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All Roads Lead to Calvary by Jerome K. Jerome

Part 4 out of 6

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hands upon his shoulders.

"Will you serve me and fight for me against all my enemies?" she
asked.

"So long as I live," he answered.

She glanced round. There was no sign of the returning waiter. She
bent over him and kissed him.

"Don't come with me," she said. "There's a cab stand in the
Avenue. I shall walk to Sevres and take the train."

She did not look back.

CHAPTER XII

She reached home in the evening. The Phillips's old rooms had been
twice let since Christmas, but were now again empty. The McKean
with his silent ways and his everlasting pipe had gone to America
to superintend the production of one of his plays. The house gave
her the feeling of being haunted. She had her dinner brought up to
her and prepared for a long evening's work; but found herself
unable to think--except on the one subject that she wanted to put
off thinking about. To her relief the last post brought her a
letter from Arthur. He had been called to Lisbon to look after a
contract, and would be away for a fortnight. Her father was not as
well as he had been.

It seemed to just fit in. She would run down and spend a few quiet
days at Liverpool. In her old familiar room where the moon peeped
in over the tops of the tall pines she would be able to reason
things out. Perhaps her father would be able to help her. She had
lost her childish conception of him as of someone prim and proper,
with cut and dried formulas for all occasions. That glimpse he had
shown her of himself had established a fellowship between them.
He, too, had wrestled with life's riddles, not sure of his own
answers. She found him suffering from his old heart trouble, but
more cheerful than she had known him for years. Arthur seemed to
be doing wonders with the men. They were coming to trust him.

"The difficulty I have always been up against," explained her
father, "has been their suspicion. 'What's the cunning old rascal
up to now? What's his little game?' That is always what I have
felt they were thinking to themselves whenever I have wanted to do
anything for them. It isn't anything he says to them. It seems to
be just he, himself."

He sketched out their plans to her. It seemed to be all going in
at one ear and out at the other. What was the matter with her?
Perhaps she was tired without knowing it. She would get him to
tell her all about it to-morrow. Also, to-morrow, she would tell
him about Phillips, and ask his advice. It was really quite late.
If he talked any more now, it would give her a headache. She felt
it coming on.

She made her "good-night" extra affectionate, hoping to disguise
her impatience. She wanted to get up to her own room.

But even that did not help her. It seemed in some mysterious way
to be no longer her room, but the room of someone she had known and
half forgotten: who would never come back. It gave her the same
feeling she had experienced on returning to the house in London:
that the place was haunted. The high cheval glass from her
mother's dressing-room had been brought there for her use. The
picture of an absurdly small child--the child to whom this room had
once belonged--standing before it naked, rose before her eyes. She
had wanted to see herself. She had thought that only her clothes
stood in the way. If we could but see ourselves, as in some magic
mirror? All the garments usage and education has dressed us up in
laid aside. What was she underneath her artificial niceties, her
prim moralities, her laboriously acquired restraints, her
unconscious pretences and hypocrisies? She changed her clothes for
a loose robe, and putting out the light drew back the curtains.
The moon peeped in over the top of the tall pines, but it only
stared at her, indifferent. It seemed to be looking for somebody
else.

Suddenly, and intensely to her own surprise, she fell into a
passionate fit of weeping. There was no reason for it, and it was
altogether so unlike her. But for quite a while she was unable to
control it. Gradually, and of their own accord, her sobs lessened,
and she was able to wipe her eyes and take stock of herself in the
long glass. She wondered for the moment whether it was really her
own reflection that she saw there or that of some ghostly image of
her mother. She had so often seen the same look in her mother's
eyes. Evidently the likeness between them was more extensive than
she had imagined. For the first time she became conscious of an
emotional, hysterical side to her nature of which she had been
unaware. Perhaps it was just as well that she had discovered it.
She would have to keep a stricter watch upon herself. This
question of her future relationship with Phillips: it would have
to be thought out coldly, dispassionately. Nothing unexpected must
be allowed to enter into it.

It was some time before she fell asleep. The high glass faced her
as she lay in bed. She could not get away from the idea that it
was her mother's face that every now and then she saw reflected
there.

She woke late the next morning. Her father had already left for
the works. She was rather glad to have no need of talking. She
would take a long walk into the country, and face the thing
squarely with the help of the cheerful sun and the free west wind
that was blowing from the sea. She took the train up north and
struck across the hills. Her spirits rose as she walked.

It was only the intellectual part of him she wanted--the spirit,
not the man. She would be taking nothing away from the woman,
nothing that had ever belonged to her. All the rest of him: his
home life, the benefits that would come to her from his improved
means, from his social position: all that the woman had ever known
or cared for in him would still be hers. He would still remain to
her the kind husband and father. What more was the woman capable
of understanding? What more had she any right to demand?

It was not of herself she was thinking. It was for his work's sake
that she wanted to be near to him always: that she might counsel
him, encourage him. For this she was prepared to sacrifice
herself, give up her woman's claim on life. They would be friends,
comrades--nothing more. That little lurking curiosity of hers,
concerning what it would be like to feel his strong arms round her,
pressing her closer and closer to him: it was only a foolish
fancy. She could easily laugh that out of herself. Only bad women
had need to be afraid of themselves. She would keep guard for both
of them. Their purity of motive, their high purpose, would save
them from the danger of anything vulgar or ridiculous.

Of course they would have to be careful. There must be no breath
of gossip, no food for evil tongues. About that she was determined
even more for his sake than her own. It would be fatal to his
career. She was quite in agreement with the popular demand,
supposed to be peculiarly English, that a public man's life should
be above reproach. Of what use these prophets without self-
control; these social reformers who could not shake the ape out of
themselves? Only the brave could give courage to others. Only
through the pure could God's light shine upon men.

It was vexing his having moved round the corner, into North Street.
Why couldn't the silly woman have been content where she was.
Living under one roof, they could have seen one another as often as
was needful without attracting attention. Now, she supposed, she
would have to be more than ever the bosom friend of Mrs. Phillips--
spend hours amid that hideous furniture, surrounded by those
bilious wallpapers. Of course he could not come to her. She hoped
he would appreciate the sacrifice she would be making for him.
Fortunately Mrs. Phillips would give no trouble. She would not
even understand.

What about Hilda? No hope of hiding their secret from those sharp
eyes. But Hilda would approve. They could trust Hilda. The child
might prove helpful.

It cast a passing shadow upon her spirits, this necessary descent
into details. It brought with it the suggestion of intrigue, of
deceit: robbing the thing, to a certain extent, of its fineness.
Still, what was to be done? If women were coming into public life
these sort of relationships with men would have to be faced and
worked out. Sex must no longer be allowed to interfere with the
working together of men and women for common ends. It was that had
kept the world back. They would be the pioneers of the new order.
Casting aside their earthly passions, humbly with pure hearts they
would kneel before God's altar. He should bless their union.

A lark was singing. She stood listening. Higher and higher he
rose, pouring out his song of worship; till the tiny, fragile body
disappeared as if fallen from him, leaving his sweet soul still
singing. The happy tears came to her eyes, and she passed on. She
did not hear that little last faint sob with which he sank
exhausted back to earth beside a hidden nest among the furrows.

She had forgotten the time. It was already late afternoon. Her
long walk and the keen air had made her hungry. She had a couple
of eggs with her tea at a village inn, and was fortunate enough to
catch a train that brought her back in time for dinner. A little
ashamed of her unresponsiveness the night before, she laid herself
out to be sympathetic to her father's talk. She insisted on
hearing again all that he and Arthur were doing, opposing him here
and there with criticism just sufficient to stimulate him; careful
in the end to let him convince her.

These small hypocrisies were new to her. She hoped she was not
damaging her character. But it was good, watching him slyly from
under drawn-down lids, to see the flash of triumph that would come
into his tired eyes in answer to her half-protesting: "Yes, I see
your point, I hadn't thought of that," her half reluctant admission
that "perhaps" he was right, there; that "perhaps" she was wrong.
It was delightful to see him young again, eager, boyishly pleased
with himself. It seemed there was a joy she had not dreamed of in
yielding victory as well as in gaining it. A new tenderness was
growing up in her. How considerate, how patient, how self-
forgetful he had always been. She wanted to mother him. To take
him in her arms and croon over him, hushing away remembrance of the
old sad days.

Folk's words came back to her: "And poor Jack Allway. Tell him I
thank him for all those years of love and gentleness." She gave
him the message.

Folk had been right. He was not offended. "Dear old chap," he
said. "That was kind of him. He was always generous."

He was silent for a while, with a quiet look on his face.

"Give him our love," he said. "Tell him we came together, at the
end."

It was on her tongue to ask him, as so often she had meant to do of
late, what had been the cause of her mother's illness--if illness
it was: what it was that had happened to change both their lives.
But always something had stopped her--something ever present, ever
watchful, that seemed to shape itself out of the air, bending
towards her with its finger on its lips.

She stayed over the week-end; and on the Saturday, at her
suggestion, they took a long excursion into the country. It was
the first time she had ever asked him to take her out. He came
down to breakfast in a new suit, and was quite excited. In the car
his hand had sought hers shyly, and, feeling her responsive
pressure, he had continued to hold it; and they had sat for a long
time in silence. She decided not to tell him about Phillips, just
yet. He knew of him only from the Tory newspapers and would form a
wrong idea. She would bring them together and leave Phillips to
make his own way. He would like Phillips when he knew him, she
felt sure. He, too, was a people's man. The torch passed down to
him from his old Ironside ancestors, it still glowed. More than
once she had seen it leap to flame. In congenial atmosphere, it
would burn clear and steadfast. It occurred to her what a
delightful solution of her problem, if later on her father could be
persuaded to leave Arthur in charge of the works, and come to live
with her in London. There was a fine block of flats near Chelsea
Church with long views up and down the river. How happy they could
be there; the drawing-room in the Adams style with wine-coloured
curtains! He was a father any young woman could be proud to take
about. Unconsciously she gave his hand an impulsive squeeze. They
lunched at an old inn upon the moors; and the landlady, judging
from his shy, attentive ways, had begun by addressing her as
Madame.

