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Howards End by E. M. Forster

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Howards End

by E. M. Forster

One may as well begin with Helen's letters to her sister.

"Howards End,
"Dearest Meg,

"It isn't going to be what we expected. It is old and little, and
altogether delightful--red brick. We can scarcely pack in as it
is, and the dear knows what will happen when Paul (younger son)
arrives to-morrow. From hall you go right or left into
dining-room or drawing-room. Hall itself is practically a room.
You open another door in it, and there are the stairs going up in
a sort of tunnel to the first-floor. Three bed-rooms in a row
there, and three attics in a row above. That isn't all the house
really, but it's all that one notices--nine windows as you look
up from the front garden.

"Then there's a very big wych-elm--to the left as you look
up--leaning a little over the house, and standing on the boundary
between the garden and meadow. I quite love that tree already.
Also ordinary elms, oaks--no nastier than ordinary oaks--
pear-trees, apple-trees, and a vine. No silver birches, though.
However, I must get on to my host and hostess. I only wanted to
show that it isn't the least what we expected. Why did we settle
that their house would be all gables and wiggles, and their
garden all gamboge-coloured paths? I believe simply because we
associate them with expensive hotels--Mrs. Wilcox trailing in
beautiful dresses down long corridors, Mr. Wilcox bullying
porters, etc. We females are that unjust.

"I shall be back Saturday; will let you know train later. They
are as angry as I am that you did not come too; really Tibby is
too tiresome, he starts a new mortal disease every month. How
could he have got hay fever in London? and even if he could, it
seems hard that you should give up a visit to hear a schoolboy
sneeze. Tell him that Charles Wilcox (the son who is here) has
hay fever too, but he's brave, and gets quite cross when we
inquire after it. Men like the Wilcoxes would do Tibby a power of
good. But you won't agree, and I'd better change the subject.

"This long letter is because I'm writing before breakfast. Oh,
the beautiful vine leaves! The house is covered with a vine. I
looked out earlier, and Mrs. Wilcox was already in the garden.
She evidently loves it. No wonder she sometimes looks tired. She
was watching the large red poppies come out. Then she walked off
the lawn to the meadow, whose corner to the right I can just see.
Trail, trail, went her long dress over the sopping grass, and she
came back with her hands full of the hay that was cut yesterday--
I suppose for rabbits or something, as she kept on smelling it.
The air here is delicious. Later on I heard the noise of croquet
balls, and looked out again, and it was Charles Wilcox
practising; they are keen on all games. Presently he started
sneezing and had to stop. Then I hear more clicketing, and it
is Mr. Wilcox practising, and then, 'a-tissue, a-tissue': he
has to stop too. Then Evie comes out, and does some calisthenic
exercises on a machine that is tacked on to a green-gage-tree--
they put everything to use--and then she says 'a-tissue,' and in
she goes. And finally Mrs. Wilcox reappears, trail, trail, still
smelling hay and looking at the flowers. I inflict all this on
you because once you said that life is sometimes life and
sometimes only a drama, and one must learn to distinguish
tother from which, and up to now I have always put that down as
'Meg's clever nonsense.' But this morning, it really does seem
not life but a play, and it did amuse me enormously to watch the
W's. Now Mrs. Wilcox has come in.

"I am going to wear [omission]. Last night Mrs. Wilcox wore an
[omission], and Evie [omission]. So it isn't exactly a
go-as-you-please place, and if you shut your eyes it still seems
the wiggly hotel that we expected. Not if you open them. The
dog-roses are too sweet. There is a great hedge of them over the
lawn--magnificently tall, so that they fall down in garlands, and
nice and thin at the bottom, so that you can see ducks through it
and a cow. These belong to the farm, which is the only house near
us. There goes the breakfast gong. Much love. Modified love to
Tibby. Love to Aunt Juley; how good of her to come and keep you
company, but what a bore. Burn this. Will write again Thursday.


Howards End

"Dearest Meg,

"I am having a glorious time. I like them all. Mrs. Wilcox, if
quieter than in Germany, is sweeter than ever, and I never saw
anything like her steady unselfishness, and the best of it is
that the others do not take advantage of her. They are the very
happiest, jolliest family that you can imagine. I do really feel
that we are making friends. The fun of it is that they think me a
noodle, and say so--at least, Mr. Wilcox does--and when that
happens, and one doesn't mind, it's a pretty sure test, isn't
it? He says the most horrid things about woman's suffrage so
nicely, and when I said I believed in equality he just folded his
arms and gave me such a setting down as I've never had. Meg,
shall we ever learn to talk less? I never felt so ashamed of
myself in my life. I couldn't point to a time when men had been
equal, nor even to a time when the wish to be equal had made them
happier in other ways. I couldn't say a word. I had just picked
up the notion that equality is good from some book--probably from
poetry, or you. Anyhow, it's been knocked into pieces, and, like
all people who are really strong, Mr. Wilcox did it without
hurting me. On the other hand, I laugh at them for catching hay
fever. We live like fighting-cocks, and Charles takes us out
every day in the motor--a tomb with trees in it, a hermit's
house, a wonderful road that was made by the Kings of Mercia--
tennis--a cricket match--bridge and at night we squeeze up in
this lovely house. The whole clan's here now--it's like a rabbit
warren. Evie is a dear. They want me to stop over Sunday--I
suppose it won't matter if I do. Marvellous weather and the views
marvellous--views westward to the high ground. Thank you for your
letter. Burn this.

"Your affectionate

"Howards End,

"Dearest, dearest Meg,--I do not know what you will say: Paul and
I are in love--the younger son who only came here Wednesday."


Margaret glanced at her sister's note and pushed it over the
breakfast-table to her aunt. There was a moment's hush, and then
the flood-gates opened.

"I can tell you nothing, Aunt Juley. I know no more than you do.
We met--we only met the father and mother abroad last spring. I
know so little that I didn't even know their son's name. It's all
so--" She waved her hand and laughed a little.

"In that case it is far too sudden."

"Who knows, Aunt Juley, who knows?"

"But, Margaret, dear, I mean, we mustn't be unpractical now that
we've come to facts. It is too sudden, surely."

"Who knows!"

"But, Margaret, dear--"

"I'll go for her other letters," said Margaret. "No, I won't,
I'll finish my breakfast. In fact, I haven't them. We met the
Wilcoxes on an awful expedition that we made from Heidelberg to
Speyer. Helen and I had got it into our heads that there was a
grand old cathedral at Speyer--the Archbishop of Speyer was one
of the seven electors--you know--'Speyer, Maintz, and
Koln.' Those three sees once commanded the Rhine Valley and got
it the name of Priest Street."

"I still feel quite uneasy about this business, Margaret."

"The train crossed by a bridge of boats, and at first sight it
looked quite fine. But oh, in five minutes we had seen the whole
thing. The cathedral had been ruined, absolutely ruined, by
restoration; not an inch left of the original structure. We
wasted a whole day, and came across the Wilcoxes as we were
eating our sandwiches in the public gardens. They too, poor
things, had been taken in--they were actually stopping at
Speyer--and they rather liked Helen's insisting that they must
fly with us to Heidelberg. As a matter of fact, they did come on
next day. We all took some drives together. They knew us well
enough to ask Helen to come and see them--at least, I was asked
too, but Tibby's illness prevented me, so last Monday she went
alone. That's all. You know as much as I do now. It's a young man
out of the unknown. She was to have come back Saturday, but put
off till Monday, perhaps on account of--I don't know."

She broke off, and listened to the sounds of a London morning.
Their house was in Wickham Place, and fairly quiet, for a lofty
promontory of buildings separated it from the main thoroughfare.
One had the sense of a backwater, or rather of an estuary, whose
waters flowed in from the invisible sea, and ebbed into a
profound silence while the waves without were still beating.
Though the promontory consisted of flats--expensive, with
cavernous entrance halls, full of concierges and palms--it
fulfilled its purpose, and gained for the older houses opposite a
certain measure of peace.

These, too, would be swept away in time, and another
promontory would arise upon their site, as humanity piled itself
higher and higher on the precious soil of London.

Mrs. Munt had her own method of interpreting her nieces. She
decided that Margaret was a little hysterical, and was trying to
gain time by a torrent of talk. Feeling very diplomatic, she
lamented the fate of Speyer, and declared that never, never
should she be so misguided as to visit it, and added of her own
accord that the principles of restoration were ill understood in
Germany. "The Germans," she said, "are too thorough, and this is
all very well sometimes, but at other times it does not do."

"Exactly," said Margaret; "Germans are too thorough." And her
eyes began to shine.

"Of course I regard you Schlegels as English," said Mrs. Munt
hastily--"English to the backbone."

Margaret leaned forward and stroked her hand.

"And that reminds me--Helen's letter."

"Oh yes, Aunt Juley, I am thinking all right about Helen's
letter. I know--I must go down and see her. I am thinking about
her all right. I am meaning to go down."

"But go with some plan," said Mrs. Munt, admitting into her
kindly voice a note of exasperation. "Margaret, if I may
interfere, don't be taken by surprise. What do you think of the
Wilcoxes? Are they our sort? Are they likely people? Could they
appreciate Helen, who is to my mind a very special sort of
person? Do they care about Literature and Art? That is most
important when you come to think of it. Literature and Art. Most
important. How old would the son be? She says 'younger son.'
Would he be in a position to marry? Is he likely to make Helen
happy? Did you gather--"

"I gathered nothing."

They began to talk at once.

"Then in that case--"

"In that case I can make no plans, don't you see."

"On the contrary--"

"I hate plans. I hate lines of action. Helen isn't a baby."

"Then in that case, my dear, why go down?"

