Part 3 out of 4
'What is it?'
'It's only the new candle-shades, miss. Shall I bring them in for you to
'No, thank you....'
She put her hands over her eyes and summoned all her pride. Probably the
very butler and her maid knew perfectly well she had been waiting at
home alone for Mr Reeve. She cared absolutely nothing what they thought;
but she felt bitter, revengeful to him. It was cruel.
Why did she care so much? She remembered letters and scenes with other
people--people whose sufferings about her she felt always inclined to
laugh at. She couldn't believe in it. Love in books had always seemed to
her, although intensely interesting, just a trifle absurd. She couldn't
realise it till now.
Another ring. Perhaps it was he after all! ...
The same position. The book, the bright blue eyes....
The door opened; Anne came in. It was striking seven o'clock.
Meanwhile Cecil had received a note from his uncle, asking him to go and
see him. He decided he would do so on his way to see Hyacinth.
For many days now he had not seen Mrs Raymond. She had answered no
letters, and been always 'out' to him.
As he walked along, he wondered what had become of her, and tried to
think he didn't care.
'I have news for you, Cecil,' said his uncle; 'but, first, you really
have made up your mind, haven't you, to try your luck with Hyacinth?
What a pretty perfumed name it is--just like her.'
'I suppose I shall try.'
'Good. I'm delighted to hear it. Then in a very short time I shall hear
that you're as happy as I am.'
'As you, Uncle Ted?'
'Look at this house, Cecil. It's full of Things; it wants looking after.
I want looking after.... I am sure you wouldn't mind--wouldn't be vexed
to hear I was going to marry again?'
'Rather not. I'm glad. It must be awfully lonely here sometimes. But I
am surprised, I must say. Everybody looks upon you as a confirmed
widower, Uncle Ted.'
'Well, so I have been a confirmed widower--for eighteen years. I think
that's long enough.'
Cecil waited respectfully.
Then his uncle said abruptly--
'I saw Mrs Raymond yesterday.'
Cecil started and blushed.
'Did you? Where did you meet her?'
'I didn't meet her. I went to see her. I spent two hours with her.'
Cecil stared in silent amazement.
'It was my fourth visit,' said Lord Selsey.
'You spent all that time talking over my affairs?'
His uncle gave a slight smile. 'Indeed not, Cecil. After the first few
minutes of the first visit, frankly, we said very little about you.'
'But I don't understand.'
'I've been all this time trying to persuade her to something--against
her judgement. I've been trying to persuade her to marry.'
'To marry me?'
'No. To marry me. And I've succeeded.'
'I congratulate you,' said Cecil, in a cold, hard voice.
'You're angry, my boy. It's very natural; but let me explain to you how
He paused, and then went on: 'Of course, for years I've wished for the
right woman here. But I never saw her. I thought I never should. That
day she came here--the musical party--the moment I looked at her, I saw
that she was meant for me, not for you.'
'I call it a beastly shame,' said Cecil.
'It isn't. It's absolutely right. You know perfectly well she never
would have cared for you in the way you wished.'
Cecil could not deny that, but he said sarcastically--
'So you fell in love with her at first sight?'
'Oh no, I didn't. I'm not in love with her now. But I think she's
beautiful. I mean she has a beautiful soul--she has atmosphere, she has
something that I need. I could live in the same house with her in
perfect harmony for ever. I could teach her to understand my Things. She
does already by instinct.'
'You're marrying her as a kind of custodian for your collection?'
'A great deal, of course. And, then, I couldn't marry a young girl. It
would be ridiculous. A society woman--a regular beauty--would jar on me
and irritate me. She would think herself more important than my
Cecil could hardly help a smile, angry as he was.
'And Mrs Raymond,' went on Lord Selsey, 'is delightfully unworldly--and
yet sensible. Of course, she's not a bit in love with me either. But she
likes me awfully, and I persuaded her. It was all done by argument.'
'I could never persuade her,' said Cecil bitterly.
'Of course not. She has such a sense of form. She saw the
incongruity.... I needn't ask you to forgive me, old boy. I know, of
course, there's nothing to forgive. You've got over your fancy, or you
will very soon. I haven't injured you in any sort of way, and I didn't
take her away from you. She's ten years older than you, and nine years
younger than me.... You're still my heir just the same. This will make
no difference, and you'll soon be reconciled. I'm sure of that.'
'Of course, I'm not such a brute as not to be glad, for her,' said Cecil
slowly, after a slight struggle. 'It seems a bit rough, though, at
first.' He held out his hand.
'Thanks, dear old boy. You see I'm right. You can't be angry with me....
You see it's a peculiar case. It won't be like an ordinary marriage, a
young married couple and so on, nor a _mariage de convenance_, either,
in the ordinary sense. Here are two lonely people intending to live
solitary lives. Suddenly, you--_most_ kindly, I must say--introduce us.
I, with my great experience and my instinctive _flair_, see immediately
that this is the right woman in the right place. I bother her until she
consents--and there you are.'
'I hope you'll be happy.'
They shook hands in silence, and Cecil got into a hansom and drove
straight to Mrs Raymond's. He was furious.
While Hyacinth, whose very existence he had forgotten in the shock and
anger of this news, was feeling, with the agonising clairvoyance of
love, that Cecil was with Mrs Raymond, she was perfectly right.
Today Eugenia was at home, and did not refuse to see him.
'I see you know,' she remarked coolly as he came in.
Cecil had controlled his emotion when with his uncle, but seeing Mrs
Raymond again in the dismal little old drawing-room dealt him a terrible
blow. He saw, only too vividly, the picture of his suave, exquisite
uncle, standing out against this muddled, confused background, in the
midst of decoration which was one long disaster and furniture that was
one desperate failure. To think that the owner of Selsey House had spent
hours here! The thought was jealous agony.
'I must congratulate you,' he said coldly.
'Thank you, Cecil.'
'I thought you were never going to marry again?' he said sarcastically.
'I never do, as a rule. But this is an exception. And it isn't going to
be like an ordinary marriage. We shall each have complete freedom. He
persuaded me--to look after that lovely house. It will give me an object
in life. And besides, Cecil,' she was laughing, 'think--to be your aunt!
He seized her by the shoulders. She laughed still more, and put one hand
on the bell, at which he released her. He walked away so violently that
he knocked down a screen.
'There, that will do,' said Eugenia, picking it up. 'You've made your
little scene, and shown your little temper, and that's enough. Sit
down,' she commanded.
Cecil sat down, feeling a complete fool.
'Look here. I daresay that it's a little annoying for you, at first,
especially as you introduced us; but really, when you come to think it
over, there's no law of etiquette, or any other that I know of, which
compels me to refuse the uncle of a young man who has done me the honour
to like me. Oh, Cecil, don't be absurd!'
'Are you in love with him?'
'No. But I think he will be very pleasant--not worrying and
fidgeting--so calm and kind. I refused at first, Cecil. People always
want what they can't get, and if it's any satisfaction to you, I don't
mind confessing that I have had, for years, a perfect mania for somebody
else. A hopeless case for at least three reasons: he's married, he's in
love with someone else (not even counting his wife, who counts a great
deal) and, if he hadn't either of these preoccupations, he would never
look at me. So I've given it up. I've made up my mind to forget it. Your
uncle will help me, and give me something else to think about.'
'Who was the man?' Cecil asked. It was some slight satisfaction to know
that she also had had a wasted affection.
'Why should I tell you? I shall not tell you. Well, I will tell you.
It's Sir Charles Cannon.'
'Yes; it was a sort of mad hero-worship. I never could account for it. I
always thought him the most wonderful person. He hasn't the faintest
idea of it, and never will; and now don't let's speak of him again.'
The name reminded Cecil of Hyacinth. He started violently, remembering
his appointment. What must she have thought of him?
'Good-bye, Eugenia,' he said.
As he held her hand he felt, in a sense, as if it was in some strange
way, after all, a sort of triumph for him, a score that Lord Selsey had
appreciated her so wonderfully.
As he left the house it struck seven. What was he to do about Hyacinth?
That evening Hyacinth received a large basket of flowers and a letter,
in which Cecil threw himself on her mercy, humbling himself to the
earth, and imploring her to let him come and explain and apologise next
day. He entreated her to be kind enough to let him off waiting till a
conventional hour, and to allow him to call in the morning.
He received a kind, forgiving answer, and then spent the most miserable
night of his life.
Bruce has Influenza
All women love news of whatever kind; even bad news gives them merely a
feeling of pleasurable excitement, unless it is something that affects
them or those they love personally.
Edith was no exception to the rule, but she knew that Bruce, on the
contrary, disliked it; if it were bad he was angry and said it served
the people right, while if it were good he thought they didn't deserve
it and disapproved strongly. Bruce spent a great deal of his time and
energy in disapproving; generally of things and people that were no
concern of his. As is usually the case, this high moral attitude was
caused by envy. Bruce would have been much surprised to hear it, but
envy was the keynote of his character, and he saw everything that
surrounded him through its vague mist.