"You grow wonderfully like your mother," he told her that evening
at dinner. "There used to be something missing. But I don't feel
that, now."

She wrote to Phillips to meet her, if possible, at Euston. There
were things she wanted to talk to him about. There was the
question whether she should go on writing for Carleton, or break
with him at once. Also one or two points that were worrying her in
connection with tariff reform. He was waiting for her on the
platform. It appeared he, too, had much to say. He wanted her
advice concerning his next speech. He had not dined and suggested
supper. They could not walk about the streets. Likely enough, it
was only her imagination, but it seemed to her that people in the
restaurant had recognized him, and were whispering to one another:
he was bound to be well known. Likewise her own appearance, she
felt, was against them as regarded their desire to avoid
observation. She would have to take to those mousey colours that
did not suit her, and wear a veil. She hated the idea of a veil.
It came from the East and belonged there. Besides, what would be
the use? Unless he wore one too. "Who is the veiled woman that
Phillips goes about with?" That is what they would ask. It was
going to be very awkward, the whole thing. Viewed from the
distance, it had looked quite fine. "Dedicating herself to the
service of Humanity" was how it had presented itself to her in the
garden at Meudon, the twinkling labyrinth of Paris at her feet, its
sordid by-ways hidden beneath its myriad lights. She had not
bargained for the dedication involving the loss of her self-
respect.

They did not talk as much as they had thought they would. He was
not very helpful on the Carleton question. There was so much to be
said both for and against. It might be better to wait and see how
circumstances shaped themselves. She thought his speech excellent.
It was difficult to discover any argument against it.

He seemed to be more interested in looking at her when he thought
she was not noticing. That little faint vague fear came back to
her and stayed with her, but brought no quickening of her pulse.
It was a fear of something ugly. She had the feeling they were
both acting, that everything depended upon their not forgetting
their parts. In handing things to one another, they were both of
them so careful that their hands should not meet and touch.

They walked together back to Westminster and wished each other a
short good-night upon what once had been their common doorstep.
With her latchkey in her hand, she turned and watched his
retreating figure, and suddenly a wave of longing seized her to run
after him and call him back--to see his eyes light up and feel the
pressure of his hands. It was only by clinging to the railings and
counting till she was sure he had entered his own house round the
corner and closed the door behind him, that she restrained herself.

It was a frightened face that looked at her out of the glass, as
she stood before it taking off her hat.

She decided that their future meetings should be at his own house.
Mrs. Phillips's only complaint was that she knocked at the door too
seldom.

"I don't know what I should do without you, I really don't,"
confessed the grateful lady. "If ever I become a Prime Minister's
wife, it's you I shall have to thank. You've got so much courage
yourself, you can put the heart into him. I never had any pluck to
spare myself."

She concluded by giving Joan a hug, accompanied by a sloppy but
heartfelt kiss.

She would stand behind Phillips's chair with her fat arms round his
neck, nodding her approval and encouragement; while Joan, seated
opposite, would strain every nerve to keep her brain fixed upon the
argument, never daring to look at poor Phillips's wretched face,
with its pleading, apologetic eyes, lest she should burst into
hysterical laughter. She hoped she was being helpful and
inspiring! Mrs. Phillips would assure her afterwards that she had
been wonderful. As for herself, there were periods when she hadn't
the faintest idea about what she was talking.

Sometimes Mrs. Phillips, called away by domestic duty, would leave
them; returning full of excuses just as they had succeeded in
forgetting her. It was evident she was under the impression that
her presence was useful to them, making it easier for them to open
up their minds to one another.

"Don't you be put off by his seeming a bit unresponsive," Mrs.
Phillips would explain. "He's shy with women. What I'm trying to
do is to make him feel you are one of the family."

"And don't you take any notice of me," further explained the good
woman, "when I seem to be in opposition, like. I chip in now and
then on purpose, just to keep the ball rolling. It stirs him up, a
bit of contradictoriness. You have to live with a man before you
understand him."

One morning Joan received a letter from Phillips, marked immediate.
He informed her that his brain was becoming addled. He intended
that afternoon to give it a draught of fresh air. He would be at
the Robin Hood gate in Richmond Park at three o'clock. Perhaps the
gods would be good to him. He would wait there for half an hour to
give them a chance, anyway.

She slipped the letter unconsciously into the bosom of her dress,
and sat looking out of the window. It promised to be a glorious
day, and London was stifling and gritty. Surely no one but an
unwholesome-minded prude could jib at a walk across a park. Mrs.
Phillips would be delighted to hear that she had gone. For the
matter of that, she would tell her--when next they met.

Phillips must have seen her getting off the bus, for he came
forward at once from the other side of the gate, his face radiant
with boyish delight. A young man and woman, entering the park at
the same time, looked at them and smiled sympathetically.

Joan had no idea the park contained such pleasant by-ways. But for
an occasional perambulator they might have been in the heart of the
country. The fallow deer stole near to them with noiseless feet,
regarding them out of their large gentle eyes with looks of
comradeship. They paused and listened while a missal thrush from a
branch close to them poured out his song of hope and courage. From
quite a long way off they could still hear his clear voice singing,
telling to the young and brave his gallant message. It seemed too
beautiful a day for politics. After all, politics--one has them
always with one; but the spring passes.

He saw her on to a bus at Kingston, and himself went back by train.
They agreed they would not mention it to Mrs. Phillips. Not that
she would have minded. The danger was that she would want to come,
too; honestly thinking thereby to complete their happiness. It
seemed to be tacitly understood there would be other such
excursions.

The summer was propitious. Phillips knew his London well, and how
to get away from it. There were winding lanes in Hertfordshire,
Surrey hills and commons, deep, cool, bird-haunted woods in
Buckingham. Each week there was something to look forward to,
something to plan for and manoeuvre. The sense of adventure, a
spice of danger, added zest. She still knocked frequently, as
before, at the door of the hideously-furnished little house in
North Street; but Mrs. Phillips no longer oppressed her as some old
man of the sea she could never hope to shake off from her
shoulders. The flabby, foolish face, robbed of its terrors, became
merely pitiful. She found herself able to be quite gentle and
patient with Mrs. Phillips. Even the sloppy kisses she came to
bear without a shudder down her spine.

"I know you are only doing it because you sympathize with his aims
and want him to win," acknowledged the good lady. "But I can't
help feeling grateful to you. I don't feel how useless I am while
I've got you to run to."

They still discussed their various plans for the amelioration and
improvement of humanity; but there seemed less need for haste than
they had thought. The world, Joan discovered, was not so sad a
place as she had judged it. There were chubby, rogue-eyed
children; whistling lads and smiling maidens; kindly men with ruddy
faces; happy mothers crooning over gurgling babies. There was no
call to be fretful and vehement. They would work together in
patience and in confidence. God's sun was everywhere. It needed
only that dark places should be opened up and it would enter.

Sometimes, seated on a lichened log, or on the short grass of some
sloping hillside, looking down upon some quiet valley, they would
find they had been holding hands while talking. It was but as two
happy, thoughtless children might have done. They would look at
one another with frank, clear eyes and smile.

Once, when their pathway led through a littered farm-yard, he had
taken her up in his arms and carried her and she had felt a glad
pride in him that he had borne her lightly as if she had been a
child, looking up at her and laughing.

An old bent man paused from his work and watched them. "Lean more
over him, missie," he advised her. "That's the way. Many a mile
I've carried my lass like that, in flood time; and never felt her
weight."

Often on returning home, not knowing why, she would look into the
glass. It seemed to her that the girlhood she had somehow missed
was awakening in her, taking possession of her, changing her. The
lips she had always seen pressed close and firm were growing
curved, leaving a little parting, as though they were not quite so
satisfied with one another. The level brows were becoming slightly
raised. It gave her a questioning look that was new to her. The
eyes beneath were less confident. They seemed to be seeking
something.

One evening, on her way home from a theatre, she met Flossie.
"Can't stop now," said Flossie, who was hurrying. "But I want to
see you: most particular. Was going to look you up. Will you be
at home to-morrow afternoon at tea-time?"

There was a distinct challenge in Flossie's eye as she asked the
question. Joan felt herself flush, and thought a moment.

"Yes," she answered. "Will you be coming alone?"

"That's the idea," answered Flossie; "a heart to heart talk between
you and me, and nobody else. Half-past four. Don't forget."

Joan walked on slowly. She had the worried feeling with which,
once or twice, when a schoolgirl, she had crawled up the stairs to
bed after the head mistress had informed her that she would see her
in her private room at eleven o'clock the next morning, leaving her
to guess what about. It occurred to her, in Trafalgar Square, that
she had promised to take tea with the Greysons the next afternoon,
to meet some big pot from America. She would have to get out of
that. She felt it wouldn't do to put off Flossie.

She went to bed wakeful. It was marvellously like being at school
again. What could Flossie want to see her about that was so
important? She tried to pretend to herself that she didn't know.
After all, perhaps it wasn't that.

But she knew that it was the instant Flossie put up her hands in
order to take off her hat. Flossie always took off her hat when
she meant to be unpleasant. It was her way of pulling up her
sleeves. They had their tea first. They seemed both agreed that
that would be best. And then Flossie pushed back her chair and sat
up.

She had just the head mistress expression. Joan wasn't quite sure
she oughtn't to stand. But, controlling the instinct, leant back
in her chair, and tried to look defiant without feeling it.

"How far are you going?" demanded Flossie.

Joan was not in a comprehending mood.

"If you're going the whole hog, that's something I can understand,"
continued Flossie. "If not, you'd better pull up."

"What do you mean by the whole hog?" requested Joan, assuming
dignity.

"Oh, don't come the kid," advised Flossie. "If you don't mind
being talked about yourself, you might think of him. If Carleton
gets hold of it, he's done for."

