Part 3 out of 7
"She had on a really pretty frock, quite simple and well made--it
must have cost three or four pounds. She can't be so very badly off,
or somebody gave it her...."
And again Thyme paused.
"She looked ever so much prettier in it than she used to in her old
brown skirt, I thought .... Uncle Hilary came to dinner last night.
We talked of social questions; we always discuss things when he
comes. I can't help liking Uncle Hilary; he has such kind eyes, and
he's so gentle that you never lose your temper with him. Martin
calls him weak and unsatisfactory because he's not in touch with
life. I should say it was more as if he couldn't bear to force
anyone to do anything; he seems to see both sides of every question,
and he's not good at making up his mind, of course. He's rather like
Hamlet might have been, only nobody seems to know now what Hamlet was
really like. I told him what I thought about the lower classes. One
can talk to him. I hate father's way of making feeble little jokes,
as if nothing were serious. I said I didn't think it was any use to
dabble; we ought to go to the root of everything. I said that money
and class distinctions are two bogeys we have got to lay. Martin
says, when it comes to real dealing with social questions and the
poor, all the people we know are amateurs. He says that we have got
to shake ourselves free of all the old sentimental notions, and just
work at putting everything to the test of Health. Father calls
Martin a 'Sanitist'; and Uncle Hilary says that if you wash people
by law they'll all be as dirty again tomorrow...."
Thyme paused again. A blackbird in the garden of the Square was
uttering a long, low, chuckling trill. She ran to the window and
peeped out. The bird was on a plane-tree, and, with throat uplifted,
was letting through his yellow beak that delicious piece of self-
expression. All things he seemed to praise--the sky, the sun, the
trees, the dewy grass, himself:
'You darling!' thought Thyme. With a shudder of delight she dropped
her notebook back into the drawer, flung off her nightgown, and flew
into her bath.
That same morning she slipped out quietly at ten o'clock. Her
Saturdays were free of classes, but she had to run the gauntlet of
her mother's liking for her company and her father's wish for her to
go with him to Richmond and play golf.
For on Saturdays Stephen almost always left the precincts of the
Courts before three o'clock. Then, if he could induce his wife or
daughter to accompany him, he liked to get a round or two in
preparation for Sunday, when he always started off at half-past ten
and played all day. If Cecilia and Thyme failed him, he would go to
his club, and keep himself in touch with every kind of social
movement by reading the reviews.
Thyme walked along with her head up and a wrinkle in her brow, as
though she were absorbed in serious reflection; if admiring glances
were flung at her, she did not seem aware of them. Passing not far
from Hilary's, she entered the Broad Walk, and crossed it to the
On a railing, stretching out his long legs and observing the passers-
by, sat her cousin, Martin Stone. He got down as she came up.
"Late again," he said. "Come on!"
"Where are we going first?" Thyme asked.
"The Notting Hill district's all we can do to-day if we're to go
again to Mrs. Hughs'. I must be down at the hospital this
Thyme frowned. "I do envy you living by yourself, Martin. It's
silly having to live at home."
Martin did not answer, but one nostril of his long nose was seen to
curve, and Thyme acquiesced in this without remark. They walked for
some minutes between tall houses, looking about them calmly. Then
Martin said: "All Purceys round here."
Thyme nodded. Again there was silence; but in these pauses there was
no embarrassment, no consciousness apparently that it was silence,
and their eyes--those young, impatient, interested eyes--were for
ever busy observing.
"Boundary line. We shall be in a patch directly."
"Black?" asked Thyme.
"Dark blue--black farther on."
They were passing down a long, grey, curving road, whose narrow
houses, hopelessly unpainted, showed marks of grinding poverty. The
Spring wind was ruffling straw and little bits of paper in the
gutters; under the bright sunlight a bleak and bitter struggle seemed
raging. Thyme said:
"This street gives me a hollow feeling."
Martin nodded. "Worse than the real article. There's half a mile
of this. Here it's all grim fighting. Farther on they've given it
And still they went on up the curving street, with its few pinched
shops and its unending narrow grimness.
At the corner of a by-street Martin said: "We'll go down here."
Thyme stood still, wrinkling her nose. Martin eyed her.
"I'm not funking, Martin, only I can't stand the smells."
"You'll have to get used to them."
"Yes, I know; but--but I forgot my eucalyptus."
The young man took out a handkerchief which had not yet been
"Here, take mine."
"They do make me feel so--it's a shame to take yours," and she took
"That's all right," said Martin. "Come on!"
The houses of this narrow street, inside and out, seemed full of
women. Many of them had babies in their arms; they were working or
looking out of windows or gossiping on doorsteps. And all stopped to
stare as the young couple passed. Thyme stole a look at her
companion. His long stride had not varied; there was the usual pale,
observant, sarcastic expression on his face. Clenching the
handkerchief in readiness, and trying to imitate his callous air, she
looked at a group of five women on the nearest doorstep.
Three were seated and two were standing. One of these, a young woman
with a round, open face, was clearly very soon to have a child; the
other, with a short, dark face and iron-grey, straggling hair, was
smoking a clay pipe. Of the three seated, one, quite young, had a
face as grey white as a dirty sheet, and a blackened eye; the second,
with her ragged dress disarranged, was nursing a baby; the third, in
the centre, on the top step, with red arms akimbo, her face scored
with drink, was shouting friendly obscenities to a neighbour in the
window opposite. In Thyme's heart rose the passionate feeling, 'How
disgusting! how disgusting!' and since she did not dare to give
expression to it, she bit her lips and turned her head from them,
resenting, with all a young girl's horror, that her sex had given her
away. The women stared at her, and in those faces, according to
their different temperaments, could be seen first the same vague,
hard interest that had been Thyme's when she first looked at them,
then the same secret hostility and criticism, as though they too felt
that by this young girl's untouched modesty, by her gushed cheeks and
unsoiled clothes, their sex had given them away. With contemptuous
movements of their lips and bodies, on that doorstep they proclaimed
their emphatic belief in the virtue and reality of their own
existences and in the vice and unreality of her intruding presence.
"Give the doll to Bill; 'e'd make 'er work for once, the---" In a
burst of laughter the epithet was lost.
Martin's lips curled.
"Purple just here," he said.
Thyme's cheeks were crimson.
At the end of the little street he stopped before a shop.
"Come on," he said, "you'll see the sort of place where they buy
In the doorway were standing a thin brown spaniel, a small fair woman
with a high, bald forehead, from which the hair was gleaned into
curlpapers, and a little girl with some affection of the skin.
Nodding coolly, Martin motioned them aside. The shop was ten feet
square; its counters, running parallel to two of the walls, were
covered with plates of cake, sausages, old ham-bones, peppermint
sweets, and household soap; there was also bread, margarine, suet in
bowls, sugar, bloaters--many bloaters--Captain's biscuits, and other
things besides. Two or three dead rabbits hung against the wall.
All was uncovered, so that what flies there were sat feeding
socialistically. Behind the counter a girl of seventeen was serving
a thin-faced woman with portions of a cheese which she was holding
down with her strong, dirty hand, while she sawed it with a knife.
On the counter, next the cheese, sat a quiet-looking cat.
They all glanced round at the two young people, who stood and waited.
"Finish what you're at," said Martin, "then give me three pennyworth
The girl, with a violent effort, finished severing the cheese. The
thin-faced woman took it, and, coughing above it, went away. The
girl, who could not take her eyes off Thyme, now served them with
three pennyworth of bull's-eyes, which she took out with her fingers,
for they had stuck. Putting them in a screw of newspaper, she handed
them to Martin. The young man, who had been observing negligently,
touched Thyme's elbow. She, who had stood with eyes cast down, now
turned. They went out, Martin handing the bull's-eyes to the little
girl with an affection of the skin.
The street now ended in a wide road formed of little low houses.
"Black," said Martin, "here; all down this road-casual labour,
criminals, loafers, drunkards, consumps. Look at the faces!"
Thyme raised her eyes obediently. In this main thoroughfare it was
not as in the by-street, and only dull or sullen glances, or none at
all, were bent on her. Some of the houses had ragged plants on the
window-sills; in one window a canary was singing. Then, at a bend,
they came into a blacker reach of human river. Here were
outbuildings, houses with broken windows, houses with windows boarded
up, fried-fish shops, low public-houses, houses without doors. There
were more men here than women, and those men were wheeling barrows
full of rags and bottles, or not even full of rags and bottles; or
they were standing by the public-houses gossiping or quarrelling in
groups of three or four; or very slowly walking in the gutters, or on
the pavements, as though trying to remember if they were alive. Then
suddenly some young man with gaunt violence in his face would pass,
pushing his barrow desperately, striding fiercely by. And every now
and then, from a fried-fish or hardware shop, would come out a man in
a dirty apron to take the sun and contemplate the scene, not finding
in it, seemingly, anything that in any way depressed his spirit.
Amongst the constant, crawling, shifting stream of passengers were
seen women carrying food wrapped up in newspaper, or with bundles
beneath their shawls. The faces of these women were generally either
very red and coarse or of a sort of bluish-white; they wore the
expression of such as know themselves to be existing in the way that
Providence has arranged they should exist. No surprise, revolt,
dismay, or shame was ever to be seen on those faces; in place of
these emotions a drab and brutish acquiescence or mechanical coarse
jocularity. To pass like this about their business was their
occupation each morning of the year; it was needful to accept it.
