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Title: Backwater - Pilgrimage, Volume 2
Author: Richardson, Dorothy M. (Dorothy Miller)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Backwater - Pilgrimage, Volume 2" ***

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                         DOROTHY M. RICHARDSON
                       AUTHOR OF "POINTED ROOFS"

                            DUCKWORTH & CO.

                          First published 1916

                          All rights reserved

                                J. A. H.


                               CHAPTER I


A swarthy turbaned face shone at Miriam from a tapestry screen standing
between her and the ferns rising from a basket framework in the bow of
the window. Consulting it at intervals as the afternoon wore on, she
found that it made very light of the quiet propositions that were being
elaborated within hearing of her inattentive ears. Looking beyond it she
could catch glimpses between the crowded fernery, when a tram was not
jingling by, of a close-set palisade just across the roadway and beyond
the palisade of a green level ending at a row of Spanish poplars. The
trams seemed very near and noisy. When they passed by the window, the
speakers had to raise their voices. Otherwise the little drawing-room
was very quiet, with a strange old-fashioned quietness. It was full of
old things, like the Gobelin screen, and old thoughts like the thoughts
of the ladies who were sitting and talking there. She and her mother had
seemed quite modern, fussy, worldly people when they had first come into
the room. From the moment the three ladies had come in and begun talking
to her mother, the things in the room, and the view of the distant row
of poplars had grown more and more peaceful, and now at the end of an
hour she felt that she, and to some extent Mrs. Henderson too, belonged
to the old-world room with its quiet green outlook shut in by the
poplars. Only the trams were disturbing. They came busily by, with their
strange jingle-jingle, plock-plock, and made her inattentive. Why were
there so many people coming by in trams? Where were they going? Why were
all the trams painted that hard, dingy blue?

The sisters talked quietly, outlining their needs in smooth gentle
voices, in small broken phrases, frequently interrupting and correcting
each other. Miriam heard dreamily that they wanted help with the lower
school, the children from six to eight years of age, in the mornings and
afternoons, and in the evenings a general superintendence of the four
boarders. They kept on saying that the work was very easy and simple;
there were no naughty girls--hardly a single naughty girl--in the
school; there should be no difficult superintendence, no exercise of
authority would be required.

By the time they had reached the statement of these modifications Miriam
felt that she knew them quite well. The shortest, who did most of the
talking and who had twinkling eyes and crooked pince-nez and soft
reddish cheeks and a little red-tipped nose, and whose small coil of
sheeny grey hair was pinned askew on the top of her head--stray loops
standing out at curious angles--was Miss Jenny, the middle one. The very
tall one sitting opposite her, with a delicate wrinkled creamy face and
coal-black eyes and a peak of ringletted smooth coal-black hair, was the
eldest, Miss Deborah. The other sister, much younger, with neat smooth
green-grey hair and a long sad greyish face and faded eyes, was Miss
Haddie. They were all three dressed in thin fine black material and had
tiny hands and little softly moving feet. What did they think of the

"Do you think you could manage it, chickie?" said Mrs. Henderson

"I think I could."

"No doubt, my dear, oh, no doubt," said Miss Jenny with a little sound
of laughter as she tapped her knee with the pince-nez she had plucked
from their rakish perch on the reddened bridge of her nose.

"I don't think I could teach Scripture."

An outbreak of incoherent little sounds and statements from all three
taught her that Miss Deborah took the Bible classes of the whole school.

"How old is Miriam?"

"Just eighteen. She has put up her hair to-day."

"Oh, poor child, she need not have done that."

"She is a _born_ teacher. She used to hold little classes amongst her
schoolfellows when she was only eight years old."

Miriam turned sharply to her mother. She was sitting with her tired
look--bright eyes, and moist flushed face. How had she heard about the
little classes? Had there been little classes? She could not remember

"She speaks French like a Parisienne."

That was that silly remark made by the woman in the train coming home
from Hanover.

"Eh--we thought--it was in Germany she was----"

"Yes, but I learned more French."

The sisters smiled provisionally.

"She shared a room with the mademoiselle."

"Oh--er--hee--hay--perhaps she might speak French with the gels."

"Oh no, I couldn't _speak_."

There was a tender little laugh.

"I don't know French conversation."

"Well, well."

The sisters brought the discussion to an end by offering twenty pounds a
year in return for Miriam's services, and naming the date of the
beginning of the autumn term.


On the way to the front door they all looked into the principal
schoolroom. Miriam saw a long wide dining-room table covered with brown
American cloth. Shelves neatly crowded with books lined one wall from
floor to ceiling. Opposite them at the far end of the room was a heavy
grey marble mantelpiece, on which stood a heavy green marble clock
frame. At its centre a gold-faced clock ticked softly. Opposite the
windows were two shallow alcoves. In one stood a shrouded blackboard on
an easel. The other held a piano with a high slender back. The prancing
outward sweep of its lid gave Miriam the impression of an afternoon

Miss Deborah drew up one of the Venetian blinds. They all crowded to the
window and looked out on a small garden backed by trees and lying in
deep shadow. Beyond were more gardens and the brownish backs of small
old brick houses. Low walls separated the school garden from the gardens
on either side.

"On our right we have a school for the deaf and dumb," said Miss Perne;
"on the other side is a family of Polish Jews."


"Mother, why _did_ you pile it on?"

They would soon be down at the corner of Banbury Park where the tram
lines ended and the Favorite omnibuses were standing in the muddy road
under the shadow of the railway bridge. Through the jingling of the
trams, the dop-dop of the hoofs of the tram-horses and the noise of a
screaming train thundering over the bridge, Miriam made her voice heard,
gazing through the spotted veil at her mother's quivering features.

"They might have made me do all sorts of things I can't do."

Mrs. Henderson's voice, breathless with walking, made a little sound of
protest, a narrowed sound that told Miriam her amusement was half
annoyance. The dark, noisy bridge, the clatter and rattle and the mud
through which she must plunge to an omnibus exasperated her to the limit
of her endurance.

"I'd got the post," she said angrily; "you could see it was all settled
and then you went saying those things."

Glancing at the thin shrouded features she saw the faint lift of her
mother's eyebrows and the firmly speechless mouth.

"Piccadilly--jump on, chickie."

"Let's go outside now it's fine," said Miriam crossly.

Reaching the top of the omnibus she hurried to the front seat on the
left hand side.

"That's a very windy spot."

"No it isn't, it's quite hot. The sun's come out now. It's rained for
weeks. It won't rain any more. It'll be hot. You won't feel the wind.
Will you have the corner, mother?"

"No, chick, you sit there."

Miriam screwed herself into the corner seat, crossing her knees and
grazing the tips of her shoes.

"This is the only place on the top of a bus."

Mrs. Henderson sat down at her side.

"I always make Harriett come up here when we go up to the West End."

"Of course it's the only place," she insisted in response to her
mother's amused laugh. "No one smoking or talking in front; you can see
out in front and you can see the shops if there are any, and you're not
falling off all the time. The bus goes on the left side of the road and
tilts to the left."

The seats were filling up and the driver appeared clambering into his

"Didn't you ever think of that? Didn't you ever think of the bus tilting
that way?" persisted Miriam to her mother's inattentive face. "Fancy
never thinking of it. It's beastly on the other side."

The omnibus jerked forward.

"You ought to be a man, Mimmy."

"I liked that little short one," said Miriam contentedly as they came
from under the roar of the bridge. "They were awfully nice, weren't
they? They seemed to have made up their mind to take me before we
went.... So I think they like us. I wonder why they like us. Didn't you
think they liked us? Don't you think they are awfully nice?"

"I do. They are very charming ladies."

"Yes, but wasn't it awfully rum their liking us in that funny way?"

"I'm sure I don't see why they should not."

"Oh, mother, you know what I mean. I like them. I'm perfectly sure I
shall like them. D'you remember the little one saying all girls ought to
marry? Why did she say that?"

"They are dear funny little O.M.'s," said Mrs. Henderson merrily. She
was sitting with her knees crossed, the stuff of her brown canvas dress
was dragged across them into an ugly fold by the weight of the velvet
panel at the side of the skirt. She looked very small and resourceless.
And there were the Pernes with their house and their school. They were
old maids. Of course. What then?

"I never dreamed of getting such a big salary."

"Oh, my chickie, I'm afraid it isn't much."

"It is, mother, it's lovely."


Miriam turned fiercely to the roadway on her left.


She had missed the first swing forward of the vehicle and the first
movements of the compact street.

They were going ahead now at a steady even trot. Her face was bathed in
the flow of the breeze.

Little rivulets played about her temples, feeling their way through her
hair. She drew off her gloves without turning from the flowing roadway.
As they went on and on down the long road Miriam forgot her companion in
the tranquil sense of being carried securely forward through the air
away from people and problems. Ahead of her, at the end of the long
drive, lay three sunlit weeks, bright now in the certainty of the shadow
that lay beyond them ... "the junior school" ... "four boarders."


They lumbered at last round a corner and out into a wide thoroughfare,
drawing up outside a newly-built public-house. Above it rose row upon
row of upper windows sunk in masses of ornamental terra-cotta-coloured
plaster. Branch roads, laid with tram lines led off in every direction.
Miriam's eyes followed a dull blue tram with a grubby white-painted
seatless roof jingling busily off up a roadway where short trees stood
all the way along in the small dim gardens of little grey houses. On the
near corner of the road stood a wide white building, bulging into heavy
domes against the sky. Across its side, large gilt letters standing far
apart spelled out "Banbury Empire."

"It must be a theatre," she told herself in astonishment. "That's what
they call a suburban theatre. People think it is really a theatre."

The little shock sent her mind feeling out along the road they had just
left. She considered its unbroken length, its shops, its treelessness.
The wide thoroughfare, up which they now began to rumble, repeated it on
a larger scale. The pavements were wide causeways reached from the
roadway by stone steps, three deep. The people passing along them were
unlike any she knew. There were no ladies, no gentlemen, no girls or
young men such as she knew. They were all alike. They were.... She could
find no word for the strange impression they made. It coloured the whole
of the district through which they had come. It was part of the new
world to which she was pledged to go on September 18th. It was her world
already; and she had no words for it. She would not be able to convey it
to others. She felt sure her mother had not noticed it. She must deal
with it alone. To try to speak about it, even with Eve, would sap her
courage. It was her secret. A strange secret for all her life as Hanover
had been. But Hanover was beautiful, with distant country through the
saal windows with its colours misty in the sunlight, the beautiful,
happy town and the woodland villages so near. This new secret was
shabby, ugly and shabby. The half-perceived something persisted
unchanged when the causeways and shops disappeared and long rows of
houses streamed by, their close ranks broken only by an occasional cross
road. They were large, high, flat-fronted houses with flights of grey
stone steps leading to their porchless doors. They had tiny railed-in
front gardens crowded with shrubs. Here and there long narrow strips of
garden pushed a row of houses back from the roadway. In these longer
plots stood signboards and show-cases. "Photographic Studio,"
"Commercial College," "Eye Treatment," "Academy of Dancing." ... She
read the announcements with growing disquietude.

Rows of shops reappeared and densely crowded pavements, and then more
high straight houses.


She roused herself at last from her puzzled contemplation and turned to
glance at her mother. Mrs. Henderson was looking out ahead. The
exhausted face was ready, Miriam saw, with its faintly questioning
eyebrows and tightly-held lips, for emotional response. She turned away
uneasily to the spellbound streets.

"Useless to try to talk about anything.... Mother would be somehow
violent. She would be overpowering. The strange new impressions would be

But she must do something, show some sign of companionship. She began
humming softly. The air was so full of clamour that she could not hear
her voice. The houses and shops had disappeared. Drab brick walls were
passing slowly by on either side. A goods' yard. She deepened her
humming, accentuating her phrases so that the sound might reach her
companion through the reverberations of the clangour of shunting trains.


The high brick walls were drawing away. The end of the long roadway was
in sight. Its widening mouth offered no sign of escape from the
disquieting strangeness. The open stretch of thoroughfare into which
they emerged was fed by innumerable lanes of traffic. From the islands
dotted over its surface towered huge lamp standards branching out thin
arms. As they rattled noisily over the stone setts they jolted across
several lines of tramway and wove their way through currents of traffic
crossing each other in all directions.

"I wonder where we're going--I wonder if this is a Piccadilly bus,"
Miriam thought of saying. Impossible to shout through the din.


The driver gathered up his horses and they clattered deafeningly over
the last open stretch and turned into a smooth wide prospect.

"Oh bliss, wood-paving," murmured Miriam.

A mass of smoke-greyed, sharply steepled stone building appeared on the
right. Her eyes rested on its soft shadows.

On the left a tall grey church was coming towards them, spindling up
into the sky. It sailed by, showing Miriam a circle of little stone
pillars built into its spire. Plumy trees streamed by, standing large
and separate on moss-green grass railed from the roadway. Bright
white-faced houses with pillared porches shone through from behind them
and blazed white above them against the blue sky. Wide side streets
opened showing high balconied houses. The side streets were feathered
with trees and ended mistily.

Away ahead were edges of clean bright masonry in profile, soft tufted
heads of trees, bright green in the clear light. At the end of the vista
the air was like pure saffron-tinted mother-of-pearl.

Miriam sat back and drew a deep breath.


"Well, chickie?"

"What's the matter?"

"Why, you've been very funny!"


"You've been so dummel."

"No, I haven't."


"How d'you mean I've been funny?"

"Not speaking to poor old mum-jam."

"Well, you haven't spoken to me."


"I shan't take any of my summer things there," said Miriam.

Mrs. Henderson's face twitched.

"Shall I?"

"I'm afraid you haven't very much in the way of thick clothing."

"I've only got my plaid dress for every day and my mixy grey for best
and my dark blue summer skirt. My velveteen skirt and my nainsook blouse
are too old."

"You can wear the dark blue muslin blouse with the blue skirt for a long
time yet with something warm underneath."

"My grey's very grubby."

"You look very well in it indeed."

"I don't mean that. I mean it's all gone sort of dull and grubby over
the surface when you look down it."

"Oh, that's your imagination."

"It isn't my imagination and I can see how Harriett's looks."

"You both look very nice."

"That's not the point."

"Don't make a mountain out of a molehill, my chick."

"I'm not making anything. The simple fact is that the grey dresses are

Mrs. Henderson flushed deeply, twining and untwining her silk-gloved

"She thinks that's 'gross exaggeration.' That's what she wants to say,"
pondered Miriam wearily.

They turned into Langham Place.

She glanced to see whether her mother realised where they were.

"Look, we're in the West End, mother! Oh, I'm not going to think about
Banbury Park till it begins!"


They drew up near the Maison Nouvelle.

"_Stanlake_ is," said a refined emphatic voice from the pavement.

Miriam did not look for the speaker. The quality of the voice brought
her a moment's realisation of the meaning of her afternoon's adventure.
She was going to be shut up away from the grown-up things, the sunlit
world, and the people who were enjoying it. She would be shut up and
surrounded in Wordsworth House, a proper schooly school, amongst all
those strange roadways. It would be cold English pianos and dreadful
English children--and trams going up and down that grey road outside.

As they went on down Regent Street she fastened, for refuge from her
thoughts, upon a window where softly falling dresses of dull olive stood
about against a draped background of pale dead yellow. She held it in
her mind as shop after shop streamed by.

"These shops are extremely récherché."

"It's old Regent Street, mother," said Miriam argumentatively. "Glorious
old Regent Street. Ruby wine."

"Ah, Regent Street."

"We always walk up one side and down the other. Up the dolls' hospital
side and down Liberty's. Glory, glory, ruby wine."

"You _are_ enthusiastic."

"But it's so glorious. Don't you think so?"

"Sit back a little, chickie. One can't see the windows. You're such a
solid young woman."

"You'll see our A B C soon. You know. The one we go to after the
Saturday pops. You've been to it. You came to it the day we came to
Madame Schumann's farewell. It's just round here in Piccadilly. Here it
is. Glorious. I must make the others come up once more before I die. I
always have a scone. I don't like the aryated bread. We go along the
Burlington Arcade too. I don't believe you've ever been along there.
It's simply perfect. Glove shops and fans and a smell of the most
exquisite scent everywhere."

"Dear me. It must be very captivating."

"Now we shall pass the parks. Oh, isn't the sun A1 copper bottom!"

Mrs. Henderson laughed wistfully.

"What delicious shade under those fine old trees. I almost wish I had
brought my _en-tout-cas_."

"Oh no, you don't really want it. There will be more breeze presently.
The bus always begins to go quicker along here. It's the Green Park,
that one. Those are clubs that side, the West End clubs. It's
fascinating all the way along here to Hyde Park Corner. You just see
Park Lane going up at the side. Park Lane. It goes wiggling away,
straight into heaven. We've never been up there. I always read the name
at the corner."

"You ridiculous chick--ah, there is the Royal Academy of Arts."

"Oh yes, I wonder if there are any Leightons this year."

"Or Leader. Charles Leader. I think there is nothing more charming than
those landscape scenes by Leader."

"I've got three bally weeks. I can see Hyde Park. We've got ages yet. It
goes on being fascinating right down through Kensington and right on up
to the other side of Putney Bridge."

"Dear me. Isn't it fascinating after that?"

"Oh, not all that awful walk along the Upper Richmond Road--not until
our avenue begins--"


Miriam fumbled with the fastening of the low wide gate as her mother
passed on up the drive. She waited until the footsteps were muffled by
the fullness of the may trees linking their middle branches over the
bend in the drive. Then she looked steadily down the sunflecked
asphalted avenue along which they had just come. The level sunlight
streamed along the empty roadway and the shadows of the lime trees lay
across the path and up the oak palings. Her eyes travelled up and down
the boles of the trees, stopping at each little stunted tuft of
greenery. She could no longer hear her mother's footsteps. There was a
scented coolness in the shady watered garden. Leaning gently with her
breast against the upper bars of the gate she broke away from the sense
of her newly-made engagement.

She scanned the whole length of the shrouded avenue from end to end and
at last looked freely up amongst the interwoven lime trees. Long she
watched, her eyes roaming from the closely-growing leaves where the
green was densest to the edges of the trees where the light shone
through. "Gold and green," she whispered, "green and gold, held up by
firm brown stems bathed in gold."

When she reached the open garden beyond the bend she ran once round the
large centre bed where berberus and laurestinus bushes stood in a clump
ringed by violas and blue lobelias and heavily scented masses of
cherry-ripe. Taking the shallow steps in two silent strides she reached
the shelter of the deep porch. The outer door and the door of the
vestibule stood open. Gently closing the vestibule she ran across the
paved hall and opened the door on the right.

Harriett, in a long fawn canvas dress with a deep silk sash, was
standing in the middle of the drawing-room floor with a large pot of
scented geraniums in her arms.


"Hullo!" said Miriam.

Putting down her pot Harriett fixed brown eyes upon her and began
jumping lightly up and down where she stood. The small tips of her fawn
glacé kid shoes shone together between the hem of her dress and the pale
green of the carpet.

"What you doing?" said Miriam quietly shutting the door behind her and
flushing with pleasure.

Harriett hopped more energetically. The blaze from the western window
caught the paste stone in the tortoise-shell comb crowning her little
high twist of hair and the prisms of the lustres standing behind her on
the white marble mantelpiece.

"What you doing, booby?"

"Old conservatory," panted Harriett.

Miriam looked vaguely down the length of the long room to where the
conservatory doors stood wide open. As she gazed at the wet tiling
Harriett ceased hopping and kicked her delicately. "Well, gooby?"

Miriam grinned.

"You've got it. I knew you would. The Misses Perne have engaged Miss
Miriam Henderson as resident teacher for the junior school."

"Oh yes, I've got it," smiled Miriam. "But don't let's talk about that.
It's just an old school, a house. I don't know a bit what it'll be like.
I've got three bally blooming weeks. Don't let's talk about it."


"What about Saturday?"

"It's all right. Ted was at the club."

"Was he!"

"Yes, old scarlet face, he were."

"I'm _not_."

"He came in just before closing time and straight up to me and ast where
you were. He looked sick when I told him, and so fagged."

"It was awfully hot in town," murmured Miriam tenderly.

She went to the piano and struck a note very softly.

"He played a single with the duffer and lost it."

"Oh, well, of course, he was so tired."

"Yes, but it wasn't that. It was because you weren't there. He's simply
no good when you're not there, now. He's perfectly different."

Miriam struck her note again.

"Listen, that's E flat."

"Go on."

"That's a chord in E flat. Isn't it lovely? It sounds perfectly
different in C. Listen. Isn't it funny?"

"Well, don't you want to know why it's all right about Saturday?"

"Yes, screamingly."

"Well, that's the perfectly flabbergasting thing. Ted simply came to say
they've got a man coming to stay with them and can he bring him."

"My dear! What a heavenly relief. That makes twelve men and fourteen
girls. That'll do."

"Nan Babington's hurt her ankle, but she swears she's coming." Harriett
sniffed and sank down on the white sheepskin, drawing her knees up to
her chin.

"You shouldn't say 'swears.'"

"Well, you bet. She simply loves our dances."

"Did she say she did?"

"She sat on the pavilion seat with Bevan Seymour all the afternoon and I
was with them when Ted was playing with the duffer. She told Bevan that
she didn't know anywhere else where the kids arranged the dances, and
everything was so jolly. It's _screaming_, my dear, she said."

"It's horrid the way she calls him 'my dear.' Your ring is simply
dazzling like that, Harry. D'you see? It's the sun."

"Of course it'll mean she'll sit out in a deck chair in the garden with
Bevan all the time."

"How disgusting."

"It's her turn for the pavilion tea on Saturday. She's coming in her
white muslin and then coming straight on here with two sticks and wants
us to keep her some flowers. Let's go and have tea. It'll be nearly
dinner time."

"Has Mary made a cake?"

"I dunno. Tea was to be in the breakfast-room when you came back."

"Why not in the conservatory?"

"Because, you silly old crow, I'm beranging it for Saturday."

"Shall we have the piano in there?"

"Well, don't you think so?"

"Twenty-six of us. Perhaps it'll be more blissful."

"If we have the breakfast-room piano in the hall it'll bung up the

"Yes, but the Erard bass is so perfect for waltzes."

"And the be-rilliant Collard treble is so all right in the vatoire."

"I thought it was Eve and I talked about the Collard treble."

"Well, I was there."

"Anyhow we'll have the grand in the conservatory. Oh, Bacchus!

"_Tea_," said a rounded voice near the keyhole.

"Eve!" shouted Miriam.

The door opened slightly. "I know," said the voice.

"Come _in_, Eve," commanded Miriam, trying to swing the door wide.

"I know," said the voice quivering with the effort of holding the door.
"I know all about the new Misses Perne and the new man--Max

"This way out," called Harriett from the conservatory.

"Eve," pleaded Miriam, tugging at the door, "let me get at you. Don't be
an idiot."

A gurgle of amusement made her loosen her hold.

"I'm not trying, you beast. Take your iron wrists away."

A small white hand waggled fingers through the aperture.

Miriam seized and covered it. "Come in for a minute," she begged. "I
want to see you. What have you got on?"


The hand twisted itself free and Eve fled through the hall.

Miriam flung after her with a yell and caught at her slender body. "I've
a great mind to drag down your old hair."

"Tea," smiled Eve serenely.

"All _right_, I'm coming, damn you, aren't I?"

"Oh, Mimmy!"

"Well, damn _me_, then. Somebody in the house must swear. I say, Eve?"


"Nothing, only I _say_."


                               CHAPTER II


Miriam extended herself on the drawing-room sofa which had been drawn up
at the end of the room under the open window.

The quintets of candles on the girandoles hanging on either side of the
high overmantel gave out an unflickering radiance, and in the centre of
the large room the chandelier, pulled low, held out in all directions
bulbs of softly tinted light.

In an intensity of rose-shaded brilliance pouring from a tall standard
lamp across the sheepskin hearthrug stood a guest with a fiddle under
her arm fluttering pages on a music stand. The family sat grouped
towards her in a circle.

On her low sofa, outside the more brilliant light, Miriam was a
retreating loop in the circle of seated forms, all visible as she lay
with her eyes on the ceiling. But no eyes could meet and pilfer her own.
The darkness brimmed in from the window on her right. She could touch
the rose-leaves on the sill and listen to the dewy stillness of the

"What shall I play?" said the guest.

"What have you there?"

"Gluck ... Klassische Stücke ... Cavatina."

"Ah, Gluck," said Mr. Henderson, smoothing his long knees with outspread

"Have you got that Beethoven thing?" asked Sarah.

"Not here, Sally."

"I saw it--on the piano--with chords," said Sarah excitedly.

"Chords," encouraged Miriam.

"Yes, I think so," muttered Sarah taking up her crochet. "I daresay I'm
wrong," she giggled, throwing out a foot and hastily withdrawing it.

"I can find it, dear," chanted the guest.

Miriam raised a flourishing hand. The crimsoned oval of Eve's face
appeared inverted above her own. She poked a finger into one of the dark
eyes and looking at the screwed-up lid whispered voicelessly, "Make her
play the Romance first and _then_ the Cavatina without talking in

Eve's large soft mouth pursed a little, and Miriam watched steadily
until dimples appeared. "Go on, Eve," she said, removing her hand.

"Shall I play the Beethoven first?" enquired the guest.

"Mm--and then the Cavatina," murmured Miriam, as if half asleep, turning
wholly towards the garden, as Eve went to collect the piano scores.


She seemed to grow larger and stronger and easier as the thoughtful
chords came musing out into the night and hovered amongst the dark
trees. She found herself drawing easy breaths and relaxing completely
against the support of the hard friendly sofa. How quietly everyone was

After a while, everything was dissolved, past and future and present and
she was nothing but an ear, intent on the meditative harmony which stole
out into the garden.


When the last gently strung notes had ceased she turned from her window
and found Harriett's near eye fixed upon her, the eyebrow travelling
slowly up the forehead.

"Wow," mouthed Miriam.

Harriett screwed her mouth to one side and strained her eyebrow higher.

The piano introduction to the Cavatina drowned the comments on the
guest's playing and the family relaxed once more into listening.

"Pink anemones, eh," suggested Miriam softly.

Harriett drew in her chin and nodded approvingly.

"Pink anemones," sighed Miriam, and turned to watch Margaret Wedderburn
standing in her full-skirted white dress on the hearthrug in a radiance
of red and golden light. Her heavily waving fair hair fell back towards
its tightly braided basket of plaits from a face as serene as death.
From between furry eyelashes her eyes looked steadfastly out, robbed of
their everyday sentimental expression.

As she gazed at the broad white forehead, the fine gold down covering
the cheeks and upper lip, and traced the outline of the heavy chin and
firm large mouth and the steady arm that swept out in rich 'cello-like
notes the devout theme of the lyric, Miriam drifted to an extremity of


... To-morrow the room would be lit and decked and clear. Amongst the
crowd of guests, he would come across the room, walking in his way....
She smiled to herself. He would come "sloping in" in his way, like a
shadow, not looking at anyone. His strange friend would be with him.
There would be introductions and greetings. Then he would dance with her
silently and not looking at her, as if they were strangers, and then be
dancing with someone else ... with smiling, mocking, tender brown eyes
and talking and answering and all the time looking about the room. And
then again with her, cool and silent and not looking. And presently she
would tell him about going away to Banbury Park.


Perhaps he would look wretched and miserable again as he had done when
they were alone by the piano the Sunday before she went to Germany....
"Play 'Abide with me,' Miriam; play 'Abide with me.'" ...

To-morrow there would be another moment like that. He would say her name
suddenly, as he had done last week at the Babingtons' dance, very low,
half-turning towards her. She would be ready this time and say his name
and move instead of being turned to stone. Confidently the music assured
her of that moment.


She lay looking quietly into his imagined face till the room had gone.
Then the face grew dim and far off and at last receded altogether into
darkness. That darkness was dreadful. It was his own life. She would
never know it. However well they got to know each other they would
always be strangers. Probably he never thought about her when he was
alone. Only of Shakespeare and politics. What would he think if he knew
she thought of him? But he thought of her when he saw her. That was
utterly certain; the one thing certain in the world.... That day, coming
along Putney Hill with mother, tired and dull and trying to keep her
temper, passing his house, seeing him standing at his window, alone and
pale and serious. The sudden lightening of his face surprised her again,
violently, as she recalled it. It had lit up the whole world from end to
end. He did not know that he had looked like that. She had turned
swiftly from the sudden knowledge coming like a blow on her heart, that
one day he would kiss her. Not for years and years. But one day he would
bend his head. She wrenched herself from the thought, but it was too
late. She thanked heaven she had looked; she wished she had not; the
kiss had come; she would forget it; it had not touched her, it was like
the breath of the summer. Everything had wavered; her feet had not felt
the pavement. She remembered walking on, exulting with hanging head,
cringing close to the ivy which hung from the top of the garden wall,
sorry and pitiful towards her mother, and everyone who would never stand
first with Ted.


... There were girls who let themselves be kissed for fun.... Playing
"Kiss in the Ring," being kissed by someone they did not mean to always
be with, all their life ... how sad and dreadful. Why did it not break
their hearts?


Meg Wedderburn was smiling on her hearthrug, being thanked and praised.
Her brown violin hung amongst the folds of her skirt.

"People _do_ like us," mused Miriam, listening to the peculiar sympathy
of the family voice.

Meg was there, away from her own home, happy with them, the front door
shut, their garden and house all round her and her strange luggage
upstairs in one of the spare rooms. Nice Meg....


After breakfast the next morning Miriam sat in a low carpet chair at a
window in the long bedroom she shared with Harriett. It was a morning of
blazing sunlight and bright blue. She had just come up through the cool
house from a rose-gathering tour of the garden with Harriett. A little
bunch of pink anemones she had picked for herself were set in a tumbler
on the wash-hand-stand.

She had left the door open to hear coming faintly up from the far-away
drawing-room the tap-tap of hammering that told her Sarah and Eve were
stretching the drugget.

On her knee lay her father's cigarette-making machine and a parcel of
papers and tobacco. An empty cigarette tin stood upon the window-sill.

She began packing tobacco into the groove of the machine, distributing
and pressing it lightly with the tips of her fingers, watching as she
worked the heavy pink cups of the anemones and the shining of their
green stalks through the water. They were, she reflected, a little too
much out. In the sun they would have come out still more. They would
close up at night unless the rooms grew very hot. Slipping the paper
evenly into the slot she shut the machine and turned the roller. As the
sound of the loosely working cogs came up to her she revolted from her
self-imposed task. She was too happy to make cigarettes. It would use up
her happiness too stupidly.

She was surprised by a sudden suggestion that she should smoke the
single cigarette herself. Why not? Why had she never yet smoked one? She
glanced at the slowly swinging door. No one would come. She was alone on
the top floor. Everyone was downstairs and busy. The finished cigarette
lay on her knee. Taking it between her fingers she pressed a little
hanging thread of tobacco into place. The cigarette felt pleasantly
plump and firm. It was well made. As she rose to get matches the mowing
machine sounded suddenly from the front lawn. She started and looked out
of the window, concealing the cigarette in her hand. It was the gardener
with bent shoulders pushing with all his might. With some difficulty she
unhitched the phosphorescent match-box from its place under the
gas-bracket and got back into her low chair, invisible from the lawn.

The cool air flowed in garden-scented. She held the cigarette between
two fingers. The match hissed and flared as she held it carefully below
the sill, and the flame flowed towards her while she set the paper
alight. Raising the cigarette to her lips she blew gently outwards, down
through the tobacco. The flame twisted and went out, leaving the paper
charred. She struck another match angrily, urging herself to draw, and
drew little panting breaths with the cigarette well in the flame. It
smoked. Blowing out the match she looked at the end of the cigarette. It
was glowing all over and a delicate little spiral of smoke rose into her
face. Quickly she applied her lips again and drew little breaths,
opening her mouth wide between each breath and holding the cigarette
sideways away from her. The end glowed afresh with each breath. The
paper charred evenly away and little flecks of ash fell about her.


A third of the whole length was consumed. Her nostrils breathed in
smoke, and as she tasted the burnt flavour the sweetness of the
unpolluted air all around her was a new thing. The acrid tang in her
nostrils intoxicated her. She drew more boldly. There was smoke in her
mouth. She opened it quickly, sharply exhaling a yellow cloud oddly
different from the grey spirals wreathing their way from the end of the
cigarette. She went on drawing in mouthful after mouthful of smoke,
expelling each quickly with widely-opened lips, turning to look at the
well-known room through the yellow haze and again at the sky, which drew
nearer as she puffed at it. The sight of the tree-tops scrolled with her
little clouds brought her a sense of power. She had chosen to smoke and
she was smoking, and the morning world gleamed back at her....


The morning gleamed. She would choose her fate. It should be amongst
green trees and sunshine. That daunted lump who had accepted the post at
Banbury Park had nothing to do with her. Morning gladness flooded her,
and her gladness of the thought of the evening to come quickened as it
had done last night into certainty.

She burned the last inch of the cigarette in the grate, wrapped with
combings from the toilet-tidy in a screw of paper. When all was consumed
she carefully replaced the summer bundle of ornamental mohair behind the

Useless to tell anyone. No one would believe she had not felt ill. She
found it difficult to understand why anyone should feel sick from
smoking. Dizzy perhaps ... a little drunk. Pater's tobacco was very
strong, some people could not smoke it.... She had smoked a whole
cigarette of strong tobacco and liked it. Raising her arms above her
head she worked them upwards, stretching every muscle of her body. No,
she was anything but ill.

Leaving the window wide she went on to the landing. The smell of tobacco
was everywhere. She flung into each room in turn, throwing up windows
and leaving doors propped ajar.

Harriett coming up the garden with a basket of cut flowers saw her at
the cook's bedroom window.

"What on earth you doing thayer!" she shrieked putting down her basket.

Hanging from the window Miriam made a trumpet of her hands.

"Something blew in!"


All preparations for the evening were made and the younger members of
the household were having a late tea in the breakfast-room. "We've done
the alcoves," said Sarah explosively, "in case it rains."

Nan Babington sat up in her long chair to bring her face round to the
deep bay where Sarah stood.

"My _dear_! Seraphina! And she's doing the pink bows! Will some saint
take my cup? Ta.... My dear, how _perfectly_ screaming."

