Part 7 out of 8
where you are rehearsing Montgomery's opera. You cannot deny it,' she
cried. 'Mrs. Forest is her name,' and reading in his face certain signs of
his culpability her anger increased, her teeth were set and her eyes
Dick feared she was going mad, and with an instinctive movement he put out
his arms to restrain her.
'Don't touch me! don't touch me!' she screamed, and struck at him with
clenched fists, and then feeling that her blows were but puny she went for
him like a bird of prey, all her fingers distended.
'Take that, and that, and that, you beast! Oh, you beast! you beast! you
Her shrieks rang through the house as she pursued him round the furniture;
he retreating like a lumbering bull striving to escape from her claws.
'How do you like that?' she cried, as she tore at him with her nails again.
'That will teach you to go messing about after other women. I'll settle you
before I've done with you.'
Chairs were thrown down, the coal-scuttle was upset, and at last, as Dick
tried to get out of the room, Kate stumbled against a rosewood cabinet,
sending one of the green vases with its glass shade crashing to the ground,
summoning the landlady.
Dick spoke about his wife having had a fit.
'Fit or no fit, I hope you'll leave my house to-morrow.'
'Meanwhile,' Dick answered, 'will you leave my room?' and he shut the door
in the face of the indignant householder.
Kate, who had now recovered herself a little, poured out a large glass of
raw gin, and to her surprise Dick made no attempt to prevent her drinking
'As soon as she drinks herself helpless the better,' he thought, as he went
into the bedroom to attend to his wounds. The scratches she had given him
before their marriage were nothing to these. One side of his nose was
well-nigh ripped open, and there were two big, deep gashes running right
across his face, from the cheek-bone to his ear. It was very lucky, he
thought, she hadn't had his eye out, and it might be as well to go round to
the apothecary's and get some vaseline, some antiseptic treatment, for
nails are poisonous, he added, and his eyes going round the room caught
sight of his clothes in disorder. 'Ah! she has been at my clothes,' and he
took up the classical cartoons and his letters and put them away into his
pocket, and went into the sitting room, and tried to explain to his wife
that he was going out to see if he could get something from the apothecary
to heal the wounds she had given him.
Kate did not answer. 'She's dead drunk,' he said, and it seemed to him that
he couldn't do better than to undress her and put her into bed, and when he
had done this he lay down upon a sofa hoping that he would wake first, and
be able to get out of the house without disturbing her, leaving word with
the landlady that he would come back as soon as his rehearsal was over, and
make arrangements to leave her house since she didn't wish them to stay any
longer. He fell asleep thinking that he might find his landlady in a
different mood, and might persuade her in the morning to allow them to stay
on. The vase, of course, should be paid for. There was a kindly look in her
pleasant country face when she wasn't angry; his torn face might win her
pity, and not wishing to increase his troubles, she would probably allow
them to stay on; if she didn't he would have to find another lodging that
very afternoon, which would be unfortunate, for his engagements were many.
As it was he'd have to hasten to keep an appointment which he had made with
Mrs. Forest in the National Gallery. 'She really will have to make some
alterations in her second act,' he said, going to the glass. Kate had
clawed him with a vengeance, and he'd have to tell Laura how he came by his
torn face; and after some consideration it seemed to him that it would be
well to admit that he had received these wounds in a conflict with a wife
who was, unfortunately, given to drink. It was on these thoughts he fell
asleep, and overslept himself, he feared, but Kate was still asleep, and
without awakening her he stole downstairs to visit the landlady in her
parlour, but hearing his step she bounced out of the room with a view, no
doubt, to repeating the warning she had given him overnight, but the sight
of his torn face brought pity into hers, and she said;
'Oh, Mr. Lennox, I'm so sorry for you.'
A little sympathetic conversation followed; and Dick went off to meet
Laura, whom he recognized in the woman who leaned over the railings between
the pillars, seemingly attracted by the view across Trafalgar Square. She
still wore her green silk dress, the one which he had first seen her in on
the pier at Hastings, and the long draggled feather boa.
'She doesn't spend money on dress,' he thought as he lifted his hat with
not quite the same ceremonious gesture as usual, for he didn't wish to
exhibit his scars yet.
'So here you are, Dick, and I waiting for you on the steps of this gallery,
glorious with all the imaginations of the heroes.'
'She hasn't seen the scratches yet,' he said to himself, and turned from
the light instinctively, preferring that she should make the discovery
indoors, rather than out of doors. His wounds would appear less in the
gallery than in the open air. 'Why didn't she take a little more trouble
with her make-up?' he asked himself, and then reproved himself for
describing it as a make-up. 'She's not made up,' he said to himself, 'she's
painted,' and he wondered how it was that she could plaster her dark skin
so flagrantly with carmine, and put her eyebrows so high up in the
forehead. 'Yet the face,' he said, 'is a finely moulded one, and compelling
when she forgets her cosmetics,' and while Dick regretted that she didn't
show more skill with these, he heard her telling him that she would prefer
to stop and talk with him in the gallery devoted to the Italian pictures
than elsewhere; 'the sublime conceptions of Raphael raise me above myself.'
And then, as if afraid that her words would seem vainglorious to Dick, she
said: 'You're always in the same mood, never rising above yourself or
sinking below yourself, finding it difficult to understand the pain that
those who live mostly in the spiritual plane experience lest they fall into
a lower plane. Not that I regard you, Dick, as a lower plane, but your
plane is not mine, and that is why you're so necessary to me, and why,
perhaps, I'm so necessary to you, or would be if I'im not. Come, let us sit
here in front of the Raphael and talk, since we must, of comic opera. It's
a pity we're not talking of the _Parcoe_ who have been in my mind all
the morning,' and she began to recite some verses that she had written.
But, interrupting herself suddenly, she cried: 'Dick, who has been
scratching you? How did your face get torn like that--who's been scratching
you?' and Dick answered:
'Your wife? But you never told me that you were married.'
'If I'd told you I was married I would have had to tell you that my wife is
a drunkard and is rapidly drinking herself to death, a thing that no man
likes to speak about.'
'My poor friend, I didn't mean to reprove you. How did all this come
It wouldn't do to admit that Kate had discovered Laura's letters and poems
in his pockets, and so he told the story of a former experience with his
wife, and had barely finished it when Laura begged of him to tell her how
he had met his wife. And when he had told her the story, to which she
listened solemnly, she answered, and there was the same gravity in her
voice as in her face: 'All this comes, my dear Dick, of lewdness.'
'But, Laura, I was faithful to my wife.'
'But she was the wife of another man,' Laura replied, 'not that that is an
insuperable barrier, but you brought, I fear, lewdness into your conjugal
life, and lewdness is fatal to happiness whether it be indulged within or
outside the bonds of wedlock. I'm sorry,' she said, 'that you had to leave
Yarmouth before my lecture on the chastity of the marriage state.'
'It wouldn't have mattered,' Dick replied, 'for my wife had taken to drink
long before we met at Hastings.' An answer that darkened Laura's face
despite all the paint she wore, and encouraged Dick to ask her if she had
never felt the thorns of passion prick her when she ran away from her
She seemed uncertain what answer she should return, but only for a moment;
and recovering herself quickly she maintained that it wasn't passion, which
is but another name for lewdness, but imagination that had prompted this
elopement, and that if she had gone to Bulgaria it was to seek there a
nobler life than the one she had left behind.
'It was the immortal that drew me,' she said.
'Even so,' Dick answered, 'the mortal seems necessary for the immortal, and
to provide him with a habitation a woman must give herself to a man.'
'That,' she replied, 'is one of the penalties entailed by our first parents
upon women, but one that is entailed upon a condition that you have not
respected, but which I have striven always to respect myself. It would be
impossible for me to give myself to a man unless I thought I was going to
bear him a child.'
It was on Dick's lips to remind Laura that a woman can always think she is
going to bear a child, but he refrained, it seeming to him that his purpose
would be better served by allowing Laura to justify herself as she pleased,
and he waited for an opportunity to speak to her about the alteration which
he deemed altogether necessary in the second act. But Laura was away on her
favourite theme, and in the end he had recourse to his watch.
'My dear Laura, I'm due at rehearsal in ten minutes from now.'
'Well, let's go,' she cried.
'But, my dear, this is what I've come to tell you. The second act,'--and he
explained the difficulty which would have to be removed. 'Now, like a dear,
good girl, will you go home and do this and bring it down to the theatre
to-morrow morning at eleven so that we may have an opportunity of going
through it together before rehearsal?'
In the meantime, Kate lay on her bed, helpless as ever, just as Dick had
left her; and it was not until he had given his preliminary instructions to
the ballet-girls, and Montgomery had struck the first notes of his opening
chorus, that a ray of consciousness pierced through the heavy, drunken
stupor that pressed upon her brain. With vague movements of hands, she
endeavoured to fasten the front of her dress, and with a groan rolled
herself out of the light; but her efforts to fall back into insensibility
were unavailing, and like the dawn that slips and swells through the veils
of night, a pale waste of consciousness forced itself upon her. First came
the curtains of the bed, then the bare blankness of the wall, and then the
great throbbing pain that lay like a lump of lead just above her forehead.
Her mouth was clammy as if it were filled with glue, her limbs weak as if
they had been beaten to a pulp by violent blows. She was all pain, but,
worse still, a black horror of her life crushed and terrified her, until
she buried her face in the pillow and wept and moaned for mercy. But to
remain in bed was impossible. The pallor of the place was intolerable, and
sliding her legs over the side she stood, scarcely able to keep her feet.
The room swam as if in a mist; she held her head with clasped hands; the
top of it seemed to be lifting off, and it was with much difficulty that
she staggered as far as the chest of drawers, where she remained for some
minutes trying to recover herself, thinking of what had happened overnight.
She had been drunk, she knew that, but where was Dick? Where had he gone?
What had she said to him? All mental effort was agony; but she had to
think, and straining at the threads of memory, she strove to follow one to
the end. But it was no use, it soon became hopelessly entangled, and with a
low cry she moaned, 'Oh, my poor head! my poor head! I cannot, cannot
remember.' But the question: what has become of Dick? still continued to
torture her, till, raising her face suddenly from her arm, she hitched up
her falling skirts, and seeing at that moment the bottle on the table, she
went into the sitting-room and poured herself out a little, which she mixed
'Just a drop,' she murmured to herself, 'to pull me together. It was his
fault; until he put me in a passion I was all right.'
Spreading and definite thoughts began to emerge, and for a long time she
sat moodily thinking over her wrongs, and as her thoughts wavered they grew
softer and more argumentative. She considered the question from all sides,
and, reasoning with herself, was disposed to conclude that it was not all
her fault. If she did drink, it was jealousy that drove her to it. Why
wasn't he faithful to her who had given up everything for him? Why did he
want to be always running after a lot of other women? Where was he now,
she'd like to know? As this question appeared in the lens of her thought,
she raised her head, and although boozed the memory of Mrs. Forest's
letters filled her mind.