Not having any hope of ever, being different, not being able to
imagine any other life, they were not so wasteful of their strength
as to attempt either to hope or to imagine. Here and there, too,
very slowly passed old men and women, crawling along, like winter
bees who, in some strange and evil moment, had forgotten to die in
the sunlight of their toil, and, too old to be of use, had been
chivied forth from their hive to perish slowly in the cold twilight
of their days.
Down the centre of the street Thyme saw a brewer's dray creeping its
way due south under the sun. Three horses drew it, with braided
tails and beribboned manes, the brass glittering on their harness.
High up, like a god, sat the drayman, his little slits of eyes above
huge red cheeks fixed immovably on his horses' crests. Behind him,
with slow, unceasing crunch, the dray rolled, piled up with
hogsheads, whereon the drayman's mate lay sleeping. Like the
slumbrous image of some mighty unrelenting Power, it passed, proud
that its monstrous bulk contained all the joy and blessing those
shadows on the pavement had ever known.
The two young people emerged on to the high road running east and
"Cross here," said Martin, "and cut down into Kensington. Nothing
more of interest now till we get to Hound Street. Purceys and
Purceys all round about this part."
Thyme shook herself.
"O Martin, let's go down a road where there's some air. I feel so
dirty." She put her hand up to her chest.
"There's one here," said Martin.
They turned to the left into a road that had many trees. Now that
she could breathe and look about her, Thyme once more held her head
erect and began to swing her arms.
"Martin, something must be done!"
The young doctor did not reply; his face still wore its pale,
sarcastic, observant look. He gave her arm a squeeze with a half-
SECOND PILGRIMAGE TO HOUND STREET
Arriving in Hound Street, Martin Stone and his companion went
straight up to Mrs. Hughs' front room. They found her doing the
week's washing, and hanging out before a scanty fire part of the
little that the week had been suffered to soil. Her arms were bare,
her face and eyes red; the steam of soapsuds had congealed on them.
Attached to the bolster by a towel, under his father's bayonet and
the oleograph depicting the Nativity, sat the baby. In the air there
was the scent of him, of walls, and washing, and red herrings. The
two young people took their seat on the window-sill.
"May we open the window, Mrs. Hughs?" said Thyme. "Or will it hurt
"What's the matter with your wrists?" asked Martin.
The seamstress, muffing her arms with the garment she was dipping in
soapy water, did not answer.
"Don't do that. Let me have a look."
Mrs. Hughs held out her arms; the wrists were swollen and
"The brute!" cried Thyme.
The young doctor muttered: "Done last night. Got any arnica?"
"Of course not." He laid a sixpence on the sill. "Get some and rub
it in. Mind you don't break the skin."
Thyme suddenly burst out: "Why don't you leave him, Mrs. Hughs? Why
do you live with a brute like that?"
"Any particular row," he said, "or only just the ordinary?"
Mrs. Hughs turned her face to the scanty fire. Her shoulders heaved
Thus passed three minutes, then she again began rubbing the soapy
"If you don't mind, I'll smoke," said Martin. "What's your baby's
name? Bill? Here, Bill!" He placed his little finger in the baby's
hand. "Feeding him yourself?"
"What's his number?"
"I've lost three, sir; there's only his brother Stanley now."
"One a year?"
"No, Sir. I missed two years in the war, of course."
"Hughs wounded out there?"
"Yes, sir--in the head."
"Ah! And fever?"
Martin tapped his pipe against his forehead. "Least drop of liquor
goes to it, I suppose?"
Mrs. Hughs paused in the dipping of a cloth; her tear-stained face
expressed resentment, as though she had detected an attempt to find
excuses for her husband.
"He didn't ought to treat me as he does," she said.
All three now stood round the bed, over which the baby presided with
Thyme said: "I wouldn't care what he did, Mrs. Hughs; I wouldn't stay
another day if I were you. It's your duty as a woman."
To hear her duty as a woman Mrs. Hughs turned; slow vindictiveness
gathered on her thin face.
"Yes, miss?" she said. "I don't know what to do.
"Take the children and go. What's the good of waiting? We'll give
you money if you haven't got enough."
But Mrs. Hughs did not answer.
"Well?" said Martin, blowing out a cloud of smoke.
Thyme burst out again: "Just go, the very minute your little boy
comes back from school. Hughs 'll never find you. It 'll serve him
right. No woman ought to put up with what you have; it's simply
weakness, Mrs. Hughs."
As though that word had forced its way into her very heart and set
the blood free suddenly, Mrs. Hughs' face turned the colour of
tomatoes. She poured forth words:
"And leave him to that young girl--and leave him to his wickedness!
After I've been his wife eight years and borne him five! after I've
done what I have for him! I never want no better husband than what
he used to be, till she came with her pale face and her prinky
manners, and--and her mouth that you can tell she's bad by. Let her
keep to her profession--sitting naked's what she's fit for--coming
here to decent folk---" And holding out her wrists to Thyme, who had
shrunk back, she cried: "He's never struck me before. I got these
all because of her new clothes!"
Hearing his mother speak with such strange passion, the baby howled.
Mrs. Hughs stopped, and took him up. Pressing him close to her thin
bosom, she looked above his little dingy head at the two young
"I got my wrists like this last night, wrestling with him. He swore
he'd go and leave me, but I held him, I did. And don't you ever
think that I'll let him go to that young girl--not if he kills me
With those words the passion in her face died down. She was again a
meek, mute woman.
During this outbreak, Thyme, shrinking, stood by the doorway with
lowered eyes. She now looked up at Martin, clearly asking him to
come away. The latter had kept his gaze fixed on Mrs. Hughs, smoking
silently. He took his pipe out of his mouth, and pointed with it at
"This gentleman," he said, "can't stand too much of that."
In silence all three bent their eyes on the baby. His little fists,
and nose, and forehead, even his little naked, crinkled feet, were
thrust with all his feeble strength against his mother's bosom, as
though he were striving to creep into some hole away from life.
There was a sort of dumb despair in that tiny pushing of his way back
to the place whence he had come. His head, covered with dingy down,
quivered with his effort to escape. He had been alive so little;
that little had sufficed. Martin put his pipe back into his mouth.
"This won't do, you know," he said. "He can't stand it. And look
here! If you stop feeding him, I wouldn't give that for him
tomorrow!" He held up the circle of his thumb and finger. "You're
the best judge of what sort of chance you've got of going on in your
present state of mind!" Then, motioning to Thyme, he went down the
BENEATH THE ELMS
Spring was in the hearts of men, and their tall companions, trees.
Their troubles, the stiflings of each other's growth, and all such
things, seemed of little moment. Spring had them by the throat. It
turned old men round, and made them stare at women younger than
themselves. It made young men and women walking side by side touch
each other, and every bird on the branches tune his pipe. Flying
sunlight speckled the fluttered leaves, and gushed the cheeks of
crippled boys who limped into the Gardens, till their pale Cockney
faces shone with a strange glow.
In the Broad Walk, beneath those dangerous trees, the elms, people
sat and took the sun--cheek by jowl, generals and nursemaids, parsons
and the unemployed. Above, in that Spring wind, the elm-tree boughs
were swaying, rustling, creaking ever so gently, carrying on the
innumerable talk of trees--their sapient, wordless conversation over
the affairs of men. It was pleasant, too, to see and hear the myriad
movement of the million little separate leaves, each shaped
differently, flighting never twice alike, yet all obedient to the
single spirit of their tree.
Thyme and Martin were sitting on a seat beneath the largest of all
the elms. Their manner lacked the unconcern and dignity of the
moment, when, two hours before, they had started forth on their
discovery from the other end of the Broad Walk. Martin spoke:
"It's given you the hump! First sight of blood, and you're like all
the rest of them!"
"I'm not, Martin. How perfectly beastly of you!"
"Oh yes, you are. There's plenty of aestheticism about you and your
people--plenty of good intentions--but not an ounce of real
"Don't abuse my people; they're just as kind as you!"
"Oh, they're kind enough, and they can see what's wrong. It's not
that which stops them. But your dad's a regular official. He's got
so much sense of what he ought not to do that he never does anything;
Just as Hilary's got so much consciousness of what he ought to do
that be never does anything. You went to that woman's this morning
with your ideas of helping her all cut and dried, and now that you
find the facts aren't what you thought, you're stumped!"
"One can't believe anything they say. That's what I hate. I thought
Hughs simply knocked her about. I didn't know it was her jealousy--"
"Of course you didn't. Do you imagine those people give anything
away to our sort unless they're forced? They know better."
"Well, I hate the whole thing--it's all so sordid!"
"Well, it is! I don't feel that I want to help a woman who can say
and feel such horrid things, or the girl, or any of them."
"Who cares what they say or feel? that's not the point. It's simply
a case of common sense: Your people put that girl there, and they
must get her to clear out again sharp. It's just a question of
"Well, I know it's not healthy for me to have anything to do with,
and I won't! I don't believe you can help people unless they want to
"You're rather a brute, I think," said Thyme.
