Part 4 out of 5
He laughed. The nicely dressed young man meditated over the handle of
his cane. "A bounder of that kind can't have a particularly nice
time," he said, "anyhow. If he does get into a decent school, he must
get tremendously cut by all the decent men."
"Too thick-skinned to mind that sort of thing, I fancy," said the
scholastic agent. "He's a new type. This South Kensington place and
the polytechnics an turning him out by the hundred...."
Lewisham forgot his resentment at having to profess a religion he did
not believe, in this new discovery of the scholastic importance of
clothing. He went along with an eye to all the shop windows that
afforded a view of his person. Indisputably his trousers _were_
ungainly, flapping abominably over his boots and bagging terribly at
the knees, and his boots were not only worn and ugly but extremely ill
blacked. His wrists projected offensively from his coat sleeves, he
perceived a huge asymmetry in the collar of his jacket, his red tie
was askew and ill tied, and that waterproof collar! It was shiny,
slightly discoloured, suddenly clammy to the neck. What if he did
happen to be well equipped for science teaching? That was nothing. He
speculated on the cost of a complete outfit. It would be difficult to
get such grey trousers as those he had seen for less than sixteen
shillings, and he reckoned a frock coat at forty shillings at
least--possibly even more. He knew good clothes were very
expensive. He hesitated at Poole's door and turned away. The thing was
out of the question. He crossed Leicester Square and went down
Bedford Street, disliking every well-dressed person he met.
Messrs. Danks and Wimborne inhabited a bank-like establishment near
Chancery Lane, and without any conversation presented him with forms
to fill up. Religion? asked the form. Lewisham paused and wrote
"Church of England."
Thence he went to the College of Pedagogues in Holborn. The College of
Pedagogues presented itself as a long-bearded, corpulent, comfortable
person with a thin gold watch chain and fat hands. He wore gilt
glasses and had a kindly confidential manner that did much to heal
Lewisham's wounded feelings. The 'ologies and 'ographies were taken
down with polite surprise at their number. "You ought to take one of
our diplomas," said the stout man. "You would find no difficulty. No
competition. And there are prizes--several prizes--in money."
Lewisham was not aware that the waterproof collar had found a
"We give courses of lectures, and have an examination in the theory
and practice of education. It is the only examination in the theory
and practice of education for men engaged in middle and upper class
teaching in this country. Except the Teacher's Diploma. And so few
come--not two hundred a year. Mostly governesses. The men prefer to
teach by rule of thumb, you know. English characteristic--rule of
thumb. It doesn't do to say anything of course--but there's bound to
be--something happen--something a little disagreeable--somewhen if
things go on as they do. American schools keep on getting
better--German too. What used to do won't do now. I tell this to you,
you know, but it doesn't do to tell everyone. It doesn't do. It
doesn't do to do anything. So much has to be considered. However
... But you'd do well to get a diploma and make yourself
efficient. Though that's looking ahead."
He spoke of looking ahead with an apologetic laugh as though it was an
amiable weakness of his. He turned from such abstruse matters and
furnished Lewisham with the particulars of the college diplomas, and
proceeded to other possibilities. "There's private tuition," he
said. "Would you mind a backward boy? Then we are occasionally asked
for visiting masters. Mostly by girls' schools. But that's for older
men--married men, you know."
"I am married," said Lewisham.
"_Eh_?" said the College of Pedagogues, startled.
"I _am_ married," said Lewisham.
"Dear me," said the College of Pedagogues gravely, and regarding
Mr. Lewisham over gold-rimmed glasses. "Dear me! And I am more than
twice your age, and I am not married at all. One-and-twenty! Have
you--have you been married long?"
"A few weeks," said Lewisham.
"That's very remarkable," said the College of Pedagogues. "Very
interesting.... _Really!_ Your wife must be a very courageous young
person.... Excuse me! You know--You will really have a hard fight for
a position. However--it certainly makes you eligible for girls'
schools; it does do that. To a certain extent, that is."
The evidently enhanced respect of the College of Pedagogues pleased
Lewisham extremely. But his encounter with the Medical, Scholastic,
and Clerical Agency that holds by Waterloo Bridge was depressing
again, and after that he set out to walk home. Long before he reached
home he was tired, and his simple pride in being married and in active
grapple with an unsympathetic world had passed. His surrender on the
religious question had left a rankling bitterness behind it; the
problem of the clothes was acutely painful. He was still far from a
firm grasp of the fact that his market price was under rather than
over one hundred pounds a year, but that persuasion was gaining ground
in his mind.
The day was a greyish one, with a dull cold wind, and a nail in one of
his boots took upon itself to be objectionable. Certain wild shots
and disastrous lapses in his recent botanical examination, that he had
managed to keep out of his mind hitherto, forced their way on his
attention. For the first time since his marriage he harboured
premonitions of failure.
When he got in he wanted to sit down at once in the little creaky
chair by the fire, but Ethel came flitting from the newly bought
typewriter with arms extended and prevented him. "Oh!--it _has_ been
dull," she said.
He missed the compliment. "_I_ haven't had such a giddy time that you
should grumble," he said, in a tone that was novel to her. He
disengaged himself from her arms and sat down. He noticed the
expression of her face.
"I'm rather tired," he said by way of apology. "And there's a
confounded nail I must hammer down in my boot. It's tiring work
hunting up these agents, but of course it's better to go and see
them. How have you been getting on?"
"All right," she said, regarding him. And then, "You _are_ tired.
We'll have some tea. And--let me take off your boot for you, dear.
She rang the bell, bustled out of the room, called for tea at the
staircase, came back, pulled out Madam Gadow's ungainly hassock and
began unlacing his boot. Lewisham's mood changed. "You _are_ a trump,
Ethel," he said; "I'm hanged if you're not." As the laces flicked he
bent forward and kissed her ear. The unlacing was suspended and there
were reciprocal endearments....
Presently he was sitting in his slippers, with a cup of tea in his
hand, and Ethel, kneeling on the hearthrug with the firelight on her
face, was telling him of an answer that had come that afternoon to her
advertisement in the _Athenaeum_.
"That's good," said Lewisham.
"It's a novelist," she said with the light of pride in her eyes, and
handed him the letter. "Lucas Holderness, the author of 'The Furnace
of Sin' and other stories."
"That's first rate," said Lewisham with just a touch of envy, and bent
forward to read by the firelight.
The letter was from an address in Judd Street, Euston Road, written on
good paper and in a fair round hand such as one might imagine a
novelist using. "Dear Madam," said the letter, "I propose to send you,
by registered letter, the MS. of a three-volume novel. It is about
90,000 words--but you must count the exact number."
"How I shall count I don't know," said Ethel.
"I'll show you a way," said Lewisham. "There's no difficulty in
that. You count the words on three or four pages, strike an average,
"But, of course, before doing so I must have a satisfactory guarantee
that my confidence in putting my work in your hands will not be
misplaced and that your execution is of the necessary high quality."
"Oh!" said Lewisham; "that's a bother."
"Accordingly I must ask you for references."
"That's a downright nuisance," said Lewisham. "I suppose that ass,
Lagune ... But what's this? 'Or, failing references, for a deposit
...' That's reasonable, I suppose."
It was such a moderate deposit too--merely a guinea. Even had the
doubt been stronger, the aspect of helpful hopeful little Ethel eager
for work might well have thrust it aside. "Sending him a cheque will
show him we have a banking account behind us," said Lewisham,--his
banking was still sufficiently recent for pride. "We will send him a
cheque. That'll settle _him_ all right."
That evening after the guinea cheque had been despatched, things were
further brightened by the arrival of a letter of atrociously
jellygraphed advices from Messrs. Danks and Wimborne. They all
referred to resident vacancies for which Lewisham was manifestly
unsuitable, nevertheless their arrival brought an encouraging
assurance of things going on, of shifting and unstable places in the
defences of the beleaguered world. Afterwards, with occasional
endearments for Ethel, he set himself to a revision of his last year's
note-books, for now the botany was finished, the advanced zoological
course--the last lap, as it were, for the Forbes medal--was
beginning. She got her best hat from the next room to make certain
changes in the arrangement of its trimmings. She sat in the little
chair, while Lewisham, with documents spread before him, sat at the
Presently she looked up from an experimental arrangement of her
cornflowers, and discovered Lewisham, no longer reading, but staring
blankly at the middle of the table-cloth, with an extraordinary misery
in his eyes. She forgot the cornflowers and stared at him.
"Penny," she said after an interval.
Lewisham started and looked up. "_Eh_?"
"Why were you looking so miserable?" she asked.
"_Was_ I looking miserable?"
"Yes. And _cross_!"
"I was thinking just then that I would like to boil a bishop or so in
"They know perfectly well the case against what they teach, they know
it's neither madness nor wickedness nor any great harm, to others not
to believe, they know perfectly well that a man may be as honest as
the day, and right--right and decent in every way--and not believe in
what they teach. And they know that it only wants the edge off a man's
honour, for him to profess anything in the way of belief. Just
anything. And they won't say so. I suppose they want the edge off
every man's honour. If a man is well off they will truckle to him no
end, though he laughs at all their teaching. They'll take gold plate
from company promoters and rent from insanitary houses. But if a man
is poor and doesn't profess to believe in what some of them scarcely
believe themselves, they wouldn't lift a finger to help him against
the ignorance of their followers. Your stepfather was right enough
there. They know what's going on. They know that it means lying and
humbug for any number of people, and they don't care. Why should
they? _They've_ got it down all right. They're spoilt, and why
shouldn't we be?"
