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Title: Honeycomb - Pilgrimage, Volume 3
Author: Richardson, Dorothy M. (Dorothy Miller)
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Honeycomb - Pilgrimage, Volume 3" ***

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                               HONEYCOMB



                         TITLES OF THE SERIES:


                       POINTED ROOFS
                       BACKWATER
                       HONEYCOMB
                       THE TUNNEL (_in
                          preparation_)



                               HONEYCOMB


                                   BY
                         DOROTHY M. RICHARDSON
               AUTHOR OF "POINTED ROOFS" AND "BACKWATER"


                                 LONDON
                            DUCKWORTH & CO.
                   3 HENRIETTA STREET, COVENT GARDEN


                          First Published 1917



                               HONEYCOMB



                               CHAPTER I


                                   1

When Miriam got out of the train into the darkness she knew that there
were woods all about her. The moist air was rich with the smell of
trees--wet bark and branches--moss and lichen, damp dead leaves. She
stood on the dark platform snuffing the rich air. It was the end of her
journey. Anything that might follow would be unreal compared to that
moment. Little bulbs of yellow light further up the platform told her
where she must turn to find the things she must go to meet. "How lovely
the air is here." ... The phrase repeated itself again and again, going
with her up the platform towards the group of lights. It was all she
could summon to meet the new situation. It satisfied her; it made her
happy. It was enough; but no one would think it was enough.

But the house was two miles off. She was safe for the present.
Throughout the journey from London the two-mile drive from the station
had stood between her and the house. The journey was a long solitary
adventure; endless; shielded from thoughts of the new life ahead and
leaving the past winter in the Gunnersbury villa far away; vanquished,
almost forgotten. She could only recall the hours she had spent
shivering apathetically over small fires; a moment when she had brought
a flush of tears to her mother's eyes by suddenly telling her she was
maddeningly unreasonable, and another moment alone with her father when
she had stood in the middle of the hearth-rug with her hands behind her
and ordered him to abstain from argument with her in the presence of her
mother--"because it gives her pain when I have to show you that I am at
least as right as you are"--and he had stood cowed and silent.... Then
the moment of accepting the new post, the last days of fear and
isolation and helplessness in hard winter weather and the setting off in
the main line train that had carried her away from everything--into the
spring. Sitting in the shabbily upholstered unexpectedly warm and
comfortable main line train she had seen through the mild muggy air bare
woods on the horizon, warm and tawny, and on the near copses a ruddy
purpling bloom. Surprise had kept her thoughtless and rapt. Spring--a
sudden pang of tender green seen in suburban roadways in April ... one
day in the Easter holidays, bringing back the forgotten summer and
showing you the whole picture of summer and autumn in one moment ... but
evidently there was another spring, much more real and wonderful that
she had not known--not a clear green thing, surprising and somehow
disappointing you, giving you one moment and then rushing your thoughts
on through vistas of leafage, but tawny and purple gleamings through
soft mist, promising ... a vision of spring in dim rich faint colours,
with the noisy real rushing spring still to come ... a thing you could
look at and forget; go back into winter, and see again and again,
something to remember when the green spring came, and to think of in the
autumn ... spring; coming; perhaps spring was coming all the year
round.... She looked back, wondering. This was not the first time that
she had been in the country in March. Two years ago, when she had first
gone out into the world it had been March ... the night journey from
Barnes to London, and on down to Harwich, the crossing in a snowstorm,
the afternoon journey across Holland--grey sky, flat bright green
fields, long rows of skeleton poplars. But it was dark before they
reached the wooded German country--the spring must have been there, in
the darkness. And now coming to Newlands she had seen it. The awful
blind cold effort of coming to Newlands had brought a new month of
spring; there for always.... And this was the actual breath of it; here,
going through her in the darkness.... Someone was at her side, murmuring
her name, a footman. She moved with him towards a near patch of light
which they reached without going through the station building, and in a
moment the door of a little brougham closed upon her with a soft thud.
She sat in the softly lit interior, holding her umbrella and her
undelivered railway ticket in careful fingers. The footman and a porter
were hoisting her Saratoga trunk. Their movements sounded muffled and
far-off. The brougham bowled away through the darkness softly. The
lights of the station flickered by and disappeared. The brougham windows
were black. No sound but the faint rumble of the wheels along the smooth
road. Miriam relaxed and sat back, smiling. For a moment she was
conscious of nothing but the soft-toned, softly lit interior, the
softness at her back, the warmth under her feet and her happy smile;
then she felt a sudden strength; the smile coming straight up so
unexpectedly from some deep where it had been waiting, was new and
strong and exhilarating. It would not allow itself to dimple; it carried
her forward, tiding her over the passage into new experience and held
her back, at the same time; it lifted her and held her suspended over
the new circumstances in rapid contemplation. She pressed back more
steadily into the elastic softness and sat with bent head, eagerly
watching her thoughts ... this is me; this is right; I'm _used_ to
dainty broughams; I can take everything for granted.... I must take
everything absolutely for granted.... The moments passed, carrying her
rapidly on. There was a life ahead that was going to enrich and change
her as she had been enriched and changed by Hanover, but much more
swiftly and intimately. She was changed already. Poverty and discomfort
had been shut out of her life when the brougham door closed upon her.
For as long as she could endure and achieve any sort of dealing with the
new situation, they had gone, the worry and pain of them could not touch
her. Things that rose warm and laughing and expanding within her now,
that had risen to the beauty and music and happiness of Germany and been
crushed because she was the despised pupil teacher, that had dried up
and seemed to die in the English boarding school, were going to be met
and satisfied ... she looked down at the hands clasped on her knees, the
same hands and knees that had ached with cold through long winter days
in the basement schoolroom ... chilblains ... the everlasting
unforgettable aching of her sore throat ... things that had made her
face yellow and stiff or flushed with fever ... gone away for ever. Her
old self had gone, her governess self. It had really gone weeks ago, got
up and left her in that moment when she had read Mrs. Corrie's letter in
Bennett's villa in the middle of a bleak February afternoon. A voice had
seemed to come from the large handwriting scrawling across the faint
blue page under the thick neat small address in raised gilt. The same
voice, begging her to come for a few weeks and try seemed to resound
gently in the brougham. She had not accepted the situation; she had
accepted something in Mrs. Corrie's imagined voice coming to her
confidently from the big wealthy house.

The brougham passed a lamp and swerved in through a gate, bowling along
over softly crunching gravel. She pressed reluctantly against the
cushioned back. The drive had been too short.... Bennett's friends had
given the Corries wrong ideas about her. They wanted a governess. She
was not a governess. There were governesses ... the kind of person they
wanted. It was a mistake; another mistake ... the brougham made a
beautiful dull humming, going along a tree-lined tunnel.... What did the
Corries want of her, arriving in their brougham? What did they expect
her to do?...


                                   2

As the footman opened the door of the brougham, a door far back in the
dim porch was flung back, letting out a flood of light, and the swift
figure of a parlourmaid who seized 'Miriam's Gladstone bag and the
silver-mounted Banbury Park umbrella and led the way across the porch
into the soft golden blaze. The Saratoga trunk had gone away with the
brougham, and in a moment the door was closed and Miriam was standing,
frightened and alone, in a fire-lit, lamp-lit, thickly carpeted
enclosure within sound of a thin chalky voice saying "Ello, ello." It
seemed to come from above her. "Ello--ello--ello--ello," it said busily,
hurrying about somewhere above as she gazed about the terrifying hall.
It was somehow like the box office of a large theatre, only much better;
the lamplight, there seemed to be several lamps shaded with low-hanging
old gold silk, and the rosy light from the huge clear fire in a deep
grate fell upon a thick pale greeny yellow carpet, the little settees
with their huge cushions, and the strange-looking pictures set low on
dull gold walls. In two directions the hall went dimly away towards
low archways screened by silently hanging bead curtains.
"Ello--ello--ello--ello," said the voice coming quickly downstairs. Half
raising her eyes Miriam saw a pale turquoise blue silk dress, long and
slender with deep frills of black chiffon round the short sleeves and a
large frill draping the low-cut bodice, a head and face, sheeny bronze
and dead white, coming across the hall.

"Ow-de-do; so glad you've come," said the voice, and two thin fingers
and a small thin crushed handkerchief were pressed against her
half-raised hand.

"Are you famished? Deadly awful journey! I'm glad you're tall.
Wiggerson'll take up your things. You must be starvin'. Don't change.
There's only me. Don't be long. I shall tell them to put on the soup."

Gently propelled towards the staircase Miriam went mechanically up the
wide shallow stairs towards the parlourmaid waiting at the top. Behind
her she heard the swift fuffle of Mrs. Corrie's dress, the swish of a
bead curtain and the thin tuneless voice inaccurately humming in some
large near room, "Jack's the boy for work; Jack's the boy for play." She
followed the maid across the landing, walking swiftly, as Mrs. Corrie
had done--the same greeny carpet, but white walls up here and again
strange pictures hung low, on a level with your eyes, strange soft tones
... crayons? ... pastels?--what was the word--she was going to live with
them, she would be able to look at them--and everything up here, in the
soft pink light. There were large lamps with rose-pink shades. The maid
held back a pink silk curtain hanging across an alcove, and Miriam went
through to the open door of her room. "Harris will bring up your trunk
later, miss--if you like to leave your keys with me," said the maid
behind her. "Oh yes," said Miriam carelessly, going on into the room.
"Oh, I don't know where they are. Oh, it doesn't matter, I'll manage."

"Very good, miss," said Wiggerson politely, and came forward to close
the bedroom door.

Miriam flung off her outer things and faced herself in the mirror in her
plain black hopsack dress with the apple green velveteen pipings about
the tight bodice and the square box sleeves which filled the square
mirror from side to side as she stood. "This dress is a nightmare in
this room," she thought, puffing up her hair under her fringe-net with a
hat-pin. "Never mind, I mustn't think about it," she added hurriedly,
disconcerted for a moment by the frightened look in her eyes. The
distant soft flat silvery swell of a little gong sent her hurrying to
the mound of soft bath towel in the wide pale blue wash-hand basin. She
found a bulging copper hot-water jug, brilliantly polished, with a
wicker-covered handle. The water hissed gently into the wide shallow
basin, sending up a great cloud of comforting steam. Dare's soap ...
extraordinary. People like this being taken in by advertisements ...
awful stuff, full of free soda, _any_ transparent soap is bad for the
skin, must be, in the nature of things ... makes your skin feel tight.
Perhaps they only use it for their hands.... Advertisement will do
anything, Pater said.... Perhaps in houses like this--plonk, it
certainly made a lovely hard ring falling into the basin--where
everything was warm and clean and fragrant even Dare's soap could not
hurt you. The room behind her seemed to encourage the idea. But surely
it couldn't be her room. It was a spare room. They had put her into it
for her month on trial. Could it possibly be hers, just her room, if she
stayed ... the strange, beautiful, beautiful long wide hang of the
faintly patterny faintly blue curtains covering the whole of the window
space; the firelight on them as she came into the room with Wiggerson,
the table with a blotter, there had been a table by the door with a
blotter, as Wiggerson spoke. She looked round, there it was ... the blue
covered bed, the frilled pillows, high silky-looking bed curtains with
some sort of little pattern on them, the huge clear fire, the big wicker
chair.


                                   3

Miriam laughed over her strange hot wine-clear wine-flavoured soup ...
_two_ things about soup besides taking it from the side of your spoon,
which everybody knows--you _eat_ soup, and you tilt your plate _away_,
not towards you (chum along, chum along and eat your nice hot soup)....
Her secure, shy, contented laugh was all right as a response to Mrs.
Corrie, sitting at the head of the long table, a tall graceful bird,
thin broad shoulders, with the broad black frill slipping from them,
rather broad thin oval white face, wiry auburn Princess of Wales fringe
coming down into a peak with hollow beaten-in temples each side of it,
auburn coils shining as she moved her head and the chalky lisping voice
that said little things and laughed at them and went on without waiting
for answers. But to herself the laugh meant much more than liking Mrs.
Corrie and holding her up and begging her to go on. It meant the large
dark room, the dark invisible picture, the big pieces of strange dark
furniture in gloomy corners, the huge screen near the door where the
parlourmaid came in and out; the table like an island under the dome of
the low-hanging rose-shaded lamp, the table-centre thickly embroidered
with beetles' wings, the little dishes stuck about, sweets, curiously
crusted brown almonds, sheeny grey-green olives; the misty beaded glass
of the finger bowls--Venetian glass from that shop in Regent Street--the
four various wine glasses at each right hand, one on a high thin stem,
curved and fluted like a shallow tulip, filled with hock; and floating
in the warmth amongst all these things the strange, exciting, dry sweet
fragrance coming from the mass of mimosa, a forest of little powdery
blossoms, little stiff grey--the arms of railway signals at
junctions--Japanese looking leaves--standing as if it were growing, in a
shallow bowl under the rose-shaded lamp.

"Mélie's coming on Friday."

The parlourmaid set before Miriam a small shapely fish, with scales like
mother-of-pearl and pink fins, lying in a curl of paper. "Red mullet,"
she exclaimed to herself; "how on earth do I know that it's red mullet?
And those _are_ olives, of course." Mrs. Corrie was humming to herself
about Mélie as the fork in her thin little fingers plucked fitfully at
the papered fish. "Do you know planchette?" she asked, in a faint
singsong, turning with a little bold pounce to the salt-cellar close at
Miriam's left hand. "Oh-h-h" said Miriam intelligently.... "Planchette
... Planchette ... Cloches de Corneville. Planquette. Is planchette a
part of all this?... Planchette, a French dressmaker, perhaps." She
turned fully round to Mrs. Corrie and waited, smiling sympathetically.
"It's deadly uncanny," Mrs. Corrie went on, "I can tell you. _Deadly._"
Her delicate voice stopped fearfully and she glanced at Miriam with a
laugh. "I don't believe I know what it is," said Miriam, sniffing in the
scent of the mimosa and savouring the delicate flavour of the fish.
These things would go on after planchette was disposed of, she thought,
and took a sip of hock.

"It's deadly. I hope Mélie'll bring one. She's a fairy; real Devonshire
fairy. She'll make it work. We'll have _such_ fun."

"What is it?" said Miriam a little uneasily.... A fairy and a planchette
and fun--silly laughter, some tiresome sort of game; a hoax.

"I tell you _all_ about it, all, all ..." intoned Mrs. Corrie
provisionally, whilst the maid handed the tiny ready-cut saddle of lamb.
"Spinnich? Ah, nicey spinnich; you can leave us that, Stokes.... Oh, you
_must_ have Burgundy--spin-spin and Burgundy; awful good; a
thimble-full, half a glass; that's right."

The clear dry hock had leapt to Miriam's brain and opened her eyes, the
Burgundy spread through her limbs, a warm silky tide. The green flavour
of the spinach, tasting of earth, and yet as smooth as cream intoxicated
her. Surely nothing could so delicately build up your strength as these
small stubby slices of meat so tender that it seemed to crumble under
your teeth.... "It's an awful thing. It whirls about and writes with a
pencil. Writes. All sorts of things," said Mrs. Corrie, with a little
frightened laugh. "Really. No nonsense. Names. Anythin'. Whatever you're
thinkin' about. It's uncanny, I can tell you."

"It sounds most extraordinary," said Miriam, with a firm touch of
scepticism.

"You wait. Oh--you wait," sang Mrs. Corrie in a whisper. "I shall find
out, I shall find out, if you're not careful, I shall find out his
name."

Miriam blushed violently. "Ah-ha," beamed Mrs. Corrie in a soft high
monotone. "_I_ shall find out. We'll have _such_ fun."

"Do you _believe_ in it?" said Miriam, half irritably.

"You wait--you wait--you wait, young lady. Mélie'll be here on Friday
day."

The rich caramel, the nuts and dessert, Mrs. Corrie's approval of her
refusal of port wine with her nuts, the curious, half-drowsy chill which
fell upon the table, darkening and sharpening everything in the room as
the broken brown nutshells increased upon their trellis-edged plates
were under the spell of the strange woman. Mrs. Corrie kept on talking
about her; Mélie--born in Devonshire, seeing fairies, having second
sight, being seen one day staring into space by a sportsman, a
fisherman, a sort of poet, who married her and brought her to London.
Did Mrs. Corrie really believe that she knew everything? "I believe
she's a changeling," laughed Mrs. Corrie at last--"oh, it's cold.
Chum-long, let's go."


                                   4

"We can't go into my little room," said Mrs. Corrie, turning to Miriam
with a little excited catch in her voice, as the bead curtain rattled
gently into place behind them. "It's bein' re-done." Just ahead of them,
beyond a mystery of palms to right and left, a door opened upon warm
brilliance. Miriam heard the busy tranquil flickering of a fire. "I
see," she said eagerly. "Why does she explain?" she wondered, as they
passed into the large clear room. How light it was, fairyland, light and
fragrant and very warm. The light was high; creamy bulbs, high up, and
creamy colour everywhere, cream and gold stripes, stripy chairs of every
shape, some of them with twisted gilt legs, Curious oval pictures in
soft half-tones, women in hats, strange groups, all tilted forward like
mirrors.

"Ooogh--barracky, ain't it? I hate empty droin'-rooms," said Mrs.
Corrie, sweeping swiftly about, pushing up great striped easy chairs
towards the fire. Miriam stood in a dream, watching the little pale
hands in the clear light, dead white fingers, rings, twinkling green and
sea blue, and the thin cruel flash of tiny diamonds ... harpy hands ...
dreadful and clever ... one of the hands came upon her own and compelled
her to drop into a large cushioned chair.

"Like him black?" came the gay voice. Coffee cups tinkled on a little
low table near Mrs. Corrie's chair. "I'm glad you're tall. Kummel?"

"She doesn't know German pronunciation," thought Miriam complacently.

"I suppose I am," she said, accepting a transparent little cup and
refusing the liqueur. Those strange eyes were blue with dark rings round
the iris and there were fine deep wrinkles about the mouth and chin. She
looked so picturesque sitting there, like something by an "old master,"
but worn and tired. Why was she so happy--if she thought so many things
were deadly awful....

"How's Gabbie Anstruther?"

"Oh--you see--I don't know Mrs. Anstruther. They are patients of my
future brother-in-law. It was all arranged by letter."

"About your comin' here, you mean. I say--you'll never get engaged, will
you? Promise?"

Miriam got up out of her deep chair and stood with her elbow on the low
mantel staring into the fire. She heard phrases from Mrs. Anstruther's
letter to Bennett as if they were being spoken by a tiresome grave
voice. "She doats upon her children. What she really wants is someone to
control her; read Shakespeare to her and get her into the air." Mrs.
Corrie did not want Shakespeare. That was quite clear. And it was quite
clear that she wanted a plain dull woman she could count on; always
there, in a black dress. She doated. Someone else, working for her, in
her pay, would look after the children and do the hard work.

"The kiddies were 'riffickly 'cited. Wanted to stay up. I hope you're
strict, very strict, eh?"

"I believe I'm supposed to understand discipline," said Miriam stiffly,
gazing with weary eyes at the bars of the grate.

"We were in an awful fix before we heard about you. Poor old Bunnikin
breakin' down. She adored them--they're angels. But she hadn't the
tiniest bit of a hold over them. Used to cry when they were naughty.
_You_ know. Poor old kiddies. Want them to be awfully clever. Work like
a house afire. I know you're clever. P'raps you won't stay with my
little heathens. Do try and stay. I can see you've got just what they
want. Strong-minded, eh? I'm an imbecile. So was poor old Bunnikin.
D'you like kiddies?"

"Oh, I'm very fond of children," said Miriam despairingly. She stared at
the familiar bars. They were the bars of the old breakfast-room grate at
home, and the schoolroom bars at Banbury Park. There they were again
hard and black in the hard black grate in the midst of all this light
and warmth and fragrance. Nothing had really changed. Black and hard.
Someone's grate. She was alone again. Mrs. Corrie would soon find out.
"I think children are so _interesting_," she said conversationally,
struck by a feeling of originality in the remark. Perhaps children were
interesting. Perhaps she would manage to find the children interesting.
She glanced round at Mrs. Corrie. Her squarish white face was worn. Her
eyes and neck looked as though all the life and youth had been washed
away from them by some long sorrow. Her smile was startling ... absolute
confidence and admiration ... like mother. But she would find out if one
were not really interested.


                                   5

That night Miriam roamed about her room from one to another of the
faintly patterned blue hangings. Again and again she faced each one of
them. For long she contemplated the drapery of the window space, the
strange forest-like confusion made in the faint pattern of tiny leaves
and flowers by the many soft folds, and turned from it for a distant
view of the draperies of the bed and the French wardrobe. Sitting down
by the fire at last she had them all in her mind's eye. She was going to
be with them all night. If she stayed with them long enough she would
wake one day with red bronze hair and a pale face and thin white hands.
And by that time life would be all strange draperies and strange
inspiring food and mocking laughing people who floated about hiding a
great secret and servants who were in the plot, admiring and serving it
and despising as much as anybody the vulgar things outside.

Her black dress mocked at these thoughts and she looked about for her
luggage. Finding the Saratoga trunk behind the draperies of the French
wardrobe she extracted her striped flannelette dressing-gown and
presently sat down again with loosened hair. Entrenched in her familiar
old dressing-gown, she felt more completely the power of her
surroundings. Whatever should happen in this strange house she had sat
for one evening in possession of this room. It was added for ever to the
other things. And this one evening was more real than all the fifteen
months at Banbury Park. It was so far away from everything, trams and
people and noise--it was in the centre of beautiful exciting life;
perfectly still and secure. Creeping to the window she held back the
silk-corded rim of a curtain--a deep window-seat, a row of oblong
lattices with leaded diamond panes. One of the windows was hasped a few
inches open. No sound came in ... soft moist air and the smell of trees.
Nothing but woods all round, everywhere.


                                   6

The next morning a housemaid tapped at Miriam's door half an hour after
she had called her to say that her breakfast was laid in the schoolroom.
Going out on to the landing she discovered the room by a curious rank
odour coming towards her through a half-opened door. Pushing open the
door she found a large clear room, barely furnished, carpeted with
linoleum and cold in the morning light pouring through an undraped
window. In the grate smoked a half-ignited fire and one corner of the
hearth-rug caught by a foot lay turned back. Across one end of the
baize-covered table a cloth was laid, and on it stood a small crowded
tray: a little teapot, no cosy, some rather thick slices of bread and
butter, a small dish of marmalade, a small plate and cup and saucer
piled together, and a larger plate on which lay an unfamiliar fish, dark
brown, curiously dried and twisted and giving out a strong salt smoky
odour. Miriam sat uncomfortably on the edge of a cane chair getting
through her bread and butter and tea and one mouthful of the strong dry
fish, feeling, with the door still standing wide, like a traveller
snatching a hasty meal at a buffet. She tried to collect her thoughts on
education. Little querulous excited sounds came to her from across the
wide landing. Presently there came the swift flountering of a print
dress across the landing and Wiggerson, long and willowy and capless
with a cold red nose and large red hands, her thin small head looking
very young with its revealed bunch of untidy hair, appeared in the
schoolroom doorway with an unconscious smile hesitating on her pale lips
and in her pale blue eyes. "It isn't very comfortable for you," she said
in a hurried voice. "I say, my _word_"; she went to the chilly grate and
bent down for the poker. Miriam glanced at the solicitous droop of her
long figure. "Stokes hasn't half laid it," went on Wiggerson; "if I were
you I should have breakfast in my room. They all do, except Mr. Corrie
when he's at home. The other young lady was daily; she didn't stop. I
should, if I were you," she finished, getting lightly to her feet. She
stood between the door and the fireplace, half turned away, and gazing
into space with her pale strong eyes, every line in her long pure
unconscious figure waiting for Miriam's response.

"Do you _like_ me, Wiggerson?" said Miriam within, "you'll have
toothache and neuralgia with that thin head. You're devoted to your
relations. You've got a tiresome sickly old mother. You'll never know
you're a servant...." "I think perhaps I will," she drawled, clearing
her throat.

"All right," said Wiggerson, with a lit face. "I'll tell them."



                               CHAPTER II


                                   1

As Miriam sat having tea with the children in the dining-room the
brougham drove up to the door. "There's someone arriving," she said,
hoping to distract the attention of the children from her fumblings with
the teapot and the hot water jug. They had certainly never met anyone
who did not know how to pour out tea. But they were taken in by her
bored tone.

"It's only Joey," said Sybil, frowning tranquilly, her lively
penetrating brown eyes fixed on the table just ahead of the small plate
nearly covered by a mass of raspberry jam from which she ate with a
teaspoon in the intervals of taking small bites from a thin piece of
bread and butter held conveniently near her mouth as she sat with one
elbow on the table. "She's always here." She looked across the table and
met the soft brown eyes of the boy. They had been wandering absently
about her square pale face and her short straggling red hair as she
answered Miriam. "Jenooshalet," he said, lisping over the s and smiling
meditatively.

"Jeno_ash_," responded Sybil, and they both laughed drunkenly.

"What _I'm_ finking," said the boy, putting a teaspoonful of jam into
his teacup and speaking with a stammering difficulty that drew deep
lines in his thin face; "what's worrying me is she'll have Rollo after
tea instead of us.... Vat's what I'm finking."

"D'you like bays?" said Sybil, throwing a fleeting glance in the
direction of Miriam.

"Yes, I do, I think," said Miriam at random, patting her hair and
wondering if the children had been to Weymouth.

"Oh, _Boy_." Sybil flung her arms tightly round her thin body and sat
grinning at her brother. Her old blue and white striped overall, her
sparse hair and the ugly large gap between her two large front teeth
seemed to set her apart from her surroundings. For a moment it seemed to
Miriam that the large quiet room looking through two high windows on to
a stretch of tree-shaded lawn, the cheerful little spread of delicate
white china at one end of the long table, the preserves and cakes, the
cress sandwiches and thin bread and butter were all there for her
appreciation alone, the children somehow profane and accidental, having
no right to be there. But they had been in these surroundings, the girl
for twelve the boy for eight years. They had never known anything else.
For years life had been for them just what it was to-day--breakfast in
bed, chirping at their mother from the dressing-rooms where they slept,
and scolding at Stokes as she waited on their toilet; jocularly and
impatiently learning lessons from little text-books for an hour or so in
the morning, spending their afternoons cantering about the commons and
along the sandy roadways with the groom; driving with their mother or
walking with the governess and every day coming in at the end of the
afternoon to this cosy, dainty grown-up tea, with their strange
untroubled brooding faces. They would grow up and be exactly like their
parents. They did not know anything about their fate. It was a kind of
prison. Perhaps they knew. Perhaps that was what they were always
brooding over. No, they did not mind. Their musings were tranquil. They
were waiting. They had silent conversations all the time. To be with
them after being so long with the straining, determined, secretly
ambitious children at Banbury Park was a great relief ... the way they
moved their heads and used their hands ... the boy's hands were
wonderful, the palest fine brown silk, quick eloquent little claws,
promising understanding and support. Fine little hands and steady gentle
brown eyes.

"Bays."

"_Bright_ bays."

"Roans."

"_Strawberry_ roans."

"_Chestnuts._"

"_Chestnut_ bays."

The children sat facing each other, each with clasped hands, and eyes
lit with dreams. Miriam listened. Bay, then, must be that curious liver
colour that was neither brown nor chestnut.

"Our ponies are bay," said Sybil quickly, with flushed face. "Boy's and
mine, the brougham and victoria horses are chestnut bays and we've got
two dogs, a whippet bitch, she's in the stables now, and a Great Dane;
I'm going to have a Willoughby pug pup on my birthday."


                                   2

Mrs. Corrie was standing in the hall when the little tea-party came out
of the dining-room. She raised her head and stood shaped in the well-cut
lines of her long brown and fawn check coat and skirt against the bead
curtain that led to the drawing-room, looking across at them. The boy
tottered blindly across the hall with arms outstretched. "Oh, Rollo,
Rollo," he said brokenly, as he reached her, pressing his hands up
against her grey suède waistcoat and his face into her skirt, "are we
going to _h--ave_ you?"

Mrs. Corrie began singing in a thin laughing voice, taking the boy by
the wrists.

"No, no," he said sharply, "let me hold you a minute." But Mrs. Corrie
danced, forcing his steps as he pressed against her. Up and down the
hall they capered while Sybil pranced round them whirling her skirts and
clapping her hands. Miriam sank into a settee. The cold March sunlight
streaming in through the thinly curtained windows painted the sharply
bobbing figures in faint shadows on the wall opposite her.


                                   3

When the dancers were breathless the little party strayed into the
drawing-room. Presently they were gathered at the piano. Mrs. Corrie sat
on a striped ottoman and peering closely picked out the airs of songs
that made Miriam stare in amazement. They all sang. Slowly and
stumblingly with many gasps of annoyance from Mrs. Corrie and the
children violently assaulting each other whenever either of them got
ahead of the halting accompaniment, they sang through all the songs in
an album with a brightly decorated paper cover. But in their performance
there was no tune, no rhythm, and the words spoken out slowly and
separately were intolerable to her. One song they sang three times. Its
chorus

   Stiboo--stib_ee_,
   Sti-ibbety-_oo_
   Sti-ibbety-b_oo_,
   Stib_ee_,

which Sybil could sing without the piano with an extraordinary
flourishing rapidity, pirouetting as she sang, they attacked again and
again, slowly and waveringly, fitting the syllables note by note into
the printed line of disconnected jerkily tailed quavers.... They thought
this was music. Encouraged at last by the fervour of the halting
performance Miriam found herself seated at the piano attacking the
score. They went through the songs from the beginning, three thin
blissful wavering tremulous voices, with a careful perfect monotony of
emphasis, uninfluenced by any variation of accent or inflection
introduced by Miriam into the accompaniment. Looking round as they
reached the end she saw flushed rapt faces with happy eyes gleaming
through the gathering twilight. They smiled at her as they sang. When
they had finished they lit the piano candles and sang "Stiboo" once
more.


