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Title: Limitations
Author: Benson, E. F. (Edward Frederic)
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                             LIMITATIONS.

     “Is it,” he asked, "because of the little tiny spark of the Divine
     which men have within them that we care for them, or because they
     are human not divine, limited not immeasurable, faulty not
     perfect?”

     And the Professor of Ignorance, as usual, sat silent, wishing to
     hear what the others had to say about it, rather than to speak
     himself.

                                     “_The Professor of Ignorance._”



                             Limitations.

                              _A NOVEL._

                                  BY

                             E. F. BENSON,

                        AUTHOR OF “DODO,” ETC.

                            THIRD EDITION.

                                LONDON:

                          A. D. INNES & CO.,

                            BEDFORD STREET.

                                 1896.



                             LIMITATIONS.



CHAPTER I.


Tom Carlingford was sitting at his piano, in his rooms at King’s
College, Cambridge, playing the overture to _Lohengrin_ with the most
indifferent success. It was a hot night in the middle of August, and he
was dressed suitably, if not elegantly, in a canvas shirt, a pair of
flannel trousers, and socks. He had no tie on, and he was smoking a
meerschaum bowl of peculiarly spotted appearance, through a long
cherry-wood stem. The remains of a nondescript meal laid coldly on the
table, and a cricket-bag on the hearth-rug, seemed to indicate that he
had been away playing cricket, and had got back too late for hall. The
piano was almost as disreputable in appearance as its master, for it
stood in a thorough draught, between the windows opening on to the front
lawn and the door opening into the smaller sitting-room, and the
guttering candle was making a fine stalactite formation of wax on D in
alt. Several good pictures and college photographs hung on the walls,
and between the windows stood a small bookcase, suspiciously tidy. Tom
played with the loud pedal down, and treated his hands in the way in
which we are told we should bestow our alms. D in alt had stuck fast to
C sharp and C, and the effect, when either of these three notes was
played, was extremely curious. However, he finished the overture after a
fashion, and got up.

“This is a red-letter day for Wagner,” he remarked. “What do you do with
pipes when they get leprous, Teddy?” he asked, looking dubiously at the
meerschaum bowl.

“I sit down and do Herodotus,” remarked a slightly irritated voice from
the window-seat, behind the lamp.

“I don’t think that’s any use,” said Tom.

“Perhaps you’ve never tried it. I wish to goodness you’d sit quiet for
ten minutes, and let me work!”

Tom walked up to the lamp, and examined the pipe more closely.

“It is as spotted and ringstraked as Jacob’s oxen,” he remarked. “Teddy,
do stop working! It’s after eleven, and you said you’d stop at eleven.”

“And if you inquire what the reason for----” murmured Teddy.

“I never inquired the reason,” interrupted Tom. “I don’t want to know.
Do stop! You’re awfully unsociable!”

“Five minutes more,” said Ted inexorably.

Tom took a turn up and down the room, and whistled a few bars of a
popular tune. Then he took up a book, yawned prodigiously, and read for
the space of a minute and a quarter, lying back in a long basket-chair.

“What the use of my learning classics is, I don’t know,” he remarked.
“I’m not going to be a schoolmaster or a frowsy don.”

“No, we can’t all be schoolmasters or frowsy dons, any more than we can
all be sculptors,” said the voice from the window-seat vindictively.

Tom laughed.

“Dear old boy, I mean no reflection on you. You’ll be a capital don, if
you succeed in getting a fellowship, and it will always be a consolation
to you to know that you probably won’t be as frowsy as some of your
colleagues. I can’t think how you can possibly contemplate teaching
Latin prose to a lot of silly oafs like me for the remainder of your
mortal life.”

“You must remember that all undergraduates aren’t such fools as you.”

“That’s quite true; but some are much more unpleasant. They are, really;
it’s no use denying it.”

Ted shut his books, and looked meditatively out on to the court through
the intervening flower-box, filling his pipe the while, and Tom, finding
he got no answer, continued--

“And I suppose, in course of time, they’ll make you a dean. That’s a
jolly occupation! Eight a.m. on a winter’s morning. And the warming
apparatus of the chapel is defective. Furthermore, you must remember
that those are the dizzy heights to which you will rise, if you are
successful; if not, you will have spent the six best years of your life
in writing about the deliberative subjunctive, and, at the end, have
the consolation of being told that the electors considered your
dissertation very promising, but unfortunately there was no vacancy for
you. They will also recommend you to publish it, and it will be cut up
in the _Classical Review_, by a Dead Sea ape with bleary eyes and a bald
head, who will say you are an ignoramus, and had better read his grammar
before you write one of your own. Oh, it’s a sweet prospect! It is
grammar you do, isn’t it?”

“No; but it doesn’t matter,” said Ted. “Go on.”

“How a sensible man can contemplate spending his life in a place like
this, I cannot conceive,” said Tom. “It’s the duty of every man to knock
about a bit, and learn that the outer darkness does not begin at
Cambridge Station. There is a place called London, and there are other
places called Europe, Asia, Africa, and America.”

“And Australia. Do you propose to go to them all?” asked Ted. “It’s a
new idea, isn’t it? Yesterday you said that, as soon as you went down,
you were going to bury yourself at home for five years, and work. Why is
Applethorpe so much better than Cambridge?”

“Why?” said Tom. “The difference lies in me. I shall continue to be
aware of the existence of other countries, and other interests. Great
heavens! I asked Marshall to-day, in an unreflective moment, if he knew
Thomas Hardy, and he said, ‘No; when did he come up?’ And Marshall is a
successful, valuable man, according to their lights here. He’s a tutor,
and he collects postmarks. That’s what you may become some day. My hat,
what a brute you will be!”

Ted Markham left the window-seat, and came and stood on the hearth-rug.

“You don’t understand,” he said. “It’s not necessary to vegetate because
you live here, and it’s not necessary to be unaware of the existence of
Hardy because you know Thucydides. I don’t want fame in the way you want
it in the least. I haven’t the least desire to make a splash, as you
call it. It seems to me that one can become educated, in your sense of
the word, simply by living and seeing people. It doesn’t really help you
to live in a big town, and have five hundred acquaintances instead of
fifty.”

“No, I know,” said Tom, “but as a matter of experience, of men who
settle down here, a larger proportion are vegetables than should be.
They want to be the authorities on gerunds, or Thucydides, or supines in
_-um_, or binomial theorems, or acid radicals, and they get to care for
nothing else. If there were only a dozen fellowships reserved for men
who didn’t mean to work at anything, it would be all right, but when
every one cares for his own line more than anything else, you get a want
of proportion. Collectively they care for nothing but lines,
individually each for his own line. And, after all, lines are a very
small part of life. What difference would it make to any one if there
was no such thing as the deliberative subjunctive?”

Markham did not reply for a moment.

“No one supposes it would,” he said, after a pause, “but you must
remember that grammar is not necessarily uninteresting because it
doesn’t interest you. In any case let’s walk down to the bridge.”

“All right. Where are my shoes, and my coat? Ah, I’m sitting on it!”

Tom’s rooms were on the ground floor on the side of the court facing the
chapel. The moon had risen in a soft blue sky, and as they stepped into
the open air they paused a moment.

The side of the chapel opposite them was bathed in whitest light, cast
obliquely on to it, and buttresses and pinnacles were outlined with
shadows. The great shield-bearing dragons perched high above the little
side-chapels stood out clear-lined and fantastic from their backgrounds,
and the great crowned roses and portcullis beneath them looked as if
they were cut in ivory and ebony. The moon caught a hundred uneven
points in the windows, giving almost the impression that the chapel was
lighted inside. To the east and west rose the four pinnacles dreamlike
into the vault of the sky. In front of them stretched the level
close-cut lawn looking black beneath the moonlight, and from the centre
came the gentle metallic drip of the fountain into its stone basin.
Towards the town the gas-lit streets shot a reddish glare through the
white light, and now and then a late cab rattled across the stone-lined
rails of the tramway. From the left there came from the rooms of some
musically minded undergraduate the sound of a rich, fruity voice,
singing, “I want no star in heaven to guide me,” followed by “a
confused noise within,” exactly as if some one had sat down on the
piano.

Tom murmured, “I want no songs by Mr. Tosti,” drew his hand through
Markham’s arm, and they strolled down together towards the river.

“Of course I don’t mean that you’ll become like Marshall,” he said, “but
it does make me wild to think of the lives some of these people lead.
They don’t care for anything they should care about, and even if they do
care about it, they never let you know it, or talk of it. Oh, Teddy,
don’t become a vegetable!”

“And yet when I came up,” said Markham, “my father used to write me
letters, asking me about my new impressions, and this fresh world that
was opening round me, and there really wasn’t any fresh world opening
round me, and I didn’t have any new impressions of any sort. It seemed
to me like any other place--and I was expected to feel the bustle and
the stir, and the active thought, and temptations, and I don’t know what
beside.”

“O Lord!” sighed Tom. “I know just the sort of thing. I don’t know if
there is any bustle and stir, and active thought, but I certainly never
came across them. Doesn’t the _Cambridge Review_ call itself the
‘Journal of University Life and Thought?’ Meditate on that a moment. As
for temptations, the only temptations I know of are not to be dressed by
eight, not to go to Sunday morning chapel, and not to work from nine
till two. But I’ve been acquainted with all those temptations all my
life, except that one had to be up by 7.30 at Eton. The temptations, in
fact, are less severe here.”

“I don’t know how it is,” said Ted, “but whenever people write books
about Cambridge, they make the bad undergraduates go to gambling hells
on the Chesterton Road, and the good ones be filled with ennobling
thoughts when they contemplate their stately chapel. Did you ever go to
a gambling hell on the Chesterton Road, Tom?”

“No; do you ever have ennobling thoughts when you look at the stately
chapel? Of course you don’t. You think it’s deuced pretty, and so do I,
and we both play whist with threepenny points; and as a matter of fact
we don’t fall in love with each other’s cousins at the May races, nor do
we sport deans into their rooms, nor do deans marry bedmakers. Oh, we
are very ordinary!”

“I feel a temptation to walk across the grass,” said Ted.

“Yes, you’re the wicked B.A. who leads the fresh, bright
undergraduate--that’s me--into all sorts of snares. What fools people
are!”

Tom sat on the balustrade of the bridge and lit a pipe. The match burned
steadily in the still night air.

“Now, Teddy, listen,” he said, and he dropped it over into the black
water. There was a moment’s silence as it fell through the air; then a
sudden subdued hiss as the red-hot dottel was quenched.

“I wonder if you know how nice that is,” said Tom. “I don’t believe you
enjoy that sort of thing a bit.”

“Dropping matches into the river?” asked Markham. “No, I don’t know that
I care for it very much.”

“Oh, it’s awfully nice,” said Tom. “Here goes another. There--that
little hiss after the silence. Fusees would be even better. No; you
haven’t got an artistic soul. Never mind; it would be dreadfully in your
way up here. Teddy, stop up here till the end of the month, and then
come and stay with us a bit. You needn’t shoot unless you like.”

“Yes, I shall stop up till the end, but I don’t know whether I can come
home with you. I ought to work.”

“What rot it is!” said Tom angrily. “You’ve been working for six months
quite continuously, and you think you can’t spare a week to be sociable
in. What on earth does your wretched work matter, if you do nothing
else? What is the good of a man who only works?”

“More good than a man who never works. But I agree with you, really.”

“Well, but you behave as if you didn’t think so,” said Tom. “The other
day you said you sympathized with that wretched grammarian in Browning,
who spent his whole life in settling the question of the Enclitic ἀν, or
some folly of that sort, and caught a cold on his chest in consequence,
and had integral calculus and tussis, and a hundred other things. Very
right and proper. Have you got any syphons? I wish for whisky. Well,
will you come home with me or not? I’m not going to press you.”

“No, I don’t want pressing. Yes, I’ll come. I should like to very much.
You leave one alone, which is the first quality of a host.”

They strolled up again, as the clock began to strike twelve.

“I’m sure I’ve done you much more good than you’d have got in an hour
out of your Herodotus,” said Tom. “There is one really good point about
you, and that is that if you are told something you think about it. I
shouldn’t wonder if I found you dropping matches into the Cam some night
soon.”

“It’s quite possible. Let’s see, what is the point of it?--the sudden
splash at the end of the silence, isn’t it?”

“Yes, it is like so many things. It’s like a mole burrowing silently in
the earth, and then suddenly coming out at a different place. You
needn’t examine that analogy. It’s like what I am going to do. I’m going
to work very hard and quite silently for several years, and then
suddenly I’m going to make a splash.”

“But are you going out immediately afterwards--like the match?”

“I don’t know; perhaps I shall--who knows?”

“Tom, are you aware that we are talking exactly like the people in books
about Cambridge--the two friends, you know, who walk about on moonlight
nights, and meditate on life and being?”

“God forbid!” said Tom piously. “But we’d better go indoors, just to be
safe. Those people are so ridiculous only because they are always the
same. Of course we all _do_ meditate a little on life and being, but we
do other things besides. But they come out in the evening like rabbits
out of their burrow, and disappear again till the next evening. I’m
going to play cricket to-morrow. They never do that.”

“And drink whisky now. They never do that.”

“No. To drink whisky is next door to going to the gambling hell on the
Chesterton Road. Don’t go to bed yet. Come to my room.”

“I thought you wanted a syphon.”

“Yes; go and get one, will you, and bring it round.”

“Any more orders?” asked Markham.

“Oh yes,” said Tom--“some tobacco. I’ve run out.”

The Long Vacation Term was, so Tom thought, a really admirable
institution, and it might have been invented exclusively for him. None
of the colleges are more than half full, there are no lectures, and no
need of wearing caps and gowns. The usual things go on as usual, but in
a less emphatic manner. Those who wish to work do so, but not with any
sense of being ill-used if they are interrupted; college matches take
place, but they are not matters of first-class importance, or of
first-class cricket. There is a country-house atmosphere about the
place, an atmosphere of flannel trousers in the morning, of never being
in a hurry, of a good deal of slackly played lawn tennis, and going on
the river in canoes. This suited Tom very well, for he was more than
anything else an ambitious loafer, who might turn out a loafer without
ambition or an ambitious man. Successful loafing is not a gift to be
despised; it requires a certain amount of ability, for the successful
loafer must never be bored with doing nothing. Tom had quite enough
ability to be thoroughly successful in this line; he was clever,
artistic, original, and full of many interests, and in consequence he
loafed from year’s end to year’s end without ever wishing to do anything
else, though he meant to do other things often enough. He played games
well, but amateurishly, not taking them seriously enough to be
pre-eminent in anything from rowing down to chess, but finding amusement
in them, often playing a good innings at cricket when it was not wanted,
and given to slog at dangerous balls when it was particularly important
that he should keep his wicket up. “College matches in the Long,” as he
explained, were about his form.

He was for ever coming into harmless little collisions with the arm of
the academic law, being found in the streets after dark without cap or
gown, not from any wish to transgress the regulations which the
accumulated wisdom of generations had framed, but from considering in a
genial way, on each particular occasion, that it was a matter of no
importance. In the same way, if he more frequently walked across the
hallowed grass than he went round by the path, or if Mr. Carlingford’s
name was more often conspicuous by its absence than its presence from
the boards that told how many undergraduates attended lectures, he
evinced such frank surprise when the matter was brought home to him, was
so ready to express regret for what had happened, and so identified
himself with his tutor’s wish that it should not occur again, that the
offence seemed at once to appear in an almost wholly unobjectionable
light. He was now at the end of his second year at Cambridge, and the
prospects of his getting through a Tripos with any credit either to
himself or his teachers were small. His teachers regretted this more
probably than Tom himself, for they were quite aware of his ability, or
at least his power to do better than badly, while Tom was supremely
unconscious of it. He had been told that a Tripos was a test of merit,
and he accepted the fact cheerfully, even when coupled with the
assurance that he would probably only get a third. Tom drew the
inference that he was therefore a fool, and neither wished to dispute it
nor disprove it. He was, perhaps, conscious of a feeling that a great
many men who seemed to him to be extraordinarily dull took brilliant
degrees, and supposed that he was wrong in thinking them dull, or at any
rate that the abilities which ensured good degrees were compatible in
the same man with the extremes of social deficiencies. Meantime he made
admirable little sketches of his friends in the margin of his books, and
on sheets of paper during lecture hours; settled down to the belief that
his mission was to be a sculptor, and was almost surprised that the hour
had passed so soon. For the rest he was a young man of twenty-one, of
rather more than medium height, with an extraordinarily pleasant face
and a pair of honest brown eyes, which looked quite straight at you, and
always seemed to be glad to see you. He looked intensely English, and
pre-eminently clean among that race of clean men. Even Mr. Marshall,
about whom Tom has already hazarded an opinion, had been heard to say
that Carlingford was an uncommonly pleasant fellow, though he hardly
ever came to have his Latin prose looked over.

It was nearer ten o’clock than nine when Tom emerged half dressed from
his bedroom next morning, to find two or three cold pieces of bacon
waiting for him, which he inspected with an air of slight but resigned
curiosity. It really seemed so odd that this world should contain things
so undesirable as pieces of cold crinkled bacon; the reasons for their
existence were as unintelligible as the causes which produced centipedes
or deliberative subjunctives. Markham came in at this moment, for Tom
had said he was coming to work with him at half-past nine, but his face
expressed no surprise.

“Come in, old man,” said Tom. “I hate people who say ‘old man,’ don’t
you? Have you come to breakfast? That’s right. Sit down, and help
yourself. I’ve breakfasted ages ago, and I’m afraid the tea’s quite
cold. Never mind, I’ll make some more. You may think I’m foolish, but
it’s not so. As a matter of fact, I didn’t wake till half-past nine.
Make tea, Teddy; I’ll be ready in a minute.”

“I didn’t come here to make tea for you, but to work,” said Markham,
lighting the spirit-lamp.

“Well, you’re late, then,” said Tom; “you said you’d be here at
half-past nine, and it’s close on ten. And I wish it was eleven.”

“Why?”

“Because I should have shaved, and have eaten a little cold crinkled
bacon. Also perhaps have done a little work. But about that I can’t
say. By the way,” he called out from his bedroom, “Teddy!”

“Well?”

“I’m going to study the antique this morning in the Cast Museum. Come
too?”

“Rot!”

“What?”

“Rot!”

“Oh! This is rather a brilliant conversation, isn’t it? Well, I’m going
there really. Do come. You’ll see some pretty things. I wish I’d done
the Discobolus. I should have, if some one hadn’t thought of it first. I
shall do a man shying a cricket-ball. Pull the string and the model will
work.”

Tom emerged from his bedroom and sat down to the cold bacon.

“I shall complain of the cook,” he remarked. “This bacon is cold. I
didn’t order cold bacon. I’m not a hedger and ditcher. What are hedgers
and ditchers? Anyhow, they eat cold bacon in hedges and ditches. I’ve
seen them myself.”

“Perhaps you didn’t order your breakfast at three minutes to ten.”

“Don’t be snappy, Ted. But you’re quite right. I don’t know what they
mean by it. Was it you who came in here about half-past eight, and
knocked at my door?”

“No. I shouldn’t have stopped there. But I thought you said you didn’t
awake till after nine.”

“Oh, that was afterwards. I didn’t awake that time till after nine. You
see it was quite an accident that some one came in here at half-past
eight, and I couldn’t conscientiously count that. I’m sure you must see
that no one with any sense of honour could have taken advantage of
that.”

“No, it would have been hardly fair, would it?” said Markham dryly. “A
tricky sort of thing to do. Where did you say you were going to spend
the morning?”

“At the Archæological Museum. I went there yesterday for the first time.
They’ve got no end of casts. All the best Greek things, you know.”

“It won’t help you much in your Tripos, will it?”

“No, of course it won’t,” shouted Tom. “Good heavens, to hear you talk,
one would think that a man’s place in heaven was decided by his Tripos,
not to mention his place on earth! I’m not going to be a don or a
schoolmaster, as I told you last night----”

“Frowsy don,” said Markham.

“All right, frowsy don, and I don’t care a blow whether I get ploughed
or not. I don’t feel the least interest in any of the books I have to
read, so why should I read them?”

“Then why do you ever read at all?”

“Because dons and other people, like you, for instance, make such a fuss
if I don’t.”

Markham walked to the window and pulled up the blind, letting a great
hot square of sunshine in upon the carpet.

“I wonder at your considering that sufficient reason. Of course I’m
grateful for the compliment. Personally I should never think of doing a
thing because you would make a fuss if I did not.”

“Oh, go home, Teddy,” said Tom in cordial invitation. “You talk like
pieces for Latin prose. Look here, I’m going to the museum for an hour,
and then I shall come and work. This afternoon we play some
college--John’s, I think--on our ground. You said you’d play. We shall
begin at two sharp. Mind you work very hard all the morning, and try to
finish the fifth book of Herodotus--or whatever it is--before lunch. I
hope you always mark your book with a pencil, and if you find any
difficulties, bring them to me.”

Tom laid a paternal hand on Markham’s shoulder, and blew a smoke-ring at
him.

“And now I’m going to study the heathen antique. I wish you’d come. It
would really do you good. For me of course it’s necessary, as I’m going
to be a sculptor. Teddy, will you be my model for ‘The Academic Don’?
I’m going to do a statue of the academic don, a mixture of you and
Marshall and a few others--a type, you know, not an individual. That’s
always going to be my plan. I shall do a pedimental group, ‘Typical
Developments of Modern Dons.’ In the centre the don stands upright,
looking more or less like an ordinary man: then you see him beginning to
stoop, then sitting down, getting more and more like a vegetable at each
stage, and in the corner there will be two large decayed cauliflowers,
with fine caterpillars crawling all over them. In ten years you shall
sit for the cauliflower. Good-bye.”

Tom banged the door after him and went off to his museum, and there was
nothing left for Ted but to follow his advice and begin working, which
he did in a savage spirit. Like many rather silent, rather serious
people, he found a great stimulus in the presence of some one who, like
Tom, was hardly ever serious, and never silent. He made periodical
attempts to take Tom in hand, but, like most people who had tried to do
so, his efforts were not very successful. Tom had loafing in the blood,
and his ambitions did not run in the lines of Triposes. At the same time
it was owing to him that Tom had not at present failed very signally in
college examinations, for Ted had succeeded in making him work, if not
steadily, at least intermittently. Tom’s fits of intermittent work had
not, it is true, occurred very often, but when they did occur they
lasted sometimes for a week, of eight-hour days, and left him idler than
ever. But, from Ted’s point of view, a widely supported and seemingly
rational one--that men came up to the university partly at least to
work, and that examinations were the criterion whereby the success of
nine terms of residence was judged--these intermittent fits were better
than nothing, and when they were induced just before an examination they
led to results which, though superficial, were, according to the
standard he measured them by, tolerably satisfactory. Tom never
professed to feel the least interest in what he was working at, but
pressure would sometimes make him work; and a very vivid memory, though
one of short range, enabled him to reproduce the results of his week’s
cramming.

But Tom’s influence over his friend was of a much more personal and
vital kind. Ted looked on to the time when Tom should go down, and leave
him, as he hoped, to a permanent university life, with blankness. He
formed few friendships--and he had never been intimate with any one
before. Tom’s healthy, out-of-door sort of mind, coupled with his
artistic and picturesque ability, and his personal charm, had for him a
unique attraction. You may see an even further development of the same
phenomenon sometimes in the lower animals. A staid senior collie will
often strike up an intimacy with a frisky young kitten, though it is
hard to understand what the common ground between them is. The collie is
not happy without the kitten, but unfortunately the kitten is quite
happy without the collie--in fact, it would find the continuance of its
exclusive society a little tedious.



CHAPTER II.


Tom came back from his museum about twelve, in an unusually sombre mood:
the Discobolus apparently had not proved inspiring; and he took his
books to Markham’s rooms, tumbled them all down on the floor, lit a
pipe, and took up his parable.

“Those things are no good to me,” he said; “they may have been all very
well when the race of men was a race of gods, when all the best athletes
went to the games naked, and wrestled and boxed together; but it is out
of date. Of course they are awfully beautiful, but they are obsolete.”

“Do you mean that you prefer Dresden china shepherdesses?” asked
Markham.

“No, of course not; they are out of date too, and they are not
beautiful. They are only clever, which is a very lamentable thing to be.
No one was ever like that. An artist must represent men and women as he
sees them, and he doesn’t see them nowadays either in the Greek style or
in the Dresden style. Yet how are you to make knickerbockers
statuesque?”

“You aren’t; or do you mean to say that the artists of every age must
reproduce the costume of every age? Surely, if we all dressed in sacks,
you couldn’t represent them.”

“Yes, but we never shall dress in sacks,” said Tom; “that makes just the
difference, or rather there will be no sculptors if we do. To look at a
well-made man going out shooting gives one a sense of satisfaction: what
I want to do is to make statues like them, which will give you the same
satisfaction. Somebody wrote an article somewhere on the incomparable
beauty of modern dress. I didn’t read it, but it must be all wrong. It
is the ugliest dress ever invented. How can you make waistcoats
statuesque? I haven’t got one on for that reason.”

“Tom, do you mean to do any work this morning?” asked Markham.

Tom shook his head.

“No, I’ve got something more important to think about. Do you see my
difficulty? I want to make trousers beautiful, and women’s evening dress
beautiful, and shirt sleeves beautiful.”

“Shirt sleeves are not beautiful,” said Markham; “how can you make them
so, and yet be truthful?”

“My dear fellow, it is exactly that which it is a sculptor’s business to
find out,” said Tom. “I don’t mean I shall make them beautiful in the
same way as the robes of the goddesses in the Parthenon pediments are
beautiful, but I shall make them admirable somehow. I shall make you
feel satisfied when you look at them. Think of that boxer’s head in the
British Museum: he must have been an ugly lout, but what a masterpiece
it is! That is a much greater triumph than the Discobolus, simply
because it represents an ugly man.”

“Tom, don’t pretend you belong to the school that says that everything
that exists is worth representing. No one wants to see drawings of
dunghills.”

Tom rose from his chair and began to walk about the room.

“I don’t know,” he said, “I can’t be sure about it. Before I judge I
shall go and see the best things that are to be seen. I shall go to
Rome, I shall go to Athens--Athens first, I think. I don’t want to be
influenced by any modern art, and if you go to Rome you must fall in
with some modern school or other: there are too many artists at Rome.
Yes, I shall go to Athens the autumn after I have taken my degree. But I
expect to be disappointed. It will all be beautiful, but it will be all
obsolete, and that will be distressing. Greek statues are in the grand
style, like the Acropolis, I expect. They were perfect for that age and
for that people, but I don’t think they would do now. We’re not in the
grand style at all. We wear cloth caps and Norfolk jackets. Fancy the
Discobolus in a Norfolk jacket, or Athene in a bonnet and high heels. I
shall go and talk to Marshall about Athens. He’s been there. You play
this afternoon, Teddy, you know. Two sharp. I’m going to lunch in hall
at one.”

Tom gathered his books together, preparatory to leaving the room. “I
wish I hadn’t gone to that Museum,” he said; “it’s put me out of
conceit. You can’t do anything good unless you believe in yourself.
People talk of humility being a virtue; if so, it’s one of the seven
deadly virtues.”

Tom met Mr. Marshall going across the court, and assailed him with
questions about Athens. This eminent scholar was a small man, with a
quick, nervous manner and weak, blinking eyes. He had a nose like a
beak, which completed his resemblance to a young owl.

“Athens, yes. I was there six years ago,” he said. “I remember it rained
a good deal. The Acropolis, of course, is very fine. There is, as you
know, a beautiful temple to Minerva on it. I calculated that the blocks
composing the row of masonry above the pillar must have weighed fifteen
or twenty tons each. I was very much interested in speculating how they
got them into place. Yes.”

“I’m going to work there,” said Tom, “after I’ve taken my degree. I
suppose they’ve got masses of things there.”

“The museums are very considerable buildings,” said Marshall. “I was
very much struck by the size of them. I should be most pleased to be of
any use to you, in the way of recommending hotels and so forth.”

“Many thanks,” said Tom. “I shall ask you again about it, if I may.”

Tom went to his rooms, and addressed his piano dramatically. “That is a
tutor,” he said.

He went up rather late to cricket, being the captain, and having warned
every one that the match was going to begin at two sharp, won the toss,
went in himself, and got bowled during the first over, in trying to slog
a well-pitched ball over long-on’s head.

“I vote we declare the innings closed,” he said, as he returned to the
pavilion. “To close our innings for one run would be so original that it
would be really worth while just once. Hit them about, Teddy, and make
a century!”

Tom had the satisfaction of seeing his side make between two and three
hundred, but however gratifying this was to him as a member of the team,
it was tempered with other feelings. He went and bowled at the nets for
half an hour, watched the game a little, and felt that his applause was
hollow. Markham was playing characteristically; that is to say, he left
dangerous balls on the off alone, hit hard and well at badly pitched
ones, and played good-length balls with care and precision.

“There’s no fun in that,” thought Tom to himself; “any one can do that.
All the same any one can get out first ball, like me, if they play the
ass.”

Markham was in about an hour, and when it was over he and Tom went to
get tea.

“I wish you’d had a decent innings instead of me,” said Markham, as they
walked off to the pavilion.

“Nonsense, Teddy; you played very well.”

“I mean you enjoy it much more than I do.”

“Well, that’s your fault. Hullo, there’s Pritchard out!”

Pritchard came up to them, dangling his glove in his hand, with much to
say.

“It’s a beastly light,” he began, as soon as he was up to them. “I
played the ball all right, but I simply couldn’t see it. Besides, it
shot.”

“Well, it was just the other way with me,” remarked Tom. “I saw the ball
all right, but I couldn’t play it, and it didn’t shoot.”

“Oh, you tried to slog your first ball,” said he, walking away.

Tom and Markham sat down under the chestnut-tree and drank their tea.

“Shall I come to you as soon as term is over?” asked Markham. “The last
day of term is Saturday week, you know.”

“Hang it! so it is. Yes, come at once; it will be the twenty-ninth,
won’t it? Thirty days hath--no there are thirty-one. Tuesday will be the
first. You may come and carry my cartridges if you won’t shoot.”

“That will be charming. I can’t see what the fun of hitting little brown
birds is.”

“Oh, well, you may always miss! But if you come to that, what’s the fun
of hitting a little red cricket-ball?”

“Well, you may always miss that,” said Markham, “just as you did, Tom!
Besides, if you hit it you score runs.”

“Well, if you hit the little brown bird twice, you score a brace of
partridges. Besides, you have a nice walk over turnips and mangolds----”

“Well, you can do that in August.”

“Oh, Teddy, there’s no hope for you!” said Tom. “When you die and go to
hell, they’ll make you shoot all day until you love it, and then they’ll
send you to heaven, where there is no shooting at all. I don’t suppose
there are such things as rocketing angels, are there?”

“Tom, the only excuse for being profane is being funny.”

“All right. But I don’t see why there shouldn’t be. There is such a
thing as a shooting star.”

“What _do_ you mean?”

“I’m sure I don’t know,” said Tom. “Of course there was some connection
in my mind, or I shouldn’t have said it.”

“Do you mean that no one, even you, can talk sheer drivel?”

“Don’t ask so many questions, Teddy. We shall be all out in a minute;
there’s the ninth wicket down. Come on, we’ll give those beggars a
chance. You know it is all nonsense saying that trousers and shirts are
not beautiful. Look at Harold bowling there. Do you see how the wind
blows the shirt tight over his shoulder? That’s an opportunity for a
sculptor which the Greeks didn’t use--you get all the shape of the arm,
and that look of wind and motion which the loose flap of the sleeve
gives.”

“I should advise you to do a statue of a man bowling in a high wind,”
said Markham.

“I’m going to--just at the moment when the ball leaves his hand, one leg
right forward, with the trouser loose on it, the other leg back with the
trouser tight. It’s all nonsense about momentary postures not being
statuesque. They are statuesque above all others. I don’t call those
knights in armour on Gothic tombs statuesque. Sculpture represents life,
not death. There! why the deuce Hargrave tried to hit that ball, I don’t
know. Of course it bowled him.”

“Thomas Carlingford did the same,” said Markham.

“I know he did. That’s why he has every right to express his opinion, as
it is strictly founded on experience. Look sharp with the roller! We’ll
go out at once.”

The remaining fortnight of the Long passed away quickly and
uneventfully, and by degrees the colleges began to empty themselves. In
King’s hardly any one was left except Tom and Markham, who played tennis
together when there was no longer a cricket team available, and spent
the mornings, Markham working, Tom doing anything else by preference.
The latter got hold of a lump of modelling wax, and made the prettiest
possible sketch, as he had intended, of a man bowling. The figure was
charmingly fresh, and had a certain masterly look about it which showed
through all its defects. Tom lost his temper with it twenty times a day,
and twice crushed the whole thing into a shapeless mass, was sorry he
had done so, and set to work again. He had never had any teaching, but
there was no doubt that he had got the artist’s fingers, which are of
more importance than many lessons. Lessons you can obtain in exchange
for varying sums of money, and artist’s fingers are a free gift, but
they are given to the few.

Meantime Markham bent his grave, black-haired head over his Herodotus,
and sat on a cane-backed chair at the table, while Tom lolled in the
window-seat, and poured out floods of desultory criticism on every
subject under the sun. At times Markham gathered up his books
impatiently, and left the room, declaring that it was impossible to do
anything if Tom was there; but after a quarter of an hour or so he
always wished that Tom would follow him, and at the end of half an hour
he usually went back, finding that the wish to be with him was stronger
than the wish to get on with his work. Tom apparently was quite
unconscious of all this. He was always very fond of the other, but in a
breezy, out-of-door manner, and he would always have preferred playing
cricket, with or without his friend, to his undivided company at home,
while Markham had been conscious on several occasions of being glad when
it rained, making cricket impossible, but making it natural for Tom to
come to him to be supplied with other amusements.

Once during this week the two had settled, in default of other things to
do, to go up the river and have tea at Byron’s pool, bathe, and come
home again in the evening. But during the morning a note had come for
Tom, asking him to play for an inter-college club against a town club,
and he accepted with alacrity, and went to Markham’s room to tell him
that he couldn’t come with him.

Markham said, “All right,” without looking up from his books; but for
some reason Tom was unsatisfied. He paused with his hand on the door.

“You don’t mind, do you?” he said.

“I don’t want you not to play,” said Markham coolly.

“What’s the matter?” asked Tom in surprise.

Markham got up and went to the window.

“Nothing. Mind you make some runs.”

But Tom still lingered.

“Look here, I’ll come up the river if you are keen about it. I only
thought we settled to do it if nothing else turned up.”

Markham recovered himself.

“Yes, it’s perfectly right, Tom. Bring your books in here and work till
lunch.”

“No, I can’t; we’re going to begin at one. I shall go and have some
lunch now. You can get some one else to go up the river with you, you
know; no one is doing anything this afternoon.”

“No, I don’t think I shall go; I don’t want to much. Are you playing on
the Piece? I shall stroll down there after lunch.”

Markham’s father was the incumbent of a small living about ten miles
from Cambridge, where he spent a happy, and therefore a good life, doing
his parish work with great regularity and no enthusiasm, reading Sir
Walter Scott’s novels through again and again, looking after a rather
famous breed of spaniels, and editing, at intervals of about three
years, an edition of some classic, adapted, as he suggested in his
prefaces, for the higher forms in public schools. His religion was a
matter of quiet conviction to him, and his other conviction in life--two
convictions is a large allowance for an average man--was his belief in
the classics. Ted had been brought up in the same convictions, and at
present had shown no signs, outward or inward, of departing from either
of them. The nearest approach he had had to abandoning either was due to
Tom’s frank inability to find amusement or interest in classics, for
Markham, recognizing his undoubted ability, could not quite dismiss his
opinion off-hand. The father’s wish for the son was that he should be a
great Christian apologist, in Orders as a matter of course, and a Fellow
of his college. At times, Markham suspected that Tom’s religion had no
greater place in his interests than classics; but of this he knew
nothing, for nine young men out of ten do not talk about their religion,
even if they know about it, and Tom was emphatically not the tenth.

Ted left Cambridge to go home two days before the end of term, for
Chesterford was on Tom’s way, and he wished to pick up some books at
home, and leave others there.

His father met him at the station, driving a neat, rather unclerically
high dog-cart, accompanied by two spaniels and a horsey-looking lad, who
was coachman, gardener, and organ-blower in church. Mr. Markham was a
tallish, distinguished-looking man, in whom the resemblance to his son
could be traced; he wore a straw hat and a grey coat, so that, had it
not been for his white tie, you would perhaps have been at a loss to
guess what his profession was.

“Well, my boy,” he said heartily, “I’m glad to see you, though it is for
such a short time. Have you got all your luggage? Jim will put it in the
cart for you. I’ve got a thing or two to do in the village,” he
continued, taking the reins. “Wroxly tells me he’s got some wonderful
stuff for the distemper, and Flo is down with it, poor lass! She’s a bit
better this morning, and I think we shall pull her through.”

“Which is Flo?” asked Ted, who thought dogs were uninteresting.

“Flo? She’s one of the last lot, born in April--don’t you remember?
She’s the best of them all, I think. Wonderful long silky ears.”

“That’s no clue to me, father,” said Ted. “I always think they are all
just alike.”

“Ah, well, my boy, they aren’t so important as classics. I read that
note of yours in the _Classical Review_, and it seemed to me uncommonly
good. How has your work been getting on?”

“Oh, fairly well, thanks. I haven’t done much lately, though. I’ve been
looking after Tom Carlingford.”

“That’s the boy who was here a year ago, isn’t it? You’re going to him
to-morrow, I think you said. Get him to come here again, Ted; we all
liked him so much. Not much of a classic, I should think----”

“No. Tom doesn’t care for classics,” said Ted, “and there’s no reason
why he should work at them, you see. He’s awfully rich, and he’s going
to be a sculptor.”

“A sculptor--that’s rather an irregular profession.”

“Yes. Tom’s irregular, too.”

“Has he got any ability?”

“I always think he’s extremely clever,” said Ted with finality.

“Dear me, he didn’t strike me as clever at all,” said his father. “I
remember he spent most of his time skating, and sitting by the fire
reading old volumes of _Punch_.”

“I dare say I’m wrong,” said Ted. “You see, I’m very fond of him. Ah,
here we are, and here’s May coming down the drive to meet us!”

If Tom had spent his time skating and reading _Punch_ when he might have
been talking to May--always supposing that May did not skate and did not
read _Punch_ with him--he was a fool. That, however, is probably
sufficiently obvious already. In this case, Tom’s folly consisted in
preferring even old volumes of _Punch_ to the society and conversation
of a typical English girl of the upper classes, tall, fair, slim, just
at that period of her life when the blush of girlhood is growing into
the light of womanhood, a girl whose destiny it clearly was to be a
wife, and the mother of long-limbed boys who yearn all their boyhood to
be men, and who become men, real men, at the proper time.

Ted jumped down off the dog-cart as it turned up the steep drive,
leaving his father there; and the brother and sister walked up to the
house together.

“Yes, it’s always the way, Ted,” she said; “you come here one day and go
off the next. And you promised to be here all September!”

“Well, I shall be here nearly all September,” said he. “I’m only going
to the Carlingfords’ for a week.”

“How is Mr. Carlingford?” asked May, after a pause.

“He’s all right. He always is. He has talked a good deal, and done very
little work. He also made one century in a college match, and followed
it up by five ducks.”

“I thought you were going to bring him here again.”

“Yes,” said Ted, “I had thought of it. But he asked me to go back with
him for a bit.”

They had reached the house by this time, and Mr. Markham was just going
off to the kennels, to try the effect of the new medicine on Flo.

“Flo’s a good deal better, father,” said May; “I think she’s getting
over it.”

“Ah, I’m glad of that. But I shall just try her with this. By the way,
did you take those books you have been covering to the parish library?”

“Yes, I took them this morning, and brought back some others.”

“That’s a good girl! And the meeting of the outdoor relief fund?”

“It went all right. Come down to the lake, Ted, and we’ll paddle about.”

They walked across the lawn, down over two fields, now green and tall
with the aftermath, and pushed off in a somewhat antiquated boat.

“Well, May, how have things been going?”

“Oh, much as usual! I’ve been busy lately. Oh, Ted, isn’t it lovely?
Look at the reflections there. I do love this place!”

“Could you live here always?” asked Ted.

“Why, yes, of course; what more can one want? I should hate to live in a
town! And think of leaving the village, and all the dear dull old
people! I like dull old people--I like little ordinary things to do,
like covering parish books. That’s the life I should choose--wouldn’t
you?”

Ted did not answer for a moment.

“Yes, I think I should. All the same, you know---- No, I like this
best.”

“People talk of the stir and bustle of London,” went on May, dipping her
hand into the water, and pulling up a long flowering reed, “but I should
detest that. It would frighten me.”

“It’s my opinion that the bustle and stir is exaggerated,” said Ted.
“People are much the same all the world over.”

“I don’t think that,” said May. “Miss Wrexham was here last week,
staying at the Hall; father and I dined there once while she was here.
Well, she is quite a different sort of person. She was always talking,
and wanting to do something else. She couldn’t sit still for two minutes
together, and she talked in a way I didn’t understand.”

“How do you mean?”

“I can’t express it exactly,” said May. “She seemed to belong to a
different order of woman altogether. One morning she asked me if I did
any work in the parish. I told her the sort of things I spend my day in,
and she said, ‘Oh, that must be so sweet! just living in a country place
like this, and seeing poor people, and going to early celebrations. I
suppose you go to London, don’t you, in the summer?’ Then, of course, I
had to explain that country clergymen couldn’t do that sort of thing,
and she said how stupid it was of her, and would I forgive her. She
talked as if all one did was the same kind of thing--as if covering
parish books was the same thing as going to communion. And why should
she ask me to forgive her?”

“I imagine you didn’t like her much,” said Ted.

“No, I can’t say that I did. I don’t think she is genuine.”

“Oh, you can’t tell,” said Ted. “I know several people like that, and
they are just the same as we are, just as genuine certainly, but they
say whatever comes into their heads.”

“Well, that’s not genuine,” objected May.

“I don’t see why.”

“Because what you say ought to represent what you are. If you say
anything that comes into your head, you make the big things and the
little things all equal. Pull round, will you?--there’s the
luncheon-bell.”



CHAPTER III.


Mr. Carlingford lived in an ugly but comfortable house among the
broad-backed Surrey Downs, generally alone, for a life of sixty-eight
years had convinced him that he found his own society less tedious than
that of his friends. He made, however, one exception in favour of Tom,
for whom he had a considerable liking. He had married late, had been a
widower for twenty-one years--since Tom’s birth--and had no other
children. He seldom spoke of his wife, so that we have no means of
finding out whether he included her in the verdict he mentally passed on
his friends, but there is no reason to suppose that he did not.

His house, Applethorpe Manor, he rented from the owner, who was in
straitened circumstances; he refused to buy it, for, as he said, he
would probably not live much longer, and it was more than possible that
Tom would not want to keep it, and would very likely sell it for much
under its value. But Tom might have been well content to keep such a
place; it stood admirably, surrounded by its own grounds, and a park of
some six hundred acres stretched away from halfway up the gentle slope
in front of the house to the top of the down. Behind, the hill-slope
declined rapidly away to the bottom of the valley, in which lay the
little red-roofed village, overlooked by a church, in which a
nineteenth-century architect had accomplished his wicked will, dealing
death to early Norman work. On the other side of the village another
down rose in gentle slopes of yellowing autumn fields, planted here and
there with beech and oak woods. At intervals, the chalky sub-soil came
to the surface like the bleached bones of the world, but for the most
part a thick loamy earth hid the underlying barrenness.

South of the house lay a level lawn, dominated by a large cedar-tree,
the horizontal fans of whose branches formed an effectual protection
against sun, and even against rain; flower-beds arrayed in fantastic
patterns, having for the centre of their system an Italian stone vase,
stretched out to one side of this tree, while to the other the lawn lay
steeped in summer suns, or grew rank and mossy under autumn rains. A
terrace festooned with virginia-creeper and low-growing monthly roses
bounded the lawn to the south, below which lay a long strip of
flower-bed, and beyond, a broad hayfield, stretching down as far as the
village.

But on the 1st of September, two days after the arrival of Tom and
Markham, there were other guests in the house. Mr. Carlingford’s sister
had married a peer, who privately considered his wife’s brother rather
low, but tolerated him for the sake of his partridge-shooting, about
which the most fastidious could not possibly be depreciatory. Lady
Ramsden was a tall, sallow, and fretful woman, who literally enjoyed
rather bad health, though not so bad as she imagined. In fact, her bad
health only manifested itself in intermittent medicine-taking, stopping
in bed for breakfast, and not going to church on Sunday. She was one of
those women about whom people say, when they are yet in their teens,
that they are sweetly pretty, but very delicate-looking; when they are
about thirty, that they will not wear well; and when they are
thirty-five, “Poor dear.” Lady Ramsden was forty, and her cup of
ineffectiveness was full.

Her husband was clearly English, almost brutally English. The name of
his nationality was, as it were, written in red ink all over his body
and his mind, and he dressed, so to speak, in Union Jack. He was tall,
well set up, had once represented his native borough in the House of
Commons in his youth, and now in middle age, having repeatedly failed to
get into the Lower House, had been awarded the Consolation Stakes, and
sat in the Upper. He was fond of shooting, but shot badly, had several
shelves in his library full of parliamentary blue-books, which he sent
periodically to be bound up, but which were never looked at either
before or after that operation, spent five months every year in London,
and half the day in all those five months in the bow-window of his club,
and the other seven months in the country, and told rather long-winded
stories. The point of these stories was always well defined, because he
himself always began to laugh just before he got to it, which was a very
convenient habit.

The other two guests were Miss Wrexham, who had been staying near the
Markhams a fortnight ago, and her brother Bob, who was in every respect
like a young gentleman from Woolwich. He had been at Eton with Tom, and
they had kept up a sort of acquaintance since: Tom had stayed with him,
and he with Tom. In the intervals they never wrote to one another, but
were extremely glad to see each other again. Tom had, to a superlative
degree, the power of picking up a friendship at the point where it had
stopped, and of carrying it forward as if there had been no
interruption.

The shooters, consisting of Tom, Bob Wrexham, and Lord Ramsden, started
soon after breakfast on the first; Markham had claimed the fulfilment of
Tom’s promise, and had taken himself off to the smoking-room when they
went out, and presumably spent a profitable though solitary morning
there. The two ladies, Mr. Carlingford and he were going to walk out
about half-past twelve, to a cottage some mile and a half off, and join
the shooters at lunch. Lady Ramsden established herself at a
writing-table in the drawing-room, wrote several unnecessary letters in
a tall, angular hand, and Miss Wrexham, who always made a point of doing
the paying thing, went out for a short ride with her host, and took an
intelligent interest in all he said.

The shooting-party had already arrived at the luncheon-place when the
others came, and were clamouring for food. Lord Ramsden, it was noticed
sat a little apart, and was smoking a cigarette with an isolated and
reserved air.

“Oh, what a sweet little cottage!” said Maud Wrexham, as they entered.
“Mr. Carlingford, if I were you, I should come and live here. Why,
there’s a warming-pan! Do you know, I don’t think I ever saw a
warming-pan before. How clever it was of me to know it was one, wasn’t
it? That’s what they call intuitive cerebration. I shall write to the
Physical Research about it.”

Tom considered.

“Is it intuitive cerebration when one crosses the Channel for the first
time, and sees the coast, to know that it is France? You have never seen
it before, you know.”

Lady Ramsden gave a thin monosyllabic laugh.

“No, that’s only remembering what you have seen on an atlas,” said Maud.
“I never saw a map of this cottage with ‘warming-pan’ marked on it.”

“The Physical Research Society are a company of amiable and intelligent
lunatics,” remarked Mr. Carlingford. “Don’t have anything to do with
them, Miss Wrexham. Are you ready for your lunch, Ramsden? What sort of
sport have you had?”

Lord Ramsden threw away the end of his cigarette, which he had been
smoking at the door, and came in.

“Birds very wild,” he said. “It’s no use walking them up.”

“Oh, we’ve got twelve brace,” said Tom, cheerfully. “It’s not so bad.
However, we can drive after lunch; there are lots of them in the
stubble, and we can’t get near them any other way.”

“Tom’s been talking art all the morning,” remarked Bob Wrexham; “I draw
the line at talking art when you’re shooting.”

“You can’t do two things at once,” growled his lordship, who had not
pursued the subject of the birds being wild.

“Tom never does less than two things at once,” said his father; “he says
there isn’t time.”

“I can eat and talk at once,” said Tom, with his mouth full.

“Yes, old chap, and you can shoot more than one bird at once,” said Bob.
“It was the most disgraceful thing I ever saw. Tom fired into the middle
of a covey which ought to have been out of shot. The worst of it was
that he killed a brace. However, it’s good for the bag.”

Mr. Carlingford was sitting next Tom, and murmured gently to him, “How
odd it is that the only way to keep up your bags is to destroy your
braces!”

Lord Ramsden was reviving a little under the influence of food. “I never
can shoot in the morning,” he confessed; “it was always the way with me.
Once at Ramsden I told them to have lunch ready at half-past eleven, so
that we could have a long afternoon. And, by Jove, I didn’t miss the
rest of the day. They were very much amused at it all.”

Mr. Carlingford regretted to himself that he was not a friend of Peter
Magnus, but received his lordship’s remarks with cordiality, and after a
quick lunch Tom got up.

“Well, we’d better be off again as soon as we can,” he said. “Teddy, you
must come with us, and if you won’t shoot, you’ll see me do it. Miss
Wrexham, I’m sure you want a walk.”

“I should love to come,” said she, “if I shan’t be in the way. But
aren’t women a fearful nuisance when you are shooting? Bob always sends
me home after lunch.”

“Yes,” said Bob, “Tom only asked you out of politeness. He meant you to
refuse.”

“I don’t believe you did,” said she. “Anyhow, if you did, you may say
so, and I’ll go home. I will, really; I shan’t be offended. I don’t know
how.”

“May I be permitted to express a hope,” said Lord Ramsden, “that Miss
Wrexham will grace--ah, exactly, will come with us? You’d better be
getting home, dear,” he said to his wife. “You don’t want to trudge over
ploughed fields.”

“Gracious, no!” said Lady Ramsden. “I’m sure I shall be tired out as it
is.”

Miss Wrexham paired off with Markham, who had an ample opportunity of
testing his sister’s judgment of her.

“It was so delicious, that little peep I had of your sister,” she said;
“I long for that sort of life myself. She must be so happy with her dear
little everyday duties. I’m sure that’s why there used to be saints, and
why there are none now. People used to live like that in the country,
just doing their duty; and then, when men began to herd into towns, they
saw at once how beautiful the lives of those others must have been, so
of course they canonized them.”

“I don’t know,” said Markham, who treated all subjects gravely; “I
expect there is just as much opportunity for becoming a saint if you
live in a town. Of course, it’s harder. After all, saints were only very
good people with the power of making their goodness felt, and it’s
harder to make yourself felt in London, because every one is in such a
hurry.”

“Oh dear me, yes, it’s fearful to think of!” said Maud. “One is busy the
whole day, and yet one gets nothing done--nothing worth doing, at least.
I can’t imagine a saint living in London--that’s to say, doing what we
naturally do in London. But if I lived in the country, it would be just
as natural to do what your sister does. I’m always supposed to be
frivolous, and I don’t know what; but it’s a great shame. Of course, I
talk thirteen to the dozen, but that is no proof of frivolity. I’m sure
your sister thought me frivolous, and I thought her so sweet. It’s not a
bit fair.”

Ted did not reply, and after a moment Miss Wrexham continued----

“You can’t deny it, you see. Do you know, I think some of the saints
must have been rather trying. It was St. Elizabeth, wasn’t it, who told
her husband she’d only got some roses in her apron, when it was bread
really? Poor dear! You see he knew it was bread, and she knew it was;
and then, when she opened her apron, there was nothing but roses. I hope
they pricked her--it really was mean. You know, if I was reading a novel
on Sunday, and they asked me what book it was, I should say a novel. St.
Elizabeth would have said a Septuagint. I hate her.”

Ted laughed.

“I wonder if you really care what my sister thought of you. Why should
you care? You’ve only just seen her.”

“Ah, but what does that matter?” asked Maud. “Of course I care. I always
make a point of being nice to people in railway carriages and ’buses--I
always go in ’buses in London, don’t you?--even though I only see them
for two minutes. I want to be nice to everybody. I care immensely what
every one thinks of me.”

“But how can it matter?” said Ted. “Those people whom you meet just for
two minutes have no opportunity of judging you. They form their
impressions on perfectly superficial things.”

“Ah, I see! Your sister formed an unfavourable impression of me, and you
excuse her by saying it was superficial.”

“I’ve got a great mind to tell you what she said,” remarked Ted.

Maud stopped for a moment, and turned to him.

“Ah, do tell me!”

“She said she thought you weren’t genuine.”

Maud stared for a moment in deep perplexity.

“Not genuine? Why--why, that is exactly what I am! Why did she think
that?”

“I just remember her saying that you talked about early celebrations,
and covering books for the parish library, as if they were one and the
same thing.”

Maud stood still for a moment longer, recalling the scene, and then
broke out into a light laugh.

“Oh, I see, I see!” she cried. “Oh dear me, how funny! She had every
excuse for thinking that, but she was so wrong. She hasn’t got a
picturesque mind, I’m afraid. But I saw the whole picture of her in her
life there so clearly. You can talk of a Madonna and the little Italian
landscape behind her chair in one breath, can’t you? She thought I
regarded them as equally essential. I’m so glad you told me that. I
never take offence; I only profit by such things if they are true, and
forget them if they are not. There is an atom of truth in this,
although, as I say, she was wrong.”

The shooters were waiting, when they got up to them, for a long narrow
valley of stubble to be driven down, and Ted and Maud got under shelter
of the same tall hedge, which separated the fields, and waited with
them.

Markham went up to where Tom was standing. The latter at once began
talking in a whisper about the artistic beauty of a drive.

