Part 4 out of 7
consisted of her attachment to Societies. So long as mankind worked
through Societies, Stephen, who knew the power of rules and minute
books, did not despair of too little progress being made. He sat
down beside her, and turned the conversation on her chief work--"the
Maids in Peril."
Searching his face with those eyes so like little black bees sipping
honey from all the flowers that grew, Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace said:
"Why don't you get your wife to take an interest in our work?"
To Stephen this question was naturally both unexpected and annoying,
one's wife being the last person he wished to interest in other
people's movements. He kept his head.
"Ah well!" he said, "we haven't all got a talent for that sort of
The voice of Mr. Purcey travelled suddenly across the room.
"Do tell me! How do you go to work to worm things out of them?"
Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace, prone to laughter, bubbled.
"Oh, that is such a delicious expression, Mr. Purcey! I almost think
we ought to use it in our Report. Thank you!"
Mr. Purcey bowed. "Not at all!" he said.
Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace turned again to Stephen.
"We have our trained inquirers. That is the advantage of Societies
such as ours; so that we don't personally have the unpleasantness.
Some cases do baffle everybody. It's such very delicate work."
"You sometimes find you let in a rotter?" said Mr. Purcey, "or, I
should say, a rotter lets you in! Ha, ha!"
Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace's eyes flew deliciously down his figure.
"Not often," she said; and turning rather markedly once more to
Stephen: "Have you any special case that you are interested in, Mr.
Stephen consulted Cecilia with one of those masculine half-glances so
discreet that Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace intercepted it without looking
up. She found it rather harder to catch Cecilia's reply, but she
caught it before Stephen did. It was, 'You'd better wait, perhaps,'
conveyed by a tiny raising of the left eyebrow and a slight movement
to the right of the lower lip. Putting two and two together, she
felt within her bones that they were thinking of the little model.
And she remembered the interesting moment in the omnibus when that
attractive-looking man had got out so hastily.
There was no danger whatever from Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace feeling
anything. The circle in which she moved did not now talk scandal,
or, indeed, allude to matters of that sort without deep sympathy;
and in the second place she was really far too good a fellow, with
far too dear a love of life, to interfere with anybody else's love of
it. At the same time it was interesting.
"That little model, now," she said, "what about her?"
"Is that the girl I saw?" broke in Mr. Purcey, with his accustomed
Stephen gave him the look with which he was accustomed to curdle the
blood of persons who gave evidence before Commissions.
'This fellow is impossible,' he thought.
The little black bees flying below Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace's dark
hair, done in the Early Italian fashion, tranquilly sucked honey from
"She seemed to me," she answered, "such a very likely type."
"Ah!" murmured Stephen, "there would be, I suppose, a danger---" And
he looked angrily at Cecilia.
Without ceasing to converse with Mr. Purcey and Signor Egregio Pozzi,
she moved her left eye upwards. Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace understood
this to mean: 'Be frank, and guarded!' Stephen, however, interpreted
it otherwise. To him it signified: 'What the deuce do you look at me
for?' And he felt justly hurt. He therefore said abruptly:
"What would you do in a case like that?"
Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace, sliding her face sideways, with a really
charming little smile, asked softly:
"In a case like what?"
And her little eyes fled to Thyme, who had slipped into the room, and
was whispering to her mother.
"You know my daughter," she said. "Will you excuse me just a minute?
I'm so very sorry." She glided towards the door, and threw a flying
look back. It was one of those social moments precious to those who
are escaping them.
Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace was smiling, Stephen frowning at his boots;
Mr. Purcey stared admiringly at Thyme, and Thyme, sitting very
upright, was calmly regarding the unfortunate Egregio Pozzi, who
apparently could not bring himself to speak.
When Cecilia found herself outside, she stood still a moment to
compose her nerves. Thyme had told her that Hilary was in the
dining-room, and wanted specially to see her.
As in most women of her class and bringing-up, Cecilia's qualities of
reticence and subtlety, the delicate treading of her spirit, were
seen to advantage in a situation such as this. Unlike Stephen, who
had shown at once that he had something on his mind, she received
Hilary with that exact shade of friendly, intimate, yet cool
affection long established by her as the proper manner towards her
husband's brother. It was not quite sisterly, but it was very nearly
so. It seemed to say: 'We understand each other as far as it is
right and fitting that we should; we even sympathise with the
difficulties we have each of us experienced in marrying the other's
sister or brother, as the case may be. We know the worst. And we
like to see each other, too, because there are bars between us, which
make it almost piquant.'
Giving him her soft little hand, she began at once to talk of things
farthest from her heart. She saw that she was deceiving Hilary, and
this feather in the cap of her subtlety gave her pleasure. But her
nerves fluttered at once when he said: "I want to speak to you, Cis.
You know that Stephen and I had a talk yesterday, I suppose?"
"I have spoken to B.!"
"Oh!" Cecilia murmured. She longed to ask what Bianca had said, but
did not dare, for Hilary had his armour on, the retired, ironical
look he always wore when any subject was broached for which he was
"The whole thing is distasteful to me," he said; "but I must do
something for this child. I can't leave her completely in the
Cecilia had an inspiration.
"Hilary," she said softly, "Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace is in the
drawing-room. She was just speaking of the girl to Stephen. Won't
you come in, and arrange with her quietly?"
Hilary looked at his sister-in-law for a moment without speaking,
"I draw the line there. No, thank you. I'll see this through
Cecilia fluttered out:
"Oh, but, Hilary, what do you mean?"
"I am going to put an end to it."
It needed all Cecilia's subtlety to hide her consternation. End to
what? Did he mean that he and B. were going to separate?
"I won't have all this vulgar gossip about the poor girl. I shall go
and find another room for her."
Cecilia sighed with relief.
"Would you-would you like me to come too, Hilary?"
"It's very good of you," said Hilary dryly. "My actions appear to
"Oh, that's absurd! Still, no one could think anything if I come
with you. Hilary, have you thought that if she continues coming to
"I shall tell her that she mustn't!"
Cecilia's heart gave two thumps, the first with pleasure, the second
"It will be horrid for you," she said. "You hate doing anything of
"But I'm afraid it's the only way," went on Cecilia, rather hastily.
"And, of course, it will be no good saying anything to Father; one
must simply let him suppose that she has got tired of it."
Again Hilary nodded.
"He will think it very funny,", murmured Cecilia pensively. "Oh, and
have you thought that taking her away from where she is will only
make those people talk the more?"
Hilary shrugged his shoulders.
"It may make that man furious," Cecilia added.
"Oh, but then, of course, if you don't see her afterwards, they will
have no--no excuse at all."
"I shall not see her afterwards," said Hilary, "if I can avoid it."
Cecilia looked at him.
"It's very sweet of you, Hilary."
"What is sweet?" asked Hilary stonily.
"Why, to take all this trouble. Is it really necessary for you to do
anything?" But looking in his face, she went on hastily: "Yes, yes,
it's best. Let's go at once. Oh, those people in the drawing-room!
Do wait ten minutes."
A little later, running up to put her hat on, she wondered why it was
that Hilary always made her want to comfort him. Stephen never
affected her like this.
Having little or no notion where to go, they walked in the direction
of Bayswater. To place the Park between Hound Street and the little
model was the first essential. On arriving at the other side of the
Broad Walk, they made instinctively away from every sight of green.
In a long, grey street of dismally respectable appearance they found
what they were looking for, a bed-sitting room furnished, advertised
on a card in the window. The door was opened by the landlady, a tall
woman of narrow build, with a West-Country accent, and a rather
hungry sweetness running through her hardness. They stood talking
with her in a passage, whose oilcloth of variegated pattern emitted a
faint odour. The staircase could be seen climbing steeply up past
walls covered with a shining paper cut by narrow red lines into small
yellow squares. An almanack, of so floral a design that nobody would
surely want to steal it, hung on the wall; below it was an umbrella
stand without umbrellas. The dim little passage led past two grimly
closed doors painted rusty red to two half-open doors with dull glass
in their panels. Outside, in the street from which they had mounted
by stone steps, a shower of sleet had begun to fall. Hilary shut the
door, but the cold spirit of that shower had already slipped into the
bleak, narrow house.
"This is the apartment, m'm," said the landlady, opening the first of
the rusty-coloured doors. The room, which had a paper of blue roses
on a yellow ground, was separated from another room by double doors.
"I let the rooms together sometimes, but just now that room's taken--
a young gentleman in the City; that's why I'm able to let this
Cecilia looked at Hilary. "I hardly think---"
The landlady quickly turned the handles of the doors, showing that
they would not open.
"I keep the key," she said. "There's a bolt on both sides."
Reassured, Cecilia walked round the room as far as this was possible,
for it was practically all furniture. There was the same little
wrinkle across her nose as across Thyme's nose when she spoke of
Hound Street. Suddenly she caught sight of Hilary. He was standing
with his back against the door. On his face was a strange and bitter
look, such as a man might have on seeing the face of Ugliness
herself, feeling that she was not only without him, but within--a
universal spirit; the look of a man who had thought that he was
chivalrous, and found that he was not; of a leader about to give an
order that he would not himself have executed.
