannot do, in her opinion. She claims an absolute equality with men. In
fact, she is inclined to claim a superiority. After all, men are poor
things.... Altogether she is a most remarkable young woman, and she
seems to get tremendous fun out of life--and this wife in her Eighth
Year, without agreeing with her yet envies her!

Or perhaps the wife meets a suffrage woman of middle-age. She, too, is
a cheerful, keen, alert, bustling woman with cut-and-dried opinions on
subjects about which the wife in the Eighth Year is full of doubt
and perplexity. She has a certain hardness of character. She is
intellectually hard, and without an atom of old-fashioned sentiment.
She calls a spade a spade, in a rather embarrassing way, and prefers
her facts to be naked. She is the mother of two children, whom she is
bringing up on strictly eugenic principles, whatever those may be, and
she is the wife of a husband whom she keeps in the background and treats
as a negligible quantity. "We wives, my dear," she says, "have been too
long kept prisoners in upholstered cages. It is time we broke our prison
windows. I am breaking other people's windows as well. It lets in a lot
of fresh air."

She talks a great deal about sweated labor, about the white-slave
traffic, about women's work and wages. She talks still more about the
treachery of the Government, the lies of politicians, the cowardice of
men. "Oh, we are going to make them sit up. We shall stop at nothing. It
is a revolution."

She is amazed at the ignorance of the young wife. "Good heavens, your
education _has_ been neglected!" she cries. "You are like all these
stuffy suburban women, who are as ignorant of life as bunny-rabbits.
Haven't you even read John Stuart Mill's _Subjection of Women?_ Good
gracious! Well, I will send you round some literature. It will open your
eyes, my dear."

She sends round a lot of little pamphlets, full of dangerous ideas,
ideas that sting like bees, ideas that are rather frightening to the
wife in her Eighth Year. They refer to other books, which she gets out
of the lending library. She reads Ibsen, and recognizes herself in many
of those forlorn women in the plays. She reads small booklets on the
Rights of Wives, on the Problems of Motherhood, on the Justice of the
Vote. And suddenly, after a period of intellectual apathy, she is set on
fire by all these burning sparks. She is caught up in a great flame of
enthusiasm. It is like strong drink to her. It is like religious mania.
She wakens out of her lethargy. Her feeling of boredom vanishes, gives
way to a great excitement, a great exhilaration. She startles her
husband, who thinks she has gone mad. She argues with him, laughs at his
old-fashioned opinions, scoffs at him, pities him for his blindness. She
goes out to suffrage meetings, starts to her feet one day and falters
out a few excited words. She sits down with burning cheeks, with the
sound of applause in her ears, like the roar of the sea. She learns to
speak, to express herself coherently. She offers herself to "the cause."
She sells her trinkets and gives the money to the funds. She is out for
any kind of adventure, however perilous. She is one of the Hot Young
Bloods, or if she has not the pluck for that, or the strength, one of
the intellectual firebrands who are really more dangerous.

It is a queer business, this suffrage movement, which sets these women
aflame. There are a few women in it who have the cold intellectual
logic of John Stuart Mill himself. They have thought the thing out on
scientific lines, in its economic, political, and social aspects. They
want the vote honestly, as a weapon to give their sex greater power,
greater independence, better conditions of life in the labor market. But
the rank and file have no such intellectual purpose, though they make
use of the same arguments and believe that these are the mainsprings of
their actions. In reality they are Eighth Year women. That is to say,
they seize upon the movement with a feverish desire to find in it some
new motive in life, some tremendous excitement, some ideals greater
and more thrilling than the little ideals of their home life. In this
movement, in this great battle, they see many things which they
keep secret. They go into it with blind impulses, which they do not
understand, except vaguely. It is a movement of revolt against all the
trammels of sex relationship which have come down through savagery to
civilization; laws evolved out of the inherited experience of tribes and
races for the protection of womanhood and the functions of womanhood,
laws of repression, of restraint, for the sake of the children of the
race; duties exacted by the social code again for the sake of the next
generation. Having revolted against the duties of motherhood, all
these laws, these trammels, these fetters, become to them intolerable,
meaningless, exasperating. The scheme of monogamy breaks down. It has
no deep moral purpose behind it, because the family is not complete. The
scheme has been frustrated by the childlessness of the wife. Again, this
movement is a revolt against the whole structure of modern society as
it affects the woman--against the very architecture of the home; against
all those tiny flats, those small suburban houses, in which women are
cramped and confined, and cut off from the large world. It did not
matter so long as there was a large world within the four walls. Their
space was big enough to hold the big ideals of old-fashioned womanhood,
in which the upbringing of children was foremost and all-absorbing. But
for a woman who has lost these ideals and the duties that result from
them, these little places are too narrow for their restless hearts; they
become like prison cells, in which their spirits go pacing up and down,
up and down, to come up against the walls, to heat their hands against
them. They believe that they may find in this suffrage movement the key
to the riddle of the mysteries in their souls, world-old mysteries,
of yearnings for the Unknown Good, of cravings for the Eternal
Satisfaction, for the perfect fulfilment of their beings. Their poor
husband, a dear good fellow, after all, now that they look at him
without hysteria, has not provided this Eternal Satisfaction. He has
only provided pretty frocks, tickets for matinées, foolish little
luxuries. He does not stand for them as the Unknown Good. After the
first year or two of marriage they know him with all his faults and
flaws, and familiarity breeds contempt. But here, in this struggle for
the Vote, in these window-breakings and house-burnings, in imprisonments
and forcible feedings, in this solidarity of women inspired by a fierce
fanaticism--there is, they think, the answer to all their unsolved
questions, the splendor and the glory of their sex, the possibility of
magnificent promises and gifts, in which the soul of woman may at last
find peace, and her body its liberty. She is to have the supreme mastery
over her own spirit and flesh.

It is a fine promise. But as yet it is unfulfilled. It is not to
be denied that for a time at least some of these women do gain
a cheerfulness, a keenness, a vitality, which seem to be a great
recompense for their struggles and strivings. But they are the younger
women, and especially the young unmarried women, who get a good deal of
fun out of all this excitement, all this adventure, all the dangerous
defiance of law and convention. The older women--many of them--are
already suffering a sad disillusionment. They have not yet found those
splendid things which seemed at last within their grasp. They are
desperate to get them, fierce in their desire for them, but the cup of
wine is withheld from their lips. They find themselves growing old and
still unsatisfied, growing hard, and' bitter, and revengeful against
those who thwart them. The problems of their sex still remain with them.
They may break all the laws, but get no nearer to liberty. They are
still prisoners of fate, bond-slaves to a nature which they do not
understand. The femininist movement is only a temporary way of escape
for the wife who has reached her crisis in the Eighth Year.



CHAPTER IX

There is another way, and it has many doors. It is religion. Many of
these women "take to religion" as they take to the suffrage movement,
and find the same emotional excitement and adventure in it. They are
caught up in it as by a burning flame. It satisfies something of their
yearnings and desires. And it is a curious and lamentable thing that
although it has been proved conclusively by all masters of philosophy
and by all great thinkers, that some form of religion, is an essential
need in the heart of women, the whole tendency of the time is to rob
them of this spiritual guidance and comfort. Religion is not a part of
the social scheme of things in "intellectual mansions" and in the small
suburban houses of the professional classes. It is not entirely wiped
off the slate, but it is regarded with indifference and as of no vital
account in the sum of daily life. Occasionally a certain homage is paid
to it, as to a pleasant, old-fashioned ritual which belongs to the code
of "good form." In their courting days the young man and woman went to
church now and then on a Sunday morning or a Sunday evening and held
the same hymn-book, and enjoyed a little spiritual sentiment. They
were married in church to the music of the Wedding March played by the
organist. Sometimes as the years pass they drop into a service
where there is good singing, a popular preacher, and a fashionable
congregation. They regard themselves as Christians, and condescend to
acknowledge the existence of God, in a vague, tolerant kind of way. But
they do not enter into any intimate relations with God. He is not down
on their visiting list. Many of them do not even go as far as those
people I have described who regard God as part of the social code of
"good form." They become frankly agnostic and smile at their neighbors
who put on top-hats and silk dresses and stroll to church on a Sunday
morning. It seems to them absurdly "Early Victorian." For they have read
a great number of little books by the latest writers, who publish their
philosophy in sevenpenny editions, and they have reached an intellectual
position when they have a smattering of knowledge on the subject of
evolution, anthropology, the origins of religion, literature and dogma,
and the higher criticism. They have also read extracts from the works of
Nietzsche, Kant, and the great free-thinkers, or reviews of their works
in the halfpenny newspapers. The ideas of the great thinkers and
great rebels have filtered down to them through the writings of little
thinkers and little rebels. They have been amused by the audacities of
Bernard Shaw and other intellectuals of their own age. They have read
the novels of H. G. Wells, which seem to put God in His right place.
They have imbibed unconsciously the atmosphere of free-thought and
religious indifference which comes through the open windows, through the
keyholes, through every nook and cranny. Occasionally the husband lays
down the law on the subject with dogmatic agnosticism, or dismisses the
whole business of religion with a laugh as a matter of no importance
either way, certainly as a problem not worth bothering about.

So the wife's spiritual nature is starved. She is not even conscious of
it, except just now and then when she is aware of a kind of spiritual
hunger, or when she has little thoughts of terror at the idea of death,
or when she is in low spirits. She has no firm and certain faith to
which she can cling in moments of perplexity. She has no belief in any
divine authority from which she can seek guidance for her actions.
There is no supernatural influence about her from which she can draw any
sweetness of consolation, when the drudgery and monotony of life begins
to pall on her. When temptations come she has no anchor holding her fast
to duty and honor. She has no tremendous ideals giving a large meaning
to the little things of life. She has no spiritual vision to explain the
mysteries of her own heart, or any spiritual balm to ease its pain
and restlessness. She must rely always on her common sense, on her own
experience, on her own poor little principles of what is right or wrong,
or expedient, or "the proper thing." When those fail her, all fails; she
is helpless, like a ship without a rudder, like a straw in the eddy of a
mill race.

It is just at this time, when all has failed her, and when she seems to
be drifting helplessly, that she is ready for religion, a bundle of dry
straw which will burst into flame at the touch of a spark, a spiritual
appetite hungry for food. In hundreds of cases these women take to the
queerest kinds of spiritual food, some of it very poisonous stuff. Any
impostor with a new creed may get hold of them. Any false prophet may
dupe them into allegiance. They get into the hands of peculiar people.
They are tempted to go to a spiritualistic séance and listen to the
jargon of spiritualism. It frightens them at first, but after their
first fears, and a little shrinking horror, they go forward into these
"mysteries," and are obsessed by them. It appears they are "psychical."
Undoubtedly after a little practice they could get into touch with the
spirit-world. With planchette and table-rapping, and with mediumistic
guidance, they may learn the secrets of the ghost-world, and invoke the
aid of spirits in their little household. It becomes a mania with them.
It becomes, in many cases, sheer madness.

There are other women who seek their spiritual salvation among the
clairvoyants and crystal-gazers and palmists of the West End.

They become devotees of the Black Art, and dupes of those who prey
upon the Eternal Gullible. There are others who join the Christian
Scientists, and find the key to the riddle of life in the writings
of Mrs. Eddy. They experiment in will-power--upon their unfortunate
husbands. They adopt the simple life, and bring themselves into a low
state of health by fruit diet. They learn a new language full of strange
technical terms, which they but dimly understand, yet find comforting,
like the old woman and her Mesopotamia, which was a blessèd word to
her. But in spite of all its falsity and folly, it does give them a
new interest in life, and lift them right out of the ruck of suburban
dulness. So far at least it is helpful to them. It is some kind of
spiritual satisfaction, though afterwards, perhaps, they may fall into a
spiritual excitement and hysteria worse than their old restlessness, and
become a nuisance to their family and friends, women with _idées fixes_.

It is better for them if they can grope their way back to the old
Christian faith, with its sweetness and serenity and divine ideals. Here
at last the woman may find authority, not to be argued about, not to be
dodged, but to be obeyed. Here at last she may find tremendous ideals
giving a significance to the little things of life, which seemed so
trivial, so futile, and so purposeless. Here is wholesome food for her
spiritual hunger, giving her new strength and courage, patience and
resignation. Here are great moral lessons from which she may draw wisdom
and guidance for her own poor perplexities. Then when temptations come,
she may cling to an anchor of faith which will not slip in shifting
sands, but is chained to a great rock. The wisdom of the Church, the
accumulated experience stored up in the Church, the sweetness of all
great Christian lives, the splendid serenity of the Christian laws, so
stern and yet so tolerant, so hard and yet so easy, give to this woman's
soul the peace she has desired, not to be found among the ghosts of
modern spiritualism, nor in the pseudo-scientific jargon of Mrs. Eddy's
works, nor in the glass-crystals of the clairvoyants. For the Christian
faith has no use for hysteria; it exacts a healthy discipline of mind.
It demands obedience to the laws of life, by which no woman may shirk
the duties of her nature, or pander to her selfishness, or dodge the
responsibilities of her state as a wife, or forget her marriage-vows and
all that they involve.

There would be no fatal significance about the Eighth Year if the old
religion were still of vital influence in the home. For after all,
in spite of all our cleverness, we have not yet discovered any new
intellectual formula or philosophy which will force men and women to do
those things which are unpleasant but necessary to insure the future of
the race; to deny themselves so that the future generation may gain; to
suffer willingly in this world for the sake of an advantage in a future
life. If people do not believe in a future life, and in such rewards as
are offered by the Christian dogma, they prefer to have their advantages
here and now. But as we know, if we face the facts of life clearly, the
advantages, here and now, are not easy to get. Life, at its best, is
a disappointing business. There is a lot of rough with the smooth,
especially for women, especially for those women of the middle-classes
in small suburban homes, over-intel-lectualized, with highly strung
nerves, in a narrow environment, without many interests, and without
much work. It is just because many of them are entirely without religion
to give some great purpose to their inevitable trivialities that their
moral perspective becomes hopelessly inverted, as though they were
gazing through the wrong end of the telescope. Having no banking account
in the next life, they spend themselves in this life, and live "on
tick," as it were. Religion is the gospel of unselfishness. Lacking
religion, they are utterly selfish. They do not worry about the future
of the race. Why should they? All they are worrying about is to
save themselves pain, expense, drudgery. Children are a great
nuisance--therefore they will not have children. They want to put in a
good time, to enjoy youth and beauty as long as possible, to get as much
fun as they can here and now. But, as we have seen, the fun begins
to peter out somewhere about the Eighth Year, and "the good time" has
disappeared like a mirage when one gets close to it, and even youth
and beauty are drooping and faded like yesterday's flowers. What is the
woman to do then? She is the victim of shattered illusions, of broken
hopes. Before her is nothing but a gray vista of years. She has nothing
to reconcile her with the boredom of her days, nothing to compensate
her for domestic drudgery, no cure for the restlessness and feverishness
which consume her, no laws by which she may keep straight. She sees
crookedly, her spirit rushes about hither and thither. She is like a
hunted thing, hunted by her desires, and she can find no sanctuary; no
sanctuary unless she finds religion, and the right religion. There are
not many women nowadays who find this way of escape, for religion has
gone out of fashion, like last year's hats, and it wants a lot of pluck
to wear a last year's hat.



CHAPTER X

Besides, the husband does not like it. He discourages religion, except
in homoeopathic doses, taken by way of a little tonic, as one goes to
the theatre for a pick-me-up. As he remarks, he does not believe in
women being too spiritual. It is not "healthy." If his wife goes to
church with any regularity he suspects there is an attractive cleric
round the corner. And sometimes he is right. Anyhow, he does not feel
the need of religion, except when he gets a pretty bad dose of influenza
and has an uneasy thought that he is going to "peg out." As a rule he
enjoys good health, and has no time to bother about the supernatural.
He does not meet it in the city. It is not a marketable commodity. It is
not, as he says, "in his line of country." He does not see why it should
be in his wife's line of country. He is annoyed when his wife takes
up any of these cranky ideas. He rages inwardly when she takes them up
passionately. Why can't she be normal?

Why on earth can't she go on as she began, with her little feminine
interests, keeping herself pretty for his sake, keen on the latest
fashions, neighborly with young wives like herself, and fond of a bit
of frivolity now and then? When she complains that she has idle hands in
her lap, and wants something to do, he reminds her that she found plenty
to do in the first years of her married life. When she cries out that
she is bored, he points out to her that she gets much more amusement
than he does.

And that is true, because by the time he has reached the Eighth Year
he is pretty busy. Ambition has caught hold of him and he is making a
career. It is not easy. Competition is deadly. He has got his work cut
out to keep abreast with his competitors. It is a constant struggle "to
keep his end up." He finds it disconcerting when he comes home in the
evenings after the anxiety of his days, dog-tired and needing sympathy,
to find that his wife has an attack of nerves, or a feverish desire to
go out and "see something." He wants to stay at home and rest, to dawdle
over the evening paper, to listen to a tune or two from his wife.

He would like her to bring his slippers to him, as she used to do in the
old days, to hover round him a little with endearing words, and then,
with not too much of _that_, to keep quiet, assenting to his opinions
when he expresses them, and being restful. He has his own grievances.
He is not without troubles of soul and body. He has had to face
disappointment, disillusionment, hours of blank pessimism. He has had
to get to grips with reality, after the romanticism of his youth, and to
put a check upon his natural instincts and desires. In many ways it is
harder for the man than for the woman. Civilization and the monogamous
code have not been framed on easy lines for men. To keep the ordinary
rules of his caste he must put a continual restraint upon himself,
make many sacrifices. Women and wives forget that human nature has not
changed because men wear black coats and tall hats instead of the skins
of beasts. Human nature is exactly the same as it ever was, strong and
savage, but it has to be tamed and repressed within the four walls of a
flat in West Kensington, or within a semi-detached house at Wimbledon.

