Part 2 out of 6
"Yes, I was glad to see you," answered the girl. "It's hateful,
dining by oneself. Are you living alone?"
"Yes," answered Joan. "I'm a journalist."
"I thought you were something," answered the girl. "I'm an artist.
Or, rather, was," she added after a pause.
"Why did you give it up?" asked Joan.
"Oh, I haven't given it up, not entirely," the girl answered. "I
can always get a couple of sovereigns for a sketch, if I want it,
from one or another of the frame-makers. And they can generally
sell them for a fiver. I've seen them marked up. Have you been
long in London?"
"No," answered Joan. "I'm a Lancashire lass."
"Curious," said the girl, "so am I. My father's a mill manager
near Bolton. You weren't educated there?"
"No," Joan admitted. "I went to Rodean at Brighton when I was ten
years old, and so escaped it. Nor were you," she added with a
smile, "judging from your accent."
"No," answered the other, "I was at Hastings--Miss Gwyn's. Funny
how we seem to have always been near to one another. Dad wanted me
to be a doctor. But I'd always been mad about art."
Joan had taken a liking to the girl. It was a spiritual, vivacious
face with frank eyes and a firm mouth; and the voice was low and
"Tell me," she said, "what interfered with it?" Unconsciously she
was leaning forward, her chin supported by her hands. Their faces
were very near to one another.
The girl looked up. She did not answer for a moment. There came a
hardening of the mouth before she spoke.
"A baby," she said. "Oh, it was my own fault," she continued. "I
wanted it. It was all the talk at the time. You don't remember.
Our right to children. No woman complete without one. Maternity,
woman's kingdom. All that sort of thing. As if the storks brought
them. Don't suppose it made any real difference; but it just
helped me to pretend that it was something pretty and high-class.
'Overmastering passion' used to be the explanation, before that. I
guess it's all much of a muchness: just natural instinct."
The restaurant had been steadily emptying. Monsieur Gustav and his
ample-bosomed wife were seated at a distant table, eating their own
"Why couldn't you have married?" asked Joan.
The girl shrugged her shoulders. "Who was there for me to marry?"
she answered. "The men who wanted me: clerks, young tradesmen,
down at home--I wasn't taking any of that lot. And the men I might
have fancied were all of them too poor. There was one student.
He's got on since. Easy enough for him to talk about waiting.
Meanwhile. Well, it's like somebody suggesting dinner to you the
day after to-morrow. All right enough, if you're not troubled with
The waiter came to clear the table. They were almost the last
customers left. The man's tone and manner jarred upon Joan. She
had not noticed it before. Joan ordered coffee and the girl,
exchanging a joke with the waiter, added a liqueur.
"But why should you give up your art?" persisted Joan. It was that
was sticking in her mind. "I should have thought that, if only for
the sake of the child, you would have gone on with it."
"Oh, I told myself all that," answered the girl. "Was going to
devote my life to it. Did for nearly two years. Till I got sick
of living like a nun: never getting a bit of excitement. You see,
I've got the poison in me. Or, maybe, it had always been there."
"What's become of it?" asked Joan. "The child?"
"Mother's got it," answered the girl. "Seemed best for the poor
little beggar. I'm supposed to be dead, and my husband gone
abroad." She gave a short, dry laugh. "Mother brings him up to
see me once a year. They've got quite fond of him."
"What are you doing now?" asked Joan, in a low tone.
"Oh, you needn't look so scared," laughed the girl, "I haven't come
down to that." Her voice had changed. It had a note of
shrillness. In some indescribable way she had grown coarse. "I'm
a kept woman," she explained. "What else is any woman?"
She reached for her jacket; and the waiter sprang forward and
helped her on with it, prolonging the business needlessly. She
wished him "Good evening" in a tone of distant hauteur, and led the
way to the door. Outside the street was dim and silent. Joan held
out her hand.
"No hope of happy endings," she said with a forced laugh.
"Couldn't marry him I suppose?"
"He has asked me," answered the girl with a swagger. "Not sure
that it would suit me now. They're not so nice to you when they've
got you fixed up. So long."
She turned abruptly and walked rapidly away. Joan moved
instinctively in the opposite direction, and after a few minutes
found herself in a broad well-lighted thoroughfare. A newsboy was
shouting his wares.
"'Orrible murder of a woman. Shockin' details. Speshul,"
repeating it over and over again in a hoarse, expressionless
He was selling the papers like hot cakes; the purchasers too eager
to even wait for their change. She wondered, with a little lump in
her throat, how many would have stopped to buy had he been calling
instead: "Discovery of new sonnet by Shakespeare. Extra special."
Through swinging doors, she caught glimpses of foul interiors,
crowded with men and women released from their toil, taking their
evening pleasure. From coloured posters outside the great theatres
and music halls, vulgarity and lewdness leered at her, side by side
with announcements that the house was full. From every roaring
corner, scintillating lights flared forth the merits of this public
benefactor's whisky, of this other celebrity's beer: it seemed the
only message the people cared to hear. Even among the sirens of
the pavement, she noticed that the quiet and merely pretty were
hardly heeded. It was everywhere the painted and the overdressed
that drew the roving eyes.
She remembered a pet dog that someone had given her when she was a
girl, and how one afternoon she had walked with the tears streaming
down her face because, in spite of her scoldings and her pleadings,
it would keep stopping to lick up filth from the roadway. A kindly
passer-by had laughed and told her not to mind.
"Why, that's a sign of breeding, that is, Missie," the man had
explained. "It's the classy ones that are always the worst."
It had come to her afterwards craving with its soft brown, troubled
eyes for forgiveness. But she had never been able to break it of
Must man for ever be chained by his appetites to the unclean: ever
be driven back, dragged down again into the dirt by his own
instincts: ever be rendered useless for all finer purposes by the
baseness of his own desires?
The City of her Dreams! The mingled voices of the crowd shaped
itself into a mocking laugh.
It seemed to her that it was she that they were laughing at,
pointing her out to one another, jeering at her, reviling her,
She hurried onward with bent head, trying to escape them. She felt
so small, so helpless. Almost she cried out in her despair.
She must have walked mechanically. Looking up she found herself in
her own street. And as she reached her doorway the tears came
She heard a quick step behind her, and turning, she saw a man with
a latch key in his hand. He passed her and opened the door; and
then, facing round, stood aside for her to enter. He was a sturdy,
thick-set man with a strong, massive face. It would have been ugly
but for the deep, flashing eyes. There was tenderness and humour
"We are next floor neighbours," he said. "My name's Phillips."
Joan thanked him. As he held the door open for her their hands
accidentally touched. Joan wished him good-night and went up the
stairs. There was no light in her room: only the faint reflection
of the street lamp outside.
She could still see him: the boyish smile. And his voice that had
sent her tears back again as if at the word of command.
She hoped he had not seen them. What a little fool she was.
A little laugh escaped her.
One day Joan, lunching at the club, met Madge Singleton.
"I've had such a funny letter from Flossie," said Joan, "begging me
almost with tears in her ink to come to her on Sunday evening to
meet a 'gentleman friend' of hers, as she calls him, and give her
my opinion of him. What on earth is she up to?"
"It's all right," answered Madge. "She doesn't really want our
opinion of him--or rather she doesn't want our real opinion of him.
She only wants us to confirm hers. She's engaged to him."
"Flossie engaged!" Joan seemed surprised.
"Yes," answered Madge. "It used to be a custom. Young men used to
ask young women to marry them. And if they consented it was called
' being engaged.' Still prevails, so I am told, in certain
"Thanks," said Joan. "I have heard of it."
"I thought perhaps you hadn't from your tone," explained Madge.
"But if she's already engaged to him, why risk criticism of him,"
argued Joan, ignoring Madge's flippancy. "It's too late."
"Oh, she's going to break it off unless we all assure her that we
find him brainy," Madge explained with a laugh. "It seems her
father wasn't brainy and her mother was. Or else it was the other
way about: I'm not quite sure. But whichever it was, it led to
ructions. Myself, if he's at all possible and seems to care for
her, I intend to find him brilliant."
"And suppose she repeats her mother's experience," suggested Joan.
"There were the Norton-Browns," answered Madge. "Impossible to
have found a more evenly matched pair. They both write novels--
very good novels, too; and got jealous of one another; and threw
press-notices at one another's head all breakfast-time; until they
separated. Don't know of any recipe myself for being happy ever
after marriage, except not expecting it."
"Or keeping out of it altogether," added Joan.
"Ever spent a day at the Home for Destitute Gentlewomen at East
Sheen?" demanded Madge.
"Not yet," admitted Joan. "May have to, later on."
"It ought to be included in every woman's education," Madge
continued. "It is reserved for spinsters of over forty-five.
Susan Fleming wrote an article upon it for the Teacher's Friend;
and spent an afternoon and evening there. A month later she
married a grocer with five children. The only sound suggestion for
avoiding trouble that I ever came across was in a burlesque of the
Blue Bird. You remember the scene where the spirits of the
children are waiting to go down to earth and be made into babies?
Someone had stuck up a notice at the entrance to the gangway:
'Don't get born. It only means worry.'"
Flossie had her dwelling-place in a second floor bed-sitting-room
of a lodging house in Queen's Square, Bloomsbury; but the drawing-
room floor being for the moment vacant, Flossie had persuaded her
landlady to let her give her party there; it seemed as if fate
approved of the idea. The room was fairly full when Joan arrived.
