Part 2 out of 9
"You always like to be near him, and your favourite attitude is with
your hand on his shoulder."
"So many people have noticed that. Yes, I am very fond of father. We
were always very fond of each other, but now we are more like pals than
father and daughter."
He encouraged her to talk of herself, to tell him the story of her
childhood, and how she and her father formed this great friendship.
Evelyn's story of her mother's death would have interested him if he had
been able to bestow sufficient attention upon it, but the intricacy of
the intrigue he was entering upon engrossed his thoughts. There were her
love of her father, her duty towards him, and her piety to be overcome.
Against these three considerable influences there were her personal
ambition and her love of him. A very evenly matched game, he thought,
and for nothing in the world would he have missed this love adventure.
At that moment the words, "A few days later she died," caught on his
ear. So he called all the sorrow and reverence he could into his eyes,
sighed, and raised his eyebrows expressing such philosophic resignation
in our mortal lot as might suffice to excuse a change in the
"That is the picture gallery," Evelyn said, pointing to a low brick
building, almost hidden at the back of a well-kept garden. The
unobtrusive doorway was covered with a massive creeper, just beginning
to emerge from it's winter's rust. "Do you care to go in?" she said
"You know the pictures so well, I am afraid they will bore you."
"No, I should like to see them with you."
He could see that her aesthetic taste had been absorbed by music, and
that pictures meant nothing to her, but they meant a great deal to him,
and, unable to resist the temptation, he said--"Let us go in for a
little while, though it does seem a pity to waste this beautiful Spring
There was an official who took her parasol and his cane, and they were
impressed by the fact of having to write their names side by side in the
book--Sir Owen Asher, Evelyn Innes.
On pushing through the swing-door, they found themselves in a small room
hung with the Dutch school. There were other rooms, some four or five,
opening one into the other, and lighted so that the light fell sideways
on to the pictures. Owen praised the architecture. It was, he said, the
most perfectly-constructed little gallery he had ever seen, and he ought
to know, for he had seen every gallery in Europe. But he had not been
here for many years and had quite forgotten it. "A veritable radiation
of masterpieces," he said, stepping aside to see one. But the girl was
the greater attraction, and only half satisfied he returned to her, and
when the attraction of the pictures grew irresistible he tried to engage
her attention in their beauties, so that he might be allowed to enjoy
them. To his surprise and pleasure the remarks he had hazarded provoked
an extraordinary interest in her, and she begged of him to tell her more
about the paintings. He was not without suspicion that the pictures were
a secondary interest; but as it was clear that to hear him talk excited
her admiration, he favoured her with all he knew regarding the Dutch
school. She followed attentive as a peahen, he spreading a gorgeous tail
of accumulated information. He asked if the dark background in Cuyp's
picture, "The White Horse and the Riding School," was not admirable? And
that old woman peeling onions in her little kitchen, painted by a modern
would be realistic and vulgar; but the Dutchman knew that by light and
shade the meanest subject could be made as romantic as a fairy tale. As
dreamers and thinkers they did not compare with the Italians, but as
painters they were equal to any. They were the first to introduce the
trivialities of daily life into Art--the toil of the field, the gross
pleasures of the tavern. "Look at these boors drinking; they are by
Ostade. Are they not admirably drawn and painted? "Brick-making in a
Landscape, by Teniers the younger." Won't you look at this? How
beautiful! How interesting is its grey sky! Here are a set of pictures
by Wouvermans--pictures of hawking. Here is a Brouwer, a very rare Dutch
master, a very fine example too. And here is a Gerard Dow. Miss Innes,
will you look at this composition? Is it not admirable? That rich
curtain hung across the room, how beautifully painted, how sonorous in
"Ah! she's playing a virginal!" said Evelyn, suddenly. "She is like me,
playing and thinking of other things. You can see she is not thinking of
the music. She is thinking ... she is thinking of the world outside."
This pleased him, and he said, "Yes, I suppose it is like your life; it
is full of the same romance and mystery."
"What romance, what mystery? Tell me."
They sat down on the bench in the third room, opposite the colonnade by
Watteau, to which his thoughts frequently went, while telling her how,
when cruising among the Greek Islands, he had often seen her, sometimes
sitting in the music-room playing the virginal, sometimes walking in the
ornamental park under a wet, grey sky, a somewhat desolate figure
hurrying through shadows of storm.
"How strange you should think all that. It is quite true. I often walked
in that hateful park."
"You will never be able to stand another winter in Dulwich."
She raised her eyes, and he noticed with an inward glee their little
"I thought of you in that ornamental park watching London from the crest
of the hill; and I thought of London--great, unconscious London--waiting
to be awakened with the chime of your voice."
She turned her head aside, overcome by his praise, and he exulted,
seeing the soft rose tint mount into the whiteness of her face.
"You must not say such things to me. How you do know how to praise!"
"You don't realise how wonderful you are."
"You should not say such things, for if they are not true, I shall be so
"Of course they are true," he said, hushing his voice; and in his
exultation there was a savour of cruelty. "You don't realise how
wonderful your story is. As I sailed through the Greek Isles, I thought
less and less of that horrid, red-haired woman; your face, dim at first,
grew clearer and clearer.... All my thoughts, all things converged to
you and were absorbed in you, until, one day on the deck, I felt that
you were unhappy; the knowledge came, how and whence I know not; I only
know that the impulse to return was irresistible. I called to the
skipper, and told him to put her head about."
"Then you did think of me whilst you were away?"
Evelyn looked at him with her soft, female eyes, and meeting his keen,
bright, male eyes, she drew away from him with a little dread.
Immediately after, this sensation of dread gave way to a delicious joy;
an irresponsible joy deep down in her heart, a joy so intimate that she
was thankful to know that none could know it but herself.
Her woman's instinct told her that many women had loved him. She
suspected that the little lilt in his voice, and the glance that
accompanied it, were the relics of an old love affair. She hoped it was
not a survival of Georgina.
"It must be nearly one o'clock. It is time for you to come to talk to
father about the Greek hymn."
"Let's look at this picture first--'The Fete beneath the Colonnade'--it
is one of the most beautiful things in the world."
Sipping her coffee, her feet on the fender, she abandoned herself to
memories of the afternoon. She had been to the Carmelite Church in
Kensington, to hear the music of a new and very realistic Belgian
composer; and, walking down the High Street after Mass, she and Owen had
argued his artistic intentions. At the end of the High Street, he had
proposed that they should walk in the Gardens. The broad walk was full
of the colour of Spring and its perfume, the thick grass was like a
carpet beneath their feet; they had lingered by a pond, and she had
watched the little yachts, carrying each a portent of her own success or
failure. The Albert Hall curved over the tops of the trees, and sheep
strayed through the deep May grass in Arcadian peacefulness; but the
most vivid impression was when they had come upon a lawn stretching
gently to the water's edge. Owen had feared the day was too cold for
sitting out, but at that moment the sun contradicted him with a broad,
warm gleam. He had fetched two chairs from a pile stacked under a tree,
and sitting on that lawn, swept by the shadow of softly moving trees,
they had talked an hour or more. The scene came back to her as she sat
looking into the fire. She saw the Spring, easily victorious amid the
low bushes, capturing the rough branches of the elms one by one, and the
distant slopes of the park, grey like a piece of faded tapestry. And as
in a tapestry, the ducks came through the mist in long, pulsing flight,
and when the day cleared the pea fowl were seen across the water,
sunning themselves on the high branches. While watching the spectacle of
the Spring, Owen had talked to Evelyn about herself, and now their
entire conversation floated back, transposed into a higher key.
"I want your life to be a great success."
"Do you think anyone's life can be that?"
"That is a long discussion; if we seek the bottom of things, none is
less futile than another. But what passes for success, wealth and
renown, are easily within your reach.... If it be too much trouble to
raise your hand, let me shake the branches, and they'll fall into your
"I wonder if they would seem as precious to me when I had got them as
they do now. Once I did not know what it was to despond, but I lost my
pupils last winter, and everything seemed hopeless. I am not vain or
egotistic; I do not pine for applause and wealth, but I should like to
sing.... I've heard so much about my voice that I'm curious to know what
people will think of it."
"Once I was afraid that you were without ambition, and were content to
live unknown, a little suburban legend, a suburban might-have-been."
"That was long ago.... I've been thinking about myself a great deal
lately. Something seems always crying within me, 'You're wasting your
life; you must become a great singer and shine like a star in the
"That is the voice of vocation speaking within you, a voice that may not
be disobeyed. It is what the swallows feel when the time for departure
"Ah, yes, what the swallows feel."
"A yearning for that which one has never known, for distant places, for
the sunshine which instinct tells us we must breathe."
"Oh, yes, that is it. I used to feel all that in the afternoons in that
ornamental park. I used to stop in my walk, for I seemed to see far
away, to perceive dimly as in a dream, another country."
"And since I came back have you wished to go away?"
"No ... for you come to see me, and when I go out with you I'm amused."
"I'm afraid I do little to amuse you."
"You do a great deal--you lend me books. I never cared to read, now I'm
very fond of reading--and I think more."
"Of what do you think?"
"You see, I never met anyone like you before. You've travelled; you've
seen everything; you know everything and everyone. When you come I seem
to see in you all the grand world of fashion."
"Which you used to see far away as in a dream?"
"No, the world of fashion I did not think of till I saw you. Since you
came back I have thought of it a little. You seem to express it somehow
in your look and dress; and the men who nodded to you in Piccadilly, and
the women who bowed to you, all wore the same look, and when they spoke
they seemed to know all about you--where you were last summer, and where
you are going to spend this autumn. Their friends are your friends;
you're all like one family."
"You're very observant. I never noticed the things you speak of, but no
doubt it is so. But society is ready to receive you; society, believe
me, is most anxious for you."
After some pause she heard him say--
"But you must not delay to go abroad and study."
"Tell me, do you think the concerts will ever pay?"
"No, not in the sense of your requirements. Evelyn, since you ask me, I
must speak the truth. Those concerts may come to pay their expenses,
with a little over, but it is the veriest delusion to imagine that they
will bring enough money to take you and your father abroad. Moreover,
your father would have to resign his position at St. Joseph's, where he
is required; there his mission is. It is painful for me to tell you
these things, but I cannot see you waste your life."
"What you say is quite true.... I've known it all along."
"Only you have shut your eyes to it."
"Yes, that's it."
"Don't look so frightened, Evelyn. It was better that you should be
brought face to face with the truth. You'll have to go abroad and
"And my father! Don't advise me to leave him. I couldn't do that."
