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Title: Interim - Pilgrimage, Volume 5
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 "Interim - Pilgrimage, Volume 5" ***

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                                INTERIM

                         VOLUMES IN THIS SERIES:

                        POINTED ROOFS
                        BACKWATER
                        HONEYCOMB
                        THE TUNNEL
                        INTERIM
                        DEADLOCK (in preparation)



                                INTERIM


                                   BY
                         DOROTHY M. RICHARDSON
                    AUTHOR OF "POINTED ROOFS," ETC.


                                 LONDON
                            DUCKWORTH & CO.
                   3 HENRIETTA STREET, COVENT GARDEN


                          First Published 1919


                                   TO
                                F. de B.



                                INTERIM



                               CHAPTER I


                                   1

Miriam thumped her Gladstone bag down on to the doorstep. Stout boots
hurried along the tiled passage and the door opened on Florrie in her
outdoor clothes smiling brilliantly from under the wide brim of a
heavily trimmed hat. Grace in a large straight green dress appeared
beside her from the open dining-room door. Miriam finished her cadenza
with the door knocker while Florrie bent to secure her bag saying on a
choke of laughter, _come_ in. You've just been out, said Miriam
listening to Grace's soothing reproaches for her lateness. Shall I come
in or shall I burst into tears and sit down on the doorstep? Florrie
laughed aloud, standing with the bag. Bring her _in_ scolded Mrs. Philps
from the dining-room door. Grace took her by the arm and drew her along
the passage. I'm one mass of mud.--Never mind the mud, come in out of
the rain, scolded Mrs. Philps backing towards the fire, you must be worn
out.--No, I don't feel tired now I'm here, oh what a heavenly fire.
Miriam heard the front door shut with a shallow suburban slam and got
herself round the supper table to stand with Mrs. Philps on the
hearthrug and smile into the fire. Mrs. Philps patted her arm and cheek.
Is the door really shut O'Hara said Miriam turning to Florrie coming
into the room. Of course it is, choked Florrie coming to the hearthrug
to pat her;--I'll put the chain up if you like.--Sit down and rest
before you go upstairs said Mrs. Philps propelling her gently backwards
into the largest of the velvet armchairs. Its back sloped away from her;
the large square cushion bulging out the lower half of the long woollen
antimacassar prevented her from getting comfortably into the chair. She
sat on the summit of the spring and said it was not cold. Wouldn't you
like to come up before supper suggested Grace in answer to her uneasy
gazing into the fire. Well I feel rather grubby. Give her some hot water
murmured Mrs. Philps taking up the Daily Telegraph. Grace preceded her
up the little staircase carrying her bag. Will you have your milk hot or
cold Miriam? called Florrie from below--Oh, hot I think please, I shan't
be a _second_ said Miriam into the spare room, hoping to be left. Grace
turned up the gas. M-m darling she murmured with timid gentle kisses,
I'm so glad you have come. So am _I_. It's glorious to be safely here
.... I shan't be a second. I'll come down as I am and appear radiant
to-morrow--You're _always_ radiant--I'm simply grubby; I've worn this
blouse all the week; _oh_ bliss, hot water. Sit on the rocking chair
while I ablute; unpack my bag--D'you mind if I don't Miriam darling?
Aunt and I called on the Unwins to-day and I haven't put my hat by yet.
We've got three clear days--All right, oh my dear you don't know how
glad I am I'm here--Grace came back murmuring from the door to repeat
the gentle kisses. When the door was shut the freshness and quietude of
the room enfolded Miriam, smoothing away grubbiness and fatigue. Opening
her Gladstone bag she threw on to the bed her new cream nun's veiling
blouse and lace tie, her brushbag and sponge-bag and shoes and a volume
of Schiller and a bundle of note-paper and envelopes. A night-gown was
put ready for her on the bed frilled in an old-fashioned way with
hand-made embroidery. Her bag went under the bed for nearly four days.
Nothing grubby anywhere. No grubbiness for four days. In the large
square mirror her dingy blouse and tie looked quite bright under the
gaslight screened by the frosted globe. Her hair had been flattened by
her hat becomingly over the broad top of her head, and its mass pushed
down in a loose careless bundle with good chance curves reaching low on
to her neck. She poured the hot water into one of the large
cream-coloured basins, her eye running round the broad gilt-edged band
ornamenting its rim over the gleaming marble cover of the washstand, the
gleaming tiles facing her beyond the rim of the basin, the highly
polished woodwork above the tiles. She snuffed freshness everywhere.
While the fresh unscented curdiness of the familiar Broom soap went over
her face and wrists and hands she began to hunger for the clean supper,
for the fresh night in the freshness of the large square bed, for the
clean solid leisurely breakfast. Pushing back her hair she sponged the
day from her face sousing luxuriously in the large basin and listening
to Grace moving slowly about upstairs. Seizing a towel she ran up the
little single flight and stood towelling inside Grace's door. Hullo
pink-face, laughed Grace tenderly, smoothing tissue paper into a large
hat box--I say it must be an _enormous_ one--It is; it's huge smiled
Grace--You must show it to me to-morrow--Miriam ran downstairs and back
to the mirror in her room to look at her clean untroubled face. Don't
run about the house, come down to supper, called Florrie from below.


                                   2

Have they brought the sausages, asked Mrs. Philps acidly.

Yes, scowled Florrie.

Don't forget to tell Christine how we like them done, said Grace
frowning anxiously. Miriam took her eyes from the protruding eyes of the
Shakespeare on the wall opposite, and shut away within her her sharp
sense of the many things ranged below him on the mantlepiece behind
Florrie, the landscape on one side of him, the picture of Queen Victoria
leaning on a walking stick between two Hindu servants, receiving an
address, on the other side, the Satsuma vases and bowls on the sideboard
behind Mrs. Philps, the little sharp bow of narrow curtain-screened
windows behind Grace, the clean gleam on everything.

Chris_tine_?

Oh yes, didn't you know? She's been with us a month--

What became of Amelia?

Oh we had to let her go. She got fat and lazy.

They all do! they're all the same--Go on Miriam.

--Well, said Miriam from the midst of her second helping--they both
listened, and the steps came shambling up their stairs--and they heard
the man collapse with a groan against their door. They waited and, well,
all at once the man, well, they heard him being violently _ill_--Oh
_Miriam_--Yes; wasn't it awful? and then a feeble voice like a
chant--a-a-a-ah-oo--oo-oo-oo kom, and hailpemee--_Oh_ Meester Bell, kom,
oh, I am _freezing_ to death, _what_ a pity what a pity--and then
silence. She fed rapidly, holding them all silently eager for her voice
again to fill out the spaces of their room--For about half an hour they
heard him break out, every few minutes, _oh_ Meester Bell, dear pretty
Mr. Bell kom. I am freezing to death whatta pity--whattapity. The Brooms
sat breaking one against the other into fresh laughter. Miriam ate
rapidly glancing from face to face. What-eh-pitie--what-eh-pitie she
moaned. Can't you hear him? Grace choked and sneezed and drank a little
milk. They were all still slowly and carefully eating their first
helping.--You do come across some funny people said Mrs. Philps mopping
her eyes and dimpling and sighing upon the end of her laughter. _I_
didn't come across him. It was at Mag's and Jan's boarding house. Mrs.
Philps had not begun to listen at the beginning. But Grace and Florrie
saw the whole thing clearly. Mrs. Philps did not remember who Mag and
Jan were. She would not unless one told her all about their
circumstances and their parents. Florrie's face was preparing a
question. Then they must have--went on Miriam. There was a subdued ring
at the front door bell.--There's Christine shall we have her in to
change the plates aunt, frowned Florrie.--No let 'er changer dress. We
can put the plates on the sideboard--Then they must both have gone to
sleep again, said Miriam when Florrie returned from letting Christine
in--because they did not hear him go downstairs and he wasn't there in
the morning--A good thing I should think, observed Mrs. Philps. He
wasn't there said Miriam cheerfully--er--not in _person_. Oh _Miriam_,
protested Grace hysterically. _Oh--oh_--cried the others. Miriam watched
the second course appearing from the sideboard--she greeted the
blancmange and jam with a soft shout, feeling as hungry as when supper
had begun. Isn't she _rude_ chuckled Florrie, putting down a plate of
bananas and a small dish of chocolates. Ooo-_ooo_ squealed Miriam--Be
quiet and behave yourself and begin on that said Grace giving her a
plate of blancmange. Oh yes and _then_ said Miriam inspired to remember
more of her story--it all came out. He must have got down somehow to his
room in the morning. But he lay on the floor--he told them at
dinner--all of mee could not find thee bed at once!--Oh-oh-oh--He had
been--she cried raising her voice above the tumult--to a birthday party;
twenty-seex wheeskies and sodahs.....--Why did he talk like that? Was he
an Irishman? Oh, can't you hear? He was a Hindu. They all talk like
that. "I will kindly shut the door." When they write letters they
begin--Honoured and spanking sir, wept Miriam--they find spanking in the
dictionary and their letters are like that all the way through, masses
of the most amazing adjectives. Why did Mag and Jan leave that boarding
house? asked Florrie into the midst of Miriam's absorption with the
solid tears on Mrs. Philps's cheekbones. She was longing for Mrs. Philps
to see the second thing, not only the funniness of spanking addressed to
a civil servant, but exactly how spanking would look to a Hindu. If only
they could see those things as well as produce their heavenly laughs.
Oh, _I_ don't know, she said wearily; you see they never meant to go
there. They wanted a place of their own. If only they could realise Mag
and Jan. There was never enough time and strength to make everything
clear. At every turn there was something they saw differently. They
_are_ a pair she breathed sleepily. _No_, thanks, she answered formally
to an offer of more blancmange. She was beginning to feel strong and
sleepy. No thanks she repeated formally as the heavy dish of bananas
came her way. She wants a chocolate said Florrie from across the table.
Miriam revived a little. Take _two_ begged Mrs. Philps. They're so huge,
said Miriam obeying and leaving the chocolates on her plate while her
mind moved heavily about seeking a topic. They were all beginning on
bananas. It would be endless. By the time it came to sitting over the
fire she would be almost asleep. She stirred uneasily. Someone must be
seeing her longing and impatience.


                                   3

Miriam lost threads while Christine cleared away supper, pondering the
thick expressionless figure and hands and the heavy sallow sullen face.
She was very short. The Brooms watched her undisturbed, from their
places by the fire, now and again addressing instructions in low
frowning voices from the midst of conversation--_Do_ sit down said Mrs.
Philps at intervals--I've been sitting down all day said Miriam swaying
on her toes--I think we _did_ half believe it she pursued with biting
heartiness, aching with the onset of questions, speaking to make warmth
and distraction for Christine. She had never thought about it. _Had_
they half believed it? Had anyone ever put it to them in so many words?
Giving an opinion opened so many things. It was impossible to show
everything, the more opinions you expressed the more you misled people
and the further you got away from them--Because she continued with a
singing animation; Christine glanced;--we never heard anyone come
in--although--(the room enclosed her even more happily with Christine
there, everything looked even more itself)--we stayed awake till what
seemed almost morning, always till long after the ser-m-our domestic
staff had gone to bed. Their rooms were on the same floor as the night
nursery--Christine was padding out with a tray, her back to the room;
she had a holiday every year and regular off times and plenty of money
to buy clothes and presents; probably she had some sort of home. When
she had taken away the last of the supper things and closed the door
Grace patted the arm of the vacant armchair. I like this best, said
Miriam drawing up a little carved wooden stool--oh _don't_ sit on that
cried Mrs. Philps.--I'm all right said Miriam hurriedly, looking at no
one and drawing herself briskly upright with her eyes on the clear
blaze. Grace and Florrie were close on either side of her in straight
chairs, leaning forward towards the fire. Mrs. Philps sat back in the
smaller of the armchairs, its unyielding cushion sending her body
forward, her small chest crouched, her head bent and propped on her
hand, half facing their close row and gazing into the fire. There was a
silence. Florrie cleared her throat and glanced at Miriam. Miriam half
turned with weary resentment.--Did you used to hang up stockings Miriam
said Florrie quickly. Miriam assented hastily, staring at the fire.
Florrie patiently cleared her throat. With weary animation Miriam
dropped phrases about the parcels that were too big for the stocking,
the feeling of them against one's feet when one moved in the morning.
Shy watchful glances came to her from Florrie. Grace took her hand and
made encouraging sympathetic sounds. How secure they were, sitting with
all the holiday ahead over the fire which would be lit again for them in
the morning. This was only the fag-end of the first evening and it was
beginning to be like the beginning of a new day. Things were coming to
her out of the fire, fresh and new, seen for the first time; a flood of
images. She watched them with eyes suddenly cool and sleepless, relaxing
her stiff attitude and smiling vaguely at the fire-irons. She's tired;
she wants to go to bed said Mrs. Philps turning her head. The two heads
came round--Do you my sweet asked Grace pressing her hand.--You shall
have breakfast in bed if you like--Miriam grimaced briskly in her
direction.--Did you have a Noah's _ark_ she asked smiling at the fire.
Yes; Florrie had one. Uncle George gave it to her.--They began
describing.--Didn't you love it? broke in Miriam presently.--Do you
remember--and she recalled the Noah's ark as it had looked on the
nursery floor, the offended stiffness of the rescued family, the look of
the elephants and giraffes and the green and yellow grasshoppers and the
red lady bird, all standing about alive amongst the little stiff bright
green trees--We had a farm-yard too, pigs; and ducks and geese and hens
with feathers--We used to stand them all out together on the floor, and
the grocer's shop and all our dolls sitting round against the nursery
wall. It used to make me _perfectly_ happy. It would still--Everyone
laughed--It would. It _does_ only to think of it. And there was a doll's
house with a door that opened and a staircase and furniture in the
rooms. I can smell the smell of the inside at this moment. But the thing
I liked best and never got accustomed to was a little alabaster church
with coloured glass windows and a place inside for a candle. We used to
put that out on the floor too. I wish I had it now .... The
kaleidoscope. Do you _remember_ looking at the Kaleidoscope? I used to
cry about it sometimes at night; thinking of the patterns I had not
seen. I thought there was a new pattern every time you shook it,
forever. We had a huge one with very small bits of glass. They clicked
smoothly when the pattern changed and were very beautifully coloured
.... Oh and do you remember those things--did you have a little paper
_theatre_? They were all looking at her, not at the little theatre. She
wished she had not mentioned it. It was so sacred and so secret that she
had never thought of it or even mentioned it to herself all these years.
She rushed on to the stereoscope, her eyes still on the little cardboard
stage, hearing the sound of the paper scraping over the little wooden
roller as the printed scenes came round backwards or forwards, and
plunged into descriptions of deep views of the insides of cathedrals in
sharp relief in a clear silver light, mountains, lakes, statuary in
clear light out of doors and came back to the dolls, pressing alone
wearily on through the dying interest of her hearers to discover with
sleepy enthusiasm the wisdom and indifference and independence of Dutch
dolls, the charm of their wooden bodies, the reasons why one never
wanted to put any clothes on them, the dear kind friendliness of dolls
with composition heads--I don't believe I've ever loved anyone in the
world as I loved Daisy--Yes, I know--we had one too; it belonged to Eve,
it was enormous and had real hair and a leather trunk for its clothes
and felt huge and solid when you carried it; but it was as far away from
you as a human being--yes, the rag dolls were simply funny--I never
understand all that talk about the affection for rag dolls. We used to
scream at ours and hold them by the skirts and see which could bang
their heads hardest against the wall. They were always like a Punch and
Judy show. The composition dolls I mean were painted a soft colour, very
roundly moulded heads, with a shape, just a little hair, put on in soft
brown colour, and not staring eyes but soft bluey grey with an
_expression_; looking at something, looking at the same thing you looked
at yourself-- ...... Mrs. Philps yawned and Florrie began making a
move--I suppose it's bed time--said Miriam. They were all looking
sleepy.--Have a glass of claret Miriam before you go said Mrs. Philps.
No thank you, said Miriam springing up and dancing about the room. Giddy
girl, chuckled Mrs. Philps affectionately. Grace and Florrie fetched
dust sheets from the hall cupboard and began spreading them over the
furniture. Miriam pulled up in front of a large oil-painting over the
sofa; its distances where a meadow stream that was wide in the
foreground with a stone bridge and a mill-wheel and a cottage half
hidden under huge trees, grew narrow and wound on and on through tiny
distant fields until the scene melted in a soft toned mist, held all her
early visits to the Brooms in the Banbury Park days before they had
discovered that she did not like sitting with her back to the fire. She
listened eagerly to the busy sounds of the Brooms. Someone had bolted
the hall door and was scrooping a chair over the tiles to get up and put
out the gas. Dust sheets were still being flountered in the room behind
her. Grace's arm came round her waist.--I'm so glad you've come sweet
she said in her low steady shaken tones--So'm I said Miriam.--Isn't that
a jolly picture--Yes. It's an awfully good one you know. It was one of
papa's--What's O'Hara doing in the kitchen?--Taking Grace by the waist
Miriam drew into the passage trying to prance with her down the hall.
The little kitchen was obscured by an enormous clothes-horse draped with
airing linen. She's left a miserable fire, said Mrs. Philps from behind
the clothes-horse--She hasn't done the saucepans aunt scolded Florrie
from the scullery--Never mind, we can't have er down now. It's neely
midnight.


                                   4

Miriam emerged smoothly into the darkness and lay radiant. There was
nothing but the cool sense of life pouring from some inner source and
the deep fresh spaces of the darkness all round her. Perhaps she had
awakened because of her happiness... clear gentle and soft in a
melancholy minor key a little thread of melody sounded from far away in
the night straight into her heart. There was nothing between her and the
sound that had called her so gently up from her deep sleep. She held in
her joy to listen. There was no sadness in the curious sorrowful little
air. It drew her out into the quiet neighbourhood ..... misty darkness
along empty roads, plaques of lamplight here and there on pavements and
across house fronts..... blackness in large gardens and over the bridge
and in the gardens at the backs of the rows of little silent dark
houses, a pale lambency over the canal and reservoirs. Somewhere amongst
the little roads a group of players hooting gently and carefully slow
sweet notes as if to wake no one, playing to no one, out into the
darkness. Back out of fresh darkness came the sweet clear music .....
the waits; of course. She rushed up and out heart foremost, listening,
following the claim of the music into the secret happy interior of the
life of each sleeping form, flowing swiftly on across a tide of
remembered and forgotten incidents in and out amongst the seasons of the
years. It sent her forward to to-morrow sitting her upright in morning
light telling her with shouts that the day was there and she had only to
get up into it .... the little air had paused on a tuneful chord and
ceased ..... It was beginning again nearer and clearer. She heard it
carefully through. It was so _strange_. It came from far back amongst
the generations where everything was different; telling you that they
were the same..... In the way those people were playing, in the way they
made the tune sound in the air neither instrument louder than the others
there was something that _knew_. Something that everybody knows.... They
show it by the way they do things, no matter what they say..... Her
heart glowed and she stirred. How rested she was. How fresh the air was.
What freshness came from everything in the room. She stared into the
velvety blackness trying to see the furniture. It was the thick
close-drawn curtains that made the perfect velvety darkness ..... Behind
the curtains and the Venetian blinds the windows were open at the top
letting in the garden air. The little square of summer garden showed
brilliantly in this darkest winter blackness. It was more than worth
while to be wakened in the middle of the night at the Brooms. The truth
about life was in them. She imagined herself suddenly shouting in the
night. After the first fright they would understand and would laugh. She
yawned sleepily towards an oncoming tangle of thoughts, pushing them off
and slipping back into unconsciousness.


                                   5

Miriam picked up the blouse by its shoulders and danced it up and down
in time to the girls' volleys of affectionate raillery--Did you sleep
well broke in Mrs. Philps sitting briskly up and superciliously grasping
the handle of the large coffee-pot with her small shrivelled hand.
Christmas Day had begun. The time for trying to say suitable things
about the present was over. All the six small hands were labouring
amongst the large things on the table. The blouse hung real, a blouse, a
glorious superfluity in her only just sufficient wardrobe.--Yes, thank
you, I _did_ she said ardently, lowering it to her knees. The rich
strong coffee was flowing into the cups. In a moment Grace would be
handing plates of rashers and Florrie would have finished extracting the
eggs from the boiler. She laid the blouse carefully on the sofa and
heard in among the table sounds the greetings that had followed her
arrival downstairs. The brown and green landscape caught her eye, old
and still, holding all her knowledge of the Brooms back and back, fresh
with another visit to them. She turned back to the table with a sigh.
Someone chuckled. Perhaps at something that was happening on the table.
She glanced about. The fragrant breakfast had arrived in front of
her--_Don't_ let it get cold laughed Florrie drawing the mustard-pot
from the cruet-stand and rapping it down before her. There was something
that she had forgotten, some point that was being missed, something that
must be said at this moment to pin down the happiness of everything. She
looked up at Shakespeare and Queen Victoria. It was going
away--_Mustard_--said Florrie tapping the table with the
mustard-pot.--Did you hear the waits? asked Mrs. Philps with dreary
acidity. _That_ was it. She turned eagerly. Mrs. Philps was sipping her
coffee. Miriam waited politely with the mustard-pot in her hand until
she had put down her cup and then said anxiously, offering it to Mrs.
Philps--they played--Help yourself--laughed Mrs. Philps--a most lovely
curious old-fashioned thing she went on anxiously. Florrie was watching
her narrowly. That was the _Mistletoe_ Bough--bridled Mrs. Philps
accepting the mustard.--Oh that's The Mistletoe Bough mused Miriam
thrilling. Then Mrs. Philps had heard, and felt the same in the night.
Nothing was missing. Everything that had happened since she had arrived
on the doorstep came freshly back and on into to-day, flowing over the
embarrassment of the parcels. There was nothing to say; no words that
could express it; a tune .... _That's_ the Mistletoe Bough...... she
said reflectively. Florrie was sitting very upright exactly opposite,
quietly munching, her knife and fork quiet on her plate. Grace's small
hands and mouth were gravely labouring. She began swiftly on her own
meal, listening for the tune with an intelligent face. If Florrie would
take off her attention she could let her face become a blank and recover
the tune. Impossible to go on until she had recalled it. She sought for
some distracting remark. Grace spoke. Florrie turned towards her. Miriam
radiated agreement and sipped her hot coffee. Its strong aroma flowed
through her senses. She laughed sociably. Someone else laughed.--Of
_course_ they don't said Florrie in her most grinding voice and laughed.
Two voices broke out together. Miriam listened to the tones, glancing
intelligence accordingly, umpiring the contest, her mind wandering
blissfully about. Presently there was a silence. Mrs. Philps had bridled
and said something decisive. Miriam guiltily re-read the remark. She
could not think of anything that could be made to follow it with any
show of sincerity and sat feeling large and conspicuous. Mrs. Philps'
face had grown dark and old. Miriam glanced restively at her
meaning...... Large terrible illnesses, the doctor coming, trouble
amongst families, someone sitting paralyzed; poverty, everything being
different....--D'you like a snowy Christmas, Miriam? asked Florrie
shyly. Miriam looked across. She looked very young, a child speaking on
sufferance, saying the first thing that occurs lest someone should
remark that it was time to go to bed. Hilarious replies rushed to
Miriam's mind. They would have re-awakened the laughter and talk, but
there would have been resentment in the widowed figure at the head of
the table, the figure that had walked with arch dignity into the big
north London shop and chosen the blouse. The weight in the air was
dreadful--There don't seem to be snowy Christmases nowadays she said
turning deferentially to her hostess with her eyes on Florrie's child's
eyes--Christmas is a _very_ different thing to what it was breathed Mrs.
Philps sitting back with folded hands from her finished meal.--Oh, I
don't know aunt corrected Grace anxiously--aren't you going to have your
toast and marmalade? You lived in the North all your young Christmases.
It's always colder there. Take some toast aunt----We used to burn Yule
logs flickered Mrs. Philps, plaintively refusing the toast. Miriam
waited imagining the snow on the garden where the frilled shirts used to
hang out to bleach in the dew ..... the great flood, the anxiety in the
big houses--Yule logs would look funny in this grate, laughed
Florrie--Oh, I don't know, pressed Grace.--We had some last year.
Haven't we got any this year aunt?----I ordered some wood; I don't know
if it's come--Miriam could not imagine the Brooms with burning logs.
Yes, she could. They were nearer to burning logs than anyone she knew.
It would be more real here; more like the burning logs in the Christmas
numbers. The glow would shine on to their faces and they would see into
the past. But it was all in the past. Yule logs and then, no yule logs.
Everyone even the Brooms were being pushed forward into a new cold
world. There was no time to remember--they don't build grates for wood
nowadays, ruled Mrs. Philps. Who could stop all this coming and crowding
of mean little things? But the wide untroubled leisure of the Brooms
breakfast-table was shut away from the mean little things ...... Are you
coming to church Miriam?--Miriam looked across the doomed
breakfast-table and met the watchful eyes. Behind Florrie very upright
in her good, once best stuff dress, two years old in its features and
methodically arrived at morning wear, the fire still blazed its
extravagant welcome, the first of Christmas morning was still in the
room. When they had all busied themselves and gone, it would be gone.
She glanced about to see that everyone had finished and put her elbows
on the table.--_Well_ she said abundantly. There was an expectant
relaxing of attitudes--I should _like_ to go very much. _But_--Grace
fidgeting her brooch had flung her unrestrained burning affectionate
glance--when I saw Mr. La Trobe climbing into the pulpit--Florrie's eyes
were downcast and Mrs. Philps was blowing her nose her eyes gazing wanly
out above her handkerchief towards the little curtained
bow-window--Miriam dimpled and glanced sideways at Grace catching her
shy waiting eyes--I should stand up on my seat.... give one loud
shriek--the three laughters broke forth together--and fall gasping to
the ground----Then you'd certainly better not go chuckled Florrie amidst
the general wiping away of tears----I saw the Miss Pernes at Strudwick's
on Friday; Miss Perne and Miss Jenny----oh, did you responded Miriam
hurriedly. The room lost something of its completeness. There was a
coming and a going, the pressing grey of an outside world--How are
they?----They seemed very well--They don't seem to change--Oh; I'm so
glad--They asked for you--_Oh_----I didn't say we were expecting
you--_Oh_, it's such an age----We always say you're very busy and
hard-worked smiled Grace--Yes, that's it......--You didn't go often even
when Miss Haddie was alive--No; she was awfully good; she used to come
down and see me in the west-end when I first came to town.--How they
like the west-end--Aunt, I don't blame them.--She used to write to you a
lot didn't she Miriam?--She used to come and talk to me in a tea-shop at
six-fifteen .... yes she wrote regularly said Miriam irritably--You were
awfully fond of Miss Haddie weren't you?--Miriam peered into space
struggling with a tangle of statements. Her mind leapt from incident to
incident weaving all into a general impression--so strong and clear that
it gave a sort of desperation to her painful consciousness that nothing
she saw and felt was visible to the three pairs of differently watchful
eyes. Poured chaotically out it would sound to them like the ravings of
insanity. All contradictory, up and down backwards and forwards, all
true. The things they would grasp here and there would misrepresent
herself and the whole picture. Why would people insist upon talking
about things--when nothing can ever be communicated...... She felt
angrily about in the expectant stillness. She could see their minds so
clearly; why wouldn't they just look and see hers instead of waiting for
some impossible pronouncement. Yes would be a lie. No would be a lie.
Any statement would be a lie. All statements are lies. I like the Pernes
better than I like you. I like all of you better than the Pernes. I hate
you. I hate the Pernes. I, of course you must know it, hate _everybody_.
I adore the Pernes so much that I can't go and see them. But you come
and see us. Yes; but you insist. Then you like us only as well as you
like the Pernes; you like all sorts of people as well perhaps better
than you like us. I have nothing to do with anyone. You shall not group
me anywhere. I am everywhere. Let the day go on. Don't sit there
worrying me to death.....--They always send you their love and say you
are to go and see them--Oh yes, I _must_ go; some time----They are
wonderfully fond of their girls.... It's one of the greatest pleasures
of their lives keeping up with the old girls--Fatigue was returning upon
Miriam; her face flushed and her hands were large and cold. She drew
them down on to her unowned knees. A mild yes would bring the sitting to
an end.--But you see I'm _not_ an old girl she said impatiently. No one
spoke. Florrie's mind was darkly moving towards the things of the day.
Perhaps Mrs. Philps and Florrie had been thinking of them for some
minutes.--You know it does make a difference she pursued, obsequiously
collecting attention,--when people are your employers. You can never
feel the same--Everyone hovered,--and Mrs. Philps smiled in triumphant
curiosity.--I shouldn't have thought it made any difference to you
Miriam said Florrie flushing heavily.--I think I know what Miriam means
said Grace gently radiating--I always feel a pupil with them much as I
like them--Grace, d'you know you're my pupil said Miriam leaping out
into laughter.--I can _see_ Grace--she drove on carrying them all with
her, ignoring the swift eyes upon the dim things settling heavily down
upon her heart--_gazing_ out of the window in the little room where I
was supposed to be holding a German class--Yes I know Miriam darling,
but now you know me you know I could never be any good at
languages----You're my pupil----It seems absurd to think of you as a
teacher now we know you chuckled Florrie.--Aren't you glad it's over,
Miriam?----I _loved_ the teaching. I've never left off longing to go
back to school myself yawned Miriam absently.--You won't get much
sympathy out of Florrie----I was a perfect _fool_ beamed Florrie.
Everyone laughed.--I often think now--chuckled Florrie rosy and
tearful--when I open the front door to go out how glad I am there's no
more _school_--Miriam looked across laughing affectionately.--Why did
you like your school so much Miriam?--I didn't like it except now and
again terrifically in flashes. I didn't know what it was. I hadn't seen
other schools. I didn't know what we were doing--It wasn't--a--a genteel
school for young ladies, there was nothing of that in it--You never know
when you're happy reproved Mrs. Philps--Oh, I don't _know_ aunt, I think
you _do_ appealed Grace, her eyes full of shy championship.--I'm very
happy, thank you,--aren't we all happy dear brethren? chirped Miriam
towards the cruet-stand.--Silly children----Now aunt you _know_ you are.
You know you enjoy life tremendously.--Of course I do cried Mrs. Philps
beaming and bridling. In a devout low tone she added--it's the little
simple things that make you happy; the things that happen every day--For
a moment there was nothing but the sound of the fire flickering in the
beamy air.--Hadn't we better have her _in_ aunt, muttered Grace? Florrie
got up briskly and rang the bell.


                                   6

They all went busily upstairs. Even Grace did not linger.--Let me come
and help make my bed said Miriam going with her to the door--No, you're
to rest----I don't want to rest----Then you can run round the room--She
turned back towards the silent disarray. Busy sounds came from upstairs.
A hurried low reproving voice emerged on to the landing ....--and light
the drawing room fire as soon as you've finished clearing and when the
postman comes leave the letters in the _box_--Christine came downstairs
without answering. In a moment she would be coming in. Moving away from
the attraction of the blouse Miriam wandered to the fireside. Her eyes
turned towards the chair in the corner half-hidden by the large
armchair. There they were, on the top of the pile of newspapers and
magazines. Dare's Annual lay uppermost its cover bright with holly. Her
hands went out .... to look at them now would be to anticipate the
afternoon. But there would be at least two Windsors that she had not
seen. She drew one out and stood turning over the leaves. It would be
impossible to look round and say a Happy Christmas and then go on
reading, and just as bad to stop reading and not say anything more. She
planted herself in the middle of the hearthrug with her face to the
room. Why should she stand advantageously there while Christine
unwillingly laboured? Why should Christine be pleased to be spoken to?
She thought a happy Christmas in several different voices. They all
sounded insulting. Christine was still making noises in the kitchen.
There was time to escape. The drawing-room door would be bolted and that
meant getting one of the hall chairs and telling the whole house of an
extraordinary impulse. Upstairs her bed would still be being made or her
room dusted. She drew up the little stool and sat dejectedly, close over
the fire as if with a heavy cold in her head and anxiously deep in the
pages of the magazine. Perhaps Christine would think she did not hear
her come in .... she guessed the story from the illustrations and
dropped into the text half-way through the narrative. No woman who did
typewriting from morning till night and lived in a poor lodging could
look like that.... perhaps some did .... perhaps that was how clerks
_ought_ to look ... she skimmed on; moving automatically to make room
for boots that were being put down in the fender; ready to speak in a
moment if whoever it was did not say anything; the figure turned to the
table. It was Christine. If she blew her nose and coughed Christine
would know she knew she was there. She turned a page swiftly and wrapped
herself deeply in the next. When Christine had gone away with a trayful
she resumed her place on the hearthrug ready to see her for the first
time when she came in again and catch her eye and say Good _morning_, I
wish you a happy Christmas. Christine came shapelessly in and began
collecting the remaining things with sullen hands. Her face was closed
and expressionless and her eyes downcast. Miriam's eyes followed it,
waiting for the eyes to lift, her lips powerless. It was too late to say
good morning. Sadness came growing in the room. Her thoughts went
homelessly to and fro between her various world and the lumpy figure
moving sullenly along the edge of an unknown life. Stepping observantly
in through the half-open door with a duster bunched carefully in her
hand came Florrie. Miriam flung out a greeting that swept round
Christine and out into a shining world. It brought Florrie to her side,
shy and eager. Christine taking her final departure looked up. Miriam
flushed through her laughter, steadily meeting the expressionless brown
glitter of Christine's eyes. Hullo Madam O'Hara she defended, collecting
herself for the question that would follow Florrie's encirclement of her
waist--Hullo Little Miriam; you _are_ happy ground out Florrie
shyly--are you rested?--Yes said Miriam formally, I think I am--They
turned, Florrie withdrawing her arm, and stood looking into the
fire--Oooch isn't it cold said Grace from the doorway--have you done the
hall chairs?--No, I came in here to get warm first--It _is_ cold said
Grace coming to the hearthrug--are you warm Miriam darling?--I'm so warm
that I think I ought to run upstairs for a constitutional and scrub my
teeth said Miriam briskly, preparing to follow Florrie from the
room.--Grace dropped her duster and put her arms upon her, raising an
anxious pleading face--stay here while I dust sweetheart. You can scrub
your teeth when we're gone. _Dear_ pink-face. How are you my sweet? Are
you rested? she asked between gentle kisses dabbed here and there--Never
berrer old chap. I tell you never _berrer_--Grace laughed gently into
her face and stood holding her, smiling her anxious pleading solicitous
smile.--I tell you never _berrer_ repeated Miriam. _Dear_ sweet pink
face smiled Grace and turned carefully away to her dusting. Miriam sank
into an armchair, listening to the soft smooth flurring of the duster
over the highly polished surfaces--Well she asked presently--how are
things in general?--Grace rose from her knees and carefully shut the
door. She came back with fear darkening the velvet lustre of her
eyes--Oh I don't know Miriam dear she murmured kneeling on the hearthrug
near Miriam's knees and holding her hands out towards the fire. It's all
over thought Miriam, she's failed.--I've got ever so many things to tell
you. I want to ask your advice--Remember I've never even seen him argued
Miriam automatically, figuring the surroundedness, the sudden
realization and fear, the recapturing of liberty, the hidden polite
determined retreat.--Oh, but you always understand. Wait till we can
talk she sighed rising from her knees, and kissing Miriam's forehead. It
was all over. Grace was clinging to some "reasonable" explanation of
some final thing. She cast about in her mind for something from her own
scattered circumstances to feed their talk when it should come. She
would have to induce Grace to turn away and go on.... the end of the
long history of faithfully remembered details would be a relief......
the delicate depths of their intercourse would come back..... its reach
backwards and forwards; and yet without anything in the background....
it seemed as if always something were needed in the background to give
the full glow to every day ... she must be made to see the real face of
the circumstance and then to know and to feel that she was not forlorn;
that the glow was there ..... first to brush away the delusion
ruthlessly .... and then let the glow come back, begin to come back,
from another source.