All newspapers made him furious. He regarded everything in them as a
personal affront; from the fashionable intelligence, describing
political dinners in Berkeley Square or dances in Curzon Street, where
he thought he should have been present in the important character of
host, to notices of plays--plays which he felt he could have written so
well. Even sensational thefts irritated him; perhaps he unconsciously
fancied that the stolen things (Crown jewels, and so forth) should by
rights have been his, and that he would have known how to take care of
them. 'Births, Marriages, and Deaths' annoyed him intensely. If he read
that Lady So-and-So had twin sons, the elder of whom would be heir to
the title and estates, he was disgusted to think of the injustice that
he hadn't a title and estates for Archie to inherit, and he mentally
held the newly-arrived children very cheap, feeling absolutely certain
that they would compare most unfavourably with his boy, excepting, of
course, in the accident of their worldly circumstances. Also, although
he was proud of having married, and fond of Edith, descriptions of
'Society Weddings of the Week' drove him absolutely wild--wild to think
that he and Edith, who deserved it, hadn't had an Archbishop, choirboys,
guardsmen with crossed swords to walk under, and an amethyst brooch from
a member of the Royal Family at their wedding. New discoveries in
science pained him, for he knew that he would have thought of them long
before, and carried them out much better, had he only had the time.
Bruce had had influenza, and when Edith came in with her news, she could
not at once make up her mind to tell him, fearing his anger.
He was lying on the sofa with the paper, grumbling at the fuss made
about the Sicilian players, of whom he was clearly jealous.
She sat down by his side and agreed with him.
'I'm much worse since you went out. You know the usual results of
influenza, don't you? Heart failure, or nervous depression liable to
lead to suicide.'
'But you're much better, dear. Dr Braithwaite said it was wonderful how
quickly you threw it off.'
'Threw it off! Yes, but that's only because I have a marvellous
constitution and great will-power. If I happened to have had less
strength and vitality, I might easily have been dead by now. I wish
you'd go and fetch me some cigarettes, dear. I have none left.'
She got up and went to the door.
'What are you fidgeting about, Edith?' said he. '_Can't_ you keep still?
It's not at all good for a convalescent to have a restless person
'Why, I was only going to fetch--'
'I know you were; but you should learn repose, dear. First you go out
all the morning, and when you come home you go rushing about the room.'
She sat down again and decided to tell him.
'You'll be glad to hear,' she said, 'that Hyacinth and Cecil Reeve are
engaged. They are to be married in the autumn.'
Guessing she expected him to display interest, he answered irritably--
'I don't care. It has nothing to do with me.'
'No, of course not.'
'I never heard anything so idiotic as having a wedding in the autumn. A
most beastly time, I think--November fogs.'
'I heard something else,' said Edith, 'which surprised me much more.
Fancy, Lord Selsey's going to be married--to Mrs Raymond. Isn't that
'Lord Selsey--a widower! Disgusting! I thought he pretended to be so
fond of his first wife.'
'He was, dear, I believe. But she died eighteen years ago, and--'
'Instead of telling me all this tittle-tattle it would be much better if
you did as I asked you, Edith, and fetched me the cigarettes. I've asked
you several times. Of course I don't want to make a slave of you. I'm
not one of those men who want their wives to be a drudge. But, after
all, they're only in the next room. It isn't a _very_ hard task! And I'm
very weak, or I'd go myself.'
She ran out and brought them back before he could stop her again.
'Who is this Mrs Raymond?' he then asked.
'Oh, she's a very nice woman--a widow. Really quite suitable in age to
Lord Selsey. Not young. She's not a bit pretty and not in his set at
all. He took the most violent fancy to her at first sight, it seems. She
had vowed never to marry again, but he persuaded her.'
'Well,' said Bruce, striking a match, 'they didn't consult me! They must
go their own way. I'm sorry for them, of course. Lord Selsey always
seemed to me a very agreeable chap, so it seems rather a pity. At the
same time, I suppose it's a bad thing--in the worldly sense--for Reeve,
and _that's_ satisfactory.'
'Oh! I think he's all right, said Edith, and she smiled thoughtfully.
'You're always smiling, Edith,' he complained. 'Particularly when I have
something to annoy me.'
'Am I? I believe I read in the "Answers to Correspondents" in _Home
Chirps_ that a wife should always have a bright smile if her husband
'Good heavens! How awful! Why, it would be like living with a Cheshire
Edith warmly began to defend herself from the accusation, when Bruce
stopped her by saying that his temperature had gone up, and asking her
to fetch the clinical thermometer.
Having snatched it from her and tried it, he turned pale and said in a
'Telephone to Braithwaite. At once. Say it's urgent. Poor little Edith!'
'What is it?' she cried in a frightened voice.
'I'd better not tell you,' he said, trying to hide it.
'Tell me--oh! tell me!'
'It's a hundred and nineteen. Now don't waste time. You meant no harm,
dear, but you worried and excited me. It isn't your fault. Don't blame
yourself. Of course, you _would_ do it.'
'Oh, I know what it is,' cried Edith. 'I dipped it in boiling water
before I gave it to you.'
'Idiot! You might have broken it!' said Bruce.
The explanation seemed to annoy him very much; nevertheless he often
referred afterwards to the extraordinary way his temperature used to
jump about, which showed what a peculiarly violent, virulent, dangerous
form of influenza he had had, and how wonderful it was he had thrown it
off, in spite of Edith's inexperienced, not to say careless, nursing,
entirely by his own powerful will and indomitable courage.
Lady Cannon sat in her massive, florid clothes, that always seemed part
of her massive, florid furniture, and to have the same expression of
violent, almost ominous conventionality, without the slightest touch of
austerity to tone it down. Her throat and figure seemed made solely to
show off dog-collars and long necklaces; her head seemed constructed
specially for the wearing of a dark red royal fringe and other
ornaments. Today she was in her most cheerful and condescending mood, in
fact she was what is usually called in a good temper. It was a great
satisfaction to her that Hyacinth was at last settled; and she decided
to condone the rather wilful way in which the engagement had been
finally arranged without reference to her. With the touch of somewhat
sickly sentiment common to most hard women, she took great pleasure in a
wedding (if it were only moderately a suitable one), and was prepared to
be arch and sympathetic with the engaged couple whom she expected today
to pay her a formal visit.
She was smiling to herself as she turned a bracelet on her left wrist,
and wondered if she and Sir Charles need really run to a tiara, since
after all they weren't Hyacinth's parents, and was wishing they could
get off with giving her a certain piece of old lace that had been in the
family for years, and could never be arranged to wear, when Sir
Charles came in.
'Ah, Charles, that's right. I wish you to be here to welcome Hyacinth
and her fiancé. I'm expecting them directly.'
'I can't possibly be here,' he said. 'I have a most urgent appointment.
I've done all the right things. I've written to them, and gone to see
Hyacinth, and we've asked them to dinner. No more is necessary. Of
course, let them understand that I--I quite approve, and all that. And I
really think that's quite enough.'
He spoke rather irritably.
'Really, Charles, how morose you've grown. One would think you disliked
to see young people happy together. I always think it's such a pretty
sight. Especially as it's a regular love match.'
'No doubt; no doubt. Charming! But I have an appointment; I must go at
'With whom, may I ask?'
'With St Leonards,' he answered unblushingly.
'Oh! Oh well, of course, they'll understand you couldn't keep the Duke
waiting. I'll mention it; I'll explain. I shall see a little more of
Hyacinth just now, Charles. It'll be the right thing. An engaged girl
ought to be chaperoned by a connection of the family--of some weight.
Not a person like that Miss Yeo. I shall arrange to drive out with
Hyacinth and advise her about her trousseau, and....'
'Yes; do as you like, but spare me the details.'
Lady Cannon sighed.
'Ah, Charles, you have no romance. Doesn't the sight of these happy
young people bring back the old days?'
The door shut. Lady Cannon was alone.
'He has no soul,' she said to herself, using a tiny powder-puff.
The young people, as they were now called, had had tea with her in her
magnificent drawing-room. She had said and done everything that was
obvious, kind, and tedious. She had held Hyacinth's hand, and shaken a
forefinger at Cecil, and then she explained to them that it would be
much more the right thing now for them to meet at her house, rather than
at Hyacinth's--a recommendation which they accepted with complete
(apparent) gravity, and in fact she seemed most anxious to take entire
possession of them--to get the credit of them, as it were, as a social
'And now,' she said, 'what do you think I'm going to do? If you won't
think me very rude' (threatening forefinger again), 'I'm going to leave
you alone for a little while. I shan't be very long; but I have to write
a letter, and so on, and when I come back I shall have on my bonnet, and
I'll drive Hyacinth home.'