"A brute, not rather a brute. That's all the difference."
"For the worse!"
"I don't think so, Thyme!"
There was no answer.
"Look at me."
Very slowly Thyme turned her eyes.
"Are you one of us, or are you not?"
"Of course I am."
"Well, don't let's fight about it. Give me your hand."
He dropped his hand on hers. Her face had flushed rose colour.
Suddenly she freed herself. "Here's Uncle Hilary!"
It was indeed Hilary, with Miranda, trotting in advance. His hands
were crossed behind him, his face bent towards the ground. The two
young people on the bench sat looking at him.
"Buried in self-contemplation," murmured Martin; "that's the way he
always walks. I shall tell him about this!"
The colour of Thyme's face deepened from rose to crimson.
"Well--those new---" She could not bring out that word "clothes."
It would have given her thoughts away.
Hilary seemed making for their seat, but Miranda, aware of Martin,
stopped. "A man of action!" she appeared to say. "The one who pulls
my ears." And turning, as though unconscious, she endeavoured to
lead Hilary away. Her master, however, had already seen his niece.
He came and sat down on the bench beside her.
"We wanted you!" said Martin, eyeing him slowly, as a young dog will
eye another of a different age and breed. "Thyme and I have been to
see the Hughs in Hound Street. Things are blowing up for a mess.
You, or whoever put the girl there, ought to get her away again as
quick as possible."
Hilary seemed at once to withdraw into himself.
"Well," he said, "let us hear all about it."
"The woman's jealous of her: that's all the trouble!"
"Oh!" said Hilary; "that's all the trouble?"
Thyme murmured: "I don't see a bit why Uncle Hilary should bother.
If they will be so horrid--I didn't think the poor were like that.
I didn't think they had it in them. I'm sure the girl isn't worth
it, or the woman either!"
"I didn't say they were," growled Martin. "It's a question of what's
Hilary looked from one of his young companions to the other.
"I see," he said. "I thought perhaps the matter was more delicate."
Martin's lip curled.'
"Ah, your precious delicacy! What's the good of that? What did it
ever do? It's the curse that you're all suffering from. Why don't
you act? You could think about it afterwards."
A flush came into Hilary's sallow cheeks.
"Do you never think before you act, Martin?"
Martin got up and stood looking down on Hilary.
"Look here!" he said; "I don't go in for your subtleties. I use my
eyes and nose. I can see that the woman will never be able to go on
feeding the baby in the neurotic state she's in. It's a matter of
health for both of them."
"Is everything a matter of health with you?"
"It is. Take any subject that you like. Take the poor themselves-
what's wanted? Health. Nothing on earth but health! The
discoveries and inventions of the last century have knocked the floor
out of the old order; we've got to put a new one in, and we're going
to put it in, too--the floor of health. The crowd doesn't yet see
what it wants, but they're looking for it, and when we show it them
they'll catch on fast enough."
"But who are 'you'?" murmured Hilary.
"Who are we? I'll tell you one thing. While all the reformers are
pecking at each other we shall quietly come along and swallow up the
lot. We've simply grasped this elementary fact, that theories are no
basis for reform. We go on the evidence of our eyes and noses; what
we see and smell is wrong we correct by practical and scientific
"Will you apply that to human nature?"
"It's human nature to want health."
"I wonder! It doesn't look much like it at present."
"Take the case of this woman."
"Yes," said Hilary, "take her case. You can't make this too clear to
"She's no use--poor sort altogether. The man's no use. A man who's
been wounded in the head, and isn't a teetotaller, is done for. The
girl's no use--regular pleasure-loving type!"
Thyme flushed crimson, and, seeing that flood of colour in his
niece's face, Hilary bit his lips.
"The only things worth considering are the children. There's this
baby-well, as I said, the important thing is that the mother should
be able to look after it properly. Get hold of that, and let the
other facts go hang."
"Forgive me, but my difficulty is to isolate this question of the
baby's health from all the other circumstances of the case."
"And you'll make that an excuse, I'm certain, for doing nothing."
Thyme slipped her hand into Hilary's.
"You are a brute, Martin," she-murmured.
The young man turned on her a look that said: 'It's no use calling me
a brute; I'm proud of being one. Besides, you know you don't dislike
"It's better to be a brute than an amateur," he said.
Thyme, pressing close to Hilary, as though he needed her protection,
"Martin, you really are a Goth!"
Hilary was still smiling, but his face quivered.
"Not at all," he said. "Martin's powers of diagnosis do him credit."
And, raising his hat, he walked away.
The two young people, both on their feet now, looked after him.
Martin's face was a queer study of contemptuous compunction; Thyme's
was startled, softened, almost tearful.
"It won't do him any harm," muttered the young man. "It'll shake him
Thyme flashed a vicious look at him.
"I hate you sometimes," she said. "You're so coarse-grained--your
skin's just like leather."
Martin's hand descended on her wrist.
"And yours," he said, "is tissue-paper. You're all the same, you
"I'd rather be an amateur than a--than a bounder!"
Martin made a queer movement of his jaw, then smiled. That smile
seemed to madden Thyme. She wrenched her wrist away and darted after
Martin impassively looked after her. Taking out his pipe, he filled
it with tobacco, slowly pressing the golden threads down into the
bowl with his little finger.
If has been said that Stephen Dallison, when unable to get his golf
on Saturdays, went to his club, and read reviews. The two forms of
exercise, in fact, were very similar: in playing golf you went round
and round; in reading reviews you did the same, for in course of time
you were assured of coming to articles that, nullified articles
already read. In both forms of sport the balance was preserved which
keeps a man both sound and young.
And to be both sound and young was to Stephen an everyday necessity.
He was essentially a Cambridge man, springy and undemonstrative, with
just that air of taking a continual pinch of really perfect snuff.
Underneath this manner he was a good worker, a good husband, a good
father, and nothing could be urged against him except his regularity
and the fact that he was never in the wrong. Where he worked, and
indeed in other places, many men were like him. In one respect he
resembled them, perhaps, too much--he disliked leaving the ground
unless he knew precisely where he was coming down again.
He and Cecilia had "got on" from the first. They had both desired to
have one child--no more; they had both desired to keep up with the
times--no more; they now both considered Hilary's position awkward--
no more; and when Cecilia, in the special Jacobean bed, and taking
care to let him have his sleep out first, had told him of this matter
of the Hughs, they had both turned it over very carefully, lying on
their backs, and speaking in grave tones. Stephen was of opinion
that poor old Hilary must look out what he was doing. Beyond this he
did not go, keeping even from his wife the more unpleasant of what
seemed to him the possibilities.
Then, in the words she had used to Hilary, Cecilia spoke:
"It's so sordid, Stephen."
He looked at her, and almost with one accord they both said:
"But it's all nonsense!"
These speeches, so simultaneous, stimulated them to a robuster view.
What was this affair, if real, but the sort of episode that they read
of in their papers? What was it, if true, but a duplicate of some
bit of fiction or drama which they daily saw described by that word
"sordid"? Cecilia, indeed, had used this word instinctively. It had
come into her mind at once. The whole affair disturbed her ideals of
virtue and good taste--that particular mental atmosphere
mysteriously, inevitably woven round the soul by the conditions of
special breeding and special life. If, then, this affair were real
it was sordid, and if it were sordid it was repellent to suppose that
her family could be mixed up in it; but her people were mixed up in
it, therefore it must be--nonsense!
So the matter rested until Thyme came back from her visit to her
grandfather, and told them of the little model's new and pretty
clothes. When she detailed this news they were all sitting at
dinner, over the ordering of which Cecilia's loyalty had been taxed
till her little headache came, so that there might be nothing too
conventional to over-nourish Stephen or so essentially aesthetic as
not to nourish him at all. The man servant being in the room, they
neither of them raised their eyes. But when he was gone to fetch the
bird, each found the other looking furtively across the table. By
some queer misfortune the word "sordid" had leaped into their minds
again. Who had given her those clothes? But feeling that it was
sordid to pursue this thought, they looked away, and, eating hastily,
began pursuing it. Being man and woman, they naturally took a
different line of chase, Cecilia hunting in one grove and Stephen in
Thus ran Stephen's pack of meditations:
'If old Hilary has been giving her money and clothes and that sort of
thing, he's either a greater duffer than I took him for, or there's
something in it. B.'s got herself to thank, but that won't help to
keep Hughs quiet. He wants money, I expect. Oh, damn!'
Cecilia's pack ran other ways:
'I know the girl can't have bought those things out of her proper
earnings. I believe she's a really bad lot. I don't like to think
it, but it must be so. Hilary can't have been so stupid after what I
said to him. If she really is bad, it simplifies things very much;
but Hilary is just the sort of man who will never believe it. Oh
It was, to be quite fair, immensely difficult for Stephen and his
wife--or any of their class and circle--in spite of genuinely good
intentions, to really feel the existence of their "shadows," except
in so far as they saw them on the pavements. They knew that these
people lived, because they saw them, but they did not feel it--with
such extraordinary care had the web of social life been spun. They
were, and were bound to be, as utterly divorced from understanding
of, or faith in, all that shadowy life, as those "shadows" in their
by-streets were from knowledge or belief that gentlefolk really
existed except in so far as they had money from them.