Seeing that look, Cecilia said with some haste:
"It's all very nice and clean; it will do very well, I think. Seven
shillings a week, I believe you said. We will take it for a
fortnight, at all events."
The first glimmer of a smile appeared on the landlady's grim face,
with its hungry eyes, sweetened by patience.
"When would she be coming in?" she asked.
"When do you think, Hilary?"
"I don't know," muttered Hilary." The sooner the better--if it must
be. To-morrow, or the day after."
And with one look at the bed, covered by a piece of cheap red-and-
yellow tasselled tapestry, he went out into the street. The shower
was over, but the house faced north, and no sun was shining on it.
HILARY PUTS AN END TO IT
Like flies caught among the impalpable and smoky threads of cobwebs,
so men struggle in the webs of their own natures, giving here a
start, there a pitiful small jerking, long sustained, and failing
into stillness. Enmeshed they were born, enmeshed they die, fighting
according to their strength to the end; to fight in the hope of
freedom, their joy; to die, not knowing they are beaten, their
reward. Nothing, too, is more to be remarked than the manner in
which Life devises for each man the particular dilemmas most suited
to his nature; that which to the man of gross, decided, or fanatic
turn of mind appears a simple sum, to the man of delicate and
speculative temper seems to have no answer.
So it was with Hilary in that special web wherein his spirit
struggled, sunrise unto sunset, and by moonlight afterward.
Inclination, and the circumstances of a life which had never forced
him to grips with either men or women, had detached him from the
necessity for giving or taking orders. He had almost lost the
faculty. Life had been a picture with blurred outlines melting into
a softly shaded whole. Not for years had anything seemed to him
quite a case for "Yes" or "No." It had been his creed, his delight,
his business, too, to try and put himself in everybody's place, so
that now there were but few places where he did not, speculatively
speaking, feel at home.
Putting himself into the little model's place gave him but small
delight. Making due allowance for the sentiment men naturally import
into their appreciation of the lives of women, his conception of her
place was doubtless not so very wrong.
Here was a child, barely twenty years of age, country bred, neither a
lady nor quite a working-girl, without a home or relatives, according
to her own account--at all events, without those who were disposed to
help her--without apparently any sort of friend; helpless by nature,
and whose profession required a more than common wariness--this girl
he was proposing to set quite adrift again by cutting through the
single slender rope which tethered her. It was like digging up a
little rose-tree planted with one's own hands in some poor shelter,
just when it had taken root, and setting it where the full winds
would beat against it. To do so brusque and, as it seemed to Hilary,
so inhumane a thing was foreign to his nature. There was also the
little matter of that touch of fever--the distant music he had been
hearing since the waggons came in to Covent Garden.
With a feeling that was almost misery, therefore, he waited for her
on Monday afternoon, walking to and fro in his study, where all the
walls were white, and all the woodwork coloured like the leaf of a
cigar; where the books were that colour too, in Hilary's special
deerskin binding; where there were no flowers nor any sunlight coming
through the windows, but plenty of sheets of paper--a room which
youth seemed to have left for ever, the room of middle age!
He called her in with the intention of at once saying what he had to
say, and getting it over in the fewest words. But he had not
reckoned fully either with his own nature or with woman's instinct.
Nor had he allowed--being, for all his learning, perhaps because of
it, singularly unable to gauge the effects of simple actions--for the
proprietary relations he had established in the girl's mind by giving
her those clothes.
As a dog whose master has it in his mind to go away from him, stands
gazing up with tragic inquiry in his eyes, scenting to his soul that
coming cruelty--as a dog thus soon to be bereaved, so stood the
By the pose of every limb, and a fixed gaze bright as if tears were
behind it, and by a sort of trembling, she seemed to say: 'I know why
you have sent for me.'
When Hilary saw her stand like that he felt as a man might when told
to flog his fellow-creature. To gain time he asked her what she did
with herself all day. The little model evidently tried to tell
herself that her foreboding had been needless.
Now that the mornings were nice--she said with some animation--she
got up much earlier, and did her needlework first thing; she then
"did out" the room. There were mouse-holes in her room, and she had
bought a trap. She had caught a mouse last night. She hadn't liked
to kill it; she had put it in a tin box, and let it go when she went
out. Quick to see that Hilary was interested in this, as well he
might be, she told him that she could not bear to see cats hungry or
lost dogs, especially lost dogs, and she described to him one that
she had seen. She had not liked to tell a policeman; they stared so
hard. Those words were of strange omen, and Hilary turned his head
away. The little model, perceiving that she had made an effect of
some sort, tried to deepen it. She had heard they did all sorts of
things to people--but, seeing at once from Hilary's face that she was
not improving her effect, she broke off suddenly, and hastily began
to tell him of her breakfast, of how comfortable she was now she had
got her clothes; how she liked her room; how old Mr. Creed was very
funny, never taking any notice of her when he met her in the morning.
Then followed a minute account of where she had been trying to get
work; of an engagement promised; Mr. Lennard, too, still wanted her
to pose to him. At this she gashed a look at Hilary, then cast down
her eyes. She could get plenty of work if she began that way. But
she hadn't, because he had told her not, and, of course, she didn't
want to; she liked coming to Mr. Stone so much. And she got on very
well, and she liked London, and she liked the shops. She mentioned
neither Hughs nor Mrs. Hughs. In all this rigmarole, told with such
obvious purpose, stolidity was strangely mingled with almost cunning
quickness to see the effect made; but the dog-like devotion was never
quite out of her eyes when they were fixed on Hilary.
This look got through the weakest places in what little armour Nature
had bestowed on him. It touched one of the least conceited and most
amiable of men profoundly. He felt it an honour that anything so
young as this should regard him in that way. He had always tried to
keep out of his mind that which might have given him the key to her
special feeling for himself--those words of the painter of still
life: "She's got a story of some sort." But it flashed across him
suddenly like an inspiration: If her story were the simplest of all
stories--the direct, rather brutal, love affair of a village boy and
girl--would not she, naturally given to surrender, be forced this
time to the very antithesis of that young animal amour which had
brought on her such, sharp consequences?
But, wherever her devotion came from, it seemed to Hilary the
grossest violation of the feelings of a gentleman to treat it
ungratefully. Yet it was as if for the purpose of saying, "You are a
nuisance to me, or worse!" that he had asked her to his study. Her
presence had hitherto chiefly roused in him the half-amused, half-
tender feelings of one who strokes a foal or calf, watching its soft
uncouthness; now, about to say good-bye to her, there was the
question of whether that was the only feeling.
Miranda, stealing out between her master and his visitor, growled.
The little model, who was stroking a china ash-tray with her
ungloved, inky fingers, muttered, with a smile, half pathetic, half
cynical: "She doesn't like me! She knows I don't belong here. She
hates me to come. She's jealous!"
Hilary said abruptly:
"Tell me! Have you made any friends since you've been in London?"
The girl flashed a look at him that said:
'Could I make you jealous?'
Then, as though guilty of afar too daring thought, drooped her head,
The little model repeated almost passionately: "No. I don't want any
friends; I only want to be let alone."
Hilary began speaking rapidly.
"But these Hughs have not left you alone. I told you, I thought you
ought to move; I've taken another room for you quite away from them.
Leave your furniture with a week's rent, and take your trunk quietly
away to-morrow in a cab without saying a word to anyone. This is the
new address, and here's the money for your expenses. They're
dangerous for you, those people."
The little model muttered desperately: "But I don't care what they
Hilary went on: "Listen! You mustn't come here again, or the man
will trace you. We will take care you have what's necessary till you
can get other work."
The little model looked up at him without a word. Now that the thin
link which bound her to some sort of household gods had snapped, all
the patience and submission bred in her by village life, by the hard
facts of her story, and by these last months in London, served her
well enough. She made no fuss. Hilary saw a tear roll down her
He turned his head away, and said: "Don't cry, my child!"
Quite obediently the little model swallowed the tear. A thought
seemed to strike her:
"But I could see you, Mr. Dallison, couldn't I, sometimes?"
Seeing from his face that this was not in the programme, she stood
silent again, looking up at him.
It was a little difficult for Hilary to say: "I can't see you because
my wife is jealous!" It was cruel to tell her: "I don't want to see
you! "besides, it was not true.
"You'll soon be making friends," he said at last, "and you can always
write to me"; and with a queer smile he added: "You're only just
beginning life; you mustn't take these things to heart; you'll find
plenty of people better able to advise and help you than ever I shall
The little model answered this by seizing his hand with both of hers.
She dropped it again at once, as if guilty of presumption, and stood
with her head bent. Hilary, looking down on the little hat which, by
his special wish, contained no feathers, felt a lump rise in his
"It's funny," he said; "I don't know your Christian name."
"Ivy," muttered the little model.
"Ivy! Well, I'll write to you. But you must promise me to do
exactly as I said."
The girl looked up; her face was almost ugly--like a child's in whom
a storm of feeling is repressed.
"Promise!" repeated Hilary.
With a bitter droop of her lower lip, she nodded, and suddenly put
her hand to her heart. That action, of which she was clearly
unconscious, so naively, so almost automatically was it done, nearly
put an end to Hilary's determination.
"Now you must go," he said.
The little model choked, grew very red, and then quite white.