"'A little bird whispers to me that Robert Phillips was seen
walking across Richmond Park the other afternoon in company with
Miss Joan Allway, formerly one of our contributors.' Is that going
to end his political career?" retorted Joan with fine sarcasm.

Flossie fixed a relentless eye upon her. "He'll wait till the bird
has got a bit more than that to whisper to him," she suggested.

"There'll be nothing more," explained Joan. "So long as my
friendship is of any assistance to Robert Phillips in his work,
he's going to have it. What use are we going to be in politics--
what's all the fuss about, if men and women mustn't work together
for their common aims and help one another?"

"Why can't you help him in his own house, instead of wandering all
about the country?" Flossie wanted to know.

"So I do," Joan defended herself. "I'm in and out there till I'm
sick of the hideous place. You haven't seen the inside. And his
wife knows all about it, and is only too glad."

"Does she know about Richmond Park--and the other places?" asked
Flossie.

"She wouldn't mind if she did," explained Joan. "And you know what
she's like! How can one think what one's saying with that silly,
goggle-eyed face in front of one always."

Flossie, since she had become engaged, had acquired quite a
matronly train of thought. She spoke kindly, with a little grave
shake of her head. "My dear," she said, "the wife is always in the
way. You'd feel just the same whatever her face was like."

Joan grew angry. "If you choose to suspect evil, of course you
can," she answered with hauteur. "But you might have known me
better. I admire the man and sympathize with him. All the things
I dream of are the things he is working for. I can do more good by
helping and inspiring him"--she wished she had not let slip that
word "inspire." She knew that Flossie would fasten upon it--"than
I can ever accomplish by myself. And I mean to do it." She really
did feel defiant, now.

"I know, dear," agreed Flossie, "you've both of you made up your
minds it shall always remain a beautiful union of twin spirits.
Unfortunately you've both got bodies--rather attractive bodies."

"We'll keep it off that plane, if you don't mind," answered Joan
with a touch of severity.

"I'm willing enough," answered Flossie. "But what about Old Mother
Nature? She's going to be in this, you know."

"Take off your glasses, and look at it straight," she went on,
without giving Joan time to reply. "What is it in us that
'inspires' men? If it's only advice and sympathy he's after,
what's wrong with dear old Mrs. Denton? She's a good walker,
except now and then, when she's got the lumbago. Why doesn't he
get her to 'inspire' him?"

"It isn't only that," explained Joan. "I give him courage. I
always did have more of that than is any use to a woman. He wants
to be worthy of my belief in him. What is the harm if he does
admire me--if a smile from me or a touch of the hand can urge him
to fresh effort? Suppose he does love me--"

Flossie interrupted. "How about being quite frank?" she suggested.
"Suppose we do love one another. How about putting it that way?"

"And suppose we do?" agreed Joan, her courage rising. "Why should
we shun one another, as if we were both of us incapable of decency
or self-control? Why must love be always assumed to make us weak
and contemptible, as if it were some subtle poison? Why shouldn't
it strengthen and ennoble us?"

"Why did the apple fall?" answered Flossie. "Why, when it escapes
from its bonds, doesn't it soar upward? If it wasn't for the
irritating law of gravity, we could skip about on the brink of
precipices without danger. Things being what they are, sensible
people keep as far away from the edge as possible."

"I'm sorry," she continued; "awfully sorry, old girl. It's a bit
of rotten bad luck for both of you. You were just made for one
another. And Fate, knowing what was coming, bustles round and gets
hold of poor, silly Mrs. Phillips so as to be able to say 'Yah.'"

"Unless it all comes right in the end," she added musingly; "and
the poor old soul pegs out. I wouldn't give much for her liver."

"That's not bringing me up well," suggested Joan: "putting those
ideas into my head."

"Oh, well, one can't help one's thoughts," explained Flossie. "It
would be a blessing all round."

They had risen. Joan folded her hands. "Thank you for your
scolding, ma'am," she said. "Shall I write out a hundred lines of
Greek? Or do you think it will be sufficient if I promise never to
do it again?"

"You mean it?" said Flossie. "Of course you will go on seeing him-
-visiting them, and all that. But you won't go gadding about, so
that people can talk?"

"Only through the bars, in future," she promised. "With the gaoler
between us." She put her arms round Flossie and bent her head, so
that her face was hidden.

Flossie still seemed troubled. She held on to Joan.

"You are sure of yourself?" she asked. "We're only the female of
the species. We get hungry and thirsty, too. You know that,
kiddy, don't you?"

Joan laughed without raising her face. "Yes, ma'am, I know that,"
she answered. "I'll be good."

She sat in the dusk after Flossie had gone; and the laboured
breathing of the tired city came to her through the open window.
She had rather fancied that martyr's crown. It had not looked so
very heavy, the thorns not so very alarming--as seen through the
window. She would wear it bravely. It would rather become her.

Facing the mirror of the days to come, she tried it on. It was
going to hurt. There was no doubt of that. She saw the fatuous,
approving face of the eternal Mrs. Phillips, thrust ever between
them, against the background of that hideous furniture, of those
bilious wall papers--the loneliness that would ever walk with her,
sit down beside her in the crowded restaurant, steal up the
staircase with her, creep step by step with her from room to room--
the ever unsatisfied yearning for a tender word, a kindly touch.
Yes, it was going to hurt.

Poor Robert! It would be hard on him, too. She could not help
feeling consolation in the thought that he also would be wearing
that invisible crown.

She must write to him. The sooner it was done, the better. Half a
dozen contradictory moods passed over her during the composing of
that letter; but to her they seemed but the unfolding of a single
thought. On one page it might have been his mother writing to him;
an experienced, sagacious lady; quite aware, in spite of her
affection for him, of his faults and weaknesses; solicitous that he
should avoid the dangers of an embarrassing entanglement; his
happiness being the only consideration of importance. On others it
might have been a queen laying her immutable commands upon some
loyal subject, sworn to her service. Part of it might have been
written by a laughing philosopher who had learnt the folly of
taking life too seriously, knowing that all things pass: that the
tears of to-day will be remembered with a smile. And a part of it
was the unconsidered language of a loving woman. And those were
the pages that he kissed.

His letter in answer was much shorter. Of course he would obey her
wishes. He had been selfish, thinking only of himself. As for his
political career, he did not see how that was going to suffer by
his being occasionally seen in company with one of the most
brilliantly intellectual women in London, known to share his views.
And he didn't care if it did. But inasmuch as she valued it, all
things should be sacrificed to it. It was hers to do what she
would with. It was the only thing he had to offer her.

Their meetings became confined, as before, to the little house in
North Street. But it really seemed as if the gods, appeased by
their submission, had decided to be kind. Hilda was home for the
holidays; and her piercing eyes took in the situation at a flash.
She appeared to have returned with a new-born and exacting
affection for her mother, that astonished almost as much as it
delighted the poor lady. Feeling sudden desire for a walk or a bus
ride, or to be taken to an entertainment, no one was of any use to
Hilda but her mother. Daddy had his silly politics to think and
talk about. He must worry them out alone; or with the assistance
of Miss Allway. That was what she was there for. Mrs. Phillips,
torn between her sense of duty and fear of losing this new
happiness, would yield to the child's coaxing. Often they would be
left alone to discuss the nation's needs uninterrupted.
Conscientiously they would apply themselves to the task. Always to
find that, sooner or later, they were looking at one another, in
silence.

One day Phillips burst into a curious laugh. They had been
discussing the problem of the smallholder. Joan had put a question
to him, and with a slight start he had asked her to repeat it. But
it seemed she had forgotten it.

"I had to see our solicitor one morning," he explained, "when I was
secretary to a miners' union up north. A point had arisen
concerning the legality of certain payments. It was a matter of
vast importance to us; but he didn't seem to be taking any
interest, and suddenly he jumped up. 'I'm sorry, Phillips,' he
said, 'but I've got a big trouble of my own on at home--I guess you
know what--and I don't seem to care a damn about yours. You'd
better see Delauny, if you're in a hurry.' And I did."

He turned and leant over his desk. "I guess they'll have to find
another leader if they're in a hurry," he added. "I don't seem
able to think about turnips and cows."

"Don't make me feel I've interfered with your work only to spoil
it," said Joan.

"I guess I'm spoiling yours, too," he answered. "I'm not worth it.
I might have done something to win you and keep you. I'm not going
to do much without you."

"You mean my friendship is going to be of no use to you?" asked
Joan.

He raised his eyes and fixed them on her with a pleading, dog-like
look.

"For God's sake don't take even that away from me," he said.
"Unless you want me to go to pieces altogether. A crust does just
keep one alive. One can't help thinking what a fine, strong chap
one might be if one wasn't always hungry."

She felt so sorry for him. He looked such a boy, with the angry
tears in his clear blue eyes, and that little childish quivering of
the kind, strong, sulky mouth.

She rose and took his head between her hands and turned his face
towards her. She had meant to scold him, but changed her mind and
laid his head against her breast and held it there.

He clung to her, as a troubled child might, with his arms clasped
round her, and his head against her breast. And a mist rose up
before her, and strange, commanding voices seemed calling to her.

He could not see her face. She watched it herself with dim half
consciousness as it changed before her in the tawdry mirror above
the mantelpiece, half longing that he might look up and see it,
half terrified lest he should.

With an effort that seemed to turn her into stone, she regained
command over herself.

"I must go now," she said in a harsh voice, and he released her.

"I'm afraid I'm an awful nuisance to you," he said. "I get these
moods at times. You're not angry with me?"

"No," she answered with a smile. "But it will hurt me if you fail.
Remember that."

She turned down the Embankment after leaving the house. She always
found the river strong and restful. So it was not only bad women
that needed to be afraid of themselves--even to the most high-class
young woman, with letters after her name, and altruistic interests:
even to her, also, the longing for the lover's clasp. Flossie had
been right. Mother Nature was not to be flouted of her children--
not even of her new daughters; to them, likewise, the family trait.