Stephen and Cecilia, and their thousands, knew these "shadows" as
"the people," knew them as slums, as districts, as sweated
industries, of different sorts of workers, knew them in the capacity
of persons performing odd jobs for them; but as human beings
possessing the same faculties and passions with themselves, they did
not, could not, know them. The reason, the long reason, extending
back through generations, was so plain, so very simple, that it was
never mentioned--in their heart of hearts, where there was no room
for cant, they knew it to be just a little matter of the senses.
They knew that, whatever they might say, whatever money they might
give, or time devote, their hearts could never open, unless--unless
they closed their ears, and eyes, and noses. This little fact, more
potent than all the teaching of philosophers, than every Act of
Parliament, and all the sermons ever preached, reigned paramount,
supreme. It divided class from class, man from his shadow--as the
Great Underlying Law had set dark apart from light.
On this little fact, too gross to mention, they and their kind had in
secret built and built, till it was not too much to say that laws,
worship, trade, and every art were based on it, if not in theory,
then in fact. For it must not be thought that those eyes were dull
or that nose plain--no, no, those eyes could put two and two
together; that nose, of myriad fancy, could imagine countless things
unsmelled which must lie behind a state of life not quite its own.
It could create, as from the scent of an old slipper dogs create
So Stephen and Cecilia sat, and their butler brought in the bird. It
was a nice one, nourished down in Surrey, and as he cut it into
portions the butler's soul turned sick within him--not because he
wanted some himself, or was a vegetarian, or for any sort of
principle, but because he was by natural gifts an engineer, and
deadly tired of cutting up and handing birds to other people and
watching while they ate them. Without a glimmer of expression on his
face he put the portions down before the persons who, having paid him
to do so, could not tell his thoughts.
That same night, after working at a Report on the present Laws of
Bankruptcy, which he was then drawing up, Stephen entered the joint
apartment with excessive caution, having first made all his
dispositions, and, stealing to the bed, slipped into it. He lay
there, offering himself congratulations that he had not awakened
Cecilia, and Cecilia, who was wide awake, knew by his unwonted
carefulness that he had come to some conclusion which he did not wish
to impart to her. Devoured, therefore, by disquiet, she lay
sleepless till the clock struck two.
The conclusion to which Stephen had come was this: Having twice gone
through the facts--Hilary's corporeal separation from Bianca
(communicated to him by Cecilia), cause unknowable; Hilary's interest
in the little model, cause unknown; her known poverty; her employment
by Mr. Stone; her tenancy of Mrs. Hughs' room; the latter's outburst
to Cecilia; Hughs' threat; and, finally, the girl's pretty clothes--
he had summed it up as just a common "plant," to which his brother's
possibly innocent, but in any case imprudent, conduct had laid him
open. It was a man's affair. He resolutely tried to look on the
whole thing as unworthy of attention, to feel that nothing would
occur. He failed dismally, for three reasons. First, his inherent
love of regularity, of having everything in proper order; secondly,
his ingrained mistrust of and aversion from Bianca; thirdly, his
unavowed conviction, for all his wish to be sympathetic to them, that
the lower classes always wanted something out of you. It was a
question of how much they would want, and whether it were wise to
give them anything. He decided that it would not be wise at all.
What then? Impossible to say. It worried him. He had a natural
horror of any sort of scandal, and he was very fond of Hilary. If
only he knew the attitude Bianca would take up! He could not even
Thus, on that Saturday afternoon, the 4th of May, he felt for once
such a positive aversion from the reading of reviews, as men will
feel from their usual occupations when their nerves have been
disturbed. He stayed late at Chambers, and came straight home
outside an omnibus.
The tide of life was flowing in the town. The streets were awash
with wave on wave of humanity, sucked into a thousand crossing
currents. Here men and women were streaming out from the meeting of
a religious congress, there streaming in at the gates of some social
function; like bright water confined within long shelves of rock and
dyed with myriad scales of shifting colour, they thronged Rotten Row,
and along the closed shop-fronts were woven into an inextricable
network of little human runlets. And everywhere amongst this sea of
men and women could be seen their shadows, meandering like streaks of
grey slime stirred up from the lower depths by some huge, never-
ceasing finger. The innumerable roar of that human sea climbed out
above the roofs and trees, and somewhere in illimitable space
blended, and slowly reached the meeting-point of sound and silence--
that Heart where Life, leaving its little forms and barriers, clasps
Death, and from that clasp springs forth new-formed, within new
Above this crowd of his fellow-creatures, Stephen drove, and the same
Spring wind which had made the elm-trees talk, whispered to him, and
tried to tell him of the million flowers it had fertilised, the
million leaves uncurled, the million ripples it had awakened on the
sea, of the million flying shadows flung by it across the Downs, and
how into men's hearts its scent had driven a million longings and
It was but moderately successful, for Stephen, like all men of
culture and neat habits, took Nature only at those moments when he
had gone out to take her, and of her wild heart he had a secret fear.
On his own doorstep he encountered Hilary coming out.
"I ran across Thyme and Martin in the Gardens," the latter said.
"Thyme brought me back to lunch, and here I've been ever since."
"Did she bring our young Sanitist in too?" asked Stephen dubiously.
"No," said Hilary.
"Good! That young man gets on my nerves." Taking his elder brother
by the arm, he added: "Will you come in again, old boy, or shall we
go for a stroll?"
"A stroll," said Hilary.
Though different enough, perhaps because they were so different,
these two brothers had the real affection for each other which
depends on something deeper and more elementary than a similarity of
sentiments, and is permanent because unconnected with the reasoning
It depended on the countless times they had kissed and wrestled as
tiny boys, slept in small beds alongside, refused-to "tell" about
each other, and even now and then taken up the burden of each other's
peccadilloes. They might get irritated or tired of being in each
other's company, but it would have been impossible for either to have
been disloyal to the other in any circumstances, because of that
traditional loyalty which went back to their cribs.
Preceded by Miranda, they walked along the flower walk towards the
Park, talking of indifferent things, though in his heart each knew
well enough what was in the other's.
Stephen broke through the hedge.
"Cis has been telling me," he said, "that this man Hughs is making
trouble of some sort."
Stephen glanced a little anxiously at his brother's face; it struck
him as looking different, neither so gentle nor so impersonal as
"He's a ruffian, isn't he?"
"I can't tell you," Hilary answered. "Probably not."
"He must be, old chap," murmured Stephen. Then, with a friendly
pressure of his brother's arm, he added: "Look here, old boy, can I
be of any use?"
"In what?" asked Hilary.
Stephen took a hasty mental view of his position; he had been in
danger of letting Hilary see that he suspected him. Frowning
slightly, and with some colour in his clean-shaven face, he said:
"Of course, there's nothing in it."
"In what?" said Hilary again.
"In what this ruffian says."
"No," said Hilary, "there's nothing in it, though what there may be
if people give me credit for what there isn't, is another thing."
Stephen digested this remark, which hurt him. He saw that his
suspicions had been fathomed, and this injured his opinion of his own
"You mustn't lose your head, old man," he said at last.
They were crossing the bridge over the Serpentine. On the bright
waters, below, young clerks were sculling their inamoratas up and
down; the ripples set free by their oars gleamed beneath the sun, and
ducks swam lazily along the banks. Hilary leaned over.
"Look here, Stephen, I take an interest in this child--she's a
helpless sort of little creature, and she seems to have put herself
under my protection. I can't help that. But that's all. Do you
This speech produced a queer turmoil in Stephen, as though his
brother had accused him of a petty view of things. Feeling that he
must justify himself somehow, he began:
"Oh, of course I understand, old boy! But don't think, anyway, that
I should care a damn--I mean as far as I'm concerned--even if you had
gone as far as ever you liked, considering what you have to put up
with. What I'm thinking of is the general situation."
By this clear statement of his point of view Stephen felt he had put
things back on a broad basis, and recovered his position as a man of
liberal thought. He too leaned over, looking at the ducks. There
was a silence. Then Hilary said:
"If Bianca won't get that child into some fresh place, I shall."
Stephen looked at his brother in surprise, amounting almost to
dismay; he had spoken with such unwonted resolution.
"My dear old chap," he said, "I wouldn't go to B. Women are so
Hilary smiled. Stephen took this for a sign of restored
"I'll tell you exactly how the thing appeals to me. It'll be much
better for you to chuck it altogether. Let Cis see to it!"
Hilary's eyes became bright with angry humour.
"Many thanks," he said, "but this is entirely our affair."
Stephen answered hastily:
"That's exactly what makes it difficult for you to look at it all
round. That fellow Hughs could make himself quite nasty. I wouldn't
give him any sort of chance. I mean to say--giving the girl clothes
and that kind of thing---"
"I see," said Hilary.
"You know, old man," Stephen went on hastily, "I don't think you'll
get Bianca to look at things in your light. If you were on--on
terms, of course it would be different. I mean the girl, you know,
is rather attractive in her way."