There are moments when the man hears the call of the wild, and loathes
respectability and conventionality with a deadly loathing. In his
heart, as in the heart of every man, there is a little Bohemia, a little
country of lawlessness and errant fancy and primitive desires. Sometimes
when he has shut himself up in his study, when the servants are in the
kitchen washing up the supper-things, when his wife is lying down with a
bad headache, he unlocks the door of that Bohemia in his heart, and his
imagination goes roving, and he hears the pan-pipes calling, and the
stamp of the cloven hoofs of the old Nature-god. He would like to cut
and run sometimes from this respectable life of his, to go in search of
adventure down forbidden pathways, and to find the joy of life again in
Liberty Hall. This fretful wife of his, this social-ladder climbing, the
whole business of "playing the game" in the same old way, makes him
very tired, and gets on his nerves at times most damnably. He has his
temptations. He hears siren voices calling him. He sees the lure of the
witch-women. To feel his pulse thrill to the wine of life, to get
the fever of joy in his blood again, to plunge into the fiery lake of
passion, are temptations from which he does not escape because he is
Something in the City, or a barrister-at-law, and a married man with
a delicate wife. But, being a man, with a man's work, and a man's
ambition, he keeps his sanity, and quite often his self-respect. His
eyes are clear enough to see the notice-boards on the boundary lines of
the forbidden territory, "Trespassers will be prosecuted," "Please keep
off the grass," "No thoroughfare." He locks up the gate to the little
Bohemia in his heart, and puts the key into a secret cupboard of his
brain. He understands quite clearly that if he once "goes off the
rails," as he calls it, his ambitions will be frustrated and his career
spoiled. Besides, being a conventionalist and somewhat of a snob, he
would hate to be found out in any violation of the social code, and his
blood runs cold at the idea of his making a fool of himself with a
woman, or anything of that kind. The creed of his social code, of the
pot-hatted civilization, of this suburban conventionality of these
little private snob-doms, is stronger in the man than in the woman. When
she once takes the bit between her teeth, as it were, she becomes
utterly lawless. But the man reins himself in more easily. He finds it
on the whole less difficult to be law-abiding. He has also a clearer
vision of the logic of things. He knows that certain results follow
certain causes. He can measure up the consequences of an act, and weigh
them. He is guided by his brain rather than by his emotions. He has
certain fixed principles deeply rooted in him. He has a more delicate
sense of honor than most women. It is summed up in that old
school-phrase of his--"playing the game." However much his nerves may be
jangled, and goodness knows they are often jangled, especially as the
Eighth Year draws near, he is generally master of himself. At least he
does not, as a rule, have hysterical outbursts, or give rein to
passionate impulses, or suddenly take some wild plunge, upsetting all
the balance of his life. He does not take frightful risks, as a woman
will always take them, recklessly, when she reaches her crisis.

So it is that he looks coldly upon his wife's desires for some new
emotional activity, of whatever kind it may be, religious, political, or
ethical. He hates any symptoms of fanaticism. He shivers at any breach
of good form. He would like her always to be sitting in the drawing-room
when he comes home, in a pretty frock, with a novel in her lap, with
a smile in her eyes. He does not and will not understand that this
childless wife of his must have strong interests outside her little home
to save her from eating her heart out. He hides from himself the fact
that her childlessness is a curse which is blighting her. He pooh-poohs
her tragic cry for help. He is just a little brutal with her when she
accuses him of thwarting all the desires of her soul. And he is scared,
thoroughly scared, when at last she takes flight, on wild wings, to some
spiritual country, or to some moral, or immoral, territory, where he
could not follow. He tries to call her back. But sometimes she may not
be called back. She has escaped beyond the reach of his voice.



CHAPTER XI

Snobbishness is one of the causes which lead to the Eighth Year,
and not the least among them. It is an essentially middle-class
snobbishness, and has grown up, like a fungus growth, with that immense
and increasing class of small, fairly well-to-do households who have
come into being with the advance of material prosperity during the past
twenty-five years, and with the progress of elementary education, and
all that it has brought with it in the form of new desires for pleasure,
amusement and more luxuries. These young husbands and wives who set up
their little homes are not, as I have said, content to start on the same
level as their parents in the first years of their married life. They
must start at least on the level of their parents at the end of their
married life, even a little in advance. The seeds of snobbishness
are sown before marriage. The modern son pooh-poohs the habits of his
old-fashioned father. They are not good enough for him. He has at least
twice the pocket-money at school compared with the allowance of his
father when he was a boy. He goes to a more expensive school and learns
expensive habits. When he begins work he does not hand over most of his
salary as his father used to hand over his salary a generation ago, to
keep the family pot boiling. He keeps all that he earns, though he is
still living at home, and develops a nice taste in clothes. One tie
on week-days and another tie for Sundays are still good enough for the
father, but the son buys ties by the dozen, and then has a passion
for fancy socks, and lets his imagination rove into all departments of
haberdashery. He is only a middle-class young man, but he dresses in the
style of a man of fashion, adopts some of the pleasures of the man about
town, and is rather scornful of the little house in the suburbs to which
he returns after a bachelor's dinner in a smart restaurant, or after a
tea-party with gaiety girls. He becomes a "Nut," and his evenings are
devoted to a variety of amusements, which does away with a good deal
of money. He smokes a special brand of cigarettes. He hires a motor-car
occasionally for a spin down to Brighton. His mother and father are
rather scared by this son who lives in a style utterly beyond their
means.

The girl is a feminine type of the new style. She has adopted the
new notions. At a very early age she is expert in all the arts of the
younger generation, and at seventeen or eighteen has already revolted
from the authority of her parents. She is quite a nice girl, naturally,
but her chief vice is vanity. She is eaten up with it. It is a consuming
passion. From the moment she gets out of bed in the morning for the
first glimpse of her face in the looking-glass to the time she goes to
bed after putting on some lip-salve and face enamel, she is absorbed
with self-consciousness about her "looks." Her face is always occupying
her attention. Even in railway trains she keeps biting her lips to make
them red. At every window she passes she gives a sidelong glance to see
if her face is getting on all right. Her main ambition in life is to be
in the fashion. She is greedy for "pretty things" and sponges upon her
father and mother for the wherewithal to buy them, and she will not lay
a little finger on any work in the kitchen or even make a bed, lest her
hands should be roughened and because it would not be quite "lady-like."

A pretty education for matrimony! A nice couple to set up house together
Poor children of life, they are doomed to have a pack of troubles.
Because as they began they go on, with the same ideas, with the same
habits of mind, until they get a rude shock. Their little household is
a shrine to the great god Snob. They are his worshippers. To make a show
beyond their meansj or up to the very limit of their means, to pretend
to be better off than they are, to hide any sign of poverty, to dress
above their rank in life, to show themselves in places of entertainment,
to shirk domestic drudgery, that is their creed.

In the old days, before the problem of the Eighth Year had arrived, the
wives of men, the mothers of those very girls, kept themselves busy by
hundreds of small duties. They made the beds, dusted the rooms, helped
the servants in the kitchen, made a good many of their own clothes,
mended them, altered them, cleaned the silver. But nowadays the wife of
the professional man does none of these things if there is any escape
from them. She keeps one servant at a time when her mother did without
a servant. She keeps two servants as soon as her husband can afford an
extra one, three servants if the house is large enough to hold them.
Indeed, a rise in the social scale is immediately the excuse for
an additional servant, and in the social status the exact financial
prosperity of the middle-classes is reckoned by them according to the
number of servants they keep. And whether it be two or three, the little
snob wife sits in her drawing-room with idle hands, trying to kill time,
getting tired of doing nothing, but proud of her laziness. And the snob
husband encourages her in her laziness. He is proud of it, too. He would
hate to think of his wife dusting, or cleaning, or washing up. He does
not guess that this worship of his great god Snob is a devil's worship,
having devilish results for himself and her. The idea that women want
work never enters his head. His whole ambition in life is to prevent his
wife from working, not only when he is alive, but after he is dead. He
insures himself heavily and at the cost of a great financial strain upon
his resources in order that "if anything happens" his wife, even then,
need not raise her little finger to do any work. But something "happens"
before he is dead. The woman revolts from the evil spell of her
laziness. She finds some work for her idle hands to do--good work or
bad.



CHAPTER XII

If only those idle women would find some good work to do the Eighth
Year would lose its terrors. And there is so much good work to do if
they would only lay their hands to it! If they cannot get in touch with
God, they can at least get in touch with humanity. At their very doors
there is a welter of suffering, struggling humanity craving for a little
help, needing helping hands, on the very edge of the abyss of misery,
and slipping down unless they get rescued in the nick of time. In the
mean streets of life, in the hospitals, at the prison gates, in the
reformatories, in the dark haunts of poverty, there are social workers
striving and toiling and moiling in the service of all these seething
masses of human beings. But there are too few of them, and the appeals
for volunteers in the ranks of the unpaid helpers are not often
answered. They are hardly ever answered from the class of women who have
least in the world to do, and most need of such kinds of work. Many
of these women have good voices. They sing little drawing-room ballads
quite well, until they get sick of the sound of their own singing in
their lonely little drawing-rooms. But they do not think of singing in
the hospitals, and the workhouse wards, where their voices would give
joy to suffering people, or miserable people who do not often hear the
music of life. These women have no children. They have shirked the
pains of childbirth. But they might help to give a little comfort and
happiness to other mothers' children, to shepherd a small flock for a
day's outing in the country, to organize the children's playtime, to
nurse the sick baby now and then. These idle women remember their own
girlhood and its dreams. They remember their own innocence, the shelter
of their home-life. It would be good for them if they gave a little
loving service to the girls in the working-quarters of the great cities,
and went down into the girl-clubs to play their dance tunes, to keep
them out of the streets, to give them a little innocent fun in
the evenings. These lazy women cry out that they are prisoners in
upholstered cages. But there are many prisoners in stone cells, who at
the prison gates, on their release, stand looking out into the cold gray
world, with blank, despairing eyes, with no prospect but that of crime
and vice, unless some unknown friend comes with a little warmth of human
love, with a quick sympathy and a ready helpfulness. Here is work for
workless women who are well-to-do. They are unhappy in their own
homes, because they are tired of its trivialities, tired of its little
luxuries, bored to death with themselves because they have no purpose
in life. But in the mean streets round the corner they would find women
still clinging with extraordinary courage to homes that have no stick
of furniture in them, amazingly cheerful, although instead of little
luxuries they have not even the barest necessities of life, unwearied,
indefatigable, heroic in endurance, though they toil on sweated wages.
The women of the well-to-do middle-classes drift apart from their
husbands because perhaps they have irritable little habits, because they
do not understand all the yearnings in their wives' hearts, because they
have fallen below the old ideals of their courting days. But here in the
slums these women with a grievance would find other women loyal to their
husbands who come home drunk at nights, loyal through thick and thin
to husbands who "bash" them when they speak a sharp word, loyal to the
death to husbands who are untamed brutes with only the love of the brute
for its mate. There is no problem of the Eighth Year in Poverty Court,
only the great problems of life and death, of hunger and thirst and
cold, of labor and want of work. Here in the mean streets of the world
is the great lesson that want of work is the greatest disaster, the
greatest moral tragedy, that may happen to men and women.

If the idle women of the little snobdoms would come forth from their
houses and flats, they would see that lesson staring them in the face,
with a great warning to themselves. And if they would thrust aside their
selfishness and learn the love of humanity, it would light a flame in
their hearts which would kindle the dead ashes of their disillusionment
and burn up their grievances, and make a bonfire of all their petty
little troubles, and make such a light in their lives as would enable
them to see the heroic qualities of ordinary duties bravely done, and of
ordinary lives bravely led. Here they would find another way of escape
from the perils of the Eighth Year, and a new moral health for their
hearts and brains.

It is only now and then that some woman is lucky enough to find this way
out, for snobbishness enchains them, and it is difficult to break its
fetters.



CHAPTER XIII

When the woman has once taken flight, or is hesitating before taking
her flight, in the Eighth Year, it is an almost hopeless business for
the husband to call her back. Whenever she is called back, it is by
some outside influence, beyond _his_ sphere of influence, by some sudden
accident, by some catastrophe involving both of them, or by some severe
moral shock, shaking the foundations of their little home like an
earthquake. There are cases in which the woman has been called back by
the sudden smash-up of her husband's business, by financial ruin. In his
social ladder-climbing he is too rash. One of the rungs of the ladder
breaks beneath his feet and he comes toppling down. Owing to this deadly
competition of modern life, he loses his "job." It is given to a younger
or better man, or to a man with a stronger social pull. He comes home
one day with a white face, trembling, horribly scared, afraid to break
the news to a woman who has not been helpful to him of late, and of
whose sympathy he is no longer sure. He believes that this misfortune
is the last straw which will break their strained relations. He sees
the great tragedy looming ahead, hearing down upon him. But, curiously
enough, this apparent disaster is the salvation of both of them. The
despair of her husband calls to the woman's loyalty. All her grievances
against this man are suddenly swallowed up in the precipice which has
opened beneath his feet. All her antagonism is broken down and dissolved
into pity. Her self-pride is slain by this man's abasement. His
weakness, his need of help, his panic-stricken heart cry to her. After
all their drifting apart, their indifference to each other, their
independence, he wants her again. He wants her as a helpmeet. He wants
any courage she can give him, any wisdom. And she is glad to be wanted.
She stretches out her hands to him. They clasp each other, and there
is no longer a gulf beneath their feet; misfortune has built a bridge
across the gulf which divided them. More than that, all the little
meannesses of their life, all the petty selfishness of their days, all
the little futile things over which they have wrangled and jangled are
thrust on one side, and are seen in their right perspective. The things
that matter, the only things that matter, are seen, perhaps, for the
first time, clearly, in a bright light, now that they are face to
face with stem realities. The shock throws them off their pedestals of
conceit, of self-consciousness, of pretence. They stand on solid ground.
The shock has broken the masks behind which they hid themselves. It
has broken the hard crust about their hearts. It has shattered the idol
which they worshipped, the idol of the great god Snob.

And so they stare into each other's soul, and take hands again like
little children, abandoned by the Wicked Uncles of life, and they grope
their way back to primitive things, and begin the journey again. They
have found out that this new comradeship is better even than the old
romantic love of their courting days. They have discovered something
of the great secret of life. They are humbled. They make new pledges to
each other, pick up the broken pieces of their hopes and dreams and
fit them together again in a new and sounder scheme. This time, in some
cases, they do not leave the baby out of the business. The wife becomes
a mother, and the child chases away all the ghosts which haunted her in
the Eighth Year. She no longer wants to take flight. She has been called
back.

It is nearly always some accident like this which calls the wife back,
some sudden, startling change in the situation, caused by outside
influences, or by the hand of Fate. Sometimes it is an illness which
overtakes the husband or wife. Holding hands by the bedside, they
stare into the face of Death, and again the trivialities of life, the
pettiness of their previous desires, the folly of their selfishness, the
stupidity of their little snobdom, are revealed by the whisperings of
Death, and by its warnings. The truth of things stalks into the bedroom
where the husband, or the wife, lies sleeping on the borderland. About
the sick bed the weeping woman makes new vows, tears wash out her
vanity, her self-conceit. Or, kneeling by the side of the woman whose
transparent hand he clasps above the coverlet, the husband listens to
the little voice within his conscience, and understands, with a great
heartache, the pitiful meaning of the domestic strife which seemed
to have killed his love for the woman for whose life now he makes a
passionate cry. In the period of convalescence, after Death has stolen
away, when life smiles again through the open windows, that man and
woman get back to sanity and to wisdom beyond that of common-sense. They
begin again with new ideals. Perhaps in a little while one of the rooms
becomes a nursery. They get back to the joy of youth, once more the
woman has been called back.

If none of these "accidents" happen, if some great influence like this
does not thrust its way into the lives of this husband and wife during
the crisis of the Eighth Year, if the woman is not caught up by some
great enthusiasm, or if she can find no work for the idle hands to do,
giving her new and absorbing interests to satisfy her heart and brain,
then the Eighth Year is a fatal year, and the President of the Divorce
Court has a new case added to his list, or the family records of the
country chronicle another separation, or another woman goes to prison
for arson or bomb-throwing. Because the laws of psychology are not so
erratic as the world imagines. They work out on definite lines. Certain
psychological forces having been set in motion, they lead inevitably to
certain results. When once a woman has lost her interest in her home and
husband, when she has become bored with herself, when she has a morbid
craving for excitement and adventures, when she has become peevish and
listless and hungry-hearted, she cannot remain in this condition. Those
forces within her are tremendously powerful. They must find some outlet.
They must reach a definite time of crisis when things have got to
happen. These vague yearnings must be satisfied, somehow, anyhow. The
emptiness of her heart must be filled by something or other. She will
search round with wondering, wistful eyes, more desperate day by day,
until she finds the thing, however evil it may be, however dangerous.
She must still that throbbing brain of hers, even if she has to take
drugs to do so. In spite of all the poison laws, she will find some kind
of poison, some subtle and insidious drug to give her temporary cure, a
period of vitality, a thrill of excitement, a glittering dream or two,
a relief from the dulness which is pressing down upon her with leaden
weights. She knows the penalty which follows this drug-taking--the awful
reaction, the deadly lethargy that follows, the nervous crises, the loss
of will-power, but she is prepared to pay the price because for a little
while she gets peace, and artificial life. The family doctors know the
prevalence of those drug-taking habits. They know the cause of them,
they have watched the pitiful drama of these women's lives. But they
can do nothing to cut out the cause. Not even the surgeon's knife can do
that; their warnings fall on deaf ears, or are answered by a hysterical
laugh.

As I have shown, there are other forms of drug-taking not less dangerous
in their moral effects. If the woman does not go to the chemist's shop,
she goes to the darkened room of the clairvoyant and the crystal-gazer,
or to the spiritualistic séance, or to the man who hides his time until
the crisis of the Eighth Year delivers the woman into his hands.

Here, then, frankly and in detail, I have set out the meaning of this
dangerous year of married life, and have endeavored, honestly, to
analyze all the social and psychological forces which go to make that
crisis. It is, in some measure, a study of our modern conditions of life
as they prevail among the middle-classes, so that the problem is not
abnormal, but is present, to some extent, in hundreds of thousands
of small households to-day. All the tendencies of the time, all the
revolutionary ideas that are in the very air we breathe, all this
modern spirit of revolt against disagreeable duties, and drudgery, and
discipline, the decay of religious authority, the sapping of spiritual
faith, the striving for social success, the cult of snobbishness,
the new creed of selfishness which ignores the future of the race and
demands a good time here and now, the lack of any ideals larger than
private interests and personal comforts, the ignorance of men and women
who call themselves intellectual, the nervous irritability of husbands
and wives who live up to the last penny of their incomes, above all
the childlessness of these women who live in small flats and suburban
villas, and their utter laziness, all those signs and symptoms of
our social sickness lead up, inevitably, and with fatal logic, to the
tragedy of the Eighth Year.



PART II--A DEMONSTRATION



CHAPTER I

In the drawing-room of a flat in Intellectual Mansions, S. W., there
was an air of quietude and peace. No one would have imagined for a
moment that the atmosphere was charged with electricity, or that
the scene was set for a drama of emotional interest with tragic
potentialities. It seemed the dwelling-place of middle-class culture and
well-to-do gentility.

The room was furnished in the "New Art" style, as seen in the showrooms
of the great stores. There were sentimental pictures on the walls framed
in dark oak. The sofa and chairs were covered in a rather flamboyant
chintz. Through the French windows at the back could be seen the balcony
railings, and, beyond, a bird's-eye view of the park. A piano-organ in
the street below was playing the latest ragtime melody, and there was
the noise of a great number of whistles calling for taxis, which did not
seem to come.

In a stiff-backed arm-chair by the fireplace sat an elderly lady, of a
somewhat austere appearance, who was examining through her spectacles
the cover of a paper backed novel, depicting a voluptuous young woman;
obviously displeasing to her sense of propriety. Mrs. Heywood's sense of
propriety was somewhat acutely developed, to the annoyance, at times, of
Mollie, the maid-servant, who was clearing away the tea-things in a
bad temper. That is to say, she was making a great deal of unnecessary
clatter.

Mrs. Heywood ignored the clatter, and concentrated her attention on the
cover of the paper-backed book. It seemed to distress her, and presently
she gave expression to her distress.

"Dear me! What an improper young woman!"

Mollie's bad temper was revealed by a sudden tightening of the lips and
a flushed face. She bent across an "occasional" table and peered over
the old lady's shoulder, and spoke rather impudently.