                                   4

"Sti-boo, stibee, sti-ibbety-oo, sti-ibbety boo, stibee," sang Miriam,
getting into the large square bodice of her silkette evening dress. Its
great oblong box-like elbow sleeves more than filled the mirror as she
stood. They were stiffened with stout muslin, and stood squarely out
from shoulder to elbow, so that the little band of silk edged with a
piping of salmon pink velveteen which held them round the arm just above
the elbow could only be seen when she raised her arms. The piping was
repeated round the square neck of her bodice, cutting in front across
the bust just below the collar bone and at the back just above her
shoulder blades. She sang the little refrain at intervals until her
toilet was completed by the pinning of a small salmon pink velvet bow
against the left side of the hard mass of her coiled hair and went
humming downstairs into the hall. The soles of her new patent leather
shoes felt pleasantly smooth against the thick carpet. She went across
the hall to prop a foot against the fender and take one more reassuring
look at the little disc of steel beads adorning her toe. "Stiboo----"

"Won't you come in here?" said a soft staccato bass voice, a woman's
voice, but deep and rounded like the voice of a deep-chested watch-dog
barking single soft notes after a furious outbreak.

Miriam looked round. Wiggerson was lighting the big lamp in the
dining-room, peering up under the rose-coloured shade. "In here,"
repeated the deep voice, smiling, and Miriam's eyes discovered that the
small door set back between the dining-room and the window on the left
side of the hall door was open, showing part of a curious soft brown
room; a solid brown leather covered secretaire, with a revolving chair
between its pillars of drawers, set back in the bow of a small window, a
little bronze lamp with a plain buff-coloured shade standing near a pile
of large volumes on the secretaire, a piece of wall covered with a dark
silky-looking brown paper shining in the glow of an invisible fire. She
went forward across the hall into the room with a polite pleased
hesitating smile. There was a faint rich exciting odour in the warm
little room ... cigars ... leather ... a sort of deep freedom. The rest
of the house seemed suddenly far away. Coloured drawings of houses on
the little brown walls, two enormous deep low leather arm-chairs drawn
up on either side of an enormous fire, a littered mantelshelf. "I saw
you froo the crack," said a lady, fitted deeply into one of the large
chairs. She held out a small hand when Miriam was near enough to take it
and said softly and lazily, "You're the new guvnis, aren't you? I'm Joey
Banks."

"Yes, I came yesterday," said Miriam serenely.

Sinking into the second arm-chair she crossed her knees and beamed into
the fire. What perfect security.... She turned to Mr. Corrie, unknown
and mysteriously away somewhere in London to thank him for setting her
here, protected from the whole world in the deeps of his study
chair--all the worry and the noise and the fussing people shut away. If
suddenly he came in she would not thank him, but he would know. He would
be sitting in the other arm-chair, and she would say, "What do you think
about everything?" Not so much to hear what he thought, but because some
of his thoughts would be her thoughts. Thought was the same in everybody
who thought at all. She would sit back and rest and hear an
understanding voice. He might be heavy and fat. But a leading Q.C. must
have thoughts ... and he had been thin once ... and there were those
books ... and he would read newspapers; perhaps too many newspapers. He
would know almost at once that she thought he read too many newspapers.
She would have to conceal that to hear the voice going on and leaving
her undisturbed.


                                   5

Of course people like this wore evening dress every day. You could only
rest and think and talk and be happy without collars and sleeves--with
the cool beaded leather against one's neck and arms in the firelight....

She gazed familiarly into her companion's eyes taking in her soft
crimson silk evening dress with its wide folded belt of black velvet and
the little knots of black about the square sleeves, as the eyes smiled
long and easily into hers ... the smile of one of the girls at the
Putney school, the same dark fringed caressing smiling eyes set in
delicately bulging pale brown cheeks, the same little frizz of dark
hair. She felt for the name, but could only recall the sense of the girl
as she had sat, glints of fear and hard watchfulness in the beautiful
eyes, trying to copy her neighbour's exercise. This girl's dull hair was
fluffed cloudily, and there was no uneasiness in the eyes. Probably she
too had been a duffer at school and had had to crib things. But she had
left all that behind and her smile was--perfect.

"You look like an Oriental princess," said Miriam, gazing.

Joey flushed and smiled more deeply, but without making the smallest
movement.

"Do I, weally?"

"Exactly," said Miriam, keeping her own pose with difficulty. She knew
she had flung up her head and spoken emphatically. But the girl was such
a wonderful effect--she wanted her to be able to see herself ... she was
not quite of the same class as the Corries, or different, somehow.
Miriam gazed on. Raising the large black cushion a little, turning her
head and pressing her cheek into it, her eyes still on Miriam's, Joey
laughed a short contralto gurgle, bringing the sharp dimples and making
her cheeks bulge slightly on either side of the chin.

"I brought it in from Rollo's room," she said. "I like bein' in here.
Rollo never comes in; but she always has a fire in here when she's got
people stoppin'. You can pop in here whenever you like when Felix isn't
at home. It's jolly. I like it."

Miriam looked into the fire and thought. Joey, too, liked talking to Mr.
Corrie in his room when he was not there. He must be one of those
charming sort of men, rather weak, who went on liking people. Joey was
evidently an old friend of the family and still liked him. She evidently
liked even to mention his name. He couldn't be really anything much ...
or perhaps Joey didn't really know him at all. Joey did not live there.
She came and went.

"Of course you haven't seen Felix yet, have you?"

"No."

Joey straightened her head on her pillow.

"It's not the least use me tryin' to describe him to you," she breathed
in broken tones.

Miriam struggled uneasily with her thoughts ... a leading Q.C.--about
forty.... "Oh, do try," she said, a little fearfully ... how vulgar ...
just like a housemaid ... no; Wiggerson would never have said such a
thing, nor asked at all. It was treachery to Mr. Corrie. If Joey said
anything more about him she would never be able to speak to him freely.

"He's divine," said Joey, smiling into the fire.

How nice of Joey to be so free with her and want her to like him too ...
the gong. They both rose and peered into the little strip
of mirror in the small overmantel ... divine might mean
anything ... divine ... oh, quite too utterly too-too ...
greenery-yellery--Grosvenor-gallery--foot-in-the-grave young man.



                              CHAPTER III


                                   1

The next day the ground was powdered with snow. Large snowflakes were
hurrying through the air driving to and fro on a harsh wind. The wind
snored round the house like a flame and bellowed in the chimneys. An
opened window let in the cold air and the smell of the snow. No sound
came from the woods. The singing of the birds and the faint sound of the
woods had gone.

But when Miriam left her room to go across to the schoolroom and wait
for the children she found the spring in the house. The landing was
bright with the light streaming through many open doors. Rooms were
being prepared. On a large tray on the landing table lay a mass of
spring flowers and little flowered bowls of many shapes and sizes filled
with fresh water. Stokes and Wiggerson were fluttering in and out of the
rooms carrying frilled bed-linen, lace-edged towels and flowered
bed-spreads.

People with money could make the spring come as soon as the days
lengthened. Clear bright rooms, bright clean paint, soft coloured
hangings, spring flowers in the bright light on landings. The warmth
from stoves and fires seemed as if it came from the sun. Its glow
changed suddenly to the glow of sunlight. It drew the scent of the
flowers into the air. And with the new scent of the new flowers
something was moving and leaping and dancing in the air. Outside the
wintry weather might go on and on as though the spring would never come.

In a dull cheap villa there might be a bunch of violets in a bowl on a
whatnot. Snuffing very close you could feel the tide of spring wash
through your brain. But only in the corner where the violets were. In
cold rooms upstairs you could remember the violets and the spring; but
the spring did not get into the house.

There was an extraordinary noise going on downstairs. Standing inside
the schoolroom door Miriam listened. Joey's contralto laugh coming up in
gusts, the sound of dancing feet, the children shouting names, Mrs.
Corrie repeating them in her laughing wavering chalky voice. Joey;
certainly Joey was not dancing about. She was probably sitting on the
sofa watching them, and thinking. Fancy their being so excited about
people coming. Just like any ordinary people. She went into the
schoolroom saying over the names to herself. "Mélie to-day ... Dad and
Mr. Staple-Craven to-morrow ... the Bean-pole for Sunday" ... someone
they knew very well. It might be either a tall man or a tall woman....
They made the house spring-like because people were coming. Would the
people notice that the house was spring-like? Would they _realise_?
People did not seem to realise anything. They would patronise the
flowers ... they ought to feel wild with joy; join hands and dance round
the flowers.

At lunch time the door at the far end of the dining-room stood open
showing the shrouded length of a billiard-table, and beyond it at the
far end in the gloom a squat oak chimney-piece littered with pipes and
other small objects. The light, even from the overcast sky, came in so
brilliantly that the holland cover looked almost white. There must be
several windows; perhaps three. What a room to have, just for a
billiard-room. A quiet, mannish room, waiting until it was wanted, the
pockets of the table bulging excitingly under the cover, the green glass
supports under the squat round stoutly spindling legs, a bit of a huge
armchair showing near the fireplace, the end of a sofa, the green shaded
lamps low over the table, the dark untidy mantelpiece, tobacco, books,
talks, billiards. In there too the spring flowers stood ready on the
table. They would be put somewhere on the wide dark mantel, probably on
a corner out of the way. "We used to play table billiards at home," said
Miriam at random, longing to know what part the billiard-room played in
the week-end.

"Billy-billy," said Mrs. Corrie, "oh, we'll have some fun. We'll _all_
play."

"It was _such_ a bore stretching the webbing," said Miriam critically,
avoiding Sybil's eager eyes.

"It _must_ have been--but how awfully jolly to have billiards. I simply
adaw billiards," said Joey fervently.

"Such a fearful business getting them absolutely taut," pursued Miriam,
feeling how much the cream caramel was enhanced by the sight of the
length, beyond the length of the dining-room, of that bright long heavy
room. She imagined it lit and people walking about amongst the curious
lights and shadows with cues--and cigarettes; quiet intent faces.
Englishmen. Did the English invent billiards?

"Poor old Joey. Wish you weren't going to the dentist. You won't be here
when Mélie comes."

"Don't mind the dentist a scrap. I'm looking forward to it. I shall see
Mélie to-night."

She doesn't like her, thought Miriam; people being together is awful;
like the creaking of furniture.


                                   2

Mélie arrived an hour before dinner time. Miriam heard Mrs. Corrie
taking her into the room next to her own with laughter and many phrases.
A panting, determined voice, like a voice out of a play, the thick,
smooth, rather common voice of a fair-haired middle-aged lady in a play
kept saying, "The pores, my dear. I must open my pores after the
journey. I'm _choked_ with it."

Presently Mélie's door closed and Mrs. Corrie tapped and put her head
inside Miriam's door. "She's goin' to have a steam bath on her floor,
got an injarubber tent on the floor and a spirit lamp. She's gettin'
inside it. Isn't she an old _cure_!"

"She's thinking more about her food than anything they're saying; she
doesn't really care about them a bit," thought Miriam at dinner, gazing
again and again across at Mrs. Staple-Craven's fat little shape seated
opposite herself in a tightly fitting pale blue silk dress whose sleeves
had tiny puffs instead of the fashionable large square sleeves. Watching
her cross unconscious face, round and blue-eyed and all pure "milk and
roses," her large yellow head with a tiny twist of hair standing up like
the handle of a jug, exactly on the top of the crown, her fat white
hands with thick soft curly fingers and bright pink nails, the strange
blue stare that went from thing to thing on the table, hearing her thick
smooth heedless voice, with its irrelevant assertions and statements,
Miriam wondered how she had come to be Mrs. Staple-Craven. She was no
more Mrs. Staple-Craven than she was sitting at Mrs. Corrie's table. She
was not really there. She was just getting through, and neither Mrs.
Corrie nor Joey really knew this. At the same time she was too stout and
gluttonous to be still really a fairy in Devonshire. Where was she? What
did she think? She went on and on because she was afraid someone might
ask her that.

Although Joey had been to have her hair dyed and had not been to the
dentist at all she was not pretending nearly so much. She was a little
ashamed. Why had she said she was going to the dentist and come back
with sheeny bronzy hair, ashamed? She had been worrying about her looks.
Perhaps she was more than twenty-one. Nan Babington said no one need
mind being twenty-one if they were engaged, but if not it was a frantic
age to be. Joey was a poor worried thing, just like any other girl.


                                   3

When they were safely ensconced round the drawing-room fire Mrs.
Staple-Craven sat very upright in her chair with her plump little hands
on either arm and her eyes fixed on the blaze. Joey pleading toothache
had said good night and gone away with her coffee. There was a moment's
silence.

"You'd never think I'd been fairly banged to death by the spirits last
night," said Mrs. Staple-Craven in a thick flat reproachful narrative
tone. It sounds like a housekeeper giving an order to a servant she
knows won't obey her, thought Miriam, swishing more comfortably into her
chair. If Mrs. Craven would talk there would be no need to do anything.

"Ah-ha," said Mrs. Craven, still looking at the fire, "something's
pleasing Miss Henderson."

"Is she rejoicin'? Tell us about the spirits, Mélie. I'm deadly keen.
Deadly. She mustn't be too delighted. I've told her she's not to get
engaged."

"Engaged?" enquired Mrs. Craven, of the fire.

"She's promised," said Mrs. Corrie, turning off the lights until only
one heavily shaded lamp was left, throwing a rosy glow over Mélie's
compact form.

"She won't, if she's not under the star, to be sure."

"Oh, she mustn't think about stars. Why should she marry?"

Miriam looked a little anxiously from one to the other.

"You've shocked her, Julia," said Mrs. Staple-Craven. "Never mind at
all, my dear. You'll marry if you're under the star."

"Star, star, beautiful star, a handsome one with twenty thousand a
year," sang Mrs. Corrie.

"I don't think a man has any right to be handsome," said Miriam
desperately--she must manage to keep the topic going. These women were
so terrible--they filled her with fear. She must make them take back
what they had said.

"A handsome man's much handsomer than a pretty woman," said Mrs. Craven.

"It's cash, cash, cash--that's what it is," chanted Mrs. Corrie softly.

"Oh, do you?" said Miriam. "I think a handsome man's generally so weak."

Mrs. Craven stared into the fire.

"You take the one who's got the ooftish, my friend," said Mrs. Corrie.

"But you say I'm not to marry."

"You shall marry when my poor little old kiddies are grown up. We'll
find you a very nice one with plenty of money."

"Then you _don't_ think marriage is a failure," said Miriam, with
immense relief.

Mrs. Corrie leaned towards her with laughter in her clear light eyes. It
seemed to fill the room. "Have some more coffy-drink?"

"No, thanks," said Miriam, shivering.

"Sing us something--she sings, Mélie--German songs. Isn't she no end
clever?"

"Does she?" said Mrs. Craven. "Yes. She's got a singing chin. Sing us a
pretty song, my dear."

As she fluttered the leaves of her Schumann album she saw Mrs. Craven
sit back with closed eyes, and Mrs. Corrie still sitting forward in her
chair with her hands clasped on her knees gazing with a sad white face
into the flames.

"Ich grolle nicht, und wenn das Herz auch bricht," sang Miriam, and
thought of Germany. Her listeners did not trouble her. They would not
understand. No English person would quite understand--the need, that the
Germans understood so well--the need to admit the beauty of things ...
the need of the strange expression of music, making the beautiful things
more beautiful and of words when they were together in the beauty of the
poems. Music and poetry told everything--whether you understood the
music or the words--they put you in the mood that made things
shine--then heart-break or darkness did not matter. Things go on shining
in the end; German landscapes and German sunshine and German towns
were full of this knowledge. In England there was something
besides--something hard.

"'Menjous, ain't it?" said Mrs. Corrie, as she rose from the piano.

"If we lived aright we should all be singing," said Mrs. Craven, "it's
natural."


                                   4

"You look a duck."

Miriam stood still at the top of the stairs and looked down into the
hall. Mrs. Staple-Craven was standing under the largest lamp near the
fireplace looking up at a tall man in a long ulster. Grizzled hair and a
long face with a long pointed grizzled beard--she was staring up at him
with her eyes "like saucers" and her face pink, white, gold, "like a
full moon"--how awful for him ... he'd come down from town probably in a
smoking carriage, talking, and there she was and he had to say
something.

"I've just had my bath," said Mrs. Craven, without altering the angle of
her gaze.

"You look a duck," said the tall man fussily, half turning away.

Standing with his back to the couple, opening letters at the hall table
was a little man in a neat little overcoat with a silk hat tilted back
on his head. His figure had a curious crooked jaunty appearance, the
shoulders a little crooked and the little legs slightly bent. "It's Mr.
Corrie," mused Miriam, moving backwards as he turned and went swiftly
out banging the front door behind him. "He looks like a jockey"; she got
herself back into her room until the hall should be clear. "He's gone
down to the stables." She listened to the quick jerky little footsteps
crunching along the gravel outside her window.

Soon after the quick little steps sounded on the stairs and the children
shouted from their rooms. A door was opened and shut and for five
minutes there was a babel of voices. Then the steps came out again and
went away down the passage leading off the landing to the bathroom and a
little spare room at the further end. They passed the bathroom and the
door of the little room was opened and shut and locked. Everything was
silent in the house, but from the room next to hers came the sounds of
Mr. Craven plunging quickly about and blowing and clearing his throat.
She had not heard him come up.

When at last she came downstairs she found the whole party standing
talking in the hall. The second gong was drowning the terrible voices,
leaving nothing but gesticulating figures. Presently Mr. Staple-Craven
was standing before her with Mrs. Corrie, and her hand was powerfully
wrung and released with a fussy emphatic handshake cancelling the first
impression. Mr. Craven made some remark in a high voice, lost by Miriam
as Mr. Corrie came across to her from talking to Joey under a lamp and
took her hand. "Let me introduce your host," he said, keeping her hand
and placing it on his arm as he turned towards the dining-room, "and
take you in to dinner."

Miriam went across the hall past the servants waiting on either side of
the dining-room door and down the long room with her hand on the soft
coat sleeve of a neat little dinner jacket and her footsteps led by the
firm, disconnected, jumpy footsteps of the little figure at her side.
There was a vague crowd of people coming along behind. "Come on,
everybody," Mrs. Corrie had pealed delicately, and Mrs. Craven had said
in a thick smooth explanatory voice, "Of course she's the greatest
stranger."

The table was set with replicas of the little groups of Venetian wine
and finger glasses and fine silver and cutlery that had accompanied
Miriam's first sense of dining and when she found herself seated at Mr.
Corrie's left hand opposite Mrs. Craven, with Joey away on her left,
facing Mr. Craven and Mrs. Corrie now far away from her at the door end
of the table, it seemed as if these things had been got together only
for the use of the men. Why were women there? Why did men and women dine
together? She would have liked to sit there and watch and listen, but
not to dine--not to be seen dining by Mr. Corrie. It was extraordinary,
this muddle of men and women with nothing in common. The men must hate
it. She knew he did not have such thoughts. All the decanters stood in a
little group between him and the great bowl of flaring purple and
crimson anemones that stood in the centre of the table, and the way in
which he said when her soup came, "Have some Moselle," and filled her
glass, compelled her to feel welcome to share the ritual of the feast.
She sat with bent head wrapped and protected, hearing nothing as the
voices sounded about the table but the clear sweet narrow rather
drawling tones of Mr. Corrie's voice. She could hear it talking to men,
on racecourses, talking in clubs, laughing richly, rather drunkenly, at
improper stories in club smoking-rooms; dining, talking and lunching,
dining, talking, talking every day and sitting there now, wonderfully,
giving her security. She knew with perfect certainty that nothing
painful or disagreeable or embarrassing could come near her in his
presence. But he knew nothing about her; much less than Wiggerson knew.


                                   5

Joey felt the same, of course. But Joey was laughing and talking in her
deep voice and making eyes. No, it was not the same. Joey was not happy.

These people sitting at his table were supposed to be friends. But they
knew nothing about him. He made little quiet mocking jokes and laughed
and kept things going. The Staple-Cravens knew nothing at all about him.
Mrs. Staple-Craven did not care for anybody. She looked about and always
spoke as if she were answering an accusation that nobody had made--a
dressmaker persuading you to have something and talking on and on in fat
tones to prevent your asking the price.... Mr. Craven only cared for
himself. He was weak and pompous and fussy with a silly elaborate
chivalrous manner. There was a stillness round the table. Miriam felt
that it centred in her and was somehow her fault. Never mind. She had
successfully got through whitebait and a quail. She would write home
about the quails and whitebait and the guests and say nothing about her
own silence--"Mr. Staple-Craven is a poet ..."

"Give Mélie some more drink, Percy," said Mrs. Corrie. "It's all wrong
you two sittin' together."

"She likes to sit near me, don't you, my duck?" said Mr. Craven, looking
about for the wine and bowing to and fro from his hips.

"You've been away so long," murmured Mr. Corrie. "What sort of a place
is Balone to stay in?"

"Oh, nothing of a place in itself, nothing of a place. Why do you call
it Balone?"

"Isn't that right? That's right enough. Come."

Miriam waited eagerly, her eyes on Mr. Craven's pink face with the
grizzled hair above and below it. How perfectly awful he must look in
his nightshirt, she thought, and flushed violently. "Balloyne," he was
saying carefully, showing his red lips and two rows of unnaturally even
teeth.... "Oh, Lord, they mean Bologne." Both men were talking together.
"Balloyne is perfectly correct; the correct pronunciation," said Mr.
Craven in a loud testy voice, with loose lips. Mrs. Craven gazed up ...
like a distressed fish ... into his flushed face. Mrs. Corrie was
throwing out her little wavering broken laughs. Keeping his angry voice
Mr. Craven went on. Miriam sat eagerly up and glanced at Mr. Corrie. He
was sitting with his lips drawn down and his eyebrows raised ... his
law-court face.... Suddenly his face relaxed and the dark boyish brown
head with the clear thoughtful brow and the gentle kind eyes turned
towards her. "Let's ask Miss Henderson. She shall be umpire."


                                   6

Miriam carefully enunciated the word. The blood sang in her ears as
everyone looked her way. The furniture and all the room mimicked her.
What did it matter, after all, the right pronunciation? It did matter;
not that Balone was wrong, but the awfulness of being able to miss the
right sound if you had once heard it spoken. There was some awful
meaning in the way English people missed the right sound; all the names
in India, all the Eastern words. How _could_ an English traveller hear
hahreem, and speak it hairum, Aswân and say Ass-ou-ann? It made them
miss other things and think wrongly about them. "That's more like it,"
she heard Mr. Corrie say. There was sheeny braiding round the edges of
his curious little coat. "Got you there, Craven, got you there," he was
saying somewhere in his mind ... his mind went on by itself repeating
things wearily. His small austere face shone a little with dining; the
corners of his thin lips slackened. "I can read all your thoughts. None
of you can disturb my enjoyment of this excellent dinner; none of you
can enhance it" ... but he was not quite conscious of his thoughts. Why
did not the others read them? Perhaps they did. Perhaps they were too
much occupied to notice what people were thinking. Perhaps in society
people always were. The Staple-Cravens did not notice. But they were
neither of them quite sure of themselves. Mrs. Corrie was busy all the
time dancing and singing somewhere alone, wistfully. Joey kept throwing
her smile at Mr. Corrie--lounging a little, easily, over the table and
saying in her mind, "I understand you, the others don't, I do," and he
smiled at her, broadened the smile that had settled faintly all over his
face, now and again in her direction. But she did not understand him.
"Divine," perhaps he was, or could be. But Joey did not know him. She
only knew that he had a life of his own and no one else at the table had
quite completely. She did not know that with all his worldly happiness
and success and self-control he was miserable and lost and needing
consolation ... but neither did he. Perhaps he never would; would not
find it out because he had so many thoughts and was always talking. So
he thought he liked Joey. Because she smiled and responded. "Jabez
Balfour," he was saying slowly, savouring the words and smiling through
his raised wineglass with half closed eyes. That was for Mr.
Staple-Craven; there was some exciting secret in it. Presently they
would be two men over their wine and nuts. Mr. Staple-Craven took this
remark for himself at once, scorning the women with a thick polite
insolence. His lips shot out. "Ah," he said busily, "Jabez Balfour,
Jabez Balfour; ah," he swung from side to side from his waist. "Let me
see, Jabez...."

"The Liberator scheme," said Mr. Corrie interestedly with a bright young
eye. "They've got 'im this time; fairly got 'im on the hop."

Jabez Balfour; what a beautiful name. He could not have done anything
wrong. There was a soft glare of anger in Mr. Corrie's eyes; as if he
were accusing Mr. Staple-Craven of some crime, or everybody. Perhaps one
would hear something about crime; crime. That's crime--somebody taking
down a book and saying triumphantly, "that's crime," and people talking
excitedly about it, in the warm, at dinners ... like that moment at
Richmond Park, the ragged man with panting mouth, running ... the quiet
grass, the scattered deer, the kindly trees, the gentlemen with
triumphant faces, running after him; enough, enough, he had suffered
enough ... his poor face, their dreadful faces. He knew more than they
did. Crime could not be allowed. People murdering you in your sleep. But
criminals knew that--the running man knew. He was running away from
himself. He knew he had spoiled the grass and the trees and the deer. To
have stopped him and hidden him and let him get over it. His poor
face.... The awful moment of standing up trying to say or do something,
feeling so weak, trembling at the knees, the man's figure pelting along
in the distance, the two gentlemen passing, their white waistcoats,
homes, wives, bathrooms, stuffiness, indigestion....


                                   7

"It comes perfectly into line with Biblical records, my dear Corrie: a
single couple, two cells originating the whole creation."

"I'm maintaining that's not the Darwinian idea at all. It was not a
single couple, but several different ones."

"We're not descended from monkeys at all. It's not natural," said Mrs.
Craven loudly, across the irritated voices of the men. Their faces were
red. They filled the room with inaccurate phrases pausing politely
between each and keeping up a show of being guest and host. How nice of
them. But this was how cultured people with incomes talked about Darwin.

"The great thing Darwin did," said Miriam abruptly, "was to point out
the power of environment in evolving the different species--selecting."

"That's it, that's it!" sang Mrs. Corrie. "Let's all select ourselves
into the droin'-room." "Now I've offended the men and the women too,"
thought Miriam.


                                   8

Mr. Staple-Craven joined the ladies almost at once. He came in leaving
the door open behind him and took a chair in the centre of the fireside
circle and sat giving little gasps and sighs of satisfaction, spreading
his hands and making little remarks about the colours of the fire, and
the shape of the coffee cups. There he was and he would have to be
entertained, although he had nothing at all to say and was puzzling
about himself and life all the time behind his involuntary movements and
polite smiles and gestures. Perhaps he was uneasy because he knew there
was someone saying all the time, "You're a silly pompous old man and you
think yourself much cleverer than you are." But it was not altogether
that; he was always uneasy, even when he was alone, unless he was
rapidly preparing to go and be with people who did not know what he was.
If he had been alone with the other three women he would have forgotten
for a while and half-liked, half-despised them for their affability.

"The great man's always at work, always at work," he said suddenly, in a
desperate sort of way. They were like some sort of needlework guild
sitting round, just people, in the end; it made the surroundings seem
quite ordinary. The room fell to pieces; one could imagine it being
turned out, or all the things being sold up and dispersed.

"All work and no play," scolded Mrs. Craven, "makes Jack...."

Miriam heard the swish of the bead curtain at the end of the short
passage.

"Heah he _is_," smiled Joey.

"A miracle," breathed Mrs. Craven, glancing round the circle. Evidently
he did not usually come in.

Mr. Corrie came quietly into the room with empty hands; in the clear
light he looked older than he had done in the dining-room, fuller in the
face; grey threads showed in his hair. Everyone turned towards him. He
looked at no one. His loose little smile had gone. The straight chair
into which he dropped with a dreamy careless preoccupied air was set a
little back from the fireside circle. No one moved.

"Absorbed the evidence, m'lud?" squeaked Mr. Craven.

"Ah-m," growled his host, clearing his throat.

Why can't they let him alone, Miriam asked herself, and leave him to me,
added her mind swiftly. She sat glaring into the fire; the room had
resumed its strange magic.


                                   9

"Do you think it is wrong to teach children things you don't believe
yourself?..." said Miriam, and her thoughts rushed on. "You're an
unbeliever and I'm an unbeliever and both of us despise the thoughts and
opinions of 'people'; you're a successful wealthy man and can amuse
yourself and forget; I must teach and presently die, teach till I die.
It doesn't matter. I can be happy for a while teaching your children,
but you know, knowing me a little what a task that must be; you know I
know nothing and that I know that nobody knows anything; comfort me...."

She seemed to traverse a great loop of time waiting for the answer to
her hurried question. Mr. Corrie had come into the drawing-room dressed
for dinner and sat down near her with a half-smile as she closed the
book she was reading and laid it on her knee and looked up with
sentences from "A Human Document" ringing through her, and by the time
her question was out she knew it was unnecessary. But she had flung it
out and it had reached him and he had read the rush of thoughts that
followed it. She might as well have been silent; better. She had missed
some sort of opportunity. What would have happened if she had been quite
silent? His answer was swift, but in the interval they had said all they
would ever have to say to each other. "Not in the least," he said, with
a gentle decisiveness.

She flashed thanks at him and sighed her relief. He did not mind about
religion. But how far did he understand? She had made him think she was
earnest about the teaching children something. He would be very serious
about their being "decently turned out." She was utterly incapable of
turning them out for the lives they would have to lead. She envied and
pitied and despised those lives. Envied the ease and despised the
ignorance, the awful cruel struggle of society that they were growing up
for--no joy, a career and sport for the boy, clubs, the weary dyspeptic
life of the blasé man, and for the girl lonely cold hard bitter
everlasting "social" life. She envied the ease. Mr. Corrie must know she
envied the ease. Did he know that she tried to hide her incapacity in
order to go on sharing the beauty and ease?