"Aren't I even to say good-bye to Mr. Stone?"
Hilary shook his head.
"He'll miss me," she said desperately. "He will. I know he will!"
"So shall I," said Hilary. "We can't help that."
The little model drew herself up to her full height; her breast
heaved beneath the clothes which had made her Hilary's. She was very
like "The Shadow" at that moment, as though whatever Hilary might do
there she would be--a little ghost, the spirit of the helpless
submerged world, for ever haunting with its dumb appeal the minds of
"Give me your hand," said Hilary.
The little model put out her not too white, small hand. It was soft,
clinging: and as hot as fire.
"Good-bye, my dear, and bless you!"
The little model gave him a look with who-knows-what of reproach in
it, and, faithful to her training, went submissively away.
Hilary did not look after her, but, standing by the lofty mantelpiece
above the ashes of the fire, rested his forehead on his arm. Not
even a fly's buzzing broke the stillness. There was sound for all
that-not of distant music, but of blood beating in his ears and
THE "BOOK OF UNIVERSAL BROTHERHOOD"
It is fitting that a few words should be said about the writer of the
"Book of Universal Brotherhood."
Sylvanus Stone, having graduated very highly at the London
University, had been appointed at an early age lecturer to more than
one Public Institution. He had soon received the professorial robes
due to a man of his profound learning in the natural sciences, and
from that time till he was seventy his life had flowed on in one
continual round of lectures, addresses, disquisitions, and arguments
on the subjects in which he was a specialist. At the age of seventy,
long after his wife's death and the marriages of his three children,
he had for some time been living by himself, when a very serious
illness--the result of liberties taken with an iron constitution by a
single mind--prostrated him.
During the long convalescence following this illness the power of
contemplation, which the Professor had up to then given to natural
science, began to fix itself on life at large. But the mind which
had made of natural science an idea, a passion, was not content with
vague reflections on life. Slowly, subtly, with irresistible
centrifugal force--with a force which perhaps it would not have
acquired but for that illness--the idea, the passion of Universal
Brotherhood had sucked into itself all his errant wonderings on the
riddle of existence. The single mind of this old man, divorced by
illness from his previous existence, pensioned and permanently
shelved, began to worship a new star, that with every week and month
and year grew brighter, till all other stars had lost their glimmer
and died out.
At the age of seventy-four he had begun his book. Under the spell of
his subject and of advancing age, his extreme inattention to passing
matters became rapidly accentuated. His figure had become almost too
publicly conspicuous before Bianca, finding him one day seated on the
roof of his lonely little top-story flat, the better to contemplate
his darling Universe, had inveigled him home with her, and installed
him in a room in her own house. After the first day or two he had
not noticed any change to speak of.
His habits in his new home were soon formed, and once formed, they
varied not at all; for he admitted into his life nothing which took
him from the writing of his book.
On the afternoon following Hilary's dismissal of the little model,
being disappointed of his amanuensis, Mr. Stone had waited for an
hour, reading his pages over and over to himself. He had then done
his exercises. At the usual time for tea he had sat down, and, with
his cup and brown bread-and-butter alternately at his lips, had
looked long and fixedly at the place where the girl was wont to sit.
Having finished, he left the room and went about the house. He found
no one but Miranda, who, seated in the passage leading to the studio,
was trying to keep one eye on the absence of her master and the other
on the absence of her mistress. She joined Mr. Stone, maintaining a
respect-compelling interval behind him when he went before, and
before him when he went behind. When they had finished hunting, Mr.
Stone went down to the garden gate. Here Bianca found him presently
motionless, without a hat, in the full sun, craning his white head in
the direction from which he knew the little model habitually came.
The mistress of the house was herself returning from her annual visit
to the Royal Academy, where she still went, as dogs, from some
perverted sense, will go and sniff round other dogs to whom they have
long taken a dislike. A loose-hanging veil depended from her
mushroom-shaped and coloured hat. Her eyes were brightened by her
Mr. Stone soon seemed to take in who she was, and stood regarding her
a minute without speaking. His attitude towards his daughters was
rather like that of an old drake towards two swans whom he has
inadvertently begotten--there was inquiry in it, disapproval,
admiration, and faint surprise.
"Why has she not come?" he said.
Bianca winced behind her veil. "Have you asked Hilary?"
"I cannot find him," answered Mr. Stone. Something about his patient
stooping figure and white head, on which the sunlight was falling,
made Bianca slip her hand through his arm.
"Come in, Dad. I'll do your copying."
Mr. Stone looked at her intently, and shook his head.
"It would be against my principles; I cannot take an unpaid service.
But if you would come, my dear, I should like to read to you. It is
At that request Bianca's eyes grew dim. Pressing Mr. Stone's shaggy
arm against her breast, she moved with him towards the house.
"I think I may have written something that will interest you," Mr.
Stone said, as they went along.
"I am sure you have," Bianca murmured.
"It is universal," said Mr. Stone; "it concerns birth. Sit at the
table. I will begin, as usual, where I left off yesterday."
Bianca took the little model's seat, resting her chin on her hand, as
motionless as any of the statues she had just been viewing.
It almost seemed as if Mr. Stone were feeling nervous. He twice
arranged his papers; cleared his throat; then, lifting a sheet
suddenly, took three steps, turned his back on her, and began to
"'In that slow, incessant change of form to form, called Life, men,
made spasmodic by perpetual action, had seized on a certain moment,
no more intrinsically notable than any other moment, and had called
it Birth. This habit of honouring one single instant of the
universal process to the disadvantage of all the other instants had
done more, perhaps, than anything to obfuscate the crystal clearness
of the fundamental flux. As well might such as watch the process of
the green, unfolding earth, emerging from the brumous arms of winter,
isolate a single day and call it Spring. In the tides of rhythm by
which the change of form to form was governed'"--Mr. Stone's voice,
which had till then been but a thin, husky murmur, gradually grew
louder and louder, as though he were addressing a great concourse--
"'the golden universal haze in which men should have flown like
bright wing-beats round the sun gave place to the parasitic halo
which every man derived from the glorifying of his own nativity. To
this primary mistake could be traced his intensely personal
philosophy. Slowly but surely there had dried up in his heart the
wish to be his brother.'"
He stopped reading suddenly.
"I see him coming in," he said.
The next minute the door opened, and Hilary entered.
"She has not come," said Mr. Stone; and Bianca murmured:
"We miss her!"
"Her eyes," said Mr. Stone, "have a peculiar look; they help me to
see into the future. I have noticed the same look in the eyes of
With a little laugh, Bianca murmured again:
"That is good!"
"There is one virtue in dogs," said Hilary, "which human beings lack-
they are incapable of mockery."
But Bianca's lips, parted, indrawn, seemed saying: 'You ask too much!
I no longer attract you. Am I to sympathise in the attraction this
common little girl has for you?'
Mr. Stone's gaze was fixed intently on the wall.
"The dog," he said, "has lost much of its primordial character."
And, moving to his desk, he took up his quill pen.
Hilary and Bianca made no sound, nor did they look at one another;
and in this silence, so much more full of meaning than any talk, the
scratching of the quill went on. Mr. Stone put it down at last, and,
seeing two persons in the room, read:
"'Looking back at those days when the doctrine of evolution had
reached its pinnacle, one sees how the human mind, by its habit of
continual crystallisations, had destroyed all the meaning of the
process. Witness, for example, that sterile phenomenon, the pagoda
of 'caste'! Like this Chinese building, so was Society then formed.
Men were living there in layers, as divided from each other, class
from class---'" He took up the quill, and again began to write.
"You understand, I suppose," said Hilary in a low voice, "that she
has been told not to come?"
Bianca moved her shoulders.
With a most unwonted look of anger, he added:
"Is it within the scope of your generosity to credit me with the
desire to meet your wishes?"
Bianca's answer was a laugh so strangely hard, so cruelly bitter,
that Hilary involuntarily turned, as though to retrieve the sound
before it reached the old man's ears.
Mr. Stone had laid down his pen. "I shall write no more to-day," he
said; "I have lost my feeling--I am not myself." He spoke in a voice
unlike his own.
Very tired and worn his old figure looked; as some lean horse, whose
sun has set, stands with drooped head, the hollows in his neck
showing under his straggling mane. And suddenly, evidently quite
oblivious that he had any audience, he spoke:
"O Great Universe, I am an old man of a faint spirit, with no
singleness of purpose. Help me to write on--help me to write a book
such as the world has never seen!"
A dead silence followed that strange prayer; then Bianca, with tears
rolling down her face, got up and rushed out of the room.
Mr. Stone came to himself. His mute, white face had suddenly grown
scared and pink. He looked at Hilary.
"I fear that I forgot myself. Have I said anything peculiar?"
Not feeling certain of his voice, Hilary shook his head, and he, too,
moved towards the door.
"Each of us has a shadow in those places--in those streets."
That saying of Mr. Stone's, which--like so many of his sayings--had
travelled forth to beat the air, might have seemed, even "in those
days," not altogether without meaning to anyone who looked into the
room of Mr. Joshua Creed in Hound Street.
This aged butler lay in bed waiting for the inevitable striking of a
small alarum clock placed in the very centre of his mantelpiece.
