Part 2 out of 7
They has you down because of your learnin'; and quite the manners of
a gentleman you've got.'
"My wife's sister, I expect."
"Oh dear! She often has a paper off o' me. A real lady--not one o'
these"--again he invited Hilary to confidence--"you know what I mean,
sir--that buys their things a' ready-made at these 'ere large
establishments. Oh, I know her well."
"The old gentleman who visited you is her father."
"Is he? Oh dear!" The old butler was silent, evidently puzzled.
Hilary's eyebrows began to execute those intricate manoeuvres which
always indicated that he was about to tax his delicacy.
"How-how does Hughs treat the little girl who lives in the next room
The old butler replied in a rather gloomy tone:
"She takes my advice, and don't 'ave nothin' to say to 'im. Dreadful
foreign-lookin' man 'e is. Wherever 'e was brought up I can't
"A soldier, wasn't he?"
"So he says. He's one o' these that works for the Vestry; an' then
'e'll go an' get upon the drink, an' when that sets 'im off, it seems
as if there wasn't no respect for nothing in 'im; he goes on against
the gentry, and the Church, and every sort of institution. I never
met no soldiers like him. Dreadful foreign--Welsh, they tell me."
"What do you think of the street you're living in?"
"I keeps myself to myself; low class o' street it is; dreadful low
class o' person there--no self-respect about 'em."
"Ah!" said Hilary.
"These little 'ouses, they get into the hands o' little men, and they
don't care so long as they makes their rent out o' them. They can't
help themselves--low class o' man like that; 'e's got to do the best
'e can for 'imself. They say there's thousands o' these 'ouses all
over London. There's some that's for pullin' of 'em down, but that's
talkin' rubbish; where are you goin' to get the money for to do it?
These 'ere little men, they can't afford not even to put a paper on
the walls, and the big ground landlords-you can't expect them to know
what's happenin' behind their backs. There's some ignorant fellers
like this Hughs talks a lot o' wild nonsense about the duty o' ground
landlords; but you can't expect the real gentry to look into these
sort o' things. They've got their estates down in the country. I've
lived with them, and of course I know."
The little bulldog, incommoded by the passers-by, now took the
opportunity of beating with her tail against the old butler's legs.
"Oh dear! what's this? He don't bite, do 'e? Good Sambo!"
Miranda sought her master's eye at once. 'You see what happens to
her if a lady loiters in the streets,' she seemed to say.
"It must be hard standing about here all day, after the life you've
led," said Hilary.
"I mustn't complain; it's been the salvation o' me."
"Do you get shelter?"
Again the old butler seemed to take him into confidence.
"Sometimes of a wet night they lets me stand up in the archway there;
they know I'm respectable. 'T wouldn't never do for that man"--he
nodded at his rival--"or any of them boys to get standin' there,
obstructin' of the traffic."
"I wanted to ask you, Mr. Creed, is there anything to be done for
The frail old body quivered with the vindictive force of his answer.
"Accordin' to what she says, if I'm a-to believe 'er, I'd have him up
before the magistrate, sure as my name's Creed, an' get a separation,
an' I wouldn't never live with 'im again: that's what she ought to
do. An' if he come to go for her after that, I'd have 'im in prison,
if 'e killed me first! I've no patience with a low class o' man like
that! He insulted of me this morning."
"Prison's a dreadful remedy," murmured Hilary.
The old butler answered stoutly: "There ain't but one way o' treatin'
them low fellers--ketch hold o' them until they holler!"
Hilary was about to reply when he found himself alone. At the edge
of the pavement some yards away, Creed, his face upraised to heaven,
was embracing with all his force the second edition of the
Westminster Gazette, which had been thrown him from a cart.
'Well,' thought Hilary, walking on, 'you know your own mind, anyway!'
And trotting by his side, with her jaw set very firm, his little
bulldog looked up above her eyes, and seemed to say: 'It was time we
left that man of action!'
CECILIA'S SCATTERED THOUGHTS
In her morning room Mrs. Stephen Dallison sat at an old oak bureau
collecting her scattered thoughts. They lay about on pieces of
stamped notepaper, beginning "Dear Cecilia," or "Mrs. Tallents
Smallpeace requests," or on bits of pasteboard headed by the names of
theatres, galleries, or concert-halls; or, again, on paper of not
quite so good a quality, commencing, "Dear Friend," and ending with a
single well-known name like "Wessex," so that no suspicion should
attach to the appeal contained between the two. She had before her
also sheets of her own writing-paper, headed "76, The Old Square,
Kensington," and two little books. One of these was bound in
marbleised paper, and on it written: "Please keep this book in
safety"; across the other, cased in the skin of some small animal
deceased, was inscribed the solitary word "Engagements."
Cecilia had on a Persian-green silk blouse with sleeves that would
have hidden her slim hands, but for silver buttons made in the
likeness of little roses at her wrists; on her brow was a faint
frown, as though she were wondering what her thoughts were all about.
She sat there every morning catching those thoughts, and placing them
in one or other of her little books. Only by thus working hard could
she keep herself, her husband, and daughter, in due touch with all
the different movements going on. And that the touch might be as due
as possible, she had a little headache nearly every day. For the
dread of letting slip one movement, or of being too much taken with
another, was very real to her; there were so many people who were
interesting, so many sympathies of hers and Stephen's which she
desired to cultivate, that it was a matter of the utmost import not
to cultivate any single one too much. Then, too, the duty of
remaining feminine with all this going forward taxed her
constitution. She sometimes thought enviously of the splendid
isolation now enjoyed by Blanca, of which some subtle instinct,
rather than definite knowledge, had informed her; but not often, for
she was a loyal little person, to whom Stephen and his comforts were
of the first moment. And though she worried somewhat because her
thoughts WOULD come by every post, she did not worry very much--
hardly more than the Persian kitten on her lap, who also sat for
hours trying to catch her tail, with a line between her eyes, and two
small hollows in her cheeks.
When she had at last decided what concerts she would be obliged to
miss, paid her subscription to the League for the Suppression of
Tinned Milk, and accepted an invitation to watch a man fall from a
balloon, she paused. Then, dipping her pen in ink, she wrote as
"Mrs. Stephen Dallison would be glad to have the blue dress ordered
by her yesterday sent home at once without alteration.--Messrs. Rose
and Thorn, High Street, Kensington."
Ringing the bell, she thought: 'It will be a job for Mrs. Hughs, poor
thing. I believe she'll do it quite as well as Rose and Thorn.'--
"Would you please ask Mrs. Hughs to come to me?--Oh, is that you,
Mrs. Hughs? Come in."
The seamstress, who had advanced into the middle of the room, stood
with her worn hands against her sides, and no sign of life but the
liquid patience in her large brown eyes. She was an enigmatic
figure. Her presence always roused a sort of irritation in Cecilia,
as if she had been suddenly confronted with what might possibly have
been herself if certain little accidents had omitted to occur. She
was so conscious that she ought to sympathise, so anxious to show
that there was no barrier between them, so eager to be all she ought
to be, that her voice almost purred.
"Are you Getting on with the curtains, Mrs. Hughs?"
"Yes, m'm, thank you, m'm."
"I shall have another job for you to-morrow--altering a dress. Can
"Yes, m'm, thank you, m'm."
"Is the baby well?"
"Yes, m'm, thank you, m'm."
There was a silence.
'It's no good talking of her domestic matters,' thought Cecilia; 'not
that I don't care!' But the silence getting on her nerves, she said
quickly: "Is your husband behaving himself better?"
There was no answer; Cecilia saw a tear trickle slowly down the
'Oh dear, oh dear,' she thought; 'poor thing! I'm in for it!'
Mrs. Hughs' whispering voice began: "He's behaving himself dreadful,
m'm. I was going to speak to you. It's ever since that young girl"
--her face hardened--"come to live down in my room there; he seem to
--he seem to--just do nothing but neglect me."
Cecilia's heart gave the little pleasurable flutter which the heart
must feel at the love dramas of other people, however painful.
"You mean the little model?" she said.
The seamstress answered in an agitated voice: "I don't want to speak
against her, but she's put a spell on him, that's what she has; he
don't seem able to do nothing but talk of her, and hang about her
room. It was that troubling me when I saw you the other day. And
ever since yesterday midday, when Mr. Hilary came--he's been talking
that wild--and he pushed me--and--and---" Her lips ceased to form
articulate words, but, since it was not etiquette to cry before her
superiors, she used them to swallow down her tears, and something in
her lean throat moved up and down.
At the mention of Hilary's name the pleasurable sensation in Cecilia
had undergone a change. She felt curiosity, fear, offence.
"I don't quite understand you," she said.
The seamstress plaited at her frock. "Of course, I can't help the
way he talks, m'm. I'm sure I don't like to repeat the wicked things
he says about Mr. Hilary. It seems as if he were out of his mind
when he gets talkin' about that young girl."
The tone of those last three words was almost fierce.
Cecilia was on the point of saying: 'That will do, please; I want to
hear no more.' But her curiosity and queer subtle fear forced her
instead to repeat: "I don't understand. Do you mean he insinuates
that Mr. Hilary has anything to do with--with this girl, or what?"
And she thought: 'I'll stop that, at any rate.'
The seamstress's face was distorted by her efforts to control her
"I tell him he's wicked to say such things, m'm, and Mr. Hilary such
a kind gentleman. And what business is it of his, I say, that's got
a wife and children of his own? I've seen him in the street, I've
watched him hanging about Mrs. Hilary's house when I've been working
there waiting for that girl, and following her--home---" Again her
lips refused to do service, except in the swallowing of her tears.
