Part 3 out of 5
Her voice sounded flat, but I was too hurried to take much notice of
it. I wanted to get down to show Viola the work.
"Well, three o'clock then," I repeated, and ran downstairs.
Viola was waiting in the dining-room, but not at the table. I went
over to the window where she was standing, and showed her the
"Oh, Trevor, how lovely; how perfectly beautiful!" she exclaimed,
gazing at the charcoal head.
"You have done that well, and what a glorious face!"
I flushed with pleasure.
"I'm so glad you like it. Come up this afternoon and see the model,
see me work. Say you're out, and let's have tea in the studio."
"Very well," she answered as the luncheon came in; "I'll say we want
tea up there. What a good idea to make her a Bacchante; it's the very
face for it."
"Suppose I took her as a Bacchante dancing, the whole figure I mean,
nude, under a canopy of vine leaves, make all the background,
everything, green vines with clusters of purple grapes, and then have
her dancing down the sort of avenue towards the foreground, with the
light pouring down through the leaves. How do you think that would
"I should think it would be lovely," Viola answered slowly, with a
I looked across at her quickly.
"You would like to be my only model for the body?" I said gently,
keeping my eyes on her face.
"No, Trevor, I really don't want to be selfish, and I do think you
should have another, only...."
"Well, when a woman is in love she does so long to be able to assume
all sorts of different forms, to be different women, so as to always
please and amuse and satisfy the man she loves. How delightful it
would be if one could change! One can be pretty, one can be amiable,
clever, charming, anything, but one cannot be different from oneself;
one must be the same, one can't get away from that."
"I don't want you to be different. I should be overwhelmed if you
suddenly changed into some one else! And whatever models I have, you
will always be the best. There could not be another such perfect
figure as yours."
Viola smiled, but an absent look came into her face.
After luncheon we both went up to the studio together, and Viola was
ensconced in my armchair when Veronica's knock came on the door.
I said, "Come in," and she entered with the confident air of the
morning. Directly she saw Viola, however, she seemed to stiffen with
resentment, and stood still by the door.
"Come in," I repeated, "and shut the door."
Viola looked at her kindly and laid down the charcoal sketch in her
"I have been looking at your head here and thinking it so beautiful,"
she said gently.
Veronica only stared at her a little ungraciously in return, and took
off her hat in silence.
I put her back into position, re-arranged the fillet on her head, and
set to work to complete the colour study.
We worked in unbroken silence till tea was brought up at four. Viola
rose to make it, and I told the girl to get up and move about if she
liked, and I set the canvas aside to dry. Viola offered the girl a cup
of tea, but she refused it and went and sat under the window on an old
couch, leaving us by the table.
The canvas was a success in a way so far, but the great sweetness of
the expression in the charcoal sketch of the morning was not there.
When tea was over I went up to Veronica and told her I must leave the
canvas of the head to dry, I could not work more on it then, and asked
her if she would pose for me as the Bacchante dancing. I wanted to see
if she would do for a larger picture.
I got no answer for a minute. Veronica looked down and began to pull
at the faded fringe of an old cushion.
At last I repeated my question.
"Not while _she's_ here," she muttered in a low, fierce tone.
I was surprised at the resentment in look and voice.
"Nonsense," I said with some annoyance. "You can pose before her as
well as before me."
Veronica did not answer, only pulled in sullen silence at the cushion.
"You are wasting my time," I said impatiently.
Veronica looked through the window.
"I shan't take off my clothes before her," she muttered defiantly.
I turned away from her in annoyance and approached Viola who had not
moved from her chair on the other side of the room. She sprang up and
came to meet me.
"She objects to my being here?" she said quickly. "Is it bothering
you? Because, if it is, I'll go; that'll settle it."
"It's awfully stupid. I'm so sorry, Viola; it's so idiotic of her."
Viola smiled brightly up at me.
"Never mind, I'll go. You'll be down soon, now."
I held the door open for her, and with a smiling nod at me she passed
through and went down the stairs. I waited till her bright head had
disappeared, and then closed the door and went back to Veronica.
"Now," I said, "Mrs. Lonsdale has left us. Will you get up and stand
as I want you to? Or do you want me to dismiss you?"
I felt extremely angry and annoyed. My heart beat violently. Viola had
come there by my invitation, she had deprived herself of any possible
society for the afternoon, and now had been practically turned out by
this impertinent little model.
Veronica got sulkily up from the couch and began to undress in
I walked away and flung myself into the armchair Viola had vacated,
and picked up the charcoal sketch.
How sweet the face was in that! And yet what an awful little devil the
girl on the couch had looked.
I was so accustomed to Viola's unfailing either good temper or
self-command, that I was beginning to forget women had bad tempers as
well as men.
After a minute or two Veronica came over to me; she had let her hair
down, and it fell prettily on her shoulders. I laid down the charcoal
sketches and looked at her critically as she approached.
Her figure had all the beauty of great plumpness and youthfulness.
Every contour was round and full, and yet firm. Her body was beautiful
in the sense that all healthy, sound, young, well-formed things are,
but there was, as it were, no soul in the beauty, nothing transcendent
in any of the lines or in the colour. It was something essentially of
earth, un-dreamlike, appealing to the senses, and to them alone.
I was struck with the great contrast it presented to the form of
Viola, which was so wonderfully ethereal, so divine in colour and
design. Every line in it was long and tapering, never coming to a
sudden stop, but merging with infinite grace into the next, and the
dazzling, immaculate whiteness of it all made it seem like something
of heaven. It suggested the vision, the ideal, all that man longs
after with his soul, that stirs the celestial fires within his brain,
not merely the flame of the senses.
In the form before me, the lines were short and often abrupt, the
curves quick and expressionless; it would do capitally for the
"Bacchante," it would not have served for a moment for the "Soul of
The girl was smiling now, and appeared quite amiable. Most people are
when they have got their own way. She asked me if I thought she would
"Yes, I think you will. Stand back there, please, against that green
curtain. Now put one foot forward as if you were advancing. Yes,
that's right; lift both your arms up over your head."
I got up to give her a hoop of wire to hold as an arch over her, and
put a spray of artificial ivy over it.
"That'll do. Now stand still, and let's see how that works out."
The girl posed well. Evidently she was a model of considerable
practice, and I obtained an excellent sketch before a quarter to six,
when she said she must leave off and dress.
She did so in silence, while I studied my own work. When she had her
hat on I looked up and asked her if she wanted to be paid.
"No," she answered, "we'll leave it till the end of the week.
"Good-bye," I said, and she went out. I laid the sketch on the table
beside me, and sat thinking. A sudden blankness fell upon me as I
stood mentally opposite this new idea that had never presented itself
to me in the same form before, that in my former easy, wandering
existence I had always welcomed a beautiful model, not only for the
gain to my art, but because of the incidental pleasure it might bring
me. But now I realised suddenly that this girl's beauty brought me no
elation. _It was not any use_, and in a flash I saw, too, that no
woman now, no beauty could be any use to me ever any more, for I was
not a single irresponsible existence any longer, but involved with
another which was sacred to me.
How often in the past, when entangled in some light _liaison_, I had
wished for deeper, stronger emotions, something to wake the mind and
stir the soul! Then in my love for Viola I had found all these and
welcomed them madly. She had stirred my whole sleeping being into
flame, and given me those keener and stronger desires of the brain,
and satisfied them; and till now it had seemed to me that this passion
for her was a free gift from the hands of Fate. Now, suddenly, I saw
that the gift had its price. That, after all, there was something to
be said for those light free loves of the past. That some joy had been
taken out of life, now those glittering trifles, toys of the senses,
were taken from me, made impossible.
For the first time I realised that a great passion has its yoke, and
that, in return for the great joy it gives, it demands and takes one's
I sat motionless, feeling overwhelmed by the sudden blaze of light
that the simple incident of this model's advent had thrown on an
obscure psychological fact.
I saw now that my love for Viola was not wholly a gain, not something
extra added to my life's-cup that made it full to overflowing, but, as
always in this life, something had been taken away as well as added.
I felt as a child might feel who was presented with a magnificent gift
with which he was overjoyed, but who on taking it to the nursery to
add to his other treasures, saw his nurse locking these all away from
him for ever in a glass case above his reach.
As the child might, I hugged my new gift to me and delighted in it,
but I could not help feeling regret for those other small, glittering
toys with which I had formerly played so much, now shut away behind
the deadly glass pane of conscience.
It was not that Veronica appealed to me specially. I did not feel I
cared whether she came to the studio again or not except for the
picture, but the great principle involved, now that I was face to face
with it, appalled me.
Viola had sought to leave me free, by refusing marriage with me; but,
after all, what difference does the mere nominal tie make?
The essential attribute of a great passion--something that cannot be
eliminated from it--is the chain of fidelity it forges round its
I do not know how long I sat there, but at last I rose mechanically,
put the sheets of paper together, and went downstairs.
As I came to the drawing-room door I heard that Viola was playing.