'It's most awfully kind of you, Auntie, but Cecil's going to drive me
'No, no, no! I insist, I insist! This dear child has been almost like a
daughter to me, you know,' pressing a lace-edged little handkerchief,
scented with Ess Bouquet, to a dry little eye. 'You mustn't take her
away all at once! Will you be very angry if I leave you?' and laughing
in what she supposed to be an entirely charming manner, she glided, as
though on castors, in her fringed, embroidered, brocaded dress from
'Isn't she magnificent?' said Cecil.
'You know she has a reputation for being remarkable for sound sense,'
'Well, she's shown it at last!'
He took a stroll round the room. It was so high, so enormous, with so
much satin on the walls, so many looking-glasses, so much white paint,
so many cabinets full of Dresden china, that it recalled, by the very
extremity of the contrast of its bright hideousness, that other ugly,
dismal little room, also filled with false gods, of a cheap and very
different kind, in which he had had so much poignant happiness.
'Hyacinth,' he said, rather quaintly, 'do you know what I'm doing? I
want to kiss you, and I'm looking for a part of the room in which it
wouldn't be blasphemous!'
'You can't find one, Cecil. I couldn't--here. And her leaving us alone
makes it all the more impossible.'
The girl was seated on a stiff, blue silk settee, padded and buttoned,
and made in a peculiar form in which three people can sit, turning their
backs to one another. She leant her sweet face on her hand, her elbow on
the peculiar kind of mammoth pincushion that at once combined and
separated the three seats. (It had been known formerly as a 'lounge'--a
peculiarly unsuitable name, as it was practically impossible not to sit
in it bolt upright.)
Cecil stood opposite and looked down at her.
Happiness, and the hope of happiness, had given her beauty a different
character. There was something touching, troubling about her. It seemed
to him that she had everything: beauty, profane and spiritual; deep blue
eyes, in which he could read devotion; womanly tenderness, and a
flower-like complexion; a perfect figure, and a beautiful soul. He could
be proud of her before the world, and he could delight in her in
private. She appealed, he thought, to everything in a man--his vanity,
his intellect, and his senses. The better he knew her, the more
exquisite qualities he found in her. She was sweet, clever, good, and
she vibrated to his every look. She was sensitive, and passionate. She
was adorable. He was too fortunate! Then why did he think of a pale,
tired, laughing face, with the hair dragged off the forehead, and
Japanese eyes?... What folly! It was a recurring obsession.
'Cecil, what are you thinking about?'
'Do you love me? Will you always love me? Are you happy?'
He made no answer, but kissed the questions from her lips, and from his
So Lady Cannon, after rattling the handle of the door, came in in her
bonnet, and found them, as she had expected. Then she sent Cecil away
and drove Hyacinth home, talking without ceasing during the drive of
bridesmaids, choral services, bishops, travelling-bags, tea-gowns, and
pretty little houses in Mayfair.
Hyacinth did not hear a single word she said, so, as Lady Cannon
answered all her own questions in the affirmative, and warmly agreed
with all her own remarks, she quite enjoyed herself, and decided that
Hyacinth had immensely improved, and that Ella was to come back for
The Strange Behaviour of Anne
It was a spring-like, warm-looking, deceptive day, with a bright sun and
a cold east wind.
Anne sat, a queer-looking figure, in an unnecessary mackintosh and a
golf-cap, on a bench in a large open space in Hyde Park, looking
absently at some shabby sheep. She had come here to be alone, to think.
Soon she would be alone as much as she liked--much more. She had
appeared quite sympathetically cheerful, almost jaunty, since her
friend's engagement. She could not bear anyone to know her real
feelings. Hyacinth had been most sweet, warmly affectionate to her;
Cecil delightful. They had asked her to go and stay with them. Lady
Cannon had graciously said, 'I suppose you will be looking out for
another situation now, Miss Yeo?' and others had supposed she would go
back to her father's Rectory, for a time, at any rate.
Today the wedding had been definitely fixed, and she had come out to
give way to the bitterness of her solitude.
She realised that she had not the slightest affection for anyone in the
world except Hyacinth, and that no-one had any for her, on anything like
the same scale.
Anne was a curious creature. Her own family had always been absolutely
indifferent to her, and from her earliest youth she had hated and
despised all men that she had known. Sir Charles Cannon was the only
human being for whom she felt a little sympathy, instinctively knowing
that under all his amiable congratulations he disliked Hyacinth's
marriage almost as much as she did, and in the same way.
All the strength of her feelings and affections, then, which in the
ordinary course would have gone in other channels, Anne had lavished on
Hyacinth. She adored her as if she had been her own child. She
worshipped her like an idol. As a matter of fact, being quite
independent financially, it was not as a paid companion at all that she
had lived with her, though she chose to appear in that capacity. And,
besides, Hyacinth herself, Anne had, in a most superlative degree,
enjoyed the house, her little authority, the way she stood between
Hyacinth and all tedious little practical matters. Like many a woman who
was a virago at heart, Anne had a perfect passion for domestic matters,
for economy, for managing a house. Of course she had always known that
the pretty heiress was sure to marry, but she hoped the evil day would
be put off, and somehow it annoyed her to such an acute extent because
Hyacinth was so particularly pleased with the young man.
As she told Anne every thought, and never dreamt of concealing any
nuance or shade of her sentiments, Anne had suffered a good deal.
It vexed her particularly that Hyacinth fancied Cecil so unusual, while
she was very certain that there were thousands and thousands of
good-looking young men in England in the same position who had the same
education, who were precisely like him. There was not a pin to choose
between them. How many photographs in groups Cecil had shown them, when
she and Hyacinth went to tea at his rooms! Cecil in a group at Oxford,
in an eleven, as a boy at school, and so forth! While Hyacinth
delightedly recognised Cecil, Anne wondered how on earth she could tell
one from the other. Of course, he was not a bad sort. He was rather
clever, and not devoid of a sense of humour, but the fault Anne really
found with him, besides his taking his privileges so much as a matter of
course, was that there was nothing, really, to find fault with. Had he
been ugly and stupid, she could have minded it less.
Now what should she do? Of course she must remain with Hyacinth till the
marriage, but she was resolved not to go to the wedding, although she
had promised to do so. Both Hyacinth and Cecil really detested the
vulgarity of a showy fashionable wedding as much as she did, and it was
to be moderated, toned down as much as possible. But Anne couldn't stand
it--any of it--and she wasn't going to try.
As she sat there, wrapped up in her egotistic anguish, two young people,
probably a shop-girl and her young man, passed, sauntering along,
holding hands, and swinging their arms. Anne thought that they were, if
anything, less odious than the others, but the stupidity of their
happiness irritated her, and she got up to go back.
She felt tired, and though it was not far, she decided, with her usual
unnecessary economy, to go by omnibus down Park Lane.
As she got out and felt for the key in her pocket, she thought how soon
she would no longer be able to go into her paradise and find the lovely
creature waiting to confide in her, how even now the lovely creature was
in such a dream of preoccupied happiness that, quick as she usually was,
she was now perfectly blind to her friend's jealousy. And, indeed, Anne
concealed it very well. It was not ordinary jealousy either. She was
very far from envying Hyacinth. She only hated parting with her.
As she passed the studio she heard voices, and looked in, just as she
was, with a momentary desire to _gêner_ them.
Of course they got up, Hyacinth blushing and laughing, and entreated her
to come in.
She sat there a few minutes, hoping to chill their high spirits, then
abruptly left them in the middle of a sentence.
At dinner that evening she appeared quite as usual. She had taken a
'It's very important,' said Bruce, 'that I don't see too many people at
a time. You must arrange the visitors carefully. Who is coming this
'I don't know of anyone, except perhaps your mother, and Mr Raggett.'
'Ah! Well, I can't see them both at once.'
'Really? Why not?'
'Why not? What a question! Because it would be a terrible fatigue for
me. I shouldn't be able to stand it. In fact I'm not sure that I ought
to see Raggett at all.'
'Don't, then. Leave a message to say that after all you didn't feel
'But, if we do that, won't he think it rather a shame, poor chap? As I
said he could come, doesn't it seem rather hard lines for him to come
all this way--it is a long distance, mind you--and then see nobody?'
'Well, I can see him.'
Bruce looked up suspiciously.
'Oh, you want to see him, do you? Alone?'
'Don't be silly, Bruce. I would much rather not see him.'
'Indeed, and why not? I really believe you look down on him because he's
'Not a bit. Well, he won't be angry; you can say that you had a relapse,
or something, and were not well enough to see him.'
'Nothing of the sort. It would be very good for me; a splendid change to
have a little intellectual talk with a man of the world. I've had too
much women's society lately. I'm sick of it. Ring the bell, Edith.'
'Of course I will, Bruce, but what for? Is it anything I can do?'
'I want you to ring for Bennett to pass me my tonic.'