Cecilia thought: 'I must tell Stephen at once. That man is
dangerous.' A spasm gripped her heart, usually so warm and snug;
vague feelings she had already entertained presented themselves now
with startling force; she seemed to see the face of sordid life
staring at the family of Dallison. Mrs. Hughs' voice, which did not
dare to break, resumed:
"I've said to him: 'Whatever are you thinking of? And after Mrs.
Hilary's been so kind to me! But he's like a madman when he's in
liquor, and he says he'll go to Mrs. Hilary---"
"Go to my sister? What about? The ruffian!"
At hearing her husband called a ruffian by another woman the shadow
of resentment passed across Mrs. Hughs' face, leaving it quivering
and red. The conversation had already made a strange difference in
the manner of these two women to each other. It was as though each
now knew exactly how much sympathy and confidence could be expected
of the other, as though life had suddenly sucked up the mist, and
shown them standing one on either side of a deep trench. In Mrs.
Hughs' eyes there was the look of those who have long discovered that
they must not answer back for fear of losing what little ground they
have to stand on; and Cecilia's eyes were cold and watchful. 'I
sympathise,' they seemed to say, 'I sympathise; but you must please
understand that you cannot expect sympathy if your affairs compromise
the members of my family.' Her, chief thought now was to be relieved
of the company of this woman, who had been betrayed into showing what
lay beneath her dumb, stubborn patience. It was not callousness, but
the natural result of being fluttered. Her heart was like a bird
agitated in its gilt-wire cage by the contemplation of a distant cat.
She did not, however, lose her sense of what was practical, but said
calmly: "Your husband was wounded in South Africa, you told me? It
looks as if he wasn't quite.... I think you should have a doctor!"
The seamstress's answer, slow and matter-of-fact, was worse than her
"No, m'm, he isn't mad."
Crossing to the hearth-whose Persian-blue tiling had taken her so
long to find--Cecilia stood beneath a reproduction of Botticelli's
"Primavera," and looked doubtfully at Mrs. Hughs. The Persian
kitten, sleepy and disturbed on the bosom of her blouse, gazed up
into her face. 'Consider me,' it seemed to say; 'I am worth
consideration; I am of a piece with you, and everything round you.
We are both elegant and rather slender; we both love warmth and
kittens; we both dislike interference with our fur. You took a long
time to buy me, so as to get me perfect. You see that woman over
there! I sat on her lap this morning while she was sewing your
curtains. She has no right in here; she's not what she seems; she
can bite and scratch, I know; her lap is skinny; she drops water from
her eyes. She made me wet all down my back. Be careful what you're
doing, or she'll make you wet down yours!'
All that was like the little Persian kitten within Cecilia--cosiness
and love of pretty things, attachment to her own abode with its high-
art lining, love for her mate and her own kitten, Thyme, dread of
disturbance--all made her long to push this woman from the room; this
woman with the skimpy figure, and eyes that, for all their patience,
had in them something virago-like; this woman who carried about with
her an atmosphere of sordid grief, of squalid menaces, and scandal.
She longed all the more because it could well be seen from the
seamstress's helpless attitude that she too would have liked an easy
life. To dwell on things like this was to feel more than thirty-
Cecilia had no pocket, Providence having removed it now for some time
past, but from her little bag she drew forth the two essentials of
gentility. Taking her nose, which she feared was shining, gently
within one, she fumbled in the other. And again she looked
doubtfully at Mrs. Hughs. Her heart said: 'Give the poor woman half
a sovereign; it might comfort her!' But her brain said: 'I owe her
four-and-six; after what she's just been saying about her husband and
that girl and Hilary, it mayn't be safe to give her more.' She held
out two half-crowns, and had an inspiration: "I shall mention to my
sister what you've said; you can tell your husband that!"
No sooner had she said this, however, than she saw, from a little
smile devoid of merriment and quickly extinguished, that Mrs. Hughs
did not believe she would do anything of the kind; from which she
concluded that the seamstress was convinced of Hilary's interest in
the little model. She said hastily:
"You can go now, Mrs. Hughs."
Mrs. Hughs went, making no noise or sign of any sort.
Cecilia returned to her scattered thoughts. They lay there still,
with a gleam of sun from the low window smearing their importance;
she felt somehow that it did not now matter very much whether she and
Stephen, in the interests of science, saw that man fall from his
balloon, or, in the interests of art, heard Herr von Kraaffe sing his
Polish songs; she experienced, too, almost a revulsion in favour of
tinned milk. After meditatively tearing up her note to Messrs. Rose
and Thorn, she lowered the bureau lid and left the room.
Mounting the stairs, whose old oak banisters on either side were a
real joy, she felt she was stupid to let vague, sordid rumours,
which, after all, affected her but indirectly, disturb her morning's
work. And entering Stephen's dressing-room she stood looking at his
Inside each one of them was a wooden soul; none had any creases, none
had any holes. The moment they wore out, their wooden souls were
taken from them and their bodies given to the poor, whilst--in
accordance with that theory, to hear a course of lectures on which a
scattered thought was even now inviting her--the wooden souls
migrated instantly to other leathern bodies.
Looking at that polished row of boots, Cecilia felt lonely and
unsatisfied. Stephen worked in the Law Courts, Thyme worked at Art;
both were doing something definite. She alone, it seemed, had to
wait at home, and order dinner, answer letters, shop, pay calls, and
do a dozen things that failed to stop her thoughts from dwelling on
that woman's tale. She was not often conscious of the nature of her
life, so like the lives of many hundred women in this London, which
she said she could not stand, but which she stood very well. As a
rule, with practical good sense, she kept her doubting eyes fixed
friendlily on every little phase in turn, enjoying well enough
fitting the Chinese puzzle of her scattered thoughts, setting out on
each small adventure with a certain cautious zest, and taking Stephen
with her as far as he allowed. This last year or so, now that Thyme
was a grown girl, she had felt at once a loss of purpose and a gain
of liberty. She hardly knew whether to be glad or sorry. It freed
her for the tasting of more things, more people, and more Stephen;
but it left a little void in her heart, a little soreness round it.
What would Thyme think if she heard this story about her uncle? The
thought started a whole train of doubts that had of late beset her.
Was her little daughter going to turn out like herself? If not, why
not? Stephen joked about his daughter's skirts, her hockey, her
friendship with young men. He joked about the way Thyme refused to
let him joke about her art or about her interest in "the people."
His joking was a source of irritation to Cecilia. For, by woman's
instinct rather than by any reasoning process, she was conscious of a
disconcerting change. Amongst the people she knew, young men were
not now attracted by girls as they had been in her young days. There
was a kind of cool and friendly matter-of-factness in the way they
treated them, a sort of almost scientific playfulness. And Cecilia
felt uneasy as to how far this was to go. She seemed left behind.
If young people were really becoming serious, if youths no longer
cared about the colour of Thyme's eyes, or dress, or hair, what would
there be left to care for--that is, up to the point of definite
relationship? Not that she wanted her daughter to be married. It
would be time enough to think of that when she was twenty-five. But
her own experiences had been so different. She had spent so many
youthful hours in wondering about men, had seen so many men cast
furtive looks at her; and now there did not seem in men or girls
anything left worth the other's while to wonder or look furtive
about. She was not of a philosophic turn of mind, and had attached
no deep meaning to Stephen's jest--"If young people will reveal their
ankles, they'll soon have no ankles to reveal."
To Cecilia the extinction of the race seemed threatened; in reality
her species of the race alone was vanishing, which to her, of course,
was very much the same disaster. With her eyes on Stephen's boots
she thought: 'How shall I prevent what I've heard from coming to
Bianca's ears? I know how she would take it! How shall I prevent
Thyme's hearing? I'm sure I don't know what the effect would be on
her! I must speak to Stephen. He's so fond of Hilary.'
And, turning away from Stephen's boots, she mused: 'Of course it's
nonsense. Hilary's much too--too nice, too fastidious, to be more
than just interested; but he's so kind he might easily put himself in
a false position. And--it's ugly nonsense! B. can be so
disagreeable; even now she's not--on terms with him!' And suddenly
the thought of Mr. Purcey leaped into her mind--Mr. Purcey, who, as
Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace had declared, was not even conscious that
there was a problem of the poor. To think of him seemed somehow at
that moment comforting, like rolling oneself in a blanket against a
draught. Passing into her room, she opened her wardrobe door.
'Bother the woman!' she thought. 'I do want that gentian dress got
ready, but now I simply can't give it to her to do.'
THE SINGLE MIND OF MR. STONE
Since in the flutter of her spirit caused by the words of Mrs. Hughs,
Cecilia felt she must do something, she decided to change her dress.
The furniture of the pretty room she shared with Stephen had not been
hastily assembled. Conscious, even fifteen years ago, when they
moved into this house, of the grave Philistinism of the upper
classes, she and Stephen had ever kept their duty to aestheticism
green; and, in the matter of their bed, had lain for two years on two
little white affairs, comfortable, but purely temporary, that they
might give themselves a chance. The chance had come at last--a bed
in real keeping with the period they had settled on, and going for
twelve pounds. They had not let it go, and now slept in it--not
quite so comfortable, perhaps, but comfortable enough, and conscious
of duty done.
For fifteen years Cecilia had been furnishing her house; the process
approached completion. The only things remaining on her mind--apart,
that is, from Thyme's development and the condition of the people--
were: item, a copper lantern that would allow some light to pass its
framework; item, an old oak washstand not going back to Cromwell's
time. And now this third anxiety had come!
