Part 5 out of 7
"I do not know," Mr. Stone resumed, speaking in a far-off voice,
"whether she would be virtuous."
Cecilia heard Stephen drinking sherry; Thyme, too, was drinking
something; she herself drank nothing, but, pink and quiet, for she
was a well-bred woman, said:
"You have no new potatoes, dear. Charles, give Mr. Stone some new
By the almost vindictive expression on Stephen's face she saw,
however, that her failure had decided him to resume command of the
situation. "Talking of brotherhood, sir," he said dryly, "would you
go so far as to say that a new potato is the brother of a bean?"
Mr. Stone, on whose plate these two vegetables reposed, looked almost
"I do not perceive," he stammered, "any difference between them."
"It's true," said Stephen; "the same pale spirit can be extracted
from them both."
Mr. Stone looked up at him.
"You laugh at me," he said. "I cannot help it; but you must not
laugh at life--that is blasphemy."
Before the piercing wistfulness of that sudden gaze Stephen was
abashed. Cecilia saw him bite his lower lip.
"We're talking too much," he said; "we really must let your father
eat!" And the rest of the dinner was achieved in silence.
When Mr. Stone, refusing to be accompanied, had taken his departure,
and Thyme had gone to bed, Stephen withdrew to his study. This room,
which had a different air from any other portion of the house, was
sacred to his private life. Here, in specially designed
compartments, he kept his golf clubs, pipes, and papers. Nothing was
touched by anyone except himself, and twice a week by one particular
housemaid. Here was no bust of Socrates, no books in deerskin
bindings, but a bookcase filled with treatises on law, Blue Books,
reviews, and the novels of Sir Walter Scott; two black oak cabinets
stood side by side against the wall filled with small drawers. When
these cabinets were opened and the drawers drawn forward there
emerged a scent of metal polish. If the green-baize covers of the
drawers were lifted, there were seen coins, carefully arranged with
labels--as one may see plants growing in rows, each with its little
name tied on. To these tidy rows of shining metal discs Stephen
turned in moments when his spirit was fatigued. To add to them,
touch them, read their names, gave him the sweet, secret feeling
which comes to a man who rubs one hand against the other. Like a
dram-drinker, Stephen drank--in little doses--of the feeling these
coins gave him. They were his creative work, his history of the
world. To them he gave that side of him which refused to find its
full expression in summarising law, playing golf, or reading the
reviews; that side of a man which aches, he knows not wherefore, to
construct something ere he die. From Rameses to George IV. the coins
lay within those drawers--links of the long unbroken chain of
Putting on an old black velvet jacket laid out for him across a
chair, and lighting the pipe that he could never bring himself to
smoke in his formal dinner clothes, he went to the right-hand
cabinet, and opened it. He stood with a smile, taking up coins one
by one. In this particular drawer they were of the best Byzantine
dynasty, very rare. He did not see that Cecilia had stolen in, and
was silently regarding him. Her eyes seemed doubting at that moment
whether or no she loved him who stood there touching that other
mistress of his thoughts--that other mistress with whom he spent so
many evening hours. The little green-baize cover fell. Cecilia said
"Stephen, I feel as if I must tell Father where that girl is!"
"My dear child," he answered in his special voice, which, like
champagne, seemed to have been dried by artifice, "you don't want to
reopen the whole thing?"
"But I can see he really is upset about it; he's looking so awfully
white and thin."
"He ought to give up that bathing in the Serpentine. At his age it's
monstrous. And surely any other girl will do just as well?"
"He seems to set store by reading to her specially."
Stephen shrugged his shoulders. It had happened to him on one
occasion to be present when Mr. Stone was declaiming some pages of
his manuscript. He had never forgotten the discomfort of the
experience. "That crazy stuff," as he had called it to Cecilia
afterwards, had remained on his mind, heavy and damp, like a cold
linseed poultice. His wife's father was a crank, and perhaps even a
little more than a crank, a wee bit "touched"--that she couldn't
help, poor girl; but any allusion to his cranky produce gave Stephen
pain. Nor had he forgotten his experience at dinner.
"He seems to have grown fond of her," murmured Cecilia.
"But it's absurd at his time of life!"
"Perhaps that makes him feel it more; people do miss things when they
Stephen slid the drawer back into its socket. There was dry decision
in that gesture.
"Look here! Let's exercise a little common sense; it's been
sacrificed to sentiment all through this wretched business. One
wants to be kind, of course; but one's got to draw the line."
"Ah!" said Cecilia; "where?"
"The thing," went on Stephen, "has been a mistake from first to last.
It's all very well up to a certain point, but after that it becomes
destructive of all comfort. It doesn't do to let these people come
into personal contact with you. There are the proper channels for
that sort of thing."
Cecilia's eyes were lowered, as though she did not dare to let him
see her thoughts.
"It seems so horrid," she said; "and father is not like other
"He is not," said Stephen dryly; "we had a pretty good instance of
that this evening. But Hilary and your sister are. There's
something most distasteful to me, too, about Thyme's going about
slumming. You see what she's been let in for this afternoon. The
notion of that baby being killed through the man's treatment of his
wife, and that, no doubt, arising from the girl's leaving them, is
To these words Cecilia answered with a sound almost like a gasp.
"I hadn't thought of that. Then we're responsible; it was we who
advised Hilary to make her change her lodging."
Stephen stared; he regretted sincerely that his legal habit of mind
had made him put the case so clearly.
"I can't imagine," he said, almost violently, "what possesses
everybody! We--responsible! Good gracious! Because we gave Hilary
some sound advice! What next?"
Cecilia turned to the empty hearth.
"Thyme has been telling me about that poor little thing. It seems so
dreadful, and I can't get rid of the feeling that we're--we're all
mixed up with it!"
"Mixed up with what?"
"I don't know; it's just a feeling like--like being haunted."
Stephen took her quietly by the arm.
"My dear old girl," he said, "I'd no idea that you were run down like
this. To-morrow's Thursday, and I can get away at three. We'll
motor down to Richmond, and have a round or two!"
Cecilia quivered; for a moment it seemed that she was about to burst
out crying. Stephen stroked her shoulder steadily. Cecilia must
have felt his dread; she struggled loyally with her emotion.
"That will be very jolly," she said at last.
Stephen drew a deep breath.
"And don't you worry, dear," he said, "about your dad; he'll have
forgotten the whole thing in a day or two; he's far too wrapped up in
his book. Now trot along to bed; I'll be up directly."
Before going out Cecilia looked back at him. How wonderful was that
look, which Stephen did not--perhaps intentionally--see. Mocking,
almost hating, and yet thanking him for having refused to let her be
emotional and yield herself up for once to what she felt, showing him
too how clearly she saw through his own masculine refusal to be made
to feel, and how she half-admired it--all this was in that look, and
more. Then she went out.
Stephen glanced quickly at the door, and, pursing up his lips,
frowned. He threw the window open, and inhaled the night air.
'If I don't look out,' he thought, 'I shall be having her mixed up
with this. I was an ass ever to have spoken to old Hilary. I ought
to have ignored the matter altogether. It's a lesson not to meddle
with people in those places. I hope to God she'll be herself
Outside, under the soft black foliage of the Square, beneath the slim
sickle of the moon, two cats were hunting after happiness; their
savage cries of passion rang in the blossom-scented air like a cry of
dark humanity in the jungle of dim streets. Stephen, with a shiver
of disgust, for his nerves were on edge, shut the window with a slam.
HILARY HEARS THE CUCKOO SING
It was not left to Cecilia alone to remark how very white Mr. Stone
looked in these days.
The wild force which every year visits the world, driving with its
soft violence snowy clouds and their dark shadows, breaking through
all crusts and sheaths, covering the earth in a fierce embrace; the
wild force which turns form to form, and with its million leapings,
swift as the flight of swallows and the arrow-darts of the rain,
hurries everything on to sweet mingling--this great, wild force of
universal life, so-called the Spring, had come to Mr. Stone, like new
wine to some old bottle. And Hilary, to whom it had come, too,
watching him every morning setting forth with a rough towel across
his arm, wondered whether the old man would not this time leave his
spirit swimming in the chill waters of the Serpentine--so near that
spirit seemed to breaking through its fragile shell.
Four days had gone by since the interview at which he had sent away
the little model, and life in his household--that quiet backwater
choked with lilies--seemed to have resumed the tranquillity enjoyed
before this intrusion of rude life. The paper whiteness of Mr. Stone
was the only patent evidence that anything disturbing had occurred--
that and certain feelings about which the strictest silence was
On the morning of the fifth day, seeing the old man stumble on the
level flagstones of the garden, Hilary finished dressing hastily, and
followed. He overtook him walking forward feebly beneath the
candelabra of flowering chestnut-trees, with a hail-shower striking
white on his high shoulders; and, placing himself alongside, without
greeting--for forms were all one to Mr. Stone--he said:
"Surely you don't mean to bathe during a hail storm, sir! Make an
exception this once. You're not looking quite yourself."
Mr. Stone shook his head; then, evidently following out a thought
which Hilary had interrupted, he remarked:
"The sentiment that men call honour is of doubtful value. I have not
as yet succeeded in relating it to universal brotherhood."
"How is that, sir?"