Flossie took her out on the landing, and closed the door behind
"You will be honest with me, won't you?" pleaded Flossie, "because
it's so important, and I don't seem able to think for myself. As
they say, no man can be his own solicitor, can he? Of course I
like him, and all that--very much. And I really believe he loves
me. We were children together when Mummy was alive; and then he
had to go abroad; and has only just come back. Of course, I've got
to think of him, too, as he says. But then, on the other hand, I
don't want to make a mistake. That would be so terrible, for both
of us; and of course I am clever; and there was poor Mummy and
Daddy. I'll tell you all about them one day. It was so awfully
sad. Get him into a corner and talk to him. You'll be able to
judge in a moment, you're so wonderful. He's quiet on the outside,
but I think there's depth in him. We must go in now."
She had talked so rapidly Joan felt as if her hat were being blown
away. She had difficulty in recognizing Flossie. All the cock-
sure pertness had departed. She seemed just a kid.
Joan promised faithfully; and Flossie, standing on tiptoe, suddenly
kissed her and then bustled her in.
Flossie's young man was standing near the fire talking, or rather
listening, to a bird-like little woman in a short white frock and
blue ribbons. A sombre lady just behind her, whom Joan from the
distance took to be her nurse, turned out to be her secretary,
whose duty it was to be always at hand, prepared to take down any
happy idea that might occur to the bird-like little woman in the
course of conversation. The bird-like little woman was Miss Rose
Tolley, a popular novelist. She was explaining to Flossie's young
man, whose name was Sam Halliday, the reason for her having written
"Running Waters," her latest novel.
"It is daring," she admitted. "I must be prepared for opposition.
But it had to be stated."
"I take myself as typical," she continued. "When I was twenty I
could have loved you. You were the type of man I did love."
Mr. Halliday, who had been supporting the weight of his body upon
his right leg, transferred the burden to his left.
"But now I'm thirty-five; and I couldn't love you if I tried." She
shook her curls at him. "It isn't your fault. It is that I have
changed. Suppose I'd married you?"
"Bit of bad luck for both of us," suggested Mr. Halliday.
"A tragedy," Miss Tolley corrected him. "There are millions of
such tragedies being enacted around us at this moment. Sensitive
women compelled to suffer the embraces of men that they have come
to loathe. What's to be done?"
Flossie, who had been hovering impatient, broke in.
"Oh, don't you believe her," she advised Mr. Halliday. "She loves
you still. She's only teasing you. This is Joan."
She introduced her. Miss Tolley bowed; and allowed herself to be
drawn away by a lank-haired young man who had likewise been waiting
for an opening. He represented the Uplift Film Association of
Chicago, and was wishful to know if Miss Tolley would consent to
altering the last chapter and so providing "Running Waters" with a
happy ending. He pointed out the hopelessness of it in its present
form, for film purposes.
The discussion was brief. "Then I'll send your agent the contract
to-morrow," Joan overheard him say a minute later.
Mr. Sam Halliday she liked at once. He was a clean-shaven, square-
jawed young man, with quiet eyes and a pleasant voice.
"Try and find me brainy," he whispered to her, as soon as Flossie
was out of earshot. "Talk to me about China. I'm quite
intelligent on China."
They both laughed, and then shot a guilty glance in Flossie's
"Do the women really crush their feet?" asked Joan.
"Yes," he answered. "All those who have no use for them. About
one per cent. of the population. To listen to Miss Tolley you
would think that half the women wanted a new husband every ten
years. It's always the one per cent. that get themselves talked
about. The other ninety-nine are too busy."
"You are young for a philosopher," said Joan.
He laughed. "I told you I'd be all right if you started me on
China," he said.
"Why are you marrying. Flossie?" Joan asked him. She thought his
point of view would be interesting.
"Not sure I am yet," he answered with a grin. "It depends upon how
I get through this evening." He glanced round the room. "Have I
got to pass all this crowd, I wonder?" he added.
Joan's eyes followed. It was certainly an odd collection.
Flossie, in her hunt for brains, had issued her invitations
broadcast; and her fate had been that of the Charity concert. Not
all the stars upon whom she had most depended had turned up. On
the other hand not a single freak had failed her. At the moment,
the centre of the room was occupied by a gentleman and two ladies
in classical drapery. They were holding hands in an attitude
suggestive of a bas-relief. Joan remembered them, having seen them
on one or two occasions wandering in the King's Road, Chelsea;
still maintaining, as far as the traffic would allow, the bas-
relief suggestion; and generally surrounded by a crowd of children,
ever hopeful that at the next corner they would stop and do
something really interesting. They belonged to a society whose
object was to lure the London public by the force of example
towards the adoption of the early Greek fashions and the simpler
Greek attitudes. A friend of Flossie's had thrown in her lot with
them, but could never be induced to abandon her umbrella. They
also, as Joan told herself, were reformers. Near to them was a
picturesque gentleman with a beard down to his waist whose "stunt"-
-as Flossie would have termed it--was hygienic clothing; it seemed
to contain an undue proportion of fresh air. There were ladies in
coats and stand-up collars, and gentlemen with ringlets. More than
one of the guests would have been better, though perhaps not
happier, for a bath.
"I fancy that's the idea," said Joan. "What will you do if you
fail? Go back to China?"
"Yes," he answered. "And take her with me. Poor little girl."
Joan rather resented his tone.
"We are not all alike," she remarked. "Some of us are quite sane."
He looked straight into her eyes. "You are," he said. "I have
been reading your articles. They are splendid. I'm going to
"How can you?" she said. "I mean, how will you?"
"Shipping is my business," he said. "I'm going to help sailor men.
See that they have somewhere decent to go to, and don't get robbed.
And then there are the Lascars, poor devils. Nobody ever takes
"How did you come across them?" she asked. "The articles, I mean.
Did Flo give them to you?"
"No," he answered. "Just chance. Caught sight of your photo."
"Tell me," she said. "If it had been the photo of a woman with a
bony throat and a beaky nose would you have read them?"
He thought a moment. "Guess not," he answered. "You're just as
bad," he continued. "Isn't it the pale-faced young clergyman with
the wavy hair and the beautiful voice that you all flock to hear?
No getting away from nature. But it wasn't only that." He
"I want to know," she said.
"You looked so young," he answered. "I had always had the idea
that it was up to the old people to put the world to rights--that
all I had to do was to look after myself. It came to me suddenly
while you were talking to me--I mean while I was reading you: that
if you were worrying yourself about it, I'd got to come in, too--
that it would be mean of me not to. It wasn't like being preached
to. It was somebody calling for help."
Instinctively she held out her hand and he grasped it.
Flossie came up at the same instant. She wanted to introduce him
to Miss Lavery, who had just arrived.
"Hullo!" she said. "Are you two concluding a bargain?"
"Yes," said Joan. "We are founding the League of Youth. You've
got to be in it. We are going to establish branches all round the
Flossie's young man was whisked away. Joan, who had seated herself
in a small chair, was alone for a few minutes.
Miss Tolley had chanced upon a Human Document, with the help of
which she was hopeful of starting a "Press Controversy" concerning
the morality, or otherwise, of "Running Waters." The secretary
stood just behind her, taking notes. They had drifted quite close.
Joan could not help overhearing.
"It always seemed to me immoral, the marriage ceremony," the Human
Document was explaining. She was a thin, sallow woman, with an
untidy head and restless eyes that seemed to be always seeking
something to look at and never finding it. "How can we pledge the
future? To bind oneself to live with a man when perhaps we have
ceased to care for him; it's hideous."
Miss Tolley murmured agreement.
"Our love was beautiful," continued the Human Document, eager,
apparently, to relate her experience for the common good; "just
because it was a free gift. We were not fettered to one another.
At any moment either of us could have walked out of the house. The
idea never occurred to us; not for years--five, to be exact."
The secretary, at a sign from Miss Tolley, made a memorandum of it.
"And then did your feelings towards him change suddenly?"
questioned Miss Tolley.
"No," explained the Human Document, in the same quick, even tones;
"so far as I was concerned, I was not conscious of any alteration
in my own attitude. But he felt the need of more solitude--for his
development. We parted quite good friends."
"Oh," said Miss Tolley. "And were there any children?"
"Only two," answered the Human Document, "both girls."
"What has become of them?" persisted Miss Tolley.
The Human Document looked offended. "You do not think I would have
permitted any power on earth to separate them from me, do you?" she
answered. "I said to him, 'They are mine, mine. Where I go, they
go. Where I stay, they stay.' He saw the justice of my argument."
"And they are with you now?" concluded Miss Tolley.
"You must come and see them," the Human Document insisted. "Such
dear, magnetic creatures. I superintend their entire education
myself. We have a cottage in Surrey. It's rather a tight fit.
You see, there are seven of us now. But the three girls can easily
turn in together for a night, Abner will be delighted."
"Abner is your second?" suggested Miss Tolley.
"My third," the Human Document corrected her. "After Eustace, I
married Ivanoff. I say 'married' because I regard it as the
holiest form of marriage. He had to return to his own country.
There was a political movement on foot. He felt it his duty to go.
I want you particularly to meet the boy. He will interest you."
Miss Tolley appeared to be getting muddled. "Whose boy?" she
"Ivanoff's," explained the Human Document. "He was our only
Flossie appeared, towing a white-haired, distinguished-looking man,
a Mr. Folk. She introduced him and immediately disappeared. Joan
wished she had been left alone a little longer. She would like to
have heard more. Especially was she curious concerning Abner, the
lady's third. Would the higher moral law compel him, likewise, to
leave the poor lady saddled with another couple of children? Or
would she, on this occasion, get in--or rather, get off, first?