She was rather touching, as she stood before the wardrobe glass
divested of her bodice, with dimples of exertion in her thin white
arms while she hooked her skirt behind, and her greenish eyes
troubled, so anxious to do their best for everyone, and save risk of
any sort. Having put on a bramble-coloured frock, which laced across
her breast with silver lattice-work, and a hat (without feathers, so
as to encourage birds) fastened to her head with pins (bought to aid
a novel school of metal-work), she went to see what sort of day it
The window looked out at the back over some dreary streets, where the
wind was flinging light drifts of smoke athwart the sunlight. They
had chosen this room, not indeed for its view over the condition of
the people, but because of the sky effects at sunset, which were
extremely fine. For the first time, perhaps, Cecilia was conscious
that a sample of the class she was so interested in was exposed to
view beneath her nose. 'The Hughs live somewhere there,' she
thought. 'After all I think B. ought to know about that man. She
might speak to father, and get him to give up having the girl to copy
for him--the whole thing's so worrying.'
In pursuance of this thought, she lunched hastily, and went out,
making her way to Hilary's. With every step she became more
uncertain. The fear of meddling too much, of not meddling enough, of
seeming meddlesome; timidity at touching anything so awkward;
distrust, even ignorance, of her sister's character, which was like,
yet so very unlike, her own; a real itch to get the matter settled,
so that nothing whatever should come of it--all this she felt. She
hurried, dawdled, finished the adventure almost at a run, then told
the servant not to announce her. The vision of Bianca's eyes, while
she listened to this tale, was suddenly too much for Cecilia. She
decided to pay a visit to her father first.
Mr. Stone was writing, attired in his working dress--a thick brown
woollen gown, revealing his thin neck above the line of a blue shirt,
and tightly gathered round the waist with tasselled cord; the lower
portions of grey trousers were visible above woollen-slippered feet.
His hair straggled over his thin long ears. The window, wide open,
admitted an east wind; there was no fire. Cecilia shivered.
"Come in quickly," said Mr. Stone. Turning to a big high desk of
stained deal which occupied the middle of one wall, he began
methodically to place the inkstand, a heavy paper-knife, a book, and
stones of several sizes, on his guttering sheets of manuscript.
Cecilia looked about her; she had not been inside her father's room
for several months. There was nothing in it but that desk, a camp
bed in the far corner (with blankets, but no sheets), a folding
washstand, and a narrow bookcase, the books in which Cecilia
unconsciously told off on the fingers of her memory. They never
varied. On the top shelf the Bible and the works of Plautus and
Diderot; on the second from the top the plays of Shakespeare in a
blue edition; on the third from the bottom Don Quixote, in four
volumes, covered with brown paper; a green Milton; the "Comedies of
Aristophanes"; a leather book, partially burned, comparing the
philosophy of Epicurus with the philosophy of Spinoza; and in a
yellow binding Mark Twain's "Huckleberry Finn." On the second from
the bottom was lighter literature: "The Iliad"; a "Life of Francis of
Assisi"; Speke's "Discovery of the Sources of the Nile"; the
"Pickwick Papers"; "Mr. Midshipman Easy"; The Verses of Theocritus,
in a very old translation; Renan's "Life of Christ"; and the
"Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini." The bottom shelf of all was
full of books on natural science.
The walls were whitewashed, and, as Cecilia knew, came off on anybody
who leaned against them. The floor was stained, and had no carpet.
There was a little gas cooking-stove, with cooking things ranged on
it; a small bare table; and one large cupboard. No draperies, no
pictures, no ornaments of any kind; but by the window an ancient
golden leather chair. Cecilia could never bear to sit in that oasis;
its colour in this wilderness was too precious to her spirit.
"It's an east wind, father; aren't you terribly cold without a fire?"
Mr. Stone came from his writing-desk, and stood so that light might
fall on a sheet of paper in his hand. Cecilia noted the scent that
went about with him of peat and baked potatoes. He spoke:
"Listen to this: 'In the condition of society, dignified in those
days with the name of civilisation, the only source of hope was the
persistence of the quality called courage. Amongst a thousand nerve-
destroying habits, amongst the dramshops, patent medicines, the
undigested chaos of inventions and discoveries, while hundreds were
prating in their pulpits of things believed in by a negligible
fraction of the population, and thousands writing down today what
nobody would want to read in two days' time; while men shut animals
in cages, and made bears jig to please their children, and all were
striving one against the other; while, in a word, like gnats above a
stagnant pool on a summer's evening, man danced up and down without
the faintest notion why--in this condition of affairs the quality of
courage was alive. It was the only fire within that gloomy valley.'"
He stopped, though evidently anxious to go on, because he had read
the last word on that sheet of paper. He moved towards the writing-
desk. Cecilia said hastily:
"Do you mind if I shut the window, father?"
Mr. Stone made a movement of his head, and Cecilia saw that he held a
second sheet of paper in his hand. She rose, and, going towards him,
"I want to talk to you, Dad!" Taking up the cord of his dressing-
gown, she pulled it by its tassel.
"Don't!" said Mr. Stone; "it secures my trousers."
Cecilia dropped the cord. 'Father is really terrible!' she thought.
Mr. Stone, lifting the second sheet of paper, began again:
"'The reason, however, was not far to seek---"
Cecilia said desperately:
"It's about that girl who comes to copy for you."
Mr. Stone lowered the sheet of paper, and stood, slightly curved from
head to foot; his ears moved as though he were about to lay them
back; his blue eyes, with little white spots of light alongside the
tiny black pupils, stared at his daughter.
Cecilia thought: 'He's listening now.'
She made haste. "Must you have her here? Can't you do without her?"
"Without whom?" said Mr. Stone.
"Without the girl who comes to copy for you."
"For this very good reason---"
Mr. Stone dropped his eyes, and Cecilia saw that he had moved the
sheet of paper up as far as his waist.
"Does she copy better than any other girl could?" she asked hastily.
"No," said Mr. Stone.
"Then, Father, I do wish, to please me, you'd get someone else. I
know what I'm talking about, and I---" Cecilia stopped; her father's
lips and eyes were moving; he was obviously reading to himself.
'I've no patience with him,' she thought; 'he thinks of nothing but
his wretched book.'
Aware of his daughter's silence, Mr. Stone let the sheet of paper
sink, and waited patiently again.
"What do you want, my dear?" he said.
"Oh, Father, do listen just a minute!"
"It's about that girl who comes to copy for you. Is there any reason
why she should come instead of any other girl?"
"Yes," said Mr. Stone.
"Because she has no friends."
So awkward a reply was not expected by Cecilia; she looked at the
floor, forced to search within her soul. Silence lasted several
seconds; then Mr. Stone's voice rose above a whisper:
"'The reason was not far to seek. Man, differentiated from the other
apes by his desire to know, was from the first obliged to steel
himself against the penalties of knowledge. Like animals subjected
to the rigours of an Arctic climate, and putting forth more fur with
each reduction in the temperature, man's hide of courage thickened
automatically to resist the spear-thrusts dealt him by his own
insatiate curiosity. In those days of which we speak, when
undigested knowledge, in a great invading horde, had swarmed all his
defences, man, suffering from a foul dyspepsia, with a nervous system
in the latest stages of exhaustion, and a reeling brain, survived by
reason of his power to go on making courage. Little heroic as (in
the then general state of petty competition) his deeds appeared to
be, there never had yet been a time when man in bulk was more
courageous, for there never had yet been a time when he had more need
to be. Signs were not wanting that this desperate state of things
had caught the eyes of the community. A little sect---'" Mr. Stone
stopped; his eyes had again tumbled over the bottom edge; he moved
hurriedly towards the desk. Just as his hand removed a stone and
took up a third sheet, Cecilia cried out:
Mr. Stone stopped, and turned towards her. His daughter saw that he
had gone quite pink; her annoyance vanished.
"Father! About that girl---"
Mr. Stone seemed to reflect. "Yes, yes," he said.
"I don't think Bianca likes her coming here."
Mr. Stone passed his hand across his brow.
"Forgive me for reading to you, my dear," he said; "it's a great
relief to me at times."
Cecilia went close to him, and refrained with difficulty from taking
up the tasselled cord.
"Of course, dear," she said: "I quite understand that."
Mr. Stone looked full in her face, and before a gaze which seemed to
go through her and see things the other side, Cecilia dropped her
"It is strange," he said, "how you came to be my daughter!"
To Cecilia, too, this had often seemed a problem.
"There is a great deal in atavism," said Mr. Stone, "that we know
nothing of at present."
Cecilia cried with heat, "I do wish you would attend a minute,
Father; it's really an important matter," and she turned towards the
window, tears being very near her eyes.
The voice of Mr. Stone said humbly: "I will try, my dear."
But Cecilia thought: 'I must give him a good lesson. He really is
too self-absorbed'; and she did not move, conveying by the posture of
her shoulders how gravely she was vexed.
She could see nursemaids wheeling babies towards the Gardens, and
noted their faces gazing, not at the babies, but, uppishly, at other
nursemaids, or, with a sort of cautious longing, at men who passed.
How selfish they looked! She felt a little glow of satisfaction that
she was making this thin and bent old man behind her conscious of his
'He will know better another time,' she thought. Suddenly she heard
a whistling, squeaking sound--it was Mr. Stone whispering the third
page of his manuscript:
"'---animated by some admirable sentiments, but whose doctrines--
riddled by the fact that life is but the change of form to form--were
too constricted for the evils they designed to remedy; this little
sect, who had as yet to learn the meaning of universal love, were
making the most strenuous efforts, in advance of the community at
large, to understand themselves. The necessary, movement which they
voiced--reaction against the high-tide of the fratricidal system then
prevailing--was young, and had the freshness and honesty of
Without a word Cecilia turned round and hurried to the door. She saw
her father drop the sheet of paper; she saw his face, all pink and
silver, stooping after it; and remorse visited her anger.
In the corridor outside she was arrested by a noise. The uncertain
light of London halls fell there; on close inspection the sufferer
was seen to be Miranda, who, unable to decide whether she wanted to
be in the garden or the house, was seated beneath the hatrack
snuffling to herself. On seeing Cecilia she came out.