She would have run away if she could, leaving him to guess at her
real reason--if he were smart enough. But that would have meant
excuses and explanations all round. She was writing a daily column
of notes for Greyson now, in addition to the weekly letter from
Clorinda; and Mrs. Denton, having compromised with her first
dreams, was delegating to Joan more and more of her work. She
wrote to Mrs. Phillips that she was feeling unwell and would be
unable to lunch with them on the Sunday, as had been arranged.
Mrs. Phillips, much disappointed, suggested Wednesday; but it
seemed on Wednesday she was no better. And so it drifted on for
about a fortnight, without her finding the courage to come to any
decision; and then one morning, turning the corner into Abingdon
Street, she felt a slight pull at her sleeve; and Hilda was beside
her. The child had shown an uncanny intuition in not knocking at
the door. Joan had been fearing that, and would have sent down
word that she was out. But it had to be faced.

"Are you never coming again?" asked the child.

"Of course," answered Joan, "when I'm better. I'm not very well
just now. It's the weather, I suppose."

The child turned her head as they walked and looked at her. Joan
felt herself smarting under that look, but persisted.

"I'm very much run down," she said. "I may have to go away."

"You promised to help him," said the child.

"I can't if I'm ill," retorted Joan. "Besides, I am helping him.
There are other ways of helping people than by wasting their time
talking to them."

"He wants you," said the child. "It's your being there that helps
him."

Joan stopped and turned. "Did he send you?" she asked.

"No," the child answered. "Mama had a headache this morning, and I
slipped out. You're not keeping your promise."

Palace Yard, save for a statuesque policeman, was empty.

"How do you know that my being with him helps him?" asked Joan.

"You know things when you love anybody," explained the child. "You
feel them. You will come again, soon?"

Joan did not answer.

"You're frightened," the child continued in a passionate, low
voice. "You think that people will talk about you and look down
upon you. You oughtn't to think about yourself. You ought to
think only about him and his work. Nothing else matters."

"I am thinking about him and his work," Joan answered. Her hand
sought Hilda's and held it. "There are things you don't
understand. Men and women can't help each other in the way you
think. They may try to, and mean no harm in the beginning, but the
harm comes, and then not only the woman but the man also suffers,
and his work is spoilt and his life ruined."

The small, hot hand clasped Joan's convulsively.

"But he won't be able to do his work if you keep away and never
come back to him," she persisted. "Oh, I know it. It all depends
upon you. He wants you."

"And I want him, if that's any consolation to you," Joan answered
with a short laugh. It wasn't much of a confession. The child was
cute enough to have found that out for herself. "Only you see I
can't have him. And there's an end of it."

They had reached the Abbey. Joan turned and they retraced their
steps slowly.

"I shall be going away soon, for a little while," she said. The
talk had helped her to decision. "When I come back I will come and
see you all. And you must all come and see me, now and then. I
expect I shall have a flat of my own. My father may be coming to
live with me. Good-bye. Do all you can to help him."

She stooped and kissed the child, straining her to her almost
fiercely. But the child's lips were cold. She did not look back.

Miss Greyson was sympathetic towards her desire for a longish
holiday and wonderfully helpful; and Mrs. Denton also approved,
and, to Joan's surprise, kissed her; Mrs. Denton was not given to
kissing. She wired to her father, and got his reply the same
evening. He would be at her rooms on the day she had fixed with
his travelling bag, and at her Ladyship's orders. "With love and
many thanks," he had added. She waited till the day before
starting to run round and say good-bye to the Phillipses. She felt
it would be unwise to try and get out of doing that. Both Phillips
and Hilda, she was thankful, were out; and she and Mrs. Phillips
had tea alone together. The talk was difficult, so far as Joan was
concerned. If the woman had been possessed of ordinary intuition,
she might have arrived at the truth. Joan almost wished she would.
It would make her own future task the easier. But Mrs. Phillips,
it was clear, was going to be no help to her.

For her father's sake, she made pretence of eagerness, but as the
sea widened between her and the harbour lights it seemed as if a
part of herself were being torn away from her.

They travelled leisurely through Holland and the Rhine land, and
that helped a little: the new scenes and interests; and in
Switzerland they discovered a delightful little village in an
upland valley with just one small hotel, and decided to stay there
for a while, so as to give themselves time to get their letters.
They took long walks and climbs, returning tired and hungry,
looking forward to their dinner and the evening talk with the few
other guests on the veranda. The days passed restfully in that
hidden valley. The great white mountains closed her in. They
seemed so strong and clean.

It was on the morning they were leaving that a telegram was put
into her hands. Mrs. Phillips was ill at lodgings in Folkestone.
She hoped that Joan, on her way back, would come to see her.

She showed the telegram to her father. "Do you mind, Dad, if we go
straight back?" she asked.

"No, dear," he answered, "if you wish it."

"I would like to go back," she said.

CHAPTER XIII

Mrs. Phillips was sitting up in an easy chair near the heavily-
curtained windows when Joan arrived. It was a pleasant little
house in the old part of the town, and looked out upon the harbour.
She was startlingly thin by comparison with what she had been; but
her face was still painted. Phillips would run down by the
afternoon train whenever he could get away. She never knew when he
was coming, so she explained; and she could not bear the idea of
his finding her "old and ugly." She had fought against his wish
that she should go into a nursing home; and Joan, who in the course
of her work upon the Nursing Times had acquired some knowledge of
them as a whole, was inclined to agree with her. She was quite
comfortable where she was. The landlady, according to her account,
was a dear. She had sent the nurse out for a walk on getting
Joan's wire, so that they could have a cosy chat. She didn't
really want much attendance. It was her heart. It got feeble now
and then, and she had to keep very still; that was all. Joan told
how her father had suffered for years from much the same complaint.
So long as you were careful there was no danger. She must take
things easily and not excite herself.

Mrs. Phillips acquiesced. "It's turning me into a lazy-bones," she
said with a smile. "I can sit here by the hour, just watching the
bustle. I was always one for a bit of life."

The landlady entered with Joan's tea. Joan took an instinctive
dislike to her. She was a large, flashy woman, wearing a quantity
of cheap jewellery. Her familiarity had about it something almost
threatening. Joan waited till she heard the woman's heavy tread
descending the stairs, before she expressed her opinion.

"I think she only means to be cheerful," explained Mrs. Phillips.
"She's quite a good sort, when you know her." The subject seemed
in some way to trouble her, and Joan dropped it.

They watched the loading of a steamer while Joan drank her tea.

"He will come this afternoon, I fancy," said Mrs. Phillips. "I
seem to feel it. He will be able to see you home."

Joan started. She had been thinking about Phillips, wondering what
she should say to him when they met.

"What does he think," she asked, "about your illness?"

"Oh, it worries him, of course, poor dear," Mrs. Phillips answered.
"You see, I've always been such a go-ahead, as a rule. But I think
he's getting more hopeful. As I tell him, I'll be all right by the
autumn. It was that spell of hot weather that knocked me over."

Joan was still looking out of the window. She didn't quite know
what to say. The woman's altered appearance had shocked her.
Suddenly she felt a touch upon her hand.

"You'll look after him if anything does happen, won't you?" The
woman's eyes were pleading with her. They seemed to have grown
larger. "You know what I mean, dear, don't you?" she continued.
"It will be such a comfort to me to know that it's all right."

In answer the tears sprang to Joan's eyes. She knelt down and put
her arms about the woman.

"Don't be so silly," she cried. "There's nothing going to happen.
You're going to get fat and well again; and live to see him Prime
Minister."

"I am getting thin, ain't I?" she said. "I always wanted to be
thin." They both laughed.

"But I shan't see him that, even if I do live," she went on.
"He'll never be that, without you. And I'd be so proud to think
that he would. I shouldn't mind going then," she added.

Joan did not answer. There seemed no words that would come.

"You will promise, won't you?" she persisted, in a whisper. "It's
only 'in case'--just that I needn't worry myself."

Joan looked up. There was something in the eyes looking down upon
her that seemed to be compelling her.

"If you'll promise to try and get better," she answered.

Mrs. Phillips stooped and kissed her. "Of course, dear," she said.
"Perhaps I shall, now that my mind is easier."

Phillips came, as Mrs. Phillips had predicted. He was surprised at
seeing Joan. He had not thought she could get back so soon. He
brought an evening paper with him. It contained a paragraph to the
effect that Mrs. Phillips, wife of the Rt. Hon. Robert Phillips,
M.P., was progressing favourably and hoped soon to be sufficiently
recovered to return to her London residence. It was the first time
she had had a paragraph all to herself, headed with her name. She
flushed with pleasure; and Joan noticed that, after reading it
again, she folded the paper up small and slipped it into her
pocket. The nurse came in from her walk a little later and took
Joan downstairs with her.

"She ought not to talk to more than one person at a time," the
nurse explained, with a shake of the head. She was a quiet,
business-like woman. She would not express a definite opinion.

"It's her mental state that is the trouble," was all that she would
say. "She ought to be getting better. But she doesn't."

"You're not a Christian Scientist, by any chance?" she asked Joan
suddenly.

"No," answered Joan. "Surely you're not one?"

"I don't know," answered the woman. "I believe that would do her
more good than anything else. If she would listen to it. She
seems to have lost all will-power."

The nurse left her; and the landlady came in to lay the table. She
understood that Joan would be dining with Mr. Phillips. There was
no train till the eight-forty. She kept looking at Joan as she
moved about the room. Joan was afraid she would begin to talk, but
she must have felt Joan's antagonism for she remained silent. Once
their eyes met, and the woman leered at her.

Phillips came down looking more cheerful. He had detected
improvement in Mrs. Phillips. She was more hopeful in herself.
They talked in low tones during the meal, as people do whose
thoughts are elsewhere. It happened quite suddenly, Phillips
explained. They had come down a few days after the rising of
Parliament. There had been a spell of hot weather; but nothing
remarkable. The first attack had occurred about three weeks ago.
It was just after Hilda had gone back to school. He wasn't sure
whether he ought to send for Hilda, or not. Her mother didn't want
him to--not just yet. Of course, if she got worse, he would have
to. What did Joan think?--did she think there was any real danger?