Miriam raised her head from the petal-scattered table, where she lay
prone side by side with Harriett, to watch Nan sitting up in her firm
white dress beaming at Sarah through her slanting eye.

"What flowers you going to wear, Nan?"

Nan patted her sleek slightly Japanese-looking hair. "_Ah_ ... splashes
of scarlet, my dear. Splashes of scarlet. One in my hair and one here."
She patted the broad level of her enviable breast towards the left

"Almost _on_ the shoulder, you know--arranged flat, _can't_ be squashed
and showing as you dance."

"Geraniums! Oom. You've got awfully good taste. What a frightfully good
effect. Bright red and bright white. Clean. Go on, Nan."

"_Killing_," pursued Nan. "Tom said at breakfast with his mouth
absolutely _full_ of sweet-bread, 'it'll rain'--growled, you know, with
his mouth _crammed_ full. 'Never mind, Tommy,' said Ella with the
_utmost_ promptitude, 'they're sure to have the alcoves.' 'Oomph,'
growled Tommy, pretending not to care. _Naughty_ Tommy, naughty,
_naughty_ Tommy!"

"Any cake left?" sighed Miriam, sinking back amongst her petals and
hoping that Nan's voice would go on.

"You girls are the most adorable individuals I ever met.... Did anybody
see Pearlie going home this afternoon?"

Everyone chuckled and waited.

"My _dears_! My _dears_!! Bevan _dragged_ me along to the end of the
pavilion to see him enter up the handicaps with his new automatic
pen--_awfully_ smashing--and I was just hobbling the last few yards past
the apple trees when we _saw_ Pearlie hand-in-hand with the Botterford
boys, prancing along the asphalt court--_prancing_, my dears!"

Miriam and Harriett dragged themselves up to see. Nan bridled and swayed
from listener to listener, her wide throat gleaming as she sang out her

"Prancing--with straggles of grey hair sticking out and that _tiny_
sailor hat cocked _almost_ on to her nose. My dear, you sh'd've _seen_
Bevan! He put up his eyeglass, my dears, for a _fraction_ of a second,"
Nan's head went up--"Madame Pompadour," thought Miriam--and her slanting
eyes glanced down her nose, "and dropped it, clickety-click. You sh'd've
_seen_ the expression on his angelic countenance."

"I say, she _is_ an awful little creature, isn't she?" said Miriam,
watching Eve bend a crimson face over the tea-tray on the hearthrug.
"She put her boots on the pavilion table this afternoon when all those
men were there--about a mile high they are--with tassels. Why _does_ she
go on like that?"

"Men like that sort of thing," said Sarah lightly.


"They do.... I believe she drinks."

"Sally! My _dear_!"

"I believe she _does_. She's always having shandygaff with the men."

"Oh, well, perhaps she doesn't," murmured Eve.

"Chuck me a lump of sugar, Eve."

Miriam subsided once more amongst the rose petals.

"Bevvy thinks I oughtn't to dance."

"Did he say so?"

"Of course, my dear. But old Wyman said I could, every third, except the

"You sh'd've seen Bevvy's face. 'Brother Tommy doesn't object,' I said.
'He's going to look after me!' '_Is_ he?' said Bevvy in his _most_
superior manner."

"What a fearful scrunching you're making," said Harriett, pinching
Miriam's nose.

"Let's go and dress," said Miriam, rolling off the table.


"How many times has she met him?" asked Miriam as they went through the

"I dunno. Not many."

"I think it's simply hateful."

"Mimmy!" It was Nan's insinuating voice.

"Coming," called Miriam. "And, you know, Tommy needn't think he can
carry on with _Meg_ in an alcove."

"_What_ would she think? Let's go and tell Meg she must dress."


Miriam went back and put her head round the breakfast-room door.

"Let me see you when you're dressed."


"I want to kiss the back of your neck, my dear; love kissing people's

Miriam smiled herself vaguely out of the room, putting away the
unpleasant suggestion.

"I wish I'd got a dress like Nan's," she said, joining Harriett in the
dark lobby.

"I say, somebody's been using the 'Financial Times' to cut up flowers
on. It's all wet." Harriett lifted the limp newspaper from the
marble-topped coil of pipes and shook it.

"Hang it up somewhere."

"Where? Everything's cleared up."

"Stick it out of the lavatory window and pull the window down on it."

"Awri, you hold the door open."

Miriam laughed as Harriett fell into the room.

"Blooming boot-jack."

"Is it all right in there? Are all the pegs clear? Is the washing-basin
all right?"

A faint light came in as Harriett pushed up the frosted pane.

"Here's a pair of boots all over the floor and your old Zulu hat hanging
on a peg. The basin's all right except a perfectly foul smell of
nicotine. It's pater's old feather."

"That doesn't matter. The men won't mind that. My old hat can stay.
There are ten pegs out here and all the slab, and there's hardly
anything on the hall stand. That's it. Don't cram the window down so as
to cut the paper. That'll do. Come on."

"I wish I had a really stunning dress," remarked Miriam, as they tapped
across the wide hall.

"You needn't."

The drawing-room door was open. They surveyed the sea of drugget, dark
grey in the fading light. "_Pong_-pong-_pong_ de doodle,
_pong_-pong-_pong_ de doodle," murmured Miriam as they stood swaying on
tiptoe in the doorway.

"Let's have the gas and _two_ candlesticks, Harry, on the dressing-table
under the gas."

"All right," mouthed Harriett in a stage whisper, making for the stairs
as the breakfast-room door opened.

It was Eve. "I say, Eve, I'm _scared_," said Miriam, meeting her.

Eve giggled triumphantly.

"Look here. I shan't come down at first. I'll play the first dance. I'll
get them all started with 'Bitter-Sweet.'"

"Don't worry, Mim."

"My _dear_, I simply don't know how to face the evening."

"You do," murmured Eve. "You are proud."

"What of?"

"You know quite well."


"He's the nicest boy we know."

"But he's not my boy. Of course not. You're insane. Besides, I don't
know who you're talking about."

"Oh, well, we won't talk. We'll go and arrange your chignon."

"I'm going to have simply twists and perhaps a hair ornament."


Miriam reached the conservatory from the garden door and set about
opening the lid of the grand piano. She could see at the far end of the
almost empty drawing-room a little ruddy thick-set bearded man with a
roll of music under his arm talking to her mother. He was standing very
near to her, surrounding her with his eager presence. "Mother's
wonderful," thought Miriam, with a moment's adoration for Mrs.
Henderson's softly-smiling girlish tremulousness. Listening to the man's
hilarious expostulating narrative voice she fumbled hastily for her
waltz amongst the scattered piles of music on the lid of the piano.

As she struck her opening chords she watched her mother gently quell the
narrative and steer the sturdy form towards a group of people hesitating
in the doorway. "Have they had coffee?" she wondered anxiously. "Is Mary
driving them into the dining-room properly?" Before she had reached the
end of her second page everyone had disappeared. She paused a moment and
looked down the brightly lit empty room--the sight of the cold sheeny
drugget filled her with despair. The hilarious voice resounded in the
hall. There couldn't be many there yet. Were they all looking after them
properly? For a moment she was tempted to leave her piano and go and
make some desperate attempt at geniality. Then the sound of the
pervading voice back again in the room and brisk footsteps coming
towards the conservatory drove her back to her music. The little man
stepped quickly over the low moulding into the conservatory.

"Ah, Mariamne," he blared gently.

"Oh, Bennett, you angel, how _did_ you get here so early?" responded
Miriam, playing with zealous emphasis.

"Got old Barrowgate to finish off the out-patients," he said with a
choke of amusement.

"I say, Mirry, don't you play. Let me take it on. You go and ply the
light fantastic." He laid his hands upon her shoulders and burred the
tune she was playing like a muted euphonium over the top of her head.
"No. It's all right. Go and get them dancing. Get over the
awfulness--_you_ know."

"Get over the awfulness, eh? Oh, I'll get over the awfulness."

"Ssh--are there many there?"

They both looked round into the drawing-room.

Nan Babington was backing slowly up and down the room supported by the
outstretched arms of Bevan Seymour, her black head thrown back level
with his, the little scarlet knot in her hair hardly registering the
smooth movements of her invisible feet.

"They seem to have begun," shouted Bennett in a whisper as Harriett and
her fiancé swung easily circling into the room and were followed by two
more couples.

"Go and dance with Meg. She only knows Tommy Babington."

"Like the lid up?"


Miriam's rhythmic clangour doubled its resonance in the tiled
conservatory as the great lid of the piano went up.

"Magnifique, Mirry, parfaitement magnifique," intoned Tommy Babington,
appearing in the doorway with Meg on his arm.

"Bonsoir, Tomasso."

"You are like an expressive metronome."

"Oh--nom d'un pipe."

"You would make a rhinoceros dance."

Adjusting his pince-nez he dexterously seized tall Meg and swung her
rapidly in amongst the dancers.

"Sarah'll say he's had a Turkish bath," thought Miriam, recalling the
unusual clear pallor of his rather overfed face. "Pleated shirt. That's
to impress Meg."

She felt all at once that the air seemed cold. It was not like a summer
night. How badly the ferns were arranged. Nearly all of them together on
the staging behind the end of the piano; not enough visible from the
drawing-room. Her muscles were somehow stiffening into the wrong mood.
Presently she would be playing badly. She watched the forms circling
past the gap in the curtains and slowed a little. The room seemed fairly

"That's it--perfect, Mim," signalled Harriett's partner, swinging her
by. She held to the fresh rhythm and passing into a tender old waltz
tune that she knew by heart gave herself to her playing. She need not
watch the feet any longer. She could go on for ever. She knew she was
not playing altogether for the dancers. She was playing to two hearers.
But she could not play that tune if they came. They would be late. But
they must be here now. Where were they? Were they having coffee?
Dancing? She flung a terrified glance at the room and met the cold eye
of Bevan Seymour. She would not look again. The right feeling for the
dreamy old tune came and went uncontrollably. Why did they not come?
Presently she would be cold and sick and done for, for the evening. She
played on, harking back to the memory of the kindly challenge in the
eyes of her brother-in-law to be, dancing gravely with a grave
Harriett--fearing her ... writing in her album:

                       "She was his life,
   The ocean to the river of his thoughts--
   Which terminated all."

... cold, calm little Harriett. Her waltz had swung soft and low and the
dancers were hushed. Only Tommy Babington's voice still threaded the
little throng.

Someone held back the near curtain. A voice said quietly, "Here she is."


Ted's low, faintly-mocking voice filled the conservatory.

He was standing very near her, looking down at her with his back to the
gay room. Yesterday's dream had come more than true, at once, at the
beginning of the evening. He had come straight to her with his friend,
not dancing, not looking for a partner. They were in the little green
enclosure with her. The separating curtains had fallen back into place.

Behind the friend who stood leaning against the far end of the piano,
the massed fernery gleamed now with the glow of concealed fairy lamps.
She had not noticed it before. The fragrance of fronds and moist warm
clumps of maidenhair and scented geraniums inundated her as she glanced
across at the light falling on hard sculptured waves of hair above a
white handsome face.

Her music held them all, protecting the wordless meeting. Her last
night's extremity of content was reality, being lived by all three of
them. It centred in herself. Ted stood within it, happy in it. The
friend watched, witnessing Ted's confession. Ted had said nothing to him
about her, about any of them, in his usual way. But he was disguising
nothing now that he had come.

At the end of her playing she stood up faintly dizzy, and held out
towards Max Sonnenheim's familiar strangeness hands heavy with happiness
and quickened with the sense of Ted's touch upon her arm. The swift
crushing of the strange hands upon her own, steadied her as the curtains
swung wide and a group of dancers crowded in.


"Don't tell N.B. we've scrubbed the coffin, Miriorama--she'll sit there
all the evening."

"That was my sister and my future brother-in-law," said Miriam to Max
Sonnenheim as Harriett and Gerald ran down the steps and out into the
dark garden.

"Your sister and brother-in-law," he responded thoughtfully.

He was standing at her side at the top of the garden steps staring out
into the garden and apparently not noticing the noisy passers-by. If
they stood there much longer, Ted, who had not been dancing, would join
them. She did not want that. She would put off her dance with Ted until
later. The next dance she would play herself and then perhaps dance
again with Max. Once more from the strange security of his strongly
swinging arms she would meet Ted's eyes, watching and waiting. She must
dance once more with Max. She had never really danced before. She would
go to Ted at last and pass on the spirit of her dancing to him. But not

"I will show you the front garden," she said, running down the steps.

He joined her and they walked silently round the side of the house,
through the kitchen yard and out into the deserted carriage drive. She
thought she saw people on the front lawn and walked quickly, humming a
little tune, on down the drive.

Max crunched silently along a little apart from her, singing to himself.


Both sides of the front gate were bolted back and their footsteps
carried them straight out on to the asphalted avenue extending right and
left, a dim tunnel of greenery, scarcely lit by the lamps out in the
roadway. With a sudden sense of daring, Miriam determined to assume the
deserted avenue as part of the garden.

The gate left behind, they made their way slowly along the high leafy

They would walk to the end of the long avenue and back again. In a
moment she would cease humming and make a remark. She tasted a new sense
of ease, walking slowly along with this strange man without "making
conversation." He was taking her silence for granted. All her experience
so far had been of companions whose uneasiness pressed unendurably for
speech, and her talking had been done with an irritated sense of the
injustice of aspersions on "women's tongues," while no man could endure
a woman's silence ... even Ted, except when dancing; no woman could,
except Minna, in Germany. Max must be foreign, of course, German--of
_course_. She could, if she liked, talk of the stars to him. He would
neither make jokes nor talk science and want her to admire him, until
all the magic was gone. Her mood expanded. He had come just at the right
moment. She would keep him with her until she had to face Ted. He was
like a big ship towing the little barque of her life to its harbour.

His vague humming rose to a little song. It was German. It was the
Lorelei. For a moment she forgot everything but pride in her ability to
take her share in both music and words.

"You understand German!" he cried.

They had reached the end of the avenue and the starlit roadway opened
ahead, lined with meadows.

"Ach, wie schön," breathed Max.

"Wie schön." Miriam was startled by the gay sound of her own voice. It
sounded as if she were alone, speaking to herself. She looked up at the
spangled sky. The freshening air streamed towards them from the meadows.

"We _must_ go back," she said easily, turning in again under the trees.

The limes seemed heavily scented after their breath of the open. They
strolled dreamily along keeping step with each other. They would make it
a long quiet way to the gate. Miriam felt strangely invisible. It was as
if in a moment a voice would come from the clustering lime trees or from
the cluster of stars in the imagined sky.

"Wie süss," murmured Max, "ist treue Liebe."

"How dear," she translated mentally, "is true love." Yes, that was it,
that was true, the German phrase. Ted was dear, dear. But so far away.
Coming and going, far away.

"Is it?" she said with a vague, sweet intonation, to hear more.

"Wie süss, wie süss," he repeated firmly, flinging his arm across her

The wildly shimmering leafage rustled and seemed to sing. She walked on
horrified, cradled, her elbow resting in her companion's hand as in a
cup. She laughed, and her laughter mingled with the subdued lilting of
the voice close at her side. Ted was waiting somewhere in the night for
her. Ted. Ted. Not this stranger. But why was he not bold like this?
Primly and gently she disengaged herself.

She and Ted would walk along through the darkness and it would shout to
them. Day-time colours seemed to be shining through the night.... She
turned abruptly to her companion.

"Aren't the lime trees jolly?" she said conversationally.

"You will dance again with me?"

"Yes, if you like."

"I must go so early."

"Must you?"

"To-morrow morning early I go abroad."



"Where were _you_ all that last dance?"

Nan Babington's voice startled her as they came into the bright hall
through the open front door.

She smiled towards Nan, sitting drearily with a brilliant smile on her
face watching the dancers from a long chair drawn up near the
drawing-room door, and passed on into the room with her hand on her
partner's arm. They had missed a dance and an interval. It must have
been a Lancers and now there was another waltz.

Several couples were whirling gravely about. Amongst them she noted
Bevan Seymour, upright and slender, dancing with Harriett with an air of
condescending vivacity, his bright teeth showing all the time. Her eyes
were ready for Ted. She was going to meet his for the first time--just
one look, and then she would fly for her life anywhere, to anybody. And
he would find her and make her look at him again. Ted. He was not there.
People were glancing at her, curiously. She veiled her waiting eyes and
felt their radiance stream through her, flooding her with strength from
head to foot. How battered and ordinary everyone had looked, frail and
sick, stamped with a pallor of sickness. How she pitied them all.

"Let us take a short turn," said Max, and his arms came around her. As
they circled slowly down the length of the room she stared at his black
shoulder a few inches from her eyes. His stranger's face was just above
her in the bright light; his strange black-stitched glove holding her
mittened hand. His arms steadied her as they neared the conservatory.

"Let us go out," she heard him say, and her footsteps were guided across
the moulding, her arm retained in his. Meg Wedderburn was playing and
met her with her sentimental smile. In the gloom at her side, just
beyond the shaded candle, stood Ted ready to turn the music, his
disengaged hand holding the bole of a tall palm. He dropped his hands
and turned as they passed him, almost colliding with Miriam. "Next dance
with me," he whispered neatly. "Will you show me your coffin?" asked Max
as they reached the garden steps.

"It's quite down at the end beyond the kitchen garden."


"There are raspberry canes all along here, on both sides--trailing all
over the place; the gardener puts up stakes and things but they manage
to trail all over the place."

"Ah, yes."

"Some of them are that pale yellow kind, the colour of champagne. You
can just see how they trail. Isn't it funny how dark they are, and yet
the colour's there all the time, isn't it? They are lovely in the day,
lovely leaves and great big fruit, and in between are little squatty
gooseberry bushes, all kinds, yellow and egg-shaped like plums, and
little bright green round ones and every kind of the ordinary red kind.
Do you know the little bright green ones, quite bright green when
they're ripe, like bright green Chartreuse?"

"No. The green Chartreuse of course I know. But green ripe gooseberries
I have not seen."

"I expect you only know the unripe green ones they make April fool of."

"April fool?"

"I mean _gooseberry_ fool. Do you know why men are like green

"No. Why are they? Tell me."

"Perhaps you would not like it. We are passing the apple trees now;
quarendens and stibbards."

"Tell me. I shall like what you say."

"Well, it's because women can make fools of them whenever they like."

Max laughed; a deep gurgling laugh that echoed back from the wall in
front of them.

"We are nearly at the end of the garden."

"I think you would not make a man a fool. No?"

"I don't know. I've never thought about it."

"You have not thought much about men."

"I don't know."

"But they, they have thought about you."

"Oh, I'm sure I don't know."

"You do not care, perhaps?"

"I don't know, I don't know, I don't know. Here's the coffin. I'm afraid
it's not very comfortable. It's so low."

"What is it?"

"It's an overturned seedling box. There's grass all round. I wonder
whether it's damp," said Miriam suddenly invaded by a general

"Oh, we will sit down, it will not be damp. Your future brother-in-law
has not scrubbed also the ivy on the wall," he pursued as they sat down
on the broad low seat, "it will spoil your blouse."

Miriam leaned uncomfortably against the intervening arm.

"Isn't it a perfectly lovely night?" she said.

"I feel that you would not make of a man a fool...."

"Why not?"

"I feel that there is no poison in you."

"What _do_ you mean?" People ... poisonous ... What a horrible idea.

"Just what I say."

"I know in a way. I think I know what you mean."

"I feel that there is no poison in you. I have not felt that before with
a woman."

"Aren't women awful?" Miriam made a little movement of sympathy towards
the strange definiteness at her side.

"I have thought so. But you are not as the women one meets. You have a
soul serene and innocent. With you it should be well with a man."

"I don't know," responded Miriam. "Is he telling me I am a fool?" she
thought. "It's true, but no one has the courage to tell me."

"It is most strange. I talk to you here as I will. It is simple and
fatal"; the supporting arm became a gentle encirclement and Miriam's
heart beat softly in her ears. "I go to-morrow to Paris to the branch of
my father's business that is managed there by my brother. And I go then
to New York to establish a branch there. I shall be away then, perhaps a
year. Shall I find you here?"

A quick crunching on the gravel pathway just in front of them made them
both hold their breath to listen. Someone was standing on the grass near
Max's side of the coffin. A match spat and flared and Miriam's heart was
shaken by Ted's new, eager, frightened voice. "Aren't you _ever_ going
to dance with me again?"

She had seen the whiteness of his face and his cold, delicate, upright
figure. In spirit she had leapt to her feet and faltered his name. All
the world she knew had fallen into newness. This was certainty. Ted
would never leave her. But it was Max who was standing up and saying
richly in the blackness left by the burnt-out match, "All in good time,
Burton. Miss Miriam is engaged to me for this dance." Her faint "of
course, Ted," was drowned in the words which her partner sang after the
footsteps retreating rapidly along the gravel path: "We're just coming!"

"I suppose they've begun the next dance," she said, rising decisively
and brushing at her velvet skirt with trembling hands.

"Our dance. Let us go and dance our dance."

They walked a little apart steadily along up through the kitchen garden,
their unmatched footsteps sounding loudly upon the gravel between
remarks made by Max. Miriam heard them and heard the voice of Max. But
she neither listened nor responded.

She began to talk and laugh at random as they neared the lawn lit by the
glaring uncurtained windows.

Consulting his scrutinising face as they danced easily in the as yet
half-empty room, he humming the waltz which swung with their movement,
she found narrow, glinting eyes looking into her own; strange eyes that
knew all about a big business and were going to Paris and New York. His
stranger's face was going away, to be washed and shaved innumerable
times, keeping its assurance in strange places she knew nothing about.

Here, just for these few hours, laughing at Ted. A phrase flashed
through her brain, "He's brought Ted to his senses." She flushed and
laughed vaguely and danced with a feeling of tireless strength and
gaiety. She knew the phrase was not her own. It was one Nan Babington
could have used. It excited her. It meant that real things were going to
happen, she could bear herself proudly in the room. She rippled
complacently at Max. The room was full of whirling forms, swelling and
shrinking as they crossed and recrossed the line between the clear
vision rimmed by her glasses and the surrounding bright confusion.
Swift, rhythmic movement, unbroken and unjostled, told her how well they
were dancing. She was secure, landed in life, dancing carelessly out and
out to a life of her own.

"I go; I see you again in a year," said Max suddenly, drawing up near
the door where Mrs. Henderson stood sipping coffee with Sarah and

"Where is Burton?" he asked in the midst of his thanks and leave-taking.

They all hesitated. Miriam suddenly found herself in the presence of a

Bennett's careless "Oh, he's gone; couldn't stay," followed her as she
flung upstairs to Meg Wedderburn's empty room. Why had her mother looked
so self-conscious and Sarah avoided her eye ... standing there like a
little group of conspirators.

People were always inventing things. "Bother--damnational silliness,"
she muttered, and began rapidly calculating. Ted gone away. Little Ted
hurt and angry. To-morrow. Perhaps he wouldn't come. If he didn't she
wouldn't see him before she went. The quiet little bead of ruby shaded
gas reproached her. Meg's eyes would be sad and reproachful in this
quiet neatness. Terror seized her. She wouldn't see him. He had finished
his work at the Institution. It was the big Norwich job next week.

                              CHAPTER III


Miriam propped "The Story of Adèle" open against the three Bibles on the
dressing-table. It would be wasteful to read it upstairs. It was the
only story-book amongst the rows of volumes which filled the shelves in
the big schoolroom and would have to last her for tea-time reading the
whole term. The "Fleurs de l'Eloquence?" Shiny brown leather covered
with little gold buds and tendrils, fresh and new although the parchment
pages were yellow with age. The Fleurs were so short ... that curious
page signed "Froissart" with long s's, coming to an end just as the
picture of the French court was getting clear and interesting. That
other thing, "The Anatomy of Melancholy." Fascinating. But it would take
so much reading, on and on forgetting everything; all the ordinary
things, seeing things in some new way, some way that fascinated people
for a moment if you tried to talk about it and then made them very
angry, made them hate and suspect you. Impossible to take it out and
have it on the schoolroom table for tea-time reading. What had made the
Pernes begin allowing tea-time reading? Being shy and finding it
difficult to keep conversation going with the girls for so long? They
never did talk to the girls. Perhaps because they did not see through
them and understand them. North London girls. So different from the
Fairchild family and the sort of girls they had been accustomed to when
they were young. Anyhow, they hardly ever had to talk to them. Not at
breakfast or dinner-time when they were all three there; and at tea-time
when there was only one of them, there were always the books. How
sensible. On Sunday afternoons, coming smiling into the schoolroom, one
of them each Sunday--perhaps the others were asleep--reading aloud; the
Fairchild family, smooth and good and happy, everyone in the book
surrounded with a sort of light, going on and on and on towards heaven,
tea-time seeming so nice and mean and ordinary afterwards--or a book
about a place in the north of England called Saltcoats, brine, and a
vicarage and miners; the people in the book horrible, not lit up,
talking about things and being gloomy and not always knowing what to do,
never really sure about Heaven like the Fairchild family, black brackish
book. The "Fairchild Family" was golden and gleaming.

"The Anatomy of Melancholy" would not be golden like "The Fairchild
Family" ... "the cart was now come alongside a wood which was
exceedingly shady and beautiful"; "good manners and civility make
everybody lovely"; but it would be round and real, not just chilly and
moaning like "Saltcoats." The title would be enough to keep one going at
tea-time. An_at_--omy of _Mel_--ancholy, and the look of the
close-printed pages and a sentence here and there. The Pernes would not
believe she really wanted it there on the table. The girls would stare.
When "The Story of Adèle" was finished she would have to find some other
book; or borrow one. Nancie Wilkie, sitting at tea with her back to the
closed piano facing the great bay of dark green-blinded window, reading
"Nicholas Nickleby." Just the very one of all the Dickens volumes that
would be likely to come into her hands. Impossible to borrow it when
Nancie had finished with it. Impossible to read a book with such a
title. "David Copperfield" was all right; and "The Pickwick Papers."
"Little Dorritt"--"A Tale of Two Cities"--"The Old Curiosity Shop."
There was something suspicious about these, too.


Adèle--the story of Adèle. The book had hard, unpleasant covers with
some thin cottony material--bright lobelia blue--strained over them and
fraying out at the corners. Over the front of the cover were little
garlands and festoons of faded gold, and in the centre framed by an oval
band of brighter gold was the word Adèle, with little strong tendrils on
the lettering. There was some secret charm about the book. The strong
sunlight striking the window just above the coarse lace curtains that
obscured its lower half, made the gilding shine and seem to move--a
whole wild woodland. The coarse white toilet-cover on the chest of
drawers, the three Bibles, the little cheap mahogany-framed
looking-glass, Nancie Wilkie's folding hand-glass, the ugly gas bracket
sticking out above the mirror, her own bed in the corner with its coarse
fringed coverlet, the two alien beds behind her in the room, and the
repellant washstand in the far corner became friendly as the sun shone
on the decorated cover of the blue and gold book.

She propped it open again and began tidying her hair. It must be nearly
tea-time. A phrase caught her eye. "The old château where the first
years of Adèle's life were spent was situated in the midst of a
high-walled garden. Along one side of the château ran a terrace looking
out over a lovely expanse of flower-beds. Beyond was a little pleasaunce
surrounded by a miniature wall and threaded by little pathways lined
with rose trees. Almost hidden in the high wall was a little doorway.
When the doorway was open you could see through into a deep orchard."
The first tea-bell rang. The figure of Adèle flitting about in an
endless summer became again lines of black print. In a moment the girls
would come rushing up. Miriam closed the book and turned to the dazzling
window. The sun blazed just above the gap in the avenue of poplars. A
bright yellow pathway led up through the green of the public cricket
ground, pierced the avenue of poplars and disappeared through the
further greenery in a curve that was the beginning of its encirclement
of the park lake. Coming slowly along the pathway was a little figure
dressed bunchily in black. It looked pathetically small and dingy in the
bright scene. The afternoon blazed round it. It was something left over.
What was the explanation of it? As it came near it seemed to change. It
grew real. It was hurrying eagerly along, quite indifferent to the
afternoon glory, with little rolling steps that were like the uneven
toddling of a child, and carrying a large newspaper whose great sheets,
although there was no wind, balled out scarcely controlled by the small
hands. Its feathered hat had a wind-blown rakish air. On such a still
afternoon. It was thinking and coming along, thinking and thinking and a
little angry. What a rum little party, murmured Miriam, despising her
words and admiring the wild thought-filled little bundle of dingy
clothes. Beastly, to be picking up that low kind of slang--not real
slang. Just North London sneering. Goo--what a _rum_ little party, she
declared aloud, flattening herself against the window. Hotly flushing,
she recognised that she had been staring at Miss Jenny Perne hurrying in
to preside at tea.


"We've been to Jones's this afternoon, Miss Jenny."

Each plate held a slice of bread and butter cut thickly all the way
across a household loaf, and the three-pound jar of home-made plum jam
belonging to Nancie Wilkie was going the round of the table. It had
begun with Miriam, who sat on Miss Jenny's right hand, and had Nancie
for neighbour. She had helped herself sparingly, unable quite to resist
the enhancement of the solid fare, but fearing that there would be no
possibility of getting anything from home to make a return in kind.
Things were so bad, the dance had cost so much. One of Mary's cakes, big
enough for five people, would cost so much. And there would be the

Piling a generous spoonful on to her own thick slice, Nancie coughed
facetiously and repeated her remark which had produced no result but a
giggle from Charlotte Stubbs who sat opposite to her.

"Eh? Eh? What?"

Miss Jenny looked down the table over the top of her newspaper without
raising her head. Her pince-nez were perched so that one eye appeared
looking through its proper circle, the other glared unprotected just
above a rim of glass.

"Miss Haddie took us to Jones's this afternoon," said Nancie almost
voicelessly. Miriam glanced at the too familiar sight of Nancie's small
eyes vanishing to malicious points. She was sitting as usual very solid
and upright in her chair, with her long cheeks pink flushed and her fine
nose white and cool and twitching, her yellow hair standing strongly
back from her large white brow. She stabbed keenly in her direction as
Miriam glanced, and Miriam turned and applied herself to her bread and
jam. If she did not eat she would not get more than two slices from the
piled dishes before the others had consumed four and five apiece and
brought tea to an end.

"Eh? What for? Why are ye laughing, Nancie?"

"I'm not laughing, Miss Jenny." Nancie's firm lips curved away from her
large faultless teeth. "I'm only smiling and telling you about our visit
to Jones's."

Miss Jenny's newspaper was lowered and her pince-nez removed.

"Eh? What d'ye say? Nonsense, Nancie, you know you were laughing. Why do
you say you weren't? What do you mean? Eh?"

"I'm sorry, Miss Jennie. Something tickled me."

"Yes. Don't be nonsensical. D'ye see? It's nonsensical to say no when
you mean yes. D'ye understand what I mean, Nancie? It's bad manners."
Hitching on her pince-nez, Miss Jenny returned to her paper.

Miriam gave herself up to the luxury of reading Adèle to the
accompaniment of bread and jam. She would not hurry over her bread and
jam. As well not have it. She would sacrifice her chance of a third
slice. She reflected that it would be a good thing if she could decide
never to have more than two slices, and have them in peace. Then she
could thoroughly enjoy her reading. But she was always so hungry. At
home she could not have eaten thick bread and butter. But here every
slice seemed better than the last. When she began at the hard thick edge
there always seemed to be tender places on her gums, her three hollow
teeth were uneasy and she had to get through worrying thoughts about
them--they would get worse as the years went by, and the little places
in the front would grow big and painful and disfiguring. After the first
few mouthfuls of solid bread a sort of padding seemed to take place and
she could go on forgetful.

"They'd got," said Trixie Sanderson in a velvety tone, "they'd got some
of their Christmas things out, Miss Jenny." She cleared her throat
shrilly on the last word and toned off the sound with a sigh. Inaudible
laughter went round the table, stopping at Miriam, who glanced
fascinated across at Trixie. Trixie sat in her best dress, a loosely
made brown velveteen with a deep lace collar round her soft brown neck.
Her neck and her delicate pale face were shaded by lively silky brown
curls. She held her small head sideways from her book with a questioning
air. One of her wicked swift brown eyes was covered serenely with its
thin lid.

She uttered a second gentle sigh and once more cleared her throat,
accompanying the sound with a rapid fluttering of the lowered lid.

Miriam condemned her, flouting the single eye which tried to search her,
hating the sudden, sharp dimpling which came high up almost under
Trixie's cheek bones in answer to her own expression.

"Miss Jenny," breathed Trixie in a high tone, twirling one end of the
bow of black ribbon crowning her head.

Beadie Fetherwell, at the far end of the table opposite the tea-tray,
giggled aloud.

"Eh? What? Did somebody speak?" said Miss Jenny, looking up with a
smile. "Are ye getting on with yer teas? Are ye ready for second cups?"

"Beadie spoke," murmured Trixie, glancing at Beadie whose neat china
doll's face was half hidden between her cup and the protruding edge of
her thatch of tight gold curls.

Miriam disgustedly watched Beadie prolong the irritating comedy by
choking over her tea.

It was some minutes before the whole incident was made clear to Miss
Jenny. Reading was suspended. Everyone watched while Charlotte Stubbs,
going carefully backwards, came to the end at last of Miss Jenny's
questions, and when Miss Jenny rapidly adjudicating--_well!_ you're all
very naughty children. I can't think what's the matter with you? Eh? Ye
shouldn't do it. I can't think what possesses you. What is it, eh? Ye
shouldn't do it. D'you see?--and having dispensed the second allowance
of tea with small hesitating preoccupied hands returned finally to her
newspaper, it was Charlotte who sat looking guilty. Miriam stole a
glance at the breadth of her broad flushed face, at its broadest as she
hung over her book. Her broad flat nose shone with her tea-drinking, and
her shock of coarse brown-gold hair, flatly brushed on the top, stuck
out bushily on either side, its edges lit by the afternoon glow from the
garden behind her. The others were unmoved. Trixie sat reading, the
muscles controlling her high dimples still faintly active. She and
Nancie and Beadie, whose opaque blue eyes fixed the table just ahead of
her book with their usual half-squinting stare, had entered on their
final competition for the last few slices.