“If you shoot, you are called a barbarian,” he explained. “That’s so
silly. Why, a drive is the most beautiful thing there is! First you
wait, hearing nothing--and then you hear little far-away sounds, and you
know they are off. Then there comes that flight of stupid sparrows and
small birds, and then silence again. Then there’s a sudden rush through
the hedge, perhaps, and out comes a hare. And then--and then--‘Mark
over!’ and you hear the whistling of wings, which sound as if they
wanted oiling. And, best of all, that extraordinary ceasing of voluntary
motion. The bird’s wings clap down to his sides, you know, but he still
goes on as if he was alive. I killed a bird once that was coming
towards me, and it fell slap on me and knocked me down. You needn’t
believe me unless you like. There! They’ve started! Keep quiet, Teddy;
it will all happen just as I said.”

Tom stepped a little way back from the hedge, in order to get a longer
view, almost trembling with excitement as “Mark over!” sounded from
higher up the valley. The covey came over Lord Ramsden, and he missed
solemnly with both barrels.

“Those birds went on just as if they were alive,” remarked Ted in an
undertone to Tom, who grinned maliciously.

“He missed eight birds this morning in succession,” he whispered; and
then he said to Bob Wrexham, “You should see me play lawn-tennis. Look
out, there’s another covey coming!”

A big lot approached the tall hedge like a stream, caught sight of Tom,
and wheeled rapidly to the centre. Two, however, turned a little
somersault in the air, and fell thirty yards behind him in the stubble.

“There, did you see?” asked Tom, reloading. “That’s another of those
things like dropping matches in the Cam. They came blazing over, then
there’s a little pause, and a thud. I’m afraid my poor uncle has missed
again.”

Markham meditated.

“Yes, I see. That really was rather nice. There must be some
satisfaction in doing that.”

“Of course, half the pleasure lies in not being certain whether you are
going to hit or not. If I always hit I don’t think I should care about
it--not so much, at any rate. It’s like gambling with an enormous
proportion of chances in your favour if you play well.”

Miss Wrexham took almost as much interest in the proceedings as the
shooters themselves, and she showed no wish to go back until they all
went home. Lord Ramsden met with greater success towards the end of the
afternoon, and they all returned in excellent spirits.

Tom and Miss Wrexham were walking a little in front of the others, and
in answer to some questions of hers, he was saying what he was going to
do when he left Cambridge.

“It must be such a blessing,” she said, “to know for certain, as you do,
exactly what you want to be, and to be able to be it. Most people never
know what they want to be. Bob is going into the army simply because he
can’t think of anything else.”

“The worst of most professions is that they are only ways of making
money,” said Tom. “Artists and clergymen are the only people who do what
they have a passion for. No one can have a passion for cross-examining
witnesses.”

“Oh, I don’t know about that!” objected Maud. “My mother--do you know my
mother?--has a passion, literally a passion, for making arrangements.
Really her chief joy in life is arranging things quite irrespective of
what the arrangements are; but I think people like her are mostly
women.”

“What is your passion?” asked Tom.

“Making people like me, especially if they hate me naturally. I wouldn’t
say that it is my vocation, because lots of people detest me. Don’t
trouble to say you don’t believe me. I am sure that sort of speech would
come very badly from you.”

“Do you mean that I’ve got such awkward manners, or that I am naturally
honest?”

“I mean that when a man doesn’t owe a compliment, it is no use his
trying to pay one.”

“Compliments are a cheap way of paying debts. They are like apologies. I
always apologize if it will do any good.”

Maud walked on in silence a little way.

“If I wasn’t a woman,” she said at length very slowly, “I should choose
to be a man. No, it’s not such nonsense as it sounds. What I really mean
is that men have great advantages over us in some ways. A woman can
hardly ever become anything else than an amateur, and I want to be a
professional artist, and a musician, and she-clergyman, living in the
country. But I wouldn’t give up being a woman. Women have much more self
than men, else they would have all taken to professions long ago. If men
hadn’t professions they would all bore themselves to death. That is why
they take to the Stock Exchange and politics--they do anything to make
them forget their own selves. I don’t say that women are any better, but
they find themselves more interesting than men do.”

“But men have to make money or else they couldn’t marry and support
families,” said Tom rather feebly.

“Yes; but don’t you see that if women had not been sufficiently
interested in themselves to make them not want professions, they would
have had them long ago? They would both have worked for their living.
As it is, a woman’s chief object is to marry a rich man, so that she
can’t possibly work.”

“That’s a new idea,” said Tom. “What are you going to do with it?”

“How do you mean?”

“You ought to marry a poor man, and help him to earn his living.”

“Unfortunately I have lots of money myself.”

Tom drew in a deep breath.

“That is a misfortune. I am in the same state. One can’t give it all to
a lunatic asylum, or else people think you are laying up treasure for
your own dotage. I wish I was poor, really poor, you know, out at
elbows, having to work for my bread. It must be exquisite to be poor.”

“It’s a ridiculous arrangement,” said Maud suddenly. “My grandmother
left me heaps of money, and poor Bob none; now Bob wants money and I
don’t. But I expect, if one was poor, one would get to like money.”

“No doubt one would,” said Tom, “but that would do one no harm. One
would get to know what its value was. At present I haven’t the slightest
idea. That is not being miserly--misers never know the value of money;
they only know the price of things they want, but refuse to buy.”

They had reached the front door, and stood waiting for the others.

“One ought to be allowed to change circumstances with one’s friends,”
said Tom. “I would choose Ted Markham’s circumstances. He is poor, and
he is working at what he likes best. Just think how happy one would be!
Success to him means the fullest possible success; position means
opportunities.”

“What do you mean by opportunities?”

“Why, the University Press will consent to publish his editions of
classical authors.”

“That’s narrow,” remarked Miss Wrexham. “Providence has spared me that
limitation.”

“That’s what I’m always telling him. But it must be very comfortable to
be narrow.”

“Until you know you are narrow.”

“Oh, but then you become broad,” said Tom, “and that’s nice too!”

“We are a pair of blighted beings,” said Miss Wrexham solemnly. “We have
been made rich and broad, whereas we only want to be poor and narrow.”

“No, we should like to be narrow, if we couldn’t be broad,” said
Tom--“just as you would like to be a man if you couldn’t be a woman.”

“Ah, well, one can’t have everything.”

Tom looked at her with radiant confidence.

“I mean to have everything!” he announced.



CHAPTER IV.


Tom went back to Cambridge for his third year with his mind fully made
up as regard his career. He was alone with his father his last night at
home, and they had talked the matter out--or rather Tom talked the
matter out, and his father expressed acquiescence with his proposed
arrangements, and mingled a little cynical advice.

“You see, I must be a sculptor, father,” Tom had said, “at least, that
is my passion. If you wish me to go into the business or go to the bar,
I’ll go, but that won’t be the work of my life. You don’t object, do
you?”

They were sitting in the smoking-room after dinner before the fire, for
October had started with early frosts, and Mr. Carlingford loathed cold
weather. He often stopped indoors for two or three weeks at a time in
the winter.

“My dear boy,” he replied, “I don’t object to anything about you at
present; I really find you the only satisfactory spot in a--a
satisfactory life. There is only one thing I should object to, and that
is if you made a fool of yourself. Don’t do that, Tom. Many people when
they make fools of themselves think that they are being original,
whereas they are doing what nine-tenths of the human race has done
since the beginning of the world--more than nine-tenths, probably. Adam
and Eve both made fools of themselves, so did Cain and Abel--Abel
particularly. And a sculptor has such unlimited opportunities for making
a fool of himself.”

“In what way?” asked Tom.

“Falling in love with his models, or still worse, marrying them. If you
are going to the devil, go to him like a gentleman. Then, sculptors
often wear long hair, and Liberty fabric ties, with gold rings round
them. I knew a sculptor once who wore a cameo ring. If you wear a cameo
ring I shall cut my throat.”

“Oh, I shan’t do any of those things,” said Tom confidently.

“No, I think it is most probable that you won’t, otherwise I should make
objections to your being a sculptor. But you can’t tell. You haven’t had
many opportunities yet.”

“One can make a fool of one’s self at Cambridge if it comes to that,”
said Tom.

“No, not very easily. Public opinion is against it, whereas in most
places the fools themselves constitute public opinion. I’m glad of it,
though it is only putting off the evil days a little longer. When I was
at Cambridge, boys made fools of themselves earlier than they do now.
For instance, people get drunk much less. It’s a change for the better,
I suppose. But I don’t know that this generation will have gone through
less dirt when they are forty, than we did. There comes a time to every
one when they must decide definitely whether they are going to make
fools of themselves or not. I’ve got very strong views about morality.”

His clever, wrinkled old face beamed with amusement.

“Morality is just a synonym for wisdom,” he went on, “and immorality is
folly. I don’t know anything about the religious side of it all. I leave
that to others, professionals. But I know a little about folly. It’s
quite the worst investment you can make.”

“I don’t know that I ever thought about it at all,” said Tom frankly; “I
don’t mean to be a brute if I can help it.”

“There are no such things as brutes,” said his father; “there are only
wise men and fools--chiefly fools. Every man has to settle the question
for himself as to which he will be: no one goes through life scot-free
of the necessity of fighting inclinations. I haven’t ever talked to you
before about it, because it is no use giving advice to young men, and
the worst thing of all is to tell them to think about such things. You
have to think about it when your time comes; till then it’s best not to
know it. The best preparation is to lead a healthy life, and think about
cricket, not to read White Cross tracts and go to purity meetings.”

Tom rose from his chair and knocked out the ashes of his pipe against
the chimney-piece.

“I think you’re wrong, father,” he said; “if one has an aim in life,
everything gives way to that. If one has principles, one cannot
disregard them.”

“Sometimes principles interfere with interests,” remarked Mr.
Carlingford.

Tom laughed.

“Idle men are the vicious men,” he said.

“I haven’t done a stroke of work for ten years,” remarked his father
with amusement. “All the same, I haven’t been idle. I find plenty to do
in watching other people. But there is one piece of advice I would
really like to give you. If you find you fall in love with any
unsuitable young person--a model probably--send her about her business.
If it’s too far gone for that, cut her throat--it is probably her
fault--she probably wanted you to fall in love with her, and if you see
any objection to that, cut mine, or cut your own. Perhaps your own is
best. It is unpleasant, no doubt, for the moment, but that is better
than wishing every moment for the rest of your life that you had done
it.”

“But one can always cut one’s throat. Besides, isn’t that making a fool
of one’s self?”

“Not at all: it is the consequence of having made a fool of one’s self.”

Tom frowned.

“Ah, I don’t like people talking about consequences. That is the talk of
cowards.”

His father laughed.

“Never mind me, Tom,” he said; “I don’t expect you to agree with me. I
am a vicious coward, am I not?”

“What I mean is, that you can make the best or the worst of a bad job,”
said Tom. “When people talk of consequences, they seem to mean the
worst consequences. When a man has made a mistake, it is stupid of him
to sit down and say, ‘Well, that is done; now for the consequences.’
There is almost always a choice of consequences.”

“Very often there are no consequences,” remarked his father. “I don’t
think I ever did anything which had any consequences. But then, I never
remember doing anything either, except making some money. When are you
going to marry, Tom?” he asked suddenly.

Tom looked startled.

“When I fall in love, I suppose,” he said roundly.

“That’s a man’s answer. Well, my boy, I’m going to bed. You go to
Cambridge to-morrow, don’t you? Are you going to do well in your
Tripos?”

“I should think it’s very unlikely,” said Tom. “It seems that I’m a
fool.”

“That’s no reason why you shouldn’t do well.”

“Then it seems that I’m the wrong sort of fool.”

Mr. Carlingford lighted his candle.

“That is very likely. Don’t trouble to do well on my account. I really
don’t care the least what you do.”

“I shan’t trouble to do well on my own,” said Tom, laughing. “We had
better prepare for failure.”

It was very evident in the course of the next term that Tom was
extremely unlikely to do well on anybody’s account. The wine of his
passion had begun to ferment in his brain, and he lounged his mornings
away sometimes in the cast museum, sometimes in his room over a bushel
of sculptor’s clay. At other times he had fits of complete idleness. He
would get up late, perhaps go to a lecture, then stroll up to the
tennis court, and play till lunch-time. In the afternoon he would play
football, and sit talking over tea till Hall time, and after Hall play
whist till bed-time. Markham, who was busy writing a dissertation for
his Fellowship, had not time to look after him at all, and those in
authority gave him up as a bad job. Tom regarded his own position as an
excellent example of a man determining the consequences of his acts.

“I haven’t done any work for weeks,” he said to Markham one day, “and I
ought to be in hot water. As a matter of fact, I am not, because I make
up for it by cordially agreeing with all that they say to me, and never
being out after twelve.”

“Don’t you think you are behaving rather idiotically?” asked Markham.
“You seem to be rather proud of doing no work. It’s very easy; any one
can do it.”

“Yes, I know it’s very easy,” said Tom, who was in an exasperating mood,
“that’s why I do it. At the same time, any one can’t do it. You
couldn’t, for example.”

“I hope I should never wish to try.”

“My dear Ted, you are incapable of wishing to try. It isn’t in you. It’s
not so easy to be idle--though I said it was just now, because I wanted
to make you angry--you must have a great deal to think about in order to
be idle. If you don’t do something, you must be something, and that
requires thought.”

“May I ask what you are being just now?”

“You shouldn’t interrupt, Ted. I was going to say that of course there
are some people, who neither do or are anything, but they are idiots.
I’m not that sort of idiot myself; just now I am being an artist.”

“I don’t doubt it, but what reason have I for believing it?”

“Oh, none at all,” said Tom, “but you asked me. I am meditating. I shall
do the better for this some day.”

Markham made an impatient movement in his chair.

“Excuse my saying that I want to go on with my work.”

Tom laughed.

“Poor, dear old Ted, how you must loathe me! You can’t understand my
doing nothing any more than I can understand your doing so much. Is your
work of such vital importance? What does it all come to?”

“You’ve asked that before,” remarked Ted.

“Yes, and you’ve never answered it. I can understand a man doing
archæology; there’s some human interest in that. I like to know what
sort of earrings the Greek women used to wear. Oh, Ted, do you know the
sepulchral reliefs from Athens? there’s a cast of one in the Museum.
It’s wonderful. I shall do one to you when you die.”

“I wish you would go to your room, and get on with it.”

“Is the deliberative subjunctive going to kill you so soon as that?
Well, I’ve often warned you. Good-bye, Teddy. You’re not sociable this
morning.”

Tom departed, whistling loudly, and out of tune.

The Fellowship elections took place in March, and as the days drew near,
Markham, finding himself unable to work, and fretting because he could
not, very wisely determined to go away from Cambridge for the last week,
having made Tom promise to telegraph the result to him. Tom was just
returning from the telegraph office, having performed what was a
thoroughly pleasing and satisfactory duty, and was crossing the court in
the gathering dusk, when he saw a figure standing on the path near the
Hall, where the announcement was posted. A sociable curiosity made him
tack off a little and see who it was, and to his astonishment he found
Markham standing there.

“Why, Teddy, I’ve just telegraphed to you!” he cried.

Markham turned round to him.

“Quick! tell me quick!” he said.

“You may walk across the grass,” said Tom solemnly; this being one of
the Fellows’ privileges “And you may set to work to become a fossil as
soon as you please. Well, I congratulate you, I suppose, though I’m not
sure it’s the best thing for you.”

Markham caught hold of Tom’s arm.

“I think,” he said, very slowly and deliberately, “I think I’ve been
making a fool of myself. This morning I found I couldn’t stop away, and
I came back about a quarter of an hour ago. Since then I have been
standing here, not daring to go in and see. Tom, I’m going to chapel.”

It was two or three days after this that the two were walking down to
the Pitt on Sunday evening. On their way they passed one of the
mission-rooms in the town, and the street was almost blocked by a crowd
all trying to get in. Tom, who was never so happy as in a mass of
surging humanity, insisted on mingling with them and seeing what was
going on. Markham tried to dissuade him, but failed, and after a good
deal of pushing he succeeded in getting inside.

It was a Revivalist meeting full to overflowing; the room was hung with
flaring banners, lit with blazing gas-standards, and warm condensed
moisture shone on the walls. Tom looked with wonder and slight disgust
towards the platform, where a short, stumpy man with a chin beard was
addressing the people. He was describing his own conversion, which
transformed him, according to his own account, from a swindling
greengrocer into one of the saved. This happy change had also been
accompanied with a great improvement in the greengrocery business.
Instead of giving short weight and being always in debt, he took to
giving full measure and speedily opened an account at a savings bank. He
also mentioned that he became a teetotaler at the same time, though the
more obvious connection between this fact and the incident of the
savings bank did not seem to occur either to him or to his audience. All
these sumptuous results were a direct effect of grace.

Tom listened for some minutes with amusement struggling with disgust,
until the preacher in a sudden burst of gratitude gave out a hymn of
the most militant order, and packed solidly with concrete images of
abstract ideas. A young woman in a large poke bonnet was busy thrusting
hymn-books into the hands of the congregation, and gave one to Tom. The
band struck up a tune expressive of the liveliest devotion, and the
congregation joined at the top of their voices.

They were in the middle of the second verse, when a sudden stir ran
through the crowd, and from the middle of the hall there ran up to the
platform a young woman, smartly--over-smartly--dressed, who burst into a
loud fit of hysterical crying, and cried out that she was saved. The
hymn was stopped at once, and the preacher led her aside while the
congregation waited. In a few moments he led her back to the front of
the platform, and gave out another hymn:--

    “There were ninety-and-nine that safely lay.”

Tom’s sense of amusement was gone--a frown gathered on his forehead.
What on earth did it all mean? It was clear what sort of a girl it was
who had “stormed the gate of Heaven,” as the preacher expressed it--he
had often noticed her in the streets--and now she was--what? How was she
suddenly different from what she was before? Had her previous life been
blotted out? What was the change, what did it mean? It could have been
no easy thing to make an exhibition of one’s self like that; and where
was the driving power? He began to be almost afraid. And before the hymn
was finished the same thing happened again, this time to an elderly,
respectable-looking man, who delivered a short speech to the
congregation with tears streaming down his face. There was some strange
force abroad, and Tom did not like it at all. He was desperately afraid
of making a fool of himself, and he remembered his father’s warnings,
though they were delivered in a very different sense. The vulgarity, the
loudness of the whole proceedings were still very present to him, but he
felt that he was in the presence of some force, hysterical perhaps, or
perhaps only that force which does exist in enthusiastic crowds, of the
nature of which he was absolutely ignorant. For aught he knew it might
lay its hands on him next. So he resorted to the most obvious way out of
it, and pushing through the crowd, he left the room.

Late that night he strolled into Markham’s room, as the latter was just
thinking that it was time to go to bed, and proceeded to deliver himself
of his impressions at length.

“It made me confoundedly uncomfortable,” he commented, after giving a
full account of what had taken place. “I didn’t half like it, Teddy; I
never saw anything like it before, and it was so much more real than I
expected. What do you suppose that girl felt, or that man either? How
can the singing of a hymn change the whole moral character? It must be
hysterical. That’s why I went away; I was afraid of becoming hysterical
too. Think how flat one would feel the next morning. And oh! the awful
commonness of it all. The elect greengrocer was the scrubbiest sort of
brute. Fancy announcing publicly that you were saved! Surely, that is
the one thing in the world one would be reticent about. What does it all
mean, Teddy?”

Markham felt the natural reserve which almost all young men feel in
talking of such subjects, and Tom’s sudden curiosity about it surprised
him. It was like Tom to mix with any crowd to see what was going
forward, but it was so unlike him to have waited a single moment after
seeing what it was, that Ted had waited in the street for him, expecting
him to appear again every moment, and had eventually gone on to the
Pitt, in a puzzled frame of mind.

“I don’t exactly know, Tom,” he said, after a pause. “I believe that
that sort of conversion, as they call it, often has permanent effects. I
think it quite conceivable that the greengrocer will continue to give
full measure.”

“But about the savings bank!” burst out Tom; “how can that have anything
to do with it?”

“You would put it differently, of course: you would say, ‘Honesty is the
best policy.’”

“Possibly I should. At any rate, if one can account intelligibly for a
thing it is better to do so, than to try to account for it
fallaciously.”

Markham frowned.

“We’ve never talked of this kind of thing before,” he said tentatively.
“I haven’t the remotest idea what your religion is, or, indeed, if
you’ve got any.”

“That’s exactly what I’ve been thinking to myself all the evening,”
remarked Tom. “I don’t know myself; I was only conscious that I felt no
kind of sympathy with those people. I was amused and disgusted, and
then I was frightened.”

“I wish you had stopped,” said Markham, suddenly.

“Why on earth? Do you really think it would have done me any good to
have been suddenly ‘taken’ as those people were? I suppose you will say
I am a Pharisee--but what good would it have done me? What should I not
do that I do now, or what should I do that I do not do? Early chapels, I
suppose----”

“Ah, don’t!” said Markham, with sudden earnestness. “Those things may
mean nothing to you, but they do to others--and among others to me.”

Tom stared in perplexity.

“To you--do you believe in that sort of conversion? Do you think that
something can happen to you suddenly like that which changes you?”

“I can’t help believing it. How can I say that such things do not
happen? I stake my life on such possibilities.”

“The whole thing seems so irrational to me,” said Tom. “In anything
else, a man’s life is not changed by a little thing of that sort. And
then the banking account----”

“Well, take an instance in your own line,” said Markham. “Can’t you
imagine a modern artist who looks at a Raphael for the first time
becoming a convert to that style of art?”

“That’s quite different,” said Tom. “These people have probably been
brought up in these beliefs; the idea is not a new one to them. No doubt
it came home with more force at such a moment. It is like a man who had
been looking at Raphaels all his life, and caring nothing for them,
being suddenly convinced by one of them. That doesn’t seem to me
likely.”

“You may be right, I can’t say, for you know more of the subject than I.
But what right have you to say that a thing doesn’t seem likely in a
matter of which, as you said, you know nothing?”

“That’s true,” said Tom, “I do know nothing of it. But who does?”

“The probability is, that people who have thought about it know more
than those who haven’t.”

Tom got up, and began to walk up and down the room.

“Well, I want to know, but how can I? If I didn’t feel an interest in
it, I shouldn’t have come to talk about it. But I am altogether at sea.
I wasn’t brought up in a religious household. My father never speaks of
such things. At school I had to read the Bible, chiefly the Acts, like
any other school lesson. I was confirmed as a matter of course. If you
are not religiously minded, how can you become religious? If a man is
not literary, you don’t expect him to feel any interest in books.”

“But it’s a defect that he doesn’t.”

“Yes, because he naturally moves among people who do,” said Tom, “and he
necessarily feels out of it. But though you move among religious people
you don’t feel out of it, because their religion does not come into
their lives. I suppose you would call my father an Atheist, but you
wouldn’t know it, unless you inferred it from the fact that he doesn’t
go to church on Sundays, and that we don’t have family prayers. How is
it possible for me to feel such things? Perhaps--you see I never knew my
mother, she died when I was a baby----”

“Were you not brought up to believe anything?”

“My nurse taught me to say my prayers. On cold evenings I used to ask if
I might say them in bed, and I always got dropped on for it. It was
considered a form of profanity. I never understood why. And when the age
for nurses ceased, my prayers ceased also. I want to know where the
difference between me and religious people comes in. A large number of
religious people lose their tempers oftener than I do, because I was
born with a better temper than they. You read of clergymen being
convicted of theft. I never was, because I never stole anything.
Gentlemen don’t do such things. It seems to me that we both agree with a
certain code of morality for different reasons.”

“Did it never occur to you to wonder why you existed, or how you
existed, or what was the object of your existence at all?”

Tom looked at him straight in the face.

“No, never. What good would it do me to puzzle my head about such things
even if it had occurred to me? Here I am; how or why I have no means of
telling. But I mean to make other people know why I existed; one can’t
do more than that. I am going to be an artist.”

Markham felt the hopelessness of making Tom understand. It was like
describing colours to a blind man; for himself he had been brought up in
a childlike faith, and he was childlike still. His life had been
sheltered, nursed in traditions, and when it was transplanted to the
outer air, it was a sapling capable of striking roots, and standing by
itself. It had never known what the drenching showers of autumn, or the
winds of winter were, till it was capable, not exactly of despising
them, but of being unconscious of them. If Tom was blind, he was blind,
too, in another sense.

There was a long silence. Tom had halted in his walk by the
chimney-piece, and was poking a paper spill down his pipe stem. Markham
was sitting at the table, puzzled and helpless. It was a couple of
minutes perhaps before Tom spoke. Then he spoke decidedly.

“I’m not going to bother about it,” he said. “I don’t understand what it
all means, but I don’t understand what most things mean. If it is a big
thing, you may be sure that there are many ways of getting at it. One
man can’t see all the way round a big thing. You are at one side of it,
Ted, perhaps I am nowhere; but then, again, I may be at the other side
of it. I may be meant to come to it by roads you can never guess of. If
I am meant to know it, I shall know it some time. By-the-by, we play
tennis at ten to-morrow.”

“You’ve got a lecture at ten,” said Markham.

“Many things may happen at ten,” said Tom “but the probability is in
favour of only one thing happening. I don’t think the lecture has
supreme rights. However, if it has, you won’t get a game.”

“Oh, but you promised you’d play!” said Markham unwisely.

“I can’t go back on that,” said Tom. “I never promised to go to a
lecture. You shall give me breakfast at nine--or perhaps a little after
nine. Let’s call it nine-ish.”



CHAPTER V.


Maud Wrexham was sitting in her mother’s room one morning, towards the
end of July, after breakfast, telling Lady Chatham her engagements for
the day. This piece of ritual was daily and invariable, and her mother
spent the succeeding three-quarters of an hour in trying “to work things
in,” as she called it--in other words, to manage that one carriage
should drop two people in different parts of London, and call for them
both again at the hour they wanted. These manœuvres usually ended in
both parties concerned taking hansoms, after waiting a considerable time
for the carriage to pick them up, and driving home separately, while the
empty carriage, with the coachman, who was always sceptical about such
arrangements, returned home gloomily about half an hour later.

“I think I shall go to Victoria and meet Arthur,” Maud was just saying;
“he will catch the first boat from Calais, and his train gets in about
five.”

“Dear Arthur!” exclaimed Lady Chatham with effusion, “I hope he won’t be
dreadfully relaxed. Athens is so relaxing; I wish he could have stopped
at Berlin.”

Arthur Wrexham had just spent his first year at Athens, as third
Secretary to the Legation, and was coming home for two months’ leave.

“He’ll have a lot of luggage, mother,” went on Maud; “you’d far better
let me take a hansom, and then he and I can come back in one, and send
his luggage by a four-wheeler.”

Lady Chatham examined her engagement-book with avidity.

“No, Maud, it’s the easiest thing in the world. What a coincidence! I’ve
got to pick your father up at Victoria Mansions at a quarter-past five.
I will drop you at Victoria, and then go on. If we are there by ten
minutes past, it will do perfectly; the boat is sure to be late.”

“It will be rather stupid if I miss him,” said Maud.

“You’ll be in plenty of time--or if you like, I will start five minutes
earlier, and go round to see--no, I can’t do that. Then, as you say, you
can take a hansom. No, you needn’t do that. If I take the landau we can
all come back together. Five minutes for getting to Victoria Mansions,
and five minutes back. He’ll take ten minutes getting his luggage out.
How much luggage will he have?”

“I don’t really know.”

“Because we might take the lighter things--I needn’t take a footman--and
send the heavier ones home by Carter and Paterson.”

“I think it would be safer to get a cab, wouldn’t it?”

“I’ll think about it, and tell you at lunch. Dear Arthur! Well, what
else are you going to do?”

“We’re going to the Ramsdens’ dance this evening, and dining there
first.”

“Then the other carriage can take us, and if Arthur cares to go to the
dance--they didn’t know he’d be back, but I’m sure they want him to
come--Lady Ramsden told me so, if he was back by any chance--it can come
back here, and take him on again at ten. Then you and I will come back
in it, when you’ve had enough, and if Arthur wants to stop, I’m afraid
he must find his own way back. Is that all?”

“I’m lunching with the Cornishes.”

“Well, then, I’ll leave a note for you about Arthur’s luggage, as I
shan’t see you at lunch. Where do the Cornishes live?”

“In Pont Street.”

“Then it’s the most convenient thing in the world. I’m going to my
dentist at half-past twelve, and I shall be back by two. Then the
carriage can take you on at once.”

“They lunch at two, I’m afraid, mother.”

“Well, dear, you’ll only be a few minutes late. It will save you the
bother of taking a hansom, or walking.”

“Oh, never mind! I shall be out, I expect, and shall go there straight.”

“Where are you going?”

“Oh, shopping.”

“Well, then, I might drop you on my way to the dentist’s wherever you
liked. If you will be ready at twelve I will take you. Or five minutes
to twelve, if you are going out of my way.”

Maud got up.

“No, start at twelve as you intended, and if I’m in, and ready, I’ll
come with you. Don’t wait for me, mother.”

“If you’d only tell me exactly where you want to go, and when, Maud,
I’ve no doubt I could work it in.”

“I’ve got to go to Houghton and Gunn’s first.”

“Very well, then,” said her mother, triumphantly, “nothing can be
simpler. I drop you there, and go to the dentist’s. Then I send the
carriage back for you, and you do anything else you want, and come back
to the dentist’s at half-past one. Then we drive straight to Pont
Street, and I drop you again, and go home.”

Maud’s chief object at this moment, it must be confessed, was to get out
of the room. So she assented with fervour.

“That’s beautiful, mother. How clever of you to work it all in!”

Lady Chatham heaved a sigh of well-earned satisfaction. “Yes, I think
everything is provided for. Ring the bell, darling, will you? I must
send word to the stables at once.”

Lady Chatham felt that she had really deserved a painless visit to the
dentist. She was always regretting that her time was so dreadfully taken
up with little things, and that she never could do anything she really
wanted to do, though what that was is quite unknown. It is to be
suspected that in addition to her daily arrangements, she spent much
time in making plans for Maud’s future, which included far more than the
ordinary maternally matrimonial plans include. She intended, for
instance, to send her out to Athens for a few months during the winter,
where she would live with her brother, and see a little foreign life.
Foreign life, she considered, was something very mysterious, but very
broadening in its effects on the human mind. The fact that you no longer
had meat breakfast at half-past nine, and lunch at two, but _café au
lait_ at eight and _déjeûner_ at twelve or half-past, was apparently the
door to whole vistas of widening experiences. Breakfast at half-past
nine and lunch at two were parts of the organism of life, and the
substitution of other hours instead of those was a change the importance
of which could not be overlooked. She had spent six months in Rome when
she was a girl, with an uncle, who was ambassador there, and she always
looked back to that six months as having been something very
revolutionary and startling. It had made, she often said, the whole
difference to her.

To-day, however, the arrangements, owing to a distinct intervention of
Providence, who roughened the seas, and made the train late, went off
more satisfactorily than usual, and as they drove to the Ramsdens in the
evening, Lady Chatham felt that the dentist really had hurt her more
than he should have been allowed to do, and hoped that she would have a
pleasant dinner to make up for it.

The Ramsdens lived in one of the few houses in London which do not
remind one of barracks, and Lady Ramsden’s parties had the reputation,
among those who were asked, of being very smart, while those who were
not considered her a pushing woman. Four or five times a year her
dinners had a little paragraph all to themselves in the _Morning Post_,
beginning with a Royal Highness and ending with Colonels in attendance,
on the page that announced the movements of nations and the quarrels of
kings. Lady Ramsden always snipped these out, and pasted them in an
extract book. There was a certain monotony about them, but you cannot
have too much of a good thing. But this was not one of her really smart
parties; originally it was to have been, but the Highness had been
unable to come, and she had to have recourse, not only to mere
Honourables, but even a plain Mr., in the shape of Tom Carlingford.

Tom had already arrived when Lady Chatham got there, and Maud was quite
surprised to find how glad she was to see him again. Apparently, her
mission of being nice to people had been successful in this instance,
for he was evidently equally glad to see her. He took her in to dinner,
and as Tom’s custom was, began exactly where they had left off.

“I’m going out to Greece in October,” he was saying. “I’ve finished with
Cambridge.”

“I remember your telling me you were going out,” said Maud. “I’m going
too; did you know that? My brother is at the Legation there.”

“Oh, but how nice!” said Tom. “Are you going soon?”

“Well, about the beginning of December, for a month or two. You’ll see
my brother to-night. He’s coming to the dance afterwards. Have you taken
your degree? By the way, I saw that your friend Mr. Markham had got a
Fellowship. I was so pleased. I nearly wrote to congratulate him.”

“Why didn’t you quite?” asked Tom.

“Surely it was sufficiently shocking that I nearly did. Are you going to
get a Fellowship too?”

Tom grinned.

“Well, it’s not imminent.”

“Why, aren’t you ambitious? It’s a pity for a man not to be ambitious.”

“My ambitions don’t lie in those lines. Besides, I’m a fool. Every one
has told me so scores of times.”

Later on in the evening the two were sitting out in a charming little
courtyard in the centre of the house, open to the air, and walled with
banks of flowers. The place was lit up by small electric lights among
the flowers, and the air was deliciously cool and dim after the hot
glare of the ball-room. The steady hum of a London night came to them
clearly in the stillness, that noise of busy people, which never is
quiet. The place was nearly deserted, and Maud was fanning herself
lazily.

“There, do you hear it?” she said; “that’s the noise I love. I like to
know that I am in the middle of millions of people.”

Tom smiled.

“Ah! you like it too, do you?” he said. “It’s the finest thing in the
world. But I always want to get at it, to make its heart beat quicker or
slower as I wish. That’s a modest ambition, isn’t it?”

Maud stopped fanning herself, and dropped her hands into her lap.

“Yes; how is one to do it? I’m going to do it too, you know. We shall
have to send word to each other whether its heart is to go quick or
slow, else there will be trouble. I feel so dreadfully small in London.
I suppose it is good for one, but it’s very unpleasant.”

“No, it’s not good for one, except that if you know you are small, you
are already half-way to being big,” said Tom. “At any rate, one can
never be big without the consciousness of being small.”

Maud sat still for a moment, saying nothing.

“Why did you care nothing about what you did at Cambridge, then?” she
asked. “Surely you could have made a beginning there.”

“I got a third in my Tripos,” remarked Tom. “Have you ever done Greek
grammar, or Thucydides?”

“No, never; why?”

“It’s the sort of thing a parrot could be taught to do.”

“And because you are not a parrot, they couldn’t teach you. Is that it?”

Tom laughed.

“Well, you needn’t believe it unless you like, but I believe I could
have done well if I had wanted to enough. I really didn’t want to.
There’s not time for that sort of thing.”

“What did you do instead?”

“I enjoyed myself. I’ve had my holiday, and now I’m going to work.
Here’s your brother coming to look for you.”

Arthur Wrexham was a slight, delicate-looking man, who apparently
suffered from extreme languor; he was very well dressed, and had weak
blue eyes, which looked only a quarter awake. He had already roused
Tom’s wrath by confessing, in answer to certain questions, that he had
never been into any of the museums.

“There’s such a lot to do, you know,” he explained. “One has to go to
the Legation every day to see if there are any letters to be written,
and then one has to take some exercise, you know, and go out to dinner.
Then there are cigarettes to smoke.”

“Perhaps you don’t care about art?” Tom had said charitably.

“Oh dear, yes, I’m devoted to it! I mean to let all the museums burst
upon me some day.”

“They won’t burst upon you unless you go there,” Tom had replied.

Just now, Arthur was peculiarly gentle and _piano_; he dangled his hands
weakly before him, and wore an expression of appreciative languor.

“Oh, here you are!” he said. “I wish you’d come home, Maud. I think I
shall go, in any case. Do you think there’s a hansom about anywhere?”

Maud laughed.

“Poor dear, shall I go and call one for you?”

“I suppose there’s sure to be one somewhere in the street, isn’t there?
Delightful party it’s been, hasn’t it? No, I haven’t danced, but it’s so
nice to be in London again. I shall go and sit in the Park to-morrow, on
a little civilized green chair. There are no green chairs in Athens, you
know, and no parks either. It really is a barbarous place; I can’t think
why you want to go there, Maud.”

“Why don’t you take a little civilized green chair with you, Arthur,”
she said, “and put it in the garden? That would do for the park.”

“Yes, it’s so good of you to suggest that; but it wouldn’t do at all.
It’s not only the little green chair, it’s the civilization generally,
and the grey sky, and sirloins of beef one wants.”

“I thought you hated beef,” said Maud. “I’m sure I’ve heard you say that
it was barbarous food.”

“Oh yes, I know it is; but I like to know that it’s there. I don’t want
to eat it, but there always ought to be some on the sideboard. Well,
won’t you come, Maud?”

“No, I’m not coming yet.”

Tom grew exasperated.

“Can’t you find your way home alone?” he asked.

Arthur Wrexham looked at him for a moment with mild and slightly piteous
surprise.

“Oh yes, I shall be all right,” he said, “if I can only get a hansom! I
suppose there’s a man who will call a hansom for me if I give him a
shilling. Good night, Maud.”

He went very quietly away, bestowing a nod and a tired smile on Tom.

“It’s so funny that he should be my brother,” said Maud, when he was out
of hearing; “and all he wants to do is to read little French books, and
sit in the Park, and have tea on the terrace of the House of Commons. I
wonder he didn’t mention that.”

“I dare say he’ll do it in a day or two, when he gets less tired,” said
Tom; “he evidently means to begin gently.”

Maud drew on her gloves again.

“Here’s my partner coming to look for me,” she said. “I must go. Mind
you come and see us. You are in London for a time, are you not?”

“Oh yes, till the end of July, or nearly. I don’t suppose I ever spent a
whole week in London before, but father has at last consented to take a
house for a couple of months. He even came to Henley this year, though I
must say he was much bored by it, and almost perfectly silent, except
once when a lot of dabchicks came swimming round, and he looked up and
said, ‘The very dabchicks come about me unawares, making mouths at me.’
He likes sitting in the Park, too, and observing the weaknesses of the
human race.”

“He must have his hands full. Doesn’t he observe their strong points as
well?”

“No, I don’t think he does,” said Tom. “He likes them weak.”

Tom, fool though he might be, was wise enough to know that there are a
great many interesting things to see in London, and had deliberately set
himself to see them, with the result that in two or three weeks he knew
more about the town than most Englishmen, and nearly as much as most
Americans. Though he meant to specialize in sculpture, he had an
“all-round eye,” as the saying is, and a great power of reducing what he
saw to mental pictures and little dramatic vignettes, and he found food
for imagination scattered broadcast. Its extraordinary crude contrasts
struck him most, and he often went rather early to theatres or to the
opera, in order to stand for a few minutes at the street corner and
watch the upper classes going to have their emotions tickled, while the
grimy crowd round them hustled and pushed along in a never-ending
stream. On one of these occasions a sturdy beggar asked him for money,
and Tom, seized by a sudden impulse, showed him half-a-sovereign and
asked him what he would do with it if he gave it him. The man’s eyes
glistened, and he looked Tom full in the face.

“I should be drunk for a week, sir,” he said.

Tom broke into a roar of appreciative laughter, and gave it him.

The action was wholly indefensible from every point of view, but it was
thoroughly characteristic. Love of life, in any form and in any guise,
was stronger in him than the whole world beside. Anything which gave the
genuine ring of life, whether made of gold or the basest of alloys, was
worth the most valuable metals if they had no currency.

At other times he would go to the British Museum, which is quite worth a
visit, and look at the Elgin marbles till his head ached. But he usually
came away feeling rather helpless and dispirited. There was often a
large number of young men and women copying them in chalks or oils, and
Tom had sudden revulsions of feelings when he gazed at these. There was
one girl in particular, with a frizzy fringe of seaweed-coloured hair
and spectacles, who was making an admirable copy of the Olympos figure.
She was dressed in a velveteen body, rather short in the sleeves, a
badly cut skirt of green cloth, and wore very high-heeled shoes of
antique patent leather. Somehow the combination of such an artist with
such a subject confirmed the impression he had received at Cambridge
when looking at the Discobolus figure. The thing was no longer possible.
Beautiful nude youths did not now sit on lion-skins at street-corners,
any more than Queen Victoria ate Homeric meals like Agamemnon. The grand
style was obsolete. And on such occasions Tom would leave the Elgin room
with a sigh. If the world was to be conquered it must be conquered with
modern weapons of war; no amount of spears and slings would be a match
for Martini rifles, field-guns, and cordite. Spears and slings were more
beautiful, no doubt, but they were out of date. Just now that meant a
good deal to Tom.

But if the Elgin marbles were out of date, still more out of date was
Cambridge with its deliberative subjunctives. He thought with something
like horror of the dull steady life there; of the long mornings when
decorous isolation was observed throughout the college; when men sat
with dictionaries and notebooks in front of them, and discreetly
analysed Thucydides’ account of the Peloponnesian war. That was more
hopelessly obsolete than the Elgin marbles, for the latter were in the
vanguard of their times, whereas Cambridge was painfully crawling back
to times long past, and thinking throughout the tedious process that it
was in the forefront of thought and advancement. It was the classical
branches of that eminent university which seemed to him so woefully
retrograde in their tendencies--for the medical, scientific, and even
mathematical schools he felt, if not sympathy, at any rate no impatient
condolence. “And then they marched two parasangs and came to the River
Amaspis ... and after having dinner there and marching two more
parasangs, they encamped for the night.” The old sentences came back to
him, as a Wagnerian may remember bars of Donizetti or Rossini heard in
the unregenerate days.

And Markham? Markham came up to town for a few days in July, and worked
at manuscripts in the British Museum. He was collating texts of an
obscure Greek author, and explaining to a limited section of society how
certain glosses crept in. It appeared that the copyist of the thirteenth
century had taken unwarrantable liberties with the text, and that he had
also frequently copied a word into a line he was writing, either from
the preceding or the subsequent line, and this naturally led to a great
deal of unnecessary confusion. One of the most vital results of this
carelessness, as it appeared to Tom, lay in the fact that a sensible man
like Markham should be spending the best years of his life in
determining where this deplorable scribe had not taken the trouble to
copy exactly what lay before him. And as no earlier copy of the work was
extant, there was a field for the most various and lively conjectures,
the truth of which would for ever remain in pleasing uncertainty.
Markham, of course, was staying with Tom, and one evening the latter
waxed quite hot on the subject, to his father’s great amusement.

“Did I tell you of that beggar I gave half a sovereign to one night?” he
asked. “Well, I consider him to be infinitely your superior. When the
Judgment day comes, he will know much more about his fellow-men than you
ever will, and, according to all creeds, he will be in a better position
than you when the accounts are settled.”

“If you mean that to get drunk for a week is knowing about your
fellow-men,” said Markham, “I agree with you. But that sort of knowledge
doesn’t seem to me worth much.”

“Oh, Teddy, I really wish you would get drunk once or twice, or be
disreputable in some way! It would be the making of you. You are without
charity; you don’t even know what it means. You have never known what it
is to make allowances for anybody.”

“On the contrary, I am employed just now in making allowances for my
thirteenth-century copyist, whom you gird at so.”

“No, you don’t make allowances for him in the least,” said Tom; “you
note down in a cold critical way just where he goes obviously wrong. You
gloat over his mistakes because they enable you to make brilliant--I
suppose you are brilliant--guesses at what he should have written. You
don’t think of the poor old man having to copy out dull Greek iambics by
the yard, and getting very sleepy over the process. There would be some
interest in that; what you do is to rob everything of all the human
interest it ever possessed.”

Mr. Carlingford had spent his life from the age of fourteen to
fifty-eight in learning how to acquire money and in proceeding to do so,
and had existed entirely for the business house which he had founded
and raised to an important and safe position. But his work had never
been a passion to him, and at the latter age he had retired, leaving the
management of affairs in the hands of his old partner and his son, who
had a few years afterwards been also taken into the business. Mr.
Carlingford on retiring had not left his capital merely as a deposit in
the business, but remained a partner, though he took no part whatever in
the management of the affairs. In his elder partner he felt as much
confidence as it was in his nature to feel towards any one, and as,
since his retiring, his income had shown no signs of falling off, his
confidence had rapidly flowered into a total indifference to all such
concerns. His fortune, in fact, was sufficiently large to enable him to
feel a profound contempt for money, bred from familiarity with it, and
he did not put the slightest opposition in the way of Tom becoming a
sculptor or adopting any profession, except that of a clergyman, however
unremunerative.

Tom very soon got known and even discussed in a certain section of
London society. He was extremely presentable, he made himself uniformly
agreeable, except to Markham, and he had the incidental advantage of
being the heir of an exceedingly rich man. Lady Chatham in the intervals
of arranging about carriages congratulated herself on having previously
settled for Maud to go out with her brother to Athens that winter. She
even went so far as to allude to it once to her husband, who always saw
the darker side of any scheme.

“Well, my dear, I think it very rash of you to encourage their
intimacy,” he said; “Mr. Carlingford has no land, and even land is worth
nothing now.”

Lady Chatham was rather horror-struck at this very unveiled way of
stating the objection to a subject she had introduced so cautiously.

“Tom Carlingford is just as nice as he can be,” she replied, “and very
well connected, and what investments and land have to do with the
question, Chatham, I really don’t know.”

“But you were saying only the other day that you hoped Maud would marry
well.”

“I have my only daughter’s real advantage at heart, and that only,” she
replied with finality.

Lord Chatham overlooked the finality, and continued--

“Then did you only mean that you hoped she would marry a nice man, when
you said you hoped she would marry well?”

“Of course it is an advantage to marry a man who can keep her in boots
and gloves,” said Lady Chatham, stung into innocuous sarcasm.

“Oh, well, I dare say Tom Carlingford could do that, even if his
father’s business smashed altogether. Mind you send the carriage back
for me punctually, dear; I’ve got another meeting to go to after the
House, and if it isn’t ready I shall have to take a cab, and the
carriage perhaps will wait half an hour or more, and we shall be late
for dinner.”



CHAPTER VI.


Tom had spent the latter part of the summer and the earlier autumn at a
sculptor’s studio in Paris, and arrived at Athens in a decade of summer
November days. The fogs and frosts had laid a hand on Paris before he
left, and the new heaven and the new earth looked very fair as his ship
steamed slowly into the Piræus just before sunrise. The violet crown of
mountains round Athens lay in dewy silence waiting for the dawn, and
even in the dim half light the air was full of southern colour. He stood
on the deck until the sun had shot up above Pentelicus, and was joined
by Arthur Wrexham, who had secured a month’s extra leave, on a vague
plea of debility.

“It’s so delicious to be in these classic waters again,” said that
diplomatist. “England had become quite unbearably foggy. Cook’s man will
get us a boat.”

“What’s that mountain?” asked Tom peremptorily--“that one, just where
the sun has risen.”

Arthur Wrexham looked vaguely in the direction of the sun.

“Oh, it’s Hymettus, I think, but I’m not sure. I’ve no head for these
barbarous names. Have you got all your things together? Do you see
Cook’s man anywhere? They all talk Greek here.”

A medley of boats full of picturesque Southerners was waiting below,
offering to take any one on shore at a ridiculously low figure, and in
wholly unintelligible language.

“It’s no use waiting for Cook’s man,” said Tom; “let’s get one of these
brown ruffians to take us ashore.”

“If you’ll talk to him, and tell him we will only pay a fifth part of
what he wants, we will,” said Arthur Wrexham, “but I can’t understand
them.”

Tom found his way up to the Acropolis during the morning, and suspended
judgment. The whole thing was so transcendently beautiful that he could
not endorse his own prophecies that it would be obsolete, and since
obsolete, disappointing. He planted himself on the Propylæa steps for
half an hour, and looked out from between a frame of marble pillars
stained to the richest orange with wind and rain over the Attic plain,
across the sea towards Salamis and Ægina. The sky, one blue, touched
another blue on the horizon, and melted the edges of capes and
mountains.

To the right, across the grey-green olive grove far below, rose the
swelling mass of Parnes, fringed with pine woods, and a white village
nestled on its lower slopes. Close on his right stood the hill
Areopagus, with steps and caves cut in its brown-red sides. The wind,
blowing lightly from the west, seemed full of dead memories of tiresome
books, coming back to life and beauty. After that he sat for a time in
front of the west façade of the Parthenon, which stood like some
gracious presiding presence keeping watch over the town and the plain.
High up on the pediment still rested the figure of a man and woman, she
with her arm round him, he leaning against her breast, and behind the
first row of columns rose the line of frieze showing the youth of Athens
making their horses ready to start in the great birthday procession of
the goddess. To the left stood the marble maidens, holding for ever on
their heads the roof of the south porch of the Erecththeum, yet bearing
it as no burden has yet been borne. One with her right knee bent, and
hands loose by her side, stood as if she could have borne the weight of
the world, and yet not been weary, and another like her, as a sister is
like a sister, seemed just to have shifted her position, to have drawn
the right foot back, and clasped her hands behind her. Between the more
roughly cut blocks of foundation stones sprang vivid flowers, and the
fallen columns of the great temple lay at rest on beds of long wavy
grasses. High in the eastern heavens sat Pentelicus and Hymettus, two
mountains of marble, and the quarries from which Athens had been built
from generation to generation showed only like a couple of tiny
scratches in their long flanks. Then looking over the east wall of the
Acropolis, he saw the modern town spread out beneath him, with sober,
grave cypresses keeping sentinel by the tower of the winds, or a little
to the right that sad company of giants, the remaining columns of the
temple of Zeus Olympios, standing like strange, tall men from some other
land, gazed at by the crowd of inquisitive modern houses, that keep on
pushing their way closer to them. After lunch he went to the museums and
saw the lines of statues and reliefs, and said nothing. He went to the
Street of Tombs, and saw other tomb reliefs standing as they had stood
for two thousand years, under the deep blue of the southern sky, so
placed that the grasses that sprang from their ashes budded and flowered
in sight of the Acropolis; and the decade of summer days passed away.

An easterly gale and floods of driving rain kept him indoors one
morning, and he wrote to Markham. An extract from his letter will give
the state of his feelings better than anything else.

“I have been here between a week and a fortnight,” he wrote, “and I am
no nearer making up my mind than I was at first. If the beauty of the
whole place was not so overwhelming, I should have merely, as I expected
to do, studied how the sculptors of that day rendered muscles, and
examined the _technique_ of their work. As it is, I have done nothing of
the kind. Now and then when I am tired I suddenly remember the absolute
perfection of some detail, but in general I don’t consciously notice it.
The art is so triumphant that one cannot look at it in pieces. Men
_admired_ the sun before they peered at him through telescopes and found
out sun-spots, and it was not till after that they tried to explain the
sun-spots. It is the same with me; I can only look and wonder. An
Englishman has offered very kindly to lend me some books about
sculpture. The suddenness of my refusal startled him. I care nothing at
present about schools, and the way one man rendered eyes and another
rendered hair. I can’t judge it yet. But if they will build a temple of
Pentelic marble in London, and stain it orange and red with weather, and
put a hollow turquoise over it for a sky, and the Ionian Sea the colour
of a sapphire in the background, I will do a statue for it. Some one
told me once that I was not ambitious! Do you agree with that verdict?
To-morrow if it is fine I go to Olympia. There is the finest thing of
all there--a Hermes by Praxiteles. I don’t think either Praxiteles or
Hermes come into your line. One was a god, and I rather expect to find
that the other was too.”

From an artistic standpoint that visit to Olympia was perhaps the making
of Tom; for all financial purposes it was his ruin. When he saw it, he
said, “By Gad!” and stopped there half a day. The young god stands with
his head a little bent, and a smile on his lips, looking at the babe
whom he carries on his arm, half lost in his own thoughts. And the
divine fire descended on Tom.

He stopped at Olympia for a day and a half, and then returned to Athens.
Another artist had arrived at his hotel a day or two before, rather to
Tom’s disgust, but he quickly made friends with him, and had left with
him several photographs of a couple of statuettes he had made that
autumn in England. They were extremely pretty and essentially modern in
style. Manvers himself was of the most advanced realistic school, and
had got past mere prettiness, and recorded sheer ugliness with the most
amazing skill. He worked a good deal in Paris, but had come south owing
to ill-health, and found a cynical pleasure in watching Tom’s enthusiasm
for a school that was almost comically _passé_, as _passé_ as crinoline.
He had been through the same stage himself.

He had looked at the photographs Tom had given him with a good deal of
respect, and was turning them over for the third or fourth time, when
Tom himself came into the room on his return from Olympia. Manvers was
lying at full length on a sofa, smoking a bitter weed.

“Ah, there you are!” he said. “Do you know these are devilish pretty?”

Tom strode across the room, and when he saw what Manvers was looking at,
he frowned.

“Give them me, Manvers,” he said, and twitched them out of his hand.

It was a damp, windy day, and Manvers, who hated any temperature but the
warmest, had made the hotel proprietor light a fire in the smoking-room.
Tom looked at the photographs for a moment with intense disgust, and
threw them into the fire. In a few moments the draught had carried a few
fragments of crinkly ash up the chimney.

Manvers took a puff or two at his bitter weed.

“Ah! the Hermes is to blame for that, I suppose,” he said. “I’ve seen
the photographs of it. That is why I did not go to Olympia with you.
Partly also, because it is cold. I’m sorry you threw those photographs
away; they were very pretty.”

“They were abominations,” said Tom, and sat down.

“And so you are going to set up a very life-size Apollo--six foot four
in his sandals--as I did,” said Manvers, “and you will gnash your teeth
over it every day for a month, and then you will return to your senses.”

“For the first time in my life I am fully sane,” said Tom. “I have seen
perfection, and I know what it means. I shall find out the way to do it.
Don’t laugh--I shall. It won’t be easy, but it can be done. It has been
done once, and it can be done again. What a blind fool I have been!”

Manvers crossed one leg over the other.

“Yes, it’s delicious to feel like that,” he said. “I quite envy you. I
felt like it once--and those things don’t happen twice. I congratulate
you with all my heart, and I shall congratulate you more when you have
recovered.”

Tom snorted with indignation.

“I am as sane as you are,” he said, “but I shan’t set up a life-size
statue just yet; I have got to study first. I know what the language
means, and I am going to read all that exists in it. I have got the key
to it all. The whole thing used to puzzle me; it was an unknown tongue,
obsolete and dead, I thought it. But now I have the means of finding it
all out.”