'Oh yes, that's where he's gone to, is it?' she murmured to herself. 'So
he's down with his poetess at the Opera Comique, rehearsing Montgomery's
A determination to follow him slowly formed itself in her mind, and she
managed to map out the course that she would have to pursue. It seemed to
her that she was beset with difficulties. To begin with, she did not know
where the theatre was, and she could not conceal from herself the fact that
she was scarcely in a fit state to take a long walk through the London
streets. The spirit drunk on an empty stomach had gone to her head; she
reeled a little when she walked; and her own incapacity to act maddened
her. Oh, good heavens! how her head was splitting! What would she not give
to be all right just for a couple of hours, just long enough to go and tell
that beast of a husband of hers what a pig he was, and let the whole
theatre know how he was treating his wife. It was he who drove her to
drink. Yes, she would go and do this. It was true her head seemed as if it
were going to roll off her shoulders, but a good sponging would do it good,
and then a bottle or two of soda would put her quite straight--so straight
that nobody would know she had touched a drop.
It took Kate about half an hour to drench herself in a basin, and
regardless of her dress, she let her hair lie dripping on her shoulders.
The landlady brought her up the soda-water, and seeing what a state her
lodger was in, she placed it on the table without a word, without even
referring to the notice to quit she had given overnight; and steadying her
voice as best she could, Kate asked her to call a cab.
'Hansom, or four-wheeler?'
'Fo-four wheel-er--if you please.'
'Yes, that'll suit you best,' said the woman, as she went downstairs.
'You'd perhaps fall out of a hansom. If I were your husband I'd break every
bone in your body.'
But Kate was now much soberer, and weak and sick she leaned back upon the
hard cushions of the clattering cab. Her mouth was full of water, and the
shifting angles of the streets produced on her an effect similar to
sea-sickness. London rang in her ears; she could hear a piano tinkling; she
saw Dick directing the movements of a line of girls. Then her dream was
brought to an end by a gulp. Oh! the fearful nausea; and she did not feel
better until, flooding her dress and ruining the red velvet seat, all she
had drunk came up. But the vomit brought her great relief, and had it not
been for a little dizziness and weakness, she would have felt quite right
when she arrived at the stage-door. In a terrible state of dirt and
untidiness she was surely, but she noticed nothing, her mind being now
fully occupied in thinking what she should say, first to the
stage-door-keeper, and then to her husband.
At the corner of Wych Street she dismissed the cab, and this done she did
not seem to have courage enough for anything. She felt as if she would like
to sit down on a doorstep and cry. The menacing threats, the bitter
upbraidings she had intended, all slipped from her like dreams, and she
felt utterly wretched.
At that moment, in her little walk up the pavement she found herself
opposite a public-house. Something whispered in her ear that after her
sickness one little nip of brandy was necessary, and would put her straight
in a moment. She hesitated, but someone pushed her from behind and she went
in. A four of brandy freshened her up wonderfully, enabling her to think of
what she had come to do, and to remember how badly she was being treated. A
second drink put light into her eyes and wickedness into her head, and she
felt she could, and would, face the devil. 'I'll give it to him; I'll teach
him that I'm not to be trodden on,' she said to herself as she strutted
manfully towards the stage-door, walking on her heels so as to avoid any
unsteadiness of gait.
The man in the little box was old and feeble. He said he would send her
name by the first person going down; but Kate was not in a mood to brook
delays, and, profiting by his inability to stop her, she banged through the
swinging door and commenced the descent of a long flight of steps. Below
her was the stage, and between the wings she could see the girls arranged
in a semicircle. Dick, with a big staff in hand, stood in front of the
footlights directing the movements of a procession which was being formed;
the piano tinkled merrily on the O.P. side.
'Mr. Chappel, will you be good enough to play the "Just put this in your
pocket" chorus over again?' cried Dick, stamping his staff heavily upon the
'Now then, girls, I hear a good deal too much talking going on at the back
there. I dare say it's very amusing; but if you'd try to combine business
with pleasure---Now, who did I put in section one?'
Kate hesitated a moment, arrested by the tones of his voice, and she could
not avoid thinking of the time when she used to play Clairette; besides,
ail the well-known faces were there. Our lives move as in circles; no
matter what strange vicissitudes we pass through, we generally find
ourselves gliding once more into the well-known grooves, and Dick, in
forming the present company, had naturally fallen back upon the old hands,
who had travelled with him in the country. They were nearly all there.
Mortimer, with his ringlets and his long nasal drawl, stood, as usual, in
the wings, making ill-natured remarks. Dubois strutted as before, and
tilting his bishop's hat, explained that he would take no further
engagement as a singer; if people would not let him act they would have to
do without him. With her dyed hair tucked neatly away under her bonnet Miss
Leslie smiled as agreeably as ever. Beaumont alone seemed to be missing,
and Montgomery, in all the importance of a going-to-be-produced author,
strode along up and down the stage, apparently busied in thought, the tails
of a Newmarket coat still flapping about his thin legs; and when he
appeared in profile against the scenery he looked, as he always had done,
like the flitting shadow thrown by an enormous magic-lantern.
Kate sullenly watched them, gripping the rail of the staircase tightly. The
momentary softening of heart, occasioned by the remembrance of old times,
died away in the bitterness of the thought that she who had counted for so
much was now pushed into a corner to live forgotten or disdained. Why was
she not rehearsing there with them? she asked herself. At once the answer
came. Because your husband hates you--because he wants to make love to
another woman. Then, like one crazed, she clattered down the iron spiral
staircase to the stage. She did not even hear Mortimer and Dubois cry out
as she pushed past, 'There's Mrs. Lennox!'
In the middle of the stage, however, she looked round, discountenanced by
the silence and the crowd, and, hoping to calm her, Dick advised her, in
whispers, to go upstairs to his room. But this was the signal for her to
'Go up to your room?' she screamed. 'Never, never! Do you suppose it is to
talk to you that I came here? No, I despise you too much. I hate you, and I
want every one here to know how you treat me.'
With a dull stare she examined the circle of girls who stood whispering in
groups, as if she were going to address one in particular, and several drew
back, frightened. Dick attempted to say something, but it seemed that the
very sound of his voice was enough.
'Go away, go away!' she exclaimed at the top of her voice. 'Go away; don't
touch me! Go to that woman of yours--Mrs. Forest--go to her, and be damned,
you beast! You know she's paying for everything here. You know that you
'For goodness' sake remember what you're saying,' said Dick, interrupting,
and trembling as if for his life. He cast an anxious glance around to see
if the lady in question was within hearing. Fortunately she was not on the
The chorus crowded timidly forward looking like a school in their
walking-dresses. The carpenters had ceased to hammer, and were peeping down
from the flies; Kate stood balancing herself and staring blindly at those
who surrounded her. Leslie and Montgomery, in the position of old friends,
were endeavouring to soothe her, whilst Mortimer and Dubois argued
passionately as to when they had seen her drunk for the first time. The
first insisted that when she had joined them at Hanley she was a bit
inebriated; the latter declared that it had begun with the champagne on her
'Don't you remember, Dick was married with a scratched face?'
'To judge from present appearances,' said the comedian, forcing his words
slowly through his nose, 'he's likely to die with one.' At this sally three
supers retired into the wings holding their sides, and Dubois, furious at
being outdone in a joke, walked away in high dudgeon, calling Mortimer an
In the meantime the drunken row was waxing more furious every moment.
Struggling frantically with her friends, Kate called attention to the
sticking-plaster on Dick's face, and declared that she would do for him.
'You see what I gave him last night, and he deserved it. Oh! the beast! And
I'll give him more; and if you knew all you wouldn't blame me. It was he
who seduced me, who got me to run away from home, and he deserts me for
other women. But he shan't, he shan't, he shan't; I'll kill him first; yes,
I will, and nobody shall stop me.'
Dick listened quite broken with shame for himself and for her; as an excuse
for the absence of his wife from the theatre he had told Mortimer and Hayes
that London did not agree with her, and that she had to spend most of her
time at the seaside. All had condoled with him, and when they were
searching London for a second lady, all had agreed that Mrs. Lennox was
just the person they wanted for the part. What a pity, they said, she was
not in town. At the present moment Dick wished her the other side of
Jordan. For all he knew, she might remain screaming at him the whole day,
and if Mrs. Forest came back--well, he didn't know what would happen; the
whole game would then be up the spout. Perhaps the best thing to do would
be to tell Montgomery of the danger his piece was in; he and Kate had
always been friends; she might listen to him.
Such were Dick's reflections as he stood bashfully trying to avoid the eyes
of his ballet-girls. For the life of him he didn't know which way to look.
In front of him was a wall of people, whereon certain faces detached
themselves. He saw Dubois' mumming mug widening with delight until the grin
formed a semi-circle round the Jew nose. Mortimer looked on with the mock
earnestness of a tortured saint in a stained-glass window. Pity was written
on all the girls' faces; all were sorry for Dick, especially a tall woman
who forgot herself so completely that she threw her arms about a super and
sobbed on his shoulder.
But Kate still continued to advance, although held by Montgomery and Miss
Leslie. The long black hair hung in disordered masses; her brown eyes were
shot with golden lights; the green tints in her face became, in her
excessive pallor, dirty and abominable in colour, and she seemed more like
a demon than a woman as her creams echoed through the empty theatre.
'By Jove! we ought to put up _Jane Eyre_,' said Mortimer. 'If she were
to play the mad woman like that, we'd be sure to draw full houses.'
'I believe you,' said Dubois; but at that moment he was interrupted by a
violent scream, and suddenly disengaging herself from those who held her,
Kate rushed at Dick. With one hand she grappled him by the throat, and
before anyone could interfere she succeeded in nearly tearing the shirt
from his back.
When at length they were separated, she stood staring and panting, every
fibre of her being strained with passion; but she did not again burst forth
until someone, in a foolish attempt to pacify her, ventured to side with
her in her denunciation of her husband.
'How should such as you dare to say a word against him! I will not hear him
abused! No, I will riot; I say he's a good man. Yes, yes! He is a good man,
the best man that ever lived!' she exclaimed, stamping her foot on the
boards, 'the best man that ever lived! I will not hear a word against him!
No, I will not! He's my husband; he married me! Yes he did; I can show my
certificate, and that's more than any one of you can.
I know you, a damned lot of hussies! I know you; I was one of you myself.
You think I wasn't. Well, I can prove it. You go and ask Montgomery if I
didn't play Serpolette all through the country, and Clairette too. I should
like to see any of you do that, with the exception of Lucy, who was always
a good friend to me; but the rest of you I despise as the dirt under my
feet; so do you think that I would permit you--that I came here to listen
to my husband being abused, and by such as you! If he has his faults he's
accountable to none but me.'
Here she had to pause for lack of breath; and Dick, who had been pursuing
his shirt-stud, which had rolled into the foot-lights, now drew himself up,
and in his stage-commanding voice declared the rehearsal to be over. A few
of the girls lingered, but they were beckoned away by the others, who saw
that the present time was not suitable for the discussion of boots, tights,
and dressing-rooms. There was no one left but Leslie, Montgomery, Dick,
Kate, and Harding, who, twisting his moustache, watched and listened
apparently with the greatest interest.