                                   7

Left alone with silence all along the street, Christine inaudible in the
kitchen, dead silence in the house, Miriam gathered up her blouse and
ran upstairs. As she passed through the changing lights of the passage,
up the little dark staircase past the turn that led to the little
lavatory and the little bathroom and was bright in the light of a small
uncurtained lattice, on up the four stairs that brought her to the
landing where the opposing bedroom doors flooded their light along the
strip of green carpet between the polished balustrade and the high
polished glass-doored bookcase, scenes from the future, moving in
boundless backgrounds came streaming unsummoned into her mind, making
her surroundings suddenly unfamiliar ..... the past would come again....
Inside her room--tidied until nothing was visible but the permanent
shining gleaming furniture and ornaments; only the large box of matches
on the corner of the mantlepiece betraying the movement of separate
days, telling her of nights of arrival, the lighting of the gas, the
sudden light in the frosted globe preluding freedom and rest, bringing
the beginning of rest with the gleam of the fresh quiet room--she found
the nearer past, her years of London work set in the air, framed and
contemplable like the pictures on the wall, and beside them the early
golden years in snatches, chosen pictures from here and there,
communicated, and stored in the loyal memory of the Brooms. Leaping in
among these live days came to-day..... the blouse belonged to the year
that was waiting far off, invisible behind the high wall of Christmas.
She dropped it on the bed and ran downstairs to the little drawing-room.
The fire had not yet conquered the mustiness of the air. The room was
full of strange dim lights coming in through the stained glass door of
the little greenhouse. She pushed open the glass door turning the light
to a soft green and sat sociably down in a low chair her hands clasped
upon her knees, topics racing through her mind in a voice thrilling with
stored up laughter. In her ears was the rush of spring rain on the
garden foliage, and presently a voice saying where are we going this
summer? ..... By the time they came back she would be too happy to
speak. Better perhaps to go out into the maze of little streets and in
wearying of them be glad to come back. As she moved to the door she saw
the garden in late summer fulness, the holidays over, their heights
gleaming through long talks on the seat at the end of the garden, the
answering glow of the great blossoms of purple clematis hiding the north
London masonry of the little conservatory, the great spaces of autumn
opening out and out running down rich with happenings to where the high
wall of Christmas again rose and shut out the future. She ran busily
upstairs casting away sight and hearing and hurried thoughtlessly into
her outdoor things and out into the street. She wandered along the
little roads turning and turning until she came to a broad open
thoroughfare lined with high grey houses standing back behind colourless
railed-in gardens. Trams jingled up and down the centre of the road
bearing the names of unfamiliar parts of London. People were standing
about on the terminal islands and getting in and out of the trams. She
had come too far. Here was the wilderness, the undissembling soul of
north London, its harsh unvarying all-embracing oblivion.....
Innumerable impressions gathered on walks with the schoolgirls or in
lonely wanderings; the unveiled motives and feelings of people she had
passed in the streets, the expression of noses and shoulders, the
indefinable uniformity, of bearing and purpose and vision, crowded in on
her, oppressing and darkening the crisp light air. She fought against
them, rallying to the sense of the day. It was Christmas Day for them
all. They were keeping Christmas in their homes, carrying it out into
the streets, going about with parcels, greeting each other in their
harsh ironic voices. Long ago she had passed out of their world for
ever, carrying it forward, a wound in her consciousness unhealed, but
powerless to re-inflict itself, powerless to spread into her life. They
and their world were still there, unchanged. But they could never touch
her again, ensconced in her wealth. It did not matter now that they went
their way just in the way they went their way. To hate them for past
suffering now that they were banished and powerless was to allow them to
spoil her day..... They were even a possession, a curious thing apart,
unknown to anyone in her London life .... _dear_ north Londoners. She
paused a moment, looking boldly across at the figures moving on the
islands. After all they did not know that it was cold and desolate and
harsh and dreadful to be going about on Christmas Day in a place that
looked as this place looked, in trams. They did not know what was wrong
with their clothes and their bearing and their way of looking at things.
That was what was so terrible though. What could teach them? There were
so many. They lived and died in amongst each other. What could change
them? ..... Her face felt drawn and weariness was coming upon her
limbs... a group was approaching her along the wide pavement, laughing
and talking, a blatter of animated voices; she turned briskly for the
relief of meeting and passing close to them.... too near, too near.....
prosperity and kindliness, prosperous fresh laughing faces, easily
bought clothes, the manner of the large noisy house and large secure
income, free movement in an accessible world, all turned to dangerous
weapons in wrong hands by the unfinished, insensitive mouths, the ugly
slur in the speech, the shapelessness of bearing, the naïvely visible
thoughts, circumscribed by business, the illustrated monthly magazines,
the summer month at the seaside; their lives were exactly like their way
of walking down the street, a confident blind trampling. Speech was not
needed to reveal their certainties; they shed certainty from every angle
of their unfinished persons. Certainty about everything. Incredulous
contempt for all uncertainty. Impatient contempt for all who could not
stand up for themselves. Cheerful uncritical affection for each other.
And for all who were living or trying to live just as they did ..... The
little bushes of variegated laurel grouped in railed-off oblongs along
the gravelled pathway between the two wide strips of pavement, drew her
gaze. They shone crisply, their yellow and green enamel washed clean by
yesterday's rain. She hurried along feeling out towards them through
downcast eyes. They glinted back at her unsunned by the sunlight,
rootless sapless surfaces set in repellent clay, spread out in
meaningless air. To and fro her eyes slid upon the varnished leaves....
she saw them in a park set in amongst massed dark evergreens, gleaming
out through afternoon mist, keeping the last of the light as the people
drifted away leaving the slopes and vistas clear... grey avenues and
dewy slopes drifted before her in the faint light of dawn, the grey
growing pale and paler; the dew turned to a scatter of jewels and the
sky soared up high above the growing shimmer of sunlit green and gold.
Isolated morning figures hurried across the park, aware of its morning
freshness, seeing it as their own secret garden, part of their secret
day.....

From the sunlit white facade of a large London house the laurels looked
down through a white stone-pillared balustrade. They appeared coming
suddenly with the light of a street lamp, clumped safely behind the
railings of a Bloomsbury square.... the opening of a side street led her
back into the maze of little roads. The protective presence of the
little house was there and she sauntered happily along through channels
of sheltered sunlit silence..... What was she doing here? At
Christmas-time one should be where one belonged. Gathering and searching
about her came the claims of the firesides that had lain open to her
choice, drawing her back into the old life, the only life known to those
who sat round them. They looked out from that life, seeing hers as
hardship and gloom, pitying her, turning blind eyes unwillingly towards
her attempts to unveil and make it known to them. She saw herself
relinquishing efforts, putting on a desperate animation, professing
interests and opinions and talking as people talk, while they watched
her with eyes that saw nothing but a pitiful attempt to hide an awful
fate, lonely poverty, the absence of any opening prospect, nothing ahead
but a gloom deepening as the years counted themselves off. Those were
the facts--as almost anyone might see them. They made those facts live;
they tugged at the jungle of feelings that had the power to lead one
back through any small crushing maiming aperture..... In their midst
lived the past and the thing that had ended it and plunged it into a
darkness that still held the threat of destroying reason and life.
Perhaps only thus could it be faced. Perhaps only in that way. What
other way was there? Forgetfulness blotted it out and let one live on.
But it was always there, impossible, when one looked back.... The little
house brought forgetfulness and rest. It made no break in the new life.
The new life flowed through it, sunlit. It was a flight down strange
vistas, a superfluity of wild strangeness, with a clue in one's hand,
the door of retreat always open; rest and forgetfulness piling up within
one into strength.


                                   8

The incidents Grace had described went in little disconnected scenes in
and out of the caverns of the dying fire. She was waiting tremulously
for a verdict. They seemed to Miriam so decisive that she found it
difficult to keep within Grace's point of view. She stood in the
picturesque suburb, saw the distant glimpse of Highgate Woods, the
pretty corner house standing alone in its garden, the sisters in the
dresses they had worn at the dance talking to their mother indoors,
waited on by their polite admiring brother; their unconsciousness, their
lives as they looked to themselves. Everything fitted in with the
leghorn hats they had worn at the league garden party in the summer. She
could have warned Grace then if she had heard about the hats... Grace
had not yet found out that people were arranged in groups.... The only
honest thing to say now would be--oh well of course with a mother and
sisters like _that_; don't you _see_--what they are? Her mind drew a
little circle round the family group. It spun round them on and on as
they went through life. She frowned her certainty into the fire, ranging
herself with the unknown people she knew so well. If she did not speak
Grace would see in her something of the quality that was the passport
into that smooth-voiced world.... she imagined herself further and
further into it, seeing everyday incidents, hearing conversations slide
from the surfaces of minds that in all their differences made one even
surface, unconscious unbroken and maddeningly unquestioning and
unaware..... They were unaware of anything, though they had easy fluent
words about everything.... underneath the surface that kept Grace off
they were.... amoebae, awful determined unconscious .... octopi ....
frightful things with one eye, tentacles, poison-sacs .... the surface
made them, not they the surface; rules .... they were civilisation. But
they knew the rules; they knew how to do the surface ... they held to
them and lived by them. It was a sort of game... They were martyrs; with
empty lives.... always awake, day and night, with unrelaxed wills ...
she turned and met frank eyes still waiting for a verdict. All the
strength of Grace's personality was quivering there; all the determined
faith in reason and principle. Perhaps if she had a clear field she
could disarm them.... anyone, everyone. If she could get near enough
they would find out her reality and her strength. But they would not
want to be like her. They would run in the end from their apprehension
of her, back to the things she did not see.... They had done so. He had;
it was clear. Or she could not have spoken of him. If you can speak of a
thing, it is past .... Speaking makes it glow with a life that is not
its own.--There's a lot more to tell you--said Grace pressing her hand.
Miriam turned from the fire; Grace was looking as she had done when she
began her story. Miriam sat back in her chair searching her face and
form trying to find and express the secret of her indomitable
conviction. Being what she was, why could she not be sufficient to
herself? Entrenched in uncertainty she seemed less than herself. Her
careful good clothes, so exquisitely kept, the delicate old gold chain,
the little pearled cross, the old fine delicate rings, the centuries of
shadowy ecclesiasticism in her head and face, the look of waiting,
gazing from grey stone framed days upon a jewelled splendour, grew with
her uncertainty small and limited. It was unbearable that they should
have no meaning ... Grace was ready to take all she possessed into a
world where it would have no meaning; ready to disappear and be changed.
She was changed already. She could not get back and there was nothing to
go forward to. Miriam dropped her eyes and sat back in her chair. The
tide of her own life flowed fresh all about her; the room and the figure
at her side made a sharply separated scene, a play watched from a
distance, the end visible in the beginning to be read in the shapes and
tones and folds of the setting, the intentions and statements nothing
but impotent irrelevance, only bearable for the opportunities they
offered here and there, involuntarily, for sudden escape into the
reality that nothing touched or changed. If only Grace could be forced
to see the unchanging reality... Oh Miriam darling, breathed Grace in an
even, anxious tone. Miriam suppressed a desire to whistle;--Oh well of
course that may make a _difference_ she said hurriedly, checking the
thrill in her voice. Far back in the caverns of the fire life moved
sunlit. She dropped her eyes and drew away the hand that Grace had
clasped. Life danced and sang within her; shreds of song; the sense of
the singing of the wind; clear bright light streaming through large
houses, quickening on walls and stairways and across wide rooms. Along
clear avenues of light radiating from the future, pouring from behind
her into the inner channels of her eyes and ears came unknown forms
moving in a brilliance, casting a brilliance across the visible past,
warming its shadows, bathing its bright levels in sparkling gold. Her
free hands lifted themselves until only the tips of her fingers rested
on her knees and her hair strove from its roots as if the whole length
would stand and wave upright.--You see--she said to gain a moment.
Suddenly her mind became a blank. Her body was heavy on her chair,
ill-clothed, too warm, peevishly tingling with desires. She stirred,
shrinking from her ugly, inexorable cheap clothes, her glasses, the
mystery of her rigid stupidly done hair; how how _how_ did people get
expression into their hair consciously and not by accident? Why did
Grace like her in spite of all these things, in spite of the evil
thoughts which must show. She did. She had felt nothing, seen nothing.
She dissembled her face and turned towards Grace, gazing past her into
the darkness beyond the range of the firelight. Just outside the rim of
her glasses Grace's firelit face gleamed on the edge of the darkness
half turned towards her. Leaping into her mind came the realisation that
she was sitting there talking to someone .... _Marvellous_ to speak and
hear a voice answer. Astounding; more marvellous and astounding than
anything they could discuss. Grace must know this, even if she were
unconscious of it.... some little sound they could both hear, a little
mark upon the stillness, scattering light and relief. She turned her
eyes and met Grace's, velvety, deeply sparkling, shedding admiration and
tyrannous love, patiently waiting--Well,--said Miriam, sleepily feeling
for a thread of connected thought.--D'you mean a difference about my
taking aunt to call, asked Grace with fear in her eyes.--No, my dear,
said Miriam impatiently.--Can't you see you can't do that
anyhow?----They've only been there five years, said Grace in a low
determined recitative--We've lived in what's almost the same
neighbourhood, fifteen. So it's our place to call first--Miriam sighed
harshly.--That doesn't make a _scrap_ of difference she retorted
flushing with anger.--I wish I had your grasp of things Miriam dear,
said Grace with gentle weariness.--Well--we've got to-morrow and Monday
said Miriam getting up with an appearance of briskness and striking
random notes on the piano. Grace laughed.--I suppose we ought to light
the gas she said getting up?--Why?----Oh well--Florrie will be coming in
and asking why we're sitting in the dark----What if she does?----Oh, I
think I'll light it Miriam. Miriam sat down again and stared into the
fire. After supper they would all sit, harshly visible, round the hot
fire, enduring the stifling unneeded gaslight.



                               CHAPTER II


                                   1

Miriam rolled up the last pair of mended stockings....

She looked at her watch again. It was too late now even to go round to
Kennett Street. She had spent New Year's Eve alone in a cold bedroom.
Why could one not be sure whether it was right or wrong? It was only by
sitting hour after hour letting one's fingers sew that the evening had
come to an end. It could not be wrong to make up one's mind to begin the
new year with a long night's rest in a tidy room with everything mended.
But the feeling that the old year ought to be seen out with people had
pricked all the time like conscience. It only stopped pricking now
because it was too late. And there was a sadness left in the evening....
She lifted her coat from her knees and stood up. The room shone. In her
throat and nostrils was the smell of dust coming from the floor and
carpet and draperies. But the bright light of the gas and the soft light
of the reading-lamp shone upon perfect order. Everything was mended and
would presently be put away in tidy drawers. She was rested and strong,
undisturbed by changes that would have come from social hours. No one
had missed her. Many people scattered about in houses had thought of
her. If they had, she had been there with them. She could not be
everywhere, with all of them. That was certain. There was nothing to
decide about that.... The Brooms had missed her ... they would have
enjoyed their New Year's Eve better if she had been there. It would have
been jolly to have gone again so soon, after the short half week, and
sat down by the fire where Christmas lingered and waited for the coming
of the year with them. It would have been a loyalty to something. But it
was too soon to be sitting about between comfortable meals talking,
explaining things, making life stop, while reality went on far away....
One still felt rested from Christmas and wanting to begin doing
things.... Perhaps it was not altogether through undecided waiting that
the evening had come and gone by here in this room. Perhaps it was some
kind of decision that could not be seen or expressed. Now that in
solitude it had come to an end there was realisation. Quiet realisation
of new year's eve; just quiet realisation of new year's eve. One would
pass on into the new year in an unbroken peace with the resolutions for
the new life distinct in one's mind. She found an exercise book and
wrote them down. There they stood, pitting the calm steady innermost
part of her against all her other selves. Free desperate obedience to
them would bring a revelation. No matter how the other selves felt as
she kept them, if she kept them every moment of her life would go out
from an inward calm..... The room was full of clear strength. There must
always be a clear cold room to return to. There was no other way of
keeping the inward peace. Outside one need do nothing but what was
expected of one, asking nothing for oneself but freedom to return, to
the centre. Life would be an endless inward singing until the end came.
But not too much inward singing, spending one's strength in song; the
song must be kept down and low so that it would last all the time and
never fail. Then a song would answer back from outside, in everything.
She stepped lightly and powerfully about the room putting away her
mended things... One would move like the wind always, a steady human
south-west wind, alive, without personality or speech. No more books.
Books all led to the same thing. They were like talking about things.
All the things in books were unfulfilled duty. No more interest in men.
They shut off the inside world. Women who had anything whatever to do
with men were not themselves. They were in a noisy confusion, playing a
part all the time.... The only real misery in being alone was the fear
of being left out of things. It was a wrong fear. It pushed you into
things and then everything disappeared..... Not to listen outside, where
there was nothing to hear. In the end you came away empty with time gone
and lost.... To remember, whatever happened, not to be afraid of being
alone.

She stood staring at the sheeny gaslit brown-yellow varnish of the
wall-paper above the mantel-piece. There was no thought in the silence,
no past or future, nothing but the strange thing for which there were no
words, something that was always there as if by appointment, waiting for
one to get through to it away from everything in life. It was the thing
that was nothing. Yet it seemed the only thing that came near and meant
anything at all. It was happiness and realisation. It was being
suspended, in nothing. It came out of oneself because it came only when
one had been a long time alone. It was not oneself. It could not be God.
It did not mind what you were or what you had done. It would be there if
you had just murdered someone ... it was only there when you had
murdered everybody and everything and torn yourself away. Perhaps it was
evil. One's own evil genius. But how could it make you so blissful? What
was one--what had one done to bring the feeling of goodness and beauty
and truth into the patch on the wall and presently make all the look of
the distant world and everything in experience sound like music in a
dream? She dropped her eyes. From the papered wall radiance still seemed
to flow over her as she stood, defining her brow and hair, shedding a
warmth in the cold room. Looking again she found the wall less bright;
but within the radius of her motionless eyes everything in the brightly
lit corner glowed happily; not drawing her but standing complete and
serene, like someone standing at a little distance, expressing
agreement..... Just in front of her a single neat warning tap sounded in
the air, touching the quick of her mind..... St. Pancras clock--striking
down the chimney.... She ran across to the dark lattice and flung it
open. In the air hung the echo of the first deep boom from Westminster.
St. Pancras and the nearer clocks were telling themselves off against
it. They would have finished long before Big Ben came to an end. Which
was midnight? Let it be St. Pancras. She counted swiftly backwards; four
strokes.... Out in the darkness the dark world was turning away from
darkness. Within the spaces of the night the surface of a daylit
landscape gleamed for an instant tilted lengthways across the sky.....
Little sounds came snapping faintly up through the darkness from the
street below, voices and the creaking open of doors. Windows were being
pushed open up and down the street. The new year changed to a soft
moonlit breath stealing through the darkness, brimming over the faces at
the doors and windows, touching their brows with fingers of dawn,
sending fresh soothing healing fingers in amongst their hair .... Eleven
.... twelve ..... Across the rushing scale of St. Pancras bells came a
fearful clangour. Bicycle bells, cab whistles, dinner bells the banging
of tea-trays and gongs...... Of course .... New Year .... it must be a
Bloomsbury custom. She had had her share in a Bloomsbury New Year.
Rather jolly .... rowdy; but jolly in that sort of way.... She could
hear the Baileys laughing and talking on their doorstep. A smooth firm
foreign voice flung out a shapely little fragment of song. Miriam
watched its outline. It repeated itself in her mind with the foreign
voice and personality of the singer. She drew back into her room.


                                   2

Her resolutions kept her at work on Saturday afternoon. A steady
morning's work disposed of the correspondence and the inrush of paid
accounts. After lunch she worked in the surgeries until they were ready
for Monday morning and made an attack on the mass of clerical work that
remained from the old year. She sat working until she grew so cold that
she knew if she stayed on in the cold window space she would have the
beginning of a cold. Better to go, and have late evenings every day next
week, cheered by the protests of the Orlys and ending with warm hours in
the den. As she got up and felt the aching of her throat and the harsh
hot chill running through her nerves she realised that anyhow she was in
for a cold. There was no room to go to to get warm before going out.
There seemed to be no warmth anywhere in the world. Torpid and stupid,
miserably realising the increasing glow of her nose and the numb
clumsiness of her feet she put away the ledgers and got into her outdoor
things. She resented the sight of the bound volume of The Dental Cosmos
that she had put aside to take home. Her interest in it was useless; as
useless as everything else in the freezing world. Sounds of dancing and
chanting came up the basement stairs. When their work was done they
could laugh and sing in a warm room.

Turning northwards toward the Marylebone Road she met a bleak wind and
turned back and down Devonshire Street and eastwards towards St. Pancras
through a maze of side streets. The icy wind drove against her all the
way. When she crossed a wide thoroughfare it was reinforced from the
north. Eddies of colourless dust swirled about the pavements. At every
crossing in the many little streets there was some big vehicle just upon
her keeping her shrinking in the cold while it rumbled over the cobbles,
overwhelming her with a harsh grating roar that filled the streets and
the sky. Darkness was beginning; a hard black January darkness, utterly
different to the friendly exciting twilights of the old year standing
far far away with summer just behind them and Christmas ahead....

Inside the house a cold grey twilight was blotting out the warm
brownness. A door opened as she turned the stairhead on the second floor
and a tall thin pale-faced young man in dark clothes and a light
waistcoat flashed past her and leaped lightly downstairs. Miriam carried
her impression up to her room, going hurriedly and stumbling on the
stairs as she went.... Something hard, metallic, like a wire spring,
cold and relentless. Belonging to a cold dreadful darkness and not
knowing it; _confident_. He had whistled going downstairs, or sung.
_Had_ he? Perhaps he was the foreigner who had sung last night?
Perfectly and awfully dreadful.... The whole house and even her own room
had been changed in a twinkling. Coming in it had had a warmth, even in
the cold twilight. Now it lay open and bleak, all its rooms naked and
visible, a house "foreign young gentlemen" heard of and came to live in.
He was one of the "Norwegian young gentlemen" who had lived in Mrs.
Reynolds' boarding house in Woburn Place and this was just another
boarding house to him. Perhaps the house was full of boarders.... She
had grown accustomed to the Baileys having come up from the basement to
the ground floor and had got into the habit of coming briskly through
the hall with a preoccupied manner, ignoring the invariable appearance
of a peeping form at the partly opened door of the dining-room. It was
strange now to reflect that the house had always been full of lodgers.
What sort of people had they been? She could not remember ever having
met a lodger face to face, or heard any sounds in the many downstairs
rooms.... Perhaps it had been partly through going out so early and
coming back only when the A.B.C. closed and being out or away so much at
week-ends .... but also she must have been oblivious..... The house had
been her own; waiting for her when she found it; the quiet road of large
high grey mysterious houses, the two rows of calm balconied facades, the
green squares at either end, the green door she waited for as she turned
unseeing into the road from the quiet thoroughfare of Endsleigh Gardens,
her triumphant faithful latchkey, the sheltered dimness of the hall, the
great staircase, the many large closed doors, the lonely obscurity of
her empty top floor. What had come now was the fulfilment of the
apprehension she had had when Mrs. Bailey had spoken the word boarders.
Here they were. They would come and go and go up and downstairs from
their bedrooms to that dining-room where the disturbing disclosure had
been made and the unknown drawing-room...... Perhaps it would be a
failure. She could not imagine Mrs. Bailey and the two vague furtive
children in skimpy blue serge dresses dealing with the young Norwegian
gentleman. He would not stay.... If boarders failed Mrs. Bailey might
give up the house altogether.... She found herself sitting in her
outdoor things with the large volume heavy on her knees in the middle of
the room. She felt too languid and miserable to get up and take the
small chair and the large book to the table and began wretchedly turning
the pages with her gloved hands. Here it was. She glanced through the
long article, reading passages here and there. There seemed to be
nothing more; she had gathered the gist of it all in glancing through it
at Wimpole Street. There was no need to have brought it home. It was
quite clear that she belonged to the lymphatico-nervous class. It was
the worst of the four classes of humanity. But all the symptoms were
hers.... She read once more the account of the nervo-bilious type. It
was impossible to fit into that. Those people were dark and sanguine and
energetic. It was very strange. Having bilious attacks and not having
the advantages of the bilious temperament. It meant having the worst of
everything. No energy no initiative no hopefulness no resisting power;
and sometimes bilious attacks. She was useless; an encumbrance; left out
of life forever, because it was better for life to leave her out.... She
sat staring at the shabby panels of her wardrobe, hating them for their
quiet merciless agreement with her thoughts. To stop now and come to an
end would be a relief. But there was nothing anywhere that would come in
and end her. Why did life produce people with lymphatico-nervous
temperaments? Perhaps it was the explanation of all she had suffered in
the past; of the things that had driven her again and again to go away
and away, anywhere. She wrenched herself away from her thoughts and
flung forward to the sense of sunshine, sudden beautiful things,
unreasonable secret happiness, waiting somewhere beyond the blackness,
to come again. But it would be mean to take them. She brought nothing to
anybody. She had no right to anything. She ought to be branded and go
about in a cloak.... There was no one in the world who would care if she
never appeared anywhere again. She sat shrinking before this thought. It
was the plain and simple truth. Nothing that any kind and cheerful
person might say could alter it. It would only make it worse. She
wondered that she had never put it to herself before. It must always
have been there since her mother's death. There were one or two people
who thought they cared. But they only cared because they did not know.
It they saw more of her they would cease even to think they cared; and
they had their own lives..... She had gone on being happy exactly in the
same way as she had forgotten there were people in the house; just going
lymphatico-nervously about with her eyes shut. But any alternative was
worse. Insincere. If one could not die one must go dragging on, keeping
oneself to oneself. That was why it was a relief to be in London;
surrounded by people who did not know what one was really like. Social
life, any sort of social life anywhere would not help. It only made it
worse. Being like this was not a morbid state due to the lack of
cheerful society. People who said that were wrong. The sign that they
were wrong was the way they went about being deliberately cheerful and
sociable. That was worse than anything; the refusal to face the truth.
But at least they could endure people.... If one could not endure anyone
one ought to be dead .... to sit staring in front of one until one was
dead ... the wardrobe did not disagree. She averted her eyes as from an
observer. They fell upon her hopeless person dressed in the clothes in
which she moved about in the world. She was bitterly cold. But she sat
on unable to summon courage to turn and face her room. Her eyes wandered
vacantly back to the panels and down to the drawer below them and back
again. The warm quiet booming of a gong came up through the house. She
got to her feet and stood listening in amazement. Mrs. Bailey had
instituted a boarding-house gong! She went out on to the landing; the
gong ceased and rattled gently against its framework released from hands
that had stilled its reverberation. A voice sounded in the hall and then
the dining-room door closed and there was silence. They were having tea.
Of course; every day; life going on down there in the dining-room.
Involuntarily her feet were on the stairs. She went down the narrow
flight holding to the balustrade to steady the stumbling of her benumbed
limbs. _What_ was she doing? Going down to Mrs. Bailey; going to stand
for a moment close by Mrs. Bailey's tea-tray. No; impossible to let the
Baileys save her; having done nothing for herself. Impossible to be
beholden to the _Baileys_ for anything. Restoration by them would be
restoration to shame. She had moved unconsciously. Her life was still
her own. She was in the world, in a house, going down some stairs. For
the present the pretence of living could go on. She could not go back to
her room; nor forward to any other room. She pushed blindly on, bitter
anger growing within her. She _had_ moved towards the Baileys. It was
irrevocable. She had departed from all her precedents. She would always
know it. Wherever she found herself it would always be there, at the
root of her consciousness, shaming her, showing in everything she did or
said. Half-way downstairs she restrained her heavy movements and began
to go swiftly and stealthily. Mean, mean mean; utterly mean and damned,
a sneaking evil spirit. She pulled herself upright and cleared her
throat in a business-like way. The echo of Harriett's voice in her voice
plumbed her for tears. But there were no tears. Only something close
round her that moulded her face in lines of despair. The hall was in
sight. She was going down to the hall to look for letters on the
hall-table, and go back. She paused in the hall. If the dining-room door
opened she would kill someone with a cold blind glance and go angrily on
and out of the front door. If it did not open? It remained closed. It
was not going to open. It came quietly wide as if someone had been
waiting behind it with the handle turned. Mrs. Bailey was in the hall
with a firm little hand on her arm.--_Well_, young lady?--Miriam turned
full round, shrinking backwards towards the hall table. Mrs. Bailey was
clutching her hands--Won't you come in and have a cup of tea?----I can't
whispered Miriam briskly, moving towards the dining-room door.--I've got
to go out she murmured, standing just inside the open door.--Going out
asked Mrs. Bailey in a refined little voice throwing a proud fond shy
glance towards Miriam from her recovered place behind the tea-tray. Her
cheeks were flushed and her eyes sparkled brightly under the gaslight.
Miriam's glance elastic in the warmth coming from the room swept from
the flood of yellow hair on the back of the youngest Bailey girl sitting
close at her mother's left hand, across to the far side of the table.
The pale grey-blue eyes of the eldest Bailey girl were directed towards
the bread and butter her hand was stretched out to take with the
unseeing look they must have had when she had turned her face towards
the door. At her side, between her and her mother sat the young
Norwegian gentleman, a dark blue upright form with a narrow gold bar set
aslant in the soft mass of black silk tie bulging about the uncreased
flatness of his length of grey waistcoat. He had reared his head
smoothly upright and a smooth metallic glance had slid across her from
large dark clear easily opened eyes. He was very young, about twenty;
the leanness of his dart-like perfectly clad form led slenderly up to a
lean distinguished head. But above the wide high pale brow where the
bone stared squarely through the skin and was beaten in at the temples
the skull had a snakelike flatness the polished hair was poor and
worn.--Yes, murmured Miriam abstractedly, I'm just going out----Don't
catch cold young lady, smiled Mrs. Bailey.--Oh well, I'll try not to,
said Miriam departing. They'll never do it, she told herself as she made
her way through the darkness towards her A.B.C. He'll find out. He
thinks he is learning English in an English family.


                                   3

Mrs. Bailey came up _herself_ to do Miriam's room on Sunday morning.
Miriam wondered as she came archly in after a brisk tap on the door how
she knew that her visit caused dismay. The visit of the little maid did
not break into anything. It only meant standing for a minute or so by
the window longing for the snuffling and shuffling to be over. But if
Mrs. Bailey were coming up every Sunday morning.... She stood at Mrs.
Bailey's disposal sheepishly smiling, in the middle of the room.--You
didn't expect to see _me_, young lady--Miriam broadened her smile.--I
want to talk to you--They stood confronted in the room just as they had
done the first time Mrs. Bailey had been there with her and they had
settled about the rent. Only that then the room had seemed large and
real and at once inhabited, the crown of the large house and the reality
of all the unknown rooms. Now it seemed to be at a disadvantage, one of
Mrs. Bailey's unconsidered attics, apart from the life that was
beginning to flow all round her downstairs. Something in Mrs. Bailey's
face when she said I was wondering if you would give Sissie a few French
lessons spoke the energy of the new feeling and thought. Miriam was
astounded. She called up a vision of Sissie's pale steady grey-blue
eyes, her characterless hair, her thickset swiftly ambling little
figure. She was the kind of girl who after good schooling could spend a
year in France and come back unable to speak French. But if Mrs. Bailey
wished it she would have to learn from somebody..... So she conspired
with an easy contemptuous conscience and they stood murmuring over the
plan, Mrs. Bailey producing one by one, fearfully, in a low motherly
encouraging tone the things she had arranged beforehand in her own mind.
Before she went she bustled to the window and tweaked the ends of the
little Madras muslin curtains. Why don't you go down to the drawn-room
for a while--she asked tweaking and flicking.--You'll have it all to
yourself. Mr. Elsing's gone out. I should go down if I was you and get a
warm up.--Miriam thanked her and promised to go and wondered whether the
Norwegian's name was Helsing or Elsen. When Mrs. Bailey had gone she
walked busily about her affronted room. It must be Helsing. A man named
Elsen would be shorter and stouter and kindly. Of course she would not
go down to the drawing-room. She ransacked her Saratoga trunk and found
a Havet and a phrase book. She would teach Sissie the rules of French
pronunciation and two or three phrases every day and make some sort of
beginning of syntax with Havet. There would be no difficulty in filling
up the quarter of an hour. But it would be teaching in the bad cruel
old-fashioned way. To begin at once with Piccola or Le Roi des Montagnes
and talk to her in the character of a Frenchman wanting to become a
boarder would be the best..... But Sissie would not grasp that slow way.
It would be too long before she began to see that she was learning
anything ... But the smattering of phrases and rules from a book handed
out without any trouble to herself on her way to her room and before she
wanted to go out was too little to give in exchange for a proper
breakfast ready for her in a warm room every day and the option of
having single meals at any time for a very small sum ...... because the
Baileys were trying to turn themselves into an English family prepared
to receive foreigners who wanted to learn English she had promised the
lessons as if she thought the plan good.......