Margaret was silent. If her aunt could not see why she must go
down, she was not going to tell her. She was not going to say, "I
love my dear sister; I must be near her at this crisis of her
life." The affections are more reticent than the passions, and
their expression more subtle. If she herself should ever fall in
love with a man, she, like Helen, would proclaim it from the
housetops, but as she loved only a sister she used the voiceless
language of sympathy.

"I consider you odd girls," continued Mrs. Munt, "and very
wonderful girls, and in many ways far older than your years.
But--you won't be offended? frankly, I feel you are not up to
this business. It requires an older person. Dear, I have nothing
call me back to Swanage." She spread out her plump arms. "I am
all at your disposal. Let me go down to this house whose name I
forget instead of you."

"Aunt Juley"--she jumped up and kissed her--"I must, must go
to Howards End myself. You don't exactly understand, though
I can never thank you properly for offering."

"I do understand," retorted Mrs. Munt, with immense confidence.
"I go down in no spirit of interference, but to make inquiries.
Inquiries are necessary. Now, I am going to be rude. You would
say the wrong thing; to a certainty you would. In your anxiety
for Helen's happiness you would offend the whole of these
Wilcoxes by asking one of your impetuous questions--not that one
minds offending them."

"I shall ask no questions. I have it in Helen's writing that she
and a man are in love. There is no question to ask as long as she
keeps to that. All the rest isn't worth a straw. A long
engagement if you like, but inquiries, questions, plans, lines of
action--no, Aunt Juley, no."

Away she hurried, not beautiful, not supremely brilliant, but
filled with something that took the place of both qualities--
something best described as a profound vivacity, a continual and
sincere response to all that she encountered in her path through

"If Helen had written the same to me about a shop assistant or a
penniless clerk--"

"Dear Margaret, do come into the library and shut the door. Your
good maids are dusting the banisters."

"--or if she had wanted to marry the man who calls for Carter
Paterson, I should have said the same." Then, with one of those
turns that convinced her aunt that she was not mad really, and
convinced observers of another type that she was not a barren
theorist, she added: "Though in the case of Carter Paterson I
should want it to be a very long engagement indeed, I must say."

"I should think so," said Mrs. Munt; "and, indeed, I can scarcely
follow you. Now, just imagine if you said anything of that sort
to the Wilcoxes. I understand it, but most good people would
think you mad. Imagine how disconcerting for Helen! What is
wanted is a person who will go slowly, slowly in this business,
and see how things are and where they are likely to lead to."

Margaret was down on this.

"But you implied just now that the engagement must be broken

"I think probably it must; but slowly."

"Can you break an engagement off slowly?" Her eyes lit up.
"What's an engagement made of, do you suppose? I think it's made
of some hard stuff that may snap, but can't break. It is
to the other ties of life. They stretch or bend. They admit of
degree. They're different."

"Exactly so. But won't you let me just run down to Howards House,
and save you all the discomfort? I will really not interfere, but
I do so thoroughly understand the kind of thing you Schlegels
want that one quiet look round will be enough for me."

Margaret again thanked her, again kissed her, and then ran
upstairs to see her brother.

He was not so well.

The hay fever had worried him a good deal all night. His head
ached, his eyes were wet, his mucous membrane, he informed her,
in a most unsatisfactory condition. The only thing that made life
worth living was the thought of Walter Savage Landor, from whose
Imaginary Conversations she had promised to read at frequent
intervals during the day.

It was rather difficult. Something must be done about Helen. She
must be assured that it is not a criminal offence to love at
first sight. A telegram to this effect would be cold and cryptic,
a personal visit seemed each moment more impossible. Now the
doctor arrived, and said that Tibby was quite bad. Might it
really be best to accept Aunt Juley's kind offer, and to send her
down to Howards End with a note?

Certainly Margaret was impulsive. She did swing rapidly from one
decision to another. Running downstairs into the library, she
cried: "Yes, I have changed my mind; I do wish that you would

There was a train from King's Cross at eleven. At half-past ten
Tibby, with rare self-effacement, fell asleep, and Margaret was
able to drive her aunt to the station.

"You will remember, Aunt Juley, not to be drawn into discussing
the engagement. Give my letter to Helen, and say whatever you
feel yourself, but do keep clear of the relatives. We have
scarcely got their names straight yet, and, besides, that sort of
thing is so uncivilised and wrong."

"So uncivilised?" queried Mrs. Munt, fearing that she was losing
the point of some brilliant remark.

"Oh, I used an affected word. I only meant would you please talk
the thing over only with Helen."

"Only with Helen."

"Because--" But it was no moment to expound the personal nature
of love. Even Margaret shrank from it, and contented herself with
stroking her good aunt's hand, and with meditating, half sensibly
and half poetically, on the journey that was about to begin from
King's Cross.

Like many others who have lived long in a great capital, she had
strong feelings about the various railway termini. They are our
gates to the glorious and the unknown. Through them we pass out
into adventure and sunshine, to them, alas! we return. In
Paddington all Cornwall is latent and the remoter west; down the
inclines of Liverpool Street lie fenlands and the illimitable
Broads; Scotland is through the pylons of Euston; Wessex behind
the poised chaos of Waterloo. Italians realise this, as is
natural; those of them who are so unfortunate as to serve as
waiters in Berlin call the Anhalt Bahnhof the Stazione d'Italia,
because by it they must return to their homes. And he is a chilly
Londoner who does not endow his stations with some personality,
and extend to them, however shyly, the emotions of fear and love.

To Margaret--I hope that it will not set the reader against her--
the station of King's Cross had always suggested Infinity. Its
very situation--withdrawn a little behind the facile splendours
of St. Pancras--implied a comment on the materialism of life.
Those two great arches, colourless, indifferent, shouldering
between them an unlovely clock, were fit portals for some eternal
adventure, whose issue might be prosperous, but would certainly
not be expressed in the ordinary language of prosperity. If you
think this ridiculous, remember that it is not Margaret who is
telling you about it; and let me hasten to add that they were in
plenty of time for the train; that Mrs. Munt, though she took a
second-class ticket, was put by the guard into a first (only two
"seconds" on the train, one smoking and the other babies--one
cannot be expected to travel with babies); and that Margaret, on
her return to Wickham Place, was confronted with the following

"All over. Wish I had never written. Tell no one--, HELEN."

But Aunt Juley was gone--gone irrevocably, and no power on earth
could stop her.


Most complacently did Mrs. Munt rehearse her mission. Her nieces
were independent young women, and it was not often that she was
able to help them. Emily's daughters had never been quite like
other girls. They had been left motherless when Tibby was born,
when Helen was five and Margaret herself but thirteen. It was
before the passing of the Deceased Wife's Sister Bill, so Mrs.
Munt could without impropriety offer to go and keep house at
Wickham Place. But her brother-in-law, who was peculiar and a
German, had referred the question to Margaret, who with the
crudity of youth had answered, "No, they could manage much better
alone." Five years later Mr. Schlegel had died too, and Mrs. Munt
had repeated her offer. Margaret, crude no longer, had been
grateful and extremely nice, but the substance of her answer had
been the same. "I must not interfere a third time," thought Mrs.
Munt. However, of course she did. She learnt, to her horror, that
Margaret, now of age, was taking her money out of the old safe
investments and putting it into Foreign Things, which always
smash. Silence would have been criminal. Her own fortune was
invested in Home Rails, and most ardently did she beg her niece
to imitate her. "Then we should be together, dear." Margaret, out
of politeness, invested a few hundreds in the Nottingham and
Derby Railway, and though the Foreign Things did admirably and
the Nottingham and Derby declined with the steady dignity of
which only Home Rails are capable, Mrs. Munt never ceased to
rejoice, and to say, "I did manage that, at all events. When the
smash comes poor Margaret will have a nest-egg to fall back
upon." This year Helen came of age, and exactly the same thing
happened in Helen's case; she also would shift her money out of
Consols, but she, too, almost without being pressed, consecrated
a fraction of it to the Nottingham and Derby Railway. So far so
good, but in social matters their aunt had accomplished nothing.
Sooner or later the girls would enter on the process known as
throwing themselves away, and if they had delayed hitherto, it
was only that they might throw themselves more vehemently in the
future. They saw too many people at Wickham Place--unshaven
musicians, an actress even, German cousins (one knows what
foreigners are), acquaintances picked up at Continental hotels
(one knows what they are too). It was interesting, and down at
Swanage no one appreciated culture more than Mrs. Munt; but it
was dangerous, and disaster was bound to come. How right she was,
and how lucky to be on the spot when the disaster came!

The train sped northward, under innumerable tunnels. It was only
an hour's journey, but Mrs. Munt had to raise and lower the
window again and again. She passed through the South Welwyn
Tunnel, saw light for a moment, and entered the North Welwyn
Tunnel, of tragic fame. She traversed the immense viaduct, whose
arches span untroubled meadows and the dreamy flow of Tewin
Water. She skirted the parks of politicians. At times the Great
North Road accompanied her, more suggestive of infinity than any
railway, awakening, after a nap of a hundred years, to such life
as is conferred by the stench of motor-cars, and to such culture
as is implied by the advertisements of antibilious pills. To
history, to tragedy, to the past, to the future, Mrs. Munt
remained equally indifferent; hers but to concentrate on the end
of her journey, and to rescue poor Helen from this dreadful mess.

The station for Howards End was at Hilton, one of the large
villages that are strung so frequently along the North Road, and
that owe their size to the traffic of coaching and pre-coaching
days. Being near London, it had not shared in the rural decay,
and its long High Street had budded out right and left into
residential estates. For about a mile a series of tiled and
slated houses passed before Mrs. Munt's inattentive eyes, a
series broken at one point by six Danish tumuli that stood
shoulder to shoulder along the highroad, tombs of soldiers.
Beyond these tumuli, habitations thickened, and the train came to
a standstill in a tangle that was almost a town.

