Home
  By Author [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Title [ A  B  C  D  E  F  G  H  I  J  K  L  M  N  O  P  Q  R  S  T  U  V  W  X  Y  Z |  Other Symbols ]
  By Language
all Classics books content using ISYS

Download this book: [ ASCII ]

Look for this book on Amazon


We have new books nearly every day.
If you would like a news letter once a week or once a month
fill out this form and we will give you a summary of the books for that week or month by email.

Title: Limbo
Author: Huxley, Aldous
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Limbo" ***

This book is indexed by ISYS Web Indexing system to allow the reader find any word or number within the document.



available by the University of Toronto and the Internet
Archive.



LIMBO



BY THE SAME AUTHOR
LEDA; AND OTHER POEMS



LIMBO
BY ALDOUS HUXLEY

LONDON
CHATTO & WINDUS
1920



_All rights reserved_



CONTENTS

                                               PAGE

FARCICAL HISTORY OF RICHARD GREENOW               1

HAPPILY EVER AFTER                              116

EUPOMPUS GAVE SPLENDOUR TO ART BY NUMBERS       192

HAPPY FAMILIES                                  211

CYNTHIA                                         245

THE BOOKSHOP                                    259

THE DEATH OF LULLY                              269



LIMBO

FARCICAL HISTORY OF RICHARD GREENOW

I

THE most sumptuous present that Millicent received on her seventh
birthday was a doll's house. "With love to darling little Mill from
Aunty Loo." Aunt Loo was immensely rich, and the doll's house was
almost as grandiose and massive as herself.

It was divided into four rooms, each papered in a different colour and
each furnished as was fitting: beds and washstands and wardrobes in
the upstair rooms, arm-chairs and artificial plants below. "Replete
with every modern convenience; sumptuous appointments." There was even
a cold collation ready spread on the dining-room table--two scarlet
lobsters on a dish, and a ham that had been sliced into just enough to
reveal an internal complexion of the loveliest pink and white. One
might go on talking about the doll's house for ever, it was so
beautiful. Such, at any rate, was the opinion of Millicent's brother
Dick. He would spend hours opening and shutting the front door,
peeping through the windows, arranging and rearranging the furniture.
As for Millicent, the gorgeous present left her cold. She had been
hoping--and, what is more, praying, fervently, every night for a
month--that Aunty Loo would give her a toy sewing-machine (one of the
kind that works, though) for her birthday.

She was bitterly disappointed when the doll's house came instead. But
she bore it all stoically and managed to be wonderfully polite to
Aunty Loo about the whole affair. She never looked at the doll's
house: it simply didn't interest her.

Dick had already been at a preparatory school for a couple of terms.
Mr. Killigrew, the headmaster, thought him a promising boy. "Has quite
a remarkable aptitude for mathematics," he wrote in his report. "He
has started Algebra this term and shows a"--"quite remarkable"
scratched out (the language of reports is apt to be somewhat
limited)--"a very unusual grasp of the subject." Mr. Killigrew didn't
know that his pupil also took an interest in dolls: if he had, he
would have gibed at Dick as unmercifully and in nearly the same terms
as Dick's fellow-schoolboys--for shepherds grow to resemble their
sheep and pedagogues their childish charges. But of course Dick would
never have dreamt of telling anyone at school about it. He was chary
of letting even the people at home divine his weakness, and when
anyone came into the room where the doll's house was, he would put his
hands in his pockets and stroll out, whistling the tune of, "There is
a Happy Land far, far away, where they have Ham and Eggs seven times a
day," as though he had merely stepped in to have a look at the beastly
thing--just to give it a kick.

When he wasn't playing with the doll's house, Dick spent his holiday
time in reading, largely, devouringly. No length or
incomprehensibility could put him off; he had swallowed down _Robert
Elsmere_ in the three-volume edition at the age of eight. When he
wasn't reading he used to sit and think about Things in General and
Nothing in Particular; in fact, as Millicent reproachfully put it, he
just mooned about. Millicent, on the other hand, was always busily
doing something: weeding in the garden, or hoeing, or fruit-picking
(she could be trusted not to eat more than the recognized tariff--one
in twenty raspberries or one in forty plums); helping Kate in the
kitchen; knitting mufflers for those beings known vaguely as The
Cripples, while her mother read aloud in the evenings before bedtime.
She disapproved of Dick's mooning, but Dick mooned all the same.

When Dick was twelve and a half he knew enough about mathematics and
history and the dead languages to realize that his dear parents were
profoundly ignorant and uncultured. But, what was more pleasing to the
dear parents, he knew enough to win a scholarship at Æsop College,
which is one of our Greatest Public Schools.

If this were a Public School story, I should record the fact that,
while at Æsop, Dick swore, lied, blasphemed, repeated dirty stories,
read the articles in _John Bull_ about brothels disguised as
nursing-homes and satyrs disguised as curates; that he regarded his
masters, with very few exceptions, as fools, not even always
well-meaning. And so on. All which would be quite true, but beside the
point. For this is not one of the conventional studies of those clever
young men who discover Atheism and Art at School, Socialism at the
University, and, passing through the inevitable stage of Sex and
Syphilis after taking their B.A., turn into maturely brilliant
novelists at the age of twenty-five. I prefer, therefore, to pass over
the minor incidents of a difficult pubescence, touching only on those
points which seem to throw a light on the future career of our hero.

It is possible for those who desire it--incredible as the thing may
appear--to learn something at Æsop College. Dick even learnt a great
deal. From the beginning he was the young Benjamin of his mathematical
tutor, Mr. Skewbauld, a man of great abilities in his own art, and
who, though wholly incapable of keeping a form in order, could make
his private tuition a source of much profit to a mathematically minded
boy. Mr. Skewbauld's house was the worst in Æsop: Dick described it as
a mixture between a ghetto and a home for the mentally deficient, and
when he read in Sir Thomas Browne that it was a Vulgar Error to
suppose that Jews stink, he wrote a letter to the _School Magazine_
exploding that famous doctor as a quack and a charlatan, whose
statements ran counter to the manifest facts of everyday life in Mr.
Skewbauld's house. It may seem surprising that Dick should have read
Sir Thomas Browne at all. But he was more than a mere mathematician.
He filled the ample leisure, which is Æsop's most precious gift to
those of its Alumni who know how to use it, with much and varied
reading in history, in literature, in physical science, and in more
than one foreign language. Dick was something of a prodigy.

"Greenow's an intellectual," was Mr. Copthorne-Slazenger's
contemptuous verdict. "I have the misfortune to have two or three
intellectuals in my house. They're all of them friends of his. I think
he's a Bad Influence in the School." Copthorne-Slazenger regarded
himself as the perfect example of _mens sana in corpore sano_, the
soul of an English gentleman in the body of a Greek god. Unfortunately
his legs were rather too short and his lower lip was underhung like a
salmon's.

Dick had, indeed, collected about him a band of kindred spirits. There
was Partington, who specialized in history; Gay, who had read all the
classical writings of the golden age and was engaged in the study of
mediæval Latin; Fletton, who was fantastically clever and had brought
the art of being idle to a pitch never previously reached in the
annals of Æsop. These were his chief friends, and a queer-looking
group they made--Dick, small and dark and nervous; Partington, all
roundness, and whose spectacles were two moons in a moonface; Gay,
with the stiff walk of a little old man; and Fletton, who looked like
nobody so much as Mr. Jingle, tall and thin with a twisted, comical
face.

"An ugly skulking crew," Copthorne-Slazenger, conscious of his own
Olympian splendour, would say as he saw them pass.

With these faithful friends Dick should have been--and indeed for the
most part was--very happy. Between them they mustered up a great stock
of knowledge; they could discuss every subject under the sun. They
were a liberal education and an amusement to one another. There were
times, however, when Dick was filled with a vague, but acute,
discontent. He wanted something which his friends could not give him;
but what, but what? The discontent rankled under the surface, like a
suppressed measles. It was Lord Francis Quarles who brought it out and
made the symptoms manifest.

Francis Quarles was a superb creature, with the curly forehead of a
bull and the face and limbs of a Græco-Roman statue. It was a sight
worth seeing when he looked down through half-shut eyelids, in his
usual attitude of sleepy arrogance, on the world about him. He was in
effect what Mr. Copthorne-Slazenger imagined himself to be, and he
shared that gentleman's dislike for Dick and his friends. "Yellow
little atheists," he called them. He always stood up for God and the
Church of England; they were essential adjuncts to the aristocracy.
God, indeed, was almost a member of the Family; lack of belief in Him
amounted to a personal insult to the name of Quarles.

It was half-way through the summer term, when Dick was sixteen, on one
of those days of brilliant sunshine and cloudless blue, when the sight
of beautiful and ancient buildings is peculiarly poignant. Their age
and quiet stand out in melancholy contrast against the radiant life of
the summer; and at Æsop the boys go laughing under their antique
shadow; "Little victims"--you feel how right Gray was. Dick was idly
strolling across the quadrangle, engaged in merely observing the
beauty about him--the golden-grey chapel, with its deep geometrical
shadows between the buttresses, the comely rose-coloured shapes of the
brick-built Tudor buildings, the weathercocks glittering in the sun,
the wheeling flurries of pigeons. His old discontent had seized on him
again, and to-day in the presence of all this beauty it had become
almost unbearable. All at once, out of the mouth of one of the dark
little tunnelled doors pierced in the flanks of the sleeping building,
a figure emerged into the light. It was Francis Quarles, clad in white
flannels and the radiance of the sunshine. He appeared like a
revelation, bright, beautiful, and sudden, before Dick's eyes. A
violent emotion seized him; his heart leapt, his bowels were moved
within him; he felt a little sick and faint--he had fallen in love.

Francis passed by without deigning to notice him. His head was high,
his eyes drowsy under their drooping lids. He was gone, and for Dick
all the light was out, the beloved quadrangle was a prison-yard, the
pigeons a loathsome flock of carrion eaters. Gay and Partington came
up behind him with shouts of invitation. Dick walked rudely away. God!
how he hated them and their wretched, silly talk and their yellow,
ugly faces.

The weeks that followed were full of strangeness. For the first time
in his life Dick took to writing poetry. There was one sonnet which
began:

     Is it a vision or a waking dream?
     Or is it truly Apollo that I see,
     Come from his sylvan haunts in Arcady
         { laugh and loiter
     To  {
         { sing and saunter by an English stream. . . .

He kept on repeating the words to himself, "Sylvan haunts in Arcady,"
"laugh and loiter" (after much thought he had adopted that as more
liquidly melodious than "sing and saunter"). How beautiful they
sounded!--as beautiful as Keats--more beautiful, for they were his
own.

He avoided the company of Gay and Fletton and Partington; they had
become odious to him, and their conversation, when he could bring
himself to listen to it, was, somehow, almost incomprehensible. He
would sit for hours alone in his study; not working--for he could not
understand the mathematical problems on which he had been engaged
before the fateful day in the quadrangle--but reading novels and the
poetry of Mrs. Browning, and at intervals writing something rather
ecstatic of his own. After a long preparatory screwing up of his
courage, he dared at last to send a fag with a note to Francis, asking
him to tea; and when Francis rather frigidly refused, he actually
burst into tears. He had not cried like that since he was a child.

He became suddenly very religious. He would spend an hour on his knees
every night, praying, praying with frenzy. He mortified the flesh with
fasting and watching. He even went so far as to flagellate himself--or
at least tried to; for it is very difficult to flagellate yourself
adequately with a cane in a room so small that any violent gesture
imperils the bric-à-brac. He would pass half the night stark naked, in
absurd postures, trying to hurt himself. And then, after the
dolorously pleasant process of self-maceration was over, he used to
lean out of the window and listen to the murmurs of the night and fill
his spirit with the warm velvet darkness of midsummer.
Copthorne-Slazenger, coming back by the late train from town one
night, happened to see his moon-pale face hanging out of window and
was delighted to be able to give him two hundred Greek lines to remind
him that even a member of the Sixth Form requires sleep sometimes.

The fit lasted three weeks. "I can't think what's the matter with you,
Greenow," complained Mr. Skewbauld snufflingly. "You seem incapable or
unwilling to do anything at all. I suspect the cause is constipation.
If only everyone would take a little paraffin every night before going
to bed! . . ." Mr. Skewbauld's self-imposed mission in life
was the propagation of the paraffin habit. It was the universal
panacea--the cure for every ill.

His friends of before the crisis shook their heads and could only
suppose him mad. And then the fit ended as suddenly as it had begun.

It happened at a dinner-party given by the Cravisters. Dr. Cravister
was the Headmaster of Æsop--a good, gentle, learned old man, with
snow-white hair and a saintly face which the spirit of comic irony had
embellished with a nose that might, so red and bulbous it was, have
been borrowed from the properties of a music-hall funny man. And then
there was Mrs. Cravister, large and stately as a galleon with all
sails set. Those who met her for the first time might be awed by the
dignity of what an Elizabethan would have called her "swelling port."
But those who knew her well went in terror of the fantastic spirit
which lurked behind the outward majesty. They were afraid of what that
richly modulated voice of hers might utter. It was not merely that she
was malicious--and she had a gift of ever-ready irony; no, what was
alarming in all her conversation was the element of the unexpected.
With most people one feels comfortably secure that they will always
say the obvious and ordinary things; with Mrs. Cravister, never. The
best one could do was to be on guard and to try and look, when she
made a more than usually characteristic remark, less of a bewildered
fool than one felt.

Mrs. Cravister received her guests--they were all of them boys--with
stately courtesy. They found it pleasant to be taken so seriously, to
be treated as perfectly grown men; but at the same time, they always
had with Mrs. Cravister a faint uncomfortable suspicion that all her
politeness was an irony so exquisite as to be practically
undistinguishable from ingenuousness.

"Good evening, Mr. Gay," she said, holding out her hand and shutting
her eyes; it was one of her disconcerting habits, this shutting of the
eyes. "What a pleasure it will be to hear you talking to us again
about eschatology."

Gay, who had never talked about eschatology and did not know the
meaning of the word, smiled a little dimly and made a protesting
noise.

"Eschatology? What a charming subject!" The fluty voice belonged to
Henry Cravister, the Headmaster's son, a man of about forty who worked
in the British Museum. He was almost too cultured, too erudite.

"But I don't know anything about it," said Gay desperately.

"Spare us your modesty," Henry Cravister protested.

His mother shook hands with the other guests, putting some at their
ease with a charming phrase and embarrassing others by saying
something baffling and unexpected that would have dismayed even the
hardiest diner-out, much more a schoolboy tremblingly on his good
behaviour. At the tail end of the group of boys stood Dick and Francis
Quarles. Mrs. Cravister slowly raised her heavy waxen eyelids and
regarded them a moment in silence.

"The Græco-Roman and the Gothic side by side!" she exclaimed. "Lord
Francis is something in the Vatican, a rather late piece of work; and
Mr. Greenow is a little gargoyle from the roof of Notre Dame de Paris.
Two epochs of art--how clearly one sees the difference. And my
husband, I always think, is purely Malayan in design--purely Malayan,"
she repeated as she shook hands with the two boys.

Dick blushed to the roots of his hair, but Francis' impassive
arrogance remained unmoved. Dick stole a glance in his direction, and
at the sight of his calm face he felt a new wave of adoring admiration
sweeping through him.

The company was assembled and complete, Mrs. Cravister looked round
the room and remarking, "We won't wait for Mr. Copthorne-Slazenger,"
sailed majestically in the direction of the door. She particularly
disliked this member of her husband's staff, and lost no opportunity
of being rude to him. Thus, where an ordinary hostess might have said,
"Shall we come in to dinner?" Mrs. Cravister employed the formula, "We
won't wait for Mr. Copthorne-Slazenger"; and a guest unacquainted with
Mrs. Cravister's habits would be surprised on entering the dining-room
to find that all the seats at the table were filled, and that the meal
proceeded smoothly without a single further reference to the missing
Copthorne, who never turned up at all, for the good reason that he had
never been invited.

Dinner began a little nervously and uncomfortably. At one end of the
table the Headmaster was telling anecdotes of Æsop in the sixties, at
which the boys in his neighbourhood laughed with a violent nervous
insincerity. Henry Cravister, still talking about eschatology, was
quoting from Sidonius Apollinarius and Commodianus of Gaza. Mrs.
Cravister, who had been engaged in a long colloquy with the butler,
suddenly turned on Dick with the remark, "And so you have a deep,
passionate fondness for cats," as though they had been intimately
discussing the subject for the last hour. Dick had enough presence of
mind to say that, yes, he did like cats--all except those Manx ones
that had no tails.

"No tails," Mrs. Cravister repeated--"no tails. Like men. How
symbolical everything is!"

Francis Quarles was sitting opposite him, so that Dick had ample
opportunity to look at his idol. How perfectly he did everything, down
to eating his soup! The first lines of a new poem began to buzz in
Dick's head:

    "All, all I lay at thy proud marble feet--
     My heart, my love and all my future days.
     Upon thy brow for ever let me gaze,
     For ever touch thy hair: oh (something) sweet . . ."

Would he be able to find enough rhymes to make it into a sonnet? Mrs.
Cravister, who had been leaning back in her chair for the last few
minutes in a state of exhausted abstraction, opened her eyes and said
to nobody in particular:

"Ah, how I envy the calm of those Chinese dynasties!"

"Which Chinese dynasties?" a well-meaning youth inquired.

"Any Chinese dynasty, the more remote the better. Henry, tell us the
names of some Chinese dynasties."

In obedience to his mother, Henry delivered a brief disquisition on
the history of politics, art, and letters in the Far East.

The Headmaster continued his reminiscences.

An angel of silence passed. The boys, whose shyness had begun to wear
off, became suddenly and painfully conscious of hearing themselves
eating. Mrs. Cravister saved the situation.

"Lord Francis knows all about birds," she said in her most thrilling
voice. "Perhaps he can tell us why it is the unhappy fate of the
carrion crow to mate for life."

Conversation again became general. Dick was still thinking about his
sonnet. Oh, these rhymes!--praise, bays, roundelays, amaze: greet,
bleat, defeat, beat, paraclete. . . .

       ". . . to sing the praise
     In anthems high and solemn roundelays
     Of Holy Father, Son and Paraclete."

That was good--damned good; but it hardly seemed to fit in with the
first quatrain. It would do for one of his religious poems, though. He
had written a lot of sacred verse lately.

Then suddenly, cutting across his ecstatic thoughts, came the sound of
Henry Cravister's reedy voice.

"But I always find Pater's style so _coarse_," it said.

Something explosive took place in Dick's head. It often happens when
one blows one's nose that some passage in the labyrinth connecting
ears and nose and throat is momentarily blocked, and one becomes deaf
and strangely dizzy. Then, suddenly, the mucous bubble bursts, sound
rushes back to the brain, the head feels clear and stable once more.
It was something like this, but transposed into terms of the spirit,
that seemed now to have happened to Dick.

It was as though some mysterious obstruction in his brain, which had
dammed up and diverted his faculties from their normal course during
the past three weeks, had been on a sudden overthrown. His life seemed
to be flowing once more along familiar channels.

He was himself again.

"But I always find Pater's style so _coarse_."

These few words of solemn foolery were the spell which had somehow
performed the miracle. It was just the sort of remark he might have
made three weeks ago, before the crisis. For a moment, indeed, he
almost thought it was he himself who had spoken; his own authentic
voice, carried across the separating gulf of days, had woken him again
to life!

He looked at Francis Quarles. Why, the fellow was nothing but a great
prize ox, a monstrous animal. "There was a Lady loved a Swine. Honey,
said she . . ." It was ignoble, it was ridiculous. He could have
hidden his face in his hands for pure shame; shame tingled through his
body. Goodness, how grotesquely he had behaved!

He leaned across and began talking to Henry Cravister about Pater and
style and books in general. Cravister was amazed at the maturity of
the boy's mind; for he possessed to a remarkable degree that critical
faculty which in the vast majority of boys is--and from their lack of
experience must be--wholly lacking.

"You must come and see me some time when you're in London," Henry
Cravister said to him when the time came for the boys to get back to
their houses. Dick was flattered; he had not said that to any of the
others. He walked home with Gay, laughing and talking quite in his old
fashion. Gay marvelled at the change in his companion; strange,
inexplicable fellow! but it was pleasant to have him back again, to
repossess the lost friend. Arrived in his room, Dick sat down to
attack the last set of mathematical problems that had been set him.
Three hours ago they had appeared utterly incomprehensible; now he
understood them perfectly. His mind was like a giant refreshed,
delighting in its strength.

Next day Mr. Skewbauld congratulated him on his answers.

"You seem quite to have recovered your old form, Greenow," he said.
"Did you take my advice? Paraffin regularly . . ."

Looking back on the events of the last weeks, Dick was disquieted. Mr.
Skewbauld might be wrong in recommending paraffin, but he was surely
right in supposing that something was the matter and required a
remedy. What could it be? He felt so well; but that, of course, proved
nothing. He began doing Müller's exercises, and he bought a jar of
malt extract and a bottle of hypophosphites. After much consultation
of medical handbooks and the encyclopædia, he came to the conclusion
that he was suffering from anæmia of the brain; and for some time one
fixed idea haunted him: Suppose the blood completely ceased to flow to
his brain, suppose he were to fall down suddenly dead or, worse,
become utterly and hopelessly paralysed. . . . Happily the
distractions of Æsop in the summer term were sufficiently numerous and
delightful to divert his mind from this gloomy brooding, and he felt
so well and in such high spirits that it was impossible to go on
seriously believing that he was at death's door. Still, whenever he
thought of the events of those strange weeks he was troubled. He did
not like being confronted by problems which he could not solve. During
the rest of his stay at school he was troubled by no more than the
merest velleities of a relapse. A fit of moon-gazing and incapacity to
understand the higher mathematics had threatened him one time when he
was working rather too strenuously for a scholarship. But a couple of
days' complete rest had staved off the peril. There had been rather a
painful scene, too, at Dick's last School Concert. Oh, those Æsop
concerts! Musically speaking, of course, they are deplorable; but how
rich from all other points of view than the merely æsthetic! The
supreme moment arrives at the very end when three of the most eminent
and popular of those about to leave mount the platform together and
sing the famous "Æsop, Farewell." Greatest of school songs! The words
are not much, but the tune, which goes swooning along in three-four
time, is perhaps the masterpiece of the late organist, Dr. Pilch.

Dick was leaving, but he was not a sufficiently heroic figure to have
been asked to sing, "Æsop, Farewell." He was simply a member of the
audience, and one, moreover, who had come to the concert in a critical
and mocking spirit. For, as he had an ear for music, it was impossible
for him to take the concert very seriously. The choir had clamorously
re-crucified the Messiah; the soloists had all done their worst; and
now it was time for "Æsop, Farewell." The heroes climbed on to the
stage. They were three demi-gods, but Francis Quarles was the most
splendid of the group as he stood there with head thrown back, eyes
almost closed, calm and apparently unconscious of the crowd that
seethed, actually and metaphorically, beneath him. He was wearing an
enormous pink orchid in the buttonhole of his evening coat; his
shirt-front twinkled with diamond studs; the buttons of his waistcoat
were of fine gold. At the sight of him, Dick felt his heart beating
violently; he was not, he painfully realized, master of himself.

The music struck up--Dum, dum, dumdidi, dumdidi; dum, dum, dum, and so
on. So like the _Merry Widow._ In two days' time he would have left
Æsop for ever. The prospect had never affected him very intensely. He
had enjoyed himself at school, but he had never, like so many
Æsopians, fallen in love with the place. It remained for him an
institution; for others it was almost an adored person. But to-night
his spirit, rocked on a treacly ocean of dominant sevenths, succumbed
utterly to the sweet sorrow of parting. And there on the platform
stood Francis. Oh, how radiantly beautiful! And when he began, in his
rich tenor, the first verse of the Valedictory:

    "Farewell, Mother Æsop,
       Our childhood's home!
     Our spirit is with thee,
       Though far we roam . . ."

he found himself hysterically sobbing.



II

CANTELOUP COLLEGE is perhaps the most frightful building in
Oxford--and to those who know their Oxford well this will mean not a
little. Up till the middle of last century Canteloup possessed two
quadrangles of fifteenth-century buildings, unimpressive and petty,
like so much of College architecture, but at least quiet, unassuming,
decent. After the accession of Victoria the College began to grow in
numbers, wealth, and pride. The old buildings were too small and
unpretentious for what had now become a Great College. In the summer
of 1867 a great madness fell upon the Master and Fellows. They hired a
most distinguished architect, bred up in the school of Ruskin, who
incontinently razed all the existing buildings to the ground and
erected in their stead a vast pile in the approved Mauro-Venetian
Gothic of the period. The New Buildings contained a great number of
rooms, each served by a separate and almost perpendicular staircase;
and if nearly half of them were so dark as to make it necessary to
light them artificially for all but three hours out of the
twenty-four, this slight defect was wholly outweighed by the striking
beauty, from outside, of the Neo-Byzantine loopholes by which they
were, euphemistically, "lighted."

Prospects in Canteloup may not please; but man, on the other hand,
tends to be less vile there than in many other places. There is an
equal profusion at Canteloup of Firsts and Blues; there are Union
orators of every shade of opinion and young men so languidly well bred
as to take no interest in politics of any kind; there are drinkers of
cocoa and drinkers of champagne. Canteloup is a microcosm, a whole
world in miniature; and whatever your temperament and habits may be,
whether you wish to drink, or row, or work, or hunt, Canteloup will
provide you with congenial companions and a spiritual home.

Lack of athletic distinction had prevented Dick from being, at Æsop, a
hero or anything like one. At Canteloup, in a less barbarically
ordered state of society, things were different. His rooms in the
Venetian gazebo over the North Gate became the meeting-place of all
that was most intellectually distinguished in Canteloup and the
University at large. He had had his sitting-room austerely upholstered
and papered in grey. A large white Chinese figure of the best period
stood pedestalled in one corner, and on the walls there hung a few
uncompromisingly good drawings and lithographs by modern artists.
Fletton, who had accompanied Dick from Æsop to Canteloup, called it
the "cerebral chamber"; and with its prevailing tone of brain-coloured
grey and the rather dry intellectual taste of its decorations it
deserved the name.

To-night the cerebral chamber had been crammed. The Canteloup branch
of the Fabian Society, under Dick's presidency, had been holding a
meeting. "Art in the Socialist State" was what they had been
discussing. And now the meeting had broken up, leaving nothing but
three empty jugs that had once contained mulled claret and a general
air of untidiness to testify to its having taken place at all. Dick
stood leaning an elbow on the mantelpiece and absent-mindedly kicking,
to the great detriment of his pumps, at the expiring red embers in the
grate. From the depths of a huge and cavernous arm-chair, Fletton,
pipe in mouth, fumed like a sleepy volcano.

"I liked the way, Dick," he said, with a laugh--"the way you went for
the Arty-Crafties. You utterly destroyed them."

"I merely pointed out, what is sufficiently obvious, that crafts are
not art, nor anything like it, that's all." Dick snapped out the
words. He was nervous and excited, and his body felt as though it were
full of compressed springs ready to jump at the most imponderable
touch. He was always like that after making a speech.

"You did it very effectively," said Fletton. There was a silence
between the two young men.

A noise like the throaty yelling of savages in rut came wafting up
from the quadrangle on which the windows of the cerebral chamber
opened. Dick started; all the springs within him had gone off at
once--a thousand simultaneous Jack-in-the-boxes.

"It's only Francis Quarles' dinner-party becoming vocal," Fletton
explained. "Blind mouths, as Milton would call them."

Dick began restlessly pacing up and down the room. When Fletton spoke
to him, he did not reply or, at best, gave utterance to a monosyllable
or a grunt.

"My dear Dick," said the other at last, "you're not very good company
to-night," and heaving himself up from the arm-chair, Fletton went
shuffling in his loose, heelless slippers towards the door. "I'm going
to bed."

Dick paused in his lion-like prowling to listen to the receding sound
of feet on the stairs. All was silent now: Gott sei dank. He went into
his bedroom. It was there that he kept his piano, for it was a piece
of furniture too smugly black and polished to have a place in the
cerebral chamber. He had been thirsting after his piano all the time
Fletton was sitting there, damn him! He drew up a chair and began to
play over and over a certain series of chords. With his left hand he
struck an octave G in the base, while his right dwelt lovingly on F,
B, and E. A luscious chord, beloved by Mendelssohn--a chord in which
the native richness of the dominant seventh is made more rich, more
piercing sweet by the addition of a divine discord. G, F, B, and E--he
let the notes hang tremulously on the silence, savoured to the full
their angelic overtones; then, when the sound of the chord had almost
died away, he let it droop reluctantly through D to the simple,
triumphal beauty of C natural--the diapason closing full in what was
for Dick a wholly ineffable emotion.

He repeated that dying fall again and again, perhaps twenty times.
Then, when he was satiated with its deliciousness, he rose from the
piano and opening the lowest drawer of the wardrobe pulled out from
under his evening clothes a large portfolio. He undid the strings; it
was full of photogravure reproductions from various Old Masters. There
was an almost complete set of Greuze's works, several of the most
striking Ary Scheffers, some Alma Tadema, some Leighton, photographs
of sculpture by Torwaldsen and Canova, Boecklin's "Island of the
Dead," religious pieces by Holman Hunt, and a large packet of
miscellaneous pictures from the Paris Salons of the last forty years.
He took them into the cerebral chamber where the light was better, and
began to study them, lovingly, one by one. The Cézanne lithograph, the
three admirable etchings by Van Gogh, the little Picasso looked on,
unmoved, from the walls.

It was three o'clock before Dick got to bed. He was stiff and cold,
but full of the satisfaction of having accomplished something. And,
indeed, he had cause to be satisfied; for he had written the first
four thousand words of a novel, a chapter and a half of _Heartsease
Fitzroy: the Story of a Young Girl_.

Next morning Dick looked at what he had written overnight, and was
alarmed. He had never produced anything quite like this since the days
of the Quarles incident at Æsop. A relapse? He wondered. Not a serious
one in any case; for this morning he felt himself in full possession
of all his ordinary faculties. He must have got overtired speaking to
the Fabians in the evening. He looked at his manuscript again, and
read: "'Daddy, do the little girl angels in heaven have toys and
kittens and teddy-bears?'

"'I don't know,' said Sir Christopher gently. 'Why does my little one
ask?'

"'Because, daddy," said the child--'because I think that soon I too
may be a little angel, and I should so like to have my teddy-bear with
me in heaven.'

"Sir Christopher clasped her to his breast. How frail she was, how
ethereal, how nearly an angel already! Would she have her teddy-bear
in heaven? The childish question rang in his ears. Great, strong man
though he was, he was weeping. His tears fell in a rain upon her
auburn curls.