Manvers closed his eyes.

“_Nunc dimittis_,” he said piously. “I suppose we may expect a new Greek
god every year for the present. What will you do with them, by-the-by?
Life-size figures take up such a lot of room in a studio.”

“That’s so like you,” said Tom; “as if it matters anything to me what
happens to them. I shall produce them, that is enough.”

“So the rest of the world will think, as you will find.”

“What?”

“I mean they won’t go a step further, and wish to possess them.”

“My dear Manvers, what do I care?”

Manvers looked at him composedly.

“Yes, of course, it doesn’t matter to you just yet. But when the
masterpieces are fruitful and multiply (masterpieces breed like rabbits,
you know), you will begin to wonder by degrees why they are
unappreciated. You will be like a struggling curate with many children.
He loves them all, but he cannot help wondering wistfully what will
happen to them.”

Tom shook his head with an air of benign superiority.

“You don’t really think that, do you?”

“Ah, well, it would be driving the case to extremes. What I expect will
happen is that you will get tired of your masterpieces, or rather your
first masterpiece, long before the rest of the world has an opportunity
of doing so.”

Tom looked at him compassionately.

“Poor chap; of course you are _blasé_ and disillusioned. It must be very
uncomfortable.”

“From your point of view, I am, but not from my own. I saw a woman in
the streets to-day with high-heeled boots and a parasol with lace round
the edge, and the face of ... well, not of a fallen angel, but an angel
who never rose. To you that would mean nothing, but to me it was a solid
ingot of inspiration for terra-cotta tossed in my path. From my point of
view you are simply blind.”

“Long may I remain so!” remarked Tom. “There’s the bell for dinner. I am
not going to eat no dinner because the heavens are opened.”

“Did no manna fall into the railway carriage?” asked Manvers. “How
forgetful of the Olympians!”

“No, I had lunch at Corinth,” said Tom, laughing.

Whether Tom was sane or not, he was not sufficiently mad to set up a
life-size Apollo in his bedroom. The artist’s inspiration had descended
on him, but not at present the artist’s inevitable need of producing.
The inspiration had come in a flood, and he bathed in it; there would be
time enough afterwards to wade out and devote himself to the task of
utilizing a given amount of the water. He wandered about the museums,
and sat on the steps of the Parthenon, picturing to himself the two long
rows of statues which once led up from the gates, and turning to the
long riband of frieze on the west to people the path again with the
Panathenaic procession. They were gods, Athens was a city of gods, and
gods could not die; they were youth, beauty, enthusiasm all realized,
ready to be realized again. It was all very well for Manvers to talk
about phases, and developments, and schools that were _passées_, and
schools that were decadent, but when you are face to face with
perfection....

Such was his creed. He believed in beauty. Even the classics--Xenophon
with his parasangs, Thucydides with his Peloponnesian war--were
glorified. Those men had been of the beautiful race, they had lived in
the country where beauty unveiled had dwelt. They were to him as are, to
one seeking for his love, men met by the wayside, men with whom she has
spoken, on whom perhaps she smiled. They may not have known how fair she
was, but even they were men different from others, for they had seen
her, and could not be the same after that.

So he gave himself up heart and soul to his religion, and his religion
lay broadcast like manna; he sat in the Dionysiac theatre, and read
Aristophanes; he spelt out shorter Greek inscriptions with reverence; he
walked to Eleusis by the sacred way; he sat an hour on the barrow at
Marathon that holds the bones of the Greeks who conquered the Persians
and died in victory. If this is to be mad, it is a pleasant thing to be
mad, but it is a form of madness which is the outcome of youth and
enthusiasm, and possibly genius, and is therefore not so common or so
incurable as other forms.

Maud Wrexham’s anticipations about her visit to Athens were a good deal
heightened by the knowledge that she would find Tom Carlingford there.
They had met several times during the autumn in England, and she found
his company very stimulating. Tom above all things was an enthusiast,
and enthusiasts are usually very sympathetic people, because, having
seen unlimited vistas opening out in their own line they are willing,
even eager, to allow for unlimited vistas in any other. Maud’s vista was
a wide one, embracing all mankind, just in the same way as Tom’s did,
the difference lying in the fact that Tom meant to compass his ends by
artistic achievement, which would compel admiration and awe, whereas
Maud’s programme was entirely vague. She had a passion for the human
race, and intended that they should have a passion for her.

Tom and she, being already fairly intimate, saw a good deal of each
other. Maud, too, had experienced a quite peculiar pleasure in the sight
of the Acropolis, and Tom’s presence by no means lessened it.

They were sitting one bright winter’s day on the steps of the little
temple to Nike, which looks over the lower Attic plain, and across the
narrow sea to Ægina and Salamis, and Tom was feeling a new-found joy in
having some one to whom he could talk fully, being sure of sympathy.
Though his artist’s nature had not yet insisted on the life-size Apollo,
expression of some sort was becoming necessary to him.

He pointed towards Salamis.

“That’s where they smashed the Persian fleet,” he said, “and our Lady of
Victory was standing here where you and I are sitting. She used to be a
winged goddess, but when she saw that, she plucked off her wings, and
became the Wingless Victory. At least, that is my version. And here they
set her temple on high.”

Maud’s eyes sparkled, and she said nothing for a minute or two.

“I’m afraid I’m a pagan,” she remarked at length; “I believe in these
gods and goddesses.”

“Why, of course you do,” said Tom. “These myths could never have been
invented; they were a conviction. And a conviction is the only religion
worth having.”

“But doesn’t it matter what the conviction is?”

“No, certainly not. One man’s conviction may not be the conviction of
another man, or of any other man, but it is the true thing for him. A
man’s conviction is that for which he was made.”

“But don’t you believe in a time when every one, dead or alive, will
have the same conviction?”

“I hardly know. But at any given moment I can’t realize that it’s any
conviction which I don’t share at that moment.”

Maud flushed ever so faintly before she spoke again.

“What is your conviction at this moment?”

Tom looked at her seriously, and examined the ferrule of his stick
without speaking.

“What is yours?” he asked.

“Ah! but my question came first.”

“My conviction is that a man can realize either in others, or in some
image in his brain which he works out perfectly or imperfectly, ideal
beauty. It may be moral or physical beauty. And his mission is to do
it.”

Maud had waited for his answer with an anxiety she could hardly explain
to herself; her heart took upon itself to beat with quick throbs, that
seemed to make her whole being alert. But this was only half an answer.

“And what is he to do with it when he has realized it?” she asked, with
the same intentness.

“Surely that is enough,” said Tom. “He loves it, of course.”

He stood up and looked out over the sea. “My God! he loves nothing
else!” he added.

For the life of her Maud could not help questioning him further.

“Yes, that, of course. But here one is in this puzzling world, and how
is one to begin? My conviction is----”

“Yes, I know,” broke in Tom; “I remember you telling me perfectly. You
want to make the whole world yours. So do I; and here is my first step
ready for me.”

“Yes, you are an artist. That is a serviceable tool.”

“A tool? It is the end in itself. If you use it rightly, all the rest is
there. The mainspring of this civilization which we see here was beauty.
They conquered the Persians for the beauty of the thing.”

“Oh, I’m not so sure about that! I think their hearths and homes had
something to do with it.”

“Then why had no one else conquered the Persians? Every nation they had
already subdued had its hearths and homes. The Greeks had no more
hearths and homes than others, and the biceps of the Greek was no bigger
than that of other men. Everything else was only the wire down which the
electric current came--and the electric current which killed the Persian
was the love of art.”

“Then why did they fall before Rome?”

“Because the current had grown weak. Their art degenerated, and they
fell.”

Maud scratched the cement pavement at her feet meditatively. She felt
rather chilled and discouraged. She had expected--well, what had she
expected?

“I think you are inhuman,” she said at last.

“Yes, I know I am. I believe I have got hold of this tool, as you call
it, and I think of nothing else but how to use it. I must go back to
England soon, and work.”

Maud had stood up, and the least tremor passed over her. Tom noticed it.

“You are catching cold,” he said, “sitting here. What an ass I was not
to think of it before! Here’s your cloak; let me help you on with it.”

“Thanks--it is rather cold. I thought you were going to be out here all
the winter.”

“I feel just now that I should like to stop here for ever.”

They had strolled back into the Acropolis, and Maud felt glad they were
moving, for a silence then is less embarrassing than when one is
stopping still. Their talk had been a little upsetting to her in some
way, and she wanted a moment to steady herself in. They had left Arthur
Wrexham sitting in a rather forlorn manner on a large slab of cold
Pentelic marble. He refused to come on to the Nike bastion because he
was smoking a cigarette, and there was a wind there. So he contented
himself with answering in a vaguely appreciative manner, how very
classic it all was, and that he should certainly come there again. His
opportune appearance at this moment, sitting in a more sheltered corner
than ever, facing a blank white wall, gave Maud an opportunity of
recovering herself.

“Dear Arthur, are you finding it all very classic,” she said, “and just
a little melancholy? Never mind; we can’t take you to the museum, as we
threatened to do, because it closes at twelve, so you need only just
walk up as far as the Parthenon, because I want to look at something,
and then we’ll all go down. Really, you are a very bad chaperon; you
sit in a corner opposite a blank wall. Mr. Carlingford has been saying
the most unconventional things.”

“I have been mentioning the objects and purposes of art,” remarked Tom.

“Ah, how nice!” murmured Arthur; “all about Doric columns and so on, I
suppose. Do tell me some day. Maud, we shall be dreadfully late for
lunch.”

“Yes, dear, I know we shall,” said Maud.

“Well, then, wouldn’t it really be as well to leave the Parthenon alone,
just for the present? You can see the Parthenon any day.”

“Well, you can have lunch any day,” said Maud; “and you do have it every
day.”

Arthur Wrexham made a resigned little sound, partaking of the nature of
a sigh, and followed them.

They were lunching with Tom at his hotel, and when they went out on to
the balcony afterwards to drink the thick sweet Turkish coffee, they
found Manvers sitting in the sun, feeding on his own thoughts. The
thoughts chiefly ran on the subject of the possibility of representing
lace--real thin lace, and not great fluffy bunches of it--in
terra-cotta, and it really seemed as if it might be done. _La dame qui
s’amuse_ must have lace, all round her parasol and down the front of her
dress.

He looked doubtfully at his cigar, after shaking hands with Maud. The
class _qui m’ennuie_ were not so tolerant. Maud caught the glance.

“Not on my account, please,” said she. “I don’t mind it in the least.”

“Well, on my account, then,” said Tom. “He smokes curly Italian weeds,
Miss Wrexham. They smell of goat’s cheese.”

“My dear fellow,” said Manvers, “you are in the Havannah stage with all
your tastes.”

“Isn’t that rather a good stage to be in?” asked Miss Wrexham.

“Quite delightful for yourself, but it makes you a little intolerant of
other people. Tom dislikes my statuettes as much as he dislikes my
cigars.”

“I dislike them very much more,” said Tom fervently.

“There, you see--you may judge how much he loathes them.”

“Bring one out,” said Tom, “and see if Miss Wrexham doesn’t agree with
me.”

“I don’t carry my own statuettes about with me,” said Manvers; “one’s
own works are very bad company. When you have begun on your life-size
Apollo, you will know why.”

“Apollo shall dine with me every night.”

“My dear fellow, how you will bore each other!” said Manvers.

Maud Wrexham began to laugh.

“You mustn’t pea-shoot each other in public,” she said. “When doctors
disagree, they must do so out of hearing of their patient.”

“Are you a patient?” asked Manvers.

“Yes, under treatment. I have been on the Acropolis all the morning,
with my brother and Mr. Carlingford. You’re not a patient, are you,
Arthur?”

“It struck me I was very patient,” said he.

Maud reflected a moment.

“No, it’s not at all a good joke, dear; it’s not either good enough or
bad enough to be good.”

“Extremes meet, you know,” explained Tom.

“That’s why you and Mr. Manvers come and stay at the same hotel, I
suppose,” said she.

“We don’t often meet,” remarked Manvers. “Tom goes to the Acropolis, and
I sit on the balcony.”

“Then why did you come to Athens?” asked Maud; “surely there are better
balconies elsewhere.”

“He’s really becoming a convert,” said Tom; “he’s not so black as he
paints himself.”

“My dear Tom, I never paint myself, it is you who paint me; and to do
you justice, you paint me as black as you can.”

Poor Arthur Wrexham looked appealingly at the company.

“I think I shall go for a little stroll,” he said. “When are you likely
to be ready, Maud?”

Maud finished her coffee.

“I’m coming now,” she said. “Don’t forget to-morrow, Mr.
Carlingford--you call for us at nine.”

“They’re going up Pentelicus,” said Arthur plaintively; “I’m going too.”

Tom looked at him severely.

“Yes, it’s the one you told me was Hymettus,” he said. “It’s time you
went. You won’t confuse them again.”

“I didn’t confuse them before,” said Arthur. “You can’t confuse two
things, unless you know them both, and then mix them up. I didn’t know
either.”

“Well, you’ll know one after to-morrow,” said Maud encouragingly, “and
then you can get at the other by an exhaustive process.”



CHAPTER VII.


Meanwhile the “sheltered life” had gone on as usual at Mr. Markham’s.
The delight in Ted’s success had moved away into its appointed
background, in front of which the slow, happy days passed on as
uneventfully as ever. But about November a change took place. The Lord
Chancellor appeared to have been suddenly struck by Mr. Markham’s
admirable editions of school classics, or perhaps the fame of the neat
covers of the books May stitched for the parish library had reached him,
and he offered him the living of Applethorpe, which had just become
vacant. Mr. Markham was unwilling to leave his old parish, and May even
more so, but the offer was not one to be refused. Applethorpe was a
large country parish, and, what was a distinct advantage, a richer one
than Chesterford; old Mr. Carlingford, in particular, though careful to
avoid in his own person direct means of grace, being always ready to
supply funds whereby it might be administered to others.

Ted was delighted with the change; his roots had been transplanted so
often in school and university life that they never struck very deeply
in the soil of Chesterford. The close neighbourhood of Tom’s house
weighed heavily in favour of Applethorpe, and the accessibility of Lord
Ramsden’s library, which contained many dust-ridden old volumes, among
which he had visions, as every book-lover has, of finding undiscovered
treasures in the way of twelfth-century missals, was not without its
effect. May alone did not like it. It seemed to her that she was going
out into new and more elaborate places, which might prove perplexingly
different from the green fields and country lanes she knew so well.
Things were going to be on a bigger scale; they would keep one curate,
perhaps two; London itself loomed on the horizon, and when her father
had gone to see the place, he came back saying that it looked a pretty
country but there had been a London fog, which had drifted down from
town.

However, she quite acquiesced in her father’s decision, and before
Christmas they had moved.

Their house stood at one end of the long straggling village, a typical
rectory of the older class, with a tennis lawn in front and a
stable-yard behind, a hall paved with red tiles, and far too much ivy
and virginia creeper on the walls. Ted arrived soon after from
Cambridge, with a large square box full of books, which could only just
get through the front door.

He and May had gone a long exploring walk in the country one afternoon,
and were returning home along the clean frozen road through the village.
They had been talking about the place.

“It’s so big, Ted,” May had said, “it almost frightens me, as I told you
once a big place would do. It is so hard to get hold of a lot of people
like this.”

“Well, there will be a curate, won’t there?” said Ted. “Of course it’s
too large for father alone.”

“Yes, I know there will; but you don’t understand. I must get hold of
them myself. I must do all I did at Chesterford, and more.”

Ted looked at her kindly.

“Yes, I know how you feel about it. It’s the personal relation you want,
isn’t it?”

“No, I don’t care about their personal relation to me. They might all
hate me if they liked. But the quickest way to get at people’s hearts
for any purpose is to make them like one.”

“Don’t be worried, May,” said he. “You will soon get to know them all,
unless I’m very much mistaken.”

“Ah, but just think of the state things are in! I went to see an old
woman yesterday. She couldn’t understand at first why I came. I told her
I was the new vicar’s daughter, and she asked me what I wanted. The late
vicar used never to visit anybody, she said.”

“Yes, it will be hard work.”

“I wish you could come here after you were ordained,” said May, “as
father’s curate.”

“I must stop at Cambridge,” said Ted. “You wouldn’t wish me to give that
up?”

“No, I suppose not,” said May; “and yet, I don’t know. I think parish
work is the highest in the world.”

“There is plenty of that to do in Cambridge,” said Ted, “for that
matter; but I am not the man to do it. I can’t do it as you can--and
father,” he added.

“Ah, but what is good work in other lines compared to any work in that?”
said May, earnestly--“especially for a man who means to be a clergyman.”

“Yes, but other things can’t be neglected. You have no business to leave
alone what you think you can do, for anything else. One’s talents,
whatever they are, are given one to use.”

“But is there not ‘that good part’?” asked May.

Ted walked on in silence a little way.

“I did not know you thought of it like that,” he said at length. “Do you
admit no call but that of saving souls directly by your means?”

“I didn’t know I felt it myself, till we came here,” said May; “until I
saw this place so absolutely uncared for. Look at the rich people, too.
Old Mr. Carlingford is very liberal, because he is very rich; but he
never comes to church.”

“Ah, that reminds me,” said Ted. “Tom is coming home soon, in about a
fortnight, he said.”

May paused on the doorstep.

“I suppose he will come here, won’t he? I didn’t know he was coming back
so early.”

And she turned rather quickly, and went into the house.

The new curate soon came, and fulfilled to the utmost all the admirable
accounts of himself which had led to his engagement. He was strong and
vigorous, and exerted all his vigour and strength in the work to which
he had been called. He was even bold enough to pay a visit to Mr.
Carlingford single-handed, and the latter gentleman conversed to him
very fluently and agreeably for half an hour on the coal-strike, and the
lamentable weakness of the English fleet in the Mediterranean, offered
to draw a cheque then and there to supply coal for villagers who were
unable to have fires in this very nipping weather, and courteously
declined to interest himself any further.

He was walking back through the village, and met May there, who had been
visiting.

“I have just been to see Mr. Carlingford,” he said.

May looked up quickly.

“I didn’t know----” she began. “Oh! old Mr. Carlingford. Yes. Did you
get anything out of him?”

“I got a cheque,” said Mr. Douglas.

May laughed.

“Yes, that’s not so difficult, though it’s something to be thankful for.
These poor creatures are half frozen.”

“Mr. Carlingford really is very generous. But is there no hope of
getting hold of him really? He might do much more than he does.”

“I wonder. Tom Carlingford is coming home this week. He might do
something with his father. I’ll ask my brother about it. By the way, we
are dining there to-night. Are you going?”

“No, I’ve got my cheque,” said the young man. “That’s enough for one
day. Besides, I have a boys’ meeting at Chipford Mills. I must leave you
here. I have to go up to Breigton cottages first.”

May turned and shook hands with him.

“It’s absurd for me to thank you for all you are doing,” she said. “You
do all sorts of things which my father couldn’t possibly do, and which
we have no right to expect.”

“Surely that is a curate’s business,” he said, laughing, and taking off
his hat.

Mr. Markham was suffering from a slight cold, and he had not been out
that day. He was sitting over the fire in the drawing-room, reading a
comedy of Aristophanes, when May came in.

“How cold you look!” he said. “I ordered tea as you were a little late.”

“Yes; I couldn’t come before, father,” she said, “and even now I have
only got through half the things I wanted to do.”

“Never mind, dear; but you should make an effort to be punctual; and
charity begins at home, eh, May?”

May turned from the fire, where she had been warming her hands, and
poured out a cup of tea. Her father, seeing he got no answer, continued
somewhat reproachfully--

“My cold is rather worse this evening, and I can’t think what you did
with that medicine. I couldn’t find it anywhere.”

“I put it on the table in your study.”

“No, dear. I think not. I looked for it there.”

May went out of the room and brought back the bottle.

“Yes, it was there. You had put some of your papers on to it.”

“Thanks very much. I hope you took care not to disturb the papers.”

“No, I disturbed nothing. Will you have some now?”

“No, I’ve just had my tea. I was wanting it before tea. I always take it
before meals, you know.”

May sat down in a chair and stirred her tea.

“Mr. Carlingford has given Mr. Douglas a cheque to get coals for the
people. It’s fearfully cold, and, poor things, many of them can’t afford
coals.”

“A good fellow, Douglas,” murmured Mr. Markham, as he smiled
appreciatively at Aristophanes.

“I was wondering if we couldn’t let them have some wood,” said May.
“There are stacks of it in the yard.”

Mr. Markham put his finger in his place.

“Yes, I will see about it. Who want it?”

“Oh, half a dozen of the cottages down here, and more at the mills.”

“Well, dear, hadn’t you better make a little list? It would save me some
trouble. Dear me, the fire wants mending. And then, if you would let me
have it in about an hour, I could just finish this play.”

“We dine at Mr. Carlingford’s to-night,” said May.

“Yes, dear, I know. Ah, δίκαιος λόγος. How admirable that is!”

Mr. Carlingford felt that he was doing his duty beautifully that
evening. He had given a cheque to the curate in the afternoon, and he
was having his vicar to dinner in the evening. His definition of duty
was vague and comprehensive. It meant doing those things which he
either did not wish to do or felt no desire to do. He had no desire to
give Mr. Douglas a cheque, and he did not wish to have his vicar to
dinner. The latter was therefore more clearly his duty than the former,
since the essential character of such acts varied in exact ratio to
their unpleasantness. An evening, he reflected, as he dressed for
dinner, should be spent alone in a warm room, after a light meal, and be
conveyed to the senses through the medium of several glasses of good
port. Clergymen were often teetotalers, and it gave him a positive sense
of discomfort to see people drinking water. Water was meant to wash in.

To him, in this state of mind, Mr. Markham was a pleasant surprise. He
showed no inclination to talk about mutton broth and district visiting,
he seemed to be well up in current topics of interest, and he was no
teetotaler. In fact, he made some rather knowing remarks on the subject
of cellars, and the depreciated nature of corks nowadays. And May really
was an admirable girl. “Why didn’t that fool Tom fall in love with her,
instead of heathen goddesses?” was his mental comment as she came in.

“I heard from my prodigal son to-day,” he said, as they were sitting at
dinner; “he has decided to continue his prodigality for another month.
The fatted calf may get fatter still. Poor boy! he is quite mad, and he
means to fill the house with statues. Statues always give me the
shivers. They really lower the temperature of the room. It is impossible
to see too little of them.”

“They’ll have to go in the kitchen,” said Mr. Markham.

“An excellent suggestion, my dear Mr. Markham, but think of the soup!
However, Tom is so dreadfully energetic, he always makes me feel hot.
The statues shall be wheeled about with him, and that will preserve the
equability of the temperature.”

“He wrote to my brother saying he was coming back at once,” said May.

“He does not deserve that you should remember that,” said Mr.
Carlingford, urbanely. “But I shall be so glad to see him that I will
tell him.”

“Oh, you needn’t do that,” said May, laughing.

Mr. Carlingford looked up at her a moment, and smiled to himself. That
slight flush on May’s face might only have been the effect of coming out
of the cold night air into warm rooms, but the other explanation pleased
him more.

“You and Tom will have great talks about Greek sculpture and Greek
literature, Mr. Markham,” said Mr. Carlingford, still adapting himself.
“I hear you are a wonderful scholar.”

“I have so little time for anything but my parish duties,” said Mr.
Markham, “that I never get the chance of working at classics. We are
very busy here, eh, May?”

“Well, it’s an ill wind that blows no one any good,” said Mr.
Carlingford, “and the parish is the gainer.”

The two gentlemen sat on in the dining-room afterwards, while May spent
a lonely but pleasant quarter of an hour in the drawing-room. She was
tired, for she had been out all day, and a low chair in front of the
fire suited her mood exactly. She never read much, and the books on the
table, chiefly by French authors of whom she had never heard, did not
excite her interest. So she fed on her own thoughts, and made quiet
uneventful plans for the future. When one is young, difficulties produce
a quickening of the hand and pulse, not a tendency to give up, to be
content with what is done. The powers of the mind and soul, like the
muscles of the body, grow only through their active employment, and the
harder the work the fitter they become. It is only when the capability
of growth ceases that exertion is labour. Her thoughts ran on the events
of the day, on the material as well as the spiritual needs of those
clustered cottagers, on the want, the suffering.... There was one girl
who lived alone in a tiny room in one of the poorer cottages with her
week-old baby. It was the common story; she was weak and ill, and unable
to work. Yet to such as her the promise had been made. The baby too;
surely the words “How much more shall He feed you” did not mean the
workhouse? She must consult her father about them. She had already
started a Sunday afternoon class for children. Poor mites, they did not
need theology yet; it was better to teach them to be clean, to show them
pictures that would amuse them, to let them spend a happy hour in a warm
bright room, with playthings and wooden bricks to build with.

And for herself, what? She neither wanted nor contemplated any change.
The work that lay before her was so inevitably hers, that any possible
change would be to neglect the whole purpose of her life. She was her
father’s daughter, and he was a parish priest. What other call could
there be for her which could be clearer than that? She rose from her
chair and walked once or twice up and down the room, and stopped at
length before a long mirror set in the wall. There was a lamp on either
side standing on the top of two chiffoniers, and her image was reflected
in bright light. She gazed a few seconds at herself without thinking
what she was doing, and then drew in her breath with a sudden start, for
she saw in the mirror a reflection, not of what she was used to think
herself, but the reflection of a woman, and she was that woman. The
whole thing flashed on to and off her brain in a moment, but it had been
there.

Meanwhile Mr. Carlingford and his vicar were having a comfortable glass
of port over the fire. The vicar liked everything to be good of its
sort; his terriers were all in the kennel stud-book, his Walter Scott
was an _édition de luxe_, and he had a beautiful Romney in his
dining-room. And all Mr. Carlingford offered him was first-rate; the
dinner had been excellent, the fire was of that superlative mixture,
cedar logs and coal, and the port was certainly above criticism. He
regretted profoundly that his slight cold had taken the edge off his
sense of taste.

Mr. Carlingford expressed singular but original ideas on the subject of
money.

“I had the pleasure of giving your curate, a delightful young fellow I
should say,” he began, “a small cheque this afternoon. So many
clergymen, Mr. Markham, if you will excuse a criticism on your
fellow-workers, are distinguished only for their superficial grasp of
subtleties; but Mr. Douglas is distinguished for his wonderfully keen
grasp of the obvious. I asked him for how much I should draw the cheque,
and he said at once the sum he wished to receive. I hope you will always
ask me when you want anything.”

“You are very generous.”

Mr. Carlingford finished his glass, and put it down on the
chimney-piece.

“Money may be the root of all evil,” he said, “but it is in itself a
very necessary evil. It is one of those little snares without which we
should be always tripping up. But it is a very troublesome thing. Tom, I
know, detests money; perhaps that is why he spends it so quickly.
However, there is always a chance of something smashing and his being
left penniless, so he needn’t abandon all hope of being happy yet. He is
a great friend of your son, is he not?”

“Yes, Ted saw a great deal of him at Cambridge, though he was a year or
two the senior.”

“I was so glad to see he had got his Fellowship. I suppose he will
remain at Cambridge.”

“Yes, he means to. He is fond of the place, and it is a pleasant life.”

“And that, after all, is the best investment you can make of your time,”
remarked Mr. Carlingford.

“Not financially, I am afraid.”

“My dear Mr. Markham, you are confusing the end and the means. The
harmless necessary cash can at the best only secure you a pleasant life,
and if the pleasant life comes to you without, it becomes not
necessary, but superfluous.”

“Well, there is no fear of cash ever being superfluous to Ted.”

“Cash is always superfluous, except when you cannot get credit,” said
his host. “If there were no cash in the world we should all live in our
several stations on our credit with each other, and how much simpler
that would be!”

“I am afraid there would be complications ahead.”

“There are always complications ahead,” said Mr. Carlingford, “but in
the fulness of time they fall behind. Meanwhile one rubs along somehow.
Shall we move into the next room?”

It is to be feared that if Tom, in the new life that had opened for him
at Athens, could have seen how Ted was spending his life at Cambridge,
he would have been far from satisfied with him. It requires strong
vitality or real originality to avoid the paralyzing effect which
routine brings with it, and though Ted was original enough to give birth
to some theories concerning patristic literature which were received in
the most favourable manner by past masters of his craft, his horizons
were imperceptibly narrowing around him. It is the peculiar property of
such changes that they are imperceptible; to be alive to them would be
to guard against them, for no thinking man acquiesces in limitations
which he can see. He spent long mornings of steady work, he took gentle
exercise in the afternoon, and played whist for an hour or two after
hall; and any routine, when one is surrounded by men who are engaged in
similar routines, is deadly. He let old acquaintances drop, he did not
care to initiate new ones, and he lived with a few men who were in the
same predicament as himself, and was perfectly happy. He worked not for
fame’s sake, but for the sake of the work, and though his method of
working is undoubtedly the more highly altruistic, yet it has to be paid
for in other ways. A little personal ambition is a very human and
therefore a very suitable thing for men, for it keeps one alive to the
fact that one is one man among other men, not one machine for producing
knowledge among other machines. A machine may very likely do the work
better; a perfect machine would do it perfectly, but it will not become
a man by so doing, though a man, as the higher of the two, may quite
easily degenerate into a machine.

Ted’s talk with May about parish work led to his taking a district in
Barnwell, and doing work there. But, as he told her, he had no power of
doing that sort of thing--he had none of the missionary spirit, nor any
desire now to enter into the personal relation with his fellows, which
distinguished, though in opposite ways, both his sister and Tom. The
sight of dirt and squalor was productive in him, in the first instance,
not of a desire to make it clean, but to go away. He realized to the
full how deplorable a state of uncleanliness, physical or moral, was,
and he would have been very uncomfortable to think that there were not
well-endowed institutions the object of which was to rectify it.

Before Tom had gone away in November, he completed a couple of
statuettes, which he had made during the summer, had them cast in bronze
by the _cire perdue_ process, and sent them to a winter exhibition. He
had only just received the news that they had been accepted before he
went away, and had heard nothing of them since. But one day in the
winter Ted had been turning over a current number of the _Spectator_,
and found them mentioned in a notice of the exhibition with that high
praise which is both rare and convincing, and felt a strong but
unsympathetic pleasure, for, judging from his own point of view, he
would have felt none himself that a casual critic thought them good. A
few nights afterwards, by one of those coincidences which would be so
strange if they were not so common, he met at dinner with the master of
another college, the sculptor Wallingthorpe, who talked chiefly about
himself, but a little about his art. He was a picturesque man, and his
picturesqueness added a strong flavour to his conversation.

“I seldom or never go to exhibitions,” he said. “A beautiful subject
badly treated warps one. One has to be convalescent after it. One’s
artistic sense has been bruised, and it has to recover from the blow:
the injured tissues have to heal.”

Ted mentioned the name of the exhibition where Tom’s studies had
appeared, and asked if he had been there.

“Yes, I did go there--no wine, thanks; I never take wine, by the way. It
is a stimulant, and I don’t require stimulating, I require soothing. I
am glad you mentioned that exhibition; there were two studies there of
extreme, unusual merit. They produced in me that feeling that I could
have done the thing myself, that I wished I had. That is the final
excellence from one’s own point of view. They realized to me the vision
I might have had.”

“Whom were they by?” asked Ted.

“By quite a young man, I believe; certainly by quite a new one.
Carlingford was the name.”

“Ah! I know him well,” said Ted.

They were sitting over the wine after dinner, and Wallingthorpe, who did
not care to talk to Ted exclusively any longer, but wanted a larger
audience, bent forward and shook him warmly by the hand. This was done
in a dramatic and fervid manner, and naturally drew the attention of the
rest of the table.

Wallingthorpe turned round to explain himself.

“I was congratulating Mr. Markham on knowing a man of genius,” he said.

The natural inference was that these felicitations were offered to Ted
on the happy event of his having become acquainted with Wallingthorpe,
but that gentleman was self-denying enough to dispel the idea.

“I was speaking of two very remarkable little works in the Ashdon
Gallery, by a young man called Carlingford, with whom Mr. Markham tells
me he is intimate. They are very faulty in many ways, but faults matter
nothing when there is the divine essential burning behind them. Mr.
Carlingford is an uncut diamond. There are superficial flaws in the
stone, which will be polished away. He has only got to work and to
live.”

“Carlingford,” said some one; “he was up at King’s till quite lately,
was he not?”

Mr. Marshall blinked intelligently behind his spectacles.

“Yes, but we had no idea we were harbouring a genius. In fact, no one
even suspected he had real talent of any kind. But he was not stupid.”

“It is possible, even probable, that he had no talent,” exclaimed
Wallingthorpe. “Genius and talent have nothing in common. You might as
well expect to find a bird that had hands because it has wings. Genius
flies, talent--the metaphor breaks down--walks on its hands and feet.
But what made you think he had no talent?”

“His work was always very careless, and showed no very distinct
promise.”

Wallingthorpe beat the air with prophetic hands.

“His Greek prose! His Latin verses! His οὐ and his μἠ That is very
likely. Did it not occur to any one that you might as well have set a
wild Indian to hem handkerchiefs?”

“You see we all have to hem handkerchiefs here,” said his host urbanely;
“that is the reason why young men come to Cambridge.”

“And you wonder when your thorns bear grapes and your thistles figs!”
said Wallingthorpe. “Yet those are to blame who did not know that the
thistle was a fig-tree.”

Dr. Madeford laughed good-naturedly.

“But we are all delighted when we find it bearing figs,” he said,
“although, of course, we don’t allow that we thought it a thistle. We
have a higher idea of what we study.”

Wallingthorpe became pacific.

“Consider me rebuked,” he said, “but think of the pity of it. Four or
five years ago that boy ought to have been alternately turned loose in
Rome and shut up with a model and a mountain of clay. By now those
defects would have vanished. They would never have been in his nature.
Their possibility would have been taken out of him before they had
birth.”

“Then you have really a high opinion of his work?” asked Markham.

“My dear young man, I have the highest. He has genius, and he has love
of his work. Show me the man of whom I can say that, and I hail him as a
brother.”

Wallingthorpe’s egotism was too deep to call conceit; it was a
conviction that was the mainspring of his nature, the driving-power of
his work. It should not matter to the outside world what the
driving-power is, if the result is admirable, and Wallingthorpe’s
results certainly were admirable.

But further conversation would seem bathos after this, and the party
passed into the drawing-room.

Wallingthorpe had a word or two more with Ted as he was leaving.

“What is Carlingford doing now?” he asked.

“He’s in Athens, working there.”

“A dangerous experiment. Is he much impressed by classical art?”

“Very much indeed; he believes in nothing else, he says.”

The sculptor frowned.

“That means he will try to stand on tip-toe for a month or two instead
of flying. However, he will get tired of that. He will soon learn that
the only real art is realism.”

“He says that a sculptor out there called Manvers is always impressing
that on him.”

“Manvers? Well, no one ever accused Manvers of not being a realist. That
is about the only crime he has never been suspected of. Manvers is
extremely talented, but he has not a touch of genius. However, for
diabolical cleverness in his work he can’t be touched. On the other
hand, any tendency in Carlingford to idealism might be encouraged by
Manvers indirectly. He would find it impossible, if he had leanings that
way, not to have his bias strengthened by anything so rampantly
realistic as Manvers’ work.”

“Tom Carlingford is coming back to England in a few weeks.”

“I’m glad of that. The future is in his own hands.”



CHAPTER VIII.


Manvers’ good intention of taking a holiday had presumably gone to pave
the worst of roads, for before a fortnight was up he was working hard at
the new statuette. The solid ingot of inspiration which had been tossed
in his path was only slightly responsible for this; the burden of it lay
with Maud Wrexham.

For Maud Wrexham was to him a new type of womanhood, common enough in
England, but a type which does not foregather with young artists in
Paris; and Manvers was beginning to think of the Paris days with a sort
of disgusted wonder. To be received into the society of a well-bred
English girl, to see her day after day, to be admitted by her into a
frank, boyish sort of intimacy, was a proceeding he would have looked
upon, a month or two ago, as a very doubtful privilege. He thought of
our English marriageable maidenhood as a kind of incarnation of lawn
tennis and district visiting, with a background of leaden domesticity,
and when Maud began, somehow, to usurp an unreasonably large share of
his spare thoughts, he was at first a little amused at himself, and,
after a time, pulled up short and began to review the position.

He had seen almost at once who it was who usurped her thoughts, though
he felt sure that a casual observer, one whose own mind was fancy free,
would not have noticed it. She was intensely conscious of Tom’s
presence, and to Manvers she betrayed herself by a hundred tiny signs.
When they were alone, she, as was most natural, for they were a trio of
friends, often talked of Tom, and when he was there she evidently
listened to all he said, and was intensely conscious of him, though she
might be talking to some one else. As a rule, she behaved quite
naturally; but once or twice she had exhibited towards him a studied
unconsciousness, which to Manvers was a shade more convincing than her
consciousness. He had a weakness for weaknesses, and the dramatic side
of it all, her self-betrayal to him and Tom’s unconsciousness, would
have given him a good deal of satisfaction, had he known that he was
without a stake in the matter. But as the days went on, he became aware
that it mattered a good deal to him, and the satisfaction he got out of
the drama was a very poor wage for his own share in it.

Besides, he distinctly did not wish to fall in love. “Love may or may
not blind,” he said to himself, “but it plays the deuce with your eye,
if you are a sculptor.” And so, by way of keeping his eye single, he set
to work, with patient eagerness, on _La dame qui s’amuse_. The title
itself brought a savour with it of Paris days, and Paris days could
hardly help being antidotal to the feelings with which Maud Wrexham
inspired him.

There was yet one more factor which made him plunge into his work, and
that was the thought of Tom. Tom just now was sublimely unconscious of
anything so sublunary as falling in love with mortals, for he had lost
his heart to antique goddesses, who again presented a fine contrast to
Miss Wrexham. Manvers, as a rule, left morals to moralists, among whose
numbers he had never enlisted himself; but a certain idea of loyalty, of
letting Tom have fair play when he came to take his innings, made him
avoid the idea of setting up personal relations with Miss Wrexham.
Whether he would have taken the chivalrous line, if any one but Tom had
been concerned, is doubtful, but Tom somehow exacted loyalty. His
extraordinary boyishness made Manvers feel that it would be an act of
unpardonable meanness to take any advantage of him. Besides, in a sense,
the fortress to which he himself would have liked to lay siege was, he
felt sure, ready to capitulate to another, but it struck him that it was
likely to repel an attack from any other quarter but that with much
vigour. To sit still and do nothing was more than flesh and blood could
stand; it was hard enough to work, and the only thing to do was to work
hard.

Tom’s tendencies towards idealism were, as Wallingthorpe had suspected,
encouraged rather than discouraged by Manvers. “If that,” he thought and
often said, “is realism, God forbid that I should be a realist.”

He said this to himself very emphatically one morning when he came to
see Manvers after breakfast. The latter was already at work, and Tom
gazed at “La dame” for some moments without speaking. Manvers’ handling
of the subject was masterly, and the result appeared to Tom quite
detestable.

“I quite appreciate how clever it is,” Tom said to Manvers, who was
testing his powers of “doing” lace in terra-cotta with great success,
“and I wonder that you don’t appreciate how abominable it is.”

Manvers was at a somewhat ticklish point, and he did not answer, but
only smiled. Nature had supplied him with a rather Mephistophelean cast
of features, and he had aided her design by the cultivation of a small
pointed beard. At this moment Tom could fancy that he was some
incarnation of that abstraction, dissecting a newly damned soul with
eagerness and delicacy, in the search for some unusual depravity. After
a moment he laid the tool down.

“I appreciate it fully from a spiritual, or moral, or Greek, or purist
point of view, he said. But I am not in the habit of taking those points
of view, and in consequence I am--well, rather pleased with it.”

“I think it’s a desecration,” said Tom. “Why you are not struck with
lightning when you call it art, seems to me inexplicable!”

Manvers laughed outright.

“My dear Tom, I never called it art--I never even called it Art with a
big A. That is not the way to get on. You must leave other people to do
that. If you were an art critic, which I hope, for my sake, you some
time may be, you would be immensely useful to me. One has only got to
get an Art critic (with a big A) to stand by one’s work, and pay him so
much to shout out, ‘This is the Abomination,’ and one’s fortune is made.
I am thinking of paying some one a handsome salary to blackguard me in
the Press. Criticism, as the critic understands it, would soon cease,
you see, if every one agreed, and so the fact that one critic says it is
abomination, implies necessarily that another critic will come and stand
on the other side and bawl out, ‘This is Sublime’ (with a big S).
Artists and critics are under a great debt to one another. Critics get
as much as sixpence a line, I believe, for what they say about artists,
and artists would never get a penny if it wasn’t for critics, whereas,
at present, some of us get very considerable sums. What was I saying? Oh
yes, one critic damns you and the other critic blesses you. Then, you
see, every one runs up to find out what the noise is, and they all begin
quarrelling about it. And the pools are filled with water,” he concluded
piously.

Tom did not answer, and Manvers went on with slow precision, giving each
word its full value.

“Of course it is chiefly due to the capital letters. Whether the
criticism is favourable or not matters nothing as long as it is
emphatic. In this delightful age of sky signs, the critics must be large
and flaring to attract any notice. Therefore they shout and use capital
letters. They write on the full organ with all the stops out, except the
Vox Angelica. And the artist blesses them. Like Balaam, their curses are
turned into blessings for him, so he blesses them back. A most Christian
proceeding.”

“But, honestly,” asked Tom, “does the contemplation of that give you
any artistic pleasure? Do you try to do for your age what Phidias and
Praxiteles did for theirs?”

“Certainly I do. I try to represent to people what their age is. I have
no doubt that ancient Greeks were excessively nude and statuesque. We
are not statuesque or nude. Apollo pursuing Daphne through the Vale of
Tempe, through thickets where the nightingales sing! What does Apollo do
now? He arranges to meet Daphne at Aix-les-Bains, where they have
mud-baths, and drink rotten-egg water. She wears an accordion-pleated
skirt, and he a check suit. In their more rural moments they sit in the
hotel-garden. It really seems to me that this little Abomination here is
fairly up to date.”

“Oh, it’s up to date enough!” said Tom. “But is that the best of what is
characteristic of our age?”

“That doesn’t concern me,” said Manvers blandly; “worst will do as well.
What I want is anything unmistakably up to date. Your gods and
goddesses, of course, are more beautiful from an ideal point of view. By
the way, that reminds me, I want to look at some of those early figures;
the drapery is very suggestive. I am going to do a statuette of a nun
who has once been--well, not a nun, and I want archaic folds; but if I
produced them now, they would be nothing more than uninteresting
survivals. And to produce an uninteresting survival seems to me a most
deplorable waste of time.”

“Why don’t you make a statuette of a sewing-machine?” asked Tom
savagely.

“Oh, do you think sewing-machines are really characteristic of the
age?” said Manvers. “I don’t personally think they are, any more than
Homocea is. Sewing-machines are only skin-deep. I wonder when you will
be converted again--become an apostate, as you would say now. You really
had great talent. Those statuettes of yours at the Ashdon Gallery are
attracting a great deal of attention.”

“I wish I had thrown them into the fire before I sent them there!”

“Well, when you come round again, you will be glad you didn’t,” said
Manvers consolingly.

Tom took a turn or two up and down the room.

“You don’t understand me a bit,” he said suddenly. “Because I think that
the Parthenon frieze is more beautiful than women with high-heeled
shoes, you think I’m an idealist. I am a realist, just as much as you
are, only I want to produce what I think is most beautiful. A beautiful
woman has much in common with Greek art--and you want to produce what
men, who are brutes, will say is most lifelike. You work for brutes, or
what I call brutes, and I don’t.”

“But if I have come to the conclusion that what you call brutish appeals
to more men than what you call beautiful, surely I am right to work for
them? Of course most artists say they work for the few, but I, like
them, confess that I wish the few to be as numerous as possible.”

“The greatest evil for the greatest number, I suppose you mean,” burst
in Tom. “I call it pandering to vicious tastes.”

Manvers paused, then laid down the tool he was working with.

“You are overstepping the bounds of courtesy,” he said quietly. “You
assume that my nature is vicious. That you have no right to do.”

Tom frowned despairingly.

“I know. It is quite true. I hate the men who always tell you that they
say what they think, but I am one of them.”

Manvers laughed.

“I don’t mind your thinking me vicious,” he said. “I dare say I am
vicious from your point of view, but you shouldn’t tell me so. It
savours of Billingsgate, and it is quite clear without your telling me
of it. You insult my intelligence when you say so.”

“In that I am sorry,” said Tom. “I never meant to do that. I wish you
would leave your--well, your Muse alone, and come out.”

Manvers looked out of the window.

“I suppose I shall have to come,” he said. “But you are so violent, you
never will consent to take carriage exercise. Luckily you can’t ask me
to play outdoor games here, as there are no outdoor games to play.
Dominoes is the only outdoor game I can play--I have done so outside
French cafés. I’m afraid I can’t say it’s too cold.”

“I should insult your morality if you did,” said Tom.

“Well, that’s not so bad as insulting my intelligence.”

“And that is exactly where we differ,” said the other.

       *       *       *       *       *

Arthur Wrexham was giving a small party the next evening, of a very
_recherché_ order, the dinner being served frothily in paper frills,
shells, or on silver skewers, and the candles shaded in so cunning a
manner that it was barely possible to see what the food was. He lived in
a somewhat sumptuous set of rooms on the upper square of the town, and
for a week or more, as the sirocco had been blowing, had been in a state
of apparently irretrievable collapse.

A little balcony opening out of his dining-room overlooked the square,
and as the night was very hot, the glass-door on to it was left open,
and the noises of the town came up to the guests as they sat at dinner,
like a low accompaniment to their own voices. It had been one of those
days when the divine climate of Athens gives way to all the moods of an
angry woman. The morning had dawned bright and hot, but before ten
o’clock sirocco had sprung up, and whoso walks in the face of sirocco is
bathed through and through in a fine white dust, most gritty. The
sirocco had brought the clouds from seawards, and about one o’clock the
rain came down, and laid the dust. Then the sun shone violently till
nearly five, and the air was like to a sticky warm bath. Later on it had
clouded over again, and Tom remarked in a pause in the conversation that
it had begun to lighten.

It was quite a small party, the two younger sisters of the American
_chargé d’affaires_ balancing Tom and Manvers, Arthur and his sister
making up the six. The two Miss Vanderbilts both talked as much as
possible, sighed for “Parrus,” and referred to the Acropolis as “those
lonely old ruins,” but agreed that Athens was “cunning.”

“Well, I’m right down afraid of an electric storm,” remarked Miss
Vanderbilt, to whom Tom’s remark about the lightning had been addressed,
“and as for Bee, she won’t be comfortable until she’s said her prayers
and is safe in the coal-store.”

“The doctor at Parrus told me I’d a nervous temperament,” remarked Bee,
“and we all knew that before, but he made Popper pay up for saying so.”

“‘Speech is silver,’” remarked Manvers.

“Well, his speech was gold,” said Miss Vanderbilt.

“Don’t you dread electric storms, Miss Wrexham?”

Maud was sitting at the head of the table fanning herself. She had borne
up against sirocco, but the sticky bath stage had finished her, and she
felt, as Bee would have expressed it, as if they’d omitted to starch her
when she was sent from the wash.

“No, I love them,” said Maud. “I wish it would begin at once. It may
make the air less stifling.”

“Well, I’d sooner be stifled than lightning-struck,” said Bee, “it’s so
sudden. Popper”--she referred to her father--“Popper says that an
average electric storm discharges enough electric fluid to light Chicago
for ten days. I think the table is just too elegant, Mr. Wrexham: where
do you get your flowers from?”

Things improved a little as dinner went on, and after fish Maud felt
better.

“What a dreadful materialist one is, after all,” she said. “Before
dinner I was feeling that life was a failure in general, and I was a
failure in particular, and now that I’ve had some soup and fish and half
a glass of champagne, not only do I feel better bodily, but mentally and
morally.”

“Why, I think that’s just beautifully put,” said Miss Vanderbilt. “When
I feel homesick and lonesome, Bee says, ‘It’s all stomach.’”

“It’s quite true,” said Manvers. “I’ve only felt homesick once this
year, and that was when Tom and I went to Ægina. It was fearfully hot,
and all the lunch they had given us was hard-boiled eggs and cold greasy
mutton. At that moment my whole soul, like Ruth’s, was ‘sick for home,’
and the little cafés with oleanders in tubs, and awnings. I say my soul,
but I suspect it was what Miss Vanderbilt tells us.”

“Have I said anything wrong?” asked Miss Vanderbilt, looking round
inquiringly. “I was only telling you what Bee said.”

Tom laughed.

“It’s easy enough to assure one’s self that one is only an animal,” he
said. “I wish any one would prove to us that we are something more. When
Manvers says his soul was sick, he is quite right to correct himself,
and suspect that he meant the other thing.”

“My dear fellow, the soul epidemic has ceased,” said Manvers, “though I
believe certain cliques try to keep it up. When you have looked at one
of your gods or goddesses for an hour, you think you have been enjoying
it with your soul, but you haven’t really. At the end of the hour you
feel tired, and after eating a mutton chop you can look at it again. The
mutton chop feeds that part of you which has been spending tissue on the
gods and goddesses. Well, we know what the mutton chop feeds.”

“I won’t assure you that you have a soul,” said Tom, “but I assure you
that I have.”

“It’s a most comfortable belief,” murmured Manvers. “I don’t grudge it
you--I envy you. I wish you would do the same for me.”

The storm was getting closer, and every now and then the pillars on the
balcony were thrown into vivid blackness against the violet background
of the sky. The balcony was deep and covered with the projecting eaves
of the third story, and after dinner they all sat out on it. The air was
absolutely still, and apparently all the population of Athens were in
the square, making the most of the evening air before the storm broke.

Tom was sitting on the balustrade of the balcony, and Maud in a low
chair near him. She leant forward suddenly.

“Do you remember hearing the hum of London one night, and saying it was
the finest thing in the world?”

“Yes, very well. It was at the Ramsdens’ dance. I shall hear it again
soon.”

“Ah, you are going almost immediately, I suppose, now?”

As she spoke, the sky to the south became for a moment a sheet of blue
fire, with an angry scribble running through the middle of it, and Miss
Vanderbilt ejaculated in shrill dismay.

Tom turned as Maud spoke, and the lightning illuminated her face
vividly.

The glimpse he had of her was absolutely momentary, for just so long as
that dazzling streamer flickered across the sky. But in the darkness and
pause that followed he still saw her face before him, phantom-like, as
when we shut our eyes suddenly in a strong light we still preserve on
the retina the image of what we were looking at.

The phantom face slid slowly into the surrounding darkness, but it was
not till the answering peal had burst with a sound as of hundreds of
marbles being poured on to a wooden floor overhead that Tom answered the
question which her voice had translated, but her eyes had asked.

“Well, I hardly know,” he said. “When are you thinking of going home?”

In that moment, when the thunder was crackling overhead, a flood of
shame and anger had come over Maud. Of her voice she had perfect
command, as she knew, but that the lightning should have come at that
moment and showed Tom her face was not calculable. But the absolute
normalness of his tone reassured her.

“I shall go back in about a fortnight,” she said.

“Why, that’s just about when I am going,” he said cheerfully. “I hope we
shall travel together.”

And with the unhesitatingness of well-bred delicacy he got off the
balustrade and began to talk to Miss Vanderbilt.

Tom was far too much of a gentleman to let his mind consciously dwell on
what he had seen during that flash of lightning. He regarded it like a
remark accidentally overheard, of which he had no right to profit. In
this case the wish was also absent, for though he liked Maud Wrexham
immensely, he was already in the first stage of his love of idealism,
which at present allowed no divided allegiance. Had Maud been an
idealist herself, she might have appeared to him merely as the
incarnation of the spirit of idealism, in which case he would have
fallen down and worshipped. Tom had experienced a great shock the day
before, when she had expressed admiration for Manvers’ _Dame qui
s’amuse_.

They were on the Acropolis together when Tom mentioned it, and asked if
she had seen it.

“Yes, he showed it me this morning. I think it’s extraordinarily good.”

“But you don’t like it?” asked Tom.

“Is it so terrible if I do? I don’t like it as I like this”--and she
looked round largely at the Propylæa--“but it gives me great pleasure to
look at it. It’s so fearfully clever.”

“No man can serve two masters,” he said. “If you like this, as you tell
me you do, you loathe the other necessarily.”

“Oh, but you’re just a little too fond of dogmatising,” said Maud. “What
you lay down as a necessity may be only a limitation in your own nature.
How do you know I can’t appreciate both? As a matter of fact I do.”

“Well, if you admire _La dame_ you can’t possibly think of this--this
which we see here--as supreme and triumphant,” said Tom.

“I’m not sure that I do. I think perhaps that I have a touch of the
scepticism you had--oh, ever so long ago; six weeks, isn’t it?--when you
expected to find that the grand style was obsolete. How we shall quarrel
when we manage the world, as we said we proposed to do.”

“It’s quite certain that we shall never manage together, if there is
this difference between us. I shall be wanting to celebrate Olympic
games while you are laying out boulevards.”

“Well, there’s room for both,” said Maud.

“No, no,” said Tom, “there is never enough room for the best, far less
for the worst.”

“You are so splendidly illogical, Mr. Carlingford,” she said suddenly;
“you see, you assume one is the best, and one the worst, and then build
upon it. It is all very well to do that for one’s self, but one becomes
unconvincing if one does it for other people.”

“It was better than if I had said at once that we differed
fundamentally.”

Maud turned away.

“Yes, perhaps. But what is the use of saying unpleasant things at all?”

“Unpleasant?” asked Tom, wrinkling his forehead. “Why, I differ from all
my best friends diametrically on every conceivable topic.”

That classification of her with his best friends was exactly the
attitude of his nature towards her, and what he saw during that flash of
lightning was naturally extremely surprising, for, as he reflected to
himself, despair should not look from one’s eyes when one hears that
one’s best friends are going away. But, as he was bound in honour to do,
he dismissed it as far as possible from his mind, and listened to Miss
Vanderbilt’s scientific discourse about lightning.