Miriam returned to her book. The story of Adèle had moved on through
several unassimilated pages. "My child," she read, "it is important to
remember"--she glanced on gathering a picture of a woman walking with
Adèle along the magic terrace, talking--words and phrases that fretted
dismally at the beauty of the scene. Examining later chapters she found
conversations, discussions, situations, arguments, "fusses"--all about
nothing. She turned back to the early passage of description and caught
the glow once more. But this time it was overshadowed by the promise of
those talking women. That was all there was. She had finished the story
of Adèle.

A resounding slam came up from the kitchen.

"Poor cook--another tooth," sighed Trixie.

Smothering a convulsion, Miriam sat dumb. Her thwarted expectations
ranged forth beyond control, feeling swiftly and cruelly about for
succour where she had learned there was none.... Nancie, her parents
abroad, her aunt's house at Cromer, with a shrubbery, the cousin from
South Africa coming home to Cromer, taking her out in a dog-cart,
telling her she was his guiding star, going back to South Africa;
everything Nancie said and did, even her careful hair-brushing and her
energetic upright walk, her positive brave way of entering a room,
coming out through those malicious pin-points--things she said about the
Misses Perne and the girls, things she whispered and laughed, little
rhymes she sang with her unbearable laugh.

... Beadie still shaking at intervals in silent servile glancing
laughter, her stepmother, her little half-brother who had fits, her
holidays at Margate, "you'd look neat, on the seat, of a bicyka made for
two"--Beadie brought Miriam the utmost sense of imprisonment within the
strange influence that had threatened her when she first came to Banbury
Park. Beadie was in it, was an unquestioning part of it. She felt that
she could in some way, in some one tint or tone, realise the whole
fabric of Beadie's life on and on to the end, no matter what should
happen to her. But she turned from the attempt--any effort at full
realisation threatened complete despair. Trixie too, with a home just
opposite the Banbury Empire.... Miriam slid over this link in her rapid
reflections--a brother named Julian who took instantaneous photographs
of girls, numbers and numbers of girls, and was sometimes "tight." ...

Charlotte. Charlotte carried about a faint suggestion of relief. Miriam
fled to her as she sat with the garden light on her hair, her lingering
flush of distress rekindled by her amusement, her protective responsible
smile beaming out through the endless blue of her eyes. Behind her
painstaking life at the school was a country home, a farm somewhere far
away. Of course it was dreadful for her to be a farmer's daughter. She
evidently knew it herself and said very little about it. But her large
red hands, so strange handling school-books, were comforting; and her
holland apron with its bib under the fresh colouring of her face--do you
like butter? A buttercup under your chin--brought to Miriam a picture of
the farm, white amidst bright greenery, with a dairy and morning
cock-crow and creamy white sheep on a hillside. It was all there with
her as she sat at table reading "The Lamplighter." The sound of her
broad husky voice explaining to Miss Jenny had been full of it. But it
was all past. She too had come to Banbury Park. She did not seem to mind
Banbury Park. She was to study hard and be a governess. She evidently
thought she was having a great chance--she was fifteen and quite
"uncultured." How could she be turned into a governess? A sort of
nursery governess, for farms, perhaps. But farms did not want books and
worry. Miriam wanted to put her back into her farm, and sometimes her
thoughts wearily brushed the idea of going with her. Perhaps, though,
she had come away because her father could not keep her? The little
problem hung about her as she sat sweetly there, common and good and
strong. The golden light that seemed to belong specially to her came
from a London garden, an unreal North London garden. Resounding in its
little spaces were the blatterings and shouts of the deaf and dumb next


Miss Jenny left "The Standard" with Miriam after tea, stopping suddenly
as she made her uncertain way from the tea-table to the door and saying
absently, "Eh, you'd better read this, my dear. There's a leader on the
Education Commission. Would ye like to? Yes, I think you'd better."
Miriam accepted the large sheets with hesitating expressions of thanks,
wondering rather fearfully what a leader might be and where she should
find it. She knew the word. Her mother read "the leaders" in the
evening--"excellent leader" she sometimes said, and her father would put
down his volume of "Proceedings of the British Association," or Herbert
Spencer's "First Principles," and condescendingly agree. But any
discussion generally ended in his warning her not to believe a thing
because she saw it in print, and a reminder that before she married she
had thought that everything she saw in print was true, and quite often
he would go on to general remarks about the gullibility of women,
bringing in the story of the two large long-necked pearly transparent
drawing-room vases with stems and soft masses of roses and leaves
painted on their sides that she had given too much for at the door to a
man who said they were Italian. Brummagem, Brummagem, he would end,
mouthing the word and turning back to his book with the neighing laugh
that made Miriam turn to the imagined picture of her mother in the first
year of her married life, standing in the sunlight at the back door of
the Babington house, with the varnished coach-house door on her right
and the cucumber frames in front of her sloping up towards the bean-rows
that began the kitchen garden; with her little scallopped bodice, her
hooped skirt, her hair bunched in curls up on her high pad and falling
round her neck, looking at the jugs with grave dark eyes. And that
neighing laugh had come again and again all through the years until she
sat meekly, flushed and suffering under the fierce gaslight, feeling
every night of her life winter and summer as if the ceiling were coming
down on her head, and read "leaders" cautiously, and knew when they were
written in "a fine chaste dignified style." But that was "The Times."
"The Standard" was a penny rag and probably not worth considering at
all. In any case she would not read it at evening study. She had never
had a newspaper in her hand before as far as she could remember. The
girls would see that she did not know how to read it, and it would be
snubby towards them to sit there as if she were a Miss Perne, scrumpling
a great paper while they sat with their books. So she read her
text-books, a page of Saxon Kings with a ten-line summary of each reign,
a list of six English counties with their capitals and the rivers the
capitals stood on and the principal industries of each town, devising
ways of remembering the lists and went on to "Bell's Standard
Elocutionist." She had found the book amongst the school books on the
schoolroom shelves. It was a "standard" book and must therefore be about
something she ought to know something about if she were to hold her own
in this North London world. There had been no "standard" books at school
and the word offended her. It suggested fixed agreement about the things
people ought to know and that she felt sure must be wrong, and not only
wrong but "common" ... standard readers ... standard pianoforte tutors.
She had learned to read in "Reading without Tears," and gone on to
"Classical Poems and Prose for the Young," her arithmetic book instead
of being a thin cold paper-covered thing called Standard I, had been a
pleasant green volume called "Barnard Smith," that began at the
beginning and went on to compound fractions and stocks. There was no
Morris's Grammar at Banbury Park, no Wetherell or English Accidence, no
bits from "Piers Plowman" and pages of scraps of words with the way they
changed in different languages and quotations, just sentences that had
made her long for more ... "up-clomb" ... "the mist up-clomb." She
opened "Bell's Standard Elocutionist" apprehensively, her mind working
on possible meanings for elocutionist. She thought of ventriloquist and
wondered dismally whether it was a book of conjuring tricks. It was
poems, poems and prose, all mixed up together anyhow. The room was very
still, the girls all sitting reading with their backs to the table so
that nobody "poked." She could not go on vaguely fluttering pages, so
she read a solid-looking poem that was not divided up into verses.

"Robert of Sicily, brother of Pope Urbane And Valmond Emperor of
Allemaine, Apparelled in magnificent attire, With retinue of many a
knight and squire, On St. John's eve, at vespers, proudly sat And heard
the priests chant the Magnificat." Should she go on? It was like the
pieces in Scott's novels, the best bits, before the characters began to

... "and bay the moon than such a Roman and bay the moon than such a
Roman," muttered Nancie rapidly, swinging her feet. It would not be fair
to read a thing that would take her right away and not teach her
anything whilst the girls were learning their things for Monday. She
hesitated and turned a page. The poem, she saw, soon began to break up
into sentences with quotation signs; somebody making a to-do. Turning
several pages at once, she caught sight of the word Hanover. "Hamelin
Town's in Brunswick, by famous Hanover city." That was irresistible. But
she must read it one day away from the gassy room and the pressure of
the girls. The lines were magic; but the rush that took her to the
German town, the sight and smell and sound of it, the pointed houses,
wood fires, the bürgers, had made her cheeks flare and thrown her out of
the proper teacher's frame of mind. She wanted to stand up and pull up
the blinds hiding the garden and shout the poem aloud to the girls. They
would stare and giggle and think she had gone mad. "The mountain has
gone mad," Nancie would mutter. "There is a mountain in Banbury Park,
covered over with yellow bark," Nancie's description of herself. That
was how the girls saw her stiff hair--and they thought she was "about
forty." Well, it was true. She was, practically. She went on holding
Bell up before her face, open at a page of prose, and stared at the
keyboard of the piano just beyond her crossed knees. It aroused the
sight and sense of the strangely moving hands of the various girls whose
afternoon practice it was her business to superintend, their intent
faces, the pages of bad unclassical music, things with horrible names,
by English composers, the uselessness of the hours and terms and years
of practice.


Presently the bread and butter and milk came up for the girls, and then
there was prayers--the three servants lined up in front of the
bookshelves; cook wheezing heavily, tall and thin and bent, with a
sloping mob cap and a thin old brown face with a forehead that was like
a buttress of shiny bone and startling dark eyes that protruded so that
they could be seen even when she sat looking down into her lap; and
Flora the parlourmaid, short and plump and brown with an expression of
perfectly serene despair, this was part of Miriam's daily bread; and
Annie the housemaid, raw pink and gold and grinning slyly at the
girls--Miss Perne, sitting at the head of the table with the shabby
family Bible and the book of family prayers, Miss Jenny and Miss Haddie
one on each side of the fireplace, Miss Jenny's feet hardly reaching the
floor as she sat bunched on a high schoolroom chair, Miss Haddie in her
cold slate-grey dress sitting back with her thin hands clasped in her
lap, her grey face bent devotionally so that her chin rested on her thin
chest, her eyes darting from the servants to the girls who sat in their
places round the table during the time it took Miss Perne to read a
short psalm. Miriam tried to cast down her eyes and close her ears. All
that went on during that short interval left her equally excluded from
either party. She could not sit gazing at Flora, and Miss Perne's polite
unvarying tone brought her no comfort. She sometimes thought longingly
of prayers in Germany, the big quiet saal with its high windows, its
great dark doors, its annexe of wooden summer-room, Fräulein's clear,
brooding undertone, the pensive calm of the German girls; the strange
mass of fresh melodious sound as they all sang together. Here there
seemed to be everything to encourage and nothing whatever to check the
sudden murmur, the lightning swift gesture of Nancie or Trixie.

The moment Miss Perne had finished her psalm they all swung round on to
their knees. Miriam pressed her elbows against the cane seat of her
chair and wondered what she should say to Miss Jenny at supper about the
newspaper, while Miss Perne decorously prayed that they might all be fed
with the sincere milk of the Word and grow thereby.

After the Lord's Prayer, a unison of breathy mutterings against closed
fingers, they all rose. Then the servants filed out of the room followed
by the Misses Perne. Miss Perne stopped in the doorway to shake hands
with the girls on their way to bed before joining her sisters in the
little sitting-room across the hall. One of the servants reappeared
almost at once with a tray, distributed its contents at the fire-place
end of the long table and rang the little bell in the hall on her way
back to the kitchen. The Misses Perne filed back across the hall.


"Eh, Deborah, are ye sure?" said Miss Jenny, getting into her chair at
Miss Perne's right hand.

Perhaps the newspaper would not be mentioned after all. If it were she
would simply say she had been preparing for Monday and was going to read
it after supper. Anyhow there was never any threat with the Pernes of
anything she would not be able to deal with. She glanced to see what
there was to eat, and then, feeling Miss Haddie's eye from across the
table, assumed an air of interested abstraction to cover her
disappointment. Cold white blancmange in a round dish garnished with
prunes, bread and butter, a square of cream cheese on a green-edged
dessert plate, a box of plain biscuits, the tall bottle of lime juice
and the red glass jug of water. Nothing really sweet and nice--the
blancmange would be flavoured with laurel--prussic acid--and the prunes
would be sweet in the wrong sort of way--wholesome, just sweet fruit.
Cheese--how could people eat cheese?

"Well, my dear, I tell you only what I saw with my own eyes--Polly Allen
and Eunice Dupont running about in the park without their hats."

"Ech," syphoned Miss Haddie, drawing her delicate green-grey eyebrows
sharply towards the deep line in the middle of her forehead. She did not
look up but sat frowning sourly into her bowl of bread and milk, ladling
and pouring the milk from the spoon.

Miriam kept a nervous eye on her acid preoccupation. No one had seen the
behaviour of her own face, how one corner of her mouth had shot up so
sharply as to bring the feeling of a deeply denting dimple in her cheek.
She sat regulating her breathing and carefully extracting the stone from
a prune.

"Did ye speak to them?" asked Miss Jenny, fixing her tall sister over
her pince-nez.

Miss Perne sat smilingly upright, her black eyes blinking rapidly at the
far-off bookshelves.

"I did _not_ speak to them----"

"Eh, Deborah, why not?" scolded Miss Jenny as Miss Perne drew breath.

"I did _not_ speak to them," went on Miss Deborah, beaming delightedly
at the bookcase, "for the very good reason that I was not sufficiently
near to them. I was walking upon the asphalt pathway surrounding the
lake and had just become engaged in conversation with Mrs. Brinkwell,
who had stopped me for the purpose of giving me further details with
regard to Constance's prolonged absence from school, when I saw Polly
and Eunice apparently chasing one another across the recreation ground
in the condition I have described to you."

Miriam, who had felt Miss Haddie's scorn-filled eyes playing watchfully
over her, sat pressing the sharp edge of her high heel into her ankle.

"Eh, my dear, what a pity you couldn't speak to them. They've no
business at all in the recreation ground where the rough boys go."

"Well, I have described to you the circumstances, my dear, and the
impossibility of my undertaking any kind of intervention."

"Eh, well, Deborah my dear, I think I should have done something. Don't
you think you ought? Eh? Called someone perhaps--eh?--or managed to get
at the gels in some way--dear, dear, what is to be done? You see it is
hardly of any use to speak to them afterwards. You want to catch them
red-handed and make them feel ashamed of themselves."

"I am fully prepared to admit, my dear Jenny, the justice of all that
you say. But I can only repeat that in the circumstances in which I
found myself I was entirely unable to exercise any control whatever upon
the doings of the gels. They were running; and long before I was free
from Mrs. Brinkwell they were out of sight."

Miss Perne spoke in a clear, high, narrative tone that seemed each
moment on the point of delighted laughter, her delicate head held high,
her finely wrinkled face puckering with restrained pleasure. Miriam saw
vividly the picture in the park, the dreadful, mean, grubby lake, the
sad asphalt pathway all round it, the shabby London greenery, the
October wind rushing through it, Miss Perne's high stylish arrowy figure
fluttered by the wind, swaying in her response to Mrs. Brinkwell's
story, the dreadful asphalt playground away to the left, its gaunt
swings and bars--gallows.... Ingoldsby--the girls rushing across it, and
held herself sternly back from a vision of Miss Perne chasing the
delinquents down the wind. Why did Miss Perne speak so triumphantly? As
much as to say There, my dear Jenny, there's a problem you can't answer.
She enjoyed telling the tale and was not really upset about the girls.
She spoke exactly as if she were reading aloud from "Robinson Crusoe."
Miss Haddie was watching again, flashing her eyes about as she gently
spooned up her bread and milk. Miriam wished she knew whether Miss
Haddie knew how difficult it was to listen gravely. She was evidently
angry and disgusted. But still she could watch.

"Did ye go that way at all afterwards--the way the girls went?"

"I did not," beamed Miss Perne, turning to Miss Jenny as if waiting for
a judgment.

"Well, eh, I'm sure, really, it's most diffikilt. What is one to do with
these gels? Now, Miriam, here's something for you to exercise your wits
upon. What would ye do, eh?"

Miriam hesitated. Memories kept her dumb. Of course she had never rushed
about in a common park where rough boys came. At the same time--if the
girls wanted to rush about and scream and wear no hats nobody had any
right to interfere with them ... they ought to be suppressed though,
North London girls, capable of anything in the way of horridness ... the
Pernes did not seem to see how horrid the girls were in themselves,
common and knowing and horrid. "Dear, funny little O.M.'s" ... they were
something much more than that. They were wrong about the hats, but it
was good, heavenly to be here like this with them. She turned to Miss
Jenny, her mind in a warm confusion, and smiled into the little red face
peering delicately from out its disorderly Gorgon loops.


"My dear Jenny," said Miss Haddie's soft hollow voice, "how should the
child judge?"

Miriam's heart leapt. She smiled inanely and eagerly accepted a second
helping of blancmange suddenly proffered by Miss Perne, who was drawing
little panting breaths and blinking sharply at her.

"Nonsense, Haddie. Come along, my dear, it's a chance for you. Come

"Tomboys," said Miss Haddie indignantly.

Miriam drew a breath. It was wrong, they were not tomboys--she knew they
had not run like tomboys--they had scuttled, she was sure--horrid girls,
that was what they were, nothing the Pernes could understand. The Pernes
ought not to be bothered with them.

"Well," she said, feeling a sudden security, "are we responsible for
them out of school hours?"

Miss Haddie's eyebrows moved nervously, and Miss Perne's smile turned to
a dubious mouthing.

"Eh, there you are. D'ye see, Deborah. That's it. That's the crucial
point. Are we responsible? I'm sure I can't say. That places the whole
difficulty in a nutshell. Here are these gels, not even day boarders.
How far can we control their general behaviour? Eh? I'm sure I don't

"My dear Jenny," said Miss Haddie quickly, her hollow voice
reverberating as if she were using a gargle, "it's quite obvious that we
can't have gels known to belong to the school running about in the park
with nothing on."

"I agree, my dear Haddie. But, as Jenny says, how are we to prevent such

"Don't let us lose sight of Miriam's point. _Are_ we responsible for
their play-times? I suppose we're _not_, you know, Deborah, really after
all. Not directly, perhaps. But sheerly we are _indirectly_ responsible.
Sheerly. We ought to be able to make it impossible for them to carry on
in this unseemly fashion."

"Yes, yes," said Miss Deborah eagerly, "sheerly."

"Is it education?" suggested Miriam.

"That's it, my dear. It is education. That's what's wanted. That's what
these gels want. I don't know, though. All this talk of education. It
ought to be the thing. And yet look at these two gels. Both of them from
Miss Cass's. There's her school now. Famous all over London. Three
hundred gels. We've had several here. And they've all had that
objectionable noisy tone. Eh, Deborah? I don't know. How is it to be
accounted for? Eh?"

"I've never heard of Miss Cass's," said Miriam.

"My _dear_ child! It's not possible! D'ye mean to say ye don't know Miss
Cass's high school?"

"Oh, if it's a high school, of _course_."

All three ladies waited, with their eyes on her, making a chorus of
inarticulate sounds.

"Oh well, high schools are simply fearful."

Miriam glowed in a tide of gentle cackling laughter.

"Well, you know, I think there's something in it," giggled Miss Jenny
softly. "It's the number perhaps. That's what I always say, Deborah.
Treating the gels like soldiers. Like a regiment. D'ye see? No
individual study of the gels' characters----"

"Well. However that may be, I am sure of one thing. I am sure that on
Monday Polly and Eunice must be reprimanded. Severely reprimanded."

"Yes. I suppose they must. They're nice gels at heart, you know. Both of
them. That's the worst of it. Well, I hardly mean that. Only so often
the naughty gels are so thoroughly--well--nice, likable at bottom, ye
know, eh? I'm sure. I don't know."


Miriam sat on in the schoolroom after supper with the newspaper spread
out on the brown American cloth table cover under the gas. She found a
long column headed "The Royal Commission on Education." The Queen, then,
was interesting herself in education. But in England the sovereign had
no power, was only a figurehead. Perhaps the Queen had been advised to
interest herself in education by the Privy Council and the
Conservatives, people of leisure and cultivation. A commission was a
sort of command--it must be important, something the Privy Council had
decided and sent out in the Queen's name.

She read her column, sitting comfortlessly between the window and the
open door. As she read the room grew still. The memory of the talking
and clinking supper-table faded, and presently even the ticking of the
clock was no longer there. She raised her head at last. No wonder people
read newspapers. You could read about what was going on in the country,
actually what the Government was doing at that very moment. Of course;
men seemed to know such a lot because they read the newspapers and
talked about what was in them. But anybody could know as much as the men
sitting in the armchairs if they chose; read all about everything,
written down for everybody to see. That was the freedom of the
Press--Areopagitica, that the history books said so much about and was
one of those new important things, more important than facts and dates.
Like the Independence of Ireland. Yet very few people really talked like
newspapers. Only angry men with loud voices. Here was the free Press
that Milton had gone to prison for. Certainly it made a great
difference. The room was quite changed. There was hardly any pain in the
silent cane-seated chairs. There were really people making the world
better. Now. At last. Perhaps it was rather a happy fate to be a teacher
in the Banbury Park school and read newspapers. There were plenty of
people who could neither read nor write. Someone had a servant like that
who did all the marketing and never forgot anything or made any mistake
over the change--none the worse for it, pater said, people who wanted
book-learning could get it, there must always be hewers of wood and
drawers of water, _laissez faire_. But Gladstone did not believe that.
At this moment Gladstone was saying that because the people of England
as a whole were uneducated their "condition of ignorance" affected the
whole of the "body politic." That was Gladstone. He had found that out
... with large moist silky eyes like a dog and pointed collars seeing
things as they were and going to change them.... Miriam stirred uneasily
as she felt the beating of her heart.... If only she were at home how
she could rush up and down the house and shout about it and shake Mary
by the shoulders. She shrank into herself and sat stiffly up, suddenly
discovering she was lounging over the table. As she moved she reflected
that probably Gladstone's being so very dark made him determined that
things should not go on as they were. In that case Gladstonians would be
dark--perhaps not musical. Someone had said musical people were a queer
soft lot. _Laissez faire_. Lazy fair. But perhaps it was possible to be
fair and musical and to be a Gladstonian too. You can't have your cake
and eat it. No. It was a good thing, one's best self knew it was a good
thing that someone had found out why people were so awful; like a
dentist finding out a bad tooth however much it hurt. Only if education
was going to be the principal thing and all teachers were to be
'qualified' it was no use going on. Miss Jenny had said private schools
were doomed.


For a long time she sat blankly contemplating the new world that was
coming. Everyone would be trained and efficient but herself. She was not
strong enough to earn a living and qualify as a teacher at the same
time. The day's work tired her to death. She must hide somewhere.... She
would not be wanted.... If you were not wanted.... If you knew you were
not wanted--you ought to get out of the way. Chloroform. Someone had
drunk a bottle of carbolic acid. The clock struck ten. Gathering up the
newspaper she folded it neatly, put it on the hall table and went slowly
upstairs, watching the faint reflection of the half-lowered hall gas
upon the polished balustrade. The staircase was cold and airy. Cold
rooms and landings stretched up away above her into the darkness. She
became aware of a curious buoyancy rising within her. It was so strange
that she stood still for a moment on the stair. For a second, life
seemed to cease in her and the staircase to be swept from under her
feet.... "I'm alive." ... It was as if something had struck her, struck
right through her impalpable body, sweeping it away, leaving her there
shouting silently without it. I'm alive.... I'm alive. Then with a thump
her heart went on again and her feet carried her body warm and happy and
elastic easily on up the solid stairs. She tried once or twice
deliberately to bring back the breathless moment standing still on a
stair. Each time something of it returned. "It's me, _me;_ this is _me_
being alive," she murmured with a feeling under her like the sudden drop
of a lift. But her thoughts distracted her. They were eagerly talking to
her declaring that she had had this feeling before. She opened her
bedroom door very quietly. The air of the room told her that Nancie and
Beadie were asleep. Going lightly across to the chest of drawers
dressing-table by the window as if she were treading on air, she stood
holding its edge in the darkness. Two forgotten incidents flowed past
her in quick succession; one of waking up on her seventh birthday in the
seaside villa alone in a small dark room and suddenly saying to herself
that one day her father and mother would die and she would still be
there, and after a curious moment when the darkness seemed to move
against her, feeling very old and crying bitterly, and another of
standing in the bow of the dining-room window at Barnes looking at the
raindrops falling from the leaves through the sunshine and saying to
Eve, who came into the room as she watched, "D'you know, Eve, I feel as
if I'd suddenly wakened up out of a dream." The bedroom was no longer
dark. She could see the outlines of everything in the light coming from
the street lamps through the half-closed Venetian blinds. Beadie sighed
and stirred. Miriam began impatiently preparing for bed without lighting
the gas. "What's the use of feeling like that if it doesn't stay? It
doesn't change anything. Next time I'll make it stay. It might whisk me
right away. There's something in me that can't be touched or altered.
Me. If it comes again. If it's stronger every time.... Perhaps it goes
on getting stronger till you die."

                               CHAPTER IV


Wheezing, cook had spread a plaster of dampened ashy cinders upon the
basement schoolroom fire and gone bonily away across the oilcloth in her
heelless boots. As the door closed Miriam's eye went up from her book to
the little slope of grass showing above the concrete wall of the area.
The grass gleamed along the edge of a bank of mist. In the mist the area
railings stood hard and solid against the edge of empty space. Several
times she glanced at the rich green, feeling that neither 'emerald,'
'emerald velvet,' nor 'velvety enamel' quite expressed it. She had not
noticed that there was a mist shutting in and making brilliant the
half-darkness of the room at breakfast-time, only feeling that for some
reason it was a good day. "It's fog--there's a sort of fog," she said,
glowing. The fog made the room with the strange brilliant brown light on
the table, on the horsehair chairs, on the shabby length of brown and
yellow oilcloth running out to the bay of the low window, seem to be
rushing through space, alone. It was quite safe, going on its
journey--towards some great good.

The back door, just across the little basement hall, scrooped inwards
across the oilcloth, jingling its little bell, and was banged to. The
flounter-_crack_ of a rain-cloak smartly shaken out was followed by a
gentle scrabbling in a shoe-box,--the earliest girl, peaceful and calm,
a wonderful sort of girl, coming into the empty basement quietly getting
off her things, with all the rabble of the school coming along the
roads, behind. The jingling door was pushed open again just as her
slippered feet ran upstairs. "Khoo--what a filthy day!" said a
vibrating hard mature voice. Miriam glanced at her time-table,
history--dictation--geography--sums--writing--and shrank to her utmost
air of preoccupation lest either of the elder girls should look in.

Sounds increased in the little hall, loud abrupt voices, short rallying
laughs, the stubbing and stamping of feet on the oilcloth. At the
expected rattling of the handle of her own door she crouched over her
book. The door opened and was quietly closed again. A small figure flung
itself forward. Miriam was clutched by harsh serge-clad arms. As she
moved, startled, firm cracked lips were pressed against her cheekbone.
"Good morning, Burra," she said, turning to put an arm round the child.
She caught a glimpse of broad cheeks bulging firmly against a dark bush
of short hair. Large fierce bloodshot eyes glared close to her own.
"Hoo--angel." The little gasping body stiffened against her shoulder,
pinning down her arm. The crimson face tried to reach her breast. "Have
you changed your boots," said Miriam coldly. "Hoo--hoo." The short hard
fingers hurt her. "Go and get them off at once." Head down Burra rushed
at the door, colliding with the incoming figure of a neat little girl
dressed in velvet-trimmed red merino, with a rose and white face and
short gentle gold hair. She put a little pile of books on the table and
stood still near to Miriam, with her hands behind her. They both looked
down the room out of the window, with quiet unsmiling faces. "What have
you been doing since Friday, Gertie?" Miriam said presently. "We went
for a walk," said Gertie in a neat liquid little voice, dimpling and
faintly raising her eyebrows.

The eight little girls who made up the upper class of the junior school
stood in a close row as near as possible to Miriam's chair at the head
of the table. They were silent and fresh and eagerly crowded, waiting
for her to begin. She kept them silent for a few moments for the
pleasure of having them there with her. She knew that Miss Perne,
sitting in the window space with the youngest class drawn up in a
half-circle for their Scripture lesson, was an approving presence,
keeping her own little class at a level of quiet question and answer
that made a background rather than a disturbance for the adventure of
the elder girls. "Not too close together," said Miriam at last,
gathering herself with a deep breath; "throw back your shoulders and
stand straight. Don't lump down on your heels. Let your weight come on
the ball of your feet. Are you all all right? Don't poke your heads
forward." As the girls eagerly manoeuvred themselves, wilfully carrying
out her instructions even to turning their heads to face the opposite
wall, she caught most of the eyes in turn smiling their eager
affectionate conspiracy, and restraining her desire to get up then and
there and clasp the little figures one by one, began the lesson. Four of
the girls, two square-built Quakeresses with straight brown frocks, deep
slow voices and dreamy eyes, a white-faced, tawny-haired, thin child
with an eager stammer, and a brilliant little Jewess knew the "principal
facts and dates" of the reign of Edward I by rote backwards and forwards
in response to any form of question. Burra hung her head and knew
nothing. Beadie Featherwell, dreadfully tall, a head taller, with her
twelve years, than the tallest child in the lower school, knew no more
than Burra and stood staring at the wall and biting her lips. A stout
child with open mouth and snoring breath answered with perfect
exactitude from the book, but her answers bore no relationship to the
questions, and Gertie could only pipe replies if the questions were so
put as to contain part of the answer. The white-faced girl was beginning
to gnaw her fingers by the time the questioning was at an end.

"Well now, what is the difficulty," said Miriam, "of getting hold of the
events of this queer little reign?" Everybody laughed and was silent
again at once because Miriam's voice went on, trying to interest both
herself and the successful girls in inventing ways of remembering all
the things that had to be "hooked on to the word Edward." In less than
ten minutes even the stout snoring girl could repeat the reign
successfully, and for the remainder of their time they talked aimlessly.

The children standing at ease, saying whatever occurred to them, even
the snoring girl secured from ridicule by Miriam's consideration of
whatever was offered. Their adventure took them away from their subject
into what Miriam knew "clever" people would call "side issues." "Nothing
is a side issue," she told herself passionately with her eyes on the
green glare beyond the window. The breaking up of Miss Perne's class
left the whole of the lower school on her hands for the rest of the


By half-past twelve she was sitting alone and exhausted with aching
throat at her place at the head of the table.

"Khoo, _isn't_ it a filthy day!" Polly Allen, a short heavy girl with a
sallow pitted face, thin ill-nourished hair and kind swiftly moving grey
eyes, marched in out of the dark hall with flapping bootlaces. In the
bay she sat down and began to lace up her boots. The laces flicked
carelessly upon the linoleum as she threaded, profaning the little
sanctuary of the window space. "Oh me bones, me poor old bones," she
muttered. "Eunice!" her hard mature voice vibrated through the room.
"Eunice Dupont!"

"What's the jolly row?" said a slow voice at the door. "Wot's the bally
shindy, beloved?"

"Like a really beautiful Cheshire cat," Miriam repeated to herself,
propped studiously on her elbows shrinking, and hoping that if she did
not look round, Eunice's carved brown curls, her gleaming slithering
opaque oval eyes and her short upper lip, the strange evil carriage of
her head, the wicked lines of her figure, would be withdrawn. "Cheshire,
Cheshire," she scolded inwardly, feeling the pain in her throat

"Nothing. Wait for me. That's all. Oh, my lungs, bones _and_ et ceteras.
It's old age, I suppose, Uncle William."

"Well, hurry your old age up, that's all. I'm ready."

"Well, don't go away, you funny cuckoo, you can wait, can't you?"

A party of girls straggled in one by one and drifted towards Polly in
the window space.

"It's the parties I look forward to."

"Oh, look at her tie!"

"My tie? Six-three at Crisp's."

The sounds of Polly's bootlacing came to an end. She sat holding a
court. "Doesn't look forward to parties? She must be a funny cuckoo!"

"Dancing's divine," said a smooth deep smiling voice. "Reversing. Khoo!
with a fella. Khooo!"

"You surprise me, Edie. You do indeed. Hoh. Shocking."

"Shocking? Why? What do you mean, Poll?"

"Nothing. Nothing. Riang doo too."

"I don't think dancing's shocking. How can it be? You're barmy, my son."

"Ever heard of Lottie Collins?"

"Ssh. Don't be silly."

"I don't see what Lottie Collins has got to do with it. My mother thinks
dancing's all right. That's good enough for me."

"Well--I'm not your mother."

"Nor anyone else's."

"Khoo, _Mabel_."

"Who wants to be anyone's mother?"

"Not me. Ug. Beastly little brats."

"Oh shut _up_. Oh you _do_ make me tired."

"Kids are jolly. A1. I hope I have lots."

Surprised into amazement, Miriam looked up to consult the face of Jessie
Wheeler, the last speaker--a tall flat-figured girl with a strong
squarish pale face, hollow cheeks, and firm colourless lips. Was it
being a Baptist that made her have such an extraordinary idea? Miriam's
eyes sought refuge from the defiant beam of her sea-blue eyes in the
shimmering cloud of her hair. The strangest hair in the school; negroid
in its intensity of fuzziness, but saved by its fine mesh.

"Don't you adore kiddies, Miss Henderson?"

"I think they're rather nice," said Miriam quickly, and returned to her

"I should jolly well think they were," said Jessie fervently.

"Hope your husband'll think so too, my dear," said Polly, getting up.

"Oh, of course, I should only have them if the fellow wanted me to."

"You haven't got a fella yet, madam."

"Of course not, cuckoo. But I shall."

"Plenty of time to think about that."

"Hoo. Fancy never having a fellow. I should go off my nut."

When they had all disappeared Miriam opened the windows. There was still
someone moving about in the hall, and as she stood in the instreaming
current of damp air looking wearily at the concrete--a girl came into
the room. "Can I come in a minute?" she said, advancing to the window.
"I want to speak to you," she pursued when she reached the bay. She
stood at Miriam's side and looked out of the window. Half-turning,
Miriam had recognized Grace Broom, one of the elder first-class girls
who attended only for a few subjects. She was a dark short-necked girl
with thick shoulders; a receding mouth and boldly drawn nose and chin
gave her a look of shrewd elderliness. The heavy mass of hair above the
broad sweep of her forehead, her heavy frame and flat-footed walk added
to this appearance. She wore a high-waisted black serge pinafore dress
with black crape vest and sleeves.