Her own fancy was to back Abner. She did catch just one sentence
before Miss Tolley, having obtained more food for reflection than
perhaps she wanted, signalled to her secretary that the note-book
might be closed.
"Woman's right to follow the dictates of her own heart,
uncontrolled by any law," the Human Document was insisting: "That
is one of the first things we must fight for."
Mr. Folk was a well-known artist. He lived in Paris. "You are
wonderfully like your mother," he told Joan. "In appearance, I
mean," he added. "I knew her when she was Miss Caxton. I acted
with her in America."
Joan made a swift effort to hide her surprise. She had never heard
of her mother having been upon the stage.
"I did not know that you had been an actor," she answered.
"I wasn't really," explained Mr. Folk. "I just walked and talked
naturally. It made rather a sensation at the time. Your mother
was a genius. You have never thought of going on the stage
"No," said Joan. "I don't think I've got what you call the
artistic temperament. I have never felt drawn towards anything of
"I wonder," he said. "You could hardly be your mother's daughter
"Tell me," said Joan. "What was my mother like? I can only
remember her as more or less of an invalid."
He did not reply to her question. "Master or Mistress Eminent
Artist," he said; "intends to retire from his or her particular
stage, whatever it may be. That paragraph ought always to be put
among the obituary notices."
"What's your line?" he asked her. "I take it you have one by your
being here. Besides, I am sure you have. I am an old fighter. I
can tell the young soldier. What's your regiment?"
Joan laughed. "I'm a drummer boy," she answered. "I beat my drum
each week in a Sunday newspaper, hoping the lads will follow."
"You feel you must beat that drum," he suggested. "Beat it louder
and louder and louder till all the world shall hear it."
"Yes," Joan agreed, "I think that does describe me."
He nodded. "I thought you were an artist," he said. "Don't let
them ever take your drum away from you. You'll go to pieces and
get into mischief without it."
"I know an old actress," he continued. "She's the mother of four.
They are all on the stage and they've all made their mark. The
youngest was born in her dressing-room, just after the curtain had
fallen. She was playing the Nurse to your mother's Juliet. She is
still the best Nurse that I know. 'Jack's always worrying me to
chuck it and devote myself to the children,' she confided to me one
evening, while she was waiting for her cue. 'But, as I tell him,
I'm more helpful to them being with them half the day alive than
all the day dead.' That's an anecdote worth remembering, when your
time comes. If God gives woman a drum he doesn't mean man to take
it away from her. She hasn't got to be playing it for twenty-four
hours a day. I'd like you to have seen your mother's Cordelia."
Flossie was tacking her way towards them. Joan acted on impulse.
"I wish you'd give me your address," she said "where I could write
to you. Or perhaps you would not mind my coming and seeing you one
day. I would like you to tell me more about my mother."
He gave her his address in Paris where he was returning almost
"Do come," he said. "It will take me back thirty-three years. I
proposed to your mother on La Grande Terrasse at St. Germain. We
will walk there. I'm still a bachelor." He laughed, and, kissing
her hand, allowed himself to be hauled away by Flossie, in exchange
for Mrs. Phillips, for whom Miss Lavery had insisted on an
Joan had met Mrs. Phillips several times; and once, on the stairs,
had stopped and spoken to her; but had never been introduced to her
formally till now.
"We have been meaning to call on you so often," panted Mrs.
Phillips. The room was crowded and the exertion of squeezing her
way through had winded the poor lady. "We take so much interest in
your articles. My husband--" she paused for a second, before
venturing upon the word, and the aitch came out somewhat over-
aspirated--"reads them most religiously. You must come and dine
with us one evening."
Joan answered that she would be very pleased.
"I will find out when Robert is free and run up and let you know,"
she continued. "Of course, there are so many demands upon him,
especially during this period of national crisis, that I spare him
all the social duties that I can. But I shall insist on his making
an exception in your case."
Joan murmured her sense of favour, but hoped she would not be
allowed to interfere with more pressing calls upon Mr. Phillips's
"It will do him good," answered Mrs. Phillips; "getting away from
them all for an hour or two. I don't see much of him myself."
She glanced round and lowered her voice. "They tell me," she said,
"that you're a B.A."
"Yes," answered Joan. "One goes in for it more out of vanity, I'm
afraid, than for any real purpose that it serves."
"I took one or two prizes myself," said Mrs. Phillips. "But, of
course, one forgets things. I was wondering if you would mind if I
ran up occasionally to ask you a question. Of course, as you know,
my 'usband 'as 'ad so few advantages"--the lady's mind was
concerned with more important matters, and the aspirates, on this
occasion, got themselves neglected--"It is wonderful what he 'as
done without them. But if, now and then, I could 'elp him--"
There was something about the poor, foolish painted face, as it
looked up pleadingly, that gave it a momentary touch of beauty.
"Do," said Joan, speaking earnestly. "I shall be so very pleased
if you will."
"Thank you," said the woman. Miss Lavery came up in a hurry to
introduce her to Miss Tolley. "I am telling all my friends to read
your articles," she added, resuming the gracious patroness, as she
bowed her adieus.
Joan was alone again for a while. A handsome girl, with her hair
cut short and parted at the side, was discussing diseases of the
spine with a curly-headed young man in a velvet suit. The
gentleman was describing some of the effects in detail. Joan felt
there was danger of her being taken ill if she listened any longer;
and seeing Madge's brother near the door, and unoccupied, she made
her way across to him.
Niel Singleton, or Keeley, as he called himself upon the stage, was
quite unlike his sister. He was short and plump, with a
preternaturally solemn face, contradicted by small twinkling eyes.
He motioned Joan to a chair and told her to keep quiet and not
disturb the meeting.
"Is he brainy?" he whispered after a minute.
"I like him," said Joan.
"I didn't ask you if you liked him," he explained to her. "I asked
you if he was brainy. I'm not too sure that you like brainy men."
"Yes, I do," said Joan. "I like you, sometimes."
"Now, none of that," he said severely. "It's no good your thinking
of me. I'm wedded to my art. We are talking about Mr. Halliday."
"What does Madge think of him?" asked Joan.
"Madge has fallen in love with him, and her judgment is not to be
relied upon," he said. "I suppose you couldn't answer a straight
question, if you tried."
"Don't be so harsh with me," pleaded Joan meekly. "I'm trying to
think. Yes," she continued, "decidedly he's got brains."
"Enough for the two of them?" demanded Mr. Singleton. "Because he
will want them. Now think before you speak."
Joan considered. "Yes," she answered. "I should say he's just the
man to manage her."
"Then it's settled," he said. "We must save her."
"Save her from what?" demanded Joan.
"From his saying to himself: 'This is Flossie's idea of a party.
This is the sort of thing that, if I marry her, I am letting myself
in for.' If he hasn't broken off the engagement already, we may be
He led the way to the piano. "Tell Madge I want her," he
whispered. He struck a few notes; and then in a voice that drowned
every other sound in the room, struck up a comic song.
The effect was magical.
He followed it up with another. This one with a chorus, consisting
chiefly of "Umpty Umpty Umpty Umpty Ay," which was vociferously
By the time it was done with, Madge had discovered a girl who could
sing "Three Little Pigs;" and a sad, pale-faced gentleman who told
stories. At the end of one of them Madge's brother spoke to Joan
in a tone more of sorrow than of anger.
"Hardly the sort of anecdote that a truly noble and high-minded
young woman would have received with laughter," he commented.
"Did I laugh?" said Joan.
"Your having done so unconsciously only makes the matter worse,"
observed Mr. Singleton. "I had hoped it emanated from politeness,
"Don't tease her," said Madge. "She's having an evening off."
Joan and the Singletons were the last to go. They promised to show
Mr. Halliday a short cut to his hotel in Holborn.
"Have you thanked Miss Lessing for a pleasant evening?" asked Mr.
Singleton, turning to Mr. Halliday.
He laughed and put his arm round her. "Poor little woman," he
said. "You're looking so tired. It was jolly at the end." He
He had passed through the swing doors; and they were standing on
the pavement waiting for Joan's bus.
"Why did we all like him?" asked Joan. "Even Miss Lavery. There's
nothing extraordinary about him."
"Oh yes there is," said Madge. "Love has lent him gilded armour.
From his helmet waves her crest," she quoted. "Most men look fine
in that costume. Pity they can't always wear it."
The conductor seemed impatient. Joan sprang upon the step and
waved her hand.
Joan was making herself a cup of tea when there came a tap at the
door. It was Mrs. Phillips.
"I heard you come in," she said. "You're not busy, are you?"
"No," answered Joan. "I hope you're not. I'm generally in about
this time; and it's always nice to gossip over a dish of tea."
"Why do you say 'dish' of tea!" asked Mrs. Phillips, as she lowered
herself with evident satisfaction into the easy chair Joan placed
"Oh, I don't know," laughed Joan. "Dr. Johnson always talked of a
'dish' of tea. Gives it a literary flavour."
"I've heard of him," said Mrs. Phillips. "He's worth reading,
"Well, he talked more amusingly than he wrote," explained Joan.
"Get Boswell's Life of him. Or I'll lend you mine," she added, "if
you'll be careful of it. You'll find all the passages marked that
are best worth remembering. At least, I think so."
"Thanks," said Mrs. Phillips. "You see, as the wife of a public
man, I get so little time for study."