The door stood ajar, and silently I entered and took my seat behind
her. She was improvising, just playing as the inspiration came to her,
and wholly absorbed and unconscious of my presence. There was a great
glass facing her, in which her whole image was reflected, and had she
glanced into it she must have seen me; but she did not. Her eyes gazed
out before her, wrapt, delighted; her face was quite white, her lips
parted in a little smile.
I saw she was under the influence of her music and absolutely happy,
full of joy, such as I could never give her. A great jealousy ran
through me, kindling all that passion I had for her. The thoughts and
reflections of an hour back seemed swept out of mind like dead leaves
before a storm. No other lighter loves could give me one-tenth of the
emotion that the pursuit and conquest of this strange soul could do.
For I had not conquered it. It was absorbed in, and lived in mysteries
of joy that its art alone could give it, and I was outside--almost a
stranger to it.
The thought burnt and stung me, and the fire of it wrapped round me as
I sat watching her. That body, so slim, so perfect, she had given me,
but I wanted more, I wanted that inner spirit to be mine, I wanted to
I watched her in a fierce, jealous anger, almost as I might have done
seeing her caressed by another lover, she was so wonderfully happy, so
independent of me, so unconscious of me; but man loves that which is
above him, difficult to obtain, hard to pursue. We cannot help it. We
are made to be hunters, and I felt I loved Viola then with fresh
Some time or other I would succeed in breaking through that charmed
circle in which she lived, in making her yield up to me the spiritual
maidenhood which, as it were, was hers.
I would be first and last and everything to her, and not even her art
should count beside me.
I closed my eyes and put my head back on the couch where I was sitting
and gave myself up to listening to the music.
How the instrument answered her! What a divine melody rose from it,
floating gently on the air like quivering wings.
Then suddenly came a storm of passion, and the room was filled with a
tempest of sound, while one strong thread of melody low down in the
bass ran through it all and seemed a fierce reproach of one in
anguish. At last one sheet of sound seemed to sweep the piano from end
to end, a cry of dismay, of pain, the woe and grief of one who sees
his world shattered suddenly before his eyes; then there was silence.
I sprang up and clasped her in my arms.
"Trevor," she exclaimed, like one awakening from a dream; "I had no
idea you were there."
"No," I said savagely; "you were so absorbed, you never noticed me
"Well, I heard the model go, and I waited and waited for you to come
down; but you were so long I turned to the piano to console me."
"Which it did quite well, apparently," I answered.
A sweet, tender look came over her face, and she stretched out her
arms to me.
"Nothing could wholly console me for your absence," she said; "and you
know that quite well; but the music always helps me to bear it."
I drew her to me and strained her close up to me in silence, longing
to conquer, to come into union with that mysterious inner something we
call the Soul.
Yet in this unconquerable quality, in this pursuit of that which
always escapes from our most passionate embraces, man finds an
The weeks slipped by, and I worked hard at the painting, while Viola
gave herself up to the music and all the work that the approaching
production of her opera gave her. Our evenings were always spent
together. We set aside two evenings in the week for our friends,
giving only small dinners of eight or ten. On the other evenings when
we were not dining out ourselves we went to the opera, and supper
I often wondered whether there was anything or nothing in the fact
that we were not married to each other, which affected our feelings
and relations to each other. Does that conventional bond make some
subtle difference, just by its existence; and did that account for the
fact that we seemed to find a greater delight in each other's society,
a greater need of each other than the average husband and wife do; or
was it only because we happened to be two who had met and really loved
more than most people do, and had we been married, we should have felt
Certainly we were looked upon as peculiar because, being married, we
were so much together.
The true explanation is perhaps that, as a rule, the people who love
do not marry, and those who marry do not love.
Coming home from our supper after the opera, I felt the same
passionate delight in Viola as that first evening when I had driven
her to my studio. Waking in the dawn to find her sleeping on my arm, I
had the same joyous elation as I had known under the thatched roof,
during our first stay together. Unfortunately, however, a great
passion for one object does not necessarily exclude lesser passions,
or, rather, passing fancies of the senses for other objects. It is
generally supposed that it does, but my experience is rather to the
With women possibly it may do so oftener than with men, but extreme
constancy, absolute exclusiveness is not the natural product of a
great passion. It is a question rather of sentiment and artificial
Nature is not on the side of sentiment. She is always a prodigal, with
the one great aim before her of ensuring the continuance of the race.
Consequently, when a man is already loving one object with all his
force, it is not Nature's plan to make him turn from all others by
instinct. No, she is ever ready with others, ever rather prompting
him, leading him towards others, in order that, should accident or
death remove his first mate, others should not be wanting, and her
great scheme should not be spoiled nor interrupted.
Nature is always on a grand scale, always acting in and for the
plural, never for the singular.
Does she want one oak to survive, she throws on the ground a million
acorns for that purpose.
Man she has fitted to love not one, but hundreds, and our senses act
automatically and are always on the side of Nature. It is the mind
alone that man has taught to act against her, and that demands and
gives fidelity in love.
A woman's attitude towards a second lover, when she is deeply in love
with the first, is not so often "I don't want him," as "It would
grieve my first lover, therefore I will not take him."
A man, when offered a second mistress, usually thinks "I will take
her, but I mustn't let the first one know." In both it is the anxiety
of Nature that neither should be left mateless, part of her tremendous
scheme of insurance against mischance.
And all this great love and passion which I had for Viola, passion
which exhausted me almost to the point sometimes of being unable to
work, did not seal my senses against the beauty of Veronica--beauty I
painted daily in the studio.
I used to enjoy the afternoon spent there now with a different
pleasure from that of work merely. The sensuous attraction had become
very great, and I was beginning to feel it was not innocent and to
half-long for, half-dread an interruption, something to break through
it, end it.
Veronica professed to have fallen in love with me. It is rather a
trick of models to do this. They think it can do no harm, and possibly
extra benefits to themselves may accrue. Perhaps she was in love with
me, if a mere covetousness of the senses can be called love. This she
had, and from the first she had determined to subdue me. Her ruse of
the first day had succeeded. Viola had never again come to the studio
while she was there, and so hour after hour we were alone together
undisturbed. I kept hard at work the whole time, hardly exchanging a
word with her, and would go downstairs for tea with Viola; but she
employed her eyes continually to tell her story, and caught my hand
and kissed it whenever she was able.
Just at first I felt only amusement and annoyance. Then gradually I
used to expect the soft look to come into the beautiful eyes, the
touch of the warm lips on my hand began to stir and thrill me. I felt
a vague dislike and distrust of the girl mentally, I thought she was
vain, selfish, mercenary, revengeful, and bad-tempered, but with all
that Nature had nothing to do. Her servants, the senses, submitted to
the youth and beauty of the newcomer, and that was all Nature cared
One afternoon she was posing as usual, and I was painting, deeply
absorbed, on the picture of the "Bacchante" when her voice suddenly
"May I move just for a minute?"
"Certainly," I exclaimed, looking up and laying down my brush.
The girl laid down her spray of ivy-leaves, walked across the space
intervening between us, and, before I was aware of her intention,
threw her arms round my neck and kissed me.
The kiss seemed to burn my lips, but with the current of passion I
also felt a storm of anger against her. I sprang up and seized her
shoulders, pushing her away from me.
"Don't, Trevor, don't, you are hurting me; you are hurting my
shoulders," she exclaimed, the tears starting to her eyes.
I took my hands from her arms, and saw my grasp had left deep marks of
crimson on them.
"Go and get dressed then, and go," I said furiously; "I'm not going to
paint any more." I pushed my chair away and threw the palette and
brushes on to the table near.
Veronica shrank from me and turned pale. In that moment the intense
beauty of the face and figure was borne in upon me, she clung as if
for support to the easel with one soft hand, all the youthful body
seemed to shrink together in a beautiful dismay, great tears rolled
down the cheeks from the dark reproachful eyes. I saw it all for one
moment, feeling the anger sinking down under that strange influence
that beauty has upon us. But I would not look at her. I turned my back
on her and went over to the window, hardly conscious of what I did. I
stood there for a few moments; then, suddenly, there came a cry and
the sound of a fall behind me. I looked round and saw her lying, a
little crushed heap, by the couch where she usually dressed.
I sprang forward, full of self-reproach. How foolish I had been! So
unnecessarily harsh! I went to her. In obedience to my order, she had
put some of her clothes on, and now lay there senseless apparently and
quite white, her arms, still bare, stretched out on the floor beside
her. She looked so pretty, so small, round, and helpless, that my
heart went out to her. I felt I had been such a brute. As I stooped
over her to raise her I saw the great crimson bruises I had left on
I picked her up and put her on the couch. She lay there quite still,
pale, her eyes closed, unconscious.
I pushed the hair off her forehead, and, dipping my handkerchief into
a glass of water on the table, pressed it on to her head. I was
kneeling by the couch. The sweet, little, rounded face, the soft
unconscious body lay just beneath my eyes.