Lewisham having selected the bishops as scapegoats for his turpitude,
was inclined to ascribe even the nail in his boot to their agency.
Mrs. Lewisham looked puzzled. She realised his drift.
"You're not," she said, and dropped her voice, "an _infidel_?"
Lewisham nodded gloomily. "Aren't you?" he said.
"Oh no," said Mrs. Lewisham.
"But you don't go to church, you don't--"
"No, I don't," said Mrs. Lewisham; and then with more assurance, "But
I'm not an infidel."
"I suppose so."
"But a Christian--What do you believe?"
"Oh! to tell the truth, and do right, and not hurt or injure people
and all that."
"That's not a Christian. A Christian is one who believes."
"It's what _I_ mean by a Christian," said Mrs. Lewisham.
"Oh! at that rate anyone's a Christian," said Lewisham. "We all think
it's right to do right and wrong to do wrong."
"But we don't all do it," said Mrs. Lewisham, taking up the
"No," said Lewisham, a little taken aback by the feminine method of
discussion. "We don't all do it--certainly." He stared at her for a
moment--her head was a little on one side and her eyes on the
cornflower--and his mind was full of a strange discovery. He seemed on
the verge of speaking, and turned to his note-book again.
Very soon the centre of the table-cloth resumed its sway.
* * * * *
The following day Mr. Lucas Holderness received his cheque for a
guinea. Unhappily it was crossed. He meditated for some time, and then
took pen and ink and improved Lewisham's careless "one" to "five" and
touched up his unticked figure one to correspond.
You perceive him, a lank, cadaverous, good-looking man with long black
hair and a semi-clerical costume of quite painful rustiness. He made
the emendations with grave carefulness. He took the cheque round to
his grocer. His grocer looked at it suspiciously.
"You pay it in," said Mr. Lucas Holderness, "if you've any doubts
about it. Pay it in. _I_ don't know the man or what he is. He may be a
swindler for all I can tell. _I_ can't answer for him. Pay it in and
see. Leave the change till then. I can wait. I'll call round in a few
"All right, wasn't it?" said Mr. Lucas Holderness in a casual tone two
"Quite, sir," said his grocer with enhanced respect, and handed him
his four pounds thirteen and sixpence change.
Mr. Lucas Holderness, who had been eyeing the grocer's stock with a
curious intensity, immediately became animated and bought a tin of
salmon. He went out of the shop with the rest of the money in his
hand, for the pockets of his clothes were old and untrustworthy. At
the baker's he bought a new roll.
He bit a huge piece of the roll directly he was out of the shop, and
went on his way gnawing. It was so large a piece that his gnawing
mouth was contorted into the ugliest shapes. He swallowed by an
effort, stretching his neck each time. His eyes expressed an animal
satisfaction. He turned the corner of Judd Street biting again at the
roll, and the reader of this story, like the Lewishams, hears of him
THE GLAMOUR FADES.
After all, the rosy love-making and marrying and Epithalamy are no
more than the dawn of things, and to follow comes all the spacious
interval of white laborious light. Try as we may to stay those
delightful moments, they fade and pass remorselessly; there is no
returning, no recovering, only--for the foolish--the vilest peep-shows
and imitations in dens and darkened rooms. We go on--we grow. At least
we age. Our young couple, emerging presently from an atmosphere of
dusk and morning stars, found the sky gathering greyly overhead and
saw one another for the first time clearly in the light of every-day.
It might perhaps witness better to Lewisham's refinement if one could
tell only of a moderated and dignified cooling, of pathetic little
concealments of disappointment and a decent maintenance of the
sentimental atmosphere. And so at last daylight. But our young couple
were too crude for that. The first intimations of their lack of
identity have already been described, but it would be tedious and
pitiful to tell of all the little intensifications, shade by shade, of
the conflict of their individualities. They fell out, dear lady! they
came to conflict of words. The stress of perpetual worry was upon
them, of dwindling funds and the anxious search for work that would
not come. And on Ethel lay long, vacant, lonely hours in dull
surroundings. Differences arose from the most indifferent things; one
night Lewisham lay awake in unfathomable amazement because she had
convinced him she did not care a rap for the Welfare of Humanity, and
deemed his Socialism a fancy and an indiscretion. And one Sunday
afternoon they started for a walk under the pleasantest auspices, and
returned flushed and angry, satire and retort flying free--on the
score of the social conventions in Ethel's novelettes. For some
inexplicable reason Lewisham saw fit to hate her novelettes very
bitterly. These encounters indeed were mere skirmishes for the most
part, and the silences and embarrassments that followed ended sooner
or later in a "making up," tacit or definite, though once or twice
this making up only re-opened the healing wound. And always each
skirmish left its scar, effaced from yet another line of their lives
the lingering tints of romantic colour.
There came no work, no added income for either of them, saving two
trifles, for five long months. Once Lewisham won twelve shillings in
the prize competition of a penny weekly, and three times came
infinitesimal portions of typewriting from a poet who had apparently
seen the _Athenaeum_ advertisement. His name was Edwin Peak Baynes and
his handwriting was sprawling and unformed. He sent her several short
lyrics on scraps of paper with instructions that he desired "three
copies of each written beautifully in different styles" and "_not_
fastened with metal fasteners but with silk thread of an appropriate
colour." Both of our young people were greatly exercised by these
instructions. One fragment was called "Bird Song," one "Cloud
Shadows," and one "Eryngium," but Lewisham thought they might be
spoken of collectively as Bosh. By way of payment, this poet sent, in
contravention of the postal regulations, half a sovereign stuck into a
card, asking her to keep the balance against future occasions. In a
little while, greatly altered copies of these lyrics were returned by
the poet in person, with this enigmatical instruction written across
the cover of each: "This style I like, only if possible more so."
Lewisham was out, but Ethel opened the door, so this indorsement was
unnecessary, "He's really only a boy," said Ethel, describing the
interview to Lewisham, who was curious. They both felt that the
youthfulness of Edwin Peak Baynes detracted something from the reality
of this employment.
From his marriage until the final examination in June, Lewisham's life
had an odd amphibious quality. At home were Ethel and the perpetual
aching pursuit of employment, the pelting irritations of Madam Gadow's
persistent overcharges, and so forth, and amid such things he felt
extraordinarily grown up; but intercalated with these experiences were
those intervals at Kensington, scraps of his adolescence, as it were,
lying amidst the new matter of his manhood, intervals during which he
was simply an insubordinate and disappointing student with an
increasing disposition to gossip. At South Kensington he dwelt with
theories and ideals as a student should; at the little rooms in
Chelsea--they grew very stuffy as the summer came on, and the
accumulation of the penny novelettes Ethel favoured made a
litter--there was his particular private concrete situation, and
ideals gave place to the real.
It was a strangely narrow world, he perceived dimly, in which his
manhood opened. The only visitors were the Chafferys. Chaffery would
come to share their supper, and won upon Lewisham in spite of his
roguery by his incessantly entertaining monologue and by his expressed
respect for and envy of Lewisham's scientific attainments. Moreover,
as time went on Lewisham found himself more and more in sympathy with
Chaffery's bitterness against those who order the world. It was good
to hear him on bishops and that sort of people. He said what Lewisham
wanted to say beautifully. Mrs. Chaffery was perpetually
flitting--out of the house as Lewisham came home, a dim, black,
nervous, untidy little figure. She came because Ethel, in spite of her
expressed belief that love was "all in all," found married life a
little dull and lonely while Lewisham was away. And she went hastily
when he came, because of a certain irritability that the struggle
against the world was developing. He told no one at Kensington about
his marriage, at first because it was such a delicious secret, and
then for quite other reasons. So there was no overlapping. The two
worlds began and ended sharply at the wrought-iron gates. But the day
came when Lewisham passed those gates for the last time and his
adolescence ended altogether.
In the final examination of the biological course, the examination
that signalised the end of his income of a weekly guinea, he knew well
enough that he had done badly. The evening of the last day's practical
work found him belated, hot-headed, beaten, with ruffled hair and red
ears. He sat to the last moment doggedly struggling to keep cool and
to mount the ciliated funnel of an earthworm's nephridium. But
ciliated funnels come not to those who have shirked the laboratory
practice. He rose, surrendered his paper to the morose elderly young
assistant demonstrator who had welcomed him so flatteringly eight
months before, and walked down the laboratory to the door where the
rest of his fellow-students clustered.
Smithers was talking loudly about the "twistiness" of the
identification, and the youngster with the big ears was listening
"Here's Lewisham! How did _you_ get on, Lewisham?" asked Smithers,
not concealing his assurance.
"Horribly," said Lewisham shortly, and pushed past.
"Did you spot D?" clamoured Smithers.
Lewisham pretended not to hear.
Miss Heydinger stood with her hat in her hand and looked at Lewisham's
hot eyes. He was for walking past her, but something in her face
penetrated even his disturbance. He stopped.
"Did you get out the nephridium?" he said as graciously as he could.
She shook her head. "Are you going downstairs?" she asked.
"Rather," said Lewisham, with a vague intimation in his manner of the
offence Smithers gave him.
He opened the glass door from the passage to the staircase. They went
down one tier of that square spiral in silence.
"Are you coming up again next year?" asked Miss Heydinger.
"No," said Lewisham. "No, I shall not come here again. Ever."
Pause. "What will you do?" she asked.
"I don't know. I have to get a living somehow. It's been bothering me
all the session."
"I thought--" She stopped. "Will you go down to your uncle's again?"