The station, like the scenery, like Helen's letters, struck an
indeterminate note. Into which country will it lead, England or
Suburbia? It was new, it had island platforms and a subway, and
the superficial comfort exacted by business men. But it held
hints of local life, personal intercourse, as even Mrs. Munt was
to discover.

"I want a house," she confided to the ticket boy. "Its name is
Howards Lodge. Do you know where it is?"

"Mr. Wilcox!" the boy called.

A young man in front of them turned around.

"She's wanting Howards End."

There was nothing for it but to go forward, though Mrs. Munt was
too much agitated even to stare at the stranger. But remembering
that there were two brothers, she had the sense to say to him,
"Excuse me asking, but are you the younger Mr. Wilcox or the

"The younger. Can I do anything for you?"

"Oh, well"--she controlled herself with difficulty. "Really. Are
you? I--" She moved; away from the ticket boy and lowered her
voice. "I am Miss Schlegel's aunt. I ought to introduce myself,
oughtn't I? My name is Mrs. Munt."

She was conscious that he raised his cap and said quite coolly,
"Oh, rather; Miss Schlegel is stopping with us. Did you want to
see her?"


"I'll call you a cab. No; wait a mo--" He thought. "Our motor's
here. I'll run you up in it."

"That is very kind."

"Not at all, if you'll just wait till they bring out a parcel
from the office. This way."

"My niece is not with you by any chance?"

"No; I came over with my father. He has gone on north in your
train. You'll see Miss Schlegel at lunch. You're coming up to
lunch, I hope?"

"I should like to come UP," said Mrs. Munt, not committing
herself to nourishment until she had studied Helen's lover a
little more. He seemed a gentleman, but had so rattled her round
that her powers of observation were numbed. She glanced at him

To a feminine eye there was nothing amiss in the sharp
depressions at the corners of his mouth, or in the rather
box-like construction of his forehead. He was dark, clean-shaven,
and seemed accustomed to command.

"In front or behind? Which do you prefer? It may be windy in

"In front if I may; then we can talk."

"But excuse me one moment--I can't think what they're doing with
that parcel." He strode into the booking-office, and called with
a new voice: "Hi! hi, you there! Are you going to keep me waiting
all day? Parcel for Wilcox, Howards End. Just look sharp!"

Emerging, he said in quieter tones: "This station's abominably
organised; if I had my way, the whole lot of 'em should get the
sack. May I help you in?"

"This is very good of you," said Mrs. Munt, as she settled
herself into a luxurious cavern of red leather, and suffered her
person to be padded with rugs and shawls. She was more civil than
she had intended, but really this young man was very kind.
Moreover, she was a little afraid of him; his self-possession was
extraordinary. "Very good indeed," she repeated, adding: "It is
just what I should have wished."

"Very good of you to say so," he replied, with a slight look of
surprise, which, like most slight looks, escaped Mrs. Munt's
attention. "I was just tooling my father over to catch the down

"You see, we heard from Helen this morning."

Young Wilcox was pouring in petrol, starting his engine, and
performing other actions with which this story has no concern.
The great car began to rock, and the form of Mrs. Munt, trying to
explain things, sprang agreeably up and down among the red
cushions. "The mater will be very glad to see you," he mumbled.
"Hi! I say. Parcel. Parcel for Howards End. Bring it out. Hi!"

A bearded porter emerged with the parcel in one hand and an entry
book in the other. With the gathering whir of the motor these
ejaculations mingled: "Sign, must I? Why the--should I sign after
all this bother? Not even got a pencil on you? Remember next time
I report you to the station-master. My time's of value, though
yours mayn't be. Here"--here being a tip.

"Extremely sorry, Mrs. Munt."

"Not at all, Mr. Wilcox."

"And do you object to going through the village? It is rather a
longer spin, but I have one or two commissions."

"I should love going through the village. Naturally I am very
anxious to talk things over with you."

As she said this she felt ashamed, for she was disobeying
Margaret's instructions. Only disobeying them in the letter,
surely. Margaret had only warned her against discussing the
incident with outsiders. Surely it was not "uncivilised or wrong"
to discuss it with the young man himself, since chance had thrown
them together.

A reticent fellow, he made no reply. Mounting by her side, he put
on gloves and spectacles, and off they drove, the bearded porter
--life is a mysterious business--looking after them with

The wind was in their faces down the station road, blowing the
dust into Mrs. Munt's eyes. But as soon as they turned into the
Great North Road she opened fire. "You can well imagine," she
said, "that the news was a great shock to us."

"What news?"

"Mr. Wilcox," she said frankly, "Margaret has told me everything
--everything. I have seen Helen's letter."

He could not look her in the face, as his eyes were fixed on his
work; he was travelling as quickly as he dared down the High
Street. But he inclined his head in her direction, and said: "I
beg your pardon; I didn't catch."

"About Helen. Helen, of course. Helen is a very exceptional
person--I am sure you will let me say this, feeling towards her
as you do--indeed, all the Schlegels are exceptional. I come in
no spirit of interference, but it was a great shock."

They drew up opposite a draper's. Without replying, he turned
round in his seat, and contemplated the cloud of dust that they
had raised in their passage through the village. It was settling
again, but not all into the road from which he had taken it. Some
of it had percolated through the open windows, some had whitened
the roses and gooseberries of the wayside gardens, while a
certain proportion had entered the lungs of the villagers. "I
wonder when they'll learn wisdom and tar the roads," was his
comment. Then a man ran out of the draper's with a roll of
oilcloth, and off they went again.

"Margaret could not come herself, on account of poor Tibby, so I
am here to represent her and to have a good talk."

"I'm sorry to be so dense," said the young man, again drawing up
outside a shop. "But I still haven't quite understood."

"Helen, Mr. Wilcox--my niece and you."

He pushed up his goggles and gazed at her, absolutely
bewildered. Horror smote her to the heart, for even she began to
suspect that they were at cross-purposes, and that she had
commenced her mission by some hideous blunder.

"Miss Schlegel and myself?" he asked, compressing his lips.

"I trust there has been no misunderstanding," quavered Mrs. Munt.
"Her letter certainly read that way."

"What way?"

"That you and she--" She paused, then drooped her eyelids.

"I think I catch your meaning," he said stickily. "What an
extraordinary mistake!"

"Then you didn't the least--" she stammered, getting blood-red in
the face, and wishing she had never been born.

"Scarcely, as I am already engaged to another lady." There was a
moment's silence, and then he caught his breath and exploded
with, "Oh, good God! Don't tell me it 's some silliness of

"But you are Paul."

"I'm not."

"Then why did you say so at the station?"

"I said nothing of the sort."

"I beg your pardon, you did."

"I beg your pardon, I did not. My name is Charles."

"Younger" may mean son as opposed to father, or second brother as
opposed to first. There is much to be said for either view, and
later on they said it. But they had other questions before them

"Do you mean to tell me that Paul--"

But she did not like his voice. He sounded as if he was talking
to a porter, and, certain that he had deceived her at the
station, she too grew angry.

"Do you mean to tell me that Paul and your niece--"

Mrs. Munt--such is human nature--determined that she would
champion the lovers. She was not going to be bullied by a severe
young man. "Yes, they care for one another very much indeed," she
said. "I dare say they will tell you about it by-and-by. We
heard this morning."

And Charles clenched his fist and cried, "The idiot, the idiot,
the little fool!"

Mrs. Munt tried to divest herself of her rugs. "If that is your
attitude, Mr. Wilcox, I prefer to walk."

"I beg you will do no such thing. I take you up this moment to
the house. Let me tell you the thing's impossible, and must be

Mrs. Munt did not often lose her temper, and when she did it was
only to protect those whom she loved. On this occasion she blazed
out. "I quite agree, sir. The thing is impossible, and I will
come up and stop it. My niece is a very exceptional person, and I
am not inclined to sit still while she throws herself away on
those who will not appreciate her."

Charles worked his jaws.

"Considering she has only known your brother since Wednesday, and
only met your father and mother at a stray hotel--"

"Could you possibly lower your voice? The shopman will overhear."

Esprit de classe--if one may coin the phrase--was strong in Mrs.
Munt. She sat quivering while a member of the lower orders
deposited a metal funnel, a saucepan, and a garden squirt beside
the roll of oilcloth.

"Right behind?"

"Yes, sir." And the lower orders vanished in a cloud of dust.

"I warn you: Paul hasn't a penny; it's useless."

"No need to warn us, Mr. Wilcox, I assure you. The warning is all
the other way. My niece has been very foolish, and I shall give
her a good scolding and take her back to London with me."

"He has to make his way out in Nigeria. He couldn't think of
marrying for years, and when he does it must be a woman who can
stand the climate, and is in other ways-- Why hasn't he told us?
Of course he's ashamed. He knows he's been a fool. And so he has
--a downright fool."

She grew furious.

"Whereas Miss Schlegel has lost no time in publishing the news."

"If I were a man, Mr. Wilcox, for that last remark I'd box your
ears. You're not fit to clean my niece's boots, to sit in the
same room with her, and you dare--you actually dare-- I decline
to argue with such a person."

"All I know is, she's spread the thing and he hasn't, and my
father's away and I--"

"And all that I know is--"

"Might I finish my sentence, please?"


Charles clenched his teeth and sent the motor swerving all over
the lane.

She screamed.

So they played the game of Capping Families, a round of which is
always played when love would unite two members of our race. But
they played it with unusual vigour, stating in so many words that
Schlegels were better than Wilcoxes, Wilcoxes better than
Schlegels. They flung decency aside. The man was young, the woman
deeply stirred; in both a vein of coarseness was latent. Their
quarrel was no more surprising than are most quarrels--inevitable
at the time, incredible afterwards. But it was more than usually
futile. A few minutes, and they were enlightened. The motor drew
up at Howards End, and Helen, looking very pale, ran out to meet
her aunt.