'Oh, you've no idea what a nice woman she used to be, and is, were it not
for that cursed drink,' said Montgomery, with the tears running down his
nose. 'You remember her, Leslie, don't you? Isn't what I say true? I never
liked a woman so much in my life.'
'You were a friend of hers, then?' said Harding.
'I should think I was.'
'Then you never were--Yes, yes, I understand. A little friendship flavoured
with love. Yes, yes. Wears better, perhaps, than the genuine article. What
do you think, Leslie?'
'Not bad,' said the prima donna, 'for people with poor appetites. A kind of
diet suitable for Lent, I should think.'
'Ah! a title for a short story, or better still for an operetta. What do
you think, Montgomery? Shall I do you a book entitled _Lovers in
Lent_, or _A Lover's Lent_? and Leslie will--'
'No, I won't. None of your forty days for me.'
'I can't understand how you people can go on talking nonsense with a scene
so terrible passing under your eyes,' cried the musician, as he pointed to
Kate, who was calling after Dick as she staggered in pursuit of him up the
stairs towards the stage-door.
'Well, what do you want me to do?'
'She'll disgrace him in the street.'
'I can't help that. I never interfere in a love affair; and this is
evidently the great passion of a life.'
Montgomery cast an indignant glance at the novelist and rushed after his
friends; but when he arrived at the stage-door he saw the uselessness of
It was in the narrow street; the heat sweltered between the old houses that
leaned and lolled upon the huge black traversing beams like aged women on
crutches; and Kate raved against Dick in language that was fearful to hear
amid the stage carpenters, the chorus-girls, the idlers that a theatre
collects standing with one foot in the gutter, where vegetable refuse of
all kinds rotted. Her beautiful black hair was now hanging over her
shoulders like a mane; someone had trodden on her dress and nearly torn it
from her waist, and, in avid curiosity, women with dyed hair peeped out of
a suspicious-looking tobacco shop. Over the way, stuck under an overhanging
window, was an orange-stall; the proprietress stood watching, whilst a
crowd of vermin-like children ran forward, delighted at the prospect of
seeing a woman beaten. Close by, in shirt-sleeves, the pot-boy flung open
the public-house door, partly for the purpose of attracting custom, half
with the intention of letting a little air into the bar-room.
'Oh, Kate! I beg of you not to go in there,' said Dick; 'you've had enough;
do come home!'
'Come home!' she shrieked, 'and with you, you beast! It was you who seduced
me, who got me away from my husband.'
This occasioned a good deal of amusement in the crowd, and several voices
asked for information.
'And how did he manage to do that, marm?' said one.
'With a bottle of gin. What do you think?' cried another.
There were moments when Dick longed for the earth to open; but he
nevertheless continued to try to prevent Kate from entering the
'I will drink! I will drink! I will drink! And not because I like it, but
to spite you, because I hate you.'
When she came out she appeared to be a little quieted, and Dick tried very
hard to persuade her to get into a cab and drive home. But the very sound
of his voice, the very sight of him, seemed to excite her, and in a few
moments she broke forth into the usual harangue. Several times the
temptation to run away became almost irresistible, but with a noble effort
of will he forced himself to remain with her. Hoping to avoid some part of
the ridicule that was being so liberally showered upon him, he besought of
her to keep up Drury Lane and not descend into the Strand.
'You don't want to be seen with me; I know, you'd prefer to walk there with
Mrs. Forest. You think I shall disgrace you. Well, come along, then.
'"Look at me here! look at me there!
Criticize me everywhere!
I am so sweet from head to feet,
And most perfect and complete."'
'That's right, old woman, give us a song. She knows the game,' answered
Raising his big hat from his head, Dick wiped his face, and as if divining
his extreme despair, Kate left off singing and dancing, and the procession
proceeded in quiet past several different wine-shops. It was not until they
came to Short's she declared she was dying of thirst and must have a drink.
Dick forbade the barman to serve her, and brought upon himself the most
shocking abuse. Knowing that he would be sure to meet a crowd of his 'pals'
at the Gaiety bar, he used every endeavour to persuade her to cross the
street and get out of the sun.
'Don't bother me with your sun,' she exclaimed surlily; and then, as if
struck by the meaning of the word, she said, 'But it wasn't a son, it was a
daughter; don't you remember?'
'Oh, Kate! how can you speak so?'
'Speak so? I say it was a daughter, and she died; and you said it was my
fault, as you say everything is my fault, you beast! you venomous beast!
Yes, she did die. It was a pity; I could have loved her.'
At this moment Dick felt a heavy hand clapped on his shoulder, and turning
round he saw a pal of his.
'What, Dick, my boy! A drunken chorus lady; trying to get her home? Always
up to some charitable action.'
'No; she's my wife.'
'I beg your pardon, old chap; you know I didn't mean it;' and the man
disappeared into the bar-room.
'Yes, I'm his wife,' Kate shrieked after him. 'I got that much right out of
him at least; and I played the Serpolette in the _Cloches_.'
'"Look at me here, look at me there,"'
she sang, flirting with her abominable skirt, amused by the applause of the
roughs. 'But I'm going to have a drink here,' she said, suddenly breaking
'No, you can't, my good woman,' said the stout guardian at the door.
'And why--why not?'
'That don't matter. You go on, or I'll have to give you in charge.'
Kate was not yet so drunk that the words 'in charge' did not frighten her,
and she answered humbly enough, 'I'm here wi-th--my hu-s-band, and as
you're so im-impertinent I shall go-go elsewhere.'
At the next place they came to Dick did not protest against her being
served, but waited, confident of the result, until she had had her four of
gin, and came reeling out into his arms. Shaking herself free she stared at
him, and when he was fully recognized, cursed him for his damned
interference. She could now scarcely stand straight on her legs, and, after
staggering a few yards further, fell helplessly on the pavement.
Calling a cab, he bundled her into it and drove away.
'Oh, Dick, dear, what did I do yesterday? Do tell me about yesterday. Was I
very violent? And those wounds on your face, I didn't do that; don't tell
me that I did. Dick, Dick, are you going to leave me?'
'I have to attend to my business, Kate.'
'Ah, your business! Your business! Mrs. Forest is your business; you've no
other business but her now. And that is what is driving me to drink.'
'Oh, Kate, don't begin it again. I've a rehearsal----'
'Yes, the rehearsal of her opera and Montgomery's music. I did think he was
my friend; yet he is putting up her opera to music, and all the while he
was setting it you were telling me lies about _Chilperic_, saying that
I was to play the Fredegonde, and all the principal parts in the great
Herve festival, that the American--but there was no American. It was cruel
of you, Dick, to shut me up here with nobody to speak to; nothing to do but
to wait for you hour after hour, and when you come home to hear nothing
from you but lies, nothing but lies! _Chilperic, Le Petit Faust, L'Oeil
Creve, Trone d'Ecosse, Marguerite de Navarre, La Belle Poule_. And all
the music I've learnt hoping that I would be allowed to sing it; and yet
you expect that a woman who is deceived like that can abstain from drink.
Why, you drive me to it, Dick. An angel from heaven wouldn't abstain from
drink. Away you go in the morning to Mrs. Forest--to her opera.'
'But, Kate, there's nothing between me and Mrs. Forest. She is a very
clever woman, and I am doing her opera for her. How are we to live if you
come between me and my business?'
'Womanizing is your business,' Kate answered suddenly.
'Well, don't let us argue it,' Dick answered. He tied his shoe-strings and
sought for his hat.
'So you're going,' she said; 'and when shall I see you again?'
'I shall try to get home for dinner.'
'Not before eight.'
'I shall not see you before twelve,' she replied, and she experienced a sad
sinking of the heart when she heard the door close behind him, a sad
sinking that she would have to endure till she heard his latchkey, and that
would not be for many hours, perhaps not till midnight. She did not know
how she would be able to endure all these hours; to sleep some of them away
would be the best thing she could do, and with that intention she drew down
the blind and threw herself on the bed, and lay between sleeping and waking
till the afternoon. Then, feeling a little better, she rang and asked for a
cup of tea. It tasted very insipid, but she gulped it down as best she
could, making wry faces and feeling more miserable than ever she had felt
before; afraid to look back on yesterday, afraid to look forward on the
morrow, she bethought herself of the past, of the happy days when
Montgomery used to come and teach her to sing, and her triumphs in the part
of Clairette; she was quite as successful in Serpolette; people had liked
her in Serpolette, and to recall those days more distinctly she opened a
box in which she kept her souvenirs: a withered flower, a broken
cigarette-holder, two or three old buttons that had fallen from his
clothes, and a lock of hair, and it was under these that the prize of
prizes lay--a string of false pearls. She liked to run them through her
fingers and to see them upon her neck. She still kept the dresses she wore
in her two favourite parts: the stockings and the shoes, and having nothing
to do, no way of passing the time away, she bethought herself of dressing
herself in the apparel of her happy days, presenting, when the servant came
up with her dinner, a spectacle that almost caused Emma to drop the dish of
'Lord, Mrs. Lennox, I thought I see a ghost; you in that white dress, oh,
what lovely clothes!'
'These were the clothes I used to wear when I was on the stage.'
'But law, mum, why aren't you on the stage now?'
Kate began to tell her story to the servant-girl, who listened till a bell
rang, and she said:
'That's Mr. So-and-So ringing for his wife; I must run and see to it. You
must excuse me, mum.'
The cold mutton and the damp potatoes did not tempt her appetite, and
catching sight of herself in the glass, bitter thoughts of the wrongs done
to her surged up in her mind. The tiny nostrils dilated and the upper lip
contracted, and for ten minutes she stood, her hands grasping nervously at
the back of her chair; the canine teeth showed, for the project of revenge
was mounting to her head. 'He'll not be back till midnight; all this while
he is with Leslie and Mrs. Forest, or some new girl perhaps. Yet when he
returns to me, when he is wearied out, he expects to find me sober and
pleased to see him. But he shall never see me sober or pleased to see him
again.' On these words she walked across the room to the fire-place, and
putting her hand up the chimney brought down a bottle of Old Tom, and sat
moodily sipping gin and water till she heard his key in the lock.
'He's back earlier than I expected,' she said.
Dick entered in his usual deliberate, elephantine way. Kate made no sign
till he was seated, then she asked what the news was.
It was clearly out of the question to tell her that he had been round to
tea with one of the girls; to explain how he had wheedled Mrs. Forest into
all sorts of theatrical follies was likewise not to be thought of as a
subject of news, and as to making conversation out of the rest of the day's
duties, he really didn't see how he was to do it. Miss Howard had put out
the entire procession by not listening to his instructions; Miss Adair,
although she was playing the Brigand of the Ultramarine Mountains, had
threatened to throw up her part if she were not allowed to wear her diamond
ear-rings. The day had gone in deciding such questions, had passed in
drilling those infernal girls; and what interest could there be in going
through it all over again? Besides, he never knew how or where he might
betray himself, and Kate was so quick in picking up the slightest word and
twisting it into extraordinary meanings, that he really would prefer to
talk about something else.