"In so far," said Mr. Stone, "as it consists in fidelity to
principle, one might assume it worthy of conjunction. The difficulty
arises when we consider the nature of the principle .... There is a
family of young thrushes in the garden. If one of them finds a worm,
I notice that his devotion to that principle of self-preservation
which prevails in all low forms of life forbids his sharing it with
any of the other little thrushes."
Mr. Stone had fixed his eyes on distance.
"So it is, I fear," he said, "with 'honour.' In those days men
looked on women as thrushes look on worms."
He paused, evidently searching for a word; and Hilary, with a faint
"And how did women look on men, sir?"
Mr. Stone observed him with surprise. "I did not perceive that it
was you," he said. "I have to avoid brain action before bathing."
They had crossed the road dividing the Gardens from the Park, and,
seeing that Mr. Stone had already seen the water where he was about
to bathe, and would now see nothing else, Hilary stopped beside a
little lonely birch-tree. This wild, small, graceful visitor, who
had long bathed in winter, was already draping her bare limbs in a
scarf of green. Hilary leaned against her cool, pearly body. Below
were the chilly waters, now grey, now starch-blue, and the pale forms
of fifteen or twenty bathers. While he stood shivering in the frozen
wind, the sun, bursting through the hail-cloud, burned his cheeks and
hands. And suddenly he heard, clear, but far off, the sound which,
of all others, stirs the hearts of men: "Cuckoo, cuckoo!"
Four times over came the unexpected call. Whence had that ill-
advised, indelicate grey bird flown into this great haunt of men and
shadows? Why had it come with its arrowy flight and mocking cry to
pierce the heart and set it aching? There were trees enough outside
the town, cloud-swept hollows, tangled brakes of furze just coming
into bloom, where it could preside over the process of Spring. What
solemn freak was this which made it come and sing to one who had no
longer any business with the Spring?
With a real spasm in his heart Hilary turned away from that distant
bird, and went down to the water's edge. Mr. Stone was swimming,
slower than man had ever swum before. His silver head and lean arms
alone were visible, parting the water feebly; suddenly he
disappeared. He was but a dozen yards from the shore; and Hilary,
alarmed at not seeing him reappear, ran in. The water was not deep.
Mr. Stone, seated at the bottom, was doing all he could to rise.
Hilary took him by his bathing-dress, raised him to the surface, and
supported him towards the land. By the time they reached the shore
he could just stand on his legs. With the assistance of a policeman,
Hilary enveloped him in garments and got him to a cab. He had
regained some of his vitality, but did not seem aware of what had
"I was not in as long as usual," he mused, as they passed out into
the high road.
"Oh, I think so, sir."
Mr. Stone looked troubled.
"It is odd," he said. "I do not recollect leaving the water."
He did not speak again till he was being assisted from the cab.
"I wish to recompense the man. I have half a crown indoors."
"I will get it, sir," said Hilary.
Mr. Stone, who shivered violently now that he was on his feet, turned
his face up to the cabman.
"Nothing is nobler than the horse," he said; "take care of him."
The cabman removed his hat. "I will, sir," he answered.
Walking by himself, but closely watched by Hilary, Mr. Stone reached
his room. He groped about him as though not distinguishing objects
too well through the crystal clearness of the fundamental flux.
"If I might advise you," said Hilary, "I would get back into bed for
a few minutes. You seem a little chilly."
Mr. Stone, who was indeed shaking so that he could hardly stand,
allowed Hilary to assist him into bed and tuck the blankets round
"I must be at work by ten o'clock," he said.
Hilary, who was also shivering, hastened to Bianca's room. She was
just coming down, and exclaimed at seeing him all wet. When he had
told her of the episode she touched his shoulder.
"What about you?"
"A hot bath and drink will set me right. You'd better go to him."
He turned towards the bathroom, where Miranda stood, lifting a white
foot. Compressing her lips, Bianca ran downstairs. Startled by his
tale, she would have taken his wet body in her arms; if the ghosts of
innumerable moments had not stood between. So this moment passed
too, and itself became a ghost.
Mr. Stone, greatly to his disgust, had not succeeded in resuming work
at ten o'clock. Failing simply because he could not stand on his
legs, he had announced his intention of waiting until half-past
three, when he should get up, in preparation for the coming of the
little girl. Having refused to see a doctor, or have his temperature
taken, it was impossible to tell precisely what degree of fever he
was in. In his cheeks, just visible over the blankets, there was
more colour than there should have been; and his eyes, fixed on the
ceiling, shone with suspicious brilliancy. To the dismay of Bianca--
who sat as far out of sight as possible, lest he should see her, and
fancy that she was doing him a service--he pursued his thoughts
"Words--words--they have taken away brotherhood!" Bianca shuddered,
listening to that uncanny sound. "'In those days of words they
called it death--pale death--mors pallida. They saw that word like a
gigantic granite block suspended over them, and slowly coming down.
Some, turning up their faces at the sight, trembled painfully,
awaiting their obliteration. Others, unable, while they still lived,
to face the thought of nothingness, inflated by some spiritual wind,
and thinking always of their individual forms, called out unceasingly
that those selves of theirs would and must survive this word--that in
some fashion, which no man could understand, each self-conscious
entity reaccumulated after distribution. Drunk with this thought,
these, too, passed away. Some waited for it with grim, dry eyes,
remarking that the process was molecular, and thus they also met
their so-called death.'"
His voice ceased, and in place of it rose the sound of his tongue
moistening his palate. Bianca, from behind, placed a glass of
barley-water to his lips. He drank it with a slow, clucking noise;
then, seeing that a hand held the glass, said: "Is that you? Are you
ready for me? Follow. 'In those days no one leaped up to meet pale
riding Death; no one saw in her face that she was brotherhood
incarnate; no one with a heart as light as gossamer kissed her feet,
and, smiling, passed into the Universe.'" His voice died away, and
when next he spoke it was in a quick, husky whisper: "I must--I must
--I must---" There was silence; then he added: "Give me my trousers."
Bianca placed them by his bed. The sight seemed to reassure him. He
was once more silent.
For more than an hour after this he was so absolutely still that
Bianca rose continually to look at him. Each time, his eyes, wide
open, were fixed on a little dark mark across the ceiling; his face
had a look of the most singular determination, as though his spirit
were slowly, relentlessly, regaining mastery over his fevered body.
He spoke suddenly:
"Who is there?"
"Help me out of bed!"
The flush had left his face, the brilliance had faded from his eyes;
he looked just like a ghost. With a sort of terror Bianca helped him
out of bed. This weird display of mute white will-power was
When he was dressed in his woollen gown and seated before the fire,
she gave him a cup of strong beef-tea, with brandy. He swallowed it
with great avidity.
"I should like some more of that," he said, and fell asleep.
While he was asleep Cecilia came, and the two sisters watched his
slumber, and, watching it, felt nearer to each other than they had
for many years. Before she went away Cecilia whispered
"B. if he seems to want that little girl while he's like this, don't
you think she ought to come?"
Bianca answered: "I don't know where she is."
"Ah!" said Bianca; "of course!" And she turned her head away.
Disconcerted by that sarcastic little speech, Cecilia was silent;
then, summoning all her courage, she said:
"Here's the address, B. I've written it down for you;" and, with
puckers of anxiety in her face, she left the room.
Bianca sat on in the old golden chair, watching the deep hollows
beneath the sleeper's temples, the puffs of breath stirring the
silver round his mouth. Her ears burned crimson. Carried out of
herself by the sight of that old form, dearer to her than she had
thought, fighting its great battle for the sake of its idea, her
spirit grew all tremulous and soft within her. With eagerness she
embraced the thought of self-effacement. It did not seem to matter
whether she were first with Hilary. Her spirit should so manifest
its capacity for sacrifice that she would be first with him through
sheer nobility. At this moment she could almost have taken that
common little girl into her arms and kissed her. So would all
disquiet end! Some harmonious messenger had fluttered to her for a
second--the gold-winged bird of peace. In this sensuous exaltation
her nerves vibrated like the strings of a violin.
When Mr. Stone woke it was past three o'clock and Bianca at once
handed him another cup of strong beef-tea.
He swallowed it, and said: "What is this?"
Mr. Stone looked at the empty cup.
"I must not drink it. The cow and the sheep are on the same plane as
"But how do you feel, dear?"
"I feel," said Mr. Stone, "able to dictate what I have already
written--not more. Has she come?"
"Not yet; but I will go and find her if you like."
Mr. Stone looked at his daughter wistfully.
"That will be taking up your time," he said.
Bianca answered: "My time is of no consequence."
Mr. Stone stretched his hands out to the fire.
"I will not consent," he said, evidently to himself, "to be a drag on
anyone. If that has come, then I must go!"
Bianca, placing herself beside him on her knees, pressed her hot
cheek against his temple.
"But it has not come, Dad."
"I hope not," said Mr. Stone. "I wish to end my book first."
The sudden grim coherence of his last two sayings terrified Bianca
more than all his feverish, utterances.
"I rely on your sitting quite still," she said, "while I go and find
her." And with a feeling in her heart as though two hands had seized
and were pulling it asunder, she went out.
Some half-hour later Hilary slipped quietly in, and stood watching at
the door. Mr. Stone, seated on the very verge of his armchair, with
his hands on its arms, was slowly rising to his feet, and slowly
falling back again, not once, but many times, practising a standing
posture. As Hilary came into his line of sight, he said:
"I have succeeded twice."