"Aunt Juley, I have just had a telegram from Margaret; I--I meant
to stop your coming. It isn't--it's over."

The climax was too much for Mrs. Munt. She burst into tears.

"Aunt Juley dear, don't. Don't let them know I've been so silly.
It wasn't anything. Do bear up for my sake."

"Paul," cried Charles Wilcox, pulling his gloves off.

"Don't let them know. They are never to know."

"Oh, my darling Helen--"

"Paul! Paul!"

A very young man came out of the house.

"Paul, is there any truth in this?"

"I didn't--I don't--"

"Yes or no, man; plain question, plain answer. Did or didn't
Miss Schlegel--"

"Charles, dear," said a voice from the garden. "Charles, dear
Charles, one doesn't ask plain questions. There aren't such

They were all silent. It was Mrs. Wilcox.

She approached just as Helen's letter had described her, trailing
noiselessly over the lawn, and there was actually a wisp of hay
in her hands. She seemed to belong not to the young people and
their motor, but to the house, and to the tree that overshadowed
it. One knew that she worshipped the past, and that the
instinctive wisdom the past can alone bestow had descended upon
her--that wisdom to which we give the clumsy name of aristocracy.
High born she might not be. But assuredly she cared about her
ancestors, and let them help her. When she saw Charles angry,
Paul frightened, and Mrs. Munt in tears, she heard her ancestors
say, "Separate those human beings who will hurt each other most.
The rest can wait." So she did not ask questions. Still less did
she pretend that nothing had happened, as a competent society
hostess would have done. She said: "Miss Schlegel, would you take
your aunt up to your room or to my room, whichever you think
best. Paul, do find Evie, and tell her lunch for six, but I'm not
sure whether we shall all be downstairs for it." And when they
had obeyed her, she turned to her elder son, who still stood in
the throbbing, stinking car, and smiled at him with tenderness,
and without saying a word, turned away from him towards her

"Mother," he called, "are you aware that Paul has been playing
the fool again?"

"It is all right, dear. They have broken off the engagement."


"They do not love any longer, if you prefer it put that way,"
said Mrs. Wilcox, stooping down to smell a rose.


Helen and her aunt returned to Wickham Place in a state of
collapse, and for a little time Margaret had three invalids on
her hands. Mrs. Munt soon recovered. She possessed to a
remarkable degree the power of distorting the past, and before
many days were over she had forgotten the part played by her own
imprudence in the catastrophe. Even at the crisis she had cried,
"Thank goodness, poor Margaret is saved this!" which during the
journey to London evolved into, "It had to be gone through by
some one," which in its turn ripened into the permanent form of
"The one time I really did help Emily's girls was over the Wilcox
business." But Helen was a more serious patient. New ideas had
burst upon her like a thunderclap, and by them and by their
reverberations she had been stunned.

The truth was that she had fallen in love, not with an
individual, but with a family.

Before Paul arrived she had, as it were, been tuned up into his
key. The energy of the Wilcoxes had fascinated her, had created
new images of beauty in her responsive mind. To be all day with
them in the open air, to sleep at night under their roof, had
seemed the supreme joy of life, and had led to that abandonment
of personality that is a possible prelude to love. She had liked
giving in to Mr. Wilcox, or Evie, or Charles; she had liked being
told that her notions of life were sheltered or academic; that
Equality was nonsense, Votes for Women nonsense, Socialism
nonsense, Art and Literature, except when conducive to
strengthening the character, nonsense. One by one the Schlegel
fetiches had been overthrown, and, though professing to defend
them, she had rejoiced. When Mr. Wilcox said that one sound man
of business did more good to the world than a dozen of your
social reformers, she had swallowed the curious assertion without
a gasp, and had leant back luxuriously among the cushions of his
motorcar. When Charles said, "Why be so polite to servants? they
don't understand it," she had not given the Schlegel retort of,
"If they don't understand it, I do." No; she had vowed to be
less polite to servants in the future. "I am swathed in cant,"
she thought, "and it is good for me to be stripped of it." And
all that she thought or did or breathed was a quiet preparation
for Paul. Paul was inevitable. Charles was taken up with another
girl, Mr. Wilcox was so old, Evie so young, Mrs. Wilcox so
different. Round the absent brother she began to throw the halo
of Romance, to irradiate him with all the splendour of those
happy days, to feel that in him she should draw nearest to the
robust ideal. He and she were about the same age, Evie said. Most
people thought Paul handsomer than his brother. He was certainly
a better shot, though not so good at golf. And when Paul
appeared, flushed with the triumph of getting through an
examination, and ready to flirt with any pretty girl, Helen met
him halfway, or more than halfway, and turned towards him on the
Sunday evening.

He had been talking of his approaching exile in Nigeria, and he
should have continued to talk of it, and allowed their guest to
recover. But the heave of her bosom flattered him. Passion was
possible, and he became passionate. Deep down in him something
whispered, "This girl would let you kiss her; you might not have
such a chance again."

That was "how it happened," or, rather, how Helen described it to
her sister, using words even more unsympathetic than my own. But
the poetry of that kiss, the wonder of it, the magic that there
was in life for hours after it--who can describe that? It is so
easy for an Englishman to sneer at these chance collisions of
human beings. To the insular cynic and the insular moralist they
offer an equal opportunity. It is so easy to talk of "passing
emotion," and to forget how vivid the emotion was ere it passed.
Our impulse to sneer, to forget, is at root a good one. We
recognise that emotion is not enough, and that men and women are
personalities capable of sustained relations, not mere
opportunities for an electrical discharge. Yet we rate the
impulse too highly. We do not admit that by collisions of this
trivial sort the doors of heaven may be shaken open. To Helen, at
all events, her life was to bring nothing more intense than the
embrace of this boy who played no part in it. He had drawn her
out of the house, where there was danger of surprise and light;
he had led her by a path he knew, until they stood under the
column of the vast wych-elm. A man in the darkness, he had
whispered "I love you" when she was desiring love. In time his
slender personality faded, the scene that he had evoked endured.
In all the variable years that followed she never saw the like of
it again.

"I understand," said Margaret--s"at least, I understand as much
as ever is understood of these things. Tell me now what happened
on the Monday morning."

"It was over at once."

"How, Helen?"

"I was still happy while I dressed, but as I came downstairs I
got nervous, and when I went into the dining-room I knew it was
no good. There was Evie--I can't explain--managing the tea-urn,
and Mr. Wilcox reading the Times."

"Was Paul there?"

"Yes; and Charles was talking to him about stocks and shares, and
he looked frightened."

By slight indications the sisters could convey much to each
other. Margaret saw horror latent in the scene, and Helen's next
remark did not surprise her.

"Somehow, when that kind of man looks frightened it is too awful.
It is all right for us to be frightened, or for men of another
sort--father, for instance; but for men like that! When I saw all
the others so placid, and Paul mad with terror in case I said the
wrong thing, I felt for a moment that the whole Wilcox family was
a fraud, just a wall of newspapers and motor-cars and golf-clubs,
and that if it fell I should find nothing behind it but panic
and emptiness."

"I don't think that. The Wilcoxes struck me as being genuine
people, particularly the wife."

"No, I don't really think that. But Paul was so broad-shouldered;
all kinds of extraordinary things made it worse, and I knew that
it would never do--never. I said to him after breakfast, when the
others were practising strokes, 'We rather lost our heads,' and
he looked better at once, though frightfully ashamed. He began a
speech about having no money to marry on, but it hurt him to make
it, and I stopped him. Then he said, 'I must beg your pardon over
this, Miss Schlegel; I can't think what came over me last night.'
And I said, 'Nor what over me; never mind.' And then we parted--
at least, until I remembered that I had written straight off to
tell you the night before, and that frightened him again. I asked
him to send a telegram for me, for he knew you would be coming or
something; and he tried to get hold of the motor, but Charles and
Mr. Wilcox wanted it to go to the station; and Charles offered to
send the telegram for me, and then I had to say that the telegram
was of no consequence, for Paul said Charles might read it, and
though I wrote it out several times, he always said people would
suspect something. He took it himself at last, pretending that he
must walk down to get cartridges, and, what with one thing and
the other, it was not handed in at the post-office until too
late. It was the most terrible morning. Paul disliked me more and
more, and Evie talked cricket averages till I nearly screamed. I
cannot think how I stood her all the other days. At last Charles
and his father started for the station, and then came your
telegram warning me that Aunt Juley was coming by that train, and
Paul--oh, rather horrible--said that I had muddled it. But Mrs.
Wilcox knew."

"Knew what?"

"Everything; though we neither of us told her a word, and she had
known all along, I think."

"Oh, she must have overheard you."

"I suppose so, but it seemed wonderful. When Charles and Aunt
Juley drove up, calling each other names, Mrs. Wilcox stepped in
from the garden and made everything less terrible. Ugh! but it
has been a disgusting business. To think that--" She sighed.

"To think that because you and a young man meet for a moment,
there must be all these telegrams and anger," supplied Margaret.

Helen nodded.

"I've often thought about it, Helen. It's one of the most
interesting things in the world. The truth is that there is a
great outer life that you and I have never touched--a life in
which telegrams and anger count. Personal relations, that we
think supreme, are not supreme there. There love means marriage
settlements, death, death duties. So far I'm clear. But here my
difficulty. This outer life, though obviously horrid; often seems
the real one--there's grit in it. It does breed character. Do
personal relations lead to sloppiness in the end?"

"Oh, Meg--, that's what I felt, only not so clearly, when the
Wilcoxes were so competent, and seemed to have their hands on all
the ropes."