"Excuse me, ma'am, but that's _my_ novel, if you don't mind."

"I _do_ mind," said Mrs. Heywood. "I was shocked to find it on the
kitchen dresser."

Molly tossed her head, so that her white cap assumed an acute angle.

"I was shocked to see that it had gone from the kitchen dresser."

Then she lowered her voice and added in a tone of bitter grievance--

"Blessed if one can call anything one's own in this here flat."

"It's not fit literature for _any_ young girl," said Mrs. Heywood
severely. She looked again at the flaunting lady with an air of extreme
disapproval.

"Disgusting!"

Mollie rattled the tea-things violently.

"It's good enough for the mistress, anyhow."

Mrs. Heywood was surprised.

"Surely she did not lend it to you?"

"Well--not exactly," said Mollie, with just a trace of embarrassment. "I
borrowed it. It's written by her particular friend, Mr. Bradshaw."

"Mr. Bradshaw! Surely not?"

The old lady wiped her spectacles rather nervously.

"A very nice-spoken gentleman," said Mollie, "though he does write
novels."

Mrs. Heywood looked at the author's name for the first time and
expressed her astonishment.

"Good gracious! So it is."

Mollie laughed as she folded up the tea-cloth. She had gained a little
triumph, and scored off the "mother-in-law," as she called the elderly
lady, in the kitchen.

"Oh, he knows a thing or two, he does, my word!"

She winked solemnly at herself in the mirror over the mantelshelf.

"Hold your tongue, Mollie," said Mrs. Heywood sharply.

"Servants are not supposed to have any tongues. Oh, dear no!"

With this sarcastic retort Mollie proceeded to put the sugar-basin into
the china-cupboard, but seemed to expect a counter-attack. She was not
disappointed.

"Mollie!" said Mrs. Heywood severely, looking over the rims of her
spectacles.

"Now what's wrong?"

"You have not cleaned the silver lately."

"Haven't I?" said Mollie sweetly.

"No," said Mrs. Heywood. "Why not, I should like to know?"

Mollie's "sweetness" was suddenly embittered. She spoke with ferocity.

"If you want to know, it's because I won't obey two mistresses at once.
There's no liberty for a mortal soul in this here flat. So there!"

"Very well, Mollie," said Mrs. Heywood mildly. "We will wait until your
mistress comes home. If she has any strength of mind at all she will
give you a month's notice."

Mollie sniffed. The idea seemed to amuse her.

"The poor dear hasn't any strength of mind."

"I am surprised at you, Mollie."

"That's why she has gone to church again."

Mrs. Heywood was startled. She was so startled that she forgot her anger
with the maid.

"Again? Are you sure?"

"Well, she had a look of church in her eyes when she went out."

"What sort of a look?" asked Mrs. Heywood.

"A stained-glass-window look."

Mrs. Heywood spoke rather to herself than to Mollie.

"That makes the third time to-day," she said pensively.

Mollie spoke mysteriously. She too had forgotten her anger and
impudence. She dropped her voice to a confidential tone.

"The mistress is in a bad way, to my thinking. I've seen it coming on."

"Seen what coming on?" asked the elderly lady.

"She sits brooding too much. Doesn't even pitch into me when I break
things. That's a bad sign."

"A bad sign?"

"I've noticed they're all taken like this when they go wrong," said the
girl, speaking as one who had had a long experience of human nature
in Intellectual Mansions, S. W. But these words aroused the old lady's
wrath.

"How dare you!" said Mrs. Heywood. "Leave the room at once."

"I must tell the truth if I died for it," said Mollie.

The two women were silent for a moment, for just then a voice outside
called, "Clare! Clare!" rather impatiently.

"Oh, Lord!" said Mollie. "There's the master."

"Clare!" called the voice. "Oh, confound the thing!"

"I suppose he's lost his stud again," said Mollie. "He always does on
club nights. I'd best be off."

She took up the tea-tray and left the room hurriedly, just as her
master came in. It was Mr. Herbert Heywood, generally described by
his neighbors as being "Something in the City"--a man of about thirty,
slight, clean-shaven, boyish, good-looking, with nervous movements and
extreme irritability. He was in evening clothes with his tie undone.

"Plague take this tie!" he growled, making use of one or two
un-Parliamentary expressions. Then he saw his mother and apologized.

"Oh, I beg your pardon, mother. Where's Clare?"

Mrs. Heywood answered her son gloomily.

"I think she's gone to church again."

"Again?" said Herbert Heywood. "Why, dash it all--I beg your pardon,
mother--she's always going to church now. What's the attraction?"

"I think she must be unwell," said Mrs. Hey-wood. "I've thought so for
some time."

"Oh, nonsense! She's perfectly fit.... See if you can tie this bow,
mother."

Mrs. Heywood endeavored to do so, and during the process her son showed
great impatience and made irritable grimaces. But he returned to the
subject of his wife.

"Perhaps her nerves are a bit wrong. Women are nervy creatures.... Oh,
hang it all, mother, don't strangle me!... As I tell her, what's the
good of having a park at your front door--Oh, thanks, that's better."

He looked at himself in the glass, and dabbed his face with a
handkerchief.

"Of course I cut myself to-night. I always do when I go to the club."

"Herbert, dear," said Mrs. Heywood rather nervously.

"I--I suppose Clare is not going to bless you with a child?"

"_In this flat_!"

Herbert was startled and horrified. It was a great shock to him. He
gazed round the little drawing-room rather wildly.

"Oh, Lord!" he said presently, when he had calmed down a little. "Don't
suggest such a thing. Besides, she is not."

"Well, I'm nervous about her," said Mrs. Heywood.

"Oh, rats, mother! I mean, don't be so fanciful."

"I don't like this sudden craving for religion, Herbert. It's
unhealthy."

"Devilish unhealthy," said Herbert.

He searched about vainly for his patent boots, which were in an obvious
position. It added to his annoyance and irritability.

"Why can't she stay at home and look after me? I can't find a single
damn thing. I beg your pardon, mother.... Women's place is in the
home.... Now where on earth----"

He resumed his search for the very obvious patent boots and at last
discovered them.

"Oh, there they are!"

He glanced at the clock, and expressed the opinion that he would be late
for the club if he did not "look sharp." Then a little tragedy happened,
and he gave a grunt of dismay when a bootlace broke.

"Oh, my hat! Why doesn't Clare look after my things properly?"

Mrs. Heywood asked another question, ignoring the broken bootlace.

"Need you go to the club to-night, Herbert?"

Herbert was both astonished and annoyed at this remark.

"Of course I must. It's Friday night and the one little bit of
Bohemianism I get in the week. Why not?"

"Oh, I don't know," said Mrs. Heywood meekly. "Except that I thought
Clare is feeling rather lonely."

"Lonely?" said Herbert. "She has you, hasn't she?"

"Yes, she has me."

Mrs. Heywood spoke as though that might be a doubtful consolation.

"Besides, what more does she want? She has her afternoon At Homes,
hasn't she?"

"Yes, dear," said Mrs. Heywood, still more doubtfully.

"And she can always go to a matinée if she wants to, can't she?"

"Yes, dear."

"Then I have taken out a subscription to Mudie's for her, haven't I?"

Herbert Heywood spoke as though his wife had all the blessings of
life, as though he had provided her with all that a woman's heart might
desire. But Mrs. Heywood interrupted his catalogue of good things.

"I think she reads too many novels," she said.

"Oh, they broaden her mind," said Herbert. "Although, I must
confess they bore _me_ to death.... Now what have I done with my
cigarette-case?"

He felt all over his pockets, but could not find the desired thing.

"Oh, the curse of pockets!"

"Some of them are very dangerous, Herbert."

"What, pockets?"

"No, novels," said Mrs. Heywood. "Look at this."

She thrust under his eyes the novel with the picture of the flaming
lady.

"Gee whizz!" said Herbert, laughing. "Oh, well, she's a married woman."

"Do you see who the author is, Herbert?" Herbert look, and was
astonished.

"Gerald Bradshaw, by Jove! Does he write this sort of muck?"

"He has been coming here rather often lately. Especially on club-nights,
Herbert." Herbert Heywood showed distinct signs of annoyance.

"Does he, by Jove? I don't like the fellow. He's a particularly fine
specimen of a bad hat."

"I'm afraid he's an immoral man," said Mrs. Heywood.

Herbert shrugged his shoulders.

"Well, Clare can take care of herself."

"I wonder," said Mrs. Heywood, as though she were not at all sure. "My
dear, I think you ought to keep an eye on your wife just now."

Herbert Heywood took his eye-glass out of a fob pocket and fumbled with
it.

"Keep an eye on her, mother?"

"She is very queer," said Mrs. Heywood. "I can't do anything to please
her."

"Well, there's nothing strange in that," said Herbert. Then he added
hastily--

"I mean it's no new symptom."

Mrs. Heywood stared at her son in a peculiar, significant way.

"She looks as if something is going to--happen."

Herbert was really startled.

"Happen? How? When?"

"I can't exactly explain. She appears to be waiting for something--or
some one."

Herbert was completely mystified.

"I didn't keep her waiting this evening, did I?"

"I don't mean you, dear," said Mrs. Heywood.

"No?--Who, then?" asked Herbert.

Mrs. Heywood replied somewhat enigmatically. She gave a deep sigh and
said--

"We women are queer things!"

"Queer isn't the word," said Herbert.

He stared at the carpet in a gloomy, thoughtful way, as though the
pattern were perplexing him.

"Perhaps you're right about the novels. They've been giving her notions,
or something."

Mrs. Heywood crossed the room hurriedly and went over to a drawer in a
cabinet, from which she pulled out a number of pamphlets.

"Herbert," she said solemnly, "she doesn't read only novels. Look here.
Look at all these little books. She simply devours them, Herbert, and
then hides them."

"Naturally, after she has devoured them," said Herbert irritably. "But
what the deuce are they?"

He turned them over one by one, reading out the titles, raising his
eyebrows, and then whistling with surprise, and finally looking quite
panic-stricken.

"_Women's Work and Wages_. Oh, Lord! John Stuart Mill on _The Subjection
of Women. The Ethics of Ibsen_. Great Scott! _The Principles of
Eugenics_.... My hat!"

"Quite so, Herbert," said Mrs. Heywood, with a kind of grim satisfaction
in his consternation.

"I don't mind her reading improper novels," said Herbert, "but I draw
the line at this sort of stuff."

"It's most dangerous."

"It's rank poison."

"That's what I think," said Mrs. Heywood.

"Where did she get hold of them?" asked Herbert.

Mrs. Heywood looked at her son as though she had another startling
announcement.

"From that woman, Miss Vernon, the artist girl who lives in the flat
above."

"What, that girl who throws orange-peel over the balcony?"

"Yes, the girl who is always whistling for taxis," said Mrs. Heywood.

"What, you mean the one who complained about my singing in the bath?"

"Yes, I shall never forgive her for that."

"Said she didn't mind if I sang in tune."

"Yes, the one who sells a Suffragette paper outside Victoria Station."

"It's the sort of thing she would do," said Herbert, with great sarcasm.

"I never liked her, my dear," said Mrs. Heywood.

"Confound her impudence! As if a British subject hasn't an inalienable
right to sing in his bath! She had the cheek to say I was spoiling her
temper for the rest of the day."

Mrs. Heywood laughed rather bitterly. "She looks as if she had a
temper!"

Herbert gave the pamphlets an angry slap with the back of his hand and
let them fall on the floor.

"Do you mean to say _she_ has been giving Clare these pestilential
things?"

"I saw her bring them here," said Mrs. Hey-wood.

"Well, they shan't stay here."

Herbert went to the fireplace and took up the tongs. Then he picked up
the pamphlets as though they might bite and tossed them into the flames.

"Beastly things! Burn, won't you?"

He gave them a savage poke, deeper into the fire, and watched them
smolder and then break into flame.

"Pestilential nonsense!... That's a good deed done, anyhow!"

Mrs. Heywood was rather scared.

"I am afraid Clare will be very angry."

"Angry! I shall give her a piece of my mind. She had no right to conceal
these things." He spoke with dignity. "It isn't honorable."

"No," said Mrs. Heywood, "but all the same, dear, I wish you hadn't
burned the books."

"I should like to burn the authors of 'em," said Herbert fiercely.
"However, they'll roast sooner or later, that's a comfort."

"You had better be careful, dear," said Mrs. Heywood rather nervously.
"Clare is in a rather dangerous frame of mind just now."

"Clare will have to learn obedience to her husband's wishes," said
Herbert. "I thought she had learned by this time. She's been very quiet
lately."

"Too quiet, Herbert. It's when we women are very quiet that we are most
dangerous." Herbert was beginning to feel alarmed. He did not like all
these hints, all these vague and mysterious suggestions.

"Good Lord, mother, you give me the creeps. Why don't you speak
plainly?"

Mrs. Heywood was listening. She seemed to hear some sounds in the hall.
Suddenly she retreated to her arm-chair and made a pretence of searching
for her knitting.

"Hush!" she said. "Here she comes."

As she spoke the words, the door opened slowly and Clare came in. She
was a tall, elegant woman of about thirty, with a quiet manner and
melancholy eyes in which there was a great wistfulness. She spoke rather
wearily--

"Not gone yet, Herbert? You'll be late for the club."

Herbert looked at his wife curiously, as though trying to discover some
of those symptoms to which his mother had alluded.

"I'm afraid that's your fault," he said.

"My fault?"

"Surely you ought to stay at home sometimes and help me to get off
decently," said Herbert in an aggrieved way. "You know perfectly well my
tie always goes wrong."

Clare sighed; and then smiled rather miserably.

"Why can't men learn to do their own ties? We're living in the twentieth
century, aren't we?"

She took off her hat, and sat down with it in her lap.

"Oh, how my head aches to-night."

"Where have you been?" asked Herbert

"Yes, dear, where _have_ you been?" asked Mrs. Heywood.

"I've been round to church for a few minutes," said Clare.

"What on earth for?" asked Herbert impatiently.

"What does one go to church for?"

"God knows!" said Herbert bitterly.

"Precisely. Have you any objection?"

"Yes, I have."

Herbert spoke with some severity, as though he had many objections.

"I don't object to you going to your club," said Clare.

"Oh, that's different."

"In what way?" asked Clare.

"In every way. I am a man, and you're a woman."

Clare Heywood thought this answer out. She seemed to find something in
the argument.

"Yes," she said, "it does make a lot of difference."

"I object strongly to this religious craze of yours," said Herbert,
trying to be calm and reasonable. "It's unnatural. It's--it's devilish
absurd."

"It may keep me from--from doing other things," said Clare.

She spoke as though the words had some tragic significance.

"Why can't you stay at home and read a decent novel?"

"It is so difficult to find a _decent_ novel. And I am sick of them
all."

"Well, play the piano, then," said Herbert.

"I am tired of playing the piano, especially when there is no one to
listen."

"There's mother," said Herbert.

"Mother has no ear for music."

Mrs. Heywood was annoyed at this remark. It seemed to her unjust.

"How can you say so, Clare? You know I love Mozart."

"I haven't played Mozart for years," said Clare, laughing a little. "You
are thinking of Mendelssohn."

"Well, it's all the same," said Mrs. Heywood.

"Yes, I suppose so," said Clare very wearily. She drooped her head and
shut her eyes until suddenly she seemed to smell something.

"Is there anything burning?"

"Burning?" said Herbert nervously.

"There is a queer smell in the flat," said Clare.

Herbert stood with his back to the fire, and sniffed strenuously. "I
can't smell anything."

"It's your fancy, dear," said Mrs. Heywood.

"It's the smell of burned paper," said Clare quite positively.

"Do you think so?" said her mother-in-law.

"Burned paper?" said Herbert.

Clare became suspicious. She leaned forward in her chair and stared into
the fireplace.

"What are all those ashes in the grate?" she said.

"Oh, yes," said Herbert, as though he had suddenly remembered. "Of
course I _have_ been burning some papers."

"What papers?" asked Clare.

"Oh, old things," said Herbert rather hurriedly. "Well, I had better be
off. Goodnight, mother."

He kissed her affectionately and said:

"Don't stay up late. I have taken the key, Clare."

"I hope it will fit the lock when you come back," said Clare.

She spoke the words very quietly, but for some reason they raised her
husband's ire.

"For heaven's sake don't try to be funny, Clare."

"I wasn't trying," said Clare very calmly. For a moment Herbert
hesitated. Then he came back to his wife and kissed her.

"I think we are both a bit irritable to-night, aren't we?"

"Are we?" said Clare.

"Nerves," said Herbert, "the curse of the age. Well, good-night."

Just as he was going out, Mollie, the maidservant, came in and said:

"It's Miss Vernon, ma'am."

"Oh," said Clare. She glanced at her husband for a moment and theft
said:

"Well, bring her in, Mollie."

"Yes, ma'am," said Mollie, going out of the room again.

"Great Scott!" exclaimed Herbert, in a sudden excitement. "It's that
woman who flings her beastly orange-peel into my window boxes.
Clare, I strongly object----"

Clare answered him a little passionately: "Oh, I am tired of your
objections."

"She's not a respectable character," said Herbert.

"Hush, Herbert!" said Mrs. Heywood.

As she spoke the girl who had been called Madge Vernon entered the room.

She was a bright, cheery girl, dressed plainly in a tailor-made coat and
skirt, with brown boots.

"I thought I would look in for half-an-hour," she said very cheerfully
to Clare. "If you are busy, send me packing, my dear."

"I am never busy," said Clare. "I have nothing in the world to do."

"Oh, that's rotten!" said Madge. "Can't you invent something? How are
you, Mrs. Heywood?"

She shook hands with the old lady, who answered her greeting with a
rather grim "Good evening."

"Herbert is going out to-night," said Clare. "By the way, you don't know
my husband."

Madge Vernon looked at Herbert Heywood very sweetly.

"I have heard him singing. How do you do?"

Herbert was not at all pleased with her sweetness.

"Excuse me, won't you?" he said. "I am just off to my club."

"Don't you take your wife with you?" asked Miss Vernon.

"My wife! It's a man's club."

"Oh, I see. Men only. Rather selfish, isn't it?"

Herbert Heywood was frankly astonished.

"Selfish? Why selfish? Well, I won't stop to argue the point.
Good-night, Clare. Doubtless you will enjoy Miss Vernon's remarkable and
revolutionary ideas."

"I am sure I shall," said Clare.

Mrs. Heywood followed her son to the door.

"Be sure you put a muffler round your neck, dear."

Herbert answered his mother in a low voice, looking fiercely at Madge
Vernon.

"I should like to twist it round somebody else's neck!"

"I will come and find it for you, dear."

The two young women were left alone together, and Clare brought forward
a chair.

"Sit down, won't you? Here?"

A moment later the front door was heard to hang and at the sound of it
Madge laughed a little.

"Funny things, husbands! I am sure I shouldn't know what to do with
one."

Clare smiled wanly.

"One can't do anything with them."

"By the by," said Madge, "I have brought a new pamphlet for you. The
'Rights of Wives.'"

Clare took the small book nervously, as though it were a bomb which
might go off at any moment.

"I have been reading those other pamphlets."

"Pretty good, eh?" said Madge, laughing. "Eye-openers! What?"