"No. I shall stop in London. It's no good going out of things into the
country. And besides--I've quarrelled rather with my uncle."
"What do you think of doing?--teaching?"
"I suppose it will be teaching, I'm not sure. Anything that turns up."
"I see," she said.
They went on down in silence for a time.
"I suppose you will come up again?" he asked.
"I may try the botanical again--if they can find room. And, I was
thinking--sometimes one hears of things. What is your address? So that
if I heard of anything."
Lewisham stopped on the staircase and thought. "Of course," he
said. He made no effort to give her the address, and she demanded it
again at the foot of the stairs.
"That confounded nephridium--!" he said. "It has put everything out of
They exchanged addresses on leaflets torn from Miss Heydinger's little
She waited at the Book in the hall while he signed his name. At the
iron gates of the Schools she said: "I am going through Kensington
He was now feeling irritated about the addresses, and he would not see
the implicit invitation. "I am going towards Chelsea."
She hesitated a moment, looking at him--puzzled. "Good-bye, then,"
"Good-bye," he answered, lifting his hat.
He crossed the Exhibition Road slowly with his packed glazed bag, now
seamed with cracks, in his hand. He went thoughtfully down to the
corner of the Cromwell Road and turned along that to the right so that
he could see the red pile of the Science Schools rising fair, and
tall across the gardens of the Natural History Museum. He looked back
towards it regretfully.
He was quite sure that he had failed in this last examination. He
knew that any career as a scientific man was now closed to him for
ever. And he remembered now how he had come along this very road to
that great building for the first time in his life, and all the hopes
and resolves that had swelled within him as he had drawn near. That
dream of incessant unswerving work! Where might he have reached if
only he had had singleness of purpose to realise that purpose?...
And in these gardens it was that he and Smithers and Parkson had sat
on a seat hard by the fossil tree, and discoursed of Socialism
together before the great paper was read....
"Yes," he said, speaking aloud to himself; "yes--_that's_
all over too. Everything's over."
Presently the corner of the Natural History Museum came between him
and his receding Alma Mater. He sighed and turned his face towards the
stuffy little rooms at Chelsea, and the still unconquered world.
CONCERNING A QUARREL.
It was late in September that this particular quarrel occurred. Almost
all the roseate tints seemed gone by this time, for the Lewishams had
been married six months. Their financial affairs had changed from the
catastrophic to the sordid; Lewisham had found work. An army crammer
named Captain Vigours wanted someone energetic for his mathematical
duffers and to teach geometrical drawing and what he was pleased to
call "Sandhurst Science." He paid no less than two shillings an hour
for his uncertain demands on Lewisham's time. Moreover, there was a
class in lower mathematics beginning at Walham Green where Lewisham
was to show his quality. Fifty shillings a week or more seemed
credible--more might be hoped for. It was now merely a case of tiding
over the interval until Vigours paid. And meanwhile the freshness of
Ethel's blouses departed, and Lewisham refrained from the repair of
his boot which had cracked across the toe.
The beginning of the quarrel was trivial enough. But by the end they
got to generalities. Lewisham had begun the day in a bad temper and
under the cloud of an overnight passage of arms--and a little incident
that had nothing to do with their ostensible difference lent it a
warmth of emotion quite beyond its merits. As he emerged through the
folding doors he saw a letter lying among the sketchily laid breakfast
things, and Ethel's attitude suggested the recoil of a quick movement;
the letter suddenly dropped. Her eyes met his and she flushed. He sat
down and took the letter--a trifle awkwardly perhaps. It was from Miss
Heydinger. He hesitated with it halfway to his pocket, then decided to
open it. It displayed an ample amount of reading, and he read. On the
whole he thought it rather a dull sort of letter, but he did not allow
this to appear. When it was read he put it carefully in his pocket.
That formally had nothing to do with the quarrel. The breakfast was
already over when the quarrel began. Lewisham's morning was vacant,
and be proposed to occupy it in the revision of certain notes bearing
upon "Sandhurst Science." Unhappily the search for his note-book
brought him into collision with the accumulation of Ethel's
"These things are everywhere," he said after a gust of vehement
handling, "I _wish_ you'd tidy them up sometimes."
"They were tidy enough till you began to throw them about," Ethel
"Confounded muck! it's only fit to be burnt," Lewisham remarked to the
universe, and pitched one viciously into the corner.
"Well, you tried to write one, anyhow," said Ethel, recalling a
certain "Mammoth" packet of note-paper that had come on an evil end
before Lewisham found his industrial level. This reminiscence always
irritated him exceedingly.
"Eh?" he said sharply.
"You tried to write one," repeated Ethel--a little unwillingly.
"You don't mean me to forget that."
"It's you reminded me."
He stared hostility for a space.
"Well, the things make a beastly litter anyhow; there isn't a tidy
corner anywhere in the room. There never is."
"That's just the sort of thing you always say."
"Yes, there is."
Ethel professed not to hear. But a devil had possession of Lewisham
for a time. "It isn't as though you had anything else to do," he
remarked, wounding dishonourably.
Ethel turned. "If I _put_ those things away," she said with tremendous
emphasis on the "_put_," "you'd only say I'd hidden them. What _is_
the good of trying to please you?"
The spirit of perversity suggested to Lewisham, "None apparently."
Ethel's cheeks glowed and her eyes were bright with unshed
tears. Abruptly she abandoned the defensive and blurted out the thing
that had been latent so long between them. Her voice took a note of
passion. "Nothing I can do ever does please you, since that Miss
Heydinger began to write to you."
There was a pause, a gap. Something like astonishment took them
both. Hitherto it had been a convention that she knew nothing of the
existence of Miss Heydinger. He saw a light. "How did you know?" he
began, and perceived that line was impossible. He took the way of the
natural man; he ejaculated an "Ugh!" of vast disgust, he raised his
voice. "You _are_ unreasonable!" he cried in angry remonstrance.
"Fancy saying that! As though you ever tried to please me! Just as
though it wasn't all the other way about!" He stopped--struck by a
momentary perception of injustice. He plunged at the point he had
shirked, "How did you know it _was_ Miss Heydinger--?"
Ethel's voice took upon itself the quality of tears. "I wasn't
_meant_ to know, was I?" she said.
"I suppose you think it doesn't concern me? I suppose you think I'm
made of stone?"
"You mean--you think--?"
For a brief interval Lewisham stared at the issue she had laid
bare. He sought some crashing proposition, some line of convincing
reasoning, with which to overwhelm and hide this new aspect of
things. It would not come. He found himself fenced in on every side. A
surging, irrational rage seized upon him.
"Jealousy!" he cried. "Jealousy! Just as though--Can't I have
letters about things you don't understand--that you _won't_
understand? If I asked you to read them you wouldn't--It's just
"You never give me a _chance_ to understand."
"Why!--At first I was always trying. Socialism, religion--all those
things. But you don't care--you won't care. You won't have that I've
thought over these things at all, that I care for these things! It
wasn't any _good_ to argue. You just care for me in a way--and all the
rest of me--doesn't matter! And because I've got a friend ..."
"Why!--you hide her letters!"
"Because I tell you you wouldn't understand what they are about. But,
pah! I won't argue. I _won't!_ You're jealous, and there's the end of
"Well, who _wouldn't_ be jealous?"
He stared at her as if he found the question hard to see. The theme
was difficult--invincibly difficult. He surveyed the room for a
diversion. The note-book he had disinterred from her novelettes lay
upon the table and reminded him of his grievance of rained hours. His
rage exploded. He struck out abruptly towards fundamental things. He
gesticulated forcibly. "This can't go on!" he cried, "this can't go
on! How can I work? How can I do anything?"
He made three steps and stood in a clear space.
"I won't _stand_, it--I won't go on at this!
Quarrels--bickerings--discomfort. Look there! I meant to work this
morning. I meant to look up notes! Instead of which you start a
The gross injustice raised Ethel's voice to an outcry. "_I_ didn't
start the quarrel--"
The only response to this was to shout, and Lewisham shouted. "You
start a quarrel!" he repeated. "You make a shindy! You spring a
dispute--jealousy!--on me! How can I do anything? How can one stop in
a house like this? I shall go out. Look here!--I shall go out. I shall
go to Kensington and work there!"
He perceived himself wordless, and Ethel was about to speak. He glared
about him, seeking a prompt climax. Instant action was necessary. He
perceived Huxley's _Vertebrata_ upon the side-table. He clutched it,
swayed it through a momentous arc, hurled it violently into the empty
For a second he seemed to be seeking some other missile. He perceived
his hat on the chest of drawers, seized it, and strode tragically from
He hesitated with the door half closed, then opened it wide and
slammed it vehemently. Thereby the world was warned of the justice of
his rage, and so he passed with credit into the street.
He went striding heedless of his direction through the streets dotted
with intent people hurrying to work, and presently habit turned his
feet towards the Brompton Road. The eastward trend of the morning
traffic caught him. For a time, save for a rebellious ingredient of
wonder at the back of his mind, he kept his anger white and pure. Why
had he married her? was the text to which he clung. Why in the name of
destiny had he married her? But anyhow he had said the decisive
thing. He would not stand it! It must end. Things were intolerable and
they must end. He meditated devastating things that he might presently
say to her in pursuance of this resolution. He contemplated acts of
cruelty. In such ways he would demonstrate clearly that he would not
stand it. He was very careful to avoid inquiring what it was he would
How in the name of destiny had he come to marry her? The quality of
his surroundings mingled in some way with the quality of his
thoughts. The huge distended buildings of corrugated iron in which the
Art Museum (of all places!) culminates, the truncated Oratory all
askew to the street, seemed to have a similar quarrel with fate. How
in the name of destiny? After such high prolusions!