Joan could not say. So much depended upon the general state of
health. There was the case of her own father. Of course she would
always be subject to attacks. But this one would have warned her
to be careful.

Phillips thought that living out of town might be better for her,
in the future--somewhere in Surrey, where he could easily get up
and down. He could sleep himself at the club on nights when he had
to be late.

They talked without looking at one another. They did not speak
about themselves.

Mrs. Phillips was in bed when Joan went up to say good-bye.
"You'll come again soon?" she asked, and Joan promised. "You've
made me so happy," she whispered. The nurse was in the room.

They discussed politics in the train. Phillips had found more
support for his crusade against Carleton than he had expected. He
was going to open the attack at once, thus forestalling Carleton's
opposition to his land scheme.

"It isn't going to be the Daily This and the Daily That and the
Weekly the Other all combined to down me. I'm going to tell the
people that it's Carleton and only Carleton--Carleton here,
Carleton there, Carleton everywhere, against them. I'm going to
drag him out into the open and make him put up his own fists."

Joan undertook to sound Greyson. She was sure Greyson would
support him, in his balanced, gentlemanly way, that could
nevertheless be quite deadly.

They grew less and less afraid of looking at one another as they
felt that darkened room further and further behind them.

They parted at Charing Cross. Joan would write. They agreed it
would be better to choose separate days for their visits to
Folkestone.

She ran against Madge in the morning, and invited herself to tea.
Her father had returned to Liverpool, and her own rooms, for some
reason, depressed her. Flossie was there with young Halliday.
They were both off the next morning to his people's place in
Devonshire, from where they were going to get married, and had come
to say good-bye. Flossie put Sam in the passage and drew-to the
door.

"Have you seen her?" she asked. "How is she?"

"Oh, she's changed a good deal," answered Joan. "But I think
she'll get over it all right, if she's careful."

"I shall hope for the best," answered Flossie. "Poor old soul,
she's had a good time. Don't send me a present; and then I needn't
send you one--when your time comes. It's a silly custom. Besides,
I've nowhere to put it. Shall be in a ship for the next six
months. Will let you know when we're back."

She gave Joan a hug and a kiss, and was gone. Joan joined Madge in
the kitchen, where she was toasting buns.

"I suppose she's satisfied herself that he's brainy," she laughed.

"Oh, brains aren't everything," answered Madge. "Some of the worst
rotters the world has ever been cursed with have been brainy
enough--men and women. We make too much fuss about brains; just as
once upon a time we did about mere brute strength, thinking that
was all that was needed to make a man great. Brain is only muscle
translated into civilization. That's not going to save us."

"You've been thinking," Joan accused her. "What's put all that
into your head?"

Madge laughed. "Mixing with so many brainy people, perhaps," she
suggested; "and wondering what's become of their souls."

"Be good, sweet child. And let who can be clever," Joan quoted.
"Would that be your text?"

Madge finished buttering her buns. "Kant, wasn't it," she
answered, "who marvelled chiefly at two things: the starry
firmament above him and the moral law within him. And they're one
and the same, if he'd only thought it out. It's rather big to be
good."

They carried their tea into the sitting-room.

"Do you really think she'll get over it?" asked Madge. "Or is it
one of those things one has to say?"

"I think she could," answered Joan, "if she would pull herself
together. It's her lack of will-power that's the trouble."

Madge did not reply immediately. She was watching the rooks
settling down for the night in the elm trees just beyond the
window. There seemed to be much need of coming and going, of much
cawing.

"I met her pretty often during those months that Helen Lavery was
running her round," she said at length. "It always seemed to me to
have a touch of the heroic, that absurd effort she was making to
'qualify' herself, so that she might be of use to him. I can see
her doing something quite big, if she thought it would help him."

The cawing of the rooks grew fainter. One by one they folded their
wings.

Neither spoke for a while. Later on, they talked about the coming
election. If the Party got back, Phillips would go to the Board of
Trade. It would afford him a better platform for the introduction
of his land scheme.

"What do you gather is the general opinion?" Joan asked. "That he
will succeed?"

"The general opinion seems to be that his star is in the
ascendant," Madge answered with a smile; "that all things are
working together for his good. It's rather a useful atmosphere to
have about one, that. It breeds friendship and support!"

Joan looked at her watch. She had an article to finish. Madge
stood on tiptoe and kissed her.

"Don't think me unsympathetic," she said. "No one will rejoice
more than I shall if God sees fit to call you to good work. But I
can't help letting fall my little tear of fellowship with the
weeping."

"And mind your p's and q's," she added. "You're in a difficult
position. And not all the eyes watching you are friendly."

Joan bore the germ of worry in her breast as she crossed the Gray's
Inn Garden. It was a hard law, that of the world: knowing only
winners and losers. Of course, the woman was to be pitied. No one
could feel more sorry for her than Joan herself. But what had
Madge exactly meant by those words: that she could "see her doing
something really big," if she thought it would help him? There was
no doubt about her affection for him. It was almost dog-like. And
the child, also! There must be something quite exceptional about
him to have won the devotion of two such opposite beings.
Especially Hilda. It would be hard to imagine any lengths to which
Hilda's blind idolatry would not lead her.

She ran down twice to Folkestone during the following week. Her
visits made her mind easier. Mrs. Phillips seemed so placid, so
contented. There was no suggestion of suffering, either mental or
physical.

She dined with the Greysons the Sunday after, and mooted the
question of the coming fight with Carleton. Greyson thought
Phillips would find plenty of journalistic backing. The
concentration of the Press into the hands of a few conscienceless
schemers was threatening to reduce the journalist to a mere
hireling, and the better-class men were becoming seriously alarmed.
He found in his desk the report of a speech made by a well-known
leader writer at a recent dinner of the Press Club. The man had
risen to respond to the toast of his own health and had taken the
opportunity to unpack his heart.

"I am paid a thousand a year," so Greyson read to them, "for
keeping my own opinions out of my paper. Some of you, perhaps,
earn more, and others less; but you're getting it for writing what
you're told. If I were to be so foolish as to express my honest
opinion, I'd be on the street, the next morning, looking for
another job."

"The business of the journalist," the man had continued, "is to
destroy the truth, to lie, to pervert, to vilify, to fawn at the
feet of Mammon, to sell his soul for his daily bread. We are the
tools and vassals of rich men behind the scenes. We are the
jumping-jacks. They pull the strings and we dance. Our talents,
our possibilities, our lives are the property of other men."

"We tried to pretend it was only one of Jack's little jokes,"
explained Greyson as he folded up the cutting; "but it wouldn't
work. It was too near the truth."

"I don't see what you are going to do," commented Mary. "So long
as men are not afraid to sell their souls, there will always be a
Devil's market for them."

Greyson did not so much mind there being a Devil's market, provided
he could be assured of an honest market alongside, so that a man
could take his choice. What he feared was the Devil's steady
encroachment, that could only end by the closing of the independent
market altogether. His remedy was the introduction of the American
trust law, forbidding any one man being interested in more than a
limited number of journals.

"But what's the difference," demanded Joan, "between a man owning
one paper with a circulation of, say, six millions; or owning six
with a circulation of a million apiece? By concentrating all his
energies on one, a man with Carleton's organizing genius might
easily establish a single journal that would cover the whole
field."

"Just all the difference," answered Greyson, "between Pooh Bah as
Chancellor of the Exchequer, or Lord High Admiral, or Chief
Executioner, whichever he preferred to be, and Pooh Bah as all the
Officers of State rolled into one. Pooh Bah may be a very able
statesman, entitled to exert his legitimate influence. But, after
all, his opinion is only the opinion of one old gentleman, with
possible prejudices and preconceived convictions. The Mikado--or
the people, according to locality--would like to hear the views of
others of his ministers. He finds that the Lord Chancellor and the
Lord Chief Justice and the Groom of the Bedchamber and the
Attorney-General--the whole entire Cabinet, in short, are
unanimously of the same opinion as Pooh Bah. He doesn't know it's
only Pooh Bah speaking from different corners of the stage. The
consensus of opinion convinces him. One statesman, however
eminent, might err in judgment. But half a score of statesmen, all
of one mind! One must accept their verdict."

Mary smiled. "But why shouldn't the good newspaper proprietor
hurry up and become a multi-proprietor?" she suggested. "Why don't
you persuade Lord Sutcliffe to buy up three or four papers, before
they're all gone?"

"Because I don't want the Devil to get hold of him," answered
Greyson.

"You've got to face this unalterable law," he continued. "That
power derived from worldly sources can only be employed for worldly
purposes. The power conferred by popularity, by wealth, by that
ability to make use of other men that we term organization--sooner
or later the man who wields that power becomes the Devil's servant.
So long as Kingship was merely a force struggling against anarchy,
it was a holy weapon. As it grew in power so it degenerated into
an instrument of tyranny. The Church, so long as it remained a
scattered body of meek, lowly men, did the Lord's work. Enthroned
at Rome, it thundered its edicts against human thought. The Press
is in danger of following precisely the same history. When it
wrote in fear of the pillory and of the jail, it fought for
Liberty. Now it has become the Fourth Estate, it fawns--as Jack
Swinton said of it--at the feet of Mammon. My Proprietor, good
fellow, allows me to cultivate my plot amid the wilderness for
other purposes than those of quick returns. If he were to become a
competitor with the Carletons and the Bloomfields, he would have to
look upon it as a business proposition. The Devil would take him
up on to the high mountain, and point out to him the kingdom of
huge circulations and vast profits, whispering to him: 'All this
will I give thee, if thou wilt fall down and worship me.' I don't
want the dear good fellow to be tempted."

"Is it impossible, then, to combine duty and success?" questioned
Joan.

"The combination sometimes happens, by chance," admitted Greyson.
"But it's dangerous to seek it. It is so easy to persuade
ourselves that it's our duty to succeed."

