Part 3 out of 6
"Oh, don't be nonsensical," she said. "Your father isn't the only
man married to a woman not as clever as himself. He isn't going to
let that stop him. And your mother's going to learn to be the wife
of a great man and do the best she can. And if they don't like her
they've got to put up with her. I shall talk to the both of them."
A wave of motherliness towards the entire Phillips family passed
over her. It included Hilda. She caught the child to her and gave
her a hug. "You go back to school," she said, "and get on as fast
as you can, so that you'll be able to be useful to him."
The child flung her arms about her. "You're so beautiful and
wonderful," she said. "You can do anything. I'm so glad you
Joan laughed. It was surprising how easily the problem had been
solved. She would take Mrs. Phillips in hand at once. At all
events she should be wholesome and unobtrusive. It would be a
delicate mission, but Joan felt sure of her own tact. She could
see his boyish eyes turned upon her with wonder and gratitude.
"I was so afraid you would not be back before I went," said the
child. "I ought to have gone this afternoon, but Papa let me stay
till the evening."
"You will help?" she added, fixing on Joan her great, grave eyes.
Joan promised, and the child went out. She looked pretty when she
smiled. She closed the door behind her noiselessly.
It occurred to Joan that she would like to talk matters over with
Greyson. There was "Clorinda's" attitude to be decided upon; and
she was interested to know what view he himself would take. Of
course he would be on P-'s side. The Evening Gazette had always
supported the "gas and water school" of socialism; and to include
the people's food was surely only an extension of the principle.
She rang him up and Miss Greyson answered, asking her to come round
to dinner: they would be alone. And she agreed.
The Greysons lived in a small house squeezed into an angle of the
Outer Circle, overlooking Regent's Park. It was charmingly
furnished, chiefly with old Chippendale. The drawing-room made
quite a picture. It was home-like and restful with its faded
colouring, and absence of all show and overcrowding. They sat
there after dinner and discussed Joan's news. Miss Greyson was
repairing a piece of old embroidery she had brought back with her
from Italy; and Greyson sat smoking, with his hands behind his
head, and his long legs stretched out towards the fire.
"Carleton will want him to make his food policy include Tariff
Reform," he said. "If he prove pliable, and is willing to throw
over his free trade principles, all well and good."
"What's Carleton got to do with it?" demanded Joan with a note of
He turned his head towards her with an amused raising of the
eyebrows. "Carleton owns two London dailies," he answered, "and is
in treaty for a third: together with a dozen others scattered
about the provinces. Most politicians find themselves, sooner or
later, convinced by his arguments. Phillips may prove the
"It would be rather interesting, a fight between them," said Joan.
"Myself I should back Phillips."
"He might win through," mused Greyson. "He's the man to do it, if
anybody could. But the odds will be against him."
"I don't see it," said Joan, with decision.
"I'm afraid you haven't yet grasped the power of the Press," he
answered with a smile. "Phillips speaks occasionally to five
thousand people. Carleton addresses every day a circle of five
"Yes, but when Phillips does speak, he speaks to the whole
country," retorted Joan.
"Through the medium of Carleton and his like; and just so far as
they allow his influence to permeate beyond the platform," answered
"But they report his speeches. They are bound to," explained Joan.
"It doesn't read quite the same," he answered. "Phillips goes home
under the impression that he has made a great success and has
roused the country. He and millions of other readers learn from
the next morning's headlines that it was 'A Tame Speech' that he
made. What sounded to him 'Loud Cheers' have sunk to mild 'Hear,
Hears.' That five minutes' hurricane of applause, during which
wildly excited men and women leapt upon the benches and roared
themselves hoarse, and which he felt had settled the whole
question, he searches for in vain. A few silly interjections,
probably pre-arranged by Carleton's young lions, become 'renewed
interruptions.' The report is strictly truthful; but the
impression produced is that Robert Phillips has failed to carry
even his own people with him. And then follow leaders in fourteen
widely-circulated Dailies, stretching from the Clyde to the Severn,
foretelling how Mr. Robert Phillips could regain his waning
popularity by the simple process of adopting Tariff Reform: or
whatever the pet panacea of Carleton and Co. may, at the moment,
happen to be."
"Don't make us out all alike," pleaded his sister with a laugh.
"There are still a few old-fashioned papers that do give their
opponents fair play."
"They are not increasing in numbers," he answered, "and the
Carleton group is. There is no reason why in another ten years he
should not control the entire popular press of the country. He's
got the genius and he's got the means."
"The cleverest thing he has done," he continued, turning to Joan,
"is your Sunday Post. Up till then, the working classes had
escaped him. With the Sunday Post, he has solved the problem.
They open their mouths; and he gives them their politics wrapped up
in pictures and gossipy pars."
Miss Greyson rose and put away her embroidery. "But what's his
object?" she said. "He must have more money than he can spend; and
he works like a horse. I could understand it, if he had any
"Oh, we can all persuade ourselves that we are the Heaven-ordained
dictator of the human race," he answered. "Love of power is at the
bottom of it. Why do our Rockefellers and our Carnegies condemn
themselves to the existence of galley slaves, ruining their
digestions so that they never can enjoy a square meal. It isn't
the money; it's the trouble of their lives how to get rid of that.
It is the notoriety, the power that they are out for. In
Carleton's case, it is to feel himself the power behind the throne;
to know that he can make and unmake statesmen; has the keys of
peace and war in his pocket; is able to exclaim: Public opinion?
It is I."
"It can be a respectable ambition," suggested Joan.
"It has been responsible for most of man's miseries," he answered.
"Every world's conqueror meant to make it happy after he had
finished knocking it about. We are all born with it, thanks to the
devil." He shifted his position and regarded her with critical
eyes. "You've got it badly," he said. "I can see it in the tilt
of your chin and the quivering of your nostrils. You beware of
Miss Greyson left them. She had to finish an article. They
debated "Clorinda's" views; and agreed that, as a practical
housekeeper, she would welcome attention being given to the
question of the nation's food. The Evening Gazette would support
Phillips in principle, while reserving to itself the right of
criticism when it came to details.
"What's he like in himself?" he asked her. "You've been seeing
something of him, haven't you?"
"Oh, a little," she answered. "He's absolutely sincere; and he
means business. He won't stop at the bottom of the ladder now he's
once got his foot upon it."
"But he's quite common, isn't he?" he asked again. "I've only met
him in public."
"No, that's precisely what he isn't," answered Joan. "You feel
that he belongs to no class, but his own. The class of the Abraham
Lincolns, and the Dantons."
"England's a different proposition," he mused. "Society counts for
so much with us. I doubt if we should accept even an Abraham
Lincoln: unless in some supreme crisis. His wife rather handicaps
him, too, doesn't she?"
"She wasn't born to be the chatelaine of Downing Street," Joan
admitted. "But it's not an official position."
"I'm not so sure that it isn't," he laughed. "It's the dinner-
table that rules in England. We settle everything round a dinner-
She was sitting in front of the fire in a high-backed chair. She
never cared to loll, and the shaded light from the electric sconces
upon the mantelpiece illumined her.
"If the world were properly stage-managed, that's what you ought to
be," he said, "the wife of a Prime Minister. I can see you giving
such an excellent performance."
"I must talk to Mary," he added, "see if we can't get you off on
some promising young Under Secretary."
"Don't give me ideas above my station," laughed Joan. "I'm a
"That's the pity of it," he said. "You're wasting the most
important thing about you, your personality. You would do more
good in a drawing-room, influencing the rulers, than you will ever
do hiding behind a pen. It was the drawing-room that made the
The firelight played about her hair. "I suppose every woman dreams
of reviving the old French Salon," she answered. "They must have
been gloriously interesting." He was leaning forward with clasped
hands. "Why shouldn't she?" he said. "The reason that our
drawing-rooms have ceased to lead is that our beautiful women are
generally frivolous and our clever women unfeminine. What we are
waiting for is an English Madame Roland."
Joan laughed. "Perhaps I shall some day," she answered.
He insisted on seeing her as far as the bus. It was a soft, mild
night; and they walked round the Circle to Gloucester Gate. He
thought there would be more room in the buses at that point.
"I wish you would come oftener," he said. "Mary has taken such a
liking to you. If you care to meet people, we can always whip up
somebody of interest."
She promised that she would. She always felt curiously at home
with the Greysons.
They were passing the long sweep of Chester Terrace. "I like this
neighbourhood with its early Victorian atmosphere," she said. "It
always makes me feel quiet and good. I don't know why."
"I like the houses, too," he said. "There's a character about
them. You don't often find such fine drawing-rooms in London."
"Don't forget your promise," he reminded her, when they parted. "I
shall tell Mary she may write to you."
She met Carleton by chance a day or two later, as she was entering
the office. "I want to see you," he said; and took her up with him
into his room.
"We must stir the people up about this food business," he said,
plunging at once into his subject. "Phillips is quite right. It
overshadows everything. We must make the country self-supporting.
It can be done and must. If a war were to be sprung upon us we
could be starved out in a month. Our navy, in face of these new
submarines, is no longer able to secure us. France is working day
and night upon them. It may be a bogey, or it may not. If it
isn't, she would have us at her mercy; and it's too big a risk to
run. You live in the same house with him, don't you? Do you often
"Not often," she answered.
He was reading a letter. "You were dining there on Friday night,
weren't you?" he asked her, without looking up.
Joan flushed. What did he mean by cross-examining her in this way?
She was not at all used to impertinence from the opposite sex.
"Your information is quite correct," she answered.
Her anger betrayed itself in her tone; and he shot a swift glance
"I didn't mean to offend you," he said. "A mutual friend, a Mr.