"It is so difficult," she pursued helplessly, and saw him wonder why she
went on with the subject and try to read the title of her book. She did
not mean to tell him that. That would lead them away; just nowhere. If
only she could tell him everything and get him to understand. But that
would mean admitting that she was letting the children's education
slide; and he was sitting there, confidently, so beautifully dressed for
dinner, paying her forty pounds a year not to let the children's
education slide.... "It's an opportunity; he's come in here, and sat
down to talk to me. I ought to tell him; I'm cheating." But he had
looked for the title of her book, and would have talked, about anything,
if she could have talked. He had a little air of deference, quiet kind
indulgent deference. His neat little shoulders, bent as he sat turned
towards her, were kind. "I'm too young," she cried in her mind. If only
she could say aloud, "I'm too young--I can't do it," and leave
everything to him.

Or leave the children out altogether and talk to him, man to man, about
the book. She could not do that. Everything she said would hurt her,
poisoned by the hidden sore of her incapability to do anything for his
children. He ought to send them to school. But they would not go to a
school where anything real was taught. Science, strange things about
India and Ireland, the æsthetic movement, Ruskin; making things
beautiful. How far away all that seemed, that sacred life of her old
school--forgotten. The thought of it was like a breath in the room. Did
he know of these things? That sort of school would take the children
away, out of this kind of society life. Make them think--for themselves.
He did not think or approve of thought. Even the hard Banbury Park
people would be nearer to him than any of those things.... That was the
world. Nearly everyone seemed to be in it. He was whimsically trying to
read the title of her book with the little half-smile he shared with the
boy.

People came in and they both rose. It was over. She sank back miserably
into the offering of the moment, retiring into a lamp-lit corner with
her book, enclosing herself in its promise.


                                   10

She sat long that night over her fire dipping into the strange book,
reading passages here and there; feeling them come nearer to her than
anything she had read before. She knew at once that she did not want to
read the book through; that it was what people called a tragedy, that
the author had deliberately made it a tragedy; something black and
twisted and painful, painful came to her out of every page; but
seriously to read it right through and be excited about the tragic story
seemed silly and pitiful. The thought of Mrs. Corrie and Joey doing this
annoyed her and impatiently she wanted to tell them that there was
nothing in it, nothing in the things the author wanted to make them
believe; that was fraud, humbug ... they missed everything. They could
not see through it, they read through to the happy ending or the sad
ending and took it all seriously.

She struggled in thought to discover why it was she felt that these
people did not read books and that she herself did. She felt that she
could look at the end, and read here and there a little and know; know
something, something they did not know. People thought it was silly,
almost wrong to look at the end of a book. But if it spoilt a book,
there was something wrong about the book. If it was finished and the
interest gone when you know who married who, what was the good of
reading at all? It was a sort of trick, a sell. Like a puzzle that was
no more fun when you had found it out. There was something more in books
than that ... even Rosa Nouchette Carey and Mrs. Hungerford, something
that came to you out of the book, any bit of it, a page, even a
sentence--and the "stronger" the author was the more came. That was why
Ouida put those others in the shade, not, not, _not_ because her books
were improper. It was her, herself somehow. Then you read books to find
the author! That was it. That was the difference ... that was how one
was different from most people.... Dear Eve; I have just discovered that
I don't read books for the story, but as a psychological study of the
author ... she must write that to Eve at once; to-morrow. It was rather
awful and strange. It meant never being able to agree with people about
books, never liking them for the same reasons as other people.... But it
was true and exciting. It meant ... things coming to you out of books,
people, not the people in the books, but knowing, absolutely, everything
about the author. She clung to the volume in her hand with a sense of
wealth. Its very binding, the feeling of it, the sight of the slender
serried edges of the closed leaves came to her as having a sacredness
... and the world was full of books.... It did not matter that people
went about talking about nice books, interesting books, sad books,
"stories"--they would never be that to her. They were people. More real
than actual people. They came nearer. In life everything was so scrappy
and mixed up. In a book the author was there in every word.

Why did this strange book come so near, nearer than any others, so that
you _felt_ the writing, felt the sentences as if you were writing them
yourself? He was a sad pained man, all wrong; bothered and tragic about
things, believing in sad black horror. Then why did he come so near?
Perhaps because life was sad. Perhaps life was really sad. No; it was
somehow the writing, the clearness. That was the thing. He himself must
be all right, if he was so clear. Then it was dangerous, dangerous to
people like Mrs. Corrie and Joey who would attend only to what he said,
and not to him ... sadness or gladness, saying things were sad or glad
did not matter; there was something behind all the time, something
inside people. That was why it was impossible to pretend to sympathise
with people. You don't have to sympathise with authors; you just get at
them, neither happy nor sad; like talking, more than talking. Then that
was why the people who wrote moral stories were so awful. They were
standing behind the pages preaching at you with smarmy voices....
Bunyan?... No.... He preached to himself too ... crying out his sins....
He did not get between you and himself and point at a moral. An author
must show himself. Anyhow, he can't help showing himself. A moral writer
only sees the mote in his brother's eye. And you see him seeing it.


                                   11

A long letter to Eve.... Eve would think that she was showing off. But
she would be excited and interested too, and would think about it a
little. If only she could make Eve see what a book was ... a dance by
the author, a song, a prayer, an important sermon, a message. Books were
not stories printed on paper, they were people; the real people; ... "I
prefer books to people" ... "I know now why I prefer books to people."


                                   12

"... I do wish you'd tell me more about your extraordinary days. You
must have extraordinary days. I do. Perhaps everyone has. Only they
don't seem to know it!"

... This morning, the green common lying under the sun, still and wide
and silent; with a little breeze puffing over it; the intense fresh
green near the open door of the little Catholic church; the sandy
pathway running up into the common, hummocky and twisting and winding,
its sand particles glinting in the sun, always there, going on, whoever
died or whatever happened, winding amongst happy greenery, in and out
amongst the fresh smell of the common. Inside the chapel the incense
streaming softly up, the seven little red lamps hanging in the cloud of
incense about the altar; the moving of the thick forest of embroidery on
the cope of the priest. Funny when he bobbed, but when he just moved
quietly, taking a necessary step, all the colour of the forest on his
cope moving against the still high wide colours of the chancel. If only
anyone could express how perfect life was at those moments; everyone
must know, everyone who was looking must know that life was perfectly
happy. That is why people went to church; for those moments with the
light on all those things in the chancel. It meant something.... Priests
and nuns knew it all the time; even when they were unhappy; that was why
they could kiss dying people and lepers; they saw something else, all
the time. Nothing common or unclean. That was why Christ had blazing
eyes. Christianity: the sanctification of bread and wine, and lepers and
death; the body; the resurrection of the body. Even if there was some
confusion and squabbling about Christ there must be something in it if
the things that showed were so beautiful.

Hard cold vows, of chastity and poverty. That did it. Emptiness, in face
of--an unspeakable glory. If one could not, was too weak or proud,
"Verily they have their reward." Everyone got something somehow ... in
hell; thou art there also ... that shows there is no eternal punishment.
Earth is hell, with everyone going to heaven.

What was the worldly life? The gay bright shimmering lunch, the many
guests, the glitter of the table, mayonnaise red and green and yellow,
delicate bright wines; strolling in the woods in the afternoon.... Tea,
everyone telling anecdotes of the afternoon's walk as if it were a sort
of competition, great bursts of laughter and abrupt silences and then
another story, the moments of laughter were something like those moments
in church; whilst there was nothing but laughter in the room everybody
was perfectly happy and good; everybody forgot everything and ran back
somewhere; to the beginning, to the time when they were first looking at
things, without troubling about anything. But when the laughter ceased
everyone ran away and the rest of their day together showed in a flash,
an awful tunnel that would be filled with the echo of the separate
footsteps unless more laughter could be made, to hide the sad helpless
sounds. Dinners were like all the noise and laughter of tea-time grown
steadier, a pillow fight with harder whacks and more time for the
strokes, no bitterness, just buffeting and shouts, and everyone laughing
the same laugh as if they were all in some high secret. They were in
some high secret; the great secret of the worldly life; and if you
prevented yourself from thinking and laughed, they seemed to take you
in. That was the way to live the worldly life. To talk absurdly and
laugh; to be lost in laughter. Why had Mrs. Corrie seemed so vexed? Why
had she said suddenly and quietly in the billiard-room that it seemed
rummy to go to Mass and play billiards in the evening? "_Be_ goody if
you _are_." It had spoiled the day. Mrs. Corrie would like her to be
goody. But then it was she who had pushed her down the steps in the
afternoon and called after the actor to take care of her in the woods.

There was something too sad about the worldliness and too difficult
about goodness.

Perhaps one had not gone far enough with worldliness....

   "Take each fair mask for what it shows itself,
   Nor strive to look beneath it."

That was what she had done drifting about in the wood with the actor
listening to his pleasant voice. It was an excursion into pure
worldliness. He had never thought for a moment in his life of the world
as anything than what it appeared to be. He had no suspicion that anyone
ever did. He had accepted her as one of the house-party and talked, on
and on busily, about his American tour and his hope of a London
engagement, getting emphatic about his chance, the chanciness of
everything. And she had drifted along, delighting in the pleasant voice
sounding through the wood, seeing the wood clear and steady through the
pleasant tone, not caring about chance or chanciness but ready to
pretend she was interested in them so that the voice might go on;
pretending to be interested when he stopped. That was feminine
worldliness, pretending to be interested so that pleasant things might
go on. Masculine worldliness was refusing to be interested so that it
might go on doing things. Feminine worldliness then meant perpetual hard
work and cheating and pretence at the door of a hidden garden, a lovely
hidden garden. Masculine worldliness meant never being really there;
always talking about things that had happened or making plans for things
that might happen. There was nothing that could happen that was not in
some way the same as anything else. Nobody was ever quite there,
realising.



                               CHAPTER IV


                                   1

During her second week of giving the children their morning's lessons
Miriam saw finally that it was impossible and would always be impossible
to make their two hours of application anything but an irrelevant
interval in their lives. They came into the schoolroom with languid
reluctance, dreamily indolent from breakfast in bed, fragrant from warm
baths. They made no resistance. She sat with the appointed tasks clearly
in mind, holding on to the certainty that they were to be done as the
only means of getting through the morning. The excitement of taking up
everything afresh with her was over and beyond occasional moments of
brightness when she tried to impress a fact or lift them over a
difficulty with a jest and they would exchange their glance of secret
delight, their curious conspirators' glance of some great certainty
shared, they went through their tasks with well-bred preoccupation,
sighing deeply now and again and sometimes groaning, with clenched hands
pressed between their knees. Their accustomed life of events was close
round them, in the garden just beyond the undraped window, on the mat
outside the schoolroom door, where at any moment a footstep crossing the
landing might fall softly and pause, when their heads would go up in
tense listening. "Rollo!" they would say, waiting for the turning of the
handle, holding themselves in for the subdued shoutings they would utter
when Mrs. Corrie appeared standing in the doorway with a finger on her
lips. "Happy?" she would breathe; "working like nigger boys?" Unless
Miriam looked gravely detached she would glide in blushing, and
passionately caress them. When this happened, sighs and groanings filled
the time that remained. Their nearest approach to open rebellion
included a tacit appeal to her as a fellow-sufferer to throw up the
stupid game. It was quite clear that they did not blame her for their
sufferings and they were so much prepared to do the decent thing that
her experiment of reading to them regularly at some convenient half-hour
each day from a book of adventures or fairy tale, not only reconciled
them to endure the morning's ordeal, but filled them with a gratitude
that astonished her and the beginnings of a personal regard for her that
shook her heart. During the readings they would lose their air of
well-bred detachment and would come near. They would be relaxed and
silent; the girl with bent head and brooding defiant curiously smiling
and frowning face, the boy gazing at the reader, rapturous. She would
sometimes feel against each arm the pressure of a head.

She had felt instinctively and at once that she could not use their
lesson hours as opportunities for talking at large on general ideas as
she had done with the children in the Banbury Park school. Those
children, the children of tradesmen most of them, could be allowed to
take up the beginnings of ideas; "ideals," the sense of modern reforms,
they could be allowed to discuss anything from any point of view and
take up attitudes and have opinions. The opportunity for discussion and
for encouraging a definite attitude towards life was much greater in
this quiet room with only the two children; but it would have been mean,
Miriam felt, to take advantage of this opportunity; to be anything but
strictly neutral and wary of generalisations. It would have been so
easy. Probably a really "conscientious" woman would have done it, have
"influenced" them, given the girl a bias in the direction of some life
of devotion, hospital nursing or slum missionary work, and have filled
the boy with ideas as to the essential superiority of "Radicals." Their
minds were so soft and untouched.... It ended in a conspiracy, they all
sat masquerading, and finished their morning exhausted and relieved. The
children knew the lessons tortured her and made her ill at ease, and
they were puzzled without disapproving. Through it all she felt their
gratitude to her for not being "simple," like Bunnikin.


                                   2

There was to be another week-end. Again there would be the sense of
being a visitor amongst other visitors; visitor was not the word; there
was a French word which described the thing, "convive," "les convives"
... people sitting easily about a table with flushed faces ... someone
standing drunkenly up with eyes blazing with friendliness and a raised
wineglass ... women and wine, the roses of Heliogabalus; but he was a
Greek and dreadful in some way, convives were Latin, Roman; fountains,
water flowing over marble, white-robed strong-faced people reclining on
marble couches, feasting ... taking each fair mask for what it shows
itself; that was what this kind of wealthy English people did, perhaps
what all wealthy people did ... the maimed, the halt, the blind,
_compel_ them to come in ... but that was after the others had refused.
The thing that made you feel jolliest and strongest was to forget the
maimed, to _be_ a fair mask, to keep everything else out and be a little
circle of people knowing that everything was kept out. Suppose a
skeleton walked in? Offer it a glass of wine. People have no right to be
skeletons, or if they are to make a fuss about it. These people would be
all the brighter if they happened to have neuralgia; some strong pain or
emotion made you able to do things. Taking each fair mask was a fine
grown-up game. Perhaps it could be kept up to the end? Perhaps _that_
was the meaning of the man playing cards on his death-bed. Defying God.
That was what Satan did. He was brave; defying a tyrant ... "nothing to
do but curse God and die." Who said that? there was something silly
about it; giving in, not real defiance. It didn't settle anything; if
the new ideas were true; the thing went on. The love of God was like the
love of a mother; always forgiving you, ready to die for you, always
waiting for you to be good. Why? It was mean. The things one wanted one
could not have if one were just tame and good.... It is morbid to think
about being good; better the fair mask--anything. But it did not make
people happy. These people were not happy. They were not real.


                                   3

Spring; everywhere, inside and outside the house. The spring outside had
a meaning here. It came in through the windows without obstruction and
passed into everything. At home it had sent one nearly mad with joy and
anticipation and passed and left you looking for it for the rest of the
year; in Germany it had brought music and wild joy--the secret had
passed from eye to eye; all the girls had known it. At Wordsworth House
it had stood far away, like a picture in a dream, something that could
be seen from windows, and found for a moment in the park, but powerless
to get into the house. Here it came in; you could not forget it for a
moment; and it was a background for something more wonderful than
itself; something that made it wonderful; something there were no words
for; voices, movements from room to room, strange food, the soft chink
of Venetian glass, amber wine, the light drowned in wine, through the
window a sharp gleam on things that reflected, day and night, into
everything, even into one's thoughts. Why was the spring suddenly so
real? Why was it that you could stand as it were in a shaft of it all
the time, feeling in your breathing, hearing in your voice the sound of
the spring, the blood in your fingertips seeming like the roses that
they would touch soon in the garden?

How ignorant the man was who said, "each fair mask for what it shows
itself." Life is not a mask, it is fair; the gold in one's hair is real.


                                   4

Friday brought an atmosphere of expectation. Mr. Kronen, an old friend
of the Corries, was coming down, with a new Mrs. Kronen.

By the early afternoon the house was full of fragrance; coming
downstairs dressed for an errand in the little town two miles away,
Miriam saw the hall all pink and saffron with azaleas. Coming across the
hall she found a scent in the air that did not come from the azaleas, a
sweet familiar syrupy distillation ... the blaze of childhood's garden
was round her again, bright magic flowers in the sunlight, magic
flowers, still there, nearer to her than ever in this happy house; she
could almost hear the humming of the bees, and flung back the bead
curtain with unseeing eyes half expecting some doorway to open on the
remembered garden; the scent was overpowering ... the drawing-room was
cool and silent with closed windows and drawn blinds; bowls of roses
stood in every available place; she tiptoed about in the room gathering
their scent.

As she opened the hall door Mrs. Corrie's voice startled her from the
dining-room.

Going into the dining-room she found her with a flushed face and excited
eyes and the children dancing round her. "Another tin! One more tin!"
they exclaimed, plucking at Miriam. From the billiard-room came the
smell of fresh varnish. Wiggerson was on her knees near the door.

"She's done some stupid thing," thought Miriam, looking at Mrs. Corrie's
excited, unconscious face with sudden anxiety; "some womanish overdoing
it, wanting to do too much and spoiling everything." She felt as if she
were representing Mr. Corrie.

"Will it be dry in time?" she asked, half angrily, scarcely knowing what
she said and in the midst of Mrs. Corrie's apologetic petition that she
would bring a tin of oak stain back with her.

"Lordy, don't you think so?" whispered Mrs. Corrie, only half dismayed.

Miriam had not patience to follow her as she went to survey the floor
ruefully chanting, "Oh, Wiggerson, Wiggerson."

"Anyhow I'm sure it oughtn't to have any more on as late as when I come
back," she scolded boldly. How annoyed Mr. Corrie would be....


                                   5

As she was going down the quiet road past the high oak garden palings of
the nearest house she heard the bumping and scrabbling of a heavy body
against the palings and a dog leapt into the road almost at her feet,
making the dust fly. It was an Irish terrier. It smiled and barked a
little, waiting, looking up into her face and up and down the road. "It
thought it knew me," she pondered; "it mistook me for someone else." She
patted its head and went forward thinking of the joyful scrabbling, its
headlong determination. The dog jerked back its head with a wide smile,
tore down the road and came back leaping and smiling. Something
disappeared from the vista of the roadway as the dog rushed along it
nosing after scents, looking round now and again, and now and again
rushing back to greet her. It brought back the sense of the house and
the strange gay life she had just left to go on her errand to the little
unknown town. It wore a smart collar; it belonged to that life. People
in it were never alone; when they went out there was always a dog with
them. "It thinks I'm one of them." But it liked the wild; when they came
out on to the common it rushed up a sandy pathway and disappeared
amongst the gorse bushes. For a while Miriam hoped it would come back
and kept looking about for it; then she gave it up and went ahead with
the commons drifting slowly by on either side; she wished that the
action of walking were not so jerky, that the expanses on either side
might pass more smoothly and easily by: "that's why people drive," she
thought; "you can only really see the country when you are not moving
yourself." Standing still for a moment she looked across the open
stretch to her left and smiled at it and went on again, walking more
quickly; the soft beauty that had retreated to the horizon when the dog
was with her was spreading back again across the whole expanse and
coming towards her; she hurried on singing softly at random, "Scorn such
a _foe_ ... though I could fell thee at a blow, though I-i, cou-uld
fe-ell thee-ee a-at a-a _blow_" ... people walking and thinking and
fussing, people driving somewhere in victorias were always coming along
the road, to them it was a sort of suburb, quite ordinary, the bit near
home. But it was big enough to be full of waves and waves of something
real, something cool and true and unchanging. Had anybody seen it, did
the people who lived there know it? Did anybody know this strange thing?
She almost ran; _my_ "commons," she said. "I know how beautiful you are;
if only I knew whether you know that I know. I know, I know," she said,
"I shan't forget you." "True, true till death; bear it, oh wind, on thy
lightning breath."


                                   6

The sun was very warm; before she reached the end of the long road the
sandy pathways were beginning to glare. There was the river and the
little bridge and the first shop just beyond it, where her purchase was
to be made. Its wood-work was very bright white; it had a seaside look.
She stood still on the slight ascent of the bridge mopping her face and
preparing to represent Mrs. Corrie in the shop. Scrambling up the
shallow bank from the common came the yellow dog. "Oh, hooray--you
duck," she breathed, patting the warm stubbly head and listening to his
breathless snortings. A piano-organ broke into loud music in the little
street. It was not a mysterious little town, there was nothing of the
village about it. The white framed windows held things you would see in
a Regent Street confectioner's; it was a special shop for the kind of
people who lived here. Miriam felt for her three and six and asked for
her pound of coffee creams with a bored air, wishing she knew the dog's
name so that she could claim him familiarly. She contented herself with
telling him to lie down in an angry whisper repeatedly, as the creams
were being weighed. He stood panting and gazing at her wagging his
stump. "'Ullo, Bushy," said the shopwoman languidly; the dog faced round
panting more loudly. "There you are, Bush," she said, as the scales
balanced, and flung the dog a chocolate wafer which he caught with a
snap. Miriam gazed vaguely at the unfamiliar spectacle, angrily feeling
that the shopwoman was observing her. "You're not going to take him
through the town?" said the shopwoman severely.

"Oh, no," said Miriam nervously.

"He's the worst fighter in the parish; they never bring him into the
town unless it's the groom sometimes."

"Thank you," said Miriam, taking her bag of coffee creams. "Dogs _are_ a
nuisance, aren't they?" she added, in an emphatically sympathetic tone,
getting away through the swing door almost hating the yellow body that
squeezed through at her side and stood eagerly facing towards the
market-place waiting for her movements.


                                   7

She hurried up over the bridge calling to the dog without looking round,
listening fearfully for sounds of conflict with a brown collie she had
caught sight of standing with head high and ears pricked, twenty yards
down the street. The piano-organ jingled angrily. The dog came
thoughtfully trotting over the bridge and ambled off across the
common--safe. He might have been killed, or killed another dog; how
cruel dogs were, without knowing better. She looked to the common asking
consolation for her beating heart. The bag of creams was safe and heavy
in her hand, the dog had gone, the little town was behind, it had hurt
her; it was spoiled; she would never like it. It had done nothing but
remind her that she was a helpless dingy little governess. She toiled
along, feeling dreadfully tired; the sounds of her boot soles on the
firm, sand-powdered road mocked her, telling her she must go on. If she
could be quite sure of finding a kind woman, not a hard-featured woman
with black and grey hair, like the shopwoman, but kind, knowing and
understanding everything, in a large print apron with her sleeves rolled
up to the elbows, living in a large cottage with a family, who would
look at her and smile a quiet short certain smile, as if she had been
waiting for her, and take her in and let her help and stay there for
ever, she would put down the bag of coffee creams on the edge of the
common and go straight across it to her; but there would not be a woman
like that here; all that the women round here would think about her
would be to wonder which of the families she belonged to. If a victoria
came along and in it a delicate, lonely old gentleman who had a large
empty house with deep quiet rooms and a large sunny garden with high
walls and wanted someone to be about there singing and happy till he
died she would go. He would drive away with her and shut her up in the
quiet beautiful house, protecting her and keeping people off, and she
would sing all day in the garden and the house and play to him and read
sometimes aloud, and he would forget he was old and ill, and they would
share the great secret, dying of happiness. Die of happiness. People
ought to be able to die of happiness if they were able to admit how
happy they were. If they admitted it aloud they would pass straight out
of their bodies, alive; unhappiness was the same as death, not
suffering; but letting suffering make you unhappy--curse God and die,
curse life, that was letting life beat you; letting God beat you. God
did not want that. No one admitted it. No one seemed to know anything
about it. People just went on fussing.

The violent beating of her heart died down. The sun was behind her; the
commons glowed. She must have been looking at them for some time because
she could close her eyes and see exactly how they looked, all alive in
steady colour, gleaming and fresh. The thumping and trilling of the
distant piano-organ offered itself equally to everybody. It knew the
secret and twirled and swept all the fussing away into a tune. Quietly
the clock of the church in the little town struck four. She would be
late for tea. The children would have tea with Mrs. Corrie. Wiggerson
would make a fresh pot for her when she got in. There would be a little
tray in her quiet room, a cup and saucer, the little sprigged silk
tea-cosy, the "Human Document." It would be the beginning of the
week-end. It would link her up again with the early afternoon, the
rose-filled drawing-room, the excited dining-room, the smell of varnish
from the billiard-room floor.


                                   8

Mrs. Corrie and the children were dancing in a lingering patch of
sunlight at the far end of the lawn as Miriam came up the drive with her
chocolates. They waved and shouted to her, trumpeting questions through
their hands. She held up the bag. "Go and have _tea_, you poor soul,"
sang Mrs. Corrie. How excited they were. In the flower-filled hall
Stokes, muttering excitedly to herself, was lighting the fire. The
crackling of wood came from the dining-room.

Wiggerson was swishing about in the dining-room clearing away tea.


                                   9

Sitting in her low basket chair with her dismantled tea-tray at her side
and a picture in her mind of the new Mrs. Kronen coming down from London
in the train in bright new clothes and a dust-cloak, Miriam was startled
by hearing frightened footsteps rush across the landing and a frightened
voice calling for Wiggerson.

"Something's happened," she told herself angrily, "it always does when
everybody's so excited--'tel qui rit vendredi dimanche pleurera.'"

Opening the door she found the landing empty and quiet, the setting sun
streamed across its coloured spaces, the flowers blazed as if they were
standing in a garden.... Joey always went for walks if she were feeling
thick and fat, she always went for a long walk; in coats with skirts to
match; a costume; never a jacket with a different skirt ... the long
cool passage leading away to the invisible door of Mr. Corrie's room was
full of wreathing smoke. Wiggerson rushed across the landing along the
passage, followed by Mrs. Corrie, with her head up and her handkerchief
to her nose and all her figure tense and angular and strong. Both had
passed silently; but there were shriekings on the stairs and the
children came at Miriam with cries and screams. "Rollo'll be _killed_";
"Go to her"; "Go and save vem"; the children shrieked and leaped up and
down in front of her. The boy's white features worked as if they must
dislocate; his eyes were black with terror; he wrung his hands. Sybil's
face, scarlet and shapeless and streaming with tears, blazed wrath at
Miriam through her green eyes. "Be quiet," Miriam said in loud tones. "I
shall do nothing till you are quiet." With a shriek the girl lashed at
her with the dog-whip. "Save vem, _save_ vem," shrieked the boy,
twisting his arms in the air. "Will you both be quiet _instantly_?"
shouted Miriam, as the blood rose to her head, catching and holding the
boy. Both children howled and choked; Sybil flung herself forward
howling, and Miriam felt her teeth in her wrist. The smoke came pouring
out of the little hidden room, coiling itself against the air of the
passage like some fascinating silent inevitable grimace. Wiggerson's
figure flying through it stirred it strangely, but it closed behind her
and billowed horribly out towards Mrs. Corrie standing just clear of its
advance with her handkerchief pressed to her face, quiet, not calling to
Wiggerson, waiting where she had disappeared. Miriam could not move.
Sybil's body hung fastened to her own with entwining limbs ... "a fight
in the jungle," a tiger flung fixed like a leech against the breast of a
screaming elephant ... the boy had the whip and was slashing at her legs
through her thin dress and uttering piercing shrieks.


                                   10

"Stokes is an idjut," said Mrs. Corrie, going gaily downstairs with the
two exhausted white-faced children followed by Wiggerson flitting along
with bloodshot blinking eyes.

Stokes, sullenly brooding, lighting Mr. Corrie's fire without putting
back the register. What was it that made Stokes sullen and brooding so
that the accident had happened and the smoke had come? Stokes had seen
something, someone, like the fearful oncoming curving stare of the
smoke. Mrs. Corrie and Wiggerson did not brood like that. They laughed
and wept and snatched things out of danger. They had thin faces. Mrs.
Corrie was alone, like an aspen shaking its leaves in windless air. She
knew she was alone. Wiggerson ... Wiggerson was...? Making her toilet in
the spring sunset Miriam saw all that time Wiggerson's tall body
hurtling about in her small pantry, quickly selecting and packing things
on a tray--her eyes glancing swiftly downwards as her foot caught, the
swift bending of her body, the rip, rip as she tore the braiding from
her skirt, her intent face as she threw it from her and swept sinuously
upright, her undisturbed hands once more at their swift work.


                                   11

What a strange photograph ... a woman in Grecian drapery seated on a
stonework chair with a small harp on her knees, one hand limply tweaking
the strings of her harp; her head thrown back, her eyes, hard and
bright, staring up into the sky, "Inspiration" printed in ink on the
white margin under the photograph. It was an Englishwoman, a large stiff
square body, a coil of carefully crimped hair and a curled fringe,
pretending. There were people who would say, "What a pretty photograph,"
and mean it ... the draperies and the attitude. How easy it was to take
people in, just by acting. Not the real people. There were real people.
Where were they? That horrid thing could get itself on to Mrs. Corrie's
drawing-room table and sit there unbroken. All women were inspired in a
way. It was true enough. But it was a secret. Men ought not to be told.
They must find it out for themselves. To dress up and try to make it
something to attract somebody. She was not a woman, she was a _woman_
... oh, curse it all. But men liked actresses. They liked being fooled.

Miriam looked closely at the photograph with hatred in her eyes. Why not
the stone steps and the chair and the sense of sunlight; sunlit air?
That would be enough. "You get in the way of the air, you _thing_," she
muttered, and the woman's helpless unconscious sandalled feet reproached
her. Voices were shouting to each other on the upper landing. It was
Mrs. Kronen's photograph, of course. Miriam moved quickly away, ashamed
of having stared. But it was too late; she had done a horrid thing
again. She saw, as if it were in the room with her, the affair of the
taking of the photograph, a cross face coming down from its pose to
argue with the photographer, and then flung upwards again, waiting. And
she had put or let someone put it, in a frame, at once on a strange
drawing-room table. Perhaps her husband had put it there. But if he
valued it he would hide and shelter it.... When we meet, she will know I
have stared at her photograph.