“I should really feel much more comfortable if you would turn that big
reflector round,” she was saying to Arthur Wrexham. “They say it
attracts the thunderbolts, and I’m sure we don’t want to lay ourselves
out to attract thunderbolts.”

Arthur Wrexham remonstrated gently.

“Oh, it really has no effect whatever on it,” he said. “In fact, glass
is an insulator.”

This entirely vague statement was found to be consoling, and Miss
Vanderbilt continued--

“I should be ashamed to be as silly as Bee about it,” she said. “Bee
took off all her rings the last electric storm we had, and of course she
couldn’t recollect where she put them, and you should have seen the
colour of her frock when she came out of the coal-store. Oh, gracious!
why, that flash went off quite by my hand here.”

Manvers was looking meditatively out into the night.

“The chances of being struck are so infinitesimal, Miss Vanderbilt, that
I think it must have had a shot at you that time and missed. So by the
law of probabilities it will not even aim at you again for a year or
two. It really is a great consolation to know that one wouldn’t hear the
thunder if one was struck.”

“Why, if you could hear the thunder, it would be all over,” said Miss
Bee, with a brilliant inspiration.

“So after each flash we must wait anxiously for the thunder,” said Tom,
“and then we shall know we’ve not been struck.”

“I guess there’s no great difficulty in finding out if you’ve been
struck,” said Bee. “Popper saw a man struck once, and he went all
yellow. Tell me if I am going all yellow, Mr. Manvers. I shan’t try to
conceal it.”

“No amount of dissimulation would conceal the fact that one had gone all
yellow,” said Manvers.

The worst of the storm was soon over, but the clouds took possession of
Hymettus, and continued growling and rumbling there. The two Americans
took advantage of the lull to make their way home. “For nothing,” Miss
Vanderbilt protested, with shrill vehemence, “will make me get into a
buggy during an electric storm;” and Tom and Manvers followed their
example, and walked back to their hotel.

Manvers had seen that look on Miss Wrexham’s face at the moment of the
flash of lightning, and he determined, wisely or unwisely, to mention it
to Tom.

They were the only occupants of the smoking-room, and after getting his
cigar under way, he asked the other lazily--

“By the way, what were you saying to Miss Wrexham that made her look
like an image of despair? I caught sight of her face for a moment during
a flash of lightning, and it looked extraordinary.”

“Yes, I noticed it too,” said Tom carelessly, “and wondered what was the
matter. She had been rather upset by sirocco, she said.”

“My dear fellow, girls don’t look like petrified masks of despair
because sirocco has been blowing for a couple of hours in the morning.”

“Well, I suppose it must have been something else then,” said Tom.

“What a brilliant solution! I am inclined to agree with you.”

Manvers remained silent for a few moments, balancing in his mind his
disinclination to appear officious or meddling, and his desire to
perhaps do Tom a service. As a matter of fact he had heard the question
which had accompanied that look on Miss Wrexham’s face, and it had
confirmed the idea he had long entertained that she was falling in love
with Tom, and Tom was not consciously in love with her. His tone of
absolute indifference to the subject might be either assumed or natural.

“You see a good deal of her, don’t you?” he went on. “She’s clever, I
think, and she’s certainly got a good eye. She made several suggestions
about my little figure which were admirable.”

“She told me she admired it,” said Tom, “and I told her she couldn’t
admire it if she admired Greek work.”

“She wouldn’t agree with that. She thinks that she can appreciate both.
It must be so nice to have that belief in yourself, to think that you
are all sorts of people, instead of one sort of person. But it breaks
down in practice----”

Manvers paused a moment, and decided to risk it.

“That look on her face this evening was of a woman who had broken down.
I have often wondered, by the way, whether you ever have guessed how
fortunate you are.”

Tom sat up.

“Did you hear what she said?” he asked.

“Certainly, or I shouldn’t have mentioned it.”

“Look here,” Tom said, “it was quite accidental that either of us ever
saw that look. She couldn’t have foreseen that a flash of lightning
would come at that moment. I have tried to keep myself from thinking of
it, but it won’t do. I hate conceited fools who are always imagining
things of that sort, but as you have spoken of it, it is absurd for me
to pretend not to know what you mean. Damn it all! She looked--she
looked as if my going away made a difference to her.”

Manvers drew a puff of smoke very slowly, and held his breath a moment.
Then he began to speak, and it seemed to Tom slightly appropriate that
his words should be, as it were, visible. They seemed a concrete
embodiment of practical advice.

“I think she is very fond of you,” he said.

“What am I to do?” demanded Tom.

“Do?” he said. “I really don’t understand you. If you are in love with
her, I imagine your course is not so difficult; if not, you may be sure
you soon will be.”

“I should think it was the most unlikely thing in the world,” returned
Tom. “If I had thought that, it is hardly likely I should have asked you
what to do.”

“Pardon me, you never asked me, except under pressure. I made it quite
clear that I wanted to be asked; you did not wish to ask me at all. I
have my opinion to deliver. Listen. You are very fond of her, whether
you know it or not. Just now you are stark mad about heathen gods. You
say to yourself, or you would say to yourself if you formulated your
thought, that you could only fall in love with a girl in the grand
style. That is quite ridiculous. They may or may not be very good as
statues, but they would certainly not answer as wives. In the natural
course of things you will get over that. Try to do so as quickly as
possible. Look at Miss Wrexham instead of the Parthenon. You can’t marry
the Parthenon. That flash of lightning occurring when it did gave me a
stronger belief in the existence of a beneficent Providence than I have
ever felt before. It is only a superstitious idea, I know, but when a
chance falls so divinely pat as that, you feel inclined to applaud
somebody.”

Tom did not look at all inspired by these practical suggestions.

“It won’t do,” he said. “You take an admirably sensible view of the
situation, if it happened to be you, but unfortunately it’s I.”

“I may be a knave,” said Manvers resignedly, “but, thank God, I am not a
fool. I don’t suppose you will deny that you are a fool, Tom; and you
really should give my advice a great deal of consideration. It is not
every day that a flash of lightning shows you how high an opinion a
perfectly charming heiress has of you, and it is, I think, both folly
and wickedness not to suppose that it was sent you for some good or
clever purpose. You really can’t help feeling that it was a very clever
thing to send the lightning just then. You must have a special
Providence who looks after you.”

“I hope you don’t think you will convince me,” said Tom.

“Oh dear, no, but I had to ease my--my conscience by entering a strong
protest. I feel better now, thanks.”

“That’s right. But to descend to practical details, won’t the fact that
she suspects I saw what I did make it rather awkward for us to meet?”

“Are you sure she suspects it?”

“No, not sure, or I should go away at once. I may be a fool, but I am
not a knave.”

Manvers extended his hand in the air deprecatingly.

“Oh, don’t make repartees during a thunderstorm. They so seldom mean
anything, in fact the better a repartee is, the less it means; and they
give a nervous shock to the reparteee--if I may coin a word. Also he is
bound in mere politeness to cudgel his brains to see if they do mean
something. When you have an opportunity you must say she looked so
awfully tired last night, and that you noticed her face once in a blaze
of lightning, and you were quite frightened; she looked so out of sorts,
or done up, or run down, or something. It’s very simple. But is there no
chance----”

“No, not a vestige,” said Tom. “Besides, I don’t believe that you really
advise what you say.”

“Tom, you’ve never heard me give advice before, and you must attach the
proper weight to it as a rare product.”

“Why, you are always giving me advice about turning realist.”

“No, you’re wrong there; I only prophesy that you will. That I often
prophesy, I don’t deny. There is nothing so amusing to one’s self, or
so unconvincing to other people. It is the most innocent of amusements.
Besides, you can always compare yourself to Cassandra--she was
classical--when people don’t believe you.”

“Yes, that must be a great comfort,” said Tom slowly, who was thinking
about Miss Wrexham.

Manvers got up.

“You are falling into a reverie. You ought to know that reveries are an
unpardonable breach of manners. I shall go to my statuette. That is the
best of being up to date in your art; you never need be without
companions.”

“Come down, O maid, from yonder mountain height,” quoted Tom, half
mock-heroically.

“My dear boy, it won’t do,” said Manvers. “She won’t come down for that.
You have to fetch her down, and she is very like the rest of us really.
She soon assimilates. Besides, luckily, maids on mountain heights are
rare. They find it doesn’t pay.”

Tom left the room, and Manvers went to the window. The rain had come on
again, and was falling hot and heavy through the night. Manvers dropped
a steadfast oath into the storm, and then, instead of going to his
statuette, went to bed, and lay awake till the darkness grew grey.

“The world is damnably awry,” was the burden of his thoughts. “I suppose
it is to teach us not to set our affections on things below. They might
have chosen a less diabolical method of teaching us, Providence is
really very vulgar sometimes.”

Maud woke next morning in the rationalizing mood, and the event of the
thunderstorm, which had made her disposed to be uneasy the night before,
fell back into its proper place in the scheme of things. The absence of
the sirocco no doubt contributed to this calmer attitude, for, as a
philosopher found out very long ago, it is possible to reach the soul
through the subtle gateways of the body, and a thin light Athenian north
wind is one of the subtlest physicians of the mind, and can find out the
most tortuous and intricate passages through the house of our body. This
acting on a naturally rational mind had produced its legitimate effect.
Probably Tom had not noticed it; in any case, if he had, there were much
less metaphysical reasons which would lend themselves to a much more
obvious inference. She was tired, the lightning had dazzled her, Miss
Vanderbilt was on her nerves; all these things were so likely, and the
real reason so unlikely. Consequently, when she left the house after
breakfast, to go up to the Acropolis and finish a sketch, with the
almost certain probability of seeing Tom there, she felt that their
intercourse would be as easy as usual.

The view she had chosen was of the little Niké temple seen through two
headless columns of the Propylæa, with a glimpse behind of the sea and
the hills of Argolis, and she painted on for half an hour or so without
thinking of anything but what she was doing. But by degrees her glances
at the far hills became longer, and the acts of painting shorter, her
eyes saw less and less of what she was looking at, though they rested
more intently on the scene, and at last she put down her palette and
leant against the white marble wall behind her.

What was the matter with her? Why had she this unfathomable feeling for
a man who was perhaps less unfathomable than any one she had ever seen?
A frank English face, a keen boyish vitality, an almost comical
self-sufficiency, demanding as its only food the contemplation of Greek
sculpture--it all seemed fathomable enough. She half wished he would go
back to England at once, yet even with that view in front of her, for
the sake of which she nominally climbed up to the Acropolis, she felt
that another factor was wanting, a nought, she told herself, which had
the inexplicable trick of turning her units into tens. In any case she
would go back to England not with him, but by herself. He was spoiling
everything for her. Then came the reaction. “How ridiculous it will be!
I asked him when he was going back, and hoped we might go together, and
now I am deciding not to go with him. He is a most pleasant companion,
and what is he to me”--the next thought came like an echo--“or I to
him?”

Her thoughts had taken the bits in their mouths, and were running away,
and so, metaphorically speaking, she jumped off the runaway vehicle and
came into serious collision with _terra firma_; literally, she took up
her palette and went on with her painting.

To Tom, also, his visits to the Acropolis distinctly gained something by
the constant expectation of meeting Maud there. She had run him to
ground the other day when she had made him confess that he cared for
nothing but his art, and though the conclusion had been forced from his
mouth, he knew it was not quite true. What he cared for was life and its
best possibilities in the way of beauty, and his enthusiasm, he knew,
saw and tended to state everything too violently. He found Maud
sympathetic, eager and charming as a companion, and no other thought had
entered his head about her, until the incident of the thunderstorm,
which had been unexpected and very bewildering. And in his deep
perplexity as to what he had better do, he took the eminently
straightforward and most promising course of doing nothing at all, of
behaving normally. He had, as it were, taken a tentative mental sounding
of his feelings towards her for his own satisfaction, but he found that
the bottom was soon reached. In any case the depths were not
unplumbable, which would have been the only reason for doing anything.
He was in love with life, with all of life that was best, and the idea
of falling in love with any particular little bit of it would have
seemed to him as incredible as writing sonnets, in the style of the
eighteenth-century poets, to women’s finger-nails; and these always
appeared to him most profitless performances. To fall in love must
always seem slightly ridiculous until one falls in love.

Then it came about that not long after Maud had begun painting again,
Tom walked up the steps as usual, and sat with his hands clasped round
one knee, on the steps at Maud’s feet, and talked as usual, and absorbed
the beauty of the scene.

“It’s the only way,” he said on this particular morning, “to hope to get
hold, of the spirit of Greek art. You can never arrive at the spirit of
a thing through its details--the details shape themselves if you know
the spirit. You see artists in the Louvre copying Raphael all their
lives, but they never really remind you of him. If they were to go to
Umbrian villages and live the life he lived among the people, and to
feast--I don’t mean literally--on the ox-eyed faces of peasant women and
then come back, they might be able to copy him with some success, or
still better, if they had genius, produce original pictures which were
like Raphael’s. They go the wrong way about it.”

Maud was painting intently, and did not answer for a moment.

“Yes, I think you are right,” she said. “It’s no use copying merely. A
mere copy only, at its best approximates to a coloured photograph.”

“It’s so utterly the wrong way to go about it,” said Tom. “To arrive at
the right results, you have to follow the right method from the
beginning. For instance, when I go back to England, and am shut up in a
dingy studio under a grey sky, and my work looks hideous and dead, I
shall bring back the inspiration not by thinking only of Hermes, but of
the time I have spent here on these steps, looking out over the Propylæa
to Salamis.”

He leant back on the step where he was sitting, and looked up at Maud
for a moment. She put down the brush she held and was looking at him, as
if she was waiting eagerly to hear something more. But Tom apparently
was unconscious of her look, and she took up her brush again.

Tom tilted his hat a little more over his eyes, and took out his
cigarette-case.

“It’s becoming real to me at last,” he said. “I think I am beginning to
know what it all means.”

“You’ll have to show us,” said Maud. “A man who is a sculptor, and who
knows what this means, is certainly bound to produce statues which are
really like Greek statues.”

Tom sat up.

“I don’t care how conceited it sounds,” he said excitedly, “but I am
going to try to do no less. It is astonishing how little I care what
happens. That is my aim, and if I don’t realize it, it will be the fault
of something I can’t control.”

“But what is there which a man who is earnest cannot control?” she
asked.

“There is only one question in the world which is even harder to
answer,” said Tom, “and that is, what is there in the world which he can
control? What is to happen to me if some morning I wake up to find that
I think Manvers’ statuettes ideal, and Greek art _passé_? How do I know
it will not happen to me? Who will assure me of it?”

“Oh well, how do you know that you won’t wake up some morning, and find
that your nose has disappeared during the night, and a hand grown in its
place?” asked Maud. “The one is as unnatural to your mind as the other
is to the body.”

“But all sorts of unnatural things happen to your mind,” said Tom. “That
I should have suddenly felt that nothing but Greek art was worth
anything was just as unnatural. It is just as unnatural that, at a
given moment, a man falls in love----”

He stopped quite suddenly and involuntarily, but Maud’s voice broke in.

“Not at all,” she said. “You see, it happens to most men; it is the rule
rather than the exception, whereas the disappearance of one’s nose would
be unique, I should think.”

Her voice was so perfectly natural, so absolutely unaffected, that Tom
made a short mental note, to the effect that Manvers was the greatest
idiot in the world except one, which was a more consoling thought than
he would have imagined possible. His determination to be quite normal
had become entirely superfluous--a billetless bullet.

“Yes, but because it happens constantly, it makes it none the less
extraordinary,” he said.

“Certainly not; but you can no longer call it unnatural.”

“I call everything unnatural that seems to me unintelligible,” remarked
Tom, with crisp assurance.

Maud began to laugh.

“What a great many unnatural things there must be,” she said, “according
to your view. Why, the sun rising in the morning is unnatural. But it
would be much more unnatural if it did not.”

“If I go on, I shall soon begin to talk nonsense,” said Tom,
concessively, “and that would be a pity.”

“Well, let’s get back on to safe ground,” said Maud. “Come and tell me
what to do with that column. It isn’t right.”

Tom picked up his stick, and shoved his hat back on his head.

“I don’t understand you,” he said, after looking at the picture for a
moment. “I believe you know what the spirit of all this is--at least,
your picture, which is admirable, looks as if you did--and yet you like
Manvers’ statuettes. I think you are unnatural.”

“Do you remember a talk we had, when we were staying with you, about
being broad?”

“Yes, perfectly. Why?”

“Because I think you are being narrow. I dare say this is the best, but
that doesn’t prevent other things from being good.”

Maud bent over her painting again, because she wanted to say more, and
it is always easier to criticize if one is not biassed by the sight of
the person whom one is criticizing.

“You seem to think you can see all round a truth. If the truth is big
enough to be worth anything, it is probable that you can only see a
little bit of it.”

“Why--why----” began Tom.

“Yes, I know. I am thinking of what you yourself said the other day
about religion, when you told me what passed between you and Mr. Markham
after the revivalist meeting. I am quoting your own words. They seem to
me very true!”

“But how is it possible in this instance?” said Tom, striking the marble
pavement with his stick. “If one of the two is good, the other is bad.
They are utterly opposed.”

Maud turned round on him suddenly.

“Ah, I thought you would say that,” she said. “It would be as
reasonable for you to say that because there is sunshine here now, there
is sunshine all over the world. Yet in Australia it is about midnight.
Light is utterly opposed to darkness. Yet this is one world. You don’t
allow of there being more of it than you can see.”

Tom shifted his position.

“Go on,” he said. “I am not so limited that I do not wish to be told
so.”

“You showed just the same smallness when you talked to me about
Cambridge,” she said. “You thought that you were broad, because you
thought that it was narrow. Did it never occur to you that you thought
it was narrow simply because you were not broad enough to take it in?
The one explanation is as simple as the other.”

“I’m quite convinced I’m broader than Markham,” said Tom, frankly. “He
thinks about nothing but snuffy old scholiasts.”

“And you think about nothing but Greek art; you have said so yourself.
Is it quite certain that you are broader than he?”

Tom stood for a moment thinking.

“Do you think I’m narrow?” he asked at length.

“That is beside the point,” she said. “If I did not, it might only show
that I was narrow in the same way as you.”

“No, that can’t be,” said Tom, plunging at the only opening he could
see. “You must remember you like Manvers’ statuettes.”

“Well, from that standpoint I do think you narrow,” she said. “It seems
to me very odd that you shouldn’t see how good they are.”

“Do you mean how clever they are?”

“It is the same thing, as far as this question goes. You don’t recognize
their cleverness even, since you dislike them so.”

Tom drew a sigh of relief.

“Oh well, then, you are wrong about it. I fully recognize how clever
they are.”

“Then you don’t admire cleverness, which is a great deficiency.”

“On the contrary, I do admire cleverness; but Manvers’ seems to me
perverted cleverness. I admire ingenuity as an abstract quality, though
I don’t care for those diabolical little puzzles which every one used to
play with last year.”

Maud shut up her paint-box, and rose.

“It’s no use arguing,” she said. “An argument never comes to anything if
you disagree; no argument ever converted any one.”

“But I’m quite willing to be converted,” said Tom.

“Well, to tell you the truth, I’m not at all sure that I want to convert
you. I like you better as you are. Who is it who speaks of the ‘genial
impulses of love and hate’? Your hatred for Mr. Manvers’ things is so
intensely genial, so natural to you.”

They walked down the steps together, and stood for a moment looking over
the broad plain, with its fields of corn already sprouting, stretching
up towards the grey mass of Parnes.

“This place suits me,” said Maud. “I shall be sorry to go.”

“Have you settled when you are going?” asked Tom.

“Not precisely; why?”

“Because I shall come with you, if you will allow me: I must be going
soon.”

Maud’s face flushed a little, and she turned towards him.

“That will be charming, I shall go in about ten days or a fortnight, as
I said last night. You know, now and then, even here with all this
winter sun, and the Acropolis there, I want a grey English sky and long
green fields.”

“So do I; and cart-horses, and big green trees--even snow and frost, for
the sake of the clean frosty smell on cold mornings. Here’s Manvers
coming under a large white umbrella. I wonder what he wants to come to
the Acropolis for.”

Manvers came up to them, and paused.

“I am taking a little walk,” he explained. “Mrs. Trachington has been
paying me a little visit, or rather, I have been paying her a little
visit.”

“Who is Mrs. Trachington?” asked Maud.

“Mrs. Trachington is a female staying at our hotel,” said Manvers,
gently wiping his face. “She has praying-meetings. This morning I was
walking past her room, when she came out and asked me to look at some
picture she had just got. It was a charming landscape by Gialliná, of
delicious tone. But after a moment I looked up and caught her eye. There
was a prayer in it. It is wicked that a woman with blatant prayer in her
eye should possess such a picture. So I ran away. I came up here for
safety.”

Tom laughed uproariously.

“Manvers is fanciful,” he said. “His is a morbidly sensitive nature.”

“My dear fellow, you would have done just the same,” he said. “I don’t
think Mrs. Trachington’s methods are at all straightforward. They are
Jesuitical. Besides, I can’t go praying about all over the hotel.”

“Well, you’d better come down with us,” said Tom.

Manvers looked at Maud a moment.

“No, I’m going to stop here a little. Of old sat Freedom on the heights.
I shall be free here.”

“But she stepped down, you know,” said Tom.

“So shall I by-and-by,” said Manvers. “That was after she sat on the
heights.”

Maud and Tom walked down past the theatre and into the low-lying streets
to the east of the Acropolis. The fresh oranges had come in from the
country, and they passed strings of heavily laden mules and donkeys,
driven by dirty, picturesque boys, bare-footed, black-haired, and
black-eyed. It was a festal day, and the women had turned out in bright
Albanian costumes, and the streets were charged with southern colour,
and brilliant with warm winter sun and cloudless sky. Through open
spaces between the houses they could see the tawny columns of the
Parthenon standing clear-cut and virgin against the blue; for the moment
the earlier and later civilizations seemed harmonious.

Tom and Manvers met later in the day, and Tom retailed his decision of
the morning.

“We were both utterly wrong,” he said. “It makes me grow hot all over to
think of what we said last night. I acted just as a man of that class
which I detest so much would act.”

“I drew the inferences demanded by common sense,” said Manvers, who was
not convinced.

“By your common sense!” rejoined Tom. “You can’t talk of common sense as
a constant quality; it varies according to the man who exercises it.
There are certain occasions when one’s inferences are based on instinct,
which is a much surer thing than common sense. One of these occasions
occurred this morning.”

“Ah, but your instinct may be wrong, and nobody can convince you of it.
It is a much more dangerous thing to trust to. If you base your action
on reasons which can be talked out lengthways, you can make certain
whether you are right or not.”

Tom rose with some irritation.

“My dear fellow, I don’t believe you know what I mean by instincts,” he
said, and strolled away.

Manvers found a certain delicate pleasure in this exhibition of human
weakness on the part of Tom, and the reason by which he accounted for it
in his own mind was clearly a very likely one. He argued that Tom was
not quite so certain that he was right as he had hoped, and such a state
of mind, Manvers allowed, was very galling.

Meantime Maud had gone home, lunched with her brother, and announced
that she was going home in about a fortnight in company with Tom.
Arthur Wrexham had a vague feeling that this was not quite proper, and
indicated it.

“Is that the sort of thing people do now?” he asked. “I really only ask
for information.”

“I don’t understand,” said Maud.

“I mean girls travelling alone with young men.”

Maud laughed.

“Don’t be anxious on my account,” she said. “I shall outrage no one’s
sense of propriety.”

Arthur felt he had done his share, and subsided again.

“Of course you know best,” he said. “I only suggested it in case it had
not occurred to you. So Carlingford is going too, is he? I thought he
meant to stop here longer?”

“No, he’s going to begin work at once. He says he has got hold of the
spirit of the thing. He is so delightfully certain about everything.”

“A little dogmatic sometimes, isn’t he?” asked Arthur.

“No; dogmatists have always the touch of the prig about them. He has
none of that.”

Arthur Wrexham put his feet upon a chair.

“I think he is just a little barbarous,” he said. “Doesn’t he ever make
your head ache?”

“No, I can’t say that he does,” said Maud slowly. “I think he is one of
the most thoroughly satisfactory people.”

“He is so like a sort of mental highwayman sometimes,” said her brother.
“He makes such sudden inroads on one’s intelligence. He catechizes one
about the Propylæa. That is so trying, especially if you know nothing
about it.”

Maud laughed.

“Oh well, if your purse is empty, you need not fear highwaymen,” she
said.

A fortnight afterwards they both left for Marseilles by the same boat.
She sailed on Sunday morning, and Arthur Wrexham and Manvers came down
to the Piræus to see them off. Manvers and Tom took a few turns about
the upper deck and talked, while Arthur sat down in Maud’s deck-chair
and was steeped in gentle melancholy.

“So in about a year’s time you will see me,” said the former. “I shall
be in London next winter. At present I feel like an Old Testament
prophet in his first enthusiasm of prophecy. I wonder if they ever had
any doubts about the conclusiveness of their remarks. I at least have
none. I won’t exactly name the day when you will become a convert, but I
will give you about a year. Consequently, when you see me next, our
intercourse may be less discordant.”

“I hope it won’t,” remarked Tom; “and I don’t believe it will.”

“It’s always nice to disagree with people, I know,” said the other; “it
adds a sauce to conversation. But I don’t mind abandoning that. You
really will do some excellent work when you come round.”

“I am going to do an excellent Demeter mourning for Persephone,” said
Tom.

Manvers lit another cigarette from the stump of his old one.

“I did an Apollo, I remember,” he said. “I wish you would do an Apollo
too. I have mine still; it serves as a sort of milestone. It has finely
developed hands and feet, just like all those Greek statues.”

“And you prefer neat shoes now,” said Tom.

“Why, yes. Whether Apollo has finely developed feet or not, he wears
shoes or boots, the neater the better. I hate seeing a man with untidy
boots. But even untidy boots are better than none at all. Ah, there’s
that outrageous bell warning me to leave the boat. Good-bye, Tom. Athens
will be very dull without you. I shall cultivate Mrs. Trachington.”

“Do, and make a statuette of her. She is a very modern development.
Good-bye, old boy.”

It was a raw December day when their train slid into Victoria Station,
and a cold thick London fog was drifting sluggishly in from the streets.
Any desire that Maud may have felt for English grey was amply realized.
The pavement under the long glass vault was moist with condensed vapour,
and the air was cold in that piercing degree which is the peculiar
attribute of an English thaw. The Chathams were in London, and Lady
Chatham had “worked in” the landau with such success that she just
arrived at the platform when the train drew up. She was immensely
friendly to Tom, and remarked how convenient it was that they had
arranged to come together.

Tom said good-bye to them at their carriage door. Just as they drove off
Maud leant out of the window.

“You’ve no idea how I have enjoyed the journey,” she said. “You are at
Applethorpe, aren’t you? Come and see us soon.”



CHAPTER IX.


The weather signalized Tom’s return to England by a blizzard from the
north, which for twenty-four hours spread sheet after sheet of snow on
the ground, till one would have thought that the linen-presses of the
elements were empty. He had caught a slight cold, and the only possible
course was to sit by the fire, talk to his father, who seemed actually
pleased to see him, and think of the Acropolis. But during the second
night the soft snow-laden outlines of the hills and trees suddenly
crispened and crystallized, and a still, windless frost gripped the
white earth. A winter’s sun hung like a burnished copper plate low in
the south, and the sight of the keeper with his round cheery face,
asking if there were any orders, rendered the house impossible.

“Yes, I’ll come out in half an hour,” said Tom. “Get a few beaters, and
we’ll just walk through the woods. And send down to the vicarage to ask
Mr. Markham if he’d care for a tramp. They don’t have pheasants in
Greece, Kimberley: there’s a country for you!”

“Mr. Ted’s not at home, sir,” said Kimberley.

“I know, but his father is. He shoots very well. Send at once, will you?
I want to start.”

May had already left the house when the keeper came to bring Tom’s
message to her father, and Mr. Markham left a note for her saying where
he had gone, and that he would not be in for lunch. He was devoted to
shooting, but of late years had not been able to indulge his taste; so
some parish work which could easily be put off, as well as the chance of
a quiet hour at his Aristophanes, fell into their proper places in the
scheme of things.

It was about half-past twelve, and Tom was standing alone at the end of
a small clump of fir-trees, round which he had stolen with infinite
precautions in order to avoid startling the pigeons. He had studied the
habits of pigeons in this particular spot with much care for several
years, and the keeper always alluded to it as “Master Tom’s cover.” It
stood on a knoll of rising ground, some quarter of a mile away from the
house, and by dint of long experience and frequent failure Tom had found
that if the pigeons were artfully disturbed by beaters entering towards
the centre from opposite sides they always broke cover at two particular
points at opposite ends of the knoll, and that one gun stationed at each
of these points became a fiery sword, turning, as far as the pigeons
were concerned, every way. Tom was standing at one end of the cover,
having seen Mr. Markham to his place, and was expecting every moment to
hear the tapping of the beaters’ sticks and the swan-song of the
pigeons’ wings. He was on the edge of a little footpath which led across
the park from the village, half hidden from it by a thick bramble bush,
behind which he had placed himself so that he could see without being
seen. But at this most critical of all moments he heard with some
impatience the sound of a footstep coming crisply and quickly along the
frozen path. The path took a sudden bend almost exactly as it came
opposite to him, and simultaneously he heard the faint tapping of the
beaters’ sticks and saw a figure come round the corner.

For one moment Time stopped, and he stared blankly, wonderingly. Then
half to himself, half aloud, he said--

“Oh, all ye gods, she is a goddess!”

The next moment he recognized her, and springing out from his bramble
bush he took off his hat to May Markham, and wondered if she remembered
him.

The beaters beat, and the pigeons started from the branches, and flew
out in the pre-ordained manner, threading their way between the tops of
the thick trees, as they and their deceased relations had often done
before. Mr. Markham had one of the most delightful five minutes that
falls to the lot of sportsmen, and straight over Tom’s head as he stood
in the path the steely targets tacked and swerved. But Tom heeded not;
the swan-song of their clapping wings for once was unheard and
unfulfilled, for in his heart there was another song, no last song of
birds’ wings, but the first maddening music which a man’s heart offers
to a woman, the song of a youth to a maid, the song of the lover to the
beloved, which rises up day by day, and hour by hour, and keeps this old
earth young.

May replied that of course she remembered him, and supposed that he had
just come back from Greece, and a golden silence descended again. Tom
was standing on ground an inch or two lower than the girl, and their
faces were on a level: if anything, she appeared the taller of the two,
and as his eyes rested on hers they were inclined slightly upwards, so
that a thin rim of white showed below his honest brown iris. May was
with her back to the low southern sun, but it just caught a few outlying
hairs which strayed from beneath her hat, and turned them into spun
gold. Her lips were slightly pouted, and through the length of her mouth
ran a thin even line showing the white edge of her upper teeth. She had
been walking quickly, and her nostrils swelled and receded with each
breath, and one could just see the rise and fall of her bosom beneath
her blue tightly buttoned jacket.

She met Tom’s eager gaze with unembarrassed, unaverted looks. They had
been excellent friends when Tom had stayed with them not long ago at
Chesterford, and this seemed simply a continuation of their early
comradeship, for it was evident that he was quite a boy still. But
almost immediately something in his look, or some half-conscious
reminiscence of that moment, a fortnight ago, when she had looked at
herself in the glass in Mr. Carlingford’s drawing-room, caused her to
turn her eyes down, and for the first time she noticed that Tom was
carrying a gun. The desire for an intelligible reason why he should have
been found standing in a bramble bush on a cold winter’s morning had not
appealed to her before.

“Have you had good sport?” she asked, pointing to the gun.

Tom followed the direction of her finger, and to him also apparently it
occurred for the first time that he was out shooting.

“Yes, very fair,” said Tom. “By the way, what’s happened to the
pigeons?”

Almost as he spoke the head keeper emerged from the bracken, proud in
the consciousness of a skilfully executed duty. He touched his hat to
May, and turned to Tom.

“Wonderful lot of pigeons in this morning, sir,” he said. “Didn’t hear
you shooting, Master Tom.”

“No, I didn’t see any birds. Did any come out over me?”

“Ten or twelve at least, sir, and the same over Mr. Markham.”

“Oh, well, it can’t be helped,” said Tom, rather confusedly. “We’ll go
home to lunch now, Kimberley, and come out again after. We’re quite
close to the house.”

“Is my father out with you?” asked May.

“Yes, I suppose you had gone out when I sent down. You can’t come
through here--the brambles are so bad. Wait a moment, though.”

Tom gave his gun to the keeper, and trampled down the mixed bramble and
bracken. There was one long spray which kept asserting itself again and
again straight across the path, waving about two or three feet from the
ground. In a fit of sudden impatience Tom seized it in his hand and bent
it back among the other bushes. As a natural and inevitable consequence
his hand was covered with large prickles.

“Oh, why did you do that?” asked May; “I’m sure you’ve hurt yourself.”

Tom laughed.

“The will is destiny,” he said. “I wish to go this way, and the bramble
was in the light. That I got pricked was destiny, but another kind of
destiny. We shall meet your father if we go this way.”

To the intensest annoyance of Tom they did meet Mr. Markham in a few
moments, walking towards them. The rational thing for him would have
been to go round by the path instead of taking a short cut, and poor Tom
had pricked his fingers for nothing.

“Capital five minutes I had there, Tom,” said he. “Why, where are you
from, May?”

“I’ve just come from the Mills, on my way home to lunch,” said she.

“Oh, but you’ll lunch with us,” said Tom confidently. “We are just going
home. Look, there is the house quite close, and we are going to lunch at
one in order to shoot again for an hour or two afterwards.”

“Thanks, I’m afraid I had better go home,” said May.

“Oh, but why--why?” asked Tom, forgetting manners and everything else in
the contemplation of his visions incarnate.

May turned towards him, smiling.

“Well, I really must go off again in half an hour. It’s very kind of you
to ask me,” she added suddenly.

“That’s splendid! We shall be very soon off again too. Mr. Markham has
been walking me off my legs already, and I know he will want to do it
again the moment lunch is over.”

Mr. Carlingford was standing at the library window as the party came
down the grass slope to the house, and a smile gathered on his lips as
he watched Tom talking eagerly to May. Then, half to himself, half
aloud, he made the following enigmatical quotation: “‘As for the gods of
the heathen,’” and rang the bell to order another place at lunch.

Thus entered Tom into the garden of man’s heritage; the crowning gift of
love was added to youth and life, the golden key which unlocks the gate
of Paradise was in his hand. His whole previous life had in a moment
been flushed with an intenser colour; he was like a man born blind, who,
until his eyes were opened, knew not, could not have known, his
limitations. It was bewitching, blinding, but altogether lovely, this
new world into which he had entered. For him the period of bitter joy
and sweetest anguish had begun.

That night he went to his bedroom early, saying he was tired and sleepy
with the cold air; then ran upstairs three steps at a time, feeling an
unutterable desire to be alone with his love; another presence, he felt,
was a desecration. He blew out his candle, and lay down full length on
his bed, while the firelight danced and shivered on the walls and the
flames flapped in the grate, and spread out his arms as if to take the
truth in. How was it possible, he wondered, that a man who had ever been
in love could speak of it? Love was something white and sacred, a clear
flame burning in a casket of gold, to be hidden from the gaze of men.
No, that was not it at all; love was a glorious conquering god, and his
captives should stand in the market-place of cities and cry aloud, “See,
I can move neither hand nor foot, I am chained in golden chains, my
limbs are heavy with the chains of love. Envy me, bless me, weep for joy
that I am a captive. Bind me closer yet, crush me beneath the weight of
fetters. Lead me about in your triumphant procession; I am a captive, a
prisoner.”

He sat up, wondering at himself. It was not possible. How can the
daughters of the gods dwell with men? “Why, everything is possible to
me,” he answered himself. “I am in love, I am the king of all the earth.
Nothing is impossible.”

This modest conviction made lying still impossible. He got off his bed,
and began walking up and down the room, stopping now and then opposite
the fire, which burned brightly and frostily. In the red glow of the
coals his brown eyes looked black; his mouth was a little open, and his
breath came quickly, as if he had been running a race. His smooth boyish
face, tanned by southern suns, was flushed with excitement. Once in his
walk he stopped, stood on tip-toe, and stretched himself till he felt
every muscle in his body quiver and tingle.

Sleep was impossible, everything but violent action was impossible,
thought was impossible and inevitable. Surely it was morning by this
time. His watch reminded him that it was just a quarter to twelve; he
had been in his room only twenty minutes. Perhaps time had stopped,
perhaps he was dead, perhaps this was heaven. He would go to the
house-top and cry to the four quarters of heaven, and to the listening
earth, the story of his love, how he was out shooting pigeons, and
standing in a bramble bush, when he saw her for whom the world was made
walking towards him. He would run down through the village to the
vicarage, and stand and look at the little house in which she slept.
What was space? How could she be in a room, and that room be in a house?
for she was everywhere. Heaven and earth could not hold her; even the
thought of her filled all the world. That afternoon he had seen the tall
bare-limbed trees, the level rays of the setting sun, the rose-tinged
fields of snow, all lovely because she was lovely, all bursting with the
knowledge of her. He should have stood alone when the sun was just
setting and questioned them of her. He should have taken the level rays
of the sun into his arms, and kissed them because they were beautiful
with one infinitesimal fraction of her beauty. He should have torn the
secret of her from all Nature.

Mr. Carlingford laid a little trap for Tom next morning, which that
young gentleman fell into head-long, much to his father’s amusement. It
appeared that Mr. Markham had expressed a desire to consult a certain
book which Mr. Carlingford knew was in the house, but had been unable to
find till this morning. Would Tom, therefore, be so good as to ring the
bell, in order that a boy might be sent down with it?

“I’ll take it if you like, father,” said Tom, with much over-acted
nonchalance.

“No; why should you?”

“I--I rather want to see Mr. Markham and ask him if he can come out
shooting again to-morrow, and find out when Ted’s coming home.”

“Well, why not write a note?” said his father, smiling to himself at
this lamentably superficial excuse.

“Oh, I’ve got nothing to do,” said Tom, rising, “I may as well go. And
Gibson says the pond bears; perhaps Markham will like to skate.”

Tom rang at the vicarage bell, and was apparently unable to make it
sound, but at the second attempt produced a peal which would have
awakened the dead, and asked if the vicar was in.

“Yes, he is in his study. This way, please.”

Tom peeped in through a chink of the drawing-room door, with his heart
thumping at his ribs, and followed the servant into the study. Mr.
Markham was compiling some notes from an annotated text of the “Clouds,”
but seemed glad to see him, and grateful for the book. A brilliant idea
struck the young strategist, and he blurted it out.

“I came also to tell you that the pond bore, if you or--or--any one
wanted to skate, and I shall be awfully glad if you would shoot
to-morrow again. And oh, Mr. Markham, you know I’m very stupid at Greek,
but since I’ve been to Athens I’ve simply loved it. I’m reading
Aristophanes--at least, I’m going to, and I wonder if I might bring
difficulties and so on to you--it would help me so much, if it’s not too
much bother to you?”

“That’s capital of you,” said Mr. Markham heartily. “I do like to see
young men behave as if they had not done with classics when they leave
the University. My dear boy, of course you may. Come any morning or
every morning. I set to work pretty early, and always read classics till
eleven in the morning.”

“Thank you so much,” said Tom; “but you’ll find me fearfully stupid.”

“Nonsense, nonsense! one is only stupid about the things one doesn’t
care for. I’ll tell you what. You must come to breakfast here whenever
you want, and then we can set to work together at nine. I know your
father doesn’t breakfast till late.”

“That is awfully good of you,” said Tom, “but I shall take you at your
word, you know. And, by the way, perhaps Miss Markham would like to know
the pond bore. I might tell her, if she’s in.”

“No, May’s out,” said her father. “She is always doing something.”

“But what can she find to do here?” asked Tom, divided between his
desire to loiter and his wish to run away.

“She’s always visiting these poor folks,” said Mr. Markham. “She spends
half her day among them. Very nipping weather,” and he stirred the fire.

“I see,” said Tom; “how awfully good of her! Well, I must go. I shall
skate this afternoon. Really it would be a pity to waste such a lovely
bit of ice. Gibson says it’s quite splendid.”

“Many thanks. I dare say one or both of us will come. It’s a pity Ted’s
not here. He’s so fond of it. Good-bye. Mind you take me at my word
about the Aristophanes.”

Tom lingered and loitered through the village, ordered a bookshelf which
he did not want from the carpenter, in case of May being there, and
some bad and unnecessary tobacco from the village store, but saw her
not. But there were the prospects of the afternoon and the Aristophanes
lessons to fall back on.

So through the quiet country weeks their two young lives flowed
inevitably towards each other, like two streams which, rising on distant
ranges of hills, yet must some day meet in the valley between them.
Though their natures sprang from widely distant sources, it was
inevitable they would some time join.

But to continue the metaphor, the bed over which Tom’s stream flowed was
a bright gravelly soil, on which the water danced gaily and
light-heartedly down to the valley, pursuing a straight swift course,
whereas May had many rocks and sandy places to get over, and, what was
worse, she could not understand, and half rebelled against, the course
her stream seemed to be taking. The traditions in which she had been
brought up had become part of her nature; for her, she thought, was the
sheltered life, busy in little deeds of love, in caring for her own
corner of the world, and bringing it nearer to God, and when at first
the stream began to flow in this unconjectured direction, she was
bewildered, almost frightened. Was there anything in this world so
certain as her own duty? Could anything rightly come between her and
this other life she had planned and dedicated humbly and gratefully to
God? What call was there so clear as that still small voice which said,
“Inasmuch as ye have done it to the least, ye have done it unto me?” And
when she had come to argue about it, even to herself, the end was
already inevitable. As soon as a moral question becomes a thing to argue
about, it is already without force. No argument will convince a man that
it is better being good than bad; it is a matter, not for dispute, but
of knowledge, and the man who disputes about it is bad.

Meantime Tom had turned a large roomy attic into a studio, and worked
with all an artist’s regularity, which the world is accustomed to call
irregularity. He went constantly to London, made great friends with
Wallingthorpe, and caused that eminent sculptor many fits of divine
despair, but followed his advice about not immediately setting up a
mourning Demeter, though for other reasons than his. A mourning Demeter,
he announced frankly, should soon be set up, but not at once. He was
merely waiting, so he told Wallingthorpe, for that particular spark of
divine fire to descend, and till it descended he was willing and eager
to gain greater facility with his hand. He also cordially agreed that no
studio could exist in England except in London, but said that there were
reasons why he could not live in London just now. “Perhaps before the
summer is over,” he began, and his face flushed all over, and he asked
if anything had been heard of Manvers.

Ted was at Cambridge, and during the Lent Term Tom went up there to see
him. He arrived at the close of a lovely day in March, and though the
lawns and lower roofs of buildings were already in shade, the four tall
pinnacles of King’s Chapel burned like rosy flames against the tender
green of the evening sky.

Markham had not seen Tom since he came to England, and he looked
forward to his visit with something like passionate eagerness, for Tom
was to him the connecting link with the outer world of movement and
eagerness from which he had voluntarily banished himself, but towards
which even now he sometimes looked back with something like regret.
Though his nature was one that hugs the shore, and prefers the quiet
monotonous safety of the land-locked creeks and soft-sanded beaches to
the risks and possibilities of the open seas, he sometimes cast his eyes
to the great horizon where the ocean-going steamers passed and repassed,
with their strange cargoes and dead and living freight from those dim
mysterious countries whose very existence was becoming a fable to him.

And Tom came, with the seal of art and love upon him, but was his old
boyish self, and sat on the arm of Ted’s armchairs, and inveighed
against scholiasts, and wondered if Ted had ever heard of Pheidias.
After tea they strolled down together through the gathered dusk, and sat
on the bridge, and once more Tom dropped a match in the river, and
waited to hear it fizz. But the difference was there, and Ted wondered
if Tom would speak of it. Once he seemed on the point of it. The willow
which overhangs the river had just begun to break into tender leaf, and
the delicate foliage hung round it like a green mist. Tom paused a
moment, and grew serious.

“Look at it,” he said, “it’s like the loveliest thing on earth; it is
youth bursting into----” and he broke off suddenly.

Once again later in the evening he grew serious, and it was so odd for
Tom to be serious twice in a day, that Markham wondered.

“How I can have been such a fool when I was here I don’t know,” he said.
“Somebody told me once that I thought Cambridge narrow simply because I
wasn’t broad enough to appreciate it. Well, I think she was right. Mind,
I don’t go back on anything I said this afternoon about scholiasts. You
are narrow, old boy, so don’t misunderstand me.”

“Who was it said that?” asked Markham.

“Miss Wrexham, I think. Didn’t you meet her at home? She often tells
home truths without making them unpleasant. That is not very common.”

“Oh, do you think home truths are unpleasant?” asked Markham. “I rather
like you telling me I’m narrow.”

“My dear Ted, I never said home truths were unpleasant. I only said that
she told me home truths without making them unpleasant.”

“What’s the difference?”

“All the difference in the world. Whether they are unpleasant or not
simply depends on the personality of the person who tells you them.”

“You mean you think Miss Wrexham is not unpleasant?” asked Markham.

“Certainly, she’s not unpleasant. I think she’s quite delightful. I
suppose you don’t appreciate her.”

“Well, I hardly know her. I remember what May said of her.”

Tom sat up in his chair.

“What did she say of her?”

“She said she thought she wasn’t genuine.”

“That’s not quite true. Miss Wrexham is nearly always what you want her
to be, but she doesn’t seem to me to forfeit her genuineness. She is the
most adaptable person I ever saw. To me she praises the Parthenon, to
Manvers _La Dame qui s’amuse_. But to any one who doesn’t know her well,
that must appear like want of genuineness.”

Tom rose and walked up and down the room.

“I am getting terribly _bourgeois_ in my tastes, Manvers would tell me.
I care for nothing now but loyalty and honesty and genuineness and quiet
country life.”

Markham stared.

“My dear Tom, you really shouldn’t give me such surprises. What has
happened to the bustle and stir of the world, and statuettes bowling
cricket-balls?”

“I don’t know. It was a phase, I suppose. One can’t reach one’s proper
development except through phases. Paul was a Pharisee of the Pharisees;
Augustine was a debauchee, a sensualist with the shroud round his feet.”

“Paul, Augustine,” said Ted, with a smile; “let us continue the list.
What about you?”

Tom paused.

“I don’t know. I only know I have changed, that something very big has
happened to me. Perhaps some time you will know what it is. I’m going to
bed, Teddy.”



CHAPTER X.


Tom stayed at Cambridge two days, having meant to stay a week, but he
found the need of getting home again imperative. He longed to tell Ted
all about it, but something prevented him. Ted was as delightful as
ever, but Tom felt that the difference between them could not be bridged
by a confidence, as you bridge over a ravine first by a wire or a rope,
and strengthen it till it will bear men and beasts. His confidence, he
felt, would not reach to the other side, but dangle dismally in the air.
Before he left, however, he had another talk with him, in which he
expressed his feelings about the ravine, though he made no direct
attempts to bridge it over.

“These two days have been charming,” he said; “you must be dreadfully
happy here, Teddy.”

Ted looked up suspiciously.

“Is Saul also among the prophets?” he asked. “You nearly startled me out
of my wits yesterday by saying that you liked quiet country life, and
cows, and now you like Cambridge!”

Tom frowned and looked about for inspiration.

“I spent a week in London a month ago,” he said, “and enjoyed it
immensely. There were a heap of people I knew, and I went dancing and
dining all night, and all day the noise of the town roared round me.
Then I went home, and as it was a lovely day, I got out at the park
gates and walked. Do you remember that little hollow just to the left of
the drive, where I shot two woodcock one day? Well, it is full of birch
trees, and the birch trees were beginning to have a little green cloud
of leaves round them, and all over the ground were clumps of primroses
pushing up among last year’s dead leaves. The sun was setting, and the
rays struck the birch trunks horizontally. I felt as if I could have sat
there for ever and looked at it. As a matter of fact, in five minutes I
was tired of it, and went on walking.”

“Is it a parable?” asked Ted.

“Yes; obviously Cambridge is the quiet, little, green hollow. I remember
I used to think it so terrible that people should live there for ever,
and only busy themselves with what went on in the little hollow. I was
wrong. When I stopped in the little hollow at home, I thought there
could be nothing more lovely than to live there always.”

“In fact, you wanted to--you envied the birds which did?”

“In the same way as one envies people who grow beards, when one is
shaving in the morning,” said Tom. “I wouldn’t ever really grow one
myself. But I envied the birds to whom such a hollow was native and
natural.”

Markham laughed.

“Birds and beards--what metaphor are you going to employ next?”

Tom stood in front of him, smoking meditatively.

“If the green hollow satisfies you, you are right to live there always;
but one cannot be two people. I couldn’t live there always. I said just
now I was in love with cows and country life. So I am; but if I knew
there was nothing else, I should be absolutely wretched. Of course,
every human being is a mass of limitations, saddled with the idea that
he can be unlimited, and, personally, I can’t limit myself to living
always in the green hollow, and any one who can seems to me necessarily
more limited than I. A man is judged by his power of desire. To desire
much is better than to desire little.”

“You are not very convincing,” remarked Ted.

“No one has ever convinced anybody of anything, except by triumphant
achievement of some sort,” said Tom, “and because I call you a bird in a
green hollow, I shan’t convince you you had better have been a man, or
that I am one either. But what I mean is this. We are all human beings,
and we ought to live in a human environment. We differ from beasts
chiefly because we have high and intelligible emotions. It is our duty
to mix with all sorts of people, to know what every one is thinking
about, to be ecstatically miserable, to be ecstatically happy, and to
fall in love.”

“Oh, that part of human life is well looked after,” said Markham; “it is
almost universal to fall in love. I suppose, by the way, that you are
going off now because your ten minutes--or was it five--in the green
hollow is over?”

Markham spoke rather bitterly. These two days had been very pleasant to
him, and Tom’s delightful habit of falling back at once into his old
relations with every one made him feel that his own circle had narrowed,
while Tom’s had widened, and his remarks about green hollows had
emphasized this.

Tom looked up.

“No, I am not the least tired of it,” he said, “and that is partly the
reason why I am going. It is always a pity to stop till one is tired of
a thing. You see, necessarily I am not so much at home here as you are,
and that I should be tired of it some time goes without saying. But I
have another reason for going, which perhaps you will know about soon.”

“You said that last night,” said Markham.

“Only once? I wonder I haven’t said it oftener.”

He paused a moment, and mentally threw a rope across the ravine, and saw
it fail to reach the other side, and dangle helplessly in the air.

“Well, good-bye, old boy; I must be off if I am to catch my train,” he
said. “I’m going straight home. Messages of all sorts, I suppose? I read
Aristophanes most mornings with your father. I am very stupid, but he is
very kind.”

It was nearly dark when he got home, but the evening was still and warm,
and after tea he took a short stroll up to the top of the hill in front
of the house, and watched the crimson-splashed west paling to saffron
before the approach of night. In front lay a gentle slope of
thick-growing, tussocky grass, and beyond, a clump of silver-stemmed
birch trees, standing slender and still luminous in the gathering dusk.
Through the bushes the little noises of night crept stealthily about,
and one by one the stars were lit in the velvet sky, and all things lay
hushed under the benediction of night.

But in his mind, as the colours faded out of earth and air, a golden
morrow dawned and brightened. He would see her to-morrow; he would come
as a man to a woman; he would claim his right to know his fate, be it
best or worst. He would not have hastened even if he could those few
hours that lay between him and the next day. There had been something in
their intercourse of late which made him know, or think he knew, that it
would be well with him. The fine instinct of a lover, which formulates
nothing, made him absolutely and entirely happy at the present moment.
Unconsciously, he enjoyed the pleasures of the Higher Hedonist, who
knows that the long-drawn pause before the full melody bursts out is of
infinite moment. The anticipation of pain is nearly always keener,
especially to imaginative and emotional people, than the pain itself,
and the same thing is true, even in a higher degree, of joy. Not that
Tom was conscious at the time that he was _pro tempore_ a philosopher of
the Higher Hedonist school. All he knew was that the thought of May
flooded the half hour he sat alone and looked at the paling west, and
made it a rosary of passionately happy moments.

Tom, who could never be in time for breakfast at an easy half-past nine
at Cambridge, found no difficulty in getting to the vicarage at
half-past eight. Breakfast passed as usual, Mr. Markham making vitriolic
comments on the tactics of the Liberal party, and May and Tom trying to
originate intelligent observations on politics, which they seldom or
never succeeded in doing, and after breakfast Mr. Markham and Tom lit
pipes and began on their Aristophanes.

The vicar observed that Tom was even less attentive than usual, and,
with a certain amount of tact, remembered, at the end of half an hour,
that he had some pressing work to do.

Tom shut up his book at once, and hoped he hadn’t already taken up too
much of the vicar’s time. The vicar replied: “Not at all,” and nobody
knew what to say next.

But a remembrance of his own days of love and youth, the memory of
standing in a quiet shaded garden, and offering to a girl his life and
love, came across the elder man, and he turned to the window with his
hands in his pockets, so as not to look at Tom.

“You needn’t go up yet, need you?” he asked. “I am coming your way in
half an hour, and we might go up together. May has got an idle morning
to-day; make her play croquet with you. There’s a capital new set I
ordered the other day, which we put up on Saturday.”

“Thanks, I’ll wait,” said Tom bluntly. “I suppose I shall find Miss
Markham in the garden?”

“Yes; I saw her go out just now. You’ll be ready in half an hour, then?”

May was seated under a tree at the far end of the garden, and Tom
strolled across the lawn to her. There was a book in her lap, which she
was not reading, and she saw him coming and smiled. For the first time
in his life Tom found the difficulty of seeing some one he knew, a long
way off, approaching, and beginning to smile at the right moment,
non-existent.

He sat down on the grass by her, and for a few moments neither spoke a
word. But when a thing is inevitable the most awkward people cannot
prevent it. Then he got up and knelt by her. She was sitting in a low
chair, and their eyes were on a level, and he looked her gravely in the
face.

“I love you more than the whole world,” said Tom bravely, “and I have
come to ask you whether you care for me at all.”