He found that his thoughts had carried him past the lodge of the
museum. He turned back irritably and went through the turnstile. He
entered the museum and passed beneath the gallery of Old Iron on his
way to the Education Library. The vacant array of tables, the bays of
attendant books had a quality of refuge....
So much for Lewisham in the morning. Long before midday all the vigour
of his wrath was gone, all his passionate conviction of Ethel's
unworthiness. Over a pile of neglected geological works he presented a
face of gloom. His memory presented a picture of himself as noisy,
overbearing, and unfair. What on earth had it all been about?
By two o'clock he was on his way to Vigours', and his mood was acute
remorse. Of the transition there can be no telling in words, for
thoughts are more subtle than words and emotions infinitely
vaguer. But one thing at least is definite, that a memory returned.
It drifted in to him, through the glass roof of the Library far
above. He did not perceive it as a memory at first, but as an
irritating obstacle to attention. He struck the open pages of the book
before him with his flat hand. "Damn that infernal hurdy-gurdy!" he
Presently he made a fretful movement and put his hands over his ears.
Then he thrust his books from him, got up, and wandered about the
Library. The organ came to an abrupt end in the middle of a bar, and
vanished in the circumambient silence of space.
Lewisham standing in a bay closed a book with a snap and returned to
Presently he found himself humming a languid tune, and thinking again
of the quarrel that he had imagined banished from his mind. What in
the name of destiny had it all been about? He had a curious sense that
something had got loose, was sliding about in his mind. And as if by
way of answer emerged a vision of Whortley--a singularly vivid
vision. It was moonlight and a hillside, the little town lay lit and
warm below, and the scene was set to music, a lugubriously sentimental
air. For some reason this music had the quality of a barrel
organ--though he knew that properly it came from a band--and it
associated with itself a mystical formula of words, drawing words:--
"Sweet dreamland fa--ces, passing to and fro,
Bring back to mem'ry days of long ago--oh!"
This air not only reproduced the picture with graphic vividness, but
it trailed after it an enormous cloud of irrational emotion, emotion
that had but a moment before seemed gone for ever from his being.
He recalled it all! He had come down that hillside and Ethel had been
Had he really felt like that about her?
"Pah!" he said suddenly, and reverted to his books.
But the tune and the memory had won their footing, they were with him
through his meagre lunch of milk and scones--he had resolved at the
outset he would not go back to her for the midday meal--and on his way
to Vigours' they insisted on attention. It may be that lunching on
scone and milk does in itself make for milder ways of thinking. A
sense of extraordinary contradiction, of infinite perplexity, came to
"But then," he asked, "how the devil did we get to _this_?"
Which is indeed one of the fundamental questions of matrimony.
The morning tumults had given place to an almost scientific calm. Very
soon he was grappling manfully with the question. There was no
disputing it, they had quarrelled. Not once but several times lately
they had quarrelled. It was real quarrelling;--they had stood up
against one another, striking, watching to strike, seeking to
wound. He tried to recall just how things had gone--what he had said
and what she had replied. He could not do it. He had forgotten
phrases and connexions. It stood in his memory not as a sequence of
events but as a collection of disconnected static sayings; each saying
blunt, permanent, inconsecutive like a graven inscription. And of the
scene there came only one picture--Ethel with a burning face and her
eyes shining with tears.
The traffic of a cross street engaged him for a space. He emerged on
the further side full of the vivid contrast of their changed
relations. He made a last effort to indict her, to show that for the
transition she was entirely to blame. She had quarrelled with him, she
had quarrelled deliberately because she was jealous. She was jealous
of Miss Heydinger because she was stupid. But now these accusations
faded like smoke as he put them forth. But the picture of two little
figures back there in the moonlit past did not fade. It was in the
narrows of Kensington High Street that he abandoned her
arraignment. It was beyond the Town Hall that he made the new
step. Was it, after all, just possible that in some degree he himself
rather was the chief person to blame?
It was instantly as if he had been aware of that all the time.
Once he had made that step, he moved swiftly. Not a hundred paces
before the struggle was over, and he had plunged headlong into the
blue abyss of remorse. And all these things that had been so dramatic
and forcible, all the vivid brutal things he had said, stood no longer
graven inscriptions but in letters of accusing flame. He tried to
imagine he had not said them, that his memory played him a trick;
tried to suppose he had said something similar perhaps, but much less
forcible. He attempted with almost equal futility to minimise his own
wounds. His endeavour served only to measure the magnitude of his
He had recovered everything now, he saw it all. He recalled Ethel,
sunlit in the avenue, Ethel, white in the moonlight before they parted
outside the Frobisher house, Ethel as she would come out of Lagune's
house greeting him for their nightly walk, Ethel new wedded, as she
came to him through the folding doors radiant in the splendour his
emotions threw about her. And at last, Ethel angry, dishevelled and
tear-stained in that ill-lit, untidy little room. All to the cadence
of a hurdy-gurdy tune! From that to this! How had it been possible to
get from such an opalescent dawning to such a dismal day? What was it
had gone? He and she were the same two persons who walked so brightly
in his awakened memory; he and she who had lived so bitterly through
the last few weeks of misery!
His mood sank for a space to the quality of groaning. He implicated
her now at most as his partner in their failure--"What a mess we have
made of things!" was his new motif. "What a mess!"
He knew love now for what it was, knew it for something more ancient
and more imperative than reason. He knew now that he loved her, and
his recent rage, his hostility, his condemnation of her seemed to him
the reign of some exterior influence in his mind. He thought
incredulously of the long decline in tenderness that had followed the
first days of their delight in each other, the diminution of
endearment, the first yielding to irritability, the evenings he had
spent doggedly working, resisting all his sense of her presence. "One
cannot always be love-making," he had said, and so they were slipping
apart. Then in countless little things he had not been patient, he had
not been fair. He had wounded her by harshness, by unsympathetic
criticism, above all by his absurd secrecy about Miss Heydinger's
letters. Why on earth had he kept those letters from her? as though
there was something to hide! What was there to hide? What possible
antagonism could there be? Yet it was by such little things that
their love was now like some once valued possession that had been in
brutal hands, it was scratched and chipped and tarnished, it was on
its way to being altogether destroyed. Her manner had changed towards
him, a gulf was opening that he might never be able to close again.
"No, it _shall_ not be!" he said, "it shall not be!"
But how to get back to the old footing? how to efface the things he
had said, the things that had been done?
Could they get back?
For a moment he faced a new possibility. Suppose they could not get
back! Suppose the mischief was done! Suppose that when he slammed the
door behind him it locked, and was locked against him for ever!
"But we _must_!" said Lewisham, "we must!"
He perceived clearly that this was no business of reasoned
apologies. He must begin again, he must get back to emotion, he must
thrust back the overwhelming pressure of everyday stresses and
necessities that was crushing all the warmth and colour from their
lives. But how? How?
He must make love to her again. But how to begin--how to mark the
change? There had been making-up before, sullen concessions and
treaties. But this was different. He tried to imagine something he
might say, some appeal that he might make. Everything he thought of
was cold and hard, or pitiful and undignified, or theatrical and
foolish. Suppose the door _was_ closed! If already it was too late!
In every direction he was confronted by the bristling memories of
harsh things. He had a glimpse of how he must have changed in her
eyes, and things became intolerable for him. For now he was assured he
loved her still with all his heart.
And suddenly came a florist's window, and in the centre of it a
glorious heap of roses.
They caught his eye before they caught his mind. He saw white roses,
virginal white, roses of cream and pink and crimson, the tints of
flesh and pearl, rich, a mass of scented colour, visible odours, and
in the midst of them a note of sullen red. It was as it were the very
colour of his emotion. He stopped abruptly. He turned back to the
window and stared frankly. It was gorgeous, he saw, but why so
particularly did it appeal to him?
Then he perceived as though it was altogether self-evident what he had
to do. This was what he wanted. This was the note he had to
strike. Among other things because it would repudiate the accursed
worship of pinching self-restraint that was one of the incessant
stresses between them. They would come to her with a pure
unexpectedness, they would flame upon her.
Then, after the roses, he would return.
Suddenly the grey trouble passed from his mind; he saw the world full
of colour again. He saw the scene he desired bright and clear, saw
Ethel no longer bitter and weeping, but glad as once she had always
seemed glad. His heart-beats quickened. It was giving had been needed,
and he would give.
Some weak voice of indiscreet discretion squeaked and vanished. He
had, he knew, a sovereign in his pocket. He went in.
He found himself in front of a formidable young lady in black, and
unprepared with any formula. He had never bought flowers before. He
looked about him for an inspiration. He pointed at the roses. "I want
those roses," he said....
He emerged again with only a few small silver coins remaining out of
the sovereign he had changed. The roses were to go to Ethel, properly
packed; they were to be delivered according to his express direction
at six o'clock.
"Six o'clock," Lewisham had reiterated very earnestly.
"We quite understand," the young lady in black had said, and had
pretended to be unable to conceal a smile. "We're _quite_ accustomed
to sending out flowers."
THE COMING OF THE ROSES.
And the roses miscarried!
When Lewisham returned from Vigours' it was already nearly seven. He
entered the house with a beating heart. He had expected to find Ethel
excited, the roses displayed. But her face was white and jaded. He was
so surprised by this that the greeting upon his lips died away. He was
balked! He went into, the sitting-room and there were no roses to be
seen. Ethel came past him and stood with her back to him looking out
of the window. The suspense was suddenly painful....