Mrs. Kronen came suddenly in with Mrs. Corrie, talking in a rich deep
thick voice that moved, with large intervals, up and down a long scale
and yet produced a curious effect of toneless flatness, just as if she
were speaking a narrow nasal Cockney. There was a Cockney sound
somewhere in her voice. She began at once loudly praising everything in
the room, hardly pausing when Miriam was introduced to her, and giving
no sign of having seen her. If I were alone with her, thought Miriam, I
should want to say "'Ullo, 'ow's yourself?" and grin. It would be the
only thing one could genuinely do. Mrs. Corrie almost giggled at the end
of each of Mrs. Kronen's exclamations, but she was very gay and animated
and so was Mr. Corrie when he came in with Mr. Kronen. They all went in
to dinner talking and laughing loudly. And they went on laughing and
joking and talking loudly against each other through dinner.


                                   12

Mr. and Mrs. Corrie looked thin and small and very young. Once or twice
they laughed at the same moment and glanced at each other. Mr. Corrie's
face was flushed. Mr. and Mrs. Kronen looked like brother and
sister--only that she said South Africa as if it were a phrase in a
tragic recitative from an oratorio and he as if it were something he had
behind him that gave him a sort of advantage over everyone. It seemed to
be all he had. They had both been in South Africa, travelling in bullock
waggons blinded by the fierce light and choked with sand. It seemed to
linger in the curious brickish look of their complexions and the hard
yellow of their hair. The talk about South Africa lasted all dinnertime.
It seemed to interest Mr. Corrie. His eyes gleamed strangely as he
talked about I.D.B.'s. Everybody at the table said, "Illicit dahmond
bah" at least once with a little thrill of the face. Why was it illicit
to buy diamonds?--strange people out there in the glare buying gleaming
stones from miners and this curious feeling about it all round the
table, everybody with hot glinting excited eyes--and somebody, some man,
a business man who had handed round diamonds like chocolates to his
friends in his box at the opera, a Stock Exchange man in a frock-coat
throwing himself into the sea somewhere between England and South
Africa--ah, what a pity, worried to death, with an excited head. He
wanted diamonds. And when Mr. Corrie handed Mrs. Kronen a dish of fruit
and said, "A banana? A bite of a barnato?" they all laughed, so
comfortably. Something illicit seemed to creep into the very pictures
and flow over the walls. The poor man's body falling desperately into
the sea. He could not endure his own excited eyes.


                                   13

Early on Monday morning Miriam heard Mrs. Kronen singing in the
bathroom. She tried not to listen and listened. The bold sound had come
in through her open door when Stokes brought her breakfast tray. With it
had come the smell of a downstairs breakfast, coffee, a curious fresh,
sustaining odour of coffee and freshly frying rashers. There was coffee
on her own tray this morning and a letter addressed to her in a bold
unknown hand. She sipped her coffee at once and put the overwhelming
letter aside on her blue coverlet. It was an overweight, something
thrown in on the surface of the tide on which she had awakened in the
soft fresh harmonies of rose and blue of her curtained room. It could
wait. It had come out of the world for her; but she felt independent of
it. It did not disturb her. Its overwhelming quality was in the fact
that she had called it to her out of the world. It was as if she had
herself addressed the large bold envelope. She left it. Her sipped
coffee steered her into the tide of the downstairs life. There was
breakfast downstairs, steaming coffee and entrée dishes for Mr. Corrie
and the Kronens, and they were all going off by the early train.

"C'est si bon," sang Mrs. Kronen in a deep baritone, as Miriam drank her
coffee; "de con-fon-dre en un, deu-eux bai-sers." She sang it out
through the quiet upstairs rooms, she met with it the bustle of
preparation downstairs. It was a world she lived in that made her able
to carry off these things without being disturbed by them, a rosy secret
world in which she lived secure. A richness at the heart of things. She
was there. She possessed it with her large strong brick-red and
rose-white frame and her strong yellow hair. Did she, really? At any
rate she wanted to suggest that she did--that that secret richness was
the heart of things. She flung out boldly that it was and that she was
there, but a sort of soft horrible slurring flatness in her voice
suggested evil, as if a sort of restless acceptance of something evil
was the price of her carelessness. Perhaps that was how things were.
Perhaps that was part of taking each fair mask for what it shows itself.
She made everyone else seem cloudy and shrivelled and dim. Miriam took
up the stupendous envelope and held its solid weight in her hand as Mrs.
Kronen sang on. "All right," she said, and smiled at it, feeling daring
and strong. Its arrival would have been quite different if Mrs. Kronen
had not been there; this curious powerful independent morning in the
rose-blue room would not have happened in the same way without Mrs.
Kronen.... Live, don't worry.... I've always been worrying and
bothering. I'm going to be like Mrs. Kronen; but quite different,
because she hasn't the least idea how beautiful things really are. She
doesn't know that everyone is living a beautiful strange life that has
never been lived before. If she did she would not be ashamed of herself.
Miriam gave a great sigh and smiled.


                                   14

Her breakfast was a feast. Sitting back under the softly tinted canopy
with the soft folds of the bed curtains hanging near on either side she
stared at the bright light pouring in through the lattices. Her room was
a great square of happy light ... happy, happy. She gathered up all the
sadness she had ever known and flung it from her. All the dark things of
the past flashed with a strange beauty as she flung them out. The light
had been there all the time; but she had known it only at moments. Now
she knew what she wanted. Bright mornings, beautiful bright rooms, a
wilderness of beauty all round her all the time--at any cost. Any life
that had not these things she would refuse.... Roses in her blood and
gold in her hair ... it was something belonging to them, something that
made them gleam. It was her right; even if they gleamed only for her.
They gleamed, she knew it. Youth, the glory of youth. So strong. She had
got herself into this beautiful life, found her way to it; she would
stay in it for ever, work in it, make money and when she was old, have
soft, pink curtains and fragrant things to remind her, as long as she
could lift her hand. No more ugliness, no more schools or mean little
houses. Luxuries, beautiful gleaming things ... a secret happy life.

She smiled securely, with her eyes, the strange happy smile that had
come in the brougham....


                                   15

How strong Mrs. Kronen was.... How huge and strong she had looked
standing in the hall while Mr. Corrie said cruel laughing little things
about the billiard-room floor.... "She'll paint Madonna lilies on the
table next." ... Mrs. Kronen saying nothing, smiling more and more
without moving her face, growing bigger and stronger and taller as Mr.
Corrie grumbled and Mr. Kronen fidgeted, cross and disappointed by the
hall fire and then suddenly lifting her head and singing, a great
flourish of clear strong notes filling the hall and pealing up through
the house as she swept into the drawing-room.

Singing song after song to her own loud accompaniment, great emphatic
sweeps of song, so that everyone came and sat about in the room
listening and waiting, the men staring at the back of her head as she
sat at the piano. Waiting, for music--they did not know they were
waiting for music, waiting for her to stop getting between them and the
music. They admired her, her magnificent singing and waited,
unsatisfied, in the sweetness of the lamp-lit flower-filled room that
her music did not touch. She sang on and on and they all grew smaller
and smaller in the great sea of sound, more and more hopelessly waiting.


                                   16

And Mrs. Corrie had sat deep in her large chair, dead and drowned. Dead
because of something she had never known. Dead in ignorance and living
bravely on--her sweet thin voice rising above the gloom where she lay
hid--a gloom where there were no thoughts. Nearly all women were like
that, living in a gloom where there were no thoughts. If anyone could
persuade her that she was alive she would do nothing but rush about and
dance and sing ... how irritating that would be ... making men smile and
trot about and look silly ... no room for ideas; except in
smoking-rooms--and--laboratories.... She was a good woman; a God woman;
the sweetness of her bones and her thin sweet voice of tears and
laughter were of God. Everyone knew that and worshipped her. Men's ideas
were devilish; clever and mean.... Was God a woman? Was God really
irritating? No one could endure God really.... Men could not.... Women
were of God in some way. That is what men could never forgive; the
superiority of women.... "Perhaps I can't stand women because I'm a sort
of horrid man."

Mrs. Kronen was a sort of man too. She was not perplexed. But she was a
woman too--because she was not mean and petty and fussy as men are ...
sitting tall and square at the piano with the square tall form of her
husband standing ready to turn the pages--her strong baritone voice
rolling out, "Ai-me-moi ... car ton charme-est étrange ...
et-je-t'ai-me."


                                   17

Recalling the song as she sat back in the alcove of her bed motionless,
keeping the brightness of her room at its first intensity, Miriam
remembered that it had brought her a moment when the flower-filled
drawing-room had seemed to be lit, from within herself, a sudden light
that had kept her very still and made the bowls of roses blaze with
deepening colours. In her mind she had seen garden beyond garden of
roses, sunlit, brighter and brighter and had made a rapturous prayer.
She remembered the words ... God.... I'm not afraid of you. Look at the
gardens ... and something had smiled through the lit gardens exultantly,
and Mrs. Kronen's voice had raged through the room like a storm,
"Ai-me-moi!..." and Mr. Corrie's eyes were strange and hard with
shadows.... He knew, in some strange way men knew there were gardens
everywhere, not always visible. Women did not seem to know....

The letter on her tray was a sort of response to her prayer.



                               CHAPTER V


                                   1

It was quite a long letter--signed with a large "Bob" set crosswise. It
began by asking her advice about a wedding present for Harriett and
ended with the suggestion that she should meet him and help him to make
a suitable selection. It was written from the British Chess Club, to
her, because Bob Greville wanted to see her. Harriett's wedding present
was only an excuse. She flung the envelope and the two sheets of
notepaper, spread loose, on her blue coverlet and smiled into her cup as
she finished her coffee. Old Bob did not know that he had clad her in
armour. He wanted to meet her alone. They two people were to meet and
talk, without any reason, because they wanted to. But what could she
have to say to anyone who thought that Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures,
even a nice edition bound in calf, or How to be Happy though Married,
suitable for a wedding present for Harriett, or for anybody? Still, they
might write to each other. It was right that letters, secret letters,
should be brought into her blue room in the morning with her breakfast.
She dropped out of bed smiling and sniffed at the roses she had worn the
day before, standing in a glass on her washstand, freshened, half faded,
half fresh, intoxicating as she bent over them. She dressed, without
drawing back her curtains, in the soft rose-blue light, singing Mrs.
Kronen's song in an undertone.


                                   2

At eleven o'clock Mrs. Corrie swept into the schoolroom. Miriam looked
easily up at her from the dreamy thicket where she and the children had
spent their hour, united and content, speaking in undertones, getting
easily through books that had seemed tiresome and indifferent the day
before. She had felt the play of her mind on theirs and their steady
adult response. They had joined as conspirators in this mad contemptible
business of mastering the trick of the text-book, each dreaming the
while his own dream.

"You darlings," cried Mrs. Corrie, "how sweet you all look!" They raised
drunken eyes and beamed drowsily at her. "Give them a holiday," said
Mrs. Corrie, raising her hands over the table like a conductor about to
start an orchestra. "Give them a holiday--a picnic--and come and buy
hats!"

In a moment the room was in an uproar of capering figures. "Hats! A new
hat for Rollo! Heaps of cash! I've got heaps of cash!"

Miriam blinked from her thicket. This was anarchy; she felt herself
sliding. But they were so old. All so old and experienced. She so young,
by so far the youngest of the four.


                                   3

Mrs. Corrie sat back in the victoria, her face alight under the cream
lace veil she had twisted round her soft winter hat, and talked in quiet
clipped phrases: soft shouts. They were driving swiftly through the
fresh warmth of the April midday.

They were off for the afternoon. The commons gleamed a prelude. Miriam
saw that Mrs. Corrie did not notice them nor think of sweeping back
across them later on through the afternoon air and seeing them move and
gleam in the afternoon light. She did not think of the bright shops, the
strangely dyed artificial flowers with their curious fascinating smell
interwoven with the strange warm smell of velvet and chenille and
straw.... Miriam had once bought a hat in a shop in Kensington. As long
as it lasted it had kept for her whenever she looked at its softly dyed
curiously plaited straw something of the exciting fascination of the
shop, the curious faint flat odours of millinery, the peculiar dim warm
smell of silks and velvets--silk, China and Japan, silkworms weaving
shining threads in the dark. Even when it had become associated with
outings and events and shabby with exposure it remained each time she
took it afresh from its box of wrappings, a mysterious sacred thing; and
the soft blending of its colours, the coiled restraint of its shape, the
texture of its snuggled trimmings were a support, refreshing her
thoughts. She had never known anyone who went regularly to good
hatshops; the sense of them as a part of life was linked only with Mrs.
Kronen--Mrs. Kronen's little close toque made of delicately shaded
velvet violets and lined with satin, her silky peacock blue straw
shining with rich filmy tones, its mass of dull shot blue-green ribbon
and the soft rose pink of its velvet roses. These hats had excited Mrs.
Corrie; the hats and the sand-coloured silk dust cloak explained her
cheque and her sudden happiness. But they only made her want to buy
hats. The going and the shops were nothing to her. She talked about the
Kronens as they drove, speaking as though she wanted Miriam to hear
without answering. "She knows Mrs. Kronen fascinates me," thought
Miriam.

"Ain't they a pair, lordy ... him divorced and her divorced and then
marryin' each other. Ain't it scandalous, eh?"

People like the Corries disapproved of people like the Kronens, but had
them to stay with them and were excited about their clothes. Miriam
returned to listen to the singing of her body; it would sing until they
got to the station. As she listened she held firmly clasped the letter
she had addressed to the British Chess Club to say she would be nowhere
near London until the weddings. "She doesn't care a rap about him--not a
teeny rap ... she's a wise lady ... dollars--that's the thing,"
whispered Mrs. Corrie gaily. What does she want me to say? thought
Miriam. What would she say if I pretended to agree?

Should she tell her about the weddings? Perhaps not. It would be time
enough, she reflected rapidly, when she had to ask permission to go home
for them. Mrs. Corrie had not asked her a single question about things
at home, and if she were to say, "We used to live in a big house and my
father lost nearly all his money and we live now in a tiny villa and two
of my sisters are to be married," it would break into this strange easy
new life. It would break the charm and not bring her any nearer to Mrs.
Corrie. And Mrs. Corrie would not really understand about the home
troubles. Mrs. Corrie had always been lonely and sad, inside. She had
been an orphan, but brought up by a wealthy uncle and always living in
wealth and now she seemed to think about nothing but the children and
the house and the garden--hating theatres and dances and never going to
them or paying visits or seeing the wonder of anything. She would only
say, "Don't you marry yourself off, young lady, marriage is a fraud. You
wait for a wealthy one." Whatever one said to her, whatever joy one
showed her would lead to that.

But the two weddings hovered about the commons. They were a great
possession. Nothing to worry about in them. Gerald and Bennett who had
managed everything since the smash would manage them. Sarah and Harriet
would be married from the little villa and would be Mrs. Brodie and Mrs.
Ducayne just like anybody else. So safe. And she herself, free, getting
interesting letters, going up to town with Mrs. Corrie, no worry, spring
hats and the commons and garden waiting for them. She was sure she did
not want to see the commons overburdened by the idea of her own wedding.
Two was enough for the present. Of course, some day--someone, somewhere,
wonderful and different from everyone else. Cash--no, not business and
cigars and offices ... the city, horrible bloated men with shapeless
figures, horrible chemists' shops advertising pick-me-ups ... a
cottage--a cottage. Why did people laugh at love in a cottage? The
outsides of cottages were the best part, everyone said. They were dark
inside; but why not? A lamp; and outside the garden and the light.

"She's had all _kinds_ of operations," mused Mrs. Corrie.

"_Really?_"

"Deadly awful. In nursing homes. She'll never have any kiddies."

Were there cold shadows on everything, everywhere?

She turned a pleading face to Mrs. Corrie. They were driving into the
station yard.

"It's true, true, true," laughed Mrs. Corrie. "She doesn't care, she
doesn't want any. They're all like that, that sort."

Miriam mused intensely. She felt Mrs. Kronen ought to be there to
answer. She had some secret Mrs. Corrie did not possess. Mrs. Corrie
looked suddenly small and mild and funny. Why did she think it dreadful
that Mrs. Kronen should have no children? There was nothing wonderful in
having children. It was better to sing. She was perfectly sure that she
herself did not want children.... "Superior women don't marry," she
said, "sir she said, sir she said, su, per, _i_, or women"--but that
meant blue stockings.


                                   4

"I don't want a silly hat," said Mrs. Corrie, as their hansom drew up in
bright sunlight outside a milliner's at the southern end of Regent
Street. "Let's buy a real lovely teapot or a Bartolozzi or somethin'.
What fun to go home with somethin' real nice. Eh? A real real beauty
Dresden teapot," she chanted, floating into the dimness of the shop
where large hats standing on long straight stands flared softly like
blossoms in the twilight.

She swept about in her flowing lace-trimmed twine-coloured overcoat on
the green velvet carpet, or stood ruthlessly trying on a hat, pressing
its wire frame to fit her head, crushing her fingers into tucked tulle,
talking and trying, and discarding until the collection was exhausted.
Miriam sat angry and admiring, wondering at the subdued helplessness of
the satin-clad assistant, sorry for the discarded hats lying carelessly
about, their glory dimmed. All the hats, whatever their shape or colour
seemed to her to decorate the bronze head and the twine-coloured coat.
The little toques gave slenderness and willowy height, and the large
flowered ribboned hats, the moment a veil draped the boniness of the
face made, Miriam felt, an entrancing picturesqueness. With each hat
Mrs. Corrie addressed the large mirror calling herself a freak, a
sketch, a nightmare, a real real fogey.


                                   5

The process seemed endless and Miriam sat at last scourging herself with
angry questions. "Why doesn't she decide," she found herself repeating
almost aloud, her hot tired eyes turning for relief to the soft
guipure-edged tussore curtain screening the lower part of the window,
"what kind of hat she really wants and then look at the few most like it
and perhaps have one altered?..." "It's so awfully silly not to have a
plan. She'll go on simply for ever." But the soft curtain running so
evenly along its smooth clean brass rod was restful, and plan or no plan
the trouble would presently come to an end and there would be no
discomforts to face when it was over--no vulgar bun shops, no struggling
on to a penny 'bus with your ride perhaps spoiled by a dreadful
neighbour, but Regent Street in the bright sun, a hansom, a smart
obliging driver with a buttonhole, skimming along to tea somewhere, the
first-class journey home, the carriage at the station, the green
commons.

"Perhaps," said the assistant at last in a cheerful suggestive furious
voice, flinging aside with just Mrs. Corrie's cheerful abandon, a large
cream lace hat with a soft fresh mass of tiny banksia roses under its
left brim, "Perhaps moddom will allow me to make her a shape and trim it
to her own design."

Mrs. Corrie stood arrested in the middle of the green velvet floor.
Wearily Miriam faced the possibility of the development of this fresh
opportunity for going on for ever.

"Wouldn't that be lovely?" said Mrs. Corrie, turning to her
enthusiastically.

"Yes," said Miriam eagerly. Both women were facing her and she felt that
anything would be better than their united contemplation of her brown
stuff dress with its square sleeves and her brown straw hat with black
ribbon and its yellow paper buttercups.

"Can't be did though," said Mrs. Corrie in a cold level voice, turning
swiftly back to the hats massed in a confused heap on the mahogany slab.
Standing over them and tweaking at one and another as she spoke she made
a quiet little speech, indicating that such and such might do for the
garden and such others for driving, some dozen altogether she finally
ordered to be sent at once to an address in Brook Street where she would
make her final selection whilst the messenger waited. "Have you got the
address all right?" she wound up; "_so_ kind of you." "Come along, you
poor thing you look worn out," she cried to Miriam, without looking at
her as she swept from the shop. She waved her sunshade at a passing
hansom and as it drew sharply up with an exciting clatter near the curb
she grasped Miriam's arm, "Shall we try Perrin's? It's only three doors
up." Miriam glanced along and caught a glimpse of another hat shop. "Do
you really want to?" she suggested reluctantly. "No! No! not a bit old
spoil sport. Chum yong, jump in," laughed Mrs. Corrie.

"Oh, if you really want to," began Miriam, but Mrs. Corrie, singing out
the address to the driver was putting her into the cab and showing her
how to make an easy passage for the one who gets last into a hansom by
slipping into the near corner. Her appreciation of this little manoeuvre
helped her over her contrition and she responded with gay insincerity to
Mrs. Corrie's assurance of the fun they would have over the hats at Mrs.
Kronen's.... Tea at Mrs. Kronen's then. How strange and alarming ... but
she felt too tired to sustain a _tête-à-tête_ at a smart tea shop.
"After tea we'll drop into a china shop and get somethin' real nice,"
said Mrs. Corrie excitedly, as they bowled up Regent Street.


                                   6

They found Mrs. Kronen in a mauve and white drawing-room, reclining on a
mauve and white striped settee in a pale mauve tea gown. On a large low
table a frail mauve tea service stood ready, and Mrs. Kronen rose tall
to welcome them dropping on to the mauve carpet a little volume bound in
pale green velvet. On a second low table were strawberries in a shallow
wide bowl, a squat jug brimming with cream, dark wedding cake hiding a
pewter plate, a silken bag unloosed, showing marvellous large various
sweetmeats heavy against its silk lining. As Mrs. Kronen slurred her
fingers across Miriam's hand she ordered the manservant who had dipped
and gathered up the green velvet volume to ask for the tea-cakes.


                                   7

Then this was "Society." To come so easily up from the Corries'
beautiful home, via the West End hat shop to this wonderful West End
flat and eat strawberries in April.... If only the home people could
see. Her fatigue vanished. Secure from Mrs. Kronen's notice she sat in a
mauve and white striped chair and contemplated her surroundings.

While they were waiting for the tea-cakes, Mrs. Kronen trailed about the
mauve floor reciting her impressions of the weather. "So lovely," she
intoned in her curious half-Cockney. "I almost--went--out. But I
haven't. I--haven't--stirred. It is lovely inside on this sort of spring
day--the _light_."

She paused and swept about. There _is_ something about her, thought
Miriam. It's true, the light inside on a clear spring day.... I never
thought of that. It is somehow spring in here in the middle of London in
some real way. Her blood leaped and sang as it had done driving across
the commons; but even more sweetly and keenly. It wouldn't be, in a
dingy room, even in the country.... It's an essence--something you feel
in the right surroundings.... What chances these people have. They get
the most out of everything. Get everything in advance and over and over
again. They can go into the country any minute as well as have clear
light rooms. Nothing is ever grubby. And London there, all round; London
... London was a soft, sea-like sound; a sound shutting in the spring.
The spring gleamed and thrilled through everything in the pure bright
room.... She hoped Mrs. Kronen would say no more about the light. Light,
light, light. As the manservant brewed the tea and the silver teapot
shone in the light as he moved it--silver and strange black splashes of
light--caught and moving in the room. Drawing off her gloves she felt as
if she could touch the flowing light.... Flowing in out of the dawn,
moving and flowing and brooding and changing all day, in rooms. Mrs.
Kronen was back on her settee sitting upright in her mauve gown, all
strong soft curves. "That play of _Wilde's_ ..." she said. Miriam shook
at the name. "You ought not to miss it. He--has--such--_genius_."
_Wilde_ ... _Wilde_ ... a play in the spring--someone named Wilde. Wild
spring. That was genius. There was something in the name.... "Never go
to the theatre; never, never, never," Mrs. Corrie was saying, "too much
of a bore." Genius ... genius is an infinite capacity for taking pains.
Capacity. A silly definition; like a proverb--made up by somebody who
wanted to explain.... Wylde, Wilde.... Spring.... Genius.


                                   8

The little feast was over and Mrs. Kronen was puffing at a cigarette
when the hats were announced. As the fine incense reached her Miriam
regretted that she had not confessed to being a smoker. The suggestion
of tobacco brought the charm of the afternoon to its height. When the
magic of the scented cloud drew her eyes to Mrs. Kronen's face it was
almost intolerable in its keenness. She gazed wondering whether Mrs.
Kronen felt so nearly wild with happiness as she did herself.... Life
what are you--what is life? she almost said aloud. The face was uplifted
as it had been in the photograph, but with all the colour, the firm bows
of gold hair, the colour in the face and strong white pillar of neck,
the eyes closed instead of staring upwards and the rather full mouth
flattened and drooping with its weight into a sort of tragic
shapeliness--like some martyr ... that picture by Rossetti, Beata
Beatrix, thought Miriam ... perfect reality. She liked Mrs. Kronen for
smoking like that. She was not doing it for show. She would have smoked
in the same way if she had been alone. She probably wished she was, as
Mrs. Corrie did not smoke. How she must have hated missing her smokes at
Newlands, unless she had smoked in her room.

"It's--a--mis-take," said Mrs. Kronen incredulously, in response to the
man's announcement of the arrival of the hats. She waved her cigarette
"imperiously," thought Miriam, "how she enjoys showing off" ... to and
fro in time with her words. Mrs. Corrie rose laughing and explaining and
apologising. Waving her cigarette about once more Mrs. Kronen ordered
the hats to be brought in and her maid to be summoned, but retained her
expression of vexed incredulity. She's simply longing for us to be off
now, thought Miriam, and changed her opinion a few moments later when
Mrs. Kronen, assuming on the settee the reclining position in which they
had found her when they came in, disposed one by one of the hats as Mrs.
Corrie and the maid freed them from their boxes and wrappings, with a
little flourish of the cigarette and a few slow words....
"Im-poss-i-ble; not-in-key-with-your-lines; slightly _too ingénue_,"
etc.: to three or four she gave a grudging approval, whereupon Mrs.
Corrie who was laughing and pouncing from box to box would stand upright
and pace holding the favoured hat rakishly on her head. The selection
was soon made and Miriam, whose weariness had returned with the
millinery, was sent off to instruct the messenger that three hats had
been selected and a bill might be sent to Brook Street in the morning.

As she was treating with the messenger in the little mauve and white
hall, Mrs. Corrie came out and tapped her on the shoulder. Turning,
Miriam found her smiling and mysterious. "We're going by the 5.30," she
whispered. "Would you like to go for a walk for half an hour and come
back _here_?"

"_Rather!_" said Miriam heartily, with a break in her voice and feeling
utterly crushed. The beautiful clear room. She loved it and belonged to
it. She was turned out. "All right," smiled Mrs. Corrie encouragingly
and disappeared. Under the eyes of the messenger and the servants who
were coming out of the boudoir laden with hat boxes, she got herself out
through the door.



                               CHAPTER VI


                                   1

The West End street ... grey buildings rising on either side, feeling
away into the approaching distance--angles sharp against the sky ...
softened angles of buildings against other buildings ... high moulded
angles soft as crumb, with deep undershadows ... creepers fraying from
balconies ... strips of window blossoms across the buildings, scarlet,
yellow, high up; a confusion of lavender and white pouching out along a
dipping sill ... a wash of green creeper up a white painted house front
... patches of shadow and bright light.... Sounds of visible near things
streaked and scored with broken light as they moved, led off into
untraced distant sounds ... chiming together.


                                   2

Wide golden streaming Regent Street was quite near. Some near narrow
street would lead into it.


                                   3

Flags of pavement flowing along--smooth clean grey squares and oblongs,
faintly polished, shaping and drawing away--sliding into each other....
I am part of the dense smooth clean paving stone ... sunlit; gleaming
under dark winter rain; shining under warm sunlit rain, sending up a
fresh stony smell ... always there ... dark and light ... dawn,
stealing....


                                   4

Life streamed up from the close dense stone. With every footstep she
felt she could fly.


                                   5

The little dignified high-built cut-through street, with its sudden
walled-in church, swept round and opened into brightness and a clamour
of central sounds ringing harshly up into the sky.


                                   6

The pavement of heaven.

To walk along the radiant pavement of sunlit Regent Street forever.


                                   7

She sped along looking at nothing. Shops passed by, bright endless
caverns screened with glass ... the bright teeth of a grand piano
running along the edge of its darkness, a cataract of light pouring down
its raised lid; forests of hats; dresses, shining against darkness,
bright headless crumpling stalks; sly, silky, ominous furs; metals, cold
and clanging, brandishing the light; close prickling fire of jewels ...
strange people who bought these things, touched and bought them.


                                   8

She pulled up sharply in front of a window. The pavement round it was
clear, allowing her to stand rooted where she had been walking, in the
middle of the pavement, in the midst of the tide flowing from the clear
window, a soft fresh tide of sunlit colours ... clear green glass
shelves laden with shapes of fluted glass, glinting transparencies of
mauve and amber and green, rose-pearl and milky blue, welded to a
flowing tide, freshening and flowing through her blood, a sea rising and
falling with her breathing.


                                   9

The edge had gone from the keenness of the light. The street was a
happy, sunny, simple street--small. She was vast. She could gather up
the buildings in her arms and push them away, clearing the sky ... a
strange darkling and she would sleep. She felt drowsy, a drowsiness in
her brain and limbs and great strength, and hunger.

A clock told her she had been away from Brook Street ten minutes. Twenty
minutes to spare. What should she do with her strength? Talk to someone
or write ... Bob; where was Bob? Somewhere in the West End. She would
write from the West End a note to him in the West End.


                                   10

There were no cheap shops in Regent Street. She looked about. Across the
way a little side street showing a small newspaper shop offered help.