'I can't understand how you can have been out all day without having heard
something. It is because you want to keep me shut up here and not let me
know anything of your going-on; but I shall go down to the theatre
to-morrow and have it out of you.'
'My dear, I assure you that I was at the rehearsal all day. The girls don't
know their music yet, and it puts me out in my stage arrangement. I give
you my word that is all I heard or saw to-day. I've nothing to conceal from
'You're a liar, and you know you are!'
Blows and shrieks followed.
'I shall pull that woman's nose off; I know I shall!'
'I give you my word, my dear, that I've been the whole day with Montgomery
and Harding cutting the piece.'
'Cutting the piece! And I should like to know why I'm not in that piece. I
suppose it was you who kept me out of it. Oh, you beast! Why did you ever
have anything to do with me? It's you who are ruining me. Were it not for
you, do you think I should be drinking? Not I--it was all your fault.'
Dick made no attempt to answer. He was very tired. Kate continued her march
up and down the room for some moments in silence, but he could see from the
twitching of her face and the swinging of her arms that the storm was bound
to burst soon. Presently she said:
'You go and get me something to drink; I've had nothing all this evening.'
'Oh, Kate dear! I beg of--'
'Oh, you won't, won't you? We'll see about that,' she answered as she
looked around the room for the heaviest object she could conveniently throw
Seeing how useless it would be to attempt to contradict her in her present
mood, Dick rose to his feet and said hurriedly:
'Now there's no use in getting into a passion, Kate. I'll go, I'll go.'
'You'd better, I can tell you.'
'What shall I get, then?'
'Get me half a pint of gin, and be quick about it--I'm dying of thirst.'
Even Dick, accustomed as he was now to these scenes, could not repress a
look in which there was at once mingled pity, astonishment and fear, so
absolutely demoniacal did this little woman seem as she raved under the
watery light of the lodging-house gas, her dark complexion gone to a dull
greenish pallor. By force of contrast she called to his mind the mild-eyed
workwoman he had known in the linen-draper's shop in Hanley, and he asked
himself if it were possible that she and this raging creature, more like a
tiger in her passion than a human being, were one and the same person? He
could not choose but wonder. But another scream came, bidding him make
haste, or it would be worse for him, and he bent his head and went to fetch
In the meantime Kate's fury leaped, crackled, and burnt with the fierceness
of a house in the throes of conflagration, and in the smoke-cloud of hatred
which enveloped her, only fragments of ideas and sensations flashed like
falling sparks through her mind. Up and down the room she walked swinging
her arms, only hesitating for some new object whereon to wreak new fury.
Suddenly it struck her that Dick had been too long away--that he was
keeping her waiting on purpose; and grinding her teeth, she muttered:
'Oh, the beast! Would he--would he keep me waiting, and since nine this
morning I've been alone!'
In an instant her resolve was taken. It came to her sullenly, obtusely,
like the instinct of revenge to an animal. She did not stop to consider
what she was doing, but, seizing a large stick, the handle of a brush that
happened to have been broken, she stationed herself at the top of the
landing. A feverish tremor agitated her as she waited in the semi-darkness
of the stairs. But at last she heard the door open, and Dick came up slowly
with his usual heavy tread. She made neither sign nor stir, but allowed him
to get past her, and then, raising the brush-handle, she landed him one
across the back. The poor man uttered a long cry, and the crash of broken
glass was heard.
'What did you hit me like that for?' he cried, holding himself with both
'You beast, you! I'll teach you to keep me waiting! You would, would you!
Do you want another? Go into the sitting-room.'
Dick obeyed humbly and in silence. His only hope was that the landlady had
not been awakened, and he felt uneasily at his pockets, through which he
could feel the gin dripping down his legs.
'Well, have you brought the drink I sent you for? Where is it?'
'Well,' replied Dick, desirous of conciliating at any price, 'it was in my
pocket, but when you hit me with that stick you broke it.'
'I broke it?' cried Kate, her eyes glistening with fire.
'Yes, dear, you did; it wasn't my fault.'
'Wasn't your fault! Oh, you horrid wretch! you put it there on purpose that
I should break it.'
'Oh, now really, Kate,' he cried, shocked by the unfairness of the
accusation, 'how could I know that you were going to hit me there?'
'I don't know and I don't care; what's that to me? But what I'm sure of is
that you always want to spite me, that you hate me, that you would wish to
see me dead, so that you might marry Mrs. Forest.'
'I can't think how you can say such things. I've often told you that Mrs.
Forest and I--'
'Oh! don't bother me. I'm not such a fool. I know she keeps you, and she
will have to pay me a drink to-night. Go and get another bottle of gin; and
mind you pay for it with the money she gave you to-day. Yes, she shall
stand me a drink to-night!'
'I give you my word I haven't another penny-piece upon me; it's just the
But Dick did not get time to finish the sentence; he was interrupted by a
heavy blow across the face, and like a panther that has tasted blood, she
rushed at him again, screaming all the while: 'Oh, you've no money! You
liar! you liar! So you would make me believe that she does not give you
money, that you have no money of hers in your pocket. You would keep it all
for yourself; but you shan't, no, you shan't, for I will tear it from you
and throw it in your face! Oh, that filthy money! that filthy money!'
The patience with which be bore with her was truly angelic. He might easily
have felled her to the ground with one stroke, but he contented himself
with merely warding off the blows she aimed at him. From his great height
and strength, he was easily able to do this, and she struck at him with her
little womanish arms as she might against a door.
'Take down your hands,' she screamed, exasperated to a last degree. 'You
would strike me, would you? You beast! I know you would.'
Her rage had now reached its height. Showing her clenched teeth, she foamed
at the mouth, the bloodshot eyes protruded from their sockets, and her
voice grew more and more harsh and discordant. But, although the excited
brain gave strength to the muscles and energy to the will, unarmed she
could do nothing against Dick, and suddenly becoming conscious of this she
rushed to the fireplace and seized the poker. With one sweep of the arm she
cleared the mantel-board, and the mirror came in for a tremendous blow as
she advanced round the table brandishing her weapon; but, heedless of the
shattered glass, she followed in pursuit of Dick, who continued to defend
himself dexterously with a chair. And it is difficult to say how long this
combat might have lasted if Dick's attention had not been interrupted by
the view of the landlady's face at the door; and so touched was he by the
woman's dismay when she looked upon her broken furniture, that he forgot to
guard himself from the poker. Kate took advantage of the occasion and
whirled the weapon round her head. He saw it descending in time, and half
warded off the blow; but it came down with awful force on the forearm, and
glancing off, inflicted a severe scalp wound. The landlady screamed
'Murder!' and Dick, seeing that matters had come to a crisis, closed in
upon his wife, and undeterred by yells and struggles, pinioned her and
forced her into a chair.
'Oh, dear! Oh, dear! You're all bleeding, sir,' cried the landlady; 'she
has nearly killed you.'
'Never mind me. But what are we to do? I think she has gone mad this time.'
'That's what I think,' said the landlady, trying to make herself heard
above Kate's shrieks.
'Well, then, go and fetch a doctor, and let's hear what he has to say,'
replied Dick, as he changed his grip on Kate's arm, for in a desperate
struggle she had nearly succeeded in wrenching herself free. The landlady
retreated precipitately towards the door.
'Well, will you go?'
'Yes, yes, I'll run at once.'
'You'd better,' yelled the mad woman after her. 'I'll give it to you! Let
me go! Let me go, will you?'
But Dick never ceased his hold of her, and the blood, dripping upon her;
trickled in large drops into her ears, and down into her neck and bosom.
'You're spitting on me, you beast! You filthy beast! I'll pay you out for
this.' Then she perceived that it was blood; the intonation of her voice
changed, and in terror she screamed, 'Murder! murder! He's murdering me! Is
there no one here to save me?'
The minutes seemed like eternities. Dick felt himself growing faint, but
should he lose his power over her before the doctor arrived, the
consequences might be fatal to himself, so he struggled with her for very
At last the door was opened, and a man walked into the room, tripping in so
doing over a piece of the broken mirror. It was the doctor, and accustomed
as he was to betray surprise at nothing, he could not repress a look of
horror on catching sight of the scene around him.
The apartment was almost dismantled; chairs lay backless about the floor
amid china shepherdesses and toreadors; pictures were thrown over the sofa,
and a huge pile of wax fruit--apples and purple grapes--was partially
reflected in a large piece of mirror that had fallen across the hearthrug.
'Come, help me to hold her,' said Dick, raising his blood-stained face.
With a quick movement the doctor took possession of Kate's arms. 'Give me a
sheet from the next room; I'll soon make her fast.'
The threat of being tied had its effect. Kate became quieter, and after
some trouble they succeeded in carrying her into the next room and laying
her on the bed. There she rolled convulsively, beating the pillows with her
arms. The landlady stationed herself at the door to give notice of any
further manifestation of fury, whilst Dick explained the circumstances of
the case to the doctor.
After a short consultation, he agreed to sign an order declaring that in
his opinion Mrs. Lennox was a dangerous lunatic.
'Will that be enough,' said Dick, 'to place her in an asylum?'
'No, you'll have to get the opinion of another doctor.'
The possibility of being able to rid himself of her was to him like the
sudden dawning of a new life, and Dick rushed off, bleeding, haggard,
wild-looking as he was, to seek for another doctor who would concur in the
judgment of the first, asking himself if it were possible to see Kate in
her present position, and say conscientiously that she was a person who
could be safely trusted with her liberty? And to his great joy this view
was taken by the second authority consulted, and having placed his wife
under lock and key, Dick lay down to rest a happier man than he had been
for many a day. The position in his mind was, of course, the means he
should adopt to place her in the asylum. Force was not to be thought of;
persuasion must be first tried. So far he was decided, but as to the
arguments he should advance to induce her to give up her liberty he knew
nothing, nor did he attempt to formulate any scheme, and when he entered
the bedroom next morning he relied more on the hope of finding her
repentant, and appealing to and working on her feelings of remorse than
anything else. 'The whole thing,' as he put it, 'depended upon the humour
he should find her in.'
And he found her with stains of blood still upon her face, amid the broken
furniture, and she asked calmly but with intense emotion:
'Dick, did he say I was mad?'
'Well, dear, I don't know that he said you were mad except when you were
the worse for drink, but he said--'
'That I might become mad,' she interposed, 'if I don't abstain from drink.
Did he say that?'
'Well, it was something like that, Kate. You know I only just escaped with
'Only just escaped with your life, Dick! Oh, if I'd killed you, if I'd
killed you! If I'd seen you lying dead at my feet!' and unable to think
further she fell on her knees and reached out her arms to him. But he did
not take her to his bosom, and she sobbed till, touched to the heart, he
strove to console her with kind words, never forgetting, however, to
introduce a hint that she was not responsible for her actions.