"Why make my task more difficult than it is? I wish to be honest. I
should speak just the same, believe me, if your father were present. Is
not our first duty towards ourselves? The rest is vague and uncertain,
the development of our own faculties is, after all, that which is most
sure.... I'm uttering no paradox when I say that we serve others best by
considering our own interests. Let us suppose that you sacrifice
yourself, that you dedicate your life to your father, that you do all
that conventional morality says you should do. You look after his house,
you sing at his concerts, you give music lessons. Ten, fifteen years
pass, and then, remembering what might have been, but what is no longer
possible, you forgive him, and he, overcome with remorse for the wrong
he did you, sinks into the grave broken-hearted."
"I should at least have the satisfaction of knowing that I had done my
"Words, Evelyn, words. Take your life into your keeping, go abroad and
study, come back a great success."
"He would never forgive me."
"You do not think so.... Evelyn, you do not believe that."
"But even if I wished to leave home, I could not. Where should I get the
money? You have not thought what it would cost."
"Have you forgotten the knight that came to release the sleeping beauty
of the woods from her bondage? Fifteen hundred or two thousand pounds
would be ample. I can easily afford it."
"But I cannot afford to accept it. Father would not allow me."
"You can pay it all back."
"Yes, I could do that. But why don't you offer to help father instead?"
"Why are you what you are? Why am I interested in you?"
"If I went abroad to study, I should not see you again for a long
"I could go to Paris."
She did not remember what answer she had made, if she had made any
answer, but as she leaned forward and stirred the fire, she saw his
hands, their strength and comeliness, the kindliness of his eyes. She
was not sure that he was fond of, but she thought that she could make
him like her. At that moment he seemed to take her in his arms and kiss
her, and the illusion was so vivid that she was taken in an instant's
swoon, and shuddered through her entire flesh. When her thoughts
returned she found herself thinking of a volume of verses which had come
to be mentioned as they walked through the Gardens. He had told her of
the author, a Persian poet who had lived in a rose-garden a thousand
years ago. He had compared life to a rose, an exquisite flower to be
caught in the hand and enjoyed for a passionate moment, and had recited
many of the verses, and she had listened, enchanted by the rapid
interchange of sorrow, and gladness, and lofty resignation before the
inevitable. Often it seemed as if her own soul were speaking in the
verses. "So do not refuse to accept the flowers and fruit that hang in
reach of your hands, for to-morrow you may be where there are none....
The caravan will have reached the nothing it set out from.... Surely the
potter will not toss to hell the pots he marred in the making." She
started from her reverie, and suddenly grew aware of his very words,
"However we may strive to catch a glimpse of to-morrow, we must fall
back on to-day as the only solid ground we have to stand on, though it
be slipping momentarily from under our feet." She recalled the
intonation of his sigh as he spoke of the inscrutable nature of things,
and she wondered if he, too, with all his friends and possessions, was
unhappy. She seemed to have exhausted her thoughts about him, and in the
silence of her mind, her self came up for consideration.... Owen
intended to ask her to go away with him; but he did not intend to marry
her. It was shocking to think that he could be so wicked, and then with
a thrill of pleasure that it would be much more exciting to run away
with him than to be married to him by Father Railston. But how very
wicked of her to think such things, and she was frightened to find that
she could not think differently; and with sensations of an elopement
clattering in her brain, she sat still striving to restrain her
On leaving her at Victoria, he had walked down the Buckingham Palace
Road, not quite knowing where he was going. Suddenly an idea struck him.
He put up his stick, stopped a hansom, and drove to Georgina; for he was
curious to see what impression she would make upon him. He spent an hour
with her, and returned to Berkeley Square to dine alone. He was sure
that he cared no more for Georgina, that she was less than nothing to
him. He dismissed her from his thoughts, and fixed them on Evelyn. He
had said he would send her a book. It stood next to his hand, on the
shelf by the round table where he wrote his articles. After dinner, he
would walk from the dining-room into the library, take down the volume
and pack it up, leaving orders that it should be sent off by the first
When man ceased to capture women, he reflected, man invented art whereby
he might win them. The first melody blown through a reed pipe was surely
intended for woman's ears. The first verses were composed in a like
intention. Afterwards man began to take an interest in art for its own
sake.... Women, having no necessity for art, have not been artists. The
idea amused him, and he remembered that while Evelyn's romantic eyes and
gold hair were sufficient to win his regard, he had availed himself of a
dozen devices to tempt her. Suddenly his face grew grave, and he asked
himself how this flirtation was to end. As a sufficient excuse for
seeing her he was taking music lessons; he wrote to her every other day
and often sent her books and music. They had met in London.... He had
been observed walking with her, and at Lady Ascott's lunch the
conversation had suddenly turned on a tall girl with gold hair and an
undulating walk. Pointed observations had been made.... Lady Lovedale
had looked none too well pleased. He didn't wish to be cynical, but he
did want to know whether he was going to fall in love?... They had now
arrived at that point when love-making or an interruption in their
intimacy was imperative. He did not regret having offered her the money
to go abroad to study, it was well he should have done so, but he should
not have said, "But _I'll_ go to see you in Paris." She was a clever
girl, and knew as well as he how such adventures must end.... She was a
religious girl, a devout Catholic, and as he had himself been brought
up in that religion, he knew how it restrained the sexual passion or
fashioned it in the mould of its dogma. But we are animals first, we are
religious animals afterwards. Religious defences must yield before the
pressure of the more original instinct, unless, indeed, hers was a
merely sexual conscience. The lowest forms of Anglicanism are reduced to
perceiving conscience nowhere except in sex. The Catholic was more
concerned with matters of faith. Not in France, Italy or Spain did
Catholicism enter so largely into the private life of the individual as
it did in England. The foreign, or to be more exact, the native Catholic
had worn the yoke till it fitted loose on his shoulders. His was a more
eclectic Christianity; he took what suited him and left the rest. But in
England Romanism had never shaken itself free from the Anglican
conscience. The convert never acquired the humanities of Rome, and in
addition the lover had to contend against the confessional. But in
Evelyn's case he could set against the confessional the delirium of
success, the joy of art, the passion of emulation, jealousy and
ambition, and last, but far from least, the ache of her own passionate
body. Remembering the fear and humility with which he had been used to
approach the priest, and the terror of eternal fire in which he had
waited for him to pronounce absolution, Owen paused to think how far
such belief was from him now. Yet he had once believed--in a way. He
wondered at the survival of such a belief in the nineteenth century, and
asked himself if confession were not inveterate in man. The artist in
his studio, the writer in his study, strive to tell their soul's secret;
the peasant throws himself at the feet of the priest, for, like them, he
would unburden himself of that terrible weight of inwardness which is
man. Is not the most mendacious mistress often taken with the desire of
confession ... the wish to reveal herself? Upon this bed rock of human
nature the confessional has been built. And Owen admired the humanity of
Rome. Rome was terribly human. No Church, he reflected, was so human.
Her doctrine may seem at times quaint, medieval, even gross, but when
tested by the only test that can be applied, power to reach to human
needs, and administer consolation to the greatest number, the most
obtuse-minded cannot fail to see that Rome easily distances her rivals.
Her dogma and ceremonial are alike conceived in extraordinary sympathy
with man's common nature....
Our lives are enveloped in mystery, the scientist concedes that, and the
woof of which the stuff of life is woven is shot through with many a
thread of unknown origin, untraceable to any earthly shuttle. There is a
mystery, and in the elucidation of that mystery man never tires; the
Sovereign Pontiff and the humblest crystal gazer are engaged in the same
adventure. The mystery is so intense, and lives so intimately in all,
that Rome dared to come forward with a complete explanation. And her
necessarily perfunctory explanation she drapes in a ritual so
magnificent, that even the philosopher ceases to question, and pauses
abashed by the grandeur of the symbolism. High Mass in its own home,
under the arches of a Gothic cathedral, appealed alike to the loftiest
and humblest intelligence. Owen paused to think if there was not
something vulgar in the parade of the Mass. A simple prayer breathed by
a burdened heart in secret awaked a more immediate and intimate response
in him. That was Anglicanism. Perhaps he preferred Anglicanism. The
truth was, he was deficient in the religious instinct.
Awaking from his reverie, he raised himself from the mantelpiece against
which he was leaning. Never had he thought so brilliantly, and he
regretted that no magical stenographer should be there to register his
thoughts as they passed. But they were gone.... Resuming his position
against the mantelpiece, he continued his interrupted train of thoughts.
There would be the priest's interdiction ... unless, indeed, he could
win Evelyn to agnosticism. In his own case he could imagine a sort of
religious agnosticism. But is a woman capable of such a serene
contemplation and comprehension of the mystery, which perforce we must
admit envelops us, and which often seems charged with murmurs,
recollections and warnings of the under world? Does not woman need the
grosser aid of dogma to raise her sensual nature out of complete
abjection? But all this was very metaphysical. The probability was that
Evelyn would lead the life of the ordinary prima donna until she was
fifty, that she would then retire to a suburb in receipt of a handsome
income, and having nothing to do, she would begin to think again of the
state of her soul. The line of her chin deflected; some would call it a
weak chin, but he had observed the same in men of genius--her father,
for instance. None could be more resolute than he in the pursuance of
his ideas. The mother's thin, stubborn mouth must find expression
somewhere in her daughter. But where? Evelyn's mouth was thin and it
drooped at the ends.... But she was only twenty; at five-and-twenty, at
thirty, she might be possessed by new ideas, new passions.... The moment
we look into life and examine the weft a little, what a mystery it
becomes, how occult the design, and out of what impenetrable darkness
the shuttle passes, weaving a strange pattern, harmonious in a way, and
yet deducible to none of our laws! This little adventure, the little
fact of his becoming Evelyn's lover, was sown with every eventuality....
If, instead of his winning her to agnosticism, she should win him to
Rome! They then would have to separate or marry, otherwise they would
burn in hell for ever.
But he would never be fool enough as to accept such a story as that
again. That God should concern himself at all in our affairs was
strange enough, that he should do so seemed little creditable to him,
but that he should manage us to the extent of the mere registration of a
cohabitation in the parish books was--. Owen flung out his arms in an
admirable gesture of despair, and crossed the room. After a while he
returned to the fireplace calmer, and he considered the question anew.
By no means did he deny the existence of conscience; his own was
particularly exact on certain points. In money matters he believed
himself to be absolutely straight. He had never even sold a friend a
horse knowing it to be unsound; and he had always avoided--no, not
making love to his friends' wives (to whose wives are you to make love
if not to your friends'?)--he had avoided making women unhappy. But much
more than in morals his conscience found expression in art. That Evelyn
should use her voice except for the interpretation of masterpieces would
shock him quite as much as an elopement would shock the worthy Fathers
of St. Joseph's. He smiled at his thoughts, and remembered that it was
through fear of not making a woman happy that he had not married. He
hated unhappiness. His wish had always been to see people happy. Was not
that why he wished to go away with Evelyn? A particularly foolish woman
had once told him that she liked going out hunting because she liked to
see people amused.... He did not pretend to such altruism as hers, and
he remembered how he used to watch for her at the window as she came
across the square with her dog. But Evelyn was quite different. He could
not have her to luncheon or tea, and send her back to her father.