He was obliged to ask, though he was certain of the answer, "Has
Ethel looked at him. "What did you think had come?"
She looked out of the window again. "No," she said slowly, "nothing
He tried to think of something to say that might bridge the distance
between them, but he could think of nothing. He must wait until the
roses came. He took out his books and a gaunt hour passed to supper
time. Supper was a chilly ceremonial set with necessary over-polite
remarks. Disappointment and exasperation darkened Lewisham's soul. He
began to feel angry with everything--even with her--he perceived she
still judged him angry, and that made him angry with her. He was
resuming his books and she was helping Madam Gadow's servant to clear
away, when they heard a rapping at the street door. "They have come at
last," he said to himself brightening, and hesitated whether he should
bolt or witness her reception of them. The servant was a
nuisance. Then he heard Chaffery's voices and whispered a soft "damn!"
The only thing to do now if the roses came was to slip out into the
passage, intercept them, and carry them into the bedroom by the door
between that and the passage. It would be undesirable for Chaffery to
witness that phase of sentiment. He might flash some dart of ridicule
that would stick in their memory for ever.
Lewisham tried to show that he did not want a visitor. But Chaffery
was in high spirits, and could have warmed a dozen cold welcomes. He
sat down without any express invitation in the chair that he
Before Mr. and Mrs. Chaffery the Lewishams veiled whatever trouble
might be between them beneath an insincere cordiality, and Chaffery
was soon talking freely, unsuspicious of their crisis. He produced two
cigars. "I had a wild moment," he said. "'For once,' said I, 'the
honest shall smoke the admirable--or the admirable shall smoke the
honest,' whichever you like best. Try one? No? Those austere
principles of yours! There will be more pleasure then. But really, I
would as soon you smoked it as I. For to-night I radiate benevolence."
He cut the cigar with care, he lit it with ceremony, waiting until
nothing but honest wood was burning on the match, and for fully a
minute he was silent, evolving huge puffs of smoke. And then he spoke
again, punctuating his words by varied and beautiful spirals. "So
far," he said, "I have only trifled with knavery."
As Lewisham said nothing he resumed after a pause.
"There are three sorts of men in the world, my boy, three and no
more--and of women only one. There are happy men and there are knaves
and fools. Hybrids I don't count. And to my mind knaves and fools are
very much alike."
He paused again.
"I suppose they are," said Lewisham flatly, and frowned at the
Chaffery eyed him. "I am talking wisdom. To-night I am talking a
particular brand of wisdom. I am broaching some of my oldest and
finest, because--as you will find one day--this is a special occasion.
And you are distrait!"
Lewisham looked up. "Birthday?" he said.
"You will see. But I was making golden observations about knaves and
fools. I was early convinced of the absolute necessity of
righteousness if a man is to be happy. I know it as surely as there is
a sun in the heavens. Does that surprise you?"
"Well, it hardly squares--"
"No. I know. I will explain all that. But let me tell you the happy
life. Let me give you that, as if I lay on my deathbed and this was a
parting gift. In the first place, mental integrity. Prove all things,
hold fast to that which is right. Let the world have no illusions for
you, no surprises. Nature is full of cruel catastrophes, man is a
physically degenerate ape, every appetite, every instinct, needs the
curb; salvation is not in the nature of things, but whatever salvation
there may be is in the nature of man; face all these painful things. I
hope you follow that?"
"Go on," said Lewisham, with the debating-society taste for a thesis
prevailing for a minute over that matter of the roses.
"In youth, exercise and learning; in adolescence, ambition; and in
early manhood, love--no footlight passion." Chaffery was very solemn
and insistent, with a lean extended finger, upon this point.
"Then marriage, young and decent, and then children and stout honest
work for them, work too for the State in which they live; a life of
self-devotion, indeed, and for sunset a decent pride--that is the
happy life. Rest assured that is the happy life; the life Natural
Selection has been shaping for man since life began. So a man may go
happy from the cradle to the grave--at least--passably happy. And to
do this needs just three things--a sound body, a sound intelligence,
and a sound will ... A sound will."
Chaffery paused on the repetition.
"No other happiness endures. And when all men are wise, all men will
seek that life. Fame! Wealth! Art!--the Red Indians worship lunatics,
and we are still by way of respecting the milder sorts. But I say that
all men who do not lead that happy life are knaves and fools. The
physical cripple, you know, poor devil, I count a sort of bodily
"Yes," weighed Lewisham, "I suppose he is."
"Now a fool fails of happiness because of his insufficient mind, he
miscalculates, he stumbles and hobbles, some cant or claptrap whirls
him away; he gets passion out of a book and a wife out of the stews,
or he quarrels on a petty score; threats frighten him, vanity beguiles
him, he fails by blindness. But the knave who is not a fool fails
against the light. Many knaves are fools also--_most_ are--but some
are not. I know--I am a knave but no fool. The essence of your knave
is that he lacks the will, the motive capacity to seek his own greater
good. The knave abhors persistence. Strait is the way and narrow the
gate; the knave cannot keep to it and the fool cannot find it."
Lewisham lost something of what Chaffery was saying by reason of a rap
outside. He rose, but Ethel was before him. He concealed his anxiety
as well as he could; and was relieved when he heard the front door
close again and her footsteps pass into the bedroom by the passage
door. He reverted to Chaffery.
"Has it ever occurred to you," asked Chaffery, apparently apropos of
nothing, "that intellectual conviction is no motive at all? Any more
than a railway map will run a train a mile."
"Eh?" said Lewisham. "Map--run a train a mile--of course, yes. No, it
"That is precisely my case," said Chaffery. "That is the case of
your pure knave everywhere. We are not fools--because we know. But
yonder runs the highway, windy, hard, and austere, a sort of dry
happiness that will endure; and here is the pleasant by-way--lush,
my boy, lush, as the poets have it, and with its certain man-trap
among the flowers ..."
Ethel returned through the folding doors. She glanced at Lewisham,
remained standing for awhile, sat down in the basket chair as if to
resume some domestic needlework that lay upon the table, then rose and
went back into the bedroom.
Chaffery proceeded to expatiate on the transitory nature of passion
and all glorious and acute experiences. Whole passages of that
discourse Lewisham did not hear, so intent was he upon those
roses. Why had Ethel gone back into the bedroom? Was it possible--?
Presently she returned, but she sat down so that he could not see her
"If there is one thing to set against the wholesome life it is
adventure," Chaffery was saying. "But let every adventurer pray for an
early death, for with adventure come wounds, and with wounds come
sickness, and--except in romances--sickness affects the nervous
system. Your nerve goes. Where are you then, my boy?"
"Ssh! what's that?" said Lewisham.
It was a rap at the house door. Heedless of the flow of golden wisdom,
he went out at once and admitted a gentleman friend of Madam Gadow,
who passed along the passage and vanished down the staircase. When he
returned Chaffery was standing to go.
"I could have talked with you longer," he said, "but you have
something on your mind, I see. I will not worry you by guessing
what. Some day you will remember ..." He said no more, but laid his
hand on Lewisham's shoulder.
One might almost fancy he was offended at something.
At any other time Lewisham might have been propitiatory, but now he
offered no apology. Chaffery turned to Ethel and looked at her
curiously for a moment. "Good-bye," he said, holding out his hand to
On the doorstep Chaffery regarded Lewisham with the same curious look,
and seemed to weigh some remark. "Good-bye," he said at last with
something in his manner that kept Lewisham at the door for a moment
looking after his stepfather's receding figure. But immediately the
roses were uppermost again.
When he re-entered the living room he found Ethel sitting idly at her
typewriter, playing with the keys. She got up at his return and sat
down in the armchair with a novelette that hid her face. He stared at
her, full of questions. After all, then, they had not come. He was
intensely disappointed now, he was intensely angry with the ineffable
young shop-woman in black. He looked at his watch and then again, he
took a book and pretended to read and found himself composing a
scathing speech of remonstrance to be delivered on the morrow at the
flower-shop. He put his book down, went to his black bag, opened and
closed it aimlessly. He glanced covertly at Ethel, and found her
looking covertly at him. He could not quite understand her expression.
He fidgeted into the bedroom and stopped as dead as a pointer.
He felt an extraordinary persuasion of the scent of roses. So strong
did it seem that he glanced outside the room door, expecting to find a
box there, mysteriously arrived. But there was no scent of roses in
Then he saw close by his foot an enigmatical pale object, and
stooping, picked up the creamy petal of a rose. He stood with it in
his hand, perplexed beyond measure. He perceived a slight disorder of
the valence of the dressing-table and linked it with this petal by a
He made two steps, lifted the valence, and behold! there lay his
roses crushed together!
He gasped like a man who plunges suddenly into cold water. He remained
stooping with the valence raised.
Ethel appeared in the half doorway and her, expression was unfamiliar.
He stared at her white face.
"Why on earth did you put my roses here?" he asked.
She stared back at him. Her face reflected his astonishment.
"Why did you put my roses here?" he asked again.
"Your roses!" she cried, "What! Did _you_ send those roses?"
THORNS AND ROSE PETALS.
He remained stooping and staring up at her, realising the implication
of her words only very slowly.
Then it grew clear to him.
As she saw understanding dawning in his face, she uttered a cry of
consternation. She came forward and sat down upon the little bedroom
chair. She turned to him and began a sentence. "I," she said, and
stopped, with an impatient gesture of her hands. "_Oh_!"