She opened her eyes slowly:
"Trevor, do forgive me," she whispered, and smiled up at me just a
little, opening the curved lips; "do say you forgive me, give me one
In the violent reaction of feeling, in the torrent of self-reproach
for being so hard on a child like this, the senses conquered, I put my
head down, and kissed her passionately, far more passionately from
that great reaction of preceding anger, on her lips.
"Dear, dear little girl, are you better?"
She threw her arms round me.
"Oh, Trevor, I do love you so, I do love you, I do love you."
Full of that great delight, so transient, so baseless, so unreasoning,
yet so great, which the senses give us, of that passion in which the
mind has no part, that passes over us as the wind ruffles the surface
of the lake without moving the depths below, I kissed her over and
over again, and pressed her to me, soft shoulders and undone hair and
The next moment the vision of Viola came before my brain, and I rose
to my feet. Veronica caught at my hand, and, raising it to her lips,
kissed it in a tempest of passion. I drew it away--
"Get up and finish your dressing," I said very gently. "This sort of
thing can do you no good, Veronica. It will only mean that I cannot
let you come to the studio at all."
Veronica rose from the couch obediently and resumed her dressing. She
gave me somehow the impression she was satisfied at having broken down
my self-control, and hoped to win me over further by extreme docility.
I walked away to the window, angry with myself, and yet angry again
that that anger should be necessary. I had always been so free till
now, able to gratify the fancy of the moment. This need for
self-restraint was new and irritating.
Veronica came up to me when she was dressed, and asked for a parting
kiss. I gave it, and she went away with a demure and sad little sigh.
When I came down from the studio I went at once to our bedroom to
dress. We were dining early and going out after, and I knew I had not
much time. Viola was not there; she had dressed evidently and gone
down. Sometimes she would be sitting in the armchair at the foot of
the bed waiting for me, but to-night she had gone down.
I walked about the room, quickly collecting my evening things and
thinking. Why did I, now that I had left Veronica, feel self-reproach
and regret at what had passed? What was a kiss? It was ridiculous to
think of it twice.
I ran downstairs and found Viola as I had expected in the
drawing-room. In her white dinner-gown and with a few violet pansies
at her breast, she looked, I thought, particularly charming. She
smiled as I came in, but when I approached to kiss her as was usual
between us after the shortest absences, she got up, almost started up
and moved away from me.
"Don't kiss me! I am so afraid you will crush my flowers."
I stopped disconcerted; she coloured slightly and took a chair further
from me, I flung myself into one close to me.
It was so unlike Viola to resist any advance of mine, and on such a
score, that it astonished me. Often and often I had hesitated when she
had been in some of her magnificent toilettes to clasp her to me for
fear of disturbing the wonderful creations, and had been laughingly
derided for so doing.
"Your kiss is worth a dozen dresses," she would say, and crush me to
her in spite of whatever laces or jewels might lie between; and such
words had been very dear to me.
This phrase now, usual with many women, unheard before from her,
struck me. The blood rushed to my head for a moment as the thought
came--she have seen or heard in any possible way the scene in the
studio? and then I dismissed it as quite impossible. It was
coincidence, merely that. She could know nothing. Then, staring away
from her into the little fire, I thought suddenly--"Is not this the
most despicable, the worst part of all infidelity, this deceit it
must bring with it? The lies, either spoken or tacit, to which it
There were only a few moments and then the bell called us to dinner.
Viola was just as sweet and charming as usual through the meal and
after, both during the theatre party to which we went, and when we
were driving home together.
The next morning when we were at breakfast alone she said in a very
"Trevor, you will be careful about that model of yours, won't you?"
I raised my eyebrows.
"How do you mean?"
"Don't let her draw you into anything you don't really want to do. Be
a little on your guard with her. You know how detestable some women
can be. They try to make men compromise themselves, and then worry
"I should think I ought to be able to take care of myself," I replied.
Of course I was annoyed, and showed it.
"Well," said Viola, getting up from the table, "it is difficult when a
girl is as beautiful as that and you are shut up for hours alone with
her. When do you think the picture will be finished?"
"I don't know at all," I said, feeling more and more annoyed. "I
shall probably keep her on for another after it."
This was a pure invention of my anger at the moment, for I had fully
resolved last night to get rid of Veronica and as soon as possible,
and never see her again; but I objected to what seemed to me
Viola turned paler almost than the cloth before us.
"Do you really wish to do so?" she asked.
"Yes," I said coldly. "Have you any objection?"
"Yes, I think it would be a great pity," she replied quietly. "You
will get so drawn to her, so interested in her, it will come between
I looked at her in amaze and anger. Was this all coincidence? It must
be. How could she possibly know what had occurred?
We are nearly all of us beasts to women when they appeal to us. Had
the position been reversed and had I been speaking to Viola as she was
to me, she would have been all sweetness, accepting my jealous anxiety
as a compliment, recognising how sure a sign of passion it is.
"All this seems very childish and silly," I answered. "Veronica is
nothing to me but a model and will never be anything than that. I
shall keep her as long as I want her, and dismiss her when I choose. I
don't want to discuss the matter again with you."
Viola waited till I had finished speaking, then when I ceased, she
inclined her head and went out, shutting the door noiselessly behind
In that moment even of anger against her, a great throb of admiration
beat through me. Her attitude as she waited by the door, one hand
clasping the handle, her face turned towards me, was so perfect, the
acquiescence so graceful and dignified; but it was only for a moment,
the anger closed over the impulse of love again, and I walked up and
down the room full of resentment.
"Why should one," I muttered, "just because one loves one woman, never
be supposed to kiss another, why should there be all this hateful,
jealous tyranny? It is better to be free, as one is as a bachelor, and
do what one likes, just take everything as it comes along."
Then it recurred to me suddenly that I was not married, not tied in
any way, I was free, and the remembrance came, too, why it was
so--that Viola herself had refused to take my freedom from me.
"Then when I use it to amuse myself for an hour or two this is the
result," I thought stormily, trying to keep angry with Viola. "It's as
bad as being married."
I tried to feel Viola was quite in the wrong, a tiresome,
unreasonable, jealous person; but irresistibly my thoughts modified
themselves, sobered by that sudden recollection that I was not bound
to her nor she to me. Perhaps I should not have to complain of her
tyranny very long. Waves of memory rolled over me against my will,
memories of the wonderful passion that existed between us, something
that went down to the roots of my being, that shook me to the very
depths, as different as the day from the night from my passing fancy
for Veronica's beauty. My mind went back to the first night at the
studio; I had never felt anything for any other woman that could
approach my feelings for her. She was so different from all the
others. I had known a good many, and they all seemed very much alike,
but Viola stood alone amongst them.
After a few minutes' more reflection, I went to look for her. I
thought I would try to soften the effect of my last words to her, but
I could not find her, and full of a sense of dissatisfaction, I went
on at last upstairs to the studio.
When Veronica came into the room I realised the full extent of my
folly the previous afternoon. Hitherto her manner had been respectful
and demure enough on the surface, though always with a suggestion of
veiled insolent self-confidence. Now the veil was thrown off, she was
assured of herself, and showed it.
She came up to me, kissed me as a matter of course, and when I barely
returned the kiss, she laughed openly and said coolly.
"What's the matter, Trevor? Viola been lecturing you?"
To hear her use Viola's name seemed to freeze me.
"Be quiet," I said sharply.
The girl merely made a grimace and began to take off her hat and let
down her hair.
The morning passed dully. I did not paint well. The impersonal state
of mind in which alone good artistic work can be produced was not with
When I went down to luncheon I found Viola looking very pale and ill.
This made me feel cross. Ill-health very rarely excites pity or
sympathy in men, but nearly always a feeling of vexation and
annoyance. "Why should she worry herself?" I asked myself angrily,
"when there was nothing to worry about."
She had generally a very warm pink colour glowing in her face, which
disappeared if anything worried or grieved her. It was gone now, and I
knew it was my words of the morning that had driven it away.
"I looked for you this morning before I went up to paint," I said;
"but couldn't find you."
"I am so sorry," she answered with a quick smile. "What did you want
"To tell you you needn't worry about Veronica. She is absolutely
nothing to me."
"Then, if she is, why will you not send her away, or at least when the
'Bacchante' is finished?"
"Because I don't see any necessity," I answered. "Besides, if I get
any other model you would feel the same, wouldn't you, about her?"
"Any model you kissed and desired. Yes, certainly."
We were both standing now facing each other. Viola was deadly pale, as
she always became in any conflict with me.
I stood silent for a moment.
I could not understand how she knew and could speak so definitely, but
I could not lie and deny it, so I said nothing.
"Do you mean that I am never to kiss another woman as long as I live?"
I asked, a shade of derision coming into my voice.
"No, only as long as we are what we are to each other."
A chill fell upon me. I could not think of a time when she would not
be with me, could not face the idea of change.
The light fell across her very bright and waving hair, and caught the
tips of her eyelashes and fell all round her exquisite, girlish
figure, full of that wonderful grace I had never seen in any other.