'Then I'm really downright mad?' said Kate, raising her tear-stained face
from her arms. 'Did the doctor say so?'
This was by far too direct a question for Dick to answer; it were better to
'Well, my dear--mad? He didn't say that you were always mad, but he said
you were liable to fits, and that if you didn't take care those fits would
grow upon you, and you would become--'
Then he hesitated as he always did before a direct statement.
'But what did he say I must do to get well?'
'He advised that you should go to a home where you would not be able to get
hold of any liquor and would be looked after'
'You mean a madhouse. You wouldn't put me in a madhouse, Dick?'
'I wouldn't put you anywhere where you didn't like to go; but he said
nothing about a madhouse.'
'What did he say, then?'
'He spoke merely of one of those houses which are under medical
supervision, and where anyone can go and live for a time; a kind of
hospital, you know.'
The argument was continued for an hour or more. Kate wept and protested
against being locked up as a mad woman; while he, conscious of the strong
hold he had over her, reminded her in a thousand ways of the danger she ran
of awakening one morning to find herself a murderess. Yet it is difficult
to persuade anyone voluntarily to enter a lunatic asylum, no matter how
irrefutable the reasons advanced may be, and it was not until Dick on one
side skilfully threatened her with separation, and tempted her on the other
with the hope of being cured of her vice and living with him happily ever
afterwards, that she consented to enter Dr. ----'s private asylum, Craven
Street, Bloomsbury. But even then the battle was not won, for when he
suggested going off there at once, he very nearly brought another fit of
passion down on his head. It was only the extreme lassitude and debility
produced from the excesses of last night that saved him.
'Oh, Dick, dear! if you only knew how I love you! I would give my last drop
of blood to save you from harm.'
'I know you would, dear; it's the fault of that confounded drink,' he
answered, his heart tense with the hope of being rid of her. Then the
packing began. Kate sat disconsolate on the sofa, and watched Dick folding
up her dresses and petticoats. It seemed to her that everything had ended,
and wearily she collected the pearls which had been scattered in last
night's skirmishing. Some had been trodden on, others were lost, and only
about half the original number could be found, and shaken with nervousness
and lassitude, Kate cried and wrung her hands. Dick sat next her, kind,
huge, and indifferent, even as the world itself.
'But you'll come and see me? You promise me that you'll come--that you'll
come very often.'
'Yes, dear, I'll come two or three times a week; but I hope that you'll be
well soon--very soon.'
The hope Dick expressed that his wife would soon be well enough to return
home was, of course, untrue, his hope being that she would never cross the
doors of the house in Bloomsbury whither he was taking her. The empty bed
awaiting him was so great a relief that he fell on his knees before it and
prayed that the doctors might judge her to be insane, unsafe to be at
large. To wake up in the morning alone in his bed, and to be free to go
forth to his business without question seemed to him like Heaven. But the
pleasures of Heaven last for eternity, and Dick's delight lasted but for
two days. Two days after Kate had gone into the asylum a letter came from
one of the doctors saying that Mrs. Lennox was not insane, and would have
to be discharged.
Dick sank into a chair and lay there almost stunned, plunged in despair
that was like a thick fog, and it did not lift until the door opened and
Kate stood before him again.
He raised his head and looked at her stupidly, and interpreting his vacant
face, she said:
'Dick, you're sorry to have me back again.'
'Sorry, Kate? Well, if things were different I shouldn't be sorry. But you
see the blow you struck me with the poker very nearly did for me; I haven't
been the same man since.'
'Well,' she said, 'I must go back to the asylum or the home, whatever you
call it, and tell them that I am mad.'
'There's no use in doing that, Kate, they wouldn't believe you. Here is the
letter I've just received; read it.'
'But, Dick, there must be some way out of this dreadful trouble, and yet
there doesn't seem to be any. Try to think, dear, try to think. Can you
think of anything, dear? I don't think I shall give way again. If I only
had something to do; it's because I'm always alone; because I love you;
because I'm jealous of that woman.'
'But, Kate, if I stop here with you all day we shall starve. I must go to
'Ah, business! Business! If I could go to business too. The days when we
used to rehearse went merrily enough.'
'You were the best Clairette I ever saw,' Dick answered; 'better than Paola
Mariee, and I ought to know, for I rehearsed you both.'
'I shall never play Clairette again,' Kate said sadly. 'I've lost my figure
and the part requires a waist.'
'You might get your waist again,' Dick said, and the words seemed to him
extraordinarily silly, but he had to say something.
'If I could only get to work again,' she muttered to herself, and then
turning to Dick--
'Dick, if I could get to work again; any part would do; it doesn't matter
how small, just to give me something to think about, that's all, to keep my
mind off it. If the baby had not died I should have had her to look after
and that would have done just as well as a part. But I've disgraced you in
company; I don't blame you, you couldn't have me in it, and I couldn't
bring myself to sing in that opera.'
'Yes, you would only break out again, Kate. Those jealous fits are
terrible. You think you could restrain yourself, but you couldn't; and all
that would come of a row between you and Mrs. Forest would be that I should
lose my job.'
'I know, Dick, I know,' Kate cried painfully, 'but I promise you that I
never will again. You may go where you please and do what you please. I
will never say a word to you again.'
'I'm sure you believe all that you say, Kate, but I cannot get you a job. I
may hear of something. Meanwhile----'
'Meanwhile I shall have to stay here and alone and no way of escaping from
the hours, those long dreary hours, no way but one. Dick, I'm sorry they
did not keep me in the asylum, it would have been better for both of us if
they had; and if I could go back there again, if you will take me back, I
will try to deceive the doctors.'
'You mean, Kate, that you would play the mad woman? I doubt if any woman
could do it sufficiently well to deceive the doctors. There was an Italian
woman,' and they talked of the great Italian actress for some time and then
Dick said: 'Well, Kate, I must be about my business. I'm sorry to leave
'No, Dick, you're not.'
'I am, dear, in a way. But if I hear of anything----' and he left the house
knowing that there was no further hope for himself. He was tied to her and
might be killed by her in his sleep, but that would not matter. What did
matter was the thought that was always at the back of his mind, that she
was alone in that Islington lodging-house craving for drink, striving to
resist it, falling back into drink and might be coming down raving to the
theatre to insult him before the company. Insult him before the company!
That had been done, she had done her worst, and he was indifferent whether
she came again, only she must not meet Mrs. Forest. On the whole he felt
that his sorrow was with Kate herself rather than himself or with Mrs.
Forest. 'God only knows,' he said as he rushed down the stairs, 'what will
become of her.'
Kate was asking herself the same question--what was to become of her? Would
it be possible for her to find work to do that would keep her mind away
from the drink? She seemed for the moment free from all craving, but she
knew what the craving is, how overpowering in the throat it is, and how
when one has got one mouthful one must go on and on, so intense is the
delight of alcohol in the throat of the drunkard. But there was no craving
upon her, and it might never come again. Every morning she awoke in great
fear, but was glad to find that there was no craving in her throat, and
when she went out she rejoiced that the public-houses offered no attraction
to her. She became brave; and fear turned to contempt, and at the bottom of
her heart she began to jeer at the demon which had conquered and brought
her to ruin and which she had in turn conquered. But there was, a last
mockery she did not dare, for she knew that the demon was but biding his
time. He seemed, however, to go on biding it, and Dick, finding Kate
reasonable every evening, came home to dinner earlier so that the day
should not appear to her intolerably long. But his business often detained
him, and one night coming home late he noticed that she looked more sullen
than usual, that her eyes drooped as if she had been drinking. A month of
scenes of violence followed; 'not a single day as far as I can remember for
a fortnight' he said one day on leaving the house and running to catch his
bus to the Strand, 'have we had a quiet evening.' When he returned that
night she ran at him with a knife, and he had only just time to ward off
the blow. The house rang with shrieks and cries of all sorts, and the
Lennoxes were driven from one lodging-house, to another. Trousers, dresses,
hats, boots and shoes, were all pawned. The comic and the pitiful are but
two sides of the same thing, and it was at once comic and pitiful to see
Dick, with one of the tails of his coat lost in the scrimmage, talking at
one o'clock in the morning to a dispassionate policeman, while from the top
windows the high treble voice of a woman disturbed the sullen tranquillity
of the London night.
And yet Dick continued with her--continued to allow himself to be beaten,
scratched, torn to pieces almost as he would be by a wild beast. Human
nature can habituate itself even to pain, and it was so with him. He knew
that his present life was as a Nessus shirt on his back, and yet he
couldn't make up his mind to have done with it. In the first place, he
pitied his wife; in the second, he did not know how to leave her; and it
was not until after another row with Kate for having been down to the
theatre that he summoned up courage to walk out of the house with a fixed
determination never to return again. Kate was too tipsy at the time to pay
much attention to the announcement he made to her as he left the room.
Besides, 'Wolf!' had been cried so often that it had now lost its terror in
her ears, and it was not until next day that she began to experience any
very certain fear that Dick and she had at last parted for ever. But when,
with a clammy, thirsty mouth, she sat rocking herself wearily, and the long
idleness of the morning hours became haunted with irritating remembrances
of her shameful conduct, of the cruel life she led the man she loved, the
black gulf of eternal separation became, as it were, etched upon her mind;
and she heard the cold depths reverberating with vain words and foolish
prayers. Then her thin hands trembled on her black dress, and waves of
shivering passed over her. She thought involuntarily that a little brandy
might give her strength, and as soon hated herself for the thought. It was
brandy that had brought her to this. She would never touch it again. But
Dick had not left her for ever; he would come back to her; she could not
live without him. It was terrible! She would go to him, and on her knees
beg his pardon for all she had done. He would forgive her. He must forgive
her. Such were the fugitive thoughts that flashed through Kate's mind as
she hurried to and fro, seeking for her bonnet and shawl. She would go down
to the theatre and find him; she would be sure to hear news of him there,
she said, as she strove to brush away the mist that obscured her eyes. She
could see nothing; things seemed to change their places, and so terrible
were the palpitations of her heart that she was forced to cling to any
piece of furniture within reach. But by walking very slowly she contrived
to reach the stage-door of the Opera Comique, feeling very weak and ill.
'Is Mr Lennox in?' she asked, at the same time trying to look
conciliatingly at the hard-faced hall-keeper.
'No, ma'am, he ain't,' was the reply.
'Who attended the rehearsal to-day, then?'
'There was no rehearsal to-day, ma'am--leastways Mr. Lennox dismissed the
rehearsal at half-past twelve.'
'Ah! that I cannot tell you.'
'Could you tell me where Mr. Lennox would be likely to be found?'
'Indeed I couldn't, ma'am; I believe he's gone into the country.'
'Gone into the country!' echoed Kate.
'But may I ask, ma'am, if you be Mrs. Lennox? Because if you be, Mr. Lennox
left a letter to be given to you in case you called.'