"Do you mind me speaking to you?" she said in a hot voice. Her
black-fringed brown eyes were fixed on the garden railings where people
passed by and Miriam never looked.

"No," said Miriam shyly.

"You know why we're in mourning?"

Miriam stood silent with beating heart, trying to cope with the
increasing invasion.

"Our father's dead."

Hurriedly Miriam noted the superstitious tone in the voice.... This is a
family that revels in plumes and hearses. She glanced at the stiff
rather full crape sleeve nearest to her and sought about in her mind for
help as she said with a blush, "Oh, I see."

"We've just moved."

"Oh yes, I see," said Miriam, glancing fearfully at the heavy scroll of
profile and finding it expressive and confused.

"We've got a house about a quarter as big as where we used to live."

Miriam found it impossible to respond to this confession and still tried
desperately to sweep away the sense of the figure so solidly planted at
her side.

"I've asked our aunt if we can ask you to come to tea with us."

"Thank you very much," said Miriam in one word.

"When could you come?"

"Oh, I'm afraid I couldn't come. It would be impossible."

"Oh no. You must come. I shall ask Aunt Lucy to write to Miss Perne."

"I really couldn't come. I shouldn't be able to ask you back."

"That doesn't matter," panted the relentless voice. "I've wanted to
speak to you ever since you came."


When next Miriam saw the black-robed Brooms and their aunt file past the
transept where were the Wordsworth House sittings, she felt that to
visit them might perhaps not be the ordeal she had not dared to picture.
It would be strange. Those three heavy black-dressed women. Their small
new house. She imagined them sitting at tea in a little room. Why was
Grace so determined that she should sit there too? Grace had a life and
a home and was real. She did not know that things were awful. Nor did
Florrie Broom, nor the aunt. But yet they did not look like 'social'
people. They were a little different. Not worldly. Not pious either. Nor
intellectual. What could they want with her? She had soon forgotten them
and the congregation assumed its normal look. As the service went on the
thoughts came that came every Sunday. An old woman with a girl at her
side were the only people whose faces were within Miriam's line of
vision from her place at the wall end of the Wordsworth House pew. The
people in front of them were not even in profile, and those behind were
hidden from her by the angle of the transept wall. To her right she
could just see rising above the heads in the rows of pews in front of
her the far end of the chancel screen. The faces grouped in the transept
on the opposite side of the church were a blur. The two figures sat or
knelt or stood in a heavy silence. They neither sang nor prayed. Their
faces remained unaltered during the whole service. To Miriam they were
its most intimate part. During the sermon she rarely raised her eyes
from the circle they filled for her as they sat thrown into relief by
the great white pillar. Their faces were turned towards the chancel.
They could see its high dim roof and distant altar, the light on the
altar, flowers, shining metal, embroideries, the maze of the east
window, the white choir. They showed no sign of seeing these things. The
old woman's heavy face with its heavy jaw-bone seemed to have been dead
for years under its coffin-shaped black bonnet. Her large body was
covered by a mantle of thickly ribbed black material trimmed with braid
and bugles. That bright yellow colour meant liver. Whatever she had she
was dying of it. People were always dying when they looked like that.
But it was a bad way to die. The real way was the way of that lady
trailing about over the Heath near Roehampton, dying by inches of an
internal complaint, with her face looking fragile--like the little
alabaster chapelle in the nursery with a candle alight inside. She was
going to die, walking about alone on the Heath in the afternoons. Her
family going on as usual at home; the greengrocer calling. She knew that
everybody was alone and that all the fuss and noise people made all day
was a pretence.... What to _do_? To be walking about with a quiet face
meeting death. Nothing could be so alone as that. The pain, and
struggle, and darkness.... That was what the old woman feared. She did
not think about death. She was afraid and sullen all the time. Stunned,
sitting there with her cold common daughter. She had been common herself
as a girl, but more noisy, and she had married and never thought about
dying, and now she was dying and hating her cold daughter. The daughter,
sitting there with her stiff slatey-blue coat and skirt, her indistinct
hat tied with a thin harsh veil to her small flat head--what a home with
her in it all the time. She would never laugh. Her poor-looking cheeks
were yellowish, her fringe dry, without gloss. She would move her mouth
when she spoke, sideways with a snarling curl of one-half of the upper
lip and have that resentful way of speaking that all North Londoners
have, and the maddening North London accent. The old woman's voice would
be deep and hollow.... The girl moving heavily about the house wearing
boots and stiff dresses and stiff stays showing their outline through
her clothes. They would be bitter to their servant and would not trust
her. What was the good of their being alive ... a house and a water
system and drains and cooking, and they would take all these things for
granted and grumble and snarl ... the gas meter man would call there.
Did men like that resent calling at houses like that? No. They'd just
say, "The ole party she sez to me." How good they were, these men. Good
and kind and cheerful. Someone ought to prevent the extravagance of
keeping whole houses and fires going for women like that. They ought to
be in an institution. But they never thought about that. They were
satisfied with themselves. They were self-satisfied because they did not
know what they were like.... _Why_ should you have a house, and
tradesmen calling?

"_Jehoiakin!_" The rush of indistinct expostulating sound coming from
the pulpit was accompanied for a moment by reverberations of the one
clearly bawled word. The sense of the large cold church, the great stone
pillars, the long narrow windows faintly stained with yellowish green,
the harsh North London congregation stirred and seemed to settle down
more securely. She saw the form of the vicar in the light grey stone
pulpit standing up short and neat against the cold grey stone wall,
enveloped in fine soft folds, his small puckered hands beautifully
cuffed, his plump crumpled little face, his small bald head fringed with
little saffron-white curls, his pink pouched busy mouth. What was it all
about? Pompous pottering, going on and on and on--in the Old Testament.
The whole church was in the Old Testament.... _Honour_ thy father and
thy mother. How horribly the words would echo through the great cold
church. _Why_ honour thy father and thy mother? What had they done that
was so honourable? Everybody was dying in cold secret fear. Christ, the
son of God, was part of it all, the same family ... vindictive.
Christmas and Easter, hard white cold flowers, no real explanation. "I
came not to destroy but to fulfil." The stagnant blood flushed in her
face and tingled in her ears as the words occurred to her. Why didn't
everybody die at once and stop it all?


Miss Haddie paused at the door of her room and wheeled suddenly round to
face Miriam who had just reached the landing.

"You've not seen my little corner," she tweedled breathlessly, throwing
open her door.

Miriam went in. "Oh how nice," she said fearfully, breathing in the
freshness of a little square sun-filled muslin-draped, blue-papered
room. Taking refuge at the white-skirted window, she found a narrow view
of the park, greener than the one she knew. The wide yellow pathway
going up through the cricket ground had shifted away to the right.

"It's really a--a--a dressing-room from your room."

"Oh," said Miriam vivaciously.

"There's a door, a--a--a door. I daresay you've noticed."

"Oh! _That's_ the door in our cupboard!" The dim door behind the hanging
garments led to nothing but to Miss Haddie's room. She began unbuttoning
her gloves.

Miss Haddie was hesitating near a cupboard, making little sounds.

"I suppose we must all make ourselves tidy now," said Miriam.

"I thought you didn't look very happy in church this morning," cluttered
Miss Haddie rapidly.

Miriam felt heavy with anger. "Oh," she said clumsily, "I had the most
frightful headache."

"Poor child. I thought ye didn't look yerself."

The window was shut. But the room was mysteriously fresh, far away from
the school. A fly was hovering about the muslin window blind with little
reedy loops of song. The oboe ... in the quintet, thought Miriam
suddenly. "I don't know," she said, listening. The flies sang like this
at home. She had heard them without knowing it. She moved in her place
by the window. The fly swept up to the ceiling, wavering on a deep note
like a tiny gong.... Hot sunny refined lawns, roses in bowls on
summerhouse tea-tables, refined voices far away from the Caledonian

"Flies don't _buzz_," she said passionately. "They don't _buzz_. Why do
people say they buzz?" The pain pressing behind her temples slackened.
In a moment it would be only a glow.

Miss Haddie stood with bent head, her face turning from side to side,
with its sour hesitating smile, her large eyes darting their strange
glances about the room.

"Won't you sit down a minute? They haven't sounded the first bell yet."
Miriam sat down on the one little white-painted, cane-seated chair near
the dressing-table. "Eh--eh," said Miss Haddie, beginning to unfasten
her veil. "She doesn't approve of general conversation," thought Miriam.
"She's a female. Oh well, she'll have to see I'm not."

"What gave you yer headache?"

"Oh well, I don't know. I suppose I was wondering what it was all

"I don't think I quite understand ye."

"Well, I mean--what that old gentleman was in such a state of mind

"D'ye mean Mr. La Trobe!"

"Yes. Why do you laugh?"

"I don't understand what ye mean."

Miriam watched Miss Haddie's thin fingers feeling for the pins in her
black toque. "Of course not," she thought, looking at the unveiled
shrivelled cheek.... "thirty-five years of being a lady."

"Oh well," she sighed fiercely.

"What is it ye mean, my dear?"

--'couldn't make head or tail of a thing the old dodderer said'--no 'old
boy,' no--these phrases would not do for Miss Haddie.

"I couldn't agree with _anything_ he said."

Miss Haddie sat down on the edge of the little white bed burying her
face in her hands and smoothing them up and down with a wiping movement.

"One can always criticise a sermon," she said reproachfully.

"Well, why not?"

"I mean to say ye _can_," said Miss Haddie from behind her fingers,
"but, but ye shouldn't."

"You can't help it."

"Oh yes, ye can. If ye listen in the right spirit," gargled Miss Haddie

"Oh, it isn't only the sermon, it's the whole thing," said Miriam

"Ye mustn't think about the speaker," went on Miss Haddie in faint
hurried rebuke. "That's wrong. That sets people running from church to
church. You must attend your own parish church in the right spirit, let
the preacher be who--who--what he may."

"Oh, but I think that's positively _dangerous_," said Miriam gravely.
"It simply means leaving your mind open for whatever they choose to say.
Like Rome."

"Eh, no--o--o," flared Miss Haddie dropping her hands, "nonsense. Not
like Rome at all."

"But it _is_. It's giving up your conscience."

"You're very determined," laughed Miss Haddie bitterly.

"I'm certainly not going to give my mind up to a parson for him to do
what he likes with. That's what it is. That's what they do. I've seen it
again and again. I've heard people talking about sermons," finished
Miriam with vivacious intentness.

Miss Haddie sat very still with her hands once more pressed tightly
against her face.

"Oh, my dear. This is a dreadful state of affairs. I'm afraid you're all
wrong. That's not it at all. If you listen only for the good, the good
will come to you."

"But these men don't know. How should they? They don't agree amongst

"Oh, my dear, that is a very wrong attitude. How long have ye felt like

"Oh, all my life," responded Miriam proudly.

"I'm very sorry, my dear."

"Ever since I can remember. Always."

There were ivory-backed brushes on the dressing-table. Miriam stared at
them and let her eyes wander on to a framed picture of an agonised
thorn-crowned head.

"Were you--have ye--eh--have ye been confirmed?"

"Oh yes."

"Did ye discuss any of your difficulties with yer vicar?"

"Not I. I knew his mind too well. Had heard him preach for years. He
would have run round my questions. He wasn't capable of answering them.
For instance, supposing I had asked him what I've _always_ wanted to
know. How can people, ordinary people, be expected to be like Christ, as
they say, when they think Christ was supernatural? Of course, if he was
supernatural it was easy enough for him to be as he was; if he was not
supernatural, then there's nothing in the whole thing."

"My _dear_ child! I'm dreadfully sorry ye feel like that. I'd no idea ye
felt like that, poor child. I knew ye weren't quite happy always; I mean
I've thought ye weren't quite happy in yer mind sometimes, but I'd no
idea--eh, eh, have ye ever consulted anybody--anybody able to give ye

"There you are. That's exactly the whole thing! _Who_ can one consult?
There isn't anybody. The people who are qualified are the people who
have the thing called faith, which means that they beg the whole
question from the beginning."


"Well, I'm made that way. How can I help it if faith seems to me just an
abnormal condition of the mind with fanaticism at one end and
agnosticism at the other?"

"My dear, ye believe in God?"

"Well, you see, I see things like this. On one side a prime cause with a
certain object unknown to me, bringing humanity into being; on the other
side humanity, all more or less miserable, never having been consulted
as to whether they wanted to come to life. If that is belief, a South
Sea Islander could have it. But good people, people with faith, want me
to believe that one day God sent a saviour to rescue the world from sin
and that the world can never be grateful enough and must become as
Christ. Well. If God made people he is responsible and ought to save

"What do yer parents think about yer ideas?"

"They don't know."

"Ye've never mentioned yer trouble to them?"

"I did ask Pater once when we were coming home from the Stabat Mater
that question I've told you about."

"What did he say?"

"He couldn't answer. We were just by the gate. He said he thought it was
a remarkably reasonable dilemma. He laughed."

"And ye've never had any discussion of these things with him?"


"Ye're an independent young woman," said Miss Haddie.

Miriam looked up. Miss Haddie was sitting on the edge of her bed. A
faint pink flush on her cheeks made her eyes look almost blue. She was
no longer frowning. 'I'm something new--a kind of different world. She
is wondering. I must stick to my guns,' mused Miriam.

"I'll not ask ye," said Miss Haddie quietly and cheerfully, "to expect
any help from yer fellow creatures since ye've such a poor opinion of
them. But ye're not happy. Why not go straight to the source?"

Miriam waited. For a moment the sheen on Miss Haddie's silk sleeves had
distracted her by becoming as gentle and unchallenging as the light on
her mother's dresses when there were other people in the room. She had
feared the leaping out of some emotional appeal. But Miss Haddie had a
plan. Strange secret knowledge.

"I should like to ask ye a question."


"Well, I'll put it in this way. While ye've watched the doings of yer
fellow creatures ye've forgotten that the truth ye're seeking is a--a

Miriam pondered.

"That's where ye ought to begin. And how about--what--what about--I
fancy ye've been neglecting the--the means of grace.... I think ye
have." Miss Haddie rose and crossed the room to a little bookshelf at
the head of her bed, talking happily on. 'Upright as a dart,' commented
Miriam mentally, waiting for the fulfilment of the promise of Miss
Haddie's cheerfulness. Against the straight lines of the wall-paper Miss
Haddie showed as swaying slightly backwards from the waist as she moved.

The first bell rang and Miriam got up to go. Miss Haddie came forward
with a small volume in her hands and held it out, standing close by her
and keeping her own hold on the volume. "Ye'll find no argument in it.
Not but I think a few sound arguments would do ye good. Give it a try.
Don't be stiff-necked. Just read it and see." The smooth soft leather
slipped altogether into Miriam's hands and she felt the passing contact
of a cool small hand and noted a faint fine scent coming to her from
Miss Haddie's person.

In her own room she found that the soft binding of the book had rounded
corners and nothing on the cover but a small plain gold cross in the
right-hand corner. She feasted her eyes on it as she took off her
things. When the second bell rang she glanced inside the cover.
"Preparation for Holy Communion." Hurriedly hiding it in her long drawer
under a pile of linen, she ran to the door. Running back again she took
it out and put it, together with her prayer book and hymn book, in the
small top drawer.


The opportunity to use Miss Haddie's book came with Nancie's departure
for a week-end visit. Beadie was in the deeps of her first sleep and the
room seemed empty. The book lay open on her bed. She noted as she placed
it there when she began preparing for bed that it was written by a
bishop, a man she knew by name as being still alive. It struck her as
extraordinary that a book should be printed and read while the author
was alive, and she turned away with a feeling of shame from the idea of
the bishop, still going about in his lawn sleeves and talking, while
people read a book that he had written in his study. But it was very
interesting to have the book to look at, because he probably knew about
modern people with doubts and would not think about them as
'infidels'--'an honest agnostic has my sympathy,' he might say, and it
was possible he did not believe in eternal punishment. If he did he
would not have had his book printed with rounded edges and that
beautiful little cross.... "Line upon Line" and the "Pilgrim's Progress"
were not meant for modern minds. Archbishop Whateley had a "chaste and
eloquent wit" and was a "great gardener." A witty archbishop fond of
gardening was simply aggravating and silly.

Restraining her desire to hurry, Miriam completed her toilet and at last
knelt down in her dressing-gown. Its pinked neck-frill fell heavily
against her face as she leant over the bed. Tucking it into her neck she
clasped her outstretched hands, leaving the book within the circle of
her arms. The attitude seemed a little lacking in respect for the
beautifully printed gilt-edged pages. Flattening her entwined hands
between herself and the edge of the bed, she read very slowly that just
as for worldly communion men cleanse and deck their bodies so for
attendance at the Holy Feast must there be a cleansing and decking of
the spirit. She knelt upright, feeling herself grow very grave. The cold
air of the bedroom flowed round her carrying conviction. Then that
dreadful feeling at early service, kneeling like a lump in the pew, too
late to begin to be good, the exhausted moments by the altar rail--the
challenging light on the shining brass rod, on the priest's ring and the
golden lining of the cup, the curious bite of the wine in the
throat--the sullen disappointed home-coming; all the strange failure was
due to lack of preparation. She knelt for some moments, without
thoughts, breathing in the cleansing air, sighing heavily at intervals.
What she ought to do was clear. A certain time for preparation could be
taken every night, kneeling up in bed with the gas out if Nancie were
awake, and a specially long time on Saturday night. The decision took
her back to her book. She read that no man can cleanse himself, but it
is his part to examine his conscience and confess his sins with a prayer
for cleansing grace.

The list of questions for self-examination as to sins past and present
in thought, word, and deed brought back the sense of her body with its
load of well-known memories. Could they be got rid of? She could cast
them off, feel them sliding away like Christian's Burden. But was that
all? Was it being reconciled with your brother to throw off ill-feeling
without letting him know and telling him you were sorry for unkind deeds
and words? Those you met would find out the change; but all the
others--those you had offended from your youth up--all your family?
Write to them. A sense of a checking of the tide that had seemed to flow
through her finger-tips came with this suggestion, and Miriam knelt
heavily on the hard floor, feeling the weight of her well-known body.
The wall-paper attracted her attention and the honeycomb pattern of the
thick fringed white counterpane. She shut the little book and rose from
her knees. Moving quickly about the room, she turned at random to her
washhand basin and vigorously rewashed her hands in its soapy water. The
Englishman, she reflected as she wasted the soap, puts a dirty shirt on
a clean body, and the Frenchman a clean shirt on a dirty body.

                               CHAPTER V


Miriam felt very proud of tall Miss Perne when she met her in the hall
at the beginning of her second term. Miss Perne had kissed her and held
one of her hands in two small welcoming ones, talking in a gleeful
voice. "Well, my dear," she said at the end of a little pause, "you'll
have a clear evening. The gels do not return until to-morrow, so you'll
be able to unpack and settle yerself in comfortably. Come and sit with
us when ye've done. We'll have supper in the sitting-room. M'yes."
Smiling and laughing she turned eagerly away. "Of course, Miss Perne,"
said Miriam in a loud wavering voice, arresting her, "I enjoyed my
holidays; but I want to tell you how glad I am to be back here."

"Yes, yes," said Miss Perne hilariously, "we're all glad."

There was a little break in her voice, and Miriam saw that she would
have once more taken her in her arms.

"I like being here," she said hoarsely, looking down, and supported
herself by putting two trembling fingers on the hall table. She was
holding back from the gnawing of the despair that had made her sick with
pain when she heard once more the jingle-jingle, plock-plock of the
North London trams. This strong feeling of pride in Miss Perne was
beating it down. "I'm very glad, my dear," responded Miss Perne in a
quivering gleeful falsetto. 'If you can't have what you like you must
like what you have,' said Miriam over and over to herself as she went
with heavy feet up the four flights of stairs.


A candle was already burning in the empty bedroom. "I'm back. I'm back.
It's all over," she gasped as she shut the door. "And a jolly good thing
too. This is my place. I can keep myself here and cost nothing and not
interfere with anybody. It's just as if I'd never been away. It'll
always be like that now. Short holidays, gone in a minute, and then the
long term. Getting out of touch with everything, things happening,
knowing nothing about them, going home like a visitor, and people
talking to you about things that are only theirs, now and not wanting to
hear about yours ... not about the little real everyday things that give
you an idea of anything but only the startling things that are not
important. You have to think of them though to make people
interested--awful, awful, awful, really only putting people further away
afterwards when you've told the thing and their interest dies down and
you can't think of anything else to say. 'Miss Perne's hair is
_perfectly_ black--as black as coal, and she's the eldest, just
_fancy_.' Then everybody looks up. 'My room's downstairs, the room where
I teach, is in the basement. Directly breakfast is over----'

"'Basement? What a pity! Basement rooms are awfully bad,' and by the
time you have stopped them exclaiming and are just going to begin, you
see that they are fidgetting and thinking about something else." ... Eve
had listened a little; because she wanted to tell everything about her
own place and had agreed that nobody really wanted to hear the
details.... The landscapes from the windows of the big country house,
all like pictures by Leader, the stables and laundry, a "laundry-maid"
who was sixty-five, the eldest pupil with seven muslin dresses in the
summer and being scolded because she swelled out after two helpings of
meat and two of pie and cream, and the youngest almost square in her
little covert coat and with a square face and large blue eyes and the
puppies who went out in a boat in Weston-super-Mare and were
sea-sick.... Eve did not seem to mind the family being common. Eve was
changing. "They are so jolly and strong. They enjoy life. They're like
other people." ... "D'you think that's jolly? Would you like to be like
that--like other people?" "Rather. I mean to be." "Do you?" "Of course
it can't be done all at once. But it's good for me to be there. It's
awfully jolly to be in a house with no worry about money and plenty of
jolly food. Mrs. Green is so strong and clever. She can do anything.
She's good for me, she keeps me going." "Would you like to be like her?"
"Of course. They're all so jolly--even when they're old. Her sister's
forty and she's still pretty; not given up hope a bit." "_Eve!_"

Eve had listened; but not agreed about the teaching, about making the
girls see how easy it was to get hold of the things and then letting
them talk about other things. "I see how you do it, and I see why the
girls obey you, of course." Funny. Eve thought it was hard and inhuman.
That's what she really thought.

Two newly purchased lengths of spotted net veiling were lying at the top
of her lightly packed trunk partly folded in uncrumpled tissue paper.
She took the crisp dye-scented net very gently into her hands, getting,
sitting alone on the floor by her trunk, the full satisfaction that had
failed her in the shop with Harriett's surprise at her sudden desire
flowing over the counter and infecting the charm of baskets full of
cheap stockings and common bright-bordered handkerchiefs some of which
had borders so narrow and faint as really hardly to show when they were
scrumpled up. "Veiling, moddom? Yes, moddom," the assistant had retorted
when she had asked for a veil. "Wot on _earth_ fower?" ... Without
answering Harriett she had bought two. There was no need to have bought
two. One could go back in the trunk as a store. They would be the
beginning of gradually getting a 'suitable outfit,' 'things convenient
for you.' She got up to put a veil in the little top drawer very
carefully; trying it across her face first. It almost obliterated her
features in the dim candle-light. It would be the greatest comfort on
winter walks, warm and like a rampart. 'You've no idea how warm it keeps
you,' she could say if anybody said anything. She arranged her clothes
very slowly and exactly in her half of the chest of drawers. "My
appointments ought to be an influence in the room--until all my things
are perfectly refined I shan't be able to influence the girls as I
ought. I must begin it from now. At the end of the term I shall be
stronger. From strength to strength." She wished she could go to bed at
once and prepare for to-morrow lying alone in the dark with the trams
going up and down outside as they would do night by night for the rest
of her life.


The nine o'clock post brought a letter from Harriett. Miriam carried it
upstairs after supper. Placing it unopened on a chair by the head of her
bed under the gas bracket she tried to put away the warm dizzy feeling
it brought her in an elaborate toilet that included the placing in
readiness of everything she would need for the morning. When all was
complete she was filled with a peace that promised to remain
indefinitely as long as everything she had to do should be carried out
with unhurried exactitude. It could be made to become the atmosphere of
her life. It would come nearer and nearer and she would live more and
more richly into it until she had grown like those women who were called
blessed.... She looked about her. The plain room gave her encouragement.
It became the scene of adventure. She tip-toed about it in her
night-gown. All the world would come to her there. Flora knew. Flora was
the same, sweeping the floors and going to bed in an ugly room with two
other servants; but she was in it alone sometimes and knew....

"One verse to-night will be enough." Opening her Bible at random she
read, "And not only so, but we glory in tribulations also: knowing that
tribulation worketh patience." Eagerly closing the volume she knelt down
smiling. "Oh do let tribulation work patience in me," she murmured,
blushing, and got up staring gladly at the wall behind her bed. Shaking
her pillow lengthwise against the ironwork head of the bed, she
established herself with the bed-clothes neatly arranged, sitting up to
read Harriett's letter before turning out the gas:

"Toosday morning--You've not gone yet, old tooral-ooral, but I'm writing
this because I know you'll feel blue this evening, to tell you not to.
Becos, it's _no_ time to Easter and becos here's a great piece of news.
The last of the Neville Subscription Dances comes in the Easter holidays
and _you're to come_. D'ye '_ear_, Liza? Gerald says if you can't stump
up he's going to get you a ticket, and anyhow you've got to come. You'll
enjoy it just as much as you did the first and probably more, because
most of the same people will be there. So Goodni'. Mind the lamp-post.
Harry. P'.S.--Heaps of love, old silly. You're just the same. It's no
bally good pretending you're not."

Miriam felt her heart writhe in her breast. "Get thee behind me, Harry,"
she said, pushing the letter under the pillow and kneeling up to turn
out the gas. When she lay down again her mind was rushing on by


Harry doesn't realise a bit how short holidays are. Easter--nothing.
Just one dance and never seeing the people again. I was right just now.
I was on the right track then. I must get back to that. It's no good
giving way right or left; I must make a beginning of my own life.... I
wish I had been called "Patience" and had thin features.... Adam Street,
Adelphi.... "Now do you want to be dancing out there with one of those
young fellows, my dear girl--No? That's a very good thing for me. I'm an
old buffer who can't manage more than every other dance or so. But if
you do me the honour of sitting here while those young barbarians romp
their Lancers?... Ah, that is excellent--I want you to talk to me. You
needn't mind me. Hey? What? I've known that young would-be
brother-in-law of yours for many years and this evening I've been
watching your face. Do you mind that, dear girl, that I've watched your
face? In all homage. I'm a staunch worshipper of womanhood. I've seen
rough life as well as suave. I'm an old gold-digger--Ustralia took many
years of my life; but it never robbed me of my homage for women....

"That's a mystery to me. How you've allowed your young sister to
overhaul you. Perhaps you have a Corydon hidden away somewhere--or don't
think favourably of the bonds of matrimony? Is that it?

"You are not one to be easily happy. But that is no reason why you
should say you pity anyone undertaking to pass through life at your
side. Don't let your thoughts and ideas allow you to miss happiness.
Women are made to find and dispense happiness. Even intense women like
yourself. But you won't find it an easy matter to discover your mate.

"Have you ever thought of committing your ideas to paper? There's a book
called 'The Confessions of a Woman.' It had a great sale and its
composition occupied the authoress for only six weeks. You could write
in your holidays.

"Think over what I've told you, my dear, dear girl. And don't forget old
Bob Greville's address. You're eighteen. He's only eight; eight Adam
Street. The old Adam. Waiting to hear from the new Eve--whenever she's

He would be there again, old flatterer, with his steely blue eyes and
that strong little Dr. Conelly--Conelly who held you like a vice and
swung you round and kept putting you back from him to say things. "If
only you knew the refreshment it is to dance with a girl who can talk
sense and doesn't _giggle_.... Yes yes yes, women are _physically_
incapable of keeping a secret.... Meredith, he's the man. He understands
woman as no other writer----" And the little dark man--De Vigne--who
danced like a snake.... Tired? Divinely drowsy? That's what I like.
Don't talk. Let yourself go. Little snail, Harriett called him. And that
giant, Conelly's friend, whirling you round the room like a gust, with
his eyes fixed far away in the distance and dropping you with the
chaperones at the end of the dance. If _he_ had suddenly said "Let
yourself go" ... He too would have become a snail. God has made life

Dear Mr. Greville, dear _Bob_. Do you know anything about a writer
called Meredith? If you have one of his books I should like to read it.
No. Dear Bob, I'm simply wretched. I want to talk to you.


Footsteps sounded on the stairs--the servants, coming upstairs to bed.
No dancing for them. Work, caps and aprons. And those strange rooms
upstairs to sleep in that nobody ever saw. Probably Miss Perne went up
occasionally to look at them and see that they were all right; clean and
tidy.... They had to go up every night, carrying little jugs of water
and making no noise on the stairs, and come down every morning. They
were the servants--and there would never be any dancing. Nobody thought
about them.... They could not get away from each other, and cook....

To be a general servant would be very hard work. Perhaps impossible. But
there would be two rooms, the kitchen at the bottom of the house, and a
bedroom at the top, your own. It would not matter what the family was
like. You would look after them, like children, and be alone to read and
sleep.... Toothache. Cheap dentists; a red lamp "painless extractions"
... having to go there before nine in the morning, and be alone in a
cold room, the dentist doing what he thought best and coming back to
your work crying with pain, your head wrapped up in a black shawl.
Hospitals; being quite helpless and grateful for wrong treatment; coming
back to work, ill. Sinks and slops ... quinsey, all alone ... growths
... consumption.

Go to sleep. It would be better to think in the morning. But then this
clear first impression would be gone and school would begin and go on
from hour to hour through the term, mornings and afternoons and
evenings, dragging you along further and further and changing you,
months and months and years until it was too late to get back and there
was nothing ahead.

The thing to remember, to keep in mind all the time was to save
money--not to spend a single penny that could be saved, to be determined
about that so that when the temptation came you could just hang on until
it was past.

No fun in the holidays, no money spent on flowers and gloves and
blouses. Keeping stiff and sensible all the time. The family of the two
little Quaker girls had a home library, with lists, an inventory,
lending each other their books and talking about them, and albums of
pressed leaves and flowers with the Latin names, and went on wearing the
same plain clothes.... You had to be a certain sort of person to do

It would spoil the holidays to be like that at home. Every penny must be
spent, if only on things for other people. Not spending would bring a
nice strong secret feeling and a horrid expression into one's eyes.

The only way was to give up your family and stay at your work, like
Flora, and have a box of half-crowns in your drawer.... Spend and always
be afraid of "rainy days"--or save and never enjoy life at all.

But going out now and again in the holidays, feeling stiff and
governessy and just beginning to learn to be oneself again when it was
time to go back was not enjoying life ... your money was spent and
people forgot you and you forgot them and went back to your convent to
begin again.

Save, save. Sooner or later saving must begin. Why not at once. Harry,
it's no good. I'm old already. I've got to be one of those who have to
give everything up.

I wonder if Flora is asleep?

That's settled. Go to sleep. Get thee behind me. Sleep ... the dark cool
room. Air; we breathe it in and it keeps us alive. Everybody has air.
Manna. As much as you want, full measure, pressed down and running
over.... Wonderful. There is somebody giving things, whatever goes ...
something left.... Somebody seeing that things are not quite unbearable,
... but the pain, the pain all the time, mysterious black pain....

Into thy hands I commit my spirit. _In manus_ something.... You
understand if nobody else does. But _why_ must I be one of the ones to
give everything up? _Why_ do you make me suffer so?

                               CHAPTER VI


Piecemeal statements in her letter home brought Miriam now and again a
momentary sense of developing activities, but she did not recognise the
completeness of the change in her position at the school until half-way
through her second term she found herself talking to the new pupil
teacher. She had heard apathetically of her existence during
supper-table conversations with the Misses Perne at the beginning of the
term. She was an Irish girl of sixteen, one of a large family living on
the outskirts of Dublin, and would be a boarder, attending the first
class for English and earning pocket money by helping with the lower
school. As the weeks went on and Miriam grew accustomed to hearing her
name--Julia Doyle--she began to associate it with an idea of charm that
brought her a sinking of heart. She knew her position in the esteem of
the Pernes was secure. But this new young teacher would work strange
miracles with the girls. She would do it quite easily and unconsciously.
The girls would be easy with her and would laugh and one would have to
hear them.

However, when at last her arrival was near and the three ladies
discussed the difficulty of having her met, Miriam plied them until they
reluctantly gave her permission to go, taking a workman's train that
would bring her to Euston station at seven o'clock in the morning.

At the end of an hour spent pacing the half-dark platform exhausted with
cold and excitement and the monotonously reiterated effort to imagine
the arrival of one of Mrs. Hungerford's heroines from a train journey,
Miriam, whose costume had been described in a letter to the girl's
mother, was startled wandering amidst the vociferous passengers at the
luggage end of the newly arrived train by a liquid colourless intimate
voice at her elbow. "I think I'll be right to say how d'you do."

She turned and saw a slender girl in a middle-aged toque and an ill-cut
old-fashioned coat and skirt. What were they to say to each other, two
dowdy struggling women both in the same box? She must get her to Banbury
Park as quickly as possible. It was dreadful that they should be seen
together there on the platform in their ragbag clothes. At any rate they
must not talk. "Oh, I'm very pleased to see you. I'm glad you've come. I
suppose the train must have been late," she said eagerly.

"Ah, we'll be late I dare venture. Haven't an idea of the hour."

"Oh, yes," said Miriam emphatically, "I'm sure the train's _late_."

"Where'll we find a core?"


"We'll need a core for the luggage."

"Oh yes, a cab. We must get a cab. We'd better find a porter."

"Ah, I've a man here seeking out my things."

Inside the cab Julia's face shone chalky white, and Miriam found that
her eyes looked like Weymouth Bay--the sea in general, on days when
clouds keep sweeping across the sun. When she laughed she had dimples
and the thick white rims of her eyelids looked like piping cord round
her eyes. But she was not pretty. There were lines in her cheeks as well
as dimples, and there was something apologetic in her little gusty
laugh. She laughed a good deal as they started off, saying things,
little quiet remarks that Miriam could not understand and that did not
seem to be answers to her efforts to make conversation. Perhaps she was
not going the right way to make her talk. Perhaps she had not said any
of the things she thought she had said.