"Don't you feel it now?"

"I remember Paul at breakfast," said Helen quietly. "I shall
never forget him. He had nothing to fall back upon. I know that
personal relations are the real life, for ever and ever."


So the Wilcox episode fell into the background, leaving behind it
memories of sweetness and horror that mingled, and the sisters
pursued the life that Helen had commended. They talked to each
other and to other people, they filled the tall thin house at
Wickham Place with those whom they liked or could befriend. They
even attended public meetings. In their own fashion they cared
deeply about politics, though not as politicians would have us
care; they desired that public life should mirror whatever is
good in the life within. Temperance, tolerance, and sexual
equality were intelligible cries to them; whereas they did not
follow our Forward Policy in Tibet with the keen attention that
it merits, and would at times dismiss the whole British Empire
with a puzzled, if reverent, sigh. Not out of them are the shows
of history erected: the world would be a grey, bloodless place
were it composed entirely of Miss Schlegels. But the world being
what it is, perhaps they shine out in it like stars.

A word on their origin. They were not "English to the back-bone,"
as their aunt had piously asserted. But, on the other hand, they
were not "Germans of the dreadful sort." Their father had
belonged to a type that was more prominent in Germany fifty years
ago than now. He was not the aggressive German, so dear to the
English journalist, nor the domestic German, so dear to the
English wit. If one classed him at all it would be as the
countryman of Hegel and Kant, as the idealist, inclined to be
dreamy, whose Imperialism was the Imperialism of the air. Not
that his life had been inactive. He had fought like blazes
against Denmark, Austria, France. But he had fought without
visualising the results of victory. A hint of the truth broke on
him after Sedan, when he saw the dyed moustaches of Napoleon
going grey; another when he entered Paris, and saw the smashed
windows of the Tuileries. Peace came--it was all very immense,
one had turned into an Empire--but he knew that some quality had
vanished for which not all Alsace-Lorraine could compensate him.
Germany a commercial Power, Germany a naval Power, Germany with
colonies here and a Forward Policy there, and legitimate
aspirations in the other place, might appeal to others, and be
fitly served by them; for his own part, he abstained from the
fruits of victory, and naturalised himself in England. The more
earnest members of his family never forgave him, and knew that
his children, though scarcely English of the dreadful sort, would
never be German to the back-bone. He had obtained work in one of
our provincial universities, and there married Poor Emily (or
Die Englanderin, as the case may be), and as she had money,
they proceeded to London, and came to know a good many people.
But his gaze was always fixed beyond the sea. It was his hope
that the clouds of materialism obscuring the Fatherland would
part in time, and the mild intellectual light re-emerge. "Do you
imply that we Germans are stupid, Uncle Ernst?" exclaimed a
haughty and magnificent nephew. Uncle Ernst replied, "To my mind.
You use the intellect, but you no longer care about it. That I
call stupidity." As the haughty nephew did not follow, he
continued, "You only care about the things that you can use, and
therefore arrange them in the following order: Money, supremely
useful; intellect, rather useful; imagination, of no use at all.
No"--for the other had protested--"your Pan-Germanism is no more
imaginative than is our Imperialism over here. It is the vice of
a vulgar mind to be thrilled by bigness, to think that a thousand
square miles are a thousand times more wonderful than one square
mile, and that a million square miles are almost the same as
heaven. That is not imagination. No, it kills it. When their
poets over here try to celebrate bigness they are dead at once,
and naturally. Your poets too are dying, your philosophers, your
musicians, to whom Europe has listened for two hundred years.
Gone. Gone with the little courts that nurtured them--gone with
Esterhazy and Weimar. What? What's that? Your universities? Oh
yes, you have learned men, who collect more facts than do the
learned men of England. They collect facts, and facts, and
empires of facts. But which of them will rekindle the light

To all this Margaret listened, sitting on the haughty nephew's

It was a unique education for the little girls. The haughty
nephew would be at Wickham Place one day, bringing with him an
even haughtier wife, both convinced that Germany was appointed by
God to govern the world. Aunt Juley would come the next day,
convinced that Great Britain had been appointed to the same post
by the same authority. Were both these loud-voiced parties right?
On one occasion they had met and Margaret with clasped hands had
implored them to argue the subject out in her presence. Whereat
they blushed, and began to talk about the weather. "Papa," she
cried--she was a most offensive child--"why will they not discuss
this most clear question?" Her father, surveying the parties
grimly, replied that he did not know. Putting her head on one
side, Margaret then remarked, "To me one of two things is very
clear; either God does not know his own mind about England and
Germany, or else these do not know the mind of God." A hateful
little girl, but at thirteen she had grasped a dilemma that most
people travel through life without perceiving. Her brain darted
up and down; it grew pliant and strong. Her conclusion was, that
any human being lies nearer to the unseen than any organisation,
and from this she never varied.

Helen advanced along the same lines, though with a more
irresponsible tread. In character she resembled her sister, but
she was pretty, and so apt to have a more amusing time. People
gathered round her more readily, especially when they were new
acquaintances, and she did enjoy a little homage very much. When
their father died and they ruled alone at Wickham Place, she
often absorbed the whole of the company, while Margaret--both
were tremendous talkers--fell flat. Neither sister bothered about
this. Helen never apologised afterwards, Margaret did not feel
the slightest rancour. But looks have their influence upon
character. The sisters were alike as little girls, but at the
time of the Wilcox episode their methods were beginning to
diverge; the younger was rather apt to entice people, and, in
enticing them, to be herself enticed; the elder went straight
ahead, and accepted an occasional failure as part of the game.

Little need be premised about Tibby. He was now an intelligent
man of sixteen, but dyspeptic and difficile.


It will be generally admitted that Beethoven's Fifth Symphony is
the most sublime noise that has ever penetrated into the ear of
man. All sorts and conditions are satisfied by it. Whether you
are like Mrs. Munt, and tap surreptitiously when the tunes come--
of course, not so as to disturb the others--or like Helen, who
can see heroes and shipwrecks in the music's flood; or like
Margaret, who can only see the music; or like Tibby, who is
profoundly versed in counterpoint, and holds the full score open
on his knee; or like their cousin, Fraulein Mosebach, who
remembers all the time that Beethoven is echt Deutsch; or like
Fraulein Mosebach's young man, who can remember nothing but
Fraulein Mosebach: in any case, the passion of your life becomes
more vivid, and you are bound to admit that such a noise is cheap
at two shillings. It is cheap, even if you hear it in the Queen's
Hall, dreariest music-room in London, though not as dreary as the
Free Trade Hall, Manchester; and even if you sit on the extreme
left of that hall, so that the brass bumps at you before the
rest of the orchestra arrives, it is still cheap.

"Whom is Margaret talking to?" said Mrs. Munt, at the conclusion
of the first movement. She was again in London on a visit to
Wickham Place.

Helen looked down the long line of their party, and said that she
did not know.

"Would it be some young man or other whom she takes an interest

"I expect so," Helen replied. Music enwrapped her, and she could
not enter into the distinction that divides young men whom one
takes an interest in from young men whom one knows.

"You girls are so wonderful in always having--Oh dear! one
mustn't talk."

For the Andante had begun--very beautiful, but bearing a family
likeness to all the other beautiful Andantes that Beethoven had
written, and, to Helen's mind, rather disconnecting the heroes
and shipwrecks of the first movement from the heroes and goblins
of the third. She heard the tune through once, and then her
attention wandered, and she gazed at the audience, or the organ,
or the architecture. Much did she censure the attenuated Cupids
who encircle the ceiling of the Queen's Hall, inclining each to
each with vapid gesture, and clad in sallow pantaloons, on which
the October sunlight struck. "How awful to marry a man like those
Cupids!" thought Helen. Here Beethoven started decorating his
tune, so she heard him through once more, and then she smiled at
her Cousin Frieda. But Frieda, listening to Classical Music,
could not respond. Herr Liesecke, too, looked as if wild horses
could not make him inattentive; there were lines across his
forehead, his lips were parted, his pince-nez at right angles to
his nose, and he had laid a thick, white hand on either knee. And
next to her was Aunt Juley, so British, and wanting to tap. How
interesting that row of people was! What diverse influences had
gone to the making! Here Beethoven, after humming and hawing with
great sweetness, said "Heigho," and the Andante came to an end.
Applause, and a round of "wunderschoning" and pracht volleying
from the German contingent. Margaret started talking to her new
young man; Helen said to her aunt: "Now comes the wonderful
movement: first of all the goblins, and then a trio of elephants
dancing"; and Tibby implored the company generally to look out
for the transitional passage on the drum.

"On the what, dear?"

"On the drum, Aunt Juley."

"No; look out for the part where you think you have done with the
goblins and they come back," breathed Helen, as the music started
with a goblin walking quietly over the universe, from end to end.
Others followed him. They were not aggressive creatures; it was
that that made them so terrible to Helen. They merely observed in
passing that there was no such thing as splendour or heroism in
the world. After the interlude of elephants dancing, they
returned and made the observation for the second time. Helen
could not contradict them, for, once at all events, she had felt
the same, and had seen the reliable walls of youth collapse.
Panic and emptiness! Panic and emptiness! The goblins were right.
Her brother raised his finger; it was the transitional passage on
the drum.

For, as if things were going too far, Beethoven took hold of the
goblins and made them do what he wanted. He appeared in person.
He gave them a little push, and they began to walk in a major key
instead of in a minor, and then--he blew with his mouth and they
were scattered! Gusts of splendour, gods and demigods contending
with vast swords, colour and fragrance broadcast on the field of
battle, magnificent victory, magnificent death! Oh, it all burst
before the girl, and she even stretched out her gloved hands as
if it was tangible. Any fate was titanic; any contest desirable;
conqueror and conquered would alike be applauded by the angels of
the utmost stars.