Flanking that round and ruthless arbiter, which drove him day by day
to stand up on feet whose time had come to rest, were the effigies of
his past triumphs. On the one hand, in a papier-mache frame,
slightly tinged with smuts, stood a portrait of the "Honorable
Bateson," in the uniform of his Yeomanry. Creed's former master's
face wore that dare-devil look with which he had been wont to say:
"D---n it, Creed! lend me a pound. I've got no money!" On the other
hand, in a green frame which had once been plush, and covered by a
glass with a crack in the left-hand corner, was a portrait of the
Dowager Countess of Glengower, as this former mistress of his
appeared, conceived by the local photographer, laying the foundation-
stone of the local almshouse. During the wreck of Creed's career,
which, following on a lengthy illness, had preceded his salvation by
the Westminster Gazette, these two household gods had lain at the
bottom of an old tin trunk, in the possession of the keeper of a
lodging-house, waiting to be bailed out. The "Honorable Bateson" was
now dead, nor had he paid as yet the pounds he had borrowed. Lady
Glengower, too, was in heaven, remembering that she had forgotten all
her servants in her will. He who had served them was still alive,
and his first thought, when he had secured his post on the
"Westminister," was to save enough to rescue them from a
dishonourable confinement. It had taken him six months. He had found
them keeping company with three pairs of woollen drawers; an old but
respectable black tail-coat; a plaid cravat; a Bible; four socks, two
of which had toes and two of which had heels; some darning-cotton and
a needle; a pair of elastic-sided boots; a comb and a sprig of white
heather, wrapped up with a little piece of shaving-soap and two pipe-
cleaners in a bit of the Globe newspaper; also two collars, whose
lofty points, separated by gaps of quite two inches, had been wont to
reach their master's gills; the small alarum clock aforesaid; and a
tiepin formed in the likeness of Queen Victoria at the date of her
first Jubilee. How many times had he not gone in thought over those
stores of treasure while he was parted from them! How many times
since they had come back to him had he not pondered with a slow but
deathless anger on the absence of a certain shirt, which he could
have sworn had been amongst them.
But now he lay in bed waiting to hear the clock go off, with his old
bristly chin beneath the bedclothes, and his old discoloured nose
above. He was thinking the thoughts which usually came into his mind
about this hour--that Mrs. Hughs ought not to scrape the butter off
his bread for breakfast in the way she did; that she ought to take
that sixpence off his rent; that the man who brought his late
editions in the cart ought to be earlier, letting 'that man' get his
Pell Mells off before him, when he himself would be having the one
chance of his day; that, sooner than pay the ninepence which the
bootmaker had proposed to charge for resoling him, he would wait
until the summer came 'low class o' feller' as he was, he'd be glad
enough to sole him then for sixpence
And the high-souled critic, finding these reflections sordid, would
have thought otherwise, perhaps, had he been standing on those feet
(now twitching all by themselves beneath the bedclothes) up to eleven
o'clock the night before, because there were still twelve numbers of
the late edition that nobody would buy. No one knew more surely than
Joshua Creed himself that, if he suffered himself to entertain any
large and lofty views of life, he would infallibly find himself in
that building to keep out of which he was in the habit of addressing
to God his only prayer to speak of. Fortunately, from a boy up,
together with a lengthy, oblong, square-jawed face, he had been given
by Nature a single-minded view of life. In fact, the mysterious,
stout tenacity of a soul born in the neighbourhood of Newmarket could
not have been done justice to had he constitutionally seen--any more
than Mr. Stone himself--two things at a time. The one thing he had
seen, for the five years that he had now stood outside Messrs. Rose
and Thorn's, was the workhouse; and, as he was not going there so
long as he was living, he attended carefully to all little matters of
expense in this somewhat sordid way.
While attending thus, he heard a scream. Having by temperament
considerable caution, but little fear, he waited till he heard
another, and then got out of bed. Taking the poker in his hand, and
putting on his spectacles, he hurried to the door. Many a time and
oft in old days had he risen in this fashion to defend the plate of
the "Honorable Bateson" and the Dowager Countess of Glengower from
the periodical attacks of his imagination. He stood with his ancient
nightgown flapping round his still more ancient legs, slightly
shivering; then, pulling the door open, he looked forth. On the
stairs just above him Mrs. Hughs, clasping her baby with one arm, was
holding the other out at full length between herself and Hughs. He
heard the latter say: "You've drove me to it; I'll do a swing for
you!" Mrs. Hughs' thin body brushed past into his room; blood was
dripping from her wrist. Creed saw that Hughs had his bayonet in his
hand. With all his might he called out: "Ye ought to be ashamed of
yourself!" raising the poker to a position of defence. At this
moment--more really dangerous than any he had ever known--it was
remarkable that he instinctively opposed to it his most ordinary
turns of speech. It was as though the extravagance of this un-
English violence had roused in him the full measure of a native
moderation. The sight of the naked steel deeply disgusted him; he
uttered a long sentence. What did Hughs call this--disgracin' of the
house at this time in the mornin'? Where was he brought up? Call
'imself a soldier, attackin' of old men and women in this way? He
ought to be ashamed!
While these words were issuing between the yellow stumps of teeth in
that withered mouth, Hughs stood silent, the back of his arm covering
his eyes. Voices and a heavy tread were heard. Distinguishing in
that tread the advancing footsteps of the Law, Creed said: "You
attack me if you dare!"
Hughs dropped his arm. His short, dark face had a desperate look, as
of a caged rat; his eyes were everywhere at once.
"All right, daddy," he said; "I won't hurt you. She's drove my head
all wrong again. Catch hold o' this; I can't trust myself." He held
out the bayonet.
"Westminister" took it gingerly in his shaking hand.
"To use a thing like that!" he said. "An' call yourself an
Englishman! I'll ketch me death standin' here, I will."
Hughs made no answer leaning against the wall. The old butler
regarded him severely. He did not take a wide or philosophic view of
him, as a tortured human being, driven by the whips of passion in his
dark blood; a creature whose moral nature was the warped, stunted
tree his life had made it; a poor devil half destroyed by drink and
by his wound. The old butler took a more single-minded and old-
fashioned line. 'Ketch 'old of 'im!' he thought. 'With these low
fellers there's nothin' else to be done. Ketch 'old of 'im until he
Nodding his ancient head, he said:
"Here's an orficer. I shan't speak for yer; you deserves all you'll
get, and more."
Later, dressed in an old Newmarket coat, given him by some client,
and walking towards the police-station alongside Mrs. Hughs, he was
particularly silent, presenting a front of some austerity, as became
a man mixed up in a low class of incident like this. And the
seamstress, very thin and scared, with her wounded wrist slung in a
muffler of her husband's, and carrying the baby on her other arm,
because the morning's incident had upset the little thing, slipped
along beside him, glancing now and then into his face.
Only once did he speak, and to himself:
"I don't know what they'll say to me down at the orffice, when I go
again-missin' my day like this! Oh dear, what a misfortune! What
put it into him to go on like that?"
At this, which was far from being intended as encouragement, the
waters of speech broke up and flowed from Mrs. Hughs. She had only
told Hughs how that young girl had gone, and left a week's rent, with
a bit of writing to say she wasn't coming back; it wasn't her fault
that she was gone--that ought never to have come there at all, a
creature that knew no better than to come between husband and wife.
She couldn't tell no more than he could where that young girl had
The tears, stealing forth, chased each other down the seamstress's
thin cheeks. Her face had now but little likeness to the face with
which she had stood confronting Hughs when she informed him of the
little model's flight. None of the triumph which had leaped out of
her bruised heart, none of the strident malice with which her voice,
whether she would or no, strove to avenge her wounded sense of
property; none of that unconscious abnegation, so very near to
heroism, with which she had rushed and caught up her baby from
beneath the bayonet, when, goaded by her malice and triumph, Hughs
had rushed to seize that weapon. None of all that, but, instead, a
pitiable terror of the ordeal before her--a pitiful, mute, quivering
distress, that this man, against whom, two hours before, she had felt
such a store of bitter rancour, whose almost murderous assault she
had so narrowly escaped, should now be in this plight.
The sight of her emotion penetrated through his spectacles to
something lying deep in the old butler.
"Don't you take on," he said; "I'll stand by yer. He shan't treat
yer with impuniness."
To his uncomplicated nature the affair was still one of tit for tat.
Mrs. Hughs became mute again. Her torn heart yearned to cancel the
penalty that would fall on all of them, to deliver Hughs from the
common enemy--the Law; but a queer feeling of pride and bewilderment,
and a knowledge, that, to demand an eye for an eye was expected of
all self-respecting persons, kept her silent.
Thus, then, they reached the great consoler, the grey resolver of all
human tangles, haven of men and angels, the police court. It was
situated in a back street. Like trails of ooze, when the tide,
neither ebb nor flow, is leaving and making for some estuary, trails
of human beings were moving to and from it. The faces of these
shuffling "shadows" wore a look as though masked with some hard but
threadbare stuff-the look of those whom Life has squeezed into a last
resort. Within the porches lay a stagnant marsh of suppliants,
through whose centre trickled to and fro that stream of ooze. An old
policeman, too, like some grey lighthouse, marked the entrance to the
port of refuge. Close to that lighthouse the old butler edged his
way. The love of regularity, and of an established order of affairs,
born in him and fostered by a life passed in the service of the
"Honorable Bateson" and the other gentry, made him cling
instinctively to the only person in this crowd whom he could tell for
certain to be on the side of law and order. Something in his oblong
face and lank, scanty hair parted precisely in the middle, something
in that high collar supporting his lean gills, not subservient
exactly, but as it were suggesting that he was in league against all
this low-class of fellow, made the policeman say to him:
"What's your business, daddy?"