Airlie, happened to be of the party, and he mentioned you."
He threw aside the letter. "I'll tell you what I want you to do,"
he said. "It's nothing to object to. Tell him that you've seen me
and had a talk. I understand his scheme to be that the country
should grow more and more food until it eventually becomes self-
supporting; and that the Government should control the
distribution. Tell him that with that I'm heart and soul in
sympathy; and would like to help him." He pushed aside a pile of
papers and, leaning across the desk, spoke with studied
deliberation. "If he can see his way to making his policy
dependent upon Protection, we can work together."
"And if he can't?" suggested Joan.
He fixed his large, colourless eyes upon her. "That's where you
can help him," he answered. "If he and I combine forces, we can
pull this through in spite of the furious opposition that it is
going to arouse. Without a good Press he is helpless; and where is
he going to get his Press backing if he turns me down? From half a
dozen Socialist papers whose support will do him more harm than
good. If he will bring the working class over to Protection I will
undertake that the Tariff Reformers and the Agricultural Interest
shall accept his Socialism. It will be a victory for both of us.
"If he gain his end, what do the means matter?" he continued, as
Joan did not answer. "Food may be dearer; the Unions can square
that by putting up wages; while the poor devil of a farm labourer
will at last get fair treatment. We can easily insist upon that.
What do you think, yourself?"
"About Protection," she answered. "It's one of the few subjects I
haven't made up my mind about."
He laughed. "You will find all your pet reforms depend upon it,
when you come to work them out," he said. "You can't have a
minimum wage without a minimum price."
They had risen.
"I'll give him your message," said Joan. "But I don't see him
exchanging his principles even for your support. I admit it's
"Talk it over with him," he said. "And bear this in mind for your
own guidance." He took a step forward, which brought his face
quite close to hers: "If he fails, and all his life's work goes
for nothing, I shall be sorry; but I shan't break my heart. He
Joan dropped a note into Phillips's letter-box on her return home,
saying briefly that she wished to see him; and he sent up answer
asking her if she would come to the gallery that evening, and meet
him after his speech, which would be immediately following the
It was the first time he had risen since his appointment, and he
was received with general cheers. He stood out curiously youthful
against the background of grey-haired and bald-headed men behind
him; and there was youth also in his clear, ringing voice that not
even the vault-like atmosphere of that shadowless chamber could
altogether rob of its vitality. He spoke simply and good-
humouredly, without any attempt at rhetoric, relying chiefly upon a
crescendo of telling facts that gradually, as he proceeded, roused
the House to that tense stillness that comes to it when it begins
"A distinctly dangerous man," Joan overheard a little old lady
behind her comment to a friend. "If I didn't hate him, I should
He met her in the corridor, and they walked up and down and talked,
too absorbed to be aware of the curious eyes that were turned upon
them. Joan gave him Carleton's message.
"It was clever of him to make use of you," he said. "If he'd sent
it through anybody else, I'd have published it."
"You don't think it even worth considering?" suggested Joan.
"Protection?" he flashed out scornfully. "Yes, I've heard of that.
I've listened, as a boy, while the old men told of it to one
another, in thin, piping voices, round the fireside; how the
labourers were flung eight-and-sixpence a week to die on, and the
men starved in the towns; while the farmers kept their hunters, and
got drunk each night on fine old crusted port. Do you know what
their toast was in the big hotels on market day, with the windows
open to the street: 'To a long war and a bloody one.' It would be
their toast to-morrow, if they had their way. Does he think I am
going to be a party to the putting of the people's neck again under
their pitiless yoke?"
"But the people are more powerful now," argued Joan. "If the
farmer demanded higher prices, they could demand higher wages."
"They would never overtake the farmer," he answered, with a laugh.
"And the last word would always be with him. I am out to get rid
of the landlords," he continued, "not to establish them as the
permanent rulers of the country, as they are in Germany. The
people are more powerful--just a little, because they are no longer
dependent on the land. They can say to the farmer, 'All right, my
son, if that's your figure, I'm going to the shop next door--to
South America, to Canada, to Russia.' It isn't a satisfactory
solution. I want to see England happy and healthy before I bother
about the Argentine. It drives our men into the slums when they
might be living fine lives in God's fresh air. In the case of war
it might be disastrous. There, I agree with him. We must be able
to shut our door without fear of having to open it ourselves to ask
for bread. How would Protection accomplish that? Did he tell
"Don't eat me," laughed Joan. "I haven't been sent to you as a
missionary. I'm only a humble messenger. I suppose the argument
is that, good profits assured to him, the farmer would bustle up
and produce more."
"Can you see him bustling up?" he answered with a laugh;
"organizing himself into a body, and working the thing out from the
point of view of the public weal? I'll tell you what nine-tenths
of him would do: grow just as much or little as suited his own
purposes; and then go to sleep. And Protection would be his
security against ever being awakened."
"I'm afraid you don't like him," Joan commented.
"He will be all right in his proper place," he answered: "as the
servant of the public: told what to do, and turned out of his job
if he doesn't do it. My scheme does depend upon Protection. You
can tell him that. But this time, it's going to be Protection for
They were at the far end of the corridor; and the few others still
promenading were some distance away. She had not delivered the
whole of her message. She crossed to a seat, and he followed her.
She spoke with her face turned away from him.
"You have got to consider the cost of refusal," she said. "His
offer wasn't help or neutrality: it was help or opposition by
every means in his power. He left me in no kind of doubt as to
that. He's not used to being challenged and he won't be squeamish.
You will have the whole of his Press against you, and every other
journalistic and political influence that he possesses. He's
getting a hold upon the working classes. The Sunday Post has an
enormous sale in the manufacturing towns; and he's talking of
starting another. Are you strong enough to fight him?"
She very much wanted to look at him, but she would not. It seemed
to her quite a time before he replied.
"Yes," he answered, "I'm strong enough to fight him. Shall rather
enjoy doing it. And it's time that somebody did. Whether I'm
strong enough to win has got to be seen."
She turned and looked at him then. She wondered why she had ever
thought him ugly.
"You can face it," she said: "the possibility of all your life's
work being wasted?"
"It won't be wasted," he answered. "The land is there. I've seen
it from afar and it's a good land, a land where no man shall go
hungry. If not I, another shall lead the people into it. I shall
have prepared the way."
She liked him for that touch of exaggeration. She was so tired of
the men who make out all things little, including themselves and
their own work. After all, was it exaggeration? Might he not have
been chosen to lead the people out of bondage to a land where there
should be no more fear.
"You're not angry with me?" he asked. "I haven't been rude, have
"Abominably rude," she answered, "you've defied my warnings, and
treated my embassy with contempt." She turned to him and their
eyes met. "I should have despised you, if you hadn't," she added.
There was a note of exultation in her voice; and, as if in answer,
something leapt into his eyes that seemed to claim her. Perhaps it
was well that just then the bell rang for a division; and the
He rose and held out his hand. "We will fight him," he said. "And
you can tell him this, if he asks, that I'm going straight for him.
Parliament may as well close down if a few men between them are to
be allowed to own the entire Press of the country, and stifle every
voice that does not shout their bidding. We haven't dethroned
kings to put up a newspaper Boss. He shall have all the fighting
They met more often from that day, for Joan was frankly using her
two columns in the Sunday Post to propagate his aims. Carleton, to
her surprise, made no objection. Nor did he seek to learn the
result of his ultimatum. It looked, they thought, as if he had
assumed acceptance; and was willing for Phillips to choose his own
occasion. Meanwhile replies to her articles reached Joan in weekly
increasing numbers. There seemed to be a wind arising, blowing
towards Protection. Farm labourers, especially, appeared to be
enthusiastic for its coming. From their ill-spelt, smeared
epistles, one gathered that, after years of doubt and hesitation,
they had--however reluctantly--arrived at the conclusion that
without it there could be no hope for them. Factory workers,
miners, engineers--more fluent, less apologetic--wrote as strong
supporters of Phillips's scheme; but saw clearly how upon
Protection its success depended. Shopmen, clerks--only
occasionally ungrammatical--felt sure that Robert Phillips, the
tried friend of the poor, would insist upon the boon of Protection
being no longer held back from the people. Wives and mothers
claimed it as their children's birthright. Similar views got
themselves at the same time, into the correspondence columns of
Carleton's other numerous papers. Evidently Democracy had been
throbbing with a passion for Protection hitherto unknown, even to
"He means it kindly," laughed Phillips. "He is offering me an
excuse to surrender gracefully. We must have a public meeting or
two after Christmas, and clear the ground." They had got into the
habit of speaking in the plural.
Mrs. Phillips's conversion Joan found more difficult than she had
anticipated. She had persuaded Phillips to take a small house and
let her furnish it upon the hire system. Joan went with her to the
widely advertised "Emporium" in the City Road, meaning to advise
her. But, in the end, she gave it up out of sheer pity. Nor would
her advice have served much purpose, confronted by the "rich and
varied choice" provided for his patrons by Mr. Krebs, the
"Furnisher for Connoisseurs."
"We've never had a home exactly," explained Mrs. Phillips, during
their journey in the tram. "It's always been lodgings, up to now.
Nice enough, some of them; but you know what I mean; everybody
else's taste but your own. I've always fancied a little house with
one's own things in it. You know, things that you can get fond
Oh, the things she was going to get fond of! The things that her
poor, round foolish eyes gloated upon the moment that she saw them!
Joan tried to enlist the shopman on her side, descending even to
flirtation. Unfortunately he was a young man with a high sense of
duty, convinced that his employer's interests lay in his support of
Mrs. Phillips. The sight of the furniture that, between them, they
selected for the dining-room gave Joan a quite distinct internal
pain. They ascended to the floor above, devoted to the exhibition
of "Recherche drawing-room suites." Mrs. Phillips's eye
instinctively fastened with passionate desire upon the most
atrocious. Joan grew vehement. It was impossible.