She crept downstairs through the silent empty house, pausing at the open
drawing-room door to listen to the faint far-away subterranean sounds
coming from the kitchen. All the furniture seemed to be waiting for
someone or something. That was a console table. She must have noticed
the jar on it as she came into the room, or somewhere else, it looked so
familiar. One ought to know the name of the material it was made of. It
was like a coarse veined agate. In the narrow strip of mirror that ran
from the table high up the wall between the two french windows stood the
heavy self-conscious reflection of the elegant jug. It was elegant and
complete; the heavy minutely moulded flowers and leaves festooned about
its tapering curves did not destroy its elegance. It stood out alone and
complete against the reflected strip of shabby room. Extraordinary.
Where had it come from? It was an imitation of something. A reflection
of some other life. Had it ever been seen by anybody who knew the kind
of life it was meant to be surrounded by? She backed into an obstacle
and turned with her hand upon the low velvet back of a little circular
chair. Its narrow circular strip of back was supported by little wooden
pillars. She took possession of it. The coiled spring of the seat showed
its humpy outline through the velvet and gave way crookedly under her
when she sat down. But she felt she was in her place in the room; out
amongst its strange spaces. In front of her about the fireside were two
large armchairs upholstered in shabby Utrecht velvet and a wicker chair
with a woolwork cushion on its seat and a dingy antimacassar worked in
crewels thrown over its high back. To her right stood a small battered
three-tiered lacquer and bamboo tea-table, and beyond it a large
circular table polished and inlaid and strewn with dingy books occupied
the end of the room between the fireplace and the wall. On the other
side of the fireplace stood a chiffonier in black wood supporting and
reflecting in its little mirror a large square deeply carved dusty brown
wooden box inlaid with mother-of-pearl. Crowding against the chiffonier
was a large shabby bamboo tea-table and a scatter of velvet-seated
drawing-room chairs with carved dusty abruptly curving backs and legs.
Away to the left rose one of the high french windows. The dingy cream
lace curtains almost meeting across it, went up and up from the dusty
floor and ended high up, under a red woollen valence hanging from a
heavy gilt cornice. Between the curtains she could catch a glimpse of
the balcony railings and strips between them of the brown brickwork of
the opposite house. She stared at the vague scatter of vases and bowls
and small ornaments standing in front of the large overmantel and dimly
reflected in its dusty mirror. Two tall vases on the mantelshelf holding
dried grasses carried her eyes up to two short vases holding dried
grasses standing on the wooden-pillared brackets of the overmantel, and
back again to themselves. She rose and turned away to shake off their
influence and turned back again at once to see what had attracted her
attention. Satsuma; at either end of the mantelpiece shutting in the
scatter of vases and bowls two large squat rounded Satsuma basins--with
arched lids. On the centre of each lid was a little gilded knob.
Extraordinary. Unlike any Satsuma she had ever seen. Where had they come
from? She wandered about the room, eagerly taking in battered chairs and
more little tables and whatnots and faded pictures on the faded walls.
What was it that had risen in her mind as she came into the room? She
recalled the moment of coming in. The _piano_ .... the quiet shock of it
standing there with the shut-in waiting look of a piano, confronting the
large stillness of the room.... Turning to face it she passed into the
world of drawing-room pianos; the rosewood case, the faded rose silk
pleating strained taut, its margin hidden under a rosewood trellis; the
little tarnished sconces, for shaded candles, the small leather-topped
easily twirling stool with its single thick deeply carved leg, a lady
sitting, tinkling and flourishing delicately through airs with
variations; an English piano, perfectly wrought and finished, music
swathed and hidden in elegance .... "a little music" ... but chiefly the
seated form, the small cooped body, the voluminous draperies bulging
over the stool and spreading in under the keyboard and down about the
floor, the elegantly straying arms and mincing hands, the arch swaying
of the head and shoulders, the face bent delicately in the becoming play
of light ...... She opened the lid. It went back from the keys till it
lay flat, presenting a little music-stand folded into the sweep of its
upper edge. Mustiness rose from the keys. They were loose and yellow
with age. Softly struck notes shattered the silence of the room. She
stood listening with loudly beating heart. The door would open and show
a face with surprised eyes staring into her betrayed consciousness. The
house remained silent. Her fingers strayed forward and ran up a scale.
The notes were all run down but they rang fairly true to each other.

Moszkowski's Serenade sounded fearfully pathetic; as if the piano were
heart-broken. It could be made to do better. Both the pedals worked, the
soft one producing a woolly sweetness, the loud a metallic shallow
brilliance of tone. She shut the heavy softly closing loose-handled door
very carefully. Its cold china knob told her callously that her real
place was in the little room upstairs with the bedroom crockery cold in
the mid-morning light. But she had already shut the door. She came shyly
back to the piano and sat down and played carefully and obediently piece
after piece remembered from her schooldays. They left the room
triumphantly silent and heavy all round her. If she got up and went away
it would be as if she had not played at all. She could not sit here
playing Chopin. It would be like deliberately speaking a foreign
language suddenly, to assert yourself. Playing pianissimo she slowly
traced a few phrases of a nocturne. They revealed all the flat dejection
of the register. With the soft pedal down she pressed out the notes in a
vain attempt to key them up. Through their mournful sagging the magic
shape came out. She could not stay her hands. Presently she no longer
heard the false tones. The notes sounded soft and clear and true into
her mind weaving and interweaving the sight of moonlit waters, the sound
of summer leaves flickering in the darkness, the trailing of dusk across
misty meadows, the stealing of dawn over grass, the faint vision of the
Taj Mahal set in dark trees, white Indian moonlight outlining the trees
and pouring over the pale facade; over all a hovering haunting consoling
voice pure and clear, in a shape, passing as the pictures faintly came
and cleared and melted and changed upon a vast soft darkness, like a
silver thread through everything in the world. Closing in upon her from
the schoolgirl pieces still echoing in the room came sudden abrupt
little scenes from all the levels of her life, deep-rooted moments still
alive within her challenging and promising as when she had left them,
driven relentlessly on... The last chord of the nocturne brought the
room sharply back. It was unchanged; lifeless and unmoved; nothing had
passed to it from the little circle where she sat enclosed.... Her heart
swelled and tears rose in her eyes. The room was old and experienced,
full like her inmost mind of the unchanging past. Nothing in her life
had any meaning for it. It waited impassively for the passing to and fro
of people who would leave no impression. She had exposed herself and it
meant nothing in the room. Life had passed her by and her playing had
become a sentimental exhibition of unneeded life... She was wretched and
feeble and tired.... Life _has_ passed me by; that is the truth. I am no
longer a person. My playing would be the nauseating record of an
uninteresting failure to people who have lived or a pandering to the
sentimental memories of people whom life has passed by ....--you played
that like a snail crossed in love--perhaps he was right. But something
had gone wrong because I played with the intention of commenting on
Alma's way of playing...... That was not all. It did not end there.
There was something in music when one played alone, without thoughts.
Something present, and _new_. Not affected by life or by any kind of
people.... In Beethoven. _Beethoven_ was the answer to the silence of
the room. She imagined a sonata ringing out into it, and defiantly
attacked a remembered fragment. It crashed into the silence. The
uncaring room might rock and sway. Its rickety furniture shatter to
bits. _Something_ must happen under the outbreak of her best reality.
She was on firm ground. The room was nowhere. She cast sidelong
half-fearful exultant glances. The room woke into an affronted silence.
She felt astonishment at the sudden loud outbreak of assertions turning
to scornful disgust. Entrenched behind the disgust something was
declaring that she had no right to her understanding of the music; no
business to get away into it and hide her defects and get out of things
and escape the proper exposure of her failure. In a man it would have
been excusable. The room would have listened with respectful flattering
indulgent tolerance till it was over and then have relapsed untouched.
This dingy woman playing with the directness and decision of a man was
like some strange beast in the room.... It was too late to go back. She
could only rush on re-affirming her assertion, shouting in a din that
must be reaching up and down the house and echoing out into the street
the thing that was stronger than the feeling that had prompted her
appeal for sympathy. It was the everlasting parting of the ways, the
wrenching away that always came.... The Baileys were going on downstairs
with their planning, the Norwegian busy with his cold watchful grappling
with England; all of them far away, flouted. The room became a
background indistinguishable from any other indifferent background. All
round her was height and depth, a sense of vastness and grandeur beyond
anything to be seen or heard, yet stretching back like a sheltering wing
over the past to her earliest memories and forward ahead out of sight.
The piano had changed. It gave out a depth and fulness of tone. By
careful management she could avoid the abrupt contrast between the
action of the pedals. Presently the glowing and aching of the muscles of
her forearms forced her to leave off. She swung round. The forgotten
room was filled with friendly light. Triumphant echoes filled its wide
spaces, pressed against the windows, filtered out into the quiet street
out and away into London. When the room was still there was an unbroken
stillness in the house and the street. Striking thinly across it came
the tones of the solitary unaccompanied violin.



                              CHAPTER III


                                   1

Miriam let herself cautiously in. The whole house was hers; she was a
_boarder_; but the right to linger freely in any part of it was bought
by Sissie's French lessons and being Sissie's teacher meant that the
Baileys could approach familiarly at any moment ...... all her
privileges were bought with a heavy price, here and at Wimpole Street
..... it's us; our family; always masquerading. But the lessons made
opportunities of being affable to the Baileys; removing the need for
seeking them out purposely from time to time. Cut and dried. I've
_pa_triotic ballads cut and dried. I'm cut and dried, everybody thinks.
Moving and speaking stiffly, the stamp of my family, the minute anything
is expected of me. Nobody knows me. I grow more and more unknown and
more and more like what people think of me.... But _I_ know; and things
go on coming; scraps of other people's things. No one in the world could
imagine what it is to me to have this house; the fag-end of the Baileys'
stock-in-trade. God couldn't know, completely. There's something wrong
about it; but damn, I can't help it. In my secret self I should love a
prison. Walls. What _are_ walls?

If she scuffed her muddy shoes too cheerfully someone would appear at
the dining-room door. Beyond the gaslight pouring down on to the smeary
marble of the hall table and glimmering against the threatening
dining-room door the dim staircase beckoned her up into darkness. A few
steps and she would be going upstairs. Where? What for? Hgh--HEE! at the
far end of the passage beyond the hall..... There was a line of bright
light there, coming through the chink of the little door usually hidden
in the darkness beyond where the Baileys disappeared down the basement
stairs. Then there was a _room_ there...... The little door was pushed
open and a man's figure stood outlined against the bright light and
disappeared, shutting the door. There had been a table and a lamp upon
it .... the sound of the laugh rang in her head; a single lively
deep-chested note followed by a falsetto note that curved hysterically
up. Men; gentlemen. How long had they been there? They would not stay.
How had they come? Where had Mrs. Bailey found them? Had they already
found out that it was not their sort of house? Whom were they afraid of
shocking with their refinement and freedom? They were making a bright
little world in there by feeling themselves surrounded by people who
would be shocked. They did not know there was someone there they could
not shock.... She imagined herself in the doorway .... _hullo_! Fancy
you _here_.... The dining-room door had opened and Mrs. Bailey was
standing in the hall with the door open behind her. Miriam was not
prepared with a refusal of the invitation to come in. She glanced over
Mrs. Bailey's shoulder and saw the two girls sitting at the fireside.
Two letters on the hall-table addressed to the Norwegian told her that
the Baileys were alone. She yielded to Mrs. Bailey's delighted manner
and went in. She would stay, keeping on her outdoor things, long enough
to hear about the new people. The close sickly sweet air of the room
closed oppressively round her heavy garments--Here you are young lady
sit here--said Mrs. Bailey piloting her to a chair in front of the fire.
There was a stranger sitting at the fireside. Mr. Mendizabble murmured
Mrs. Bailey as Miriam sat down. Miriam's affronted eyes took in the
figure of a man sitting on the wooden stool crowded in between the
mantelpiece and the easy chair occupied by Sissie; a man from a café
..... a foreign waiter in his best clothes, sheeny stripy harsh pale
grey, a crimson waistcoat showing up the gleam of a gold watch-chain,
and crimson cloth slippers; an Italian, a Frenchman, a French-Swiss. He
was sitting bent conversationally forward with his elbows on his knees
and his hands clasped; quite at home. They had evidently been sitting
there all the evening. The air was thick with their intercourse. Miriam
received an abrupt nod in answer to her murmur and her stiff bow and
followed with resentful curiosity the little foreign tune the man began
humming far away in his head. He had not even glanced her way and the
tune was his response to Mrs. Bailey's introduction. The remains of a
derisive smile seemed to snort from the firmly sweeping white nostrils
above his tiny trim bushily upward curving black moustache. It moulded
the strong closed lips and shone behind the whole of his curiously
square evenly modelled face. The Bailey girls were watching him with
shiny flushed cheeks and bright eyes. His skin was white and clean .....
mat; like felt ..... untouched and untried in the exhausted air of the
shabby room. An insolent waiter. He had turned away towards the fire
after his nod. From under a firm black-lashed white lid a bright dark
eye gazed derision into the flames.

Go on Mr. Mendizzable smiled Mrs. Bailey brushing at her skirt with her
handkerchief--we are most interested.

Hay, madame that is all, he laughed derisively in rich singing swaying
tones towards the middle of the hearthrug--I skate from one end of their
canal to another, faster than them all. I win their prize. Je m'en
fiche--

You skated all the way along the canal.--

Ieeea skate their can_al_. That was Amsterdam. I do many things there. I
edit their newspaper. I conduct a café.

Mts. You _have_ had some adventures--

That was not adventures in Amsterdam mon dieu! He swayed drumming from
foot to foot in time to his shouts. Had he really beaten those wonderful
skaters? Perhaps he had not. She glanced at his brow calm, firm, dead
white under the soft crisply ridged black hair. Perhaps he was Dutch;
and that was why he looked common and also refined.


                                   2

At ten o'clock the youngest girl was sent to bed. Miriam scornfully
watched herself miss her opportunity of getting away. She sat
fascinated, resenting the interruption; enviously filching the gay
outbreaking kindness that robbed the departure of humiliation and sent
the girl away counting on to-morrow. He went out of his way to make
_Polly Bailey_ happy .... and sat on by the dying fire unwearied,
freshly humming to himself towards the dingy hearth scattered thinly
with sparse dusty ash. Mrs. Bailey returned, raked together the remains
of the fire and settled herself in her chair with a shiver. In a moment
she would begin her questionings and the voice would sound again.--You
cold mother darling? Come nearer the fire--Mrs. Bailey pulled her chair
a few inches forward arching her neck and smiling her bright sweet
smile--Oogh, its parky upstairs--Miriam implored herself to go. Parky,
reiterated Mrs. Bailey uncertainly, glancing daintily from side to side
and smiling away a yawn behind her small rough reddened hand--Parky?
What is parky?--_Parky_, said Mrs. Bailey, _cold_; like a park--Ah, I
see. That is good. When I go upstairs I go to Hyde Park.... I shall have
in my bedroom a band and a mass meeting, and a policeman. Salvation Army
Band. Miriam sat stiffly through the laughter of the Baileys. Her
refusal to join brought the discomforting realisation of having laughed,
several times during the past hour. She had laughed in spite of herself,
flinging her laughter out across the hearthrug towards the dying fire,
leading the laughter of the Baileys, holding them off and herself apart.
Now suddenly by refusing to share their laughter when they led the way
she had openly separated herself from them. Then they knew she stayed on
under a charm. They had witnessed her theft from the wealth _they_ had
provided, her gratitude to him for the store of memories she had
gathered. It was the price. It stung and tried to humiliate her. She sat
steadily on, flouting it. The grouping would not recur. Why did not Mrs.
Bailey make him go on talking? A cold gloom spread sideways from the
polished arch of the grate, encroaching on the corner where he sat
drumming and humming. She drew her eyes with an air of absorption
towards the dying fire. Its aspect was unendurably bleak. Her mind
shrank from it, only to meet the sense of the cold darkness waiting
upstairs. Mrs. Bailey's voice bridged the emptiness. Some inner link was
restored. Somewhere in her voice was something that rang restoringly
round the world. The disconnected narrative was flowing again. The
chilly hearth glowed with a small dull brilliance.... The foreign voice
went on and on, narrative dialogue commentary running flowing leaping,
in the voice that rang whatever it said in bright sunshine. She listened
openly, apologising in swift affectionate glances for her stiff
middle-class resentment of his vulgar appearance. Was he vulgar? She
tried in vain to recall her first impression. That curious blending of
sturdy strength and polished refinement in the handsome head was
something well-known in the head of a friend. She forced her friends to
apologise and submit to the charm.....


                                   3

It was nearly midnight. The grey of to-morrow morning kept pressing on
her attention. She gathered herself together to go, and rose
reluctantly. The outer chill came down to meet her rising form. The glow
of life was left there at the heart of the circle by the fire. The
little man leapt up--Hah, _good_ night all--and pushed past her and out
of the room. Mrs. Bailey had made some remark towards her as she neared
the door. She professed not to hear and went slowly on in the wake of
the footsteps leaping up the dark flights. They crossed the landing next
below hers and ceased. When she rounded the stairs light blazed from a
wide-open door and a little melody sounded for an instant in a smooth
swaying falsetto. As soon as she had passed, the door was violently
slammed .... all those stories were _true_. And the first one about the
skating. She imagined the white brow under a fur cap and the square
short strong well-knit form swaying strongly from side to side, on and
on, ironically winning.


                                   4

Sissie read her set of phrases in heavy docility. Her will and the
shapeless colourless voice murmuring from the back of her throat were
given to the lesson; but the kindly sullen profile smouldered in
slumber. Miriam pondered at ease, contrasting the two voices as they
placed one after the other the little trite sentences upon the empty
air. That Sissie should speak her French in the worst kind of English
way did not really matter. But why was it? What did it mean? They all
had something in common--all the people who spoke French like that ....
a slender young man darted noiselessly into the room and began busily
dusting the sideboard. He was wearing a striped cotton jacket. Mrs.
Bailey had engaged a manservant.... It was impossible. He would not be
able to be kept. It was like a play. He was like a character in a farce,
rushing on and whisking things about. It was a play; amateur
theatricals, Mrs. Bailey rushing radiantly about, stage-managing. It was
pretending things were different when they were not; breaking up the
atmosphere of the house. Where did she get her ideas? ..... Coming back
to her surveillance she listened intently. Wait a minute, she said, we
will begin all over again. I see exactly what it is. There's no
difficulty. You can learn all about pronunciation in a few minutes.
Sissie had started. Controlling herself she took her attention from the
book long enough to give Miriam a sympathetic glancing smile. Let the
words _ring_ in your head, _into_ your nose and against your forehead.
Sissie sat back smiling, and sat watching Miriam's face. It's _we_ who
speak _through_ the nose. And mouth. In gusts, whoof, whoof, from the
chest all sound and no enunciation. Sissie's eyes were roving intently
about Miriam's face. They _stop_ the breath at the lips and in the nose.
Bong. That's through the nose. _Bon!_ D'you hear; like a little
explosion. Hold the lips tight before the b and explode the word up into
the nose partly closing the back of the throat and mouth. It's all like
that and the pronunciation does not vary. When you know the few rules
and get the vowels pure and explode the consonants, that's all there is.
Sissie waited, controlling an apologetic smile. She had realised nothing
but the violent outburst and was secretly laughing over the idea of
explosions.... Say matin, suggested Miriam patiently. Mattong, murmured
Sissie. Say mattah, persisted Miriam. The youth came flourishing in with
the coal box. That's right. Now try forcing the ah up into your nose and
shutting your nose on it. It's time to lay the table Emyou, stated
Sissie reprovingly towards the hearthrug. Pliz?--The young man reared a
mild fair crested head above the rim of the table. Lay the table, tarb,
paw dinnay snapped Sissie. I shall have to go Miss Henderson she added,
getting gently up and ambling to the door. The young man shot murmuring
from the room. They appeared to collide in the hall. Miriam found
herself in the midst of a train of thought that had distracted her
during her morning's work. _Cosmopolis_, she scribbled in her note-book.
The world of science and art is the true cosmopolis. Those were not the
words in "Cosmopolis" but it was the idea. Perhaps no one had thought of
it before the man who thought of having the magazine in three languages.
It would be one of the new ideas. Tearing off the page she laid it on
the sofa-head and sat contemplating an imagined map of Europe with
London Paris and Berlin joined by a triangle, the globe rounding vaguely
off on either side. All over the globe, dotted here and there were
people who read and thought, making a network of unanimous culture. It
was a tiring reflection; but it brought a comfortable assurance that
somewhere beyond the hurrying confusion of everyday life something was
being done quietly in a removed real world that led the other world.
People arrived independently at the same conclusions in different
languages and in the world of science they communicated with each other.
That made Cosmopolis. Yet it was an awful thought that the world might
gradually become all one piece; perhaps with one language; perhaps
English if those people were right who talked about Anglo-Saxon
supremacy. "England and America together could rule the world." It
sounded secure and comforting, like a police-station; it would be
wonderful to belong to the race whose language was spoken all over the
world. All the foreigners would simply have to become English. But that
brought a dreadful sense of loss. Foreign languages had a beauty that
could not be found in English, and the world would be _ruled_ by the
kind of English people who could never get the sound of a foreign word
and who therefore had all sorts of appalling obliviousness.

"You write that miss?"

Yes, said Miriam leaping through surprise and indignation to delight.
Sissie and Emile were back again in the room hurrying and angry. The
little man bid them a loud good-evening; a tablecloth was flountering
out across the large table. Miriam returned to her note-book. He was
_writing_, with a scrap of pencil taken from his pocket, on her piece of
paper, held against the wall. There miss he shouted gruffly, handing it
to her. Lies, she read; scribbled in a rounded hand across her words,
and underneath--there is NO Cosmopolis. Bernard Mendizabal.

Oh yes, there _is_ a cosmopolis argued Miriam looking up and out from a
whirl of convincing images. He was walking about in the window space in
his extraordinary clothes, short and somehow too square for his clothes,
making his clothes look square. His square roundly modelled head was
changeably sculptured by the gaslight as he paced up and down. His
distinction seemed to be sharpened by her words as she said vous avez
tort monsieur. She had a sense of Emile and Sissie glancing and
affronted while she slid down her sentence to leap, flouting them,
forsaking her crowding thoughts, and catch at any cost, the joy of
saying and hearing no matter what, in foreign speech. She would pay for
the moment any price to make it sound and keep it sounding in the room.
The spaces of her separate life in the house became a background for
this familiar forgotten joy so unexpectedly renewed.

"_No_ miss!" shouted Mr. Mendizabal. She cast a fierce general scowl
towards his promenading figure. He was another of those foreigners who
care for nothing in England but practising English. Then she would fight
her theory.

"Je n'ai pas tort" he thundered, standing before her with his hands in
his pockets. He was taking her French for granted. In her thankfulness
she sat docile before a torrent of words taking in nothing of their
meaning, throwing out provisional phrases according to his tone of
question or assertion. The Baileys coming in and out of the room would
see "an animated French conversation" and Sissie and Emile would forget
her desperate onslaught in their admiration of the spectacle. The more
she kept it glowing and emphatic and alive the further she was redeemed.
She gave no glance their way. Dinner must be almost ready. Soon she
would have to go. The gong would tell her. Till then she could remain
immersed in the tide of words. The little man was earnest and enraged.
He used his French easily and fluently. It was not wonderful to him
suddenly to become French, to feel the things he expressed change,
become clear neat patterns, lose some of their meaning, fall open to
attack; the pain of the failure of words so set out, was made bearable
by the wonder of the journey from speech to speech. He remained himself,
apparantly unaware of the change of environment, or indifferent to
it.... _En déche_ what did that mean? Vous devez me voir en déche. You
ought to see me en déche. That seemed to be his summing up, the basis of
his denial of a cosmopolis. She attended. The only way he declared, as
if recalling an earlier assertion, of proving the indifference of
everyone to everyone else is to be en déche. Smiling comprehensively
just before he turned on his heel and swung round, she drifted out of
the room amidst the clangour of the gong .... en déche .... déchéance?
.... somehow at a disadvantage. She thought her written phrases in
French. They sounded a little grandiloquent. Someone seemed to be
declaiming them from a platform. He probably had not realised what she
was trying to say. But he was a cosmopolitan, and he denied that there
was any cosmopolis, any sympathy between races, even between
individuals. He was a pessimist. With all his charm and zest he believed
in nothing and nobody. And he spoke from experience. Perhaps it was only
in thoughts not in life that these things existed. People talked about
cosmopolis because they wanted to believe it. Had he said that?



                               CHAPTER IV


                                   1

Sitting down almost the moment Mr. Mendizabal brought him into the room
and playing _Wagner_. With many wrong notes and stumbling phrases, but
self-forgetfully, in the foreign way. Keeping bravely on, making the
shape come even in the most difficult parts. He was hearing the Queen's
Hall Orchestra all the time, and he knew that anyone who knew it could
hear it too. He was one of those people who stand in the arena and talk
about the music and know that there are piano scores and get them and
play them. It was amazing that there should be piano scores of Wagner.
Did he play because he wanted to remember the orchestra; without
thinking of the people who were listening. He did not know the Baileys
and their boarders. He could not imagine how extraordinary it was to
hear Wagner in the room, suddenly offered to the _Baileys_. They knew
something important was going on; sitting close round the piano
surprised and attentive, busily speculating, in scraps, hampered by the
need to appear to be listening. Afterwards they would talk to him
arching and laughing, Mr. Mendizabal's friend. Perhaps he would come and
play Wagner again; there would be music in the room undisturbed by their
forced attention. This was only a beginning.

At the end of the overture he sat quite still, making no movement of
turning towards the room. The group about the piano were taken by
surprise, waiting for him to turn. When they began making exclamations
his hands were on the piano again. The room was silenced by strange
little sentences of music. He played short fragments, unfamiliar things
with strange phrasing, difficult to trace, unmelodious, but haunted by
suggested melody; a curious flattened wandering abrupt intimate message
in their phrases; perhaps Russian or Brahms. Not Wagner writing down the
world in sound nor Beethoven speaking to one person. Other foreign
musicians, set apart, glancing, and listening to strange single things,
speaking in pain, just out of clear hearing, their speech unfinished.
Russian or Hungarian. Dvor-tchak. I will ask him. Perhaps he plays
Chopin.

The Baileys were growing weary of listening. They were becoming
strangers in their own dining-room, with a wonderful important evening
going on all round them. Miriam consulted Sissie, probing enviously for
the dark busy sulkily hidden thoughts going to and fro behind her
attitude of listening. Her eyes were drawing pictures of Mr. Bowdoin's
back view and noting his movements. Mrs. Bailey was still smiling her
pride. Her tired eyes were strained brightly towards the performance
with the proper expression of delighted appreciation. But now and again
they moved observantly across the slender shabby form and revealed her
circling thoughts. When she looked at the back of the thatch of soft
fine fair hair she was seeing that officeful of men painting posters,
the first arrival of Mr. Mendizabal, their resentment of his quick work,
the poster he thought of in the night, here, and worked out at the
office in an hour, the musician playing so gravely not knowing that he
was being seen as the man who was forced by Mr. Mendizabal to play a
Beethoven Sonata on the typewriter with his hair in curl-papers. If Mrs.
Bailey went too deeply into her speculations she would be too confused
to ask him to come again. Perhaps Mr. Mendizabal would bring him anyhow.
He was lounging back in his chair with his hands in his pockets. His
face seemed to be laughing ironically behind a proud smile. He respected
music. He admired Bowdoin for his talent. He was showing him off. It was
charming ... like Trilby. Men laughing at each other and admiring each
other...... She had left off listening. Mr. Bowdoin was sitting there at
her side, separate from his music, sitting there English, a little
altered by going out into foreign music. A sort of foreigner with an
English expression. Her glance had shown her an English profile, a
blunted irregular aquiline, a little defaced about the mouth and chin by
the influence on the muscles of a common way of speaking. But the back
of his head was foreign, the outline of his skull fine and delicate, a
delicate arch at the top and the back flattened a little under the soft
fall of hair. He was stopping. He sat still, facing the piano. There
were stirrings and murmurs and uncertain attempts at applause. Mr.
Mendizabal rose and stood over him, as if to smite him on the shoulder.
What do you think about when you play _Beethoven_?--said Miriam hastily.
His face came round and Mr. Mendizabal turned hilariously away to the
room.--By-toven himself I think said Mr. Bowdoin quietly.--If I get a
Beethoven's Sonatas would you play one?--I _will_ play one for you. But
not this evening I think--He turned back to the piano and Miriam gazed
at his indrawn profile. He was quite English and had all the English
thoughts and feelings about the little group gathered behind him in the
room. But there was something besides. He was a musician and that made
him understand. He knew the room was impervious to music and was ill at
ease after the first joy of playing, and could not convince his hearers
by vitality and exuberance as a foreigner would do even with quite
fragile subdued delicately controlled music. If you care about music he
said towards the piano, will you come one evening and let me play to you
on my own piano? I should like it more than anything said Miriam,
quivering, and clenching her clasped hands. It will be an honour and a
great pleasure to me if you will come he said in his quiet weary voice.
I will take the liberty of writing to suggest an evening. Miriam's
abrupt rising and blind movement left her standing opposite the
lady-help, who was standing with a foot on the fender and an elbow on
the mantelpiece, on the other side of the hearthrug. After only two days
in the house she seemed already more at home than the Baileys; talking
derisively across at Mr. Mendizabal who was marching up and down the far
side of the room with his hands in pockets shouting raillery and
snorting. D'you like London Miss Scott? said Miriam uncontrollably to
her averted talking face. Miss Scott completed her sally; the Baileys
were talking to Mr. Bowdoin, just behind at the piano. Perhaps no one
had witnessed her wild attack. But she could not take her eyes off Miss
Scott's face. It turned towards her still wearing its derisive smile.
What was that you said Miss Henderson I beg your pardon, she stated
encouragingly. She was not in the least impressed by being spoken to.
Her swift amused glance was all she could manage without breaking into
shouts of laughter. Her laughter-shaken person was the front of a
barricade of derision. Miriam repeated her question, fearfully
consulting the small sheeny satin dress, with the lace collar, the neat
slipper on the fender, the heavy little fringe stopping abruptly at the
hollow temples above high cheekbones and slightly hollow cheeks and
leading back to a tiny knot at the top of the head. Perhaps she was a
lady. Ye see so little of it unless yerra wealthy, she said in curious
tonguey tones, standing upright on the hearthrug and flinging back her
head with every other word; backing away with a balancing movement from
foot to foot. She laughed on her last word and stood shaking with
laughter, her elbow on the far corner of the mantelshelf and her foot
once more on the fender. Perhaps she was still laughing at some jest of
Mr. Mendizabal's. Arrya fond of London Miss Henderson, she chuckled and
went on without waiting for an answer, with rhythmically flinging
head,--it's ahl very well if ya can go out to theeaturras and consurruts
and out and about; but when the season comes and the people are in the
parruk and in thayre grand houses having parrties and gaities and yew've
just got to do nothing I think its draydefle.--She laughed consumedly,
throwing back her head. Miriam got herself across the room and outside
the door. On the hall table lay a letter; from Eve; witnessing her
discomfort; soothing, and reproaching...... Eve would have stayed and
talked to the musician.

Up in her cold room everything vanished into the picture of Eve,
deciding away down in green Wiltshire, to leave off teaching; smiling,
stretching out her firm small hands and taking hold of _London_. London
changed as she read. She sat stupefied. It seemed impossible,
terrifying, that Eve penniless, with her uncertain health should leave
the wealthy comfort of the Greens after all these years. Too excited to
read word by word she scanned the pages and learned that Madame Leroy a
friend of Mrs. Green who had a flower shop in Bruton Street had engaged
her....... _I decorated the table for dinner each night when she was
here at Christmas .... the Greens have been charming, quite excited
about the plans_ .... coming up _next week_.... Miriam leapt to her feet
and began hastily putting on her things. "Eve is coming to London for a
six months' course in floral decorations. She is putting up at a
hostel." She pulled on her cold sodden shoes. "Eve is going to be an
assistant in a flower shop at fifteen shillings a week. She has taken a
cubicle at a branch of the Young Women's Bible Association." By the time
she was ready she felt she must have dreamed the news. Eve, not a
governess, free, in London, just as she was herself. Another self, in
London. Eve being led about and taught London, going about under the
same skies, in the streets, feeling exactly as she felt. Nothing would
have changed before she came. The rain gently thudding on the roof and
rattling against the landing skylight was Eve's rain. She was listening
to it and hearing it in exactly the same way.....

The girls did not realise the news at all. They kept going off into
questions about details until the fact of Eve's coming disappeared
altogether and only Eve's point of view and Eve's courage and her
difficulties remained..... One had told it the wrong way. Better not to
have given any facts at all but just to have said Eve's coming to
London; isn't it weird? But then they would have said is she coming to
London to see the Queen? The Queen. That would have been true. She was
coming to London partly to see the Queen. Perhaps the trouble was that
they had been cheated by not being told exactly how Eve was only just
managing to come at all and how scraped everything would be. But at
least they realised that one had people belonging to one who made up
their minds and did definite things, like other people. It was amazing
to decide to come to London and be a florist; _Napoleon_. They realised
that and nothing else. She would be able to tell Mr. Hancock on Monday;
first him, first thing in the morning and the Orlys during the day.

Mr. Hancock understood at once, making no response at all at first and
then standing quietly about near her as she busied herself with her
dusting really giving himself to taking in the simple stupendous fact;
and really realising it before asking any questions and asking them in a
tone that showed he knew what it meant and going on showing all day in
his manner that he knew what it was that kept her so brisk about her
work. He was divine; he was a divine person. She would never forget
being able to say just anyhow, h'm, I've got a _sister_ coming to
London; and his immediate silent approach across the room, drying his
hands...... Of _course_ the Orlys immediately said Oh how nice for you,
you won't be so lonely. _What_ did people mean about loneliness? It was
always the people arranged in groups and seeming so lost and isolated
and lonely who said that...... To-night she would begin turning out her
room for Eve's reception. No. It was the Dante lecture.... The day Eve
came she would buy some flowers. She understood now why people wanted to
put flowers in their rooms when people were coming. She would be a
hostess. Some people bought flowers and carried them home when they were
alone.... It must be like inviting a guest to keep you company. Like
saying you were alone and not liking being alone and putting flowers
about to tell you all the time that you did not want to be alone but
were. People _talked_ about these things. "I always buy flowers when I
am alone." Like suddenly taking off all their things and showing that
they had a crooked body. If they were really miserable about being alone
they would be too miserable to buy flowers. If they really wanted the
flowers enough to buy them they were already not alone. If they bought
the flowers in that fussy excited thoughtless way people seemed to do
things they were neither really ever alone or ever really with people
.... they were in that sort of state that made social life a talkative
nothingness sliding about on nothing....

At the end of the afternoon she wandered forgetfully into the warmth of
the empty waiting-room. The house was silent. Her footsteps made no
sound along the carpeted hall and were lost in the thick Turkey
carpeting of the waiting-room floor. The room was lit only by the
firelight. From its wide clear core striped by black bars a broad
rose-gold shaft glowed out across the room reaching the copper vessels
on the black oak sideboard and the lower part of the long mirror between
the windows where the midmost piece of copper gleamed in reflection. She
stood still, holding the warm air in her nostrils, everything was
blotted out and then restored to its place .... what place, why was it
good, what was she trying to remember? .... In the familiar fire-lit
winter darkness was a faint dry warm scent ..... mimosa. It was a
repetition ..... It had been there last year, suddenly; drily fragrant
in the winter darkness of the warm room preparing for the light and
warmth of the evening. It had seemed then like some wealthy
extravagance, bringing a sense of the freedom of wealth to have things
out of season, and a keen sudden memory in the dark London room of the
unspoken inexpressible beauty of Newlands ...... its soft-toned softly
carpeted and curtained effect, fragrant with clusters of winter flowers,
standing complete somewhere in the secret black spaces of her mind......
But now here it was again, just at the same moment, just before the
winter darkness began to give way. Perhaps mimosa came at this time of
year suddenly in the shops, before the spring flowers, and careful
people like Mrs. Orly could buy it ... then in London mimosa was the
sign of _spring_. It was like the powdery fragrance of a clear warm
midsummer evening, like petal-dust; pollen-dust; the whole summer
circling in the glow of firelight. Then Eve would not come this winter.
The darkest secret winter-time of London was over again. It would come
again in single moments and groups of days, but its time was gone. The
moment of realisation of spring had come by surprise; there lay all the
spring days ahead leading on to summer spread out for anyone to see,
calling to Eve or to anyone who might have come into the room to whom
one could have said doesn't the smell of mimosa make you realise the
winter is over; and here within, lit up as if by a suddenly switched on
electric light was one's own real realisation going back and back; in
pictures that grew clearer, each time something happened that switched
on a light within the black spaces of your mind. Things that no one
could share, coming again and again just as some outside thing was
beginning to interest you, as if to _remind_ you that the inmost reality
comes to you when you are alone...... The prospect of Eve's coming was
changed. The pang of the mimosa came nearer than anything she could
bring. Perhaps it would be possible to tell her about this moment?
Perhaps her coming had made it more real. Yet now it did not seem to
matter so much whether she came or not. In a way it seemed as though the
fact of her coming threatened something.