"It is a pity to make your love, which otherwise would be such a
divine pleasure, a thing of restraint and fetters," I said slowly.
"But it is a mutual obligation in love," she said in a very low tone.
"It must be so. You would not wish me to kiss any of the men who come
here, would you? They often ask me to."
Her words gave me suddenly such a sense of surprise and shock, it was
almost as if she had struck me in the eyes.
"_No_," I said involuntarily, the instinct within me speaking without
"Well, that is what I say," answered Viola gently. "A great passion
has its fetters. I don't see how it can be helped. You can have the
promiscuous loves of all the women you meet, or you can have the
absolute devotion of one; but I don't see how you can have the two."
My heart beat, and the blood seemed going up to my head, confusing my
reason. I felt angry because I knew she was right.
"Well, really it seems that the first might be better if one's life is
to be so limited."
Viola did not answer at all. I turned and walked towards the window
and stood looking out for a few minutes. When I turned round the room
I went up to the studio, but again I could not paint. The pale,
unhappy face of Viola came between me and the picture.
To Veronica I hardly spoke. Her beauty neither attracted nor even
pleased me. She was the cause of all this vague cloud rising up in my
life, which had hitherto been intensely happy and allowed me to do
the very best in my art.
Her efforts to attract me and to draw me from my work only annoyed and
irritated me, and when I went down to tea I told her to go, that I
should not paint afterwards.
No one happened to be calling that afternoon, so Viola and I were
alone. There was hardly any constraint between us even after what had
passed at luncheon. We were so much one, so intimate, mentally as well
as physically, that we could not quarrel with each other any more than
one can quarrel with oneself. One can be cross with oneself
occasionally, but not for long.
We neither of us referred to Veronica or anything disagreeable, but
gave ourselves up to the joy of each other's society. When I told her
I was not going back to paint she was delighted, and we planned to
dine early and go to the Empire after.
The ballet seemed to amuse her, and when we returned and went up to
our room she was in the lightest and gayest of spirits. This room was
the only one in the house in the furnishing of which Viola had taken
the slightest interest. In all the others she had allowed things to
stand just as we found them, just as our landlord had thought good to
leave them, but in this one much had been added to the contents
written down in the inventory and so much altered that our landlord
would indeed have been astonished if he had suddenly looked in. The
bed was a triumph of artistic skill, designed and arranged under her
own directions, the curtains enclosing it were delicate in colouring
and so soft in fabric that the bed seemed enveloped in a mass of blue
clouds, gold-lined, and all the sheets and clothing were filmy and
lace-edged, and must have been the despair of the steam laundry; a
blue silk covering, the colour of her own eyes, and embroidered with
pale pink roses, gold-centred, reposed on it, matching the curtains,
and an electric lamp shaded in rose colour depended from the French
crown above the head; a lamp which flooded the bed with light when all
the curtains were drawn and shut out the lights of the room. The
carpet was blue also, and the heavy curtains over all the windows
matched it, edged with, and embroidered in gold.
The toilet-table, though simple enough in its arrangements, for Viola
needed no cosmetics, no lotions, no manicure nor other evil
inventions, was always a lovely object. On its pale rose covering lay
her gold-backed brushes and comb, her gold hand-mirror with cupids
playing on it, her little gold boxes of pins, and always vases of
fresh geraniums, white and rose-pink. Out of the room at one side
opened a smaller one, it was not used as a chapel nor yet as a
dressing-room. We dressed together and took pleasure in so doing, as
we did in everything that threw us into intimate companionship. We had
no need of dressing-rooms since there were no teeth to come in and
out, no wigs to be taken off and put on, no secrets on either side to
be jealously guarded from one another. No, the room opening out of
ours was a supper-room, where, when we came back late from opera or
theatre, we could always count on finding cold supper and champagne. I
went in to-night and turned on all the lights, which were many, while
Viola laid aside her dress and slipped into a dressing-gown, something
as fragile and beautiful as a rose-leaf, suiting her delicate, elusive
beauty. She followed me into the little supper-room, and as I turned
and saw her on the threshold, the delicacy of the whole vision struck
me. A pain shot into my heart suddenly. Supposing I ever lost her? Saw
her fade from me?
Her eyes were wide-open and laughing, a faint colour glowed in the
white transparent skin, the lips were a light scarlet, parted now from
the milky teeth.
I made two steps forwards and caught her and crushed her up tightly to
my breast and kissed her and made her sit on my knee while I poured
out some champagne.
"Now drink that," I commanded; "you look as if you needed something
material. You look like a vision that may vanish from me into thin
Viola laughed and drank the wine.
"Trevor," she said reflectively, as if following up some train of
thought she had been pursuing already a long time. "What heaps of
wonderfully beautiful girls and women we saw to-night. Wouldn't you
like some of them?"
"Some of them! Supposing you send me up a dozen or two?"
"No, but really I was thinking as I sat there to-night, how pretty
they were, and how varied. I can quite understand how a man would like
to try them all."
"You would object, I am afraid," I said gravely. "You object even to
"I know. I don't think it's possible to do otherwise. I shouldn't love
you if I didn't. But if you gave me up you could have all these
"Well, you see, it is the other way; I have given them all up for
"I know, but is it wise for your own happiness? I thought about it a
great deal to-night."
"Women like that can give one only the simple pleasure of the senses.
It is very much the same with them all; but with you there is some
extraordinary passion created in the brain as well as in the senses,
that makes it a different thing."
"I am so glad," she murmured, leaning her arms on the table and
looking at me with eyes absorbed and abstracted.
"There is no single thing in this world I would not do to give you
pleasure, to delight and satisfy you. I have never refused you
anything, have I?"
And it was true. She never had refused me anything it was in her power
to give. Still she held something that was not yet mine; the inner
spirit of the Soul.
* * * * *
Days passed and things continued in the same way. I had not the
strength of mind to dismiss Veronica, to deprive myself of that
subtle, delicious pleasure that lay in her soft kisses, in the bloom
of her beauty, in her professed devotion to myself. The Bacchante was
not quite finished, so that gave me the outward excuse. The excuse I
put forward to myself was that Viola could not possibly know what I
felt for the girl nor what I did, and so it could not hurt her.
Veronica made no secret of her wishes to tie me more closely to her
still. But, in spite of the clamour of the senses, there was something
within me or round me that held me irresistibly from this.
All that I had done already I knew that Viola would forgive, even
though it grieved and distressed her. If I went further I did not
know that she would ever forgive, and that made an insurmountable
barrier that nothing Veronica could do or say could break down.
The weeks slipped by and brought us to the date when Viola's operetta
was to be produced. On the evening which she had so looked forward to,
now it had come, she seemed tired and spiritless, and we dressed for
dinner almost in silence. Captain Lawton and another man who had
helped in the production of the piece were dining with us, and we were
then going on to our box at the theatre.
At dinner Viola seemed to regain some of her old gay spirits, and the
light rose colour I loved crept back into her cheeks as she laughed
and talked with Lawton seated on her right hand. I had always thought
him a particularly handsome fellow, and to-night it struck me suddenly
what an extremely attractive man he must be in a woman's eyes. He was
dark and a little sunburnt from being in South Africa, and, combined
with really beautiful features and a fine figure, he had that dashing
grace of carriage, that unaffected simple manner of the soldier, which
even by itself has a charm of its own.
I looked at Viola curiously, and wondered how she felt towards this
man who was so obviously in love with her. Whether it moved her at all
to see those dark eyes fill with fire as she smiled at him, to know
that the whole of this engaging personality was hers if she chose to
stretch out her hand and claim it.
The dinner passed off well, thanks principally to the inexhaustible
tide of good spirits and fun that flowed from Lawton. We took a couple
of hansoms afterwards and arrived at the theatre in good time.
The "Lily of Canton" went smoothly from beginning to end. The crowded
house laughed and applauded the whole time. In fact, the humour and
fun of Lawton's libretto were irresistible, and the beautiful airs
that Viola's fancy had woven in and out to carry the wit of Lawton's
sparkling lines enchanted the audience.
At the end there were calls for both of them to appear before the
curtain, and Viola left the box with him, radiant and smiling. When
they both appeared on the stage the enthusiasm was unbounded. Viola
was in white, and her delicate, rose-like fairness delighted the
audience, and the women clapped Lawton with good-will. Handsome, easy,
dignified, graceful, and debonair as usual, he smiled and bowed his
acknowledgments over and over again beside Viola, into whose face came
the wrapt, glad look that her music always gave, replacing the
expression of pain she had worn now for so many weeks.
I sat in our box watching her, with sore, jealous feelings rising up
like mists over the pride I had in my possession. As the whole scene
and her triumph stirred and roused my passion for her, some voice
seemed interrogating me--"Is she and her love not enough for you? Why
do you wear thin and fray the delicious tie between you?"