Hilary roused himself from contemplation of the ducks, and they moved
on towards the Powder Magazine. Stephen carefully abstained from
looking at his brother; the respect he had for Hilary--result,
perhaps, of the latter's seniority, perhaps of the feeling that
Hilary knew more of him than he of Hilary--was beginning to assert
itself in a way he did not like. With every word, too, of this talk,
the ground, instead of growing firmer, felt less and less secure.
"You mistrust my powers of action?"
"No, no," said Stephen. "I don't want you to act at all."
Hilary laughed. Hearing that rather bitter laugh, Stephen felt a
little ache about his heart.
"Come, old boy," he said, "we can trust each other, anyway."
Hilary gave his brother's arm a squeeze.
Moved by that pressure, Stephen spoke:
"I hate you to be worried over such a rotten business."
The whizz of a motor-car rapidly approaching them became a sort of
roar, and out of it a voice shouted: "How are you?" A hand was seen
to rise in salute. It was Mr. Purcey driving his A.i. Damyer back to
Wimbledon. Before him in the sunlight a little shadow fled; behind
him the reek of petrol seemed to darken the road.
"There's a symbol for you," muttered Hilary.
"How do you mean?" said Stephen dryly. The word "symbol" was
distasteful to him.
"The machine in the middle moving on its business; shadows like you
and me skipping in front; oil and used-up stuff dropping behind.
Society-body, beak, and bones."
Stephen took time to answer. "That's rather far-fetched," he said.
"You mean these Hughs and people are the droppings?"
"Quite so," was Hilary's sardonic answer. "There's the body of that
fellow and his car between our sort and them--and no getting over it,
"Well, who wants to? If you're thinking of our old friend's
Fraternity, I'm not taking any." And Stephen suddenly added: "Look
here, I believe this affair is all 'a plant.'"
"You see that Powder Magazine?" said Hilary. "Well, this business
that you call a 'plant' is more like that. I don't want to alarm
you, but I think you as well as our young friend Martin, are inclined
to underrate the emotional capacity of human nature."
Disquietude broke up the customary mask on Stephen's face: "I don't
understand," he stammered.
"Well, we're none of us machines, not even amateurs like me--not even
under-dogs like Hughs. I fancy you may find a certain warmth, not to
say violence, about this business. I tell you frankly that I don't
live in married celibacy quite with impunity. I can't answer for
anything, in fact. You had better stand clear, Stephen--that's all."
Stephen marked his thin hands quivering, and this alarmed him as
nothing else had done.
They walked on beside the water. Stephen spoke quietly, looking at
the ground. "How can I stand clear, old man, if you are going to get
into a mess? That's impossible."
He saw at once that this shot, which indeed was from his heart, had
gone right home to Hilary's. He sought within him how to deepen the
"You mean a lot to us," he said. "Cis and Thyme would feel it
awfully if you and B.---" He stopped.
Hilary was looking at him; that faintly smiling glance, searching him
through and through, suddenly made Stephen feel inferior. He had
been detected trying to extract capital from the effect of his little
piece of brotherly love. He was irritated at his brother's insight.
"I have no right to give advice, I suppose," he said; "but in my
opinion you should drop it--drop it dead. The girl is not worth your
looking after. Turn her over to that Society--Mrs. Tallents
Smallpeace's thing whatever it's called."
At a sound as of mirth Stephen, who was not accustomed to hear his
brother laugh, looked round.
"Martin," said Hilary, "also wants the case to be treated on strictly
Nettled by this, Stephen answered:
"Don't confound me with our young Sanitist, please; I simply think
there are probably a hundred things you don't know about the girl
which ought to be cleared up."
"Then," said Stephen, "they could--er--deal with her accordingly."
Hilary shrank so palpably at this remark that he added rather
"You call that cold-blooded, I suppose; but I think, you know, old
chap, that you're too sensitive."
Hilary stopped rather abruptly.
"If you don't mind, Stevie," he said, "we'll part here. I want to
think it over." So saying, he turned back, and sat down on a seat
that faced the sun.
THE PERFECT DOG
Hilary sat long in the sun, watching the pale bright waters and many
well-bred ducks circling about the shrubs, searching with their
round, bright eyes for worms. Between the bench where he was sitting
and the spiked iron railings people passed continually--men, women,
children of all kinds. Every now and then a duck would stop and cast
her knowing glance at these creatures, as though comparing the
condition of their forms and plumage with her own. 'If I had had the
breeding of you,' she seemed to say, 'I could have made a better fist
of it than that. A worse-looking lot of ducks, take you all round.
I never wish to see!' And with a quick but heavy movement of her
shoulders, she would turn away and join her fellows.
Hilary, however, got small distraction from the ducks. The situation
gradually developing was something of a dilemma to a man better
acquainted with ideas than facts, with the trimming of words than
with the shaping of events. He turned a queer, perplexed, almost
quizzical eye on it. Stephen had irritated him profoundly. He had
such a way of pettifying things! Yet, in truth, the affair would
seem ridiculous enough to an ordinary observer. What would a man of
sound common sense, like Mr. Purcey, think of it? Why not, as
Stephen had suggested, drop it? Here, however, Hilary approached the
marshy ground of feeling.
To give up befriending a helpless girl the moment he found himself
personally menaced was exceedingly distasteful. But would she be
friendless? Were there not, in Stephen's words, a hundred things he
did not know about her? Had she not other resources? Had she not a
story? But here, too, he was hampered by his delicacy: one did not
pry into the private lives of others!
The matter, too, was hopelessly complicated by the domestic troubles
of the Hughs family. No conscientious man--and whatever Hilary
lacked, no one ever accused him of a lack of conscience--could put
aside that aspect of the case.
Wandering among these reflections were his thoughts about Bianca.
She was his wife. However he might feel towards her now, whatever
their relations, he must not put her in a false position. Far from
wishing to hurt her, he desired to preserve her, and everyone, from
trouble and annoyance. He had told Stephen that his interest in the
girl was purely protective. But since the night when, leaning out
into the moonlight, he heard the waggons coming in to Covent Garden
Market, a strange feeling had possessed him--the sensation of a man
who lies, with a touch of fever on him, listening to the thrum of
distant music--sensuous, not unpleasurable.
Those who saw him sitting there so quietly, with his face resting on
his hand, imagined, no doubt, that he was wrestling with some deep,
abstract proposition, some great thought to be given to mankind; for
there was that about Hilary which forced everyone to connect him
instantly with the humaner arts.
The sun began to leave the long pale waters.
A nursemaid and two children came and sat down beside him. Then it
was that, underneath his seat, Miranda found what she had been
looking for all her life. It had no smell, made no movement, was
pale-grey in colour, like herself. It had no hair that she could
find; its tail was like her own; it took no liberties, was silent,
had no passions, committed her to nothing. Standing a few inches
from its head, closer than she had ever been of her free will to any
dog, she smelt its smellessness with a long, delicious snuffling,
wrinkling up the skin on her forehead, and through her upturned eyes
her little moonlight soul looked forth. 'How unlike you are,' she
seemed to say, 'to all the other dogs I know! I would love to live
with you. Shall I ever find a dog like you again? "The latest-
sterilised cloth--see white label underneath: 4s. 3d.!"' Suddenly
she slithered out her slender grey-pink tongue and licked its nose.
The creature moved a little way and stopped. Miranda saw that it had
wheels. She lay down close to it, for she knew it was the perfect
Hilary watched the little moonlight lady lying vigilant,
affectionate, beside this perfect dog, who could not hurt her. She
panted slightly, and her tongue showed between her lips.
Presently behind his seat he saw another idyll. A thin white spaniel
had come running up. She lay down in the grass quite close, and
three other dogs who followed, sat and looked at her. A poor, dirty
little thing she was, who seemed as if she had not seen a home for
days. Her tongue lolled out, she panted piteously, and had no
collar. Every now and then she turned her eyes, but though they were
so tired and desperate, there was a gleam in them. 'For all its
thirst and hunger and exhaustion, this is life!' they seemed to say.
The three dogs, panting too, and watching till it should be her
pleasure to begin to run again, seemed with their moist, loving eyes
to echo: 'This is life!'
Because of this idyll, people near were moving on.
And suddenly the thin white spaniel rose, and, like a little harried
ghost, slipped on amongst the trees, and the three dogs followed her.
In her studio that afternoon Blanca stood before her picture of the
little model--the figure with parted pale-red lips and haunting,
pale-blue eyes, gazing out of shadow into lamplight.
She was frowning, as though resentful of a piece of work which had
the power to kill her other pictures. What force had moved her to
paint like that? What had she felt while the girl was standing
before her, still as some pale flower placed in a cup of water? Not
love--there was no love in the presentment of that twilight figure;
not hate--there was no hate in the painting of her dim appeal. Yet
in the picture of this shadow girl, between the gloom and glimmer,
was visible a spirit, driving the artist on to create that which had
the power to haunt the mind.
Blanca turned away and went up to a portrait of her husband, painted
ten years before. She looked from one picture to the other, with
eyes as hard and stabbing as the points of daggers.