Somehow, it would not seem fair to her. No; he must break with her, or
they must go away together. Which was it to be? Mrs. Hartrick had
written three times that week! And there was Lady Lovedale. She had
promised to come to tea on Friday. Was he going to renounce the list, or
was he going to put all his eggs in one basket? The list promised much
agreeable intercourse, but it was wholly lacking in unexpectedness. He
had been through it all before, and knew how each story would end. In
mutual indifference or in a tiff because he wearied of accompanying her
to all racecourses and all theatres. Another would pretend that her
husband was jealous, and that she daren't come to see him any more. But
Evelyn would be quite different. In her case, he could not see further
than driving to Charing Cross and getting into the mail train for Paris.
She was worth the list, not a doubt of it. If he were only sure that he
loved her, he would not hesitate. He was interested in her, he admired
her, but did he love her? A genuine passion alone would make an
One of his moralities was that a man who did not love his mistress was a
beast, and that a man who loved a woman who wasn't, was a fool. Another
was that although every man of the world knew a _liaison_ would not
last for ever, he should not begin one unless it seemed as if it were
going to. In other words, you should not be able to see the end before
you began. But he had never even kissed Evelyn, and it was impossible
even to guess, even approximately, if you were going to like a girl
before you had kissed her. There could be no harm in kissing her. Then,
if he was sure he loved her, they might go away together. Of course,
there were hypocrites who would say that he had seduced her, that he had
ruined her, robbed Mr. Innes of his only daughter. But he was not
concerned with conventional, but with real morality. If he did not go
away with her, what would happen? He had told her the truth in the park
that morning, and he believed every word he had said.... If she did not
leave her father she would learn to hate him. It was terrible to think
of, but it was so, and nothing could change it. He tried to recall his
exact words, and easily imagined her father stricken with remorse, and
Evelyn looking across the table, hating him in spite of herself. But if
he could persuade her to leave him for two years he would engage to
bring her back a great singer. And what an interest it would be to watch
the development of that voice, surely the most beautiful soprano he had
ever heard! She might begin with "Margaret" and "Norma," if she liked,
for in singing these popular operas she would acquire the whole of her
voice, and also the great reputation which should precede and herald the
final stage of her career. "Isolde," "Brunnhilde," "Kundry," Wagner's
finest works, had remained unsung--they en merely howled. Evelyn should
be the first to sing them. His eyes glowed with subdued passion as he
thought of an afternoon, some three years hence, in the great theatre
planned by the master himself, when he should see her rush in as the
Witch Kundry. The marvellous evocation of Arabia flashed upon him....
Would he ever hear her sing it?... Yes, if she would consent to go away
with him he would hear her sing it. But would she go away with him? Her
love of her father, and her religion, might prevent her.... She might
not even care for him.... She might be thinking of marrying him. Was it
possible that she was such a fool! What good would it do her to marry
him? She could not go on the stage as Lady Asher. Lady Asher as Kundry!
Could anything be more grotesque? How beset life was with difficulties!
Without her vocation she was no longer the Evelyn Innes he was in love
with.... Someone else, a pretty, interesting girl, the daughter of a
suburban organist. To marry her now would be to ruin her. But he might
marry her five or six years hence, for there was no reason why she
should continue singing "Isolde" and "Brunnhilde" till she had no shred
of voice left. When she had established a standard she would have
achieved her mission, then it would be for others to maintain the
standard. In the full blaze of her glory she might become Lady Asher. He
would have to end his life somehow, that way as well as another. Five
years are a long while--anything might happen. She might leave him for
someone else ... anything--anything--anything might happen. It was
impossible to divine the turn human lives would take. The simple fact of
his elopement contained a dozen different stories in germ. Each would
find opportunities of development; they would struggle for mastery;
which would succeed?... Keep women you couldn't; he had long ago found
out that. Marry them, and they came to hate the way you walked across
the room; remain their lover, and they jilted you at the end of six
months. He had hardly ever heard of a _liaison_ lasting more than a year
or eighteen months, and Evelyn would meet all the nicest men in Europe.
All Europe would be his rival--really it would be better to give her
up.... She was the kind of woman who, if she once let herself go, would
play the devil. Turning from the fire he looked into the glass.... He
admitted to eight-and-thirty, he was forty--a very well-preserved forty.
There were times when he did not look more than five-and-thirty. His
hair was paler than it used to be; it was growing a little thin on the
forehead, otherwise he was the same as when he was five-and-twenty. But
he was forty, and a man of forty cannot marry a prima donna of twenty.
Five pleasant years they might have together, five delicious years; it
were vain to expect more. But he would not get her to go away with him
under a promise of marriage; all such deception he held to be as
dishonourable as cheating at cards. So in their next interview it would
have to be suggested that there could be no question of marriage, at
least for the present. At the same time he would have her understand
that he intended to shirk no responsibility. But if he were to tire of
her! That was another possibility, and a hateful one; he would prefer
that she should jilt him. Perhaps it would be better to give her up, and
throw his fate in with the list. But he was tired of country houses,
with or without a _liaison_, and felt that he could not go through
another season's hunting; he had no horses that suited him, and didn't
seem to be able to find any. To go abroad with Evelyn, watch over the
cultivation of her voice, see her fame rising, that was his mission! The
only question to decide was whether he was in love with her. He would
not hesitate a moment if he were only sure of that. He thought of the
women he knew. Georgina was the first to come up in his mind. He had
been to see her, and had come away at a loss to understand what he had
ever seen in her. She had struck him as vulgar and middle-class, sly,
with a taste for intrigue. He remembered that was how she had struck him
when he first saw her. But if anyone had described her as vulgar and
middle-class six months ago. Good heavens!
The day grew too fine, as he said, for false notes, so the music lesson
was abandoned, and they went to sit in the garden behind the picture
gallery, a green sward with high walls covered with creeper, and at one
end a great cedar with a seat built about the trunk; a quiet place rife
with songs of birds, and unfrequented save by them. They had taken with
them Omar's verses, and Evelyn hoped that he would talk to her about
them, for the garden of the Persian poet she felt to be separated only
by a wicket from theirs. But Owen did not respond to her humour. He was
prepense to argue about the difficulties of her life, and of the urgent
necessity of vanquishing these.
He had noticed, he said, as they sat in the park, that she had a weak
face. Her thoughts were far away; he had caught her face, as it were,
napping, and had seen through it to the root of her being. The
conclusion at which he had arrived was that she was not capable of
leading an independent life.
"Am I not right? Isn't it so?"
"You think that because I don't leave father and go abroad."
"You might go abroad and lead a dependent life; you might stay at home
and lead an independent life."
He asked her what offers of marriage she had had.
One was from the Vicar, a widower, a man of fifty, the other from a
young man in a solicitor's office. She did not care for either, and had
not entertained their proposals for a second.
"If you marry anyone, it must be a duke. Life is a battle; society will
get the better of us unless we get the better of society. Everyone must
realise that--every young man, every young woman. We must conquer or be
Society, he argued, did not require a chaperon from her; society would,
indeed, resent a chaperon if she were to appear with one. Society not
only granted her freedom, but demanded that she should exercise it. As a
freelance she would be taken notice of, as a respectable, marriageable
girl she would be passed over. The cradle and the masterpiece were
irreconcilable ideals. He drew an amusing picture of the prima donna's
husband, the fellow who waits with a scarf ready to wind it round the
throat of his musical instrument; the fellow who is always on the watch
lest someone should walk off with his means of subsistence. Evelyn
listened because she liked to hear him talk; she knew that he was trying
to influence her with argument, but it was he himself who was
influencing her, she dreaded his presence, not his argument.
She got up and walked across the sward; and as they returned through the
flowery village street, the faint May breeze shed the white chestnut
bloom about their feet. It seemed to him better to say nothing; there
are times when silence is more potent than speech. They were walking
under the trees of the old Dulwich street, and so charming were the
hedge-hidden gardens, and the eighteenth-century houses with white
porticoes, that Owen could not but think Dulwich at that moment seemed
the natural nativity of the young girl's career. A few moments after
they were at Dowlands. She was trembling, and had no strength of will to
refuse to ask him in. She would have had the strength if she had not
been obliged to give him her hand. She had tried to bid him good-bye
without giving her hand, and had not succeeded, and while he held her
hand her lips said the words without her knowing it. She spoke
unconsciously, and did not know what she had said till she had said it.
And while they waited for tea, Evelyn lay back in a wicker chair
thinking. He had said that life without love was a desert, and many
times the conversation trembled on the edge of a personal avowal, and
now he was playing love music out of "Tristan" on the harpsichord. The
gnawing, creeping sensuality of the phrase brought little shudders into
her flesh; all life seemed dissolved into a dim tremor and rustling of
blood; vague colour floated into her eyes, and there were moments when
she could hardly restrain herself from jumping to her feet and begging
of him to stop.... The servant brought in the tea, and she thought she
would feel better when the music ceased. But neither did the silence nor
the tea help her. He sat opposite her, his eyes fixed upon her, that
half-kindly, half-cynical face of his showing through the gold of his
moustache. He seemed to know that she could not follow the conversation,
and seemed determined to drive the malady that was devouring her to a
head. He continued to speak of the motive of the love call, how it is
interwoven with the hunting fanfare; when the fanfare dies in the
twilight, how it is then heard in the dark loneliness of the garden. She
heard him speak of the handkerchief motive, of thirty violins playing
three notes in ever precipitated rhythm, until we feel that the world
reels behind the woman, that only one thing exists for her--Tristan. A
giddiness gathered in Evelyn's brain, and she fell back in her chair,
slightly to the left side, and letting her hand slip towards him, said,
with a beseeching look--
"I cannot go on talking, I am too tired."
It seemed as if she were going to faint, and this made it easy and
natural for him to take her hand, to put his arm about her, and then to
"Evelyn, dear, what is the matter?"
She opened her eyes; their look was sufficient answer.
"Dearest Evelyn," he said; and bending over, he kissed her on the cheek.
"This is very foolish of me," she said, and throwing her arm about his
neck, she kissed him on the mouth. "But you are fond of me?" she said
impulsively, laying her hand on his shoulder. It was a movement full of
"Yes," he said, moving her face again towards him. "I love you, I've
always loved you."