"Oh!" the old butler answered. "This poor woman. I'm a witness to
The policeman cast his not unkindly look over the figure of the
seamstress. "You stand here," he said; "I'll pass you in directly."
And soon by his offices the two were passed into the port of refuge.
They sat down side by side on the edge of a long, hard, wooden bench;
Creed fixing his eyes, whose colour had run into a brownish rim round
their centres, on the magistrate, as in old days sun-worshippers
would sit blinking devoutly at the sun; and Mrs. Hughs fixing her
eyes on her lap, while tears of agony trickled down her face. On her
unwounded arm the baby slept. In front of them, and unregarded,
filed one by one those shadows who had drunk the day before too
deeply of the waters of forgetfulness. To-day, instead, they were to
drink the water of remembrance, poured out for them with no uncertain
hand. And somewhere very far away, it may have been that Justice sat
with her ironic smile watching men judge their shadows. She had
watched them so long about that business. With her elementary idea
that hares and tortoises should not be made to start from the same
mark she had a little given up expecting to be asked to come and lend
a hand; they had gone so far beyond her. Perhaps she knew, too, that
men no longer punished, but now only reformed, their erring brothers,
and this made her heart as light as the hearts of those who had been
in the prisons where they were no longer punished.
The old butler, however, was not thinking of her; he had thoughts of
a simpler order in his mind. He was reflecting that he had once
valeted the nephew of the late Lord Justice Hawthorn, and in the
midst of this low-class business the reminiscence brought him
refreshment. Over and over to himself he conned these words: "I
interpylated in between them, and I says, 'You ought to be ashamed of
yourself; call yourself an Englishman, I says, attackin' of old men
and women with cold steel, I says!'" And suddenly he saw that Hughs
was in the dock.
The dark man stood with his hands pressed to his sides, as though at
attention on parade. A pale profile, broken by a line of black
moustache, was all "Westminister" could see of that impassive face,
whose eyes, fixed on the magistrate, alone betrayed the fires within.
The violent trembling of the seamstress roused in Joshua Creed a
certain irritation, and seeing the baby open his black eyes, he
nudged her, whispering: "Ye've woke the baby!"
Responding to words, which alone perhaps could have moved her at such
a moment, Mrs. Hughs rocked this dumb spectator of the drama. Again
the old butler nudged her.
"They want yer in the box," he said.
Mrs. Hughs rose, and took her place.
He who wished to read the hearts of this husband and wife who stood
at right angles, to have their wounds healed by Law, would have
needed to have watched the hundred thousand hours of their wedded
life, known and heard the million thoughts and words which had passed
in the dim spaces of their world, to have been cognisant of the
million reasons why they neither of them felt that they could have
done other than they had done. Reading their hearts by the light of
knowledge such as this, he would not have been surprised that,
brought into this place of remedy, they seemed to enter into a sudden
league. A look passed between them. It was not friendly, it had no
appeal; but it sufficed. There seemed to be expressed in it the
knowledge bred by immemorial experience and immemorial time: This law
before which we stand was not made by us! As dogs, when they hear
the crack of a far whip, will shrink, and in their whole bearing show
wary quietude, so Hughs and Mrs. Hughs, confronted by the
questionings of Law, made only such answers as could be dragged from
them. In a voice hardly above a whisper Mrs. Hughs told her tale.
They had fallen out. What about? She did not know. Had he attacked
her? He had had it in his hand. What then? She had slipped, and
hurt her wrist against the point. At this statement Hughs turned his
eyes on her, and seemed to say: "You drove me to it; I've got to
suffer, for all your trying to get me out of what I've done. I gave
you one, and I don't want your help. But I'm glad you stick to me
against this Law!" Then, lowering his eyes, he stood motionless
during her breathless little outburst. He was her husband; she had
borne him five; he had been wounded in the war. She had never wanted
him brought here.
No mention of the little model....
The old butler dwelt on this reticence of Mrs. Hughs, when, two hours
afterwards, in pursuance of his instinctive reliance on the gentry,
he called on Hilary.
The latter, surrounded by books and papers--for, since his dismissal
of the girl, he had worked with great activity--was partaking of
lunch, served to him in his study on a tray.
"There's an old gentleman to see you, sir; he says you know him; his
name is Creed."
"Show him in," said Hilary.
Appearing suddenly from behind the servant in the doorway, the old
butler came in at a stealthy amble; he looked round, and, seeing a
chair, placed his hat beneath it, then advanced, with nose and
spectacles upturned, to Hilary. Catching sight of the tray, he
stopped, checked in an evident desire to communicate his soul.
"Oh dear," he said, "I'm intrudin' on your luncheon. I can wait;
I'll go and sit in the passage."
Hilary, however, shook his hand, faded now to skin and bone, and
motioned him to a chair.
He sat down on the edge of it, and again said:
"I'm intrudin' on yer."
"Not at all. Is there anything I can do?"
Creed took off his spectacles, wiped them to help himself to see more
clearly what he had to say, and put them on again.
"It's a-concerning of these domestic matters," he said. "I come up
to tell yer, knowing as you're interested in this family."
"Well," said Hilary. "What has happened?"
"It's along of the young girl's having left them, as you may know."
"It's brought things to a crisax," explained Creed.
"Indeed, how's that?"
The old butler related the facts of the assault. "I took 'is bayonet
away from him," he ended; "he didn't frighten me."
"Is he out of his mind?" asked Hilary.
"I've no conscience of it," replied Creed. "His wife, she's gone the
wrong way to work with him, in my opinion, but that's particular to
women. She's a-goaded of him respecting a certain party. I don't
say but what that young girl's no better than what she ought to be;
look at her profession, and her a country girl, too! She must be
what she oughtn't to. But he ain't the sort o' man you can treat
like that. You can't get thorns from figs; you can't expect it from
the lower orders. They only give him a month, considerin' of him
bein' wounded in the war. It'd been more if they'd a-known he was a-
hankerin' after that young girl--a married man like him; don't ye
think so, sir?"
Hilary's face had assumed its retired expression. 'I cannot go into
that with you,' it seemed to say.
Quick to see the change, Creed rose. "But I'm intrudin' on your
dinner," he said--"your luncheon, I should say. The woman goes on
irritatin' of him, but he must expect of that, she bein' his wife.
But what a misfortune! He'll be back again in no time, and what'll
happen then? It won't improve him, shut up in one of them low
prisons!" Then, raising his old face to Hilary: "Oh dear! It's like
awalkin' on a black night, when ye can't see your 'and before yer."
Hilary was unable to find a suitable answer to this simile.
The impression made on him by the old butler's recital was queerly
twofold; his more fastidious side felt distinct relief that he had
severed connection with an episode capable of developments so sordid
and conspicuous. But all the side of him--and Hilary was a
complicated product--which felt compassion for the helpless, his
suppressed chivalry, in fact, had also received its fillip. The old
butler's references to the girl showed clearly how the hands of all
men and women were against her. She was that pariah, a young girl
without property or friends, spiritually soft, physically alluring.
To recompense "Westminister" for the loss of his day's work, to make
a dubious statement that nights were never so black as they appeared
to be, was all that he could venture to do. Creed hesitated in the
"Oh dear," he said, "there's a-one thing that the woman was a-saying
that I've forgot to tell you. It's a-concernin' of what this 'ere
man was boastin' in his rage. 'Let them,' he says, 'as is responsive
for the movin' of her look out,' he says; 'I ain't done with them!'
That's conspiracy, I should think!"
Smiling away this diagnosis of Hughs' words, Hilary shook the old
man's withered hand, and closed the door. Sitting down again at his
writing-table, he buried himself almost angrily in his work. But the
queer, half-pleasurable, fevered feeling, which had been his, since
the night he walked down Piccadilly, and met the image of the little
model, was unfavourable to the austere process of his thoughts.
MR. STONE IN WAITING
That same afternoon, while Mr. Stone was writing, he heard a
"Dad, stop writing just a minute, and talk to me."
Recognition came into his eyes. It was his younger daughter.
"My dear," he said, "are you unwell?"
Keeping his hand, fragile and veined and chill, under her own warm
grasp, Bianca answered: "Lonely."
Mr. Stone looked straight before him.
"Loneliness," he said, "is man's chief fault"; and seeing his pen
lying on the desk, he tried to lift his hand. Bianca held it down.
At that hot clasp something seemed to stir in Mr. Stone. His cheeks
"Kiss me, Dad."
Mr. Stone hesitated. Then his lips resolutely touched her eye. "It
is wet," he said. He seemed for a moment struggling to grasp the
meaning of moisture in connection with the human eye. Soon his face
again became serene. "The heart," he said, "is a dark well; its
depth unknown. I have lived eighty years. I am still drawing
"Draw a little for me, Dad."