In the more poignant relationships of human life there is a point
beyond which men and women do not quite truthfully analyse their
feelings--they feel too much. It was Blanca's fortune, too, to be
endowed to excess with that quality which, of all others, most
obscures the real significance of human issues. Her pride had kept
her back from Hilary, till she had felt herself a failure. Her pride
had so revolted at that failure that she had led the way to utter
estrangement. Her pride had forced her to the attitude of one who
says "Live your own life; I should be ashamed to let you see that I
care what happens between us." Her pride had concealed from her the
fact that beneath her veil of mocking liberality there was an
essential woman tenacious of her dues, avid of affection and esteem.
Her pride prevented the world from guessing that there was anything
amiss. Her pride even prevented Hilary from really knowing what had
spoiled his married life--this ungovernable itch to be appreciated,
governed by ungovernable pride. Hundreds of times he had been
baffled by the hedge round that disharmonic nature. With each
failure something had shrivelled in him, till the very roots of his
affection had dried up. She had worn out a man who, to judge from
his actions and appearance, was naturally long-suffering to a fault.
Beneath all manner of kindness and consideration for each other--for
their good taste, at all events, had never given way--this tragedy of
a woman, who wanted to be loved, slowly killing the power of loving
her in the man, had gone on year after year. It had ceased to be
tragedy, as far as Hilary was concerned; the nerve of his love for
her was quite dead, slowly frozen out of him. It was still active
tragedy with Bianca, the nerve of whose jealous desire for his
appreciation was not dead. Her instinct, too, ironically informed
her that, had he been a man with some brutality, a man who had set
himself to ride and master her, instead of one too delicate, he might
have trampled down the hedge. This gave her a secret grudge against
him, a feeling that it was not she who was to blame.
Pride was Bianca's fate, her flavour, and her charm. Like a shadowy
hill-side behind glamorous bars of waning sunlight, she was enveloped
in smiling pride--mysterious; one thinks, even to herself. This
pride of hers took part even in her many generous impulses, kind
actions which she did rather secretly and scoffed at herself for
doing. She scoffed at herself continually, even for putting on
dresses of colours which Hilary was fond of. She would not admit her
longing to attract him.
Standing between those two pictures, pressing her mahl-stick against
her bosom, she suggested somewhat the image of an Italian saint
forcing the dagger of martyrdom into her heart.
That other person, who had once brought the thought of Italy into
Cecilia's mind--the man Hughs--had been for the last eight hours or
so walking the streets, placing in a cart the refuses of Life; nor
had he at all suggested the aspect of one tortured by the passions of
love and hate: For the first two hours he had led the horse without
expression of any sort on his dark face, his neat soldier's figure
garbed in the costume which had made "Westminister" describe him as a
"dreadful foreign-lookin' man." Now and then he had spoken to the
horse; save for those speeches, of no great importance, he had been
silent. For the next two hours, following the cart, he had used a
shovel, and still his square, short face, with little black moustache
and still blacker eyes, had given no sign of conflict in his breast.
So he had passed the day. Apart from the fact, indeed, that men of
any kind are not too given to expose private passions to public gaze,
the circumstances of a life devoted from the age of twenty onwards to
the service of his country, first as a soldier, now in the more
defensive part of Vestry scavenger, had given him a kind of gravity.
Life had cloaked him with passivity--the normal look of men whose
bread and cheese depends on their not caring much for anything. Had
Hughs allowed his inclinations play, or sought to express himself, he
could hardly have been a private soldier; still less, on his
retirement from that office with an honourable wound, would he have
been selected out of many others as a Vestry scavenger. For such an
occupation as the lifting from the streets of the refuses of Life--a
calling greatly sought after, and, indeed, one of the few open to a
man who had served his country--charm of manner, individuality, or
the engaging quality of self-expression, were perhaps out of place.
He had never been trained in the voicing of his thoughts, and, ever
since he had been wounded, felt at times a kind of desperate
looseness in his head. It was not, therefore, remarkable that he
should be liable to misconstruction, more especially by those who had
nothing in common with him, except that somewhat negligible factor,
common humanity. The Dallisons had misconstrued him as much as, but
no more than, he had misconstrued them when, as "Westminister" had
informed Hilary, he "went on against the gentry." He was, in fact, a
ragged screen, a broken vessel, that let light through its holes.
A glass or two of beer, the fumes of which his wounded head no longer
dominated, and he at once became "dreadful foreign." Unfortunately,
it was his custom, on finishing his work, to call at the "Green
Glory." On this particular afternoon the glass had become three, and
in sallying forth he had felt a confused sense of duty urging him to
visit the house where this girl for whom he had conceived his strange
infatuation "carried on her games." The "no-tale-bearing" tradition
of a soldier fought hard with this sense of duty; his feelings were
mixed when he rang the bell and asked for Mrs. Dallison. Habit,
however, masked his face, and he stood before her at "attention," his
black eyes lowered, clutching his peaked cap.
Blanca noted curiously the scar on the left side of his cropped black
Whatever Hughs had to say was not said easily.
"I've come," he began at last in a dogged voice, "to let you know. I
never wanted to come into this house. I never wanted to see no one."
Blanca could see his lips and eyelids quivering in a way strangely
out of keeping with his general stolidity.
"My wife has told you tales of me, I suppose. She's told you I knock
her about, I daresay. I don't care what she tells you or any o' the
people that she works for. But this I'll say: I never touched her
but she touched me first. Look here! that's marks of hers!" and,
drawing up his sleeve he showed a scratch on his sinewy tattooed
forearm. "I've not come here about her; that's no business of
Bianca turned towards her pictures. "Well?" she said, "but what
have you come about, please? You see I'm busy."
Hughs' face changed. Its stolidity vanished, the eyes became as
quick, passionate, and leaping as a dark torrent. He was more
violently alive than she had ever seen a man. Had it been a woman
she would have felt--as Cecilia had felt with Mrs. Hughs--the
indecency, the impudence of this exhibition; but from that male
violence the feminine in her derived a certain satisfaction. So in
Spring, when all seems lowering and grey, the hedges and trees
suddenly flare out against the purple clouds, their twigs all in
flame. The next moment that white glare is gone, the clouds are no
longer purple, fiery light no longer quivers and leaps along the
hedgerows. The passion in Hughs' face was gone as soon. Bianca felt
a sense of disappointment, as though she could have wished her life
held a little more of that. He stole a glance at her out of his dark
eyes, which, when narrowed, had a velvety look, like the body of a
wild bee, then jerked his thumb at the picture of the little model.
"It's about her I come to speak."
Blanca faced him frigidly.
"I have not the slightest wish to hear."
Hughs looked round, as though to find something that would help him
to proceed; his eyes lighted on Hilary's portrait.
"Ah! I'd put the two together if I was you," he said.
Blanca walked past him to the door.
"Either you or I must leave the room."
The man's face was neither sullen now nor passionate, but simply
"Look here, lady," he said, "don't take it hard o' me coming here.
I'm not out to do you a harm. I've got a wife of my own, and Gawd
knows I've enough to put up with from her about this girl. I'll be
going in the water one of these days. It's him giving her them
clothes that set me coming here."
Blanca opened the door. "Please go," she said.
"I'll go quiet enough," he muttered, and, hanging his head, walked
Having seen him through the side door out into the street, Blanca
went back to where she had been standing before he came. She found
some difficulty in swallowing; for once there was no armour on her
face. She stood there a long time without moving, then put the
pictures back into their places and went down the little passage to
the house. Listening outside her father's door, she turned the
handle quietly and went in.
Mr. Stone, holding some sheets of paper out before him, was dictating
to the little model, who was writing laboriously with her face close
above her arm. She stopped at Blanca's entrance. Mr. Stone did not
stop, but, holding up his other hand, said:
"I will take you through the last three pages again. Follow!"
Blanca sat down at the window.
Her father's voice, so thin and slow, with each syllable disjointed
from the other, rose like monotony itself.
"'There were tra-cea-able indeed, in those days, certain rudi-men-
tary at-tempts to f-u-s-e the classes....'"
It went on unwavering, neither rising high nor falling low, as though
the reader knew he had yet far to go, like a runner that brings great
news across mountains, plains, and rivers.
To Blanca that thin voice might have been the customary sighing of
the wind, her attention was so fast fixed on the girl, who sat
following the words down the pages with her pen's point.
Mr. Stone paused.
"Have you got the word 'insane'?" he asked.
The little model raised her face. "Yes, Mr. Stone."
"Strike it out."
With his eyes fixed on the trees he stood breathing audibly. The
little model moved her fingers, freeing them from cramp. Blanca's
curious, smiling scrutiny never left her, as though trying to fix an
indelible image on her mind. There was something terrifying in that
stare, cruel to herself, cruel to the girl.
"The precise word," said Mr. Stone, "eludes me. Leave a blank.
Follow!... 'Neither that sweet fraternal interest of man in man, nor
a curiosity in phenomena merely as phenomena....'" His voice pursued
its tenuous path through spaces, frozen by the calm eternal presence
of his beloved idea, which, like a golden moon, far and cold,
presided glamorously above the thin track of words. And still the
girl's pen-point traced his utterance across the pages: Mr. Stone
paused again, and looking at his daughter as though surprised to see
her sitting there, asked:
"Do you wish to speak to me, my dear?"