"I am very glad," said Hilary. "Won't you rest now, sir?"
"It is my knees," said Mr. Stone. "She has gone to find her."
Hilary heard those words with bewilderment, and, sitting down on the
other chair, waited.
"I have fancied," said Mr. Stone, looking at him wistfully, "that
when we pass away from life we may become the wind. Is that your
"It is a new thought to me," said Hilary.
"It is not tenable," said Mr. Stone. "But it is restful. The wind
is everywhere and nowhere, and nothing can be hidden from it. When I
have missed that little girl, I have tried, in a sense, to become the
wind; but I have found it difficult."
His eyes left Hilary's face, whose mournful smile he had not noticed,
and fixed themselves on the bright fire. "'In those days,"' he said,
"'men's relation to the eternal airs was the relation of a billion
little separate draughts blowing against the south-west wind. They
did not wish to merge themselves in that soft, moon-uttered sigh, but
blew in its face through crevices, and cracks, and keyholes, and were
borne away on the pellucid journey, whistling out their protests.'"
He again tried to stand, evidently wishing to get to his desk to
record this thought, but, failing, looked painfully at Hilary. He
seemed about to ask for something, but checked himself.
"If I practise hard," he murmured, "I shall master it."
Hilary rose and brought him paper and a pencil. In bending, he saw
that Mr. Stone's eyes were dim with moisture. This sight affected
him so that he was glad to turn away and fetch a book to form a
When Mr. Stone had finished, he sat back in his chair with closed
eyes. A supreme silence reigned in the bare room above those two men
of different generations and of such strange dissimilarity of
character. Hilary broke that silence.
"I heard the cuckoo sing to-day," he said, almost in a whisper, lest
Mr. Stone should be asleep.
"The cuckoo," replied Mr. Stone, "has no sense of brotherhood."
"I forgive him-for his song," murmured Hilary.
"His song," said Mr. Stone, "is alluring; it excites the sexual
Then to himself he added:
"She has not come, as yet!"
Even as he spoke there was heard by Hilary a faint tapping on the
door. He rose and opened it. The little model stood outside.
RETURN OF THE LITTLE MODEL
That same afternoon in High Street, Kensington, "Westminister," with
his coat-collar raised against the inclement wind, his old hat
spotted with rain, was drawing at a clay pipe and fixing his iron-
rimmed gaze on those who passed him by. It had been a day when
singularly few as yet had bought from him his faintly green-tinged
journal, and the low class of fellow who sold the other evening
prints had especially exasperated him. His single mind, always torn
to some extent between an ingrained loyalty to his employers and
those politics of his which differed from his paper's, had vented
itself twice since coming on his stand; once in these words to the
seller of "Pell Mells": "I stupulated with you not to come beyond the
lamp-post. Don't you never speak to me again--a-crowdin' of me off
my stand"; and once to the younger vendors of the less expensive
journals, thus: "Oh, you boys! I'll make you regret of it--
a-snappin' up my customers under my very nose! Wait until ye're
old!" To which the boys had answered: "All right, daddy; don't you
have a fit. You'll be a deader soon enough without that, y'know!"
It was now his time for tea, but "Pell Mell" having gone to partake
of this refreshment, he waited on, hoping against hope to get a
customer or two of that low fellow's. And while in black insulation
he stood there a timid voice said at his elbow
The aged butler turned, and saw the little model.
"Oh," he said dryly, "it's you, is it?" His mind, with its incessant
love of rank, knowing that she earned her living as a handmaid to
that disorderly establishment, the House of Art, had from the first
classed her as lower than a lady's-maid. Recent events had made him
think of her unkindly. Her new clothes, which he had not been
privileged to see before, while giving him a sense of Sunday,
deepened his moral doubts.
"And where are you living now?" he said in tones incorporating these
"I'm not to tell you."
"Oh, very well. Keep yourself to yourself."
The little model's lower lip drooped more than ever. There were dark
marks beneath her eyes; her face was altogether rather pinched and
"Won't you tell me any news?" she said in her matter-of-fact voice.
The old butler gave a strange grunt.
"Ho!" he said. "The baby's dead, and buried to-morrer."
"Dead!" repeated the little model.
"I'm a-goin' to the funeral--Brompton Cemetery. Half-past nine I
leave the door. And that's a-beginnin' at the end. The man's in
prison, and the woman's gone a shadder of herself."
The little model rubbed her hands against her skirt.
"What did he go to prison for?"
"For assaultin' of her; I was witness to his battery."
"Why did he assault her?"
Creed looked at her, and, wagging his head, answered:
"That's best known to them as caused of it."
The little model's face went the colour of carnations.
"I can't help what he does," she said. "What should I want him for--
a man like that? It wouldn't be him I'd want!" The genuine contempt
in that sharp burst of anger impressed the aged butler.
"I'm not a-sayin' anything," he said; "it's all a-one to me. I never
mixes up with no other people's business. But it's very ill-
convenient. I don't get my proper breakfast. That poor woman--she's
half off her head. When the baby's buried I'll have to go and look
out for another room before he gets a-comin' out."
"I hope they'll keep him there," muttered the little model suddenly.
"They give him a month," said Creed.
"Only a month!"
The old butler looked at her. 'There's more stuff' in you,' he
seemed to say, 'than ever I had thought.'
'Because of his servin' of his country," he remarked aloud.
"I'm sorry about the poor little baby," said the little model in her
"Westminister" shook his head. "I never suspected him of goin' to
live," he said.
The girl, biting the finger-tip of her white cotton glove, was
staring out at the traffic. Like a pale ray of light entering the
now dim cavern of the old man's mind, the thought came to Creed that
he did not quite understand her. He had in his time had occasion to
class many young persons, and the feeling that he did not quite know
her class of person was like the sensation a bat might have,
surprised by daylight.
Suddenly, without saying good-bye to him, she walked away.
'Well,' he thought, looking after her, 'your manners ain't improved
by where you're living, nor your appearance neither, for all your new
clothes.' And for some time he stood thinking of the stare in her
eyes and that abrupt departure.
Through the crystal clearness of the fundamental flux the mind could
see at that same moment Bianca leaving her front gate.
Her sensuous exaltation, her tremulous longing after harmony, had
passed away; in her heart, strangely mingled, were these two
thoughts: 'If only she were a lady!' and, 'I am glad she is not a
Of all the dark and tortuous places of this life, the human heart is
the most dark and tortuous; and of all human hearts none are less
clear, more intricate than the hearts of all that class of people
among whom Bianca had her being. Pride was a simple quality when
joined with a simple view of life, based on the plain philosophy of
property; pride was no simple quality when the hundred paralysing
doubts and aspirations of a social conscience also hedged it round.
In thus going forth with the full intention of restoring the little
model to her position in the household, her pride fought against her
pride, and her woman's sense of ownership in the man whom she had
married wrestled with the acquired sentiments of freedom, liberality,
equality, good taste. With her spirit thus confused, and her mind so
at variance with itself, she was really acting on the simple instinct
She had run upstairs from Mr. Stone's room, and now walked fast, lest
that instinct, the most physical, perhaps, of all--awakened by sights
and sounds, and requiring constant nourishment--should lose its
Rapidly, then, she made her way to the grey street in Bayswater where
Cecilia had told her that the girl now lived.
The tall, gaunt landlady admitted her.
"Have you a Miss Barton lodging here?" Bianca asked.
"Yes," said the landlady, "but I think she's out."
She looked into the little model's room.
"Yes," she said; "she's out; but if you'd like to leave a note you
could write in here. If you're looking for a model, she wants work,
That modern faculty of pressing on an aching nerve was assuredly not
lacking to Bianca. To enter the girl's room was jabbing at the nerve
She looked round her. The mental vacuity of that little room! There
was not one single thing--with the exception of a torn copy of Tit-
Bits--which suggested that a mind of any sort lived there. For all
that, perhaps because of that, it was neat enough.
"Yes," said the landlady, "she keeps her room tidy. Of course, she's
a country girl--comes from down my way." She said this with a dry
twist of her grim, but not unkindly, features. "If it weren't for
that," she went on, "I don't think I should care to let to one of her
Her hungry eyes, gazing at Bianca, had in them the aspirations of all
Bianca pencilled on her card:
"If you can come to my father to-day or tomorrow, please do."
"Will you give her this, please? It will be quite enough."
"I'll give it her," the landlady said; "she'll be glad of it, I
daresay. I see her sitting here. Girls like that, if they've got
nothing to do--see, she's been moping on her bed...."
The impress of a form was, indeed, clearly visible on the red and
yellow tasselled tapestry of the bed.
Bianca cast a look at it.
"Thank you," she said; "good day."
With the jabbed nerve aching badly she came slowly homewards.
Before the garden gate the little model herself was gazing at the
house, as if she had been there some time. Approaching from across
the road, Bianca had an admirable view of that young figure, now very
trim and neat, yet with something in its lines--more supple, perhaps,
but less refined--which proclaimed her not a lady; a something
fundamentally undisciplined or disciplined by the material facts of
life alone, rather than by a secret creed of voluntary rules. It
showed here and there in ways women alone could understand; above
all, in the way her eyes looked out on that house which she was
clearly longing to enter. Not 'Shall I go in?' was in that look, but
'Dare I go in?'