"'Tell me, daddy,' she insisted, 'will dearest God allow me my
teddy-bear?'

"'My child,' he sobbed, 'my child . . .'"

The blushes mounted hot to his cheeks; he turned away his head in
horror. He would really have to look after himself for a bit, go to
bed early, take exercise, not do much work. This sort of thing
couldn't be allowed to go on.

He went to bed at half-past nine that night, and woke up the following
morning to find that he had added a dozen or more closely written
pages to his original manuscript during the night. He supposed he must
have written them in his sleep. It was all very disquieting. The days
passed by; every morning a fresh instalment was added to the rapidly
growing bulk of _Heartsease Fitzroy_. It was as though some goblin,
some Lob-lie-by-the-Fire, came each night to perform the appointed
task, vanishing before the morning. In a little while Dick's alarm
wore off; during the day he was perfectly well; his mind functioned
with marvellous efficiency. It really didn't seem to matter what he
did in his sleep provided he was all right in his waking hours. He
almost forgot about _Heartsease_, and was only reminded of her
existence when by chance he opened the drawer in which the steadily
growing pile of manuscript reposed.

In five weeks _Heartsease Fitzroy_ was finished. Dick made a parcel of
the manuscript and sent it to a literary agent. He had no hopes of any
publisher taking the thing; but he was in sore straits for money at
the moment, and it seemed worth trying, on the off-chance. A fortnight
later Dick received a letter beginning: "DEAR MADAM,--Permit me to
hail in you a new authoress of real talent. _Heartsease Fitzroy_ is
GREAT,"--and signed "EBOR W. SIMS, Editor, _Hildebrand's Home
Weekly_."

Details of the circulation of _Hildebrand's Home Weekly_ were printed
at the head of the paper; its average net sale was said to exceed
three and a quarter millions. The terms offered by Mr. Sims seemed to
Dick positively fabulous. And there would be the royalties on the
thing in book form after the serial had run its course.

The letter arrived at breakfast; Dick cancelled all engagements for
the day and set out immediately for a long and solitary walk. It was
necessary to be alone, to think. He made his way along the Seven
Bridges Road, up Cumnor Hill, through the village, and down the
footpath to Bablock Hithe, thence to pursue the course of the
"stripling Thames"--haunted at every step by the Scholar Gipsy, damn
him! He drank beer and ate some bread and cheese in a little inn by a
bridge, farther up the river; and it was there, in the inn parlour,
surrounded by engravings of the late Queen, and breathing the slightly
mouldy preserved air bottled some three centuries ago into that
hermetically sealed chamber--it was there that he solved the problem,
perceived the strange truth about himself.

He was a hermaphrodite.

A hermaphrodite, not in the gross obvious sense, of course, but
spiritually. Two persons in one, male and female. Dr. Jekyll and Mr.
Hyde: or rather a new William Sharp and Fiona MacLeod--a more
intelligent William, a vulgarer Fiona. Everything was explained; the
deplorable Quarles incident was simple and obvious now. A sentimental
young lady of literary tastes writing sonnets to her Ouida guardsman.
And what an unerring flair Mr. Sims had shown by addressing him so
roundly and unhesitatingly as "madam"!

Dick was elated at this discovery. He had an orderly mind that
disliked mysteries. He had been a puzzle to himself for a long time;
now he was solved. He was not in the least distressed to discover this
abnormality in his character. As long as the two parts of him kept
well apart, as long as his male self could understand mathematics, and
as long as his lady novelist's self kept up her regular habit of
writing at night and retiring from business during the day, the
arrangement would be admirable. The more he thought about it, the more
it seemed an ideal state of affairs. His life would arrange itself so
easily and well. He would devote the day to the disinterested pursuit
of knowledge, to philosophy and mathematics, with perhaps an
occasional excursion into politics. After midnight he would write
novels with a feminine pen, earning the money that would make his
unproductive male labours possible. A kind of spiritual _souteneur_.
But the fear of poverty need haunt him no more; no need to become a
wage-slave, to sacrifice his intelligence to the needs of his belly.
Like a gentleman of the East, he would sit still and smoke his
philosophic pipe while the womenfolk did the dirty work. Could
anything be more satisfactory?

He paid for his bread and beer, and walked home, whistling as he went.



III

TWO months later the first instalment of _Heartsease Fitzroy: the
Story of a Young Girl_, by Pearl Bellairs, appeared in the pages of
_Hildebrand's Home Weekly_. Three and a quarter millions read and
approved. When the story appeared in book form, two hundred thousand
copies were sold in six weeks; and in the course of the next two years
no less than sixteen thousand female infants in London alone were
christened Heartsease. With her fourth novel and her two hundred and
fiftieth Sunday paper article, Pearl Bellairs was well on her way to
becoming a household word.

Meanwhile Dick was in receipt of an income far beyond the wildest
dreams of his avarice. He was able to realize the two great ambitions
of his life--to wear silk underclothing and to smoke good (but really
good) cigars.



IV

DICK went down from Canteloup in a blaze of glory. The most brilliant
man of his generation, exceptional mind, prospects, career. But his
head was not turned. When people congratulated him on his academic
successes, he thanked them politely and then invited them to come and
see his Memento Mori. His Memento Mori was called Mr. Glottenham and
could be found at any hour of the day in the premises of the Union, or
if it was evening, in the Senior Common Room at Canteloup. He was an
old member of the College, and the dons in pity for his age and
loneliness had made him, some years before, a member of their Common
Room. This act of charity was as bitterly regretted as any generous
impulse in the history of the world. Mr. Glottenham made the life of
the Canteloup fellows a burden to them; he dined in Hall with fiendish
regularity, never missing a night, and he was always the last to leave
the Common Room. Mr. Glottenham did not prepossess at a first glance;
the furrows of his face were covered with a short grey sordid stubble;
his clothes were disgusting with the spilth of many years of dirty
feeding; he had the shoulders and long hanging arms of an ape--an ape
with a horribly human look about it. When he spoke, it was like the
sound of a man breaking coke; he spoke incessantly and on every
subject. His knowledge was enormous; but he possessed the secret of a
strange inverted alchemy--he knew how to turn the richest gold to
lead, could make the most interesting topic so intolerably tedious
that it was impossible, when he talked, not to loathe it.

This was the death's-head to which Dick, like an ancient philosopher
at a banquet, would direct the attention of his heartiest
congratulators. Mr. Glottenham had had the most dazzling academic
career of his generation. His tutors had prophesied for him a future
far more brilliant than that of any of his contemporaries. They were
now Ministers of State, poets, philosophers, judges, millionaires. Mr.
Glottenham frequented the Union and the Canteloup Senior Common Room,
and was--well, he was just Mr. Glottenham. Which was why Dick did not
think too highly of his own laurels.



V

"WHAT shall I do? what ought I to do?" Dick walked up and down the
room smoking, furiously and without at all savouring its richness, one
of his opulent cigars.

"My dear," said Cravister--for it was in Cravister's high-ceilinged
Bloomsbury room that Dick was thus unveiling his distress of
spirit--"my dear, this isn't a revival meeting. You speak as though
there were an urgent need for your soul to be saved from hell fire.
It's not as bad as that, you know."

"But it _is_ a revival meeting," Dick shouted in exasperation--"it is.
I'm a revivalist. You don't know what it's like to have a feeling
about your soul. I'm terrifyingly earnest; you don't seem to
understand that. I have all the feelings of Bunyan without his
religion. I regard the salvation of my soul as important. How simple
everything would be if one could go out with those creatures in
bonnets and sing hymns like, 'Hip, hip for the blood of the Lamb,
hurrah!' or that exquisite one:

    "'The bells of Hell ring tingalingaling
        For you, but not for me.
      For me the angels singalingaling;
        They've got the goods for me.'

Unhappily it's impossible."

"Your ideas," said Cravister in his flutiest voice, "are somewhat
Gothic. I think I can understand them, though of course I don't
sympathize or approve. My advice to people in doubt about what course
of action they ought to pursue is always the same: do what you want
to."

"Cravister, you're hopeless," said Dick, laughing. "I suppose I am
rather Gothic, but I do feel that the question of ought as well as of
want does arise."

Dick had come to his old friend for advice about Life. What ought he
to do? The indefatigable pen of Pearl Bellairs solved for him the
financial problem. There remained only the moral problem: how could he
best expend his energies and his time? Should he devote himself to
knowing or doing, philosophy or politics? He felt in himself the
desire to search for truth and the ability--who knows?--to find it. On
the other hand, the horrors of the world about him seemed to call on
him to put forth all his strength in an effort to ameliorate what was
so patently and repulsively bad. Actually, what had to be decided was
this: Should he devote himself to the researches necessary to carry
out the plan, long ripening in his brain, of a new system of
scientific philosophy; or should he devote his powers and Pearl
Bellairs' money in propaganda that should put life into the English
revolutionary movement? Great moral principles were in the balance.
And Cravister's advice was, do what you want to!

After a month of painful indecision, Dick, who was a real Englishman,
arrived at a satisfactory compromise. He started work on his new
Synthetic Philosophy, and at the same time joined the staff of the
_Weekly International_, to which he contributed both money and
articles. The weeks slipped pleasantly and profitably along. The
secret of happiness lies in congenial work, and no one could have
worked harder than Dick, unless it was the indefatigable Pearl
Bellairs, whose nightly output of five thousand words sufficed to
support not only Dick but the _Weekly International_ as well. These
months were perhaps the happiest period of Dick's life. He had
friends, money, liberty; he knew himself to be working well; and it
was an extra, a supererogatory happiness that he began at this time to
get on much better with his sister Millicent than he had ever done
before. Millicent had come up to Oxford as a student at St. Mungo Hall
in Dick's third year. She had grown into a very efficient and very
intelligent young woman. A particularly handsome young woman as well.
She was boyishly slender, and a natural grace kept on breaking through
the somewhat rigid deportment, which she always tried to impose upon
herself, in little beautiful gestures and movements that made the
onlooker catch his breath with astonished pleasure.

    "Wincing she was as is a jolly colt,
     Straight as a mast and upright as a bolt:"

Chaucer had as good an eye for youthful grace as for mormals and
bristly nostrils and thick red jovial villainousness.

Millicent lost no time in making her presence at St. Mungo's felt.
Second- and third-year heroines might snort at the forwardness of a
mere fresh-girl, might resent the complete absence of veneration for
their glory exhibited by this youthful bejauna; Millicent pursued her
course unmoved. She founded new societies and put fresh life into the
institutions which already existed at St. Mungo's to take cocoa and
discuss the problems of the universe. She played hockey like a
tornado, and she worked alarmingly hard. Decidedly, Millicent was a
Force, very soon the biggest Force in the St. Mungo world. In her
fifth term she organized the famous St. Mungo general strike, which
compelled the authorities to relax a few of the more intolerably
tyrannical and anachronistic rules restricting the liberty of the
students. It was she who went, on behalf of the strikers, to interview
the redoubtable Miss Prosser, Principal of St. Mungo's. The
redoubtable Miss Prosser looked grim and invited her to sit down,
Millicent sat down and, without quailing, delivered a short but
pointed speech attacking the fundamental principles of the St. Mungo
system of discipline.

"Your whole point of view," she assured Miss Prosser, "is radically
wrong. It's an insult to the female sex; it's positively obscene. Your
root assumption is simply this: that we're all in a chronic state of
sexual excitement; leave us alone for a moment and we'll immediately
put our desires into practice. It's disgusting. It makes me blush.
After all, Miss Prosser, we are a college of intelligent women, not an
asylum of nymphomaniacs."

For the first time in her career, Miss Prosser had to admit herself
beaten. The authorities gave in--reluctantly and on only a few points;
but the principle had been shaken, and that, as Millicent pointed out,
was what really mattered.

Dick used to see a good deal of his sister while he was still in
residence at Canteloup, and after he had gone down he used to come
regularly once a fortnight during term to visit her. That horrible
mutual reserve, which poisons the social life of most families and
which had effectively made of their brotherly and sisterly relation a
prolonged discomfort in the past, began to disappear. They became the
best of friends.

"I like you, Dick, a great deal better than I did," said Millicent one
day as they were parting at the gate of St. Mungo's after a long walk
together.

Dick took off his hat and bowed. "My dear, I reciprocate the
sentiment. And, what's more, I esteem and admire you. So there."

Millicent curtsied, and they laughed. They both felt very happy.



VI

"WHAT a life!" said Dick, with a sigh of weariness as the train moved
out of Euston.

Not a bad life, Millicent thought.

"But horribly fatiguing. I am quite outreined by it."

"Outreined" was Dick's translation of _éreinté_. He liked using words
of his own manufacture; one had to learn his idiom before one could
properly appreciate his intimate conversation.

Dick had every justification for being outreined. The spring and
summer had passed for him in a whirl of incessant activity. He had
written three long chapters of the _New Synthetic Philosophy_, and had
the material for two more ready in the form of notes. He had helped to
organize and bring to its successful conclusion the great carpenters'
strike of May and June. He had written four pamphlets and a small army
of political articles. And this comprised only half his labour; for
nightly, from twelve till two, Pearl Bellairs emerged to compose the
masterpieces which supplied Dick with his bread and butter. _Apes in
Purple_ had been published in May. Since then she had finished _La
Belle Dame sans Morality_, and had embarked on the first chapters of
_Daisy's Voyage to Cythera_. Her weekly articles, "For the Girls of
Britain," had become, during this period, a regular and favourite
feature in the pages of _Hildebrand's Sabbath_, that prince of Sunday
papers. At the beginning of July, Dick considered that he had earned a
holiday, and now they were off, he and Millicent, for the North.

Dick had taken a cottage on the shore of one of those long salt-water
lochs that give to the west coast of Scotland such a dissipated
appearance on the map. For miles around there was not a living soul
who did not bear the name of Campbell--two families only excepted, one
of whom was called Murray-Drummond and the other Drummond-Murray.
However, it was not for the people that Dick and Millicent had come,
so much as for the landscape, which made up in variety for anything
that the inhabitants might lack. Behind the cottage, in the midst of a
narrow strip of bog lying between the loch and the foot of the
mountains, stood one of the numerous tombs of Ossian, a great barrow
of ancient stones. And a couple of miles away the remains of Deirdre's
Scottish refuge bore witness to the Celtic past. The countryside was
dotted with the black skeletons of mediæval castles. Astonishing
country, convulsed into fantastic mountain shapes, cut and indented by
winding fiords. On summer days the whole of this improbable landscape
became blue and remote and aerially transparent. Its beauty lacked all
verisimilitude. It was for that reason that Dick chose the
neighbourhood for his holidays. After the insistent actuality of
London this frankly unreal coast was particularly refreshing to a
jaded spirit.

"Nous sommes ici en plein romantisme," said Dick on the day of their
arrival, making a comprehensive gesture towards the dream-like
scenery, and for the rest of his holiday he acted the part of a young
romantic of the palmy period. He sat at the foot of Ossian's tomb and
read Lamartine; he declaimed Byron from the summit of the mountains
and Shelley as he rowed along the loch. In the evening he read George
Sand's _Indiana_; he agonized with the pure, but passionate, heroine,
while his admiration for Sir Brown, her English lover, the impassive
giant who never speaks and is always clothed in faultless hunting
costume, knew no bounds. He saturated himself in the verses of Victor
Hugo, and at last almost came to persuade himself that the words,
_Dieu_, _infinité_, _eternité_, with which the works of that
deplorable genius are so profusely sprinkled, actually possessed some
meaning, though what that meaning was he could not, even in his most
romantic transports, discover. Pearl Bellairs, of course, understood
quite clearly their significance, and though she was a very poor
French scholar she used sometimes to be moved almost to tears by the
books she found lying about when she came into existence after
midnight. She even copied out extracts into her notebooks with a view
to using them in her next novel.

    "Les plus désespérés sont les chants les plus beaux,
     Et j'en sais d'immortels qui sont de purs sanglots,"

was a couplet which struck her as sublime.

Millicent, meanwhile, did the housekeeping with extraordinary
efficiency, took a great deal of exercise, and read long, serious
books; she humoured her brother in his holiday romanticism, but
refused to take part in the game.

The declaration of war took them completely by surprise. It is true
that a _Scotsman_ found its way into the cottage by about lunch-time
every day, but it was never read, and served only to light fires and
wrap up fish and things of that sort. No letters were being forwarded,
for they had left no address; they were isolated from the world. On
the fatal morning Dick had, indeed, glanced at the paper, without
however noticing anything out of the ordinary. It was only later when,
alarmed by the rumours floating round the village shop, he came to
examine his _Scotsman_ more closely, that he found about half-way down
the third column of one of the middle pages an admirable account of
all that had been so tragically happening in the last twenty-four
hours; he learnt with horror that Europe was at war and that; his
country too had entered the arena. Even in the midst of his anguish of
spirit he could not help admiring the _Scotsman's_ splendid
impassivity--no headlines, no ruffling of the traditional aristocratic
dignity. Like Sir Rodolphe Brown in _Indiana_, he thought, with a
sickly smile.

Dick determined to start for London at once. He felt that he must act,
or at least create the illusion of action; he could not stay quietly
where he was. It was arranged that he should set out that afternoon,
while Millicent should follow a day or two later with the bulk of the
luggage. The train which took him to Glasgow was slower than he
thought it possible for any train to be. He tried to read, he tried to
sleep; it was no good. His nervous agitation was pitiable; he made
little involuntary movements with his limbs, and every now and then
the muscles of his face began twitching in a spasmodic and
uncontrollable tic. There were three hours to wait in Glasgow; he
spent them in wandering about the streets. In the interminable summer
twilight the inhabitants of Glasgow came forth into the open to amuse
themselves; the sight almost made him sick. Was it possible that there
should be human beings so numerous and so uniformly hideous? Small,
deformed, sallow, they seemed malignantly ugly, as if on purpose. The
words they spoke were incomprehensible. He shuddered; it was an alien
place--it was hell.

The London train was crammed. Three gross Italians got into Dick's
carriage, and after they had drunk and eaten with loud, unpleasant
gusto, they prepared themselves for sleep by taking off their boots.
Their feet smelt strongly ammoniac, like a cage of mice long
uncleaned. Acutely awake, while the other occupants of the compartment
enjoyed a happy unconsciousness, he looked at the huddled carcasses
that surrounded him. The warmth and the smell of them was suffocating,
and there came to his mind, with the nightmarish insistence of a fixed
idea, the thought that every breath they exhaled was saturated with
disease. To be condemned to sit in a hot bath of consumption and
syphilis--it was too horrible! The moment came at last when he could
bear it no longer; he got up and went into the corridor. Standing
there, or sitting sometimes for a few dreary minutes in the lavatory,
he passed the rest of the night. The train roared along without a
stop. The roaring became articulate: in the days of his childhood
trains used to run to the tune of "Lancashire, to Lancashire, to fetch
a pocket-handkercher; to Lancashire, to Lancashire . . ." But to-night
the wheels were shouting insistently, a million times over, two words
only--"the War, the War; the War, the War." He tried desperately to
make them say something else, but they refused to recite Milton; they
refused to go to Lancashire; they went on with their endless Tibetan
litany--the War, the War, the War.

By the time he reached London, Dick was in a wretched state. His
nerves were twittering and jumping within him; he felt like a walking
aviary. The tic in his face had become more violent and persistent. As
he stood in the station, waiting for a cab, he overheard a small child
saying to its mother, "What's the matter with that man's face,
mother?"

"Sh--sh, darling," was the reply. "It's rude."

Dick turned and saw the child's big round eyes fixed with fascinated
curiosity upon him, as though he were a kind of monster. He put his
hand to his forehead and tried to stop the twitching of the muscles
beneath the skin. It pained him to think that he had become a
scarecrow for children.

Arrived at his flat, Dick drank a glass of brandy and lay down for a
rest. He felt exhausted--ill. At half-past one he got up, drank some
more brandy, and crept down into the street. It was intensely hot; the
pavements reverberated the sunlight in a glare which hurt his eyes;
they seemed to be in a state of grey incandescence. A nauseating smell
of wetted dust rose from the roadway, along which a water-cart was
slowly piddling its way. He realized suddenly that he ought not to
have drunk all that brandy on an empty stomach; he was definitely
rather tipsy. He had arrived at that state of drunkenness when the
senses perceive things clearly, but do not transmit their knowledge to
the understanding. He was painfully conscious of this division, and it
needed all the power of his will to establish contact between his
parted faculties. It was as though he were, by a great and prolonged
effort, keeping his brain pressed against the back of his eyes; as
soon as he relaxed the pressure, the understanding part slipped back,
the contact was broken, and he relapsed into a state bordering on
imbecility. The actions which ordinarily one does by habit and without
thinking, he had to perform consciously and voluntarily. He had to
reason out the problem of walking--first the left foot forward, then
the right. How ingeniously he worked his ankles and knees and hips!
How delicately the thighs slid past one another!

He found a restaurant and sat there drinking coffee and trying to eat
an omelette until he felt quite sober. Then he drove to the offices of
the _Weekly International_ to have a talk with Hyman, the editor.
Hyman was sitting in his shirt-sleeves, writing.

He lifted his head as Dick came in. "Greenow," he shouted delightedly,
"we were all wondering what had become of you. We thought you'd joined
the Army."

Dick shook his head, but did not speak; the hot stuffy smell of
printer's ink and machinery combined with the atrocious reek of
Hyman's Virginian cigarettes to make him feel rather faint. He sat
down on the window-ledge, so as to be able to breathe an
uncontaminated air.

"Well," he said at last, "what about it?"

"It's going to be hell."

"Did you suppose I thought it was going to be paradise?" Dick replied
irritably. "Internationalism looks rather funny now, doesn't it?"

"I believe in it more than ever I did," cried Hyman. His face lit up
with the fervour of his enthusiasm. It was a fine face, gaunt,
furrowed, and angular, for all that he was barely thirty, looking as
though it had been boldly chiselled from some hard stone. "The rest of
the world may go mad; we'll try and keep our sanity. The time will
come when they'll see we were right."

Hyman talked on. His passionate sincerity and singleness of purpose
were an inspiration to Dick. He had always admired Hyman--with the
reservations, of course, that the man was rather a fanatic and not so
well-educated as he might have been--but to-day he admired him more
than ever. He was even moved by that perhaps too facile eloquence
which of old had been used to leave him cold. After promising to do a
series of articles on international relations for the paper, Dick went
home, feeling better than he had done all day.

He decided that he would begin writing his articles at once. He
collected pens, paper, and ink and sat down in a business-like way at
his bureau. He remembered distinctly biting the tip of his pen-holder;
it tasted rather bitter.

And then he realized he was standing in Regent Street, looking in at
one of the windows of Liberty's.

For a long time he stood there quite still, absorbed to all appearance
in the contemplation of a piece of peacock-blue fabric. But all his
attention was concentrated within himself, not on anything outside. He
was wondering--wondering how it came about that he was sitting at his
writing-table at one moment, and standing, at the next, in Regent
Street. He hadn't--the thought flashed upon him--he hadn't been
drinking any more of that brandy, had he? No, he felt himself to be
perfectly sober. He moved slowly away and continued to speculate as he
walked.

At Oxford Circus he bought an evening paper. He almost screamed aloud
when he saw that the date printed at the head of the page was August
12th. It was on August 7th that he had sat down at his writing-table
to compose those articles. Five days ago, and he had not the faintest
recollection of what had happened in those five days.

He made all haste back to the flat. Everything was in perfect order.
He had evidently had a picnic lunch that morning--sardines, bread and
jam, and raisins; the remains of it still covered the table. He opened
the sideboard and took out the brandy bottle. Better make quite sure.
He held it up to the light; it was more than three-quarters full. Not
a drop had gone since the day of his return. If brandy wasn't the
cause, then what was?

As he sat there thinking, he began in an absent-minded way to look at
his evening paper. He read the news on the front page, then turned to
the inner sheets. His eye fell on these words printed at the head of
the column next the leading article:

"To the Women of the Empire. Thoughts in War-Time. By Pearl Bellairs."
Underneath in brackets: "The first of a series of inspiring patriotic
articles by Miss Bellairs, the well-known novelist."

Dick groaned in agony. He saw in a flash what had happened to his five
missing days. Pearl had got hold of them somehow, had trespassed upon
his life out of her own reserved nocturnal existence. She had taken
advantage of his agitated mental state to have a little fun in her own
horrible way.

He picked up the paper once more and began to read Pearl's article.
"Inspiring and patriotic": those were feeble words in which to
describe Pearl's shrilly raucous chauvinism. And the style! Christ! to
think that he was responsible, at least in part, for this.
Responsible, for had not the words been written by his own hand and
composed in some horrible bluebeard's chamber of his own brain? They
had, there was no denying it. Pearl's literary atrocities had never
much distressed him; he had long given up reading a word she wrote.
Her bank balance was the only thing about her that interested him. But
now she was invading the sanctities of his private life. She was
trampling on his dearest convictions, denying his faith. She was a
public danger. It was all too frightful.

He passed the afternoon in misery. Suicide or brandy seemed the only
cures. Not very satisfactory ones, though. Towards evening an
illuminating idea occurred to him. He would go and see Rogers. Rogers
knew all about psychology--from books, at any rate: Freud, Jung,
Morton Prince, and people like that. He used to try hypnotic
experiments on his friends and even dabbled in amateur psychotherapy.
Rogers might help him to lay the ghost of Pearl. He ate a hasty dinner
and went to see Rogers in his Kensington rooms.

Rogers was sitting at a table with a great book open in front of him.
The reading-lamp, which was the only light in the room, brightly
illumined one side of the pallid, puffy, spectacled face, leaving the
other in complete darkness, save for a little cedilla of golden light
caught on the fold of flesh at the corner of his mouth. His huge
shadow crossed the floor, began to climb the wall, and from the
shoulders upwards mingled itself with the general darkness of the
room.

"Good evening, Rogers," said Dick wearily. "I wish you wouldn't try
and look like Rembrandt's 'Christ at Emmaus' with these spectacular
chiaroscuro effects."

Rogers gave vent to his usual nervous giggling laugh. "This is very
nice of you to come and see me, Greenow."

"How's the Board of Trade?" Rogers was a Civil Servant by profession.

"Oh, business as usual, as the _Daily Mail_ would say." Rogers laughed
again as though he had made a joke.

After a little talk of things indifferent, Dick brought the
conversation round to himself.

"I believe I'm getting a bit neurasthenic," he said. "Fits of
depression, nervous pains, lassitude, anæmia of the will. I've come to
you for professional advice. I want you to nose out my suppressed
complexes, analyse me, dissect me. Will you do that for me?"

Rogers was evidently delighted. "I'll do my best," he said, with
assumed modesty. "But I'm no good at the thing, so you mustn't expect
much."

"I'm at your disposal," said Dick.

Rogers placed his guest in a large arm-chair. "Relax your muscles and
think of nothing at all." Dick sat there flabby and abstracted while
Rogers made his preparations. His apparatus consisted chiefly in a
notebook and a stop-watch. He seated himself at the table.

"Now," he said solemnly, "I want you to listen to me. I propose to
read out a list of words; after each of the words you must say the
first word that comes into your head. The very first, mind, however
foolish it may seem. And say it as soon as it crosses your mind; don't
wait to think. I shall write down your answers and take the time
between each question and reply."

Rogers cleared his throat and started.

"Mother," he said in a loud, clear voice. He always began his analyses
with the family. For since the majority of kinks and complexes date
from childhood, it is instructive to investigate the relations between
the patient and those who surrounded him at an early age. "Mother."

"Dead," replied Dick immediately. He had scarcely known his mother.

"Father."

"Dull." One and a fifth seconds' interval.

"Sister." Rogers pricked his ears for the reply: his favourite
incest-theory depended on it.

"Fabian Society," said Dick, after two seconds' interval. Rogers was a
little disappointed. He was agreeably thrilled and excited by the
answer he received to his next word: "Aunt."

The seconds passed, bringing nothing with them; and then at last there
floated into Dick's mind the image of himself as a child, dressed in
green velvet and lace, a perfect Bubbles boy, kneeling on Auntie Loo's
lap and arranging a troop of lead soldiers on the horizontal
projection of her corsage.

"Bosom," he said.

Rogers wrote down the word and underlined it. Six and three-fifths
seconds: very significant. He turned now to the chapter of possible
accidents productive of nervous shocks.

"Fire."

"Coal."

"Sea."

"Sick."

"Train."

"Smell."

And so on. Dull answers all the time. Evidently, nothing very
catastrophic had ever happened to him. Now for a frontal attack on the
fortress of sex itself.

"Women." There was rather a long pause, four seconds, and then Dick
replied, "Novelist." Rogers was puzzled.

"Breast."

"Chicken." That was disappointing. Rogers could find no trace of those
sinister moral censors, expurgators of impulse, suppressors of
happiness. Perhaps the trouble lay in religion.

"Christ," he said.

Dick replied, "Amen," with the promptitude of a parish clerk.

"God."

Dick's mind remained a perfect blank. The word seemed to convey to him
nothing at all. God, God. After a long time there appeared before his
inward eye the face of a boy he had known at school and at Oxford, one
Godfrey Wilkinson, called God for short.

"Wilkinson." Ten seconds and a fifth.

A few more miscellaneous questions, and the list was exhausted. Almost
suddenly, Dick fell into a kind of hypnotic sleep. Rogers sat pensive
in front of his notes; sometimes he consulted a text-book. At the end
of half an hour he awakened Dick to tell him that he had had, as a
child, consciously or unconsciously, a great Freudian passion for his
aunt; that later on he had had another passion, almost religious in
its fervour and intensity, for somebody called Wilkinson; and that the
cause of all his present troubles lay in one or other of these
episodes. If he liked, he (Rogers) would investigate the matter
further with a view to establishing a cure.

Dick thanked him very much, thought it wasn't worth taking any more
trouble, and went home.



VII

MILLICENT was organizing a hospital supply dépôt, organizing
indefatigably, from morning till night. It was October; Dick had not
seen his sister since those first hours of the war in Scotland; he had
had too much to think about these last months to pay attention to
anyone but himself. To-day, at last, he decided that he would go and
pay her a visit. Millicent had commandeered a large house in
Kensington from a family of Jews, who were anxious to live down a
deplorable name by a display of patriotism. Dick found her sitting
there in her office--young, formidable, beautiful, severe--at a big
desk covered with papers.

"Well," said Dick, "you're winning the war, I see."

"You, I gather, are not," Millicent replied.

"I believe in the things I always believed in."

"So do I."

"But in a different way, my dear--in a different way," said Dick
sadly. There was a silence.

"Had we better quarrel?" Millicent asked meditatively.

"I think we can manage with nothing worse than a coolness--for the
duration."

"Very well, a coolness."

"A smouldering coolness."