Her eyes brightened at the idea of a letter. To know the worst would be
better than a horrible uncertainty, and she said eagerly:
'Yes, I'm Mrs. Lennox; give me the letter.'
The hall-keeper handed it to her, and she walked out of the narrow passage
into the street, so as to be free from observation. With anxious fingers
she tore open the envelope, and read,
'MY DEAR KATE,
'It must be now as clear to you as it is to me that it is quite impossible
for us to go on living together. There is no use in our again discussing
the whys and the wherefores; we had much better accept the facts of the
case in silence, and mutually save each other the pain of trying to alter
what cannot be altered.
'I have arranged to allow you two pounds a week. This sum will be paid to
you every Saturday, by applying to Messrs. Jackson and Co., Solicitors,
Arundel Street, Strand.
'Yours very affectionately,
Kate mechanically repeated the last words as she walked gloomily through
the glare of the day. 'Two pounds a week.' she said, and with nothing else;
not a friend, and the thought passed through her mind that she could not
have a friend, she had fallen too low, yet from no fault of her own nor
Dick's, and it was that that frightened her. A terrible sense of
loneliness, of desolation, was created in her heart. For her the world
seemed to have ended, and she saw the streets and passers-by with the same
vague, irresponsible gaze as a solitary figure would the universal ruin
caused by an earthquake. She had no friends, no occupation, no interest of
any kind in life; everything had slipped from her, and she shivered with a
sense of nakedness, of moral destitution. Nothing was left to her, and yet
she felt, she lived, she was conscious. Oh yes, horribly conscious. And
that was the worst; and she asked herself why she could not pass out of
sight, out of hearing and feeling of all the crying misery with which she
was surrounded, and in a state of emotive somnambulism she walked through
the crowds till she was startled from her dreams by hearing a voice calling
after her, 'Kate! Kate!--Mrs. Lennox!'
It was Montgomery.
'I'm so glad to have met you--so glad, indeed, for we have not seen much of
each other. I don't know how it was, but somehow it seemed to me that Dick
did not want me to go and see you. I never could make out why, for he
couldn't have been jealous of me,' he added a little bitterly. 'But perhaps
you've not heard that it's all up as regards my piece at the Opera
Comique,' he continued, not noticing Kate's dejection in his excitement.
'No, I haven't heard,' she answered mechanically.
'It doesn't matter much, though, for I've just been down to the Gaiety, and
pretty well settled that it's to be done in Manchester, at the Prince's; so
you see I don't let the grass grow under my feet, for my row with Mrs.
Forest only occurred this morning. But what's the matter, Kate? What has
'Oh, nothing, nothing. Tell me about Mrs. Forest first; I want to know.'
'Well, it's the funniest thing you ever heard in your life; but you won't
tell Dick, because he forbade me ever to speak to you about Mrs.
Forest--not that there is anything but business between them; that I swear
to you. But do tell me, Kate, what is the matter? I never saw you look so
sad in my life. Have you had any bad news?'
'No, no. Tell me about Mrs. Forest and your piece; I want to hear,' she
'Well, this is it,' said Montgomery, who saw in a glance that she was not
to be contradicted, and that he had better get on with his story. 'In the
first place, you know that the old creature has gone in for writing
librettos herself, and has finished one about Buddhism, an absurdity; the
opening chorus is fifty lines long, but she won't cut one; but I'll tell
you about that after. I was to get one hundred for setting this blessed
production to music, and it was to follow my own piece, which was in
rehearsal. Well, like a great fool, I was explaining to Dubois the bosh I
was writing by the yard for this infernal opera of hers. I couldn't help
it; she wouldn't take advice on any point. She has written the song of the
Sun-god in hexameters. I don't know what hexameters are, but I would as
soon set Bradshaw--leaving St. Pancras nine twenty-five, arriving at--ha!
ha! ha!--with a puff, puff accompaniment on the trombone.'
'Go on with the story,' cried Kate.
'Well, I was explaining all this,' said Montgomery, suddenly growing
serious, 'when out she darted from behind the other wing--I never knew she
was there. She called me a thief, and said she wouldn't have me another
five minutes in her theatre. Monti, the Italian composer, was sent for. I
was shoved out, bag and baggage, and there will be no more rehearsals till
the new music is ready. That's all.'
'I'm very sorry for you--very sorry,' said Kate very quietly, and she
raised her hand to brush away a tear.
'Oh, I don't care; I'd sooner have the piece done in Manchester. Of course
it's a bore, losing a hundred pounds. But, oh, Kate! do tell me what's the
matter; you know you can confide in me; you know I'm your friend.'
At these kind words the cold deadly grief that encircled Kate's heart like
a band of steel melted, and she wept profusely. Montgomery drew her arm
into his and pleaded and begged to be told the reason of these tears; but
she could make no answer, and pressed Dick's letter into his hand with a
passionate gesture. He read it at a glance, and then hesitated, unable to
make up his mind as to what he should do. No words seemed to him adequate
wherewith to console her, and she was sobbing so bitterly that it was
beginning to attract attention in the streets. They walked on without
speaking for a few yards, Kate leaning upon Montgomery, until a hackney
coachman, guessing that something was wrong signed to them with his whip.
'Where are you living, dear?'
Kate told him with some difficulty, and having directed the driver, he
lapsed again into considering what course he should adopt. To put off the
journey was impossible; Dick had promised to meet him there. It was now
three o'clock. He had therefore three hours to spend with Kate--with the
woman whom he had loved steadfastly throughout a loveless life. He had no
word of blame for Dick; he had heard stories that had made his blood run
cold; and yet, knowing her faults as he did, he would have opened his arms
had it been possible, and crying through the fervour of years of waiting,
said to her, 'Yes, I will believe in you; believe in me and you shall be
happy.' There had never been a secret between them; their souls had been
for ever as if in communication; and the love, unacknowledged in words, had
long been as sunlight and moonlight, lighting the spaces of their
dream-life. To the woman it had been as a distant star whose pale light was
a presage of quietude in hours of vexation; to the man it seemed as a far
Elysium radiant with sweet longing, large hopes that waxed but never waned,
and where the sweet breezes of eternal felicity blew in musical cadence.
And yet he was deceived in nothing. He knew now as he had known before,
that although this dream might haunt him for ever, he should never hold it
in his arms nor press it to his lips; and in the midst of this surging tide
of misery there arose a desire that, glad in its own anguish, bade him
increase the bitterness of these last hours by making a confession of his
suffering; and, exulting savagely in the martyrdom he was preparing for
himself, he said:
'You know, Kate--I know you must know--you must have guessed that I care
for you. I may as well tell you the truth now--you are the only woman I
'Yes,' she said, 'I always thought you cared for me. You have been very
kind--oh! very kind, and I often think of it. Ah! everybody has, all my
life long, been very good to me; it is I alone who am to blame, who am in
fault. I have, I know I have, been very wicked, and I don't know why. I did
not mean it; I know I didn't, for I'm not at heart a wicked woman. I
suppose things must have gone against me; that's about all.'
Montgomery pushed his glasses higher on his nose, and after a long silence
'I've often thought that had you met me before you knew Dick, things might
have been different. We should have got on better, although you might never
have loved me so well.'
Kate raised her eyes, and she said:
'No one will ever know how I have loved, how I still love that man.
Oftentimes I think that had I loved him less I should have been a better
wife. I think he loved me, but it was not the love I dreamed of. Like you,
I was always sentimental, and Dick never cared for that sort of thing.'
'I think I should have understood you better,' said Montgomery; and the
conversation came to a pause. A vision of the life of devotion spent at the
feet of an ideal lover, that life of sacrifice and tenderness which had
been her dream, and which she had so utterly failed to attain, again rose
up to tantalize her like a glittering mirage: and she could not help
wondering whether she would have realized this beautiful, this wonderful
might-have-been if she had chosen this other man.
'But I suppose you'll make it up with Dick,' said Montgomery somewhat
Kate awoke from her reverie with a start, and answered sorrowfully that she
did not know, that she was afraid Dick would never forgive her again.
'I don't remember if I told you that I'm going to see him in Manchester; he
promised to go up there to make some arrangements about my piece.'
'No, you didn't tell me.'
'Well, I'll speak to him. I'll tell him I've seen you. I fancy I shall be
able to make it all right,' he added, with a feeble smile.
'Oh! how good you are--how good you are,' cried Kate, clasping her hands.
'If he will only forgive me once again, I'll promise, I'll swear to him
Here Kate stopped abashed, and burying her face in her hands, she wept
bitterly. The tenderness, the melancholy serenity of their interview, had
somehow suddenly come to an end. Each was too much occupied with his or her
thoughts to talk much, and the effort to find phrases grew more and more
irritating. Both were very sad, and although they sighed when the clock
struck the hour of farewell, they felt that to pass from one pain to
another was in itself an assuagement. Kate accompanied Montgomery to the
station. He seemed to her to be out of temper; she to him to be further
away than ever. The explanation that had taken place between them had, if
not broken, at least altered the old bonds of sympathy, without creating
new ones; and they were discontented, even like children who remember for
the first time that to-day is not yesterday.
They felt lonely watching the parallel lines of platforms; and when
Montgomery waved his hand for the last time, and the train rolled into the
luminous arch of sky that lay beyond the glass roofing, Kate turned away
overpowered by grief and cruel recollections. When she got home, the
solitude of her room became unbearable; she wanted someone to see, someone
to console her. She had a few shillings in her pocket, but she remembered
her resolutions and for some time resented the impervious clutch of the
temptation. But the sorrow that hung about her, that penetrated like a
corrosive acid into the very marrow of her bones, grew momentarily more
burning, more unendurable. Twenty times she tried to wrench it out of her
heart. The landlady brought her up some tea; she could not drink it; it
tasted like soapsuds in her mouth. Then, knowing well what the results
would be, she resolved to go out for a walk.
Next day she was ill, and to pull herself together it was necessary to have
a drink. It would not do to look too great a sight in the Solicitor's
office where Dick had told her in his letter to go to get her money. There
she found not two, but five pounds awaiting her, and this enabled her to
keep up a stage of semi intoxication until the end of the week.
She at last woke up speechless, suffering terrible palpitations of the
heart, but she had strength enough to ring her bell, and when the landlady
came to her she nearly lost her balance and fell to the ground, so
strenuously did Kate lean and cling to her for support. After gasping
painfully for some moments Kate muttered: 'I'm dying. These palpitations
and the pain in my side.'
The landlady asked if she would like to see the doctor, and with difficulty
obtained her consent that the doctor should be sent for.
'I'll send at once,' she said.
'No, not at once,' Kate cried. 'Pour me out a little brandy and water, and
I'll see how I am in the course of the day.'
The woman did as was desired, and Kate told her that she felt better, and
that if it wasn't for the pains in her side she'd be all right.