"What do you want, you little beast?"
Peering at her over the tops of her eyes, Miranda vaguely lifted a
white foot. 'Why ask me that?' she seemed to say. 'How am I to
know? Are we not all like this?'
Her conduct, coming at that moment, over-tried Cecilia's nerves. She
threw open Hilary's study-door, saying sharply: "Go in and find your
Miranda did not move, but Hilary came out instead. He had been
correcting proofs to catch the post, and wore the look of a man
abstracted, faintly contemptuous of other forms of life.
Cecilia, once more saved from the necessity of approaching her
sister, the mistress of the house, so fugitive, haunting, and unseen,
yet so much the centre of this situation, said:
"Can I speak to you a minute, Hilary?"
They went into his study, and Miranda came creeping in behind.
To Cecilia her brother-in-law always seemed an amiable and more or
less pathetic figure. In his literary preoccupations he allowed
people to impose on him. He looked unsubstantial beside the bust of
Socrates, which moved Cecilia strangely--it was so very massive and
so very ugly! She decided not to beat about the bush.
"I've been hearing some odd things from Mrs. Hughs about that little
Hilary's smile faded from his eyes, but remained clinging to his
Cecilia went on nervously: "Mrs. Hughs says it's because of her that
Hughs behaves so badly. I don't want to say anything against the
girl, but she seems--she seems to have---"
"Yes?" said Hilary.
"To have cast a spell on Hughs, as the woman puts it."
"On Hughs!" repeated Hilary.
Cecilia found her eyes resting on the bust of Socrates, and hastily
"She says he follows her about, and comes down here to lie in wait
for her. It's a most strange business altogether. You went to see
them, didn't you?"
"I've been speaking to Father," Cecilia murmured; "but he's hopeless-
I, couldn't get him to pay the least attention."
Hilary seemed thinking deeply.
"I wanted him," she went on, "to get some other girl instead to come
and copy for him."
Under the seeming impossibility of ever getting any farther, without
saying what she had come to say, Cecilia blurted out:
"Mrs. Hughs says that Hughs has threatened you."
Hilary's face became ironical.
"Really!" he said. "That's good of him! What for?"
The frightful indelicacy of her situation at this moment, the feeling
of unfairness that she should be placed in it, almost overwhelmed
Cecilia. "Goodness knows I don't want to meddle. I never meddle in
Hilary took her hand.
"My dear Cis," he said, "of course! But we'd better have this out!"
Grateful for the pressure of his hand, she gave it a convulsive
"It's so sordid, Hilary!"
"Sordid! H'm! Let's get it over, then."
Cecilia had grown crimson. "Do you want me to tell you everything?"
"Well, Hughs evidently thinks you're interested in the girl. You
can't keep anything from servants and people who work about your
house; they always think the worst of everything--and, of course,
they know that you and B. don't--aren't---"
"Mrs. Hughs actually said the man meant to go to B.!"
Again the vision of her sister seemed to float into the room, and she
went on desperately: "And, Hilary, I can see Mrs. Hughs really thinks
you are interested. Of course, she wants to, for if you were, it
would mean that a man like her husband could have no chance."
Astonished at this flash of cynical inspiration, and ashamed of such
plain speaking, she checked herself. Hilary had turned away.
Cecilia touched his arm. "Hilary, dear," she said, "isn't there any
chance of you and B---"
Hilary's lips twitched. "I should say not."
Cecilia looked sadly at the floor. Not since Stephen was bad with
pleurisy had she felt so worried. The sight of Hilary's face brought
back her doubts with all their force. It might, of course, be only
anger at the man's impudence, but it might be--she hardly liked to
frame her thought--a more personal feeling.
"Don't you think," she said, "that, anyway, she had better not come
Hilary paced the room.
"It's her only safe and certain piece of work; it keeps her
independent. It's much more satisfactory than this sitting. I can't
have any hand in taking it away from her."
Cecilia had never seen him moved like this. Was it possible that he
was not incorrigibly gentle, but had in him some of that animality
which she, in a sense, admired? This uncertainty terribly increased
the difficulties of the situation.
"But, Hilary," she said at last, "are you satisfied about the girl--I
mean, are you satisfied that she really is worth helping?"
"I don't understand."
"I mean," murmured Cecilia, "that we don't know anything about her
past." And, seeing from the movement of his eyebrows that she was
touching on what had evidently been a doubt with him, she went on
with great courage: "Where are her friends and relations? I mean,
she may have had a--adventures."
Hilary withdrew into himself.
"You can hardly expect me," he said, "to go into that with her."
His reply made Cecilia feel ridiculous.
"Well," she said in a hard little voice, "if this is what comes of
helping the poor, I don't see the use of it."
The outburst evoked no reply from Hilary; she felt more tremulous
than ever. The whole thing was so confused, so unnatural. What with
the dark, malignant Hughs and that haunting vision of Bianca, the
matter seemed almost Italian. That a man of Hughs' class might be
affected by the passion of love had somehow never come into her head.
She thought of the back streets she had looked out on from her
bedroom window. Could anything like passion spring up in those
dismal alleys? The people who lived there, poor downtrodden things,
had enough to do to keep themselves alive. She knew all about them;
they were in the air; their condition was deplorable! Could a person
whose condition was deplorable find time or strength for any sort of
lurid exhibition such as this? It was incredible.
She became aware that Hilary was speaking.
"I daresay the man is dangerous!"
Hearing her fears confirmed, and in accordance with the secret vein
of hardness which kept her living, amid all her sympathies and
hesitations, Cecilia felt suddenly that she had gone as far as it was
in her to go.
"I shall have no more to do with them," she said; "I've tried my best
for Mrs. Hughs. I know quite as good a needlewoman, who'll be only
too glad to come instead. Any other girl will do as well to copy
father's book. If you take my advice, Hilary, you'll give up trying
to help them too."
Hilary's smile puzzled and annoyed her. If she had known, this was
the smile that stood between him and her sister.
"You may be right," he said, and shrugged his shoulders:
"Very well," said Cecilia, "I've done all I can. I must go now.
During her progress to the door she gave one look behind. Hilary was
standing by the bust of Socrates. Her heart smote her to leave him
thus embarrassed. But again the vision of Bianca--fugitive in her
own house, and with something tragic in her mocking immobility--came
to her, and she hastened away.
A voice said: "How are you, Mrs. Dallison? Your sister at home?"
Cecilia saw before her Mr. Purcey, rising and falling a little with
the oscillation of his A.i. Damyer.
A sense as of having just left a house visited by sickness or
misfortune made Cecilia murmur:
"I'm afraid she's not."
"Bad luck!" said Mr. Purcey. His face fell as far as so red and
square a face could fall. "I was hoping perhaps I might be allowed
to take them for a run. She's wanting exercise." Mr. Purcey laid
his hand on the flank of his palpitating car. "Know these A.i.
Damyers, Mrs. Dallison? Best value you can get, simply rippin'
little cars. Wish you'd try her."
The A.i. Damyer, diffusing an aroma of the finest petrol, leaped and
trembled, as though conscious of her master's praise. Cecilia looked
"Yes," she said, "she's very sweet."
"Now do!" said Mr. Purcey. "Let me give you a run--Just to please
me, I mean. I'm sure you'll like her."
A little compunction, a little curiosity, a sudden revolt against all
the discomfiture and sordid doubts she had been suffering from, made
Cecilia glance softly at Mr. Purcey's figure; almost before she knew
it, she was seated in the A.i. Damyer. It trembled, emitted two
small sounds, one large scent, and glided forward. Mr. Purcey said:
"That's rippin' of you!"
A postman, dog, and baker's cart, all hurrying at top speed, seemed
to stand still; Cecilia felt the wind beating her cheeks. She gave a
"You must just take me home, please."
Mr. Purcey touched the chauffeur's elbow.
"Round the park," he said. "Let her have it."
The A.i. Damyer uttered a tiny shriek. Cecilia, leaning back in her
padded corner, glanced askance at Mr. Purcey leaning back in his; an
unholy, astonished little smile played on her lips.
'What am I doing?' it seemed to say. 'The way he got me here--
really! And now I am here I'm just going to enjoy it!'
There were no Hughs, no little model--all that sordid life had
vanished; there was nothing but the wind beating her cheeks and the
A.i. Damyer leaping under her.
Mr. Purcey said: "It just makes all the difference to me; keeps my
nerves in order."
"Oh," Cecilia murmured, "have you got nerves."
Mr. Purcey smiled. When he smiled his cheeks formed two hard red
blocks, his trim moustache stood out, and many little wrinkles ran
from his light eyes.
"Chock full of them," he said; "least thing upsets me. Can't bear to
see a hungry-lookin' child, or anything."
A strange feeling of admiration for this man had come upon Cecilia.
Why could not she, and Thyme, and Hilary, and Stephen, and all the
people they knew and mixed with, be like him, so sound and healthy,
so unravaged by disturbing sympathies, so innocent of "social
conscience," so content?
As though jealous of these thoughts about her master, the A.i.
Damyer stopped of her own accord.
"Hallo," said Mr. Purcey, "hallo, I say! Don't you get out; she'll
be all right directly."
"Oh," said Cecilia, "thanks; but I must go in here, anyhow; I think
I'll say good-bye. Thank you so much. I have enjoyed it."
>From the threshold of a shop she looked back. Mr. Purcey, on foot,
was leaning forward from the waist, staring at his A.i. Damyer with
HILARY GIVES CHASE
The ethics of a man like Hilary were not those of the million pure
bred Purceys of this life, founded on a sense of property in this
world and the next; nor were they precisely the morals and religion
of the aristocracy, who, though aestheticised in parts, quietly used,
in bulk, their fortified position to graft on Mr. Purcey's ethics the
principle of 'You be damned!' In the eyes of the majority he was
probably an immoral and irreligious man; but in fact his morals and
religion were those of his special section of society--the cultivated
classes, "the professors, the artistic pigs, advanced people, and all
that sort of cuckoo," as Mr. Purcey called them--a section of society
supplemented by persons, placed beyond the realms of want, who
speculated in ideas.