"But we must succeed to be of use," urged Mary. "Must God's
servants always remain powerless?"

"Powerless to rule. Powerful only to serve," he answered.
"Powerful as Christ was powerful; not as Caesar was powerful--
powerful as those who have suffered and have failed, leaders of
forlorn hopes--powerful as those who have struggled on, despised
and vilified; not as those of whom all men speak well--powerful as
those who have fought lone battles and have died, not knowing their
own victory. It is those that serve, not those that rule, shall
conquer."

Joan had never known him quite so serious. Generally there was a
touch of irony in his talk, a suggestion of aloofness that had
often irritated her.

"I wish you would always be yourself, as you are now," she said,
"and never pose."

"Do I pose?" he asked, raising his eyebrows.

"That shows how far it has gone," she told him, "that you don't
even know it. You pretend to be a philosopher. But you're really
a man."

He laughed. "It isn't always a pose," he explained. "It's some
men's way of saying: Thy will be done."

"Ask Phillips to come and see me," he said. "I can be of more
help, if I know exactly his views."

He walked with her to the bus. They passed a corner house that he
had more than once pointed out to her. It had belonged, years ago,
to a well-known artist, who had worked out a wonderful scheme of
decoration in the drawing-room. A board was up, announcing that
the house was for sale. A gas lamp, exactly opposite, threw a
flood of light upon the huge white lettering.

Joan stopped. "Why, it's the house you are always talking about,"
she said. "Are you thinking of taking it?"

"I did go over it," he answered. "But it would be rather absurd
for just Mary and me."

She looked up Phillips at the House, and gave him Greyson's
message. He had just returned from Folkestone, and was worried.

"She was so much better last week," he explained. "But it never
lasts."

"Poor old girl!" he added. "I believe she'd have been happier if
I'd always remained plain Bob Phillips."

Joan had promised to go down on the Friday; but finding, on the
Thursday morning, that it would be difficult, decided to run down
that afternoon instead. She thought at first of sending a wire.
But in Mrs. Phillips's state of health, telegrams were perhaps to
be avoided. It could make no difference. The front door of the
little house was standing half open. She called down the kitchen
stairs to the landlady, but received no answer. The woman had
probably run out on some short errand. She went up the stairs
softly. The bedroom door, she knew, would be open. Mrs. Phillips
had a feeling against being "shut off," as she called it. She
meant to tap lightly and walk straight in, as usual. But what she
saw through the opening caused her to pause. Mrs. Phillips was
sitting up in bed with her box of cosmetics in front of her. She
was sensitive of anyone seeing her make-up; and Joan, knowing this,
drew back a step. But for some reason, she couldn't help watching.
Mrs. Phillips dipped a brush into one of the compartments and then
remained with it in her hand, as if hesitating. Suddenly she stuck
out her tongue and passed the brush over it. At least, so it
seemed to Joan. It was only a side view of Mrs. Phillips's face
that she was obtaining, and she may have been mistaken. It might
have been the lips. The woman gave a little gasp and sat still for
a moment. Then, putting away the brush, she closed the box and
slipped it under the pillow.

Joan felt her knees trembling. A cold, creeping fear was taking
possession of her. Why, she could not understand. She must have
been mistaken. People don't make-up their tongues. It must have
been the lips. And even if not--if the woman had licked the brush!
It was a silly trick people do. Perhaps she liked the taste. She
pulled herself together and tapped at the door.

Mrs. Phillips gave a little start at seeing her; but was glad that
she had come. Phillips had not been down for two days and she had
been feeling lonesome. She persisted in talking more than Joan
felt was good for her. She was feeling so much better, she
explained. Joan was relieved when the nurse came back from her
walk and insisted on her lying down. She dropped to sleep while
Joan and the nurse were having their tea.

Joan went back by the early train. She met some people at the
station that she knew and travelled up with them. That picture of
Mrs. Phillips's tongue just showing beyond the line of Mrs.
Phillips's cheek remained at the back of her mind; but it was not
until she was alone in her own rooms that she dared let her
thoughts return to it.

The suggestion that was forcing itself into her brain was
monstrous--unthinkable. That, never possessed of any surplus
vitality, and suffering from the added lassitude of illness, the
woman should have become indifferent--willing to let a life that to
her was full of fears and difficulties slip peacefully away from
her, that was possible. But that she should exercise thought and
ingenuity--that she should have reasoned the thing out and
deliberately laid her plans, calculating at every point on their
success; it was inconceivable.

Besides, what could have put the idea into her head? It was
laughable, the presumption that she was a finished actress, capable
of deceiving everyone about her. If she had had an inkling of the
truth, Joan, with every nerve on the alert, almost hoping for it,
would have detected it. She had talked with her alone the day
before she had left England, and the woman had been full of hopes
and projects for the future.

That picture of Mrs. Phillips, propped up against the pillows, with
her make-up box upon her knees was still before her when she went
to bed. All night long it haunted her: whether thinking or
dreaming of it, she could not tell.

Suddenly, she sat up with a stifled cry. It seemed as if a flash
of light had been turned upon her, almost blinding her.

Hilda! Why had she never thought of it? The whole thing was so
obvious. "You ought not to think about yourself. You ought to
think only of him and of his work. Nothing else matters." If she
could say that to Joan, what might she not have said to her mother
who, so clearly, she divined to be the incubus--the drag upon her
father's career? She could hear the child's dry, passionate tones-
-could see Mrs. Phillips's flabby cheeks grow white--the
frightened, staring eyes. Where her father was concerned the child
had neither conscience nor compassion. She had waited her time.
It was a few days after Hilda's return to school that Mrs. Phillips
had been first taken ill.

She flung herself from the bed and drew the blind. A chill, grey
light penetrated the room. It was a little before five. She would
go round to Phillips, wake him up. He must be told.

With her hat in her hands, she paused. No. That would not do.
Phillips must never know. They must keep the secret to themselves.
She would go down and see the woman; reason with her, insist. She
went into the other room. It was lighter there. The "A.B.C." was
standing in its usual place upon her desk. There was a train to
Folkestone at six-fifteen. She had plenty of time. It would be
wise to have a cup of tea and something to eat. There would be no
sense in arriving there with a headache. She would want her brain
clear.

It was half-past five when she sat down with her tea in front of
her. It was only ten minutes' walk to Charing Cross--say a quarter
of an hour. She might pick up a cab. She grew calmer as she ate
and drank. Her reason seemed to be returning to her. There was no
such violent hurry. Hadn't she better think things over, in the
clear daylight? The woman had been ill now for nearly six weeks:
a few hours--a day or two--could make no difference. It might
alarm the poor creature, her unexpected appearance at such an
unusual hour--cause a relapse. Suppose she had been mistaken?
Hadn't she better make a few inquiries first--feel her way? One
did harm more often than good, acting on impulse. After all, had
she the right to interfere? Oughtn't the thing to be thought over
as a whole? Mightn't there be arguments, worth considering,
against her interference? Her brain was too much in a whirl.
Hadn't she better wait till she could collect and arrange her
thoughts?

The silver clock upon her desk struck six. It had been a gift from
her father when she was at Girton. It never obtruded. Its voice
was a faint musical chime that she need not hear unless she cared
to listen. She turned and looked at it. It seemed to be a little
face looking back at her out of its two round, blinkless eyes. For
the first time during all the years that it had watched beside her,
she heard its quick, impatient tick.

She sat motionless, staring at it. The problem, in some way, had
simplified itself into a contest between herself, demanding time to
think, and the little insistent clock, shouting to her to act upon
blind impulse. If she could remain motionless for another five
minutes, she would have won.

The ticking of the little clock was filling the room. The thing
seemed to have become alive--to be threatening to burst its heart.
But the thin, delicate indicator moved on.

Suddenly its ticking ceased. It had become again a piece of
lifeless mechanism. The hands pointed to six minutes past. Joan
took off her hat and laid it aside.

She must think the whole thing over quietly.

CHAPTER XIV

She could help him. Without her, he would fail. The woman herself
saw that, and wished it. Why should she hesitate? It was not as
if she had only herself to consider. The fate--the happiness of
millions was at stake. He looked to her for aid--for guidance. It
must have been intended. All roads had led to it. Her going to
the house. She remembered now, it was the first door at which she
had knocked. Her footsteps had surely been directed. Her meeting
with Mrs. Phillips in Madge's rooms; and that invitation to dinner,
coinciding with that crisis in his life. It was she who had
persuaded him to accept. But for her he would have doubted,
wavered, let his opportunities slip by. He had confessed it to
her.

And she had promised him. He needed her. The words she had spoken
to Madge, not dreaming then of their swift application. They came
back to her. "God has called me. He girded His sword upon me."
What right had she to leave it rusting in its scabbard, turning
aside from the pathway pointed out to her because of one weak,
useless life, crouching in her way. It was not as if she were
being asked to do evil herself that good might come. The decision
had been taken out of her hands. All she had to do was to remain
quiescent, not interfering, awaiting her orders. Her business was
with her own part, not with another's. To be willing to sacrifice
oneself: that was at the root of all service. Sometimes it was
one's own duty, sometimes that of another. Must one never go
forward because another steps out of one's way, voluntarily?
Besides, she might have been mistaken. That picture, ever before
her, of the woman pausing with the brush above her tongue--that
little stilled gasp! It may have been but a phantasm, born of her
own fevered imagination. She clung to that, desperately.