This time Mr. Stone looked at his daughter anxiously, and suddenly
spoke, as if afraid that if he waited he might forget.
"You are unhappy!"
Bianca put her face down to his tweed sleeve. "How nice your coat
smells!" she murmured.
"You are unhappy," repeated Mr. Stone.
Bianca dropped his hand, and moved away.
Mr. Stone followed her. "Why?" he said. Then, grasping his brow,
he added: "If it would do you any good, my dear, to hear a page or
two, I could read to you."
Bianca shook her head.
"No; talk to me!"
Mr. Stone answered simply: "I have forgotten."
"You talk to that little girl," murmured Bianca.
Mr. Stone seemed to lose himself in reverie.
"If that is true," he said, following out his thoughts, "it must be
due to the sex instinct not yet quite extinct. It is stated that the
blackcock will dance before his females to a great age, though I have
never seen it."
"If you dance before her," said Bianca, with her face averted, "can't
you even talk to me?"
"I do not dance, my dear," said Mr. Stone; "I will do my best to
talk to you."
There was a silence, and he began to pace the room. Bianca, by the
empty fireplace, watched a shower of rain driving past the open
"This is the time of year," said Mr. Stone suddenly; "when lambs leap
off the ground with all four legs at a time." He paused as though
for an answer; then, out of the silence, his voice rose again--it
sounded different: "There is nothing in Nature more symptomatic of
that principle which should underlie all life. Live in the future;
regret nothing; leap! A lamb which has left earth with all four legs
at once is the symbol of true life. That she must come down again is
but an inevitable accident. 'In those days men were living on their
pasts. They leaped with one, or, at the most, two legs at a time;
they never left the ground, or in leaving, they wished to know the
reason why. It was this paralysis'"--Mr. Stone did not pause, but,
finding himself close beside his desk, took up his pen--"'it was this
paralysis of the leaping nerve which undermined their progress.
Instead of millions of leaping lambs, ignorant of why they leaped,
they were a flock of sheep lifting up one leg and asking whether it
was or was not worth their while to lift another.'"
The words were followed by a silence, broken only by the scratching
of the quill with which Mr. Stone was writing.
Having finished, he again began to pace the room, and coming suddenly
on his daughter, stopped short. Touching her shoulder timidly, he
said: "I was talking to you, I think, my dear; where were we?"
Bianca rubbed her cheek against his hand.
"In the air, I think."
"Yes, yes," said Mr. Stone, "I remember. You must not let me wander
from the point again."
"Lambs," said Mr. Stone, "remind me at times of that young girl who
comes to copy for me. I make her skip to promote her circulation
before tea. I myself do this exercise." Leaning against the wall,
with his feet twelve inches from it, he rose slowly on his toes. "Do
you know that exercise? It is excellent for the calves of the legs,
and for the lumbar regions." So saying, Mr. Stone left the wall, and
began again to pace the room; the whitewash had also left the wall,
and clung in a large square patch on his shaggy coat. "I have seen
sheep in Spring," he said, "actually imitate their lambs in rising
from the ground with all four legs at once." He stood still. A
thought had evidently struck him.
"If Life is not all Spring, it is of no value whatsoever; better to
die, and to begin again. Life is a tree putting on a new green gown;
it is a young moon rising--no, that is not so, we do not see the
young moon rising--it is a young moon setting, never younger than
when we are about to die--"
Bianca cried out sharply: "Don't, Father! Don't talk like that; it's
so untrue! Life is all autumn, it seems to me!"
Mr. Stone's eyes grew very blue.
"That is a foul heresy," he stammered; "I cannot listen to it. Life
is the cuckoo's song; it is a hill-side bursting into leaf; it is the
wind; I feel it in me every day!"
He was trembling like a leaf in the wind he spoke of, and Bianca
moved hastily towards him, holding out her arms. Suddenly his lips
began to move; she heard him mutter: "I have lost force; I will boil
some milk. I must be ready when she comes." And at those words her
heart felt like a lump of ice.
Always that girl! And without again attracting his attention she
went away. As she passed out through the garden she saw him at the
window holding a cup of milk, from which the steam was rising.
THIRD PILGRIMAGE TO HOUND STREET
Like water, human character will find its level; and Nature, with her
way of fitting men to their environment, had made young Martin Stone
what Stephen called a "Sanitist." There had been nothing else for
her to do with him.
This young man had come into the social scheme at a moment when the
conception of existence as a present life corrected by a life to
come, was tottering; and the conception of the world as an upper-
class preserve somewhat seriously disturbed.
Losing his father and mother at an early age, and brought up till he
was fourteen by Mr. Stone, he had formed the habit of thinking for
himself. This had rendered him unpopular, and added force to the
essential single-heartedness transmitted to him through his
grandfather. A particular aversion to the sights and scenes of
suffering, which had caused him as a child to object to killing
flies, and to watching rabbits caught in traps, had been regulated by
his training as a doctor. His fleshly horror of pain and ugliness
was now disciplined, his spiritual dislike of them forced into a
philosophy. The peculiar chaos surrounding all young men who live in
large towns and think at all, had made him gradually reject all
abstract speculation; but a certain fire of aspiration coming, we may
suppose, through Mr. Stone, had nevertheless impelled him to embrace
something with all his might. He had therefore embraced health. And
living, as he did, in the Euston Road, to be in touch with things, he
had every need of the health which he embraced.
Late in the afternoon of the day when Hughs had committed his
assault, having three hours of respite from his hospital, Martin
dipped his face and head into cold water, rubbed them with a
corrugated towel, put on a hard bowler hat, took a thick stick in his
hand, and went by Underground to Kensington.
With his usual cool, high-handed air he entered his aunt's house, and
asked for Thyme. Faithful to his definite, if somewhat crude theory,
that Stephen and Cecilia and all their sort were amateurs, he never
inquired for them, though not unfrequently he would, while waiting,
stroll into Cecilia's drawing-room, and let his sarcastic glance
sweep over the pretty things she had collected, or, lounging in some
luxurious chair, cross his long legs, and fix his eyes on the
Thyme soon came down. She wore a blouse of some blue stuff bought by
Cecilia for the relief of people in the Balkan States, a skirt of
purplish tweed woven by Irish gentlewomen in distress, and held in
her hand an open envelope addressed in Cecilia's writing to Mrs.
"Hallo!" she said.
Martin answered by a look that took her in from head to foot.
"Get on a hat! I haven't got much time. That blue thing's new."
"It's pure flax. Mother bought it."
"It's rather decent. Hurry up!"
Thyme raised her chin; that lazy movement showed her round, creamy
neck in all its beauty.
"I feel rather slack," she said; "besides, I must get back to dinner,
Thyme turned quickly to the door. "Oh, well, I'll come," and ran
When they had purchased a postal order for ten shillings, placed it
in the envelope addressed to Mrs. Tallents Smallpeace, and passed the
hundred doors of Messrs. Rose and Thorn, Martin said: "I'm going to
see what that precious amateur has done about the baby. If he hasn't
moved the girl, I expect to find things in a pretty mess."
Thyme's face changed at once.
"Just remember," she said, "that I don't want to go there. I don't
see the good, when there's such a tremendous lot waiting to be done."
"Every other case, except the one in hand!"
"It's not my case. You're so disgustingly unfair, Martin. I don't
like those people."
"Oh, you amateur!"
Thyme flushed crimson. "Look here!" she said, speaking with dignity,
"I don't care what you call me, but I won't have you call Uncle
Hilary an amateur."
"What is he, then?"
"I like him."
"Yes, it is."
Martin did not reply, looking sideways at Thyme with his queer,
protective smile. They were passing through a street superior to
Hound Street in its pretensions to be called a slum.
"Look here!" he said suddenly; "a man like Hilary's interest in all
this sort of thing is simply sentimental. It's on his nerves. He
takes philanthropy just as he'd take sulphonal for sleeplessness."
Thyme looked shrewdly up at him.
"Well," she said, "it's just as much on your nerves. You see it from
the point of view of health; he sees it from the point of view of
sentiment, that's all."
"Oh! you think so?"
"You just treat all these people as if they were in hospital."
The young man's nostrils quivered. "Well, and how should they be
"How would you like to be looked at as a 'case'?" muttered Thyme.
Martin moved his hand in a slow half-circle.
"These houses and these people," he said, "are in the way--in the way
of you and me, and everyone."
Thyme's eyes followed that slow, sweeping movement of her cousin's
hand. It seemed to fascinate her.
"Yes, of course; I know," she murmured. "Something must be done!"
And she reared her head up, looking from side to side, as if to show
him that she, too, could sweep away things. Very straight, and
solid, fair, and fresh, she looked just then.
Thus, in the hypnotic silence of high thoughts, the two young
"Sanitists" arrived in Hound Street.
In the doorway of No. 1 the son of the lame woman, Mrs. Budgen--the
thin, white youth as tall as Martin, but not so broad-stood, smoking
a dubious-looking cigarette. He turned his lack-lustre, jeering gaze
on the visitors.
"Who d'you want?" he said. "If it's the girl, she's gone away, and
left no address."