Suddenly she saw Bianca. The meeting of these two was very like the
ordinary meeting of a mistress and her maid. Bianca's face had no
expression, except the faint, distant curiosity which seems to say:
'You are a sealed book to me; I have always found you so. What you
really think and do I shall never know.'
The little model's face wore a half-caught-out, half-stolid look.
"Please go in," Bianca said; "my father will be glad to see you."
She held the garden gate open for the girl to pass through. Her
feeling at that moment was one of slight amusement at the futility of
her journey. Not even this small piece of generosity was permitted
her, it seemed.
"How are you getting on?"
The little model made an impulsive movement at such an unexpected
question. Checking it at once, she answered:
"Very well, thank you; that is, not very---"
"You will find my father tired to-day; he has caught a chill. Don't
let him read too much, please."
The little model seemed to try and nerve herself to make some
statement, but, failing, passed into the house.
Bianca did not follow, but stole back into the garden, where the sun
was still falling on a bed of wallflowers at the far end. She bent
down over these flowers till her veil touched them. Two wild bees
were busy there, buzzing with smoky wings, clutching with their
black, tiny legs at the orange petals, plunging their black, tiny
tongues far down into the honeyed centres. The flowers quivered
beneath the weight of their small dark bodies. Bianca's face
quivered too, bending close to them, nor making the slightest
difference to their hunt.
Hilary, who, it has been seen, lived in thoughts about events rather
than in events themselves, and to whom crude acts and words had
little meaning save in relation to what philosophy could make of
them, greeted with a startled movement the girl's appearance in the
corridor outside Mr. Stone's apartment. But the little model, who
mentally lived very much from hand to mouth, and had only the
philosophy of wants, acted differently. She knew that for the last
five days, like a spaniel dog shut away from where it feels it ought
to be, she had wanted to be where she was now standing; she knew
that, in her new room with its rust-red doors, she had bitten her
lips and fingers till blood came, and, as newly caged birds will
flutter, had beaten her wings against those walls with blue roses on
a yellow ground. She remembered how she had lain, brooding, on that
piece of red and yellow tapestry, twisting its tassels, staring
through half-closed eyes at nothing.
There was something different in her look at Hilary. It had lost
some of its childish devotion; it was bolder, as if she had lived and
felt, and brushed a good deal more down off her wings during those
"Mrs. Dallison told me to come," she said. "I thought I might. Mr.
Creed told me about him being in prison."
Hilary made way for her, and, following her into Mr. Stone's
presence, shut the door.
"The truant has returned," he said.
Hearing herself called so unjustly by that name, the little model
gushed deeply, and tried to speak. She stopped at the smile on
Hilary's face, and gazed from him to Mr. Stone and back again, the
victim of mingled feelings.
Mr. Stone was seen to have risen to his feet, and to be very slowly
moving towards his desk. He leaned both arms on his papers for
support, and, seeming to gather strength, began sorting out his
Through the open window the distant music of a barrel-organ came
drifting in. Faint, and much too slow, was the sound of the waltz it
played, but there was invitation, allurement, in that tune. The
little model turned towards it, and Hilary looked hard at her. The
girl and that sound together-there, quite plain, was the music he had
heard for many days, like a man lying with the touch of fever on him.
"Are you ready?" said Mr. Stone.
The little model dipped her pen in ink. Her eyes crept towards the
door, where Hilary was still standing with the same expression on his
face. He avoided her eyes, and went up to Mr. Stone.
"Must you read to-day, sir?"
Mr. Stone looked at him with anger.
"Why not?" he said.
"You are hardly strong enough."
Mr. Stone raised his manuscript.
"We are three days behind;" and very slowly he began dictating:
"'Bar-ba-rous ha-bits in those days, such as the custom known as War-
--'" His voice died away; it was apparent that his elbows, leaning
on the desk, alone prevented his collapse.
Hilary moved the chair, and, taking him beneath the arms, lowered him
gently into it.
Noticing that he was seated, Mr. Stone raised his manuscript and read
on: "'---were pursued regardless of fraternity. It was as though a
herd of horn-ed cattle driven through green pastures to that Gate,
where they must meet with certain dissolution, had set about to
prematurely gore and disembowel each other, out of a passionate
devotion to those individual shapes which they were so soon to lose.
So men--tribe against tribe, and country against country--glared
across the valleys with their ensanguined eyes; they could not see
the moonlit wings, or feel the embalming airs of brotherhood.'"
Slower and slower came his sentences, and as the last word died away
he was heard to be asleep, breathing through a tiny hole left beneath
the eave of his moustache. Hilary, who had waited for that moment,
gently put the manuscript on the desk, and beckoned to the girl. He
did not ask her to his study, but spoke to her in the hall.
"While Mr. Stone is like this he misses you. You will come, then, at
present, please, so long as Hughs is in prison. How do you like your
The little model answered simply: "Not very much."
"It's lonely there. I shan't mind, now I'm coming here again."
"Only for the present," was all Hilary could find to say.
The little model's eyes were lowered.
"Mrs. Hughs' baby's to be buried to-morrow," she said suddenly.
"In Brompton Cemetery. Mr. Creed's going."
"What time is the funeral?"
The girl looked up stealthily.
"Mr. Creed's going to start at half-past nine."
"I should like to go myself," said Hilary.
A gleam of pleasure passing across her face was instantly obscured
behind the cloud of her stolidity. Then, as she saw Hilary move
nearer to the door, her lip began to droop.
"Well, good-bye," he said.
The little model flushed and quivered. 'You don't even look at me,'
she seemed to say; 'you haven't spoken kindly to me once.' And
suddenly she said in a hard voice:
"Now I shan't go to Mr. Lennard's any more."
"Oh, then you have been to him!"
Triumph at attracting his attention, fear of what she had admitted,
supplication, and a half-defiant shame--all this was in her face.
"Yes," she said.
Hilary did not speak.
"I didn't care any more when you told me I wasn't to come here."
Still Hilary did not speak.
"I haven't done anything wrong," she said, with tears in her voice.
"No, no," said Hilary; "of course not!"
The little model choked.
"It's my profession."
"Yes, yes," said Hilary; "it's all right."
"I don't care what he thinks; I won't go again so long as I can come
Hilary touched her shoulder.
"Well, well," he said, and opened the front door.
The little model, tremulous, like' a flower kissed by the sun after
rain, went out with a light in her eyes.
The master of the house returned to Mr. Stone. Long he sat looking
at the old man's slumber. "A thinker meditating upon action!" So
might Hilary's figure, with its thin face resting on its hand, a
furrow between the brows, and that painful smile, have been entitled
in any catalogue of statues.
FUNERAL OF A BABY
Following out the instinct planted so deeply in human nature for
treating with the utmost care and at great expense when dead those,
who, when alive, have been served with careless parsimony, there
started from the door of No. 1 in Hound Street a funeral procession
of three four-wheeled cabs. The first bore the little coffin, on
which lay a great white wreath (gift of Cecilia and Thyme). The
second bore Mrs. Hughs, her son Stanley, and Joshua Creed. The third
bore Martin Stone. In the first cab Silence was presiding with the
scent of lilies over him who in his short life had made so little
noise, the small grey shadow which had crept so quietly into being,
and, taking his chance when he was not noticed, had crept so quietly
out again. Never had he felt so restful, so much at home, as in that
little common coffin, washed as he was to an unnatural whiteness, and
wrapped in his mother's only spare sheet. Away from all the strife
of men he was Journeying to a greater peace. His little aloe-plant
had flowered; and, between the open windows of the only carriage he
had ever been inside, the wind--which, who knows? he had perhaps
become--stirred the fronds of fern and the flowers of his funeral
wreath. Thus he was going from that world where all men were his
>From the second cab the same wind was rigidly excluded, and there was
silence, broken by the aged butler's breathing. Dressed in his
Newmarket coat, he was recalling with a certain sense of luxury past,
journeys in four-wheeled cabs--occasions when, seated beside a box
corded and secured with sealing-wax, he had taken his master's plate
for safety to the bank; occasions when, under a roof piled up with
guns and boxes, he had sat holding the "Honorable Bateson's" dog;
occasions when, with some young person by his side, he had driven at
the tail of a baptismal, nuptial, or funeral cortege. These memories
of past grandeur came back to him with curious poignancy, and for
some reason the words kept rising in his mind: 'For richer or poorer,
for better or worser, in health and in sick places, till death do us
part.' But in the midst of the exaltation of these recollections the
old heart beneath his old red flannel chest-protector--that companion
of his exile--twittering faintly at short intervals, made him look at
the woman by his side. He longed to convey to her some little of the
satisfaction he felt in the fact that this was by no means the low
class of funeral it might have been. He doubted whether, with her
woman's mind, she was getting all the comfort she could out of three
four-wheeled cabs and a wreath of lilies. The seamstress's thin
face, with its pinched, passive look, was indeed thinner, quieter,
than ever. What she was thinking of he could not tell. There were
so many things she might be thinking of. She, too, no doubt, had
seen her grandeur, if but in the solitary drive away from the church
where, eight years ago, she and Hughs had listened to the words now
haunting Creed. Was she thinking of that; of her lost youth and
comeliness, and her man's dead love; of the long descent to
shadowland; of the other children she had buried; of Hughs in prison;
of the girl that had "put a spell on him"; or only of the last
precious tugs the tiny lips at rest in the first four-wheeled cab had
given at her breast? Or was she, with a nicer feeling for
proportion, reflecting that, had not people been so kind, she might
have had to walk behind a funeral provided by the parish?