"I always was a one for cheerful colours," explained Mrs. Phillips.
Even the shopman wavered. Joan pressed her advantage; directed
Mrs. Phillips's attention to something a little less awful. Mrs.
"Of course you know best, dear," she admitted. "Perhaps I am a bit
too fond of bright things."
The victory was won. Mrs. Phillips had turned away. The shopman
was altering the order. Joan moved towards the door, and
accidentally caught sight of Mrs. Phillips's face. The flabby
mouth was trembling. A tear was running down the painted cheek.
Joan slipped her hand through the other's arm.
"I'm not so sure you're not right after all," she said, fixing a
critical eye upon the rival suites. "It is a bit mousey, that
The order was once more corrected. Joan had the consolation of
witnessing the childish delight that came again into the foolish
face; but felt angry with herself at her own weakness.
It was the woman's feebleness that irritated her. If only she had
shown a spark of fight, Joan could have been firm. Poor feckless
creature, what could have ever been her attraction for Phillips!
She followed, inwardly fuming, while Mrs. Phillips continued to
pile monstrosity upon monstrosity. What would Phillips think? And
what would Hilda's eyes say when they looked upon that recherche
drawing-room suite? Hilda, who would have had no sentimental
compunctions! The woman would be sure to tell them both that she,
Joan, had accompanied her and helped in the choosing. The whole
ghastly house would be exhibited to every visitor as the result of
their joint taste. She could hear Mr. Airlie's purring voice
She ought to have insisted on their going to a decent shop. The
mere advertisement ought to have forewarned her. It was the
posters that had captured Mrs. Phillips: those dazzling apartments
where bejewelled society reposed upon the "high-class but
inexpensive designs" of Mr. Krebs. Artists ought to have more
self-respect than to sell their talents for such purposes.
The contract was concluded in Mr. Krebs' private office: a very
stout gentleman with a very thin voice, whose dream had always been
to one day be of service to the renowned Mr. Robert Phillips. He
was clearly under the impression that he had now accomplished it.
Even as Mrs. Phillips took up the pen to sign, the wild idea
occurred to Joan of snatching the paper away from her, hustling her
into a cab, and in some quiet street or square making the woman see
for herself that she was a useless fool; that the glowing dreams
and fancies she had cherished in her silly head for fifteen years
must all be given up; that she must stand aside, knowing herself of
It could be done. She felt it. If only one could summon up the
needful brutality. If only one could stifle that still, small
voice of Pity.
Mrs. Phillips signed amid splutterings and blots. Joan added her
signature as witness.
She did effect an improvement in the poor lady's dress. On Madge's
advice she took her to a voluble little woman in the Earl's Court
Road who was struck at once by Madame Phillips's remarkable
resemblance to the Baroness von Stein. Had not Joan noticed it?
Whatever suited the Baroness von Stein--allowed by common consent
to be one of the best-dressed women in London--was bound to show up
Madame Phillips to equal advantage. By curious coincidence a
costume for the Baroness had been put in hand only the day before.
It was sent for and pinned upon the delighted Madame Phillips.
Perfection! As the Baroness herself would always say: "My frock
must be a framework for my personality. It must never obtrude."
The supremely well-dressed woman! One never notices what she has
on: that is the test. It seemed it was what Mrs. Phillips had
always felt herself. Joan could have kissed the voluble, emphatic
But the dyed hair and the paint put up a fight for themselves.
"I want you to do something very brave," said Joan. She had
invited herself to tea with Mrs. Phillips, and they were alone in
the small white-panelled room that they were soon to say good-bye
to. The new house would be ready at Christmas. "It will be a
little hard at first," continued Joan, "but afterwards you will be
glad that you have done it. It is a duty you owe to your position
as the wife of a great leader of the people."
The firelight showed to Joan a comically frightened face, with
round, staring eyes and an open mouth.
"What is it you want me to do?" she faltered
"I want you to be just yourself," said Joan; "a kind, good woman of
the people, who will win their respect, and set them an example."
She moved across and seating herself on the arm of Mrs. Phillips's
chair, touched lightly with her hand the flaxen hair and the rouged
cheek. "I want you to get rid of all this," she whispered. "It
isn't worthy of you. Leave it to the silly dolls and the bad
There was a long silence. Joan felt the tears trickling between
"You haven't seen me," came at last in a thin, broken voice.
Joan bent down and kissed her. "Let's try it," she whispered.
A little choking sound was the only answer. But the woman rose
and, Joan following, they stole upstairs into the bedroom and Mrs.
Phillips turned the key.
It took a long time, and Joan, seated on the bed, remembered a
night when she had taken a trapped mouse (if only he had been a
quiet mouse!) into the bathroom and had waited while it drowned.
It was finished at last, and Mrs Phillips stood revealed with her
hair down, showing streaks of dingy brown.
Joan tried to enthuse; but the words came haltingly. She suggested
to Joan a candle that some wind had suddenly blown out. The paint
and powder had been obvious, but at least it had given her the mask
of youth. She looked old and withered. The life seemed to have
gone out of her.
"You see, dear, I began when I was young," she explained; "and he
has always seen me the same. I don't think I could live like
The painted doll that the child fancied! the paint washed off and
the golden hair all turned to drab? Could one be sure of "getting
used to it," of "liking it better?" And the poor bewildered doll
itself! How could one expect to make of it a statue: "The Woman
of the People." One could only bruise it.
It ended in Joan's promising to introduce her to discreet
theatrical friends who would tell her of cosmetics less injurious
to the skin, and advise her generally in the ancient and proper art
of "making up."
It was not the end she had looked for. Joan sighed as she closed
her door behind her. What was the meaning of it? On the one hand
that unimpeachable law, the greatest happiness of the greatest
number; the sacred cause of Democracy; the moral Uplift of the
people; Sanity, Wisdom, Truth, the higher Justice; all the forces
on which she was relying for the regeneration of the world--all
arrayed in stern demand that the flabby, useless Mrs. Phillips
should be sacrificed for the general good. Only one voice had
pleaded for foolish, helpless Mrs. Phillips--and had conquered.
The still, small voice of Pity.
Arthur sprang himself upon her a little before Christmas. He was
full of a great project. It was that she and her father should
spend Christmas with his people at Birmingham. Her father thought
he would like to see his brother; they had not often met of late,
and Birmingham would be nearer for her than Liverpool.
Joan had no intention of being lured into the Birmingham parlour.
She thought she could see in it a scheme for her gradual
entanglement. Besides, she was highly displeased. She had
intended asking her father to come to Brighton with her. As a
matter of fact, she had forgotten all about Christmas; and the idea
only came into her head while explaining to Arthur how his
impulsiveness had interfered with it. Arthur, crestfallen,
suggested telegrams. It would be quite easy to alter everything;
and of course her father would rather be with her, wherever it was.
But it seemed it was too late. She ought to have been consulted.
A sudden sense of proprietorship in her father came to her
assistance and added pathos to her indignation. Of course, now,
she would have to spend Christmas alone. She was far too busy to
think of Birmingham. She could have managed Brighton. Argument
founded on the length of journey to Birmingham as compared with the
journey to Brighton she refused to be drawn into. Her feelings had
been too deeply wounded to permit of descent into detail.
But the sinner, confessing his fault, is entitled to forgiveness,
and, having put him back into his proper place, she let him kiss
her hand. She even went further and let him ask her out to dinner.
As the result of her failure to reform Mrs. Phillips she was
feeling dissatisfied with herself. It was an unpleasant sensation
and somewhat new to her experience. An evening spent in Arthur's
company might do her good. The experiment proved successful. He
really was quite a dear boy. Eyeing him thoughtfully through the
smoke of her cigarette, it occurred to her how like he was to
Guido's painting of St. Sebastian; those soft, dreamy eyes and that
beautiful, almost feminine, face! There always had been a
suspicion of the saint about him even as a boy: nothing one could
lay hold of: just that odd suggestion of a shadow intervening
between him and the world.
It seemed a favourable opportunity to inform him of that fixed
determination of hers: never--in all probability--to marry: but
to devote her life to her work. She was feeling very kindly
towards him; and was able to soften her decision with touches of
gentle regret. He did not appear in the least upset. But
'thought' that her duty might demand, later on, that she should
change her mind: that was if fate should offer her some noble
marriage, giving her wider opportunity.
She was a little piqued at his unexpected attitude of aloofness.
What did he mean by a "noble marriage"--to a Duke, or something of
He did not think the candidature need be confined to Dukes, though
he had no objection to a worthy Duke. He meant any really great
man who would help her and whom she could help.
She promised, somewhat shortly, to consider the matter, whenever
the Duke, or other class of nobleman, should propose to her. At
present no sign of him had appeared above the horizon. Her own
idea was that, if she lived long enough, she would become a
spinster. Unless someone took pity on her when she was old and
decrepit and past her work.
There was a little humorous smile about his mouth. But his eyes
were serious and pleading.
"When shall I know that you are old and decrepit?" he asked.
She was not quite sure. She thought it would be when her hair was
grey--or rather white. She had been informed by experts that her
peculiar shade of hair went white, not grey.
"I shall ask you to marry me when your hair is white," he said.
It did not suggest any overwhelming impatience. "Yes," she
answered. "In case you haven't married yourself, and forgotten all
"I shall keep you to your promise," he said quite gravely.
She felt the time had come to speak seriously. "I want you to
marry," she said, "and be happy. I shall be troubled if you
He was looking at her with those shy, worshipping eyes of his that
always made her marvel at her own wonderfulness.