"Good," said Millicent briskly. "Let it start smouldering at once. I
must get on with my work. Good-bye, Dick. God bless you. Let me know
sometimes how you get on."

"No need to ask how you get on," said Dick with a smile, as he shook
her hand. "I know by experience that you always get on, only too well,
ruthlessly well."

He went out. Millicent returned to her letters with concentrated
ardour; a frown puckered the skin between her eyebrows.

Probably, Dick reflected as he made his way down the stairs, he
wouldn't see her again for a year or so. He couldn't honestly say that
it affected him much. Other people became daily more and more like
ghosts, unreal, thin, vaporous; while every hour the consciousness of
himself grew more intense and all-absorbing. The only person who was
more than a shadow to him now was Hyman of the _Weekly International_.
In those first horrible months of the war, when he was wrestling with
Pearl Bellairs and failing to cast her out, it was Hyman who kept him
from melancholy and suicide. Hyman made him write a long article every
week, dragged him into the office to do sub-editorial work, kept him
so busy that there were long hours when he had no time to brood over
his own insoluble problems. And his enthusiasm was so passionate and
sincere that sometimes even Dick was infected by it; he could believe
that life was worth living and the cause worth fighting for. But not
for long; for the devil would return, insistent and untiring. Pearl
Bellairs was greedy for life; she was not content with her short
midnight hours; she wanted the freedom of whole days. And whenever
Dick was overtired, or ill or nervous, she leapt upon him and stamped
him out of existence, till enough strength came back for him to
reassert his personality. And the articles she wrote! The short
stories! The recruiting songs! Dick dared not read them; they were
terrible, terrible.



VIII

THE months passed by. The longer the war lasted, the longer it seemed
likely to last. Dick supported life somehow. Then came the menace of
conscription. The _Weekly International_ organized a great
anti-conscription campaign, in which Hyman and Dick were the leading
spirits. Dick was almost happy. This kind of active work was new to
him and he enjoyed it, finding it exciting and at the same time
sedative. For a self-absorbed and brooding mind, pain itself is an
anodyne. He enjoyed his incessant journeys, his speechmaking to queer
audiences in obscure halls and chapels; he liked talking with earnest
members of impossible Christian sects, pacifists who took not the
faintest interest in the welfare of humanity at large, but were wholly
absorbed in the salvation of their own souls and in keeping their
consciences clear from the faintest trace of blood-guiltiness. He
enjoyed the sense of power which came to him, when he roused the
passion of the crowd to enthusiastic assent, or breasted the storm of
antagonism. He enjoyed everything--even getting a bloody nose from a
patriot hired and intoxicated by a great evening paper to break up one
of his meetings. It all seemed tremendously exciting and important at
the time. And yet when, in quiet moments, he came to look back on his
days of activity, they seemed utterly empty and futile. What was left
of them? Nothing, nothing at all. The momentary intoxication had died
away, the stirred ant's-nest had gone back to normal life. Futility of
action! There was nothing permanent, or decent, or worth while, except
thought. And of that he was almost incapable now. His mind, when it
was not occupied by the immediate and actual, turned inward morbidly
upon itself. He looked at the manuscript of his book and wondered
whether he would ever be able to go on with it. It seemed doubtful.
Was he, then, condemned to pass the rest of his existence enslaved to
the beastliness and futility of mere quotidian action? And even in
action his powers were limited; if he exerted himself too much--and
the limits of fatigue were soon reached--Pearl Bellairs, watching
perpetually like a hungry tigress for her opportunity, leapt upon him
and took possession of his conscious faculties. And then, it might be
for a matter of hours or of days, he was lost, blotted off the
register of living souls, while she performed, with intense and
hideous industry, her self-appointed task. More than once his
anti-conscription campaigns had been cut short and he himself had
suddenly disappeared from public life, to return with the vaguest
stories of illness or private affairs--stories that made his friends
shake their heads and wonder which it was among the noble army of
vices that poor Dick Greenow was so mysteriously addicted to. Some
said drink, some said women, some said opium, and some hinted at
things infinitely darker and more horrid. Hyman asked him point-blank
what it was, one morning when he had returned to the office after
three days' unaccountable absence.

Dick blushed painfully. "It isn't anything you think," he said.

"What is it, then?" Hyman insisted.

"I can't tell you," Dick replied desperately and in torture, "but I
swear it's nothing discreditable. I beg you won't ask me any more."

Hyman had to pretend to be satisfied with that.



IX

A TACTICAL move in the anti-conscription campaign was the foundation
of a club, a place where people with pacific or generally advanced
ideas could congregate.

"A club like this would soon be the intellectual centre of London,"
said Hyman, ever sanguine.

Dick shrugged his shoulders. He had a wide experience of pacifists.

"If you bring people together," Hyman went on, "they encourage one
another to be bold--strengthen one another's faith."

"Yes," said Dick dyspeptically. "When they're in a herd, they can
believe that they're much more numerous and important than they really
are."

"But, man, they are numerous, they are important!" Hyman shouted and
gesticulated.

Dick allowed himself to be persuaded into an optimism which he knew to
be ill-founded. The consolations of religion do not console the less
efficaciously for being illusory.

It was a longtime before they could think of a suitable name for their
club. Dick suggested that it should be called the Sclopis Club. "Such
a lovely name," he explained. "Sclopis--Sclopis; it tastes precious in
the mouth." But the rest of the committee would not hear of it; they
wanted a name that meant something. One lady suggested that it should
be called the Everyman Club; Dick objected with passion. "It makes one
shudder," he said. The lady thought it was a beautiful and uplifting
name, but as Mr. Greenow was so strongly opposed, she wouldn't press
the claims of Everyman. Hyman wanted to call it the Pacifist Club, but
that was judged too provocative. Finally, they agreed to call it the
Novembrist Club, because it was November and they could think of no
better title.

The inaugural dinner of the Novembrist Club was held at Piccolomini's
Restaurant. Piccolomini is in, but not exactly of, Soho, for it is a
cross between a Soho restaurant and a Corner House, a hybrid which
combines the worst qualities of both parents--the dirt and
inefficiency of Soho, the size and vulgarity of Lyons. There is a
large upper chamber reserved for agapes. Here, one wet and dismal
winter's evening, the Novembrists assembled.

Dick arrived early, and from his place near the door he watched his
fellow-members come in. He didn't much like the look of them. "Middle
class" was what he found himself thinking; and he had to admit, when
his conscience reproached him for it, that he did not like the middle
classes, the lower middle classes, the lower classes. He was, there
was no denying it, a bloodsucker at heart--cultured and intelligent,
perhaps, but a bloodsucker none the less.

The meal began. Everything about it was profoundly suspect. The spoons
were made of some pale pinchbeck metal, very light and flimsy; one
expected them to melt in the soup, or one would have done, if the soup
had been even tepid. The food was thick and greasy. Dick wondered what
it really looked like under the concealing sauces. The wine left an
indescribable taste that lingered on the palate, like the savour of
brass or of charcoal fumes.

From childhood upwards Dick had suffered from the intensity of his
visceral reactions to emotion. Fear and shyness were apt to make him
feel very sick, and disgust produced in him a sensation of intolerable
queasiness. Disgust had seized upon his mind to-night. He grew paler
with the arrival of every dish, and the wine, instead of cheering him,
made him feel much worse. His neighbours to right and left ate with
revolting heartiness. On one side sat Miss Gibbs, garishly dressed in
ill-assorted colours that might be called futuristic; on the other was
Mr. Something in pince-nez, rather ambrosial about the hair. Mr.
Something was a poet, or so the man who introduced them had said. Miss
Gibbs was just an ordinary member of the Intelligentsia, like the rest
of us.

The Lower Classes, the Lower Classes . . .

"Are you interested in the Modern Theatre?" asked Mr. Something in his
mellow voice. Too mellow--oh, much too mellow!

"Passably," said Dick.

"So am I," said Mr. Thingummy. "I am a vice-president of the
Craftsmen's League of Joy, which perhaps you may have heard of."

Dick shook his head; this was going to be terrible.

"The objects of the Craftsmen's League of Joy," Mr. Thingummy
continued, "or rather, one of the objects--for it has many--is to
establish Little Theatres in every town and village in England, where
simple, uplifting, beautiful plays might be acted. The people have no
joy."

"They have the cinema and the music hall," said Dick. He was filled
with a sudden senseless irritation. "They get all the joy they want
out of the jokes of the comics and the legs of the women."

"Ah, but that is an impure joy," Mr. What's-his-name protested.

"Impure purple, Herbert Spenser's favourite colour," flashed
irrelevantly through Dick's brain.

"Well, speaking for myself," he said aloud, "I know I get more joy out
of a good pair of legs than out of any number of uplifting plays of
the kind they'd be sure to act in your little theatres. The people ask
for sex and you give them a stone."

How was it, he wondered, that the right opinions in the mouths of
these people sounded so horribly cheap and wrong? They degraded what
was noble; beauty became fly-blown at their touch. Their intellectual
tradition was all wrong. Lower classes, it always came back to that.
When they talked about war and the International, Dick felt a hot
geyser of chauvinism bubbling up in his breast. In order to say
nothing stupid, he refrained from speaking at all. Miss Gibbs switched
the conversation on to art. She admired all the right people. Dick
told her that he thought Sir Luke Fildes to be the best modern artist.
But his irritation knew no bounds when he found out a little later
that Mr. Something had read the poems of Fulke Greville, Lord Brooke.
He felt inclined to say, "You may have read them, but of course you
can't understand or appreciate them."

Lower Classes . . .

How clear and splendid were the ideas of right and justice! If only
one could filter away the contaminating human element. . . . Reason
compelled him to believe in democracy, in internationalism, in
revolution; morality demanded justice for the oppressed. But neither
morality nor reason would ever bring him to take pleasure in the
company of democrats or revolutionaries, or make him find the
oppressed, individually, any less antipathetic.

At the end of this nauseating meal, Dick was called on to make a
speech. Rising to his feet, he began stammering and hesitating; he
felt like an imbecile. Then suddenly inspiration came. The great
religious ideas of Justice and Democracy swept like a rushing wind
through his mind, purging it of all insignificant human and personal
preferences or dislikes. He was filled with pentecostal fire. He spoke
in a white heat of intellectual passion, dominating his hearers,
infecting them with his own high enthusiasm. He sat down amid cheers.
Miss Gibbs and Mr. Thingummy leaned towards him with flushed, shining
faces.

"That was wonderful, Mr. Greenow. I've never heard anything like it,"
exclaimed Miss Gibbs, with genuine, unflattering enthusiasm.

Mr. Thing said something poetical about a trumpet-call. Dick looked
from one to the other with blank and fishy eyes. So it was for these
creatures he had been speaking!

Good God! . . .



X

DICK'S life was now a monotonous nightmare. The same impossible
situation was repeated again and again. If it were not for the fact
that he knew Pearl Bellairs to be entirely devoid of humour, Dick
might have suspected that she was having a little quiet fun with him,
so grotesque were the anomalies of his double life. Grotesque, but
dreary, intolerably dreary. Situations which seem, in contemplation,
romantic and adventurous have a habit of proving, when actually
experienced, as dull and daily as a bank clerk's routine. When you
read about it, a Jekyll and Hyde existence sounds delightfully
amusing; but when you live through it, as Dick found to his cost, it
is merely a boring horror.

In due course Dick was called up by the Military Authorities. He
pleaded conscientious objection. The date of his appearance before the
Tribunal was fixed. Dick did not much relish the prospect of being a
Christian martyr; it seemed an anachronism. However, it would have to
be done. He would be an absolutist; there would be a little buffeting,
spitting, and scourging, followed by an indefinite term of hard
labour. It was all very unpleasant. But nothing could be much more
unpleasant than life as he was now living it. He didn't even mind very
much if they killed him. Being or not being--the alternatives left him
equally cold.

The days that preceded his appearance before the Tribunal were busy
days, spent in consulting solicitors, preparing speeches, collecting
witnesses.

"We'll give you a good run for your money," said Hyman. "I hope
they'll be feeling a little uncomfortable by the time they have done
with you, Greenow."

"Not nearly so uncomfortable as I shall be feeling," Dick replied,
with a slightly melancholy smile.

The South Marylebone Tribunal sat in a gloomy and fetid chamber in a
police station. Dick, who was extremely sensitive to his surroundings,
felt his fatigue and nervousness perceptibly increase as he entered
the room. Five or six pitiable creatures with paralytic mothers or
one-man businesses were briskly disposed of, and then it was Dick's
turn to present himself before his judges. He looked round the court,
nodded to Hyman, smiled at Millicent, who had so far thawed their
wartime coolness as to come and see him condemned, caught other
friendly eyes. It was as though he were about to be electrocuted. The
preliminaries passed off; he found himself answering questions in a
loud, clear voice. Then the Military Representative began to loom
horribly large. The Military Representative was a solicitor's clerk
disguised as a lieutenant in the Army Service Corps. He spoke in an
accent that was more than genteel; it was rich, noble, aristocratic.
Dick tried to remember where he had heard a  man speaking like that
before. He had it now. Once when he had been at Oxford after term was
over. He had gone to see the Varieties, which come twice nightly and
with cheap seats to the theatre after the undergraduates have
departed. One of the turns had been a Nut, a descendant of the bloods
and Champagne Charlies of earlier days. A young man in an alpaca
evening suit and a monocle. He had danced, sung a song, spoken some
patter. Sitting in the front row of the stalls, Dick had been able to
see the large, swollen, tuberculous glands in his neck. They wobbled
when he danced or sang. Fascinatingly horrible, those glands; and the
young man, how terribly, painfully pathetic. . . . When the Military
Representative spoke, he could hear again that wretched Nut's
rendering of the Eton and Oxford voice. It unnerved him.

"What is your religion, Mr. Greenow?" the Military Representative
asked.

Fascinated, Dick looked to see whether he too had tuberculous glands.
The Lieutenant had to repeat his question sharply. When he was
irritated, his voice went back to its more natural nasal twang. Dick
recovered his presence of mind.

"I have no religion," he answered.

"But, surely, sir, you must have some kind of religion."

"Well, if I must, if it's in the Army Regulations, you had better put
me down as an Albigensian, or a Bogomile, or, better still, as a
Manichean. One can't find oneself in this court without possessing a
profound sense of the reality and active existence of a power of evil
equal to, if not greater than, the power of good."

"This is rather irrelevant, Mr. Greenow," said the Chairman.

"I apologize." Dick bowed to the court.

"But if," the Military Representative continued--"if your objection is
not religious, may I ask what it is?"

"It is based on a belief that all war is wrong, and that the
solidarity of the human race can only be achieved in practice by
protesting against war, wherever it appears and in whatever form."

"Do you disbelieve in force, Mr. Greenow?"

"You might as well ask me if I disbelieve in gravitation. Of course, I
believe in force: it is a fact."

"What would you do if you saw a German violating your sister?" said
the Military Representative, putting his deadliest question.

"Perhaps I had better ask my sister first," Dick replied. "She is
sitting just behind you in the court."

The Military Representative was covered with confusion. He coughed and
blew his nose. The case dragged on. Dick made a speech; the Military
Representative made a speech; the Chairman made a speech. The
atmosphere of the court-room grew fouler and fouler. Dick sickened and
suffocated in the second-hand air. An immense lassitude took
possession of him; he did not care about anything--about the cause,
about himself, about Hyman or Millicent or Pearl Bellairs. He was just
tired. Voices buzzed and drawled in his ears--sometimes his own voice,
sometimes other people's. He did not listen to  what they said. He was
tired--tired of all this idiotic talk, tired of the heat and smell.
. . .

*  *  *  *  *

Tired of picking up very thistly wheat sheaves and propping them up in
stooks on the yellow stubble. For that was what, suddenly, he found
himself doing. Overhead the sky expanded in endless steppes of
blue-hot cobalt. The pungent prickly dust of the dried sheaves plucked
at his nose with imminent sneezes, made his eyes smart and water. In
the distance a reaping-machine whirred and hummed. Dick looked blankly
about him, wondering where he was. He was thankful, at any rate, not
to be in that sweltering court-room; and it was a mercy, too, to have
escaped from the odious gentility of the Military Representative's
accent. And, after all, there were worse occupations than harvesting.

*  *  *  *  *

Gradually, and bit by bit, Dick pieced together his history. He had,
it seemed, done a cowardly and treacherous thing: deserted in the face
of the enemy, betrayed his cause. He had a bitter letter from Hyman.
"Why couldn't you have stuck it out? I thought it was in you. You've
urged others to go to prison for their beliefs, but you get out of it
yourself by sneaking off to a soft alternative service job on a
friend's estate. You've brought discredit on the whole movement." It
was very painful, but what could he answer? The truth was so
ridiculous that nobody could be expected to swallow it. And yet the
fact was that he had been as much startled to find himself working at
Crome as anyone. It was all Pearl's doing.

He had found in his room a piece of paper covered with the large,
flamboyant feminine writing which he knew to be Pearl's. It was
evidently the rough copy of an article on the delights of being a
land-girl: dewy dawns, rosy children's faces, quaint cottages, mossy
thatch, milkmaids, healthy exercise. Pearl was being a land-girl; but
he could hardly explain the fact to Hyman. Better not attempt to
answer him.

Dick hated the manual labour of the farm. It was hard, monotonous,
dirty, and depressing. It inhibited almost completely the functions of
his brain. He was unable to think about anything at all; there was no
opportunity to do anything but feel uncomfortable. God had not made
him a Caliban to scatter ordure over fields, to pick up ordure from
cattle-yards. His rôle was Prospero.

"Ban, Ban, Caliban"--it was to that derisive measure that he pumped
water, sawed wood, mowed grass; it was a march for his slow, clotted
feet as he followed the dung-carts up the winding lanes. "Ban, Ban,
Caliban--Ban, Ban, Ban . . ."

"Oh, that bloody old fool Tolstoy," was his profoundest reflection on
a general subject in three months of manual labour and communion with
mother earth.

He hated the work, and his fellow-workers hated him. They mistrusted
him because they could not understand him, taking the silence of his
overpowering shyness for arrogance and the contempt of one class for
another. Dick longed to become friendly with them. His chief trouble
was that he did not know what to say. At meal-times he would spend
long minutes in cudgelling his brains for some suitable remark to
make. And even if he thought of something good, like--"It looks as
though it were going to be a good year for roots," he somehow
hesitated to speak, feeling that such a remark, uttered in his
exquisitely modulated tones, would be, somehow, a little ridiculous.
It was the sort of thing that ought to be said rustically, with plenty
of Z's and long vowels, in the manner of William Barnes. In the end,
for lack of courage to act the yokel's part, he generally remained
silent. While the others were eating their bread and cheese with
laughter and talk, he sat like the skeleton at the feast--a skeleton
that longed to join in the revelry, but had not the power to move its
stony jaws. On the rare occasions that he actually succeeded in
uttering something, the labourers looked at one another in surprise
and alarm, as though it were indeed a skeleton that had spoken.

He was not much more popular with the other inhabitants of the
village. Often, in the evenings, as he was returning from work, the
children would pursue him, yelling. With the unerringly cruel instinct
of the young they had recognized in him a fit object for abuse and
lapidation. An outcast member of another class, from whom that class
in casting him out had withdrawn its protection, an alien in speech
and habit, a criminal, as their zealous schoolmaster lost no
opportunity of reminding them, guilty of the blackest treason against
God and man--he was the obviously predestined victim of childish
persecution. When stones began to fly, and dung and precocious
obscenity, he bowed his head and pretended not to notice that anything
unusual was happening. It was difficult, however, to look quite
dignified.

There were occasional short alleviations to the dreariness of his
existence. One day, when he was engaged in his usual occupation of
manuring, a familiar figure suddenly appeared along the footpath
through the field. It was Mrs. Cravister. She was evidently staying at
the big house; one of the Manorial dachshunds preceded her. He took
off his cap.

"Mr. Greenow!" she exclaimed, coming to a halt. "Ah, what a pleasure
to see you again! Working on the land: so Tolstoyan. But I trust it
doesn't affect your æsthetic ideas in the same way as it did his.
Fifty peasants singing together is music; but Bach's chromatic
fantasia is mere gibbering incomprehensibility."

"I don't do this for pleasure," Dick explained. "It's hard labour,
meted out to the Conscientious Objector."

"Of course, of course," said Mrs. Cravister, raising her hand to
arrest any further explanation. "I had forgotten. A conscientious
objector, a Bible student. I remember how passionately devoted you
were, even at school, to the Bible."

She closed her eyes and nodded her head several times.

"On the contrary----" Dick began; but it was no good. Mrs. Cravister
had determined that he should be a Bible student and it was no use
gainsaying her. She cut him short.

"Dear me, the Bible. . . . What a style! That alone would prove it to
have been directly inspired. You remember how Mahomet appealed to the
beauty of his style as a sign of his divine mission. Why has nobody
done the same for the Bible? It remains for you, Mr. Greenow, to do
so. You will write a book about it. How I envy you!"

"The style is very fine," Dick ventured, "but don't you think the
matter occasionally leaves something to be desired?"

"The matter is nothing," cried Mrs. Cravister, making a gesture that
seemed to send all meaning flying like a pinch of salt along the
wind--"nothing at all. It's the style that counts. Think of Madame
Bovary."

"I certainly will," said Dick.

Mrs. Cravister held out her hand. "Good-bye. Yes, I certainly envy
you. I envy you your innocent labour and your incessant study of that
most wonderful of books. If I were asked, Mr. Greenow, what book I
should take with me to a desert island, what single solitary book, I
should certainly say the Bible, though, indeed, there are moments when
I think I should choose _Tristram Shandy_. Good-bye."

Mrs. Cravister sailed slowly away. The little brown basset trotted
ahead, straining his leash. One had the impression of a great ship
being towed into harbour by a diminutive tug.

Dick was cheered by this glimpse of civilization and humanity. The
unexpected arrival, one Saturday afternoon, of Millicent was not quite
such an unmixed pleasure. "I've come to see how you're getting on,"
she announced, "and to put your cottage straight and make you
comfortable."

"Very kind of you," said Dick. He didn't want his cottage put
straight.

Millicent was in the Ministry of Munitions now, controlling three
thousand female clerks with unsurpassed efficiency. Dick looked at her
curiously, as she talked that evening of her doings. "To think I
should have a sister like that," he said to himself. She was
terrifying.

"You do enjoy bullying other people!" he exclaimed at last. "You've
found your true vocation. One sees now how the new world will be
arranged after the war. The women will continue to do all the
bureaucratic jobs, all that entails routine and neatness and
interfering with other people's affairs. And man, it is to be hoped,
will be left free for the important statesman's business, free for
creation and thought. He will stay at home and give proper education
to the children, too. He is fit to do these things, because his mind
is disinterested and detached. It's an arrangement which will liberate
all man's best energies for their proper uses. The only flaw I can see
in the system is that you women will be so fiendishly and ruthlessly
tyrannical in your administration."

"You can't seriously expect me to argue with you," said Millicent.

"No, please don't. I am not strong enough. My dung-carrying has taken
the edge off all my reasoning powers."

Millicent spent the next morning in completely rearranging Dick's
furniture. By lunch-time every article in the cottage was occupying a
new position.

"That's much nicer," said Millicent, surveying her work and seeing
that it was good.

There was a knock at the door. Dick opened it and was astonished to
find Hyman.

"I just ran down to see how you were getting on," he explained.

"I'm getting on very well since my sister rearranged my furniture,"
said Dick. He found it pleasing to have an opportunity of exercising
his long unused powers of malicious irony. This was very mild, but
with practice he would soon come on to something more spiteful and
amusing.

Hyman shook hands with Millicent, scowling as he did so. He was
irritated that she was there; he wanted to talk with Dick alone. He
turned his back on her and began addressing Dick.

"Well," he said, "I haven't seen you since the fatal day. How is the
turnip-hoeing?"

"Pretty beastly," said Dick.

"Better than doing hard labour in a gaol, I suppose?"

Dick nodded his head wearily, foreseeing what must inevitably come.

"You've escaped that all right," Hyman went on.

"Yes; you ought to be thankful," Millicent chimed in.

"I still can't understand why you did it, Greenow. It was a blow to
me. I didn't expect it of you." Hyman spoke with feeling. "It was
desertion; it was treason."

"I agree," said Millicent judicially. "He ought to have stuck to his
principles."

"He ought to have stuck to what was right, oughtn't he, Miss Greenow?"
Hyman turned towards Millicent, pleased at finding someone who shared
his views.

"Of course," she replied--"of course. I totally disagree with you
about what is right. But if he believed it right not to fight, he
certainly ought to have gone to prison for his belief."

Dick lit a pipe with an air of nonchalance. He tried to disguise the
fact that he was feeling extremely uncomfortable under these two pairs
of merciless, accusing eyes.

"To my mind, at any rate," said Millicent, "your position seems quite
illogical and untenable, Dick."

It was a relief to be talked to and not about.

"I'm sorry about that," said Dick rather huskily--not a very
intelligent remark, but what was there to say?

"Of course, it's illogical and untenable. Your sister is quite right."
Hyman banged the table.

"I can't understand what induced you to take it up----"

"After you'd said you were going to be one of the absolutes," cried
Hyman, interrupting and continuing Millicent's words.

"Why?" said Millicent.

"Why, why, why?" Hyman echoed.

Dick, who had been blowing out smoke at a great rate, put down his
pipe. The taste of the tobacco was making him feel rather sick. "I
wish you would stop," he said wearily. "If I gave you the real
reasons, you wouldn't believe me. And I can't invent any others that
would be in the least convincing."

"I believe the real reason is that you were afraid of prison."

Dick leaned back in his chair and shut his eyes. He did not mind being
insulted now; it made no difference. Hyman and Millicent were still
talking about him, but what they said did not interest him; he
scarcely listened.

They went back to London together in the evening.

"Very intelligent woman, your sister," said Hyman just before they
were starting. "Pity she's not on the right side about the war and so
forth."

Four weeks later Dick received a letter in which Hyman announced that
he and Millicent had decided to get married.

"I am happy to think," Dick wrote in his congratulatory reply, "that
it was I who brought you together."

He smiled as he read through the sentence; that was what the Christian
martyr might say to the two lions who had scraped acquaintance over
his bones in the amphitheatre.

*  *  *  *  *

One warm afternoon in the summer of 1918, Mr. Hobart, Clerk to the
Wibley Town Council, was disturbed in the midst of his duties by the
sudden entry into his office of a small dark man, dressed in corduroys
and gaiters, but not having the air of a genuine agricultural
labourer.

"What may I do for you?" inquired Mr. Hobart.

"I have come to inquire about my vote," said the stranger.

"Aren't you already registered?"

"Not yet. You see, it isn't long since the Act was passed giving us
the vote."

Mr. Hobart stared.

"I don't quite follow," he said.

"I may not look it," said the stranger, putting his head on one side
and looking arch--"I may not look it, but I will confess to you,
Mr.--er--Mr.--er----"

"Hobart."

"Mr. Hobart, that I am a woman of over thirty."

Mr. Hobart grew visibly paler. Then, assuming a forced smile and
speaking as one speaks to a child or a spoiled animal, he said:

"I see--I see. Over thirty, dear me."

He looked at the bell, which was over by the fireplace at the other
side of the room, and wondered how he should ring it without rousing
the maniac's suspicions.

"Over thirty," the stranger went on. "You know my woman's secret. I am
Miss Pearl Bellairs, the novelist. Perhaps you have read some of my
books. Or are you too busy?"

"Oh no, I've read several," Mr. Hobart replied, smiling more and more
brightly and speaking in even more coaxing and indulgent tones.

"Then we're friends already, Mr. Hobart. Anyone who knows my books,
knows me. My whole heart is in them. Now, you must tell me all about
my poor little vote. I shall be very patriotic with it when the time
comes to use it."

Mr. Hobart saw his opportunity.

"Certainly, Miss Bellairs," he said. "I will ring for my clerk and
we'll--er--we'll take down the details."

He got up, crossed the room, and rang the bell with violence.

"I'll just go and see that he brings the right books," he added, and
darted to the door. Once outside in the passage, he mopped his face
and heaved a sigh of relief. That had been a narrow shave, by Jove. A
loony in the office--dangerous-looking brute, too.

*  *  *  *  *

On the following day Dick woke up and found himself in a bare
whitewashed room, sparsely furnished with a little iron bed, a
washstand, a chair, and table. He looked round him in surprise. Where
had he got to this time? He went to the door and tried to open it; it
was locked. An idea entered his mind: he was in barracks somewhere;
the Military Authorities must have got hold of him somehow in spite of
his exemption certificate. Or perhaps Pearl had gone and enlisted.
. . . He turned next to the window, which was barred. Outside, he
could see a courtyard, filled, not with soldiers, as he had expected,
but a curious motley crew of individuals, some men and some women,
wandering hither and thither with an air of complete aimlessness. Very
odd, he thought--very odd. Beyond the courtyard, on the farther side
of a phenomenally high wall, ran a railway line and beyond it a
village, roofed with tile and thatch, and a tall church spire in the
midst. Dick looked carefully at the spire. Didn't he know it?
Surely--yes, those imbricated copper plates with which it was covered,
that gilded ship that served as wind vane, the little gargoyles at the
corner of the tower there could be no doubt; it was Belbury church.
Belbury--that was where the . . . No, no; he wouldn't believe it. But
looking down again into that high-walled courtyard, full of those
queer, aimless folk, he was forced to admit it. The County Asylum
stands at Belbury. He had often noticed it from the train, a huge,
gaunt building of sausage-coloured brick, standing close to the
railway, on the opposite side of the line to Belbury village and
church. He remembered how, the last time he had passed in the train,
he had wondered what they did in the asylum. He had regarded it then
as one of those mysterious, unapproachable places, like Lhassa or a
Ladies' Lavatory, into which he would never penetrate. And now, here
he was, looking out through the bars, like any other madman. It was
all Pearl's doing, as usual. If there had been no bars, he would have
thrown himself out of the window.

He sat down on his bed and began to think about what he should do. He
would have to be very sane and show them by his behaviour and speech
that he was no more mad than the commonalty of mankind. He would be
extremely dignified about it all. If a warder or a doctor or somebody
came in to see him, he would rise to his feet and say in the calmest
and severest tones: "May I ask, pray, why I am detained here and upon
whose authority?" That ought to stagger them. He practised that
sentence, and the noble attitude with which he would accompany it, for
the best part of an hour. Then, suddenly, there was the sound of a key
in the lock. He hastily sat down again on the bed. A brisk little man
of about forty, clean shaven and with pince-nez, stepped into the
room, followed by a nurse and a warder in uniform. The doctor! Dick's
heart was beating with absurd violence; he felt like an amateur actor
at the first performance of an imperfectly rehearsed play. He rose,
rather unsteadily, to his feet, and in a voice that quavered a little
with an emotion he could not suppress, began:

"Pray I ask, may . . ."