"They alarm me a little," said Clare. "Alarm you?" Madge Vernon was
immensely amused. "Why, they don't bite!"

"Yes, they do," said Clare. "Here." She put her hand to her head as if
it had been wounded.

"You mean they give you furiously to think? Well, that's good."

"I'm not sure," said Clare. "Since I began to think I have been very
miserable."

"Oh, that will soon wear off," said Madge Vernon briskly. "You'll get
used to it."

"It will always hurt," said Clare.

Madge Vernon smiled at her.

"I made a habit of it."

"It's best not to think," said Clare. "It's best to go on being stupid
and self-satisfied."

Clare's visitor was shocked.

"Oh, not self-satisfied! That is intellectual death."

"There are other kinds of death," said Clare. "Moral death."

Madge Vernon raised her eyebrows.

"We must buck up and do things. That's the law of life."

"I have nothing to do," said Clare, in a pitiful way.

"How strange! I have such a million things to do. My days aren't long
enough. I am always pottering about with one thing or another."

"What kind of things?" asked Clare wistfully.

Madge Vernon gave her a cheerful little laugh.

"For one thing, it's a great joke having to earn one's own living. The
excitement of never knowing whether one can afford the next day's meal!
The joy of painting pictures--which the Royal Academy will inevitably
reject. The horrible delight of burning them when they are rejected....
Besides, I am a public character, I am."

"Are you? How?" asked Clare.

"A most notorious woman. I'm on the local Board of Guardians and
all sorts of funny old committees for looking after everything and
everybody."

"What do you do?"

Clare asked the question as though some deep mystery lay in the answer.

"Oh, I poke up the old stick-in-the-muds," said Madge Vernon, "and stir
up no end of jolly rows. I make them do things, too; and they hate it.
Oh, how they hate it!"

"What things, Madge?"

"Why, attending to drains, and starving widows, and dead dogs, and
imbecile children, and people 'what won't work,' and people 'what will'
but can't."

Clare laughed at this description and then became sad again.

"I envy you! I have nothing on earth to do, and my days are growing
longer and longer, so that each one seems a year."

"Haven't you any housework to do?" asked Madge.

"Not since my husband could afford an extra servant."

Miss Vernon made an impatient little gesture.

"Oh, those extra servants! They have ruined hundreds of happy homes."

"Well, we have only got one now," said Clare. "The other left last
night, because she couldn't get on with my mother-in-law."

"They never can!" said Miss Vernon.

"Anyhow, Herbert doesn't think it ladylike for me to do housework."

Madge Vernon scoffed at the idea.

"Ladylike! Oh, this suburban snobbishness! How I hate the damn thing!
Forgive my bad language, won't you?"

"I like it," said Clare.

Miss Vernon continued her cross-examination.

"Don't you even make your own bed? It's awfully healthy to turn a
mattress and throw the pillows about."

"Herbert objects to my making beds," said Clare.

"Don't you make the puddings or help in the washing up?"

"Herbert objects to my going into the kitchen," said Clare.

"Don't you ever break a few plates?"

Clare smiled at her queer question.

"No, why should I?"

"There's nothing like breaking things to relieve one's pent-up
emotions," said Miss Vernon, with an air of profound knowledge.

"The only thing I have broken lately is something--here," said Clare,
putting her hand to her heart.

Miss Vernon was scornful.

"Oh, rubbish! The heart is unbreakable, my dear. Now, heads are much
easier to crack."

"I think mine is getting cracked, too," said Clare.

She put her hands to her head, as though it were grievously cracked.

Madge Vernon stared at her frankly and thoughtfully.

"Look here," she said, after a little silence, "I tell you what _you_
want. It's a baby. Why don't you have one?"

"Herbert can't afford it," said Clare. Madge Vernon raised her hands.

"Stuff and nonsense!" she said.

"Besides," said Clare in a matter-of-fact way, "they don't make flats
big enough for babies in Intellectual Mansions."

Madge Vernon looked round the room, and frowned angrily.

"No, that's true. There's no place to keep a perambulator. Oh, these
jerry builders! Immoral devils!"

There was a silence between the two women. Both of them seemed deep in
thought.

Then presently Clare said: "I feel as if something were going to happen;
as if something must happen or break."

"About time, my dear," said Madge. "How long have you been married?"

"Eight years," said Clare, in a casual way. Madge Vernon whistled with a
long-drawn note of ominous meaning.

"The Eighth Year, eh?"

"Yes, it's our eighth year of marriage."

"That's bad," said Madge. "The Eighth Year! You will have to be very
careful, Clare."

Clare was startled. "What do you mean?" she asked.

"Haven't you heard?" said Miss Vernon.

"Heard what?"

"I thought everybody knew."

"Knew what?" asked Clare anxiously.

Madge Vernon looked at her in a pitying way.

"It's in the evidence on the Royal Commission on Divorce."

"What is?"

"About the Eighth Year."

"What about it?" asked Clare. She was beginning to feel annoyed. What
was Madge hiding from her?

"Why," said Madge, "about it being the fatal year in marriage."

"The fatal year?"

The girl leaned forward in her chair and said in a solemn way:

"There are more divorces begun in the Eighth Year than in any other
period."

Clare Heywood was scared.

"Good gracious!" she said, in a kind of whisper.

"It's a psychological fact," said Madge. "I work it out in this way.
In the first and second years a wife is absorbed in the experiment of
marriage and in the sentimental phase of love. In the third and fourth
years she begins to study her husband and to find him out. In the fifth
and sixth years, having found him out completely, she makes a working
compromise with life and tries to make the best of it. In the seventh
and eighth years she begins to find out herself, and then----"

"And then?" asked Clare, very anxiously.

Clare Heywood was profoundly disturbed.

"Well, then," said Madge, "there is the devil to pay!"

"Dear God!" she cried.

"You see, it's like this. If a woman has no child she gets bored... .
She can't help getting bored, poor soul. Her husband is so devoted to
her that he provides her with every opportunity for getting bored--extra
servants, extra little luxuries, and what he calls a beautiful little
home. Ugh!" She stared round the room and made a face.

"He is so intent on this that he nearly works himself to death. Comes
home with business thoughts in his head. Doesn't notice his wife's
wistful eyes, and probably dozes off to sleep after supper. Isn't that
so?"

"Yes," said Clare. "Horribly so."

"Well, then, having got bored, she gets emotional. Of course the husband
doesn't notice that either. _He's_ not emotional. He is only wondering
how to make both ends meet. But when his wife begins to get emotional,
when she feels that something has broken here" (she put her hand to her
heart), "when she feels like crying at unexpected moments and laughing
at the wrong time, why then----"

"What?" asked Clare.

"Why, then, it's about time the husband began to notice things, or
things will begin to happen to his wife which he won't jolly well like.
That's all!"

Clare Heywood searched her friend's face with hungry eyes.

"Why, what will his wife do?"

"Well, there are various alternatives. She either takes to religion----"

"Ah!" said Clare, flushing a little.

"Or to drink----"

"Oh, no!" said Clare, shuddering a little.

"Or to some other kind of man," said Madge very calmly.

Clare Hey wood was agitated and alarmed.

"How do you know these things?" she asked.

"Oh, I've studied 'em," said Madge Vernon cheerfully. "Of course there's
always another alternative."

"What's that?" asked Clare eagerly.

"Work," said Madge Vernon solemnly.

"What kind of work?"

"Oh, any kind, so long as it's absorbing and satisfying. Personally
I like breaking things. One must always begin by breaking before one
begins building. But it's very exciting."

"It must be terribly exciting."

"For instance," said Madge, laughing quietly, "it's good to hear a pane
of glass go crack."

"How does it make you feel?" asked Clare Heywood.

"Oh," said Madge, "it gives one a jolly feeling down the spine. You
should try it."

"I daren't," said Clare.

"It would do you a lot of good. It would get rid of your megrims.
Besides, it's in a good cause."

"I am not so sure of that," said Clare.

"It's in the cause of woman's liberty. It's in the cause of all these
suburban wives imprisoned in these stuffy little homes. It lets in God's
fresh air."

Clare rose and moved about the room. "It's very stuffy in here," she
said. "It's stifling." At this moment Mollie came in the room again, and
smiled across at her mistress, saying: "Mr. Bradshaw to see you, ma'am."

Clare was obviously agitated. She showed signs of embarrassment, and her
voice trembled when she said:

"Tell him--tell him I'm engaged."

"He says he must see you--on business," said Mollie, lingering at the
door.

"On business?"

"That's what my young man says when he whistles up the tube," said
Mollie.

Madge Vernon looked at her friend and said rather "meaningly": "Don't
you _want_ to see him? If so I shouldn't if I were you."

"Oh, yes," said Clare, trying to appear quite cool. "If it's on
business."

"Very well, ma'am," said Mollie. As she left the room she said under her
breath: "I thought you would."

"Do you have business relations with Mr. Bradshaw?" asked Madge Vernon.

"Yes," said Clare; "no.... In a sort of way."

"I thought he was a novelist," said Madge.

"So he is."

"Dangerous fellows, novelists."

"Hush!" said Clare. "He might hear you."

"If it's on business I must go, I suppose," said Madge Vernon, rising
from her chair.

"No, don't go; stay!" said Clare, speaking with strange excitement.

As soon as she had uttered the words the visitor, Gerald Bradshaw, came
in.

He was a handsome, "artistic" looking man, with longish brown hair and
a vandyke beard. He was dressed in a brown suit, with a big brown silk
tie. He came forward in a graceful way, perfectly at ease, and with a
charming manner.

"How do you do, Mrs. Heywood?"

"I _must_ be going," said Madge. "Good-by, dear."

"Oh, _do_ stay," whispered Clare.

"Impossible. I have to speak to-night."

Although Madge Vernon had ignored the artist, he smiled at her and said:

"Don't you speak by day as a rule?"

"Not until I am spoken to.... Good-night, Clare."

"Well, if you must be going--" said Clare uneasily.

Madge Vernon stood for a moment at the door and smiled back at her
friend. "You will remember, won't you?"

"What?"

"The Eighth Year," said Madge. With that parting shot she whisked out of
the room.

Gerald Bradshaw breathed a sigh of relief. Then he went across to Clare
and kissed her hands.

"I can't stand that creature. A she-devil!"

"She is my friend," said Clare.

"I am sorry to hear it," said Gerald Bradshaw.

Clare Heywood drooped her eyelashes before his bold, smiling gaze.

"Why did you come again?" she asked. "I told you not to come."

"That is why I came. May I smoke?"

He lit a cigarette before he had received he permission, and after a
whiff or two said:

"Is the good man at the club?"

"You know he is at the club," said Clare. "True. That is another reason
why I came. Clare Heywood's face flushed and her voice trembled a
little.

"Gerald, if you had any respect for me----

"Respect is a foolish word," said Gerald Bradshaw. "Hopelessly
old-fashioned. Now adays men and women like or dislike, hate or love."

"I think I hate you," said Clare in a low voice.

Gerald smiled at her.

"No, you don't. You are a little frightened of me. That is all."

The woman laughed nervously, but there was a look of fear in her eyes.

"Why should I be frightened of you?"

"Because I tell you the truth. I don't keep up the foolish old pretences
by which men and women hide themselves from each other. You cannot hide
from me, Clare."

"You seem to strip my soul bare," said Clare and when the man laughed at
her she said: "Yes, I am frightened of you."

"It is because you are like all suburban women," said Gerald, "brought
up in this environment of hypocritical virtue and false sentiment. You
are frightened at the verities of life."

Clare Heywood gave a deep, quivering sigh. "Life is a tragic thing,
Gerald," she said. "Life is a jolly thing if one makes the best of it,
if one fulfils one's own nature."

"One's own nature is generally bad."

"Never mind," said Gerald cheerfully. "It is one's own. Bad or good, it
must find expression instead of being smothered or strangled. Life is
tragic only to those who are afraid of it. Don't be afraid, Clare. Do
the things you want to do."

"There is nothing I want to do," said Clare wearily. "Nothing except to
find peace."

"Exactly. Peace. How can you find peace, my poor Clare, in this stuffy
life of yours--in this daily denial of your own nature? There are heaps
of things you want."

Clare laughed again, in a mirthless way. "How do you know?" she asked.

"Of course I know. Shall I tell you?"

"I think I would rather you didn't," said Clare.

"I will tell you," said the man. "Liberty is one of them."

"Liberty is a vague word."

"Liberty for your soul," said Gerald.

"Herbert objects to my having a soul."

"Liberty for that beating heart of yours, Clare."

The woman put both hands to her heart.

"Yes, it beats, and beats."

"You want to escape, Clare."

"Escape?"

She seemed frightened at that word. She whispered it.

"Escape from the deadening influence of domestic dulness."

"I can't deny the dulness," said Clare.

"You want adventure. Your heart is seeking adventure. You know it. You
know that I am telling you the truth."

As the man spoke he came closer to her, and with his hands in his
pockets stood in front of her, staring into her eyes.

"You make me afraid," said Clare. All the color had faded out of her
face and she was dead white.

"You need not be afraid, Clare. The love of a man for a woman is not a
terrifying thing. It is a good thing. Good as life."

He took her by the wrists and held them tight.

"Gerald!" said Clare. "For God's sake.... I have a husband."

"He bores you," said the man. "He is your husband but not your mate. No
woman finds peace until she finds her mate. It is the same with a man."

"I will not listen to you. You make me feel a bad woman!"

She wrenched her hands free and moved toward the bell.

Gerald Bradshaw laughed quietly. He seemed amused at this woman's fear.
He seemed masterful, sure of his power over her.

"You know that you must be my mate. If not to-day, to-morrow. If not
to-morrow, the next day. I will wait for you, Clare."

Clare had shrunk back to the wall now, and touched the electric bell.

"You have no pity for me," she said. "You play on my weakness."

"Fear makes you strong to resist," said the man. "But love is stronger
than fear."

He followed her across the room to where she stood crouching against the
wall like a hunted thing.

"Don't come so close to me," she said.

"What on earth have you rung the bell for?" asked the man.

"Because I ought not to be alone with you."

They stood looking into each other's eyes. Then Clare moved quickly
toward the sofa as Mollie came in.

"Oh, Mollie," said Clare, trying to steady her voice, "ask Mrs. Heywood
to come in, will you? Tell her Mr. Bradshaw is here."

"Yes, ma'am," said Mollie. "But she knows that already."

"Take my message, please," said her mistress.

"I was going to, ma'am," said Mollie, and she added in an undertone, as
she left the room, "Strange as it may appear."

Gerald laughed quite light-heartedly.

"Yes, you have won the trick this time. But I hold the trump cards,
Clare; and I am very lucky, as a rule. I have a gambler's luck. Of
course if the old lady comes in I shan't stay. She hates me like poison,
and I can't be polite to her. Insincerity is not one of my vices.
Good-night, dear heart. I will come to you in your dreams."

As he spoke this word, which brought a flush again to Clare Heywood's
face, Mrs. Hey-wood, her mother-in-law, came in. She glanced from one to
the other suspiciously.

Gerald Bradshaw was not in the least abashed by her stern face.

"How do you do, Mrs. Heywood? I was just going. I hope I have not
disturbed you?"

Mrs. Heywood answered him in a "distant" manner:

"Not in the least."

"I am glad," he said. "I will let myself out. Don't trouble."

At that moment there was a noise in the hall, and Clare raised her head
and listened.

"I think I hear another visitor," she said.

"In that ease I had better wait a moment," said Gerald. "The halls
of these flats are not cut out for two people at a time. I will light
another cigarette if I may."

"I thought I heard a latchkey," said Mrs. Heywood. "Surely it can't he
Herbert back so early?"

"No, it can't be," said Clare.

Gerald spoke more to himself than to the ladies:

"I hope not."

They were all silent when Herbert Heywood came in quietly.

"I didn't go to the club after all," he said. Then he saw Gerald
Bradshaw, and his mouth hardened a little as he said, "Oh!... How do?"

"How are you?" asked Gerald, in his cool way.

"Been here long?" asked Herbert.

"Long enough for a pleasant talk with your wife."

"Going now?"

"Yes. We have finished our chat. Goodnight. I can find my way out
blindfolded. All these flats are the same. Rather convenient, don't you
think?"

He turned to Clare and smiled.

"_Au revoir_, Mrs. Heywood."

She did not answer him, and he went out jauntily. A few moments later
they heard the front door shut.

"What the devil does he come here for?" growled Herbert rather sulkily.

Clare ignored the question.

"Why are you home so early?"

"Yes, dear, why didn't you go to the club?" asked Mrs. Heywood.

Herbert looked rather embarrassed.

"Oh, I don't know. I felt a bit off. Besides----"

"What, dear?" asked his mother.

"I thought Clare was feeling a bit lonely to-night. Perhaps I was
mistaken."

"I am often lonely," said Clare. "Even when you are at home."

"Aren't you _glad_ I have come back?" asked Herbert.

"Why do you ask me?"

"I should be glad if you were glad." Clare's husband became slightly
sentimental as he looked at her.

"I have been thinking it _is_ rather rotten to go _off_ to the club and
leave you here alone," he said.

Mrs. Heywood was delighted with these words.

"Oh, you dear boy! How unselfish of you!"

"I try to be," said Herbert.

"I am sure you are the very soul of unselfishness, Herbert, dear," said
the fond mother.

"Thanks, mother."

He looked rather anxiously at Clare, and said--

"Don't you think we might have a pleasant evening for once?"

"Oh, that would be delightful!" said Mrs. Heywood.

"Eh, Clare?"

"How do you mean?" said Clare.

"Like we used to in the old days? Some music, and that sort of thing."

"I am sure that will be _very_ nice," said Mrs. Heywood.

"Eh, Clare?" said Herbert.

"If you like," said Clare.

"Wait till I have got my boots off." He spoke in a rather honeyed voice
to his wife.

"Do you happen to know where my slippers are, darling?"

"I haven't the least idea," said Clare.

Herbert seemed nettled at this answer.

"In the old days you used to warm them for me," he said.

"Did I?" said Clare. "I have forgotten. It was a long time ago."

"Eight years."

At these words Clare looked over to her husband in a peculiar way.

"Yes," she said. "It is our eighth year."

"Here are your slippers, dear," said Mrs. Hey wood.

"Oh, thanks, mother. _You_ don't forget."

There was silence while he took off his boots. Clare sat with her hands
in her lap, staring at the carpet. Once or twice her mother-in-law
glanced at her anxiously.

"Won't you play something, Clare?" said the old lady, after a little
while.

"If you like," said Clare.

Herbert resumed his cheerful note.

"Yes, let's have a jolly evening. Perhaps I will sing a song presently."

"Oh, do, dear!" said Mrs. Heywood.

"Gad, it's a long time since I sang 'John Peel'!"

Clare looked rather anxious and perturbed.

"The walls of this flat are rather thin," she said. "The neighbors might
not like it."

"Oh, confound the neighbors!" said Herbert.

"I will do some knitting while you two dears play and sing," said the
old lady.

She fetched her knitting from a black silk bag on one of the little
tables, and took a chair near the fireplace. Clare Heywood went to the
music-stool and turned over some music listlessly. She did not seem to
find anything which appealed to her.