                                   11

Thoroughly frightened she hurried with clenched hands down the little
mean street ready to give up her scheme at the first sight of an
unfriendly eye. "We went through those _awful_ side streets off the West
End; I was _terrified_; I didn't know _where_ he was driving us," Mrs.
Poole had said about a cabman driving to the theatre ... and her face as
she sat in her thick pink dress by the dining-room fire had been cunning
and mean and full of terror. A small shop appeared close at hand, there
were newspaper posters propped outside it and its window was full of
fly-blown pipes, toilet requisites, stationery and odd-looking books.
"Letters may be left here," said a dirty square of cardboard in the
corner of the window. "That's all right," thought Miriam, "it's a sort
of agency." She plunged into the gloomy interior. "_Yes!_" shouted a
tall stout man with a red coarse face coming forward, as if she had
asked something that had made him angry. "I want some notepaper, just a
little, the smallest quantity you have and an envelope," said Miriam,
quivering and panic-stricken in the hostile atmosphere. The man turned
and whisked a small packet off a shelf, throwing it down on the counter
before her. "One penny!" bellowed the man as she took it up. "Oh, thank
you," murmured Miriam ingratiatingly putting down twopence. "Do you sell
pencils?" The man's great fingers seemed an endless time wrenching a
small metal-sheathed pencil from its card. The street outside would have
closed in and swallowed her up forever if she did not quickly get away.


                                   12

"Dear Mr. Greville," she wrote in a clear bold hand.... He won't expect
me to have that kind of handwriting, like his own, but stronger. He'll
admire it on the page and then hear a man's voice, Pater's voice talking
behind it and not like it. Me. He'd be a little afraid of it. She felt
her hard self standing there as she wrote, and shifted her feet a
little, raising one heel from the ground, trying to feminise her
attitude; but her hat was hard against her forehead, her clothes would
not flow.... "Just imagine that I am in town--I could have helped you
with your shopping if I had known I was coming...." The first page was
half filled. She glanced at her neighbours, a woman on one side and a
man on the other, both bending over telegram forms in a careless
preoccupied way--wealthy, with expensive clothes with West End lines....
Regent Street was Salviati's. It was Liberty's and a music shop and the
shop with the chickens. But most of all it was Salviati's. She feared
the officials behind the long grating could see by the expression of her
shoulders that she was a scrubby person who was breaking the rules by
using one of the little compartments with its generosity of ink and pen
and blotting paper, for letter writing. Someone was standing impatiently
just behind her, waiting for her place. "Telle est la vie," she
concluded with a flourish, "yours sincerely," and addressed the envelope
in almost illegible scrawls. Guiltily she bought a stamp and dropped the
letter with a darkening sense of guilt into the box. It fell with a
little muffled plop that resounded through her as she hurried away
towards Brook Street. She walked quickly, to make everything surrounding
her move more quickly. London revelled and clamoured softly all round
her; she strode her swiftest heightening its clamorous joy. The West End
people, their clothes, their carriages and hansoms, their clean bright
spring-filled houses, their restaurants and the theatres waiting for
them this evening, their easy way with each other, the mysterious
something behind their faces, was hers. She, too, now had a mysterious
secret face--a West End life of her own....



                              CHAPTER VII


                                   1

The next morning there was a letter from Bob containing a page of
description of his dull afternoon at his club within half a mile of her.
"Let me know, my dear girl," it went on, "whenever you escape from your
gaolers, and do not suffer the thought of old Bob's making himself
responsible for all the telegrams you may send to cloud your joyous
young independence."

Miriam recoiled from the thought of a dull bored man looking to her for
enlivenment of the moving coloured wonder of London and felt that Mr.
and Mrs. Corrie were anything but gaolers. She was not sorry that she
had missed the opportunity of seeing him. "Meanwhile write and tell me
your thoughts," was the only sentence that had appealed to her in the
letter; but she was sure she could not whole-heartedly offer her
thoughts as entertainment to a man who spent his time feeling dull in a
club. He's ... blasé, that's it, she reflected. Perhaps it would be
better not to write again. He's not my sort a bit, she pondered with a
sudden dim sense of his view of her as a dear girl. But she knew she
wanted to retain him to decorate her breakfast tray with letters.


                                   2

The following day Mrs. Corrie decided that she did not want to keep the
hats. She would spend the money intended for them on sketching lessons.
An artist should come once a week and teach them all to paint from
Nature. This decision excited Miriam deeply, putting everything else out
of her mind. It promised the satisfaction of a desire she had cherished
with bitter hopelessness ever since her schooldays when every Friday had
brought the necessity of choking down her longing to join the little
crowd of girls who took "extras" and filed carelessly in to spend a
magic afternoon amongst easels and casts in the large room. The old
longing came leaping back higher than it had ever done before, making a
curious eager smouldering in her chest--as Mrs. Corrie talked. An old
sketch-book was brought out and Mrs. Corrie spent the morning making
drawings of the heads of the children as they sat at lessons. The book
was almost full of drawings of the children's heads. Besides the heads
there were rough sketches of people Miriam did not know. The first
half-dozen pages were covered with small outlines, hands, feet, eyes,
thumbs; a few lines suggesting a body. These pages seemed full of life.
But the sketches of the children and the unknown people, sitting posed,
in profile, looking up, looking down, full face, quarter face,
three-quarters, depressed her. Learning to draw did not seem worth while
if this was the result. The early pages haunted her memory as she sat
over the children's lessons. Feet, strange things stepping out, going
through the world, running, dancing; the silent feet of people sitting
in chairs pondering affairs of state. Eyes, looking at everything;
looking at the astonishingness of everything.


                                   3

"That's the half-crown Mrs. Corrie gave me for the cabman, and the
shilling for my tea," said Miriam, handing the coins to her companion as
they bowled over Waterloo Bridge. Seagulls were rising and dipping about
the rim of the bridge and the sunlight lay upon the water and shimmered
and flashed along the forms of the seagulls as they hovered and wheeled
in the clear air. Miriam glanced at them through the little side window
of the hansom with a remote keen part of her consciousness ... light
flashing from the moving wing of a seagull, the blue water, the
brilliant sky, the bite of sun-scorched air upon her cheek, the sound
about her like the sound of the sea.... As she turned back to the shaded
enclosure of the hansom these things shrivelled and vanished and left
her dumb, helplessly poised between two worlds. This shabby part of
London and the seaside bridge could make no terms with the man at her
side, his soft grey suit, his soft grey felt hat, the graceful crook of
his crossed knees, his gleaming spats, the glitter of the light upon
patent leather shoes. He was gazing out ahead, with the look with which
he had looked across Australia in his gold-digging days, weary until he
got back to the West End, not talking because the cab made such a noise
crossing the bridge. It was stupid of her to peer out of her window and
get away to her own world like that. Nothing that we can ever say to
each other can possibly interest us, she reflected. Why am I here? Her
coins reassured her.

"Don't think about pence, dear girl," he said, in a voice that quavered
a little against the noise of the cab, "when you're with old Bob."
Without looking at her he gently closed her hand over the money.

"All right," she shouted, "we'll see, later on!"

The cab swept round into a street and the noise abated.

"When we've dropped those famous hats and rung the bell and run away
we'll go on to Bumpus's and choose our book," he said, as if asserting
themselves and their errand against the confusion through which they
were driving.

"Mrs. Caudle's Curtain Lectures," thought Miriam, glancing with loathing
at the pointed corner of the collar that stuck out across the three firm
little folds under the clean-shaven chin.... How funny I am. I suppose I
shall get through the afternoon somehow. We shall go to the bookshop and
then have tea and then it will be time to go back.

"The cabman is to take the hats into the shop and leave them. Isn't it
extraordinary?"

Bob laughed with a little fling of his head.

"The vagaries of the Fair, dear girl," he said presently, in a soft
blurred tone.

That's one of his phrases, thought Miriam--that's old-fashioned
politeness; courtliness. Behind it he's got some sort of mannish thought
... "the unaccountability of women" ... who can understand a woman--she
doesn't even understand herself--thought he'd given up trying to make
out. He's gone through life and got his own impressions; all utterly
wrong ... talking about them with an air of wisdom to young men like
Gerald ... my dear boy, a woman never knows her own mind. How utterly
detestable mannishness is; so mighty and strong and comforting when you
have been mewed up with women all your life, and then suddenly, in a
second, far away, utterly imbecile and aggravating with a superior
self-satisfied smile because a woman says one thing one minute and
another the next. Men ought to be horsewhipped, all the grown men, all
who have ever had that self-satisfied smile, all, all, horsewhipped
until they apologise on their knees.


                                   4

They sat in a curious oak settee, like a high-backed church pew. The
waitress had cleared away the tea things and brought cigarettes, large
flat Turkish cigarettes. Responding to her companion's elaborate
apologetic petition for permission to smoke it did not occur to Miriam
to confess that she herself occasionally smoked. She forgot the fact in
the completeness of her contentment. On the square oak table in front of
them was a bowl of garden anemones, mauve and scarlet with black
centres, flaring richly in the soft light coming through the
green-tinted diamond panes of a little low square deep-silled window. On
either side of the window short red curtains were drawn back and hung in
straight, close folds ... scarlet geraniums ... against the creamy
plaster wall. Bowls of flowers stood on other tables placed without
crowding or confusion about the room and there was another green window
with red curtains near a far-off corner. There were no other customers
for the greater part of their time and when the waitress was not in the
room it was still; a softly shaded stillness. Bob's low blurred voice
had gone on and on undisturbingly, no questions about her life or her
plans, just jokes, about the tea-service and everything they had had,
making her laugh. Whenever she laughed, he laughed delightedly. All the
time her eyes had wandered from the brilliant anemones across to the
soft green window with its scarlet curtains.



                              CHAPTER VIII


                                   1

When May came life lay round Miriam without a flaw. She seemed to have
reached the summit of a hill up which she had been climbing ever since
she came to Newlands. The weeks had been green lanes of experience,
fresh and scented and balmy and free from lurking fears. Now the
landscape lay open before her eyes, clear from horizon to horizon,
sunlit and flawless, past and future. The present, within her hands,
brought her, whenever she paused to consider it, to the tips of her
toes, as if its pressure lifted her. She would push it off,
smiling--turning and shutting herself away from it, with laughter and
closed eyes, she found herself deeper in the airy flood and drawing
breath swam forward.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The old troubles, the things she had known from the beginning, the
general shadow that lay over the family life and closed punctually in
whenever the sun began to shine, her own personal thoughts, the
impossibility of living with people, poverty, disease, death in a dark
corner, had moved and changed, melted and flowed away.

The family shadow had shrunk long ago, back in the winter months they
had spent in Bennett's little bachelor villa, to a small black cloud of
disgrace hanging over her father. At the time of its appearance, when
the extent of his embarrassment was exactly known, she had sunk for a
while under the conviction that the rest of her life must be spent in a
vain attempt to pay off his debts. Her mind revolved round the problem
hopelessly.... Even if she went on the stage she could not make enough
to pay off one of his creditors. Most women who went on the stage,
Gerald had said, made practically nothing, and the successful ones had
to spend enormous sums in bribery whilst they were making their
way--even the orchestra expected to be flattered and bribed. She would
have to go on being a resident governess, keeping ten pounds a year for
dress and paying over the rest of her salary. Her bitter rebellion
against this prospect was reinforced by the creditors' refusal to make
her father a bankrupt. The refusal brought her a picture of the
creditors, men "on the Stock Exchange," sitting in a circle, in
frock-coats, talking over her father's affairs. She winced, her blood
came scorching against her skin. She confronted them, "Stop!" she
shouted, "stop _talking_--you smug ugly men! You shall be paid. Stop! Go
away...." But Gerald had said, "They _like_ the old boy ... it won't
hurt _them_ ... they're all made of money." They liked him. They would
be kind. What right had they to be "kind"? They would be kind to her
too. They would smile at her plan of restitution and put it on one side.
And yet secretly she knew that each one of them would like to be paid
and was vexed and angry at losing money just as she was angry at having
to sacrifice her life to them. She would not sacrifice her life, but if
ever she found herself wealthy she would find out their names and pay
them secretly. Probably that would be never.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Disgrace closed round her, stifling. "It's _us_--we're doomed," she
thought, feeling the stigma of her family in her flesh. "If I go on
after this, holding up my head, I shall be a liar and a cheat. It will
show in my face and in my walk, always." She bowed her head. "I want to
live," murmured something. "I want to live, even if I slink through
life. I will. I don't care inside. I shall always have myself to be
with."

                   *       *       *       *       *

Something that was not touched, that sang far away down inside the
gloom, that cared nothing for the creditors and could get away down and
down into the twilight far away from the everlasting accusations of
humanity.... The disgrace sat only in the muscles of her face, in her
muscles, the stuff of her that had defied and fought and been laughed at
and beaten. It would not get deeper. Deeper down was something cool and
fresh--endless--an endless garden. In happiness it came up and made
everything in the world into a garden. Sorrow blotted it over, but it
was always there, waiting and looking on. It had looked on in Germany
and had loved the music and the words and the happiness of the German
girls and at Banbury Park, giving her no peace until she got away.

                   *       *       *       *       *

And now it had come to the surface and was with her all the time. Away
in the distance filling in the horizon was the home life. Beyond the
horizon, gone away for ever into some outer darkness were her old ideas
of trouble, disease and death. Once they had been always quite near at
hand, always ready to strike, laying cold hands on everything. They
would return, but they would be changed. No need to fear them any more.
She had seen them change. And when at last they came back, when there
was nothing else left in front of her they would still be changing. "Get
along, old ghosts," she said, and they seemed friendly and smiling. Her
father and mother, whose failure and death she had foreseen as a child
with sudden bitter tears, were going on now step by step towards these
ghostly things in the small bright lamplit villa in Gunnersbury. She had
watched them there during the winter months before she came to Newlands.
They had some secret together and did not feel the darkness. Their eyes
were careless and bright. Startled, she had heard them laugh together as
they talked in their room. Often their eyes were preoccupied, as if they
were looking at a picture. She had laughed aloud at the thought whenever
there had been any excuse, and they had always looked at her when she
laughed her loud laugh. Had they understood? Did they know that it was
themselves laughing in her? Families ought to laugh together whenever
there was any excuse. She felt that her own grown-up laughter was the
end of all the dreadful years. And three weeks ahead were the two
weddings. The letters from home gleamed with descriptions of the
increasing store of presents and new-made clothing. Miriam felt that
they were her own; she would see them all at the last best moment when
they were complete. She would have all that and all her pride in the
outgoing lives of Sarah and Harriett that were like two sunlit streams.
And meanwhile here within her hands was Newlands. Three weeks of days
and nights of untroubled beauty. Interminable.


                                   2

The roses were in bud. Every day she managed to visit them at least
once, running out alone into the garden at twilight and coming back rich
with the sense of the twilit green garden and the increasing stripes of
colour between the tight shining green sheaths.


                                   3

There had been no more talk of painting lessons. The idea had died in
Mrs. Corrie's mind the day after it had been born and a strange
interest, something dreadful that was happening in London had taken its
place. It seemed to absorb her completely and to spread a strange
curious excitement throughout the house. She sent a servant every
afternoon up to the station for an evening newspaper. The pink papers
disappeared, but she was perpetually making allusions to their strange
secret in a way that told Miriam she wanted to impart it and that
irritated without really arousing her interest. She felt that anything
that was being fussed over in pink evening papers was probably really
nothing at all. She could not believe that anything that had such a
strange effect on Mrs. Corrie could really interest her. But she longed
to know exactly what the mysterious thing was. If it was simply a
divorce case Mrs. Corrie would have told her about it, dropping out the
whole story abstractedly in one of her little shocked sentences and
immediately going on to speak of something else. She did not want to
hear anything more about divorce; all her interested curiosity in
divorced people had been dispersed by her contact with the Kronens. They
had both been divorced and their lives were broken and muddly and they
were not sure of themselves. Mrs. Kronen was strong and alone. But she
was alone and would always be. If it were a murder everybody would talk
about it openly. It must be something worse than a murder or a divorce.
She felt she must know, must make Mrs. Corrie tell her and knew at the
same time that she did not want to be distracted from the pure solid
glory of the weeks by sharing a horrible secret. The thing kept Mrs.
Corrie occupied and interested and left her free to live undisturbed. It
was a barrier between them. And yet ... something that a human being had
done that was worse than a murder or a divorce.

"Is it a divorce?" she said suddenly and insincerely one afternoon
coming upon Mrs. Corrie scanning the newly arrived newspaper in the
garden.

"Lordy no," laughed Mrs. Corrie self-consciously, scrumpling the paper
under her arm.

"What is it?" said Miriam, shaking and flushing. "Don't tell me, don't
tell me," cried her mind, "don't mention it, you don't know yourself
what it is. Nobody knows what anything is."

"I couldn't tell you!" cried Mrs. Corrie.

"Why _not_?" laughed Miriam.

"It's too awful," giggled Mrs. Corrie.

"Oh, you must tell me now you've begun."

"It's the most awful thing there is. It's like the Bible," said Mrs.
Corrie, and fled into the house.


                                   4

Little cities burning and flaring in a great plain until everything was
consumed. Everything beginning again--clean. Would London be visited by
destruction? Humanity was as bad now as in Bible days. It made one feel
cold and sick. In the midst of the beauty and happiness of
England--awful things, the worst things there were. What awful faces
those people must have. It would be dreadful to see them.


                                   5

At the week-end the house seemed full of little groups of conspirators,
talking in corners, full of secret glee ... someone describing a room,
drawn curtains and candlelight at midday ... wonderful ... and laughing.
Why did they laugh? A candle-lit room in the midst of bright day ...
wonderful, like a shrine.

The low-toned talk went on, in Mr. Corrie's little study behind the
half-closed door, in corners of the hall. Names were mentioned--the name
of the man who wrote the plays, Mrs. Kronen's "genius." Miriam could
only recall when she was alone that it was a woodland springtime name.
It comforted her to think that this name was concerned in the horrible
mystery. Her sympathies veered vaguely out towards the patch of disgrace
in London and her interest died down.


                                   6

The general preoccupation and excitement seemed to destroy her link with
the household. As soon as the children's tea was over she felt herself
free. A strange tall woman came to stay in the house, trailing about in
long jewelled dresses with a slight limp; Miss Tower, Mrs. Corrie called
her Jin. But the name did not belong to her. Miriam could not think of
any name that would belong to her ... talking to Mrs. Corrie at lunch
with amused eyes and expressionless, small fine features of some illness
that was going to kill her in eight or ten years, of her friends,
talking about her men friends as if they were boys to be cried over.
"Why don't you marry him?" Mrs. Corrie would say of one or another. How
happy the man would be, thought Miriam, gazing into the strange eyes and
daring her to marry anyone and alter the eyes. Miss Tower spoke to her
now and again as if she had known her all her life. One day after lunch
she suddenly said, "You ought to smile more often--you've got pretty
teeth; but you forget about them. Don't forget about them"; and one
evening she came into her room just as she was beginning to undress and
stood by the fire and said, "Your evening dresses are all wrong. You
should have them cut higher, above the collar-bone--or much lower--don't
forget. Don't forget, you could be charming."

Mrs. Corrie came in herself the next evening and gave Miriam a
full-length cabinet photograph of herself, suddenly. Afterwards she
heard her saying to Kate on the landing, "Let the poor thing rest when
she can," and they both went into Kate's room.


                                   7

Every day as soon as the children's tea was over she fled to her room.
The memory of Mrs. Corrie's little sketch-book had haunted her for days.
She had bought a block and brushes, a small box of paints and a book on
painting in water colours. For days she painted, secure in the feeling
of Mrs. Corrie and Kate occupied with each other. She filled sheet after
sheet with swift efforts to recall Brighton skies--sunset, the red mass
of the sun, the profile of the cliffs, the sky clear or full of heavy
cloud, the darkness of the afternoon sea streaked by a path of gold,
bird-specks, above the cliffs, above the sea. The painting was thick and
confused, the objects blurred and ran into each other, the image of each
recalled object came close before her eyes, shaking her with its sharp
reality, her heart and hand shook as she contemplated it, and her body
thrilled as she swept her brushes about. She found herself breathing
heavily and deeply, sure each time of registering what she saw, sweeping
rapidly on until the filled paper confronted her, a confused mass of
shapeless images, leaving her angry and cold. Each day what she had done
the day before thrilled her afresh and drove her on, and the time she
spent in contemplation and hope became the heart of the days as April
wore on.


                                   8

On the last day of Jin Tower's visit, Miriam came in from the garden
upon Mrs. Corrie sitting in the hall with her guest. Jin was going and
was sorry that she was going. But Miriam saw that her gladness was as
great as her sorrow. It always would be. Whatever happened to her. Mrs.
Corrie was sitting at her side bent from the waist with her arms
stretched out and hands clasped beyond her knees. Miriam was amazed to
see how much Mrs. Corrie had been talking, and that she was treating
Jin's departure as if it were a small crisis. There was a touch of soft
heat and fussiness in the air. Mrs. Corrie's features were discomposed.
They both glanced at her as she came across the hall and she smiled,
awkwardly and half paused. Her mind was turned towards her vision of a
great cliff in profile against a still sky with a deep sea brimming to
its feet in a placid afterglow; the garden with its lawn and trees, its
bushiness and its buttons of bright rosebuds had seemed small and
troubled and talkative in comparison. In her slight pause she offered
them her vision, but knew as she went on upstairs that her attitude had
said, "I am the paid governess. You must not talk to me as you would to
each other; I am an inferior and can never be an intimate." She was glad
that Jin had left off coming to her room. She did not want intimacy with
anyone if it meant that strained fussiness in the hall. Meeting Mrs.
Corrie later on the landing she asked with a sudden sense of inspiration
whether she might have her meal in her room, adding in an insincere
effort at explanation that she wanted to do some reading up for the
children. Mrs. Corrie agreed with an alacrity that gave her a vision of
possible freedom ahead and a shock of apprehension. Perhaps she had not
succeeded even so far as she thought in living the Newlands social life.
She spent the evening writing to Eve, asking her if she remembered sea
scenes at Weymouth and Brighton, pushing on and on weighed down by a
sense of the urgency of finding out whether to Eve the registration and
the recalling of her impressions was a thing that she must either do or
lose hold of some essential thing ... she felt that Eve would somehow
admire her own stormy emphasis but would not really understand how much
it meant to her. She remembered Eve's comparison of the country round
the Greens' house to Leader landscapes--pictures, and how delightful it
had seemed to her that she had such things all round her to look at. But
her thoughts of the great brow and downward sweep of cliff and the sea
coming up to it was not a picture, it was a thing; her cheeks flared as
she searched for a word--it was an experience, perhaps the most
important thing in life--far in away from any "glad mask," a thing
belonging to that strange inner life and independent of everybody.
Perhaps it was a betrayal, a sort of fat noisy gossiping to speak of it
even to Eve. "You'll think I'm _mad_," she concluded, "but I'm not."

When the letter was finished the Newlands life seemed very remote. She
was alone in a strange, luxurious room that did not belong to her, lit
by a hard electric light that had been put there by some hardworking
mechanic to whom the house was just a house with electric fittings. She
felt a touch of the half-numb half-feverish stupor that had been her
daily mood at Banbury Park. She would go on teaching the Corrie
children, but her evenings in future would be divided between
unsuccessful efforts to put down her flaming or peaceful sunset scenes
and to explain their importance to Eve.



                               CHAPTER IX


                                   1

But the next evening when Mr. Corrie came down for the week-end with a
party of guests, Mrs. Corrie appeared with swift suddenness in Miriam's
room and glanced at her morning dress.

"I say, missy, you'll have to hurry up."

"Oh, I didn't dress ... the house is full of strangers."

"No, it isn't; there's Mélie and Tom ... Tommy and Mélie."

"Yes, but I know there are crowds."

She did not want to meet the Cravens again, and the strangers would turn
out to be some sort of people saying certain sorts of things over and
over again, and if she went down she would not be able to get away as
soon as she knew all about them. She would be fixed; obliged to listen.
When anyone spoke to her, grimacing as the patronised governess or
saying what she thought and being hated for it.

"Crowds," she repeated, as Mrs. Corrie placed a large lump in the centre
of the blaze.

They had her here, in this beautiful room and looked after her comfort
as if she were a guest.

"Nonsensy-nonsense. You _must_ come down and see the fun." Miriam
glanced at her empty table. In the drawer hidden underneath the
table-cover were her block and paints. Presently she could, if she held
firm, be alone, in a grey space inside this alien room, cold and lonely
and with the beginning of something ... dark painful beginning of
something that could not come if people were there.... Downstairs,
warmth and revelry.

"You _must_ come down and see the fun," said Mrs. Corrie, getting up
from the fire and trailing across the room with bent head. "A nun--a nun
in amber satin," thought Miriam, surveying her back.

"_Want_ you to come down," said Mrs. Corrie plaintively from the door.
Cold air came in from the landing; the warmth of the room stirred to a
strange vitality, the light glowed clearer within its ruby globe. The
silvery clatter of entrée dishes came up from the hall.

"All right," said Miriam, turning exultantly to the chest of drawers.

"A victory over myself or some sort of treachery?" ... The long drawer
which held her evening things seemed full of wonders. She dragged out a
little home-made smocked blouse of pale blue nun's veiling that had
seemed too dowdy for Newlands and put it on over her morning skirt. It
shone upon her. Rapidly washing her hands, away from the glamour of the
looking-glass, she mentally took stock of her hair, untouched since the
morning, the amateur blouse, its crude clear blue hard against the harsh
black skirt. Back again at the dressing-table as she dried her hands she
found the miracle renewed. The figure that confronted her in the mirror
was wrapped in some strange harmonising radiance. She looked at it for a
moment as she would have looked at an unknown picture, in tranquil
disinterested contemplation. The sound of the gong came softly into the
room, bringing her no apprehensive contraction of nerves. She wove its
lingering note into the imagined tinkling of an old melody from a wooden
musical box. Opening the door before turning out her gas she found a
small bunch of hothouse lilies of the valley lying on the
writing-table.... Mrs. Corrie--"you must come."


                                   2

Tucking them into her belt she went slowly downstairs, confused by a
picture coming between her and her surroundings like a filmy lantern
slide, of Portland Bill lying on a smooth sea in a clear afterglow....

"Quite a madonna," said Mrs. Staple-Craven querulously. She sat low in
her chair, her round gold head on its short stalk standing firmly up
from billowy frills of green silk ... "a fat water-lily," mused Miriam,
and went wandering through the great steamy glass-houses at Kew, while
the names that had been murmured during the introductions echoed
irrelevantly in her brain.

"She _must_ wear her host's colours sometimes," said Mr. Corrie quickly
and gently.

Miriam glanced her surprise and smiled shyly in response to his shy
smile. It was as if the faint radiance that she felt all round her had
been outlined by a flashing blade. Mrs. Craven might go on resenting it;
she could not touch it again. It steadied and concentrated; flowing from
some inexhaustible inner centre, it did not get beyond the circle
outlined by the flashing blade, but flowed back on her and out again and
back until it seemed as if it must lift her to her feet. Her eyes caught
the clear brow and smooth innocently sleeked dark hair of a man at the
other end of the table--under the fine level brows was a loudly talking,
busily eating face--all the noise of the world, and the brooding
grieving unconscious brow above it. Everyone was talking. She glanced.
The women showed no foreheads; but their faces were not noisy; they were
like the brows of the men, except Mrs. Craven's. Her silent face was
mouthing and complaining aloud all the time.


                                   3

"Old Felix has secured himself the best partner," Miriam heard someone
mutter as she made her fluke, a resounding little cannon and pocket in
one stroke. Wandering after her ball she fought against the suggesting
voice. It had come from one of the men moving about in the gloom
surrounding the radiance cast by the green-shaded lamps upon the long
green table. Faces moving in the upper darkness were indistinguishable.
The white patch of Mrs. Corrie's face gleamed from the settee as she sat
bent forward with her hands clasped in front of her knees. Beyond her,
sitting back under the shadow of the mantelpiece and the marking board
was Mrs. Craven, a faint mass of soft green and mealy white. All the
other forms were standing or moving in the gloom; standing watchful and
silent, the gleaming stems of their cues held in rest, shifting and
moving and strolling with uncolliding ordered movements and little
murmurs of commentary after the little drama--the sudden snap of the
stroke breaking the stillness, the faint thundering roll of the single
ball, the click of the concussion, the gentle angular explosion of
pieces into a new relation and the breaking of the varying triangle as a
ball rolled to its hidden destination held by all the eyes in the room
until its rumbling pilgrimage ended out of sight in a soft thud. It was
pure joy to Miriam to wander round the table after her ball, sheltered
in the gloom, through an endless "grand chain" of undifferentiated
figures that passed and repassed without awkwardness or the need for
forced exchange; held together and separated by the ceremony of the
game. Comments came after each stroke, words and sentences sped and
smoothed and polished by the gloom like the easy talking of friends in a
deep twilight; but between each stroke were vast intervals of untroubled
silent intercourse. The competition of the men, the sense of the desire
to win, that rose and strained in the room could not spoil this
communion. After a stroke, pondering the balls while the room and the
radiance and the darkness moved and flowed and the dim figures settled
to a fresh miracle of grouping, it was joy to lean along the board to
her ball, keeping punctual appointment with her partner whose jaunty
little figure would appear in supporting opposition under the bright
light, drawing at his cigarette with a puckering half-smile, awaiting
her suggestion and ready with counsel. Doing her best to measure angles
and regulate the force of her blow she struck careless little lifting
strokes that made her feel as if she danced, and managed three more
cannons and a pocket before her little break came to an end.


                                   4

"It must be jolly to smoke in the in-between times," said Miriam,
standing about at a loss during a long break by one of her opponents.

"Yes, you ought to learn to smoke," responded Mr. Corrie judicially. The
quiet smile--the serene offer of companionship, the whole room troubled
with the sense of the two parties, the men with whom she was linked in
the joyous forward going strife of the game and the women on the sofa,
suddenly grown monstrous in their opposition of clothes and kindliness
and the fuss of distracting personal insincerities of voice and speech
attempting to judge and condemn the roomful of quiet players, shouting
aloud to her that she was a fool to be drawn in to talking to men
seriously on their own level, a fool to parade about as if she really
enjoyed their silly game. "I hate women and they've got to know it," she
retorted with all her strength, hitting blindly out towards the sofa,
feeling all the contrivances of toilet and coiffure fall in meaningless
horrible detail under her blows.