Then, realizing that something had gone wrong, he hesitated,
stammered, and came to a pause.

The doctor turned to the nurse.

"Did you hear that?" he asked. "He called me May. He seems to think
everybody's a woman, not only himself."

Turning to Dick with a cheerful smile, he went on:

"Sit down, Miss Bellairs, please sit down."

It was too much. Dick burst into tears, flung himself upon the bed,
and buried his face in the pillow. The doctor looked at him as he lay
there sobbing, his whole body shaken and convulsed.

"A bad case, I fear."

And the nurse nodded.

*  *  *  *  *

For the next three days Dick refused to eat. It was certainly
unreasonable, but it seemed the only way of making a protest. On the
fourth day the doctor signed a certificate to the effect that forcible
feeding had become necessary. Accompanied by two warders and a nurse,
he entered Dick's room.

"Now, Miss Bellairs," he said, making a last persuasive appeal, "do
have a little of this nice soup. We have come to have lunch with you."

"I refuse to eat," said Dick icily, "as a protest against my unlawful
detention in this place. I am as sane as any of you here."

"Yes, yes." The doctor's voice was soothing. He made a sign to the
warders. One was very large and stout, the other wiry, thin, sinister,
like the second murderer in a play. They closed in on Dick.

"I won't eat and I won't be made to eat!" Dick cried. "Let me go!" he
shouted at the fat warder, who had laid a hand on his shoulder. His
temper was beginning to rise.

"Now, do behave yourself," said the fat warder. "It ain't a bit of use
kicking up a row. Now, do take a little of this lovely soup," he added
wheedlingly.

"Let me go!" Dick screamed again, all his self-control gone. "I will
not let myself be bullied."

He began to struggle violently. The fat warder put an arm round his
shoulders, as though he were an immense mother comforting an irritable
child. Dick felt himself helpless; the struggle had quite exhausted
him; he was weaker than he had any idea of. He began kicking the fat
man's shins; it was the only way he could still show fight.

"Temper, temper," remonstrated the warder, more motherly than ever.
The thin warder stooped down, slipped a strap round the kicking legs,
and drew it tight. Dick could move no more. His fury found vent in
words--vain, abusive, filthy words, such as he had not used since he
was a schoolboy.

"Let me go," he screamed--"let me go, you devils! You beasts, you
swine! beasts and swine!" he howled again and again.

They soon had him securely strapped in a chair, his head held back
ready for the doctor and his horrible-looking tubes. They were pushing
the horrors up his nostrils. He coughed and choked, spat, shouted
inarticulately, retched. It was like having a spoon put on your tongue
and being told to say A-a-h, but worse; it was like jumping into the
river and getting water up your nose--how he had always hated
that!--only much worse. It was like almost everything unpleasant, only
much, much worse than all. He exhausted himself struggling against his
utterly immovable bonds. They had to carry him to his bed, he was so
weak.

He lay there, unmoving--for he was unable to move--staring at the
ceiling. He felt as though he were floating on air, unsupported, solid
no longer; the sensation was not unpleasant. For that reason he
refused to let his mind dwell upon it; he would think of nothing that
was not painful, odious, horrible. He thought about the torture which
had just been inflicted on him and of the monstrous injustice of which
he was a victim. He thought of the millions who had been and were
still being slaughtered in the war; he thought of their pain, all the
countless separate pains of them; pain incommunicable, individual,
beyond the reach of sympathy; infinities of pain pent within frail
finite bodies; pain without sense or object, bringing with it no hope
and no redemption, futile, unnecessary, stupid. In one supreme
apocalyptic moment he saw, he felt the universe in all its horror.

They forcibly fed him again the following morning and again on the day
after. On the fourth day pneumonia, the result of shock, complicated
by acute inflammation of the throat and pleura, set in. The fever and
pain gained ground. Dick had not the strength to resist their ravages,
and his condition grew hourly worse. His mind, however, continued to
work clearly--too clearly. It occurred to him that he might very
likely die. He asked for pencil and paper to be brought him, and
putting forth all the little strength he had left, he began to make
his testament.

"I am perfectly sane," he wrote at the top of the page, and underlined
the words three times. "I am confined here by the most intol. injust."
As soon as he began, he realized how little time and strength were
left him; it was a waste to finish the long words. "They are killing
me for my opins. I regard this war and all wars as utter bad.
Capitalists' war. The devils will be smashed sooner later. Wish I
could help. But it won't make any difference," he added on a new line
and as though by an afterthought. "World will always be hell. Cap. or
Lab., Engl. or Germ.--all beasts. One in a mill. is GOOD. I wasn't.
Selfish intellect. Perhaps Pearl Bellairs better. If die, send corp.
to hosp. for anatomy. Useful for once in my life!"

Quite suddenly, he lapsed into delirium. The clear lucidity of his
mind became troubled. The real world disappeared from before his eyes,
and in its place he saw a succession of bright, unsteady visions
created by his sick fantasy. Scenes from his childhood, long
forgotten, bubbled up and disappeared. Unknown, hideous faces crowded
in upon him; old friends revisited him. He was living in a bewildering
mixture of the familiar and the strange. And all the while, across
this changing unsubstantial world, there hurried a continual,
interminable procession of dromedaries--countless high-domed beasts,
with gargoyle faces and stiff legs and necks that bobbed as though on
springs. Do what he could, he was unable to drive them away. He lost
his temper with the brutes at last, struck at them, shouted; but in
vain. The room rang with his cries of, "Get away, you beasts. Bloody
humps. None of your nonconformist faces here." And while he was
yelling and gesticulating (with his left hand only), his right hand
was still busily engaged in writing. The words were clear and legible;
the sentences consecutive and eminently sane. Dick might rave, but
Pearl Bellairs remained calm and in full possession of her deplorable
faculties. And what was Pearl doing with her busy pencil, while Dick,
like a frenzied Betsy Trotwood, shouted at the trespassing camels? The
first thing she did was to scratch out all that poor Dick had said
about the war. Underneath it she wrote:

"We shall not sheathe the sword, which we have not lightly . . ." And
then, evidently finding that memorable sentence too long, particularly
so since the addition of Poland and Czecho-Slovakia to the list of
Allies, she began again.

"We are fighting for honour and the defence of Small Nationalities.
Plucky little Belgium! We went into the war with clean hands."

A little of Pearl's thought seemed at this moment to have slopped over
into Dick's mind; for he suddenly stopped abusing his dromedaries and
began to cry out in the most pitiable fashion, "Clean hands, clean
hands! I can't get mine clean. I can't, I can't, I can't. I
contaminate everything." And he kept rubbing his left hand against the
bed-clothes and putting his fingers to his nose, only to exclaim,
"Ugh, they still stink of goat!" and then to start rubbing again.

The right hand wrote on unperturbed. "No peace with the Hun until he
is crushed and humiliated. Self-respecting Britons will refuse to
shake a Hunnish hand for many a long year after the war. No more
German waiters. Intern the Forty-Seven Thousand Hidden Hands in High
Places!"

At this point, Pearl seemed to have been struck by a new idea. She
took a clean page and began:

"To the Girls of England. I am a woman and proud of the fact. But,
girls, I blushed for my sex to-day when I read in the papers that
there had been cases of English girls talking to Hun prisoners, and
not only talking to them, but allowing themselves to be kissed by
them. Imagine! Clean, healthy British girls allowing themselves to be
kissed by the swinish and bloodstained lips of the unspeakable Hun! Do
you wonder that I blush for my sex? Stands England where she did? No,
emphatically no, if these stories are true, and true--sadly and with a
heavy bleeding heart do I admit it--true they are."

"Clean hands, clean hands," Dick was still muttering, and applying his
ringers to his nose once more, "Christ," he cried, "how they stink!
Goats, dung . . ."

"Is there any excuse for such conduct?" the pencil continued. "The
most that can be said in palliation of the offence is that girls are
thoughtless, that they do not consider the full significance of their
actions. But listen to me, girls of all ages, classes and creeds, from
the blue-eyed, light-hearted flapper of sixteen to the stern-faced,
hard-headed business woman--listen to me. There is a girlish charm
about thoughtlessness, but there is a point beyond which
thoughtlessness becomes criminal. A flapper may kiss a Hun without
thinking what she is doing, merely for the fun of the thing; perhaps,
even, out of misguided pity. Will she repeat the offence if she
realizes, as she must realize if she will only think, that this
thoughtless fun, this mawkish and hysterical pity, is nothing less
than Treason? Treason--it is a sinister word, but . . ."

The pencil stopped writing; even Pearl was beginning to grow tired.
Dick's shouting had died away to a hoarse, faint whisper. Suddenly her
attention was caught by the last words that Dick had written--the
injunction to send his body, if he died, to a hospital for an anatomy.
She put forth a great effort.

"NO. NO," she wrote in huge capitals. "Bury me in a little country
churchyard, with lovely marble angels like the ones in St. George's at
Windsor, over Princess Charlotte's tomb. Not anatomy. Too horrible,
too disgus . . ."

The coma which had blotted out Dick's mind fell now upon hers as well.
Two hours later Dick Greenow was dead; the fingers of his right hand
still grasped a pencil. The scribbled papers were thrown away as being
merely the written ravings of a madman; they were accustomed that sort
of thing at the asylum.



HAPPILY EVER AFTER

I

AT the best of times it is a long way from Chicago to Blaybury in
Wiltshire, but war has fixed between them a great gulf. In the
circumstances, therefore, it seemed an act of singular devotion on the
part of Peter Jacobsen to have come all the way from the Middle West,
in the fourth year of war, on a visit to his old friend Petherton,
when the project entailed a single-handed struggle with two Great
Powers over the question of passports and the risk, when they had been
obtained, of perishing miserably by the way, a victim of
frightfulness.

At the expense of much time and more trouble Jacobsen had at last
arrived; the gulf between Chicago and Blaybury was spanned. In the
hall of Petherton's house a scene of welcome was being enacted under
the dim gaze of six or seven brown family portraits by unknown masters
of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Old Alfred Petherton, a grey shawl over his shoulders--for he had to
be careful, even in June, of draughts and colds--was shaking his
guest's hand with interminable cordiality.

"My dear boy," he kept repeating, "it _is_ a pleasure to see you. My
dear boy . . ."

Jacobsen limply abandoned his forearm and waited in patience.

"I can never be grateful enough," Mr. Petherton went on--"never
grateful enough to you for having taken all this endless trouble to
come and see an old decrepit man--for that's what I am now, that's
what I am, believe me."

"Oh, I assure you . . ." said Jacobsen, with vague deprecation. "Le
vieux crétin qui pleurniche," he said to himself. French was a
wonderfully expressive language, to be sure.

"My digestion and my heart have got much worse since I saw you last.
But I think I must have told you about that in my letters."

"You did indeed, and I was most grieved to hear it."

"Grieved"--what a curious flavour that word had! Like somebody's tea
which used to recall the most delicious blends of forty years ago. But
it was decidedly the _mot juste_. It had the right obituary note about
it.

"Yes," Mr. Petherton continued, "my palpitations are very bad now.
Aren't they, Marjorie?" He appealed to his daughter who was standing
beside him.

"Father's palpitations are very bad," she replied dutifully.

It was as though they were talking about some precious heirloom long
and lovingly cherished.

"And my digestion. . . . This physical infirmity makes all mental
activity so difficult. All the same, I manage to do a little useful
work. We'll discuss that later, though. You must be feeling tired and
dusty after your journey down. I'll guide you to your room. Marjorie,
will you get someone to take up his luggage?"

"I can take it myself," said Jacobsen, and he picked up a small
gladstone-bag that had been deposited by the door.

"Is that all?" Mr. Petherton asked.

"Yes, that's all."

As one living the life of reason, Jacobsen objected to owning things.
One so easily became the slave of things and not their master. He
liked to be free; he checked his possessive instincts and limited his
possessions to the strictly essential. He was as much or as little at
home at Blaybury or Pekin. He could have explained all this if he
liked. But in the present case it wasn't worth taking the trouble.

"This is your humble chamber," said Mr. Petherton, throwing open the
door of what was, indeed, a very handsome spare-room, bright with
chintzes and cut flowers and silver candlesticks. "A poor thing, but
your own."

Courtly grace! Dear old man! Apt quotation! Jacobsen unpacked his bag
and arranged its contents neatly and methodically in the various
drawers and shelves of the wardrobe.

*  *  *  *  *

It was a good many years now since Jacobsen had come in the course of
his grand educational tour to Oxford. He spent a couple of years
there, for he liked the place, and its inhabitants were a source of
unfailing amusement to him.

A Norwegian, born in the Argentine, educated in the United States, in
France, and in Germany; a man with no nationality and no prejudices,
enormously old in experience, he found something very new and fresh
and entertaining about his fellow-students with their comic
public-school traditions and fabulous ignorance of the world. He had
quietly watched them doing their little antics, feeling all the time
that a row of bars separated them from himself, and that he ought,
after each particularly amusing trick, to offer them a bun or a
handful of pea-nuts. In the intervals of sight-seeing in this strange
and delightful Jardin des Plantes he read Greats, and it was through
Aristotle that he had come into contact with Alfred Petherton, fellow
and tutor of his college.

The name of Petherton is a respectable one in the academic world. You
will find it on the title-page of such meritorious, if not exactly
brilliant, books as _Plato's Predecessors_, _Three Scottish
Metaphysicians_, _Introduction to the Study of Ethics_, _Essays in
Neo-Idealism_. Some of his works are published in cheap editions as
text-books.

One of those curious inexplicable friendships that often link the most
unlikely people had sprung up between tutor and pupil, and had lasted
unbroken for upwards of twenty years. Petherton felt a fatherly
affection for the younger man, together with a father's pride, now
that Jacobsen was a man of world-wide reputation, in having, as he
supposed, spiritually begotten him. And now Jacobsen had travelled
three or four thousand miles across a world at war just to see the old
man. Petherton was profoundly touched.

*  *  *  *  *

"Did you see any submarines on the way over?" Marjorie asked, as she
and Jacobsen were strolling together in the garden after breakfast the
next day.

"I didn't notice any; but then I am very unobservant about these
things."

There was a pause. At last, "I suppose there is a great deal of
war-work being done in America now?" said Marjorie.

Jacobsen supposed so; and there floated across his mind a vision of
massed bands, of orators with megaphones, of patriotic sky-signs, of
streets made perilous by the organized highway robbery of Red Cross
collectors. He was too lazy to describe it all; besides, she wouldn't
see the point of it.

"I should like to be able to do some war-work," Marjorie explained
apologetically. "But I have to look after father, and there's the
housekeeping, so I really haven't the time."

Jacobsen thought he detected a formula for the benefit of strangers.
She evidently wanted to make things right about herself in people's
minds. Her remark about the housekeeping made Jacobsen think of the
late Mrs. Petherton, her mother; she had been a good-looking,
painfully sprightly woman with a hankering to shine in University
society at Oxford. One quickly learned that she was related to bishops
and country families; a hunter of ecclesiastical lions and a snob. He
felt glad she was dead.

"Won't it be awful when there's no war-work," he said. "People will
have nothing to do or think about when peace comes."

"I shall be glad. Housekeeping will be so much easier."

"True. There are consolations."

Marjorie looked at him suspiciously; she didn't like being laughed at.
What an undistinguished-looking little man he was! Short, stoutish,
with waxed brown moustaches and a forehead that incipient baldness had
made interminably high. He looked like the sort of man to whom one
says: "Thank you, I'll take it in notes with a pound's worth of
silver." There were pouches under his eyes and pouches under his chin,
and you could never guess from his expression what he was thinking
about. She was glad that she was taller than he and could look down on
him.

Mr. Petherton appeared from the house, his grey shawl over his
shoulders and the crackling expanse of the _Times_ between his hands.

"Good morrow," he cried.

To the Shakespearian heartiness of this greeting Marjorie returned her
most icily modern "Morning." Her father always said "Good morrow"
instead of "Good morning," and the fact irritated her with unfailing
regularity every day of her life.

"There's a most interesting account," said Mr. Petherton, "by a young
pilot of an air fight in to-day's paper," and as they walked up and
down the gravel path he read the article, which was a column and a
half in length.

Marjorie made no attempt to disguise her boredom, and occupied herself
by reading something on the other side of the page, craning her neck
round to see.

"Very interesting," said Jacobsen when it was finished.

Mr. Petherton had turned over and was now looking at the Court
Circular page.

"I see," he said, "there's someone called Beryl Camberley-Belcher
going to be married. Do you know if that's any relation of the Howard
Camberley-Belchers, Marjorie?"

"I've no idea who the Howard Camberley-Belchers are," Marjorie
answered rather sharply.

"Oh, I thought you did. Let me see. Howard Camberley-Belcher was at
college with me. And he had a brother called James--or was it
William?--and a sister who married one of the Riders, or at any rate
some relation of the Riders; for I know the Camberley-Belchers and the
Riders used to fit in somewhere. Dear me, I'm afraid my memory for
names is going."

Marjorie went indoors to prepare the day's domestic campaign with the
cook. When that was over she retired to her sitting-room and unlocked
her very private desk. She must write to Guy this morning. Marjorie
had known Guy Lambourne for years and years, almost as long as she
could remember. The Lambournes were old family friends of the
Pethertons: indeed they were, distantly, connections; they "fitted in
somewhere," as Mr. Petherton would say--somewhere, about a couple of
generations back. Marjorie was two years younger than Guy; they were
both only children; circumstances had naturally thrown them a great
deal together. Then Guy's father had died, and not long afterwards his
mother, and at the age of seventeen Guy had actually come to live with
the Pethertons, for the old man was his guardian. And now they were
engaged; had been, more or less, from the first year of the war.

Marjorie took pen, ink, and paper. "DEAR GUY," she began--("_We_
aren't sentimental," she had once remarked, with a mixture of contempt
and secret envy, to a friend who had confided that she and her fiancé
never began with anything less than Darling.)--"I am longing for
another of your letters. . . ." She went through the usual litany of
longing. "It was father's birthday yesterday; he is sixty-five. I
cannot bear to think that some day you and I will be as old as that.
Aunt Ellen sent him a Stilton cheese--a useful war-time present. How
boring housekeeping is. By dint of thinking about cheeses my mind is
rapidly turning into one--a Gruyère; where there isn't cheese there
are just holes, full of vacuum . . ."

She didn't really mind housekeeping so much. She took it for granted,
and did it just because it was there to be done. Guy, on the contrary,
never took anything for granted; she made these demonstrations for his
benefit.

"I read Keats's letters, as you suggested, and thought them _too_
beautiful . . ."

At the end of a page of rapture she paused and bit her pen. What was
there to say next? It seemed absurd one should have to write letters
about the books one had been reading. But there was nothing else to
write about; nothing ever happened. After all, what had happened in
her life? Her mother dying when she was sixteen; then the excitement
of Guy coming to live with them; then the war, but that hadn't meant
much to her; then Guy falling in love, and their getting engaged. That
was really all. She wished she could write about her feelings in an
accurate, complicated way, like people in novels; but when she came to
think about it, she didn't seem to have any feelings to describe.

She looked at Guy's last letter from France. "Sometimes," he had
written, "I am tortured by an intense physical desire for you. I can
think of nothing but your beauty, your young, strong body. I hate
that; I have to struggle to repress it. Do you forgive me?" It rather
thrilled her that he should feel like that about her: he had always
been so cold, so reserved, so much opposed to sentimentality--to the
kisses and endearments she would, perhaps, secretly have liked. But he
had seemed so right when he said, "We must love like rational beings,
with our minds, not with our hands and lips." All the same . . .

She dipped her pen in the ink and began to write again. "I know the
feelings you spoke of in your letter. Sometimes I long for you in the
same way. I dreamt the other night I was holding you in my arms, and
woke up hugging the pillow." She looked at what she had written. It
was too awful, too vulgar! She would have to scratch it out. But no,
she would leave it in spite of everything, just to see what he would
think about it. She finished the letter quickly, sealed and stamped
it, and rang for the maid to take it to the post. When the servant had
gone, she shut up her desk with a bang. Bang--the letter had gone,
irrevocably.

She picked up a large book lying on the table and began to read. It
was the first volume of the _Decline and Fall_. Guy had said she must
read Gibbon; she wouldn't be educated till she had read Gibbon. And so
yesterday she had gone to her father in his library to get the book.

"Gibbon," Mr. Petherton had said, "certainly, my dear. How delightful
it is to look at these grand old books again. One always finds
something new every time."

Marjorie gave him to understand that she had never read it. She felt
rather proud of her ignorance.

Mr. Petherton handed the first of eleven volumes to her. "A great
book," he murmured--"an essential book. It fills the gap between your
classical history and your mediæval stuff."

"Your" classical history, Marjorie repeated to herself, "your"
classical history indeed! Her father had an irritating way of taking
it for granted that she knew everything, that classical history was as
much hers as his. Only a day or two before he had turned to her at
luncheon with, "Do you remember, dear child, whether it was Pomponazzi
who denied the personal immortality of the soul, or else that queer
fellow, Laurentius Valla? It's gone out of my head for the moment."
Marjorie had quite lost her temper at the question--much to the
innocent bewilderment of her poor father.

She had set to work with energy on the Gibbon; her bookmarker
registered the fact that she had got through one hundred and
twenty-three pages yesterday. Marjorie started reading. After two
pages she stopped. She looked at the number of pages still remaining
to be read--and this was only the first volume. She felt like a wasp
sitting down to eat a vegetable marrow. Gibbon's bulk was not
perceptibly diminished by her first bite. It was too long. She shut
the book and went out for a walk. Passing the Whites' house, she saw
her friend, Beatrice White that was, sitting on the lawn with her two
babies. Beatrice hailed her, and she turned in.

"Pat a cake, pat a cake," she said. At the age of ten months, baby
John had already learnt the art of patting cakes. He slapped the
outstretched hand offered him, and his face, round and smooth and pink
like an enormous peach, beamed with pleasure.

"Isn't he a darling!" Marjorie exclaimed. "You know, I'm sure he's
grown since last I saw him, which was on Tuesday."

"He put on eleven ounces last week," Beatrice affirmed.

"How wonderful! His hair's coming on splendidly . . ."

*  *  *  *  *

It was Sunday the next day. Jacobsen appeared at breakfast in the
neatest of black suits. He looked, Marjorie thought, more than ever
like a cashier. She longed to tell him to hurry up or he'd miss the
8.53 for the second time this week and the manager would be annoyed.
Marjorie herself was, rather consciously, not in Sunday best.

"What is the name of the Vicar?" Jacobsen inquired, as he helped
himself to bacon.

"Trubshaw. Luke Trubshaw, I believe."

"Does he preach well?"

"He didn't when I used to hear him. But I don't often go to church
now, so I don't know what he's like these days."

"Why don't you go to church?" Jacobsen inquired, with a silkiness of
tone which veiled the crude outlines of his leading question.

Marjorie was painfully conscious of blushing. She was filled with rage
against Jacobsen. "Because," she said firmly, "I don't think it
necessary to give expression to my religious feelings by making a lot
of"--she hesitated a moment--"a lot of meaningless gestures with a
crowd of other people."

"You used to go," said Jacobsen.

"When I was a child and hadn't thought about these things."

Jacobsen was silent, and concealed a smile in his coffee-cup. Really,
he said to himself, there ought to be religious conscription for
women--and for most men, too. It was grotesque the way these people
thought they could stand by themselves--the fools, when there was the
infinite authority of organized religion to support their ridiculous
feebleness.

"Does Lambourne go to church?" he asked maliciously, and with an air
of perfect naïveté and good faith.

Marjorie coloured again, and a fresh wave of hatred surged up within
her. Even as she had said the words she had wondered whether Jacobsen
would notice that the phrase "meaningless gestures" didn't ring very
much like one of her own coinages. "Gesture"--that was one of Guy's
words, like "incredible," "exacerbate," "impinge," "sinister." Of
course all her present views about religion had come from Guy. She
looked Jacobsen straight in the face and replied:

"Yes, I think he goes to church pretty regularly. But I really don't
know: his religion has nothing to do with me."

Jacobsen was lost in delight and admiration.

Punctually at twenty minutes to eleven he set out for church. From
where she was sitting in the summer-house Marjorie watched him as he
crossed the garden, incredibly absurd and incongruous in his black
clothes among the blazing flowers and the young emerald of the trees.
Now he was hidden behind the sweet-briar hedge, all except the hard
black melon of his bowler hat, which she could see bobbing along
between the topmost sprays.

She went on with her letter to Guy. ". . . What a strange man Mr.
Jacobsen is. I suppose he is very clever, but I can't get very much
out of him. We had an argument about religion at breakfast this
morning; I rather scored off him. He has now gone off to church all by
himself;--I really couldn't face the prospect of going with him--I
hope he'll enjoy old Mr. Trubshaw's preaching!"

Jacobsen did enjoy Mr. Trubshaw's preaching enormously. He always made
a point, in whatever part of Christendom he happened to be, of
attending divine service. He had the greatest admiration of churches
as institutions. In their solidity and unchangeableness he saw one of
the few hopes for humanity. Further, he derived great pleasure from
comparing the Church as an institution--splendid, powerful,
eternal--with the childish imbecility of its representatives. How
delightful it was to sit in the herded congregation and listen to the
sincere outpourings of an intellect only a little less limited than
that of an Australian aboriginal! How restful to feel oneself a member
of a flock, guided by a good shepherd--himself a sheep! Then there was
the scientific interest (he went to church as student of anthropology,
as a Freudian psychologist) and the philosophic amusement of counting
the undistributed middles and tabulating historically the exploded
fallacies in the parson's discourse.

To-day Mr. Trubshaw preached a topical sermon about the Irish
situation. His was the gospel of the _Morning Post_, slightly tempered
by Christianity. It was our duty, he said, to pray for the Irish first
of all, and if that had no effect upon recruiting, why, then, we must
conscribe them as zealously as we had prayed before.

Jacobsen leaned back in his pew with a sigh of contentment. A
connoisseur, he recognized that this was the right stuff.

"Well," said Mr. Petherton over the Sunday beef at lunch, "how did you
like our dear Vicar?"

"He was splendid," said Jacobsen, with grave enthusiasm. "One of the
best sermons I've ever heard."

"Indeed? I shall really have to go and hear him again. It must be
nearly ten years since I listened to him."

"He's inimitable."

Marjorie looked at Jacobsen carefully. He seemed to be perfectly
serious. She was more than ever puzzled by the man.

The days went slipping by, hot blue days that passed like a flash
almost without one's noticing them, cold grey days, seeming
interminable and without number, and about which one spoke with a
sense of justified grievance, for the season was supposed to be
summer. There was fighting going on in France--terrific battles, to
judge from the headlines in the _Times_; but, after all, one day's
paper was very much like another's. Marjorie read them dutifully, but
didn't honestly take in very much; at least she forgot about things
very soon. She couldn't keep count with the battles of Ypres, and when
somebody told her that she ought to go and see the photographs of the
_Vindictive_, she smiled vaguely and said Yes, without remembering
precisely what the _Vindictive_ was--a ship, she supposed.

Guy was in France, to be sure, but he was an Intelligence Officer now,
so that she was hardly anxious about him at all. Clergymen used to say
that the war was bringing us all back to a sense of the fundamental
realities of life. She supposed it was true: Guy's enforced absences
were a pain to her, and the difficulties of housekeeping continually
increased and multiplied.

Mr. Petherton took a more intelligent interest in the war than did his
daughter. He prided himself on being able to see the thing as a whole,
on taking an historical, God's-eye view of it all. He talked about it
at meal-times, insisting that the world must be made safe for
democracy. Between meals he sat in the library working at his
monumental History of Morals. To his dinner-table disquisitions
Marjorie would listen more or less attentively, Jacobsen with an
unfailing, bright, intelligent politeness. Jacobsen himself rarely
volunteered a remark about the war; it was taken for granted that he
thought about it in the same way as all other right-thinking folk.
Between meals he worked in his room or discussed the morals of the
Italian Renaissance with his host. Marjorie could write to Guy that
nothing was happening, and that but for his absence and the weather
interfering so much with tennis, she would be perfectly happy.

Into the midst of this placidity there fell, delightful bolt from the
blue, the announcement that Guy was getting leave at the end of July.
"DARLING," Marjorie wrote, "I am so excited to think that you will be
with me in such a little--such a long, long time." Indeed, she was so
excited and delighted that she realized with a touch of remorse how
comparatively little she had thought of him when there seemed no
chance of seeing him, how dim a figure in absence he was. A week later
she heard that George White had arranged to get leave at the same time
so as to see Guy. She was glad; George was a charming boy, and Guy was
so fond of him. The Whites were their nearest neighbours, and ever
since Guy had come to live at Blaybury he had seen a great deal of
young George.

"We shall be a most festive party," said Mr. Petherton. "Roger will be
coming to us just at the same time as Guy."

"I'd quite forgotten Uncle Roger," said Marjorie. "Of course, his
holidays begin then, don't they?"

The Reverend Roger was Alfred Petherton's brother and a master at one
of our most glorious public schools. Marjorie hardly agreed with her
father in thinking that his presence would add anything to the
"festiveness" of the party. It was a pity he should be coming at this
particular moment. However, we all have our little cross to bear.

Mr. Petherton was feeling playful. "We must bring down," he said, "the
choicest Falernian, bottled when Gladstone was consul, for the
occasion. We must prepare wreaths and unguents and hire a flute player
and a couple of dancing girls . . ."

He spent the rest of the meal in quoting Horace, Catullus, the Greek
Anthology, Petronius, and Sidonius Apollinarius. Marjorie's knowledge
of the dead languages was decidedly limited. Her thoughts were
elsewhere, and it was only dimly and as it were through a mist that
she heard her father murmuring--whether merely to himself or with the
hope of eliciting an answer from somebody, she hardly knew--"Let me
see: how does that epigram go?--that one about the different kinds of
fish and the garlands of roses, by Meleager, or is it Poseidippus?
. . ."



II

GUY and Jacobsen were walking in the Dutch garden, an incongruous
couple. On Guy military servitude had left no outwardly visible mark;
out of uniform, he still looked like a tall, untidy undergraduate; he
stooped and drooped as much as ever; his hair was still bushy and, to
judge by the dim expression of his face, he had not yet learnt to
think imperially. His khaki always looked like a disguise, like the
most absurd fancy dress. Jacobsen trotted beside him, short, fattish,
very sleek, and correct. They talked in a desultory way about things
indifferent. Guy, anxious for a little intellectual exercise after so
many months of discipline, had been trying to inveigle his companion
into a philosophical discussion. Jacobsen consistently eluded his
efforts; he was too lazy to talk seriously; there was no profit that
he could see to be got out of this young man's opinions, and he had
not the faintest desire to make a disciple. He preferred, therefore,
to discuss the war and the weather. It irritated him that people
should want to trespass on the domain of thought--people who had no
right to live anywhere but on the vegetative plane of mere existence.
He wished they would simply be content to _be_ or _do_, not try, so
hopelessly, to think, when only one in a million can think with the
least profit to himself or anyone else.