She cleared her throat and looked out of the window thinking over a
possible opening.

"I've never been so glad over anything in my life as hearing you're one
of the teachers," said Julia presently.

"The Pernes call me by my name, so I suppose you will too as you're a
teacher," said Miriam headlong.

"That's awfully sweet of you," replied Julia laughing and blushing a
clear deep rose. "It makes anyone feel at home. I'll be looking out till
I hear it."

"It's----" Miriam laughed. "Isn't it funny that people don't like saying
their own names."

"I wish you'd tell me about your teaching. I'm sure you're awf'ly

Miriam gave her a list of the subjects she taught in the lower school.

"You know all there is to know."

"Oh well, and then I take the top girls now for German and the second
class for French reading, and two arithmetic classes in the upper
school, and a 'shell' of two very stupid girls to help with their
College of Preceptors."

"You're frightening me."


Miriam looked out of the cab window, hardly hearing Julia's next remark.
The drab brick walls of King's Cross station were coming towards them.
When they had got themselves and Julia's luggage out of the cab and into
the train for Banbury Park she was still pondering uneasily over her own
dislike of appearing as a successful teacher. This stranger saw her only
as a teacher. That was what she had become. If she was really a teacher
now, just that in life, it meant that she must decide at once whether
she really meant to teach always. Everyone now would think of her as a
teacher; as someone who was never going to do anything else, when really
she had not even begun to think about doing any of the things that
professional teachers had to do. She was not qualifying herself for
examinations in her spare time as her predecessor had done. Supposing
she did. This girl Julia would certainly expect her to be doing so. What
then? If she were to work very hard and also develop her character, when
she was fifty she would be like Miss Cramp; good enough to be a special
visiting teacher, giving just a few lectures a week at several schools,
talking in a sad voice, feeling ill and sad, having a yellow face and
faded hair and not enough saved to live on when she was too old to work.
Prospect, said the noisy train. That was it, there was no prospect in
it. There was no prospect in teaching. What was there a prospect in,
going along in this North London train with this girl who took her at
her word?

She turned eagerly to Julia who was saying something and laughing
unconcernedly as she said it. "If you'd like to know what it is I've
come over for I'll tell you at once. I've come over to learn Chopang's
Funeral March. It's all I think about. When I can play Chopang's Funeral
March I'll not call the Queen me aunt."


"Well, my dear child, I'm sure I wish I could arrange your life for ye,"
said Miss Haddie that evening. She was sitting on the edge of the
schoolroom table, having come in at ten o'clock to turn out the gas and
found Miriam sitting unoccupied. The room was cold and close with the
long-burning gas, and Miriam had turned upon her with a scornful half
laugh when she had playfully exclaimed at finding her there so late.
Miss Haddie was obviously still a little excited. She had presided at
schoolroom tea and Julia had filled the room with Dublin--the bay, the
streets, the jarveys and their outside cars, her journey, the channel
boat, her surprise at England.

"Eh, what's the matter, Miriam, my dear?" For some time Miriam had
parried her questions, fiercely demanding that her mood should be
understood without a clue. Presently they had slid into an irritated
discussion of the respective values of sleep before and sleep after
midnight, in the midst of which Miriam had said savagely, "I wish to
goodness I knew what to do about things."

Miss Haddie's kindly desire gave her no relief. What did she mean but
the hopelessness of imagining that anybody could do anything about
anything. Nobody could ever understand what anyone else really wanted.
Only some people were fortunate. Miss Haddie was one of the fortunate
ones. She had her share in the school and many wealthy relatives and the
very best kind of good clothes and a good deal of strange old-fashioned
jewelry. And whatever happened there was money and her sisters and
relatives to look after her without feeling it a burden because of the
expense. And there she sat at the table looking at what she thought she
could see in another person's life.

"If only one knew in the least what one _ought_ to do," said Miriam

Miss Haddie began speaking in a halting murmur, and Miriam rushed on
with flaming face. "I suppose I shall have to go on teaching all my
life, and I can't think how on earth I'm going to do it. I don't see how
I can work in the evenings, my eyes get so tired. If you don't get
certificates there's no prospect. And even if I did my throat is simply
agonies at the end of each morning."

"Eh! my dear child! I'm sorry to hear that. Why have ye taken to that?
Is it something fresh?"

"Oh no, my throat always used to get tired. Mother's is the same. We
can't either of us talk for ten minutes without feeling it. It's
perfectly awful."

"But, my dear, oughtn't ye to see someone--have some advice? I mean ye
ought to see a doctor."

Miriam glanced at Miss Haddie's concerned face and glanced away with a
flash of hatred. "Oh no. I s'pose I shall manage."

"D'ye think yer wise--letting it go on?"

Miriam made no reply.

"Well now, my dear," said Miss Haddie, getting down off the table, "I
think it's time ye went to bed."

"Phm," said Miriam impatiently, "I suppose it is."

Miss Haddie sat down again. "I wish I could help ye, my dear," she said

"Oh, no one can do that," said Miriam in a hard voice.

"Oh yes," murmured Miss Haddie cheerfully, "there's One who can."

"Oh yes," said Miriam, tugging a thread out of the fraying edge of the
table cover. "But it's practically impossible to discover what on earth
they mean you to do."

"N--aiche, my dear," she said in an angry guttural, "ye're always led."

Miriam tugged at the thread and bit her lips.

"Why do ye suppose ye'll go on teaching all yer life? Perhaps ye'll

"Oh no."

"Ye can't tell."

"Oh, I never shall--in any case now."

"Have ye quarrelled with him?"

"Oh, well, _him_," said Miriam roundly, digging a pencil point between
the grainings of the table-cover. "It's _they_, I think, goodness knows,
I don't know; it's so perfectly extraordinary."

"You're a very funny young lady."

"Well, I shan't marry _now_ anyhow."

"Have ye refused somebody?"

"Oh well--there was someone--who went away--went to America--who was
coming back to see me when he came back----"

"Yes, my dear?"

"Well, you see, he's handed in his checks."

"Eh, my dear--I don't understand," said Miss Haddie thwarted and

"Aw," said Miriam, jabbing the table, "kicked the bucket."

"My dear child, you use such strange language--I can't follow ye."

"Oh well, you see, he went to America. It was in New York. I heard about
it in January. He caught that funny illness. You know. Influenza--and

"Eh, my poor dear child, I'm very sorry for ye. Ye _do_ seem to have

"Ah well, yes, and then the queer thing is that he was really only the
friend of my real friend. And it was my real friend who told me about it
and gave me a message he sent me and didn't like it, of course.

"Well _really_, Miriam," said Miss Haddie, blushing, with a little laugh
half choked by a cough.

"Oh yes, then of course one meets people--at dances. It's appalling."

"I wish I understood ye, my dear."

"Oh well, it doesn't make any difference now. I shall hardly ever meet
anybody now."

Miss Haddie pondered over the table with features that worked slightly
as she made little murmuring sounds. "Eh no. Ye needn't think that. Ye
shouldn't think like that.... Things happen sometimes ... just when ye
least expect it."

"Not to me."

"Oh, things will happen to ye--never fear.... Now, my dear child, trot
along with ye off to bed."

Miriam braced herself against Miss Haddie's gentle shaking of her
shoulders and the quiet kiss on her forehead that followed it.


The strengthening of her intimacy with Miss Haddie was the first of the
many changes brought to Miriam by Julia Doyle. At the beginning of the
spring term her two room mates were transferred to Julia's care. The two
back rooms became a little hive of girls over which Julia seemed to
preside. She handled them all easily. There was rollicking and laughter
in the back bedrooms, but never any sign that the girls were "going too
far," and their escapades were not allowed to reach across the landing.
Her large front room was, Miriam realised as the term went on, being
secretly and fiercely guarded by Julia.

The fabric of the days too had changed. All day--during the midday
constitutional when she often found Julia at her side walking in her
curious springy lounging way and took the walk in a comforting silence
resting her weary throat, during the evenings of study and the
unemployed intervals of the long Sundays--Julia seemed to come between
her and the girls. She mastered them all with her speech and laughter.
Miriam felt that when they were all together she was always in some
hidden way on the alert. She never jested with Miriam but when they were
alone, and rarely then. Usually she addressed her in a low tone and as
if half beside herself with some overpowering emotion. It was owing too
to Julia's presence in the school that an unexpected freedom came to
Miriam every day during the hour between afternoon school and tea-time.

Persuaded by the rapid increase towards the end of the winter term of
the half-feverish exhaustion visiting her at the end of each day she had
confided in her mother, who had wept at this suggestion of an attack on
her health and called in the family doctor. "More air," he said testily,
"air and movement." Miriam repeated this to Miss Perne, who at once
arranged that she should be free if she chose to go out every afternoon
between school and tea-time.

At first she went into the park every day. It was almost empty during
the week at that hour. The cricket green was sparsely decked with
children and their maids. A few strollers were left along the poplar
avenue and round the asphalt-circled lake; but away on the further
slopes usually avoided in the midday walks because the girls found them
oppressive, Miriam discovered the solitary spring air. Day by day she
went as if by appointment to meet it. It was the same wandering eloquent
air she had known from the beginning of things. Whilst she walked along
the little gravel pathways winding about over the clear green slopes in
the flood of afternoon light it stayed with her. The day she had just
passed through was touched by it; it added a warm promise to the hours
that lay ahead--tea-time, the evening's reading, the possible visit of
Miss Haddie, the quiet of her solitary room, the coming of sleep.

One day she left the pathways and strayed amongst pools of shadow lying
under the great trees. As she approached the giant trunks and the detail
of their shape and colour grew clearer her breathing quickened. She felt
her prim bearing about her like a cloak. The reality she had found was
leaving her again. Looking up uneasily into the forest of leaves above
her head she found them strange. She walked quickly back into the
sunlight, gazing reproachfully at the trees. There they were as she had
always known them; but between them and herself was her governess' veil,
close drawn, holding them sternly away from her. The warm comforting
communicative air was round her, but she could not recover its secret.
She looked fearfully about her. To get away somewhere by herself every
day would not be enough. If that was all she could have, there would
come a time when there would be nothing anywhere. For a day or two she
came out and walked feverishly about in other parts of the park,
resentfully questioning the empty vistas. One afternoon, far away, but
coming towards her as if in answer to her question, was the figure of a
man walking quickly. For a moment her heart cried out to him. If he
would come straight on and, understanding, would walk into her life and
she could face things knowing that he was there, the light would come
back and would stay until the end--and there would be other lives, on
and on. She stood transfixed, trembling. He grew more and more distinct
and she saw a handbag and the outline of a bowler hat; a North London
clerk hurrying home to tea. With bent head she turned away and dragged
her shamed heavy limbs rapidly towards home.


Early in May came a day of steady rain. Enveloped in a rain-cloak and
sheltered under her lowered umbrella she ventured down the hill towards
the shops. Near the railway arch the overshadowed street began to be
crowded with jostling figures. People were pouring from the city trams
at the terminus and coming out of the station entrance in a steady
stream. Hard intent faces, clashing umbrellas, the harsh snarling
monotone of the North London voice gave her the feeling of being an
intruder. Everything seemed to wonder what she was doing down there
instead of being at home in the schoolroom. A sudden angry eye above a
coarse loudly talking mouth all but made her turn to go with instead of
against the tide; but she pushed blindly on and through and presently
found herself in a quiet side street just off the station road looking
into a shop window.... "1 lb. super cream-laid boudoir note--with
envelopes--1s." Her eyes moved about the window from packet to packet,
set askew and shining with freshness. If she had not brought so much
note-paper from home she could have bought some. Perhaps she could buy a
packet as a Christmas present for Eve and have it in her top drawer all
the time. But there was plenty of note-paper at home. She half turned to
go, and turning back fastened herself more closely against the window
meaninglessly reading the inscription on each packet. Standing back at
last she still lingered. A little blue-painted tin plate sticking out
from the side of the window announced in white letters "Carter
Paterson." Miriam dimly wondered at the connection. Underneath it hung a
cardboard printed in ink, "Circulating Library, 2d. weekly." This was
still more mysterious. She timidly approached the door and met the large
pleasant eye of a man standing back in the doorway.

"Is there a library here?" she said with beating heart.

She stood so long reading and re-reading half familiar titles, "Cometh
up as a Flower," "Not like other Girls," "The Heir of Redcliffe," books
that she and Harriett had read and books that she felt were of a similar
type, that tea was already on the schoolroom table when she reached
Wordsworth House with an unknown volume by Mrs. Hungerford under her
arm. Hiding it upstairs, she came down to tea and sat recovering her
composure over her paper-covered "Cinq Mars," a relic of the senior
Oxford examination now grown suddenly rich and amazing. To-day it could
not hold her. "The Madcap" was upstairs, and beyond it an unlimited
supply of twopenny volumes and Ouida. Red-bound volumes of Ouida on the
bottom shelf had sent her eyes quickly back to the safety of the upper
rows. Through the whole of tea-time she was quietly aware of a
discussion going on at the back of her mind as to who it was who had
told her that Ouida's books were bad; evil books. She remembered her
father's voice saying that Ouida was an extremely able woman, quite a
politician. Then of course her books were all right, for grown-up
people. It must have been someone at a dance who had made her curious
about them, someone she had forgotten. In any case, whatever they were,
there was no one now to prevent her reading them if she chose. She would
read them if she chose. Write to Eve about it first. No. Certainly not.
Eve might say "Better not, my dear. You will regret it if you do. You
won't be the same." Eve was different. She must not be led by Eve in any
case. She must leave off being led by Eve--or anybody. The figures
sitting round the table, bent over their books, quietly disinclined for
conversation or mischief under the shrewd eye of Miss Haddie, suddenly
looked exciting and mysterious. But perhaps the man in the shop would be
shocked. It would be impossible to ask for them; unless she could
pretend she did not know anything about them.


For the last six weeks of the summer term she sat up night after night
propped against her upright pillow and bolster under the gas jet reading
her twopenny books in her silent room. Almost every night she read until
two o'clock. She felt at once that she was doing wrong; that the secret
novel-reading was a thing she could not confess, even to Miss Haddie.
She was spending hours of the time that was meant for sleep, for restful
preparation for the next day's work, in a "vicious circle" of
self-indulgence. It was sin. She had read somewhere that sin promises a
satisfaction that it is unable to fulfil. But she found when the house
was still and the trams had ceased jingling up and down outside that she
grew steady and cool and that she rediscovered the self she had known at
home, where the refuge of silence and books was always open. Perhaps
that self, leaving others to do the practical things, erecting a little
wall of unapproachability between herself and her family that she might
be free to dream alone in corners had always been wrong. But it was
herself, the nearest most intimate self she had known. And the discovery
that it was not dead, that her six months in the German school and the
nine long months during which Banbury Park life had drawn a veil even
over the little slices of holiday freedom, had not even touched it,
brought her warm moments of reassurance. It was not perhaps a "good"
self, but it was herself, her own familiar secretly happy and rejoicing
self--not dead. Her hands lying on the coverlet knew it. They were again
at these moments her own old hands, holding very firmly to things that
no one might touch or even approach too nearly, things, everything, the
great thing that would some day communicate itself to someone through
these secret hands with the strangely thrilling finger-tips. Holding
them up in the gaslight she dreamed over their wisdom. They knew
everything and held their secret, even from her. She eyed them, communed
with them, passionately trusted them. They were not "artistic" or
"clever" hands. The fingers did not "taper" nor did the outstretched
thumb curl back on itself like a frond--like Nan Babington's. They were
long, the tips squarish and firmly padded, the palm square and bony and
supple, and the large thumb joint stood away from the rest of the hand
like the thumb joint of a man. The right hand was larger than the left,
kindlier, friendlier, wiser. The expression of the left hand was less
reassuring. It was a narrower, lighter hand, more flexible, less
sensitive and more even in its touch--more smooth and manageable in
playing scales. It seemed to belong to her much less than the right; but
when the two were firmly interlocked they made a pleasant curious whole,
the right clasping more firmly, its thumb always uppermost, its fingers
separated firmly over the back of the left palm, the left hand clinging,
its fingers close together against the hard knuckles of the right.

It was only when she was alone and in the intervals of quiet reading
that she came into possession of her hands. With others they oppressed
her by their size and their lack of feminine expressiveness. No one
could fall in love with such hands. Loving her, someone might come to
tolerate them. They were utterly unlike Eve's plump, white, inflexible
little palms. But they were her strength. They came between her and the
world of women. They would be her companions until the end. They would
wither. But the bones would not change. The bones would be laid
unchanged and wise, in her grave.


She began her readings with Rosa Nouchette Carey. Reading her at home,
after tea by the breakfast-room fireside with red curtains drawn and the
wind busy outside amongst the evergreen shrubs under the window, it had
seemed quite possible that life might suddenly develop into the thing
the writer described. From somewhere would come an adoring man who
believed in heaven and eternal life. One would grow very good; and after
the excitement and interest had worn off one would go on, with firm
happy lips being good and going to church and making happy matches for
other girls or quietly disapproving of everybody who did not believe
just in the same way and think about good girls and happy marriages and
heaven, keeping such people outside. Smiling, wise and happy inside in
the warm; growing older, but that did not matter because the adored man
was growing older too.

Now it had all changed. The quiet house and fireside, gravity,
responsibility, a greying husband, his reading profile always dear, both
of them going on towards heaven, "all tears wiped away," tears and
laughter of relief after death, still seemed desirable, but "women." ...
Those awful, awful women, she murmured to herself stirring in bed. I
never thought of all the _awful_ women there would be in such a life. I
only thought of myself and the house and the garden and the man. What an
escape! Good God in heaven, what an escape! Far better to be alone and
suffering and miserable here in the school, alive....

Then there'll be whole heaps of books, millions of books I can't
read--perhaps nearly all the books. She took one more volume of Rosa, in
hope, and haunted its deeps of domesticity. "I've gone too far." ... If
Rosa Nouchette Carey knew me, she'd make me one of the bad characters
who are turned out of the happy homes. I'm some sort of bad unsimple
woman. Oh, damn, damn, she sighed. I don't know. Her hands seemed to
mock her, barring her way.


Then came a series of Mrs. Hungerford--all the volumes she had not
already read. She read them eagerly, inspirited. The gabled country
houses, the sunlit twilit endless gardens, the deep orchards, the
falling of dew, the mists of the summer mornings, masses of flowers in
large rooms with carved oaken furniture, wide staircases with huge
painted windows throwing down strange patches of light on shallow
thickly carpetted stairs. These were the things she wanted; gay
house-parties, people with beautiful wavering complexions and masses of
shimmering hair catching the light, fragrant filmy diaphanous dresses;
these were the people to whom she belonged--a year or two of life like
that, dancing and singing in and out the houses and gardens; and then
marriage. Living alone, sadly estranged, in the house of a husband who
loved her and with whom she was in love, both of them thinking that the
other had married because they had lost their way in a thunderstorm or
spent the night sitting up on a mountain-top or because of a clause in a
will, and then one day both finding out the truth.... That is what is
meant by happiness ... happiness. But these things could only happen to
people with money. She would never have even the smallest share of that
sort of life. She might get into it as a governess--some of Mrs.
Hungerford's heroines were governesses--but they had clouds of hair and
were pathetically slender and appealing in their deep mourning. She read
volume after volume, forgetting the titles--the single word 'Hungerford'
on a cover inflamed her. Her days became an irrelevance and her evenings
a dreamy sunlit indulgence. Now and again she wondered what Julia Doyle
would think if she knew what she was reading and how it affected
her--whether she would still watch her in the way she did as she went
about her work pale and tired, whether she would go on guarding her so


At last exasperated, tired of the mocking park, the mocking happy books,
she went one day to the lower shelf, and saying very calmly, "I think
I'll take a Ouida," drew out "Under Two Flags" with a trembling hand.
The brown-eyed man seemed to take an interminable time noting the number
of the book, and when at last she got into the air her limbs were heavy
with sadness. That night she read until three o'clock and finished the
volume the next night at the same hour, sitting upright when the last
word was read, refreshed. From that moment the red-bound volumes became
the centre of her life. She read "Moths" and "In Maremma" slowly word by
word, with an increasing steadiness and certainty. The mere sitting with
the text held before her eyes gave her the feeling of being strongly
confronted. The strange currents which came whenever she was alone and
at ease flowing to the tips of her fingers, seemed to flow into the book
as she held it and to be met and satisfied. As soon as the door was shut
and the gas alight, she would take the precious, solid trusty volume
from her drawer and fling it on her bed, to have it under her eyes while
she undressed. She ceased to read her Bible and to pray. Ouida, Ouida,
she would muse with the book at last in her hands. I want bad
things--strong bad things.... It doesn't matter, Italy, the sky, bright
hot landscapes, things happening. I don't care what people think or say.
I am older than anyone here in this house. I am myself.


... If you had loved, if you loved, you could die, laughing, gasping out
your life on a battlefield, fading by inches in a fever-swamp, or living
on, going about seamed and old and ill. Whatever happened to you, if you
had cared, fearing nothing, neither death nor hell. God came. He would
welcome and forgive you. Life, struggle, pain. Happy laughter with
twisted lips--all waiting somewhere outside, beyond. It would come. It
must be made to come.


Who was there in the world? Ted had failed. Ted belonged to the Rosa
Nouchette Carey world. He would marry one of those women. Bob knew. Bob
Greville's profile was real. Sitting on the wide stairs at the Easter
Subscription Dance, his soft fine white hair standing up, the straight
line of polished forehead, the fine nose and compressed lips, the sharp
round chin with the three firm folds underneath it, the point of his
collar cutting across them, the keen blue eyes looking straight out
ahead, across Australia. The whole face listening. He had been listening
to her nearly all the evening. Now and again quiet questions. She could
go on talking to him whenever she liked. Go to him and go on talking,
and talking, safely, being understood. Talking on and on. But he was
old. Living old and alone in chambers in Adam Street--Adelphi.


One day just before the end of the summer term, Miss Perne asked Miriam
to preside over the large schoolroom for the morning. The first and
second-class girls were settled there at their written examination in
English history. Rounding the schoolroom door she stood for a moment in
the doorway. The sunlight poured in through the wide bay window and the
roomful of quiet girls seemed like a field. Jessie Wheeler's voice broke
the silence. "It's the Hen," she shouted gently. "It's the blessed Hen!
Oh, _come_ on. You going to sit with us?"

"Yes. Be quiet," said Miriam.

"Oh, thank goodness," groaned Jessie, supported by groans and murmurs
from all over the room.

"Be quiet, girls, and get on with your papers," said Miriam in a tone of
acid detachment from the top of her tide. She sat feeling that her arms
were round the entire roomful, that each girl struggling alone with the
list of questions was resting against her breast. "I'm going away from
them. I must be going away from them," ran her thoughts regretfully.
"They can't keep me. This is the utmost. I've won. There'll never be
anything more than this, here." It would always be the same--with
different girls. Certainty. Even the sunlight paid a sort of homage to
the fathomless certainty she felt. The sunlight in this little
schoolroom was telling her of other sunlights, vast and unbroken,
somewhere--coming, her own sunlights, when she should have wrenched
herself away. It was there; she glanced up again and again to watch it
breaking and splashing all over the room. It would come again, but how
differently. Quite soon. She might have spared herself all her
agonising. The girls did not know where she belonged. They were holding
her. But she would go away, to some huge open space. Leave them--ah, it
was unkind. But she had left them already in spirit.

If they could all get up together now and sing, let their voices peal
together up and up, throw all the books out of the window, they might go
on together, forward into the sunshine, but they would not want to do
that. Hardly any of them would want to do that. They would look at her
with knowing eyes, and look at the door, and stay where they were.

The room was very close. Polly Allen and Eunice Dupont, sitting together
at a little card-table in the darkest corner of the room, were
whispering. With beating heart Miriam got up and went and stood before
them. "You two are talking," she said with her eyes on the thickness of
Polly's shoulders as she sat in profile to the room. Eunice, opposite
her, against the wall, flashed up at her her beautiful fugitive grin as
from the darkness of a wood. History, thought Miriam. What has Eunice to
do with history, laws, Henry II, the English Constitution? "You don't
talk," she said coldly, feeling as she watched her that Eunice's pretty
clothes were stripped away and she were stabbing at her soft rounded
body, "at examinations. Can't you see that?" Eunice's pale face grew
livid. "First because it isn't fair and also because it disturbs other
people." You can tell all the people who cheat by their smile, she
reflected on her way back. Eunice chuckled serenely two or three times.
"What have these North London girls to do with studies?" ... There was
not a single girl like Eunice at Barnes. Even the very pretty girls were
... refined.


That afternoon Miriam spent her hour of leisure in calling on the Brooms
to enquire for Grace, who had been ill the whole of the term. She found
the house after some difficulty in one of a maze of little rows and
crescents just off the tram-filled main road. "She's almost
perfect--almost perfection," said Mrs. Philps, the Aunt Lucy Miriam had
heard of and seen in church.

They had been together in the little drawing-room talking about Grace
from the moment when Miriam was shown in to Mrs. Philps sitting darning
a duster in a low chair by the closed conservatory door. The glazed
closed door with the little strips of window on either side giving on to
a crowded conservatory made the little room seem dark. To Miriam it
seemed horribly remote. Her journey to it had been through immense
distances. Threading the little sapling-planted asphalt-pavemented
roadways between houses whose unbroken frontage was so near and so bare
as to forbid scrutiny, she felt she had reached the centre, the home and
secret of North London life. Off every tram-haunted main road, there
must be a neighbourhood like this where lived the common-mouthed
harsh-speaking people who filled the pavements and shops and walked in
the parks. To enter one of the little houses and speak there to its
inmates would be to be finally claimed and infected by the life these
people lived, the thing that made them what they were. At Wordsworth
House she was held up by the presence of the Pernes and Julia Doyle.
Here she was helpless and alone. When she had discovered the number she
sought and, crossing the little tiled pathway separated from the pathway
next door by a single iron rail, had knocked with the lacquered knocker
against the glazed and leaded door, her dreams for the future faded.
They would never be realised. They were just a part of the radiance that
shone now from the spacious houses she had lived in in the past. The
things she had felt this morning in the examination room were that, too.
They had nothing to do with the future. All the space was behind. Things
would grow less and less.


Admitted to the dark narrowly echoing tiled passage, she stated her
errand and was conducted past a closed door and the opening of a narrow
staircase which shot steeply, carpeted with a narrow strip of
surprisingly green velvet carpeting, up towards an unlit landing and
admitted to Mrs. Philps.

"Wait a minute, Vashti," said Mrs. Philps, holding Miriam's hand as she
murmured her errand. "You'll stay tea? Well, if you're sure you can't
I'll not press you. Bring the biscuits and the sherry and two white
wine-glasses, Vashti. Get them now and bring them in at once. Sit down,
Miss Henderson. She's little better than a step-girl. They're all the
same." Whilst she described her niece's illness, Miriam wondered over
the immense bundle of little even black sausage-shaped rolls of hair
which stuck out, larger than her head and smoothed to a sphere by a
tightly drawn net, at the back of her skull. She was short and stout and
had bright red cheeks that shone in the gloom and rather prominent large
blue eyes that roamed as she talked, allowing Miriam to snatch
occasional glimpses of china-filled what-nots and beaded ottomans.
Presently Vashti returned clumsily with the wine, making a great bumping
and rattling round about the door. "You stupid thing, you've brought
claret. Don't you know sherry when you see it? It's at the back--behind
the Harvest Burgundy." "I shall have to go soon," said Miriam, relieved
at the sight of the red wine and longing to escape the sherry. Vashti
put down the tray and stood with open mouth. Even with her very high
heels she looked almost a dwarf. The room seemed less oppressive with
the strange long-necked decanter and the silver biscuit box standing on
a table in the curious greenish light. Mrs. Philps accepted the claret
and returned busily to her story, whilst Miriam sipped and glanced at a
large print in a heavy black frame leaning forward low over the small
white marble mantelpiece. It represented a young knight in armour
kneeling at an altar with joined and pointed hands held to his lips. An
angel standing in mid-air was touching his shoulder with a sword. "Why
doesn't she kiss the top of his head," thought Miriam as she sipped her
wine. The distant aisles and pillars of the church made the room seem
larger than it was. "I suppose they all look into that church when they
want to get away from each other," she mused as Mrs. Philps went on with
her long sentences beginning "And Dr. Newman said--" And there was a
little mirror above a bulging chiffonier which was also an escape from
the confined space. Looking into it, she met Mrs. Philps's glowing face
with the blue eyes widely staring and fixed upon her own, and heard her
declare, with her bunched cherry-coloured lips, that Grace was 'almost
perfection.' "Is she?" she responded eagerly, and Mrs. Philps elaborated
her theme. Grace, then, with her heavy body and strange hot voice, lying
somewhere upstairs in a white bed, was the most important thing in this
dark little house. "She was very near to death then," Mrs. Philps was
saying tearfully, "very near, and when she came round from her delirium,
one of the first things she said to me as soon as she was strong enough
to whisper, was that she was perfectly certain about there being another
life." Mrs. Philps's voice faded and she sat with trembling lips and
eyes downcast. "_Did_ she!" Miriam almost shouted, half-rising from her
seat and turning from contemplating Mrs. Philps in the mirror to look
her full in the face. The dim green light streaming in from the
conservatory seemed like a tide that made everything in the room rock
slightly. A touch would sweep it all away and heaven would be there all
round them. "Did she," whispered Miriam in a faint voice that shook her
chest. "'Aunt,' she said," went on Mrs. Philps steadily, as the room
grew firm round Miriam and the breath she drew seemed like an early
morning breath, "'I want to say something quickly,' she said, 'in case I
die. It's that I know--for a positive fact, there is another life.'"

"What a perfectly stupendous thing," said Miriam. "It's so important."

"I was much impressed. Of course, I knew she was nearly perfect. But
we've not been in the habit of talking about religion. I asked her if
she would like to see the vicar. 'Oh no,' she said, 'there's no need. He
knows.' I doubt if he knows as much as she does. But I didn't make a
point of it."

"Oh, but it's simply wonderful. It's much more important than anything a
vicar could say. It's their business to say those things."

"I don't know about that. But she was so weak that I didn't press it."

"But it's so important. What a wonderful thing to have in your family.
Did she say anything more?"

"She hasn't returned to the subject again. She's very weak."

Wild clutching thoughts shook at Miriam. If only Grace could suddenly
appear in her night-gown, to be questioned. Or if she herself could stay
on there creeping humbly about in this little house, watering the
conservatory and darning dusters, being a relative of the Brooms,
devoting herself to Grace, waiting on her, hearing all she had to say.
What did it matter that the Brooms wore heavy mourning and gloated over
funerals if Grace upstairs in her room had really seen the white light
away in the distance far away beyond the noise of the world?

                              CHAPTER VII


Harriett's ringed fingers had finished dipping and drying the blue and
white tea-service. She sat for a moment staring ahead down-stream.
Sitting opposite her, Gerald watched her face with a half smile. Miriam
waited sitting at her side. It was the first moment of silence since she
had come home at midday. From the willow-curtained island against which
they were moored came little crepitations and flittings. Ahead of them
the river blazed gold and blue, hedged by high spacious trees.
"_Come_-to-tea, _come_-to-tea, hurryup-dear," said a bird suddenly from
the island thicket.

"D'you know what bird that is, Gerald?" asked Miriam.

"Not from Adam," breathed Gerald, swaying on his seat with a little
laugh. "It's a bird. That's all I know."

"We'd better unmoor, silly," muttered Harriett briskly, gathering up the
tiller ropes.

"Right, la reine."

"Look here, let me do something this time, pull or something."

"You sit still, my dear."

"But I should simply love to."

"You shall pull down-stream if you like later on when the bally sun's
down. My advice to you now is to go and lounge in the bow."

"Oh yes, Mim, you try it. Lie right down. It's simply heavenly."

The boat glided deliciously away up-stream as Miriam, relinquishing her
vision of Harriett sitting very upright in the stern in her white drill
dress, and Gerald's lawn-shirted back and long lean arms grasping the
sculls, lay back on the bow cushions with her feet comfortably
outstretched under the unoccupied seat in front of her. Six hours ago,
shaking hands with a roomful of noisy home-going girls--and now nothing
to do but float dreamily out through the gateway of her six weeks'
holiday. The dust of the school was still upon her; the skin of her face
felt strained and tired, her hands were tired and hot, her blouse dim
with a week of school wear, and her black skirt oppressed her with its
invisible burden of grime. But she was staring up at a clean blue sky
fringed with tree-tops. She stretched herself out more luxuriously upon
her cushions. The river smoothly moving and lapping underneath the boat
was like a cradle. The soft fingers of the air caressed her temples and
moved along the outlines of her face and neck. Forty-two days ... like
this. To-morrow she would wake up a new person ... sing, and shout with
Harriett. She closed her eyes. The gently lifting water seemed to come
nearer; the invading air closed in on her. She gave herself ecstatically
to its touch; the muscles of her tired face relaxed and she believed
that she could sleep; cry or sleep.


It was Gerald who had worked this miraculous first day for her.
"Boating" hitherto had meant large made-up parties of tennis-club
people, a fixed day, uneasy anticipations as to the weather, the
carrying of hampers of provisions and crockery, spirit lamps and
kettles, clumsy hired randans, or little fleets of stupidly competing
canoes, lack of space, heavy loads to pull, the need for ceaseless
chaff, the irritating triumphs of clever "knowing" girls in smart
clothes, the Pooles, or really beautiful people, like Nan Babington and
her cousin. Everything they said sounding wonderful and seeming to
improve the scenery; the jokes of the men, even Ted always joked all the
time, the misery of large noisy picnic teas on the grass, and in the end
great weariness and disappointment, the beauty of the river and the
trees only appearing the next day or perhaps long afterwards.