'Really, Bruce, it's at your elbow.' She laughed.
'I suppose I've changed a good deal since my illness,' said he looking
in the glass with some complacency.
'You don't look at all bad, dear.'
'I know I'm better; but sometimes, just as people are recovering, they
suddenly have a frightful relapse. Braithwaite told me I would have to
be careful for some time.'
'How long do you suppose he meant?'
'I don't know--five or six years, I suppose. It's the heart. That's
what's so risky in influenza.'
'But he said your heart was all right.'
'Ah, so he thinks. Doctors don't know everything. Or perhaps it's what
he says. It would never do to tell a heart patient he was in immediate
danger, Edith; why, he might die on the spot from the shock.'
'Yes, dear; but, excuse my saying so, would he have taken me aside and
told me you were perfectly well, and that he wouldn't come to see you
again, if you were really in a dangerous state?'
'Very possibly. I don't know that I've so very much confidence in
Braithwaite. I practically told him so. At least I suggested to him,
when he seemed so confident about my recovery, that he should have a
consultation. I thought it only fair to give him every chance.'
'And what did he say?'
'He didn't seem to see it. Just go and get the cards, Edith, that have
been left during my illness. It's the right thing for me to write to
everyone, and thank them for their kindness.'
'But there are no cards, dear.'
'You see, people who knew you were ill inquired by telephone, except
your mother, and she never leaves a card.'
He seemed very disgusted.
'That's it,' he said. 'That's just like life; "laugh, and the world
laughs with you; weep, and you weep alone!" Get out of the running, and
drop aside, and you're forgotten. And I'm a fairly popular man, too; yet
I might have died like a dog in this wretched little flat, and not a
card.--What's that ring?'
'It must be your mother.'
Bruce leant back on the sofa in a feeble attitude, gave Edith directions
to pull the blinds a little way down, and had a vase of roses placed
by his side.
Then his mother was shown in.
'Well, how is the interesting invalid? Dear boy, how well you look! How
perfectly splendid you look!'
'Hush, Mother,' said Bruce, with a faint smile, and in a very low voice.
'Sit down, and be a little quiet. Yes, I'm much better, and getting on
well; but I can't stand much yet.'
'Dear, dear! And what did the doctor say?' she asked Edith.
'He won't come any more,' said Edith.
'Isn't he afraid you will be rushing out to the office too soon--
over-working? Oh well, Edith will see that you take care of yourself.
Where's little Archie?'
'Go and see him in the nursery,' said Bruce, almost in a whisper. 'I
can't stand a lot of people in here.'
'Archie's out,' said Edith.
There was another ring.
'That's how it goes on all day long,' said Bruce. 'I don't know how it's
got about, I'm sure. People never cease calling! It's an infernal
'Well, it's nice to know you're not neglected,' said his mother.
'Neglected? Why, it's been more like a crowded reception than an
'It's Mr Raggett,' said Edith; 'I heard his voice. Will you see him or
'Yes. Presently. Take him in the other room, and when the mater goes he
can come in here.'
'I'm going now,' said Mrs Ottley; 'you mustn't have a crowd. But really,
Bruce, you're better than you think.'
'Ah, I'm glad you think so. I should hate you to be anxious.'
'Your father wanted to know when you would be able to go to the office
'That entirely depends. I may be strong enough in a week or two, but I
promised Braithwaite not to be rash for Edith's sake. Well, good-bye,
Mother, if you must go.'
She kissed him, left a box of soldiers for Archie and murmured to
'What an angel Bruce is! So patient and brave. Perfectly well, of
course. He has been for a week. He'll go on thinking himself ill for a
year--the dear pet, the image of his father! If I were you, Edith, I
think I should get ill too; it will be the only way to get him out. What
a perfect wife you are!'
'I should like to go back with you a little,' said Edith.
'Well, can't you? I'm going to Harrod's, of course. I'm always going to
Harrod's; it's the only place I ever do go. As Bruce has a friend he'll
let you go.'
Bruce made no objection. Edith regarded it as a treat to go out with her
mother-in-law. The only person who seemed to dislike the arrangement was
Mr Raggett. When he found he was to be left alone with Bruce, he seemed
on the point of bursting into tears.
The wedding was over. Flowers, favours, fuss and fluster, incense, 'The
Voice that breathed o'er Eden,' suppressed nervous excitement, maddening
delay, shuffling and whispers, acute long-drawn-out boredom of the men,
sentimental interest of the women, tears of emotion from dressmakers in
the background, disgusted resignation on the part of people who wanted
to be at Kempton (and couldn't hear results as soon as they wished),
envy and jealousy, admiration for the bride, and uncontrollable smiles
of pitying contempt for the bridegroom. How is it that the bridegroom,
who is, after all, practically the hero of the scene, should always be
on that day, just when he is the man of the moment, so hugely, pitiably
Nevertheless, he was envied. It was said on all sides that Hyacinth
looked beautiful, though old-fashioned people thought she was too
self-possessed, and her smile too intelligent, and others complained
that she was too ideal a bride--too much like a portrait by Reynolds and
not enough like a fashion-plate in the _Lady's Pictorial_.
Sir Charles had given her away with his impassive air of almost absurd
distinction. It had been a gathering of quite unusual good looks, for
Hyacinth had always chosen her friends almost unconsciously with a view
to decorative effect, and there was great variety of attraction. There
were bridesmaids in blue, choristers in red, tall women with flowery
hats, young men in tight frock-coats and buttonholes, fresh 'flappers'
in plaits, beauties of the future, and fascinating, battered creatures
in Paquin dresses, beauties of the past.
As to Lady Cannon, she had been divided between her desire for the
dramatic importance of appearing in the fairly good part of the Mother
of the Bride, and a natural, but more frivolous wish to recall to the
memory of so distinguished a company her success as a professional
beauty of the 'eighties, a success that clung to her with the faded
poetical perfume of pot-pourri, half forgotten.
Old joys, old triumphs ('Who is she?' from the then Prince of Wales at
the opera, with the royal scrutiny through the opera-glass), and old
sentiments awoke in Lady Cannon with Mendelssohn's wedding March, and,
certainly, she was more preoccupied with her mauve toque and her
embroidered velvet gown than with the bride, or even with her little
Ella, who had specially come back from school at Paris for the occasion,
who was childishly delighted with her long crook with the floating blue
ribbon, and was probably the only person present whose enjoyment was
quite fresh and without a cloud.
Lady Cannon was touched, all the same, and honestly would have cried,
but that, simply, her dress was really too tight. It was a pity she had
been so obstinate with the dressmaker about her waist for this
particular day; an inch more or less would have made so little
difference to her appearance before the world, and such an enormous
amount to her own comfort. 'You look lovely, Mamma--as though you
couldn't breathe!' Ella had said admiringly at the reception.
Indeed, her comparatively quiet and subdued air the whole afternoon,
which was put down to the tender affection she felt for her husband's
ward, was caused solely and entirely by the cut of her costume.
Obscure relatives, never seen at other times, who had given glass
screens painted with storks and water-lilies, or silver hair-brushes or
carriage-clocks, turned up, and were pushing at the church and cynical
at the reception. Very smart relatives, who had sent umbrella-handles
and photograph-frames, were charming, and very anxious to get away;
heavy relatives, who had sent cheques, stayed very late, and took it out
of everybody in tediousness; the girls were longing for a chance to
flirt, which did not come; young men for an opportunity to smoke, which
did. Elderly men, their equilibrium a little upset by champagne in the
afternoon, fell quite in love with the bride, were humorous and jovial
until the entertainment was over, and very snappish to their wives
Like all weddings it had left the strange feeling of futility, the
slight sense of depression that comes to English people who have tried,
from their strong sense of tradition, to be festive and sentimental and
in high spirits too early in the day. The frame of mind supposed to be
appropriate to an afternoon wedding can only be genuinely experienced by
an Englishman at two o'clock in the morning. Hence the dreary failure of
Lord Selsey was present, very suave and cultivated, and critical, and
delighted to see his desire realised. Mrs Raymond was not there. Edith
looked very pretty, but rather tired. Bruce had driven her nearly mad
with his preparations. He had evidently thought that he would be the
observed of all observers and the cynosure of every eye. He was terribly
afraid of being too late or too early, and at the last moment, just
before starting, thought that he had an Attack of Heart, and nearly
decided not to go, but recovered when Archie was found stroking his
father's hat the wrong way, apparently under the impression that it was
a pet animal of some kind. Bruce had been trying, as his mother called
it, for a week, because he thought the note written to thank them for
their present had been too casual. Poor Edith had gone through a great
deal on the subject of the present, for Bruce was divided by so many
sentiments on the subject. He hated spending much money, which indeed he
couldn't afford, and yet he was most anxious for their gift to stand out
among the others and make a sensation.