He straightened himself and stood regarding her. The basket of roses
lay overturned between them.
"You thought these came from someone else?" he said, trying to grasp
this inversion of the universe.
She turned her eyes, "I did not know," she panted. "A trap.... Was it
likely--they came from you?"
"You thought they came from someone else," he said.
"Yes," she said, "I did."
Lewisham looked about him--a man in the presence of the inconceivable.
"You mean to say you have been carrying on with that youngster behind
my back?" he asked.
She opened her lips to speak and had no words to say.
His pallor increased until every tinge of colour had left his face. He
laughed and then set his teeth. Husband and wife looked at one
"I never dreamt," he said in even tones.
He sat down on the bed, thrusting his feet among the scattered roses
with a sort of grim satisfaction. "I never dreamt," he repeated, and
the flimsy basket kicked by his swinging foot hopped indignantly
through the folding doors into the living room and left a trail of
They sat for perhaps two minutes, and when he spoke again his voice
was hoarse. He reverted to a former formula. "Look here," he said, and
cleared his throat. "I don't know whether you think I'm going to
stand this, but I'm not."
He looked at her. She sat staring in front of her, making no attempt
to cope with disaster.
"When I say I'm not going to stand it," explained Lewisham, "I don't
mean having a row or anything of that sort. One can quarrel and be
disappointed over--other things--and still go on. But this is a
different thing altogether.
"Of all dreams and illusions!... Think what I have lost in this
accursed marriage. And _now_ ... You don't understand--you won't
"Nor you," said Ethel, weeping but neither looking at him nor moving
her hands from her lap where they lay helplessly. "_You_ don't
"I'm beginning to."
He sat in silence gathering force. "In one year," he said, "all my
hopes, all my ambitions have gone. I know I have been cross and
irritable--I know that. I've been pulled two ways. But ... I bought
you these roses."
She looked at the roses, and then at his white face, made an
imperceptible movement towards him, and became impassive again.
"I do think one thing. I have found out you are shallow, you don't
think, you can't feel things that I think and feel. I have been
getting over that. But I did think you were loyal--"
"I _am_ loyal," she cried.
"And you think--Bah!--you poke my roses under the table!"
Another portentous silence. Ethel stirred and he turned his eyes to
watch what she was about to do. She produced her handkerchief and
began to wipe her dry eyes rapidly, first one and then the other. Then
she began sobbing. "I'm ... as loyal as you ... anyhow," she said.
For a moment Lewisham was aghast. Then he perceived he must ignore
"I would have stood it--I would have stood anything if you had been
loyal--if I could have been sure of you. I am a fool, I know, but I
would have stood the interruption of my work, the loss of any hope of
a Career, if I had been sure you were loyal. I ... I cared for you a
He stopped. He had suddenly perceived the pathetic. He took refuge in
"And you have deceived me! How long, how much, I don't care. You have
deceived me. And I tell you"--he began to gesticulate--"I'm not so
much your slave and fool as to stand that! No woman shall make me
_that_ sort of fool, whatever else--So far as I am concerned, this
ends things. This ends things. We are married--but I don't care if we
were married five hundred times. I won't stop with a woman who takes
flowers from another man--"
"I _didn't_," said Ethel.
Lewisham gave way to a transport of anger. He caught up a handful of
roses and extended them, trembling. "What's _this_?" he asked. His
finger bled from a thorn, as once it had bled from a blackthorn spray.
"I _didn't_ take them," said Ethel. "I couldn't help it if they were
"Ugh!" said Lewisham. "But what is the good of argument and denial?
You took them in, you had them. You may have been cunning, but you
have given yourself away. And our life and all this"--he waved an
inclusive hand at Madam Gadow's furniture--"is at an end."
He looked at her and repeated with bitter satisfaction, "At an end."
She glanced at his face, and his expression was remorseless. "I will
not go on living with you," he said, lest there should be any
mistake. "Our life is at an end."
Her eyes went from his face to the scattered roses. She remained
staring at these. She was no longer weeping, and her face, save about
the eyes, was white.
He presented it in another form. "I shall go away."
"We never ought to have married," he reflected. "But ... I never
"I didn't know," she cried out, lifting up her voice. "I _didn't_
know. How could _I_ help! _Oh_!"
She stopped and stared at him with hands clenched, her eyes haggard
Lewisham remained impenetrably malignant.
"I don't _want_ to know," he said, answering her dumb appeal. "That
settles everything. _That_!" He indicated the scattered flowers. "What
does it matter to me what has happened or hasn't happened? Anyhow--oh!
I don't mind. I'm glad. See? It settles things.
"The sooner we part the better. I shan't stop with you another
night. I shall take my box and my portmanteau into that room and
pack. I shall stop in there to-night, sleep in a chair or _think_. And
to-morrow I shall settle up with Madam Gadow and go. You can go back
... to your cheating."
He stopped for some seconds. She was deadly still. "You wanted to,
and now you may. You wanted to, before I got work. You remember? You
know your place is still open at Lagune's. I don't care. I tell you I
don't care _that_. Not that! You may go your own way--and I shall go
mine. See? And all this rot--this sham of living together when neither
cares for the other--I don't care for you _now_, you know, so you
needn't think it--will be over and done with. As for marriage--I don't
care _that_ for marriage--it can't make a sham and a blunder anything
but a sham.
"It's a sham, and shams have to end, and that's the end of the
He stood up resolutely. He kicked the scattered roses out of his way
and dived beneath the bed for his portmanteau. Ethel neither spoke
nor moved, but remained watching his movements. For a time the
portmanteau refused to emerge, and he marred his stern resolution by a
half audible "Come here--damn you!" He swung it into the living room
and returned for his box. He proposed to pack in that room.
When he had taken all his personal possessions out of the bedroom, he
closed the folding-doors with an air of finality. He knew from the
sounds that followed that she flung herself upon the bed, and that
filled him with grim satisfaction.
He stood listening for a space, then set about packing
methodically. The first rage of discovery had abated; he knew quite
clearly that he was inflicting grievous punishment, and that gratified
him. There was also indeed a curious pleasure in the determination of
a long and painful period of vague misunderstanding by this unexpected
crisis. He was acutely conscious of the silence on the other side of
the folding-doors, he kept up a succession of deliberate little
noises, beat books together and brushed clothes, to intimate the
resolute prosecution of his preparations.
That was about nine o'clock. At eleven he was still busy....
Darkness came suddenly upon him. It was Madam Gadow's economical habit
to turn off all her gas at that hour unless she chanced to be
He felt in his pocket for matches and he had none. He whispered
curses. Against such emergencies he had bought a brass lamp and in the
bedroom there were candles. Ethel had a candle alight, he could see
the bright yellow line that appeared between the folding doors. He
felt his way presently towards the mantel, receiving a blow in the
ribs from a chair on the way, and went carefully amidst Madam Gadow's
once amusing ornaments.
There were no matches on the mantel. Going to the chest of drawers he
almost fell over his open portmanteau. He had a silent ecstasy of
rage. Then he kicked against the basket in which the roses had
come. He could find no matches on the chest of drawers.
Ethel must have the matches in the bedroom, but that was absolutely
impossible. He might even have to ask her for them, for at times she
pocketed matches.... There was nothing for it but to stop
packing. Not a sound came from the other room.
He decided he would sit down in the armchair and go to sleep. He crept
very carefully to the chair and sat down. Another interval of
listening and he closed his eyes and composed himself for slumber.
He began to think over his plans for the morrow. He imagined the scene
with Madam Gadow, and then his departure to find bachelor lodgings
once more. He debated in what direction he should go to get, suitable
lodgings. Possible difficulties with his luggage, possible annoyances
of the search loomed gigantic. He felt greatly irritated at these
minor difficulties. He wondered if Ethel also was packing. What
particularly would she do? He listened, but he could hear nothing.
She was very still. She was really very still! What could she be
doing? He forgot the bothers of the morrow in this new interest.
Presently he rose very softly and listened. Then he sat down again
impatiently. He tried to dismiss his curiosity about the silence by
recapitulating the story of his wrongs.
He had some difficulty in fixing his mind upon this theme, but
presently his memories were flowing freely. Only it was not wrongs
now that he could recall. He was pestered by an absurd idea that he
had again behaved unjustly to Ethel, that he had been headlong and
malignant. He made strenuous efforts to recover his first heat of
jealousy--in vain. Her remark that she had been as loyal as he, became
an obstinate headline in his mind. Something arose within him that
insisted upon Ethel's possible fate if he should leave her. What
particularly would she do? He knew how much her character leant upon
his, Good Heavens! What might she not do?
By an effort he succeeded in fixing his mind on Baynes. That helped
him back to the harsher footing. However hard things might be for her
she deserved them. She deserved them!
Yet presently he slipped again, slipped back to the remorse and
regrets of the morning time. He clutched at Baynes as a drowning man
clutches at a rope, and recovered himself. For a time he meditated on
Baynes. He had never seen the poet, so his imagination had scope. It
appeared to him as an exasperating obstacle to a tragic avenging of
his honour that Baynes was a mere boy--possibly even younger than
The question, "What will become of Ethel?" rose to the surface
again. He struggled against its possibilities. No! That was not it!
That was her affair.
He felt inexorably kept to the path he had chosen, for all the waning
of his rage. He had put his hand to the plough. "If you condone this,"
he told himself, "you might condone anything. There are things one
_must_ not stand." He tried to keep to that point of view--assuming
for the most part out of his imagination what it was he was not
standing. A dim sense came to him of how much he was assuming. At any
rate she must have flirted!... He resisted this reviving perception of
justice as though it was some unspeakably disgraceful craving. He
tried to imagine her with Baynes.