They were both up again in the box beside me, directly surrounded by
congratulating friends; and then Lawton gathered together his party
and we all filed off in a stream of hansoms to the supper that he was
giving in Viola's honour. It was already daylight before we reached
The next evening I had to attend an artists' dinner. It was for men
only, so that Viola was not invited. I spent a very busy morning and
afternoon in the studio. The Bacchante was almost finished, and I had
made up my mind to dismiss Veronica as soon as I was sure I was
satisfied with the picture and did not need her again. Full of this
resolve, I was perhaps a little more careless than usual, less on my
guard, and when at the end Veronica came to kiss me, I returned her
caress with more warmth than I was accustomed to do. It did not really
matter, I thought; the girl would be gone in a day or two and I should
have no more to do with her.
Feeling rather pleased with myself for having taken the decided
resolution to dismiss her in order to please Viola I went downstairs,
and was rather vexed when I met her to see her looking particularly
white and ill. She had seemed fairly well at luncheon, and I could not
shake off the extraordinary idea that my conduct with Veronica through
the afternoon was in some way connected with her pallor and expression
I had it on my lips to say--"I have decided to dismiss the model,"
when that feeling of irritation against her for looking so wretched
came uppermost and held the words back.
If she couldn't trust me and would worry about things when I told her
not to, she might worry and I would let her alone.
It really always hurt and alarmed me so much to see Viola look ill or
delicate that it made me angry with her, instead of extra considerate
and kind as I should have been.
She came upstairs to be with me while I dressed, and sat in the
armchair at the foot of the bed.
I asked her if she had a headache, and she said, "No."
"What did you do all this afternoon?" I asked. "Did any one come in to
"No, nobody came. I was lying on a sofa in the drawing-room most of
the time, thinking. I didn't feel able to do anything."
I did not ask her what she had been thinking about, but went on
dressing in silence.
Before I left I kissed her, but it was rather a cold kiss, as I felt
she ought to be happy and pink-cheeked as a result of my good
intentions--unreasonably enough, since I had not told her of them.
She accepted it, but seemed to hesitate as if she wished to say
something to me. I saw her grow paler and her lips quiver. She did not
speak, however, and so in rather a strained silence we parted and I
How I regretted that coldness afterwards! How mad and blind one is
sometimes where one loves most!
I did not enjoy the dinner at all because I could not deny to myself
that I had been unkind to her, with that tacit unkindness that is so
keenly felt and is so difficult to meet or combat. I left the hotel
where the dinner had been held quite early, and drove back to the
house, longing and impatient to be with her again, hold her in my
arms, and tell her all I had resolved and been thinking about, and
kiss the bright colour back into her face again.
I let myself in with my latch-key and ran up the stairs into the
It was brightly lighted, but empty. I was just going to seek her
upstairs when a note set up before the clock on the mantelpiece caught
I crossed the room, took it up, tore it open, and ran my eyes
hurriedly down it, line after line.
"Our relations have entered upon a new phase lately. I suppose it
cannot be helped, it is merely the turning on of the wheel of
time. We cannot stay the wheel, still less turn it back. All we
can do is to adjust ourselves to the new position.
"You have wished for your freedom. It is yours. I have never
wanted to take it away, but I feel I cannot go on dedicating my
life and every thought I have to you as I have done, if you wish
to share with others all that has been mine and all that I value
most in this or any world. I have tried, but it is beyond me. You
cannot think what I have suffered in these last weeks. I have
reasoned with myself, asked myself what did it matter what you did
when you were away from me, why should one rival now matter more
than those the past has held for me? I have argued, reasoned,
fought with myself, but it is useless. These unconquerable
instincts of jealousy have been placed in us and are as strong as
those other instincts of desire that excite them.
"The life of the last few weeks is killing me. I am losing my
health, losing my power to work. It is the concentration of all my
thoughts upon you that is maddening, impossible now that you no
longer belong to me. Even your presence, once the sun of my
existence, is painful to me now; and when you come straight from
another woman to kiss me, it is agony. I cannot bear it.
"You thought I did not know all the kisses and caresses you have
given Veronica. Dear Trevor, a woman always knows--perhaps a man
does, too. Certainly I knew. One does not have to see or hear;
there is a sense, not yet discovered, that is above all the
others, that tells us these things. When you came from her to me
you brought with you an influence that killed. Perhaps it was that
you were surrounded with an electricity from her that was hostile
to my own.
"I have felt lately a longing to be away from you, a longing to
escape from pain and torture, but the music keeps me in town, and
we cannot well separate here without a scandal, which I know you
would not wish. So I am going to try and escape mentally from you,
though our bodies must occupy the same house for a little while
"I am going to try to interest myself in others, not to think of
you, not to care for you as I have done. We have both been foolish
perhaps, as you say, in limiting our lives to each other, let us
end the idea between us. Let us be like ordinary married people.
You are free to choose whatever paths of pleasure open before you,
I am the same. To-night when you come back you will find this
letter instead of me. I shall dine out with one of these men who
want me and afterwards spend the evening with him. I will come
back early enough to cause no comment, but I will not come to your
room, as I do not suppose you will want me. I have had another
room put ready, and I shall go there.
"Good-bye, dearest one; if you could know all the agony that has
gone before this breaking of the tie between us! Now I seem to
feel nothing; I am dead. I can't cry; can't think any more.
* * * * *
I read this letter through with an agonised terror coming over me,
that gripped and wrung my heart, through the cloud of amaze that
filled me. Towards the end the words seemed to stab me. As I came to
the conclusion the truth broke upon me in a blinding, lightning flash.
_I_ had lost her. But it was incredible, unthinkable. She was part of
my life, part of myself. I still lived; therefore, she was mine. I
felt paralysed. I could not grasp fully what she had said, what she
intended me to understand. It was as when one is told a loved one is
dead. It means nothing to us for a moment. Reason goes down under a
flood of sickening fear. I read the last page over again.
Then I sprang to my feet and stared round the empty room as if seeking
an explanation from it. It offered none. All round me was orderly,
placid. Only within me burned a hell, lighted by those written words.
It was very quiet, only an occasional drip of the June rain outside
broke the stillness.
An exquisite picture of Viola laughed joyously back at me from a
little table covered with vases of white flowers, white as she had
been that first night at the studio....
O God in heaven, what _had_ I done to bring this ruin into my own
life? _Had_ I deserved it? Had I? I thought wildly.
What had I done? What did it all mean? Veronica? A few kisses? the
impulse of passion? It was nothing, everything was nothing to me
beside Viola. She must have known that. Then I recalled her appeals to
me. She had asked me to give up Veronica, why had I not done so?
Instead, how had I met Viola; how had I answered her? My own words
were hurled back upon me by memory and fell upon me like blows, so had
they fallen upon her. How could I have been so mad, so blind?
Her favourite chair was pushed a little from the fire; by its side I
noticed something white, and stooped mechanically to pick it up. It
was her handkerchief, crushed together and soaked through and through.
How she must have been crying to wet it like that! At the corner it
was marked with blood, as if she had pressed it to bitten lips.
My own eyes filled with scorching tears as I looked at it.
It was the one sign of the passion and agony that had raged in that
room before I came back.
If I had only returned sooner! I put the handkerchief in my breast,
and took up her letter again. Could I do anything, anything now to
follow, to recall her?
I looked at the clock, and ice seemed to close round my heart and
chill it. It was already eleven. Then the phrase about the other room
struck me. Could she have possibly returned? I opened the door and
went upstairs and through all the rooms in the house. All were empty.
I saw the bedroom farthest from mine had been put ready for occupancy,
and some few trifles of her own taken from our room and put into it.
Then I came back, sick with apprehension, to the drawing-room again,
questioning what I could do.
To whom would she have gone? As the thought came all the blood in my
body seemed to seethe and rage, but the question had to be faced. For
a moment no definite idea would form itself. Then the recollection of
Lawton dashed in upon me. The man's head seemed photographed suddenly
on all the pale walls round me; handsome, brilliant, engaging, well
born, and well bred, he was the man of all others surely to attract
She would go to him, they would dine together, she would return to
his chambers with him.... She had not come back yet.
For a few moments I was mad. I laid my hand on the back of the chair
near me, and it was smashed in my grip. Then the madness passed over,
and I could think again. I went upstairs, took out my revolver, and
loaded it. I thought I would go round to Lawton's place, ... but, when
coming downstairs again, the thought struck me--Suppose it was not
Lawton? What would the latter think of my sudden appearance, my
enquiries? Twelve had now struck.
There was just a possibility that she would not fulfil her letter,
that she would come back to me; but if I by my actions to-night
brought any publicity on what she had done, I should make an injury
where none existed.
I thought for some time over this, and it seemed impossible for me to
do anything but wait for her return--wait till I knew.
The thought of her name, her reputation, and how I might possibly
injure them now held me there motionless.
It seemed incredible that she could be so long away and yet her
absence mean nothing. But the other supposition, the thought of her
passing from me, seemed more incredible still.