"It need not do that," he answered. "It would be beautiful to be
with you always so that I might serve you. But I am quite happy,
loving you. Let me see you now and then: touch you and hear your
Behind her drawn-down lids, she offered up a little prayer that she
might always be worthy of his homage. She didn't know it would
make no difference to him.
She walked with him to Euston and saw him into the train. He had
given up his lodgings and was living with her father at The Pines.
They were busy on a plan for securing the co-operation of the
workmen, and she promised to run down and hear all about it. She
would not change her mind about Birmingham, but sent everyone her
She wished she had gone when it came to Christmas Day. This
feeling of loneliness was growing upon her. The Phillips had gone
up north; and the Greysons to some relations of theirs: swell
country people in Hampshire. Flossie was on a sea voyage with Sam
and his mother, and even Madge had been struck homesick. It
happened to be a Sunday, too, of all days in the week, and London
in a drizzling rain was just about the limit. She worked till late
in the afternoon, but, sitting down to her solitary cup of tea, she
felt she wanted to howl. From the basement came faint sounds of
laughter. Her landlord and lady were entertaining guests. If they
had not been, she would have found some excuse for running down and
talking to them, if only for a few minutes.
Suddenly the vision of old Chelsea Church rose up before her with
its little motherly old pew-opener. She had so often been meaning
to go and see her again, but something had always interfered. She
hunted through her drawers and found a comparatively sober-coloured
shawl, and tucked it under her cloak. The service was just
commencing when she reached the church. Mary Stopperton showed her
into a seat and evidently remembered her. "I want to see you
afterwards," she whispered; and Mary Stopperton had smiled and
nodded. The service, with its need for being continually upon the
move, bored her; she was not in the mood for it. And the sermon,
preached by a young curate who had not yet got over his Oxford
drawl, was uninteresting. She had half hoped that the wheezy old
clergyman, who had preached about Calvary on the evening she had
first visited the church, would be there again. She wondered what
had become of him, and if it were really a fact that she had known
him when she was a child, or only her fancy. It was strange how
vividly her memory of him seemed to pervade the little church. She
had the feeling he was watching her from the shadows. She waited
for Mary in the vestibule, and gave her the shawl, making her swear
on the big key of the church door that she would wear it herself
and not give it away. The little old pew-opener's pink and white
face flushed with delight as she took it, and the thin, work-worn
hands fingered it admiringly. "But I may lend it?" she pleaded.
They turned up Church Street. Joan confided to Mary what a rotten
Christmas she had had, all by herself, without a soul to speak to
except her landlady, who had brought her meals and had been in such
haste to get away.
"I don't know what made me think of you," she said. "I'm so glad I
did." She gave the little old lady a hug. Mary laughed. "Where
are you going now, dearie?" she asked.
"Oh, I don't mind so much now," answered Joan. "Now that I've seen
a friendly face, I shall go home and go to bed early."
They walked a little way in silence. Mary slipped her hand into
Joan's. "You wouldn't care to come home and have a bit of supper
with me, would you, dearie?" she asked.
"Oh, may I?" answered Joan.
Mary's hand gave Joan's a little squeeze. "You won't mind if
anybody drops in?" she said. "They do sometimes of a Sunday
"You don't mean a party?" asked Joan.
"No, dear," answered Mary. "It's only one or two who have nowhere
else to go."
Joan laughed. She thought she would be a fit candidate.
"You see, it makes company for me," explained Mary.
Mary lived in a tiny house behind a strip of garden. It stood in a
narrow side street between two public-houses, and was covered with
ivy. It had two windows above and a window and a door below. The
upstairs rooms belonged to the churchwardens and were used as a
storehouse for old parish registers, deemed of little value. Mary
Stopperton and her bedridden husband lived in the two rooms below.
Mary unlocked the door, and Joan passed in and waited. Mary lit a
candle that was standing on a bracket and turned to lead the way.
"Shall I shut the door?" suggested Joan.
Mary blushed like a child that has been found out just as it was
hoping that it had not been noticed.
"It doesn't matter, dearie," she explained. "They know, if they
find it open, that I'm in."
The little room looked very cosy when Mary had made up the fire and
lighted the lamp. She seated Joan in the worn horsehair easy-
chair; out of which one had to be careful one did not slip on to
the floor; and spread her handsome shawl over the back of the
"You won't mind my running away for a minute," she said. "I shall
only be in the next room."
Through the thin partition, Joan heard a constant shrill,
complaining voice. At times, it rose into an angry growl. Mary
looked in at the door.
"I'm just running round to the doctor's," she whispered. "His
medicine hasn't come. I shan't be long."
Joan offered to go in and sit with the invalid. But Mary feared
the exertion of talking might be too much for him. "He gets so
excited," she explained. She slipped out noiselessly.
It seemed, in spite of its open door, a very silent little house
behind its strip of garden. Joan had the feeling that it was
Suddenly she heard a light step in the passage, and the room door
opened. A girl entered. She was wearing a large black hat and a
black boa round her neck. Between them her face shone unnaturally
white. She carried a small cloth bag. She started, on seeing
Joan, and seemed about to retreat.
"Oh, please don't go," cried Joan. "Mrs. Stopperton has just gone
round to the doctor's. She won't be long. I'm a friend of hers."
The girl took stock of her and, apparently reassured, closed the
door behind her.
"What's he like to-night?" she asked, with a jerk of her head in
the direction of the next room. She placed her bag carefully upon
the sofa, and examined the new shawl as she did so.
"Well, I gather he's a little fretful," answered Joan with a smile.
"That's a bad sign," said the girl. "Means he's feeling better."
She seated herself on the sofa and fingered the shawl. "Did you
give it her?" she asked.
"Yes," admitted Joan. "I rather fancied her in it."
"She'll only pawn it," said the girl, "to buy him grapes and port
"I felt a bit afraid of her," laughed Joan, "so I made her promise
not to part with it. Is he really very ill, her husband?"
"Oh, yes, there's no make-believe this time," answered the girl.
"A bad thing for her if he wasn't."
"Oh, it's only what's known all over the neighbourhood," continued
the girl. "She's had a pretty rough time with him. Twice I've
found her getting ready to go to sleep for the night by sitting on
the bare floor with her back against the wall. Had sold every
stick in the place and gone off. But she'd always some excuse for
him. It was sure to be half her fault and the other half he
couldn't help. Now she's got her 'reward' according to her own
account. Heard he was dying in a doss-house, and must fetch him
home and nurse him back to life. Seems he's getting fonder of her
every day. Now that he can't do anything else."
"It doesn't seem to depress her spirits," mused Joan.
"Oh, she! She's all right," agreed the girl. "Having the time of
her life: someone to look after for twenty-four hours a day that
can't help themselves."
She examined Joan awhile in silence. "Are you on the stage?" she
"No," answered Joan. "But my mother was. Are you?"
"Thought you looked a bit like it," said the girl. "I'm in the
chorus. It's better than being in service or in a shop: that's
all you can say for it."
"But you'll get out of that," suggested Joan. "You've got the
The girl flushed with pleasure. It was a striking face, with
intelligent eyes and a mobile, sensitive mouth. "Oh, yes," she
said, "I could act all right. I feel it. But you don't get out of
the chorus. Except at a price."
Joan looked at her. "I thought that sort of thing was dying out,"
The girl shrugged her shoulders. "Not in my shop," she answered.
"Anyhow, it was the only chance I ever had. Wish sometimes I'd
taken it. It was quite a good part."
"They must have felt sure you could act," said Joan. "Next time it
will be a clean offer."
The girl shook her head. "There's no next time," she said; "once
you're put down as one of the stand-offs. Plenty of others to take
"Oh, I don't blame them," she added. "It isn't a thing to be
dismissed with a toss of your head. I thought it all out. Don't
know now what decided me. Something inside me, I suppose."
Joan found herself poking the fire. "Have you known Mary
Stopperton long?" she asked.
"Oh, yes," answered the girl. "Ever since I've been on my own."
"Did you talk it over with her?" asked Joan.
"No," answered the girl. "I may have just told her. She isn't the
sort that gives advice."
"I'm glad you didn't do it," said Joan: "that you put up a fight
for all women."
The girl gave a short laugh. "Afraid I wasn't thinking much about
that," she said.
"No," said Joan. "But perhaps that's the way the best fights are
Mary peeped round the door. She had been lucky enough to find the
doctor in. She disappeared again, and they talked about
themselves. The girl was a Miss Ensor. She lived by herself in a
room in Lawrence Street.
"I'm not good at getting on with people," she explained.
Mary joined them, and went straight to Miss Ensor's bag and opened
it. She shook her head at the contents, which consisted of a
small, flabby-looking meat pie in a tin dish, and two pale, flat
"It doesn't nourish you, dearie," complained Mary. "You could have
bought yourself a nice bit of meat with the same money."
"And you would have had all the trouble of cooking it," answered
the girl. "That only wants warming up."
"But I like cooking, you know, dearie," grumbled Mary. "There's no
interest in warming things up."
The girl laughed. "You don't have to go far for your fun," she
said. "I'll bring a sole next time; and you shall do it au
Mary put the indigestible-looking pasties into the oven, and almost
banged the door. Miss Ensor proceeded to lay the table. "How
many, do you think?" she asked. Mary was doubtful. She hoped
that, it being Christmas Day, they would have somewhere better to
"I passed old 'Bubble and Squeak,' just now, spouting away to three
men and a dog outside the World's End. I expect he'll turn up,"
thought Miss Ensor. She laid for four, leaving space for more if
need be. "I call it the 'Cadger's Arms,'" she explained, turning
to Joan. "We bring our own victuals, and Mary cooks them for us
and waits on us; and the more of us the merrier. You look forward
to your Sunday evening parties, don't you?" she asked of Mary.