                                   2

"Antoine Bowdoin." If she had had a solemn letter from him first she
would never have undertaken to go and hear him play. The formal courtly
old-fashioned phrases had nothing to do with the hours of music. She had
thought of nothing but the music on the good piano and now when she had
forgotten all about it there was this awful result; the "few friends"
gathered together in his room on a fixed date so that she might go and
hear him play. She would have to sit, with a party, and afterwards find
something to say.... An Englishman, solemn and polite, playing foreign
music, with English friends politely and solemnly sitting round. There
was no word of Mr. Mendizabal. He was not going. If he had been Mr.
Bowdoin would not have said I will call at six-thirty for the purpose of
escorting you to my rooms. He was like a gaoler. Perhaps the walk would
be an opportunity of getting over nervousness. There would be music at
once, no meal to get through. She would thank him very much for the
great treat and when it was over there would only be Eve and the
accomplishment of having heard a good piano played by a musician. He
could be dropped.... He could be asked to come just once and play for
Eve. That would be a great London evening for Eve...... The sense of a
complex London life crowded with engagements made her pace in spite of
her weariness up and down the platform at Gower Street. Its familiar
sulphurous gloom, the platform lights shining murkily from the midst of
slowly rolling clouds of grey smoke, the dark forms and phantom white
faces of waiting passengers emerging suddenly as she threaded the
darkness, revived her. By the time the train rolled slowly in behind its
beloved black dumpy high-shouldered engine with its large unshrieking
mushroom bell-whistle the journey had changed from being an expedition
to a spot within five minutes' walk of Sarah's, unconfessed to Sarah,
and had become a journey on the Metropolitan; going indeed outside the
radius into blackness, but going so far only because the Dante lecture,
wandered out of London was waiting there; and to be repeated at the end
of the evening safely returning through increasing gloom until the
climax of Gower Street was reached again...... Miss Scott was _Scotch_.

She reached the little hall in the suburban road in good time and sat in
a forward row staring at the little platform where presently the
educative voice would be standing. She was conscious of a stirring and
buzzing all about her that had been absent in the London hall. The first
series of lectures had not brought any sense of an audience. Here the
many audible centres of culture, the eager discussions and sudden
incisive remarks, the triumphant intensity on the faces of some of the
women caught as she glanced now and then fearfully about, the curious
happy briskness of the men, made her feel that the lecturer was
superfluous. All these people were the cultured refined kind who did not
trouble much about their clothes. There were no furs to be seen; the
women wore large rather ugly coats or ulsters or capes and bashed muddly
looking hats and had mufflers or long scarves. In the London audience
herself and her clothes had been invisible, here they were just right, a
sort of hall-mark. In her black dress with her clumsy golf-cape thrown
back from her shoulders, her weather-worn felt hat softened perhaps to
harmony with her head in the soft light she could perhaps pass for a
cultured person. _Bianchi_ and _Neri_ whispered her neighbour eagerly in
the midst of a long sentence addressed to a girl at her side. She was an
Englishwoman. But her mind was so at home in the Middle Ages that she
spoke the names and used the Italian pronunciation without a touch of
pedantry, and as eagerly and interestedly as anyone else might say
"they're engaged!" The clergyman in the row in front would drawl out the
words with an unctuous suggestion of superior knowledge. He would use
them to crush someone. Most of the men present were a little like that,
using their knowledge like a code or a weapon. But the women were really
interested in it, they were like people who had climbed a hill and were
eagerly intent on what they could see on the other side. It was
refreshing and also in some way comforting to be with them. They
represented something in life that was going to increase. Perhaps it
would increase too much; they seemed so headlong and unaware of anything
else. Did she want a world made up of women like this? If she spoke to
them they would assume she was one of themselves and look busily at her
with unseeing eyes, fixed only on all the things they thought about,
until they perceived that she was a fraud. Long intercourse with them
might make her able to talk like they did, but never to think in the way
they did. Never to have the extraordinary busy assured appearance
presented by their persons when you could not see their eager faces; a
look that made them seem to be going very fast in some direction that
completely satisfied them, so that if a fire broke out behind them
suddenly they would regard it not as an adventure that might have been
expected but as an annoying interruption, like tripping over a stone....

She could see that when he read the sonnets he forgot how learned he
was. The little lecture had had its own fascination. But it was a
lecture; something told by a specialist to an audience. This was Dante's
voice, and they all listened as they could; the lecturer as well. All
his knowledge was put aside and he listened as he read. She sat
listening, her shocked mind still condemning her for not having
discovered for herself that it was wrong to have a post-office savings
account and that betting and gambling and lotteries were wrong because
they produced nothing. For a time she flashed about with the searchlight
of the new definition of vice .... money can't produce money ... then
all trade was wrong in some way ... dissipation of value without
production ..... there was some principle that all civilisation was
breaking .... how did this man know that it was wrong to imagine
affection if there was no affection in your life, that dreaming and
brooding was a sort of beastliness ... love was actual and practical,
moving all the spheres and informing the mind. That was true. That was
the truth about everything. But who could attain to it? Dante knew it
because he loved Beatrice. How could humanity become more loving? How
could social life come to be founded on love? How can I become more
loving? I do not know or love anyone but myself ... it did not mean
being loved. It was not anything to do with marriage. Dante only _saw_
Beatrice. But this is the awful truth; however one may sit as if one
were not condemned and forget again. This is the difficult thing that
_everyone_ has to do. Not dogmas. This man believes that there is a God
who loves and demands that man shall be loving. That is what will be
asked. That is the judgment. It is true because it breaks into you and
condemns you. Everything else is distraction and sham. The humble
yearning devotion in the voice reading the lines made it a prayer, the
very voice a prayer to a spirit waiting all round, present in himself,
in every one listening, in the very atmosphere. It was there, to be had.
It was like something left far behind one on a dark road and still
there; to be had for the asking, to be had by merely turning towards
it..... She looked into the eyes of Dante across the centuries as into
the eyes of a friend. But then these people were the same. It was the
truth about everybody "the goodwill in all of us" ......

She travelled back towards London in a dream. Her compartment was empty.
All the people in the world, full of goodwill without troubling or even
thinking about it were away somewhere else. Just as she had learned what
people were there was nobody. There was no love in her nature. If there
were any she would not have been sitting here alone. If a man love not
his brother whom he hath seen how shall he love God whom he hath not
seen? There was a catch in that like a riddle. Heads I win tails you
lose.... If you keep quite quiet and gentle, asking for nothing, not
being anything, not holding on to anything in your life, nor thinking
about anything in your life there is something there .... behind you ...
that must be God, the way to Christ; the edge of the way to Christ.
Keeping quiet and coming to that you feel what you are and that you have
never begun being anything but your evil natural self. You feel thick
with evil .... oh .... that was prayer. One could become more loving. It
is answered at once. Just turning towards that something, in a desire to
be different, begins to change you! At Praed Street the carriage began
to fill with seated forms. This was the beginning of new life....
Keeping perfectly still and looking at no one she realised the presence
of her fellow-travellers, all just like herself, living from within by
the contact with the edge of Christ .... all _knowing_ the thing that to
her was only a little flicker just dawning in a long life of evil. It
made them kindly in the world and able to understand each other. Perhaps
it was the explanation of all the fussing. Everyone in the world was
bathed in the light of love except herself.... It was not certain that a
whole lifetime of prayer and gentleness and self-control would destroy
enough of the thick roots of evil in her to bring her through into the
Paradiso.... But if prayer, just the turning away from all one knew
begging to be destroyed and made loving brought such an immediate sense
of the evil in oneself and the good in everyone else, there was no end
to what it might do. Prayer was the work to do in life, nothing else.
But the turning to the unseen God of love and giving up one's self-will
meant being changed in a way one could not control or foresee; dropping
everything one had and cherished secretly and having things only in
common with other people. It would mean going forward with nothing into
an unknown world; _always_ being agreeable, and agreeing. I _love_ all
these people she murmured in her mind and felt a glow that seemed to
radiate out to all the corners of the compartment. It's _true_. This is
life. This is the only way in. It may be that I am so bad that I can
only sit with all my evil visible silent amongst humanity for the rest
of my life, learning to love them, and then die out completely because I
am too bad to be quite new-born .... her eyes were drawn towards the
face of the woman sitting opposite to her; a shapeless body, a thin
ravaged face strained and sheeny with fatigue and wearing an expression
of undaunted sweetness and patience. Children and housework and a
selfish husband and nothing in life of her own. She was at the disposal
of everyone for kind actions. She would be _really_ sympathetic and
shocked about an earthquake in China. Was that it? Was that being
_inside_? Was that all there was? The woman did not see the wonderful
gold brown light in the carriage; nor the beauty of the blackness
outside. In her brain was the pain and pressure of everything she had to
do. She was good and sweet; perfectly good and sweet. But there was
something irritating about her .... her obliviousness of everything but
"troubles," other people's as much as her own. Yet she would love a day
in the country. The fields and the flowers would make her cry. It was
her obliviousness that made one afraid of associating with her. Being in
conversation with her or in any way associated with her life there would
always be the dreadful imprisoned feeling of knowing she did not
_think_.... Her glance slid over the other seated forms and fell,
leaving her struggling between her desire to feel in loving union with
them and her inability to ignore the revelations pouring from their
bearing and shapes, their clothes and the way they held their
belongings. They were terrible and hateful because all their thoughts
were visible. The terrible maddening thing about them was the thoughts
they did not think. It made them worse than the woman because to get on
with them one would have to pretend to see life as they saw it. It would
be so easy and deceitful with each one alone, knowing exactly what line
to take. She wrenched herself back to her prayer .... instantly the
thought came that all these people far away in themselves wanted to be
more loving. She drew herself together and sat up staring out towards
the darkness. That was an answer again! A state of mind that came from
the state of prayer. But then one would need always to be in a state of
prayer. It would be very difficult. It would be almost impossible even
to remember it in the rush of life .... it would mean being a sort of
fool .... having no judgments or opinions. It would _spoil_ everything.
There would be no time for anything. Nothing beyond one's daily work and
all the rest of the time being all things to all men. It meant that now
at this moment one must give up the sense of the train going along in
the darkness and the sense of the dark streets waiting lamplit under the
dark sky and go out to the people in the carriage and then on to the
people at Tansley Street .... she thought of people she knew who did
this, appearing to see nothing in life but people, and recoiled.
_Places_ to them were nothing but people; there was something they
missed out that could not be given up. Something goes if you lose
yourself in humanity. You cannot find humanity by looking for God only
there. Making up your mind that God is to be found in humanity is
humanism.... It was Comte's idea. Perhaps Unitarians are all Comtists.
That is why they dress without style. They are more interested in social
reform than the astoundingness of there being people _anywhere_. But to
see God everywhere is pantheism. What _is_ Christianity? Where are
Christians? Evangelicals are humanitarians; rushing about in ulsters.
Anglicans know all about the beauty of life and like comfort. But they
are snobs and afraid of new ideas .... convents and monasteries stop
your mind. But there is a God or a Christ, there is something always
there to answer when you turn away to it from everything. Perhaps one
would have to remain silent, for years, for a lifetime, and in the end
begin to understand.


                                   3

At Gower Street it was eleven o'clock. She was faint with hunger. She
had had no dinner and there was nothing in her room. She wandered along
the Euston Road hoping to meet a potato-man. The shopfronts were black.
There was nothing to meet her need but the empty stretch of lamplit
pavement leading on and on.... Rapid walking in the rain-freshened air
relieved her faintness but she dreaded waking in the night with gnawing
hunger to keep her awake and drag her up exhausted in the morning. A
faint square of brighter light on the pavement ahead came like an
accusation. Passing swiftly across it she glanced bitterly at the
frosted door through which it came. Restaurant. Donizetti Brothers. The
whole world had conspired to leave her alone with that mystery shut in
and hidden every day the whole of her London time behind its closed
frosted doors and forcing her now to admit that there was food there and
she must go in or have the knowledge of being starved through fear. Her
thoughts flashed painfully across a frosted door long ago in Baker
Street and she saw the angry handsome face of the waiter who had shouted
roll and butter and whisked away from the table the twisted cone of
serviette and the knives and forks. That was in the middle of the day.
It would be worse at night. Perhaps they would even refuse to serve her.
Perhaps it was impossible to go into a restaurant late at night alone.
She was coming back. There was nothing to be seen behind the steamy
panes on either side of the door but plants standing on oil cloth mats.
Behind them was again frosted glass. It was not so grand as Baker
Street. There was no menu in a large brass frame with Schweppe's at the
top. She pushed open the glass door and was confronted by another glass
door blankly frosted all over. Why were they so secret? Inside the
second door she found herself at the beginning of a long aisle of
linoleum. On either side people were dotted here and there on short
velvet sofa seats behind marble topped tables. In the close air there
was a strong smell made up of all kinds of meat dishes. A waiter
flicking the crumbs from a table glanced sharply round at her and went
off down the room. He had seen the shifts and miseries that haunted all
her doings. They were apparent in the very hang of her cloak. She could
not first swing down the restaurant making it wave for joy as it did
when she walked across Trafalgar Square in the dark and then order a
roll and butter. After this it would never wave for joy again. A short
compact bald man in a white apron was hurrying down the aisle, towards
_her_. He stopped just in front of her and stood bowing and indicating a
near empty table with his short arm and stood silently hovering while
she dragged herself into place on the velvet sofa. The waiter rushing up
with a menu was gently waved away and the little man stood over the side
of the table blocking out the fuller end of the restaurant. Hardly able
to speak for the beating of her heart she looked up into a little firm
round pallid face with a small snub nose and curious pale waxy blue eyes
and said furiously oh please just a roll and butter and a cup of cocoa.
The little man bowed low with a beaming face and went gently away.
Miriam watched him go down the aisle bowing here and there right and
left. The hovering waiter came forward questioningly to meet him and was
again waved aside and she presently saw the little man at a speaking
tube and heard him sing in a soft smooth high monotone, un-sho-co-lat.
He brought her things and arranged them carefully about her and brought
her an Illustrated London News from another table. She sipped and
munched and looked at all the pictures. The people in the pictures were
real people. She imagined them moving and talking in all manner of
circumstances and suffered their characteristics gently, feeling as if
some one were there gently half-reproachfully holding her hands tied
behind her back. The waiter roamed up and down the aisle. People came
in, sometimes two or three at a time. The little man was sitting writing
with a stern bent face at a little table at the far end of the
restaurant just in front of a marble counter holding huge urns and glass
dishes piled with buns and slices of cake. He did not move again until
she rose to go when he came once more hurrying down the aisle. Her bill
was sixpence and he took the coin with a bow and waited while she
extricated herself from the clinging velvet, and held the door wide for
her to pass out. Good evening thank you very much she murmured hoping
that he heard, in response to his polite farewell. She wandered slowly
home through the drizzling rain warmed and fed and with a glow at her
heart. Inside those frightful frosted doors was a home, a bit of her own
London home.


                                   4

The hall gas was out. The dining-room door was ajar showing a faint
light and light was coming from the little room at the end of the
passage. Miriam cautiously pushed open the dining-room door. Mrs. Bailey
was sitting alone poised socially in a low armchair by the fire with the
gas turned low. Miriam came dutifully forward in response to the
entrancement of her smile and stood on the hearthrug enwrapped in her
evening, invaded by the sense of beginning it anew with Mrs. Bailey.
When had she seen Mrs. Bailey last? She could tell her now about Eve in
great confidential detail and explain that she could not _at present_
afford to come to Tansley Street. That would be a great sociable
conversation and the engagement with Mr. Bowdoin would remain untouched.
She stood in a glow of eloquence. Mrs. Bailey preened and bridled and
made little cheerful affectionate remarks and waited silent a moment
before asking if it rained. Miriam forgot Eve and gathered herself
together for some tremendous communication. Was it raining? She glanced
at the outside London world and was lost in interchanging scenes, her
mind split up, pressing several ways at once. Mrs. Bailey saw all these
scenes and felt and understood them exactly as she did. There was no
need to answer the question. She glanced stonily towards her and saw the
downcast held-in embarrassment of her waiting form. In a dry
professional official voice she said gazing at the hearthrug with an air
of judicial profundity, _no_, at least oh yes, I _think_ it is raining
and drifted helplessly towards the window. The challenge was behind her.
She would have to face it again. A borrowed voice said briskly within
her yes it's pouring, I _hope_ it will be fine to-morrow, what _weather_
we have had; well _good_night Mrs. Bailey. I have been to a lecture she
said in imagination standing by the window. It was what any other
boarder would have said and then so fine, such a splendid lecturer and
told the subject and his name and one idea out of the lecture and they
would have agreed and gone cheerfully to bed, with no thoughts. To try
and really tell anything about the lecture would be to plunge down into
misrepresentations and misunderstandings and end with the lecture
vanished. To say anything real about it would lead to living the rest of
her life with the Baileys helping them with their plans .... she turned
and came busily back. It's very late she murmured. Mrs. Bailey smiled
and yawned. At least not so very late, not quite to-morrow she pursued
turning round to the clock and back again to consult the pictures and
the wall paper. Just staying there was answering Mrs. Bailey's question.
Suddenly she laughed out and turned, laughing, as if she were about to
communicate some mirthful memory. It's too _absurd_ she said distracted
between the joy of her lingering laughter and the need for instantly
inventing an explanation. Mrs. Bailey was laughing delightedly. There
was a most absurd thing--chanted Miriam above her laughter; a gentle tap
took Mrs. Bailey scurrying to the door. May I have a _candle_ Mrs.
Bailey murmured a low voice in a curious solidly curving intonation.
Certainly doctor answered Mrs. Bailey's voice in the hall. She scurried
away downstairs. Miriam turned towards the window and stood listening to
St. Pancras clock striking midnight. Then those men in the little back
sitting-room were _doctors_. How pleased and proud Mrs. Bailey must be.
How wonderful of her to say nothing about them. Can I have a _candle_
missuz Bailey. Wrapped away in the suave strong courteous voice were the
knowledge and the fineness of a world no one in the house knew anything
about. Mrs. Bailey dimly knew, and screened it fearing to lose it. She
had the wonderful voice all to herself. "Good evening." The voice was in
the _room_. Miriam turned instantly; a square strong-looking man a
little over middle height with flat pale fair hair smooth on a squarish
head above grave bluntly moulded features was moving easily forward from
the door. They met at the end of the table standing one each side the
angle of the fireside corner, smiling as if her murmured response to his
greeting had been a speech in a play ready-made to bring them together.
Miriam felt that if she had said oh I'm so glad he would have responded
yes; so am I. My name's von Heber he announced quietly, his restrained
uncontrollably deepening smile sending out a radiance all round her. It
was as if they had met before without the opportunity of speaking and
here at last was the opportunity and they had first to smile out their
recognition of its perfection. They stood in a radiant silence, his even
tones making no break in their interchange. She felt a quality in him
she had not met before; in the ease of his manner there was no trace of
the complacent assumption of the man of the world. His deference was no
mask worn to decorate himself. It was deliberate and yet genuine. It was
the shape in which he presented to her, personally, set above and away
from her ugly clothes and her weariness, the beam of delight which had
been his inward greeting. The completeness and confidence of his
delight, his own completeness and security revealed to her an unknown
reading of life that she longed to hold and fathom. She offered in
return as a measure of her qualification, the laughter she had laughed
to Mrs. Bailey, hoping he had heard it. I find this custom of putting
down the light at eleven very inconvenient he was saying. Miriam smiled
and listened eagerly for more of the low even curiously curving
intonations. I propose to take the London medical examination in July
and I've a good deal of hard work to get through prior to that date. He
had not been going to stop speaking but Miriam found an immense
welcoming space for the word she summoned in vain desperately from far
away Wimpole Street. The _con_joint she declared at last eagerly, almost
before the word reached her consciousness. The Conjoint he repeated and
as his voice went on Miriam contemplated the accumulation they had
gathered. She stood smiling, growing familiar with the quality of his
voice, gathering the sense of a word here and there. Through his talk he
smiled a quizzical pleased appreciation of this way of listening. She
felt as if they were talking backwards, towards something already said
and when she took in I'm taking the post-graduate _course_ at your great
hospital near here she tried in vain to resist the temptation of leading
his talk down into detail. The way to preserve the charm unbroken would
be to let him go on talking. She might even listen carefully, and learn
the meaning of the post-graduate course and its place in the London
medical world; the whole of the London medical world was being
transformed by this man into something simple and joyful. But the eager
words had escaped her--oh; that's the one with the glorious yarn. Tell
me the yarn he chuckled gently, showing a row of strong squarish
flawless teeth. Well, she said the big surgeons were operating and the
patient was collapsing and one said I think it is time we called in
Divine aid. Nonsense said the other I don't believe in unqualified
assistants. That's great he declared; that's one of the greatest yarns
I've heard. I shan't forget it. He was not shocked and she had told the
story as evenly and as much without emphasis as he would have done
himself. She suddenly realised that this was the way to say things. It
made no pause and did not disturb anything. She was learning from him
every moment. He was _utterly_ different to the men she knew. He did not
resent her possession of the story nor attempt to cap it. You've got
some very great men over here he said; some of the very greatest; and he
began outlining the Canadian reputation of names that were amongst the
pinnacles of Wimpole Street conversation. She learned exactly why Victor
Horsley was great in the world and what it was that Dr. Barker did to
fractured knee-caps. When Mrs. Bailey came up it was half-past twelve.
He accepted his candle and thanked her gravely and gravely took his
leave. Miriam and Mrs. Bailey were left confronted. Miriam laughed a
social laugh, unintentionally, and listened happily to Mrs. Bailey's
kind brisk echo of it as she stood turning out the gas. They turned to
each other in the hall and laughed goodnight. Mrs. Bailey was like a
happy excited girl. She trotted busily and socially downstairs humming a
tune towards a sociable waiting world, flouting difficulties with the
sweep of the laughter in her voice.

Your Barker and your Horsley mused Miriam slackening her speed on the
stairs; the sound of the low quiet glad confident voice steadying the
aspect of the world and a strange new sense of the London medical world
dotted by men who were world-famous, approached from afar, reverently,
for specialist training, by already qualified medical men, competed
together within her as she prepared for bed, going serenely through all
the tiresome little processes. Something in the centre of life had
steadied and clarified. It sent a radiance like sunlight through the
endless processes of things; even a ragged tooth-brush was a part of the
sunlit scene; not unnoticed, or just dismal, but a part of the sunlit
scene.



                               CHAPTER V


Still talking, Mr. Bowdoin went up the rubbish-strewn steps and opened
the dusty blistered door with his latchkey. Miriam followed him into a
dark bare passage and down carpetless stairs into a large chilly twilit
basement room. Nothing was visible but a long kitchen table lit by a low
barred window at the far end of the room. I will light a lamp for you in
a moment he murmured in his formal cockney monotone; my friends will be
arriving soon and before they come I should like to show you my
sketches. Miriam sat down silently. The feeling of the neighbourhood was
in the room. A heavy blankness lay over everything. She felt nowhere. It
had been difficult to take part in conversation walking along the
Farringdon Road. It was strange enough to know that anyone lived in a
road almost in the city; and paying a visit there was like stepping out
of the world.

With his slow even speech Mr. Bowdoin rebuked her here even more
strongly for her outbreak of excited talk and loud laughter about
Devonshire. He had not felt that they were walking along, outside
London, in blank space, free, and exactly alike in their thoughts. He
had not had that moment when they turned into the strange dead road
_east_ of Bloomsbury, nowhere, and he had seemed like herself at her
side and he ought to have laughed and laughed. His sudden searching
look, are you mad or intoxicated, with your sudden Billingsgate manners,
had said that Farringdon Road was in the world and that he intended to
conduct himself in the usual manner of a gentleman escorting a lady. As
he lit a little lamp on the corner of the table she glanced at the back
of his hair and imagined him sitting at a typewriter with it in
curl-papers, and determined to be at ease. What a jolly room she
exclaimed with strained animation as the lamplight wavered up and then
sat looking at her hands. It would be cruel to look about the room. She
had seen kitchen chairs standing sparsely about in the spaces unoccupied
by the table, a cottage piano standing at right angles with the low
window and one picture over the piano. There was nothing else in the
room. The floor was covered with strips of coarse worn oil-cloth and
there was nothing above the empty mantel-piece. It is quite bohemian
said Mr. Bowdoin lighting the piano candles. Let me take your cloak.
Miriam slipped off her golf-cape and he disappeared between curtains at
the end of the room opposite the window.

This was Bohemia! She glanced about. It was the explanation of the room.
But it was impossible to imagine Trilby's milk-call sounding at the
door...... It was Bohemia; the table and chairs were _bohemian_. Perhaps
a big room like this would be even cheaper than a garret in St. Pancras.
The neighbourhood did not matter. A bohemian room could hold its own
anywhere. No furniture but chairs and a table, saying when you brought
people in I am a Bohemian and having no one but Bohemians for friends.
There must be a special way of behaving in English Bohemia. Perhaps when
the friends came she would find it out. I have the sketches in a drawer
here said Mr. Bowdoin coming back through the curtains and turning up an
end of the table-cloth...... Ah! C'est le pied de Trilby. Wee. D'après
nature? Nong. De mémoire, alors? ..... où rien ne troublera, Trilby, qui
dorrr-mira, thought Miriam. She took the little water-colour sketches
one by one and listened carefully to Mr. Bowdoin's descriptions of the
subjects, trying to think of something to say. It was wonderful that he
should take so much trouble on a holiday. The words in his descriptions
brought Devonshire scenes alive into her mind, and she could imagine how
he felt as he looked at them ...... _plats d'épinards_ ...... it was
like the difference between the French and English Bohemia. But the true
thing in it was that he had wanted to do them. That gave him his right
to call himself a Bohemian. He would have tried to write if he wanted to
and have gone to live in a garret in Fleet Street. Why don't you put
them about the room she asked insincerely. It was false and cruel; a
criticism of the room which was beginning to show its real character;
not interfering; plain and clear for things to happen and shine out in
it in their full strength. And it was a flattery of the pictures which
were nothing. Well, they're just beginnings. Hardly worthy of
exhibition. I hope to attain to something better in the future. Where
did he find all his calm words and self-confidence. Perhaps it was the
result of having a room to invite friends to and talk about things in.
But how could anybody do anything with people coming and going,
confusing everything by perpetually _saying_ things? She stared
obediently at sketch after sketch until her eyes ached. It was going on
too long. Her strength was ebbing out and the evening was still to come.
He liked showing his sketches and thought she was entertained. Even in
Bohemia people thought it was necessary to always be doing some definite
thing. There was a knocking at the front door upstairs. Mr. Bowdoin went
quickly up and came down with a tall lady. He introduced her and she
bowed and at once took off her outdoor things. While he was putting them
away behind the curtains she sat briskly down on a chair at the far end
of the room in a line with Miriam and arranged her hair and her dress
with easy unconcerned movements. She did not look in the least bohemian.
She sat drawn up in her chair very tall and thin in a clumsy dress with
a high stiff collarband. Her head and hair above her thin dingy neck
were--common. Undoubtedly. She looked like a post-office young lady. She
was quite old, twenty-seven or twenty-eight. While the other people came
in she sat very still and self-possessed, as if nothing were happening.
Was that dignity? Not attempting to hide your peculiarities and defects,
but just keeping perfectly still and calm whatever happened? There were
two men and another woman. They stood about in the gloom near the door
while Mr. Bowdoin carried away their things and came back and murmured
Miss Rogers and Miss Henderson, and then sat down in a row on the
kitchen chairs in line near the piano. Their faces were above the reach
of the lamplight. Their bodies had the subdued manner of the less
important sitters in a parish church. Mr. Bowdoin was putting the little
lamp on the top of the piano. The light ran up the wall. The picture was
a large portrait of Paderewski. It was amongst Miriam's records of
Queen's Hall posters, coming and going amongst other posters of
musicians, passed by with a hurried glance, soon obliterated by the
oncoming of the blazing flower-baskets as she hurried down Langham Place
sore with her effort to forget the reminders of music beyond her reach.
Looking at it now she felt as if all she had missed were suddenly
brought to her; her sense of thwarting and loss was swept away. She sat
up relieved, bathed in sunshine. The room was full of life and warmth
and golden light. She eagerly searched the features until Mr. Bowdoin
took the lamp off the piano and sat down murmuring I will give you a
sonata of Bytoven. The outline of the face shone down through the gloom.
She could recall each feature in perfect distinctness. All the soft
weakness of the musical temperament was there, the thing that made
people call musicians a soft weak lot. But there was something else;
perhaps it was in all musicians who were such great executors as to be
almost composers. The curious conscious half-pleading sensitive weakness
of the mouth and chin were dreadful; a sort of nakedness as if a whole
weak nature were escaping there for everyone to see; and then suddenly
reined in; held in and back by the pose of the reined-in head. The great
aureole of fluffy hair was shaped and held in shape by the same power.
The whole head, soft and weak in all its details, was resolute and
strong...... If the face were raised to look outwards it would be weak,
pained and suffering and almost querulously sorrowful; but in its own
right pose it was happy and strong. The pose of the head gave it its
grip on the features and the hair and made _beauty_. The pose of
_listening_. The eyes saw nothing. The reined-in face was listening,
intently, from a burning bush...... There was some reason not yet
understood why musicians and artists wore long hair.

The long sonata came to an end while Miriam was still revolving amongst
her thoughts. When Mr. Bowdoin sat back from the piano she returned to
the point where she had begun and determined to stop her halting
circular progress from group to group of interesting reflections and to
listen to the next thing he might play. She was aware he was playing on
his own piano better than he had done at Tansley Street but also more
carefully and less self-forgetfully. Perhaps that was why she had not
listened. She could not remember ever before having thoughts, about
definite things while music was going on, and felt afraid lest she was
ceasing to care for music. She found it would be quite easy to speak
coolly, with an assumption of great appreciation and ask him to play
some definite thing. Just as she was about to break into the silence
with a remark, one of the big curtains was suddenly drawn aside by a
little old lady bearing a tray of steaming cups. She stood just inside
the curtains, her delicate white-haired lace-capped head bowing from
side to side of the room graciously, a gentle keen smile on her
delicately shrivelled face. My mother, murmured Mr. Bowdoin as he went
down the room for the tray. Slender and short as he was, she was
invisible behind him as he bent for the tray and when he turned with it
to the room she had disappeared. Miriam gazed at the dark curtains
hoping for her return and dreading it. Nothing suitable to an
enthusiastic bohemian evening could be said in a courtly manner.... She
accepted a cup of coffee without a word as if Mr. Bowdoin had been a
waiter, and sat flaring over it. She felt as if nothing could be said
until there had been some reference to the vision. She hoped everyone
had bowed and remembered with shame that she had only stared. Everyone
seemed to be stirring; but the beginnings of speech went forward as if
the little old lady had never appeared. Mr. Bowdoin had sat down with
the men on the other side of the room and the woman had crossed over to
a chair near Miss Rogers and was in eager conversation with her. Miss
Rogers has only lately joined musical circles she heard Mr. Bowdoin say
in an affectionate indulgent tone. That accounted for the way she
deferred to him and sat in a sort of complacent exclusive rapture,
keeping her manner unchanged before the onslaught of the eagerly talking
woman. The woman was in the circle and did not seem to think it strange
that Miss Rogers should be a candidate. She was talking about some
orchestra somewhere ...... of something she wanted to play, _he_
conducting, she finished in a tone of worship. Her voice was refined and
she talked easily, but she also had the common uneducated look .... and
she was talking about Camberwell. Mr. Bowdoin was a conductor of an
orchestra. Those people played in orchestras, or wanted to. The three
men were talking in eager happy sentences and laughing happily and not
noisily. There was something here that was lacking in Miss Szigmondy's
prosperous musical people, something that kept them apart from the world
where they made their living.... They worked hard in two worlds ....
when Mr. Bowdoin was at the piano again they all sat easy and at home,
in easy attitudes, affectionately listening. The room seemed somehow
less dark and their forms much more visible and bigger. The empty white
coffee cups standing about on the table caught the light. Miriam's stood
alone at the end of the table. Mr. Bowdoin had taken it from her but
without entering into conversation and she was left with her prepared
remark about the piano and her plea for a performance of the Tannhäuser
overture going unsaid round and round in her mind. She sat ashamed
before the restrained impersonal enthusiasm that filled the room. Even
Miss Rogers was sitting less stiffly. Her own stiffness must make it
obvious that she was not in a musical circle. Musical circles had a
worldly savoir-faire of their own, the thing that was to be found
everywhere in the world. To be in one would mean having to talk like
that eager worshipping woman or to be calm and easily supercilious and
secret like Miss Rogers. Even here the men were apart from the women; to
join the men would be easy enough, to say exactly what one thought and
talk about all sorts of things and laugh. But the women would hate that
and one would have to be intimate with the women, and rave about music
and musicians. Mr. Bowdoin had probably thought she would talk to those
women. But after talking to them how could one listen to music? Their
very presence made it almost impossible. She was unable to lose herself
in the Wagner overture. It sounded out thinly into the room. Paderewski
was looking away to where there was nothing but music sounding in a
wooden room just inside an immense forest somewhere in Europe. She began
thinking secretly of the world waiting for her outside and felt that she
was affronting everyone in the room; treacherously and not visibly as
before. She had got away from them but they did not know it. Mr. Bowdoin
passed from the overture which was vociferously applauded and went on
and on till she ceased altogether to try to listen and he became a
stranger, sitting there playing seriously and laboriously alone at his
piano.... She wished he would play a waltz--and she suddenly blushed to
find herself sitting there at all.....