Her husband settled himself down in an arm-chair and loaded his pipe.

"Play something bright, Clare," he said.

"All my music sounds melancholy when I play it," said Clare.

"What, rag-time?"

"Even rag-time. Rag-time worst of all."

Yet she began to play softly one of Chopin's preludes, in a dreamy way.

"Tell me when you want me to sing," said Herbert.

"I will," said Clare.

There was silence for a little while, except for Clare's dream-music.
Mrs. Heywood dozed over her knitting, and her head nodded on her chest.
Presently Herbert rose from his chair and touched the electric bell. A
moment later Mollie came in.

"Yes?" asked Mollie.

Herbert spoke quietly so that he should not interrupt his wife's music.

"Bring me _The Financial Times_, Mollie. It's in my study."

"Yes, sir," said Mollie.

She brought the paper and left the room again. There was another
silence, except for the soft notes of the music. Herbert turned over the
pages of _The Financial Times_, and yawned a little, and then let the
paper drop. His head nodded and then lolled sideways. In a little while
he was as fast asleep as his mother, and snored, quietly at first, then
quite loudly.

Clare stopped playing, and looked over the music-rest with a strange,
tragic smile at her husband and her mother-in-law. She rose from the
piano-stool, and put her hands to her head, and then at her throat,
breathing quickly and jerkily, as though she were being stifled.

"A jolly evening!" she exclaimed in a whisper. "Oh, God!"

She stared round the room, with rather wild eyes.

"It is stuffy here. It is stifling."

She moved toward the piano again, with her hands pressed against her
bosom.

"I feel that something _must_ happen. Something _must_ break."

She took up a large china vase from the piano, moved slowly toward the
window, hesitated for a moment, looked round at her sleeping husband,
and then hurled the vase straight through the window. It made an
appalling noise of breaking glass.

Herbert Heywood jumped up from his seat as though he had been shot.

"Good God!" he said. "What the devil!----"

Mrs. Heywood was equally startled. She sat up in her chair as though an
earthquake had shaken the house.

"Good gracious! Whatever in the world-----"

At the same moment Mollie opened the door.

"Good 'eavins, ma'am!" she cried. "Whatever 'as 'appened?"

Clare Heywood answered very quietly:

"I think something must have broken," she said.

Then she gave a queer, strident laugh.



CHAPTER II

MRS. Heywood was arranging the drawingroom for an evening At Home,
dusting the mantelshelf and some of the ornaments with a little hand
broom. There were refreshments on a side table. Mollie was trying to
make the fire burn up. Every now and then a gust of smoke blew down the
chimney. Clare was sitting listlessly in a low chair near the French
window, with a book on her lap, but she was not reading.

"Drat the fire," said Mollie, with her head in the fireplace.

"For goodness' sake, Mollie, stop it smoking like that!" said Mrs.
Heywood. "It's no use my dusting the room."

"The devil is in the chimney, it strikes me," said Mollie.

Mrs. Heywood expressed her sense of exasperation.

"It's a funny thing that every time your mistress gives an At Home you
are always behindhand with your work."

Mollie expressed her feelings in the firegrate.

"It's a funny thing people can't mind their own business."

"What did you say, Mollie?" asked Mrs. Heywood sharply.

"I said that the fire hasn't gone right since the window was broke. Them
Suffragettes have a lot to answer for."

"I cannot understand how it _did_ get broken," said Mrs. Heywood. "I
almost suspect that woman, Miss Vernon."

Clare looked up and spoke irritably.

"Nonsense, mother!"

"It's no use saying nonsense, Clare," said Mrs. Heywood, even more
irritably. "You know perfectly well that Miss Vernon is a most dangerous
woman."

"Well, she didn't break our window, anyhow," said Clare, rather
doggedly.

"How do you know that? It is still a perfect mystery."

"Don't be absurd, mother. How did the vase get through the window?"

Mrs. Heywood was baffled for an answer.

"Ah, that is most perplexing."

"Well, leave it at that," said Clare.

Mollie was still wrestling with the mysteries of light and heat.

"If it doesn't burn now," she said, "I won't lay another finger on
it--At Home or no At Home."

She seized the dustpan and broom and, with a hot face, marched out of
the room.

Clare pressed her forehead with the tips of her fingers.

"I wish to Heaven there were no such things as At Homes," she said
wearily. "Oh, how they bore me!"

"You used to like them well enough," said Mrs. Heywood.

"I have grown out of them. I have grown out of so many things. It is as
if my life had shrunk in the wash."

"Nothing seems to please you now," said the old lady. "Don't you care
for your friends any longer?"

"Friends? Those tittle-tattling women, with their empty-headed
husbands?"

Mrs. Heywood was silent for a moment. Then she spoke bitterly.

"Do you think Herbert is empty-headed?"

"Oh, we won't get personal, mother," said Clare. "And we won't quarrel,
if you don't mind."

Mrs. Heywood's lips tightened.

"I am afraid we shall if you go on like this."

"Like what?" asked Clare.

"Hush!" said the old lady. "Here comes Herbert."

Herbert came in quickly, and raised his eyebrows after a glance at his
wife.

"Good Lord, Clare! Aren't you dressed yet?"

"There's plenty of time, isn't there?" said Clare.

"No, there isn't," said Herbert. "You know some of the guests will
arrive before eight o'clock."

Clare looked up at the clock.

"It's only six now."

"Besides," said Herbert, "I want you to look your best to-night. Edward
Hargreaves is coming, with his wife."

"What has that got to do with it?"

"Everything," said Herbert. "He is second cousin to one of my directors.
It is essential that you should make a good impression."

"You told me once that he was a complete ass," said Clare.

"So he is."

"Well, then," said Clare, quietly but firmly, "I decline to make a good
impression on him."

"I must ask you to obey my wishes," said Herbert.

Clare had rebellion in her eyes.

"I have obeyed you for seven years. It is now the Eighth Year."

Herbert did not hear his wife's remark. He was looking round the room
with an air of extreme annoyance.

"Well, I'm blowed!" he exclaimed.

"What's the matter, dear?" asked Mrs. Hey-wood anxiously.

"You haven't even taken the trouble to buy some flowers," said Herbert.

"I left that to Clare," said the old lady.

"Haven't you done so, Clare?"

"No," said Clare. "I can't bear flowers in this room. They droop so
quickly."

Herbert was quite angry.

"I insist upon having some flowers. The place looks like a barn without
them. What will our visitors say?"

"Stupid things, as usual," said Clare quietly.

"I must go out and get some myself, I suppose," said Herbert, with the
air of a martyr.

"Can't you send Mollie, dear?" asked Mrs. Heywood.

"Mollie is cutting sandwiches. The girl is overwhelmed with work.
And--Oh, my stars!"

His mother was alarmed by this sudden cry of dismay.

"Now what is the matter, dear?"

"There's no whisky in the decanter."

"No whisky?"

"Clare," said Herbert, appealing to his wife, "there's not a drop of
whisky left."

"Well, _I_ didn't drink it," said Clare. "You finished it the other
night with one of your club friends."

"So we did. Dash it!"

"Don't be irritable, dear," said Mrs. Heywood.

"Irritable! Isn't it enough to make a saint irritable? These things
always happen on our At Home nights. Nobody seems to have any
forethought. Every blessed thing seems to go wrong."

"That is why I wish one could abolish the institution," said Clare.

"What institution?"

"At Homes."

"Don't talk rubbish, Clare," said Herbert angrily; "you know I have them
for _your_ sake."

Clare laughed bitterly, as though she had heard a rather painful joke.

"For my sake! Oh, that is good!"

Herbert was distracted by a new cause of grievance as a tremendous puff
of smoke came out of the fire-grate.

"What in the name of a thousand devils----"

"It's that awful fire again!" cried Mrs. Hey-wood. "These flats seem to
have no chimneys."

"It's nothing to do with the flat," said Herbert. "It's that fool
Mollie. The girl doesn't know how to light a decent fire!"

He rang the bell furiously, keeping his finger on the electric knob.

"The creature has absolutely nothing to do, and what she does she
spoils."

Mollie came in with a look of mutiny on her face.

"Look at that fire," said Herbert fiercely.

"I am looking at it," said Mollie.

"Why don't you do your work properly? See to the beastly thing, can't
you?"

Mollie folded her arms and spoke firmly.

"If you please, sir, wild horses won't make me touch it again."

"It's not a question of horse-power," said Herbert. "Go and get an old
newspaper and hold it in front of the bars."

"I am just in the middle of the sandwiches," said Mollie.

"Well, get out of them, then," said Herbert.

Mollie delivered her usual ultimatum.

"If you please, sir, I beg to give a month's notice."

"Bosh!" said Herbert.

"Bosh indeed!" cried Mollie. "We'll see if it's bosh! If you want any
sandwiches for your precious visitors you can cut 'em yourself."

With this challenge she went out of the room and slammed the door behind
her.

Herbert breathed deeply, and after a moment's struggle in his soul spoke
mildly.

"Mother, go and pacify the fool, will you?"

"She is very obstinate," said Mrs. Heywood.

"All women are obstinate."

Suddenly the man's self-restraint broke down and he became excited.

"Bribe her, promise her a rise in wages, but for God's sake see that
she cuts the sandwiches. We don't want to be made fools of before our
guests."

"Very well, dear," said Mrs. Heywood. She hesitated for a moment at
the door, and before going out said: "But Mollie can be very violent at
times."

For a little while there was silence between the husband and wife. Then
Herbert spoke rather sternly.

"Clare, are you or are you not going to get dressed?"

"I shall get dressed in good time," said Clare quietly, "when I think
fit. Surely you don't want to dictate to me about _that?_"

"Surely," said Herbert, "you can see how awkward it will be if any of
our people arrive and find you unprepared for them?"

Clare gave a long, weary sigh.

"Oh, I _am_ prepared for them. I have been trying to prepare myself all
day for the ordeal of, them."

"The ordeal? What the dickens do you mean?"

"I am prepared for Mrs. Atkinson Brown, who, when she takes off her
hat in the bedroom, will ask me whether I am suited and whether I am
expecting."

"For goodness' sake don't be coarse, Clare," said Herbert.

"It's Mrs. Atkinson Brown who is coarse," said Clare. "And I am prepared
for Mr. Atkinson Brown, who will say that it is horrible weather for
this time of year, and that business has been the very devil since there
has been a Radical Government, and that these outrageous women who are
breaking windows ought to be whipped. Oh, I could tell you everything
that everybody is going to say. I have heard it over and over again."

"It does not seem to make much effect on you," said Herbert. "Especially
that part about breaking windows."

Clare smiled.

"So you have guessed, have you?"

"I knew at once by the look on your face."

"I thought you agreed with your mother that some Suffragette must have
flung a stone from the outside."

"I hid the truth from mother," said Herbert. "She would think you were
mad. What on earth made you do it? _Were_ you mad or what?"

Clare brushed her hair back from her forehead.

"Sometimes I used to think I was going a little mad. But now I know what
is the matter with me."

Herbert spoke more tenderly.

"What _is_ the matter, Clare? If it is a question of a doctor----"

"It's the Eighth Year," said Clare.

"The Eighth Year?"

"Yes, that's what is the matter with me."

"What on earth do you mean?" asked Herbert.

"Why, don't you know? It was Madge Vernon who told me."

"Told you what?"

"She seemed to think that everybody knew."

"Knew what?" asked Herbert, exasperated beyond all patience.

"About the Eighth Year."

"What about it?"

"It's well known, she says, that the Eighth Year is the most dangerous
one in marriage. It is then that the pull comes, when the wife has found
out her husband."

"Found out her husband?"

"And found out herself."

Herbert spoke roughly. He was not in a mood for such mysteries.

"Look here," he said. "I can't listen to all this nonsense. Go and dress
yourself."

"I want to talk to you, Herbert," said Clare very earnestly. "I must
talk to you before it's too late."

"It's too late now," said Herbert. "Halfpast six. I must fetch that
whisky and buy a few flowers. I shall have to put on my boots again and
splash about in the mud in these trousers. Confound it!"

"Before you go you must listen, Herbert," said Clare, with a sign of
emotion. "Perhaps you won't have another chance."

"Thank Heaven for that."

"When I broke that window something else broke."

"One of my best vases," said Herbert with sarcasm.

"I think something in my own nature broke too. My spirit has broken
out of this narrow, deadening little life of ours, out of the smug
snobbishness and stupidity which for so long kept me prisoner, out of
the belief that the latest sentimental novel, the latest romantic play,
the latest bit of tittle-tattle from my neighbors might satisfy my heart
and brain. When I broke that window I let a little fresh air into the
stifling atmosphere of this flat, where I have been mewed up without
work, without any kind of honest interest, without any kind of food for
my brain or soul."

Herbert stared at his wife, and made an impatient gesture.

"If you want work, why don't you attend to your domestic duties?"

"I have no domestic duties," said Clare. "That is the trouble."

Herbert laughed in an unpleasant way.

"Why, you haven't even bought any flowers to decorate your home! Isn't
that a domestic duty?"

Clare answered him quickly, excitedly.

"It's just a part of the same old hypocrisy of keeping up appearances.
You know you don't care for flowers in themselves, except as they help
to make a show. You want to impress our guests. You want to keep up the
old illusion of the woman's hand in the home. The woman's touch. Isn't
that it?"

"Yes, I do want to keep up that illusion," said Herbert; "and by God,
I find it very hard! You say you want an object in life. Isn't your
husband an object?"

Clare looked at him with a queer, pitiful smile.

"Yes, he is," she said slowly.

"Well, what more do you want?"

"Lots more. A woman's life is not centered for ever in one man."

"It ought to be," said Herbert. "If you had any religious
principles----"

"Oh," said Clare sharply, "but you object to my religion!"

"Well, of course I mean in moderation."

"You have starved me, Herbert, and oh, I am so hungry!"

Herbert answered her airily.

"Well, there will be light refreshments later."

"Yes, that is worthy of you," cried Clare. "That is your sense of
humor! You have starved my soul and starved my heart and you offer
me--sandwiches. I am hungry for life and you offer me--the latest
novel."

Herbert paced up and down the room. He was losing control of his temper.

"That is the reward for all my devotion!" he said. "Don't I drudge in
the city every day to keep you in comfort?"

"I don't want comfort!" said Clare.

"Don't I toil so that you may have pretty frocks?"

"I don't want pretty frocks."

"Don't I scrape and scheme to buy you little luxuries?"

"I don't want little luxuries," said Clare.

"Is there anything within my means that you haven't got?"

Clare looked at him in a peculiar way, and answered quietly--

"I haven't a child," she said.

"Oh, Lord," said Herbert uneasily. "Whose fault is that? Besides, modern
life in small flats is not cut out for children."

"And modern life in small flats," said Clare, "is not cut out for
wives."

"It isn't my fault," said Herbert. "I am not the architect--either of
fate or flats."

"No, it isn't your fault, Herbert. You can't help your character. It
isn't your fault that when you come home from the city you fall asleep
after dinner. It isn't your fault that when you go to the club I sit at
home with my hands in my lap, thinking and brooding. It isn't your fault
that your mother and I get on each other's nerves. It isn't your fault
that you and I have grown out of each other, that we bore each other and
have nothing to say to each other--except when we quarrel."

"Well, then," said Herbert, "whose fault is it?"

"I don't know," said Clare. "I suppose it's a fault of the system, which
is spoiling thousands of marriages just like ours. It's the fault which
is found out--in the Eighth Year."

"Oh, curse the Eighth Year," said Herbert violently. "What is that bee
you have got in your bonnet?"

"It's a bee which keeps buzzing in my brain. It's a little bee which
whispers queer words to me--tempting words. It says you must break away
from the system or the system will break you. You must find a way of
escape or die. You must do it quickly, now, to-night, or it will be too
late. Herbert, a hungry woman will do desperate things to satisfy her
appetite, and I am hungry for some stronger emotion than I can find
within these four walls. I am hungry for love, hungry for work, hungry
for life. If you can't give it to me, I must find it elsewhere."

"Clare," said Herbert, with deliberate self-restraint, "I must again
remind you that time is getting on and you are not yet dressed. In a
little while our guests will be here. I hope you don't mean to hold me
up to the contempt of my friends. I at least have some sense of duty....
I am going to fetch the whisky." As he strode toward the door he started
back at the noise of breaking china.

"What's that?" asked Clare.

"God knows," said Herbert. "I expect mother has broken a window."

The words were hardly out of his mouth before Mrs. Heywood came in in a
state of great agitation.

"Herbert, I must really ask you to come into the kitchen."

"What's the matter now?" asked Herbert, prepared for the worst.

"Mollie has deliberately broken our best coffee-pot."

Herbert stared at his wife.

"Didn't I tell you so!" he said.

"Why has she broken the coffee-pot?" asked Clare.

"She was most insolent," said Mrs. Heywood, "and said my interference
got on her nerves."

"Well, even a servant _has_ nerves," said Clare.

"But it was the _best_ coffee-pot, Clare. Surely you are not going to
take it so calmly?"

"Like mistress like maid!" said Herbert. "Oh, my hat! Why on earth did I
marry?"

"Don't you think you had better fetch the whisky?" said Clare gently.

Herbert became excited again.

"I have been trying to fetch the whisky for the last half hour. There is
a conspiracy against it. Confound it, I _will_ fetch the whisky."

He strode to the door, as though he would get the whisky or die in the
attempt.

"I think you ought to speak to Mollie first," said Mrs. Heywood.

Herbert raised his hands above his head.

"Damn Mollie!" he shouted wildly. Then he strode out of the room. "Damn
everything!"

"Poor dear," said Mrs. Heywood. "I wish he didn't get so worried."

"Clare, won't you come and speak to Mollie?"

"Haven't you spoken to her?" asked Clare wearily.

"I am always speaking to her."

"_Poor_ Mollie!" said Clare.

Mrs. Heywood was hurt at the tone of pity. She flushed a little and then
turned to her daughter-in-law with reproachful eyes.

"I am an old woman, Clare, and the mother of your husband. Because my
position forces me to live in this flat, I do not think you ought to
insult me."

"I'm sorry," said Clare with sincerity.

"Mollie is right. We all get on each other's nerves. It can't be helped,
I suppose. It's part of the system."

"I can't help being your mother-in-law, Clare."

"No, it can't he helped," said Clare.

Mrs. Heywood came close to her and touched her hand.

"You think I do not understand. You think you are the only one who has
any grievance."

"Oh, no!" said Clare. "I am not so egotistical."

Mrs. Heywood smoothed down her dress with trembling hands.

"You think I haven't been watching you all these years. I have watched
you so that I know your thoughts behind those brooding eyes, Clare. I
know all that you have been thinking and suffering, so that sometimes
you hate me, so that my very presence here in the room with you makes
you wish to cry out, to shriek, because I am your mother-in-law, and the
mother of your husband. The husband always loves his mother best,
and the wife always knows it. That is the eternal tragedy of the
mother-in-law. Because she is hated by the wife of her son, and is
an intruder in her home. I know that because I too suffered from a
mother-in-law. Do you think I would stay here an hour unless I was
forced to stay, for a shelter above my old head, for some home in which
I wait to die? But while I wait I watch... and I know that you have
reached a dangerous stage in a woman's life, when she may do any rash
thing. Clare, I pray every night that you may pass that stage in life
without doing anything--rash. This time always comes in marriage, it
comes----"

"In the Eighth Year?" asked Clare eagerly. "Somewhere about then."