Out of the corner of his eye he looked at the dark, sensitive face of
his companion; he ought to have gone into business at eighteen, was
Jacobsen's verdict. It was bad for him to think; he wasn't strong
enough.

A great sound of barking broke upon the calm of the garden. Looking
up, the two strollers saw George White running across the green turf
of the croquet lawn with a huge fawn-coloured dog bounding along at
his side.

"Morning," he shouted. He was hatless and out of breath. "I was taking
Bella for a run, and thought I'd look in and see how you all were."

"What a lovely dog!" Jacobsen exclaimed.

"An old English mastiff our--one aboriginal dog. She has a pedigree
going straight back to Edward the Confessor."

Jacobsen began a lively conversation with George on the virtues and
shortcomings of dogs. Bella smelt his calves and then lifted up her
gentle black eyes to look at him. She seemed satisfied.

He looked at them for a little; they were too much absorbed in their
doggy conversation to pay attention to him. He made a gesture as
though he had suddenly remembered something, gave a little grunt, and
with a very preoccupied expression on his face turned to go towards
the house. His elaborate piece of by-play escaped the notice of the
intended spectators; Guy saw that it had, and felt more miserable and
angry and jealous than ever. They would think he had slunk off because
he wasn't wanted--which was quite true--instead of believing that he
had something very important to do, which was what he had intended
they should believe.

A cloud of self-doubt settled upon him. Was his mind, after all,
worthless, and the little things he had written--rubbish, not
potential genius as he had hoped? Jacobsen was right in preferring
George's company. George was perfect, physically, a splendid creature;
what could he himself claim?

"I'm second-rate," he thought--"second-rate, physically, morally,
mentally. Jacobsen is quite right."

The best he could hope to be was a pedestrian literary man with quiet
tastes.

NO, no, no! He clenched his hands and, as though to register his
resolve before the universe, he said, aloud:

"I will do it; I will be first-rate, I will."

He was covered with confusion on seeing a gardener pop up, surprised
from behind a bank of rose-bushes. Talking to himself--the man must
have thought him mad!

He hurried on across the lawn, entered the house, and ran upstairs to
his room. There was not a second to lose; he must begin at once. He
would write something--something that would last, solid, hard,
shining. . . .

"Damn them all! I will do it, I can . . ."

There were writing materials and a table in his room. He selected a
pen--with a Relief nib he would be able to go on for hours without
getting tired--and a large square sheet of writing-paper.

     "HATCH HOUSE,
         BLAYBURY,
            WILTS.
   Station: Cogham, 3 miles; Nobes Monacorum, 4½ miles."

Stupid of people to have their stationery printed in red, when black
or blue is so much nicer! He inked over the letters.

He held up the paper to the light; there was a watermark, "Pimlico
Bond." What an admirable name for the hero of a novel! Pimlico Bond.
. . .

    "There's be-eef in the la-arder
     And du-ucks in the pond;
     Crying dilly dilly, dilly dilly . . ."

He bit the end of his pen. "What I want to get," he said to himself,
"is something very hard, very external. Intense emotion, but one will
somehow have got outside it." He made a movement of hands, arms, and
shoulders, tightening his muscles in an effort to express to himself
physically that hardness and tightness and firmness of style after
which he was struggling!

He began to draw on his virgin paper. A woman, naked, one arm lifted
over her head, so that it pulled up her breast by that wonderful
curving muscle that comes down from the shoulder. The inner surface of
the thighs, remember, is slightly concave. The feet, seen from the
front, are always a difficulty.

It would never do to leave that about. What would the servants think?
He turned the nipples into eyes, drew heavy lines for nose, mouth, and
chin, slopped on the ink thick; it made a passable face now--though an
acute observer might have detected the original nudity. He tore it up
into very small pieces.

A crescendo booming filled the house. It was the gong. He looked at
his watch. Lunch-time, and he had done nothing. O God! . . .



III

IT was dinner-time on the last evening of Guy's leave. The uncovered
mahogany table was like a pool of brown unruffled water within whose
depths flowers and the glinting shapes of glass and silver hung dimly
reflected. Mr. Petherton sat at the head of the board, flanked by his
brother Roger and Jacobsen. Youth, in the persons of Marjorie, Guy,
and George White, had collected at the other end. They had reached the
stage of dessert.

"This is excellent port," said Roger, sleek and glossy like a well-fed
black cob under his silken clerical waistcoat. He was a strong,
thick-set man of about fifty, with a red neck as thick as his head.
His hair was cropped with military closeness; he liked to set a good
example to the boys, some of whom showed distressing "æsthetic"
tendencies and wore their hair long.

"I'm glad you like it. I mayn't touch it myself, of course. Have
another glass." Alfred Petherton's face wore an expression of
dyspeptic melancholy. He was wishing he hadn't taken quite so much of
that duck.

"Thank you, I will." Roger took the decanter with a smile of
satisfaction. "The tired schoolmaster is worthy of his second glass.
White, you look rather pale; I think you must have another." Roger had
a hearty, jocular manner, calculated to prove to his pupils that he
was not one of the slimy sort of parsons, not a Creeping Jesus.

There was an absorbing conversation going on at the youthful end of
the table. Secretly irritated at having been thus interrupted in the
middle of it, White turned round and smiled vaguely at Roger.

"Oh, thank you, sir," he said, and pushed his glass forward to be
filled. The "sir" slipped out unawares; it was, after all, such a
little while since he had been a schoolboy under Roger's dominion.

"One is lucky," Roger went on seriously, "to get any port wine at all
now. I'm thankful to say I bought ten dozen from my old college some
years ago to lay down; otherwise I don't know what I should do. My
wine merchant tells me he couldn't let me have a single bottle.
Indeed, he offered to buy some off me, if I'd sell. But I wasn't
having any. A bottle in the cellar is worth ten shillings in the
pocket these days. I always say that port has become a necessity now
one gets so little meat. Lambourne! you are another of our brave
defenders; you deserve a second glass."

"No, thanks," said Guy, hardly looking up. "I've had enough." He went
on talking to Marjorie--about the different views of life held by the
French and the Russians.

Roger helped himself to cherries. "One has to select them carefully,"
he remarked for the benefit of the unwillingly listening George.
"There is nothing that gives you such stomach-aches as unripe
cherries."

"I expect you're glad, Mr. Petherton, that holidays have begun at
last?" said Jacobsen.

"Glad? I should think so. One is utterly dead beat at the end of the
summer term. Isn't one, White?"

White had taken the opportunity to turn back again and listen to Guy's
conversation; recalled, like a dog who has started off on a forbidden
scent, he obediently assented that one did get tired at the end of the
summer term.

"I suppose," said Jacobsen, "you still teach the same old
things--Cæsar, Latin verses, Greek grammar, and the rest? We Americans
can hardly believe that all that still goes on."

"Thank goodness," said Roger, "we still hammer a little solid stuff
into them. But there's been a great deal of fuss lately about new
curriculums and so forth. They do a lot of science now and things of
that kind, but I don't believe the children learn anything at all.
It's pure waste of time."

"So is all education, I dare say," said Jacobsen lightly.

"Not if you teach them discipline. That's what's wanted--discipline.
Most of these little boys need plenty of beating, and they don't get
enough now. Besides, if you can't hammer knowledge in at their heads,
you can at least beat a little in at their tails."

"You're very ferocious, Roger," said Mr. Petherton, smiling. He was
feeling better; the duck was settling down.

"No, it's the vital thing. The best thing the war has brought us is
discipline. The country had got slack and wanted tightening up."
Roger's face glowed with zeal.

From the other end of the table Guy's voice could be heard saying, "Do
you know César Franck's 'Dieu s'avance à travers la lande'? It's one
of the finest bits of religious music I know."

Mr. Petherton's face lighted up; he leaned forward. "No," he said,
throwing his answer unexpectedly into the midst of the young people's
conversation. "I don't know it; but do you know this? Wait a minute."
He knitted his brows, and his lips moved as though he were trying to
recapture a formula. "Ah, I've got it. Now, can you tell me this? The
name of what famous piece of religious music do I utter when I order
an old carpenter, once a Liberal but now a renegade to Conservatism,
to make a hive for bees?"

Guy gave it up; his guardian beamed delightedly.

"Hoary Tory, oh, Judas! Make a bee-house," he said. "Do you see?
Oratorio _Judas Maccabeus._"

Guy could have wished that this bit of flotsam from Mr. Petherton's
sportive youth had not been thus washed up at his feet. He felt that
he had been peeping indecently close into the dark backward and abysm
of time.

"That was a good one," Mr. Petherton chuckled. "I must see if I can
think of some more."

Roger, who was not easily to be turned away from his favourite topic,
waited till this irrelevant spark of levity had quite expired, and
continued: "It's a remarkable and noticeable fact that you never seem
to get discipline combined with the teaching of science or modern
languages. Who ever heard of a science master having a good house at a
school? Scientists' houses are always bad."

"How very strange!" said Jacobsen.

"Strange, but a fact. It seems to me a great mistake to give them
houses at all if they can't keep discipline. And then there's the
question of religion. Some of these men never come to chapel except
when they're on duty. And then, I ask you, what happens when they
prepare their boys for Confirmation? Why, I've known boys come to me
who were supposed to have been prepared by one or other of these men,
and, on asking them, I've found that they know nothing whatever about
the most solemn facts of the Eucharist.--May I have some more of those
excellent cherries please, White?--Of course, I do my best in such
cases to tell the boys what I feel personally about these solemn
things. But there generally isn't the time; one's life is so crowded;
and so they go into Confirmation with only the very haziest knowledge
of what it's all about. You see how absurd it is to let anyone but the
classical men have anything to do with the boys' lives."

"Shake it well, dear," Mr. Petherton was saying to his daughter, who
had come with his medicine.

"What is that stuff?" asked Roger.

"Oh, it's merely my peptones. I can hardly digest at all without it,
you know."

"You have all my sympathies. My poor colleague, Flexner, suffers from
chronic colitis. I can't imagine how he goes on with his work."

"No, indeed. I find I can do nothing strenuous."

Roger turned and seized once more on the unhappy George. "White," he
said, "let this be a lesson to you. Take care of your inside; it's the
secret of a happy old age."

Guy looked up quickly. "Don't worry about his old age," he said in a
strange harsh voice, very different from the gentle, elaborately
modulated tone in which he generally spoke. "He won't have an old age.
His chances against surviving are about fourteen to three if the war
goes on another year."

"Come," said Roger, "don't let's be pessimistic."

"But I'm not. I assure you, I'm giving you a most rosy view of
George's chance of reaching old age."

It was felt that Guy's remarks had been in poor taste. There was a
silence; eyes floated vaguely and uneasily, trying not to encounter
one another. Roger cracked a nut loudly. When he had sufficiently
relished the situation, Jacobsen changed the subject by remarking:

"That was a fine bit of work by our destroyers this morning, wasn't
it?"

"It did one good to read about it," said Mr. Petherton. "Quite the
Nelson touch."

Roger raised his glass. "Nelson!" he said, and emptied it at a gulp.
"What a man! I am trying to persuade the Headmaster to make Trafalgar
Day a holiday. It is the best way of reminding boys of things of that
sort."

"A curiously untypical Englishman to be a national hero, isn't he?"
said Jacobsen. "So emotional and lacking in Britannic phlegm."

The Reverend Roger looked grave. "There's one thing I've never been
able to understand about Nelson, and that is, how a man who was so
much the soul of honour and of patriotism could have been--er--immoral
with Lady Hamilton. I know people say that it was the custom of the
age, that these things meant nothing then, and so forth; but all the
same, I repeat, I cannot understand how a man who was so intensely a
patriotic Englishman could have done such a thing."

"I fail to see what patriotism has got to do with it," said Guy.

Roger fixed him with his most pedagogic look and said slowly and
gravely, "Then I am sorry for you. I shouldn't have thought it was
necessary to tell an Englishman that purity of morals is a national
tradition: you especially, a public-school man."

"Let us go and have a hundred up at billiards," said Mr. Petherton.
"Roger, will you come? And you, George, and Guy?"

"I'm so incredibly bad," Guy insisted, "I'd really rather not."

"So am I," said Jacobsen.

"Then, Marjorie, you must make the fourth."

The billiard players trooped out; Guy and Jacobsen were left alone,
brooding over the wreckage of dinner. There was a long silence. The
two men sat smoking, Guy sitting in a sagging, crumpled attitude, like
a half-empty sack abandoned on a chair, Jacobsen very upright and
serene.

"Do you find you can suffer fools gladly?" asked Guy abruptly.

"Perfectly gladly."

"I wish I could. The Reverend Roger has a tendency to make my blood
boil."

"But such a good soul," Jacobsen insisted.

"I dare say, but a monster all the same."

"You should take him more calmly. I make a point of never letting
myself be moved by external things. I stick to my writing and
thinking. Truth is beauty, beauty is truth, and so forth: after all,
they're the only things of solid value." Jacobsen looked at the young
man with a smile as he said these words. There is no doubt, he said to
himself, that that boy ought to have gone into business; what a
mistake this higher education is, to be sure.

"Of course, they're the only things," Guy burst out passionately. "You
can afford to say so because you had the luck to be born twenty years
before I was, and with five thousand miles of good deep water between
you and Europe. Here am I, called upon to devote my life, in a very
different way from which you devote yours to truth and beauty--to
devote my life to--well, what? I'm not quite sure, but I preserve a
touching faith that it is good. And you tell me to ignore external
circumstances. Come and live in Flanders a little and try . . ." He
launched forth into a tirade about agony and death and blood and
putrefaction.

"What is one to do?" he concluded despairingly. "What the devil is
right? I had meant to spend my life writing and thinking, trying to
create something beautiful or discover something true. But oughtn't
one, after all, if one survives, to give up everything else and try to
make this hideous den of a world a little more habitable?"

"I think you can take it that a world which has let itself be
dragooned into this criminal folly is pretty hopeless. Follow your
inclinations; or, better, go into a bank and make a lot of money."

Guy burst out laughing, rather too loudly. "Admirable, admirable!" he
said. "To return to our old topic of fools: frankly, Jacobsen, I
cannot imagine why you should elect to pass your time with my dear old
guardian. He's a charming old man, but one must admit----" He waved
his hand.

"One must live somewhere," said Jacobsen. "I find your guardian a most
interesting man to be with.--Oh, do look at that dog!" On the
hearth-rug Marjorie's little Pekingese, Confucius, was preparing to
lie down and go to sleep. He went assiduously through the solemn farce
of scratching the floor, under the impression, no doubt, that he was
making a comfortable nest to lie in. He turned round and round,
scratching earnestly and methodically. Then he lay down, curled
himself up in a ball, and was asleep in the twinkling of an eye.

"Isn't that too wonderfully human!" exclaimed Jacobsen delightedly.
Guy thought he could see now why Jacobsen enjoyed living with Mr.
Petherton. The old man was so wonderfully human.

*  *  *  *  *

Later in the evening, when the billiards was over and Mr. Petherton
had duly commented on the anachronism of introducing the game into
Anthony and Cleopatra, Guy and Marjorie went for a stroll in the
garden. The moon had risen above the trees and lit up the front of the
house with its bright pale light that could not wake the sleeping
colours of the world.

"Moonlight is the proper architectural light," said Guy, as they stood
looking at the house. The white light and the hard black shadows
brought out all the elegance of its Georgian symmetry.

"Look, here's the ghost of a rose." Marjorie touched a big cool
flower, which one guessed rather than saw to be red, a faint equivocal
lunar crimson. "And, oh, smell the tobacco-plant flowers. Aren't they
delicious!"

"I always think there's something very mysterious about perfume
drifting through the dark like this. It seems to come from some
perfectly different immaterial world, peopled by unembodied
sensations, phantom passions. Think of the spiritual effect of incense
in a dark church. One isn't surprised that people have believed in the
existence of the soul."

They walked on in silence. Sometimes, accidentally, his hand would
brush against hers in the movement of their march. Guy felt an
intolerable emotion of expectancy, akin to fear. It made him feel
almost physically sick.

"Do you remember," he said abruptly, "that summer holiday our families
spent together in Wales? It must have been nineteen four or five. I
was ten and you were eight or thereabouts."

"Of course I remember," cried Marjorie. "Everything. There was that
funny little toy railway from the slate quarries."

"And do you remember our gold-mine? All those tons of yellow ironstone
we collected and hoarded in a cave, fully believing they were nuggets.
How incredibly remote it seems!"

"And you had a wonderful process by which you tested whether the stuff
was real gold or not. It all passed triumphantly as genuine, I
remember!"

"Having that secret together first made us friends, I believe."

"I dare say," said Marjorie. "Fourteen years ago--what a time! And you
began educating me even then: all that stuff you told me about
gold-mining, for instance."

"Fourteen years," Guy repeated reflectively, "and I shall be going out
again to-morrow . . ."

"Don't speak about it. I am so miserable when you're away." She
genuinely forgot what a delightful summer she had had, except for the
shortage of tennis.

"We must make this the happiest hour of our lives. Perhaps it may be
the last we shall be together." Guy looked up at the moon, and he
perceived, with a sudden start, that it was a sphere islanded in an
endless night, not a flat disk stuck on a wall not so very far away.
It filled him with an infinite dreariness; he felt too insignificant
to live at all.

"Guy, you mustn't talk like that," said Marjorie appealingly.

"We've got twelve hours," said Guy in a meditative voice, "but that's
only clock-work time. You can give an hour the quality of
everlastingness, and spend years which are as though they had never
been. We get our immortality here and now; it's a question of quality,
not of quantity. I don't look forward to golden harps or anything of
that sort. I know that when I am dead, I shall be dead; there isn't
any afterwards. If I'm killed, my immortality will be in your memory.
Perhaps, too, somebody will read the things I've written, and in his
mind I shall survive, feebly and partially. But in your mind I shall
survive intact and whole."

"But I'm sure we shall go on living after death. It can't be the end."
Marjorie was conscious that she had heard those words before. Where?
Oh yes, it was earnest Evangeline who had spoken them at the school
debating society.

"I wouldn't count on it," Guy replied, with a little laugh. "You may
get such a disappointment when you die." Then in an altered voice, "I
don't want to die. I hate and fear death. But probably I shan't be
killed after all. All the same . . ." His voice faded out. They
stepped into a tunnel of impenetrable darkness between two tall
hornbeam hedges. He had become nothing but a voice, and now that had
ceased; he had disappeared. The voice began again, low, quick,
monotonous, a little breathless. "I remember once reading a poem by
one of the old Provençal troubadours, telling how God had once granted
him supreme happiness; for the night before he was to set out for the
Crusade, it had been granted him to hold his lady in his arms--all the
short eternal night through. Ains que j'aille oltre mer: when I was
going beyond sea." The voice stopped again. They were standing at the
very mouth of the hornbeam alley, looking out from that close-pent
river of shadow upon an ocean of pale moonlight.

"How still it is." They did not speak; they hardly breathed. They
became saturated with the quiet.

Marjorie broke the silence. "Do you want me as much as all that, Guy?"
All through that long, speechless minute she had been trying to say
the words, repeating them over to herself, longing to say them aloud,
but paralysed, unable to. And at last she had spoken them,
impersonally, as though through the mouth of someone else. She heard
them very distinctly, and was amazed at the matter-of-factness of the
tone.

Guy's answer took the form of a question. "Well, suppose I were killed
now," he said, "should I ever have really lived?"

They had stepped out of the cavernous alley into the moonlight. She
could see him clearly now, and there was something so drooping and
dejected and pathetic about him, he seemed so much of a great,
overgrown child that a wave of passionate pitifulness rushed through
her, reinforcing other emotions less maternal. She longed to take him
in her arms, stroke his hair, lullaby him, baby-fashion, to sleep upon
her breast. And Guy, on his side, desired nothing better than to give
his fatigues and sensibilities to her maternal care, to have his eyes
kissed fast, and sleep to her soothing. In his relations with
women--but his experience in this direction was deplorably small--he
had, unconsciously at first but afterwards with a realization of what
he was doing, played this child part. In moments of self-analysis he
laughed at himself for acting the "child stunt," as he called it. Here
he was--he hadn't noticed it yet--doing it again, drooping, dejected,
wholly pathetic, feeble . . .

Marjorie was carried away by her emotion. She would give herself to
her lover, would take possession of her helpless, pitiable child. She
put her arms round his neck, lifted her face to his kisses, whispered
something tender and inaudible.

Guy drew her towards him and began kissing the soft, warm mouth. He
touched the bare arm that encircled his neck; the flesh was resilient
under his fingers; he felt a desire to pinch it and tear it.

It had been just like this with that little slut Minnie. Just the
same--all horrible lust. He remembered a curious physiological fact
out of Havelock Ellis. He shuddered as though he had touched something
disgusting, and pushed her away.

"No, no, no. It's horrible; it's odious. Drunk with moonlight and
sentimentalizing about death. . . . Why not just say with Biblical
frankness, Lie with me--Lie with me?"

That this love, which was to have been so marvellous and new and
beautiful, should end libidinously and bestially like the affair,
never remembered without a shiver of shame, with Minnie (the vulgarity
of her!)--filled him with horror.

Marjorie burst into tears and ran away, wounded and trembling, into
the solitude of the hornbeam shadow. "Go away, go away," she sobbed,
with such intensity of command that Guy, moved by an immediate remorse
and the sight of tears to stop her and ask forgiveness, was
constrained to let her go her ways.

A cool, impersonal calm had succeeded almost immediately to his
outburst. Critically, he examined what he had done, and judged it, not
without a certain feeling of satisfaction, to be the greatest
"floater" of his life. But at least the thing was done and couldn't be
undone. He took the weak-willed man's delight in the irrevocability of
action. He walked up and down the lawn smoking a cigarette and
thinking, clearly and quietly--remembering the past, questioning the
future. When the cigarette was finished he went into the house.

He entered the smoking-room to hear Roger saying, ". . . It's the poor
who are having the good time now. Plenty to eat, plenty of money, and
no taxes to pay. No taxes--that's the sickening thing. Look at
Alfred's gardener, for instance. He gets twenty-five or thirty bob a
week and an uncommon good house. He's married, but only has one child.
A man like that is uncommonly well off. He ought to be paying
income-tax; he can perfectly well afford it."

Mr. Petherton was listening somnolently, Jacobsen with his usual keen,
intelligent politeness; George was playing with the blue Persian
kitten.

It had been arranged that George should stay the night, because it was
such a bore having to walk that mile and a bit home again in the dark.
Guy took him up to his room and sat down on the bed for a final
cigarette, while George was undressing. It was the hour of
confidence--that rather perilous moment when fatigue has relaxed the
fibres of the mind, making it ready and ripe for sentiment.

"It depresses me so much," said Guy, "to think that you're only twenty
and that I'm just on twenty-four. You will be young and sprightly when
the war ends; I shall be an old antique man."

"Not so old as all that," George answered, pulling off his shirt. His
skin was very white, face, neck, and hands seeming dark brown by
comparison; there was a sharply demarcated high-water mark of sunburn
at throat and wrist.

"It horrifies me to think of the time one is wasting in this bloody
war, growing stupider and grosser every day, achieving nothing at all.
It will be five, six--God knows how many--years cut clean out of one's
life. You'll have the world before you when it's all over, but I shall
have spent my best time."

"Of course, it doesn't make so much difference to me," said George
through a foam of tooth-brushing; "I'm not capable of doing anything
of any particular value. It's really all the same whether I lead a
blameless life broking stocks or spend my time getting killed. But for
you, I agree, it's too bloody. . . ."

Guy smoked on in silence, his mind filled with a languid resentment
against circumstance. George put on his pyjamas and crept under the
sheet; he had to curl himself up into a ball, because Guy was lying
across the end of the bed, and he couldn't put his feet down.

"I suppose," said Guy at last, meditatively--"I suppose the only
consolations are, after all, women and wine. I shall really have to
resort to them. Only women are mostly so fearfully boring and wine is
so expensive now."

"But not all women!" George, it was evident, was waiting to get a
confidence off his chest.

"I gather you've found the exceptions."

George poured forth. He had just spent six months at Chelsea--six
dreary months on the barrack square; but there had been lucid
intervals between the drills and the special courses, which he had
filled with many notable voyages of discovery among unknown worlds.
And chiefly, Columbus to his own soul, he had discovered all those
psychological intricacies and potentialities, which only the passions
bring to light. _Nosce teipsum_, it has been commanded; and a
judicious cultivation of the passions is one of the surest roads to
self-knowledge. To George, at barely twenty, it was all so amazingly
new and exciting, and Guy listened to the story of his adventures with
admiration and a touch of envy. He regretted the dismal and cloistered
chastity--broken only once, and how sordidly! Wouldn't he have learnt
much more, he wondered--have been a more real and better human being
if he had had George's experiences? He would have profited by them
more than George could ever hope to do. There was the risk of George's
getting involved in a mere foolish expense of spirit in a waste of
shame. He might not be sufficiently an individual to remain himself in
spite of his surroundings; his hand would be coloured by the dye he
worked in. Guy felt sure that he himself would have run no risk; he
would have come, seen, conquered, and returned intact and still
himself, but enriched by the spoils of a new knowledge. Had he been
wrong after all? Had life in the cloister of his own philosophy been
wholly unprofitable?

He looked at George. It was not surprising that the ladies favoured
him, glorious ephebus that he was.

"With a face and figure like mine," he reflected, "I shouldn't have
been able to lead his life, even if I'd wanted to." He laughed
inwardly.

"You really must meet her," George was saying enthusiastically.

Guy smiled. "No, I really mustn't. Let me give you a bit of perfectly
good advice. Never attempt to share your joys with anyone else. People
will sympathize with pain, but not with pleasure. Good night, George."

He bent over the pillow and kissed the smiling face that was as smooth
as a child's to his lips.

Guy lay awake for a long time, and his eyes were dry and aching before
sleep finally came upon him. He spent those dark interminable hours
thinking--thinking hard, intensely, painfully. No sooner had he left
George's room than a feeling of intense unhappiness took hold of him.
"Distorted with misery," that was how he described himself; he loved
to coin such phrases, for he felt the artist's need to express as well
as to feel and think. Distorted with misery, he went to bed; distorted
with misery, he lay and thought and thought. He had, positively, a
sense of physical distortion: his guts were twisted, he had a hunched
back, his legs were withered. . . .

He had the right to be miserable. He was going back to France
to-morrow, he had trampled on his mistress's love, and he was
beginning to doubt himself, to wonder whether his whole life hadn't
been one ludicrous folly.

He reviewed his life, like a man about to die. Born in another age, he
would, he supposed, have been religious. He had got over religion
early, like the measles--at nine a Low Churchman, at twelve a Broad
Churchman, and at fourteen an Agnostic--but he still retained the
temperament of a religious man. Intellectually he was a Voltairian,
emotionally a Bunyanite. To have arrived at this formula was, he felt,
a distinct advance in self-knowledge. And what a fool he had been with
Marjorie! The priggishness of his attitude--making her read Wordsworth
when she didn't want to. Intellectual love--his phrases weren't always
a blessing; how hopelessly he had deceived himself with words! And now
this evening the crowning outrage, when he had behaved to her like a
hysterical anchorite dealing with a temptation. His body tingled, at
the recollection, with shame.

An idea occurred to him; he would go and see her, tiptoe downstairs to
her room, kneel by her bed, ask for her forgiveness. He lay quite
still imagining the whole scene. He even went so far as to get out of
bed, open the door, which made a noise in the process like a peacock's
scream, quite unnerving him, and creep to the head of the stairs. He
stood there a long time, his feet growing colder and colder, and then
decided that the adventure was really too sordidly like the episode at
the beginning of Tolstoy's _Resurrection_. The door screamed again as
he returned; he lay in bed, trying to persuade himself that his
self-control had been admirable and at the same time cursing his
absence of courage in not carrying out what he had intended.

He remembered a lecture he had given Marjorie once on the subject of
Sacred and Profane Love. Poor girl, how had she listened in patience?
He could see her attending with such a serious expression on her face
that she looked quite ugly. She looked so beautiful when she was
laughing or happy; at the Whites', for instance, three nights ago,
when George and she had danced after dinner and he had sat, secretly
envious, reading a book in the corner of the room and looking
superior. He wouldn't learn to dance, but always wished he could. It
was a barbarous, aphrodisiacal occupation, he said, and he preferred
to spend his time and energies in reading. Salvationist again! What a
much wiser person George had proved himself than he. He had no
prejudices, no theoretical views about the conduct of life; he just
lived, admirably, naturally, as the spirit or the flesh moved him. If
only he could live his life again, if only he could abolish this
evening's monstrous stupidity. . . .

Marjorie also lay awake. She too felt herself distorted with misery.
How odiously cruel he had been, and how much she longed to forgive
him! Perhaps he would come in the dark, when all the house was asleep,
tiptoeing into the room very quietly to kneel by her bed and ask to be
forgiven. Would he come, she wondered? She stared into the blackness
above her and about her, willing him to come, commanding him--angry
and wretched because he was so slow in coming, because he didn't come
at all. They were both of them asleep before two.

Seven hours of sleep make a surprising difference to the state of
mind. Guy, who thought he was distorted for life, woke to find himself
healthily normal. Marjorie's angers and despairs had subsided. The
hour they had together between breakfast and Guy's departure was
filled with almost trivial conversation. Guy was determined to say
something about last's night incident. But it was only at the very
last moment, when the dog-cart was actually at the door, that he
managed to bring out some stammered repentance for what had happened
last night.

"Don't think about it," Marjorie had told him. So they had kissed and
parted, and their relations were precisely the same as they had been
before Guy came on leave.

*  *  *  *  *

George was sent out a week or two later, and a month after that they
heard at Blaybury that he had lost a leg--fortunately below the knee.

"Poor boy!" said Mr. Petherton. "I must really write a line to his
mother at once."

Jacobsen made no comment, but it was a surprise to him to find how
much he had been moved by the news. George White had lost a leg; he
couldn't get the thought out of his head. But only below the knee; he
might be called lucky. Lucky--things are deplorably relative, he
reflected. One thanks God because He has thought fit to deprive one of
His creatures of a limb.

"Neither delighteth He in any man's legs," eh? Nous avons changé tout
cela.

George had lost a leg. There would be no more of that Olympian speed
and strength and beauty. Jacobsen conjured up before his memory a
vision of the boy running with his great fawn-coloured dog across
green expanses of grass. How glorious he had looked, his fine brown
hair blowing like fire in the wind of his own speed, his cheeks
flushed, his eyes very bright. And how easily he ran, with long,
bounding strides, looking down at the dog that jumped and barked at
his side!