"No," she said, "you didn't, not always; I know when you began to care
"When you returned from Greece, at the moment when you said you wanted
me to like you. Is it not true?"
Owen dared not tell her that it was at the moment of kissing her that he
had really begun to love her. In that moment he had entered into her
atmosphere; it was fragrant as a flower, and it had decided him to use
every effort to become her lover.
"No," she said, "you must not kiss me again."
She got up from the low wicker chair; he followed her, and they sat
close together on two low seats. He put his arm round her and said--
"I love to kiss you.... Why do you turn away your head?"
"Because it is wrong; I shall be miserable to-night."
"You don't think it wrong to kiss me?"
"Yes, I do."
Then turning her face to his, she kissed him.
"Who taught you to kiss like that?"
"No one, I never kissed anyone before--father, of course. You know what
"She'll be an adorable mistress," he thought, "and in four years the
greatest singer in England. I shall get very fond of her. I like her
very much as it is, and when she gets over her religious scruples--when
I've reformed her--she'll be enchanting. It is lucky she met me; without
me she'd have come to nothing."
She asked him what he was thinking about, and he answered of the
happiness he had begun to feel was in store for them.
"What happiness?" she asked; and he answered--
"The happiness of seeing each other constantly--the happiness of lovers.
Now we must see each other more often."
"How often? Every day?"
He wondered what was the exact colour of her eyes, and he pressed her to
answer. At last she said--
"You cannot come here oftener than you do at present. I'm deceiving
father about these lessons. What will you do if he asks you to play to
him? What excuse will you give? You daren't attempt the simplest
exercise, you haven't got over the difference of the bowing; you'd play
false notes all the time."
"Yes," he said; "I've not made much progress, have I?"
"No, you haven't; but that isn't my fault."
"But the days I don't see you seem so long!"
"Do you think they do not seem long to me? I've nothing to think about
"Then, on your weariest days, come and see me. We can always see each
other in Berkeley Square. Send me a wire saying you are coming."
"I could not come to see you," she said, still looking at him fixedly;
"you know that I could not.... Then why do you ask me?"
"Because I want you."
"You know that I'd like to come."
"Then, if you do, you'll come. I don't believe in temptations that we
don't yield to."
"I suppose that the temptation that we yield to is the temptation?"
"Of course. But, Evelyn, you are not going to waste your life in
Dulwich. Come and see me to-morrow and, if you like, we'll decide."
"You know what I mean, dearest."
"Yes, I think I do," she said, smiling at once sadly and ardently; "but
I'm afraid it wouldn't succeed. I'm not the kind of woman to play the
part to advantage."
"I'm very fond of you, and I think you're very fond of me."
"You don't think about it--you know I am."
"Then why did you say you would not come and see me?"
"I did not say so. But something tells me that if I did go away with you
it would not succeed."
"Why do you think that?"
"I don't know. Something whispers that it wouldn't succeed. All my
people were good people--my mother, my grandmother, my aunts. I never
had a relative against whom anything could be said, so I don't know why
I am what I am. For I'm only half good. It is you who make me bad, Owen;
it isn't nice of you." She flung her arms about him, and then recoiled
from him in a sudden revulsion of feeling.
"When you go away I shall be miserable; I shall repent of all this ...
I'm horrid." She covered her face in her hands. "I didn't know I was
A moment after she reached out her hand to him saying--
"You're not angry with me? I can't help it if I'm like this. I should
like to go and see you; it would be so much to me. But I must not. But
why mustn't I?"
"I know no reason, except that you don't care for me."
"But you know that isn't so."
"Come, dearest, be reasonable. You're not going to stop here all your
life playing the viola da gamba. The hour of departure has come," he
said, perceiving her very thought; "be reasonable, come and see me
to-morrow. Come to lunch, and I'll arrange. You know that you--"
"Yes, I believe that," she said, in response to a change which had come
into her appreciation. "But can I trust myself? Suppose I did go away,
and repented and left you. Where should I go? I could not come back
here. Father would forgive me, I daresay, but I could not come back
"'Repented,' Those are fairy tales," he said lifting her gold hair from
her ear and kissing it. "A woman does not leave the man who adores her."
"You told me they often did."
"How funny you are.... They do sometimes, but not because they repent."
Her head was on his shoulder, and she stood looking at him a long while
"Then you do love me, dearest? Tell me so again."
Kissing her gently on the mouth and eyes, he answered--
"You know very well that I do. Come and see me to-morrow. Say you will,
for I must go now."
"Do you know what time it is? It is past seven."
She followed him to the gate of the little garden. The lamps were
lighted far away in the suburbs. Again he asked her to come and see him.
"I cannot to-morrow; to-morrow will be Sunday."
His footsteps echoed through the chill twilight, and seeing a thin moon
afloat like a feather in the sky, she thought of Omar's moon, that used
to seek the lovers in their garden, and that one evening sought one of
them in vain.
There was no other place except the picture gallery where they could see
each other alone. But the dignity of Velasquez and the opulence of
Rubens distracted their thoughts, and they were ill at ease on a
backless seat in front of a masterpiece. Owen regretted the Hobbema; it
was less aggressive than the colonnade. A sun-lit clearing in a wood and
a water mill raised no moral question. He turned his eyes from the
dancers, but however he resisted them, their frivolous life found its
way into the conversation. They were the wise ones, he said. They lived
for art and love, and what else was there in life? A few sonatas, a few
operas, a few pictures, a few books, and a love story; we had always to
come back to that in the end. He spoke with conviction, his only
insincerity being the alteration of a plural into a singular. But no, he
did not think he had lied; he had spoken what seemed to him the truth at
the present moment. Had he used the singular instead of the plural a
fortnight ago, he would have lied, but within the last week his feelings
for Evelyn had changed. If she had broken with him a week ago, he would
have found easy consolation in the list, but now it was not women, but a
woman that he desired. A mere sexual curiosity, and the artistic desire
to save a beautiful voice from being wasted, had given way to a more
personal emotion in which affection was beginning. Looking at him,
thinking over what he had just said, unable to stifle the hope that
those women in the picture were the wise ones, she heard life calling
her. The art call and the love call, subtly interwoven, were modulated
now on the violins now on the flutes of an invisible orchestra. At the
same moment his immeshed senses, like greedy fish, swam hither and
thither, perplexed and terrified, finding no way of escape, and he
dreaded lest he had lost his balance and fallen into the net he had cast
so often. He had begun to see that she was afraid of the sin, and not at
all of him. She had never asked him if he would always love her--that
she seemed to take for granted--and he had, or fancied he had, begun to
feel that he would never cease to love her. He looked into the future
far enough to see that it would be she who would tire of him, and that
another would appear two or three years hence who would appeal to her
sensual imagination just as he did to-day. She would strive to resist
it, she would argue with herself, but the enticing illusion would draw
her as in a silken net. He was now engaged in the destruction of her
moral scruples--in other words, making the way easy for his successor.
They were in the gallery alone, and, taking her hand, he considered in
detail the trouble this _liaison_ would bring in its train. He no longer
doubted that she would go abroad with him sooner or later. He hoped it
would be sooner, for he had begun to perceive the absurdity of his
visits to Dulwich. The question was whether she was worth an exile in a
foreign country. He would have to devote himself to her and to her
interests. She would have a chaperon. There would be no use in their
openly living together--that he could not stand. But at that moment the
exquisite happiness of seeing her every day, coming into the room where
she was reading or singing, and kissing her as he leaned over her chair
affectionately, as a matter of course, deriving his enjoyment from the
prescriptive right to do so, and then talking to her about ordinary
affairs of life, came upon him suddenly like a vision; and this imagined
life was so intense that for one moment it was equivalent to the
reality. He saw himself taking her home from the theatre at night in the
brougham. In the next instant they were in the train going to Bayreuth.
In the next he saw her as Kundry rush on to the stage. He felt that,
whatever it cost him, that was the life he must obtain. He felt that he
could not live if he did not acquire it, and so intense was the vision
that, unable to endure its torment, he got up and proposed they should
go into the garden and sit under the cedar.
They were alone in the garden as they were in the gallery, but lovers
are averse to open spaces, and Owen felt that their appearance coincided
too closely with that of lovers in many popular engravings. He hoped he
was not observed, and regretted he had often spoken of the picture
gallery to his friends. An unlucky chance might bring one of them down.
It was in this garden, amid the scent and colour of May, that the most
beautiful part of their love story was woven. It was in this garden that
they talked about love and happiness, and the mystery of the attraction
of one person to another, and whilst listening to him, a poignant memory
of the afternoon when he had first kissed her often crossed her mind.
Little faintnesses took her in the eyes and heart. Their voices broke,
and it seemed that they could not continue to talk any longer of life
and art. It was in this garden that they forgot each other. Their
thoughts wandered far away, and then, when one called the other's
attention, he or she relinquished scenes and sensations and came back
appearing suddenly like someone out of a mist. Each asked the other what
he or she had been dreaming. Once he told her his dream. It was of a
villa in the middle of a large garden surrounded by chestnut trees and
planted with rhododendrons. In this villa there dwelt a great singer
whose name was a glory in the world, and to this villa there came very
often a tall, thin, ugly man, and, seeing the beautiful singer walking
with him, the folk wondered how she could love him.
It was a sort of delicious death, a swooning ecstasy, an absorption of
her individuality in his. Just as the spring gradually displaced the
winter by a new branch of blossom, and in that corner of the garden by
the winsome mauve of a lilac bush, without her knowing it his ideas
caught root in her. New thoughts and perceptions were in growth within
her, and every day she discovered the new where she had been accustomed
to meet the familiar idea. She seemed to be slipping out of herself as
out of a soft, white garment, unconsciously, without any effort on her
Very often they discussed whether sacrifice of self is not the first of
the sins against life. "That is the sin," he said, "that cries loudest
to Nature for vengeance. To discover our best gift from Nature, and to
cultivate that gift, is the first law of life." If she could not accept
this theory of life as valid and justifiable, she had at least begun to
consider it. Another of Owen's ideas that interested her was his theory
of beauty. He said that he could not accept the ordinary statement that
a woman was beautiful and stupid. Beauty and stupidity could not exist
in the same face, stupidity being the ugliest thing on earth; and he
contended that two-thirds of human beauty were the illumination of
matter by the intelligence, and but one-third proportion and delicacy of
line. After some hesitation, he admitted that at first he had been
disappointed in her, but now everything about her was an enchantment,
and when she was not present, he lived in memories of her. He spoke
without emphasis, almost as if he were speaking to himself, and she
could not answer for delight.