This boat was Gerald's own private boat, a double-sculling skiff,
slender and gold-brown, beautifully fitted and with a locker containing
everything that was wanted for picnicking. They had arranged their
expedition at lunch-time, trained to Richmond, bought fruit and cakes
and got the boat's water-keg filled by one of Redknap's men. Gerald knew
how to do things properly. He had always been accustomed to things like
this boat. He would not care to have anything just anyhow. "Let's do the
thing decently, la reine." He would keep on saying that at intervals
until Harriett had learned too. How he had changed her since Easter when
their engagement had been openly allowed. The clothes he had bought for
her, especially this plain drill dress with its neat little coat. The
long black tie fastened with the plain heavy cable broach pinned in
lengthwise half-way down the ends of the tie, which reached almost to
her black belt. That was Gerald. Her shoes, the number of pairs of
light, expensive, beautifully made shoes. Her bearing, the change in her
voice, a sort of roundness about her old Harryish hardness. But she was
the same Harry, the Harry he had seen for the first time snorting with
anger over Mr. Marth's sentimental singing at the Assembly Rooms
concert. "My hat, wasn't la reine fuming!" He would forgive her all her
ignorance. It was her triumph. What an extraordinary time Harry would
have. Gerald was well-off. He had a private income behind his Canadian
Pacific salary. His grandfather had been a diplomatist, living abroad
nearly all the time, and his wealthy father and wealthy mother with a
large fortune of her own had lived in a large house in Chelsea, giving
dinner parties and going to the opera until nearly all the capital had
gone, both dying just in time to leave enough to bring Gerald in a small
income when he left Haileybury. And the wonderful thing was that Gerald
liked mouching about and giggling. He liked looking for hours in shop
windows and strolling on the Heath eating peppermints.


Everything had disappeared into a soft blackness; only on the water a
faint light was left. It came and went; sometimes there was nothing but
darkness and the soft air. The small paper lantern swinging at the bow
made a little blot of light that was invisible from the stroke seat. The
boat went swiftly and easily. Miriam felt she could go on pulling for
hours at the top of her strength through the night. Leaning forward,
breasting the featureless darkness, sweeping the sculls back at the full
reach of her arms, leaning back and pressing her whole weight upwards
from the footboard against the pull of the water, her body became an
outstretched elastic system of muscles, rhythmically working against the
smooth dragging resistance of the dark water. Her sleeves were rolled
up, her collar-stud unfastened, her cool drowsy lids drooped over her
cool eyes. Each time she leaned backwards against her stroke, pressing
the footboard, the weight of her body dragged at a line of soreness
where the sculls pressed her hands, and with the final fling of the
water from the sculls a little stinging pain ran along the pads of her
palms. To-morrow there would be a row of happy blisters.

"You needn't put more beef into it than you like, Mirry." Gerald's voice
came so quietly out of the darkness that it scarcely disturbed Miriam's
ecstacy. She relaxed her swing, and letting the sculls skim and dip in
short easy strokes, sat glowing.

"I've never pulled a boat alone before."

"It shows you can't be a blue-stocking, thank the Lord," laughed Gerald.

"Who said I was?"

"I've always understood you were a very wise lady, my dear."

"Nobody told you she was a blue-stocking, silly. You invented the word

"I? I invented blue-stocking?"

"Yes, you, silly. It's like your saying women never date their letters
just because your cousins don't."

"Vive la reine. The Lord deliver me from blue-stockings, anyhow."

"All _right_, what _about_ it? There aren't any here!"

"You're not one, anyhow."


The next day after tea Eve arrived home from Gloucestershire.

Miriam had spent the day with Harriett. After breakfast, bounding
silently up and downstairs, they visited each room in turn, chased each
other about the echoing rooms and passages of the basement and all over
the garden. Miriam listened speechlessly to the sound of Harriett's
heels soft on the stair carpet, ringing on the stone floors of the
basement, and the swish of her skirts as she flew over the lawn
following surrounding responding to Miriam's wild tour of the garden.
Miriam listened and watched, her eyes and ears eagerly gathering and
hoarding visions. It could not go on. Presently some claim would be made
on Harriett and she would be alone. But when they had had their fill of
silently rushing about, Harriett piloted her into the drawing-room and
hastily began opening the piano. A pile of duets lay on the lid. She had
evidently gathered them there in readiness. Wandering about the room,
shifting the familiar ornaments, flinging herself into chair after
chair, Miriam watched her and saw that her strange quiet little snub
face was lit and shapely. Harriett, grown-up, serene and well-dressed
and going to be married in the spring, was transported by this new
coming together. When they had played the last of the duets that they
knew well, Harriett fumbled at the pages of a bound volume of operas in
obvious uncertainty. At any moment Miriam might get up and go off and
bring their sitting together on the long cretonne-covered duet stool to
an end. "Come on," roared Miriam gently, "let's try this"; and they
attacked the difficult pages. Miriam counted the metre, whispered it
intoned and sang it, carrying Harriett along with shouts "go _on_, go
_on_" when they had lost each other. They smashed their way along by
turns playing only a single note here and there into the framework of
Miriam's desperate counting, or banging out cheerful masses of
discordant tones, anything to go on driving their way together through
the pages while the sunlight streamed half seen into the conservatory
and the flower-filled garden crowded up against the windows, anything to
come out triumphantly together at the end and to stop satisfied, the
sounds of the house, so long secretly known to them both, low now around
them, heard by them together, punctuating their joy. The gong sounded
for lunch. "Eve," Miriam remembered suddenly, "Eve's coming this
afternoon." The thought set gladness thundering through her as she rose
from the piano. "Let's go for a walk after lunch," she muttered.
Harriett blushed.

"Awri," she responded tenderly.


The mile of gently rising roadway leading to the Heath was overarched by
huge trees. Shadowy orchards, and the silent sunlit outlying meadows and
park land of a large estate streamed gently by them beyond the trees as
they strode along through the cool leaf-scented air. They strode
speechlessly ahead as if on a pilgrimage, keeping step. Harriett's
stylish costume had a strange unreal look in the great lane, under the
towering trees. Miriam wondered if she found it dull and was taking it
so boldly because they were walking along it together. Obviously she did
not want to talk. She walked along swiftly and erect, looking eagerly
ahead as if, when they reached the top and the Heath and the windmill,
they would find something they were both looking for. Miriam felt she
could glance about unnoticed and looked freely, as she had done so many
hundreds of times before, at the light on the distant meadows and lying
along the patches of undergrowth between the trunks of the trees. They
challenged and questioned her silently as they had always done and she
them, in a sort of passionate sulkiness. They gave no answer, but the
scents in the cool tree-filled air went on all the time offering steady
assurance, and presently as walking became an unconscious rhythm and the
question of talk or no talk had definitely decided itself, the challenge
of the light was silenced and the shaded roadway led on to paradise. Was
there anyone anywhere who saw it as she did? Anyone who looking along
the alley of white road would want to sit down in the roadway or kneel
amongst the undergrowth and shout and shout? In the north of London
there were all those harsh street voices infesting the trees and the
parks. No! they did not exist. There was no North London. Let them die.
They did not know the meaning of far-reaching meadows, park-land, deer,
the great silent Heath, the silent shoulders of the windmill against the
far-off softness of the sky. Harsh streetiness ... cunning, knowing ...
do you _blame_ me? ... or charwomanishness, smarmy; churchy or chapelish
sentimentality. Sentimentality. No need to think about them.

"Never the time and the place and the loved one all together." Who said
that? Was it true? Dreadful. It couldn't be. So many people had seen
moonlit gardens, together. All the happy people who were sure of each
other. "I say, Harriett," she said at the top of her voice, bringing
Harriett curvetting in the road just in front of her. "I say, listen."
Harriett ran up the remaining strips of road and out on to the Heath. It
was ablaze with sunlight--as the river and the trees had been
yesterday--a whole day of light and Eve on her way home, almost home.
Harriett must not know how she was rushing to Eve; with what tingling
fingers. "Oh, what I was going to ask you was whether you can see the
moonlight like it is when you are alone, when Gerald is there."

"... It isn't the same as when you are alone," said Harriett quietly,
arranging the cuff of her glove.

"Do explain what you mean."

"Well, it's different."

"I see. You don't know how."

"It's quite different."

"Does Gerald like the moonlight?"

"_I_ dunno. I never asked him."

"Fancy the Roehampton people living up here all the time."

"There's their old washing going flip-flap over there."

Harriett was finding out that she was back in the house with Eve.

"Let's rush to the windmill. Let's sing."

"Come on; only we can't rush and sing too."

"Yes we can, come on." Running up over hillocks and stumbling through
sandy gorse-grown hollows they sang a hunting song, Miriam leading with
the short galloping phrases, Harriett's thinner voice dropping in,
broken and uncertain, with a strange brave sadness in it that went to
Miriam's heart.


"Eve, you look exactly like Dudley's gracious lady in these things.
Don't you feel like it?" Eve stopped near the landing window and stood
in her light green canvas dress with its pale green silk sleeves
shedding herself over Miriam from under her rose-trimmed white chip hat.
Miriam was carrying her light coat and all the small litter of her
journey. "Go on up," she said, "I want to talk," and Eve hurried on,
Miriam stumblingly following her, holding herself in, eyes and ears wide
for the sight and sound of the slender figure flitting upstairs through
the twilight. The twilight wavered and seemed to ebb and flow,
suggesting silent dawn and full midday, and the house rang with a
soundless music.

"It was Mrs. Wallace who suggested my _wearing_ all my best things for
the journey," panted Eve; "they don't get crushed with packing and they
needn't get dirty if you're careful."

"You look exactly like Dudley's gracious lady. You know you do. You know
it perfectly well."

"They do seem jolly now I'm back. They don't seem anything down there.
Just ordinary with everybody in much grander things."

"How do you mean, grander? What sort of things?"

"Oh, all sorts of lovely white dresses."

"It is extraordinary about all those white dresses," said Miriam
emphatically, pushing her way after Eve into Sarah's bedroom. "Can I
come in? I'm coming in. Sarah says it's because men like them and she
gets simply sick of girls in white and cream dresses all over the place
in the summer, and it's a perfect relief to see anyone in a colour in
the sun. They have red sunshades sometimes, but Sarah says that's not
enough; you want people in colours. I wonder if there's anything in it?"

"Of course there is," said Sarah, releasing the last strap of Eve's

"They'd _all_ put on coloured things if it weren't for that."

"Men tell them."

"Do they?"

"The engaged men tell them--or brothers."

"I can't think how you get to know these things, sober Sally."

"Oh, you can tell."

"Well, then, _why_ do men like silly white and cream dresses, pasty,
whitewashy clothes altogether?"

"It's something they want; it looks different to them."

"Sarah knows all sorts of things," said Miriam excitedly, watching the
confusion of the room from the windows. "She says she knows why the
Pooles look down and smirk; their dimples and the line of their chins;
that men admire them looking down like that. _Isn't_ it frightful.
Disgusting. And men don't seem to see through them."

"It's those kind of girls get on best."

Miriam sighed.

"Oh well, don't let's think about them. Not to-night, anyhow," cooed

"Sarah says there are much more awful reasons. I can't think how she
finds them all out. Sober Sally. I know she's right. It's too utterly
sickening somehow, for words."


"_Pooh_--barooo, _baroooo_."





"Oh, it's all right. What have we got to do with horrid knowing people."

"Well, they're there, all the time. You can't get away from them.
They're all over the place. Either the knowing ones or the simpering
ones. It's all the same in the end."

Eve quietly began to unpack. "Oh well," she smiled, "we're _all_
different when there are men about to when we're by ourselves. We all
make eyes in a way."

"Eve! What a perfectly beastly thing to say."

"It isn't, my dear," said Eve pensively. "You should see yourself; you

"Sally, _do_ I?"


"Of course you do," giggled Eve quietly, "as much as anybody."

"Then I'm the most crawling thing on the face of the earth," thought
Miriam, turning silently to the tree-tops looming softly just outside
the window; "and the worst of it is I only know it at moments now and
again." The tree-tops serene with some happy secret cast her off, and
left her standing with groping crisping fingers unable to lift the
misery that pressed upon her heart. "God, what a filthy world! God what
a filthy world!" she muttered. "Everyone hemmed and hemmed and hemmed
into it." Harriett came in and stepped up on to the high canopied bed.
"Ullo," she said in general, sitting herself up tailor-fashion in the
middle of the bed so that the bright twilight fell full upon her head
and the breast and shoulders of her light silk-sleeved dress. Humming
shreds of a violin obligato, Eve rustled out layer after layer of
paper-swathed garments, to be gathered up by Sarah moving solidly about
between the wardrobe and the chest of drawers in her rather heavy boots.
There would not be any talk. But silently the room filled and
overflowed. Turning at last from her window, Miriam glanced at her
sisters and let her thoughts drop into the flowing tide. Harry, sitting
there sharp and upright in the fading light, coming in to them with her
future life streaming out behind her spreading and shining and rippling,
herself the radiant point of that wonderful life, actually there, neatly
enthroned amongst them, one of them, drawing them all with her out
towards its easy security; Eve, happy with her wardrobe of dainty
things, going fearlessly forward to some unseen fate, not troubling
about it. Sarah's strange clean clear channel of wisdom. Where would it
lead? It would always drive straight through everything.

All these things meant that the mere simple awfulness of things at home
had changed. These three girls she had known so long as
fellow-prisoners, and who still bore at moments in their eyes, their
movements, the marks of the terrors and uncertainties amongst which they
had all grown up, were going on, out into life, scored and scarred, but
alive and changeable, able to become quite new. Memories of strange
crises and the ageing deadening shifts they had invented to tide them
over humiliating situations were here crowded in the room together with
them all. But these memories were no longer as they had so often been,
the principal thing in the room whenever they were all gathered silently
together. If Eve and Harriett had got away from the past and now had
happy eyes and mouths.... Sarah's solid quiet cheerfulness, now grown so
large and free that it seemed even when she was stillest to knock your
mind about like something in a harlequinade.... Why had they not all
known in the past that they would change? Why had they been so oppressed
whenever they stopped to think?

Those American girls in "Little Women" and "Good Wives" made fun out of
everything. But they had never had to face real horrors and hide them
from everybody, mewed up.


When it was nearly dark Sarah lit the gas. Harriett had gone downstairs.
Miriam lowered the Venetian blinds, shutting out the summer. To-morrow
it would be there again, waiting for them when they woke in the morning.
In her own and Harriett's room the daylight would be streaming in
through the Madras muslin curtains, everything in the room very silent
and distinct; nothing to be heard but the little flutterings of birds
under the eaves. You could listen to it for ever if you kept perfectly
still. When you drew back the curtains the huge day would be standing
outside clear with gold and blue and dense with trees and flowers.

Sarah's face was uneasy. She seemed to avoid meeting anyone's eyes.
Presently she faced them, sitting on a low rocking chair with her
tightly clasped hands stretched out beyond her knees. She glanced
fearfully from one to the other and bit her lips. "What now," thought
Miriam. The anticipated holidays disappeared. Of course. She might have
known they would. For a moment she felt sick, naked and weak. Then she
braced herself to meet the shock. I must sit tight, I must sit tight and
not show anything. Eve's probably praying. Oh, make haste, Sally, and
get it over.

"What's the matter, Sally?" said Eve in a low voice.

"Oh, Eve and Mim, I'm awfully sorry."

"You'd better tell us at once," said Eve, crimsoning.

"Haven't you noticed anything?"

Miriam looked at Sarah's homely prosperous shape. It couldn't be
anything. It was a nightmare. She waited, pinching her wrist.

"What is it, Sally?" breathed Eve, tapping her green-clad knee. Clothes
and furniture and pictures ... houses full of things and people talking
in the houses and having meals and pretending, talking and smiling and

"It's mother."

"What on earth do you mean, Sarah?" said Miriam angrily.

"She's ill. Bennett took her to a specialist. There's got to be--she's
got to have an operation."

Miriam drew up the blind with a noisy rattle, smiling at Eve frowning
impatiently at the noise. Driving the heavy sash up as far as it would
go, she leaned her head against the open frame. The garden did not seem
to be there. The tepid night air was like a wall, a black wall. For a
moment a splintered red light, like the light that comes from a violent
blow on the forehead, flashed along it. Sarah and Eve were talking in
strange voices, interrupting each other. It would be a relief to do
something, faint or something selfish. But she must hear what they were
saying; listen to both the voices cutting through the air of the hot
room. Propped weak-limbed against the window open-mouthed for air she
forced herself to hear, pressing her cold hands closely together. The
gas light that had seemed so bright hardly seemed to light the room at
all. Everything looked small, even Grannie's old Chippendale bedstead
and the double-fronted wardrobe. The girls were little monkey ghosts
babbling together beside Eve's open trunk. Did they see that it was
exactly like a grave?


The sun shone through the apple trees, making the small half-ripe apples
look as though they were coated with enamel.

It was quite clear that if they did go away together, the four of them,
she, Eve, Gerald and Harriett to Brighton or somewhere, they would be
able to forget. You could tell that from the strange quiet easy tone of
Harriett's and Gerald's voices. There would be the aquarium. She
supposed they would go to the aquarium with its strange underground
smell of stagnant sea air and stare into the depths of those strange
green tanks and watch the fish flashing about like shadows or skimming
by near the front of the tank with the light full on their softly tinted
scales. Harriett sat steadily at her side on the overturned seed-box,
middle-aged and responsible, quietly discussing the details of the plan
with Gerald, cross-legged at their feet on the grass plot. They had not
said anything about the reasons for going; but of course Gerald must
know all that. He knew everything now, all about the money troubles, all
the awful things, and it seemed to make no difference to him. He made
light of it. It was humiliating to think that he had come just as things
had reached their worst, the house going to be sold, Pater and mother
and Sarah going into lodgings in September, and the maddening helpless
worry about mother and all the money for that. And yet it was a good
thing he had known them all in the old house and seen them there, even
pretending to be prosperous. And yet the house and garden was nothing to
him. Just a house and garden. Harriett's house and garden, and he was
going to take Harriett away. The house and garden did not matter.

She glanced at the sunlit fruit trees, the thickets of the familiar
kitchen garden, the rising grass bank at the near end of the distant
lawn, the eloquent back of the large red house. He could not see all the
things there were there, all the long years, or know what it was to have
that cut away and nothing ahead but Brighton aquarium with Harriett and
Eve, and then the school again, and disgraceful lodgings in some strange
place, no friends and everybody looking down on them. She met his eyes
and they both smiled.

"Keep her perfectly quiet for the next few weeks, that's the idea, and
when it's all over she'll be better than she's ever been in her life."

"D'you think so?"

"I don't think, I know she will; people always are. I've known scores of
people have operations. It's nothing nowadays. Ask Bennett."

"Does he think she'll be better?"

"Of course."

"Did he say so?"

"Of _course_ he did."

"Well, I s'pose we'd really better go."

"Of course, we're going."

"I'm going to look for a place in a family after next term. I shall give
notice when I get back. You get more money in a family Eve says, and
home life, and if you haven't a home they're only too glad to have you
there in the holidays too."

"You take my advice, my dear girl. Don't go into a family. Eve'll find
it out before she's much older."

"I must have more money."

"Mirry's so silly. She insists on paying her share of Brighton. Isn't
she an owl?"

"Oh well, of course, if she's going to make a point of spending her cash
when she needn't she'd better find a more paying job. That's certain

                              CHAPTER VIII


"You know I'm funny. I never talk to young ladies."

Miriam looked leisurely at the man walking at her side along the
grass-covered cliff; his well-knit frame, his well-cut blue serge, the
trimness of collar and tie, his faintly blunted regular features, clean
ruddy skin and clear expressionless German blue eyes. Altogether he was
rather like a German, with his red and white and gold and blue colouring
and his small military moustache. She could imagine him snapping
abruptly in a booming chest voice, "Mit Frauen spreche ich über_haupt_
nicht." But he spoke slowly and languidly, he was an Englishman and
somehow looked like a man who was accustomed to refined society. It was
true he never spoke at the boarding-house meals, excepting an occasional
word with his friend, and he had been obliged to join their Sunday walk
because his friend was so determined to come. Still he was not awkward
or clumsy either at table or now. Only absolutely quiet, and then saying
such a startling rather rude thing quite suddenly. One could stare at
him to discover the reason of his funny speech, because evidently he was
quite common, not a bounder but quite a common young man, speaking of
women as 'young ladies.' Then how on earth did he manage to look
distinguished. Oppressed and ill at ease she turned away to the
far-reaching green levels and listened to the sea tumbling heavily far
below against the cliffs. Away ahead Eve and her little companion
walking jauntily along, his tight dust-coloured curls exposed to the
full sunlight, his cane swinging round as he talked and laughed, seemed
to be turning inland towards the downs. They had seen Ovingdean in the
distance, stupid Ovingdean that everybody had talked about at breakfast,
and were finding the way. How utterly silly. They did not see how
utterly silly it was to make up your mind to "go to Ovingdean" and then
go to Ovingdean. How utterly silly everybody and everything was.

Eve looked very straight and slim and was walking happily, bending her
head a little as she always did when she was listening. Their backs
looked happy. And here she was forced to walk with this nice-looking
strange solid heavyish man and his cold insulting remark; almost the
only thing he had said since they had been alone together. It had been
rather nice walking along the top of the cliff side by side saying
nothing. They walked exactly in step and his blunted features looked
quite at ease; and she had gone easily along disposing of him with a
gentle feeling of proprietorship, and had watched the gentle swing and
movement of the landscape as they swung along. It seemed secure and
painless and was gradually growing beautiful, and then suddenly she felt
that he must have his thoughts, men were always thinking, and would be
expecting her to be animated and entertaining. Lumpishly she had begun
about the dullness of the beach and promenade on Sundays and the need to
find something to do between dinner and tea--lies. All conversation was
a lie. And somehow she had led him to his funny German remark.

"How do you mean?" she said at last anxiously. It was very rude
intruding upon him like that. He had spoken quite simply. She ought to
have laughed and changed the conversation. But it was no laughing
matter. He did not know what he was saying or how horribly it hurt. A
worldly girl would chaff and make fun of him. It was detestable to make
fun of men; just a way of flirting. But Sarah said that being rude to
men or talking seriously to them was flirting just as much. Not true.
Not true. And yet it was true, she did want to feel happy walking along
with this man, have some sort of good understanding with him, him as a
man with her as a woman. Was that flirting? If so she was just a more
solemn underhand flirt than the others, that was all. She felt very sad.
Anyhow she had asked her question now. She looked at his profile.
Perhaps he would put her off in some way. Then she would walk slower and
slower until Harriett and Gerald caught them up and come home walking
four in a row, taking Harriett's arm. His face had remained quite

"Well," he said at length in his slow well-modulated tone, "I always
take care to get out of the way when there are any young ladies about."

"When do you mean?" _I_ didn't ask you to come, _I_ don't want to talk
to you you food-loving, pipe-loving, comfort-loving beast, she thought.
But it would be impossible to finish the holiday and go back to the
school with this strange statement uninvestigated.

"Well, when my sisters have young ladies in in the evening I always get
out of the way."

Ah, thought Miriam, you are one of those men who flirt with servants and
shop-girls ... perhaps those awful women.... Either she must catch Eve
up or wait for Harriett ... not be alone any longer with this man.

"I see. You simply run away from them," she said scornfully; "go out for
a walk or something." A small Brixton sitting-room full of Brixton
girls--Gerald said that Brixton was something too chronic for words,
just like Clapham, and there was that joke about the man who said he
would not go to heaven even if he had the chance because of the strong
Clapham contingent that would be there--after all ...

"I go and sit in my room."

"Oh," said Miriam brokenly, "in the winter? Without a fire?"

Mr. Parrow laughed. "I don't mind about that. I wrap myself up and get a

"What sort of book?"

"I've got a few books of my own; and there's generally something worth
reading in 'Tit-Bits.'"

How did he manage to look so refined and cultured? Those girls were
quite good enough for him, probably too good. But he would go on
despising them and one of them would marry him and give him beef-steak
puddings. And here he was walking by the sea in the sunlight, confessing
his suspicions and fears and going back to Brixton.

"You'll have to marry one of those young ladies one day," she said

"That's out of the question, even if I was a marrying man."

"Nonsense," said Miriam, as they turned down the little pathway leading
towards the village. Poor man, how cruel to encourage him to take up
with one of those giggling dressy girls.

"D'you mean to say you've been never specially interested in anybody?"

"Yes. I never have."


Ovingdean had to be faced. They were going to look at Ovingdean and then
walk back to the boarding-house to tea. Now that she knew all about his
home-life she would not be able to meet his eyes across the table. Two
tired elm trees stood one on either side of the road at the entrance to
the village. Here they all gathered and then went forward in a strolling

When they turned at last to walk home and fell again into couples as
before, Miriam searched her empty mind for something to say about the
dim, cool musty church, the strange silent deeps of it there amongst the
great green downs, the waiting chairs, the cold empty pulpit and the
little cold font, and the sunlit front of the old Grange where King
Charles had taken refuge. Mr. Parrow would know she was speaking
insincerely if she said anything about these things. There was a long,
long walk ahead. For some time they walked in silence. "D'you know
anything, about architecture?" she said at last angrily ... cruel silly
question. Of course he didn't. But men she walked with ought to know
about architecture and be able to tell her things.

"No. That's a subject I don't know anything about."

"D'you like churches?"

"I don't know that I've ever thought about it."

"Then you probably don't."

"Oh, well, I don't know about that. I don't see any objection to them."

"Then you're probably an atheist."

"I don't know, I'm sure."

"Do you go to church?"

"I can't say I do in the usual way, unless I'm on a holiday."

"Perhaps you go for walks instead?"

"Well, I generally stay in bed and have a rest."

That dreadful room with the dreadful man hiding in it and reading
"Tit-Bits" and staying in bed in it on bright Sunday mornings.

How heavily they were treading on the orange and yellow faces of the Tom
Thumbs scattered over the short green grass.

"How much do you think people could marry on?" said Mr. Parrow suddenly
in a thin voice.

"Oh well, that depends on who they are."

"I suppose it does do that."

"And where they are going to live."

"D'you think anyone could marry on a hundred and fifty?"

"Of course," said Miriam emphatically, mentally shivering over the
vision of a tiresome determined cheerful woman with a thin pinched
reddish nose, an everlasting grey hat and a faded ulster going on year
after year; two or three common children she would never be able to
educate, with horribly over-developed characters. It was rather less
than the rent of their house. "Of course, everything would depend on the
woman," she said wisely. After all a hundred and fifty, with no doubt
and anxiety about it was a very wonderful thing to have. Probably
everybody was wasteful, buying the wrong things and silly things,
ornaments and brooches and serviette rings; ... and not thinking things
out and not putting things down in books and not really enjoying
managing the hundred and fifty and always wanting more. It ought to be
quite jolly being thoroughly common and living in a small way and having
common neighbours doing the same.

"But you think if a man could find a young lady who could agree about
prices it would be possible."

"Of course it would."

The houses on the eastern ridges of Brighton came into sight in the
distance and stood blazing in the sunlight. There was a high half
broken-down piece of fencing at the edge of the cliff to their left a
little ahead of them, splintered and sunlit.

"How much a week is a hundred and fifty a year?"

"Three pound."

They gravitated towards the fence and stood vaguely near it looking out
across the unruffled glare of the open sea. Why had she always thought
that the bright blue and gold ripples seen from the beach and the
promenade on jolly weekdays was the best of the sea? It was much more
lovely up there, the great expanse in its quiet Sunday loneliness. You
could see and think about far-off things instead of just dreaming on the
drowsy hot sands, seeing nothing but the rippling stripes of bright blue
and bright gold. She put her elbows on the upper bar. Mr. Parrow did the
same and they stood gazing out across the open sea--Mr. Parrow was
probably wondering how long they were going to stand silently there and
thinking about his tea ... of course; let him stand--until Eve's voice
sounded near them in a dimpling laugh. They walked home in a row, Eve
and Mr. Green in the centre, asking riddles one against the other. Every
time Miriam spoke Mr. Parrow laughed or made some little responsive


When Mr. Green and Mr. Parrow went back to London at the end of the week
Eve and Miriam saw them off at the station. The four went off boldly
together down the flight of white stone steps and made their way up into
the town.

"Good-bye," called Miss Meldrum affectionately from the doorway. "I
shall send both of you a copy of the photograph."

"It's most generous of Miss Meldrum to go to all that expense to give us
a pleasant memento," said Mr. Green in his small ringing voice as they
all swung out into the clean bare roadway. Miriam felt as if they were a
bit of the photograph walking up the hill, and went freely and
confidently along with a sense of being steered and guided by Miss
Meldrum. Why had she had the group taken--so odd and bold of her, having
the photographer waiting in the garden for them before they had finished
breakfast, and then laughing and talking and pushing them all about as
if they were her dearest friends. It was whilst they were all out in the
garden together, hanging about and being arranged, with the
photographer's voice like the voice of a ventriloquist, knocking them
coldly about, that Gerald and Mr. Green had arranged about the evening
at the Crystal Palace on the last day of Miriam's holiday. Miriam had
held back from the group, feeling nervous about her hair, there had been
no time to go to their rooms, and had forced Eve to do the same.
Harriett, with a cheerful shiny face, was sitting on the grass with
Gerald in a line with the traveller from Robinson and Cleaver's, and his
thin-voiced sheeny-haired mocking fiancée. They all looked very small
and bald. The fiancée kept clearing her throat and rearranging her smart
feet and rattling her bangles. The traveller's heavy waxed moustache was
crooked and his slippery blue eyes looked like the eyes of an old man.
Next to him were two newly arrived restively sneering young men, one on
either side of the saintly-faced florist's assistant from Wigmore
Street, who sat in an easy pose with her skirt draping gracefully over
her feet and her long white chin propped on her hands. She looked
reproachfully about amongst the laughing and talking and seemed to feel
that they were all in church.

Miss Meldrum and Miss Stringer, the two bald Scotch chemists who went
out every evening to look for a comet, the pale frowning girl from
Plaistow with her mad-eyed cousin whose grey curls bunched in a
cherry-coloured velvet band seemed to say "death--death" to Miriam more
dreadfully out here amongst the greenery than when she suddenly caught
sight of them at table, sat disconnectedly in chairs behind the
squatters on the grass. At the last moment she and Eve were obliged to
fall in at the back of the group with Mr. Green and Mr. Parrow, and now
the four of them were walking in a row up the staring white hill with
the evening at the Crystal Palace ahead of them in far-away London. It
was quite right. They were being like 'other people.' People met and
made friends and arranged to meet again. And then things happened. It
was quite right and ordinary and safe and warm. Of course Eve and Mr.
Green must meet again. He was evidently quite determined that they
should. That was what was carrying them all so confidently up the hill.
Perhaps he would in the end turn into another Gerald. When they turned
off into the unfamiliar Brighton streets Eve and Mr. Green went on
ahead. Walking quickly in step along the narrow pavement amongst the
unconcerned Brighton townspeople they looked so small and pitiful.


The brilliant sunlight showed up all the shabbiness of Mr. Green's
London suit. He looked even smaller than he did in his holiday tweed.
Miriam wanted to call to them and stop them, stop Eve's bright figure
and her mop of thickly twisted brown hair and ask her what she was
dreaming of, leave the two men there and go back, go out away alone with
Eve down to the edge of the sea. She hesitated in her walking, not
daring even to glance at her companion who was trudging along with bent
head, carrying his large brown leather bag. The street was crowded and
she manoeuvred so that everyone they met should pass between them.
Perhaps they would be able to reach the station without being obliged to
speak to each other. Parrow. It was either quite a nice name or pitiful;
like a child trying to say sparrow. Did he know that to other people it
was a strange, important sort of name, rounded like the padding in the
shoulders of his coat and his blunted features?

Nobody knew him at all well. Not a single person in the world. If he
were run over and killed on the way to the station, nobody would ever
have known anything about him.... People did die like that ... probably
most people; in a minute, alone and unknown; too late to speak.

Something was coming slowly down the middle of the roadway from amongst
the confusion of the distant traffic; an elephant--a large grey
elephant. Firmly delicately undisturbed by the noise of the street, the
huge crimson gold-braided howdah it carried on its back, and the
strange, coloured things coming along behind it, the thickening of
people on the pavement and the suddenly increased noise of the town, it
came stepping. It was wonderful. "Wise and beautiful! Wise and
beautiful!" cried a voice far away in Miriam's brain. It's a circus said
another voice within her.... He doesn't know he's in a circus.... She
hurried forward to reach Eve. Eve turned a flushed face. "I _say_; it's
a circus," said Miriam bitingly. The blare of a band broke out farther
up the street. People were jostled against them by a clown who came
bounding and leaping his way along the crowded pavement crying
incoherent words with a thrilling blatter of laughter. The elephant was
close upon them alone in the road space cleared by its swinging walk....
If only everyone would be quiet they could hear the soft padding of its
feet. Slowly, gently, modestly it went by followed by a crowd of smaller
things; sad-eyed monkeys on horseback in gold coatlets, sullen caged
beasts on trolleys drawn by beribboned unblinkered human-looking horses,
tall white horses pacing singly by, bearing bobbing princesses and men
in masks and cloaks.


Here and there in the long sunlit hours of the holiday by the Brighton
sea Miriam found the far-away seaside holidays of her childhood. Going
out one afternoon with Eve and Miss Stringer walking at Eve's side,
listening to the conversation of the two girls, she had felt when they
reached the deserted end of the esplanade and proposed turning round and
walking home, an uncontrollable desire to be alone, and had left them,
impatiently, without a word of excuse and gone on down the grey stone
steps and out among the deserted weed-grown sapphire-pooled chalk
hummocks at the foot of the cliffs. For a while she was chased by little
phrases from Miss Stringer's quiet talking--"if you want people to be
interested in you, you must be interested in them"; "you can get on with
everybody if you make up your mind to"--and by the memory of her
well-hung clothes and her quiet regular features spoilt by the nose that
Gerald said was old-maidish, and her portmanteau full of finery,
unpacked on the first-floor landing outside the tiny room she
occupied--piles of underlinen startlingly threaded with ribbons.