"Is it settled yet?" asked Joan. "Are they going to make room for
him in the Cabinet?
"I'm afraid so," answered Mrs. Phillips. "Oh, of course, I want
him to," she corrected herself. "And he must, of course, if the
King insists upon it. But I wish it hadn't all come with such a
whirl. What shall I have to do, do you think?"
Joan was pouring out the tea. "Oh, nothing," she answered, "but
just be agreeable to the right people. He'll tell you who they
are. And take care of him."
"I wish I'd taken more interest in politics when I was young," said
Mrs. Phillips. "Of course, when I was a girl, women weren't
"Do you know, I shouldn't worry about them, if I were you," Joan
advised her. "Let him forget them when he's with you. A man can
have too much of a good thing," she laughed.
"I wonder if you're right," mused Mrs. Phillips. "He does often
say that he'd just as soon I didn't talk about them."
Joan shot a glance from over her cup. The poor puzzled face was
staring into the fire. Joan could almost hear him saying it.
"I'm sure I am," she said. "Make home-coming a change to him. As
you said yourself the other evening. It's good for him to get away
from it all, now and then."
"I must try," agreed Mrs. Phillips, looking up. "What sort of
things ought I to talk to him about, do you think?"
Joan gave an inward sigh. Hadn't the poor lady any friends of her
own. "Oh, almost anything," she answered vaguely: "so long as
it's cheerful and non-political. What used you to talk about
before he became a great man?"
There came a wistful look into the worried eyes. "Oh, it was all
so different then," she said. "'E just liked to--you know. We
didn't seem to 'ave to talk. 'E was a rare one to tease. I didn't
know 'ow clever 'e was, then."
It seemed a difficult case to advise upon. "How long have you been
married?" Joan asked.
"Fifteen years," she answered. "I was a bit older than 'im. But
I've never looked my age, they tell me. Lord, what a boy 'e was!
Swept you off your feet, like. 'E wasn't the only one. I'd got a
way with me, I suppose. Anyhow, the men seemed to think so. There
was always a few 'anging about. Like flies round a 'oney-pot,
Mother used to say." She giggled. "But 'e wouldn't take No for an
answer. And I didn't want to give it 'im, neither. I was gone on
'im, right enough. No use saying I wasn't."
"You must be glad you didn't say No," suggested Joan.
"Yes," she answered, "'E's got on. I always think of that little
poem, 'Lord Burleigh,'" she continued; "whenever I get worrying
about myself. Ever read it?"
"Yes," answered Joan. "He was a landscape painter, wasn't he?"
"That's the one," said Mrs. Phillips. "I little thought I was
letting myself in for being the wife of a big pot when Bob Phillips
came along in 'is miner's jacket."
"You'll soon get used to it," Joan told her. "The great thing is
not to be afraid of one's fate, whatever it is; but just to do
one's best." It was rather like talking to a child.
"You're the right sort to put 'eart into a body. I'm glad I came
up," said Mrs. Phillips. "I get a bit down in the mouth sometimes
when 'e goes off into one of 'is brown studies, and I don't seem to
know what 'e's thinking about. But it don't last long. I was
always one of the light-'earted ones."
They discussed life on two thousand a year; the problems it would
present; and Mrs. Phillips became more cheerful. Joan laid herself
out to be friendly. She hoped to establish an influence over Mrs.
Phillips that should be for the poor lady's good; and, as she felt
instinctively, for poor Phillips's also. It was not an unpleasing
face. Underneath the paint, it was kind and womanly. Joan was
sure he would like it better clean. A few months' attention to
diet would make a decent figure of her and improve her wind. Joan
watched her spreading the butter a quarter of an inch thick upon
her toast and restrained with difficulty the impulse to take it
away from her. And her clothes! Joan had seen guys carried
through the streets on the fifth of November that were less
She remembered, as she was taking her leave, what she had come for:
which was to invite Joan to dinner on the following Friday.
"It's just a homely affair," she explained. She had recovered her
form and was now quite the lady again. "Two other guests beside
yourself: a Mr. Airlie--I am sure you will like him. He's so
dilletanty--and Mr. McKean. He's the young man upstairs. Have you
Joan hadn't: except once on the stairs when, to avoid having to
pass her, he had gone down again and out into the street. From the
doorstep she had caught sight of his disappearing coat-tails round
the corner. Yielding to impishness, she had run after him, and his
expression of blank horror when, glancing over his shoulder, he
found her walking abstractedly three yards behind him, had
gladdened all her evening.
Joan recounted the episode--so far as the doorstep.
"He tried to be shy with me," said Mrs. Phillips, "but I wouldn't
let him. I chipped him out of it. If he's going to write plays,
as I told him, he will have to get over his fear of a petticoat."
She offered her cheek, and Joan kissed it, somewhat gingerly.
"You won't mind Robert not wearing evening dress," she said. "He
never will if he can help it. I shall just slip on a semi-toilette
Joan had difficulty in deciding on her own frock. Her four evening
dresses, as she walked round them, spread out upon the bed, all
looked too imposing, for what Mrs. Phillips had warned her would be
a "homely affair." She had one other, a greyish-fawn, with sleeves
to the elbow, that she had had made expressly for public dinners
and political At Homes. But that would be going to the opposite
extreme, and might seem discourteous--to her hostess. Besides,
"mousey" colours didn't really suit her. They gave her a curious
sense of being affected. In the end she decided to risk a black
crepe-de-chine, square cut, with a girdle of gold embroidery.
There couldn't be anything quieter than black, and the gold
embroidery was of the simplest. She would wear it without any
jewellery whatever: except just a star in her hair. The result,
as she viewed the effect in the long glass, quite satisfied her.
Perhaps the jewelled star did scintillate rather. It had belonged
to her mother. But her hair was so full of shadows: it wanted
something to relieve it. Also she approved the curved line of her
bare arms. It was certainly very beautiful, a woman's arm. She
took her gloves in her hand and went down.
Mr. Phillips was not yet in the room. Mrs. Phillips, in apple-
green with an ostrich feather in her hair, greeted her effusively,
and introduced her to her fellow guests. Mr. Airlie was a slight,
elegant gentleman of uncertain age, with sandy hair and beard cut
Vandyke fashion. He asked Joan's permission to continue his
"You have chosen the better part," he informed her, on her granting
it. "When I'm not smoking, I'm talking."
Mr. McKean shook her hand vigorously without looking at her.
"And this is Hilda," concluded Mrs. Phillips. "She ought to be in
bed if she hadn't a naughty Daddy who spoils her."
A lank, black-haired girl, with a pair of burning eyes looking out
of a face that, but for the thin line of the lips, would have been
absolutely colourless, rose suddenly from behind a bowl of
artificial flowers. Joan could not suppress a slight start; she
had not noticed her on entering. The girl came slowly forward, and
Joan felt as if the uncanny eyes were eating her up. She made an
effort and held out her hand with a smile, and the girl's long thin
fingers closed on it in a pressure that hurt. She did not speak.
"She only came back yesterday for the half-term," explained Mrs.
Phillips. "There's no keeping her away from her books. 'Twas her
own wish to be sent to boarding-school. How would you like to go
to Girton and be a B.A. like Miss Allway?" she asked, turning to
Phillips's entrance saved the need of a reply. To the evident
surprise of his wife he was in evening clothes.
"Hulloa. You've got 'em on," she said.
He laughed. "I shall have to get used to them sooner or later," he
Joan felt relieved--she hardly knew why--that he bore the test. It
was a well-built, athletic frame, and he had gone to a good tailor.
He looked taller in them; and the strong, clean-shaven face less
Joan sat next to him at the round dinner-table with the child the
other side of him. She noticed that he ate as far as possible with
his right hand--his hands were large, but smooth and well shaped--
his left remaining under the cloth, beneath which the child's right
hand, when free, would likewise disappear. For a while the
conversation consisted chiefly of anecdotes by Mr. Airlie. There
were few public men and women about whom he did not know something
to their disadvantage. Joan, listening, found herself repeating
the experience of a night or two previous, when, during a
performance of Hamlet, Niel Singleton, who was playing the grave-
digger, had taken her behind the scenes. Hamlet, the King of
Denmark and the Ghost were sharing a bottle of champagne in the
Ghost's dressing-room: it happened to be the Ghost's birthday. On
her return to the front of the house, her interest in the play was
gone. It was absurd that it should be so; but the fact remained.
Mr. Airlie had lunched the day before with a leonine old gentleman
who every Sunday morning thundered forth Social Democracy to
enthusiastic multitudes on Tower Hill. Joan had once listened to
him and had almost been converted: he was so tremendously in
earnest. She now learnt that he lived in Curzon Street, Mayfair,
and filled, in private life, the perfectly legitimate calling of a
company promoter in partnership with a Dutch Jew. His latest
prospectus dwelt upon the profits to be derived from an
amalgamation of the leading tanning industries: by means of which
the price of leather could be enormously increased.
It was utterly illogical; but her interest in the principles of
Social Democracy was gone.
A very little while ago, Mr. Airlie, in his capacity of second
cousin to one of the ladies concerned, a charming girl but
impulsive, had been called upon to attend a family council of a
painful nature. The gentleman's name took Joan's breath away: it
was the name of one of her heroes, an eminent writer: one might
almost say prophet. She had hitherto read his books with grateful
reverence. They pictured for her the world made perfect; and
explained to her just precisely how it was to be accomplished.