Mary laughed. She was busy in a corner with basins and a saucepan.
"Of course I do, dearie," she answered. "I've always been fond of
There came another opening of the door. A little hairy man
entered. He wore spectacles and was dressed in black. He carried
a paper parcel which he laid upon the table. He looked a little
doubtful at Joan. Mary introduced them. His name was Julius
Simson. He shook hands as if under protest.
"As friends of Mary Stopperton," he said, "we meet on neutral
ground. But in all matters of moment I expect we are as far
asunder as the poles. I stand for the People."
"We ought to be comrades," answered Joan, with a smile. "I, too,
am trying to help the People."
"You and your class," said Mr. Simson, "are friends enough to the
People, so long as they remember that they are the People, and keep
their proper place--at the bottom. I am for putting the People at
"Then they will be the Upper Classes," suggested Joan. "And I may
still have to go on fighting for the rights of the lower orders."
"In this world," explained Mr. Simson, "someone has got to be
Master. The only question is who."
Mary had unwrapped the paper parcel. It contained half a sheep's
head. "How would you like it done?" she whispered.
Mr. Simson considered. There came a softer look into his eyes.
"How did you do it last time?" he asked. "It came up brown, I
remember, with thick gravy."
"Braised," suggested Mary.
"That's the word," agreed Mr. Simson. "Braised." He watched while
Mary took things needful from the cupboard, and commenced to peel
"That's the sort that makes me despair of the People," said Mr.
Simson. Joan could not be sure whether he was addressing her
individually or imaginary thousands. "Likes working for nothing.
Thinks she was born to be everybody's servant." He seated himself
beside Miss Ensor on the antiquated sofa. It gave a complaining
groan but held out.
"Did you have a good house?" the girl asked him. "Saw you from the
distance, waving your arms about. Hadn't time to stop."
"Not many," admitted Mr. Simson. "A Christmassy lot. You know.
Sort of crowd that interrupts you and tries to be funny. Dead to
their own interests. It's slow work."
"Why do you do it?" asked Miss Ensor.
"Damned if I know," answered Mr. Simson, with a burst of candour.
"Can't help it, I suppose. Lost me job again."
"The old story?" suggested Miss Ensor.
"The old story," sighed Mr. Simson. "One of the customers happened
to be passing last Wednesday when I was speaking on the Embankment.
Heard my opinion of the middle classes?"
"Well, you can't expect 'em to like it, can you?" submitted Miss
"No," admitted Mr. Simson with generosity. "It's only natural.
It's a fight to the finish between me and the Bourgeois. I cover
them with ridicule and contempt and they hit back at me in the only
way they know."
"Take care they don't get the best of you," Miss Ensor advised him.
"Oh, I'm not afraid," he answered. "I'll get another place all
right: give me time. The only thing I'm worried about is my young
"Doesn't agree with you?" inquired Miss Ensor.
"Oh, it isn't that," he answered. "But she's frightened. You
know. Says life with me is going to be a bit too uncertain for
her. Perhaps she's right."
"Oh, why don't you chuck it," advised Miss Ensor, "give the
Bourgeois a rest."
Mr. Simson shook his head. "Somebody's got to tackle them," he
said. "Tell them the truth about themselves, to their faces."
"Yes, but it needn't be you," suggested Miss Ensor.
Mary was leaning over the table. Miss Ensor's four-penny veal and
ham pie was ready. Mary arranged it in front of her. "Eat it
while it's hot, dearie," she counselled. "It won't be so
Miss Ensor turned to her. "Oh, you talk to him," she urged.
"Here, he's lost his job again, and is losing his girl: all
because of his silly politics. Tell him he's got to have sense and
Mary seemed troubled. Evidently, as Miss Ensor had stated, advice
was not her line. "Perhaps he's got to do it, dearie," she
"What do you mean by got to do it?" exclaimed Miss Ensor. "Who's
making him do it, except himself?"
Mary flushed. She seemed to want to get back to her cooking.
"It's something inside us, dearie," she thought: "that nobody
hears but ourselves."
"That tells him to talk all that twaddle?" demanded Miss Ensor.
"Have you heard him?"
"No, dearie," Mary admitted. "But I expect it's got its purpose.
Or he wouldn't have to do it."
Miss Ensor gave a gesture of despair and applied herself to her
pie. The hirsute face of Mr. Simson had lost the foolish
aggressiveness that had irritated Joan. He seemed to be pondering
Mary hoped that Joan was hungry. Joan laughed and admitted that
she was. "It's the smell of all the nice things," she explained.
Mary promised it should soon be ready, and went back to her corner.
A short, dark, thick-set man entered and stood looking round the
room. The frame must once have been powerful, but now it was
shrunken and emaciated. The shabby, threadbare clothes hung
loosely from the stooping shoulders. Only the head seemed to have
retained its vigour. The face, from which the long black hair was
brushed straight back, was ghastly white. Out of it, deep set
beneath great shaggy, overhanging brows, blazed the fierce,
restless eyes of a fanatic. The huge, thin-lipped mouth seemed to
have petrified itself into a savage snarl. He gave Joan the idea,
as he stood there glaring round him, of a hunted beast at bay.
Miss Ensor, whose bump of reverence was undeveloped, greeted him
cheerfully as Boanerges. Mr. Simson, more respectful, rose and
offered his small, grimy hand. Mary took his hat and cloak away
from him and closed the door behind him. She felt his hands, and
put him into a chair close to the fire. And then she introduced
him to Joan.
Joan started on hearing his name. It was one well known.
"The Cyril Baptiste?" she asked. She had often wondered what he
might be like.
"The Cyril Baptiste," he answered, in a low, even, passionate
voice, that he flung at her almost like a blow. "The atheist, the
gaol bird, the pariah, the blasphemer, the anti-Christ. I've hoofs
instead of feet. Shall I take off my boots and show them to you?
I tuck my tail inside my coat. You can't see my horns. I've cut
them off close to my head. That's why I wear my hair long: to
hide the stumps."
Mary had been searching in the pockets of his cloak. She had found
a paper bag. "You mustn't get excited," she said, laying her
little work-worn hand upon his shoulder; "or you'll bring on the
"Aye," he answered, "I must be careful I don't die on Christmas
Day. It would make a fine text, that, for their sermons."
He lapsed into silence: his almost transparent hands stretched out
towards the fire.
Mr. Simson fidgeted. The quiet of the room, broken only by Mary's
ministering activities, evidently oppressed him.
"Paper going well, sir?" he asked. "I often read it myself."
"It still sells," answered the proprietor, and editor and
publisher, and entire staff of The Rationalist.
"I like the articles you are writing on the History of
Superstition. Quite illuminating," remarked Mr. Simson.
"It's many a year, I am afraid, to the final chapter," thought
"They afford much food for reflection," thought Mr. Simson, "though
I cannot myself go as far as you do in including Christianity under
Mary frowned at him; but Mr. Simson, eager for argument or not
noticing, blundered on:-
"Whether we accept the miraculous explanation of Christ's birth,"
continued Mr. Simson, in his best street-corner voice, "or whether,
with the great French writer whose name for the moment escapes me,
we regard Him merely as a man inspired, we must, I think, admit
that His teaching has been of help: especially to the poor."
The fanatic turned upon him so fiercely that Mr. Simson's arm
involuntarily assumed the posture of defence.
"To the poor?" the old man almost shrieked. "To the poor that he
has robbed of all power of resistance to oppression by his vile,
submissive creed! that he has drugged into passive acceptance of
every evil done to them by his false promises that their sufferings
here shall win for them some wonderful reward when they are dead.
What has been his teaching to the poor? Bow your backs to the
lash, kiss the rod that scars your flesh. Be ye humble, oh, my
people. Be ye poor in spirit. Let Wrong rule triumphant through
the world. Raise no hand against it, lest ye suffer my eternal
punishments. Learn from me to be meek and lowly. Learn to be good
slaves and give no trouble to your taskmasters. Let them turn the
world into a hell for you. The grave--the grave shall be your gate
"Helpful to the poor? Helpful to their rulers, to their owners.
They take good care that Christ shall be well taught. Their fat
priests shall bear his message to the poor. The rod may be broken,
the prison door be forced. It is Christ that shall bind the people
in eternal fetters. Christ, the lackey, the jackal of the rich."
Mr. Simson was visibly shocked. Evidently he was less familiar
with the opinions of The Rationalist than he had thought.
"I really must protest," exclaimed Mr. Simson. "To whatever wrong
uses His words may have been twisted, Christ Himself I regard as
divine, and entitled to be spoken of with reverence. His whole
life, His sufferings--"
But the old fanatic's vigour had not yet exhausted itself.
"His sufferings!" he interrupted. "Does suffering entitle a man to
be regarded as divine? If so, so also am I a God. Look at me!"
He stretched out his long, thin arms with their claw-like hands,
thrusting forward his great savage head that the bony, wizened
throat seemed hardly strong enough to bear. "Wealth, honour,
happiness: I had them once. I had wife, children and a home. Now
I creep an outcast, keeping to the shadows, and the children in the
street throw stones at me. Thirty years I have starved that I
might preach. They shut me in their prisons, they hound me into
garrets. They jibe at me and mock me, but they cannot silence me.
What of my life? Am I divine?"
Miss Ensor, having finished her supper, sat smoking.
"Why must you preach?" she asked. "It doesn't seem to pay you."
There was a curious smile about the girl's lips as she caught
He turned to her with his last flicker of passion.