"I want Mrs. Hughs," said Martin.
The young man coughed. "Right-o! You'll find her; but for him,
apply Wormwood Scrubs."
"Prison! What for?"
"Stickin' her through the wrist with his bayonet;" and the young man
let a long, luxurious fume of smoke trickle through his nose.
"How horrible!" said Thyme.
Martin regarded the young man, unmoved. "That stuff' you're
smoking's rank," he said. "Have some of mine; I'll show you how to
make them. It'll save you one and three per pound of baccy, and
won't rot your lungs."
Taking out his pouch, he rolled a cigarette. The white young man
bent his dull wink on Thyme, who, wrinkling her nose, was pretending
to be far away.
Mounting the narrow stairs that smelt of walls and washing and red
herrings, Thyme spoke: "Now, you see, it wasn't so simple as you
thought. I don't want to go up; I don't want to see her. I shall
wait for you here." She took her stand in the open doorway of the
little model's empty room. Martin ascended to the second floor.
There, in the front room, Mrs. Hughs was seen standing with the baby
in her arms beside the bed. She had a frightened and uncertain air.
After examining her wrist, and pronouncing it a scratch, Martin
looked long at the baby. The little creature's toes were stiffened
against its mother's waist, its eyes closed, its tiny fingers crisped
against her breast. While Mrs. Hughs poured forth her tale, Martin
stood with his eyes still fixed on the baby. It could not be
gathered from his face what he was thinking, but now and then he
moved his jaw, as though he were suffering from toothache. In truth,
by the look of Mrs. Hughs and her baby, his recipe did not seem to
have achieved conspicuous success. He turned away at last from the
trembling, nerveless figure of the seamstress, and went to the
window. Two pale hyacinth plants stood on the inner edge; their
perfume penetrated through the other savours of the room--and very
strange they looked, those twin, starved children of the light and
"These are new," he said.
"Yes, sir," murmured Mrs. Hughs. "I brought them upstairs. I didn't
like to see the poor things left to die."
>From the bitter accent of these words Martin understood that they had
been the little model's.
"Put them outside," he said; "they'll never live in here. They want
watering, too. Where are your saucers?"
Mrs. Hughs laid the baby down, and, going to the cupboard where all
the household gods were kept, brought out two old, dirty saucers.
Martin raised the plants, and as he held them, from one close, yellow
petal there rose up a tiny caterpillar. It reared a green,
transparent body, feeling its way to a new resting-place. The little
writhing shape seemed, like the wonder and the mystery of life, to
mock the young doctor, who watched it with eyebrows raised, having no
hand at liberty to remove it from the plant.
"She came from the country. There's plenty of men there for her!"
Martin put the plants down, and turned round to the seamstress.
"Look here!" he said, "it's no good crying over spilt milk. What
you've got to do is to set to and get some work."
"Don't say it in that sort of way," said Martin; "you must rise to
"You want a tonic. Take this half-crown, and get in a dozen pints of
stout, and drink one every day."
And again Mrs. Hughs said, "Yes, sir."
"And about that baby."
Motionless, where it had been placed against the footrail of the bed,
the baby sat with its black eyes closed. The small grey face was
curled down on the bundle of its garments.
"It's a silent gentleman," Martin muttered.
"It never was a one to cry," said Mrs. Hughs.
"That's lucky, anyway. When did you feed it last?"
Mrs. Hughs did not reply at first. "About half-past six last
"It slept all night; but to-day, of course, I've been all torn to
pieces; my milk's gone. I've tried it with the bottle, but it
wouldn't take it."
Martin bent down to the baby's face, and put his finger on its chin;
bending lower yet, he raised the eyelid of the tiny eye....
"It's dead," he said.
At the word "dead" Mrs. Hughs, stooping behind him, snatched the baby
to her throat. With its drooping head close to her she, she clutched
and rocked it without sound. Full five minutes this desperate mute
struggle with eternal silence lasted--the feeling, and warming, and
breathing on the little limbs. Then, sitting down, bent almost
double over her baby, she moaned. That single sound was followed by
utter silence. The tread of footsteps on the creaking stairs broke
it. Martin, rising from his crouching posture by the bed, went
towards the door.
His grandfather was standing there, with Thyme behind him.
"She has left her room," said Mr. Stone. "Where has she gone?"
Martin, understanding that he meant the little model, put his finger
to his lips, and, pointing to Mrs. Hughs, whispered:
"This woman's baby has just died."
Mr. Stone's face underwent the queer discoloration which marked the
sudden summoning of his far thoughts. He stepped past Martin, and
went up to Mrs. Hughs.
He stood there a long time gazing at the baby, and at the dark head
bending over it with such despair. At last he spoke:
"Poor woman! He is at peace."
Mrs. Hughs looked up, and, seeing that old face, with its hollows and
thin silver hair, she spoke:
"He's dead, sir."
Mr. Stone put out his veined and fragile hand, and touched the baby's
toes. "He is flying; he is everywhere; he is close to the sun--
Little brother!" And turning on his heel, he went out.
Thyme followed him as he walked on tiptoe down stairs which seemed to
creak the louder for his caution. Tears were rolling down her
Martin sat on, with the mother and her baby, in the close, still
room, where, like strange visiting spirits, came stealing whiffs of
the perfume of hyacinths.
STEPHEN'S PRIVATE LIFE
Mr. Stone and Thyme, going out, again passed the tall, white young
man. He had thrown away the hand-made cigarette, finding that it had
not enough saltpetre to make it draw, and was smoking one more suited
to the action of his lungs. He directed towards them the same lack-
lustre, jeering stare.
Unconscious, seemingly, of where he went, Mr. Stone walked with his
eyes fixed on space. His head jerked now and then, as a dried flower
will shiver in a draught.
Scared at these movements, Thyme took his arm. The touch of that
soft young arm squeezing his own brought speech back to Mr. Stone.
"In those places...." he said, "in those streets! ...I shall not see
the flowering of the aloe--I shall not see the living peace! 'As
with dogs, each couched over his proper bone, so men were living
then!'" Thyme, watching him askance, pressed still closer to his
side, as though to try and warm him back to every day.
'Oh!' went her guttered thoughts. 'I do wish grandfather would say
something one could understand. I wish he would lose that dreadful
Mr. Stone spoke in answer to his granddaughter's thoughts.
"I have seen a vision of fraternity. A barren hillside in the sun,
and on it a man of stone talking to the wind. I have heard an owl
hooting in the daytime; a cuckoo singing in the night."
To that appeal Mr. Stone responded: "Yes, what is it?"
But Thyme, thus challenged, knew not what to say, having spoken out
"If the poor baby had lived," she stammered out, "it would have grown
up.... It's all for the best, isn't it?"
"Everything is for the best," said Mr. Stone. "'In those days men,
possessed by thoughts of individual life, made moan at death,
careless of the great truth that the world was one unending song.'"
Thyme thought: 'I have never seen him as bad as this!' She drew him
on more quickly. With deep relief she saw her father, latchkey in
hand, turning into the Old Square.
Stephen, who was still walking with his springy step, though he had
come on foot the whole way from the Temple, hailed them with his hat.
It was tall and black, and very shiny, neither quite oval nor
positively round, and had a little curly brim. In this and his black
coat, cut so as to show the front of him and cover the behind, he
looked his best. The costume suited his long, rather narrow face,
corrugated by two short parallel lines slanting downwards from his
eyes and nostrils on either cheek; suited his neat, thin figure and
the close-lipped corners of his mouth. His permanent appointment in
the world of Law had ousted from his life (together with all
uncertainty of income) the need for putting on a wig and taking his
moustache off; but he still preferred to go clean-shaved.
"Where have you two sprung from?" he inquired, admitting them into
Mr. Stone gave him no answer, but passed into the drawing-room, and
sat down on the verge of the first chair he came across, leaning
forward with his hands between his knees.
Stephen, after one dry glance at him, turned to his daughter.
"My child," he said softly, "what have you brought the old boy here
for? If there happens to be anything of the high mammalian order for
dinner, your mother will have a fit."
Thyme answered: "Don't chaff, Father!"
Stephen, who was very fond of her, saw that for some reason she was
not herself. He examined her with unwonted gravity. Thyme turned
away from him. He heard, to his alarm, a little gulping sound.
"My dear!" he said.
Conscious of her sentimental weakness, Thyme made a violent effort.
"I've seen a baby dead," she cried in a quick, hard voice; and,
without another word, she ran upstairs.
In Stephen there was a horror of emotion amounting almost to disease.
It would have been difficult to say when he had last shown emotion;
perhaps not since Thyme was born, and even then not to anyone except
himself, having first locked the door, and then walked up and down,
with his teeth almost meeting in the mouthpiece of his favourite
pipe. He was unaccustomed, too, to witness this weakness on the part
of other people. His looks and speech unconsciously discouraged it,
so that if Cecilia had been at all that way inclined, she must long
ago have been healed. Fortunately, she never had been, having too
much distrust of her own feelings to give way to them completely.
