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Love and Mr. Lewisham by H. G. Wells

Part 5 out of 5

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Lewisham answered sketchily. She asked him another question and
another. He felt stupid and answered with a halting truthfulness.

"I might have known," she said, "I might have known. Only I would not
know. Tell me some more. Tell me about her."

Lewisham did. The whole thing was abominably disagreeable to him, but
it had to be done, he had promised Ethel it should be done. Presently
Miss Heydinger knew the main outline of his story, knew all his story
except, the emotion that made it credible. "And you were
married--before the second examination?" she repeated.

"Yes," said Lewisham.

"But why did you not tell me of this before?" asked Miss Heydinger.

"I don't, know," said Lewisham. "I wanted to--that day, in Kensington
Gardens. But I didn't. I suppose I ought to have done so."

"I think you ought to have done so."

"Yes, I suppose I ought ... But I didn't. Somehow--it has been hard. I
didn't know what you would say. The thing seemed so rash, you know,
and all that."

He paused blankly.

"I suppose you had to do it," said Miss Heydinger presently, with her
eyes on his profile.

Lewisham began the second and more difficult part of his
explanation. "There's been a difficulty," he said, "all the way
along--I mean--about you, that is. It's a little difficult--The fact
is, my life, you know--She looks at things differently from what we


"Yes--it's odd, of course. But she has seen your letters--"

"You didn't show her--?"

"No. But, I mean, she knows you write to me, and she knows you write
about Socialism and Literature and--things we have in common--things
she hasn't."

"You mean to say she doesn't understand these things?"

"She's not thought about them. I suppose there's a sort of difference
in education--"

"And she objects--?"

"No," said Lewisham, lying promptly. "She doesn't _object_ ..."

"Well?" said Miss Heydinger, and her face was white.

"She feels that--She feels--she does not say, of course, but I know
she feels that it is something she ought to share. I know--how she
cares for me. And it shames her--it reminds her--Don't you see how it
hurts her?"

"Yes. I see. So that even that little--" Miss Heydinger's breath
seemed to catch and she was abruptly silent.

She spoke at last with an effort. "That it hurts _me_," she said, and
grimaced and stopped again.

"No," said Lewisham, "that is not it." He hesitated.

"I _knew_ this would hurt you."

"You love her. You can sacrifice--"

"No. It is not that. But there is a difference. Hurting _her_--she
would not understand. But you--somehow it seems a natural thing for me
to come to you. I seem to look to you--For her I am always making

"You love her."

"I wonder if it _is_ that makes the difference. Things are so
complex. Love means anything--or nothing. I know you better than I do
her, you know me better than she will ever do. I could tell you things
I could not tell her. I could put all myself before you--almost--and
know you would understand--Only--"

"You love her."

"Yes," said Lewisham lamely and pulling at his moustache. "I suppose
... that must be it."

For a space neither spoke. Then Miss Heydinger said "_Oh_!" with
extraordinary emphasis.

"To think of this end to it all! That all your promise ... What is it
she gives that I could not have given?

"Even now! Why should I give up that much of you that is mine? If she
could take it--But she cannot take it. If I let you go--you will do
nothing. All this ambition, all these interests will dwindle and die,
and she will not mind. She will not understand. She will think that
she still has you. Why should she covet what she cannot possess? Why
should she be given the thing that is mine--to throw aside?"

She did not look at Lewisham, but before her, her face a white misery.

"In a way--I had come to think of you as something, belonging to me
... I shall--still."

"There is one thing," said Lewisham after a pause, "it is a thing that
has come to me once or twice lately Don't you think that perhaps you
over-estimate the things I might have done? I know we've talked of
great things to do. But I've been struggling for half a year and more
to get the sort of living almost anyone seems able to get. It has
taken me all my time. One can't help thinking after that, perhaps the
world is a stiffer sort of affair ..."

"No," she said decisively. "You could have done great things.

"Even now," she said, "you may do great things--If only I might see
you sometimes, write to you sometimes--You are so capable
and--weak. You must have somebody--That is your weakness. You fail in
your belief. You must have support and belief--unstinted support and
belief. Why could I not be that to you? It is all I want to be. At
least--all I want to be now. Why need she know? It robs her of
nothing. I want nothing--she has. But I know of my own strength too I
can do nothing. I know that with you ... It is only knowing hurts
her. Why should she know?"