They all seemed to get up to go at the same moment and when they drifted
out into the street seemed all to be going the same way. Miriam found
herself walking along the Farringdon Road between Mr. Bowdoin and the
shorter of the two other men, longing for solitude and to be free to
wander slowly along the new addition to her map of London at night. Even
with Bohemians evenings did not end when they ended, but led to the
forced companionship of walking home. The tall man and the two women
were marching along ahead at a tremendous pace and she was obliged to
hasten her steps to keep up with her companions' evident intention of
keeping them in view. Perhaps at the top of the road they would all
separate. We will escort Miss Henderson to her home and then I'll come
on with you to Highgate. To _High_gate--exclaimed Miriam almost
stopping. Are you going to walk to Highgate _to-night_? They both
laughed. Oh yes said Mr. Bowdoin that's nothing. _Highgate._ The mere
thought of its northern remoteness seemed to be an insult to London. No
wonder she had found herself a stranger with these people. Walking out
to Highgate at night and getting up as usual the next morning.
Magnificent strong hard thing to do. Horrible. Walking out to Highgate,
"talking all the time" ... they could never have a minute to realise
anything at all; rushing along saying things that covered everything and
never stopping to realise, talking _about_ people and things and never
being or knowing anything, and perpetually coming to the blank emptiness
of _Highgate_ .... their unconsciousness of everything made them the
right sort of people to have the trouble of living in Highgate. They
probably walked about with knapsacks on Sunday. But to them even the
real country could not be country. All 'circles' must be like that in
some way; doing things by agreement. The men talking confidently about
them, _completely_ ignorant of any sort of reality..... She came out of
her musings when they turned into the Euston Road and ironically watched
the men keeping up their talk across the continual breaking up of the
group by passing pedestrians. _You'll_ have to walk _back_ she
interrupted, suddenly turning to Mr. Bowdoin; the buses will have
stopped. I never ride in omnibuses frowned Mr. Bowdoin. I shall be back
by two.... Miriam waited a moment inside the door at Tansley Street
listening for silence. The evening fell away from her with the departing
footsteps of the two men. She opened the door upon the high quiet empty
blue-lit street and moved out into a tranquil immensity. It was
everywhere. Into her consciousness of the unpredictable incidents of
to-morrow's Wimpole Street day, over the sure excitement of Eve's
arrival in the evening flowed the light-footed leaping sense of a day
new begun, an inexhaustible blissfulness, everything melted away into
it. It seemed to smite her, calling for some spoken acknowledgment of
its presence, alive and real in the heart of the London darkness. It was
not her fault that Eve was not coming to stay at Tansley Street. It came
out of the way life arranged itself as long as you did not try to
interfere. Roaming along in the twilight she lost consciousness of
everything but the passage of dark silent buildings, the drawing away
under her feet of the varying flags of the pavement, the waxing and
waning along the pavement of the streams of lamplight, the distant
murmuring tide of sound passing through her from wide thoroughfares, the
gradual approach of a thoroughfare, the rising of the murmuring tide to
a happy symphony of recognisable noises, the sudden glare of yellow
shop-light under her feet, the wide black road, the joy of the need for
the understanding sweeping glance from right to left as she moved across
it, the sense of being swept across in an easy curve drawn by the kindly
calculable swing of the traffic, of being a permitted co-operating part
of the traffic, the coming of the friendly curb and the strip of yellow
pavement, carrying her on again into the lamplit greyness leading along
to Donizetti's.



                               CHAPTER VI


                                   1

Miriam came forward seeing nothing but the golden gaslight pouring over
the white table-cloth. She sat down near Mrs. Bailey within the edge of
its radiance. The depths of the light still held unchanged the welcome
that had been there when she had come in and found Emile laying the
table. There was no change and no disappointment. The smeary mirrors and
unpolished furniture were bright in the gaslight, showing distances of
interior and gleaming passages of light. In the spaces between the
pictures the walls sent back sheeny reflections of the glow on the
table. People coming in one by one saying good evening in different
intonations and sitting down sending out waves of enquiry, left her
undisturbed. There were five or six forms about the table besides Sissie
sitting at the far end opposite her mother. They made sudden statements
about the weather one after the other. They were waiting to have their
daily experience of the meal changed by something she might do or say.
Emile was handing round plates of soup. Presently they would all be
talking and would have forgotten her. Then she could see them all one by
one and get away unseen, having had dinner only with Mrs. Bailey. Mrs.
Bailey was standing up carving the joint. When the sounds she made were
all that was to be heard, she responded to the last remark about the
weather or asked some fresh question about it as if no one had spoken at
all. When she was not speaking every movement of her battle with the
joint expressed her triumphant affectionate sense of Miriam's presence.
She had made no introductions. She was saying secretly there you are
young lady. I told you so. Now you're in your right place. It's quite
easy you see. The joint was already partly distributed. Emile was
handing _three_ piled dishes of vegetables. A generous plateful of
well-browned meat and gravy appeared before Miriam with Mrs. Bailey's
strong small toil-disfigured hand firmly grasping its edge. She took it
to pass it on. Everything was hurrying on.... That's yorce my child said
Mrs. Bailey. The low murmur was audible round the silent table.
Asserting her independence with a sullen formality Miriam thanked her
and looked about for condiments without raising her eyes to the range of
those other eyes, all taking photographs now that she was forced into
movements. Mrs. Bailey placed a cruet near her plate. Yorce she pondered
getting angrily away into thought. Mrs. Bailey _could_ not know that it
might be said to be more correct than yourz. It was an affectation. She
had picked it up somewhere from one of those people who carefully say
off-ten instead of awfen and it gave her satisfaction to use it, linked
rebukingly up with the complacent motherly patronage of which she had
boasted to the whole table. The first of Emile's dishes appeared over
her left shoulder and she saw as she turned unprepared, raised heads
turned towards her end of the table. She scooped her vegetables quickly
and clumsily out of the dishes. In her awkward movements and her
unprotected raised face she felt, and felt all the observers seeing, the
marks of her disgrace. They saw her looking like Eve nervously helping
herself to vegetables in the horrible stony cold dark restaurant of the
hostel. They saw that she resented Mrs. Bailey's public familiarity and
could do nothing. She tried to look bored and murmured thank you when
she had taken her third vegetable. It sounded out like a proclamation in
the intense silence and she turned angrily to her plate trying to
remember whether she had heard anyone else thank Emile for
vegetables...... After all she was paying for the meal and her
politeness to Emile was her own affair. Abroad people bowed or raised
their hats going in and out of shops and said Monsieur to policemen. Her
efforts to eat abstractedly and to appear plunged in thought made her
feel more and more like a poor relation. The details of her meeting with
Eve kept appearing in and out of her attempt to get back her sense of
Mrs. Bailey's house as a secret warmth and brightness added to the many
resources of her life. Mrs. Bailey knew that her house had been
transformed by the meeting with Eve and was trying to tell her that she
was not as independent as she thought.

What were the exact things she had told Mrs. Bailey? She had talked
excitedly and scrappily and all the time Mrs. Bailey had been gathering
information and drawing her own conclusions about the Hendersons. Mrs.
Bailey saw Eve's arrival at the station and her weary resentment of
having everything done for her in the London manner, her revenge in the
cab, sitting back and making the little abstracted patronising sounds in
response to everything that was said to her, taking no interest, and at
last saying _how_ you run on. She saw something of the hostel......

Where's Mr. Mendizzable? demanded Sissie....... The Girls' Friendly;
that was the name of that other thing. But that was for servants. The
Young Women's Bible Association was the worst disgrace that could happen
to a gentlewoman.... Eve had liked it. She had suddenly begun going
about with an interested revived face eagerly doing what she was told.
She was there now, it was her only home, and she must have all her meals
there for cheapness; there would be no outside life for her. Her life
was imprisoned by those women, consciously goody conscientious servants
with flat caps, dominating everything, revelling in the goody
atmosphere; the young women in the sitting-room all looking _raw_, as if
they washed very early in the morning in cold water and did their shabby
hair with cold hands; the superintendent, the watchful official
expression on her large well-fed elderly high-school-girl face, the
_way_ she sat on a footstool with her arms round her knees pretending to
be easy and jolly while she recited that it was a privilege and a joy
for sisters to be so near to each other ...... as if she were daring us
to deny it. I shan't see very much of Eve. She won't want me to. She
will strike up a friendship with one of those young women.... Miriam
found herself glancing up the table towards the centre of a conflict.
They were all joined in conflict over some common theme. No one was
outside it; the whole table was in an uproar of voices and laughter....
It was nothing but Miss Scott saying things about Mr. Mendizabal and
everyone watching and throwing in remarks.... Miss Scott was neighing
across the table at something that had been said and was preparing to
speak again without breaking into her laughter. All faces were turned
her way. "What's that Mr. Joe-anzen says?" laughed Mrs. Bailey towards
the last speaker. The invisible man opposite Miss Scott was not even Mr.
Helsing; only the younger fainter Norwegian, and this side of him an
_extraordinary_ person .... an abruptly bulging coarse fringe, a
coarse-grained cheek bulging from under an almost invisible deep-sunken
eye, and abruptly shelving bust under a coarse serge bodice.

"Mr. Yo-hanson says Mr. Mendy-zahble like n-gaiety." Miriam glanced
across the table. That was _all_. That little man with an adenoid voice
and a narrow sniggering laugh that brought a flush and red spots all
over his face, and shiny straight Sunday school hair watered and brushed
flat, made up the party. Next to him was only Polly. Then came Miss
Scott on Sissie's left; then Sissie and round the corner the Norwegian.
Everyone looked dreadful in the harsh light, secret and secretly hostile
to everyone else, unwilling to be there; and even here though there was
nothing and no one there was that everlasting conversational fussing and
competition.

"Quite right," hooted the bulky woman in a high pure girlish voice, "I
doan blame 'im."

Miriam turned towards the unexpectedness of her voice and sat helplessly
observing. The serge sleeves were too short to cover her heavy red
wrists; her pudgy hands held her knife and fork broadside, like salad
servers. Her hair was combed flatly up over her large skull and twisted
into a tiny screw at the top just behind the bulge of her fringe. Could
she possibly be a boarder? She looked of far less consequence even than
the Baileys. Her whole person was unconsciously ill at ease, making one
feel ashamed.

"Mrs. m-Barrow is another of 'em," said the little man with his eyebrows
raised as he sniggered out the words.

"I _am_ Mr. Gunna, I doan believe in go-an abate with a face like a
fiddle."

Mr. Gunner's laughter flung back his head and sat him upright and
brought him back to lean over his plate shaking noiselessly with his
head sunk sideways between his raised shoulders as if he were dodging a
blow. The eyes he turned maliciously towards Mrs. Barrow were a hard
opaque pale blue. His lips turned outwards as he ate and his knife and
fork had an upward tilt when at rest. Some of his spots were along the
margin of his lips, altering their shape and making them look angry and
sore. The eating part of his face was sullen and angry, not touched by
the laughter that drew his eyebrows up and wrinkled his bent forehead
and sounded only as a little click in his throat at each breath.

"There's plenty of glum folks abate," scolded Mrs. Barrow.

Miriam was aware that she was recoiling visibly, and tried to fix her
attention on her meal. Mrs. Bailey was carving large second helpings and
Emile's vegetable dishes had been refilled. None of these people thought
it extraordinary that there should be all this good meal and a waiter,
every day .... it would be shameful to come again for the sake of the
meal, feeling hostile. Besides, it would soon be unendurable; they would
be aware of criticisms and would resent them. The only way to be able to
come would be to pretend to laugh at remarks about people and join in
discussions on opinions about cheerfulness and seriousness and winter
and summer. They would not know that one was not sincere. They were
perfectly sincere in their laughter and talk. They all had some sort of
common understanding, even when they disagreed. It was the same
everlasting problem again, the way people took everything for granted.
They would be pleased, would turn and like one if one could say heartily
_isn't_ he a funny little man, mts, my _word_, or well I don't see
anything particularly funny about him, or _oh_, give me the _summer_.
But if one did that one would presently be worn and strained with lying,
left with an empty excitement, while they went serenely on their way,
and the reality that was there when one first sat down with them would
have gone. Always and always in the end there was nothing but to be
alone. And yet it needed people in the world to make the reality when
one was alone. Perhaps just these uninterfering people, when one had
forgotten their personal peculiarities and had only the consciousness of
them in the distance...... One might perhaps then wonder sometimes
longingly what they were saying about the weather. But to be _obliged_
to meet them daily.... She chided herself for the scathing glance she
threw at the unconscious guests. Gunner was smiling sideways down the
table again prepared to execute his laugh when he should have caught an
eye and sent his grin home. Miriam almost prayed that nothing should
provoke him again to speech. During a short silence she cleared her
throat elaborately to cover the sound of his eating. Several voices
broke out together, but Mrs. Bailey was suddenly saying something
privately to her. She raised her head towards the bright promise and was
aware of Mr. Gunner thoughtful and serene. There was a pleasant
intelligence somewhere about his forehead. If only she could think his
head clear and cool and not have to hear again the hot dull hollow
resonance of his voice how joyfully she would be listening to Mrs.
Bailey. I've got a very special message for you young lady she had said
and now went on with her eye on the conflict at the end of the table
into which Mr. Gunner was throwing comments and exclamations from afar.
The room beamed softly in its golden light. From the heart of the golden
light Mrs. Bailey was hurrying towards her with good tidings.

"_Hah._" ....

Mrs. Bailey looked round cloaking her vexation in a bridling smile as
Mr. Mendizabal came in sturdily beaming. He sat down amidst the general
outcry and Emile busied himself to lay him a place. He shouted answers
to everyone, sitting with his elbows on the table. Putting her elbows on
the table Mrs. Bailey applauded with little outbursts of laughter. She
had dropped the idea of delivering her message. Miriam finished her
pudding hurriedly. The din was increasing. No one was aware of her.
Cautiously rising she asked Mrs. Bailey to excuse her. You go Miss?
shouted Mr. Mendizabal suddenly looking her way. He looked
extraordinary, not himself.


                                   2

Eve's shop was a west-end blaze of flowers. The window was blocked with
flowers in jars, tied up in large bundles. In front were gilt baskets of
hot-house flowers. Propped in the middle were a large flower anchor and
a flower horseshoe, both trimmed with large bows of white satin
ribbon--women in white satin evening dresses with trains, bowing from
platforms--on either side were tight dance buttonholes pinned on to
heart-shaped velvet mounts.

It was strange to be able to go in..... Going in to see an employee was
not the right way to go into a west-end shop...... There _was_ Eve;
standing badly in a droopy black dress on a bare wet wooden floor. Cut
flowers in stone jam pots, masses of greenery lying on a wet table.
Hulloh aren't your _feet_ wet demanded Miriam irritably. Eve started and
turned, looking. She was exhausted and excited, grappling dreamily with
abrupt instructions with a conservatory smell competing with them;
trying to become part of a clever arrangement to collect the
conservatory smell for sale. She stepped slenderly forward; all her old
Eve manner, but determined to guard against disturbance; making sounds
without speaking, and the faint shape of a tired smile. She was worn out
with the fatigue of trying to make herself into something else, but
liking it and determined not to be reminded of other things. Even her
hair seemed to be changed. Full of pictures of Eve, gracefully dressed
and with piled brown hair Miriam's eyes passed in fury over the skimpy
untidy sham shop-assistant, beginning a failure defensively, _imagining_
behind it that she was taking hold of London...... Won't you catch
_cold_? You get used to it mouthed Eve nervously turning her head away
and waiting, fumbling a scattered spray of smilax. Eve had always loved
smilax. Did it seem the same to her now? Fancy _you_ said Miriam, in all
this damp. They were both miserable and Eve was not going to put it
right. All her strength and interest was for this new thing. Do you like
it? said Miriam beginning again. Yes awfully flushed Eve looking as if
she were going to cry. It was too late. I suppose its awfully
interesting asked Miriam formally, opening a conversation with a
stranger. Mps said Eve warmly I simply love it. It makes you frightfully
tired at first, but I find I can do things I never dreamed I could. I
don't _mind_ standing in the wet a bit now. You have to if you're
obliged to. Eve was _liking_ hardness imposed by other people. _Liking_
the prices of her new life. Accepting them without resentment. People
would despise and like her for that. Perhaps she would succeed in
staying on if her strength did not give way. Her graceful dresses and
leisurely brown hair going further and further away...... Do you
_serve_? Ssh. I'm learning to. Eve would not look, and wanted her to be
gone. I'm free for lunch said Miriam snappily, holding to the
disappearing glory of her first coming out into London in the middle of
a week-day. Eve should have guessed and stopped being anything but Eve
being taken out to lunch. We could go to an A.B.C. Oh I can't come _out_
murmured Eve ignoringly.


                                   3

Miriam ordered another cup of coffee and went on reading. There was
plenty of time. Eve would not appear at Tansley Street until half-past.
In looking up at the clock she had become aware of detailed people
grouped at tables. She plunged back into Norway, reading on and on. Each
line was wonderful; but all in a darkness. Presently on some turned page
something would shine out and make a meaning. It went on and on. It
seemed to be going towards something. But there was nothing that
_anyone_ could imagine, nothing in life or in the world that could make
it clear from the beginning, or bring it to an end. If the man died the
author might stop. Finis. But it would not make any difference to
anything. She turned the pages backwards re-reading passages here and
there. She could not remember having read them. Looking forward to
portions of the dialogue towards the end of the book she found them
familiar; as if she had read them before ...... she read them intently.
They had more meaning read like that, without knowing to what they were
supposed to refer. They were the _same_, read alone in scraps, as the
early parts. It was all one book in some way, not through the thoughts,
or the story, but something in the author. People who talked about the
book probably understood the strange thoughts and the puzzling hinting
story that began and came to an end and left everything as it was
before. The author did not seem to suggest that you should be sorry. He
seemed to know that at the end everything was as before, with the
mountains all round...... The electric lights flashed out all over the
A.B.C. at once...... Miriam remained bent low over her book. Only you
had been in Norway, in a cottage up amongst the mountains and out in the
open. She read a scene at random and another and began again and read
the first scene through and then the last. It was all the _same_. You
might as well begin at the end...... In _Norway_, up among the misty
mountains, in farms and cottages looking down on fiords with glorious
scenery about them all the time are people, sitting in the winter by
fires and worrying about right and wrong. They _wonder_ but more gravely
and clearly than we do. Torrents thunder in their ears and they can see
mountains all the time even when they are indoors. "Ibsen's Brand" is
about all those worrying things, in magnificent scenery. You are _in_
Norway while you read. That is why people read books by geniuses and
look far-away when they talk about them. They know they have been
somewhere you cannot go without reading the book...... _Brand_. You are
in the strangeness of Norway--and then there are people saying things
that might be said anywhere. But with something going in and out of the
words all the time. Ibsen's genius. You can't understand it or see where
it is. Each sentence looks so ordinary, making you wonder what it is all
about. But taking you somewhere, to stay, forgetting everything, until
it is finished. An hour ago Ibsen was just a name people said in a
particular way, a difficult wonderful mystery, and _improper_. Why do
people say he is improper? He is exactly like everyone else, thinking
and worrying about the same things. But putting them down in a
background that is more real than people or thoughts. The life in the
background is in the people. He does not know this. Why did he write it?
A book by a genius is alive. That is why "Ibsen" is superior to novels;
because it is not quite about the people or the thoughts. There is
something else; a sort of lively freshness all over even the saddest
parts, preventing your feeling sorry for the people. Everyone ought to
know. It ought to be on the omnibuses and in the menu. All these people
fussing about not knowing of Ibsen's Brand. A volume, bound in a cover.
Alive. Precious. What _is_ Genius? Something that can take you into
Norway in an A.B.C.

She wandered out into Oxford Street. There was a vast fresh gold-lit sky
somewhere behind the twilight. Why did Ibsen sit down in Norway and
write plays? Why did people say Ibsen as if it were the answer to
something? Walking along Oxford Street with a read volume of Ibsen held
against you is walking along with something precious between two covers
which makes you know you are rich and free...... She wandered on and on
in an expansion of everything that passed into her mind out and out
towards a centre in Norway. She wondered whether Ibsen were still alive.
A vast beautiful Norway and a man writing his thoughts in a made-up
play. Genius. People go about saying Ibsen's Brand as if it were the
_answer_ to _something_ and Ibsen knows no more than anyone else......
She arrived at Tansley Street as from a great distance, suddenly
wondering about her relationship with the sound of carts and near
footfalls. Mrs. Bailey was standing in the doorway seeing someone off.
_Eve_. Forgotten. I couldn't get here before; I'm _so_ sorry. Mrs.
Bailey had disappeared. Eve stepped back into the hall and stood
serenely glowing in the half-light. Are you going? I must, in a minute.
Eve was looking sweet; slenderly beautiful and with her crimson-rose
bloom; shy and indulgent and unenviously admiring as she had been at
home; and Mrs. Bailey had been having it all. Can't you come upstayers?
Not this time; I'll come again some time. Well; you must just tell me;
wot you been doing? Talking to Mrs. Bailey? Yes. Eve had been flirting
with Mrs. Bailey; perhaps talking about religion. Isn't she funny? I
_like_ her; she's perfectly _genuine_, she means what she says and
really _likes_ people. Yes; I know. Isn't it funny? I don't think it's
funny; it's very beautiful and rare. Would you like to be here always?
Yes; I could be always with Mrs. Bailey. Every day of your life for ever
and ever? _Rather._ Yes; I know. And y'know there are all _sorts_ of
interesting people. I wish you lived here Eve. Eve glanced down wisely
smiling and moved slenderly towards the door. What about Sunday?
Couldn't you come round for a long time? No breathed Eve restrainingly,
I'm going to _Sallies_. All Eve's plans were people. She moved,
painfully, through things, from person to person.


                                   4

Dr. Hurd held the door wide for Miriam to pass out and again his fresh
closely knit worn brick-red face was deeply curved by the ironically
chuckling hilarious smile with which he had met the incidents of the
"awful German language." That of the _fatherland_, the happy
_fatherland_, nearly _dislocates_ my _jaw_ she could imagine him
heartily and badly singing with a group of Canadian students. She smiled
back at him without saying anything, rapidly piecing together the world
that provoked his inclusive deeply carved smiles; himself, the
marvellous little old country he found himself in as an incident of the
business of forcing himself to be a doctor, his luck in securing an
accomplished young English lady to prepare him for the struggle with the
great medical world of Germany; his triumphant chuckling satisfaction in
getting in first before the other fellows with an engagement to take her
out.... The grandeur of this best bedroom of Mrs. Bailey was nothing to
him. The room was just a tent in his wanderings.... For the moment he
was going to take a young lady to a concert. That was how he saw it. He
was a simple boyish red-haired open extension of Dr. von Heber. When she
found herself out in the large grime and gloom of the twilit landing she
realised that he had lifted her far further than Dr. von Heber into
Canada; he was probably more Canadian. The ancient gloom of the house
was nothing to him, he would get nothing of the quality of England in
his personal life there, only passing glimpses from statements in books
and in the conversation of other people. He did not see her as part of
it all in the way Dr. von Heber had done talking at the table that night
and wanting to talk to her because she was part of it. He saw her as an
accomplished young lady, but a young lady like a Canadian young lady and
a fellow was a fool if he did not arrange to take her out quick before
the other fellows. But there was nothing in it but just that triumph.
"I'll get a silk hat before Sunday"; he would prepare for her to go all
the way down to the Albert Hall as a young lady being taken to a
concert; the Albert Hall on Sunday was brass bands; he thought they were
a concert. His world was thin and open; but the swift sunlit decision
and freedom of his innocent reception of her in his bedroom lifted the
dingy brown house of her long memories into a new background. She was to
be fêted, in an assumed character and whether she liked it or no. The
four strange men in the little back sitting room were her competing
friends, the friends of all nice young ladies. He was the one who had
laughed the laugh she had heard in the hall, of course. They never
appeared but somehow they had got to know of her and had their curious
baseless set ways of thinking and talking about her. Being doctors and
still students they ought to be the most hateful and awful kind of men
in relation to women, thinking and believing all the horrors of medical
science; the hundred golden rules of gynæcology; if they had been
Englishmen they would have gone about making one want to murder them;
but they did not; Dr. Hurd was studying gyn'kahl'jy, but he did not
apply its ugly lies to life; to Canadians women were people ... but they
were all the _same_ people to Dr. Hurd.


                                   5

That evening both Dr. Heber and Dr. Hurd appeared at dinner. Mrs. Bailey
tumultuously arranged them opposite each other to her right and left.
Miriam could not believe they were going to stay until they sat down.
She retreated to the far end of the table taking her place on Sissie's
right hand, separated from Dr. von Heber by the thin Norwegian and the
protruding bulk of Mrs. Barrow. Mr. Mendizabal with a pencil and paper
at the side of his plate was squarely opposite to her. His _méfiant_
sallies to the accompaniment of Sissie's giggles and Miss Strong's rapid
sarcastic remarks, made a tumult hiding her silence. She heard nothing
of the various conversations sprouting easily all round the table. The
doctors were far-off strongholds of serenity, unconscious of their
serenity, unconscious of her and of their extraordinary taking of the
Baileys and Mr. Gunner for granted....... Dr. von Heber was a silence
broken by small courteously curving remarks. Dr. Hurd laughed his
leaping delighted laugh in and out of an unmeditated interchange with
Mr. Gunner and Mrs. Bailey. If she had been at their end of the table
they would not have perceived her thoughts, but they would have felt her
general awareness and got up at last disliking her. They changed the
atmosphere but could not make her forget the underlying unchanged
elements nor rid her of her resentment of their unconsciousness of them.
There was a long interval before the puddings appeared. Mrs. Bailey was
trying to answer questions about books. Dr. Hurd did not care for
reading, but liked to be read to, by his sisters, in the evening, and
had come away, at the most exciting part of a book ..... a wonderful
authoress, what's her name now----Rosie----Newchet.... He was just
longing to know how it ended. Was it sweet and wonderful, or too
dreadful for anything to contemplate a student, a fully qualified doctor
having Rosa Nouchette Carey read to him by his sisters? Dr. von Heber
was not joining in. Did he read novels and like them? No one had
anything to say; no one here knew even of Rosa Nouchette Carey ..... and
that man Hunter ... he's great .... he's father's favourite; what's
this, Mr. Barnes of New York.... Archibald Clavering Gunter said Miriam
suddenly, longing to be at the other end of the table. Beg pardon? said
Sissie turning aside for a moment from watching Mr. Mendizabal's busy
pencil. There he is shouted Mr. Mendizabal flinging out his piece of
paper--gastric ulcer--there he is. There was a drawing of a sort of crab
with huge claws.--My beautiful gastric ulcer--Have you been to the
'ospital to-day Mr. Mendizzable asked Mrs. Bailey through the general
laughter. I have been madame and I come away. They say they welcome me
inside again soon. Je m'en fiche. The faces of both doctors were turned
enquiringly. Dr. Hurd's look of quizzical sympathy passed on towards
Miriam and became a mask of suppressed hysterical laughter. Perhaps he
and Dr. Heber would scream and yell together afterwards and make a great
story of a man in a London pension. Dr. Hurd would call him a _cure_. My
word isn't that chap a _cure_? Brave little man. Caring for nothing. How
could he possibly have a gastric ulcer and look so hard and happy and
strong. _What_ was Dr. von Heber silently thinking? The doctors
disappeared as soon as dinner was over, Dr. von Heber gravely rounding
the door with some quiet formal phrases of politeness, and the group
about the table broke up. He's a bit pompous Mr. Gunner was saying
presently to someone from the hearthrug. Was he daring to speak of Dr.
von Heber? Presently there were only the women left in the room. Miriam
felt unable to depart and hung about until the table was cleared and sat
down under the gas protected by her notebook. The room was very quiet.
Sissie and Mrs. Bailey were mending near a lamp at the far end of the
table. Miriam's thoughts left her suddenly. The tide of life had swept
away leaving an undisturbed stillness, a space swept clear. She was
empty and nothing. In all the clamour that had passed she had no part.
In all the noise that lay ahead, no part. Strong people came and went
and never ceased, coming and going and acting ceaselessly, coming and
going, and here, at her centre, was nothing, lifeless thoughtless
nothingness. The four men studied apart in the little room, away from
the empty lifeless nothingness .... the door opened quietly. Mrs. Bailey
and Sissie looked expectantly up and were silent. Something had come
into the room. Something real, clearing away the tumult and compelling
peaceful silence. She exerted all her force to remain still and
apparently engrossed, as Dr. von Heber placed an open notebook and a
large volume on the table exactly opposite to where she sat and sat
down. He did not see that she was astonished at his coming nor her still
deeper astonishment in the discovery of her unconscious certainty that
he would come. A haunting familiar sense of unreality possessed her.
Once more she was part of a novel; it was right, true like a book, for
Dr. Heber to come in in defiance of everyone, bringing his studies into
the public room in order to sit down quietly opposite this fair young
English girl. He saw her apparently gravely studious and felt he could
'pursue his own studies' all the better for her presence. She began
writing at random, assuming as far as possible the characteristics he
was reading into her appearance. If only it were true; but there was not
in the whole world the thing he thought he saw. Perhaps if he remained
steadily like that in her life she could grow into some semblance of his
steady reverent observation. He did not miss any movement or change of
expression. Perhaps you need to be treated as an object of romantic
veneration before you can become one. Perhaps in Canada there were
old-fashioned women who _were_ objects of romantic veneration all their
lives, living all the time as if they were Maud or some other woman from
Tennyson. It _was_ glorious to have a real, simple homage coming from a
man who was no simpleton, coming simple, strong and kindly from Canada
to put you in a shrine.... I have always liked those old-fashioned
stories because I have always known they were _true_. They have lived on
in Canada. Canadian men have kept something that Englishmen are losing.
She turned the pages of her note-book and came upon the scrap crossed
through by Mr. Mendizabal. She read the words through forcing them to
accept a superficial meaning. Disturbance about ideas would destroy the
perfect serenity that was demanded of her. Be good sweet maid and let
who will be clever. Easy enough if one were perpetually sustained by a
strong and adoring hand. Perhaps more difficult really to be good than
to be clever. Perhaps there were things in this strong man that were not
perfectly good and serene. He exacted his own serenity by sheer force;
that was why he worshipped and looked for natural serenity......
Presently she stirred from her engrossment and looked across at him as
if only just aware of his presence. He did not meet her look but a light
came on his face and he raised his head and turned towards the light to
aid her observation. The things that are beginning to be called silly
futile romances are true. Here _is_ the strong silent man who does not
want to talk and grin...... He would love laughter. Freed from worries
and sustained by him one could laugh all one's laughter out and dance
and sing through life to a happy sunsetting...... Was he _religious_?
She found she had risen to her feet with decision and began collecting
her papers in confusion as if she had suddenly made a great clamour. Dr.
Heber rose at once and with some quiet murmuring remark went away from
the room. Miriam felt she must get into the open and go far on and on
and on. Going upstairs through the house and into her room for her
outdoor things she found her own secret belongings more her own. In the
life she shyly glanced at, out away somewhere in the bright blaze of
Canadian sunshine her own secret belongings would be more her own. That
was one of the secrets of the sheltered life ...... one of the things
behind the smiles of the sheltered women; their own secret certainties
intensified because they were surrounded; perhaps in Canada men
respected the secret certainties of women which they could never share.
With your feet on that firm ground what would it matter how life went on
and on? There was someone in the hall. Mr. Mendizabal in a funny little
short overcoat.

"You go out Miss?" he said cheerfully.

"I'm going for a walk," she said eagerly, her eyes on the clear grey and
black of the hat he was taking from the hall stand.

"I too go for a walk" he murmured cramming the soft hat on to his
resisting hair and opening the door for her.


                                   6

This was one of those _mild_ February days; it is a mistake to imagine
that the winter is gone; but it is gone in your mind; you can see ahead
two summers and only one winter. I go with you was meant as a
question.... It was on the tip of her tongue to turn and say you should
have said shall I go with you; she was rebuked by a glimpse of Mr.
Mendizabal swinging sturdily unconsciously along on the gutter side of
the narrow width of pavement, swinging his stick, the strong modelling
of his white face unconscious under his strong black hair and the jaunty
sweep of his black banded grey hat. "Jaunty and debonair"; but without a
touch of weakness. What a lovely _mild_ evening; extraordinary for the
time of year; he would be furious at being interrupted for that,
thinking of her as a stiff formal institutrice and shouting something
ironic that would bring the world about their ears. Quel beau temps;
that was it.

"Quel _beau_ temps." They had reached the Gower Street curb and stood
waiting to plunge through the passing traffic.

"Une soirée superbe mademoiselle" shouted Mr. Mendizabal in a smooth
flattened squeal as they crossed side by side; "hah-_eh_!" he squealed
pushing her off to dart clear of a hansom and away to the opposite curb.
Miriam pulled back just in time, receiving the angry yell of the driver
full in her upturned face. Mr. Mendizabal was waiting unconcernedly
outside the chemist's, singing, with French words. She disposed hastily
of the incident, eager to be walking on through the darkness towards the
mingled darkness and gold of the coming streets. They went along past
the grey heights of University College Hospital, separate creatures of
mysteriously different races; she expected that when they reached the
light she would find herself alone--and swung with one accord round into
the brilliance of the Tottenham Court Road; the tide of light and sound
raising them into a companionship that needed no bending into shapes of
conversation. It was something to him and it was something to her, and
they threaded their way together, meeting and separating and rejoining,
unanimous and apart. We are both batteurs de pavé, she thought; both
people who must be free to be nothing; saying to everything je m'en
fiche .... the hushed happiness that had begun in the dining-room half
an hour ago seized her again suddenly, sending her forward almost on
tiptoe. It was securely there; the vista it opened growing in beauty as
she walked. There was some source of light within her, something that
was ready to spread out all round her and ahead and flow over the past.
It confirmed scenes she had read and wondered at and cherished, seeking
in vain in the world for women who were like the women described in
them. She understood what women in books meant by _sacred_ "It is all
too sacred for _words_." There was no choice in all that; only secret
and sacred beauty; unity with all women who had felt in the same way;
the freedom of following certainties. Outside it was this other self
untouched and always new, her old free companion attending to no one.
She tossed Mr. Mendizabal shreds of German or French whenever the
increasing throng of passing pedestrians allowed them to walk for a
moment side by side.

His apparent oblivion of her incoherence gave full freedom to her
delight in her collection of idioms and proverbs. Each one flung out
with its appropriate emphasis and the right foreign intonation gave her
a momentary change of personality. He caught the shreds and returned
them woven into phrases increasing her store of convincing foreignness,
comfortably, from the innocence of his polyglot experience, requiring no
instructive contribution from her, reassuringly assuming her equal
knowledge, his conscious response being only to her joyousness, his eyes
wide ahead, his features moulded to gaiety. The burden of her personal
dinginess and resourcelessness in a strong resourceful world was hidden
by him because he was not aware of dinginess and resourcelessness
anywhere. Dingy and resourceless she wandered along keeping as long as
her scraps of convincing impersonation should hold out, to her equal
companionship with his varied experience; bearing within her in secret
unfathomable abundance the gift of ideal old-English rose and white
gracious adorable womanhood given her by Dr. Heber. At the turning into
Oxford Street they lost each other. Miriam wandered in solitude amidst
jostling bodies. The exhausted air rang with lifeless strident voices in
shoutings and heavy thick flattened unconcerned speech; even from above
a weight seemed to press. Clearer space lay ahead; but it was the clear
space of Oxford Street and pressed upon her without ray or break. Once
it had seemed part of the golden west-end; but Oxford Street was not the
west-end. It was more lifeless and hopeless than even the north of
London; more endurable because life was near at hand. Oxford Street was
like a prison ..... the embarrassment of her enterprise came upon her
suddenly; the gay going off was at an end; perhaps she might get away
and back home alone up a side street. Amidst the shouting of women and
the interwoven dark thick growlings of conversations she heard Mr.
Mendizabal's ironic snorting laugh not far behind her. Glancing round
from the free space of darkness she had reached she saw him emerge
shouldering from a group of women, short and square and upright and
gleaming brilliantly with the remains of his laughter. A furious wrath
flickered over her. He came forward with his eyes ahead unseeing,
nearer, near, safe at her side, _her_ little foreign Mr. Mendizabal,
mild and homely.