"Ah! I thought so."

"It came to me, my dear."

"And did _you_ do anything rash?"

Mrs. Heywood hesitated a moment before replying.

"I gave birth to Herbert," she said.

"Good Heavens!" said Clare.

"It saved me from breaking----"

"Windows, mother?"

"No, my own and my husband's heart," said Mrs. Heywood. "Well, I will
go and speak to Mollie again. Goodness knows how we shall get coffee
to-night."

She went out of the room with her head shaking a little after this scene
of emotion.

Clare spoke to herself aloud. She had her hands up to her throat.

"I don't want coffee to-night. I want stronger drink. I want to get
drunk with liberty of life."

Suddenly there was a noise at the window and the woman looked up,
startled, and cried, "Who is there?"

Gerald Bradshaw appeared at the open French window leading on to the
balcony, and he spoke through the window.

"It is I, Clare? Are you alone?"

Clare had risen from her chair at the sound of his voice, and her face
became very pale.

"Gerald... How did you come there?"

Gerald Bradshaw laughed in his lighthearted way.

"I stepped over the bar that divides our balconies. It was quite easy.
It was as easy as it will be to cross the bar that divides you and me,
Clare."

Clare spoke in a frightened voice.

"Why do you come here, at this hour?"

"Why do I ever come?" asked Gerald Bradshaw.

"I don't know."

"It's because I want you. I want you badly to-night, Clare. I can't wait
for you any longer."

Clare spoke pleadingly.

"Gerald... go away... it's so dangerous... I daren't listen to you."

"I want you to listen," said Gerald Bradshaw.

"Go away... I implore you to go away."

He laughed at her. He seemed very much amused.

"Not before I have said what I want to say."

"Say it quickly," said Clare. "Quickly!"

"There's time enough," said Bradshaw. "This is what I want to say. You
are a lonely woman and I am a lonely man, and only an iron bar divides
us. It's the iron bar of convention, of insincerity, of superstition. It
seems so difficult to cross. But you see one step is enough. I want you
to take that step--to-night."

Clare answered him in a whisper.

"Go away!"

"I am hungry for you," said Bradshaw, with a thrill in his voice. "I am
hungry for your love. And you are hungry for me. I have seen it in your
eyes. You have the look of a famished woman. Famished for love. Famished
for comradeship."

Clare raised her hands despairingly.

"If you have any pity, go away."

"I have no pity. Because pity is weakness, and I hate weakness."

"You are brutal," said Clare.

He laughed at her. He seemed to like those words.

"Yes, I have the brutality of manhood. Man is a brute, and woman likes
the brute in him because that is his nature, and woman wants the natural
man. That is why you want me, Clare. You can't deny it."

Clare protested feebly.

"I do deny it. I _must_ deny it."

"It's a funny thing," said Gerald Bradshaw. "Between you and me there
is a queer spell, Clare. I was conscious of it when I first met you.
Something in you calls to me. Something in me calls to you. It is the
call of the wild."

Clare was scared now. These words seemed to make her heart beat to a
strange tune.

"What do you mean?" she said.

"It is the call of the untamed creature. Both you and I are untamed.
We both have the spirit of the woods. I am Pan. You are a wood nymph,
imprisoned in a cage, upholstered by maple, on the hire system."

"What do you want with me?" asked Clare. It was clear that he was
tempting her.

"I want to play with you, like Pan played. You and I will hear the pipes
of Pan to-night--the wild nature music."

"To-night?"

"To-night. I have waited too long for you, and now I'm impatient. I
am alone in my flat waiting for you. I ask you to keep me company, not
to-night only, but until we tire of each other, until perhaps we hate
each other. Who knows?"

"Oh, God!" said Clare. She moaned out the words in a pitiful way.

"You have only to slip down one flight of stairs and steal up another,
and you will find me at the door with a welcome. It will need just a
little care to escape from your prison. You must slip on your hat and
cloak as though you were going round to church, and then come to me, to
me, Clare! Only a wall will divide you from this flat, but you will be a
world away. For you will have escaped from this upholstered cage into
a little world of liberty. Into a little world of love, Clare. Say you
will come!"

"Oh, God!" moaned Clare.

"You will come?"

"Are you the Devil that you tempt me?" said Clare.

Gerald gave a triumphant little laugh.

"You will come! Clare, my sweetheart, I know you will come, for your
spirit is ready for me."

As he spoke these words there was the sound of a bell ringing through
the flat, and the noise of it struck terror into Clare Heywood.

"Go away," she whispered. "For God's sake go! Some one is ringing."

"I will cross the bar again," said Bradshaw. "But I shall be waiting at
the door. You will not be very long, little one?"

Clare sank down with her face in her hands. And Gerald stole away from
the window just as Mollie showed in Madge Vernon.

"It's our At Home night," said Mollie, as she came in, "and they'll be
here presently."

"All right, Mollie," said Miss Vernon, smiling. "I shan't stay more than
a minute. I know I have come at an awkward time."

"She _would_ come in, ma'am," said Mollie, as though she were not strong
enough to thwart such a determined visitor.

As soon as the girl had gone Madge Vernon came across to Clare, very
cheerfully and rather excitedly.

"Clare, are you coming?"

"Coming where?" asked Clare, trying to hide her agitation.

"To the demonstration," said Madge Vernon. "You know I told you all
about it! It begins at eight. It will be immense fun, and after your
window-smashing exploit you are one of us. Good Heavens, I think you
have beaten us all. None of us have ever thought of breaking our own
windows."

"It's my At Home night," said Clare.

"Oh, bother the At Home. Can't your husband look after his friends for
once? I wanted you to join in this adventure. It would be your enrolment
in the ranks, and it will do you a lot of good, in your present state of
health."

"In any case----" said Clare.

"What?"

Clare smiled in a tragic way.

"I have received a previous invitation."

"Oh, drat the invitation."

"Of course I should have liked to come," said Clare, "but----"

Madge Vernon was impatient with her. "But what? I hate that word
'but.'"

"The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak," said Clare, speaking with
a deeper significance than appeared in the words.

"There is no weakness about you. You have the courage of your
convictions. Have you had the window mended yet?"

She laughed gaily and then listened with her head a little on one side
to the sound of a bell ringing in the hall.

"That must be Herbert," said Clare. "I think you had better go."

"Yes, I think I had better," said Madge, laughing again. "If looks could
kill----"

She went toward the door and opened it, but I stood on the threshold
looking back.

"Won't you come? Eight o'clock, you know."

Clare smiled weakly.

"I am in great demand to-night."

The two women listened to Herbert's voice in the hall saying--

"Of course all the shops were shut."

"Oh, Lord!" said Madge, "I must skedaddle." She went out of the room
hurriedly, leaving Clare alone.

And after a moment or two Clare spoke aloud, with her hands clasped upon
her breast.

"I wonder if the Devil is tempting me tonight?" she said.

Then Herbert entered with two whisky bottles.

"I had to hunt all over the place," he said.

Then he saw that his wife was still in her afternoon frock, and his face
flushed with anger.

"What, aren't you dressed _yet?_... I think you might show some respect
for my wishes, Clare."

"I am going to dress now," said Clare, and she rose and went into the
bedroom.

"Women are the very devil," said Herbert, unwrapping the whisky bottles.

While he was busy with this his mother came in, having changed her
dress.

"Oh, I am glad you managed to get the whisky," she said.

"Of course nearly every blessed shop was shut," said Herbert. "They
always are when I run out of everything. It's this Radical Government,
with its beastly Acts."

Mrs. Heywood hesitated and then came across to her son and touched him
on the arm.

"I think you had better come into the kitchen a moment, dear, and look
after Mollie."

"She hasn't broken anything else, has she?" said Herbert anxiously.

"No, dear. But she has just cut her finger rather badly. She got in a
temper with the sandwiches."

Herbert raised his hands to heaven.

"Why do these things always happen when Clare gives an At Home? I shall
abolish these evenings altogether. They will drive me mad."

"Oh, they're very pleasant when they once begin," said Mrs. Heywood.

"I'm glad you think so, mother. I am damned if I do. I was only saying
to Clare to-night----"

He stalked out of the room furiously.

Mrs. Heywood stood for a few moments staring at the carpet. Her lips
moved and her worn old hands plucked at her skirt.

"Every time there is an At Home at this flat," she said, "I get another
white hair."

She moved toward the door and went out of the room, so that it was left
empty.

Outside in the street a piano-organ was playing a rag-time tune with a
rattle of notes, and motor-cars were sounding their horns.

In this little drawing-room in Intellectual Mansions, Battersea Park,
there was silence, except for those vague sounds from without. There was
no sign here of Fate's presence, summoning a woman to her destiny. No
angel stood with a flaming sword to bar the way to a woman with a wild
heart. The little ormolu clock ticking on the mantel-shelf did not seem
to be counting the moments of a tragic drama. It was a very commonplace
little room, and the flamboyant chintz on the sofa and chairs gave it
an air of cheerfulness, as though this were one of the happy homes of
England.

Presently the bedroom door opened slowly, and Clare Heywood stood there
looking into the drawing-room and listening. She was very pale, and
was dressed in her outdoor things, as Gerald Bradshaw had asked her
to dress, in her hat and cloak, so that she might slip out of the flat
which he had called her prison.

She came further into the room, timidly, like a hare frightened by the
distant baying of the hounds.

She raised her hands to her bosom, and spoke in a whisper:

"God forgive me!"

Then she crossed the floor, listened for a moment intently at the door,
and slipped out. A moment or two later one's ears, if they had been
listening, would have heard the front door shut.

Clare Heywood had escaped.

A little while later Mrs. Heywood, her mother-in-law, came into the room
again and went over to the piano to open it and arrange the music.

"I do hope Clare is getting dressed," she said, speaking to herself.

Then Herbert came in, carrying a tray with decanter and glasses.

"Isn't Clare ready yet?" he asked.

"No, dear. She won't be long."

"I can't find the corkscrew," said Herbert, searching round for it, but
failing to discover its whereabouts.

"Isn't it in the kitchen, dear?" asked Mrs. Heywood.

"Not unless Mollie has swallowed it. It's just the sort of thing she
would do--out of sheer spite."

"Didn't you use it the other day to open a tin of sardines?" asked the
old lady, cudgelling her brains.

"Did I?" said Herbert. "Oh, Lord, yes! I left it in the bathroom."

He went out of the room to find it.

Mrs. Heywood crossed over to the fire and swept up the grate.

"Clare is a very long time to-night," she said.

Then Mollie came in carrying a tray with some plates of sandwiches. One
of her fingers was tied up with a rag.

"It's a good job the guests is late to-night," she remarked.

"Yes, we are all very behind-hand," said Mrs. Heywood.

Mollie dumped down the tray and gave vent to a little of her impertinent
philosophy:

"I'll never give an At Home when I'm married. Blest if I do. Social
'ipocrisy, I call them."

Mrs. Heywood rebuked her sharply:

"We don't want your opinion, Mollie, thank you."

"I suppose I can _have_ a few opinions, although I _am_ in service,"
said Mollie. "There's plenty of time for thought even in the kitchen
of a flat like this. I wonder domestic servants don't write novels. My
word, what a revelation it would be! I've a good mind to write one of
them serials in the _Daily Mail_."

"If I have any more of your impudence, Mollie----"

"It's not impudence," said Mollie. "It's aspirations."

The girl was silent when her master came into the room with the
corkscrew.

"It wasn't in the bathroom," he explained. "I remember now, I used it
for cleaning out my pipe."

"I could have told you that a long time ago, sir," said Mollie.

"Well, why the dickens didn't you?" asked Herbert.

"You never asked me, sir."

Mollie retired with the air of having scored a point.

"Well, as long as you've found it, dear," said Mrs. Heywood.

"Unfortunately, I broke the point. However, I daresay I can make it do."

He pulled one of the corks out of the whisky bottle and filled the
decanter.

"Hasn't Clare finished dressing yet?" he said presently. "What on earth
is she doing?"

"I expect she wants her blouse done up at the back," said Mrs. Heywood.

Herbert jerked up his head.

"And then she complains because I can't tie my own tie I Just like
women."

He drew out another cork rather violently and said:

"Well, go and see after her, mother."

Mrs. Heywood went toward the bedroom door and called out in her silvery
voice:

"Are you ready, dear?"

She listened for a moment, and called out again:

"Clare!"

Herbert poured some more whisky into the decanter.

"I expect she's reading one of those beastly pamphlets," he said.

Mrs. Heywood tapped at the bedroom door.

"Clare!"

"Go in, mother," said Herbert irritably.

"It's very strange!" said Mrs. Heywood in an anxious voice.

She went into the bedroom, and Herbert, who had been watching her,
spilled some of the whisky, so that he muttered to himself:

"What with women and what with whisky----"

He did not finish his sentence, but stared in the direction of the
bedroom as though suspecting something was wrong.

Mrs. Heywood came trembling out. She had a scared look.

"Oh, Herbert!"

Herbert was alarmed by the look on her face.

"Is Clare ill--or something?"

"She isn't there," said Mrs. Heywood.

The old lady was rather breathless.

"Not there!" said Herbert in a dazed way.

"She went in to dress a few minutes ago," said his mother.

Herbert stared at her. He was really very much afraid, but he spoke
irritably:

"Well, she can't have gone up the chimney, can she? At least, I suppose
not, though you never can tell nowadays."

He strode toward the bedroom door and called out:

"Clare!"

Then he went inside.

Mrs. Heywood stood watching the open door. She raised her hands up and
then let them fall, and spoke in a hoarse kind of whisper:

"I think it has happened at last."

Herbert came out of the bedroom again. He looked pale, and had gloomy
eyes.

"It's devilish queer!" he said.

Mother and son stood looking at each other, as though in the presence of
tragedy.

"She must have gone out," said Mrs. Hey-wood.

"Gone out! What makes you think so?"

"She has taken her hat and cloak."

"How do you know?" asked Herbert.

"I looked in the wardrobe."

"Good Heavens! Where's she gone to?"

Mrs. Heywood's thin old hands clutched at the white lace upon her bosom.

"Herbert, I--I am afraid."

The man went deadly white. He stammered as he spoke:

"You don't mean that she is going to do something--foolish?"

"Something rash," said Mrs. Hey wood mournfully.

Herbert had a sudden idea. It took away from his fear a little and made
him angry.

"Perhaps she has gone round to church. If so, I will give her a piece of
my mind when she comes back. It's outrageous! It's shameful."

There was the sound of a bell ringing through the hall, and the mother
and son listened intently.

"Perhaps she _has_ come back," said Herbert. "Perhaps she went to fetch
some flowers." This idea seemed to soften him. His voice broke a little
when he said: "Poor girl! I didn't mean to make such a fuss about them."
"It isn't Clare," said Mrs. Heywood, shaking her head. "It's a visitor.
I hear Mr. Atkinson Brown's voice."

Mr. Atkinson Brown's voice could be heard quite plainly in the hall:

"Well, Mollie, is your mistress quite well?" Herbert grasped his
mother's arm and whispered to her excitedly:

"Mother, we must hide it from them."

"Yes," said Mrs. Heywood. "If the Atkinson Browns suspect anything it
will be all over the neighborhood."

Herbert had a look of anguish in his eyes. "Good Heavens, yes. My
reputation will be ruined."

Once again they heard Mr. Atkinson Brown's voice in the hall.

"I see we are the first to arrive," he said in a loud, cheery tone.

"Mother," whispered Herbert, "we must keep up appearances, at all
costs."

"I'll try to, darling," said Mrs. Heywood, clasping his arm for a
moment.

Herbert made a desperate effort to be hopeful.

"Clare is sure to be back in a few minutes. We're frightening ourselves
for nothing.... I shall have something to say to her to-night when the
guests are gone."

Mrs. Heywood's eyes filled with tears, and she looked at her son as
though she knew that Clare would never come back.

"My poor boy!" she said.

"Play the game, mother," said Herbert. "For Heaven's sake play the
game."

He had no sooner whispered these words than Mr. and Mrs. Atkinson Brown
entered the room, having taken off their outdoor things. Mr. Brown was
a tall, stout, heavily built man with a bald head and a great expanse
of white waistcoat. His wife was a little bird-like woman in pink silk.
They were both elaborately cheerful.

"Hulloh, Heywood, my boy!" said the elderly man.

"So delighted to come!" said Mrs. Atkinson Brown to Herbert's mother.

Herbert grasped the man's hand and wrung it warmly.

"Good of you to come. Devilish good."

"Glad to come," said Mr. Atkinson Brown. "Glad to come, my lad. How's
the wife?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Atkinson Brown, glancing round the room. "Where's dear
Clare?... Well, I hope."

Herbert tried to hide his extreme nervousness.

"Oh, tremendously fit, thanks. She'll be here in a minute or two."

Mrs. Heywood appeared less nervous than her son. Yet her voice trembled
a little when she said:

"Do sit down, Mrs. Atkinson Brown."

She pulled a chair up, but the lady protested laughingly:

"Oh, not so near the fire. I can't afford to neglect my complexion at my
time of life!"

Her husband was rubbing his hands in front of the fire. He had no
complexion to spoil.

"Horrible weather for this time o' year," he said.

"Damnable," said Herbert, agreeing with him almost too cordially.

"Is dear Clare suited at present?" asked the lady.

"Well," said Mrs. Heywood, "we still have Mollie, but she is a great
trouble--a very great trouble."

"Oh, the eternal servant problem!" said Mrs. Atkinson Brown. "I thought
I had a perfect jewel, but I found her inebriated in the kitchen only
yesterday."

Herbert was racking his brains for conversational subjects. He fell back
on an old one. "Business going strong?"

"Business!" said Mr. Atkinson Brown. "My dear boy, business has been the
very devil since this Radical Government has been in power."

"I am sure there has been a great deal of trouble in the world lately,"
said Mrs. Heywood.

"I'm sure I can't bear to read even the dear _Daily Mail_," said Mrs.
Atkinson Brown.

"What with murders and revolutions and eloping vicars and
suffragettes----"

"Those outrageous women ought to be whipped," said her husband. "Spoiled
my game of golf last Saturday. Found 'Votes for Women' on the first
green. Made me positively ill."

"I am glad dear Clare is so sensible," said Mrs. Atkinson Brown.

"Yes. Oh, quite so," said Mrs. Heywood, flushing a little.

"Oh, rather!" said Herbert.

"We domestic women are in the minority now," said Mrs. Atkinson Brown.

"The spirit of revolt is abroad, Herbert," said her husband. "Back to
the Home is the only watchword which will save the country from these
shameless hussies. Flog 'em back, I would. Thank God _our_ wives have
more sense."

"Yes, there's something in that," said Herbert.

Mrs. Atkinson Brown was gazing round the room curiously. She seemed to
suspect something.

"You are sure dear Clare is quite well?" she asked. "No little trouble?"

"She is having a slight trouble with her back hair," said Herbert.
"Won't lie down, you know."

He laughed loudly, as though he had made a good joke.

Mrs. Atkinson Brown half rose from her chair.