Blanca shook her head.
"Follow!" said Mr. Stone.
But the little model's glance had stolen round to meet the scrutiny
fixed on her.
A look passed across her face which seemed to say: 'What have I done
to you, that you should stare at me like this?'
Furtive and fascinated, her eyes remained fixed on Bianca, while her
hand moved, mechanically ticking the paragraphs. That silent duel of
eyes went on--the woman's fixed, cruel, smiling; the girl's
uncertain, resentful. Neither of them heard a word that Mr. Stone
was reading. They treated it as, from the beginning, Life has
treated Philosophy--and to the end will treat it.
Mr. Stone paused again, seeming to weigh his last sentences.
"That, I think," he murmured to himself, "is true." And suddenly he
addressed his daughter. "Do you agree with me, my dear?"
He was evidently waiting with anxiety for her answer, and the little
silver hairs that straggled on his lean throat beneath his beard were
"Yes, Father, I agree."
"Ah!" said Mr. Stone, "I am glad that you confirm me. I was anxious.
Bianca rose. Burning spots of colour had settled in her cheeks. She
went towards the door, and the little model pursued her figure with a
long look, cringing, mutinous, and wistful.
THE HUSBAND AND THE WIFE
It was past six o'clock when Hilary at length reached home, preceded
a little by Miranda, who almost felt within her the desire to eat.
The lilac bushes, not yet in flower, were giving forth spicy
fragrance. The sun still netted their top boughs, as with golden
silk, and a blackbird, seated on a low branch of the acacia-tree, was
summoning the evening. Mr. Stone, accompanied by the little model,
dressed in her new clothes, was coming down the path. They were
evidently going for a walk, for Mr. Stone wore his hat, old and soft
and black, with a strong green tinge, and carried a paper parcel,
which leaked crumbs of bread at every step.
The girl grew very red. She held her head down, as though afraid of
Hilary's inspection of her new clothes. At the gate she suddenly
looked up. His face said: 'Yes, you look very nice!' And into her
eyes a look leaped such as one may see in dogs' eyes lifted in
adoration to their masters' faces. Manifestly disconcerted, Hilary
turned to Mr. Stone. The old man was standing very still; a thought
had evidently struck him. "I have not, I think," he said, "given
enough consideration to the question whether force is absolutely, or
only relatively, evil. If I saw a man ill-treat a cat, should I be
justified in striking him?"
Accustomed to such divagations, Hilary answered: "I don't know
whether you would be justifed, but I believe that you would strike
"I am not sure," said Mr. Stone. "We are going to feed the birds."
The little model took the paper bag. "It's all dropping out," she
said. From across the road she turned her head....'Won't you come,
too?' she seemed to say.
But Hilary passed rather hastily into the garden and shut the gate
behind him. He sat in his study, with Miranda near him, for fully an
hour, without doing anything whatever, sunk in a strange, half-
pleasurable torpor. At this hour he should have been working at his
book; and the fact that his idleness did not trouble him might well
have given him uneasiness. Many thoughts passed through his mind,
imaginings of things he had thought left behind forever--sensations
and longings which to the normal eye of middle age are but dried
forms hung in the museum of memory. They started up at the whip of
the still-living youth, the lost wildness at the heart of every man.
Like the reviving flame of half-spent fires, longing for discovery
leaped and flickered in Hilary--to find out once again what things
were like before he went down the hill of age.
No trivial ghost was beckoning him; it was the ghost, with unseen
face and rosy finger, which comes to men when youth has gone.
Miranda, hearing him so silent, rose. At this hour it was her
master's habit to scratch paper. She, who seldom scratched anything,
because it was not delicate, felt dimly that this was what he should
be doing. She held up a slim foot and touched his knee. Receiving
no discouragement, she delicately sprang into his lap, and,
forgetting for once her modesty, placed her arms on his chest, and
licked his face all over.
It was while receiving this embrace that Hilary saw Mr. Stone and the
little model returning across the garden. The old man was walking
very rapidly, holding out the fragment of a broken stick. He was
Hilary went to meet them.
"What's the matter, sir?" he said.
"I cut him over the legs," said Mr. Stone. "I do not regret it"; and
he walked on to his room.
Hilary turned to the little model.
"It was a little dog. The man kicked it, and Mr. Stone hit him. He
broke his stick. There were several men; they threatened us." She
looked up at Hilary. "I-I was frightened. Oh! Mr. Dallison, isn't
"All heroes are funny," murmured Hilary.
"He wanted to hit them again, after his stick was broken. Then a
policeman came, and they all ran away."
"That was quite as it should be," said Hilary. "And what did you
Perceiving that she had not as yet made much effect, the little model
cast down her eyes.
"I shouldn't have been frightened if you had been there!"
"Heavens!" muttered Hilary. "Mr. Stone is far more valiant than I."
"I don't think he is," she replied stubbornly, and again looked up at
"Well, good-night!" said Hilary hastily. "You must run off...."
That same evening, driving with his wife back from a long, dull
dinner, Hilary began:
"I've something to say to you."
An ironic "Yes?" came from the other corner of the cab.
"There is some trouble with the little model."
"This man Hughs has become infatuated with her. He has even said, I
believe, that he was coming to see you."
"And what is he going to say about you?"
"I don't know; some vulgar gossip--nothing true."
There was a silence, and in the darkness Hilary moistened his dry
Bianca spoke: "May I ask how you knew of this?"
"Cecilia told me."
A curious noise, like a little strangled laugh, fell on Hilary's
"I am very sorry," he muttered.
Presently Bianca said:
"It was good of you to tell me, considering that we go our own ways.
What made you?"
"I thought it right."
"And--of course, the man might have come to me!"
"That you need not have said."
"One does not always say what one ought."
"I have made the child a present of some clothes which she badly
needed. So far as I know, that's all I've done!"
This wonderful "of course" acted on Hilary like a tonic. He said
"What do you wish me to do?"
"I?" No gust of the east wind, making the young leaves curl and
shiver, the gas jets flare and die down in their lamps, could so have
nipped the flower of amity. Through Hilary's mind flashed Stephen's
almost imploring words: "Oh, I wouldn't go to her! Women are so
He looked round. A blue gauze scarf was wrapped over his wife's dark
head. There, in her corner, as far away from him as she could get,
she was smiling. For a moment Hilary had the sensation of being
stiffed by fold on fold of that blue gauze scarf, as if he were
doomed to drive for ever, suffocated, by the side of this woman who
had killed his love for her.
"You will do what you like, of course," she said suddenly.
A desire to laugh seized Hilary. "What do you wish me to do?" "You
will do what you like, of course!" Could civilised restraint and
tolerance go further?
"B." he said, with an effort, "the wife is jealous. We put the girl
into that house--we ought to get her out."
Blanca's reply came slowly.
"From the first," she said, "the girl has been your property; do what
you like with her. I shall not meddle."
"I am not in the habit of regarding people as my property."
"No need to tell me that--I have known you twenty years."
Doors sometimes slam in the minds of the mildest and most restrained
"Oh, very well! I have told you; you can see Hughs when he comes--or
not, as you like."
"I have seen him."
"Well, was his story very terrible?"
"He told me no story."
"How was that?"
Blanca suddenly sat forward, and threw back the blue scarf, as though
she, too, were stifling. In her flushed face her eyes were bright as
stars; her lips quivered.
"Is it likely," she said, "that I should listen? That's enough,
please, of these people."
Hilary bowed. The cab, bearing them fast home, turned into the last
short cut. This narrow street was full of men and women circling
round barrows and lighted booths. The sound of coarse talk and
laughter floated out into air thick with the reek of paraffin and the
scent of frying fish. In every couple of those men and women Hilary
seemed to see the Hughs, that other married couple, going home to
wedded happiness above the little model's head. The cab turned out
of the gay alley.
"Enough, please, of these people!"
That same night, past one o'clock, he was roused from sleep by
hearing bolts drawn back. He got up, hastened to the window, and
looked out. At first he could distinguish nothing. The moonless
night; like a dark bird, had nested in the garden; the sighing of the
lilac bushes was the only sound. Then, dimly, just below him, on the
steps of the front door, he saw a figure standing.
"Who is that?" he called.
The figure did not move.
"Who are you?" said Hilary again.
The figure raised its face, and by the gleam of his white beard
Hilary knew that it was Mr. Stone.
"What is it, sir?" he said. "Can I do anything?"
"No," answered Mr. Stone. "I am listening to the wind. It has
visited everyone to-night." And lifting his hand, he pointed out
into the darkness.
A DAY OF REST
Cecilia's house in the Old Square was steeped from roof to basement
in the peculiar atmosphere brought by Sunday to houses whose inmates
have no need of religion or of rest.