Here is Ruscino's mademoiselle, _all_ons, we will go to Ruscino
_all_ons! Ruscino, in electric lights round the top of the little square
portico, like the name of a play round the portico of a theatre, the
sentry figure of the commissionaire, the passing glimpse of palm ferns
standing in semi-darkness just inside the portico, the darkness beyond,
suddenly became a place, separate and distinct from the vague confusion
of it in her mind with the Oxford Music Hall; offering itself, open
before her, claiming to range itself in her experience; open, with her
inside and the mysteries of the portico behind .... continental London
ahead of her, streaming towards her in mingled odours of continental
food and wine, rich intoxicating odours in an air heavy and parched with
the flavour of cigars, throbbing with the solid, filmy thrilling swing
of music. It was a café! Mr. Mendizabal was evidently a habitué. She
could be, by right of her happiness abroad. She was here as a foreigner,
all her English friends calling her back from a spectacle she could not
witness without contamination. Only Gerald knew the spectacle of
Ruscino's. "Lord, Ruscino's; _Lord_" ...... In a vast open space of
light, set in a circle of balconied gloom, innumerable little tables
held groups of people wreathed in a brilliancy of screened light, veiled
in mist, clear in sharp spaces of light, clouded by drifting spirals of
smoke. They sat down at right angles to each other at a little table
under the central height. The confines of the room were invisible. All
about them were worldly wicked happy people.


                                   7

She could understand a life that spent all its leisure in a café; every
day ending in warm brilliance, forgetfulness amongst strangers near and
intimate, sharing the freedom and forgetfulness of the everlasting
unchanging café, all together in a common life. It was like a sort of
dance, everyone coming and going poised and buoyant, separate and free,
united in freedom. It was a heaven, a man's heaven, most of the women
were there with men, somehow watchful and dependent, but even they were
forced to be free from troublings and fussings whilst they were there
.... the wicked cease from troubling and the weary are at rest .... she
was there as a man, a free man of the world, a continental, a
cosmopolitan, a connoisseur of women. That old man sitting alone with a
grey face and an extinguished eye was the end of it, but even now the
café held him up; he would come till death came too near to allow him
movement. He was horrible, but less horrible than he would be alone in a
room; he had to keep the rules and manage to behave; as long as he could
come he was still in life.... White muslin wings on a black straw hat, a
well-cut check costume and a carriage, bust forward, an elegant carriage
imposing secrets and manners.... Miriam turned to watch her proceeding
with a vague group of people through the central light towards the outer
gloom. Voilà une petite qui est jolie she remarked judicially.--Une
jeune fille avec ses parents--rebuked Mr. Mendizabal. Even he, wicked
fast little foreigner did not know how utterly meaningless his words
were. He was here, in Ruscino's quite simply. He sat at home, at the
height of his happy foreign expansiveness. He had no sense of desperate
wickedness. He gave no help to the sense of desperate wickedness;
pouring like an inacceptable nimbus from his brilliant strong head was a
tiresome homeliness. She flung forth to the music, the shining fronds of
distant palm ferns; sipped her liqueur with downcast eyes and thought of
an evening along the digue at Ostend, the balmy air, the telescoping
brilliant interiors of the villas, the wild arm-linked masquerading
stroll, Elsie had really looked like an unprincipled Bruxelloise ....
foreigners were all innocent in their depravity.... To taste the joy of
depravity one must be English.... Hah; Strelinsky! Ça va bien, hein? A
figure had risen out of the earth at Mr. Mendizabal's elbow and stood
looking down at him; another foreigner. She glanced with an air of
proprietorship; a slender man in a thin faded grey overcoat, a sharp
greyish yellow profile and small thin head under a dingy grey felt hat.
Strelinsky. Mr. Mendizabal stood sturdily up bowing with square
outstretched hand, wrapped in the radiating beam of his smile. I present
you Mr. Strelinsky. A musician. A composer of music. His social manner
was upon him again; fatherliness, strong responsible hard-working
kindliness. The face under the grey hat turned slowly towards her. She
bowed and looked into eyes set far back in the thin mask of the face.
Her eyes passed a question from the expressionless eyes to the
motionless expressionless face. How could he be a composer; looking so
.... vanishing? Strelinsky .... Morceau pour piano .... that must be
_he_ standing here; did you write this she said abruptly and hummed the
beginning. It sounded shapeless and toneless, but there was a little
tune just ahead. She broke off short of it not sure that he was
attending; the world burst into laughter; his face turned slowly and
stopped looking downwards across her, his eyes fixed in a dead
repetition of the laughter in which she was drowning. He stood in space
in a faded coat and hat, a colourless figure clothed by her feebleness
in lively dignity and wisdom ...... grouped inaccessibly beyond the vast
space were solid tables filled with judges; dim figures stood in
judgment in the amber light under the gallery where palms stood; she was
drowning alone, surrounded by a distant circle of palms. Eleven. We must
go miss stated Mr. Mendizabal cordially. Miriam rose. The tide of café
life flowed all round her. She wandered blissfully out through the misty
smoke-wreathed golden light, threading her way amongst the tables
towards the black and gold of the streets. Far away behind her, staying
in the evening, Strelinsky blocked the view, moving, fixed avertedly,
with eyes in his shoulders along an endless narrowing distance of café.



                              CHAPTER VII


Miriam found her old prayer-book and scribbled her name on the
flyleaf..... Bella de Castro writing _from mother_ under her name in her
bible ...... _feeling_ something, privately, not knowing that anyone
would see it...... The sunlight pouring in on the thin bible page; the
words written plumply with one of Bella's blunt uncared-for pencils. Her
thick ropy black plait, brilliant oily Italian eyes in her long fat
handsome face; staring out of the window sullenly waiting for schooldays
to be at an end; her handsome horrible brother on horseback; just the
same; the high-water marks above her wrists when she washed her hands,
and then, from mother, stubbed carefully, _meaning_.

The pencilled _Miriam_ gave a false meaning to the prayer-book. There
was no indiarubber, she would have to take it down as it was. It was a
letter, written to Dr. von Heber, supposed to be written when she was a
girl...... She carried the book downstairs. The Baileys were still
sitting by the fire with their backs to Dr. von Heber standing alone in
the twilight in the middle of the room. She came forward, handing the
book stiffly and sat busily down to the piano again, angrily recording
his quiet formal thanks and silent swift departure. She began playing
where she had left off; telling Dr. von Heber as he went downstairs that
he had come up and made a scene and interrupted her; that her chosen
evening was to sit, with the Baileys, playing the piano; that she was
not a church-goer.

He had come so suddenly; after so long; if she had not been so lost in
the disappointing evening she would have been ready. If she had not
suddenly been so prepared, so rushing forward and feeling after he had
spoken as if the words had been long ago and they had been to church
together and come back before all the world there would not have been in
his voice the reproachful affronted anticipation of her stupidity.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Perhaps he had really suddenly thought downstairs that it would be nice
to go to church, not knowing that that was one of the real effects of
falling in love .... just thinking in the course of his worldly studies
that there was church and he was in himself a church-goer and ought to
go more often and coming up to borrow a prayer-book from the _Baileys_.
No. Suddenly in the room, standing in the unknown drawing-room for the
first time in his steady urbane confident way, waiting, a little turned
towards the piano. The Baileys had neither spoken nor moved; they were
afraid of him; but Mrs. Bailey would have made herself say, Well,
doctor, to the amazing apparition. They simply waited, held off by his
waiting manner. "_I think this is a good evening to go to church._" What
have you been doing all this time? Where do you go, going out so often?
What are you doing sitting here playing? We ought to be going to church;
we two. Here I am professing church-going and idiotically confessing
myself come all the way from Canada without a prayer-book and making a
pretence of borrowing your prayer-book because we _must_ be in church
together. Dr. Hurd's impressions had had no effect upon him...... But
now he had gone back into his own life not only thinking that she was
not a church-goer, but feeling sure that her own private life of coming
and going had no thoughts of him in it.

Dr. Hurd sitting on the omnibus with _amusement_ carving deep lines on
his brick-red face and splintering out of his eyes into the hot
afternoon glare; the neat new bowler with the red hair coming down
underneath it, the well-cut Montreal clothes on his tough neat figure;
immovable, there for the afternoon. Forced to go on and on isolated with
the brick-red grin and the splintering green eyes through the afternoon
heat, in the midst of a glare of omnibus people, on their way to a brass
band in the Albert Hall, thinking they were going to a _concert_. He did
not know what made a concert. Sitting with the remains of his grin,
waiting for the things he had been taught to admire, unable to find
anything without his mother and sisters; missing Canadian ladies with
opinions about everything; waiting all the time to be managed in the
Canadian women's way....... He must have told the others about it
afterwards, his face crinkling at them and they listening and agreeing.

                   *       *       *       *       *

It had begun the moment after he had suggested the concert. I'll get a
new top hat before then. The awful demand for a jest. His way of waiting
as if one were some queer being he was waiting to see say or do
something anyone could understand was the same as the English way only
more open. But English people like that did not care for music and did
not have books read to them. Perhaps his parents belonged to the other
sort of English and he had the stamp of it, promising seriousness and a
love of beautiful things, and forced by life into the jesting way of
worldly people who seemed to have no sacred patches at all. Quick words,
bathed in laughter heaped up into a questioning of what the _matter_
was. Men, demanding jests and amusement; women succeeding only by
jesting satirically about everything.

Von Heber's a man who'll _carve_ his way..... My. He's _great_. Carve
his way; one of those phrases that satisfy and worry you; short, and
leaving out nearly everything; Dr. von Heber going through life with a
chisel, intent on carving; everybody envying him; the von Heber not seen
or realised; his way is carved, he _is_ his way .... going ahead further
and further away as one listened. His poverty and drudgery behind him,
at Winnipeg, amongst the ice. Hoisting himself out of it, _making_
himself into a doctor; a graduate of "McGill" ..... standing out among
the graduates with even the very manner of success more marked in him
than in them with their money and ease; sailing to England steady-minded
in the awful risk of borrowed money ..... it's wrong, insulting to him
to think of it while he is still in the midst of the effort .... a sort
of treachery to know the details at all ..... the _impossibility_ of not
dwelling on them. But thinking disperses his general effect. In the
strength and sunshine of him there is power. The things he has done are
the power in him; no need to know the gossipy details; that was why the
facts sounded so familiar; reproachful, as Dr. Hurd brought them
out.....

I knew _all_ about him when I met his sunshine. I ought to have rushed
away garlanded with hawthorn, with some woman, and waited till he came
again. Dr. Hurd looks like an old woman; an old gossip. Old men are
worse gossips than old women. They can't keep their hands off. They make
phrases. Dr. Hurd is a dead, dead old woman. Handling things like an old
man. It was so natural to listen. 'Natural' things get you lost and
astray ..... kiss-in-the-ring 'just a little harmless nonsense ...
there's no harm in a little gay nonsense chickie.' There's no such thing
as harmless nonsense: Dissipation makes you forget everything. Secret
sacred places. George and John faithful and steady can't make those.
They smile _personally_ and the room or the landscape is immediately
silly and tame....

                   *       *       *       *       *

"I never met a chap who could make so much of what he knows .... pick up
.... and bring them out better than the chap could himself." The four
figures sitting in the little room round the lamp. Dr. Hurd talking his
gynæcology simply; a relief, a clear clean place in the world of women's
doctors.... Dr. Winchester talking for Dr. von Heber, his brown beard
and his frock-coat just for the time he was talking before Dr. von Heber
had grasped it all, looking like a part of the professional world. Dr.
Wayneflete's white criminal face his little white mouth controlledly
mouthing ... Wayneflete's brilliant; but he's not got von Heber's
strength nor his manner. He's quiet though that chap .... he'd do well
over here .... that spreads your thoughts about, painfully and
wholesomely. Dr. Hurd spreads his thoughts about quite simply....

                   *       *       *       *       *

The moment was so surprising that I forgot it. I always forget the
things that surprise me. She was hating me and hating everything. I must
have told her I was going away. When I said you can have Bunnikin back
she suddenly grew older than I. "Oh _Bunn_ikin." Their beloved Bunnikin,
as smartly dressed as Mrs. Corrie, in the smart country house way and
knowing how to gush and behave..... "Bunnikin's too _simple_." Sybil in
her blue cotton overall in the amber light in the Louis Quinze
drawing-room, one with me, wanting me because I was not simple.... I
thought she hated me all the time because I was not worldly. I should
not have known I was not simple unless she had told me; that child.

                   *       *       *       *       *

...... Dear Mr. Bowdoin ..... and I think I can promise you an audience
.... I regret that I cannot come on Thursday and I am sincerely sorry
that you should think I desired an audience ... the extraordinary
pompous touchiness of men .... why didn't he see I did not dream of
suggesting he should come again just to see me. I've forgotten Mr.
Bowdoin .... and the Museum .... everything.... I sit here .... playing
to hide myself from the Baileys and he is away somewhere making people
happy. "They do not care ..... they see me, they shout Ah! Don
_Clement_! I amuse them, I laugh, they think I am happy. Voilà tout,
mademoiselle...... Il n'y a qu'une chose qui m'amuse."



                              CHAPTER VIII


                                   1

A day of blazing heat changed the season suddenly. Flat threatening
sunlight travelled round the house. The shadowy sun-blinded
flower-scented waiting-room held street-baked patients in its deep
armchairs. Some of them were languid. But none of them suffered. They
kept their freshness and freedom from exhaustion by living away from
toil and grimy heat; in cool clothes, moving swiftly through moving air
in carriages and holland-blinded hansoms; having ices in expensive
shade; being waited on in the cool depths of west-end houses; their
lives disturbed only by occasional dentistry. The lean dark patients
were like lizards, lively and darting and active even in the sweltering
heat.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Miriam's sunless room was cool all day. Through her grey window she
could see the sunlight pouring over the jutting windows of Mr. Leyton's
small room and reflected in the grimy sheen of the frosted windows of
the den. Her day's work was unreal, as easy as a dream. All about her
were open sunlit days that her summer could not bring, and that yet were
hers as she moved amongst them; a leaf dropped in the hall, the sight of
a summer dress, summer light coming through wide open windows took her
out into them. Summer would never come again in the old way, but it set
her free from cold, and let her move about unhampered in the summers of
the past. Summer was happiness..... Individual things were straws on the
stream of summer happiness.

                   *       *       *       *       *

At tea time in the den there was a darkening hush. It was like a guest,
turning everyone's attention to itself, abolishing differences, setting
free unexpected sympathies. Everyone spoke of the coming storm and
looked beautiful in speaking. The day's work was discussed as if in the
presence of an unseen guest.

                   *       *       *       *       *

She set out from the house of friends to meet the darkened daylight
...... perhaps the sudden tapping of thunder-drops upon her thin blouse.
The street was a livid grey, brilliant with hidden sunlight.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The present can be judged by the part of the past it brings up. If the
present brings up the happiness of the past, the present is happy.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Purgatory. The waters of Lethe and Eunoe 'forgetfulness and sweet
memory'; and then Heaven. The Catholics are right about expiation. If
you are happy in the present something is being expiated. If life
contains moments of paradise you must be in purgatory looking across the
vale of Asphodel. You can't be in hell...... Yet hell would not be hell
without a knowledge of heaven. If once you've been in heaven you can
never escape. Yet Dante believed in everlasting punishment.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Bathing in the waters of Lethe and Eunoe unworthily is drinking one's
own damnation. But happiness crops up before one can prevent it. Perhaps
happiness is one long sin, piling up a bill...... It is my secret
companion. Waiting at the end of every dark passage. I did not make
myself. I _can't_ help it.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Brilliant .... _brilliant_; and someone was seeing it. There was no
thunderstorm, no clouds or pink edges on the brilliant copper grey. She
wandered on down the road hemmed by flaring green. The invisible sun was
everywhere. There was no air, nothing to hold her body separate from the
scene. The grey brilliance of the sky was upon the pavement and in the
green of the park, making mauve shadows between the trees and a mist of
mauve amongst the further green. The high house fronts stood out against
the grey, eastern-white, frilled below with new-made green, sprouting
motionlessly as you looked ...... white plaster houses against the blue
of the Mediterranean, grey mimosa trees, green-feathered lilac of
wisteria. Between the houses and the park the road glared wooden grey,
dark, baked grey, edged with the shadowless stone grey of the pavement.
Summer. Eternity _showing_.....

                   *       *       *       *       *

The Euston Road was a narrow hot channel of noise and unbreathable
odours, the dusty exhausting cruelty of the London summer, leading on to
the feathery green floored woods of Endsleigh Gardens edged by grey
house fronts, and ending in the cool stone of St. Pancras Church.

                   *       *       *       *       *

In the twilit dining-room one's body was like a hot sun throbbing in
cool dark air, ringed by cool walls holding darkness in far corners;
coolness poured out through the wide open windows towards the rain-cool
grey facades of the opposite houses, cool and cool until the throbbing
ceased.

                   *       *       *       *       *

All the forms seated round the table were beautiful; far-away and secret
and separate, each oneself set in the coming of summer, unconscious. One
soul. Summer is the soul of man. Through all the past months they had
been the waiting guests of summer.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The pain of trying to get back into the moment of the first vision of
spring, the perfect moment before the thought came that spring was going
on in the country unseen, was over. The moment came back of itself ....
the green flush in the squares, the ripples of emerald fringed pink
geraniums along the balconies of white houses.

                   *       *       *       *       *

After dinner Miriam left the dining-room, driven joyfully forth,
remaining behind, floating and drifting happily about, united with
everyone in the room as her feet carried her step by step without
destination, going everywhere, up through the staircase twilight....

                   *       *       *       *       *

The drawing-room was filled with saffron light, filtering in through the
curtains hanging motionless before the high French windows. Within the
air of the room, just inside the faint smell of dusty upholstery was the
peace of the new found summer. Mrs. Bailey's gift. There had been no
peace of summer last year in her stifling garret. This year the summer
was with her, in the house where she was. Far away within the peace of
the room was the evening of a hot summer day at Waldstrasse, the girls
sitting about, beautiful featureless forms together forever in the
blissful twilight of the cool saal and sitting in its little summer
house _Ulrica_, everybody, her dark delicate profile lifted towards the
garden, her unconscious pearly beauty grouped against the undisturbing
presence of Fraulein Pfaff. Miriam turned to the near window and peered
through the thick mesh of the smoke-yellowed lace curtain. Behind it the
french window stood ajar. Drawing aside the thick dust-smelling lace she
stepped out and drew the door to behind her. There were shabby
drawing-room chairs standing in an irregular row on the dirty grey
stone, railed by a balustrade of dark maroon painted iron railings
almost colourless with black grime. But the elastic outer air was there
and away at the end of the street a great gold pink glow stood above and
showed through the feathery upper branches of the trees in Endsleigh
Gardens. A number of people must have been sitting out before dinner.
That was part of their dinner-time happiness. Presently some of them
would come back. She scanned the disposition of the chairs. The little
comfortable circular velvet chair stood in the middle of the row,
conversationally facing the high-backed wicker chair. The other chairs
were the small stiff velvet-seated ones. The one at the north end of the
balcony could be turned towards the glowing sky with its back to the
rest of the balcony. She reached and turned it and sat down. The
opposite houses with their balconies on which groups were already
forming stood sideways, lost beyond the rim of her glasses. The balcony
of the next house was empty; there was nothing between her and the vista
of green feathering up into the intense gold-rose glow..... She could
come here every night .... filling her life with green peace; preparing
for the stifling heat of the nights in her garret. This year, with
dinner in the cool dining-room and the balcony for the evening, the
summer would not be so unbearable. She sat still, lifted out into garden
freshness.... Benediction.... People were stepping out on to the balcony
behind her, remarking on the beauty of the evening, their voices new and
small in the outer air.... If she never came out again this summer would
be different. It had begun differently. She knew what lay ahead and
could be prepared for it.

                   *       *       *       *       *

She would find coolness at the heart of the swelter of London if she
could keep a tranquil mind. The coolness at the heart of the central
swelter was wonderful life, from moment to moment, pure _life_. To go
forward now, from this moment, alive, keeping alive, through the London
summer. Even to go away for holidays would be to break up the wonder, to
snap the secret clue and lose the secret life....

                   *       *       *       *       *

The rosy gold was deepening and spreading.

                   *       *       *       *       *

Miriam found herself rested as if by sleep. It seemed as if she had been
sitting in the stillness for a time that was longer than the whole of
the working day. To recover like this every day ... to have at the end
of every day a cool _solid_ clear head and rested limbs and the feeling
that the strain of work was so far away that it could never return. The
tireless sense of morning and new day that came in moving from part to
part of her London evenings, and strongest of all at the end of a long
evening, going on from a lecture or a theatre to endless leisure,
reading, the happy gaslight over her book under the sloping roof, always
left her in the morning unwilling to get up, and made the beginning of
the day horrible with languor and breakfast a scramble, taken to the
accompaniment of guilty listening for the striking of nine o'clock from
St. Pancras church, and the angry sense of Mr. Hancock already arriving
cool and grey clad at the morning door of Wimpole Street. To-night,
going strong and steady to her hot room, sleep would be silvery cool.
She would wake early and fresh, and surprise them all at Wimpole Street
arriving early and serene after a leisurely breakfast.

                   *       *       *       *       *

The rosy light shone into far-away scenes with distant friends. They
came into her mind rapidly one by one, and stayed grouped in a radiance,
sharper and clearer than in experience. She recalled scenes that had
left a sting, something still to be answered. She saw where she had
failed; her friends saw what she had meant, in some secret unconscious
part of them that was turned away from the world; in their thoughts with
themselves when they were alone. Her own judgments, sharply poised in
memory upon the end of some small incident, reversed themselves, dropped
meaningless, returned reinforced, went forward, towards some clearer
understanding. Her friends drifted forward, coming too near, as if in
competition for some central place. To every claim, she offered her
evening sky as a full answer. The many forms remained, grouped, like an
audience, confronted by the evening.

The gold was fading, a soft mistiness spreading through the deepening
rose, making the leafage darker and more opaque. Presently the sky would
be mother-of-pearl above a soft dark mass and then pure evening grey
outlining the dark feathery tree tops of a London square turning to
green below in the lamplight, sinking to sleep, deeply breathing out its
freshness to meet the freshness pouring through the streets from the
neighbouring squares. Freshness would steal over the outside walls of
the houses already cool within. Only in the garrets would the sultry day
remain under the slowly cooling roofs.

                   *       *       *       *       *

There was still a pale light flowing into the dusk of the garret. It
must be only about nine o'clock...... the gas flared out making a winter
brilliance .... Four sermons on Dante..... Kuenen's Life of Dante ....
Gemma Donati, _Gemma_, busily making puddings in the world lit by the
light of the Mystic Rose; swept away by the rush of words .... a stout
Italian woman ..... _Gem_ma; Bayatrichay .... they were bound to reach
music .... a silent Italian woman in a hot kitchen scolding, left out of
the mystic rose .... Lourdes ... Le Nabab ... atroce comédie de bonheur
conjugale sans relâche .... the Frenchman _expressing_ what the
Englishman only thinks ... "the wife" ...... I met my WIFE! ..... red
nose and check trousers, smoky self-indulgent married man, all the
self-indulgent married men in the audience guffawing .... "You must be
ready to face being taken for granted, you must hide your troubles,
learn to say nothing of your unnoticed exhausting toil, wear a smile
above the heart that you believe is breaking; stand steady in face of
the shipwreck of all your dreams. Remember that although he does not
know it, in spite of all his apparent oblivion and neglect, if you
_fail_, his universe _crumbles_" ..... men live their childish ignorant
lives on a foundation of pain and exhaustion. Down in the fevered life
of pain and exhaustion there is a deep certainty. There is no deep
certainty in the lives of men. If there were they would not be forever
talking with conceited guilty lips as if something were waiting if they
stopped, to spring on them from behind.... The evolution of the Idea of
God..... I have forgotten what that is about ..... a picture of a sort
of Madonna ..... _corn_ goddess, with a child and sheaves of corn....
The Mechanism of Thought.... Thirty Sane Criticisms.... Critique de la
Pensée Moderne; traduit par H. Navray, Mercure de France..... How did he
begin? Where was he when he came out and began saying everybody was
wrong? How did he get to know about it all? She took down a volume
unwillingly ..... there was something being lost, something waiting
within the quiet air of the room that would be gone if she read. It was
not too late. Why did men write books? Modern men? The book was open.
Her eyes scanned unwillingly. Fabric. How did he find his words. No one
had ever said _fabric_ about anything. It made the page alive .... a
woven carpet, on one side a beautiful glowing pattern, on the other dull
stringy harshness .... there is a dangerous _looseness_ .... her heart
began beating apprehensively. The room was dead about her. She sat down
tense, and read the sentence through. There is a dangerous looseness in
the fabric of our minds. She imagined the words spoken, looseness was
ugly, making the mouth ugly in speech. There is a looseness in the
fabric of our minds. That is what he would have said in conversation,
looking nowhere and waiting to floor an objection. There is a dangerous,
he had written. That introduced another idea. You were not supposed to
notice that there were two statements, but to read smoothly on,
accepting. It was deliberate. Put in deliberately to frighten you into
reading more. Dangerous. The adjective in the sentence, personal, a
matter of opinion. People who read the books do not think about
_adjectives_. They like them. Conversation is _adjectives_! ..... all
the worry of conversation is because people use adjectives and rush
on..... But you can't describe ... but dangerous is not a descriptive
adjective .... there is a twisted looseness, that describes .... that is
Saxon ... Abendmahl .... dangerous, French ... the Prince of Wales uses
the elegant Norman idiom .... dangerous is an idea, the language of
ideas. It expresses nothing but an opinion about life .... a threat
daring you to disagree. Dangerous to what? ...... Man is a badly made
machine .... an oculist could improve upon the human eye .... and the
mind wrong in some way too ..... logic is a cheap arithmetic.
_Imagination._ What _is_ imagination? Is it his imagination that has
found out that mind is loose? Is not imagination mind? It is his
imaginative mind. A special kind of mind. But if mind discovers that
mind is unreliable, its conclusion is also unreliable. That's logic
..... Barbara. All Mind is unreliable. Man is mind, therefore man is
unreliable..... Then it is useless to try and know anything .... books
go on ..... he has invented imagination. Images. Fabric. But he did not
invent dangerous. That is cheek. By this sin fell the angels. Perhaps he
is a fallen angel. I was right when I told Eve I had sold my soul to the
devil..... "Quite a good afterglow" and then wheeling alertly about to
capture and restate some thread ...... and then later, finding you still
looking. "M'yes; a fine .... fuliginous .... _pink_.... God's had a
strawberry ice for supper" .... endless inexhaustible objections .... a
cold grim scientific world .... Alma knew it. In that clear bright house
with the satisfying furniture .... now let's all make Buddhas. Let's see
who can make the best Buddha.... Away from them you could forget; but it
was going on all the time .... somehow ahead of everything else that was
going on.... She got up and replaced the book. It was on her shelf; a
signed copy; extraordinary. It was an extraordinary privilege. No one
else could write books like that; no one else knew so much about
everything. Right or wrong it was impossible to give up hearing all he
had to say .... and they were kind, alive to one's life in a way other
people were not.....

                   *       *       *       *       *

She strolled to the window, finding renewal in the familiar creaking of
her floor in the house, here.... She went back across the happy creaking
and turned out the gas and came again to the window. The sky was dark
enough to show a brilliant star; here and there in the darkness of the
opposite house fronts was an oblong of golden light. The faint blue
light coming up from the street lit up the outer edges of the grey stone
window-sills. The air under the wooden roof of the window space was
almost as close as it was under the immense height of upper coolness....
Down at the end of the road were the lamplit green trees; plane-tree
shadows on the narrow pavement. She put on her hat in the dark.

Crossing the roadway to reach the narrow strip of pavement running along
under the trees she saw single dark figures standing at intervals
against the brilliant lamplit green and swerved back to the wide
pavement. She had forgotten they would be there. They stood like
sentinels..... Behind them the lamplit green flared feverishly..... In
the shadow of St. Pancras church there were others, small and black in a
desert ... lost quickly in the great shadow where the passers-by moved
swiftly through from light to light. Out in the Euston Road along the
pavements shadowed by trees and left in darkness by the high spindling
shaded candles of the lamps along the centre of the roadway, they came
walking, a foreign walk, steadily slow and wavy and expressive, here and
there amongst the shapeless expressionless forms of the London
wayfarers. The high stone entrance of Euston Station shone white across
the way. Anyone can go into a station. Within the entrance gravelled
darkness opened out on either side. Silence all round and ahead where
silent buildings had here and there a lit window. Where was the station?
Immense London darkness and stillness alone and deserted like a country
place at night, just beyond the noises of the Euston Road. A murder
might happen here. The cry of an engine sounded, muffled and far away.
Just ahead in the centre of the approaching wide mass of building was a
wide dimly lit stone archway. The rattle of a hansom sounded from an
open space beyond. Its light appeared swaying swiftly forward and lit
the archway. The hansom bowled through in startling silence, nothing but
the jingle and dumb leathery rattle of the harness, and passed, the
plonking of the horse's hoofs and the swift slur of the wheels sounding
out again in the open space. The archway had little side pathways for
passengers roofed by small arching extensions of the central arch ....
_indiarubber_ .... pavement to muffle .... the building was a hotel;
Edwards daylight Family Hotel ..... expensive people lodging just above
the arch, travelling, coming to London, going away from London, with no
thought of the dark secret neighbourhood. A courtyard opened out beyond
the arch. It was not even yet the station. There was a road just ahead
going right and left, with lamps; just in front to the left across the
road a lit building with a frosted lower window and a clock .... a post
office. Miriam went through the swing door into warm yellow gaslight. At
the long counter people stood busily occupied or waiting their turn,
with their backs to the dusty floor space, not noticing the grey space
of dusty floor and the curious warm gleam of the light falling upon it
from behind the iron grille along the counter. The clerks were fresh and
serene and unhurried, making a steady quiet workaday feeling; late at
night. It swung the day round, morning and evening together in the
gaslit enclosure. She stood at the counter sharing the sense of affairs.
She could be a customer for a penny stamp. Waiting outside was the walk
back through the various darkness, the indiarubber pathway .... knowing
her way.

                   *       *       *       *       *

She let herself into the hall with an air of returning from a hurried
necessary errand. Beyond the mysterious Bailey curtains partly screening
the passage to the front door she saw Dr. Hurd standing at the
dining-room door; good night he laughed back into the room and turned,
meeting her as she emerged into the light. He paused smiling. Here's
Miss Henderson he said into the room. Miriam was passing the door.
Aren't you coming in he urged smiling. Ho, I've just been to the post
office said Miriam passing into the room. Ho, isn't it a perfect evening
she announced taking in Dr. Wayneflete standing tall with small bent
pale face at the end of the table and the other two rising from their
places by the fireside. Dr. Hurd closed the door and came and flopped
down in the easy chair in front of the piano. I know you won't sit here
Miss Henderson. No Miss Henderson doesn't care for cushions murmured Dr.
von Heber at her side. Take this chair he pursued and sat near as she
sat down in a little stiff chair facing the fireplace, Dr. Winchester
subsiding a little behind her on the other side.

It's a purfect evening murmured Dr. Wayneflete. Miriam turned and
searched his white bent face. She had never seen him speaking in a room.
The thought behind the white slightly bulging forehead was his own,
Wayneflete, brilliant, keeping him apart; the little narrowing peak of
livid white face, the green shadows about the small pale mouthing lips,
the fact of his heart-disease and his Irish parentage were things that
dared to approach and attach themselves to him; that people knew.

A purfect evening he repeated plucking gently at the threads of the
table cloth. He would never originate a remark or ask a question except
of patients or an engineer standing near some difficult machinery. He
knew everything by just being about. He was head and shoulders above the
other three. Delicate, of gentle blood and narrow fragile body; a strong
spirit; impossible of approach by speech; everything she said would
carry her away from him; perhaps he was already planning his escape. One
day he would suddenly fall down, dead; young and unknown to anyone in
the world, carrying away his mystery.

"Eleven o'clock." She had shattered the silence he had built.

"You don't call that late" said Dr. von Heber released and rushing to
rescue her. He sat bland and square and simple beneath the coming long
procession of years and days; but his firmly dimpled swift Canadian
smile, brilliant with the flash of the flawless perfect arch of his
strong even teeth brought past and future into the moment, giving them
to the sudden charm of this meeting, referring back to that first
evening by the table.

"Oh no; it's frightfully early."

"That's a most delightful hyperbole."

"I shall summons you for calling me an isosceles triangle."

Dr. Wayneflete laughed too .... a small sound drowned by Dr. Hurd's
thwack on the arm of his chair as he flung back his head for his laugh.

"It _has_ been wonderful to-day, don't you _think_? Did you see the
extraordinary light this afternoon?"

"Well no; we were all of us immured, but we were out this evening; we
thought it the best specimen of London weather we'd struck so far."

"There's nothing whatever the matter with London weather. It's
_perfect_; the most perfect in the world." Dr. Hurd resumed his shakings
of laughter, restrained to listen. Dr. Winchester was sitting bent
forward smiling dreamily.

"I know you won't like me to call that a hyperbole, but you won't quite
expect me to say I unreservedly agree."

"It isn't a question of agreement or disagreement. It's a simple fact."
Dr. Hurd again struck his chair and sat forward feeling for a
handkerchief in a side pocket, his face a tearful grin turned upon Dr.
von Heber.

"You are a loyal champion."

"English weather does not want a champion. It's so wonderful. Perhaps
you are thinking of Italian skies and that sort of thing; in countries
where the weather does not change or not suddenly; only at fixed
seasons. That's very nice in a way. You can make plans. But I know I
should long for grey days and changes in the sky. A grey day is not
melancholy; it's exciting. You can see everything. The sun makes
everything pale and blinds you."

"There I think you mistaken. Nothing beautifies like sunlight, and if
you've the sun behind you, you get the ahead prospect without being
blinded."

"I know what you mean; but I want both; for contrast perhaps; no, that's
silly; the grey days for their own sake, the misty atmosphere. Fog. I
think a real London fog is perfection; everything and the shapes and
outlines of things looming up only as you pass them. Wonderful."

"Well, there you leave us behind. I can't see anything either beautiful
or in the least wonderful in your town fogs."

"Quite so. A taste for town fog is an artificial taste. Town fog's not a
natural phenomenon. It's just, town dirt."

"I don't care how it begins. It's perfect. It makes the whole day an
adventure even if you're indoors. It's perfect to have the light on and
nothing to be seen outside but a copper glare. Outside is a glorious
adventure in a new unknown world.... In a way all our weathers are that.
In a way the weather's enough, in itself, without anything else."

"That seems to me a remarkable, a very extra-ordinairy point of view.
You can't in any circumstances make it a general defence of your
climate. It's a purely personal notion."

"It isn't. Even people who say they don't like fogs are different;
interested in the effect while it is on."