“Yes, Tom,” she said, and their lips met in a lover’s first kiss.

Tom’s marriage with May Markham took place in July. It was celebrated
quietly at Applethorpe, but the world and his wife condescended to take
considerable interest in it. The season was beginning to wear a little
thin, and the marriage of a wealthy and fairly well-connected young man,
who had many friends, with an absolutely unknown girl who, the world
said, was extraordinarily beautiful, and who, so said his wife, was
rather a stick, was a matter of some interest when interests were
beginning to get rather few. Moreover, for various reasons, this
particular marriage had been talked about to a certain extent, and when
a thing is talked about, its reputation is made. It matters very little
whether abuse or praise is showered on anything, as long as it is
showered with sufficient liberality, and a little story connected with
Tom was the subject of both abuse and praise, and when these are mixed
in the right proportions, the matter becomes one of almost overwhelming
interest. The story, which the intelligent reader may take for what it
is worth, but which certainly was not true, was merely that he had been
engaged to Miss Maud Wrexham. But the world and his wife care not at all
whether a story is true or not: it is sufficient if it amuses or
interests them. Fiction, after all, adds a great charm to human life,
and if we did away with fiction altogether, we should have to discard
pleasant little fictions as well as unpleasant little fictions. Such a
prospect would strike terror into the whole human race from George
Washington down to Ananias and Sapphira.

       *       *       *       *       *

For the next three months the newly wedded pair disappeared out of the
ken of their fellows, but about the middle of October they came back to
Applethorpe, and lived at the Park with old Mr. Carlingford. That
amiable old cynic had completely lost his heart to May, who, for a time,
extinguished his desire for observing the weaknesses of human nature.
But I am bound to add that, as soon as the two went abroad, his habit
returned on him.

His remark on their return is worth recording. May was tired with the
journey, and went to bed early, and he and Tom sat up over the fire,
while Tom descanted on perfect womanhood. The old gentleman listened
with amusement and satisfaction, and when he took up his candle to go to
bed he turned to his son and said--

“I believe you are more in love with her than ever. What time are family
prayers to be?”

“At nine,” said Tom.

Mr. Carlingford was so much pleased at the brilliance of his induction
that he appeared punctually next morning, and seemed to take an
intelligent interest in a lesson from Joshua.

Tom and May had been out one day hunting in a delightful sloppy week
following a frosty Christmas, and after a long run had got home rather
tired and stiff, after dark had fallen. Tea was laid in the hall, and as
soon as May had finished she went upstairs to change her riding habit,
while Tom sat on with his chair drawn close up to the grate, smoked
cigarettes, and reflected that really the nicest part of hunting was
getting home again. He proposed to have a hot bath before dinner, but
the fire was too good to leave just yet.

He had just arrived at these comfortable conclusions when May came down
again, with her hat and jacket on.

Tom looked up in surprise.

“Where on earth are you going, dear?” he asked.

“I’ve just been told that poor old Lambert is dying,” said May, “and I
must go down to see him. Poor old fellow, he was in danger yesterday,
and he was so frightened of death. I ought not to have gone out hunting
to-day, Tom; he may be dead.”

“But you oughtn’t to go out now,” said Tom; “you’re awfully tired. I
suppose all has been done that can be done.”

“Tom, I must go!” said she.

“Well, send round to the stables, and tell them to have the brougham out
at once.”

“No, dear, I can’t wait.”

Tom got up.

“Well, you shan’t go alone. I shall come with you.”

“No, why should you?”

“Nonsense, May,” said Tom, putting on his hat and coat, and opening the
front door. “Good Lord, it’s beginning to snow again! I was afraid it
would.”

They walked on some time in silence, and then Tom, thrusting his hand
through May’s arm, found she had only got a thin jacket on.

“May, you really shouldn’t come out like this,” he said. “You will catch
your death of cold. You must go back and put something thicker on.”

“No, I can’t, I can’t,” said May quickly. “I may be too late as it is.”

“May, it’s madness. Here, I forgot--take this.”

Tom took off his coat and held it out for her.

“No, Tom, it’s all right; I don’t want anything more.”

“I insist on your putting it on,” said Tom.

“Please, Tom.”

“May, do as you are told,” said Tom. “My darling, you shall put it on. I
really mean it!”

Tom had his way, and the two walked quickly on again, Tom’s long coat
almost touching the ground, and the sleeves coming nearly to the tips of
her fingers. This time May thrust her hand through Tom’s arm.

“You’re very good to me,” she said. “Ah, here’s the house! Come inside;
you can’t wait in the snow. They will all be in the other room.”

A woman, with eyes red with weeping, opened the door to them, and as
soon as she saw May, burst out crying again.

“Thank God you’ve come, miss,” she said. “He’s been asking for you all
the evening, and he’s far gone. And how are you, Master Tom? Won’t you
come by the fire, sir? You’re all over snow. It’s a poor fire, I’m
afraid, but we’ve had no time to think of aught to-day.”

Tom felt utterly bewildered and helpless. He tried to respond to the
woman’s greeting, but found no words. May in the mean time had slipped
off her coat.

“He’s in here, I suppose,” she said. “I will go in at once.”

The two went in together, and Tom sat down by the fire. The door had
been left half open, and he could hear words spoken inside.

“Here’s Miss May, Jack,” said the woman, keeping to the name she had
always known her by; “she’s come to see you.”

There was the sound of a chair being moved along the ground, and after a
moment’s silence he heard May’s voice.

“Dear old friend, I have come just in time to see you before you go. It
is not so dreadful, is it? Christ has taken you by the hand; He is just
going to cure you of all your pain and suffering, and what is even
better, of all your sin. He has been through all you are going through.
We are very weak, but infinitely strong in His strength. Yes, you know
that, do you not?”

There came some reply from the dying man which he could not catch, and
the harsh, unpleasant voice of the doctor broke in.

“He’s going fast,” he said.

Tom heard the chair pushed away, and May’s voice began again.

“It is nearly all over. You are very tired, are you not, and want to
rest. Let us say the best prayer of all over together--‘Our Father----’”

The door from the outside opened, and Mr. Markham came in. He looked
puzzled and surprised to see Tom there. Tom rose to meet him.

“Hush!” he whispered. “May is in there with Lambert. He is on the point
of death. He has been asking for her all the evening, they say.”

Mr. Markham began taking off his coat, and stood for a moment before the
fire.

“I shall wait a minute or two till May comes out,” he said.

At a sudden impulse, however, Tom rose, quietly closed the door into the
sick room, and sat down again by the fire. All the sordid shabbiness of
the place contrasted too painfully with the supreme scene which was
going on within, and he wished to separate the two. On the table stood a
teapot, and a teacup without a saucer, into which was thrust a
half-eaten crust of bread. A dull, spiritless fire, half-choked in grey
ash, smouldered in the grate, and the kettle, with its lid off, stood in
the fender, half-overturned, in a puddle of water. A wooden china-faced
clock, painted with a scroll of pink and blue flowers, stood on the
mantelpiece between two white crockery dogs, and marked the moments
with a harsh insistence. There was a slipper, worn down at the heel,
lying on the shabby worsted rug, which lay crooked by the fender, and
another, presumedly its fellow, half under the table. A hungry,
mournful-looking cat sat blinking at them from under the table with
anxious, perturbed eyes, while inside that door May knelt by the bed of
a dying cottager, and in some mysterious way knew how to reach the
dim-lit soul of the old man, and to make it easy for him to die. There
was a reality about it which Tom felt the revivalist meeting had lacked.

The clock on the mantelpiece had scarcely beaten out five loud minutes
when the door opened again and May came out.

“Ah! you have come,” she said in a low voice to her father; “it is just
too late. He died quite peacefully and happily.”

“I was here this afternoon,” he replied, “and I just went back to the
vicarage, and came on again.”

May turned to Tom.

“Tom, dear, you’d better go home. I must wait here a little. These poor
people want me.”

“Mayn’t I wait for you?” said Tom.

“No, dear. I shall be tidying up and putting things straight. You’d
better go home. But I wish you’d send the carriage back for me in about
an hour. I’m rather tired, and then you can take your coat.”

Tom got up and put on his coat.

“Is there anything I can do, May?” asked her father.

“You might just come in and speak to Mrs. Lambert. Yes, do that; she
would like it.”

The two went back into the sick room, and Tom out into the night.
Something in what had taken place impressed him profoundly. What was
that power which the old man felt, which was able to ease his last
lonely moments? How could words be of any avail, when that last
horrible, ghastly parting of soul and body came? Tom, like all healthy,
vigorous people, felt an intense physical loathing at the thought of
death. It was terrible and unnatural that this beautiful machine should
in a moment become a dead thing, something to be buried away out of
sight. How could words make death seem death no longer, but the
beginning of life? For the swindling greengrocer and his increased
balance, which to him appeared to be the direct effect of grace, but to
Tom to have had a much more sublunary and intelligible connection with
his taking the pledge, there was an explanation which he could
appreciate, but this was altogether different. The test was a real test;
certain words had for a man round whom the inevitable loneliness of
death lay like a cold, blinding mist, a comfort which made him face it
with calmness, and to May, as to him, they must have been the expression
of something very real. For the first time in his life he had seen, in
an aspect that could not be mistaken, the consolation of religious
beliefs. The most severe test conceivable had been applied, and a belief
in a Power stronger than death had proved itself stronger than death.
And Tom, in whom unfamiliarity with such phenomena had bred, not
contempt, but absolute want of interest, was much puzzled. Somehow the
tragic, simple scene which he had just been through was more convincing
than a hundred volumes full of the triumphant sufferings of martyrs.

Tom suddenly felt rather vexed and hurt in his mind. Why did this mean
so much to May and to others, and so little to him? If the power of that
Life and Death was all-embracing, why had it not touched him? Why had
the belief in which he had been brought up passed from him so utterly,
being remembered now only as he remembered nursery rhymes and childish
stories?

May came back an hour later, just in time to dress for dinner, and in
spite of the love and trust which existed between them, neither of them
spoke of that which troubled them. May was longing to say to him, “Tom,
how is it that this means nothing to you? It was for you He lived and
died,” but a very natural reticence prevented her. She saw that Tom was
rather upset about something, and this was not the time for it. Such a
subject must come spontaneously, inevitably, and meanwhile she was
content to bide her time, trusting in the Power which never yet failed.
But they both felt at that moment that something had come between them.

Just as they were going down to dinner Tom said to her--

“I am glad you went, May; you made it easier for the poor old fellow.
How real it all is to you!”

“Yes, Tom,” she said, “it is the realest thing in the world.”

Unluckily, at that moment Tom’s candle fell out of the candle-stick he
was carrying, spattering his trousers with wax, and making it absolutely
imperative to speak of the annoying ways of wax candles, and the
possible opportunity passed, and it became harder to take advantage of
the next.

Old Mr. Carlingford was not very well. He was suffering from a slight
attack of gout, and the man who behaves cheerfully and equably under
such an infliction has yet to be found. Consequently at dinner he spent
his irritation by being less amiably cynical than usual, and he
discussed questions of ethics in a somewhat unpleasant manner.

“Good and bad is a very poor division to make of the human race,” he
said. “How is one to know in ninety cases out of a hundred if a man is
good or not? He doesn’t wear a certificate round his neck. You might as
well divide the race, for any practical purpose, into those who have got
strawberry marks on their left arm and those who have not. Fools and
wise is the only proper classification.”

“But they don’t wear certificates round their necks,” said Tom.

“No, Tom, and people don’t wear certificates round their necks to say
whether they’ve got noses or not. The fact is so patent.”

“Only to the wise,” said Tom.

“Exactly so, and the fools don’t matter. Whereas about good and bad, the
better a man is the more easily is he deceived, because it is impossible
to know much of this wicked world and remain good. ‘Keep yourself
unspotted from the world!’ Yes, you can do that if you seal yourself
hermetically up in a convent or monastery, in which case it is hard to
see why you have been born at all. To live like that casts a stigma on
the intelligence of the Creator.”

Tom unthinkingly laughed, for the conviction which his father threw into
this last remark amused him, but looking up he saw May flush deeply and
bend her eyes over her plate. Dessert was on the table, and she ate her
orange quickly, and rose to leave.

Tom saw the trouble in her face, but did not see how to remedy it. He
and his father drew their chairs up to the fire, and the latter,
abstaining for hygienic reasons from port, “took it out” in cynicism.

“I don’t mind saying these things to you, Tom,” he said, “because I
don’t think you are a fool. Do you remember when you told me you were
going to be a sculptor, how I warned you against folly? A dislike of
folly is the one thing I have successfully cultivated, and I should like
put on my tombstone: ‘He hated a fool.’ Especially I hate those fools
who talk about their consciences. Conscience is simply ecclesiastical
argot for digestion. No man with a good digestion has a bad conscience.
The health of the conscience varies with the health of the digestion.”

“But people with bad digestions have good consciences sometimes,” said
Tom.

“Yes, because their health is so inferior that they cease thinking about
their bodies, and as they have to think about something, they think
about an imaginary existence which they call their souls.”

“Is that all your creed?” asked Tom. “I believe in my digestion.”

“No, it’s not my creed at all. It is a self-evident proposition; nobody
makes creeds of self-evident propositions, or we should all say twice
two are four every morning. My creed is, I believe in nothing, but I am
amused at everything except the gout.”

Tom laughed and helped himself to some more port.

“I wish you had the gout, Tom,” went on the old gentleman; “it is
perfectly loathsome to see you drinking port when I can’t. I never am
quite sure whether I would sooner have port and gout or neither, but I
believe that if one goes on drinking port when one has gout one dies.
That would annoy me immensely. Any one can die.”

“Yes, it’s very easy,” said Tom. “I suppose that’s why every one does
it.”

“It’s sheer laziness in most cases,” said his father; “people die when
they cease to be interested in things. Unless, of course, they catch
small-pox or cholera, but gentlemen don’t do such things.”

“Poor old Lambert is dead,” said Tom, after a pause; “he died this
evening. May was with him.”

“That wife of yours is an angel,” remarked Mr. Carlingford. “I really
begin to believe in angels, at least in one angel, when I think of her.
If I was Providence I should be immensely proud of myself for having
invented her. I suppose she helped him through it?”

“Yes, she did help him,” said Tom eagerly; “he had been asking for her
all the afternoon, and she prayed with him, and he died quietly instead
of being afraid.”

“What did she say to him?”

“Ah, don’t ask me, father,” said Tom, rising. “It was all very strange
to me, because it was so real to them both.”

“But what was real to them?” asked his father. “Don’t you suppose that
the mere presence of May was what soothed the old man?--it would soothe
me, I know. I hope May will be with me when I die. But I shan’t want
soothing--I shan’t die until I no longer want to live. I am sure of
that, and it is a most comforting thought, and as soon as I no longer
want to live I am quite content that the powers of hell should do their
worst, as that hymn we had on Easter Sunday says.”

“No, it wasn’t her mere presence,” said Tom; “it was that she reminded
him of what they both believed.”

“Well, if he believed it, why did he need to be reminded of it?”
demanded his father. “It is so odd that Christians send for clergymen on
their death-beds, especially as those particular Christians who do so
seem to me to look upon God Himself as a sort of immeasurable clergyman.
It ought to be the one time they do not want them. No, you may depend on
it, it was simply her presence. Have you finished drinking liquid gout?
If so, we’ll go.”

When May went to bed Mr. Carlingford kissed her very affectionately.

“My dear, I wonder whether you are as nice to Tom as you are to me,” he
said. “I don’t believe you can be, or else I should be jealous of him.
Good-night, dear; you’ve had a tiring day.”

The two were moving up to London the next week, whither old Mr.
Carlingford absolutely and entirely declined to accompany them. “London
is only tolerable,” he said, “when it is quite full of fools. I dare say
there are plenty, even in January, but I can’t go to the New Cut to look
for them. The New Cut smells of cabbages and Salvation armies.”

“You’d much better come with us, father,” said Tom. “You know you will
feel awfully lonely without us.”

“I would sooner be lonely than live in that barrack in Grosvenor Square
in January,” said he; “besides, the house will be full of models and
clay. I believe we are all clay, and I don’t want to associate with
models.”

“There will soon be clay models too,” added Tom. “I’m going to work
hard.”

His father looked meditatively out of the window. The carriage had come
round, and they were putting in the luggage.

“If all men had to work and all women had to weep, every self-respecting
man would cut his throat this moment, and every self-respecting woman
would drown herself in her tears. What charming things family parties
would be, you know! Perhaps it’s right for you to work, though I don’t
see why you should; but don’t let May weep. Ah, here she is! Well,
good-bye. I suppose one or both of you will be coming down here soon.”

May’s inclination had been to stop down in the country longer, but Tom
represented that he really had to begin to work at once, and that no one
in the world--not even himself--could work in the country. The Golden
Age was going to return--the earth was again to be peopled with gods and
goddesses; a shining procession was to begin to walk out of his studio.
The grand style was possible. While the Hermes stood still and smiled at
the baby on his arm nothing was impossible. Art ruled the world. He
thought of the old paradox that nature copied art, and found that it
contained its grain of truth. Until Turner painted golden liquid
sunsets, they did not exist, or at any rate no one saw them, whereas now
any one who had seen a first-rate Turner could find one on any clear
summer’s evening in the country; and until he saw the Hermes he did not
know there were such people, but as a matter of fact he met half a dozen
of them now in every street in London. They were there all the time, but
one had to be taught how to see them. And he finished up with “Ars
longa.”

This last argument appealed to May. Tom was ready to begin working; it
was criminal to delay. The herald of the Golden Age, the Iris who was to
bring it down from heaven, was a statue of Demeter mourning for her lost
child. Tom had already made a small clay sketch of it, and he could wait
no longer. Besides, there was Wallingthorpe to be confuted. That eminent
artist had used all his powers of eloquence in abuse, persuasion, and
lament over Tom, who had heard him unmoved, and merely asked him as a
personal favour to wait until he saw what could be done. Wallingthorpe
talked about civilization and advance, and the torchlight procession of
artists who ran and handed on the flaring brand from the one to the
other until it reached the goal. The torch was in Tom’s hands, and
instead of running on with it towards the goal, he was deliberately
running backwards and laying it at the feet of Praxiteles. It was a
Vandalism.

Tom roared with laughter over that brilliant tirade, and vowed he would
make a heroic group, in which he himself was kneeling before Praxiteles
and handing him the torch of Art, while Wallingthorpe in a frock coat
and tall hat was trying to snatch it away. It was a fine subject. Many
thanks for the suggestion.

So May yielded, and paid farewell visits among all the old parishioners,
and one snowy afternoon in January, as has been stated, they drove away
from Applethorpe up to London, and Tom started his work as an artist
seriously and with set purpose.



CHAPTER XI.


Parliament met early that year, and when Tom and May migrated to London
the two Houses were already sitting. London was consequently fairly
full, and the Wrexhams, among others, were installed there. Lord Chatham
was one of those quietly effective men whose opinion is held to be safe
and reliable, chiefly because they support everything of the old order,
and oppose, not vehemently, but steadily, everything of the new. Lady
Chatham and Maud were with him, and the excellent arrangements which her
ladyship was in the habit of making were very frequently thrown
completely out of gear by the fog. In fact, she had serious thoughts now
and then of permanently allowing twenty minutes extra per mile for the
carriage, and fifteen for pedestrians.

Maud was very well pleased to be in London again. Measures of
considerable material import were being debated, and she liked to feel
the heart of the country beating. She had never been more interested in
life generally, and the Chathams’ house was becoming famous in a manner
for the large number of clever people whom she collected round her. She
had a certain gift of making people talk, without letting them know they
were being made. The autumn she would have confessed was dull, but the
reason why she found it so she would not have confessed, even to
herself. She had attended Tom’s wedding, and had behaved delightfully,
but when it was over she found herself, as it were, facing a blank wall.
Blank walls are not inspiriting things to contemplate, and after a few
weeks of contemplation she arrived at the sensible conclusion that she
would face it no longer, and she had spent the autumn in demolishing it
stone by stone. And now by dint of real exertion, which was almost
heroic in its untiringness, she could conscientiously say there was not
one stone left on another, and in consequence the advent of May and Tom
was an event which she regarded with pure pleasure. In other words, she
considered she had “got over it.” Tom, she felt sure, was completely
unconscious of what had been going on, and they could meet again with
perfect frankness and unreserve. She had met May once or twice before
the marriage, and thought of her as a sort of exceedingly beautiful cow.

Maud was just writing a note to accept Mrs. Carlingford’s invitation to
dinner. There were only to be four of them, the fourth being Manvers,
who had come to England for a week or two, and whom May thought Maud had
met at Athens. May had got a slight cold and was going to wear a
tea-gown, and would Maud do the same? She called her “Dear Miss
Wrexham,” and remained “hers truly.”

Manvers had been to see Tom already that day immediately on his arrival
in London, and Tom had scouted the idea of his going to a hotel, and
insisted on his staying with them. Manvers made sundry efforts to talk
to May and make himself agreeable to her, but he did not think he had
succeeded very well. Like Maud, he thought of her as a sort of cow, and
he did not appreciate her style of beauty. But Tom was as nice as ever,
and still quite mad, which was, he confessed, disappointing, but it
would certainly pass off.

The three had gone together to see Tom’s studio and the herald of the
Golden Age in clay. The pose he had chosen was admirably simple and
wonderfully successful. The goddess stood with one foot trailing behind,
the heel off the ground, resting on her foremost foot; the arms hung
limply by her sides, and her head was drooped in sorrow for her lost
child. The face was the face of his wife, subtly idealized, but
preserving the look of portraiture. Tom had been working very hard at
it, and in the clay it was sufficiently finished to allow one to see
what it would be like. He worked in his old desultory manner, with fits
of complete idleness and spells of almost superhuman exertion, with the
difference that the fits of complete idleness were now the exception,
not the rule.

The studio was an enormous room at the top of the house, with an
admirable north light. It had been furnished by Tom without the least
regard to expense or coherency. Things of all ages and styles were
jumbled up together, but everything was good of its kind. It was the
sort of room which, if you did not happen to think it perfectly hideous,
you would think entirely charming. The furniture itself was Louis
Quinze, for Tom’s taste told him that there was no furniture but
French; the walls were hung with Algerian and Cairene embroideries; in
one corner of the room stood a cast of the Hermes, in another a bronze
Japanese dragon. Two wide shelves ran round three sides of the room, and
on these were massed together, with fine artistic catholicity, spoils
from half the world. There were Tanagra statuettes from Greece, blue
hawk-headed porcelain gods from Egypt, earthenware from Cabylia, a great
copper Russian samovar, “laborious orient ivory” from India, plates from
Rhodes, and embroidery from Arachova, a bronze helmet fished out of the
river at Olympia, a great tortoiseshell box from Capri, a bronze
Narcissus from Naples, blue-bead mummy nets, hideous German silver
pipes, and amber and arrows from the Soudan. The platform where the
model stood was covered with a great tiger skin, with grinning jaws and
snarling teeth, and in the middle of the room stood the clay sketch of
the mourning goddess. The incongruity of the whole touched completeness
when May, Tom, and Manvers stood there side by side and looked at it.

Manvers’s first impulse was to laugh. His appreciation of contrasts was
strong, and the contrasts here were really picturesque. What was this
poor _passée_ goddess doing in this atmosphere of complete modernity?
She was as much out of place as a Quaker at a music-hall. But he was far
too much of an artist not to admire and wonder at the extraordinary
power of the thing. Tom seemed to have learned _technique_ not by
experience, but by instinct. He was an artist by nature, not by
practice; like Walter, he sang because he must. To Manvers this was
puzzling, because he held firmly to the creed that an artist makes
beautiful things because he chooses to, not because his artistic nature
compels him. They stood silent for some moments, and then Manvers spoke.

“Yes,” he said slowly. “It seems to me almost perfectly Greek.”

Though the prophet has no honour in his own country, it is at least
gratifying for him to find it in another. Tom had been almost painfully
anxious that he should say that, but now it was said he had an
unreasoning fear that Manvers had not meant it.

“Do you mean that?” he cried. “Are you sure you are not saying it to
please me?”

“My dear Tom, I am saying it neither to please you nor myself. I don’t
like Greek things, you know.”

May turned on him gravely.

“Surely it is admirable?” she asked.

“It is admirable surely,” replied Manvers, “but it is my nature not to
admire it. You should hear Tom heap abuse on my little things. His
tongue was an unruly member whenever he looked at _La Dame qui
s’amuse_,--by the way, she is finished, Tom. It would have pleased him
in what he calls his unregenerate days, and I his Paradisiacal days,
before the fall.”

“We’ve got a little statuette of his downstairs which I’ll show you,”
said May. “It is of a boy shooting. He never quite finished it.”

“That beast of a thing which was in my room at Applethorpe?” said Tom.
“I shall smash it.”

“No, dear, you won’t: you gave it me. I shall go and get it.”

“No, it shan’t come up here,” said Tom. “We’ll all go down. This Temple
is no place for Manvers.”

But Manvers was interested, and he stayed some minutes more, advising,
suggesting, and praising. It was as impossible for him not to admire the
prodigious skill of the work, as it was not to dislike the spirit of it.
The whole thing he regarded as a most lamentable waste of time and skill
which might have been most profitably employed.

But before the statuette of the boy shooting his praise was of a very
different order. It was thoroughly modern, and though not ugly, was
undeniably pretty. The figure represented a lad in volunteer uniform,
lying on the ground, shooting, or rather aiming, with a rifle. The head
was bent over to the back-sight of the gun, the mouth slightly open, one
eye shut, and one leg lightly crossing the other just above the ankle.
The thing was marvellously fresh and unstudied. May claimed it as her
possession, and showed it with just pride. Tom really had succeeded, as
he had vowed he would, in making trousers beautiful.

May left the two friends together, and went off to pay some calls, and
in her absence Manvers talked more freely. He had felt something of a
traitor in her grey eyes when he had said that the Demeter was not in
his line.

“It’s the best thing you’ve ever done, Tom,” he said, handing the
statuette respectfully. “It really is abominably good, from the top of
the forage cap down to the bootlace tag, and that bottom of the trouser
rucking up slightly over the other boot is an inspiration. You really
are an unfortunate devil to be saddled with the grand style. As for that
horror in the studio--you call my things horrors, so why shouldn’t I
call yours?--the sooner you pitch it out of the window the better. Not
that I don’t think it good--I think it is admirable--and as I said,
almost perfectly Greek, but it simply won’t do. If you are to do
anything nowadays you must be intelligible--that is to say, modern. You
must not produce exercises, however good, in an art that is past. You
are like those estimable people--I think they are archdeacons as a
rule--who are always writing Latin translations in elegiac verses of
‘Hymns Ancient and Modern’ in the pages of the _Guardian_. Nobody cares
for interesting survivals. Why should they? People will not cudgel their
brains to see what things mean. You have to label them!”

“Yes, you have to label a thing like _La Dame qui s’amuse_,” said Tom,
“or else no one would know whether it was meant for a woman of fashion
or a _cocotte_.”

“No, I don’t mean that,” said Manvers. “I don’t care what they call it,
but you must make them understand the spirit of the thing. The spirit of
Demeter is out of date. But that boy shooting is intelligible. Any one
can see how good it is, and yet somehow it is not vulgar. To be vulgar
is to be popular. You haven’t seen my ballet girl dancing. It is
incomparably vulgar. I think it is the vulgarest thing I ever saw, and
I’m not boasting when I say all Paris raves about it.”

“All Paris!” broke in Tom; “all the cities of the plain!”

“Not at all: all the most civilized people of the most civilized town in
the world. You really had better smash the Demeter. What will you do
with her? They will probably take her at the Academy--in fact, I should
think they certainly would, and in the autumn they will send her back to
you, or rather you will have to go with a drayman’s cart and fetch her.
She’ll be very heavy. If you were an academician, and got a very good
piece of Carrara for her, Pears might buy her, ‘after using our soap,’
you know.”

Tom grew more and more impatient, and could contain himself no longer.

“Don’t talk blasphemy here!” he shouted. “The only object of art,
according to you, is to make fifty silly women look at the abortions you
produce for five minutes while they are racking their brainless heads
for a new piece of scandal. You are welcome to them. And if no one else
cares for my Demeter, May does, and the rest of the world may go to the
deuce for all we care. You are a rank heretic, and when you die you will
go to a place entirely peopled with the types you love, while I shall
sit at wine with gods and goddesses.”

“What will happen to your other people? The boy shooting, for instance?”

“If he shows so much as the muzzle of his ugly gun, I shall kick him
downstairs to join you and your fellows.”

“Many thanks. I have your promise. He will be a charming addition, and
I shall be delighted to see him.”

Tom burst out laughing.

“Do you know I’m delighted to see you, heretic or no heretic. We won’t
talk shop any more. Miss Wrexham is coming to dinner to-night. You
remember her, don’t you?”

“Very well. She flattered me about my statuette. I never forget any one
who flatters me.”

“You flattered yourself, you mean. She was fonder of the Parthenon.”

“I am not jealous of the Parthenon,” said Manvers; “she may flirt with
the whole Acropolis if she likes. But you’ll have to let me go at ten.
Wallingthorpe has a gathering. He is very refreshing.”

“He is a social Narcissus,” said Tom. “It is so silly to be Narcissus.”

“Not if other people agree with you.”

“But nobody admires Wallingthorpe as much as he admires himself.”

“No; but he never ceases to hope that they soon will. Hope springs
eternal, you know. He is very sanguine. Whether they will or not has
nothing to do with the question; the only point is whether he sincerely
believes they will, and he certainly does that.”

“His motto is, ‘The proper study of mankind is me.’”

“That’s not grammar,” said Manvers.

“Possibly not; but the sublimity of the theme is sufficient excuse.”

Manvers took out a cigarette-case, and then paused.

“Is it allowed here?” he asked.

“Oh, it doesn’t matter if we open the windows afterwards,” said Tom;
“but May doesn’t like smoke all over the house.”

Manvers shut his cigarette case up with a click.

“My dear Tom, if one fails in the small decencies of life, one is lost.
Take care of the pence, and the pounds will take care of themselves.”

“That’s a silly proverb,” said Tom; “it is tithing the mint and anise
and cummin.”

“No; that’s just what it is not doing. It is keeping them intact, and
not tithing them.”

Tom laughed.

“I don’t think that means anything,” he said. “But let’s go to the
smoking-room; we’ll have tea sent there. No, you shan’t come to the
studio; I don’t wish to force my uninteresting survivals on you. I’m
quite delighted to see you again. And this evening it will be the dear
old Athens party over again, only we shan’t have Arthur Wrexham to peck
at!”

Maud Wrexham, as her custom was, came rather late, and began making
excuses before she was well inside the room.

“It really wasn’t my fault this time,” she said; “all the conceivable
accidents happened, and where the carriage in which I was to have come
is now, I can’t say. Mother made a beautiful plan--it seemed to work all
right on paper--that the brougham was to drop three of us in different
parts of London at the same moment. But the laws of time and space
intervened. Ah! how do you do, Mr. Manvers? It’s charming to see you
again, and there was a block at the corner, and I had to go back for my
gloves.”

Tom laughed.

“You must have started wonderfully early,” he said, “because you are
only ten minutes late. May I take you in?”

Maud, Tom, and Manvers had much to say to each other, and May a good
deal to listen to. They all rather tended to talk at once. Every now and
then one of the others would drop out of the conversation and pick her
up, but naturally enough Tom did not talk much to her; Manvers made
several well-meaning efforts, but was unable to sustain the conversation
long, as he was listening to what the other two were saying, and talking
himself, and Maud sat on the opposite side of the table, and the candles
and flowers made communication difficult. It must be confessed that May
found the dinner a little wearisome, for in her somewhat isolated life
she had not had any opportunities of acquiring that most useful
accomplishment of talking nonsense, or of talking naturally and fluently
about nothing particular.

Manvers was maintaining a new and startling theory that the only
readable descriptions of any place on the face of the earth were written
by people who had never set eyes on the place in question, and supported
his theory by his own experiences at Athens.

“I knew,” he said, “as we all know, that there was an Acropolis with
buildings of white marble on it, and when you looked out from it you
gazed over the grey olive groves, and the plain of Attica, and the
violet crown of mountains, and the sea, and Salamis. Before I went to
Athens, I could have described it in beautiful language, and talked of
the delicate air, and the rose gardens. But now I’ve been there it is
all spoiled for me.”

“There aren’t any rose gardens,” objected Maud, “and there is usually
sirocco.”

“Exactly so. It is folly to be wise. The rose gardens are part of the
spirit of Greece, just as much as the plane-trees by the Ilyssus and the
_soi-disant_ delicate air.”

“And there are no plane-trees,” said Maud.

Tom laughed.

“So much the worse for the Ilyssus. If there are not, there ought to
be.”

“Yes; but when some one who has been to Athens reads your description,”
said Maud, “he will know that it doesn’t resemble Athens at all.”

“But one doesn’t write descriptions for people who have been there, nor
do people who have been there read them,” said Manvers. “Books of travel
are written for people who have never been abroad, and who will never
go. Don’t you think so, Mrs. Carlingford?”

May crumbled her bread attentively.

“I’m afraid I don’t quite understand,” she said; “but go on. Won’t you
tell us more?”

Manvers frowned. If one never takes one’s self seriously, it is terribly
disconcerting to find that other people do.

“What I mean is that the literal accuracy of a description does not
matter at all,” he said. “When Turner painted a picture, he arranged
Nature as suited him. He raised the level of the sea two hundred feet,
and made a valley where there was a hill. He made the crooked straight,
and the rough places plain.”

“So you would have Greek maidens and Greek youths walking about the
streets in your description of Athens?” asked Maud.

“Yes, if I thought they should be there, but I don’t. They must have
been so uncivilized. Fancy dressing in a yard and a half of
bath-towelling.”

“Then all you do is to reconstruct Athens as it seems to you it ought to
be?”

“Yes; that is just what I mean,” said Manvers. “Unfortunately, I have
been there now, and I know that there are square, white hotels, and
dirty streets, and ugly little boot-blacks, and horrible smells. All
that warps the original and typical conception. I have an idea of what
Athens ought to be, and if I write about it at all, it would be my duty
to memorialize that.”

“All the same,” said Tom, “your conception of what it ought to be may
not tally with that of any one else; and if such a person goes there, he
will see that your conception is not only false, but, according to his
ideas, not characteristic.”

“But if there is some one--and who shall assure me there is not?--who
never has been, and never will go, whose conception tallies with mine,
think of his infinite delight! It would more than counter-balance the
cold accuracies of all those people who say I am a liar. He will say,
‘Here am I who never set eyes on Athens and never will, and behold, it
is exactly as I hoped and thought it would be.’”

Tom laughed uproariously.

“I believe you are right,” he said. “I shall write a description of
America.”

“Do, do,” said Manvers. “Describe New York, with 716 avenues, and
telephones and telegraph wires making a fine network of the sky, and
elevated roadways--whatever they are--every hundred yards, with Pullman
cars, containing gentlemen playing lacrosse, running on them every
hundred seconds at a hundred miles an hour. Describe the
molasses-stores, and Vanderbilt driving Maud V. down Broadway,
scattering gold to the Irish constabulary; describe the omnibuses in the
street, and the omniboats on the river, with their cargo of hams, which
but ten minutes before were pigs. And describe the backwoods, with the
solitary redskin burying his tomahawk under a primeval banana tree
against the sunset sky. America is a magnificent subject. Half England
will say that it is exactly what they thought it was, and that there is
no longer any need of going there. After all, the great point of books
of travel is to save one going anywhere.”

May’s feeling of being out of all this was strong upon her. Manvers, she
felt sure, was talking sheer nonsense, but how was it that Tom and Maud
evidently felt amused by it all? As he was speaking, she found herself
going rapidly over in her own mind what he had said--of course he did
not mean it, but to her that was an argument in its disfavour. She had
finished dessert, and glanced across at Maud. But Maud did not catch her
eye, and was sitting with her elbows on the table, and evidently no
thought of going into the next room had entered her head.

A man came in with coffee and cigarettes, and handed them round. Maud
raised her hand to the box, but looked suddenly across to May, and
dropped her hand again.

Tom caught and intercepted her look.

“May doesn’t mind--do you, May?” he said. “Miss Wrexham wants a
cigarette. It was I who taught her to smoke out in Athens.”

“Yes, it’s quite true,” said Maud.

“Oh, please smoke if you want to,” said May. “I don’t mind the smell in
the least. Tom wanted to teach me, but he gave it up. But why shouldn’t
we go into the studio or the library? It is more comfortable.”

“Oh, let’s stop here,” said Tom, “it’s just like Athens. We all used to
sit with our elbows on the table after dinner, and drink coffee, while
Manvers talked to us.”

But Maud interposed. Her passion for being nice to everybody had
suffered no cooling. She saw, too, that May was rather put out at the
possible transgression of that wonderful English custom of women leaving
the men at the dinner-table not to drink wine. She pushed her chair back
and got up.

“Oh, I think the library would be much nicer,” she said. “Those big
chairs you have got there are made for talking in. And it’s so nice and
dark in there. Every one is more amusing in the dark.”

Tom and Manvers rose too, and they all went into the library. Maud
looked round the room until she had found what she called “her chair,”
and sank down into it with a little contented sigh.

“That’s so nice,” she said; “and now let’s go on exactly where we left
off.”

The room was lighted by a couple of heavily shaded lamps on the table,
which cast a small brilliant circle of light on to the near surrounding
objects, and left the rest of the room in darkness. Maud was sitting
opposite the fire; Manvers and Tom on a low settee on each side of it,
and May at some little distance off.

“Really life is becoming beautifully simple and easy,” said Manvers.
“One can get almost anything one wants if one pays for it. And usually
one has to pay so little. Look at Niagara in London! I am told by people
who have been to the real one, that it is exactly like. You can see
Niagara for a shilling, and allowing eighteenpence for a cab, you have
seen one of the greatest marvels of Nature, purified by art, for the
ridiculously small sum of two-and-six.”

“How purified by art?” asked Maud.

“Well, there are no mosquitoes, and no beggars, and no American
tourists. And if only they would bottle up the noise of Niagara in a
phonograph and have it sent to London, the thing would be quite
perfect--a complete triumph of Art over Nature.”

“It’s all very well to talk about an equal distribution of wealth,” said
Tom, “but an unequal distribution is the only possible working
arrangement. If every one had enough, or was equally rich, you couldn’t
get anything unpleasant done for you.”

“It’s too terrible to think of,” said Manvers. “You would have to brush
your own boots, and cook your own dinner, and make your own bed. It is
only because we hope to receive rewards, perishable or imperishable,
that we ever do anything at all. Nirvana will be all very well when we
don’t wear boots, or sleep in beds. If a man is poor enough he will do
anything for a sovereign. It’s so nice that the pauper class should be
so numerous.”

“But there’s plenty of room for improvement yet,” said Maud. “One can’t
give a man a sovereign to go to the dentist for one, or have one’s hair
cut. Those are the really unpleasant things.”

Manvers stared pensively at the fire.

“Of course one’s body is a most rough and ill-made machine,” he said.
“An oculist told me the other day that the lens of the eye was a very
imperfect instrument, and that they could make much better lenses
nowadays. Our bodies are the only natural things there are left, and we
see in them how very inferior Nature is.”

May sat silent. The whole tone of the conversation, especially Manvers’
last speech, grated on her. She longed to get up and say what she
thought, but somehow she felt awkward and uncultivated. Manvers’ glib
tongue and easy sentences seemed to her like the buzzing of a mosquito
in the dark--a little thing, no doubt, but sufficient to make one very
uncomfortable. Was life with its hopes, fears, aims, its possibilities
and limitations, just food for an epigram or a paradox spoken between
two cigarettes and a cup of coffee? Were the poor, the drudges, the
unhappy of this world, no more to any of these three than a peg on which
to hang an idle joke about the conveniences of modern life? If Manvers
did not mean what he said, it was terrible enough, but if he did, it was
more terrible still. And why did not Tom say something and stop this
unseemly jesting? The feeling she had had at dinner that they were
talking about things she did not understand or care for, had given place
to a keener and more poignant indignation that they were talking of
things of which they knew nothing, but which she loved and cared for
with all her soul. Were the poor poor, simply in order to administer to
the pleasures of the rich? Was there no mighty all-merciful plan working
behind and through misery and poverty, and wealth and happiness?

At last she could bear it no longer, and she got up out of her chair and
walked slowly up to the fireplace. Manvers instantly rose and drew a
chair up for her.

“I was afraid you would find it cold over there,” he said.

“Thanks! Please don’t get up,” said May.

She stood warming her hands for a moment, and then turned to him.

“I think it is terrible to talk like that,” she said; “turning the
frightful suffering and poverty we see around us into a mere jest. Of
course you did not mean what you said, but it is no subject for
jesting.”

Manvers was vexed and angry. To take things seriously appeared to him an
almost unpardonable breach of social etiquette: it really was not
decent.

“I assure you I meant all I said,” he replied; “though of course you are
quite right about the terrible misery and poverty round us. I don’t deny
the tragic side of it for a moment. But I am an optimist; I prefer to
look on the brighter side of things, and instead of dwelling on the
tragedy and horror of poverty, I like to dwell on its more cheerful
aspect, namely, the immense conveniences which it affords to people who
are not poor. In that I am bound to say I find a certain consolation.”

The room was dark, and Maud did not see how grave May’s face was. She
listened to what Manvers said, and laughed. Then for a moment there was
a dead silence until May spoke again.

“Then do you really think that three-quarters of the world is poor in
order that one-quarter may be able to make them do distasteful work for
them?”

“Oh, I don’t go as far as that,” said Manvers. “I don’t attempt to
account for poverty or misery. I only notice a perfectly obvious effect
of the unequal distribution of wealth, namely, that the rich can get
almost all unpleasant things done for them by proxy, in exchange for
varying quantities of gold and silver.”

“You can never have seen the real misery of poverty if you can talk
about it like that,” said May.

Manvers lit another cigarette.

“Ah, there you are wrong,” he said. “I have known it myself, real
grinding poverty, when you don’t know how or where you will get your
next meal. I don’t ever speak of it, because, as I said, I prefer the
cheerful side of life. It was unpleasant, I confess, but I did not make
a martyr of myself--I don’t like martyrs--so why should I look on others
in the same state as martyrs?”

Tom had left the room some moments before, and came back during this
last speech. He knew what Manvers’ early history had been, but was
surprised to hear him mention it. He regarded it, he knew, as sensitive
people regard some slight deformity.

May looked up at Manvers.

“I am sorry,” she said; “of course I didn’t know. But I feel very deeply
about these things.”

“Then you will spare a little pity for my early years too,” he said,
laughing. “That is charming of you. Good heavens, it’s after ten, Tom; I
must go at once, and if you will lend me a latchkey, I needn’t wake
anybody up.”

Maud got up.

“And I’ve got to go down to the House,” she said. “My father is making a
statistical speech, and there will be a division. It is so tiresome his
speaking to-night. I should have liked to sit in that armchair for ever.
Good-night, Mrs. Carlingford. Do you know, I can’t call you Mrs.
Carlingford any longer. Good-night, May. Do come and see me again soon.”

Tom went to see Maud off, and came back to the library. May was sitting
in one of the big chairs with her hands idle on her lap. Tom threw
himself down on the sofa near her and stared at the ceiling.

“London suits me,” he said, “and to-night I had London and Athens and
you altogether. What had you and Manvers been talking about when I came
in? You looked so grave.”

“Oh, nothing. He told me that he had known what fearful poverty was
like.”

“Poor chap, yes. He doesn’t often speak of it. I’m awfully fond of him.
He is nearly always amusing.”

“Yes, he seems clever,” said May.

Tom was silent a moment.

“Really I am a lucky devil,” he said. “I have everything I want. I have
you first of all, and all life interests me and amuses me. And I’ve just
paid my annual visit to the dentist.”

“Shall we go to Applethorpe for the Sunday?” asked May.

“Oh, I think not,” said Tom, “at least, unless you want to. I think
Applethorpe would seem a little dull, don’t you?”

“Well, there are not so many things to do there as here, certainly,”
said May, “and I suppose Mr. Manvers will be with us still.”

“I hope he will stop for a fortnight or more. It’s absurd his going to a
hotel if we are in London.”

“Oh, of course,” said May, “but I want to go to Applethorpe soon. We
didn’t go last Saturday or the Saturday before.”

Tom gave no answer for a moment.

“I’ll do exactly as you like,” he said; “we’ll go on Saturday if you
wish.”

“Let’s go,” said May. “Mr. Manvers can come with us or go to the
Chathams’. I know they want him to stay there a day or two.”

“Why not get Maud Wrexham as well, then?” said Tom. “If they would both
come it would be delightful.”

May paused a moment. This was not exactly what she meant by a Sunday at
Applethorpe.

“I expect they have people with them,” she said.

Tom was a little perplexed, but assumed that for some reason May did not
want Maud Wrexham to come.

“Well, there’s no need to ask her unless you like,” he said, rising.

“I never said I didn’t want her.”

“No, dear, but I thought from your manner that perhaps you didn’t.”

May made a grab at the skirts of her retreating serenity.

“No, it would be delightful if she would come,” she said with an effort.
“I’ll write a note to her to-night.”



CHAPTER XII.


Easter was late, and when Tom and May left London to spend a week or two
with old Mr. Carlingford at Applethorpe, spring had already burst out
into freshest and greenest leaf. As they drove along the avenue from the
Lodge gate, May thought she had never seen anything so beautiful. The
ground sloped sharply from the road up on either side, and the russet of
the last year’s dead bracken was mingled with the milky green of the
fresh new shoots. Here and there an ash-tree with its black buds, or a
lime on which the little fans of green leaves were beginning to burst
from their red sheath, stood firmly among the young yearly plants, an
experienced guarantee to the steadfast kindness of the varying seasons.
Now and then a white-scutted rabbit bundled across the road, or a
squirrel whisked up to some safer eminence, and scolded violently from
among the branches. As they passed the lake, a moorhen half swam, half
flew to seek the shelter of the rhododendron bushes, leaving a widening
ripple behind it, and a sudden gust of wind arose, shaking half a dozen
catkins from the listless birch-trees. The whole air was redolent of
spring and country, and promise of fresh life.

Tom was driving, and May sat beside him. She had not been very well for
a week or two, and as the wind struck her, he thought she shivered
slightly.

“You’re not cold, are you, darling?” he said.

“No, Tom, only very happy.”

He laughed.

“Well, so am I; but I don’t shiver. Put that cloak round you.”

“Do you remember giving me your coat one night, Tom?” she asked.

“Yes; you were so obstinate, too. You refused to put it on for a long
time.”

They drove on in silence for a little way.

“Are you glad to get down here?” asked Tom.

“Yes, very. I’ve got so many people I know here. You see, Tom, I’m not
very clever, and I do like little quiet everyday things to do. And I see
more of you here. You’re always so busy in London. Ted’s here, too. He
got here two days ago.”

“Why doesn’t he come as your father’s curate?” asked Tom.

“Well, he has all his Cambridge work to do. He can’t very well give up
that. And yet I don’t know.”

“I think he’s right,” said Tom. “He is doing splendid work, I believe.
It doesn’t interest me, personally, but I do believe it ought to be
done.”

“Ted told me you always used to howl at him so for working at scholiasts
or syntax or something.”

“I know I used. But after all if the world is ever going to reach
perfection, you have to work up all lines perfectly. And he says that
scribes are terrible fellows for scamping their work and making stupid
mistakes; they must be shown up.”

“But there are bigger things in the world than scribes and scholiasts,
Tom,” said May, half-timidly.

“Yes, dear; but what is a man to do? He cannot work passionately at
things he does not feel passionately.”

“But there is one thing which it is every one’s duty to feel
passionately. And when a man goes into the church, it seems to me a sort
of visible sign that he does feel it passionately.”

“But there are other things in the world,” said Tom. “What is beauty
made for, or love, or anything lovely? Surely they are worth giving
one’s life for? If there was only meant to be one thing in the world
which it is right for men to strive after--I mean the personal direct
relation with God--why are all these wonderful and beautiful things
given us? Not just to look at and wonder and go by?”

“No. To help us to realize the personal and direct relation with God. We
should look on them as signs of His love for us. Do you remember the
first present you gave me, that little diamond ring? It was awfully
pretty, but I loved it because you gave it me.”

Tom was silent.

“It’s no use talking of it, darling, even with you,” he said at last.
“It is your passion, and I have another passion. Neither of us can
really conceive that there is another standpoint besides our own. We
acquiesce in there being others, but unless one experiences a thing, one
cannot feel it.”

“I am not afraid, Tom,” said she. “He will teach us all in the way it is
best for us to be taught. If we are willing to receive, He will give us
the knowledge of Himself, when it is good that we receive it.”

“And there we are at one,” said Tom. “That I believe with my whole
soul.”

They reached home just as evening was falling, but the night came on
warm and cloudless. Tom helped May very tenderly out of the carriage,
and after tea they walked a little up and down the gravel path above the
long terrace. The beds were already odorous with spring blossoms, and
white-winged moths hovered noiselessly over the flowers, and glided
silently away again like ghosts into the surrounding dusk.

The mist was rising a little from the low-lying fields towards the
village, across which two country lads were walking home, one with an
empty milk-pail in his hand, the other with a spade over his shoulder,
whistling loudly. And in the dusk husband and wife spoke together of the
dear event that was coming, and in that human love and longing their
souls met and mingled. May thought no more of the barrier which still
stood between them even in their almost perfect love and confidence.
She, in her clear unquestioning faith, was apt to lose sight too much of
the use and value of beauty and love and life, which are as directly
gifts from God as faith, and to wonder, with something like anguish,
when she thought how completely they had possession of her husband, what
the end would be. But now that the fulness and perfection of a woman’s
life was promised her, she, too, for a little felt the sweetness and
strength of living. She was a woman, and the crown of womanhood was
coming to her; the divine miracle was near its fulfilment. She was alone
in the hush of evening, beneath the opening stars, with her husband, and
things human and divine seemed so mingled together, that neither failed
of their completeness.

The next few days passed very peaceably. May, who had been rather
languid and out of spirits in London, soon regained her serene health.
She and Tom strolled together in the woods or drove out for an hour or
two every day. Ted and his father were with them a good deal, and Tom,
who had rather overworked himself in the last few weeks, found a new
pleasure in hanging about doing nothing. May insisted on his going long
rides or walks, in which she herself could not join, and after spending
the morning quietly in the woods with Tom, or paddling about on the lake
exploring the little creeks and islands, she would send Tom and Ted off
together in the afternoon for a long tramp or a ride over the Surrey
downs.

They had spent one of these afternoons, about a week after they had come
to Applethorpe, in this manner, and about four o’clock had descended on
to a little red-backed village standing in a hollow of the downs,
surrounded by hop-gardens and strawberry fields, and having had tea in
the country inn, proceeded homewards. Their way lay through the village
street with its neat white cottages, and long strips of garden fronting
the road. In one were flowering clumps of primroses, and a border of
merry daffodils lay underneath the windows. In another a more ambitious
show had been planned, and sundry little wooden labels, stuck about in
beds of young fresh green, not yet in flower, promised a crop of
annuals. In another a box hedge, cut into fantastic shapes, gave a
genteel privacy, and marked it off from its neighbours. The little
Norman church stood at the bottom of the street, and just as they passed
the gate a group of mourners came away from a grave which the sexton was
filling in. Tom waited for them to pass, and stood a moment watching
them ascend the street. They went in, he noticed, at the house with the
box hedge. A moment afterwards the clergyman, who knew Tom, came out,
and as they stopped to speak to him, Tom asked what the funeral had
been.

“A poor woman here,” he said, “who died in childbed two days ago. Poor
thing! she leaves her husband, such a nice young fellow, quite alone.
They had only been married nine months.”

Tom turned angrily round on the astonished young man.

“How can you say such horrible things?” he said, and walked off,
followed by Ted, at five miles an hour.

Ted caught him up in a few moments, and made him abate his pace.

“Poor old boy,” he said, “don’t get in such a state about it!”

They walked on a few moments in silence.

“It’s all too horrible,” broke out Tom at length. “How can such things
be? Poor darling! And I have been such a brute to her. Our lives are
lived apart really. She thinks the passion of my life is no more than a
plaything sent to amuse us, and the passion of hers is unintelligible to
me. It is no more than a beautiful unconvincing fable.”

“But what if the fable is true?” asked Ted.

“It may be true, but how can I tell? All I know is that it isn’t
convincing to me. It may be so, or it may not. But if it doesn’t
convince me, what am I to do? I would give the world to be convinced of
it.”

“She is very happy in your love,” said Ted.

“She is the best and sweetest woman on this earth,” said Tom. “I love
her more and more every day. But I do love my art too. My life would be
incomplete--impossible without either.”

Ted sighed.

“You are very fortunate. Your circle of completeness is widening every
day. You are in love with love and life.”

“Teddy, do leave that place,” said Tom earnestly. “It is changing you.
You always were narrow, you know, as I often told you, but you are
getting narrower. You only care about dead things. You had better care
about the worst of living things than the best of dead.”

“So you tell me. But no one can realize any one else’s conviction, as
you have also told me. You are playing symphonies to the deaf. It may be
so, or it may not be so. How can I tell?”

“But you know it is so,” said Tom.

“Sometimes I think it must be so. I know, at any rate, that you, for
instance, get more keen and active happiness out of life than I do. The
best emendation doesn’t give me the quality of pleasure which the smell
of a spring morning or a hundred other things give you.”

“I told you so. You do know it,” said Tom. “Why don’t you act on it?”

“I can’t. There is no other reason. It is no use to say to myself: ‘You
shall care for a spring morning more than you care for Zenobius.’ I
don’t care passionately for Zenobius, but I don’t care at all for a
spring morning.”

“I agree with you to a certain extent, you know,” said Tom--“more, at
any rate, than I used to at Cambridge. I think scholiasts ought to be
studied. They are a leaf, or a line in the book of ultimate perfection.
But you have got them out of focus. They are too close to your eyes, and
conceal everything else. Well, here we are at the vicarage. Good-bye,
Teddy! I must go home quickly.”