I know how great her love for me was, and love like ours is not
easily swept aside and its claims broken down. Still, in a paroxysm of
jealous agony and resentment against me, all might be obscured, and if
Lawton were there persuading....
And this, something of this pain, I now felt, she had suffered, as the
soaked handkerchief told me.
How I loathed the thought of Veronica! Love, even when it has expired,
leaves some tenderness of feeling to us; passion once dead leaves
nothing but loathing.
I got up and wrote a few lines of dismissal. It was something to do,
something to distract my devouring thoughts. I enclosed a cheque for
all, and more than the sum due to her. Then I flung the letter on the
table, and pushed the thought of her out of my mind.
I paced up and down the room, looking constantly at the clock. What
were these fleeting moments taking from me? My brain seemed on fire
and full of light. Picture after picture rose before me, vivid,
brilliant--all pictures of Viola and hours passed with her. What a
wonderful personality she had, and I alone had possessed it. How
utterly and entirely she had given herself to me, me alone of all the
many who coveted her. I had been the first, the only one for her, till
my own hand had foolishly cut the ties that bound us together. If I
lost her, suppose I gained everything else in the world, would it
content me? Could I lose her? Could I let her go? But I _had. I_
glanced at the clock. It was now one. She had not returned. By this
time she had passed from me to another. The pain, the acute pain of
it, of this thought seemed to divide my brain like a two-edged sword.
What had I done?
Why had I not realised that I should feel like this? To have and then
to lose while one still desires, this is the most horrible pain in the
world. The animals feel it to the point of madness, and they are wise,
they do not court it. They will tear their rival, even the female
herself, in pieces rather than yield her up. But I! What had I done? A
mate had nestled to my breast, and I had not been wise enough to hold
it there. And now I suffered; how I suffered! My brain seemed to
writhe in those moments of agony like a body on the rack or in the
flames. Each thought was a torture: sweet recollections came to me
like the breath of flowers, only to turn into a fresh agony of
There is no pain so absolutely black in its hideous agony as jealousy.
The other mental pains of this life may last longer, but there is none
that cuts down deeper, that possesses such a ravening tooth, while it
lasts, as this.
The vision of Lawton's face was like a brand upon my brain. I saw it
everywhere, as it had looked when she smiled upon him at dinner.
Suddenly, as I paced backwards and forwards, I heard a little noise
outside, a light footfall on the stairs or landing. I stood still, my
heart seeming to knock about inside my chest as if it wanted to leap
out between the ribs. Then I went to the door and threw it wide open.
She stood there just outside. The light from within fell upon her, and
my eyes ran over her, questioning, devouring, while waves of hope and
terror seemed dashing up against my brain like the surf over a rock.
She looked collected, mistress of herself, her dress and hair were
perfect in arrangement as when she had started, on her face was a
curious look of gladness, of relief, of decision, of triumph. What was
I took both her hands and drew her over the threshold. She came
gladly. She must have seen the agony of fear, of questioning in my
face, for after a swift look up at me she said impulsively:
"I am so glad to be back with you, Trevor."
I could not answer her. I stood silent. The sick fatigue of hours of
painful emotion was creeping over me, and the agony of longing to know
everything from her lips seemed to paralyse me.
"I could not, after all, dearest," she said, in a very low tone. "I
could not do anything on my side to sever myself from you, so I have
come back to you."
Her voice seemed to come to me from a long distance, but every word
was clear and distinct. The relief of the loosening of the pressure of
one hideous idea was intense. I took a chair beside her and put my arm
round her shoulders.
"Tell me what has happened, then, since you left me."
She was drawing off her gloves slowly; the flesh of the fingers and
wrist was slightly indented from long pressure of the kid. I saw that
her glove had not been removed for several hours. A great tide of
pleasure and relief broke slowly over me.
"Well, I went straight from here to Lawton's chambers, and he was out;
so I sat down in one of his easy chairs by the fire to wait for him. I
sat and sat there, looking into the fire, and somehow I forgot all
about Lawton and began thinking about you and the pictures and your
wonderful voice and all the delightful times we had had together; and
then I thought of all I had always tried to do for you, and how you
were the first, the very first man I had ever cared for or done
anything for, and how I had always belonged to you; and it seemed a
pity to spoil it all--if you understand. I felt I could not with my
own hands pull down the beautiful fabric of my love for you that I had
built up. I felt I could not give myself to any one else, there seemed
something irresistible holding me from it. You must do what you like,
be faithful or not to me, but I must be faithful to you."
She threw back her head and looked at me. Her elusive loveliness,
lying all in colour and bloom and light, was at its height. She was
intensely excited, and the excitement paled the skin, widened the
lustrous eyes, heightened the extreme delicacy of the face. I bent
over her and kissed her as I had never done yet; it was one of those
moments in life when the soul seems to have wings and fly upwards.
After a moment.
"And then," I said, "did you come back to me?"
"Well, gradually, as I sat there, a horror of Lawton, of everything
came over me. I did not know how long I had sat there. I looked at my
watch: it was two. I was terrified. I only wanted to escape. I got up
to go, and just then I heard Lawton coming in. There was a screen near
me, and it did just occur to me I might conceal myself and pass out as
he went to the inner room; but I did not like the idea of hiding in
any one's rooms, so I stood still, and he came in."
She was silent, and I felt suddenly plunged back into a mist of
questioning horror. What had passed between these two? Had any links
in some new chain been forged?
But she was mine! Mine! and I would never let her go.
"What did you say?" I asked her. My throat was so dry the words were
hardly more than a whisper.
"He started of course on seeing me, and then rushed forwards and
said, 'Darling,' or something of that sort. I hardly heard what he
said. I said simply: 'I was just going when you came in. I can't
stay.' Then, of course, he asked me why I had come and all that and,
oh, heaps and heaps of things. You know all the usual things a man
does say, and I answered if he really cared for me he would let me go
at once. Then he walked to the door, shut and locked it, and put the
key in his pocket."
She paused, and I looked away from her. I was in such a passion of
rage against the man, and almost also with her for putting herself in
such a position, I did not care for her to see my eyes.
"Go on," I said; "what did you do?"
"I asked him why he had locked the door, and he said to prevent my
going until I had told him why I had come. I said I had changed my
mind in the hours I had sat there, and he answered: 'Well, you will
change it again if you stay here some more hours,' and he came and sat
on the chair arm beside me. You see, Trevor, it wasn't his fault a
bit, for he guessed I had come with all sorts of nice feelings for
him, and he felt it was only his part, as it were, to play up to the
situation, that it would be impossible to do anything but seem to wish
to keep me when I had come."
"Don't trouble to tell me all that," I said angrily; "I know what
Lawton feels for you. I know he is wild about you. I wonder you are
not murdered. Go on, what did he do?"
"He was awfully good and nice. He tried for an hour to persuade me. He
wanted to kiss me, of course. I said I was in his power, but that he
would kill me before I would kiss him voluntarily. I think that
convinced him, for he walked straight to the door and unlocked it and
threw it open. Then he said he couldn't let me go into the streets at
that hour alone, and so he came with me. He walked all the way here
and left me at this door. That's all."
There was silence. Such a tremendous upheaval of emotions and feelings
seemed surging within me I could not speak. My voice seemed dried dead
in my throat. No words came before my mind that I could use.
Dawn was creeping slowly into the room. The hideous black night was
over. Pale light, very soft and grey, but overpowering, was stealing
in, mingling with the electric gold glare it was so soon to kill. It
seemed to me like that mysterious, impalpable spirit we call love that
is overpowering, dominant over everything, before which the false
glare of the fires of sense pale into nothingness.
"Trevor," she said at last, breaking the silence of the pale, misty
room, "are you glad I decided as I did? You must do just what you
like; I only felt I could not do anything against you."
I turned and drew her wholly into my arms, and at that warm, living
contact my voice came back to me.
"You are my life, my soul, and you ask if I am glad you've come back
to me? There is nothing in the world for me really but you. Everything
else is dust and ashes, that can be swept away by the lightest
transient wind. You are the very life in my veins, and you must be
mine always, as you have been from the very first."
I pressed my lips down on hers with all the force of that fury of
triumph which rose within me. I did not want her answer. I merely
wanted to force my words between her lips, to drive them home to her
heart. She was my regained possession, and the joy of it was like
madness. She put her arms round my neck and lay quite still and
passive, close pressed against my heart, and our souls seemed to meet
and hold communion with each other and there was no need of any more
THE CRIMSON NIGHT
We had left town and come down to the country. Viola had not seemed
quite so well in the last three months since the night of our
reconciliation, and even here in the country she did not seem to
regain her colour and her usual spirits.
She declared, however, there was nothing the matter with her, and we
had been intensely happy.
One morning when we came down to our rather late breakfast I found a
long, thin, curiously addressed letter lying by my plate.
Viola took it up laughingly, and then I saw her suddenly turn pale,
and she laid it back on the table as if the touch of it hurt her.
"Oh, Trevor, that is a letter from Suzee! I am sure it is! Why should
it come now, just when we are so happy?"