"Uneasy, no doubt, like animals in a trap."

"I refer to Miss Henderson's extra-ordinairy valuation of weather as
enough in itself. I consider that is one of _the_ most _extra-ordinairy_
points of view I ever heard stated."

"No one can deny the quahl-ty of interest to the vagaries of your
western European climut; from our point of view it's all interest and no
climut; ye can't tell from day to day what season ye'll be in and they
all seem--stormy."

"The seasons crop up all the year round, sometimes three in one day.
That's just the fascinating thing."

"Quite so, we find that varry disturbing."

"Our sudden changes of temperature keep us hardy."

"That's true; you're a hardy people. Your weather suits you, beyond a
doubt."

"In _Ireland_, the weather changes every few minutes."

"Hah, Wayneflete."

"Granted. No doubt that assisted my parents to decide to leave; I don't
wonder at it."

"You're temperate. You've got the sea at a stone's throw all round. You
don't have notable extremes. But there's our trouble. Your extremes when
they come ain't arranged for. There's no heat like your English heat,
and my word your English houses in the winter'd take some beating."

"You mean boarding-houses."

"Not entirely. Though I admit your English hoames are unique in the
matter of comfort. There's nothing in the world like a real good
_English hoame_. And not only in the matter of comfort."

"Yes but look here von Heber. I know your fine English parlours with
fine great fires to sit around, what they call 'cosy' over here, but my
life why don't they warm their corridors and sleeping rooms?"

"We don't be_cause_ it's unhealthy. A cold bedroom keeps you hardy and
you _sleep_ better."

"And not only warm them but light them. My word when they take you out
of their warm parlours into cold corridors and land you in an ice-house
with a little bit of a flickering candle."

"You're not tempted to read in bed and you go to sleep in healthy
bracing air; it keeps you _hardy_."

"Do you never read after you retire?"

"I do; and have the gas and a lamp to keep warm. I like warm rooms and I
think in many ways it must be lovely to be able to wear muslin dresses
indoors in snowy weather and put on a fur coat to go out; but I should
be sorry to see the American warm house idea introduced into England."

"You're willing to be inconsistent then."

"Consistency is the something of something minds."

"I guess our central-heated residences would appeal to you."

"I know they would. But I should freeze in the winter; because I
shouldn't be able to wear a fur coat."

"How so?"

"I'm an anti-vivisectionist."

"Then you'd best stay where they're not needed. Your winters don't call
for them. It's the funniest thing in _life_ the way your wimmun go
around in furs."

"Furs are frightfully becoming; like lace and violets."

"Then you exonerate them although you're against the slaying evidently,
as well as the use of beasts for experiment."

"They don't think."

"My word that's true; but all the thinking in creation won't keep an
Esquimau warm without furs."

"There's no need for anyone to live up there. The Hudson's Bay
Commissioners are tradespeople."

"That's a big proposition."

"Well?"

"You'd advocate everyone living in temperate climes to spare the
beasts?"

"There's no reason except trade for anyone to live in snow."

"There's a mighty except."

"Well?"

"What about phthisical subjects who need dry cold climes?"

"Wool and astrakhan."

"Well I guess furs'll be worn for a bit yet."

"That doesn't affect the question."

"I gather you reckon the beasts oughtn't help advance science."

"They don't. Doctors are as ill as anybody."

"True enough. You consider that invalidates medical science?"

"Of course they are over-worked and many of them splendid. But illness
doesn't decrease. If one disease goes down another goes up."

"Great _Cæsar_, where did you come across that?"

"Even so; but suppose they _all_ went up?"

"Besides, you talk about animals advancing science. Even if there wasn't
that great French physiologist or chemist or something who looked at the
result of experiments on animals and said hélàs, nous avons les mains
vides. He declared that there's nothing to be learned about _human_
bodies from animals and even if there were the thing is that the animals
have no choice. We've no right to force them to suffer."

"An animal's constituted differently to a man. You can't compare them in
the matter of sensitiveness to pain."

"I knew you'd say that. If people really want to advance science by
experiments on bodies they should offer their own bodies."

"Someone's been working on your mind if you believe animals suffer more
than men."

"I'd rather see a woman suffer than a man and a man rather than a child
and a child rather than an animal. Animals are bewildered and don't
understand. They have nothing to help them. They don't understand their
sufferings."

"You rate men lower than women in power to endure pain."

"They get more practice."

"You're right there."

"They're less sensitive."

"That's debateable, Wayneflete."

"Women appear to be callous over the sufferings of other women and to
make a fuss over men. It's because sick men are more helpless and
pitiful. Women _appear_ to be. But the sun _appears_ to go round the
earth."

"I doubt if ever there'll come a time when we'll have live humanity in
our experimental laboratories."

"Science has got to go ahead anyway."

"But if it goes ahead by forcing; sensitive creatures; with ....
sensitive nervous systems, to bear fear and pain .... we shall lose more
morally than we shall gain scientifically even if we gain scientifically
and we don't because nearly everyone is _ill_."

"You consider knahludg can be bought at too high a price."

"Well; look at the continental luminaries; where there are no
restrictions; they don't even care about their patients, only diseases
interest them, and in general, not only in science, they don't really
know anything, the Germans and the French, you have only to look at
them. They are brutal."

"That's a large statement. If you'll pardon me I should say there's a
certain amount of insular prejudice in that."

"I have not a scrap of insular prejudice. I like foreigners. They are
more intelligent than Englishmen. But there's something they don't know
that makes them all alike. I once heard a wealthy old Jew say that he'd
go to Germany for diagnosis and to England for treatment, and he'd had
operations and illnesses all over the world. That expresses it."

"You infer that the English have more humanity."

"They don't regard the patient as a case in the way continentals do."

"Well I guess when we're sick we all like to go home."

"You mean the Jew had no home. But he chose the English to go home to
when he was ill."

"That's true in more senses than one. This country's been a home for the
Jews right away back."

"It's a great country. That's sure."

"Science has got to go away ahead. If you're going to be humanitarians
over here you must leave continental science out of your scheme. So long
as you carry out their results you can't honestly cry down their
methods."

"You must cry down their methods if you don't approve of them."

"You can't put back. You can't prevent association between the different
lands; especially in matters of science."

"What _I'm_ saying. You've got to accept the goods, even supposing your
particular constitution of mind inclines you to bulleave them
ill-gotten."

"It's a case of good coming out of evil."

"That's Jesuitical, the end justifying the means. I don't believe that.
Why should science go ahead so fast? Where's the hurry as you say in
Canada?"

"Well, you've only to look around to see that."

"I _don't_ see it. Do you mean that people who make scientific
experiments do it because they want to improve the world. They don't.
It's their curiosity."

"Divine curiosity I've heard it called."

"The divine curiosity of Eve ..... that's the answer to the Mosaic fable
about woman. She was interested in the serpent, and polite to him and
gossiped with him. Science is scandal-mongering; gossip about the
universe. Men talk about women gossiping. My word."

"Stars. I'd like some of our chaps to hear you say that."

"It is. Darwin gossiped about monkeys and in his old age he looked
exactly like one and regretted that he had neglected music."

"You can't have it both ways. Each man must pursue one line or another."

"Poor dears yes."

"You're inclined to pity us all."

"That's English humanitarianism may be."

"I'm not a humanitarian. I can't bear humanity, in the mass. I think
it's a frightful idea."

"A fairly solid idea."

"I prefer .... the equator, and the moon, and the plane of the ecliptic;
I think the plane of the ecliptic is a perfectly lovely thing."

"It's a scientific discovery."

"Yes but not on the body of an animal."

"The body of the chap who began all that had some pretty hard
sufferings."

"Do you know the schoolboy's definition of the equator?"

"No, but I guess it's a good one."

"A menagerie lion running round the world once in every twenty-four
hours. I think it's an absolutely perfect idea."

"I guess that's good enough to stop on."

"You off Winchester?"

In the breaking of the group Dr. von Heber came near with his smile. Dr.
Hurd was noisily stretching himself, laughing and coughing. No one was
listening. They were quite alone among their friends, his friends,
Canada. This has been a charming ending to a very lovely day he said
quietly. Miriam beamed and was silent. Did you see the afterglow, she
asked humbly. His smile reappeared. He took in what she said, but beamed
because they were talking. She tried to beat back her words, but they
were on her lips and she was already moving away when she spoke. "A fine
.... fuliginous .... _pink_ wasn't it?"


                                   2

"Where is the _harm_ child, in your sitting up at a piano, even behind a
curtain; in a large room in Gower Street, I can't imagine why you say
_GOWER_ Street; playing, with the soft pedal either down or _up_, the
kind of music that you play so beautifully? Can you see her difficulty
Jan?"

"Not even with the most powerful of microscopes."

Lolling on the windowsill of their lives to glance at a passing
show...... The blessed damosel looked out. Leaning, heavy on the golden
balcony. _She_ knew why not. Heavy blossoming weight, weighed down with
her heavy hair, the sky blossoming in it, facing, just able to face
without sinking, the rose-gold world, blossoming under her eyes.

Thin hard fingers of women chattering and tweaking...... They go up
sideways, witches on broomsticks, and chatter angrily in the distance.
They cannot stop the sound of the silent crimson blossoming roses.

"I don't approve of séances."

"Have you ever been to one?"

"No; but I know I don't. It was something about the woman when she asked
me."

"That is a personal prejudice."

"It is not a prejudice; how can it be pre after I have seen her?"

"Séances are wrong; because you have taken a dislike to Madame Devine."

"It can't be right to make half a guinea an hour so easily. And she said
a guinea for occasional public performances." That's all; they know now.
I had made up my mind. I wanted them to _see_ me tempted and refusing
for conscience sake.

"Good Lord; you'd be a millionaire in no time; why not take it until you
are a millionaire and then if you don't like it, chuck it?"

"I should like it all right, my part."

"Well surely that is all that concerns you. You have nothing whatever to
do with what goes on on the other side of the curtain. I think if you
would like the job you are a fool to hesitate, don't you Jan?"

"A fool there was and he made his prayer, yes I think it is foolish to
refuse such an admirable offer."

"A rag and a bone and a hank of hair; that just describes Madame
Devine." That's not true; smooth fat thinness with dark filmy cruel
clothes that last; having supper afterwards; but it would be true in a
magazine; a weird medium; the grocer's wife with second sight was fat
and ordinary; a simple woman. Peter, the rough fisherman.

"Now you are being unchristian."

"I'm not. I love the rag and bone and hank of hair type. Sallow. Like
Mrs. Pat...... The _ingénue_. Sitting in a corner dressed in white,
reading a book. A fat pink face. You can imagine her at forty."

"Now you are being both morbid and improper."

"I'm not morbid. Am I, Jan?"

"No I do not call you morbid. I call Gracie Harter-Jones morbid."

"Who is she?"

"We met her at Mrs. Mackinley's. She says she is perfectly miserable
unless she is in a morbid state. She's written a book called 'The Purple
Shawl of Ceremony.'"

"She must be awfully clever."

"She's mad. She revels in being mad. Like 'the Sun shivered. Earth from
its darkest basements rocked and quivered.'"

"Oh go I said and see the swans harping upon the rooftops in the corn.
Where is the grey felt hat I saw go down, wrinkled and old to meet the
lily-leaf, where where my child the little stick that crushed the wild
infernal apple of the pit where where the pearl. Snarling he cried I
will not have you bless the tropics sitting in a sulky row nor fling
your banners o'er the stately wave; I heard shrill minstrelsies ......
that's all awfully bad; but you can go on forever."

"_I_ couldn't. I don't know how you do it. I think it's awfully clever.
Jan and I roared over your Madeleine Francis Barry letter."

"You can go on for days."

"Barry-paroding."

"You must not wait, nor think of words. If you are in the mood they come
more quickly than you could speak or even think; you follow them and the
whole effect entertains you. There's something in it. You never know
what is coming and you swing about, as long as you keep the rhythm, all
over the world. It refreshes you. Sometimes there are the most beautiful
things. And you see all the things so vividly."

"She's not morbid; she's mad."

"I'm neither morbid nor mad. It's a splendid way of amusing yourself;
better than imagining the chairs in front of you at a concert quietly
collapsing." They were scarcely listening. Both of them were depending
on each other to listen and answer.

"Do you still go to Ruscino's every night Miriam?"

"With the Spaniard? How is the Spaniard?"

"He's eaten up with dizizz."

"With _what_?"

"That's what Miss Scott says."

"How does she know?"

"All the doctors are prescribing for him."

"Did they tell her?"

"I don't know. She just said it suddenly. Like she says things. The
doctors are all awfully fond of him."

"Why are they fond of him?"

"He is extraordinary. He has given up his poster work and does lightning
silhouettes, outlines of heads, at five shillings each at some gardens
somewhere. Sometimes he makes five pounds an evening at it."

"So you _don't_ go to Ruscino's every evening?"

"He had a few weeks of being awfully poor. One day he had only
eightpence in the world. Of course he was having all his meals at
Tansley Street. But that evening he found out that I had nothing at all.
I had been telling him about my meal arrangements. I always pay Mrs.
Bailey at the time for my shilling dinners and when I can't afford them
I get a fourpenny meal at a Y.W.C.A. He made me take his eightpence. The
next day he _walked_ I found afterwards, all the way to South Kensington
in the grilling heat to see a man about the silhouettes."

"What a little brick."

"He is like that to everybody. And always so...."

"So what?"

"Oh, I can't express him. But he's a Jew, you know, a Spanish Jew. Isn't
it extraordinary?"

"Well really Miriam I can't see that there is anything extraordinary
about a man's being a Spanish Jew if he wants to?"

"I was most awfully surprised. Mrs. Bailey told me. There is some Jewish
girl he has been meeting in Kensington; he drew her portrait, a special
one, for her father, for five guineas, and he has engaged himself to her
because he thought she had money and now finds she has not damn her, he
said damn her to Mrs. Bailey, and that he has been boring himself for
nothing. He is going into hospital for his gastric ulcer when the season
is over and then going to disappear. He told me he never spoke to a
woman more than twice; but that he is willing to marry any woman with
enough money."

"Wise man."

"He has spoken more than twice to you."

"Yes but I know what he means. Besides we don't talk, in the society
way."

"How _do_ you talk?"

"Oh, I don't know. I air my theories sometimes. He always disagrees.
Once he told me suddenly it was very bad for me to go about with him."

"But you go."

"Of course I do." The untold scenes were standing in the way. There was
no way of telling them...... Tansley Street life was more and more
unreal to them the deeper it grew. It was unreal to them because things
were kept back. They were still interested in stories of Wimpole Street,
but even there now they only glanced in passing, their thoughts busy in
the shared life they perpetually jested over. They listened with
reservations; not always believing; sitting in dressing-gowns believing
or not as they chose; because one knew one had lost touch and tried to
make things interesting to get back into the old glow......

"How did the dinner-party go off?"

"Beautifully."

"Did you talk German?"

"There was no need; the man talked better English than anybody."

"Why did it go off beautifully? Tell us about the beautiful things."

The strange silent twilight, the reassuring shyness of all the guests;
no attempt to talk about anything in particular; cool hard face and
upright coldly jewelled body; the sense of success with each simple
remark. The evening of music. Life-marked people; their marks showing
without pain, covered, half-healed by the hours of kindness.

"It's something in the Orlys."

"What do you think it is?"

"It's something frightfully beautiful."

"They are very nice people."

"That doesn't mean anything at all."

"The secret of beauty is colour and texture. The ointment will preserve
the colour and the texture of your skin--in any climate. Read her the
piece about the movement of the hands over a tea-tray...... In pouring
out tea never allow the hands to fall slack, or below the level of the
tray. Keep them well in view, moving deftly among the articles on the
tray; sitting well back on the seat of the chair the body upright and a
little inclined forward from the hips--see Chap.: III. "How to Sit"--so
that the movements of the wrist and hands are in easy harmony with the
whole body. Restrain the hands. Do not let the fingers splay out. Do not
cramp them or allow any effort to appear in the movement of any part of
the hand."

"Good heavens. Can't you _see_ those women. But that must be by an
American."

"Why an American?"

"Oh. I don't know. You can tell. Are you going to try all these things?"

"Rather. We're going in heavily for beauty culture."

"We are going to skip, and have Turkish baths, and steam our faces."

"I suppose one ought."

"I think so. I don't see why one should look old before one's time.
One's life is ageing and ravaging. After a Turkish bath one feels like a
new-born babe."

"But it would take all one's time and money."

"Even so. It restores your self-respect to feel perfectly groomed and
therefore perfectly self-possessed. It makes the office respect you."

"I know. I hate the grubbiness of snipe-life--sometimes."

"Only sometimes?"

"Well, I forget about it. If I didn't I should go mad of grit and dust."

"We _are_ mad of grit and dust. That's why we think it's time to do
something."

"H'm."

"You really like the Orlys, don't you?"

"You can't like everybody at once. You have to choose. That's the
trouble. If you are liking one set of people very much you get out of
touch with the others."

"You have so many sets of people."

"I haven't. I hardly know anybody."

"You have hosts of friends."

"I haven't. In the way you mean. I expect I give you wrong impressions."

"Well I think you've a capacity--Don't you think she has a capacity--von
Bohlen?"

"She has some very nice friends and some extraordinary ones."

"Like the Flat."

"How is the Flat?"

"Is she still living on a hard-boiled egg and a bottle of stout?"

"And sending notes?"

"Come round at once my state of mind is awful?"

"She's moved. I forgot to tell you. She came to tell me. She stood on
the landing and said she had taken up journalism. Writing articles, for
The Taper. Isn't it wonderful?"

"Isn't _what_ wonderful?"

"Suddenly being able to write articles. She's met some people called
occultists and says she has never been so happy in her life." ...... Are
you going to say anything .... why do you not think it wonderful? .....


                                   3

Miriam flung down Tansley Street telling her news. Her conflict with the
June dust and heat of the Euston Road had made her forget it. Back in
her own world it leapt at her from every sunlit paving stone; drawing
her on almost at a run. There was enough to carry her leaping steps
right down through London, to the edge of some unfamiliar part and back
again, but her room called her; she would go in and up to it and come
out again.

...... _hopeless_ impossibility .... good _reliable_ Budge-Whitlock at
fifteen. You won't get a Primus under twenty-five. Those other makes are
not made to last; giving way inside somewhere where you could not see,
suddenly; in the midst of the traffic; the man's new bicycle, coming in
_two_, in Cheapside .... smiling, I've got a message for you from
Winthrop; well that's not strictly true. The fact is he wants to advance
the money without your knowing it; commissioned me to see what I can do.
You needn't hesitate; he's got plenty of spare cash. I'll buy the
machine and you'll owe the price to me. Kind kind Winthrop, talking in
the workshop. It's a ph-pity she shouldn't av a ph-ph-machine if she
wants one without waiting t-ph save up frit .... I say Miss Henderson
here's a chance for you; new machine going half-price. No bunkum. It's
Lady Slater's. She's off to India. I'll overhaul it for you. Pay as you
like, through her steward. My advice is you close. You won't get a
better chance ... reaping the benefit of Mr. Layton's eternal talk about
bicycling ..... no trouble; overhauled and reliable; coming out of
space.

...... Lifted off the earth, sitting at rest in the moving air, the
London air turning into fresh moving air flowing through your head, the
green squares and high houses moving, sheering smoothly along, sailing
towards you changed, upright and alive, moving by, speaking, telescoping
away behind unforgotten, still visible, staying in your forward-looking
eyes, being added to in unbroken movement, a whole, moving silently to
the sound of firm white tyres circling on smooth wood, echoing through
endless future to the riding ring of the little bell, ground easily out
by firm new cogs.... _Country_ roads flowing by in sun and shadow; the
ring of the bell making the hedges brilliant at empty turnings ......
all there in your mind with dew and freshness as you threaded round and
round and in and out of the maze of squares in evening light; consuming
the evening time but leaving you careless and strong; even with the bad
loose hired machine.

She let herself in and swept into the dining-room taking in while she
said eagerly, crossing the room I've bought a machine. A Wolverhampton
Humber. With Beeston tyres. B.S.A. fittings. Ball Bearings .... the
doctors grouped about the mantelpiece. They gathered round her. She was
going backwards; through a scene she recognised; in a dream. Dr. von
Heber's welcoming smile stood at the end of it. They could not be there
idle at that time of day, she assured herself as she talked. She knew
they were there before she came in, without even thinking of them. She
sat down in their midst confidently saying the phrases of the scene as
they came towards her, backwards unfolding. The doctors went back with
her, brothers, supporting and following. Her bicycle led the way. Their
bright world had made it for her.

                   *       *       *       *       *

They had seen the English country with her. It was more alive to them.
They would remember. Dr. von Heber was taking it in, with his best
ruminating smile, as a personal possession; seeing it with English eyes.
Her last year's ride through the counties was shared now. It would go to
Canada.

"It's coming all the way from _Bakewell_."

"Where will that place be?"

"Oh I don't know; somewhere; in the north I think. Yorkshire. No, the
Peak. The Peak district. Peak Freane. They bake splendidly. The further
north you get the better they bake." The scene was swaying forward into
newness. Dr Winchester suddenly began talking about the historical
interest of the neighbourhood. They had all been down to look at the Old
Curiosity Shop .... there was something about it .... and there was a
better local story of their kind. She told Mr. Leyton's story of the
passage in Little Gower Place, body snatchers carrying newly buried
bodies through it by night from St. Pancras churchyard to the hospital.

"You don't say so. To think we've gone along there this while and not
known."

"That shop in Lincoln's Inn isn't the shop Dickens meant. It's been
pulled down. It's only the site. Some people think Dickens is
sentimental."

"Those who think so are hyper-critical. Besides being sentimental don't
prevent him being one of your very greatest men."

"_You_ should appreciate him highly. If ever there was any man revealed
abuses.... You ought to read our Holmes' Elsie Venner--We call it his
medicated novel over at home" smiled Dr. von Heber. He was speaking low,
making a separate conversation. The others were talking together.

"Yes," murmured Miriam. "I must." They both smiled a wide agreement.
"I've got it over at home" murmured Dr. von Heber his smile deepening
forwards. You shall read it when you come. _We'll_ read it, he said
smiling to himself. She tried to stay where he was, not to be distracted
by her thoughts. It must be Holmes' worst book. A book written on
purpose, to prove something.

"Didactic" she said with helpless suddenness, "but I like Holmes'
breakfast books."

"You've read those?"

"Yes" said Miriam wearily. He had caught something from her thoughts.
She saw him looking smaller, confined to the passing English present, a
passing moment in his determined Canadian life. His strong unconsidered
opinions held him through it and would receive and engulf him forever
when he went back. Perhaps he had not noticed her thoughts. Well I must
bid you a welcome adoo she said getting up to go.

"Now _where_" he smiled rising, and surrounding her with his smile,
"where did you discover Artemus _Ward_?"



                               CHAPTER IX


                                   1

It was Mrs. Bailey coming up the top flight clearing her throat. Tapping
at the door.

"Ah. I thought the young lady was in. I _thought_ so." Mrs. Bailey stood
approving inside the door. The sunlight streamed on to her shabby skirt.
The large dusty house, the many downstair rooms, the mysterious
dark-roomed vault of the basement, all upright in her upright form;
hurried smeary cleansings, swift straightening of grey-sheeted beds, the
strange unfailing water-system, gurgling cisterns, gushing taps and
lavatory flushes, the wonder of gaslight and bedroom candles, the daily
meals magically appearing and disappearing; her knowledge of the various
mysteriously arriving and vanishing people, all beginning and ending in
her triumphant, reassuring smile that went forward outside beyond these
things, with everybody.

Now that she was there, bearing and banishing all these heavy things,
the squat green teapot on the table in the blaze of window-light, the
Chinese lantern hanging from the hook in the ceiling, the little Madras
muslin curtains at either end of the endmost lattices made a picture and
set the room free from the challenge of the house accumulating as Miriam
had come up through it and preventing the effect she had sought when she
put out the green teapot on the sunlit table. She was receiving Mrs.
Bailey as a guest, backed up by the summery little window-room. She
stood back in the gloom, dropping back into the green lamplit stillness
of the farm-house garden. The Song of Hiawatha sounded on and on amongst
the trees, the trunk of the huge sheltering oak lit brightly by the
shaded lamp on the little garden table, the forms in the long chairs
scarcely visible. She offered Mrs. Bailey the joy of her journey down,
her bicycle in the van, Miss Szigmondy's London guests, the
sixteenth-century ingle, the pine-scented bedrooms with sloping floors,
the sandy high-banked lanes and pine-clad hills, the strange talk with
the connoisseur, the kind stupid boyish mind of the London doctor who
had _seen_ myopic astigmatism across the lunch table and admitted being
beaten in argument without resentment; the long dewy morning ride to
Guildford; the happy thorns in her hands keeping the week-end still
going on at Wimpole Street; her renewed sense of the simplicity of
imposing looking people, their personal helplessness on the surface of
wealthy social life; the glow of wealthy social life lighting the little
wooden window-room, gleaming from the sheeny flecks of light on the
well-shaped green teapot.

Mrs. Bailey advanced to the middle of the floor and stood looking
towards the window. My word aren't we _smart_ she breathed.

"I like the teapot and the lantern, don't you?" said Miriam.

"Very pretty, mts, very pretty, young lady."

"It reminds me of week-ends. It _is_ a week-end. That is my
drawing-room."

"That's it. It's a week-end," beamed Mrs. Bailey. But she had come for
something. The effect was not spoiled by giving a wrong, _social_
impression of it, because Mrs. Bailey was busily thinking behind her
voice. When she had gone the silent effect would be there, more
strongly. Perhaps she had some new suggestion to make about Sissie.

"Well, young lady, I want to talk to you." Mrs. Bailey propped one elbow
on the mantel-piece and brushed at her skirt. Miriam waited, watching
her impatiently. The Tansley Street life was fading into the glow of the
oncoming holiday season. Rain was cooling the July weather, skirmishy
sunlit April rain and wind drawing her forward. There was leisure in
cool uncrowded streets and restaurants and in the two cool houses, no
pressure of work, the gay easy August that was almost as good as a
holiday, and the certainty beyond the rain, of September brilliance.

"Well you know I've a great regard for you, young lady."

Miriam stared back at the long row of interviews with Mrs. Bailey and
sought her face for her invisible thoughts.

"Well to come straight to the point without beating about the bush, it's
about him, that little man, you know who I mean."

"Who?"

"Mendizzable."

Miriam's interest awoke and flared. That past patch of happy life had
been somehow or other visible to Mrs. Bailey. She felt decorated and
smiled into the room.

"Well; you know I don't believe in talk going about from one to another.
In _my_ opinion people should mind their own business and not listen to
tittle-tattle, or if they do, keep it to themselves without passing it
on and making mischief."

"Has someone been trying to make mischief about poor little Mr.
Mendizabal?"

"Well, if it was about him I wouldn't mind so much. Little villain.
That's my name for him."

"Fascinating little villain if he must be called a villain."

"Well; that's what I've got to ask you my chahld; are you under a
fascination about him? You'll excuse me asking such a question."

Solicitude! _what_ for?

"Well. I _did_ think him fascinating; he fascinated me, he would
anybody. He would fascinate Miss _Scott_ if he chose."

"'Er? 'Er be fascinated by anybody? She thinks too much of number one
for that."

...... Miss Scott. Dressing so carefully, so full of independent talk
and laughter and not able to be fascinated ..... too far-seeing to be
fascinated.

"But why do you ask? I'm not responsible for Mr. Mendizabal's being a
fascinating little man."

"Fascinating little _devil_. You should have heard Dr. Winchester."

Something hidden; all the time; behind the politeness of the house.

"Dr. _Win_chester?"

"Dr. Winchester. Do you remember him coming out into the hall one
evening when you were brushing your coat?"

"And brushing it for me. Yes."

"He didn't know how to let you go." There was a trembling in Mrs.
Bailey's voice. "He said," she pursued breathlessly, "he was in two
minds to come with you himself."

"_Where? Why?_"

"Why? He _knew_ that fella was waiting for you round the corner."

Suddenly appearing, brushing so carefully ...... why not have spoken and
come.

"Well now we're coming to it. I can't tell you how it all happened,
that's between Mr. Gunner and Miss S. They got to know you was going out
with Mendizzable and where you went. It's contemptible I know, if you
like, but there's many such people about."

Miriam checked her astonishment, making a mental note for future
contemplation of the spectacle of Mr. Gunner, or Miss Scott, following
her to Ruscino's. They had told Mrs. Bailey and talked to the
doctors..... Spies; talking idle; maliciously picking over her secret
life.

"Dr. Winchester said he was worried half out of his senses about you."

"Why not have said so?"

"You may be wondering," Mrs. Bailey flushed a girlish pink, "why I come
up to-day telling you all this. That's just what _I_ say. That's just
the worst of it. He never breathed a word to me till he went."

Dr. Winchester _gone_ .... the others gone .... of _course_. Next week
would be August. They had all vanished away; out of the house, back to
Canada. Dr. von Heber gone without a word. Perhaps _he_ had been
worried. They _all_ had. That was why they had all been so nice and
surrounding....... That was the explanation of everything...... They
were brothers. Jealous brothers. The first she had had. This was the
sort of thing girls had who had brothers. Cheek. If only she had known
and shown them how silly they were.

"Lawk. I wish to goodness he'd come straight to me at once."

"Well. It's awfully sweet of them from their point of view. They were
such _awfully_ nice little men in their way." ..... _Why_ didn't they
come to me, instead of all this talk? They knew me well enough. All
those long talks at night. And all the time they were seeing a foolish
girl fascinated by a disreputable foreigner. How dare they?

"That's what I say. I can't forgive him for that. They're all alike.
Selfish."

"All old men like Dr. Winchester are selfish. Selfish and weak. They get
to think of nothing but their comforts. And keep out of everything by
talk."

"It's not him I mean. It's the other one."

"Which?" What was Mrs. Bailey going to say? What? Miriam gazed angrily.

"That's what I must tell you. That's why I asked you if you was under a
fascination."

"Oh well, they've gone. What does it matter?"

"I feel I ought to tell you. He, von Heber, had made up his mind to
_speak_. He was one in a thousand, Winchester said. She's lost von Heber
he said. He thought the _world_ of her, 'e sez," gasped Mrs. Bailey. "My
_word_, I wish I'd known what was going on."

Miriam flinched. Mrs. Bailey must be made to go now.

"Oh really," she said in trembling tones. "He was an awfully nice man."

"My word. Isn't it a pity," said Mrs. Bailey with tears in her eyes. "It
worries me something shocking."

"Oh well, if he was so stupid."

"Well, you can't blame him after what Mendizzable _said_."

"You haven't told me."

"He said he'd only to raise his finger. Oh Lawk. Well there you are, now
you've got it all."

Mrs. Bailey _must_ go. Mr. Mendizabal's mind was a French novel. He'd
said French thoughts in English to the doctors. They had believed. Even
Canadian men can have French minds.

"Yes. Well I see it all now. Mr. Mendizabal's vanity is his own
affair...... I'm sure I hope they've all had an interesting summer. I'm
awfully glad you've told me. It's most interesting."

"Well, I felt it was my duty to come up and tell you. I felt you ought
to know."

"Yes .... I'm awfully glad you've told me. It's like, er, a storm in a
teacup."

"It's not them I'm thinking of. Lot of low-minded gossips. That's my
opinion. It's the harm they do I'm thinking of."

"They can't do any harm. As for the doctors they're quite able to take
care of themselves." Miriam moved impatiently about the room. But she
could not let herself look at her thoughts with Mrs. Bailey there.

"Well young lady," murmured Mrs. Bailey dolorously at last, "I felt I
couldn't do less than come up, for my _own_ satisfaction."

She thinks I have made a scandal, without consulting her .... her mind
flew, flaming, over the gossiping household, over Mrs. Bailey's thoughts
as she pondered the evidence. Wrenching away from the spectacle she
entrenched herself far off; clutching out towards the oblivion of the
coming holidays; a clamour came up from the street, the swaying tumult
of a fire-engine, the thunder of galloping horses, the hoarse shouts of
the firemen; the outside life to which she went indifferent to any
grouped faces either of approval or of condemnation.

"I'm awfully sorry you've had all this, Mrs. Bailey."

"Oh that's nothing. It's not that I think of."

"Don't think about anything. It doesn't matter."

"Well I've got it off my mind now I've spoken."

"It _is_ abominable isn't it. Never mind. I don't care. People are
perfectly welcome to talk about me if it gives them any satisfaction."

"That is so. It's von Heber I'm so mad about."

"They're all alike as you say."

"He might have given you a chance."

Dr. von _Heber_; suddenly nearer than anyone. Her own man. By his own
conviction. Found away here, at Mrs. Bailey's; Mrs. Bailey's regret
measuring his absolute genuineness. Gone away....

She steadied herself to say "Oh, if he's selfish."

"They're all that, every one of them. But we've all got to settle in
life, sooner or later."

That was all, for Mrs. Bailey. She rallied woefully in the thought that
Mrs. Bailey knew she could have settled in life if she had chosen.

Flickering faintly far away was something to be found behind all this,
some silent thing she would find by herself if only Mrs. Bailey would
go.

                   *       *       *       *       *

_Fascinated._ How did they find the word? It was true; and false. This
was the way people talked. These were the true-false phrases used to sum
up things for which there were no words.

They had no time. They were too busy. That was in the scheme. They were
somehow prevented from doing anything. Dr. von Heber had been saved. The
fascinating eyes and snorting smile had saved him; coming out of space
to tell him she was a flirt. He had boasted. She adore me; hah! I tell
you she adore me, he would say. It was history repeating itself. Max and
Ted. Again after all these years. A _Jew_.


                                   2

The unconscious, inexorable ship ...... gliding across the Atlantic.
They would take up their bright Canadian life again. England, a silent
picture, fading...... Dear Dr. von Heber. I owe it to myself just to
inform you that the legend you heard about me was untrue. Wishing you a
happy and prosperous career yours truly. That would be saying I, fool,
have discovered too late that I was not clever enough to let you imagine
that you were the only kind of man in the world ..... discreet women are
sly. To get on in the world it is necessary to be sly. Von Heber is sly.
Careful and prudent and sly. What did genius Wayneflete think? Genius
understands everything. Discreet proper clever women are open books to
him. He will never marry. Whimsical old failure, Winchester,
disappearing into British Columbia; failure; decorated in his evening
conversations by having been to England...... My dear von Heber, what
the devil do you mean? When will you meet me? Choose your own weapons
..... that would be admitting not having the right to be as free and
indiscreet as one chooses ...... "a woman must march with her regiment;
if she is wise she does"; something like that. If a woman is _sly_ she
marches with her regiment ..... all in agreement, being sly and
discreet, helping each other. What for? What was the plot for? .....
there's a _word_ ..... _coercion_, that's the word. Better any sort of
free life.

                   *       *       *       *       *

If he could have _seen_. But then he would have seen those other moments
too. Von Heber. Power and success. Never any moments like that. Divided
life all the time _always_. So much for his profession, so much for her,
outside it with the regiment of women. Proper men can't bring the wild,
gleaming ...... channel of flowers, pulling dragging to fling yourself
headlong down it and awake, dead. Dead if you do. Dead if you don't. Now
Tomlinson gave up the ghost.