Mr. Lewisham looked at her doubtfully. That phantom greatness of his,
it was that lit her eyes. In that instant, at least he had no doubts
of the possibility of his Career. But he knew that in some way the
secret of his greatness and this admiration went together. Conceivably
they were one and indivisible. Why indeed need Ethel know? His
imagination ran over the things that might be done, the things that
might happen, and touched swiftly upon complication, confusion,

"The thing is, I must simplify my life. I shall do nothing unless I
simplify my life. Only people who are well off can be--complex. It is
one thing or the other--"

He hesitated and suddenly had a vision of Ethel weeping as once he had
seen her weep with the light on the tears in her eyes.

"No," he said almost brutally. "No. It's like this--I can't do
anything underhand. I mean--I'm not so amazingly honest--now. But I've
not that sort of mind. She would find me out. It would do no good and
she would find me out. My life's too complex. I can't manage it and go
straight. I--you've overrated me. And besides--Things have
happened. Something--" He hesitated and then snatched at his resolve,
"I've got to simplify--and that's the plain fact of the case. I'm
sorry, but it is so."

Miss Heydinger made no answer. Her silence astonished him. For nearly
twenty seconds perhaps they sat without speaking. With a quick motion
she stood up, and at once he stood up before her. Her face was
flushed, her eyes downcast.

"Good-bye," she said suddenly in a low tone and held out her hand.

"But," said Lewisham and stopped. Miss Heydinger's colour left her.

"Good-bye," she said, looking him suddenly in the eyes and smiling
awry. "There is no more to say, is there? Good-bye."

He took her hand. "I hope I didn't--"

"Good-bye," she said impatiently, and suddenly disengaged her hand and
turned away from him. He made a step after her.

"Miss Heydinger," he said, but she did not stop. "Miss Heydinger." He
realised that she did not want to answer him again....

He remained motionless, watching her retreating figure. An
extraordinary sense of loss came into his mind, a vague impulse to
pursue her and pour out vague passionate protestations....

Not once did she look back. She was already remote when he began
hurrying after her. Once he was in motion he quickened his pace and
gained upon her. He was within thirty yards of her as she drew near
the gates.

His pace slackened. Suddenly he was afraid she might look back. She
passed out of the gates, out of his sight. He stopped, looking where
she had disappeared. He sighed and took the pathway to his left that
led back to the bridge and Vigours'.

Halfway across this bridge came another crisis of indecision. He
stopped, hesitating. An impertinent thought obtruded. He looked at his
watch and saw that he must hurry if he would catch the train for
Earl's Court and Vigours'. He said Vigours' might go to the devil.

But in the end he caught his train.



That night about seven Ethel came into their room with a waste-paper
basket she had bought for him, and found him sitting at the little
toilet table at which he was to "write." The outlook was, for a London
outlook, spacious, down a long slope of roofs towards the Junction, a
huge sky of blue passing upward to the darkling zenith and downward
into a hazy bristling mystery of roofs and chimneys, from which
emerged signal lights and steam puffs, gliding chains of lit window
carriages and the vague vistas of streets. She showed him the basket
and put it beside him, and then her eye caught the yellow document in
his hand. "What is that you have there?"

He held it out to her. "I found it--lining my yellow box. I had it at

She took it and perceived a chronological scheme. It was headed
"SCHEMA," there were memoranda in the margin, and all the dates had
been altered by a hasty hand.

"Hasn't it got yellow?" she said.

That seemed to him the wrong thing for her to say. He stared at the
document with a sudden accession of sympathy. There was an
interval. He became aware of her hand upon his shoulder, that she was
bending over him. "Dear," she whispered, with a strange change in the
quality of her voice. He knew she was seeking to say something that
was difficult to say.

"Yes?" he said presently.

"You are not grieving?"

"What about?"



"You are not--you are not even sorry?" she said.

"No--not even sorry."

"I can't understand that. It's so much--"

"I'm glad," he proclaimed. "_Glad."_

"But--the trouble--the expense--everything--and your work?"

"Yes," he said, "that's just it."