And Thyme, that healthy product of them both, at once younger for her
age, and older, than they had ever been, with her incapacity for
nonsense, her love for open air and facts--that fresh, rising plant,
so elastic and so sane--she had never given them a single moment of
Stephen, close to his hat-rack, felt soreness in his heart. Such
blows as Fortune had dealt, and meant to deal him, he had borne, and
he could bear, so long as there was nothing in his own manner, or in
that of others, to show him they were blows.
Hurriedly depositing his hat, he ran to Cecilia. He still preserved
the habit of knocking on her door before he entered, though she had
never, so far, answered, "Don't come in!" because she knew his knock.
The custom gave, in fact, the measure of his idealism. What he
feared, or what he thought he feared, after nineteen years of
unchecked entrance, could never have been ascertained; but there it
was, that flower of something formal and precise, of something
reticent, within his soul.
This time, for once, he did not knock, and found Cecilia hooking up
her tea-gown and looking very sweet. She glanced at him with mild
"What's this, Cis," he said, "about a baby dead? Thyme's quite upset
about it; and your dad's in the drawing-room!"
With the quick instinct that was woven into all her gentle treading,
Cecilia's thoughts flew--she could not have told why--first to the
little model, then to Mrs. Hughs.
"Dead?" she said. "Oh, poor woman!"
"What woman?" Stephen asked.
"It must be Mrs. Hughs."
The thought passed darkly through Stephen's mind: 'Those people
again! What now?' He did not express it, being neither brutal nor
lacking in good taste.
A short silence followed, then Cecilia said suddenly: "Did you say
that father was in the drawing-room? There's fillet of beef,
Stephen turned away. "Go and see Thyme!" he said.
Outside Thyme's door Cecilia paused, and, hearing no sound, tapped
gently. Her knock not being answered, she slipped in. On the bed of
that white room, with her face pressed into the pillow, her little
daughter lay. Cecilia stood aghast. Thyme's whole body was
quivering with suppressed sobs.
"My darling!" said Cecilia, "what is it?"
Thyme's answer was inarticulate.
Cecilia sat down on the bed and waited, drawing her fingers through
the girl's hair, which had fallen loose; and while she sat there she
experienced all that sore, strange feeling--as of being skinned--
which comes to one who watches the emotion of someone near and dear
without knowing the exact cause.
'This is dreadful,' she thought. 'What am I to do?'
To see one's child cry was bad enough, but to see her cry when that
child's whole creed of honour and conduct for years past had
precluded this relief as unfeminine, was worse than disconcerting.
Thyme raised herself on her elbow, turning her face carefully away.
"I don't know what's the matter with me," she said, choking. "It's
--it's purely physical"
"Yes, darling," murmured Cecilia; "I know."
"Oh, Mother!" said Thyme suddenly, "it looked so tiny."
"Yes, yes, my sweet."
Thyme faced round; there was a sort of passion in her darkened eyes,
rimmed pink with grief, and in all her gushed, wet face.
"Why should it have been choked out like that? It's--it's so
Cecilia slid an arm round her.
"I'm so distressed you saw it, dear," she said.
"And grandfather was so--" A long sobbing quiver choked her
"Yes, yes," said Cecilia; "I'm sure he was."
Clasping her hands together in her lap, Thyme muttered: "He called
him 'Little brother.'"
A tear trickled down Cecilia's cheek, and dropped on her daughter's
wrist. Feeling that it was not her own tear, Thyme started up.
"It's weak and ridiculous," she said. "I won't!"
"Oh, go away, Mother, please. I'm only making you feel bad, too.
You'd better go and see to grandfather."
Cecilia saw that she would cry no more, and since it was the sight of
tears which had so disturbed her, she gave the girl a little
hesitating stroke, and went away. Outside she thought: 'How
dreadfully unlucky and pathetic; and there's father in the drawing-
room!' Then she hurried down to Mr. Stone.
He was sitting where he had first placed himself, motionless. It
struck her suddenly how frail and white he looked. In the shadowy
light of her drawing-room, he was almost like a spirit sitting there
in his grey tweed--silvery from head to foot. Her conscience smote
her. It is written of the very old that they shall pass, by virtue
of their long travel, out of the country of the understanding of the
young, till the natural affections are blurred by creeping mists such
as steal across the moors when the sun is going down.
Cecilia's heart ached with a little ache for all the times she had
thought: 'If father were only not quite so---'; for all the times she
had shunned asking him to come to them, because he was so---; for all
the silences she and Stephen had maintained after he had spoken; for
all the little smiles she had smiled. She longed to go and kiss his
brow, and make him feel that she was aching. But she did not dare;
he seemed so far away; it would be ridiculous.
Coming down the room, and putting her slim foot on the fender with a
noise, so that if possible he might both see and hear her, she turned
her anxious face towards him, and said: "Father!"
Mr. Stone looked up, and seeing somebody who seemed to be his elder
daughter, answered "Yes, my dear?"
"Are you sure you're feeling quite the thing? Thyme said she thought
seeing that poor baby had upset you."
Mr. Stone felt his body with his hand.
"I am not conscious of any pain," he said.
"Then you'll stay to dinner, dear, won't you?"
Mr. Stone's brow contracted as though he were trying to recall his
"I have had no tea," he said. Then, with a sudden, anxious look at
his daughter: "The little girl has not come to me. I miss her.
Where is she?"
The ache within Cecilia became more poignant.
"It is now two days," said Mr. Stone, "and she has left her room in
that house--in that street."
Cecilia, at her wits' end, answered: "Do you really miss her,
"Yes," said Mr. Stone. "She is like--" His eyes wandered round the
room as though seeking something which would help him to express
himself. They fixed themselves on the far wall. Cecilia, following
their gaze, saw a little solitary patch of sunlight dancing and
trembling there. It had escaped the screen of trees and houses, and,
creeping through some chink, had quivered in. "She is like that,"
said Mr. Stone, pointing with his finger. "It is gone!" His finger
dropped; he uttered a deep sigh.
'How dreadful this is!' Cecilia thought. 'I never expected him to
feel it, and yet I can do nothing!' Hastily she asked: "Would it do
if you had Thyme to copy for you? I'm sure she'd love to come."
"She is my grand-daughter," Mr. Stone said simply. "It would not be
Cecilia could think of nothing now to say but: "Would you like to
wash your hands, dear?"
"Yes," said Mr. Stone.
"Then will you go up to Stephen's dressing-room for hot water, or
will you wash them in the lavatory?"
"In the lavatory," said Mr. Stone. "I shall be freer there."
When he had gone Cecilia thought: 'Oh dear, how shall I get through
the evening? Poor darling, he is so single-minded!'
At the sounding of the dinner-gong they all assembled--Thyme from her
bedroom with cheeks and eyes still pink, Stephen with veiled inquiry
in his glance, Mr. Stone from freedom in the lavatory--and sat down,
screened, but so very little, from each other by sprays of white
lilac. Looking round her table, Cecilia felt rather like one
watching a dew-belled cobweb, most delicate of all things in the
world, menaced by the tongue of a browsing cow.
Both soup and fish had been achieved, however, before a word was
spoken. It was Stephen who, after taking a mouthful of dry sherry,
broke the silence.
"How are you getting on with your book, sir?"
Cecilia heard that question with something like dismay. It was so
bald; for, however inconvenient Mr. Stone's absorption in his
manuscript might be, her delicacy told her how precious beyond life
itself that book was to him. To her relief, however, her father was
"You must be getting near the end, I should think," proceeded
Cecilia spoke hastily: "Isn't this white lilac lovely, Dad?"
Mr. Stone looked up.
"It is not white; it is really pink. The test is simple." He paused
with his eyes fixed on the lilac.
'Ah!' thought Cecilia, 'now, if I can only keep him on natural
science he used to be so interesting.'
"All flowers are one!" said Mr. Stone. His voice had changed.
'Oh!' thought Cecilia, 'he is gone!'
"They have but a single soul. In those days men divided, and
subdivided them, oblivious of the one pale spirit which underlay
those seemingly separate forms."
Cecilia's glance passed swiftly from the manservant to Stephen.
She saw one of her husband's eyes rise visibly. Stephen did so hate
one thing to be confounded with another.
"Oh, come, sir," she heard him say; "you don't surely tell us that
dandelions and roses have the same pale spirit!"
Mr. Stone looked at him wistfully.
"Did I say that?" he said. "I had no wish to be dogmatic."
"Not at all, sir, not at all," murmured Stephen.
Thyme, leaning over to her mother, whispered "Oh, Mother, don't let
grandfather be queer; I can't bear it to-night!"
Cecilia, at her wits' end, said hurriedly:
"Dad, will you tell us what sort of character you think that little
girl who comes to you has?"
Mr. Stone paused in the act of drinking water; his attention had
evidently been riveted; he did not, however, speak. And Cecilia,
seeing that the butler, out of the perversity which she found so
conspicuous in her servants, was about to hand him beef, made a
desperate movement with her lips. "No, Charles, not there, not
The butler, tightening his lips, passed on. Mr. Stone spoke:
"I had not considered that. She is rather of a Celtic than an Anglo-
Saxon type; the cheekbones are prominent; the jaw is not massive; the
head is broad--if I can remember I will measure it; the eyes are of a
peculiar blue, resembling chicory flowers; the mouth---," Mr. Stone
Cecilia thought: 'What a lucky find! Now perhaps he will go on all