The old butler could not tell, but he--whose one desire now, coupled
with the wish to die outside a workhouse, was to save enough to bury
his own body without the interference of other people--was inclined
to think she must be dwelling on the brighter side of things; and,
designing to encourage her, he said: "Wonderful improvement in these
'ere four-wheel cabs! Oh dear, yes! I remember of them when they
were the shadders of what they are at the present time of speakin'."
The seamstress answered in her quiet voice: "Very comfortable this
is. Sit still, Stanley!" Her little son, whose feet did not reach
the floor, was drumming his heels against the seat. He stopped and
looked at her, and the old butler addressed him.
"You'll a-remember of this occasion," he said, "when you gets older."
The little boy turned his black eyes from his mother to him who had
"It's a beautiful wreath," continued Creed. "I could smell of it all
the way up the stairs. There's been no expense spared; there's white
laylock in it--that's a class of flower that's very extravagant."
A train of thought having been roused too strong for his discretion,
he added: "I saw that young girl yesterday. She came interrogatin'
of me in the street."
On Mrs. Hughs' face, where till now expression had been buried, came
such a look as one may see on the face of an owl-hard, watchful,
cruel; harder, more cruel, for the softness of the big dark eyes.
"She'd show a better feeling," she said, "to keep a quiet tongue.
Sit still, Stanley!"
Once more the little boy stopped drumming his heels, and shifted his
stare from the old butler back to her who spoke. The cab, which had
seemed to hesitate and start, as though jibbing at something in the
road, resumed its ambling pace. Creed looked through the well-closed
window. There before him, so long that it seemed to have no end,
like a building in a nightmare, stretched that place where he did not
mean to end his days. He faced towards the horse again. The colour
had deepened in his nose. He spoke:
"If they'd a-give me my last edition earlier, 'stead of sending of it
down after that low-class feller's taken all my customers, that'd
make a difference to me o' two shillin's at the utmost in the week,
and all clear savin's." To these words, dark with hidden meaning, he
received no answer save the drumming of the small boy's heels; and,
reverting to the subject he had been distracted from, he murmured:
"She was a-wearin' of new clothes."
He was startled by the fierce tone of a voice he hardly knew. "I
don't want to hear about her; she's not for decent folk to talk of."
The old butler looked round askance. The seamstress was trembling
violently. Her fierceness at such a moment shocked him. "'Dust to
dust,'" he thought.
"Don't you be considerate of it," he said at last, summoning all his
knowledge of the world; "she'll come to her own place." And at the
sight of a slow tear trickling over her burning cheek, he added
hurriedly: "Think of your baby--I'll see yer through. Sit still,
little boy--sit still! Ye're disturbin' of your mother."
Once more the little boy stayed the drumming of his heels to look at
him who spoke; and the closed cab rolled on with its slow, jingling
In the third four-wheeled cab, where the windows again were wide
open, Martin Stone, with his hands thrust deep into the pockets of
his coat, and his long legs crossed, sat staring at the roof, with a
sort of twisted scorn on his pale face.
Just inside the gate, through which had passed in their time so many
dead and living shadows, Hilary stood waiting. He could probably not
have explained why he had come to see this tiny shade committed to
the earth--in memory, perhaps, of those two minutes when the baby's
eyes had held parley with his own, or in the wish to pay a mute
respect to her on whom life had weighed so hard of late. For
whatever reason he had come, he was keeping quietly to one side. And
unobserved, he, too, had his watcher--the little model, sheltering
behind a tall grave.
Two men in rusty black bore the little coffin; then came the white-
robed chaplain; then Mrs. Hughs and her little son; close behind, his
head thrust forward with trembling movements from side to side, old
Creed; and, last of all, young Martin Stone. Hilary joined the young
doctor. So the five mourners walked.
Before a small dark hole in a corner of the cemetery they stopped.
On this forest of unflowered graves the sun was falling; the east
wind, with its faint reek, touched the old butler's plastered hair,
and brought moisture to the corners of his eyes, fixed with
absorption on the chaplain. Words and thoughts hunted in his mind.
'He's gettin' Christian burial. Who gives this woman away? I do.
Ashes to ashes. I never suspected him of livin'.' The conning of
the burial service, shortened to fit the passing of that tiny shade,
gave him pleasurable sensation; films came down on his eyes; he
listened like some old parrot on its perch, his head a little to one
'Them as dies young,' he thought, 'goes straight to heaven. We
trusts in God--all mortal men; his godfathers and his godmothers in
his baptism. Well, so it is! I'm not afeared o' death!'
Seeing the little coffin tremble above the hole, he craned his head
still further forward. It sank; a smothered sobbing rose. The old
butler touched the arm in front of him with shaking fingers.
"Don't 'e," he whispered; "he's a-gone to glory."
But, hearing the dry rattle of the earth, he took out his own
handkerchief and put it to his nose.
'Yes, he's a-gone,' he thought; 'another little baby. Old men an'
maidens, young men an' little children; it's a-goin' on all the time.
Where 'e is now there'll be no marryin', no, nor givin' out in
marriage; till death do us part.'
The wind, sweeping across the filled-in hole, carried the rustle of
his husky breathing, the dry, smothered sobbing of the seamstress,
out across the shadows' graves, to those places, to those streets....
>From the baby's funeral Hilary and Martin walked away together, and
far behind them, across the road, the little model followed. For
some time neither spoke; then Hilary, stretching out his hand towards
a squalid alley, said:
"They haunt us and drag us down. A long, dark passage. Is there a
light at the far end, Martin?"
"Yes," said Martin gruffly.
"I don't see it."
Martin looked at him.
Hilary did not reply.
The young man watched him sideways. "It's a disease to smile like
Hilary ceased to smile. "Cure me, then," he said, with sudden anger,
"you man of health!"
The young "Sanitist's" sallow cheeks flushed. "Atrophy of the nerve
of action," he muttered; "there's no cure for that!"
"Ah!" said Hilary: "All kinds of us want social progress in our
different ways. You, your grandfather, my brother, myself; there are
four types for you. Will you tell me any one of us is the right man
for the job? For instance, action's not natural to me."
"Any act," answered Martin, "is better than no act."
"And myopia is natural to you, Martin. Your prescription in this
case has not been too successful, has it?"
"I can't help it if people will be d---d fools."
"There you hit it. But answer me this question: Isn't a social
conscience, broadly speaking, the result of comfort and security?"
Martin shrugged his shoulders.
"And doesn't comfort also destroy the power of action?"
Again Martin shrugged.
"Then, if those who have the social conscience and can see what is
wrong have lost their power of action, how can you say there is any
light at the end of this dark passage?"
Martin took his pipe out, filled it, and pressed the filling with his
"There is light," he said at last, "in spite of all invertebrates.
Good-bye! I've wasted enough time," and he abruptly strode away.
"And in spite of myopia?" muttered Hilary.
A few minutes later, coming out from Messrs. Rose and Thorn's, where
he had gone to buy tobacco, he came suddenly on the little model,
"I was at the funeral," she, said; and her face added plainly: 'I've
followed you.' Uninvited, she walked on at his side.
'This is not the same girl,' he thought, 'that I sent away five days
ago. She has lost something, gained something. I don't know her.'
There seemed such a stubborn purpose in her face and manner. It was
like the look in a dog's eyes that says: 'Master, you thought to shut
me up away from you; I know now what that is like. Do what you will,
I mean in future to be near you.'
This look, by its simplicity, frightened one to whom the primitive
was strange. Desiring to free himself of his companion, yet not
knowing how, Hilary sat down in Kensington Gardens on the first bench
they came to. The little model sat down beside him. The quiet siege
laid to him by this girl was quite uncanny. It was as though someone
were binding him with toy threads, swelling slowly into rope before
his eyes. In this fear of Hilary's there was at first much
irritation. His fastidiousness and sense of the ridiculous were
roused. What did this little creature with whom he had no thoughts
and no ideas in common, whose spirit and his could never hope to
meet, think that she could get from him? Was she trying to weave a
spell over him too, with her mute, stubborn adoration? Was she
trying to change his protective weakness for her to another sort of
weakness? He turned and looked; she dropped her eyes at once, and
sat still as a stone figure.
As in her spirit, so in her body, she was different; her limbs looked
freer, rounder; her breath seemed stirring her more deeply; like a
flower of early June she was opening before his very eyes. This,
though it gave him pleasure, also added to his fear. The strange
silence, in its utter naturalness--for what could he talk about with
her?--brought home to him more vividly than anything before, the
barriers of class. All he thought of was how not to be ridiculous!
She was inviting him in some strange, unconscious, subtle way to
treat her as a woman, as though in spirit she had linked her round
young arms about his neck, and through her half-closed lips were
whispering the eternal call of sex to sex. And he, a middle-aged and
cultivated man, conscious of everything, could not even speak for
fear of breaking through his shell of delicacy. He hardly breathed,
disturbed to his very depths by the young figure sitting by his side,
and by the dread of showing that disturbance.