At the end of half an hour's thoughtless wandering over the weed-grown
rocks she found herself sitting on a little patch of dry silt at the end
of a promontory of sea-smoothed hummocks with the pools of bright
blue-green fringed water all about her watching the gentle rippling of
the retreating waves over the weedy lower levels. She seemed long to
have been listening and watching, her mind was full of things she felt
she would never forget, the green-capped white faces of the cliffs, a
patch of wet sand dotted with stiffly waiting seagulls, the more distant
wavelets ink black and golden pouring in over the distant hummocks, the
curious whispering ripples near her feet. She must go back. Her mind
slid out making a strange half-familiar compact with all these things.
She was theirs, she would remember them all, always. They were not alone
because she was with them and knew them. She had always known them she
reflected, remembering with a quick pang a long, unpermitted wandering
out over the cliff edge beyond Dawlish, the sun shining on pinkish sandy
scrub, the expression of the bushes; hurrying home with the big rough
spaniel that belonged to the house they had hired. She must have been
about six years old. She had gone back with a secret, telling them
nothing of the sunlight or the bushes, only of a strange lady, sitting
on the jetty as she came down over the sands, who had caught her in her
arms and horribly kissed her. She had forgotten the lady and been so
happy when she reached home that no one had scolded her. And when they
questioned her it seemed that there was only the lady to tell them
about. Her mother had looked at her and kissed her. And now she must go
back again, and say nothing. The strange promise, the certainty she felt
out here on the rocks must be taken back to the Brighton front and the
boarding-house. It would disappear as soon as she got back. Here on the
Brighton rocks it was not so strong as it had been in Dawlish. And it
would disappear more completely. There had been during the intervening
years holidays with Sarah and Eve and Harriett in seaside lodgings, over
which the curious conviction that possessed her now had spread like a
filmy veil. But now it would hardly ever come; there were always people
talking, the strangers one worked for, or the hard new people like Miss
Stringer, people who had a number of things they were always saying.

She tried to remember when the strange independent joy had begun and
thought she could trace it back to a morning in the garden at Babington,
the first thing she could remember, when she had found herself toddling
alone along the garden path between beds of flowers almost on a level
with her head and blazing in the sunlight. Bees with large bodies were
sailing heavily across the path from bed to bed, passing close by her
head and making a loud humming in the air. She could see the flowers
distinctly as she walked quickly back through the afternoon throng on
the esplanade; they were sweet williams and "everlasting" flowers, the
sweet williams smelling very strongly sweet in her nostrils, and one
sheeny brown everlasting flower that she had touched with her nose,
smelling like hot paper.


She wanted to speak to someone of these things. Until she could speak to
someone about them she must always be alone. Always quite alone, she
thought, looking out as she walked across the busy stretch of sea
between the two piers, dotted with pleasure boats. It would be
impossible to speak to anyone about them unless one felt perfectly sure
that the other person felt about them in the same way and knew that they
were more real than anything else in the world, knew that everything
else was a fuss about nothing. But everybody else seemed to be really
interested in the fuss. That was the extraordinary thing. Miss Meldrum
presiding at the boarding-house table with her white padded hair and her
white face and bright steady brown eyes, listening to everybody and
making jokes with everybody and keeping things going, sometimes looked
as if she knew it was all a pretence, but if you spoke to her she would
think you were talking about religion and would kiss you. She had
already kissed Miriam once--for playing accompaniments to the hymns on a
Sunday evening, and made her feel as if there were some sly secret
between them. If she played the hymns again she would play them stonily
... mother would look as she always did if you suddenly began to talk
anything about things in general as if you were going to make some
confession she had been waiting for all her life. Now, with the
operation and all the uncertainty ahead she would probably cry. She
would want to explain in some way, as she had done one day long ago; how
dreadful it had been ... mother, I never feel tired, not really tired,
and however I behave I always feel frightfully happy inside ... my
blessed chick, it's your splendid health--and the influence of the Holy
Spirit.... But I hate everybody.... What foolish nonsense. You mustn't
think such things. You will make yourself unpopular....

She must keep her secret to herself. This Brighton life crushed it back
more than anything there had been in Germany or at Banbury Park. In
Germany she had found it again and again, and at Banbury Park, though it
could never come out and surround her, it was never far off. It lurked
just beyond the poplars in the park, at the end of the little empty
garden at twilight, amongst the books in the tightly packed bookcase. It
was here, too, in and out the sunlit days. As one opened the door of the
large, sparely furnished breakfast-room it shone for a moment in the
light pouring over the table full of seated forms; it haunted the
glittering scattered sand round about the little blank platform where
the black and white minstrels stood singing in front of their harmonium,
and poured out across the blaze of blue and gold sea ripples, when the
town band played Anitra's Dance or the moon song from the Mikado; it lay
all along the deserted promenade and roadway as you went home to lunch,
and at night it spoke in the flump flump of the invisible sea against
the lower woodwork of the pier pavilion.


But every day at breakfast over the eggs, bacon and tomatoes--knowing
voices began their day's talking, the weary round of words and ugly
laughter went steadily on, narrow horrible sounds that made you feel
conscious of the insides of people's throats and the backs of their
noses--as if they were not properly formed. The talk was like a silly
sort of battle.... Innuendo, Miriam would say to herself, feeling that
the word was too beautiful for what she wanted to express; _double
entendre_ was also unsatisfactory. These people were all enemies
pretending to be friends. Why did they pretend? Why not keep quiet? Or
all sing between their eating, different songs, it would not matter. She
and Eve and Harriett and Gerald did sometimes hum the refrains of the
nigger minstrels' songs, or one of them would hum a scrap of a solo and
all three sing the chorus. Then people were quiet, listening and smiling
their evil smiles and Miss Meldrum was delighted. It seemed improper and
half-hearted as no one else joined in; but after the first few days the
four of them always sang between the courses at dinner. Gerald did not
seem to mind the chaffy talk and the vulgar jokes, and would generally
join in; and he said strange disturbing things about the boarders, as if
he knew all about them. And he and Harriett talked to the niggers too
and found out about them. It spoilt them when one knew that they
belonged to small London musical halls, and had wives and families and
illnesses and trouble. Gerald and Harriett did not seem to mind this.
They did not seem to mind anything out of doors. They were free and hard
and contemptuous of everyone except the niggers and a few very
stylish-looking people who sailed along and took no notice of anybody.
Gerald said extraordinary, disturbing things about the girls on the
esplanade. Miriam and Eve were interested in some of the young men they
saw. They talked about them and looked out for them. Sometimes they
exchanged glances with them. Were she and Eve also "on show"; waiting to
be given "half an inch"; would she or Eve be "perfectly awful in the
dark"? Did the young men they specially favoured with their notice say
things about them? When these thoughts buzzed about in Miriam's brain
she wanted to take a broom and sweep everybody into the sea.... She
discovered that a single steady unexpected glance, meeting her own, from
a man who had the right kind of bearing--something right about the set
of the shoulders--could disperse all the vague trouble she felt at the
perpetual spectacle of the strolling crowds, the stiffly waiting
many-eyed houses, the strange stupid bathing-machines, and send her
gaily forward in a glad world where there was no need to be alone in
order to be happy. A second encounter was sad, shameful, ridiculous; the
man became absurd and lost his dignity; the joyous sense of looking
through him right out and away to an endless perspective, of being told
that the endlessness was there and telling that the endlessness was
there had gone; the eyes were eyes, solid and mocking and helpless--to
be avoided in future; and when they had gone, the sunset or the curious
quivering line along the horizon were no longer gateways, but hard
barriers, until by some chance one was tranquilly alone again--when the
horizon would beckon and lift and the pathway of gold across the sea at
sunset call to your feet until they tingled and ached.

Life was ugly and cruel. The secret of the sea and of the evenings and
mornings must be given up. It would fade more and more. What was life?
Either playing a part all the time in order to be amongst people in the
warm or standing alone with the strange true real feeling--alone with a
sort of edge of reality on everything; even on quite ugly common
things--cheap boarding-houses face towels and blistered window frames.


Since Mr. Green and Mr. Parrow had left, they had given up going to pier
entertainments and had spent most of their time sitting in a close row
and talking together, in the intervals of the black and white minstrel
concerts and the performances of the town band. They had drifted into
this way of spending their time; there was never any discussion or
alteration of the day's programme. It worked like a charm and there was
no sign of the breaking of the charm. Miriam was sometimes half afraid
just as they settled themselves down that someone, probably Gerald or
Eve might say 'Funny, isn't it, how well we four get on,' and that
strange power that held them together and kept everything away would be
broken before the holiday came to an end. But no one did and they went
on sitting together in the morning on the hot sand--the moving living
glinting sand that took the sting as soon as you touched it with your
hand out of everything there might be in the latest letter from
home--hearing the niggers from ten to eleven, bathing from eleven to
twelve, sitting afterwards fresh and tingling and drowsy in canopied
chairs near the band until dinner-time, prowling and paddling in the
afternoon and ranging themselves again in chairs for the evening.

They said nothing until almost the end of their time about the passage
of the days; but they looked at each other, each time they settled down,
with conspiring smiles and then sat, side by side, less visible to each
other than the great sunlit sea or the great clean salt darkness,
stranded in a row with four easy idle laughing commenting voices, away
alone and safe in the gaiety of the strong forgetful air--talking things
over. The far-away troublesome crooked things, all cramped and painful
and puzzling came out one by one and were shaken and tossed away along
the clean wind. And there was so much for Gerald to hear. He wanted to
hear everything--any little thing--"Just like a girl; it's awfully jolly
for Harry he's like that. She'll never be lonely," agreed Miriam and Eve
privately.... "He's a perfect dear." One night towards the end of their
time they talked of the future. It had begun to press on them. There
seemed no more time for brooding even over Eve's fascinating little
pictures of life in the big country house, or Miriam's stories and
legends of Germany--she said very little about Banbury Park fearing the
amazement and disgust of the trio if anything of the reality of North
London should reach them through her talk and guessing the impossibility
of their realising the Pernes--or Gerald's rich memories of the opulence
of his early home life, an atmosphere of spending and operas and
banquets and receptions and distinguished people. During the evening, in
a silent interval, just as the band was tuning up to begin its last
tune, Gerald had said with quiet emphasis, "Well, anyhow, girls, you
mark my words the old man won't make any more money. Not another penny.
You may as well make up your minds to that." Then the band had broken
into their favourite Hungarian dance. Three of them sat blissfully back
in their deck chairs, but Miriam remained uncomfortably propped forward,
eagerly thinking. The music rushed on, she saw dancers shining before
her in wild groups, in the darkness, leaping and shouting, their feet
scarcely touching the earth and a wild light darted about them as they
shouted and leapt. "Set Mirry up in some sort of business," quoted her
mind from one of Gerald's recent soliloquies. She knew that she did not
want that. But the dancing forms told her of the absurdity of going back
without protest to the long aching days of teaching in the little school
amongst those dreadful voices which were going, whatever she did for
them, to be dreadful all their lives. Nothing she could do would make
any difference to them. They did not want her. They were quite happy.
Her feelings and thoughts, her way of looking at things, her desire for
space and beautiful things and music and quietude would never be their
desire. Reverence for things--had she reverence? She felt she must have
because she knew they had not; even the old people; only superstition
... North London would always be North London, hard, strong, sneering,
money-making, noisy and trammy. Perhaps the difference between the north
and the south and her own south-west of London was like the difference
between the north and the south of England.... Green's "History of the
English People" ... spinning-jennys began in the Danish north, hard and
cold, with later sunsets. In the south was Somersetshire lace. North
London meant twenty pounds a year and the need for resignation and
determination every day. Eve had thirty-five pounds and a huge garden
and new books and music ... a book called "Music and Morals" and
interesting people staying in the house. And Eve had not been to Germany
and could not talk French. "You are an idiot to go on doing it. It's
wrong. Lazy," laughed the dancers crowding and flinging all round her.
"I ought," she responded defiantly, "to stay on and make myself into a
certificated teacher." "Certificated?" they screamed wildly sweeping
before her in strange lines of light. "If you do you will be like Miss
Cramp. Certificates--little conceited papers, and you dead. Certificates
would finish you off--Kill--Kill--Kill--_Kill_--_Kill!!_" Bang. The band
stopped and Miriam felt the bar of her chair wounding her flesh. The
trail of the dancers flickered away across the sea and her brain was
busily dictating her letter to Miss Perne: "and therefore I am obliged,
however reluctantly, to take this step, as it is absolutely necessary
for me to earn a larger salary at once."

                               CHAPTER IX


The Henderson party found Mr. Green and Mr. Parrow waiting in the dim
plank-floored corridor leading from the station to the main building of
the Crystal Palace. When the quiet greetings were over and they had
arranged a meeting-place at the end of the evening in case any of the
party should be lost, they all tramped on up the resounding corridor.
Miriam found herself bringing up the rear with Mr. Parrow. They were
going on up the corridor, through the Palace and out into the summer
evening. They had all come to go out into the summer evening and see the
fireworks. All but she had come meaning to get quite near to the 'set
pieces' and to look at them. She had not said anything about meaning to
get as far away from the fireworks as possible. She had been trusting to
Mr. Parrow for that. Now that she was with him she felt that perhaps it
was not quite fair. He had come meaning to see the fireworks. He would
be disappointed. She would be obliged to tell him presently, when they
got out into the night. They were all tramping quickly up along the
echoing corridor. No one seemed to be talking, just feet, tramp, tramp
on the planking, rather quickly. It was like the sound of workmen's feet
on the inside scaffolding of a half-built house. The corridor was like
something in the Hospital for Incurables ... that strange old woman
sitting in the hall with bent head laughing over her crochet, and Miss
Garrett whom they had come to see sitting up in bed, a curtained bed in
a ward, with a pleated mob cap all over the top of her head and half-way
down her forehead, sitting back against large square pillows with her
hands clasped on the neat bed-clothes and a "sweet, patient" look on her
face, coughing gently and spitting, spitting herself to death ...
rushing away out of the ward to wait for mother downstairs in the hall
with the curious smells and the dreadful old woman.... What was it,
chick?... Sick, mother, I felt sick, I couldn't stay. It was rage; rage
with that dreadful old woman. People probably told her she was patient
and sweet, and she had got that trick of putting her head on one side.
She was not sweet. She was one of the worst of those dreadful people who
would always make people believe in a particular way, all the time. She
had a great big frame. If she had done anything but sit as she sat, in
that particular way, one could have stayed.

They were all standing looking at some wonderful sort of clock, a
calendar-clock--'a triumph of ingenuity,' said Mr. Green's bright reedy
voice. The building had opened out and rushed up, people were passing to
and fro. "We don't want to stay inside; let's go out," said Gerald. The
group broke into couples again and passed on. Miriam found herself with
Mr. Parrow once more. Of course she would be with him all the evening.
She must tell him at once about the fireworks. She ought not to have
come, if she did not mean to see the fireworks. It was mean and feeble
to cheat him out of his evening. Why had she come; to wander about with
him, not seeing the fireworks. What an idiotic and abominable thing. Now
that she was here at his side it was quite clear that she must endure
the fireworks. Anything else would be like asking him to wander about
with her alone. She did not want to wander about with him alone. She
took an opportunity of joining Eve for a moment. They had just walked
through a winter garden and were standing at the door of a concert room,
all quite silent and looking very shy. "Eve," she said hurriedly in a
low tone, "d'you want to see the beastly fireworks?"

"Beastly? Oh, of course, I do," said Eve in a rather loud embarrassed
tone. How dreadfully self-conscious they all were. Somebody seemed to be
speaking. "What _sticks_ my family are--I had no idea," muttered Miriam
furiously into Eve's face. Eve's eyes filled with tears, but she stood
perfectly still, saying nothing. Miriam wheeled round and stared into
the empty concert room. It was filled with a faint bluish light and
beyond the rows of waiting chairs and the empty platform a huge organ
stood piled up towards the roof. The party were moving on. What a queer
place the Crystal Palace is ... what a perfectly horrible place for a
concert ... pianissimo passages and those feet on those boards tramping
about outside.... What a silly muddle. Mr. Parrow was waiting for her to
join the others. They straggled along past booths and stalls, meeting
groups of people, silent and lost like themselves. Now they were passing
some kind of stonework things, reliefs, antique, roped off like the
seats in a church. Just in front of them a short man holding the red
cord in his hands was looking at a group with some ladies. "_Why_," he
said suddenly in a loud cheerful voice, stretching an arm out across the
rope and pointing to one of the reliefs, "it's Auntie and Grandma!"
Miriam stared at him as they passed, he was so short, shorter than any
of the ladies he was with. "It's the only way to see these things," he
said in the same loud harsh cheerful voice. Miriam laughed aloud. What a
clever man.

"Do you like statues?" said Mr. Parrow in a low gentle tone.

"I don't know anything about them," said Miriam.

"I can't bear fireworks," she said hurriedly.

They were in the open at last. In the deepening twilight many people
were going to and fro. In the distance soft dark masses of trees stood
out against the sky in every direction. Not far away the ghostly frames
of the set pieces reared against the sky made the open evening seem as
prison-like as the enclosure they had just left. Round about the
scaffolding of these pieces dense little crowds were collecting.

"Don't you want to see the fireworks?"

"I want to get away from them."

"All right, we'll get lost at once."

"It isn't," she explained a little breathlessly, in relief, suddenly
respecting him, allowing him to thread a way for her through the
increasing crowd towards the open evening, "that I don't want to see the
fireworks, but I simply can't stand the noise."

"I see," laughed Mr. Parrow gently. They were making towards the open
evening along a narrow gravel pathway, like a garden pathway. Miriam
hurried a little, fearing that the fireworks might begin before they got
to a safe distance.

"I never have been able to stand a sudden noise. It's torture to me to
walk along a platform where a train may suddenly shriek."

"I see. You're afraid of the noise."

"It isn't fear--I can't describe it. It's agony. It's like pain. But
much much worse than pain. It's--it's--annihilating."

"I see; that's very peculiar."

Their long pathway was leading them towards a sweet-scented density, dim
bowers and leafy arches appeared just ahead.

"It was much worse even than it is now when I was a little thing. When
we went to the seaside I used to sit in the train nearly dead until it
had screamed and started. And there was a teacher who sneezed--a noise
like a hard scream--at school. She used to go on sneezing--twenty times
or so. I was only six and I dreaded going to school just for that. Once
I cried and they took me out of the room. I've never told anyone. Nobody

"You've told me."


"It's very interesting. You shan't go anywhere near the fireworks."


A large rosy flare, wavering steadily against the distant trees showed
up for a moment the shapes and traceries of climbing plants surrounding
their retreat. A moment afterwards with a dull boom a group of white
stars shot up into the air and hovered, melting one by one as the crowd
below moaned and crackled its applause.

Miriam laughed abruptly. "That's jolly. How clever people are. But it's
much better up here. It's like not being too near at the theatre."

"I think we've got the best view certainly."

"But we shall miss the set pieces."

"The people down there won't see the rosary."

"What's that black thing on our left down there?"

"That's the toboggan run. We ought to go on that."

"What is it like?"

"It's fine; you just rush down. We must try it."

"Not for worlds."

Mr. Parrow laughed. "Oh you must try the toboggan; there's no noise
about that."

"I really couldn't."


"Absolutely. I mean it. Nothing under the sun would induce me to go on a

They sat watching the fireworks until they were tired of the whistling
rockets, showers of stars and golden rain, the flaming bolts that shot
up from the Battle of the Nile, the fizzlings and fire spurtings of the
set pieces and the recurrent moanings and faint patterings of applause
from the crowd.

"I wish they'd do some more coloured flares of light up the trees like
they did at first. It was beautiful--more real than these things. 'Feu
d'artifice' artificial fire--all these noisy things. Why do people
always like a noise? Men. All the things men have invented, trains and
cannons and things make a frightful noise."

"The toboggan's not noisy. Come and try the toboggan."

"Oh no."

"Well--there's the lake down there. We might have a boat."

"Do you know how to manage a boat?"

"I've been on once or twice; if you like to try I'll manage."

"No; it's too dark." What a plucky man. But the water looked cold. And
perhaps he would be really stupid.

A solitary uniformed man was yawning and whistling at the top of the
deserted toboggan run. The faint light of a lamp fell upon the square
platform and the little sled standing in place at the top of a shiny
slope which shot steeply down into blackness.

"We'd better get on," said Miriam trembling.

"Well, you're very graceful at giving in," remarked Mr. Parrow, handing
her into the sled and settling with the man.

He got that sentence out of a book, thought Miriam wildly as she heard
the man behind them say "Ready? Off you go!" ... Out of a book a book a
book--_Oh_--_ooooh_--how ab_solutely_ glorious, she yelled as they shot
down through the darkness. _Oh_, she squealed into the face laughing and
talking beside her. She turned away, shouting, for the final rush, they
were flying--involuntarily her hand flung out, they were tearing
headlong into absolute darkness, and was met and firmly clasped. They
shot slackening up a short incline and stood up still hand in hand,
laughing incoherently.

"Let's walk back and try again," said Mr. Parrow.

"Oh no; I enjoyed it most frightfully; but we mustn't go again. Besides,
it must be fearfully late."

She pulled at her hand. The man was too near and too big. His hand was
not a bit uncertain like his speech, and for a moment she was glad that
she pulled in vain. "Very well," said Mr. Parrow, "but we must find our
way off the grass and strike the pathway." Drawing her gently along, he
peered about for the track. "Let me go," said her hand dragging gently
at his. "No" said the firm enclosure, tightening "not yet." What does it
matter? flashed her mind. Why should I be such a prude? The hand gave
her confidence. It was firm and strong and perfectly serious. It was a
hand like her own hand and comfortingly strange and different. Gently
and slowly he guided her over the dewy grass. The air that had rushed so
wildly by them a few minutes ago was still and calm and friendly; the
distant crowd harmless and insignificant. The fireworks were over. The
pathway they had missed appeared under their feet and down it they
walked soberly, well apart, but still hand in hand until they reached
the borders of the dispersing crowd.

                               CHAPTER X


When Miriam sat talking everything over with the Pernes at supper, on
the first night of the term, detached for ever from the things that
engrossed them, the school-work, Julia Doyle's future, the peculiarities
of the visiting teachers, the problem of the "unnatural infatuation" of
two of the boarders with each other, the pros and cons of a
revolutionary plan for taking the girls in parties to the principal
London museums, she made the most of her triumphant assertion that she
had absolutely nothing in view. She found herself decorously waiting,
armed at all points, through the silent interval while the Pernes took
in the facts of her adventurous renunciation. She knew at once that she
would have to be desperately determined.... But after all they could not
do anything with her.

Sitting there, in the Perne boat, still taking an oar and determined to
fling herself into the sea ... she ought not to have told them she was
leaving them just desperately, without anything else in prospect;
because they were so good, not like employers. They would all feel for
her. It was just like speaking roughly at home. Well, it was done. She
glanced about. Miss Haddie, across the table behind her habitual bowl of
bread and milk had a face--the face of a child surprised by injustice.
'I was right--I was right,' Miriam gasped to herself as the light flowed
in. 'I'm escaping--just in time.... Emotional tyranny.... What a good
expression ... that's the secret of Miss Haddie. It was awful. She's
lost me. I'm free. Emotional tyranny.' ... 'My hat, Mirry, you're beyond
me. How much do you charge for that one. Say it again,' she seemed to
hear Gerald's friendly voice. Go away Gerald. True. True. All the truth
and meaning of her friendship with Miss Haddie in one single flash. How
_fearfully_ interesting life was. Miss Haddie wrestling with her,
fighting for her soul; praying for her, almost driving her to the early
service and always ready to quiver over her afterwards and to ask her if
she had been happy.... And now angry because she was escaping.

She appealed to Miss Deborah and met a flash of her beautiful soft
piercing eyes. Her delicate features quivered and wrinkled almost to a
smile. But Miss Deborah was afraid of Miss Jenny who was already
thinking and embarking on little sounds. Miriam got away for a moment in
a tumult, with Miss Deborah. 'Oh,' she shouted to her in the depths of
her heart, 'you are heavenly young. You _know_. Life's like Robinson
Crusoe. Your god's a great big Robinson Crusoe. You know that anything
may happen any minute. And it's all right.' She laughed and shook
staring at the salt-cellar and then across at Miss Haddie whose eyes
were full of dark fear. Miss Haddie was alone and outraged. 'She thinks
I'm a fraud besides being vulgar ... life goes on and she'll wonder and
wonder about me puzzled and alone.' ... She smiled at her her broadest,
happiest, home smile, one she had never yet reached at Banbury Park.
Flushing scarlet Miss Haddie smiled in return.

"Eh--my dear girl," Miss Jenny was saying diffidently at her side,
"isn't it a little unwise--very unwise--under the circumstances--with
the difficulties--well, in fact with all ye've just told us--have ye
thought?" When Miriam reached her broad smile Miss Jenny stopped and
suddenly chuckled. "My _dear_ Miriam! I don't know. I suppose we don't
know ye. I suppose we haven't really known ye as ye are. But come, have
ye thought it out? No, ye haven't," she ended gravely, looking along the
table and flicking with her forefinger the end of her little red nose.

Miriam glanced at her profile and her insecure disorderly bunch of hair.
Miss Jenny was formidable. She would recommend certificates. Her eye
wavered towards Miss Deborah.

"My dear Jenny," said Miss Deborah promptly, "Miriam is not a child. She
must do as she thinks best."

"But don't ye see my point, my dear Deborah? I don't say she's a child.
She's a madcap. That's it." She paused. "Of course I daresay she'll fall
on her feet. Ye're a most extraordinary gel. I don't know. Of course ye
can come _back_--or stay here in yer holidays. Ye know _that_, my dear,"
she concluded, suddenly softening her sharp little voice.

"I don't _want_ to go," cried Miriam with tear-filled eyes. They were
one person in the grip of a decision. Miss Haddie sat up and moved her
elbows about. All four pairs of eyes held tears.

"My dear--I wish we could give ye more, Miriam," murmured Miss Jenny;
"we don't want to lose ye, ye've pulled the lower school together in a
remarkable way"; Miss Deborah was drawing little breaths of protest at
this descent into gross detail; "the children are interested. We hear
that from the parents. We shall be able to give ye excellent

"Oh, I don't care about that," responded Miriam desperately.
'Fancy--Great Scott--parents--behind all my sore throats--I've never
heard about that. It's all coming out now,' she thought.

"Well--my dear--now----" began Miss Jenny hesitatingly. Feeling herself
slipping, Miriam clung harshly to her determination and drew herself up
to offer the set of the pretty blouse Gerald and Harriett had bought her
in Brighton as a seal on her irrevocable decision to break with Banbury
Park. It was a delicate sheeny green silk, with soft tuckers.

"What steps have ye taken?" asked Miss Jenny in a quizzical
business-like tone.

"It's very kind of you," said Miriam formally, and went on to hint
vaguely and convincingly at the existence of some place in a family in
the country that would be sure to fall to her lot through the many
friends to whom Eve had written on her behalf, turning away from the
feast towards the freedom of the untenanted part of the room. The
sitting had to be brought to an end.... In a moment she would be utterly
routed.... Her lame statements were the end of the struggle. She knew
she was demonstrating in her feeble broken tones a sort of blind
strength they knew nothing of and that they would leave it at that,
whatever they thought, if only there were no more talk.


When they had left the room and Flora came in for the supper things,
instead of sitting as usual at the far end of the table pretending to
read, she stood planted on the hearthrug watching her. Flora's hands
were small and pale and serenely despairing like her face. She cleared
the table quietly. She had nothing to hope for. She did not know she had
nothing to hope for. Whatever happened she would go quietly on doing
things ... in the twilight ... on a sort of edge. People would die.
Perhaps people had already died in her family. But she would always be
the same. One day she would die, perhaps of something hard and slow and
painful with that small yellowish constitution.

She would not be able to go on looking serene and despairing with people
round her bed helping her. When she died she would wait quietly with
nothing to do, blind and wondering. Death would take her into a great
festival--things for her for herself. She would not believe it and would
put up her hands to keep it off. But it would be all round her in great
laughter, like the deep roaring and crying of a flood. Then she would
cry like a child.

Why was it that for some people, for herself, life could be happy now.
It was possible now to hear things laugh just by setting your teeth and
doing things; breaking into things, chucking things about, refusing to
be held. It made even the dreadful past seem wonderful. All the days
here, the awful days, each one awful and hateful and painful.

Flora had gathered up her tray and disappeared, quietly closing the
door. But Flora had known and somehow shared her triumph, felt her
position in the school as she stood planted and happy in the middle of
the Pernes' hearthrug.


"An island is a piece of land entirely surrounded by water."

Miriam kept automatically repeating these words to herself as the newly
returned children clung about her the next morning in the schoolroom. It
was a morning of heavy wind and rain and the schoolroom was dark, and
chilly with its summer-screened fireplace. The children seemed to her
for the first time small and pathetic. She was deserting them. After
fifteen months of strange intimacy she was going away for ever.

During the usual routine days the little girls always seemed large and
formidable. She was quite sure they were not so to the other teachers,
and she hesitated when she thought over this difference, between the
explanation which accounted for their size and redoubtableness by her
own feebleness and the one to which she inclined when she felt her
success as a teacher.

She had discovered that the best plan was to stand side by side with the
children in face of the things they had to learn, treating them as
equals and fellow-adventurers, giving explanations when these were
necessary, as if they were obvious and might have been discovered by the
children themselves, never as if they were possessions of her own, to be
imparted, never claiming a knowledge superior to their own. 'The
business of the teacher is to make the children independent, to get them
to think for themselves, and that's much more important than whether
they get to know facts,' she would say irrelevantly to the Pernes
whenever the question of teaching came up. She bitterly resented their
vision of children as malleable subordinates. And there were many
moments when she seemed to be silently exchanging this determination of
hers with her pupils. Good or bad, she knew it was the secret of her
influence with them, and so long as she was faithful to it both she and
they enjoyed their hours together. Very often she was tired, feeble with
fatigue and scamping all opportunities; this too they understood and
never took advantage of her. One or two of them would even when she
failed try to keep things going on her own method. All this was sheer
happiness to her, the bread and wine of her days.

But now and again, perhaps during the mid-morning recess, this
impersonal relationship gave way and the children clung fawning all
round her, passionately competing for nearness, touching and clinging
and snatching for kisses. There was no thought or uprightness or
laughter then, their hands were quick and eloquent and their eyes wide
and deeply smiling with those strange women's smiles. Sometimes she
could respond in kind, answering to their smiles and caresses, making
gentle foolish sounds and feeling their passion rise to a frenzy of
adoration. The little deprecating consoling sounds that they made as
they clung told her that if she chose steadily to remain always gentle
and deprecating and consoling and reproachful she could dominate them as
persons and extort in the long run a complete personal obedience to
herself, so that they would do their work for her sake and live by and
through her, adoring her--as a goddess--and hating her. Even as they
fawned she knew they were fighting between their aching desire for a
perfection of tenderness in her and their fear lest she should fulfil
the desire. She was always tempted for an instant to yield and fling
herself irrevocably into the abyss, letting the children go on one by
one into the upper school, carrying as her gift only a passionate memory
such as she herself had for one of her nursemaids; leaving her
downstairs with an endless succession of new loves, different, but
always the same. She would become like a kind of nun, making a bare
subsistence, but so beloved always, so quivering and tender and
responsive that human love would never fail her, and when strength
failed there would be hands held out to shelter her decline. But the
vision never held her for more than a moment. There was something in the
thought of such pure personal sentiment that gave her a feeling of
treachery towards the children. Mentally she flung them out and off,
made them stand upright and estranged. She could not give them personal
love. She did not want to; nor to be entangled with them. They were
going to grow up into North London women, most of them loudly scorning
everything that was not materially profitable; these would remember her
with pity--amusement. A few would escape. These would remember her at
strange moments that were coming for them, moments when they would
recognise the beauty of things like 'the Psalm of Life' that she had
induced them to memorise without understanding it.

This morning a sense of their softness and helplessness went to her
heart. She had taught them so little. But she had forced them to be
impersonal. Almost savagely she had done that. She had never taken them
by a trick....


And now they were going to be Julia's children.

Julia would teach them--alone there in the room with them, filling the
room for them--in her own way....

There would be no more talk about general ideas....

She would have to keep on the "object" lessons, because the Pernes had
been so pleased with the idea and the children had liked them. There
would still be those moments, with balls for the solar system and a
candle for the sun, and the blinds down. But there would not be anything
like that instant when all the eyes round the table did nothing but
watch the movement of a shadow on a ball ... the relief afterwards, the
happiness and the moment of intense love in the room--never to be
forgotten, all of them knowing each other, all their differences gone
away, even the clever watchful eyes of the cheating little Jewess, real
and unconscious for a moment. Julia would be watching the children as
much as the shadow, and the children would never quite forget Julia. She
would get to know a great deal about the children, but there would be no
reverence for big cold outside things. She would teach them to be kind.
"Little dorlings." She thought all children were darlings and talked to
them all in her wheedling, coaxing, adoring way. If one or two were not,
it was the fault of the way they were treated, something in the
'English' way of dealing with them. Nearly all the elder girls she
disapproved of, they were no longer children--they were English. She was
full of contempt and indignant laughter for them, and of pity for the
'wee things' who were growing up. Yet she got on with them all and had
the secret of managing them without letting them see her feelings.

There _was_ something specially bad in the English way of bringing up
children. Not the 'education' exactly, but something else, something in
the way they were treated. Something in the way they were brought up
made English women so awful--with their smiles. Julia did not smile or
smirk. She laughed a great deal, often to tears. And she would often
suddenly beam. It was like a light coming from under her thick white
skin. Was Julia the answer to the awfulness of Englishwomen? If, as
Julia said, the children were all right and only the girls and grown-ups
awful, it must be something in the way the children were treated.


Yet Julia was not impersonal.

Miss Deborah, ... teaching the whole school to be 'good' in the
Fairchild way; with her beautiful quivering nodding black head held
high--blinking, and not looking at the girls separately--in a grave
voice, full of Scripture history, but broken all the time, quivering
with laughter and shoutings which she never uttered ... hilarious, ...
she taught a system of things she had been brought up in. But all the
same, she rushed along sweeping the girls with her ... and the girls
believed her. If I taught her system I should have false lips and the
girls would not believe me. If ever anyone had the courage to tell her
of any dreadful thing, she would weep it all away; and the person would
begin all over again certainly, as much as possible in the Fairchild way
... again and again until they died. Supposing a murderer came and sat
down in the hall? Supposing Miss Deborah had been brought up as a
Thug--killing people from behind?...