He had had a perfection, and now it was spoilt. Instead of a leg he
had a stump. _Moignon_, the French called it; there was the right
repulsive sound about _moignon_ which was lacking in "stump." Soignons
le moignon en l'oignant d'oignons.

Often, at night before he went to sleep, he couldn't help thinking of
George and the war and all the millions of _moignons_ there must be in
the world. He had a dream one night of slimy red knobbles, large
polyp-like things, growing as he looked at them, swelling between his
hands--_moignons_, in fact.

George was well enough in the late autumn to come home. He had learnt
to hop along on his crutches very skilfully, and his preposterous
donkey-drawn bath-chair soon became a familiar object in the lanes of
the neighbourhood. It was a grand sight to behold when George rattled
past at the trot, leaning forward like a young Phoebus in his chariot
and urging his unwilling beast with voice and crutch. He drove over to
Blaybury almost every day; Marjorie and he had endless talks about
life and love and Guy and other absorbing topics. With Jacobsen he
played piquet and discussed a thousand subjects. He was always gay and
happy--that was what especially lacerated Jacobsen's heart with pity.



IV

THE Christmas holidays had begun, and the Reverend Roger was back
again at Blaybury. He was sitting at the writing-table in the
drawing-room, engaged, at the moment, in biting the end of his pen and
scratching his head. His face wore an expression of perplexity; one
would have said that he was in the throes of literary composition.
Which indeed he was: "Beloved ward of Alfred Petherton . . ." he said
aloud. "Beloved ward . . ." He shook his head doubtfully.

The door opened and Jacobsen came into the room. Roger turned round at
once.

"Have you heard the grievous news?" he said.

"No. What?"

"Poor Guy is dead. We got the telegram half an hour ago."

"Good God!" said Jacobsen in an agonized voice which seemed to show
that he had been startled out of the calm belonging to one who leads
the life of reason. He had been conscious ever since George's
mutilation that his defences were growing weaker; external
circumstance was steadily encroaching upon him. Now it had broken in
and, for the moment, he was at its mercy. Guy dead. . . . He pulled
himself together sufficiently to say, after a pause, "Well, I suppose
it was only to be expected sooner or later. Poor boy."

"Yes, it's terrible, isn't it?" said Roger, shaking his head. "I am
just writing out an announcement to send to the _Times_. One can
hardly say 'the beloved ward of Alfred Petherton,' can one? It doesn't
sound quite right; and yet one would like somehow to give public
expression to the deep affection Alfred felt for him. 'Beloved
ward'--no, decidedly it won't do."

"You'll have to get round it somehow," said Jacobsen. Roger's presence
somehow made a return to the life of reason easier.

"Poor Alfred," the other went on. "You've no idea how hardly he takes
it. He feels as though he had given a son."

"What a waste it is!" Jacobsen exclaimed. He was altogether too deeply
moved.

"I have done my best to console Alfred. One must always bear in mind
for what Cause he died."

"All those potentialities destroyed. He was an able fellow, was Guy."
Jacobsen was speaking more to himself than to his companion, but Roger
took up the suggestion.

"Yes, he certainly was that. Alfred thought he was very promising. It
is for his sake I am particularly sorry. I never got on very well with
the boy myself. He was too eccentric for my taste. There's such a
thing as being too clever, isn't there? It's rather inhuman. He used
to do most remarkable Greek iambics for me when he was a boy. I dare
say he was a very good fellow under all that cleverness and queerness.
It's all very distressing, very grievous."

"How was he killed?"

"Died of wounds yesterday morning. Do you think it would be a good
thing to put in some quotation at the end of the announcement in the
paper? Something like, 'Dulce et Decorum,' or 'Sed Miles, sed Pro
Patria,' or 'Per Ardua ad Astra'?"

"It hardly seems essential," said Jacobsen.

"Perhaps not." Roger's lips moved silently; he was counting.
"Forty-two words. I suppose that counts as eight lines. Poor Marjorie!
I hope she won't feel it too bitterly. Alfred told me they were
unofficially engaged."

"So I gathered."

"I am afraid I shall have to break the news to her. Alfred is too much
upset to be able to do anything himself. It will be a most painful
task. Poor girl! I suppose as a matter of fact they would not have
been able to marry for some time, as Guy had next to no money. These
early marriages are very rash. Let me see: eight times three shillings
is one pound four, isn't it? I suppose they take cheques all right?"

"How old was he?" asked Jacobsen.

"Twenty-four and a few months."

Jacobsen was walking restlessly up and down the room. "Just reaching
maturity! One is thankful these days to have one's own work and
thoughts to take the mind off these horrors."

"It's terrible, isn't it?--terrible. So many of my pupils have been
killed now that I can hardly keep count of the number."

There was a tapping at the French window; it was Marjorie asking to be
let in. She had been cutting holly and ivy for the Christmas
decorations, and carried a basket full of dark, shining leaves.

Jacobsen unbolted the big window and Marjorie came in, flushed with
the cold and smiling. Jacobsen had never seen her looking so handsome:
she was superb, radiant, like Iphigenia coming in her wedding garments
to the sacrifice.

"The holly is very poor this year," she remarked. "I am afraid we
shan't make much of a show with our Christmas decorations."

Jacobsen took the opportunity of slipping out through the French
window. Although it was unpleasantly cold, he walked up and down the
flagged paths of the Dutch garden, hatless and overcoatless, for quite
a long time.

Marjorie moved about the drawing-room fixing sprigs of holly round the
picture frames. Her uncle watched her, hesitating to speak; he was
feeling enormously uncomfortable.

"I am afraid," he said at last, "that your father's very upset this
morning." His voice was husky; he made an explosive noise to clear his
throat.

"Is it his palpitations?" Marjorie asked coolly; her father's
infirmities did not cause her much anxiety.

"No, no." Roger realized that his opening gambit had been a mistake.
"No. It is--er--a more mental affliction, and one which, I fear, will
touch you closely too. Marjorie, you must be strong and courageous; we
have just heard that Guy is dead."

"Guy dead?" She couldn't believe it; she had hardly envisaged the
possibility; besides, he was on the Staff. "Oh, Uncle Roger, it isn't
true."

"I am afraid there is no doubt. The War Office telegram came just
after you had gone out for the holly."

Marjorie sat down on the sofa and hid her face in her hands. Guy dead;
she would never see him again, never see him again, never; she began
to cry.

Roger approached and stood, with his hand on her shoulder, in the
attitude of a thought-reader. To those overwhelmed by sorrow the touch
of a friendly hand is often comforting. They have fallen into an
abyss, and the touching hand serves to remind them that life and God
and human sympathy still exist, however bottomless the gulf of grief
may seem. On Marjorie's shoulder her uncle's hand rested with a damp,
heavy warmth that was peculiarly unpleasant.

"Dear child, it is very grievous, I know; but you must try and be
strong and bear it bravely. We all have our cross to bear. We shall be
celebrating the Birth of Christ in two days' time; remember with what
patience He received the cup of agony. And then remember for what
Cause Guy has given his life. He has died a hero's death, a martyr's
death, witnessing to Heaven against the powers of evil." Roger was
unconsciously slipping into the words of his last sermon in the school
chapel. "You should feel pride in his death as well as sorrow. There,
there, poor child." He patted her shoulder two or three times.
"Perhaps it would be kinder to leave you now."

For some time after her uncle's departure Marjorie sat motionless in
the same position, her body bent forward, her face in her hands. She
kept on repeating the words, "Never again," and the sound of them
filled her with despair and made her cry. They seemed to open up such
a dreary grey infinite vista--"never again." They were as a spell
evoking tears.

She got up at last and began walking aimlessly about the room. She
paused in front of a little old black-framed mirror that hung near the
window and looked at her reflection in the glass. She had expected
somehow to look different, to have changed. She was surprised to find
her face entirely unaltered: grave, melancholy perhaps, but still the
same face she had looked at when she was doing her hair this morning.
A curious idea entered her head; she wondered whether she would be
able to smile now, at this dreadful moment. She moved the muscles of
her face and was overwhelmed with shame at the sight of the mirthless
grin that mocked her from the glass. What a beast she was! She burst
into tears and threw herself again on the sofa, burying her face in a
cushion. The door opened, and by the noise of shuffling and tapping
Marjorie recognized the approach of George White on his crutches. She
did not look up. At the sight of the abject figure on the sofa, George
halted, uncertain what he should do. Should he quietly go away again,
or should he stay and try to say something comforting? The sight of
her lying there gave him almost physical pain. He decided to stay.

He approached the sofa and stood over her, suspended on his crutches.
Still she did not lift her head, but pressed her face deeper into the
smothering blindness of the cushion, as though to shut out from her
consciousness all the external world. George looked down at her in
silence. The little delicate tendrils of hair on the nape of her neck
were exquisitely beautiful.

"I was told about it," he said at last, "just now, as I came in. It's
too awful. I think I cared for Guy more than for almost anyone in the
world. We both did, didn't we?"

She began sobbing again. George was overcome with remorse, feeling
that he had somehow hurt her, somehow added to her pain by what he had
said. "Poor child, poor child," he said, almost aloud. She was a year
older than he, but she seemed so helplessly and pathetically young now
that she was crying.

Standing up for long tired him, and he lowered himself, slowly and
painfully, into the sofa beside her. She looked up at last and began
drying her eyes.

"I'm so wretched, George, so specially wretched because I feel I
didn't act rightly towards darling Guy. There were times, you know,
when I wondered whether it wasn't all a great mistake, our being
engaged. Sometimes I felt I almost hated him. I'd been feeling so
odious about him these last weeks. And now comes this, and it makes me
realize how awful I've been towards him." She found it a relief to
confide and confess; George was so sympathetic, he would understand.
"I've been a beast."

Her voice broke, and it was as though something had broken in George's
head. He was overwhelmed with pity; he couldn't bear it that she
should suffer.

"You mustn't distress yourself unnecessarily, Marjorie dear," he
begged her, stroking the back of her hand with his large hard palm.
"Don't."

Marjorie went on remorselessly. "When Uncle Roger told me just now, do
you know what I did? I said to myself, Do I really care? I couldn't
make out. I looked in the glass to see if I could tell from my face.
Then I suddenly thought I'd see whether I could laugh, and I did. And
that made me feel how detestable I was, and I started crying again.
Oh, I have been a beast, George, haven't I?"

She burst into a passion of tears and hid her face once more in the
friendly cushion. George couldn't bear it at all. He laid his hand on
her shoulder and bent forward, close to her, till his face almost
touched her hair. "Don't," he cried. "Don't, Marjorie. You mustn't
torment yourself like this. I know you loved Guy; we both loved him.
He would have wanted us to be happy and brave and to go on with
life--not make his death a source of hopeless despair." There was a
silence, broken only by the agonizing sound of sobbing. "Marjorie,
darling, you mustn't cry."

"There, I'm not," said Marjorie through her tears. "I'll try to stop.
Guy wouldn't have wanted us to cry for him. You're right; he would
have wanted us to live for him--worthily, in his splendid way."

"We who knew him and loved him must make our lives a memorial of him."
In ordinary circumstances George would have died rather than make a
remark like that. But in speaking of the dead, people forget
themselves and conform to the peculiar obituary convention of thought
and language. Spontaneously, unconsciously, George had conformed.

Marjorie wiped her eyes. "Thank you, George. You know so well what
darling Guy would have liked. You've made me feel stronger to bear it.
But, all the same, I do feel odious for what I thought about him
sometimes. I didn't love him enough. And now it's too late. I shall
never see him again." The spell of that "never" worked again: Marjorie
sobbed despairingly.

George's distress knew no bounds. He put his arm round Marjorie's
shoulders and kissed her hair. "Don't cry, Marjorie. Everybody feels
like that sometimes, even towards the people they love most. You
really mustn't make yourself miserable."

Once more she lifted her face and looked at him with a heart-breaking,
tearful smile. "You have been too sweet to me, George. I don't know
what I should have done without you."

"Poor darling!" said George. "I can't bear to see you unhappy." Their
faces were close to one another, and it seemed natural that at this
point their lips should meet in a long kiss. "We'll remember only the
splendid, glorious things about Guy," he went on--"what a wonderful
person he was, and how much we loved him." He kissed her again.

"Perhaps our darling Guy is with us here even now," said Marjorie,
with a look of ecstasy on her face.

"Perhaps he is," George echoed.

It was at this point that a heavy footstep was heard and a hand
rattled at the door. Marjorie and George moved a little farther apart.
The intruder was Roger, who bustled in, rubbing his hands with an air
of conscious heartiness, studiously pretending that nothing untoward
had occurred. It is our English tradition that we should conceal our
emotions. "Well, well," he said. "I think we had better be going in to
luncheon. The bell has gone."



EUPOMPUS GAVE SPLENDOUR TO ART BY NUMBERS

"I HAVE made a discovery," said Emberlin as I entered his room.

"What about?" I asked.

"A discovery," he replied, "about _Discoveries_." He radiated an
unconcealed satisfaction; the conversation had evidently gone exactly
as he had intended it to go. He had made his phrase, and, repeating it
lovingly--"A discovery about _Discoveries_"--he smiled benignly at me,
enjoying my look of mystification--an expression which, I confess, I
had purposely exaggerated in order to give him pleasure. For Emberlin,
in many ways so childish, took an especial delight in puzzling and
nonplussing his acquaintances; and these small triumphs, these little
"scores" off people afforded him some of his keenest pleasures. I
always indulged his weakness when I could, for it was worth while
being on Emberlin's good books. To be allowed to listen to his
post-prandial conversation was a privilege indeed. Not only was he
himself a consummately good talker, but he had also the power of
stimulating others to talk well. He was like some subtle wine,
intoxicating just to the Meredithian level of tipsiness. In his
company you would find yourself lifted to the sphere of nimble and
mercurial conceptions; you would suddenly realize that some miracle
had occurred, that you were living no longer in a dull world of
jumbled things but somewhere above the hotch-potch in a glassily
perfect universe of ideas, where all was informed, consistent,
symmetrical. And it was Emberlin who, godlike, had the power of
creating this new and real world. He built it out of words, this
crystal Eden, where no belly-going snake, devourer of quotidian dirt,
might ever enter and disturb its harmonies. Since I first knew
Emberlin I have come to have a greatly enhanced respect for magic and
all the formules of its liturgy. If by words Emberlin can create a new
world for me, can make my spirit slough off completely the domination
of the old, why should not he or I or anyone, having found the
suitable phrases, exert by means of them an influence more vulgarly
miraculous upon the world of mere things? Indeed, when I compare
Emberlin and the common or garden black magician of commerce, it seems
to me that Emberlin is the greater thaumaturge. But let that pass; I
am straying from my purpose, which was to give some description of the
man who so confidentially whispered to me that he had made a discovery
about _Discoveries_.

In the best sense of the word, then, Emberlin was academic. For us who
knew him his rooms were an oasis of aloofness planted secretly in the
heart of the desert of London. He exhaled an atmosphere that combined
the fantastic speculativeness of the undergraduate with the more
mellowed oddity of incredibly wise and antique dons. He was immensely
erudite, but in a wholly unencyclopædic way--a mine of irrelevant
information, as his enemies said of him. He wrote a certain amount,
but, like Mallarmé, avoided publication, deeming it akin to "the
offence of exhibitionism." Once, however, in the folly of youth, some
dozen years ago, he had published a volume of verses. He spent a good
deal of time now in assiduously collecting copies of his book and
burning them. There can be but very few left in the world now. My
friend Cope had the fortune to pick one up the other day--a little
blue book, which he showed me very secretly. I am at a loss to
understand why Emberlin wishes to stamp out all trace of it. There is
nothing to be ashamed of in the book; some of the verses, indeed, are,
in their young ecstatic fashion, good. But they are certainly
conceived in a style that is unlike that of his present poems. Perhaps
it is that which makes him so implacable against them. What he writes
now for very private manuscript circulation is curious stuff. I
confess I prefer the earlier work; I do not like the stony, hard-edged
quality of this sort of thing--the only one I can remember of his
later productions. It is a sonnet on a porcelain figure of a woman,
dug up at Cnossus:

    "Her eyes of bright unwinking glaze
     All imperturbable do not
     Even make pretences to regard
     The jutting absence of her stays
     Where many a Syrian gallipot
     Excites desire with spilth of nard.
     The bistred rims above the fard
     Of cheeks as red as bergamot
     Attest that no shamefaced delays
     Will clog fulfilment nor retard
     Full payment of the Cyprian's praise
     Down to the last remorseful jot.
     Hail priestess of we know not what
     Strange cult of Mycenean days!"

Regrettably, I cannot remember any of Emberlin's French poems. His
peculiar muse expresses herself better, I think, in that language than
in her native tongue.

Such is Emberlin; such, I should rather say, _was_ he, for, as I
propose to show, he is not now the man that he was when he whispered
so confidentially to me, as I entered the room, that he had made a
discovery about _Discoveries_.

I waited patiently till he had finished his little game of
mystification and, when the moment seemed ripe, I asked him to explain
himself. Emberlin was ready to open out.

"Well," he began, "these are the facts--a tedious introduction, I
fear, but necessary. Years ago, when I was first reading Ben Jonson's
_Discoveries_, that queer jotting of his, 'Eupompus gave splendour to
Art by Numbers,' tickled my curiosity. You yourself must have been
struck by the phrase, everybody must have noticed it; and everybody
must have noticed too that no commentator has a word to say on the
subject. That is the way of commentators--the obvious points fulsomely
explained and discussed, the hard passages, about which one might want
to know something passed over in the silence of sheer ignorance.
'Eupompus gave splendour to Art by Numbers'--the absurd phrase stuck
in my head. At one time it positively haunted me. I used to chant it
in my bath, set to music as an anthem. It went like this, so far as I
remember"--and he burst into song: "'Eupompus, Eu-u-pompus gave
sple-e-e-endour . . .'" and so on, through all the repetitions, the
dragged-out rises and falls of a parodied anthem.

"I sing you this," he said when he had finished, "just to show you
what a hold that dreadful sentence took upon my mind. For eight years,
off and on, its senselessness has besieged me. I have looked up
Eupompus in all the obvious books of reference, of course. He is there
all right--Alexandrian artist, eternized by some wretched little
author in some even wretcheder little anecdote, which at the moment I
entirely forget; it had nothing, at any rate, to do with the
embellishment of art by numbers. Long ago I gave up the search as
hopeless; Eupompus remained for me a shadowy figure of mystery, author
of some nameless outrage, bestower of some forgotten benefit upon the
art that he practised. His history seemed wrapt in an impenetrable
darkness. And then yesterday I discovered all about him and his art
and his numbers. A chance discovery, than which few things have given
me a greater pleasure.

"I happened upon it, as I say, yesterday when I was glancing through a
volume of Zuylerius. Not, of course, the Zuylerius one knows," he
added quickly, "otherwise one would have had the heart out of
Eupompus' secret years ago."

"Of course," I repeated, "not the familiar Zuylerius."

"Exactly," said Emberlin, taking seriously my flippancy, "not the
familiar John Zuylerius, Junior, but the elder Henricus Zuylerius, a
much less--though perhaps undeservedly so--renowned figure than his
son. But this is not the time to discuss their respective merits. At
any rate, I discovered in a volume of critical dialogues by the elder
Zuylerius, the reference, to which, without doubt, Jonson was
referring in his note. (It was of course a mere jotting, never meant
to be printed, but which Jonson's literary executors pitched into the
book with all the rest of the available posthumous materials.)
'Eupompus gave splendour to Art by Numbers'--Zuylerius gives a very
circumstantial account of the process. He must, I suppose, have found
the sources for it in some writer now lost to us."

Emberlin paused a moment to muse. The loss of the work of any ancient
writer gave him the keenest sorrow. I rather believe he had written a
version of the unrecovered books of Petronius. Some day I hope I shall
be permitted to see what conception Emberlin has of the _Satyricon_ as
a whole. He would, I am sure, do Petronius justice--almost too much,
perhaps.

"What was the story of Eupompus?" I asked. "I am all curiosity to
know."

Emberlin heaved a sigh and went on.

"Zuylerius' narrative," he said, "is very bald, but on the whole
lucid; and I think it gives one the main points of the story. I will
give it you in my own words; that is preferable to reading his Dutch
Latin. Eupompus, then, was one of the most fashionable
portrait-painters of Alexandria. His clientele was large, his business
immensely profitable. For a half-length in oils the great courtesans
would pay him a month's earnings. He would paint likenesses of the
merchant princes in exchange for the costliest of their outlandish
treasures. Coal-black potentates would come a thousand miles out of
Ethiopia to have a miniature limned on some specially choice panel of
ivory; and for payment there would be camel-loads of gold and spices.
Fame, riches, and honour came to him while he was yet young; an
unparalleled career seemed to lie before him. And then, quite
suddenly, he gave it all up--refused to paint another portrait. The
doors of his studio were closed. It was in vain that clients, however
rich, however distinguished, demanded admission; the slaves had their
order; Eupompus would see no one but his own intimates."

Emberlin made a pause in his narrative.

"What was Eupompus doing?" I asked.

"He was, of course," said Emberlin, "occupied in giving splendour to
Art by Numbers. And this, as far as I can gather from Zuylerius, is
how it all happened. He just suddenly fell in love with numbers--head
over ears, amorous of pure counting. Number seemed to him to be the
sole reality, the only thing about which the mind of man could be
certain. To count was the one thing worth doing, because it was the
one thing you could be sure of doing right. Thus, art, that it may
have any value at all, must ally itself with reality--must, that is,
possess a numerical foundation. He carried the idea into practice by
painting the first picture in his new style. It was a gigantic canvas,
covering several hundred square feet--I have no doubt that Eupompus
could have told you the exact area to an inch--and upon it was
represented an illimitable ocean covered, as far as the eye could
reach in every direction, with a multitude of black swans. There were
thirty-three thousand of these black swans, each, even though it might
be but a speck on the horizon, distinctly limned. In the middle of the
ocean was an island, upon which stood a more or less human figure
having three eyes, three arms and legs, three breasts and three
navels. In the leaden sky three suns were dimly expiring. There was
nothing more in the picture; Zuylerius describes it exactly. Eupompus
spent nine months of hard work in painting it. The privileged few who
were allowed to see it pronounced it, finished, a masterpiece. They
gathered round Eupompus in a little school, calling themselves the
Philarithmics. They would sit for hours in front of his great work,
contemplating the swans and counting them; according to the
Philarithmics, to count and to contemplate were the same thing.

"Eupompus' next picture, representing an orchard of identical trees
set in quincunxes, was regarded with less favour by the connoisseurs.
His studies of crowds were, however, more highly esteemed; in these
were portrayed masses of people arranged in groups that exactly
imitated the number and position of the stars making up various of the
more famous constellations. And then there was his famous picture of
the amphitheatre, which created a furore among the Philarithmics.
Zuylerius again gives us a detailed description. Tier upon tier of
seats are seen, all occupied by strange Cyclopean figures. Each tier
accommodates more people than the tier below, and the number rises in
a complicated but regular progression. All the figures seated in the
amphitheatre possess but a single eye, enormous and luminous, planted
in the middle of the forehead: and all these thousands of single eyes
are fixed, in a terrible and menacing scrutiny, upon a dwarf-like
creature cowering pitiably in the arena. . . . He alone of the
multitude possesses two eyes.

"I would give anything to see that picture," Emberlin added, after a
pause. "The colouring, you know; Zuylerius gives no hint, but I feel
somehow certain that the dominant tone must have been a fierce
brick-red--a red granite amphitheatre filled with a red-robed
assembly, sharply defined against an implacable blue sky."

"Their eyes would be green," I suggested.

Emberlin closed his eyes to visualize the scene and then nodded a slow
and rather dubious assent.

"Up to this point," Emberlin resumed at length, "Zuylerius' account is
very clear. But his descriptions of the later philarithmic art become
extremely obscure; I doubt whether he understood in the least what it
was all about. I will give you such meaning as I manage to extract
from his chaos. Eupompus seems to have grown tired of painting merely
numbers of objects. He wanted now to represent Number itself. And then
he conceived the plan of rendering visible the fundamental ideas of
life through the medium of those purely numerical terms into which,
according to him, they must ultimately resolve themselves. Zuylerius
speaks vaguely of a picture of Eros, which seems to have consisted of
a series of interlacing planes. Eupompus' fancy seems next to have
been taken by various of the Socratic dialogues upon the nature of
general ideas, and he made a series of illustrations for them in the
same arithmo-geometric style. Finally there is Zuylerius' wild
description of the last picture that Eupompus ever painted. I can make
very little of it. The subject of the work, at least, is clearly
stated; it was a representation of Pure Number, or God and the
Universe, or whatever you like to call that pleasingly inane
conception of totality. It was a picture of the cosmos seen, I take
it, through a rather Neoplatonic _camera obscura--_very clear and in
small. Zuylerius suggests a design of planes radiating out from a
single point of light. I dare say something of the kind came in.
Actually, I have no doubt, the work was a very adequate rendering in
visible form of the conception of the one and the many, with all the
intermediate stages of enlightenment between matter and the _Fons
Deitatis_. However, it's no use speculating what the picture may have
been going to look like. Poor old Eupompus went mad before he had
completely finished it and, after he had dispatched two of the
admiring Philarithmics with a hammer, he flung himself out of the
window and broke his neck. That was the end of him, and that was how
he gave splendour, regrettably transient, to Art by Numbers."

Emberlin stopped. We brooded over our pipes in silence; poor old
Eupompus!

*  *  *  *  *

That was four months ago, and to-day Emberlin is a confirmed and
apparently irreclaimable Philarithmic, a quite whole-hearted
Eupompian.

It was always Emberlin's way to take up the ideas that he finds in
books and to put them into practice. He was once, for example, a
working alchemist, and attained to considerable proficiency in the
Great Art. He studied mnemonics under Bruno and Raymond Lully, and
constructed for himself a model of the latter's syllogizing machine,
in hopes of gaining that universal knowledge which the Enlightened
Doctor guaranteed to its user. This time it is Eupompianism, and the
thing has taken hold of him. I have held up to him all the hideous
warnings that I can find in history. But it is no use.

There is the pitiable spectacle of Dr. Johnson under the tyranny of an
Eupompian ritual, counting the posts and the paving-stones of Fleet
Street. He himself knew best how nearly a madman he was.

And then I count as Eupompians all gamblers, all calculating boys, all
interpreters of the prophecies of Daniel and the Apocalypse; then too
the Elberfeld horses, most complete of all Eupompians.

And here was Emberlin joining himself to this sect, degrading himself
to the level of counting beasts and irrational children and men, more
or less insane. Dr. Johnson was at least born with a strain of the
Eupompian aberration in him; Emberlin is busily and consciously
acquiring it. My expostulations, the expostulations of all his
friends, are as yet unavailing. It is in vain that I tell Emberlin
that counting is the easiest thing in the world to do, that when I am
utterly exhausted, my brain, for lack of ability to perform any other
work, just counts and reckons, like a machine, like an Elberfeld
horse. It all falls on deaf ears; Emberlin merely smiles and shows me
some new numerical joke that he has discovered. Emberlin can never
enter a tiled bathroom now without counting how many courses of tiles
there are from floor to ceiling. He regards it as an interesting fact
that there are twenty-six rows of tiles in his bathroom and thirty-two
in mine, while all the public lavatories in Holborn have the same
number. He knows now how many paces it is from any one point in London
to any other. I have given up going for walks with him. I am always
made so distressingly conscious by his preoccupied look, that he is
counting his steps.

His evenings, too, have become profoundly melancholy; the
conversation, however well it may begin, always comes round to the
same nauseating subject. We can never escape numbers; Eupompus haunts
us. It is not as if we were mathematicians and could discuss problems
of any interest or value. No, none of us are mathematicians, least of
all Emberlin. Emberlin likes talking about such points as the
numerical significance of the Trinity, the immense importance of its
being three in one, not forgetting the even greater importance of its
being one in three. He likes giving us statistics about the speed of
light or the rate of growth in fingernails. He loves to speculate on
the nature of odd and even numbers. And he seems to be unconscious how
much he has changed for the worse. He is happy in an exclusively
absorbing interest. It is as though some mental leprosy had fallen
upon his intelligence.

In another year or so, I tell Emberlin, he may almost be able to
compete with the calculating horses on their own ground. He will have
lost all traces of his reason, but he will be able to extract cube
roots in his head. It occurs to me that the reason why Eupompus killed
himself was not that he was mad; on the contrary, it was because he
was, temporarily, sane. He had been mad for years, and then suddenly
the idiot's self-complacency was lit up by a flash of sanity. By its
momentary light he saw into what gulfs of imbecility he had plunged.
He saw and understood, and the full horror, the lamentable absurdity
of the situation made him desperate. He vindicated Eupompus against
Eupompianism, humanity against the Philarithmics. It gives me the
greatest pleasure to think that he disposed of two of that hideous
crew before he died himself.



HAPPY FAMILIES

THE scene is a conservatory. Luxuriant tropical plants are seen
looming through a greenish aquarium twilight, punctuated here and
there by the surprising pink of several Chinese lanterns hanging from
the roof or on the branches of trees, while a warm yellow radiance
streams out from the ball-room by a door on the left of the scene.
Through the glass of the conservatory, at the back of the stage, one
perceives a black-and-white landscape under the moon--expanses of
snow, lined and dotted with coal-black hedges and trees. Outside is
frost and death: but within the conservatory all is palpitating and
steaming with tropical life and heat. Enormous fantastic plants
encumber it; trees, creepers that writhe with serpentine life, orchids
of every kind. Everywhere dense vegetation; horrible flowers that look
like bottled spiders, like suppurating wounds; flowers with eyes and
tongues, with moving, sensitive tentacles, with breasts and teeth and
spotted skins.

The strains of a waltz float in through the ball-room door, and to
that slow, soft music there enter, in parallel processions, the two
families which are respectively Mr. Aston J. Tyrrell and Miss Topsy
Garrick.

The doyen of the Tyrrell family is a young and perhaps too cultured
literary man with rather long, dark brown hair, a face well cut and
sensitive, if a trifle weak about the lower jaw, and a voice whose
exquisite modulations could only be the product of education at one of
the two Great Universities. We will call him plain Aston. Miss Topsy,
the head of the Garrick family, is a young woman of not quite twenty,
with sleek, yellow hair hanging, like a page's, short and thick about
her ears; boyish, too, in her slenderness and length of leg--boyish,
but feminine and attractive to the last degree. Miss Topsy paints
charmingly, sings in a small, pure voice that twists the heart and
makes the bowels yearn in the hearing of it, is well educated, and has
read, or at least heard of, most of the best books in three languages,
knows something, too, of economics and the doctrines of Freud.