Her father was vaguely conscious of some change in his daughter, and
when one day he heard her singing "Faust," he was perplexed; and when
she argued that it was a beautiful and human aspiration, he looked at
her as if he had never seen her before. He asked her how she had come to
think such a thing, and was perplexed by her embarrassments. She was
sorry for her liking for Gounod's melodies. It seemed to alienate them;
they seemed to have drifted apart. She saw a silently widening distance,
as if two ships were moving away. One day he asked her if she were going
to communion next Sunday. She answered that she did not think so, and
sat thinking a long while, for she had become suddenly aware that she
was not as pious as she used to be. She did not think that Owen's
arguments had touched her faith, but she no longer felt the same
interest in religion; and in thinking over this change, which seemed so
independent of her own will, she grew pensive and perplexed. Her
melancholy was a sort of voluptuous meditation. She was conscious all
the while of Owen's presence. It was as if he were standing by her, and
she felt that he must be thinking of her.
He had often spoken of going away with her; she had smiled plaintively,
never regarding an elopement as possible. But one evening her father had
gone to dine with a certain Roman prelate who believed in the advantage
to the Catholic Church of a musical reformation. And she had gone to
meet Owen, who had driven from London. They had walked two hours in the
lanes, and when she got home she ran to her room and undressed
hurriedly, thinking how delightful it would be to lie awake in the dark
and remember it all. And feeling the cool sheets about her she folded
her arms and abandoned herself to every recollection. Her imagination,
heightened as by a drug, enabled her to see the white, dusty road and
the sickly, yellow moon rising through the branches. Again she was
standing by him, her arms were on his neck; again they stood looking
into the vague distance, seeing the broken paling in the moonlight.
There were his eyes and hands and lips to think about, and when she had
exhausted these memories, others sprang upon her. It was in the very
centre of her being that she was thinking of the moment when she had
spied his horse's head over the hill top. She had recognised his
silhouette against the sky. He had whipped up the horse, he had thrown
the reins to the groom, he had sprung from the step. The evening was
then lighted by the sunset, and as the sky darkened, their love had
seemed to grow brighter. In comparison with this last meeting, all past
meetings seemed shadowy and unreal. She had never loved him before, and
if her smile had dwindled when he asked her to come away with him, she
had liked to hear him say the dogcart was waiting at the inn. But when
they stood by the stile where cattle were breathing softly, and the moon
shone over the sheepfold like a shepherd's lantern, her love had grown
wilful, and she had liked to say that she would go away with him. She
knew not whether she could fulfil her promise, but it had been a joy to
give it. They had walked slowly towards Dulwich, the groom had brought
round the dog-cart; Owen had asked her once more to get in. Oh, to drive
away with him through the night! "Owen, it is impossible," she said; "I
cannot, at least not now. But I will one day very soon, sooner perhaps
than you think."
He had driven away, and, standing on the moon-whitened road, she had
watched the white dust whirl about the wheels.
One of the difficulties in the indulgence of these voluptuous
meditations was that they necessitated the omission of her evening
prayers. She could not kneel by her bedside and pray to God to deliver
her from evil, all the while nourishing in her heart the intention of
abandoning herself to the thought of Owen the moment she got into bed.
Nor did the omission of her evening prayers quite solve the difficulty,
for when she could think no more of Owen, the fear of God returned. She
dared not go to sleep, and lay terrified, dreading the devil in every
corner of the room. Lest she might die in her sleep and be summoned
before the judgment seat, she lay awake as long as she could.
When she fell asleep she dreamed of the stage when the world was won,
and when it seemed she had only to stretch her hands to the sky to take
the stars. But in the midst of her triumph she perceived that she could
no longer sing the music the world required; a new music was drumming in
her ears, drowning the old music, a music written in a melancholy mode,
and played on invisible harps. Owen told her it was madness to listen,
and she strove to close her ears against it. In great trouble of mind
she awoke; it was only a dream, and she had not lost her voice. She lay
back upon the pillow and tried to recall the music which she had heard
on the invisible harps, but already it was forgotten; it faded from her
brain like mist from the surface of a mere. But the humour that the
dream had created endured after the dream was dead. She felt no longer
as she had felt over night, and lay in a sort of obtuse sensibility of
conscience. She got up and dressed, her mind still clouded and sullen,
and her prayers were said in a sort of middle state between fervour and
indifference. Her father attributed her mood to the old cause; several
times he was on the point of speaking, and she held him for the moment
by the lappet of his coat and looked affectionately into his face. But
something told her that if she were to confide her trouble to anyone,
she would lose the power she had acquired over herself. Something told
her that all the strength on her side was reposed in the secrecy of the
combat. If it were known, she could imagine herself saying--
"Well, nothing matters now; let us go away, Owen."
He was coming to see her between eleven and twelve--at the very time he
knew her father would be away from home, and this very fact stimulated
her ethical perception. Her manner was in accordance with her mood, and
the moment he entered he saw that something had happened, that she was
no longer the same Evelyn from whom he had parted a couple of nights
"Well, I can see you have changed your mind; so we are not going away
together. Evelyn, dear, is it not so? Tell me."
He was a little ashamed of his hypocrisy, for, as he had driven home in
the dogcart, the adventure he was engaged in had appeared to him under
every disagreeable aspect. He could not but think that the truth of the
story would leak out, and he could hear all the women he knew speaking
of Evelyn as a girl he had picked up in the suburbs--an organist's
daughter. He had thought again of the responsibility that going away
with this girl imposed upon him, and he had come to the conclusion that
it would be wiser to drop the whole thing and get out of it while there
was time. That night, as he lay in bed, he saw himself telling people
how many operas she knew; and the tales of her successes in Vienna and
Naples.... But he need not always be with her, she would have a
chaperon; and he had fallen asleep thinking which among his friends
would undertake the task for him. In the morning he had awakened in the
same nervous indecision, and had gone to Dulwich disheartened, provoked
at his own folly. It therefore happened that her refusal to go away with
him coincided exactly with his humour. So all that was necessary was a
mere polite attempt to persuade her that she was sacrificing her career,
but without too much insistence on the point; a promise to call again
soon; then a letter saying he was unwell, or was going to Paris or to
Riversdale. A month after they could meet at a concert, but he must be
careful not to be alone with her, and very soon the incident--after all,
he had only kissed her--would be forgotten. But as he sat face to face
with her, all his carefully considered plans seemed to drop behind him
in ruins, and he doubted if he would be able to deny himself the
pleasure of taking her away. That is to say, if he could induce her to
go, which no longer seemed very sure. She might be one of those women in
whom the sense of sin was so obdurate that they could not but remain
But of what was she thinking? he asked himself; and he scanned the
yielding face, reading the struggle in a sudden suppressed look or
nervous twitching of the lips.
"Dearest Evelyn, I love you. Life would be nothing without you."
"Owen, I am very fond of you, but there would be no use in my going away
with you. I should be miserable. I know I am not the kind of woman who
would play the part."
Her words roused new doubts. It would be useless to go away with her if
she were to be miserable all the while. He did not want to make anyone
miserable; he wanted to make people happy. He indulged in a moment of
complacent self-admiration, and then reflected that this adventure would
cost a great deal of time and money, and if he were really to get
nothing out of it but tears and repentance, he had better take her at
her word, bid her good-bye, and write to-morrow saying he was called
away to Riversdale on business.
"But you are not cross with me? You will come to see me all the same?"
He wondered if she were tortured with as many different and opposing
desires as he was. Perhaps not, and he watched her tender, truthful
eyes. In her truthful nature, filled full of passion and conscience,
there was no place for any slightest calculation. But he was
mistrustful, and asked himself if all this resistance was a blind to
induce him to marry her. If he thought that, he would drop her at once.
This suspicion was lost sight of in a sudden lighting of her hair,
caused by a slight turning of her head. Beyond doubt she was a fresh and
delicious thing, and if he did not take her, someone else would, and
then he would curse his indecision; and if she had a great voice, he
would for ever regret he had not taken her when he could get her. If he
did not take her now, the chance was gone for ever. She was the
adventure he had dreamed all his life. At last it had come to him,
perhaps through the sheer force of his desire, and now, should he
refrain from the dream, or should he dream it? He saw the exquisite
sensual life that awaited him and her in Paris. He saw her, pale and
pathetic, and thought of her eager eyes and lips.
Evelyn sat crestfallen and repentant, but her melancholy was a pretty,
smiling melancholy, and her voice had not quite lost the sparkle and
savour of wit. She regretted her sin, admitted her culpability, and he
was forced to admit that sorrow and virtue sat becomingly upon her. Her
mood was in a measure contagious, and he talked gently and gaily about
herself, and the day when the world would listen to her with delight and
approbation. But while he talked, he was like a man on the rack. He was
dragged from different sides, and the questioner was at his ear.
Hitherto he had never compromised himself in his relations with women.
As he had often said of himself, he had inspired no great passion, but a
multitude of caprices. But now he had begun to feel that it is one love
and not twenty that makes a life memorable, he wished to redeem his life
from intrigues, and here was the very chance he was waiting for. But
habit had rendered him cowardly, and this seduction frightened him
almost as much as marriage had done. To go away with her, he felt, was
equivalent to marrying her. His life would never be the same again. The
list would be lost to him for ever, no more lists for him; he would be
known as the man who lived with--lived with whom? A girl picked up in
the suburbs, and sang rather prettily. If she were a great singer he
would not mind, but he could not stand a mediocre singer about whom he
would have to talk continual nonsense: conspiracies that were in
continual progress against her at Covent Garden, etc. He had heard all
that sort of thing before.... What should he do? He must make up his
mind. It might be as well if he were to ask her to come to his house;
then in some three or four months he would be able to see if she were
worth the great sacrifice he was going to make for her.
Her hand lay on her knees. He knew that he should not take it, but it
lay on her knees so plaintively, that in spite of all his resistance he
took it and examined it. It did not strike him as a particularly
beautiful hand. It was long and white, and exceedingly flexible. It was
large, and the finger-tips were pointed. The palms curved voluptuously,
but the slender fingers closed and opened with a virile movement which
suggested active and spontaneous impulses. In taking her hand and
caressing it, he knew he was prejudicing his chances of escape, and
fearing the hand he held in his might never let him go again, he said--
"If your destiny should be to play the viola da gamba in Dulwich, and
mine to set forth again on my trip round the world."
In an instant, in a rapid succession of scenes, the horrible winter she
had spent in Dulwich passed before her eyes. She saw herself stopping at
the corner of a street, and looking at a certain tree and the slope of a
certain house, and asking herself if her life would go on for ever, if
there would be no change. She saw herself star-gazing, with daffodils
for offerings in her hands; and the memory of the hungry hours when she
waited for her father to come home to dinner was so vivid, that she
thought she felt the same wearying pain and the exhausting yearning
behind her eyes, and that feeling as if she wanted to go mad. No; she
could not endure it again, and she cried plaintively, falling slightly
"Owen, don't make things more difficult than they are. Why is it wrong
for me to go away with you? I don't do any harm to anyone. God is
merciful after all."