It was the task that had been entrusted to her. How could he hope
to succeed without her. With her, he would be all powerful--
accomplish the end for which he had been sent into the world.
Society counts for so much in England. What public man had ever
won through without its assistance. As Greyson had said: it is
the dinner-table that rules. She could win it over to his side.
That mission to Paris that she had undertaken for Mrs. Denton, that
had brought her into contact with diplomatists, politicians, the
leaders and the rulers, the bearers of names known and honoured in
history. They had accepted her as one of themselves. She had
influenced them, swayed them. That afternoon at Folk's studio,
where all eyes had followed her, where famous men and women had
waited to attract her notice, had hung upon her words. Even at
school, at college, she had always commanded willing homage. As
Greyson had once told her, it was herself--her personality that was
her greatest asset. Was it to be utterly wasted? There were
hundreds of impersonal, sexless women, equipped for nothing else,
with pens as keen if not keener than hers. That was not the talent
with which she had been entrusted--for which she would have to
account. It was her beauty, her power to charm, to draw after her-
-to compel by the mere exercise of her will. Hitherto Beauty had
been content to barter itself for mere coin of the realm--for ease
and luxury and pleasure. She only asked to be allowed to spend it
in service. As his wife, she could use it to fine ends. By
herself she was helpless. One must take the world as one finds it.
It gives the unmated woman no opportunity to employ the special
gifts with which God has endowed her--except for evil. As the wife
of a rising statesman, she could be a force for progress. She
could become another Madame Roland; gather round her all that was
best of English social life; give back to it its lost position in
the vanguard of thought.

She could strengthen him, give him courage. Without her, he would
always remain the mere fighter, doubtful of himself. The
confidence, the inspiration, necessary for leadership, she alone
could bring to him. Each by themselves was incomplete. Together,
they would be the whole. They would build the city of their
dreams.

She seemed to have become a wandering spirit rather than a living
being. She had no sense of time or place. Once she had started,
hearing herself laugh. She was seated at a table, and was talking.
And then she had passed back into forgetfulness. Now, from
somewhere, she was gazing downward. Roofs, domes and towers lay
stretched before her, emerging from a sea of shadows. She held out
her arms towards them and the tears came to her eyes. The poor
tired people were calling to her to join with him to help them.
Should she fail them--turn deaf ears to the myriad because of pity
for one useless, feeble life?

She had been fashioned to be his helpmate, as surely as if she had
been made of the same bone. Nature was at one with God. Spirit
and body both yearned for him. It was not position--power for
herself that she craved. The marriage market--if that had been her
desire: it had always been open to her. She had the gold that
buys these things. Wealth, ambition: they had been offered to
her--spread out temptingly before her eyes. They were always
within her means, if ever she chose to purchase them. It was this
man alone to whom she had ever felt drawn--this man of the people,
with that suggestion about him of something primitive, untamed,
causing her always in his presence that faint, compelling thrill of
fear, who stirred her blood as none of the polished men of her own
class had ever done. His kind, strong, ugly face: it moved beside
her: its fearless, tender eyes now pleading, now commanding.

He needed her. She heard his passionate, low voice, as she had
heard it in the little garden above Meudon: "Because you won't be
there; and without you I can do nothing." What right had this
poor, worn-out shadow to stand between them, to the end? Had love
and life no claims, but only weakness? She had taken all, had
given nothing. It was but reparation she was making. Why stop
her?

She was alone in a maze of narrow, silent streets that ended always
in a high blank wall. It seemed impossible to get away from this
blank wall. Whatever way she turned she was always coming back to
it.

What was she to do? Drag the woman back to life against her will--
lead her back to him to be a chain about his feet until the end?
Then leave him to fight the battle alone?

And herself? All her world had been watching and would know. She
had counted her chickens before they were dead. She had set her
cap at the man, reckoning him already widowed; and his wife had
come to life and snatched it from her head. She could hear the
laughter--the half amused, half contemptuous pity for her "rotten
bad luck." She would be their standing jest, till she was
forgotten.

What would life leave to her? A lonely lodging and a pot of ink
that she would come to hate the smell of. She could never marry.
It would be but her body that she could give to any other man. Not
even for the sake of her dreams could she bring herself to that.
It might have been possible before, but not now. She could have
won the victory over herself, but for hope, that had kindled the
smouldering embers of her passion into flame. What cunning devil
had flung open this door, showing her all her heart's desire,
merely that she should be called upon to slam it to in her own
face?

A fierce anger blazed up in her brain. Why should she listen? Why
had reason been given to us if we were not to use it--weigh good
and evil in the balance and decide for ourselves where lay the
nobler gain? Were we to be led hither and thither like blind
children? What was right--what wrong, but what our own God-given
judgment told us? Was it wrong of the woman to perform this act of
self-renunciation, yielding up all things to love? No, it was
great--heroic of her. It would be her cross of victory, her crown.

If the gift were noble, so also it could not be ignoble to accept
it.

To reject it would be to dishonour it.

She would accept it. The wonder of it should cast out her doubts
and fears. She would seek to make herself worthy of it.
Consecrate it with her steadfastness, her devotion.

She thought it ended. But yet she sat there motionless.

What was plucking at her sleeve--still holding her?

Unknowing, she had entered a small garden. It formed a passage
between two streets, and was left open day and night. It was but a
narrow strip of rank grass and withered shrubs with an asphalte
pathway widening to a circle in the centre, where stood a gas lamp
and two seats, facing one another.

And suddenly it came to her that this was her Garden of Gethsemane;
and a dull laugh broke from her that she could not help. It was
such a ridiculous apology for Gethsemane. There was not a corner
in which one could possibly pray. Only these two iron seats, one
each side of the gaunt gas lamp that glared down upon them. Even
the withered shrubs were fenced off behind a railing. A ragged
figure sprawled upon the bench opposite to her. It snored gently,
and its breath came laden with the odour of cheap whisky.

But it was her Gethsemane: the best that Fate had been able to do
for her. It was here that her choice would be made. She felt
that.

And there rose before her the vision of that other Garden of
Gethsemane with, below it, the soft lights of the city shining
through the trees; and above, clear against the star-lit sky, the
cold, dark cross.

It was only a little cross, hers, by comparison. She could see
that. They seemed to be standing side by side. But then she was
only a woman--little more than a girl. And her courage was so
small. She thought He ought to know that. For her, it was quite a
big cross. She wondered if He had been listening to all her
arguments. There was really a good deal of sense in some of them.
Perhaps He would understand. Not all His prayer had come down to
us. He, too, had put up a fight for life. He, too, was young.
For Him, also, life must have seemed but just beginning. Perhaps
He, too, had felt that His duty still lay among the people--
teaching, guiding, healing them. To Him, too, life must have been
sweet with its noble work, its loving comradeship. Even from Him
the words had to be wrung: "Thy will, not Mine, be done."

She whispered them at last. Not bravely, at all. Feebly,
haltingly, with a little sob: her forehead pressed against the
cold iron seat, as if that could help her.

She thought that even then God might reconsider it--see her point
of view. Perhaps He would send her a sign.

The ragged figure on the bench opposite opened its eyes, stared at
her; then went to sleep again. A prowling cat paused to rub itself
against her foot, but meeting no response, passed on. Through an
open window, somewhere near, filtered the sound of a child's low
whimpering.

It was daylight when she awoke. She was cold and her limbs ached.
Slowly her senses came back to her. The seat opposite was vacant.
The gas lamp showed but a faint blue point of flame. Her dress was
torn, her boots soiled and muddy. Strands of her hair had escaped
from underneath her hat.

She looked at her watch. Fortunately it was still early. She
would be able to let herself in before anyone was up. It was but a
little way. She wondered, while rearranging her hair, what day it
was. She would find out, when she got home, from the newspaper.

In the street she paused a moment and looked back through the
railings. It seemed even still more sordid in the daylight: the
sooty grass and the withered shrubs and the asphalte pathway strewn
with dirty paper. And again a laugh she could not help broke from
her. Her Garden of Gethsemane!

She sent a brief letter round to Phillips, and a telegram to the
nurse, preparing them for what she meant to do. She had just time
to pack a small trunk and catch the morning train. At Folkestone,
she drove first to a house where she herself had once lodged and
fixed things to her satisfaction. The nurse was waiting for her in
the downstairs room, and opened the door to her. She was opposed
to Joan's interference. But Joan had come prepared for that. "Let
me have a talk with her," she said. "I think I've found out what
it is that is causing all the trouble."

The nurse shot her a swift glance. "I'm glad of that," she said
dryly. She let Joan go upstairs.

Mrs. Phillips was asleep. Joan seated herself beside the bed and
waited. She had not yet made herself up for the day and the dyed
hair was hidden beneath a white, close-fitting cap. The pale, thin
face with its closed eyes looked strangely young. Suddenly the
thin hands clasped, and her lips moved, as if she were praying in
her sleep. Perhaps she also was dreaming of Gethsemane. It must
be quite a crowded garden, if only we could see it.

After a while, her eyes opened. Joan drew her chair nearer and
slipped her arm in under her, and their eyes met.

"You're not playing the game," whispered Joan, shaking her head.
"I only promised on condition that you would try to get well."

The woman made no attempt to deny. Something told her that Joan
had learned her secret. She glanced towards the door. Joan had
closed it.

"Don't drag me back," she whispered. "It's all finished." She
raised herself up and put her arms about Joan's neck. "It was hard
at first, and I hated you. And then it came to me that this was
what I had been wanting to do, all my life--something to help him,
that nobody else could do. Don't take it from me."

"I know," whispered Joan. "I've been there, too. I knew you were
doing it, though I didn't quite know how--till the other day. I
wouldn't think. I wanted to pretend that I didn't. I know all you
can say. I've been listening to it. It was right of you to want
to give it all up to me for his sake. But it would be wrong of me
to take it. I don't quite see why. I can't explain it. But I
mustn't. So you see it would be no good."

"But I'm so useless," pleaded the woman.

"I said that," answered Joan. "I wanted to do it and I talked and
talked, so hard. I said everything I could think of. But that was
the only answer: I mustn't do it."

They remained for a while with their arms round one another. It
struck Joan as curious, even at the time, that all feeling of
superiority had gone out of her. They might have been two puzzled
children that had met one another on a path that neither knew. But
Joan was the stronger character.

"I want you to give me up that box," she said, "and to come away
with me where I can be with you and take care of you until you are
well."

Mrs. Phillips made yet another effort. "Have you thought about
him?" she asked.