"Because to this end was I born, and for this cause came I into the
world, that I should bear witness unto the truth," he answered.
He sank back a huddled heap upon the chair. There was foam about
his mouth, great beads of sweat upon his forehead. Mary wiped them
away with a corner of her apron, and felt again his trembling
hands. "Oh, please don't talk to him any more," she pleaded, "not
till he's had his supper." She fetched her fine shawl, and pinned
it round him. His eyes followed her as she hovered about him. For
the first time, since he had entered the room, they looked human.
They gathered round the table. Mr. Baptiste was still pinned up in
Mary's bright shawl. It lent him a curious dignity. He might have
been some ancient prophet stepped from the pages of the Talmud.
Miss Ensor completed her supper with a cup of tea and some little
cakes: "just to keep us all company," as Mary had insisted.
The old fanatic's eyes passed from face to face. There was almost
the suggestion of a smile about the savage mouth.
"A strange supper-party," he said. "Cyril the Apostate; and Julius
who strove against the High Priests and the Pharisees; and Inez a
dancer before the people; and Joanna a daughter of the rulers,
gathered together in the house of one Mary a servant of the Lord."
"Are you, too, a Christian?" he asked of Joan.
"Not yet," answered Joan. "But I hope to be, one day." She spoke
without thinking, not quite knowing what she meant. But it came
back to her in after years.
The talk grew lighter under the influence of Mary's cooking. Mr.
Baptiste could be interesting when he got away from his fanaticism;
and even the apostolic Mr. Simson had sometimes noticed humour when
it had chanced his way.
A message came for Mary about ten o'clock, brought by a scared
little girl, who whispered it to her at the door. Mary apologized.
She had to go out. The party broke up. Mary disappeared into the
next room and returned in a shawl and bonnet, carrying a small
brown paper parcel. Joan walked with her as far as the King's
"A little child is coming," she confided to Joan. She was quite
excited about it.
Joan thought. "It's curious," she said, "one so seldom hears of
anybody being born on Christmas Day."
They were passing a lamp. Joan had never seen a face look quite so
happy as Mary's looked, just then.
"It always seems to me Christ's birthday," she said, "whenever a
child is born."
They had reached the corner. Joan could see her bus in the
She stooped and kissed the little withered face.
"Don't stop," she whispered.
Mary gave her a hug, and almost ran away. Joan watched the little
child-like figure growing smaller. It glided in and out among the
In the spring, Joan, at Mrs. Denton's request, undertook a mission.
It was to go to Paris. Mrs. Denton had meant to go herself, but
was laid up with sciatica; and the matter, she considered, would
not brook of any delay.
"It's rather a delicate business," she told Joan. She was lying on
a couch in her great library, and Joan was seated by her side. "I
want someone who can go into private houses and mix with educated
people on their own level; and especially I want you to see one or
two women: they count in France. You know French pretty well,
"Oh, sufficiently," Joan answered. The one thing her mother had
done for her had been to talk French with her when she was a child;
and at Girton she had chummed on with a French girl, and made
herself tolerably perfect.
"You will not go as a journalist," continued Mrs. Denton; "but as a
personal friend of mine, whose discretion I shall vouch for. I
want you to find out what the people I am sending you among are
thinking themselves, and what they consider ought to be done. If
we are not very careful on both sides we shall have the newspapers
whipping us into war."
The perpetual Egyptian trouble had cropped up again and the
Carleton papers, in particular, were already sounding the tocsin.
Carleton's argument was that we ought to fall upon France and crush
her, before she could develop her supposed submarine menace. His
flaming posters were at every corner. Every obscure French
newspaper was being ransacked for "Insults and Pinpricks."
"A section of the Paris Press is doing all it can to help him, of
course," explained Mrs. Denton. "It doesn't seem to matter to them
that Germany is only waiting her opportunity, and that, if Russia
comes in, it is bound to bring Austria. Europe will pay dearly one
day for the luxury of a free Press."
"But you're surely not suggesting any other kind of Press, at this
period of the world's history?" exclaimed Joan.
"Oh, but I am," answered the old lady with a grim tightening of the
lips. "Not even Carleton would be allowed to incite to murder or
arson. I would have him prosecuted for inciting a nation to war."
"Why is the Press always so eager for war?" mused Joan. "According
to their own account, war doesn't pay them."
"I don't suppose it does: not directly," answered Mrs. Denton.
"But it helps them to establish their position and get a tighter
hold upon the public. War does pay the newspaper in the long run.
The daily newspaper lives on commotion, crime, lawlessness in
general. If people no longer enjoyed reading about violence and
bloodshed half their occupation, and that the most profitable half
would be gone. It is the interest of the newspaper to keep alive
the savage in human nature; and war affords the readiest means of
doing this. You can't do much to increase the number of gruesome
murders and loathsome assaults, beyond giving all possible
advertisement to them when they do occur. But you can preach war,
and cover yourself with glory, as a patriot, at the same time."
"I wonder how many of my ideals will be left to me," sighed Joan.
"I always used to regard the Press as the modern pulpit."
"The old pulpit became an evil, the moment it obtained unlimited
power," answered Mrs. Denton. "It originated persecution and
inflamed men's passions against one another. It, too, preached war
for its own ends, taught superstition, and punished thought as a
crime. The Press of to-day is stepping into the shoes of the
medieval priest. It aims at establishing the worst kind of
tyranny: the tyranny over men's minds. They pretend to fight
among themselves, but it's rapidly becoming a close corporation.
The Institute of Journalists will soon be followed by the Union of
Newspaper Proprietors and the few independent journals will be
squeezed out. Already we have German shareholders on English
papers; and English capital is interested in the St. Petersburg
Press. It will one day have its International Pope and its school
of cosmopolitan cardinals."
Joan laughed. "I can see Carleton rather fancying himself in a
tiara," she said. "I must tell Phillips what you say. He's out
for a fight with him. Government by Parliament or Government by
Press is going to be his war cry."
"Good man," said Mrs. Denton. "I'm quite serious. You tell him
from me that the next revolution has got to be against the Press.
And it will be the stiffest fight Democracy has ever had."
The old lady had tired herself. Joan undertook the mission. She
thought she would rather enjoy it, and Mrs. Denton promised to let
her have full instructions. She would write to her friends in
Paris and prepare them for Joan's coming.
Joan remembered Folk, the artist she had met at Flossie's party,
who had promised to walk with her on the terrace at St. Germain,
and tell her more about her mother. She looked up his address on
her return home, and wrote to him, giving him the name of the hotel
in the Rue de Grenelle where Mrs. Denton had arranged that she
should stay. She found a note from him awaiting her when she
arrived there. He thought she would like to be quiet after her
journey. He would call round in the morning. He had presumed on
the privilege of age to send her some lilies. They had been her
mother's favourite flower. "Monsieur Folk, the great artist," had
brought them himself, and placed them in her dressing-room, so
Madame informed her.
It was one of the half-dozen old hotels still left in Paris, and
was built round a garden famous for its mighty mulberry tree. She
breakfasted underneath it, and was reading there when Folk appeared
before her, smiling and with his hat in his hand. He excused
himself for intruding upon her so soon, thinking from what she had
written him that her first morning might be his only chance. He
evidently considered her remembrance of him a feather in his cap.
"We old fellows feel a little sadly, at times, how unimportant we
are," he explained. "We are grateful when Youth throws us a
"You told me my coming would take you back thirty-three years,"
Joan reminded him. "It makes us about the same age. I shall treat
you as just a young man."
He laughed. "Don't be surprised," he said, "if I make a mistake
occasionally and call you Lena."
Joan had no appointment till the afternoon. They drove out to St.
Germain, and had dejeuner at a small restaurant opposite the
Chateau; and afterwards they strolled on to the terrace.
"What was my mother doing in Paris?" asked Joan,
"She was studying for the stage," he answered. "Paris was the only
school in those days. I was at Julien's studio. We acted together
for some charity. I had always been fond of it. An American
manager who was present offered us both an engagement, and I
thought it would be a change and that I could combine the two
"And it was here that you proposed to her," said Joan.
"Just by that tree that leans forward," he answered, pointing with
his cane a little way ahead. "I thought that in America I'd get
another chance. I might have if your father hadn't come along. I
wonder if he remembers me."
"Did you ever see her again, after her marriage?" asked Joan.
"No," he answered. "We used to write to one another until she gave
it up. She had got into the habit of looking upon me as a harmless
sort of thing to confide in and ask advice of--which she never
"Forgive me," he said. "You must remember that I am still her
lover." They had reached the tree that leant a little forward
beyond its fellows, and he had halted and turned so that he was
facing her. "Did she and your father get on together. Was she
"I don't think she was happy," answered Joan. "She was at first.
As a child, I can remember her singing and laughing about the
house, and she liked always to have people about her. Until her
illness came. It changed her very much. But my father was
gentleness itself, to the end."
They had resumed their stroll. It seemed to her that he looked at
her once or twice a little oddly without speaking. "What caused
your mother's illness?" he asked, abruptly.
The question troubled her. It struck her with a pang of self-
reproach that she had always been indifferent to her mother's
illness, regarding it as more or less imaginary. "It was mental
rather than physical, I think," she answered. "I never knew what
brought it about."
Again he looked at her with that odd, inquisitive expression. "She
never got over it?" he asked.
"Oh, there were times," answered Joan, "when she was more like her
old self again. But I don't think she ever quite got over it.
Unless it was towards the end," she added. "They told me she
seemed much better for a little while before she died. I was away
at Cambridge at the time."
"Poor dear lady," he said, "all those years! And poor Jack
Allway." He seemed to be talking to himself. Suddenly he turned
to her. "How is the dear fellow?" he asked.