And the goblins--they had not really been there at all? They were
only the phantoms of cowardice and unbelief? One healthy human
impulse would dispel them? Men like the Wilcoxes, or ex-President
Roosevelt, would say yes. Beethoven knew better. The goblins
really had been there. They might return--and they did. It was as
if the splendour of life might boil over and waste to steam and
froth. In its dissolution one heard the terrible, ominous note,
and a goblin, with increased malignity, walked quietly over the
universe from end to end. Panic and emptiness! Panic and
emptiness! Even the flaming ramparts of the world might fall.
Beethoven chose to make all right in the end. He built the
ramparts up. He blew with his mouth for the second time, and
again the goblins were scattered. He brought back the gusts of
splendour, the heroism, the youth, the magnificence of life and
of death, and, amid vast roarings of a superhuman joy, he led his
Fifth Symphony to its conclusion. But the goblins were there.
They could return. He had said so bravely, and that is why one
can trust Beethoven when he says other things.

Helen pushed her way out during the applause. She desired to be
alone. The music had summed up to her all that had happened or
could happen in her career.

She read it as a tangible statement, which could never be
superseded. The notes meant this and that to her, and they could
have no other meaning, and life could have no other meaning. She
pushed right out of the building and walked slowly down the
outside staircase, breathing the autumnal air, and then she
strolled home.

"Margaret," called Mrs. Munt, "is Helen all right?"

"Oh yes."

"She is always going away in the middle of a programme," said

"The music has evidently moved her deeply," said Fraulein

"Excuse me," said Margaret's young man, who had for some time
been preparing a sentence, "but that lady has, quite
inadvertently, taken my umbrella."

"Oh, good gracious me!--I am so sorry. Tibby, run after Helen."

"I shall miss the Four Serious Songs if I do."

"Tibby, love, you must go."

"It isn't of any consequence," said the young man, in truth a
little uneasy about his umbrella.

"But of course it is. Tibby! Tibby!"

Tibby rose to his feet, and wilfully caught his person on the
backs of the chairs. By the time he had tipped up the seat and
had found his hat, and had deposited his full score in safety, it
was "too late" to go after Helen. The Four Serious Songs had
begun, and one could not move during their performance.

"My sister is so careless," whispered Margaret.

"Not at all," replied the young man; but his voice was dead and

"If you would give me your address--"

"Oh, not at all, not at all;" and he wrapped his greatcoat over
his knees.

Then the Four Serious Songs rang shallow in Margaret's ears.
Brahms, for all his grumbling and grizzling, had never guessed
what it felt like to be suspected of stealing an umbrella. For
this fool of a young man thought that she and Helen and Tibby had
been playing the confidence trick on him, and that if he gave his
address they would break into his rooms some midnight or other
and steal his walking-stick too. Most ladies would have laughed,
but Margaret really minded, for it gave her a glimpse into
squalor. To trust people is a luxury in which only the wealthy
can indulge; the poor cannot afford it. As soon as Brahms had
grunted himself out, she gave him her card and said, "That is
where we live; if you preferred, you could call for the umbrella
after the concert, but I didn't like to trouble you when it has
all been our fault."

His face brightened a little when he saw that Wickham Place was
W. It was sad to see him corroded with suspicion, and yet not
daring to be impolite, in case these well-dressed people were
honest after all. She took it as a good sign that he said to her,
"It's a fine programme this afternoon, is it not?" for this was
the remark with which he had originally opened, before the
umbrella intervened.

"The Beethoven's fine," said Margaret, who was not a female of
the encouraging type. "I don't like the Brahms, though, nor the
Mendelssohn that came first and ugh! I don't like this Elgar
that's coming."

"What, what?" called Herr Liesecke, overhearing. "The 'Pomp and
Circumstance' will not be fine?"

"Oh, Margaret, you tiresome girl!" cried her aunt.

"Here have I been persuading Herr Liesecke to stop for 'Pomp and
Circumstance,' and you are undoing all my work. I am so anxious
for him to hear what WE are doing in music. Oh,--you musn't run
down our English composers, Margaret."

"For my part, I have heard the composition at Stettin," said
Fraulein Mosebach, "on two occasions. It is dramatic, a little."

"Frieda, you despise English music. You know you do. And English
art. And English literature, except Shakespeare, and he's a
German. Very well, Frieda, you may go."

The lovers laughed and glanced at each other. Moved by a common
impulse, they rose to their feet and fled from "Pomp and

"We have this call to pay in Finsbury Circus, it is true," said
Herr Liesecke, as he edged past her and reached the gangway just
as the music started.

"Margaret--" loudly whispered by Aunt Juley.

"Margaret, Margaret! Fraulein Mosebach has left her beautiful
little bag behind her on the seat."

Sure enough, there was Frieda's reticule, containing her address
book, her pocket dictionary, her map of London, and her money.

"Oh, what a bother--what a family we are! Fr--frieda!"

"Hush!" said all those who thought the music fine.

"But it's the number they want in Finsbury Circus."

"Might I--couldn't I--" said the suspicious young man, and got
very red.

"Oh, I would be so grateful."

He took the bag--money clinking inside it--and slipped up the
gangway with it. He was just in time to catch them at the
swing-door, and he received a pretty smile from the German girl
and a fine bow from her cavalier. He returned to his seat
upsides with the world. The trust that they had reposed in him
was trivial, but he felt that it cancelled his mistrust for them,
and that probably he would not be "had" over his umbrella. This
young man had been "had" in the past badly, perhaps
overwhelmingly--and now most of his energies went in defending
himself against the unknown. But this afternoon--perhaps on
account of music--he perceived that one must slack off
occasionally or what is the good of being alive? Wickham Place,
W., though a risk, was as safe as most things, and he would risk

So when the concert was over and Margaret said, "We live quite
near; I am going there now. Could you walk round with me, and
we'll find your umbrella?" he said, "Thank you," peaceably, and
followed her out of the Queen's Hall. She wished that he was not
so anxious to hand a lady downstairs, or to carry a lady's
programme for her--his class was near enough her own for its
manners to vex her. But she found him interesting on the whole--
every one interested the Schlegels on the whole at that time--and
while her lips talked culture, her heart was planning to invite
him to tea.

"How tired one gets after music!" she began.

"Do you find the atmosphere of Queen's Hall oppressive?"

"Yes, horribly."

"But surely the atmosphere of Covent Garden is even more

"Do you go there much?"

"When my work permits, I attend the gallery for the Royal Opera."

Helen would have exclaimed, "So do I. I love the gallery," and
thus have endeared herself to the young man. Helen could do these
things. But Margaret had an almost morbid horror of "drawing
people out," of "making things go." She had been to the gallery
at Covent Garden, but she did not "attend" it, preferring the
more expensive seats; still less did she love it. So she made no

"This year I have been three times--to 'Faust,' 'Tosca,' and--"
Was it "Tannhouser" or "Tannhoyser"? Better not risk the word.

Margaret disliked "Tosca" and "Faust." And so, for one reason and
another, they walked on in silence, chaperoned by the voice of
Mrs. Munt, who was getting into difficulties with her nephew.

"I do in a WAY remember the passage, Tibby, but when every
instrument is so beautiful, it is difficult to pick out one thing
rather than another. I am sure that you and Helen take me to the
very nicest concerts. Not a dull note from beginning to end. I
only wish that our German friends had stayed till it finished."

"But surely you haven't forgotten the drum steadily beating on
the low C, Aunt Juley?" came Tibby's voice. "No one could. It's

"A specially loud part?" hazarded Mrs. Munt. "Of course I do not
go in for being musical," she added, the shot failing. "I only
care for music--a very different thing. But still I will say this
for myself--I do know when I like a thing and when I don't. Some
people are the same about pictures. They can go into a picture
gallery--Miss Conder can--and say straight off what they feel,
all round the wall. I never could do that. But music is so
different from pictures, to my mind. When it comes to music I am
as safe as houses, and I assure you, Tibby, I am by no means
pleased by everything. There was a thing--something about a faun
in French--which Helen went into ecstasies over, but I thought it
most tinkling and superficial, and said so, and I held to my
opinion too."

"Do you agree?" asked Margaret. "Do you think music is so
different from pictures?"

"I--I should have thought so, kind of," he said.

"So should I. Now, my sister declares they're just the same. We
have great arguments over it. She says I'm dense; I say she's
sloppy." Getting under way, she cried: "Now, doesn't it seem
absurd to you? What is the good of the Arts if they 're
interchangeable? What is the good of the ear if it tells you the
same as the eye? Helen's one aim is to translate tunes into the
language of painting, and pictures into the language of music.
It's very ingenious, and she says several pretty things in the
process, but what's gained, I'd like to know? Oh, it's all
rubbish, radically false. If Monet's really Debussy, and
Debussy's really Monet, neither gentleman is worth his salt--
that's my opinion."

Evidently these sisters quarrelled.

"Now, this very symphony that we've just been having--she won't
let it alone. She labels it with meanings from start to finish;
turns it into literature. I wonder if the day will ever return
when music will be treated as music. Yet I don't know. There's my
brother--behind us. He treats music as music, and oh, my
He makes me angrier than any one, simply furious. With him I
daren't even argue."

An unhappy family, if talented.

"But, of course, the real villain is Wagner. He has done more
than any man in the nineteenth century towards the muddling of
the arts. I do feel that music is in a very serious state just
now, though extraordinarily interesting. Every now and then in
history there do come these terrible geniuses, like Wagner, who
stir up all the wells of thought at once. For a moment it's
splendid. Such a splash as never was. But afterwards--such a lot
of mud; and the wells--as it were, they communicate with each
other too easily now, and not one of them will run quite clear.
That's what Wagner's done."