They enter arm in arm, fresh from the dance, trailing behind them with
their disengaged hands two absurd ventriloquist's dummies of
themselves. They sit down on a bench placed in the middle of the stage
under a kind of arbour festooned with fabulous flowers. The other
members of the two families lurk in the tropical twilight of the
background.

Aston advances his dummy and makes it speak, moving its mouth and
limbs appropriately by means of the secret levers which his hand
controls.

ASTON'S DUMMY.

What a perfect floor it is to-night!

TOPSY'S DUMMY.

Yes, it's like ice, isn't it? And such a good band.

ASTON'S DUMMY.

Oh yes, a very good band.

TOPSY'S DUMMY.

They play at dinner-time at the Necropole, you know.

ASTON'S DUMMY.

Really! (_A long, uncomfortable silence._)

(_From under a lofty twangum tree emerges the figure of CAIN
WASHINGTON TYRRELL, ASTON'S negro brother--for the TYRRELLS, I regret
to say, have a lick of the tar-brush in them and CAIN is a Mendelian
throwback to the pure Jamaican type. CAIN is stout and his black face
shines with grease. The whites of his eyes are like enamel, his smile
is chryselephantine. He is dressed in faultless evening dress and a
ribbon of seals tinkles on his stomach. He walks with legs wide apart,
the upper part of his body thrown back and his belly projecting, as
though he were supporting the weight of an Aristophanic actor's
costume. He struts up and down in front of the couple on the seat,
grinning and slapping himself on the waistcoat._)

CAIN.

What hair, nyum nyum! and the nape of her neck; and her body--how
slender! and what lovely movements, nyum nyum! (_Approaching ASTON and
speaking into his ear._) Eh? eh? eh?

ASTON.

Go away, you pig. Go away. (_He holds up his dummy as a shield: CAIN
retires discomfited._)

ASTON'S DUMMY.

Have you read any amusing novels lately?

TOPSY.

(_Speaking over the head of her dummy._) No; I never read novels. They
are mostly so frightful, aren't they?

ASTON.

(_Enthusiastically._) How splendid! Neither do I. I only write them
sometimes, that's all. (_They abandon their dummies, which fall limply
into one another's arms and collapse on to the floor with an expiring
sigh._)

TOPSY.

You write them? I didn't know. . . .

ASTON.

Oh, I'd very much rather you didn't know. I shouldn't like you ever to
read one of them. They're all awful: still, they keep the pot boiling,
you know. But tell me, what do you read?

TOPSY.

Mostly history, and philosophy, and a little criticism and psychology,
and lots of poetry.

ASTON.

My dear young lady! how wonderful, how altogether unexpectedly
splendid. (_CAIN emerges with the third brother, SIR JASPER, who is a
paler, thinner, more sinister and aristocratic ASTON._)

CAIN.

Nyum nyum nyum. . . .

SIR JASPER.

What a perfect sentence that was of yours, Aston: quite Henry
Jamesian! "My dear young lady"--as though you were forty years her
senior; and the rare old-worldliness of that "altogether unexpectedly
splendid"! Admirable. I don't remember your ever employing quite
exactly this opening gambit before: but of course there were things
very like it. (_To CAIN._) What a nasty spectacle you are, Cain,
gnashing your teeth like that!

CAIN.

Nyum nyum nyum.

(_ASTON and TOPSY are enthusiastically talking about books: the two
brothers, finding themselves quite unnoticed, retire into the shade of
their twangum tree. BELLE GARRICK has been hovering behind TOPSY for
some time past. She is more obviously pretty than her sister,
full-bosomed and with a loose, red, laughing mouth. Unable to attract
TOPSY'S attention, she turns round and calls, "HENRIKA." A pale face
with wide, surprised eyes peeps round the trunk, hairy like a
mammoth's leg, of a kadapoo tree with magenta leaves and
flame-coloured blossoms. This is HENRIKA, TOPSY'S youngest sister. She
is dressed in a little white muslin frock set off with blue ribbons._)

HENRIKA.

(_Tiptoes forward._) Here I am; what is it? I was rather frightened of
that man. But he really seems quite nice and tame, doesn't he?

BELLE.

Of course he is! What a goose you are to hide like that!

HENRIKA.

He seems a nice, quiet, gentle man; and _so_ clever.

BELLE.

What good hands he has, hasn't he? (_Approaching TOPSY and whispering
in her ear._) Your hair's going into your eyes, my dear. Toss it back
in that pretty way you have. (_TOPSY tosses her head; the soft, golden
bell of hair quivers elastically about her ears._) That's right!

CAIN.

(_Bounding into the air and landing with feet apart, knees bent, and a
hand on either knee._) Oh, nyum nyum!

ASTON.

Oh, the beauty of that movement! It simply makes one catch one's
breath with surprised pleasure, as the gesture of a perfect dancer
might.

SIR JASPER.

Beautiful, wasn't it?--a pleasure purely æsthetic and æsthetically
pure. Listen to Cain.

ASTON.

(_To TOPSY._) And do you ever try writing yourself? I'm sure you ought
to.

SIR JASPER.

Yes, yes, we're sure you ought to. Eh, Cain?

TOPSY.

Well, I have written a little poetry--or rather a few bad verses--at
one time or another.

ASTON.

Really now! What about, may I ask?

TOPSY.

Well . . . (_hesitating_) about different things, you know. (_She fans
herself rather nervously._)

BELLE.

(_Leaning over TOPSY'S shoulder and addressing ASTON directly._)
Mostly about Love. (_She dwells long and voluptuously on the last
word, pronouncing it "lovv" rather than "luvv."_)

CAIN.

Oh, dat's good, dat's good; dat's dam good. (_In moments of emotion
CAIN'S manners and language savour more obviously than usual of the
Old Plantation._) Did yoh see her face den?

BELLE.

(_Repeats, slowly and solemnly._) Mostly about Love.

HENRIKA.

Oh, oh. (_She covers her face with her hands._) How could you? It
makes me tingle all over. (_She runs behind the kadapoo tree again._)

ASTON.

(_Very seriously and intelligently._) Really. That's very interesting.
I wish you'd let me see what you've done some time.

SIR JASPER.

We always like to see these things, don't we, Aston? Do you remember
Mrs. Towler? How pretty she was! And the way we criticized her
literary productions. . . .

ASTON.

Mrs. Towler. . . . (_He shudders as though he had touched something
soft and filthy._) Oh, don't, Jasper, don't!

SIR JASPER.

Dear Mrs. Towler! We were very nice about her poems, weren't we? Do
you remember the one that began:

    "My Love is like a silvern flower-de-luce
       Within some wondrous dream-garden pent:
     God made my lovely lily not for use,
       But for an ornament."

Even Cain, I believe, saw the joke of that.

ASTON.

Mrs. Towler--oh, my God! But this is quite different: this girl really
interests me.

SIR JASPER.

Oh yes, I know, I know. She interests you too, Cain, doesn't she?

CAIN.

(_Prances two or three steps of a cake-walk and sings._) Oh, ma honey,
oh, ma honey.

ASTON.

But, I tell you, this is quite different.

SIR JASPER.

Of course it is. Any fool could see that it was. I've admitted it
already.

ASTON.

(_To TOPSY._) You will show them me, won't you? I should so much like
to see them.

TOPSY.

(_Covered with confusion._) No, I really couldn't. You're a
professional, you see.

HENRIKA.

(_From behind the kadapoo tree._) No, you mustn't show them to him.
They're really mine, you know, a great many of them.

BELLE.

Nonsense! (_She stoops down and moves TOPSY'S foot in such a way that
a very well-shaped, white-stockinged leg is visible some way up the
calf. Then, to TOPSY._) Pull your skirt down, my dear. You're quite
indecent.

CAIN.

(_Putting up his monocle._) Oh, nyum nyum, ma honey! Come wid me to
Dixie Land. . . .

SIR JASPER.

H'm, a little conscious, don't you think?

ASTON.

But even professionals are human, my dear young lady. And perhaps I
might be able to give you some help with your writings.

TOPSY.

That's awfully kind of you, Mr. Tyrrell.

HENRIKA.

Oh, don't let him see them. I don't want him to. Don't let him.

ASTON.

(_With heavy charm._) It always interests me so much when I hear of
the young--and I trust you won't be offended if I include you in their
number--when I hear of the young taking to writing. It is one of the
most important duties that we of the older generation can perform--to
help and encourage the young with their work. It's a great service to
the cause of Art.

SIR JASPER.

That was what I was always saying to Mrs. Towler, if I remember
rightly.

TOPSY.

I can't tell you, Mr. Tyrrell, how delightful it is to have one's work
taken seriously. I am so grateful to you. May I send you my little
efforts, then?

CAIN.

(_Executes a step dance to the furious clicking of a pair of bones._)

SIR JASPER.

I congratulate you, Aston. A most masterful bit of strategy.

BELLE.

I wonder what he'll do next. Isn't it exciting? Topsy, toss your head
again. That's right. Oh, I wish something would happen!

HENRIKA.

What have you done? Oh, Topsy, you really mustn't send him my poems.

BELLE.

You said he was such a nice man just now.

HENRIKA.

Oh yes, he's nice, I know. But then he's a man, you must admit that. I
don't want him to see them.

TOPSY.

(_Firmly._) You're being merely foolish, Henrika. Mr. Tyrrell, a very
distinguished literary man, has been kind enough to take an interest
in my work. His criticism will be the greatest help to me.

BELLE.

Of course it will, and he has such charming eyes. (_A pause. The
music, which has, all this while, been faintly heard through the
ball-room door, becomes more audible. They are playing a rich, creamy
waltz._) What delicious music! Henrika, come and have a dance. (_She
seizes HENRIKA round the waist and begins to waltz. HENRIKA is
reluctant at first, but little by little the rhythm of the dance takes
possession of her till, with her half-closed eyes and languorous,
trance-like movements, she might figure as the visible living symbol
of the waltz. ASTON and TOPSY lean back in their seats, marking the
time with a languid beating of the hand. CAIN sways and swoons and
revolves in his own peculiar and inimitable version of the dance._)

SIR JASPER.

(_Who has been watching the whole scene with amusement._) What a
pretty spectacle! "Music hath charms. . . ."

HENRIKA.

(_In an almost extinct voice._) Oh, Belle, Belle, I could go on
dancing like this for ever. I feel quite intoxicated with it.

TOPSY.

(_To ASTON._) What a jolly tune this is!

ASTON.

Isn't it? It's called "Dreams of Desire," I believe.

BELLE.

What a pretty name!

TOPSY.

These are wonderful flowers here.

ASTON.

Let's go and have a look at them.

(_They get up and walk round the conservatory. The flowers light up as
they pass; in the midst of each is a small electric globe._)

ASTON.

This purple one with eyes is the assafoetida flower. Don't put your
nose too near; it has a smell like burning flesh. This is a
Cypripedium from Sumatra. It is the only man-eating flower in the
world. Notice its double set of teeth. (_He puts a stick into the
mouth of the flower, which instantly snaps to, like a steel trap._)
Nasty, vicious brute! These blossoms like purple sponges belong to the
twangum tree; when you squeeze them they ooze blood. This is the
Jonesia, the octopus of the floral world: each of its eight tentacles
is armed with a sting capable of killing a horse. Now this is a most
interesting and instructive flower--the patchouli bloom. It is perhaps
the most striking example in nature of structural specialization
brought about by Evolution. If only Darwin had lived to see the
patchouli plant! You have heard of flowers specially adapting
themselves to be fertilized by bees or butterflies or spiders and
such-like? Well, this plant which grows in the forests of Guatemala
can only be fertilized by English explorers. Observe the structure of
the flower; at the base is a flat, projecting pan, containing the
pistil; above it an overarching tube ending in a spout. On either side
a small crevice about three-quarters of an inch in length may be
discerned in the fleshy lobes of the calix. The English traveller
seeing this plant is immediately struck by its resemblance to those
penny-in-the-slot machines which provide scent for the public in the
railway stations at home. Through sheer force of habit he takes a
penny from his pocket and inserts it in one of the crevices or slots.
Immediate result--a jet of highly scented liquid pollen is discharged
from the spout upon the pistil lying below, and the plant is
fertilized. Could anything be more miraculous? And yet there are those
who deny the existence of God. Poor fools!

TOPSY.

Wonderful! (_Sniffing._) What a good scent.

ASTON.

The purest patchouli.

BELLE.

How delicious! Oh, my dear . . . (_She shuts her eyes in ecstasy._)

HENRIKA.

(_Drowsily._) Delicious, 'licious. . . .

SIR JASPER.

I always like these rather _canaille_ perfumes. Their effect is
admirable.

ASTON.

This is the leopard-flower. Observe its spotted skin and its thorns
like agate claws. This is the singing Alocusia--Alocusia
Cantatrix--discovered by Humboldt during his second voyage to the
Amazons. If you stroke its throat in the right place, it will begin to
sing like a nightingale. Allow me. (_He takes her by the wrist and
guides her fingers towards the palpitating throat of a gigantic flower
shaped like a gramophone trumpet. The Alocusia bursts into song; it
has a voice like Caruso's._)

CAIN.

Oh, nyum nyum! What a hand! Oh, ma honey. (_He runs a thick black
finger along TOPSY'S arm._)

TOPSY.

What a remarkable flower!

BELLE.

I wonder whether he stroked my arm like that by accident or on
purpose.

HENRIKA.

(_Gives a little shiver._) He's touching me, he's touching me! But
somehow I feel so sleepy I can't move.

TOPSY.

(_She moves on towards the next flower: BELLE does not allow her to
disengage her hand at once._) What a curious smell this one has!

ASTON.

Be careful, be careful! That's the chloroform plant.

TOPSY.

Oh, I feel quite dizzy and faint. That smell and the heat . . . (_She
almost falls: ASTON puts out his arm and holds her up._)

ASTON.

Poor child!

CAIN.

Poh chile, poh chile! (_He hovers round her, his hands almost touching
her, trembling with excitement: his white eyeballs roll horribly._)

ASTON.

I'll open the door. The air will make you feel better. (_He opens the
conservatory door, still supporting TOPSY with his right arm. The wind
is heard, fearfully whistling: a flurry of snow blows into the
conservatory. The flowers utter piercing screams of rage and fear;
their lights flicker wildly; several turn perfectly black and drop on
to the floor writhing in agony. The floral octopus agitates its
tentacles; the twangum blooms drip blood; all the leaves of all the
trees clap together with a dry, scaly sound._)

TOPSY.

(_Faintly._) Thank you; that's better.

ASTON.

(_Closing the door._) Poor child! Come and sit down again; the
chloroform flower is a real danger. (_Much moved, he leads her back
towards the seat._)

CAIN.

(_Executes a war dance round the seated couple._) Poh chile, poh
chile! Nyum nyum nyum.

SIR JASPER.

One perceives the well-known dangers of playing the Good Samaritan
towards an afflicted member of the opposite sex. Pity has touched even
our good Cain to tears.

BELLE.

Oh, I wonder what's going to happen! It's so exciting. I'm so glad
Henrika's gone to sleep.

TOPSY.

It was silly of me to go all faint like that.

ASTON.

I ought to have warned you in time of the chloroform flower.

BELLE.

But it's such a lovely feeling now--like being in a very hot bath with
lots of verbena bath-salts, and hardly able to move with limpness, but
just ever so comfortable and happy.

ASTON.

How do you feel now? I'm afraid you're looking very pale. Poor child!

CAIN.

Poh chile, poh chile! . . .

SIR JASPER.

I don't know much about these things, but it seems to me, my dear
Aston, that the moment has decidedly arrived.

ASTON.

I'm so sorry. You poor little thing . . . (_He kisses her very gently
on the forehead._)

BELLE.

A--a--h.

HENRIKA.

Oh! He kissed me: but he's so kind and good, so kind and good. (_She
stirs and falls back again into her drowsy trance._)

CAIN.

Poh chile, poh chile! (_He leans over ASTON'S shoulder and begins
rudely kissing TOPSY'S trance-calm, parted lips. TOPSY opens her eyes
and sees the black, greasy face, the chryselephantine smile, the pink,
thick lips, the goggling eyeballs of white enamel. She screams.
HENRIKA springs up and screams too. TOPSY slips on to the floor, and
CAIN and ASTON are left face to face with HENRIKA, pale as death and
with wide-open, terrified eyes. She is trembling in every limb._)

ASTON.

(_Gives CAIN a push that sends him sprawling backwards, and falls on
his knees before the pathetic figure of HENRIKA._) Oh, I'm so sorry,
I'm so sorry. What a beast I am! I don't know what I can have been
thinking of to do such a thing.

SIR JASPER.

My dear boy, I'm afraid you and Cain knew only too well what you were
thinking of. Only too well . . .

ASTON.

Will you forgive me? I can't forgive myself.

HENRIKA.

Oh, you hurt me, you frightened me so much. I can't bear it. (_She
cries._)

ASTON.

O God! O God! (_The tears start into his eyes also. He takes HENRIKA'S
hand and begins to kiss it._) I'm so sorry, I'm so sorry.

SIR JASPER.

If you're not very careful, Aston, you'll have Cain to deal with
again. (_CAIN has picked himself up and is creeping stealthily towards
the couple in the centre of the conservatory._)

ASTON.

(_Turning round._) Cain, you brute, go to hell! (_CAIN slinks back._)
Oh, will you forgive me for having been such a swine? What can I do?

TOPSY.

(_Who has recovered her self-possession, rises to her feet and pushes
HENRIKA into the background._) Thank you, it is really quite all
right. I think it would be best to say no more about it, to forget
what has happened.

ASTON.

Will you forgive me, then?

TOPSY.

Of course, of course. Please get up, Mr. Tyrrell.

ASTON.

(_Climbing to his feet._) I can't think how I ever came to be such a
brute.

TOPSY.

(_Coldly._) I thought we had agreed not to talk about this incident
any further. (_There is a silence._)

SIR JASPER.

Well, Aston? This has been rather fun.

BELLE.

I wish you hadn't been quite so cold with him, Topsy. Poor man! He
really is very sorry. One can see that.

HENRIKA.

But did you see that awful face? (_She shudders and covers her eyes._)

ASTON.

(_Picking up his dummy and manipulating it._) It is very hot in here,
is it not? Shall we go back to the dancing-room?

TOPSY.

(_Also takes up her dummy._) Yes, let us go back.

ASTON'S DUMMY.

Isn't that "Roses in Picardy" that the band is playing?

TOPSY'S DUMMY.

I believe it is. What a very good band, don't you think?

ASTON'S DUMMY.

Yes; it plays during dinner, you know, at the Necropole. (_To
JASPER._) Lord, what a fool I am! I'd quite forgotten; it was she who
told me so as we came in.

TOPSY'S DUMMY.

At the Necropole? Really.

ASTON'S DUMMY.

A very good band and a very good floor.

TOPSY'S DUMMY.

Yes, it's a perfect floor, isn't it? Like glass. . . . (_They go out,
followed by their respective families. BELLE supports HENRIKA, who is
still very weak after her shock._)

BELLE.

How exciting it was, wasn't it, Henrika?

HENRIKA.

Wasn't it awful--too awful! Oh, that face. . . . (_CAIN follows ASTON
out in silence and dejection. SIR JASPER brings up the rear of the
procession. His face wears its usual expression of slightly bored
amusement. He lights a cigarette._)

SIR JASPER.

Charming evening, charming evening. . . . Now it's over, I wonder
whether it ever existed. (_He goes out. The conservatory is left
empty. The flowers flash their luminous pistils; the eyes of the
assafoetida blossoms solemnly wink; leaves shake and sway and rustle;
several of the flowers are heard to utter a low chuckle, while the
Alocusia, after whistling a few derisive notes, finally utters a loud,
gross Oriental hiccough._)

THE CURTAIN SLOWLY DESCENDS.



CYNTHIA

WHEN, some fifty years hence, my grandchildren ask me what I did when
I was at Oxford in the remote days towards the beginning of our
monstrous century, I shall look back across the widening gulf of time
and tell them with perfect good faith that I never worked less than
eight hours a day, that I took a keen interest in Social Service, and
that coffee was the strongest stimulant in which I indulged. And they
will very justly say--but I hope I shall be out of hearing. That is
why I propose to write my memoirs as soon as possible, before I have
had time to forget, so that having the truth before me I shall never
in time to come be able, consciously or unconsciously, to tell lies
about myself.

At present I have no time to write a complete account of that decisive
period in my history. I must content myself therefore with describing
a single incident of my undergraduate days. I have selected this one
because it is curious and at the same time wholly characteristic of
Oxford life before the war.

My friend Lykeham was an Exhibitioner at Swellfoot College. He
combined blood (he was immensely proud of his Anglo-Saxon descent and
the derivation of his name from Old English _lycam_, a corpse) with
brains. His tastes were eccentric, his habits deplorable, the range of
his information immense. As he is now dead, I will say no more about
his character.

To proceed with my anecdote: I had gone one evening, as was my custom,
to visit him in his rooms at Swellfoot. It was just after nine when I
mounted the stairs, and great Tom was still tolling.

    "In Thomae laude
     Resono bim bam sine fraude,"

as the charmingly imbecile motto used to run, and to-night he was
living up to it by bim-bamming away in a persistent _basso profondo_
that made an astonishing background of discord to the sound of frantic
guitar playing which emanated from Lykeham's room. From the fury of
his twanging I could tell that something more than usually cataclysmic
had happened, for mercifully it was only in moments of the greatest
stress that Lykeham touched his guitar.

I entered the room with my hands over my ears. "For God's sake----" I
implored. Through the open window Tom was shouting a deep E flat, with
a spread chord of under- and over-tones, while the guitar gibbered
shrilly and hysterically in D natural. Lykeham laughed, banged down
his guitar on to the sofa with such violence that it gave forth a
trembling groan from all its strings, and ran forward to meet me. He
slapped me on the shoulder with painful heartiness; his whole face
radiated joy and excitement.

I can sympathize with people's pains, but not with their pleasures.
There is something curiously boring about somebody else's happiness.

"You are perspiring," I said coldly.

Lykeham mopped himself, but went grinning.

"Well, what is it this time?" I asked. "Are you engaged to be married
again?"

Lykeham burst forth with the triumphant pleasure of one who has at
last found an opportunity of disburdening himself of an oppressive
secret. "Far better than that," he cried.

I groaned. "Some more than usually unpleasant amour, I suppose." I
knew that he had been in London the day before, a pressing engagement
with the dentist having furnished an excuse to stay the night.

"Don't be gross," said Lykeham, with a nervous laugh which showed that
my suspicions had been only too well founded.

"Well, let's hear about the delectable Flossie or Effie or whatever
her name was," I said, with resignation.

"I tell you she was a goddess."

"The goddess of reason, I suppose."

"A goddess," Lykeham continued; "the most wonderful creature I've ever
seen. And the extraordinary thing is," he added confidentially, and
with ill-suppressed pride, "that it seems I myself am a god of sorts."

"Of gardens; but do come down to facts."

"I'll tell you the whole story. It was like this: Last night I was in
town, you know, and went to see that capital play that's running at
the Prince Consort's. It's one of those ingenious combinations of
melodrama and problem play, which thrill you to the marrow and at the
same time give you a virtuous feeling that you've been to see
something serious. Well, I rolled in rather late, having secured an
admirable place in the front row of the dress circle. I trampled in
over the populace, and casually observed that there was a girl sitting
next me, whom I apologized to for treading on her toes. I thought no
more about her during the first act. In the interval, when the lights
were on again, I turned round to look at things in general and
discovered that there was a goddess sitting next me. One only had to
look at her to see she was a goddess. She was quite incredibly
beautiful--rather pale and virginal and slim, and at the same time
very stately. I can't describe her; she was simply perfect--there's
nothing more to be said."

"Perfect," I repeated, "but so were all the rest."

"Fool!" Lykeham answered impatiently. "All the rest were just damned
women. This was a goddess, I tell you. Don't interrupt me any more. As
I was looking with astonishment at her profile, she turned her head
and looked squarely at me. I've never seen anything so lovely; I
almost swooned away. Our eyes met----"

"What an awful novelist's expression!" I expostulated.

"I can't help it; there's no other word. Our eyes did meet, and we
both fell simultaneously in love."

"Speak for yourself."

"I could see it in her eyes. Well, to go on. We looked at one another
several times during that first interval, and then the second act
began. In the course of the act, entirely accidentally, I knocked my
programme on to the floor, and reaching down to get it I touched her
hand. Well, there was obviously nothing else to do but to take hold of
it."

"And what did she do?"

"Nothing. We sat like that the whole of the rest of the act,
rapturously happy and----"

"And quietly perspiring palm to palm. I know exactly, so we can pass
over that. Proceed."

"Of course you don't know in the least; you've never held a goddess's
hand. When the lights went up again I reluctantly dropped her hand,
not liking the thought of the profane crowd seeing us, and for want of
anything better to say, I asked her if she actually was a goddess. She
said it was a curious question, as she'd been wondering what god I
was. So we said, how incredible: and I said I was sure she was a
goddess, and she said she was certain I was a god, and I bought some
chocolates, and the third act began. Now, it being a melodrama, there
was of course in the third act a murder and burglary scene, in which
all the lights were turned out. In this thrilling moment of total
blackness I suddenly felt her kiss me on the cheek."

"I thought you said she was virginal."

"So she was--absolutely, frozenly virginal; but she was made of a sort
of burning ice, if you understand me. She was virginally
passionate--just the combination you'd expect to find in a goddess. I
admit I was startled when she kissed me, but with infinite presence of
mind I kissed her back, on the mouth. Then the murder was finished and
the lights went on again. Nothing much more happened till the end of
the show, when I helped her on with her coat and we went out together,
as if it were the most obvious thing in the world, and got into a
taxi. I told the man to drive somewhere where we could get supper, and
he drove there."

"Not without embracements by the way?"

"No, not without certain embracements."

"Always passionately virginal?"

"Always virginally passionate."

"Proceed."

"Well, we had supper--a positively Olympian affair, nectar and
ambrosia and stolen hand-pressures. She became more and more wonderful
every moment. My God, you should have seen her eyes! The whole soul
seemed to burn in their depths, like fire under the sea----"

"For narrative," I interrupted him, "the epic or heroic style is
altogether more suitable than the lyrical."

"Well, as I say, we had supper, and after that my memory becomes a
sort of burning mist."

"Let us make haste to draw the inevitable veil. What was her name?"

Lykeham confessed that he didn't know; as she was a goddess, it didn't
really seem to matter what her earthly name was. How did he expect to
find her again? He hadn't thought of that, but knew she'd turn up
somehow. I told him he was a fool, and asked which particular goddess
he thought she was and which particular god he himself.

"We discussed that," he said. "We first thought Ares and Aphrodite;
but she wasn't my idea of Aphrodite, and I don't know that I'm very
much like Ares."

He looked pensively in the old Venetian mirror which hung over the
fireplace. It was a complacent look, for Lykeham was rather vain about
his personal appearance, which was, indeed, repulsive at first sight,
but had, when you looked again, a certain strange and fascinating ugly
beauty. Bearded, he would have made a passable Socrates. But Ares--no,
certainly he wasn't Ares.

"Perhaps you're Hephæstus," I suggested; but the idea was received
coldly.

Was he sure that she was a goddess? Mightn't she just have been a
nymph of sorts? Europa, for instance. Lykeham repudiated the implied
suggestion that he was a bull, nor would he hear of himself as a swan
or a shower of gold. It was possible, however, he thought, that he was
Apollo and she Daphne, reincarnated from her vegetable state. And
though I laughed heartily at the idea of his being Phoebus Apollo,
Lykeham stuck to the theory with increasing obstinacy. The more he
thought of it the more it seemed to him probable that his nymph, with
her burning cold virginal passion, was Daphne, while to doubt that he
himself was Apollo seemed hardly to occur to him.

*  *  *  *  *

It was about a fortnight later, in June, towards the end of term, that
we discovered Lykeham's Olympian identity. We had gone, Lykeham and I,
for an after-dinner walk. We set out through the pale tranquillity of
twilight, and following the towpath up the river as far as Godstow,
halted at the inn for a glass of port and a talk with the glorious old
female Falstaff in black silk who kept it. We were royally entertained
with gossip and old wine, and after Lykeham had sung a comic song
which had reduced the old lady to a quivering jelly of hysterical
laughter, we set out once more, intending to go yet a little farther
up the river before we turned back. Darkness had fallen by this time;
the stars were lighted in the sky; it was the sort of summer night to
which Marlowe compared Helen of Troy. Over the meadows invisible
peewits wheeled and uttered their melancholy cry; the far-off thunder
of the weir bore a continuous, even burden to all the other small
noises of the night. Lykeham and I walked on in silence. We had
covered perhaps a quarter of a mile when all at once my companion
stopped and began looking fixedly westward towards Witham Hill. I
paused too, and saw that he was staring at the thin crescent of the
moon, which was preparing to set in the dark woods that crowned the
eminence.

"What are you looking at?" I asked.

But Lykeham paid no attention, only muttered something to himself.
Then suddenly he cried out, "It's she!" and started off at full gallop
across the fields in the direction of the hill. Conceiving that he had
gone suddenly mad, I followed. We crashed through the first hedge
twenty yards apart. Then came the backwater; Lykeham leapt, flopped in
three-quarters of the way across, and scrambled oozily ashore. I made
a better jump and landed among the mud and rushes of the farther bank.
Two more hedges and a ploughed field, a hedge, a road, a gate, another
field, and then we were in Witham Wood itself. It was pitch black
under the trees, and Lykeham had perforce to slacken his pace a
little. I followed him by the noise he made crashing through the
undergrowth and cursing when he hurt himself. That wood was a
nightmare, but we got through it somehow and into the open glade at
the top of the hill. Through the trees on the farther side of the
clearing shone the moon, seeming incredibly close at hand. Then,
suddenly, along the very path of the moonlight, the figure of a woman
came walking through the trees into the open. Lykeham rushed towards
her and flung himself at her feet and embraced her knees; she stooped
down and smoothed his ruffled hair. I turned and walked away; it is
not for a mere mortal to look on at the embracements of the gods.

As I walked back, I wondered who on earth--or rather who in
heaven--Lykeham could be. For here was chaste Cynthia giving herself
to him in the most unequivocal fashion. Could he be Endymion? No, the
idea was too preposterous to be entertained for a moment. But I could
think of no other loved by the virgin moon. Yet surely I seemed dimly
to recollect that there had been some favoured god; for the life of me
I could not remember who. All the way back along the river path I
searched my mind for his name, and always it eluded me.