Had he been required to make confession of his creed he would
probably have framed it in some such way as this: "I disbelieve in
all Church dogmas, and do not go to church; I have no definite ideas
about a future state, and do not want to have; but in a private way I
try to identify myself as much as possible with what I see about me,
feeling that if I could ever really be at one with the world I live
in I should be happy. I think it foolish not to trust my senses and
my reason; as for what my senses and my reason will not tell me, I
assume that all is as it had to be, for if one could get to know the
why of everything in one would be the Universe. I do not believe
that chastity is a virtue in itself, but only so far as it ministers
to the health and happiness of the community. I do not believe that
marriage confers the rights of ownership, and I loathe all public
wrangling on such matters; but I am temperamentally averse to the
harming of my neighbours, if in reason it can be avoided. As to
manners, I think that to repeat a bit of scandal, and circulate
backbiting stories, are worse offences than the actions that gave
rise to them. If I mentally condemn a person, I feel guilty of moral
lapse. I hate self-assertion; I am ashamed of self-advertisement. I
dislike loudness of any kind. Probably I have too much tendency to
negation of all sorts. Small-talk bores me to extinction, but I will
discuss a point of ethics or psychology half the night. To make
capital out of a person's weakness is repugnant to me. I want to be
a decent man, but--I really can't take myself too seriously."
Though he had preserved his politeness towards Cecilia, he was in
truth angry, and grew angrier every minute. He was angry with her,
himself, and the man Hughs; and suffered from this anger as only they
can who are not accustomed to the rough-and-tumble of things.
Such a retiring man as Hilary was seldom given the opportunity for an
obvious display of chivalry. The tenor of his life removed him from
those situations. Such chivalry as he displayed was of a negative
order. And confronted suddenly with the conduct of Hughs, who, it
seemed, knocked his wife about, and dogged the footsteps of a
helpless girl, he took it seriously to heart.
When the little model came walking up the garden on her usual visit,
he fancied her face looked scared. Quieting the growling of Miranda,
who from the first had stubbornly refused to know this girl, he sat
down with a book to wait for her to go away. After sitting an hour
or more, turning over pages, and knowing little of their sense, he
saw a man peer over his garden gate. He was there for half a minute,
then lounged across the road, and stood hidden by some railings.
'So?' thought Hilary. 'Shall I go out and warn the fellow to clear
off, or shall I wait to see what happens when she goes away?'
He determined on the latter course. Presently she came out, walking
with her peculiar gait, youthful and pretty, but too matter-of-fact,
and yet, as it were, too purposeless to be a lady's. She looked back
at Hilary's window, and turned uphill.
Hilary took his hat and stick and waited. In half a minute Hughs
came out from under cover of the railings and followed. Then Hilary,
too, set forth.
There is left in every man something of the primeval love of
stalking. The delicate Hilary, in cooler blood, would have revolted
at the notion of dogging people's footsteps. He now experienced the
holy pleasures of the chase. Certain that Hughs was really following
the girl, he had but to keep him in sight and remain unseen. This
was not hard for a man given to mountain-climbing, almost the only
sport left to one who thought it immoral to hurt anybody but himself.
Taking advantage of shop-windows, omnibuses, passers-by, and other
bits of cover, he prosecuted the chase up the steepy heights of
Campden Hill. But soon a nearly fatal check occurred; for, chancing
to take his eyes off Hughs, he saw the little model returning on her
tracks. Ready enough in physical emergencies, Hilary sprang into a
passing omnibus. He saw her stopping before the window of a picture-
shop. From the expression of her face and figure, she evidently had
no idea that she was being followed, but stood with a sort of slack-
lipped wonder, lost in admiration of a well-known print. Hilary had
often wondered who could possibly admire that picture--he now knew.
It was obvious that the girl's aesthetic sense was deeply touched.
While this was passing through his mind, he caught sight of Hughs
lurking outside a public-house. The dark man's face was sullen and
dejected, and looked as if he suffered. Hilary felt a sort of pity
The omnibus leaped forward, and he sat down smartly almost on a
lady's lap. This was the lap of Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace, who
greeted him with a warm, quiet smile, and made a little room.
"Your sister-in-law has just been to see me, Mr. Dallison. She's
such a dear-so interested in everything. I tried to get her to come
on to my meeting with me."
Raising his hat, Hilary frowned. For once his delicacy was at fault.
"Ah, yes! Excuse me!" and got out.
Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace looked after him, and then glanced round the
omnibus. His conduct was very like the conduct of a man who had got
in to keep an assignation with a lady, and found that lady sitting
next his aunt. She was unable to see a soul who seemed to foster
this view, and sat thinking that he was "rather attractive."
Suddenly her dark busy eyes lighted on the figure of the little model
strolling along again.
'Oh!' she thought. 'Ah! Yes, really! How very interesting!'
Hilary, to avoid meeting the girl point-blank, had turned up a by-
street, and, finding a convenient corner, waited. He was puzzled.
If this man were persecuting her with his attentions, why had he not
gone across when she was standing at the picture-shop?
She passed across the opening of the by-street, still walking in the
slack way of one who takes the pleasures of the streets. She passed
from view; Hilary strained his eyes to see if Hughs were following.
He waited several minutes. The man did not appear. The chase was
over! And suddenly it flashed across him that Hughs had merely
dogged her to see that she had no assignation with anybody. They had
both been playing the same game! He flushed up in that shady little
street, in which he was the only person to be seen. Cecilia was
right! It was a sordid business. A man more in touch with facts
than Hilary would have had some mental pigeonhole into which to put
an incident like this; but, being by profession concerned mainly with
ideas and thoughts, he did not quite know where he was. The habit of
his mind precluded him from thinking very definitely on any subject
except his literary work--precluded him especially in a matter of
this sort, so inextricably entwined with that delicate, dim question,
the impact of class on class.
Pondering deeply, he ascended the leafy lane that leads between high
railings from Notting Hill to Kensington.
It was so far from traffic that every tree on either side was loud
with the Spring songs of birds; the scent of running sap came forth
shyly as the sun sank low. Strange peace, strange feeling of old
Mother Earth up there above the town; wild tunes, and the quiet sight
of clouds. Man in this lane might rest his troubled thoughts, and
for a while trust the goodness of the Scheme that gave him birth, the
beauty of each day, that laughs or broods itself into night. Some
budding lilacs exhaled a scent of lemons; a sandy cat on the coping
of a garden wall was basking in the setting sun.
In the centre of the lane a row of elm-trees displayed their gnarled,
knotted roots. Human beings were seated there, whose matted hair
clung round their tired faces. Their gaunt limbs were clothed in
rags; each had a stick, and some sort of dirty bundle tied to it.
They were asleep. On a bench beyond, two toothless old women sat,
moving their eyes from side to side, and a crimson-faced woman was
snoring. Under the next tree a Cockney youth and his girl were
sitting side by side-pale young things, with loose mouths, and hollow
cheeks, and restless eyes. Their arms were enlaced; they were
silent. A little farther on two young men in working clothes were
looking straight before them, with desperately tired faces. They,
too, were silent.
On the last bench of all Hilary came on the little model, seated
slackly by herself.
This the first time these two had each other at large, was clearly
not a comfortable event for either of them. The girl blushed, and
hastily got off her seat. Hilary, who raised his hat and frowned,
sat down on it.
"Don't get up," he said; "I want to talk to you."
The little model obediently resumed her seat. A silence followed.
She had on the old brown skirt and knitted jersey, the old blue-green
tam-o'-shanter cap, and there were marks of weariness beneath her
At last Hilary remarked: "How are you getting on?"
The little model looked at her feet.
"Pretty well, thank you, Mr. Dallison."
"I came to see you yesterday."
She slid a look at him which might have meant nothing or meant much,
so perfect its shy stolidity.
"I was out," she said, "sitting to Miss Boyle."
"So you have some work?"
"It's finished now."
"Then you're only getting the two shillings a day from Mr. Stone?"
The unexpected fervour of this grunt seemed to animate the little
"Three and sixpence for my rent, and breakfast costs threepence
nearly--only bread-and-butter--that's five and two; and washing's
always at least tenpence--that's six; and little things last week was
a shilling--even when I don't take buses--seven; that leaves five
shillings for my dinners. Mr. Stone always gives me tea. It's my
clothes worries me." She tucked her feet farther beneath the seat,
and Hilary refrained from looking down. "My hat is awful, and I do
want some---" She looked Hilary in the face for the first time. "I
do wish I was rich."
"I don't wonder."
The little model gritted her teeth, and, twisting at her dirty
gloves, said: "Mr. Dallison, d'you know the first thing I'd buy if I
"I'd buy everything new on me from top to toe, and I wouldn't ever
wear any of these old things again."
Hilary got up: "Come with me now, and buy everything new from top to
Hilary had already perceived that he had made an awkward, even
dangerous, proposal; short, however, of giving her money, the idea of
which offended his sense of delicacy, there was no way out of it. He
said brusquely: "Come along!"
The little model rose obediently. Hilary noticed that her boots were
split, and this--as though he had seen someone strike a child--so
moved his indignation that he felt no more qualms, but rather a sort
of pleasant glow, such as will come to the most studious man when he
levels a blow at the conventions.
He looked down at his companion--her eyes were lowered; he could not
tell at all what she was thinking of.
"This is what I was going to speak to you about," he said: "I don't
like that house you're in; I think you ought to be somewhere else.