Her speeches fluttered away from the young man like birds. If
only he could talk like this, he would have caught the world. Oh,
to acquire culture! Oh, to pronounce foreign names correctly! Oh,
to be well informed, discoursing at ease on every subject that a
lady started! But it would take one years. With an hour at lunch
and a few shattered hours in the evening, how was it possible to
catch up with leisured women, who had been reading steadily from
childhood? His brain might be full of names, he might have even
heard of Monet and Debussy; the trouble was that he could not
string them together into a sentence, he could not make them
"tell," he could not quite forget about his stolen umbrella. Yes,
the umbrella was the real trouble. Behind Monet and Debussy the
umbrella persisted, with the steady beat of a drum. "I suppose my
umbrella will be all right," he was thinking. "I don't really
mind about it. I will think about music instead. I suppose my
umbrella will be all right." Earlier in the afternoon he had
worried about seats. Ought he to have paid as much as two
shillings? Earlier still he had wondered, "Shall I try to do
without a programme?" There had always been something to worry
him ever since he could remember, always something that
distracted him in the pursuit of beauty. For he did pursue
beauty, and, therefore, Margaret's speeches did flutter away from
him like birds.

Margaret talked ahead, occasionally saying, "Don't you think so?
don't you feel the same?" And once she stopped, and said, "Oh, do
interrupt me!" which terrified him. She did not attract him,
though she filled him with awe. Her figure was meagre, her face
seemed all teeth and eyes, her references to her sister and her
brother were uncharitable. For all her cleverness and culture,
she was probably one of those soulless, atheistical women who
have been so shown up by Miss Corelli. It was surprising (and
alarming) that she should suddenly say, "I do hope that you'll
come in and have some tea. We should be so glad. I have dragged
you so far out of your way."

They had arrived at Wickham Place. The sun had set, and the
backwater, in deep shadow, was filling with a gentle haze. To the
right the fantastic sky-line of the flats towered black against
the hues of evening; to the left the older houses raised a
square-cut, irregular parapet against the grey. Margaret fumbled
for her latch-key. Of course she had forgotten it. So, grasping
her umbrella by its ferrule, she leant over the area and tapped
at the dining-room window.

"Helen! Let us in!"

"All right," said a voice.

"You've been taking this gentleman's umbrella."

"Taken a what?" said Helen, opening the door. "Oh, what's that?
Do come in! How do you do?"

"Helen, you must not be so ramshackly. You took this gentleman's
umbrella away from Queen's Hall, and he has had the trouble of
coming round for it."

"Oh, I am so sorry!" cried Helen, all her hair flying. She had
pulled off her hat as soon as she returned, and had flung herself
into the big dining-room chair. "I do nothing but steal
umbrellas. I am so very sorry! Do come in and choose one. Is yours
a hooky or a nobbly? Mine's a nobbly--at least, I THINK it is."

The light was turned on, and they began to search the hall,
Helen, who had abruptly parted with the Fifth Symphony,
commenting with shrill little cries.

"Don't you talk, Meg,! You stole an old gentleman's silk top-hat.
Yes, she did, Aunt Juley. It is a positive fact. She thought it
was a muff. Oh, heavens! I've knocked the In-and-Out card down.
Where's Frieda? Tibby, why don't you ever-- No, I can't remember
what I was going to say. That wasn't it, but do tell the maids to
hurry tea up. What about this umbrella? " She opened it. "No,
it's all gone along the seams. It's an appalling umbrella. It
must be mine."

But it was not.

He took it from her, murmured a few words of thanks, and then
fled, with the lilting step of the clerk.

"But if you will stop--" cried Margaret. "Now, Helen, how stupid
you've been!"

"Whatever have I done?"

"Don't you see that you've frightened him away? I meant him to
stop to tea. You oughtn't to talk about stealing or holes in an
umbrella. I saw his nice eyes getting so miserable. No, it's not
a bit of good now." For Helen had darted out into the street,
shouting, "Oh, do stop!"

"I dare say it is all for the best," opined Mrs. Munt. "We know
nothing about the young man, Margaret, and your drawing-room is
full of very tempting little things."

But Helen cried: "Aunt Juley, how can you! You make me more and
more ashamed. I'd rather he had been a thief and taken all the
apostle spoons than that I-- Well, I must shut the front-door, I
suppose. One more failure for Helen."

"Yes, I think the apostle spoons could have gone as rent," said
Margaret. Seeing that her aunt did not understand, she added:
"You remember 'rent'? It was one of father's words-- Rent to the
ideal, to his own faith in human nature. You remember how he
would trust strangers, and if they fooled him he would say,
'It's better to be fooled than to be suspicious'--that the
confidence trick is the work of man, but the want-of-confidence
trick is the work of the devil."

"I remember something of the sort now," said Mrs. Munt, rather
tartly, for she longed to add, "It was lucky that your father
married a wife with money." But this was unkind, and she
contented herself with, "Why, he might have stolen the little
Ricketts picture as well."

"Better that he had," said Helen stoutly.

"No, I agree with Aunt Juley," said Margaret. "I'd rather
mistrust people than lose my little Ricketts. There are limits."

Their brother, finding the incident commonplace, had stolen
upstairs to see whether there were scones for tea. He warmed the
teapot--almost too deftly--rejected the orange pekoe that the
parlour-maid had provided, poured in five spoonfuls of a superior
blend, filled up with really boiling water, and now called to the
ladies to be quick or they would lose the aroma.

"All right, Auntie Tibby," called Heien, while Margaret,
thoughtful again, said: "In a way, I wish we had a real boy in
the house--the kind of boy who cares for men. It would make
entertaining so much easier."

"So do I," said her sister. "Tibby only cares for cultured
females singing Brahms." And when they joined him she said rather
sharply: "Why didn't you make that young man welcome, Tibby? You
must do the host a little, you know. You ought to have taken his
hat and coaxed him into stopping, instead of letting him be
swamped by screaming women."

Tibby sighed, and drew a long strand of hair over his forehead.

"Oh, it's no good looking superior. I mean what I say."

"Leave Tibby alone!" said Margaret, who could not bear her
brother to be scolded.

"Here's the house a regular hen-coop!" grumbled Helen.

"Oh, my dear!" protested Mrs. Munt. "How can you say such
dreadful things! The number of men you get here has always
astonished me. If there is any danger it's the other way round."

"Yes, but it's the wrong sort of men, Helen means."

"No, I don't," corrected Helen. "We get the right sort of man,
but the wrong side of him, and I say that's Tibby's fault. There
ought to be a something about the house--an--I don't know what."

"A touch of the W's, perhaps?"

Helen put out her tongue.

"Who are the W's?" asked Tibby.

"The W's are things I and Meg and Aunt Juley know about and you
don't, so there!"

"I suppose that ours is a female house," said Margaret, "and one
must just accept it. No, Aunt Juley, I don't mean that this house
is full of women. I am trying to say something much more clever.
I mean that it was irrevocably feminine, even in father's time.
Now I'm sure you understand! Well, I'll give you another example.
It'll shock you, but I don't care. Suppose Queen Victoria gave a
dinner-party, and that the guests had been Leighton, Millais,
Swinburne, Rossetti, Meredith, Fitzgerald, etc. Do you suppose
that the atmosphere of that dinner would have been artistic?
Heavens, no! The very chairs on which they sat would have seen to
that. So with out house--it must be feminine, and all we can do
is to see that it isn't effeminate. Just as another house that I
can mention, but won't, sounded irrevocably masculine, and all
its inmates can do is to see that it isn't brutal."

"That house being the W's house, I presume," said Tibby.

"You're not going to be told about the W's, my child," Helen
cried, "so don't you think it. And on the other hand, I don't the
least mind if you find out, so don't you think you've done
anything clever, in either case. Give me a cigarette."

"You do what you can for the house," said Margaret. "The
drawing-room reeks of smoke."

"If you smoked too, the house might suddenly turn masculine.
Atmosphere is probably a question of touch and go. Even at Queen
Victoria's dinner-party--if something had been just a little
Different--perhaps if she'd worn a clinging Liberty tea-gown
instead of a magenta satin."

"With an India shawl over her shoulders--"

"Fastened at the bosom with a Cairngorm-pin."

Bursts of disloyal laughter--you must remember that they are half
German--greeted these suggestions, and Margaret said pensively,
"How inconceivable it would be if the Royal Family cared about
Art." And the conversation drifted away and away, and Helen's
cigarette turned to a spot in the darkness, and the great flats
opposite were sown with lighted windows which vanished and were
refit again, and vanished incessantly. Beyond them the
thoroughfare roared gently--a tide that could never be quiet,
while in the east, invisible behind the smokes of Wapping, the
moon was rising.

"That reminds me, Margaret. We might have taken that young man
into the dining-room, at all events. Only the majolica plate--and
that is so firmly set in the wall. I am really distressed that he
had no tea."

For that little incident had impressed the three women more than
might be supposed. It remained as a goblin footfall, as a hint
that all is not for the best in the best of all possible worlds,
and that beneath these superstructures of wealth and art there
wanders an ill-fed boy, who has recovered his umbrella indeed,
but who has left no address behind him, and no name.


WE are not concerned with the very poor. They are unthinkable and
only to be approached by the statistician or the poet. This story
deals with gentlefolk, or with those who are obliged to pretend
that they are gentlefolk.