She looked at him doubtfully. He glanced up at her, and she questioned
his eyes. He put his arm about her, and presently and almost
absent-mindedly she obeyed his pressure and bent down and kissed him.

"It settles things," he said, holding her. "It joins us. Don't you
see? Before ... But now it's different. It's something we have between
us. It's something that ... It's the link we needed. It will hold us
together, cement us together. It will be our life. This will be my
work now. The other ..."

He faced a truth. "It was just ... vanity!"

There was still a shade of doubt in her face, a wistfulness.

Presently she spoke.

"Dear," she said.


She knitted her brows. "No!" she said. "I can't say it."

In the interval she came into a sitting position on his knees.

He kissed her hand, but her face remained grave, and she looked out
upon the twilight. "I know I'm stupid," she said. "The things I say
... aren't the things I feel."

He waited for her to say more.

"It's no good," she said.

He felt the onus of expression lay on him. He too found it a little
difficult to put into words. "I think I understand," he said, and
wrestled with the impalpable. The pause seemed long and yet not
altogether vacant. She lapsed abruptly into the prosaic. She started
from him.

"If I don't go down, Mother will get supper ..."

At the door she stopped and turned a twilight face to him. For a
moment they scrutinised one another. To her he was no more than a dim
outline. Impulsively he held out his arms....

Then at the sound of a movement downstairs she freed herself and
hurried out. He heard her call "Mother! You're not to lay
supper. You're to rest."

He listened to her footsteps until the kitchen had swallowed them
up. Then he turned his eyes to the Schema again and for a moment it
seemed but a little thing.

He picked it up in both hands and looked at it as if it was the
writing of another man, and indeed it was the writing of another
man. "Pamphlets in the Liberal Interest," he read, and smiled.

Presently a train of thought carried him off. His attitude relaxed a
little, the Schema became for a time a mere symbol, a point of
departure, and he stared out of the window at the darkling night. For
a long time he sat pursuing thoughts that were half emotions, emotions
that took upon themselves the shape and substance of ideas. The
deepening current stirred at last among the roots of speech.

"Yes, it was vanity," he said. "A boy's vanity. For me--anyhow. I'm
too two-sided.... Two-sided?... Commonplace!

"Dreams like mine--abilities like mine. Yes--any man! And yet ...--The
things I meant to do!"

His thoughts went to his Socialism, to his red-hot ambition of world
mending. He marvelled at the vistas he had discovered since those

"Not for us--Not for us.

"We must perish in the wilderness.--Some day. Somewhen. But not for

"Come to think, it is all the Child. The future is the Child. The
Future. What are we--any of us--but servants or traitors to that?...

* * * * *

"Natural Selection--it follows ... this way is happiness ... must
be. There can be no other."

He sighed. "To last a lifetime, that is.

"And yet--it is almost as if Life had played me a trick--promised so
much--given so little!...

"No! One must not look at it in that way! That will not do! That will
_not_ do.

"Career! In itself it is a career--the most important career in the
world. Father! Why should I want more?

"And ... Ethel! No wonder she seemed shallow ... She has been
shallow. No wonder she was restless. Unfulfilled ... What had she to
do? She was drudge, she was toy ...

"Yes. This is life. This alone is life! For this we were made and
born. All these other things--all other things--they are only a sort
of play....


His eyes came back to the Schema. His hands shifted to the opposite
corner and he hesitated. The vision of that arranged Career, that
ordered sequence of work and successes, distinctions and yet further
distinctions, rose brightly from the symbol. Then he compressed his
lips and tore the yellow sheet in half, tearing very deliberately. He
doubled the halves and tore again, doubled again very carefully and
neatly until the Schema was torn into numberless little pieces. With
it he seemed to be tearing his past self.

"Play," he whispered after a long silence.

"It is the end of adolescence," he said; "the end of empty dreams...."

He became very still, his hands resting on the table, his eyes staring
out of the blue oblong of the window. The dwindling light gathered
itself together and became a star.

He found he was still holding the torn fragments. He stretched out
his hand and dropped them into that new waste-paper basket Ethel had
bought for him.

Two pieces fell outside the basket. He stooped, picked them up, and
put them carefully with their fellows.

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