He determined he would go to sleep.
But his was a waking weariness. He tried counting. He tried to
distract his thoughts from her by going over the atomic weights of the
He shivered, and realised that he was cold and sitting cramped on an
uncomfortable horsehair chair. He had dozed. He glanced for the yellow
line between the folding doors. It was still there, but it seemed to
quiver. He judged the candle must be flaring. He wondered why
everything was so still.
Now why should he suddenly feel afraid?
He sat for a long time trying to hear some movement, his head craning
forward in the darkness.
A grotesque idea came into his head that all that had happened a very
long time ago. He dismissed that. He contested an unreasonable
persuasion that some irrevocable thing had passed. But why was
everything so still?
He was invaded by a prevision of unendurable calamity.
Presently he rose and crept very slowly, and with infinite precautions
against noise, towards the folding doors. He stood listening with his
ear near the yellow chink.
He could hear nothing, not even the measured breathing of a sleeper.
He perceived that the doors were not shut, but slightly ajar. He
pushed against the inner one very gently and opened it silently. Still
there was no sound of Ethel. He opened the door still wider and
peered into the room. The candle had burnt down and was flaring in
its socket. Ethel was lying half undressed upon the bed, and in her
hand and close to her face was a rose.
He stood watching her, fearing to move. He listened hard and his face
was very white. Even now he could not hear her breathing.
After all, it was probably all right. She was just asleep. He would
slip back before she woke. If she found him--
He looked at her again. There was something in her face--
He came nearer, no longer heeding the sounds he made. He bent over
her. Even now she did not seem to breathe.
He saw that her eyelashes were still wet, the pillow by her cheek was
wet. Her white, tear-stained face hurt him....
She was intolerably pitiful to him. He forgot everything but that and
how he had wounded her that day. And then she stirred and murmured
indistinctly a foolish name she had given him.
He forgot that they were going to part for ever. He felt nothing but a
great joy that she could stir and speak. His jealousy flashed out of
being. He dropped upon his knees.
"Dear," he whispered, "Is it all right? I ... I could not hear you
breathing. I could not hear you breathing."
She started and was awake.
"I was in the other room," said Lewisham in a voice full of
emotion. "Everything was so quiet, I was afraid--I did not know what
had happened. Dear--Ethel dear. Is it all right?"
She sat up quickly and scrutinised his face. "Oh! let me tell you,"
she wailed. "Do let me tell you. It's nothing. It's nothing. You
wouldn't hear me. You wouldn't hear me. It wasn't fair--before you had
His arms tightened about her. "Dear," he said, "I knew it was
nothing. I knew. I knew."
She spoke in sobbing sentences. "It was so simple. Mr. Baynes
... something in his manner ... I knew he might be silly ... Only I
did so want to help you." She paused. Just for one instant she saw
one untenable indiscretion as it were in a lightning flash. A chance
meeting it was, a "silly" thing or so said, a panic, retreat. She
would have told it--had she known how. But she could not do it. She
hesitated. She abolished it--untold. She went on: "And then, I thought
he had sent the roses and I was frightened ... I was frightened."
"Dear one," said Lewisham. "Dear one! I have been cruel to you. I have
been unjust. I understand. I do understand. Forgive me.
"I did so want to do something for you. It was all I could do--that
little money. And then you were angry. I thought you didn't love me
any more because I did not understand your work.... And that Miss
Heydinger--Oh! it was hard."
"Dear one," said Lewisham, "I do not care your little finger for Miss
"I know how I hamper you. But if you will help me. Oh! I would work, I
would study. I would do all I could to understand."
"Dear," whispered Lewisham. "_Dear_"
"And to have _her_--"
"Dear," he vowed, "I have been a brute. I will end all that. I will
end all that."
He took her suddenly into his arms and kissed her.
"Oh, I _know_ I'm stupid," she said.
"You're not. It's I have been stupid. I have been unkind,
unreasonable. All to-day--... I've been thinking about it. Dear! I
don't care for anything--It's _you_. If I have you nothing else
matters ... Only I get hurried and cross. It's the work and being
poor. Dear one, we _must_ hold to each other. All to-day--It's been
He stopped. They sat clinging to one another.
"I do love you," she said presently with her arms about him. "Oh! I
He drew her closer to him.
He kissed her neck. She pressed him to her.
Their lips met.
The expiring candle streamed up into a tall flame, flickered, and was
suddenly extinguished. The air was heavy with the scent of roses.
On Tuesday Lewisham returned from Vigours' at five--at half-past six
he would go on to his science class at Walham Green--and discovered
Mrs. Chaffery and Ethel in tears. He was fagged and rather anxious for
some tea, but the news they had for him drove tea out of his head
"He's gone," said Ethel.
"Who's gone? What! Not Chaffery?"
Mrs. Chaffery, with a keen eye to Lewisham's behaviour, nodded
tearfully over an experienced handkerchief.
Lewisham grasped the essentials of the situation forthwith, and
trembled on the brink of an expletive. Ethel handed him a letter.
For a moment Lewisham held this in his hand asking;
questions. Mrs. Chaffery had come upon it in the case of her eight-day
clock when the time to wind it came round. Chaffery, it seemed, had
not been home since Saturday night. The letter was an open one
addressed to Lewisham, a long rambling would-be clever letter, oddly
inferior in style to Chaffery's conversation. It had been written some
hours before Chaffery's last visit his talk then had been perhaps a
sort of codicil.
"The inordinate stupidity of that man Lagune is driving me out of the
country," Lewisham saw. "It has been at last a definite stumbling
block--even a legal stumbling block. I fear. I am off. I skedaddle. I
break ties. I shall miss our long refreshing chats--you had found me
out and I could open my mind. I am sorry to part from Ethel also, but
thank Heaven she has you to look to! And indeed they both have you to
look to, though the 'both' may be a new light to you."
Lewisham growled, went from page 1 to page 3--conscious of their both
looking to him now--even intensely--and discovered Chaffery in a
"There is but little light, and portable property in that house in
Clapham that has escaped my lamentable improvidence, but there are one
or two things--the iron-bound chest, the bureau with a broken hinge,
and the large air pump--distinctly pawnable if only you can contrive
to get them to a pawnshop. You have more Will power than I--I never
could get the confounded things downstairs. That iron-bound box was
originally mine, before I married your mother-in-law, so that I am not
altogether regardless of your welfare and the necessity of giving some
equivalent. Don't judge me too harshly."
Lewisham turned over sharply without finishing that page.
"My life at Clapham," continued the letter, "has irked me for some
time, and to tell you the truth, the spectacle of your vigorous young
happiness--you are having a very good time, you know, fighting the
world--reminded me of the passing years. To be frank in
self-criticism, there is more than a touch of the New Woman about me,
and I feel I have still to live my own life. What a beautiful phrase
that is--to live one's own life!--redolent of honest scorn for moral
plagiarism. No _Imitatio Christi_ in that ... I long to see more of
men and cities.... I begin late, I know, to live my own life, bald as
I am and grey-whiskered; but better late than never. Why should the
educated girl have the monopoly of the game? And after all, the
whiskers will dye....
"There are things--I touch upon them lightly--that will presently
astonish Lagune." Lewisham became more attentive. "I marvel at that
man, grubbing hungry for marvels amidst the almost incredibly
marvellous. What can be the nature of a man who gapes after
Poltergeists with the miracle of his own silly existence
(inconsequent, reasonless, unfathomably weird) nearer to him than
breathing and closer than hands and feet. What is _he_ for, that he
should wonder at Poltergeists? I am astonished these by no means
flimsy psychic phenomena do not turn upon their investigators, and
that a Research Society of eminent illusions and hallucinations does
not pursue Lagune with sceptical! inquiries. Take his house--expose
the alleged man of Chelsea! _A priori_ they might argue that a thing
so vain, so unmeaning, so strongly beset by cackle, could only be the
diseased imagining of some hysterical phantom. Do _you_ believe that
such a thing as Lagune exists? I must own to the gravest doubts. But
happily his banker is of a more credulous type than I.... Of all that
Lagune will tell you soon enough."
Lewisham read no more. "I suppose he thought himself clever when he
wrote that rot," said Lewisham bitterly, throwing the sheets forcibly
athwart the table. "The simple fact is, he's stolen, or forged, or
There was a pause. "What will become of Mother?" said Ethel.
Lewisham looked at Mother and thought for a moment. Then he glanced
"We're all in the same boat," said Lewisham.
"I don't want to give any trouble to a single human being," said
"I think you might get a man his tea, Ethel," said Lewisham, sitting
down suddenly; "anyhow." He drummed on the table with his fingers. "I
have to get to Walham Green by a quarter to seven."
"We're all in the same boat," he repeated after an interval, and
continued drumming. He was chiefly occupied by the curious fact that
they were all in the same boat. What an extraordinary faculty he had
for acquiring responsibility! He looked up suddenly and caught
Mrs. Chaffery's tearful eye directed to Ethel and full of distressful
interrogation, and his perplexity was suddenly changed to pity. "It's
all right, Mother," he said. "I'm not going to be unreasonable. I'll
stand by you."
"Ah!" said Mrs. Chaffery. "As if I didn't know!" and Ethel came and
He seemed in imminent danger of universal embraces.