The boy, Leonard Bast, stood at the extreme verge of gentility.
He was not in the abyss, but he could see it, and at times people
whom he knew had dropped in, and counted no more. He knew that he
was poor, and would admit it; he would have died sooner than
confess any inferiority to the rich. This may be splendid of him.
But he was inferior to most rich people, there is not the least
doubt of it. He was not as courteous as the average rich man, nor
as intelligent, nor as healthy, nor as lovable. His mind and his
body had been alike underfed, because he was poor, and because he
was modern they were always craving better food. Had he lived
some centuries ago, in the brightly coloured civilisations of the
past, he would have had a definite status, his rank and his
income would have corresponded. But in his day the angel of
Democracy had arisen, enshadowing the classes with leathern
wings, and proclaiming, "All men are equal--all men, that is to
say, who possess umbrellas," and so he was obliged to assert
gentility, lest he slip into the abyss where nothing counts, and
the statements of Democracy are inaudible.

As he walked away from Wickham Place, his first care was to prove
that he was as good as the Miss Schlegels. Obscurely wounded in
his pride, he tried to wound them in return. They were probably
not ladies. Would real ladies have asked him to tea? They were
certainly ill-natured and cold. At each step his feeling of
superiority increased. Would a real lady have talked about
stealing an umbrella? Perhaps they were thieves after all, and if
he had gone into the house they would have clapped a chloroformed
handkerchief over his face. He walked on complacently as far as
the Houses of Parliament. There an empty stomach asserted itself,
and told him that he was a fool.

"Evening, Mr. Bast."

"Evening, Mr. Dealtry."

"Nice evening."


Mr. Dealtry, a fellow clerk, passed on, and Leonard stood
wondering whether he would take the tram as far as a penny would
take him, or whether he would walk. He decided to walk--it is no
good giving in, and he had spent money enough at Queen's Hall--
and he walked over Westminster Bridge, in front of St. Thomas's
Hospital, and through the immense tunnel that passes under the
South-Western main line at Vauxhall. In the tunnel he paused and
listened to the roar of the trains. A sharp pain darted through
his head, and he was conscious of the exact form of his eye
sockets. He pushed on for another mile, and did not slacken speed
until he stood at the entrance of a road called Camelia Road
which was at present his home.

Here he stopped again, and glanced suspiciously to right and
left, like a rabbit that is going to bolt into its hole. A block
of flats, constructed with extreme cheapness, towered on either
hand. Farther down the road two more blocks were being built, and
beyond these an old house was being demolished to accommodate
another pair. It was the kind of scene that may be observed all
over London, whatever the locality--bricks and mortar rising and
falling with the restlessness of the water in a fountain as the
city receives more and more men upon her soil. Camelia Road would
soon stand out like a fortress, and command, for a little, an
extensive view. Only for a little. Plans were out for the
erection of flats in Magnolia Road also. And again a few years,
and all the flats in either road might be pulled down, and new
buildings, of a vastness at present unimaginable, might arise
where they had fallen.

"Evening, Mr. Bast."

"Evening, Mr. Cunningham."

"Very serious thing this decline of the birth-rate in

"I beg your pardon?"

"Very serious thing this decline of the birth-rate in
Manchester," repeated Mr. Cunningham, tapping the Sunday paper,
in which the calamity in question had just been announced to him.

"Ah, yes," said Leonard, who was not going to let on that he had
not bought a Sunday paper.

"If this kind of thing goes on the population of England will be
stationary in 1960."

"You don't say so."

"I call it a very serious thing, eh?"

"Good-evening, Mr. Cunningham."

"Good-evening, Mr. Bast."

Then Leonard entered Block B of the flats, and turned, not
upstairs, but down, into what is known to house agents as a
semi-basement, and to other men as a cellar. He opened the door,
and cried, "Hullo!" with the pseudo geniality of the Cockney.
There was no reply. "Hullo!" he repeated. The sitting-room was
empty, though the electric light had been left burning. A look of
relief came over his face, and he flung himself into the

The sitting-room contained, besides the armchair, two other
chairs, a piano, a three-legged table, and a cosy corner. Of the
walls, one was occupied by the window, the other by a draped
mantelshelf bristling with Cupids. Opposite the window was the
door, and beside the door a bookcase, while over the piano there
extended one of the masterpieces of Maud Goodman. It was an
amorous and not unpleasant little hole when the curtains were
drawn, and the lights turned on, and the gas-stove unlit. But it
struck that shallow makeshift note that is so often heard in the
dwelling-place. It had been too easily gained, and could be
relinquished too easily.

As Leonard was kicking off his boots he jarred the three-legged
table, and a photograph frame, honourably poised upon it, slid
sideways, fell off into the fireplace, and smashed. He swore in a
colourless sort of way, and picked the photograph up. It
represented a young lady called Jacky, and had been taken at the
time when young ladies called Jacky were often photographed with
their mouths open. Teeth of dazzling whiteness extended along
either of Jacky's jaw's, and positively weighed her head
sideways, so large were they and so numerous. Take my word for
it, that smile was simply stunning, and it is only you and I who
will be fastidious, and complain that true joy begins in the
eyes, and that the eyes of Jacky did not accord with her smile,
but were anxious and hungry.

Leonard tried to pull out the fragments of glass, and cut his
fingers and swore again. A drop of blood fell on the frame,
another followed, spilling over on to the exposed photograph. He
swore more vigorously, and dashed into the kitchen, where he
bathed his hands. The kitchen was the same size as the
sitting-room; beyond it was a bedroom. This completed his home.
He was renting the flat furnished; of all the objects that
encumbered it none were his own except the photograph frame, the
Cupids, and the books.

"Damn, damn, damnation!" he murmured, together with such other
words as he had learnt from older men. Then he raised his hand to
his forehead and said, "Oh, damn it all--"which meant something
different. He pulled himself together. He drank a little tea,
black and silent, that still survived upon an upper shelf. He
swallowed some dusty crumbs of a cake. Then he went back to the
sitting-room, settled himself anew, and began to read a volume of

"Seven miles to the north of Venice--"

How perfectly the famous chapter opens! How supreme its command
of admonition and of poetry! The rich man is speaking to us from
his gondola.

"Seven miles to the north of Venice the banks of sand which
nearer the city rise little above low-water mark attain by
degrees a higher level, and knit themselves at last into fields
of salt morass, raised here and there into shapeless mounds, and
intercepted by narrow creeks of sea."

Leonard was trying to form his style on Ruskin; he understood him
to be the greatest master of English Prose. He read forward
steadily, occasionally making a few notes.

"Let us consider a little each of these characters in succession,
and first (for of the shafts enough has been said already), what
is very peculiar to this church--its luminousness."

Was there anything to be learnt from this fine sentence? Could he
adapt it to the needs of daily life? Could he introduce it, with
modifications, when he next wrote a letter to his brother, the
lay-reader? For example:

"Let us consider a little each of these characters in succession,
and first (for of the absence of ventilation enough has been said
already), what is very peculiar to this flat--its obscurity."

Something told him that the modifications would not do; and that
something, had he known it, was the spirit of English Prose. "My
flat is dark as well as stuffy." Those were the words for him.

And the voice in the gondola rolled on, piping melodiously of
Effort and Self-Sacrifice, full of high purpose, full of beauty,
full even of sympathy and the love of men, yet somehow eluding
all that was actual and insistent in Leonard's life. For it was
the voice of one who had never been dirty or hungry, and had not
guessed successfully what dirt and hunger are.

Leonard listened to it with reverence. He felt that he was being
done good to, and that if he kept on with Ruskin, and the Queen's
Hall Concerts, and some pictures by Watts, he would one day push
his head out of the grey waters and see the universe. He believed
in sudden conversion, a belief which may be right, but which is
peculiarly attractive to a half-baked mind. It is the basis of
much popular religion; in the domain of business it dominates the
Stock Exchange, and becomes that "bit of luck" by which all
successes and failures are explained. "If only I had a bit of
luck, the whole thing would come straight... He's got a most
magnificent place down at Streatham and a 20 h.p. Fiat, but
then, mind you, he's had luck... I 'm sorry the wife's so late,
but she never has any luck over catching trains." Leonard was
superior to these people; he did believe in effort and in a
steady preparation for the change that he desired. But of a
heritage that may expand gradually, he had no conception; he
hoped to come to Culture suddenly, much as the Revivalist hopes
to come to Jesus. Those Miss Schlegels had come to it; they had
done the trick; their hands were upon the ropes, once and for
all. And meanwhile, his flat was dark, as well as stuffy.

Presently there was a noise on the staircase. He shut up
Margaret's card in the pages of Ruskin, and opened the door. A
woman entered, of whom it is simplest to say that she was not
respectable. Her appearance was awesome. She seemed all strings
and bell-pulls--ribbons, chains, bead necklaces that clinked and
caught and a boa of azure feathers hung round her neck, with the
ends uneven. Her throat was bare, wound with a double row of
pearls, her arms were bare to the elbows, and might again be
detected at the shoulder, through cheap lace. Her hat, which was
flowery, resembled those punnets, covered with flannel, which we
sowed with mustard and cress in our childhood, and which
germinated here yes, and there no. She wore it on the back of her
head. As for her hair, or rather hairs, they are too complicated
to describe, but one system went down her back, lying in a thick
pad there, while another, created for a lighter destiny, rippled
around her forehead. The face--the face does not signify. It was
the face of the photograph, but older, and the teeth were not so
numerous as the photographer had suggested, and certainly not so
white. Yes, Jacky was past her prime, whatever that prime may
have been. She was descending quicker than most women into the
colourless years, and the look in her eyes confessed it."

"What ho!" said Leonard, greeting the apparition with much
spirit, and helping it off with its boa.

Jacky, in husky tones, replied, "What ho!"

"Been out?" he asked. The question sounds superfluous, but it
cannot have been really, for the lady answered, "No," adding,
"Oh, I am so tired."

"You tired?"


"I'm tired," said he, hanging the boa up.

"Oh, Len, I am so tired."

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