But, as far as his own particular corner of it was concerned, he
seemed to have made a sad mess of it. Human nature of quite an
old-fashioned pattern had crept in and spoilt all his own theories.
Of course it was unreasonable. The sign-post may remain embedded
in weeds: it notwithstanding points the way to the fair city. She
told herself this, but it left her still short-tempered. She
didn't care which way it pointed. She didn't believe there was any
There was a famous preacher. He lived the simple life in a small
house in Battersea, and consecrated all his energies to the service
of the poor. Almost, by his unselfish zeal, he had persuaded Joan
of the usefulness of the church. Mr. Airlie frequently visited
him. They interested one another. What struck Mr. Airlie most was
the self-sacrificing devotion with which the reverend gentleman's
wife and family surrounded him. It was beautiful to see. The
calls upon his moderate purse, necessitated by his wide-spread and
much paragraphed activities, left but a narrow margin for domestic
expenses: with the result that often the only fire in the house
blazed brightly in the study where Mr. Airlie and the reverend
gentleman sat talking: while mother and children warmed themselves
with sense of duty in the cheerless kitchen. And often, as Mr.
Airlie, who was of an inquiring turn of mind, had convinced
himself, the only evening meal that resources would permit was the
satisfying supper for one brought by the youngest daughter to her
father where he sat alone in the small dining-room.
Mr. Airlie, picking daintily at his food, continued his stories:
of philanthropists who paid starvation wages: of feminists who
were a holy terror to their women folk: of socialists who
travelled first-class and spent their winters in Egypt or Monaco:
of stern critics of public morals who preferred the society of
youthful affinities to the continued company of elderly wives: of
poets who wrote divinely about babies' feet and whose children
"Do you think it's all true?" Joan whispered to her host.
He shrugged his shoulders. "No reason why it shouldn't be," he
said. "I've generally found him right."
"I've never been able myself," he continued, "to understand the
Lord's enthusiasm for David. I suppose it was the Psalms that did
Joan was about to offer comment, but was struck dumb with
astonishment on hearing McKean's voice: it seemed he could talk.
He was telling of an old Scotch peasant farmer. A mean,
cantankerous old cuss whose curious pride it was that he had never
given anything away. Not a crust, nor a sixpence, nor a rag; and
never would. Many had been the attempts to make him break his
boast: some for the joke of the thing and some for the need; but
none had ever succeeded. It was his one claim to distinction and
he guarded it.
One evening it struck him that the milk-pail, standing just inside
the window, had been tampered with. Next day he marked with a
scratch the inside of the pan and, returning later, found the level
of the milk had sunk half an inch. So he hid himself and waited;
and at twilight the next day the window was stealthily pushed open,
and two small, terror-haunted eyes peered round the room. They
satisfied themselves that no one was about and a tiny hand
clutching a cracked jug was thrust swiftly in and dipped into the
pan; and the window softly closed.
He knew the thief, the grandchild of an old bed-ridden dame who
lived some miles away on the edge of the moor. The old man stood
long, watching the small cloaked figure till it was lost in the
darkness. It was not till he lay upon his dying bed that he
confessed it. But each evening, from that day, he would steal into
the room and see to it himself that the window was left ajar.
After the coffee, Mrs. Phillips proposed their adjourning to the
"drawing-room" the other side of the folding doors, which had been
left open. Phillips asked her to leave Joan and himself where they
were. He wanted to talk to her. He promised not to bore her for
more than ten minutes.
The others rose and moved away. Hilda came and stood before Joan
with her hands behind her.
"I am going to bed now," she said. "I wanted to see you from what
Papa told me. May I kiss you?"
It was spoken so gravely that Joan did not ask her, as in lighter
mood she might have done, what it was that Phillips had said. She
raised her face quietly, and the child bent forward and kissed her,
and went out without looking back at either of them, leaving Joan
more serious than there seemed any reason for. Phillips filled his
pipe and lighted it.
"I wish I had your pen," he said, suddenly breaking the silence.
"I'm all right at talking; but I want to get at the others: the
men and women who never come, thinking it has nothing to do with
them. I'm shy and awkward when I try to write. There seems a
barrier in front of me. You break through it. One hears your
voice. Tell me," he said, "are you getting your way? Do they
"Yes," said Joan. "Not any great number of them, not yet. But
enough to show that I really am interesting them. It grows every
"Tell them that," he said. "Let them hear each other. It's the
same at a meeting. You wait ten minutes sometimes before one man
will summon up courage to put a question; but once one or two have
ventured they spring up all round you. I was wondering," he added,
"if you would help me; let me use you, now and again."
"It is what I should love," she answered. "Tell me what to do."
She was not conscious of the low, vibrating tone in which she
"I want to talk to them," he said, "about their stomachs. I want
them to see the need of concentrating upon the food problem:
insisting that it shall be solved. The other things can follow."
"There was an old Egyptian chap," he said, "a governor of one of
their provinces, thousands of years before the Pharaohs were ever
heard of. They dug up his tomb a little while ago. It bore this
inscription: 'In my time no man went hungry.' I'd rather have
that carved upon my gravestone than the boastings of all the
robbers and the butchers of history. Think what it must have meant
in that land of drought and famine: only a narrow strip of river
bank where a grain of corn would grow; and that only when old Nile
was kind. If not, your nearest supplies five hundred miles away
across the desert, your only means of transport the slow-moving
camel. Your convoy must be guarded against attack, provided with
provisions and water for a two months' journey. Yet he never
failed his people. Fat year and lean year: 'In my time no man
went hungry.' And here, to-day, with our steamships and our
railways, with the granaries of the world filled to overflowing,
one third of our population lives on the border line of want. In
India they die by the roadside. What's the good of it all: your
science and your art and your religion! How can you help men's
souls if their bodies are starving? A hungry man's a hungry beast.
"I spent a week at Grimsby, some years ago, organizing a
fisherman's union. They used to throw the fish back into the sea,
tons upon tons of it, that men had risked their lives to catch,
that would have fed half London's poor. There was a 'glut' of it,
they said. The 'market' didn't want it. Funny, isn't it, a 'glut'
of food: and the kiddies can't learn their lessons for want of it.
I was talking with a farmer down in Kent. The plums were rotting
on his trees. There were too many of them: that was the trouble.
The railway carriage alone would cost him more than he could get
for them. They were too cheap. So nobody could have them. It's
the muddle of the thing that makes me mad--the ghastly muddle-
headed way the chief business of the world is managed. There's
enough food could be grown in this country to feed all the people
and then of the fragments each man might gather his ten basketsful.
There's no miracle needed. I went into the matter once with Dalroy
of the Board of Agriculture. He's the best man they've got, if
they'd only listen to him. It's never been organized: that's all.
It isn't the fault of the individual. It ought not to be left to
the individual. The man who makes a corner in wheat in Chicago and
condemns millions to privation--likely enough, he's a decent sort
of fellow in himself: a kind husband and father--would be upset
for the day if he saw a child crying for bread. My dog's a decent
enough little chap, as dogs go, but I don't let him run my larder.
"It could be done with a little good will all round," he continued,
"and nine men out of every ten would be the better off. But they
won't even let you explain. Their newspapers shout you down. It's
such a damned fine world for the few: never mind the many. My
father was a farm labourer: and all his life he never earned more
than thirteen and sixpence a week. I left when I was twelve and
went into the mines. There were six of us children; and my mother
brought us up healthy and decent. She fed us and clothed us and
sent us to school; and when she died we buried her with the money
she had put by for the purpose; and never a penny of charity had
ever soiled her hands. I can see them now. Talk of your
Chancellors of the Exchequer and their problems! She worked
herself to death, of course. Well, that's all right. One doesn't
mind that where one loves. If they would only let you. She had no
opposition to contend with--no thwarting and hampering at every
turn--the very people you are working for hounded on against you.
The difficulty of a man like myself, who wants to do something, who
could do something, is that for the best part of his life he is
fighting to be allowed to do it. By the time I've lived down their
lies and got my chance, my energy will be gone."
He knocked the ashes from his pipe and relit it.
"I've no quarrel with the rich," he said. "I don't care how many
rich men there are, so long as there are no poor. Who does? I was
riding on a bus the other day, and there was a man beside me with a
bandaged head. He'd been hurt in that railway smash at Morpeth.
He hadn't claimed damages from the railway company and wasn't going
to. 'Oh, it's only a few scratches,' he said. 'They'll be hit
hard enough as it is.' If he'd been a poor devil on eighteen
shillings a week it would have been different. He was an engineer
earning good wages; so he wasn't feeling sore and bitter against
half the world. Suppose you tried to run an army with your men
half starved while your officers had more than they could eat.
It's been tried and what's been the result? See that your soldiers
have their proper rations, and the General can sit down to his six-
course dinner, if he will. They are not begrudging it to him.
"A nation works on its stomach. Underfeed your rank and file, and
what sort of a fight are you going to put up against your rivals.
I want to see England going ahead. I want to see her workers
properly fed. I want to see the corn upon her unused acres, the
cattle grazing on her wasted pastures. I object to the food being
thrown into the sea--left to rot upon the ground while men are
hungry--side-tracked in Chicago, while the children grow up
stunted. I want the commissariat properly organized."
He had been staring through her rather than at her, so it had
seemed to Joan. Suddenly their eyes met, and he broke into a
"I'm so awfully sorry," he said. "I've been talking to you as if
you were a public meeting. I'm afraid I'm more used to them than I
am to women. Please forgive me."