Miss Jenny, exasperatedly trying to wake all the girls up to the
importance of public life, sitting round in their blouses and skirts,
half-amused and sometimes trying to argue, because the tone of Miss
Jenny's voice made them sorry for the other side. Politics, politics,
reading history and the newspapers, the importance of history if you
wanted to have any understanding of your own times. To come into the
room to take the class after Miss Jenny always meant finding her stating
and protesting and tapping the end of her nose, and the air hot and
excited, and the girls in some sort of state of excitement which could
only be got over by being very quiet and pretending not to notice them
except to be very surprised if there were any disturbance.

Miss Haddie, in horror of their badness, teaching them to master little
set tasks because it was shocking to be an idler; loving the sinner but
hating the sin much more, with a sort of horror like a girl, a horror in
her eyes that was the same as the horror of insects, fearing God who was
so close in the room, gloomily, all the time--wanting to teach them all
to fawn on Christ. Christ would make everything all right if you made up
to him. "Faint not nor fear, his arms are near. He faileth not and thou
art dear." Awful....

And then Julia, making the children love her, herself, as a person. They
would all love her in time. Even Burra after her first grief would fling
herself upon Julia.... Gertie would not though, ever. Cold, quiet little
Gertie, the doctor's daughter. She would make no response however much
she were kissed and called a little darling. Gertie even as a child was
the English thing that Julia disliked. Julia, with all her success was
not the answer to the problem of why Englishwomen were abominable. She
left out so much. "Julia, you know, I think things are more important
than people. Much more. People, if you let them for one single instant,
grin and pounce upon you and try to make you forget things. But they're
there all the time and you have to go back to them," and Julia laughing
suddenly aloud, "Ah--you're a duck--a tonic." And everyone was a little
afraid of Julia, the children, the boarders whom she managed so
high-handedly with her laughter, even the Pernes.


Perhaps Julia's 'personal' way and the English 'personal' way were
somehow both wrong and horrid ... girls' schools were horrid, bound to
be horrid, sly, mean, somehow tricky and poisonous. It was a hopeless
problem. The English sentimental way was wrong, the way of Englishwomen
with children--it made them grow up with those treacherous smiles.

The scientific and 'æsthetic' way, the way of the Putney school--ah,
blessed escape!... But it left nearly all the girls untouched.

Julia's sentimental way was better than the English sentimental way; its
smiles had tears and laughter too, they were not so hypocritical. But it
was wrong. It was the strongest thing though in the Wordsworth House


Julia was not happy. She dreamed fearful dreams.... Why did she speak of
them as if they were something that no one in this English world into
which she had come would understand? She had her strange nights all to
herself there across the landing; either lying awake or sleeping and
moaning all the time. The girls in her room slept like rocks and did not
know that she moaned. They knew she had nightmares and sometimes cried
out and woke them. But passing the open door late at night one could
hear her moaning softly on every breath with closed lips. That was
Julia, her life, all laid bare, moaning.... She knows she is alive and
that there is no escape from being alive. But it has never made her feel
breathless with joy. She laughs all day, at everybody and everything,
and at night when she is naked and alone she moans; moan, moan, moan,
heart-broken; wind and rain alone in the dark in a great open space.

She sometimes hinted at things, those real unknown things that were her
own life unshared by anybody; in a low soft terrible broken voice, with
eyes dilated and quivering lips; quite suddenly, with hardly any words.
And she would speak passionately about the sea, how she hated it and
could not look at it or listen to it; and of woods, the horror of woods,
the trees and the shadowiness, making her crisp her hands--ah yes, _les
mains crispées_, that was the word; and she had laughed when it was
explained to her.

It was not that she had troubles at home. Those things she seemed to
find odd and amusing, like a story of the life of some other
person--poverty and one of her sisters 'very peculiar,' another engaged
to a scamp and another going to be a shop-assistant, and two more,
'doties' very young, being brought up in the country with an aunt.
Everything that happened to people and all the things people did seemed
to her funny and amusing, "tickled her to death." Harriett's engagement
amused her really, though she pretended to be immensely interested and
asked numbers of questions in a rich deep awe-struck voice ...
blarney.... But she wanted to hear everything, and she never forgot
anything she was told. And she had been splendid about the
operation--really anxious, quite conscious and awake across the landing
that awful night and really making you feel she was glad afterwards.
"Poor Mrs. Henderson--I was never so glad in my life"--and always
seeming to know her without having her explained. She was real there,
and so strange in telling the Pernes about it and making it all easy.


Miriam leaned upon Julia more and more as the term went on, hating and
fearing her for her secret sorrow and wondering and wondering why she
appeared to have such a curious admiration and respect for herself. She
could understand her adoration for the Pernes; she saw them as they were
and had a phrase which partly explained them, "no more knowledge of the
world than babes"--but what was it in herself that Julia seemed so
fiercely and shyly to admire?

She knew she could not let Julia know how she enjoyed washing her hands,
in several soapings, in the cold water, before dinner. They would go
their favourite midday walk, down the long avenue in the park through
the little windings of the shrubbery and into the chrysanthemum show,
strolling about in the large green-house, all the girls glad of the
escape from a set walk, reading over every day the strange names on the
little wooden stakes, jokes and gigglings and tiresomenesses all kept
within bounds by the happiness that there was, inside the great quiet
steamy glass-house, in the strange raw bitter scent of the great
flowers, in the strange huge way they stood, and with all their
differences of shape and colour staring quietly at you, all in the same
way with one expression. They were startling, amongst their grey leaves;
and they looked startled and held their heads as if they knew they were
beautiful. The girls always hurried to get to the chrysanthemums and
came away all of them walking in twos relieved and happy back through
the cold park to dinner. But Julia, who loved the flowers, though she
made fun of their names in certain moods and dropped them _sotto voce_
into the general conversation at the dinner-table would have, Miriam
felt sure, scorned her own feeling of satisfaction in the great
hand-washing and the good dinner. And she detested pease pudding with
the meat, and boiled suet pudding with treacle.


She ate scarcely anything herself, keeping her attention free and always
seeming to be waiting for someone to say something that was never said.
Her broad-shouldered, curiously buoyant, heavy, lounging, ill-clad form,
her thick white skin, her eyes like a grey-blue sea, her dark masses of
fine hair had long been for Miriam the deepest nook in the meal-time
gatherings--she rested there unafraid of anything the boarders might say
or do. She would never be implicated. Julia would take care of that,
heading everything off and melting up the difficulties into some
absurdity that would set all the Pernes talking. Julia lounged easily
there, controlling the atmosphere of the table. And the Pernes knew it
unconsciously, they must know it; any English person would know it ...
though they talked about her untidiness and lack of purpose and
application. Julia was a deep, deep nook, full of thorns.


Julia had spoiled the news of Sarah's engagement to Bennett Brodie. It
had been such a wonderful moment. The thick envelope coming at midday in
Bennett's hand-writing--such a surprise--asking Miss Perne's permission
to read it at the dinner-table--reading the startling sentences in the
firm curved hand--'assert my privilege as your prospective
brother-in-law by announcing that I'm on the track of a job that I think
will suit you down to the ground,' the curious splash, gravy on the
cloth as somebody put the great dish on the table, far-away vexation and
funny familiar far-away discomfort all round the table, 'no more of this
until I've got full particulars on the tapis; but it may, oh Grecian
Mariamne, not be without interest to you to hear that that sister of
yours does not appear to be altogether averse to taking over the
management of the new house and the new practice and the new
practitioner, and that the new practitioner is hereby made anew in a
sense that is more of an amazement to him than it doubtless will be to
your intuitive personality. That life had such happiness in store for
him is not the least of the many surprises that have come his way. He
can only hope to prove not unworthy; and so a hearty au revoir from
yours affectionately.' ... Then Bennett would always be there amongst
the home things ... with his strange way of putting things; he would
give advice and make suggestions ... and Sarah's letter ... a glance at
it showing short sentences, things spoken in a low awe-struck voice....
'We had been to an entertainment together.... Coming home along the
avenue. I was so surprised. He was so quiet and serious and humble.' ...
All the practical things gone away in a moment, leaving only a sound of
deep music, ... mornings and evenings. Sarah alone now, at last, a
person, with mornings and evenings and her own reality in everything. No
one could touch her or interfere any more. She was standing aside,
herself. She would always be Sarah, someone called Sarah. She need never
worry any more, but go on doing things.... And then looking up and
finding all the table eagerly watching and saying suddenly to Miss Perne
'another of my sisters is engaged' and everybody, even Trixie and
Beadie, excited and interested.


The news, the great great news, wonderful Sarah away somewhere in the
background with her miracle--telling it out to the table of women was a
sort of public announcement that life was moving out on to wider levels.
They all knew it, pinned there; and how dear and glad they were, for a
moment, making it real, acknowledging by their looks how wonderful it
was. Sarah, floating above them all, caught up out of the darkness of
everyday life.... And then Julia's eyes--veiled for a moment while she
politely stirred and curved her lips to a smile--cutting through it all,
seeming to say that nothing was really touched or changed. But when the
table had turned to jealousy and resentment and it was time to pretend
to hide the shaft of light and cease to listen to the music, Julia, cool
and steady, covered everything up and made conversation.


And the thought of Julia was always a disturbance in going to tea with
the Brooms. Grace Broom was the only girl in the school for whom she had
an active aversion. She put one or two questions about them, 'You really
like going there?' 'You'll go on seeing them after you leave?' and
concluded carelessly 'that's a mystery to me----'

Sitting at tea shut in in the Brooms' little dining-room with the blinds
down and the dark red rep curtains drawn and the gas-light and brilliant
fire-light shining on the brilliantly polished davenport in the
window-space and the thick bevelled glass of the Satsuma-laden mahogany
sideboard, the dim cracked oil-painting of Shakespeare above the
mantel-shelf, the dark old landscapes round the little walls, the new
picture of Queen Victoria leaning on a stick and supported by Hindu
servants, receiving a minister, the solid silver tea-service, the fine
heavily edged linen table-cover, the gleaming, various, delicately
filled dishes, the great bowl of flowers, the heavy, carven, unmoved,
age-long dreaming faces of the three women with their living interested
eyes, she would suddenly, in the midst of a deep, calm undisturbing
silence become aware of Julia. Julia would not be impressed by the
surroundings, the strange silent deeps of the room. She would discover
only that she was with people who revered "our Queen" and despised "the
working classes." It would be no satisfaction to her to sit drinking
from very exquisite old china, cup after cup of delicious very hot tea,
laughing to tears over the story of the curate who knelt insecurely on a
high kneeling stool at evening service in a country church and crashing
suddenly down in the middle of a long prayer went on quietly intoning
from the floor, or the madeira cake that leapt from the cake-dish on an
at-home day and rolled under the sofa. She would laugh, but she would
look from face to face, privately, and wonder. She would not really like
the three rather dignified seated forms with the brilliant, tear-filled
eyes, sitting on over tea, telling anecdotes, and tales of long strange
illnesses suffered by strange hidden people in quiet houses, weddings,
deaths, the stories of families separated for life by quarrels over
money, stories of far-off holidays in the country; strange sloping rooms
and farmhouse adventures; the cow that walked into the bank in a little
country town.... Mrs. Philps' first vision, as a bride, of the English
Lakes, the tone of her voice as she talked about all these things.

The getting together and sitting about and laughing in the little room
would never be to her like being in a world that was independent of all
the other worlds. She would not want to go again and again and sit, just
the four women, at tea, talking. The silent, beautifully kept,
experienced old furniture all over the house would not fill her with
fear and delight and strength. It would be no satisfaction to her to put
on her things in front of the huge plate glass of the enormous
double-fronted wardrobe in the spare-room with its old Bruges ware and
its faded photographs of the interiors of unknown churches, rows and
rows of seats and a faded blur where the altar was, thorn-crowned heads
and bold scrolly texts embroidered in crimson and gold silken mounted
and oak-framed. And when she went home alone along the quiet, dark,
narrow, tree-filled little roadways she would not feel gay and strong
and full of personality.


On prize-giving day, Miriam's last day, Julia seemed to disappear. For
the first time since she had come to the school it was as if she were
not there. She was neither talking nor watching nor steering anything at
all. Again and again during the ceremonies Miriam looked at her sitting
or moving about, pale and plain and shabby, one of the crowd of girls.

The curious power of the collected girls, their steady profiles, their
movements, their unconcerned security rose and flooded round Miriam as
it had done when she first came to the school. But she no longer feared
it. It was going on, harsh and unconscious and determined, next term.
She was glad of it; the certainty thrilled her; she wanted to convey
some of her gladness to Julia, but could not catch her eye.

Her gladness carried her through the most tedious part of the day's
performances, the sitting in a listening concourse, doors open, in the
schoolroom, while some ten of the girls went one by one with stricken
faces into the little drawing-room and played the piece they had learned
during the term. Their shame and confusion, the anger and desperation of
their efforts, the comments of the listeners and their violent ironic
applause roused her to an intensity of sympathy. How they despised the
shame-faced tinkling; how they admired the martyrs.

Their strong indifference seemed to centre in the cold pale scornful
face of Jessie Wheeler, sitting squarely there with defiant eyes,
waiting for the future; the little troop of children she dreamed of.

These North London girls would be scornful mocking fiancées. They would
be adored by their husbands. Secretly they would forget their husbands
in their houses and children and friends.


Julia was the last player. She sidled swiftly out of the room; even her
habitual easy halting lounge seemed to have deserted her; and almost at
once, slow and tragic and resignedly weeping came the opening notes of
Chopin's Funeral March. Sitting in the front row of the little batch of
children from the lower school who faced the room from the window bay,
Miriam saw, in fancy, Julia's face as she sat at the drawing-room
piano--the face she had when she talked of the woods and the sea. The
whole of the long march, including the major passage, was the voice of
Julia's strange desolation. She played painfully, very slowly and
carefully, with tender respectful attention, almost without emphasis.
She was not in the least panic-stricken; anyone could feel that; but she
had none of the musical assurance that would have filled the girls with
uneasy admiration and disgust. They were pleased and amused. And far
away, Julia was alone with life and death. She made two worlds plain,
the scornful world of the girls and her own shadow-filled life.

Miriam longed for the performance to be at an end so that the girls
might reassert themselves.


An important stirring was going on at the little table where Miss Cramp
sat with the Pernes; only their heads and shoulders showing above the
piles of prize-books. Miss Perne stood up and faced the room smiling and
gently muttering. Presently her voice grew clear and she was making
little statements and pronouncing names, clearly and with gay tender
emphasis, the names of tall bold girls in the first class. One by one
they struggled to the table and stood gentle and disturbed with flushed
enlightened faces. Not a single girl could stand unconcerned before Miss
Perne. Even Polly Allen's brow was shorn of its boldness.

The girls knew. They would remember something of what the Pernes had
tried to give them.

The room was unbearably stuffy. The prize-giving was at an end. Miriam's
own children had struggled to the table and come back to her for the
last time.

Miss Perne was making a little speech ... about Miss Henderson's
forthcoming departure. Why did people do these formal things? She would
be expected to make some response. For a moment she had the impulse to
get up and rush away through the hall, get upstairs and pack and send
for a four-wheeler. But from behind came hands dragging at a fold of her
dress and the sound of Burra's hard sobbing. She felt the child's head
bowed against her hip. A child at her side twisted its hands together
and sat with its head held high, drawing sharp breaths. Miss Perne's
voice went on. She was holding up an umbrella, a terrible, expensive,
silver-mounted one. The girls had subscribed.

Miriam sat with beating heart waiting for Miss Perne's voice to cease,
pressing back towards the support of Burra and other little outstretched
clutchings and the general snuffling of her class, grappling with the
amazement of hearing from various quarters of the room violent and
repeated nose-blowings, and away near the door in the voice of a girl
she had hardly spoken to a deep heavy contralto sobbing.

Presently she was on her feet with the tightly-rolled silken twist of
the umbrella heavy in her hands. Her stiff lips murmured incoherent
thanks in a strange thin voice--Harriett's voice with the life gone from

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   This volume of travel vignettes by Mr. Lawrence, shows him in a
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   the chapters appeared serially in the English Review and the
   Westminster Gazette, but they have been revised and rewritten for
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   author's collected works, which are being issued in a library


                           BY THE SAME AUTHOR

   Amores: Poems. By D. H. LAWRENCE. Cloth gilt. Crown 8vo, 5s. net;
   postage, 4d.

                              "LOVE POEMS"

   "The book of the moment in verse."--Bookman.

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   "We have nothing but praise for this book of love
   poems."--English Review.


                        A UNIFORM EDITION OF THE
                        Works of D. H. Lawrence

                    Cloth Gilt. Crown 8vo, 6s. each

   Sons and Lovers. A Novel

   The Prussian Officer, and other Stories

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   The Widowing of Mrs. Holroyd. A Play. (3s. 6d. net)

   Love Poems (5s. net)

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   "'Sons and Lovers' is a great book."--Standard.

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   "'The White Peacock' aroused enthusiasm and now 'The Trespasser'
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   a review of "Sons and Lovers."


                          THE READERS' LIBRARY

                               New Volume

                            PRINCE KROPOTKIN

   Ideals and Realities in Russian Literature. By PRINCE PETER
   KROPOTKIN. New and Revised Edition. Type Reset. In the Readers'
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   This very important book has been unobtainable for some time, but
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   In order to appreciate and understand Russian literature an
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   A work of sound criticism which should be in every public and
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                               New Volume

                            FRANCIS STOPFORD

   Life's Great Adventure. By FRANCIS STOPFORD, author of "The Toil
   of Life." Crown 8vo, 2s. 6d. net; postage, 5d.

   Mr. Francis Stopford's ideas on life and service are expressed in
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      *** A full descriptive booklet of over forty volumes of the
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                            An American Poet

                               WALT MASON

   Horse Sense. Poems. By WALT MASON. With Prefatory Letter by JOHN
   MASEFIELD. Fcap. 8vo, 2s. 6d. net; postage, 4d.

   Walt Mason's verse has attracted a great deal of attention when
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   Mr. John Masefield writes:--"I read Walt Mason with great
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   living in the United States.

   "I don't know any book which has struck me as so genuine a voice
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   "I am glad that his work is gaining a wider and wider


                     South America as it is To-day

                            ROGER W. BABSON

   The Future of South America. By ROGER W. BABSON. With 16
   Illustrations and Two Maps. 407 pages. Crown 8vo, 7s. 6d. net;
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   There is astonishingly little in the literature about South
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   As a result his book should prove a suggestive volume for all
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                           CHARLES M. DOUGHTY

   The Titans. A Dramatic Poem. By CHARLES M. DOUGHTY, author of
   "Travels in Arabia Deserta," "The Dawn in Britain," "The Cliffs,"
   "The Clouds," etc. Crown 8vo, cloth gilt, 5s. net; postage, 5d.


   "The sense of England is the burning thing in these two dramas;
   the sense of England as only wartime can make it, which glows
   through all the magnificent monologue with which 'The Cliffs'
   open, or which brightens into most exquisite flame in 'The
   Clouds.'"--LASCELLES ABERCROMBIE, in the Quarterly Review.

   "Mr. Doughty occupies a position by himself. The vigorous impulse
   and imaginative strength of his genius have created their own
   medium. Work which owes its power to the bigness of its design
   and the sheer weight of imagination and intellect.

   "This is an amazingly vivid picture of the fury and wreckage of
   war. In part of the poem Mr. Doughty approaches more nearly to
   the idyllic than in any other of his works. It is a great work,
   full of faith and thought and compelling sincerity, and rich
   poetic beauty."--Spectator.

   "Mr. Doughty is the prophet of Patriotism. Wandering in the
   Muses' Garden, he has received the divine call to chant patriot
   hymns, and it is his mission to rouse his country to a sense of
   the wrath to come in the guise of 'air-flying Eastlanders.' 'The
   Clouds,' is a passionate plea for the nation. His verse is
   astoundingly vivid and vehement, every now and then breaking into
   a startling beauty."--English Review.

   "Mr. Doughty's ideas and his outlook might be those of Nelson's
   captains could they be called back to life. He thrills our
   imagination. His historical sense is so vital and far-reaching,
   his patriotic imagination so deeply rooted in the soil of our
   forbears' achievements.... A poem that, we venture to think, will
   become a classic. 'The Clouds,' as an achievement, possesses a
   creative actuality, a breadth of vision, an intensity of
   imaginative life. The effect of the poem is cumulative, and no
   quotation can convey any idea of the atmosphere of the whole
   varied picture."--The Nation.


                            A New Impression

                               JOHN MORSE

   An Englishman in the Russian Ranks: Ten Months' Fighting in
   Poland. By JOHN MORSE. 4th printing. Crown 8vo, 6s.

                          SOME PRESS OPINIONS

   "This remarkably impressive book is probably the most notable
   piece of war literature the war has yet produced."--The Times.

   "Tolstoy's pictures of Sebastopol or Dostoievsky's account of
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   "Those who wish to see the war without any illusion cannot afford
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   "This book is one of the most remarkable the war has yet given
   us.... He keeps us spellbound with his artless narrative.... This
   is decidedly a war book to be read."--Daily News.

   "We can but offer our sincere congratulations to Mr. Morse on his
   splendid achievement; through him the name of Englishman will
   stand firmer in Russia, firmer in the world."--Saturday Review.

   "The war continues to provide incidentally many vivid narratives
   ... and this narrative ... must certainly be reckoned one of the
   most interesting out of many."--Evening Standard.

   "It is a most astonishing book."--Daily Express.

   "Having served for ten months as a volunteer in the Russian Army,
   the author has had such strange adventures that his experiences
   have provided material for what is undoubtedly one of the most
   remarkable books concerning the war."--Outlook.

   "As a witness of what actually happened on the Russian frontier
   Mr. Morse comes forward with a book of engrossing interest....
   The story of his escape and privations which followed is
   thrilling in the extreme and related with a quiet restraint and
   modesty which, as in every chapter of the book, are an earnest of
   truth."--Daily Telegraph.

   "Mr. Morse has written a book which, as far as I know, is unique.
   It is an extraordinarily vivid account of an Englishman who
   enlisted in the Russian rank and fought all through the
   early--and they were in many ways the most terrible--months of
   the war. As a picture of war it is literally haunting. Mr. Morse
   writes with the conviction of one who has seen all he desires to
   prove. Apart from the book's value as a personal narrative, it is
   notable for the fine description it gives of life in the Russian
   Army; while those who thirst for adventure will find no book of
   fiction stir them more greatly than this author's account of how
   he was captured and how he escaped."--Tatler.



                    THE REV. CANON RASHDALL, F.B.A.

   Conscience and Christ. By THE REV. CANON HASTINGS RASHDALL,
   D.Litt. (Oxon), D.C.L. (Durham), F.B.A., author of "Philosophy
   and Religion," etc. Crown 8vo, 5s. net; postage, 5d.

   The book is an attempt to answer the question "in what relation
   does the authority of Conscience, which most Christians
   acknowledge, stand to the authority of Jesus Christ?" The first
   chapter is a brief enquiry into the nature of Conscience on the
   one hand and of various forms of external authority on the other.
   The answer given is that no external authority can be taken as an
   absolutely final guide for conduct unless it does commend itself
   to the enlightened Conscience: it is contended that the teaching
   of Jesus Christ does so commend itself. In the second chapter is
   attempted the investigation of the recent teaching which makes
   "Eschatology" the answer of Christ's message, and treats his
   moral teaching as a mere "Interimsethik." The third chapter
   examines the actual contents of that teaching; the fourth deals
   with some commonly urged objections to the Christian Ethic--the
   finality of this Ethic is asserted upon condition that the
   necessity of development is fully recognised. The fifth chapter
   examines the nature of the development which the fundamental
   principles taught by Jesus have received and must continue to
   receive in the Christian Church. The sixth chapter is devoted to
   a brief examination of other ethical systems, philosophical and
   religious, and endeavours to show that not one of them can be
   regarded as a satisfactory substitute for Christianity while the
   permanent elements of each are recognised and included in the
   Christian ideal. It is also contended that the highest ethical
   influence of Christianity is inseparable from a reverent
   following of the personal Christ.


                    THE REV. E. GRIFFITH-JONES, D.D.

   Faith and Immortality. By THE REV. E. GRIFFITH-JONES, B.A., D.D.,
   Principal of the United Independent College, Bradford. Author of
   "The Challenge of Christianity to a World at War," "The Ascent
   Through Christ." Crown 8vo, 3s. 6d. net; postage, 5d.


                    STUDIES IN THEOLOGY--New Volumes

                    THE REV. CHARLES A. BRIGGS, D.D.

   History of the Study of Theology. By the late CHARLES AUGUSTUS
   BRIGGS, D.D., D.Litt., of the Union Theological Seminary, New
   York. In Two Volumes. Crown 8vo, 2s. 6d. net each volume;
   postage, 5d.


                 THE REV. PRINCIPAL FORSYTH, M.A., D.D.

   The Justification of God. By THE REV. PRINCIPAL P. T. FORSYTH,
   M.A., D.D., of the Hackney Theological College, University of
   London. Crown 8vo, 2s. 6d. net; postage, 5d.

          Other Volumes already published in the Series are:--

   Christianity and Ethics. By ARCHIBALD B. D. ALEXANDER, M.A., D.D.

   The Environment of Early Christianity. By S. ANGUS, M.A., Ph.D.

   The Christian Hope: A Study in the Doctrine of the Last Things.
   By W. ADAMS BROWN, Ph.D., D.D.

   Christianity and Social Questions. By WILLIAM CUNNINGHAM, F.B.A.,
   D.D., D.Sc.

   A Handbook of Christian Apologetics. By A. E. GARVIE, D.D.

   A Critical Introduction to the Old Testament. By GEORGE BUCHANAN
   GRAY, D.D., D.Litt.


   Faith and Its Psychology. By WILLIAM R. INGE, D.D.

   Christianity and Sin. By ROBERT MACKINTOSH, D.D.

   Protestant Thought before Kant. By A. C. MCGIFFERT, Ph.D., D.D.

   The Theology of the Gospels. By JAMES MOFFATT, D.D., D.Litt.

   History of Christian Thought since Kant. By EDWARD CALDWELL
   MOORE, D.D.

   The Doctrine of the Atonement. By J. K. MOZLEY, M.A.

   Revelation and Inspiration. By JAMES ORR, D.D.

   A Critical Introduction to the New Testament. By ARTHUR SAMUEL
   PEAKE, D.D.

   Philosophy and Religion. By HASTINGS RASHDALL, D.Litt. (Oxon),
   D.C.L. (Durham), F.B.A.

   The Holy Spirit. By T. REES, M.A. (Lond.), B.A. (Oxon.).

   The Religious Ideas of the Old Testament. By H. WHEELER ROBINSON,

   The Text and Canon of the New Testament. By ALEXANDER SOUTER,

   Christian Thought to the Reformation. By HERBERT B. WORKMAN,



                             BERNARD CAPES

   If Age Could. By BERNARD CAPES, author of "A Jay of Italy," "The
   Lake of Wine," etc.

   Mr. Bernard Capes' new novel, "If Age Could," will rank among the
   most important of the many popular books which bear his name--

      "If Youth but Knew"
      "If Age Could"

   Eustace Ward discovered that his ward Veronica appealed more to
   his senses than he had ever thought possible. He had come to
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   means is shown without insistence, while the events of August
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   first time consciously and on an impulse do an action which is
   for another's benefit and which involves their own complete


                             TEMPLE BAILEY

   Contrary Mary. A Novel. By TEMPLE BAILEY. 352 pages. Crown 8vo,

   "Contrary Mary" will win her way to the hearts of all who meet
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   charged with being mawkish or sugary. While it has no bad
   characters, and only one unfortunate one, the reader is aware
   that the author has a firm grip on life. It is clever work, and
   shows the author as a writer of depth and feeling.


                             BEY SOMERVILLE

   The Passing of Nahla. A Story of the Desert. By BEY SOMERVILLE.
   Crown 8vo, 6s.

   This story of Nahla, a native girl child, and of the white man
   who educates and makes a companion of her, is full of atmosphere.
   The baby girl is an amusing companion for the educated,
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   desire comes to the man to return to his own people and their
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   and fierce devotion.

   Apart from the story the book is worth reading for its rendering
   of the call and influence of the desert on a highly developed
   personality. The author feels its magic spell and is very
   successful in transmitting it to the reader.


                         DOROTHY M. RICHARDSON

   Backwater. A Novel. By DOROTHY M. RICHARDSON, author of "Pointed
   Roofs." Crown 8vo, 6s.

   Those who read "Pointed Roofs" will remember taking leave of
   Miriam as she got in the train for home, after her term as
   assistant teacher in a German school was ended. "Backwater"
   continues the narrative of Miriam's life, the period now being
   the emotional period of life, when life is at its fullest.

   The reception given to "Pointed Roofs" has given Miss Richardson
   a status. She is recognized as a writer whose method is original
   and "different," and who is thereby successful in conveying by
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   and their action on one another. Mr. J. D. Beresford, who
   contributed an introduction to "Pointed Roofs," admitted having
   read the story three times, the pleasure he experienced at the
   first being increased by subsequent readings. He considers
   "Backwater" even more interesting.


                              E. C. BOOTH

   Fondie. A Novel. By E. C. BOOTH, author of "The Cliff End," "The
   Doctor's Lass." Crown 8vo, 6s.

   This story of Fondie Bassiemoor, his life, and also that of the
   inhabitants of Wivvle, a Yorkshire village, is a big novel in
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   and although the story is long for a modern novel the feeling of
   the reader at the finish is that on no account would he have it

   Mr. Booth pictures the everyday life of a rural village in
   Yorkshire with all its types and characters clearly and lovingly
   drawn; the comedy and tragedy of life painted with the sure hand
   of an artist and master craftsman. The natural tone and accent of
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   manner and so naturally that no unusual effort is required to
   read it.

   The note of comedy is preserved through the greater part of the
   book, but the sadness of life is not ignored. To each their

   The author's previous books have been unreservedly praised, but
   it is thought by competent judges that "Fondie" is a particular
   advance on any of his earlier work. For a comparison one must go
   to the early work of Thomas Hardy. Perhaps "Far from the Madding
   Crowd" is the closest. Mr. Booth's "Fondie" will stand the
   comparison very well.


                          MARY AGNES HAMILTON

   Dead Yesterday. By MARY AGNES HAMILTON, author of "Less than the
   Dust," "Yes." Crown 8vo, 6s.

   This novel has been described by critics who have read it in
   manuscript as both clever and brilliant. It is notably modern in
   its feeling and outlook, its detail and allusions revealing its
   author's interest in the artistic and social ideas which were
   current in 1914. The action of the story begins before the war,
   but is carried past August 1914, and finishes towards the end of
   1915. It gives a very effective picture of an educated and
   bohemian coterie whose sophisticated attitude towards life is
   sharply challenged by the realization of the need to fight for
   national existence.


                             MILDRED GARNER

   Harmony. A Novel. By MILDRED GARNER. Crown 8vo. 6s.

   The scent of old-fashioned flowers, the drowsy hum of bees, and
   the quiet spell of the countryside is realized in every page of
   "Harmony." Peacewold is a harbour of refuge where gather those in
   need of the sympathy which the Little Blue Lady unfailingly has
   for her friends when they are distressed in spirit or body. To
   her comes Star worn out with months of settlement work in Bethnal
   Green, and Harmony whose sight is restored after years of
   blindness. Robin Grey, the austere Richard Wentworth and his son
   Bede, all come and she gives to each from the fulness of her
   spirit and faith. Willow, whose story the book is, also has
   reason to love the Little Blue Lady who has been as a mother to

   The book is distinguished for its shining faith and belief in the
   inherent goodness of human nature when subject to right
   influences. The searchings of heart when love comes and
   temporarily wrecks the harmony of Peacewold are shown to be for
   the good of those concerned and helpful to them in their

   "Harmony" is essentially a novel of sentiment and should
   certainly find many readers. It is earnest and sincere, and
   promises well for the author's future as a successful novelist.


                         RICHARD HARDING DAVIS

   Somewhere in France. Stories. By RICHARD HARDING DAVIS, author of
   "With the Allies," etc., etc. Illustrated. Crown 8vo, 3s. 6d.

   A new volume by the popular war correspondent. The stories are
   varied in theme, and are not solely devoted to war. The title of
   the book is obtained from the first story which is of spying and
   spies during the German advance on Paris.


                           LESLIE MONTGOMERY

   Mr. Wildridge of the Bank. An Irish Novel. By LESLIE MONTGOMERY.
   Crown 8vo, 6s.

   Mr. Leslie Montgomery will be welcomed as an acquisition to the
   ranks of humorous novelists. Like George Birmingham he writes of
   the North of Ireland and shows the everyday life of a small town.
   The competition of the local managers of the two banks to secure
   the account of the heir to a fortune is very amusing and always
   strictly probable. How Mr. Wildridge gets the capital subscribed
   for the woollen factory: how the confiding Rector and his
   daughter are saved from dishonour, and how Orangemen and Sinn
   Feiners, Protestants and Catholics are cunningly induced to work
   for the prosperity of the town in order to 'dish' each other are
   all related in an easy and convincing way. The story is told in
   light comedy vein, at times becoming madcap farce, and yet it
   cannot be said that the bounds of possibility are ever surpassed.
   There is not an unpleasant or disagreeable character in the book,
   and the humour is at the expense of everyone in the town. Anthony
   Wildridge is always cultivated, adroit and audacious, and
   deserves all his success. At the close he discovers that he is
   younger and more susceptible than he thought he was.



                          Transcriber's Notes

The original spelling was mostly preserved. A few obvious typographical
errors were silently corrected. Further careful corrections, some after
consulting other editions, are listed here (before/after):

   [p. 68]:
   ... to an end just as the picture of the French count ...
   ... to an end just as the picture of the French court ...

   [p. 86]:
   ... back to the table so that nobody "poked." She ...
   ... backs to the table so that nobody "poked." She ...

   [p. 252]:
   ... and canons and things make a frightful noise." ...
   ... and cannons and things make a frightful noise." ...

   [p. 277]:
   ... That life and such happiness in store for him is ...
   ... That life had such happiness in store for him is ...

   [p. 283]:
   ... lounge seemed to have deserted her; and almost ...
   ... lounge seemed to have deserted her; and almost at ...

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