"I do smoke," she said, leaving her partner's side and going boldly to
the sofa corner. "Ragbags, bundles of pretence," she thought, as she
confronted the women. They glanced up with cunning eyes. They looked
small and cringing. She rushed on, sweeping them aside.... Who had made
them so small and cheated, and for all their smiles so angry? What was
it they wanted? What was it women wanted that always made them so angry?

"Would you mind if I _smoked_?" she asked in a clear gay tone, cutting
herself from Mrs. Corrie with a wrench as she faced her glittering
frightened eyes.

"Of _course_ not, my dear lady--I don't mind, if you don't," she said,
tweaking affectionately at Miriam's skirt. "Ain't she a gay dog, Mélie,
ain't she a gay dog!"


                                   5

"It's a pleasure to see you smoke," murmured Mr. Corrie fervently,
"you're the first woman I've seen smoke _con amore_."

Contemplating the little screwed-up appreciative smile on the features
of her partner, bunched to the lighting of his own cigarette, Miriam
discharged a double stream of smoke violently through her
nostrils--breaking out at last a public defiance of the freemasonry of
women. "I suppose I'm a new woman--I've said I am now, anyhow," she
reflected, wondering in the background of her determination how she
would reconcile the rôle with her work as a children's governess. "I'm
not in their crowd, anyhow; I despise their silly secret," she pursued,
feeling out ahead towards some lonely solution of her difficulty that
seemed to come shapelessly towards her, but surely--the happy weariness
of conquest gave her a sense of some unknown strength in her.

For the rest of the evening the group in the sofa-corner presented her a
frontage of fawning and flattery.


                                   6

Coming down with the children to lunch the next day, Miriam found the
room dark and chill in the bright midday. It was as if it were empty.
But if it had been empty it would have been beautiful in the still light
and tranquil. There was a dark cruel tide in the room, she sought in
vain for a foothold. A loud busy voice was talking from Mr. Corrie's
place at the head of the table. Mr. Staple-Craven, busy with cold words
to hide the truth. He paused as the nursery trio came in and settled at
the table and then shouted softly and suddenly at Mrs. Corrie, "What's
Corrie having?"

"Biscuits," chirped Mrs. Corrie eagerly, "biscuits and sally in the
study." She sat forward, gathering herself to disperse the gloom. But
Mrs. Craven's deep voice drowned her unspoken gaieties ... ah--he's not
gone away, thought Miriam rapidly, he's in the house....

"Best thing for biliousness," gonged Mrs. Craven, and Mr. Craven busily
resumed.

"It's only the fisherman who knows anything, anything whatever about the
silver stream. Necessarily. Necessarily. It is the--the _concentration_,
the--the _absorption_ of the passion that enables him to see. Er, the
fisherman, the poet-tantamount; exchangeable terms. Fishing is, indeed
one might say----"

The men of the party were devouring their food with the air of people
just about to separate to fulfil urgent engagements. They bent and
gobbled busily and cast smouldering glances about the table, as if with
their eyes they would suggest important mysteries brooding above their
animated muzzles.

Miriam's stricken eyes sought their foreheads for relief. Smooth brows
and neatly brushed hair above; but the smooth motionless brows were
ramparts of hate; pure murderous hate. That's men, she said, with a
sudden flash of certainty, that's men as they are, when they are
opposed, when they are real. All the rest is pretence. Her thoughts
flashed forward to a final clear issue of opposition, with a husband.
Just a cold blank hating forehead and neatly brushed hair above it. If a
man doesn't understand or doesn't agree he's just a blank bony
conceitedly thinking, absolutely condemning forehead, a face below,
going on eating--and going off somewhere. Men are all hard angry bones;
always thinking something, only one thing at a time and unless that is
agreed to, they murder. My husband shan't kill me.... I'll shatter his
conceited brow--_make_ him see ... two sides to every question ... a
million sides ... no questions, only sides ... always changing. Men
argue, think they prove things; their foreheads recover--cool and calm.
Damn them all--all men.


                                   7

"Fee ought to be out here," said Mrs. Corrie, moving her basket chair to
face away from the sun.

The garden blazed in the fresh warm air. But there was no happiness in
it. Everything was lost and astray. The house-party had dispersed and
disappeared. Mrs. Corrie sat and strolled about the garden, joyless, as
if weighed down by some immovable oppression. If Mr. Corrie were to come
out, and sit there too it would be worse. It was curious to think that
the garden was his at all. He would come feebly out, looking ill and
they would all sit, uneasy and afraid. But Mrs. Corrie wanted him to
come out, knew he ought to be there. It was she who had thought of it.
It was intolerable to think of his coming. Yet he had been "crazy mad"
about her for five years. Five years and then this. Whose fault was it?
His or hers? Or was marriage always like that? Perhaps that was why she
and Mrs. Craven had laughed when they were asked whether marriage was a
failure. Mrs. Craven had no children. Nothing to think about but stars
and spirits and her food and baths and little silk dresses and Mr.
Craven treated her as if she were a child he had got tired of petting.
She did not even go fishing with him. She was lying down in her room and
tea would be taken up to her. At least she thought of herself and seemed
to enjoy life. But she was getting fatter and fatter. Mrs. Corrie did
not want anything for herself, except for the fun of getting things. She
cared only for the children and when they grew up they would have
nothing to talk to her about. Sybil would have thoughts behind her ugly
strong face. She would tell them to no one. The boy would adore her,
until his wife whom he would adore came between them. So there was
nothing for women in marriage and children. Because they had no
thoughts. Their husbands grew to hate them because they had no thoughts.
But if a woman had thoughts a man would not be "silly" about her for
five years. And Mrs. Corrie had her garden. She would always have that,
when he was not there.

"If you were to go and ask him," said Mrs. Corrie, brushing out her
dress with her hands, "he'd come out."

"_Me!_" said Miriam in amazement.

"Yes, go on, my dear, you see; he'll come."

"But perhaps he doesn't want to," said Miriam, suddenly feeling that she
was playing a familiar part in a novel and wanting to feel quite sure
she was reading her rôle aright.

"You go and try," laughed Mrs. Corrie gently. "_Make_ him come out."

"I'll tell him you wish him to come," said Miriam gravely, getting to
her feet. "All _right_," she thought, "if I have more influence over him
than you it's not my fault, not anybody's fault, but how horrid you must
feel."


                                   8

Miriam's trembling fingers gave a frightened fumbling tap at the study
door. "Come in," said Mr. Corrie officially, and coughed a loose, wheezy
cough. He was sitting by the fire in one of the huge armchairs and
didn't look up as she entered. She stood with the door half closed
behind her, fighting against her fear and the cold heavy impression of
his dull grey dressing-gown and the grey rug over his knees.

"It's so lovely in the garden," she said, fervently fixing her eyes on
the small white face, a little puffy under its grizzled hair. He looked
stiffly in her direction.

"The sun is so warm," she went on hurriedly. "Mrs. Corrie thought----"
she stopped. Of course the man was too ill to be worried. For, an
eternity she stood, waiting. Mr. Corrie coughed his little cough and
turned again to the fire. If only she could sit down in the other chair,
saying nothing and just be there. He looked so unspeakably desolate. He
hated being there, not able to play or work.

"I hate being ill," she said at last, "it always seems such waste of
time." She knew she had borrowed that from someone and that it would
only increase the man's impatience. "I always have to act and play
parts," she thought angrily--and called impatiently to her everyday
vision of him to dispel the obstructive figure in the armchair.

"Umph," said Mr. Corrie judicially.

"You could have a chair," she ventured, "and just sit quietly."

"No thanks, I'm not coming out." He turned a kind face in her direction
without meeting her eyes.

"You have such a nice room," said Miriam vaguely, getting to the door.

"Do you like it?" It was his everyday voice, and Miriam stopped at the
door without turning.

"It's so absolutely your own," she said.

Mr. Corrie laughed. "That's a strange definition of charm."

"I didn't say charming. I said your own."

Mr. Corrie laughed out. "Because it's mine it's nice, but it is, for the
same reason, not charming."

"You're tying me up into something I haven't said. There's a fallacy in
what you have just said, somewhere."

"You'll never be tied up in anything, mademoiselle--you'll tie other
people up. But there was no fallacy."

"No verbal fallacy," said Miriam eagerly, "a fallacy of intention,
deliberate misreading."

"No wonder you think the sun would do me good."

"How do you mean?"

"I'm such a miscreant."

"Oh no, you're not," said Miriam comfortingly, turning round. "I don't
want you to come out"--she advanced boldly and stirred the fire. "I
always like to be alone when I'm ill."

"That's better," said Mr. Corrie.

"Good-bye," breathed Miriam, getting rapidly to the door ... poor
wretched man ... wanting quiet kindness.

"Thank you; good-bye," said Mr. Corrie gently.


                                   9

"Then you'd say, Corrie," said Mr. Staple-Craven, as they all sat down
to dinner on Sunday, evening ... now comes flattery, thought Miriam
calmly--nothing mattered, the curtains were back, the light not yet gone
from the garden and birds were fluting and chirruping out there on the
lawn where she had played tennis all the afternoon--at home there was
the same light in the little garden and Sarah and Harriett were there in
happiness, she would see them soon and meantime, the wonder, the fresh
rosebuds, this year's, under the clear soft lamplight.

"You'd say that no one was to blame for the accident."

"The cause of the accident was undoubtedly the signalman's sudden attack
of illness."

Pause. "It sounds," thought Miriam, "as if he were reading from the Book
of Judgment. It isn't true either. Perhaps a judgment can never be
true." She pondered to the singing of her blood.

"In other words," said one of the younger men, in a narrow nasal
sneering clever voice, "it was a purely accidental accident."

"Purely," gurgled Mr. Corrie, in a low, pleased tone.

"They think they're really beginning," mused Miriam, rousing herself.

"A genuine accident within the meaning of the act," blared Mr. Craven.

"An actident," murmured Mr. Corrie.

"In that case," said another man, "I mean since the man was discovered
ill, not drunk, by a doctor in his box, all the elaborate legal
proceedings would appear to be rather--superfluous."

"Not at all, not at all," said Mr. Corrie testily.

Miriam listened gladly to the anger in his voice, watching the faint
movement of the window curtains and waiting for the justification of the
law.

"The thing must be subject to a detailed inquiry before the man can be
cleared."

"He might have felt ill before he took up his duties--you'd hardly get
him to admit that."

"Lawyers can get people to admit anything," said Mr. Craven cheerfully,
and broke the silence that followed his sally by a hooting monotonous
recitative which he delivered, swaying right and left from his hips,
"that is to say--they by beneficently pursuing unexpected--quite
_unexpected_ bypaths--suddenly confront--their--their examinees--with
the truth--the Truth."

"It's quite a good point to suggest that the chap felt ill earlier in
the day--that's one of the things you'd have to find out. You'd have, at
any rate, to know all the circumstances of the seizure."

"Indigestible food," said Miriam, "or badly cooked food."

"Ah," said Mr. Corrie, his face clearing, "that's an excellent
refinement."

"In that case the cause of the accident would be the cook."

Mr. Corrie laughed delightedly.

"I don't say that because I'm interested, but because I wanted to take
sides with him," thought Miriam, "the others know that and resent it and
now I'm interested."

"Perhaps," she said, feeling anxiously about the incriminated cook, "the
real cause then would be a fault in her upbringing, I mean he may have
lately married a young woman whose mother had not taught her cooking."

"Oh, you can't go back further than the cook," said Mr. Corrie finally.

"But the cause," she persisted, in a low, anxious voice, "is the sum
total of all the circumstances."

"No, no," said Mr. Corrie impenetrably, with a hard face--"you can't
take the thing back into the mists of the past."

He dropped her and took up a lead coming from a man at the other end of
the table.

"Oh," thought Miriam coldly, appraising him with a glance, the slightly
hollow temples, the small skull, a little flattened, the lack of height
in the straight forehead, why had she not noticed that before?--the
general stinginess of the head balancing the soft keen eyes and
whimsical mouth--"that's you; you won't, you can't look at anything from
the point of view of life as a whole"--she shivered and drew away from
the whole spectacle and pageant of Newlands' life. It all had this
behind it, a man, able to do and decide things who looked about like a
ferret for small clever things, causes, immediate near causes that
appeared to explain, and explained nothing and had nothing to do with
anything. Her hot brain whirled back--signalmen, in bad little houses
with bad cooking--tinned foods--they're a link--they bring all sorts of
things into their signal boxes. They ought to bring the fewest possible
dangerous things. Something ought to be done.

Lawyers were quite happy, pleased with themselves if they made some one
person guilty--put their finger on him. "Can't go back into the mists of
the past ... you _didn't understand_, you're not capable of
understanding any real _movements_ of thought. I always knew it. You
think--in propositions. Can't go back. Of course you can go back, and
round and up and everywhere. Things as a whole ... you understand
nothing. We've done. That's you. Mr. Corrie--a leading Q.C. Heavens."

In that moment Miriam felt that she left Newlands for ever. She glanced
at Mrs. Corrie and Mrs. Craven--bright beautiful coloured birds, fading
slowly year by year in the stifling atmosphere, the hard brutal laughing
complacent atmosphere of men's minds ... men's minds, staring at things,
ignorantly, knowing "everything" in an irritating way and yet
_ignorant_.



                               CHAPTER X


                                   1

Coming home at ten o'clock in the morning, Miriam found the little villa
standing quiet and empty in the sunshine. The sound of her coming down
the empty tree-lined roadway had brought no face to either of the open
windows. She stood on the short fresh grass in the small front garden
looking up at the empty quiet windows. During her absence the dark
winter villa had changed. It had become home. The little red brick
façade glowed as she looked up at it. It belonged to her family. All
through the spring weather they had been living behind the small bright
house-front. It was they who had set those windows open and left them
standing open to the spring air. They had gone out, of course; all of
them; to be busy about the weddings. But inside was a place for her;
things ready; a bed prepared where she would lie to-night in the
darkness. The sun would come up to-morrow and be again on this green
grass. She could come out on the grass in the morning.


                                   2

The sounds of her knocking and ringing echoed through the house with a
summery resonance. All the inside doors were standing open. Footsteps
came and the door opened upon Mary. She had forgotten Mary and stood
looking at her. Mary stood in her lilac print dress and little mob cap,
filling the doorway in the full sunlight. She had shone through all the
years in the grey basement kitchens at Barnes. Miriam had never before
seen her face to face in the sunlight, her tawny red Somersetshire hair;
the tawny freckles on the soft rose of her face; the red in her shy warm
eyes. They both stood gazing. The strong sweet curve of Mary's bony chin
moved her thoughtful mouth. "How nice you do look, Miss Mirry." Miriam
took her by the arm and trundled her into the house. They moved into the
little dining-room filled with a blaze of sunlight and smelling of
leather and tobacco and fresh brown paper and string and into the dim
small drawing-room at the back. The tiny greenhouse plastered on its
hindmost wall was full of growing things. Mary dropped phrases, offering
Miriam her share of the things that had happened while she had been
away. She listened deferentially, her heart rising high. After all these
years she and Mary were confessing their love to each other.


                                   3

She went down the road with a bale of art muslin over her shoulder and
carrying a small bronze table-lamp with a pink silk shade. The bright
bunchy green heads of the little lopped acacia trees bobbed against
their background of red brick villa as she walked ... little moving
green lampshades for Harriett's life; they were like Harriett; like her
delicate laughter and absurdity. The sounds of the footsteps of
passers-by made her rejoice more keenly in her burdens. She felt herself
a procession of sacred emblems, in the sunshine. The sunshine streamed
about her from an immense height of blue sky. The sky had never been so
high as it was above Harriett's green acacias. It had gone soaring up
to-day for them all; their sky.

                   *       *       *       *       *

That eldest Wheeler girl, going off to India, to marry a divorced man.
Julia seemed to think it did not matter if she were happy. How could she
be happy?... Coming home from the "Second Mrs. Tanqueray" Bennett had
asked Sarah if she would have married a man with a past ... it was not
only that his studies had kept him straight. It was himself ... and
Gerald too. It was ... there were two kinds of men. You could tell them
at a glance. Life was clean and fresh for Sarah and Harriett.... There
were two kinds of people. Most of the people who were going about ought
to be shut up, somehow, in prison.


                                   4

Eve came into the little room with her arms full of Japanese anemones.
Behind her came a tall man with red-brown hair, a stout fresh face and
beautifully cut clothes. Miriam bowed him a greeting without waiting for
introduction and went on arranging her festoons of art muslin about the
white wooden mantelpiece. He was carrying a trayful of little fluted
green glasses each half filled with water. He came into the room on a
holiday--a little interval in his man's life--delighted to be arranging
the tray of glasses; half contemptuous and very happy. Pleased and
surprised at himself and ready for miracles. He was not married--but he
was a marrying man--a ladies' man--a man of the world--something like
Bob Greville--with the same sort of attitude towards women.... "The
vagaries of the Fair" ... a special manner for women and a clubby life
of his own, with men. Women meant sex to him, the reproduction of the
species my dear chap, and his comforts and a little music on Sunday
afternoon. He loved his mother, that was certain, Miriam felt, from
something in his voice, and respected all mothers; the sort of man who
would "look after" a woman properly, but would never know anything about
her. And there was something in himself that he knew nothing about. Some
woman would live with him in loneliness, maddened, waiting for that
something to speak. Secretly he would be half contemptuous, half afraid
of her and would keep on always with that mocking, obsequious,
patronising manner. Horrible--and so easy to deceive, and yet cruel to
deceive. _Hit_ him ... hit him awake. He put down the tray of glasses
near the heap of anemones that Eve had flung on the table and enquired
whether they were to put one bloom in each glass.... He had a secret,
indulgent life of his own. Did he imagine that no one knew?... Eve
giggled and tittered ... this new giggling way of Eve's ... perhaps it
was the way the Greens treated young men; arch and silly, like the girls
at the tennis club. He must see through it. He was not in the least like
the tennis club young men, most of whom needed to be giggled at before
they could be anything but just sneery and silly.


                                   5

But it was fascinating, like something in a novel come true; the latest
tableau in all the wedding tableaux; their own. Bennett and Gerald had
swept the lonely Henderson family into this. One was going to be a
sister-in-law for certain, to-morrow.... Held up by this dignity Miriam
concentrated on her folds and loops, adjusting and pinning with her back
to the room, listening to the sparring and giggling, the sounds of the
tinkling glasses--the scissors snipping and dropping with a rattle on to
the table, the soft flurring of shifted blossoms. The moment was coming.
The man was being impudently patronising to Eve, but really talking at
her, trying to make her turn round. She did not want him. There was
something ... some quality in men that this kind of man did not possess
... something she knew ... who? It was somewhere, but not in him. Still,
his being there gave an edge to her freedom and happiness. She owed him
some kind of truth ... some blow or shock. Holding her last festoon in
place she consulted some jumbled memory and found a phrase: "Will you
people leave off squabbling and just see if this is all right before I
nail it up?" She spoke in a cool even tone that filled the room. It
startled her, making her feel sad, small and guilty. Still with her back
to the room she waited during the moment of silence that followed her
words. "It's simply lovely, Mirry," said Eve. Had she been more vulgar
than Eve? She knew her decoration was all right and did not want an
opinion. She wanted to crush the man's behaviour, trample on it and
fling it out of the room. Eve was sweeter and more lovable than she.
Mother said it was natural and right to laugh and joke with young men.
No ... no ... no....

She glanced, asking Eve to hold the corner while she went for the hammer
and nails. Eve came eagerly forward. The man was standing upright and
motionless by the table, looking quietly at her as she stood back for
Eve to substitute a supporting hand. "Er--let me do that," he said
gravely--"or go for the hammer." He was at the door: "Oh--thanks," said
Miriam, in a hard tone; "you will find it in the kitchen."

Eve remained holding the muslin with downcast face and conscious lips.
Seizing a vase of anemones Miriam put it on the marble, bunching up the
muslin to hide the vase.

"This is their smoking-room," she said, her voice praying for tolerance.
Eve beamed sadly and gladly. "Yes--isn't it jolly?" Joining hands they
waltzed about the room. Eve did not really mind; she fought, but there
was something in her that did not mind.


                                   6

Through the French windows of the new drawing-room Miriam saw a group of
figures moving towards the end of the garden. In a moment they would
have reached the low brick wall at the end of the garden. They might
stand talking there with their heads outlined against the green painted
trellis-work that ran along the top of the wall or they might walk back
towards the house and see her at the window.

She hid herself from view. The room closed round her. She could not sit
down on one of the new chairs. The room was too full. Things were
speaking to her. Their challenge had sent her to the window when she
came into the room. It had made her feel like a trespasser. Now she was
caught. She stood breathing in curious odours; faint odours of new wood
and fresh upholstery, and the strange strong subdued emanation coming
from the black grand piano, a mingling of the smell of aromatic wood
with the hard raw bitter tang of metal and the muffled woolly pungency
of new felting.

The whole of the floor space up to the edge of the skirting was filled
by a soft thick rich carpet of clear green with a border and
centre-piece of large soft fresh pink full-blown roses. Standing about
on it were a set of little delicate shiny black chairs, with seats
covered with silken stripings of pink and green, two great padded
easy-chairs, deep cushioned and low-seated, and three little polished
black tables of different shapes. A black overmantel with shelves and
side brackets, holding fluted white bowls framed a long strip of deeply
bevelled mirror. The wooden mantelpiece was draped at the sides like the
high French windows with soft straight hanging green silk curtains. At
the windows long creamy net curtains hung, pulled in narrow straight
folds just within the silk ones.

The walls swept up dimly striped with rose and green, the green misty
and changeful, glossy or dull as you moved. And on the widest spaced
wall dreadful presences ... two long narrow dark-framed pictures, safe
and far-off and dreamy in shop windows, but now, shut in here, suddenly
full of sad heavy dreadful meaning. A girl, listening to the words she
had waited for, not seeing the youth who is gazing at her, not even
thinking of him, but seeing suddenly everything opening far far away,
and leaving him, going on alone, to things he will never see, joining
the lonely women of the past, feeling her old self still there, wanting
everyone to know that she was still there, and cut off, for ever. There
was something ahead; but she could not take him with her. He would see
it now and again, in her face, but would never understand. And the other
picture; the girl grown into a woman; just married, her face veiled
forever, her eyes closed; sinking into the tide, his strong frame near
her the only reality; blindly trying to get back to him across the tide
of separation.

Their child will come--throwing even the support of him off and away,
making her monstrous ... and then born into life between them, forever,
"drawing them together," showing they were separate; between them,
forever. There was no getting away from that.

The strange strong crude odours breathing quietly out from the open lid
of the new piano seemed to support them, to make them more mockingly
inexorable.


                                   7

The smell of the piano would go on being there while inexorable things
happened.

Voices were sounding in the garden....

Hanging on either side of the mantelpiece were two more pictures--square
green garden scenes.... There was relief in the deeps of the gardens and
in under the huge spreading trees that nearly filled the sky. There were
tiresome people fussing in the foreground ... Marcus Stone
people--having scenes--not noticing the garden; getting in the way of
the garden. But the garden was there, blazing, filled with some
particular time of day, always being filled with different times of day.

There would be in-between times for Harriett--her own times. Times when
she would be at peace in this room near the garden. Away from the
kitchen and strange-eyed servants, and from the stern brown and yellow
pig-skin dining-room. In here she would have fragrant little teas; and
talk as if none of those other things existed. There were figures
standing at the French window.


                                   8

She opened the window upon Harriett and Gerald. Standing a little aloof
from them was a man. As Harriett spoke to her Miriam met his strange
eyes wide and dark, unseeing; no, glaring at things that did not
interest him ... desperate, playing a part. His thin squarish frame hung
loosely, whipped and beaten, within his dark clothes.

His eyes passed expressionlessly from her face to Harriett.

A great gust of laughter sounded from the open kitchen window away to
the left, screened by a trellis over which the lavish trailings of a
creeper made a bright green curtain. It was Bennett's voice. He had just
accomplished something or other.

"Ullo," said Harriett. The strange man was holding his lower lip in with
his teeth, as if in horror or pain.... They stood in a row on the
gravel.

"Let me introduce Mr. Grove," said Harriett, with a shy movement of her
head and shoulders, keeping her hands clasped. Her face was all broken
up. She could either laugh or cry. But there was something, a sort of
light, chiselling it, holding everything back.

Miriam bowed. "What's Bennett doing?" she said hurriedly.

"The last time _I_ saw him he was standing on the kitchen table fighting
with the gas bracket," said Gerald.

The sallow man drew in his breath sharply and stood aside, staring down
the garden. Miriam glanced at him, wondering. He was not criticising
Gerald. It was something else.

"I say, Mirry, what did you do to old Tremayne this morning?" went on
Gerald.

"What do you mean?" said Miriam interested. This was the novel going
on....

She must read it through even at this strange moment ... this moment was
the right setting to read through Gerald that little exciting far-away
finished thing of the morning, to know that it had been right. She felt
decked. Gerald stood confronting her and spoke low, fingering the
anemones in her belt. The others were talking. Harriett in high short
laughing sentences, the man gasping and moaning his replies, making
jerky movements. He was not considering his words, but looking for the
right, appropriate things to say. Miriam rejoiced over him as she smiled
encouragingly at Gerald.

"Well, my dear, he wanted to know--_who_ you were; and he swears he's
going to be engaged to you before the year is out."

"What abominable cheek," said Miriam, flushing with delight. Then she
had taken the right line. How easy. This was how things happened.

"No, my dear, he didn't mean to be cheeky."

"I call it the most abominable cheek."

"No you don't"; Gerald was looking at her with fatherly solicitude.
"That's what he said anyhow--and he meant it. Ask Harry."

"Frivolous young man."

"Well, he's an awful flirt, I warn you; but he's struck this time--all
of a heap ... came and raved about you the minute he'd seen you, and
when he heard you were Harry's sister that's what he said."

"I'm sure I'm awfully obliged to his majesty."

Gerald laughed and turned, looking for Harriett and moving to her.
Miriam caught at a vision of the well-appointed man, a year ... a home
full of fresh new things, no more need to make money; a stylish
contented devoted sort of man, who knew nothing about one. It would be a
fraud, unfair to him ... so easy to pretend to admire him ... well,
there it was ... an offer of freedom ... that was admirable, in almost
any man, the power to lift one out into freedom. He wanted to lift her
out--her, not any other woman. It was rather wonderful, and appealing.
She hung over his moment of certainty in pride and triumph. But there
was something wrong somewhere; though she felt that someone had placed a
jewel in her hair. Gerald had drawn Harriett through the doorway into
the drawing-room. The sunlight followed them. They looked solid and
powerful. The strange terrors of the room were challenged by their
sunlit figures.


                                   9

Moving to the side of Gerald's strange friend Miriam said something
about the garden in a determined manner. He drew a sawing breath without
answering. They walked down the short garden. It moved about them in an
intensity of afternoon colour. He did not know it was there; there was
something between him and the little coloured garden. He walked with
bent head, his head dipping from his shoulders with a little bob at each
step. Miriam wanted to make him feel the garden moving round them;
either she must do that or ask him why he was suffering. He walked
responsively, as if they were talking. He was feeling some sort of
reprieve ... perhaps the afternoon had bored him. They had turned and
were walking back towards the house. If they reached it without
speaking, they would not have courage to go down the garden again. She
could not relinquish the strange painful comradeship so soon. They must
go on expressing their relief at being together; anything she might say
would destroy that. She wanted to take him by the arm and groan ... on
Harriett's wedding-eve, and when she was feeling so happy and
triumphant....

"Have you known Gerald long?" she said, as they reached the house. He
turned sharply to face the garden again.

"Oh, for a very great number of years," he said quickly,
"a--very--great--number." His voice was the voice of the ritualistic
curate at All Saints. He sighed impatiently. What was it he was waiting
for her to say? Nothing perhaps. This busy walking was a way of
finishing his visit without having to try to talk to anybody.

"How different people are," she said airily.

"I'm very different," he said, with his rasping, indrawn breath. A
darkness coming from him enfolded her.

"Are you?" she said insincerely. Her eyes consulted the flowered border.
She saw it as he saw it, just a flowered border, meaningless.

"You cannot possibly imagine what I am."

Her mind leapt out to the moving garden, recapturing it scornfully. He
is conceited about his difficulties and differences. He doesn't think
about mine. But he couldn't talk like this unless he knew I were
different. He knows it, but is not thinking about me.

"Don't you think people are all alike, really?" she said impatiently.

"Our common humanity," he said bitingly.

She had lost a thread. They were divided. She felt stiffly about for a
conventional phrase.

"I expect that most men are the average manly man with the average manly
faults." She had read that somewhere. It was sly and wrong, written by
somebody who wanted to flatter.

"It is wonderful, _wonderful_ that you should say that to me." He stared
at the grass with angry eyes. His mouth smiled. His teeth were large and
even. They seemed to smile by themselves. The dark, flexible lips curled
about them in an unwilling grimace.

"He's in some horrible pit," thought Miriam, shrinking from the sight of
the desolate garden.

"What are you going to do in life?" she said suddenly.

During the long silent interval she had felt a growing longing to hurt
him in some way.

"If I had my will--if--I had my will--I should escape from the world."

"What would you do?"

"I should join a brotherhood."

"Oh...."

"That is the life I should choose."

"Do you see how unfair everything is?"

"Um?"

"If a woman joins an order she must confess to a man."

"Yes," he said indifferently.... "I can't carry out my wish, I can't
carry out my dearest wish."

"You have a dearest wish; that is a good deal."

She ought to ask him why not and what he was going to do. But what did
it matter? He was going unwillingly along some dreary path. There was
some weak helplessness about him. He would always have a grievance and
be sorry for himself ... self-pity. She remained silent.