What do you say?"
"Yes, Mr. Dallison."
"You'd better make a change, I think; you could find another room,
The little model answered as before: "Yes, Mr. Dallison."
"I'm afraid that Hughs is-a dangerous sort of fellow."
"He's a funny man."
"Does he annoy you?"
Her expression baffled Hilary; there seemed a sort of slow enjoyment
in it. She looked up knowingly.
"I don't mind him--he won't hurt me. Mr. Dallison, do you think blue
Hilary answered shortly: "Bluey-green."
She clasped her hands, changed her feet with a hop, and went on
walking as before.
"Listen to me," said Hilary; "has Mrs. Hughs been talking to you
about her husband?"
The little model smiled again.
"She goes on," she said.
Hilary bit his lips.
"Mr. Dallison, please--about my hat?"
"What about your hat?"
"Would you like me to get a large one or a small one?"
"For God's sake," answered Hilary, "a small one--no feathers."
"Can you attend to me a minute? Have either Hughs or Mrs. Hughs
spoken to you about--coming to my house, about--me?"
The little model's face remained impassive, but by the movement of
her fingers Hilary saw that she was attending now.
"I don't care what they say."
Hilary looked away; an angry flush slowly mounted in his face.
With surprising suddenness the little model said:
"Of course, if I was a lady, I might mind!"
"Don't talk like that!" said Hilary; "every woman is a lady."
The stolidity of the girl's face, more mocking far than any smile,
warned him of the cheapness of this verbiage.
"If I was a lady," she repeated simply, "I shouldn't be livin' there,
"No," said Hilary; "and you had better not go on living there,
The little model making no answer, Hilary did not quite know what to
say. It was becoming apparent to him that she viewed the situation
with a very different outlook from himself, and that he did not
understand that outlook.
He felt thoroughly at sea, conscious that this girl's life contained
a thousand things he did not know, a thousand points of view he did
Their two figures attracted some attention in the crowded street, for
Hilary-tall and slight, with his thin, bearded face and soft felt
hat--was what is known as "a distinguished-looking man"; and the
little model, though not "distinguished-looking" in her old brown
skirt and tam-o'shanter cap, had the sort of face which made men and
even women turn to look at her. To men she was a little bit of
strangely interesting, not too usual, flesh and blood; to women, she
was that which made men turn to look at her. Yet now and again there
would rise in some passer-by a feeling more impersonal, as though the
God of Pity had shaken wings overhead, and dropped a tiny feather.
So walking, and exciting vague interest, they reached the first of
the hundred doors of Messrs. Rose and Thorn.
Hilary had determined on this end door, for, as the adventure grew
warmer, he was more alive to its dangers. To take this child into
the very shop frequented by his wife and friends seemed a little mad;
but that same reason which caused them to frequent it--the fact that
there was no other shop of the sort half so handy--was the reason
which caused Hilary to go there now. He had acted on impulse; he
knew that if he let his impulse cool he would not act at all. The
bold course was the wise one; this was why he chose the end door
round the corner. Standing aside for her to go in first, he noticed
the girl's brightened eyes and cheeks; she had never looked so
pretty. He glanced hastily round; the department was barren for
their purposes, filled entirely with pyjamas. He felt a touch on his
arm. The little model, rather pink, was looking up at him.
"Mr. Dallison, am I to get more than one set of--underthings?"
"Three-three," muttered Hilary; and suddenly he saw that they were on
the threshold of that sanctuary. "Buy them," he said, "and bring me
He waited close beside a man with a pink face, a moustache, and an
almost perfect figure, who was standing very still, dressed from head
to foot in blue-and-white stripes. He seemed the apotheosis of what
a man should be, his face composed in a deathless simper: "Long, long
have been the struggles of man, but civilization has produced me at
last. Further than this it cannot go. Nothing shall make me
continue my line. In me the end is reached. See my back: 'The
Amateur. This perfect style, 8s. 11d. Great reduction.'"
He would not talk to Hilary, and the latter was compelled to watch
the shopmen. It was but half an hour to closing time; the youths
were moving languidly, bickering a little, in the absence of their
customers--like flies on a pane unable to get out into the sun. Two
of them came and asked him what they might serve him with; they were
so refined and pleasant that Hilary was on the point of buying what
he did not want. The reappearance of the little model saved him.
"It's thirty shillings; five and eleven was the cheapest, and
stockings, and I bought some sta---"
Hilary produced the money hastily.
"This is a very dear shop," she said.
When she had paid the bill, and Hilary had taken from her a large
brown-paper parcel, they journeyed on together. He had armoured his
face now in a slightly startled quizzicality, as though, himself
detached, he were watching the adventure from a distance.
On the central velvet seat of the boot and shoe department, a lady,
with an egret in her hat, was stretching out a slim silk-stockinged
foot, waiting for a boot. She looked with negligent amusement at
this common little girl and her singular companion. This look of
hers seemed to affect the women serving, for none came near the
little model. Hilary saw them eyeing her boots, and, suddenly
forgetting his role of looker-on, he became very angry. Taking out
his watch, he went up to the eldest woman.
"If somebody," he said, "does not attend this young lady within a
minute, I shall make a personal complaint to Mr. Thorn."
The hand of the watch, however, had not completed its round before a
woman was at the little model's side. Hilary saw her taking off her
boot, and by a sudden impulse he placed himself between her and the
lady. In doing this, he so far forgot his delicacy as to fix his
eyes on the little model's foot. The sense of physical discomfort
which first attacked him became a sort of aching in his heart. That
brown, dingy stocking was darned till no stocking, only darning, and
one toe and two little white bits of foot were seen, where the
threads refused to hold together any longer.
The little model wagged the toe uneasily--she had hoped, no doubt,
that it would not protrude, then concealed it with her skirt. Hilary
moved hastily away; when he looked again, it was not at her, but at
Her face had changed; it was no longer amused and negligent, but
stamped with an expression of offence. 'Intolerable,' it seemed to
say, 'to bring a girl like that into a shop like this! I shall never
come here again!' The expression was but the outward sign of that
inner physical discomfort Hilary himself had felt when he first saw
the little model's stocking. This naturally did not serve to lessen
his anger, especially as he saw her animus mechanically reproduced on
the faces of the serving women.
He went back to the little model, and sat down by her side.
"Does it fit? You'd better walk in it and see."
The little model walked.
"It squeezes me," she said.
"Try another, then," said Hilary.
The lady rose, stood for a second with her eyebrows raised and her
nostrils slightly distended, then went away, and left a peculiarly
pleasant scent of violets behind.
The second pair of boots not "squeezing" her, the little model was
soon ready to go down. She had all her trousseau now, except the
dress--selected and, indeed, paid for, but which, as she told Hilary,
she was coming back to try on tomorrow, when--when---. She had
obviously meant to say when she was all new underneath. She was
laden with one large and two small parcels, and in her eyes there was
a holy look.
Outside the shop she gazed up in his face.
"Well, you are happy now?" asked Hilary.
Between the short black lashes were seen two very bright, wet shining
eyes; her parted lips began to quiver.
"Good-night, then," he said abruptly, and walked away.
But looking round, he saw her still standing there, half buried in
parcels, gazing after him. Raising his hat, he turned into the High
Street towards home....
The old man, known to that low class of fellow with whom he was now
condemned to associate as "Westminister," was taking a whiff or two
out of his old clay pipe, and trying to forget his feet. He saw
Hilary coming, and carefully extended a copy of the last edition.
"Good-evenin', sir! Quite seasonable to-day for the time of year!
Ho, yes! 'Westminister!'"
His eyes followed Hilary's retreat. He thought:
"Oh dear! He's a-given me an 'arf-a-crown. He does look well--I
like to see 'im look as well as that--quite young! Oh dear!"
The sun-that smoky, faring ball, which in its time had seen so many
last editions of the Westminster Gazette--was dropping down to pass
the night in Shepherd's Bush. It made the old butler's eyelids blink
when he turned to see if the coin really was a half-crown, or too
good to be true.
And all the spires and house-roofs, and the spaces up above and
underneath them, glittered and swam, and men and horses looked as if
they had been powdered with golden dust.
Weighed down by her three parcels, the little model pursued her way
to Hound Street. At the door of No. 1 the son of the lame woman, a
tall weedy youth with a white face, was resting his legs alternately,
and smoking a cigarette. Closing one eye, he addressed her thus:
"'Allo, miss! Kerry your parcels for you?"
The little model gave him a look. 'Mind your own business!' it said;
but there was that in the flicker of her eyelashes which more than
nullified this snub.
Entering her room, she deposited the parcels on her bed, and untied
the strings with quick, pink fingers. When she had freed the
garments from wrappings and spread them out, she knelt down, and
began to touch them, putting her nose down once or twice to sniff the
linen and feel its texture. There were little frills attached here
and there, and to these she paid particular attention, ruffling their
edges with the palms of her hands, while the holy look came back to
her face. Rising at length, she locked the door, drew down the
blind, undressed from head to foot, and put on the new garments.
Letting her hair down, she turned herself luxuriously round and round
before the too-small looking-glass. There was utter satisfaction in
each gesture of that whole operation, as if her spirit, long starved,
were having a good meal. In this rapt contemplation of herself, all
childish vanity and expectancy, and all that wonderful quality found
in simple unspiritual natures of delighting in the present moment,
were perfectly displayed. So, motionless, with her hair loose on her
neck, she was like one of those half-hours of Spring that have lost
their restlessness and are content just to be.
Presently, however, as though suddenly remembering that her happiness
was not utterly complete, she went to a drawer, took out a packet of
pear-drops, and put one in her mouth.