The whole man had changed. The eyes had a timid pleading in them.
Joan laughed. "I've been feeling as if I were the King of
Bavaria," she said.
"How did he feel?" he asked her, leaning forward.
"He had his own private theatre," Joan explained, "where Wagner
gave his operas. And the King was the sole audience."
"I should have hated that," he said, "if I had been Wagner."
He looked at her, and a flush passed over his boyish face.
"All right," he said, "if it had been a queen."
Joan found herself tracing patterns with her spoon upon the
tablecloth. "But you have won now," she said, still absorbed
apparently with her drawing, "you are going to get your chance."
He gave a short laugh. "A trick," he said, "to weaken me. They
think to shave my locks; show me to the people bound by their red
tape. To put it another way, a rat among the terriers."
Joan laughed. "You don't somehow suggest the rat," she said:
"rather another sort of beast."
"What do you advise me?" he asked. "I haven't decided yet."
They were speaking in whispered tones. Through the open doors they
could see into the other room. Mrs. Phillips, under Airlie's
instructions, was venturing upon a cigarette.
"To accept," she answered. "They won't influence you--the
terriers, as you call them. You are too strong. It is you who
will sway them. It isn't as if you were a mere agitator. Take
this opportunity of showing them that you can build, plan,
organize; that you were meant to be a ruler. You can't succeed
without them, as things are. You've got to win them over. Prove
to them that they can trust you."
He sat for a minute tattooing with his fingers on the table, before
"It's the frills and flummery part of it that frightens me," he
said. "You wouldn't think that sensitiveness was my weak point.
But it is. I've stood up to a Birmingham mob that was waiting to
lynch me and enjoyed the experience; but I'd run ten miles rather
than face a drawing-room of well-dressed people with their masked
faces and ironic courtesies. It leaves me for days feeling like a
lobster that has lost its shell."
"I wouldn't say it, if I didn't mean it," answered Joan; "but you
haven't got to trouble yourself about that . . . You're quite
passable." She smiled. It seemed to her that most women would
find him more than passable.
He shook his head. "With you," he said. "There's something about
you that makes one ashamed of worrying about the little things.
But the others: the sneering women and the men who wink over their
shoulder while they talk to you, I shall never be able to get away
from them, and, of course, wherever I go--"
He stopped abruptly with a sudden tightening of the lips. Joan
followed his eyes. Mrs. Phillips had swallowed the smoke and was
giggling and spluttering by turns. The yellow ostrich feather had
worked itself loose and was rocking to and fro as if in a fit of
laughter of its own.
He pushed back his chair and rose. "Shall we join the others?" he
He moved so that he was between her and the other room, his back to
the open doors. "You think I ought to?" he said.
"Yes," she answered firmly, as if she were giving a command. But
he read pity also in her eyes.
"Well, have you two settled the affairs of the kingdom? Is it all
decided?" asked Airlie.
"Yes," he answered, laughing. "We are going to say to the people,
'Eat, drink and be wise.'"
He rearranged his wife's feather and smoothed her tumbled hair.
She looked up at him and smiled.
Joan set herself to make McKean talk, and after a time succeeded.
They had a mutual friend, a raw-boned youth she had met at
Cambridge. He was engaged to McKean's sister. His eyes lighted up
when he spoke of his sister Jenny. The Little Mother, he called
"She's the most beautiful body in all the world," he said. "Though
merely seeing her you mightn't know it."
He saw her "home"; and went on up the stairs to his own floor.
Joan stood for a while in front of the glass before undressing; but
felt less satisfied with herself. She replaced the star in its
case, and took off the regal-looking dress with the golden girdle
and laid it carelessly aside. She seemed to be growing smaller.
In her white night dress, with her hair in two long plaits, she
looked at herself once more. She seemed to be no one of any
importance at all: just a long little girl going to bed. With no
one to kiss her good night.
She blew out the candle and climbed into the big bed, feeling very
lonesome as she used to when a child. It had not troubled her
until to-night. Suddenly she sat up again. She needn't be back in
London before Tuesday evening, and to-day was only Friday. She
would run down home and burst in upon her father. He would be so
pleased to see her.
She would make him put his arms around her.
She reached home in the evening. She thought to find her father in
his study. But they told her that, now, he usually sat alone in
the great drawing-room. She opened the door softly. The room was
dark save for a flicker of firelight; she could see nothing. Nor
was there any sound.
"Dad," she cried, "are you here?"
He rose slowly from a high-backed chair beside the fire.
"It is you," he said. He seemed a little dazed.
She ran to him and, seizing his listless arms, put them round her.
"Give me a hug, Dad," she commanded. "A real hug."
He held her to him for what seemed a long while. There was
strength in his arms, in spite of the bowed shoulders and white
"I was afraid you had forgotten how to do it," she laughed, when at
last he released her. "Do you know, you haven't hugged me, Dad,
since I was five years old. That's nineteen years ago. You do
love me, don't you?"
"Yes," he answered. "I have always loved you."
She would not let him light the gas. "I have dined--in the train,"
she explained. "Let us talk by the firelight."
She forced him gently back into his chair, and seated herself upon
the floor between his knees. "What were you thinking of when I
came in?" she asked. "You weren't asleep, were you?"
"No," he answered. "Not that sort of sleep." She could not see
his face. But she guessed his meaning.
"Am I very like her?" she asked.
"Yes," he answered. "Marvellously like her as she used to be:
except for just one thing. Perhaps that will come to you later. I
thought, for the moment, as you stood there by the door . . . " He
did not finish the sentence.
"Tell me about her," she said. "I never knew she had been an
He did not ask her how she had learnt it. "She gave it up when we
were married," he said. "The people she would have to live among
would have looked askance at her if they had known. There seemed
no reason why they should."
"How did it all happen?" she persisted. "Was it very beautiful, in
the beginning?" She wished she had not added that last. The words
had slipped from her before she knew.
"Very beautiful," he answered, "in the beginning."
"It was my fault," he went on, "that it was not beautiful all
through. I ought to have let her take up her work again, as she
wished to, when she found what giving it up meant to her. The
world was narrower then than it is now; and I listened to the
world. I thought it another voice."
"It's difficult to tell, isn't it?" she said. "I wonder how one
He did not answer; and they sat for a time in silence.
"Did you ever see her act?" asked Joan.
"Every evening for about six months," he answered. A little flame
shot up and showed a smile upon his face.
"I owe to her all the charity and tenderness I know. She taught it
to me in those months. I might have learned more if I had let her
go on teaching. It was the only way she knew."
Joan watched her as gradually she shaped herself out of the
shadows: the poor, thin, fretful lady of the ever restless hands,
with her bursts of jealous passion, her long moods of sullen
indifference: all her music turned to waste.
"How did she come to fall in love with you?" asked Joan. "I don't
mean to be uncomplimentary, Dad." She laughed, taking his hand in
hers and stroking it. "You must have been ridiculously handsome,
when you were young. And you must always have been strong and
brave and clever. I can see such a lot of women falling in love
with you. But not the artistic woman."
"It wasn't so incongruous at the time," he answered. "My father
had sent me out to America to superintend a contract. It was the
first time I had ever been away from home, though I was nearly
thirty; and all my pent-up youth rushed out of me at once. It was
a harum-scarum fellow, mad with the joy of life, that made love to
her; not the man who went out, nor the man who came back. It was
at San Francisco that I met her. She was touring the Western
States; and I let everything go to the wind and followed her. It
seemed to me that Heaven had opened up to me. I fought a duel in
Colorado with a man who had insulted her. The law didn't run there
in those days; and three of his hired gunmen, as they called them,
held us up that night in the train and gave her the alternative of
going back with them and kissing him or seeing me dead at her feet.
I didn't give her time to answer, nor for them to finish. It
seemed a fine death anyhow, that. And I'd have faced Hell itself
for the chance of fighting for her. Though she told me afterwards
that if I'd died she'd have gone back with them, and killed him."
Joan did not speak for a time. She could see him grave--a little
pompous, in his Sunday black, his footsteps creaking down the
stone-flagged aisle, the silver-edged collecting bag held stiffly
in his hand.
"Couldn't you have saved a bit, Daddy?" she asked, "of all that
wealth of youth--just enough to live on?"
"I might," he answered, "if I had known the value of it. I found a
cable waiting for me in New York. My father had been dead a month;
and I had to return immediately."
"And so you married her and took her drum away from her," said
Joan. "Oh, the thing God gives to some of us," she explained, "to
make a little noise with, and set the people marching."
The little flame died out. She could feel his body trembling.
"But you still loved her, didn't you, Dad?" she asked. "I was very
little at the time, but I can just remember. You seemed so happy
together. Till her illness came."
"It was more than love," he answered. "It was idolatry. God
punished me for it. He was a hard God, my God."
She raised herself, putting her hands upon his shoulders so that
her face was very close to his. "What has become of Him, Dad?" she
said. She spoke in a cold voice, as one does of a false friend.
"I do not know," he answered her. "I don't seem to care."
"He must be somewhere," she said: "the living God of love and
hope: the God that Christ believed in."
"They were His last words, too," he answered: "'My God, my God,
why hast Thou forsaken me?'"
"No, not His last," said Joan: "'Lo, I am with you always, even
unto the end of the world.' Love was Christ's God. He will help
us to find Him."