Tom passed along the village street, and at the church suddenly the
words of the clergyman came back to him with a sickening sense of
revulsion. He paused at the door a moment, and then by a sudden impulse
went in and knelt down in the nearest seat. He was not aware of
conscious thought, only of an overmastering need. “Why am I here,” he
thought to himself, “I who have no right here?” Then like an
overwhelming wave the thought of May came upon him--May, the love of his
strong, young life, soon to be in pain, perhaps in danger of death, like
the woman in the cottage with the box hedge, with that yet unborn life
within her. And the same impulse which had prompted him to come into the
church, prompted him to say, “If there is One all-powerful and
all-loving, may He be with her now.” And like the old pagans in Homer,
he felt inclined to vow a hecatomb of oxen if his prayer was granted.

And thus in his terrible fear and need Tom was brought by his love for
May to the feet of the unknown God.

He waited a moment before leaving the church, and looked round. There
were the old windows he knew so well: a pink Jonah being fitted neatly
into a green whale; a yellow-haired, long-legged David standing on the
chest of a prostrate Goliath, and with immense difficulty lifting the
giant’s sword; a perfect Niagara of dew descending on the fleece of
Gideon, Joshua laying violent hands on a red sun and a yellow moon, and
the walls of Jericho falling over symmetrically in one piece. The east
window consisted of three narrow lancets, still faintly visible in the
dusk, and the middle of these showed a figure crowned with thorns, with
arms outspread, drawing the whole world unto Him....

He went quickly up over the fields from the village where he and May had
walked the first night they came, and along the terrace walk. A little
wind stirred in the bushes, and blew across him the faint odour of the
flowers. In the house the lamps were already lit, and looking up to
May’s bedroom window he saw through the white blind a light burning
there. For one moment his heart stood still with fear, and then,
regathering courage, he went into the house.

His father was sitting in the library, with a green reading-lamp by him,
and he looked up quickly as Tom entered.

“Where is May? Where is May?” he asked.

Mr. Carlingford shut up his book.

“My dear boy, how late you are, and what on earth is the matter with
you? Tom, for God’s sake don’t be hysterical or faint. It’s all right,
but it has been very sudden. May’s child was born--a son--just about
four o’clock. She is asleep now, and doing very well.”

Tom stood there, perfectly pale, with his mouth slightly open. Then
quite suddenly his hat and stick fell from his hand, and he collapsed
into a chair.

Mr. Carlingford rang the bell.

“Tom, if you behave like that, I shall disown you. I never saw such an
absurd exhibition. Are you going to cry, or die, or what? Here, bring
some brandy quickly,” he said to the man who answered the bell.

The brandy revived Tom somewhat, and he stood up, still looking dazed
and puzzled.

“I don’t know what happened to me, father,” he said. “I never behaved
like that before. I want to see May and--and my son. Say it again. What
has happened exactly?”

“My dear Tom, from the way you behave, I should have thought that such a
thing as the birth of a child was a unique phenomenon, whereas it is one
of the most common exhibitions of the forces of Nature. It occurs, I am
told, many times every minute on this earth. You can’t see either of
them now.”

“The baby, just fancy!”

Tom picked up his hat and stick, and stood looking into the fire. Even
Mr. Carlingford was slightly shaken from the web of cynical observation,
out of the meshes of which, like a kind of spider, he culled the
weaknesses of mankind, Tom, with his smooth hairless face, looked so
boyish himself, and for a moment the old man’s memory went back with a
sudden feeling of tenderness to the time when Tom had been a soft
helpless atom like that which was lying upstairs now at its mother’s
breast.

“Tom, old boy, I’m so awfully pleased,” he said. “I always had an absurd
wish--I don’t know why--to see you with a baby sitting on your knee. You
are a good boy; you chose the wife I would have had you choose, and she
has behaved as a wife should behave.”

Tom turned round to his father with a beaming face.

“Then we are all satisfied, father,” he said, “and now I’m going
upstairs very quietly to see if I can see her--them. Them!”

May was asleep, and he was told to delay any further visit till the
morning. If she woke she had better not be disturbed; but she should be
told that Tom had come in, and that he had been up to see her.

Next day was Sunday, and Tom awoke very early in that most delicious way
of all, slowly, with a vague growing consciousness of utter happiness.
The window was open, and he lay a few minutes letting the cool breeze
ruffle his hair before he stirred. Then rising and putting on a
dressing-gown, he went to make inquiries as to whether May was awake,
and whether he might see her. The nurse answered both questions
affirmatively, and he went in. She was lying propped up by pillows, and
by the bed was a little pink-and-white cot, in which Tom could just see
a little crumpled red face.

May welcomed him with a smile, and laid her finger on her lips.

“Hush, Tom, he’s asleep,” she whispered, “but you may look at him.”

Tom availed himself of the permission.

“What a queer little thing it is!” he said.

“Queer! It!” objected May. “It’s him, and he’s beautiful.”

Tom knelt down by the bed.

“My darling, my darling!” he whispered. “I didn’t know how happy I could
be till I woke this morning. And it’s all real and true. I was almost
afraid till I saw you that it was a dream or a wish of mine.”

He raised himself and bent over her, and their lips met in a long kiss
of passion purified by tenderness.

He stood there for a moment, till the son and heir awoke and began to
howl, bringing the nurse into the room, who incontinently dismissed Tom.

He went back to his room and drew up the blind, letting a yellow splash
of sunlight on to the floor. In the bushes below the window a thrush
sang out of the fulness of his heart the wonderful repeated song which
he always knew, and which no one else will ever learn. Through the soft
air swept the first swallows of the new summer, flying high over the
shrubs and trees in the garden. Tom looked out for some minutes,
sniffing in the clear morning air, when from the village began the
church bell for early communion. A sudden impulse, an irresistible need
to thank some one for his happiness, as strong and urgent as his need
the night before of commending May to some protection stronger than man,
made him dress quickly and walk down to the church.

It was almost empty. Ted and his father were at the altar, and a few
parishioners were kneeling in the body of the church. The Ante-communion
Service was nearly over, and Mr. Markham was reading the Prayer for the
Church Militant as Tom entered. He went to the pew where he had knelt
the night before, and soon the blessed command fell on his ears--

“Draw near with faith, and take this holy sacrament to your comfort.”

What did it mean? How could he draw near with faith? What was faith? And
the grave, solemn voice from the altar answered him, that faith was to
know that God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son.

Was this, then, the answer to his strange unformulated desire to thank
some one for his happiness? Did it all come from this, from the quiet,
still church, from the memory of that sacrifice which sanctified love
and all that is beautiful?

He had wanted to vow a hecatomb of oxen the night before; he had longed
to be able to promise something to any power which would give him what
he had seen in May’s room that morning, and instead of that he himself
was bidden to the feast, and with the others he went up and knelt at the
table of Christ.

Tom waited outside the church for Ted and his father, in order to give
them news of May, and then turned homewards again. The desire to seek
aid which had prompted him to come to the church the night before had
given place to the desire to give thanks. He had come one step nearer to
the unknown God; he approached Him, not as a power, but as a benefactor.
The words of the great thanksgiving had thrilled him through and
through. “We praise Thee, we bless Thee.”

That desire of the human creature, constant through all centuries, to
seek for that which is outside itself, and stronger than itself, and
passes understanding, had come to him. Some hand had knocked, so he
thought, on the door of his soul, and wakened it from its sleep of
indifference. Was it perhaps, after all, only the result of this sudden
change from his deathly fears of the night before to the embracing
happiness of this morning? He could not tell; he scarcely cared to ask
himself.

After breakfast he saw May again, and when the nurse put an end to their
interview he went out under the cedar, filled with the double thought.
The bell for eleven o’clock church was ringing, but Tom had no intention
of going. The sacredness of the morning demanded solitude. He watched
the servants going down to church in their Sunday clothes, and marked
two footmen stealing away towards the woods, and by degrees the house
grew still. Tom went in and found a Bible with some little difficulty,
and brought it out. He wanted to know more of that wonderful Life that
had died, and had risen again for ever in men’s hearts, and he turned to
the Gospel of the Apostle of Love. There he could learn all that a man
need know, all that he had missed all his life.

But how to get at it? How to know that those words were spoken for him?
All he did know was that words and sentences which he had often heard
before were meaningless no longer, that something which was very real
and sacred to others had a sudden interest for him. He had never had
doubts on such subjects; simply the belief in which he had been scantily
brought up had faded and died a natural death, as leaves die in autumn
when the sap no longer feeds them. So now the simple Gospel narrative
struck him as so probable, so convincingly literal, that there was no
question of sifting or examination possible. He remembered vaguely, and
with some contempt, a book he had read not long before which seemed to
deny the fundamental truths of Christianity because the writer could not
bring himself to believe that Balaam’s ass really spoke. Even the
literal truth of the Gospel did not seem to matter; the conception was
divine; it was the best life that could have been lived: it was
perfection, no less, and that which is perfect is not man, but God.

Socrates warns us of the inutility of an unexamined belief, a statement
which is not universally true. For a man who is gifted or saddled--for
it is a dangerous bequest--with a critical nature the remark is
profoundly true. To deliberately refuse to look a doubt in the face is
an act of cowardice, a sacrifice and a stifling of our intellectual
capacities. But there are many natures, highly developed intellectually,
which are not critical, and to such religion is a matter of either
indifference or conviction. Whether there ever was a Garden of Eden with
a tree in the middle of it, round which was coiled a serpent, is a
question which has no interest for them. If pressed they may say that
some things are not meant to be taken literally, and dismiss the subject
from their minds. The critical mind finds some slight but spurious
consolation in shrugging its shoulders and labelling them as fools, but
its consolations end there, for there is no doubt which is the happier
of the two, and that an uncritical mind is synonymous with a foolish one
is not the case.

There is a certain experiment known to chemists as the solidification of
a supersaturated solution. Some fluid is heated, and while hot there are
dissolved in it large quantities of salt or alum. Now, a liquid when hot
can hold more substance in solution than when it is cold, and when this
surcharged liquid is allowed to cool quietly it actually holds more salt
than it is theoretically capable of holding, and as long as it is left
still it can do so. But if an atom of the same salt is put into it, the
whole mass solidifies. Tom’s spiritual fluid had been subjected to a
somewhat analogous experience. It had been surcharged with the salts of
love and life, and then came the atom as momentous as the straw which
breaks the camel’s back--the birth of the baby and the safety of May. It
was necessary for him to have something to which he could refer, and
from which he might derive his happiness; there must be for him a
Superior Being. He did not wish to argue about it, to examine reasons
for granting the existence of a first cause, or to split hairs over the
precise way in which God became incarnate in man. Simply his happiness
was too great for him to bear alone; his nature held more happiness than
it could hold by itself, and he had to refer it to something outside his
nature.



CHAPTER XIII.


Tom went back to London about a fortnight after the baby’s birth, and
plunged into his work with more vigour and earnestness than ever. His
new interest in religious matters was a thing apart from his work, just
as was his love for May, and it did not get between him and his models,
or interpose angular substances between his hand and eye. His religion
was not fanatical or aggressive: it had come to him as the explanation
of his human love, and inasmuch as the white heat of that had burned out
of his life all that was sordid or impure, the conduct of his life was
left unchanged. According to moralists, all sin partakes of the nature
of decay, and Tom’s nature was very vital. And as his religion was not
fanatical, it did not fill him with any half self-conscious and wholly
morbid convictions of sin, either in himself or others, and he pursued
his cleanly honest life much as he had done before.

But as the days went on, and May got steadily stronger again, a doubt
began to look him in the face. He remembered the Revivalist meeting at
Cambridge, and his own rejection of the idea that one moment, one flash
of seeming revelation could change any one. He himself had faced an
anxiety blacker than death, had felt a relief purer than heaven. Did
not that perhaps account for it all? Was not his own case as
intelligible as that of the greengrocer who became a teetotaler? And
because he was honest with himself he put himself a straightforward
question: “Would he feel another and a fiercer anguish if he again got
to believe that Christ was merely the best man who had ever lived and no
more?” The question haunted him, but he was unwilling to answer it.

To his surprise Tom found Manvers waiting for him at home one evening
when he came back from some party about a week after his arrival in
London. The latter was sitting in the smoking-room consuming cigarettes
until Tom returned.

“I hear there are three to the _ménage_ now,” he said. “I am delighted,
of course. I should so like to have a baby. There can be nothing more
interesting than to see a helpless thing with nothing it can call its
own, except the tendencies it inherits from oneself, slowly acquiring
intelligence.”

“It’s a great responsibility,” said Tom, throwing himself into a chair
and scratching his head with an air of wisdom.

Manvers stared at him incredulously.

“My dear fellow, the man who thinks about responsibilities is no longer
a responsible being. It is a sign of mania or extreme old age. The age
of responsibility begins at eighty-three or eighty-four, and I once knew
a man of eighty-five who was still irresponsible. You are upset and
excited. Go to Paris for a week. Paris is strangely regenerative, I
always find.”

Tom laughed.

“Talking of Paris, why aren’t you there?”

“I am staying with the Chathams,” said Manvers. “They were in Paris just
before Easter, and they asked me to come to London and see them for a
week or two, and as I had nothing to do I came. I always have a great
success with middle-aged gentlemen. There is something peculiarly
seductive about me to the mature male.”

“I don’t care for mature males much,” said Tom.

“Oh! that is a mistake. They make one feel so young. It is so easy to be
seductive to them. You have to be very deferential, but imply at the
same time that it is a very great compliment, and give them the
impression that you yourself have vast stores of experience at your
back, but prefer that they should produce theirs.”

“Did you come here simply to make yourself seductive to Lord Chatham?”

“No, I can’t say that was my object. My coming was only the effect of my
having done so. I came to see other people.”

“How is Maud? I haven’t seen her lately.”

“As charming as ever,” said Manvers with some finality.

“May is down in the country still,” said Tom, after a pause, “with my
father and the baby.”

“And are you ridiculously happy still?”

“Quite ridiculously. But why still?”

“Oh, I don’t know. We are limited, and so are our emotions. I have a
natural tendency myself to get tired of the things I like.”

“But you said just now that Maud was as charming as ever.”

“Obviously then she is an exception.”

He rose to go.

“I must be off,” he said. “You came in so late, and I wanted to talk to
you--but it’s after twelve, and they will all think it most unseductive
of me to wake the house up at nameless hours. I suppose I shall see you
again soon?”

“Yes, I dare say I shall come to the Chathams’ at tea-time to-morrow. I
haven’t seen them for an age.”

In the thirty-two years of his life Manvers had been amused at many
people, had liked a rather smaller proportion, was totally indifferent
to most, and had loved none. It was consequently almost distressing to
him to find that Maud Wrexham was losing none of her preponderance in
his thoughts. He remembered how at Athens the thought that she was in
love with Tom had galled him, but left him dumb, and he had been
enormously relieved and pleased to hear of Tom’s marriage. He had not
much experience of the ways of girls in the upper classes, but he
supposed that in such well-regulated institutions a man who married went
into a different orbit, and, ceasing to be a legitimate object of
affection to all the world but one, naturally ceased being an object of
affection at all. He gave himself not undeserved credit for having
behaved really very well. He had made it quite clear to Tom that in his
opinion Maud Wrexham was approachable, and Tom had rejected the notion
theoretically then, and practically a short time after by marrying May.
He had done all that could be expected or demanded of him by the most
Lycurgan codes of friendship and honour. Those claims were satisfied,
and Maud was still free. His work had kept him in Paris during the year
after Tom’s marriage, and he had himself felt that it would be wise to
keep away for a time. He suspected that Maud had some private business
to transact with her own emotions, and that, while she was doing that,
she would not perhaps wish to be interrupted. She might, in fact,
declare that she would not be interrupted. Manvers, who was essentially
a reasonable being, had considered that a year was time enough for her
to clear off her private business, and the year was now over. He
disliked waiting very much, but he summoned to his aid that admirable
common-sense which had stood him in such good stead at Athens, and had
worked harder than ever.

During the past week his intimacy with Maud had advanced a good deal.
She evidently found considerable pleasure in his society, and he made
himself uniformly entertaining and agreeable. Lady Chatham also, in the
intervals of what she called “the whirl of London life,” when her genius
was not devoted to ordering carriages, and picking up people with
mathematical inaccuracy at street corners, found time to talk to him,
and make vague arrangements for him. Consequently next morning, after
her orders had been sent to the stables, and she needed a little
relaxation, when she found him alone in the library, reading papers, she
sat down and began to talk.

“My husband tells me you have to leave us on Saturday,” she said. “I
suppose you are going back to Paris. What day of the month will that
be?”

“Saturday is the 26th, I think,” said Manvers.

“No, I am sure you are wrong. Saturday is the 25th. Well then, as you
meant to go on the 26th, you can stop here till Sunday. We shall be able
to send you to the station.”

“It’s very good of you,” said Manvers, “but I am afraid it is the day of
the week that matters, and not the day of the month. I have to be in
Paris on Saturday night.”

“And what do you do then? You ought to be settling down, you know.”

“I am afraid I shan’t settle down more than I have done already. I work
very hard, you must know. But this holiday has been delightful.”

“It must be very widening to live about from country to country as you
do,” said Lady Chatham appreciatively, “but you ought to give us the
benefit of your increasing width!”

Manvers laughed.

“In what way?”

“You might write a book about the comparative tendencies of English and
foreign life. Something useful--not like those little scrappy books that
describe mimosa trees and amber necklaces and the Soudan, but something
that really helped one to understand the difference between one nation
and another, the influence of climate--climate has a great deal to do
with character. Food too--the meat we eat in a day would last an Italian
for a week. That must make a difference. And, as I said, you ought to
settle down and marry, and become the centre of a little circle.”

“Tom always fills me with the envy for married life,” said he; “he
really is ridiculously happy. But as regards the other, I don’t think I
am made for a centre. I prefer circling myself.”

Lady Chatham rose to go.

“Well, it is five minutes to eleven,” she said, “and I must be off. You
must think over all I have said.”

“I will think it over very seriously,” he replied.

Lord Chatham was dining at the House that night, and Maud sent a note to
Tom asking him to make the fourth with Manvers and her mother. There was
no one else coming, and little coats and black ties were the order of
the evening.

The night was beautifully warm, and after dinner they all sat on the
little terrace outside the drawing-room window.

Tom was in rather a sombre mood. His account of himself was that he had
unaccountably stuck in his work and had been unable to get on. Manvers
administered consolation.

“That is one of the chiefest pleasures of being an artist,” he said:
“one has the sort of feeling that one is really a channel through which
inspiration flows. Now a solicitor or a clerk can go on copying briefs
or making a digest or a _précis_ in any mood. He is a mere machine. No
doubt his work is more distasteful at one time than it is at another,
but it goes on just the same. Nothing comes between him and it except
death or very severe toothache, which shows he works without conviction,
and is consequently a very feeble sort of animal. It is the same with
all mankind except artists and clergymen.”

“But what is one to do in the meanwhile?” asked Tom. “I don’t find these
intervals, when some one cuts off the inspiration, at all inspiriting.”

“Why, do nothing,” said Manvers; “don’t think about it. You can’t force
a mood. The mood forces you.”

“I can’t acquiesce in that,” said Tom. “I am not going to be ordered
about by my own temperament.”

“Ah, my dear fellow, what are you going to be ordered about by if you
are not to be ordered about by your temperament? The temperament is the
only thing that can order one about. In everything else, if one wants a
thing enough one gets it.”

Maud leaned forward.

“I don’t believe that. At least it is not true for all people. Some pass
their whole lives in failing to do what they want. But they have a
consolation; for they are exactly the people who for the most part give
other people what they want. Personally I hardly ever get what I want,
and that is why I have a passion for making other people like me.”

At the least hint of anything so superlunary as the mildest metaphysics,
Lady Chatham always recorded a protest.

“Maud dear,” she said deprecatingly.

But “Maud dear” was interested, and so to judge by his face was Manvers.
His dark eyes had lost their look of slight amusement, and he leaned
forward eagerly to hear what Maud had to say next.

“It is the old story,” she said; “half the world is active, and the
other half passive.”

“But you exert yourself to be passive.”

“Oh, certainly; one is simply nothing if one doesn’t exert one’s self.
My mission, I am sure, is to be material for the active people.”

“But you told me once you wanted to take the world into your hand,” said
Tom, “and make its heart beat fast or slow as you wished.”

“I know I did, but I have changed.”

“Radically, completely?”

Maud lifted her eyes for a moment and looked at Tom, then dropped them
again.

“My desire has not changed, but I now know I can’t do it. It’s not my
line at all.”

Tom looked up.

“Do you mean you acquiesce in defeat?” he asked. “Can you contemplate
wanting a thing and not getting it?”

“He is monarch of all he surveys,” remarked Manvers.

“Of course I am,” said Tom, “so is everybody.”

“Oh, but we can’t all be monarchs of all we survey,” said Maud.

“But we can,” replied Tom, “simply because we survey so very little. All
our horizons are limited. As a matter of fact, of course we are terribly
limited, all of us, but we have a beautiful gift of not believing that.
We can be monarchs of all we understand, which is what I mean by survey,
and that is why people marry. Two people understand each other, and so
as they are both monarchs of each other, it is a law of nature that
they should then be no longer two, but one.”

This remarkable statement was received in silence.

“Then what do you make of people who are failures--real failures?” said
Maud at length.

“God help them!” replied Tom; “they have tried to get what they did not
understand. There is nothing so pathetic as that.”

“Why did you acquiesce, Miss Wrexham?” asked Manvers.

Maud hesitated a moment, but assuming with perfect good faith that
neither Tom nor Manvers could possibly guess what she meant, replied--

“Because I could not get a thing I wanted, and therefore I assumed that
I was not made to get what I wanted.”

“That is a hasty generalization,” said Tom; “perhaps you did not
understand it.”

“Well, I thought I did, and either I am not meant to get what I want, or
I am one of those pathetic figures you alluded to.”

Tom laughed.

“I don’t think of you as a pathetic figure,” he said.

“Oh, one can’t appear as a pathetic figure in public,” she said. “Don’t
let us forget that it is a comedy we are all acting.”

She spoke bitterly, and Tom was astonished at the hard ring of her
voice. But before the pause became awkward Manvers broke it.

“There is nothing more serious than taking things seriously,” he said.
“I never took anything seriously yet.”

“What a frightfully risky thing to say!” exclaimed Maud. “It’s as
dangerous as saying you never had the toothache!”

Tom got up from his chair and perched himself on the edge of the
balcony, and at that moment there came into Manvers’ mind the evening at
Athens, when Tom had sat on the edge of the balcony, and the flash of
lightning had illuminated Maud’s face. For the first moment he thought
it was only one of those strange throbs of double consciousness which we
all know so well, but the moment afterwards he recollected the prototype
of the scene. And as if to confirm it in his mind, Maud went on--

“My acquiescence came quite suddenly, as suddenly as a flash of
lightning.”

“When did it come?” asked Tom, innocently.

Manvers waited, in the act of flicking the ash off his cigar, for the
reply, and Maud looking up saw he was watching her.

“Lord Byron woke one morning and found himself famous,” she said, “but I
doubt whether a year afterwards he could have told you whether it was a
Monday or a Tuesday.”

“But the occasion,” persisted Tom: “he could have told one that.”

“One occasion doesn’t change one,” said Maud, fencing; “it is always a
whole string of things, half of which one forgets afterwards. It is so
untrue to speak of a crisis being the effect of one moment.”

Lady Chatham rose.

“How terribly metaphysical you young people are!” she said. “I must go
in and write two notes, and then I think I shall go to the House in the
carriage which is to fetch Chatham. Maud dear, you look rather tired. Go
to bed early.”

Lady Chatham said good night and went indoors.

“That is quite true about crises,” said Tom, after a pause. “I have had
one, two, three in my life, and though they all seemed the results of
single moments, they were only the culmination of what had been going on
before.”

“But the apex of a pyramid remains the highest point. There would be no
pyramid without it,” objected Manvers.

“But still less would an apex be a pyramid by itself!”

“It’s your turn, Tom,” said Maud. “I’ve been talking about myself, and
now you shall talk about yourself. Begin at the beginning. What were
your crises?”

“The first was when I saw the Hermes at Olympia,” began Tom.

“And a most disastrous crisis it was,” observed Manvers. “I hope they
weren’t all as cheerless as that.”

“Be quiet, Mr. Manvers,” said Maud. “It’s his turn.”

“Of course that seemed to me the whole crisis,” said Tom, “but it
wasn’t. It was only the apex of the effect Athens had on me.”

“Yes, I think that’s reasonable,” said Maud. “Go on to the next.”

“The next was when I was standing in a bramble bush waiting for pigeons
to come over, and saw May walking down the path. She looked as if she
had just stepped out from among the gods and goddesses on the Parthenon
frieze. You see the first crisis was really part of the second.”

Maud said nothing, so Manvers took up the part of catechist.

“And the third?”

“Oh, about that I can’t talk. But I know now that the whole of my life
from the time of the second crisis, since I fell in love with May, was
part of the third.”

“Oh, but do tell us,” said Maud. “I believe you have forgotten what it
was.”

“It was when I first thought I was a Christian,” said Tom simply.
“But----” He stopped.

If Tom had said that it was when he first began to hate May, he could
not have startled them more. Manvers felt very keenly the indecency of
being serious. Maud sat still for a moment. Her knack of turning awkward
conversation on to safer lines seemed to have entirely deserted her.

“No wonder you are perfectly happy,” she said at length, and stopped.
They sat there for a few minutes in silence, and Tom fidgeted.

“It was a crisis no doubt,” he went on; “for the time it made a most
wonderful difference to me, but somehow it has faded. Why are we all so
damnably limited, or rather why are we cursed with that horrible sense
of proportion, which makes us realize how limited we are? The happiest
moment of my life was that on the morning after the baby had been born,
when I went to early celebration. It was the best moment I have ever
had, and I was even content. I had been horribly anxious and frightened
the day before, and the relief and the joy were so immense that for the
moment I was forced, so I thought then, to believe. Unhappily,
common-sense is for ever telling me that it was relief and not belief
that I experienced. Yet it was a crisis, for I now believe in the
possibility of such convictions some day becoming mine, for for a little
while they were mine, and what has happened to me temporarily may happen
to me permanently. And now,” he added, “I have committed what Manvers
considers the one unpardonable breach of manners. I have been serious!”

Again there was silence, and neither Maud nor Manvers saw exactly how to
break it. But a neighbouring clock striking eleven gave Tom an
opportunity.

“It is time for me to go,” he said; “I had no idea how late it was. May
comes up to-morrow, I hope.”

The other two sat where they were till the wheels of Tom’s retreating
hansom had merged themselves in the distant muffled roar of the further
streets. To Maud it suddenly seemed that malignant hands were building
up again in front of her that blank wall she had been at such pains to
demolish, and that her work of the autumn was all undone. Tom’s
presence, mingled with his absolute unconsciousness of its effect, had
again reasserted its unreasonable power over her. She felt again as she
had begun to feel at Athens, that she was miserable in his presence and
incomplete in his absence. But her efforts at self-control had become
with her a habit, and though she was dully conscious that her blank
wall had rebuilt itself, she did not dash at it with dumb unavailing
hands. It had to be picked down again stone by stone from the top to the
bottom. The prospect was not a cheering one. She was also more than half
conscious that Manvers was standing, as it were, on the other side of
the wall, hidden from her by its intervening mass, and she dreaded that
he would call to her, and assure her of it. That he was in love with her
she could not but know, and she was quite aware that she liked him
almost to any extent; but the limitations of the human race forbid us to
love two people at once. Nature has provided us with two eyes, two ears,
two arms, two legs, two hands, in case some accident happens to one of
them, but her wise precaution has not gone so far as to provide us with
two people to love simultaneously, in case one of them gets married.

She was sitting in the chair Tom had left, and Manvers, who had been
sitting a little way off, moved up and took the chair next her. She had
one mad impulse to ask him not to speak, for she saw he meant to.
However, if the scene was to come, it was to come, and he had the right,
as a man, to know his fate. But though she knew it was to come, she
wanted to put it off if only for a minute or two. She rose from her
chair again, and leant on the balustrade of the balcony.

“I feel depressed and worried and strung up and run down to-night,” she
said. “Do you remember that admirably sensible American girl at Athens,
who said that all such feelings were stomach? I expect it is quite true,
but I don’t see how it helps one. I don’t feel sure of myself. Tom very
often makes me feel like that. He’s so wonderfully sure of himself.”

Manvers’ hands fidgeted with the arms of his chair, and he lit a
cigarette, and threw it away. This sort of experience was new to him.

“And now as we’ve finished talking about Tom,” he said at length, “it is
time that we should talk about me.”

Maud rushed for the loophole. She might as well have hoped to have
stopped an express by stretching a piece of string across the line.

“I should like to talk a little more about him,” she said. “I was so
surprised at that third crisis.”

“Tom is so honest with his crises,” said Manvers, “he faces them like a
man.”

“Well, it’s no use running away from a crisis,” said Maud; “you might as
well run away from a flash of lightning.”

“And I too think it is best to face a crisis,” said he, “and ... and ...
my crisis has come.”

Maud sat still, waiting for the inevitable.

“It is this,” he said suddenly, “that I love you. That I would die for
you, or live for you: that I offer you myself to take into your hand.”

Maud stood up. The crisis had come, and she knew what she was going to
say. It was best to leave no misunderstanding.

“It is impossible,” she said, “absolutely impossible. I will not give
you any hope. I can’t encourage you by telling you to wait. It can never
be. Stop, don’t speak yet. I am sorry for you, more sorry than I can
say; but I am perfectly certain of it.”

Manvers stood up too.

“How can you be certain?” he said. “I will take my answer like a
gentleman, and not hope to win you by making myself importunate; but how
is there no hope?”

“It is quite impossible,” said Maud again.

For the moment he had forgotten about the existence of Tom and all the
world, but as Maud repeated “It is quite impossible,” the cruelty of her
position and of his stung him intolerably, and forced from him an
involuntary protest, as sudden physical pain forces a cry from the most
stoical.

“Ah, God help us both!” he said.

Maud turned and looked at him. She was standing with her back to the
street, and he was opposite her, so that her face was in darkness, his
in light. And in his face she saw pity, love, tenderness and the
knowledge of her secret mingled together.

She had one moment of furious indignation with him for even letting her
know that he knew all. But he came a step nearer and held out both hands
to her.

“Oh, you poor dear! you poor dear!” he said. “Without a thought of any
possible gain, I would give my right hand to spare you this. It is much
worse for you than for me.”

The shadow of convention which had stood between them sank away into
nothingness, for convention is born of the head, not of the heart, and
when heart meets heart, there is no place for head. Maud took his two
outstretched hands and pressed them.

“You are a man,” she said, “and that is the highest praise of all. I
have tried very hard to be a woman, but I have not succeeded so well.”

“You have succeeded very well,” he said. “No one has guessed it.”

Pride is not a dominant emotion, and is driven off the field as soon as
the greater magnates appear.

“After all,” she thought wearily, “what does it matter?” And then
because her passion was strong and she was young, she broke down
utterly. “My God, what shall I do?” she cried, “and what are you to
think of me? I have thrown overboard self-respect, and reticence, and
decency. I have nothing left but the hope that he knows nothing of it.”

Manvers lied bravely.

“I am sure he has never had an inkling of it,” he said. “It has been
hard for you.”

“And all the time there is the horrible consciousness that one may break
down.”

“You will not break down. When one has great physical pain, one thinks
one cannot endure it a moment longer. But as a matter of fact one can
and does. One endures it until it stops.”

“But who is to assure me of that? Not you, of all men, who have guessed
my secret.”

“It was no fault of yours that I guessed it. It was because I fell in
love with you myself.”

His voice assumed its usual tone of gentler cynicism.

“And love,” he added, “which is usually considered blind, is on the
contrary extremely clear sighted. Man is a wonderful creature, as one of
Tom’s Greek poets says, and we are beautifully adapted for bearing
things without breaking. There is no last straw for us. We go on hoping
that each straw is going to be the last, that we shall break, but we can
always bear some more. And there usually are some more.”

“Don’t say bitter things, Mr. Manvers. One may say bitter things to
strangers, but never to friends. There’s father’s carriage; I must go
upstairs. I told mother I should go to bed early. You leave us
to-morrow, don’t you? I needn’t tell you how sorry I am.”

“You are very good to me,” said poor Manvers.

“I am intensely sorry for you. Spare a little sorrow for me. And you
have behaved admirably. Good night.”

Manvers heard the front door close, and a few minutes afterwards the
voices of Lord and Lady Chatham as they went upstairs. A servant came in
to put out the lamps; but, seeing Manvers there, would have retreated.
He told the man to leave him a candle, and put the lamps out; he needn’t
wait up.

The house grew still, and even the noise in the streets sank to a lower
murmur in those three hours which precede the summer dawn. It was
already after twelve when the Chathams returned, and Manvers sat on in
the low chair in the balcony smoking endless cigarettes and reviewing
events.

He really was not cut out, he thought, for a man of sentiment. He cursed
himself for ever having let himself be led into this horrible situation.
He had been so happy to the full capacities of his nature in these last
thoughtless successful years. He had lived for the hour in all the
branches of his nature; his art was of the hour, his pleasures were of
the hour, his aims were of the hour. But now he had acquired a new
power--he had found he was capable of loving; and a new limitation--he
was incapable of not doing so. And where did it all lead to? Tom stood
full in his road, with his careless happy face, forbidding him, or
rather unconsciously making it impossible for him to pass.

The city turned in its sleep, and a strange nestful of street noises
hatched, clacked, and were silent again. The short summer night was
drawing to a close. A wavering hint of dawn flickered across the pale
faces of the houses opposite, and faded out again, and the deeper
blackness of the half hour before the real dawn came on in layers over
the sky. Manvers rose and leaned over the balcony looking down into the
street.

Why not leave all this behind and go back to Paris as it was? The hours
were still hours, minutes in which to live and enjoy. But it seemed
impossible. Some change had come. He was puzzled and bewildered with
himself. He had always thought he knew himself as well as he knew his
modelling tools, but he had given himself a great surprise. Time would
heal everything, would it? He would go back to Paris and get over it by
degrees, and become what he had been before, thanks to Time! But for
that he thought not the better of Time and of himself, but the worse.

And what of Tom? He would sit here again and again, talking to Maud with
intimate freedom, amusing himself, laying down the law about art with a
big A, and she would sit opposite him with her uncommunicated
incommunicable secret, longing, loving, rejecting. Why had he gone to
Athens, why had that series of a hundred trivial events happened, which
had forged together this double iron chain, pulling two ways, yielding
in neither? Damn Tom!

There was no conclusion. To-morrow he went to Paris. He was going to a
little dinner given by one of the cleverest and most realistic artists
of the day, to celebrate the admission of a picture to the Luxembourg.
He had promised himself an amusing evening. Paris was the only place fit
to dine in. Then he had to set to work again. He congratulated himself
that his work sprang from the head, not the heart. It was summer in
Paris by now. The _cafés_ would have their rows of little tables in the
street, and their green tubs of oleanders. There would be the smell of
asphalt in the boulevards. The new advertisements of the year would be
out. Chéret had done two at least, which were quite admirable: one was a
Parisienne of the Parisiennes in a long black boa, and balloon sleeves
in the new mode; the other a woman in a yellow dress carrying a red
lamp. How stupid and distasteful it all seemed!

One by one the stars paled, as the first colourless light of dawn crept
from the east over the sky. It was morning already. There came the sound
of heavy wheels, and a string of vans passed eastwards with their loads
of flowers and fruit to Covent Garden. They left behind them in the
still air a vague perfume of flowers and ripe fruit and vegetables,
which floated even up to where he was sitting. How very short, how
infinitely long the night had been! It was impossible to go to bed; he
would go out. He went to his room, and put on a grey coat instead of
his dining-jacket, and let himself silently out of the house.

It was exactly at that hour when night and morning meet; cabs and
carriages went westwards with women in ball dresses yawning dismally,
while eastwards trailed the vans and carts. A woman at the street corner
accosted him. Manvers gave her ten shillings, and told her to get home
for God’s sake. Then he fairly laughed at himself. He was giving himself
all sorts of surprises. But he could not bear the thought that one of
the sex to which the one woman belonged should stand there.

And in the cool temperate dawn he faced his life and himself
temperately. His old life was impossible for reasons which he could not
grasp. He had no feeling that it was wrong or immoral; he approached it
from a different side. His taste simply revolted against it. He had said
once that he could not possibly feel the least liking for a man who ate
cheese with his knife. The two were on the same footing. The old life
was out of the question, but where was the new? And for that he had no
answer ready.

He walked eastwards for an hour or so and then turned back, and as he
reached the door the pitiless day had broken in a flood of yellow
sunshine over the drowsy town.



CHAPTER XIV.


Tom, as he had mentioned on the previous evening, had come to a
difficult place in his statue, and he could not get on. He was puzzled
to know what the fault was, or where the difficulty was. He saw in his
own mind what he wanted to do, but he could not visualize the vision.
And when May arrived on the following day she found him inclined to rail
at clay, models, drapery and himself. He had seen Manvers off in the
morning at Victoria, and that evening he dined alone with May.

“I’m so sorry he’s gone,” he said to her. “He is so extraordinarily
inspiring in a sort of back-handed way. He puts his own point of view so
brilliantly, that I realize how diabolical it is, and that spurs me to
work for mine. He has the same effect on me as the sight of a drunken
man was supposed to have on Spartan boys. Their fathers used to make a
slave drunk and then bring him in, and say, ‘Look at that. Isn’t it
horrible! Take warning!’”

Tom moved over to where May was sitting, and possessed himself of her
hand.

“You’ve grown thin, darling,” he said; “look how your rings slip about.
May, I’m so glad you’ve come. I have been very bad company to myself
lately. When I stick in my work, and you are not here, I don’t know
what to do. But when I’ve got you, sticking doesn’t seem to depress me.”

“I’m afraid I can’t prevent your sticking though, Tom.”

“I believe there is nothing you can’t do for me.”

“No, dear,” said May, “I’m very sorry, but we must face it. I don’t
understand about your work at all. I’m not the least artistic. If you
are pleased, I am pleased; but when you are not pleased, I can’t help
you. Mr. Manvers could; for that I am sorry he has gone.”

“Don’t you like him?” asked Tom.

May was silent a moment.

“Tom, you won’t be angry with me, will you,” she said at length,
“because I am going to say something which I have had on my mind for a
long time, and which I think I had better say. It is this. Do you think
it is right for you to see much of him, to know him, to be at all
intimate with him? Oh, Tom, he is not a good man! I don’t know about his
life, and you probably do; but I am sure of that. He has no better aim
in life than the success of his own wits. He has a bad effect on you. He
makes you think lightly of things which are more important than anything
else. Oh, I’ve got such a lot to say to you!”

Tom smiled.

“Say it, darling.”

May sat up and played rather nervously with her rings.

“And when you stick in your work, Tom,” she went on, “do you think it is
well to stimulate yourself in the sort of way you mention? You know you
aim at the best, and all that is good comes from one quarter. Do you
ever go there for help?”

“You mean, do I pray?”

“Yes, Tom.”

Tom got up and walked up and down the room.

“It is like this,” he said: “I believe in God, and I believe in good,
but I also believe in things like laws of nature, and if God created all
things, He created them. He has given me a brain which works in
obedience to certain laws, and nothing in the world can alter them. We
know a little about the brain, at least by experience we find that
certain things stimulate it; it works best when it is keen and eager,
and I use those things to make it keen and eager which I have found by
experience do so. No, when I stick in my work, I don’t pray.”

“But that is the essence of good work,” said May; “it is that which
makes it good--the fact that it is done in a spirit of dedication.”

“But, do you then think that a good man, in so far as he is good and
dedicates his work to God, necessarily produces good work?” asked Tom.

“I mean that a man who has a gift in any line, uses his gift best and
produces more beautiful things if he dedicates it. Why, Tom, look at the
difference between your things and Mr. Manvers’. I think he is not a
good man, and I think his things are not good for that reason.”

Tom sat down again.

“It all depends on what you mean by good and bad work,” he said. “I
think the object of a beautiful thing is only to be beautiful, and I
think his things are bad because they are ugly--at least, they seem to
me ugly.”

“But the object of all beauty is to bring us nearer God,” said May.

“Yet a work of art which arouses religious emotions is not a better work
of art than one which does not. Otherwise, a chromo-lithograph of the
Sistine Madonna would be a better work of art than that terrible
splendid Salome in the Louvre.”

“I think Mr. Manvers’ things are immoral,” said May.

“You don’t understand, dear,” he said. “His things, so I think, are bad
because he has a debased taste. It is his artistic sense that is warped,
and it is that which shows in his work, and not his character. Besides,
I think you are not fair to him, May.”

“Oh, but, Tom,” she said, with indignation in her voice, “think of his
life, that life among those Paris artists, that horrible vice, and
carelessness of living.”

Tom smiled.

“Where did you learn about the life of Paris artists?” he asked.
“Manvers says they are most inoffensive little people as a rule.”

“I read all about it in ‘David Grieve,’” said May seriously. “It is
horrible.”

This time he laughed right out.

“Oh, May, you are a darling!” he said. “Oh dear, how funny! I’m so sorry
for laughing; but really it is funny. Have you ever heard Manvers talk
about that? He becomes quite virtuous and indignant over it. I don’t
know much about Paris life myself, I was only there a month or two, but
Manvers--he does not strike you as being very like David Grieve in
Paris, does he?”

May joined in Tom’s laugh, but grew serious again.

“You know I feel about it very deeply,” she said; “there is nothing in
the world I feel about so much. I think it is our first duty not to
condone by word or deed what one knows is bad. To let people see that
one will not tolerate it, to fight against it, to--to show that one
loathes it.”

“Do you mean you want me never to see Manvers again?” asked Tom.

“No, not that,” said May, “because you know him well, and he is very
fond of you, and I think you do him good. But couldn’t you do him more
good? Couldn’t you talk to him about it, and bear your testimony?”

“No, dear,” said Tom, quietly, “I couldn’t possibly. It is not my
business. I know Manvers as a friend, as an excellent companion, as a
most amusing fellow. Why, May, he would think I was mad. Men do not talk
to each other about such things.”

“But surely it is our business,” said May. “Tom, you don’t think me
tiresome, do you?”

Tom smiled, and took up her hand again.

“My darling, I happen to love you,” he said, “and it does not occur to
one to think a person one loves tiresome.”

May went on with gathering earnestness.

“Surely it is our business,” she said. “You believe in God, you believe
in Christ, in His infinite love, His infinite care for all. Surely it is
your first business to help in His work. I remember what you told me
about that early celebration you went to. It completed my happiness: it
was that I was waiting for, and I thank God for it day and night. I
longed to see you more and talk about it, but you went up to London so
soon after, and I have scarcely seen you since.”

Tom’s eyebrows contracted. It was impossible for him to let May be
deceived, but what he had to do was a bitter thing. May’s eyes were
fixed on his, full of love and trust, but with a question in them, a
desire to be confirmed in what she had said.

“May, I am going to hurt you,” he said, looking away, “but I cannot help
it; I cannot let you think something about me which is not true. I think
I over-rated that--I mean that I thought more of it than it really meant
to me. The day before I was in agonies of anxiety and fear for you, and
that afternoon Ted and I met the funeral of a mother who had just died
in child-bed, and on my way home, as I told you, I went into the church
and prayed to an unknown God that you might be safe. I could not bear it
alone. And then next morning I could not bear my joy alone. I had--I was
obliged to thank some one for it, the some one who had heard my prayer
the evening before. And now the whole thing has faded a little. I am
less sure. I do not deny that God heard my prayer, and stretched out His
hand to save you, but it is less real to me. Supposing you had died,
should I have denied absolutely the existence of God? I hope not. Then
why should I affirm it because you lived?”

Tom’s voice had sunk lower and lower, and he ended in a whisper. But
May’s hand still lay in his, and she pressed it tenderly.

“Tom, why were you afraid to tell me?” she said. “Ah, my dear, I should
be a very weak, poor creature if this separated me at all from you, or
made me doubt you. What did you think of me? Of course I am sorry, and
yet I am hardly sorry. Am I to dictate to God by what way He shall lead
you? He has not led you that way, it was not good. Tom, Tom!”

She bent forward and kissed him, her arm was pressed round his neck, and
her head lay on his breast. As once before, on the evening when they
reached Applethorpe before the baby’s birth, human love and longing had
full possession of her; and as she lay there, she felt only that she
loved him. And Tom too was content.

But good moments pass as well as bad ones, and the sense that May lived
in a different world to him could not but come back again and again to
Tom. He could not but feel that there was a passion in her life in which
he had no share, and that passion was the strongest she knew. He had
tried to grasp it; once he thought he had grasped it, but he was wrong.
He was as honest to himself as he was to others, and he admitted that he
did not believe in God in the way he believed in May or in Art. The life
of Christ was beautiful beyond all other lives, but was it different in
kind from the lives of noble unselfish men? Was Christ anything more
than the most wonderful, the most unselfish man that the world has ever
seen? And from the fact that he could ask himself these questions, Tom
knew that he was not convinced. It was just this that was the most
essential part of May’s life; her love and tenderness for him and others
sprang from that, whereas Tom felt that all that was good in him did not
descend from above, but grew up from below.

May was certainly less conscious of this than he. She, so to speak, was
waiting for him to come, believing fully he would, while he was
struggling towards her, afraid that his efforts were futile. The least
he could do, he felt, and the most, was to avoid letting her know that
he was so conscious of the gulf between them. He loved her, he thought,
more and more as the days went by, and it should be easy to stifle that
little ounce of bitter where all else was so sweet. So long as she loved
him, he felt that it would be well with him.

Meantime the London season danced and laughed round them; the clay model
of Demeter was finished and was to be put in the pointer’s hands at
once. May produced a slight stir in a small circle, because she was
beautiful, and there is quite an appreciable number of men who prefer
that a woman should not talk much, because, as is very justly remarked,
if everybody talked much, nobody would have any audience to address. She
was always courteous, she always looked admirable, and the general
opinion was that Tom had “done himself” uncommonly well.

Moreover--and this was particularly interesting, because it was never
spoken above a whisper--Miss Wrexham was not looking at all well, and
there really must have been something in what every one was saying last
year. Very sad for her, was it not? but a girl has no business to go
about looking pale; of course that set every one talking, and a little
rouge, you know, would both conceal the pallor and mitigate the blush.
Oh yes, it happened many times; only last night, in fact, when we were
dining there, Tom Carlingford’s name came up and she blushed--several
people saw her. And she wasn’t at Ascot, nor was he, and that is quite
conclusive. And besides, her going to Athens was so very extraordinary.
Oh, she had a brother there, had she? We hadn’t heard that, and we shall
probably forget it again.

Maud, it must be confessed, did not enjoy herself very much that season.
In the natural course of things she met Tom often, and the task of
unbuilding that most uncompromising blank wall seemed too disheartening.
Every time she saw him she felt that things were getting more and more
difficult. What made it worse was that May had unthawed to her, and
often asked her to come out with her. May out of the fulness of her
heart constantly spoke of Tom, and talking about Tom was rather
emotional work for poor Maud. That terrible evening before Manvers went
away had taken her and thrust her back into all her old hopelessness and
blankness. “After all, what good to strive with a life awry?” she asked
herself, and then because she was pure and good and sweet, she strove
and strove till her strength began to give way. If only Tom would leave
London, she thought, or if only she could, things would be more
possible.

A little scene which had occurred long before, often came back to her
during these weeks. One day at their house in Cornwall, she was walking
early before breakfast along a narrow country lane. She could almost
smell again that sweet intangible scent of morning, the smell of clean
things. Now and then a whiff of dogrose crossed her, and now and then a
breeze which had blown through a gorse bush came over her face. At the
lodge gate she had spoken to the old keeper’s wife, whose son had got
into trouble. The poor old lady was rather tearful about it, and said:
“Lor, miss, if we were good how happy we should be!” She had repeated
the remark once to Manvers, who said he thought the old woman had got
hold of the wrong end of the stick, and that she would have spoken more
truthfully if she had said, “If we were happy, how good we should be!”

How extraordinarily happy she had been that morning! The whole world had
seemed so clean and fresh and wholesome, so delightfully straightforward
and uncomplicated. If only she could get back that feeling, just for a
moment, she thought she would be rested and ready to begin again. In the
old days nothing had seemed hard, nothing out of reach, nothing
perplexing. And now her life was spoiled.

One evening early in June she was having tea with May, longing for Tom
to come in, dreading that he would come. May had sent for the baby, and
he was sitting on his mother’s knee regarding his toes, which apparently
seemed to him very wonderful inventions and quite original, and his
mother was taking a sympathetic interest in his discoveries. Maud, who
had been quite fascinating to the infant mind till he found out about
his toes, had been thrown over, and as May’s attention was riveted on
her son, she felt just a little out of it. Suddenly May looked up.

“Just fancy,” she said, “this little mite is our own, Tom’s and mine: I
never get quite used to that fact. Yes, darling”--she turned her
attention to the baby--“how pretty, and that’s all yours. Oh, you
angel!”

Maud felt her breath catch in her throat, and on the moment the door
opened and Tom came in.

“Baby-cult as usual,” he said. “How are you, Maud?”

Maud could not quite command her voice, but she murmured something.

“That surprising infant usurps far too much of May’s time,” continued
he. “May will never quite recognize that one baby is rather like another
baby.”

May bent over the little sparsely be-haired head.

“What an unnatural papa he’s got!” she said; “he says you’re like other
babies. You know quite well, and so does he, that there never was a baby
like you, and never will be!”

Tom’s pleasant soul sat laughing in his eyes as he answered her.

“Mothers are said to be biassed in favour of their own young; never you
believe that, my boy.”

Then he turned to Maud.

“May’s manners are cast to the winds when His Smallness is present,” he
said; “she won’t attend to either of us, so we’ll attend to each other.
Are you going to the Levesons’ to-morrow? I hear they are going to be
very smart, and that it’s a case of red carpet. May, I must smoke a
cigarette. I don’t care whether it’s the drawing-room or not.”

“And fill the room with horrid, horrid smoke,” said May to her son.

“I hardly know,” said Maud; “I’ve been overdoing it lately, and I think
I shall go into my shell again for a bit. Wouldn’t it be nice to have a
real shell, and curl yourself up in the middle of a dinner-party if you
were bored.”

“I shall order one,” said Tom, thoughtfully. “You do look rather tired.
Where are you going to put your shell? If I were you I should leave
London for a week. It would be so original. You would of course let it
be known that you were going to read ‘Sordello.’ ‘Sordello’ is the
fashion now, I think. Of course nobody has read it and that’s why they
talk about it. No one talks about a thing they really have read.”

“That has a slight flavour of Mr. Manvers,” remarked May.

“Manvers has such a pungent flavour, that one really can’t help catching
a little of it, if one sees him at all,” said Tom. “But I wasn’t
consciously Manveresque--I suppose he’s in Paris, associating with all
the good dead Americans.”

May smiled.

“And now mammy’s going to take him upstairs,” she said, and left the
room.

Tom poured himself out a cup of tea.

“Please talk nonsense to me,” he said; “I’ve been seeing Wallingthorpe,
and--and of course he’s a delightful man, but he is so serious. He takes
everybody and everything seriously, including himself. That is so clever
of him--and the worst of it is he keeps it up. He is always clever. How
tiring he must find it!”

Maud laughed, but the laugh ended abruptly.

“Talk nonsense!” she said; “I have forgotten how. Oh, Tom, the world is
a very serious place!”

Tom raised his eyebrows.

“When did you find that out?” he asked.

“I? Oh, ever so long ago!” she said rather wildly “If you take it
lightly and pleasantly, it turns round on you somehow, and deals you
sudden back-handed blows. I don’t know why I am saying all this.”

“Hit it back,” suggested Tom. “It deals blows back-handed possibly, but
it caresses you back-handed too.”

Maud put on her gloves, and fitted her fingers carefully.

“I am out of sorts,” she said; “the world is grievously awry.”

“What’s the matter?”

“I am the matter. It’s nobody else. But what is one to do?”

Maud knew she was being unwise. She knew perfectly well that she would
be sorry for this, but the hope that Tom might understand seemed to her
the only thing worth caring for, and at the same time the one thing in
all the world which she dreaded. She was afraid, desperately afraid, of
saying too much, but she could not help herself. “Why will not he
understand?” she thought, “and God forbid that he should.” But Tom was
in a thoroughly superficial mood. He said to himself that Maud was out
of sorts, that she was overtired and worried.

“Man disquieteth himself in vain,” he said. “It is best to take living
very lightly. We all of us have something we want to do or be, and
cannot do or be it. We are wise if we let it alone. There is much I want
to do and be, and cannot manage it, and every one is in the same plight.
After all, if we aim at being contented, that is enough.”

Maud got up.

“Aim at being contented? Aim at being in Heaven! We have to remember
that we are on earth.”

Tom rose too.

“What is the matter?” he said; “do tell me.”

Again Maud felt stifled and choking.

“One is a creature of moods,” she said, “and the heavy moods come, as
well as the light. Just now I have a heavy mood. By the way, I shall
follow your advice. I am rather overdone, and I shall leave London for a
time. I shall not say I am reading ‘Sordello.’ I think I shall say I am
reading the Bible--it is the better book. I shall go before the end of
the week: at present I am going now. Give my adieux to your wife. She is
more charming than ever!”

But at this moment May came in, and Maud gave her adieux in person. Tom
was vaguely puzzled.

“It’s very sudden,” he said. “Are you going really?”

“Certainly,” said Maud; “I really am going--I am going away for a whole
fortnight. I want tone, and there is no such thing in London.”

Tom laughed.

“I am inclined to agree with you,” he said.

“Well, good-bye,” said Maud; “good-bye, May--that fascinating child is
quite too fascinating.”

May sat still a moment after she had gone. “What is the matter with
her?” she asked; “what have you been saying, Tom? I never saw her like
that.”

“Nor have I,” said he. “I have said nothing. I have no idea what is the
matter with her.”

Maud stood on the doorstep, and looked to see if the carriage was in
sight, and finding it not there, remembered that her mother had “worked
it in,” and began to walk home. But she felt hopelessly ill and weak,
and told the man to fetch her a hansom. “O God! how tired I am of it
all!” she said to herself.