He was determined above all things to be original in his choice, and
after agonies of indecision on the subject of fish-knives and Standard
lamps, he suddenly decided on a complete set of Dickens. But as soon as
he had ordered it, it seemed to him pitiably flat, and he countermanded
it. Then they spent weary hours at Liberty's, and other places of the
kind, when Bruce declared he felt a nervous breakdown coming on, and
left it to Edith, who sent a fan.
When Hyacinth was dressed and ready to start she asked for Anne. It was
then discovered that Miss Yeo had not been seen at all since early that
morning, when she had come to Hyacinth's room, merely nodded and gone
out again. It appeared that she had left the house at nine o'clock in
her golf-cap and mackintosh, taking the key and a parcel. This had
surprised no-one, as it was thought that she had gone to get some little
thing for Hyacinth before dressing. She had not been seen since.
Well, it was no use searching! Everyone knew her odd ways. It was
evident that she had chosen not to be present. Hyacinth had to go
without saying good-bye to her, but she scribbled a note full of
affectionate reproaches. She was sorry, but it could not be helped. She
was disappointed, but she would see her when she came back. After all,
at such a moment, she really couldn't worry about Anne.
And so, pursued by rice and rejoicings--and ridicule from the little
boys in the street by the awning--the newly-married couple drove to the
station, '_en route_,' as the papers said, with delightful vagueness,
'_for the Continent_.'
What did they usually talk about when alone?
The only thing he felt clearly, vividly, and definitely was a furious
resentment against Lord Selsey.
'Do you love me, Cecil? Will you always love me? Are you happy?'
Ashamed of his strange, horrible mood of black jealousy, Cecil turned to
'How about your play, Bruce? Aren't you going to work at it this
'Why no; not just at present. I'm not in the mood. You don't understand,
Edith. The Artist must work when the inspiration seizes him.'
'Of course, I know all that, Bruce; but it's six months since you had
'Ah, but it isn't that only; but the trend of public taste is so bad--it
gets worse and worse. Good heavens, I can't write down to the level of
the vulgar public!'
'But can you write at all?'
'Certainly; certainly I can; but I need encouragement. My kind of
talent, Edith, is like a sort of flower--are you listening?--a flower
that needs the watering and tending, and that sort of thing, of
appreciation. Appreciation! that's what I need--that's all I ask for.
Besides, I'm a business man, and unless I have a proper contract with
one of the Managers--a regular arrangement and agreement about my work
being produced at a certain time--and, mind you, with a cast that I
select--I just shan't do it at all.'
'I see. Have you taken any steps?'
'Of course I've taken steps--at least I've taken stalls at most of the
theatres, as you know. There isn't a play going on at this moment that
isn't full of faults--faults of the most blatant kind--mistakes that I
myself would never have made. To begin with, for instance, take
'Yes. A play like _The Merchant of Venice_, for example. My dear girl,
it's only the glamour of the name, believe me! It's a wretched play,
improbable, badly constructed, full of padding--good gracious! do you
suppose that if _I_ had written that play and sent it to Tree, that he
would have put it up?'
'I can't suppose it, Bruce.'
'It isn't sense, Edith; it isn't true to life. Why, who ever heard of a
case being conducted in any Court of Law as that is? Do you suppose all
kinds of people are allowed to stand up and talk just when they like,
and say just what they choose--in blank verse, too? Do you think now, if
someone brought an action against me and you wanted me to win it, that
you and Bennett could calmly walk off to the Law Courts disguised as a
barrister and his clerk, and that you could get me off? Do you suppose,
even, that you would be let in? People don't walk in calmly saying that
they're barristers and do exactly what they please, and talk any
nonsense that comes into their head.
'I know that; but this is poetry, and years and years ago, in
'Oh, good gracious, Edith, that's no excuse! It isn't sense. Then take a
play like _The Merry Widow_. What about that? Do you suppose that if I
liked I couldn't do something better than that? Look here, Edith, tell
me, what's the point? Why are you so anxious that I should write
He looked at her narrowly, in his suspicious way.
'First of all, because I think it would amuse you.'
'Amuse me, indeed!'
'And then, far more, because--Bruce, do you remember assuring me that
you were going to make £5,000 a year at least?'
'Well, so I shall, so I shall. You must give a fellow time. Rome wasn't
built in a day.'
'I know it wasn't, and if it had been it would be no help to me. Will
you look at the bills?'
'Oh, confound it!'
'Bruce dear, if you're not going to work at your play tonight, won't you
just glance at the accounts?'
'You know perfectly well, Edith, if there's one thing I hate more than
another it's glancing at accounts. Besides, what good is it? What
earthly use is it?'
'Of course it would be use if you would kindly explain how I'm going to
'Why, of course, we'll pay them--gradually.'
'But they're getting bigger gradually.'
'Dear me, Edith, didn't we a year or two ago make a Budget?
Didn't we write down exactly how much every single item of our
expenditure would be?'
'Yes; I know we did; but--'
'Well, good heavens, what more do you want?'
'Lots more. You made frightful mistakes in the Budget, Bruce; at any
rate, it was extraordinarily under-estimated.'
'Why, I remember I left a margin for unexpected calls.'
'I know you left a margin, but you left out coals and clothes
'Oh, did I?'
'And the margin went in a week, the first week of your holiday. You
never counted holidays in the Budget.'
'Oh! I--I--well, I suppose it escaped my recollection.'
'Never mind that. It can't be helped now. You see, Bruce, we simply
haven't enough for our expenses.'
'Oh, then what's the use of looking at the accounts?'
'Why, to see where we are. What we've done, and so on. What do you
usually do when you receive a bill?'
'I put it in the fire. I don't believe in keeping heaps of useless
papers; it's so disorderly. And so I destroy them.'
'That's all very well, but you know you really oughtn't to be in debt.
It worries me. All I want you to do,' she continued, 'is just to go
through the things with me to see how much we owe, how much we can pay,
and how we can manage; and just be a little careful for the next
'Oh, if that's all you want--well, perhaps you're right, and we'll do
it, some time or other; but not tonight.'
'Why not? You have nothing to do!'
'Perhaps not; but I can't be rushed. Of course, I know it's rather hard
for you, old girl, being married to a poor man; but you know you _would_
do it, and you mustn't reproach me with it now.'
'We're not a bit too hard up to have a very pleasant time, if only you
weren't so--,' then she stopped.
'Go on; say it!' he exclaimed. 'You want to make out I'm extravagant,
that's it! I _have_ large ideas, I own it; it's difficult for me to be
petty about trifles.'
'But, Bruce, I wasn't complaining at all of your large ideas. You hardly
ever give me a farthing, and expect me to do marvels on next to nothing.
Of course, I know you're not petty about some things.' She
'All right then; I'll give up smoking and golfing, and all the little
things that make life tolerable to a hard-working man.'
'Not at all, dear. Of course not. There's really only one luxury--if you
won't think me unkind--that I think, perhaps, you might try to have
'What is that?'
'Well, dear, couldn't you manage not to be ill quite so often? You see,
almost whenever you're bored you have a consultation. The doctors always
say you're quite all right; but it does rather--well, run up, and you
can't get much fun out of it. Now, don't be angry with me.'
'But, good God, Edith! If I didn't take it in time, you might be left a
young widow, alone in the world, with Archie. Penny-wise and
pound-foolish to neglect the health of the breadwinner! Do you reproach
me because the doctor said I wasn't dangerously ill at the time?'
'Of course not; I'm only too thankful.'
'I'm sure you are really, dear. Now yesterday I felt very odd, very
'Oh, what was it?'
'An indescribable sensation. At first it was a kind of heaviness in my
feet, and a light sensation in my head, and a curious kind of
emptiness--nervous exhaustion, I suppose.'
'It was just before lunch, no doubt. I daresay it went off. When I have
little headache or don't feel quite up to the mark, I don't send for the
doctor; I take no notice of it, and it goes away.'
'But you, my dear--you're as strong as a horse. That reminds me, will
you fetch me my tonic?'
When she came back, he said--
'Look here, Edith, I'll tell you what you shall do, if you like. You're
awfully good, dear, really, to worry about the bills and things, though
it's a great nuisance, but I should suggest that you just run through
them with my mother. You know how good-natured she is. She'll be
flattered at your consulting her, and she'll be able to advise you if
you _have_ gone too far and got into a little debt. She knows perfectly
well it's not the sort of thing _I_ can stand. And, of course, if she
were to offer to help a little, well! she's my mother; I wouldn't hurt
her feelings by refusing for anything in the world, and the mater's
awfully fond of you.'
'But, Bruce, I'd much rather--'
'Oh, stop, Edith. I'm sorry to have to say it, but you're becoming
shockingly fussy. I never thought you would have grown into a fidgety,
worrying person. How bright you used to seem in the old days! And of
course the whole thing about the accounts, and so on, _must_ have arisen
through your want of management. But I won't reproach you, for I believe
you mean well.... I've got one of my headaches coming on; I hope to
goodness I'm not going to have an attack.'