Their arms were about one another. Joan felt that a new need had
been born in her: the need of loving and of being loved. It was
good to lay her head upon his breast and know that he was glad of
He asked her questions about herself. But she could see that he
was tired; so she told him it was too important a matter to start
upon so late. She would talk about herself to-morrow. It would be
"Do you still go to the chapel?" she asked him a little
"Yes," he answered. "One lives by habit."
"It is the only Temple I know," he continued after a moment.
"Perhaps God, one day, will find me there."
He rose and lit the gas, and a letter on the mantelpiece caught his
"Have you heard from Arthur?" he asked, suddenly turning to her.
"No. Not since about a month," she answered. "Why?"
"He will be pleased to find you here, waiting for him," he said
with a smile, handing her the letter. "He will be here some time
Arthur Allway was her cousin, the son of a Nonconformist Minister.
Her father had taken him into the works and for the last three
years he had been in Egypt, helping in the laying of a tramway
line. He was in love with her: at least so they all told her; and
his letters were certainly somewhat committal. Joan replied to
them--when she did not forget to do so--in a studiously sisterly
vein; and always reproved him for unnecessary extravagance whenever
he sent her a present. The letter announced his arrival at
Southampton. He would stop at Birmingham, where his parents lived,
for a couple of days, and be in Liverpool on Sunday evening, so as
to be able to get straight to business on Monday morning. Joan
handed back the letter. It contained nothing else.
"It only came an hour or two ago," her father explained. "If he
wrote to you by the same post, you may have left before it
"So long as he doesn't think that I came down specially to see him,
I don't mind," said Joan.
They both laughed. "He's a good lad," said her father.
They kissed good night, and Joan went up to her own room. She
found it just as she had left it. A bunch of roses stood upon the
dressing-table. Her father would never let anyone cut his roses
Young Allway arrived just as Joan and her father had sat down to
supper. A place had been laid for him. He flushed with pleasure
at seeing her; but was not surprised.
"I called at your diggings," he said. "I had to go through London.
They told me you had started. It is good of you."
"No, it isn't," said Joan. "I came down to see Dad. I didn't know
you were back." She spoke with some asperity; and his face fell.
"How are you?" she added, holding out her hand. "You've grown
quite good-looking. I like your moustache." And he flushed again
He had a sweet, almost girlish face, with delicate skin that the
Egyptian sun had deepened into ruddiness; with soft, dreamy eyes
and golden hair. He looked lithe and agile rather than strong. He
was shy at first, but once set going, talked freely, and was
His work had taken him into the Desert, far from the beaten tracks.
He described the life of the people, very little different from
what it must have been in Noah's time. For months he had been the
only white man there, and had lived among them. What had struck
him was how little he had missed all the paraphernalia of
civilization, once he had got over the first shock. He had learnt
their sports and games; wrestled and swum and hunted with them.
Provided one was a little hungry and tired with toil, a stew of
goat's flesh with sweet cakes and fruits, washed down with wine out
of a sheep's skin, made a feast; and after, there was music and
singing and dancing, or the travelling story-teller would gather
round him his rapt audience. Paris had only robbed women of their
grace and dignity. He preferred the young girls in their costume
of the fourteenth dynasty. Progress, he thought, had tended only
to complicate life and render it less enjoyable. All the
essentials of happiness--love, courtship, marriage, the home,
children, friendship, social intercourse, and play, were
independent of it; had always been there for the asking.
Joan thought his mistake lay in regarding man's happiness as more
important to him than his self-development. It was not what we got
out of civilization but what we put into it that was our gain. Its
luxuries and ostentations were, in themselves, perhaps bad for us.
But the pursuit of them was good. It called forth thought and
effort, sharpened our wits, strengthened our brains. Primitive
man, content with his necessities, would never have produced
genius. Art, literature, science would have been stillborn.
He hesitated before replying, glancing at her furtively while
crumbling his bread. When he did, it was in the tone that one of
her younger disciples might have ventured into a discussion with
Hypatia. But he stuck to his guns.
How did she account for David and Solomon, Moses and the Prophets?
They had sprung from a shepherd race. Yet surely there was genius,
literature. Greece owed nothing to progress. She had preceded it.
Her thinkers, her poets, her scientists had draws their inspiration
from nature, not civilization. Her art had sprung full grown out
of the soil. We had never surpassed it.
"But the Greek ideal could not have been the right one, or Greece
would not so utterly have disappeared," suggested Mr. Allway.
"Unless you reject the law of the survival of the fittest."
He had no qualms about arguing with his uncle.
"So did Archimedes disappear," he answered with a smile. "The
nameless Roman soldier remained. That was hardly the survival of
He thought it the tragedy of the world that Rome had conquered
Greece, imposing her lower ideals upon the race. Rome should have
been the servant of Greece: the hands directed by the brain. She
would have made roads and harbours, conducted the traffic, reared
the market place. She knew of the steam engine, employed it for
pumping water in the age of the Antonines. Sooner or later, she
would have placed it on rails, and in ships. Rome should have been
the policeman, keeping the world in order, making it a fit
habitation. Her mistake was in regarding these things as an end in
themselves, dreaming of nothing beyond. From her we had inherited
the fallacy that man was made for the world, not the world for man.
Rome organized only for man's body. Greece would have legislated
for his soul.
They went into the drawing-room. Her father asked her to sing and
Arthur opened the piano for her and lit the candles. She chose
some ballads and a song of Herrick's, playing her own accompaniment
while Arthur turned the leaves. She had a good voice, a low
contralto. The room was high and dimly lighted. It looked larger
than it really was. Her father sat in his usual chair beside the
fire and listened with half-closed eyes. Glancing now and then
across at him, she was reminded of Orchardson's picture. She was
feeling sentimental, a novel sensation to her. She rather enjoyed
She finished with one of Burns's lyrics; and then told Arthur that
it was now his turn, and that she would play for him. He shook his
head, pleading that he was out of practice.
"I wish it," she said, speaking low. And it pleased her that he
made no answer but to ask her what he should sing. He had a light
tenor voice. It was wobbly at first, but improved as he went on.
They ended with a duet.
The next morning she went into town with them. She never seemed to
have any time in London, and wanted to do some shopping. They
joined her again for lunch and afterwards, at her father's
suggestion, she and Arthur went for a walk. They took the tram out
of the city and struck into the country. The leaves still lingered
brown and red upon the trees. He carried her cloak and opened
gates for her and held back brambles while she passed. She had
always been indifferent to these small gallantries; but to-day she
welcomed them. She wished to feel her power to attract and
command. They avoided all subjects on which they could differ,
even in words. They talked of people and places they had known
together. They remembered their common love of animals and told of
the comedies and tragedies that had befallen their pets. Joan's
regret was that she had not now even a dog, thinking it cruel to
keep them in London. She hated the women she met, dragging the
poor little depressed beasts about at the end of a string: savage
with them, if they dared to stop for a moment to exchange a passing
wag of the tail with some other little lonely sufferer. It was as
bad as keeping a lark in a cage. She had tried a cat: but so
often she did not get home till late and that was just the time
when the cat wanted to be out; so that they seldom met. He
suggested a parrot. His experience of them was that they had no
regular hours and would willingly sit up all night, if encouraged,
and talk all the time. Joan's objection to running a parrot was
that it stamped you as an old maid; and she wasn't that, at least,
not yet. She wondered if she could make an owl really happy.
Minerva had an owl.
He told her how one spring, walking across a common, after a fire,
he had found a mother thrush burnt to death upon her nest, her
charred wings spread out in a vain endeavour to protect her brood.
He had buried her there among the blackened thorn and furze, and
placed a little cross of stones above her.
"I hope nobody saw me," he said with a laugh. "But I couldn't bear
to leave her there, unhonoured."
"It's one of the things that make me less certain than I want to be
of a future existence," said Joan: "the thought that animals can
have no part in it; that all their courage and love and
faithfulness dies with them and is wasted."
"Are you sure it is?" he answered. "It would be so unreasonable."
They had tea at an old-fashioned inn beside a stream. It was a
favourite resort in summer time, but now they had it to themselves.
The wind had played pranks with her hair and he found a mirror and
knelt before her, holding it.
She stood erect, looking down at him while seeming to be absorbed
in the rearrangement of her hair, feeling a little ashamed of
herself. She was "encouraging" him. There was no other word for
it. She seemed to have developed a sudden penchant for this sort
of thing. It would end in his proposing to her; and then she would
have to tell him that she cared for him only in a cousinly sort of
way--whatever that might mean--and that she could never marry him.
She dared not ask herself why. She must manoeuvre to put it off as
long as possible; and meanwhile some opening might occur to
enlighten him. She would talk to him about her work; and explain
to him how she had determined to devote her life to it to the
exclusion of all other distractions. If, then, he chose to go on
loving her--or if he couldn't help it--that would not be her fault.
After all, it did him no harm. She could always be gracious and
kind to him. It was not as if she had tricked him. He had always
loved her. Kneeling before her, serving her: it was evident it
made him supremely happy. It would be cruel of her to end it.
The landlady entered unexpectedly with the tea; but he did not rise
till Joan turned away, nor did he seem disconcerted. Neither did
the landlady. She was an elderly, quiet-eyed woman, and had served
more than one generation of young people with their teas.
They returned home by train. Joan insisted on travelling third
class, and selected a compartment containing a stout woman and two
children. Arthur had to be at the works. An important contract
had got behindhand and they were working overtime. She and her
father dined alone. He made her fulfil her promise to talk about
herself, and she told him all she thought would interest him. She
passed lightly over her acquaintanceship with Phillips. He would
regard it as highly undesirable, she told herself, and it would
trouble him. He was reading her articles in the Sunday Post, as
also her Letters from Clorinda: and of the two preferred the
latter as being less subversive of law and order. Also he did not
like seeing her photograph each week, displayed across two columns
with her name beneath in one inch type. He supposed he was old-
fashioned. She was getting rather tired of it herself.