CHAPTER XV.


It is probably true that when things are at their worst they begin to
mend, but the little complications common to man sometimes exhibit a
ghastly ingenuity of contrivance before that most desirable point is
reached. As Manvers said, we are wonderful creatures, and beautifully
adapted for bearing things. But Nature has been merciful enough to give
most of us a weak point, and when the weak point is touched we are
privileged to break down.

Maud, whose moral nature was very robust, was not physically strong, and
that night she fainted incontinently in the middle of dinner. The doctor
came--a doctor whose words were literally words of gold--and said,
worry, overstrain, change of air, out of doors, sunshine; and Maud’s
determination to leave London was made easy for her.

Lady Ramsden had managed to survive her husband, and was continuing to
enjoy unagitated widowhood and her usual ill-health in her house on the
Norfolk coast. She had grown a little stouter, a shade duller, and a
trifle more monosyllabic, but otherwise time seemed to have let her be.
She replied to Lady Chatham’s letter that she would be delighted to see
Maud, but that her health was indifferent, and that Maud would probably
be rather lonely. But if she wanted sea air and sunshine, she could not
do better than come. She would be charmed to have her, and would she say
the day and hour of her arrival, and whether she was going to bring a
maid.

Lady Ramsden’s house stood on the edge of the short-turfed Norfolk
Downs, within a hundred yards of the sea. The sand-cliffs, nibbled off
short by the waves, rose some thirty feet from the beach, and the grass,
fine and smooth, covered them to the edge, fitting their mounds and
hollows so exactly that they looked as if they had been measured for a
green baize billiard cloth. A mile to the north the red-roofed little
town of Cromer went trooping down to the shore, with its tall grave
tower seeming to confer an air of safety to the whole, but not checking
a terrible tendency in the town to run to seed, as it were, on all sides
in rows of jerry-built villas. But at this time of the year the villas
were still unoccupied for the most part, and the town was a fishing
village once more.

Maud arrived in the afternoon, and she drew in long breaths of the fresh
sea air with a sense of relief, of struggle over. She was tired and
overdone--tired of life, of worry, of sensation, and she thought that
here perhaps she could stay still, being cut off from any thought of
agitating impossibilities, of fruitless self-restraint, and of thrice
fruitless desires. There was an air of complete, contented repose about
the big landscape and the wide flat sea. The tide was up, and the sea
looked full and prosperous. Little curling ripples washed up over the
sand, and now and then one more energetic than its fellows thrust out a
sharp tongue to the very base of the sandy cliffs and then drew back
again with a louder murmur of content.

Round the house were rambling, uneven lawns, only half broken in, as it
were, and retaining something of the freedom of the grass-clad
sandhills, and a satisfying medley of flower-beds, full of great hardy
plants which cared nothing for the brisk salt air--nasturtiums, great
flaring double poppies, the velvet tassels of love-lies-a-bleeding, and
thick-leaved stone-crops. Sturdy health seemed the key-note of the
place.

At tea she saw Lady Ramsden, who strove to convey to her that she was
glad to see her, and that her niece was also staying with her--her
coming had been very sudden and upsetting--but that she had gone over to
Cromer for a tennis party, and would be back before dinner, and as soon
as tea was over Maud went out again and struck for the edge of the sandy
cliffs.

Ah! the relief of getting away from London, away from the possibility of
seeing Tom, from the possibility of torturing herself, of leading
herself into temptation. Surely it was possible here, with this great
shining sea on one side, and the firm landscape on the other, to regain
her belief in serenity, to recapture an uncomplicated outlook.

She took off her hat, and let the bracing air from the sea blow her hair
about. A mile off shore the little fleet of herring-boats were tacking
with full, stiff sails down the coast to begin their strange adventure
of casting nets into that shifting immensity beneath the deep fathomless
sky above the deep fathomless sea. How did morning look to them as it
broke in thin red lines on the horizon? How interesting it would be to
be able to see the world just for a moment with other eyes, to be rid
for one deep-drawn breath of the weight of one’s own stale identity! It
was in that direction her salvation lay. She meant to cease focussing
her eyes on her own microscopic troubles, to gain a wider outlook. How
much more attainable such an idea seemed here, where there was some
breadth of vision, and a horizon not bounded by house-roofs! London was
a mere warren, full of silly gossiping rabbits. You could never see
beyond the street corner, nor through the smoke.

The light in the west flamed and paled, and Maud began to retrace her
steps. She felt better already. Oh, how right Miss Vanderbilt had been
about the seat of the emotions! She would dose herself with sea air, she
would bathe herself in sun and sea, she would get back her old serenity,
her interest in things, her uncomplicated outlook. How pretty the house
looked, standing out against the still ruddy sky, with the lights in its
windows! There was some one standing in the porch--a girl. It must be
Lady Ramsden’s niece. Maud felt quite pleased to have a companion. They
would walk and ride and bathe together. Lady Ramsden’s niece--on which
side, Carlingford or Ramsden?

The door was opened just before Maud got up to it, and the girl was
standing by the lamp in the hall, opening a note when she entered. As
she looked at her Maud’s heart suddenly stood still, and then jumped up
into her throat, poised and hammering. There was no need to ask on which
side she was Lady Ramsden’s niece, for as Maud came in she turned, and
for a moment--it came on her like a horrible dream--she almost thought
she stood face to face with Tom himself.

The girl looked up with that little raising of the eyebrows which Maud
had so often seen in Tom, and greeted her.

“You are surely Miss Wrexham, are you not?” she said, coming forward
with boyish frankness. “It is too delightful to meet you. I think you
know my cousin Tom? You have had tea? Yes? I wonder where my aunt is.”

Violet Carlingford led the way to the drawing-room, where Lady Ramsden
was lying on a sofa by a carefully shaded lamp. Her wheezy asthmatic pug
lay snoring at her feet. She looked the incarnation of incompetence.

“So you have met,” she said, “and introduced yourselves.”

Violet laughed.

“I don’t think we introduced ourselves much,” she said. “I said, ‘Aren’t
you Miss Wrexham?’ How are you, aunty?”

“Not very well, dear,” she said; “and Flo isn’t very well either. Listen
to her breathing.”

Violet smiled, and two dimples came into her face. They were hardly so
deep as Tom’s, but in exactly the same place.

“There’s no need to listen,” she said.

“I shall not come to dinner,” went on Lady Ramsden in a thin voice. “You
two will dine alone. What time do you like dinner, Maud? We usually have
it at eight. Will that suit you? Oh yes; and what is your maid’s name?”

Lady Ramsden got the bell rung for her, and got herself taken out of the
room. The pug was hoisted on to a velvet cushion and was carried before
her. In such manner did the Greeks carry the emblems of their gods
before their images.

As Maud looked at Violet she saw that the likeness was even more
extraordinary, and went deeper than she had noticed at first. Violet
could hardly have been more than twenty, and her features were still
unsexed. She was tall for a girl, and slightly built, and her walk and
way of sitting, or rather lolling, as she was lolling now, reminded Maud
exactly of what Tom had been when he came to stay with them once while
he was at Eton, and sat laughing and talking with them all at the end of
five minutes as naturally as if he had known them all his life. She had
Tom’s short square-tipped nose, his clear, open, brown eyes, with long
fine eyelashes and thin straight eyebrows. Her mouth, like his, was
rather full-lipped, and often even when she was not speaking the white
of her teeth showed between the lips in a straight narrow line. But her
manner was even more fundamentally his. She had Tom’s trick of wrinkling
his nose up slightly when he was amused, of putting his head slightly on
one side when he was listening or considering, and in speaking of just
perceptibly slurring his r’s, of separating his words one from the other
more like a foreigner with a perfect command of English than an
Englishman.

Violet strolled about the room just as he did, putting a book or two
straight, and making a little face at the pug’s saucer of tea with cream
in it which lay untasted in the corner. Violet disliked that pug; he was
fat, lazy, wheezy, and selfish, and she gave Maud a little sketch of
his character. Soon she sat down near her and began on more personal
topics.

“It is delightful to have you here,” she said. “I hope we shall make
great friends. I always want to be doing something all day, and if you
like playing golf and tennis, and bathing and riding, I’m sure we shall
get on.”

Maud was leaning back in her chair, feeling somehow unaccountably shy.

“I was quite startled when I came in,” she said; “you are so
extraordinarily like your cousin.”

Violet crossed one leg over the other and clasped her hands behind her
head.

“I haven’t seen Tom for an age,” she said; “but when we were younger we
were exactly alike. Tom--it was wicked of him--once dressed up in a
skirt and cloak, and hat of mine, and went into my mother’s room and
asked if she wanted anything in the town as he was going there with the
governess. My mother gave him all sorts of feminine commissions and
never suspected him till he burst out laughing. His mother and mine were
sisters, and our fathers brothers, you know. Has he changed much?”

“He is still exactly like you,” said Maud, who was beginning to feel
more at her ease.

“Tom’s getting quite famous, isn’t he?” the girl went on. “That will
serve to differentiate us. And he’s got a baby. How funny it seems! We
always said he would never grow up.”

“He hasn’t grown up much,” said Maud. “He is just like a boy still in
many ways.”

“It’s such a pity one has to get older,” remarked Violet. “I’m sure I
shall never enjoy myself so much when I am old, and I shall get stuffy
and think about complications and worries. At present I never worry.”

Maud smiled.

“I am afraid I must be getting old,” she said; “in fact, I came here in
order to forget complications and worries.”

Violet sat up with an air of surprise.

“Oh, please don’t worry,” she said, “or you will spoil it all. And we
can have such a charming time if we like.”

Maud rose.

“I will do my best to worry no more,” she said. “And will you help me?”

Her voice had a wonderful sweetness and tenderness about it. Violet got
up too and stood close to her.

“Why, that’s charming of you,” she said. “I don’t think I could ever
help anybody; but I will promise never to worry, if that is any use,
Miss Wrexham.”

“The utmost use,” said Maud; “and I am not Miss Wrexham. I have left
Miss Wrexham in London. I have done with her. May you never see her: she
is a wicked little fool.”

“Well, Maud, then,” said the girl.

Maud woke next morning slowly and blissfully, conscious of a new
interest in life, of a step taken. To be quit of London and all its fuss
and worry was the step taken, but the new interest was the more vital of
the two.

She and Violet had sat up late the night before talking, and Maud found
something exquisitely sweet in being able to look at almost a facsimile
of all that had made life bitter to her, to be able to talk and almost
hear Tom answering, to be able to see his eyes looking into hers with
affection and tenderness. For Maud had told Violet, without of course
mentioning the name, the story of her worry and break-down; that she had
loved a man and that he had married another, and that the desire of
meeting him and the strain of doing so had made London unbearable and
had affected her health.

Maud was one of those people who do not often make friends of their own
sex, and the relief merely of telling some one about it was great. But
when she felt she was almost telling it to Tom, as Violet sat opposite
her, the bitterness and struggle she had been enduring so many months
seemed quenched at last. Already her perplexities seemed capable of a
solution which she could not have anticipated.

And the new interest was Violet. She felt as if Manvers had been wrong
when he remarked cynically that Nature did not happen to have given us
two people to love in case one got married. She felt as if she had
almost cheated Fate, as if a substitute had been provided for her to
love. “I shall be with her all day,” thought Maud, as she watched her
maid moving about the room, “and I must, I will make her fond of me. If
I can do that I shall feel as if at last Tom cared.”

Indeed this seemed no very hard task. Maud had a great power of
attraction when she cared to attract, and she had already won Violet’s
heart by her confidence of the night before. There is nothing so
exquisite as to feel that one is trusted.

The friendship a man may have for a man, or a woman for a woman, is
often closer and more intimate than even between husband and wife.
However close a man may be to a woman, there still stands between them
the barrier of sex, which no one has yet succeeded in annihilating.
Members of two different sexes must look at things with different eyes,
and the attempt of the woman to become like the man seems only to
emphasize the difference. Certainly Violet could do for Maud what no man
could possibly do. A girl can say to a girl what no wife could say to
her husband, for there are certain things a man can never understand,
simply because he is not a woman, nor a woman because she is a woman.

It would have been impossible for Maud to tell the story of her trouble
to any one but a girl, and it seemed to her that the very telling of it
had taken away half its burden. And the burden removed, her body was
able to recuperate itself, for when the body is hurt through the soul it
cannot be cured until the soul is convalescent. Living all day in the
open air drinking in the fresh saltness of the sea, returning to the
first principles of healing, began to have their legitimate effect. And
if the air was bracing, Violet was still more bracing. The convalescence
of her body and soul kept pace with each other.

They had been playing tennis one morning, and had gone down to bathe
afterwards, and the two were sitting on the edge of the beach, Violet
with her hat off trying to persuade her hair to behave reasonably. Maud
had already dried hers and was absorbed in attempting to hit the pug,
who had accompanied them down to the sea, but absolutely refused to
wash, with small pebbles and shells.

“I hate that dog,” remarked Violet. “I wish you could hit it.”

“I wish I could,” said Maud. “There! No, it went over it.”

“I think I can forgive any one anything,” said Violet, “except laziness
and want of interest. Not to be interested in things, not to be
thoroughly alive, is the only unpardonable sin.”

“I’ve been sinning unpardonably for the last six months. What a fool I
have been making of myself!”

Violet wrinkled her nose.

“You poor darling! I didn’t refer to you. All the same it was foolish of
you.”

“But the world is so hard,” said Maud.

Violet held up a forefinger warningly.

“Now you know that is one of the things you are not allowed to say. How
old are you?”

“Twenty-five.”

“For how many years did you say you had been completely happy?”

“Twenty-three and a half.”

Violet flicked the warm sea-scented air with the end of her towel.

“Well, then, I should be ashamed, Maud, I should be ashamed, especially
when you know you are beginning to be happy again.”

“That’s your doing.”

“We are talking about you, not me”--Violet’s voice came out of the
middle of the towel--“and you’ll please keep to the subject. Just fancy
my ever being good for anybody. How funny it seems!”

Maud lay back on her rug tilting her hat over her eyes.

“It’s a very nice, warm, kind world just now,” she added; “but oh,
Violet, will it last? Man is a creature of moods, especially woman!”

“Especially you, you mean. I never had a mood in my life.”

“But what would you do supposing something went wrong, supposing
something happened to you like what happened to me?”

“I should send for you to come and stay with me at Aunt Julia’s,” said
Violet, “and I should throw pebbles at that loathsome dog, and I should
hit it too.”

Violet’s towel flapped through the air and descended on Flo’s head.

Maud laughed as the dog got up, shook herself free of the towel, and
then lay down pathetically on the top of it.

“But seriously,” she went on, “if you wanted something very badly and
couldn’t get it, what would you do?”

Violet rescued the towel and resumed her seat.

“I haven’t got many wants, you know,” she said, “so I can’t tell. But I
hope I should be reasonable. I hope I should make a real effort to cease
to want it. And then, you know, one gets over things; it takes time, no
doubt, but everything worth doing takes time.”

“Ah, but that’s so terrible,” said Maud. “It just shows how limited we
are. If we were only stronger we should never get used to being without
the things we want. It is because we are weak and feeble that we begin
to forget. I want to know how we are to be strong and yet to forget.”

Violet stared absently at the sea.

“I understand what you mean,” she said, “but I think you are wrong.
After all we are human; we can’t get over that; and I think the woman
who can’t make an effort to forget, who goes on nursing her sorrow, is
feebler than the one who can. Of course time helps both. Oh yes, of
course I am right. I am very old-fashioned, you know. I don’t care about
dissecting myself and analyzing my tendencies, and thinking about
limitations and aspirations. It seems to me that if you are
inexperienced as I am you may kill yourself, as it were, in your
analysis, or blind yourself altogether by peering too closely.”

“Go on,” said Maud, “you are so healthy.”

Violet turned to her and lay down close beside her.

“Yes, I want to be healthy anyhow,” she said, “and that is the main
point. I think the way people dissect their own morbid selves, and put
themselves in three-volumed pickle-jars, so to speak, for their friends
to look at, is simply indecent. If you have a decayed tooth you don’t
show it to all your friends and say, ‘It is much worse since last week’;
you go to the dentist and have it stopped.”

“You dear dentist,” said Maud, “I’m so glad I came to you!”

“To tell yourself that life is hard and complicated,” continued Violet,
“is to make it so, because one always believes one’s self. To say that
it is simple simplifies it. Of course some people like it complicated,
and so I suppose they are right to tell themselves that it is. But to
tell yourself that it is complicated, and then be sorry for it, is
foolishness.”

“I hate complications,” said Maud. “I hate them as much as you hate that
pug. But supposing you find simple things dull; at least, supposing
after your complications you find the simple things which you liked
before bore you? Complications change one, you know.”

“I don’t know,” remarked Violet. “Do you mean that you are bored with
this place?”

“I mean nothing of the sort,” said Maud. “I was only speculating. And
the bell for lunch went ten minutes ago.”

“The simplest lunch wouldn’t bore me to-day,” said Violet.

“Nor me.”

Violet whistled to the pug and stood for a moment with her head a little
on one side looking at him disgustedly.

“You are most astonishingly like Tom,” said Maud; “he looked just like
that when he was examining Mr. Manvers’ statuette.”

“And how did Mr. Manvers look when he looked at Tom’s statue?” she
asked.

“He looked as the pug looks--rather hurt, but able to do without Tom’s
appreciation.”

“How utterly different they must be!”

“All the difference in the world,” said Maud. Then to herself: “One is
the man who loves me, the other”--she pulled herself up--“the man I used
to love.”



CHAPTER XVI.


May was driving home one afternoon towards the end of June with a sense
of great well-being. The baby was thriving as heartily as the fondest
mother could wish, and Tom was as lovable as ever. He had got rather
tired of going out to dine or dance, and of late had more frequently
spent his evenings alone with May. Two days before he saw her opening a
note which obviously was an invitation, and before she had read it he
said--

“May, if that is for dinner any time in the next week, I am engaged to
dine with you at home.”

His guess had been correct, and they were going to spend this evening
alone at home. There were always certain pieces of ritual connected with
baby cult to be gone through, and though Tom expressed impatience
sometimes at the length of the services, he knew that the sight of May
bending over their first-born was a very pretty one, and often wished he
were a painter as well as a sculptor. Demeter had passed through the
hands of the pointers, and Tom was at work again on her, for he meant to
finish her himself. Day after day he spent, chisel in hand, working down
the whole surface, till he “found” the statue. Various people,
remembering the two statuettes which Tom had exhibited eighteen months
ago, wanted to know if there were any more to be had, for the two had
sold at once for high prices, though Tom had, after his conversion,
expressed an unmercenary intention of throwing the cheques into the
fire. But when they asked whether he was working at anything, and were
shown the Demeter, they became thoughtful and said, “Good morning.”

Altogether May was more than satisfied, and she went quickly up the
steps and into the house, thinking how terrible it was that she had not
set eyes on Tom or the baby since half-past eleven that morning. There
was a note for her on the hall table, and she saw with a sudden spasm of
anxiety that it was from her husband. She tore it open quickly, and
read--

“Father’s business has failed. He heard this morning, and he has had a
stroke. I have gone down there at once. You had better follow me.”

May read the note through twice before she thoroughly grasped its
meaning. She waited only one moment to steady herself, and then went
quickly upstairs to give orders for a small trunk to be packed for her,
and to say good-bye to the baby.

Tom had received the news just after lunch, and was quite unable to
remember where May had gone. She had come in to tell him that she would
not be in till six, and that she was lunching somewhere, and then going
somewhere else, but Tom was finishing a vein on the back of Demeter’s
drooping hand, and had only said, “Yes, dear, yes,” without looking up.
May felt one moment of slight pique, and had not repeated her message,
saying to herself that if he did not care to know she did not care to
tell him.

He had arrived at Applethorpe two hours afterwards, and there learned
that there was probably no hope. His father was lying quite unconscious.
They thought perhaps he might rally for a few minutes before the end,
and so Tom sat and waited. The sun moved slowly round to the west, and
it was not till the golden light had begun to be tinged with red that
his father moved. He opened his eyes, saw Tom sitting by him, and
snapped his fingers in the face of the King of Terrors.

“I’m stone broke, Tom,” he said, “and it’s lucky for you that you
learned to break stones.”

And with a jest on his lips he went out without hope or fear into the
Valley of the Shadow.

The suddenness of what had happened for a time stunned and obliterated
thought in Tom’s mind. Though his father was old, no blurring decay had
touched him with forewarning hand, and it was in a half-dream that Tom
went down from the death chamber into the library. The telegram which
announced the failure had fluttered down on to the floor, and the warm
garden-scented breeze which streamed in through the open window stirred
it every now and then as if it was twitched by some unseen hand. The
book his father had been reading was still standing open on the desk of
his reading-chair, where he had been sitting when the news came.

Everything was pitilessly unchanged. The servants had come in to draw
down the blinds, but Tom stopped them. What was the use of that
unmeaning decorum? Tom had been very fond of his father, but the thought
of May and the baby could not but make a picture in his mind. His
father, like many very rich men, seldom or never spoke of his money, and
Tom wondered vaguely, but with growing anxiety, how complete the smash
was. The delights of poverty, of being out at elbows, and working
passionately for a living at the work he loved, presented themselves in
rather different colours to a man with a wife and infant son, from the
glowing difficulties he had painted for himself as an ardent bachelor of
twenty-two. What if the worst he feared were true--if they were absolute
paupers!

His thoughts went back again to his father lying dead upstairs. Tom
remembered so vividly the last time he had seen him, standing with May
and the baby in the porch when he went up to London. He had taken an
extraordinary interest in the baby, and used to hazard cynical
speculations as to its future. He used to allude to it as Mr. Thomas, in
order to differentiate it from Tom. “Mr. Thomas’s solemnity is
overpowering,” he said once; “he makes me feel as if I was a small boy
talking to a wise old gentleman, or a juvenile offender waiting for an
awful judge to pronounce sentence on me. And he makes me realize what is
meant by rich silences.” Mr. Thomas at the moment broke into his own
rich silence by a very creditable howl, and his grandfather added, “And
mark how opulently he cries.”

Tom met May at the door, and they went together up to the room where his
father lay. He did not tell her what the old man’s last words had been.
They found Mr. Markham waiting for them below when they came down, and
the three talked together till it grew late. He stopped to dinner, and
afterwards, when May had gone to bed, Tom mentioned the subject of the
smash.

Mr. Markham shook his head gravely.

“Do either the London house or Applethorpe belong to you?” he asked.

“No, we rent them both.”

“My poor boy! I am sure I am right in telling you to prepare for the
worst. I remember from a talk I had with your father once, that the
greater part of his money was in this business, and the rest in two
Australian banks which broke last year.”

Tom stood up and frowned.

“He never told me that. He never spoke about money, you know. I had not
an idea of it.”

“He probably thought it was unnecessary, for I believe he had the most
utter confidence in his partners. I have seen the evening papers, and it
appears that there has never been so complete a smash, except perhaps
the Argentines.”

“Have you got the paper?” asked Tom.

“Not with me. But don’t look at the papers about it.”

“Why not?”

“Because there are some very unjust things said about your father. Of
course we all know quite well that he had nothing to do with the
management of the company.”

“What an infernal slander!” said Tom, hotly. “And do you mean you think
I have nothing--literally nothing?”

“It is possible it may mean that.”

“What is to happen to the bills I haven’t paid?” demanded Tom.

“You have a profession,” said Mr. Markham. “Ted told me Wallingthorpe’s
opinion of your work.”

“Ah, those horrors!” said Tom, impatiently. “I shall not earn a penny by
those.”

“But you say you have unpaid bills?”

“Yes, I suppose I have--every one has. Of course they must be paid. The
furniture here belongs to us.”

“That is your father’s. Have you nothing except your income from him?”

“I have £1500 left me by my godmother, and May has £500, has she not?
Eighty pounds a year between us--a ridiculously insignificant sum. But I
have my profession, as you say. I shall work for my living, work for her
and the baby. I long to do that. My God! how I shall work! The Demeter
is nearly finished.”

“Are you doing it for an order?” asked Mr. Markham, tentatively.

“No. Why?”

“My dear Tom, you must be practical. It is a luxury for rich people only
to work six months or a year at a thing if it has no market. I know
nothing about art, but there is a practical point of view, which now you
must take into consideration. Your work is not only the thing you love,
but the thing which has to keep you in bread and cheese.”

“Well, we shall see,” said Tom. “Perhaps we are counting our cobras
before they are hatched. Anyhow, I have now--what I always longed
for--the opportunity to work for May.”

The two stopped at Applethorpe for a fortnight, and before that time was
over they knew exactly how they stood. The smash was complete. A series
of disasters had fallen, and Mr. Carlingford’s fortune of not less than
a quarter of a million had gone. Upwards of £100,000 of this had been in
two Australian banks, in which he held both deposit and shares. These
two banks had failed; he was unable to withdraw his deposit, and there
were heavy calls to be met on his shares. He had known this for some
months, but the money he derived from his £150,000 in the business would
have enabled him to meet these, for he lived considerably below his
income. But for five years or so the business had been managed in a very
different manner from that in which it had been carried on under Mr.
Carlingford. The elder partner had about this time embarked on several
investments, which, though not exactly risky, were not the kind of
venture fit for a steady-going house. These had turned out well; he had
lost his head a little when he saw a six months’ profit safely harvested
in two, and he had been led on--by the prospect of making a fortune by a
few successful _coups_--into speculations which were on the far side of
risky. Luck had been against him, and he had attempted to get back his
losses by even more adventurous means, and it appeared that for two
years Mr. Carlingford’s income had been paid, not out of profits, but
out of capital. Then came the _coup de grâce_. The younger partner had
got into the hands of money-lenders, had sunk deeper and deeper, and
when he found that his own signature was considered valueless, had
signed a note of hand in the name of the house. The father, trying to
shield his son, had speculated wildly in certain South American
securities, and these had failed. Inasmuch as Mr. Carlingford was still
a partner, he was liable for the debts of the house, and it was feared
that even a complete sale of his furniture and stables would hardly
cover his liabilities, even after other stocks and shares which he held
had been disposed of.

To Tom himself nothing remained but the £1500 left him by his godmother,
which could not be touched by his father’s creditors. Against that he
had to set his own outstanding bills, about which he felt unpleasantly
vague. The anxiety he secretly felt he would scarcely confess even to
himself. He had a full belief in his own powers, and it would have been
a faithless thing to doubt them at the very moment when the test was to
be applied. He talked the matter out fully and frankly with May, and if
he had any private anxiety, at any rate she had not.

“We shall be awfully poor, dear,” he said. “I don’t know what there will
be over when our bills are paid, but it won’t be much. Of course we
won’t touch your £500; but we must live on the capital of the other
until I have finished something to sell. I wish to goodness I had paid
all my bills before. But they must be paid now at once. I want to start
fresh.”

“Where shall we live?” asked May.

“Wallingthorpe wrote to me yesterday, and told me of a flat somewhere up
in Bloomsbury, which could be had cheap. It’s up a lot of stairs, but it
has a big room which has a good light for a studio.”

“We had better go at once, hadn’t we?”

“Well, yes. They will be clearing everything out of here in a day or
two, and, of course, we can’t go back to Grosvenor Square.”

May smiled.

“I think it will be rather amusing,” she said, “living in a poky little
house. I suppose it’s healthy, isn’t it?”

“Very, I believe. Manvers said it was rather nice being extraordinarily
poor. I wonder if you will like it. I know I shan’t mind.”

“Tom, I mind nothing with you. You know that, don’t you?”

Tom wrinkled up his nose--a trick he had.

“Well, I didn’t anticipate that you would apply for a separation.”

“Do you know what father suggested? He wanted me to propose to you that
I should bring the baby to the vicarage until things were more settled.”

“Yes. That sounds an excellent plan. I suppose you jumped at it.”

“Tom, you gaby!”

“And what was I to do?”

“You were to make a quantity of little statuettes, and sell them for £80
each. I don’t think he believes in the Demeter.”

Tom went up to London a day or two later to stay with Wallingthorpe, and
superintend the preparations for making the new house habitable, while
May and the baby remained at the vicarage. That artist, it must be
confessed, was in his heart of hearts not at all displeased at Tom’s
sudden change of fortune. He would be driven to do that which he could
not be led to. Wallingthorpe had not a touch of an artist’s proverbial
jealousy. If he saw or suspected talents he did his utmost to foster and
encourage them, and in Tom he suspected something more. The boy’s
persistence in working at his heathen goddess really had filled him with
genuine pain. He ventured to touch on the subject one night when he and
Tom were sitting together after dinner.

“And what will you work at next?” he began. “Your Demeter--that is the
lady’s name, is it not?--is nearly finished, I believe?”

“Yes, she’s ready to be finished. I’m finishing her myself,” said Tom.
“I don’t think you’ve seen her, have you?”

Wallingthorpe closed his eyes piously.

“I’m sure you’ll excuse my saying so, but God forbid! What are you going
to do next?”

“Persephone. She is the daughter who is lost, you know, and Demeter is
looking for her sorrowing. Well, she’ll find her next year, I hope.”

Wallingthorpe made an eloquent gesture expressing despair.

“You wretched boy, you don’t know what you are doing!” he cried. “You
have talents, believe me; you perhaps have genius. You are wasting the
best years of your life and prostituting your gifts. I must force you
to believe it.”

Tom laughed.

“You’d better give it up,” he said. “I am quite hardened.”

“But you’ll starve,” said Wallingthorpe; “you’ve got to think of that.
Life-size blocks of Carrara are not to be had for the asking, and on my
sacred word of honour no one will buy Demeter or her daughter.”

“Well, then, I’ll starve,” said Tom, cheerfully. “But surely it would be
prostituting my gifts if I simply used them to prevent my starving. Eh?”

Wallingthorpe was silent, and Tom continued--

“But, of course, I shan’t starve. Those things ‘don’t happen,’ as Mrs.
Humphry Ward says of miracles. Anyhow, before I starve I shall finish
the Demeter and her daughter, and then my blood will be on the heads of
the British public.”

“You miserable boy!” ejaculated Wallingthorpe again, adjusting the end
of his cigar. “You are an apostate, and in the good old days apostates
were very justly looked down on by Christians and heretics alike. You
have sacrificed to Demeter and Persephone, and all the hierarchy of
Olympus.”

“You may call me apostate on the day I cease to,” said Tom, “and that
will be not just yet.”



CHAPTER XVII.


It must be acknowledged that Tom’s heart had sunk a little when he saw
the flat in Bloomsbury. The thought of May, with her queenly
Madonna-like beauty, moving through the low rooms or sitting by the
small-paned window seemed dreadfully incongruous. But when May came, as
she did a few days later, Tom found that the effect was that the rooms
were glorified.

It was characteristic of him that before settling into his new narrow
house he made a clean sweep of everything which was unnecessary and
marketable. He argued that they had better start with a little capital
rather than a few bibelots, and that a couple of pieces of Dresden china
or a valuable terra-cotta from Tanagra would only look absurdly out of
place among the appurtenances of cheap lodgings. He and May had a small
tussle over a few pictures which old Mr. Carlingford had given him
during his lifetime.

“But they are not good pictures,” argued Tom, “and I don’t in any case
see what we want with them. Besides, it appears that there’s a
half-year’s rent owing for the Grosvenor Square house. No, we must sell
everything, May. I only hope there will be something over. I suppose the
blue blood of all the Carlingfords ought to be up; but as far as I am
concerned it isn’t.”

“I think you might keep a picture or two,” said May.

“My dear May, it’s impossible. I can’t think what we should do if we had
nothing over. But I suppose some one would lend us something.”

May frowned; the idea grated on her.

“We can’t do that, Tom--that’s impossible. Besides, who is there?”

“Perhaps Lady Ramsden might,” said Tom. “She certainly would if it
occurred to her; but I don’t think things occur to her much. But I quite
feel with you about borrowing.”

The outstanding debts when added together made a total which rather
appalled Tom, and it was with some anxiety that he awaited the result of
his sales. The upshot was that they were the possessors of £150 capital.
Tom drew rather a long face when he thought of the rapidity with which
money used to melt in the old days. But Demeter would be finished in a
few weeks.

They had settled in during the first week of July, and as they sat
together after dinner they talked matters over. To both of them it
appeared rather amusing than otherwise to dine off leg of mutton and
rice pudding at the top of a house in Bloomsbury. May, with a view to
being useful, had had an interview with the cook, and retailed it to
Tom.

“We shall have poached eggs for breakfast,” she said, “and at lunch the
rest of the mutton as hash. I think hash is delicious!”

Tom was looking over some figures.

“£151 4_s._ 3_d._ is the exact amount, May,” he said.

“Isn’t that an awful lot?” said May. “Why, Ted used to live on £200 at
Cambridge, I know, and he said it was possible to get on on much less.”

Tom grinned.

“I wonder what I used to spend at Cambridge,” he said. “I wish I had
some of that now.”

May sat down by him.

“Tom, I think it will be great fun,” she said. “I’ve always wanted to
work for my living; and I can help you, can’t I, by seeing the cook and
arranging about hash, and mending things.”

“I shouldn’t mind if it wasn’t for you,” said Tom.

“Oh, but I enjoy it awfully--I do really! And you know, dear, I shall
see more of you. I shan’t have to make any calls, and we shan’t have to
go out to dinner; also I shall mend your socks.”

“I’m glad I followed Wallingthorpe’s advice about one thing,” said Tom,
“and learned how to finish a statue myself. If I hadn’t learned that I
should have had to hire two of those Italian fellows, and that would
have been no end of expense. Six weeks from now will see it done, May.”

It is difficult to realize, unless one has tried it, how hard it is for
a man who has been accustomed to live, if not luxuriously, at least
extremely comfortably, to maintain his cheerfulness when he has to make
every shilling go as far as it can. Tom, who had been always very
extravagant, simply because he had never been obliged to learn the value
of money, was suddenly brought face to face with the widely-known fact
that wanting a thing is not the same as getting it. Neither he nor May
had the least realized what it was to live in an atmosphere of slight
discomfort, to have the smell of dinner steal up an hour before
dinner-time and invade every corner of the house, to be waited upon by a
slatternly girl who breathed very hard and had dirty hands, to sit on
horse-hair sofas, to have a cracked mirror over the fireplace, to be
obliged to consider the relative prices of beef and mutton, and to
banish once and for ever the idea of eating well-cooked food. These
details seem small enough, but when all the details of life are slightly
disagreeable, however trifling each is in itself, they make up an
_ensemble_ which is slightly disagreeable too. Before they lost their
money both Tom and May would have declared that it could not possibly
make any difference to either of them, provided they were together, that
the house should smell of dinner, or that as soon as one castor of the
table was repaired another broke; but even as water will wear away a
stone, these little things wore away the edge of their serenity.

July was broiling hot that year, and day by day the sun baked the studio
where Tom worked till it was like an oven. The blinds of the skylight
were tattered, and rays of light came hotly down as if through a
magnifying glass, making little bright spots on the dingy walls. Tom got
rather exasperated one morning, because in adjusting the blind he had
torn it further, and a long jagged slit of light fell on his face as he
worked. It would have to be mended in the evening, but something must be
done at once, and with a brilliant inspiration he got the blacking-pot
and painted the offending glass with it. Then the brush slipped from his
hand and fell on the top of Demeter’s head, and it took Tom ten minutes
to get a sponge and clean it. It was certainly more comfortable in
Grosvenor Square; but he tried to persuade himself that these things
were details, as indeed they were.

Soon the blacking caked off with the heat of the sun and came filtering
down in tiny flakes, and the gash of light fell down into the studio
again. Tom lost his temper a little, and climbed up again to paste some
paper over it. The paste would not stick at first, and he pressed the
thin glass too hard and a small pane broke. It was only a small pane,
but it had to be mended. Then the smell of food began.

Consequently when the slatternly servant came in to say that lunch was
ready, Tom was not very serene. He said that they must keep the smell of
cooking down; it was only because they forgot to shut a door or open a
window, and it must not occur again. He put on his coat and went fuming
into the dining-room.

“May dear,” he said, “the smell of cooking is quite intolerable. I
should think on these hot days we could do with cold lunch, couldn’t we?
It makes one perfectly sick!”

“I told them to get a rabbit for lunch,” she said. “You know you told me
you were tired of mutton.”

“The studio smelt like a menagerie,” grumbled Tom.

May was a little hurt in her mind. She had hoped Tom would be pleased at
her remembering to get something instead of the mutton, and she was
silent. In a moment Tom spoke again.

“And I’ve broken a pane of glass in the skylight. That blind is torn to
rags. You haven’t been in this morning.”

“I had to take the baby out,” said May; “and there was some shopping to
be done.”

Tom suddenly laid down his knife and fork.

“I draw the line at high rabbit,” he said. “I should think this
particular one died a natural death some time in June.”

“It’s very hard to get good meat in this weather,” said May; “it won’t
keep. But mine isn’t so very bad.”

“Where’s the beer?” asked Tom in his lowest audible voice.

May looked vaguely round the table. She was vexed that Tom should behave
like this; and yet, after all, it was nothing.

“I think Sally’s forgotten it,” she said.

Tom sighed resignedly and rang the bell, and sat drumming with his
fingers on the table waiting for it to be answered. Nothing happened,
and he rang again, this time louder; and soon the shuffling of ill-shod
feet was heard on the stairs.

“Beer,” said Tom, curtly.

The feet shuffled away again and the two sat in silence. May had given
the rabbit up as a bad job, and for the time she felt inclined to treat
Tom in the same way. When people were in great trouble she knew exactly
what to do, but when they were suffering from merely an absence of beer
and a height of rabbit she was completely at a loss. Tom sat in gloomy
silence and stared at the darned tablecloth and the plated forks. What
an idiot he had been, he thought, to sell everything. It would have been
much better to have taken unfurnished lodgings, and have forks which it
didn’t make you ill to eat off. The entrance of the slovenly servant
with a jug put an end for the moment to his regrets. He poured out a
glass and drank some.

“Tepid,” he said.

It was too ridiculous, and May broke out into a laugh.

“Don’t be so cross, Tom,” she said. “What does it matter? You haven’t
said a word to me all lunch time except to blame me for something.”

Tom made the necessary effort and laughed too.

“I’m very sorry, dear,” he said. “I’ve been behaving like a pig. As you
say, it doesn’t matter. But a lot of things which don’t matter, one on
the top of the other, are trying. First it was the sun, and then the
blacking, and then the broken glass, and then the menagerie smell, and
then no beer and high rabbit, and then hot beer.”

Tom left his seat and took a cigarette. He had resolved to smoke pipes
for the future as being cheaper, but it was no use selling the remainder
of his cigarettes. Even his clean sweep did not include them.

Pleasant things and disagreeable things alike leave a little taste
behind. A pleasant episode may be succeeded by an unpleasant one, or a
disagreeable episode by an agreeable one, but the effect of neither
wholly perishes. May and Tom alike asked themselves what could matter
less than a smell in the studio or a stray slop-pail on the stairs; but
an atmosphere, however slightly sordid, of things even so unimportant as
a rabbit-smell or a slop-pail, produces its effect on all but those who
are genuine Bohemians, and who would rather miss squalor and sordidness.
Unfortunately neither May nor Tom had the slightest strain of Bohemian
blood in them, and they were not inoculated against the subtle poisons
of slop-pails and kitchen smells.

But Demeter progressed and the baby throve, and July went by with hot
footsteps. During the day the heat was too scorching to render walking
agreeable, and it was almost worse in their sunbaked flat than in the
streets. More than once they thought of moving to some cooler house, but
shillings were no longer to be treated lightly. The hot spell, they told
themselves, could not last long, and it had been business enough to get
Demeter up the flights of stairs. Her progress had been regal and
dignified, and she had congested the traffic of the house for
three-quarters of an hour. So May used often to take the baby into the
British Museum, where the gods and goddesses seem to live in a
perpetually equable atmosphere; and it was here that Mr. Thomas made his
first piece of deductive reasoning. He pointed one day with a little
pink fist to the horse’s head in the Parthenon pediment and distinctly
said, “Gee gee.” Tom was delighted, and considered Manvers entirely
refuted in his belief that the Elgin marbles were unintelligible: even a
baby could understand them. Two days later Mr. Thomas conferred a
similar distinction on Tom’s own work when, after a prolonged wide-eyed
inspection, he said, “Lady.”

Tom worked as much as he could without a model, copying exactly his clay
sketch; but for the “lady’s” arms one was necessary. And she too helped
to melt the £150. She certainly had superb arms, and she stood
splendidly. She also added her contribution--a not unimportant one--to
the little jars which sometimes occurred between Tom and May.

She was a young woman of unquestionably fine physique, but her tongue
was a rather unruly member, and she spoke freely. Tom used to tell her
to be quiet and stand, but sometimes she came out with something very
breezy and sudden. She once made a particularly breezy remark when May
was there. May turned to Tom flushing, and asked him in French to tell
her to be quiet. Tom, who had a great sympathy with life in all its
forms--the model’s remark was not a particularly vicious form--smiled,
but told her to be silent. May left the room.

The girl’s eyes followed her out of the room, and then without moving
she spoke to Tom.

“Well, ayn’t she perticler? A lydy friend of mine, she----”

“Never mind about your lady friends. You’ve moved your arm. A little
more forward, please and the wrist more bent.”

May was sitting in the dining-room when Tom came in for lunch, looking
angry and flushed.

“Tom, you mustn’t have that woman in the house,” she said. “She is
abominable.”

“Who?” asked Tom, who had forgotten the occurence.

“The model, of course.”

Tom raised his eyebrows.

“Why?--Oh, I remember. Do you mean that thing she said this morning?”

“Of course I do.”

“But, my dear May, it really doesn’t matter much, does it? I don’t let
her talk, and as a model she is one in a thousand. Besides, what did she
say? I’ve forgotten. Nothing very bad, was it?”

May put down her knife and fork.

“Tom, can’t you see? It hurts me that she should be here. It makes me
feel ill. It is not right to have a girl like that in the house.”

Tom crumbled his bread attentively.

“I think you take rather an exaggerated view of it, dear,” he said. “Of
course that class of young woman is not very particular in its language;
but what has that to do with me?”

“She is wicked,” said May.

“Really you seem to me to build a good deal on one remark. Of course I
am sorry you heard it. She expected to be allowed to talk as much as she
pleased at first; but I stopped that.”

“Tom, how can you condone that sort of thing? Oh----”

“I don’t condone it. I don’t allow her to talk. Besides, one doesn’t
select a model for her morals, but for her muscles.”

“Do you refuse to dismiss her?”

Tom looked up in surprise.

“You surely can’t expect me to send her away, and spend perhaps a week,
perhaps more, in getting another? In addition to that, I have engaged
her for a week more.”

“Pay her the money and let her go,” said May.

“My dear May, we can’t afford to throw models and money about in that
manner. She has most beautiful hands. Wallingthorpe told me he had never
seen such a lovely piece of modelling from elbow to finger tips.”

“Ah,” said May, suddenly, “you don’t know--you don’t understand. Will
you never understand me? Can’t you see what it means to me?”

Tom could be very patient and gentle.

“I think you’ve worked yourself up about it, May,” he said. “We won’t
talk of it just now. Let us talk of it this evening. I must get back to
my work. And don’t be unreasonable.”

“You will not dismiss the model at once?”

“Do you mean now--this afternoon?”

May got up too, and went to the window and threw it open.

“Ah, yes, of course I mean now,” she said. “When there is a right and a
wrong, how do you dare to put off your choice?”

“May, you ask an impossibility,” said he.

May felt she was losing control over herself. She had a headache, the
heat was stifling, and her equilibrium was upset.

“You don’t care, you don’t care!” she said with passion.

“I care very much that you should speak to me like that,” said Tom. “I
will promise to think it over. This afternoon I shall go on working with
the same model.”

He turned and left the room, his hands thrust deep down in his pockets,
puzzled and vexed. He was really unable to understand his wife. She
seemed to him wholly unreasonable. The girl was one of the ordinary
class. Wallingthorpe had often employed her, and he, as Tom knew, was
rather particular and fanciful in his choice. He had once told Tom, in
his florid manner, that it made him unable to work if he knew that a
woman, whom he was using to help out his idea of what a thing should be,
did not live up to the splendid possibilities which--which--just so.

His model had made an improper remark--a remark, by the way, which
would have passed with a laugh if made by a man among men--and he was
seriously expected to dismiss her, to pay her for an extra week, and
lose his time in hunting for another, who could not possibly be as good.
Tom had begun to get in a fever to have Demeter finished. He felt it was
to be his challenge. If Demeter was not good--was not of the best--he
had been wrong, he had done what Wallingthorpe had told him he was
doing, trying to fly, and only succeeding in standing on tiptoe. The
sort of scene he had been through with May, threw him out of gear--it
dimmed his eye and unnerved his hand. Why could she not be more
tolerant, less apt to judge? Of course, Tom confessed, she was right in
principle. If he could get two identical models, one of whom was breezy
and the other not, he would choose the unbreezy one. But what had a
model’s character to do with her muscles? Besides, May was building an
absurd superstructure on a very slight foundation. It was ridiculous;
and he set to work.

Meantime, May, in the other room, was scarcely more content. Her
fastidiousness had been touched; she had winced at what the girl said,
as if under physical pain. Tom did not know, he did not care to know,
she told herself bitterly, how much she disliked the thought of his
having the girl in the house. The face of the Demeter was May’s face,
and that the arms should be the arms of such a woman seemed to her
positively insulting. This she had not told Tom; she felt it too keenly,
and it was a grievance the force of which he could not appreciate if he
did not appreciate the other. She felt hot, tired, ill-used,
misunderstood, and the worst of it all was that she was afraid she had
been a little unreasonable. She was, she had a suspicion, a little
unreasonable still, and she felt convinced that she would continue to be
a little unreasonable. Then she veered round and told herself that she
was perfectly right, and that Tom was hard and unfeeling, and then,
between the heat and the headache and the worry, she had a dismal little
cry all to herself.

Tears are a secretion, but they are sometimes a solution; they seem
occasionally to carry off the cause of the irritation; and the upshot
was that the prevailing feeling in May’s mind when she had finished was
that she was sorry to have vexed Tom. He really had behaved with great
patience to her; he didn’t wholly understand her, that is true, but he
was a dear, good boy, and she had been a little exasperating.

Fate, in fact, seemed just to have woke up to the existence of Tom. For
twenty-five years she really appeared to have forgotten about him, and
let him go on in his own pleasant way exactly as he chose. But some
malignant spirit had reminded her of his existence, and she was just
reminding him that he was not his own master. She made him another
little visit the same afternoon, while he was working, in the shape of a
tradesman’s boy with a bill.

Tom tore open the envelope and was confronted by a request to pay thirty
pounds for a block of Carrara marble which he had bought for a relief he
was working at. It had been ordered before the smash came, and he had
supposed that it had been paid with the other bills. He dismissed the
boy, and wrote a note to the agent who had managed his affairs, asking
whether a bill of thirty pounds, for a block of Carrara, had not been
paid. He had given orders that every bill should be paid. He clung
desperately to the hope that a mistake had occurred, and that the bill
had been sent in twice. And then for the first time he felt that
emotion, which is stronger than all others--fear, blank fear. Thirty
pounds was a solid fraction of their capital. And what would happen
next?

He could not pay it. Surely they would wait. Tom thought, with a
regretful sigh, of the patient tradesmen who had so often waited till he
could bother himself to draw a cheque. But somehow, by a strange
unreasonableness, now that he was in want of money, he was almost eager
to pay his debts, whereas, when he never thought about money at all, he
never felt the slightest inclination to do so. But Fate was playing with
him and frightening him. He had a horrible dread of these surprises, and
he felt that the inner knowledge of this sum owing would be poison.
Besides, it would be necessary to keep it from May, and the thought of
concealing things from May was untenable.

The answer came back from the agent; no, the bill had not been sent in
before. Tom went on working with mechanical accuracy, thinking of that
horrible thirty pounds. After all, why pay it at once? Of course there
would be no kind of difficulty with the tradesman. He remembered
ordering the block with Wallingthorpe. The price was a large one, and he
had not dealt at the shop before, and the man had hesitated, wondering
if his master would wish him to send it before it had been paid for.
But when Tom gave the Grosvenor Square address he was perfectly
satisfied.

What he wanted was to gain time. Thirty pounds represented so many days’
work, and why cut that off? Demeter must be finished; he must show the
world what he meant. The artist’s need of expressing himself cried aloud
in him. To finish Demeter, and do, if only once, the best he could, was
necessary. Necessary? It was the only necessary thing in the world for
him except--except May and the baby.

Tom put down his chisel.

“You can go,” he said to the model. “It is close on four.”

The girl stretched herself. She had posed for nearly an hour, and she
was a little stiff, and for the moment Tom forgot about bills and
everything else, looking at the splendid line of her form from shoulder
to ankle beneath the clinging drapery.

“At ten to-morrow?” she asked.

With a flash the whole scene with May came back over him. He walked to
the window, putting on his coat, and stood there a moment. She repeated
her question.

“Unless you hear to the contrary,” said Tom. “It’s all right. You will
be paid all the same. Put your address down here. I will send if I don’t
want you.”

She retired behind the screen to change her clothes, and Tom still stood
where he was. Just as she was passing out he stopped her.

“I don’t want to be inquisitive,” he said, “but tell me this: you are
straight, aren’t you?”

The girl flushed.

“Strite! Who says I’m not strite? Your wife, I’ll be bound.”

“Never mind my wife,” said Tom. “Just tell me, will you? I shall believe
you, of course.”

But the lower classes, when they happen to be respectable, are just as
proud of it as the upper classes--perhaps more proud. The girl was
thoroughly angry.

“I’ll thank you to tell her not to say things agin me what are not true,
and never likely to be, s’elp me Gawd. An’ what does she know about me?
You’re too good for her, Mr. Carlingford, with her narsty back-biting
ways. I knew she was up to some mischief this morning. Strite? I’m as
strite as she is, an’ striter, too, for I don’t talk ill of folks behind
their backs. An’ good night to you, sir!”

She flounced out of the room and left Tom to make the best of what she
had said.

“Well, that’s all right, at any rate,” he thought to himself. “I shall
tell May.”

He filled a pipe and sat in the window, his elbows on the sash. Forty
feet below lay the hot street, down which the sun shone pitilessly; but
soon it sank below the house-roofs, and a merciful little breeze sprang
up from the west. Tom leant out to enjoy it more and let it ruffle his
hair. He was tired and weary, but his brain went back to the same old
incessant question, “What next? what next?”

Supposing Demeter was a success--not in his sense of the word, but in
the financial sense, well and good. If not, what? Three weeks more.
There was money for three weeks more, including the wages of the model;
and if this bill was not paid, for six. If all went well Demeter would
be finished in a month. What next? what next? There were May and the
baby, there was the nurse, there was himself. He left himself out of
the reckoning. But the others had to be reckoned for. He must get money
somehow. But if Demeter brought him none, where was it to come from? He
thought of the horrible little statuette which May kept on the
mantelpiece, and he went to look at it. It was not finished, but it
would not take long to finish it. Would it come to that? Was that the
shrunken reality to which all his dreams of art were going to awake? For
he felt conclusively within himself that he could not do both. If he
abandoned his great aim for a moment he abandoned it for ever. There was
no going back. He could not earn his living with things like that, and
with the other hand, so to speak, do sacrifice to his mistress. The
house of Rimmon or the temple of the Lord--one or the other, but not
possibly both.

When his day’s work was over he and May usually went out for an hour or
two before dinner, and before many minutes were up she came to look for
him. She wanted to say she was sorry, but she very much wished that Tom
would help her out with it. But as they drank tea before going out, Tom
was silent, thinking of other things.

But at last he looked up.

“Another week with the model,” he said, “and then I can get on alone for
a time. Oh, by the way, May, I think you judged her harshly to-day; in
fact, I am sure you did.”

“Yes, Tom. I am sorry,” said May. “I’ve been wanting to tell you.”

“Poor old girl, you look rather done up with the heat! There’s nothing
wrong, is there, May?”

“No. It’s only the heat and--and being sorry.”

“I wish we could get away,” said Tom; “but I can’t move till this thing
is off my hands. But why don’t you go down to Applethorpe for a week?”

“Not without you. But you’ll come away when it’s finished?”

Tom walked up and down the room.

“May, I’m frightened,” he said, “horribly frightened, and it’s a bad
feeling. A bill came in this afternoon, which of course I thought had
been paid with the rest.”

“A bill? How much for?”

“Thirty pounds?”

“Oh, Tom!”

“It frightened me. I’m losing nerve. I don’t see that we can pay it now.
There is no reason why it shouldn’t stand over. If no one will buy
Demeter the time will come, and come soon, when we must get money
somehow, and I think I shall let it stand over till she’s finished. I
hope to goodness I shan’t be dunned for it. I used not to mind being
dunned when I was at Cambridge, and had plenty of money; but it’s no fun
now. They county-courted me once--I’ve got the summons still. I think if
I was county-courted now I should die of it.”

“But what are we to do?”

“I only want to finish Demeter. There will be money enough for that, if
the bill stands over.”

“And when Demeter is finished?” asked May.

“When she is finished I shall have done my best. And if others do not
think my best good----”

Tom left the sentence unfinished.



CHAPTER XVIII.


Maud spent a month with Lady Ramsden--four epoch-making weeks. The note
of change which had been struck in her when she met Violet had expanded
into a harmonious chord. Just as healthy physical surroundings produce
physical health, so intimacy with healthy-minded people produces a
corresponding well-being in the soul. And thus recuperated, she was able
to make the effort she had been unable to make before, and when she
returned to London at the end of July she congratulated herself on the
change that she alone knew of, as much as her friends congratulated her
on the change they could all see.

Parliament was not to rise before the 10th of August, and the Chathams
were to remain in London till then. During that fortnight Maud saw Tom
constantly, often going to see him and May in Bloomsbury, and Tom, with
or without May, more than once coming to see her.