He looked in the glass. 'I'm rather an odd colour, don't you think so?'
'No; I don't think so. It's the pink-shaded light.'
'Ah, suppose you had married a chap like Reeve--rolling in gold! Are he
and Hyacinth happy, do you think?'
'I think they seem very happy.'
'We're lunching there on Sunday, aren't we? Don't forget to order me a
buttonhole the day before, Edith.'
She looked at her engagement-book.
'It's not next Sunday, Bruce. Next Sunday we're lunching with your
people. You'll be sure to come, won't you?'
'Oh, ah, yes! If I'm well enough.'
'I know who you are. You're the pretty lady. Mother won't be long. Shall
I get you my bear?'
Hyacinth had come to see Edith, and was waiting for her in the little
drawing-room of the flat. The neat white room with its miniature
overmantel, pink walls, and brass fire-irons like toys, resembled more
than ever an elaborate doll's house. The frail white chairs seemed too
slender to be sat on. Could one ever write at that diminutive white
writing-desk? The flat might have been made, and furnished by Waring,
for midgets. Everything was still in fair and dainty repair, except that
the ceiling, which was painted in imitation of a blue sky, was beginning
to look cloudy. Hyacinth sat on a tiny blue sofa from where she could
see her face in the glass. She was even prettier than before her
marriage, now three months ago, but when in repose there was a slightly
anxious look in her sweet, initiated eyes. She had neither the air of
prosaic disillusion nor that of triumphant superiority that one sees in
some young brides. She seemed intensely interested in life, but a little
less reposeful than formerly.
'Why, Archie! What a big boy you've grown!'
'Shall I bring you my bear?'
'Oh, no; never mind the bear. Stay and talk to me.'
'Yes; but I'd better bring the bear. Mother would want me to amuse you.'
He ran out and returned with his beloved animal, and put it on her lap.
'Father calls him mangy, but he isn't, really. I'm going to cut its hair
to make it grow thicker. I can say all the alphabet and lots of poetry.
Shall I say my piece? No; I know what I'll do, I'll get you my cards,
with E for ephalunt and X for swordfish on, and see if you can guess
'That would be fun. I wonder if I shall guess?'
'You mustn't read the names on them, because that wouldn't be fair. You
may only look at the pictures. Oh, won't you have tea? Do have tea.'
'I think I'll wait for your mother.'
'Oh, no; have tea now, quick. Then I can take some of your sugar.'
Hyacinth agreed; but scarcely had this point been settled when Edith
returned and sent him off.
'Edith,' Hyacinth said, 'do you know I am rather worried about two
things? I won't tell you the worst just yet.'
'It's sure to be all your fancy,' said Edith affectionately.
'Well, it isn't my fancy about Anne. Is it not the most extraordinary
thing? Since the day of my wedding she's never been seen or heard of.
She walked straight out into the street, and London seems to have
swallowed her up. She took nothing with her but a large paper parcel,
and left all her luggage, and even her dress that I made her get for the
wedding was laid out on the bed. What can have become of her? Of course,
I know she has plenty of money, and she could easily have bought an
entirely new outfit, and gone away--to America or somewhere, under
another name without telling anyone. We've inquired of her father, and
he knows nothing about her. It really is a mysterious disappearance.'
'I don't feel as if anything had happened to her,' Edith said, after a
pause. 'She's odd, and I fancy she hated your marrying, and didn't want
to see you again. She'll get over it and come back. Surely if there had
been an accident, we should have heard by now. Do you miss her,
'Of course I do, in a way. But everything's so different now. It isn't
so much my missing her, if I only knew she was all right. There's
something so sad about disappearing like that.'
'Well, everything has been done that can be done. It's not the slightest
use worrying. I should try and forget about it, if I were you. What's
the other trouble?'
'Well, you know how perfect Cecil is to me, and yet there's one thing I
don't like. The Selseys have come back, and have asked us there, and
Cecil won't go. Isn't it extraordinary? Can he be afraid of meeting
'Really, Hyacinth, you are fanciful! What now, now that she's his
aunt--practically? Can you really still be jealous?'
'Horribly,' said Hyacinth frankly. 'If she married his uncle a hundred
times it wouldn't alter the fact that she's the only woman he's ever
been madly in love with.'
'Why, he adores you, Hyacinth!'
'I am sure he does, in a way, but only as a wife!
'Well, good heavens! What else do you want? You're too happy; too lucky;
you're inventing things, searching for troubles. Why make yourself
wretched about imaginary anxieties?'
'Suppose, dear, that though he's devoted to me, we suit each other
perfectly, and so on, yet at the back of his brain there's always a
little niche, a little ideal for that other woman just because she never
cared for him? I believe there will always be--always.'
'Well, suppose there is; what on earth does it matter? What difference
does it make? Why be jealous of a shadow?'
'It's just because it's such a shadow that it's so intangible--so
unconquerable. If she had ever returned his affection he might have got
tired of her, they might have quarrelled, he might have seen through
her--realised her age and all that, and it would have been
over--exploded! Instead of this, he became fascinated by her, she
refused him; and then, to make it ever so much worse for me, Lord
Selsey, whom he's so fond of and thinks such a lot of, goes and puts her
upon a pedestal, constantly in sight, yet completely out of reach.'
'You are unreasonable, Hyacinth! Would you prefer a rival of flesh and
blood. Don't be so fanciful, dear. It's too foolish. You've got your
wish; enjoy it. I consider that you haven't a trouble in the world.'
'Dear Edith,' said Hyacinth, 'have you troubles?'
'Why, of course I have--small ones. Bruce has taken to having a
different illness every day. His latest is that he _imagines_ he's a
'Good gracious, how complicated! What makes him think that?'
'Because he's been going to specialists for everything he could think
of, and they all say he's specially well. Still, it's better than if he
were really ill, I suppose. Only he's very tormenting, and hardly ever
works, and lately he's taken to making jealous scenes.'
'Oh, that must be rather fun. Who is he jealous of?'
'Why, he thinks he's jealous of his friend Raggett--the most impossible,
harmless creature in the world; and the funny thing is whenever Bruce is
jealous of anyone he keeps on inviting them--won't leave them alone. If
I go out when Raggett appears, he says it's because I'm so deep; and if
I stay he finds fault with everything I do. What do you advise me to do,
'Why, give him something more genuine to worry about--flirt with a real
person. That would do Bruce good, and be a change for you.'
'I would--but I haven't got time! What chance is there for flirting when
I have to be always contriving and economising, and every scrap of
leisure I must be there or thereabouts in case Bruce has heart disease
or some other illness suddenly? When you are living with a strong young
man who thinks he's dangerously ill, flirting is not so easy as it
sounds. When he isn't here I'm only too glad to rest by playing
'I see. What do you think could cure Bruce of his imaginary maladies?'
'Oh, not having to work, coming into some money. You see, it fills up
the time which he can't afford to spend on amusements.'
'It's a bore for you....'
'Oh, I don't mind much; but you see we all have our little troubles.'
'Then, how did you say I ought to behave about the Selseys?'
'Don't behave at all. Be perfectly natural, ignore it. By acting as if
things were just as you liked, they often become so.'
There was a ring on the telephone.
Edith went into the next room to answer it, and came back to say--
'Bruce has just rung up. He wants to know if Raggett's here. He says
he'll be home in half an hour. He doesn't feel up to the mark, and can't
stay at the office.'
'Poor little Edith!'
'And don't for goodness sake bother yourself about Cecil. As if there
was any man in the world who hadn't liked somebody some time or other!'
Hyacinth laughed, kissed her, and went away.
One day Bruce came into the flat much more briskly than usual. There was
a certain subdued satisfaction in his air that Edith was glad to see. He
sat down, lit a cigarette, and said--
'Edith, you know how strongly I disapprove of the modern fashion of
husbands and wives each going their own way--don't you?'
'Where are you thinking of going, dear?'
'Who said I was thinking of going anywhere?'
'No-one. But it's obvious, or you wouldn't have begun like that.'
'Why? What did you think I was going to say next?'
'Of course, you were going to say, after that sentence about "_you know
how strongly I disapprove_," etc., something like, "_But, of course,
there are exceptions to every rule, and in this particular instance I
really think that I had better_," and so on. Weren't you?'
'Odd. Very odd you should get it into your head that I should have any
idea of leaving you. Is that why you're looking so cheerful--laughing
'Am I laughing? I thought I was only smiling.'
'I don't think it's a kind thing to smile at the idea of my going away.
However, I'm sorry to disappoint you'--Bruce spoke rather
bitterly--'very sorry indeed, for I see what a blow it will be to you.
But, as a matter of fact, I had not intention _whatever_ of leaving you
at all, except, perhaps, for a few hours at a time. However, of course,
if you wish it very much I might arrange to make it longer. Or even to
remain away altogether, if you prefer it.'