The landlady looked a little incredulous; but her lodger had only been with
her a fortnight, and so carefully had the brandy been hidden, and the
inebriety concealed, that although she had her doubts, she was not yet
satisfied that Kate was an habitual drunkard. Certainly appearances were
against Mrs. Lennox; but as regards the brandy-bottle, she had watched it
very carefully, and was convinced that scarcely more than sixpennyworth of
liquor went out of it daily. The good woman did not know how it was
replenished from another bottle that came sometimes from under the
mattress, sometimes out of the chimney. And the disappearance of the
husband was satisfactorily accounted for by the announcement that he had
gone to Manchester to produce a new piece. Besides, Mrs. Lennox was a very
nice person; it was a pleasure to attend to her, and during the course of
the afternoon Mrs. White called several times at the second floor to
inquire after her lodger's health.
But there was no change for the better. Looking the picture of
wretchedness, Kate lay back in her chair, declaring in low moans that she
never felt so ill in her life-that the pain in her side was killing her. At
first, Mrs. White seemed inclined to make light of all this complaining,
but towards evening she began to grow alarmed, and urged that the doctor
should be sent for.
'I assure you, ma'am,' she said, 'it's always better to see a doctor. The
money is never thrown away; for even if there's nothing serious the matter,
it eases one's mind to be told so.'
Kate was generally easy to persuade, but fearing that her secret drinking
would be discovered, she declined for a long time to take medical advice.
At last she was obliged to give way, and the die having been cast, she
commenced to think how she might conceal part of the truth. Something of
the coquetry of the actress returned to her, and, getting up from her
chair, she went over to the glass to examine herself, and brushing back her
hair, she said sorrowfully:
'I'm a complete wreck. I can't think what's the matter with me, and I've
lost all my hair. You've no idea, Mrs. White, of the beautiful hair I used
to have; it used to fall in armfuls over my shoulders; now, it's no more
than a wisp.'
'I think you've a great deal yet,' replied Mrs. White, not wishing to
'And how yellow I am too!'
To this Mrs. White mumbled something that was inaudible, and Kate thought
suddenly of her rouge-pot and hare's-foot. Her 'make-up,' and all her
little souvenirs of Dick, lay securely packed away in an old band-box.
'Mrs. White,' she said, 'might I ask you to get me a jug of hot water?'
When the woman left the room, everything was spread hurriedly over the
toilet-table. To see her, one would have thought that the call-boy had
knocked at the door for the second time. A thin coating of cold cream was
passed over the face and neck; then the powder-puff changed what was yellow
into white, and the hare's-foot gave a bloom to the cheeks. The pencil was
not necessary, her eyebrows being by nature dark and well-defined. Then all
disappeared again into the band-box, a drain was taken out of the bottle
whilst she listened to steps on the stairs, and she had just time to get
back to her chair when the doctor entered. She felt quite prepared to
receive him. Mrs. White, who had come up at the same time, locked uneasily
around; and, after hesitating about the confines of the room, she put the
water-jug on the rosewood cabinet, and said:
'I think I'll leave you alone with the doctor, ma'am; if you want me you'll
Mr. Hooper was a short, stout man, with a large bald forehead, and long
black hair; his small eyes were watchful as a ferret's, and his fat chubby
hands were constantly laid on his knee-caps.
'I met Mrs. White's servant in the street,' he said, looking at Kate as if
he were trying to read through the rouge on her face, 'so I came at once.
Mrs. White, with whom I was speaking downstairs, tells me that you're
suffering from a pain in your side.'
'Yes, doctor, on the right side; and I've not been feeling very well
'Is your appetite good? Will you let me feel your pulse?'
'No, I've scarcely any appetite at all--particularly in the morning. I
can't touch anything for breakfast.'
'Don't you care to drink anything? Aren't you thirsty?'
Kate would have liked to have told a lie, but fearing that she might
endanger her life by doing so, she answered:
'Oh yes! I'm constantly very thirsty.'
'Especially at night-time?'
It was irritating to have your life read thus; and Kate felt angry when she
saw this dispassionate man watching the brandy-bottle, which she had
forgotten to put away.
'Do you ever find it necessary to take any stimulant?'
Grasping at the word 'necessary,' she replied:
'Yes, doctor; my life isn't a very happy one, and I often feel so low, so
depressed as it were, that if I didn't take a little something to keep me
up I think I should do away with myself.'
'Your husband is an actor, I believe?'
'Yes; but he's at present up in Manchester, producing a new piece. I'm on
the stage, too. I've been playing a round of leading parts in the
provinces, but since I've been in London I've been out of an engagement.'
'I just asked you because I noticed you used a little powder, you know, on
the face. Of course, I can't judge at present what your complexion is; but
have you noticed any yellowness about the skin lately?'
The first instinct of a woman who drinks is to conceal her vice, and
although she was talking to a doctor, Kate was again conscious of a feeling
of resentment against the merciless eyes which saw through all the secrets
of her life. But, cowed, as it were, by the certitude expressed by the
doctor's looks and words, she strove to equivocate, and answered humbly
that she noticed her skin was not looking as clear as it used to. Dr.
Hooper then questioned her further. He asked if she suffered from a sense
of uncomfortable tension, fullness, weight, especially after meals; if she
felt any pain in her right shoulder? and she confessed that he was right in
all his surmises.
'Do tell me, doctor, what is the matter with me. I assure you I'd really
much sooner know the worst.'
But the doctor did not seem inclined to be communicative, and in reply to
her question he merely mumbled something to the effect that the liver was
out of order.
'I will send you over some medicine this evening,' he said, 'and if you
don't feel better to-morrow send round for me, and don't attempt to get up.
I think,' he added, as he took up his hat to go, 'I shall be able to put
you all right. But you must follow my instructions; you mustn't frighten
yourself, and take as little of that stimulant as possible.'
Kate answered that it was not her custom to take too much, and she tried to
look surprised at the warning. She nevertheless derived a good deal of
comfort from the doctor's visit, and during the course of the evening
succeeded in persuading herself that her fears of the morning were
ill-founded and, putting the medicine that was sent her away for the
present, she helped herself from a bottle that was hidden in the
upholstery. The fact of having a long letter to write to Dick explaining
her conduct, made it quite necessary that she should take something to keep
her up; and sitting in her lonely room, she drank on steadily until
midnight, when she could only just drag her clothes from her back and throw
herself stupidly into bed. There she passed a night full of livid-hued
nightmares, from which she awoke shivering, and suffering from terrible
palpitations of the heart. The silence of the house filled her with
terrors, cold and obtuse as the dreams from which she awakened. Strength to
scream for help she had none; and thinking she was going to die, she sought
for relief and consolation in the bottle that lay hidden under the carpet.
When the drink took effect upon her she broke out into a profuse
perspiration, and she managed to get a little sleep; but when her breakfast
was brought up about eleven o'clock in the morning, so ill did she seem
that the servant, fearing she was going to drop down dead, begged to be
allowed to fetch the doctor. But rejecting all offers of assistance, Kate
lay moaning in an armchair, unable even to taste the cup of tea that the
maid pressed upon her. She consented to take some of the medicines that
were ordered her, but whatever good they might have produced was discounted
by the constant nip-drinking she kept up during the afternoon. The next day
she was very ill indeed, and Mrs. White, greatly alarmed, insisted on
sending for Dr. Hooper.
He did not seem astonished at the change in his patient. Calmly and quietly
he watched for some moments in silence.
The bed had curtains of a red and antiquated material, and these contrasted
with the paleness of the sheets wherein Kate lay, tossing feverishly. Most
of the 'make-up' had been rubbed away from her face; and through patches of
red and white the yellow skin started like blisters. She was slightly
delirious, and when the doctor took her hand to feel her pulse she gazed at
him with her big staring eyes and spoke volubly and excitedly.
'Oh! I'm so glad you've come, for I wanted to speak to you about my
husband. I think I told you that he'd gone to Manchester to produce a new
piece. I don't know if I led you to suppose that he'd deserted me, but if I
did I was wrong to do so, for he has done nothing of the kind. It's true
that we aren't very happy together, but I dare say that is my fault. I
never was, I know, as good a wife to him as I intended to be; but then, he
made me jealous and sometimes I was mad. Yes, I think I must have been mad
to have spoken to him in the way I did. Anyhow, it doesn't matter now, does
it, doctor? But I don't know what I'm saying. Still, you won't mention that
I've told you anything. It's as likely as not that he'll forgive me, just
as he did before; and we may yet be as happy as we were at Blackpool. You
won't tell him, will you, doctor?'
'No, no, I won't,' said Dr. Hooper, quietly and firmly. 'But you mustn't
talk as much as you do; if you want to see your husband, you must get well
'Oh yes! I must get well; but tell me, doctor, how long will that take?'
'Not very long, if you will keep quiet and do what I tell you. I want you
to tell me how the pain in your side is?'
'Very bad; far worse than when I saw you last. I feel it now in my right
shoulder as well.'
'But your side--is it sore when you touch it? Will you let me feel?'
Without waiting for a reply, he passed his hand under the sheet. 'Is it
there that it pains you?'
'Yes, yes. Oh! You're hurting me.'
Then the doctor walked aside with the landlady, who had been watching the
examination of the patient with anxious eyes. She said:
'Do you think it's anything very dangerous? Is it contagious? Had I better
send her to the hospital?'
'No, I should scarcely think it worth while doing that; she will be well in
a week, that is to say if she is properly looked after. She's suffering
from acute congestion of the liver, brought on by--'
'By drink,' said Mrs. White. 'I suspected as much.'
'You've too much to do, Mrs. White, with all your children, to give up your
time to nursing her; I shall send someone round as soon as possible, but,
in the meantime, will you see that her diet is regulated to half a cup of
beef-tea, every hour or so. If she complains of thirst, let her have some
milk to drink, and you may mix a little brandy with it.' To-night I shall
send round a sleeping-draught.'
'You're sure, doctor, there is nothing catching, for you know that, with
all my children in the house----'
'You need not be alarmed, Mrs. White.'
'But do you think, doctor, it will be an expensive illness? for I know very
little about her circumstances.'
'I expect she'll be all right in a week or ten days, but what I fear for is
her future. I've had a good deal of experience in such matters, and I've
never known a case of a woman who cured herself of the vice of
intemperance. A man sometimes, a woman never.'
The landlady sighed and referred to all she had gone through during poor
Mr. White's lifetime; the doctor spoke confidingly of a lady who was at
present under his charge; and, apparently overcome with pity for suffering
humanity, they descended the staircase together. On the doorstep the
conversation was continued.
'Very well, then, doctor, I will take your advice; but at the end of a week
or so, when she is quite recovered, I shall tell her that I've let her
rooms. For, as you say, a woman rarely cures herself, and before the
children the example would be dreadful.'
'I expect to see her on her feet in about that time, then you can do as you
please, I shall call tomorrow.'
Next day the professional nurse took her place by the bedside. The sinapism
which the doctor ordered was applied to the hepatic region, and a small
dose of calomel was administered.