"I'm training for the Bar," he murmured, staring away across the
neighbouring gardens.

"Why--in Heaven's name?"

"I have no choice."

"But it's absurd. You are almost a priest."

"The Bar. That is my bourne."

"Lawyers are the most ignorant, awful people."

"I cannot claim superiority." He laughed bitterly.

"But you can; you are. You can never be a lawyer."

"It is necessary to do one's duty. Occupation does not matter."

"There you are; you're a Jesuit already," said Miriam angrily, seeing
the figure at her side shrouded in a habit, wrapped in tranquillity,
pacing along a cloister, lost to her. But if he stayed in the world and
became a lawyer he would be equally lost to her.

"I have been ... _mad_," he muttered; "a madman ... nothing but the
cloister can give me peace--nothing but the cloister."

"I don't know. It seems like running away."

"Running towards, running towards----"

Can't you be at peace now, in this garden? ran her thoughts. I don't
condemn you for anything. Why can't we stop worrying at things and be at
peace? If I were beautiful I could make you be at peace--perhaps. But it
would be a trick. Only real religion can help you. I can't do anything.
You are religious. I must keep still and quiet....

If some cleansing fire could come and consume them both ... flaring into
the garden and consuming them both, together. Neither of them were
wanted in the world. No one would ever want either of them. Then why
could they not want each other? He did not wish it. Salvation. He wanted
salvation--for himself.

"My people must be considered first," he said speculatively.

"_They_ want you to be a barrister. That's the last reason in the world
that would affect _me_."

He glanced at her with far-off speculative eyes, his upper lip drawn
terribly back from his teeth.

"He is thinking I am a hard unfeminine ill-bred woman."

"I do it as an atonement."

The word rang in the garden ... the low tone of a bell. Her thoughts
leaned towards the strength at her side.

"Oh, that's grand," she said hastily, and fluted quickly on, wondering
where the inspiration had come from: "Luther said it's much more
difficult to live in the world than in a cell."

"I am glad I have met you, glad I have met you," he said, in a clear
light tone.

She felt she knew the quality of the family voice, the way he had spoken
as a lad, before his troubles came, his own voice easy and sincere. The
flowers shone firm and steady on their stalks.

She laughed and rushed on into cheerful words, but his harsh voice
drowned hers. "You have put my life in a nutshell."

"How uncomfortable for you," she giggled excitedly.

He laughed with a dip of the head obsequiously. There was a catch of
mirth in his tone.

Miriam laughed and laughed, laughing out fully in relief. He turned
towards her a young lit face, protesting and insisting. She wanted to
wash it, with soap, to clear away a faint greasiness and do something
with the lank, despairing hair.

"You have come at the right instant, and shown me wisdom. You are
wonderful."

She recoiled. She did not really want to help him. She wanted to attract
his attention to her. She had done it and he did not know it. Horrible.
They were both caught in something. She had wanted to be caught,
together with this agonising priestliness. But it was a trick. Perhaps
they hated each other now.

"It is jolly to talk about things," she said, as the blood surged into
her face.

He was grave again and did not answer.

"People don't talk about things nearly enough," she pursued.


                                   10

"I saw Miriam through the window, _deep_ in conversation with a most
interesting young man."

"Have those people written about the bouquets?" said Miriam
irritably.... Then mother had moved about the new house and was looking
through those drawing-room windows this afternoon. She had looked about
the house with someone else, saying all the wrong things, admiring
things in the wrong way, impressed in the wrong way, having no thoughts,
and no one with her to tell her what to think....

She flashed a passionate glance towards the clear weak flexible voice,
half seeing the flushed face ... you're not upset about the
weddings--"Miriam's scandalous goings-on the whole day long," said
somebody ... because you've got me. You don't know me. You wouldn't like
me if you did. You don't know him. He doesn't know you. But I know you,
that's the difference....

"I've just thought something out," she said aloud, her voice drowned by
two or three voices and the sound of things being served and handed
about the supper-table. They were trying to draw her--still talking
about the young men and her "goings-on." They did not know how far away
she was and how secure she felt. She laughed towards her mother and
smiled at her until she made her blush. Ah, she thought proudly, it's I
who am your husband. Why have I not been with you all your life?... all
the times you were alone; I knew them all. No one else knows them.

"I say," she insisted, "what about the bouquets?"

Mrs. Henderson raised her eyebrows helplessly and smiled, disclaiming.

"Hasn't anybody done anything?" roared Miriam.

Mary came in with a dish of fruit. Everyone went on so placidly.... She
thought of the perfect set of her white silk bridesmaid's dress, its
freshness, its clear apple green pipings, the little green leaves and
fresh pink cluster roses on the white chip hat. If the shower bouquets
did not come it would be simply ghastly. And everybody went on
chattering.

She leaned anxiously across the table to Harriett.

"Oo--what's up?" asked Harriett.

Conversation had dropped. Miriam sat up to fling out her grievances.

"Well--just this. I'm told Gerald said the people would send a line to
say it was all right, and they haven't written, and so far as I can make
out nothing's been done."

"Bouquets would appear to be one of the essentials of the ceremony,"
hooted Mr. Henderson.

"Well, of course," retorted Miriam savagely, "if you _have_ a dress
wedding at all. That's the point."

"Quite so, my dear, quite so. I was unaware that you were depending on a
message."

"I'm not anxious. It's simply silly, that's all."

"It'll be all right," suggested Harriett, looking into space. "They'd
have written."

"Well, it's your old bouquet principally."

"Me. With a bouquet. Hoo----"


                                   11

"Peace I give unto you, My peace I give unto you. Not as the world
giveth, give I unto you----"

Christ said that. But peace came from God--the peace of God that passeth
all understanding. How could Christ give that? He put Himself between
God and man. Why could not people get at God direct? He was somewhere.

The steam was disappearing out of the window; the row of objects ranged
along the far side of the bath grew clear. Miriam looked at them,
seeking escape from the problem--the upright hand-glass, the brush bag
propped against it, the small bottle of Jockey Club, the little pink box
of French face powder ... perhaps one day she would learn to use powder
without looking like a pierrot ... how nice to have a thick white skin
that never changed and took powder like a soft bloom....

But as long as the powder box were there it would be impossible to reach
that state of peace and freedom that Thomas à Kempis meant. "To Miriam,
from her friend, Harriett A. Perne." Had Miss Haddie found anything of
it? No--she was horribly afraid of God and turned to Christ as a sort of
protecting lover to be flattered and to lean upon....

There were so many exquisite and wise things in the book; the language
was so beautiful. But somehow there was a whining going all through it
... fretfulness. Anger too--"I had rather feel compunction than know the
definition thereof." Why not both? He was talking at someone in that
sentence.

The Kingdom of Heaven is _within_ you. But even Christ went about sad,
trying to get people to do some sort of trick that He said was necessary
before they could find God--something to do with Himself. There was
something wrong about that.

If one were perfectly still, the sense of God was there.

Supposing everyone could be got to stay perfectly still, until they died
... like that woman in the book who was dying so happily of starvation
... and then the friend came fussing in with soup....

Things were astounding enough; enough to make you die of astonishment,
if you did nothing at all. Being _alive_. If one could realise that
clearly enough, one _would_ die.

Everything everyone did was just a distraction from astonishment.

It could only be done in a convent.... It cost money to get into a
convent, except as a servant. If you were a servant you could not stay
day and night in your cell--watching the light and darkness until you
died.... Perhaps in women's convents they would not let you anyhow.

Why did men always have more freedom?... His head had a listening look.
His eyes were waiting desperately, seeing nothing of the things in the
world ... he wanted to stay still until the voice of things grew so
clear and near that one could give a great cry and fall dead ... a long
long cry.... Your hot heart, all of you, pouring out, getting free.
Perhaps that happened to people when they were happy. They cried out to
each other and were free--lost in another person. Whoso would save his
soul ... but then they grew strange and apart.... Marriage was a sort of
inferior condition ... an imitation of something else....
Ho-o-zan-na-in-the-Hi...i...est ... the top note rang up and stayed
right up, in the rafters of the church.

"Did you ever notice how white the insides of your wrists are?"

Why did Bob seem so serious?... What a bother, what a bother.

It is a good thing to be plain ... "the tragedy of beauty; woman's
greatest curse." ... Andromeda on a rock with her hair blowing over her
face....

She was afraid to look at the monster coming out of the sea. If she had
looked at it, it would not have dared to come near her. Because Perseus
looked and rescued her, she would have to be grateful to him all her
life and smile and be Mrs. Perseus. One day they would quarrel and he
would never think her beautiful again....

Adam had not faced the devil. He was stupid first, and afterwards a
coward and a cad ... "the divine curiosity of Eve...." Some person had
said that.... Perhaps men would turn round one day and see, what they
were like. Eve had not been unkind to the devil; only Adam and God. All
the men in the world, and their God, ought to apologise to women....

To hold back and keep free ... and real. Impossible to be real unless
you were quite free.... Two married in one family was enough. Eve would
marry, too.

But money.

The chair-bed creaked as she knelt up and turned out the gas. "I love
you" ... just a quiet manly voice ... perhaps one would forget
everything, all the horrors and mysteries ... because there would be
somewhere then always to be, to rest, and feel sure. If only ... just to
sit hand in hand ... watching snowflakes ... to sit in the lamplight,
quite quiet.

Pictures came in the darkness ... lamplit rooms, gardens, a presence,
understanding.


                                   12

Voices were sounding in the next room. Something being argued. A voice
level and reassuring; going up now and again into a hateful amused
falsetto. Miriam refused to listen. She had never been so near before.
Of course they talked in their room. They had talked all their lives; an
endless conversation; he laying down the law ... no end to it ... the
movement of his beard as he spoke, the red lips shining through the fair
moustache ... splash baths and no soap; soap is not a cleansing agent
... he had a ruddy skin ... healthy.

A tearful, uncertain voice....

"Don't mother ... don't, don't ... he can't understand.... Come to me!
Come in here.... Well, well!..." A loud clear tone moving near the door,
"Leave it all to nature, my dear...."

They're talking about Sally and Harriett.... He is _amused_ ... like
when he says "the marriage service begins with 'dearly beloved' and ends
with 'amazement.' ..."

She turned about, straining away from the wall and burying her head in
her pillow. Something seemed to shriek within her, throwing him off,
destroying, flinging him away. Never again anything but contempt....

She lay weak and shivering in the uncomfortable little bed. Her heart
was thudding in her throat and in her hands ... beloved ... beloved ...
a voice, singing--

   "So ear-ly _in_ the mor-ning,
   My beloved--my beloved."

Silence, darkness and silence.


                                   13

Waking in the darkness, she heard the fluttering of leafage in the
garden and lay still and cool listening and smiling. That went on ...
flutter, flutter, in the breeze. It was enough ... and things happened,
as well, in the far far off things called "days."


                                   14

A fearful clamour--bright sunlight; something sticking sideways through
the partly opened door--a tin trumpet. It disappeared with a flash as
she leapt out of bed. The idea of Harriett being up first!

Harriett stood on the landing in petticoat and embroidered camisole, her
hair neatly pinned, her face glowing and fresh.

"Gerrup," she said at once.

"You _up_. You oughtn't to be. I'm going to get your breakfast. You
mustn't dress yourself...."

"Rot! You hurry up, old silly, breakfast's nearly ready."

She ran upstairs tootling her trumpet. "Hurry up," she said, from the
top of the stairs, with a friendly grin.

Miriam shouted convivially and retired into her crowded sunlit bathroom,
turning on both bath taps so that she might sing aloud. Harriett had
made the day strong ... silver bright and clean and clear. Harriett was
like a clear blade. She splashed into the cold water gasping and
singing. Two o'clock--ages yet before the weddings. There was a smell of
bacon frying. They would all have breakfast together. She could smile at
Harriett. They had grown up together and could admit it, because
Harriett was going away. But not for ages. She flew through her toilet;
the little garden was blazing. It was a fine hot day.


                                   15

Bennett and Gerald had turned strained pale faces to meet the brides as
they came up the aisle. Now, Bennett's broad white forehead seemed to
give out a radiance. It had been fearful to stand behind Harriett
through the service listening to the bland hollow voice of the vicar and
the four unfamiliar low voices responding, and taking the long glove
smooth and warm from Harriett's hand, her rustling heavy-scented
bouquet. At the sight of Bennett's grave radiant face the fear deepened
and changed. Marriage was a reality ... fearful, searching reality; it
changed people's expressions. Hard behind came Gerald and Harriett;
Gerald's long face still pale, his loosely knit figure carried along by
her tense little frame as she walked, a little firm straight figure of
satin, her veil thrown back from her little snub face, her face held
firmly; steady and old with its solid babyish curves and its brave
stricken eyes: old and stricken; that was how Sarah had looked too. No
radiance on the faces of Sarah and Harriett.

The Wedding March was pealing out from the chancel, a great tide of
sound blaring down through the church and echoing back from the west
window, near the door where they would all go out, in a moment, out into
the world. On they went; how swift it all was.... Sarah and Harriett,
rescued from poverty and fear ... mother's wedding on a May morning long
ago ... in the little village church ... to walk out of church into the
open country; in the morning; a bride. There were no brides in London.

Now to fall in behind Eve and Mr. Tremayne. Mr. Grove walked clumsily.
His arm brushed against the shower bouquet.

The upturned faces of the pink carnations were fresh and sweet; for
nothing. To-morrow they would be dead. Harriett's bouquet, dead too ...
a wonderful dead bouquet that meant life. "Where are you, my friend, my
own friend?"


                                   16

A wedding seemed to make everybody happy. The people moving in
Harriett's new rooms were happy. Old people were new and young. They
laughed.... The sad dark man, following with his tray of glasses as she
went from guest to guest with Harriett's champagne cup had laughed again
and again....

The voices of the grey-clad bridegrooms rang about the rooms full of
quiet relieved laughter. The outlines of their well-cut grey clothes
were softly pencilled with a radiance of marriage. Round about Sarah and
Eve was a great radiance. Light streamed from their satin dresses. But
they were untouched. Silent and untouched and far away. What should
these strange men ever know of them; coming and going?


                                   17

She found herself standing elbow to elbow with Harriett. Warm currents
came to her from Harriett's body; she moved her elbow against Harriett's
to draw her attention. Harriett turned a scorched cheek and a dilated
unseeing eye. Their hands dropped and met. Miriam felt the quivering of
firm, strong fingers and the warm metal of rings. She grasped the
matronly hand with the whole strength of her own. Harriett must remember
... all this wedding was nothing.... She was Harriett ... not the Mrs.
Ducayne Bob Greville had just been talking to about Curtain Lectures and
the Rascality of the Genus Homo ... she must remember all the years of
being together, years of nights side by side ... night turning to day
for both of them, at the same moment. She gave her hand a little shake.
Harriett made a little skipping movement and grinned her own ironic
grin. It was all right. They were quite alone and irreverent; they two;
the festive crowd was playing a game for their amusement. They laughed
without a sound as they had so often done in church. The air that
encircled them was the air of their childhood.


                                   18

Gerald's voice sounded near. It made no break in their union though
Harriett welcomed it, clearing her throat with a businesslike cough.

"Time you changed, Mrs. La Reine," said Gerald, in a frightened friendly
voice.

"Oh, lor, is it?" ... that kindliness was only in Harriett's voice when
she had hurt someone.

... The edge of Gerald's voice, kind to everyone, would always be broken
when he spoke to Harriett. She would always be this young absurd
Harriett to him, always. He would go on fastening her boots for her
tenderly, and go happily about his hobbies. She would never hear him
call her "my dear." That old-fashioned mock-polite insolence of men ...
paterfamilias.


                                   19

The four of them were together in a room again, fastening and hooking
and adjusting; standing about before mirrors. We've all grown up
together ... we can admit it now ... we're admitting it. Everything
clear, back to the beginning; happy and good. The room was still with
the hush of its fresh draperies, hemming them in. Beautiful immortal
forms moved in the room, reaping ... voices, steady and secure, said
nothing but the necessary things, borne down with wealth, all the wealth
there was ... all the laughter and certainty. Immortality. Nothing could
die. They saw and knew everything. Each tone was a confession and a song
of truth. They need never meet and speak again. They had known. The
voices of Sarah and Harriett would go on ... marked with fresh
things.... Her own and Eve's would remain, separate, to grow broken and
false and unrecognisable in the awful struggle for money. No matter. The
low secure untroubled tone of a woman's voice. There was nothing like it
on earth.... If you had once heard it ... in your own voice, and the
voice of another woman responding ... everything was there.


                                   20

Was there anyone who fully realised how amazing it was ... a human tone.
Perhaps everyone did, really, most people without knowing it. A few
knew. Perhaps that was what kept life going.


                                   21

In a few minutes they would go. They avoided each other's eyes. Miriam
began to be afraid Eve would say something cheerful, or sing a snatch of
song, desecrating the singing that was there, the deep eternal singing
in each casual tone.

Gerald's whistle came up from the front garden.

Miriam opened the door. Bennett's voice came from the hall, calling for
Sarah.

"Your skirt sets simply perfectly, Sally." ... Sarah was at the door in
her neat soft dark blue travelling dress, and a soft blue straw hat with
striped ribbon bands and bows, hurrying forward, her gold hair shining
under her hat; seeing nothing but the open door downstairs and Bennett
waiting.


                                   22

The garden and pathway was thronged with bright-coloured guests. Miriam
found herself standing with Gerald on the curb, waiting for Harriett to
finish her farewells. He crushed her arm against his side. "Good Lord,
Mirry, ain't I glad it's all over."

Sarah was stepping into the shelter of the first of the two waiting
carriages. Her face was clear with relief. Bennett followed, dressed
like her in dark blue. On the step he spoke abruptly, something about a
small portmanteau. Sarah's voice sounded from inside. Miriam had never
heard her speak with such cool unconcern. Perhaps she had never known
Sarah. Sarah was herself now, for the first time free and unconcerned.
What freedom. Cool and unconcerned. The door shut with a bang. They had
forgotten everyone. They were going to forget to wave. Everyone had
watched them. But they did not think of that. They saw green Devonshire
ahead and their little house waiting in the Upper Richmond Road with
work for them both, work they could both do well, with all their might
when they came back. Someone shouted. Rice was being showered. People
were running down the road showering rice. The road and pathway were
bright with happy marriage, all the world linked in happy marriages.


                                   23

The second carriage swept round the bend of the road with a yellow silk
slipper swinging in the rear. Miriam struggled for breath through tears.
Gerald and Harriett had taken the old life away with them in their
carriage. Harriett had taken it, and gone. But she knew. She would bring
it back with her. They would come back. Harriett would never forget.
Nothing could change or frighten her. She would come back the same, in
her new dresses, laughing.

A fat voice ... Mrs. Bywater ... "proud of your gails, Mrs. Henderson"
... fat flattering voice. The brightness had gone from the houses and
the roadway ... unreal people were moving about with absurd things on
their heads. Bridesmaids in cold white dresses, moving in pounces, as
people spoke to them ... the Hendon girls.... What bad complexions
Harriett's school friends had. Why were they all dark? Why did Harriett
like them? Who was Harriett? Why did she have dark, sallow friends? Oh
... this dark face, near and familiar ... saying something--eyes looking
at nothing; haunted eyes looking at nothing, very dear and familiar ...
relief ... the sky seems to lift again; kind harmless bitter features,
coming near and speaking.

"I am obliged to go----" rasping voice, curious sawing breath....

"Oh yes...." Perhaps there will be a thunderstorm or
something--something will happen.

"We shall meet again."

"Yes--oh, yes."


                                   24

There was no reason to feel nervous, at any rate for a night or two.
Burglars who wanted the presents would take some time to find out that
there was only one young lady in the house and a little servant sleeping
in a top room. It was all right. No need to put the dinner-bell on the
dressing-table. Next week the middle-aged servant would have arrived.
Would she mind being alone with the presents and the little maid? The
only way to feel quite secure at night would be to marry ... how awful
... either you marry and are never alone or you risk being alone and
afraid ... to marry for safety ... perhaps some women did. No wonder ...
and not to turn into a silly scared nervous old maid ... how tiresome,
one thing or the other ... no choice.

She laid her head on the pillow. Thank Heaven I'm here and not at home
... out of it.... "I'll come round, first thing, to cut up the
cake"--that would be jolly too. But here ... with all these new things,
magical and easy, secure with Gerald and Harriett, chosen to embark on
their new life with them.... "You chuck your job, my dear, and stay with
us for a bit." They would like it. That was so jolly. Absurd free days
with Harriett; tea in the garden, theatres; people coming, Mr. Tremayne
and Mr. Grove....

But there was something, some thought sweeping round all these things,
something else, sweeping round outside the weddings and the joy of being
at home, making all these things extra, like things thrown in, jolly and
perfect and surprising, but thrown in with something else that was her
own, something hovering around and above, in and out the whole day
keeping her apart. This morning the weddings had seemed the end of
everything. They were over, Harriett's and Sarah's lives going forward
and her own share in them, and home still there too, three things
instead of one, easily hers. And yet they did not concern her. It would
be a sham to pretend they did, with this other thing haunting--to go on
from thing to thing, living with people and for them as if there were
nothing else, as people seemed to do, one thing happening after another
all the time. Sham.

Harriett and Sarah had rushed out into life. They had changed
everything. Things did not seem to matter now that they had achieved all
that. Harriett would take the first shock of life for her. Curiosities
could come to an end. It did not seem to matter. That was all at peace,
through Harriett. Life had come into the family, leaving her free....

Was she free? That strange, dark priestliness. If he called to her, if
he really called.... But he called in a dark dreadful way ... and yet
mysteriously linked to something in her. She could not give the help he
needed. She would fail. Over their lives would shine, far away, visible
to both of them the radiance of heaven. They both wanted to be good;
redemption from sin. They both believed these things. But he was weak,
weak ... and she not strong enough to help. And there was that other
thing beckoning far from this suburban life and quite as far from him,
away, up in London, down at Newlands, a brightness....

She looked through the darkness at the harmony of soft tones and
draperies at distant Newlands ... etchings; the strange effect of
etchings ... there were no etchings in the suburbs ... curious, close,
strong lines that rested you and had a meaning and expression even
though you did not understand the subject. There were so many things to
take you away from people. In the suburbs people were everything, and
there was nothing in them. They did not understand anything; but going
on. They were helpless and without thoughts; amongst their furniture.
They did not even have busts of Beethoven. At Newlands people might be
dead, the women in bright hard deaths or deaths of cold, cruel
deceitfulness, the men tiny insects of selfishness, but there were
things that made up for everything full and satisfying.

And Salviati's window....

She must hold on to these things. Life without them would be impossible.

It was--Style ... or something. Le style c'est l'homme. That meant
something. It was the same with clothes.... Suburban people could be
fashionable, never stylish. And manners.... They were fussily kind and
nice to each other; as if life were pitiful ... _life_ ... pitiful. They
all pitied, and despised each other.


                                   25

The night was vast with all the other things. No need to sleep. To lie
happy and strong in the sense of them was better than sleep. In a few
hours the little suburban day would come ... everything gleaming with
the light of the big things beyond. One could go through it in a drowse
of strength, full of laughter ... laughter to the brim, all one's limbs
strong and heavy with laughter.

Bob Greville had gone jingling down the road in a hansom--grey holland
blinds and a pink rosebud in the driver's buttonhole. Why had he come?
Going in and out of the weddings a pale grey white-spatted guest,
talking to everyone ... a preoccupied piece of the West End. Large club
windows looking out on sunlit Piccadilly; a glimpse of the haze of the
Green Park. Weddings must be laughable to him with his "Mrs. Caudle's
Curtain Lectures" ideas. His wife was dead. She had been fearfully ill
suddenly on their wedding tour ... at "Law_zanne_." That was the wrong
way to pronounce Lausanne. And that wrong way of pronouncing was somehow
part of his way of thinking about her. He seemed to remember nothing but
her getting ill and spoke with a sort of laughing, contemptuous _fear_.
Men.

But in some way he was connected with that strange thing outside the
everyday things.


                                   26

How stupid of Eve to be vexed because she was told there was no need to
scrawl the addresses of the little cake boxes right across the labels.
Impossible now to ask her to come and play song accompaniments. Besides,
she was tired. Eve was tired because she did not really know how
glorious life was. In her life with the Greens in Wiltshire there was
nothing besides the Greens but the beautiful landscape. And the
landscape seen from the Greens' windows must look commercial, in the
end. Eve was evidently beginning to tire of it. And they had worked so
hard all the morning cutting up the cake. Eve did not know that towards
the end of the morning she had thought of singing after lunch ...
feeling so strong and wanting to make a noise. Bohm's songs. It was
better really to sing to one's own accompaniment; only there was no one
to listen....

   "Und wenn i dann mal wie-ie-d-er _komm_."

a German girl, her face _strahlend mit Freude_--_radiant_ with joy ...
but _strahlend_ was more than radiant ... streaming--like
sunlight--shafts of sunlight. German women were not self-conscious. They
were full of joy and sorrow. Perhaps _happier_ than any other women.
Their mountains and woods and villages and towns were beautiful with
joy. They did not care what men thought or said. They were happy in
their beautiful country in their own way. Germany ... all washed with
poetry and music and song. "Freue dich des Lebens." _Freue ... Freue
dich_ ... the words were like the rush of wings ... the flutter of a
fresh skirt round happy hurrying feet.


                                   27

"What a melancholy ditty, chick."

Miriam laughed and dropped into the accompaniment of Schubert's "Ave
Maria." "Listen, mother ... there was a monk who sang this so
beautifully in a church that he had to be stopped." She played through
the "Ave Maria" and looked round. Mrs. Henderson was sitting stiffly in
a stiff straight chair with her hands twisted in her lap. "Oh bother,"
thought Miriam, "she's feeling hysterical ... and it's my turn this
time. What on earth shall I do?" The word had come up through the years.
Sarah had seen "attacks of hysteria...." Was she going to have one now
... laugh and cry and say dreadful things and then be utterly exhausted?
Good Lord, how fearful. And what was the good? She "couldn't help it."
That was why you had to be firm with hysterical people. But there was no
need, now. Everything was better. Two of them married; the boys ready to
look after everything. It was simply irritating ... and the sun just
coming round into the green of the conservatory....

She sat impatient, feeling young and strong and solid with joy on the
piano stool. Couldn't mother see her, sitting there in a sort of blaze
of happy strength? She swung impatiently round to the keyboard and
glanced at the open album. There was silence in the room. Her heart beat
anxiously ... some German printer had printed those notes ... in pain
and illness perhaps--but pain and illness in _Germany_, not in this
dreadful little room where despair was shut in.... "Comus," "The Seven
Ages of Man," "The Arctic Regions," beautiful bindings on the little old
inlaid table, things belonging to those sunny beginnings and ending with
that awful agonised figure sitting there silent. She cleared her throat
and stretched a hand out over the notes of a chord without striking it.
Something was gaining on her. Something awful and horrible.

"Play something cheerful, chickie," said her mother, in a dreadful deep
trembling voice. Suddenly Miriam knew, in horror, that the voice wanted
to scream, to bellow. Bellow ... that huge, tall woman striding about on
the common at Worthing ... bellowing ... mad--madness. She summoned,
desperately, something in herself, and played a thing she disliked,
wondering why she chose it. Her hands played carefully, holding to the
rhythm, carefully avoiding pressure and emphasis. Nothing could happen
as long as she could keep on playing like that. It made the music seem
like a third person in the room. It was a new way of playing. She would
try it again when she was alone. It made the piece wonderful ...
traceries of tone shaping themselves one after another, intertwining,
and stopping against the air ... tendrils on a sunlit wall.... She had a
clear conviction of manhood ... that strange hard feeling that was
always twining between her and the things people wanted her to do and to
be. Manhood with something behind it that understood. This time it was
welcome. It served. She asserted it, sadly feeling it mould the lines of
her face.


                                   28

The end of the piece was swift and tuneful and stormy, the only part she
had cared for hitherto. For a moment she was tempted to dash into it ...
her hands were so able and strong, so near to mastery of the piano after
that curious careful playing. But it would be cruel. She passed on to
the final chords--broad and even and simple. They suggested quiet music
going on, playing itself in the room. Getting up beaming and shy and
embarrassed she did not dare to look at the waiting figure, and looked
busily into the dark interiors of the bowls and vases along the
mantelpiece.... There was something in the waiting figure that did not
want to scream. Something exactly like herself.... At the bottom of one
of the deep bowls was a curling-pin. She giggled, catching her breath.

Mrs. Henderson glanced up at her and looked away, looking about the
room. That's naughty, thought Miriam. She's not trying; she's being
naughty and tiresome. Perhaps she's angry with me, and thinks I mean she
must just go on enduring.

"I can't correct a misprint with a curling-pin."

Mother believed in the misprint.... Talk on about misprints ... why was
it necessary to be insincere if one wanted to make anything happen? But
anything was better than saying, What is the matter? That would be just
as insincere, and impudent too.

"These cheap things are always so badly printed."

"Oh!" ... Mother's polite tone, trying to be interested. That was all
she'd had for years. All she'd ever had, from him. Miriam sat down
conversationally, in a long chair. She felt a numb sleepiness coming
over her, and stretched all her muscles lazily, to their full limit ...
mother, just mother in the room, perfect ease and security ... and
relaxed with a long yawn, feeling serenely awake. The little figure
ceased to be horrible.

"My life has been so useless," said Mrs. Henderson suddenly.

Here it was ... a jolt ... an awful physical shock, jarring her body....
She braced herself and spoke quickly and blindly ... a network of
feeling vibrated all over to and fro, painfully.

"It only seems so to you," she said, in a voice muffled by the beating
of her heart. Anything might happen--she had no power.... Mother--almost
killed by things she could not control, having done her duty all her
life ... doing thing after thing had not satisfied her ... being happy
and brave had not satisfied her. There was something she had always
wanted, for herself ... even mother....