"If I were to marry you, you could not go on the stage; you would have
to live at Riversdale and look after your children."
"But I don't want children. I want to sing."
"And I want you to sing. No one but husbands have children, exception
the stage and in novels."
"It would be much more exciting to run away together, than to be married
by the Vicar. It is very wicked to say these things. It is you who make
A mist blinded her eyes, and a sickness seemed instilled in her very
blood, and in a dubious faintness she was conscious of his lips. He
hardly heard the words he uttered, so loud was the clatter of his
thoughts, and he seemed to see the trail of his destiny unwinding itself
from the distaff in the hands of Fate. He was frightened, and an impulse
strove to force him to his feet, and hence, with a rapid good-bye, to
the door. But instead, he leaned forth his hands, he sought her, but she
shrank away, and turning her face from him, she said--
"Owen, you must not kiss me."
Again he might choose between sailing the _Medusa_ in search of
adventure, or crossing the Channel in the mail packet in search of art.
"Will you come away with me?" he said. His heart sank, and he thought
of the Rubicon.
"You don't mean this very instant? I could not go away without seeing
"Why not? You don't intend to tell him you are going away with me?"
"No; it is not the sort of thing one generally tells one's father,
but--I cannot go away with you now--"
"When will you come?"
"Owen, don't press me for an answer. I don't know."
"The way of escape is still open to me," he thought; but he could not
resist the temptation that this girl's face and voice presented to his
She sat in the music-room thinking, asking herself what use it would be
to meet him in Berkeley Square unless to go away with him to Paris. She
sat engrossed in her emotion; it was like looking into water where weeds
are carried by a current out of the dim depths into the light of day. In
a pensive atmosphere, a quiet daylight, his motives were revealed to
her. She was in the humour to look at things sympathetically, and she
understood that for him to run away with her entailed as much sacrifice
on his part as on hers. It meant a giving up of his friends, pursuits
and habits of life. There were sacrifices to be made by him as well as
by her, and she smiled a little sadly as she thought of the differences
of their several renunciations. She was asked to surrender her peace of
mind, he his worldly pleasure. Often the sensation was almost physical;
it rose up like a hand and seemed to sweep her heart clear, and at the
same moment a voice said--It is not right. Owen had argued with her, but
she could not quench the feeling that it was not right, and yet, when he
asked her to explain, she could give no other reason except that it was
forbidden by the Church.
Each thought that very little was asked from the other. To him her
conscience seemed a slight forfeit, and worldly pleasure seemed very
little to her. She thought that she would readily forfeit this world for
him.... But eternity was her forfeit; even that she might sacrifice if
she were sure her conscience would not trouble her in this world. She
followed her conscience like a river; it fluttered along full of
unexpected eddies and picturesque shallows, and there were pools so deep
that she could not see to the bottom.
Suddenly the vision changed. She was no longer in Dulwich with her
father. She saw railway trains and steamboats, and then the faint
outline of the coast of France. Her foreboding was so clear and distinct
that she could not doubt that Owen was the future that awaited her. The
presentiment filled her with delight and fear, and both sensations were
mingled at the same moment in her heart as she rose from her chair. She
stood rigid as a visionary; then, hoping she would not be disturbed, she
sank back into her chair and allowed her thoughts their will. She
followed the course of the journey to France, and at every moment the
sensation grew more exquisite. She heard him say what she wished him to
say, and she saw the white villa in its garden planted with
rhododendrons and chestnut trees in flower. The mild spring air, faint
with perfume, dilated her nostrils, and her eyes drank in the soft
colour of the light shadows passing over the delicate grass and the
light shadows moving among the trees. She lay back in her chair, her
eyes fixed on a distant corner of the room, and her life went by, clear
and surprising as pictures seen in a crystal. When she grew weary of the
villa, she saw herself on the stage, and heard her own voice singing as
she wished to sing. Nor did she forsee any break in the lulling
enchantment of her life of music and love. She knew that Owen did not
love her at present, but she never doubted that she could get him to
love her, and once he loved her it seemed to her that he must always
love her. What she had heard and read in books concerning the treachery
of men, she remembered, but she was not influenced, for it did not seem
to her that any such things were to happen to her. She closed her eyes
so that she might drink more deeply of the vision, so that she might
bring it more clearly before her. Like aspects seen on a misty river, it
was as beautiful shadows of things rather than the things themselves.
The meditation grew voluptuous, and as she saw him come into her room
and take her in his arms, her conscience warned her that she should
cease to indulge in these thoughts; but it was impossible to check them,
and she dreamed on and on in kisses and tendernesses of speech.
That afternoon she was going to have tea with some friends, and as she
paused to pin her hat before the glass, she remembered that if Owen were
right, and that there was no future life, the only life that she was
sure of would be wasted. Then she would endure the burden of life for
naught; she would not have attained its recompense; the calamity would
be irreparable; it would be just as if she had not lived at all. Thought
succeeded thought in instantaneous succession, contradicting and
refuting each other. No, her life would not be wasted, it would be an
example to others, it was in renunciation that we rose above the animal
and attained spiritual existence. At that moment it seemed to her that
she could renounce everything but love. Could she renounce her art? But
her art was not a merely personal sacrifice. In the renunciation of her
art she was denying a great gift that had been given to her by Nature,
that had come she knew not whence nor how, but clearly for exercise and
for the admiration of the world. It therefore could not have been given
to her to hide or to waste; she would be held responsible for it. Her
voice was one of her responsibilities; not to cultivate her voice would
be a sort of suicide. This seemed quite clear to her, and she reflected,
and with some personal satisfaction, that she had incurred duties toward
herself. Right and wrong, as Owen said, was a question of time and
place. What was right here was wrong there, but oneself was the one
certain thing, and to remain with her father meant the abandonment of
herself.... She wanted herself! Ah, she wanted to live, and how well she
knew that she was not living, and could never live, in Dulwich. The
nuns! Strange were their renunciations! For they yielded the present
moment, which Owen and a Persian poet called our one possession. She
seemed to see them fading in a pathetic decadence, falling like
etiolated flowers, and their holy simplicities seemed merely pathetic.
And in the exaltation of her resolution to live, her soul melted again
into Owen's kisses, and she drew herself together, and the spasm was so
intense and penetrating that to overcome it she walked across the room
stretching her arms. It seemed to her more than impossible that she
could endure Dulwich any longer. The life of love and art tore at her
heart; always she saw Owen offering her love, fame, wealth; his hands
were full of gifts; he seemed to drop them at her feet, and taking her
in his arms, his lips closed upon hers, and her life seemed to run down
like the last struggling sand in a glass.
Besides this personal desire there was in her brain a strange
alienation. Paris rose up before her, and Italy, and they were so vague
that she hardly knew whether they were remembrances or dreams, and she
was compelled by a force so exterior to herself that she looked round
frightened, as if she believed she would find someone at her elbow. She
did not seem to be alone, there seemed to be others in the room,
presences from which she could not escape; she could not see them, but
she felt them about her, and as she sought them with fearing eyes,
voices seemed speaking inside her, and it was with extreme terror that
she heard the proposal that she was to be one of God's virgins. The hell
which opened on the other side of Owen ceased to frighten her. The
devils waiting there for her soul grew less substantial, and thoughts
and things seemed to converge more and more, to draw together and become
one. She was aware of the hallucination in her brain, but could not
repress it, nor all sorts of rapid questions and arguments. Suddenly a
voice reminded her that if she were going to abandon the life of the
soul for the life of the flesh, that she should accept the flesh wholly,
and not subvert its intentions. She should become the mother of
children. Life was concerned more intimately with children than with her
art. But somehow it did not seem the same renunciation, and she stood
perplexed before the enigma of her conscience.
She looked round the room, dreading and half believing in some diabolic
influence at her elbow, but perceiving nothing, an ungovernable impulse
took her, and her steps strayed to the door, in the desire and almost in
the intention of going to London. But if she went there, how would she
explain her visit?... Owen would understand; but if he were not in, she
could not wait until he came in. She paused to consider the look of
pleasure that would come upon his face when he came in and found her
there. There would be just one look, and they would throw themselves
into each other's arms. She was about to rush away, having forgotten all
else but him, when she remembered her father. If she were to go now she
must leave a letter for him explaining--telling him the story. And who
would play the viola da gamba at his concerts? and there would be no one
to see that he had his meals.
Was she or was she not going away with Owen to Paris on Thursday night?
The agonising question continued at every moment to present itself.
Whatever she was doing or saying, she was always conscious of it, and as
the time drew near, with every hour, it seemed to approach and menace
her. She seemed to feel it beating like a neuralgic pain behind her
eyes; and though she laughed and talked a great deal, her father noticed
that her animation was strained and nervous, and he noticed, too, that
in no part of their conversation was she ever entirely with him, and he
wondered what were the sights and scenes he faintly discerned in her
On getting up on Wednesday morning, she remembered that the best train
from Dulwich was at three o'clock, and she asked herself why she had
thought of this train, and that she should have thought of it seemed to
her like an omen. Her father sat opposite, looking at her across the
table. It was all so clear in her mind that she was ashamed to sit
thinking these things, for thinking as clearly as she was thinking
seemed equivalent to accomplishment; and the difference between what she
thought and what she said was so repulsive to her that she was on the
point of flinging herself at his feet several times.
There were times when the temptation seemed to have left her, when she
smiled at her own weakness and folly; and having reproved herself
sufficiently, she thought of other things. It seemed to her
extraordinary why she should argue and trouble about a thing which she
really had no intention of doing. But at that moment her heart told her
that this was not so, that she would go to meet Owen in Berkeley Square,
and she was again taken with an extraordinary inward trembling.
Our actions obey an unknown law, implicit in ourselves, but which does
not conform to our logic. So we very often succeed in proving to
ourselves that a certain course is the proper one for us to follow, in
preference to another course, but, when it comes for us to act, we do
not act as we intended, and we ascribe the discrepancy between what we
think and what we do to a deficiency of will power. Man dares not admit
that he acts according to his instincts, that his instincts are his
We make up our mind to change our conduct in certain matters, but we go
on acting just the same; and in spite of every reason, Evelyn was still
undecided whether she should go to meet Sir Owen. It was quite clear
that it was wrong for her to go, and it seemed all settled in her mind;
but at the bottom of her heart something over which she had no kind of
control told her that in the end nothing could prevent her from going to
meet him. She stopped, amazed and terrified, asking herself why she was
going to do a thing which she seemed no longer even to desire.