Joan answered with a faint smile. "Oh, yes," she said. "I didn't
forget that argument in case it hadn't occurred to the Lord."

"Perhaps," she added, "the helpmate theory was intended to apply
only to our bodies. There was nothing said about our souls.
Perhaps God doesn't have to work in pairs. Perhaps we were meant
to stand alone."

Mrs. Phillips's thin hands were playing nervously with the bed
clothes. There still seemed something that she had to say. As if
Joan hadn't thought of everything. Her eyes were fixed upon the
narrow strip of light between the window curtains.

"You don't think you could, dear," she whispered, "if I didn't do
anything wicked any more. But just let things take their course."

"You see, dear," she went on, her face still turned away, "I
thought it all finished. It will be hard for me to go back to him,
knowing as I do now that he doesn't want me. I shall always feel
that I am in his way. And Hilda," she added after a pause, "she
will hate me."

Joan looked at the white patient face and was silent. What would
be the use of senseless contradiction. The woman knew. It would
only seem an added stab of mockery. She knelt beside the bed, and
took the thin hands in hers.

"I think God must want you very badly," she said, "or He wouldn't
have laid so heavy a cross upon you. You will come?"

The woman did not answer in words. The big tears were rolling down
her cheeks. There was no paint to mingle with and mar them. She
drew the little metal box from under the pillow and gave it into
Joan's hands.

Joan crept out softly from the room.

The nurse was standing by the window. She turned sharply on Joan's
entrance. Joan slipped the box into her hands.

The nurse raised the lid. "What a fool I've been," she said. "I
never thought of that."

She held out a large strong hand and gave Joan a longish grip.
"You're right," she said, "we must get her out of this house at
once. Forgive me."

Phillips had been called up north and wired that he would not be
able to get down till the Wednesday evening. Joan met him at the
station.

"She won't be expecting you, just yet," she explained. "We might
have a little walk."

She waited till they had reached a quiet road leading to the hills.

"You will find her changed," she said. "Mentally, I mean. Though
she will try not to show it. She was dying for your sake--to set
you free. Hilda seems to have had a talk with her and to have
spared her no part of the truth. Her great love for you made the
sacrifice possible and even welcome. It was the one gift she had
in her hands. She was giving it gladly, proudly. So far as she
was concerned, it would have been kinder to let her make an end of
it. But during the last few days I have come to the conclusion
there is a law within us that we may not argue with. She is coming
back to life, knowing you no longer want her, that she is only in
the way. Perhaps you may be able to think of something to say or
do that will lessen her martyrdom. I can't."

They had paused where a group of trees threw a blot of shadow
across the moonlit road.

"You mean she was killing herself?" he asked.

"Quite cleverly. So as to avoid all danger of after discovery:
that might have hurt us," she answered.

They walked in silence, and coming to a road that led back into the
town, he turned down it. She had the feeling she was following him
without his knowing it. A cab was standing outside the gate of a
house, having just discharged its fare. He seemed to have suddenly
recollected her.

"Do you mind?" he said. "We shall get there so much quicker."

"You go," she said. "I'll stroll on quietly."

"You're sure?" he said.

"I would rather," she answered.

It struck her that he was relieved. He gave the man the address,
speaking hurriedly, and jumped in.

She had gone on. She heard the closing of the door behind her, and
the next moment the cab passed her.

She did not see him again that night. They met in the morning at
breakfast. A curious strangeness to each other seemed to have
grown up between them, as if they had known one another long ago,
and had half forgotten. When they had finished she rose to leave;
but he asked her to stop, and, after the table had been cleared, he
walked up and down the room, while she sat sideways on the window
seat from where she could watch the little ships moving to and fro
across the horizon, like painted figures in a show.

"I had a long talk with Nan last night," he said. "And, trying to
explain it to her, I came a little nearer to understanding it
myself. My love for you would have been strong enough to ruin both
of us. I see that now. It would have dominated every other
thought in me. It would have swallowed up my dreams. It would
have been blind, unscrupulous. Married to you, I should have aimed
only at success. It would not have been your fault. You would not
have known. About mere birth I should never have troubled myself.
I've met daughters of a hundred earls--more or less: clever, jolly
little women I could have chucked under the chin and have been
chummy with. Nature creates her own ranks, and puts her ban upon
misalliances. Every time I took you in my arms I should have felt
that you had stepped down from your proper order to mate yourself
with me and that it was up to me to make the sacrifice good to you
by giving you power--position. Already within the last few weeks,
when it looked as if this thing was going to be possible, I have
been thinking against my will of a compromise with Carleton that
would give me his support. This coming election was beginning to
have terrors for me that I have never before felt. The thought of
defeat--having to go back to comparative poverty, to comparative
obscurity, with you as my wife, was growing into a nightmare. I
should have wanted wealth, fame, victory, for your sake--to see you
honoured, courted, envied, finely dressed and finely housed--
grateful to me for having won for you these things. It wasn't
honest, healthy love--the love that unites, that makes a man
willing to take as well as to give, that I felt for you; it was
worship that separates a man from a woman, that puts fear between
them. It isn't good that man should worship a woman. He can't
serve God and woman. Their interests are liable to clash. Nan's
my helpmate--just a loving woman that the Lord brought to me and
gave me when I was alone--that I still love. I didn't know it till
last night. She will never stand in my way. I haven't to put her
against my duty. She will leave me free to obey the voice that
calls to me. And no man can hear that voice but himself."

He had been speaking in a clear, self-confident tone, as if at last
he saw his road before him to the end; and felt that nothing else
mattered but that he should go forward hopefully, unfalteringly.
Now he paused, and his eyes wandered. But the lines about his
strong mouth deepened.

"Perhaps, I am not of the stuff that conquerors are made," he went
on. "Perhaps, if I were, I should be thinking differently. It
comes to me sometimes that I may be one of those intended only to
prepare the way--that for me there may be only the endless
struggle. I may have to face unpopularity, abuse, failure. She
won't mind."

"Nor would you," he added, turning to her suddenly for the first
time, "I know that. But I should be afraid--for you."

She had listened to him without interrupting, and even now she did
not speak for a while.

It was hard not to. She wanted to tell him that he was all wrong--
at least, so far as she was concerned. It. was not the conqueror
she loved in him; it was the fighter. Not in the hour of triumph
but in the hour of despair she would have yearned to put her arms
about him. "Unpopularity, abuse, failure," it was against the fear
of such that she would have guarded him. Yes, she had dreamed of
leadership, influence, command. But it was the leadership of the
valiant few against the hosts of the oppressors that she claimed.
Wealth, honours! Would she have given up a life of ease, shut
herself off from society, if these had been her standards?
"Mesalliance!" Had the male animal no instinct, telling it when it
was loved with all a woman's being, so that any other union would
be her degradation.

It was better for him he should think as he did. She rose and held
out her hand.

"I will stay with her for a little while," she said. "Till I feel
there is no more need. Then I must get back to work."

He looked into her eyes, holding her hand, and she felt his body
trembling. She knew he was about to speak, and held up a warning
hand.

"That's all, my lad," she said with a smile. "My love to you, and
God speed you."

Mrs. Phillips progressed slowly but steadily. Life was returning
to her, but it was not the same. Out of those days there had come
to her a gentle dignity, a strengthening and refining. The face,
now pale and drawn, had lost its foolishness. Under the thin,
white hair, and in spite of its deep lines, it had grown younger.
A great patience, a child-like thoughtfulness had come into the
quiet eyes.

She was sitting by the window, her hands folded. Joan had been
reading to her, and the chapter finished, she had closed the book
and her thoughts had been wandering. Mrs. Phillips's voice
recalled them.

"Do you remember that day, my dear," she said, "when we went
furnishing together. And I would have all the wrong things. And
you let me."

"Yes," answered Joan with a laugh. "They were pretty awful, some
of them."

"I was just wondering," she went on. "It was a pity, wasn't it? I
was silly and began to cry."

"I expect that was it," Joan confessed. "It interferes with our
reason at times."

"It was only a little thing, of course, that," she answered. "But
I've been thinking it must be that that's at the bottom of it all;
and that is why God lets there be weak things--children and little
animals and men and women in pain, that we feel sorry for, so that
people like you and Robert and so many others are willing to give
up all your lives to helping them. And that is what He wants."

"Perhaps God cannot help there being weak things," answered Joan.
"Perhaps He, too, is sorry for them."

"It comes to the same thing, doesn't it, dear?" she answered.
"They are there, anyhow. And that is how He knows those who are
willing to serve Him: by their being pitiful."

They fell into a silence. Joan found herself dreaming.

Yes, it was true. It must have been the beginning of all things.
Man, pitiless, deaf, blind, groping in the darkness, knowing not
even himself. And to her vision, far off, out of the mist, he
shaped himself before her: that dim, first standard-bearer of the
Lord, the man who first felt pity. Savage, brutish, dumb--lonely
there amid the desolation, staring down at some hurt creature, man
or beast it mattered not, his dull eyes troubled with a strange new
pain he understood not.

And suddenly, as he stooped, there must have come a great light
into his eyes.

Man had heard God's voice across the deep, and had made answer.

CHAPTER XV

The years that followed--till, like some shipwrecked swimmer to
whom returning light reveals the land, she felt new life and hopes
come back to her--always remained in her memory vague, confused; a
jumble of events, thoughts, feelings, without sequence or
connection.

She had gone down to Liverpool, intending to persuade her father to
leave the control of the works to Arthur, and to come and live with
her in London; but had left without broaching the subject. There
were nights when she would trapse the streets till she would almost
fall exhausted, rather than face the solitude awaiting her in her
own rooms. But so also there were moods when, like some stricken
animal, her instinct was to shun all living things. At such times
his presence, for all his loving patience, would have been as a
knife in her wound. Besides, he would always be there, when escape
from herself for a while became an absolute necessity. More and
more she had come to regard him as her comforter. Not from
anything he ever said or did. Rather, it seemed to her, because
that with him she felt no need of words.

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