I looked at her in surprise, and took up the letter to cut it open.
"What makes you think it comes from her?" I asked; "it is not at all
"I know it does," she said simply; "I feel it."
I laughed and opened the letter, not in the least believing she would
be right. The first line, however, my eye fell upon shewed me it was
from Suzee. The queer, stiff, upright characters suggested Chinese
writing, and the first words could be hers alone:
"Dear Mister Treevor,
"Do you remember me? I am in awful trouble. Husband died and also
baby. I sent here to be sold for slave to rich Chinaman. Please
you buy me. Send my price 500 dollars to Mrs. Hackett, address as
"Dear Treevor, dear Treevor, do come to me. You remember the wood?
"I am yours not sold yet,
I read this through with a feeling of amaze. Suzee had for so long
been a forgotten quantity to me, something left in the past of the
Alaskan trip, like the stars of the North, that her memory, thrown
back suddenly on me like this, startled me.
I handed the letter to Viola in silence. She read it through, and then
pushed it away from her.
"I told you so. There is no peace in this world!"
"But it needn't affect us, dearest," I said. "Suzee is nothing to me
now. I don't want her. There is nothing to distress you."
"But you'll have to do something about it, I suppose," returned Viola
gloomily. She was making the tea, and I saw her hands shook.
"I believe you would like to go. It would be a new experience for you.
You would go if that letter came to you when you were living as a
bachelor, wouldn't you?"
"Possibly I might. But then, of course, when one is free it is
different. Everything is different."
"Free!" murmured Viola, her eyes filling. "I hate to think I am tying
"It is not that," I said gently; "one does not want to do the same
things, nor care about them."
"You wanted Veronica and didn't have her on my account, I am not going
to prevent you doing this. You must go if you want to."
She threw herself into the easy chair with her handkerchief pressed to
her mouth. The tears welled up to her eyes and poured down her white
"Dearest, dear little girl," I said, drawing her into my arms, "you
are upsetting yourself for nothing. I don't want to go, I shan't think
of going. I am perfectly happy; you are everything to me."
She leant her soft head against me in silence, sobbing for some
"Come and have breakfast," I said, stroking her hair gently, "and
don't let us think anything more about it. If fifty Suzees were
calling me I should not want to go."
Viola dried her eyes and came to the table in silence. We had other
letters to open, and we discussed these, and no further reference was
made to Suzee then.
Viola looked white and abstracted all day, but it was not till after
dinner, when we were taking our coffee on the verandah, that she gave
me any clew to her thoughts. Then she said suddenly:
"Trevor, I want you to let me go away from you for a year."
I gazed at her in astonishment. She looked very wretched. All the
usual bright colour of her face had fled. Her eyes were large, with
the pupils widely dilated in them. There was a determined, fixed
expression on the pale lips that frightened me.
"Why?" I said, merely drawing my chair close to hers and putting my
arm round her shoulders.
"That is just what I can't tell you," she answered. "Not now. When I
come back I will tell you, but I don't want to now. But I have a good
reason, one which you will understand when you know it. But do just
let me go now as I wish, without questions. I have thought it over so
much, and I am sure I am doing the right thing."
"You have thought it over?" I repeated in surprise. "Since when?
Since this morning, do you mean?"
"No, long before that. Suzee's letter has only decided me to speak
now. I have been meaning to ask you to let me go for some time, only I
put it off because I thought you would dislike it so and would feel
dull without me. But now, if you let me leave you, you can go to Suzee
for a time, and she will amuse and occupy you, and if you want me at
the end of the year I will come back."
The blood surged up to my head as I listened. How could she
deliberately suggest such things?
Did she really care for me or value our love at all?
In any case, for no reason on earth would I let her go.
"No, I shall not, certainly not, consent to anything so foolish," I
said coldly; "I can't think how you can suggest or think such a thing
Viola was silent for a moment. Then she said:
"When I come back I would tell you everything, and you would see I was
"I don't know that you ever would come back," I said, with sudden
"If you go away I might want you to stay away. You talk as if our
emotions and passions were mere blocks of wood we could take up and
lay down as we pleased, put away in a box for a time, and then bring
them out again to play with. It's absurd. You talk of going away and
driving me to another woman, and then my coming back to you, as if it
was just a simple matter of our own will. Once we separate and allow
our lives to become entangled with other lives we cannot say what will
happen. We might never come together again."
Viola inclined her head.
"I know," she said in a low tone. "I have thought of all that. But if
I stay there will be a separation all the same, and perhaps something
"What do you mean by a separation?" I demanded hotly.
"Well, I cannot respond to you any more as I used. I must have rest
for a time," she answered in a low tone.
I looked at her closely, and it struck me again how delicate she
looked. She was thinner, too, than she had been. Her delicate, almost
transparent hand shook as it rested on the chair arm.
The colour rushed burning to my face as I leant over her.
"But, darling girl, if you want more rest you have only to say so.
Perhaps I have been thoughtless and selfish. If so, we must alter
things. But there is no need to separate, to go away from me for
"No, I know," returned Viola in a very tender tone; "I should not for
that alone. You are always most good. It is not that only. There are
other reasons why I would rather be away from you until we can live
together again as we have done."
"And you propose to go away, and suggest my living with another woman
till you come back?" I said incredulously; dismay and apprehension and
anger all struggling together within me for expression.
"Would it be more reasonable of me to expect to leave you and you to
wait absolutely faithful to me till I came back?" she asked, looking
at me with a slow, sad smile, the saddest look I had ever seen, I
thought, on a woman's face. I bent forwards and seized both little
hands in mine and kissed them many times over.
"Of the two I would rather you did that. Yes," I said passionately.
"But there is no question of your going away; whatever happens, we'll
stick to each other. If you want rest you shall have it; if you are
ill I will nurse you and take care of you; but I shan't allow you to
go away from me."
She put her arms round my neck. "Dear Trevor, if you would trust me
just this once, and let me go, it would be so much better."
"No, I cannot consent to such an arrangement," I answered; "it's
absurd. I can't think what you have in your own mind, but I know
nothing would be a greater mistake than what you propose. The chances
are we should never come together again."
There was silence for a moment, broken only by a heavy sigh from
"Won't you tell me everything you have in your own mind?" I said
persuasively. "I thought we never made mysteries with one another; it
seems to me you are acting just like a person in an old-fashioned
book. You can tell me anything, say anything you like, nothing will
alter my love for you, except deception--that might."
"And you seem to think separation might," returned Viola sadly.
"I don't think it's a question of separation altering my love for you,
but in separation sometimes things happen which prevent a reunion."
Viola was silent.
"Do tell me," I urged. "Tell me what you have in your mind. Why has
this cloud come up between us?"
"You see," Viola said very gently, "there are some things, if you tell
a man, he is obliged to say and do certain things in return. If you
take the matter in your own hands you can do better for him than he
can do for himself."
"It is something for me then?" I said smiling. "I am to gain by your
leaving me for a year?"
"Yes, I think so," she answered doubtfully. "But principally it is for
myself. I know there is a great risk in going away, but I think a
greater one if I stay."
I was silent, wondering what it could possibly be that she would not
tell me. Although she said she had formed the idea before Suzee's
letter came, I kept returning to that in my thoughts as the main
reason that must be influencing her.
I waited, hoping if I did not press her she would perhaps begin to
confide in me of her own accord. But she sat quite silent, looking
intensely miserable and staring out into space before her. I felt a
vague sense of fear and anxiety growing up in me.
"Dearest, do tell me what is the matter," I said, drawing her close up
to me and kissing her white lips.
"Don't let us make ourselves miserable for nothing, like stupid people
one reads about. Life has everything in it for us. Let us be happy in
it and enjoy it."
Viola burst into a storm of tears against my neck and sobbed in a
heart-breaking way for some minutes.
"Is it that you have ceased to love me, that you feel your own passion
is over?" I asked gently.
"No, certainly not that."
"Is it that you think I want to, or ought to be free from you?"
"No, not that."
"Well, tell me what it is."
"I can't. I think we shall be happy again, after the year, if you let
me come back to you."
I felt my anger grow up again.
"I am not going to let you leave me. I absolutely forbid it. Don't let
us talk about it any more or speak of it again unless you are ready to
tell me your reason."
There was a long silence, broken only by her sobs.
"Did you hear what I said?"
"Well, do not worry any more. You can't go, so it is settled. Nothing
can hurt us while we remain together."
Viola did not say anything, but she ceased to cry and kissed me and
lay still in my arms.
There was some minutes' silence, then I said:
"Let's go up to bed. Sleep will do you good. You look tired and
exhausted to the last degree."
We went upstairs, and that night she seemed to fall asleep in my arms
quickly and easily. I lay awake, as hour after hour passed, wondering
what this strange fancy could be that was torturing her.
At last, between three and four in the morning, I fell asleep and did
not wake again till the clock struck nine on the little table beside
The sun was streaming into the room, and I sat up wide awake. The
place beside me was empty. I looked round the room. I was quite alone.