In the afternoon some girl friends came to see her. She played and sang
and talked to them, but they, too, noticed that she was never really
with them, and her friends could see that she saw and heard things
invisible and inaudible to them. In the middle of some trifling
chatter--whether one colour or another was likely to be fashionable in
the coming season--she had to put her hand in her pocket for her
handkerchief, and happened to meet the key of the square, and it brought
back to her in a moment the entire drama of her destiny. Was she going
to take the three o'clock train to London, or to remain in Dulwich with
her father? She thought that she would not mind whatever happened, if
she only knew what would happen. Either lot seemed better to her than
the uncertainty. She rattled on, talking with fictitious gaiety about
the colour of bonnets and a party at which Julia had sung, not even
hearing what she was saying. Wednesday evening passed with an inward
vision so intense that all the outer world had receded from her, she was
like one alone in a desert, and she ate without tasting, saw without
seeing what she looked at, spoke without knowing what she was saying,
heard without hearing what was said to her, and moved without knowing
where she was going.
On Thursday morning the obsession of her destiny took all colour from
her cheek, and her eyes were nervous.
"What is it, my girl?" Her father said, taking her hand, and the music
he was tying up dropped on the floor. "Tell me, Evelyn; something, I can
see, is the matter."
It was like the breaking of a spring. Something seemed to give way
within her, and slipping on her knees, she threw her arms about him.
"I am very unhappy. I wish I were dead."
He strove to raise her from her knees, but the attitude expressed her
feelings, and she remained, leaning her face against him. Nor could he
coax any information from her. At last she said, raising her tearful
"If I were to leave you, father, you would never forgive me? But I am
your only daughter, and you would forgive me; whatever happened, we
should always love one another?"
"But why should you leave me?"
"But if I loved someone? I don't mean as I love you. I could never love
anyone so tenderly; I mean quite differently. Don't make me say more. I
am so ashamed of myself."
"You are in love with him?"
"Yes, and he has asked me to go away with him." And as she answered, she
wondered at the quickness with which her father had guessed that it was
Owen. He was such a clever man; the moment his thoughts were diverted
from his music, he understood things as well as the most worldly, and
she felt that he would understand her, that she must open her heart to
"If I don't go away with him I shall die, or kill myself, or go mad. It
is terrible to have to tell you these things, father, I know, but I
must. I was ill when he went away to Greece, you remember. It was
nothing but love of him."
"Did he not ask you to marry him?"
"No, he will never marry anyone."
"And that made no difference to you?"
"Oh, father, don't be angry, don't think me horrid. You are looking at
me as if you never saw me before. I know I ought to have been angry when
he asked me to go away with him, but somehow I wasn't. I don't know that
I even wanted him to marry me. I want to go away and be a great singer,
and he is not more to blame than I am. I can't tell lies. What is the
use of telling lies? If I were to tell you anything else, it would be
"But are you going away with him?"
"I don't know. Not if I can help it;" and at that moment her eyes went
to the portrait of her mother.
"You lost your mother very early, and I have neglected you. She ought to
be here to protect you."
"No, no, father; she would not understand me as well as you do."
"So you are glad that she is not here?"
Evelyn nodded, and then she said--
"If he were to go away and I were left here again, I don't know what
would become of me. It isn't my fault, father; I can't help it."
"I did not know that you were like this. Your mother--"
"Ah I mother and I are quite different. I am more like you, father. You
can't blame me; you have been in love with women--with mother, at
least--and ought to understand."
"Evelyn ... these are subjects that cannot be discussed between us."
The eyes of the mother watched them, and there was something in her
cold, distant glance which went to their hearts, but they could not
interpret its meaning.
"I either had to go away, father, telling you nothing, or I had to tell
"I will go to Sir Owen."
"No, father, you mustn't. Promise me you won't. I have trusted you, and
you mustn't make me regret my trust. This is my secret." He was
frightened by the strange light that appeared in her eyes, and he felt
that an appeal to Owen would be like throwing oil on a flame. "You
mustn't go to Sir Owen; you have promised you won't. I don't know what
would happen if you did."
His daughter's confession had frightened him, and he knew not what
answer to make to her. When the depths find voice we stand aghast,
knowing neither ourselves nor those whom we have lived with always. He
was caught in the very den of his being, and seemed at every moment to
be turning over a leaf of his past life.
"If you had only patience, Evelyn--ah! you have heard what I am going to
say so often, but I don't blame your incredulity. That was why I did not
tell you before."
"What has happened?" she asked eagerly; for she, too, wished for a lull
in this stress of emotion.
"Well," he said, "Monsignor Mostyn, the great Roman prelate, who has
just arrived from Rome, and is staying with the Jesuits, shares all my
views regarding the necessity of a musical reformation. He believes that
a revival of Palestrina and Vittoria would be of great use to the
Catholic cause in England. He says that he can secure the special
intervention of the Pope, and, what is much more important, he will
subscribe largely, and has no doubt that sufficient money can be
Evelyn listened, smiling through her sorrow, like a bird when the rain
has ceased for a moment, and she asked questions, anxious to delay the
inevitable return to her own unhappy condition. She was interested in
the luck that had come to her father, and was sorry that her conduct had
clouded or spoilt it. At last a feeling of shame came upon them that at
such a time they should be engaged in speaking of such singularly
irrelevant topics. She could see that the same thought had come upon
him, and she noticed his trim, square figure, and the old blue jacket
which she had known so many years, as he walked up and down the room. He
was getting very grey lately, and when she returned he might be quite
"Oh, father, father," she exclaimed, covering her face with her hands,
"how unhappy I am."
"I shall send a telegram to Monsignor saying I can't see him this
"Ah! you have to see him this morning;" and she did not know whether she
was glad or sorry. Perhaps she was more frightened than either, for the
appointment left her quite free to go to London by the three o'clock
"I can't leave you alone."
"Darling, if I had wanted to deceive you, I should have told you
nothing; and, however you were to watch me, I could always get away if I
She was right, he could not keep her by force, he could do nothing;
shame prevented him from appealing to her affection for him, for it was
in his interest she should stay. After all, Sir Owen will make a great
singer of her. The thought had come and gone before he was aware, and to
atone for this involuntary thought he spoke to her about her religion.
"I used to be religious," she said, "but I am religious no longer. I can
hardly say my prayers now. I said them last night, but this morning I
He passed his hand across his eyes, and said--
"It seems all like a bad dream."
He felt that he ought to stay with her, and at the same time he felt
that she was right; that his intervention would be unavailing, for the
struggle resided in herself. But if she should learn from Sir Owen to
forget him; if he were to lose her altogether; if she should never
return? The thought of such a calamity was the rudest blow of all, and
the possibility of her going away for a time, shocking as it was, seemed
almost light beside it. He struggled against these thoughts, for he
hated and was ashamed of them. They came into his mind unasked, and he
hoped that they represented nothing of his real feeling. Suddenly his
face changed, he remembered his passion for her mother. He had suffered
what Evelyn was suffering now. She had divined it by some instinct;
true, they were very much like each other. Nothing would have kept him
from Gertrude. But all that was so long ago. Good God! It was not the
same thing, and at the very same moment he regretted that it was not a
music lesson he was going to, for an appointment with Monsignor
introduced a personal interest, and if he were not to stay by her, it
would seem that he was indifferent to what became of her.
"No, Evelyn, I shan't go; I will stay here, I will stay by you."
"But I don't know that I am going away with Sir Owen."
"You said just now that you were."
"Did I say so? Father, you must keep your appointment with Monsignor,
and you must say nothing to Owen if you should meet him; you promise me
that? It rests with me, father, it is all in the heart."
He stood looking at her, twisting his beard into a point, and while she
wondered whether he would go or stay, she admired the delicacy of his
"Think of the disgrace you will bring upon me, and just at the time,
too, when Monsignor is beginning to see that a really great choir in
"Then, father, you do think that my going away will prejudice him
"I don't say that. I mean that this time seems less--Of course you
cannot go. It is very shocking that we should be discussing the subject
A sudden fortitude came upon her, and a sudden desire to sacrifice
herself to her father.
"Then, father, I shall stay. I will do nothing that will interfere with
"My dearest child, it is not for me--it is yourself--"
She threw herself into his arms, begging him to forgive her. She wanted
to stay with him. She loved him better than her voice, better than
anything in the world. He did not answer, and when she raised her eyes
she caught a slight look of doubt upon his face, and wondered what it
could mean. At the very moment she had determined to stay with him, and
forfeit her love and her art for his sake, a keen sense of his
responsibility towards her was borne in upon him, and the feeling within
him crushed like a stone that he could never do anything for her, nor
anything else except, perchance, achieve that reformation of Church
music upon which his heart was set. He understood in that instant that
she was sacrificing all her life to his, and he feared the sacrifice she
was making, and anticipated in some measure the remorse he would suffer.
But he dared not think that she had better go and achieve her destiny in
the only way that was open to her. He urged himself to believe that she
was acting rightly, it was impossible for him to hold any other opinion.
The thoughts that came upon him he strove to think were merely nervous
accidents, and he forced himself to accept the irresponsibility of the
sacrifice. He wished not to be selfish, but, however he acted, he always
seemed to be acting in his own interest. Since she had promised him not
to go away with Sir Owen, he was quite free to keep his appointment with
Monsignor, and he gathered up his music, and then he let it fall again,
fearing that she would interpret his action to mean that he was glad to
She besought him to go; she said she was tired and wanted to lie down,
and all the while he spoke she was tortured with an uncertainty as to
whether she was speaking the truth or not; and he had not been gone many
minutes when she remembered that she had not told him that Owen had
asked her to meet him that very afternoon in Berkeley Square, and that
the key of the square lay in her pocket. Like one with outstretched
hands, striving to feel her way in the dark, she sought to discover in
her soul whether she had deliberately suppressed or accidentally omitted
the fact of her appointment with Owen. It might be that the conversation
had taken a sudden turn, at the moment she was about to tell him, for
the thought had crossed her mind that she ought to tell him. Then she
seemed to lose count of everything, and was unable to distinguish truth
To increase her difficulties, she remembered that she had betrayed
Owen's confidence. She could not quite admit to herself that she had a
right to tell her father that it was he. But he had guessed it.... It
seemed impossible to do right. Perhaps there was no right and no wrong,
as Owen said; and a wish rose from the bottom of her heart that it might
be so, and then she feared she had been guilty of blasphemy. Perhaps she
should warn Owen of her indiscretion, and she thought of herself going
to London for this purpose, and smiled as she detected the deception
which she was trying to practise on herself.