"The Editor insisted upon it," she explained. "It was worth it for
the opportunity it gives me. I preach every Sunday to a
congregation of over a million souls. It's better than being a
Bishop. Besides," she added, "the men are just as bad. You see
their silly faces everywhere."
"That's like you women," he answered with a smile. "You pretend to
be superior; and then you copy us."
She laughed. But the next moment she was serious.
"No, we don't," she said, "not those of us who think. We know we
shall never oust man from his place. He will always be the
greater. We want to help him; that's all."
"But wasn't that the Lord's idea," he said; "when He gave Eve to
Adam to be his helpmeet?"
"Yes, that was all right," she answered. "He fashioned Eve for
Adam and saw that Adam got her. The ideal marriage might have been
the ideal solution. If the Lord had intended that, he should have
kept the match-making in His own hands: not have left it to man.
Somewhere in Athens there must have been the helpmeet God had made
for Socrates. When they met, it was Xanthippe that she kissed."
A servant brought the coffee and went out again. Her father
lighted a cigar and handed her the cigarettes.
"Will it shock you, Dad?" she asked.
"Rather late in the day for you to worry yourself about that, isn't
it?" he answered with a smile.
He struck a match and held it for her. Joan sat with her elbows on
the table and smoked in silence. She was thinking.
Why had he never "brought her up," never exacted obedience from
her, never even tried to influence her? It could not have been
mere weakness. She stole a sidelong glance at the tired, lined
face with its steel-blue eyes. She had never seen them other than
calm, but they must have been able to flash. Why had he always
been so just and kind and patient with her? Why had he never
scolded her and bullied her and teased her? Why had he let her go
away, leaving him lonely in his empty, voiceless house? Why had he
never made any claim upon her? The idea came to her as an
inspiration. At least, it would ease her conscience. "Why don't
you let Arthur live here," she said, "instead of going back to his
lodgings? It would be company for you."
He did not answer for some time. She had begun to wonder if he had
"What do you think of him?" he said, without looking at her.
"Oh, he's quite a nice lad," she answered.
It was some while again before he spoke. "He will be the last of
the Allways," he said. "I should like to think of the name being
continued; and he's a good business man, in spite of his
dreaminess. Perhaps he would get on better with the men."
She seized at the chance of changing the subject.
"It was a foolish notion," she said, "that of the Manchester
school: that men and women could be treated as mere figures in a
To her surprise, he agreed with her. "The feudal system had a fine
idea in it," he said, "if it had been honestly carried out. A
master should be the friend, the helper of his men. They should be
She looked at him a little incredulously, remembering the bitter
periods of strikes and lock-outs.
"Did you ever try, Dad?" she asked.
"Oh, yes," he answered. "But I tried the wrong way." "The right
way might be found," he added, "by the right man, and woman."
She felt that he was watching her through his half-closed eyes.
"There are those cottages," he continued, "just before you come to
the bridge. They might be repaired and a club house added. The
idea is catching on, they tell me. Garden villages, they call them
now. It gets the men and women away from the dirty streets; and
gives the children a chance."
She knew the place. A sad group of dilapidated little houses
forming three sides of a paved quadrangle, with a shattered
fountain and withered trees in the centre. Ever since she could
remember, they had stood there empty, ghostly, with creaking doors
and broken windows, their gardens overgrown with weeds.
"Are they yours?" she asked. She had never connected them with the
works, some half a mile away. Though had she been curious, she
might have learnt that they were known as "Allway's Folly."
"Your mother's," he answered. "I built them the year I came back
from America and gave them to her. I thought it would interest
her. Perhaps it would, if I had left her to her own ways."
"Why didn't they want them?" she asked.
"They did, at first," he answered. "The time-servers and the
hypocrites among them. I made it a condition that they should be
teetotallers, and chapel goers, and everything else that I thought
good for them. I thought that I could save their souls by bribing
them with cheap rents and share of profits. And then the Union
came, and that of course finished it."
So he, too, had thought to build Jerusalem.
"Yes," he said. "I'll sound him about giving up his lodgings."
Joan lay awake for a long while that night. The moon looked in at
the window. It seemed to have got itself entangled in the tops of
the tall pines. Would it not be her duty to come back--make her
father happy, to say nothing of the other. He was a dear, sweet,
lovable lad. Together, they might realize her father's dream:
repair the blunders, plant gardens where the weeds now grew, drive
out the old sad ghosts with living voices. It had been a fine
thought, a "King's thought." Others had followed, profiting by his
mistakes. But might it not be carried further than even they had
gone, shaped into some noble venture that should serve the future.
Was not her America here? Why seek it further? What was this
unknown Force, that, against all sense and reason, seemed driving
her out into the wilderness to preach. Might it not be mere
vanity, mere egoism. Almost she had convinced herself.
And then there flashed remembrance of her mother. She, too, had
laid aside herself; had thought that love and duty could teach one
to be other than one was. The Ego was the all important thing,
entrusted to us as the talents of silver to the faithful servant:
to be developed, not for our own purposes, but for the service of
One did no good by suppressing one's nature. In the end it proved
too strong. Marriage with Arthur would be only repeating the
mistake. To be worshipped, to be served. It would be very
pleasant, when one was in the mood. But it would not satisfy her.
There was something strong and fierce and primitive in her nature--
something that had come down to her through the generations from
some harness-girded ancestress--something impelling her
instinctively to choose the fighter; to share with him the joy of
battle, healing his wounds, giving him of her courage, exulting
with him in the victory.
The moon had risen clear of the entangling pines. It rode serene
Her father came to the station with her in the morning. The train
was not in: and they walked up and down and talked. Suddenly she
remembered: it had slipped her mind.
"Could I, as a child, have known an old clergyman?" she asked him.
"At least he wouldn't have been old then. I dropped into Chelsea
Church one evening and heard him preach; and on the way home I
passed him again in the street. It seemed to me that I had seen
his face before. But not for many years. I meant to write you
about it, but forgot."
He had to turn aside for a moment to speak to an acquaintance about
"Oh, it's possible," he answered on rejoining her. "What was his
"I do not know," she answered. "He was not the regular Incumbent.
But it was someone that I seemed to know quite well--that I must
have been familiar with."
"It may have been," he answered carelessly, "though the gulf was
wider then than it is now. I'll try and think. Perhaps it is only
The train drew in, and he found her a corner seat, and stood
talking by the window, about common things.
"What did he preach about?" he asked her unexpectedly.
She was puzzled for the moment. "Oh, the old clergyman," she
answered, recollecting. "Oh, Calvary. All roads lead to Calvary,
he thought. It was rather interesting."
She looked back at the end of the platform. He had not moved.
A pile of correspondence was awaiting her and, standing by the
desk, she began to open and read it. Suddenly she paused,
conscious that someone had entered the room and, turning, she saw
Hilda. She must have left the door ajar, for she had heard no
sound. The child closed the door noiselessly and came across,
holding out a letter.
"Papa told me to give you this the moment you came in," she said.
Joan had not yet taken off her things. The child must have been
keeping a close watch. Save for the signature it contained but one
line: "I have accepted."
Joan replaced the letter in its envelope, and laid it down upon the
desk. Unconsciously a smile played about her lips.
The child was watching her. "I'm glad you persuaded him," she
Joan felt a flush mount to her face. She had forgotten Hilda for
She forced a laugh. "Oh, I only persuaded him to do what he had
made up his mind to do," she explained. "It was all settled."
"No, it wasn't," answered the child. "Most of them were against
it. And then there was Mama," she added in a lower tone.
"What do you mean," asked Joan. "Didn't she wish it?"
The child raised her eyes. There was a dull anger in them. "Oh,
what's the good of pretending," she said. "He's so great. He
could be the Prime Minister of England if he chose. But then he
would have to visit kings and nobles, and receive them at his
house, and Mama--" She broke off with a passionate gesture of the
small thin hands.
Joan was puzzled what to say. She knew exactly what she ought to
say: what she would have said to any ordinary child. But to say
it to this uncannily knowing little creature did not promise much
"Who told you I persuaded him?" she asked.
"Nobody," answered the child. "I knew."
Joan seated herself, and drew the child towards her.
"It isn't as terrible as you think," she said. "Many men who have
risen and taken a high place in the world were married to kind,
good women unable to share their greatness. There was Shakespeare,
you know, who married Anne Hathaway and had a clever daughter. She
was just a nice, homely body a few years older than himself. And
he seems to have been very fond of her; and was always running down
to Stratford to be with her."
"Yes, but he didn't bring her up to London," answered the child.
"Mama would have wanted to come; and Papa would have let her, and
wouldn't have gone to see Queen Elizabeth unless she had been
Joan wished she had not mentioned Shakespeare. There had surely
been others; men who had climbed up and carried their impossible
wives with them. But she couldn't think of one, just then.
"We must help her," she answered somewhat lamely. "She's anxious
to learn, I know."
The child shook her head. "She doesn't understand," she said.
"And Papa won't tell her. He says it would only hurt her and do no
good." The small hands were clenched. "I shall hate her if she
spoils his life."
The atmosphere was becoming tragic. Joan felt the need of escaping
from it. She sprang up.