The sun, near to setting, had found its way through a hole in the
blind, and touched her neck. She turned as though she had received a
kiss, and, raising a corner of the blind, peered out. The pear-tree,
which, to the annoyance of its proprietor, was placed so close to the
back court of this low-class house as almost to seem to belong to it,
was bathed in slanting sunlight. No tree in all the world could have
looked more fair than it did just then in its garb of gilded bloom.
With her hand up to her bare neck, and her cheeks indrawn from
sucking the sweet, the little model fixed her eyes on the tree. Her
expression did not change; she showed no signs of admiration. Her
gaze passed on to the back windows of the house that really owned the
pear-tree, spying out whether anyone could see her--hoping, perhaps,
someone would see her while she was feeling so nice and new. Then,
dropping the blind, she went back to the glass and began to pin her
hair up. When this was done she stood for a long minute looking at
her old brown skirt and blouse, hesitating to defile her new-found
purity. At last she put them on and drew up the blind. The sunlight
had passed off the pear-tree; its bloom was now white, and almost as
still as snow. The little model put another sweet into her mouth,
and producing from her pocket an ancient leather purse, counted out
her money. Evidently discovering that it was no more than she
expected, she sighed, and rummaged out of a top drawer an old
She sat down on the bed, and, turning the leaves rapidly till she
reached a certain page, rested the paper in her lap. Her eyes were
fixed on a photograph in the left-hand corner-one of those effigies
of writers that appear occasionally in the public press. Under it
were printed the words: "Mr. Hilary Dallison." And suddenly she
heaved a sigh.
The room grew darker; the wind, getting up as the sun went down, blew
a few dropped petals of the pear-tree against the window-pane.
SHIPS IN SAIL
In due accord with the old butler's comment on his looks, Hilary had
felt so young that, instead of going home, he mounted an omnibus, and
went down to his club--the "Pen and Ink," so called because the man
who founded it could not think at the moment of any other words.
This literary person had left the club soon after its initiation,
having conceived for it a sudden dislike. It had indeed a certain
reputation for bad cooking, and all its members complained bitterly
at times that you never could go in without meeting someone you knew.
It stood in Dover Street. Unlike other clubs, it was mainly used to
talk in, and had special arrangements for the safety of umbrellas and
such books as had not yet vanished from the library; not, of course,
owing to any peculative tendency among its members, but because,
after interchanging their ideas, those members would depart, in a
long row, each grasping some material object in his hand. Its.
maroon-coloured curtains, too, were never drawn, because, in the heat
of their discussions, the members were always drawing them. On the
whole, those members did not like each other much; wondering a
little, one by one, why the others wrote; and when the printed
reasons were detailed to them, reading them with irritation. If
really compelled to hazard an opinion about each other's merits, they
used to say that, no doubt "So-and-so" was "very good," but they had
never read him! For it had early been established as the principle
underlying membership not to read the writings of another man, unless
you could be certain he was dead, lest you might have to tell him to
his face that you disliked his work. For they were very jealous of
the purity of their literary consciences. Exception was made,
however, in the case of those who lived by written criticism, the
opinions of such persons being read by all, with a varying smile, and
a certain cerebral excitement. Now and then, however, some member,
violating every sense of decency, would take a violent liking for
another member's books. This he would express in words, to the
discomfort of his fellows, who, with a sudden chilly feeling in the
stomach, would wonder why it was not their books that he was
Almost every year, and generally in March, certain aspirations would
pass into the club; members would ask each other why there was no
Academy of British Letters; why there was no concerted movement to
limit the production of other authors' books; why there was no prize
given for the best work of the year. For a little time it almost
seemed as if their individualism were in danger; but, the windows
having been opened wider than usual some morning, the aspirations
would pass out, and all would feel secretly as a man feels when he
has swallowed the mosquito that has been worrying him all night--
relieved, but just a little bit embarrassed. Socially sympathetic in
their dealings with each other--they were mostly quite nice fellows--
each kept a little fame-machine, on which he might be seen sitting
every morning about the time the papers and his correspondence came,
wondering if his fame were going up.
Hilary stayed in the club till half-past nine; then, avoiding a
discussion which was just setting in, he took his own umbrella, and
bent his steps towards home.
It was the moment of suspense in Piccadilly; the tide had flowed up
to the theatres, and had not yet begun to ebb. The tranquil trees,
still feathery, draped their branches along the farther bank of that
broad river, resting from their watch over the tragi-comedies played
on its surface by men, their small companions. The gentle sighs
which distilled from their plume-like boughs seemed utterances of the
softest wisdom. Not far beyond their trunks it was all dark velvet,
into which separate shapes, adventuring, were lost, as wild birds
vanishing in space, or the souls of men received into their Mother's
Hilary walked, hearing no sighs of wisdom, noting no smooth darkness,
wrapped in thought. The mere fact of having given pleasure was
enough to produce a warm sensation in a man so naturally kind. But,
as with all self-conscious, self-distrustful, natures, that sensation
had not lasted. He was left with a feeling of emptiness and
disillusionment, as of having given himself a good mark without
While walking, he was a target for the eyes of many women, who passed
him rapidly, like ships in sail. The special fastidious shyness of
his face attracted those accustomed to another kind of face. And
though he did not precisely look at them, they in turn inspired in
him the compassionate, morbid curiosity which persons who live
desperate lives necessarily inspire in the leisured, speculative
mind. One of them deliberately approached him from a side-street.
Though taller and fuller, with heightened colour, frizzy hair, and a
hat with feathers; she was the image of the little model--the same
shape of face, broad cheek-bones, mouth a little open; the same
flower-coloured eyes and short black lashes, all coarsened and
accentuated as Art coarsens and accentuates the lines of life.
Looking boldly into Hilary's startled face, she laughed. Hilary
winced and walked on quickly.
He reached home at half-past ten. The lamp was burning in Mr.
Stone's room, and his window was, as usual, open; that which was not
usual, however, was a light in Hilary's own bedroom. He went gently
up. Through the door-ajar-he saw, to his surprise, the figure of his
wife. She was reclining in a chair, her elbows on its arms, the tips
of her fingers pressed together. Her face, with its dark hair, vivid
colouring, and sharp lines, was touched with shadows, her head turned
as though towards somebody beside her; her neck gleamed white. So--
motionless, dimly seen--she was like a woman sitting alongside her
own life, scrutinising, criticising, watching it live, taking no part
in it. Hilary wondered whether to go in or slip away from his
"Ah! it's you," she said.
Hilary approached her. For all her mocking of her own charms, this
wife of his was strangely graceful. After nineteen years in which to
learn every line of her face and body, every secret of her nature,
she still eluded him; that elusiveness, which had begun by being such
a charm, had got on his nerves, and extinguished the flame it had
once lighted. He had so often tried to see, and never seen, the
essence of her soul. Why was she made like this? Why was she for
ever mocking herself, himself, and every other thing? Why was she so
hard to her own life, so bitter a foe to her own happiness? Leonardo
da Vinci might have painted her, less sensual and cruel than his
women, more restless and disharmonic, but physically, spiritually
enticing, and, by her refusals to surrender either to her spirit or
her senses, baffling her own enticements.
"I don't know why I came," she said.
Hilary found no better answer than: "I am sorry I was out to dinner."
"Has the wind gone round? My room is cold."
"Yes, north-east. Stay here."
Her hand touched his; that warm and restless clasp was agitating.
"It's good of you to ask me; but we'd better not begin what we can't
"Stay here," said Hilary again, kneeling down beside her chair.
And suddenly he began to kiss her face and neck. He felt her
answering kisses; for a moment they were clasped together in a fierce
embrace. Then, as though by mutual consent, their arms relaxed;
their eyes grew furtive, like the eyes of children who have egged
each other on to steal; and on their lips appeared the faintest of
faint smiles. It was as though those lips were saying: "Yes, but we
are not quite animals!"
Hilary got up and sat down on his bed. Blanca stayed in the chair,
looking straight before her, utterly inert, her head thrown back, her
white throat gleaming, on her lips and in her eyes that flickering
smile. Not a word more, nor a look, passed between them.
Then rising, without noise, she passed behind him and went out.
Hilary had a feeling in his mouth as though he had been chewing
ashes. And a phrase--as phrases sometimes fill the spirit of a man
without rhyme or reason--kept forming on his lips: "The house of
Presently he went to her door, and stood there listening. He could
hear no sound whatever. If she had been crying if she had been
laughing--it would have been better than this silence. He put his
hands up to his ears and ran down-stairs.
SOUND IN THE NIGHT
He passed his study door, and halted at Mr. Stone's; the thought of
the old man, so steady and absorbed in the face of all external
things, refreshed him.
Still in his brown woollen gown, Mr. Stone was sitting with his eyes
fixed on something in the corner, whence a little perfumed steam was
"Shut the door," he said; "I am making cocoa; will you have a cup?"
"Am I disturbing you?" asked Hilary.
Mr. Stone looked at him steadily before answering:
"If I work after cocoa, I find it clogs the liver."
"Then, if you'll let me, sir, I'll stay a little."
"It is boiling," said Mr. Stone. He took the saucepan off the flame,
and, distending his frail cheeks, blew. Then, while the steam
mingled with his frosty beard, he brought two cups from a cupboard,
filled one of them, and looked at Hilary.
"I should like you," he said, "to hear three or four pages I have
just completed; you may perhaps be able to suggest a word or two."
He placed the saucepan back on the stove, and grasped the cup he had
"I will drink my cocoa, and read them to you."
Going to the desk, he stood, blowing at the cup.
Hilary turned up the collar of his coat against the night wind which
was visiting the room, and glanced at the empty cup, for he was
rather hungry. He heard a curious sound: Mr. Stone was blowing his
own tongue. In his haste to read, he had drunk too soon and deeply
of the cocoa.