Neither she nor Stephen had been to church since Thyme was
christened; they did not expect to go again till she was married, and
they felt that even to go on these occasions was against their
principles; but for the sake of other people's feelings they had made
the sacrifice, and they meant to make it once more, when the time
came. Each Sunday, therefore, everything tried to happen exactly as
it happened on every other day, with indifferent success. This was
because, for all Cecilia's resolutions, a joint of beef and Yorkshire
pudding would appear on the luncheon-table, notwithstanding the fact
that Mr. Stone--who came when he remembered that it was Sunday--did
not devour the higher mammals. Every week, when it appeared,
Cecilia, who for some reason carved on Sundays, regarded it with a
frown. Next week she would really discontinue it; but when next week
came, there it was, with its complexion that reminded her so
uncomfortably of cabmen. And she would partake of it with unexpected
heartiness. Something very old and deep, some horrible whole-hearted
appetite, derived, no doubt, from Mr. Justice Carfax, rose at that
hour precisely every week to master her. Having given Thyme the
second helping which she invariably took, Cecilia, who detested
carving, would look over the fearful joint at a piece of glass
procured by her in Venice, and at the daffodils standing upright in
it, apparently without support. Had it not been for this joint of
beef, which had made itself smelt all the morning, and would make
itself felt all the afternoon, it need never have come into her mind
at all that it was Sunday--and she would cut herself another slice.
To have told Cecilia that there was still a strain of the Puritan in
her would have been to occasion her some uneasiness, and provoked a
strenuous denial; yet her way of observing Sunday furnished
indubitable evidence of this singular fact. She did more that day
than any other. For, in the morning she invariably "cleared off" her
correspondence; at lunch she carved the beef; after lunch she cleared
off the novel or book on social questions she was reading; went to a
concert, clearing off a call on the way back; and on first Sundays--a
great bore--stayed at home to clear off the friends who came to visit
her. In the evening she went to some play or other, produced by
Societies for the benefit of persons compelled, like her, to keep a
Sunday with which they felt no sympathy.
On this particular "first Sunday," having made the circuit of her
drawing-room, which extended the whole breadth of her house, and
through long, low windows cut into leaded panes, looked out both back
and front, she took up Mr. Balladyce's latest book. She sat, with
her paper-knife pressed against the tiny hollow in her flushed cheek,
and pretty little bits of lace and real old jewellery nestling close
to her. And while she turned the pages of Mr. Balladyce's book Thyme
sat opposite in a bright blue frock, and turned the pages of Darwin's
work on earthworms.
Regarding her "little daughter," who was so much more solid than
herself, Cecilia's face wore a very sweet, faintly surprised
'My kitten is a bonny thing,' it seemed to say. 'It is queer that I
should have a thing so large.'
Outside in the Square Gardens a shower, the sunlight, and blossoms,
were entangled. It was the time of year when all the world had
kittens; young things were everywhere--soft, sweet, uncouth. Cecilia
felt this in her heart. It brought depth into her bright, quick
eyes. What a secret satisfaction it was that she had once so far
committed herself as to have borne a child! What a queer vague
feeling she sometimes experienced in the Spring--almost amounting to
a desire to bear another! So one may mark the warm eye of a staid
mare, following with her gaze the first strayings of her foal. 'I
must get used to it,' she seems to say. 'I certainly do miss the
little creature, though I used to threaten her with my hoofs, to show
I couldn't be bullied by anything of that age. And there she goes!
Remembering suddenly, however, that she was sitting there to clear
off Mr. Balladyce, because it was so necessary to keep up with what
he wrote, Cecilia dropped her gaze to the page before her; and
instantly, by uncomfortable chance, not the choice pastures of Mr.
Balladyce appeared, where women might browse at leisure, but a vision
of the little model. She had not thought of her for quite an hour;
she had tired herself out with thinking-not, indeed, of her, but of
all that hinged on her, ever since Stephen had spoken of his talk
with Hilary. Things Hilary had said seemed to Cecilia's delicate.
and rather timid soul so ominous, so unlike himself. Was there
really going to be complete disruption between him and Bianca--worse,
an ugly scandal? She, who knew her sister better, perhaps, than
anyone, remembered from schoolroom days Bianca's moody violence when
anything had occurred to wound her--remembered, too, the long fits of
brooding that followed. This affair, which she had tried to persuade
herself was exaggerated, loomed up larger than ever. It was not an
isolated squib; it was a lighted match held to a train of gunpowder.
This girl of the people, coming from who knew where, destined for who
knew what--this young, not very beautiful, not even clever child,
with nothing but a sort of queer haunting naivete' to give her charm
--might even be a finger used by Fate! Cecilia sat very still before
that sudden vision of the girl. There was no staid mare to guard
that foal with the dark devotion of her eye. There was no wise
whinnying to answer back those tiny whinnies; no long look round to
watch the little creature nodding to sleep on its thin trembling legs
in the hot sunlight; no ears to prick up and hoofs to stamp at the
approach of other living things. These thoughts passed through
Cecilia's mind and were gone, being too far and pale to stay.
Turning the page which she had not been reading, she heaved a sigh.
Thyme sighed also.
"These worms are fearfully interesting," she said. "Is anybody
coming in this afternoon?"
"Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace was going to bring a young man in, a Signor
Pozzi-Egregio Pozzi, or some such name. She says he is the coming
pianist." Cecilia's face was spiced with faint amusement. Some
strain of her breeding (the Carfax strain, no doubt) still heard such
names and greeted such proclivities with an inclination to derision.
Thyme snatched up her book. "Well," she said, "I shall be in the
attic. If anyone interesting comes you might send up to me."
She stood, luxuriously stretching, and turning slowly round in a
streak of sunlight so as to bathe her body in it. Then, with a long
soft yawn, she flung up her chin till the sun streamed on her face.
Her eyelashes rested on cheeks already faintly browned; her lips were
parted; little shivers of delight ran down her; her chestnut hair
glowed, burnished by the kisses of the sun.
'Ah!' Cecilia thought, 'if that other girl were like this, now, I
could understand well enough!'
"Oh, Lord!" said Thyme, "there they are!" She flew towards the door.
"My dear," murmured Cecilia, "if you must go, do please tell Father."
A minute later Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace came in, followed by a young
man with an interesting, pale face and a crop of dusky hair.
Let us consider for a minute the not infrequent case of a youth
cursed with an Italian mother and a father of the name of Potts, who
had baptised him William. Had he emanated from the lower classes, he
might with impunity have ground an organ under the name of Bill; but
springing from the bourgeoisie, and playing Chopin at the age of
four, his friends had been confronted with a problem of no mean
difficulty. Heaven, on the threshold of his career, had intervened
to solve it. Hovering, as it were, with one leg raised before the
gladiatorial arena of musical London, where all were waiting to turn
their thumbs down on the figure of the native Potts, he had received
a letter from his mother's birthplace. It was inscribed: "Egregio
Signor Pozzi." He was saved. By the simple inversion of the first
two words, the substitution of z's for t's, without so fortunately
making any difference in the sound, and the retention of that i, all
London knew him now to be the rising pianist.
He was a quiet, well-mannered youth, invaluable just then to Mrs.
Tallents Smallpeace, a woman never happy unless slightly leading a
genius in strings.
Cecilia, while engaging them to right and left in her half-
sympathetic, faintly mocking way--as if doubting whether they really
wanted to see her or she them--heard a word of fear.
'Oh Heaven!' she thought.
Mr. Purcey, whose A.i. Damyer could be heard outside, advanced in his
direct and simple way.
"I thought I'd give my car a run," he said. "How's your sister?"
And seeing Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace, he added: "How do you do? We
met the other day."
"We did," said Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace, whose little eyes were
sparkling. "We talked about the poor, do you remember?"
Mr. Purcey, a sensitive man if you could get through his skin, gave
her a shrewd look. 'I don't quite cotton to this woman,' he seemed
saying; 'there's a laugh about her I don't like.'
"Ah! yes--you were tellin' me about them."
"Oh, Mr. Purcey, but you had heard of them, you remember!"
Mr. Purcey made a movement of his face which caused it to seem all
jaw. It was a sort of unconscious declaration of a somewhat
formidable character. So one may see bulldogs, those amiable
animals, suddenly disclose their tenacity.
"It's rather a blue subject," he said bluntly.
Something in Cecilia fluttered at those words. It was like the
saying of a healthy man looking at a box of pills which he did not
mean to open. Why could not she and Stephen keep that lid on, too?
And at this moment, to her deep astonishment, Stephen entered. She
had sent for him, it is true, but had never expected he would come.
His entrance, indeed, requires explanation.
Feeling, as he said, a little "off colour," Stephen had not gone to
Richmond to play golf. He had spent the day instead in the company
of his pipe and those ancient coins, of which he had the best
collection of any man he had ever met. His thoughts had wandered
from them, more than he thought proper, to Hilary and that girl. He
had felt from the beginning that he was so much more the man to deal
with an affair like this than poor old Hilary. When, therefore,
Thyme put her head into his study and said, "Father, Mrs. Tallents
Smallpeace!" he had first thought, 'That busybody!' and then,
'I wonder--perhaps I'd better go and see if I can get anything out of
In considering Stephen's attitude towards a woman so firmly embedded
in the various social movements of the day, it must be remembered
that he represented that large class of men who, unhappily too
cultivated to put aside, like Mr. Purcey, all blue subjects, or deny
the need for movements to make them less blue, still could not move,
for fear of being out of order. He was also temperamentally
distrustful of anything too feminine; and Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace
was undoubtedly extremely feminine. Her merit, in his eyes,