But on my return I looked up the matter in Lemprière, and almost died
of laughing when I discovered the truth. I thought of Lykeham's
Venetian mirror and his complacent side glances at his own image, and
his belief that he was Apollo, and I laughed and laughed. And when,
considerably after midnight, Lykeham got back to college, I met him in
the porch and took him quietly by the sleeve, and in his ear I
whispered, "GOAT-FOOT," and then I roared with laughter once again.



THE BOOKSHOP

IT seemed indeed an unlikely place to find a bookshop. All the other
commercial enterprises of the street aimed at purveying the barest
necessities to the busy squalor of the quarter. In this, the main
arterial street, there was a specious glitter and life produced by the
swift passage of the traffic. It was almost airy, almost gay. But all
around great tracts of slum pullulated dankly. The inhabitants did
their shopping in the grand street; they passed, holding gobbets of
meat that showed glutinous even through the wrappings of paper; they
cheapened linoleum at upholstery doors; women, black-bonneted and
black-shawled, went shuffling to their marketing with dilapidated bags
of straw plait. How should these, I wondered, buy books? And yet there
it was, a tiny shop; and the windows were fitted with shelves, and
there were the brown backs of books. To the right a large emporium
overflowed into the street with its fabulously cheap furniture; to the
left the curtained, discreet windows of an eating-house announced in
chipped white letters the merits of sixpenny dinners. Between, so
narrow as scarcely to prevent the junction of food and furniture, was
the little shop. A door and four feet of dark window, that was the
full extent of frontage. One saw here that literature was a luxury; it
took its proportionable room here in this place of necessity. Still,
the comfort was that it survived, definitely survived.

The owner of the shop was standing in the doorway, a little man,
grizzle-bearded and with eyes very active round the corners of the
spectacles that bridged his long, sharp nose.

"Trade is good?" I inquired.

"Better in my grandfather's day," he told me, shaking his head sadly.

"We grow progressively more Philistine," I suggested.

"It is our cheap press. The ephemeral overwhelms the permanent, the
classical."

"This journalism," I agreed, "or call it rather this piddling
quotidianism, is the curse of our age."

"Fit only for----" He gesticulated clutchingly with his hands as
though seeking the word.

"For the fire."

The old man was triumphantly emphatic with his, "No: for the sewer."

I laughed sympathetically at his passion. "We are delightfully at one
in our views," I told him. "May I look about me a little among your
treasures?"

Within the shop was a brown twilight, redolent with old leather and
the smell of that fine subtle dust that clings to the pages of
forgotten books, as though preservative of their secrets--like the dry
sand of Asian deserts beneath which, still incredibly intact, lie the
treasures and the rubbish of a thousand years ago. I opened the first
volume that came to my hand. It was a book of fashion-plates, tinted
elaborately by hand in magenta and purple, maroon and solferino and
puce and those melting shades of green that a yet earlier generation
had called "the sorrows of Werther." Beauties in crinolines swam with
the amplitude of pavilioned ships across the pages. Their feet were
represented as thin and flat and black, like tea-leaves shyly
protruding from under their petticoats. Their faces were egg-shaped,
sleeked round with hair of glossy black, and expressive of an
immaculate purity. I thought of our modern fashion figures, with their
heels and their arch of instep, their flattened faces and smile of
pouting invitation. It was difficult not to be a deteriorationist. I
am easily moved by symbols; there is something of a Quarles in my
nature. Lacking the philosophic mind, I prefer to see my abstractions
concretely imaged. And it occurred to me then that if I wanted an
emblem to picture the sacredness of marriage and the influence of the
home I could not do better than choose two little black feet like
tea-leaves peeping out decorously from under the hem of wide,
disguising petticoats. While heels and thoroughbred insteps should
figure--oh well, the reverse.

The current of my thoughts was turned aside by the old man's voice. "I
expect you are musical," he said.

Oh yes, I was a little; and he held out to me a bulky folio.

"Did you ever hear this?" he asked.

_Robert the Devil_: no, I never had. I did not doubt that it was a gap
in my musical education.

The old man took the book and drew up a chair from the dim
_penetralia_ of the shop. It was then that I noticed a surprising
fact: what I had, at a careless glance, taken to be a common counter I
perceived now to be a piano of a square, unfamiliar shape. The old man
sat down before it. "You must forgive any defects in its tone," he
said, turning to me. "An early Broadwood, Georgian, you know, and has
seen a deal of service in a hundred years."

He opened the lid, and the yellow keys grinned at me in the darkness
like the teeth of an ancient horse.

The old man rustled pages till he found a desired place. "The ballet
music," he said: "it's fine. Listen to this."

His bony, rather tremulous hands began suddenly to move with an
astonishing nimbleness, and there rose up, faint and tinkling against
the roar of the traffic, a gay pirouetting music. The instrument
rattled considerably and the volume of sound was thin as the trickle
of a drought-shrunken stream: but, still, it kept tune and the melody
was there, filmy, aerial.

"And now for the drinking-song," cried the old man, warming excitedly
to his work. He played a series of chords that mounted modulating
upwards towards a breaking-point; so supremely operatic as positively
to be a parody of that moment of tautening suspense, when the singers
are bracing themselves for a burst of passion. And then it came, the
drinking chorus. One pictured to oneself cloaked men, wildly jovial
over the emptiness of cardboard flagons.

    "Versiam' a tazza piena
     Il generoso umor . . ."

The old man's voice was cracked and shrill, but his enthusiasm made up
for any defects in execution. I had never seen anyone so
wholeheartedly a reveller.

He turned over a few more pages. "Ah, the 'Valse Infernale,'" he said.
"That's good." There was a little melancholy prelude and then the
tune, not so infernal perhaps as one might have been led to expect,
but still pleasant enough. I looked over his shoulder at the words and
sang to his accompaniment.

    "Demoni fatali
     Fantasmi d'orror,
     Dei regni infernali
     Plaudite al signor."

A great steam-driven brewer's lorry roared past with its annihilating
thunder and utterly blotted out the last line. The old man's hands
still moved over the yellow keys, my mouth opened and shut; but there
was no sound of words or music. It was as though the fatal demons, the
phantasms of horror, had made a sudden irruption into this peaceful,
abstracted place.

I looked out through the narrow door. The traffic ceaselessly passed;
men and women hurried along with set faces. Phantasms of horror, all
of them: infernal realms wherein they dwelt. Outside, men lived under
the tyranny of things. Their every action was determined by the orders
of mere matter, by money, and the tools of their trade and the
unthinking laws of habit and convention. But here I seemed to be safe
from things, living at a remove from actuality; here where a bearded
old man, improbable survival from some other time, indomitably played
the music of romance, despite the fact that the phantasms of horror
might occasionally drown the sound of it with their clamour.

"So: will you take it?" The voice of the old man broke across my
thoughts. "I will let you have it for five shillings." He was holding
out the thick, dilapidated volume towards me. His face wore a look of
strained anxiety. I could see how eager he was to get my five
shillings, how necessary, poor man! for him. He has been, I thought
with an unreasonable bitterness--he has been simply performing for my
benefit, like a trained dog. His aloofness, his culture--all a
business trick. I felt aggrieved. He was just one of the common
phantasms of horror masquerading as the angel of this somewhat comic
paradise of contemplation. I gave him a couple of half-crowns and he
began wrapping the book in paper.

"I tell you," he said, "I'm sorry to part with it. I get attached to
my books, you know; but they always have to go."

He sighed with such an obvious genuineness of feeling that I repented
of the judgment I had passed upon him. He was a reluctant inhabitant
of the infernal realms, even as was I myself.

Outside they were beginning to cry the evening papers: a ship sunk,
trenches captured, somebody's new stirring speech. We looked at one
another--the old bookseller and I--in silence. We understood one
another without speech. Here were we in particular, and here was the
whole of humanity in general, all faced by the hideous triumph of
things. In this continued massacre of men, in this old man's enforced
sacrifice, matter equally triumphed. And walking homeward through
Regent's Park, I too found matter triumphing over me. My book was
unconscionably heavy, and I wondered what in the world I should do
with a piano score of _Robert the Devil_ when I had got it home. It
would only be another thing to weigh me down and hinder me; and at the
moment it was very, oh, abominably, heavy. I leaned over the railings
that ring round the ornamental water, and as unostentatiously as I
could, I let the book fall into the bushes.

I often think it would be best not to attempt the solution of the
problem of life. Living is hard enough without complicating the
process by thinking about it. The wisest thing, perhaps, is to take
for granted the "wearisome condition of humanity, born under one law,
to another bound," and to leave the matter at that, without an attempt
to reconcile the incompatibles. Oh, the absurd difficulty of it all!
And I have, moreover, wasted five shillings, which is serious, you
know, in these thin times.



THE DEATH OF LULLY

THE sea lay in a breathing calm, and the galley, bosomed in its
transparent water, stirred rhythmically to the slow pulse of its
sleeping life. Down below there, fathoms away through the
crystal-clear Mediterranean, the shadow of the ship lazily swung,
moving, a long dark patch, very slowly back and forth across the white
sand of the sea-bottom--very slowly, a scarcely perceptible advance
and recession of the green darkness. Fishes sometimes passed, now
hanging poised with idly tremulous fins, now darting onwards,
effortless and incredibly swift; and always, as it seemed, utterly
aimless, whether they rested or whether they moved; as the life of
angels their life seemed mysterious and unknowable.

All was silence on board the ship. In their fetid cage below decks the
rowers slept where they sat, chained, on their narrow benches. On deck
the sailors lay sleeping or sat in little groups playing at dice. The
fore-part of the deck was reserved, it seemed, for passengers of
distinction. Two figures, a man and a woman, were reclining there on
couches, their faces and half-bared limbs flushed in the coloured
shadow that was thrown by the great red awning stretched above them.

It was a nobleman, the sailors had heard, and his mistress that they
had on board. They had taken their passage at Scanderoon, and were
homeward bound for Spain. Proud as sin these Spaniards were; the man
treated them like slaves or dogs. As for the woman, she was well
enough, but they could find as good a face and pair of breasts in
their native Genoa. If anyone so much as looked at her from half the
ship's length away it sent her possessor into a rage. He had struck
one man for smiling at her. Damned Catalonian, as jealous as a stag;
they wished him the stag's horns as well as its temper.

It was intensely hot even under the awning. The man woke from his
uneasy sleep and reached out to where on a little table beside him
stood a deep silver cup of mixed wine and water. He drank a gulp of
it; it was as warm as blood and hardly cooled his throat. He turned
over and, leaning on his elbow, looked at his companion. She on her
back, quietly breathing through parted lips, still asleep. He leaned
across and pinched her on the breast, so that she woke up with a
sudden start and cry of pain.

"Why did you wake me?" she asked.

He laughed and shrugged his shoulders. He had, indeed, had no reason
for doing so, except that he did not like it that she should be
comfortably asleep, while he was awake and unpleasantly conscious of
the heat.

"It is hotter than ever," he said, with a kind of gloomy satisfaction
at the thought that she would now have to suffer the same discomforts
as himself. "The wine scorches instead of cooling; the sun seems no
lower down the sky."

The woman pouted. "You pinched me cruelly," she said. "And I still do
not know why you wanted to wake me."

He smiled again, this time with a good-humoured lasciviousness. "I
wanted to kiss you," he said. He passed his hand over her body
possessively, as a man might caress a dog.

Suddenly the quiet of the afternoon was shattered. A great clamour
rose up, ragged and uneven, on the air. Shrill yells pierced the dull
rumbling growl of bass voices, pierced the sound of beaten drums and
hammered metal.

"What are they doing in the town?" asked the woman anxiously of her
lover.

"God knows," he answered. "Perhaps the heathen hounds are making some
trouble with our men."

He got up and walked to the rail of the ship. A quarter of a mile
away, across the smooth water of the bay, stood the little African
town at which they had stopped to call. The sunlight showed everything
with a hard and merciless definition. Sky, palms, white houses, domes,
and towers seemed as though made from some hard enamelled metal. A
ridge of low red hills rolled away to right and left. The sunshine
gave to everything in the scene the same clarity of detail, so that to
the eye of the onlooker there was no impression of distance. The whole
thing seemed to be painted in flat upon a single plane.

The young man returned to his couch under the awning and lay down. It
was hotter than ever, or seemed so, at least, since he had made the
exertion of getting up. He thought of high cool pastures in the hills,
with the pleasant sound of streams, far down and out of sight in their
deep channels. He thought of winds that were fresh and scented--winds
that were not mere breaths of dust and fire. He thought of the shade
of cypresses, a narrow opaque strip of darkness; and he thought too of
the green coolness, more diffused and fluid and transparent, of
chestnut groves. And he thought of the people he remembered sitting
under the trees--young people, gay and brightly dressed, whose life
was all gaiety and deliciousness. There were the songs that they
sang--he recalled the voices and the dancing of the strings. And there
were perfumes and, when one drew closer, the faint intoxicating
fragrance of a woman's body. He thought of the stories they told; one
in particular came to his mind, a capital tale of a sorcerer who
offered to change a peasant's wife into a mare, and how he gulled the
husband and enjoyed the woman before his eyes, and the delightful
excuses he made when she failed to change her shape. He smiled to
himself at the thought of it, and stretching out a hand touched his
mistress. Her bosom was soft to his fingers and damp with sweat; he
had an unpleasant notion that she was melting in the heat.

"Why do you touch me?" she asked.

He made no reply, but turned away from her. He wondered how it would
come to pass that people would rise again in the body. It seemed
curious, considering the manifest activities of worms. And suppose one
rose in the body that one possessed in age. He shuddered, picturing to
himself what this woman would be like when she was sixty, seventy. She
would be beyond words repulsive. Old men too were horrible. They
stank, and their eyes were rheumy and rosiny, like the eyes of deer.
He decided that he would kill himself before he grew old. He was
eight-and-twenty now. He would give himself twelve years more. Then he
would end it. His thoughts dimmed and faded away into sleep.

The woman looked at him as he slept. He was a good man, she thought,
though sometimes cruel. He was different from all the other men she
had known. Once, when she was sixteen and a beginner in the business
of love, she had thought that all men were always drunk when they made
love. They were all dirty and like beasts; she had felt herself
superior to them. But this man was a nobleman. She could not
understand him; his thoughts were always obscure. She felt herself
infinitely inferior to him. She was afraid of him and his occasional
cruelty; but still he was a good man, and he might do what he liked
with her.

From far off came the sound of oars, a rhythmical splash and creak.
Somebody shouted, and from startlingly close at hand one of the
sailors hallooed back.

The young man woke up with a start.

"What is it?" he asked, turning with an angry look to the girl, as
though he held her to be responsible for this breaking in upon his
slumbers.

"The boat, I think," she said. "It must be coming back from the
shore."

The boat's crew came up over the side, and all the stagnant life of
the ship flowed excitedly round them. They were the centre of a vortex
towards which all were drawn. Even the young Catalonian, for all his
hatred of these stinking Genoese shipmen, was sucked into the eddy.
Everybody was talking at once, and in the general hubbub of question
and answer there was nothing coherent to be made out. Piercingly
distinct above all the noise came the voice of the little cabin-boy,
who had been to shore with the boat's crew. He was running round to
everyone in turn repeating: "I hit one of them. You know. I hit one.
With a stone on the forehead. Didn't he bleed, ooh! didn't he just!"
And he would dance with uncontrollable excitement.

The captain held up his hand and shouted for silence. "One at a time,
there," he ordered, and when order had a little been restored, added
grumblingly, "Like a pack of dogs on a bone. You talk, boatswain."

"I hit one of them," said the boy. Somebody cuffed him over the head,
and he relapsed into silence.

When the boatswain's story had rambled through labyrinths of
digression, over countless obstacles of interruptions and emendations,
to its conclusion, the Spaniard went back to join his companion under
the awning. He had assumed again his habitual indifference.

"Nearly butchered," he said languidly, in response to her eager
questions. "They"--he jerked a hand in the direction of the
town--"they were pelting an old fellow who had come there preaching
the Faith. Left him dead on the beach. Our men had to run for it."

She could get no more out of him; he turned over and pretended to go
to sleep.

*  *  *  *  *

Towards evening they received a visit from the captain. He was a
large, handsome man, with gold ear-rings glinting from among a bush of
black hair.

"Divine Providence," he remarked sententiously, after the usual
courtesies had passed, "has called upon us to perform a very notable
work."

"Indeed?" said the young man.

"No less a work," continued the captain, "than to save from the
clutches of the infidels and heathen the precious remains of a holy
martyr."

The captain let fall his pompous manner. It was evident that he had
carefully prepared these pious sentences, they rolled so roundly off
his tongue. But he was eager now to get on with his story, and it was
in a homelier style that he went on: "If you knew these seas as well
as I--and it's near twenty years now that I've been sailing
them--you'd have some knowledge of this same holy man that--God rot
their souls for it!--these cursed Arabs have done to death here. I've
heard of him more than once in my time, and not always well spoken of;
for, to tell the honest truth, he does more harm with his preachments
to good Christian traders than ever he did good to black-hearted
heathen dogs. Leave the bees alone, I say, and if you can get a little
honey out of them quietly, so much the better; but he goes about among
the beehives with a pole, stirring up trouble for himself and others
too. Leave them alone to their damnation, is what I say, and get what
you can from them this side of hell. But, still, he has died a holy
martyr's death. God rest his soul! A martyr is a wonderful thing, you
know, and it's not for the likes of us to understand what they mean by
it all.

"They do say, too, that he could make gold. And, to my mind, it would
have been a thing more pleasing to God and man if he had stopped at
home minting money for poor folks and dealing it round, so that
there'd be no need to work any more and break oneself for a morsel of
bread. Yes, he was great at gold-making and at the books too. They
tell me he was called the Illuminated Doctor. But I know him still as
plain Lully. I used to hear of him from my father, plain Lully, and no
better once than he should have been.

"My father was a shipwright in Minorca in those days--how long since?
Fifty, sixty years perhaps. He knew him then; he has often told me the
tale. And a raffish young dog he was. Drinking, drabbing, and dicing
he outdid them all, and between the bouts wrote poems, they say, which
was more than the rest could do. But he gave it all up on the sudden.
Gave away his lands, quitted his former companions, and turned hermit
up in the hills, living alone like a fox in his burrow, high up above
the vines. And all because of a woman and his own qualmish stomach."

The shipmaster paused and helped himself to a little wine. "And what
did this woman do?" the girl asked curiously.

"Ah, it's not what she did but what she didn't do," the captain
answered, with a leer and wink. "She kept him at his distance--all but
once, all but once; and that was what put him on the road to being a
martyr. But there, I'm outrunning myself. I must go more soberly.

"There was a lady of some consequence in the island--one of the
Castellos, I think she was; her first name has quite slipped my
memory--Anastasia, or something of the kind. Lully conceives a passion
for her, and sighs and importunes her through I know not how many
months and years. But her virtue stands steady as the judgment seat.
Well, in the end, what happens was this. The story leaked out after it
was all over, and he was turned hermit in the mountains. What
happened, I say, was this. She tells him at last that he may come and
see her, fixing some solitary twilight place and time, her own room at
nightfall. You can guess how he washes and curls and scents himself,
shaves his chin, chews anises, musks over whatever of the goat may
cling about the body. Off he goes, dreaming swoons and ecstasies,
foretasting inconceivable sweets. Arrived, he finds the lady a little
melancholy--her settled humour, but a man might expect a smile at such
a time. Still, nothing abashed, he falls at her feet and pours out his
piteous case, telling her he has sighed through seven years, not
closed an eye for above a hundred nights, is forepined to a shadow,
and, in a word, will perish unless she show some mercy. She, still
melancholy her--settled humour, mark you--makes answer that she is
ready to yield, and that her body is entirely his. With that, she lets
herself be done with as he pleases, but always sorrowfully. 'You are
all mine,' says he--'all mine'--and unlaces her gorgeret to prove the
same. But he was wrong. Another lover was already in her bosom, and
his kisses had been passionate--oh, burning passionate, for he had
kissed away half her left breast. From the nipple down it had all been
gnawed away by a cancer.

"Bah, a man may see as bad as that any day in the street or at
church-doors where beggars most congregate. I grant you that it is a
nasty sight, worm-eaten flesh, but still--not enough, you will agree,
to make yourself a hermit over. But there, I told you he had a
queasiness of the stomach. But doubtless it was all in God's plan to
make a holy martyr of him. But for that same queasiness of his, he
would still be living there, a superannuated rake; or else have died
in very foul odour, instead of passing, all embalmed with sanctity, to
Paradise Gate.

"I know not what happened to him between his hermit-hood and his quest
for martyrdom. I saw him first a dozen years ago, down Tunis way. They
were always clapping him into prison or pulling out his beard for
preaching. This time, it seems, they have made a holy martyr of him,
done the business thoroughly with no bungling. Well, may he pray for
our souls at the throne of God. I go in secretly to-night to steal his
body. It lies on the shore there beyond the jetty. It will be a
notable work, I tell you, to bring back so precious a corpse to
Christendom. A most notable work. . . ."

The captain rubbed his hands.

*  *  *  *  *

It was after midnight, but there was still a bustle of activity on
board the galley. At any moment they were expecting the arrival of the
boat with the corpse of the martyr. A couch, neatly draped in black,
with at its head and foot candles burning two by two, had been set out
on the poop for the reception of the body. The captain called the
young Spaniard and his mistress to come and see the bier.

"That's a good bit of work for you," he said, with justifiable pride.
"I defy anyone to make a more decent resting-place for a martyr than
that is. It could hardly have been done better on shore, with every
appliance at hand. But we sailors, you know, can make anything out of
nothing. A truckle-bed, a strip of tarred canvas, and four tallow dips
from the cabin lanterns--there you are, a bier for a king."

He hurried away, and a little later the young man and the girl could
hear him giving orders and cursing somewhere down below. The candles
burned almost without a tremor in the windless air, and the
reflections of the stars were long, thin tracks of fire along the
utterly calm water.

"Were there but perfumed flowers and the sound of a lute," said the
young Spaniard, "the night would tremble into passion of its own
accord. Love should come unsought on such a night as this, among these
black waters and the stars that sleep so peacefully on their bosom."

He put his arm round the girl and bent his head to kiss her. But she
averted her face. He could feel a shudder run her through the body.

"Not to-night," she whispered. "I think of the poor dead man. I would
rather pray."

"No, no," he cried. "Forget him. Remember only that we are alive, and
that we have but little time and none to waste."

He drew her into the shadow under the bulwark, and, sitting down on a
coil of rope, crushed her body to his own and began kissing her with
fury. She lay, at first, limp in his arms, but gradually she kindled
to his passion.

A plash of oars announced the approach of the boat. The captain
hallooed into the darkness: "Did you find him?"

"Yes, we have him here," came back the answer.

"Good. Bring him alongside and we'll hoist him up. We have the bier in
readiness. He shall lie in state to-night."

"But he's not dead," shouted back the voice from the night.

"Not dead?" repeated the captain, thunderstruck. "But what about the
bier, then?"

A thin, feeble voice came back. "Your work will not be wasted, my
friend. It will be but a short time before I need your bier."

The captain, a little abashed, answered in a gentler tone, "We
thought, holy father, that the heathens had done their worst and that
Almighty God had already given you the martyr's crown."

By this time the boat had emerged from the darkness. In the stern
sheets an old man was lying, his white hair and beard stained with
blood, his Dominican's robe torn and fouled with dust. At the sight of
him, the captain pulled off his cap and dropped upon his knees.

"Give us your blessing, holy father," he begged.

The old man raised his hand and wished him peace.

They lifted him on board and, at his own desire, laid him upon the
bier which had been prepared for his dead body. "It would be a waste
of trouble," he said, "to put me anywhere else, seeing I shall in any
case be lying there so soon."

So there he lay, very still under the four candles. One might have
taken him for dead already, but that his eyes, when he opened them,
shone so brightly.

He dismissed from the poop everyone except the young Spaniard. "We are
countrymen," he said, "and of noble blood, both of us. I would rather
have you near me than anyone else."

The sailors knelt for a blessing and disappeared; soon they could be
heard weighing the anchor; it was safest to be off before day. Like
mourners at either side of the lighted bier crouched the Spaniard and
his mistress. The body of the old man, who was not yet dead, lay quiet
under the candles. The martyr was silent for some time, but at last he
opened his eyes and looked at the young man and the woman.

"I too," he said, "was in love, once. In this year falls the jubilee
of my last earthly passion; fifty years have run since last I longed
after the flesh--fifty years since God opened my eyes to the
hideousness of the corruption that man has brought upon himself.

"You are young, and your bodies are clean and straight, with no blotch
or ulcer or leprous taint to mar their much-desired beauty; but
because of your outward pride, your souls, it may be, fester inwardly
the more.

"And yet God made all perfect; it is but accident and the evil of will
that causes defaults. All metals should be gold, were it not that
their elements willed evilly in their desire to combine. And so with
men: the burning sulphur of passion, the salt of wisdom, the nimble
mercurial soul should come together to make a golden being,
incorruptible and rustless. But the elements mingle jarringly, not in
a pure harmony of love, and gold is rare, while lead and iron and
poisonous brass that leaves a taste as of remorse behind it are
everywhere common.

"God opened my eyes to it before my youth had too utterly wasted
itself to rottenness. It was half a hundred years ago, but I see her
still, my Ambrosia, with her white, sad face and her naked body and
that monstrous ill eating away at her breast.

"I have lived since then trying to amend the evil, trying to restore,
as far as my poor powers would go, some measure of original perfection
to the corrupted world. I have striven to give to all metals their
true nature, to make true gold from the false, the unreal, the
accidental metals, lead and copper and tin and iron. And I have
essayed that more difficult alchemy, the transformation of men. I die
now in my effort to purge away that most foul dross of misbelief from
the souls of these heathen men. Have I achieved anything? I know not."

The galley was moving now, its head turned seaward. The candles
shivered in the wind of its speed, casting uncertain, changing shadows
upon his face. There was a long silence on the poop. The oars creaked
and splashed. Sometimes a shout would come up from below, orders given
by the overseer of the slaves, a curse, the sound of a blow. The old
man spoke again, more weakly now, as though to himself.

"I have had eighty years of it," he said--"eighty years in the midst
of this corroding sea of hatred and strife. A man has need to keep
pure and unalloyed his core of gold, that little centre of perfection
with which all, even in this declination of time, are born. All other
metal, though it be as tough as steel, as shining-hard as brass, will
melt before the devouring bitterness of life. Hatred, lust, anger--the
vile passions will corrode your will of iron, the warlike pomp of your
front of brass. It needs the golden perfection of pure love and pure
knowledge to withstand them.

"God has willed that I should be the stone--weak, indeed, in
virtue--that has touched and transformed at least a little of baser
metal into the gold that is above corruption. But it is hard
work--thankless work. Man has made a hell of his world, and has set up
gods of pain to rule it. Goatish gods, that revel and feast on the
agony of it all, poring over the tortured world, like those hateful
lovers, whose lust burns darkly into cruelty.

"Fever goads us through life in a delirium of madness. Thirsting for
the swamps of evil whence the fever came, thirsting for the mirages of
his own delirium, man rushes headlong he knows not whither. And all
the time a devouring cancer gnaws at his entrails. It will kill him in
the end, when even the ghastly inspiration of fever will not be enough
to whip him on. He will lie there, cumbering the earth, a heap of
rottenness and pain, until at last the cleansing fire comes to sweep
the horror away.

"Fever and cancer; acids that burn and corrode. . . . I have had
eighty years of it. Thank God, it is the end."

It was already dawn; the candles were hardly visible now in the light,
faded to nothing, like souls in prosperity. In a little while the old
man was asleep.

The captain tiptoed up on to the poop and drew the young Spaniard
aside for a confidential talk.

"Do you think he will die to-day?" he asked.

The young man nodded.

"God rest his soul," said the captain piously. "But do you think it
would be best to take his body to Minorca or to Genoa? At Minorca they
would give much to have their own patron martyr. At the same time it
would add to the glory of Genoa to possess so holy a relic, though he
is in no way connected with the place. It's there is my difficulty.
Suppose, you see, that my people of Genoa did not want the body, he
being from Minorca and not one of them. I should look a fool then,
bringing it in in state. Oh, it's hard, it's hard. There's so much to
think about. I am not sure but what I hadn't better put in at Minorca
first. What do you think?"

The Spaniard shrugged his shoulder. "I have no advice to offer."

"Lord," said the captain as he bustled away, "life is a tangled knot
to unravel."


PRINTED BY MORRISON AND GIBB LTD., EDINBURGH



Transcriber's Note

This transcription is based on images scanned from a copy made
available by the University of Toronto and posted by the Internet
Archive at:

     archive.org/details/limbohux00huxluoft

The following changes were noted:

-- p. 70: "Let it start smouldering at once I must--Inserted period
after "once".

-- p. 196: Even make pretences to re ard--Changed "re ard" to
"regard".

-- p. 203: Eupompus' next picture, representing an orchard of
identical trees--As this paragraph is a continuation of Emberlin's
speech, an opening double quotation mark was inserted at the beginning
of the paragraph.

-- p. 243: How exciting it was, wasn't it, HENRIKA?--Changed "HENRIKA"
from small caps to "Henrika".





*** End of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Limbo" ***

Doctrine Publishing Corporation provides digitized public domain materials.
Public domain books belong to the public and we are merely their custodians.
This effort is time consuming and expensive, so in order to keep providing
this resource, we have taken steps to prevent abuse by commercial parties,
including placing technical restrictions on automated querying.

We also ask that you:

+ Make non-commercial use of the files We designed Doctrine Publishing
Corporation's ISYS search for use by individuals, and we request that you
use these files for personal, non-commercial purposes.

+ Refrain from automated querying Do not send automated queries of any sort
to Doctrine Publishing's system: If you are conducting research on machine
translation, optical character recognition or other areas where access to a
large amount of text is helpful, please contact us. We encourage the use of
public domain materials for these purposes and may be able to help.

+ Keep it legal -  Whatever your use, remember that you are responsible for
ensuring that what you are doing is legal. Do not assume that just because
we believe a book is in the public domain for users in the United States,
that the work is also in the public domain for users in other countries.
Whether a book is still in copyright varies from country to country, and we
can't offer guidance on whether any specific use of any specific book is
allowed. Please do not assume that a book's appearance in Doctrine Publishing
ISYS search  means it can be used in any manner anywhere in the world.
Copyright infringement liability can be quite severe.

About ISYS® Search Software
Established in 1988, ISYS Search Software is a global supplier of enterprise
search solutions for business and government.  The company's award-winning
software suite offers a broad range of search, navigation and discovery
solutions for desktop search, intranet search, SharePoint search and embedded
search applications.  ISYS has been deployed by thousands of organizations
operating in a variety of industries, including government, legal, law
enforcement, financial services, healthcare and recruitment.



Home