"Oh, let me go to the rescue of the dear thing!"

Herbert was terror-stricken.

"No--no! It was only my joke," he said eagerly. "She will be here in a
minute. Do sit down."

Mrs. Heywood remembered her promise to "play the game."

"Won't you sing something, dear?" she said to her visitor.

"Oh, not so early in the evening," said the lady. "Besides, I have a
most awful cold."

"Oh, I'm so sorry," said Herbert. "I am beastly sorry."

As he spoke the bell rang again, and Herbert went over to his mother and
whispered to her:

"Do you think that is Clare? My God, this is awful!"

"Clare was not looking very well the other day when I saw her,"
said Mrs. Atkinson Brown. "I thought perhaps she was sickening for
something."

"Oh, I assure you she was never better in her life," said Herbert.

"But you men are so unobservant. I am dying to see dear Clare, to ask
her how she feels. Are you sure I can't be of any use to her?"

She rose again from her chair, and Herbert gave a beseeching look to his
mother.

"Oh, quite sure, dear," said Mrs. Heywood. "_Do_ sit down."

"Besides, you have such a frightful cold," said Herbert, with extreme
anxiety. "_Do_ keep closer to the fire."

Mrs. Atkinson Brown laughed a little curiously:

"You seem very anxious to keep me from dear Clare!"

This persistence annoyed her husband and he rebuked her sternly.

"Sit still, Beatrice, can't you? Don't you see that we have arrived a
little early and that we have taken Clare unawares? Let the poor girl go
on with her dressing."

"Don't bully me in other people's flats, Charles," said Mrs. Atkinson
Brown. "I have enough of it at home."

Her husband was not to be quelled.

"Herbert and I can hardly hear ourselves speak," he growled, "you keep
up such a clatter."

Mrs. Atkinson Brown flared up.

"I come out to get the chance of speaking a little. For eight years now
I have been listening to your interminable monologues, and can't get a
word in edgeways."

"Stuff and nonsense!" said her husband.

"Have you been married eight years already, my dear?" asked Mrs. Heywood
in a tone of amiable surprise.

"Well, we are in our Eighth Year," said Mrs. Atkinson Brown.

Mrs. Heywood seemed startled.

"Oh, I see," she said thoughtfully.

"I assure you it seems longer," said the lady. "I suppose it's because
Charles makes me so very tired sometimes."

Two other visitors now arrived. They were Mr. Hargreaves and his
wife: the former a young man in immaculate evening clothes, with
lofty manners; the latter a tall, thin, elegant, bored-looking woman,
supercilious and snobbish.

Herbert went forward hurriedly to his new guests.

"How splendid of you to come! How are you, sir?"

"Oh, pretty troll-loll, thanks," said Mr. Hargreaves.

Herbert shook hands with Mrs. Hargreaves.

"How do you do?"

"We're rather late," said the lady, "but this is in an out-of-the-way
neighborhood, is it not?"

"Oh, do you think so?" said Herbert. "I always considered Battersea Park
very central."

Mrs. Hargreaves raised her eyebrows.

"It's having to get across the river that makes the journey so very
tedious. I should die if I had to live across the river."

"There's something in what you say," said Herbert, anxious to agree with
everybody. "I must apologize for dragging you all this way. Of course,
you people in Mayfair----Won't you sit down?"

Mr. Hargreaves became a victim of mistaken identity, shaking hands with
Mrs. Atkinson Brown.

"Mrs. Heywood, I presume. I must introduce myself."

Mrs. Hargreaves also greeted the other lady, under the same impression.

"Oh, how do you do? So delighted to make your acquaintance."

Mrs. Atkinson Brown was much amused, and laughed gaily.

"But I am _not_ Mrs. Heywood. I cannot boast of such a handsome
husband!"

"Oh, can't you, by Jove!" said Mr. Atkinson Brown, rather nettled by his
wife's candor.

"Oh, I beg pardon," said Mr. Hargreaves. "Where _is_ Mrs. Heywood?"

"Yes, where is Mrs. Heywood?" said his wife.

Herbert looked wildly at his mother.

"Where is she, mother? Do tell her to hurry up.

"Yes, dear," said Mrs. Heywood meekly. She moved uncertainly toward the
bedroom door, and then hesitated: "Perhaps she will not be very long
now."

"The fact is," said Herbert desperately, "she is not very well."

Mrs. Atkinson Brown was astounded.

"But you said she was perfectly well!"

"Did I?" said Herbert. "Oh, well, er--one has to say these things, you
know. Polite fictions, eh?"

He laughed nervously.

"The fact is, she has a little headache. Hasn't she, mother?"

"Yes, dear," said Mrs. Heywood. "You know best."

Mrs. Atkinson Brown rose from her chair again.

"Oh, I will go and see how the poor dear feels. So bad of you to hide it
from us."

"Oh, please sit down," said Herbert in a voice of anguish. "I assure you
it is nothing very much. She will be in directly. Make yourself at home,
Mrs. Hargreaves. This chair? Mother, show Mrs. Atkinson Brown Clare's
latest photograph."

"Oh, yes!" said Mrs. Heywood. "It is an excellent likeness."

"But I want to see Clare herself!" said Mrs. Atkinson Brown plaintively.

"Sit down, Beatrice!" said her husband.

"Bully!" said Mrs. Atkinson Brown, sitting down with a flop.

Herbert addressed himself to Mr. Hargreaves.

"Draw up your chair, sir. You will have a cigar, I am sure."

He offered him one from a newly opened box. Mr. Hargreaves took one,
smelled it, and then put it back.

"No, thanks," he said. "I will have one of my own, if I may. Sure the
ladies don't mind?"

"Oh, they like it," said Herbert.

"We have to pretend to," said Mrs. Hargreaves.

"Well, if you don't, you ought to," said her husband. "It's a man's
privilege."

Mrs. Hargreaves smiled icily.

"One of his many privileges."

"Will you have a cigarette, Mrs. Hargreaves?" said Herbert.

But Mr. Hargreaves interposed:

"Oh, I don't allow my wife to smoke. It's a beastly habit."

Mr. Atkinson Brown, who had accepted one of Herbert's cigars, but after
some inquiry had also decided to smoke one of his own, applauded this
sentiment with enthusiasm.

"Hear, hear! Hear, hear! Disgusting habit for women."

"Of course I agree with you," said Herbert. "Clare never smokes. But I
don't lay down the law for other people's wives."

Mr. Hargreaves laughed.

"A very sound notion, Heywood. It takes all one's time to manage one's
own, eh?"

"And then it is not always effective," said his wife. "Even the worm
will turn."

Mr. Hargreaves answered his wife with a heavy retort:

"If it does I knock it on the head with a spade."

Mr. Atkinson Brown laughed loudly again. He seemed to like this man
Hargreaves.

"Good epigram! By Jove, I must remember that!"

Herbert was on tenter-hooks when the conversation languished a little.

"Won't you sing a song, Mrs. Atkinson Brown? I am sure my friend, Mr.
Hargreaves, will appreciate your voice."

"Oh, rather!" said Hargreaves. "Though I don't pretend to understand a
note of music." Mrs. Atkinson Brown shook her head:

"I couldn't think of singing before our hostess appears."

The lady's husband seemed at last to have caught the spirit of her
suspicion. He spoke in a hoarse whisper to his wife:

"Where the devil _is_ the woman?"

Herbert Heywood realized that he was on the edge of a precipice. Not
much longer could he hold on to this intolerable situation. He tried to
speak cheerfully, but there was anguish in his voice when he said:

"Well, let's have a game of nap."

"Oh, Lord, no," said Hargreaves. "I only play nap on the way to a race.
You don't sport a billiard table, do you?"

Herbert Heywood was embarrassed.

"Er--a billiard table?" He looked round the room as though he might
discover a billiard table. "I'm afraid not."

"Don't be absurd, Edward," said Mrs. Hargreaves. "People don't play
billiards on the wrong side of the river."

Conversation languished again, and Herbert was becoming desperate. He
seized upon the sandwiches and handed them round.

"Won't anybody have a sandwich to pass the time away? Mrs. Hargreaves?"

Mrs. Hargreaves laughed in her supercilious way.

"It's rather early, isn't it?"

"Good Lord, no!" said Herbert. "I am sure you must be hungry. Let me beg
of you--Mother, haven't you got any cake anywhere?"

"Yes, dear," said Mrs. Heywood. She, too, was suffering mental tortures.

"Atkinson Brown. You will have a sandwich," said Herbert.

He bent over to his visitor and spoke in a gloomy voice:

"Take one, for God's sake."

Atkinson Brown was startled.

"Yes! Yes! By all means," he said hastily. Herbert handed the sandwiches
about rather wildly. "Mother, you will have one, won't you? Mrs.
Atkinson Brown?... And one for me, eh?"

Mrs. Hargreaves eyed her host curiously.

"I hope your wife is not seriously unwell, Mr. Heywood."

Herbert was losing his nerve.

"Can't we talk of something else?" he said despairingly. "What is your
handicap at golf?"

"My husband objects to my playing golf," said the lady.

"It takes women out of the home so much," said Hargreaves. "Play with
the babies is my motto for women."

Mrs. Atkinson Brown shook her finger at him, and laughed in a shrill
voice:

"But supposing they haven't got any babies?"

"They ought to have 'em," said Hargreaves.

It was Atkinson Brown who interrupted this interesting discussion, which
promised to bring up the great problem of eugenics, so favored now as a
drawing-room topic. He had been turning his sandwich this way and that,
and he leaned forward to his host:

"Excuse me, Herbert, old man. There's something the matter with this
sandwich."

"Something the matter with it?" asked Herbert anxiously.

"It's covered with red spots," said Atkinson Brown.

"Spots--what kind of spots?"

"Looks like blood," said Atkinson Brown, giving an uneasy guffaw.
"Suppose there hasn't been a murder in this flat?"

All the guests leaned forward and gazed at the sandwich.

Herbert spoke in a tragic whisper to his mother:

"Mollie's finger!"

Then he explained the matter airily to the general company.

"Oh, it's a special kind of sandwich with the gravy outside. A new fad,
you know."

"Oh, I see," said Atkinson Brown, much relieved. "Hadn't heard of it.
Still, I think I'll have an ordinary one, if you don't mind."

Herbert was muttering little prayers remembered from his childhood.

"Mrs. Hargreaves," he said cajolingly, "I am sure you play. Won't you
give us a little tune?"

"Well, if it won't disturb your wife," said the lady.

"Oh, I am sure it won't. She'll love to hear you."

He felt immensely grateful to this good-natured woman.

"Edward, get my music-roll," said Mrs. Hargreaves.

But Herbert had a horrible disappointment when Hargreaves said:

"By Jove! I believe I left it in the taxi. Yes, I am sure I did!"

Herbert put his hand up to his aching head and whispered his anguish:

"Oh, my God! Now how shall I mark time?"

"But I reminded you about it!" said Mrs. Hargreaves.

"Yes, I know. But you are always reminding me about something."

"Well, play something by heart," said Herbert in a pleading way. "Any
old thing. The five-finger exercises."

"I am very out of practice," said Mrs. Hargreaves. "But still I will
try."

Herbert breathed a prayer of thankfulness, and hurried to conduct the
lady to the music-stool.

As he did so there was a noise outside the window. Newspaper men were
shouting their sing-song: "Raid on the 'Ouse. Suffragette Outrage. Raid
on the 'Ouse of Commins."

"What are the devils saying?" asked Hargreaves, trying to catch the
words.

"Something about the Suffragettes," growled Atkinson Brown.

"I'm afraid it will give poor Clare a worse headache," said Mrs.
Atkinson Brown.

Mrs. Heywood tried to be reassuring:

"Oh, I don't think so."

At that moment there was a loud ring at the bell. The sound was so
prolonged that it startled the company.

Herbert listened intently and then whispered to his mother:

"That must be Clare!"

"Oh, if it is only Clare!" said Mrs. Heywood. When Mrs. Hargreaves had
struck a few soft chords on the piano there was the sound of voices
speaking loudly in the hall. Everybody listened, surprised at the
interruption. Mollie's voice could be heard quite clearly.

"I told you it was our At Home night, Miss Vernon."

"I can't help that."

The drawing-room door opened, _sans ceremonie_, and Madge Vernon came
in. Her face was flushed, and she had sparkling eyes. She stood in the
doorway looking at the company with a smile, as though immensely amused
by some joke of her own.

"I'm sorry to interrupt you good people," she said very cheerfully, "but
I have come on urgent business, which brooks no delay, as they say in
melodrama."

Mrs. Heywood gazed at her with frightened eyes.

"My dear!... What has happened?"

"What's the matter?" said Herbert, turning very pale.

"Oh, it's nothing to be alarmed at," said Madge Vernon. "It's about your
wife."

"My wife?"

"About Clare?" exclaimed Mrs. Atkinson Brown.

Mrs. Hargreaves craned her head forward, like a bird reaching for its
seed.

"I wonder--" she said.

Madge Vernon grinned at them all.

"It'll be in the papers to-morrow, so you are all bound to know.
Besides, why keep it a secret? It's a thing to be proud of!"

"Proud of what?" asked Herbert in a frenzied tone of voice.

Madge Vernon enjoyed the drama of her announcement.

"Clare has been arrested in a demonstration outside the House to-night."

"Arrested!"

The awful word was spoken almost simultaneously by all the company in
that drawingroom of Intellectual Mansions, S. W.

"She's quite safe," said Madge Vernon calmly. "I've come to ask you to
bail her out."

Herbert's guests rose and looked at him in profound astonishment and
indignation.

"But you told us--" cried Mrs. Atkinson Brown.

Herbert Heywood gave a queer groan of anger and horror.

"Bail her out!... Oh, my God!"

He sank down into his chair and held his head in his hands.



CHAPTER III

Herbert Heywood was in the depths of an arm-chair reading the paper.
Mrs. Heywood was on the other side of the fireplace with a book on her
lap. But she was dozing over it, and her head nodded on to her chest.
Herbert turned over the leaves of the paper and then studied the
advertisements. He had a look of extreme boredom. Every now and then he
yawned quietly and lengthily. At last he let the paper fall on to the
floor, and uttered his thoughts aloud, so that his mother was awakened.

"Did you say anything, Herbert?" said the old lady.

"Nothing, mother, except that I am bored stiff."

He went over to the piano and played "God Save the King" with one
finger, in a doleful way.

Mrs. Heywood glanced over her spectacles at him.

"Would you like a game of cribbage, dear?"

"No, thanks, mother," said Herbert hastily. "Not in the afternoon."

Mrs. Heywood listened to his fumbling notes for a moment and then spoke
again.

"Won't you go out for a walk? It would do you good, Herbert."

"Think so?" said Herbert bitterly; without accepting the suggestion,
he played "Three Blind Mice," also with one finger. It sounded more
melancholy than "God Save the King."

"I don't like to see you moping indoors on a bright day like this," said
Mrs. Heywood. "Take a brisk walk round the Park. It would cheer you up."

Herbert resented the idea fiercely.

"A long walk in Battersea Park would make a pessimist of a laughing
hyena."

Mrs. Heywood was silent for some time, but then she made a last effort.

"Well, go and see a friend, dear. The Atkinson Browns, for instance."

"They do nothing but nag at each other," said Herbert. "And Atkinson
Brown hasn't as much brains as a Teddy Bear. Besides, he's become
friendly with that fellow Hargreaves, and I'm not going to take the risk
of meeting a man who turned me out of my job."

Mrs. Heywood became agitated.

"Are you sure of that, Herbert? I can't think he could have been so
malicious, after coming here and eating your salt, as it were. What was
his reason?"

"He made no disguise of it," said Herbert bitterly. "I saw his letter
to my chief. Said that it was quite impossible to employ a man who was
mixed up with the militant Suffragettes. Damned liar!"

"Good Heavens!" said Mrs. Heywood.

"Of course it was all due to that ghastly evening when Clare got
arrested. She knows that well enough."

"Well, dear," said Mrs. Heywood, "she has tried to make amends. The
shock of your losing your place has made her much more gentle and
loving. It has brought back all her loyalty to you, Herbert."

"Loyalty!" said Herbert. "Where is she now, I should like to know?"

"She is gone to some committee meeting."


"She's always got a committee meeting," said Herbert angrily, kicking
the hassock.

"She joins a new committee for some kind of social reform nonsense every
blessed day."

"Well, it keeps her busy, dear," said Mrs. Heywood gently. "Besides,
it is not all committee work. Since she has been visiting the poor and
helping in the slums she has been ever so much better in health and
spirits."

"Yes, but where the devil do I come in?" asked Herbert.

"Don't you think you might go out, dear? Just for a little while?"

"I don't _want_ to go out, mother," said Herbert with suppressed heat.

"Very well, dear."

Herbert stood in front of the fireplace and rattled the keys in his
pocket moodily.

"What's the good of toiling to keep a home together if one's wife
abandons her husband's society on every possible pretext? A home! This
place is just a receiving office for begging letters and notices for
committees and subcommittees."

Mrs. Heywood sighed.

"It might have been worse, Herbert."

"As far as I'm concerned, it couldn't be worse. I'm the most miserable
wretch in London. Without a job and without a wife."

"You'll get a place all right, dear. You have the promise of one
already. And you know Clare's health was in a very queer state before
Miss Vernon made her take an interest in helping other people. I was
seriously alarmed about her."

"What about me?" asked Herbert. "No one troubles to get alarmed about
me."

"Are you unwell, dear?" said Mrs. Hey-wood anxiously.

"Of course I'm unwell."

"Darling!" said Mrs. Heywood, still more anxiously.

"Oh, there's nothing the matter with me from a physical point of view.
But mentally and morally I'm a demnition wreck."

"Aren't you taking your iron pills regularly?" said his mother.

"Pills! As if pills could cure melancholia!" Mrs. Heywood was aghast at
that dreadful word.

"Good Heavens, dear!"

"I'm on the verge of a nervous breakdown," said Herbert.

"Oh, Herbert," cried his mother, "I hope not!"

"I'm working up to a horrible crisis," said Herbert.

"What are your symptoms? How do you feel?" asked his mother.

"I feel like smashing things," said Herbert savagely.

He sat down at the piano again and played "We Won't Go Home Till
Morning," but missed his note, and banged on to the wrong one in a
temper.

"There goes a note, anyhow. Thank goodness for that!"

At that moment Mollie came in holding a silver tray with a pile of
letters.

"The post, sir."

"Well, something to break the infernal monotony," said Herbert with a
sigh of relief.

He took up the letters and examined them.

"Life is a bit flat, sir," said Mollie, "since we gave up having At
Homes."

"Hold your tongue," said Herbert.

Mollie tossed her head and muttered an impertinent sentence as she left
the room.

"Can't even open my mouth without somebody jumping down my throat. I
will break that girl's neck one of these days," said Herbert.

He went through the letters and read out the names on them.

"Mrs. Herbert Heywood, _Mrs._ Herbert Heywood, Mrs. Herbert Heywood,
Mrs. Herbert--Why, every jack one is for Mrs. Herbert Heywood! Nobody
writes to me, of course. No one cares a damn about _me_."

"Your mother cares, Herbert," said the old lady.