Under this treatment she improved rapidly; but unfortunately, as her health
returned her taste for drink increased in a like proportion. Indeed, it was
almost impossible to keep her from it, and on one occasion she tried very
cunningly to outwit the nurse, who had fallen asleep in her chair. Waiting
patiently until the woman's snoring had become sufficiently regular to
warrant the possibility of a successful attempt being made on the
brandy-bottle, Kate slipped noiselessly out of bed. The unseen night-light
cast a rosy glow over the convex side of the basin, without, however,
disturbing the bare darkness of the wall, Kate knew that all the bottles
stood in a line upon the chest of drawers, but it was difficult to
distinguish one from the other, and the jingling she made as she fumbled
amid them awoke the nurse, who divining at once what was happening, arose
quickly from her chair and advancing rapidly towards her, said:
'No, ma'am, I really can't allow it; it's against the doctor's orders.'
'I'm not going to die of thirst to please any doctor. I was only going to
take a little milk, I suppose there's no harm in that?'
'Not the least, ma'am, and if you'd called me you should have had it.'
It was owing to this fortuitous intervention that when Dr. Hooper called a
couple of days after to see his patient he was able to certify to a
remarkable change for the better in her. All the distressing symptoms had
disappeared; the pain in her side had died away; the complexion was
clearer. He therefore thought himself justified in ordering for her lunch a
little fish and some weak brandy and water; and to Kate, who had not eaten
any solid food for several days, this first meal took the importance of a
very exceptional event. Sitting by her bedside Dr. Hooper spoke to her.
'Now, Mrs. Lennox,' he said, 'I want to give you a word of warning. I've
seen you through what I must specify as a serious illness; dangerous I will
not call it, although I might do so if I were to look into the future and
anticipate the development the disease will most certainly take, unless,
indeed, you will be guided by me, and make a vow against all intoxicating
At this direct allusion to her vice Kate stopped eating, and putting down
the fork looked at the doctor.
'Now, Mrs. Lennox, you mustn't be angry,' he continued in his kind way.
'I'm speaking to you in my capacity as a medical man, and I must warn you
against the continuous nip-drinking which, of course, I can see you're in
the habit of indulging in, and which was the cause of the illness from
which you are recovering. I will not harrow your feelings by referring to
all the cases that have come under my notice where shame, disgrace, ruin,
and death were the result of that one melancholy failing--drink.'
'Oh, sir!' cried Kate, broken-hearted, 'if you only knew how unhappy I've
been, how miserable I am, you would not speak to me so. I've my failing, it
is true, but I'm driven to it. I love my husband better than anything in
the world, and I see him mixed up always with a lot of girls at the
theatre, and it sends me mad, and then I go to drink so as to forget.'
'We've all got our troubles; but it doesn't relieve us of the burden; it
only makes us forget it for a short time, and then, when consciousness
returns to us, we only remember it all the more bitterly. No, Mrs. Lennox,
take my advice. In a few days, when you're well, go to your husband, demand
his forgiveness, and resolve then never to touch spirits again.'
'It's very good of you to speak to me in this way,' said Kate, tearfully,
'and I will take your advice, The very first day that I am strong enough to
walk down to the Strand I will go and see my husband, and if he will give
me another trial, he will not, I swear to you, have cause to repent it.
Oh!' she continued, 'you don't know how good he's been to me, how he has
borne with me. If it hadn't been that he tried my temper by flirting with
other women we might have been happy now.'
Then, as Kate proceeded to speak of her trials and temptations, she grew
more and more excited and hysterical, until the doctor, fearing that she
would bring on a relapse, was forced to plead an engagement and wish her
As he left the room she cried after him, 'The first day I'm well enough to
go out I'll go and see my husband.'
The next few days passed like dreams. Kate's soul, tense with the longing
for reconciliation, floated at ease over the sordid miseries that lay
within and without her, and enraptured with expectation, she lived in a
beautiful paradise of hope.
So certain did she feel of being able to cross out the last few years of
her life, that her mind was scarcely clouded by a doubt of the possibility
of his declining to forgive her--that he might even refuse to see her. The
old days seemed charming to her, and looking back, even she seemed to have
been perfect then. There her life appeared to have begun. She never thought
of Hanley now. Ralph and Mrs. Ede were like dim shadows that had no concern
in her existence. The potteries and the hills were as the recollections of
childhood, dim and unimportant. The footlights and the applause of
audiences were also dying echoes in her ears. Her life for the moment was
concentrated in a loving memory of a Lancashire seashore and a
rose-coloured room, where she used to sit on the knees of the man she
adored. The languors and the mental weakness of convalescence were
conducive to this state of mental exaltation. She loved him better than
anyone else could love him; she would never touch brandy again. He would
take her back, and they would live as the lovers did in all the novels she
had ever read. These illusions filled Kate's mind like a scarf of white
mist hanging around the face of a radiant morning, and as she lay back amid
the pillows, or sat dreaming by the fireside in the long evenings that were
no longer lonely to her, she formed plans, and considered how she should
plead to Dick in this much-desired interview. During this period dozens of
letters were written and destroyed, and it was not until the time arrived
for her to go to the theatre to see him that she could decide upon what she
could write. Then hastily she scribbled a note, but her hand trembled so
much that before she had said half what she intended the paper was covered
with blotched and blurred lines.
'It won't do to let him think I'm drunk again,' she said to herself, as she
threw aside what she had written and read over one of her previous efforts.
It ran as follows:
'MY DARLING DICK,--
'You will, I am sure, be sorry to hear that I have been very ill. I am now,
however, much better; indeed, I may say quite recovered. During my illness
I have been thinking over our quarrels, and I now see how badly, how
wickedly, I have behaved to you on many occasions. I do not know, and I
scarcely dared to hope, that you will ever forgive me, but I trust that you
will not refuse to see me for a few minutes. I have not, I assure you,
tasted spirits for some weeks, so you need not fear I will kick up a row. I
will promise to be very quiet. I will not reproach you, nor get excited,
nor raise my voice. I shall be very good, and will not detain you but for a
very short time. You will not, you cannot, oh, my darling! deny me this one
little request--to see you again, although only for a few minutes.
'Your affectionate wife,
Compared with the fervid thoughts of her brain, these words appeared to her
weak and poor, but feeling that for the moment, at least, she could not add
to their intensity, she set out on her walk, hoping to find her husband at
It was about eight o'clock in the evening. A light, grey fog hung over the
background of the streets, and the line of the housetops was almost lost in
the morose shadows that fell from a soot-coloured sky. Here and there a
chimney-stack or the sharp spire of a church tore the muslin-like curtains
of descending mist; and vague as the mist were her thoughts. The streets
twisted, wriggling their luminous way through slime and gloom, whilst at
every turning the broad, flaring windows of the public-houses marked the
English highway. But Kate paid no attention to the red-lettered
temptations, Docile and hopeful as a tired animal thinking of its stable,
she walked through the dark crowd that pressed upon her, nor did she even
notice when she was jostled, but went on, a heedless nondescript--a
something in a black shawl and a quasi-respectable bonnet, a slippery
stepping-stone between the low women who whispered and the workwoman who
hurried home with the tin of evening beer in her hand. Like one held and
guided by the power of a dream, she lost consciousness of all that was not
of it. Thoughts of how Dick would receive her and forgive her were folded,
entangled and broken within narrow limits of time; half an hour passed like
a minute, and she found herself at the stage-door of the theatre. Drawing
the letter from her pocket, she said to the hall-keeper:
'Will you kindly give Mr. Lennox this letter? Has he arrived yet?'
'Yes, but he's busy for the moment. But,' the man added, as he examined
Kate's features narrowly, 'you'll excuse me, I made a mistake; Mr. Lennox
isn't in the theatre.'
At that moment the swinging door was thrust open, and the call-boy
'Mr. Lennox says you're not to let Miss Thomas pass to-night, and if there
are any letters for him I'm to take them in.'
'Here's one; will you give it to Mr. Lennox?' said Kate, eagerly thrusting
forward her note. 'Say that I'm waiting for an answer.'
The stage-door keeper tried to interpose, but before he could explain
himself the boy had rushed away.
'All letters should be given to me,' he growled as he turned away to argue
with Miss Thomas, who had just arrived. In a few minutes the call-boy came
'Will you please step this way,' he said to Kate.
'No, you shan't,' cried the hall-keeper; 'if you try any nonsense with me I
shall send round for a policeman.'
Kate started back frightened, thinking these words were addressed to her,
but a glance showed her that she was mistaken.
'Oh! how dare you talk to me like that? You're an unsophisticated beast!'
cried Miss Thomas.
'Pass under my arm, ma'am,' said the hall-keeper; 'I don't want this one to
get through.' And amid a storm of violent words and the strains of distant
music Kate went up a narrow staircase that creaked under the weight of a
group of girls in strange dresses. When she got past them she saw Dick at
the door of his room waiting for her. The table was covered with letters,
the walls with bills announcing, 'a great success.'
He took her hand and placed her in a chair, and at first it seemed doubtful
who would break an awkward and irritating silence. At last Dick said:
'I'm sorry to hear, Kate, that you've been ill; you're looking well now.'
'Yes, I'm better now,' she replied drearily; 'but perhaps if I'd died it
would have been as well, for you can never love me again.'
'You know, my dear,' he said, equivocating, 'that we didn't get on well
'Oh, Dick! I know it. You were very good to me, and I made your life
wretched on account of my jealousy; but I couldn't help it, for I loved you
better than a woman ever loved a man. I cannot tell you, I cannot find
words to express how much I love you; you're everything to me. I lived for
your love; I'm dying of it. Yes, Dick, I'm dying for love of you; I feel it
here; it devours me like a fire, and what is so strange is, that nothing
seems real to me except you. I never think of anything but of things that
concern you. Anything that ever belonged to you I treasure up as a relic.
You know the chaplet of pearls I used to wear when we played _The Lovers
Knot_. Well, I have them still, although all else has gone from me. The
string was broken once or twice, and some of the pearls were lost, but I
threaded them again, and it still goes round my neck. I was looking at them
the other day, and it made me very sad, for it made me think of the happy
days--ah, the very happy days!--we have had together before I took to ----.
But I won't speak of that. I've cured myself. Yes, I assure you, Dick, I've
cured myself; and it is for that I've come to talk to you. Were I not sure
that I would never touch brandy again I would not ask you to take me back,
but I'd sooner die than do what I have done, for I know that I never will.
Can you--will you--my own darling Dick, give me another trial?'
The victory hung in the balance, but at that moment a superb girl, in all
the splendour of long green tights, and resplendent with breastplate and
spear, flung open the door.
'Look here, Dick,' she began, but seeing Kate, she stopped short, and
stammered out an apology.
'I shall be down on the stage in a minute, dear,' he said, rising from his
chair. The door was shut, and they were again alone; but Kate felt that
chance had gone against her. The interruption had, with a sudden shock,
killed the emotions she had succeeded in awakening, and had supplied Dick
with an answer that would lead him, by a way after his own heart, straight
out of his difficulty.
'My dear,' he said, rising from his chair, 'I'm glad you've given up