                                   3

"You're just in time." They had come back? He had come back for
something?

"There's a surprise waiting for you upstairs"; _what_ surprise Mrs.
Bailey; how can you be happy and mysterious; cajoling to rush on into
nothing, sweeping on, talking; "a friend of yorse; Dr. Winchester's
room; she's longing to see you."

"Good heavens."

Miriam fled upstairs and tapped at the door of the room below her own. A
smooth fluting thoughtful voice answered tranquilly from within the
spaces of the room behind the closed door. There was no one with a voice
like that to speak to intimately. It was a stranger, someone she had met
somewhere and given the address to; a superior worldly person serenely
answering the knock of a housemaid. She went in. Tall figure, tall skirt
and blouse standing at the dressing-table. The grime-screened saffron
light fell on white hands pinning a skein of bright gold hair round the
back of a small head. How do you do, Miriam announced, coming forward
with obedient reluctance. The figure turned; a bent flushed face laughed
from tumbled hair.

"'Ere I am dear; turned up like a bad penny. I'll shake 'ands in a
minute." With compressed lips and bent frowning brow Miss Dear went on
busily pinning. "Bother my silly hair," she went on with deepening
flush, "I shall be able to talk to you in a minute."

Miriam clutched at the amazed resentment that flamed from her up and
down the sudden calm unconscious facade reared between her and the
demolished house, spread across the very room that had held the key to
its destruction. She fought for annihilating words, but her voice had
spoken ahead of her.

"_El_eanor!"

With the word a soft beauty ran flickering, an edge of light about the
form searched by her gazing eyes. Their shared past flowed in the room
..... the skirt was a shabby thin blue serge, rubbed shiny, the skimpy
cotton blouse had an ugly greyish stripe and badly cut shoulders, one
and eleven at an awful shop, but she was just going to speak.

"There that's better," she said lowering her hands to tweak at the
blouse, her blue eyes set judiciously on the face of the important
Duchesse mirror, her passing servant. "'Ow _are_ you, dear?"

"_I'm_ all right;" thrilled Miriam, "you're just in time for dinner."

"I am afraid I don't look very _din_nery," frowned Miss Dear, fingering
the loose unshapely collar of her blouse. "I wonder if you could let me
have a tie, just for to-day, dear."

"I've got a lace one, but it's crumply," hazarded Miriam.

"I can manage it I daresay if you'd let me avit."

The gong sounded. "I shan't be a second," Miriam promised and fled. The
little stair-flight and her landing, the sunset gilded spaces of her
room flung her song out into the world. The tie was worse than she had
thought, its middle length crushed and grubby. She hesitated over a card
of small pearl-headed lace pins, newly bought and forgotten. For
fourpence three farthings the twelve smooth filmy pearl heads, their
bright sharp-pointed gilt shanks pinned in a perfect even row through
the neat oblong of the sheeny glazed card, lit up her drawer, bringing
back the lace-hung aisles of the west-end shop, its counters spread with
the fascinating details of the worldly life. The pins were the forefront
of her armoury, still too blissfully new to be used...... However
Eleanor arranged the tie she could not use more than three.

"Thank you dear," she said indifferently, as if they were her own things
obligingly brought in, and swiftly pinned one end of the unexamined tie
to her blouse collar. With lifted chin she deftly bound the lace round
and round close to her neck each swathe firmly pinned, making a column
wider than the width of the lace. Above her blouse, transformed by the
disappearance of its ugly collar, her graceful neck went up, a column of
filmy lace. Miriam watched, learning and amazed.

"That's better than nothing anyhow," said Miss Dear from her sideways
movements of contemplation. Three or four small pearly heads gleamed
mistily from the shapely column of lace. The glazed card lay on the
dressing-table crumpled and rent and empty of all its pins.


                                   4

The dining-room was a buzz of conversation. The table was packed save
for two chairs on Mrs. Bailey's right hand. _Mrs. Bailey_ was wearing a
_black satin blouse_ cut in a V and a piece of black ribbon-velvet tied
round her neck! She was in conversation, preening and arching as she
ladled out the soup, with a little _lady_ and a big old _gentleman_ with
a patriarch beard sitting on her right bowing and smiling, personally,
towards Miriam and Miss Dear as they took their seats. Miriam bowed and
gazed as they went on talking. The old gentleman had a large oblong head
above a large expensive spread of smooth well-cut black coat; a huge
figure, sitting tall, with easily moving head reared high, massy grey
hair; unspectacled smiling glistening eyes and oblong fresh cheeked face
wreathed in smiles revealing gleaming squares of gold stopping in his
front teeth. His voice was vast and silky, like the beard that moved as
he spoke, shifting about on the serviette tucked by one corner into his
neck. His little wife was like a kind bird, soft curtains of greying
black hair crimping down from a beautifully twisted top-knot on either
side of a clear gentle forehead. Softly gleaming eyes shone through
rimless pince-nez perched delicately on her delicate nose, no ugly
straight bar, a little half-hoop to join them together and at the side a
delicate gold chain tucked over one ear ..... she was about as old as
mother had been ..... she was exactly like her ..... girlishly young,
but untroubled; the little white ringed left hand with strange
unfamiliarly expressive finger-tips and curiously mobile turned-back
thumb-tip was herself in miniature. It held a little piece of bread,
peaked, expressively, as she ate her soup. She was utterly familiar, no
stranger; always known. Miriam adored, seeking her eyes till she looked,
and meeting a gentle enveloping welcome, making no break in her
continuous soft animation. The only strange thing was a curious
_circular_ sweep of her delicate jaw as she spoke; a sort of wide
mouthing on some of her many quiet words, thrown in through and between
and together with the louder easily audible silky tones of her husband.
Mrs. Bailey sat unafraid, expanding in happiness. You _will_ have a
number of things to see she was saying. We are counting on this laddie
to be our guide, said the old gentleman turning hugely to his further
neighbour. Miriam's eyes followed and met the face of Dr. _Hurd_ .....
_grinning_; his intensest brick-red grin. He had not gone! These were
his _parents_. _He_ needs a holiday too, the dear lad, said the old
gentleman laying a hand on his shoulder. Dr. Hurd grinned a rueful
disclaimer with his eyes still on Miriam's and said I shan't be sorry,
his face crinkling with his unexploded hysterically leaping laugh. Mrs.
Hurd's smiling little face flickered with quickly smothered sadness.
They had come all the way from Canada to share his triumph and were here
smoothing his defeat ..... Canadian old people. A _Canadian_ woman .....
that circular jaw movement was made by the Canadian vowels. They
disturbed a woman's small mouth more than a man's. It must affect her
thoughts, the held-open mouth; _airing_ them; making them _circular_,
sympathetically balanced, easier to go on from than the more narrowly
mouthed English speech ..... Mr. Gunner, sitting beside your son is a
violinist ..... Ah. We shall hope to hear him. Mr. Gunner, small and
shyly smiling, next to him an _enormous_ woman with a large school-girl
face, fair straight and school-girl hair lifted in a flat wave from her
broad forehead into an angry peak, angrily eating with quickly moving
brawny arms coming out of elbow sleeves with cheap cream lace frilling,
reluctantly forced to flop against the brawny arms. Sallow good-looking
husband, olive, furious, cocksure, bilious type, clubby and knowing,
flat ignorance on the top of his unconscious shiny round black skull,
both snatching at scraps of Scott and Sissie and Gunner chaff, trying to
smile their way in to hide their fury with each other. Too poor to get
further away from each other, accustomed to boarding house life, eating
rapidly and looking for more. She had several brothers; a short
aristocratic upper lip and shapely scornful nostrils, brothers in the
diplomatic service or the army. There was someone this side of the table
they recognised as different and were watching; a tall man beyond Mrs.
Barrow, a strange _fine_ voice with wandering protesting inflections;
speaking out into the world, with practised polished wandering
inflections, like a tired pebble worn by the sea, going on and on,
presenting the same worn wandering curves wherever it was, always a
stranger everywhere, always anew presenting the strange wandering
inflections; indiscriminately. That end of the table was not aware of
the Hurds. Its group was wandering outside the warm glow of Canadian
society. Eleanor Dear was feeling at its doors, pathetic-looking with
delicate appealing head and thoughtful baby brow downcast. Us'll wander
out this evening shall us, murmured Miriam in a lover-like undertone. It
was a grimace at the wide-open door of Canadian life; an ironic kick à
la Harriet. Her heart beat recklessly round the certainty of writing and
posting her letter. If he cared he would understand. Mrs. Hurd had come
to show her Canadian society, brushing away the tangles and stains of
accidental contacts; putting everything right. Of course we will,
bridled Miss Dear rebuking her vulgarity. Nothing mattered now but
filling up the time.

The table was breaking up; the Hurds retiring in a backward-turning
group talking to Mrs. Bailey, towards the door. The others were standing
about the room. The Hurds had gone. _Oh_-no, _that's_ all right, Mrs.
Bailey; _I'll_ be all right. It was the wandering voice..... It went on,
up and down, the most curious different singing tones, the sentences
beginning high and dropping low and ending on an even middle tone that
sounded as if it were going on. It had a meaning without the meaning of
the words. Mrs. Bailey went on with some explanation and again the voice
sent out its singing shape; up and down and ending on a waiting tone.
Miriam looked at the speaker; a tall grey clad man, a thin pale
absent-minded face, standing towards Mrs. Bailey, in a drooping lounge,
giving her all his attention, several people were drifting out of the
room, down-bent towards her small form; Eleanor Dear was waiting,
sitting docile, making no suggestion, just right, like a sister; but his
eyes never met Mrs. Bailey's; they were fixed, burning, on something far
away; his thoughts were far away, on something that never moved. There
was a loud rat-tat on the front door, more than a telegram and less than
a caller; a claim, familiar and peremptory. Mrs. Bailey looked sharply
up. Sissie was ambling hurriedly out of the room. Oh _dear_, chirruped
Eleanor softly, _some_one wants to come in. Well; I'll say goodnight,
said the grey figure and turned easily with a curious waiting halting
lounge, exactly like the voice, towards the door. It could stop easily,
if anyone were coming in, and wander on again in an unbroken movement.
The grey shoulders passing out through the door with the gaslight on
them had no look of going out of the room, desolate, they looked
_desolate_. The room was almost empty. Mrs. Bailey was listening
undisguisedly towards the hall. Sissie came in looking watchfully about.
It's Mr. Rodkin, mother dear she said sullenly. _Rod_kin? _'Im?_ gasped
Mrs. Bailey, transfigured. Can I come in? asked a deep hollow
insinuating voice at the door, how do you do Mrs. Bailey? Mrs. Bailey
had flung the door wide and was laughing and shaking hands heartily up
and down with a small swarthy black moustached little man with an armful
of newspapers and a top hat pushed back on his head. _Well_, he said
uncovering a small bony sleek black head and sliding into a chair, his
hat sticking out from the hand of the arm clasping the great bundle of
newspapers. How _grand_ you are. Moy word. What's the meaning of it? His
teeth gleamed brilliantly. He had small high prominent cheek-bones,
yellow beaten-in temples and a yellow hollow face; yet something almost
dimpling about his smile. Aren't we? chuckled Mrs. Bailey taking his
hat. Mr. Rodkin drew his hand over his face, yawning Well I've been
_every_where since I left; _Mos_cow, _Pe_tersburg, Ba_toom_, Harr-_bin_,
_every_where. Moy _wort_. Miss Sissie you are a grown-up grand foine
young lady. What is it all about? No joke; _tell_ me I say. Mrs. Bailey
sat at ease smiling triumphantly. A grand foine dinner..... Well you
wouldn't have me _starve_ my boarduz. _Boarders_ murmured Mr. Rodkin,
_My_ God. He jerked his head back with a laugh and jerked it down again.
Well it's good business anyhow. _Bless_ my heart! They talked familiarly
on, two tired worn people in a little blaze of mutual congratulation.
Mr. Rodkin had come to stay at once without going away. He noticed no
one but the Baileys and questioned on and on yawning and laughing with
sudden jerks of his head.

Coming back from sitting flirting with Eleanor at Donizetti's, Miriam
wandered impatiently into the dark dining-room. Eleanor was not her
guest. Why didn't she go up to her room and leave her to the dim
street-lit dining-room and the nightly journey up through the darkness
to her garret in freedom. Bed-time she hinted irritably, tugging at the
tether. Bed-time echoed Eleanor, her smooth humouring nurse's voice
bringing in her world of watchful diplomatic manoeuvring, scattering the
waiting population of the familiar dim room. I'm going to bed stated
Miriam advancing towards the windows. On the table under the window that
was the most brightly lit by the street-lamps was a paper, a pamphlet
..... coloured; blue. She took it up. It hung limply in her hand, the
paper felt pitted and poor, like very thin blotting paper. _Young
Ireland_ she read printed in thick heavy black lettering across the top
of the page. The words stirred her profoundly, calling to something far
away within her, long ago. Underneath the thick words two short columns
side by side began immediately. They went on for several pages and were
followed by short paragraphs with headings; she pressed close to the lit
window, peering; there were blotchy badly printed asterisks between
small groups of lines. Heavy black headings further on, like the title,
but smaller, and followed by thick exclamation signs. It was a sort of
little newspaper, the angry print too heavy for the thin paper. Green.
It was green all through ..... _Ireland_; home-rule. I _say_ she
exclaimed eagerly. That was the grey man. _Irish_. That's all going on
still she said solicitously to a large audience. _What_ dear asked
Eleanor's figure close to her side. Ireland, breathed Miriam. We've got
a home-ruler in the house. Look at this; green all through. It's some
propaganda, in London, very angry. I 'ope the home-ruler isn't green all
through chuckled Eleanor smoothly. It's the wearin' o' the green scolded
Miriam. The Emerald Isle. We're so stupid. An Irish girl I knew told me
she 'just couldn't bear to face thinking' of the way we treat our
children.

Leaving Eleanor abruptly in darkness in her bedroom she shut the door
and stepped into freedom. The cistern gurgled from the upper dark
freshness. Her world was uninvaded. Klah-rah _Buck_, in reverent
unctuousness, waiting for responsive awe from those sitting round. He
meant Clara Butt. Then she had been to Canada. He had expected .....
Little Mrs. Hurd had sat birdlike at a Morning Musical hearing the sweep
of the tremendous voice. I have never heard it, but I know how it rolls
tremendously out and sweeps. I can hear it by its effect on them. They
would not believe that. Rounding the sweep of the little staircase she
was surprised by a light under the box-room door. Mrs. Bailey, at
midnight, busy in the little box-room? How could she find room to have
the door shut? Her garret felt fresh and free. Summer rain pattering on
the roof in the darkness. The _Colonisation of Ulster_. Her mind turned
the pages of a school essay, page after page, no red-ink corrections,
the last page galloping along one long sentence; "until England shall
have recognised her cruel folly." 10; _excellent_, E.B.R. A fraud and
yet not a fraud. Never having thought of Ireland before reading it up in
Green, and then some strange indignation and certainty, coming suddenly
while writing; there for always. I had forgotten about it. A man's
throat was cleared in the box-room. The tone of the wandering voice....
Mrs. Bailey had screwed him into that tiny hole. _I'll_ be all
_right_.... What a shame. He must not know anyone knew he was there. He
did not know he was the first to disturb the top landing.... He did not
disturb it. There were no English thoughts in there, nothing of the
downstairs house. Julia Doyle, Dublin Bay, _Clontarf_; fury underneath,
despairing of understanding, _showing_ how the English understood
nothing, themselves nor anyone else. But the Irish were not people ...
they did not care for _anything_. Meredith was partly Celtic. _That_ was
why his writing always felt to be pointing in some invisible direction.
He wrote so much because he did not care about anything. Novelists were
angry men lost in a fog. But how did they find out how to do it? Brain.
Frontal development. But it was not certain that that was not just the
extra piece wanted to control the bigger muscular system. Sacrificed to
muscle. Going about with more muscles and a bit more brain, if _size_
means _more_, doing all kinds of different _set_ pieces of work in the
world, each in a space full of problems none of them could agree about.


                                   5

"_Gracious._ You'll ave to be up early in the morning to say all those
names dear."



                               CHAPTER X


Eleanor's cab rumbled away round the corner. Mrs. Bailey was still
standing at the top of the steps. Miriam ran up the steps looking busily
ahead. It's going to be a lovely evening she said as she passed Mrs.
Bailey. She was safely in the hall. But the front door was closed and
Mrs. Bailey was in the hall just behind her. She turned abruptly, almost
colliding with her, into the dining-room. Mrs. Bailey's presence was
there waiting for her in the empty room. Behind her just inside the door
was Mrs. Bailey, blocking the way to the untrammelled house. There's
quite a lot of August left she quoted from the thoughts that had poured
down to meet her as she stood facing the stairs. The clock on the
mantelpiece was telling the time of Mrs. Bailey's day. The empty room
was waiting for the next event, a spread meal, voices sounding towards a
centre, distracting attention from its increasing shabbiness ......
there was never _long_ for it to remain sounding its shabbiness, the
sound of dust, into the empty space. Events going on and on, giving no
time to get in, behind the dusty shabbiness to the sweet dreams and
health and quiet breathing......

"What a jolly big room this _is_, isn't it?" she demanded, turning
towards Mrs. Bailey's shapely skimpy form. Mrs. Bailey knew she was
chafing in the airless shabby room. The windows closed to keep the dust
_out_ made the dust _smell_.

"Isn't it?" agreed Mrs. Bailey cordially.

"You _must_ have been glad to get rid of the lodgers and have possession
of the whole house."

"Yes" said Mrs. Bailey straightening the sideboard cloth.

Hearty agreement about the advantages and disadvantages of boarders and
then, I think it's very _plucky_ of you and away upstairs. A few words
about the interest of having boarders to begin getting to the door with.

"The Irishman's an interesting specimen of humanity."

"Isn't he interesting," laughed Mrs. Bailey moving further into the
room.

"It's much more interesting to have boarders than lodgers" said Miriam
moving along the pathway of freedom towards the open door. Mrs. Bailey
stood silent, watching politely. There was no way out. Mrs. Bailey's
presence would be waiting in the hall, and upstairs, unappeased. Miriam
glanced towards her without meeting her eyes and sat limply down on the
nearest chair.

"Phoo--it's rather a relief," she murmured.

Mrs. Bailey went briskly to the door and closed it and came freely back
into the room, a little exacting figure who had seen all her selfish
rejoicing. She would get up now and walk about the room, talking easily
and eloquently about Eleanor's charm and go away leaving Mrs. Bailey
mystified and disposed of.

"My _word_" declared Mrs. Bailey tweaking the window curtains. Then Mrs.
Bailey _was_ ready and anxious to talk her over and impart her opinion.
After seeming to like her so much and being so attentive and sending her
off so gaily and kindly, she had some grievance. It was not the bill. It
was a matter of opinion. Mrs. Bailey had been charmed and had yet seen
through her. Seen what? What was the everlasting secret of Eleanor? She
imagined them standing talking together, politely, and joking and
laughing. Mrs. Bailey would like Eleanor's jokes; they would be in
agreement with her own opinions about things. But she had formed some
idea of her and was ready to express it. If it explained anything one
would have to accept it, from Mrs. Bailey. To make nice general remarks
about her and enquire insincerely about the bill would be never to get
Mrs. Bailey's uninfluenced opinion. She would not give it unless she
were asked.

"I'm awfully sorry for her," she said in Eve's voice. That would mean
just her poverty and her few clothes and delicate health. There could be
an insincere discussion. It might end in nothing and the mean selfish
joy would still be waiting upstairs as soon as one had forgotten that it
was mean and selfish.

"So am _I_" said Mrs. Bailey heartily. There was anger in her face.
There really _was_ something, some really bad opinion about Eleanor.
Mrs. Bailey thought these things more important than joyful freedom. She
was one of those people who would do things; then there were other
people too; then one need not trouble about what it was or warn people
against Eleanor. The world would find out and protect itself, passing
her on. If Mrs. Bailey felt there was something wrong, no one need feel
blamed for thinking so. There was. _What_ was it?

"I'm the last to be down on anyone in difficulties" said Mrs. Bailey.

"Oh yes." It was coming.

"It's the _way_ of people _I_ look to." She stopped. If she were not
pressed she would say no more.

"Oh, by the way, Mrs. Bailey, has her bill been settled?" The voice of
Mrs. Lionel ..... she's unsquashable my dear, absolutely unsquashable.
You never saw _anything_ like it in your _life_. But she's done frerself
in Weston. It might finish the talk.

"That's all in order young lady. It's not that at all."

"Oh, I know. I'm glad though."

"I had my own suspicions before you told me you'd be responsible. I
never thought about that."

"No, I see."

"It's the _way_ of people."

"Well you know I told you at once that you must have her here at your
own risk after the first week, and that I hardly knew anything about
her." If she had paid the two weeks so easily perhaps Mr. Taunton was
still looking after her needs. No. She would have mentioned him. He had
dropped her entirely; after all he had said.

"I'm not blaming you, young lady." Perhaps Mrs. Bailey had offered
advice and been rebuffed in some way. There would be some mysterious
description of character; like the Norwegian .... 'selfish in a way I
couldn't describe to you' ....

"If I'd known what it was going to be I'd not have had her in the house
two days."

...... some man .... who? .... but they were out all day and Eleanor had
been with her every evening. Besides Mrs. Bailey would sympathise with
that.... She was furiously angry; "not two days." But she _had_ been
charmed. Charmed and admiring.

"Did she flirt with some one?"

"That" said Mrs. Bailey gravely, "I can't tell you. She may have; that's
her own affair. I wouldn't necessary blame her. Everyone's free to do as
they like provided they behave theirselves." Mrs. Bailey was brushing at
her skirt with downcast eyes.

..... This woman had opened Dr. von Heber's letter; knew he was coming
next year; knew that he "would not have permitted" any talk at all, and
that all her interference was meaningless. _He_ was coming, carrying his
suitcase out of the hospital, no need for the smart educated Canadian
nurses to think about him ..... taking ship .... coming back. Perhaps
she resented having been in the wrong.

"It was funny how she found a case so suddenly," said Miriam drawing
herself upright, careless, like a tree in the wind. She had already
forgotten she would always feel like that, her bearing altered for ever,
held up by him, like a tree in the wind, everyone powerless to embarrass
her. Poor Mrs. Bailey....

"You see I feel I drove her to it, in a way."

Mrs. Bailey listened smiling keenly.

"Yes you _see_" pursued Miriam cheerfully, "I told her she would be all
right for a week. I blamed _you_ for that, said you were flourishing and
she could pay when her ship came home."

"That's what you told her eh?"

"Well and then when she admitted she had no money and I knew I couldn't
manage more than a week, I advised her to apply to the C.O.S. She said
she would and seemed delighted and when I asked her about it later she
cried and said she hadn't been. I said she must do _something_ and then
suddenly this case appeared. _Where_ I don't know."

"I don't blame her for not wanting to go _there_."

"Why?"

"My word. I'd as soon go straight to the parish."

"Wilberforce believes in them. He says if you really want to help the
helpless you will not flaunt your name in subscription lists but hand
your money over to the C.O.S. They are the only charitable organization
that does not pauperise."

"Him? Wilberforce? He has a right to his own opinions I don't deny. But
if he'd ever been in difficulties he might change them. _Insulting_,
that's my opinion. My word the _questions_ they ask. You can't call your
soul your own."

"I didn't know that. That friend my sister brought here was being helped
by them."

"How is Miss Henderson?"

"Perfectly happy. Being with the Greens again seems _Paradise_ she says,
after London. She's satisfied now."

"Mts. She's a sweet young lady; them's fortunate as have her."

"Well now she's tried something else she appreciates the beautiful home.
I don't think she wants to be free."

"Quite so. Persons differ. But she's her own mistress; free to leave."

"Of course it's nicer now. The children are at school. She's
confidential companion. They all like her so much. They invented it for
her."

"Quite right. That's as it should be."

"And she is absolutely in Mrs. Green's confidence now. I don't know what
poor Mrs. Green would do without her. She went back just in time for a
most _fearful_ tragedy."

"Tss; dear--_dear_" murmured Mrs. Bailey waiting with frowning calm
eagerness. Miriam hesitated. It would be a long difficult story to make
Mrs. Bailey see stupid commercial wealth. She would see wealthy
"people," a "gentleman" living in a large country house, and not
understand Mr. Green at all; but _Eve_, getting the bunch of keys from
the ironmonger's and writing to Bennett to find out about Rupert Street
.... and the _detective_. She would have it in her mind like a novel and
never let it go. It would be a breach of confidence...... She paused,
not knowing what to do with her sudden animation. It was too late to get
back into being an impartial listener, on the verge of going away. She
had told everything, without the interesting details. Mrs. Bailey was
waiting for them. They were still safe. She might think it was an
illness or something about a relative. The only thing to do now was to
stay and work off the unexplained animation on anything Mrs. Bailey
might choose to say. "Well" said Mrs. Bailey presently, "to return to
our friend. What I say is, why doesn't she go to the clergy, in her own
parish?"

"Go on the parish, m'm."

"Not necessarily on the parish. The clergy's most helpful and
sympathetic. They might tell her of those who would help her."

"They might. But it's most awfully difficult. _Nobody_ knows what ought
to be done about these things."

"That is so. But there's a right and a wrong in everything. There's
plenty of people willing to help those that will help theirselves. But
that's very different to coming into a person's house to try and get
money out of strangers."

"I _say_."

"It is I _say_. I never felt so ashamed in my life."

"I _say_...... Did they tell you?"

"Mrs. Hurd came to me herself."

"Mrs. Hurd. Of course, it would be."

"My word. I _was_ wild. And them only just come into my house."

"Yes, of course; I _say_."

"Tellin' them she was _ill_."

"She is ill you know."

"There's some imagines theirselves ill. If she was anything like as ill
as I am she might have something to complain about."

"I think she's rather plucky. She doesn't want to give in. It's a kind
of illness that doesn't show much. I know her doctor. He's a Harley
Street man. _He_ says that her kind of disorder makes it absolutely
impossible for the patient to tell the truth. I don't believe that. It's
just one of those doctory things they all repeat." ... What is truth
said jesting Pilate and did not wait for an answer. _Their_ idea of
truth--

"Well if she is ill why doesn't she act according?"

"Look _after_ herself a bit. Yes. That's what she wants to do. But not
give in."

"Quite so. That's a thing a person can understand. But that doesn't make
it right to come to private people and behave in the way she has done.
Strangers. I never met such conduct, nor heard of it."

"No."

"She's got relatives I suppose; or friends."

"Well, that's just it. I don't think she has. I suppose the truth is all
her friends are tired of helping her."

"Well, I'm not judging her there. There's none can be so cruel as
relatives, as _I_ know, my word."

"Yes."

"They'll turn from you when you're struggling to the utmost to help
yourself, going on ill, left with four young children, your husband cut
off and not a _penny_."

"Yes."

"I agree with her there. I owe all I have, under Providence, to my own
hands and the help coming from strangers I had no claim on. But why
doesn't she act open? That's what _I_ say and I know it. There's always
those ready to help you if you'll do your part. It's all take and no
give with some."

"Vampires. People _are_ extraordinary."

"You'd say so if you had this house to manage."

"I suppose so."

"You get your eyes open. With one and another."

"I'd no idea she'd even been talking to the Hurds."

"Talk? Well I don't mind telling you now she's gone."

"Well, she won't come back again. If she ever does Mrs. Bailey I hereby
refuse all responsibility. On your head be it if you take her in. _I_
can't keep her."

"Well, as I say, I'm free to tell you. They used to go upstairs into the
drawn-room, mornings, after breakfast. I could hear that woman's voice
going on and on. I was up and down the stairs. What's more she used to
stop dead the minute I came in."

"Well I am sorry you've had all this."

"I'm not blaming you, young lady."

"What about all the others?"

"Rodkin and Helsing and Gunner's out all day."

"Yes but the others? The Manns and the Irish journalist."

"She'd be clever to get anything out of any of _them_."

"I wonder she didn't try Mrs. Barrow. She's kind I'm sure and gullible."

"She's very kind no doubt in her way. Anyway she's not one of those who
live on a widow woman and pay nothing."

The old sense of the house was crumbling. To Mrs. Bailey it was _worry_
and things she could not talk about to anyone, and a few nice people
here and there. And all the time she was _polite_; as if she liked them
all, equally. And they were polite. Everyone was polite. And behind it
was all this. Shifts and secrets and strange characters. When they were
all together at Mrs. Bailey's dinner, they were all carrying things off,
politely. Perhaps already she regretted having sent away the lodgers.

"The doctors were nice people to have in the house."

"Wasn't they dear boys? _Very_ nice gentlemen. Canadians are the ones to
my mind, though I believe as much as any in standing by your own. But
you've got to consider your interests."

"Of course."

"That's why I mean to ad_ver_tiss. My word those Hurds are good friends
if you like. I couldn't tell you. The old man's put an advert for me in
the Canadian place in the city."

"Then you'll have a houseful of Canadians."

"That's what I _hope_. The more the better of their kind."

"We shall all be speaking Canadian."

"Well, since we're on the subject, Mrs. Hurd advises me to _go_ to
Canada. Says it's all work and no pay over here. Everybody expects too
much for too little."

How _could_ she rejoice in the idea of a house full of Canadians? All
the same. Canadian. It would change the house more and more. Mrs. Bailey
would not mind that. The house meant nothing to her just as it was with
its effect. She had to make it pay. If another house would pay better
she would just as soon have another house. "You wouldn't like to leave
London; there's no place like London." The Hurds thought everyone in the
house _selfish_, living on Mrs. Bailey's work, enjoying the house for
nothing, forgetting her. It was true ... uneasy in her presence....



                               CHAPTER XI


Miriam got up early the next morning and went to her window in her
night-gown. There was a thick August haze in the square. The air smelt
moist. She leaned out into the chill of it. Her body was full of sleep
and strength; all one strength from head to feet. She heard life in the
silence, and went through her getting up as quickly as possible,
listening all the time to the fresh silence.

She went downstairs feeling like a balloon on a string; her feet
touching the stairs lightly as if there were no weight in her body. At
the end of the long journey came the smiling familiar surprise of the
hall. The hall-table was clear, a stretch of grey marble in the morning
light. The letters had been taken into the dining-room. There was
something, a package, on the far corner, a book package, with a note,
Silurian blue, _Eleanor_. Small straggly round handwriting, yes,
Eleanor's, _R. Rodkin, Esq_: _Ah._ Mr. _Rodkin_. How had she done it?
When? Carrying off a book. Pretending she had forgotten, and writing.
Sly cleverness. What a blessing she had gone...... Booming through her
uneasiness came a great voice from the dining-room. Through the misty
corridors of the _Dawn_ it bellowed. She went gladly in towards poetry.
Mrs. Bailey was presiding over an early breakfast. The Irishman, sitting
back mirthfully in his chair on the far side of the table and at his
side a big stout man with a bushy black beard, brilliant laughing eyes
staring at nothing from a flushed face. Mrs. Bailey was watching him
with a polite smile; he looked as though he were at supper; making the
room seem hot, obliterating the time of day. I expect you had a rough
crossing, she said politely. I _saw_ her, he bellowed flinging back his
head and roaring out words and laughter together. She walks in _Beauty_.
I saw her sandalled feet; upon the _Hills_.


                               PRINTED BY
                       WM. BRENDON AND SON, LTD.
                           PLYMOUTH, ENGLAND



                          Transcriber's Notes


The original spelling and punctuation were mostly preserved. In
"Interim", Dorothy Richardson experimented with punctuation, in
particular leaving out many commas and quotation marks, in order to
promote "creative collaboration" with the reader. Therefore, punctuation
was mostly left unchanged, as was the varying usage of hyphens and
ellipses.

A few obvious typographical and formatting errors were silently
corrected. Further careful corrections, some after consulting other
editions, are listed here (before/after):

   [p. 66]:
   ... was no need to have brought in home. It was ...
   ... was no need to have brought it home. It was ...

   [p. 80]:
   ... Moskowski's Serenade sounded fearfully pathetic; ...
   ... Moszkowski's Serenade sounded fearfully pathetic; ...

   [p. 88]:
   ... Who were they afraid of shocking with their ...
   ... Whom were they afraid of shocking with their ...

   [p. 111]:
   ... and her difficulties remained..... One had told ...
   ... and her difficulties remained..... One had told it ...

   [p. 114]:
   ... lost in the thick turkey carpeting of the waiting-room ...
   ... lost in the thick Turkey carpeting of the waiting-room ...

   [p. 122]:
   ... himself, in every tone listening, in the very ...
   ... himself, in every one listening, in the very ...

   [p. 162]: (multiple cases)
   ... maliciously towards Mrs. Barlow were a hard ...
   ... maliciously towards Mrs. Barrow were a hard ...

   [p. 167]:
   ... liking and determined not to be reminded of ...
   ... liking it and determined not to be reminded of ...

   [p. 179]:
   ... welcome me inside again soon. Je me'en fiche. ...
   ... welcome me inside again soon. Je m'en fiche. ...

   [p. 186]:
   ... both battreurs des pavés, she thought; both ...
   ... both batteurs de pavé, she thought; both ...

   [p. 186]:
   ... elf untouched and always new, her old free ...
   ... self untouched and always new, her old free ...

   [p. 200]:
   ... an old gossip. Old men are worse gossips then ...
   ... an old gossip. Old men are worse gossips than ...

   [p. 205]:
   ... was unreal, as easy a dream. All about her were ...
   ... was unreal, as easy as a dream. All about her were ...

   [p. 221]:
   ... was hotel; Edwards daylight Family Hotel ..... ...
   ... was a hotel; Edwards daylight Family Hotel ..... ...

   [p. 226]:
   ... makes the whole day and adventure even if you're ...
   ... makes the whole day an adventure even if you're ...

   [p. 238]:
   ... "Have you ever been to one." ...
   ... "Have you ever been to one?" ...

   [p. 247]:
   ... to chose. That's the trouble. If you are liking ...
   ... to choose. That's the trouble. If you are liking ...

   [p. 248]:
   ... not think it wonderful ..... ...
   ... not think it wonderful? ..... ...

   [p. 253]:
   ... when you come. We'll read it, he sat smiling to ...
   ... when you come. We'll read it, he said smiling to ...

   [p. 257]:
   ... and brushed at her shirt. Miriam waited, ...
   ... and brushed at her skirt. Miriam waited, ...

   [p. 257]:
   ... "Well you know I've a great regard for youl ...
   ... "Well you know I've a great regard for you, ...

   [p. 263]:
   ... went indifferent to any grouped faces of either ...
   ... went indifferent to any grouped faces either ...

   [p. 266]:
   ... be as free and indiscreet as one choses ...... ...
   ... be as free and indiscreet as one chooses ...... ...

   [p. 279]:
   ... printed astericks between small groups of lines. ...
   ... printed asterisks between small groups of lines. ...

   [p. 287]:
   ... It she were not pressed she would say no ...
   ... If she were not pressed she would say no ...

   [p. 295]:
   ... "Rodkin and Helsing's and Gunners out all ...
   ... "Rodkin and Helsing and Gunner's out all ...





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