Beside the cultivated plant the self-sown poppy rears itself; round
the stem of a smooth tree the honeysuckle twines; to a trim wall the
In her new-found form and purpose this girl had gained a strange,
still power; she no longer felt it mattered whether he spoke or
looked at her; her instinct, piercing through his shell, was certain
of the throbbing of his pulses, the sweet poison in his blood.
The perception of this still power, more than all else, brought fear
to Hilary. He need not speak; she would not care! He need not even
look at her; she had but to sit there silent, motionless, with the
breath of youth coming through her parted lips, and the light of
youth stealing through her half-closed eyes.
And abruptly he got up and walked away.
The new wine, if it does not break the old bottle, after fierce
effervescence seethes and bubbles quietly.
It was so in Mr. Stone's old bottle, hour by hour and day by day,
throughout the month. A pinker, robuster look came back to his
cheeks; his blue eyes, fixed on distance, had in them more light; his
knees regained their powers; he bathed, and, all unknown to him, for
he only saw the waters he cleaved with his ineffably slow stroke,
Hilary and Martin, on alternate weeks, and keeping at a proper
distance, for fear he should see them doing him a service, attended
at that function in case Mr. Stone should again remain too long
seated at the bottom of the Serpentine. Each morning after his cocoa
and porridge he could be heard sweeping out his room with
extraordinary vigour, and as ten o'clock came near anyone who
listened would remark a sound of air escaping, as he moved up and
down on his toes in preparation for the labours of the day. No
letters, of course, nor any newspapers disturbed the supreme and
perfect self-containment of this life devoted to Fraternity--no
letters, partly because he lacked a known address, partly because for
years he had not answered them; and with regard to newspapers, once a
month he went to a Public Library, and could be seen with the last
four numbers of two weekly reviews before him, making himself
acquainted with the habits of those days, and moving his lips as
though in prayer. At ten each morning anyone in the corridor outside
his room was startled by the whirr of an alarum clock; perfect
silence followed; then rose a sound of shuffling, whistling,
rustling, broken by sharply muttered words; soon from this turbid
lake of sound the articulate, thin fluting of an old man's voice
streamed forth. This, alternating with the squeak of a quill pen,
went on till the alarum clock once more went off. Then he who stood
outside could smell that Mr. Stone would shortly eat; if, stimulated
by that scent, he entered; he might see the author of the "Book of
Universal Brotherhood" with a baked potato in one hand and a cup of
hot milk in the other; on the table, too, the ruined forms of eggs,
tomatoes, oranges, bananas, figs, prunes, cheese, and honeycomb,
which had passed into other forms already, together with a loaf of
wholemeal bread. Mr. Stone would presently emerge in his cottage-
woven tweeds, and old hat of green-black felt; or, if wet, in a long
coat of yellow gaberdine, and sou'wester cap of the same material;
but always with a little osier fruit-bag in his hand. Thus equipped,
he walked down to Rose and Thorn's, entered, and to the first man he
saw handed the osier fruit-bag, some coins, and a little book
containing seven leaves, headed "Food: Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday,"
and so forth. He then stood looking through the pickles in some jar
or other at things beyond, with one hand held out, fingers upwards,
awaiting the return of his little osier fruit-bag. Feeling.
presently that it had been restored to him, he would turn and walk
out of the shop. Behind his back, on the face of the department, the
same protecting smile always rose. Long habit had perfected it. All
now felt that, though so very different from themselves, this aged
customer was dependent on them. By not one single farthing or one
pale slip of cheese would they have defrauded him for all the
treasures of the moon, and any new salesman who laughed at that old
client was promptly told to "shut his head."
Mr. Stone's frail form, bent somewhat to one side by the increased
gravamen of the osier bag, was now seen moving homewards. He arrived
perhaps ten minutes before the three o'clock alarum, and soon passing
through preliminary chaos, the articulate, thin fluting of his voice
streamed forth again, broken by the squeaking and spluttering of his
But towards four o'clock signs of cerebral excitement became visible;
his lips would cease to utter sounds, his pen to squeak. His face,
with a flushed forehead, would appear at the open window. As soon as
the little model came in sight--her eyes fixed, not on his window,
but on Hilary's--he turned his back, evidently waiting for her to
enter by the door. His first words were uttered in a tranquil voice:
"I have several pages. I have placed your chair. Are you ready?
Except for that strange tranquillity of voice and the disappearance
of the flush on his brow, there was no sign of the rejuvenescence
that she brought, of such refreshment as steals on the traveller who
sits down beneath a lime-tree toward the end of along day's journey;
no sign of the mysterious comfort distilled into his veins by the
sight of her moody young face, her young, soft limbs. So from some
stimulant men very near their end will draw energy, watching, as it
were, a shape beckoning them forward, till suddenly it disappears in
In the quarter of an hour sacred to their tea and conversation he
never noticed that she was always listening for sounds beyond; it was
enough that in her presence he felt singleness of purpose strong
When she had gone, moving languidly, moodily away, her eyes darting
about for signs of Hilary, Mr. Stone would sit down rather suddenly
and fall asleep, to dream, perhaps, of Youth--Youth with its scent of
sap, its close beckonings; Youth with its hopes and fears; Youth that
hovers round us so long after it is dead! His spirit would smile
behind its covering--that thin china of his face; and, as dogs
hunting in their sleep work their feet, so he worked the fingers
resting on his woollen knees.
The seven o'clock alarum woke him to the preparation of the evening
meal. This eaten, he began once more to pace up and down, to pour
words out into the silence, and to drive his squeaking quill.
So was being written a book such as the world had never seen!
But the girl who came so moodily to bring him refreshment, and went
so moodily away, never in these days caught a glimpse of that which
she was seeking.
Since the morning when he had left her abruptly, Hilary had made a
point of being out in the afternoons and not returning till past six
o'clock. By this device he put off facing her and himself, for he
could no longer refuse to see that he had himself to face. In the
few minutes of utter silence when the girl sat beside him, magnetic,
quivering with awakening force, he had found that the male in him was
far from dead. It was no longer vague, sensuous feeling; it was
warm, definite desire. The more she was in his thoughts, the less
spiritual his feeling for this girl of the people had become.
In those days he seemed much changed to such as knew him well.
Instead of the delicate, detached, slightly humorous suavity which he
had accustomed people to expect from him, the dry kindliness which
seemed at once to check confidence and yet to say, 'If you choose to
tell me anything, I should never think of passing judgment on you,
whatever you have done'--instead of that rather abstracted, faintly
quizzical air, his manner had become absorbed and gloomy. He seemed
to jib away from his friends. His manner at the "Pen and Ink" was
wholly unsatisfying to men who liked to talk. He was known to be
writing a new book; they suspected him of having "got into a hat"--
this Victorian expression, found by Mr. Balladyce in some chronicle
of post-Thackerayan manners, and revived by him in his incomparable
way, as who should say, 'What delicious expressions those good
bourgeois had!' now flourished in second childhood.
In truth, Hilary's difficulty with his new book was merely the one of
not being able to work at it at all. Even the housemaid who "did"
his study noticed that day after day she was confronted by Chapter
XXIV., in spite of her employer's staying in, as usual, every
The change in his manner and face, which had grown strained and
harassed, had been noticed by Bianca, though she would have died
sooner than admit she had noticed anything about him. It was one of
those periods in the lives of households like an hour of a late
summer's day--brooding, electric, as yet quiescent, but charged with
the currents of coming storms.
Twice only in those weeks while Hughs was in prison did Hilary see
the girl. Once he met her when he was driving home; she blushed
crimson and her eyes lighted up. And one morning, too, he passed her
on the bench where they had sat together. She was staring straight
before her, the corners of her mouth drooping discontentedly. She
did not see him.
To a man like Hilary-for whom running after women had been about the
last occupation in the world, who had, in fact, always fought shy of
them and imagined that they would always fight shy of him--there was
an unusual enticement and dismay in the feeling that a young girl
really was pursuing him. It was at once too good, too unlikely, and
too embarrassing to be true. His sudden feeling for her was the
painful sensation of one who sees a ripe nectarine hanging within
reach. He dreamed continually of stretching out his hand, and so he
did not dare, or thought he did not dare, to pass that way. All this
did not favour the tenor of a studious, introspective life; it also
brought a sense of unreality which made him avoid his best friends.
This, partly, was why Stephen came to see him one Sunday, his other
reason for the visit being the calculation that Hughs would be
released on the following Wednesday.
'This girl,' he thought, 'is going to the house still, and Hilary
will let things drift till he can't stop them, and there'll be a real
The fact of the man's having been in prison gave a sinister turn to
an affair regarded hitherto as merely sordid by Stephen's orderly and
Crossing the garden, he heard Mr. Stone's voice issuing through the
'Can't the old crank stop even on Sundays?' he thought.
He found Hilary in his study, reading a book on the civilisation of
the Maccabees, in preparation for a review. He gave Stephen but a
Stephen broke ground gently.
"We haven't seen you for an age. I hear our old friend at it. Is he
working double tides to finish his magnum opus? I thought he
observed the day of rest."
"He does as a rule," said Hilary.
"Well, he's got the girl there now dictating."
Hilary winced. Stephen continued with greater circumspection
"You couldn't get the old boy to finish by Wednesday, I suppose? He
must be quite near the end by now."
The notion of Mr. Stone's finishing his book by Wednesday procured a
pale smile from Hilary.