Mrs. Henderson shuddered and sighed. Her pose relaxed a little.

"I might have done something for the poor."

"Oh, yes? What things?" She had lived in a nightmare of ways and means,
helpless....

"I might have made clothes, sometimes...."

"That worries you, so that you can hardly bear it."

"Yes."

"It needn't. I don't mean the poor need not be helped. But you needn't
have that feeling."

"You understand it?"

"I feel it this moment, as you feel it."

"Well?"

"You needn't."

Miriam held back her thoughts. Nothing mattered but to sit there holding
back thought and feeling and argument, if only she could without getting
angry.... There was something here, something decisive. This was what
she had been born for, if only she could hold on. She felt very old. No
more happiness ... the little house they sat in was a mockery, a
fiendish contrivance to hide agony. There was nothing in these little
houses in themselves, just indifference hiding miseries.

She sat forward conversationally. A rain of tears was coming down her
companion's cheeks. To hold on ... hold on ... not to think or feel glad
or sorry ... it would be impudent to feel anything ... to hold on if the
tears went on for an hour ... treating them as if they were part of a
conversation.

"You understand me?"

"Of course."

"You are the only one."

The relieved voice ... steady, as she had known it correcting her in her
babyhood.

"I should be better if I could be more with you ..." oh Lord ...
impossible.

"You must be with me as much as you like."

That was the thing. That was what must be done somehow.

"Mother! would you mind if I smoked a cigarette?"

It was suddenly possible, the unheard-of unconfessed ... suddenly easy
and possible.

"My dearest child!" Mrs. Henderson's flushed face crimsoned
unresistingly. She was shocked and ashamed and half delighted. Miriam
gazed boldly, admiring and adoring. She felt she had embarked on her
first real flirtation and blessed the impulse that had that morning
transferred cigarettes and matches from her handbag to her hanging
pocket as a protection against suburban influence and a foretaste of her
appointment with Bob. She lit a cigarette with downcast lids and a
wicked smile, throwing a triumphant possessive glance at her mother as
it drew. The cigarette was divine. It was divine to smoke like this,
countenanced and beloved--scandalous and beloved.


                                   29

Miriam ran all the way to the station. The gardens on either side of
Gipsy Lane were full of flowering shrubs massed up against laburnum and
May trees in flower ... fresh clean colours, pink and lilac and yellow
and everywhere new bright fresh green ... May. She flung herself into an
empty carriage of the three o'clock Vauxhall and Waterloo train, her
eyes filled with the maze of garden freshness and was carried off along
the edge of the common, streaming blazing green in the full sunlight,
dotted with gorse. Bob would not have to wait at Waterloo.... Further
down the line, towards Kew, was the mile of orchards, close on either
side of the line, thick with bloom.... Walls and houses began to appear.
She took her eyes from the window and the gardens and the common and the
imagined orchards passed before her eyes in the dusty enclosure. As she
gazed they seemed to pass through her, the freshness of the blossoms
backed by fresh greenery was a feeling, cool and fresh in her blood. The
growing intensity of this feeling stirred her to movement and
consciousness of the dust-filmed carriage, the smell of dust. Still
again, the sight of the spring flowing from her eyes, into them, out
through them, breathing with her breath, the feeling of spring in the
soft beating from head to foot of her blood, was all there was anywhere
out to the limits of space. The dusty carriage was a speck in the great
fresh tide, and the vision of Eve drifting in the carriage, in the
corner, opposite, with pale frightened face, saying the things she had
said just now, was no longer terrifying, though each thing she said came
clearly, a separate digging blow.

... "Dr. Ryman is giving her bromide ... she can't sleep without it."
Sleeplessness, insomnia ... she can't see the spring ... why not; and
forget about herself.

"It's nerves. He says we must behave as if there was nothing wrong with
her. There _is_ nothing wrong but nerves."

That fevered frame, the burning hands and burning eyes looking at
everything in the wrong way, the brain seeking about, thinking first
this and then that ... nerves; and fat Dr. Ryman giving bromide ...
awful little bottles of bromide coming to the house wrapped up in white
paper. And everyone satisfied. "She's in Dr. Ryman's hands. Dr. Ryman is
treating her." Mrs. Poole said Dr. Ryman was a very able man. What did
she mean? How did she know? Suburban faces; satisfied. "In the doctor's
hands." A large square house, a square garden, high walls, a delicate
wife always being ill, always going to that place in Germany--how did he
know, going about in a brougham--and he had gout ... how did he know
more than anyone else? ... bottles of bromide, visits, bills, and mother
going patiently on, trusting and feeling unhelped. Going on. People went
... mad. If she could not sleep she would go ... _mad_.... And everyone
behaving as if nothing were wrong.

And the vicar! Praying in the dining-room. Sarah had heard.... The
vicar, kneeling on the Turkey carpet ... praying. Couldn't God see her,
on the carpet, praying and trying? And the vicar went away. And things
were the same and that night she would not sleep, just the same. Of
course not. Nothing was changed. It was all going on for her in some hot
wrong, shut-up way. Bromide and prayers.


                                   30

And she blamed herself. If only she would not blame herself. "He's one
in a thousand ... if only I could be as calm and cool as he is." Why not
be calm and cool? She had gone too far ... "the end of my tether" ...
mother, a clever phrase like that, where had she got it? It was true.
Her suffering had taught her to find that awful phrase. She feared her
room, "loathed" it. She, always gently scolding exaggeration, used and
meant that violent word.


                                   31

Money. That was why nothing had been done. "The doctor" had to be
afforded as she was so ill, but nothing had been done. Borrow from the
boys to take her away. "A bright place and a cool breeze." She dreamed
of things--far-away impossible things. Had she told the others she
wanted them? They must be told. To-morrow she should know she was going
away. Nothing else in life mattered. Someone must pay, anyone. Newlands
must go. To-morrow and every day till they went away she should come
round to Harriett's new house. Something for her to do every day.

The little bonneted figure ... happy, shocked, smiling. To go about with
her, telling her everything, dreadful things. The two of them going
about and talking and not talking, and going about.


                                   32

Miriam moved uneasily to the mantelpiece. An unlit fire was laid neatly
in the grate. A ray of sunlight struck the black bars of the grate;
false uneasy sunlight. Two strange round-bowled long-necked vases stood
on the mantelpiece amongst the litter of Bob's belongings. Dull blue and
green enamellings moving on a dark almost black background ... strange
fine little threads of gold.... She peered at them.

"My dear girl, do you like my vases?" Bob came and stood at her side.

"Yes--they're funny and queer. I like them."

"They're clawzonny--Japanese clawzonny." He took one of them up and
tapped it with his nail. It gave out a curious dull metallic ring.
Miriam passed her finger over the enamelled surface. It was softly
smooth and with no chill about it; as if the enamel were alive. She
marvelled at the workmanship, wondering how the gold wires were
introduced. They gleamed, veining over the curves of the vase.

Her uneasiness had gone. While they were looking at the vases it did not
seem to matter that she had consented, defying the whole world, to come
and see Bob's bachelor chambers. She did not like them and wanted to be
gone. The curious dingy dustiness oppressed her, and there was an
emptiness. Fancy having breakfast in a room like this. Who looked after
a man's washing when he lived alone? There must be some dreadful sort of
charwoman who came, and Bob had to speak kindly to her in his weary old
voice and go on day after day being here. But the vases stood there
alive and beautiful and he liked them. She turned to see his liking in
his face. As she turned his arm came round her shoulders and the angle
of his shoulder softly touched her head. Behind her head there was a
point of perfect rest; comfort, perfect. Australia; a young man in
shirt-sleeves, toiling and dreaming. Was that there still in his face?

"Are you happy, dear girl? Do you like being with old Bob in his den?"

He came nearer and spoke with a soft husky whisper.

"Let me go," said Miriam wearily, longing to rest, longing for the
stairs they had come up and the open street in the sunshine and freedom.

She moved away and gathered up her gloves and scarf.



                               CHAPTER XI


                                   1

Miriam sat with her mother near the bandstand. They faced the length of
the esplanade with the row of houses that held their lodging to their
right and the sea away to the left. She had found that it was better to
sit facing a moving vista; forms passing by too near to be looked at and
people moving in the distance too far away to suggest anything. The
bandstand had filled. The town-clock struck eleven. Presently the band
would begin to play. Any minute now. It had begun. The introduction to
its dreamiest waltz was murmuring in a conversational undertone. The
stare of the esplanade rippled and broke. The idling visitors became
vivid blottings. The house-rows stood out in lines and angles. The short
solemn symphony was over. Full and soft and ripe the euphonium began the
beat of the waltz. It beat gently within the wooden kiosk. The fluted
melody went out across the sea. The sparkling ripples rocked gently
against the melody. A rousing theme would have been more welcome to the
suffering at her side. She waited for the loud gay jerky tripping of the
second movement. When it crashed brassily out the scene grew vivid. The
air seemed to move; freshness of air and sea coming from the busy noise
of the kiosk. The restless fingers ceased straying and plucking. The
suffering had shifted. The night was over. When the waltz was over they
would be able to talk a little. There would be something ... a
goat-chaise; a pug with a solemn injured face. Until the waltz came to
an end she turned towards the sea, wandering out over the gleaming
ripples, hearing their soft sound, snuffing freshness, seeing the water
just below her eyes, transparent green and blue and mauve, salt-filmed.


                                   2

The big old woman's voice grated on about Poole's Miriorama. She had
been a seven-mile walk before lunch and meant to go to Poole's
Miriorama. She knew everything there was in it and went to it every
summer and for long walks and washed lace in her room and borrowed an
iron from Miss Meldrum. No one listened and her deep voice drowned all
the sounds at the table. She only stopped at the beginning of a mouthful
or to clear her throat with a long harsh grating sound. She did not know
that there was nothing wonderful about Poole's Miriorama or about
walking every morning to the end of the parade and back. She did not
know that there were wonderful things. She was like her father ... she
was mad. Miss Meldrum listened and answered without attending. The other
people sat politely round the table and passed things with a great deal
of stiff politeness. One or two of them talked suddenly, with raised
voices. The others exclaimed. They were all in agreement ... "a young
woman with a baritone voice" ... a frog, white, keeping alive in coal
for hundreds of years ... my cousin has crossed the Atlantic six
times.... Nothing of any kind would ever stop them. They would never
wait to know they were alive. They were mad. They would die mad. Of
diseases with names. Even Miss Meldrum did not quite know. When she
talked she was as mad as they were. When she was alone in her room and
not thinking about ways and means she read books of devotion and cried.
If she had had a home and a family she would have urged her sons and
daughters to get on and beat other people.... But she knew mother was
different. All of them knew it in some way. They spoke to her now and
again with deference, their faces flickering with beauty. They knew she
was beautiful. Sunny and sweet and good, sitting there in her faded
dress, her face shining with exhaustion.


                                   3

They walked down the length of the pier through the stiff breeze arm in
arm. The pavilion was gaslit, ready for the entertainment.

"Would you rather stay outside this afternoon?"

"No. Perhaps the entertainment may cheer me."

There was a pink paper with their tickets--"The South Coast
Entertainment Company" ... that was better than the usual concert. The
inside of the pavilion was like the lunch, table ... the same people.
But there was a yellow curtain across the platform. Mother could look at
that. It was quite near them. It would take off the effect of the
audience of people she envied. The cool sound of the waves flumping and
washing against the pier came in through the open doors with a hollow
echo. They were settled and safe for the afternoon. For two hours there
would be nothing but the things behind the curtain. Then there would be
tea. Mother had felt the yellow curtain. She was holding the pink
programme at a distance trying to read it. Miriam glanced. The sight of
the cheap black printing on the thin pink paper threatened the spell of
the yellow curtain. She must manage to avoid reading it. She crossed her
knees and stared at the curtain, yawning and scolding with an affected
manliness about the forgotten spectacles. They squabbled and laughed.
The flump-wash of the waves had a cheerful sunlit sound. Mrs. Henderson
made a brisk little movement of settling herself to attend. The doors
were being closed. The sound of the waves was muffled. They were beating
and washing outside in the sunlight. The gaslit interior was a pier
pavilion. It was like the inside of a bathing-machine, gloomy, cool,
sodden with sea-damp, a happy caravan. Outside was the blaze of the open
day, pale and blinding. When they went out into it it would be a bright
unlimited jewel, getting brighter and brighter, all its colours fresher
and deeper until it turned to clear deep live opal and softened down and
down to darkness dotted with little pinlike jewellings of light along
the esplanade; the dark luminous waves washing against the black beach
until dawn.... The curtain was drawing away from a spring scene ... the
fresh green of trees feathered up into a blue sky. There were boughs of
apple-blossom. Bright green grass sprouted along the edge of a pathway.
A woman floundered in from the side in a pink silk evening dress. She
stood in the centre of the scene preparing to sing, rearing her
gold-wigged head and smiling at the audience. Perhaps the players were
not ready. It was a solo. She would get through it and then the play
would begin. She smiled promisingly. She had bright large teeth and the
kind of mouth that would say chahld for child. The orchestra played a
few bars. She took a deep breath. "Bring back--the yahs--that
are--DEAD!"--she screamed violently.

She was followed by two men in shabby tennis flannels with little hard
glazed tarpaulin hats who asked each other riddles. Their jerky broken
voices fell into cold space and echoed about the shabby pavilion. The
scattered audience sat silent and still, listening for the voices ...
cabmen wrangling in a gutter. The green scene stared stiffly--harsh
cardboard, thin harsh paint. The imagined scene moving and flowing in
front of it was going on somewhere out in the world. The muffled waves
sounded near and clear. The sunlight was dancing on them. When the men
had scrambled away and the applause had died down, the sound of the
waves brought dancing gliding figures across the stage, waving balancing
arms and unconscious feet gliding and dreaming. A man was standing in
the middle of the platform with a roll of music--bald-headed and grave
and important. The orchestra played the overture to "The Harbour Bar."
But whilst he unrolled his music and cleared his throat his angry voice
filled the pavilion: "it's all your own fault ... you get talking and
gossiping and filling yer head with a lot of nonsense ... now you
needn't begin it all over again twisting and turning everything I say."
And no sound in the room but the sound of eating. His singing was
pompous anger, appetite. Shame shone from his rim of hair. He was
ashamed, but did not know that he showed it.


                                   4

They could always walk home along the smooth grey warm esplanade to tea
in an easy silence. The light blossoming from the horizon behind them
was enough. Everything ahead dreamed in it, at peace. Visitors were
streaming homewards along the parade lit like flowers. Along the edge of
the tide the town children were paddling and shouting. After tea they
would come out into the sheltering twilight at peace, and stroll up and
down until it was time to go to the flying performance of The
Pawnbroker's Daughter.


                                   5

They were late for tea and had it by themselves at a table in the window
of the little smoking-room looking out on the garden. Miss Meldrum
called cheerily down through the house to tell them when they came in.
They went into the little unknown room and the cook brought up a small
silver tea-pot and a bright cosy. Outside was the stretch of lawn where
the group had been taken in the morning a year ago. It had been a
seaside town lawn, shabby and brown, with the town behind it; unnoticed
because the fresh open sea and sky were waiting on the other side of the
house ... seaside town gardens were not gardens ... the small squares of
greenery were helpless against the bright sea ... and even against
shabby rooms, when the sun came into the rooms off the sea ...
sea-rooms.... The little smoking-room was screened by the shade of a
tree against whose solid trunk half of the French window was thrown
back.

When the cook shut the door of the little room the house disappeared.
The front rooms bathed in bright light and hot with the afternoon heat,
the wide afterglow along the front, the vast open lid of the sky, were
in another world.... Miriam pushed back the other half of the window and
they sat down in a green twilight on the edge of the garden. If others
had been there Mrs. Henderson would have remarked on the pleasantness of
the situation and tried to respond to it and been dreadfully downcast at
her failure and brave. Miriam held her breath as they settled
themselves. No remark came. The secret was safe. When she lifted the
cosy the little tea-pot shone silver-white in the strange light. A thick
grey screen of sky must be there, above the trees, for the garden was an
intensity of deep brilliance, deep bright green and calceolarias and
geraniums and lobelias, shining in a brilliant gloom. It was not a
seaside garden ... it was a garden ... all gardens. They took their meal
quietly and slowly, speaking in low tones. The silent motionless
brilliance was a guest at their feast. The meal-time, so terrible in the
hopelessness of home, such an effort in the mocking glare of the
boarding-house was a great adventure. Mrs. Henderson ate almost half as
much as Miriam, serenely. Miriam felt that a new world might be opening.


                                   6

"The storm has cleared the air wonderfully."

"Yes; isn't it a blessing."

"Perhaps I shan't want the beef-tea to-night." Miriam hung up her dress
in the cupboard, listening to the serene tone. The dreadful candle was
flickering in the night-filled room, but mother was quietly making a
supreme effort.

"I don't expect you will"; she said casually from the cupboard, "it's
ready if you should want it. But you won't want it."

"It _is_ jolly and fresh," she said a moment later from the window,
holding back the blind. Perhaps in a few days it would be the real jolly
seaside and she would be young again, staying there alone with mother,
just ridiculous and absurd and frantically happy, mother getting better
and better, turning into the fat happy little thing she ought to be, and
they would get to know people and mother would have to look after her
and love her high spirits and admire and scold her and be shocked as she
used to be. They might even bathe. It would be heavenly to be really at
the seaside with just mother. They would be idiotic.

Mrs. Henderson lay very still as Miriam painted the acid above the
unseen nerve centres and composed herself afterwards quietly without
speaking. The air was fresh in the room. The fumes of the acid did not
seem so dreadful to-night.

The Pawnbroker's daughter was with them in the room, cheering them. The
gay young man had found out somehow through her that "goodness and
truth" were the heart of his life. She had not told him. It was he who
had found it out. He had found the words and she did not want him to say
them. But it was a new life for them both, a new life for him and
happiness for her even if he did not come back, if she could forget the
words.

Putting out the candle at her bedside suddenly and quietly with the
match-box to avoid the dreadful puff that would tell her mother of
night, Miriam lay down. The extinguished light splintered in the
darkness before her eyes. The room seemed suddenly hot. Her limbs ached,
her nerves blazed with fatigue. She had never felt this kind of
tiredness before. She lay still in the darkness with open eyes. Mrs.
Henderson was breathing quietly as if in a heavy sleep. She was not
asleep but she was trying to sleep. Miriam lay watching the pawnbroker's
daughter in the little room at the back of the shop, in the shop, back
again in the little room, coming and going. There was a shining on her
face and on her hair. Miriam watched until she fell asleep.


                                   7

She dreamed she was in the small music-room in the old Putney school,
hovering invisible. Lilla was practising alone at the piano. Sounds of
the girls playing rounders came up from the garden. Lilla was sitting in
her brown merino dress, her black curls shut down like a little cowl
over her head and neck. Her bent profile was stern and manly, her eyes
and her bare white forehead manly and unconscious. Her lissome brown
hands played steadily and vigorously. Miriam listened incredulous at the
certainty with which she played out her sadness and her belief. It
shocked her that Lilla should know so deeply and express her lonely
knowledge so ardently. Her gold-flecked brown eyes that commonly laughed
at everything, except the problem of free-will, and refused questions,
had as much sorrow and certainty as she had herself. She and Lilla were
one person, the same person. Deep down in everyone was sorrow and
certainty. A faint resentment filled her. She turned away to go down
into the garden. The scene slid into the large music-room. It was full
of seated forms. Lilla was at the piano, her foot on the low pedal, her
hands raised for a crashing chord. They came down, collapsing faintly on
a blur of wrong notes. Miriam rejoiced in her heart. What a fiend I am
... what a fiend, she murmured, her heart hammering condemnation.
Someone was sighing harshly; to be heard; in the darkness; not far off;
fully conscious she glanced at the blind. It was dark. The moon was not
round. It was about midnight. Her face and eyes felt thick with sleep.
The air was rich with sleep. Her body was heavy with a richness of sleep
and fatigue. In a moment she could be gone again.... "Shall I get the
beef-tea, mother?" ... she heard herself say in a thin wideawake voice.
"Oh no my dear," sounded another voice patiently. Rearing her numb
consciousness against a delicious tide of oncoming sleep she threw off
the bed-clothes and stumbled to the floor. "You can't go on like this
night after night, my dear." "Yes I can," said Miriam in a tremulous
faint tone. The sleepless even voice reverberated again in the unbroken
sleeplessness of the room. "It's no use ... I am cumbering the ground."
The words struck sending a heat of anger and resentment through Miriam's
shivering form. She spoke sharply, groping for the matches.


                                   8

Hurrying across the cold stone floor of the kitchen she lit the gas from
her candle. Beetles ran away into corners, crackling sickeningly under
the fender. A mouse darted along the dresser. She braced herself to the
sight of the familiar saucepan, Miss Meldrum's good beef-tea brown
against the white enamel--helpless ... waiting for the beef-tea to get
hot she ate a biscuit. There was help somewhere. All those people
sleeping quietly upstairs. If she asked them to they would be surprised
and kind. They would suggest rousing her and getting her to make
efforts. They would speak in rallying voices, like Dr. Ryman and Mrs.
Skrine. For a day or two it would be better and then much worse and she
would have to go away. Where? It would be the same everywhere. There was
no one in the world who could help. There was something ... if she could
leave off worrying. But that had been Pater's advice all his life and it
had not helped. It was something more than leaving off ... it was
something real. It was not affection and sympathy. Eve gave them; so
easily, but they were not big enough. They did not come near enough.
There was something, crafty and worldly about them. They made a sort of
prison. There was something true and real somewhere. Mother knew it. She
had learned how useless even the good kind people were and was alone,
battling to get at something. If only she could get at it and rest in
it. It was there, everywhere. It was here in the kitchen, in the steam
rising from the hot beef-tea. A moon-ray came through the barred window
as she turned down the gas. It was clear in the eye of the moon-ray; a
real thing.

Some instinct led away from the New Testament. It seemed impossible
to-night. Without consulting her listener Miriam read a psalm. Mrs.
Henderson put down her cup and asked her to read it again. She read and
fluttered pages quietly to tell the listener that in a moment there
would be some more. Mrs. Henderson waited saying nothing. She always
sighed regretfully over the gospels and Saint Paul, though she asked for
them and seemed to think she ought to read them. They were so dreadful;
the gospels full of social incidents and reproachfulness. They seemed to
reproach everyone and to hint at a secret that no one possessed ... the
epistles did nothing but nag and threaten and probe. St. Paul
rhapsodised sometimes ... but in a superior way ... patronising; as if
no one but himself knew anything....

"How beautiful upon the mountains are the feet of those who bring" she
read evenly and slowly. Mrs. Henderson sighed quietly.... "That's Isaiah
mother.... Isaiah is a beautiful name." ... She read on. Something had
shifted. There was something in the room.... If she could go droning on
and on in an even tone it would be there more and more. She read on till
the words flowed together and her droning voice was thick with sleep.
The town clock struck two. A quiet voice from the other bed brought the
reading to an end. Sleep was in the room now. She felt sure of it. She
lay down leaving the candle alight and holding her eyes open. As long as
the candle was alight the substance of her reading remained. When it was
out there would be the challenge of silence again in the darkness ...
perhaps not; perhaps it would still be there when the little hot point
of light had gone. There was a soft sound somewhere ... the sea. The
tide was up, washing softly. That would do. The sound of it would be
clearer when the light was out ... drowsy, lazy, just moving, washing
the edge of the beach ... cool, fresh. Leaning over she dabbed the
candle noiselessly and sank back asleep before her head reached the
pillow.


                                   9

In the room yellow with daylight a voice was muttering rapidly, rapid
words and chuckling laughter and stillness. Miriam grasped the
bedclothes and lay rigid. Something in her fled out and away, refusing.
But from end to end of the world there was no help against this. It was
a truth; triumphing over everything. "_I_ know," said a high clear
voice. "_I_ know ... I don't deceive myself" ... rapid low muttering and
laughter.... It was a conversation. Somewhere within it was the answer.
Nowhere else in the world. Forcing herself to be still she accepted the
sounds, pitting herself against the sense of destruction. The sound of
violent lurching brought her panic. There was something there that would
strike. Hardly knowing what she did she pretended to wake with a long
loud yawn. Her body shivered, bathed in perspiration. "What a lovely
morning" she said dreamily, "what a perfect morning." Not daring to sit
up she reached for her watch. Five o'clock. Three more hours before the
day began. The other bed was still. "It's going to be a magnificent day"
she murmured pretending to stretch and yawn again. A sigh reached her.
The stillness went on and she lay for an hour tense and listening.
Something must be done to-day. Someone else must know.... At the end of
an hour a descending darkness took her suddenly. She woke from it to the
sound of violent language, furniture being roughly moved, a swift angry
splashing of water ... something breaking out, breaking through the
confinements of this little furniture-filled room ... the best gentlest
thing she knew in the world openly despairing at last.


                                   10

The old homoeopathist at the other end of the town talked quietly on ...
the afternoon light shone on his long white hair ... the principle of
health, God-given health, governing life. To be well one must trust in
it absolutely. One must practise trusting in God every day.... The
patient grew calm, quietly listening and accepting everything he said,
agreeing again and again. Miriam sat wondering impatiently why they
could not stay. Here in this quiet place with this quiet old man, the
only place in the world where anyone had seemed partly to understand,
mother might get better. He could help. He knew what the world was like
and that nobody understood. He must know that he ought to keep her. But
he did not seem to want to do anything but advise them and send them
away. She hated him, his serene white-haired pink-faced old age. He told
them he was seventy-nine and had never taken a dose in his life. Leaving
his patient to sip a glass of water into which he had measured drops of
tincture he took Miriam to look at the greenhouse behind his consulting
room. As soon as they were alone he told her speaking quickly and
without benevolence and in the voice of a younger man that she must
summon help, a trained attendant. There ought to be someone for night
and day. He seemed to know exactly the way in which she had been taxed
and spoke of her youth. It is very wrong for you to be alone with her he
added gravely.

Vaguely, burning with shame at the confession she explained that it
could not be afforded. He listened attentively and repeated that it was
absolutely necessary. She felt angrily for words to explain the
uselessness of attendants. She was sure he must know this and wanted to
demand that he should help, then and there at once, with his quiet house
and his knowledge. Her eye covered him. He was only a pious old man with
artificial teeth making him speak with a sort of sibilant woolliness.
Perhaps he too knew that in the end even this would fail. He made her
promise to write for help and refused a fee. She hesitated helplessly,
feeling the burden settle. He indicated that he had said his say and
they went back.

On the way home they talked of the old man. "He is right; but it is too
late" said Mrs. Henderson with clear quiet bitterness, "God has deserted
me." They walked on, tiny figures in a world of huge grey-stone houses.
"He will not let me sleep. He does not want me to sleep.... He does not
care."

A thought touched Miriam, touched and flashed. She grasped at it to hold
and speak it, but it passed off into the world of grey houses. Her
cheeks felt hollow, her feet heavy. She summoned her strength, but her
body seemed outside her, empty, pacing forward in a world full of
perfect unanswering silence.


                                   11

The bony old woman held Miriam clasped closely in her arms. "You must
never, as long as you live, blame yourself my gurl." She went away.
Miriam had not heard her come in. The pressure of her arms and her huge
body came from far away. Miriam clasped her hands together. She could
not feel them. Perhaps she had dreamed that the old woman had come in
and said that. Everything was dream; the world. I shall not have any
life. I can never have any life; all my days. There were cold tears
running into her mouth. They had no salt. Cold water. They stopped.
Moving her body with slow difficulty against the unsupporting air she
looked slowly about. It was so difficult to move. Everything was airy
and transparent. Her heavy hot light impalpable body was the only solid
thing in the world, weighing tons; and like a lifeless feather. There
was a tray of plates of fish and fruit on the table. She looked at it,
heaving with sickness and looking at it. I am hungry. Sitting down near
it she tried to pull the tray. It would not move. I must eat the food.
Go on eating food, till the end of my life. Plates of food like these
plates of food.... I am in eternity ... where their worm dieth not and
their fire is not quenched.


       NOTE.--_The next volume of this series is in preparation._


                               PRINTED BY
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                           THE LIBRARY OF ART


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   DONATELLO. By Lord Balcarres, M.P. With 58 plates.

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                       THE POPULAR LIBRARY OF ART


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                          MASTERS OF PAINTING


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   The first six volumes are:

                  RAPHAEL. By Julia Cartwright.
                  BOTTICELLI. By Julia Cartwright.
                  G. F. WATTS. By G. K. Chesterton.
                  LEONARDO DA VINCI. By Georg Gronau.
                  HOLBEIN. By Ford Madox Hueffer.
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                          THE READERS' LIBRARY


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                         THE ROADMENDER SERIES.


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   THOUGHTS OF LEONARDO DA VINCI. Selected by Edward McCurdy.

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                                --------



                          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. 20]:
   ... feeling of orginality in the remark. Perhaps ...
   ... feeling of originality in the remark. Perhaps ...

   [p. 100]:
   ... and a rose-white frame and her strong yellow ...
   ... and rose-white frame and her strong yellow ...

   [p. 119]:
   ... ready, and as Mrs. Kronen rose tall to welcome ...
   ... ready, and Mrs. Kronen rose tall to welcome ...

   [p. 131]:
   ... their clothes, their carriages and hansom, their ...
   ... their clothes, their carriages and hansoms, their ...

   [p. 150]:
   ... wrong. You should have them cut higher, about ...
   ... wrong. You should have them cut higher, above ...

   [p. 210]:
   ... Mr. Grove walked clumsily. His arms brushed ...
   ... Mr. Grove walked clumsily. His arm brushed ...

   [p. 222]:
   ... Piccadilly; a glimpse of the gaze of the Green ...
   ... Piccadilly; a glimpse of the haze of the Green ...

   [p. 232]:
   ... may trees in flower ... fresh clean colours, ...
   ... May trees in flower ... fresh clean colours, ...





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