There was nothing for her to do in the house, and when she had walked an
hour in the ornamental park, she strayed into the picture gallery, and
stood a long time looking at the Dutch lady who was playing the
virginal, and whose life passed peacefully apparently without any
emotion, in a silent house amid rich furniture. But she was soon drawn
to the Watteau, where a rich evening hushes about a beautiful carven
colonnade, under which the court is seated; where gallants wear deep
crimson and azure cloaks, and the ladies striped gowns of dainty
refinement; where all the rows are full of amorous intrigue, and vows
are being pleaded, and mandolines are playing; where a fountain sings in
the garden and dancers perform their pavane or minuet, the lady holding
out her striped skirt, and the gentleman bowing to her with a deference
that seems a little mocking. An hour of pensive attitudes and whispered
confidences, and over every fan a face wonders if there is truth in
"It is strange," Evelyn thought, "how one woman lives in obscurity, and
another in admiration and success. That woman playing the virginal is
not ugly; if she were dressed like these seated under the colonnade, she
would be quite as pretty; but she is not as clever, Owen would say, or
she wouldn't be playing the virginal in a village. It is strange how I
remember everything he says."
She thought of herself as the lady in the centre, the one that looked
like the queen, and to whom a tall young man in a lovely cloak was being
introduced, and then imagined herself one of the less important ladies
who, for the sake of her beautiful voice, would be surrounded and
admired by all men; she would create bitter jealousies and annoy a
number of women, which, however, she would endeavour to overcome by
giving back to them the several lovers whom she did not want for
The life in this picture would be hers if she took the three o'clock
train and went to Berkeley Square. The life in the other picture would
be hers if she remained in Dulwich.
Only one more hour remained between her and the moment when she would be
getting into the train, and on going out of the gallery her senses all
seemed awake at the same moment; she saw and felt and heard with equal
distinctness, and she seemed to be walking automatically, to be moving
forward as if on wheels. She met a friend on her way home, but it was
like talking to one across a river or gulf; she wondered what she had
said, and hardly heard, on account of the tumult within her, what was
being said to her. When she got home, she noticed that she did not take
off her hat; and she ate her lunch without tasting it. Her thoughts were
loud as the clock which ticked out the last minutes she was to remain at
home, and trying not to hear them, she turned to the Monna Lisa,
wondering what Owen meant when he had said that the hesitating smile in
the picture was like her smile. Her thoughts ran on ticking in her brain
like the clock in the corner of a room, and though she would have given
anything to stop thinking, she could not.
Every moment the agony of anxiety and nervousness increased, and it was
almost a relief when the clock pointed to the time when she would have
to go to the station. She looked round the room, a great despair mounted
into her eyes, and she walked quickly out of the house. As she went down
the street she tried to think that she was going to Owen to tell him she
had told her father that she was resolved to give him up. It seemed no
longer difficult to do this, for, on looking into her mind, she could
discover neither desire nor love, nor any wish to see him. She was only
conscious of a nervous agitation which she could not control, and
through this waking nightmare she walked steadily, thinking with
In the railway carriage the passengers noticed her pallor, and they
wondered what her trouble was, and at Victoria the omnibus conductor
just saved her from being run over. The omnibus jogged on, stopping now
and then for people to get in and out, and Evelyn wondered at the
extraordinary mechanism of life, and she took note of everyone's
peculiarities, wondering what were their business and desires, and
wondering also at the conductor's voice crying out the different parts
of the town the omnibus would pass through.
"This is Berkeley Street, miss, if you are getting out here."
She waited a few minutes at the corner, and then wandered down the
street, asking herself if it was yet too late to turn back.
The sun glanced through the foliage, and glittered on the cockades of
the coachmen and on the shining hides of the horses. It was the height
of the season, and the young beauties of the year, and the fashionable
beauties of the last decade, lay back, sunning themselves under the
shade of their parasols. The carriages came round the square close to
the curb, under the waving branches, and, waiting for an opportunity to
cross, Evelyn's eyes followed an unusually beautiful carriage, drawn by
a pair of chestnut horses. She did not see the lady's face, but she wore
a yellow dress, and the irises in her bonnet nodded over the hood of the
carriage. This lady, graceful and idle, seemed to mean something, but
what? Evelyn thought of the picture of the colonnade in the gallery.
The men to whom the stately servants opened the doors wore long frock
coats pinched at the waist, and they swung their canes and carried their
thick, yellow gloves in their hands. They were all like Owen. They all
lived as he lived, for pleasure; they were all here for the season, for
balls and dinner parties, for love-making and the opera.
"They are the people," Evelyn thought, "who will pay thousands to hear
me sing. They are the people who will invite me to their houses. If my
voice is cultivated, if I ever go abroad."
She ran across the street and walked under the branches until she came
to a gate. But why not go straight to the house? She did not know....
She was at the gate, and the square looked green and cool. The gate
swung to and closed with a snap; but she had the key and could leave
when she liked, and worn out with various fears she walked aimlessly
about the grass plots. There was no one in the square, so if he were
watching for her he could not fail to see her. Once more a puerile hope
crossed her mind fitfully, that perhaps it would be as well if he failed
to see her. But no, since she had gone so far she was determined to go
on to the end, and before this determination, her spirits revived, and
she waited for him to come to her. But for shyness she did not dare to
look round, and the minutes she walked under the shady trees were very
delightful, for she was penetrated with an intimate conviction that she
would not be disappointed. And one of the moments of her life that fixed
itself most vividly on her mind was when she saw Owen coming towards her
through the trees. He was so tall and thin, and walked so gracefully;
there was something in his walk that delighted her; it seemed to her
that it was like the long, soft stride of a cat.
"I am glad you have come," he said.
But she could not answer. A moment afterwards he said, and she noticed
that his voice trembled, "You are coming in to tea?"
Again she did not answer, and thinking it safer to take things for
granted, he walked towards the gate. He was at the point of saying,
"That is my house," but he checked himself, thinking that silence was
safer than speech. He could not get the gate open, and while he wrenched
at the lock, he dreaded that delay might give her time to change her
mind. But Evelyn was now quite determined. Her brain seemed to
effervesce and her blood to bubble with joy, a triumphant happiness
filled her, for no doubt remained that she was going to Paris to-night.
"Let us have tea as soon as possible, and tell Stanley to bring the
brougham round at once."
"Why did you order the brougham?"
"Are you not--? I thought--"
The brilliancy of her eyes answered him, and he took her hands.
"Then you are coming with me to Paris?"
"Yes, if you like, Owen, anywhere.... But let me kiss you."
And she stood in a beautiful, amorous attitude, her arm thrown about his
neck, her eyes aflame.
"The brougham will be round in half an hour. There is a train at six to
Dover. It gets there at nine. So we shall have time to dine at the Lord
Warden, and get on board the boat before the mail arrives."
"But I have no clothes."
"The night is fine; we shall have a lovely crossing; you will only want
a shawl and a rug.... But what are you thinking of? You don't regret?"
His eyes were tenderer than hers. She perceived in their grey lights a
tenderness, as affection which seemed in contradiction to his nature as
she had hitherto understood it. Even the thought flashed dimly in the
background of her mind that his love was truer than hers; his cynicism,
which had often frightened her, seemed to have vanished; indeed, there
was something different in him from the man she had hitherto known--a
difference which was rendered evident by the accent with which he said--
"Dearest Evelyn, this is the happiest moment of my life. I have spent
two terrible days wondering if you would come."
"Did you, dear? Did you think of me? Are you fond of me?"
He pressed her hand, and with one look answered her question, and she
saw the streets flash past her--for they were in the brougham driving to
Charing Cross. There was still the danger of meeting Mr. Innes at the
station; but the danger was slight. She knew of no business that would
take him to Charing Cross, and they were thankful the train did not
start from Victoria.
Owen called to his coachman to hasten. They had wasted, he said, too
much time over the tea-table, and might miss the train. But they did not
miss it, and through the heat of the long, summer afternoon the slow
train jogged peacefully through the beautiful undulations of the
southern counties. The sky was quiet gold and torquoise blue, and far
away were ruby tinted clouds. A peaceful light floated over the
hillsides and dozed in the hollows, and the happiness of the world
seemed eternal. Deep, cool shadows filled the copses, and the green corn
was a foot high in the fields, and every gate and hedgerow wore a
picturesque aspect. Evelyn and Owen sat opposite each other, talking in
whispers, for they were not alone; they had not been in time to secure a
private carriage. The delight that filled their hearts was tender as the
light in the valleys and the hill sides. But Evelyn's feelings were the
more boisterous, for she was entering into life, whereas Owen thought he
was at last within reach of the ideal he had sought from the beginning
of his life.
This feeling, which was very present in his mind, appeared somehow
through his eyes and in his manner, and even through the tumult of her
emotions she was vaguely aware that he was even nicer than she had
thought. She had never loved him so much as now; and again the thought
passed that she had not known him before, and far down in her happiness
she wondered which was the true man.
From Dover they telegraphed to Mr. Innes--"Your daughter is safe. She
has gone abroad to study singing;" and at midnight they were on board
the boat. The night was strangely calm and blue; a little mist was
about, and they stood watching the circle of light which the vessel shed
upon the water, moving ever onwards, with darkness before and after.
"Dearest, what are you thinking of?"
"Of father. He has received our message by now. Poor dad, he won't sleep
to-night. To-morrow they will all have the news, and on Sunday in church
they will 'be talking about it.'"
"But your voice would have been wasted. Your father would have
reproached himself; he would think he had sacrificed you to his music."
"Which wouldn't be true."
"True or false, he'd think it. Besides, it would be true in a measure."
Evelyn told Owen of her interview with her father that morning, and he
"You acted nobly."
"There was nobility in your conduct."
"He'll be so lonely, so lonely. And," she exclaimed, clasping her hands,
"who will play the viola da gamba?"
"When I bring you back a great singer ... there'll be substantial
consolation in that."
"But he won't close his eyes to-night, and he'll miss me at breakfast
and at dinner--his poor dinner all by himself."
"But you don't want to go back to him? You love me as much as your
They pressed each other's hands, and, striving to see through the blue
hollow of the night, they thought of the adventure of the voyage they
had undertaken. Spectral ships loomed up and vanished in the spectral
stillness; and only within the little circle of light could they
perceive the waves over which they floated. The moon drifted, and a few
stars showed through the white wrack. Whither were their lives striving?
She had thought that her life in Dulwich must endure for ever, but it
had passed from her like a dream; it had snapped suddenly, and she
floated on another voyage, and still the same mystery encircled her as
before. She knew that Owen loved her. This was the little circle of life