"Could you get your Law Courts," he said, "to settle up the affairs
of mankind for good and all by Wednesday?"
"By Jove! Is it as bad as that? I thought, at any rate, he must be
meaning to finish some day."
"When men are brothers," said Hilary, "he will finish."
"Look here, dear boy!" he said, "that ruffian comes out on Wednesday.
The whole thing will begin over again."
Hilary rose and paced the room. "I refuse," he said, "to consider
Hughs a ruffian. What do we know about him, or any of them?"
"Precisely! What do we know of this girl?"
"I am not going to discuss that," Hilary said shortly.
For a moment the faces of the two brothers wore a hard, hostile look,
as though the deep difference between their characters had at last
got the better of their loyalty. They both seemed to recognise this,
for they turned their heads away.
"I just wanted to remind you," Stephen said, "though you know your
own business best, of course." And at Hilary's nod he thought:
'That's just exactly what he doesn't!'
He soon left, conscious of an unwonted awkwardness in his brother's
presence. Hilary watched him out through the wicket gate, then sat
down on the solitary garden bench.
Stephen's visit had merely awakened perverse desires in him.
Strong sunlight was falling on that little London garden, disclosing
its native shadowiness; streaks, and smudges such as Life smears over
the faces of those who live too consciously. Hilary, beneath the
acacia-tree not yet in bloom, marked an early butterfly flitting over
the geraniums blossoming round an old sundial. Blackbirds were
holding evensong; the late perfume of the lilac came stealing forth
into air faintly smeeched with chimney smoke. There was brightness,
but no glory, in that little garden; scent, but no strong air blown
across golden lakes of buttercups, from seas of springing clover, or
the wind-silver of young wheat; music, but no full choir of sound, no
hum. Like the face and figure of its master, so was this little
garden, whose sundial the sun seldom reached-refined, self-conscious,
introspective, obviously a creature of the town. At that moment,
however, Hilary was not looking quite himself; his face was flushed,
his eyes angry, almost as if he had been a man of action.
The voice of Mr. Stone was still audible, fitfully quavering out into
the air, and the old man himself could now and then be seen holding
up his manuscript, his profile clear-cut against the darkness of the
room. A sentence travelled out across the garden:
"'Amidst the tur-bu-lent dis-cov-eries of those days, which, like
cross-currented and multibillowed seas, lapped and hollowed every
A motor-car dashing past drowned the rest, and when the voice rose
again it was evidently dictating another paragraph.
"'In those places, in those streets, the shadows swarmed, whispering
and droning like a hive of dying bees, who, their honey eaten, wander
through the winter day seeking flowers that are frozen and dead."'
A great bee which had been busy with the lilac began to circle,
booming, round his hair. Suddenly Hilary saw Mr. Stone raise both
"'In huge congeries, crowded, devoid of light and air, they were
assembled, these bloodless imprints from forms of higher caste. They
lay, like the reflection of leaves which, fluttering free in the
sweet winds, let fall to the earth wan resemblances. Imponderous,
dark ghosts, wandering ones chained to the ground, they had no hope
of any Lovely City, nor knew whence they had come. Men cast them on
the pavements and marched on. They did not in Universal Brotherhood
clasp their shadows to sleep within their hearts--for the sun was not
then at noon, when no man has a shadow.'"
As those words of swan song died away he swayed and trembled, and
suddenly disappeared below the sight-line, as if he had sat down.
The little model took his place in the open window. She started at
seeing Hilary; then, motionless, stood gazing at him. Out of the
gloom of the opening her eyes were all pupil, two spots of the
surrounding darkness imprisoned in a face as pale as any flower.
Rigid as the girl herself, Hilary looked up at her.
A voice behind him said: "How are you? I thought I'd give my car a
run." Mr. Purcey was coming from the gate, his eyes fixed on the
window where the girl stood. "How is your wife?" he added.
The bathos of this visit roused an acid fury in Hilary. He surveyed
Mr. Purcey's figure from his cloth-topped boots to his tall hat, and
said: "Shall we go in and find her?"
As they went along Mr. Purcey said: "That's the young--the--er--model
I met in your wife's studio, isn't it? Pretty girl!"
Hilary compressed his lips.
"Now, what sort of living do those girls make?" pursued Mr. Purcey.
"I suppose they've most of them other resources. Eh, what?"
"They make the living God will let them, I suppose, as other people
Mr. Purcey gave him a sharp look. It was almost as if Dallison had
meant to snub him.
"Oh, exactly! I should think this girl would have no difficulty."
And suddenly he saw a curious change come over "that writing fellow,"
as he always afterwards described Hilary. Instead of a mild,
pleasant-looking chap enough, he had become a regular cold devil.
"My wife appears to be out," Hilary said. "I also have an
In his surprise and anger Mr. Purcey said with great simplicity,
"Sorry I'm 'de trop'!" and soon his car could be heard bearing him
away with some unnecessary noise.
BEHIND BIANCA'S VEIL
But Bianca was not out. She had been a witness of Hilary's long look
at the little model. Coming from her studio through the glass
passage to the house, she could not, of course, see what he was
gazing at, but she knew as well as if the girl had stood before her
in the dark opening of the window. Hating herself for having seen,
she went to her room, and lay on her bed with her hands pressed to
her eyes. She was used to loneliness--that necessary lot of natures
such as hers; but the bitter isolation of this hour was such as to
drive even her lonely nature to despair.
She rose at last, and repaired the ravages made in her face and
dress, lest anyone should see that she was suffering. Then, first
making sure that Hilary had left the garden, she stole out.
She wandered towards Hyde Park. It was Whitsuntide, a time of fear
to the cultivated Londoner. The town seemed all arid jollity and
paper bags whirled on a dusty wind. People swarmed everywhere in
clothes which did not suit them; desultory, dead-tired creatures who,
in these few green hours of leisure out of the sandy eternity of
their toil, were not suffered to rest, but were whipped on by starved
instincts to hunt pleasures which they longed for too dreadfully to
Bianca passed an old tramp asleep beneath a tree. His clothes had
clung to him so long and lovingly that they were falling off, but his
face was calm as though masked with the finest wax. Forgotten were
his sores and sorrows; he was in the blessed fields of sleep.
Bianca hastened away from the sight of such utter peace. She
wandered into a grove of trees which had almost eluded the notice of
the crowd. They were limes, guarding still within them their honey
bloom. Their branches of light, broad leaves, near heart-shaped,
were spread out like wide skirts. The tallest of these trees, a
beautiful, gay creature, stood tremulous, like a mistress waiting for
her tardy lover. What joy she seemed to promise, what delicate
enticement, with every veined quivering leaf! And suddenly the sun
caught hold of her, raised her up to him, kissed her all over; she
gave forth a sigh of happiness, as though her very spirit had
travelled through her lips up to her lover's heart.
A woman in a lilac frock came stealing through the trees towards
Bianca, and sitting down not far off, kept looking quickly round
under her sunshade.
Presently Bianca saw what she was looking for. A young man in black
coat and shining hat came swiftly up and touched her shoulder. Half
hidden by the foliage they sat, leaning forward, prodding gently at
the ground with stick and parasol; the stealthy murmur of their talk,
so soft and intimate that no word was audible, stole across the
grass; and secretly he touched her hand and arm. They were not of
the holiday crowd, and had evidently chosen out this vulgar afternoon
for a stolen meeting.
Bianca rose and hurried on amongst the trees. She left the Park. In
the streets many couples, not so careful to conceal their intimacy,
were parading arm-in-arm. The sight of them did not sting her like
the sight of those lovers in the Park; they were not of her own
order. But presently she saw a little boy and girl asleep on the
doorstep of a mansion, with their cheeks pressed close together and
their arms round each other, and again she hurried on. In the course
of that long wandering she passed the building which "Westminister"
was so anxious to avoid. In its gateway an old couple were just
about to separate, one to the men's, the other to the women's
quarters. Their toothless mouths were close together. "Well,
goodnight, Mother!" "Good-night, Father, good-night-take care o'
Once more Bianca hurried on.
It was past nine when she turned into the Old Square, and rang the
bell of her sister's house with the sheer physical desire to rest--
somewhere that was not her home.
At one end of the long, low drawing-room Stephen, in evening dress,
was reading aloud from a review. Cecilia was looking dubiously at
his sock, where she seemed to see a tiny speck of white that might be
Stephen. In the window at the far end Thyme and Martin were
exchanging speeches at short intervals; they made no move at Bianca's
entrance; and their faces said: "We have no use for that handshaking
Receiving Cecilia's little, warm, doubting kiss and Stephen's polite,
dry handshake, Bianca motioned to him not to stop reading. He
resumed. Cecilia, too, resumed her scrutiny of Stephen's sock.
'Oh dear!' she thought. 'I know B.'s come here because she's
unhappy. Poor thing! Poor Hilary! It's that wretched business
again, I suppose.'
Skilled in every tone of Stephen's voice, she knew that Bianca's
entry had provoked the same train of thought in him; to her he seemed
reading out these words: 'I disapprove--I disapprove. She's Cis's
sister. But if it wasn't for old Hilary I wouldn't have the subject
in the house!'
Bianca, whose subtlety recorded every shade of feeling, could see
that she was not welcome. Leaning back with veil raised, she seemed
listening to Stephen's reading, but in fact she was quivering at the
sight of those two couples.