'Oh, Bruce, don't talk such nonsense! You know I wish nothing of the
kind. What's this about a few hours at a time?'
'Naturally,' Bruce said, getting up and looking in the glass;
'naturally, when one has an invitation like this--oh, I admit it's a
compliment--I quite admit that--one doesn't want to decline it at once
without thinking it over. Think how absurd I should appear to a man like
that, writing to say that my wife can't possibly spare me for a couple
of hours two or three times a week!'
'A man like what? Who is this mysterious man who wants you for two or
three hours two or three times a week?'
'My dear, it can't be done without it; and though, of course, it is
rather a nuisance, I daresay in a way it won't be bad fun. You shall
help me, dear, and I'm sure I shall be able to arrange for you to see
the performance. Yes! you've guessed it; I thought you would. I've been
asked to play in some amateur theatricals that are being got up by
Mitchell of the F O in aid of the 'Society for the Suppression of
Numismatics', or something--I can't think why he chose me, of
'I don't see anything to wonder about. Perhaps he thought I'd do it
well. Possibly he supposed I had talent. He may have observed, in the
course of our acquaintance, that I was threatened with intelligence! Or
again, of course, they want for theatricals a fellow of decent
'Ah, yes; of course they do.'
'It would be very absurd for the heroine of the play to be madly in love
with a chap who turned up looking like, God knows what! Not that I mean
for a moment to imply that I'm particularly good-looking, Edith--I'm not
such a fool as that. But--well, naturally, it's always an advantage in
playing the part of a _jeune premier_ not to be quite bald and to go in
decently at the waist, and to--Fancy, Miss Wrenner didn't know I was a
'Miss Wrenner! Who's Miss Wrenner?'
'Why she--Don't you know who Miss Wrenner is?'
'Oh, Miss Wrenner's that girl who--a friend of the Mitchells; you know.'
'I _don't_ know. Miss Wrenner is quite new to me. So are the Mitchells.
What is she like?'
'_Like_!' exclaimed Bruce. 'You ask me what she's _like_! Why, she isn't
_like_ anything. She's just Miss Wrenner--the well-known Miss Wrenner,
who's so celebrated as an amateur actress. Why, she was going to play
last Christmas at Raynham, only after all the performance never
'Is Miss Wrenner pretty?'
'Pretty? How do you mean?'
'What colour is her hair?'
'Well, I--I--I didn't notice, particularly.'
'Is she dark or fair? You must know, Bruce!'
'Well, I should say she was a little darker than you--not a great deal.
But I'm not quite certain. Just fancy her not thinking I was married!'
'Did you tell her?'
'Tell her! Of course I didn't tell her. Do you suppose a girl like Miss
Wrenner's got nothing to do but to listen to my autobiography? Do you
imagine she collects marriage certificates? Do you think she makes a
hobby of the census?'
'Oh! then you didn't tell her?'
'Yes, I did. Why should I palm myself off as a gay bachelor when I'm
nothing of the sort?'
'When did you tell her, Bruce?'
'Why, I haven't told her yet--at least, not personally. What happened
really was this: Mitchell said to me, "Miss Wrenner will be surprised to
hear you're a married man," or something like that.'
'Where did all this happen?'
'At the office. Where else do I ever see Mitchell?'
'Then does Miss Wrenner come to the office?'
Bruce stared at her in silent pity.
'_Miss Wrenner! At the office!_ Why you must be wool-gathering! Women
are not allowed at the F O. Surely you know that, dear?'
'Well, then, where did you meet Miss Wrenner?'
'Miss Wrenner? Why do you ask?'
'Simply because I want to know.'
'Oh! Good heavens! What does it matter where I met Miss Wrenner?'
'You're right, Bruce; it doesn't really matter a bit. I suppose you've
'No; I haven't forgotten. I suppose I shall meet Miss Wrenner at the
first rehearsal next week--at the Mitchells.'
'Was it there you met her before?'
'How could it be? I have never been to the Mitchells.'
'As a matter of fact, you've never seen Miss Wrenner?'
'Did I say I had? I didn't mean to. What I intended to convey was, not
that I had seen Miss Wrenner, but that _Mitchell_ said Miss Wrenner
would be surprised to hear I was married.'
'Funny he should say that--very curious it should occur to him to
picture Miss Wrenner's astonishment at the marriage of a man she didn't
know, and had never seen.'
'No--no--no; that wasn't it, dear; you've got the whole thing
wrong--you've got hold of the wrong end of the stick. He--Mitchell, you
know--mentioned to me the names of the people who were going to be asked
to act, and among them, Miss Wrenner's name cropped up--I think he said
Miss Wrenner was going to be asked to play the heroine if they could get
her--no--I'm wrong, it was that _she_ had _asked_ to play the heroine,
and that they meant to get out of it if they could. So, _then_, _I_
said, wouldn't she be surprised at having to play the principal part
with a married man.'
'I see. _You_ said it, not Mitchell. Then are you playing the hero?'
'Good gracious! no--of course not. Is it likely that Mitchell, who's mad
on acting and is getting up the whole thing himself, is jolly well going
to let me play the principal part? Is it human nature? Of course it
isn't. You can't expect it. I never said Mitchell was not human--did I?'
'What is your part, dear?'
'They're going to send it to me tomorrow--typewritten. It's not a long
part, and not very important, apparently; but Mitchell says there's a
lot to be got out of it by a good actor; sometimes one of these
comparatively small parts will make the hit of the evening.'
'What sort of part is it?'
'Oh, no particular _sort_. I don't come on until the second act. As I
told you, one of the chief points is to have a good appearance--look a
gentleman; that sort of thing.'
'I come on in the second act, dressed as a mandarin.'
'A mandarin! Then you play the part of a Chinaman?'
'No, I don't. It's at the ball. In the second act, there's a ball on the
stage--for the hero's coming of age--and I have to be a mandarin.'
'Is the ball given at the Chinese Embassy?'
'No; at the hero's country house. Didn't I tell you--it's a fancy ball!'
'Oh, I see! Then I shouldn't have thought it would have mattered so very
much about whether you're good-looking or not. And Miss Wrenner--how
will she be dressed at the fancy ball?'
'Miss Wrenner? Oh! Didn't I tell you--Miss Wrenner isn't going to
act--they've got someone else instead.'
It was about six o'clock, and Hyacinth was sitting in her boudoir alone.
It was a lovely room and she herself looked lovely, but, for a bride of
four months, a little discontented. She was wondering why she was not
happier. What was this unreasonable misery, this constant care, this
anxious jealousy that seemed to poison her very existence? It was as
intangible as a shadow, but it was always there. Hyacinth constantly
felt that there was something in Cecil that escaped her, something that
she missed. And yet he was kind, affectionate, even devoted.
Sometimes when they spent evenings at home together, which were calm and
peaceful and should have been happy, the girl would know, with the
second-sight of love, that he was thinking about Eugenia. And this
phantom, of which she never spoke to him and could not have borne him to
know of, tormented her indescribably. It seemed like a spell that she
knew not how to break. It was only a thought, yet how much it made her
suffer! Giving way for the moment to the useless and futile bitterness
of her jealousy, she had leant her head on the cushion of the little
sofa where she sat, when, with a sudden sensation that she was no longer
alone, she raised it again and looked up.
Standing near the door she saw a tall, thin figure with a rather wooden
face and no expression--a queer figure, oddly dressed in a mackintosh
and a golf-cap.
'Why do you burn so much electric light?' Anne said dryly, in a
reproachful voice, as she turned a button on the wall.
Hyacinth sprang up with a cry of surprise.
Anne hardly looked at her and walked round the room.
'Sit down. I want to look at your new room. Silk walls and Dresden
china. I suppose this is what is called gilded luxury. Do you ever see
that the servants dust it, or do they do as they like?'
'Anne! How can you? Do you know how anxious we've been about you? Do you
know we weren't sure you were not dead?'
'Weren't you? I wasn't very sure myself at one time. I see you took the
chances, though, and didn't go into mourning for me. That was sensible.'
'Anne, will you have the ordinary decency to tell me where you've been,
after frightening me out of my life?'
'Oh, it wouldn't interest you. I went to several places. I just went
away because at the last minute I felt I couldn't stand the wedding.
Besides, you had a honeymoon. I didn't see why I shouldn't. And mine was
much jollier--freer, because I was alone. Cheaper, too, thank goodness!'
'What an extraordinary creature you are, Anne! Not caring whether you
heard from me, or of me, for four months, and then coolly walking in
'It was the only way to walk in. I really had meant never to see you
again, Hyacinth. You didn't want me. I was only in the way. I was no
longer needed, now you've got that young man you were always worrying
about. What's his name? Reeve. But I missed you too much. I was too
bored without you. I made up my mind to take a back seat, if only I
could see you sometimes. I had to come and have news of you. Well, and
how do you like him now you've got him? Hardly worth all that
'I'll tell you, Anne. You are the very person I want. I need you
immensely. You're the only creature in the world that could be the
slightest help to me.'