"I have burnt my mouth," he said.
Hilary moved hastily towards him: "Badly? Try cold milk, sir."
Mr. Stone lifted the cup.
"There is none," he said, and drank again.
'What would I not give,' thought Hilary, 'to have his singleness of
There was the sharp sound of a cup set down. Then, out of a rustling
of papers, a sort of droning rose:
"'The Proletariat--with a cynicism natural to those who really are in
want, and even amongst their leaders only veiled when these attained
a certain position in the public eye--desired indeed the wealth and
leisure of their richer neighbours, but in their long night of
struggle with existence they had only found the energy to formulate
their pressing needs from day to day. They were a heaving, surging
sea of creatures, slowly, without consciousness or real guidance,
rising in long tidal movements to set the limits of the shore a
little farther back, and cast afresh the form of social life; and on
its pea-green bosom '" Mr. Stone paused. "She has copied it wrong,"
he said; "the word is 'seagreen.' 'And on its sea-green bosom sailed
a fleet of silver cockle-shells, wafted by the breath of those not in
themselves driven by the wind of need. The voyage of these silver
cockle-shells, all heading across each other's bows, was, in fact,
the advanced movement of that time. In the stern of each of these
little craft, blowing at the sails, was seated a by-product of the
accepted system. These by-products we should now examine."
Mr. Stone paused, and looked into his cup. There were some grounds
in it. He drank them, and went on:
"'The fratricidal principle of the survival of the fittest, which in
those days was England's moral teaching, had made the country one
huge butcher's shop. Amongst the carcasses of countless victims
there had fattened and grown purple many butchers, physically
strengthened by the smell of blood and sawdust. These had begotten
many children. Following out the laws of Nature providing against
surfeit, a proportion of these children were born with a feeling of
distaste for blood and sawdust; many of them, compelled for the
purpose of making money to follow in their fathers' practices, did so
unwillingly; some, thanks to their fathers' butchery, were in a
position to abstain from practising; but whether in practice or at
leisure, distaste for the scent of blood and sawdust was the common
feature that distinguished them. Qualities hitherto but little
known, and generally despised--not, as we shall see, without some
reason--were developed in them. Self-consciousness, aestheticism, a
dislike for waste, a hatred of injustice; these--or some one of
these, when coupled with that desire natural to men throughout all
ages to accomplish something--constituted the motive forces which
enabled them to work their bellows. In practical affairs those who
were under the necessity of labouring were driven, under the then
machinery of social life, to the humaner and less exacting kinds of
butchery, such as the Arts, Education, the practice of Religions and
Medicine, and the paid representation of their fellow-creatures.
Those not so driven occupied themselves in observing and complaining
of the existing state of thing. Each year saw more of their silver
cockleshells putting out from port, and the cheeks of those who blew
the sails more violently distended. Looking back on that pretty
voyage, we see the reason why those ships were doomed never to move,
but, seated on the sea-green bosom of that sea, to heave up and down,
heading across each other's bows in the self-same place for ever.
That reason, in few words, was this: 'The man who blew should have
been in the sea, not on the ship.'"
The droning ceased. Hilary saw that Mr. Stone was staring fixedly at
his sheet of paper, as though the merits of this last sentence were
surprising him. The droning instantly began again: "'In social
effort, as in the physical processes of Nature, there had ever been a
single fertilising agent--the mysterious and wonderful attraction
known as Love. To this--that merging of one being in another--had
been due all the progressive variance of form, known by man under the
name of Life. It was this merger, this mysterious, unconscious Love,
which was lacking to the windy efforts of those who tried to sail
that fleet. They were full of reason, conscience, horror, full of
impatience, contempt, revolt; but they did not love the masses of
their fellow-men. They could not fling themselves into the sea.
Their hearts were glowing; but the wind which made them glow was not
the salt and universal zephyr: it was the desert wind of scorn. As
with the flowering of the aloe-tree--so long awaited, so strange and
swift when once it comes--man had yet to wait for his delirious
impulse to Universal Brotherhood, and the forgetfulness of Self.'"
Mr. Stone had finished, and stood gazing at his visitor with eyes
that clearly saw beyond him. Hilary could not meet those eyes; he
kept his own fixed on the empty cocoa cup. It was not, in fact,
usual for those who heard Mr. Stone read his manuscript to look him
in the face. He stood thus absorbed so long that Hilary rose at
last, and glanced into the saucepan. There was no cocoa in it. Mr.
Stone had only made enough for one. He had meant it for his visitor,
but self-forgetfulness had supervened.
"You know what happens to the aloe, sir, when it has flowered?"
asked Hilary with malice.
Mr. Stone moved, but did not answer.
"It dies," said Hilary.
"No," said Mr. Stone; "it is at peace."
"When is self at peace, sir? The individual is surely as immortal as
the universal. That is the eternal comedy of life."
"What is?" said Mr. Stone.
"The fight or game between the two."
Mr. Stone stood a moment looking wistfully at his son-in-law. He
laid down the sheet of manuscript. "It is time for me to do my
exercises." So saying, he undid the tasselled cord tied round the
middle of his gown.
Hilary hastened to the door. From that point of vantage he looked
Divested of his gown and turned towards the window, Mr. Stone was
already rising on his toes, his arms were extended, his palms pressed
hard together in the attitude of prayer, his trousers slowly slipping
"One, two, three, four, five!" There was a sudden sound of breath
In the corridor upstairs, flooded with moonlight from a window at the
end, Hilary stood listening again. The only sound that came to him
was the light snoring of Miranda, who slept in the bathroom, not
caring to lie too near to anyone. He went to his room, and for a
long time sat buried in thought; then, opening the side window, he
leaned out. On the trees of the next garden, and the sloping roofs
of stables and outhouses, the moonlight had come down like a flight
of milk-white pigeons; with outspread wings, vibrating faintly as
though yet in motion, they covered everything. Nothing stirred. A
clock was striking two. Past that flight of milk-white pigeons were
black walls as yet unvisited. Then, in the stillness, Hilary seemed
to hear, deep and very faint, the sound as of some monster breathing,
or the far beating of muffed drums. From every side of the pale
sleeping town it seemed to come, under the moon's cold glamour. It
rose, and fell, and rose, with a weird, creepy rhythm, like a
groaning of the hopeless and hungry. A hansom cab rattled down the
High Street; Hilary strained his ears after the failing clatter of
hoofs and bell. They died; there was silence. Creeping nearer,
drumming, throbbing, he heard again the beating of that vast heart.
It grew and grew. His own heart began thumping. Then, emerging from
that sinister dumb groan, he distinguished a crunching sound, and
knew that it was no muttering echo of men's struggles, but only the
waggons journeying to Covent Garden Market.
A WALK ABROAD
Thyme Dallison, in the midst of her busy life, found leisure to
record her recollections and ideas in the pages of old school
notebooks. She had no definite purpose in so doing, nor did she
desire the solace of luxuriating in her private feelings--this she
would have scorned as out of date and silly. It was done from the
fulness of youthful energy, and from the desire to express oneself
that was "in the air." It was everywhere, that desire: among her
fellow-students, among her young men friends, in her mother's
drawing-room, and her aunt's studio. Like sentiment and marriage to
the Victorian miss, so was this duty to express herself to Thyme;
and, going hand-in-hand with it, the duty to have a good and jolly
youth. She never read again the thoughts which she recorded, she
took no care to lock them up, knowing that her liberty, development,
and pleasure were sacred things which no one would dream of touching
--she kept them stuffed down in a drawer among her handkerchiefs and
ties and blouses, together with the indelible fragment of a pencil.
This journal, naive and slipshod, recorded without order the current
impression of things on her mind.
In the early morning of the 4th of May she sat, night-gowned, on the
foot of her white bed, with chestnut hair all fluffy about her neck,
eyes bright and cheeks still rosy with sleep, scribbling away and
rubbing one bare foot against the other in the ecstasy of self-
expression. Now and then, in the middle of a sentence, she would
stop and look out of the window, or stretch herself deliciously, as
though life were too full of joy for her to finish anything.
"I went into grandfather's room yesterday, and stayed while he was
dictating to the little model. I do think grandfather's so splendid.
Martin says an enthusiast is worse than useless; people, he says,
can't afford to dabble in ideas or dreams. He calls grandfather's
idea paleolithic. I hate him to be laughed at. Martin's so
cocksure. I don't think he'd find many men of eighty who'd bathe in
the Serpentine all the year round, and do his own room, cook his own
food, and live on about ninety pounds a year out of his pension of
three hundred, and give all the rest away. Martin says that's
unsound, and the 'Book of Universal Brotherhood' rot. I don't care
if it is; it's fine to go on writing it as he does all day. Martin
admits that. That's the worst of him: he's so cool, you can't score
him off; he seems to be always criticising you; it makes me wild....
That little model is a hopeless duffer. I could have taken it all
down in half the time. She kept stopping and looking up with that
mouth of hers half open, as if she had all day before her.
Grandfather's so absorbed he doesn't notice; he likes to read the
thing over and over, to hear how the words sound. That girl would be
no good at any sort of work, except 'sitting,' I suppose. Aunt B.
used to say she sat well. There's something queer about her face; it
reminds me a little of that Botticelli Madonna in the National
Gallery, the full-face one; not so much in the shape as in the
expression--almost stupid, and yet as if things were going to happen
to her. Her hands and arms are pretty, and her feet are smaller than
mine. She's two years older than me. I asked her why she went in
for being a model, which is beastly work. She said she was glad to
get anything! I asked her why she didn't go into a shop or into
service. She didn't answer at once, and then said she hadn't had any
recommendations--didn't know where to try; then, all of a sudden, she
grew quite sulky, and said she didn't want to...."
Thyme paused to pencil in a sketch of the little model's profile....