"I wish you'd let me have my tea," he said. And while he had his tea
he asked Mrs. Chaffery questions and tried to get the new situation
But even at ten o'clock, when he was returning hot and jaded from
Walham Green, he was still trying to get the situation into
focus. There were vague ends and blank walls of interrogation in the
matter, that perplexed him.
He knew that his supper would be only the prelude to an interminable
"talking over," and indeed he did not get to bed until nearly two. By
that time a course of action was already agreed upon. Mrs. Chaffery
was tied to the house in Clapham by a long lease, and thither they
must go. The ground floor and first floor were let unfurnished, and
the rent of these practically paid the rent of the house. The
Chafferys occupied basement and second floor. There was a bedroom on
the second floor, formerly let to the first floor tenants, that he and
Ethel could occupy, and in this an old toilet table could be put for
such studies as were to be prosecuted at home. Ethel could have her
typewriter in the subterranean breakfast-room. Mrs. Chaffery and Ethel
must do the catering and the bulk of the housework, and as soon as
possible, since letting lodgings would not square with Lewisham's
professional pride, they must get rid of the lease that bound them and
take some smaller and more suburban residence. If they did that
without leaving any address it might save their feelings from any
return of the prodigal Chaffery.
Mrs. Chaffery's frequent and pathetic acknowledgments of Lewisham's
goodness only partly relieved his disposition to a philosophical
bitterness. And the practical issues were complicated by excursions
upon the subject of Chaffery, what he might have done, and where he
might have gone, and whether by any chance he might not return.
When at last Mrs. Chaffery, after a violent and tearful kissing and
blessing of them both--they were "good dear children," she said--had
departed, Mr. and Mrs. Lewisham returned into their sitting-room.
Mrs. Lewisham's little face was enthusiastic. "You're a Trump," she
said, extending the willing arms that were his reward. "I know," she
said, "I know, and all to-night I have been loving you. Dear! Dear!
The next day Lewisham was too full of engagements to communicate with
Lagune, but the following morning he called and found the psychic
investigator busy with the proofs of _Hesperus_. He welcomed the young
man cordially nevertheless, conceiving him charged with the questions
that had been promised long ago--it was evident he knew nothing of
Lewisham's marriage. Lewisham stated his case with some bluntness.
"He was last here on Saturday," said Lagune. "You have always been
inclined to suspicion about him. Have you any grounds?"
"You'd better read this," said Lewisham, repressing a grim smile, and
he handed Lagune Chaffery's letter.
He glanced at the little man ever and again to see if he had come to
the personal portion, and for the rest of the time occupied himself
with an envious inventory of the writing appointments about him. No
doubt the boy with the big ears had had the same sort of thing ...
When Lagune came to the question of his real identity he blew out his
cheeks in the most astonishing way, but made no other sign.
"Dear, dear!" he said at last. "My bankers!"
He looked at Lewisham with the exaggerated mildness of his spectacled
eye. "What do you think it means?" he asked. "Has he gone mad? We have
been conducting some experiments involving--considerable mental
strain. He and I and a lady. Hypnotic--"
"I should look at my cheque-book if I were you."
Lagune produced some keys and got out his cheque book. He turned over
the counterfoils. "There's nothing wrong here," he said, and handed
the book to Lewisham.
"Um," said Lewisham. "I suppose this--I say, is _this_ right?"
He handed back the book to Lagune, open at the blank counterfoil of a
cheque that had been removed. Lagune stared and passed his hand over
his forehead in a confused way. "I can't see this," he said.
Lewisham had never heard of post hypnotic suggestion and he stood
incredulous. "You can't see that?" he said. "What nonsense!"
"I can't see it," repeated Lagune.
For some seconds Lewisham could not get away from stupid repetitions
of his inquiry. Then he hit upon a collateral proof. "But look here!
Can you see _this_ counterfoil?"
"Plainly," said Lagune.
"Can you read the number?"
"Five thousand two hundred and seventy-nine."
"Well, and this?"
"Five thousand two hundred and eighty-one."
"Well--where's five thousand two hundred and eighty?"
Lagune began to look uncomfortable. "Surely," he said, "he has
not--Will you read it out--the cheque, the counterfoil I mean, that I
am unable to see?"
"It's blank," said Lewisham with an irresistible grin.
"Surely," said Lagune, and the discomfort of his expression
deepened. "Do you mind if I call in a servant to confirm--?"
Lewisham did not mind, and the same girl who had admitted him to the
_seance_ appeared. When she had given her evidence she went again. As
she left the room by the door behind Lagune her eyes met Lewisham's,
and she lifted her eyebrows, depressed her mouth, and glanced at
Lagune with a meaning expression.
"I'm afraid," said Lagune, "that I have been shabbily treated.
Mr. Chaffery is a man of indisputable powers--indisputable powers; but
I am afraid--I am very much afraid he has abused the conditions of the
experiment. All this--and his insults--touch me rather nearly."
He paused. Lewisham rose. "Do you mind if you come again?" asked
Lagune with gentle politeness.
Lewisham was surprised to find himself sorry.
"He was a man of extraordinary gifts," said Lagune. "I had come to
rely upon him.... My cash balance has been rather heavy lately. How he
came to know of that I am unable to say. Without supposing, that is,
that he had very remarkable gifts."
When Lewisham saw Lagune again he learnt the particulars of Chaffery's
misdeed and the additional fact that the "lady" had also
disappeared. "That's a good job," he remarked selfishly. "There's no
chance of _his_ coming back." He spent a moment trying to imagine the
"lady"; he realised more vividly than he had ever done before the
narrow range of his experience, the bounds of his imagination. These
people also--with grey hair and truncated honour--had their emotions I
Even it may be glowing! He came back to facts. Chaffery had induced
Lagune when hypnotised to sign a blank cheque as an "autograph." "The
strange thing is," explained Lagune, "it's doubtful if he's legally
accountable. The law is so peculiar about hypnotism and I certainly
signed the cheque, you know."
The little man, in spite of his losses, was now almost cheerful again
on account of a curious side issue. "You may say it is coincidence,"
he said, "you may call it a fluke, but I prefer to look for some other
interpretation! Consider this. The amount of my balance is a secret
between me and my bankers. He never had it from _me_, for I did not
know it--I hadn't looked at my passbook for months. But he drew it all
in one cheque, within seventeen and sixpence of the total. And the
total was over five hundred pounds!"
He seemed quite bright again as he culminated.
"Within seventeen and sixpence," he said. "Now how do you account for
that, eh? Give me a materialistic explanation that will explain away
all that. You can't. Neither can I."
"I think I can," said Lewisham.
"Well--what is it?"
Lewisham nodded towards a little drawer of the bureau. "Don't you
think--perhaps"--a little ripple of laughter passed across his
mind--"he had a skeleton key?"
Lagune's face lingered amusingly in Lewisham's mind as he returned to
Clapham. But after a time that amusement passed away. He declined upon
the extraordinary fact that Chaffery was his father-in-law, Mrs.
Chaffery his mother-in-law, that these two and Ethel constituted his
family, his clan, and that grimy graceless house up the Clapham
hillside was to be his home. Home! His connexion with these things as
a point of worldly departure was as inexorable now as though he had
been born to it. And a year ago, except for a fading reminiscence of
Ethel, none of these people had existed for him. The ways of Destiny!
The happenings of the last few months, foreshortened in perspective,
seemed to have almost a pantomimic rapidity. The thing took him
suddenly as being laughable; and he laughed.
His laugh marked an epoch. Never before had Lewisham laughed at any
fix in which he had found himself! The enormous seriousness of
adolescence was coming to an end; the days of his growing were
numbered. It was a laugh of infinite admissions.
IN BATTERSEA PARK.
Now although Lewisham had promised to bring things to a conclusion
with Miss Heydinger, he did nothing in the matter for five weeks, he
merely left that crucial letter of hers unanswered. In that time their
removal from Madam Gadow's into the gaunt house at Clapham was
accomplished--not without polyglot controversy--and the young couple
settled themselves into the little room on the second floor even as
they had arranged. And there it was that suddenly the world was
changed--was astonishingly transfigured--by a whisper.
It was a whisper between sobs and tears, with Ethel's arms about him
and Ethel's hair streaming down so that it hid her face from him. And
he too had whispered, dismayed perhaps a little, and yet feeling a
strange pride, a strange novel emotion, feeling altogether different
from the things he had fancied he might feel when this thing that he
had dreaded should come. Suddenly he perceived finality, the advent of
the solution, the reconciliation of the conflict that had been waged
so long. Hesitations were at an end;--he took his line.
Next day he wrote a note, and two mornings later he started for his
mathematical duffers an hour before it was absolutely necessary, and
instead of going directly to Vigours', went over the bridge to
Battersea Park. There waiting for him by a seat where once they had
met before, he found Miss Heydinger pacing. They walked up and down
side by side, speaking for a little while about indifferent topics,
and then they came upon a pause ...
"You have something to tell me?" said Miss Heydinger abruptly.
Lewisham changed colour a little. "Oh yes," he said; "the fact is--"
He affected ease. "Did I ever tell you I was married?"
"Yes," a little testily.
For a moment neither spoke. Lewisham stood without dignity staring at
the dahlias of the London County Council, and Miss Heydinger stood
"And that is what you have to tell me?"
Mr. Lewisham tamed and met her eyes. "Yes!" he said. "That is what I
have to tell you."
Pause. "Do you mind if I sit down?" asked Miss Heydinger in an
"There is a seat yonder," said Lewisham, "under the tree."
They walked to the seat in silence.
"Now," said Miss Heydinger, quietly. "Tell me whom you have married."