Again the question troubled her. She had not seen her father since
that week-end, nearly six months ago, when she had ran down to see
him because she wanted something from him. "He felt my mother's
death very deeply," she answered. "But he's well enough in
"Remember me to him," he said. "And tell him I thank him for all
those years of love and gentleness. I don't think he will be
He drove her back to Paris, and she promised to come and see him in
his studio and let him introduce her to his artist friends.
"I shall try to win you over, I warn you," he said. "Politics will
never reform the world. They appeal only to men's passions and
hatreds. They divide us. It is Art that is going to civilize
mankind; broaden his sympathies. Art speaks to him the common
language of his loves, his dreams, reveals to him the universal
Mrs. Denton's friends called upon her, and most of them invited her
to their houses. A few were politicians, senators or ministers.
Others were bankers, heads of business houses, literary men and
women. There were also a few quiet folk with names that were
historical. They all thought that war between France and England
would be a world disaster, but were not very hopeful of averting
it. She learnt that Carleton was in Berlin trying to secure
possession of a well-known German daily that happened at the moment
to be in low water. He was working for an alliance between Germany
and England. In France, the Royalists had come to an understanding
with the Clericals, and both were evidently making ready to throw
in their lot with the war-mongers, hoping that out of the troubled
waters the fish would come their way. Of course everything
depended on the people. If the people only knew it! But they
didn't. They stood about in puzzled flocks, like sheep, wondering
which way the newspaper dog was going to hound them. They took her
to the great music halls. Every allusion to war was greeted with
rapturous applause. The Marseillaise was demanded and encored till
the orchestra rebelled from sheer exhaustion. Joan's patience was
sorely tested. She had to listen with impassive face to coarse
jests and brutal gibes directed against England and everything
English; to sit unmoved while the vast audience rocked with
laughter at senseless caricatures of supposed English soldiers
whose knees always gave way at the sight of a French uniform. Even
in the eyes of her courteous hosts, Joan's quick glance would
occasionally detect a curious glint. The fools! Had they never
heard of Waterloo and Trafalgar? Even if their memories might be
excused for forgetting Crecy and Poictiers and the campaigns of
Marlborough. One evening--it had been a particularly trying one
for Joan--there stepped upon the stage a wooden-looking man in a
kilt with bagpipes under his arm. How he had got himself into the
programme Joan could not understand. Managerial watchfulness must
have gone to sleep for once. He played Scotch melodies, and the
Parisians liked them, and when he had finished they called him
back. Joan and her friends occupied a box close to the stage. The
wooden-looking Scot glanced up at her, and their eyes met. And as
the applause died down there rose the first low warning strains of
the Pibroch. Joan sat up in her chair and her lips parted. The
savage music quickened. It shrilled and skrealed. The blood came
surging through her veins.
And suddenly something lying hidden there leaped to life within her
brain. A mad desire surged hold of her to rise and shout defiance
at those three thousand pairs of hostile eyes confronting her. She
clutched at the arms of her chair and so kept her seat. The
pibroch ended with its wild sad notes of wailing, and slowly the
mist cleared from her eyes, and the stage was empty. A strange
hush had fallen on the house.
She was not aware that her hostess had been watching her. She was
a sweet-faced, white-haired lady. She touched Joan lightly on the
hand. "That's the trouble," she whispered. "It's in our blood."
Could we ever hope to eradicate it? Was not the survival of this
fighting instinct proof that war was still needful to us? In the
sculpture-room of an exhibition she came upon a painted statue of
Bellona. Its grotesqueness shocked her at first sight, the red
streaming hair, the wild eyes filled with fury, the wide open
mouth--one could almost hear it screaming--the white uplifted arms
with outstretched hands! Appalling! Terrible! And yet, as she
gazed at it, gradually the thing grew curiously real to her. She
seemed to hear the gathering of the chariots, the neighing of the
horses, the hurrying of many feet, the sound of an armouring
multitude, the shouting, and the braying of the trumpets.
These cold, thin-lipped calculators, arguing that "War doesn't
pay"; those lank-haired cosmopolitans, preaching their
"International," as if the only business of mankind were wages!
War still was the stern school where men learnt virtue, duty,
forgetfulness of self, faithfulness unto death.
This particular war, of course, must be stopped: if it were not
already too late. It would be a war for markets; for spheres of
commercial influence; a sordid war that would degrade the people.
War, the supreme test of a nation's worth, must be reserved for
great ideals. Besides, she wanted to down Carleton.
One of the women on her list, and the one to whom Mrs. Denton
appeared to attach chief importance, a Madame de Barante,
disappointed Joan. She seemed to have so few opinions of her own.
She had buried her young husband during the Franco-Prussian war.
He had been a soldier. And she had remained unmarried. She was
"I do not think we women have the right to discuss war," she
confided to Joan in her gentle, high-bred voice. "I suppose you
think that out of date. I should have thought so myself forty
years ago. We talk of 'giving' our sons and lovers, as if they
were ours to give. It makes me a little angry when I hear pampered
women speak like that. It is the men who have to suffer and die.
It is for them to decide."
"But perhaps I can arrange a meeting for you with a friend," she
added, "who will be better able to help you, if he is in Paris. I
will let you know."
She told Joan what she remembered herself of 1870. She had turned
her country house into a hospital and had seen a good deal of the
"It would not do to tell the truth, or we should have our children
growing up to hate war," she concluded.
She was as good as her word, and sent Joan round a message the next
morning to come and see her in the afternoon. Joan was introduced
to a Monsieur de Chaumont. He was a soldierly-looking gentleman,
with a grey moustache, and a deep scar across his face.
"Hanged if I can see how we are going to get out of it," he
answered Joan cheerfully. "The moment there is any threat of war,
it becomes a point of honour with every nation to do nothing to
avoid it. I remember my old duelling days. The quarrel may have
been about the silliest trifle imaginable. A single word would
have explained the whole thing away. But to utter it would have
stamped one as a coward. This Egyptian Tra-la-la! It isn't worth
the bones of a single grenadier, as our friends across the Rhine
would say. But I expect, before it's settled, there will be men's
bones sufficient, bleaching on the desert, to build another
Pyramid. It's so easily started: that's the devil of it. A
mischievous boy can throw a lighted match into a powder magazine,
and then it becomes every patriot's business to see that it isn't
put out. I hate war. It accomplishes nothing, and leaves
everything in a greater muddle than it was before. But if the idea
ever catches fire, I shall have to do all I can to fan the
conflagration. Unless I am prepared to be branded as a poltroon.
Every professional soldier is supposed to welcome war. Most of us
do: it's our opportunity. There's some excuse for us. But these
men--Carleton and their lot: I regard them as nothing better than
the Menades of the Commune. They care nothing if the whole of
Europe blazes. They cannot personally get harmed whatever happens.
It's fun to them."
"But the people who can get harmed," argued Joan. "The men who
will be dragged away from their work, from their business, used as
He shrugged his shoulders. "Oh, they are always eager enough for
it, at first," he answered. "There is the excitement. The
curiosity. You must remember that life is a monotonous affair to
the great mass of the people. There's the natural craving to
escape from it; to court adventure. They are not so enthusiastic
about it after they have tasted it. Modern warfare, they soon
find, is about as dull a business as science ever invented."
There was only one hope that he could see: and that was to switch
the people's mind on to some other excitement. His advices from
London told him that a parliamentary crisis was pending. Could not
Mrs. Denton and her party do something to hasten it? He, on his
side, would consult with the Socialist leaders, who might have
something to suggest.
He met Joan, radiant, a morning or two later. The English
Government had resigned and preparations for a general election
were already on foot.
"And God has been good to us, also," he explained.
A well-known artist had been found murdered in his bed and grave
suspicion attached to his beautiful young wife.
"She deserves the Croix de Guerre, if it is proved that she did
it," he thought. "She will have saved many thousands of lives--for
Folk had fixed up a party at his studio to meet her. She had been
there once or twice; but this was a final affair. She had finished
her business in Paris and would be leaving the next morning. To
her surprise, she found Phillips there. He had come over hurriedly
to attend a Socialist conference, and Leblanc, the editor of Le
Nouveau Monde, had brought him along.
"I took Smedley's place at the last moment," he whispered to her.
"I've never been abroad before. You don't mind, do you?"
It didn't strike her as at all odd that a leader of a political
party should ask her "if she minded" his being in Paris to attend a
political conference. He was wearing a light grey suit and a blue
tie. There was nothing about him, at that moment, suggesting that
he was a leader of any sort. He might have been just any man, but
for his eyes.
"No," she whispered. "Of course not. I don't like your tie." It
seemed to depress him, that.
She felt elated at the thought that he would see her for the first
time amid surroundings where she would shine. Folk came forward to
meet her with that charming air of protective deference that he had
adopted towards her. He might have been some favoured minister of
state kissing the hand of a youthful Queen. She glanced down the
long studio, ending in its fine window overlooking the park. Some
of the most distinguished men in Paris were there, and the
immediate stir of admiration that her entrance had created was
unmistakable. Even the women turned pleased glances at her; as if
willing to recognize in her their representative. A sense of power
came to her that made her feel kind to all the world. There was no
need for her to be clever: to make any effort to attract. Her
presence, her sympathy, her approval seemed to be all that was
needed of her. She had the consciousness that by the mere exercise
of her will she could sway the thoughts and actions of these men:
that sovereignty had been given to her. It reflected itself in her
slightly heightened colour, in the increased brilliance of her
eyes, in the confident case of all her movements. It added a
compelling softness to her voice.