Couples, couples--for all but her! What crime had she committed?
Why was the china of her cup flawed so that no one could drink from
it? Why had she been made so that nobody could love her? This, the
most bitter of all thoughts, the most tragic of all questionings,
The article which Stephen read--explaining exactly how to deal with
people so that from one sort of human being they might become
another, and going on to prove that if, after this conversion, they
showed signs of a reversion, it would then be necessary to know the
reason why--fell dryly on ears listening to that eternal question:
Why is it with me as it is? It is not fair!--listening to the
constant murmuring of her pride: I am not wanted here or anywhere.
Better to efface myself!
>From their end of the room Thyme and Martin scarcely looked at her.
To them she was Aunt B., an amateur, the mockery of whose eyes
sometimes penetrated their youthful armour; they were besides too
interested in their conversation to perceive that she was suffering.
The skirmish of that conversation had lasted now for many days--ever
since the death of the Hughs' baby.
"Well," Martin was saying, "what are you going to do? It's no good
to base it on the baby; you must know your own mind all round. You
can't go rushing into real work on mere sentiment."
"You went to the funeral, Martin. It's bosh to say you didn't feel
Martin deigned no answer to this insinuation.
"We've gone past the need for sentiment," he said: "it's exploded; so
is Justice, administered by an upper class with a patch over one eye
and a squint in the other. When you see a dying donkey in a field,
you don't want to refer the case to a society, as your dad would; you
don't want an essay of Hilary's, full of sympathy with everybody, on
'Walking in a field: with reflections on the end of donkeys'--you
want to put a bullet in the donkey."
"You're always down on Uncle Hilary," said Thyme.
"I don't mind Hilary himself; I object to his type."
"Well, he objects to yours," said Thyme.
"I'm not so sure of that," said Martin slowly; "he hasn't got
Thyme raised her chin, and, looking at him through half-closed eyes,
said: "Well, I do think, of all the conceited persons I ever met
you're the worst."
Martin's nostril curled.
"Are you prepared," he said, "to put a bullet in the donkey, or are
"I only see one donkey, and not a dying one!"
Martin stretched out his hand and gripped her arm below the elbow.
Retaining it luxuriously, he said: "Don't wander!"
Thyme tried to free her arm. "Let go!"
Martin was looking straight into her eyes. A flush had risen in his
Thyme, too, went the colour of the old-rose curtain behind which she
"I won't! I'll make you know your mind. What do you mean to do?
Are you coming in a fit of sentiment, or do you mean business?"
Suddenly, half-hypnotised, the young girl ceased to struggle. Her
face had the strangest expression of submission and defiance--a sort
of pain, a sort of delight. So they sat full half a minute staring
at each other's eyes. Hearing a rustling sound, they looked, and saw
Bianca moving to the door. Cecilia, too, had risen.
"What is it, B.?"
Bianca, opening the door, went out. Cecilia followed swiftly, too
late to catch even a glimpse of her sister's face behind the veil...
In Mr. Stone's room the green lamp burned dimly, and he who worked by
it was sitting on the edge of his campbed, attired in his old brown
woollen gown and slippers.
And suddenly it seemed to him that he was not alone.
"I have finished for to-night," he said. "I am waiting for the moon
to rise. She is nearly full; I shall see her face from here."
A form sat down by him on the bed, and a voice said softly:
"Like a woman's."
Mr. Stone saw his younger daughter. "You have your hat on. Are you
going out, my dear?"
"I saw your light as I came in."
"The moon," said Mr. Stone, "is an arid desert. Love is unknown
"How can you bear to look at her, then?" Bianca whispered.
Mr. Stone raised his finger. "She has risen."
The wan moon had slipped out into the darkness. Her light stole
across the garden and through the open window to the bed where they
"Where there is no love, Dad," Bianca said, "there can be no life,
Mr. Stone's eyes seemed to drink the moonlight.
"That," he said, "is the great truth. The bed is shaking!"
With her arms pressed tight across her breast, Bianca was struggling
with violent, noiseless sobbing. That desperate struggle seemed to
be tearing her to death before his eyes, and Mr. Stone sat silent,
trembling. He knew not what to do. From his frosted heart years of
Universal Brotherhood had taken all knowledge of how to help his
daughter. He could only sit touching her tremulously with thin
The form beside him, whose warmth he felt against his arm, grew
stiller, as though, in spite of its own loneliness, his helplessness
had made it feel that he, too; was lonely. It pressed a little
closer to him. The moonlight, gaining pale mastery over the
flickering lamp, filled the whole room.
Mr. Stone said: "I want her mother!"
The form beside him ceased to struggle.
Finding out an old, forgotten way, Mr. Stone's arm slid round that
"I do not know what to say to her," he muttered, and slowly he began
to rock himself.
"Motion," he said, "is soothing."
The moon passed on. The form beside him sat so still that Mr. Stone
ceased moving. His daughter was no longer sobbing. Suddenly her
lips seared his forehead.
Trembling from that desperate caress, he raised his fingers to the
spot and looked round.
She was gone.
HILARY DEALS WITH THE SITUATION
To understand the conduct of Hilary and Bianca at what "Westminister"
would have called this "crisax," not only their feelings as sentient
human beings, but their matrimonial philosophy, must be taken into
account. By education and environment they belonged to a section of
society which had "in those days" abandoned the more old-fashioned
views of marriage. Such as composed this section, finding themselves
in opposition, not only to the orthodox proprietary creed, but even
to their own legal rights, had been driven to an attitude of almost
blatant freedom. Like all folk in opposition, they were bound, as a
simple matter of principle, to disagree with those in power, to view
with a contemptuous resentment that majority which said, "I believe
the thing is mine, and mine it shall remain"--a majority which by
force of numbers made this creed the law. Unable legally to, be
other than the proprietors of wife or husband, as the case might be,
they were obliged, even in the most happy unions, to be very careful
not to become disgusted with their own position. Their legal status
was, as it were, a goad, spurring them on to show their horror of it.
They were like children sent to school with trousers that barely
reached their knees, aware that they could neither reduce their
stature to the proportions of their breeches nor make their breeches
grow. They were furnishing an instance of that immemorial "change of
form to form" to which Mr. Stone had given the name of Life. In a
past age thinkers and dreamers and "artistic pigs" rejecting the
forms they found, had given unconscious shape to this marriage law,
which, after they had become the wind, had formed itself out of their
exiled pictures and thoughts and dreams. And now this particular law
in turn was the dried rind, devoid of pips or speculation; and the
thinkers and dreamers and "artistic pigs" were again rejecting it,
and again themselves in exile.
This exiled faith, this honour amongst thieves, animated a little
conversation between Hilary and Bianca on the Tuesday following the
night when Mr. Stone sat on his bed to watch the rising moon.
Quietly Bianca said: "I think I shall be going away for a time."
"Wouldn't you rather that I went instead?" "You are wanted; I am
That ice-cold, ice-clear remark contained the pith of the whole
matter; and Hilary said:
"You are not going at once?"
"At the end of the week, I think."
Noting his eyes fixed on her, she added:
"Yes; we're neither of us looking quite our best."
"I am sorry."
"I know you are."
This had been all. It had been sufficient to bring Hilary once more
face to face with the situation.
Its constituent elements remained the same; relative values had much
changed. The temptations of St. Anthony were becoming more poignant
every hour. He had no "principles" to pit against them: he had
merely the inveterate distaste for hurting anybody, and a feeling
that if he yielded to his inclination he would be faced ultimately
with a worse situation than ever. It was not possible for him to
look at the position as Mr. Purcey might have done, if his wife had
withdrawn from him and a girl had put herself in his way. Neither
hesitation because of the defenceless position of the girl, nor
hesitation because of his own future with her, would have troubled
Mr. Purcey. He--good man--in his straightforward way, would have
only thought about the present--not, indeed, intending to have a
future with a young person of that class. Consideration for a wife
who had withdrawn from the society of Mr. Purcey would also naturally
have been absent from the equation. That Hilary worried over all
these questions was the mark of his 'fin de sieclism.' And in the
meantime the facts demanded a decision.
He had not spoken to this girl since the day of the baby's funeral,
but in that long look from the garden he had in effect said: 'You are
drawing me to the only sort of union possible to us!' And she in
effect had answered: 'Do what you like with me!'
There were other facts, too, to be reckoned with. Hughs would be
released to-morrow; the little model would not stop her visits unless
forced to; Mr. Stone could not well do without her; Bianca had in
effect declared that she was being driven out of her own house. It
was this situation which Hilary, seated beneath the bust of Socrates,
turned over and over in his mind. Long and painful reflection
brought him back continually to the thought that he himself, and not
Bianca, had better go away. He was extremely bitter and contemptuous
towards himself that he had not done so long ago. He made use of the
names Martin had given him. "Hamlet," "Amateur," "Invertebrate."
They gave him, unfortunately, little comfort.
In the afternoon he received a visit. Mr. Stone came in with his
osier fruit-bag in his hand. He remained standing, and spoke at
"Is my daughter happy?"
At this unexpected question Hilary walked over to the fireplace.
"No," he said at last; "I am afraid she is not."
Hilary was silent; then, facing the old man, he said:
"I think she will be glad, for certain reasons, if I go away for a
"When are you going?" asked Mr. Stone.