"I shall take to drink--or the devil," said Herbert, and he added
thoughtfully, "I wonder which is the most fun?"

"Herbert, dear!" cried his mother, "don't say such awful things."

"The worst of it is," said Herbert bitterly, "they're both so beastly
expensive."

There was the noise of a latchkey in the hall, and Mrs. Heywood gave a
little cry.

"There's Clare!"

"Think so?" said Herbert, listening.

From the hall came the sound of Clare's voice singing a merry tune.

"She's in a cheerful mood, anyhow," said Mrs. Heywood, smiling.

Herbert answered her gloomily.

"Horribly cheerful."

The mother and son looked toward the door as Clare came in. There was a
noticeable change in her appearance since the evening At Home. There was
more color in her cheeks and the wistfulness had gone out of her eyes.
She was brisk, keen and bright.

"Well, mother," she said, "been having a nap?"

"Oh, no, dear," said the old lady, who never admitted that she made a
habit of naps.

"Hulloh, Herbert," said Clare. "Have you got that new post yet?"

"No," said Herbert. "And I don't expect I shall get it."

"Oh, yes, you will, dear old boy. Don't you worry! Have you been home
long?"

"Seems like a lifetime."

Clare laughed.

"Not so long as that, surely?"

She came forward to him and put her arm about his neck, and offered him
her cheek. He looked at it doubtfully for a moment and then kissed her
in a "distant" manner.

"I'm frightfully busy, old boy," said Clare. "I just have a few minutes
and then I shall have to dash off again."

"Dash off where?" asked Herbert, with signs of extreme irritation. "Dash
it all, surely you aren't going out again?"

"Only round the corner," said Clare quietly. "I have got to look into
the case of a poor creature who is making match-boxes. Goodness knows
how many for a farthing! And yet she's so cheerful and plucky that it
does one good to see her. Oh, it kills one's own selfishness, Herbert."

"Well, why worry about her, then, if she's so pleased with herself?"

"She's plucky," said Clare, "but she's starving. It's a bad case of
sweated labor."

"Sweated humbug," said Herbert. "What am I going to do all the evening,
I should like to know? Sit here alone?"

"I don't suppose I shall be long," said Clare. "Besides, there's
mother."

"Yes, there's mother," said Herbert. "But when a man's married he wants
his wife."

Clare was now busy looking over her letters.

"Can't you go to the club?" she asked.

"I'm dead sick of the club. That boiled-shirt Bohemianism is the biggest
rot in the world."

"Take mother to the theatre," said Clare cheerfully.

"The theatre bores me stiff. These modern plays set one's nerves on
edge."

"Well, haven't you got a decent novel or anything?" said Clare, reading
one of her letters.

"A decent novel! There's no such thing nowadays, and they give me the
hump."

Clare was reading another letter with absorbed interest, but she
listened with half an ear, as it were, to her husband.

"Play mother a game of cribbage, then," she said.

"Look here, Clare," said Herbert furiously, "I shall begin to throw
things about in a minute."

"Don't get hysterical, Herbert," said Clare calmly. "Especially as I
have got some good news for you."

As she spoke these words she looked across a Demonstration to him with a
curious smile and added: "A big surprise, Herbert!"

"A surprise?" said Herbert with sarcasm. "Have you discovered another
widow in distress?"

"Well, I have," said Clare, "but it's not that."

Mrs. Heywood glanced from her son to her daughter-in-law, and seemed to
imagine that she might be disturbing an intimate conversation.

"I will be back in a minute. I won't disturb you two dears," she said,
as she left the room quietly.

"You won't disturb us, mother," said Clare.

But the old lady smiled and said, "I won't be long."

"Are you going to get arrested again?" asked Herbert. "Do you want me to
bail you out? Because by the Lord, I won't!"

"Oh, that was quite an accident," said Clare, laughing. "Besides, I gave
you my word to abstain from the militant movement, and you can't say I
have broken the pledge."

"You have broken a good many other things."

"What kind of things?" asked Clare. "You aren't alluding to that window
again, are you?"

"You have broken my illusions on married life," said Herbert, with
tragic emphasis.

"Ah," said Clare, "that is 'the Great Illusion,' by the Angel in the
House."

"You have broken my ideals of womanhood."

"They were false ideals, Herbert," said Clare very quietly. "It was only
a plaster ideal which broke. The real woman is of flesh and blood. The
real woman is so much better than the sham. Don't you think so?"

"It depends on what you call sham," said Herbert.

"I was a sham until that plaster image of me broke. I indulged in sham
sentiment, sham emotion, sham thoughts. Look at me now, since I went
outside these four walls and faced the facts of life, and saw other
people's misery besides my own, and the happiness of people with so much
more to bear than I had. Look into my eyes, Herbert."

She smiled at him tenderly, alluringly. "What's the good?" said Herbert.

"Do you see a weary soul looking out?"

Herbert looked into his wife's eyes for a moment and then stared down at
the carpet.

"I used to see love looking out," he said.

"It's looking out now," said Clare. "Love of life instead of discontent.
Love of this great throbbing human nature, with so much to be put right.
Love of poor people, and little children, and brave hearts. Madge Vernon
taught me that, for she has a soul bigger than the suffrage, and ideals
that go beyond the vote. I have blown the cobwebs out of my eyes,
Herbert. I see straight."

"How about _me?_" asked Herbert. "That's what I want to know. Where do I
come in?"

"Oh, you come in all right!" said Clare. "You are a part of life and
have a big share of my love."

"I don't want to be shared up, thanks," said Herbert.

She stroked his hand.

"I love you much better now that I see you with this new straight vision
of mine. At any rate I love what is real in you and not what is sham.
And I have learned the duties of love, Herbert. I believe I am a better
wife to you. I think I have learned the meaning of marriage, and of
married love."

She spoke with a touch of emotion, and there was a thrill in her voice.

"You are in love with your social work and your whining beggars, not
with me. You are getting farther and farther away from me. You leave me
alone; I come back to a neglected home."

"Why, Mollie and mother look after it beautifully," said Clare very
cheerfully.

Herbert gave expression to his grievances.

"I come home and ask, 'Where is Clare?' and get the eternal answer,
'Clare is out.' I am an abandoned husband, and by Heaven I won't stand
it. I will----"

"What, Herbert?" said Clare, smiling up at him. "Don't do anything rash,
old boy."

"I--have a good mind to make love to somebody else's wife. But they're
all so beastly ugly!"

"Perhaps somebody else's wife won't respond," said Clare. "Some women
are very cold."

"I'll take to drink. I have already given mother full warning."

"I am sure it will disagree with you, dear," said Clare.

"You scoff at me," said Herbert passionately. "I think we had better
live apart."

"You would get even more bored than before. Dear old boy. _Do_ be
reasonable. _Do_ cultivate a sense of humor."

"This is not a farce," said Herbert. "It's a horrible tragedy."

"Take up a hobby or something," said Clare. "Golf--or fretwork."

Herbert was furious.

"Fretwork! Is that a joke or an insult?"

"It was only a suggestion!" said Clare. Herbert jumped up from his
chair.

"I had better go and drown myself straight away..."?

He turned at the door, and gave a tragic look at his wife. "Good-by."

Clare smiled at him.

"Won't you kiss me before you go?"

"I will take my pipe," said Herbert, coming back to the mantelshelf.
"It's my only friend."

"It will go out in the water," said Clare. "Besides, Herbert, don't you
want to hear my good news? My big surprise?"

"No," said Herbert. "Nothing you could say or do could surprise me now.
If mother wants me I shall be in the study for the rest of the evening."

"But I thought you were going to the river?", said Clare teasingly.

Herbert was not to be amused.

"I suppose you think you're funny? I don't," he said.

Then he went out and slammed the door. Clare was left alone, and there
was a smile about her lips.

"Poor old Herbert," she said. "I think he will have the surprise of his
life."

She laughed quietly to herself, and then looked up and listened as she
heard a slight noise. She stood up with a sudden look of anger as she
saw Gerald Bradshaw gazing at her through the open French windows.

The man spoke to her in his soft, silky voice.

"Clare, why are you so cruel to me? I have been ill because of your
heartlessness."

Clare answered him sternly.

"I thought I had got rid of you. Have you come back to plague me?"

"I tried to forget you," said Gerald Bradshaw. "I went as far as Italy
to forget you. I made love to many women to forget you. But I have come
back. And I shall always come back, because you are my mate and I cannot
live without you."

Clare's voice rang out in the room.

"God ought not to let you live. Every word you speak is a lie. You are
a thief of women's honor. Get away from my window, because your very
breath is poison."

The man was astonished, a little scared. "You did not speak like that
once, Clare. You let me hold your hand. You trembled when I leaned
toward you."

"I was ill and weak," said Clare, "and you tried to tempt my weakness. I
was blind and did not see the evil in you. But now I am well and strong,
and my eyes are opened to the truth of things. If you don't go I will
call my husband and he will throw you over that balcony at one word from
me."

Gerald Bradshaw laughed scoffingly.

"Your husband! I could kill him between my thumb and forefinger."

"He is strong because he is good," said Clare. "I will call him now."

She went quickly toward the bell.

"You needn't call him," said Gerald Bradshaw. "I would dislike to hurt
the little man."

"You are going?" asked Clare.

"Yes, I am going," said the man, "because something has changed in you."

Clare gave a cheerful little laugh.

"You are right."

"I see that now. I have lost my spell over you. Something has broken."

"Are you going," said Clare sternly, "or shall I call my man?"

"I am going, Clare," said the man at the window. "I am going to find
another mate. She and I will talk evil of you, and hate you, as I
hate you now. Farewell, foolish one!" He withdrew from the window, and
instantly Clare rushed to it, shut it and bolted it. Then she pulled
down the blind, and stood, panting, with her back to it and her arms
outstretched.

"God be praised!" she said. "He has gone out of my life. I am a clean
woman again." At that moment Mrs. Heywood entered. "Must you go out
again, Clare?" said the old lady.

"Only for a little while, mother," said Clare, a little breathless after
her emotion.

"Is anything the matter, dear?" said Mrs. Heywood. "You look rather
flustered."

"Oh, nothing is the matter!" said Clare. "Only I am very happy."

Mrs. Heywood smiled at her.

"It makes me happy to see you so well and bright," she said.

"I don't get on your nerves so much, eh, mother?"

She laughed quietly.

"Well, I must go and tidy my hair."

She moved toward the bedroom, but stopped to pack up her letters.

"I am so sorry you have to go out," said the old lady.

"I shan't be more than a few minutes," said Clare. "But I must go.
Besides, after this I am going to _give_ up some of my visiting work."

"Give it up, dear?"

"Yes. One must be moderate even in district visiting."

She went into the bedroom, but left the door open so that she could hear
her mother.

"Clare!" said the old lady.

"Yes, mother."

"What is that surprise you were going to give us?"

"Surprise, mother?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Heywood. "The good news?"

"Oh, yes, I forgot," said Clare. "Come in and I will tell you."

Mrs. Heywood went into the bedroom. Outside, in the street, a man with
a fiddle was playing the "Intermezzo." Presently both women came out.
Clare was smiling, with her arm round Mrs. Heywood's neck. Mrs. Heywood
was wiping her eyes as though crying a little.

"Cheer up," said Clare. "It's nothing to cry about."

"I am crying because I am so glad," said Mrs. Heywood.

"Well, that's a funny thing to do," said Clare, laughing gaily. "Now I
must run away. You won't let Herbert drown himself, will you?"

"No, dear," said Mrs. Heywood, wiping her eyes.

"Who would have thought it!" said Mrs.

Heywood, speaking to herself as her daughter-in-law left the room.

She went over to the mantelpiece and took up her son's photograph and
kissed it. Then she went to the door and stood out in the hall and
called in a sweet old woman's voice:

"Herbert! Herbert, dear!"

"Are you calling, mother?" answered Herbert from another room.

"Yes," said Mrs. Heywood. "I want you."

"I don't feel a bit like cribbage, mother,"' said Herbert.

"I don't want you to play cribbage to-night," said the old lady. "I have
something to say to you."

"Has Clare gone?" asked Herbert, still calling from the other room.

"Yes," said Mrs. Heywood. "But she won't be long."

"Oh, all right. I'll be along in a moment."

Mrs. Heywood went back into the room and waited for her son eagerly.
Presently he came in with a pipe in his hand and book under his arm. He
had changed into a shabby old jacket, and was in carpet slippers.

"What's the matter, mother?" he asked.

"There's nothing the matter," said the old lady; then she became very
excited, and raised her hands and cried out:

"At least, everything is the matter. It's the only thing that matters!
... Oh, Herbert!"

She laughed and cried at the same time so that her son was alarmed and
stared at her in amazement.

"You aren't ill, are you?" he said. "Shall I send for a doctor?"

Mrs. Heywood shook her trembling old head.

"I'm quite well. I never felt so well."

"You had better sit down, mother," said Herbert.

He took her hand and led her to a chair.

"What's up, eh, old lady? Mollie hasn't run away, has she?"

The old lady took his hand and fondled it.

"Herbert, my son, I've wonderful news for you."

"News?" said Herbert. "Did you find it in the evening paper?"

"It's going to make a lot of difference to us all," said Mrs. Heywood.
"No more cribbage, Herbert!"

"Thank heaven for that!" said Herbert.

"And not so much social work for Clare."

"Well, let's be thankful for small mercies," said Herbert.

"Bend your head down and let me whisper to you," said Mrs. Heywood.

She put her hands up to his head, and drew it down, and whispered
something into his ears.

It was something which astounded him.

He started back and said "No!" as though he had heard something quite
incredible. Then he spoke in a whisper:

"By Jove!... Is that a fact?"

"It's the best fact that ever was, Herbert," said the old lady.

"Yes... it will make a bit of a difference," said Herbert thoughtfully.

Mrs. Heywood clasped her son's arm. There was a tremulous light in her
eyes and a great emotion in her voice.

"Herbert, I am an old woman and your mother. Sit down and let me talk to
you as I did in the old days when you were my small boy before a nursery
fire."

Herbert smiled at her; all the gloom had left his face.

"All right, mother.... By Jove, and I never guessed. And yet I ought to
have guessed. Things have been--different--lately."

He sat down on a hassock near the old lady with his knees tucked up. She
sat down, too, and stretched out a trembling hand to touch his hair.

"Once upon a time, Herbert, there was a young man and a young woman who
loved each other very dearly."

Herbert looked up and smiled at her.

"Are you sure, mother?"

"Perfectly sure. Then they married."

"And lived happily ever after? I bet they didn't!"

"No, not quite happily, because this is different from the fairy tales.
... After a time the husband began to think too much about his work,
while the wife stayed at home and thought too much about herself."

"It's a stale old yarn," said Herbert. "What happened then?"

"By degrees the wife began to think she hated her husband, because
although he gave her little luxuries and pretty clothes, and all the
things that pleased _him_, he never gave her the thing _she_ wanted."

"What was that?" asked Herbert.

"It was a magic charm to make her forget herself."

"Well, magic charms aren't easy to find," said Herbert.

"No.... But at last she went out to find it herself. And while she was
away the husband came home and missed her."

"Poor devil!" said Herbert. "Of course he did."

"Being a man," said Mrs. Heywood, giving a queer little laugh, "he
stayed at home more than he used to do, and then complained that he was
left too much alone. Just like his wife had complained."

"Well, hang it all," said Herbert, "she ought to have stayed with him."

"But then she wouldn't have found the magic charm," said Mrs. Heywood.
"Don't you see?... And she would have withered and withered away until
there was nothing left of her, and the husband would have been quite
alone--forever."

"Think so?" said Herbert very thoughtfully. "D'you think it would have
been as bad as that?"

"Yes," said Mrs. Heywood. "I'm sure of it."

"Well, what did happen?" asked Herbert. "Did she find the magic charm?
It wasn't a widow in distress, was it? Or Social Reform humbug?"

"No," said Mrs. Heywood; "that gave her a new interest in life because
it helped her to forget herself, some of her own little worries, some of
her brooding thoughts. But a good fairy who was looking after her worked
another kind of magic.... Herbert I It's the best magic for unhappy
women and unhappy homes, and it has been worked for you. Oh, my dear,
you ought to be very thankful."

"Yes," said Herbert, scratching his head. "Yes, I suppose so. But what's
the moral of the tale, mother? I'm hanged if I see."

Mrs. Heywood put her hand on her son's shoulder, as he sat on the
hassock by her chair.

"It's a moral told by an old woman who watched these two from the very
beginning. A husband mustn't expect his wife to stay at home for ever.
The home isn't big enough, Herbert. There's the great world outside
calling to her, calling, calling. The walls of a little fiat like this
are too narrow for the spirit and heart. If he keeps her there she
either pines and dies, or else----"

"What?" asked Herbert.

"Escapes, my dear," said the old lady very solemnly.

Herbert drew a deep, quivering breath.

"Then," said Mrs. Heywood, "nothing in the world can call her
back--except----"

"Except what?"

"A little child."

Herbert got up from the hassock and clasped the mantelshelf, and spoke
in a low, humble, grateful voice.

"Thank God, Clare has been called back!" he said.

Mrs. Heywood rose from her chair also, and caught hold of her son's
sleeve.

"Yes," she said, "yes. But even now she will want to spread her wings
a little. She must take short flights, Herbert, even now. She must wing
her way out to the big world at times. You will remember that, won't
you?"

"I'll try to remember," said Herbert. He bent his head over his hands on
the mantelshelf. "I've been selfish," he said. "Blinded with selfishness
and self-conceit. God forgive me."

"Perhaps we have all been a little selfish," said Mrs. Heywood quietly.
"But we shall have some one else to think about now. A new life,
Herbert. A new life is coming to us all!"

"Hush!" said Herbert. "Here's Clare."

The mother and son stood listening to the voice of Clare singing in the
hall. She was singing the old nursery rhyme of--

               "Sing a song of sixpence,

               A pocket-full of rye,

               Four and twenty blackbirds

               Baked in a pie,

               When the pie was opened-----"

Mrs. Heywood smiled into her son's eyes.

"I think I've left my spectacles in the other room," she said. She went
out into the hall, leaving her son alone.

And Herbert stood with his head raised, looking toward the door,
eagerly, like a lover waiting for his bride.

Then Clare came in. There was a smile about her lips, and she spoke
cheerfully.

"Well, you see I wasn't long."

Herbert strode toward her and took her hands and raised them to his
lips.

"Clare, sweetheart! Is it true? Have you been called back to me?"

Clare put her forehead down against his chest.

"I never went very far away," she said.

Presently Herbert spoke again with great cheerfulness.

"I say, Clare. It's a funny thing!"

"What's a funny thing?" asked Clare, smiling at him.

"Why, I was reading the advertisements in the paper to-night---"

"Were _they_ funny?" asked Clare.

"No," said Herbert, "but I saw something that would just suit us."

He went over to a side-table and picked up the newspaper. Sitting on the
edge of the table, he read out an advertisement.

"Here it is.... 'Chelsea--Semi-detached house, dining-room,
drawing-room, three bedrooms, and a large nursery. Shed for bicycle or
perambulator.'"

Clare laughed happily.

"Well, we might have both!" she said.

Herbert dropped the paper, came over to his wife, and kissed her hands
again.

THE END





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