She never quite remembered what the talk was about. Men were
brought up and presented to her, and hung about her words, and
sought to please her. She had spoken her own thoughts, indifferent
whether they expressed agreement or not; and the argument had
invariably taken another plane. It seemed so important that she
should be convinced. Some had succeeded, and had been
strengthened. Others had failed, and had departed sorrowful,
conscious of the necessity of "thinking it out again."
Guests with other engagements were taking their leave. A piquante
little woman, outrageously but effectively dressed--she looked like
a drawing by Beardsley--drew her aside. "I've always wished I were
a man," she said. "It seemed to me that they had all the power.
From this afternoon, I shall be proud of belonging to the governing
She laughed and slipped away.
Phillips was waiting for her in the vestibule. She had forgotten
him; but now she felt glad of his humble request to be allowed to
see her home. It would have been such a big drop from her crowded
hour of triumph to the long lonely cab ride and the solitude of the
hotel. She resolved to be gracious, feeling a little sorry for her
neglect of him--but reflecting with satisfaction that he had
probably been watching her the whole time.
"What's the matter with my tie?" he asked. "Wrong colour?"
She laughed. "Yes," she answered. "It ought to be grey to match
your suit. And so ought your socks."
"I didn't know it was going to be such a swell affair, or I
shouldn't have come," he said.
She touched his hand lightly.
"I want you to get used to it," she said. "It's part of your work.
Put your brain into it, and don't be afraid."
"I'll try," he said.
He was sitting on the front seat, facing her. "I'm glad I went,"
he said with sudden vehemence. "I loved watching you, moving about
among all those people. I never knew before how beautiful you
Something in his eyes sent a slight thrill of fear through her. It
was not an unpleasant sensation--rather exhilarating. She watched
the passing street till she felt that his eyes were no longer
"You're not offended?" he asked. "At my thinking you beautiful?"
he added, in case she hadn't understood.
She laughed. Her confidence had returned to her. "It doesn't
generally offend a woman," she answered.
He seemed relieved. "That's what's so wonderful about you," he
said. "I've met plenty of clever, brilliant women, but one could
forget that they were women. You're everything."
He pleaded, standing below her on the steps of the hotel, that she
would dine with him. But she shook her head. She had her packing
to do. She could have managed it; but something prudent and absurd
had suddenly got hold of her; and he went away with much the same
look in his eyes that comes to a dog when he finds that his master
cannot be persuaded into an excursion.
She went up to her room. There really was not much to do. She
could quite well finish her packing in the morning. She sat down
at the desk and set to work to arrange her papers. It was a warm
spring evening, and the window was open. A crowd of noisy sparrows
seemed to be delighted about something. From somewhere, unseen, a
blackbird was singing. She read over her report for Mrs. Denton.
The blackbird seemed never to have heard of war. He sang as if the
whole world were a garden of languor and love. Joan looked at her
watch. The first gong would sound in a few minutes. She pictured
the dreary, silent dining-room with its few scattered occupants,
and her heart sank at the prospect. To her relief came remembrance
of a cheerful but entirely respectable restaurant near to the
Louvre to which she had been taken a few nights before. She had
noticed quite a number of women dining there alone. She closed her
dispatch case with a snap and gave a glance at herself in the great
mirror. The blackbird was still singing.
She walked up the Rue des Sts. Peres, enjoying the delicious air.
Half way across the bridge she overtook a man, strolling listlessly
in front of her. There was something familiar about him. He was
wearing a grey suit and had his hands in his pockets. Suddenly the
truth flashed upon her. She stopped. If he strolled on, she would
be able to slip back. Instead of which he abruptly turned to look
down at a passing steamer, and they were face to face.
It made her mad, the look of delight that came into his eyes. She
could have boxed his ears. Hadn't he anything else to do but hang
about the streets.
He explained that he had been listening to the band in the gardens,
returning by the Quai d'Orsay.
"Do let me come with you," he said. "I kept myself free this
evening, hoping. And I'm feeling so lonesome."
Poor fellow! She had come to understand that feeling. After all,
it wasn't altogether his fault that they had met. And she had been
so cross to him!
He was reading every expression on her face.
"It's such a lovely evening," he said. "Couldn't we go somewhere
and dine under a tree?"
It would be rather pleasant. There was a little place at Meudon,
she remembered. The plane trees would just be in full leaf.
A passing cab had drawn up close to them. The chauffeur was
lighting his pipe.
Even Mrs. Grundy herself couldn't object to a journalist dining
with a politician!
The stars came out before they had ended dinner. She had made him
talk about himself. It was marvellous what he had accomplished
with his opportunities. Ten hours a day in the mines had earned
for him his living, and the night had given him his leisure. An
attic, lighted by a tallow candle, with a shelf of books that left
him hardly enough for bread, had been his Alma Mater. History was
his chief study. There was hardly an authority Joan could think of
with which he was not familiar. Julius Caesar was his favourite
play. He seemed to know it by heart. At twenty-three he had been
elected a delegate, and had entered Parliament at twenty-eight. It
had been a life of hardship, of privation, of constant strain; but
she found herself unable to pity him. It was a tale of strength,
of struggle, of victory, that he told her.
Strength! The shaded lamplight fell upon his fearless kindly face
with its flashing eyes and its humorous mouth. He ought to have
been drinking out of a horn, not a wine glass that his well-shaped
hand could have crushed by a careless pressure. In a winged helmet
and a coat of mail he would have looked so much more fitly dressed
than in that soft felt hat and ridiculous blue tie.
She led him to talk on about the future. She loved to hear his
clear, confident voice with its touch of boyish boastfulness. What
was there to stop him? Why should he not climb from power to power
till he had reached the end!
And as he talked and dreamed there grew up in her heart a fierce
anger. What would her own future be? She would marry probably
some man of her own class, settle down to the average woman's
"life"; be allowed, like a spoilt child, to still "take an
interest" in public affairs: hold "drawing-rooms" attended by
cranks and political nonentities: be President, perhaps, of the
local Woman's Liberal League. The alternative: to spend her days
glued to a desk, penning exhortations to the people that Carleton
and his like might or might not allow them to read; while youth and
beauty slipped away from her, leaving her one of the ten thousand
other lonely, faded women, forcing themselves unwelcome into men's
jobs. There came to her a sense of having been robbed of what was
hers by primitive eternal law. Greyson had been right. She did
love power--power to serve and shape the world. She would have
earned it and used it well. She could have helped him, inspired
him. They would have worked together: he the force and she the
guidance. She would have supplied the things he lacked. It was to
her he came for counsel, as it was. But for her he would never
have taken the first step. What right had this poor brainless lump
of painted flesh to share his wounds, his triumphs? What help
could she give him when the time should come that he should need
Suddenly he broke off. "What a fool I'm making of myself," he
said. "I always was a dreamer."
She forced a laugh. "Why shouldn't it come true?" she asked.
They had the little garden to themselves. The million lights of
Paris shone below them.
"Because you won't be there," he answered, "and without you I can't
do it. You think I'm always like I am to-night, bragging,
confident. So I am when you are with me. You give me back my
strength. The plans and hopes and dreams that were slipping from
me come crowding round me, laughing and holding out their hands.
They are like the children. They need two to care for them. I
want to talk about them to someone who understands them and loves
them, as I do. I want to feel they are dear to someone else, as
well as to myself: that I must work for them for her sake, as well
as for my own. I want someone to help me to bring them up."
There were tears in his eyes. He brushed them angrily away. "Oh,
I know I ought to be ashamed of myself," he said. "It wasn't her
fault. She wasn't to know that a hot-blooded young chap of twenty
hasn't all his wits about him, any more than I was. If I had never
met you, it wouldn't have mattered. I'd have done my bit of good,
and have stopped there, content. With you beside me"--he looked
away from her to where the silent city peeped through its veil of
night--"I might have left the world better than I found it."
The blood had mounted to her face. She drew back into the shadow,
beyond the tiny sphere of light made by the little lamp.
"Men have accomplished great things without a woman's help," she
"Some men," he answered. "Artists and poets. They have the woman
within them. Men like myself--the mere fighter: we are incomplete
in ourselves. Male and female created He them. We are lost
without our mate."
He was thinking only of himself. Had he no pity for her. So was
she, also, useless without her mate. Neither was she of those,
here and there, who can stand alone. Her task was that of the
eternal woman: to make a home: to cleanse the world of sin and
sorrow, make it a kinder dwelling-place for the children that
should come. This man was her true helpmeet. He would have been
her weapon, her dear servant; and she could have rewarded him as
none other ever could. The lamplight fell upon his ruddy face, his
strong white hands resting on the flimsy table. He belonged to an
older order than her own. That suggestion about him of something
primitive, of something not yet altogether tamed. She felt again
that slight thrill of fear that so strangely excited her. A mist
seemed to be obscuring all things. He seemed to be coming towards
her. Only by keeping her eyes fixed on his moveless hands, still
resting on the table, could she convince herself that his arms were
not closing about her, that she was not being drawn nearer and
nearer to him, powerless to resist.
Suddenly, out of the mist, she heard voices. The waiter was
standing beside him with the bill. She reached out her hand and
took it. The usual few mistakes had occurred. She explained them,
good temperedly, and the waiter, with profuse apologies, went back
to have it corrected.
He turned to her as the man went. "Try and forgive me," he said in
a low voice. "It all came tumbling out before I thought what I was
The blood was flowing back into her veins. "Oh, it wasn't your
fault," she answered. "We must make the best we can of it."
He bent forward so that he could see into her eyes.
"Tell me," he said. There was a note of fierce exultation in his
voice. "I'll promise never to speak of it again. If I had been a
free man, could I have won you?"
She had risen while he was speaking. She moved to him and laid her