'Oh, so there is a crumpled rose-leaf! I told you he was exactly like
any other young man.'
'Oh, but he isn't, Anne. Tell me first about you. Where are you--where
are you staying?'
'That's my business. I'm staying with some delightful friends. You
wouldn't know them--wouldn't want to either.'
'Nonsense! You used to say you had no friends except mine. You must come
and stay here. Cecil would be delighted to see you.'
'I daresay--but I'm not coming. I may be a fool, but I'm not stupid
enough for that. I should hate it, besides! No; but I'll look in and see
you from time to time, and give you a word of advice. You doing
housekeeping, indeed!' She laughed as she looked round. 'Who engaged
'Why, I did.'
'I suppose you were too sweet and polite to ask for their characters,
for fear of hurting their feelings? I suppose you gave them twice as
much as they asked? This is the sort of house servants like. Do you
'How should I know? No; I suppose not. Of course, I let them see their
friends when they like. Why shouldn't they? They let me see mine.'
'Yes! that's jolly of them--awfully kind. Of course you wouldn't know.
And I suppose the young man, Cecil, or whatever you call him, is just as
ignorant as you are, and thinks you do it beautifully?'
'My dear Anne, I assure you--'
'I know what you are going to say. You order the dinner. That's nothing;
so can anyone. There's nothing clever in ordering! What are you making
yourself miserable about? What's the matter?'
'Tell me first where you're staying and what you're doing. I insist on
being told at once.'
'I'm staying with charming people. I tell you. At a boarding-house in
Bloomsbury. I'm a great favourite there; no--now I come to think of
it--I'm hated. But they don't want me to leave them.'
'Now, Anne, why live like that? Even if you wouldn't stay with us, it's
ridiculous of you to live in this wretched, uncomfortable way.'
'Not at all. It isn't wretched, and I thoroughly enjoy it. I pay hardly
anything, because I help with the housekeeping. Of course it isn't so
much fun as it used to be with you. It's a little sordid; it isn't very
pretty but it's interesting. It's not old-fashioned; there's no wax
fruit, nor round table in the middle of the room. It's only about
twenty-five years out of date. There are Japanese fans and bead
curtains. They think the bead curtains--instead of folding-doors--quite
smart and Oriental--rather wicked. Oh and we have musical evenings on
Sundays; sometimes we play dumb crambo. Now, tell me about the little
rift within the lute.'
'I always told you every little thing, Anne--didn't I?'
Anne turned away her head.
'Who arranges your flowers?'
'Oh, you _do_ do something! They look all right but I did it much
better. Oh--by the way--you mustn't think these are the only clothes
I've got. I have a very smart tailor-made coat and skirt which I bought
at a sale at a little shop in Brixton. I went to Brixton for the season.
There's nothing like the suburbs for real style--I mean real, thoroughly
English style. And the funny part is that the suburban English dresses
all come from Vienna. Isn't it queer?'
'All right, come to see me next time in your Brixton-Viennese costume,
and we'll have a long talk. I think you're pleased I've got a little
trouble. Aren't you?'
'Oh, no--I don't want you to have trouble. But I should like you to own
_he_ isn't so wonderful, after all.'
'But I don't own that--not in the least. The thing is, you see'--she
waited a minute--'I believe I'm still jealous of Mrs Raymond.'
'But she isn't Mrs Raymond any more. You surely don't imagine that he
flirts with his aunt?'
'Of course not--how absurd you are! That's a ridiculous way to put it.
No--he won't even see her.'
'Is that what you complain of?'
'His avoiding her shows he still thinks of her. It's a bad sign--isn't
it? What I feel is, that he still puts her on a pedestal.'
'Well, that's all right. Let her stay there. Now, Hyacinth, when people
know what they want--really _want_ something acutely and definitely--and
don't get it, I can pity them. They're frustrated--scored off by fate,
as it were; and even if it's good for them, I'm sorry. But when they
_have_ got what they wanted, and then find fault and are not satisfied,
I can't give them any sympathy at all. Who was it said there is no
tragedy like not getting your wish--except getting it? You wanted Cecil
Reeve. You've got him. How would you have felt if the other woman had
got him instead?'
'You're right, Anne--I suppose. And yet--do you think he'll ever quite
'Do you think, if you really tried hard, you could manage to find out
what your grievance is, Hyacinth?'
'Well, then, try; and when you've found it, just keep it. Don't part
with it. A sentimental grievance is a resource--it's a consolation for
all the prosaic miseries of life. Now I must go, or I shall be late for
The Ingratitude of Mitchell
Since Bruce had had the amateur-theatrical trouble, he had forgotten to
have any other illness. But he spent many, many half-hours walking up
and down in front of the glass rehearsing his part--which consisted of
the words, _'Ah, Miss Vavasour, how charming you look--a true Queen of
Night! May a humble mandarin petition for a dance?'_ He tried this in
many different tones; sometimes serious and romantic, sometimes
humorous, but in every case he was much pleased with his reading of the
part and counted on a brilliant success.
One evening he had come home looking perturbed, and said he thought he
had caught a chill. Eucalyptus, quinine, sal-volatile, and clinical
thermometers were lavishly applied, and after dinner he said he was
better, but did not feel sufficiently up to the mark to go through his
part with Edith as usual, and was rather silent during the rest of
When he came down to breakfast the next morning, Edith said--
'Do you know Anne's come back?'
'Anne. Hyacinth's companion. Miss Yeo, I mean.'
'Come back from where?'
'Don't you remember about her going away--about her mysterious
'I seem to remember now. I suppose I had more important things to think
'Well, at any rate, she _has_ come back--I've just had a
letter--Hyacinth wants me to go out with her this afternoon and hear all
about it. At four. I can, of course; it's the day you rehearse,
Bruce waited a minute, then said--
'Curious thing, you _can't_ get our cook to make a hot omelette! And
we've tried her again and again.'
'It _was_ a hot omelette, Bruce--very hot--about three-quarters of an
hour ago. Shall I order another?'
'No--oh, no--pray don't--not for me. I haven't the time. I've got to
work. You have rather a way, Edith, of keeping me talking. You seem to
think I've nothing else to do, and it's serious that I should be
punctual at the office. By the way--I shouldn't go out with Hyacinth
today, if I were you--I'd rather you didn't.'
'Why not, Bruce?'
'Well, I may want you.'
'Then aren't you going to the Mitchells'?'
'The Mitchells'? No--I am certainly _not_ going to the Mitchells'--under
the present circumstances.'
He threw down a piece of toast, got up, and stood with his back to the
'How you can expect me to go to the Mitchells' again after their conduct
is more than I can understand! Have you no pride, Edith?'
Edith looked bewildered.
'Has anything happened? What have the Mitchells done?' she asked.
'What have they done!' Bruce almost shouted. He then went and shut the
door carefully and came back.
'Done! How do you think I've been treated by these Mitchells--by my
friend Mitchell--after slaving night and day at their infernal
theatricals? I _have_ slaved, haven't I, Edith? Worked hard at my part?'
'Indeed you have, dear.'
'Well, you know the last rehearsal? I had got on particularly well. I
told you so, didn't I? I played the little part with a certain amount of
spirit, I think. I certainly threw a good deal of feeling and suppressed
emotion, and also a tinge of humorous irony into my speech to Miss
Vavasour. Of course, I know quite well it doesn't seem of any very great
importance, but a lot hinges on that speech, and it isn't everyone who
could make the very most of it, as I really believe I did. Well, I
happened to be pointing out to Mitchell, yesterday at the office, how
much I had done for his play, and how much time and so forth I'd given
up towards making the thing a success, then, what do you think he turned
round and said? Oh, he is a brute!'
'I can't think!'
'He said, "Oh, by the way, Ottley, old chap, I was going to tell you
there's been a change in the scheme. We've altered our plans a little,
and I really don't think we shall need to trouble you after all. The
fact is, I've decided to cut out the fancy ball altogether." And then
people talk of gratitude!'
'Oh, dear, Bruce, that does seem a pity!'
'Seems a pity? Is that all you've got to say! It's an outrage--a slight
on _me_. It isn't treating me with proper deference. But it isn't that I
care personally, except for the principle of the thing. For my own sake
I'm only too pleased--delighted, relieved. It's for _their_ sake I'm so
sorry. The whole thing is bound to be a failure now--not a chance of
anything else. The fancy ball in the second act and my little scene with
Miss Vavasour, especially, was the point of the play. As Mitchell said
at first, when he was asking me to play the part, it would have been
'But why is he taking out the fancy ball?'
'He says they can't get enough people. Says they won't make fools of