The old _camaraderie_ days of Athens seemed to be renewing themselves.
Tom found Maud stimulating in a way that May could not be, partly
because he loved his wife, partly although he loved her. With May his
responsibility asserted itself; he was always aware of an increasing
anxiety as to what would happen to them all, crouching in his mind,
ready to spring. And he knew--he could not help knowing--that May did
not really understand how essential his art was to him, how inexorable
was his inner need of producing the best he could; how bad, how immoral,
the statuette of the boy with the rifle seemed to him. She had not an
artistic nature, and she had never, except in him, known a man who
served that most exacting of all mistresses, whose service is a passion
to her slaves. For Manvers, as he often said himself, was not like those
poets who sing because they must, but those who sing because they choose
to sing. He was clever, diabolically clever, and he liked to exercise
his intelligence.

With Maud then Tom could both throw off, or at least not be scourged by,
his responsibilities, and also he knew that she understood how terrible
the struggle he might have to go through would be. There was always the
possibility ahead that no one would want to possess any of the shining
gods and goddesses, and if so it was financially impossible for him to
go on producing them.

The three were sitting on the balcony where Manvers and Maud had sat
alone one night only a month or two ago, and, as usual in her presence,
Tom’s Promethean eagle had ceased pecking at him for the time, and had
hopped away out of sight.

May was feeling a little out of it, and a little neglected, for Tom was
talking to Maud in a way he did not talk to her. He was never anything
but kind and considerate to her; but the hurried luncheons which they
ate together in their grilling little flat, were often rather silent
affairs. If the morning’s work had been satisfactory, Tom was only eager
to finish and get to work again; if he had got on badly, the Promethean
eagle always seemed aware of it, and applied its claws and beak to the
tenderest places with the accuracy of experience. But with Maud he was
altogether different, partly, no doubt, for reasons stated above, and
partly also because the most well-mannered and loving husbands do not
trouble themselves to talk, if they are not inclined to talk, in the
privacy of the domestic luncheon-table. Thirdly, as May knew herself,
she was not, as Maud expressed it, a “dialogist,” and it was of
dialogists she and Tom were talking now. Incidentally, they were both
behaving like dialogists.

“I think,” Maud was saying, “that I’m about the best sort of dialogist.
Not only can I talk quite intelligently and agreeably--can’t I,
May?--but I’m a first-rate listener.”

“Good listening is not necessary for a dialogist,” said Tom. “Dialogists
enjoy themselves most when they both talk together, as we used to do at
Athens.”

“Oh, you’re wrong,” said Maud. “Each dialogist must know that the other
is _sympathique_, and the easiest way of conveying that is by listening
well.”

“Yes; but I know you are _sympathique_ to me,” said Tom, “so I don’t
care whether you listen or not. Besides, listening is rather a
despicable quality. I don’t think you’ve got it, you know, so I’m not
being rude.”

May got up.

“Well, we must go,” she said. “I said I’d be back by three to take Mr.
Thomas out.”

“Oh, don’t go yet,” said Maud. “Why, you’ve only just finished lunch!”

“I must; but Tom can stop here.”

May was conscious that it required a little magnanimity to say this, and
at the same time that she threw a pinch of bitterness into her
magnanimity. She wished Maud to know that she knew that it was Tom, not
herself, Maud wanted to talk to; and though she had not spoken with any
idea of her words conveying this, she was not sorry that they might bear
such an interpretation.

But Tom did not dive into such feminine subtleties, though Maud
suspected them.

“I shall stop a bit if I’m not in the way,” he said. “I meant to take a
holiday this afternoon, and I shall take it here.”

Maud stood drumming with her fingers on the balustrade for a moment or
two after May had gone. This was the first time she had been alone with
Tom since her stay in Norfolk, and she revelled in her sense of
security, for she felt all the old _camaraderie_ feeling, and no touch
of any more disturbing results from the companionship, and it was with
the air and the words of a comrade that she spoke.

“I think you ought to have gone with May,” she said. “I can say that to
you, for you know how glad I am personally that you stayed.”

Tom looked up.

“Why?”

“Because she wanted you to go. I am sure of that.”

“I don’t think so.”

“But I do,” said Maud. “Don’t be banal, and say you ought to know
because you are her husband. That’s no argument. You are a man, and it
is impossible for you to understand a woman as a woman can.”

“But it’s unreasonable.”

“That, again, is no argument. Oh, good heavens, Tom, if we were all
reasonable, what a simple world it would be! And how dull!”

“I’m not sure I don’t prefer dulness to excitement,” said Tom. “Wait
till you’ve had a fright, and then see how you appreciate
uneventfulness.”

“Ah, but dulness is not a synonym for content,” said Maud, speaking from
her new experiences. “It is a great mistake to suppose that.”

Tom flicked off the end of his cigarette ash. For the last few weeks he
had deliberately stifled certain thoughts, but with Maud there was no
need to stifle them.

“I am not sure,” he said. “Of course one aims at content--one aims at
nothing else. But one aims at it, I think, because one knows it is
unattainable. There is no such thing as content for people who are
alive--you know what I mean by alive. I think we have talked about it
before. For human beings to be content is to be limited.”

“Yes, and to be human is to be limited. I am talking like a maiden aunt,
I know.”

Tom looked up smiling.

“You have the distinction of having invented the least applicable
definition possible of yourself. What’s the opposite to maiden aunt?
Married niece, I suppose. There is your label.”

“But I am not married.”

“No; but you unite qualities which are rarely united. You are
experienced and you are fresh. How do you do it?”

“I might much more reasonably ask you that.”

“Not at all. At present I feel like a _blasé_ baby.”

“You?”

Tom suddenly became overwhelmingly conscious of all he had stifled so
long. His anxieties over petty money matters, the sordidness of the life
in the little flat in Bloomsbury--all these were trifles; but there were
other things which were not trifles. He and May loved each other--that
he believed; but apart from their love to each other their passions lay
as far sundered as the two poles. Each was invisible and
incomprehensible to the other.

“It is this,” he said. “I have felt and feel a passion for something
which I shall, I am afraid, have to abandon. I am telling you things I
have told to no one, hardly to myself. But, as you know, art is a
passion to me. There is one art, so I think, and I am trying to realize
it. But I have to face the probability that it will not be
appreciated--already I call it a probability--and if so, I shall have to
abandon it because I have other ties, and the need for bread and butter
rightly outweighs all else. Not that I am less enthusiastic; but one can
neither live nor triumph by enthusiasm. There are claims which outweigh
all enthusiasms or artistic convictions.”

“Oh, but the two could not actually come in conflict,” said Maud. “It is
absurd to suppose that you will have to abandon your ideas of art at the
very outset because they are not marketable. Besides, most purchasers
are Philistines.”

“That is exactly what I fear,” said Tom. “Of course I don’t say for a
moment that I can produce good things, but I have an idea of beauty, and
I must work for that as long as I can. Perhaps great encouragement from
any one would mend my case, but the world regards me with disconcerting
indifference. Manvers thinks me a delver after uninteresting survivals.
He may be right, but again I may be. That the majority of purchasers
think Manvers right is of course indisputable.”

“But all this need not make you _blasé_,” said Maud.

Tom was silent. What he hungered for was active, sincere sympathy from
May, but that was not to be had. She seemed to regard the possible
abandonment of his practice of art as she would regard any other change
of employment, as if, for instance, Tom was a butcher and found it
necessary to become a baker. He had, as he acknowledged to himself,
taken an impossible view of all she might be to him. He was in love with
her still, as much as, or even more than when they married, but he had
realized that she did not and could not sympathize fully with his aims.
At first it had seemed as if there was nothing she could not do for him,
as if they two were wholly and inevitably one. But, without loving her
the less, he had learned that it was not so. She had one passion, he
another, and they had to support their passions singly. But the most
rudimentary code of loyalty forbade his saying anything of the kind to
Maud.

“No; you are right,” he said. “I have a great many illusions left, and
one can’t be _blasé_ if one has illusions. Of course I still have the
illusion that the Demeter is going to be a masterpiece. But the
necessity of wondering whether the masterpiece is marketable clouds the
illusion a little.”

“Oh, you are certainly not _blasé_,” said Maud, with conviction. “How
can a man married to a woman he loves, working at what he loves, not
only for its sake but to supply her actual needs, be _blasé_. You ought
to keep young for ever.”

“I am a quarter of a century old,” said Tom, “and I should like to live
till a hundred. It’s a good thing to be alive. Do you know that line of
Whitman’s?--I can’t quote it exactly--‘Let us take hands and help each
other to-day, because we are alive together.’”

Maud’s eye kindled.

“I like great big common ideas like that,” she said. “Mr. Manvers would
think it was a sign of approaching _bourgeoisie_ or old age. After all
we are alive, and who is to help us except--except each other?” she
added, with a fine superiority to grammar, and holding out her hand to
Tom.

Tom smiled, and the dimples came. Just now it struck Maud that he was so
like his cousin, instead of the other way about.

“I believe you understand me,” he said. “And to understand any one is
the greatest benefit you can do him!”

Lady Chatham returned before long from an unnecessary call, undertaken
chiefly because the carriage had to go that way, and it was the most
convenient thing in the world. She urged Tom to stop for tea, and it was
consequently nearly six when he left the house.

His way lay across the park from the Albert Gate to the Marble Arch, and
he loitered, for Maud had replenished his serenity, and when we are
serene we are not in a hurry. It was a hot afternoon, and by the time he
got to the Serpentine the banks were crowded with bathers. The grass
underneath the big elm trees on the side of the Row was covered with
heaps of clothes, and multitudes of boys and young men were standing
about on the bank, or swimming. The soft persuasive colour of an English
evening was there, and the warm languor of the south, and Tom stood
watching them for some time, feeling rather as if a gallery of antique
statues had come to life. Some of the bathers were very well made, one
particularly, a boy of about eighteen, who was standing on the bank
resting on his foremost foot, the other just touching the ground with
the toes, his hands clasped behind his head. He was long in the leg,
short and slight in the body, and his hair curled crisply on his
forehead as in a Greek bronze. Tom told himself that he was Lysippian,
and went on his way thinking what a fine subject for a statue Isaac
would make--Isaac waiting with the faggots of wood on his shoulder,
standing gracefully, unthinkingly, like the boy he had just seen, not
knowing who the victim should be.

May meanwhile had taken Mr. Thomas out for his airing, had had tea
alone, and was feeling a little ill-used. Maud had been quite right.
Tom, she thought, ought to have come away with her. Why? Well, for no
reason except the very important one that he wanted to stop. Then it
occurred to her that a candid enemy might say she was in danger of
becoming jealous of Maud, and the thought of that made her quite angry.
But no one had suggested it except herself.

In Tom’s mind the vision of Isaac was supplanted by other thoughts. He
wondered whether he had said too much, whether by any chance Maud could
guess his trouble, for he knew she was skilful at reading between the
lines, and on his way down Oxford Street he determined to write her a
line in order to counteract any such undesirable possibility.

May was not in the drawing-room when he got in, and taking up a
postcard--for there was nothing private in what he meant to say--he
wrote: “I am not _blasé_ at all. Don’t think I am.”

He directed it, and leaving it with two or three others for the post,
went to see if May was in yet. He found her with Mr. Thomas, who was a
little fractious, and who, on Tom’s entrance, began yelling in a way
that shouted volumes for his lungs and larynx. Tom bore it for a minute
or two, but as it did not subside he shouted out to May across the
tumult--

“I’ve only just come in, and if I stop here I shall be deafened. I shall
be in the studio till dinner.”

Mr. Thomas condescended to go to sleep after a quarter of an hour or so,
and May went to the drawing-room. Tom’s post-card was lying address
downwards, and not thinking what she was doing she read it. It was quite
natural and innocent to see to whom he was writing, but when she saw the
address she felt a little more ill-used than before.

About a week after this, Maud Wrexham came to see them in Bloomsbury.
May was out, and Tom was in despair because the breezy model had taken
it into her head to demand a higher wage for standing, and Tom could not
afford either to pay her more, or to part with her. He had engaged her
till the end of the week at the higher rate, but he knew he could not
continue to do so indefinitely. He was walking up and down the studio
when Maud was sloppily announced by the slip-shod maid--wondering what
on earth was to be done.

“May not here,” she said, “and you be-thunder-clouded! What’s the
matter?”

Tom related the woes of the afternoon, and commented bitterly on the
rapacity of the human race.

“I really don’t know what to do,” he said. “I can’t possibly keep her on
at this rate. It’s hard enough as it is.”

Maud flushed suddenly, and seemed to have something to say.

“We are old friends,” she began at length, “and I don’t think you will
be offended at what I am going to say. Will you do me a favour? Will you
let me lend you some money?”

Tom stopped suddenly in his walk.

“How could I be offended?” he asked. “It is awfully kind of you. For
myself I should say ‘Yes’ at once. Why not? But there is May.”

Maud was silent a moment. A vague impatience came over her, for she had
understood rather more than Tom had meant her to understand a week ago.

“Why should she know?” she asked at length. “It is a matter between you
and me. I know some people would refuse such a thing at once. It is such
a comfort that you are sensible. I have too much money, you have too
little. There can be no reason why I should not lend you some.”

Despite herself she felt a great anxiety that Tom should acquiesce. The
thing was of no importance, but she could not help longing that Tom
should take her offer, and not let May know. The feeling in her mind
was too undefined to lend itself to analysis, but she was conscious of
desiring this in some subtle manner beyond her control.

But Tom answered her at once.

“No, I must tell May. It would be out of the question not to tell her.
You see that surely. But I thank you again for your offer. I will tell
her to-night. Perhaps she will not object; on the other hand, I am
afraid she may. I have no such feelings about it. Of course we can go on
for a month or so, but what is to happen then? If I could get Demeter
finished, and the clay sketch of the other done, I shall have done my
best, and if no one buys them----”

Maud looked up inquiringly.

“God knows what next,” said Tom. “If May and the baby keep well I can’t
bring myself to feel desperate. But if anything demanding expense
happens to either of them I don’t know what we shall do.”

“You’re fussed and worried this afternoon,” said Maud, sympathetically.
“It’s this bother about the model, and the heat, and so on. This room is
awfully hot. Why don’t you have a new blind up?”

Tom laughed rather bitterly.

“New blinds!” he said. “I’m thankful we’ve got some old ones. Thank God
May doesn’t know about it all, how near we are to actual want! But I lie
awake at night wondering if I ought to tell her. I am worried, I confess
it; and I thought I was so sure of myself. I aim at what I believe to be
best. I would sooner have produced that”--and he pointed to the
Demeter--“than all Manvers’ things, for which he gets what he asks. It
will be finished next week, and two or three dealers are coming here to
look at it. They bought those miserable statuettes of mine readily
enough.”

“Of course you can’t make any more of those,” said Maud. “I understand
that.”

Tom flushed with pleasure.

“I believe you do,” he said, “though I don’t think any one else does.
Manvers and Wallingthorpe think it is half out of sheer perversity that
I make what they call heathen goddesses. But they are wrong. I do it
because I must. I may be quite wrong about myself, but I believe I am an
artist. If I didn’t think that I should have taken to the statuettes
again the moment we lost all our money. They might as well tell me to
make plush brackets--which I could probably do tolerably well. If I am
not an artist, of course I am wasting my time when I might be earning
money, but I can’t sterilize that possibility just yet. When you have a
passion for a thing, it is not easy to give it all up because you have
no bank-notes.”

“It’s hard,” said Maud.

“I cannot serve two masters,” continued Tom, earnestly. “I cannot use
the gifts I believe I may possess in any other way than the way I
believe to be best. If the worst comes to the worst, if I cannot get my
living by--oh, it’s impossible, impossible!” he cried.

Before Maud had time to reply the door opened, and May came in. She,
too, saw by Tom’s face that something had happened.

“Why, what’s the matter, Tom?” she asked quickly.

“Nothing, dear,” said he, getting up and recovering himself with an
effort. “I have had a row with a model, and she says she won’t sit for
me any more at the present terms; and so we parted. May, give us some
tea, dear, will you? I want tea badly, and so does Miss Wrexham.”

May looked a little vexed; she felt she had not been told all. She shook
hands with Maud, and remarked, a little curtly, that she did not know
the Chathams were still in London.

“Only a few days more,” said Maud. “How splendidly the Demeter has got
on.”

May was a little mollified.

“Yes, Tom’s been working very hard--too hard, I think. He doesn’t take
enough exercise.”

“Oh, there’ll be plenty of time for that when she’s finished,” said Tom;
“and it’s exercise enough chipping away at that stone.”

“I saw Mr. Holders this afternoon,” said May. “Mr. Holders bought one of
Tom’s things last winter,” she explained to Maud, “and he wants to know
if you have anything else for him. I said there was one unfinished
statuette, but I couldn’t get you to finish it. Besides, you’d given it
me.”

Tom grinned and stirred his tea.

“No, dear, I should just think you couldn’t get me to finish it,” he
said. “May means that little abortion on the chimney-piece in the
sitting-room, you know. There’s a horror for you!”

Maud Wrexham soon went away, and the two were left together. May’s
thoughts went back to the trouble she had seen on Tom’s face when she
entered, and presently she said--

“Tom, what was the matter when I came in?”

“We had been talking about what I told you,” he said. “I can’t possibly
afford to give more than I do for models, and I am rather in a hole.”

“Poor old boy!” said she. “But what can we do? You must have a model,
you say, and you have to pay her.”

“Unfortunately I have very little to pay her with. We must make the
little we have last as long as possible.”

“What did Maud Wrexham say?”

“She offered to lend me some.”

May got up from where she had been sitting next to him with her cheeks
blazing. The idea of borrowing at all had been distasteful to her, and
the idea that Maud should have offered it was intolerable.

“She offered to lend you money--you? And you--what did you say to her?”

“May dear, don’t behave like that. I said, of course, that I must ask
you.”

May was all on fire with indignation. The offer appeared to her an
insult, and she smarted under it as a horse under a lash. She felt that
her vague disquietude for the last week or so was explained and
justified. What business had Tom to be on such terms with another? Her
anger included Tom too. He had not rejected it with surprise and scorn.

“You said you would consult me?” she asked. “And what answer did you
suppose I should give you? Did you think I should say, ‘Take it’? Tom,
you know me very little.”

“May, do be reasonable,” said Tom. “Perhaps I ought to have told you
sooner, but the state is this: if no one offers to buy the Demeter, we
have to face the fact that in a limited time we shall have no money
left. What am I to do?”

But May hardly seemed to hear what he said.

“You accepted her offer provisionally!” she exclaimed. “Tom, how could
you do it? And you said you would consult me? you told her that? And she
knows that you and I are talking the matter over, discussing whether we
should be her pensioners!”

Tom grew impatient.

“My dear, you really are talking nonsense,” he said; “there is no
question of being anybody’s pensioners. It is to a certain extent always
a matter of time before one is recognized. If I can manage to work on at
the things I think worth doing, good. If not, what is to happen to us?
Maud Wrexham is an old and great friend of mine. But you are
unreasonable. Do not be unreasonable. It is not like you. You have given
me your answer, and of course I accept your decision. Don’t let us
discuss it any more. It is no manner of use.”

He walked to the door and paused, looking at her. But she made no sign,
and he left the room.

Tom stood still for a moment on the narrow landing outside the room. A
patch of ruddy sunlight came through the window which lit the stairs and
struck on the narrow strip of oilcloth which did duty for a carpet. The
window was bordered with hideous orange-coloured glass, and a ray
through it fell on Tom’s foot as he stood there, and the orange on the
blacking made an abhorrent tone. He felt beaten and dispirited, and the
whole place suddenly seemed intolerably sordid. The narrow strip of
oilcloth was continued along the landing, and was bordered on each side
by a foot or two of imperfectly stained board. The banisters were of
that particularly flimsy build which is characteristic of cheap
lodgings. There were two bad prints on the walls, one of King Alfred and
the cakes, the other of the Duke of Wellington with an impressionist
background of the battle of Waterloo. To Tom in his present mood the
whole scene seemed to him to be a sort of spectre reflected on to space
from his own mind. Everything was unlovely and impossible.

He felt sore and angry with May. She did not understand what his art was
to him. She did not understand Maud Wrexham’s offer. She did not
understand him. More than once the impulse came on him to go back into
the room and try to explain, but it seemed useless. She was angry and
indignant, and anger is a bandage over our eyes. And he knew, and was
honest enough to confess, that he was angry too, disappointed chiefly,
but also angry. Maud’s offer had come to him like manna. For himself he
would as soon have thought of not drinking of a spring that suddenly
welled up in a desert when he was dying of thirst, as of not accepting
it. But May could not understand that. She felt it as an insult to him
and to herself, and to disregard May’s feelings was impossible.

He took his hat and went downstairs. It was a broiling August afternoon,
and the world seemed dying of heat-apoplexy. The streets were
breathless and baked, and the sky was brass. At the corner of the
street a watercart had just passed, and Tom stood still a moment
inhaling a whiff of air which had a certain freshness in it. It reminded
him of the smell of a morning in the country, after a rainy night. He
knew that he ought to go back and work, but it was not to be done. His
heart was heavy and his eye was dull. Well, there was the British Museum
only a hundred yards off, and a man must be in a very bad state, he
reflected, if the Elgin marbles have nothing to say to him. The place
was nearly empty, and he sat down in front of the eternal figures from
the Parthenon pediments with a little sigh of relief.

He had made up accounts that morning with infinite difficulty, for it
was an operation to which he was not accustomed. The rapidity with which
twos and threes added up into tens and twenties seemed to him simply
amazing. And really it was absurd that there should only be twenty
shillings in a pound. There ought to have been at least twenty-five or
thirty. And the net result had been that at their present rate of living
they could go on for three weeks more, still leaving the bill for the
piece of Carrara unpaid. He had faced the situation manfully. He had
determined to go on for three weeks more, giving his heart and soul to
what he thought best in art. But at the end of those three weeks there
stood a blank wall, separating him completely and irrevocably from those
shining gods and goddesses who were of the golden age. May’s five
hundred pounds he had determined quite definitely he could not touch.
More than once she had wanted him to let her sell out, and though he had
thrilled all over with pleasure that she should make the offer, it was
impossible to say yes. There was too much at stake; he might die and
leave her alone with the baby. Mr. Markham’s tithes had been falling off
lately, and if she went to live with him, as she would have to do, she
must be able to help in household expenses.

But for the half-hour that he sat before the marbles he forgot it all.
What did it matter after all if _he_ produced beautiful things or not?
Beautiful things had been produced; the high-water mark of art had been
touched. A race of men had produced a race of gods, and he felt himself
becoming sanely and healthily small in his own eyes. Meantime May was at
home; they had parted in anger and indignation. Poor darling! perhaps
she was unhappy, perhaps she thought he did not care--that he was angry
with her. Tom smiled inwardly at the absurdity of the thought, and half
unconsciously took off his hat as he looked his last at the still marble
figures and thanked them for what they had taught him.

But into May’s mind there had definitely entered that afternoon a
certain subtle poison. For such a poison there is one unfailing antidote
which Tom held, and it is pure love. But when that poison, which is as
minute in dose as a drop of morphia injected from a silver syringe, has
once entered the system, however plentifully the antidote is
administered the body is never quite as healthy again as it was before.
Where the syringe has pricked the skin there is a little sore spot, and
now and again the nerves shrink instinctively at the thought that
perhaps it may be introduced again. And the clear drop which it holds is
called jealousy. For the last week, and once before that--one night soon
after they had come up to London for the first time, when she and Maud
and Manvers and Tom had dined together--she had seen the little
green-eyed fiend hovering round her, and been vaguely disquieted at him.
She thought that Tom felt more interest in Maud than he did in her. She
could not talk smartly, she could not say those rather amusing things,
which meant nothing, with which Maud was so glib, and which Tom
apparently enjoyed hearing. But after that the baby had been born, and
the little green-eyed fiend had put his syringe in his pocket and gone
away. But for the last week he had been about, and this afternoon he had
come again, and had said, “Allow me--or would you rather do it for
yourself?” and had just pricked her with that fine point, and the poison
was coursing through her veins.

Anger is blinding, but jealousy is blind: she could not be reasonable,
and she would not. Tom had disgraced himself and degraded her, and his
step was on the stairs. Her anger would have allowed her to throw
herself into his arms, and say, “Forgive me, Tom, I was angry,” but her
jealousy forbade her. So she stood where she was with her back to the
window, so that her face was in shadow, and when he came in she neither
spoke nor gave any sign.

He sat down near her, and after a moment’s silence held out his hand to
her. May had long white fingers, and they often sat together talking,
she twining her fingers into his, and the action was common with him.
But she stood quite still, and his hand dropped again to his side. At
length he spoke.

“May, how can you treat me like this?” he said. “What have I not done
that I can do? It was not very pleasant to have you speak to me as you
spoke this afternoon; but I accepted your decision at once; I did not
attempt to persuade you?”

“It would not have been much use trying,” said May in a high cool voice.

“I should not have tried in any case,” said he. “I only wished to know
what you thought, and I was content to abide absolutely by your
decision.”

“Why did you open the subject again, then,” said she with a sudden spasm
of jealousy, “unless it was to try to persuade me?”

Tom thought of the marble figures he had been looking at, and remembered
what they had taught him.

“May dear, please don’t speak to me like that,” he said quietly. “You
know--you know that was not the reason.”

“Then what was the reason?”

“The look of your face and the tone of your voice was the reason. You
are not generous to me; you will not meet me halfway or go a step
towards me.”

“No, you are right. Do you expect me to come towards you on that road?”

“On what road?” asked Tom, wonderingly.

Then quite suddenly and for the first time the real reason for his
wife’s attitude struck him. He got up and stood before her, and at that
moment she was desperately afraid of him. The anger which had possessed
her seemed to have transferred itself to him.

“May, how dare you think that?” he asked. “Are you not ashamed of
yourself?”

The least tremor passed through her, and she stood there not daring to
meet his eyes. The next moment he had turned from her and was walking
towards the door. Once she tried to find her voice and failed, but
before he had left the room she managed to speak.

“Tom, wait a minute,” she said.

He turned at once. He had been longing with all his soul that she should
say just that one word. He had been horribly wounded by her. Yet he felt
that he had never cared for her before as he cared now. He crossed the
room, sat down where he had sat before, and waited. The next moment she
had flung herself on her knees by him, and her face was buried on his
shoulder.

“My poor darling! what is it?” whispered Tom. “No, dear, don’t tell me
yet; wait a moment--yes, wait so. Come closer to me, May, closer. Your
place is here.”

In a few minutes her wild sobbing had become less passionate, and she
raised her face to his.

“I want to tell you,” she said. “I could never look you in the face
again unless I told you. You know, but I must tell you. I thought--oh,
Tom, Tom, what a brute I have been--I thought you cared for her, that
she amused you, when I didn’t. I can’t amuse you, I know. I’m not
amusing by nature, dear. And--and I thought your being willing to accept
money from her, when you wouldn’t let me sell out mine and give it you,
meant just that. I wish you would take it, Tom. Tom, I can’t tell you
how I want to do something for you. Or take hers--that would be better.
It will show that I know what a brute I have been, if I ask you to.
Please do, Tom. But say you forgive me first. Oh, I have spoiled it
all--it can never be the same again!”

She spoke with the fatal conviction of experience. She had felt
poisonous jealousy run through her veins--a poison that cannot but leave
some trace behind. But of that Tom knew nothing.

And Tom forgave her from the fulness of his heart, and he believed that
he could forget what had passed, hoping an impossible thing. All events
and memories, as scientists tell us, write their record on our brains,
as the sea writes its ripples on the sand, and there they remain till
the sweet hand of death smooths the wrinkles out.

That evening Tom wrote to Maud, thanking her again for her offer, but
refusing it. On that point he could not give way. He himself felt as
acutely, or more acutely than May had done that afternoon, that to
accept it now was impossible. And he began to learn at once that bitter
lesson, even in the first glow of their reconciliation, the
impossibility of forgetting. The thing had been like a thunderstorm
which had passed over and left the air fresh and cool, but in the
foreground stood the tree stripped and split by the lightning.

All that week Tom worked as he had never worked before. Doubts, fears,
and disappointments left him when he took up his chisel. The statue was
approaching completion, he had finished with the claw chisel, and was
working only with the fine point. Sometimes as he entered the studio,
his heart gave a sudden throb. Was his dream really coming true? Was the
Demeter really good--of the best? An artist’s conceptions are his
religion, and when he sees his religion becoming incarnate before him
how can he but be filled with joy and trembling? He knew that he saw
before him his conception. The thing was as he had meant it to be. He
had realized his best.

And when she stood there finished, artists and others came and looked
and admired, and went away again. The Academy, they thought, would be
sure to take it; it was admirably conceived and wonderfully executed.
But how on earth would Tom get it down those little front stairs? Ha,
ha! he would have to take the roof off, or break off Demeter’s arm and
say she was an antique.

But Tom felt singularly content. It was done: he had touched his own
high-water mark, and if no one else cared what cause was there for blame
or regret? The moment which he had feared and dreaded had come and
passed. Manvers was quite right; no one wanted the Demeter. They said it
was beautiful; some one had said it was Praxitelean, and that was
enough. And for the next three or four days he waited, doing nothing,
walking out with May when the day grew cooler, going through any amount
of baby cult, serene and content, knowing that in a little while the
pause would inevitably be over, and that he would have to do
something--what he knew not. He spent two days in shaping a little wax
model of Persephone, which was to have been his next statue,
lingeringly, lovingly, regretfully, knowing he would never make it.

About a week after Demeter had been finished, the end came. The baby had
not been well, and May, who was not usually anxious, had sent for the
doctor. Tom was out when he came, and she sat alone in the gathering
dusk waiting for him to come in. The room was nearly dark, and her chair
was in the shadow, so that when Tom entered the room he did not see her
at once.

“May, are you there?” he said.

May’s voice answered him, and he sat down beside her.

“I sent for the doctor this evening, Tom,” she said; “baby’s not well.”

“What did he say?”

“He said there was nothing really wrong, but that we ought to leave
town--to take baby to the seaside or somewhere. It’s this heat and
stuffy air. The nursery is terribly hot, you know; and I have to shut
the window, or the noise in the streets wakes him.”

Tom got up and walked up and down the room.

“There’s hardly any money,” he said. “I don’t see how we can manage it.”

“Mr. Holders was here again this afternoon,” she said, “and he saw the
statuette--that little half-finished one you gave me. He said it was so
good, and told me to ask you to finish it at once for him. He said it
was the best thing you had ever done.”

There was a long pause. Tom stopped in his walk and stood with his
forehead pressed against the window. The sun had just gone down, but the
west was still luminous.

“She cannot understand,” he thought to himself. “She will never
understand.”

And to confirm his thought, after a few moments May spoke again.

“I know how distasteful it will be to you, dear, because of course the
other style is what you really like. But we must have money. Even if
baby was quite well we should only be putting it off a little longer.
And then if you will do that, and perhaps do one or two more, you will
have money enough to go on with what you like. Mr. Holders admired it so
awfully. He said it was the best thing you had ever done, and he is a
very good critic, isn’t he?”

But still Tom did not answer. His time had come, and he knew it, but he
lingered a moment more by the window looking at the red colour in the
west. At last he turned and sat down by her. She took his hand and
twined her fingers into his.

“Yes, darling, you are quite right,” he said. “I will finish it at once;
and then we’ll take baby off to some seaside place, and--and build
sand-castles, and have a little jaunt generally.”

       *       *       *       *       *

May went to bed early that night, and when the house was still Tom took
up the little rough sketch of Persephone, and with a candle in his hand
went into the studio. Demeter stood shining there, her head bent in
sorrow for her child. Tom looked at her long and steadily. The candle
threw her shadow vaguely and distortedly on to the walls and ceiling,
but the statue itself stood out radiantly from the obscurity round. He
took hold of the cold marble hand and stood there looking up to the
down-bent face.

“Good-bye,” he whispered. “You are not wanted. And I--I have another
goddess and another child.”



EPILOGUE.


Tom and Manvers were sitting at the bottom of a punt in one of the upper
reaches of the Thames on a September afternoon. Tom had taken out a
fishing-rod, but it was too hot to do more than smoke. Smoke produces
silence, and neither had spoken for some time. Manvers had arrived ten
days ago, and was staying with Tom in a small house he had lately
bought, in which he spent the summer months.

“It’s only three years since I saw you last,” he said at length, “but
you look more than three years older.”

Tom took his pipe out of his mouth and blew away a cloud of blue smoke.

“I feel eighty-four,” he said. “Prosperity isn’t so soothing as I was
led to believe. I think worrying and fighting would have kept me young.
You are the only person who always remains twenty-five. How have you
managed it?”

“Growing old is absolutely a matter of will,” said Manvers. “It is like
Alice eating the mushroom to make her grow tall or short. You can eat
which side of it you like: one side makes you old, the other keeps you
young. No one need grow old unless he likes. The secret is to take
nothing seriously. I only once took anything seriously, and it made me
three years older in a single night. Consequently I am twenty-eight, not
twenty-five.”

“What was that?” asked Tom, listlessly.

“I took Miss Wrexham seriously. I asked her to marry me. That was just
three years ago.”

“Poor old boy! Why didn’t you tell me? Are you going to try your fate
again? She is coming down here in a week.”

Manvers looked up.

“The deuce she is! No; the incident is closed.”

“Were you badly hurt?”

“I found everything distasteful for a time, but I recovered. Life is so
amusingly improbable. Fancy my doing that sort of thing! However, it was
very useful; I learned several lessons.”

“What did you learn?”

“I learned that nothing can really damage one’s capacity for enjoyment.
Don’t think I wasn’t in earnest about it; I was in deadly earnest. The
second was that _homme propose_. It is a truism, of course, but it is
useful to find by experience that a truism is true. I have yet to learn
who disposes,” he added. “I must say I have never personally experienced
the last part of the proverb. By the way, I was talking to an old model
the other day who was sitting to me for my ‘Fourth Act’--the thing of
the woman with the fan--and she said, ‘Man appoints, God disappoints.’
But woman usually disappoints. And the third thing I learned was that
the most foolish thing in the world is to be serious. While one can
certainly amuse one’s self it is idle to forego that bird in the hand
for a problematic bird in the bush.”

“I wish I could learn one thing a year,” said Tom, “as you have been
doing. I should be getting confoundedly wise by now.”

“You always used to be learning things,” remarked the other. “I remember
you used to discover the secret of life about every other day.”

“I have unlearned a good many things, unfortunately.”

“It’s my turn to catechise. What have you unlearned?”

“I have unlearned my theory that I could do all I wanted. I have
unlearned my conviction that one made one’s own limitations--that one
could ever be certain about anything. In a way, I have all a reasonable
man could want. I have May, I have three healthy children, I have
fame--fame of a damnable kind, it is true--but there was a time when I
shouldn’t have been satisfied with anything. I longed to stretch out my
arms round the whole world, to take the whole world into my grasp. But
now I know I cannot do it, and, what is worse, I do not want to do it. I
acquiesce in my own limitations. What can be sadder than that?”

“If you are happy nothing matters.”

“I might once have been happier. I gave up what I believed I could do,
and what I believed was supremely well worth doing. I am an apostate.
Apostates may be very happy--they are rid of the thumbscrew and the
boiling lead--but I wonder if they ever lose that little cankerworm of
shame.”

“My dear Tom, what nonsense! You tried to fly, and before you had
succeeded some one took your apparatus away. Of course it is only
natural for you to think that you might have flown if you had been left
with your apparatus, but you never could have. Besides, you are rich
now; you have your apparatus again.”

Tom frowned.

“Cannot you understand?” he said, impatiently. “Good God, it is so
simple! Stevenson says somewhere that three pot-boilers will destroy any
talent. I must have made twenty pot-boilers at least. Don’t you see that
what I am regretting is that I no longer want to fly? The chances are a
thousand to one that I never could have. But that blessed illusion that
I could fly has gone.”

“You took it too seriously.”

“I did, much too seriously. I don’t take things seriously now; I have
lost the trick. But how I long to be able to! I was mad, no doubt: you
often told me so. But it was a very sweet madness. All enthusiasm is
madness according to you. But according to enthusiasts, enthusiasm is
the only sanity. I oughtn’t to complain. I sail closer to the shore. It
is really much safer and pleasanter. Indeed, we are thinking of taking a
house at Cambridge. It will be nice to have Ted near. If one wants to be
happy, one ought to have no ill-balanced enthusiasms. They are very
disturbing while they last, and they leave one as flat as a pancake. But
when you have once tasted them, though you may have lost them entirely,
you can never wholly forget their wonderful intoxication. One of those
French enthusiasts says that one must be drunk on something--on life or
love, or virtue or vice, it does not matter which.”

“I, too, am very catholic,” murmured Manvers, “I appreciate virtue as
little as I dislike vice. It is all a question of temperament.”

“Yes, temperament. That is another thing I have unlearned. There was a
time when I was convinced that no man need be in the clutch of his
temperament. I believed that one was free. One is not. One is in
endless, hopeless bondage to one’s temperament.”

“You are pessimistic this afternoon.”

“It is a relative term. I am really optimistic, though I allow my
optimism would have seemed pessimism to me three years ago.”

“I don’t quite see from what standpoint you can be considered
optimistic,” remarked Manvers.

“I appreciate fully all I have got. I think the lines are laid for me in
pleasant places. That is surely the whole essence of optimism. I believe
that everything is for the best, and that if the best seems second-rate
to me, it is I who am wrong. I love May more than I love any one in this
world, and she is my wife. I have money, which is a hateful necessity,
but as necessary as it is hateful. And I have a good digestion.”

Tom leant back and beat out the ashes from his pipe against the side of
the boat. They would not come out at first, but eventually the whole
dottel of the pipe fell into the water with a subdued hiss. Some vague
note of thought twanged in his brain, and he paused for a moment,
frowning slightly, and trying to catch the remembrance which the sound
had stirred. After a little he smiled rather sadly, and not with the
completeness which a smile of pure amusement or of pure happiness has in
it.

“I used to do that over King’s bridge at Cambridge,” he said
irrelevantly; “and I thought it seemed so like what I was going to do
myself. I meant to go through darkness, and then make a splash.”

“The end of your pipe made a very little splash,” said Manvers.

“Oh yes, a very little splash. All splashes are little; but splashes are
rare. Most people slide into the water anyhow, and are content to be
seen swimming.”

“The world would count you singularly happy.”

“Of course it would; it would be wrong if it did not. But--but what I
mean is that I might have been happier, and May might have been
happier.”

Manvers looked up in surprise.

“I don’t understand,” he said.

Tom sat up and played rather nervously with the tassel of the cushion on
which he was sitting.

“Surely it is simple enough,” he said. “I have acquiesced in
limitations. May is devoted to me--as much devoted to me as I am to her,
I think. But don’t you see there is less of me than there might have
been. There is less of me to love and to be loved--God knows, it is all
perfect enough in its own scale. But there might have been another
scale. And now”--he dropped his hands and sat upright, looking at
Manvers--“and now we are measured by yards, not by metres.”

A little wind stirred suddenly in the elm trees by the bank and ruffled
the surface of the water. A fish rose in mid-stream beyond the boat, and
the current carried the concentric ripples down with it. Behind, the
little rambling red-brick house stood sunning its southern front, and on
the lawn, in the shadow of a tall copper beech, they could see the
glimmer of a figure in a white dress sitting in a low basket chair. Tom
turned as he spoke and looked half involuntarily at it.

“Come,” he said; “May will be waiting for us. We are going to have tea
early, and then go for a row up the river. We are going to do many
pleasant things.”

The boat was anchored among some flowering rushes; a few strokes of the
punt pole sent it back to the bottom of the lawn. They strolled up
together to where May was sitting, and she welcomed them with that
brilliant smile which was so natural to her.

“Tom has been so sombre this last day or two,” she said to Manvers. “I
hope you have been cheering him up.”

“I don’t think there is much the matter with him,” said Manvers. “He
says he feels optimistic.”

“Manvers called me pessimistic,” remarked Tom; “but that is only a most
flagrant instance of his own pessimism. He sees everything through his
own spectacles.”

May raised her eyebrows.

“What frightfully contradictory accounts,” she said. “Oh, Tom, by the
way, there is a man here who has come from the station to have the
carriage of the Demeter paid. It is fifteen pounds. Surely that is an
awful lot. I thought I had better ask you before I paid it.”

Manvers looked inquiringly at Tom.

“Have you the Demeter here?” he asked.

“Yes; I bought it back from Lord Henderson. He was very nice about it.
He saw I really wanted it, and he let me have it for what he had paid
for it. He bought it, you know, as a piece of cultured lumber, perhaps
also as a species of charity, and he has sold it for charity. It came
two days ago. I told them to unpack it this morning. Where have you had
it put, May?”

“In your study, dear, where you said you wanted it. They unpacked it
to-day. But surely fifteen pounds is too much for the carriage, Tom?”

Tom’s eyes wandered over the lawn, but came back to May.

“Yes, it seems a good deal. But I wanted it, you know, and one pays
anything for what one wants; in fact, one often pays a good deal for
what one doesn’t want.”

“You can’t say that that speech is optimistic,” said Manvers,
triumphantly.

“No, I don’t defend it,” said Tom. “May dear, let’s come in and have tea
now. It is getting much cooler, and then we can start in half an hour.”

May rose and walked with Manvers towards the house. Tom strolled on a
few steps ahead of them. As they reached the terrace which ran along the
front of the house he turned.

“I don’t think you ever saw the Demeter finished,” he said to Manvers.
“Come with me and look at it.”

“Yes, let’s all go and see it,” said May. “It looks so nice in that
corner, with the dark red paper behind, Tom. I went to see it just
before I came out.”

Tom’s room opened out of the hall, opposite the drawing-room. Just as
they got to the door he stopped and spoke to May without looking at her.

“Then will you have us told when tea is ready, dear?” he said.

May had intended to come in with them, but something in Tom’s voice made
her hesitate.

“Yes; don’t be long,” she said; “and don’t get to talking shop about it.
We shall never start if you do.”

Tom opened the door for Manvers and shut it again after they had
entered. The sun was already getting low, and a great blaze of light
came in almost horizontally through the open window and shone full on
the statue. Tom sat down opposite it, and Manvers stood near him. In the
ruddy glow of the evening the white marble was flushed with delicate
red, and for the first time Manvers really appreciated the noble
conception of it--about the execution he had never had any doubt.

They sat there in silence for some time, and then Tom got up.

“Do you see,” he said rather huskily, “do you see what I mean when I say
that I might have--might have----”

He turned abruptly. On the floor was lying the sheet in which the
statue had been wrapped. He took it up quickly and flung it over it.

“We all have ghosts in our houses,” he said; “but we can at least veil
them a little. Besides,” he added, “to go back to what I was
saying about my optimism, I have had three crises, three
revelations--unimportant little revelations no doubt--in my life. I
think I told you and Maud Wrexham about them one evening, oh, ever so
long ago!”

“I remember,” said Manvers.

“Well, to have had a crisis is in itself a most delightful experience,
but if your crisis remains, so to speak, critical, you ought to be
perfectly happy. Two of my crises were still-born. The crisis I had when
I saw the Hermes at Olympia has come to nothing.”

“Do you call that nothing?” said Manvers, pointing to the shrouded
Demeter.

“Worse than nothing. It is a dead child. It had better never have been
born. And the crisis I had, or thought I had, when the baby was born
is--is yet unfulfilled. But my third crisis remains critical. I met May,
I loved her, I love her. But the ghosts, the ghosts----”

They left the room. In the hall was the three-year-old Thomas, being
towed sideways across the hall by his nurse, going out for a walk. Tom
took the youngster up in his arms and turned to Manvers with a smile.

“I am a fool if I cannot lay my ghosts,” he said.


                               THE END.

   PRINTED BY WILLIAM CLOWES AND SONS, LIMITED, LONDON AND BECCLES.

                 *       *       *       *       *

_September, 1896._

     NEW & RECENT NOVELS PUBLISHED BY A. D. INNES & COMPANY BEDFORD ST.
     MDCCCXCVI.


31 & 32, BEDFORD STREET,
STRAND, W.C.,
_September, 1896_.

NOVELS AND FICTION PUBLISHED BY

A. D. INNES & CO.

NEW ONE-VOLUME NOVELS.


By E. F. BENSON.

=Limitations.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._


By FRANCIS GRIBBLE.

=The Lower Life.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._


By EDEN PHILLPOTTS.

=Lying Prophets.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._


By G. B. BURGIN.

=Tomalyn’s Quest.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._


By ROMA WHITE.

=The Changeling of Brandlesome.=

Illustrated by SYDNEY COWELL. Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._


By HOWARD KERR.

=Leeway.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._


By W. L. ALDEN.

=The Mystery of Elias G. Roebuck.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._


By C. R. COLERIDGE and HELEN SHIPTON.

=Ravenstone.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._


By NELLIE K. BLISSETT.

=The Wisdom of the Simple.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._


By ESTHER MILLER.

=The Sport of the Gods.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._


NEW AND CHEAPER EDITIONS OF TWO POPULAR NOVELS.


By ANTHONY HOPE.

=Comedies of Courtship.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 3_s._ 6_d._

“In this volume Mr. Anthony Hope is at his happiest in that particular
department of fiction in which he reigns supreme.”--_Speaker._

“Delightful farcical comedies.... The whole book bears the impress of
Mr. Hope’s happiest manner.”--_Glasgow Herald._


By MAX PEMBERTON.

=A Gentleman’s Gentleman.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 3_s._ 6_d._


“Is a selection of the adventures--daring, ludicrous, and pathetic--of
these two worthies. Seven exploits are recounted, and they are
interesting enough to make one wish they were seven times seven.... It
is impossible for one to refrain from the wish that Sir Nicholas Steele,
Bart., and Hildebrand may foregather

       *       *       *       *       *

RECENT POPULAR 6s. NOVELS.


By X. L., Author of “Aut Diabolus aut Nihil.”

=The Limb.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._

MR. GLADSTONE writes: “Pray accept my thanks.... I was so imprudent as
to open it at once, and since that act have found great difficulty in
laying it down.”

The _Glasgow Herald_ says: “An excellent, sometimes even entrancing,
novel.... Full of the deepest interest.”

The _Birmingham Daily Gazette_ says: “‘The Limb’ is unquestionably one
of the most fascinating books of the season.”


By ROMA WHITE.

=A Stolen Mask.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._

“A capital story, and Mrs. Roma White tells it with a delicate humour
and a spontaneous brilliancy as rare as they are delightful. ‘A Stolen
Mask’ is a novel that stands high above the average, and can be strongly
recommended. It is a long time since we have come across anything so
thoroughly fresh and bright.”--_Pall Mall Gazette._

“A powerful and fascinating story.”--_Daily Telegraph._

“A novel of very remarkable originality, insight, and
talent.”--_Guardian._


By FRANCIS GRIBBLE.

=The Things that Matter.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._

“Is an extremely clever psychological study.”--_The Times._

“It is a very amusing novel, full of bright satire directed against the
new woman and similar objects.”--_Speaker._

“The book is extremely interesting, and brightly and swiftly told....
Full of crisp epigrams.”--_The Queen._


By G. B. BURGIN.

=The Judge of the Four Corners.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._

“A delightfully humorous sketch, full of the purest fun, and
irresistibly laughable.”--_Saturday Review._

“A tale which is well worth reading, and few who begin the idyll of ‘Old
Man’ Evans and Miss Wilks will lay aside the book unfinished....
Instinct with humour, pathos, and a firm grasp of character.”--_National
Observer._

“A more stirring and fascinating tale has not been told for many a
day.”--_Daily Telegraph._


By EDEN PHILLPOTTS.

=My Laughing Philosopher.=

Illustrated by GEORGE HUTCHINSON. Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._

“We commend to the notice of any one wanting a good laugh ‘My Laughing
Philosopher,’ whose varied character sketches amply prove Mr. Eden
Phillpotts to be endowed with those two excellent gifts of humour and
imagination.”--_Spectator._

“The book will be welcome to every one who likes a book from which a man
can get a good laugh.”--_Scotsman._


By NORMA LORIMER.

=A Sweet Disorder.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._

“Has freshness, vivacity, variety of scene, some very good
character-sketching, excellent dialogue, and plenty of epigram.... Ought
to be a success.”--_Literary World._

“One feels quite safe in predicting a wide popularity for the
book.”--_Queen._


By F. M. WHITE.

=The Robe of Lucifer.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._

“Extravagant, whimsical, and delightfully ingenious.”--_Manchester
Guardian._

“Undeniably ingenious--full of power and interest.”--_Daily Telegraph._


By LESLIE KEITH, Author of “The Chilcotes,” “Lisbeth,” etc.

=For Love of Prue.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._

“Plot and incident in this present story are alike remarkable....
Altogether we heartily commend ‘For Love of Prue’ as a sensible,
humorous, and thoroughly wholesome book.”--_Speaker._

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Leslie Keith’s new story ‘For Love of Prue,’ which is fresh and
wholesome throughout, and teems with charming contrasts of pathos and
humour.”--_Daily Telegraph._


By DOROTHEA GERARD.

=Lot 13.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._

“A bright, buoyant, and bustling story, with plenty of local colour
derived from the scenery and the society, black and white, of a West
Indian plantation.”--_Times._

“Delightfully fresh and original in plot, character, and incident, and
it has the charm that Miss Gerard’s work never lacks of an atmosphere of
imagination and poetry.”--_Guardian._


By the late Mrs. J. K. SPENDER, Author of “Thirteen Doctors,” etc.

=The Wooing of Doris.=

Crown 8vo, cloth, 6_s._

“Has much to commend it to novel readers. A clever plot; well-drawn
characters--such are the leading features of a novel by which the
reputation of its much regretted writer is fully sustained to the
last.”--_World._

“A charming and wholesome story, it is full of human
interest.”--_Sheffield Daily Telegraph._

       *       *       *       *       *

_THREE SUCCESSFUL ROMANCES._


By J. C. SNAITH.

=Mistress Dorothy Marvin.=

A tale of the Seventeenth Century. Being Excerpta from the Memoirs of
Sir Edward Armstrong, Baronet, of Copeland Hall, in the County of
Somerset.

With Illustrations by S. COWELL. Crown 8vo, buckram, 6_s._

“The author has succeeded in making his story intensely interesting....
One of the very best adventure stories we have had for a long time
past.”--_Speaker._

“Full of the most thrilling adventures and terrific fights.... But
through the story there runs the thread of as tender and rare a love
between man and maid as the most romantic reader could desire.... A
story intensely interesting and powerfully exciting. It cannot be put
down when once taken up till it has been read from cover to
cover.”--_Church Times._

“‘Mistress Dorothy Marvin,’ most delightful and winsome of women, and
one of the freshest and most unhackneyed heroines whose acquaintance we
have had the pleasure of making for a very considerable period.... Mr.
Snaith has a great gift of observation, and his book is a remarkable
picture of the age it is intended to depict.”--_World._


By FRANK BARRETT, Author of “The Admirable Lady Biddy Fane.”

=A Set of Rogues=: Namely, Christopher Sutton, John Dawson, the Señor don
Sanchez del Castillo de Castelaña, and Moll Dawson. Their Wicked
Conspiracy, and a True Account of their Travels and Adventures.

With Illustrations by S. COWELL. Crown 8vo, buckram, 6_s._

“He has related the adventures of a set of rogues ... with so pleasant a
tongue and in such attractive fashion that it is impossible for mere
flesh and blood to resist them. His set of rogues have won our entire
sympathy, and his narrative our hearty approval.”--_Pall Mall Gazette._

“Another capital story.... Strongly recommended. Stirring tale this,
without a dull chapter in it, and just enough human sentiment in it to
soften down the roguery.... Let the honest reader procure the
book.”--_Punch._

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the plot is worked out with a care that leaves nothing to be desired....
We can only recommend the book to our readers as being in all respects a
most satisfactory and admirable bit of work.”--_Speaker._


By STANLEY WEYMAN.

=My Lady Rotha.=

A Romance of the Thirty Years’ War. With 8 Illustrations by JOHN
WILLIAMSON. Crown 8vo, buckram, 6_s._

“No one who begins will lay it down before the end, it is so extremely
well carried on from adventure to adventure.”--_Saturday Review._

“A novel which everybody must read and enjoy as such books are meant to
be read and enjoyed.”--_Speaker._

“Exhibits in high degree and ample abundance the qualities which have so
certainly and so fast brought Mr. Weyman to the front; the excellence of
the narrative style, the skill with which the historical element is
introduced, the adequacy for romantic purposes of the character drawing,
and above all the quick invention in incident and situation.”--_St
James’s Gazette._



SCARLET NOVELS.

A SERIES OF POPULAR NOVELS BY WELL-KNOWN AUTHORS.

_Crown 8vo, uniform scarlet cloth, 3s. 6d. each Volume._


By ANTHONY HOPE.

=Comedies of Courtship.=

[_Just added._

“He is undeniably gay in the best sense of the word, now and then almost
rollicking. An admirable example of what we mean by gaiety in fictional
literature.”--_Daily Telegraph._


=Half a Hero.=

“The book is delightful to read, and an excellent piece of
work.”--_Standard._


=Mr. Witt’s Widow.= A Frivolous Tale.

“A brilliant little tale.... Exhibits unborrowed ingenuity,
plausibility, and fertility in surprises.”--_Times._

“Excellent fooling. From first to last the story is keenly and quietly
amusing.”--_Scotsman._


By MAX PEMBERTON.

=A Gentleman’s Gentleman.=

[_Just added._

“This is very much the best book that Mr. Max Pemberton has so far given
us.”--_Daily Chronicle._


By RICHARD PRYCE.

=The Burden of a Woman.=

“Mr. Richard Pryce has worked a fresh vein of realistic romance, and has
done so with eminent success. The story which the author has here
presented so artistically is both a powerful and a beautiful one, told
with mingled strength and delicacy, enriched with admirable
character-drawing, and marked by real distinction of tone and style. Mr.
Pryce has conferred a benefit upon novel readers by the production of so
noble and interesting a book as ‘The Burden of a Woman.’”--_Speaker._


By C. R. COLERIDGE.

=Amethyst.= The Story of a Beauty.

“Extremely amusing, interesting, and brightly written.”--_Guardian._


By F. FRANKFORT MOORE.

=Two in the Bush and Others elsewhere.=

“Carry the reader on from page to page till criticism is forgotten in
enjoyment.”--_Daily Graphic._





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