Remembering our conversation of last night and Viola's strange manner,
a vague apprehension came over me, and my heart beat nervously. It
was very unusual for Viola to be up first. She generally lay in bed
till the last moment, and always dissuaded me from getting up till I
insisted on doing so. I sprang up now and went over to the
toilet-table. On the back of her brushes lay a note addressed to me in
her handwriting. Before I took it up I felt instinctively she had left
me. For a moment I could not open it. My heart beat so violently that
it seemed impossible to breathe, a thick mist came over my eyes. I
took up the note and paced up and down the room for a few minutes
before I could open it.
A suffocating feeling of anger against her raged through me. The sight
of the bed where she had so lately lain beside me filled me with a
resentful agony. She had gone from me while I slept. To me, in those
first blind moments of rage, it seemed like the most cruel treachery.
After a minute I grew calm enough to tear open the note and read it.
* * * * *
"My very dearest one,
"Forgive me. This is the first time I have disobeyed you in
anything in all the time we have been together And now [Greek:
baino. to gar chren mou te kai theon kratei....]
"I must go from you, and you yourself will see in the future the
necessity that is ruling me now. Do not try to find me or follow
me, as I cannot return to you yet. Do believe in me and trust me
and let me return to you at the end of this miserable year which
stretches before me now a desert of ashes and which seems as if it
would never pass over, as if it would stretch into Eternity. But
my reason tells me that it will pass, and then I shall come back
to you and all my joy in life; for there is no joy anywhere in
this world for me except with you--if you will let me come back.
"No one will know where I am. I shall see no one we know. Say what
you wish about me to the world.
"Don't think I do not know how you will suffer at first; but you
would have suffered more if I had stayed. While I am away from
you, think of your life as entirely your own; do not hesitate to
go to Suzee, if you wish. I feel somehow that Fate has designed
you for me, not for her, and that she will not hold you for long,
but that, whatever happens, you will always remember
* * * * *
I crushed this letter in my hand in a fury of rage when I had read it,
and threw it from me. Anger against her, red anger in which I could
have killed her, if I could in those moments have followed and found
her, swept over me.
I looked round the room mechanically. She had dressed in the clothes
she had been wearing yesterday apparently, and taken one small
handbag, for I missed that from where it had stood on a chest of
Her other luggage was there undisturbed. I saw her evening and other
dresses hanging in the half-open wardrobe opposite me.
The only thing that had gone from the toilet-table was the little
frame with my photo in it.
A sickening sense of loss, of despair came over me, mingling with the
savage anger and hatred surging within me.
After a time I rose from my chair and began to dress.
I had made up my mind as to my own actions. To stay here without
Viola, where the whole place spoke to me of her, was impossible. As
soon as I could get everything packed I would go up to London and stay
at my club. She would not come back.
No, it was no use my waiting with that hope.
Her mad scheme, whatever it was, I felt was planted deeply, her
resolve fixed. It was true that three months before, after just such a
cruel letter, she had come suddenly back to me, having failed in her
resolution. I remembered that, and paused suddenly at the
recollection. But then that was different. Then, infidelity to me had
been in the question. Now I knew that wherever she was going it was
not to another lover.
Whatever her foolish idea was, some benefit to me was mixed up with it
in her mind.
And then, suddenly, in a tender rush of passionate reminiscence that
would not be denied, the knowledge came home to me that, whatever her
faults might be, however foolish and maddening her actions, no one had
ever loved me as she had done, as unselfishly, with the same
abandonment of self.
The hot tears came scalding up under my lids. I picked up the little
crumpled sheet of paper I had so savagely crushed, smoothed it out,
folded it, and put it in my breast pocket.
Then I turned to my packing. We had only taken rooms here. By paying I
was free to leave at any moment.
Her things? What should I do with them? Keep them with me or send them
away to her bankers?
I thought the latter, and turned to gather up her clothes and put them
in her portmanteau. My brain seemed bursting with a wild agony of
resentment as I took up first one thing and then another: the touch of
them seemed to burn me. Then, when I was half-way through a trunk; I
stopped short. Was I wise to accept the situation at all? Perhaps I
could follow her and find out, after all, what this mystery meant.
We were in a small country place, but there was a fairly good service
of trains to town; one I knew left in the morning at seven, she might
have taken that. I could go to the station and find out.
Filled suddenly with that heart-rending longing for the sight and
touch of the loved one again that is so unendurable in the first hours
of separation, I thought I would do that, and I left the half-filled
trunk and went downstairs to the hall.
The two maids were standing there waiting, and they stared at me as I
passed and put on my hat.
"Please, sir, are you ready for breakfast? It's gone half-past ten."
"No," I said shortly. "I am going out first."
"Will Mrs. Lonsdale be coming down, sir?"
I stopped short.
"No, Mrs. Lonsdale has gone out already," I answered, and went on
through the door.
I didn't care what they thought. When one is in great pain, physical
or mental, nothing seems to matter except that pain.
I walked fast to the station, about a mile distant, and made enquiries
as discreetly as I could.
"No," was the unanimous answer. Mrs. Lonsdale had certainly not left
there by any train that morning, nor been there at all, nor hired a
fly from there. They were all quite sure of that.
She was well known at the station, so it seemed improbable she could
have been there unobserved.
There was another station up the line six miles distant. She might
easily have walked to that to avoid notice.
I took a fly, and drove to the other station, but here Viola was not
known personally, and though I described her, and was assured she had
not been seen there, it was indefinite and uncertain information that
She might have gone from there to town by an early train unnoticed, or
she might have gone down the line to another country place to elude
me. I could tell nothing.
Feeling sick and dispirited, I drove back to the station and then
walked on to the house.
When I went upstairs the room was in disorder just as I had left it.
As I entered the bed caught my eye, the pillow her head had so lately
crushed, and there beside it the delicate garment she had been wearing
a few hours ago.
An immense, a devastating sense of loss came over me. A feeling of
suffering so intense and so vast, it seemed to crush me beneath it
physically as well as mentally.
I sank down in the armchair, laid my head back and closed my eyes. I
ceased to think any more, I was unconscious of anything except that
sense of intense suffering.
By that evening I had everything packed, all the bills paid; and I
took the seven-o'clock train to town. I felt to stay there the night,
to attempt to sleep in that room so full of memories of her was an
impossibility. Something that would drive me mad if I attempted it.
The people of the house stared at me when I paid them, and the maids
looked frightened when I addressed them, but I hardly saw them, doing
what was necessary in a mechanical way, with all my senses turned
inward, as it were, and blunted by that one overpowering idea of loss.
The two hours in a fast train did me good. I had a sort of
subconscious feeling I was going to her by going to town which buoyed
me up instinctively; but the reaction was terrible when I actually
arrived and drove to some rooms I knew in Jermyn Street and realised
that I was indeed alone.
I sat up all that night, feeling my brain alight and blazing with a
fire of agony and pain. Sleep was out of the question. A man does not
love a woman as I loved Viola and sleep the night after she has left
The next morning I went to her bankers, only to get just the answers I
Yes, Mrs. Lonsdale had communicated with them. She was abroad, and
they had her address but were not at liberty to disclose it. They
would forward all letters to her immediately.
I went straight back to my rooms and wrote to her. I poured out my
whole heart in the letter, imploring her to come to me; yet every line
I wrote I knew was useless, useless.
Still I could not rest nor exist till I had written it, and when it
was posted I felt a certain solace.
I walked on to my club afterwards, and amongst other letters found
another from Suzee.
I could not imagine how she had obtained my club address at all,
unless it was in that night when she came to my cabin. She would be
quite capable of searching for anything she wanted and taking away
some of my letters to obtain and keep my address.
I did not open it at once. I felt a sort of anger with Suzee as being
partly responsible for all I was going through. Whatever Viola might
say, Suzee's letter had seemed to bring her mad resolve to a climax.
I took some lunch at the club, and a man I knew came up and spoke to
"Up in town again, I see," he began, to which I assented.
"How's Mrs. Lonsdale?"
"Quite well, thank you," I replied.
"Is she up with you?"
"Coming up soon, I suppose?"
"I don't know."
My friend looked at me once or twice, and then after a few vacuous
remarks went away.
I knew that in a few hours it would be all over the club that I and
Viola no longer hit it off together, that in fact we were living
apart, and by the evening a decree _nisi_ would have been pronounced
for us. But I didn't care what they said. Nothing mattered. No one
could hurt me more than I was hurt already. The worst had happened.
As I sat there I saw Lawton, who also belonged to the club, cross the
end of the dining-room. He, too, would come up and speak to me if he
caught sight of me.
I felt I did not wish to speak to the man who had always loved Viola,
who had always envied me her possession, and to whom once I had nearly
I got up and left the club, went back to my rooms, and there got out
my letters to read.
After all, I thought, as I took up Suzee's letter, why not go out to
'Frisco? It would make a change, something to do, something to drive
away this perpetual desire of another's presence.